Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quotations for Worship and Reflection

I haven't posted the quotations used in our worship bulletins since last August, so here are the ones used in recent weeks and ones from not so recent weeks.

This past Sunday, I preached on Matthew 22:34-46 where Jesus states the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. So, I used the following quote from Tolstoy. I don't know the source. I usually find quotes for worship from my own reading or I pick them up from one of the e-mail lists I subscribe to, so if I don't know the source that's because I picked it up from one of the e-mail newsletters that feeds such things to me.

“Everything that I understand, I understand only because I love."

—Leo Tolstoy

On October 19, the Sunday before church members made their pledges for the 2009 church budget, I preached on stewardship and used Luke 17:11-19 as my test. It tells the story of Jesus healing ten men afflicted with leprosy. Only one of them returns to thank Jesus, a Samaritan, truly a surprise to Jewish readers of the day who would have considered Samaritans to be half-breeds and inherently less ritually pure and devout. I found the following quote about gratitude by Melody Beattie, although again I don't know the source.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

--Melody Beattie

On October 12, I preached on the subject of Christianity and politics. My text was Matthew 5:13-16 (from which our Puritan ancestors took the image of "a city on a hill" later appropriated by Reagan) and my sermon title was "God Doesn’t Endorse Political Candidates." I was pretty much preaching to the choir at First Christian, but I felt like it still needed to be said. The following quote by Felix Adler worked for the occasion, but I really can't remember where I found it. sorry about that.

"No religion can long continue to maintain its purity when the church becomes the subservient vassal of the state."

--Felix Adler

October 5 was World Communion Sunday and I chose John 17 20-23 as the text, because of Jesus' prayer that all Christians would be one. I didn't preach that Sunday, because we had members of the local Sudanese community dance and sing in our worship--far better than any sermon I could preach and it was wonderful to share the bread and cup with our brothers and sisters from Sudan. The following quote comes from James Whites book on sacraments. White has a number of general books on worship that were textbooks in my seminary studies.

'We can never forget the evil of church division as long as communion cannot be shared together by all Christians."

--James F. White,
Sacraments as God's Self Giving

On September 28, I preached on Exodus 17:1-7 where once again, despite the miracles of God they have already experienced, the Israelites question God. My sermon title was "Live as if God Exists." I like the following quote by Barclay a lot--sorry don't know the source, found it on-line--because it recognizes the difficulty of belief even as it acknowledges the power of hope.

'I believe there comes a time when we have to believe where we cannot prove and accept where we cannot understand. If, in the darkest hour, we believe that somehow there is a purpose in life and that that purpose is love, even the unbearable becomes bearable and even in the darkness there is a glimmer of light.”
—William Barclay

On September 21, I preached on Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the generous landowner who pays a full day's wage to his workers even if they only came at the end of the day. In the sermon, I addressed the question of God's grace which seems unfair according to our own way of judging others but thankfully is available to all--even those of us who judge others. The following quote comes from one of my favorite authors, Frederick Buechner. Wishful Thinking is a great book. He writes a short bit about various theological ideas--a paragraph here, a page or two there--but his words are so provocative, a little goes a long way. I've found myself meditating for a long time over Buechner's words.

“A crucial eccentricity of the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace.
There is nothing you have to do.
There is nothing you have to do.
There is nothing you have to do.”

--Frederick Buechner
Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

On September 14, I preached on forgiveness and used Matthew 18:21-35 as my text. This sermon probably got the best reaction out of all of the sermons I have preached at First Christian. It's title is "Forgive but Don’t Forget." The following quote came from an e-mail list I'm on. I'm sorry I don't know the source. It is powerful precisely because of what Corrie Ten Boom experienced of Nazi persecution, when she and her family hid Jews and other fugitives from the Nazis.

"Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness."

- Corrie Ten Boom

On September 7, I preached on Matthew 18:15-20 and my sermon title was "Can Republicans and Democrats Worship Together?" Obviously, I was preaching on faith and politics. After watching the two political conventions in the previous weeks, it just seemed to me that according to the speakers we should be hating people who belong to the opposite party of our own. To hear them tell it, the other party (whether Democrat or Republican) wants to bar-b-que puppies wrapped in American flags. It just seemed important to me to remind folks--and I guess myself--that as Christians we have a higher allegiance--to God--than to our political ideologies. The following quote came from a commentary article on the passage by Pauline scholar Beverly Gaventa. It's well worth a read. I almost always find her stuff insightful. Here's a good interview of her.

“The church of Jesus Christ is not a therapeutic community, although healing can and does happen within it. The church of Jesus Christ is not a social club, although it sustains profound social relations. The church of Jesus Christ gathers in his name and with his presence. For that reason, conflicts, hurts, pains must be examined, discussed and addressed and healing prayed for. Not because the church is ours, but because it is his.”

--Beverly R. Gaventa

Finally, on August 24, I preached on Matthew 16:13-20 where Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. My sermon was titled "Do You Know Who You are?" and in it I offered the idea that we find our true identities when we experience God's love for us in Christ. This quote comes from the late great William Sloane Coffin, a chaplain at Yale during the Vietnam era and later the pastor at The Riverside Church. Coffin's stuff is always great. I'm sure this came from a sermon. I don't know which one.

“God's love doesn't seek value; it creates it. It's not because we have value that we are loved, but because we're loved that we have value. So you don't have to prove yourself -- ever. That's taken care of.”

--William Sloane Coffin

Hope these are fruitful for you and your journey.

Grace and Peace,


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