Michael’s Sermons

 

Will Jesus Be the Only One in Heaven With Scars?

John 20:19-31 May 19, 2019 One of the most beautiful languages is not spoken. It is the language of the hearing impaired. In addition to its ability to assist the deaf in communication, sign language can be beautiful in its presentation. Some of the signs for words are very logical and easily remembered. For example, the word “fear” is communicated with both hands in front of the chest, one on top of the other, with the fingers spread apart. The hands tremble to indicate fear. “Love” is communicated by crossing the arm over the heart as if you were hugging yourself. The word “friend” is communicated with the right and left hands interlocked at the index fingers. The hands separate, change their relative positions and come together again as before. Would anyone like to guess how you say “Jesus” in sign language? Place the middle finger of each hand is placed into the palm of the other. What do you suppose that symbolizes? It symbolizes the nailed-scarred hands of Jesus. Someone said the scars of Jesus is the only man-made things in heaven. Even after God raised Jesus from the dead, his scars remained. That has always intrigued me. You cannot tell the story of Jesus without mentioning the scars he embodied. The crown of thorns pushed into his forehead left their marks. His hands and his feet were pierced with the nails of the Roman soldiers. Even though he hung lifelessly on the cross, his side was punctured with a spear to ensure that he was dead. Most people have a scar or two. Each scar tells a...

Moving Beyond the Training Wheels

May 12, 2019 Hebrews 5:7-14 Two weeks a group of mothers gathered in the parking lot with their children and teachers from our weekday preschool. The mothers brought their children and their bicycles all equipped with training wheels. There were cones set up in the parking lot forming an obstacle course and the children were happily maneuvering their bikes and around the cones.  It was a good practice. The experience helped the boys and girls build self-esteem and confidence.  It reminded me of one of the cherished videos I have of the day I taught my son Ryan how to ride his bike without any training wheels.I could tell he was both excited and anxious about taking them off. He wanted them off, but he was worried about the experience of trying to ride without them. Ryan was four years old. You can see from the video that at age four that I didn’t pamper him. I don’t remember how many times he fell that morning, a dozen or more at least. But I knew if he didn’t give up, and if he listened to me, he’d be free of those training wheels and enjoying the freedom of riding his bicycle without them. He was a determined boy. Those training wheels were good for him in the beginning, but they were holding him back, and keeping him from experience the maximum joy he could get from that bicycle. Let’s paint a little different picture. Take those same mothers I saw out there in the parking week. Let’s say that all showed up eight years from now with their children and...

Is Going to Church Necessary for Faith?

May 5, 2019 Matthew 16:13-20 I was listening to a comedian recently, and he was saying that when he travels, people usually like talking about themselves. Often people include in their conversation what they do for a living.  What he dreads, though, is when they turn the tables on him and say, “So, what do you do?” When he says, “Well, I’m a comic.  I do stand-up comedy,” without fail, 100% of the time, people will say, “Then, tell me a joke.” This comedian made an excellent point.  He said it’s like people want instant verification that he’s not lying about his profession. He said this is unfair. For example, if you were sitting next to a person who claimed to be a physician, you wouldn’t say, “Hey, I’ve got this rash right here on my back. Will you look at it and tell me what it is?” If you were sitting next to an author, you wouldn’t hand that person a pad and paper and say, “Will you write me a short story?” I can feel the comedian’s pain. I usually dread people asking me what I do for a living. When I tell them that I am a pastor they don’t say, “Well preach me a sermon.  I need some help going to sleep, anyway.” I dread that question for lots of other reasons, but one of them is that some people get an instant need to confess why they don’t attend church.   It’s like they suddenly have this burden of guilt and they want me to act as a priest and absolve them of all the times or years...

Where is Your Identity?

Where is Your Identity? 2 Samuel 7:18-24 In the hills of Kentucky, in a quiet shop off of a dirt road, an Amish man works alone.  He does not advertise his work on the Internet, nor does he place adds in the newspaper.  He depends on word of mouth to make his sales. He is a painter.  His signature work involves painting beautiful pictures of animals, nature, old barns, practically anything a customer wants on a single turkey feather.  He takes something already beautiful and puts beauty on top of it. While that man is likely to continue his work in obscurity, Norman Rockwell did not. He became most famous for his cover illustrations of everyday life he created for “The Saturday Evening Post” over seventy years ago. Rockwell’s unique style included a touch of humor.  He helped us to see the ordinariness of life as sacred.  We saw ourselves or someone we knew in many of his paintings. In one of Rockwell’s paintings, a child not more than ten years old, dressed only in her slip, is sitting on a footstool looking at herself in a mirror. Her elbows are resting on her knees. Her fingers are beginning to touch her face, and her hair is pulled back in a bun. Resting in her lap is a magazine where she sees a photograph of Jane Russell, a marketed sex symbol of her day. Lying beside the mirror is the little girl’s doll.  The doll is being traded for her mother’s lipstick, brush, and comb, as she contemplates making herself like more like an adult.  She is asking the question we all...

