Preached August 24, 2014 at St. Michaels UCC West Chicago IL

Year A, eleventh Sunday after Pentecost


More than a decade ago, I was in a park for a festival. Some people from a church were handing out quizzes on the Bible as a means of outreach. I remember one question in particular:

What one person in the Bible never dies?

I'll come back to this.

Jesus Gets It Wrong? (Sermon)

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Preached August 17, 2014 at St. Michaels UCC West Chicago IL

Year A, tenth Sunday after Pentecost



Surely Jesus knows this passage from Isaiah. In Luke we read that as a child he debated the teachers of the law at the temple, and in Mark it says that he read from a later portion of Isaiah.

And Jesus has just been proclaiming that what comes out of one's mouth is what defiles a person.

And now Jesus reacts to a person in need:

  • first by ignoring her

  • next by rejecting her

  • finally by insulting and degrading her

Do we have the right Jesus here?

This week, the Revised Common Lectionary - used by many churches to determine the readings for Sunday - calls for the Gospel reading to be the fifteenth chapter
of the Gospel according to Matthew, verses 21 through 28.

Some churches will also be reading the optional verses 10 through 20, but I will not be referencing them here.

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.

Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting,
"Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon."

But he did not answer her at all.

And his disciples came and urged him, saying,
"Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us."

He answered,
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

But she came and knelt before him, saying,
"Lord, help me."

He answered,
"It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."

She said,
"Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

Then Jesus answered her,
"Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."

And her daughter was healed instantly.

I'm not an internet preacher.
While I do post some of the sermons I have preached in churches, I don't usually post youtube videos of sermons created specifically for the World Wide Web. But I think this is an important topic, so this is a first for me: a sermon from my heart to the web-at-large.

Image via Memecenter - click for site

There's an idea out there that if your pastor's family looks like this:

family FcM.png

your church will attract more families. In this case, we'll assume your ideal pastor is a man with a wife and one or more young children.

RGBP: What's in a Name?

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For today's Friday Five at RevGalBlogPals, 3dogmom asks "What's in a name?"

Here are my answers to her five questions:

On being right

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I'm pretty concerned about theological discourse. In churches, and online, I see a lot of emphasis on orthodoxy, or correct teaching.

When we argue about theological points, we too often argue about who is right:
  • What's the right way to be baptized, and at what age?
  • What really happens during communion?
  • What is the nature of the trinity?
But these doctrinal questions lead to disagreement and, often, division. What we need are ideas that are transformational, and arguing over who is right is rarely transformational.

On social media, I polled my friends who are spiritual but not religious.

Now this is not a scientific poll, and the sample size is small. So I'm not going to draw any national conclusions.

But this is what I got back within MINUTES of asking the question:

Fishing in the Dark

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I just spent four days with some AMAZING women led by the Reverend Mary Luti, studying the bulk of the twenty-first chapter of the Gospel according to John.

There were a lot of things I took away from this study, but there's one I want to share, with my own twist.

In this story, seven of the disciples are fishing all night. At dawn, the resurrected Jesus appears to them and asks

You haven't caught anything, have you? 
They admit they haven't caught anything, and Jesus says to cast the net on the right side of the boat, and they catch more than they can bring into the boat.

I don't think this is about the side of the boat.  I think it's about timing.

Prisoners of Hope

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Sermon preached July 6, 2014
First Congregational UCC, Waukegan IL

When I was a child, going to Sunday School and church in the Evangelical Free Church, we had a pastor who was the example to which we aspired. We couldn't imagine him doing anything wrong, or being sad, or angry.

And we felt we were expected to reach that level of perfection - to grow into happy, even-tempered people who could resist temptation. I don't know about you, but I've never reached that level of perfection.

There are a few movies out there about pastors. Movies like "Leap of Faith" and "The Apostle" reveal that clergy also have feet of clay.

It's easy to knock the apostle, or the priest, or the pastor. It's easy to pick out the places where a spiritual leader does not live up to the ideal. And, too often, for fear of criticism, spiritual leaders will present a fa├žade of perfection. 

It's a lot of work.

I can't believe I have to say this, but:

  • don't use trans as an insult.
  • don't use trans as a punchline.