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Sermon Archive 2018

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Resurrection Living

stoneremovedMark 16: 1-8
The Gospel of Mark is the earliest of the four gospels in the Bible, probably composed in the late middle of the 1st century, around the year 70.  Mark’s work was formative for the later gospel writers Matthew and Luke; both used material from Mark in their writing, nearly word for word in some places.

So Mark is early, authoritative… and short, the shortest of the four.  Mark’s sole purpose is to bear witness to Jesus Christ as the embodiment and proclaimer of the kingdom of God, which is what he declares in the very first sentence:  The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1)  Mark gives us the most tightly written story of Jesus:  no birth narrative; no personal vignettes; only a few succinct parables; but – miracles, healings, exorcisms, the feeding of thousands, and the continuous, patient teaching of his disciples. From the outset, Mark aims at the climax, the eight verses we read today.   The crucifixion and resurrection are key to understanding who Jesus is, and nearly half of Mark’s gospel deals with these events.

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Getting Closer

grainofwheatJohn 12: 20-26
Jeremiah 31: 31-34
Introduction to the reading

Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover along with crowds from all over the known world.  This passage, which tells of the approach of the Greeks is important for three reasons.

  • First, it signals the close of John’s account of Jesus’ ministry.  From this point on, Jesus will offer no more signs, no more teaching, to the public, only to the disciples.
  • Second, coming after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, which we mark next week on Palm Sunday, it serves as a bridge to the passion narrative.  In the verses after this reading, Jesus speaks publicly about his impending death to those Greeks and to all who could hear.
  • Third, the Greeks – real Greeks, not Jews who could speak Greek.  

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There Be Dragons

nicodemusJohn 3: 1-17
Numbers 21: 4-9
Introduction to the reading

We begin with a well-known story - the conversation between Jesus and the Pharisee and teacher, Nicodemus, who comes to Jesus in the dark of night for some private instruction. Jesus lets Nicodemus know that he is in the dark in more ways than one.

Verse 14 is a reference to the story from Numbers that you heard earlier. Jesus says that just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness to bring healing to people of Israel who had been bitten by one of the poisonous snakes (a reference to the serpent in Genesis, no doubt), so the lifting up of Jesus on the cross will bring healing, restoration and eternal life to all people.

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Can You See Differently?

cleansing1 Corinthians 1: 18-30
John 2: 13-22
Introduction to the reading

Paul is writing to a Gentile congregation in Corinth, a city where the people are diverse, smart, sophisticated and busy with their commercial and social lives. You’ve met these 1st century Corinthians before; in many ways that are not unlike us.

Divisions have appeared in the church; the Corinthian Christians have begun to identify themselves as disciples of particular teachers. Paul reminds them that the Gospel he preaches is not about himself, but about the power and wisdom of the cross of Christ.

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The Faith Difference

wilderness1Genesis 17: 1-7
Romans 4: 13-25
Introduction to the reading
This passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans is his take on the ancient covenant between God and Abraham. Paul explains how this covenant extends over time to include those whose faith resides in Jesus Christ.

You have two inserts in your worship bulletin today. One is an order form for Easter flowers; even as we are now in the barrenness of Lent, still the business aspect of church life requires that we plan ahead.

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Entering Lent

temptationsMark 1:9-13
Introduction to the reading
Mark’s Gospel is simple and straightforward. Lent has begun.

Listen again to Verses 12 and 13: And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

These two sentences say almost everything there needs to be said about a Lenten experience – and maybe also about life.

And the Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness.

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transfiguration182 Corinthians 4: 1-7
Mark 9: 2-10
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 Gospels. Today we have heard from the Gospel of Mark. With the disciples Peter, James and John, we shared a vision of Jesus as utterly divine… and then solidly human.

Our second reading is from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. His sometimes testy interaction with the church in Corinth nevertheless helped to give both form and substance to Paul’s whole theology. In this passage, Paul proclaims his own understanding of the divine Jesus. And then, he too, puts humanity in its mundane place.

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Presence … Prayer

jesusatprayerMark 1: 29-39
Introduction to the reading

Jesus and the disciples so far – Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John – are still in Capernaum, where, as we heard last week, Jesus taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath. While he was teaching, a man with an “unclean spirit” had suddenly interrupted: “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? I know who you are!” Jesus told the unclean spirit to be silent, and then he drove that spirit out of the man. At once, Mark says, Jesus’ fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

We begin to see that in the three vignettes of this morning’s Gospel reading:

  • the private healing of a relative of one of the disciples;
  • Jesus as a healer of many others;
  • and the beginning of Jesus’ preaching ministry in Galilee.

There’s also another important, one-sentence event tucked into this reading. Listen carefully…

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A Word to the Wise

lettersofstpaul1 Corinthians 8: 1-13
Mark 1: 21-28
Introduction to the reading – 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13
You will be hearing the scripture passage for this morning – from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians – from a translation called The Message by Eugene Peterson. Peterson began his work of translating Scripture into contemporary language in order to make ancient words more understandable for a Bible study group at the church he was serving in Maryland. Eventually, Peterson expanded his work into translating both the Old and New Testaments, thus The Message.

I am reading from The Message because, like much of Paul’s other writing, Chapter 8 of First Corinthians is a bit convoluted. Peterson’s work clarifies the situation without losing the meaning.

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Immediately! ?

netsJonah 3: 1-5, 10
Mark 1: 14-20
Introduction to the reading – Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

Jonah is a different kind of prophet – he was not rejected by the people who heard him. Also, unlike the others, God did not send Jonah to Israel to chastise and warn them to repent. Jonah was sent to Nineveh, to a foreign land inhabited by a strange, non-Jewish people who were known to be wicked and brutal. And the results of his mission were amazingly successful!

The story, of course, is famous: how at first Jonah ran from God’s call and caught a ship to Tarshish to get away from God’s presence; how God sent a great storm to threaten the ship and Jonah let himself be thrown overboard to save the others; how he was then swallowed up by a big fish, where he remained until he earnestly prayed for relief; and how God heard his prayer and caused the fish to spit him out onto dry land.

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A Call from the Deep

callofdisciplesJohn 1: 43-51
1 Samuel 3: 1-11
Introduction to the reading from the Gospel of John
Following on the Old Testament reading from Samuel, we hear another passage about God’s call to a human being and upon that human being’s life. Jesus has begun to draw together his band of disciples. He first called Andrew and his brother Simon Peter. According to John’s Gospel, these two were initially disciples of John the Baptist but they left him to become disciples of Jesus instead (see John 1: 35-42). The very next day, Jesus enlists Nathanael and Philip.

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Over the Mud

magiMatthew 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. Epiphany is celebrated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas, yesterday.

The Magi were about as distant from Judaism as possible, both geographically and theologically, but they were the ones, after the poor shepherds, 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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