Category Archives: Sermons

September 23, 2018 Sermon

“Privilege, Power, Prison”                                                                                            Genesis 39:1-23
Rev. Sean Weston
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
September 23, 2018

We are three weeks into what is called the Narrative Lectionary. This lectionary is a four year schedule of Bible texts for worship, focused on telling the story of God’s work in the world throughout the whole Bible. For some time, this church had been on a different lectionary called the Revised Common Lectionary, which worked a little differently. One thing this means is that we’ll be hearing some texts in worship that we may not have heard in a long time, or even ever. Today is one of those days.

It’s a good thing. This lectionary makes preachers like me deal with difficult stories that we are used to ignoring. I wouldn’t have chosen to preach on this text, probably ever. You probably wouldn’t have chosen to hear it. But it is a story that is part of our heritage. It is there in the first place because our ancestors believed it said something worth saying. So, here we are. Think of this as walking an unfamiliar trail with me as your trail guide. I’ll point out the things I think are important. I hope it is helpful for you, and that you keep an open mind, if for no other reason that I’ve spent a lot of time on this particular trail recently. But you might not see what I see. You might focus on different things, or even think I made a wrong turn. I don’t ask you to see everything I see. I do ask you to keep an open mind before drawing your own conclusions.

There are three main parts of this story. The first part explains that Joseph was rising through the ranks as a slave. Nearly every system of slavery has different ranks. In the United States the classic division was between those in the fields and those in the house, though there were other divisions too. While there are benefits to being higher on the ladder, you’re always a slave.

The second part of the story is when the wife of Joseph’s master wants to sleep with him. He refuses, and in her rage she accuses him anyways, to her husband Potiphar who is Joseph’s master. She takes great care to note that he is a Hebrew slave.

For this, Joseph gets sent to prison, which is the last part of the story. Here, even though he is in prison, God is present with him. There is hope for him, even in the most challenging and unfair of circumstances. Because God is with him. Continue reading

September 16, 2018 Sermon

“Promise, Call, Blessing                                                                                                  Genesis 12.1-9
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL                                              Pentecost 17
September 16, 2018                                                                                                             NL Year 1
Rev. Sean Weston

Abram was just a guy. He was 75 years old. He lived in a place called Haran with his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and his father Terah. As far as we know there wasn’t really anything special about them. If anything, they were considered a bit unusual because a struggle with infertility meant they didn’t have children. As often happens today, I’m sure they were used to the whispers and gossip that followed them around – the awkward conversations and hushed rooms. They were not the perfect family with a white picket fence and 2.3 children. Haran’s tourism bureau probably didn’t put their pictures on brochures. But they had a home, and family, and resources. They were – like us – people. Figuring life out.

Until one day, when everything changed. God showed up, and told Abram to leave. “Leave your land, your family, and your father’s household for the land that I will show you.” If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard this story enough that you might not really hear this. So imagine, it’s just another day, you’re working around the house, and God stops by. That’s the first weird thing. And then God says “leave everything behind.” No matter what else God says, I wouldn’t be jumping up and down ready to go. I like my stuff. I like my bed, and my couch, and the food in my kitchen. I’d like to stay there.

Then add to that that Abram’s society was what we call a “kinship society.” Three generations shared a house. That house was part of a clan, and a larger tribe, and then a nation. But that house was the most important thing. The survival of your family was your purpose in life. And you did that by planting yourself on a patch of land and protecting that little corner of the universe with all you are.

For God to show up and tell Abram to leave that all behind was not exciting. It was terrifying, insensible, dangerous. This was not something you wanted to be chosen for. No matter what promises God makes. Continue reading

September 9, 2018 Sermon

“God’s Promises”                                                                                          Genesis 6-9 (Selections)
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL                                        Pentecost 16
September 9, 2018                                                                                                           NL Year 1
Rev. Sean Weston

I remember like it was yesterday. It was my turn for show and tell in my kindergarten class. I was so excited to share a craft I had made with the entire class. Like my classmates, I had been looking forward to my turn for weeks.     With my parents’ help, I agonized over what to bring. I finally settled on a craft I had made in Sunday School a few days before. I don’t remember what the craft was about, but I remember what it was: a glass baby food jar filled with clear gel and glitter. I was so proud of my creation. I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone else. I put it carefully in my backpack.

We arrived for the day and I lined up like always. As the day started, I was called on to show my craft. I opened my backpack, and what I saw made me feel so sad. My jar had broken, and the gel was all over my backpack. Not only was my creation ruined, but so was everything else. Nothing could make me feel better. Nothing at all. I’ve never forgotten that moment.

Few things are as disappointing as making something only to see it fail in some way. You work all weekend on a home improvement project and then the door doesn’t fit anymore. You pour yourself into something at work only to have the boss change direction at the last minute. You study and study at school and still don’t get the grade you wanted. It is disappointing. Frustrating. Even enraging.

In the Bible story Jean and I read this morning, God is disappointed with the way God’s creation turned out. It just so happens that instead of a craft or work project, God had created the world. But people weren’t treating one another right in this world. They weren’t treating animals right, they weren’t treating the earth right. Instead, they were greedy, violent, unjust. And God was hurt. Continue reading

September 2, 2018 Sermon

Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL                                     Matthew 20:20-28
September 2, 2018
Rev. Sean Weston

“Showing Another Way”                                                                                         Philippians 3:17-4:1

The late U.S. Senator John McCain, whose funeral took place on Friday,  spent over five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He was tortured mercilessly; such that other prisoners were sure he would die. After a few months, weighing just 100 pounds, he was brought to the head of the prison, where he was offered release. Once they realized McCain’s faith was a top-ranking officer in the Navy, they wanted to look good and merciful by letting him go.

McCain refused. The U.S. Military’s Code of Conduct for Prisoners of War said that POWs had to be released in the order they were captured. Others had been at the prison for much longer. Enraged at his refusal, they beat him up again. Then he spent four more years in prison before his release. Continue reading

August 19 Sermon

“Church? Why Bother?”                                                                                                 Isaiah 58:1-12
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                       Matthew 5:13-16
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL            
August 19, 2018

Last Sunday, I did something I rarely do: I didn’t go to church. Last week I was on what we call “continuing education” leave, which is a time for me to focus on study and professional growth. This year I attended a mediation training for church leaders, which was excellent and quite intense. Taking the leave through Sunday allowed me to rest and recover, rather than squeezing in worship prep.

So, David and I got brunch with friends in the city. I had the chance to see what people who don’t go to church on Sundays do. As it turns out, you can find a lot of people eating a meal out, enjoying a slow Sunday morning. It got me thinking about how there were so many people around the city and the world gathering for worship – and there were so many people doing something else. Why? I wondered. Continue reading