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Sermon Journal

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June 2020


“Midwives and Baskets”

Jun. 14 | Exodus 1:15-2:10 | David A. Davis

Shiphrah and Puah. You ought to remember their names. If you have a list of people you would like to meet one day when we all gather on the Great Getting Up Morning, when the trumpet blasts, when the Roll is called up yonder, if you have a list of folks you would love to meet in the communion of saints, you ought to add Shiphrah and Puah. Two women who defied the king. Two women who didn’t speak truth to power, they lived it. Two women whose presence on the scared page reflects how the lineage of the people of God began with civil disobedience. Two women who found themselves in the thick of it, sought after by the powers of darkness, destruction, even evil, Recruited by the rulers of this world, by the principalities and the powers. Two women who feared and worshiped and lived for God more than they feared or followed or obeyed the king. Shiphrah and Puah, they “let the boys live”!…


“Singing When You Can’t Sing”

Jun. 7 | Psalm 98 | David A. Davis

The title for the sermon this morning is “Singing When You Can’t Sing”. “O sing to the Lord a new song.”  Singing when you can’t sing. When I submitted the title to the staff weeks ago I was thinking about what this virus, this pandemic, this distancing means for singing. You have likely read the same things I have about the significant concerns that will linger for some time about choral and congregational singing. “O sing to the Lord a new song” …when you can’t sing. But in these days, these last two weeks in our nation, the sermon title has a whole other connotation. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbury. Protests non-violent and violent. Peaceful prayer vigils, vandalism, looting.  City after city after city. Racial tension as high as it has ever been in most of our lifetimes. The bible being held up as the threat of military action in America’s city streets is proclaimed. How can you sing a new song to the Lord? How can you sing a song of praise when a song of lament is all you can muster? When a song of lament is more fitting? Come on preacher, pick a different psalm…


May 2020


“Your Sons And Daughters Shall Prophesy”

May 31 | Acts 2:1-18 | Mark Edwards and Nassau Youth

When my daughter was young, perhaps 5 or 6, and while she was still enamored with ballet, I took her to see The Nutcracker.  In the opening scenes she leaned over and asked, “Why are there no words?”  It is a great question. I don’t quite remember what I said at the time, but the answer I’ve come to is that words aren’t always necessary…


“Lead Us. Guide Us.”

May 24 | Galatians 5:16-25 | Lauren J. McFeaters

Freedom comes in many shapes and sizes.

There’s an old legend about how freedom comes first with great heartache and anguish and can then be found in grace. The legend is about Judas Iscariot. After his death, Judas found himself at the bottom of a deep and slimy pit.

For thousands of years he wept his repentance, and when the tears were finally spent, he looked up, and saw, far into the distance, a tiny glimmer of light…


“Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven 2.0”

May 17 | Matthew 5:10-11 | David A. Davis

The Church of the Beatitudes in the Holy Land sits on a high hill that rises up from the Sea of Galilee. It is more hill than mountain, though there are some towering mountains in the region. The setting of the Beatitudes, there in Galilee, marked by tradition, is stunningly beautiful. The church and surrounding gardens shine up there on a sunny day which, of course, is most days. The view from a boat out on the lake that is the Sea of Galilee is stunning. The church grounds are lush. The gardens full of color…


“By Whom?”

May 10 | Matthew 5:9 | David A. Davis

Many, many years ago Cathy and I found ourselves in a small comedy club while on vacation. It was small enough that there really weren’t any safe tables away from the eye of the comedian at the microphone on stage. At one point the comedian looked right at me and asked, “You sir, what do you do for a living?” Without missing a beat, I said I was a counselor. “What kind of counselor?” I responded with the complete falsehood that I was a school counselor. It was not my proudest moment but in my defense, it was the ethics of self-protection. There was no way I was going to tell someone getting paid to make fun of people that I was a pastor. On the other hand, probably around the same time in our lives, I visited our son Ben’s first grade class on one of those mornings where parents come in to tell about their work. I told the class that I was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church…


“Tasting Beauty, Seeing Mystery”

May 3 | Matthew 5:8 | David A. Davis

Cathy and I have been taking long walks on the weekends. We walk multiple times a day around our neighborhood with the dog. But on weekends we leave the dog home. The longer, faster walk has a different focus. The weekend walk is for exercise and the dog stops too often! On the Saturday before Easter we walked from our home to the church because we wanted to see the “Christ is Risen’ banner and the beautiful flower arrangement at the top of the church steps. We walked by way of Prospect Street, all the way from Lake Carnegie to the university campus. Now I have driven that route more times than I could ever count. Past the Wakefield home, the Gregory’s, the Feldman’s, the Katen-Narvels, the Schreibers, probably a few others. On that several mile walk that day, trying for a bit of pace, I learned something I never realized before. Going that direction from the lake to the university on Prospect Street is up hill! Never noticed it in the car! I noticed it on foot! A gradual, mile or so, uphill. A different focus changed what I could see…


April 2020


“I Desire Mercy”

Apr. 26 | Matthew 5:7 | David A. Davis

The call came in one the main number at the church. When we closed the church office weeks ago we placed a message on that number asking people to leave their message right there as staff members take turns checking that number every day. We have found that surprisingly few messages have been left. Some folks inquiring about ArmInArm. A few sales calls. And then a call came in not long ago from someone who lived just a few blocks from the church. The person that was unknown to us had a specific need. The explanation was a long-standing medical condition that required treatment at home which involved distilled water. Food and other supplies were being delivered but the water was needed much sooner. One staff member took the call. Passed it on to another staff member who responded. Water was delivered a few hours later with a second delivery happening a few days later from a member of our Nassau helper team…


“The Undressing”

Apr. 19 | John 20:19-22 | Lauren J. McFeaters

As we meet Jesus, he comes to stand among his friends on Easter night. He comes through bolted doors to stand among the ones who feel dead themselves; entombed in their own grief; buried in their own hell; interred with their lifeless dreams.

