Michael’s Sermons

 

God’s Value System

God’s Value System January 12, 2020 Luke 7:36-8:3 I have in my hand two bills of different values.  Same weight, same material, same production costs, but different amounts.  So why is one bill more valuable than the other? We have determined that one of these bills will trade for more goods and services than the other. One of these bills is worth more because the treasury department says it’s worth more. It has been assigned a higher value than the other. Just as we assign value to money, we also assign value to people’s time. Our society has determined that an hour of a doctor’s time is worth more than an hour of a cashier’s time, unless you happened to be standing in the line of a cashier. An hour of a teacher’s time, unfortunately, is worth much less than it should be, which is the reason it’s becoming more challenging to attract people to the teaching profession. An hour of my veterinarian’s time is worth more if my dog is dying than if my dog just needs a yearly vaccination. We’ve determined what people’s time is worth based on which skills we value most, and which skills we need the most at any given time. We value people’s time on how much we have to pay for it or how much intangible benefit it brings. Can you place a value on the time of a friend, a parent, a child, or a grandparent? When we only value people for their profession, power, or money, we’ve left out some of the most important values like love, wisdom, friendship, companionship,...

Are You Just Spinning Plates?

January 5, 2020 When I did clowning, I had a plate spinning routine where I’d spin a plate on a stick. I’ve not done the routine in many years, but I used to perform the comedy sketch at R.B. Wright Elementary School when my children were young. Tizzy would spin one plate on a stick and place in on a stand. Then, he would spin another plate and put it on the stand. By then, the first plate started to wobble, and the children would scream and tell him it was falling. Tizzy would run back and spin that plate some more. By then, the second first plate started to wobble. Once he had those two plates spinning fast, he started spinning the third plate, and so on until five or six plates were spinning. Of course, each time a plate began to wobble, the children started to yell and scream. Each time, Tizzy would run and catch the plate before it fell and give it an extra spin. After all the plates were spinning, Tizzy would take his bow. But filled with arrogance and pride at his great accomplishment, one by one, his plates started falling off of their sticks to the great pleasure and amusement of the children. Does this sound like your day, your week, your life? Maybe you are a great multitasker. Or perhaps, you would admit that your life is sometimes in a tizzy because you are overextended with commitments, projects, or financial obligations. Didn’t life use to be simpler? I realize that whatever age you are, life at times seems complicated. We always...

Shine a Light on Your Noise

December 29, 2019 John 17:25-33 How many of you are going to stay up and usher in the New Year Tuesday night? It seems like the older I get, the more of these I sleep through. New Year’s Eve is a young person’s thing, I suppose. When you are young, you haven’t experienced many New Year’s Eve celebrations, so you want to stay up and see what all the fuss is about.  After you get older, wisdom sets in, and you remember someone wise once told you that not a lot of good happens past midnight so you stay home and watch all the young people celebrate on television. You promise yourself you’ll stay up and watch the ball drop in Times Square, and about 12:30, you wake up and discover you missed it all, so you drag yourself to bed while all the young people or young at heart continue to party and make a lot of noise. Why noise? Why not enter the New Year with some peace and quiet, with nothing but the sound of a clock ticking away on the mantle? Though few are aware of the custom, making noise as the New Year comes in was once thought to be an effective way of pushing away the evil spirits so they would not enter the New Year with you. I guess if we thought that worked, regardless of our age, we’d all be making a lot of racket as the New Year came in. Eventually, though, all of us want some quiet. Even the rowdiest, party animals eventually have to sleep, and most people...

Are You Troubled?

Luke 1:26-38 A couple of weeks ago, when I was purchasing some food, I heard some Christmas music playing in the background. I said to the cashier, who looked to be in her thirties, “I hear you’ve got your Christmas music playing. I guess you are already getting into the Christmas spirit.”  Her reply surprised me. “If it were up to me, there would not be anything playing but Scrooge music. I’m not in the mood for anything Christmas.” I guess she could see I was a bit surprised by her answer.   She said, “I was in a relationship for ten years, and it just ended.”   She went on to tell me that she was depressed. She said she cried every day.  In addition, she came in to work one day and dumped her anger on her boss and had gotten written up.  Since there was no one else in line, I continued to listen. I asked if she had anyone to talk with about her grief. I figured since she was talking to me, a stranger, she must not have anyone to tell her troubles to.  She said she had been thinking about going to her church to find someone to talk with. I encouraged her to do that. I told her if she found a good listener, that person could help her process her grief.   I asked her if I could pray for her, and she “yes.”  So right there in the store, we bowed our heads, and I prayed. I acknowledged that God was with her, that even though others would leave her, God never would....

Does God Wear a Watch?

