Back to Our Roots

Message Title: Back to Our Roots
Main Text: Deuteronomy 34:1-12;
Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:34-46
RCL Scripture: Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46
Focus:  Moses dies and transfers leadership to Joshua as Israel enters the Promise Land.
Function: To think about our roots as we plan our future but not feel restricted or bound to repeat the past.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 22:34-46 34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. 35 One of them, a legal expert, tested him. 36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being,[a] and with all your mind.38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”  41 Now as the Pharisees were gathering, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “David’s son,” they replied. 43 He said, “Then how is it that David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, called him Lord when he said, 44 The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right side until I turn your enemies into your footstool’?[c] 45 If David calls him Lord, how can he be David’s son?” 46 Nobody was able to answer him. And from that day forward nobody dared to ask him anything.

Series intro: “Know Your Roots”: October ends with a very special holiday and no, I’m not talking about Halloween. I mean Reformation Day. October 31st marks the annual celebration of the Protestant Reformation. Then November starts with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. This is a perfect season to consider our heritage as we look to the future.


  1. History of Covenants:
    1. In the Old Testament, they used covenants as a legal agreement between two parties, much like marriage vows but less romantic. Typically, the covenant would include a sacrificed animal and the two parties walking through the blood of the sacrificed animal saying “let this be done to me if I break our promise.”
      1. Good news! Churches don’t sacrifice animals as a sign of our commitment to the church! Whew!
    2. Frequently churches tied covenants to the act of baptism. You gained “membership” as you committed to Jesus and to a church in the waters of baptism. Covenants showed your level of commitment to a congregation. This was especially important when persecution was high for Christians and is still important in places where being a Christian is illegal.

TRANSITION: In our text for today, we will hear about the transition of power from Moses to Joshua. Will Israel survive the transition of power? Can someone else fill Moses’ shoes?

SCRIPTURE & EXPLAINATION: Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Background on Deut

VS 1-3 Then Moses hiked up from the Moabite plains to Mount Nebo, the peak of the Pisgah slope, which faces Jericho. The Lord showed him the whole land: the Gilead region as far as Dan’s territory; all the parts belonging to Naphtali along with the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, as well as the entirety of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea; also the arid southern plain, and the plain—including the Jericho Valley, Palm City—as far as Zoar.

  1. Location: Mt. Nebo in Moab
    1. From this location Moses could see a wide stretch of the Promise Land
      1. Map of planned 12 tribes’ inheritance
      2. Israel square miles: 8550
      3. Indiana square miles: 36000
  2. Significance: Ruth’s country, enemies of the Israelites
  3. God says “here’s the promise land”….and then the next words are a kicker…

VS 4-7 Then the Lord said to Moses: “This is the land that I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I promised: ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have shown it to you with your own eyes; however, you will not cross over into it.” Then Moses, the Lord’s servant, died—right there in the land of Moab, according to the Lord’s command. The Lord buried him in a valley in Moabite country across from Beth-peor. Even now, no one knows where Moses’ grave is. Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eyesight wasn’t impaired, and his vigor hadn’t diminished a bit.

  1. You don’t get to go in.
    1. Map of Exodus & wandering for 40 years
    2. Moses already knew this; it wasn’t like God just delivered that information in that moment. He lost his privilege to go into the promise land with the rest of his generation and God declared this when Moses was deliberately disobedient.
    3. This is the end of Moses’ story. He leads the Israelites out of Egypt, that generation loses the opportunity to enter the promise land because of their lack of faith. They wander in the desert for 40 years until the next generation is ready to enter the promise land.
    4. So now, Moses is 120 years old but don’t worry, he’s got his vigor and eyesight. And it’s time to die.
  2. But what happens next? Who will take over after Moses? Aaron and Miriam are already dead. What leader get’s to take over?

Vs 8-12 Back down in the Moabite plains, the Israelites mourned Moses’ death for thirty days. At that point, the time for weeping and for mourning Moses was over. Joshua, Nun’s son, was filled with wisdom because Moses had placed his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to Joshua, and they did exactly what the Lord commanded Moses. 10 No prophet like Moses has yet emerged in Israel; Moses knew the Lord face-to-face! 11 That’s not even to mention all those signs and wonders that the Lord sent Moses to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to his entire land— 12 as well as all the extraordinary power that Moses displayed before Israel’s own eyes!

  1. Israel grieved for Moses, and then Joshua stepped into his role as the next leader of Israel. Moses had already blessed Joshua with wisdom to fulfill this role.
  2. Moses was special, no one was going to be exactly like Moses.
    1. Moses knew God face to face.
    2. God used Moses to show miraculous signs.
    3. Moses was special.


  1. We will hear more about Joshua’s story in the next couple weeks.
  2. As we see the closing of Moses’ story, it reminds me a little of funerals.
    1. It’s customary that we don’t air our family’s dirty laundry at a funeral. Though, that’s not always the practice. When saying goodbye to a loved one, you focus on the positive and try to let go of the rest.
    2. Moses was a flawed human being. He made all kinds of mistakes, yet in these final verses he is celebrated.
  3. And then we turn our eyes to Joshua to step into Moses’ roll but not shoes. But the author seems to make it quite clear that Joshua won’t fill Moses’ shoes. Moses had a special relationship with God.
    1. Joshua was to lead Israel but not be Moses.
  4. Joshua has his own story.
    1. Joshua was one of the 12 spies that investigated the Promise Land 40 years ago. He was one of two (along with his buddy Caleb) to say the Promise Land was wonderful and God would provide. He suggested they move forward. Unfortunately, he was outvoted by the other spies.
    2. 40 years later, he’s back at the edge of the Promise Land, ready to step in and let God take the lead. But will he do it perfectly? Join us next week for more of his story.

APPLICATION: To think about our roots as we plan our future, but not feel restricted or bound to repeat the past.

  1. As a lover of history, I love to hear old stories of communities. I love hearing how Prairie Township has changed or the history of the different buildings Liberty has worshiped in. I love hearing the stories of the confederate soldier John McKay enlisting in the Confederate Army because the Union stole his horses. I think those stories shape a community.
    1. I find it important to know our roots from to know where we are growing next.
  2. The past informs the future
    1. Knowing our roots helps us understand the meaning behind our traditions.
    2. Knowing our roots provides us wisdom for the future
  3. Plant – Pot – Roots – Growth
    1. not a green thumb
      1. watering
      2. replanting
    2. rotating crops
  4. God doesn’t only play the greatest hits. (annuals vs. perennials)
    1. God can do new and beautiful things in God’s church.
    2. We need to be attentive to God’s Spirit guiding us.

CONCLUSION: As I think about our church covenant, I think of the importance for us to know why we gather in order to plan for our future.

  1. As we trust we have been brought by Divine Grace to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the influence of His Spirit to give ourselves up to Him, so we do now solemnly covenant with each other that, God enabling us, we will walk together in brotherly love; that we will exercise a Christian care and watchfulness over each other and faithfully warn, rebuke and admonish one another as the case shall require;
  2. that we will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together nor omit the great duty of prayer both for ourselves and for others; that we will participate in each others joys and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy to bear each others burdens and sorrows; that we will earnestly endeavor to bring up such as may be under our care in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;
  3. that we will seek Divine aid to enable us to walk circumspectly and watchfully in the world, denying ungodliness and every worldly lust; that we will strive together for the support of a faithful evangelical ministry among us; that we will endeavor by example and effort to win souls to Christ; and through life amidst evil report and good report seek to live to the glory of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
  4. Reflection
    1. Consider our covenant: How is your commitment to God and to the church?
    2. Roots: What do you love about Liberty?
    3. Growth: What do you hope for Liberty’s future
  5. Benediction:
    1. Our Roots nourish our Growth.
    2. it’s important to know our Roots in order to Grow.

Do You Even Know Me?

Message Title: Do You Even Know Me?
Theme: Heretics & Holy Prophets
Main Text: Isaiah 45:1-7
Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:15-22
RCL Scripture: Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; Isaiah 45:1-7; Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13); 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22
Focus: God speaks through the prophet to King Cyrus.
Function: To worship God for his dominion has no bounds and to celebrate that God can use anyone for God’s purpose.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 22:15-22 15Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. 16They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. 17So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 18Knowing their evil motives, Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. 20“Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked. 21“Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 22When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed.

