Sermon: Getting to the Heart of It

sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on September 21, 2014.

Psalm 145:1-8
and Philippians 1:3-11
(Click above link for the Scripture texts upon which this sermon is based)

hand_held_heart_by_arrieta_art-d6gshay

I was thinking about this text from Paul,

and I remembered

a weeknight in late October of 2010

and we were almost through

with Nora and Tessa’s bedtime routine.

Teeth had been brushed. Pajamas were on. Books had been read.

One last playtime for the night,

and now it was time to say our parting words

turn the lights off and go to bed.

We had been trying to prepare the girls for a few days now

that their daddy would be leaving the next morning for Guatemala

as part of our Presbytery’s delegation

to our friends in the Maya Quiche presbytery

in Quetzaltenango.

But they were four,

and they had no real concept of where Guatemala was

all they knew was that I was going on an airplane…

for a whole week!

I had been away on trips many times,

and sometimes even for a whole week

but when you add an airplane to the mix

it’s a completely different deal.

So I lingered a bit on our bedtime routine, as I tucked in my daughters

and kissed their foreheads

and we sang them their good night song,

when my daughter stopped me with a smile.

Daddy, she said, Give me your hand. [i]

And so I dutifully gave her my hand, which she took, gently,

and brought it up to her lips.

And she kissed my palm with a loud smack.

Put it up on your cheek, she instructed. And I did.

There. Now you hold my kiss in your heart.

When you go on the airplane, and when you miss me

                  just put your hand on your cheek and you’ll feel my kiss.

And she had me kiss her hand, too,

whereupon she put it on her cheek with a satisfied smile

and she turned over to go off to bed.

[Read more...]

Sermon: Ancient Stories–Who Leads Us, Even Through Scary Places

sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on September 14, 2014.

Romans 14:1-12
and Exodus 14:19-31
(Click above link for the Scripture texts upon which this sermon is based)

Ed. note: as mentioned in the sermon copy, the majority of this sermon is from a draft of Marci Glass‘s sermon “Speed of Trust,” for Southminster Presbyterian Church of Boise, preached on September 14, 2014. Grateful for Marci’s willingness to share her ideas with me and, in this instance, to allow me to adopt and adapt her words for my context. All good credit, of course, belongs to her.

stained-glass-parting-red-sea3

Ancient Stories.

We’ve examined so many of them, it seems,

during this rather quick dash through Genesis and Exodus

that we began way back in June:

Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael,

framing our story as one of trust in God

even when we see bears all around us…

Then Isaac, being bound and then set free

and the promise of a family, a future…

The birth of the twins Esau and Jacob

and Jacob’s conniving, sneaky efforts

to secure both a birthright and a blessing…

Jacob and God wrestling at Penuel, where

Jacob is renamed Israel

the one who wrestles with God, and lives!

Jacob and his eleven boys,

including Joseph, sold to Egypt

master of the harvest, of dreams,

of redemption…

And now once in Egypt, this story of the forming

of not just a family but of a people, a nation

by the God who hears the cries

of the oppressed and alienated.

Maybe its fitting to conclude our focus

on these ancient stories right here,

with Moses and Aaron and the people

on the verge of the wilderness, their future before them

at the Red Sea.

Now, I had been reading and pondering this story all week

how Moses warned Pharaoh: let my people go

and he didn’t, and so God ratchets up the pressure

and in a divine tête-à-tête with the King of Egypt

God forces Pharaoh to send the Hebrew people away

and away they go, 600,000 of them, the menfolk at least

and many more women and children

and cattle and dogs and cats and all the rest

so many more than a million people and their stuff

middle of the night, they’re off.

And Pharaoh is stubborn. Man, is he stubborn.

Because even after ALL of the plagues, all the humiliation

he can’t let them go. He just can’t.

He’s going to make them pay, and so he goes after them

with all his chariots and his things of war.

And so we are here, in something of a final confrontation

since the Passover wasn’t enough. Apparently.

I was pondering this story

when my friend and fellow pastor Marci Glass

sent me her reflections on it

and I think she has just the right words for us today,

an important thing for us to think about

as we transition away from these stories:[i] [Read more...]