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Sermons

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For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

 

August 2022


August 7, 2022 "The Essence of Faith" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2022


July 24, 2022 "God's Goodness, Part 4: The Judge Who Shows Mercy" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

July 17, 2022  "God's Goodness, Part 3: The Covenant Partner Who Blesses" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

July 10, 2022 "God's Goodness, Part 2: The Law-giver Who Prospers" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2022


June 19, 2022 "Words from the Wise: Gamaliel" by the Rev. Lisa Strong Chase

June 12, 2022 "The Trinity: The Holy Spirit" by the Rev. Lisa Strong Chase

June 5, 2022  "The Day the Universe Changed" by the Rev. Lisa Strong Chase

May 2022


May 29, 2022  "Easter Discipleship, Part 5: Waiting with Joy" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 22, 2022 "Easter Discipleship, Part 4: Trust in My Healing Grace" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

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

 

 

July 24, 2022

“God’s Goodness, Part 4:  The Judge Who Shows Mercy” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, July 24, 2022  -  Year C / 8th Sunday after Pentecost - Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85  •  Genesis 18:20-32 and Psalm 138  •  Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)  •  Luke 11:1-13

THEME:  Mercy triumphs over justice.

 

One of the great things about living here in Mechanicsburg is the ability to visit some of the great cities that are within a few hours’ drive.  In particular, I have enjoyed getting to know Washington DC.

DC is a beautiful city.  Whenever I go there, I am immediately struck by the buildings.  If you are a fan of neoclassical architecture, as I am, I think you’ll agree there are few better places to visit.

The White House.  The Capitol.  The Treasury.  The Library of Congress.  The National Gallery of Art. 

They all evoke the architecture and mythology of the ancient Greeks.  And none more so than the US Supreme Court.  It resembles one of the great marble Temples whose ruins you might see in Athens or Corinth.

As you would expect, on the exterior of the Supreme Court building are several representations of the Greek goddess, Themis, or as she is more commonly called, Lady Justice.

You know what Lady Justice looks like.  You can see her image on Courthouses and Law Schools everywhere.  She is usually presented as blindfolded.  She always carries a balance scale in one hand and often a sword in the other. 

In Greek mythology, she was the goddess of divine law and order.  She not only personified justice, but she was the goddess of wisdom and good counsel.  She advised Zeus in his judgments of the affairs of both the gods and the mortals.  She helped him navigate the tricky question of what is just.

In the story we read from Genesis today, Abraham plays a similar role with God.

This reading comes immediately after last week’s visit by three strangers to the tent of Abraham and Sarah.  They turn out to be God and two of his angels.  After God astounds them both with the renewed promise of a male heir, he turns his attention to the outcry coming from the city of Sodom.

This story has long been associated with sexual sin, but that is not the great sin here.  The sin that God condemns is the abuse of the vulnerable at the hands of the powerful.

The prophet Ezekiel tells us that.  Centuries later, he writes to the Jerusalem exiles in Babylon, that they are guilty of the same sin as the people of Sodom.  Ezekiel says, “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom; she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”

The men of Sodom threaten to abuse Abraham’s nephew Lot and his guests.  This is the exact opposite of the extraordinary hospitality Abraham has just provided to God and his two angels.  God will not let such abuse stand.

He wonders aloud, “Should I let Abraham know of my plans to destroy Sodom?”  He concludes that, yes, Abraham must know.  

Afterall, God has charged Abraham and his offspring to “keep the way of the Lord.”  God’s destruction of Sodom will illustrate graphically and unmistakably what happens to those who violate God’s righteousness and justice.

So far, all of this is what we might expect from the so-called Old Testament God.  But as you know from the previous 3 sermons in this series, God is far more benevolent and compassionate than we suppose.  Sure enough, God starts to do things here we don’t expect.

Rather than passing judgment from afar, he decides to go down and see for himself the wickedness of Sodom.  That tells us something important about God.  God does not rush to judgment.  When he does judge, he takes the context into consideration.  What happens next tells us something even more astounding about God, and also about Abraham.

Abraham sidles up to God and asks him a question.  “Are you really going to sweep away the righteous with the wicked? That’s not justice!”  Amazingly, Abraham then begins to bargain with God.  If there are 50 righteous people in the city, will you destroy them along with all the rest? 

No, says God.  For their sake, I will forgive the whole city.  Well, Abraham continues, what about 45, 40, and so on down to 10.  God says, “No, for their sake I will spare the whole city.”

In the end, there are not even ten righteous persons, and God makes sure that the only righteous people in town leave before he destroys the city.  As we reflect on this, there are 3 lessons to take away.

