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Sermons

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For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

May 2021


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

 

January 2021


January 31, 2021  "Are You God's Prophet?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 24, 2021  "God's Annoying Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 10, 2021  "Light to See" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 3, 2021  "The Outsiders' Perspective" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2020


December 24, 2020  "Light in the Darkness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 20, 2020  "Are you a Royal?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 6, 2020  "While You're Waiting..." by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2020


November 15, 2020  "Accepting Your Mission" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 1, 2020  "The Hope of the Saints" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2020


October 18, 2020  "Whose Image Do You Bear?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 11, 2020  "Righteous Clothing" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2020


September 13, 2020  "The Circle of Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

May 31, 2020

“Witness Power!” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, May 31, 2020, Year A / Pentecost – Numbers 11:24-30  •  Psalm 104:24-34, 35b  •  1 Corinthians 12:3b-13  •  Acts 2:1-21 

THEME:  The Spirit empowers us to witness across all boundaries by sharing our own faith experiences.

 

        Do you remember what it was like to be a freshman?  How exciting and even scary that was?

Three summers ago, I got to relive that experience when we flew out to California for Jane’s freshman orientation at the University of California at Santa Barbara. 

For several days, while our kids attended sessions specifically geared to them, we parents were split off and sent to a large lecture hall on the outskirts of campus.  There we sat through orientation sessions of our own.

My cell phone battery was running low, so I sat in the back next to an electrical outlet.  Before long, another freshman dad sat down next to me.  He asked to borrow my charger and we started talking. 

It turned out that he was eager to talk about himself, which was fine by me.  He told me he worked for one of the largest investment management firms in Los Angeles. 

He made a point of letting me know he lived in Calabasas, a very wealthy town just north of LA.  And just in case I didn’t know what kind of important people live there, he was happy to tell me the Kardashians were his neighbors.

Then he paused and gave me a quizzical look.  Then came the question I knew was coming.  “So, what do you do?”

This happens to me a lot.  I’ve come to see this moment as a sort of litmus test.  When I tell people what I do, people generally react in one of two ways.

Either they’re incredibly curious and interested to talk about faith.  Or they are utterly repelled, deeply suspicious that I’m going to hound them to get on their knees and come to Jesus right then and there.  I had a pretty good idea how this guy would react.

“Well,” I said, “I worked in sales and marketing for 20 years.  Then I went into the ministry.  I’m a pastor.”

Dead silence.  And a look that said more clearly than words ever could just how crazy he thought I was and how catastrophic my life had become.

Then he asked, “How does THAT happen??”

I thought for a moment.  Then I said, “With great difficulty.”

He turned away.  Clearly our conversation was over.  Just then the session started.  When we stopped for a break, he made a beeline for the door.  I never saw him again, but I sure do remember the look he gave me.

That is the risk we all take when we witness to Jesus Christ and God’s presence in our lives.  It’s the same risk Peter took when he stepped outside after experiencing the roaring presence of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. 

That was some scene, wasn’t it?  Those outside the upper room are amazed at the apostles’ ecstatic proclamation.  How is it, they wonder, that we who speak different languages, can all understand them? 

Some in the crowd are cynical, suggesting the disciples are drunk.  Others are not so quick to dismiss this experience.  They’re filled with curious wonder.  “What does this mean?” they ask.

Peter steps outside and addresses the crowd.  He tells them what’s happening is nothing less than the fulfillment of God’s promise spoken through the Old Testament prophet Joel.

“In the last days, God declares, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.  Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.  Your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”

Peter goes on to witness to the good news.  As a result, 3,000 people become believers and the church is launched.  Not too bad for a first sermon!  

But Peter would be the first one to confess the source of the power in his words was not his own.  It was the Holy Spirit.

I have been wondering about that this week.  It seems to me the Holy Spirit knows no boundaries.  In a patriarchal, status-oriented culture like the one the apostles lived in, the Spirit descends equally on men and women, young and old alike. 

It doesn’t discriminate according to ethnicity or what country you’re from.  It doesn’t care what your native language is.  And, as the book of Acts goes on to describe, the Spirit even moves across religions, too.

