Previous Sermons and Series at AUMC
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We live in a culture which defines freedom the way the Bible defines sin: complete autonomy. So what does true freedom look like? During the summer of 2021, we considered Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and what it means to receive God’s grace, to experience the freedom of the Gospel, and to respond in gratitude. This series covered the nature of the Old Testament Law, the relationship between works and faith, the character of Christian community, and the reality of the hope found in Jesus Christ.
- June 6 – Galatians 1:1-5: “A Quid Without Any Quo.” Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- June 13 – Galatians 1:6-10: “God-Damned Preachers.” Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- June 20 – Galatians 1:11-24: “Apocalypto.” Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- June 27 – Galatians 2:1-10: “All You Need is Nothing.” Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- July 4 – Galatians 2:11-14: “Nothing Personal, Just Grace.” Livestreamed service.
- July 11 – Galatians 2:15-21: “Cheapened Grace.” Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- July 18 – Galatians 3:1-9: “Lay Your Deadly Doing Down.” Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- July 25 – Galatians 3:10-14: “The Sin Eater.” Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- August 1 – Galatians 3:15-22: “The Power of Positive Blaming.” Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- August 8 – Galatians 3:23-29: “Critical Grace Theory.” Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- August 15 – Galatians 4:1-11: “Oh, What a Privilege!” Livestreamed service.
- August 22 – Galatians 4:12-20. Livestreamed service.
- August 29 – Galatians 4:21-31. Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- September 5 – Galatians 5:1-6, 13-15. Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- September 12 – Galatians 5:16-26. Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- September 19 – Galatians 6:1-10. Sermon transcript. Livestreamed service.
- September 26 – Galatians 6:11-18. Livestreamed service.
After Easter 2021, we began a new sermon series, “Acts upon the Apostles.” We explored how God acts in and upon the lives of people, then and now, to pursue his gracious, redemptive work.
- April 11 – John 20:19-31. Pre-recorded worship.
- April 18 – Acts 3:1-21: “Miracle.” Pre-recorded worship.
- April 25 – Acts 4:1-12: “Salvation is No Possibility.” Pre-recorded worship. Livestreamed service.
- May 2 – Acts 8:26-40: “Incompatible.” Pre-recorded worship. Livestreamed service.
- May 9 – Acts 10:44-48: “Paradigm Shift.” Pre-recorded worship.
- May 16 – Acts 1:1-11: “Friends in Low Places.” Pre-recorded worship. Livestreamed service.
- May 23 – Pentecost and Youth Sunday. Acts 2:1-4; 12-13. Livestreamed service.
- May 30 – Trinity Sunday. Romans 8:12-26. Livestreamed service.
The Jesus Prayerbook
From January through Easter 2021, we studied the psalms used by the Gospel writers in telling the Jesus story. Small groups looking to complement the series read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book The Prayerbook of the Bible.
- Jan. 3 – Psalm 69:1-9, John 2:13-22. Sermon dialogue between Rev. Jason Micheli and Dr. Johanna Hartelius. Main worship. Communion service.
- Jan. 10 – John 6:25-34: “The Amen Gloss.” Main worship. Communion service.
- Jan. 17 – John 10:22-39: “An Aural Army.” Main worship. Communion service.
- Jan. 24 – Matthew 13:10-13, 34-35: “Revelation of the Hidden.” Main worship. Communion Service.
- Jan. 31 – Matthew 21:12-17: “Temple Tantrum.” Main worship.
- Feb. 7 – Matthew 21:33-43: “By the Word Worked.” Main worship.
- Feb. 14 – Luke 20:37-44: “Help My Unbelief.” Main worship.
- Feb. 21 – Matthew 4:1-11: “You Are Who God Says You Are.” Online worship. Live service.
- Feb. 28 – John 15:18-27: “Reversion to the Mean.” Online worship. Live service.
- March 7 – Mark 15:21-39: “Bearing the Consequences of Becoming Vulnerable.” Online worship. Live service.
- March 14 – Luke 19:28-44: “Breaking Up with the Barren Deities.” Online worship. Live service.
