Previous Sermons and Series at AUMC

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Easter 2022

The Fifth Gospel — Isaiah 40-55

The more we get to know Isaiah 40–55, the more we will understand how the first followers of Jesus understood “The Gospel.”

The Book of Isaiah is actually a compilation written by three different prophets during different periods in Israel’s history. Second Isaiah or Deutero-Isaiah is the prophet responsible for the long, powerful poem in chapters 40-55. Fleming Rutledge refers to Isaiah 40-55 as the “operating system” for the New Testament. Some of the early Church Fathers regarded Isaiah as “the great prophet,” calling Isaiah 40-55 the “Fifth Gospel.”

It’s not hard to see why they called it the Fifth Gospel. When you think of a royal figure who will suffer to bring about God’s long-planned redemption, the “servant songs” in Isaiah 40–55, climaxing in chapter 53, are the obvious places to go. These chapters constitute one of the greatest poems ever written, touching the heights and depths of human and spiritual experience, reaching a sustained climax which opens a vista on creation itself renewed and restored.

Written during the time of exile, from which God’s people must have thought they would never return, the prophets had insisted that this exile was not a mere political disaster, it was the working out of divine judgment and redemption. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how all this was drawn on eagerly by the first Christians. When they said that “the Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” they didn’t just have the odd verse here and there in mind. They had the entire sequence of thought of chapters 40–55. This is what it looked like when Israel’s elongated “exile” was undone at last. This is the means by which the sins not only of the people but of the whole world would be dealt with, so that God’s ancient covenant could be renewed and the whole world filled with the divine glory.

The more we get to know Isaiah 40–55, the more we will understand how the first followers of Jesus understood “the Gospel.”

Advent 2021 at AUMC. During this sparkling season of wonder and hope, we look ahead to Christ’s birth with celebratory services full of special music and yearly events.

“Anchorman: Hope According to Hebrews.” The book of Hebrews is a beautiful sermon that was written to encourage a people who were experiencing a crisis in their faith. The inevitability of persecution was rising, and with that came fear and a loss of hope. So the preacher writes to remind them that God has consistently taken the initiative to make Himself known throughout the ages, that He is a God who speaks, and that in these difficult days He has spoken fully through his Son. With beautiful relevance for today, we are reminded Jesus is still the final say of the Father and the Anchor of our souls.

The F Word: Gospel Freedom According to Galatians

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.

Acts Upon the Apostles

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.

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.

Advent begins in darkness and ends with light

During the 2020 Advent season we returned to traditional readings and hymns, finding hope in the tale of the birth of Jesus.

Quarantine Correspondence: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

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.

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.


Filling the Gaps of Social Distancing

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 5Palm 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.


The Jesus Story Year, 2019–2020

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.


Spring Sermon Series: Crazy Talk! Stories Jesus Told (About Himself)

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.

2019 Lenten Series: Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life

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.

Mar. 3: “Exodus International.” Bulletin, sermon, and 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.

–  Jason

  • 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.

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.

Nov. 25: “Game of Thrones” (John 18:33-38) – 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
world today.

– Jason

  • 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.

– Jason