Category Archives: Homilies – Sermons

Forgiveness or Throwing Stones

John 8:1-11 The Message (MSG)

8 1-2 Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them.

3-6 The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

6-8 Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

9-10 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

11 “No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”


ILLUSTRATION A young boy lived in the country. His family had to use an outhouse, which the young boy hated. It was hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and always smelly.

The outhouse was located near the creek so the boy decided that he would push it into the water.

After a spring rain, the creek swelled so the boy pushed it in. Later that night his dad told him that he and the boy needed to make a trip to the woodshed.

The boy knew this meant punishment.

He asked his father why to which his dad replied,

“Because someone pushed the outhouse into the creek and I think that someone was you.      Was it?”

The boy responded that it was. Then he added,

“Remember when George Washington’s father asked him if he had chopped down the cherry tree?

He didn’t get into trouble because he told the truth.” “That is correct,” the dad said, “but his father was not in the cherry tree when he cut it down


The opening words of the Declaration of Independence declare that they held

“these truths to be self-evident:

That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” _____________ we in America have been blessed with many freedoms that other nations don’t have.

But even with that foundation for our country, there is one freedom that America cannot give it’s citizens.

In fact, no government on the face of the earth can supply the freedom that Jesus talked about in John 8. ILLUS:

Back in the 80’s Ann Landers wrote about her experience as a newspaper “answer lady.” People would write to her with their problems and ask advice on how to deal with their children, their spouses, their bosses, etc.
In her book, Landers explained that one of the most difficult things that people struggled with is guilt and shame. “I’ve received letters brimming with self-recrimination –

letters that prove no punishment is so painful as the self-inflicted kind. Here are a few examples:

‘I let my boyfriend go too far. Now, when he sees me, he looks the other way. I’m so ashamed of myself I could just die.’ ‘I threw a dish towel in my mother-in-law’s face. She was trying to be helpful and I lost my temper. I hate myself.’ ‘I got caught cheating in a history exam today. All the kids know about it. I feel rotten.’ (“The Ann Landers Encyclopedia A to Z”) No matter how many freedoms our nation gives us,                                it can not give us the freedom from the shame and guilt imposed upon us by our sins. Hazel Felleman wrote a poem about this: “I wish there were some wonderful place Called the Land of Beginning Again Where all our mistakes, and all our heartaches And all our selfish griefs Could be cast like a shabby old coat at the door And never be put on again” it is a reality that many Christians (even those who understand the promise Jesus gave that day) still struggle with guilt and shame. Something they believe God would never forgive them of. Or perhaps they’re struggling with a sin that they just can’t quite handle. They believe that they’ve gone over the edge – and they’ll never make it back into God’s graces For many Christians there is a nagging question:

“How could God ever forgive me? I’ve really messed up as a Christian. How could He ever forgive me? How could He ever forget what I’ve done?” Now, this type of thinking is based upon a very human concept There is a word that has become quite popular in our culture lately that describes it. That word is “Karma

Karma is the belief that you get what you deserve: If you’ve done good things, then you’ll be rewarded with good things

But if you’ve done bad things… you’re going to pay big time. Many world religions are based upon that fundamental idea.
Even the Bible teaches something like that. Galatians 6:7 says “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” In other words: You get what you deserve. However, there is one distinct difference between this concept of Karma and what Jesus taught. Other world religions teach that you can work off your “bad Karma”. They teach that you really can do enough good to outweigh the bad. ILLUS: (Karma is the teaching that life is scales.

If you do evil things your life goes out of balance.

So, you need to do good things to create a healthy balance.

The more bad things you do, the more good things you have to do to balance out the scale

Now, there are a couple of problems with this mindset.

1st – if you end up doing too many “bad” things in your life… you may never be able to balance out the scales.

Islam has particular problems with this because they actually place much of their hope in heaven upon how much good they can do.

They never know if they’ve done enough good things to outweigh the bad. ____________

Hinduism and Buddhism cling heavily to this concept of Karma, and they have long realized that many people commit way too many bad deeds in their lives to be balanced out by good deeds in a single life time.

So they’ve developed the concept of going into “extra innings.”

Since one life time could never be enough for most people to make up for their bad Karma, they have to come back for another life… and another life… and another life… until they finally are able to pay off their evil and leave this world. The 2nd problem with this idea of Karma is that it never really “removes” any of the sin from a person’s life. Karma teaches that when you’ve put bad deeds on one side of the scale you have to put good ones on the other side. Loading the scales til they break
Because good does not replace the bad… Karma doesn’t work… because it cannot solve the pain of guilt and sh


21st Century Philosopher – A man named Bono is the lead singer of a popular rock group U2 once made this observation: “At the center of all religions is the idea of Karma.

