Church Podcast Available Online

The most recent sermons are posted below and are available for download from this page. To view the full archive of sermon notes click here.

While you are in the iTunes store please take a moment to leave a comment and a rating for the podcast. This helps other people find our podcast more easily in the iTunes store. We hope that this message will be helpful to you and encourage you to explore the word of God. Click here to subscribe to our podcast.

Use the search bar or tag cloud below to find previous sermons.

Light that Carries a Shadow

audio Block
Double-click here to upload or link to a .mp3. Learn more

2 Corinthians 4:1-15

The Light and Darkness of Resurrection Life
We’re focusing on the light of Resurrection life. John tells of the Logos, creator of life, light shining in darkness, showing God’s glory, full of grace and truth. It all sounds very good, but he leads us through all that Jesus endured into crucifixion and then resurrection.
Resurrection is a challenge to believe as an event – like Thomas. But that’s just the start. Once I know it’s real, then comes the challenge of seeing everything through its lens. Resurrection life is new, in Jesus: the union of human physical life with God’s life. But it is life on the other side of death, incorporating death, conquering death. But God brings it into our world, our history in Jesus so that it shapes our life, values, and purposes, now.
In incarnation, Jesus brings God’s life into ours, takes our limitations – humble, suffering, all the signs of mortality we experience – dies with us. In resurrection, he takes our life into God’s life, shows how great God’s love is, builds hope and meaning into our life. Our lives now are shaped by the love embodied in his cross and the vibrant hope of his Life.

Light of the World

John 1:1-4

Jesus told his disciples and crowds, “You are the light of the world!” Amazing! How? Shine the light in beautiful/excellent works that show God’s glory: live the Sermon on the Mount. 
John sets that process within the great event that God has accomplished in Jesus. Last week we looked at the Foolish Cross/Resurrection as God’s Wisdom/Power that unites physical and spiritual, heaven and earth. Human life and work matters (‘not vain’) toward new creation. 
John’s intro overviews the grand event all the way back to the Beginning (Gen 1). The Logos (Word, Reason, Wisdom), the depth of God: “with God” relationship, “was God” identity. From “being” to “becoming.” Creation through Logos. “In him,” life comes to be as the place where Logos is shared. For humans that life becomes illumination, Light : a physical image for a life of purpose, relationship, meaning. That’s the event: Light is shining... bringing the “being” of God/Logos into the “becoming” created world. Not stopped. 

The Joy of a King without an Army

Matthew 21:1-14

A Week of Joy and awful Foolishness
Palm Sunday leads to Easter – two celebrations bracketing startling, awful events: conflict, betrayal, abandonment, injustice, torture, crucifixion. This year Easter is April 1 –April Fool’s. It’s there from the start: It’s a fool’s tale: “The word of the cross is foolishness...” (1Cor 1:18). 
And for many of the wise of our day it still is. Actually, for everyone! The foolishness is built in. In this series of events God intends to challenge all our assumptions of how things are: What it means to be strong, to make a real difference, to show glory and power, even God’s. We all, even much of the church, think we know better what’s smart, powerful, glorious, wise. 
And then there’s that young man! Astride a little donkey, riding down the hill toward the brilliant marble and gold of Herod’s vast temple, with the fortress of Rome’s soldiers, toward death. 

Discerning Gifts for Spiritual Growth

1 Peter 5:1-7

A Community Process of Discernment
We’ve come to an important time in the process of adding to our leadership. A church is a part of the body of Christ. We exist to help each other and the people around us know the God of the universe who shows himself in Jesus and lives in us in his Holy Spirit. That affects every aspect of life, but its priority is important. We want to discern, participate in God’s work. 
We know from our world how cynically leadership is manipulated. Across history, the church is often no different, just another broken human institution. The process of discernment matters for those who believe/trust in God with renewed minds (Rm 12:1-2). There’s no set method or failsafe technique. We do our best. God works. The Holy Spirit acts among us. Always the challenge of Jesus shows us God’s reality turning our world’s values upside down. We must go back again and again to the scriptures as learners, looking at Jesus, growing. 
Maturity, Task, Responsibility

