Category Archives: Sermons

July 8 Sermon

“Prayer”                                                                                                                       Exodus 32:7-14
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                         Luke 11:1-13
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL                                  
July 8, 2018

The year was 1738, in England. A preacher named John Wesley was burned out. He was having trouble with his faith. He said to himself, “stop preaching. How can you preach to others if you don’t have faith yourself?”  He asked a friend, another preacher named Peter Böhler [BOOh-lar] if that meant he should stop preaching and find a new line of work. After all, how can you preach to others if you’re not sure of your faith yourself?

In response, Böhler said no, absolutely not! Wesley responded, quite reasonably, “but what can I preach?” Böhler answered, “preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” John took his friend’s advice, and the next day he ministered to a man on death row. “My soul started back from the work,” he said, which is a 1738 way of saying “it was really, really hard for me. Something deep inside me resisted.” But he followed his friend’s advice. Preach faith till you have it.[1] Wesley ended up being one of the most influential preachers in church history, co-founding the what is now the United Methodist Church.          That’s good advice, I think. But the idea doesn’t just apply to those of us who preach. You might have heard similar advice in the phrase “fake it till you make it.” Maybe someone has reminded you that when you smile you are more likely to feel like smiling. Maybe you’ve discovered that during conflict with a loved one, saying “I love you” out loud softens your heart even when you don’t feel very loving. Preach faith till you have it. Fake it till you make it. Continue reading

Meditation Tips (July 1 Sermon)

Meditation: Tips to Get Started

Getting Ready

Pray for the desire to meditate: Try something like “God, I’m not completely sure that you really want to talk directly to me. And if you could, I’m not sure I’d like what you have to say. Help me want to listen, anyways. Help me try”

Set aside time and space: Especially for beginners, planning even 5 or 10 minutes each day at a consistent time helps a lot. It could be early in the morning, on the train, or on your lunch break.

Find a good place: Look for a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Leave your phone behind. Many people find going outside helpful.

Position your body: There is no right position – you want whatever is most comfortable and least distracting. Many find it helpful to use a straight chair with your feet flat on the floor, and hands on your knees with palms up. You can close your eyes, look at a picture, or look at nature.

 

Different Ways to Meditate

Meditation on Scripture

Meditating on scripture isn’t analyzing or studying. Take a single event, parable, verses, word, and try to live the experience.

Use all of your senses: smell the sea, hear water on the shore, see the crowd, feel the sun on your head and the hunger in your stomach, touch the hem of his garment. Allow your imagination to take you there.

Some good passages: Exodus 24:15-18, Exodus 33:11, Exodus 20:18-19, Psalm 1:1-3, 1 Kings 19:9-18, Acts 10:9-20, 2 Corinthians 12:1-4

Re-Collection

Place your palms down to symbolize turning concerns over to God. Think of things weighing you down and give them to God (Example: “God, I give you my anger toward John. I release my fear of my dentist appointment this morning. I surrender my anxiety over not having enough Money to pay the bills this month.”). Say “palms down” and release it.

After a few moments, place your hands up to receive from God. Imagine receiving from God (Example: “God, I want to receive your love for John, your peace about the appointment, your patience, your joy.”) Whatever it is, say “palms up.” Then spend the last few moments in silence.

Meditation on Creation

Pay careful attention to the created world. We’ll focus on this in a few weeks.

Meditate on Current Events

Hold the events of our time before God. Tell God what scares us or saddens us. Ask for understanding and insight. Then ask for guidance: is there anything you should be doing to bring light to the world?

A final note: Don’t be discouraged if you don’t seem to be getting anywhere at first. It takes practice and consistency! Keep trying.

 

 To Explore More

Much of this material is adapted from the chapter on meditation in Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth.

The 40th Anniversary Edition is the most updated and is available as an e-book through Amazon. You can also contact Pastor Sean for help ordering a copy.

July 1 Sermon

“Meditation”                                                                                                               Exodus 20:18-21
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                          Psalm 63:1-8
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
July 1, 2018

A few years ago, at the start of the new year I planned a silent retreat for myself. I arranged to stay in an apartment at the United Church of Christ’s camp in Kansas. I would spend Friday to Sunday afternoon alone, with nobody else around. The plan was to hang out with God and make goals for the year. “I’ll finally have the time and space to listen to God,” I thought. I’ll be able to do all the prayer I don’t usually have time for! I’ll cook real meals! I looked forward to it for weeks.

On New Years Day I was so excited as I got in the car and drove to the camp. I got settled in, put the food away, went on a quick walk, and returned to the apartment as darkness fell. Ready and excited to hang out with God, I sat in silence. But the feelings of spiritual joy didn’t come. Instead I began to feel a sense of dread and panic. The silence was so…silent. My aloneness was so….alone. The darkness was so….dark. Suddenly the idea of a weekend spent this way terrified me. It took everything in me not to pack up and leave just then. Continue reading

June 24 Sermon

“When Life Crashes”                                                                                                         Psalm 88
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                           Job 30:16-31
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL                                   2 Corinthians 4:7-15
June 24, 2018

What is now called the AIDs epidemic reached its peak in the 1980s. I was not alive at that time. I have, however, heard many stories from those who were there. In the early 1980s, there was very little good information about the often-fatal disease. It was seen as a disease that largely affected gay people. The vast majority of the nation, including the government, was indifferent or outright hostile. Plenty of people thought God was ridding the nation of bad people. Pat Buchanan, communications director for President Reagan, said that AIDs was “nature’s revenge on gay men.”[1]

For those affected, it was a time of intense grief. Many of those who had the disease were abandoned by their families, friends, churches. Death left a string of grief behind as people kept losing their loved ones to a slow and painful death. I know of one church in Tulsa that many attended in hospital beds. This experience brought layers of trauma that still affect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community today.

Almost a decade ago, I heard a story about this time during a sermon that has stuck with me since. During that crisis, a chaplain walked into a hospital room to see a young man dying alone. I’ll call him Spencer. Life had certainly crashed for him. He seemed to have given up all hope. As they talked, the chaplain learned that the man had lost all of his family and friends. He had been shunned by his church. See, once they learned he had AIDs they also learned he was gay. This was, sadly, something the chaplain saw every day. Continue reading

June 17 Sermon

“Alert But Not Anxious”                                                                                              Exodus 4:10-17
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                   Matthew 6:25-34
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
June 17, 2018

The late Rev. Peter Gomes was a highly respected preacher who served at Harvard’s Memorial Church. He writes about a time that he preached on today’s gospel passage at an exclusive girls’ school in New York City. He thought that Jesus’ words about not worrying would help in a place filled with anxiety and achievement. The sermon seemed to go well, he thought, which is usually the first sign that a mess is on the way. Indeed, it was. Gomes continues the story:

“At the reception, the father of one of the girls came up to me with fire in his  eyes and ice in his voice, and told me that what I had said was a lot of  nonsense. I replied that I hadn’t said it, that Jesus had. ‘It’s still nonsense,’   he said, not easily dissuaded by an appeal to scripture. ‘It was anxiety that  got my daughter into this school, it was anxiety that kept her here, it was           anxiety that got her into Yale, it will be anxiety that will keep her there, and  it will be anxiety that will get her a good job. You’re selling nonsense.’”[1]

My first reaction when hearing this story is to be mad at that man, angry at him for celebrating anxiety, angry at him for encouraging his daughter’s anxiety. It is people like him, I think with anger, that contribute to the mental health crisis that is just under the surface in society. Continue reading