Sermon for 11.15.15: Brickyard Preachers

Mark 13:1-8

1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

 

I went to college at North Carolina State.

And if you ever have the chance to visit the campus it’s a really nice looking campus.

There is this one section of the campus that people like to call The Brickyard. Continue reading

Sermon for November 8, 2015: Don’t “Scribe” It Up!

Mark 12:38-44

38 As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

The Reverend

Sometimes Jesus really reminds me of my grandfather: Flavius Conrad. Continue reading

Sermon for All Saints’ Sunday 2015: “Unbound”

John 11:32-44

32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

This past September 19th marked the 5th anniversary of my father’s death.
I think about my dad every day, and there is one thing I do every day that really hits home to me.
When I pick Paul up from daycare, we turn the radio on, and we listen to music.

Whenever I would ride with my dad, be it to school, the comic book store, or the church, we would listen to music.
My dad gave me the greatest power any parent could give a child in a car: control of the radio.
And so my dad would have to listen to a lot of MY music.
Which, looking back alternated from really good to “what was I thinking?”
But my dad never complained.
He just listened.
Or sometimes sang.

It was moments like those…with my dad…in the car that made me fall in love with music.
But all that changed Sept 19, 2010.
The night my dad passed away. Continue reading

Sermon for Reformation Sunday 2015: “A Reformation State of Mind”

Romans 3:19-28
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
Today marks the 498th birthday of the Protestant Reformation.
Now what does an event that happened back in 1517 mean to us today?
This is the question I have been struggling with over the past week. Continue reading

Sermon for October 18, 2015: Jesus Vs. Part 8 (Jesus Vs. The Sons of Thunder!)

Mark 10:35-45
35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
This morning is the final sermon in my Jesus Vs. Sermon Series.
And this morning we have a special two-on-one situation. Continue reading

Sermon for October 11, 2015: Jesus Vs. Part 7 (Jesus vs. The Light Saber!!!)

 Mark 10:17-31

17 As (Jesus) was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”A few weeks ago the three of us went to a Halloween store looking for costumes for Paul.

When Paul stepped into the store he made a bee-line for one item.

He saw it.

He wanted it.

He took it.

It was a Star Wars light-saber.

As a father, it was my proudest moment. Continue reading

Sermon for October 4, 2015: Jesus Vs. Part 6 (Jesus Vs. D-I-V-O-R-C-E)

 

Mark 10:2-16 

2 Some Pharisees came, and to test (Jesus) they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.’ 7 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” 13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

 

Sermon:

Oh, The Things We Do For Love.

Last Sunday night, around 10 o’clock, I was in my office working on this week’s sermon.

I had my comfy t-shirt and shorts, and my awesome Rockport slippers.

I was set for the night.

And then Kristen came into the room.

As soon as she said, “Sweetheart,”

I knew I was about to be given a chore.

A mission, if you will.

And she said, “Tonight is the super blood moon, and oh..since you are dressed…would you go out and walk around the house to see if there is anything worth going out to look at?”

I told her “Absolutely not. I am in my comfy clothes. My awesome slippers.”

On the inside.

On the outside,

I stood up, went downstairs took off my slippers and put on my tennis shoes , looking at her the whole time, trying to stare in judgment like the cats and Paul do, and it works for them!

I then say can I get a kiss out of this?

She said, “Quite possibly.”

So I go out, somehow not waking Paul up with the squeaky front screen door (THAT is another chore for another time),

check the front,

check the back,

getting my shoes all wet.

And nothing.

So I get back in.

Give her the news.

She says I am a good husband. And then she walks away to watch television.

The whole time I’m like the things I do for this woman.

Again, on the inside.

On the outside I say I love you, dear and head off to bed.

But it is amazing the things we do for love.

Especially for our wives and husbands.

Our significant others.

We do everything we can to make them happy.

To make them feel loved.

To make them feel safe.

Which makes today’s Gospel very hard to preach.

Divorce is not an easy subject to talk about,

let alone hear from Jesus’ own mouth.

