Category Archives: Sermons

December 24, 2018 Sermon (Christmas Eve)

Christmas Eve Homily                                                                        
The Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                           
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
December 24, 2018

He was both God and human. His arrival was called Good News, for he brought peace to the earth. He was called son of god, lord, and savior. It was said that his birth had been marked from the beginning of time, to fulfill the hope of generations. None would surpass his greatness.[1]

I am of course talking about Augustus, emperor of Rome during Jesus’ birth. It is with this Augustus that Luke’s story begins: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.” The people of Israel lived under this Augustus, it was because of his decree that Joseph and Mary were making the grueling 70-mile trip to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.

Augustus was a big deal. After violent power struggles, he put an end to a civil war in the empire, ushering in a time called Pax Romana (latin for Roman peace). Some said that he introduced a golden age, when “the supreme good in human history was fully realized.” He was considered the center of the world. Continue reading

December 23, 2018 Sermon

“Trusting the Absurd”                                                                                                Matthew 1:18-25
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                                           
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
December 23, 2018

It seemed everything was lost. It was time to give up and throw in the towel.

For Joseph, it was the end of a marriage that had never really started. Marriage was a lot different in his time. It was a legal transfer negotiated between fathers, not a union based in love and care. So it’s hard to know how either Joseph or Mary felt about it. But I imagine that Joseph was excited to take this important step in his life. And then, with Mary pregnant before their marriage, it seemed she had not been faithful to him. This would have been devastating news. He was bound by law not to marry her. It was time to give up on his plans and his hopes.

For the people who first put this story down on paper, it was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans. Their plans, their hopes were all gone. Thousands of their neighbors and friends had been executed by Rome. God’s home on earth had been destroyed. And not for the first time in their history, either. Matthew’s gospel was written around 65 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, among a community of Jewish people who had followed Jesus and believed he was the messiah, come to save them. But now that everything was lost, they wondered if it was time to give up their hopes. Continue reading

December 9, 2018 Sermon

“For Such a Time As This: Courage and Peace”                                                           Esther 4:1-17
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                                           
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
December 9, 2018

Today’s sermon will be from the perspective of Mordecai, one of the characters in this story. Mordecai was the uncle of Esther. He raised her from a young age after her parents died.

Esther is often considered the star of this story, the one who bravely intervened against the King’s plans to wipe out her people. She is an example of courage and faithfulness, and she helped ensure her peoples’ ability to live in peace. However, Esther did not act alone. And it can be hard to relate to her – how many of us are Queens in a royal palace, hiding our minority status? Many more of us, like Mordecai, may only come up to the palace gates. We may feel that we have no influence over what happens in the halls of power. We may feel like peace is a far-off dream and all we can do is wait and hope. As you listen for his story, consider your own calling to courageous action for God’s peace. Continue reading

December 2, 2018 Sermon

“Watching and Waiting”                                                              Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4, 3:17-20
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                                           
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
December 2, 2018

One year ago minus eight days, I stood in this pulpit for the first time and preached a sermon about waiting. As I prepared for this Sunday, for another sermon on waiting, for the beginning of yet another season of Advent, part of me got restless: “another sermon on waiting?”

It’s really not the sort of thing that’s a lot of fun to preach about. Lots of church people like Advent, but when asked why I’ve rarely heard “because of the preaching.” The music, yes. The candles, yes. The preaching? Eh. But waiting is something that is part of our lives. It’s a hard thing, and it is not going to go away.

So here I am, talking about waiting once more.

People back in the prophet Habakkuk’s time didn’t like waiting either. Their situation was horrible. The Assyrian army had destroyed city after city, brutally killing people.

Habakkuk and his people had a question: “Lord, how long will I call for help and you not listen?” And so Habakkuk did what people do when we need to hear from God: he entered into discernment. He voiced his peoples’ deep pain and fear and trauma, asking the age-old question. Where is God? “I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you don’t deliver us.” Continue reading

November 18, 2018 Sermon

“Peace and Possibilities”                                                                Isaiah 36:1-3, 13-20; 37:1-7; 2:1-4
Rev. Sean Weston                                                                                                                           
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
November 18, 2018

I’d like to share a story with you, entitled Wangari’s Trees of Peace. The story is by Jeanette Winters and tells the story of a peacemaker in Kenya named Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. It’s an illustrated book for children, but it speaks to us all. The pictures will be shown on the screens.

The tree, of course, is a symbol of peace. As the landscape was violently destroyed, the trees witnessed to the power of life. A few things about this story really stand out to me, especially in light of the story we heard in scripture today and God’s vision for peace.

In both stories an incredible amount of destruction is taking place. In Kenya it’s the destruction of so-called “development.” Following the lead of the United States and Europe, God’s creation is being destroyed around the world for the sake of what we think is best for us humans. In ancient Jerusalem, it was the total destruction of 46 Judean cities by the Assyrian empire fighting a senseless war. The Assyrian King says it all in his own records – now on display at the University of Chicago: Jerusalem was surrounded “like a caged bird.”

In both stories attempts to stop further destruction were met with laughter and taunting by men in power. In Kenya, Wangari and the women she lead were laughed at by men who said they couldn’t successfully plant trees. Then once they were successful and she became even more brave, brave enough to stand in the way of more destructive “development,” men in power put her in jail. In ancient Jerusalem, the king’s general taunts the people, saying their God was powerless to save them. He claimed they could have a good life, if they surrendered. Continue reading