Sermon: Open Hearts, Open Minds, Locked Doors

“Peace be with you.”

Those were the first words Jesus said when he appeared to the disciples after his resurrection. Jesus could’ve gone anywhere after his resurrection. He could’ve gone to the Pharisees, showing them how wrong they were about him. He could’ve gone to Pontius Pilate and lectured him about true justice. Even if he went to the disciples, he could’ve expressed his disappointment at how they abandoned him.

But Jesus went to them and said, “Peace.”

Peace and forgiveness is important as we discern our own Christianity, in our personal lives and as a church. We must make sure our minds and hearts are filled with the Holy Spirit and the love of God in our decisions and interactions. Without Jesus, are actions are empty.

“Open Hearts, Open Minds, Locked Doors”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
John 20: 19-38
April 23, 2017 • Second Sunday of Easter

Sermon: Jesus is risen! But do we know him?

He is risen!

But what does Jesus’ resurrection truly mean to us? Are we really ready to accept the risen Jesus? Or are we too comfortable with our earthly life that we prefer to live our lives as if Jesus is dead?

If we are truly ready to accept the risen Jesus, and the eternal life offered to us, that we need to relinquish our need for certainty and comfort. Our desire of safety must disappear. Because that default setting that tells us to follow our bliss, maximize our profits and seek earthly pleasure  is not the life Jesus demands of us.

If we really accept Jesus, we must fly away from those habits that signal to us that Jesus is dead. He is risen! It’s up to us to change our ways and accept the risen Jesus.

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“The Jesus I Never Knew”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
John 20: 1, 11-18
April 16, 2017 • Easter Sunday

 

Sermon: Church is not a den …

When Jesus enters the temple in Matthew 21:12, he overturns tables and chairs, saying “My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Many interpretations of this passage focus on the evil Jesus felt was happening inside the church.  That’s an easy way to view this passage. We would never do evil in the church. However, Jesus says the money changers are making it a “den of robbers.” What is a den? It’s not a place where robbers do their evil deeds. Rather, it’s a place where robbers congregate after their evil deeds done — a place where they can feel safe.

How many of us attend church on Sunday seeking a den — a place where we escape the sin of our everyday lives — only to go back to committing those sins again on Monday? Don’t come to church telling yourself you’ll be alright because now you’re in God’s house. Change your ways.

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“After the Parade”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 21: 12-22
April 9, 2017 • Palm Sunday

Sermon: Lazarus needs our help. What will we do?

We are familiar with the story of Lazarus — the person Jesus raised from the dead. However, the story of Lazarus is much more. In this story, Jesus is calling us to action.

The story of Lazarus is rooted in Jewish tradition — the story of Eliezer of Damascus who comes to people as a poor man to deliver a blessing of God, only to be ignored by rich and powerful people. Translated to New Testament Greek, Eliezer is “Lazarus.”

In this present time, as struggle to balance our Christian faith with American policies regarding the poor and outcast, including illegal immigration and refugees, we must recognize what Jesus did for Lazarus.

“As we weigh risk and burden against faith and call, Lazarus comes to us.”

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“When We Encounter Lazarus”
Sermon by Shannon Mayfield
John 11: 1-45
April 2, 2017

Sermon: Form an alternate political reality with silence

God is always open to having a relationship with us. But often things get in the way of our relationship. One such thing our human desire for recognition, which can lead to self-righteousness. Jesus addresses this when he tells us in Matthew 6 that when we pray, we should do so in secrecy. Those who pray loudly and publicly trump their Christianity are receiving their reward on Earth — recognition.

It’s easy to understand take this story literally and think it’s just about prayer. But it’s about more than that. It’s about our relationship with God. In this highly partisan time, we’re tempted to publicly tout our allegiances to political parties and policies, surrounding ourselves with Facebook friends who will praise our beliefs. But are we doing this just to feel vindicated in our beliefs?

Imagine if we took Jesus’ words to heart, and practiced secrecy in our prayer. Imagine if we silently praised God and practiced God’s work on Earth. Imagine the political influence we would have if we, as people of God, all silently acted like Jesus, instead of arguing about what to do. Silence can be the formation of an alternate political reality.

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“The Secret Life of Piety”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 6: 1-7, 16-18
March 19, 2017 • 3rd Sunday of Lent

Sermon: The Lord’s Prayer

Jesus teachingWhen the disciples asked how they should pray, Jesus replied with the words to what is now known as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It’s a prayer that Christians often cite, but rarely reflect on the power of the words being said.

Although there are many formal words in The Lord’s Prayer, the essence of the prayer is what’s essential. We are recognizing that God is a “hallowed” being — beyond our human essence — and are asking God to be among us. And we are asking God to provide what we need to survive, to forgive us, to help us forgive others, to protect us from evil

For those who don’t or rarely ever pray, The Lord’s Prayer gives us a launching pad for meaningful prayer. But only if we think about the word’s we are reciting.

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“The Lord’s Prayer”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 6:5-13
March 12, 2017

Sermon: Are you open to God’s call?

Sometimes it’s hard to believe in God when the world is seemingly full of hatred, violence and fear. Where is God? Is God “up” in heaven?

In Exodus during a time of persecution, we see that God is in the world, acting and calling us, just as God called Moses through the burning bush. There is a God that wants to empower you, and incorporate you into a people of God that will be all powerful.

Just as God used Moses, God wants you to encounter something so far outside yourself you cannot comprehend it. Are you open to the call?

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“There is a light that never goes out”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Exodus 3:1-7
March 5, 2017

Sermon: As people of God, we should welcome immigrants

116503455_3b3219ea48The immigration debate focuses on protecting “our” land, reserved for “our” people. Keeping immigrants and refugees out of our land is consistent with the laws of nature. For instance, a bear is very protective of his property, and does not welcome other animals to share in his food.

However, we are not people of nature. We are people of God. And God consistently tells us in the Bible that we are to share the blessings given to us with those less fortunate. When it comes to immigration, the directive of God is clear: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34).
As people of God, not people of nature, we should know that this is not our land — it is God’s land, and God welcomes all to his land.

“A Woman Named Truth and a God of Little Ducks”
Sermon by Shannon Mayfield
Leviticus 19, Matthew 5:33-37
Feb. 19, 2017

Sermon: Jesus goes Jerry Springer

Jesus went all “Jerry Springer” in Matthew 5:17-32. He upended traditional thought by preaching that it’s not the religious laws that ultimately matter, it’s what’s in one’s heart. And if we have God in our heart, we will ultimately follow the law.

For example, anger against another person can grow inside us to the point that it turns into contempt, and we begin to dehumanize the person with whom we are angry. But if God is truly in our heart, anger will never get to that point.

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“Jesus Goes All Jerry Springer”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 5: 17-32
Feb. 12, 2017