Category Archives: Sermons

May 20 Sermon

“And You Shall Live”                                                                                                   Ezekiel 37:1-14
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                             Acts 2:1-21
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
May 20, 2018

If you’ve heard me preach much, you’ve heard me talk about something called the “Babylonian Exile.” This was a time, starting in the sixth century BC – roughly 2500 years ago – when the powerful Babylonian empire defeated what was left of the Hebrew people and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, the center of religious life. If God’s home is the temple, what happens to God once the temple is destroyed? The leaders and elites were taken away, and everyone else was left to scratch a living on a destroyed land. It’s hard to overstate just how horrible this was. It was one of those experiences that shook the people to their very core, turned everything upside down, and unleashed untold depths of grief. I believe it is impossible to really understand the scriptures – especially the Old Testament – without understanding that the exile is the backdrop for so much we find there.

Ezekiel was a prophet during the exile. His job was to make sense of God for people who probably felt abandoned by God, even as he himself worked through his own questions and grief. It was in that situation that God gave Ezekiel an image of a valley of dry bones. In the Psalms we find similar images:

  • “My bones waste away”
  • “My bones are shaking with terror”
  • “My bones burn like a furnace”

In this story, in the valley of dry bones, God is speaking to the very deepest part of God’s people, their most secret inward self, the sense of hopelessness and despair, of separation from their land and their temple and their God. The bones are dry. There is no life to be had. Continue reading

April 29 Sermon

“God’s Strange Directions”                                                                                         Psalm 22:25-31
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                           Acts 8:26-40
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL

April 29, 2018

The Church was having a wonderful time: more and more people wanted to follow Jesus, baptisms took place one after the other, it was amazing. But then a persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and everyone except the twelve apostles fled Jerusalem and scattered into the countryside. Enter Philip: he had been a table server, helping make sure that the hungry were fed each day. I imagine he was content with his role – glad to be part of sharing the love of Jesus in the world. Now the church was on hard times and for whatever reason – we don’t know why – Philip did something new: he began to preach in the city of Samaria and heal people of their ailments.

I suspect that for Philip to start preaching and healing in Samaria he would have needed a pretty direct call from God. After all, Philip and his companions would not have been fans of Samaritans. They weren’t the right kind of people, and they didn’t have the right kind of religion. There was a long-standing rivalry. Yet, somehow, Philip the table server became Philip the preacher and healer and Samaritans were baptized into the church! Boundaries were broken.

It is this Philip that would soon get a message from an angel of the Lord: “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Luke, our writer, wants to make sure we know it is a wilderness road. Continue reading

Sean Weston Installation Sermon

Sermon 4-15-18 Sean Matthew Weston Installation at Lyonsville Congregational UCC,
Indian Head Park, IL
 texts:
Numbers 11:16-17, 24-30; and Luke 9:57-10:2
The Rev. R. Kent Cormack

To you who are salt and light and leaven, the saints of Lyonsville Congregational United Church of Christ: grace to you and peace in the name of the one who is, and who was, and who is to come.

You have prayed and evaluated and prayed and interviewed and prayed and discerned and prayed and listened, and you have called a pastor. And you hope that it is a match made in heaven. You have called someone who will tell you that he has been called—called to preach and teach and listen and heal, called to ordained ministry in this amazing, beautiful, cantankerous, prophetic strand of the holy catholic church that we call the United Church of Christ. I am grateful to be invited to be here today, for I have had the privilege of witnessing certain aspects of the call of Sean Matthew Weston firsthand. I was not there to hear your borning cry as the hymn says, you were, I think, in fourth grade when your family arrived in the congregation in 2002. Certainly you wasted no time becoming involved. A search of my computer files revealed some things I had forgotten. Did you remember that, a few months later, you and your sister landed the roles of Joseph and Mary in the Christmas Pageant? Or that within months you were a regular part of the rotation of lectors reading scripture in worship? If any of you are wondering how leaders are formed in the Christian community, take note. They are formed, in part, by being invited into leadership, where from time to time, the Holy Spirit ignites and calls in ways that may surprise and disturb.

During the past couple of weeks, considering what I would say today, two memories in particular kept surfacing. You didn’t invite me to preach today thinking I wouldn’t tell any tales did you? The first memory was of Pentecost, when the youth and their fearless leader (Sean’s mom) prepared a really cool “tongues of fire” to be part of a dramatic reading of the Pentecost story in our outdoor worship service. They had filled a metal garbage can lid with sand and soaked the sand with charcoal lighter fluid. The trial run before worship produced a controlled, but fairly impressive, conflagration. Eventually the time came in worship for the tongues of fire to be ignited. Someone struck a match and tossed it on the sand … and we watched the match go out. Then a couple more folks came forward with butane lighters, but the results were the same. Soon there was a small ring of pentecostal wannabes gathered around that stubborn pile of sand something like the Prophets of Baal (at least as I imagine them) gathered about the altar, calling down fire from heaven, and having about the same success. Continue reading

April 15 Sermon

“When Jesus Shows Up”                                                                                 Luke 24:36b-48
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                      
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
April 15, 2018

One of my favorite TV shows of all time is the political drama “The West Wing.” At one point, one of the main characters, Josh, is recovering from an assassination attempt, struggling with post traumatic stress disorder. He talks to another character, Leo, who has struggled mightily with addiction. Leo tells a story:

“This guy is walking down the street when he falls down a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor walks by and he shouts, ‘hey you, can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole, and moves on. Then a priest comes by and the guy shouts up ‘Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?’ the priest writes down a prayer, throws it down the in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by, hey Joe it’s me can you help me out, and the friend jumps in a hole. Our guy says ‘are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, “yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.’”

In today’s gospel story from Luke, Jesus showed up to the disciples after his resurrection. They were a small bunch, still reeling from the crucifixion, still believing their movement had been defeated. When Jesus showed up they were terrified, thinking he was a ghost. Seeking to prove that he was really him, he showed them his hands and his feet. Continue reading

April 8 Sermon

 

“Doubt and Faith”                                                                                                        Acts 4:32-35
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                       John 20:19-31
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL

April 8, 2018

I want you, if you’re willing, to think for a moment of a time when you felt grief over a loss, a loss that you knew was permanent. It doesn’t have to be a death, though it certainly can be. It can be the loss of a romantic relationship, a friendship, an estrangement that seems most certainly permanent.

Now I want you to imagine that you are with others grieving that loss, with people very close to you. One of your group has been out, and she comes back with reports that the person you lost is back, that she saw with her own eyes.

How would you respond?

Imagine, then, that you have gone out from the group to run some errands, and when you get back, the others in the group say to you that the person you lost is back.

How would you respond?

I could be wrong, but I would imagine that most of us here would respond with disbelief, and probably some anger: “Why are you deluding yourselves? This loss is permanent. Bury your false hope and move on.” Denial, after all, is a healthy part of grief, but it is one that must eventually be overcome in the healing process. Continue reading