- March 21 – John 19:28-36: “The Least of These.” Online worship. Live service.
- March 28 – Matthew 21:1-11: “The Price for Peace.” Online worship. Live service.
- April 1 – Holy Thursday. Live service.
- April 2 – Good Friday. Online seven-part service.
- April 3 – Easter vigil. Online worship.
- April 4 – Easter. Ezekiel 37:1-14, Corinthians 15:1-11: “Can These Bones Live?” Online worship.
During the 2020 Advent season we returned to traditional readings and hymns, finding hope in the tale of the birth of Jesus.
- Nov. 29 – Isaiah 64:1-9: “The Light’s Winning.” Main worship.
- Dec. 6 – Mark 1:1-8: “Advent for Average Sinners.” Main worship. Communion service part 1 and part 2.
- Dec. 13 – John 1:1-8, 19-28. Christmas Pageant Sunday with a homily from one of our young members. Main worship. Communion service.
- Dec. 20 – Lessons and Carols. Isaiah 40:1-8; Zechariah 9:9-10; Micah 5:2-5; Isaiah 9:2, 6-7; Isaiah 35:1-6; Luke 1:26-35, 38; Luke 2:1-7. Main worship. Communion service.
- Dec. 24 – Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7. “Saint Jesus.” Main worship. Communion service.
- Dec. 27 – College and Career Sunday. Main worship.
From September to Advent 2020, we read and reflected on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. Paul dictated this letter to the Church in Philippi while he served a prison sentence in Rome, captivity that would end with his execution. Containing a remnant of perhaps the oldest Christian hymn, the short epistle is notable for the affectionate tone with which Paul addresses the congregation at Philippi and for its high Christology. Perhaps surprisingly, because of the trying circumstances under which Paul composed Philippians, this letter highlights the hope made possible by the lordship of the crucified and resurrected Christ.
- Sept. 13 – Philippians 1:1-11: “No Grace, No Peace.” Main worship. Communion service.
- Sept. 20 – Philippians 1:12-26: “The Comforting Whirlwind.” Main worship.
- Sept. 27 – Philippians 1:27-30: “Heavenly Citizenship.” Main worship. Communion service.
- Oct. 4 – Philippians 2:1-5: “The Law of Grace.” Main worship.
- Oct. 11 – Philippians 2:5-8: “Nameless Above Every Name.” Main worship. Communion service.
- Oct. 18 – Philippians 2:9-13: “Once for All, Again and Again, More and More.” Main worship.
- Oct. 25 – Philippians 3:1-11. Main worship. Communion service.
- Nov. 1 – Philippians 3:17-21: “The Apprentice.” All Saints Sunday. Main worship. Communion service.
- Nov. 8 – Philippians 4:1-9: “Preach Like Nothing Has Happened.” Main worship. Communion service.
- Nov. 15 – Philippians 4:10-13. Main worship. Communion service.
- Nov. 22 – Philippians 4:15-23. “What on Earth Will We Do in Heaven?” Main worship. Communion service.
Election Season: The First Letter of Peter
On April 26, 2020, we began a sermon series that, over the spring and summer, took us through the Apostle Peter’s first epistle. The series was called “Election Season” because 1 Peter is ground zero for what’s known in the Christian tradition as the “Doctrine of Election.” Election refers both to God’s decision to be God for us in Jesus Christ and God’s choosing of us, the Church, as his particular, peculiar people. Peter wrote to believers experiencing hardship, suffering, and persecution so it’s a letter that uniquely marries dense theological concepts with the struggles of everyday life.
- April 26 – Beginning of the 1 Peter sermon series: “Election Season.” 1 Peter 1:1-3. Click here to view.
- May 3 – Continued analysis of 1 Peter 1:1-3, examining how we become part of God’s elect people. Click here to view.
- May 10 – 1 Peter 1:3-5: “Christ’s Rabble.” Click here to view.
- May 17 – 1 Peter 1:6-12: “Heavens to Betsy.” Click here to view.
- May 24 – 1 Peter 1:13-21: “Social Distancing.” Click here to view.
