Where's the Grace in That?

Text: Luke 6:27-38; Genesis 45:3-11, 15 I have spent far too many hours in graveyards. As a pastor, there is not much choice. Sometimes after a burial, I will walk about in the quiet beauty of a cemetery gazing at headstones. It is fascinating to look at the epithets carved on gravestones. Some carve simply a name, a birth date and a date of death. Some carve a favorite saying or a line from a poem or a preferred biblical verse. Some carve out a few words that describe how they would like to be remembered. If you could write your own epithet, what would it say? Would it declare, “Here lies a woman who never let anyone get the best of her” or “Here lies a man who could hold a grudge as long a

How to End a Sermon

Texts: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Luke 6:17-26 Marguerite Johnson was a St. Louis native, a Pulitzer Prize nominated poet, and a woman known to most of us as Maya Angelou. A poem of hers that has haunted me for years, and especially over the past few weeks in Virginia politics, is called: “My Guilt.” My Guilt My guilt is “slavery’s chains,” too long the clang of iron falls down the years. This brother’s sold, this sister’s gone, is bitter wax, lining my ears. My guilt made music with the tears. My crime is “heroes, dead and gone,” dead Vesey, Turner, Gabriel, dead Malcolm, Marcus, Martin King. They fought too hard, they loved too well. My crime is I’m alive to tell. My sin is “hanging from a tree,”

A Fish Story

Text: Luke 5:1-11 He had had it with life, with people, and especially with preachers. He wanted to talk and for me to listen. Just listen. He did not want to hear another word from me and when I started to speak, he cut me off mid sentence and said, “Gary, save your preacher talk for someone else!” God, how I hate it when people assume they know what I am thinking and what I will say just because I am a “preacher.” What is “preacher talk” anyway? Well, this man did not leave that question hanging in suspense. In his mind, “preacher talk” is pious sayings and holy platitudes that have all the substance of a roasted marshmallow or guilt producing rhetoric, urging people to live ten times bet

I'd Rather Not

Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10 Pastors and Seminary students are often asked to share their call to ministry story. Believing that God has laid a claim on all our lives, I like to turn the question around. When asked to share my call story, I usually say, “I will be happy to do so, but first, tell me about your call story.” Most often, the response I get sounds often something like this: “Who me? I could never be a “minister/a church musician/a youth pastor/a Seminary professor’.” “You do not need to,” I will say, “You have already responded to God’s call by serving God as a lawyer, a student, a nurse, an administrator, a painter, a writer, a ruling elder, a choir member, a social worker, a parent,

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