SERMON SERIES: “World Series of Stewardship”
SERMON TITLE: “Increase Runners Batted In: Encourage Others”
SERMON TEXT: 2 Corinthians 8:1-15
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: October 21, 2018, at First UMC
Picture this. It’s the middle of the bottom of the ninth inning. Both teams have had trouble getting hits off the pitchers, and most of the innings of the game came up goose eggs. The crowd was getting sleepy from lack of action, but after singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” they’ve livened up and are eager for some action. But at this late stage of the game, your team is still two points behind, and you’re the player just now stepping into the batter’s box. The bases are loaded; your teammates have already done their best to get themselves onto first, second, and third bases; and now they’re counting on you. The pitcher is winding up, and the high-speed ball is coming toward you. Will you bunt? Hit a line drive into the distant outfield? Smack a grounder between the bases? Clobber it over the fence? Whatever you do, you can’t let the inning end without a score. Your team needs a morale boost. They need some encouragement. The pressure is on to increase RBIs, runners batted in.
I think that’s what the Apostle Paul was getting at in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 8, verses 1-15. As we continue our World Series stewardship drive, let’s consider this scripture and how we can “Increase Runners Batted In” as we “Encourage Others.”
SERMON SERIES: “The World Series of Stewardship”
SERMON TITLE: “Get a Base Hit: Plan for Giving”
SERMON TEXT: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: October 14, 2018, at First UMC
On Friday and Saturday, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers played games one and two of their National League play-off series. Game three will be tomorrow, as those teams vie for an opportunity to play in The World Series. Since the Ogden Raptors are a farm team of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I decided I’d read up a bit on the Dodgers. I have to admit that I’m not normally someone who follows sports very closely, so you who are much more in tune with Major League Baseball will have to forgive me if I say this incorrectly. But, what I read seemed to indicate that the Dodgers won their way to the play-offs, in part at least, by using an offensive strategy called “platooning.”
“Platooning” means that, during the regular season, the Dodgers increased their roster to 39 players instead of the more usual 25. Those extra numbers allowed them to possess two players for some positions, with one being a right-hander and the other a lefty. That way, the coach could use whichever batter (the right-hander or the left-hander) was better suited to get a hit off the opposing team’s right or left-handed pitcher.
If I’ve understood this correctly, such large rosters aren’t allowed in the play-offs. So, there’s some question about the Dodgers’ ability to win all the way to The World Series. But, as their coach said in September, the Dodgers were going to use every advantage they had in the regular season, and getting a lot of base hits was a really important strategy for winning.
Today, I want to talk to you about strategy. Last Sunday, as we began our own baseball-themed series, our emphasis was on the importance of stepping up to the plate by being ready and willing to share. This morning, with the help of 1 Corinthians 16, we’ll see that we get a base hit when we move from that initial willingness of heart to an actual strategy for how we’re going to do this. That’s what the Apostle Paul was coaching the Corinthians to do, and that’s what we all need to do. In order to get a base hit, we need to make a plan for giving.
SERIES TITLE: “World Series of Stewardship”
SERMON TITLE: “Step Up to the Plate: Be Willing to Share”
SERMON TEXT: 1 Timothy 6:11-19
OCCASION: October 7, 2018, at First UMC
Those of you who are familiar with our church know that the fall season includes some weeks when we talk about stewardship and prepare our hearts for making financial pledges to the church for the coming year. In this annual ritual, we use a theme of some kind. Four years ago, we were “Reaching for the Heights.” Three years ago, we were “Seeing the Vision.” Two years ago, we were “Dwelling in God’s House.” And last year, we were “Celebrating Our Tenth.”
Those were all strong themes that helped us remember our history and plan for our future. But this year, it seemed to me that we needed to do something a little less serious. Life is so full of anxiety already, and talking about money often increases our stress. So, I’ve been thinking that it would do us some good to laugh and have some fun—like on that Sunday afternoon in August when many of us enjoyed an Ogden Raptors game together. In this month leading up to the World Series, maybe what we need to do is play some baseball.
