Advent Devotional: Dec. 9, 2019

Stop and Smell the Cocoa

Anette & Jackie Wright
December 9, 2019

Matthew 6:30-34 (NKJV)
Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The holiday season brings so much to stress about. I wonder how I can possibly pick a gift that my godmother will want and that she hasn’t already gotten for herself. Won’t she already have it if she wants it? What do I need to know to be ready for the chemistry midterm next week? Should I sacrifice the rare family harmony to correct my uncle’s wild political incorrectness? There are meals to plan, gifts to buy and wrap, and gatherings with family and friends. We have all of these things, and more, to stress about this season. It feels like there’s so much to do and not nearly enough time to do it.

But every Christmas, we can be thankful for so much. We reflect on the season and feel blessed by all of the good times and regret the times we spent stressing when we should have just handed the stress over to God. The scripture says, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.” Instead of worrying about what the next day will bring, we should take the time to show love to our friends and family. We should take the time to feel the intense love of God. And we should allow God’s love to carry us through each day, and this season.

This season, we should stop to ask ourselves, “Where am I in this moment?” Am I stressing about the future, regretting the past, or am I really living in the present? Am I really hearing the Christmas carols, feeling the cold wind on my nose and cheeks, and enjoying the hot cocoa as it warms me? God is trying to make us smile with these little gifts, but are we even taking the time to notice them? The kingdom of God is all around us, we only have to live in the moment to experience it.

During Advent, we can remember to be in the moments that God has given us, and enjoy the blessings of the season. When the stress takes over and we forget to appreciate God’s little, and not so little, gifts to us, we can meditate on this prayer:

A Prayer to Savor the Moment
by Rachel Wojo
Dear God,
Thank you for this exact point in time.
Sometimes I struggle to enjoy the gift of the present.
I push forward before your timing is perfect
And then feel the pain of rushing.
My spirit longs to savor the moment
While my mind scrambles to snatch the next minute.
Will you slow my heart to beat your rhythm?
Will you sync my step to mirror your tempo?
May my spirit fail to chase after the next beautiful experience
Until I’ve unwrapped the gift of right now-
The present.
Amen.

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: Missed By Nine Miles

The wise men were just nine miles off the mark of finding the location of the birth of Jesus. Their astrological knowledge led them to Jerusalem, where they naturally thought the “king” would be born. However, when learning Herod had know knowledge of a new king, the wise men consulted Scripture, which led them to the humble town of Bethlehem.

The wise men demonstrate an important lesson. It’s not enough to follow your human talents to seek out God. You need Scripture as well. Likewise, it’s not enough to only rely on the Bible. You need to be aware of the world around us, and utilize our God-given talents to change the world into God’s image.

There are many “religious” people in society who bury their nose in the Bible, while ignoring the suffering of those around them. They ignore and even criticize the work of scientists, doctors and journalists. Those people are not fulfilling God’s word, and are only fulfilling their self-righteous conception of Christianity. Jesus called out this hypocrisy, and we too, should be careful not to become self-righteous.

A Christian should have a Bible in one hand, and a newspaper in the other, and use both to do God’s work on Earth.

“Missed by Nine Miles”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 2: 1-12
Jan. 7, 2018 • 2nd Sunday After Christmas

Listen to The Word in Song, “Jesus, What A Wonderful Child.”

Sermon: The Hostipitality of Christ the King

WITHOUT BORDERS SAN DIEGOJesus makes it clear that eternal life depends not just on what we believe, but also what we do. He tells us to be hospitable, but this isn’t about inviting friends over to dinner.

Hospitality accepts the limits of hostility. Genuine hospitality is an openness to those people and ideas to which we are hostile. Practicing this type of hospitality is incredibly difficult, but we could look to the life of Jesus as an example.

Jesus lived a life of being a stranger while subsequently being the host. As he reached out to the outcasts of society — the poor, the sick, the imprisoned — he himself was being rejected by religious leaders of the day.

We can reconnect with Jesus, the host and the stranger, by reading Scripture, receiving Holy Communion and participating in worship.

Sermon

To listen to The Word in Song, “I Just Want to Thank You, Lord,” click here.

