Subscribe to the sermon podcast on iTunes.
It is the last Sunday of 2020. What a year. At least for many of us. I won’t insult the many who have experienced far worse, far more frequently, by calling this, as Time magazine did, “the worst year ever.” But it has thrown many challenges at many people, many of whom have lived otherwise quite protected lives. More sadly it has thrown many challenges to many people who already face far too many challenges. 2020…
Dec. 20 | Luke 1:26-38 | Lauren J. McFeaters
In the last two weeks, we’ve had the extraordinary blessing to watch Jason Oosting bring us into the Annunciation through the history of Christian Art, and Roz Anderson Flood to carry us into the Annunciation, through works of Advent poetry. Roz shared this poem, “Annunciation,” by Denise Levertov…
Dec. 13 | John 1:6-9, 19-28 | David A. Davis
If you are keeping score at home, if you are remembering last week’s text and sermon, if you are saying to yourself, “John the Baptist again?”, you would be right and the answer is yes. Last week it was John the Baptist in Mark. This week it is the Baptist in John. Like Mark, John’s gospel doesn’t give an account of the birth of the Child Jesus. John begins with the beautiful poetry of what the tradition labels “The Prologue to John”. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” …
Dec. 6 | Mark 1:1-8 | David A. Davis
My first Christmas Eve as an ordained pastor leading worship with children was sort of a disaster. I brought a rocking chair from our house and placed it there in front of the church. I had visions of all the children sitting around my feet while I read the story from the gospel of Luke. I just knew I would have them in the palm of my hand and the congregation would all be saying, “Oh, how cute! Isn’t our new pastor wonderful?” I didn’t get much past “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host” before total chaos broke out around my feet. Kids crawling everywhere. Shouting things out. Not paying attention to a word I had to say, Probably a wrestling match or two as well. In hindsight, the only positive was that I didn’t rock on a child’s fingers. So in the years that followed I tried to step up my Christmas Eve “time with children” game…
Nov. 29 | I Corinthians 1:3–9 | David A. Davis
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by God you were called into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It’s how the Apostle Paul begins the letter to the church at Corinth. Just after the formality of the greeting in the first two verses…
Nov. 22 | Psalm 82 | Len Scales
As we conclude our series in the Psalms this week, Psalm 82 does so with imagery that can be surprising alongside the laments and songs of praise from the community that are familiar in the Psalter.
In this Psalm, we encounter a courtroom scene where God is bearing judgment on a mythical realm of gods. The weak, the orphan, the lowly, the destitute, and the needy have not been cared for, and so God delivers them. The mythical realm is cast down as mere mortals, and the Living God reigns to bring justice…
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…
Nov. 8 | Psalm 147 | David A. Davis
“It’s like the grand finale in a symphony of praise.” That’s how the members of my Wednesday small group described the last five psalms in the psalter. Along with several other Nassau virtual small groups we have been meeting each week to study and pray with the psalm that is the text for Sunday’s sermon. Psalm 145 to Psalm 150 is the psalter’s exclamation point that reverberates with so much adoration to the Lord that it creates an echo of never-ending praise. Or to use the title of a Richard Smallwood anthem/gospel classic: “Total Praise.” The psalm for this morning is tucked right in the middle of total, cosmic, divine praise…
Nov. 1 | Psalm 86 | David A. Davis
If there is a refrain to take with you from our fall immersion in the Book of Psalms, a phrase of the psalmist to save to your heart file, a description of God to add your prayer language, it ought to be “steadfast love and faithfulness”. As here in Psalm 86, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” “The steadfast love and faithfulness” of God. The words, the formula, seem to rest at the very core of the psalmist’s experience of God. Not just the psalmist for that matter, but for the people of Israel and their relationship of God as witnessed in the pages of the Old Testament…
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…
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…
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…
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! …
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…
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…
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.
Sep. 6 | I Thessalonians 1:1-10 | Andrew Scales
Aug. 30 | Exodus 3:1-15 | Len Scales
Aug. 23 | John 6:1-13 | Chancel Drama
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.”…
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”…
Aug. 2 | Ephesians 3:14-21 | Lauren J. McFeaters
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…
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”…