HERETIC: Anne Hutchinson

  1. This morning, on our last installment of Heretics and Holy People, we will look at the beginnings of Baptists.
  2. When we think about the first settlers to the Americas, frequently our first image is of pilgrims. But pilgrims weren’t the only ones who came to the Americas looking for a new life. A common misconception is blending or interchanging the word Pilgrim with Puritan.
    1. We frequently imagine puritans as pilgrims and looking like this:
      1. Photo- pilgrim stereotype
    2. Puritans more frequently looked like this:
      1. Photo- puritan, yep just normal people of that time.
  3. Hold on to the seat of your pants! We’re diving into the 1600s & 1700s today! WHOOOOO!
    1. Photo: Church Family tree, Separatists, & Baptists
  4. Briefly about Puritans
    1. Puritans believed that the Church of England needed reform or purification. They did not see a willingness for change, so many moved to the Americas for a chance to start things fresh.
      1. Correct living was a significant part of Puritan life.
    2. Puritans settled in Massachusetts and created a society fitting of their beliefs.
  5. Enter Anne Hutchinson: a puritan woman who pushed back on the structure of Puritan ways.
    1. As part of puritan custom, Anne Hutchinson hosted a discussion each Sunday at her house after the sermon. It started out as a conversation between women and slowly more people came to engage. The conversation shifted towards Anne teaching her thoughts in contrast with the sermon.
      1. One of the key figures listening to her speak was Roger Williams, one of the founding fathers of Baptists in America.
      2. Anne believed that puritan ministers were teaching salvation through obedience rather than through belief in Jesus.
      3. She preached about “soul freedom” or “soul competency” this meant God gave you everything you needed in your mind to be able to conclude that Jesus was the way. Laws shouldn’t exist to “make you” go to church to “find Jesus,” our hearts should bring us to that conclusion.
    2. Anne was pushed out of the puritan congregation, put on trial, and eventually banished from the colony accused of antinomianism (or being against laws). (wiki)

TRANSITION: Anne defied multiple teachings of her faith by 1. Speaking out as a woman 2. Questioning the teachings of her leaders and 3. Listening to God’s spirit in her own life. Her own people deemed Anne a heretic. Could we learn anything from outsiders? What could someone outside of the covenant have to say to “God’s chosen people?”

In our text for today we will hear God speak through the prophet “Isaiah”[1] to the conqueror of Babylon & King of Persia.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 45:1-7

The Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whom I have grasped by the strong hand, to conquer nations before him, disarming kings, and opening doors before him, so no gates will be shut: 2I myself will go before you, and I will level mountains. I will shatter bronze doors; I will cut through iron bars. 3I will give you hidden treasures of secret riches, so you will know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name. 4For the sake of my servant Jacob and Israel my chosen, I called you by name. I gave you an honored title, though you didn’t know me. 5I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no God. I strengthen you—though you don’t know me6so all will know, from the rising of the sun to its setting, that there is nothing apart from me. I am the Lord; there’s no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, make prosperity and create doom; I am the Lord, who does all these things.

  1. Give a time jump from chapters 25-45
    2. Many years have passed since last week. Some scholars believe Isaiah has passed away by this point and one of his disciples takes overs recording the rest of the prophecy. Regardless, we hear a message from God to a King but it isn’t the king of Israel or Judah. This is the King of the Persian empire.
      1. Judah is now in exile because of Babylon.
      2. But Babylon has been conquered by Persia.
        1. Time has passed and God is saying something new. We’re hearing about hope again.
    3. As this passage unfolds, so are the books of Jeremiah, Lamentations, Daniel, and Ezekiel.


  1. “The Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus,”
    1. “The Lord says” –God is using “Isaiah” to speak
    2. Language used in reference to David now for a foreign king
    3. God is using Cyrus for God’s glory.
  2. “though you don’t know me…”
    1. “hidden treasures of secret riches”
    2. “I gave you an honored title, though you didn’t know me”
    3. “I strengthen you”
  3. “…so all will know… there is nothing apart from me,”

INTERPRETATION: God blesses Cyrus, intending to make God’s name known.

  1. I’m sure there are layers of questions building inside of you, if you’re anything like me. Israel/Judah are God’s chosen people. David is God’s chosen king.  Conquering nations destroyed Israel, David & Solomon are dead. Judah is in exile under Persian rule. Now what? How can there be hope when it seems the 12 tribes are in ashes?
    1. God had sent Judah into exile because they were not following through with the covenant. They were not just, righteous, or holy. They were selfish. They ignored the needs of the poor and the vulnerable.
    2. As God had prepared them to go into exile God was also making promises. This feels like the end because all you see right now is destruction, but something beautiful is coming.
      1. We hear about a remnant of Israel that will survive and thrive.
      2. We hear promises of the coming Messiah coming from the remnant.
  2. Can God appoint an “enemy” for God’s will?
    1. God uses the “enemy” of Israel for God’s purpose. God claims Cyrus’s reign for moral work.
      1. Now it’s important to note that Cyrus isn’t a perfect or infallible guy. Yes, Judah may return to Jerusalem under his rule and returns some funds to them so they can rebuild the Temple BUT that doesn’t mean he ONLY made moral choices.
    2. God used others before God used Cyrus. God used people & creation, even when they were considered “outsiders.” God has a habit of using the unlikely or “heathens” or “outsiders” for God’s glory.
      1. Hagar NAMES GOD! God blesses her and Ishmael.
      2. Balaam’s donkey (Bible study throw back)
      3. Jonah & the Ninevites (Bible study throw back)
      4. Even the rocks cry out (Jesus’ words)
    3. There is no doubt it is God at work when an unlikely candidate speaks God’s praises or performs God’s will.


  1. If we believe in an all-powerful God:
    1. Nothing and no one is outside of God’s charge.
    2. Nothing and no one is outside of God’s redemption story. 
  2. God will find ways for God’s light to shine through
    1. The Mission field: They retrained us in seminary to think about missions and what it means to serve God.
      1. A missionary does not bring God to a group of people. God is already there. A missionary is supposed to point out where God is already present in their world. A missionary connects the dots between culture and Christ.
      2. In Acts 17, Paul is in Athens. He walks into the pagan worship space and discovers a statue to “the unknown God” and then Paul tells the Athenians about the Unknown God.
        1. God was already present there. Paul named the God who was already there.
  3. Our world: I want the end of our study in Isaiah to leave you filled with hope amid uncertainty.
    1. The language we hear in the news and social media frequently leads to division and hopelessness. Bad news makes news companies’ money. There is motivation to stir up drama.
    2. But our God is in control.
      1. Perhaps you have anxiety about COVID or the election or finances or your job. Or Perhaps you have anxiety over the life choices of a loved one. Perhaps it feels like one immoral decision is all it will take for God to give up on you or you ruined God’s plan.
        1. “If you think you’ve blown God’s plan for your life, rest in this. My beautiful friend, you are not that powerful.” – Lisa Bevere.
      2. God brought Judah back from the ashes. God used kings who had never heard God’s name. God can redeem any story.
    3. If you are sitting in a place of uncertainty for yourself, your country, or a loved one I want you to hear hope. Our God is more powerful, more compassionate, and more righteous than our best days. The story doesn’t end here but continues towards God’s redemptive plans.
  4. HERETIC: Anne Hutchinson had some extreme thoughts and acted in dramatic ways, but her actions laid the foundation for the Baptist faith.
    1. Her actions paved the way for Baptists and Quakers
    2. For the Puritans, Anne was an unlikely candidate for God to use. They preferred focusing on behaving in perfect ways rather than living in the grace of the Gospel.


  1. *Check in * did anyone avoid using divisive language this last week?
  2. Moving forward: How could you open yourself up to hear from God through an opponent?
    1. Who could you listen to this week?
    2. How could God surprise you this week?


  1. Websites & Articles
  2. Videos:

[1] By this time, much time has passed. Is Isaiah dead by this point? Who is officially writing this part of Isaiah? Likely a disciple of Isaiah.

Musical Heresy

Originally preached on 10/4/2020

Message Title: Musical Heresy
Theme: Heretics & Holy Prophets
Main Text: Isaiah 5:1-7
Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:33-46
RCL Scripture: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:7-15; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46
Focus: Israel did not stay faithful to the message God gave their ancestors.
Function: To hold our love of history/tradition in balance with our attention to the active Spirit of God.
Other Notes: COMMUNION

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 21:33-46 33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then he rented it to tenant farmers and took a trip. 34 When it was time for harvest, he sent his servants to the tenant farmers to collect his fruit. 35 But the tenant farmers grabbed his servants. They beat some of them, and some of them they killed. Some of them they stoned to death. 36 “Again he sent other servants, more than the first group. They treated them in the same way.37 Finally he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. 38 “But when the tenant farmers saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come on, let’s kill him and we’ll have his inheritance.’39 They grabbed him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenant farmers?” 41 They said, “He will totally destroy those wicked farmers and rent the vineyard to other tenant farmers who will give him the fruit when it’s ready.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the scriptures, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this, and it’s amazing in our eyes?[e] 43 Therefore, I tell you that God’s kingdom will be taken away from you and will be given to a people who produce its fruit. 44 Whoever falls on this stone will be crushed. And the stone will crush the person it falls on.” 45 Now when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard the parable, they knew Jesus was talking about them. 46 They were trying to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, who thought he was a prophet.


INTRODUCTION TO SERIES: Heretics & Holy People

Over the next three weeks we will skim the surface of the book of Isaiah. Three weeks and 66 chapters of Isaiah means that we will leave many things out. I encourage you to crack open your Old Testament and explore the book more on your own. During our brief series, we will explore the words of the prophet Isaiah, a holy man, and contrast his words with “heresies” from the Christian family tree.

