Category Archives: Sermons

On Quaker PR: Salt, Light and Transformation (Matthew 5:13-20)

Resurrection City

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13–16 NRSV)

Do we have a PR Problem?

Have you ever had the experience of telling someone you are a Quaker or that you go to a Quaker meeting and get a bit of a blank stare? You watch as the wheels turn and then the person you’re speaking with says one of these things:

  • So you’re amish?
  • You mean like the guy on the Quaker oats container?
  • I have no idea what you’re talking about?
  • If you’re lucky, you might get a response like “Wow, I really like what I’ve read about Quakers.” Aren’t they the folks who were involved in the abolition movement and women’s suffrage?

I actually don’t mind any of these responses because they’re all something to start with, and usually the person I’m speaking with is interested enough to give me a minute or two to explain myself further. And with of all the brands we could be associated with, I suppose it could be a lot worse than oatmeal.

And as amazing as it is to have folks know that the Quakers are associated with great historical movements like abolition and women’s suffrage to name only a couple, that was more than 100 years ago. Continue reading

NY TImes A Forumla for Happines

The Beatitudes: Receiving and Giving Blessing (Matthew 5:1-12)

Happiness

I wanted to start off by saying something about happiness.

There’s been plenty of research done around what is happiness and how do we achieve it? In one recent study by Arthur Brooks he stated that scientists have proven that up to 48% of happiness has to do with genetics, 40% has to do with a “isolated events” like getting a dream job (but they unfortunately rather short-lived), leaving about 12% under our control in four key areas of life: faith, family, community and work. Continue reading

Pushing a Car

Pushing Cars and The Alliance of “Backwards” People (Matthew 4)

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” (Matthew 4:23 NRSV)

Pushing Cars

[I opened my sermon by sharing a story about my car battery dying and trying to push the car on my own to move it and the relief that came when other’s came to help me.]

It’s pretty silly to get caught pushing a car up a hill by yourself, when the remedy is to realize you can’t do it on your own and you need help from others. How many of us get caught doing things like this in our lives because we’re trying to be self-sufficient, we want to be successful, we want people to think we’ve got it altogether.

The last thing I want people to think of me as is ordinary or average. Because if I am ordinary or average, I am afraid I won’t be accepted.

How often are we caught pushing cars by ourselves in our spiritual lives? Shoes slipping off, straining far more than necessary, working so much harder than we need to because we don’t want to show any sign of weakness, we don’t want to ask for help, or appear ordinary? Continue reading

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A (New) Family Portrait (Matthew 1)

Abraham had Isaac, Isaac had Jacob, Jacob had Judah and his brothers, Judah had Perez and Zerah (the mother was Tamar), Perez had Hezron, Hezron had Aram, Aram had Amminadab, Amminadab had Nahshon, Nahshon had Salmon, Salmon had Boaz (his mother was Rahab), Boaz had Obed (Ruth was the mother), Obed had Jesse, Jesse had David, and David became king. David had Solomon (Uriah’s wife was the mother), Solomon had Rehoboam, Rehoboam had Abijah, Abijah had Asa, Asa had Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat had Joram, Joram had Uzziah, Uzziah had Jotham, Jotham had Ahaz, Ahaz had Hezekiah, Hezekiah had Manasseh, Manasseh had Amon, Amon had Josiah, Josiah had Jehoiachin and his brothers, and then the people were taken into the Babylonian exile…Jacob had Joseph, Mary’s husband, the Mary who gave birth to Jesus, the Jesus who was called Christ.

One of the things I like about Christmas is getting all the pictures in the mail from family and friends. Even if I don’t hear from these friends all year, it is fun to get a card and see a picture of their family, see how old their kids are getting, be reminded of their presence in my life. And the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel shows us that family is a part of the original Christmas story as well. Continue reading

Embracing Surprise (Matthew 24: 35-44)

Flickr Photo by Herr Olson
Flickr Photo by Herr Olson
# Embracing Surprise

This is the Gospel reading for Advent 1 and the text my sermon was based on for yesterday:

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
(Matthew 24:36–44 NRSV)

Let’s Get Out of Here!

This passage has been the root of many a children’s sleepless nights and nightmares. Children laying in bed, terrified from what they learned in Sunday School, or a story they heard.

But is that really the intention of this passage? No, I don’t think so.
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Participatory Church and the Trials of Falling Asleep (Luke 22:39-46)

Flickr Image by Brandon King

“He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” [Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” (Luke 22:39–46 NRSV)

Participation as Production

The word participation is an important word for our church. We talk about being a participatory church but what do we mean by that? I want to unpack that a little here.

Participation means to partake, to partner.

We live in a participatory culture. Back 50 or 60 years ago when you listened to a story around a radio, it was one way. TV in its earliest stages was one way. There was someone who wrote a story, produced a show that he or she thought consumers would like. But nowadays things are very different. Reality shows like Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance (my favorite), American Idol and many others build on the content that the audience gives. It could be through voting. It could be through suggestive story lines. Producers are constantly looking for interest of fans and which characters they like most, which ones they connect with, which story lines are most popular. There are shows like Arrested Development, Veronica Mars or Joss Wheadon’s Firefly where when they go off the air the Fans rally and actually get the producers to make more of their favorite show, even in helping raise money for the show to get it back on the air.

Continue reading