During the sermon, the preacher expands on one of the readings from the Bible and relates it to our daily life in today’s world. The sermon usually refers to events from the weekly news, as well other aspects of the culture. The interpretation that is presented is intended to be invitational, rather than dogmatic. Our hope is that it will offer words of guidance and comfort for your life without presenting a closed case.
Sunday Sermon (February 18th 2024)
Unlike the other synoptic Gospels, Mark has very little to say about the
tempting of Jesus in the wilderness. According to Mark, “And the Spirit
immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the
wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild
beasts; and the angels waited on him” (vs. 12,13). To find out the details
of what happened when Jesus was led out to the Judaean Desert to fast
we must examine Matthew chapter 4. The first testing of Jesus was
when the evil one challenged the famished Jesus to turn the stones to
bread. Matthew says, “The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the
Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread’” (vs. 3).
Jesus answered Satan saying, “One does not live by bread alone, but by
every word that comes from the mouth of God” (vs. 4). Then the devil
tried to convince Jesus to put God to the test by using a verse of
Scripture defending his position, “He will command his angels
concerning you, and on their hands, they will bear you up, so that you
will not dash your foot against a stone” (vs. 5). Jesus held firm to his
position, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (vs. 7). The final
temptation by Satan involved worldly power and a promise to give Jesus
all the kingdoms in the world if he would “fall down and worship” the
devil. Jesus rebuked him saying, “Away with you, Satan! For it is
written, ‘Worship the Lord you God and serve only him’” (vs. 10).
These three tests by Satan to relieve physical suffering, obtain power
and world recognition were met each time with a refusal by our Lord to
succumb to evil and turn away from God.
Jesus the Christ denied his human needs for nourishment, comfort, and
security, resisting all temptations from Satan to maintain his right
relationship with God. In the forty days of Lent from Ash Wednesday to
Easter we remember Jesus’ forty difficult days in the wilderness and
learn how to build our own Lenten practices to be modeled after our
Savior. The spiritual struggles Christ encounters require him to lean
heavily on God for guidance and strength. As Jesus wrestles with this
wilderness experience, he prays for help and protection, and God sends
the angels to minister to him once Satan has been cast away. This is a
profound example of the power of the Holy Spirit’s ability to comfort
and guide us through the trials and difficulties in our lives. The forty
days of Lent are a perfect opportunity to practice the lessons Jesus has
taught us through his wilderness experience. For many, Lent becomes a
time of deprivation, maybe not to the extent of a forty-day fast, but
instead removing a favorite treat or snack from our diet or limiting
screen time, watching television or other leisure activities. You realize
quickly how long 40 days really is when you are waiting for the time to
pass so you can return to eating your treats and sweets again or going
back to a coveted pastime or activity. We have the choice to “leave” the
wilderness after the forty days of Lent has passed but in Jesus’ example,
we must remember that his suffering, passion and the cross directly
followed his time of trial and temptation in the wilderness. The forty-
day wilderness experience helped to spiritually prepare our Savior for
this profound challenge as he journeyed to the cross. The desert invites
us to deeply reflect on who we are and whose we are.
In the Fourth century there were a group of devoted Christian monks,
called The Desert Fathers, who used Jesus’ example of self-denial and
service and lived in the Egyptian desert to seek God and be at peace with
others. These monks lived in poverty and vowed to practice austerity,
prayer, and work. Many theologians have written tributes to the Desert
Fathers whose deep insights and reflections have assisted with the
Christian faith experience for followers of Christ who wish to be more
like him. Thomas Merton is the author of the book, The Wisdom of the
Desert, and I encourage you to peruse this text, but I wish to share with
you a small excerpt from the book that I found particularly enlightening.
“We cannot do exactly what they did. But we must be as thorough
and as ruthless in our determination to break all spiritual chains,
and cast off the domination of alien compulsions, to find our true
selves, to discover and develop our inalienable spiritual liberty
and use it to build on earth, the Kingdom of God. This is not the
place in which to speculate what our great and mysterious
vocation might involve. That is still unknown. Let it suffice for me
to say that we need to learn from those men of the 4 th century how
to ignore prejudice, defy compulsion and strike out fearlessly into
The breaking of the “spiritual chains” is not a temporary fix for the
period of Lent, but instead a change in identity to uncovering our “true
selves” as God designed us to be. By encouraging regular spiritual
practices like prayer and meditation we not only increase our
communication with God, but we discover how to be a better person,
love our neighbor more and help to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.