Picture of the family tree. Originally Christianity was all unified, whole, connected, or catholic. In 1054 the whole church split in two over unreconcilable disagreements. The church became “catholic” and “orthodox.” In 1517 things changed again with the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

Zoomed in picture: Today, we’re going to peek into the story of one of the reformers: Ulrich or Huldrych Zwingli.

HERETIC: Huldrych (Ulrich) Zwingli & the Zwingli Reformation

  1. Christian family Tree
    1. Catholic & Orthodox Split in 1054 AD
    2. Catholic/Protestant (Lutheran Reformation) Split 1517
    3. Protestant splinters off of Lutheran
      1. Zwingli Reformation (Reformed theology)
  2. Huldrych (Ulrich) Zwingli: was a reformer in Switzerland. His ideas developed simultaneously and separately from Martin Luther, though their thoughts appear to build on each other. Ironically enough, Zwingli and the other reformers didn’t get along. They got together at one point to compare their problems with the Catholic church and concluded they could not reach a consensus between the group of them. Their reformations birthed different denominations.
    1. Zwingli’s perspective boils down to this: if it isn’t literally in scripture, we shouldn’t have it.
      1. Zwingli believed that scripture held the highest authority, and human interpretation added things to our tradition that God did not intend. Zwingli, like Luther, did not agree with the way the Church had developed and the corruption he saw in priests, bishops, and the traditions they developed like fasting during lent and celibacy of priests.
      2. There is darkness within the reformation stories, including Christians killing Christians, but for now we will focus on a more light-hearted aspect.
    2. One Particular Extreme View: He wanted to do away with any traditions or teachings that the church held that were not directly from scripture. One particularly extreme view he had was that musical instruments were about human worship and not worship of God.
      1. He ordered the removal and destruction of all things that were focusing on human efforts/talents rather than God’s glory. Sometimes, individuals poured cement or concrete into organs to prevent the use of them. This was an extreme act for a conviction!

TRANSITION: We won’t be destroying any organs today, but we will hear a weird song that speaks of destruction. Could hope grow out of the ashes of judgement? Could these sad words mean something positive?

SCRIPTURE &: Isaiah 5:1-7

INTRODUCTION TO ISAIAH: Isaiah is a book of 66 chapters, and it spans over 150 years of history. This large time span leads to questions about who finished the book after Isaiah’s death. Christians don’t agree on the solution to this question. This book’s major themes include justice for the poor and judgment for the disobedient. However, the story doesn’t stay focused on destruction. But we’ll leave the end of the story for another week.

Let me sing for my loved one a love song for his vineyard. My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2He dug it, cleared away its stones, planted it with excellent vines, built a tower inside it, and dug out a wine vat in it. He expected it to grow good grapes—but it grew rotten grapes. 3So now, you who live in Jerusalem, you people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: 4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I haven’t done for it? When I expected it to grow good grapes, why did it grow rotten grapes? 5Now let me tell you what I’m doing to my vineyard. I’m removing its hedge, so it will be destroyed. I’m breaking down its walls, so it will be trampled. 6I’ll turn it into a ruin; it won’t be pruned or hoed, and thorns and thistles will grow up. I will command the clouds not to rain on it. 7The vineyard of the Lord of heavenly forces is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are the plantings in which God delighted. God expected justice, but there was bloodshed; righteousness, but there was a cry of distress!


  1. “My loved one”—As the passage opens up, you may wonder who the speaker is and who is the intended audience. Notice the voice shifts in verse 3 from a person who loves the vineyard owner to the vineyard owner’s words. This is a prophecy, meaning God is speaking through Isaiah to a group of people.
    1. The 12 tribes have split into two kingdoms after Solomon died: the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom of Israel falls during this same time period. Isaiah focuses its message on the Kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.
  2. My loved one had a vineyard”
    1. Tended to the vineyard but it grew rotten grapes
      1. The people of Judah.
  3. 4What more was there to do for my vineyard that I haven’t done for it?”
    1. Here, I hear a God who wants what is best for creation but creation doesn’t listen.
      1. Have you forgotten who I am?
      2. Have you forgotten what I’ve done for you?
      3. What more could I do that I haven’t already done?
  4. Key verse: 7The vineyard of the Lord of heavenly forces is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are the plantings in which God delighted. God expected justice, but there was bloodshed; righteousness, but there was a cry of distress!
    1. God explains this weird song in verse seven.
    2. God expects God’s people to live a holier life than the rest of the world. God is going to teach them with God’s next actions.
      1. Judah will hear for many more chapters that exile is coming but it will not actually come for years.

APPLICATION: To hold our love of history/tradition in balance with our attention to the active Spirit of God.

  1. We are super excited to be back in our sanctuary. Our goal is to be extra cautious and if things continue to look positive, we will lighten the restrictions on service and the building.
    1. I ask you to celebrate our reunion with this building.
    2. Our goal is to be faithful in whatever God calls us to do; for now, that means worshiping in this building. We will continue to be attentive to God’s guidance as the weather gets colder and flu season ramps up.
    3. I pray that we center our hearts on loving God and loving others rather than doing what is familiar.
  2. HERETIC: Zwingli pushed back on traditions that had been established in the Catholic faith for centuries. Though I don’t recommend filling organs with cement or burning pianos, I think it is important for us to understand WHY we do what we do in church.
    1. Zwingli died in opposition to the Catholic church. He died in a battle with Catholics as they attacked Zwingli’s town. (WIKI)
    2. Though considered a “heretic” by the Catholic faith, Zwingli’s teachings continue today as an accepted form of Christianity. Zwingli and John Calvin were two fathers of the Reformed tradition in the Christian family tree.

COMMUNION: Communion is one practice we do at Liberty. We take part in Communion on first Sundays (and sometimes on special occasions).

  1. Communion has shifted forms over the centuries, especially with the Reformations and splits in the Church.
    1. Baptists believe Communion is a symbol. We are not literally eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking Jesus’ blood. The bread and juice point to Jesus. At its core, this practice is a reminder of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Communion reminds us of our eternal life that we receive through Jesus. We need not fear death because Jesus has conquered death.
    2. This is ONE Christian perspective out of thousands of denominations.
  2. At Liberty, we invite anyone who believes in Jesus to take part in Communion. Even if you’ve only started thinking about that today.
    1. Our Covid-Communion is weird but still sacred. We’ve got individual bags for quarantine groups that include crackers and grape juice and small cups.  If you need any of the elements just raise your hand and a deacon can help.
  3. Pray over the elements
    1. Invite people to receive Communion.

CONCLUSION: Our goal is to balance our connection to our Christian family tree with being actively guided by God’s Spirit. I believe that God gave us the gift of inquisitive minds to enrich our faith. It is acceptable to ask questions about why we hold certain traditions or elements of service.

BENEDICITON: May we be people that doesn’t accept the status quo but is constantly turning to God’s Spirit for guidance.

Unclear Expectations

Originally preached 10-11-2020

Postscript: This sermon also saw some changes between the preparation, practice, and preaching. I’ll share the video of the sermon when it is uploaded to youtube.

Message Title: Unclear Expectations
Theme: Heretics & Holy Prophets
Main Text: Isaiah 25:1-9
Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:1-14
RCL Scripture: Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14
Focus:  Isaiah sings a song of praise to God of justice and restoration.
Function: To adjust our expectations of God’s plan and
Christianity isn’t about our expectations of God. Christianity is about God training us to expect new and better things.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus responded by speaking again in parables: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding party for his son. He sent his servants to call those invited to the wedding party. But they didn’t want to come. Again he sent other servants and said to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Look, the meal is all prepared. I’ve butchered the oxen and the fattened cattle. Now everything’s ready. Come to the wedding party!”’ But they paid no attention and went away—some to their fields, others to their businesses. The rest of them grabbed his servants, abused them, and killed them. “The king was angry. He sent his soldiers to destroy those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding party is prepared, but those who were invited weren’t worthy. Therefore, go to the roads on the edge of town and invite everyone you find to the wedding party.’ 10 “Then those servants went to the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding party was full of guests. 11 Now when the king came in and saw the guests, he spotted a man who wasn’t wearing wedding clothes. 12 He said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ But he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to his servants, ‘Tie his hands and feet and throw him out into the farthest darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.’ 14 “Many people are invited, but few people are chosen.”


  1. Marcion of Sinope taught one of the earliest heresies of the Christian Church after Jesus’ ascension. PHOTO Marcion was born around 85 AD and died around 160 AD. He was part of the first two generations of Christians after Jesus’s disciples. Therefore, Marcion would be close to the very front of our Christian family tree that I showed last week.
    1. The only reason we know about Marcion is because of the writings of his opponents. None of Marcion’s writings survived. His teachings however stirred up enough controversy that in 144 AD, the early church leaders excommunicated him.
  2. What did Marcion believe that was so controversial?! The early Christians disliked Marcion for developing two specific heresies. And the two heresies fueled each other.  
    1. Ditheism: Marcion believed the Bible had to have 2 gods. It couldn’t be a monotheistic faith, but a ditheistic or dual theism faith.
      1. Angry Demiurge of OT
      2. Supreme God that sent Jesus (loving and more powerful than Demiurge)
    2. Highly Edited New Testament Canon: Of all the “sacred” texts floating around Marcion picked the ones that made the most sense to him.
      1. 10 of Paul’s epistles w/ the pro-Jewish bits cut out
      2. Gospel of Luke, with pro-Jewish bits cut out
  3. The reason behind the heresy
    1. Marcion was Pro-Paul of Tarshish. Though Paul died 20+ years before Marcion’s time, he claimed to be a disciple of Paul. Marcion let his interpretation of Paul’s letters impact his interpretation of the Hebrew Bible (meaning Old Testament).
      1. Marcion interpreted Paul’s words as negative towards Jews.
        1. ie: “neither Jew nor Greek” and “circumcision” not being super important anymore, calling out Peter for not eating with the Gentiles and favoring Jews.
      2. So, his version of the bible edited out the Pro-Jewish bits.
    2. Marcion’s expectations about God and about Paul led him to edit out significant parts of the Christian faith. God in the Old Testament didn’t match the God Marcion imagined sent Jesus.