So, over the next several weeks, we’ll be using baseball imagery to help us consider how we might “step up to the plate, get a base hit, increase runners batted in, and hit a home run” in our financial relationship with God. Each Sunday, besides my sermons, we’ll have a layperson—like Chris—give a talk about what it means to them to give financially to God through our church. Each of you will also receive a letter and information in the mail. Then, during worship on Sunday, October, 28, we’ll “bring home” our completed pledge cards and consecrate them to God.
O.K. So today we begin by stepping up to the plate. Oh, yeah, that reminds me. I have a question to ask you. Where in the Bible is there a reference to baseball? (Gen. 1:1 & John 1:1—“In the beginning/big inning).1 So, today, we’re beginning by stepping up to the plate. In baseball, there’s no way to score unless you pick up a bat and walk into the batter’s box. To put that in terms of Christian stewardship, there’s no way to score the joy of giving unless we begin by being willing to share. Throughout the Bible, we see this message over and over again. The goodness of life and the blessings of God come most fully when we’re willing to open up our hearts and financial resources. This morning I’d like us to focus our attention on 1 Timothy 6:11-19, where we see three great reasons to step up to the plate and be willing to share.
SERMON TITLE: “Jesus 101: Jesus & Status”
SERMON TEXT: Mark 10:35-45
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: September 30, 2018, at First UMC
Tonight at the Interfaith Concert at the Mormon Tabernacle, I will sit up in the front. Insiders at the Tabernacle call that area “the stand.” The organizers of the interfaith concert want clergy and other faith leaders to be visible at the start of the concert and when the official pictures are being taken. Besides religious leaders, there will probably be some community leaders up there also. Last year, the mayor of Ogden was there, and I sat next to the president of Weber State. I suppose that the concert organizers request the obvious presence of those dignitaries to raise the profile of the event.
In some ways, that kind of attention to status feels weird to me—like, isn’t an interfaith concert about the musicians? What does it really have to do with politicians and even clergy, for that matter? But I also know that we human beings are often motivated by status. Knowing and being seen with people in high places is often useful. Relationships create access and offer opportunities to increase privilege and power. Too much power can be a bad thing in the wrong hands, but a certain amount of status can also be essential to accomplish good things.
In this back-to-school season, we’ve been studying “Jesus 101.” As we’ve worked our way through the early chapters of Mark, we’ve learned about Jesus & the Gospel, Jesus & Healing, Jesus & the Law, Jesus & Vocation, Jesus & Teaching, Jesus & Water, and Jesus & the Multitudes. If you’ve missed any of those sermons and want to catch up, you can always read them on our website. Look under the “Worship” tab, and you’ll find my recent sermons in print. Next Sunday, we’re going to move into an October baseball-themed series to help us with our stewardship drive, and I encourage you all to wear baseball shirts and caps and help us decorate the sanctuary with baseball gear. But, today, in the final sermon in this Jesus 101 series, I invite you to join me in an examination of “Jesus & Status.”
SERMON TITLE: “Jesus 101: Jesus & the Multitudes”
SERMON TEXT: Mark 6:30-44
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: September 23, 2018, at First UMC
Thanks to all of you who participated in our Hometown Mission Week! We did good work in our community! Some worked with animals, the Nature Center, or cleanup of Marriott-Slaterville. Some did tutoring work at Pioneer Elementary, and others participated in the Farmer’s Market at the Veterans Home. The largest numbers of us were deployed and engaged in some kind of food-based ministry. Many of you have donated food that you’ve placed in the narthex. Some served meals at the St. Anne’s Kitchen at the Lantern House homeless shelter. Some provided a dinner at the Family Promise Center last night. And, a few days this week, we had volunteers working at the Catholic Community Services Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank.
While I was at the food bank on Tuesday, I learned more about the two programs to help feed school-aged kids over weekends and holidays, when the children don’t have access to free breakfasts and lunches at school. One of those programs is “Stop the Gap,” which is basically a food pantry set-up in the schools, so that the students can do some free shopping for groceries to take home to their families. The “Stop the Gap” program is provided in those schools where the percentage of impoverished children is so high that it makes sense to provide food for all the students.
In other schools, where a smaller percentage of the students live in poverty, the food bank offers a different program called “Pantry Packs.” Since only a small number of those students need food, there’s the danger of social stigma. So, the more discreet “Pantry Pack” method is used because those foods, already assembled in a gallon zip lock bag, can easily be slipped into a student’s backpack when none of the other kids are watching.
