This is our third week reading the Sermon on the Mount. And it suddenly gets decidedly more difficult this week! While trying to lead into the spirit of the Beatitudes and trying to be the salt and light for the world aren't necessarily easy, the passage consists of four of the six phrases beginning: "You have heard it said"...followed by "but I say to you..." We read Jesus words on anger, adultery, divorce, and oath-taking. Those first three, especially, are hard for us to hear today. That is, unless you remember an important lesson from the previous weeks. As we look at the Sermon on the Mount, we must remember that each week doesn't stand alone, but are a part of a larger narrative. So the idea of looking at the will of God standing behind each commandment that we heard before helps us better understand these commandments. When we do that--we will hear just how radical the teachings of Jesus were and still are to this day!
We're continuing our look at the Sermon on the Mount, and how we can live into Jesus' teachings to help bring the kingdom of heaven closer to earth. In this passage, Jesus reminds us that we are to be the salt of the earth. We all know how much flavor salt can bring out in foods, and our role as disciples for the church is to bring out that goodness around the world. Christ is telling us we can't be satisfied with the status quo, that we should shake things up by realizing the value of those people who have been viewed as worthless for too long. Christ also tells us to be the light of the world. Even though we are comfortable proclaiming our faith in the church, too frequently we hide the light of God in the world. Jesus reminds us that we must go into the dark places and hold he light of God's love high about our heads, so the glory of God can illuminate even the darkest corners. Finally, Jesus commands us to have an exceeding amount of righteousness by understanding the will of God that stands behind the commandments, which Jesus is here to fulfill!
Today, we begin to understand exactly how we do kingdom work by "doing" the Beatitudes. As well known as they are, the Beatitudes are frequently misunderstood as commands, rather than as promises from Christ. We do kingdom work when we live into the Beatitudes--when we understand them through simplicity, hopefulness, and compassion. Once we realize that, we won't be able to do anything but continue to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Beatitudes, when viewed as promises, become a guiding principle in our pursuit of righteousness and love for all our neighbors. So today, as we begin the Sermon on the Mount, let's live into the spirit of these powerful words of Jesus everyday of our lives.
is week, we find ourselves living between Christmas/Epiphany and Lent/Easter. As important as those times of the year are, this Ordinary church time is a powerful reminder that we spend a majority of our lives doing the grunt work of spreading our faith. And though our churches are often far more filled on those Sundays, it's really these other weeks that give us the strength to continue on our Christian journey. Today, we heard the call* stories of the first four disciples. How can we be fishers of people today? Do we need to give everything up in our lives to travel the world near and far to spread the gospel message? Can we differentiate the many voices claiming to do God's work? Most importantly, what can we do each and every day to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth? What kingdom work will we choose to do?
*a divine vocation or strong inner prompting to a particular course of action
Image The word "evangelism" can bring about strong reactions. My fear is that the word has been taken over by extreme voices that make the church feel too distant from the lives of most people, today. Many of us probably cannot imagine trying to ask a stranger is they believe in Jesus or want to live in Christ. However, what we learn from John the Baptist today is that evangelism isn't rooted in hatred, fear, persecution, or any other divisive idea--it's all about "come and see". Evangelism is an invitation to come and see Jesus, to hear his radical message of loving others, to care for the sick and dying, and to feed the hungry. Evangelism, for John the Baptist, is nothing like we view it today; so, how can we "do" evangelism in 2020? Simply by serving the church. We can change how we proclaim this Good News to the world by extending the invitation to come and see!
Image by Cerezo Barredo: http://servicioskoinonia.org/cerezo/
On this day, we celebrated Baptism of the Lord Sunday. In this passage, we read Matthew's story of Jesus' baptism, which has some unique parts not found in other versions: The biggest one is God's reaction.
In Matthew--God tells the world that Jesus is the beloved Son, with whom God is pleased--as opposed to God speaking directly to Jesus. It's a small, yet significant difference that changes the meaning of the passage. In this sermon, we look at that meaning, as well as the depth of the meaning of Baptism in our faith.
While it is a cleaning of sin, it is so much more than just that. When we understand the true meaning of this sacrament, we can better understand why Jesus was baptized at all!
There are plenty of passages we love to read and reread; but there are also many passages that give us pause, if not downright doubt. This morning, in our reading of the Slaughter of the Innocents, we encounter one of those passages. How do we feel after reading what Herod did to the youngest children in and around Bethlehem? It's ok to be challenged and struggle--and to admit you feel that way. But what we can realize is that there is always hope in Christ. We see, in this passage, that God gives us the freedom to respond to God's love in any way we want. We see one terrible response from Herod. He denies that grace of God, refuses God's Kingdom on Earth, and does everything he can to protect his own throne. The question we are left with in this passage, then, is how will we decide to respond? Will we fight God and fight the love and grace offered to us? Or will we live into it, showing our neighbors that very same love?