TRANSITION: But expectations don’t always unfold in our favor. Marcion’s teaching got him kicked out of the church. God had expectations for Israel, and Israel didn’t meet them.

The Assyrian Empire wiped out the Northern Kingdom of Israel but did not defeat the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Perhaps, Judah thought God spared them because God favored them?

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 25:1-9

Lord, you are my God. I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, planned long ago, faithful and sure. 2You have turned the city into rubble, the fortified town into a ruin, the fortress of foreigners into a city no more, never to be rebuilt. 3Therefore, strong people will glorify you; the towns of tyrant nations will fear you. 4You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress, a hiding place from the storm, a shade from the heat. When the breath of tyrants is like a winter storm 5or like heat in the desert, you subdue the roar of foreigners. Like heat shaded by a cloud, the tyrants’ song falls silent. 6On this mountain, the Lord of heavenly forces will prepare for all peoples a rich feast, a feast of choice wines, of select foods rich in flavor, of choice wines well refined. 7He will swallow up on this mountain the veil that is veiling all peoples, the shroud enshrouding all nations. 8He will swallow up death forever. The Lord God will wipe tears from every face; he will remove his people’s disgrace from off the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9They will say on that day, “Look! This is our God, for whom we have waited—and he has saved us! This is the Lord, for whom we have waited; let’s be glad and rejoice in his salvation!”


  1. Recap:
    1. Last week we had our first glimpse into Isaiah. We saw that Israel split into two kingdoms (Israel and Judah). Though divided, none of the 12 tribes were following the covenant they made with God. They had made their own traditions rather than following the guidance of God.
  2. Today we’ve jumped 20 chapters deeper into Isaiah and seen a glimpse of the continued message. If I’m honest with you, my first reaction was that this passage was depressing and seemed to favor a nationalistic mindset of a God who plays favorites.
    1. Initially, all I heard from this passage was destruction. My mind got stuck on the words of the city in ruins and negative language about foreigners. The more I studied, the more I was told this was a song of praise. So, I had to go back again and look.
    2. The second time around when I saw destruction, it was delivered as justice and God punished the nations but did not abandon them.  God provided judgement on the oppressors and protection and shelter to the oppressed.
      1. THEN God provided a big feast for all. God ended death for all. God removed disgrace from all. This God redeems stories, not just for God’s people but for the whole earth.


  1. Reading the beginning of Isaiah, you learn that Isaiah is aware of how unholy he is compared to God. In his vision, Isaiah expects death because of his unholiness, but God provides a burning coal to purify Isaiah. Where Isaiah expected destruction, God used for refining. (TBP)
    1. Tropes of rebirth
      1. Phoenix is reborn from the ashes
      2. Butterfly new life from the end of life as a caterpillar
      3. purifying gold ore requires heat to burn off the impurities
      4. coal is turned into a diamond with heat and pressure
    2. favorite: pinecones only open in heat, forest fires aids in the survival for the forest.
  2. God wants a faithful people, not the destruction of creation. God doesn’t want punishment, God wants holy people.
    1. Isaiah’s words are a reminder that God’s plans for creation were bigger than just the 12 tribes.  The offspring of Abraham were SUPPOSED to be a blessing to the rest of the world. Israel was SUPPOSED to be a people that pointed to God.
    2. God called Israel to care for the poor, oppressed, and widow. God called Israel to be holy and just. Instead, they chose self-indulgence.
    3. Our weird scripture reading today included a parable of a wedding feast. The initial invites fell flat so others were invited. But one of the new guests didn’t follow wedding protocol and was kicked out. (WP)
      1. We don’t get to choose the agenda of the Kingdom of God.
      2. We don’t get to pick who is included in the Kingdom of God.
      3. The guest list and itinerary are not up for discussion.
      4. BUT we are invited to participate in the Kingdom of God.
    4. The Exodus reading for today also shows a bend in God’s expectations by God’s people. They build a golden calf to represent Yahweh instead of worshiping the true Yahweh and following the 10 commandments. (WP)
  3. HERESY: Marcion’s heresy formed from his view of Jewish people & the Jewish faith. This belief distorted his view of Christianity.
    1. His desire to only follow teachings that fit with his views lead to a heresy. Unfortunately, we can’t pick and choose the words of God.
    2. PS. The early church knew they didn’t agree with Marcion’s list but had not established their own canon ( or agreed upon sacred texts). In reality, Marcion stirred up the church to create their own canon. Though the church would continue to revise the canon for centuries as the church grew and the Protestant reformation came about.
      1. But that is better suited to a Bible study conversation.
  4. Politics & Expectations: I see so many of us bending God’s expectations of us to fit our own preferences. It is most obvious during an election year. We demonize our opponents and idolize our preferences.
    1. But God will provide a feast for the Republicans and the Democrats alike.  God will end death for Americans and Assyrians and Ethiopians and Canadians.  God send Jesus for all of creation. Not just the people we like.  Christianity isn’t about us getting our way. It’s about God’s way of interrupting our trajectory and changing the flight path.
    2. We have 4 Sundays until the election. I challenge each of you to avoid political labels until after the election. (Maybe even longer! Could you make it to the inauguration?)
      1. Speak about convictions without using: Republican, Democrat, Conservative, Progressive, Liberal, Right, Left, or candidates’ names, etc. If you are going to engage in political conversations, speak not of parties but of convictions.
    3. The goal is not to be partisan. The goal is to not look at your neighbor as your enemy.
  5. We are in danger of slipping into Marcion’s shoes if we become partisan. We are at risk of modifying the Gospel of Jesus Christ if we believe that God plays favorites.

CONCLUSION: While we can be grateful that Marcion pushed the early church to know their beliefs and solidify an early canon, we do not want to follow in his footsteps.

Our goal isn’t to perpetuate division or to be on the winning team. Our goal is to bless others with our words and our actions so that all may know the love of God.

Isaiah 1:11-17- late night reading

It’s 11pm and I can’t sleep. My mind has been quite sour all day so I turned to scripture. Just yesterday I encouraged church people to read through Isaiah since we’ll be talking about it over the next three weeks. So here I am, lying in bed reading the opening chapters and this passage stood out:

What should I think about all your sacrifices? says the LORD . I’m fed up with entirely burned offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts. I don’t want the blood of bulls, lambs, and goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from you, this trampling of my temple’s courts? Stop bringing worthless offerings. Your incense repulses me. New moon, sabbath, and the calling of an assembly— I can’t stand wickedness with celebration! I hate your new moons and your festivals. They’ve become a burden that I’m tired of bearing. When you extend your hands, I’ll hide my eyes from you. Even when you pray for a long time, I won’t listen. Your hands are stained with blood. Wash! Be clean! Remove your ugly deeds from my sight. Put an end to such evil; learn to do good. Seek justice: help the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.
Isaiah 1:11‭-‬17 CEB

I have no interpretation at this moment but a million thoughts.

“I can’t stand your wickedness…”

“Put an end to such evil and learn to do good.”

These are the things I will meditate on as I hope for sleep.

Visual Learner Rant

Friends! Here is a little silly rant for you:

I am a visual learner and love to organize history with imagery. As I’m attempting to review church history and the different reformations and heresies, I realized the lacking info-graphics.

I got this image here

I found this image depicting the family tree of Christian denominations with some time references. (Unfortunately, I don’t know who created the image. Comment the source and I’ll add a link)

This image is incomplete.

I want branches for heresies or branches out of communion with the Christian faith. I want a branch for thoughts that have died off i.e. Shakers.

Honestly, I want this interactive. Make it like Click on a part of the timeline and it expands to show you key figures, key thoughts, photos, etc. I would even consider adding a “peer-reviewed” section where others can log in and add things other scholars would review before adding to the graphic; much like the Wikipedia structure.

Popular Kids

Postscript: the recording of this sermon was outside and a very windy day. Therefore, the audio is awful and I won’t be posting a video.

