Tag Archives: Sermon

Witnesses

Each and every day, and increasingly in our connected world, we leave clues that some people can read and assemble into a portrait that depicts what we deem worthy of our time.

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What sort of picture do we generate about the importance of repentance and forgiveness of sins? If Jesus is central to our life, shouldn’t we leave crumbs about how Christ has made a difference in our lives or influenced the choices we make?

You are witnesses of these things.
— Luke 24:48

Do you share stories of exceptional examples of sacrificial love, someone’s willingness to forgive an outrageous misdeed, or even times when you experienced God’s mercy?

I will have more to say about Luke 24:44-53 and being witnesses of Christ on Sunday, May 28th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Seeking Infinity

How can we be  in God and God in us?

On that day you will know that
I am in my Father,
and you in me,
and I in you.
— John 14:20

Can a three-dimensional object have only one edge and one side?

Try this at home. Put a half twist in a strip of paper then tape the two ends together forming a loop. This loop is called a Mobius Strip; a three-dimensional object with only one surface and one edge.

To prove that it has only one side, draw a line down the middle of the strip by sliding it under a marker. With a little patience you will come back to where you started and line now appears on both sides of the original strip. If you attempt to cut a third off of one edge, you will get a loop twice the diameter as the original loop plus the middle third of the original loop. Both of these experiments show that a Mobius Strip is three-dimensional object with only one side and one edge. Thus it should not be too much of a jump to thinking about one God being Father, Son, AND Holy Spirit; about one God being in us and our being in God.

But the best part of being in Christ and having Christ in us, is that we become an extension of Christ and Christ’s actions become an extension of Christ’s ministry in the world. When our actions reflect Christ, those that demonstrate Christ’s love for the whole world, we keep his commandments and the Father grants our petitions, for then we will be doing God’s will.

I will do whatever you ask in my name,
so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

— John 14:13

I will have more to say about John 14:12-21 and being in Christ on Sunday, May 21st at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Building a Lasting House

Have you ever considered all of the expense that goes into building and maintaining a sanctuary, that part of a church building where we gather to worship on Sunday morning? A space that is difficult and expensive to heat or cool? A space that is seldom used during the week?

Since the first place of worship was merely an elaborate tent (see Exodus 26), what if instead of an impressive brick and mortar building that would only be used a few hours a week, we had a tent plus a few stacks of chairs,  a table, and a piano that could be rolled into place each week? Perhaps a tent we would inflate early Sunday morning then roll away that afternoon; for the church is not the building, but a people who worship together.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
— 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NRSV)

For when a congregation is focused on shaping the living stones rather than maintaining brick and mortar, then their spiritual house becomes stronger as the living stones are hewn to fit exactly together, matching the shapes of adjacent stones supporting and provoking one another.

Yes provoking one another. Smaller congregations are particularly good at this. If someone misses worship, they either call ahead of time or someone will check on them, perhaps even before worship begins. And not merely Sunday worship, for living stones have many opportunities to be the Church of Jesus Christ in the world.

While large ornate cathedrals leave me wondering how resources might be used more effectively, I do recognize the value of a permanent place for worship over the labor and wear and tear to erect a tent every week, and how all that labor can be come a distraction to being living stones in a community.

How are you a “living stone”?

I will have more to say about 1 Peter 2:1-10 and living stones on Sunday, May 14th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Testing Continues

St Mark's Cathedral
On Palm Sunday 2017, a bomb exploded at the entry of St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, killing 17 people.

Recent bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt remind us of the dangers of professing Christ as our Lord and Savior. This incident reminds us that following Christ has physical implications that will indeed test our resolve to trust the one true God.

Yet even Christians in Western nations are tested. First the Church is increasingly marginalized as Sundays, even Sunday mornings are being filled with secular activities. Our children’s coaches have told us that if our children wish to remain on the team they cannot miss games and practices, including those on Sundays.

Western Christians are also tested in the application of faith in political discourse. Should we support candidates who challenge our values for sexual morality, for responsibility to care for the earth, and for our neighbors who are hungry or homeless?

Our faith is tested in the hospital room watching a friend or family member suffer a debilitating disease. We ask: “How can a loving, all powerful God allow this to happen?” or “Where is God in all this pain?”

