SERMONS

What the world needs now is strong, courageous, and potent reminders of what true and real love looks like.

We need to tell the stories of people like Malala Yousafzai, the women who from a young age courageously campaigned for equal education for girls in Pakistan. She was shot by the Taliban at just 15 in an attempt to silence her, but she miraculously survived the attack and at just 17, became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace prize. More importantly, Yousafzi never let the attack deter her courageous work and continues to use her now global platform to advocate for girls’ education.

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If someone were to create an advertisement spoofing today’s gospel lesson, it might go something like this:

Has your faith “get up and go” gotten up and gone?
Then you should try this new supplement, “Gusto for God.”
It’s 100% cross-created and Holy Spirit approved.
Try “Gusto for God” today.

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As we listen to today’s gospel lesson, we may find ourselves cheering on Simon Peter as he “gets it right,” naming Jesus as Messiah. Go Peter: first of the disciples, longest to be traveling with and witnessing all the fullness of God that is Jesus! You’ll have your human failings and stumble soon enough, but for now, you got it Peter.

Yet if we focus too much on Peter’s passing moment of triumph, we risk missing the real show. For Peter and all of the disciples are but witnesses to Jesus, witnesses to the one who is really in the spotlight. Jesus, who asks the disciples who people are saying that he is. And the disciples respond that some say he is John the Baptist, some that he is Elijah, some Jeremiah or another one of the prophets.

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In a story that I was reading this week about evangelical Christians, a woman in a small town in Iowa described how she had voted a certain way in 2016 because she felt it would protect her rights as a Christian, and give her and other Christians back power that had been lost.

It took me a few days before it dawned on me, just why that statement seemed so strange to me; the statement that her vote would “protect her rights and give back power to her as a Christian.” Then a light bulb went on as I thought: Christianity and striving to follow Christ with God’s help are not a right or power to be encoded into a government, but a humble privilege and a calling to a daily way of living and striving. Something we irresistibly do because the Holy Spirit, Divine and persistent as it is, just won’t let us go - despite challenges that can and will come our way, as well as periods of doubt and drought in our lives of faith.

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When the scene of our lesson today from 1 Kings opens up, we might expect to find the prophet Elijah - a prophet being one called by God to turn the people back towards God – at the head of a parade or at least at a victory feast. After all, Elijah is fresh off a major success in his role as prophet. Elijah has gone into the midst of the Israelites, who had turned away from God to worship the false gods of Baal, and he has challenged the priests of Baal to a test of power and won, and won big time as God helped Elijah to call down fire so strong that his sacrifice drenched in water on the altar is completely consumed, along with all of the water that had run down all around the altar. And the priests of Baal are cast out and the people are awestruck.

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