Message Title: Popular Kids
Theme: Life Lessons from the Playground
Main Text: Matthew 21:23-32
Scripture Reading: Exodus 17:1-7
RCL Scripture: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Psalm 25:1-9; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32
Focus: Chief priests compromised their convictions to maintain the crowds.
Function: To choose the unpopular route of the kingdom of God, we must do what’s right, regardless of the crowd’s opinion.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 17:1-7 The whole Israelite community broke camp and set out from the Sin desert to continue their journey, as the Lord commanded. They set up their camp at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why are you arguing with me? Why are you testing the Lord?”  But the people were very thirsty for water there, and they complained to Moses, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with this people? They are getting ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of Israel’s elders with you. Take in your hand the shepherd’s rod that you used to strike the Nile River, and go.I’ll be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Hit the rock. Water will come out of it, and the people will be able to drink.” Moses did so while Israel’s elders watched.He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites argued with and tested the Lord, asking, “Is the Lord really with us or not?”


PLAYGROUND: Popular kids

  1. As we’ve discussed before, I was NOT cool in elementary school. But at least my mother thought I was cute. (PICTURE) I was a tender soul that loved people and wanted to make friends with everyone. Unfortunately, being friends with everyone wasn’t cool. Two girls in particular, we’ll call them Ashley and Stacy, loved to tease me and I desperately wanted to win them over as friends.
    1. Ashley and I lived only a few blocks away from each other. One day I was walking home from school with my little brother and Ashley and Stacy were walking on the opposite side of the road. They called my name! I was so excited for a chance to win them over!
    2. My brother cautioned me not to go talk to those girls, but I went anyway. As soon as I crossed the street these two girls pulled out aerosol cans of whipped cream and covered me with it while laughing.

TRANSITION: As a young girl, I was so desperate to fit in that I would go against my better judgement. I would follow the trend of the crowd if it meant a chance popular kids would include me.

In our text for today, we may not see a popularity contest, but we will see politics at work. Can these religious leaders be genuine or are they only trying to please the crowd?


Vs 23-2723 When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him as he was teaching. They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus replied, “I have a question for you. If you tell me the answer, I’ll tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things. 25 Where did John get his authority to baptize? Did he get it from heaven or from humans?” They argued among themselves, “If we say ‘from heaven,’ he’ll say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But we can’t say ‘from humans’ because we’re afraid of the crowd, since everyone thinks John was a prophet.” 27 Then they replied, “We don’t know.” Jesus also said to them, “Neither will I tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things.

  1. Timing: This passage happened just after Palm Sunday & the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus was in the temple preaching to people. They gathered in Jerusalem for Passover.
  2. Location: Temple
  3. Audience: Chief Priests (and those in the Temple that Jesus was teaching)
    1. The Chief Priests were not only religious leaders by birth/heritage as Jews, but also leaders by their appointed authority by Rome. (WP)
    2. They were religious leaders but also politicians. Jews who bridged the gap between Jews and the Romans. Great idea, in theory, but were they able to keep their integrity while pressured by Rome?
  4. Topic: Question of Authority
    1. The Chief Priests engage Jesus in a conversation to make Jesus blaspheme himself and ostracize his followers. The chief priests want to trap Jesus in a political statement about Jesus’ authority coming from God.
    2. Jesus responds to their political trap with a trap of his own. He asks a controversial question about John the Baptist’s authority.
      1. The Chief Priests don’t answer for fear of the crowds.
      2. Please note: To genuinely say “I don’t know” is always an option when questions are asked. HOWEVER, the Chief Priests had an opinion but didn’t want to say it for fear of losing authority over the crowd.
        1. They chose silence instead of risking repercussions.
          1. By not having an opinion, they gave an opinion.
          2. (Hamilton: Jefferson or Burr? Jefferson has opinions, Burr has none.)

Jesus responds to their “non-answer” with a short parable:

Vs 28-32 28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. Now he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 “‘No, I don’t want to,’ he replied. But later he changed his mind and went. 30 “The father said the same thing to the other son, who replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ But he didn’t go. 31 “Which one of these two did his father’s will?” They said, “The first one.” Jesus said to them, “I assure you that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering God’s kingdom ahead of you. 32 For John came to you on the righteous road, and you didn’t believe him. But tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Yet even after you saw this, you didn’t change your hearts and lives and you didn’t believe him.

  1. Jesus’ response: Tax collectors & prostitutes will enter the kingdom of God before the chief priests.
    1. They are like the first son
    2. You are like the second son
  2. Jesus is not saying God will exclude the Chief Priests, but eternity will be a lesson in humility.

INTERPRETATION: Chief Priests compromised their convictions to maintain the crowds. The Chief Priests were playing a political game of chess rather than living out the Torah.

  1. CHURCHES HISTORICALLY: A large complaint of people who leave the church is the question of corrupt leadership in churches. It doesn’t take much digging on the internet to find reports of church leaders committing sexual, financial, or totalitarian abuse of members in their congregation.
    1. We may experience different perspectives here at Liberty, but the world does not look kindly on churches based on the broader spectrum of congregations.
  2. COVID AND CHURCHES: Today, we see a struggle to make wise choices in relation to worship and COVID.
    1. I have had a conflicted heart throughout the COVID season. I feel like I am equally stuck in the question of authority as this parable. I feel like if I were to say wear masks or don’t wear masks. Meet in church building or meet outside or meet digitally. I either don’t have faith or am a fool. I either am liberal or conservative. I either think I am in control or am waiting for others to take control. It feels like a no-win situation.
  3. CHURCH DEBATES: How do we as a church move forward to make wise decisions for us and our community?
    1. Our governor is recommending one plan of action. Our denomination has been in conversation about other plans of action. The world health organization (WHO) and the CDC are still offering other suggestions. Each news source is reporting things from their own political bend.
    2. Whose authority do we listen to? How do we get information that we can trust?
      1. Some scientists believe the virus is droplet size and therefore masks help.
        1. Some people trust this and find masks as a safe place.
        2. Other scientists say the virus is aerosol size and masks won’t help.
        3. Some individuals believe masks put us more at risk by increasing carbon dioxide levels.
        4. Other individuals believe the masks make us sicker by preventing us from being exposed to germs and building our own immune system.
        5. Some see masks as an attack on their freedom and individual rights with their body.
      2. Some believe COVID is only like the flu and we should just carry about our lives
      3. Some believe this is about demonstrating faith in God over fear
        1. Some pastors believe we show our faith in God by maintaining “normal” worship. Many of these churches believe those congregations that adjust their worship are living in fear, not faith.
        2. Some pastors believe we should use the brain God gave us an analyze information we receive to make a scientific approach to worship.
        3. Other pastors have not changed their worship setting, not out of faith but fear of church members ceasing to give. A pastor’s livelihood dependent on the giving of church members. A decrease in giving means financial crisis for churches and the risk of closing.
      4. Some believe this is a conspiracy during the election season to stir up fear & voters
      5. Some believe that this is only a problem for big cities or the elderly or the immune compromised. I’ve even heard people joke that this could kill off the stubborn people so we can finally see change in x, y, or z.

APPLICATION: To choose the unpopular route of the kingdom of God, we must do what’s right, regardless of the crowd’s opinion.

  1. Fear is the major factor surrounding COVID.
  2. Authority in our personal lives:
    1. Dr. Brené Brown is a social worker, professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host. She has spent years studying vulnerability, shame, and the pathway to a meaningful life.
      1. She found in her studies, our community or inner circle plays a significant role to the wellbeing of our life. To live a meaningful life, she concluded, we shouldn’t receive every piece of feedback that people give us as equally valued. This is because not every person cares about you or is hoping for your success. It is important to know who to trust.
      2. Dr. Brown suggests getting a small piece of paper, something to fit in your wallet, and write a short list of people you trust.
        1. Who are the people you will listen to when they give you constructive criticism?
        2. Who are the people you turn to when you need encouragement?
  3. I want to start out by saying that I am not scared of COVID. I am not filled with fear, but I am cautious because I do not see a consistent or trustworthy message being shared.
    1. I want to be intentional and practical, but I do not root my actions in fear. I continue to wear masks, social distance, and limit my interactions outside of my home not out of fear but out of respect for the rest of my community.
    2. I will take a few sacrifices of my freedom if it means that I am minimizing the spread of this disease.
    3. I will wear a mask or take extra time to set up outside or risk the weather if it means I am not putting any of you at risk.
    4. We don’t know. There isn’t enough knowledge about this disease for any of us to have definitive statements about the right decision, but we can error on the side of caution for the love of this community.


  1. BACK TO OPENING: COVID is one example connected to our scripture today. I want to live my life in a way that maintains my integrity as I follow Christ with words and actions. I do not want to be pulled in to a popularity contest. I want to root my actions in Christ, not fear.
    1. Being rooted in Christ doesn’t mean we stick our heads in the sand and ignore the world.
    2. Being rooted in Christ means that we filter information through the lens of scripture.
      1. Am I providing avenues for community development through these actions?
      2. Am I showing the love of God through my words?
      3. Am I bringing about God’s redemption?
  2. We should root our words and actions in our beliefs, not in impressing or placating other individuals.
    1. How will you fight against the demands of the crowd?
    2. How will you do what is right even if it isn’t popular?
    3. What ways will you be Christ’s love in this world?

