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First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

Sermons and Messages

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The festival of Passover is the liturgical celebration of the central theological belief of Judaism: the remembrance and thanksgiving that God saved Israel from bondage in Egypt, laying the foundation of the covenant between Israel and God. The first commandment given by God to Moses states, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2).  Worship belongs to God who saves...
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Through the next 2 months, we are continuing the narrative that began in the book of Genesis, continues through Exodus and is completed in the Old Testament books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  These first 5 books of the Bible are known as the Pentateuch and they take us from creation, through the Patriarchs and into Egypt.  According to Exodus 12 (v. 40-41), God’s people remained in Egypt a total of 430 years before being led out of captivity and into the promised land...
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He was 17, and as far as he was concerned, his family was lucky to have him.  He was without question (in his mind), the best looking, most intelligent son of Israel, and Israel (who we once knew as Jacob) had a lot of sons.  By this time, Israel has 12 sons and one daughter, but Joseph, being the 11th son and 12th child—was the first child born to Rachel, and Rachel had always been Jacob’s favorite wife. Israel looked at Joseph and he remembered his beloved Rachel.  He remembered...

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The festival of Passover is the liturgical celebration of the central theological belief of Judaism: the remembrance and thanksgiving that God saved Israel from bondage in Egypt, laying the foundation of the covenant between Israel and God. The first commandment given by God to Moses states, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2).  Worship belongs to God who saves...
Through the next 2 months, we are continuing the narrative that began in the book of Genesis, continues through Exodus and is completed in the Old Testament books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  These first 5 books of the Bible are known as the Pentateuch and they take us from creation, through the Patriarchs and into Egypt.  According to Exodus 12 (v. 40-41), God’s people remained in Egypt a total of 430 years before being led out of captivity and into the promised land...
He was 17, and as far as he was concerned, his family was lucky to have him.  He was without question (in his mind), the best looking, most intelligent son of Israel, and Israel (who we once knew as Jacob) had a lot of sons.  By this time, Israel has 12 sons and one daughter, but Joseph, being the 11th son and 12th child—was the first child born to Rachel, and Rachel had always been Jacob’s favorite wife. Israel looked at Joseph and he remembered his beloved Rachel.  He remembered...
This week we’re returning to Jacob and his family who have now spent about 20 years with Laban, the father of Jacob’s two wives, Leah and Rachel.  In the women’s competition to provide sons for Jacob, both Leah and Rachel have given him their maidservants as wives, and all together the 4 women have bore him 11 sons and one daughter.  Sadly, after this encounter with Esau, Rachel will bear Jacob his 12th son, Benjamin, and she will die in childbirth. Leah and Rachel are not the only...
Whenever I read the story of Jacob’s family, I’m reassured.  The dysfunction that exists in my family is so trivial compared to his.  And knowing that even with all that family drama, God blessed Jacob and makes a nation of him, is an encouragement, I think for all of us! Last week you’ll remember, Jacob was on the run from his twin brother Esau, fearing for his life, as he had stolen his father’s blessing that had been intended for Esau, his firstborn. Their  mother Rebekah has continued to...
We’re going to hop back into the book of Genesis this a.m., with the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob and Esau were twins, born to Isaac and Rebekah. Even before the twins were born, it seemed to her that there was a wrestling match going on inside her belly. There was a rivalry between those two boys long before they were ever born. And when they were born—though Esau entered the world first, Jacob was clutching the heel of his brother, following behind, a close second...
Time to go to the well again. Another trip to the well, just like yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. The well, as important as it was for all of their lives, had become an act of monotony to Rebecca.  Nothing seemed to change in this hot and dusty place. She lived in her parent’s tent and had to share a part of it with her greedy brother Laban. Being a woman was no easy thing in this culture. She had few choices, and the ones she did have meant very little in the long run...
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...