The Baptism of Jesus is commemorated each year on the first Sunday following Epiphany, January 6. This year that was the first Sunday of the New Year. At Covenant, we have chosen to commemorate it as we normally do on this week on the Second Sunday of the New Year. That also means following the lectionary scriptures assigned for this Sunday requires us to look at baptism with a depth that goes beyond baptism being an outward sign of an inward spiritual reality taking place.
Rev. Michael Piazza shared the following this week: “I have no idea what the sign actually said, but, driving to the airport … it seems it said, ‘Hope Repaired Here’. It was tempting to turn around and see what it really said and what they really repaired. The thing is, as someone whose hope has been damaged a bit during the past couple years, it felt better to think that there really is a place that repairs shattered hopes.”
As I thought about his words, it dawned on me that there is such a place. It’s called our hearts. The assigned text for this Sunday from Psalm 139 & I Corinthians 6 goes to great lengths to remind us that God who made us, knows us, loves us, is always present with us, and we belong to God! That reminder is where hope is repaired!
Being baptized or re-affirming our baptism is meant be a time when we are reminded in our innermost being, that hope is repaired right here within us. “Baptism” reminds us that hope is repaired “When We Say Yes” to a relationship with God.
So, join us on this “Baptism of Our Lord” Sunday at Covenant. We will commemorate the Baptism of Jesus with Baptisms by Immersion and reaffirmations of Baptism with sprinkling as part of our worship. My sermon will be “Baptism: When We Say Yes” based on Psalm 139, 1-6, 13-18 and I Corinthians 6:12, 19-20.
The Season of Advent begins this Sunday. The theme is Hope. Christmas and the New Year of 2018 are just around the corner. Come, see Covenant beautifully decorated as we also light the first Advent Candle for Hope.
Advent is a season of waiting. It’s a time to be marked by urgent anticipation, longing for the fulfillment of what has been promised. Since Jesus was born 2000 years ago, the promise we are now waiting for is the return of Christ as described in the assigned scriptures for the First Sunday of Advent; referencing the second coming of Christ, instead of the birth of Jesus.
That’s all well and good except, too often, people don’t really spend enough thought on what we do while we wait. While the scriptures encourage us to look for Christ’ return, they also tell us to make the most of the present. Someone once put it this way: “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you do no earthly good.” John Wesley said it even better with these words: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can”. That’s making the most of the present.
In preparing for Advent, Christmas, the unknowable future of 2018 and beyond, let’s make sure we don’t ignore our most precious resource that allows us to make the most of the present. That is “The Shining Light of Hope,” of God’s presence in our lives. Let’s trust in God and seize the day.
Again, join us for worship this First Sunday of Advent as we continue our look for Christ’s return while making the most of the present. My sermon will be “The Shining Light of Hope” based on Psalm 80:7, 17-19 and Mark 13:24-27, 32-37
This Sunday is known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” That’s because the gospel reading for “The Fourth Sunday after Easter” always includes passages portraying Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The picture of Jesus as The Good Shepherd is meant to demonstrate the greatness of God’s unconditional love for us. It’s also meant to show the lengths to which God was willing to go to show God’s love for us.
In John 10:11 of The Message, Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before Himself, sacrifices Himself if necessary.” God was even willing to take the sting out of death for us.
This story by Adrian Dieleman can help us to visualize this point. He writes: A boy and his father were driving down a country road on a beautiful spring afternoon when a bumblebee flew in the car window. The little boy, who was allergic to bee stings, was petrified. The father quickly reached out, grabbed the bee, squeezed it in his hand, then released it. The boy grew frantic as it buzzed by him. Once again, the father reached out his hand; but this time he pointed to his palm. There stuck in his skin was the stinger of the bee. “Do you see this?” he asked. “You don’t need to be afraid anymore. I’ve taken the sting for you.”
One of the biggest fears people have is the sting of death. We don’t’ need to fear death anymore because “Jesus, The Good Shepherd” has taken the sting for us. If “Jesus, The Good Shepherd” has done that for us, rest assured that His other claim in John 10:10 is true also. “I’ve come that you may have life, and have it to the fullest.
Join us at Covenant this Sunday as I preach on “Jesus, The Good Shepherd” using the very family scriptures of Psalm 23 and John 10:1-11.
I love modern day parables. I noticed one this past week, in watching the UConn Huskies’ women’s basketball team play the Mississippi State (MSU) Bulldogs’ team in a National Semi-Final game. A year ago, MSU had lost to UConn in the tournament by the largest margin ever in a NCAA tournament game, 60 points. UConn entered this game on a 111-game winning streak, the longest in NCAA Division I history, boys or girls. UConn was expected to just cruise to another victory. But MSU played a masterful game. Yet, UConn managed to tie the score at the end of regulation to send it to overtime. As overtime came to an end, MSU’s Morgan Williams at 5’2”, the shortest player on the court, made the game winning buzzer beating shot over one of the tallest. It was a shot heard around the world! The mighty UConn Huskies had fallen to Mississippi State. The cheering was loud! The feeling was unbelievable. There was talk of the parade that would greet the MSU Bulldogs when they came back home to Starkville, Mississippi. But like Palm Sunday, it was a short-lived joy; two days later, Mississippi State lost in the championship game to South Carolina.
This Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday. It’s when we remember Jesus’ victorious entry into Jerusalem to the cheers of the people. They were shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is The One who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” But we know that victory was also a short-lived joy. A few days later in that same week, Jesus would be arrested, beaten, tried and crucified. The events of Palm Sunday were not a real victory of any lasting duration in light of His passion on Good Friday. It was a tragic kind of victory.