Benediction: May you be unpopular. May you be weird. May you be the ones doing what is right even when it isn’t cool.

That’s So Unfair!

Post Script: Once again, my sermon took an interesting turn compared to what I had prepared. What a fun conundrum on Sunday! I got to church and tried to print off my sermon, but the printer wasn’t working. I make an outline and used that in place of my manuscript notes.

Here’s the full service from Sunday:

The prepared manuscript

Message Title: That’s So Unfair!
Theme: Life Lessons from the Playground
Main Text: Matthew 20:1-16
Scripture Reading: Exodus 16:2-15
RCL Scripture: Exodus 16:2-15; Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45; Jonah 3:10-4:11; Psalm 145:1-8; Philippians 1:21-30; Matthew 20:1-16
Focus: Jesus uses a parable to talk about the God’s unfair character.
Function:  To recognize the connection between unfairness & eternity and express gratitude for God’s unfair generosity.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 16:2-15 The whole Israelite community complained against Moses and Aaron in the desert. The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the Lord had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction. On the sixth day, when they measure out what they have collected, it will be twice as much as they collected on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. And in the morning you will see the Lord’s glorious presence, because your complaints against the Lord have been heard. Who are we? Why blame us?” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning because the Lord heard the complaints you made against him. Who are we? Your complaints aren’t against us but against the Lord.” Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole Israelite community, ‘Come near to the Lord, because he’s heard your complaints.’” 10 As Aaron spoke to the whole Israelite community, they turned to look toward the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I’ve heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat. And in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’” 13 In the evening a flock of quail flew down and covered the camp. And in the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the desert surface were thin flakes, as thin as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What[b] is it?” They didn’t know what it was.


PLAYGROUND: I want to start out our playground lessons by doing some word association.

This will be super awkward if you all stay silent. I’m going to say a word or phrase and I want you to respond with what comes to mind. We’ll start with a few examples.  Please know, there isn’t a “right” answer I’m looking for, I want to jog your memory.

  1. Recess
  2. Math races
  3. Spelling Bee
  4. Presidential Fitness Test (the PACER!, v-sit and reach, push ups, pull ups, crunches)
  5. Finally: Group Projects

Can we all agree that Group Projects are actually the worst? I remember the genuine struggle of group projects in school being rooted in one person, always doing most of the work. That’s the real frustration, right? An unequal distribution of work load yet we all get the same grade?! Totally unfair! The unbalanced responsibility yet equal reward makes group projects the closest thing to hell on earth.

TRANSITION: Good thing God isn’t unfair.… Or is God? In our text for today we will see Jesus share a parable that depicts God’s character unfairly, BUT maybe that’s a good thing?


 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion, he sent them into his vineyard. “Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went. “Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’ “‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied. “He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. 11 When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner,12 ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’ 13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”

  1. “kingdom of heaven is like”—Jesus is using a parable to talk about the way things operate in God’s kingdom. This is to contrast the way things happen in the world.
  2. Landowner & Workers
    1. Recruiting:
      1. Group 1, (Early? Maybe 6? Sunrise?) agreement on work & wages. 11 hrs work for 1 denarion
      2. Group 2 (9am) 9 hrs work
      3. Group 3 (12pm) 6 hrs work
      4. Group 4 (3pm) 3 hrs work
      5. Group 5 (5pm) worked 1 hour and received 1 denarion
    2. Payment: the workers are paid in reverse, starting with those who arrived last.
    3. Resentment: Group 1 mad that Group 5 got paid the same amount.
      1. Landowner replied: I have given you what I promised, why is it a problem that I’m generous?


  1. We’ve examined two separate weeks on forgiveness and conflict, now it seems we are hopping onto a new topic with Jesus’ parable about fairness & generosity. However, these two topics are more connected than we may realize.
  2. Group projects: It really is unfair that the work is uneven in group projects. This inequity can build resentment in the ones carrying the weight of the grade.
  3. Uneven reality of Eternity: I have an uncomfortable truth to share, God is not fair. God may not be fair but God is good. God’s goals are not to make everything fair but to bring about God’s plans for creation.
    1. We see in throughout scripture examples of God’s unfair and unending love.
      1. In Ecclesiastes we hear the teacher exclaim about God giving the same fate to both the good and the bad.
        1. Ecclesiastes 9: 1-2 So I considered all of this carefully, examining all of it: The righteous and the wise and their deeds are in God’s hand, along with both love and hate. People don’t know anything that’s ahead of them. Everything is the same for everyone. The same fate awaits the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad,[a] the pure and the impure, those who sacrifice and those who don’t sacrifice. The good person is like the wrongdoer; the same holds for those who make solemn pledges and those who are afraid to swear.
      2. In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells a parable best known for the title The Prodigal Son. But that story includes two sons. The son that stays is bitter about the father’s joy and grace at his brother’s return. “I have been faithful and you haven’t even given me a fatted calf”
      3. Paul writes to the Ephesian church that God’s salvation is not about their own actions or merits, but about God’s grace.
        1. Ephesians 2:8-10 You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.
    2. God is unfair. God offers mercy, grace, and love to all creation. God does not offer eternity ONLY to the obedient and righteous.
      1. Yes, I know! We want to stop and shout: “That’s not fair!!!”
      2. I follow God’s rules!
      3. I show up to church.  (It’s cold and I’m here! I should get extra points for that, right?!)
      4. Sure, I don’t always think about God when I’m away from the church building or church family.
        1. I forget to demonstrate love to the clerk at the grocery store who is taking too long helping an elderly person with their self check out process to help me!!!
        2. I forget to be loving when a person is going exactly the speed limit and I’m running late for an appointment.
      5. But I’m the righteous! Surely God favors me more!
        1. Jesus even has a parable about two men praying in the temple (Luke 18:9-14). A tax collector and a pharisee go to pray, one brags of his righteousness and rule following while the other comes humble before God and expresses need for God. Jesus says the humble one was righteous, not the rule following pharisee.
    3. God’s kingdom isn’t fair but it is good.
  4. Fairness & Goodness in the world:
    1. Day care “you get what you get and don’t throw a fit,”
      1. We had a common phrase in daycare for kids whining, “That’s unfair!”
        1. “ You get what you get and don’t throw a fit.”
      2. Since then, I have seen an amazing quote about fairness.
        1. “You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if YOU have enough. Look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if THEY have enough.”
    2. Can you imagine? Can you imagine a world where we didn’t feel like we had to compete? Picture a world:
      1. Compete for God’s favor? Where an unmarried couple’s pregnancy doesn’t result in threats about the sins of abortion or the sins of living together but about helping them prepare for the birth of their child. What grace!?!
      2. Compete for security? Where a response to a minimum wage worker’s struggles to pay bills isn’t “get another job” but “Why isn’t minimum wage a livable wage?! How can someone work for 35-40 hours a week and still not be able to pay their bills?”
      3. Compete for freedom? Where a response to Black lives Matter isn’t “All Lives Matter” but “Oh no!? You feel undervalued and oppressed, how can I help?”
    3. Imagine a world where we saw each other not as competition but as team mates?!
      1. Not you vs. me but us vs. the problem, striving towards the same goal


  1. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen:
    1. Jesus’ conflict resolution flow chart was about community gathering and listening for God’s guidance. Our goal should be community development, not winning an argument.
    2. Jesus’ parable about the gift of forgiveness should lead to transformation. We can have forgiveness and accountability. God’s people are transformed by God’s grace.
  2. Now we hear that God’s kingdom is unfair.
    1. God gives equal doses of eternity and love to all creation.
    2. God’s kingdom is about reunion and redemption.
    3. God’s kingdom is better than fairness.
    4. God’s kingdom is about God’s love.

The outline I used to preach off of:

Intro: Word association

  1. recess
  2. lunch
  3. math test
  4. gym
  5. group projects

Group projects: One person does all the work

Scripture: Matt 20:1-16

  1. All workers got – same income but did diff amounts of work
  2. Mad b/c I’m generous?
    1. connect to series
  3. Recap
    1. Jesus conflict resolution chart leads to healing communities and collectively listening for God’s guidance
    2. Jesus’ parable about forgiveness tells us forgiving doesn’t disqualify accountability.
  4. NOW Jesus’ parable (seems) to be about generosity. God’s generous love.
  5. Natural to be angry/jealous that God is taking all people in, no conditions attached
    1. remember: belief leads to a transformed life
  6. We should be joyous at all reunions and redemption stories. (we talked about accountability last week)
  7. It’s not a competition for a grade from God to get a better spot in eternity.
  8. There is no scarcity in God’s economy.
    1. in God’s economy…
      1. Instead of responding “All Lives Matter” when we hear “BLM” we respond “Oh no! You don’t feel safe, free, or respected! How can I help so we’re all safe, free, respected?”
      2. Instead of responding “Get another job” when you hear a minimum wage worker can’t pay their bills after a 40 hour work week; you say, “the system is not working—we need minimum wage to be a livable wage.”
      3. Instead of judging women about considering abortions; be a church where an unmarried mother is loved and cared for without judgement.
  9. In God’s kingdom, there is no competition for love or space in eternity.
    1. everyone gets enough.
  10. During this election season — I call for Liberty to be a church spreading connection, reconciliation, and love; rather than division, judgement, and hatred.

