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The Debt of Love

Julian Forth

February 12, 2017
Text: Matthew 5:21-37

Prayer of the Day:O God, strength of all who hope in you, because we are weak mortals, we accomplish nothing good without you. Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do and give us grace and power to do them, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

"If you wish to maintain love, you must maintain it in the infinitude of the debt….To love is to have incurred an infinite debt." (Kierkegaard, Works of Love, 186-7) This was written by Soren Kierkegaard, whom I consider one of the most profound Christian thinkers. He wrote this in his book Works of Love: a beautiful work on Christian ethics. We will keep Kierkegaard's insight in mind as we turn to our passage from Matthew.

This Gospel passage is harsh. Here Jesus teaches that if you call someone a "fool" then you are in danger of hell's fire.  If you look at a woman lustfully, you have already committed adultery.  He teaches that it is better to mutilate your body, throwing hand and eye into the fire, than burn in hell. He teaches that if you marry a divorced woman, you have committed adultery.  And if you take an oath, you are guilty of being in alliance with the devil.  This is part of Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount; the sermon when he, like Moses, speaks to his followers and teaches us how to live.

The Power of Salt

Rebecca Stelle

February 5, 2017
Text: Matthew 5:1-20

I don't know whether to think of it as the Women's March of its day, or the Million Man March, or the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, but there was some reason – some longing – that drove the multitudes under Roman occupation to be together on the hillside.  At this gathering, Jesus was the keynote speaker.

Of the many, Jesus named and blessed a particular subset.  He named and blessed the poor in spirit.  We can each only guess what he meant by that phrase, but to my thinking he was naming those who—under occupation—were depleted, exhausted, and without the inner resources for the demands of the day.  Do you know anyone like that today, who would gather with the masses for strength?  Then Jesus names those who mourn.  I've always thought of that identifier in a general way—anyone who is experiencing grief—but I am now thinking he may have been speaking specifically to those whose grief was tied to political oppression; someone, perhaps who has lost a loved one to police brutality, or lost a spouse to war, or had to give up a child to protective services.  Jesus continues, naming the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers in his descriptive blessing.

A Fool for Christ

Gayle Fisher-Stewart

January 29, 2017
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

Some of you might remember Sophia Patrillo, the mother of Dorothy Spornaj on the TV show, Golden Girls.  She would begin a story with “picture this” and might say, “Italy, 1944” and then proceed with her story.  So, this morning -- picture this: today, 2017, you find yourself in a courtroom.  The defendant is accused of a crime for which the penalty is death.  You may or may not know the defendant, it really does not matter.  The verdict is in, the defendant is asked to rise and face the jury.  The verdict is read, “Guilty.”  In this case, the judge announces the sentence--death.  But you stand up.  You tell the judge that you will stand in the place of the defendant.  You accept the sentence of death on behalf of the defendant.  You are innocent of the crime; the defendant is, in fact, guilty.  This was not a case of circumstantial evidence; there is direct evidence of the defendant’s guilt.  Yet, you offer yourself up in place of the defendant.  A hush comes over the courtroom.  The people around you, they may or may not know you, look at you--incredulous.  What would make you do such a thing?  Why would someone who is clearly innocent of the crime accept the sentence of death for someone else?  They look at you and the question on everyone’s mind--to include the defendant--is the message this morning.


Betsy Edmonds

January 22, 2017

Do these names--Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Flemming, Roger Youderian--mean anything to you?  Do they ring a distant bell? Well, we'll come back to them later.


So, just over two thousand years ago, something absolutely miraculous happened.  The world was given the Savior.  God sent part of Himself to us in the form of a human being.  In the plans of the Almighty, that very special man paid the price for all of us, and on His arising from the grave, God drew a line in the sand.  This line stretches around the world.  On the far side of the line is the Old life.  On the near side is the miraculous New Life.

We cannot underestimate the universal power of this risen Christ.  The event was so world-shaking, the earth actually quaked!   Not only did the earth move, but the sun grew dark; it became Midnight at midday.  In fact, dead people rose from their graves in witness to this powerful event.

