Category Archives: Sermons

Don’t be Afraid

By Stephen Stark, 4/16/17

Matthew 28:1-10   (Common English Bible)

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb.  Look, there was a great earthquake, for an angel from the Lord came down from heaven. Coming to the stone, he rolled it away and sat on it.  Now his face was like lightning and his clothes as white as snow.  The guards were so terrified of him that they shook with fear and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He isn’t here, because he’s been raised from the dead, just as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him.  Now hurry, go and tell his disciples, ‘He’s been raised from the dead. He’s going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ I’ve given the message to you.”  With great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples.  But Jesus met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go and tell my brothers that I am going into Galilee. They will see me there.”

 

All Stirred Up

By Betsy Happel, 4/9/17

Matthew 21:1-11   (Common English Bible)                

When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave two disciples a task.  He said to them, “Go into the village over there. As soon as you enter, you will find a donkey tied up and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to me.  If anybody says anything to you, say that the Lord needs it.” He sent them off right away.  Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said, Say to Daughter Zion,Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring.”  The disciples went and did just as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them.

Now a large crowd spread their clothes on the road. Others cut palm branches off the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds in front of him and behind him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord![b] Hosanna in the highest!”  And when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. “Who is this?” they asked. The crowds answered, “It’s the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

We Are Them Are Us

By Betsy Happel, 4/2/17

Matthew 12:1-8  (Common English Bible)

At that time Jesus went through the wheat fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry so they were picking heads of wheat and eating them.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are breaking the Sabbath law.”  But he said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and those with him were hungry?  He went into God’s house and broke the law by eating the bread of the presence, which only the priests were allowed to eat.  Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple treat the Sabbath as any other day and are still innocent?  But I tell you that something greater than the temple is here.  If you had known what this means, I want mercy and not sacrifice, you wouldn’t have condemned the innocent.  The Human One is Lord of the Sabbath.”                                       

A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places

By Betsy Happel, 3/26/17

Isaiah 58:1-12  (The Message)

“Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!  Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me.  To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—law-abiding, God-honoring.  They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side. But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’   “Well, here’s why: “The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.  You drive your employees much too hard.  You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.  You fast, but you swing a mean fist.  The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground.  Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility?  To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black?  Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?  “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way.  The God of glory will secure your passage.  Then when you pray, God will answer.  You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.  You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.

Rooted in Light

By Stephen Stark, 3/19/17

John 3:11-21 (Common English Bible)

I assure you that we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you don’t receive our testimony.  If I have told you about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?  No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Human One. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Human One be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.  God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.  God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him isn’t judged; whoever doesn’t believe in him is already judged, because they don’t believe in the name of God’s only Son. “This is the basis for judgment: The light came into the world, and people loved darkness more than the light, for their actions are evil.  All who do wicked things hate the light and don’t come to the light for fear that their actions will be exposed to the light.  Whoever does the truth comes to the light so that it can be seen that their actions were done in God.”

Roots of Appreciation

By Betsy Happel, 3/12/17

Romans 5:1-5  (The Message)    

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

 

Roots of Trust

By Betsy Happel, 3/5/17

Hebrews 11:8-16 (Common English Bible)

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out without knowing where he was going. By faith he lived in the land he had been promised as a stranger. He lived in tents along with Isaac and Jacob, who were coheirs of the same promise. He was looking forward to a city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah received the ability to have a child, though she herself was barren and past the age for having children, because she believed that the one who promised was faithful. So descendants were born from one man (and he was as good as dead). They were as many as the number of the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore.  All of these people died in faith without receiving the promises, but they saw the promises from a distance and welcomed them. They confessed that they were strangers and immigrants on earth. People who say this kind of thing make it clear that they are looking for a homeland. If they had been thinking about the country that they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return to it. But at this point in time, they are longing for a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God isn’t ashamed to be called their God—he has prepared a city for them.