Sermon for Christ The King Sunday 2017: “Spellcheck”

Reading: Matthew 25:31-46

 

Sermon: “Spellcheck”

A woman named Judy passes away and heads up to Heaven, where she is greeted by St. Peter.

St. Peter says to her, “Welcome to Heaven, Judy. Now before you enter you have to answer one question.”

Judy is nervous. 

She says, “Ok. I’m ready.”

St. Peter- “Can you spell LOVE for me?” Continue reading

Sermon for November 12, 2017: “Shampoo: The (Non)Musical”

Sermon for November 12, 2017: “Shampoo: The (Non)Musical”

Reading: Amos 1-5:18-24

This morning I want to talk to you about the prophet Amos.
Because:

we do not often get to hear from Amos so I want to talk about him.

And Amos reminds me of a preacher I met many years ago.

I was in Baltimore visiting one of my closest friends, Tim.
And I went with him and his wife to their church.

Friendship Baptist Church.

It’s an African American Southern Baptist church.
And I had a really good time.

Two things I remember about that church;

First was the offering.
There were no plates to pass around.
Instead the people…ALL the people…came up to the front of the church, and in front of everybody, put their donation into the plate.

When I realized that ALL really meant ALL I said a little prayer,
“Please, Jesus, let there be money in my wallet.
Or its gonna get ugly.”

I am happy to announce that I did have money and I gratefully put it in the plate.

Then there was the Preacher.

The church was packed that day so we had to worship over in the next room where we could watch the service on a close-circuit tv.

The gospel was read.
We sang some hymns.
We sat down.

The preacher was about to preach.
And the camera zoomed in on his face.
And his face…well…it had me worried.

He looked ANGRY!

He looked like he was about to put a hurting on all of us.

I whispered to Tim, “Why is he mad?”

About a minute into the sermon, the hurting had commenced, and I whispered to him:

“I think I’m going to end up crying.”

What that preacher did to me and that congregation that day is what Amos is doing to his congregation.

Now at the beginning, Amos gets his congregation, the nation of Israel, on his side.

He does this by talking about how the enemies of Israel will suffer.

And how God’s judgment is going to come down very hard on every one of them.

So the people are really getting into it.

Watch out, Damascus!
Crowd: Yeah!
Watch, out, Gaza
Yeah!
Watch out, Tyre
Yeah!
Watch out, Edom
Yeah!
Watch out, Ammonites!
Yeah!
Watch out, Moab!
Yeah!
Watch out, Judah!
Oh most definitely yeah!

And then
Watch out, Israel!
Yea—wait. What?!

For the rest of the book, Amos directs his anger at Israel.

And it is not pretty.

And that all happens BEFORE our passage today.

By the time we get to our lesson,

Amos takes Hope
And
Deliverance

(Hold up signs that says “Hope” and “Deliverance” and tear it)

And tears them up.

But then Amos does something that takes the judgment up to another level.
I would say level 11.

Amos leaves the pulpit.

Amos wasn’t even the feature act.
He was the opener.

And the headliner comes on stage in verse 21.
That headliner is God himself!

God speaks directly to his people in verses 21-24, and it becomes clear that the relationship between God and God’s children is strained.
And God uses very harsh language and cuts to the bone.
God declares that He “hates” and “rejects” every aspect of Israelite ritual –
the solemn festivals,
offerings of sacrifice,
even the music, (you better run, Bill!)
Why is God mad?
First let me say that God does not reject these rituals because they are
improper,
or false,
or because they are offered to other gods.

God rejects the rituals because they have become style over substance.
The rituals have replaced the actual service.
And because of that, God sees an absence.
An absence of justice and righteousness;
And if Israel will not commit to these things, then there can be no real relationship with God.
So our passage ends with two DEMANDS from God.
Notice I say DEMANDS
and not COMMANDMENTS,
because I believe
at this point
God is not messing around with the To Do list.
God demands Israel take away the “noise” of their singing,
And “let justice flow down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

In other words,
As the worship ends, let the service begin.
If that sounds familiar it’s because that is what I say at the end of our worship services.
As we end the worship,
We begin our service.

This is where that comes from.

And that is why I wanted to talk to you this morning about Amos,
But more importantly I wanted to talk to you about us.

What we do here on a Sunday morning is important.
It’s not only important it’s essential.
We come together after a week apart.
We see friends we haven’t seen all week.
We catch up on our lives.
And then we sing.
We pray.
We share a meal together.
We pass the peace.
And then we go home.

But over time it can feels like using shampoo.

Rinse.
Lather.
Repeat.
Rinse.
Lather.
Repeat.

