Written Sermons 2020

  • Today’s text is Mark’s resurrection account and the resurrection appears in all our early creeds. The resurrection story makes us think. It also obliges us to feel our way into our faith. Often people’s stories stir us emotionally. Mark’s story surely does. But some stories also move us psychologically. A pastor friend tells a story from a church member—one that makes us reflect and emote! Like the resurrection, it is a story that causes us to re-evaluate our lives. The narrator begins: “I enjoy Saturday mornings. Maybe it’s the quiet that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the joy of not being at work. Whatever the reason, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are a delight. Read the full text. 

  • I suppose that Palm Sunday is a lot like our troupe of characters in Mark’s Gospel—the disciples. Like Palm Sunday, the disciples’ day we call Palm Sunday begins with what we might identify as a promising start. Yet, by the end of Holy Week circumstances have completely soured. We now have a tragic situation on our hands. The disciples moreover seem to have promise in their beginning. So, both the disciples and Holy Week appear to have a promising start, yet things soon go downhill. Nonetheless, Jesus freely gives many opportunities for the twelve disciples to bounce back from the error of their ways. Read the full text.    

  • Once I sat in a Nashville, Tennessee hotel lobby waiting for a taxi to take me to the United Methodist Publishing House. While in that lobby I listened to a young woman give the same allegedly polite, but decidedly routine speech to each and every customer checking out of the hotel. “Yes, sir. Thank you for choosing Hampton Inns, West End. We thank you for your business and hope the next time you return to Nashville you will choose to lodge with us. Thank you for your decision to stay with us.”

    Read the full text.

  • Occasionally, we all hear some well-intentioned person say, “it does not matter what one believes as long as s/he are sincere.” This sentiment is about as untrue as anything we will ever hear. The horrific day of 9/11—nearly twenty years ago—should put this simple-minded platitude to rest. What we think and believe does matter! It matters and for this reason: theology (God-talk) is of utmost value. Read the full text.

  • 12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. Read the full text. 

  • [35] James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” [36] And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” [37] And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” [38] But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” [39] They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; [40] but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” [41] When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. [42] So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. [43] But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, [44] and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. [45] For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many”. Read the full text.

  • “In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends” (John Churton Collins). Read the full text.

  • We measure a person’s leadership ability by the quality of that person’s followers. For example, we  judge teachers on the aptitudes imparted to learners. Or, when assessing leadership qualities of a political leader, we ask: does the leader help join the electorate together in cooperation for the communities’ common good? To be a leader is to define the mission for those led. It is a great and noble task. Plainly teaching is constantly near the heart of leadership and leadership development. Our morning’s text is an account of Jesus and the disciples in a learning setting. Jesus teaches; the disciples learn. A disciple is “one who learns.” 

    Read the full text.

  • 15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. 18 Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Read the full text.

  • Hear the day’s lesson, Genesis 28:10-22:


    15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. 18 Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Read the full text. 

  • George Buttrick was gifted preacher of a previous generation and longtime pastor of New York’s Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. After a speaking engagement, he was flying home. On the plane he was making notes for the next Sunday’s Sermon. The man seated next to him eyed him with curiosity. Finally, he said to Buttrick, “I hate to disturb you—you’re obviously working hard on something—but what in the world are you working on?”

    Read the full text. 

  • “My name is David and I am a sinner.” What if we started all our worship services in this 12-step fashion? That is, like an AA meeting, each of us gathered here says that exact phrase as a way to get worship off the ground. I think Paul would approve.

    We are sinners. “Sinners”—the word sounds old fashioned, but it’s true: We are all of us “sinners.” We moderns avoid the term. We say “we have hang-ups.” Perhaps, we rattle off psychological words speaking prudently about “depression,” “anxiety,” or a “guilt complex.” But then, repeatedly, we circle back to the old biblical word: sin. We are all sinners. Surely, we read about sin in daily newspapers. Big sins, murder or rape, are bold-type headlines. Certainly, we notice sins in the lives of others. “She doesn’t care about anyone else,” we say; or “He’s arrogant.” Read the full text. 

  • Over the years I have learned, given the right congregation and the right group of youngsters assembled at the front of a sanctuary, that the Children’s sermon is frequently the most gratifying part of worship. Over the years I have wondered why this is true. The conclusion is simply because “the Children’s sermon is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you are going to get.” For example, one morning in a previous congregation the children came on “bring a friend Sunday.” Read the full text.

