Archive for September, 2010

(Off-lectionary sermon)

“Go down to the potter’s house and there I will give you my message” (Jeremiah 18:2)

“Oh LORD, you are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand”
(Isaiah 64:8)

Way In

Today’s worship service has been a long time coming

Like Sarah said before,

it’s been on the Worship Committee’s agenda for a while

this is the right time

time of year when our programs kick off

our Jewish friends celebrated Rosh Hashanah 2 weeks ago

New Year (5771)

and we can think of this as the beginning of a new year

For today, I want to invite you to think of yourself being formed – shaped

and we turn in the scriptures to the Hebrew prophets as our guide

as you watch the potter at her wheel (Sally Watson, The Potter’s House at Hotel Gallery in Tipp City):

pay attention to her hands

as they shape and mold the clay

think of God’s hands

shaping, molding you

and consider yourself – you are the clay

being shaped, molded

into a vessel, a useful thing

made by God

for a purpose

Tell the Story

the texts today come from a description of our failure to follow God


we have all become unclean

we all fade like a leaf

our iniquities take us away

there is no one who calls on your name

or attempts to take hold of you

Yet you are our Father

we are the clay, you are our potter

we are all the work of your hand

do not be angry with us

do not remember our iniquity forever


God told Jeremiah to go down to the potter’s house

there the prophet saw the potter at work at the wheel

the vessel the potter was making was spoiled

something went wrong

yet the potter’s hand re-worked it into another vessel

and it was good

and God told the prophet;

can I not do with you just as the potter has done?

just like the clay in the potter’s hand

so you are in my hand

if a nation falls away to wicked ways

but turns from those ways

then I can shape it

as the potter re-shapes the clay that has lost its form

So What?

this image is rich with deep meanings for us

God is the creator – we are God’s creation

God made Adam from the dust and dirt of the created earth

and breathed life into the human

“from dust we were created…” (Ash Wednesday)

God makes us by shaping us

as a potter’s hand – not a blacksmith’s forge

we are shaped and molded

by the loving and strong hands of our Creator

not burned and beaten into shape

heated in the fire of the forge

beaten into shape by a hammer against an anvil

We are made for a purpose

“To glorify God and enjoy God forever” (Westminster Catechsim)

so it is useful to think of ourselves as a vessel

made to be filled with God’s word

which is the witness of scripture and the living example we know in the life and ministry of our Lord, Jesus Christ

we are filled until our cup runs over

spilling out the grace of God

the love and forgiveness that has been given so freely to us

so that we may freely give it to others

and in this, we glorify God

end enjoy God – worship God – forever

worship is:

thanksgiving for God’s grace

receiving God’s word

and being sent out

so we are vessels for God’s grace

and we are not Tupperware

to be firmly sealed shut

but like a vase, or a chalice

without a top

made to carry God’s love and grace

and freely pour it out upon others

even as God freely gives it to us

God can use you

misshapen, broken

God made you by hand, God can re-form you by hand

not bang you into shape

can be arranged if that’s what it takes

receive God’s hands that shape and mold you

into something God can use

Do not lose this image

Worship team has gone to great effort to make this memorable

outside – in a different place for worship

strong visual images –

the potter’s wheel

see her technique

watch what she is making

your own lump of clay

what you are making with your hands

something you will take away

your own creation


You are made by God for a purpose

glorify and worship God

Your response to God is shaped

do you receive God as your potter – shaping you

can you feel it – scary

do you accept God’s forgiveness for your brokenness

How can you share what you carry/hold

rememeber you’re not a Tupperware seal

how is God calling you to use your skills, gifts

You were made for God

for relationship with your Creator and to build God’s kingdom on earth

you are the recipient of God’s grace; in forgiveness and love

you are the vessel filled with these gifts

and God calls you to give it away – to share them

loving others as God loves you in Jesus Christ

forgiving others as God forgives you

invite you to experience giving this gift away

this precious gift from God; love and grace

you have been making something in worship today

crafted with your own hands

some reminder of today’s worship

and an expression of your relationship with God

you are proud of it – it may even be becoming precious to you

Now I want you to give a piece of it back

are you willing to give away something precious?

