“Jesus Is Not a Means to Our Ends” John 6:1-21

Nine-year-old Danny came bursting out of Sunday School like a wild stallion.  His eyes were darting in every direction as he tried to locate either mom or dad.  Finally, after a quick search, he grabbed his Daddy by the leg and yelled, “Man, that story of Moses and all those people crossing the Red Sea was great!”  His father looked down, smiled, and asked the boy to tell him about it.

“This Man Is Not Normal” John 4:5-18

Dear Abby was a syndicated advice newspaper column from 1956-2000 written by a woman whose pen name was Abigail Van Buren; the column has continued since 2002 with Abby’s daughter providing advice through the Chicago Sun Times.  Years ago, Amy Mulrooney wrote a letter to Dear Abby hoping that the stranger who helped her at a busy airport in Washington state would see her letter and know how much she appreciated his generosity.

“Conflicting Loyalty Among Royalty” Matthew 2:1-12

Netflix created an original series called The Crown; recently, Jennifer and I watched the second season.  For those who don’t have Netflix, the creators produce an entire season of 10 episodes and then make all available at once.  Through an internet connection, a person can watch a show or movie at any time.

“God in a Bod” Luke 1:26-38

Our choir beautifully sang the recent favorite, “Mary Did You Know?”  When the angel appeared to teenage Mary and she consented to the angel’s request to become the mother of Jesus, I am confident that she didn’t know what would happen, of how her son’s life would unfold.

“The In-between Times” Luke 9:28-37

It is unusual to have a week between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent.  Generally, we have Thanksgiving on Thursday and then begin Advent on Sunday.  This week is what I am calling the “in-between time.”  Thanksgiving is past, and Christmas is coming, but not yet.  I sometimes think that Thanksgiving is not given adequate attention because of the commercialization of Christmas.  In stores, it seems odd to me to have Halloween costumes replaced by Christmas decorations. 

“Being Thankful for Hope” Ephesians 1:15-23

Dear Shawn,

While this letter does not mean anything to you now, one day it might.  Hopefully this letter will provide some meaning to your family who has gathered today because they love and support you, but also to your church family who have also gathered today in thanksgiving and also because of this occasion.

“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.

“Encouraging Photos” Hebrews 12:1-2

I love looking at old photographs.  I think I got this trait from my mom, who at age 85 has lots of old photographs.  She has a big portrait in an ornate black frame of my great-great-grandparents who looked very stern.  Supposedly, my great-great grandfather was quite the cut-up, somewhat of a family trait, but one could never deduce it from the old, yellowed portrait.

“Harmfulness of Apathy and Complacency” Matthew 25:14-30

Did you hear about the company that makes blank bumper stickers?  They’re for people who don’t want to get involved.

Some may laugh, but we know that apathy and complacency are detrimental to growth.  If satisfaction is the norm, then movement forward becomes a bit abnormal.  Safety is a heightened concern when we speak of national security, but when an organization “plays it safe,” that generally means that stagnation can set in.