Jesus did just that when he resisted the temptation of Satan during his
forty days in the wilderness. For us, we do not need to find a desert or
wilderness to have the experience of temptation, because sadly we live
in it each day in a world filled with evil; but we do have the next forty
days to look inward and up and change our perspective. By the grace of
God, the power of the resurrection of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy
Spirit may our Lenten journey be transformative and pleasing to the
Sunday Sermon (February 11th, 2024)
I wish to ask one of our visiting Scouts from Pack 42 to assist me for a moment. Â What is your name? (I hold up a Transformer toy) Do you know what this is?Â Hopefully they do and respond, â€œA Transformerâ€.Â What do they do? Again, hopefully they will say, â€œChange into something elseâ€.Â Can you show me how?Â Fascinating!Â I thank my volunteer and ask them to return to their seat.
This is the same toy that I had when I walked into church this morning but now it looks different and can perform different jobs based on the form it takes. I am glad that I had my volunteer to help me, as I am not familiar with this type of toy because my children are older, and they did not play with Transformers when they were young. It amazes me that with a little help from my friend the robot looking object that I had is now a fancy sports car! This reminds me of the story of Jesusâ€™ transfiguration from the reading in Markâ€™s Gospel.
Jesus went up to a high mountain with his apostles, Peter, James, and John â€œAnd he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach themâ€ (vs. 2,3). The word transfiguration means to be transformed, just like the transformer toy that Forrest and Matt helped me with! Jesus changed right before the eyes of the apostles to look more like God so that his followers would recognize his divine nature and believe his message. The visitors of Elijah and Moses are important figures because they represent the prophets and the law. The prophets like Elijah foretold of the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God and Moses on a mountaintop offered the Ten Commandments to give guidance to those who love God. Having Elijah and Moses together with Jesus at his transfiguration bears witness to Jesus as the Messiah and the fulfillment of prophecy from the Old Testament.
When Jesus transforms into a dazzling white apparition, the disciples are â€œterrifiedâ€, and Peter is so terrified that â€œHe did not know what to sayâ€ (vs. 6). Peterâ€™s intense fear is understandable because in the text just prior to the one we read today, Jesus told his disciples of his death and resurrection. Mark chapter 8 verse 31 says, â€œThen he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes and be killed and after three days rise again.â€ Peter is very disturbed by Jesusâ€™ Messianic Mission and does not want to believe that the Son of God must endure pain, suffering and death; it makes Peter and the other disciple question whether Jesus is truly the Messiah. When Jesus meets with Elijah and Moses and then transfigures (transforms) in front of them this experience helps to affirm for the apostles that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God.
Mark goes on to say, â€œThen a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, â€˜this is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!â€™â€ (vs. 7) With Jesus standing before them in radiant light and glory, God speaking the profound words, â€œthis is my Sonâ€ and the cloud of the Holy Spirit engulfing them, the disciples are dumbfounded by the awe and majesty of the Trinity, and they begin to believe what has been told to them about Jesusâ€™ Messianic Mission. Even as Jesus was transformed into divine splendor, so were the apostles, Peter, James, and John transformed that day by what they experienced on the mountaintop. They loved Jesus and did not want to believe that the prophecy of Jesusâ€™ was true and that he must endure rejection, suffering, death, and resurrection to fulfill his God-given, Messianic Mission. They did not want to believe it but now they knew it to be true and God had commanded, â€œListen to him!â€ and they did, even when Jesus â€œordered them to tell no oneâ€ (vs. 9) until after he had risen from the dead.
transfiguration has a powerful message for us as well. There is a transforming message of divine love
in Jesusâ€™ Messianic Mission. â€œFor God so
loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him
may not perish but may have eternal lifeâ€ (John 3:16). When we take up our cross and follow Jesus
Christ we change and become new people capable of doing new tasks, just
like the Transformer toy turned from a robot to a truck. As a follower of Christ, we see the world
through fresh eyes with opportunities to spread Godâ€™s love, light and hope to a
world that desperately needs to be refreshed.
