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Is the Cost Worth the Cure? (Side Effects of Spiritual Health)

This is a sermon outline and not a direct manuscript, but still useful for reflection (I hope).  Most of us have listened to or seen commercials for medications that address varieties of ailments. Most of these medications indicate that life will clearly be improved with the use of the medication, but the list of side effect that are rushed through at the end can be overwhelming. Without listing them, they often sound so unappealing that I have great sympathy for the person for whom the side effects are worth the risk in the hopes of restored well-being or at least functioning.  While I am not a doctor (and I don't even play  one on television), I do feel equipped to do some spiritual diagnosing. This is not to be done at home and must be done in concert with the Holy Spirit. Within our readings today, I recognize the symptoms of restlessness of heart, among other things. The question in each scenario is not whether the medicine (cure) will work, but if the side effects are worth i
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Amazing Grace, In History and Now (Sermon, Lent 4)

On New Year’s Day 1773, in Olney, England, the pastor of St. Peter and St. Paul Parish led a prayer meeting to mark the new year. As was expected of clergy at the time, this pastor wrote hymns and verses for his congregation to help communicate the faith, lift their spirits, and continue the tradition of the church to praise God in song. Most of the songs and chants in his day had no set tune but would fit any number of tunes with a common meter or rhythm.  For this New Year’s Day, the parish pastor had written a set of verses he called “Faith’s Review and Expectation”. He felt that the occasion called for remembering all God had done and how God had delivered each person to the present. Reflection on the past and understanding the hand of God at work built the necessary trust in the Divine for the future. The pastor, one John Newton, began his hymn with a quotation from 1 Chronicles 17:16, Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said: “Who am I, Lord God, and what is m

Third Verse Now, But Not Forever (Christmas Eve Sermon)

Whenever we have a service with a lot of music, the combination of hymns, special music, and choir, someone always helpfully suggests that we could cut some of the verses of the hymns. “Why don’t we just sing the first and fourth verses?”, they might ask. This is a totally reasonable suggestion to which I, personally, have a completely unreasonable reaction.     When this is suggested, if the Holy Spirit has an arm around my shoulder and a hand over my mouth, I might smile and say, “We could do that.” If my self-control has left the building, I will say, “But all the verses together tell a story and we can’t miss the story!”    If there is a rare moment of calm and I am willing to share some of myself with you, I will tell you, “I want to sing all the verses because I am obsessed with third verses.”    First verses are important. They set the pace and tone of a song and tell you what is to come. Second verses keep that tune going. Final verses wrap up the message, bring the chords to r

Not Today, Jackal

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This I Believe

On this holy day, when we are encouraged to be in awe of God- the 3-in-one and 1-in-3, I am going to engage in a double prerogative- the prerogative of the preacher to stray from the texts and the prerogative of the birthday celebrant to do what she wants. Explaining the scriptures is very important to me, and I also believe our testimonies are significant as well.  I cannot explain the how of the Trinity to you. The only answer to how is, “I don’t know.”  As for why, I can either say- God’s business is God’s business or I can tell you that God is bigger than our understanding, our comprehension, our imagination and can only be glimpsed- ever so fleetingly- through awe.  Yet, I believe in God and how God chooses to show God’s self. Theology, studying God, is only useful if it actually helps us in our daily lives. I want to share aspects of my testimony, my theology, and what I believe with you today. Here is my statement of faith for this Holy Trinity Sunday on the occasion of my 41st

Pandemic Disgrace

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Turn It Off For Lent

“Be still, and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations,      I will be exalted in the earth!” The  Lord  of hosts is with us;the God of Jacob is our fortress.  -Psalm 46:10-11   This year we are entering the season of Lent in a somewhat precarious global situation. While we can never be certain what is to come, the present circumstances capture our imaginations and inflame our anxieties in ways that can be overwhelming and emotionally charged. It is very important for our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being to set aside time to be still and remember God’s power and presence in this world.  I do not often give specific directives relative to Lenten practice. I typically offer general encouragements and reminders to reflect on the activities or absence of activities in your life that may cause you to feel separated from God. Rarely has anyone told me that chocolate genuinely has a negative effect on their spiritual life. Lenten discipline is not merely about doing