Furnace Mountain Presbyterian Church is a small but vibrant community of believers in Northern Virginia. We celebrated our Centennial two years ago and are eager to see what God has in store for us!
Operating as usual
The video for today's worship is the liturgy - the prayers and the litanies. Next week, the entire service will be included, not just the sermon. Of course, you can always fast forward through to it, but I hope you will be willing to spend time with the whole service!!
youtube.com Today, John Molina-Moore and Tara Spuhler McCabe have given a gift to all the preachers in National Capital Presbytery! The two of them joined up to preach o...
Here's our Christmas Eve service! I will admit, throughout the summer, I had hoped this service at least could be done in person. Next year.
The service is an adapted Lessons and Carols. Since I did not get information into our wonderful bulletin guru, we had to sing only the first verse of the hymns.
I owe a lot to my friend Ken Kovacs, pastor at Catonsville Presbyterian Church near Baltimore and to an essay at +SALT called "Rethinking Christmas". Each source put Luke's Gospel story of the birth (Luke 2:1-10) into historical context. I am always a sucker for a good story and thinking about the way Luke tells the story of Jesus' birth is like catnip to me.
Christmas this year is very different; hearing the story in a different way may be just what we need. I hope this message touches your spirit and brings you just what you need this season. Merry Christmas!
Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent and today we remember Mary, Jesus' mother. Her story is in Luke 1:26-38. It continues throughout the rest of the chapter, but today we are considering how she responded to the appearance of the angel Gabriel. He busted in on her and startled and confused her by telling her to rejoice and be glad!
Mary was likely in the midst of planning her wedding and going about her day so why should she rejoice and be glad? Gabriel told her she would have a baby and she responded, "HOW?!"
After the year we have had, we may also be wondering "how?" How do we celebrate a time that is so very different this year? How do we celebrate after what we've all experienced? Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones, writing in The Christian Century for this Sunday suggests that our question - HOW - does not receiver either a road map or a timeline. Instead, it receives the promise that on our journey, nothing is impossible with God.
Rejoice! Be glad!
If you are interested in this service of carols, follow the links to log in tomorrow (December 18) night! You can set a reminder for yourself if that helps.
ptsem.edu Princeton Seminary will host a night of Christmas carols. The live virtual event will feature the Chapel Choir and alumni readings from around the world.
Today is the third Sunday in Advent. The Scripture assigned from the lectionary comes from the Gospel of John. The actual verses are different from what I chose but not that much.
The fourth Gospel has a few themes that run throughout and the verses for today reflect it. Light and dark are contrasts that run through the book as well as testimony. In verse fourteen, the author tells us that the Word of God - through which everything came into being - became human and lived among us.
The Greek word is literally "set up a tent" which the ancient Hebrews did in the wilderness. God sets up a tent in our midst; lived our lives and showed us there is nothing in our experiences that are beyond God's touch. For some, this is incomprehensible. For others, this is a reason to rejoice!
Today is the Second Sunday in Advent and the Scripture passages are from Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8. Each passage has a voice crying out to alert people to God's saving grace which brings peace.
Peace is not simply an absence of conflict; peace in Scripture is wholeness, completion, fullness, and a concern for the welfare of creation. For the exiles in Isaiah, God's peace leads them home after a long time away. In Mark, John the Baptist adorns himself like one of the old prophets - reminding them that God has not forgotten them at all and is about to do a new thing.
In our lives today, we need God's peace more than ever, it seems. What in your life needs to be knit back together? What in your life is being filled up to completeness? What in your life has been torn up and laid open to God's presence and promise for something new?
I was sent a link for this site - it is an electronic Advent devotion! I know we already have a hard copy version written by Jenny Smith published through Abington, but you can never really have too many perspectives on the Scripture. Thank you for the tip, Desta!!!
ccca.biola.edu The Advent Project is a daily devotional series celebrating the Advent season through art and Scripture.
This morning I used the video below as our prelude. The song is called "Song of Hope" written by Sachio Nang, a 2020 senior from Illinois who needed a project this past April when he and his friends went into lockdown. He put out a request to his friends to participate and they really came through!
youtube.com There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and a song to carry you through. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many musicians were kept at home, with no music ...
This is the first Sunday in Advent! The traditional theme for the day is Hope. Oddly, the Gospel reading is about Jesus telling his disciples about the hardship and suffering they will face in the end days. What on earth is hopeful about that?!?