Inclusive Leadership in a Challenging Culture

Romans 16:1-13

A Community that Broke Barriers
Last week we talked about how 1 Tim. 3 showed how Paul urged Timothy to discern leaders that fit the distinct situation, life, and needs of the congregation. Remarkably, in its first cent. the Jesus movement struggled to be inclusive on every level. Success was real but limited. There were no patterns of associations with women or slaves as leaders. It was hard in that society for them even to speak, much less serve as prophet-teachers or leaders.
But they were pushed by the Spirit giving gifts, by theology/baptism, by Jesus’ example. Jesus treated every person as honored, valuable (paradigm of Samaritan woman // Nicodemus). The Spirit came to all (Act 2) and gave gifts as he willed (1Cor 12:11), not staying in lines. The deep reality expressed by baptism broke down the most fundamental barriers to make believers one in Christ. How could they live that truth in such a divided, hierarchical society?
Calling and Service

Leadership among New Testament Christians

Romans 12:4-8, 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Cf. Titus 1:5-9

Developing Leadership in Early Christian Communities
The NT has a range of descriptions for leadership in the early communities of believers. There is an interplay between everyday and church language(episkopos= supervisor, overseer, into “bishop”) (presbyteros= elder, later transmuted into priest) (diakonos = servant, deacon).
Jerusalem: apostles, elders, presided over by James, Jesus’ brother. Antioch: prophets and teachers. Paul appointed new converts as “elders” (Act 14:23). Philippi used the language of supervisors/overseers and servants (bishops and deacons). Many assemblies were evidently led by those in whose house they met (Mary, Lydia, Priscilla and Aquila, Titius Justus, Chloe). Paul usually describes leadership in terms of gifts of grace (charisma) with a range of functions (Rm 12). He never speaks of elders till 1 Timothy and Titus, near the end of his life.
Paul’s Instructions to Timothy and Titus.
In our own tradition, the descriptions of elders in 1Tim and Titus have often been the law, a kind of checklist, discussed and debated but controlling. We looked for a binding pattern and these texts were explicit enough to override descriptions of leadership in other letters.
It is important to ask what Paul intends in these texts. They’re very important as they show Paul dealing very explicitly with situations in Ephesus and Crete. What are we to learn?

Gifts for Spiritual Leadership

Ephesians 4:1-16

Leadership by Community Discernment
We’re starting a process to expand the group of “elders” who lead this congregation. MCOC is within the Churches of Christ, part of the “Stone-Campbell” movement of “restoration” that became distinct early in the 19th cent. (About when the Church of Christ began in NYC in 1810.) Our identity as a church centers in a commitment to the NT and all of Scripture: the church will be healthiest when it stays closest to NT teaching. No hierarchy. Independent congregations. In practice, the CoC developed a pattern of local “elders,” “deacons,” and “ministers,” with variations. Always within a deep commitment to being guided by scripture.
The leadership of this congregation has been stable for many years. It was about 15 yrs ago, (2003) when we last went through this process: Elders: Paul Stelzer (26 yrs), TR (25), Angel Reyes (15), Lark Mason (15). All the deacons (15+), Ministry staff (17+). The community is always evolving, diverse, learning, maturing. We have quite a number of men and women who are able to bring important spiritual gifts into leading this community. On March 11 we’ll ask for our best discernment of those who could best serve as leaders.

Following Jesus in an Age of Many Faiths

John 14:1-10

Nearness – The Challenge and Mystery of other Faiths
As a child, I grew up in a sectarian world. We joked about being the only ones going to heaven, but thought it likely true. A small heaven. The religious “others” were Baptist, Methodist. The Nat. Geographic still explored unknown regions of earth. Now we’re all next door.
I’ve learned a lot by study and relationships: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, vast cultures and literatures. I’ve learned the vast variety in Christianity. There’s so much I’ll never grasp because I don’t live inside the world of Vishnu or Pure Land Buddhism or Greek Orthodoxy. We can’t escape human limitation. A continuing journey, drawing on resources of faith.
We live in a secular world that deals with faiths by saying none/all are “true.” I partly share in that. I put little trust in “religion” as a general phenomenon in human culture. It’s both good and bad. My faith stakes all of life on Jesus, on the God of Israel known in Jesus, on the God who as creator is the source of all existence, the lover of all, giver of life and hope.
Modesty – Learning from other Faiths

A Living Faith in a Secular Age

Colossians 1:9-23

From Christendom to a Secular Age
We’re part of a society and world that is “Secular” – “God” may be important personally, but God in himself is not part of public discourse in government, culture, science, economics, technology, academics, education, social sciences, psychology, etc. It’s a radical change from 500 yrs ago – the demise of “Christendom” in Europe. [Charles Taylor, A Secular Age.]
Many Christians feel a loss– defeat, a desire to regain cultural and political power. But few want to undo the development of today’s world– Modernity. Renaissance, Enlightenment, end of feudal/clerical dominance, science, medicine(!), technological rationalism, political rights for individuals, human rights, diverse nation-states, innovative economies, freedom, democracy. But each word is complex, with a dark side. Materialism, loss of meaning.

