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Sermons

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For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

 

May 2022


May 15, 2022 "Easter Discipleship, Part 3: Love One Another (as I Have Loved You)" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 8, 2022 "Easter Discipleship, Part 2: Follow My Voice" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 1, 2022 "Easter Discipleship, Part 1: Feed My Sheep" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 2022


April 17, 2022 "New Life, or an Idle Tale?" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 10, 2022 "The Deeper Meaning" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

March 2022


March 13, 2022  "Images of Jesus- Part II: Friend of the Cross" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

February 2022


February 13, 2022  "Love, Faith, Hope - Part III: The Life of Hope" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

January 2022


January 30, 2022  "Love, Faith, Hope - Part I:  Acts of Love" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

January 2, 2022  "Jesus Draws a Crowd" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2021


December 19, 2021 "Advent Anticipation" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

December 5, 2021 "Advent 2: Wilderness Preparation" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

November 2021


November 14, 2021 "How It All Ends, Part 2: Resurrection" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

November 7, 2021 "How It All Ends, Part 1: Return" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 2021


October 31, 2021 "SSPC Values Part 5: Steward God's Gifts" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 24, 2021 "SSPC Values Part 4: Nurture Relationships" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 17, 2021 "SSPC Values Part 3: Share Hospitality by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 10, 2021  "SSPC Values Part 2: Show Compassion" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 3, 2021  "SSPC Values Part 1: Glorify God" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 2021


September 19, 2021  "Gentle Wisdom, or Worldly Ways?" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 12, 2021  "Prophetic Hope" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 5, 2021  "A Vision of Our Future" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

August 2021


August 15, 2021  "Wise Living" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

July 2021


July 4, 2021  "Humility Over Hubris" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2021


June 27, 2021  "Faith Over Fear" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 2021


May 30, 2021  "The Spirit, Part 3: :Life and Peace" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 23, 2021  "The Spirit, Part 2: The Life of Hope" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 16, 2021  "The Spirit, Part I: Wisdom and Revelation" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 9, 2021  "Love Actually, Part 4: Love and Christ" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 2, 2021  "Love Actually, Part 3: Love and God" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 2021


April 25, 2021  "Love Actually, Part II: Love in Action" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 18, 2021  "Love Actually, Part I: Love and Family" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

Easter, April 4, 2021  "How Does It End?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2021


March 28, 2021  "The King We Weren't Expecting" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 14, 2021  "The Cure for Snake Bite" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2021


February 28, 2021  "Are you Kidding, God?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 14, 2021  "Premature Joy" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 7, 2021  "Need a Liftt?" 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.

 

May 2022


May 15, 2022 "Easter Discipleship, Part 3: Love One Another (as I Have Loved You)" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 8, 2022 "Easter Discipleship, Part 2: Follow My Voice" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 1, 2022 "Easter Discipleship, Part 1: Feed My Sheep" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 2022


April 17, 2022 "New Life, or an Idle Tale?" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 10, 2022 "The Deeper Meaning" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

March 2022


March 13, 2022  "Images of Jesus- Part II: Friend of the Cross" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

February 2022


February 13, 2022  "Love, Faith, Hope - Part III: The Life of Hope" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

January 2022


January 30, 2022  "Love, Faith, Hope - Part I:  Acts of Love" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

January 2, 2022  "Jesus Draws a Crowd" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2021


December 19, 2021 "Advent Anticipation" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

December 5, 2021 "Advent 2: Wilderness Preparation" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

November 2021


November 14, 2021 "How It All Ends, Part 2: Resurrection" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

November 7, 2021 "How It All Ends, Part 1: Return" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 2021


October 31, 2021 "SSPC Values Part 5: Steward God's Gifts" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 24, 2021 "SSPC Values Part 4: Nurture Relationships" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 17, 2021 "SSPC Values Part 3: Share Hospitality by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 10, 2021  "SSPC Values Part 2: Show Compassion" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

October 3, 2021  "SSPC Values Part 1: Glorify God" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 2021


September 19, 2021  "Gentle Wisdom, or Worldly Ways?" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 12, 2021  "Prophetic Hope" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

September 5, 2021  "A Vision of Our Future" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

August 2021


August 15, 2021  "Wise Living" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

July 2021


July 4, 2021  "Humility Over Hubris" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2021


June 27, 2021  "Faith Over Fear" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 2021


May 30, 2021  "The Spirit, Part 3: :Life and Peace" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 23, 2021  "The Spirit, Part 2: The Life of Hope" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 16, 2021  "The Spirit, Part I: Wisdom and Revelation" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 9, 2021  "Love Actually, Part 4: Love and Christ" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 2, 2021  "Love Actually, Part 3: Love and God" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 2021


April 25, 2021  "Love Actually, Part II: Love in Action" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

April 18, 2021  "Love Actually, Part I: Love and Family" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

Easter, April 4, 2021  "How Does It End?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2021


March 28, 2021  "The King We Weren't Expecting" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 14, 2021  "The Cure for Snake Bite" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2021


February 28, 2021  "Are you Kidding, God?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 14, 2021  "Premature Joy" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 7, 2021  "Need a Liftt?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

 

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

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