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Sermons For This Week:

     John 11:32-44  -  Lazarus Rising (All Saints' Day)
     Mark 12:28-34  -  What To Say When You Roll Out Of Bed 

Sermon #1  -  John 11:32-44: The story for this morning begins with a certain sense of urgency. It is easy to stand here now and talk about it with some sense of calm, but I can assure you that there was no calm for Martha and Mary. They were beginning to panic. Lazarus, their brother, was slipping fast. Indeed, it looked as though he would not make it.

Now, I want you to envision a person in your mind. I want a face to appear in your mind’s eye. Who would you turn to if you faced a serious crisis in your life? There are some people we would instinctively turn to in time of trouble. I want you to know that the person who came in Martha’s mind was Jesus. She sent an urgent message to him: “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” That is an interesting wording isn’t it. You see, love sees with special eyes. Mary was sure of one thing. That Jesus' love for his friend would compel him to come. This is the situation that John paints for us at Bethany. There is tension, there is fear, and there is a sense of anxiety. But, there is hope.

Now the scene shifts to the far side of the Jordan River. Jesus is there for a specific reason. He had been in Jerusalem and a very dangerous situation had developed for him. The Jewish authorities had become so enraged with his words that they had risen up against him and had even attempted to stone him to death. Indeed, John tells us that some stones were tossed. So he retired to an area where, we are told, John the Baptist had begun his ministry. Jesus is getting back to the roots of his calling. While there large crowds came to hear him.

Upon hearing the news of Lazarus’s illness, we expect Jesus to drop everything and come running, but alas, it does not happen. He is only about seventeen miles away. If he really pushed hard he could make it by late evening or by early the next morning. In one of the most bewildering scenes in all of scripture, however, Jesus did nothing for two entire days. Surly he must understand their anxiety. Surly he must be eager to help. But there it reads: “He remained two days in the place where he was.”

Why did this happen? I can only respond to that by saying: I do not know. When I read this story I want to know. Why did he delay? Surly there must be an answer to this. But read the commentaries of all of the great minds: Luther, Dodd, Calvin. None offer an answer. To this day it is still hard for me to accept not knowing why. How true were the words of the Apostle Paul when he wrote: In this life we look through a mirror dimly. If we had all the answers then we would not need faith, for faith picks up where sight leaves off. The Book of Hebrews reads: “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.” In my mind I understand that but I still cannot get out of my mind the thought of Martha looking down the road that first night waiting for Jesus to come. Every time she sees someone her hopes are lifted as she thinks: maybe that’s him. But God has his own schedule.


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Sermon #2  -  Mark 12:28-34: A few years ago, a radio station ran a contest. Disc jockeys invited their listeners to tune in their clock radios. "Just for fun," they said, "when you wake up to the sound of FM-106, call and tell us the first words you spoke when you rolled out of bed. If you're the third caller, you'll win $106."


It didn't take long for the contest to grow in enthusiasm. The first morning, a buoyant disc jockey said, "Caller number three, what did you say when you rolled out of bed this morning?" A groggy voice said, "Do I smell coffee burning?" Another day, a sleepy clerical worker said, "Oh no, I'm late for work." Somebody else said her first words were, "Honey, did I put out the dog last night?" A muffled curse was immediately heard in the background, and then a man was heard to say, "No, you didn't." It was a funny contest and drew a considerable audience.


One morning, however, the third caller said something unusual. The station phone rang. "Good morning, this is FM-106. You're on the air. What did you say when you rolled out of bed this morning?"


A voice with a Bronx accent replied, "You want to know my first words in the morning?"


The bubbly DJ said, "Yes, sir! Tell us what you said."


The Bronx voice responded, "Shema, Israel ... Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." There was a moment of embarrassed silence. Then the radio announcer said, "Sorry, wrong number," and cut to a commercial.


Try to remember. What did you say when you rolled out of bed today? Chances are, those words set the tone for the rest of the day. For the pious Jew the first words of each morning are always the same, and they were the words spoken that morning on FM-106. They were first spoken by Moses, who said, "Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Teach them to your children and talk about them when you lie down and when you rise" (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

In the passage we heard a few minutes ago, some scribe asked Jesus, "Which commandment comes first?" It was probably intended as a trick question. If Jesus picked only one of the 613 commandments, he left himself open for a barrage of criticism from those who favored another commandment. In the Gospel of Mark, there are over a dozen occasions when the scribes oppose Jesus. They mock him, dispute him, and conspire against him. Certainly they will pounce on whatever answer he offers. Yet the scribe immediately backs off when Jesus answers, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart."

It is no wonder. The primary obligation for every good Jew has always been to love God with the heart, with the center of all passion and trust. That is the primary purpose of human life. When we were baptized in the name of the Jewish Jesus and adopted into the promises of Israel, we were given the same script to follow. These words name our primary allegiance and bind us to our greatest responsibility: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart."

Today I want to spend some time unpacking what it means for us to love God. We know something about loving our neighbors. We have developed the notion of loving ourselves into a fine art. But loving God comes first, as our greatest obligation and our primary goal. What does it mean to…

1. Love God with all your heart?
2. Love God with all your soul?
3. Love God with all your mind?
4. Love God with all your strength?


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