A Loving God in a Scientific World

Genesis 1:1 - 2:3

Living in the World of Science and Faith
We breathe the air of science and technology: a smartphone is a powerful computer connected to a vast network. We share in a stream of discoveries in medicine, genetics, microbiology, physics, chemistry, geology, cosmology, archeology, paleontology, various fields of biology, etc.
We also live in a world of Biblical faith, the reality of Jesus, which reveals the deep meaning and purpose of human life, its freedom and brokenness, its hope and destiny. This event and story was firmly in place before modern technology. We embody the interplay of modern and ancient, both part of us, both flowing into the future. We feel the tension. Who are we? What is right? Does our life have purpose? We’re thinking, conscious beings, and our every thought has intention, is about something. Do we live in a world without mind, intention, purpose?
Learning to Read the Book of Scripture
Often tensions grow from not letting the scriptures be themselves. They were given to us long before modern science, which grew up based on the Biblical view of a world created by a wise, consistent God. Scriptures don’t speak in scientific terms even for their own day. In telling of creation, Genesis uses an everyday view of the world to teach about God and humans: vault, lamps, no planets, two different narratives. Not the scientific “Ptolemaic system.”
Modern Christians decided God could not use such a non-factual story to teach anything. Gen was re-conceived as scientific fact, distorting what God gave us into what moderns desired.

The Reality and Generosity of God

Matthew 6:19-34

Heaven and Earth through Jesus’ Eyes
We start a New Year not in a freezing crowd in Times Square, but in a crowd on a mountain with Jesus. Even the poorest among us can hardly imagine this crowd from Galilee towns. No medicine, police, grocery, banks; few schools; no political voice, no technology. But still like us, human, hoping, wanting a better life, identity, wanting help to understand. What do you say to powerless, struggling people, gathered because of suffering, desire?
Jesus does not condescend with platitudes. He teaches them, reshaping theology, ethics, anthropology, cosmology through powerful images that still challenge every real listener.

Walking Together in Shared Life

Ephesians 4:1-6

Going for a Walk Together
When Paul writes Ephesians, he can’t walk, as he has through his ministry. He’s in prison. But he loves the image of walking, prominent in scripture, and uses it throughout his letter. For Paul, it’s not where you go (travel, prison) but how you walk – “worthy” of your calling, the invitation you’ve received from God in Jesus. Paul saw all kinds of people come into these communities shaped by the event of Jesus, and he saw transformations: Eph 2:1-10. We were dead people walking, in delusion, futility, shaped by the air we breathed. God in his Love gave us life in Jesus, raised us with him. It’s Grace, a gift we receive by faith. A new creation, a new walk, toward every good action. Minds made new. Walking in love, as “children of light.” Becoming wise adults who learn to think for themselves, to discern God’s will, “humbly to walk with God.” Learning from a Shared Walk

Christ Comes to All the World

Romans 15:13-21

Apostle to Nations who’ve Never Heard of Jesus
Paul knew that he was called to a special role, as one saturated in the Law, a Roman citizen, a Greek-speaker, confronted by the resurrected Jesus, sent especially to cities/people across a pagan Roman empire. He worked in Syria, Arabia, Asia Minor, Greece, now Rome, Spain. Paul has a strong sense of Advent. God is always breaking in, coming to new peoples new lives. He’s seen it. Participated. That’s the particular calling he received. Rome’s empire was tied to its own throng of gods. The Jews’ story seemed superstition. – A crucified Jew as Lord? Paul was the instrument of Advent in regions beyond what’s known in Acts – Illyricum.

Christ Opens God’s Welcome

Romans 15:7-13

Advent – Story of the Event that Shapes Us
Advent means “Coming.” The coming of Jesus as Messiah. All that that event means. No one knows Jesus’ birthday, but Advent/Christmas is about structuring life around the events of God’s promises of grace and salvation flowing from his love: Powerful, continuing Drama: One man (Abram) –> a Nation (Israel) –> One man (Messiah Jesus) –> the Whole World.... Paul comes to the climactic end of the main body of Romans: A way of life and relationships that flows from the whole story. The heart of Christian life & ethics – not general morality. Welcome – As the Messiah welcomed You – God’s Glory. What God has done for us in Jesus Christ, we learn as the permanent heart of God, we learn to practice toward others.