How I Understand Christianity

David Dorsey

January 8, 2017

On May 8th of last year, Michael Smith gave an inspirational teaching that actively incorporated his love of music and his commitment to use it to support our worship. He spoke from his heart about what was very important to him.

A month later, Kayla McClurg said that we should avoid the usual and mundane in our teachings and speak from what is our own uniqueness and interest.

Having been inspired by these two teachings, this morning I would like to share with you something that is important to me. That is some of my understanding of the birth and early beginnings of our Christian faith. What do I believe actually happened?

In the Beginning

Marcia Harrington

December 25, 2016

In the beginning--There are two stories in the Bible that begin with these three words. These words, I think, invite us to wonder: what happened in the beginning and why? In both stories, there is God, and then there is a birth, first the birth of an ordered creation, and second the birth of a God-infused human.  Today, Christmas, we celebrate the birth of that human being, Jesus Christ. The opening words of the gospel of John draw us back to one of the three birth stories in the New Testament gospels.  But, John’s story is very different.  “The beginning of John’s gospel sings poetic music that will echo throughout” (Howard-Brook, 51) the rest of John’s gospel.  The first eighteen verses of John are the prologue to the rest of the gospel, and they offer a “summary of the unsure dance between being and becoming, between What Is and What Has Come to Be. It offers a commentary on the poignant, ironic relationship between Creator and created, the Word and the world.”  (Howard Brook, 52)  “In telling his [gospel] story of Jesus, John, the author uses a number of terms drawn from common experience—bread, water, wine, light, life, word, children, shepherd, door, vine and branches—to make the significance of Jesus clear and gripping.” Jesus is the revelation of God and has been with and within God since the Creation.

Joseph: Risking Love

Dixcy Bosley-Smith

December 18, 2016

The virginal conception story of Mary was confusing for me as a Protestant along side my childhood best friend, a Catholic.  Together with her family, we attended The Immaculate Conception, a large cathedral on the hill.  Methodists did not typically use the term “Immaculate Conception,” much less discuss what it meant.

Revolutionary Rejoicing

Maria Barker

December 11, 2016

Texts: Luke 1: 39-56
          Matthew 10: 1, 5-20
          Matthew 11: 2-11

Brothers and sisters, good morning and thank you for having me give the teaching this weekend.

This is the 3rd Sunday of Advent and this is Joy Sunday.

I have to tell you that at first, when I found out I would be doing the teaching on Joy Sunday, I thought, "I am definitely not feeling much joy right now." Like so many of you, my thoughts and feelings have been deeply impacted by recent political events, the election results last month and what has transpired as a result. I have been feeling utterly helpless and hopeless. I think we have entered a really dark time for the United States, and especially for people more vulnerable than myself. It has been hard for me not to wallow in these fears since the election.

But then I started taking a hard look at the scriptures for this week and dug in here.

Preparing for the Coming of the Messiah

Molly Carr

December 4, 2016
Text: Matthew 3: 1-13

Asking for forgiveness and committing one’s life to God and Finding Peace within ourselves and amongst the people who are walking this Earth with us.

I have been speaking lately to friends who are dealing with tremendous adversity about simply devoting oneself to God, Love and Hope.   When we are overwhelmed by life’s suffering and pain and struggles, sometimes all we can do is focus on a few words at a time...God, Love and Hope.  The story of John the Baptist calling out in the wilderness speaks to this.  He has left his home, he is a wanderer communing with God and he is acting on the divine inspiration he is receiving.  He is sustaining himself on locusts and wild honey.   His clothing is created by combing the hair of a camel.   This represents his great love for God’s natural world...he is living gently on the earth.  He is at the same time reaching out courageously with love and compassion to the diverse peoples of the region...people of many different tribes, Jews and Gentiles ...and  telling them to come join him in what he perceives as a life giving recommitment to God.  He offers them baptism...a ritual of asking for forgiveness for hurtful destructive God-less living  and committing their lives anew to God and welcoming the new leadership of Jesus--the coming Messiah.  John’s message focuses on God, Love and Hope and Peace.