6/26/2016 Sermon: 1 and 99

Matthew 18:10-14 This is the first of a four-week sermon on the stained glass windows at Andrews UMC. You might call this the parable of the bad shepherd, and I’ll show you why.  How many sheep is Jesus holding in this picture? One.  Yes, just one. There are just a few sheep standing around him here; but in the parable, how many did he leave behind to go find that one? Ninety-nine. That’s just bad shepherding.  Leaving 99 sheep alone and exposed is risky business.  It’s risky for the sheep whose lives depend on the shepherd.  It’s risky for the shepherd whose livelihood depends on the sheep. And yet here he stands, one lone sheep in his arms. — In Matthew 18 this story comes in the midst of a lesson about the “little ones” and how we care for them.  When we think “little ones,” we might think of someone who has yet to fully develop in age or maturity, status or faith.  They are the ones who have not reached – or are not living into – their full “size,” so to speak. In this parable the little one is literally a little one, one single sheep out of the hundred who has wandered off from the flock.  Maybe it was an absent-minded mistake in which this sheep was eating grass… eating grass… eating grass… until one moment it looked up and found itself in some foreign field.  Or there may have been an intentional choice made to go after some greener-looking grass off in the distance by itself so it wouldn’t have to share.  Or, maybe...

6/12/2016 Sermon

Genesis 11:1-9 What’s so wrong about a tower? I mean, towers are cool.  Let me show you proof: Flocks of tourists migrate to these towers each year.  People love them.  More to the point, God did not intervene to thwart their construction by causing a communication issue. So what’s up with the so-called Tower of Babel?  Why does Genesis 11 tell us that God personally stepped in to sabotage that project? The tower-builders themselves identify the motives behind their building campaign: Make a name for themselves, so that They would not be scattered. So what’s wrong with a tower?  Nothing.  But there may be a problem with name-making and staying together. “…let us make a name for ourselves…” (Gen 11:4).  This first goal should send up a red flag for readers of the Old Testament, because our Hebrew Bible talks a lot about one name in particular.  In Exodus 3 God introduces himself to Moses as a name translated as “I AM” and transliterated as “Yahweh.”  The Old Testament is full of God’s name.  The narrative doesn’t even wait for God’s official introduction – it appears first in Genesis 3 – as though the Bible itself is impatient to use the divine name.  If you’ve read a bit of the Old Testament and you’re thinking, “I don’t remember seeing ‘Yahweh’ in there anywhere,” you’re probably right.  In most English translations of the Bible God’s name is represented by “LORD” printed in all caps.  That’s because of the strong tradition – especially among our Jewish brothers and sisters – to respect God’s name by not speaking it out loud or...