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Sermon Journal

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September 2020


“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…


“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…