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Sermon Archive 2017


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abrahamRomans 4: 1-5, 13-17, 23-25
Genesis 12: 1-4

Introduction to the reading
The opening chapters of Romans are addressed to a congregation composed of both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.  Paul makes two important claims:

  • The power of salvation is for everyone who has faith, to the Jew first And then also to the Greek; there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
  • A person is justified by faith, apart from works prescribed by law (Romans 3:28).

In the reading for today, Paul emphasizes the primacy and inclusiveness of God’s grace, turning to the example of Abraham.

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The Thin Places

transfiguration17Matthew 17: 1-8
Introduction to the reading
Today is Transfiguration Sunday on the church calendar, the Sunday before the beginning of Lent.  The story is always the same but, each year from a different one of the three synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark or Luke.  Today we read from the Gospel of Matthew. Along with the disciples Peter, James and John, we share a vision of Jesus as utterly divine… and then solidly human.  

The transfiguration of Jesus right before their eyes echoes the appearance of God to Moses on Mount Sinai, as you heard in the reading from the book of Exodus.  This was one of the singular events in ancient Israel’s history, God’s giving Moses the Ten Commandments written on tablets of stone.  It too was utterly divine… and solidly human.

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Really?

sermononmount1Matthew 5: 38-48
Introduction to the reading
In the verses for today, from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus engages aspects of the traditional Jewish law in a challenging new way.  He offers up antitheses – “you have heard it said, but I say to you…”

…an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth:  this may sound harsh to us but actually it is a rather civil form of retaliation.  Don’t come back at someone with all the destructive revenge you can muster.  Limit retaliation to that which was equal to the victim’s loss: an eye for an eye, but only an eye; a tooth for a tooth, but only a tooth.  

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Choices

choicesDeuteronomy 30: 15-20
1 Corinthians 3: 1-9
Introduction to the reading
Under the leadership of Moses, the Israelites have come to the edge of the Promised Land.  They have arrived at Moab, from where they can see the land which they are to enter and take for their own, the destination God has prepared for them.  The divine will is that they should prosper there.  
The long journey to this place has been rough going, the people often difficult and complaining.  But now, finally, here they are, and Moses has some final words for them, as if to say, God has promised you this land and here are the rules for living in it.  You can choose to live by those rules…or not.

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Live Into Hope

preachingthecrowdIsaiah 58: 1-12
Matthew 5: 13-16
Introduction to the reading
This passage from the prophet Isaiah is consistent with the concern for social justice that characterizes all the prophetic writings.  Isaiah warns the religiously observant in Israel not to fall into the trap of allowing the form and ritual of religion to substitute for the substance of it, that is the humble service to those in need, which is what God desires from a people who call themselves righteous.

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Blessed Are You

beatitudesMatthew 5: 1-12
Introduction to the reading
Our reading this morning is the beginning of what is known as the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus goes up on the mountain to teach the law, as Moses went up to Mt. Sinai to receive God’s Law, the Ten Commandments. 

The Beatitudes are some of the most beautiful, comforting and hopeful passages in holy Scripture – and yet some of the most challenging as well.  They clearly declare that circumstances people naturally see as unfortunate are nonetheless genuinely fortunate in the truest sense.  At the same time, the Beatitudes confirm the blessing of God’s presence with those who live in humility, mercy, righteousness and peacemaking.

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Staying the Course

fishersofmen4Matthew 4: 12-25
1 Corinthians 1: 10-18

Introduction to the reading
This week’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew seems to be a repeat of last week’s reading from the Gospel of John – the calling of the first disciples, Simon Peter and Andrew.

But each Gospel tells the story of Jesus in a slightly different way, with a different emphasis and toward a different audience.  John tends to focus more on the divinity, the holiness and the spiritual being of Jesus.  Last week, Peter and Andrew recognized the truth of John’s proclamation, “Behold the Lamb of God”.  They knew Jesus was the promised Messiah.

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Vision and Pathway

comeandseeJohn 1: 35-42
Introduction to the reading
Last week we read the passage from Chapter 3 of the Gospel of Matthew relating the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by his relative (his cousin?) John.  This baptism, I noted, serves to identify Jesus as the Son of God, to bless him and to commission him to proclaim God’s message of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and hope.  

John, the Baptizer, is a major character in today’s reading as well, from the Gospel of John.  Just prior, he has declared of Jesus:  “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! … I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  John also testifies to having seen the Holy Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and resting upon Jesus.  “And I myself have seen,” he says, “and testified that this Jesus is the Son of God.”

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Voices

voiceofgod1Matthew 3: 12-17
Isaiah 42: 1-9

Introduction to the reading
Time moves quickly.  Jesus, now grown, has not yet begun his ministry.  Two events happen first:  1) Jesus is baptized and 2) Jesus is tempted by the devil in the wilderness.  In the passage for today, Matthew recounts the first event, the baptism.  

Note:  to fulfill all righteousness – that is, to let things happen according to God’s plan and purposes for the world.  The appearance, then, of the dove descending from heaven demonstrates that Jesus’ essential and true identity is inextricably tied to the activity of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence in and for the world.

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After Christmas

threemagiMatthew 2: 1-12 and 13-23
Introduction to the reading

The Christmas pageant tableau is now complete; the three Wise Men have arrived at the stable in Bethlehem.  How that came about was our first reading for today, Matthew 2: 1-12.  In Church tradition, the visit of the Magi is called the Epiphany, the revelation of God incarnate to the Gentiles and thence to the whole world beyond Israel, and celebrated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas.  

The Magi were about as distant from Judaism as possible, both geographically and theologically, but they were the ones who recognized that the newborn Jesus was truly Immanuel, God with us.  Their arrival seems to be the fulfillment of the poetic prophecy of Isaiah...

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khenryRev. Kathryn Henry
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