Pastor Roy's Sermons

November 2018

November 25: The Reign of Christ

Children’s sermon: What is a King or Queen? What kind of king or queen would you like to have? What is the difference between a King and Queen and a president? Can a president do whatever he or she wants? In the past, Kings and Queens could. So was it more important back in those days to have a good, kind, just king and Queen? How would it feel to live in the land of a King who took advantage of his power?
Today is the day we celebrate Jesus as our King. What kind of King do you think Jesus is? Since Jesus is King, does that mean everything will always turn out the way we want? Do you think there have been kings who haven’t loved their people? I believe Jesus is the King of Love. Jesus teaches us how to love. We love because God first loved us.
Sermon: This is not a Gospel passage that answers all our questions, but challenges us to listen afresh to Jesus. So today I am asking more questions than suggesting answers. That was usually the way Jesus taught.
Jesus answers the Roman governor’s questions with “My Kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asks, “So you are a king?” Jesus answers, “You say I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
John is inviting us to listen. Listen to Jesus’ voice. Listen to Jesus’ truth. This conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate reminds us that Jesus is not about being in charge and getting his way. Pilate steers the conversation in the direction of kings and ruling, and Jesus repoints it toward listening to the truth and allowing that truth to transform us. It’s no wonder Pilate is seriously unnerved by the conversation and sends him back to Herod. This is no criminal. Maybe there is even a message for him. For some the message of Jesus is hope. For others, like Pilate, it is a message of judgment. He has worked hard, ruthlessly, to be in charge of this puny, despised, rebellious territory. What is this talk of truth? Pilate’s truth is power and control and pleasing Caesar. Caesar is truth. Caesar is right. Caesar is peace. Caesar is joy if you play by his rules and execute his judgments. As Jesus is led away, Pilate is pretty sure Jesus’ truth is not the efficient, violent power and peace of Rome. Pilate has something to think about.
What is Jesus’ Kingdom? What is Jesus’ truth? I’m pretty sure John is not looking for a quick answer here. Not something that we can claim for our own and then efficiently move on to the next challenge. Listening to the truth of Jesus will take us apart. This “not Roman,” “not Caesar” life points us in a new direction. Is Jesus calling to us today, "Why not spend a bit more time listening, for my truth, my freedom, my humility?" I hear Jesus inviting us to a deepening faith, to reconsider our allegiances, our expectations, our assumptions.
There is always room for us to recommit ourselves to the Kingdom of God, the reign of Jesus. I hear Jesus inviting and reminding us to pray, to listen, to continue to grow in faith—trusting in the reign of Christ.
Thanks be to God.

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November 21 Grace and Gratitude

Colossians 3:12-17, Luke 6:27-38
Here are a few key phrases from Colossians. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. You are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Love each other. Forgive each other. And be thankful. Do everything in the name and Spirit of Jesus.
As I was working on this I was writing God is gracious and instead I wrote, God is crazy. And I chuckled, why did I write that? Then I stopped and thought. We sometimes think of God as a big human being, acting and thinking like a big human being. But God is so beyond anything we can think or say or even be. And the Grace of God is crazy. Not in God’s terms, but in our terms. Because we aren’t even sure what grace is. What if you raise children with too much grace? Might they turn out to be spoiled? What if we forgive too much, will the forgiven come to not take seriously the need to make choices seriously, to pull one’s share of the work in this life, to be faithful and true?
Are not People of grace crazy? Grace goes against our instincts, our anxious thoughts and plans for our own wellbeing. It feels that way. But if we think about it, what has made the difference for us, someone or some institution’s love for us? Or another’s judgment of us? Of course there is always a balance of grace and discipline. Without discipline children and adults cannot succeed. Discipline pushes us to reach deep within and do what needs to be done to overcome the challenges of our lives. But without grace as a foundation, we will struggle to find peace. For even the most disciplined soul, life without peace is a broken life indeed.
Perhaps gratitude is the lock that opens the door to grace. Gratitude is personal. No one can make us grateful. They can be gracious and kind, but unless the receiver of grace is grateful, there cannot be growth in grace.
So Thanksgiving is crucial day for our faith. We learn grace from God with us, God incarnate in Jesus Christ our Lord. We learn the extent of God with us in Jesus’ journey to the cross. 01to demonstrate the far reaching power of God’s love and the love of God’s son.
Does Grace flow from gratitude? Or does gratitude flow from grace? Or will true grace always be grateful, even as the grateful will always know grace.
So that is my simple message this evening. Grace and gratitude are holy and inseparable. A gift of God.
Thanks be to God.

