When we look at The Rich Young Ruler, we often see a smug, self-assured aristocrat in love with his money. But if we look closer at the text, we realize he had a vision of discipleship strikingly similar to ours: always focused on the “next right thing” God would call him to do. In this interaction, Jesus proves that discipleship is often about having lives that are quick to respond “yes” even when God asks us to do the next wrong thing—an act of obedience that disrupts all our plans.
Rev. Steve DeNeff - Matthew 6:19-21, 25-33; Romans 15:13. Hope is in short supply these days. As our world stumbles under the weight of terror, tragedy and natural disasters, there is talk of recovery and reconstruction, of legislation and government loans, of “finding a way forward . . . to a new future.” Our leaders say that we must stay optimistic. We must rely on each other. We must believe in ourselves and “keep hope alive.” But the hope of which the Bible speaks is not a conviction that something will turn out well, nor the certainty that it will make sense, but the assurance that, however it seems and however it goes, God will remember; God is still present; and God will fulfill His promises to the end. Our hope begins in the promises of God and it ends in a fearless trust that He who “knows what we have need of before we even ask” will bring it in due time (Matt. 6:8, 26, 30).
Rev. Steve DeNeff -. Every religion has to deal with suffering. Some try to avoid it, to overcome it, or to explain it away. But the mark of a practicing community is that it comes alongside those who carry crosses, with empathy and patience. These people know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance (produces) character and hope,” (Rom 5:3-4, NET). This sermon will explain how we can bear one another’s burdens in the name of Christ, and how such a community can be used by God to evangelize its city.
Rev. Steve DeNeff - Matthew 5:27-37' Ephsians 3:14-21. The rise of the individual over the community, along with an emphasis on freedom without commitment has led to an impermanent society in which promises are only good intentions. Against this tide of self-indulgence, the people of God are called to make promises and to keep them, for “our freedom doesn’t grow in the abstract; it grows in a particular soil with particular people . . . it grows only as we commit ourselves with and to others.”
Rev. Steve DeNeff - Matthew 5:21-24, 38-42; Ephesians 2:14-18. In our emphasis on diversity, have we forgotten unity? In fighting for justice, have we forgotten what spirit we are of? What historian Arthur Schlesinger called, “the cult of the minority” – the idea that one’s peculiarity is the most important thing about them – has begun to tear at the union of our nation. The trouble is that everyone feels like a minority. But the children of God make peace. We turn the cheek, release our debtors, love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. If someone takes our shirt, we give up our coat as well. And we not only forgive, we absorb the sins that others commit against us. This service will explore practical ways to embody the gospel of peace.
Rev. Emily Vermilya -. What kind of people are called for by these times? A people formed by the gospel. The Beatitudes are a profile of people who are humble, vulnerable, modest, hungry, simple, compassionate, peaceful and persecuted. They are unlike anything the world has seen, yet they are the happiest and the most whole. And when they come together, in covenant with one another, they form a new society, becoming a social alternative for the world. This sermon will introduce the core practices and call us to live in covenant with each other.
Rev. Steve DeNeff - In spite of all that is wrong with the world, the gospel is still “the power of God for salvation.” For Jesus, it was simply that “the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Yet somehow we have turned the “good news” into “good advice” – repent and believe – that has very little to do with what’s wrong with the world and even less with what God Himself is doing. This message will explore the origin of the gospel (in the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel) and show how it is still the most powerful, optimistic and complete hope for the world..