Sermon: You Are My Witnesses

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he called on us to be his witnesses. But what does being a witness actually entail?

Rather than be silent about our faith, we should embrace Christ and not be afraid to share our witness with others. It’s not about boasting, or acting self-righteous or even trying to convert others.  It’s about linking our day-to-day lives and interactions with our faith. And telling people why we act the way we act and why we live the way we live.

It’s not enough to simply witness, but likewise, it’s not enough to simply do good.

“You Are My Witnesses”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Luke 24: 44-53
May 13, 2018

Sermon: Eat and Run

When Jesus comes back to the disciples in Luke 24, he doesn’t command their attention. He waits for them to accept him.

Throughout the Easter stories, we see God’s divine discretion. We have an ability to either invite God in or to let God slip away. Every day this invitation is open to us.

Jesus is always walking with us, regardless of whether we acknowledge him or not. And sometimes God leads us on a journey that we did not intend to take. Just know that wherever you are on your journey, Jesus is with you. Even if you’re walking away from church, Jesus is with you you. In every moment, Christ is here, knocking, asking to be your heart.

“Eat and Run”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Luke 24: 13-35
May 6, 2018 • Sixth Sunday of Easter

Lenten Devotional: Thursday, Feb. 22

by Shannon Mayfield

Luke 4: 1-13: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’  ”

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ “

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’  ”

Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’  ”

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

There is a beautiful river whose song I can only hear at night. In the day, layers of sound pile up on top of it: wind whirring, birds chirping, machines humming. Finding the song of the river itself is a matter of listening down through and beneath all the other things. A poor listener, I am grateful for the fall of night which lets me hear it again.

Lent can be like that. Failure can be like that. Tragedy can be like that.

In the bright and noisy moments, it can be hard to hear down through and beneath the layers of our lives.

For 40 days in the wild desert, Jesus was tempted like us. In the sunny mornings, he must have thought it absurd that he starve when he could turn a rock into bread. At midday, his ambition must have stirred thinking of all the people he could feed by using the tools the tempter offered.

In the late afternoon, the sun in his eyes must have been nearly as disorienting as the tempter quoting the words of the Bible itself.

Jesus strained, in that desert, to hear the river that whispered of the one true God, the fullness of God’s love, the faithfulness of God’s history with God’s people.

I don’t know if Jesus kept track of the river’s song beneath all that noise in the desert’s long days.

Or, if the quiet darkness of each night brought it back to him instead.

Prayer: God of love, we pray for the keen hearing that drills down through all other noise in our worlds, letting us never lose track of your song. But failing that, we thank you Lord, for the long nights of darkness. For, even as we fear the emptiness, it is often there that the song of your love becomes audible to us again.

 

Sermon: A Presence Remembered

long-roadIn today’s Gospel reading (Luke 24:13-35), Cleopas shares the news of Jesus to a friend, who was skeptical. However, when they meet the 11 disciples, he believes. Cleopas was a witness to the resurrection.

When Oconee Street UMC burned down in 2013, smoke was still billowing from the church when members began work on rebuilding plans, and the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen was welcomed at its new location at First Baptist Church. That represented to the community that Christ was a alive among us. We were a witness to the resurrection.

As the fire awakened us in 2013, the events of Charlottesville, Virginia must awaken us now. We must stand as a witness to Jesus, and reject hatred and racism. “The church is called at this time to be a witness of what’s right and wrong.”

Sermon

Listen to The Word in Song: “Amani Utpue”

“A Presence Remembered”
Sermon by The Rev. Valerie Duncan
Luke 24: 13-35
Aug. 13, 2017

Sermon: “More Precious Than Gold”

peter-heals-1024x626.jpgSometimes it’s difficult to believe what’s in the Bible. In Acts 3:1-16, Luke tells us the story of how Peter healed a man “lame from birth” simply by telling him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up an walk.”

In 2017, with our scientific and medical knowledge, how are we supposed to believe that this actually happened. And if it is that easy to heal people, why aren’t Christian churches around the world doing similar acts?

