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First United Methodist Church
Plymouth, Indiana

Sermons and Messages

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It’s been an interesting season in my life these past couple of months as I’ve done sermon planning to the end of the year.  I’ve thought a lot about what I want to share with you: you will be the last community where I will serve as pastor, and I want to share with you what’s in my heart and mind. 
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Scott and I have begun the process of packing—okay, I admit he’s done more than I have—and as he has pulled things out of the storage room downstairs, on more than one occasion, I’ve said—oh, so that’s where that’s been.
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Every Sunday when we gather to worship together, we’re reminded that our mission, our purpose, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We say that we do that by loving God, loving others and serving others. That’s the plan. That’s the foundation of why we do what we do as a church. We gather on Sunday mornings to worship God and to be empowered for mission and ministry and outreach.

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I’d like you to take just a few moments this morning and try to remember the most beautiful moment in your life. I know quiet time is a little awkward online. People just tuning in or who stepped away for a bit to refill their coffee will think something is wrong with their sound.  But I’ll be quiet for just a bit so you can think.
This is the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday that if we were all together in this place lighting our traditional Advent wreath, we would be lighting the pink candle—the candle of Joy. I purposely chose all white candles this year instead of purple and pink, so that it would be easier for you to make use of candles that you already have at home, rather than thinking it necessary to go out shopping for something in particular.
I remember his hands. They were big, they were rough, they were calloused. And somehow, they were always warm. I remember going ice fishing with him on a small private lake on one of the neighbor’s farms. While grandpa was fishing, I was running around on the ice, sliding and having a good time.
It was a sunny January morning: the air was crisp and cold. The lighting seemed stark and the noise seemed sharp as the woman stood at the counter in McDonald’s, staring up at the breakfast menu, not really seeing what was there.
Do you remember taking an examination somewhere along the way that had maybe 50 or 100 questions, with the written directions: first read completely through the exam before answering any questions?  Some people finished pretty quickly. 
This morning we hear the story that Jesus tells about a man who goes on a journey, and before setting off, distributes his property to three of his servants, entrusting it to their care in his absence. As the story continues, the property is described as being “talents” which in our experience today refers to an ability that an individual has, but in the time of Jesus a talent was a measure of money.
There were 3 weddings that I was a part of this year, for which the planning of each began pre-Covid.  All 3 couples had to reschedule dates or locations; they planned once, then had to plan again (and again), and pretty much—up to the day that each wedding occurred, they had to tweak, adjust, adapt, and think of alternatives to their alternatives.
Before our daughter Dominique was married a little over a month ago, I was given the task to find wedding pictures of Scott and I, and of each of our parents. I thought finding our pictures would be the easy assignment, but it took awhile to find them, too, I discovered.
A couple of weeks ago, Scott and I watched the movie Late Night, starring Emma Thompson, which came out in 2019. The story is about a legendary late night talk show host who has fallen into the comfort of her reputation, and though she maintains a loyal fan base, her ratings have dropped and the network has decided to replace her. 
The Ten Commandments are familiar to us, though when we start naming them, we may get stuck after the 5th or 6th one, and need a little help to carry on. We’ve seen them displayed at different places, on plaques inside Christian schools, on great granite monuments in front of courthouses, where I think they’ve mostly been removed. There was controversy a decade or so ago, and so in many places they were relocated in order to accommodate separation of church and state...
Grumblers. Have you met any? Maybe you’re willing to admit that you’ve had a grumbling moment or two at some point in your life. Sometimes we get in a mood. We know we’re being negative, but we’re on a roll.  One thing bothers us, and you know, while I’m on it, this is bothering me, too. One thing leads to another. We may realize it’s happening and decide we need to give ourselves a time out. Take a nap. Go to bed. Take a walk. Whatever works for you. Tomorrow will be different...
They had come this far, but it didn’t look they would be going any further. They’d been given some time to prepare for their journey—enough time to gather silver and gold and clothing from their neighbors. Enough time to prepare for the Passover.  They were to sacrifice a lamb, to paint their doorways with its blood, to roast their lamb and prepare bread made without yeast.  They were to eat their meal in haste: cloaks tucked into their belts, sandals on their feet, and a staff in their hand...
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...