- May 31 – 1 Peter 1:22-25: “Logic of Wonders.” Click here to view.
- June 7 – Deuteronomy 31:6. Youth Sunday. Click here to view.
- June 14 – 1 Peter 2:13-17. “The Strange Not-Doing.” Click here to view.
- June 21 – 1 Peter 2:18-21. “God is at Least as Nice as Jesus.” Click here to view.
- June 28 – 1 Peter 2:21-25. “The War of the Lamb.” Click here to view.
- July 5 – 1 Peter 3:1-12. “Domestic Revolution.” Click here to view.
- July 12 – 1 Peter 3:13-17. “To Be or Not to Be.” Click here to view.
- July 19 – 1 Peter 3:18-22. “Doomscrolling.” Click here to view.
- July 26 – 1 Peter 3:18-4:6. “Gospel Resistance.” Click here to view.
- August 2 – 1 Peter 3:18-4:6. “The Odds are Ever in Your Favor.” Click here to view.
- August 9 – 1 Peter 4:6-11. “Far as the Curse is Found.” Click here to view.
- August 16 – 1 Peter 4:12-19. “The Great and Final Litigation.” Click here to view.
- August 23 – Ephesians 1:15-23. Sermon from Rev. Jeff Mickle. Click here to view.
- August 30 – 1 Peter 5:1-4. “The Defense Never Rests.” Click here to view.
- September 6 – 1 Peter 5:7-11. “Beast of Burden.” Click here to view.
When the coronavirus pandemic first drove our worship services online in March 2020, we worked to adapt our worship style to the new medium. Our goal was not to replicate our in-person services – not have our pastors in an empty sanctuary preaching at the video camera or our music director lead us in singing a hymn none of us can hear all together. Instead we tried something a bit different. For the Sunday “sermons,” we were joined by esteemed guests engaging in a conversation about the scripture texts, including Will Willimon, Fleming Rutledge, and Dr. Ruben Rosario Rodriguez. There was a musical offering from one of our own soloists or an outside guest, We also prayed together and for another. Prayer, praise, and proclamation… just in a different format that felt more natural online.
- March 15 – Christ our Life: John 4. Our first online-only worship featured a dialogue between retired Bishop Will Willimon and Rev. Jason Micheli. Click here to view.
- March 22 – Christ our Caesar: 1 Samuel 15:1-13. Guest speaker: Rev. Fleming Rutledge. Click here to view the worship and here to view the message from Rev. Rutledge.
- March 29 – Christ our Substitute: Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-45. Guest speaker: Dr. Rubén Rosario Rodríguez. Click here to view.
- April 5 – Palm Sunday worship service featuring Rev. Kenneth Tanner, pastor at the Church of the Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, MI. Click here to view.
- April 9 – Holy Thursday. A short service with a meditation and special music. Click here to view.
- April 10 – Good Friday, April 10, noon – 3 p.m.: “The Seven Signs at Calvary” with homilies and music released every half-hour. The signs are Pilate’s Wife’s Dream, The Darkness at Noonday, The Temple Veil, the Rocks Cry Out, the Earthquake, the Open Tombs and the Centurion’s Confession. Click here to view.
- April 11 – Easter Vigil: an Easter Eve service that follows the liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer. Music by Pat Vaughn. Click here to view.
- April 12 – Easter Sunday
- April 19 – John 20:19-31. Guest speaker: Dr. Tripp Fuller. Click here to view.
Our sermons for the remainder of 2019 and into 2020 will focus on the story of Jesus — from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Beginning Sept. 1, in “Walking Backwards from Emmaus: Jesus in the Old Testament,” we’ll begin with the creation story and work our way through the prophets to learn how the Old Testament witnesses to Christ. Then, starting in January, we’ll walk forwards from Emmaus, exploring how the gospels and epistles testify to the king who calls us as his particular people in the world. We’ll call it the Jesus Story Year, and it will take us from September through May. Our hope is that by the end of the series, you’ll be like those on the way to Emmaus, knowing how every story whispers the name of Jesus and knowing, too, how that whisper is actually the call of a talkative God who never rests from recruiting subjects into the cause of his kingdom.