Be a church sharing God’s economy without fear of getting enough.

Forgive and Forget

9/13/2020 at Homecoming Outdoor Worship

Post Script: this sermon was not an easy one to write. I really struggled with this passage because of my own story of forgiveness.

Message Title: Forgive & Forget
Theme: Life Lessons from the Playground
Main Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Scripture Reading: Exodus 14:19-31
RCL Scripture: Exodus 14:19-31; Psalm 114 or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21; Genesis 50:15-21; Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13; Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35
Focus: Jesus uses a parable to talk about forgiveness.
To be guided by God’s wisdom through accountability, conflict, and resolutions.
Other Notes:


  1. Liberty History Quiz
    1. Liberty was organized as a church in what year? 1854
    2. What year was the log cabin church built? 1858
    3. What date did the church burn? March 1, 1994
    4. When did services start in the new(current) building? September 1995
    5. How many buildings has liberty had? (4)
      1. Met in houses
      2. Log cabin
      3. “Frame” church
      4. Brick building – the building that burned
      5. Current building

SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 14:19-31 19 God’s messenger, who had been in front of Israel’s camp, moved and went behind them. The column of cloud moved from the front and took its place behind them. 20 It stood between Egypt’s camp and Israel’s camp. The cloud remained there, and when darkness fell it lit up the night. They didn’t come near each other all night. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord pushed the sea back by a strong east wind all night, turning the sea into dry land. The waters were split into two. 22 The Israelites walked into the sea on dry ground. The waters formed a wall for them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians chased them and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and cavalry. 24 As morning approached, the Lord looked down on the Egyptian camp from the column of lightning and cloud and threw the Egyptian camp into a panic. 25 The Lord jammed their chariot wheels so that they wouldn’t turn easily. The Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites, because the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!” 26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the water comes back and covers the Egyptians, their chariots, and their cavalry.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. At daybreak, the sea returned to its normal depth. The Egyptians were driving toward it, and the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea.28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the cavalry, Pharaoh’s entire army that had followed them into the sea. Not one of them remained. 29 The Israelites, however, walked on dry ground through the sea. The waters formed a wall for them on their right hand and on their left. 30 The Lord rescued Israel from the Egyptians that day. Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Israel saw the amazing power of the Lord against the Egyptians. The people were in awe of the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.


PLAYGROUND LESSON: Not to throw a pity party for myself, but I was teased as a kid. Some of those memories still get to me when I look back. You would think a grown woman could move on. Especially because the nicknames kids used to tease each other can be weird. But the intention to hurt another would sting.

What frustrated me the most is when the teacher would make them say a disingenuous apology and I would HAVE to say ‘I forgive you.’ But I didn’t want to forgive them.

The teacher would then say, “Forgive and forget.” As if ‘sorry’ was all that was needed to repair the situation and move forward.

TRANSITION: Some offenses seem impossible to forget and equally hard to forgive whether it be playground bullies or tragic events like 9/11. Even 19 years later, we see the impact of 9/11 on our country. Admittedly, the concept of forgiveness is odd to focus on as we celebrated the anniversary of 9/11 Friday.

SCRIPTURE & EXPLAINATION: Matthew 18:21-35—Jesus uses a parable to talk about forgiveness – but will it make reconciliation easier?

Vs 21-22 21Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?” 22Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.

  1. Recap from last week
    1. Conflict/Resolution–about restoring the community and listening for God’s guidance in moments of conflict. (2 people, 3-5 people, a church listening to God)
    2. Us vs. the problem, not Us vs. them.
  2. “how many times should I forgive”
    1. 70*7 = what you’re comfortable offering, you need to push even farther (PF)
    2. This isn’t a math problem but a statement of the grandness of chances to be offered

VS 23-35 23Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. 25Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. 26But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 27The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan. 28“When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’ 29“Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 30But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt. 31“When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. 32His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. 33Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt. 35“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

  1. Jesus shares a weird parable to highlight forgiveness
    1. Servant 1 owes the King more money than he could pay back in 165,000 years. (footnotes)
    2. Servant 2 owes Servant 1 about 2-5 years wages. (footnotes)
    3. The king forgives Servant 1’s unfathomable amount of debt
    4. Servant 1 refuses to forgive Servant 2’s debt (still a large debt but attainable to pay off)
  2. Jesus provides a weird warning about forgiving “from your heart”
    1. God wants to see transformed hearts


  1. The king’s mercy didn’t change the servant.
    1. Perhaps the first servant had not full processed the king’s mercy? Surely if he had, he wouldn’t act so harshly to his fellow servant. I mean, come on! The king forgave him a debt that would have taken him 165000 years to pay off. It was not possible to pay off that debt; that freedom should have liberated Servant 1 to liberate others. Right?
  2. Salvation is this way. Are we really children of God if the truth of Christ hasn’t transformed our words and our actions?
    1. I’ve always said, I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” – Penn Jillette
  3. STOP: God’s goals are bigger than giving people tickets to heaven! God’s goals are the end of evil & restoring creation to its fully divine goodness.
    1. We have a chance to spread hope instead of revenge!?!?
    2. Why are we stuck on the cycle of revenge?

APPLICATION: To be guided by God’s wisdom through accountability, conflict, and resolutions.

  1. BUT Meriah, what about rapists, murderers, Nazis, and the people behind 9/11? What about the ones who have wronged me or my family? Will I ever see justice?
    1. Jonah, is my patron saint, for this very reason: Jonah 4: 1-3 “But Jonah thought this was utterly wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Come on, Lord! Wasn’t this precisely my point when I was back in my own land? This is why I fled to Tarshish earlier! I know that you are a merciful and compassionate God, very patient, full of faithful love, and willing not to destroy. At this point, Lord, you may as well take my life from me, because it would be better for me to die than to live.””
      1. Jonah wanted vengeance. God wanted redemption.
      2. Jonah did not let his own heart be shaped by what God wanted. I have to accept that God’s got better plans… but that doesn’t mean we can’t expect accountability for behavior.
  2. Forgiveness & Accountability: I believe part of being changed by God is expecting or accepting the consequences of our wrong actions. As we are working towards living our lives transformed, we are bound to make the wrong choice, our job is to accept our consequences.
    1. Don’t assume you get off free in with the law simply because God loves you. This is as simple as actually following the speed limit and not trying to make excuses when you get pulled over.
      1. Instead of churches harboring abusers and saying God transformed them, allow them to show their transformation by owning up to their actions. This is rooted in a transformed life. God is not evil when we experience the consequences of our actions.
    2. BUT also, law could provide better rehabilitation services for the truly transformed convicts. Our actions do not define our intrinsic value as humans or how God feels about us.
      1. EXAMPLE: I worked in a daycare just before entering seminary. We had training regularly to be the best teachers possible. One session was on reframing our mind about discipline.
        1. Do we give a child the pathway to change their behavior if we call them bad?
        2. A child chooses to do something bad. A child is not intrinsically bad.
        3. A child can choose to do good.
    3. I HAVE to believe in my core that humans are intrinsically good. God made humanity and said it was very good. Humans are made in the image of God. We reflect God’s goodness. But we don’t always act that way. It’s time we embraced out inherit goodness. 


  1. Playground: Forgive and forget is a great concept but the phrase over simplifies the complexity of pain and the path towards healing and restoration.
    1. Bullies should have to own up for their actions. Not offer a blanket apology.
    2. Forgiveness means we let go of the vengeance, not the accountability.
    3. We also have the responsibility to provide space in society for our ‘bullies’ to be transformed.
  2. A Genuine apology: Rather than asking ‘bullies’ to provide blanket apologies, let’s help teach them why their actions were wrong. They can receive consequences but also give them a chance to learn and change.
    1. I’m sorry for…
    2. Next time I will…
    3. It’s wrong because…
    4. Is there anything I can do?

COMMUNION: As we enter into a time of communion, we recognize the differences in Christian practices around the Lord’s Supper. Confession is part of the holy meal in many traditions and I’d like us to practice it this morning.

This is a chance for us to consider our transforming lives and receive a fresh start.

Does everyone have their communion kit? Deacons can get you one.



Pastor: Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart;  we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.