You know: what you put out comes back to you:

an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics-in physical laws-every action is met by an equal or an opposite one…

And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that. . . .

Love interrupts,

the consequences of your actions,

which in my case is very good news indeed,

because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.”

God will forgive us our sins – not because we deserve it, or have done enough good to outweigh our sins. God will forgive us for only one reason:

GOD loves us God loves us so much God is willing to forgive us for all our past sins… don’t you think God is willing to continue to forgive us because of that same love?

When this woman who had been caught in adultery stayed around after the crowd dispersed, she probably still felt the guilt and shame of what she had done… and she probably thought she would receive punishment from Jesus… since she deserved it…

And LOVE INTERRUPTED the consequences of her actions…

Deep Water Luke 5: 1-11

Luke 5: 1-11   Message

5 1-3 Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.

4 When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”

5-7 Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.

8-10 Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons, coworkers with Simon.

10-11 Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.


In 1992, Country Singing Artist, Kathy Mettea released a single titled   —          Knee Deep in a River, and Dying of Thirst.

The lyrics talk of how one misses out on life because of overlooking the positive that is all around …

Standing in the shallows, when the good things in life are found in the deeper water…

The writer of LUKE shares a story about fishermen coming up empty after fishing all night and about a carpenter, who commandeers a boat, preaches a sermon, and tells the fishermen where the fish are.

After hundreds of pounds of fish are finally caught,

a fisherman, Simon,

immediately resigns from fishing and starts fishing for people.


Why does this story hold such an important lesson?

What is Jesus teaching here?


Jesus approaches exhausted and frustrated fishermen who were trying to get their nets repaired, their gear stowed and get home for some food and sleep.

Jesus, a carpenter, climbs into Simon’s boat, and instructs him to move the boat out into the shallows… there he taught the crowd that was following him…

Simon obeyed… and I would imagine he continued to work on his net as he listened to Jesus.

When Jesus finished, he instructed Simon to row the boat farther out into deeper water, and let down his net again.

Simon almost makes this mistake.  He tells Jesus in that exasperated tone, “Hey, we’ve been fishing all night.  We know fish.  The fish don’t run in the day.  Aren’t you a carpenter moonlighting as a preacher anyway?”

Simon was tired and even though he respected Jesus, he knew it was a wasted effort to fish in the daytime. He knew more about fishing than a carpenter.

Don’t we also respond like Simon when we hear God instruct us to move into deeper waters?

Do we argue with God that it is pleasant in the shallows…

I can see the bottom in the shallows …

I am comfortable in the shallows….

BUT God calls us into deeper waters

love our enemies…. Feed the hungry… clothe the poor…. GIVE abundantly…. Visit the homeless…forgive extravagantly….and live a life of abundance….

But the deep water is dark —

It is over our heads

It takes faith and courage

And it is in the deep water that we CATCH what God has for us…


Sadly, many who claim to follow Jesus never venture farther than the shallows.

They remain in a safe place, cast their nets, and wonder why the nets come back empty.


Moving into deep waters requires us pull up our anchor keeping us in place and to turn over our control to God.

After a while, as we move deeper and deeper, we are in over our heads and moving around place to place unrestrained … with our nets out…

And soon are filled with blessings


What is the miracle of this story?

Some say it is the net full of fish…

Is it?

Or is the miracle that Simon decided that God was God?

Just look at what Simon says before the miracles begin to happen, “But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.

When Simon obeyed Jesus to go into deeper waters… is when Simon began to understand that God was God.

When God instructs us into deep water…

Do we hesitate to answer?

Do we linger in the shallows?

There was a cartoon in the New Yorker magazine with the following caption:

“This morning opportunity knocked at           my door,

but by the time I pushed back the bolt,

turned the two locks,

unlatched the chain, and

shut off the alarm system it was gone.”

Let us pray –

Spirit Creator – we are listening… we are ready for deep water… Amen

Homily – Baptism of Jesus

Homily – Baptism of Jesus


Luke 3:15-22                         The Message (MSG)

15 The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, “Could this John be the Messiah?”

16-17 But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”

18-20 There was a lot more of this—words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart in them. The Message! But Herod, the ruler, stung by John’s rebuke in the matter of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, capped his long string of evil deeds with this outrage: He put John in jail.

21-22 After all the people were baptized, Jesus was baptized. As he was praying, the sky opened up and the Holy Spirit, like a dove descending, came down on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life.”