  • Today is Father’s Day. Our Scripture lesson offers us a father “in a pickle.” It is one of Abraham’s first Father’s Day with Sarah and the son of promise, Isaac. But Abraham also has another son named Ishmael born to his slave, Hagar. It was because of God’s promise to Abraham that he finds himself in difficulty. Hear the Genesis account of this story of Isaac and Ishmael and their mothers: Read the full text.

  • I had a friend named Reverend Kathy Knight who was pastor of Milton UMC in Florida. She recounted a story she used in her church as an example of her preaching theme which was “things are never as they appear.” It seems that a few years ago, there was an ad in the personals section of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper: Read the full text. 

  • Our objective today is to explore our lesson from Matthew about how to obey the God revealed in Jesus—and the doubt contained therein. In Scripture, mountains carry out a pivotal role, particularly when God reveals a truth to those “with ears listen” (Matthew 11:15).

    During the flood, Noah’s ark, carrying precious cargo, came to rest on Mount Ararat (Genesis 8:4). On Mount Moriah God told Abraham to carry his son for sacrifice (Genesis 22). Moses meets God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:20), and the word El Shaddai (#123; UM Hymnal) means, “God of the Mountains.” It is upon a mountain that Moses receives the 10 Commandments. Mount Gilboa is where King Saul dies (1 Samuel 31:8). Read the full text.

  • Paul has a problem. He has started a church in Corinth, but most of his congregation has little in common. In reality, Corinth was a miniature of one of Paul and the early church’s chief challenges. 

    Corinth was a huge, complex city. Corinth had the spirit of our modern cities—centers of trade and tourism. Corinth was cosmopolitan then as is today’s New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, or Tokyo are international today. In those early days, many Christians worshiped in house churches. These believers self-divided into clusters mirroring Corinth’s diversity. Thus, ‘unity within diversity’ is a vital

    issue for this embryonic church. Read the full text.

  • Easter is not simply a day. It is an entire liturgical/worship season. After Easter Sunday, God calls the disciples to return to the world. Yet, now they do their gospel work with the assurance of faith. Jesus’ resurrection gives this assurance. So, a gift God directs the disciples offer is simply to give and receive blessings. We only pass along what we have first received. So, we first receive the blessings of God and then—and only then—God enables us to pass these blessings on. Today is a day we recall Jesus’ ascension. God carries Jesus up to heaven. Hear Luke’s Gospel lesson as we complete the season of Easter: Read the full text.

  • What would you do if you arrived at a destination early and then had to wait for those you were to meet? Paul faced this situation when he arrived to wait for Silas and Timothy in Athens. Of course, there were a lot of worse places to wait in the Ancient world. Indeed, Paul had visited many of them. Therefore, Paul could have enjoyed Athens for a few days of sightseeing, idling away the hours. He, no doubt, had spent time in many in places far less interesting than Athens—the Queen City of ancient culture. Read the full text. 

  • A few years ago, a new member of our church—a new believer too—asked the question, “What is Salvation?” It is a good question and one that lay folks in the mainline denominations use to often bandy about. Our lesson today is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse that begins at John 13, continuing to the end of chapter 17. The Farewell Discourse is an influential literary form in the biblical tradition. We can see a sterling example in Moses’ farewell discourse which comprises most of Deuteronomy. Besides Moses, other famed heroes of the Hebrew Bible have their own “farewell discourses:” Jacob (Genesis 47:29—49:33), Joshua (Josh 23—24), Samuel (1 Sam 12), and David (1 Chronicles 28—29). Others too offer their final earthly words. Even New Testament Paul presents a farewell discourse to the Ephesian Elders at Miletus in Acts 20. Read the full text. 

  • Dr. Charles Allen, Houston’s late FUMC minister, tells story of a friend who came to see him day. The friend was nervous, tense, and he had plainly stressed himself sick. His physician suggested that he go to see his minister. They talked for a while. Then Dr. Allen took a pad of paper from his desk drawer. 

