August 28, 2016 – The fullness of Christ

Pentecost 15   August 28, 2016    Acts 20:7-12, 21:7-14; Ephesians 4:4-16 The fullness of Christ ******************************************************** I’ve come to especially appreciate our first story today – the coming back to life of a young man named Eutychus (in the Greek language) – his name in Latin is Fortunatas – meaning fortunate in any language. His nickname’s got to be Lucky. I bet some of us can identify with Eutychus – getting sleepy, listening to the preacher go on and on… Till he (poor Eutychus) falls out of the window. Making for one very unforgettable sermon for Lucky Eutychus… (Even if he can’t remember a word of it…He won’t forget it…) My sermons probably go on a bit longer than some would prefer, sometimes. But nobody’s fallen out of their pew yet, let alone a third floor window…. And so far I don’t think I’ve ever preached more than twenty-five minutes in a sermon. (Even when it seems like hours, it’s usually actually less than twenty minutes)… And not to be too defensive, but notice how the apostle is speaking for quite a bit longer than that in today’s first reading…  Maybe a subtle hint to us from the word of God… to not be in any hurry to be done with church… Our daughter Rohi’s been studying the Pilgrims. The other day she read to me from one of her text books, about how Pilgrim preachers would sometimes preach for more than three hours at a stretch. I imagine that could make me sleepy – especially in hot weather like we’ve had this summer…. But people were used to longer sermons then – and spending most of the day, Sunday, in church… And falling asleep was probably rare in the pilgrim church –because they had guys walking around, carrying long poles – waking any wannabe sleepers, by tapping or smiting their shoulders… And even pilgrim pastors sound relatively concise…  compared with St Paul today – who is literally preaching all through the night… Till our guy Lucky falls out of the window, down to the ground, three floors below, in the middle of the night, where he’s lifted up and pronounced dead. But Paul goes down, picks him up – and pronounces him alive again.  Then goes back upstairs, has a little bread-breaking snack – and continues teaching till dawn… As if raising someone from the dead was something we do everyday… A minor interruption to the sermon. Coming back from the dead is probably going to be the main thing we remember  from that night – at least if we’re Eutychus, or his parents, or friends. But for the apostle Paul, the main event actually seems to be about getting people to hear the word of God better. The word of God, is, of course, the context in which all resurrection happens. Raising Eutychus from the dead is a beautiful sermon illustration. We wish we could always make it happen as visibly and certainly as this, every time… But even the apostles Peter and Paul do this only once each in the book of Acts. And it’s always God who does the raising up, as the book of Acts makes clear… We are supporting actors in God’s drama of redemption. So Paul doesn’t take credit for the wondrous sign....

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September 6, 2015 – Faith at Work

Pentecost 15 September 6, 2015 Proverbs 22:1-2,8-9, 22-23; James 2:1-26 Faith at Work **************************************************** Happy Labor Day weekend, working saints. We’re observing this working person’s holiday weekend with James, the brother of Jesus, who by divine synchronicity, is teaching today on the theme of working faith. Telling us ‘take time off from work, every week, and get a three day weekend anytime you can – but don’t go to work ever without faith.’ (Don’t even get out of bed without working faith.) Last week James was telling us about undivided faith. Being of one mind – faith and life not divided into areas of faith and areas of no faith. Now we’re moving on into chapter two of the undivided life – starting with treating all people with equal love and respect (not treating everyone identically, since we don’t have identical needs) – but showing no favoritism for the rich and powerful over the poor and the weak… (Favoritism for the poor doesn’t seem to be a big problem in most of human history.) And moving on now to having no divisions between what we say we believe… and how we actually live our lives. James again sets the faith-bar high. And again he’s only walking in the footsteps of his brother Jesus. James reminds me here of my seminary New Testament professor, Rev. Dr. Abraham Smith, who used to tell us what his father told him: “Son, if you aim too low you’ll surely hit the mark.” James tells us to aim for perfection in faith, knowing full well we won’t get it right all the time. Because – when we aim for less than what Jesus teaches, we’re bound to achieve less than what Jesus asks… and expects of us… I expect most of us will agree on the merits of what James is saying today. The substance of his sermon shouldn’t be controversial. We may not always appreciate James’ rather blunt style of preaching. But we can assume his tone is related to the very real problems he’s addressing. Problems still with us, in virtually every age and culture. Then and now, some are treated more equally than others. Many still say one thing and do another. (Reminding me of my mother, telling me “do as we say, not as we do!” when I would ask ‘why can’t I smoke cigarettes? You and dad do.’ “Do as we say. Not as we do…” And if these were not real, indeed, pretty much universal issues, James wouldn’t be writing this letter. This was a while before the age of text messaging… Writing took a lot of effort – considerable time and money went into writing, copying, and delivering a letter in those days. Maybe James was getting a little cranky having to go to the trouble of writing? But regardless of any possible issues of style and tone – When we get down to James’ main message – ‘faith without works is dead, and all God’s people deserve full respect’ – we should all be able to say amen to that. We know faith and works are both needed. We know there ought not be division between what we believe and what we do. We know Christian faith means taking care of the needs of those around...

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September 21, 2014 – The Passover of God

Luke 22:14-20 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Exodus 12:1-14 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance. Exodus 12:21-28, 37-42 Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go, select lambs...

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September 1, 2013 – Pentecost 15

Micah 6:1-8 Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”       “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever….   Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Luke 14:1-14 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this.       When he noticed how the guests chose...

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