March 4 Sermon

“Ground Rules”                                                                                     Exodus 20:1-17
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL                 John 2:13-22
Third Sunday of Lent
Rev. Sean Weston

I have a distinct childhood memory of visiting the rural Michigan public school that my mom attending as a child. I remember nothing about what we were doing there, or even who we were with. All I remember is seeing the Ten Commandments posted in the hallway somewhere. I was surprised. After all, I had grown up on a steady diet of the separation of church and state. How could this public school post the Ten Commandments? I asked my parents this, and I mostly remember them chuckling a little bit – that chuckle that says, “of course you’re right, but this is how things are.” I learned a lot about my mother’s childhood that day.

There are Christians in this country who seem to believe that the most important thing to do with the Ten Commandments is to try and post them in as many civic places as possible. The town where I grew up experienced an uproar when a stone replica of the commandments was moved from in front of City Hall to the front of the local Christian College – which, I might add, is on a busier street. People tried to get the mayor recalled from office and everything. Such fights play out across the country all the time.

In response to this, I can only think of my dad’s favorite saying: “worry about your own self. There’s plenty there to keep you busy.” The most important thing to do with these commandments isn’t to post them everywhere in a show of your religious dominance. The most important thing to do is to try and follow them. There’s plenty there. Continue reading

February 25 Sermon

“Mismatched Expectations”                                                         Psalm 22:21-31
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL            Mark 8:31-38
Second Sunday of Lent
Rev. Sean Weston

The date was April 3, 1968. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was helping lead a strike of sanitation workers in Memphis. The day after this speech, he was killed.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

I don’t know about you, but I get chills when I watch that speech, when I watch Reverend King declare “I’m happy tonight! I’m not worried about anything! I’m not fearing any man!” knowing that his death – his martyrdom – would come the next day.

Rev. King is one of a long line of martyrs who have died for their insistence that God’s word is more important than any human words, no matter how powerful the speaker. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”

You may be familiar with an older translation: “what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?” Continue reading

February 18 Sermon

“First Things First: Covenant”                                                                           Genesis 9:8-17
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL                                      Mark 1:9-15
Transfiguration Sunday
Rev. Sean Weston

I don’t know if a relationship could be any more strained. As the story goes, God got so enraged with the violence and evil of humankind that God sent a flood to destroy the whole earth. To start over again. Only those God found righteous – Noah and his family and some animals – survived. I can hardly think of a worse thing to happen in a relationship than the utter destruction of one party by another.

Of course, you and I may not send floods upon one another, but there are many ways in relationships that we hurt each other. There are smaller floods that we set upon others, smaller ruptures in our bonds, harsh words and deeds, deep anger and hurt. A relationship with God is still a relationship: with its ups and downs, anger and misunderstandings, sometimes feeling amazingly close but other times feeling hopelessly alienated.

Many ancient cultures have flood stories: stories of broken relationship between gods and human beings, relationships that can only be mended by a great flood – the divine use of a big reset button. In the biblical flood story, something remarkable happens. God regrets sending the flood: “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and head, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Continue reading