First, if God doesn’t rush to judgment, neither should we.  It’s up to us to find out the truth and the circumstances around it before we draw conclusions about other people based on hearsay and incomplete information.

In a world where slanted media bias is rampant, we ought to keep that in mind before we swallow wholesale all that we hear on our favorite news channel, whatever that is.

Second, when the vulnerable are at risk, our concern should be what Abraham’s is:  to prevent the innocent and vulnerable from suffering because of the sins of the powerful.  That is what Abraham’s negotiation with God is all about.  It is also at the heart of God’s justice and righteousness.

This is equally true for us today.  If the moral argument against terminating pregnancy, for example, hinges on this same rationale of protecting the innocent and vulnerable, we also ought to consider the suffering which our ongoing degradation of the environment will heap on future generations of innocents, including our children, our children’s children, and their children. 

It is precisely the vulnerable who will suffer most from the effects of global warming.  Justice and righteousness demand that we address this now, not only to be good stewards of God’s creation, but to protect the innocent and vulnerable of future generations.

Third, if Abraham trusts that God is merciful, then so should we.  Did you notice the way he questions God?  Talk about hutzpah!  

His boldness borders on audacity.  He seems to already know that God is inherently merciful.  “Far be it from you,” he says to God, “to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! ... Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’”

In sales, we have a name for what Abraham is doing.  We call it appealing to someone’s better nature.  Abraham knows that God is capable of severe punishment.  He also knows that, by nature, God is merciful.  He is inclined to show mercy. 

That message appears all through the Bible.

Psalm 103 tells us God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.  That was never more clear than when God chose to become one of us in Jesus Christ, and to die for us so that we might live.

God has shown us the greatest mercy possible.  And just as he expects Abraham to be merciful, so does God expect us to be merciful. 

But that is where the real challenge lies.  What is the balance between justice and mercy?  How do we uphold what we know to be right, while still making allowances for human sin and our potential for change and growth?  In other words, what do justice and righteousness require of us?

Our best illustration of what that looks like is Jesus, himself.  Do you remember the woman caught in adultery, brought to him by the legal experts to test him?  Will he apply the law and have her stoned as the law requires? 

No – Jesus simply points the finger back at her self-righteous accusers.  Which of you is without sin?  Let him cast the first stone.  And one by one, they melt away.  It’s a reminder of what Jesus taught in the Beatitudes, blessed are the merciful.  They will be shown mercy.

Jesus himself is the balance of justice and mercy.  He is both our judge and our redeemer.  When it comes to that day when you and I are judged, Jesus will temper justice with mercy.  Thank God!

And so should we do the same.  There is an old story that helps us understand what that looks like. 

One night in 1935, Fiorello La Guardia, mayor of New York City, showed up at a night court in the poorest section of the city.  

Back then, New York mayors were empowered to act as magistrates, something Mayor La Guardia did more than once.  He dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench.  One by one the cases came before him.

One case involved an elderly woman who was caught stealing bread.  It turned out that she had done this to feed her grandchildren.  La Guardia said, "I’ve got to punish you. Your sentence is ten dollars or ten days in jail."

As he spoke, he threw a $10 bill into his hat.  He then fined everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a city where, as he put it, “a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat."  

The hat was passed around, and the woman left the courtroom with her fine paid and an extra $47.50 to buy food for her family.

This is what justice tempered by mercy looks like.  You and I can do it, too. 

Before we hold someone else to the letter of the law, to the highest expectations and the most exacting standards possible, let’s consider that the mercy we show others is the mercy we ourselves will receive.

The next time you pass a courthouse and you see the sculpture of Lady Justice with her balance scals, let it be a reminder: mercy triumphs over justice.

That is the righteousness God requires of you and me.

May it be so.

Last Published: July 25, 2022 12:25 PM
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

 

August 2022


August 7, 2022 "The Essence of Faith" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2022


July 24, 2022 "God's Goodness, Part 4: The Judge Who Shows Mercy" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

July 17, 2022  "God's Goodness, Part 3: The Covenant Partner Who Blesses" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

July 10, 2022 "God's Goodness, Part 2: The Law-giver Who Prospers" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2022


June 19, 2022 "Words from the Wise: Gamaliel" by the Rev. Lisa Strong Chase

June 12, 2022 "The Trinity: The Holy Spirit" by the Rev. Lisa Strong Chase

June 5, 2022  "The Day the Universe Changed" by the Rev. Lisa Strong Chase

May 2022


May 29, 2022  "Easter Discipleship, Part 5: Waiting with Joy" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

May 22, 2022 "Easter Discipleship, Part 4: Trust in My Healing Grace" by the Rev. Don Wahlig

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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