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LCH Sermons—Time after Pentecost 2008 (May, June, and July)

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Time after Pentecost • Lectionary 17—July 27, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: I Kings 3:5–12; Psalm 119:129–136; Romans 8: 26–39; Matthew 13: 31–33, 44–52
Summary: In today’s Gospel, Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like five different things that are hidden away. These stories seem easy, but it is confusing because Jesus also says the kingdom of God is at hand. The kingdom of God is more than that. It is not a spectacular, bejewelled presence but a tiny word that changes everything. My life changed when I found a church that welcomed everyone, no matter what. That’s just a little thing, but it changes everything. The kingdom of heaven is God’s invitation to be at home at the cross and table. It is God active through you.

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Time after Pentecost • Lectionary 16—July 20, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Isaiah 44:6–8; Psalm 86: 11–17; Romans 8:12–25; Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43
Summary: My first parish was in the Kansas wheat country. It was exciting to watch the planting and then wait for the rain to come and turn the brown ground into a gorgeous green. A farmer was proud if his wheat field was not surrounded by a ring of weeds, and many would have gone in with tweezers to pull up the weeds if they could have. Today’s Gospel talks about wheat and weeds. Every congregation has both, and some try to tear out the weeks. But the harder we try to perfect the kingdom up front, the less fun the kingdom ends up being. If we let wheat and weeds grow together, the weeds become more wheat-like, and the wheat becomes more interesting. We need to let God work out the harvest. God has sown good Word in you. The wheat is growing, and the weeds are among it. The key may be just to grow up.

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Time after Pentecost • Lectionary 15—July 13, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Isaiah 55:10–13; Psalm 65: 9–14; Romans 8:1–11; Matthew 13: 1–9, 18–23
Summary: Today’s Gospel lesson of the sower comes up over and over in the lectionary, and we usually think of it in a narrow way following the explanation Jesus gives in Matthew. We think it is about seed falling on poor soil. However, when we consider this in the light of Isaiah—who tells us that God says, “My word will not return to me empty”—we can see something different. In the parable, God is the sower. Each year farmers do something extraordinary. They put up everything they have to borrow money so they can plant a crop, and then they sow that crop and hope and pray that they have a good harvest. And good farmers sow abundantly in every field in hopes that at least some will be productive. We in the church are used to spreading the seeds of God’s word sparingly, but we are called to sow extravagantly and to trust the promise in Isaiah that God’s word will pour down like rain. We know that God’s word will do God’s work. Our part is to spread the word to the whole world.

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Time after Pentecost • Lectionary 14—July 6, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Zechariah 9:9–12; Psalm 145:8–15; Romans 7:15–25a; Matthew 11:16–19, 25–30
Summary: In Matthew, Jesus’ ministry begins to come under fire. He is not living up to the expectations society has of a good teacher, and they find fault with what he does and doesn’t do. Paul tells us that as human beings, we have a twistedness. We intend to be good people, but we can’t follow through. We can whine and complain about this, we can be sad about it, or we can understand it through the eyes of faith. There is a brokenness in us that longs to be healed. We are not prisoners of despair but, as Zechariah says, prisoners of hope. As much as we fall short, Jesus calls us back and makes our brokenness whole. Even in the most broken community, the stronghold of hope abides.

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Peter and Paul, Apostles—June 29, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Acts 12:1–11 Psalm 87:1–3, 5–7; 2 Timothy 4:6–8, 17–18; John 21:15–19
Summary: In the lesson from Acts, Herod has decided the Christians are getting too pesky, so he has Peter bound and put in prison. God sets Peter free, and he goes out to spread the word. Modern Christians may have trouble relating to this because we are not in danger of prison, but in many ways the modern church is bound in a prison of our own making. We are bound by our own desires and habits, by our apathy, and by our fear that stops us from taking risks because people may leave. God does not give us this church to sit comfortably and await the second coming. We have been given the church to go out on a mission and spread the Good News of God who is alive, present with us, and turning the key on the chains that bind us. God is unbinding us, sending us out, and stretching us in ministry.