The transfiguration of Jesus revealed to the disciples the uniqueness of
the Messianic Mission and the importance it holds for humanity. The powers of evil sought to destroy the Son
of God but instead Jesus Christ stands as a witness to the power of truth,
justice, and unconditional love. The Son
of God never elevated himself or his followers to a position of power or
authority, but he did wield the transforming and redeeming power of the
Almighty God to save the world from sin and death. Now thatâ€™s a â€œtransformerâ€ I want on my side,
and you may want that too. Godâ€™s gift of
Jesus is the greatest gift you will ever receive; an opportunity to transform
your life from despair to hope, from anxiousness to peace, from sorrow to joy
and from emptiness to abounding love. Take
the hand of Jesus and witness the transforming power of love. AMEN
Sunday Sermon (February 4th, 2024)
Proclaiming the Message
I distinctly remember a shampoo commercial from the mid-1980â€™s that
proclaimed that their product was so good that when you used it you
would love it so much that you would need to â€œtell two friends, and they
will tell two friends, and so on, and so onâ€. Faberge Organic shampoo
not only had a great product, but they also encouraged a tried, tested,
and true marketing principleâ€”word of mouth. How many times have
you told a friend (or two or three) about a delicious restaurant, helpful
website, or miraculous product? Sharing our own personal experiences
to assist those around us feels good and serves others. This need to â€œtell
two friends, and they will tell two friends, and so on, and so onâ€ is not
just restricted to todayâ€™s world or commercials of the 1980â€™s, â€˜word of
mouthâ€™ advertising was around in Jesusâ€™ time as well.
From todayâ€™s Gospel reading the impact of â€˜word of mouthâ€™ and the
telling of friends is evident. Mark says, â€œThat evening, at sundown, they
brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the
whole city was gathered around the doorâ€ (vs. 32, 33). If you remember
from our last weekâ€™s sermon, Jesus healed the man in the synagogue
who was troubled with an unclean spirit. Word of Jesusâ€™ â€œnew type of
teaching with authorityâ€ had spread and people were telling their friends
with ailments that the preacher and teacher from Nazareth was gifted
with the power to heal. He had just left the synagogue and entered the
house of Simon and Andrew when Jesus was called to perform another
miracle. Simonâ€™s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a fever and
according to Mark, â€œHe came and took her by the hand and lifted her
upâ€ (vs. 31). As with the crowds at the synagogue, the people of the
town who had gathered at the home of Simon and Andrew were
astonished by the miracles Jesus performed. The teaching ministry that
Jesus was proclaiming was also a healing ministry and there was no
discrepancy between what Jesus did and his message of salvation. Faith
in him is what made the sick people whole and well and his Gospel
message was being repeated over and over by those who witnessed his
The healing of Simonâ€™s mother-in-law is profound because according to
the scripture, â€œThen the fever left her, and she began to serve themâ€ (vs.
31). As soon as she was healed, Simonâ€™s mother-in-law became the
very first Deacon in the New Testament. Her gratitude to Jesus for
restoring her wholeness was expressed through her service to his church,
which at that time was in her own home. In the Greek text the word
diakoneo is used to describe Jesus being served by the angels in the
wilderness (1:13) and Simonâ€™s mother-in-law serving Jesus and his
disciples in her home. This theme of service is central to Jesusâ€™ life,
ministry, and teaching. When she was healed and then immediately
began to serve others, Simonâ€™s mother-in-law, acting as Deacon boldly
proclaims Christâ€™s message of healing, wholeness, and new life. She is a
living example of how Jesus acted and what Godâ€™s Son expects from us.
All who were there to witness this true act of discipleship yearned to be
touched by the Healer and it is no wonder that more and more people
felt the need to â€œtell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on and
By this point in Markâ€™s Gospel, Jesusâ€™ â€œnew teaching, with authorityâ€
was known by many and he was sought out for his wisdom and gift of
healing, so it is not a surprise that when the Savior went out to a
â€œdeserted placeâ€ to pray, that Simon and the other Disciples â€œhunted for
himâ€ and said to him, â€œEveryone is searching for youâ€ (vs. 35-37). The
Disciples felt pressured by the crowds of people at Simonâ€™s house to
have Jesusâ€™ return so that those who were sick could be healed but our
Lord had other work to do. Even though the Disciples are distracted by
the needs of the crowds, Jesus must continue Proclaiming the Message.
This important message you might remember from the beginning of
Markâ€™s Gospel which we read last week, â€œNow after John was arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God and saying,
â€˜The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent
and believe in the good news.â€™â€ (1:14,15). This important passage
emphasizes that Jesusâ€™ mission is to preach the â€œgood newsâ€ and he
cannot be confined to one place, he was sent by God to proclaim the
message to all people and that is exactly what he does.