“The Hostipitality of Christ the King”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 25: 31-46
Nov. 26, 2017

Sermon: Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

Jesus was often accused by church elders of violating Jewish law — for instance,  healing on the Sabbath. This should not be interpreted that Jesus did not support laws. In Matthew 22: 34-40, Jesus said the two most important laws are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. If these two laws are followed, then everything else will fall into place.

However, unlike the Beatles song, love is not all we need. Loving one another must go beyond love. It has to be supported by action. Our love for one another is not just an idea — it’s manifested in how we take care of each other. And through church, we can consistently see the face of the neighbor and be challenged to demonstrate our love through our stewardship.

Sermon

Choir anthem: “Come Dwell in Solomon’s Walls.” (Click to listen.)

“Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 22: 34-40
Oct. 29, 2017

Sermon: Apparel Oft Proclaims

In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14), Jesus tells the story of a king who ordered his servants to go out and invite anyone and everyone to a wedding banquet for his son. However, when the king finds one man at the party not dressed in the attire provided him, the king casts him out.

Just like the wedding feast in the parable, Jesus tells us that the invitation to the kingdom of God is wide, however, the expectations to be in the kingdom are high.  The wedding guest was cast out not because of his lack of fashion, but rather his disregard for the seriousness of the event. It’s not enough for us to be in the kingdom of God. We must be filled with the goodness of the Holy Spirit, and express our holiness through our daily actions and interactions with others.

This is as high as the bar gets. Are we clothed in the garment of Jesus? Do our actions show the holiness of Christ? For us to stay in the kingdom, our response to God’s invitation must be real, open and honest.

Sermon

“Apparel Oft Proclaims”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 22: 1-14
Oct. 22, 2017

Sermon: End of the Line

For most of us, we can sympathize with the frustration of the workers in The Parable of the Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20: 1-16). Our American and Protestant work ethic tell us that if you work longer hours, if you work harder, then you should get more pay. It’s not fair that someone who shows up later than us gets the same benefit. We’re at one end of the line. And we can’t possibly understand how someone at the other end of the line gets the same treatment.

However, God’s love and mercy is abundant, boundless and unlimited. God’s love is for everyone. And the fact that we become jealous or envious of others who receive God’s love, even though they may not go to church every Sunday demonstrates a personal weakness. Are there some of us for whom the generosity and abundant mercy of God reveals the poverty of our own spirit?

It all depends what end of the line you’re at. But for God, it doesn’t matter.

Sermon

“End of the Line”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 20: 1-16
Oct. 15, 2017

 

Sermon: Pagan Piety

In the parable of the two sons, Jesus tells the story of two brothers and their interactions with their father, who asked them both to work in the vineyard. One son said “no,” but later changed his mind and did the work. The other son said, “yes,” but never did the work.

Jesus said it is the son that did the work, despite showing disobedience to his father, that is in favor with God. This is significant because it shows us that despite how we have lived our lives, it is how we walk with God in the future that matters. When someone is baptized, they are filled with the spirit of God, and on that day are determined to live a life of faith and service. We need to not get complacent in our faith, and be transformed every day.

We may go to church every Sunday and think we are good Christians, but it is our daily actions that matter in the eyes of God.

“Pagan Piety”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 21: 23-32
Oct. 8, 2017

For the choir anthem, “I Am With You,” click here.

Sermon: “Gimmie Oil in My Lamp”

In the Parable of the 10 Bridesmaids (Matthew 25: 1-13), Jesus tells the story of five bridesmaids who did not bring extra oil for their lamps, and five bridesmaids who came prepared with extra oil. With the groom running late, by the time he appeared for the celebration, the five bridesmaids without extra oil needed to get more, and they were not welcome back into the celebration.

Like the prepared bridesmaids, this parable instructs us to be prepared to enter into the kingdom of God. Faith gets us to the door, but it’s our preparation — through our good works and service to others — that gets us into the celebration. We should proceed with our lives, doing good works with great joy, because we know the time is coming when we will enter the kingdom of God.

“Gimme Oil in My Lamp”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 25: 1-13
Oct. 1, 2017