When Jesus is invited to a banquet by a prominent Pharisee, he is critical of the seating chart and who was invited to the party. Jesus notes the seating is specially designated so prominent guests sit towards the head of the table, and that only the elite — those who could return the favor — were invited.
If the church invites the world to a banquet, who would Jesus expect to see there? And where would they be sitting?
“Take a Seat” Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett Luke 14: 7-14 Sept. 22, 2019
The message in Luke 12:49-56 can be difficult for Christians. Jesus tells his followers that following him will cause division among their families and within society. He makes it clear that it will be difficult to live in the world as a follower of God.
Jesus is longing for a community of followers who ground their identity in God, rather than the powers of this world. Because following Jesus means we will be shaking up the power structures, speaking truth and challenging power.
Following Jesus means we will have to make people uncomfortable, because Jesus says that anyone who stands in the way of the love of God needs to be exposed — whether it’s on the streets of Jerusalem, in the halls of Congress or even in our church pews. Tribal loyalty can’t be our highest loyalty if we choose to follow Jesus.
Are we going to let our world shape our loyalty to Jesus? Or are we going to let our loyalties to Jesus shape our approach to the world?
When Jesus teaches us how to pray, he gives us what is now known as The Lord’s Prayer. The prayer emphasizes three things:
God is a member of our family.
There are three requests we are making — bread, forgiveness and deliverance.
We should trust that God will provide.
Most Christians are comfortable with the idea of God as family and trusting that God will provide. And our for the most part, our requests for bread, forgiveness and deliverance are easy to comprehend. However, when it comes to forgiveness, The Lord’s Prayer commands us to forgive those who have sinned against us, just as God forgives us when we sin against God. Jesus tells us that forgiveness received is forever linked with forgiveness given.
Jesus is clear: prayer is effective and God responds. But it’s most effective when a prayer is paired with our willingness to act lovingly in relationship to others … all others.
Homework: Every single person here has someone they need to forgive … Forgive them, reach out and pray for them.
“Praying for God’s Future” Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett Luke 11: 1-13 Aug. 4, 2019
In Luke 10:38-42, Martha expresses frustration that while she is doing all the housework related to hosting a guest, Mary is talking to Jesus.
Martha asks Jesus if this bothers him? But rather than empathize with Martha, Jesus says Mary is doing exactly what she needs to be doing by listening.
This is pretty groundbreaking for Biblical times, because rabbis typically didn’t preach to women, but Jesus was talking directly to Mary. But he didn’t criticize Martha for what she was doing, either. Because in faith, we need both “being” and “doing.” Our challenge is to find the balance.
Homework: Make some notes to yourself about how much time you spend “being” and how much time you spend “doing.”
“Finding Balance” Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett Luke 10: 38-42 July 28, 2019
When Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, his instructions are very clear when a lawyer asks him how to receive eternal life. Jesus says we are to love God, and also to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus later emphasizes that your neighbor is not just your friend, family member or person with whom you share common beliefs. Your neighbor is also the person distinctly different from you, even someone whom you may consider your enemy.
To love our neighbor requires us to open up our hearts and minds to all God’s people.
Homework: Who comes to your mind when you envision the person you would least like to look upon as a neighbor? Pray for that person every day this week.
“Who is my neighbor?” Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett Luke 10:25-37 July 21, 2019
Sin is a topic we often try to avoid. However, the sin Christ sets is free from is the kind that requires use to genuinely change something about who we are. Sin is something we have to think about. But the good news is that when Jesus ascended, his absence opened up to us the possibility that the presence and power of God would be made available to use wherever we are.
“Ascension” Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby Luke 24: 44-53 June 2, 2019
The Gospel of John doesn’t end with Jesus’ resurrection. There’s one more story in John 21, in which Jesus appears to seven disciples as they are fishing. At its surface, it’s a simple story. The disciples are struggling at catching fish; Jesus appears to them and tells them to cast the net on the other side of the boat; they do as Jesus says and catch a lot of fish; Jesus transforms the fish into a massive meal.
This story has much more to the plot than what happened. The significance is in what didn’t happen — for the first time, the disciples didn’t question if it was Jesus. They knew it was him. They had faith. The disciples entered a new mode of seeing Jesus — not with the eyes but with the heart. And we can learn to see Christ in the same way.
This story assures us that the God who gave us physical sight at our birth can give us spiritual sight at our rebirth.
“None Dared Ask, For They Knew” Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby John 21: 1-19 May 5, 2019