FAITH WORKING ITSELF OUT IN LOVE: Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

FAITH WORKING ITSELF OUT IN LOVE

A Sermon by Pastor Chico Martin

September 25, 2016  Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Lections:  Jeremiah 32: 1-3a, 6-15; Psalm 91;1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31

In a variety of ways, we are planning for the future – or having our futures planned for us – all our lives; parents plan for daycare, school sports, college; children plan for making money, saving for travels, getting married and having their own children.  As we grow older, we plan for retirement, paying doctors and care bills, etc.  Last we heard, in the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, planning for the future is commendable.  Today, however, we hear clear teachings that some future plans are better than others.  Specifically, we are taught to plan for eternal life, that is, for an invisible reality, and to be wary of all plans that get in the way of this master plan.   Continue reading

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DEVOTED TO THE ONE: Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity

 

DEVOTED TO THE ONE

A Sermon by Pastor Chico Martin

September 18, 2016  Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Lections:  Jeremiah 8: 18- 9:1; Psalm 4; 1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13

 

Methodists, I think, like most Protestant Christians, are loath to apply the word saint to any particular person.  We are more likely to call Paul “the Apostle,” than “Saint Paul.”  We are wary of “works righteousness,” that is, of attributing achievement to our own efforts, and careful to acknowledge the sovereignty and grace of God present in all “good works.” Closer to home, we do not talk about farmers, accountants, educators, doctors, truck drivers, business people or pastors as saints; we are quick to find fault, where we do not see perfection.  Yet perfection remains our goal: as Jesus, our teacher, says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48).  And we were likely to call Mother Teresa “Saint” Teresa, even before Pope Francis canonized her earlier this month.   Continue reading

SURRENDERING TO MERCY: The Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity

SURRENDERING TO MERCY

A Sermon by Pastor Chico Martin

September 11, 2016  The Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity

Lections:  Exodus 32:7-14; Psalm 51: 1-11; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10

 

One odd bit of memory lodged in my mind from childhood is associated with the word “smorgasbord.” I was about five years old at the time my parents, sister, and me moved into the newly built Putnam Hill Apartments, in Greenwich, Ct. Our family very seldom ate out, but for some reason, we all got in the car one Sunday morning and drove to this restaurant in nearby Cos Cob, where there was a restaurant which served a Sunday smorgasbord. I had never been to a smorgasbord, and everything was new, including the buffet line, where Swedish meatballs found their way onto my plate.  They immediately became one of my favorite foods, even as I tried for the first time several other foods: herring and beets and cake, and the Swedish pancakes servers colorfully attired brought to our table.  I always wanted to go back to that restaurant, but we never did.

All of which is a rather indirect approach to the ‘smorgasbord’ of five stories in today’s readings. The stories, like ham and Swedish meatballs, are at once familiar and new.   Continue reading

SOMETHING’S HAPPENING HERE: Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity

SOMETHING’S HAPPENING HERE

A Sermon by Pastor Chico Martin

September 4, 2016  Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity

Lections: Jeremiah 18:1-11; Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18; Philemon 1-21; Luke 14:25-33

 

Today’s scripture readings challenge our understanding of what a Christian life looks like, so before we turn to their ‘hard sayings,’ I will briefly discuss what makes the assembly or congregation of believers – what we usually think of as a local church–a suitable context for Christian life, and how pastor and congregation work together to promulgate, embody and preserve the apostolic tradition.

A person belonging to the same ecclesia over a lifetime of ‘attendance’ hears various interpretations, understandings, and visions of our sacred writings preached from the pulpit.   This variety of expression can be helpful. For one, different people are drawn to different expressions, so from some they will hear and learn, while from others, not so well; for another, the originality of any preacher’s expression at some point becomes familiar, and the hearing of Scripture becomes dull. Also, as we mentioned last month, our spiritual life advances through different stages, roughly corresponding to our chronological development, so we need our attention to be focused on a variety of scriptural topics, depending on where we are in our years and stage of growth. In the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, we catch an occasional view of evangelists, preachers, and priests moving among the assemblies of different cities and towns.   Continue reading

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NAVIGATING THE JOURNEY OF FAITH: Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

NAVIGATING THE JOURNEY OF FAITH

A Sermon by Pastor Chico Martin

August 28, 2016 Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity

Lections: Jeremiah 2:4-13; Psalm 81:1-10; Hebrews 13:1-8;15-16; Luke 14:1;7-14

 

I bless Thee, O Heavenly Father, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, for that Thou hast vouchsafed to think of me, poor that I am. O, Father of Mercies and God of all comfort, I give thanks unto Thee, who refreshest me sometimes with thine own comfort, when I am unworthy of any comfort. I bless and glorify Thee continually, with thine only begotten Son and the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, for ever and ever. O Lord God, Holy lover of my soul, when Thou shalt come into my heart, all my inward parts shall rejoice. Thou art my glory and the joy of my heart. Thou art my hope and my refuge in the day of my trouble.

But because I am still weak in love and imperfect in virtue, I need to be strengthened and comforted by Thee; therefore visit Thou me often and instruct me with Thy holy ways of discipline. Deliver me from evil passions, and cleanse my heart from all inordinate affections, that, being healed and altogether cleansed within, I may be made ready to love, strong to suffer, steadfast to endure.

This prayer is from the 15th century devotional manuscript The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.  John Wesley held it high regard and included it on his reading list for Methodists.  The Imitation of Christ provides a discipline for spiritual formation, through practices of humility, obedience and simplicity of life, known in Wesley’s lifetime as pietism.

One way of approaching this book is to ask, What is the spirit of a person? Is it the spirit of Christ?  When we long for the spirit of Christ, we “strive to become like him in every way.”  We become enlightened, that is, “set free from the darkness of our own hearts,” by imitating him. Christ is our example of a virtuous life.   Continue reading

KEEPING THE SABBATH DAY HOLY: Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity

KEEPING THE SABBATH DAY HOLY

A Sermon by Pastor Chico Martin

August 21, 2016 Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity

Lections: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17

 

A good question to ask ourselves about our religion is this:  why has it “done so little good in the world?”  Why has 2,000 years of Christianity failed to remedy “the universal corruption of human nature?” One difficulty has been Christian discipline; “wherever doctrine is preached where there is not discipline, it cannot have its full effect upon the hearers.”[i] The moral and spiritual practice of Christianity is an ascetic practice fitted for worldly rather that monastic life, and the challenges of asceticism, the discipline of self-denial, are difficult to meet in everyday life.  Much of what is passed off as Christianity is a counterfeit, watered-down to accommodate worldly desire. In today’s Gospel, Jesus clarifies one feature of Christian discipline, that is, keeping the Sabbath Day holy.  Observance of the Sabbath is a requirement of the moral law the church shares with Judaism and has profound significance for the understanding of justice and spiritual life of the practicing Christian.   Continue reading