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Sermon Journal

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November 2020


“Anger and the Promises of God”

Nov. 15 | Psalm 69 | Andrew Scales

This week, we’re looking at a genre of psalms that are often described as “imprecatory” or “cursing” psalms. To put it briefly, these psalms include verses that call upon God to harm or destroy the singer’s enemies. It’s not an easy category of Scripture to wrestle with, but my hope is that we can explore together how entrusting our anger to God opens us up to the possibilities of transformation through God’s love…


“Feeling Small”

Nov. 8 | Psalm 147 | David A. Davis


“An Undivided Heart”

Nov. 1 | Psalm 86 | David A. Davis


October 2020


“Bless My Soul”

Oct. 25 | Psalm 103 | Mark Edwards

Today is Confirmation Sunday and we are so pleased to welcome eleven new youth into Christ’s church as members.  This service was originally planned for Pentecost, which took place on May 31.  On that day, amidst the fresh waves of grief and protest that were sweeping the nation because of the killing of George Floyd, I also preached, offering a prerecorded YouTube sermon on the coming of the Holy Spirit, the fact that sometimes there are no words, and the reality that the acts of the early Christians, gave witness to a new social reality called the church…


“Fools and the Refuge of God”

Oct. 18 | Psalm 14 | David A. Davis

“Fools say in their hearts, ‘there is no God.’” “Fools say in their hearts”.  “Fools”.  It is easier to distance yourself from someone when you call them a fool. It is a pretty easy way to turn people into “a them and not an us”. You call them fools. In the language of today, we might say that labeling someone a fool is means of “othering” them. You are not someone with a name and face, you are just a fool. Perhaps more than keeping them at arm’s length, calling someone a fool is a means to minimize their thought, their position, their politics, their actions, their destructiveness. Only a fool would say there is no God. That’s ridiculous. I would never say that. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). And I certainly thank you Lord that I am not like the fool who says there is no God…


“A Prayer for the Traveler”

Oct. 11 | Philippians 4:1-9 | Lauren J. McFeaters

If ever a church needs prayer, it’s the Church of the Philippians.

You see two church leaders, Euodia and Syntyche, are in crisis. Their friendship needs an intervention. We don’t know the substance of the quarrel between these two women, but whatever it is, it’s severe, harsh, and bitter…


“Hold Fast”

Oct. 4 | Philippians 3:1-16 | David A. Davis

At the conclusion of worship last week, after Michael finished the postlude and the livestream broadcast was finished, the few of us in the room started to work to rearrange the chancel for the livestream interview with Jim McCloskey that was to begin in just a few minutes. It is very odd for me to not walk down the aisle after the benediction and head to the front door and wait for you to come out. So I went to the office, dropped off my robe, and came right back in here. At that point one of the five people in the sanctuary said something to me that I have heard over and over and over at the church door through the years. “Dave, it felt like you were preaching just to me this morning!” Now, usually when I someone says that they are referring to something in the content of the sermon that touched their heart or was spot on timely for their soul. My response is usually to say something about the work of the Holy Spirit. Of course, last Sunday, it was said more in a joking way. It allowed all of us to sigh a bit about the strange experience of being the only few in the room. The pews are empty but I don’t need the cut out photographs or virtual screen shots of faces like they are using at sporting events. I see you faces because I know where you sit in here! …


September 2020


“Singing the Hymn in Your Heart”

Sep. 27 | Philippians 2:1-13 | David A. Davis

The opening hymn on our first Sunday of livestream worship a few weeks ago was “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!” We had four people here in the sanctuary that morning but only Marissa was singing the hymn. Michael was playing. Lauren and I were standing, with our masks on, singing in our head. You couldn’t tell that because Marissa had a microphone and Nick in the sound room turns our lapel mics off. But to be safe and follow protocol, we were only singing in our head. During the hymn I realized that it wasn’t the first time I sang “Holy Holy Holy” in my head. I can’t be the only one who every now and then finds themselves singing a hymn just in the head. Sure, sometimes singing out loud to oneself, humming to oneself. But sometimes just in your head. Like watching a sunrise and not wanting even your own voice to spoil the beauty. “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.” Just in your head…