As David Lose points out, what is hopeful about the struggling in our days is Jesus has gone there ahead of us. The cross holds all the pain and anxiety and fear of our lives - redeemed by Jesus.
So if you are not feeling too hopeful, given the reality around us, I understand. Yet, in Jesus there is hope. He asks us to keep watch for it.
On November 29, we will be entering the season of Advent. Usually, we have an Advent wreath at the church and we light candles each week to welcome the Light of Jesus coming into the world. Due to our current circumstances, we will not be doing that this year.
Instead, we would invite you to find candles that you can light in your home during the four weeks of Advent. You can make a wreath, you can find scented candles, you can dig through your supplies and find candles for a birthday cake. Please use whatever you find and join us as we continue this custom.
This is the last day of the liturgical year! Next Sunday, we begin the season of Advent - the time of waiting and preparing for the arrival of the Light of the World. This Sunday, we recognize the end and the beginning, the Alpha and Omega that is Jesus.
The Scripture lessons are from Ezekiel and Matthew dealing with the beloved flock of God. Each passage has words of judgment and while we often really like the idea of "those guys" getting what they deserve, we must acknowledge that while God has every right to demolish God's enemies, on the cross, God chose to die for them.
This is the king we remember today; the one who by all rights could destroy everything that resists him. Instead, the king comes to destroy our self-centered desire to make the world about our needs and show us his face in the people around us. This kingdom is everywhere and he wants us to see it.
Jesus continues to teach about the kingdom using parables. Today, he tells a story about a wealthy man leaving on a trip who gives over large amounts of his wealth to servants/slaves in his absence. He knows how capable each of them are and gives accordingly. The first two make more wealth for the master, but the third one hides his portion. When the master returns the first two are celebrated and praised and the third one is stripped of what he'd been given and tossed out of the house.
The story centers on the dialogue between the master and the third slave. Is the slave right to be afraid of the master? Is his action a way of protecting himself or a way of protesting economic injustice? Can it be both? What is the joy of the master? Just days after telling this story, Jesus himself is tossed into the outer darkness of crucifixion.
As usual, Jesus' stories have layers of meaning. May the Spirit connect you to this parable so you may find what you need for your life.
I follow the Revised Common Lectionary selections for each Sunday of the year and two this week's passages were Amos 5:18-24 and Matthew 25:1-13. I thought that since I have preached on this parable of The Ten Bridesmaids before, something would come easily. I put the bulletin together Monday, sent it off that afternoon, and then set everything aside while the election and its aftermath swept the country.
I did not get back to looking at the passages until yesterday. By then, I was pretty well wrung out and feeling a little scattered by the roller coaster ride of the national election. So I turned to my treasure chest of resources.
Debi Thomas, who writes at Journey with Jesus and is a frequent source for much of my own work, had written an essay about the parable in Matthew. As I read it, I thought, "Ooh, that's good!" And it kept being good, so I decided to use her work today. Thank you, Ms Thomas!!
Today is All Saint's Day - a day reserved on the calendar to remember those who've gone ahead of us from this life. This year, due to the corona virus, over a quarter of a million people have died. Would a more responsible and consistent plan from our leadership prevented this number? Leadership is the theme running through both passages for today. In Joshua 3:7-17, the Lord instructs Joshua and the priests to lead the people across the Jordan. In Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus acknowledges the authority of the scribes and Pharisees as leaders, but warns them not to do as they do. Our country is about to cross over into the future - regardless of who will lead us, as followers of Jesus, we know that God is with us.
"Wait a minute", you may be thinking. "Didn't Molly use this passage not too long ago?"
Yes! Yes, I did. As we wrapped up the summer long series on The Ten Commandments, I used this encounter between Jesus and his opponents in a sermon called "G.O.A.T". That story came from Mark's Gospel and today we are looking at the same story in Matthew 22:34-46. Matthew changes some things and adds a rather cryptic question about the Messiah and David. I was tempted to cut that part out but after reading some commentary, I changed my mind. The identity of the Messiah and his mission of love illuminates and demonstrates Jesus' idea that love is the greatest.
This passage from Matthew 22:15-22 is familiar. "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's" has found its way outside church walls. Jesus' opponents hope to trap him in the impossible political situation of his time. He refuses. He offers a different perspective for them - and for us.
I wonder if Jesus had Isaiah 25:6-8 in mind when he tells the parable about a wedding banquet in Matthew 23:1-13? Surely, the king in the parable would have spared no expense to feast the guests at his son's wedding!