    “If you went to see a doctor, he would give you a prescription, and that’s what I want to do,” Allen said. “Take the prescription exactly as I write it. Five times a day for seven days I want you to read prayerfully and carefully the 23rd Psalm: when you awaken, before meals and at bedtime, read the psalm.” Allen says that in a week his friend returned a different person. Read the full text.

  • When we read letters/epistles from our New Testament, we are in a sense reading someone else’s mail. To be sure, the New Testament authors write to us as offspring of those first Christian communities. But, in another sense, those Christians, some whose identity we know and some we do not know, originally wrote their epistles to people and places far from Salado, Texas—in both time and geography. We cannot be entirely certain as to the precise circumstances surrounding either the transmission or the reception of New Testament letters. We know, for example, interpretation differs depending on a person’s viewpoint. Read the full text.

  • In today’s scripture, John’s Gospel relates that Jesus appears to the disciples and says to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus says this as the disciples now live in post-resurrection fear of the religious authorities. Earlier the prophet Zechariah prophesied that someone will “strike the shepherd.” The disciples feel like “sheep . . . scattered” (Zechariah 13:7). John’s Gospel offers us a version of the Pentecost story that we can also read from a different perspective in Acts 2. In John, however, Jesus breathes on the gathered disciples and declares “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Hear our lesson for the 2nd Sunday of Easter: Read the full text.

  • The average male is: 5’ 9” tall and 173 pounds, according to a 1990s article in a newspaper magazine named Parade. This average male is married, 1.8 years older than his wife, and would marry her again. He has not completed college and earns $28,605 per year. This average individual prefers showering to taking a bath and spends about 7.2 hours a week eating. He does not know his cholesterol count, but it’s 211. He watches 26 hours and 44 minutes of TV a week. In addition, he takes out the garbage for his household, and prefers white undergarments to colored. He cries about once a month—one fourth as much as your average Jane Doe and falls in love an average of six times during his life—which may account for all the crying. He eats his corn on the cob in circles, not straight across, and he favors his steak cooked medium. He can’t whistle by inserting his fingers in his mouth. Finally, he will absolutely not stop to ask for directions when he’s in the car (Men’s Health, quoted in Parade Magazine, 12-29-91, p. 5). Read the full text.

  • As we conclude Holy Week and prior to Easter Sunday many, many churches around the world celebrate—or at least remember, Good Friday. Good Friday is perhaps the most misnamed day of the liturgical year (worship year), or even any day of the calendar year—at least from our typically common-sense point of view. After all, what could be “good” about the death of a righteous and sinless man? Yet, this story of the death of Jesus has shaped many millions of lives over the Christian centuries. To this story we turn. Read the full text.

  • Maundy Thursday is the day/night we consider Jesus and the last time he was with his disciples before betrayal, denial, and crucifixion. People regularly wonder and ask me why we call this day “Maundy Thursday.” Read the full text.

  • Palm Sunday is the embodiment of Lent. First, it is a day of grand festivity. Second, it is a day of profound mourning when we observe the day as Passion Sunday. Either way, we will walk this holy week with Jesus toward the crucifixion. As you remember, Jesus enters Jerusalem as its king and thousands rejoiced. Yet, a week later many will have a voice in Jesus’ crucifixion. Moreover, Jesus will baffle his followers and they will flee to the country or hide in Jerusalem. The events of Palm/Passion Sabbath were a roller coaster ride for witnesses. Of course, they had never heard of Easter—YET! Today, we hope in Jesus’ resurrection. Today many churches around the world celebrate Jesus’ Palm Processional into Jerusalem. Because this parade begins Holy Week, we focus on Palm Sunday. Read the full text.

  • Years ago, a local playhouse was putting on the play “Waiting for Godot.” It is a tragi/comedy in two acts by Samuel Beckett and published in French in 1952 as En attendant Godot. “Waiting for Godot” was a true innovation in drama and the Theater of the Absurd’s first theatrical success. The play consists of conversations between Vladimir and Estragon, who await the arrival of the enigmatic Godot, who constantly sends word that he will appear but doesn’t. They discuss their miseries and griefs, consider hanging themselves—yet wait. Often identified as tramps, Vladimir and Estragon are rather humans who do not know why they are alive; they guess that there must be a point to their lives, and look to Godot for insight. Because they hold out hope for meaning and direction, they acquire a kind of nobility that enables them to rise above their futile existence [from Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature]. Read the full text.