Sermon: Prepare

December 7, 2014 ~ Prepare from John Knox Kirk on Vimeo.

A sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on December 7, 2014.

Isaiah 40:1-11
and Mark 1:1-8
(Click above link for the Scripture texts upon which this sermon is based)

Editorial note: I’m working on correcting spacing issues. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.

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So….John the Baptist.

As a preacher, John the Baptist wouldn’t have lasted a day
In the Presbyterian Church I grew up in as a child, in southwestern Iowa.

MAYBE he could’ve been the preacher down
At the Pentecostal Church of the Second Blessing
the one in the metal building, you know, out on the outskirts of town,
But NO WAY in my home church.

It’s not that we were some big, shoe-shined, tall-steeple, metropolitan church.
Mine was a typical Presbyterian church in rural America,
A church that had choirs for all ages,
And a good youth group
Church camp up at Knox Knolls…
And elders who looked like elders,
And deacons who acted like deacons,
And trustees—well, I was never sure what the trustees did,
But they sure looked sober and respectable doing it.

In short, as I heard people there say:
maybe we weren’t all that great,
But we weren’t all that bad either.

How’s that for a church motto?
Law-abiding, taxpaying, comfortably middle class. Don’t rock the boat.
That was my church.

We were the kind of church that liked our religion
in small, controlled, organized doses.
Nothing fanatical, please. But nothing very challenging, either.
Frankly, we seemed perfectly happy for God
never to say anything to us other than
what we expected to hear already,
And all that we expected to hear at my church
was “I’m okay. You’re okay.”
“God is nice; therefore, we should be nice to each other[i].”

So, if John the Baptist had pulled up one day as the New Preacher
looking like a cross between Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead
And “captain caveman”—
–with his unkempt hair and scraggly beard,
and if he moved his wardrobe of one camel’s-hair outfit
into the closet of the pastor’s study,
and put his box of locusts
and jar of wild honey into the pantry—
–eyebrows definitely would have raised.

We’ve all seen eccentric preachers before,
But John would have taken the cake.
…And come to think of it, that cake might have been
the LAST thing he got to eat on his new job.

Whispers would reach crescendo,
Calls would be made, you know—
“Who did we offend to get a pastor who looks like THIS?”

Maybe they would have hung in through the first sermon,
But the first time John stepped into the pulpit and unleashed
One of his fire-breathing,
Spit-flying sermons—
–that would have been the end of him.
The Personnel Committee would meet…and, POOF—no more John. [Read more…]

Sermon: Time

November 30, 2014 ~ Time from John Knox Kirk on Vimeo.

A sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on November 30, 2014.

Isaiah 64:1-9
and Mark 13:24-37
(Click above link for the Scripture texts upon which this sermon is based)

Editorial note: I’m working on correcting spacing issues. Thank you for your patience in the meantime.

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NOT too long ago, clocks were thought to be dangerous.
Forklore had it that two clocks, ticking in the same room,
could bring ‘sure death’.

It’s easy to see how this belief came about.
The clocks were almost certain to disagree,
and in the space between two chimings of one hour, uncertainty crept in;
time’s authority was undermined.

Tinkering with clocks is our inheritance from a people obsessed with time.
Clocks spread rapidly in early America.
They were especially popular among the Puritans, who despised idleness.

Massachusetts passed a law in 1663 making the wasting of time a crime:
“No person, householder or other
shall spend his time idly or unprofitably,
under pain of such punishment
as the court shall think meet to inflict.

It was an English Puritan, Ralph Thoresby,
who invented an early alarm clock.
By the mid-19th century, Americans were producing their own clocks.
Workshops in Connecticut produced cheap models with wooden gears.
Peddlers sold them from coast to frontier.

But all these clocks were like many Americans themselves:
individual, conforming to their own notions.

There were hundreds of local times,
each city setting its city hall, or courthouse clock
to match its own solar moon.

When it was noon in Chicago,
it was 11:50 a.m. in Saint Louis
and 12:18 p.m. in Detroit.

Until the railroads finally forced uniformity in 1883,
local time…YOUR time…was all that mattered.[i]

///
Time was on the mind of everyone here, near the END of Mark’s Gospel,
And given—then and how—our obsession with time,
it is surprising, in fact it is SHOCKING—to hear Jesus say,
when being asked about TIME: “I don’t know.” [Read more…]