Sermon Journal

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February 2020

“Whose Righteousness?”

Feb. 23 | Matthew 5:6 | David A. Davis

It would be so much easier if Jesus would have said “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for their own righteousness.” If the righteousness Jesus was talking about was more about one’s devotional life, or prayer time. A qualitative assessment of one’s spiritual journey. If by “righteousness” Jesus intended to refer to a quality of religiousness, a kind of holiness. If with this one line Jesus was attempting to point to that great aunt of yours who always knew scripture and kept her prayer list in her bible and radiated a certain God-centeredness. If “righteousness” is all about “right relationship”, “just you and me God”, then this particular beatitude would be a whole lot easier…

“The Invisible”

Feb. 16 | Matthew 5:5 | David A. Davis

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” A few translations opt for “Blessed are the gentle”. One translation I came upon this week had “Blessed are the humble.” The word for meek in Greek can be translated “humble, gentle, considerate”.  It is here in the gospel of Matthew, the 11th chapter, that Jesus offers the words never t be forgotten, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (11:28-30) Gentle and humble in heart. Gentle, the same word in Greek for meek. Matthew’s record of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, his telling of the Palm Sunday scene is the only gospel that includes this quote from the Hebrew prophet Zechariah: “Tell the daughter of Zion, look, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, and on a cold, the foal of donkey”. (Zech 9:9) Humble. In Matthew that’s the same word as meek…

“When the Bible Sounds Different”

Feb. 9 | Matthew 5:4 | David A. Davis

I had been a pastor for all of two weeks when the call came. A church member had taken ill and died while on a July vacation in New England. He was in his 80’s. He was the president of the Board of Trustees. No one referred to him as a saint of the church, he was too gruff for that. He had been a member of the church for more than fifty years. The first time I met his wife just about two weeks earlier, she told me she had the longest membership in the congregation. I guessed then it was about 138 years. They lived two blocks from the church. Yes, it was my first funeral. I then had six funerals in the next two months; all of them were church members. All of them were buried in the church cemetery followed by a potluck reception in the fellowship hall. The cemetery was the back yard to the manse where we lived right next to the church. The cemetery was where our kids learned at a very young age to dribble a soccer ball around the tomb stones. The potluck lunch each time included jello salads, tea sandwiches (most of them on white bread with the crust cut off), baked ham, macaroni and cheese, and Mame’s iced tea and a selection of Alma’s pies. No one else dare make the pie or the iced tea. I was 24 years old. That summer I began to learn about Matthew 5:4; the second beatitude…

“A Heart for the Broken”

Feb. 2 | Matthew 4:23-5:3 | David A. Davis

Before Jesus went up the mountain, before he gathered the disciples in a bit closer, before he sat down as a rabbi, as a teacher, in a Moses-like fashion of giving out the ways of God, before Jesus launched into the Beatitudes, “Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people….They brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them.” The gospel writer seems to be telling us they brought it all to him. They brought all there was that tore at the fabric of humanity’s health and well-being; all there was that defined human suffering. From Galilee, Syria, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. The crowds came from every direction. They came from everywhere. Humanity was surrounding Jesus and they brought with them more than enough evidence of their suffering in body and in soul…

January 2020

“Fishing in the Dark”

Jan. 26 | Matthew 4:12-23 | Cynthia Jarvis

While Matthew had messianic geography in mind when he prefaced the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with his own translation of Isaiah’s ninth chapter, on this third Sunday after Epiphany I am thinking about those who were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death when Jesus began his ministry. In particular, I imagine Peter and Andrew literally sitting in dark all night long, casting nets from the shore. I imagine James and John and Zebedee in the middle of the night and the sea, dragging and then hauling nets up into their boats, six, seven, eight times between dusk and dawn. But I also I imagine these fishermen sitting in the shadow of death that was, according to First Isaiah, the Assyrian Empire, before it was the Babylonian Empire, before it was Rome. I imagine these men who resided in the region of death paying tithes, taxes, tolls, rents, and tribute to benefit Herod Antipas with little left for their families to live on. Fishing in the dark….