Does God Wear a Watch? 2 Peter 3:8- 15 December 1, 2019 What does it mean when the preacher takes off his watch and lays it on top of the pulpit before his sermon? Usually nothing.  Time is relative. We never seem more aware of it than when we are in church. I’m aware of it because I know you are aware of it. If I can’t say it before noon, I know you aren’t likely to hear it.  Time is relative. How often do you look at your watch when you attend a ball game? Not one time. You watch the game clock but never your watch. You are there for the experience, and time is of no essence. The truth is, if the message is good, if the worship experience is a good one, the preacher will get to the end of the message you’ll realize you were so engaged that you lost track of time. Or, as some of you say, “Preacher, the message was so good today, I didn’t go to sleep.” So, it is a good thing or a bad thing to lose track of time?  Teenagers are out together on a date. They are caught up in an evening of fun, and the enjoyment of one another’s company. They are not into anything sinful; they are simply having fun, and enjoying each other’s company.  But they lose track of time and one of them says, “Oh, no, look at the time; it’s 12:30 A.M! I’m already 30 minutes past curfew.  My parents will ground me for a month.”  They lost track of time. That’s...

If John the Baptist Were Here

December 8, 2019 Matthew 3:1-12 I thought about inviting John the Baptist to fill the pulpit this morning, but today is the Sunday that we light the candle of peace, and John does not seem to be the right choice for this Sunday. Besides, several of my pastor friends have had him in their pulpits, and his preaching was met with mixed reviews. Some of the older people didn’t like how he was dressed. They said he looked like a hippie dressed in that camel hair with his leather belt and laced up sandals. The younger crowd thought what we wore was cool. Someone said he looked like a Biblical version of Crocodile Dundee. Apparently, John offended some of the members of these churches because he refused to eat their cooking.  There are still some people pride themselves on their cooking, gauging their talents on how many helpings of fried chicken, mash potatoes, and gravy the preacher eats. I guess John’s spent too much time out in the desert to be very cultured. He kept saying he was on a strict diet of honey-covered locusts.  He says they are low in carbs. One other thing I should mention,  John prefers the preach outdoors, preferably down by the river.  He likes to have a baptism at every service.  It doesn’t seem like John’s comfortable preaching unless somebody’s getting wet. But here’s the biggest reason I decided not to invite John to preach: his message is offensive to some people. On a Sunday that we are supposed to be focusing on peace, I didn’t think it was a good idea to invite...

You Are A Blessing When…

November 24, 2019 Galatians 3:6-9 Scott Peck in his book, A Different Drum, tells the story of a monastery that had fallen on hard times. All that remained were the abbot and four brothers.  As the demise of their order drew near, the abbot called on an old rabbi friend. They journeyed together to a little hut in the woods for a time of meditation.  As they talked, the abbot explained the problem of the monastery. The rabbi commiserated with him and told him it was much the same at the synagogue. People were not attending as in previous days. These two men wept together and read parts of the Torah and quietly spoke of deep things.  As the abbot prepared to leave, they embraced. “It has been a wonderful thing that we should meet after all these years,” the abbot said, “but I have still failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me, no piece of advice you can give me that would help me save my dying order?” “No, I am sorry,” the rabbi responded, “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.” When the abbot returned to the monastery, his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, “Well, what did the rabbi say?” “He couldn’t help,” the abbot answered. “We just wept and read the Torah together. The only thing he did say, just as I was leaving—it was something cryptic—was that the Messiah is one of us. I don’t know what he meant.” In the days,...

Out-Fiddling the Devil

Luke 4:1-13                                                                                                    November 17, 2019 Those of you who follow country music might remember a song that came out in the late seventies by the Charlie Daniel’s Band entitled “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”    The song features a fiddling duel between the devil and a boy named Johnny. The stakes were high–Johnny’s soul or the devil’s fiddle of gold.     The ballad went something like this: “Well, the devil went down to Georgia. He was looking for a soul to steal. He was in a bind, and he was way behind, and he was willing to make a deal. Well, the devil came across a young man sawing on a fiddle and playing it hot, and the devil jumped up on a hickory stump and said, “Boy, let me tell you what. I guess you didn’t know it, but I’m a fiddle player too, and if you care to make a dare, I’ll place a bet with you. Now you play pretty good fiddle boy but give the devil his due. I’ll bet this fiddle of gold against your soul that I can play it better than you.”    To which the young man responded, “Well, my name is Johnny, and it might be a sin, but I’ll take your bet, you’re gonna regret that I’m the best that’s...

Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary? 

November 10, 2019 James 3:1-12 Many years ago, I cut my ministerial teeth on being a youth pastor. Youth pastors have to do some unusual things to keep the attention of their youth. When I studied this passage about the tongue, I asked, “What would make a teenager remember this passage?” I remembered when I was a boy, the cows used to come to the fence in the summertime when we cut watermelons. We would hold the watermelon rinds over the fence and watch the cows stick out their long tongues to get them. A cow’s tongue is about eighteen inches long and I’ve read that some can grow up to three feet. That’s a lot of tongue. So, before I did the Bible study, I went to the butcher and asked for a cow’s tongue. They sell them, you know – to eat. That night in youth group, the title of my message was, “Keep it in your pocket.” We talked about how often we use our tongues to wound people and say things that we should not say.  I might have reminded them that our parents and teachers sometimes tell us to hold our tongues when we want to say something that we should not say. That’s when I pulled eighteen inches of cows tongue out of my pocket.   Of course, you can imagine, that got everyone’s attention.  Some wanted to touch it.  Others were running from it. They didn’t forget my lesson. Each time I made a point, I’d pull out eighteen inches of cow tongue from my pocket and shook it at them. I...