- Sept. 1 – Introduction to Jesus Story Year: “It’s All Christophany,” Luke 24:13-27. Bulletin and service video.
- Sept. 8 – Christ at Creation (Guest preacher: David Zahl, author of Seculosity): Genesis 1:1-5, 26-28; John 1:1-5. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Sept. 15 – Christ and Adam: Genesis 3:1-13; Romans 5:12-19. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Sept. 22 – Christ and Noah: “Babies with the Bathwater,” Genesis 6:11-22; 1 Peter 3:18-22. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Sept. 29 – Christ and Abraham’s Son: “A Gift Exceeding Every Debt,” Genesis 22:1-18; Hebrews 10:1-23. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Oct. 6 – Christ and the Rejected: “The God Who Swipes Right,” Genesis 32:22-31. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Oct. 13 – Christ and the Betrayed: “Relentless Pursuit,” Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Acts 7:8-15. Bulletin, contemporary service parts 1 and 2, and traditional service.
- Oct. 20 – Christ and the Law: “Commanding Grace,” Exodus 19.1-9, 18-20, 20.1-3; Matthew 5.38-48. Bulletin and single service.
- Oct. 27 – Christ and David: “We Don’t Need More Goliaths,” 1 Samuel 17.1-11, 32-51; Revelation 12.7-12. Guest preacher David King. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Nov. 3 – Christ as Divine Wisdom: “The Truth Shall Make You Odd,” Proverbs 3.13-19; 1 Corinthians 1.17-31. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Nov. 10 – Christ and Elijah: “The Source of God’s Triumph,” 1 Kings 18:20-40; John 14:1-10. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Nov. 17 – Christ in the Fire: “On Becoming a Theologian of the Cross,” Daniel 3:19-25; Philippians 4:10-14. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Nov. 24 – Christ the Mystery (Stanley Hauerwas, guest preacher): “Christian Politics,” Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 23:33-43. Bulletin and service.
- Dec. 1 – Christ the Promise: “Promise Fulfilled, Promise Everlasting,” 2 Samuel 7:8-17; Matthew 1:18-25. First Sunday of Advent: Hanging of the Greens. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Dec. 8 – Christ the God-Man: Isaiah 7:10-17; John 1:1-5, 14-18. Advent music service with three-part reflection on the readings. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Dec. 15 – Christ the Change and Christmas Pageant: “Midrash in the Moment.” Micah 5:2-5; Hebrews 2:14-18. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Dec. 22 – Christ the Hope. Lessons and Carols service. Bulletin and traditional service.
- Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve. Bulletin; 4 p.m. family service pt 1, 2, and 3; 7 p.m. traditional service; 11 p.m. traditional service.
- Dec. 29 – Carols and Casseroles. Isaiah 60:1-3; Matthew 2:1-12. Bulletin and single service.
- Jan. 5 – Christ the Stranger. Ruth 1:6-18; Matthew 2:1-12. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Jan. 12 – Christ Our Sin: “Salvation by Baptism Alone.” Exodus 14:10-31; Matthew 3:1-6, 13-17. Guest preacher David King. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Jan. 19 – Christ Our Sign. Isaiah 62:1-5, John 2:1-11. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Jan. 26 – Christ our Salvation: “The Dead Don’t Make Decisions.” Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-23. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Feb. 2 – Christ our Telos: “The International League of the Guilty.” Matthew 5:1-12; Romans 5:6-10. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Feb. 9 – Christ our Compass: “Militant Grace.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-12; Matthew 10:1-16. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Feb. 16 – Christ our Sustenance: “Bread from Heaven.” Exodus 16:1-5; John 6:22-35. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- Feb. 23 – Christ our Priest and Prophet: “Mensch on the Mountain.” 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- March 1 – Christ our Brother: “Old Adam, New Adam.” Guest preacher Bishop Will Willimon. Romans 5:12-19. Bulletin and single service.
- March 8 – Christ our Love: “Syntax of Salvation.” Genesis 12:1-4a; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17. Bulletin.
