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Sermons

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For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

November 2019


November 24, 2019  "How to Recognize Your King" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 17, 2019  "A Good Ending" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 3, 2019  "What Makes a Saint?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2019


October 20, 2019  "Money as Means" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 6, 2019  "A New Family" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2019


September 15, 2019  "Sight? Or Insight?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

August 2019


August 25, 2019  "Seeing as God Sees" by Rev. Don Wahlig

August 4, 2019  "Five Lies & the Truth" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2019


July 28, 2019  "Walking Hand in Hand" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

June 2019


June 23, 2019  "The New, True You!" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 16, 2019  "The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 9, 2019  "Speaking of Dreams and Visions" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2, 2019 "Who's the Prisoner?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

May 2019


May 5, 2019 "Vision Correction" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

April 2019


April 21, 2019 "So, Where Is He?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 14, 2019 "A Wondrous Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 7, 2019 "For Love, or Money?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2019


March 31 "Grace Forgotten" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 17, 2019 "The Love that Won't Quit" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2019


February 17, 2019 "The Kingdom Vision" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 10, 2019 "Fishing Tips for Amateur Anglers" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 3, 2019 "Grace Unlimited" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2019


January 13, 2019 "The Promise of Baptism" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 6, 2019 "The Message of the Magi" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2018


Christmas Eve, 2018 "Self-giving Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 23, 2018 "Sing Along" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2, 2018 “Living in Between" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2018


November 18, 2018 “Persistent Witness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 11, 2018 “Everyday Foxhole Faith" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2018


October 28, 2018 “True Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 21, 2018 “How the Truly Great Get that Way" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 14, 2018 “The Cost of Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2018


September 30, 2018 “Holding It All Together" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 23, 2018 “Gentle Wisdom" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 16, 2018 “Finding the Right Words" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 9, 2018 “Jesus: Savior...and Lord?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

February 3, 2019

“Grace Unlimited” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, February 3, 2019, Year C / 4th Sunday after Epiphany – Jeremiah 1:4-10  •  Psalm 71:1-6  •  1 Corinthians 13:1-13  •  Luke 4:21-30

THEME:  Extend the Good News of God’s grace to everyone, across all boundaries.

One of the highlights of my academic experience as an English major at the University of Delaware was a course I took in my junior year.  The focus was Southern Fiction.  We read a variety of southern writers, some of whom you may know:  Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, Harper Lee and, of course, William Faulkner.

But the writer I found most compelling and, at times, downright shocking, was Flannery O’Connor.  If you don’t recognize her name it’s probably because she died young and she mostly wrote short stories.  Consequently, none of her stories were ever made into an epic movie.

But if you’ve read any of them, you’ll not forget her deeply flawed characters, and the way she weaves together the themes of God’s grace, with racism and classism.

O’Connor was a devout Christian and she described her work as “Christian Realism”.  She once famously said, “All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it.”

That is definitely the theme of one of her best-known stories called “Revelation.”  It’s the story of a woman named Ruby Turpin.  The story begins with Ruby sitting in a crowded doctor’s office somewhere in the rural south in the 1950s. 

We hear her inner thoughts as she judges the others waiting to see the doctor.  It soon becomes clear that Ruby considers herself better than all of them.  She thanks God that she wasn’t born black, or - even worse in her mind - what she calls “white trash.” 

Seated across from her in the cramped waiting room is an unattractive college-age girl with her nose in a book.  The title of the book is “Human Development”.  Her name is Mary Grace.

Soon, Ruby is spouting her bigoted judgements out loud. Each time she does, Mary Grace glares at her with an unmistakable, rising anger.  The more Ruby says, the more livid Mary Grace becomes.  Finally, Mary Grace can take no more.  She hurls her book at Ruby’s forehead.  

Ruby is stunned.  She’s shocked at this sudden, unprovoked attack. But, to her credit, she senses God’s hand in this.  She feels that God is sending her a message.  As she dwells on this, she begins to understand that God’s grace is bigger and broader than she could’ve ever imagined. 

Flannery O’Connor called this moment the beginning of Ruby’s road to redemption.  She said, “Revelation, it appears, often begins when a large book hits you in the head.”

And that’s a pretty good metaphor for what happens when Jesus stands up to read from Isaiah in front of his home congregation in Nazareth. 

Nazareth is a small town – maybe a couple hundred people, many of whom are related.  Jesus has known these people all his life.  And they know him.  They know his family, too. 

At first things seem to go well.  He reads: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”

In the shortest sermon in the Bible, Jesus declares his divine commission.  He is the bearer of God’s grace.  And the folks in the pews are mesmerized.  “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” 

Simply by being with them, Jesus has raised their hopes and expectations.  They’ve heard of the impact he’s had in the other villages in Galilee.

Since he’s one of their own – Joseph’s son – they assume he’ll do at least as much for them as he’s done for other folks in the surrounding towns.  His family and friends feel entitled to the extra blessing he will surely give them.

That’s what he means when he anticipates the crowd thinking of the proverbial physician.  He’s expected to heal his own before healing anyone else.

But Jesus is not just some local boy who’s made a name for himself on the regional preaching circuit for prophetic rabbis.  He’s no longer simply Joseph’s son, he’s God’s son.  His mission is now God’s mission:  to share the good news of redemption and release for everyone who is low on life’s totem pole.

Because they can’t or won’t see who he really is, there will be no special blessing for them, no extra helping of God’s grace for his family and friends.  In fact, because they don’t recognize him as God’s son, there will be no blessing at all.