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November 18: The path of Grace

How often and with how much energy do we concentrate on things that are just beyond us? Our phones, cars, houses, cures for diseases, powerful people on our side or against us, entertainment, and all the forms of media. Not that these things are terrible, but there are so many distractions from what and who is right in front of us. Sometimes we are distracted from what is within us, a need for emotional healing or friendship, or prayer which brings us fully into the presence of God, creation, and all of God’s gifts for us.
Sometimes we seek distractions from things that amaze or interest us for the moment. The latest news story or event.
It feels like the kingdom is often beyond us. And for what are we hoping? For whom are we waiting?
Jesus warns his disciples, “Don’t be led astray! Don’t assume because someone speaks for me that they have anything to do with me at all!”
How do we know the difference between a distraction and the wisdom of Christ, the wisdom of God?
Jesus speaks of a great upheaval a time of great trouble, terror, and suffering. Since the time of Jesus, there has been so much suffering and trouble, sometimes entire societies ripped apart violently, it’s hard for me to imagine what Jesus is talking about. And that’s hard for a preacher to admit.
Of course, I can’t leave it there. Some have interpreted these passages as referring to a specific, future time of suffering which surpasses all other times of suffering. But it’s tough to really measure that. When someone dies a very, very difficult death, what could be more painful than that? When millions of Jews and Slavic peoples, and disabled people are slaughtered during WWII, what could be worse? When genocide happens more and more throughout our world that we turn away from it and no longer want to hear about it in the news, when there are more and more refugees caused by civil wars, we are tempted to simply be glad it is not our own country embroiled in civil war, though the way we speak about our political enemies is clearly the first step toward that end.
Even so, it feels to me that Jesus and the other prophets are getting our attention. This beginning of birth pains, are not pain and suffering and grief and illness the very things that bring us back to our faith? Faith in love, salvation, and resurrection to a new creation of hope and peace? Don’t those dreaded shadows in our lives end up being the very thing that calls us back to God’s Grace?
Until we despair of making it by our own strength, we never learn to trust in God’s Grace which is freely, lovingly, mercifully provided to all who allow themselves to fall into it? We cannot gently lower ourselves into it. We cannot devise our own plan of survival to overcome all of our troubles.
We struggle, spare no effort to save ourselves by believing the right things, eating the right things, avoiding the wrong things, loving the right people, preparing for the future, making the right decisions, you fill in the blank.
I hear Jesus and Daniel, Ezekiel, John on the isle of Patmos writing Revelation saying, “Try all you want, but this is just the beginning of the great trouble that will cause you to finally let go. . .and fall into the grace of God—no strategies, no strings attached, no secret knowledge, just faith in God’s love and mercy.
God, teach us to let go of all of our distractions to save ourselves and finally trust You and your lasting care. Amen.