“Revealing God’s Love”

Jan. 19 | Psalm 40 | David A. Davis

Here in Psalm 40, the psalmist echoes the teaching, the wisdom of Psalm 1. “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path that sinners tread or sit in the seat of scoffers.” (Ps 1) “Happy are those who make the Lord their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods.” (Ps 40). Here in Psalm 40, the psalmist sounds something like the prophet Amos. “Sacrifice and offering you do not desire but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required”(Ps 40). “I hate I despise your festivals and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies/ Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.” (Amos 5)

“The Dividends of an Undivided Life”

Jan. 12 | Matthew 5:8 | Touré Marshall

(Audio Only)


Jan. 5 | Matthew 2:1-12 | Lauren J. McFeaters

In some ways it’s not fair.

It’s not fair for the Wise Men to arrive early.

It’s not fair for them to arrive on Christmas Eve. The Wise Men travel farther than anyone, so when they finally arrive on the scene, scripture tells us they completely miss the angels and shepherds, the straw and manger…

December 2019

“Salvation Dawns”

Dec. 29 | Luke 2:22-32 | Lauren J. McFeaters

Salvation dawns at the darnest times.

Thirty-five years ago I was standing in the Laughlin Funeral Home on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania. I was trying to look grown-up; trying to look, at 23 years old, that I was handling my grief; trying to be calm by talking in hushed tones with family and friends; trying not to faint at the considerable scent of roses…

“Sensing Holiness”

Dec. 15 | Luke 1:39-45 | David A. Davis

The tendency is to rush to the song. The song usually overwhelms the reading, dominates the scene, steals the show. Like the signature song of the Broadway play. Or the familiar hymn tune that finally comes in the Bach chorale in the cantata. Or when Billy Joel plays “Piano Man” at the concert. In the faith tradition, it’s the song that gets all the attention. Mary’s Song. The Magnificat. The tradition and the preaching and even more than a bit of the scholarship rush in Luke to the song. John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb as the tradition so easily leaps from “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”  to “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

“Promise and Call”

Dec. 8 | Luke 1:26-38 | David A. Davis

Listen to what the angel Gabriel says to Mary. Listen as if you are hearing one side of a phone conversation. Gabriel to Mary without Mary’s responses; without the narrators comments. “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you… Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end….The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, you relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”


Dec. 1 | Luke 1:5-20 | David A. Davis

Zechariah. Zechariah. Zechariah. Poor old Zechariah. The angel Gabriel was pretty hard on Zechariah. “How will I know that this is so?” That’s all he asked. Just a little later in Luke, pretty much right after this Mary asks a similar question. “How will I know that this is so?”, Mary responded to Gabriel “How can this be? “How will I know that this is so?” Doesn’t sound all that different. Zechariah asks, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” And Gabriel takes his voice away because Zechariah did not believe the angel’s words. “I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words….” Because of that one question, Zechariah is speechless. Zechariah. Zechariah. Zechariah…

November 2019

“Tender Mercy”

Nov. 24 | Luke 1:67-79 | Len Scales

Zechariah, a priest, did not even believe God’s promise that his wife Elizabeth would bear a child in her old age. After a terrifying encounter with the angel Gabriel, Zechariah goes home unable to speak because of his disbelief. While Elizabeth’s belly grew, so did Zechariah’s trust in God.

The Priest came to see that even God’s promises that seem beyond reach are true.

When Zechariah’s son was born, Elizabeth declared his name to be John. Zechariah regains his speech and one of his first vocal acts is to break out in prophetic song. Like Mary, Jesus’ mother-to-be, Zechariah sings of God’s faithfulness that turns the world upside down, of righting wrongs. Zechariah too sings of peace…

“Guarding Good Treasure”

Nov. 17 | II Timothy 1:1-14 | David A. Davis

When a seminary graduate lands in parish ministry in a particular congregation somewhere, someplace, sometime, it can be like being dropped into a whole other world. A part of the country you’ve never lived. A congregation very different from the one that nurtured you. And theological landscape light years away from the context of a seminary campus. I grew up in a church of 2,500 members in Pittsburgh. I went to serve as a solo pastor for a congregation of 110 members in South Jersey. Down where they think Trenton is North Jersey. I was there before we were married. The whole congregation threw Cathy and me a surprise wedding shower after worship on Sunday. The women gifted Cathy with kitchen stuff. The men brought me tools; not all of them new. It was lovely. I started on July 1st. We were invited to a picnic on a rainy 4th of July. It didn’t stop the picnic. We just all circled up in the two-car garage separate from the house. I’ve never seen a garage as clean; before or since. You could have eaten off the concrete floor…

“Courage For Something New”