Karl Barth, whom many scholars identify as the greatest theologian of the 20th century, argued that Jesus himself is the subject of the cryptic and caustic stories that we call parables—which explains why we kill Christ in large part because of the stories he tells. Jesus, for example, is the Father’s son who goes into the far country. Robert Capon, author and interpreter of the parables, argued that the parables are primarily ways Jesus spoke of his death. Thus, Jesus is the fatted calf whose whole life and purpose is his death which makes possible a feast of reconciliation.
Often Jesus’ parables are interpreted in a way that makes his death seem a tragic misunderstanding. By contrast, the parables do not reveal eternal truths or universal principles about God that are intelligible to anyone. The parables are stories told to Jesus’ disciples even if others are near to hear. They reveal not timeless truths but the scandal of the Gospel and what it means to be a student of that good news and a community whose life would not be possible without it.
- April 28: The Coin in the Carp’s Mouth: “Free at Last” – Matthew 17.24-27. Bulletin, contemporary service, traditional service
- May 5: The Unforgiving Servant: “Forgive, Don’t Forget” – Matthew 18.21-35. Bulletin, contemporary service, traditional service, and transcript
- May 12: The Two Sons: “Remember When” – Matthew 21.28-32. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- May 19: The Wicked Tenants: “God in the Hands of Angry Sinners” – Matthew 21.33-46. Bulletin and transcript.
- May 26: The Sower: “Here It Is! Hear It!” – Luke 8.5-8. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- June 2: The Sheep and the Goats: “Punished by Rewards” – Matthew 25.31-46. Bulletin, single Youth Sunday service.
- June 9: The Ten Virgins: “(Un)like a Virgin” – Matthew 25.1-13. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- June 16: The Wedding Banquet: “God Gone Wild” – Matthew 22.1-14. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- June 23: The Unjust Judge – Luke 18.1-8. Guest preacher: Marco Santangelo. Bulletin, contemporary service, and traditional service.
- June 30: Publican and the Pharisee: “Go and Sin Some More” – Luke 18.9-14. Bulletin.
- July 7: The Good Samaritan: “Everything You Need to Know You Didn’t Learn in Kindergarten” – Luke 10.25-37. Bulletin and worship service.
- July 14: The Budding Fig Tree: “On the Brink of Forgiveness” – Luke 21.29-33. Guest preacher: David King. Bulletin and worship service.
- July 21: The Talents: “God Fearing” – Matthew 25.14-30. Bulletin.
- July 28: The Dishonest Manager: “The Devil’s Mousetrap” – Luke 16.1-8. Bulletin and worship service.
- August 4: The Prodigal Son: “More Than Jesus?” – Luke 15.1-3, 11-19. Bulletin and worship service. Guest preacher: David King.
- August 11: The Prodigal Father: “The Way of the Son in the Far Country” – Luke 15.1-3, 20-24. Bulletin and worship service.
- August 18: The Ten Lepers: “The Samaritan Leper” – Luke 17:11-19. Bulletin and worship service.
- August 25: The Laborers in the Vineyard: “The Impossible Possibility” – Matthew 20:1-16. Bulletin and worship service.
This Lent we will make our way to the cross by expanding on how the Gospel’s promise relates to our everyday life, rooting the message of grace in the lived human experience of judgment and love. We’ll explore how grace— God’s one-way love for the undeserving— can apply to a range of topics, from singleness and marriage to infancy and old age, to politics and life as a congregation.
God’s one-way love is not natural to any of us. It comes as a gift from outside of us in Christ and his Gospel. Meanwhile, Paul says the Law, the “accusing standard of perfection,” is written on all of our hearts and therefore does come naturally to us. Grace must be learned and learning it means we must also unlearn all the accusing oughts and shoulds we hear in the back of our heads from all areas of our lives.
Grace in Practice will explore how the forces of Grace and Law play out in even the most mundane areas of our lives. The sermon series this Lent will work to enhance our understanding of both Christianity and daily life by painting, in concrete experience, the broad strokes of God’s grace for sinners.
