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Sermons

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For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

June 2019


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

 

 

May 5, 2019

“Vision correction” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, May 5, 2019, Easter –  Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)  •  Psalm 30  •  Revelation 5:11-14  •  John 21:1-19

 

Do any of you where glasses?  How old were you when you realized you needed them?

As a young adult, I always had good eyesight. So I never needed corrective lenses.

But, in my late twenties, I gradually noticed my vision had changed.  I’d become near-sighted.  Close-up I could see things clearly, but further away they became blurry. 

Then, in graduate school, it got even worse.  It reached the point where I had to sit near the front of the classroom in order to read the board. 

And at church or on the street, I would notice people approaching, waving at me from a distance, but I wouldn’t respond because I couldn’t recognize them.  Then I felt awkward, knowing how rude I must have seemed. 

The worst part was driving.  I couldn’t read the signs until I was almost on top of them.  That made for a few anxious moments as I would swerve at the last minute to get off at an exit, or realize too late that I needed to yield when merging.

That was when I realized, because I couldn’t see clearly, I was a danger to myself and to others.  My vision needed to be corrected.  And the same thing is true of Saul in our passage from Acts.

At the outset, it’s tempting to see Saul as a clear-cut villain.  Certainly, that’s how Jesus’ disciples view him. 

But you can bet your bottom dollar that’s not how Saul sees himself.  Remember, he’s not only a Jew, or even just a faithful Jew.  He’s a Pharisee.  His role is to correct the practices that go against God’s law, as given to Moses.

So, in Saul’s mind, he’s not persecuting anyone.  He’s pleasing God by correcting the errors of those in the synagogues who follow Jesus.  He’s on a mission to purify God’s chosen people of false teaching.  For Saul, that’s all Jesus is: a false teacher.

So, when Jesus knocks him off his horse and says “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” we can just imagine Saul thinking, “Huh?  Me?!  I’m not persecuting anybody!  I’m serving God by making sure every Jew upholds the terms of the covenant.”

But that’s not how Jesus sees it.  By dragging disciples out of the synagogues and back to Jerusalem to stand trial, Saul isn’t just persecuting them, he’s persecuting Jesus. 

The real problem is Saul does not see Jesus or his teaching correctly.  As a result, he’s persecuting the very people God wants him to help.  That means he’s a danger to them and ultimately to himself.

And so Jesus corrects Saul’s vision.  Ironically, it starts with a period of blindness.  Dismounted and disoriented by Christ’s bright light from Heaven, Saul is deprived of his outward vision until his inner vision is re-formed.

In those 3 days of darkness, prayer and fasting, Jesus shows him a vision of a disciple named Ananias coming to restore his eyesight.

As it turns out, Ananias himself needs to correct his vision. When Jesus tells him to go and meet Saul, Ananias actually tries to talk him out of it. 

He says, in effect, “Um, Lord, I’m not sure you really know this guy, but he is one bad dude.  Steer clear – he is nothing but trouble and no good to you, me or any of your other disciples.”

 But Jesus sees in a way that Ananias does not.  What Jesus sees in Saul is an instrument to bring the good news to all people.

So, reluctantly and don doubt fearfully, Ananias obeys.  And with new sight and the power of the Holy Spirit, Saul is off and running, preaching Jesus’ good news in the very synagogues he originally set out to purge.  And he won’t stop there: he’ll bring the gospel to Jew and Gentile alike - in effect, the whole world.

How’s that for a conversion?

But the question is how did Saul go so wrong?  How could he use God’s own word to justify violence and persecution?

After all, he knew the law inside and out and was scrupulous in upholding it.  But in keeping the letter of the law, he missed the spirit.  In effect, he was near-sighted.  He couldn’t see the big picture.

What needed to change was not only the way he saw Jesus, but the way he saw Jesus’ teaching.  When Jesus summarized the law as requiring us to love God and neighbor, he was quoting from Deuteronomy and Leviticus. 

Saul knew those commandments, too.  But he got lost in the minutia of all the other 600-plus commands.  He missed God’s overarching message of love which is the bedrock of both the Jewish Law and the Gospel.