Jesus arrives. A tomb can’t keep him in. A bolted door can’t keep him out. He undresses. He reveals his damaged body: his injuries, his lacerations, where he was impaled, torn hands, shredded feet…


“Death to Life”

Apr. 12 | Luke 24:1-12 | David A. Davis

I remember one Easter when I was a child, I had to walk the last half mile or so to the church because our car was stuck on a hill at a stop sign and the roads were icy. That might have been the same Easter the choir mom spit in her hand and rubbed my hair in the back to calm my raging cowlick. I remember sitting in a crowded Easter service next to Cathy when we were seminarians and getting the giggles as an ant was crawling on the collar of the man in front of us and I couldn’t decide whether to ignore it, tell him, or just go ahead and swat if off without warning him. I remember the Easter when our daughter Hannah was very young and Cathy made matching Easter dresses for her and Hannah and a tie for me to match. I remember just last year when we were hosting Easter dinner for 22 people and our refrigerator stopped working on Saturday only to come back to life (temporarily) on Easter morning. What do you remember? …


“Maundy Thursday Sermon”

Apr. 9 | John 13:1-14 | Andrew Scales

The Gospel of John says that Jesus showed the fullness of God’s love at the Last Supper. Throughout the Christian tradition, the Church has typically imagined that the twelve disciples were the only guests at the table with Jesus. Think, for example, of Da Vinci’s famous Last Supper mural in Milan: twelve men gathered around Jesus at the center. A close reading of John, however, invites us into a fuller imagination of the Last Supper: who was around the table, and whose feet Jesus washed. Catholic New Testament scholar Raymond Brown observes that John never gives a complete description of who was at the meal. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that many more friends from Galilee were present. It could be that the women who went to the empty tomb on Easter morning were also there at this meal: Jesus’ mother Mary, Mary’s sister, Mary wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene. Still others, whose names we never learn from the Gospels, may have eaten with Jesus on the night before his arrest and crucifixion…


“When the Messiah Weeps”

Apr. 5 | Luke 19:29-41 | David A. Davis

 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” That’s what they shouted. The whole multitude of the disciples as Jesus road down the path from the Mount of Olives. “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” That is what they shout in Luke. They go and get the colt like Jesus told them to do. They bring the colt to Jesus. Some throw their coats on the colt that Jesus is about to get on. Others toss their coats on the road. They begin to “praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’”…


March 2020


“Belonging”

Mar. 29 | Luke 19:1-10 | David A. Davis

I was taking an early morning solitary walk with my dog one day this week on one of the back roads in my neighborhood. (Okay it was this morning. Thursday. The day of this recording!) Day was just breaking. The milky white sky was turning blue as the sun was rising. Not another soul in sight (which was good). Just me and our black lab, Rooney. Signs of spring were all around me. It was a beautiful morning and I found myself listening to the new day. All I could hear was Rooney’s claws on the street and the singing of the birds. The birds were singing a springtime symphony. I smiled to myself and thought about how the birds were so oblivious to the world’s plight. Maybe they were and maybe the weren’t. Maybe they were just determined to sing a song of creation despite the world’s plight. I smiled. I thought of all of you and the I started thinking about Zacchaeus again…


“Wholeness Fulfilled”

Mar. 22 | Luke 8:26-39 | David A. Davis

The discomfort pretty much comes as soon as Jesus steps out of the boat in Luke, chapter 8. The uneasiness that stirs in Luke’s reader. A sort of gnawing feeling as Jesus steps out on land and is immediately met by “a man of the city who had demons”.  The man who wore no clothes for a long time. The man who “did not live in a house but in the tombs.” The man who “was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles.” The man wouldn’t break the shackles and chains and be driven into the wilds. For Luke’s readers, for those draw into the gospel’s witness to the life of Jesus, for the church, for you and for me, a kind of knot in the stomach starts to churn as soon as Jesus steps out of the boat…


Prayer Service

Mar. 15 | Luke 7:36-50 | Nassau Staff

A brief prayer service brought to you by the staff of Nassau Presbyterian Church.


“From Oppression to Liberation”

Mar. 8 | Luke 4:16-30 | David A. Davis

Every parent of young children must go through it at some point:  watching the young friends at play. 2 or 3 years old, maybe 4, 5, 15, 20, 50. 70 for that matter. Who knows? The toys come out: balls, trucks, blocks, dolls, puzzles, anything at all. And a parent, every parent watches, waits, hopes, maybe prays. “Please, please, please…don’t make me have to say it. I hope I don’t have to say it this time. Let another parent have to say it today. Am I going to have to say it my child’s entire life? No, no, no, uh, uh…oh, not again…” Remember, Remember. Sweetie. You have to share!”  It starts so soon…


“From Hopelessness to Hope”

Mar. 1 | Luke 1:24-25 | David A. Davis

Our text in Luke for this first Sunday in Lent is found in chapter 1 with the familiar story of Elizabeth, Zechariah, and the birth of John the Baptist. The story is familiar because it is most often read in a congregation’s worship life in the season of Advent. These familiar verses that serve as the introduction of John the Baptist are woven into Luke’s expansive birth narrative and are therefore etched forever in the church’s Christmas tableau. In fact, just last Advent, the first Sunday of Advent, I preached Zechariah and Elizabeth. December 1st. Now March 1st. Lent I. Looking not to Bethlehem but to Golgotha. Elizabeth and Zechariah, again. When you take something intended for Christmas out of the box in March, and blow the dust off, it can look different. It can sound different…


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)


“Present”

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…