it may leave you feeling incomplete, damaged, broken

but that’s the thing

we are incomplete, damaged, broken

The good news is – God loves you anyway

… just the way you are and too much to stay that way

God knows these places in your life

where youu’re broken, incomplete, damaged

and God loves you anyway

God is still calling you

God still has use for you

I mean , aside from Jesus

God’s followers have always been human beings

flawed, broken, damaged

Moses: stutterer

Saul: persecutor

Peter: denier

And God can surely use us

Sally the Potter is making a reminder of this

break off a piece of your lump of clay – from what you are making

bring it to the table

she will show you how to put them into something beautiful.

Free-style comments about the process of making something precious to you and giving it away. Taking a piece of your pottery creation and giving it away as a symbol of that. Our pieces are all put around the communion plate Sally made. These will be glazed and fired onto the plate as a reminder of this day and our self-offering acclamation that “we are the clay and God is the potter.”

So may it be with us. Amen


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1 Cor. 12, 27-31, 13:12-13

There was a lot of free-styling in today’s sermon. I was off notes quite a bit, so I don’t know if the outline makes much sense.

Way In

“There’s no ‘I’ in team”

I don’t get that

I understand what they’re getting at

the team isn’t about individual accomplishment

rather it’s what the team does together

and there’s no room for an individual’s ego to get in the way

… so there’s no “I” in team

but there’s “m-e”

is that different than “I”?

so there isn’t “I,” but there’s “me”

does that support the argument?

whether it does or not … we still get the point

as far as the team goes, it’s about what we accomplish together

and I would add …

without “I” or “Me”, there is no team

the team is made up of individuals

but it’s the ones who have decided that their efforts are better — together

Tell the Story – from the apostle Paul’s 1st letter to the church in Corinth

chap. 12 descries the Body of Christ – the church

he says to the people, “You are the body of Christ”

and individually members of it

God has appointed

apostles, prophets, teachers

deeds of power, works of healing

assistance, leadership, various kinds of tongues

But he asks, “is everybody all of these?”

are all prophets? all teachers? all miracle workers?

Just strive for the greater gifts – and I will show you a more excellent way

the very next verse begins Chapt. 13 – “the love chapter”

goes back through the previous list

tongues. prophecy, understanding, faith, charity

… all of this, without love, is nothing

faith, hope, and love abide – but the greatest is love

“So,” Paul continues in chapt. 14, “since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up of the church.”

“church” here = the gathered community: evkklhsi,a,

So What?

Building up the church is to follow Jesus’ Great Commission

“go into the world to proclaim the gospel”

we do that in the ekklesia – the gathered community

reformed tradition – the Great Ends of the Church – this is why the church exists

the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind

the shelter, nurture and spiritual fellowship of the children of God

the maintenance of divine worship

the preservation of the truth

the promotion of social righteousness

and the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.

We do this by building up the congregation for the proclamation of the gospel – exhibiting the Kingdom of Heaven

the gospel – the good news euangellion (Greek transliteration)

evangelist is one who proclaims the good news

exhibiting the kingdom of heaven is expressed as the noun, “evangelism”

So to do this scary work, we need others with us

we need the gathered body

(I invited congregants to wear their favorite team jersey, bring pennants, signs, etc.  We had some fun with this letting everybody sport their team, there was some good-natured trash talking that was useful for illustrations later in the service.  At the point of the prelude Come Christians Join To Sing where the melody sounds like what the Ohio State band plays while fans spell out O-H-I-O, choir members held up signs with the letters H-I-O, but then shifted around then added C and R t spell out C-H-O-I-R.  Very clever)

we need the people who bring their talents and gifts

the church needs

colts, beavers, Bengals, browns, yellow jackets,

and we need other teams

reds, flyers

– what?? not football

we need

players and coaches

batters, pitchers, runners, quarterbacks, blockers, kickers, goalies, forwards, guards

cheerleaders, team managers, water boys (and girls), bat boys (and girls), bus drivers, referees, umpires,

do we need:


well, we need support

it’s good to hear the crowd cheer you on

but what if there were no fans in the stadium?