The Resurrection Puts Suffering in Perspective

Scripture: John 20:10-18 John G. Burnett lived in the mid and late eighteen hundreds.  As a boy growing up in the hills and forests of the Cherokee Indians, he came to know them well.  The Cherokees were his friends. By the year 1838, Burnett had joined the U.S. Army.  Because of his ability to fluently speak the language of the Cherokee, he was sent as an interpreter into the Smokey Mountain Country to assist in the forced removal of the Cherokee Indians from their life-long homes and to help relocate them west to land in Oklahoma.  Fifty years later, John Burnett recorded these words about his experience: “I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at bayonet point into the stockades.  And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning, I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and headed for the West. “The trail of the exiles was a trail of death.  They had to sleep in the wagons and on the ground without fire.  I have known as many as 22 of them to die in one night of pneumonia due to ill treatment, cold, and exposure. “Among this number was the beautiful Christian wife of Chief John Ross. This noble hearted woman died a martyr to childhood, giving her only blanket for the protection of a sick child. “She rode thinly clad through a blinding sleet and snow storm, developed pneumonia and died in the still hours of a bleak winter night. Theda Perdue, the author of “The Cherokee,” writes that the long,...

No Humor at the Cross

April 14, 2019 Matthew 26:27-44 My earliest memory of school takes me back to the summer before I entered the first grade. There was no preschool in my day so my parents sent me to summer school to get me used to riding the bus and the regimen of the school routine. One of the first stops the bus made on the way home was for a boy about my age named Bobby. His daddy was a pulp wooder, and they lived in a very modest house. Bobby rarely took a bath, so he carried an odor. He became an easy target for ridicule. Because his house was one of the first ones on the bus route, it was filled with rowdy, energetic children. One day his mother appeared at the door to greet her son. Her unkempt black hair prompted one child to say, “Look at that witch,” and within seconds the entire bus was yelling, “Witch, Witch,” as the boy made his way toward his front porch and his waiting mother. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to laugh. That implies that there is a time not to laugh. Laughter can be therapeutic, but it can also be misplaced and misused. When that happens, laughter is harmful. It is unhealthy. It cuts to the heart. It wounds.  You know that’s true because all of us have been the center of wounding laughter. God has a sense of humor.   Just look at a monkey, or a camel or many other animals. I like that Geico commercial with the camel that comes into an...

The Comedy of Jonah – The Absurdity of God

March 31, 2019 Jonah 1:1-17 It is difficult to say whether the following story is legend or truth or a combination of the two. Regardless, it can be said that the story is true to the character of Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln received a letter from an eight-year-old girl who wrote him suggesting that he grow a beard. She seemed to feel that the beard would give him a better appearance. Perhaps people would like him better with a beard. Most people of such great importance would have tossed aside such a letter with no further thought, or even have read it at all. However, President Lincoln not only answered her letter personally but thanked her for the suggestion. He also told the girl that should he ever campaign in her vicinity, he hoped he would have the opportunity to meet her and to express his appreciation personally (Conrad Hyers, “And God Created Laugher,” John Knox Press, Atlanta: 1987, p:39). The little girl was excited about receiving a letter from the President of the United States. As you might expect, her father, who was a member of the local Republican party, was even more excited. Soon the entire town heard the news of the President’s letter and was also excited. The prospect of a visit from the President made party officials ecstatic. With visions of political prestige, special favors, and positions in Washington, they prepared introductions and wrote speeches. The band rehearsed. A speaking platform was built (Ibid, p. 40). On the day that Lincoln’s campaign train was scheduled to pass through, practically the whole town assembled at the...

Do You Need This Medicine?

Proverbs 17:22 March 17, 2019 When hydrogen and carbon dioxide collide, the result is life-sustaining oxygen. When humor and faith collide, the result is laughter that helps save our souls. The Bible says it like this: “A joyful heart is a good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22a Now everyone knows that medicine can be abused. But taken correctly and in the right doses, medicine and save us from pain, heal our wounds, lift us from depression, and it can save our lives. It has been said that laughter is the best medicine. It’s free. It’s natural. It’s healing. It requires no doctor, no prescription.  It can be administered a child or an adult.  Even animals can make us laugh. If you never laugh there is a cost.  If you never laugh, it may be a sign that you are sick.  It’s a sign that you have little joy in your life and that you may have problems dealing with the stress that life brings your way. There are times and seasons in life we will get kicked in the gut and life will try to pull the joy out of us. Every one of us will go through those seasons. Hopefully, none of us will go through a more difficult time than Job.  Remember Job.  He’s the person in the Bible that lost his possessions, his family, and his health.  His friends gave him a lot of bad advice about his situation. They didn’t empathize with him and told him all his problems were his fault. But one of his friends told him that God would “yet fill (his) mouth with...

Laughter is Born

March 10, 2019 Laughter is Born Genesis 17:15-19; 18:9-15, 21:1-6 Abram left the warmth of his tent, walked out into the coolness of the night, and looked up at the stars. It was a clear, still night. It was the kind of night that causes one to be reflective, to think, and ponder. Abram had a lot on his mind. Many years had passed since he and Sarai and their nephew Lot pulled up their tent stakes in Haran and faithfully traveled to a new land that God he would give them and their descendants. Land and descendants were the two key elements of God’s promise.  Can’t you hear Abram questioning God as he looked up at the stars? “Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of the land? How is it possible that my descendants will be as numerous as the stars since I haven’t the first son?”  Abram and Sarai were becoming older by the day. As it stood, Eliezer of Damascus, Abram’s servant, was his only heir. If Abram died, Eliezer would be a rich man, and God’s promise would go unfulfilled. It was enough to make Abram anxious. After all, in his old age, he had left the comfort of Haran to follow God’s call. Abram still believed God, but his belief did not keep him from wondering and questioning. Faith can be difficult in the absence of evidence.  When we cannot see our way through to the other side that is when we need faith. When he looked into the aging face of his wife Sarai, Abram had reason to wonder about...