Category Archives: Sermons

October 28, 2018 Sermon

“Wisdom”                                                                                                                             1 Kings 3:4-28
Rev. Sean Weston
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
October 28, 2018

Solomon woke up as light streamed into the room, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He didn’t feel at all ready to face the day. Thinking back to the dream he had that night he wondered “was that real?” He’d been having a lot of strange dreams recently, but this one seemed too good to be true. God had come to him and asked “what should I give you?”

I mean, is that how God really works? Asking what to give you?

Solomon asked for wisdom. After all, there was no way he was ready to be king. No way he was ready to govern and judge. And God seemed happy with that request and gave him wisdom.

As he was reflecting over all this, one of his employees came over to tell him he was needed. Two women were arguing over a child. Both had recently given birth to children. One of them had lost a child to death. The other child was alive. Both claimed that the living child was theirs.

The air was thick with emotion: unbearable grief, burning anger, fear and accusations. The women presented their case to the king. He had a decision to make, a heavy decision, a decision that would change the lives of these women and the child forever. Continue reading

October 21, 2018 Sermon

“The King is Indicted”                                                              2 Samuel 11:1-5, 14-15, 26-27; 12:1-9
Rev. Sean Weston
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
October 21, 2018

If your eye causes you to sin, Jesus said, pluck it out. Better that then to end up on the moral trash heap.[1]

Many people, including me, don’t interpret Jesus’ saying literally. When teaching on adultery, he wants it to be clear that this is serious business. But I can’t help but note that if King David had taken Jesus’ advice he would have avoided committing several serious crimes, crimes which harmed countless others and of course himself. But instead, he saw Bathsheba on the roof and decided he wanted to be with her. He had no right. She didn’t ask to be with him. But she was beautiful and he was the king. Plus, her husband was out in battle. What harm could there be?

Well, a whole lot. As bad acts do, one led to another. It started small. First he was looking when he shouldn’t have. Then he called her to the palace and assaulted her – she didn’t ask for anything. It wasn’t even possible for her to agree to anything: that’s not how it works when it’s a king and a common woman. Then he arranged to have her husband Uriah murdered in battle. Then he took Bathsheba as his own wife. Listen to that work: took. He took her. This story is often talked about with the word sin. And yes, David certainly sinned. But David’s actions here are not the same as me cursing out another driver on the road. Better, I think, to use the word crime. David broke the lives of others. He broke the law. Continue reading

October 14, 2018 Sermon

“Covenant and Choices”                                                                                                 Joshua 24:1-26
Rev. Sean Weston
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
October 14, 2018

They were free. They were finally free.

The last few weeks we have been journeying with God’s people Israel as they were freed from slavery in Egypt, ushered through the Red Sea, and given the Ten Commandments. As the story goes, they spent 40 years in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. Joshua picked up the mantle after Moses died. When the time was right, they came to the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey. That is where we find God’s people in today’s reading from Joshua. God won battle after battle for them against their enemies. God had led them to freedom Now their leader, Joshua, was about to die. Before he did he gave a dramatic speech. He challenged the people to commit 100% to this freedom-bringing God. And they did.

This is the joyful end of the story we’ve been exploring the last few weeks: the Exodus story. The story of God freeing the Hebrew slaves and delivering them to the promised land. This is one of the most important stories in the Bible, especially for those who have been enslaved, oppressed and discriminated against. Continue reading

September 30, 2018 Sermon

“Privilege, Power, Prison”                                                                                Exodus 14 (selections)
Rev. Sean Weston
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
September 30, 2018

A boy was walking alone with his mom at night, on a narrow sidewalk. Without saying anything, his mom moved him behind her. He didn’t really understand why, but it was mom, surely it was okay. Then again without saying a word, she put him in front of her. What was going on? Then again she moved him – this time putting him on her shoulders. Never once explaining what was going on.

The boy felt confused, powerless, worried. Why was this happening? Was everything okay?

I wonder when you, too, have felt like that boy. Confused – why is this happening to me? Powerless: why don’t I have any control? Does it matter what I want? Worried: “what’s happening?” “am I going to be okay?”

 

If you would, take a moment to think of a time you felt like that boy. I’d encourage you to write it down – there is piece of paper in your bulletin. At this moment in time, what makes you feel confused, powerless, worried, scared? What makes you feel like that boy on the dark road?

 

Now, for another story.

A mom was walking alone with her son at night. She was on the lookout for danger. She sensed that there was a thief ahead, so without saying a word, she moved her son behind her. Then, she sensed a wolf behind them, so she moved her son in front. Then when a thief and a wolf approached at the same time, she put her son on her shoulders to protect him from them both.

 

These two stories, of course, describe the same events. The story is based on an ancient Jewish commentary on today’s story from the Bible.[1] In the Bible story, God’s people feel like that boy: confused, powerless, worried, scared. With the help of some well-timed plagues, Moses had freed them from slavery in Egypt. They were free! Except now Pharaoh’s army was coming after them, and they were stuck at the Red Sea. They started to wonder: what is this Moses up to? It seemed like he knew what he was talking about earlier. But now we’re stuck, and we’re going to die, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
(For his part, I imagine Moses felt the same way about God. “How could you lead me here to leave me here?” Why is this happening? Why can’t I do anything about it? Am I going to be okay?”) Continue reading

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