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November 11: Generosity

Each person we meet, we tend to either respect, ignore, or fear. We will not be generous with those we ignore or
would rather ignore. What turned the church into a movement was that Jesus’ followers found in their faith the
capacity to be generous in many ways toward those others feared and ignored. It wasn’t, I believe, as much because
they were nice people but because they had been touched by profound hope and grace. The Grace of God.
What is generosity? Is it not to give to another with joy, gratitude, abundance, and freedom?
Doesn’t it make sense that if we give with open hands out of a sense of joy, gratitude, and freedom that those qualities
will increase in us and around us?
But what if we are taken advantage of? It could be argued, and some do, that the widow giving two copper coins to the
temple, and the well-off people who ran it, was being taken advantage of. They should have been giving to her in the
form of alms.
We hate the thought of being taken advantage of. We will go to great lengths to make sure any cause toward which we
contribute is an authentic need and that the gift is well used. If we give and then learn that the money was redirected
toward an unworthy cause, we feel guilty and irresponsible. The joy of our giving is lost even though our intention was
I believe today’s lessons do not end begin and end with money. The widow from Zarephath sacrificially gives of her oil,
flour, and energy to provide bread for Elijah. She is willing to cast her lot with the poor prophet from Israel. If he dies,
she and her son dies. The widow giving two copper coins supports the place where she meets God, the place where
others meet God.
And Jesus notices her. He lifts her up as an example of faithful giving. Abundant generosity. He doesn’t go and
interview her and make sure she has the right attitude. I always imagine she has a very serious face, but maybe she was
smiling! Think about your favorite causes. When you give and when this congregation supports various ministries, you
smile, at least inwardly because you know your giving is needed and will accomplish good. Those without resources will
have opportunity.
But even beyond good causes, is it possible to live our lives with generosity? That each decision we make, each moment
of work, or reflection, or celebration, or even grief is. . .a chance to show love, to experience grace.
I don’t know about you, but I confess that not every moment for me is a moment grace. I worry. I forget to be grateful.
I get grabby with what I want to accomplish and get frustrated when I feel failure. I neglect the relationships around me.
Not that I don’t try. But sometimes I can try so hard that the grace of God is turned into an effort on my part. And I say
this because I’m guessing you do the same.
It is the human experience from which we need to keep turning back to God. Back to the generous love of Christ acting
in the world today even as Christ gave his life for the world so many years ago. The Spirit is inviting us to be mindful of
God’s free and abundant provision. To experience the grace and mercy of God to us and those we love first hand. Then
to place ourselves in the place of the widows and orphans—whoever in our society is without resources. To seize every
moment to offer ourselves in love for those around us—as we are able.
Today is Veteran’s day. Veterans have offered their lives for the good of the common order and the wellbeing of our
nation. Many have lost their lives defending those whom they love. Veterans are an example of generosity, often at
their own emotional and psychological peril. And also police officers, first responders, paramedics, EMTs, and fire
fighters who do the same. May we take notice of their courage and willingness to serve generously.
We sit at the feet of Jesus, we receive God’s grace. Courage be with you as you take notice and care for the forgotten
and despised. Amen.

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November 4 Revelation's reminder that God holds the saints in all things

The book of Revelation and parts of Zechariah, Ezekiel, and Daniel are a variety of literature that was common in Jewish writings a couple centuries leading up to the time of Jesus Christ and the early church. The writers create stark visions with images to communicate God’s promised presence. The children of God are never abandoned or lost. Despite persecution, disappointment, and death, the life of God’s children is held secure in God. The end is a glorious reunion—regardless of appearances otherwise. The faithful will be held faithfully. Christians, such as John in Revelation, wrote in this style for the same purpose—to encourage the children of God in faith, that they are beloved of God regardless of world events.
Today, some think of these Apocalyptic writings as prophesies of the future, but when they were written, they were written mainly to help God’s people interpret current events, to encourage the persecuted to have hope. Hope for the future is fine, but what we really need is hope for the present, that our faith has meaning—that God is with us. Since God is with us now, the future is less frightening, regardless of how it unfolds. God will still be with us. The beauty of Revelation is that it weaves the church’s worship into John’s proclamations about current persecutions and hardships. Our work is to join our worship with that of all of creation and to rest in God’s strong mercy which never disappoints.
In today’s passage when the one seated on the throne says “See, I am making all things new,” and “It is done, I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life,” John is reminding us of our faith right now as much as telling us about the future. What is going on now is what will be going on in the future.
For John, the appearances of death and loss, crying and pain have been replaced with a new reality, the reality of God with us. The love of Christ with us--God with us. The power of Revelation is that it reveals that the power of faith is all about God, not us. God brings down evil. God is creating a new heaven and a new earth. God is calling together the saints in a holy choir, a holy army. We participate, but we do not create. We do not make it happen. We don’t even make our own faith happen. We simple rejoice to grow in faith as God grants it.
Today, All Saints Sunday, we celebrate God’s gift of community in grace. The Saints are not good people. The saints are people who have been pulled into the mercy of God, the creative love and life of God and respond with joy.
Jesus raising Lazarus in today’s Gospel lesson is a sign of the life faith in God transforming our death, loss, disappointment, frustration, limitations into a new life, a new work of grace and peace.
Today we celebrate the life of the saints, which is what we are, the beloved children of God. Today we celebrate communion as a sign of our beloved community in faith, in the forgiveness and all embracing love of God.
Thanks be to God.

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