As the church, our job is to open our doors as wide as God's heart and proclaim that there is room in the family of God for everyone. But it goes beyond making sure people are welcomed, they need to know they are wanted; and they are not just accepted, they are loved. For some people, when they find a place like that, it’s like finding water in the desert.
We often look at the early church in Acts as the blueprint for how church should be. But if we look closely, we see some conflict and tension. In fact, it looks more like a mirror of problems that we are all-too-familiar with in churches today.
Each day we are given the opportunity to bear witness to the power and love of God. We are given the opportunity to link arms and bear witness to the world that in this place we can pull together and invest in one another’s lives and lives yet unseen; that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves, but helping others win.
Here is the link to the video to the is shown during the sermon.
Powerful things happen when the church stops being afraid, hiding behind locked doors, and surrenders its desire to convert people or convince them to join. But it is when the church acts boldly, gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting noting in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display
We often look at Easter as big finish, the crescendo, the grand finale! “He’s done it! He’s risen from the dead!” But the truth is, Easter wasn’t the end of the story, it was just the beginning; just the opening chapter to an incredible narrative of hope and new life.
In this sermon, Russ looks at how Easter might connect with the woman sitting among us whose cancer has returned after years of remission, the 17 year old anxiously trying to decide what to do with his life, the man who at age 55 just lost his job, the woman who goes every Sunday afternoon to place flowers on her husband’s grave. In other words, all of us.
In this Easter sermon, Russ looks at how many of us come to hear not of how the resurrection happened, and more interested in what it means for us here, now. We come to church on Easter with hopes, longing of experiencing resurrection today! We all long for resurrection in our lives in some way, shape or form.
Much of modern Christianity has been built upon certainty and head knowledge, assume the more certain you are, the more strong your faith is. This completely misses the point.
Faith was never meant to be a set of beliefs. Faith, the way that Jesus speaks about it, is about what you are willing to commit to. It’s not about how certain you are, its whether you are willing to act in the face of your uncertainty.
“Doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves.” “It keeps our faith alive, but certainty freezes it.” In other words, doubt stirs us. It shapes us. It forms us. It teaches us. Without doubt, our faith can become stagnant, dead, stalled. Doubt keeps our faith awake.
Author and activist Chris Heuertz says that doubt is not something to be feared or eliminated, but embraced. That both for individuals and communities of faith, “doubt is a gift.” In this sermon, Russ encourages us to continue to embrace the gift of doubt in this community of faith, humbly carry one another in doubt, and trust that God is in the middle of all the mystery, wonder and even doubt.
In this second sermon on his series on Doubt, Russ looks at our fear of doubt. Perhaps rather than fearing those seasons of struggle -- when it feels like the rug gets pulled out from under us and nothing seems to make sense -- we lean into them, trusting that on the other side will be growth and transformation.
In the final sermon in this series, Russ looks at finding the courage to change and evolve. For some people, if anything about their faith or faith community ever changes, then it feels like their whole faith life is not real. But for others, if their faith is not constantly being restated, evolving or growing, then it feels like it must be stale and irrelevant.
The biggest barrier to change is fear. But the gospel continues to move us forward; to find courage and fearless faith to change the things in us that need to change.
In this series looking at some of the stories in the bible when God's people of faith faced challenges and survived (and even thrived), Russ looks at the epic story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were asked to go against everything they believed in. Even when facing death in a fiery furnace, they stood strong in their beliefs!
In the story, Esther, when presented with the opportunity to serve and save her people, she stands tall and strong, and acts in a way that is gracious, humble, resolute, and ready. Out of a place of privilege and comfort, she risks everything to save those who need her most in that moment: “I’ll do this. I will go. If I did, I will die.”
Why are you here? Why are you alive at this time? What task has God set before you?
For a time such as this you’ve been brought to this place and time. What are you waiting for? What are you being called to do right now?
Forgiveness is essential to our lives. Without it, no marriage can survive, no family can stay together, no society can be sustained. But it doesn't come easy. In fact, we often do everything we can to avoid it! But if we don’t find the courage to forgive, we wither and die.
This week Russ looks at the issue of trust through the lens of the story of Ruth and Naomi. Developing a healthy sense and level of trust -- in others, ourselves, and the world -- is one of the most important developmental steps any of us will ever take. Trusting is a risk. But its the only life worth living.
In this first sermon in a new series he's calling Fearless Faith, Russ looks at the notion that some of the hardest things in life require tremendous courage to just show up. Looking at the story of Abram who is called by God out into the wilderness, away from the comforts of home. But God meets him there, blesses him, and through him blesses the world. The truth is, everything you want is on the other side of fear. You must do the things you think you cannot do, so that they lose their power over you. Tackling your fear is the only way to beat it!
Once every year the church takes a stop by the river Jordan to overhear God whispering to God’s baptized son, “you are my child, whom I love; whom I am deeply proud of.” We do this not just for an interesting history lesson about Jesus’ baptism, but to remember who we are and who we are called to be through our baptism into Christ!
In his Christmas Eve homily, Russ invites us to consider the importance of presence over presents.
In this final sermon in the advent series, Russ reminds us that we all have a role to play in the fulfillment of God’s promises to an aching world. Often, the promises of God come true in unlikely places and through unlikely people. Places like right here; people like you and me.
In the third sermon in the Advent series, Unwrapped, Russ looks at the reasons that Mary, upon learning that she was pregnant, make the long, difficult journey to see Elizabeth. In a way, both of their pregnancies were reminders that life is about something bigger than themselves, that they belong to something far bigger than they could ever imagine. They belong to God, which is a discovery made through the gift of belonging to each other.
In part two of the Advent sermon series, Unwrapped: The Surprising Gifts of Advent, Russ looks at the importance of creating moments of silence and simplicity during this busy and hectic season in order to clear out space in our hearts and homes for the holy, so that Christ can be born within us.
In this first sermon in the advent series, Unwrapped: The Surprising Gifts of Advent, Russ challenges us to face some of our unanswered prayers and unfulfilled hopes, and to remember that Advent is the time to dust off our faith and get it working again; to trust that God has not forgotten us and isn’t finished with us yet.
Following an incredibly bitter, divisive election cycle we have once again successfully elected a new leader. But the result has divided us even further. We are, by all measures, a deeply divided people. But even in this time when everything seems so uncertain, there are some things we know to be true: all of us –– women and men, gay and straight, black, brown, white –– all of us are made in the image of God; and that the steadfast and unfailing love of God is bigger than any election.
We also know that we’ve got work to do.