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First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

Sermons and Messages

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The picture of Abraham holding the knife high above Isaac’s body bound on the sacrificial altar is probably one of the most vivid memories of my childhood Christian education. I don’t know that it was a framed painting in my Sunday school room, and surely it wasn’t in my kid’s version of my Bible—but once you see it, it can’t be unseen—particularly when you’re 4 or 5 or 10 years old. Even now, I read the story and I wonder, oh, my gosh—how could Abraham do something like that? How could...
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Last week we ended on a happy note, with laughter and joy because Sarah and Abraham, well beyond their child-bearing years, had given birth to Isaac, fulfilling the promise that God had made that their descendants would be many—more than the stars up above. But now, there is this issue of Hagar, and she and Abraham’s son, Ishmael.  “Issue” seems a bit understated: they are, after all, flesh and blood people.  Hagar is Sarah’s former handmaid, now a wife to Abraham—given to him by...
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Imagine Abraham as a Middle Eastern sheik. One of those Arabic sheiks you’ve seen on TV in flowing white robes, head gear held by a gold braid. That is, after all, what Abraham was. He and Sarah were wealthy. They had many servants, camels, sheep and goats, and a large homestead in what today is southern Israel. In the middle of that land they had pitched their tent under a huge spreading oak. And if there’s a tree, there’s water. Their tent is as big as a house, the sand inside covered with luxurious...

