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
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
Terrible things happen, and sometimes they happen for no reason. But something else is just as true — sometimes goodness cannot be stopped.
Jesus was born into this world against all odds, but couldn’t be stopped. He lived his life and was even killed, but he still could not be stopped. And if we want to follow Jesus, nothing will stop us. This is the miracle of the human heart.
It can easy to believe that our failings are too enormous to be overcome. But God is doing something bigger that we can imagine within us. Every one of us is called, every day, to believe that we are expressions of God.
The good news of “love beyond measure” walks side-by-side with the violence of society.
“Annunciation” Sermon by The Rev. Beth Long Luke 1: 26-38 Sunday, Dec. 9
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
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
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.