Trinity 21 Sermon, 2016
John 4:46-54
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

All of our understanding of today’s Gospel lesson hinges on two seemingly out of place questions.

First: What difference does it make if a verb is past, present, or future tense? Or, to ask it a different way, Why does grammar matter?

And second: What does a stop sign mean?

What does a stop sign mean? It doesn’t mean “Stop.” It means “Stop. Then, when appropriate, go.”

Believe it or not, we have a hard time understanding even the simplest signs.

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Trinity 20 Sermon, 2016
Matthew 22:1-14
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

“Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).

If we take that at face value, we’ll get it wrong and miss the point (the grace, the mercy!) that Jesus has in mind.

Here, “many” means “all” and “few” means “not all.”

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Trinity 19 Sermon, 2016
Matthew 9:1-8
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Friday, I went on an adventure through parts of Macoupin and Sangamon counties. It sounds so much better when I say it that way.

A little before nine in the morning, I paid my first visit to the Carlinville Emergency Room. I have only positive things to say about the ER there, but, unfortunately, they had to transfer me to the ER at St. John’s in Springfield.

I’ll spare you the details, but that’s how I spent my Friday.

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Trinity 18 Sermon, 2016
Matthew 22:34-46
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Between husband and wife, friends, and family, we often develop our own secret language. We say things, we ask questions, and we don’t really want a response to what we say, we want a response to what we haven’t said.

For example, if I ask my wife the question, “What’s for dinner?” I’m really asking, “What are you fixing for dinner?”

Or if I say, “What movie do you want to watch?” what I mean is, “Here’s a movie I want to watch, tell me you want to watch it, too.”

Those scenarios, relatively speaking, are harmless.

But there is, very similar to those, a logical fallacy that can get you in trouble. You’ve heard of loaded questions, right?

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Trinity 16, 2016
Luke 7:11-17
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

How does God interact with you?

How does He speak to you?

How do you know what God wants?

What is God’s will for your life?

And are you sure?

These questions all have simple answers, but we turn them into a kind of torture of the soul.

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The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2016
Matthew 6:24-34
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

In the context of today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus says, When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4).

He doesn’t say “if,” He says “when.” When you give to the needy, several things happen. You obey God, which is of course a meet thing to do. You care for your neighbor who is need, which we know we should do. And, you also train your body not to need so much stuff.

I can tell you to obey God, and you won’t get upset with me.

I can tell you to care for those who are in need, and you’ll agree with me nine times out of ten.

But if I tell you to train your body to need less and fewer things, if I tell you to store up treasure in heaven by giving away your earthly treasures here and now, you’ll want me to stop preaching. Well, guess what…

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The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2016
Luke 17:11-19
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

The worst thing about being a leper isn’t the disease itself.

It isn’t your flesh, boiling and scabbing, that’s the worst. It’s not skin and hair turning yellow, or the swollen and raw flesh that’s worst. Nor is it, even, the pain penetrating deep into your muscles and bones.

All of that is terrible, to be sure, but it’s not the worst part.

The worst thing about being a leper is the alienation, having to call out “Unclean! Unclean!” to keep even your loved ones away from you.

Fearing the spread of disease, lepers were cast out.

If a priest determined that a man had leprosy, his duty was to announce him as unclean. His clothes and possessions were to be burned. All his days, he shall be unclean. He shall dwell alone. He shall dwell outside the camp. That’s Leviticus chapter 13.

That’s what it is to be a leper.

And there’s a good comparison here.

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The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2016
Luke 10:23-37
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

To whom is the parable of the Good Samaritan told?

We must say that Jesus is speaking to the lawyer who desired to justify himself. It’s to him that Jesus replied.

But we must also say that this parable is for every Christian who needs to know how they have been loved by God and how they ought to love their neighbor.

To whom is the parable told—there’re only two options: Jesus speaks either to unrepentant sinners or repentant sinners.

To the lawyer who desired to justify himself, Jesus speaks this parable to shock. It’s a shocking parable.

You have to understand that the Jews despised the Samaritans. And the only protagonist in the parable is the Samaritan.

If you were a Jew, hearing this parable in its original context, you would hate Jesus’ words for that reason alone.

Here’s why.

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The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, 2016
Mark 7:31-37
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

Why would Jesus charge the crowd and the once-deaf man to tell no one about the miracle?

The people who brought the Deaf man to Jesus for healing understood that healing was good. They understood that ears should hear and tongues should speak.

This is how far we’ve come, how progressive we are, how much better things have gotten…

In the Gospel lesson, an ailing man was brought to Jesus for healing.

Today, that same man would be encouraged to think himself whole. Encourage a Deaf man to become hearing, for example, and you’ll receive the scorn of his community and yours.

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