Why Organized Religion?
Because our faith exists within the world, we join with others and become a community, an organization, an institution within the world. We are more than a collection of individuals who seek interaction with God on a personal level; we are a people, a community, organized to worship, serve, learn and grow together. We are an organization. We are an institution – what Peter calls “a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” Rev. D.r Larry Hayward preaches on the twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Acts 1:12-17, 21-26, and is read by Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy.
Why Ask Why?
Rev. Patrick Hunnicutt preaches on the twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Luke 17:5-10, and is read by Rev. Jacob Bolton.
I want to ask today why a local church would engage in ministries that seek to improve or change society as a whole or ministries that focus on people who lie beyond the congregation’s membership: people who have spiritual or physical needs, people who may live anywhere in the world, and people who may or may not profess Christian faith. In other words, why does the church give time and attention to people beyond its members? Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is 1 Corinthians 11:17-29, 33-34, and is read by the Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy.
Our primary forebear, John Calvin, opened his massive theological treatise on what Protestants believe – Institutes of the Christian Religion – with these words: “Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God;” followed by, “Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.” When we learn of the world through all its systems of knowledge, we learn of self and we learn of God; when we learn of God, through liturgy, music, preaching, and teaching, we learn of God and we learn of self. Calvin’s purpose was to show “how [the knowledge of self and the knowledge of God] are interrelated,” we might say “inextricably intertwined.” Our theology and liturgy encompass what we know and experience in the world, in its created beauty and its fallen sadness. Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is 2 Timothy 4:9-13, and is read by the Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy.
It struck me that as we kick off our program year this fall, I want to build on sermons I preached last fall – which could be labelled “The Restatement of the Obvious.” I hope that while I will be “restating the obvious,” I will restate it in ways that remind us who we are and why we are here in this congregation of God’s people. I want to begin with “Why Worship?” Why attend church, Sunday morning, nearly every week? Why sing hymns, listen to anthems, speak to God to confess our sins, reflect on our lives, ask God’s forgiveness or help or intervention or comfort or understanding? Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28.
When We Disagree
We have been focused on the Book of Acts this summer, in which its author Luke traces events and developments in the earliest decades of the church, first under the leadership of Peter, then of Paul. These early Christians and their leaders take the hope and idealism that came out of the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit they had received at Pentecost and lead the Christian movement from its roots in Judaism and Jerusalem into the Greco-Roman world culturally, religiously, geographically. For the last sermon in the series, I want us to follow as a disagreement arises between Paul and other leaders in the church, concerning whether, in light of the impending threat to his life, Paul should go to Jerusalem. I ask you to pay particular attention to the role of the Holy Spirit in what on the surface appears to be a dispute over where next to travel. Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Acts 21:1-6.
The Sons of Sceva Scurry
In presenting the story of seven sons of Sceva scurrying from an evil spirit, Luke helps us approach the power of evil with some welcome but dark humor. It is neither Paul, nor the Word of God, nor the Holy Spirit that drives out evil. In this story, it is evil defeating evil that allows the good to prevail. Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Acts 19:11-20.
Your Time Has Come
The Rev. Jacob Bolton preaches on the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, as the candidate for Associate Pastor for Christian Formation. He will join the staff of Westminster in early October. The Scripture lesson is John 2:1-11.
Innumerable Grains of Sand
Rev. Whitney K. Fauntleroy preaches on the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is selected verses from Hebrews 11.
The Relentless Return
In what may seem like the crevices of our scripture, we find a painstakingly beautiful reminder of God's love for us. Hosea shows us a God who has inner turmoil about whether God should exercise wrath or grace on their creation. We are reminded to what ends God will go to call us home, and of the lavish manner in which God chooses to love us. Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy preaches on the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The scripture lesson is Hosea 11:1-11, and is read by Rev. Patrick Hunnicutt.
Today we discover a gift for us, through the rather uncompromising stance of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church he helped found in Galatia. That gift is freedom. We will probe what it means to be free in Christ and to see how this freedom binds us in the direction of love for others and for God. Rev. Patrick Hunnicutt preaches on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is is Galatians 5:1-6, 13-14.
When Compromise Enhances
As many words formerly considered off limits in our culture have gained general acceptance or at least have lost their ability to shock, another word which once enjoyed a respectable reputation has become a word of off-limits: compromise. A compromise is something that we promise together, as representatives of two or more groups who have been in discussion, dissension, disagreement, debate and yet have managed to come to some form of resolution and to a promise into which each is willing to enter. Compromise. “A promise together.” Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is selected verses from Acts 15:1-31, and is read by Nancy Griswold.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Faith
One of the best known short stories of Raymond Carver is entitled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” What I propose is that “what we talk about when we talk about faith” sometimes needs to be “how can we talk about faith” at all because we so rarely do; and when we do, no matter how many sermons we have heard, no matter how many hymns we have sung, no matter how many classes in Old and New Testament we have taken, we don’t really know how to talk about our faith. We are not even sure that we should. Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on the fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Acts 14:8-18, and is read by Rev. Patrick Hunnicutt.
