Sermon: Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

Jesus was often accused by church elders of violating Jewish law — for instance,  healing on the Sabbath. This should not be interpreted that Jesus did not support laws. In Matthew 22: 34-40, Jesus said the two most important laws are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. If these two laws are followed, then everything else will fall into place.

However, unlike the Beatles song, love is not all we need. Loving one another must go beyond love. It has to be supported by action. Our love for one another is not just an idea — it’s manifested in how we take care of each other. And through church, we can consistently see the face of the neighbor and be challenged to demonstrate our love through our stewardship.

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Choir anthem: “Come Dwell in Solomon’s Walls.” (Click to listen.)

“Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 22: 34-40
Oct. 29, 2017

Sermon: Apparel Oft Proclaims

In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14), Jesus tells the story of a king who ordered his servants to go out and invite anyone and everyone to a wedding banquet for his son. However, when the king finds one man at the party not dressed in the attire provided him, the king casts him out.

Just like the wedding feast in the parable, Jesus tells us that the invitation to the kingdom of God is wide, however, the expectations to be in the kingdom are high.  The wedding guest was cast out not because of his lack of fashion, but rather his disregard for the seriousness of the event. It’s not enough for us to be in the kingdom of God. We must be filled with the goodness of the Holy Spirit, and express our holiness through our daily actions and interactions with others.

This is as high as the bar gets. Are we clothed in the garment of Jesus? Do our actions show the holiness of Christ? For us to stay in the kingdom, our response to God’s invitation must be real, open and honest.

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“Apparel Oft Proclaims”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 22: 1-14
Oct. 22, 2017

Sermon: End of the Line

For most of us, we can sympathize with the frustration of the workers in The Parable of the Vineyard Workers (Matthew 20: 1-16). Our American and Protestant work ethic tell us that if you work longer hours, if you work harder, then you should get more pay. It’s not fair that someone who shows up later than us gets the same benefit. We’re at one end of the line. And we can’t possibly understand how someone at the other end of the line gets the same treatment.

However, God’s love and mercy is abundant, boundless and unlimited. God’s love is for everyone. And the fact that we become jealous or envious of others who receive God’s love, even though they may not go to church every Sunday demonstrates a personal weakness. Are there some of us for whom the generosity and abundant mercy of God reveals the poverty of our own spirit?

It all depends what end of the line you’re at. But for God, it doesn’t matter.

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“End of the Line”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 20: 1-16
Oct. 15, 2017

 

Sermon: Pagan Piety

In the parable of the two sons, Jesus tells the story of two brothers and their interactions with their father, who asked them both to work in the vineyard. One son said “no,” but later changed his mind and did the work. The other son said, “yes,” but never did the work.

Jesus said it is the son that did the work, despite showing disobedience to his father, that is in favor with God. This is significant because it shows us that despite how we have lived our lives, it is how we walk with God in the future that matters. When someone is baptized, they are filled with the spirit of God, and on that day are determined to live a life of faith and service. We need to not get complacent in our faith, and be transformed every day.

We may go to church every Sunday and think we are good Christians, but it is our daily actions that matter in the eyes of God.

“Pagan Piety”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 21: 23-32
Oct. 8, 2017

For the choir anthem, “I Am With You,” click here.

Sermon: “Gimmie Oil in My Lamp”

In the Parable of the 10 Bridesmaids (Matthew 25: 1-13), Jesus tells the story of five bridesmaids who did not bring extra oil for their lamps, and five bridesmaids who came prepared with extra oil. With the groom running late, by the time he appeared for the celebration, the five bridesmaids without extra oil needed to get more, and they were not welcome back into the celebration.

Like the prepared bridesmaids, this parable instructs us to be prepared to enter into the kingdom of God. Faith gets us to the door, but it’s our preparation — through our good works and service to others — that gets us into the celebration. We should proceed with our lives, doing good works with great joy, because we know the time is coming when we will enter the kingdom of God.

“Gimme Oil in My Lamp”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Matthew 25: 1-13
Oct. 1, 2017

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.

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“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.

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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