Sunday Sermon (January 28th, 2024)
There is a power in words. For good or bad, what we say matters and the words we use can add value, create hurt or even sometimes make someone laugh. As many of you know, I am a Montessori teacher of three- to six-year-old children. It is a wonderfully enriching experience to assist young children in the process of reading. When they are first sounding out words that are unfamiliar, they may not know what they mean. I had a notable experience many years ago with a four-year-old little boy who was decoding three-letter words with the ending sound of â€œamâ€. We sat together as he sounding out â€œH-A-Mâ€ and he knew that was meat, â€œS-A-Mâ€ which he recognized as a name and then he chose the word â€œD-A-Mâ€ and before I could explain that it was a way to use water to make power, he shouted out, â€œOh, Miss Lori, I know what that isâ€¦it is when Daddy loses the dog in the park!â€ The power in words.
In teaching, and preaching for that matter, there is a significant responsibility to choose words carefully so that misinterpretation is limited, and a positive outcome is achieved. Instructors must not only master the material they are presenting but they must do so with a confidence that models how we expect our students to approach learning. I gain confidence by truly believing in what I am presenting, whether it be reading or the Word of God.
Todayâ€™s Gospel reading from Mark offers us an example of the greatest teacher ever known, Jesus Christ. While at the synagogue, according to Mark, the scribes and others gathered â€œwere astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authorityâ€ (vs. 22). In this sacred religious space, Jesus commands authority by his presence, profound communication skills and spiritual power. He creates vitality, deploys a new power, and astonishes the onlookers with â€œA new teachingâ€”with authorityâ€ (vs. 27). What is this â€œnew teachingâ€ that amazed the people in the synagogue? Jesus taught by healing. The freeing Word of God that Jesus shares in his Gospel message is what provides healing for broken humanity. Jesusâ€™ words are so powerful that even the forces of evil know of its healing power.
The unclean spirit within the sick man at the synagogue cried out, â€œWhat have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of Godâ€ (vs. 24). These forces of evil recognize the power and authority of the Son of God. His word is action, and his action is embedded in the Word of God. His divine authority is not challenged, when Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit saying, â€œBe silent, and come out of himâ€ (vs. 25), the unclean spirit had no choice but to comply. Jesusâ€™ words liberate not just the ill man with the unclean spirit but all of us as well. This miracle serves to demonstrate to all of us the power of Jesusâ€™ word to provide healing and wholeness. This child of God was delivered from his bondage by the One who has pierced the boundary between heaven and earth and brought hope and new life to humanity.
This transformative â€œnew teaching with authorityâ€ should signal to us to acknowledge the undeniable relationship between spiritual wholeness and health. Even if one does not recognize the demonic spirit known to many as â€œthe devilâ€, everyone struggles with internal conflicts which way heavily on our minds, deplete our emotional energy and distract us away from hope and joy. Using Jesusâ€™ healing words to force those ills which make us spiritually sick to â€œbe silent and come outâ€ of us is empowering and transformative. Any impurity in our lives that seeks to oppress us can be healed by Jesusâ€™ â€œnew teaching-with authorityâ€. The Living God is present and acting in the world by the boundary-breaking, justice-seeking, Son of God. Jesus Christâ€™s healing words and actions disrupt the forces of evil; they are effective, they are powerful, and they are given freely to you and me.
The next time you are feeling weighed down with the frustrations, pressures, and uncertainties in the world that seem to drain the very life from your being, I challenge you to call upon the transformative, healing power of the risen Christ and see if you too can be amazed. One of the greatest tests of our faith, is believing that God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit is with us during times of trial.