“When The Grumblers Are Too Loud”

Sep. 20 | Matthew 20:1-16 | David A. Davis

 When it comes to “grumbling” in the gospels, as in “they grumbled against the landowner”, when it comes to “grumbling”, it is surprising how little “grumbling” there is in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I am referring specifically to the word “grumble” and its variations in the Greek New Testament. Now, as I learned to say in sermons from this pulpit about 19 years, 11 months and three weeks ago, “If I did my biblical homework correctly”. The first time I preached on an Old Testament passage at Nassau Church I had an out of body experience while preaching and counted five Old Testament professors sitting out there in these pews. It is pretty much the same this morning with the New Testament scholars joining us in worship. That includes one who I am pretty sure read along with me in the Gospel of Matthew from the Greek New Testament while sitting there on the couch. So…. if I did my homework correctly, there is just not as much “grumbling in the gospels” as one would think…


“Living Beyond Ourselves”

Sep. 13 | Romans 14:1-13 | David A. Davis

Diary of a Pastor’s Soul is the title of Craig Barnes’ new book that was just published in the last few months. Before becoming president of Princeton Seminary, he spent a lifetime as a pastor in ministry in several congregations around the country. For weeks, maybe for months in this pandemic, I had trouble clearing my head in the evening and reading for pleasure. Diary of a Pastor’s Soul just sat on my desk for too. President Barnes had gracious sent me a copy of the book but I just wasn’t doing any reading. As it turned out, Dr. Barnes book is what helped get me beyond my reader’s block. Actually, it was the first sentence of the first chapter. When I read it, I knew the author was looking into the pastor’s soul, into my soul. Taking the form of a diary, the book is written in the first person of a pastor’s voice.


“Joy In Hard Times”

Sep. 6 | I Thessalonians 1:1-10 | Andrew Scales

(Video only)


August 2020


“Following on Holy Ground”

Aug. 30 | Exodus 3:1-15 | Len Scales

(Video only)


“Table for Five…Thousand”

Aug. 23 | John 6:1-13 | Chancel Drama

(Video only)


“I Know The Plans”

Aug. 16 | Jeremiah 29:10-14 | David A. Davis

From the prophet Jeremiah: “For thus says the Lord…. For surely I know the plans I have for you….plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” For surely I know the plans. I know the plans.” And every child of God at some point in life responds “Really?” I know the plans.  And every child of God this summer asks, “Would you mind sharing them? That would be really helpful right now!” “I know the plans”.  “Well I certainly hope so, because this current plan? It’s not working so well!” “I know the plans.” It was much easier when that verse was a home-made needle point framed and on the wall over your Aunt Stella’s kitchen table. It made more sense when the youth pastor back in the day handed little magnets with the verse printed on it to you and each high school senior that last night of youth group in the spring. It was so much simpler back before a whole lot of real life rose up sometime in your life and sort of smacked you in the face. “I know the plans” “Seriously God? So how about a plan B.”…


“Craving Generosity”

Aug. 9 | Romans 10:5-13 | David A. Davis

The Presbyterian Church (USA) lost an important voice last week. Steve Montgomery, the recently retired pastor of the Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee died in a bicycle accident. He went to serve Idlewild the same year I came to Nassau. I didn’t know him but certainly knew of him and the importance of his witness. He was also an important voice in Memphis. He was still writing his column in the local paper there in the city. His last article just a few weeks ago was tribute to the civil rights icon C.T. Vivian who died on the same day as Congressmen John Lewis. When he retired, the paper asked him to write a column reflecting on his years of ministry in the church. He wrote about the 12 things he had learned in ministry over the years. The first lesson was that Jesus never used the word tolerate. It was love your neighbor, not tolerate. One of the twelve was a reminder that doctrines and creeds can be bad religion if you deify them. They are meant to be signposts, the pastor wrote, not hitching posts. As he put it, “Doctrines, you member, supported slavery and apartheid and some still support the marginalization of women and members of the LGTBQ community”…