And when our faith becomes like shampoo,
Pretty soon this ritual becomes a ROUTINE

And before you know it, style takes over.
And substance takes a back seat.

For instance:

A few years ago, a Christian was considered a “regular” worshipper of God if he or she came to church at least 3 out of 4 times a month.
Now: that number is 1 time every six weeks.

Have you ever heard “20% of the people do 80% of the work?”
I can tell you now it’s more like “10% do 90%”

We come late, we leave early.

We play on our phones during worship (and it’s not just the Youth who do this)

We don’t sing. We don’t pray.

We complain about church being so early on a Sunday morning,
And yet if we get the chance to play golf at the crack of dawn over at Eagle Pointe Gold Clube I just right at it!

I meant WE jump.

Or so I heard…

We don’t bring our children to Sunday School or Youth Events and then are amazed when the kids get older and they start to question God or leave the church.

We will judge someone’s sins on the other side of the political fence (BAD BAD BAD)
, but when those sins are committed by someone from our party, GRACE GRACE GRACE!

We have let the rituals replace our actions.
We have rinsed and lathered our faith for a long time.

And God is telling us:
“Folks, I hate it when you rinse lather and repeat our relationship.”

And do you know why God uses words like “hate” in this Passage?

He says he hates it because when we put style over substance, when we put the SHOW of faith over the Faith itself,
It means we don’t take God’s love for us seriously.
And we waste it.
We ignore it.
We use it for OUR benefit.

God hates that, because it breaks God’s heart.

And God wants his servants to get back to WANTING to be his servants.

There is more to this Christian…lifestyle…than what we do for an hour or so on a Sunday morning.

Being a Christian means being a servant of God 24 hours 7 days a week.
Being a Christian means:

• Acting on the promises we make to God this morning.
• Living in the promises God has made to us
• Loving our neighbors just as much as we claim to

A couple of challenges for you this week:

I challenge you to take your bulletin home, use it as a devotional, underline a word from the liturgy, the Bible, a song, and pray over that word. And then use the bulletin as a journal to write down what you did each day to make your faith real.

Here’s an easy one: when you are at the drive thru: pay for the meal of the car behind you.
This happened to me last week.
And all I got was a Diet Coke, and I was like “Um, is it too late to add to the order?”
But that is something you can easily do

Special challenge to those who use social media:
Share your experiences of making faith real
Take a picture of a cause or event that touches your soul and want us to know about
Take a picture of a bird, a tree, your child, spouse, family, friends and write a Thank you, God for that moment, and then “I promise you, God” to take care of said person in picture.

These challenges are not to confront you but encourage you to be the people we CLAIM to be.

And not to rinse and lather and repeat
And let the rituals ruin it for us.

Remember:

God does not want your rituals.
God wants YOU.

Sermon for Reformation Sunday 2017: “Re:Formation”

Sermon for October 29, 2017: “Re:Formation”

Today marks Reformation Sunday.
For many years, the word “Reformation” didn’t mean that much to me.
Which is probably what you don’t want your pastor to admit.
But then I stopped pronouncing it “Reformation” and came up with another pronunciation.
“Re-formation.” Continue reading

Sermon for September 24, 2017: “RePeat”

Reading:
Genesis 50:15-21
Matthew 18: 21-22

Sermon: “RePeat”

This morning our Sermon Series “Re:” continues.
RE the prefix means “anew”
And each week during the series you will get a “Re” word attached to something that we are called to renew.
This week, our theme is “Re:Peat” Continue reading

Sermon for August 27, 2017: “The Examinest of all Exams!”

Readings:
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

Sermon for 8/27/17 “The Examinest of all Exams!”
Recently Kristen began teaching Psychology Classes at Cape Fear Community College.
I am very happy for her and I know she will do an amazing job.
But her return to working at a university has brought back another return.
The return of the Final Exam Nightmare. Continue reading

Sermon for August 20, 2017: “(No More) Lip Service”

Reading: Matthew 15: 1-28

 

Sermon for August 20, 2017

“(No More) Lip Service”

 

How many of you have this question after hearing our gospel?:

“Did Jesus just call that woman a dog?”

For those of you who did not catch it let me read to you again the part of the Gospel:

“24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.””

 

Yes.

Jesus calls this woman a “dog.” Continue reading

Sermon for August 13, 2017: “The Silence And The Sound”

Readings:
1 Kings 9:9-18
Matthew 14:22-33

Sermon for August 13, 2017: “The Silence And The Sound”

Being on vacation came at a very good time for me.
It’s been six months since my family and I moved to Wilmington.
And it’s been great.
But along with that move has come a lot less time for myself. Continue reading