-Christian sacrament (ritual/ceremony)

marked by ritual use of water and                  admitting the recipient to the                         Christian community

-a non-Christian rite using water for               ritual purification

-Christian sacrament signifying                       spiritual         cleansing and rebirth

-an immersion or sprinkling of water                      that signifies one’s identification with            a belief or cause.

In Christianity,                                                      it is the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection     (Rom. 6:4-5).

It is done in the name and authority                      (Acts 4:7) of Christ with the baptismal    formula of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit       (Matt. 28:19).


Do you remember your baptism?

This is what we are called to do whenever we witness a baptism… to remember our own.


How were you Baptized?






What is one word that describes your baptism?



Why were you baptized?





Some Traditions: baptism needed for salvation


It does not save us (1 Pet. 3:21).                      However, it is our responsibility,                               as believers, to receive it.

Why are some baptized by                            sprinkling? Pouring? Immersion?


Why was Jesus baptized?

Baptism of REPENTENCE?

Washing away sins?


Possible Reasons

  1. He would be recognized by his forerunner, John the Baptizer
  2. Showed Jesus identified with sinners
  3. His baptism symbolized the sinners’ baptism into righteousness
  4. Showed his approval of John’s baptism, and that it was approved by God.
  5. Symbol of the new beginning of     Jesus’ ministry

Some theologians say that Jesus                         was also just following Jewish law…                   the legal requirements for                                   entering priesthood….

  1. Cleansing – washing – water
  2. Anointing with oil – represents the anointing of the HS.
  3. Needed to be 30 years old
  4. Receive verbal blessing – God spoke this blessing.


Luke was not as concerned with the Baptism of Jesus, as he was with what happened               AFTER WARDS

Luke, unlike Matthew, Mark and John                never mentions Jesus in the water,                        or that it was John who baptized him.

Luke directed our attention to what Jesus did AFTER the baptism – his story has Jesus

IN PRAYER after the baptism and at            THAT time the HS descended                 on Jesus like a dove…


Luke wanted his listeners to know that PRAYER was and is an important part of Jesus’ life as it should be for all of us…

And it is in prayer that we will receive the HS…

Baptism ends too soon when we focus only on              the moment and forget what comes                    after the water has dried:

a baptism-shaped life where God’s Spirit               dwells within our very bodies.

Please pray with me.

Gracious God, remind us that baptism is a symbol that we are claimed by someone special and called to do something special.

That we are God’s beloved… and God is well pleased with us…

Pour out your Holy Spirit now upon us, upon and within our bodies.

Help us to live in faithfulness to you long after the water has dried.


First Week of Advent – HOPE

Luke 1:5-25 (NRSV)

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”

21 Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Homily –

It is that time of year….

We have begun the journey to Christmas…

For weeks, months, we have endured constant commercials about BLACK FRIDAY…

We ran head long into Halloween,                                                                        Replaced the dead bodies in the trees,  with sparkling lights

Took down the cobwebs and put up garland

Stowed the coffins and skeletons and  put out the snowmen and reindeer—

Even in the midst of holiday cheer —- hopelessness threatens.

For a season that is supposed to be full of cheer and glad tidings…


Lying in bed at night—it’s there.

Racing around hunting for gifts — it’s there.

Driving past houses decorated with flashing lights and pounding music… it’s there.

What is there?   HOPELESSNESS

Those among us who struggle with depression or who are grieving.

The musical Show Boat takes place in the late 1800s on the Mississippi River. In the story an African American man named Joe has had a hard life eking out a living as a dockworker. He has had a life of incredible struggle.

At one point in the musical, Joe sings a song called “Old Man River.” It’s a song about the timelessness of the river—that it just keeps on rolling along no matter what happens.

The lyrics include “I get weary, and sick of trying.  I’m tired of living but scared of dying.  But Old Man River, he keeps on rolling along.”

Every day we pass someone who may be tired of living and sick of trying…Some of us have been on the brink of  hopelessness – and can’t see how we can make it to tomorrow.

BUT —     Advent is all about hope. Hope isn’t something we can manufacture. Hope doesn’t appear because we pick                                  ourselves up and forge ahead…  or force ourselves to be more hopeful. Hope doesn’t come with the power of  positive thinking.

So, where does it come from? It comes from knowing God and trusting God’s promises.

Promises like—I will never leave you — blessed are the poor — God blesses those who share–God blesses those who care for one  another.

God promised that if we search for Him we will find Him.

God promised that all things will work out for good for His children.

God promised comfort in our trials.

Jesus promised abundant life to those who follow Him -We hold to God’s promise that Jesus will come back, ushering in a new heaven and a new earth, where there will be no more tears or mourning or crying or pain.

What does it look like to hope in God’s promises?