Image by Cerezo Barredo: http://servicioskoinonia.org/cerezo/
Scripture Focus: Matthew 2:1-12
This week, we travel back a bit in Matthew. Last Sunday, we read of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph’s escape from Egypt. Today, we look at the visit of the Magi—a visit that has been added to and added to over the centuries. But when we add names, and numbers, and ideas of the star to the story, we risk missing out on the true meaning of this passage. Matthew, in this reading, is telling us that God is opening the Kingdom to everyone! The Magi, most importantly, represent the Gentiles around Matthew’s audience. There are vital lessons in how we worship, how we express ourselves to God, and how we can more fully live a life of faith in Jesus Christ found in this passage. So when we forget about trying to determine what exactly the Magi followed, how many actually made the trip, and who exactly they were, we can better understand the miraculous teaching from Matthew.
This past Sunday, December 22nd, we had our Lessons and Carols service. It is always a moving service filled the Scripture and some of our favorite hymns! The very first Lessons and Carols service dates back to December 24, 1880, and it was held at Truro Cathedral in the United Kingdom.
Christmas Carols has only recently started to be sung in churches; before that, they were only sung at homes. In 1916, Brown University held its first service of Lessons and Carols, and has continued this tradition every since. However, the popularity of this service really started in 1918, when it was held at King's College in Cambridge. The new dean had served as a military chaplain and was concerned that the Great War (World War 1) had hardened the peoples' hearts against religion. He decided that this service would be a way of bringing Christmas back to the church. It was very successful! Then the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) began broadcasting the service on the radio in 1928, and followed by airing it on television in 1954. Now, it is traditionally pre-recorded in early or mid-December , then broadcast on Christmas Eve. If you haven't seen it, take a couple of hours this Christmas season and check it out online!
This week, there was no sermon because we were graced with the children's pageant, and as you can imagine, it was great! However, in case you want to continue through the Advent passages, I'd like to offer my reflections on the lectionary readings this week (Isa.35:1-10; Ps. 146:5-10; James 5:7-10; Luke 1:46b-55; Matt. 11:2-11)
The Old Testament, Epistle lesson, and Gospel lesson continue in the preparation for the coming Messiah. You may remember that John the Baptist is seen preparing the way for the Lord, and the passage from Isaiah is about the prepared path. This passage brings good news to the oppressed and hope and new life to lifeless deserts. Isaiah reminds us that God has not given up o the original purpose for creation. Simply put, you better watch out, you better not pout--God is coming to town! But the good news is that with God, no one gets coal! We are all presented with the gift of God's grace and new life. The Epistle lesson this week comes from James, who reminds us that we must be patient as we await the coming Messiah. As farmers wait for their crops, we must be patient and strengthen our hearts. Finally, we are given Matthew 11:2-10 as the gospel reading. While the other two readings are about the road prepared and patiently waiting, this reading defines the expectations of the Messiah. When asked by John the Baptist's followers if he is the Messiah, Jesus tells them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me." We are only two weeks away from Christmas, but we are also 2000 years into the new life in Christ. May God continue to offer blessings to each and every one of you as we patiently wait for the second coming of the Messiah!
Rev. CHRIS HOUTZ
Welcome to the pastor’s blog! This page will have sermons uploaded so you can listen to them whenever you want, and I will add a brief reflection on the text, the sermon, or a little bit of both. My hope is that you will be able to see that the Bible can still speak to our world today, and that we can always find a note of God’s grace in any passage, whether it is one of the most well-known and beloved passages, or one of the most difficult readings to grasp.
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Our Mission Statement
We are a friendly, multi-cultural congregation that welcomes all to worship with us as we glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; sing praises to God, the Father; and let the Holy Spirit guide our footsteps. As faithful witnesses to our Christian beliefs, we dedicate ourselves to worship, stewardship and discipleship. We will always endeavor to nurture the youth in our congregation to grow in their commitment to God and the Church and to become active participants in the life and work of the Church.
We commit ourselves to evangelism and mission to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to all people in a variety of ways in our community and beyond.
We will continue to be open to God’s presence, leading us into new pathways of ministry and service for the betterment of the community and to the glory of Jesus Christ our Savior. -
-ratified by congregational vote, January 27, 2008
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