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The picture of Abraham holding the knife high above Isaac’s body bound on the sacrificial altar is probably one of the most vivid memories of my childhood Christian education. I don’t know that it was a framed painting in my Sunday school room, and surely it wasn’t in my kid’s version of my Bible—but once you see it, it can’t be unseen—particularly when you’re 4 or 5 or 10 years old. Even now, I read the story and I wonder, oh, my gosh—how could Abraham do something like that? How could...
Last week we ended on a happy note, with laughter and joy because Sarah and Abraham, well beyond their child-bearing years, had given birth to Isaac, fulfilling the promise that God had made that their descendants would be many—more than the stars up above. But now, there is this issue of Hagar, and she and Abraham’s son, Ishmael.  “Issue” seems a bit understated: they are, after all, flesh and blood people.  Hagar is Sarah’s former handmaid, now a wife to Abraham—given to him by...
Imagine Abraham as a Middle Eastern sheik. One of those Arabic sheiks you’ve seen on TV in flowing white robes, head gear held by a gold braid. That is, after all, what Abraham was. He and Sarah were wealthy. They had many servants, camels, sheep and goats, and a large homestead in what today is southern Israel. In the middle of that land they had pitched their tent under a huge spreading oak. And if there’s a tree, there’s water. Their tent is as big as a house, the sand inside covered with luxurious...
The city of Jerusalem was packed full of people. The streets were crazy—crowds of folks moving along elbow-to-elbow, restaurants overrun, long lines at the check-outs, bathrooms in dire need of a simple, routine cleaning.  Everyone was there. It was a Jewish festival, a harvest festival, celebrated 50 days after Passover, bringing Jews from all over the civilized world to the temple in Jerusalem. They had to go. They wanted to go. It was one of the 3 obligatory feast days of the year...
In this morning’s gospel lesson, we remain at that table with Jesus and his disciples as Jesus prepares them for his departure. Maybe it seems like we’ve spent a lot of time here at this table with him, and if you look in the Gospel of John, you’ll see how many pages and chapters his teachings there encompass.  My Red letter edition is a sea of red from Chapter 13 through 17.  It’s not until chapter 18 that they go across the Kidron valley to the garden where Jesus is arrested...
In scripture we encounter a number of different names, images and metaphors for God, which help us to see and—in at least a partial way—understand the fullness/the greatness of who God is. We may at different times feel especially prone to cling to an image that fills our need in a particular moment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But perhaps it’s not a bad thing to remind ourselves at times that yes, God is like this…and yet, God is so much more. Last week we talked of Jesus as the Good...
Sheep and shepherds, gates and walls, thieves and outlaws: there are a lot of different images for us to consider and bring together in only 10 verses in this morning’s gospel of John. The first set involving sheep and shepherd probably is the easiest to understand, although I’m not totally comfortable with the thought that you and I are considered the sheep of the story. Sheep are generally not thought to be the most intelligent of animals, but they are often portrayed as creatures who will...
It had already been a long day.  So much had happened. So much to think about. So much to process. So much to try to figure out and understand. The two men were headed back home. They had celebrated the Passover in Jerusalem, though “celebration” this year didn’t really seem to fit. They had been weighed down with worry; concerned about what was happening to Jesus. They could see where it was all headed. The odds had been stacked against him. He was executed...
“Peace be with you,” Jesus said to his disciples.  “Peace be with you.” It’s been 10 days since Jesus died on the cross and was placed in a tomb.  It’s been a week since he was resurrected: a week since Mary Magdalene had seen him in the garden, with his burial clothes tossed aside.  It’s been a week since she had run to tell the disciples, as Jesus had instructed her to do, telling them they were to go to Galilee.  They were to go home, and there, he would see them. It had been a week...
Our world has changed. It didn’t happen overnight, but it was happening beyond our awareness, beyond our ability to understand. It seems that the Coronavirus that has so profoundly re-shaped our world—our communities, our social interactions, our economy—can be traced back to late last year in a South China seafood market in Wuhan, China.  A 33 year old ophthalmologist named Li Wenliang first observed the contagion in his work at a hospital in December and warned his colleagues...
Today we place side-by-side the events of Palm Sunday and Holy Thursday.  If we were here together, we might have tried walking around our worship space waving palm branches, following our children and singing “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna.” That’s what your worship planners had intended for this morning: a joyful celebration that you and I share each year with varying degrees of enthusiasm as we each take a palm branch and wave it around in our own unique way...
Last week we talked about the woman who anointed Jesus’ head with the precious nard.  The scent filled the room. We brought many of my mother-in-law’s belongings to our house almost 2 years ago now, to figure out what to do with them when we had to move her into a nursing home because of her Alzheimer’s.  Her clothing, her blankets, pillows, even her knick-knacks, I think, brought her perfume with them. Now and then, I still catch a scent of the fragrance she enjoyed wearing...
It’s an over-the-top gift; pure extravagance. An expression of love; an outpouring of emotion. Perhaps you’ve been the recipient of an expression of love such as this. Perhaps you’ve felt that outpouring of love yourself: a straight-from-the-heart desire to somehow express tangibly what your words can’t quite describe. The woman didn’t care who was there, who saw it. She didn’t care what they thought. She needed to tell him, to show him, so he’d know. It seems that this woman...
The first risk for us comes as we discover the placement of this story is very different in the synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark and Luke—and in the Gospel of John.  First, “synoptic” basically means “a general summary” and the first 3 Gospels pretty much summarize the same stories of Jesus, but from the different perspectives of the 3 biblical writers.  It’s believed that Matthew and Luke both base their writings on Mark and also have a third resource that we call “Q,” a collection...
I am so often unable to come up with just the right response at just the right time, particularly if I know I’m being set up.  There will be all that activity swirling around in my head of the various possibilities of what I might say as well as the how the other person could respond, and later that afternoon, or as I’m driving home—there it is.  Yes, that’s it!  Got it!  But it’s too late now. Not so helpful an hour or so after the fact. But Jesus knows exactly what to say.  He has the perfect response...
What did you see the last time you went to a parade? The last parade Scott and I attended was in the French Quarter of New Orleans during Mardi Gras on February 1st. Chewbacchus, it was called, sponsored by the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, was glitz and glamour, and a little wild and wooly, family-friendly (which isn’t always the case during Mardi Gras), and I believe was related to super-heroes, Star Wars and other-world warriors. It was a little hard to tell...
I remember the first time I saw mountains. Scott and I were married by then, and we were driving to Denver to check out the seminary he planned to attend.  We had driven through the flatlands of Iowa and Nebraska and were in eastern Colorado. There wasn’t a lot to see, pretty desolate with many miles between towns and people, all of which seemed to be a long way off the main highway.  And then at one point I remember seeing a dark place ahead, above the horizon...
Perhaps you have heard it said (or have thought yourself), “Being a Christian just makes sense. Your life will go better if you sign on with Jesus.”  But I say to you that if you listen to Jesus, if you take his teachings seriously, then you will find your life becoming a bit more complex and complicated. Take today’s gospel for instance… You have heard it said, Jesus says to the people gathered ‘round listening to him teach.  You have heard it said: it’s important to try to be compassionate and caring...
On Sunday the church gathers. Christians hold their lights up. We talk about the light. We educate our children about the light. We hold instructional seminars about how to light the world more effectively. We vow to proclaim the light to the world. On Monday through Saturday, the church scatters—into the marketplace, schools, homes and community—to carry the light. As Jesus’ followers and God’s ambassadors, we bear His light. Jesus’ strategy always involved believers being light...
Please pray with me: Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds and the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in the thoughts that we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen. Amen. When I was a kid, I remember a time when my mother decided to make up some chocolate nut fudge or something very tasty like that. She had all these wonderful ingredients assembled on her kitchen counter, all these lovely smells wafted around the room, she was busy...
There’s a commercial on television right now that portrays a slightly less creepy than other recent commercials of Matthew McConaughey ice-fishing. (I always thought he was pretty cool, but here recently, his commercials in my opinion have been pretty creepy). He sets everything up and then sits in a fancy SUV until a flag triggers that he’s caught something in the fishing hole he’s drilled. It’s all very different from the way my grandpa used to fish. Grandpa was a man who loved to fish, no matter what...
Hopefully, I’m not the only one who ever does this: I’ll be in the kitchen and decide I need something in my study. It’s maybe, 10-12 steps away. I’m not singularly focused, of course, thinking about all kinds of things.I pick up this piece of mail to take back with me, turn off that light that’s on for no good reason on the way back. No need to waste energy. I step inside my study and stop—and realize I have no idea what I went back there to do. I look around a bit, thinking it will come to me. It doesn’t...
A lot has happened as we’ve worshiped in these past few weeks! Jesus was born in Bethlehem and we were told of his birth by hosts of angels and bright stars. The child and his mother and father were visited by three wise men who brought them gifts. Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus fled to Egypt in terror of King Herod and his murderous rage. The family settled in Nazareth and Jesus grew up. In the same way that our children’s growing up years seem to speed by...
The painting on the front of our worship folders and on the screen before you is entitled “Holy Family” and was painted by Rembrandt in the 17th century.  It portrays the nativity as if it were taking place during that time period. Mary and Joseph’s clothing and furnishings are what one would find in a typical Dutch home from Rembrandt’s own day. Mary is seated with an open well-thumbed book, presumably the scriptures, held open by her left hand. Her right hand...