Can We Handle the Truth?

This written sermon has had additional information of interest added to illustrate the points made in the oral version.  WNG

This morning I am going to attempt a short sermon.  The late Peter Marshall, who was once chaplain of the United States Senate said, “No short sermon is a bad sermon.”  Well, from one perspective that is true! Short is short. A short sermon gets you out of church on time! To quote Monroe Bowles, “The Preacher quits talking before the people quit listening.” From another perspective Marshall’s statement may not be true. The fact that a sermon is short does not guarantee it is worthy to be heard.  Short sermons and speeches require more careful preparation than longer ones. President Woodrow Wilson was know for his speeches. A member of his cabinet asked him how long he needed to prepare a speech. He said,  “It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”

A short sermon requires focus!  So, I want to focus on just two verses in Psalm 25. In verses 4 and 5 we the Psalmist addresses his savior God, saying:

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for thou art the God of my
salvation; for thee I wait all the day long.

I want to lift up the word truth, for truth is the key word in our text.  The Psalmist rightly assumes that it is not possible for him to know God’s ways and follow God’s paths unless he learns the truth that God want to teach him—and us. Continue reading

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Unity in Diversity

John 17:20-26

Some of you know that I collect typewriters. I love them for their quality, and variety, and for their historical associations. I have a typewriter like the typewriter that Ernest Hemingway used to write most of his novels. Each time I use it, I am reminded of how he  once said, “Writing is easy, you just sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  And I have a typewriter like the one that Theodor Geisel used to write the books loved by generations of children. Sometimes, when I use my Smith-Corona Silent-Super, I imagine what it was like for Dr. Seuss to create Cat in the Hat, the Grinch, and bevy of Star Bellied Sneeches. I am just getting warmed up. I have typewriters like the machines used by Agatha Christy, Orson Wells, Larry McMurtry, and Cormack McCarthy. Cormack McCarthy gave his well used Olivetti to charity. It brought $154,000 at auction.  He replaced it with another just like it he bought at a yard-sale for $14.00. Continue reading

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Glory and Love

Psalm 148 and John 13:31-35

In Psalm 148, the Psalmist calls for everything (and everyone) created by the Lord God to  praise the Lord God. It is interesting to take note of the categories he assigns.

In verse 1, the Psalmist calls upon the angels and all the heavenly hosts to praise the God. According to the New Testament book of Colossians, the heavenly hosts include not just angels, which are ministering spirits sent forth to serve, but principalities and powers and all rule and authority. Like Plato this suggests that God made “ideas” before God made the “expression of those ideas.” In other words, God created the idea of a great light to rule the day and a lesser light to rule the night, before God created the sun and moon themselves. Likewise, God created the idea of rules and governments before the nations themselves came into being. Continue reading

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Reading Scripture Cafeteria Style

John 21:1-19

The late Bishop Herbert Spaugh was still living when I went to The Little Church on the Lane, way back in 1977. It was my privilege to meet with the Bishop for an hour once each week. He used that hour to good effect, trying his best to put his stamp upon me for the duration of my ministry. He talked me more or less permanently into the robe; but he could not talk me permanently into the collar, though I did wear it while I was at the Little Church, and I did find it useful, and once, even powerful.  It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was in an elevator at the Charlotte Memorial Hospital with two elderly ladies. They were about forty, or maybe even forty-five. Anyway, I was wearing an overcoat with my hands in the pockets, and the coat collar was turned up against the cold. I was standing sideways, and my round collar was invisible to them. We punched in our floors and started-up. Suddenly, the elevator lurched, and the ladies fell into one another’s arms, and one of them cried out,“God help us!” My hands were already in the pockets of my coat. In a fit of inspiration, I pushed down hard, suddenly revealing my round collar, turned, looked into their startled faces and said, “He will!” I felt like Superman coming out of a phone booth. Powerful.

Bishop Spaugh taught me a number of useful things. He was a great proponent of cafeteria style preaching.  He said, “In the course of any sermon, I set out a number of entrees, key ideas that I think will help people, and then, I let them pick and choose what they want.” He went on to say that, some people would stay with him to the end of the line, but others would latch on to one of the first entrees, and be lost to him for the remainder of the sermon. “It is okay,” he said, “those people got what they needed.”

The text before us this morning can be read cafeteria style because it presents a number of entrees, key ideas worthy of considerable reflection. Continue reading

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The First Apostle: Mary Magdalene

John 20:1-18

This morning I want to talk to you about the first apostle.  Children sometimes ask me about the difference between an apostle and an epistle. It is easy to tell them apart. An apostle will not fit into an envelope. When Jesus wanted to send his very best, he did not just send an epistle, he sent an apostle. In fact he sent more than one.

When Jesus lived in Galilee, he appointed twelve apostles to be with him, and he sent them out to announce that the kingdom of God was at hand.  The kingdoms of Jerusalem and Rome rejected the kingdom of God, and killed the king,Jesus. But on the third day after his death, God raised him up in accordance with the scriptures. And Jesus showed himself alive to his apostles by many proofs, then he sent them out into the world to announce his victory over sin and death for all of us. Continue reading

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