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.
In 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.”
Sometimes 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.
“More Precious Than Gold”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts 3: 1-16
June 18, 2017
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.
Why 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.
The Word in Song: “Master, Here Am I”
“The Pharisee and the Tax Evader”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Oct. 23, 2016