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

Sermon: The Apostle’s Magic and Mystery Tour

While it would seem that nobody really believes in magic, if we’re honest, a great deal of what passes for faith can tend toward magic if we’re not careful.

Magic attempts to control results and predict the future, while faith remains open to the unmanageable gifts that God puts in our lives. When life hands us a situation we can’t control, our trust that God is at work among us is more a matter of spiritual perception than it is our innate ability to conjure impressive results. With a little help from Harry Potter, we’ll see that a life well lived is less about asking “what abilities do I have that allow me to control my life” and more about the question repentance leads us to ask– “what  do I need to do to be the person God wants me to be?”

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The Apostle’s Magic and Mystery Tour
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts 8: 4-25
July 9, 2017

Sermon: Called Witnesses

There are a lot of people talking about God under the guise of witness. But many times, when people are talking about God they are truly talking about themselves.

Genuine witness comes when the situation demands it — when you’re sent to witness. In these moments, you’re not witnessing as a volunteer, but as one who has been called forth by God. It’s about God’s claim on our life.

There will times in your life when you know that your experience of God is a story that has to be told. And you won’t be alone. God will be with you and will give you the words.

Witness is not just something done for others. We talk about God to more deeply experience God. The practice of sharing is a way to see the world through our faith.

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“Called Witnesses”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts 6:8-7:2, 51-60
July 2, 2017

Sermon: “Health and Wealth Gospel”

When Stravisnky’s Rite of Spring premiered in 1913, it nearly caused a riot. A hundred years on, it’s now recognized as one of the greatest pieces of the 20th century–even becoming the score to a Disney cartoon. What happened? If the music didn’t change, maybe the audience did.

Is it possible that to read difficult texts like Acts 5, we might need to become a different sort of “audience”? What kind of people would we need to be in order for a story to be good news even though it describes a God so powerful as to give both life and death? If we are open to imagine the way that God’s power could transform our communities enough to give us freedom from our “stuff,” then maybe this story could be music to our ears.

“Health and Wealth Gospel”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts 4:32 – 5:11
June 25, 2017

Sermon: “More Precious Than Gold”

peter-heals-1024x626.jpgSometimes it’s difficult to believe what’s in the Bible. In Acts 3:1-16, Luke tells us the story of how Peter healed a man “lame from birth” simply by telling him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up an walk.”

In 2017, with our scientific and medical knowledge, how are we supposed to believe that this actually happened. And if it is that easy to heal people, why aren’t Christian churches around the world doing similar acts?

Although we find it difficult to believe this story word-for-word, we can all point to a time in our own life where we believe a miracle occurred. Whether it was surviving a disastrous accident, having a loved one overcome a debilitating sickness or witnessing an act that doesn’t seem humanely possible, we have all been filled with the Holy Spirit and something we can only describe as the work of God.

That’s what Luke was aiming for in Acts 3:1-16. We’re called, like Luke to be witnesses of God’s work. Like Peter, we’re called to be share experiences of God that do not fit scientific logic.

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“More Precious Than Gold”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts 3: 1-16
June 18, 2017

Sermon: Conditions Necessary and Insufficient

Today is Pentecost, which marks the coming of the Holy Spirit unto the disciples, empowering them to spread the word of God across nations.

Although we celebrate Pentecost every year, many of us feel like we have few – if any – “Pentecostal moments” — that inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In order for these moments to happen, Luke tells us that we need to have some things in place.

First of all, to be a church we need to come together — not when it’s convenient, not when we feel like waking up, not when we don’t have a soccer game — but every Sunday as a church. If you want to be in the life of the Spirit, you have to be together with God’s people.

Secondly we need diversity. The church is a group of people, gathered across cultures and across time. Inherent in the story of Pentecost is how the Holy Spirit empowered disciples to speak in languages to communicate with all people.

Lastly, we need unity. That can be difficult to come by, and without diversity, we can develop a sense of false unity. However, the truth of Pentecost is that we are working toward a day when God will sweep across our diversity and turn in into true unity.

Sermon

Listen to Oconee Street UMC Choir perform The Word in Song, “Be Filled With The Spirit.”

“Conditions Necessary and Insufficient”
Sermon by The Rev. Joe Gunby
Acts 2: 1-21
June 4, 2017 • Pentecost Sunday