Skipping ahead ten chapters when the apostle Paul comes on the scene, he’ll continue to reach out to the Jews first wherever he goes, but it’s the Gentiles – the pagans – who really embrace his witness.  And that is what causes the church to take off across the 1st century Mediterranean world and beyond. 

 But you and I are not Peter.  And we’re not Paul.  Nor do we live in a world like theirs.

The question is what does faithful witnessing look like for you and me today? 

How do we harness the Spirit’s power to share the good news?  And what should we expect when we do?

        It starts by understanding our own story.  By recognizing how Jesus has changed us and how God’s presence continues in our lives.  And we in the church are going to have to get better at this, if we’re going to flourish again.

        That means we are all going to have become mystics. 

        It was the great 20th century Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner who said, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic, or he will not exist at all.”

        When I hear the word mystic, I think of someone like Teresa of Avila, the Spanish nun who famously described having visions of God’s presence that included out-of-body experiences.  But that’s not what Karl Rahner means.

        He means you and I have to learn to see and savor the experience of God not only in extraordinary visions, which are rare, but in smaller, mundane visions.  In his words, “The simple … everyday life contains in itself the eternal and silent mystery, which we call God and his secret grace.”

The problem for us is that contemporary culture has done its very best to remove the holy from everyday life.  And so, if you and I are going to be mystics, then we’re first going to have to learn to see differently.

Chuck Swindoll, the Texas pastor and best-selling author, talks about having everyday visions of God.  He says, “Vision is the ability to see God’s presence, to perceive God’s power, and to focus on God’s plan, in spite of the obstacles…. Vision is perception—reading the presence and power of God into one’s circumstances.”

But how do we do that?

Well, it starts where we experience love.  Love is a dead giveaway to God’s hand in our lives. 

Where have we experienced love?  Who loves us?  And whom do we love?  Those are the moments, and these are the people, in whom God is palpably present.

And there are other sure signs of God’s presence.  Paul describes them in his letter to the Galatians as the fruits of the Spirit:  joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-moderation. 

Becoming a mystic also means paying closer attention to the signs of God’s love in creation.  At this time of year, that’s not too hard.  Those God signs are all around us. 

I have never seen more beautiful flowers and a wider variety of song-birds than what I saw when I was writing this sermon on the patio of the manse this week. 

Admitedly, if you have allergies like I do, that makes it a little harder to see God’s blessing.  But that just means we’ll have to try a little harder to see past our itchy eyes and runny noses.  Then we can perceive how God is blessing us day-in and day-out through the flora and fauna around us.

Developing this mystical perception is what fills us with the Holy Spirit.  And the Spirit gives us the power to be Christ’s witnesses.  Because all these little visions of God point to the greatest vision of God there has ever been:  Jesus Christ. 

He is the personification, the embodiment of God’s love for us.  And that’s good news for all of us!

But, even as we become more mystical and see God’s presence all around us, and even as we harness the Spirit’s power to share with others this mystical experience of God’s love, we need to bear in mind the reaction Peter got.

We should expect that some will think we are raving drunks, foolish lunatics and naïve failures.  That’s what many thought about Peter.  I’m pretty sure that’s what my fellow freshman dad thought about me on that orientation day.

But that’s no reason to quit, because God never quits.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if, somewhere down the line, the very same folks who dismiss the Good News today, might come to see it differently.

Because there is no boundary the Holy Spirit cannot cross, no heart it cannot reach and no life it cannot change. 

Friends, let’s keep learning to see God’s presence more clearly, to savor his blessings more deeply, and to share his Good News more faithfully. 

That’s how the apostles witnessed.  And we can, too.

May it be so.

 

 

Last Published: June 1, 2020 2:06 PM
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

May 2021


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

 

January 2021


January 31, 2021  "Are You God's Prophet?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 24, 2021  "God's Annoying Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 10, 2021  "Light to See" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 3, 2021  "The Outsiders' Perspective" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2020


December 24, 2020  "Light in the Darkness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 20, 2020  "Are you a Royal?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 6, 2020  "While You're Waiting..." by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2020


November 15, 2020  "Accepting Your Mission" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 1, 2020  "The Hope of the Saints" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2020


October 18, 2020  "Whose Image Do You Bear?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 11, 2020  "Righteous Clothing" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2020


September 13, 2020  "The Circle of Grace" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

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