Church Pic 2
  • Pastor David’s Sermon – 2014/07/27

    Sorry, no video again this week. Camera was dead before the service! Oops! Video will be back next week.

    Scriptures:
    Psalm 105:1-11
    Genesis 29:15-28
    Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

    Sermon:

    I was really tempted to preach about the Old Testament text this morning, because I have an awesome personal story that goes along with that text. However, I just preached on Jacob last week for camping, so I don’t want to return to that well quite yet. So I’m not preaching about Jacob and Rachel and Leah this week. Instead, I wanted to run through this little run of parables that Jesus gives. I hate approaching a text like this one, because there are so many directions in which one could go. There are five parables here. And that doesn’t include the fact that there was a longer one immediately preceding this little run. (There’s an explanation of that parable during the verses we skipped in today’s reading.) Plus there’s a parable-like saying about scribes. That’s a lot of parables.

    Since there are so many directions to go in, it’s a little like coming to a fork in the road. And whenever we have one of those, I’m reminded of that old Yogi Berra quote: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

    Yogi Berra is actually really instructive for this particular discussion. Yogi was, of course, a famous baseball player for the New York Yankees (and later the Mets). He was one of the greatest catchers of all-time. Late in his career, he was shifted to left field, and when you see highlights of Bill Mazeroski’s World-Series-winning home run for the Pirates in 1960 over the Yankees, it’s Berra you see hobbling over to the wall to watch the ball fly over.

    But there are a lot of baseball players who are and were well-known. Yogi is in the unique position of being famous for more than just his playing. He’s famous for his sayings. Little things he says, either because he’s not too bright or because he’s a secret genius. They’re the things that make you laugh and think. Like these:

    “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
    “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
    “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
    “You should always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise, they won’t go to yours.”
    “Never answer an anonymous letter.”
    “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
    One which we often hear people say: “It’s déjà vu all over again!”
    The most famous one, which is so famous that it’s just a common phrase and people don’t even associate it with Yogi Berra anymore, is “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
    In honor of Yogi’s peculiar way of speaking, outside the Yogi Berra Museum, there’s a sign that reads: “We’re open till we close.”

    One of the interesting things about Yogi Berra is that, while he was famous for doing remarkable things in baseball, it’s some of his words and turns of phrases that stick with people, even moreso than the incredible things people saw him do on the baseball field.

    This is the reason, I think, that Jesus taught in parables. Look, people don’t like to remember big, long stories. People don’t like to memorize Paul’s letters; most of the time, we can’t stand listen to people summarize Paul’s letters – but Christians love to memorize the parts that are short, sweet, and significant.

    Well, Jesus just wouldn’t be the same if he hadn’t taught in parables. Sure, there’d still be some sayings (mostly from John, mostly about himself). There’d still be the miracles. There’d still be the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. But for us to think about on a day-to-day basis? Stuff that can influence how we treat others and the world around us? That stuff almost always comes from the parables.

    If you’ve ever sat through the Good Samaritan, you know you’ve been challenged to change how you interact with people who aren’t like you, with people who need help – heck, with people pulled over on the side of the road. When we hear the parable of the Prodigal Son, about a father who will open his arms to welcome back a son who was a real jerk, we’re challenged on how we treat our families, how we treat those we feel we have wronged us, how we spend our money and time. Parables force us to call all those things – our very lives – into question.
    And today, the thing thrown into relief by Jesus’ parables is the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, that phrase, “Kingdom of Heaven” (or its corollary “The Kingdom of God” – I’ll probably end up saying both in this sermon) can mean a couple of different things. But I’m going to talk today about how the Kingdom is present, here and now, and how we’re given the opportunity to participate in it.

    These five parables we heard – first about a mustard seed growing in a field, then yeast working in 10 gallons of grain, then a treasure in a field worth more than all a person’s earthly possessions, then a pearl more valuable than all a person’s possessions, and then a net catching fish – can be drawn into three categories.

    First, how the Kingdom interacts with the world. Second, how the Kingdom changes our values, and finally, how the Kingdom relates to the end of days. These are all worth talking about, but I’m going to focus on the first one of the three, because it’s the one that affected me most while thinking about it this week, and because there’s more than a sermon’s worth in just that short part, and I’d rather try to do justice to one short section than gloss over all three too quickly.
    These first two parables are about a mustard seed, and yeast. These are two great things, right? Mustard, we use to flavor our food, and yeast we use to rise our bread. But that’s simply not what Jesus’ original hearers would have heard. The mustard from ancient Palestine is a completely different plant from the one we use to make mustard. The mustard Jesus talks about here is, in fact, a weed.

    Similarly, we love what yeast does to bread. But yeast is not traditionally used as a positive image in ancient Jewish literature. In fact, it was used to describe infection. For those of you who stayed after Palm Sunday and heard Josh’s presentation about Passover may remember how all the yeast in the house had to be removed before Passover. So a little bit of yeast in a lot of flour could be a disaster. The amount of flour mentioned here (3 measures) is equivalent to about 10 gallons of flour – or about 100 servings of bread. Can you imagine how bad it would be if you had to throw away that much bread?