And that’s what distorted Paul’s vision.  It led him to justify violence against the very people he was meant to be helping, supporting and loving.

Tragically, you and I are familiar with this problem.  Such distorted vision of sacred teaching lies at the very heart of extremism.  It’s the basis of religious violence. 

We witnessed that yet again just last weekend, when a young man named John Earnest walked into a synagogue in Southern California and opened fire. 

I learned this week that he wrote a seven-page manifesto expressing his beliefs.  He apparently holds Jews culpable for everything from killing Jesus to controlling the media.  His outrageous conclusion is that, not only do they deserve to die, but killing them would actually glorify God.

That is horrendous, of course.  But there’s more to his letter.  It turns out this troubled young man is a Presbyterian.  He and his family are members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, one of the many offshoots of our own denomination.  His father is an Elder.

As a result, John Earnest was raised with a solid understanding of Reformed theology.  That was clear in his letter, where he articulates an excellent Reformed view of salvation.

This is causing Christians of all stripes, including his own pastor, to ask a hard question:  how could someone who has such a good understanding of God’s grace wind up embracing such evil?  How could he ever come to believe this glorifies God?

Sadly, in today’s world, this is not an isolated act.  Far from it, in fact.  We’ve seen such religiously-motivated violence most recently in Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and elsewhere.

All of us would agree this young man, like all extremists, needs a vision correction.  What you and I want to know, above all, is what can we do to correct such a distortion and prevent the evil it propagates?

The place to start is by looking inside and asking ourselves some tough questions.  How do we think, feel and speak about those with whom we disagree, and those who seem to be our enemies?

Has anything we’ve said or done fueled the culture of division and polarization?  I know I’m guilty of that.  I’m guessing I’m not alone.

That’s why, when God calls us to reach out and embrace with love those with whom we disagree, even our enemies, we tend to respond like Ananias.  We argue with God in order to get out of it.

And that’s because our vision is distorted.  Like Ananias and Saul, we, too, are near-sighted.  We don’t see the big picture.  We’re not as open as we should be to the possibility that Jesus wants to use others as his instruments, as well as us.

But if we are, remarkable things can happen.

And there are few better examples of that than what happened in Durham, North Carolina to an African American woman named Ann Atwater and a white supremacist named Claiborne Ellis.

In 1971, desegregation in the Durham School District was not going well, to say the least.  Mrs. Atwater, a desegregation advocate and civil rights leader, was asked to chair a 10-day community meeting to sort things out. 

But the folks at City Hall were less than enthusiastic in their support.  As her co-chair, they appointed Claiborne Ellis, senior leader of the local branch of the KKK.  The pair were thrown together for 12-hours a day for 10 days straight. 

Things did not begin well.  At one point, they got so heated that Mrs. Atwater actually pulled a knife on Mr. Ellis at a Durham City Council meeting.  Mr. Ellis did not help matters when he brought a machine gun to their first discussion session.

But then something remarkable happened. As Ellis described it, “During those days it became clear to me that she had some of the identical problems I had, and that I'd suffered like she had.”

They became such close friends that Claiborne Ellis resigned from the KKK and worked alongside Ann Atwater to desegregate the Durham schools.  And for the next 30 years, the two of them spoke together at civil rights seminars.

At Ellis’ funeral in 2005, Atwater sat with his family.  She said "God had a plan for both of us, for us to get together."

Folks, as inspiring as this story is, there’s really nothing unusual about it.  This is God’s plan for all of us. 

It’s the same mission Jesus gave Saul, Ananias and all his disciples.  And it’s the mission he gives you and me.

To whom should we reach out with Christ’s love?  Who seems to be our enemy?  Who looks, thinks, acts so differently from us we just can’t envision embracing them with Christ’s love?

That’s the person God is calling us to love.  What needs to happen is for you and I to adjust our vision to see them as clearly as Jesus does. 

     May it be so.

 

Last Published: May 6, 2019 11:07 AM
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

June 2019


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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