Sunday, May 24, 2020

Storms, Fear, and The Presence Of Christ

a first-person narrative sermon
Mark 4: 35-41
Roger Lynn
May 24, 2020
(CLICK HERE for the audio for this sermon)
(CLICK HERE for the video for this sermon)
(CLICK HERE to view the entire worship service)

We just didn’t get it. We never quite understood what it all meant. I often wondered why in the world Jesus chose us to be his disciples, when we had such a hard time comprehending anything he tried to share with us. We watched him heal people. We listened to him teach and tell stories. He would patiently explain things to us – often more than once. We spent lots of time just being around him. And still we found ourselves surprised by him, over and over again. For one thing, it was all so overwhelming. We knew, just by listening to him and watching the way he lived his life, that Jesus was someone extraordinary. I always felt fortunate just to be near him. But I also felt more than a little intimidated, and very confused. The things he said and did just seemed to run so much against the grain of everything we had grown up believing. Letting go of the control of your life and trusting in God completely is a difficult lesson to learn, and one which we found ourselves re-learning many times.

I remember once when we were out in the boat with Jesus, crossing over to the other side of the lake. We had made such a trip many times before, and we’d run into our share of storms. I’ve never really been able to explain exactly why that particular storm frightened us so much. I only know that it did. We were battling against the wind and the waves, trying to keep from being swamped. We almost lost the sail, and we began to fear that we might even lose our lives. The panic and fear which gripped us began to wash over all of us like a drenching wave. And it was then that someone noticed Jesus laying in the back of the boat – asleep. At first we couldn’t believe it. For just a moment we all simply stopped and stared. How could he possibly be sleeping through the storm? Then we suddenly found our fear filling us with a sense of outrage. We woke him up and we screamed at him. “You don’t care about us,” we cried. “If you really cared about us, you would get up and do something.” I do not really know what we expected him to do. It is true that we had seen him do plenty of amazing things, but in that moment we weren’t thinking about any of those other occasions. We only knew that in the here and the now we were afraid and Jesus didn’t appear to be doing anything.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Surviving And Thriving In The World

Roger Lynn
May 17, 2020
(CLICK HERE for the audio for this sermon)
(CLICK HERE for the video for this sermon)
(CLICK HERE to view the video of the entire worship service)

“It was a dark and stormy night.” That is how all of Snoopy’s stories began in the comic strip Peanuts. And these days in which we now find ourselves can sometimes feel like that. Life can be difficult and painful and overwhelming. Indeed, there are times when such an assessment seems to be the norm rather than the exception. The news seems to be full of tragic, heartbreaking, and frustrating stories on a daily basis. And lately it seems like all of those stories are just variations on the same story. In the midst of such times, it can be difficult to know where to turn or what to do, and there is the temptation to focus merely on surviving – leaving the thriving for another day.

When such experiences begin to close in around us, it is helpful to remember that we are not alone and we have not been abandoned. God continues to be on our side. In Jesus’ prayer which we find near the end of John’s Gospel he proclaims the truth that the disciples are now and have always been in God’s care and keeping. It is worth remembering that in the Gospels the disciples always represent us. So Jesus’ prayer speaks directly to our own circumstances. It is significant to note that Jesus asks for two things – God’s protection and unity. “Holy One, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” (John 17:11) It seems to me that in this one statement we find essential keys to help us move beyond merely surviving in the world to thriving. We can remember in whose hands our lives are held, and we can strive to live life in relationship with those around us. Living a life which is free of challenges is not an option, even for people of faith. But when we live lives which are intentionally and intrinsically connected to God and to each other, then we have the resources to face whatever comes. Survival can be achieved in isolation, but to thrive we need to expand our horizons and our connections.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Stepping Into God's New Day

Revelation 21: 1-5
Roger Lynn
May 10, 2020
(CLICK HERE for the audio for this sermon)

(CLICK HERE for the video for this sermon)
(CLICK HERE to view the entire worship service video)

The process of “re-opening” has begun. There are phases and stages and metrics by which to gauge the progress. There are conversations about safety, and the economy, and getting back to “normal.” But we are the Church, and for us it is never about getting back to “normal.” “Cast your nets on the other side of the boat,” Jesus told Peter and James and John when he first called them to a new life. And a new life in a new day is what we are always being called to. We are an Easter people and resurrection is at the heart of what God is always and forever doing in the midst of us. In John’s Revelation, it ends with a bold vision of a new heaven and a new earth. “And behold, I make ALL things new!” declares God. When a butterfly emerges from the cocoon, it isn’t simply a caterpillar with wings attached. The caterpillar which enters the cocoon must dissolve in order for something wholly new to emerge at the other end of the process. So, as we in the church prepare to re-emerge into the world, may we do so with the awareness that God is preparing us and calling us to become something wholly and holy new.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Radical Spirit Powered Living

Roger Lynn
April 26, 2020
(CLICK HERE for the audio of this sermon)
(CLICK HERE for the video of the sermon)
(CLICK HERE to view the entire service)

If you heard my sermon from last week, then you may have a sense of déjà vu. This is not the same sermon, but I discovered that I wasn’t quite done with the theme. So this is more like part two of what I shared last Sunday.

Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia! That is the ancient proclamation of the Church. It is the excitement of Easter. It is a powerful slogan and rallying cry. But we dare not stop there. If we leave worship on Easter Sunday saying, “Wasn’t that wonderful!” and then simply carry on with business as usual, we have largely missed the point. If our faith goes no further than Christ’s resurrection, then we are still left with the “so what?” question, or at the very least the “now what?” question. What does it have to do with us, and what does it call us to do with our lives?

Almost since the beginning the Church has answered such questions by proclaiming that Christ’s resurrection has everything to do with us, and we are called to respond by living. Actually, we are called to respond by living fully and radically and with each other. The book of Acts puts it well when it describes the early church by saying, “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul...” (Acts 4:32) Elsewhere in the New Testament this is referred to as koinonia, which is the Greek word for fellowship or deep, intimate sharing of life. This becomes possible as we begin to live into God’s gift of abundant life which Christ’s resurrection announces. Such living dares to be radically inclusive and radically compassionate because it is powered by nothing less than the all-giving Spirit of God.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Christ is Risen! Now what?

Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash
Roger Lynn
April 19, 2020
First Sunday after Easter
(the audio for this sermon is unavailable this week)
(CLICK HERE for the video for this sermon)
(CLICK HERE to view the entire service)

Last Sunday we celebrated the Resurrection and proclaimed, “Christ has risen! Christ has risen indeed!” Our worship time was a remarkably uplifting experience. I spent the rest of the day on something of a blissed out ecstatic high. My heart was open, and love and beauty came pouring in. I felt powerfully connected to the Sacred Source of Life. 

Such experiences are important, and can provide a valuable boost to our spiritual lives. And, mountaintop experiences are not the ultimate goal of faith. They offer us a fresh new perspective and they can re-energize our weary souls, but ultimately we must come down from the mountaintop and practice faithful living where we live.

On Easter we shouted, “Christ has risen!” Today we need to ask, “Now what?” Now  that we have had a taste of God’s gift of new life, what comes next? What are we called to do? Who are we called to be? Who are we called to become? These are always important questions to ponder and explore. And right now I believe it is more important than ever to actively consider where we go from here. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter: God’s New Life

John 20: 1-18
Roger Lynn
April 12, 2020
Easter Sunday
(CLICK HERE for the audio for this sermon)
(CLICK HERE for the video for this sermon)
(CLICK HERE to view the video of the entire service)

She woke up feeling empty. It was Easter Sunday, but the Covid-19 crisis was still raging, and the Shelter-In-Place order was still in effect. The whole thing had left her feeling drained, and she felt as if there was no life left in her. She wasn’t really dead, of course – at least in the physical sense of that word. Her heart was still pumping blood through her veins, and breath was still flowing in and out of her lungs. But something important inside her had died, and she could no longer really count herself among the living. Yes, that was probably a bit dramatic, but it was how she felt.

How in heaven’s name had it come to this? Well, OK, she had to admit that whatever was going on had certainly not happened “in heaven’s name.” But how had it happened? Her thoughts drifted back over the past few weeks, then the past few months and years, and finally back over her entire life. And slowly it began to come clear. What was the phrase she had heard – the “little deaths” we experience in the course of our living. That is what this felt like – the little deaths of her life had been piling up until finally she found herself laying here feeling dead. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

A Journey Into Covenant: The Storm (Palm/Passion Sunday)

Photo by Levi Hernández on Unsplash
Mark 11: 1-10 (click here to read the scripture)
Roger Lynn
April 5, 2020
Palm/Passion Sunday
(CLICK HERE for the audio of this sermon)

Throughout this Lenten season we have talked about journeying into covenant with God. It is a nice sounding phrase. It is a noble idea. It is not, however, an easy undertaking, and, at least some of the time, we don’t really want to embark on such a journey. Living into that kind of relationship with God can take us places we would really rather not go. 

This Sunday is a prime example. When I was growing up we called this day Palm Sunday. The focus was almost exclusively on what we sometimes refer to Jesus’ “Triumphal Entry” into the holy city of Jerusalem. But in more recent years I have come to understand that a fuller and more honest way to approach this day is to recognize it as Palm/Passion Sunday, because the parade was only the beginning of a week that took Jesus through experiences of conflict, betrayal, suffering, and death. His entry into Jerusalem might more accurately be described as walking into the storm. I do not want to dwell on the dark side of this week, but I believe it is important to acknowledge it. Otherwise we simply move from celebration to celebration without understanding the ways in which Jesus’ journey relates to our journeys, filled as they are with both celebrations and struggles. Journeying into covenant with God doesn’t ignore or avoid the struggle. It takes us through the struggle to the transformational celebration on the other side.