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First Congregational

United Church of Christ

... exploring the frontiers of faith in Jesus

Recent sermons

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Sermons 2016 | Sermons 2015 | Sermons 2014 | Sermons 2013 | Sermons 2012 | Sermons 2011 | Sermons 2010 | Sermons 2009 | Sermons 2008 | Sermons 2007 | Sermons 2006 | Sermons 2005

Loosen up! -- Ecclesiastes 10:1-14 (11/12/2017)

God is. And God is in what is. God does not exist in the world as it should be; God is not there. God does not exist in the world as it could be; God is not there. God does not exist in the world as we wish it would be; God is not there. God is in the world that is, a world where you fall into pits and get bitten by snakes and struggle to make headway with a dull ax.

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Enjoy life with the one you love -- Ecclesiastes 9:1-10 (11/5/2017)
Lauren Reisinger

Eat the pizza! Eat the salads too, but there is no point in restricting yourself to such high extremes when we all share the same fate. Share a meal with a friend. Have a real, deep, healing, conversation with someone. Odds are, it will make their day and make yours too. Spend more time engaging in the hobbies you love. Celebrate the art of today!

If you are living as if enjoying life is a sin -- stop!

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Heartbreak -- Ecclesiastes 8:9-17 (10/29/2017)

But what do you do with heartbreak? What do you do when you see what the philosopher sees: a world where the weak are exploited by the powerful, a world where justice is often not served, a world where the powers of death seem to be winning? You live ...

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Plain and simple -- Ecclesiastes 7:1-10 (10/22/2017)

God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated.

We cover our faces and our souls with layer upon layer of pretense, anticipating or even guessing what we need to project in order to be accepted, in order to get what we want.

We walk around with all kinds of strings attached: envy, pride, anger, guilt, fear, regret.

And we carry heavy burdens -- heavy burdens we shoulder voluntarily! -- anxiety about the future, morbid preoccupation with the past, others' expectations and our own, the burden of performance and the burden of keeping score and the burden of keeping a tight grip ... on everything!

It is freeing to let go! It is freeing to be plain and simple ...

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I don't know -- Ecclesiastes 6:1-12 (10/15/2017)

You are so filled with awe that you are not aware of yourself, and yet the awe itself comes from the sense of being connected, intimately connected to the one, to the thing, that fills you with awe. What you see or hear or feel is part of you, or, rather, you are part of it. It belongs to you, or, rather, you belong to it. You belong to that song. You belong to that place. You belong to that person. You belong to Jesus.

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Awe -- Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 (10/8/2017)

All the things we count on for fulfillment and happiness and significance prove hollow, fleeting, ephemeral, useless: wealth, honor, family, long life, hard work, wisdom, ambition. Ecclesiastes systematically dismantles every stone in the foundation of meaning upon which we might want to build our lives. And we are left with ...?

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Dust -- Ecclesiastes 3:16 - 4:6 (10/1/2017)

We are not immortal beings trapped in fading bodies. We are what we seem to be -- this! This is the life we have: to eat and drink and laugh and cry and taste and see for as many days as we have. Does that make your life any less precious? Or does that make your life all the more precious? We don't know. We don't know what will happen after we die. Only God knows.

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Business -- Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (9/24/2017)

We are all about growth. We are all about productivity. We are all about busyness. How many times have you heard someone say: "I'm not happy unless I am busy?" Because? Because you genuinely enjoy what you are doing? If that is true, bless you, bless you because your busyness is a blessing. Or is it because it is expected, because you feel you must be busy? If that is true, bless you, because you bear a heavy and unhappy burden.

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Chasing the wind -- Ecclesiastes 2:4-17, 24-26 (9/17/2017)

There is nothing inherently flawed about narratives or systems or orthodoxies, until we put our faith in them instead of God! Until we rely on them instead of God. Like Job's friends, or like any of us who depend on our own ability to become the heroes of our own stories to give our lives meaning. That is a burden neither you nor I can bear. None of us can perfectly fulfill the criteria for our own happiness, but as the Philosopher shows us, even if we could, it would be useless, like chasing the wind.

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Short and hasty ... and useless? -- Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 (9/10/2017)

The book of Ecclesiastes does us a service by popping balloons, by tearing down edifices, by exposing flawed assumptions, by challenging orthodoxies, so that we will put our faith in no orthodoxy, but in God and God alone.

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Do not let evil defeat you -- Romans 12:9-21 (9/3/2017)

Is that you? Feeling that doing the right thing doesn't always work out? Feeling that loving your neighbor, in every instance, loving your enemies, in every instance, is impractical? Feeling that you need to give God a hand by taking matters into your own hands? Feeling that love and justice and restraint are nice in principle, but that reality demands a good offense and superior firepower and readiness to retaliate lest you be taken advantage of? That some times, in some cases, with some people, hate is justified?

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Moses -- Exodus 1:8 - 2:10 (8/27/2017)

Distrust and fear of foreigners. Suspicion and fear of people different from "us." Fear that manifests itself in cruelty and hate and oppression and enslavement and government-sanctioned discrimination. Is that Egypt? Or is it us?

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a public witness -- Matthew 10:32-33 (6/25/2017)

What happens when you push open the glass doors outside crossroads and walk out into the parking lot and back into the rest of your life? What happens when you do your job, talk to your friends and neighbors, listen to the news, raise your kids, invest your money, dispose of your trash, vote? To whom or to what does the world think you belong? Does the world know, do your neighbors know, you belong to Jesus? How will they know?