would the Ohio State and Michigan teams still play football to an empty stadium?


passion, that’s what they’re there to do

and they would keep on playing

and the fans would not be able to stay away. why?


they want to see the passion, and feel it

and the fans that make a difference go home

and get their own jerseys

whatever color

and play ball in their front yard

they want the passion, the thrill

so the church needs fans – not so much spectators

but fans – supporters – the ones who want to be a part

maybe there are some without the physical abilities to run on the team

but there are other ways to support


but there’s no place in building up the church for the ones who just come to watch

and for that we need strategy

we need education, we need leaders, not just one but many

we need help

we need each other

In closing…

so move from the place of your team

your bench, your dugout, your team bus

and come together as a team

because you are what survives

and begin passing the peace of Christ

even with other teams

even with the ones you may be talking trash to later today

or were talking trash about yesterday

because this is the “more excellent way” the Bible talks about

and you need each other to do it

not for the good of the individuals

not even for the teams as we understand it from our banners and shirts and pennants

but to build up the church – the Body of Christ

and proclaim the good news to the world

so may it be with us. Amen

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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 14: 25-30

“No Discounts”

Way In

Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

Story (saga) of a family from the low country of South Carolina shore

American family tragedy in a particular southern setting of heroics, abuse, and eccentricity

an eccentricity from the book comes to mind when I read Jesus’ words from Luke 14, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple,” v. 27

describe Amos Wingo carrying the cross through town on Good Friday (chapt. 14, (Prince of Tides)


Amos Wingo was sure he was doing God’s work

somewhere in the book God told him so

he meant for his “stations of the cross” …

to call the town, or at least his wife, to repentance

and as a reminder of the price Jesus paid


as Amos Wingo shows every year in Colleton, SC – it’s not cheap

The cost of discipleship is great

in today’s gospel lesson, Jesus spells it out in harsh language

If you want to be with me – to be one of my followers/disciples …

this has to be the most important thing in your life

know what you’re getting into

There’s no easy way – no short cut – no “Easy” button

you’re not going to sign on one day, then find out they’re letting then in for cheaper a few months later

not going to get cheaper like VCRs, Kindles, cell phones, and computers

there are no rebates or credits for the cost of discipleship


Tell The Story


Today’s gospel lesson finds Jesus addressing the crowds that are turning up around him

Jesus says, “This is no easy ride”

not just about being healed, even being raised from the dead

it’s not all picnics on the side of the hill

or calming the storms at sea

imagine a new member orientation class that begins like Jesus’ speech here

“Whoever wants to be a Christian (or a member of this church) and does not hate your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even your very life, has no place here.”

Hate my father and mother?

I remember dealing with this phrase in seminary


Jesus was warned that Herod was out to get him (13:31)

anyway, Jesus knew how the days in Jerusalem would play out

the crowds chants changing from the welcoming Hosannas to the condemnations for crucifixion

Jesus knew there were difficult days ahead

even the best of the disciples, Peter – the rock upon whom he would build the church – would deny knowing Jesus to save his own hide

and one of the 12 would betray him, for 30 pieces of silver, to be turned over to the state for execution

even after Jesus himself was gone, he knew there would be threats and persecutions against those who were his followers

so this was not time for lightweight followers …

those who expected to sign up and get the ID card, their name in the newsletter, then turn up for the new members banquet

Jesus was looking for committed disciples …

ones who counted the cost

then followed him anyway

grammar – looking at the use of the word, “hate”

not in the sense of despising or holding in contempt

rather in a comparative sense

compared to the commitment Jesus is asking for here …

even the deepest love a person can know in one’s most intimate relationship does not compare to the commitment Jesus demands

so Jesus was not calling his followers to “hatred”

he was not refuting

1 john 4:20 that says one cannot love God but hate their brother or sister

or the 5th commandment, “Honor your father and mother”

So what did Jesus mean when he said, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even life itself, cannot be my disciple?”

