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Sermon Illustrations for Proper 23 | Ordinary Time 28 (2020)

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Isaiah 25:1-9, Psalm 23
I once heard someone say, “I’ve been poor, and I’ve been rich. I like being rich better.” I wondered at the time about my own life. When I was first divorced with a toddler to care for, I knew being poor; struggling to buy groceries, pay the bills, keep a roof over our heads; it all seemed really difficult. I live a fairly comfortable life now, but in perspective I lived a pretty comfortable life then. I visited churches in Southern India this past February. As a part of that visit, I visited cities and rural villages. In case I thought I had been poor, I was mistaken. To meet people who walk two kilometers for fresh water, who live without indoor plumbing, who struggle to grow or buy food, who beg on the streets for their children, to see those with disabilities crawl up the street because they can’t walk – that is poverty. I wonder, amid this, about the faith of the people who walk for hours to come to a place of worship. They rest in the shelter of the Lord in ways I never have. I have much to learn about grace and gifts from God.
Bonnie B.

* * *

Exodus 32:1-14
Modern life feels so empty sometimes, devoid of meaning. And we’re not happy with those feelings. The great 17th-century French intellectual Blaise Pascal nicely summarized the feelings of many of us:

Many find nothing so intolerable as to be in a state of complete rest without passions, without occupation, without diversion, without effort. Then he feels his nullity, loneliness, inadequacy, dependence, helplessness, emptiness.

Unable to live well with this sense of emptiness we do what famed Canadian architect Arthur Erickson once advised: “Illusion is needed to disguise the emptiness within.” That describes what fallen human beings like us do. We try so desperately to fill up, so we don’t feel the emptiness. It’s what the people of Israel did in our lesson. We construct our own idols or our own versions of God. But God shatters our idols and makes us attend to whom he really is. It is like the famed 20th-century German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote:

Here, in the Cross, there is an end to all idolatry... Here God is wholly the God Who will have no other god before Him, but now also wholly God in that He forgives without limit. (A Testament to Freedom, p.224)
Mark E.

* * *

Philippians 4:1-9
When you take a closer look you discover that the apostle Paul seems to know a lot more about the earthly life of Jesus than most people think. Philippians 4:6 seems to point to two different thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount. I see echoes of that whole “lilies of the field” trope in the words “Do not worry about anything.” (Matthew 6:25), and the “Ask… seek… knock” (Matthew 7:7) is mirrored in “let your requests be made known to God.”
Frank R.

* * *

Philippians 4:1-9
Henry Martin died on June 30, 2020, in Newton, Pennsylvania. He was 94.

Martin is not known to the public, but his cartoons are. During the 35 years that he worked for The New Yorker magazine, he drew over 700 cartoons. He was best known for being able to find humor in the mundane and everyday experiences of life. In order to secure his position at The New Yorker, in 1960 he began submitting 20 cartons a week. In 1964, he was hired by the magazine.

In discussing what it means to be a cartoonist, Henry Martin said, “The cartoonist’s job is to observe, toss the observations about in a basket of happy insanity and report the results with an economy of line and a spare sprinkling of words.”
Ron L.

* * *

Philippians 4:1-9
I came across this quick humorous anecdote that struck a chord with me. An exasperated husband asked his wife, “Why are you always worrying when it doesn't do any good?” She quickly answered, “Oh yes it does! Ninety percent of the things I worry about never happen.”

While we laugh at that, worry is a real issue for a lot of people and a lot of Christians. You may not have heard of James Cash Penney, but I’m guessing you know his stores, JC Penney’s. His first stores weren’t called that, though. They were called The Golden Rule stores. Penney grew up in a Christian home and had a relationship with Jesus. In the early days of his business career things were tough, and Penney was wracked with worry and fear. An old friend convinced him to enter a sanitarium. The rest and medical attention did him good, but there was another event that revived him spiritually. One morning he got up too early for breakfast and was wandering the halls when he heard a hymn he remembered from childhood.

Be not dismayed whate'er betide,
God will take care of you
All you need he will provide
God will take care of you


He followed the music to the chapel filled with worshiping doctors and nurses. Someone read a scripture passage: "Come unto me all you that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." It was at that moment that Penney realized he needed to release his worries. In verses six and seven, Paul notes how Christians need to let go of their worries and allow the Holy Spirit to guard their hearts.
Bill T.

* * *

Matthew 22:1-14
I often struggle with this passage of scripture. The king seems so hateful and cruel. Surely this is not a personification of God. Surely God prepares a banquet and we are invited. Surely some of us respond and some of us do not – but does God send out the angels to destroy us? Surely God spreads open the invitation for all to come, but why then punish the one who is unprepared for the invitation? I don’t understand. But maybe I am not supposed to. Maybe I am supposed to think about which of the characters in the passage, I am. Am I the one who was invited by God and doesn’t show up – I surely have been that person in my life? Am I the lost and alone who is invited even though I didn’t expect to be – I surely have been that person in my life? Am I the one who comes without the respect of clothing myself appropriately in the garments of a believer – I surely have been that person in my life? The exploration may be all God requires – not understanding but introspection.
Bonnie B.

