Category Archives: Sermons

November 26 Sermon

Seeking Christ
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
For November 26 2017, Reign of Christ Sunday
Based on Matthew 25:31-46

This morning’s passage is titled by scholars as “Matthew’s little apocalypse.” In 15 verses Matthew describes the final day of judgment. The Messiah is seated on a throne surrounded by angels, assessing humanity. In describing a far-off future, the writer intended to instruct people about their current responsibilities. Listen for God’s still-speaking voice in these familiar words.

 

These are two of my grandchildren. Weston is 7, and Kinley is five. This is a picture of Weston from about 4 years ago. As they prepared for baptisms, they went as a family visiting a number of congregations of different sizes, worship styles, and even denominations. At the end of one of these visits, Mom and Dad asked Weston what he thought. “I really liked the music,” he said, “but why do all the words have to be about Jesus?”

Dear Weston, this sermon is going to be my attempt to explain why all the words in the songs are about Jesus. So imagine with me that 7 year-old Weston sitting in this sanctuary. For some reason he did not leave with the other children to go to Sunday School but instead has remained in worship.

We believe that God, the one who has made the entire universe, became human. That human being was Jesus, a man who lived a long, long time ago in place called Nazareth. And that is why the words of our songs are about Jesus. Continue reading

Advertisements

November 22 Sermon

“Pilgrims and Watermelons”
or
“Thanks, nonconforming separatists!”
A reflection for Thanksgiving 2017
By Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
Based on 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

As my sister and I approached becoming teenagers, my mother sought to inject spirituality into our thanksgiving meal. Gathered at the table with the food ready to eat, she insisted that before eating we each name something for which we were thankful. She asked my father to start, thinking he would set a good example. “I am thankful,” he started “that there is no watermelon being served.”

One of my father’s life-long jokes was that every Lent he gave up watermelon. And just like Lent, my sister tried to remind him “there’s no watermelon this time of year.”

“Well, that gives me two things to be thankful for.”

With that example, my sister and I gave lackluster answers.

The next year my mother tried a different strategy. “Before we eat, I would like each of us to name something that happened in this past year for which you are thankful.” Thinking she had stated the question in a way that my father would comply, she again asked him to start. “I am thankful that in the past year I did not have to eat any watermelon.”

I assume there was some sort of conversation between my parents before the next Thanksgiving meal. Once again the table was set; once again my mother stated we were going to each identify something from the past year for which we were thankful; once he again she turned to my father and told him he would begin. What was new this year was a stern look in my mother’s eye. “I am thankful, oh so thankful,” started my dad, “ that in the past year Thom has grown up so much that now he can be first to name his thanks.”

I don’t recall my mother ever again presenting that particular Thanksgiving exercise. Continue reading

November 19 Sermon

With Thanks
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
For November 19 2017, the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time and Thanksgiving Sunday
Based on Matthew 25:14-30 (CEB)

This passage is commonly known as the parable of the talents, an archaic translation naming this Greek coin. According to Wikipedia one talent equals almost 20 years military service. Five talents would then be pay for one hundred years’ service.

I will say this now, and I will say it again: Lyonsville, I am happy for you. Remember what angels say? “Do not be afraid! God is in charge! Things are about to change! This affects you! God is with you.”

Having a pastoral candidate – and hopefully calling a pastor –is why I came to be with you, and I knew when you did those things I would be departing you, because my ministry will have been concluded. I will miss you – but I want to remind you I’m not gone yet: we have 9 more worship services to share! I will miss you – but I rejoice with you that your Pastoral Search Team has identified a candidate whom they feel secure in presenting to you for your consideration to become your next pastor. There’s still a few steps you must complete before that occurs.

I will miss you Lyonsville – and I have to remind myself: I am not gone yet. We yet have journeys to take together, processing through Advent, sharing Christmas and Epiphany and the first weeks after Epiphany. I will need to say farewell to you in stages – because the more healthy our goodbyes then the healthier our new hellos can be.

I am not going to cease being your pastor until my final Sunday in January. I will continue to pray for you, pray with you, for your individual health, for your congregational health, for the transformation of Lyonsville as your heritage is celebrated and new ministries are explored. I will continue to laugh with you, mourn with you, cry with you, rejoice with you. And in truth: having Advent to share with you makes my concluding work so much sweeter. Continue reading

November 5 Sermon

WWYD?
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
November 5, 2017                                                    All Saints’ Sunday
Based on Rev 7:9-17

“Revelation” is not a good translation of the title of this book. The original Greek title is Apocalypse, which means “unveiling” or “disclosure”. It is a book of mystical images, strange symbols, dreamlike visions, and hope. While it describes a heavenly realm, it was intended to convince hearers that God is present now, in our lives, in the events of the world today, offering comfort because God’s grace is greater than anything. This morning we hear a vision of how God’s faithful people are gathered before God’s throne.

also based on Matt 5:1-12

The beatitudes may be one of the best-known sermons of Jesus. The sermon begins with statements declaring “Blessed be.” The poetic word traditionally translated as “blessed” could also be translated as “enviable,” “fortunate,” “favored,” “well off,” or in the Common English Bible “happy.” It is the consequence of divine action. Listen to how Jesus pairs this sense of God’s grace with human experience.

 

In the 1990s there was an entire industry producing items bearing four letters: WWJD, representing “What would Jesus do?” The idea was to remind Christians when facing a dilemma to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” There were a lot of variations on this slogan:

WWJB: What would Jesus Buy?

WWBD: What would Buda do?

WWGD: What would Gandhi do?

WWLD: What would Lincoln do?

WWMLKD: What would Martin Luther King do?

among Lutheran friends, WWMLD: What would Martin Luther do?

then among my Methodist friends, WWJWD: What would John Wesley do?

Other popular variations included:

What would Brian Boitano do?

What would Johnny Cash Do?

What would Tintin do?

What Would Mary Marvel do?

What would Scooby Do?

And one of my favorites, WWYD:

What would Yoda do? Continue reading

October 29 Sermon

 

Reformation Roots
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
for October 29 2017, Reformation Sunday
based on Jeremiah 31:31-34 and John 8:31-36

Welcoming Words

We belong to a church that is reformed and reforming. We believe that justice and faithfulness, science and art, religion and society cooperate through God’s guidance. We believe that God is inviting us into a future where the church discerns God’s call more clearly, using tools such as prayer, worship, scripture, theology, congregational relationships, history, and hope.

 This week we remember 500 years ago Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk and ethics professor at a small German university, made a list of things he wanted to talk about. 95 items, 95 topics, 95 theses, 95 disputes, 95 things Luther had been thinking about and wanted to discuss with someone, or even debate publicly. He chose to post his list on a church door, because at the time the church door was the public bulletin board: it was where you posted announcements of marriages and births, want ads for breeding livestock, and help wanted ads. He chose the day – October 31st – because a lot of people would be coming to church on the 1st, on All Saint’s Day, and so a lot of people would be reading the notices on the door.

Martin knew that among the items he was posting were some hot-button topics – especially how the church was making its income and how it was spending its resources. (You see, the church has always had issues with how money should be spent.) He was criticizing a practice called indulgences. Basically, the belief was that to get into heaven a person had to have enough merit – usually from good works, but also acts of charity, acts of devotion. If you did not have enough merit, then those who loved you could add to your account by doing additional good acts. Continue reading