These carefully-strategized ministries of feeding the poor and hungry go well with our gospel reading for today. Ever since the beginning of August, we’ve been making our way through the Gospel of Mark and reviewing the basics about Jesus. In this “Jesus 101” series, we’ve already learned about Jesus & the Gospel, Jesus & Healing, Jesus & the Law, Jesus & Vocation, Jesus & Teaching, and Jesus & Water. Today, we’re going at this from the angle of “Jesus & the Multitudes.”
SERMON TITLE: “Jesus 101: Jesus & Water”
SERMON TEXT: Mark 4:35-41 and 6:45-51a
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: September 16, 2018, at First UMC
On August 19, when we celebrated Men’s Ministry Sunday, Alan Livingston gave the sermon. In that sermon, Alan told about his experiences as a volunteer cleaning up after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Alan spoke thoughtfully about the role God does or doesn’t play in disastrous situations. Today, as Tropical Storm Florence is wreaking havoc on the Carolinas, we’re back at that theme of the divine role in the midst of life’s storms.
For five weeks in this Jesus 101 series, we’ve been progressing through the early chapters of Mark, and we’ve been reviewing the basics about Jesus. We’ve heard Jesus preaching the good news, we’ve seen him healing the sick, we’ve witnessed him interpreting the law, we’ve observed him calling the disciples, and we’ve heard him teaching. This series has paired Jesus with traits of his life and ministry that have offered us both grace and goals, compassion and challenge. Today is no different, as we explore “Jesus & Water.”
SERMON TITLE: “Jesus 101: Jesus & Teaching”
SERMON TEXT: Mark 4:1-20
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: September 9, 2018, at First UMC
My earliest memory of gardening isn’t planting seeds or pulling weeds or even picking vegetables. My earliest memory is that my mom, my maternal grandmother, and I were sitting at a picnic table in the yard of my great uncle, and we were shelling peas. That was the summer I turned five. I have many more memories of gardening after that: using sticks and strings to lay out straight rows, hoeing trenches at various depths for different kinds of seeds, moving the sprinklers around to water everywhere, and picking the produce. I remember that when my brothers and I grumbled about having to pull weeds, Dad said, “Quit complaining. I used to have to eat those dandelions.” I remember that our usual motivation was that Mom wouldn’t let us go swimming in the creek until after our gardening chores were done. I learned a lot about gardening from my parents and grandparents. Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic were the subjects of September through May, but my summer education was largely about how to turn tiny seeds into nutritious food.
I’m telling you this because, for several weeks, we’ve been progressing through the Gospel of Mark and focusing on the basics about Jesus. And today, as we come to Mark chapter four, we begin to encounter Jesus’ many parables. With the Parable of the Sower at the center of our attention, let’s see what we can learn about “Jesus & Teaching.”
SERMON TITLE: “Jesus 101: Jesus & Vocation”
SERMON TEXT: Mark 3:13-19 and 6:6b-13
(Also: Mark 1:16-20 & 2:13-14 were used in Children’s Sermon)
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: September 2, 2018, at First UMC
As you can see from the title printed in the bulletin, this installment of my “Jesus 101” sermon series is about “Jesus & Vocation.” We United Methodists don’t use the word “vocation” very much. In fact, when you first glanced at the title, some of you might have thought I was going to preach about Jesus going on “vacation.” This is Labor Day weekend, after all, and lots of folks are taking advantage of their last summertime opportunity to get away before the fall schedule takes hold. Why not Jesus too? If you’ve been here for the previous three sermons in this series, you’ve figured out that, in the early chapters of Mark, Jesus was a very busy guy and probably was already in need of a vacation. Almost as soon as he began preaching the good-news gospel, he also got to work healing all kinds of people who crowded around him with their many needs. Jesus devoted himself to this labor because he felt a tremendous sense of call from God. Mark chapter one tells us about Jesus’ baptism, when he saw the Spirit of God descending on him like a dove and he heard God’s voice saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Soon after, when John the Baptist was arrested and his message was silenced, Jesus realized he had to pick up the slack. God had called him to that work.
