Sermon: God With Us

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” by Dr. Jodie Lyon

“God With Us”
Sermon by Dr. Jodie Lyon
John 1:1-14
Dec. 2, 2018 • First Sunday of Advent

Listen to the Choir Anthem: “Come, Emmanuel!

Sermon: Let the King Come Down

IMG_0326From the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus gives a one-sentence sermon, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

For centuries people have been attempting to interpret these words from Jesus, speculating on the kingdom. And these misinterpretations have sometimes been disastrous, like the crusades of the 12th Century, the Salem witch trials of the 17th Century and the rapture movements of today.

While all these misinterpretations are rooted in the words of God, they all get it wrong. When thinking about the kingdom, it’s best to take a journalist’s approach and think about the who, what, when, why and where. The key is to look at the kingdom as Jesus did — a relationship between God and us, in heaven and earth.

Who is the kingdom? It’s God and us.
What is the kingdom? It’s God’s glory through our work.
When is the kingdom? It’s both now and in the future.
Why the kingdom? For both God’s glory and our benefit.
Where is the kingdom? It’s within us and in heaven.

Look for ways in your life in which you can draw on something and be vindicated by God. Try to discern the will of God and act out that will to the best of your ability. Discern what God is doing and bring the love, mercy and will of God into every situation.

“Let the King Come Down”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Mark 15: 1-25
Nov. 25, 2018

Sermon: The Stone Left Standing

The temple in Jerusalem was an architectural masterpiece. It certainly had significant religious significance for those of the Jewish faith, but additionally was a massive structure that dominated the landscape. So when Jesus goes to the temple and says that it will be destroyed and he will rebuild it in three days, it was a bold proclamation.

We now know that Jesus didn’t mean he will literally rebuild the physical structure of the temple, but rather the structure of the church. And at the heart of the rebuilding is us — the people of God.

It’s important to recognize that although we have each been given the of God, Jesus still wants us to be the church.  The community of believers is integral to our faith — calling out our sinfulness, lifting our spirits and collaboratively impacting change in the world. We are the church. We need the church.

 

“The Stone Left Standing”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Mark 13: 1-8
Nov. 18, 2018

Sermon: The Gift You See is the Gift You Get

The “Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30) is often one of the stories people who are disaffected with Christianity use to criticize our faith. And at a surface glance, that criticism is warranted. What kind of master gets mad when his servant attempts to save and preserve what is given to him?

But the parable is not about saving or producing wealth. Rather, the parable is about how we see God. In the story, the master does not get mad at his third servant until the servant communicates his mistrust and fear of the master. How do we see God? Do we see God as vengeful master, or as a loving Creator?

How we use God’s gifts relies on how we see God.

“What You See is What You Get”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 25: 14-30
Oct. 14, 2018

Sermon: The Great Commandment(s)

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Jesus is very clear in Mark 12:28-34 what is the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” But he doesn’t stop there. Even though the questioner was asking for the “greatest commandment,” Jesus adds another law: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Love is a word that is used so often that it often loses its value. But it is the central word that Jesus uses — “Love your God. Love your neighbor.” If we’re loving genuinely, we will constrain ourselves beyond the stated law. If we’re living in the love of Jesus, not only will we not steal from our neighbor, but we will make sure our neighbor has adequate food.

One aspect of love is listening, even those with whom we disagree. In society today, it’s so hard to constrain our own opinions for even a moment. “Love constrains us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.” If we are to hear Jesus, we must hear others.

The love Jesus commands us to practice is not a love of convenience. But through God and with the love of God, we have the power to practice such immense love.

“The Great Commandment(s)”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Mark 12: 28-34
Sept. 30, 2018

Sermon: The Shouting Outside

As Jesus and his disciples were heading to Jericho, a blind man stops Jesus and asks for healing. The disciples are frustrated with the man and “rebuke” him.

Why would the disciples be so upset? By this time, they should understand how Jesus operates, healing all who need healing. They are focused on the destination, but Jesus is focused on the path.

We are much like the disciples. How often do we ignore human suffering that gets in the way of our path? Walking by the homeless person in the way of our path to work? Not listening to the person of a different political bent who gets in the way of our path to like-minded discussion. Ignoring the person who needs emotional support who gets in the way of our daily tasks.

God calls us to follow the path of Jesus. But it’s not an easy path. It’s a path in which we will encounter pain and suffering. Will we walk the path like Jesus?

“The Shouting Outside”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Mark 10: 46-52
Sept. 23, 2018

Sermon: Head of the Class

As James and John were walking with Jesus, they asked him if they could sit at his left and right . At first glance, it appears selfish, but what their desires come from a natural human instinct — ambition.

We all have ambitions, especially in our professions. But there are two types of ambition. One type of ambition involves us achieving fame, financial success and glory. If we pursue our careers for this type of selfish ambition, it will undoubtedly leave us empty.

The other type of ambition involves us pursuing what we love to inspire others, to help our community and in our little way, change the world. This is the type of ambition that God wants us to pursue. The type of ambition with which Jesus lived his life.

“Head of the Class”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Mark 10: 35-45
Sept. 16, 2018

Sermon: Give Them Something to Eat

As Jesus’ ministry grows, so do his crowds. In Mark 6:30-46, Jesus instructs his disciples to feed the massive crowd, but he doesn’t give further instructions.

Like the disciples, Jesus does not want us to limit ourselves and our ability to do good to our human potential. We are to unleash the power of God. Sometimes in progressive Christianity, we leave miracles on the table. Methodists love to see societal problems and organize the hell out of it.

However, God can take our meager efforts and miraculously accomplish good for everyone. We should not rely on own strength to change the world. Instead, we should be living in the power of God.

“Give Them Something to Eat”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Mark 6:30-46
July 22, 2018

Sermon: The Greatest! Shrub! … of All!

A child cried as her mother was searched and detained in McAllen, Tex., this past week. Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

In America, bigger is always better. But in the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus tells us that God uses what is small, weak and broken in the world, and when the time is right grows it into something big, and with an evasive power.

There are some lessons we get from scripture that are obvious. But in other instances, scripture may be conflicting. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used Romans 13 to justify separating children from their parents, claiming the authority was given to him by God.  But Revelation 13 tells us that government is the anti-Christ — the empire that is crushing the saints. Twisting the Bible to our political will can get us in trouble.

Sometimes we rely on God to fix our problems. But other times God is telling us, “Don’t wait on my to do something, I’m empowering you to do something.” There are times for us to sit in the quiet contemplation of the love of Jesus, and there are times to stand up and go out in the street.

Whether we sit or stand, silent or shout, we look to the will of God. How we go about that discernment is anybody’s guess. But we take heart for the little seeds that God has planted growing up around us and inside us. And when the time is right, we must use that power to fight injustice and spread God’s love in our world.

“The Greatest! Shrub! … of All!
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Mark 4:26-34
June 17, 2018

Sermon: Christ’s career as a home-wrecker

As a Christian, the problems of society can be overwhelming. Children are being separated from their families at the border. War is devastating regions around the world.  White supremacists are staking claim to our country.

Jesus says we cannot solve any of these problems without getting to the root of the issue: evil. Jesus tells us that the world is in need of salvation and the medicine of God is the only thing that can heal humanity.

That doesn’t mean we should sit and wait for change. The Holy Spirit gives us the power  of God to help heal the world. But are we ready to accept this huge responsibility? We have to come to the place in our lives where we have to have the humility to change the place that we live, our life situation, and be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

“Christ’s career as a home-wrecker”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Mark 3: 20-35
June 10, 2018