Scripture Readings: Week of 12/28/2015

Next week is Epiphany, when we remember the visit of the wise men.  Read along with us using these suggested daily passages: Monday:  Isaiah 60:1-6 Tuesday:  Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14 Wednesday:   Ephesians 3:1-12 Thursday:  Matthew 2:1-12 Friday:  Isaiah 52:7-10 Saturday:  Psalm...

12/27/2015 Sermon: Shepherds

Luke 2:8-20 There have been shepherds since the beginning of things.  Or at least since the second generation. Abel was Adam’s son, according to Genesis 4.  He was a “keeper of sheep”… until his brother killed him, at least.  But the profession wouldn’t die with him; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all shared the role of tending sheep (remember Jacob’s foray into genetic manipulation in Genesis 30?).  Even Moses, after he runs away from his life in the Egyptian palace, takes on the role when he marries into his father-in-law’s flock (Exodus 3). There are plenty of shepherds in the Bible, but the most noteworthy is a youngest son.  His first appearance – during Samuel’s search for a king – begins as an absence because he’s off tending his sheep (1 Samuel 16:11).  And again, when the Israelites are at war with the Philistines (and the mighty Goliath), this little boy is only sometimes there because he’s running back and forth, helping his dad with the flock.  After he throws his stones and takes his crown, he is given a new flock as King David:  “It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over all Israel” (2 Samuel 5:2). Because people, like sheep, need a shepherd. Moses knew this.  The Bible didn’t call him a shepherd of people, but he was.  A shepherd keeps a flock together, protects them from danger, and moves them where they need to go.  Moses did just that, for forty years, all through the wilderness.  Looking out at the Promised Land – and knowing he couldn’t enter...

Christmas Eve Sermon: Birth and Grace

From the Christmas Eve candlelight service. Tonight we remember when a Jewish man learned that his fiancee was pregnant, and it was not good news. He and his bride-to-be were, after all, in a binding relationship; it was much more formal than modern-day engagements.  They weren’t living together and yet they were committed to a life together.  At this point, though, they have not performed the deed that consummates marriages and makes babies.  Her growing stomach suggests that she has performed this deed with some other. That was not good news. There was Jewish law to cover situations like this.  Deuteronomy 22 runs through several hypothetical situations and their consequences.  In this case, it’s a betrothed woman living in a city; she could have yelled for help and some neighbor in earshot would have come to her aid.  It seems she did not yell for help, so she will be stoned to death. That was not good news. The particular Jewish man at the center of the story doesn’t like this outcome.  He knows the due punishment, but it makes him uneasy.  He’s hurt and embarrassed but he doesn’t want his young woman dead.  So he looks for another way, a different way:  a quiet divorce that leaves her to deal with that growing belly and him the chance to avoid complete humiliation.  That’s a more than gracious response by a man who’s been cheated on.  Right? It wasn’t good news, but it wasn’t the worst news. But then comes the dream, and the dream changes everything.  It’s a different kind of dream, with one foot in reality and...
Scripture Readings:  Week of 12/21

Scripture Readings: Week of 12/21

Read along with us as we celebrate the birth of Christ!  This Sunday (12/27) we’ll focus on the role of the shepherds in the Christmas story. Monday:  Numbers 27:12-23 Tuesday:  2 Samuel 5:1-5 Wednesday:  Isaiah 40:9-11 Thursday:  Matthew 9:35-38 Friday:  Luke 2:1-20 Saturday:  John...
12/20/2015 Sermon:  Innkeeper

12/20/2015 Sermon: Innkeeper

Luke 2:1-7 The first time we drove to Florida with our kids we learned a lesson.  Well, we learned many lessons, really – but one in particular about hotel reservations. Before kids the trip to St. Petersburg was a ten-hour drive straight through, eating fast food in the car and happily passing the time with an audiobook.  After kids that same drive has become a twelve-hour marathon filled with Chick-Fil-A playgrounds and Disney music.  To save our sanity, we split the drive and spend the night someplace with a pool. On our rookie venture Alan wanted to make a hotel reservation.  Full of road-trip hubris (I’ve made this run in less than ten hours!), I objected.  “What if we’re making good time and we want to drive further?” I reasoned.  This is, of course, completely insane; no one wants to drive further with small children in the car.  But I didn’t know that at the time. So we stop at the exact exit where Alan wanted to make our reservations.  We’re exhausted and stuffed full of chicken nuggets.  It was a pretty typical Friday night – no spring break, no holiday weekend.  And yet it seemed we were far from the only people travelling I-95 and in need of a place to lay our heads, because the first hotel we went to was booked.  And the second.  Seeing Alan walk back out from a third hotel shaking his head I felt panicky and poorly qualified for parenthood. There was no room at the inns – Hampton, Holiday, Quality, or Days. Finally we found a room at an off-brand motel...