I think, in light of these context, grammar, and scriptural considerations, we can paraphrase Luke 14:26 like this:

When your commitment or allegiance to me conflicts with any other person – even your mother, father, sister, brother, or anybody else – you must choose me. Even to the extent of your own life, if that’s what it takes.

If you want to be my disciple, you’ve got to carry the cross

remember this was pre-resurrection

before the time that the roman cross stood as a symbol to Christians of Christ’s triumph over the power of death

the wooden cross was the Roman’s brutal weapon of execution

crucifixions were common and they were always public

like Jesus did, the condemned had to carry the cross through the city to the execution spot

so, carrying the cross was not a sign of victory

rather a forced march of shame and humiliation, carrying one’s own execution through the public square

as if the condemned criminal was forced to carry their own electric chair, noose, or gurney

to carry the cross is to bear the contempt laid across the shoulders of our Lord by those whose authoritarian rule was threatened by the good news of the gospel

Thomas a Kempis wrote that, “Many come following Jesus who love his heavenly kingdom but few look forward to suffering. Many admire his miracles but few follow him in humiliation to the cross.”
(Imitation of Christ)

Be sure you know what you’re getting into – Jesus told a parable

If you were going to build a tower …

wouldn’t you take time to think about whether you have what it takes to complete the job?

don’t you think a king about to go to war with another king …

takes the time to compare his troops with the other side

None of you can become my disciples if you do not give up all your possessions

He’s asking, are you really paying attention?

There’s a lot at stake here

take the time to count the costs. are you up to it?

Are you prepared to turn over everything for my sake?

So What?

There are no discounts for the cost of discipleship to our Lord Jesus Christ

it is a commitment that requires our ultimate allegiance

calls into question the significance of our relationships, our own sense of self, and our devotion to the stuff we own

or the stuff we think we own

sometimes when we try to get rid of it we find that sometimes our stuff owns us

and Jesus calls us to take this all into consideration before we decide if we want to be (or continue to be) his disciples

WIllimon’s example

Will Willimon, Methodist Bishop in Birmingham, AL tells of a time when he was serving as Dean of the Duke University Chapel that there was a recruiter from the Teach America Program – an organization which recruits this nation’s best college and university students to go to teach in the most impossible teaching situations in our country.
This recruiter from Teach America looked out on a crowd of Duke students. She began by saying, “I don’t really know why I am here to night. I can tell just by looking at you that you are probably uninterested in what I have to say. This is one of the best universities in America. You are all successful. That is why you are here, to become an even greater success on Madison Avenue, or Wall Street, or in Law School. And here I stand, trying to recruit some people for the most difficult job you will ever have in your life.

I’m out looking for people who want to go into a burned out classroom in Watts and teach Biology. I’m looking for somebody to go into a little one-room school house in West Virginia and teach kids from six years to thirteen years old how to read. We had three teachers killed last year in their classrooms! And I can tell, just by looking at you, that none of you want to throw away your lives on anything like that.

On the other hand, if by chance there is somebody here who may be interested, I’ve got these brochures and I am going to leave them down here and will be glad to speak to anybody who is interested. The meeting is over.”
With that, all of the students jumped up, rushed into the aisles, rushed down to the front, starting fighting over her pamphlets, just dying to apply for Teach America.
Rev. Willimon says that night he learned that people are hungry to give their lives to something more important than themselves. It is a fact of life, not only that everything costs us something, but that, in our better moments, we are even eager to pay the cost.


Let us take some time in the coming days to count the costs of discipleship …

… and examine the places where other allegiances keep us from fully committing ourselves to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ


Are there commitments to relationships, attitudes, or habits that keep us from full discipleship?

Do our possessions belong to us, or do we belong to our possessions?

How do these belongings impact our ability to be disciples?

