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Sermon Illustrations For Proper 14 | Ordinary Time 19 (2020)

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk who considered that the Church of Rome was corrupt. On October 31, 1517, he posted his famous 95 theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, inviting a debate on the issues that concerned him. This led to the German Reformation, or better known to us as the Protestant Reformation.

In addition to Luther’s skills as a writer, bible translator, and preacher, he was also an amateur musician. He wrote thirty-seven hymns, the best known is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Luther wrote the hymn sometime between 1521 and 1529.

These were some of the darkest years in Luther’s life. In August 1527, a man who followed Luther’s teaching was martyred. In the fall of 1527, a plague broke out in Wittenberg. In December 1527, a colleague wrote, “We are all in good health except for Luther himself, who is physically well, but outwardly the whole world and inwardly the devil and all his angels are making him suffer.” A few days later, in January 1528, Luther wrote that he was undergoing a period of temptation that was the worst he had experienced in his life.

The hymn was published in Augsburg in 1529. The original title was “A Hymn of Comfort.” The hymn is based on Psalm 46, and was intended to be a hymn of comfort, instead of a hymn of strength and fortitude against persecution as it is recognized by us today.

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper he amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Ron L.

* * *

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Joseph is not the child of Jacob’s old age, despite what the text says. That would be Benjamin, the last child born to Rachel. But perhaps Benjamin is not the favorite because Rachel died giving birth to him.

As for Joseph, he comes off as something of a snitch. He is training to be a shepherd with the sons of Bilhah, but he makes trouble for them by telling tales about them. True or not, this did not make him popular.

We who know the whole story sometimes want to skip to the end. The mature Joseph who has suffered greatly and only after playing them like fools was finally willing to forgive his brothers for what they did to him. Even after the big reveal, when they all weep and hug and seem to be reconciled -- it’s not clear if Joseph will apologize for the way he acted, like telling on his brothers, or sharing his dreams when they made it clear that he, one of the youngest, would be the greatest one of all. Such a tangled blended family with different roots and branches was bound to struggle even in the best of circumstances.

Joseph did not deserve what his brothers did to him -- but they didn’t deserve the way he treated them either.
Frank R.

* * *

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
The small Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach might seem a sleepy backwater, but it's home to two of the world's top sportswear companies, thanks to a 60-year-old fight. The Dassler brothers, Rudolf and Adolf, were shoemakers. In 1936, the Dassler Brothers provided shoes for Jesse Owens in the Olympic Games. After World War II, though, their relationship fell apart. No one was ever quite sure why, but their shoe company and the town divided. Some in Herzogenaurach supported Adolf while others supported Rudolf. Their argument resulted in the creation of two sports giants, Puma and Adidas, both still based in the provincial town.

The brothers never did reconcile. While they are buried in the same cemetery, their graves are about as far apart as possible. Sibling rivalry is never good. Jacob saw it in his family, too. Favoritism breeds jealousy and resentment. Jealousy and resentment give birth to regrettable actions. At the end of this sad chapter, a father is devastated; a family is broken, and a young man is far from home. What was an ugly scene in Jacob’s family, however, God used for good.  It’s interesting to note that, recently, the grandson of Rudolf is working with the descendants of Adolf’s family at Adidas. Things can get better. God will do some restorative work in Jacob’s family, too.
Bill T.

* * *

Romans 19:5-15
As I read the Facebook posts, listen to the news, read online news reports, I become more and more distressed at the way we are divided, and not just our divisions, but the hate that seems to spew in the language across the divisions. While I certainly have my opinions and disagree with many others, I hope I do not spew hate. Paul reminds us, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” We are all children of God. We are all loved by God. Whether or not we agree with one another, what might happen if we looked at each other and saw Christ in each person we encountered, saw each person as a child of God? Martin Luther King stated, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” Maybe love is the answer. No, certainly love is the answer!
Bonnie B.