* * *

Matthew 22:1-14
The tragedy of life is that we are all invited to live with Christ and often spurn it, like the guests invited to the wedding in Jesus’ parable. Martin Luther explained this well:

It is still the same today. When the precious gospel is expounded, the world plays its little game, becoming worse than it was before, as everybody bustles around with activity (Complete Sermons, Vol.7, p.92)      

John Calvin offered similar sentiments:

It is truly base and shameful, that men who were created for a heavenly life, should be under the influence of such brutish stupidity, as to be entirely carried away with transitory things. (Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol.XVI/2, p.171) 

It is not too late to dress up for the wedding, if we wake up and decide to attend. Nothing we need to do, Wesley claims. The proper attire is “the righteousness of Christ.” (Commentary On the Bible, p.419) And as he puts it elsewhere, “Clothed in this, they [we] will not be naked.” (Works, Vol.7, p.317).
Mark E.
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John Jamison
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (vv. 25-28)

* * *
John Jamison
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (vv. 31-33)

Hello, everyone! (Let them respond.) Are you ready for today’s story? (Let them respond.) Great!

[If you are using the monitor or cuff.]

The Immediate Word

Katy Stenta
Mary Austin
Dean Feldmeyer
Quantisha Mason-Doll
Christopher Keating
George Reed
Thomas Willadsen
For November 28, 2021:

Emphasis Preaching Journal

Frank Ramirez
Of course, we never quite return to the way things were -- because we have been changed by good fortune or bad. As we make sense of a world that has known the 2020 pandemic there are several things that can’t be undone, regardless of medical advances and a return to whatever we choose to call normalcy. First, not all of us made it through. Some of those who survived are not returned to full health. More important, the damage done by uncivil discourse, the sharp exchanges by those holding radically different views cannot be easily undone.
Bonnie Bates
Mark Ellingsen
Bill Thomas
Frank Ramirez
Jeremiah 33:14-16
The English poet Alexander Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast. Man never is, but always to be blest.” But where does man turn when hope dries up?”
Frank Ramirez
Of course, we never quite return to the way things were -- because we have been changed by good fortune or bad. As we make sense of a world that has known the 2020 pandemic there are several things that can’t be undone, regardless of medical advances and a return to whatever we choose to call normalcy. First, not all of us made it through. Some of those who survived are not returned to full health. More important, the damage done by uncivil discourse, the sharp exchanges by those holding radically different views cannot be easily undone.
Bill Thomas
Bonnie Bates
Mark Ellingsen
Frank Ramirez
Joel 2:21-27

The Village Shepherd

Janice B. Scott
Roly lay on the stone floor with his head on his paws. He wondered how much longer it was until it was time for food. Feeding time was the best time in the whole day, because then the humans came and rubbed his head and spoke to him and made a fuss of him.

StoryShare

Terry Cain
David O. Bales
Note: This was originally published in 2006.

Contents
What's Up This Week
A Story to Live By: "Signs" by David O. Bales
Sermon Starters: "Would We Recognize Him?" by Terry Cain
"Where Is The Church?" by Terry Cain


What's Up This Week
Peter Andrew Smith
David O. Bales
Contents
“The Feast Awaits” by Peter Andrew Smith
“Yes, Jesus Loves Me” by David O. Bales
“Preparing For Thanksgiving Day” by David O. Bales
 

The Feast Awaits
by Peter Andrew Smith
Joel 2:21-27

Margie sat on the edge of her bed. She hated this place and wished she was still in her own home. She should have fought the boys harder when they insisted she come here. She tried to hold the tears back, but they began to roll down her cheeks.

SermonStudio

Cynthia E. Cowen
Today we enter the season of Advent. The countdown has begun as we once more anticipate the celebration of the birth of Christ. Advent is a time to prepare, not just our homes but our hearts. What joy floods our hearts as we sing "Joy to the world, the Lord has come!" The Son of God entered our world so quietly -- no one, except those searching the heavens, saw the star that announced his birth. However, today's gospel tells us that when Christ comes again, it will be a like a hurricane or a tornado. The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shine. Stars will fall from the sky.
Robert S. Crilley
Some of you may be excited to learn that this morning's scripture lesson contains a benediction. "Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with his saints" (vv. 11-13). That is a benediction.
Frank Ramirez
First Lesson: Jeremiah 33:14-16

Theme: Empires Come And Go -- God Lasts

Call To Worship (Psalm 25:14)
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes his covenant known to them.

Collect

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