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Sermon Archive 2017

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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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Thirsty Stranger

samaritanwellJohn 4: 3-30 and 39-42
Exodus 17: 1-7
Introduction to the reading

Although Jews and Samaritans were both descended from the ancient Israelites, shared the same heritage and practiced the same religion, but in different ways, there was a long-standing hostility –ethnic hatred really - between them.

In the reading for today, Jesus was by himself, on his way back to Galilee from Judea.  He says that he has to go through Samaria to do that, and indeed, although it is not the only way, it is the most direct route.  But more importantly, it sets up the theological necessity of this part of Jesus’ travel ministry.

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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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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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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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khenryRev. Kathryn Henry
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