- March 6 (Ash Wednesday) – What is Law? Romans 7:14-24. Sermon transcript and audio.
- March 10 (Homily with Requiem/10:30 service) – What is Grace? Romans 5:18-21. Bulletin and worship video.
- March 17 – Law and Grace: 1 Peter 3:18-22. Bulletin, 8:30 a.m. worship, 11 a.m. worship
- March 24 – The Four Pillars of Grace (Todd Littleton, guest preacher): 2 Corinthians 3:1-11. Bulletin, 8:30 a.m. worship, 11 a.m. worship.
- March 31 – Grace in Families (Brian Zahnd, guest preacher): 2 Corinthians 5:14-16, 19-21. Bulletin, 8:30 a.m. worship, 11 a.m. worship.
- April 7 – Grace in Politics: Romans 3:9-20. Bulletin, 8:30 a.m. worship, 11 a.m. worship.
- April 14 (Palm Sunday) – Grace in the Church: Colossians 2:9-15. Bulletin, 8:30 a.m. worship, 11 a.m. worship.
- April 18 (Holy Thursday) – Grace in Prayer: John 17:1-6. Bulletin, worship, sermon transcript.
- April 19 (Good Friday/Seven Last Words) – Vicarious Grace: Romans 4:16-17. Bulletin, worship, sermon transcript.
- April 21 (Easter) – Grace in Everything: Romans 4:18-25. Bulletin, 8:30 a.m. worship, 11 a.m. worship, sermon transcript.
Taming the Tongue – Feb. 2019
Christ is the Word made flesh. The Gospel is an announcement of news. The Holy Spirit sends us out to convey a promise. Christianity therefore is a language before it’s anything else; likewise, the character of the Christian community is revealed in and determined by how our speech to and about one another is tempered by our faith. The medium (you and I) can get in the way of the message, or we can echo and amplify the gospel of grace by blessing one another with the same tongues with which we praise God.Click here to read Jason's introduction to the series.
Next month, we’ll be starting a new sermon series called “Taming the Tongue,” in which we work our way through the epistle written by Jesus’ brother, James. Martin Luther famously quipped that the Epistle of James was no better than straw. Certainly that’s no compliment to the epistle, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Luther meant the straw that lined the manger that held Christ, the Word of God. In other words, the Epistle of James serves a practical purpose rather than a Gospel-proclaiming purpose.
Often Christians think of James as the book which commends hands-on Christian action (“Faith without works is dead…”). What’s interesting, however, is that much of James’ epistle deals not with what Christians should do but with how Christians should speak. Christ is the Word made flesh. The Gospel is an announcement of news. The Holy Spirit sends us out to convey a promise.
Christianity therefore is a language before it’s anything else; likewise, the character of the Christian community is revealed in and determined by how our speech to and about one another is tempered by our faith.
James 3:5 tells us “the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.”
The problem, according to James, is no one has found a way to tame the tongue. Because the tongue cannot be tamed, it becomes a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.” The tongue is the source of discord because it makes it possible to bless the Lord and Father yet curse those who are made in the image of God. That we bless and we curse from the same mouth is but an indication of how dangerous the tongue is for Christians.
If James is right, and I certainly think he is, then the first form of Christian service begins not with our hands or our pocketbooks but with our mouths, and the neighbor whom we’re called to serve is no further than the next pew. What Jesus’ brother commends in his letter is what Jesus teaches in Matthew 18. There, Jesus commands us not to take out our grievances against a brother or sister through gossip or side conversations but to give your brother or sister the courtesy of expressing it to them directly. Because we did not create the church, nor are we its head, it’s not up to us to make the church come out right — so there’s no need to hold back what’s bothering us in the name of “not upsetting the church.” The same holds true for when the church speaks to its pastors. In my previous congregation, I had a watercolor framed and hanging above my office door with Matthew 18 scripted on the canvas. Translation: Don’t bring gripes to me about a staff person or another congregant if you’ve not yet spoken to them yourself.
Matthew 18, I think, is possibly the most neglected of all of Jesus’ commands — neglected by Christians.