When Christians Hold Power
In today’s sermon, three days after we have celebrated the signing of the Declaration of Independence and hence the birth of our nation 233 years ago, around the idea – the idea, not race or soil – that all people are created equal, I want us to look at one scene in in which early Christians –in this case Paul and Barnabas – come into contact with a person who holds considerable political power in the Roman hierarchy of rulers. Looking at this story, I want us to consider what can happen when Christians live and work or at least come in contact with people who hold genuine political power. Larry R. Hayward preaches on the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Acts 13:1-12.
When God Isn't Finished
We are in the midst of a sermon series on the Book of Acts, a book which recounts in dramatic fashion the story of the early Christians who – armed with the good news of the resurrection and commissioned by Christ at his ascension to carry that good news to all people and nations – are about the business of taking the spiritual force, the humanitarian idealism, the promise of ultimate redemption found in Jesus and translating it into the world of facts and fancies, kings and empires, families and fortunes, gained and lost. Jesus started a movement; and beginning in Acts, the church translates that movement into a religion, an institution, a global community “in the world” but not “of the world.” In doing so, early Christians had a continual need for deliverance, a need often met by intervention on the part of God. Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Acts 12:1-19, and is read by Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy.
When Change Is Rooted in Continuity
We often assume that major times we experience the presence of God or make a deeper commitment to our faith involve a break with the past, more change than continuity. But while the direction of Paul’s life – and the focus of his deeply held service to God – takes a 180 degree turn on the road to Damascus, it is rooted in the faith and life, the language and literature, the vocabulary and vernacular that had shaped and formed him in his upbringing in Judaism. Rev. Larry R. Hayward preaches on the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Acts 9:1-20, and is read by Lauren Beyea, chair of the Worship and Music Committee.
Reflections on Mom: In Life and Death
"I want to preach today on the recent death of my own mother, Carolyn Hayward, 22 days ago in her 87th year. Now I do so aware that such a sermon is fraught with potential pitfalls, not the least of which is that it can become more about the preacher than the good news to which the preacher is called to bear witness. I seek to walk through this sermon in the midst of you whom I love, and whose love I have received since I first stood in this pulpit 15 years ago." Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on Trinity Sunday. The Scripture lesson is Luke 2:36-38, read by Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy.
It is Pentecost. While this morning you will not hear about the tongues of fire and the chaotic cacophony of that first Pentecost, rest assured that the Spirit moves. Whitney Fauntleroy preaches on Pentecost Sunday. The Scripture lesson is Romans 8:14-17.
This Passage is No Picnic
Welcome to this "Picnic Sunday," the closest that Westminster gets to "casual Friday." But in the midst of all the woundedness in the world, how DO we have a picnic? Perhaps the ultimate point to be made in all of this is: in light of such loss and hardship that is out there and also with us here, you do not cancel the picnics. Jesus, after all, in the face of his people's despair, began his ministry at a wedding. Patrick Hunnicutt preaches on the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The Scripture lesson is Acts 16:16-34.
Gamaliel was a Pharisee: one of the foils of the gospel, the misguided bad guys who always got it wrong because they insisted on others getting it right. But in Acts, Gamaliel stands out as a person worthy of respect, and full of wisdom. Patrick Hunnicutt preaches on Acts 5:27-40.
Who Am I That I Could Hinder God?
The history of the church that chooses to divide and conquer with our privileges and preferences is long--it is indeed very long. This "us and them" mentality is seemingly so innate to our faith, we don't pause like Peter enough to ask, "Who am I that I should hinder God?" Whitney Fauntleroy preaches on the Fifth Sunday of Easter and Confirmation Sunday. The Scripture lesson is Acts 11:1-18.
Throughout the literature of the Bible, there is a link between the power of the voice and the omnipresent image of Shepherd. As a preacher, anytime I speak of “hearing the voice of God” or “Christ speaking to us” I know that a number of people will assume and hope that I am speaking symbolically; a number will look down at their bulletins in awkward silence; and a number will say to themselves “God has spoken to me, but if I say anything about it, people might avoid me.” Wherever you fall among these numbers, please stay with me. Larry Hayward preaches on the Fourth Sunday of Easter. The Scripture lesson is John 10:22-30.
Now That I Can Dance
Three times, Jesus asks Simon Peter, "do you love me?" And three times, Peter answers correctly. But like the church that Peter would come to represent, Peter did not always do so well with questions--especially when his own life was in jeopardy.
Patrick Hunnicutt preaches from John 21:15-19.
The Story We Don't Tell Enough
There is an aspect of the resurrection of Christ that we don’t talk about often, an aspect that is part of a larger story we don’t tell enough. This aspect is the redemption not just of our own lives as individuals, but the redemption of the whole of the created order. Just as there is a “life to come” for individuals, so also there is a “life to come” for all of creation.
Larry Hayward preaches from Revelation 1:4-8.
The Empty Tomb
Perhaps the most important words the men in dazzling clothes speak to the women may not be, ironically, “He is risen.” Rather, the most important words may be “Remember…remember how he told you.” The reason these words are so important is that they are instructive. They chart the way the women come to trust the message that Christ is risen – and as such they form a way we can come to such trust as well.
Larry Hayward preaches on Easter Sunday from Luke 24:1-12.
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