    So why would Jesus use these images – a weed and an infestation that ruins pure things – to describe God’s Kingdom? The answer has two parts. First, I think, it’s memorable. Like any Yogi Berra line, it’s really easy to remember something when it’s unexpected or surprising. But the second (and more important, I think) reason is that, like those things, God’s Kingdom is something small, that grows to become something large, and that can completely take over everything around it.

    In the case of mustard, it’s a small seed that, if it gets in a field, can cover the whole thing. It can grow larger than any other crop, shade them from the sunlight they need, and take over everything. In the case of yeast, adding only a small amount infects the bread: it puffs it up, changes the size and shape of the loaf, and can’t be stopped.

    And truth be told, that’s the most important message of the Kingdom of Heaven; the Kingdom of God. It’s more than just a happy place to go when we die. The ultimate Christian confession is this: Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. That is, God has control, not just in heaven, but in fact on earth. And that’s not meant in a way in which we say, “Oh, I try to live like Jesus would want me to.” I mean, we should do that, too. But it also means that we believe that God is actively working to make this a more Godly world all the time, in spite of humanity’s best effort to prevent it.

    But the fact of the matter is, when a person or a community is infected by God’s love, God’s freedom, God’s justice… well, it’s like a weed or a bit of yeast among flour. It spreads. It grows. It subsumes everything around it. It makes you hunger and thirst for God’s Kingdom in the here and now. We don’t just hope for a nice place when we die; we yearn to see God’s work in the world, and to participate in it. We long to find the places where God is working, and work with God to create a better world.

    Even though God is the ruler of earth, that doesn’t mean that everything is or will be perfect. There are still things that will go wrong with the world. There are still diseases that attack us; there are still people who will hurt us; there will still be weather that will be good or bad. But the fact is, God is striving to make the world better, and asking that we have a hand in it. That we take part in the creation of the Kingdom. That we would, like the woman with the bread, take what we imagine the Kingdom to be like, and mix it all up in the flour of our lives and our communities, sharing the love of God and living our lives as if we sit in heaven itself.

    May we all go forth to participate in what God is already doing: increasing love among neighbors, expanding justice, and increasing righteousness. Amen.

  • Pastor David’s Sermon – 2014/07/27

    Sorry, no video again this week. Camera was dead before the service! Oops! Video will be back next week.

    Scriptures:
    Psalm 105:1-11
    Genesis 29:15-28
    Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

    Sermon:

    I was really tempted to preach about the Old Testament text this morning, because I have an awesome personal story that goes along with that text. However, I just preached on Jacob last week for camping, so I don’t want to return to that well quite yet. So I’m not preaching about Jacob and Rachel and Leah this week. Instead, I wanted to run through this little run of parables that Jesus gives. I hate approaching a text like this one, because there are so many directions in which one could go. There are five parables here. And that doesn’t include the fact that there was a longer one immediately preceding this little run. (There’s an explanation of that parable during the verses we skipped in today’s reading.) Plus there’s a parable-like saying about scribes. That’s a lot of parables.

    Since there are so many directions to go in, it’s a little like coming to a fork in the road. And whenever we have one of those, I’m reminded of that old Yogi Berra quote: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

    Yogi Berra is actually really instructive for this particular discussion. Yogi was, of course, a famous baseball player for the New York Yankees (and later the Mets). He was one of the greatest catchers of all-time. Late in his career, he was shifted to left field, and when you see highlights of Bill Mazeroski’s World-Series-winning home run for the Pirates in 1960 over the Yankees, it’s Berra you see hobbling over to the wall to watch the ball fly over.

    But there are a lot of baseball players who are and were well-known. Yogi is in the unique position of being famous for more than just his playing. He’s famous for his sayings. Little things he says, either because he’s not too bright or because he’s a secret genius. They’re the things that make you laugh and think. Like these:

    “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
    “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
    “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.”
    “You should always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise, they won’t go to yours.”
    “Never answer an anonymous letter.”
    “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
    One which we often hear people say: “It’s déjà vu all over again!”
    The most famous one, which is so famous that it’s just a common phrase and people don’t even associate it with Yogi Berra anymore, is “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”
    In honor of Yogi’s peculiar way of speaking, outside the Yogi Berra Museum, there’s a sign that reads: “We’re open till we close.”

    One of the interesting things about Yogi Berra is that, while he was famous for doing remarkable things in baseball, it’s some of his words and turns of phrases that stick with people, even moreso than the incredible things people saw him do on the baseball field.

    This is the reason, I think, that Jesus taught in parables. Look, people don’t like to remember big, long stories. People don’t like to memorize Paul’s letters; most of the time, we can’t stand listen to people summarize Paul’s letters – but Christians love to memorize the parts that are short, sweet, and significant.

