The parable of the rich man is perhaps the most difficult story in the Bible for Christians to accept. Jesus tells a rich man that in order to truly get into heaven, he should give all his possessions to the poor and follow Jesus.
Several interpretations of this verse try to avoid the fact that this is about money, or that it doesn’t apply to us. But if we are seeking to follow Jesus, we can be thrown off too easily by money and material things.
Our money should not get in between us and God, but should be used as a vehicle to do God’s work. The ultimate question for all God’s followers is “What are you willing to give in order to pass through to the kingdom of heaven?”
“Holding On and Letting Go” Sermon by The Rev. Elaine Puckett Mark 10: 17-27 Nov. 10, 2019
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
Church means many things to different people. But Paul keeps returning the focus of the church to the cross.
But the cross is often used by people use for their own personal gain. Paul warns about this. The cross is not something that can be humanized. It’s a gift from God that allows us to see the world beyond a human perspective.
In the midst of our path in the world, God has placed the stumbling block of the cross. When we encounter it, we might have to do something others deem foolish, but is right in the eyes of God.
“The Folly of the Cross” Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 Feb. 3, 2019
Paul goes to the church of Corinth and finds the Corinthians divided. The cause of their division was over who baptized them.
Although the church today does not argue over baptism, a key issue often divides Christians — political ideology. Many people take pride belonging to churches that claim to be “progressive” or emphasizing “conservative family values.”
What would Paul’s message be us? The same it was to the Corinthians. What divides us doesn’t matter. The important thing is what unites us — the power of the cross. And despite human attempts to take control of the cross and shape its message, the power of the cross is unlike any other. It does not depend on us, it depends on God.
And we have been invited to participate in that power — but we cannot manipulate it.
“What Unites Us” Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 Jan. 27, 2019
Children love to play the game “hide and seek.” Although they enjoy hiding, the true joy is being found by their loved one.
As adults, we become better at hiding from others — even hiding in places where we are supposedly sharing ourselves. On social media, we create an image of our lives that we want others to see. But we typically hide who we truly are.
It can be difficult for us to even understand who we are. We put out different images of us in various places — work, family, friends, church, social media, etc. — that we may ask, “Who is the real me?” The “real you” is the person you are in your encounter with Jesus. There’s no hiding from God, because God knows who you truly are.
To find out who we are — in all our depths and complexity — is something we find out most fully in our encounter with Jesus Christ.
“Come and See” Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby John 1: 43-51 Jan. 13, 2019
We know that standard Christian trope that through Christ we are saved. But what does that really mean? And does that mean that everyone else — even those who never encountered Christ in their life — are damned? Are we just the lucky ones, because we happened to grow up in a Christian family and/or live in a Christian society?
John tells us that Jesus is the true and final light who came into the world for EVERYONE. And salvation does not belong to us. It belongs to God. And the light of Christ shines to all people beyond our knowing, whether they are Christian, agnostic, atheist, etc.
In the Bible, Jesus is constantly healing and feeding people regardless of whether they believe in him. It’s not our job to coerce others to see the light, but rather following the light of salvation that guides our path. Others will see God’s light on our path, and if the light directs us, we can show others that light.
“Witness to the Light” Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby John 1: 6-14 Jan. 6, 2019 • Epiphany
When Mary trusted God to bear Jesus, she was taking a major risk. Mary was defying family, community, religious and government standards, but had faith in God that she is doing what is right.
Mary initiated a radical new vision of what her life and our life could be — God in flesh among us. Her whole life prepared her to say “Yes” when God asked her to do something important. Mary teaches me to wonder, “What is holding me back from bearing God into the world?”
God invites each of us in each moment, relationship, and heartbreak in the world as it is, to participate in the world as it should be — transformed in God’s word. We cannot stop it.
“Mary’s radical vision” Sermon by The Rev. Bonnie Osei-Frimpong Luke 1:46-55 Dec. 16, 2018 • Third Sunday of Advent
As the Advent season begins, it’s a good time to reflect on how we see God. Early Gnostics struggled to see God with human qualities? Humans are so messy, limited and full of fault.
As a human, Jesus transformed the image of God, but it was still difficult for many to grasp — and still is to this day. How can Christ be both human and divine? It leads many people to “Christian-splain” things — creating images of God and how God would act in certain situations.
But it’s really not that complicated. When we look into the faces of other people, we look into the face God. I can only imagine that when Mary kissed the face of Jesus when he was born, she was in awe and curious as to how he will change the world. We should feel that awe in each encounter we have with others.
“God With Us” Sermon by Dr. Jodie Lyon John 1:1-14 Dec. 2, 2018 • First Sunday of Advent