* * *

Romans 10:5-15
John Wesley well describes the mess we are in without God’s forgiveness:

... hereby we are prone to all that is evil, and averse from all that is good; that we are full of pride, self-will, unruly passions, foolish desires, vile and inordinate affections; lovers of the world, lovers of pleasure more that lovers of God... (Works, Vol.5, p.73)

There is no preparation required for this gift. Again Wesley says it well:

Do not say, “But I am not contrite enough: I am not sensible enough of my sins.” I know it.  I would to God thou wert more sensible of them, more contrite a thousand fold than thou art.  But do not stay for this.  It may be, God will make thee, so, not before thou believest, but by believing.  It may be, thou wilt not weep much till thou lovest much because thou hast had much forgiven.  In the meantime, look unto Jesus.  Behold, how he loveth thee!  (Works, Vol.5, p.75)

No two ways about it.  When it comes to salvation, God does it all.  Even the confessing of Jesus to which Paul refers is the Word of God.  Jeanne Guyon, an 17th-century French woman who was a leader in the Jansenist Movement (dedicated to recovering Augustine’s insights for the Catholic Church) made a profound and comforting point:

So the soul does not trouble itself to seek anything or to do anything: that is, of itself, by itself, or for itself.  It remains as it is.  But what does it do?  Nothing – always nothing....  The difference is, that it is compelled to action by God without being conscious of it, whereas formerly it was nature that acted.  It seems to itself to do neither right nor wrong, but it lives satisfied, peaceful, doing what it is made to do in a steady and resolute manner.  (Amy Oden, ed., In Her Words, p.248)

In the same spirit Martin Luther once noted:

So no one is called a Christian because he does much, but because he receives something from Christ, draws from him and lets Christ only give to him.  (Complete Sermons, Vol.3/1, pp.329-330) 
Mark E.

* * *

Matthew 14:22-33
Arnold Palmer was one of the greatest golfers that ever lived. He once recalled the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament. He had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot and felt pretty good about his chances. As he approached his ball, he saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. The friend motioned Palmer over, stuck out his hand and said, "Congratulations." Palmer took his hand and shook it.

As Palmer describes it, “As soon as I did, I lost my focus.”  His next two shots were terrible. The first, he hit into a sand trap. Then he put the second over the edge of the green. He then missed a putt and lost the Masters.

Palmer concluded, "You don't forget a mistake like that; you just learn from it and become determined that you will never do that again. I haven't in the thirty years since."

Losing focus was bad for Arnold Palmer and it was for Peter, too. Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water and called for Peter to come out to him. While his eyes were on Jesus, Peter walked on the water. When he focused on the storm, he began to sink. It’s a powerful example for us. Whatever storm might be raging in your life, if your focus is on Jesus, you’ll get on top of it. Lose your focus and you’ll sink. Where is your focus today?
Bill T.

* * *

Matthew 14:22-33
On March 26, 1862, while the Civil War was raging throughout the United States, Pastor Joseph Gilmore stood and preached at the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia. He wanted the people to turn their eyes off the war for a moment and look to Jesus. His sermon text was Psalm 23, the shepherd's psalm. His sermon became the title for the hymn“He Leadeth Me.”

 Gilmore’s own recollection on the hymn's formation: “I set out to give the people an exposition of the 23rd  Psalm, which I had given before on three or four occasions, but this time I did not get further than the words ‘he leadeth me.’ Psalm 23:2, ‘he leadeth me beside the still waters,’ became the theme of the song”

Three years later, while preaching at another church, he opened their hymn book and found his words set to music. To his surprise, his wife had sent the words to a Christian periodical and William Bradbury of Maine set the words to music.

The refrain reads of the hymn “He Leadeth Me” reads:

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand he leadeth me

Ron L.

* * *

Matthew 14:22-33
Water is a symbol of chaos and disorder. Actually, it’s not just a symbol. Water is chaos and disorder. Flash floods carry off cars, homes, and people. Tropical storms and hurricanes can destroy whole cities on the mainland or wipe out virtually every building and all services on an island. When God created order in the first verses of Genesis, the Spirit of God moves across the face of the waters. The words formless and void are Canaanite gods of chaos. It is God who controls the flood, opening and closing the vaults with a divine command, in contrast to the Greek version on the flood narrative, where the gods start the flood because of their annoyance at human beings, but find themselves unable to control or stop the flood once it gets started.

All this is preface to the extraordinary ability of Jesus to walk on water and still the storms. In Matthew’s version of the story, the disciples don’t ask, “Who is then that stills the wind and waves?” but proclaim, accurately, “Truly you are the Son of God.”,

Sometimes Peter is singled out as one who lacks faith. I didn’t see anyone else volunteer to get OUT of the boat during a storm!
Frank R.

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