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Sermons

Copies of the weekly John Knox Sunday Sermons are posted below in chronological order.

Baptism

Genesis 1:1-5

Mark 1:9-11

Opening verses  Psalm 29:1-4

  1. What we’re really looking for

A few years back Peter Jennings interviewed the founder of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, John WimberWimber said that the first time he went to church he expected dramatic things to happen. He had read some of the stories in the Bible and couldn’t wait to experience church. After attending three Sundays, he was disappointed and frustrated. Following the service, he talked to an usher and asked him, “When do they do it?” “Do what?” asked the man. “The stuff,” Wimber answered. “What stuff?” “The stuff in the Bible.” “What do you mean?” “You know, multiplying loaves and fish, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind. That stuff.” “Oh,” the man replied apologetically, “We don’t do that. We believe in it, and we pray about it. But we don’t do it.”

Sometimes we feel detached from the biblical narrative, from the accounts of Shepherds being visited by angels, wise ones journeying by a star, multitudes being fed. And sometimes we’re ok with the distance.  Sometimes we want just enough exposure to the Spirit to be comfortable, to be respected, to feel good about themselves, but not so much that it shakes up our routines and changes our way of living. We might want the benefits of the Holy Spirit without having to experience much of the Spirit. We might want to go to the dance without having to dance. We might regard the exuberance in faith and encounter with the Spirit to be the stuff of movies and myth. After all, you have to be careful with this kind of exuberance.  

And so in our caution, we expect little from worship.  We approach nonchalantly, hoping only for some practical piece of advice or to escape the problems of the world for an hour.  Annie Dillard is correct when she says that we don’t come before the living God as, “cheerful, brainless tourists on packaged tour of the Absolute.”  Rather as we enter the assembly we should be wearing crash helmets.

Let it Be

Luke 1:26-38

December 17, 2017

1. Space for surrender

Now I like how we are introduced to Mary. She is described as favored, perplexed, thoughtful, and afraid. She questions, believes, and surrenders. The announcement she receives from the angel is shocking, breathtaking and worthy of her full attention. “Let it be” only comes after some honest questions, but it comes. Though we might in time submit, there’s a whole lot of rumbling that goes on first. We have a hard time letting go. Think of your child getting on to the bus for the first time or a friend who is moving, or commending a parent, partner, or child into God’s loving care. Letting go is hard. We like being, or pretending to be in control. It’s hard for us to submit, to let go, to detach ourselves from expectations of how we think things should turn out. It is true that at times we are overinvested and have a hard time giving space to projects, people. Think of the boss who though giving you and assignment, hovers to make sure it’s done her or his way. At times it is easier to hold on than to make way for innovation, new growth, new potential, new mercy.

We might say, “Come Lord Jesus,” but do we really mean it. Will we allow for God’s reign, God’s truth, God’s incarnation to break into our world – into our self-serving, self-maintaining, self-promoting systems.

Build Up

Isaiah 62:1-4, 10-12 and Mark 1:1-8

December 10, 2017

1.     A New Name

God’s not going to stop talking.  God’s not going to grow silent till the righteousness of the people shines out like the dawn and her salvation shines like a blazing torch.  God knows what the people are capable of.  God knows the power infused in them at creation and what they are capable of when they are in right relationship with their Creator and in harmony with one another.  God knows what can happen when people live out their salvation, not as a distant day, but in the here and now.  That dynamic is like a torch blazing in the darkness, drawing people to its light.  Though they might feel abandoned in their exile and their landscape desolate, God is giving them a new name.  God did this with Jacob after a wrestling match by the Jabbok (Genesis 32:22-38).  Jacob feared the wrath of his brother who was coming to meet him after many years.  Jacob sent gifts to appease his brothers anger but then as the night fell, the eve before he would meet his brother he was alone.  In that moment of isolation and stillness an angelic figure appeared and Jacob wrestled with the angel to get a blessing.  The angel struck him on the hip to remind him of his frailty and then gave him the name “Israel”.  With that name he journeyed out to meet his brother who ran to meet him with forgiving love. 

When you get a new name, like God’s beloved, things change.

Descent

Isaiah 64:1-9

December 3, 2017

1.An Essential Invite

At a recent High School swim meet our meet coordinating team learned a valuable lesson.  We worked well in advance of the meet getting volunteers and officials and food lined up.  But a few hours before the meet we realized that the person we thought was in charge of the electronic timing and tracking system for the meet was out of town.  So about 45 minutes before the meet, another person was contacted who, though settling down to watch football, was willing to pack up his supplies (computer, printer, cables etc. and head to the pool).  Somehow the job that usually takes about an hour and a half to set up, was done in about 30 minutes and the meet was only slightly delayed.  But in that delay, we all realized just how significant that person was.  Nothing could happen without the electronic timing person being present.  All the other positions were important but none more than the one we neglected.

So maybe Isaiah is zeroing in on what is most important in the journey of the Israelites as they head home.  The plea from Isaiah reflects a moment in Israel's history when people were returning to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile. After the decree of King Cyrus the Persian (538 BCE) that ended the Babylonian Exile, a number of the exiles returned to Judah and Jerusalem to rebuild the crumbled kingdom. When confronted with the difficulties of the return, there is a noticeable shift from the hopefulness of an earlier age (Second Isaiah chapters 40-55) to doubt, struggle and lament.   Coming home to Jerusalem should have put an end to the shame, disappointment, and hopelessness of the people. But, the problems remained and even multiplied. The people lamented to God voicing their sense of abandonment. All was not right in Jerusalem; heaven come down!  

Thanks

Psalm 100

November 19, 2017

In August I headed out to Gardiner, Montana to drive home with my son Kyle following his summer as a rafting guide on the Yellowstone River.  On the final night I made dinner at the house where he and the other guides lived for the summer.  Now a guy from another rafting company had befriended one the guides at Flying Pig.  His company Wild West made the guides sleep in tents down by the river.  So, this wise guide found a girlfriend from Flying Pig and frequented the house where the guides stayed.  So, while the Flying Pig guides were out for a final night, Calvin and I talked for a few hours on the porch picnic table.  He had given up a job in Hollywood as a lighting engineer.  He had worked on so many music videos and had become disillusioned by the whole industry.  He noted how on numerous occasions they would have everything set up for the shoot and musician like Micki Minaj would not show.  Thousands of dollars would go into having everything ready and the musician would not even show up.  In his words, “they could care less about their music.  It had no meaning to them.  They were going through the motions, if they ever showed up.”  Something about the industry brought him to a search for meaning, purpose, a question about what you give your life to.  So he left and headed to Montana looking for a better song to sing.