A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the Luke passage from scripture exhorting us to be ready and keep our lamps lit—because in life, we never know when the master will be back for the wedding banquet—stated otherwise, we don’t know when God’s grace will break into our lives. We considered the ways that we spiritually procrastinate, keeping us unready to embrace those instances. Many of us know the desire to journey more deeply through life, to take as author M. Scott Peck calls it, The Road Less Traveled. And yet, we find a multitude of reasons to stay on the easy road—which by the way, ends up not being as easy as it first looks. This week, we look more at the spiritual engagement we are invited not to put off. What might it look like to seize the spiritual opportunities of life? But before going any further…
Let us pray: Tear back the veil of mystery that separates us from you, O Lord. And grant us the courage to draw near. With the power of your Word and Spirit, guide us through the fear that divides, and lead us into love that bridges holy union with you and your purposes. And now, may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sought, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
The idea for today’s sermon came to me many months ago, but true to the subject matter, I finished it this morning. Today we celebrate the graduations of friends and members of this community who, in their academic triumphs, have inevitably learned a thing or two about procrastination. We have all been there: soaring in the clouds of noble intentions to begin a project, only to find ourselves starting the work due to a the haunting persistence of a looming deadline.
Let us Pray: Link us Lord with our brothers and sisters at Pentecost some two thousand years before. Not by ideology, culture, or theology, but by the same Spirit. Fill us with your Spirit by blowing the words of scripture right off the page and into our hearts. And now, may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
The Holy Spirit—that great force, being, reality that Anna just attested to from Scripture, often elusively escapes our purview. As far as its role as a member of the Trinity, in most main line churches God as the sustaining Holy Spirit undoubtedly plays the third-wheel role to God the Creator and God the Redeemer. According to the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, “The church has always tended toward bitarianism, worshiping the Father and the Son while regarding the Spirit as a marginal member of the Holy Trinity,” (Volume X, Pg. 57.)
This morning we will consider the importance of tone. Not specifically musical tone, although that is related. I am talking also about the tone set in a situation. It may not be something that we very often think about in the context of faith. But, it behooves us to take time to meditate on the issue of tone, because in life, we too frequently underestimate its importance. You may have heard it said, that how you say something is as or more important that what you actually say. That idea calls to mind the words of Maya Angelou, ““I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It is also consistent with twentieth century American author Dorothy Parker’s command, “Don’t look at me with that tone of voice.” How the tone is set and communicated in almost any situation will inevitably impact the situation’s trajectory. Tone directs the present and the future. But before going any further, let’s set the tone for the sermon with prayer:
Let us pray: Gracious God, help us not only to open our hearts and minds to your Scripture that we might better discern and understand your transforming word, but help us also by giving us the strength and will to respond. And now, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
There are two pieces of advice that members of this congregation have shared time and again. The first: “do not get old.” To which I usually respond, “I am not sure to follow your advice.” The other recommendation came often since the birth of our children. The advice, “Do not blink, or your children will grow up too fast.” I tried to follow that advice and lasted about a minute. Both pieces of advice relate to how quickly the years pass. Just yesterday at our Presbyterian’s Men’s meeting, I asked a member of our church about how his children and grandchildren were doing. He responded, “Roberto, those grandkids are growing so fast.” To which I thought, maybe you should stop blinking, but I did not say that.
In the passage that Mary and I just read, Jesus calls his disciples, “Little children.” And as we hear his admonition, since we too are his disciples, the designation is for us. In his teachings and actions, Jesus held a special place in his heart for children. Despite being rebuked by church leaders when women brought their young ones to be blessed, he proclaimed, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Children have an innocence and vibrant perspective that is often profound. We find delight in quips that come, “out of the mouth of babes.” Their insights and innocence can enlighten jaded hearts. My daughter’s pre-school teacher has a wonderful penchant for art and has the class regularly scribbling, sketching sculpting, and painting. Last week, as I admired some of the classroom art on display, I saw a quote tacked to the wall attributed to the great Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. It reads: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
The genesis of this morning’s sermon is a conversation with a member of the congregation. For those accustomed to the order of the revised common lectionary, you will notice that our scripture passage is a departure. Normally, on this fourth Sunday of Easter, we hear a Gospel passage about Jesus as Shepherd. But God intervened. A recent conversation with a seven decade member of our congregation went something like this: “Roberto, I keep noticing in the Call to Worship, we say the word YHWH. What is that? No one has ever explained it to me in all of these years. I responded that, “YHWH is an Old Testament name for God?” This perplexed him, and he uttered, “no way.” To which I of course responded, “YHWH.” What we call God is important. God’s name, or names reveal something about God and about us. So this morning, we will take time to consider what YHWH and other names of God mean and what that means for our faith. But first, let us pray:
Let us pray: On this morning O Lord, take from us all that we cling to so tightly and release us, only to reveal truth we cannot see until we let go. Through the power of your resurrection, move us from death to life. And now, may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
For part of church history, various traditions have formed around a quaint theme known as “Risus Paschalis,” which, translated from Latin, means “Easter laugh.” Risus Paschalis was predicated on the notion that on the first Easter, God played the biggest joke in history, on none other than the devil. God allowed the devil to kill Jesus, thereby, allowing him to think he had won, only to raise Jesus to life again on the third day. The presumption is that God has a sense of humor and on Easter we can laugh to observe the comicality of it all. Perhaps the person or people who came up with the idea were familiar with Plato’s words: “Even the gods love jokes.”
"The Great Harvest"
Rev. Robert Woodruff
May 3, 2015
Part of Jesus’ pedagogy involved using common images of his contemporary Mediterranean world as metaphors. In the gospel according to John, Jesus uses seven different “I am” statements in which he identifies himself metaphorically as various types of images. I am the bread of life. I am the light of the world. I am the door. I am the good shepherd. I am the resurrection and the life. I am the way, the truth, and the life. And today, as Jeannie and I read: “I am the true vine, and my father is the vine grower…[and] you are the branches.” And identifying us with the branch metaphor, Jesus gives us a specific task. We are called to bear fruit. According to the New Interpreters Bible Commentary, “‘bearing fruit’ emerges as another way to speak about the works of love that are required as Jesus’ followers,” (Pg. 757).
Take Me to Your Leader
Rev. Robert Woodruff
April 26, 2015
John 10: 22-30
Theme: You will come to know the real Jesus when you allow yourself to follow him.
Let us pray: God of the universe, when we look upward at the majesty of the sky that you created, filled with stars and whirling planets, we pause to wonder about the meaning of our lives. Teach with your word and Spirit deeper dimensions that fill our lives. Free us, from that which keeps us from seeing your glory. And now, may the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Amen.
Palabra de Vida
You will find sermons preached by Rev. Robert Woodruff and guests preachers.