When I feel discouraged or afraid that God has forsaken me, I remember this uplifting poem that I know you have heard many times. Jesusâ€™ healing words can carry you even through the darkest of days. None are like the Holy One of God who teaches with authority, heals the sick and carries every burden that we bare. Jesus our divine authority is the Word made Flesh, the liberating healing Word and the Word of God which is our saving grace. Thanks be to God! AMEN
Sunday Sermon (January 15, 2024)
The Gift of God’s Spirit
Last week we celebrated the Epiphany and examined the gifts of the Magi of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and today we celebrate the unique gift that God has given to usâ€”the power of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the ages, the Holy Spirit, instrumental in the mystery and significance of the Trinity, has been described in numerous ways. As with other aspects of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is considered omnipotent, eternal, and omnipresent with the ability to sanctify, regenerate, and create. In art the Holy Spirit is quite often represented as a dove, blessing individuals with the ability to receive healing, prophecy, or special talents such as speaking in â€œtonguesâ€ which is referenced in our scripture today. â€œWhen Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesiedâ€ (Acts 19:6). Paul explained to the disciples that their baptism by John provided repentance and pointed them in the direction of the stronger one, Jesus, who would baptize them with fire and the Holy Spirit. This special gift from God empowers individuals to accomplish the work of Christ.
The book of Acts is filled with examples of the power of the Holy Spirit and the description of what happened on the day of Pentecost clarifies this important gift from God. According to Acts chapter two: â€œâ€¦suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them, all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them abilityâ€ (vs. 2-4). This is the origin of the phrase â€œspeaking in tonguesâ€ and is central to the Pentecostal church theology. The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost gave the early followers of Jesus a way to communicate the gospel in the languages of all present so that the message of Christ could be understood universally and boldly in truth and power.
If the Holy Spirit is universally offered to all believers, how can we recognize Godâ€™s gift of the Spirit working in our lives? First, I believe it begins with an openness to receive instruction and guidance from God in the ways of Christ. We have been blessed with grace and mercy and Godâ€™s presence in our lives through trial and rejoicing. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to boldly witness and accept then give testimony to Godâ€™s healing power and the truth and peace found through following Jesus Christ. When we experience Godâ€™s gift of the Holy Spirit it can be a truly transformational experience which has the potential to change your life forever. I had such an experience thirty years ago.
After the birth of my daughter who is now thirty, I experienced severe headaches and serious neurological issues. I found out that I had a brain aneurysm which required a risky surgery. As the young mother of a newborn infant and four-year-old son, I was horrified that I would not survive the surgery and my children would grow up without a mom. By the grace of God and many prayers I pulled through the surgery and was beginning to recover when the surgical team at Brigham and Womenâ€™s Hospital discovered that the aneurysm was larger than they originally thought, and a second surgery was necessary to completely take care of the issue. The second surgery did not go as well, and I developed a serious infection and dangerously high fever. Packed in an ice bath in the ICU, I drifted in and out of consciousness and my condition worsened. I kept reciting the Lordâ€™s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm through the clouded haze of feverâ€¦and then it happened! In a dream-like state, I saw before me the image of a white dove with an olive branch in its mouth like this one depicted in this illustration of Noah and the flood. The sacred bird approached so close to me that I could sense the movement of air from its wings! A feeling of complete peace enveloped me, like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I fell into a deep sleep. When I woke up the nurse beside my bed told me that she was happy to inform me that my fever had broken, and I would soon be moved back down to a recovery floor. I thought that in my feverish delusional state I had dreamed about the dove that had rescued me. I remembered the story of Noah from my time in Sunday school, but I did not know that in many Christian imaginations the dove represents the Holy Spirit. It wasnâ€™t until several weeks later while walking the halls of Brigham and Womenâ€™s Hospital with my Physical Therapist that I noticed a plaque on the wall with a picture of a woman and the Scripture verse Matthew 9:21 â€œIf I only touch his cloak, I will be made wellâ€. In that moment it struck me, God in complete mercy and by the power of the Holy Spirit had healed me!! I was never again the same and I knew someday my story would prove meaningful to others who have faith in Jesus Christ, and it has. I have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak the truth and I am not the only one.
Many of you sitting here today I am sure have powerful testimonials of how the Gift of Godâ€™s Spirit has changed your lives. If you ever feel so inspired to share your faith by offering a story to our congregation, please let me know and we will make time to give glory to God by proclaiming the power of the Holy Spirit in your lived experience. Our God is a living God and is present with us through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. The Gift of Godâ€™s Spirit, just like Godâ€™s love is abundant, unrestrictive, and the foundational core to living a faithful life through Jesus Christ. Godâ€™s Holy Spirit just like our Savior, Jesus the Christ is available to us always, all we need to do is ask and be open to recognizing the signs in our lives. So, if you would like please repeat after me: Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me, Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me, melt me, mold me, fill me, use me, Spirit of the living God fall afresh on me! And may it be so, AMEN.