Category Archives: Sermons

June 16, 2019 Sermon

“Part of Something Bigger: Exploring our Heritage”                                                 John 17:20-26
Rev. Sean Weston
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
June 16, 2019

It was 1943. World War II was raging. The United States military – still segregated by race – was now an active part of the war. Word was starting to get out about the horrors taking place in Germany, only later to be called a Holocaust. Allied forces triumphed in Italy, yet as the year ended it would be another year and a half before the war would end.

Life at home was lived to the tune of the Glenn Miller orchestra. More and more items were rationed: shoes, canned foot, meat, cheese, butter, cooking oils. Factories that used to employ men making cars were employing women making bombs and plane engines. And even though it would be four years before Jackie Robinson broke the color line and Black players were allowed in Major League Baseball.

Some church leaders got together that year, representatives of the Congregational Christian Churches (of which Lyonsville was a part) and the Evangelical and Reformed Church (of which Burr Ridge UCC’s predecessor congregations were a part). They were looking out at the world and didn’t like what they saw. Death, destruction, and division were the themes of the day. I’d add depression too – 1943 is the year the Great Depression was officially ended, so it wasn’t far from anyone’s mind. Church life didn’t seem to be offering anything different to the world. People were scarce with so many men overseas; money and resources were tight. The church was just as divided as the world. So some church folks got together, and asked “is there a better way we can be doing this?” Continue reading

June 9, 2019 Sermon

“Amazed and Perplexed”                                                                                                 Acts 2:1-21
Rev. Sean Weston
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
June 9, 2019

The story of Pentecost we heard today in Acts is set in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago, shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection. During Jesus’ day, Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious practice. The magnificent temple was the pride of Jewish people throughout the world. On festivals like Pentecost, celebrating the spring barley harvest and the giving of the law to Moses, people would travel from near and far to celebrate in Jerusalem, a place beloved by centuries and centuries of Jewish people. It was a deeply special place.

Below the surface of religious joy and worship, however, was layer upon layer of suffering. For thousands and thousands of years Jerusalem has been the site of serious and often violent conflict. Centuries before today’s story took place, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and razed the temple to the ground, carrying leaders into exile and leaving everyone else behind. Along with the nation of Israel, Jerusalem has been ruled over the centuries by various empires. Some let the Jewish people live and worship as they wished; others forbade them from their practices at the pain of death. During Jesus’ life and for centuries after, Jerusalem was dominated and ruled by the brutally violent Roman Empire, the empire that killed Jesus. Yes, Jerusalem was the site of religious joy and sacred memories. And Jerusalem was also the site of deep suffering, death, and oppression. Continue reading

May 19, 2019 Sermon

“Laughing With God”                                                                                          Genesis 18:1-15
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                       1 Corinthians 3:18-23
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
May 19, 2019

Each year around Easter Sunday, a video by the comedian John Crist circulates on my social media. The video is called “Pastors on Easter Be Like….”

The video gets attention because it’s funny. It gets at some truths about ministry and church. I’m sure our staff will tell you that I was fixated on making sure every little thing was perfectly planned for Easter. I was sure that everything had been planned perfectly: we would worship for between 60-65 minutes, Mike Molloy and I had developed step by step choreography for the choir and I to get the offertory going, I’d practiced the sermon over and over again, Jean Hegner was planning to prepare enough Communion cups for everyone to have two – just in case – the bulletin and powerpoint had been proofread over and over, and it was all going to go perfectly, lest some mistake take place and Jesus not be resurrected after all.

I arrived on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, for Austin Boosted’s memorial service. I set up the powerpoint and walked around doing my thing, when I looked up and saw that the screens had a white background on the left and a green background on the right. There was a problem with the projector. An hour before a memorial service, and the day before Easter. And I was stunned. It had been just fine before! How could it have broken just then? How could we worship if one of the projectors couldn’t project the color white? Surely one of the prophets said something about that, right? Woe to you who worship with projectors that faileth to project in white! How could God do this to me?? Continue reading

May 12, 2019 Sermon

“God’s Power, Humans Hands”                                                                          Acts 13:1-3, 14:8-18
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                                           
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
May 12, 2019

“Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”

These words were spoken by Dorothy Day, a 20th century Catholic. Day co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement, which continues to operate homes throughout the nation and world, providing hospitality, shelter, and community to people in need of food or a place to stay. She spent her life working for justice in several ways: imprisoned while protesting for womens’ right to vote, standing against popular wars, getting shot while working for racial justice – a fierce critic of our nation’s economic system of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. She was radical, she had a famous scowl, and in life was controversial inside and outside the church. Continue reading

April 28, 2019 Sermon

“Go”                                                                                                                               Matthew 28:16-20
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                                           
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
April 28, 2019

 

A while ago, the New Yorker ran this cartoon:

[show cartoon]

There is a man sitting on an empty train bench wearing a shirt saying “ask me about my religion. The caption says “another way to keep an empty seat beside you on the train.”

Or, there’s this bumper sticker:

[show sticker]

It says “I’ve got nothing against God. It’s his [or her, I would add] fan club I can’t stand.”

 

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to some of his disciples on a mountain. Some doubted, some believed fully. And he called each of them to baptize all nations and teach them to obey what Jesus taught.

What does it mean to make disciples of all nations?

“Depending on whom you talk to,” writes Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor, “it seems possible that nothing has cost Jesus more new disciples than the tactics of those most intent on recruiting them.”[1]

One August, I moved from my parents’ house to the University of Kansas campus. I was pretty scared and overwhelmed, walking alone on that large campus, trying to find my way around. A young man walked up to me and introduced himself. He was so friendly, and asked if he could walk with me. He showed interest in me, and I started to feel so much better. And then it came: he told me about the campus ministry he worked for, and how it would be great if I came. And again my heart sank. This was not a friendly face simply wanted to be kind to a terrified new freshman. I was a target. This was his job. Continue reading