    Well, Jesus just wouldn’t be the same if he hadn’t taught in parables. Sure, there’d still be some sayings (mostly from John, mostly about himself). There’d still be the miracles. There’d still be the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. But for us to think about on a day-to-day basis? Stuff that can influence how we treat others and the world around us? That stuff almost always comes from the parables.

    If you’ve ever sat through the Good Samaritan, you know you’ve been challenged to change how you interact with people who aren’t like you, with people who need help – heck, with people pulled over on the side of the road. When we hear the parable of the Prodigal Son, about a father who will open his arms to welcome back a son who was a real jerk, we’re challenged on how we treat our families, how we treat those we feel we have wronged us, how we spend our money and time. Parables force us to call all those things – our very lives – into question.
    And today, the thing thrown into relief by Jesus’ parables is the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, that phrase, “Kingdom of Heaven” (or its corollary “The Kingdom of God” – I’ll probably end up saying both in this sermon) can mean a couple of different things. But I’m going to talk today about how the Kingdom is present, here and now, and how we’re given the opportunity to participate in it.

    These five parables we heard – first about a mustard seed growing in a field, then yeast working in 10 gallons of grain, then a treasure in a field worth more than all a person’s earthly possessions, then a pearl more valuable than all a person’s possessions, and then a net catching fish – can be drawn into three categories.

    First, how the Kingdom interacts with the world. Second, how the Kingdom changes our values, and finally, how the Kingdom relates to the end of days. These are all worth talking about, but I’m going to focus on the first one of the three, because it’s the one that affected me most while thinking about it this week, and because there’s more than a sermon’s worth in just that short part, and I’d rather try to do justice to one short section than gloss over all three too quickly.
    These first two parables are about a mustard seed, and yeast. These are two great things, right? Mustard, we use to flavor our food, and yeast we use to rise our bread. But that’s simply not what Jesus’ original hearers would have heard. The mustard from ancient Palestine is a completely different plant from the one we use to make mustard. The mustard Jesus talks about here is, in fact, a weed.

    Similarly, we love what yeast does to bread. But yeast is not traditionally used as a positive image in ancient Jewish literature. In fact, it was used to describe infection. For those of you who stayed after Palm Sunday and heard Josh’s presentation about Passover may remember how all the yeast in the house had to be removed before Passover. So a little bit of yeast in a lot of flour could be a disaster. The amount of flour mentioned here (3 measures) is equivalent to about 10 gallons of flour – or about 100 servings of bread. Can you imagine how bad it would be if you had to throw away that much bread?

    So why would Jesus use these images – a weed and an infestation that ruins pure things – to describe God’s Kingdom? The answer has two parts. First, I think, it’s memorable. Like any Yogi Berra line, it’s really easy to remember something when it’s unexpected or surprising. But the second (and more important, I think) reason is that, like those things, God’s Kingdom is something small, that grows to become something large, and that can completely take over everything around it.

    In the case of mustard, it’s a small seed that, if it gets in a field, can cover the whole thing. It can grow larger than any other crop, shade them from the sunlight they need, and take over everything. In the case of yeast, adding only a small amount infects the bread: it puffs it up, changes the size and shape of the loaf, and can’t be stopped.

    And truth be told, that’s the most important message of the Kingdom of Heaven; the Kingdom of God. It’s more than just a happy place to go when we die. The ultimate Christian confession is this: Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. That is, God has control, not just in heaven, but in fact on earth. And that’s not meant in a way in which we say, “Oh, I try to live like Jesus would want me to.” I mean, we should do that, too. But it also means that we believe that God is actively working to make this a more Godly world all the time, in spite of humanity’s best effort to prevent it.

    But the fact of the matter is, when a person or a community is infected by God’s love, God’s freedom, God’s justice… well, it’s like a weed or a bit of yeast among flour. It spreads. It grows. It subsumes everything around it. It makes you hunger and thirst for God’s Kingdom in the here and now. We don’t just hope for a nice place when we die; we yearn to see God’s work in the world, and to participate in it. We long to find the places where God is working, and work with God to create a better world.

    Even though God is the ruler of earth, that doesn’t mean that everything is or will be perfect. There are still things that will go wrong with the world. There are still diseases that attack us; there are still people who will hurt us; there will still be weather that will be good or bad. But the fact is, God is striving to make the world better, and asking that we have a hand in it. That we take part in the creation of the Kingdom. That we would, like the woman with the bread, take what we imagine the Kingdom to be like, and mix it all up in the flour of our lives and our communities, sharing the love of God and living our lives as if we sit in heaven itself.

    May we all go forth to participate in what God is already doing: increasing love among neighbors, expanding justice, and increasing righteousness. Amen.

  • Come Join Us!

    Sunday Church Service: 9:30 am
    Adult Sunday School: 10:30am
    Wednesday Youth Service: 6:30 pm

    102 East 1st Street
    Marion, SD 57043
    Phone: (605) 648-3876
    Email: emmanuelpc@goldenwest.net
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