As a chaplain, I see different responses to God’s promises…it is not unusual to have two families in crisis and needing a chaplain . This is when the chaplain has to move back and forth between the families …AND how differently two families face a loved one’s imminent.

In one room, there was a dying child and a family utterly devoid of hope; a room was permeated by a sense of deep despair.

No one wanting prayer – ‘what’s the point?’

In another room down the hall,         a young man was dying. His family was gathered at his bedside in tears, but with a decidedly different response. They are sad, but they are not without hope saying “We know that he isn’t going to make it, but we know that we will see him again.”

The difference between hopelessness and hope was only the length of the hallway—and between trusting in God’s promises and having no God at all.

Today in Luke Chapter 1 we meet Zechariah. He is a faithful man, and his wife, Elizabeth, is a faithful woman. They have served God their whole lives. They have no children. Yet they kept coming back to the temple and worshiping even though their lives had been difficult. They persevered in serving God. They believed that God’s promises were true.

Having given up on having children, they found it difficult to believe that God was going to give them a son… But Zechariah and Elizabeth are given a new promise, and with it, new hope. There will be a child. His name will be John. He will bring great joy and gladness. This is the beginning of the New  Testament’s record of Jesus. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son will be John the Baptist—the one who prepares the way for Jesus himself.

Do we know God’s promises to us? This is one of the most important     reasons to study the Scriptures. That is how we learn of God’s promises and find hope. Christian author Anne Lamott says: “that when things get really terrible, painful, and awful, it’s often because something amazing is getting ready to be born.” 

God brings hope out of hopelessness…For every string of shootings and violence… there are people stepping up to help –

When there are Earthquakes and floods – there are stories of bravery and assistance. Through Jesus comes the Good News               and the HOPE that this is not all there is. God of the universe loves us so much and God will always make things right again.

Advent is our time of waiting and preparation for Christ to return. It is our time of HOPE, so, as we look forward — let us hold fast to HOPE and God’s promise that the best is yet to come. What an incredible gift to find under the tree.

Thanks be to the Holy Spirit!


Homily – Fourth Week of Advent – LOVE

Fourth Week of Advent – LOVE

Luke 1: 26-38 (Message)

26-28 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you.

29-33 She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever— no end, ever, to his kingdom.”

34 Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

35 The angel answered,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.

36-38 “And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

And Mary said,

Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.

Then the angel left her.


Here it is — Christmas is five days away. Wasn’t it yesterday that we were in our shorts and washing the car?

Are we ready?

Are you ready for Christmas>

Got your shopping done?

Wrapped all the gifts yet?

Are we ready?

Was Mary ready?

Pre-teen/early teens

Not yet married

Child or Young Woman

Was Mary ready?

The story goes – that God chose a simple – ordinary young woman – or should I say young girl – she was probably about 12 – It is a great age, and a difficult age.

When young bodies are changing fast and in so many ways, Remember being that age….some of us had growth spurts making for gawky limbs and fighting to get our balance         sort of like standing in the ocean and waves come in and the undertow pulling us out.. before we adjusted to one change, another change came along.

Mary was between childhood and young adulthood.

Struggling to make the crossover from playing house with her friends and learning how to make a home….Life as she knew it changed in a blink of an eye when she experienced a God moment… Here was an ordinary child, from an ordinary family living in a less than ordinary city called Nazareth.

She was probably an obedient child –        dreaming of becoming a wife and mother   and make a home for her promised husband, Joseph, a poor carpenter.

What qualified her to be called for such a mission?

What made her the one above all of the others?

Wouldn’t you imagine she asked the same questions? Why me? How can I ?

Why didn’t God choose a woman who was already a mature woman… already a mother and someone who was of high regard and a member of the royalty?So Jesus could have come into this world – already at a high level of respect and honor…


Well, God did it again…

He called the ORDINARY —

like when he called

Noah, Moses, Aaron, David, Esther,          Judith, Elijah, Isaiah….

God called Mary… someone ORDINARY to do the EXTRA-Ordinary…

He called the plain and simple — the unqualified… and then QUALIFIED THEM.


What does this tell us?

How does this encourage us?

ONE – God doesn’t expect perfection –

TWO – God doesn’t seek out the QUALIFIED

THREE – God meets us where we are… and uses us as we are…..


God met Mary where she was –

And with her faith and trust in God, she became an instrument for God’s kingdom.

Since that day, Mary has been ‘blessed among many’—-

And not ONLY BECAUSE she gave birth to Jesus

But also because Mary shows us that        everything is possible with God.

NO matter how ordinary – unqualified –   inadequate – or inept we may think we are….

Anything is possible with GOD…. Thanks be to Mary