Like his brother, James would say that one way to tame our tongues is by telling our pastors face-to-face what’s on our minds and weighing on our hearts. It may sound like a small, picayune thing, but if Christianity is indeed a language, then it couldn’t be a more important matter. The medium (you and I) can get in the way of the message, or we can echo and amplify the gospel of grace by blessing one another with the same tongues with which we praise God.
To learn to be a Christian, to learn the discipline of the faith, is not just similar to learning another language. It is learning another language. But to learn another language is a time-consuming task. It takes practice. You can never — or at least you should not ever — take for granted the locution that Jesus is our peace.
Because it takes practice, during February we’ll work our way through this “straw” so that we might learn to speak Christian better.
- Feb. 3: “The Alien Word.” Bulletin and service.
- Feb. 10: “Down the Up Staircase.” Bulletin, service, and transcript.
- Feb. 17: “Low Anthropology.” Bulletin and service.
- Feb. 24: “The Praying Church.” Bulletin and service. This service took place during the weekend of the United Methodist Church’s Special Session of the General Conference for determining the church’s approach to matters of human sexuality.
Jan. 2019: Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks
Our January sermon series was based on Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass. The award-winning author holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University. Come learn how the power of thankful living can change how we treat one another and transform the world.
- Jan. 6: Guest speaker Diana Butler Bass. Bulletin and service.
- Jan. 13: Canceled due to snow. Planned sermon transcript: “A Gift Exceeding Every Debt.”
- Jan. 20: “The Bottomless Glass.” Bulletin and service.
- Jan. 27: “Veni, Vidi, Vici.” Bulletin and service.
Advent 2018: Christmas Begins in the Dark
With the Old Testament prophets, the Church at Advent confronts a bleak world deserving of judgment. To such a world Christ came to judge by being judged in our stead. To such a world he will come again.
- Dec. 2: “Advent: the Season of Bold Hope.” Bulletin and service.
- Dec. 9: “Midrash in the Moment.” Bulletin and service.
- Dec. 16: Bulletin and service.
- Dec. 23: “Holy Anger, Outstretched Arm” Bulletin and service.
- Dec. 24: “While We Were Yet Naughty.” Bulletin and service.
- Dec. 30: College Sunday. Bulletin and service.
November 2018: Neither Republican Nor Democrat
Diversity of views is not an obstacle to be overcome but is itself a sign of the gospel. In a time when our culture is balkanized by labels and loyalties, the grace of God creates communities where those worldly distinctions can exist in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Our three-week sermon series is based on Paul’s letter to the Galatians.Click here to read Jason's introduction to the series.
We cannot take the gospel for granted because the Gospel does not come naturally to any of us.
In a nutshell, that’s the crux of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians — one of the oldest and possibly the most influential books of the New Testament — the focus of our November sermon series.
The gospel does not come naturally to any of us because the gospel comes as “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” whose grace sets us free from all religious obligation (the Law) and, in so doing, demolishes all the distinctions we put around ourselves.
St. Paul saves his harshest criticism for the churches in Galatia. In Corinth, church members were having sex with their mother-in-laws, showing up drunk to the Lord’s Table and fighting over scraps of meat sacrificed to idols. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians is a wilder read than Fire and Fury, yet St. Paul lays it on thick for the Corinthians. He calls them saints and dear ones and he thanks God for them. By contrast, in Galatians Paul skips the traditional salutations entirely, gets right to reminding them of the Gospel, and by the time you get no further than Chapter 1, Verse 7, he’s calling them perverts, cursing them and calling down God’s judgment upon them.
Why is Paul so agitated? The Galatians were Christians who were doing the very things so many Christians in America do today, particularly at this time of year. The Galatians were Christians who assumed that they had advanced beyond needing to hear the gospel of Christ crucified for our sins every week. Everyone knows that Jesus died for our sins, right? We don’t need to hear that Sunday after Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Let’s hear about what we’re supposed to do.
