“Charge to the Candidates” Acts 6:1-7 Deacon Ordination Sunday

Ordaining three deacon candidates in one year is a bit unusual for a church our size.  Our three new deacons, Deb, Shane, and Dan, join previously ordained Christian Henry and Nelson Hale as being elected by congregational vote in early September.  Of these five, only Dan Crowley is home-grown, meaning that he was baptized here.  While Nelson grew up in Madison, he was raised Episcopalian and came to our church through marrying Cathy.  Christian grew up in Augusta; Deb grew up in Virginia; Shane grew up in Sparta and also came to our church through marrying Emily.

“Hospitality as Discipleship” Matthew 10:40-42

Before my first anniversary as your pastor, I talked to the Church Council about having church-wide opportunities to show Christian hospitality on grand scales and that we would provide this ministry on even-numbered years and have revivals on odd-numbered years.  Church-wide hospitality initiatives allow us together to focus on ways we can serve, and  some might call this the “outward journey”; revivals allow us together to focus on personal renewal, and some might call this the “inward journey.”  The primary objective of extending Christian hospitality was not a membership drive or marketing campaign; instead, we simply wanted to follow the directive of Jesus “to give a cup of cold water” to others.  We extend hospitality to others to show that God loves them but also to express our appreciation for them.

“Solving the Problem Can Begin with Us” Matthew 14:13-21

We all know that Jesus was the Son of God, which means that he was fully divine, but Jesus was also fully human.  He laughed and cried; he was affected by the stress of his workload.  He got tired.  Our passage began with Matthew telling us that Jesus received news of the murder of his cousin, John the Baptist.  Bad news affected Jesus; bad news affects us.  Sure it sells newspapers, and it entices advertisers for the evening news cycles, but we are affected by bad news, and when we aren’t, we become less human and more robotic.

“Seeing our Blind Spots” John 9:1, 6-9, 13-22, 34-41

After deciding upon today’s sermon title, I googled “blind spot.” I was unaware of an NBC television show by that name. I also didn’t know that Blindspot is a company that produces window coverings, specifically blinds. Merriam Webster offers three definitions ( First, a blindspot is an area around a car, truck, etc., that the driver cannot see. The Honda we bought back in September has an area which the rear-view mirror cannot reach; this is called a blindspot. Secondly, a blindspot is a small area at the back of the eye that is not sensitive to light; our peripheral vision becomes limited, because of the way our eye is created, thus preventing us from seeing a certain area. Finally, the tendency to ignore something especially because it is difficult or unpleasant becomes a blindspot for us; I hope that because of today’s sermon, we can see some of our own 


“Reputation Matters” Luke 14:1-14

It is no secret that the Pharisees did not like Jesus. He represented too radical a change for them. They only associated with people like themselves so that they could remain ceremonially clean; if they hung out with the outcasts whom Jesus attracted, they would not be able to participate in Temple rituals.
The word “Pharisee” actually means “separated one,” and they lived up to their name. They separated themselves from outcasts, but also they separated themselves from anyone who didn’t keep the Law as they did. The quest of their religion was to do the right thing and not do the wrong thing. On the surface, we might agree that their quest was noble, but in reality, they placed the keeping of their understanding of the Law to be above everything else. They regularly placed regulations and rules ahead of individuals and their needs.
For Jesus to have such an adversarial relationship with the Pharisees raises questions with this passage from Luke. Why would a leader of the Pharisees invite Jesus into his home, and why would Jesus accept the invitation?

“Today’s Lepers” Mark 1:40-45

In the New Testament, there was no person whom people avoided more than a leper. Although virtually obliterated in industrialized nations today, cases of leprosy continue to be reported in third world countries. As you probably know, the disease is a skin disorder. Ulcerated whelps form on the skin that can also affect the muscular and nervous systems. Mental decay is assured while the end result is usually fatal; it is also highly contagious. The pain from this dreaded disease is excruciating. I don’t know about you but when I am sick, I like to be pampered. If I’m not feeling well, I find comfort in the fact that someone can and does take care of me. Lepers did not enjoy this luxury. The source of their solace was people in the same boat disregarding their own suffering in trying to grant sometimes unreachable serenity.

“God Can Even Use You” Luke 2:1-7

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by. Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. And at the time, Bethlehem had no idea how important that birth would be. The One whom Isaiah prophesied as the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace had come into the world, into the sleepy little hamlet without much fanfare. It is believed that Jesus was born in the evening, because later we read that shepherds were keeping watch over their flock at night when the angel appeared to them heralding the good news of the birth of the Messiah. Silent stars, as referenced by the popular Christmas carol, maybe some livestock, and certainly Joseph watched Mary give birth to God’s Son. The dark streets provided a contrast that being birthed in a stable or cave was the One who would later call Himself the Light of the World. The hopes and fears of all the years were met that night in Bethlehem in the birth of Jesus.