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. — 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NRSV)

On Sunday, April 23rd, we anticipate receiving as new members, those who have completed the confirmation class. However, the tests of faith do not end when they receive a Bible during worship. If anything, this ritual marks the beginning of testing the integrity of faith in all phases of life.

I will have more to say about 1 Peter 1:3-9 and testing of faith on Sunday, April 23rd at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Called to Live

Apart from trust in God, the world is a cemetery.

Calling Lazarus from the tomb disturbed many people.

  • John reports Jesus snorted in spirit and was deeply agitated: perhaps because Mary, like Martha, had regretted that he had not arrived soon enough to prevent Lazarus from dying, or perhaps because Lazarus was his friend and he regretted that his friend had to suffer through death, or perhaps because of the bitterness of death which is the wages of sin.
  • Many who saw the great sign, of Jesus calling a dead man from the tomb to walk among them, were sufficiently disturbed to believe in Jesus.
  • Others who had also seen the sign feared what Jesus would do to the status quo, feared him taking power from the fear of death that allowed the powerful to control people.

Belief in the resurrection, not only of Jesus which we will celebrate on Easter, but also of all whom God loves, should disturb many people: emboldening some to dare to challenge the status quo while making others fear that the future will be different. The promise of the resurrection has emboldened disciples to dare to proclaim the Good News even in the face of certain death and continues to do so even today.

Since death is not the end, what might we accomplish?

I will have more to say about John 11:1-45 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church on Sunday, April 2nd, at 8:15 AM and 10:00 AM.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

Seeing Jesus

Meeting a blind man in the New York Port Authority Terminal building formed my understanding of people with disabilities.

Hundreds of people rush through this building every minute, especially during the early evening hours. As I recall that building: subways trains would continually drop off and pickup passengers on at least two levels below the main level while buses disgorged and swallow passengers on at least two levels above the main concourse and above the buses were several levels of car parking. That building continually absorbs and wrings out enough traffic to fill an interstate highway.

I had met my father at his work earlier that day and we were heading to the bus that would take us home when my father recognized and hailed a friend of the family wending his way across the concourse swinging and tapping his red tipped white cane. We chatted for a minute or two when he flipped open the bezel of his watch, felt the position of its hands then told he might miss his bus. After explaining that he had lost count of his steps during our conversation, he asked if I would guide him to his bus. I agreed then he pushed me across the floor and up the escalator and to where his bus stood waiting. Slightly disoriented I mused aloud about getting to my bus, then he proceeded to give me accurate directions to my bus. Although fully blind, he had seen where I had not.

When Jesus healed a man born blind, his entire community failed him: his neighbors could no longer recognize him as his identifying disability had disappeared; the authorities would not recognize how he had been healed, as it did not fit the story they wished to tell; and his parents could not celebrate his healing as they feared the authorities. Only Jesus remained.

What blind spots do we have that keep us from seeing people around us for what they can do to build the kingdom of heaven?

I will have more to say about John 9:1-41 on Sunday, March 19th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Robert Shaw, Pastor

The First Evangelist

Are you seeking that big faucet in the sky?

Are you living the rat race, at least occasionally wondering which rats are winning or if its worth even running? Are you wondering how your contributions fit into the Kingdom of God? Are making an eternal difference, helping to usher in Jesus’ promised future on earth as it is in Heaven? May be you look around and want to make sense of the confusion of life all around us.

The woman Jesus met at the well had to carry a bucket down into the well, fill it, then carry it back up to her home probably several times a day. The modern convenience of tap water was beyond her imagination. She used a different term. She called the idea of running water “living water.” But she was so busy struggling with lugging water each day she missed the Living Water right in front of her.

The disciples had gone looking for food and were perplex by Jesus’ statement about his having food to eat that they did not know about, for they had missed the Bread of Life right in front of them.

In Cana the wine steward at a wedding was so perplexed with the wine that Jesus had made from water he missed the Wine of Salvation right in front of him.

Everyday people around us hunger and thirst for fulfillment for we are so caught up in the living we miss the Kingdom of Heaven.