The problem with focusing on doing, however, is that sinners like you and me quickly start measuring how much we’re doing and how little others are doing. We start using doing as a means to justify ourselves and elbow ourselves past our neighbors. We start adding qualifiers to the title Christian: social justice Christian, family values Christian, progressive Christian, traditional Christian, pro-life Christians, pro-choice Christians…
In Galatians, Paul calls such thinking another gospel entirely. Indeed, he says it’s no gospel at all, for it nullifies the gospel. We’re justified, Paul insists, by grace alone through faith alone, and the gospel demolishes the distinctions between us. There is now in Christ neither male nor female, neither religious nor irreligious, neither — we could say — Democrat nor Republican. A gospel-centered community, therefore, is a non-anxious community where the distinctions which divide our culture are subsumed by our unity in the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
Grace makes us a community of differents. St. Paul says in Galatians that Christ has set us free from the Law; that is, Christ has set us free from experiencing any anxiety over the amount or quality of our religious doings. One of the burdens we’re freed from, I think, is the need to ‘fix’ our neighbors. We don’t have to make our neighbors see the world the way we see it, think about the world’s problems the way we approach them or vote the way we vote. This freedom, called grace, may be the particular gift God gives the church to offer our
- Nov. 4: “No Other Gospel” (Gal. 1:3-9) – The Church’s primary mission is to proclaim the gospel of grace in worship, word and work. Nov 4 bulletin and sermon.
- Nov. 11: “Faith Alone” (Gal. 2:16, 3:23-29) – The church grows together in faith in order to trust in God’s doing for us, grace and not our own doing, the law. Nov 11 bulletin and sermon.
- Nov. 18: “Free for Our Neighbors” (Gal. 5:1-6, 13-15) – The church is set free to serve our neighbors as ambassadors of the gospel. Nov 18 bulletin and sermon.
September-October 2018: “The Questions God Asks”
Deconstruction is having a moment.
Philosopher Charles Taylor writes in his 2007 book, A Secular Age, that authenticity is the hallmark of the secular age. Since doubt and disbelief, which we supposedly self-generate, strikes us as more authentic than faith we receive from text and tradition, doubt and disbelief are esteemed in the secular age. We’re encouraged by the secular culture to question faith and to suppose that our questions about God make us more authentic humans, and, because we’re conditioned by the culture to so suppose, we seldom stop to notice that those doubts and questions are often the very opposite of what we assume: us thinking for ourselves.
Baudelaire wrote that “the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” The loveliest trick of the Devil might actually be to convince an entire society that doubt itself is most enviable and that deconstruction is the path of freedom.
You cannot deconstruct an unconstructed faith, just like you can’t give away something you haven’t got. Therefore, this fall for our worship series, we will do something counter-cultural. Rather than ask and wrestle with questions about God, we will take a look across the scriptures to those moments when God asks questions of us.
Why are you hiding? Where is your brother? Why are you laughing? Do you have a right to be angry? Do you want to be made well?
Rather than ask our questions of God, we’ll look at the questions God poses to us, and we’ll explore what the answers to God’s questions might reveal about a truly authentic human life.
- Sept. 9: “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:1-21) – Sept 9 bulletin and sermon video
- Sept. 16: “Why do you call me good teacher?” (Mark 10:17-27) – Sept. 16 bulletin and sermon transcript. Due to a power outage, no video was recorded.
- Sept. 23: “What are you laughing at?” (Gen. 18:1-15) – Sept. 23 bulletin and sermon video
- Sept. 30: “What is your name?” (Gen. 32:22-32) – Sept. 30 bulletin and sermon
- Oct. 7: “What is in your hand?” (Ex. 4:2-5, 5:1-9) – Oct 7 bulletin and sermon
- Oct. 14: “You have the right to be enraged?” (Jonah 4:1-11) – guest speaker: Brian Stolarz. Oct. 14 bulletin and sermon.
- Oct. 21: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:27-33) – Oct. 21 bulletin and sermon
- Oct. 28: “Where is your brother?” (Gen. 4:1-17) – guest preacher: Rubén Rosario Rodríguez – Oct. 28 bulletin and sermon