Be the Bigger Person

Post Script: This sermon unfolded differently than the manuscript I prepared. Check out this link to my YouTube channel if you would like to compare the two: Sermon on 9/6/2020

Message Title: Be the Bigger Person
Theme: Life Lessons from the Playground
Main Text: Matthew 18:15-20
Scripture Reading: Exodus 12:1-14
RCL Scripture: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 149; Ezekiel 33:7-11; Psalm 119:33-40; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20
Focus: Jesus speaks about conflict resolution.
Function: To acknowledge our desire for restitution or reparations and God’s calling for us to ‘be the bigger person’ as God is ‘the bigger person.’
Determine which fights are worth fighting and which fights require us to be ‘the bigger person.’
Other Notes: COMMUNION

SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 12:1-14 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month will be the first month; it will be the first month of the year for you.[a] Tell the whole Israelite community: On the tenth day of this month they must take a lamb for each household, a lamb per house. If a household is too small for a lamb, it should share one with a neighbor nearby. You should divide the lamb in proportion to the number of people who will be eating it. Your lamb should be a flawless year-old male. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You should keep close watch over it until the fourteenth day of this month. At twilight on that day, the whole assembled Israelite community should slaughter their lambs. They should take some of the blood and smear it on the two doorposts and on the beam over the door of the houses in which they are eating. That same night they should eat the meat roasted over the fire. They should eat it along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Don’t eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over fire with its head, legs, and internal organs. 10 Don’t let any of it remain until morning, and burn any of it left over in the morning. 11 This is how you should eat it. You should be dressed, with your sandals on your feet and your walking stick in your hand. You should eat the meal in a hurry. It is the Passover of the Lord. 12 I’ll pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I’ll strike down every oldest child in the land of Egypt, both humans and animals. I’ll impose judgments on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be your sign on the houses where you live. Whenever I see the blood, I’ll pass over[b] you. No plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. 14 “This day will be a day of remembering for you. You will observe it as a festival to the Lord. You will observe it in every generation as a regulation for all time.


SERIES INTRO: Life Lessons from the Playground

During the month of September, we will channel our inner child to remember the lessons we learned from the playground. As we dive into Jesus’ teachings from Matthew, we will also see parallels to our lives from 0 to 90.

PLAYGROUND LESSON: “Be the Bigger Person,”

I am the middle child and only girl. My older brother, Josh, is 2 years older than me. My younger brother, Micah, is 4 years younger. I have to say; we were perfect children. (I can say that because my parents aren’t here to contradict me.) On the rare occasion we fought, it was natural for us to escalate the argument until we were hurt or crying.

PHOTO OF US ADORABLE KIDS W/ GRANDPARENTS: I know, it’s hard to imagine these cute kids acting up, right?

Consider your childhood. Do you remember the words of adults as they would break up a fight? Kids yelling ‘they started it!’

If they broke a fight up before bloodshed or tears, you could almost bet that an adult would tell you to “be the better person” or “take the high road” when you wanted to get even with the sibling who wronged you.

“Be the bigger person.” BLEGH! Who wants to do that? And what does it mean, anyway?!

“Be the bigger person” is an idiom I’ve heard adults tell kids when a conflict arises and retaliation is due. But what do we mean by this phrase? (AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION) defines “the bigger person,” this way: The person that does the right thing despite not being advantageous to oneself. It is a type of moral high ground.”. [1]

TRANSITION: We’re supposed to know better and rise above even in those difficult moments when our anger is boiling. In our Text for today, we see Jesus break down how to resolve conflict without punching your sibling until they cry. Is this a solution for every debate and conflict, or is this solution conditional?


VS 15-17 15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you’ve won over your brother or sister. 16But if they won’t listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses. 17But if they still won’t pay attention, report it to the church. If they won’t pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector.

  1. Disclaimer about abusers harbored by the church: Churches have taken this scripture and twisted it and used it to protect the wrong group of people. They’ve protected abusers and blamed the victims. But something deeper is going on here than a blanket solution for all conflict.
  2. Outline for conflict resolution:
    1. Correct them alone
    2. Bring 2-3 witnesses to speak truth
    3. Bring them before the church
    4. treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector.”
  3. If you don’t listen to my perspective, then you must be an outsider… a HEATHEN! Obviously, you’re damned if you don’t see my perspective as the right perspective.
    1. A common interpretation of this passage includes the conclusion that if the wrong-doer still doesn’t change their ways, the offended should abandon the offender or cast them out or “treat them like a heathen” as some translations state. Consider those heathens hopeless, they’ll never change.
      1. But that perspective doesn’t fit the God who gave us Jesus. That interpretation doesn’t fit the God who patiently walked with the people of Israel through their stubbornness, unfaithfulness, and indecision.
    2. Alternate interpretation: “Treating them like a Gentile and a tax collector” should mean someone that doesn’t know any better. Treating them like a heathen, means they learned how to live differently in their childhood and you need to find common ground.
      1. I would push this even farther into this thought. We recognize that Christianity is a diverse group of people who interpret scripture in different ways. My dream is a day when we can recognize the fights worth fighting and to let go of preference differences.

VS 18-20 18I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven. 19Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.”

  1. Community matters. As we gather in community and listen for God’s guidance, we move in the ways God directs.
  2. ‘In theory,’ if we are gathered in community, listening for God’s direction, and living it out, then our actions coincide with God’s will.
    1. Fasten & Loose- our ministry will be focused on what God calls us to.
    2. Agree & God will do it—our ministry will be equipped by God.
    3. Where two or three are gathered—We will be God’s representatives on this earth.


  1. Jesus is teaching us about maintaining relationships with those to whom we disagree.
    1. Frequently, Jesus takes the laws of Moses or the cultural norms of the day and elevates the expected behavior of God’s children.
      1. No longer is restitution enough, as the Jewish laws outline.
      2. We’re looking to repairing the relationship and community damage.
  2. This conflict resolution chart that Jesus introduces doesn’t match the systems Jews had in place.
    1. When you dive in to the laws in Exodus, Leviticus, or Deuteronomy (for some light reading) you will see a detailed list of what God requires providing restitutions for wrong doings. The Old Testament has an extensive list of scriptures about restitution.
      1. 2 types of restitution
        1. Making ourselves right with each other (Exodus 22)
        2. Making ourselves right with God
        3. Resource links[2] [3] [4]
      2.  “An eye for an eye” came from Leviticus with the concept of restoring the damage done. Pay back what you have wronged.
  3. There has been a culture of restitution and righting your wrong doings for centuries. Jesus seems to shift the conversation about conflict deeper than expecting only restitution but towards a deeper resolution.
    1. God’s people aren’t called to make things even.
    2. God’s people are to demonstrate the very grace that God gives on us to others; they are to surpass the expectations of culture and repair relationships.
  4. Back to Abuse: Unfortunately, Society knows churches can harbor abusers and sexual predators under the cover of Matthew 18. We’ve all heard those tragic stories in the news.
    1. Terrible Scenario: The abuser repented… they said sorry. They said they’ll stop. So, we can move on. It’s what Jesus would do….
      1. STOP! Jesus died on the cross. We do not have to hang victims on the same cross for the salvation of their abusers.
    2. You may develop questions about broadly applying this scripture:
      1. But how does Matthew 18 work in relation to abuse or sexual assault?
      2. What does Matthew 18 mean for the criminal justice system?
      3. What does Matthew 18 mean for capital punishment?
    3. I will not solve this riddle for you today. I have baggage attached to abuse and forgiveness. I encourage you to wrestle with this text and let God direct your heart.
      1. God will never use evil for good. No person is stuck in an abusive situation for God’s will.

APPLICATION: To acknowledge our desire for restitution or reparations and God’s calling for us to ‘be the bigger person’ as God is ‘the bigger person.’ To determine which fights are worth fighting and which fights require us to be ‘the bigger person.’

  1. Setting aside the questions about abuse for another time. I’m willing to get together throughout the week to chat about these questions.
  2. Jesus is changing the way arguments end. Jesus is raising the bar on expectations. No longer is it about being the bigger person and letting things go. It’s about rebuilding what we have torn down.
    1. Let’s consider if we are acting like God’s representatives. Are we exposing ourselves as God’s people with grace and mercy?
  3. Social Media has stunted our ability to navigate tough conversations. Social media *seems* to help us make social connections, but it has destroyed our ability to connect face to face.
    1. My social media problem: I’m part of the problem. I get riled up, like anyone else, when I scroll through Facebook and see: A misinterpretation of scripture; Putting words in God’s mouth; False information being spread that perpetuates distress; or Assumptions about my demographic/generation
      1. I catch myself wanting to pull out my keyboard and attack the offender with skillfully chosen words as my weapon. ‘I’ll show you.’ That isn’t healthy! That isn’t the way a follower of Christ should behave.
      2. Conclusion? I’m getting rid of my personal Facebook and will only maintain a professional profile for use for church.
  4. Learn to have conversations with someone you disagree with and don’t assume the worst.
    1. PHOTO OF US AS ADULTS: My brothers and I are all grown up. Aren’t we cute? We’ve learned how to navigate hard conversations or to recognize when something isn’t our business. I used to hate being the only girl and middle child. Now I love the family dynamics our birth order has brought out.
    2. How do you handle tough conversations within your family? What about friends?
    3. When was the last time you agreed to disagree with someone and walked away still friends?

CONCLUSION: I cannot guarantee that Liberty will ever be completely unified in politics, theology or favorite worship songs. I can guarantee that we are better together in our diversity of thought. We are closer to understanding God when we can bridge our mental divides.

If you have difficulty or disagreements with another person, remember the lessons of our childhood. Be the bigger person, don’t retaliate. Don’t escalate. Repair. Use wisdom to not enable habitual abuse.

COMMUNION: We take communion together today and remember our diverse minds.Communion is about our salvation in Christ and it is about the commitment we make to a group of people. We won’t give up growing together.