Nov. 10 | Haggai 2:1-9 | Andrew Scales

Seven years ago, I traveled to El Salvador as the Presbyterian campus minister with a group of students from Davidson College during spring break. We spent part of the week at a rural community near the Lempa River called Nueva Esperanza, “New Hope.” On our first day there, we gathered in the open-air pavilion at the center of town, near the local parish church. Sharing a meal of pupusas and slaw, we listened to a Catholic nun named Sister Noémi and some of the townspeople tell their story…

“Each and Every Stage”

Nov. 3 | Exodus 40:34-38 | David A. Davis

“For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and the fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.” Each stage of their journey. As we conclude our reading, study, and preaching on the Book of Exodus this morning, I would like to invite you to ponder with me the promise and presence of God at each stage of the journey. Each and every stage…

October 2019

“Not Without You”

Oct. 27 | Exodus 33:12-23 | David A. Davis

Last week we left Moses and the whole congregation of the people if Israel at Mt Sinai. God had spoken the Ten Commandments. The people stood at a distance as they had been told. Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. Moses went further up the mountain. What follows in Exodus is more laws, more instruction about the Covenant…

“Do Not Let God Speak To Us”

Oct. 20 | Exodus 20:1-21| David A. Davis

“Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of God upon you so that you do not sin.’” Do not be afraid: God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning. Do not be afraid; God has come to test you so that the fear of God, always in your mind may keep you from sinning. Do not be afraid God just wants to put the fear of God into you. Do not be afraid just fear God. Do not fear but fear. “You speak to us, and we will listen, but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” It was more than the thunder and the lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking that scared the people of Israel…

“Wilderness Formation”

Oct. 13| Exodus 16:1-3| David A. Davis

Wilderness. A desert place. Wilderness. Desert. In that ancient part of the world, not lush but arid. Windswept. A desert place. A deserted desert place. An isolated, isolating, lonely place. Wilderness. Not inhabited. Not easily inhabited. A desert place then. A desert place now. Desert. Wilderness…

“The Plague of Pharoah”

Oct. 6| Exodus 5:1-22| David A. Davis

This Sunday, and for the next month of Sundays or so, we will be turning together to the Book of Exodus. The Book of Exodus will be our focus here in our shared preaching life, and in the Adult Education hour with Drs. Lapsley and Stewart, and in a portion of our fall small groups as well. “Wilderness Formation” is our theme: the formation of God, God’s people, and the relationship of God to God’s people in the wilderness as told in the Book of Exodus.

The Book of Exodus begins after the death of Joseph and with a new king coming to power in Egypt. Joseph, the “dreamer son” of Jacob had risen to a position of power and authority in Egypt sharing wisdom and advice with Pharaoh when a season of drought was tormenting the land. But Joseph had died and a new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.

September 2019

“The Life That Really Is Life”

Sep. 29 | I Timothy 6:6-19 | Mark Edwards with Adults & Youth Summer Trip Participants

(Audio Only)

“The Shrewdness of Servanthood”

Sep. 22 | Luke 16 : 1–13 | David A. Davis

“His master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.” That’s where the parable ends. Jesus keeps talking to the disciples. He keeps on going. Luke’s Jesus keeps teaching but the parable proper, the story ends with “His master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.”

“Salvation Arrogance”

Sep. 15 | I Timothy 1:12-17 | David A. Davis

Biblical scholars categorize I Timothy as one of the “pastoral epistles”. I and II Timothy and Titus. The label points to the content of the letters which focuses on authority, leadership, worship, and life together in the community of faith. Biblical scholars, not all but probably most, also argue convincingly that these pastoral letters were most likely not written by the Apostle Paul himself but by a devoted follower of Paul invoking his authority, his honor, his name while continuing to shape the earliest practices and traditions of the early church. It was a common practice in antiquity in the church and beyond…

“When The Crowd Shrinks”

Sep. 8 | Luke 14:25–33 | David A. Davis

I never realized until this week how often the gospels talk about the crowd. I never stopped to think how often the gospels refer to those gathered around to hear and to see Jesus as a “crowd”. Click on some bible software and do a word search on “crowd” and a really long list of references pops up on the screen. I didn’t check but probably about as many as if you typed in “Jesus”. Our reading today is from the gospel of Luke. Luke is full of “the crowd”…

“Dear Rev. Manners”

Sep. 1 | Luke 14:1–6 | Lauren J. McFeaters

(Audio Only)

August 2019

“Those Tears”

Aug. 25 | Luke 7:36–50 | Lauren J. McFeaters

(Audio Only)