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The Way of Passing it On

The Way of Passing it On

Genesis 12:1-3 and Matthew 28:16-20 A sermon for the 10th anniversary of our Family Life Center! Today we have a lot to celebrate. Over ten years ago, many of you took a leap of faith. You wrestled in prayer, listened hard to God… and decided that God was calling you to build a Family Life Center. You said a prayer… and went for it. (You probably said a thousand prayers, right?) Today, we celebrate the answering of those prayers. We celebrate a two-story facility with a full basketball court, top-notch commercial kitchen, climate-controlled walking track, furnished exercise room, and spacious nursery… not to mention six classrooms, four bathrooms, and a shower. And… a new, integrated sound system, with echo-dampening panels on the way. That’s a lot to celebrate! But it’s not what we’re really here for. If the building sat empty, it’d be no accomplishment at all. What we’re really here to celebrate is what happens inside that facility. We’re celebrating the work of Donna Adams and Margie Carpenter and Rebecca Richard Guzman – and countless others who worked with them – who have encouraged the community to come into our Family Life Center. We’re celebrating a building that’s full of Welcome Table meals, birthday parties, exercise classes, Fifth Quarters, volleyball games, Wonderful Wednesdays, Boy Scout meetings, Chamber of Commerce dinners, Vacation Bible School, community fundraisers, health and nutrition classes, AA meetings, home school groups, basketball leagues… And I could keep going. On average, there’s one or two days a month our facilities aren’t used by some group for some purpose. That is a lot to celebrate. But that’s...

2/26/2017: Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-13 Last week was Peter’s identification of Jesus.  Jesus asked, “Who am I?” and Peter gave the right answer:  “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” This week we learn that it’s one thing to say it, and another thing to see it.  Before I went to the Grand Canyon, I could have said, “The Grand Canyon is a really big, very impressive national park.”  With a little research I could even have said, “The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and in some places over a mile deep.”  But that’s just book report. A whole different experience came during my family’s obligatory out-west trip as an 18-year-old.  We unloaded from our rental van and stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon.  It was near dusk.  The view went on from horizon to horizon, a huge rupture in the face of the earth.  My stomach flipped as I looked over the edge and saw just how deep a mile looks from above.  At that moment, all I could say was… “WHOA.” So here’s Peter – and James, and John – following Jesus up a mountain.  They’ve already given the book report about how Jesus is the Christ.  But now they’re about to see it. And what do they see? The gospels use a certain word to describe the event:  “transfigured.”  It comes from the root, “metamorphosis,” and it means “changed.”  It’s a strange word – not one we use in everyday talk.  What in the world does it mean to say Jesus was “transfigured”?  I think we’re...

2/12/2017 Sermon: Multiplication

Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus wanted some “me” time but he just couldn’t get it. Man, can I relate.  And not because I’m a pastor; it’s because I’m a mom.  Parents of the world, do you feel me? But before we talk about me – or us – let’s talk about Jesus.  Jesus wanted some “me” time on this particular day because he had just gotten some bad news.  His cousin, John the Baptist, had been killed by Herod.  Jesus is on his way to a deserted place to be by himself – no people needing healing, no disciples needing teaching, just Jesus and God and creation.  A little much-needed quiet time to grieve his loss and refresh his soul.  He even takes a boat there – what better way to ensure you’ll be alone than to head off in a vehicle by yourself? As he cruises across the Sea his weary soul is eagerly anticipating some space and silence.  As he steers toward land he’s mentally picking out his sitting spot.  As the shoreline comes into view he sees… …a crowd? His “deserted place” is far from deserted.  While he’s been sailing the crowds have been running.  They’re waiting for him.  They’re sick and they want healing.  They’re lost and they want leading.  They want him. While I’m hesitant to compare myself to Jesus, I think any parent knows what this moment feels like. I knew parenting would be hard.  Who wouldn’t guess that?  You’re responsible for a human being.  I figured my children would need a lot of attention.  I assumed they would change my life.  But I had...

2/5/2017 Sermon: Domination

Matthew 8:18-27 This is not a story about how Jesus calms our storms. It is very much a story about how Jesus calmed a storm.  On this day he and his disciples got into a boat to cross the sea of Galilee.  Jesus had been teaching and healing and answering questions, and he was tired.  He curled up in the front of the boat, with old fishing nets as a makeshift mattress.  Jesus continued to snooze as a storm gathered.  He snoozed as waves rocked the boat.  He snoozed as the wind got so strong, it looked like they might tip.  He kept right on snoozing as the water poured in over the sides of the boat.  Finally, the disciples couldn’t take it anymore; they woke the Son of Man up from his well-deserved rest: “SAVE US, JESUS!  WE’RE GONNA DIE!” I don’t know about Jesus, but I’m really grumpy if my nap is cut short.  Maybe he took a moment to throw the disciples a stern look before responding.  Then he stood up and directed a few short words at the wind and the waves.  It was like a switch had been flipped; the water turned to an early-morning stillness and the wind dropped so dead, it wouldn’t even ripple a flag.  Everything was still. I picture Jesus rolling back to sleep as he mutters something like, “Didn’t you have any faith at all, scaredy-cats?” Isn’t this a great story, the day when Jesus calmed a storm?  It’s so powerful that it tempts us to make it about our storms.  I want it to be about how Jesus...

1/29/2017 Sermon: #blessed

Matthew 5:1-12 Jesus called the first four disciples to follow him – and when they did, he proved he wasn’t bluffing.  He led them all around the northern region of Galilee as he taught and healed.  Everywhere Jesus went, more followed.  Crowds began to form. But one day he stopped.  He climbed a mountain (more like a hill compared to our Appalachians).  He sat down facing the crowd so that the earth behind and sea ahead form a natural amphitheater.  Then he opened his first and best-known sermon with these lines: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The word “blessed” is obviously central to this teaching.  It also has the potential to confuse us.  Used in this context, “blessed” means “blessed by God.”  This is quite different from what the world calls “blessed.”  Most people...

1/22/2017 Sermon: Invitation

Matthew 4:12-23 This is a story about the day Jesus called his first disciples. Jesus is walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  Its water isn’t much different from the clean mountain lakes here in far-Western North Carolina.  Its shore line is; less of a steep drop off and more of a gentle glide, like the beach. If this was a movie the camera would be following Jesus along this shore, watching over his shoulder as gets his first glimpse of Peter and Andrew.  They’re knee-deep in the waves and hauling in a net of fish.  Jesus walks right up to them and makes his funny invitation:  “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”  “Immediately” they drop the nets and go (did a day’s work scatter back into their natural habitat?).  Jesus sees James and John and calls them, too.  “Immediately” they go as well, this time leaving behind not just nets but a boat and a (probably confused) dad. That’s how the story went.  But here’s how it should have gone: Jesus:  “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.” Fishermen: “Follow you where?   How long will we be gone?  What will we do?  How will we provide for ourselves?  What about our jobs and families?” Matthew gives us no indication that the disciples ask any of these valid questions.  And yet they go – they leave their whole lives, everything, for a man they just met. Why? Maybe it’s because he came to them.  Tradition was that a rabbi (teacher) was approached by potential students, not the other way around. ...