“Nothing Bashful”

Aug. 2 | Ephesians 3:14-21 | Lauren J. McFeaters

(Video only)


July 2020


“Gift”

Jul. 26 | Ephesians 4:1-13 | Lauren J. McFeaters

Eric Hobsbawm grew up as a Jewish orphan in Berlin and when he was 15 years old, he saw at a newsstand a headline that would change his life and would change the world:  “Adolph Hitler Appointed Chancellor of Germany.

Later in his life, Hobsbawm reflected on that moment and said,
It was as if we were all on the Titanic
and everyone knew it was going to hit the iceberg.”
It was difficult, he said, to describe what it meant to live in a world that was simply
not expected to last.
It was like living between a dead past
and a future not yet born.
We learned in those years about God’s call upon us.
God’s call upon us was not to stay silent
or slink into oblivion


“Comfort Food”

Jul. 19 | Romans 8:18-39 | David A. Davis

Romans 8:18-39. A familiar passage. Perhaps better said, a passage with lots of familiar verses. Verses that pop in the church’s ear when someone stands up to read parts of Romans 8. “For in hope we were saved….hope that is seen is not hope….the Spirit helps in our weakness….all things work together for good for those who love God…those whom God predestined, God also called, and those whom God called God also justified; and those whom God justified God also glorified…. God who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all us, will God not with him also give us everything else…..we are more than conquerors…neither death nor life….nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Yes, lots of verses. I am sure some of them, maybe all of them, struck you. Sounded a familiar tune. Landed like a favorite line from a song, a hymn, a poem. Here’s the one I kept coming back to this week as I sat with Romans 8. “The sufferings of this present time…The sufferings of this present time”


“The Inheritance”

Jul. 12 | Ephesians 1:3-14 | Lauren J. McFeaters

Blessing and adoption,
forgiveness and good pleasure,
mystery and will,
wisdom and insight,
fullness and time,
inheritance and redemption,
counsel and glory.
If the writer of the letter to the Ephesians wanted to confound us as to where to enter this text they’ve done a fine job…


“Imagining Hope”

Jul. 5 | Isaiah 55:1-18 | Andrew Scales

About a month ago, Princeton Presbyterians, the campus ministry that Len and I serve as chaplains, hosted our annual Reunions event. In past years, we’ve had a breakfast open house in Nassau’s Conference Room, and it’s always been so much fun to catch up with alums, and to celebrate our new graduates with their families…


June 2020


“A Cup of Cold Water”

Jun. 28 | Matthew 10:40-42 | Len Scales

Andrew and I purchased this small sign in Scotland several years ago. We were leading a joint trip with our congregations from North Carolina. Hopewell Presbyterian, the congregation I served, was and I imagine still is really into it’s Scottish heritage. They are one of the seven pre-revolutionary congregations in the Charlotte Presbytery, and celebrated 250 years of ministry while I was there. The main entrance to the church has this same Gaelic saying engraved over the walkway. It means “A hundred thousand welcomes.”…


“In My Hands”

Jun. 21 | Jeremiah 18:1-12 | David A. Davis

The potter and the clay. As in “have thine own way Lord! Have thine own way! Thou art the Potter; I am the clay.” I imagine I am not the only one who finds that hymn etched deep within. The potter and the clay. “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter; we are the work of your hand.” That’s not a hymn text. That’s the prophet Isaiah; chapter 64 and verse 8. The potter and the clay. It is an old, not uncommon biblical image. In the ninth chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul is working on his argument about election, covenant theology, and God’s relationship with the people of Israel. He pulls out the one about the potter and the clay…


“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…