In today's sermon, we explore the challenge of interpreting this parable as a one to one analogy. Is this angry, vengeful, violent king really a stand in for God? Or does Jesus have a real monarch in mind? By re-casting the parable with a flesh and blood tyrant from the era, the parable gains urgency and relevance for the lives of his listeners, then and now.
As a note: the banquet hall projected behind me is in Buckingham Palace in London, England. This is the hall that pops into my mind when I hear the word banquet! And if you are wondering why I look like I've been working in the yard, keep watching. Hopefully, my appearance will make sense.
Today's passages are about vineyards. In Isaiah 5:1-7, the prophet sings a song about God's love and expectations for God's vineyard. After putting a lot of care and effort and expense into it, God waited for a yield of sweet grapes. Instead, they were bitter. God's heart was broken and he allowed all his work to be overtaken by brambles and decay.
In Matthew 21:33-46, Jesus picks up the imagery of the vineyard - even using the same words to describe the way the landowner tended it. But in this story, those who are responsible for its care got greedy and decided to take over what wasn't theirs to have.
Each of these stories shows what seems to be a wrath filled response to terrible decisions. We understand that response, don't we? If someone does something outside the the boundaries of acceptable behavior, we get angry. And, we think we can justify this response by pointing to places in Scripture where God got angry.
But look closer.
In Isaiah, God is heartbroken. God allows the vineyard to go wild because what else could God do?
In Matthew, it is not Jesus who condemns the tenants but the people who the tenants represent.
In both passages, God does not walk away. Instead, God offers everything. Doesn't sound like wrath to me.
The Scripture passages today from Ezekiel 18 and Matthew 21 are about repentance. They don't use the word at all; rather, each passage is about choosing to act. In the Ezekiel passage, the Lord God speaks through the prophet to the people to tell them that actions in the past are in the past. God is interested in their now. So, act like it. In the Matthew passage, Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders who are angry with his behavior in the temple. He refuses to be baited by them and instead, tells a parable about two sons asked to do the will of their father. Each son says one thing and does another. It's the actions that God notices. In our days, what actions are we doing? In what ways are we acting like we are God's?
The Revised Common Lectionary is responsible for selecting Scriture passages to be read throughout the year and I've often been amazed at how the selections have something to say every time. The Spirit is always at work, isn't it? Today's readings from Jonah 3:10 - 4:4 and Matthew 20:1-16 are about what happens to a person filled with resentment. In the parable in Matthew, most English versions have the landowner asking the aggreived vineyard workers if they are "envious" about his generosity. The Greek word is actually "evil". Is your eye evil because God is generous - especially to those we deem unworthy to be equal to us?
What does it cost to forgive? In the Genesis 50:15-21 passage, Joseph's brothers expect him to exact revenge for their sin against him. He gives that up and treats them and their families with tender care. In Matthew 18:21-35, Peter wants to know just how many times a person is expected to forgive someone. Jesus tells a parable (maybe with Joseph in mind?) about a wealthy man who forgives an astromomical debt. In each passage, God expects the person wronged to acknowledge the sin, give the need to retaliate to God, and live in gratitude that God holds the past, present, and future, freeing us to live in service.
Using Ezekiel 33:7-11 and Matthew 18:15-20, we're taking a look at how to be faithful in the midst of conflict. Ezekiel hears God tell him that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and so he gives him the responsibility to go speak to them about their behavior. Jesus teaches his followers how to go through that process in Matthew's gospel. In this process, the point is always reconciliation. This is not easy work but as I was always told, nothing worth anything is easy.
Sunday, August 30, 2020 - "The G.O.A.T"
This is the final sermon in a series about the Ten Commandments. For the past three months, we've gone through each commandment and how Jesus fulfilled them through his life and teachings. Today, we used Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and Mark 12:28-34 to look at how Moses and Jesus distilled the essence of the law and how the faithful are to live with them. The G.O.A.T. commandment? Love.
Sunday, August 23, 2020 - "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
This is the tenth sermon in a series about the Ten Commandments. The command not to covet other's "stuff" is easier said than done. If we are honest with ourselves, those holes that we try to fill with material possessions or lifestyles are unfillable. The bottomless pit of longing can only finally be filled by the One who creates and blesses. Jesus attempts to teach this lesson to a man who is centered on his own financial priorities. I wonder, did he find what he was looking for? The Scripture for this sermon is Exodus 20:17 and Luke 12:13-21.
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Potomac Hills Presbyterian Church is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) with an average attendance of 225 people.