Sermon Notes

“God’s Presence Provides Hope” Matthew 1:18-25

I think you will really enjoy this year’s Advent Devotional Book.  Every devotional centers on a scriptural name of Jesus, and my Advent sermons will seek to combine a name of Jesus with the worship theme for the day.  The prophesy found in Isaiah 7:14 was a message of hope; Immanuel, God with us, was coming.

“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. 

“Sharks in the Aquarium” Ephesians 4: 7-16

Before Jimmy Johnson offered pregame commentary on Fox NFL Sunday, he was quite a successful football coach at both the professional and collegiate level.  As coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he led his team to two consecutive Super Bowl victories.  A few years ago, I read an interesting tidbit about Coach Johnson: he collected and enjoyed exotic fish.  He enjoyed them so much that he had seven saltwater aquariums in his Florida home.  Notice that I said salt water.  By the way, I also found out that the plural of aquarium is either aquaria or aquariums.

“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.

“Which Is More Important?” Luke 18:18-30

We are given choices all the time.  Making decisions is a critical component of everyday life, although some decisions are certainly more important, more reaching, and more pressing than others.  In placing decisions in a balance, we sometimes become so engrossed on “What’s in it for me?” that we lose sight of the bigger picture.  The eyes of society have blinked with dollar signs for so long that some simply cannot see anything else.  Cost and profit constitute the bottom line.  Our New Testament Lesson speaks of making a decision and also indirectly speaks of greed, which is contrary to the Christian lifestyle.  This has nothing to do with working hard nor feeding your family.  Yet this sermon has everything to do with being a disciple of Jesus.  In church life, today is Stewardship Sunday, which also involves individual decision-making.  Today I pose a question, “Which is more important, money or God?”