God's work. Our hands.

God shows mercy and turns fear into healing

John 3:14-16 Nicodemus Visit’s Jesus

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

 ‘For 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 life.

 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’
For me, it’s a little like Moses taking a snake and putting it on a stick, or Jesus offering forgiveness from the cross…. These are the ways that God is sending us mercy, forgiveness and healing. In a world full of trouble, we are invited as disciples to point people to Jesus – to show them the way to salvation. And sometimes that means taking the thing we fear the most, like a poisonous snake, putting it out in the open for all to see, naming it and being healed by it.
Because when we see that racism, homophobia, classism, sexism, religious intolerance, consumerism and our reckless abandon for the creation and the host of other things that seem to poison us these days are named for what they are – sin, we can begin to experience the mercy of God to heal us, forgive us and call us anew to live in the Kin-Dom of God. These things that we fear called into the light of day are the points that we experience the love of God and the mercy of God because we are no longer captive to sin – we have been offered grace and new life.

Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Concerning Almsgiving

‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

 ‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Concerning Prayer

‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Concerning Fasting

‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Concerning Treasures

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
And no matter how you experience Lent this year, I pray and hope that you at least experience God’s profound love for you. That you might see and feel the power of God’s love to be with you in the broken and discarded places. That this Lent you might meet the God of love who understands even the dustiest corners of your mixed up soul. That you might see God loving you back to life in the power of Easter morning – because God is gathering up the ash and dust of your life, and is breathing new life into it.

WWJD? Cast out our Demons!

Mark 1:21-28 | The Man with an Unclean Spirit

 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
 

And casting out those demons from our lives might get noisy and messy. It might make a scene – but we remember that the Authority of the Holy One, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is not defiled by this work, Jesus takes what is unclean and makes it clean again.

“Come and See.” The Call to Discipleship and Remembrance of the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King jr.

Bible Text: John 1:43-51

A Sermon on the following text from the Gospel of John and a reading from “A Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” penned by the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King jr.

 

n John’s gospel, Jesus’ ministry begins with the call of disciples, who then bring others to Jesus. Philip’s friend Nathanael moves from skepticism to faith when he accepts the invitation to “Come and see.”

43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Unlikely People, in Unlikely Places, at Inconvenient Times.

Bible Text: Luke 1:26-38

Advent 4 2017
A sermon based on the following text-
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

In this annunciation, Luke makes clear that God comes with good news for ordinary people (Mary) from little known places (Nazareth). This king will not be born to royalty in a palace, but to common folk in a stall. Here Luke highlights the role of the Spirit, a special emphasis in his gospel.

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

We are NOT the Messiah, but we point to the one who IS

John 1:6-8, 19-28

 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

The Testimony of John the Baptist

 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said,

‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,

“Make straight the way of the Lord”’,

as the prophet Isaiah said.

 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
 

Because I think we can still see our Messiah at work in the world today and we can point out how God is continuing to fulfill this prophecy from Isaiah – we, like John, are preparing a highway for God’s powerful love to enter the world.

For we are people of Advent – we stand in the wilderness of the world, pointing to the Messiah. And when the people we encounter say, who are you? We say, we are the ones who point to the coming of the light, of Jesus Christ in the world, for today prophecy is being fulfilled – God is coming to you, this day. Rejoice in this Good News, rejoice for Emmauel, God with us, is coming to us this very day. Amen.

Lift up your voice in the wilderness

Bible Text: Mark 1:1-8

Mark 1:1-8

The Proclamation of John the Baptist
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight” ’, John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

I think now more than ever people are looking for this identity – looking to belong to something greater than that offered by the world around them. People are looking for the promises of God – salvation, peace, and justice to take root in their very lives. So I think during this Advent Season it’s also important to take a notice to what voices you are listening to – are they those of John the Baptist inviting you further into the mysteries of what God is doing in our world – or are they the voices of this world that tell you what to believe, how to behave, and what to buy? Are you listening to the voice and witness of scripture that tells us over and over again about how much God loves us and brings us out of wilderness, or the voice of fear and destruction that the world seems to be screaming these days?

We live in an age where everyone has a voice – its part of the revolution that has been the internet, suddenly everyone is a publisher, everyone is able to post something, or publish something to the web. And so I wonder this Advent Season, what are you going to do with your voice – how are you going to be a proclaimer of “the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ?” Is it possible to be like John the Baptist to point in all that we do to the one who is coming that is greater than us – to Jesus Christ – the Messiah?

We Have Work To Do

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Sermon based on –
Gospel: Mark 13:24-37
In today’s reading, Jesus encourages his followers to look forward to the day when he returns in power and glory to end all suffering.
[Jesus said:] 24“In those days, after that suffering,
 the sun will be darkened,
  and the moon will not give its light,
 25and the stars will be falling from heaven,
  and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
  28“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
  32“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

We got talents, yes we do!

Bible Text: Matthew 25:14-30

Matthew 25:14-30 | The Parable of the Talents

 ‘For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
And here’s what else we can take away from this parable, if we use our gift of faith out in the world – God promises to multiply it. To return to us a 100 fold what we invest. So if we let our light shine bright – if we take what we have been given and give it to the service of building up our neighbor, of healing a broken world, of sharing the love of God with ALL people – God promises to double down with us and grow our faith sharing!

And so it would be a shame for us to horde or hide our gift of faith, to bury it under our own fear of failure where it would never multiply. Instead I think God is calling us to use our talents and our gifts of faith in extravagant and lavish ways in our world today. Which is why I am so excited about what’s in store for St. Mark’s in the coming weeks and months as we take a risk, explore ways in our world that our talents might multiply to bring hope, new life, and belief in the tangible grace of God for a whole new generation of believers and for our wider community.

“Both/and” not “either/or” Sinner’s and Saint’s

Matthew 23:1-12 |Jesus Denounces Scribes and Pharisees

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.
Because when we look at ourselves in the mirror we often see the reflection of a sinner – but when God looks at us, he looks through the reflection of Jesus – as a sinner redeemed, absolved, forgiven, and surrounded by amazing grace.

Which also means, that as we look out into the world, we see that others too, are worthy of the title saint. The person sitting next to you, your defiant 2 year old, that coworker who is always doing that one thing that annoys you, that neighbor who complains about a certain convince store, or that politician you can’t seem to agree with — not either a sinner or a saint, but both sinner and saint.