I will have more to say about John 4:5-42 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, March 19th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

 

Transformations

When I walked out through the gates, my work stayed behind me. This was one of the great advantages of working on classified programs. The requirements of the workplace demanded that I compartmentalize my life. Work had to remain locked up inside the safe inside my office. Conversely during my time at work, my employer expected me to focus on work problems and not on family or church matters.

Nicodemus may have wanted to keep his contacts with Jesus separate from his daily pursuits as a Pharisee. Would other Pharisees understand if they had found out that he had sought Jesus’s teaching? Thus he came at night so that others might not find out.

Throughout history people have tried to separate their religious life from other pursuits thinking that one ought not to affect the other. Christ had instructed John of Patmos to write a letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus including:

Yet this is to your credit: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
— Revelation 2:6 (NRSV)

The Nicolaitans likely practiced pagan rites while claiming to be “Christians,” as if they could compartmentalize their Christian belief apart from the pagan practices of their culture.

The Nazis similarly expected Christians to compartmentalize their religion from the expectations of the State. Instead, representatives of the confessing church replied:

We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords — areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.
— “The Declaration of Barmen,” paragraph 8.15. Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Part I, Book of Confessions The Office of the General Assembly, 1999.

Jesus had challenged Nicodemus: “I tell you all the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born over.” An intriguingly ambiguous phrase implying at the same time to mean: to be born again, a second time; and to be born from above, spiritually as well as physically. A phrase that implies Nicodemus’s faith was somehow not quite mature enough, not quite fully gesticulated.

How do we continue to keep Christ out of parts of our lives? Are we fully ready to be born over?

I will have more to say about John 3:1-21 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, March 12th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

If you are …

King James I of England

Powerful men stand boldly on the pages of history. Cities, universities, even Bibles are named for them: Pharaoh Ramses. Cesar Augustus. Emperor Constantine. King James. Chief Pontiac. John D. Rockefeller. James Buchanan Duke. Joseph Stalin.

Thus when the Son of God steps onto the pages of history people might have expected greatness in the way of the world: Miracles performed that would end hunger and poverty. Angelic armies protecting the Prince of Peace. Kings and princes the world over would immediately bow to his name and tremble in his presence.

Thus the slanderer (the devil) taunts him: “If you are the Son of God …”

Instead of gathering his supporters and army, the King of Kings spends forty days and forty nights fasting in the wilderness, struggling with his humanity, responding to temptations with humility. Not in the fashion of great figures of history, but as one who might be a footnote or a comment in the margins of history.

How might we prepare ourselves during this season of Lent to understand the Prince of Peace who would not lift a finger even to end is own hunger for bread?

I will have more to say about Matthew 4:1-11 at 8:15 AM or 10 AM on Sunday, March 5th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.

Kirkin’ o’ tha Tartans

For thousands of years tartans have reflected the preferences of particular weavers and the tastes of particular regions, and families who lived in those regions. Following the Dress Act of 1746, when the British government attempted to suppress wearing tartans, particular designs became associated with clans and bear the names of the clan.

Tartan09On February 26th, in the year of our Lord 2017, the Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church will celebrate Scottish heritage with grand pageantry, parading tartans of clans that have worshiped in this congregation.

This service will emphasize Scottish influence: we will repeat portions of the Scots Confession of Faith, prayers from the Scottish Book of Prayer, and hear the Lord’s prayer in Gaelic.

Pastor Robert Shaw’s sermon will consider how Celtic theology might influence our appreciation of our place in the world.

Almost Divine

I remember a cousin calling out “Mrs. Shaw” at a family gathering then smiling as nearly every woman in the room turned to look at him. Such is the power of having someone’s name!

O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
— Psalm 8:1

Most translations honor a deep respect for the sacred name of God, using the word LORD in all capitals to represent the four Hebrew letters. A name so powerful ancient priests would only whisper it in the temple but once a year lest they use it too lightly or wrongly.

Yet we humans have been given this name to call upon the Creator of the heavens and the earth!

When I look into the heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what are humans that you are mindful of them,
Children of Adam, that you care for them?

— Psalm 8:3-4

The Celts perceived God not as sitting out beyond the edges of creation, but having created all that is from within the very substance of God, adding a divine dimension to all things seen and unseen.

I will have more to say about Psalm 8 at 10 AM on Sunday, February 26th at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.