And that’s what the word “vocation” means. You can think of it like “voice” or “vocalization.” As the Gospel of Mark so clearly indicates, Jesus heard God’s divine voice calling him into the ministry of preaching good news, calling him into the ministry of healing the sick, and calling him to interpret the law with compassion. And now, in this fourth sermon of the series, we see that Jesus used his own voice to call disciples to labor alongside him in God’s work.
SERMON TITLE: “Jesus 101: Jesus & the Law”
SERMON TEXT: Mark 2:23 – 3:6
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: August 26, 2018, at First UMC
My husband Steve and I wanted to watch TV the other night, but nothing good seemed to be on. So I suggested that we go to a cable channel that shows old re-runs of the original “Law & Order.” Luckily for us, we happened upon an episode neither one of us remembered. That’s kind of rare because, ever since that “Law & Order” franchise began back in 1990, it’s been one of our favorites, and we’ve seen a lot of the episodes more than once. Steve and I are familiar with all the detectives and their captains and all the district attorneys and their assistants, and we’ve always enjoyed how they bantered back and forth, taking turns being tough on crime or sympathetic, working out the spirit and complexities of the law in regard to current issues of the day.
I suppose that “Law & Order” style of program has been popular with lots of people because we all need some law and order in our lives. The more uncontrollable, real-life chaos that swirls around us, the more it feels good to see a problem arise, get worked out, and be solved all within one hour. Even if we know it’s fiction, we can dream, right? I once read that ordained ministers like me are more likely than the average person to read mysteries and detective novels because we like the idea that whatever is wrong with the world can be straightened out. We like the belief that justice can prevail and that God’s righteousness will win the day. I suppose that could be true of religious people in general. We like the structure and order of living by the law.
I’m telling you all this because our scripture reading from the Gospel of Mark leads us to our third installment—or episode—in this sermon series on “Jesus 101.” As we’ve been moving through the early chapters of Mark, we’ve already learned two basic principles. On August 5th, we began with “Jesus & the Gospel,” in which we learned that the “gospel” was the good news that Jesus taught and that Christians later preached and wrote about him. On August 12th, we saw that a second basic concept about Jesus was that he demonstrated his good news through a robust ministry of healing. [We skipped last Sunday because the Men were in charge of the service. Thank you, guys, for leading our worship. It was great!] And now, today, we’re back to “Jesus 101,” with an episode I’m calling “Jesus & the Law.”
SERMON TITLE: “Jesus 101: Jesus & Healing”
SERMON TEXT: Mark 1:40 – 2:12
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: August 12, 2018, at First United Methodist Church
As you entered the church this morning, you might have noticed a big blue banner asking you to vote “Yes” on Proposition #3. I have that banner displayed because I’ve been working hard this year—first with a petition signature book and recently at a parade route, the county fair, and a letter to the editor—to talk with people about Proposition #3, which will be on our ballots this fall. If enough people vote “Yes” on Proposition #3, it will expand Medicaid to cover 150,000 low-income Utahns who, right now, fall into a coverage gap that severely limits their ability to access healthcare.
I’ve been volunteering my time and effort to this cause because I believe Jesus cared deeply about people’s health, and that he wants his disciples to do the same. And I’m telling you about this today because, last Sunday, I began a sermon series on the basics of Jesus as found in the Gospel According to Mark. Like a beginning college course, I’m calling the series “Jesus 101.” Last week’s sermon was on “Jesus & the Gospel.” In that introduction, we learned that the word “gospel” refers to both the good news spoken by Jesus and the good news that the gospel writers perceived and told about Jesus decades later.
Today we move on from the verbal announcements of Jesus’ good news to some of his early demonstrations of life in God’s kingdom. As soon as Jesus began preaching and teaching, he found himself interacting with people who were suffering from physical handicaps and limitations. Like a school child who has trouble learning to read because his stomach is growling, we human beings have physical realities that demand our attention. Jesus quickly came to see that his ministry could never be just abstract words lofting through the air. Jesus perceived that human spirits are very tightly connected to human bodies, and that our well-being and salvation are a function of both. So, this morning, I invite you to consider what the Gospel of Mark tells us about “Jesus & Healing.”