This happens to us as well when we fail to realize the true victory in the Palm/Passion story. For the followers of Christ, the real victory came when they were willing to leave the safety of the crowds and follow Jesus with a commitment that went past the cheering of Palm Sunday. And so it is with us.
Join us this Palm/Passion Sunday at Covenant. We will celebrate with palms waving and also a baptism by immersion. We will also be challenged to make a “Commitment Beyond the Cheering of Palm Sunday.” That’s my sermon title based on Psalm 118:1-2, 19-26 and Matthew 21:1-11.
“An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” That’s an old saying often used when people are referring to an uncanny likeness of a son and his father in appearance, habits or traits. In many ways, this saying applies to me and my Dad. However, in other ways, the differences between the two of us leave me feeling like I need a DNA test to prove that I really am the son of Jack Finney.
When it comes to carpentry skills, mechanical or electrical knowledge, my apple may have fallen close to the tree; but it quickly rolled a long way down the hill out of sight of the tree from which I fell. Daddy was astutely adept in all three mentioned areas. The services of a carpenter, an electrician and/or a plumber were never needed at our house when I was growing up. Daddy took care of all of those needs himself.
Me, on the other hand, I’m about as clueless in these areas as they come. So, it might be a little surprising that my sermon title for Ash Wednesday was “Time for A Spiritual Tune Up” and my sermon title for this coming First Sunday in Lent is “Flying Instructions for Lent.” With both sermons, I use my very limited knowledge of mechanics to explore important spiritual truths that can help us make the most of our Lenten journey for 2017.
Join us this week for worship on “The First Sunday in Lent.” At Covenant, we call it “Purple Sunday.” We ask that if you can to please wear something purple.
When it comes to mechanical knowledge, I may have rolled far from the tree of Jack Finney. Nonetheless, I will still use my limited knowledge of mechanics and my memories from my days in the Air Force to explore some important truths about “Flying Instructions for Lent” based on “Psalm 32:6-8” and “Matthew 4:1-11.”
This Sunday is Father’s Day. So, Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there and those serving in paternal roles.
I usually like using the sermon to commemorate these special days. However, with the events of last Sunday in Orlando; my heart is still sick over the senseless and tragic loss of life and injuries incurred by members of our LGBTQ community, so I’m feeling led in a different direction with the sermon this week.
To show my solidarity with the victims, I changed my Facebook profile to include “We are Orlando,” and by this Sunday I will have participated in at least 5 community events as responses to the tragedy. While I didn’t know a single individual victim personally, as the Pastor of Covenant, I feel like I have known each one of them too often by a different face and a different name. I’ve seen each face too often in random acts of violence toward our community.
I’ve felt like I’m supposed to have some words of wisdom to help others grieve and deal with such horrible acts; but I have felt stymied on this one. So, once again I turned to the scriptures for insight and comfort. It was there, in the lectionary scriptures assigned for this Sunday, that I finally felt some comfort. In Psalms 42 and 43, three different times the Psalmist raises the question, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?” Each time he answers with these words: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my help and my God.” As I reread those Psalms several times, I allowed my mind to think about that question and response. In doing so, the message became clear to me. In spite of the events of last Sunday in Orlando, “God is still God; even when people are going crazy!” At times like these, that just might be what we need to hear, remember and hold onto as we try to emotionally deal this terrible event or some other difficulty in our lives. “God is still God.” God still loves me, accepts me, forgives me, helps me, strengthens me, and encourages me, “even when people are going crazy” all around me. I need to remember to “Hope in God, my Help and my God!”
Join us at Covenant this Sunday after PrideFest for worship. The focus of my sermon will be that “God is still God; even when people are going crazy!” The scripture text is “Psalms 42:1-43:5.”
This Sunday is Trinity Sunday. All over the world the lead song in most liturgical services will include the line “God in three persons, Blessed Trinity.” Preachers will follow with a sermon trying to explain just what the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) means and few will be successful.
I think we might communicate the Trinity and its importance more effectively if we used more inclusive terms to help people imagine the Trinity as “The Creator, Christ and Holy Spirit.” After all, the “Trinity” is not an attempt to explain God but speaking of the 3 major manifestations that God chose to reveal God’s Self to humanity that we find in Holy Scripture. Let’s be clear: “God is still speaking!” But these are the 3 major manifestations of God that we find in scripture.
I attended the “Festival of Homiletics” this week in Atlanta and was inspired by some of the greatest preachers of our time. Though not one speaker spoke of The Trinity, I thought about it when one speaker encouraged us to (and I paraphrase) Know Your God, Know Your Body and Know Your Truth. In those 3 things I allowed myself to imagine a new way to think about the Trinity.
- Know Your God. The Creator created you and me to have fellowship with God because God loves us. If we come to know our God as the Creator who loves us and not some distant, non-relatable entity out there somewhere, we will discover that “God is for us!” Not out to get us!
- Know Your Body. The Christ, as our example, taught us to live our lives with balance. He demonstrated those things we need to do that strengthens us spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentality including taking the time to rest. If we follow Christ’s example, we come to know that “God is with us;” all the time. We are not forgotten and never abandoned!
- Know Your Truth – Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will lead, guide and direct us. Do you ever feel something inside you tugging at you to do the right thing, even when you want to do just the opposite? That’s the Holy Spirit. “Trust your integrity” and allow the Holy Spirit to be a constant reminder that “God is within us.”
These three things are “Examples of God’s Love,” and they go a long way in helping us to understand “The Trinity.” Join us in worship at Covenant on this “Trinity Sunday.” I promise I will have neither a long nor doctrinal sermon on the Trinity. I will however, be preaching about “The Trinity” as “Examples of God’s Love,” using “Psalm 8.”