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Sermon Archive 2017

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Vineyard Haven

vineyard001Isaiah 5: 1-7
Matthew 21: 33-46
Introduction to the reading from Matthew
Jesus continues to teach in the synagogue, drawing followers to himself as he opens up the word of God to them in new ways.

We heard last week how a group of high priests and elders confronted him, demanding to know who gave him the authority to be there, teaching. Jesus countered with the parable about two sons whose father told them to go work in his vineyard. One said he wouldn’t go but then went. The second said he would go but then didn’t. The first son was the one obedient to the father. But the religious leaders were like the second son; they claim to be God’s faithful representatives, debating, interpreting and making judgments about the law, but fail to live by God’s commandments.

In today’s Gospel reading, another parable about a vineyard, Jesus presses his point about faithlessness, to violent, drastic conclusion.

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So… Do It

vineyard00 Introduction to the reading
Jesus stands in the synagogue teaching, drawing followers to himself as he opens up the Word of God to them in new ways. But a group of high priests and elders confront him, demanding to know who gave him the authority to be there, teaching.

The passage begins with this confrontation. But Jesus confronts them right back with a trick question of his own, which you will hear.

Keep in mind that by all appearances, in the time of Jesus, the chief priests and elders of the Jewish people were the exemplars of piety, keepers of the religious order, and teachers of God’s law. John the Baptist, on the other hand, was a wild man who wore a hair shirt and ate locusts. He did not fit any proper image of a respectable religious leader.

Here were two entirely different types of serious religious expression. Which one was right? And how do you judge? By way of a parable, Jesus leads us to an answer.

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laborers2Matthew 20: 1-16
Jonah 3:10 – 4: 4-11
Introduction to the reading

Today’s reading is a classic parable:

  • its structure as metaphor (“The kingdom of heaven is like…);
  • the slow introduction of characters and unfolding of dramatic details;
  • the unexpected conclusion.

So, the with metaphorical in this parable:

  • think of the landowner as God
  • the workers as people of that ancient time – Jews, to whom Jesus came first, and then the church, as the followers of Jesus came to be known;
  • the vineyard as God’s whole created world or even an individual person’s attitude toward life.

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Statue of Limitations

70x7Romans 14: 1-12
Introduction to the reading
Christianity arrived in Rome just 50 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. Paul himself did not found the church there, but he writes to them - to introduce himself, to establish his authority as an apostle and to provide a strong argument for the Gospel and its implications for faithful living. The book of Romans is deeply theological. But also practical…

The congregations of the Roman church were made up of both Jewish Christians - Jews who had come to believe in Jesus as the anticipated Messiah - and Gentiles, for whom Jesus was a whole new idea. In today’s passage, Paul seems to be trying to reconcile differences among the two groups with respect to eating habits.

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Not Any More

2or3Matthew 18: 15-20
Romans 13: 8-14
Introduction to the Gospel reading
Three features of this reading to point out:

  • Use of the term “church” (ekklesia, in the Greek). Most scholars consider this passage to be the product of the writer Matthew rather than being the actual words of Jesus. So, it seems to reflect the developing institutional church rather than a situation in the time of Jesus’ earthly life, before there was a “church” as an organization.
  • Consequently, the phrase “another member of the church” loses the concept that the followers of Jesus are an extended family, the family of God. A footnote at this point is a corrective. It notes that the original Greek was “your brother” and in later editing, “brother and sister.”
  • “Binding and loosing” relates to rabbinic authority to interpret how or
    even if one should apply a commandment or law to a given circumstance. Binding would hold to the law. Loosing would determine whether applies in a given situation.

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Walking on Water

jesuspeterwaterMatthew 14: 22-33
Introduction to the reading
Today we read the last installment of the sermon series for this summer of 2017. Jesus has been instructing his disciples on becoming apostles, sent out to spread the Word of God, the good news of the kingdom of heaven, to everyone and anyone, as Jesus says, “to anyone with ears.”

We have seen that these new apostles will be up against some tough odds: inhospitable environments, ignorance, ridicule, rejection, hostility, even persecution. But also they will be empowered, empowered by the Holy Spirit working from within them to do what they never thought, asked or imagined they could do. Last week, for example, feeding a crowd of over 5000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish.

Now, today, we hear another tale of divine empowerment. Let anyone with ears to hear, listen…

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You Give Them Something to Eat

loavesfishesMatthew  14: 13-21
Introduction to the reading
The story of Jesus’ feeding 5000 people with just five loaves of bread and two fish is the only miracle story found in all four Gospels, a clue to its great significance for the very early church.  It is a story of community and of communion.
The passages just ahead of today’s reading recount two events:

  • Jesus has been rejected as a teacher and prophet in his own home synagogue in Nazareth.  The people took offense at him and therefore he did not perform many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.
  • John the Baptist - the one who had announced Jesus’ coming and declared him to be the one who would baptize people with the Holy Spirit – John is dead, beheaded by Herod. 

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It’s Nothing Really

buriedtreasureMatthew 13: 31-33 and 44-46
Introduction to the reading
Jesus continues to teach his disciples in parables, four short ones this week and with no explanations as before with the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.  Now we have to figure out the interpretation for ourselves.  Notice that they all begin with “the kingdom of heaven is like…”

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seedMatthew 13: 24-30 and 36-43
Introduction to the reading
Our summer sermon series on discipleship continues this week.  The original twelve are being instructed on being apostles, sent out to spread the word, the good news of the kingdom of heaven, to anyone and everyone.  How will it go out there?  What will they be up against?  Who will give them trouble?  Who will listen?  Who will come and follow in the Way of Jesus?

Jesus, you recall, often teaches through parables and stories.  In fact, Matthew says that without a parable, Jesus told them nothing. (Matt. 13:34)  Jesus relies on the power of narrative to bring the message, to make the point.  

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sowerandseedMatthew 13: 1-9 and 18-23
Introduction to the reading
We continue with our sermon series on discipleship, Jesus’ instructions to the original twelve.  They are becoming apostles, charged with spreading the good news of the kingdom of heaven to anyone and everyone.  How will it go out there?  What will it be like?  Who will listen?  Who will really hear?  Who will come and follow?

Jesus often teaches through stories and parables and that’s what we’ll be hearing from now on in this series.  Today, the familiar parable of the sower and Jesus’ own explanation of it.

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Life in Jesus

myyokeiseasyMatthew 11: 25-30
Introduction to the reading
We continue today with the summer sermon series on discipleship.  Now in week four, we notice a shift in direction.  Chapter 11 begins:  Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.  

Having warned them that their work on behalf of the kingdom of heaven will be greeted with resistance, outright hostility, false charges and painful divisions even in their own families, Jesus now resumes his own ministry, teaching and preaching and facing all that trouble himself.  The audience is now the crowds of people who follow him around.  As you will hear, even his prayer to God seems to be offered openly.  Jesus may be speaking to a much larger group now, but the disciples – along with us – are still the ones who are learning from him.

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The Reward of Discipleship

givedrinkMatthew 10: 40-42
Introduction to the reading
As we continue our summer series on discipleship, Jesus continues his instruction to the first disciples, the ones who are now apostles, sent out to proclaim the message of the Gospel.  He has been warning them that they will encounter inhospitable environments, rejection, even persecution.  But they will persevere because they know the presence of God with them.

The reward for this ministry is deeply personal to each one.  For they are representatives of Jesus himself.  When they travel, preach, teach and heal, it is Christ whose work will be done by their hands.  The world will meet Jesus through them.

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khenryRev. Kathryn Henry
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