What about our church, our community of faith?

are there commitments to relationships, attitudes, or habits that get in the way of our being an expression of the body of Christ?

even outside the walls of our church?

Let these questions be some of the guides of our discernment of how God is calling this church to be the expression of the Body of Christ in this neighborhood and community…today.

Luke 14:28-30

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether you have enough to complete it? Otherwise, when you have laid a foundation and are not able to finish, there will be those who ridicule saying, “This one began to build and was not able to finish.”

So may it be. Amen.

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The Veterans Memorial Travelling Wall

Sidney, Ohio + Custenborder Field

Reveille and Morning Prayers, 8:00 a.m.

Welcome to this day – another day of remembrance

The 3rd day since the Vietnam Memorial Wall arrived in Sidney.

Your presence here honors the memory of the soldiers named here

Memorials are stones of memory

In the scriptures of our faith, stones are a lasting memorial

When Joshua led the Israelites safely across the Jordan River

into the land of Canaan

God told him to build a mound of stones

at the place where God delivered the people safely across

… the place where God opened the waters up to dry land

to give them safe passage

“when your children ask you, “what do these stones mean?”

you shall tell them ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan

here on dry ground

For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan

So we shall answer when our children ask,

“What does this stone – this wall – this memorial – mean?

We can say

this is for us to remember

those who have lived and died in service to their country

and for the good of other countries and nations

this is for us to take time to remember and to pray…

for all who have suffered and died in war

and for those who still suffer and die in war…

and are in need

And we remember before God – and commend to his sure keeping

those who have died for their country in war

This wall is also a tribute to those who returned

for the American veterans of Vietnam – and other wars

they have returned from battle and duty

and they are forever changed by what they have seen

Let us always remember to pray …

with gratitude for the peace they have preserved for our nation

for those who have died in war

and for those who came home bearing wounds – of body and soul

Let us pray

Almighty and eternal God, there is nothing that can separate us

from your love, neither death nor life.

Hear our prayers and thanksgivings for the ones we remember today
the ones who died in this war and others

we pray for the ones who gave the eternal sacrifice

for they will not grow old, as we for whom they fought will

age will not be a hard burden for them

yet their burden of death in wartime has spared

us the burden of war

and at the rising of the sun and at its setting we will remember

Lord we also pray for the ones who came home;

bearing wounds or scars

we pray for the ones who suffered …

even scorn and contempt in their own hometown,

… on their native soil

God of grace, the ones of us who have not served our country in military service are grateful for the ones who have served and the ones who are serving.

Open our hearts as we stand here to remember …

remind us of the cost the ones commemorated here have paid

and remind us to pray for the veterans who are home

Good and gracious God, our Father –

your will for your people is peace

turn our hearts again, indeed every heart, to yourself

Fill the world with your grace so that we may live in harmony

Fill the world with your justice and mercy

so that your peace will prevail

Lord give each of us and the rulers of all nations the wisdom

to fulfill your word through prophets …

to beat our swords into plowshares

and our spears into pruning hooks

until nations do not lift up sword against nation

and we shall not study war any more.

May it be so with us

by the power of the Holy Spirit, and for the sake of

our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


I read that, at his funeral, Winston Churchill gave instructions

after the Benediction, Taps was to be played

the tune that marks the end of the day, and the end of a life

but just as soon as the final note of Taps was blown …

another bugler, on the other side of the cathedral, played Reveille

because for people of faith, death is not the final word

and we have the opportunity to get up, and live – to awaken

and pledge our lives in the new day

for the service of God

and our fellow human being

to help, encourage, and comfort others,

and support those working for the relief of the needy

and for the peace and welfare of the nations.

for his sake


Go into the world in peace;

be of good courage;

hold fast to that which is good,

return no one evil for evil;

strengthen the fainthearted;

support the weak;

help the afflicted;

honor everyone;

love and serve the Lord,

rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.

And may the blessing of God Almighty,

the Father,

the Son

and the Holy Spirit be with you

and everyone you love

today and forever. Amen

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