And just to make sure they get the point, he tells not one, but two stories from their own scriptures that illustrate the surprisingly unlimited extent of God’s grace.

He reminds the crowd that even when there was great need in Israel, God sent the prophet Elijah to the Gentile widow in Zarephath and the prophet Elisha to the Gentile leper, Naaman.

In other words, God’s good news of deliverance for the marginalized is in no way limited to self-proclaimed insiders. Jesus is saying if you insist on thinking God’s grace is reserved for the in crowd, you’ll be shocked – just as Ruby Turpin was.

Is it really so surprising then, that they run him out of town?  In their eyes, he’s failed to honor the sacrosanct obligation of kinship.  He’s defied the all-important bond that is the key to social relations, especially in a small rural town like Nazareth.

Some of you are from towns like that.  In fact, there was a time not that long ago, when Mechanicsburg was like that.  Maybe in some ways, it still is.

That’s not a bad thing.  We look out for each other here.  We care for each other.  When one of us is hurting and suffering, we help that person.  That’s how we show God’s grace to one another.

But the question Jesus is asking us is bigger than that.  Are we ready to embrace the full extent of God’s grace?  Are we ready to treat outsiders as if they’re insiders, and love them accordingly?

Jesus made a career out of doing that. He shared God’s grace with women, the diseased and the unclean, the poor, even those who opposed him and those who oppressed him. 

He reached out to foreigners whose faith and ethnicity placed them far outside the realm of Jewish acceptability.  Some of his most compelling acts of love and mercy were shown to those despised Samaritans.  He even held up the good Samaritan as the example of someone who truly understood how to share God’s grace and mercy.

Friends, if Jesus refused to put limits on God’s grace, then so should we.  But we’re not always so good at that, are we? 

The truth is we are more like that Nazareth congregation than we might like to admit.  All of us are more comfortable embracing folks who look like us, believe like us, live like us and talk like us. 

As I discovered soon after I arrived here three years ago, we divide the Harrisburg region into halves:  the East shore and the West shore.  Getting folks to cross from one side to do ministry on the other can be a real challenge.

But there’s an unexpected blessing that comes from serving others across that boundary.  And those of you who’ve done it know what it is.  It takes us out of our comfort zone.  It opens up our minds and our hearts like no other experience can. 

And before we know it, the things we thought made us so different begin to fade.  Suddenly we realize we share the same hopes, needs and desires that drive all of us. 

And when that happens, like the Grinch at Christmas, our hearts get bigger.  Our capacity for compassion increases.  That’s the onramp to the fast lane of spiritual growth.

It’s the same with all the boundaries we cross carrying Christ’s love – whether that means going to South Africa or South Allison Hill.  Following Jesus across boundaries to share the good news not only redeems others, but it redeems us, too.  It brings us closer to God and one another.

That’s how lives are changed for Christ. 

This is the same kind of transformation that Flannery O’Conner had in mind for her heroine, Ruby Turpin.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but let’s just say that Ruby finally comes to understand the last shall be first and the first shall be last. 

It was a painful lesson – a shocking lesson.  It made her uncomfortable, for sure.  But, even so, she took it to heart and it changed her.  She was never the same kind of Christian again.

Let’s you and I do the same.  Let’s let the message of God’s unlimited grace knock us upside the head and propel us into a better, deeper stronger faith.

Now, I’m not suggesting that taking today’s scripture seriously should cause us all to leave here with a welt on our forehead.  

But it should leave us with a new openness in our hearts.

May it be so. 

 

 

Last Published: February 4, 2019 2:35 PM
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

November 2019


November 24, 2019  "How to Recognize Your King" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 17, 2019  "A Good Ending" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 3, 2019  "What Makes a Saint?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2019


October 20, 2019  "Money as Means" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 6, 2019  "A New Family" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2019


September 15, 2019  "Sight? Or Insight?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

August 2019


August 25, 2019  "Seeing as God Sees" by Rev. Don Wahlig

August 4, 2019  "Five Lies & the Truth" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2019


July 28, 2019  "Walking Hand in Hand" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

June 2019


June 23, 2019  "The New, True You!" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 16, 2019  "The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 9, 2019  "Speaking of Dreams and Visions" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2, 2019 "Who's the Prisoner?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

May 2019


May 5, 2019 "Vision Correction" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

April 2019


April 21, 2019 "So, Where Is He?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 14, 2019 "A Wondrous Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 7, 2019 "For Love, or Money?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2019


March 31 "Grace Forgotten" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 17, 2019 "The Love that Won't Quit" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2019


February 17, 2019 "The Kingdom Vision" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 10, 2019 "Fishing Tips for Amateur Anglers" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 3, 2019 "Grace Unlimited" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2019


January 13, 2019 "The Promise of Baptism" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 6, 2019 "The Message of the Magi" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2018


Christmas Eve, 2018 "Self-giving Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 23, 2018 "Sing Along" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2, 2018 “Living in Between" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2018


November 18, 2018 “Persistent Witness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 11, 2018 “Everyday Foxhole Faith" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2018


October 28, 2018 “True Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 21, 2018 “How the Truly Great Get that Way" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 14, 2018 “The Cost of Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2018


September 30, 2018 “Holding It All Together" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 23, 2018 “Gentle Wisdom" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 16, 2018 “Finding the Right Words" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 9, 2018 “Jesus: Savior...and Lord?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

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