5/28/2016 Sermon: Sibling Rivalry

Genesis 4:1-16 This is the story of the first siblings. Cain and Abel were the two sons of Adam and Eve.  They were alike and different, as brothers often are.  They both worked to cultivate growth, but for Abel it was among his sheep and for Cain it was among his plants. It comes time for the brothers to give God an offering.  Cain brings some of the plants he’s grown.  In the absence of further description we might assume it’s an average basket of some of the fruit and vegetables he’s harvested.  Abel also brings some of what he’s produced, but his sheep are described as “firstlings” and “fat.”  They were the first and the best of his flock. God likes Abel’s offering.  God dislikes Cain’s offering. Cain is angry. God questions Cain’s anger:  “If you do well, won’t you be accepted?”  And a warning:  “If you don’t do well, then sin is going to creep up on you.” Cain doesn’t seem to hear the warning.   He lures Abel out in to the field.  He kills his brother.  When God asks about Abel’s whereabouts, Cain answers famously:  “I don’t know; am I my brother’s keeper?”  But God knows.  The ground that Cain is supposed to cultivate into new life has soaked up the blood of his dead brother, and it’s crying out to God. This is the story of the first siblings.  It’s the origin of sibling rivalry. But it could have gone differently.  What if, for example, Cain had been an only child?  Cain was the only son of Adam and Eve.  He was a farmer.  He...

5/8/2016 Sermon: Higher Expectations

Acts 1:1-11 I didn’t know what to expect when Alan and I exchanged gifts for the first time. It was Christmas of 2005 and we had only been dating since August.  With a short five months of real relationship time under our belts, I wasn’t sure what kind of present Alan might think up.  We had also been close friends for years before dating, so in some ways it felt like we had been together for half a decade.  Would he give me a gift certificate to McDonald’s?  Or a diamond ring?  Either seemed possible.  With no clue what to expect, I also had no clue how to shop for a comparable gift in return. So I devised a plan:  I’d get a bunch of little gifts and have them wrapped and ready.  If he got me something small, then I’d only give him the Star Wars belt buckle.  If it was a medium-size gift, then he’d get the Carhartt shirt, too.  I didn’t expect him to get me anything really big, but just in case I’d keep a few extra gifts stashed in the back room. The evening of our first exchange arrived.  When Alan came in empty-handed, I braced myself for the worst; a card with cash in it, maybe?  But then he asked me to hold the door so he could go back out and bring my present in.  I stood there wide-eyed as he came back in pushing a hand-truck with some large item on it, covered in a garbage bag but decorated with a bow.  “Merry Christmas!” he said with a big smile. Alan...

5/1/2016 Sermon: Gospel in Motion

Mark 1:21-45 Bible Pop Quiz:  Where does this line come from? “And Jesus remained there at Simon’s house for about a year, taking it easy and letting the people come to him if they wanted.” You’re no dummy, so you probably sense that this is a trick.  That line doesn’t show up anywhere in Scripture.  Even if you haven’t read the Bible much you might have a sense that there’s something wrong about the idea of Jesus staying put in any one place for very long.  That’s because Jesus was a man on the move, and today’s passage is a prime example. Let’s retrace Jesus’ movements in Mark 1:21-45 to see just how “on the move” he was.  If you can, stand up and walk a few steps to a new spot for each number. Jesus has just been at the Sea of Galilee picking up some disciples (1:16-20). Then Jesus arrives in Capernaum, a town on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, where he goes to the synagogue (1:21) After that he heads to the house of Simon and Andrew to heal Simon’s mother-in-law (1:29-31). The people start to come to him there, bringing him those who were sick or possessed.  But instead of just staying there… Jesus leaves very early in the morning to go to a deserted place and pray (1:35-37). When Simon finds him there (“Everyone is looking for you!”) Jesus decides to… Go to the next towns and preach there, too (1:38-39). So they go all around Galilee.  (Oop – you better walk around in a circle for this one.)  Jesus heals...