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Sermon Archive 2017

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Don't Be Afraid

sparrowsMatthew 10: 24-31
Introduction to the reading
Last week we began our summer sermon series on discipleship, instructions to the first followers of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew.  They will now be apostles, the ones sent out to make other disciples.

We began with hospitality, or more accurately, the lack of it.  Jesus told his disciples that they may very well face inhospitable environments.

And he told them that if they weren’t well received, they should shake off the dust, leave that town or village and go somewhere else.

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Discipleship Begins With Hospitality

sheepamongwolvesMatthew 9:35-10:14
Introduction to the reading
The sermons for this summertime of worship will draw on the lectionary readings from the Gospel of Matthew, as Jesus teaches the disciples about the meaning of discipleship.  They will now be apostles, the ones sent out to make other disciples.  Through them, including Matthew in the list you will hear, Jesus is also teaching those who will have gathered around them as early church congregations.  And then, of course, Jesus is teaching us.

We begin today with the idea of hospitality.

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God Saw That It Was Good

creation of adamGenesis 1: 1-5, 26-31 and 2: 1-3
Matthew 5: 13-16
Introduction to the reading – Matthew 5: 13-16

The verses we read today are part of the Sermon on the Mount, actually more like a collection of teachings rather than a sermon.  Jesus reinterprets the old law given to Moses and also offers new law for his disciples.

Verses 13 through 16 may be very familiar to you...

The passages which Elliot read from Genesis, the first book of the Bible, are part of the familiar and beloved creation story:  In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth…  Because it was a lot to read, we skipped over the verses where God created the waters and dry land; vegetation; sun, moon and stars; and all the living creatures of ocean, sky and earth.  But you did hear about the creation of humankind and how we are to have dominion over all the rest of the created order, and finally how God rested on the seventh day.  Notice that every time God created something, he saw that it was good – it was all good.

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On the Church

pentecost13Acts 2: 1-21
Introduction to the reading
Today is Pentecost – in the Jewish tradition, the Feast of Weeks, a pilgrimage to celebrate the spring barley harvest fifty days after Passover.  Jews from every nation had converged on the temple in Jerusalem, as they had been doing for centuries, and we will hear the names of all the places they had come from.  The whole known world of that time was represented.

Christians mark this day – Pentecost, fifty days after Easter – as the birth day of the Church.  It is the baptismal day that John the Baptist said would come:  “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  The Holy Spirit did indeed come upon the apostles, as you will hear, and filled them with the ability to speak the Gospel in a whole raft of different languages, thus offering it to all the world.

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The Great Commission

commissionMatthew 28: 16-20  
Introduction to the reading
We have arrived at the last Sunday in the season of Easter, the continuing celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.  Since the middle of April, we have been hearing Gospel accounts of how Jesus appeared to the disciples after he had been raised from the dead.  Today we will read another such story from the Gospel of Matthew.

But this week our readings also include a portion from the beginning of the book known as the Acts of the Apostles. This is the account of the Ascension, which Peter read.  The Ascension is a transition from the post-resurrection appearances to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which is next week:  “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” Jesus told them.  They will go out to parts known and unknown to spread the word of the saving grace of God.

The passage for today essentially does the same, in very particular terms.  It is known as the Great Commission.

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breakfastonthebeachJohn 21: 1-14
Introduction to the reading
This is the fifth Sunday of the Easter season and we hear another story of Jesus appearing to the disciples after the resurrection.  This is also Mother’s Day.  Our children are staying with us for the whole service and some are also taking part in leading.  Thus the young disciple Robbie and the old disciple (me) are sharing the reading of the Scripture.

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  After hours of sleep and needed rest, our body metabolism needs a kick start.  Our brains and muscles (and all the other systems) need refueling in order to begin working and to keep working at their best.  A good breakfast that includes carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and protein provides the nutrients and energy for a strong start to the day and long-lasting energy for later on.

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The Flock 2

goodshepherdJohn 10: 11-18
Acts 2: 42-47
Introduction to the reading
Until today, our Gospel readings for the Sundays after Easter have focused on post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to the disciples.  Now we back up and in the last verses of this reading, we hear Jesus predict what is going to happen to him and the underlying reason why.  So listen for that.

But interestingly, Jesus is also letting us know how it’s going to be for us - his followers – in the days and months and centuries and millennia afterwards.  He uses the old familiar metaphor of the shepherd and the sheep, which always speaks to us no matter how far removed we are from that time and place.

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On the Road Together

emmaus caravaggioLuke 24: 13-35
Acts 2: 36-42
Introduction to the reading
The season of Easter – the Sundays from Easter Sunday through Pentecost (on June 4 this year), also known as the Great Fifty Days - began last week with a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples.  That theme, along with words from Jesus ahead of that time, will be the focus of our readings until the beginning of June.

The reading for this morning comes from the Gospel of Luke.  

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Among Believers

thomasJohn 20: 19-31
Introduction to the reading
During the season of Easter – the Sundays from today through Pentecost on June 4, also known as the Great Fifty Days – we will be reading Scripture with two themes:  (1) post-resurrection appearances of Jesus and (2) words from Jesus while he still walked the earth that look ahead to that later time.

Today we hear the familiar story of the disciple Thomas, who came to be known as “doubting Thomas”.  He was actually quite bold and courageous, however, in expressing what he felt was required for him to take a strong stand – a bold leap of faith.

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I Am

heisrisen2Matthew 28: 1-10
Introduction to the reading
The last we heard of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, his body had been taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man who was also a follower of Jesus.  Joseph had wrapped the body in a linen cloth, laid him in the tomb, rolled a great stone in front of it and then went away.

Later, at the request of the chief priests, Pilate sent guards with the priests to make the tomb secure by sealing the stone in place.

Our reading for today begins on the third day after…

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Easter Prelude

jesusmarthamaryEzekiel 37: 1-14
John 11: 1-45
Yesterday, on April 1, Helen Turner of Linwood, New Jersey, turned 110 years old.  She may very well now be the oldest living American.

In a story about Helen in The Star-Ledger on Thursday, her daughter Nancy Mellon commented:  “When my father died [in 1986], she decided, she told me, that she either had to sit down and die or she had to create and start over and have a new life.  She decided it was all up to her what the rest of her life was going to be like.”

Helen herself said, “Well, I thought my life was over.”  But it was not. “She dyed her hair blonde...bought new clothes...traveled...and got involved with clubs,” said [her daughter].  “It was amazing.” (Woods 16)  

We are not dead until we are dead.  This is part of the message of the scripture readings for today.

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healing blindReflections on John 9: 1-41
Our reading this morning is from the Gospel of John, Chapter 9 – the whole of Chapter 9 actually.  Because it is such a long reading, the elements of a sermon will be woven in as the scripture story progresses.

As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

In Jesus’ day, blindness and other physical disabilities were understood in a theological way, as punishment for sin, which carried through from generation to generation.  Prosperity and health were indications of righteousness but illness, and poverty, were indications of sin.  Some people still hold with a variation on that idea: the prosperity gospel, for example, suggests that if you are a true believer, you will prosper and have good health, wealth and achievement.  I hope, though, that that idea has lost traction.

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khenryRev. Kathryn Henry
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