Sermon: “The Quality of Mercy”

Jesus tells us how to deal with those who sin against us, and not surprisingly, it’s countercultural. Where in society when we confront disagreement it’s so easy to block someone on Twitter, or unfriend them on Facebook, Jesus says we should first go talk to the person, face-to-face. Because when we talk to someone, there’s something about our humanity that makes us want to reconcile.

Jesus also tells us that forgiveness is unlimited. As Christians, we above all people should recognize mercy — God has given us endless forgiveness. And through God’s people, we have continuously been shown the love and mercy of God. We are only here because of the boundless generosity of God.

Sermon

“The Quality of Mercy”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 18: 15-35
Sept. 24, 2017

Sermon: Entering Into Joy

The Parable of the Talents is a difficult passage for many Christians, especially as the servant who did not take a risk with his money is called “worthless,” and is assured a life of darkness where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Ouch! This is the type of Bible story that keeps people away from church.

However, a closer look at the Scripture reveals the true meaning of the parable. The servant who played it safe with his money did so because he feared his master. He was so scared of his boss, that he was afraid to do anything positive with the money given to him. Likewise, if we are so afraid of God — viewing God as a punishing and vengeful God — we will be too afraid to take risks in our own lives. But living a Christian life, pursuing justice and practicing Jesus’ teachings takes great risk. God wants us to take risks, and Jesus was the ultimate risk-taker.

We need to have the courage, individually and as a church, to not get comfortable with the abundant blessings in our lives and to go out and take risks.

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“Entering Into Joy”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 25:14-20
Sept. 3, 2017

Sermon: When Weeds Get in the Wheat

There are a lot of weeds in our society. As we try to live as a people of God, serving others and seeking justice, there are those that are promoting a doctrine of hate, greed and discrimination. Our natural tendency is to want to eliminate those weeds in society so we can live in a more just world as children of God.

But in Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus tells us the parable of the weeds among the wheat. He tells us that if we destroy the weeds right now, we will also destroy some wheat. And we don’t want to destroy our bounty of wheat.

God cares more about the wheat than the weeds. We need to be patient with the weeds, and be concerned about loving others and seeking justice, rather than casting judgement on the weeds. God will take care of the weeds, in due time. Our job is to focus on the wheat.

Sermon

For The Word in Song, click here.

“When Weeds Get in the Wheat”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 13: 24-30
Aug. 27, 2017

Sermon: Tell All the Truth, But Tell it Slant

The events of Charlottesville and political aftermath have been difficult for us. Perhaps most difficult for us as a church is to determine how we talk about racism.

Jesus began his ministry by talking with moralism, but as his crowds grew and opposition increased, he changed the method of his preaching by talking in parables. The beauty of parables is that they allow people to come around to the teachings on their own terms. As Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant … the truth must dazzle gradually for all the world be blind.”

In our faith, we believe in transformation. Jesus has faith that people can change. Those high school friends planting the seeds of racism on our Facebook feeds, the uncle who spouts racist rhetoric at the dinner table and even Nazis and white supremacists can change.

What are we to do? The world, more than ever, needs the nonviolent message of Jesus Christ. We ought to be kind to our enemies — those who need to hear the message. Hang in there with those people. Don’t blast with the truth. They can’t handle it. It has to “dazzle gradually.”

There is no depth to the love of God. There is no person who is beyond the light of truth. And if it is not us who shows them the way, then who will?

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“Tell All the Truth, but Tell it Slant”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 13: 1-17
Aug. 20, 2017

Sermon: A Presence Remembered

long-roadIn today’s Gospel reading (Luke 24:13-35), Cleopas shares the news of Jesus to a friend, who was skeptical. However, when they meet the 11 disciples, he believes. Cleopas was a witness to the resurrection.

When Oconee Street UMC burned down in 2013, smoke was still billowing from the church when members began work on rebuilding plans, and the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen was welcomed at its new location at First Baptist Church. That represented to the community that Christ was a alive among us. We were a witness to the resurrection.

As the fire awakened us in 2013, the events of Charlottesville, Virginia must awaken us now. We must stand as a witness to Jesus, and reject hatred and racism. “The church is called at this time to be a witness of what’s right and wrong.”

Sermon

Listen to The Word in Song: “Amani Utpue”

“A Presence Remembered”
Sermon by The Rev. Valerie Duncan
Luke 24: 13-35
Aug. 13, 2017

Sermon: Plundering the Pagans

When Paul went to Athens to spread the word of God to the Greeks, he did so in a different than previous disciples preached.

Paul met the ancient Greeks where they were in their beliefs — even debating in Areopagus, the same place where ancient Greek thinkers like Aristotle philosophized. He didn’t downright shun their vision of God, but rather works Jesus within their culture, respecting their previously held beliefs.

As the Greeks had their many gods, we are surrounded by “gods” of our own: technology, popular culture, consumerism. Rather than shun our pop culture, we should try to find God within our pop culture. But that will require us to take a break and step into silence, eliminating technology and our anxieties, eventually connecting us with God to understand how God is fitting within our society.

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“Plundering the Pagans”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts 17: 16-34
August 6, 2017

Sermon: Playing Catch-up

The transgender debate has many Christians claiming the moral high ground as they condemn a group of people they do not understand. However, throughout Acts we see Jesus calling people to spread the word of God to people across the world, regardless of their different appearances, languages or cultures.

It is critical for us to understand that we are not living out and teaching God’s word for us, but we are living for God. Making that distinction can help us break through our own personal biases to see that everyone is deserving of God’s love, regardless of how they may be different than us.

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“Playing Catch-up”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts 10: 1-48
July 30, 2017

Sermon: Step Into The Light

The phrase “Jesus Saves” is the heart of our faith. If there is no God that saves, then there is no Christianity.

However, as a catchphrase, “Jesus Saves” often comes off as too simplistic. The problem with our modern-day stories of conversion is that they don’t need God once they are saved. “Jesus Saves,” then what?

The way you know God is at the heart of conversion is if God continues to call you to live a life of love, fellowship and community. If God doesn’t keep calling you and pushing you to do better, then you have to question your conversion.

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“Step into the Light”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts of the Apostles 9: 1-20
July 23, 2017

Sermon: Under African Skies

Jesus is for everyone. As much as some people — and some political parties — link Jesus to themselves, Acts tells  us that Jesus is for everyone. When Phillip encounters an Ethiopian in Acts 8, he is fulfilling Jesus’ promises to spread the word of God to “the ends of earth.”

The beauty of our faith is that whether you’re Protestant, African, Orthodox, you’ll have a different understanding of Jesus within your culture. The Holy Spirit gives people of different cultures discernment as to what will and will not fit within their worship of God.

The promise in Acts is that there is nothing that can keep us from the love of God. Everyone is included in God’s people.

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“Under African Skies”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts of the Apostles 8: 26-40
July 16, 2017