But its right there in the text.

We can’t ignore it.

And for a Gospel lesson, it doesn’t sound very “good newsy”

But that doesn’t mean the Good News isn’t there.

It just means we have to work a little harder to find it.

Actually, to me, that is the point of our reading today.

Sometimes, we have to work hard to find the Gospel.

Not for just our own benefit,

but for the benefit of our neighbor be they a spouse or a child.

Let me explain what I mean.

The topic of divorce is not a modern day phenomenon.

It was a big topic of discussion in the first century.

And just like today it was a complicated matter.

The ancient world was patriarchal,

 

and wives were regarded as the property of their husbands.

 

Among Jews, technically only the husband could divorce his wife.

 

(This is the working assumption in our Gospel lesson.

 

The Pharisees refer to Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

 

Where Moses says

“Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house.”

 

That one phrase: “something objectionable” was hotly debated.

 

That sounds pretty ambiguous, right?

 

And there were two schools of Jewish thought:

 

The root meaning of the Hebrew word, translated “something objectionable,” is “nakedness” or “nudity.”

 

This led the School of Shammai to conclude that only adultery was grounds for divorce.

 

But there was a secondary meaning of that Hebrew word and it was”offensive” or “shameful,”

which led the School of Hillel to conclude that

 

anything the wife did that offended the man was grounds for divorce.

 

This second school, the Hillels, was the predominant view.

 

So that meant that a man could divorce his wife if:

 

The wife spoiled a dish of food

 

The wife talked to a strange man

 

The wife spoke disrespectfully of the husband’s relatives

 

The wife was argumentative

 

The husband found a woman who as prettier than his current wife.

 

Before I continue let me look out and make sure none of the husbands are writing these things down.

 

Now while divorce was a complicated matter,

marriage was a little more clear cut.

 

Simply put, marriage was not based on love.

 

As Tina Turner sang, “What’s Love Got TO Do With It?” well, the answer in the first century was NOT MUCH.

 

Marriage was based on

property,

status, and

honor considerations

between two families.

 

So in a way,

it was not man and woman coming together,

it was man’s family and woman’s family.

It really wasn’t a marriage

it was a merger.

Love was NOT part of the equation.

And in these types of arrangements,

marriage and divorce left women in a very vulnerable position.

Think about it.

You marry a man not because of emotion

but out of economic necessity.

And you don’t have a choice.

And this same man could divorce you if you overcooked his dinner.

And you don’t have a choice.

That is not much of a life.

That is not even living.

It was all about power.

Influence.

There was no consideration for the real lives that got hurt along the way.

And that is where Jesus comes in.

While the Pharisees refer to the Law of Moses,

Jesus one-ups his adversaries by going back to the beginning and God’s original intent of marriage.

As we heard in our first lesson ,

it was God who said,

“It is not good that the man should be alone;

I will make him a helper as his partner.”

God did not create a “slave” or a piece of “property.”

God created a partnership.

Where one could depend on the other.

A partnership that was a true relationship.

So Jesus is trying to get the 1st century to turn back the clock

and return to the value that God placed on the first couple:

Adam and Eve.

 

But Jesus is not just trying to get back to the beginning.

Jesus is also standing on the side of the vulnerable.

Standing on the side of the ones who had

no power,

no influence,

and no voice.

 

This is the Good News.

This is the Gospel for the women in that society

Who were considered property and not people.

This is the Gospel for the people,

like the children,

who were considered a burden on society.

And children play a role in this week’s lesson.

I like to call the last few week’s worth of Gospel lessons “The Children Section”

because children play a role in Jesus’ teaching.

Back in Mark 9:33-37, the disciples had argued about who was the greatest,

and Jesus asserted that “whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”

By way of example,

Jesus took a child in his arms and said,

“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (9:37)

And now just 25 verses later,

we have the disciples scolding the parents for bringing the children to Jesus.

They just don’t get it.

But the disciples are just acting like any other adult of that time.

You see, in the first century, children did not matter.

They were of very low status.

