“Who Do You Say that I Am?”

“Who Do You Say that I Am?”

One memorable day, while walking with his disciples through Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” It’s a good question. After all, they’d been at this a while, long enough to generate a little buzz. People like to talk. Have you noticed? We all do. 

So the disciples shared what they’d heard around the water cooler, the scuttlebutt, you know. “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets, maybe Jeremiah.” The opinions vary.

But Jesus is just getting warmed up. Next comes the question Jesus really wants to ask: “Who do you say that I am?” “You” is very different from “they,” isn’t it? “You” is personal. “You” gets your attention. One minute you’re talking in footnotes and halfway watching the game, the next you’re being asked to give a testimony!

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Don’t Be a Stranger: “Filled to Overflowing”

Don’t Be a Stranger: “Filled to Overflowing”

Background Text: Ephesians 5:15-20
St. Martin United Church of Christ
Rev. Terry Minchow-Proffitt

This morning we finish up our summer sermon series. We’ve swept across the book of Ephesians. Every Sunday we’ve looked at the mystery of God’s church and how we can participate in such a mystery.

The “mystery” I mean is the endlessly unfolding nature of what God is doing as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. The church is a mystery in this way. God is The Mystery in this way. You are a mystery in this way. The world around us is a mystery in this way. If we think that we have all of this “down,” or all figured out, we are sorely mistaken. Because God is alive and afoot in our hearts and our world, making things new. We trust this, but not easily. We read the news, then practice resurrection. It takes lots of practice. God is our abundance. We are filled to overflowing with God’s gracious presence.

Seeing life and living life as bounded by God’s unfolding Mystery is another way of saying what we claim to believe as a part of the UCC: God is still speaking. If God is not still speaking, then all we’re doing is rehashing what’s already been said and done. There’s no surprise. We’ve “been there and done that” so let’s go there and do it again the same ole way. Ad Infinitum.  Ad Nauseum. But if God is still speaking, we have an adventure on our hands and the future is much more than scary—it is downright hopeful. We try new things; we do old things in new ways.

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Don't Be a Stranger: "Making Peace"

Don't Be a Stranger: "Making Peace"

We’ve been exploring the nature of church over the past few weeks. I hope this series has helped you reclaim the mystery of God’s gift to us through St. Martin. I’ve served God through the church most all of my adult life and this mystery has only increased with the years. I’m talking here about real church growth. I’m speaking of the mystery of being Christ’s body, of taking on the Mind of Christ, of allowing grace to circulate through us like our very blood.

Earlier in this series, Paul said this: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.”

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Don’t Be a Stranger: “God’s Unimaginable Power”

Don’t Be a Stranger: “God’s Unimaginable Power”

Read Background Text: Ephesians 3:14-21
St. Martin United Church of Christ
Rev. Terry Minchow-Proffitt

The Bible is a public book, or actually, the Bible is a public library of books. We’ve got all sorts of literature in Scripture, such as poetry, parables, hymns, and history. If we’re not careful, we act like it’s all one genre. We take a hymn, like one of the psalms, and forget to read it as a devotional song. Or we read something poetic as if it’s history, or even science. But what we have with the Bible is not one book, but one library of books of multiple genres that the church has said we can trust as a guide and rule for our faith.

For example, it’s easy to forget that today’s passage is a prayer. A prayer contained in a letter that Paul wrote to a church he once served. He begins with, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, . . . “ In other words, “I pray . . . “

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“Woman, behold thy son! . . . Behold thy mother!”

“Woman, behold thy son! . . . Behold thy mother!”

John 19:25b-27
We’re already about halfway to Easter! Each Sunday we’re trying to take a close look at each of Jesus’ Seven Last Words, the last things Jesus said as he was crucified. Last Sunday, we explored Jesus’ statement to the penitent thief: ”Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Today, we’re back at the same cross, but it’s a bit of a different scene, told by a different gospel. But we’re still looking up at the same Jesus. This time, however, it’s pretty obvious he’s looking down on us. Now, we’ve all had experiences of being looked down on, as in being put down or dismissed. Jesus is not being patronizing. He’s looking down in love from where he hangs. He’s looking down through his suffering. He’s, you might say, beholding us. He looks down and sees three Mary’s there: his mother, his aunt, and his disciple Mary Magdalene. They’re all looking up, or maybe looking down. Who knows? The scene is beyond hard.

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“Today You Will Be with Me in Paradise”

“Today You Will Be with Me in Paradise”

We began on Valentine’s Day, so we’re exactly eleven days into our season to draw near the cross of Jesus. Each Sunday, we’re taking a close look at each of Jesus’ last words. Last Sunday we explored Jesus’ prayerful cry: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Today, we’re back at the same cross, in the same scene, told by the same gospel, Luke’s.

We’re looking up at the same Jesus. But this time he says something different... “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

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“Father, Forgive Them . . . ”

“Father, Forgive Them . . . ”

Luke 23:32-38
This Lent will be our season to draw near the cross of Jesus. Each Sunday we’ll take each of Jesus’ Seven Last Words, the last sayings of Jesus as he was crucified, and seek to enter into their meaning and purpose.

Why do this? Because how we see Jesus’ crucifixion can either take us more deeply into the life we share in Christ or, if misunderstood, can end up, ironically, distancing us from the life we share in Christ.

If the cross is seen as an impersonal transaction between Jesus and God, or God and the Devil, then we’re left with an abstract doctrine.

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