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Time after Pentecost • Lectionary 12—June 22, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Jeremiah 20: 7–13; Psalm 69: 7–10, 16, 18; Romans 6: 1b–11; Matthew 10: 24–39
Summary: I grew up with an image of Jesus as a really nice guy. This was partly from immaturity and partly because of a poor Sunday School curriculum that did not teach a passionate and dangerous Jesus. We have been led to expect a Jesus who will make everything OK, but in today’s Gospel, Jesus says “I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” I had a friend in seminary who grew up in an agnostic family and had come to church because the people were nice, but he stayed because he found something deeper and more challenging. His family could not understand his choice, but he decide that the Gospel was more important than family. Jesus calls us to a commitment that goes beyond self interest. In the church, we need to be able to fight over important issues like what to believe. Any time we have something else that is more important than God, we will create conflict; but when we love God more than anything else, the conflict will be created for us. We can fight and make mistakes, and God will still claim us as God’s children. So, put away the nice Jesus and embrace the dangerous Jesus who calls us to deep devotion to God.

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Time after Pentecost • Lectionary 11—June 15, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Exodus 19: 2–8a; Psalm 100; Romans 5: 1–8; Matthew 9: 35–10: 23
Summary: Today’s Gospel has enough material for 29 sermons, but here is the key: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” The twelve apostles are the laborers sent out into the world to preach the word and love of God. The instructions given to the apostles are difficult for people to hear in our modern world. Many churches take these instructions to be about money and people in the pews, so it is no wonder that people run from the word evangelism. But Jesus sent the apostles out with a message the world wants to hear: The kingdom of God is at hand, the present hopelessness is overcome. Ponder the image that we are God’s love letters. God does not want anything but to love us. So the question is this: What would it take for you to be willing to be God’s letter to the world?

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Time after Pentecost • Lectionary 10—June 8, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Hosea 5: 15–6: 6; Psalm 50: 7–15; Romans 4: 13–25; Matthew 9: 9–13, 18–26
Summary: Who is welcome at the Table of the Lord? This is a question the church has struggled with for centuries. Most churches say everyone is welcome, but the Gospel sets a high standard. When we are clearest about ourselves, we admit we are selective about the people we eat with, those we welcome. Jesus has a different idea about who the right people are. He calls Levi, a tax collector, as his disciples and then invites him to dinner, but this upsets the religious leaders of this day. We have all experienced the church being this way—both as giver and receiver. When the woman touches Jesus, he heals her without asking who she is and without telling her to wait her turn after the leader of the synagogue who had asked first. Our challenge is to be able to swing wide the gates and invite everyone to a rich meal overflowing with grace. Then we will hear Jesus say about the church what he said about the little girl: “She is not dead; she is just sleeping.”

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Time after Pentecost • Lectionary 9—June 1, 2008

Preacher: Seminarian Jacob Burkman
Lessons: Deuteronomy 11:18–21; Psalm 31:1–5, 19–24; Romans 1:16–17; 3:22b–31; Matthew 7:21–29
Summary: As Christians, we establish our identity in Christ, and seminary forces one to look inward. Being a disciple of Jesus is not dangerous these days, but it is still a challenge. Today’s Gospel says that we must do more than call Jesus Lord; we have to serve and benefit others. Jesus also says that we must do the will of the Father, but this is not always easy to discern. Our relationship with God is made right through faith, which is a gift of God. We are urged to build our houses on the firm foundation of Christ. This is not easy, but it gives us the foundation for a future of hope.

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Time after Pentecost • Lectionary 8—May 25, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Isaiah 49:8–16a; Psalm 131; 1 Corinthians 4:1–5; Matthew 6:24–34
Summary: Today’s Gospel says, “Do not worry about your life.” This is one of my favorite scriptures because I need to hear it so often. Some call it philosophy, but it is truly theology because it talks about how we live in relationship with God. We cannot serve two masters, but many of us are not satisfied with what we have. We are always looking to the past or the future. We are bombarded by messages the we need something to meet someone else’s expectations. Jesus says, “Don’t worry.” Know that God loves you. Rather than thinking about what you will wear or eat, be concerned about what your neighbor will wear (or not wear), will eat (or not eat). It is not our clothes or home; it is the love of God that defends us. Don’t worry about tomorrow; today’s trouble is enough. And today’s grace is sufficient for today—and for tomorrow.

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Trinity Sunday—May 18, 2008

Preacher: Pastor Jeff Lilley
Lessons: Genesis 1: 1–2: 4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13: 11–13; Matthew 28: 16–20
Summary: Today’s lessons include two powerful stories that helps us think about the relationships that make up the Trinity. In the creation story, we hear how God speaks creation into being and sets humans as stewards in relationship with that creation. In the story from Matthew, Jesus sends the disciples out to baptize and be stewards of people. As we know from the parable of the sewers, the garden of creation has different soils. Some places—like LCH—have good soil, but what kind of stewards or gardeners will we be? These lessons tell us that we are stewards of both God’s creation and of God’s people. How will we respond?

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