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Making disciples -- Matthew 28:16-20 (6/11/2017)

Making that kind of investment. Taking that kind of risk. Going that long. Going that wide. Going that deep. This is making disciples, in Chişinau or in Waterloo. Going long. Going wide. Going deep.

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That they may be one -- John 17:1-11 (5/28/2017)

"Humanity has lost its vocation." That was Roger Desir's most memorable phrase: "Humanity has lost its vocation." We have lost our way, forgotten what we are about, occupied ourselves with vain pursuits, neglected our calling, neglected each other, neglected the purpose for which we were made, the purpose for which Jesus gave himself: that we be one.

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Seeing Jesus -- John 14:15-21 (5/21/2017)

And I do mean that quite literally. Jesus is present, Jesus may be seen, in us, as his Spirit, his way, his presence, transform and reshape us and make us to be more and more like him.

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Life in all its fullness -- John 10:1-10 (5/7/2017)

It is God who fills us up. It is God who gives us life in all its fullness. Our lives are full when they are full of God. Our lives are full when they are full of God. Our lives are full of God anyway, whether we are aware of it or not, but it sure makes for a happy life to know it, doesn't it?

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Breaking bread with a stranger -- Luke 24:13-35 (4/30/2017)

It was when they offered bread to a stranger, a simple act of love, that they recognized him ...

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That you may have life -- John 20:30-31 (4/23/2017)

Love, hope, and ... This last ingredient of the kind of life Jesus gives is a little harder to put into words. It is a life free of boundaries, a life free of walls, a life where walls are torn down and boundary lines are crossed. Which is to say that a life lived in a safe enclave surrounded by people pretty much just like me is not a life worth having, not the life God intends for us, not eternal life.

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and reconciling the world to yourself -- Matthew 28:16-20 (4/16/2017)

We did everything humanly possible, everything worldly possible, to deny God's overtures, to reject God's love, to cut God entirely out of our lives and out of life itself. And God took it. God took it all. God accepted the terms of divorce and swallowed the bitter poison of our hatred to the last drop ... and lives, lives not to exact revenge, but to reconcile.

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and shared our common lot -- Matthew 25:31-46 (4/2/2017)

Shared our common lot! One of us! Not merely like us, but one of us. Not disguised as one of us, but one of us. Not temporarily talking on our form and likeness, but one of us.

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you have come to us -- Matthew 21:33-43 (3/26/2017)

In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Savior, you have come to us ... and shared our common lot. Beautiful and terrifying! Awesome and astonishing! You have come to us.

And what do we do to you?

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our crucified and risen Savior -- Matthew 16:21-26 (3/19/2017)

Why is the gospel all about turning the world upside down? Or maybe it's the world that is upside down, and maybe it's the world and all of us that need to be turned upside down in order to be right side up!

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the man of Nazareth -- Matthew 15:21-28 (3/12/2017)

A mother's love for her child helped Jesus see a Father's love for his children, for all his children ...

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in Jesus Christ -- Matthew 11:25-30 (3/5/2017)

It's not hard. It's not complicated. It's not more than you are capable of. You can do it. You can do it! You can come to Jesus. You can lay down your heavy loads. You can find rest.

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Love is eternal -- 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (2/19/2017)

Love is eternal. You don't need money. You don't need power. You don't need a break. You don't need opportunity. You don't need success. You don't need to leave a legacy. All you need in life is this one moment. All you need is love in this one moment, and your life, both now and forever, will mean something, and your life will matter, and you will know God, because God is love.

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Love never gives up -- Matthew 9:32-38 (2/12/2017)

Love is not about itself. Love is about that "one:" caring about that "one," investing in that "one," sacrificing for that "one," laser-focussed on the happiness and well-being of that "one." If love gave up, it would be giving up that "one," caring no more about that "one," invested no more in the happiness of that "one," and love would cease to exist, because love doesn't exist without its object. So if love is, love never gives up.

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Love is happy with the truth -- Matthew 7:13-14 (2/5/2017)

Which means that if we have lots of company, if we are easily moving along with the flow, if we find ourselves comfortably and happily going where pretty much everybody else is going, we are well on our way ... to hell! Seriously!

Followers of Jesus are like Jesus: out of step, non-conforming, countercultural, different ...

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Love does not keep a record of wrongs -- Matthew 5:43-48 (1/29/2017)

We do enough, sadly, we who call ourselves Christians, to sully God's good name and diminish God's reputation, but won't the world stand in awe of a God whose children love their enemies? Who even try?

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Love is not irritable -- Matthew 5:21-24 (1/22/2017)

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable ... but sometimes love gets angry. Love is not about being nice. It's not about being pleasant and agreeable. It's not about being sweet. Love is not about being loving ...

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Love is not proud -- Matthew 5:1-10 (1/15/2017)

You get what you want. When you are proud, when you have to put yourself first, when you value yourself above everything else, that's what you get: your self, and nothing more. Have fun with that!

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Love is patient -- Matthew 4:12-17 (1/8/2017)

A child may be happy, but not yet know joy. A child may act unselfishly, but not yet be humble. A child may be affectionate and loyal, the true seeds of love, but not yet be capable of love itself. Love is an attribute of wisdom, of maturity, of being grown up, of becoming like God, because God is love. And we see love, we know love, when we look at Jesus, love's pure light.

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Does anybody really know what time it is? -- Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (1/1/2017)

And so we stand in awe before God, in awe before the God who was there at the beginning and will be there at the end, not just watching time, but making it, giving time as a gift to all that is and to each of us, one moment at a time. One moment at a time ...

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