Although we find it difficult to believe this story word-for-word, we can all point to a time in our own life where we believe a miracle occurred. Whether it was surviving a disastrous accident, having a loved one overcome a debilitating sickness or witnessing an act that doesn’t seem humanely possible, we have all been filled with the Holy Spirit and something we can only describe as the work of God.

That’s what Luke was aiming for in Acts 3:1-16. We’re called, like Luke to be witnesses of God’s work. Like Peter, we’re called to be share experiences of God that do not fit scientific logic.

Sermon

“More Precious Than Gold”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts 3: 1-16
June 18, 2017

Sermon: Conditions Necessary and Insufficient

Today is Pentecost, which marks the coming of the Holy Spirit unto the disciples, empowering them to spread the word of God across nations.

Although we celebrate Pentecost every year, many of us feel like we have few – if any – “Pentecostal moments” — that inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In order for these moments to happen, Luke tells us that we need to have some things in place.

First of all, to be a church we need to come together — not when it’s convenient, not when we feel like waking up, not when we don’t have a soccer game — but every Sunday as a church. If you want to be in the life of the Spirit, you have to be together with God’s people.

Secondly we need diversity. The church is a group of people, gathered across cultures and across time. Inherent in the story of Pentecost is how the Holy Spirit empowered disciples to speak in languages to communicate with all people.

Lastly, we need unity. That can be difficult to come by, and without diversity, we can develop a sense of false unity. However, the truth of Pentecost is that we are working toward a day when God will sweep across our diversity and turn in into true unity.

Sermon

Listen to Oconee Street UMC Choir perform The Word in Song, “Be Filled With The Spirit.”

“Conditions Necessary and Insufficient”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts 2: 1-21
June 4, 2017 • Pentecost Sunday

Sermon: It’s about the ‘drudgery of discipleship’

unknownWhy did Jesus look favorably upon the tax collector? Because he understood something that even the most devout Jews of the time didn’t understand. The tax collector’s humbleness in knowing he was falling short, and recognizing the need to work harder to be a disciple. Because being a Christian is not about the drama of conversion, but rather the drudgery of discipleship.

Sermon

The Word in Song: “Master, Here Am I”

“The Pharisee and the Tax Evader”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Luke 18:9-14
Oct. 23, 2016

Sermon: Maybe we should listen to the atheists …

jesus-and-the-ten-lepersIn Luke 17:11-19, we learn that of the 10 lepers Jesus healed, one of them returned. What did that leper see in Jesus that the others did not? Luke notes that this leper was Samaritan. That distinction is key, because Samaritans were specifically forbidden from the Temple. However, this Samaritan saw Jesus in way that most “religious people” did not. Perhaps we can gain a deeper understanding of Jesus by listening to atheists.

Sermon

The Word in Song: “Draw the Circle Wide”
Soloist: Jenny Carter

“What the Samaritan Saw”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Luke 17:11-19
Oct. 9, 2016

Sermon: Are we any different than the rich man?

pearly-gatesIt’s easy to look at the rich man in Luke 16:19-31 with judgement for his poor treatment of Lazarus.

But do we treat the Lazarus’ that exist in our life any differently? Do we truly practice what we preach? Do we treat every person as a child of God? Pastor Joe imagines how the conversation between the rich man and St. Peter may have went at the gates of heaven. What would our conversation at the gates of heaven look like?

Sermon

The Word in Song: “Ready for a Change”
Soloist: Natalie Smith

“You Can’t Get There From Here”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Luke 16: 19-31
Sept. 25, 2016

Sermon: Does Jesus really want us to be the shrewd manager?

teachings_of_jesus_31_of_40-_parable_of_the_unjust_steward-_jan_luyken_etching-_bowyer_bibleThe Parable of the Shrewd Manager is one of the more confusing parables in the Bible. On the surface, it seems strange that Jesus would praise the manager who wasted his possessions. But this parable is really about not accumulating our worldly possessions. We live in two worlds — this world and the world of Jesus. May God help us to see that the world of Jesus subverts the income balance sheet of this world.

Sermon *Gospel reading not included, please read below

Luke 16: 1-13
Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’

“‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.

“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’

 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’

“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.

“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’

“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

“Too Weak to Dig, Too Proud to Beg”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Luke 16: 1-9
Sept. 18, 2016