Lower than women.

They didn’t talk about “sweet, innocent children.”

Children were seen as “spoiled, rotten, undisciplined brats.”

 

They were often hardships on families in poverty.

Rather than an “Awwww” reaction like in today’s world,

they would receive an “Ewwwww” reaction from adults,

especially those of influence in the society.

 

As a parent it breaks my heart to think that children,

the defenseless ones,

were considered trash and not treasure.

 

But BUT BUT

Jesus saw them for what they were.

Precious.

Important.

People.

 

Rather than pushing the children away, Jesus embraces them.

 

He acknowledges their existence.

 

He restores their value.

 

Not as property but as people.

 

Just like the women in the first part of our gospel,

 

Jesus brings the good news to a group of people who needed to know that

 

they counted.

 

That they mattered.

 

This is the Good News.

 

Once again you just have to look for it but the GOSPEL is there!

 

 

So what do we do with this Good News?

How can we bring this Gospel into our world, in our time?

Let’s start with the easy answer.

Love your children!

Cherish all children.

Put their needs before yours.

Especially if their needs are spiritual.

Parents, Grandparents, if your children (grandchildren) say they want to go to church, there is only one response.

You go.

And I would encourage you to not just drop off your children, but that you stay and learn as well.

Show your children that learning and talking about God is just as important in your lives as it is in your children’s lives!

 

Now an even hard answer.

What about divorce?

Divorce is still a major issue in our society.

One way or another, we all here in this congregation have felt the impact of divorce.

Perhaps we have gone through a divorce,

or we are children of a divorce,

or we have seen family or church members or friends go through a divorce.

It is not an easy ordeal.

There is pain.

There is loss.

There is grieving over something that once had life that is now gone.

There is sin.

 

But there is also grace.

There is also forgiveness.

When Jesus stands up for the weak,

or the powerless,

like he does in our story this morning,

 

He is standing up for us.

 

We all fall short.

We are all sinners.

And YET we are all still and always will be children of God.

 

And what does Jesus say?

“Let them come to me.”

 

Jesus is telling all of us, “Come to me.”

Jesus does not push us away when we sin,

Jesus pulls us closer.

 

We cannot pick and choose who gets the Grace because as we read and study the story of Jesus

we know that Jesus did not discriminate when it came to who he loved.

When Jesus went to the cross,

he went to take away our sins.

All of them.

There was not an asterisk on the cross that listed exemptions to the salvation that was won.

 

Jesus did not pick favorites.

He picked all of us.

 

And so for those of you who are divorced,

you are welcome here.

You are a part of this family.

That’s not me saying it.

That’s Jesus.

 

For those of you who feel vulnerable or weak or lonely,

You are a part of this family.

That’s not me saying it.

That’s Jesus.

 

While the Gospel might be hard to hear, there is still much grace and love to be found.

 

 

Oh the things we do for love.

 

And the things that Jesus does for love.

The things that Jesus does for US.

Sermon for September 27, 2015: Jesus Vs. Part 5 (Jesus vs. “Them!”)

Mark 9:38-50
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. 42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 44 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. , 46 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. 49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Let me start off this morning by asking you a serious question:

How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb? Continue reading

Sermon for September 20, 2015: Jesus Vs. Part 4 (Jesus vs. The Ego)

 

Mark 9: 30-37

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. 33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

 

Today’s sermon is the 4th in a series based on the Gospel of Mark.

I call the Series “Jesus Vs. (Versus)” Continue reading

Sermon for September 13, 2015: Jesus VS. Part 3 (Jesus vs. The Plan)

Mark 8:27-38
27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. 31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Jesus vs. The Plan
Last Sunday Kristen and I took Paul to the park at Lake Thom-A-Lex.
Now from our house, there are two ways to get to the park:
Lexington road or Business 85.
And as we were heading out of Beech Ridge Road, I decided to take the Business 85 route.
As soon as I crossed the median, I heard the voice.
“What are you doing?”
I said to myself, “Please let that be Paul.” Continue reading