Copies of the weekly John Knox Sunday Sermons are posted below in chronological order.
Are We Growing?
February 19, 2017
A few weeks back we had a planning meeting in the Lounge. Some of the leaders of various ministriesshowed up toplanupcoming eventsand coordinate efforts. Well, 1 ½ year old Henry showed up as well. He made therounds. I noticed that he had a way of showing up beside whoever was presenting. He wanted to be where the action was, not content to stay on his blanket. I also noticed shortly after his birth that his parents had O Henry bars for every visitor. So inspired by Henry's visits and the candy bar, I tried to recall high school literature and the author O Henry. It is the story of William SydneyPorter.BillPorterwas a young adult in New York City in the late1890s, tryingto make it as a writer. Billdidn’t do sowell, andso he worked as apharmacistand then a bank teller before he got married. Unfortunately, BillPorterwas accused ofembezzlingmoney from thebankandfled to Honduras. Upon getting word that his wife was dying, he returned, confessed his crimeand was arrested. His wife shortly thereafter died, leavinghim with adaughter, Margaret. By1898, BillPorter was in prison, serving a three-year term, writing some short stories for the New Yorker and sending what little money he made to support his child, Margaret. While inprison, BillPorter needed a friend to help him and a prison guard became his guardianangel, helpingand caring for Bill and working with Bill to get healthy. After threeyears, thetime came for Bill to be released and he approached the prisonguard, hisguardianangel, tothank him. At their lastmeeting, Billsaid to the prison guard: “I can’t leave this prison with my old name. I need a new name for a new life. … I want your name.” The prison guard responded, “My name? My name is Otto Henry. Forgenerationstherehave been OttoHenrys. Otto Henry is a goodname, arespected name. You may have myname, buttake good care of our name.” The young author said: “I will. I will take good care of our name.” Well, theyoung author left prison with the new name for a new life. His name was O.Henry, andthat name became the most famous name in all of American history associated with short stories such as “The Ransom of Red Chief.” O. Henry is synonymous with the Pulitzer Prize for the short American story. “Take good care of our name.”
So Paul, from prison begs the believers in and aroundEphesus to, "Lead a life worthy of the high calling you have received in Jesus Christ."Lead a life worthy of your name, Christian.
Willing to Follow
February 12, 2017
God's living word draws people in; it calls, convicts, consoles, captivates and compels us into the world.
In Luke 5, people are eager to hear Jesus; to be near him. So they are pressing in by the lakeshore. Jesus finds Simon cleaning his nets. He and his fellow fishermen are done for the day (or really for the night) - they had caught nothing.
But Jesus needs some space on the narrow beach and asks for Simon to push out a little bit from the shore so he can teach. But when the teaching has wrapped up, Jesus asks him to push out further from the shore and try fishing again. Simon reminds Jesus that they had actually just come in. They had fished all night. Essentially, there's nothing out there. It's like a teenager who comes home, looks in the fridge that is relatively full and announces with a measure of frustration, "There's nothing to eat!" You wanna say, "I could make 10 dishes out of what's in there. Give it a try." But the teen has already moved on. As did Simon and his colleagues.
But it doesn't take long for Simon to obey. Maybe it was because of his earlier experience with Jesus in Capernaum (4:38-39). Perhaps it was because of Jesus' reputation. Eventually Simon says, "if you say so," literally, "at your word," (v. 5). In light of who is giving the instruction, Simon abandons his skepticism and obeys.
As Simon responded to the word of Jesus, not only did he catch a huge haul of fish, but he needed rather immediate help from others to land the catch. Fishing was not a private matter only for those who let down the nets. Because once those nets became full, you didn't want to be alone. We know what that's like. We need others with us when we respond to the call of God; when we set out toward deep water.
Deep water is where the increase is. Deep water takes faith and risk. It is when we go to greater depth in relationship, in prayer, in study, in justice.
“Trust: a Difficult but Vital Key for Life"
The Rev. Lou Will
Proverbs 3:1-8 & Psalm 23
Some of you may remember a quiz show from the late ’50’s called
‘Who do You Trust’. It was actually hosted by Johnny Carson, before he went on to host the Tonight show.
Three couples appeared and, after talking with Johnny, he would ask the couple a question. The husband could either answer, or ‘trust’ his wife to do so.
There are also things said (maybe you have even done it) that center around this word ‘trust’:
-“I wouldn’t trust that person as far as I could throw him/her.”
-“I trusted you, and you let me down; I’ll never trust you again.”
-“Trust me, you don’t want to know.”
Perhaps most prevalent of all, yet hardly noticed or is:
on every piece of US currency are the words: ‘In God we trust’.
(but I wonder—is it God we trust…or the currency on which those words appear?)
January 22, 2016
1. A great cloud of witnesses
Last week Kyle and I went for a hike in the Cuyahoga Valley along the Buckeye Trail. We started at Jaite wound 8 miles through swampy meadows, peaceful ridges and slippery slopes finally to arrive at Brecksville Station for the final 2 mile trek along the Tow Path back to our car. I found myself so grateful for the time and impressed by the range of questions he asked. As we walked I was able to hear about his medical trip to Ecuador and was able to share stories with him about various ventures I've been on. For some reason I assumed he knew many of these stories.
The preacher of Hebrews, writes to a congregation that seems to be getting weary. They are going through some tough times and need some stories. They need to hear about their heritage and receive examples of perseverance. He tells them in chapter 11 about those who kept the faith, persevered in prayer, and carried on in hope. Then he challenges them, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Joshua 1:1-9 and Ephesians 3:14-21
January 15, 2017
The Scope of God's Care
British scholar and translator J.B. Phillips wrote a book entitled Your God is Too Small. He said: "The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for modern needs." He walks us through various roles we assign to God: God as resident policeman, grand old man, parental hangover, managing director.
We might add to the comment above, "The challenge for many people today is finding a God who is big enough to embrace the world and close enough to fill their inner emptiness."
Back in New Mexico, at a church Jess and I served out of seminary, I got a call from the General Presbyter Shannon Webster. We went out to lunch, ate really good Mexican food and became close friends. A few months later he told me about May 5, 1992. He was in Czechoslovakia with a team of pastors and scholars. One night on their way back to the hotel, Shannon had detached from the team a bit to speak with someone in a shop and there he had a heart attack. When he woke up he was in a dark room with a single light above him. It was a terrifying experience. A dark room, surrounded by strangers, his life on the line. But what he recalled was that his fear wasn't necessarily for his own life. He was overwhelmingly concerned for his wife and his kids. He recalled, "Tom, at that moment, I didn't want Jesus to just be with me, like having one of those little crosses in my pocket. I needed Jesus to span the distance and protect my family. I needed God to be sovereign and hold my family together while we were worlds apart." So every Cinco de Mayo (May 5), Mexican Independence Day, Shannon throws a party to celebrate the gift of life itself and the power of God.