Three Mini-Sermons

Heritage Presbyterian Church http://heritagepresbyterian.org

June 16, 2019
Trinity Sunday
Scripture reading – Proverbs 8: 1-4 (Gifts of Wisdom)

1st Mini-Sermon/Children’s Sermon: “The Emperor’s Mustache”

[from Rodney Ohebsion’s web page, http://www.rodneyohebsion.com: “Indian Folktales”]

Emperor Akbar enjoyed asking his court attendants many unusual hypothetical questions. One day he sternly asked them, “How should we punish someone who dares to pull my mustache?”

One man replied, “He should be beheaded.”

Another said, “He should surely be hanged.”

And another said, “He should be fed to the tigers.”

The Emperor heard these responses and then turned to his advisor Birbal and asked, “What do YOU think?”

Birbal though for a moment and replied, “He should be given fruit.”

“What?” the Emperor incredulously replied. “Have you gone insane? Do you have any idea what you are saying?”

Birbal calmly replied, “I have not gone insane, Sir. I know what I am saying.”

The shocked Emperor retorted, “Then how can you say something like that?”

Birbal politely responded, “Because the only person who would dare do such a thing is your infant grandson!”

What is wisdom?  In this story, it is the ability to see something and figure out something that no one else could do. Sometimes it just means slowing down long enough to think for a minute.  Sometimes it also means holding onto our emotions and NOT letting them interfere with our clear thinking.  

When we do this, maybe we give the Holy Spirit a little time to work within us and enable us to help.  If we don’t, it doesn’t mean we aren’t smart…it doesn’t mean we aren’t wise either. 

It just means that we are not BEING wise at that particular moment.

We should try to be as wise as possible whenever we can.  

Amen!

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2nd Scripture reading – Romans 5: 1-5 (Results of Justification)

2nd Mini-Sermon: “Martin Luther Discovers Grace”

In the early 1500’s the German monk Martin Luther was studying to become a priest in the Catholic Church.  The more he studied and thought about God, the more Luther became convinced that he had been completely wrong about God for most of his life!

You see…Martin Luther had always been taught about the angry, vengeful God who was ready to punish sinners (and we are all sinners, oh yes!) at the first sign of sin.  For many years, Luther actually hated and feared God because of this.  He realized at an early age that it was just about impossible to avoid sin; even if one could avoid actively committing a sin, no one could avoid sinning in their heart or their mind.  Everyone does that every single day, and the theology of Luther’s day taught that God would punish us for it – unless we worked to earn his forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

He became convinced that the church had lost sight of what he saw as several of the central truths of Christianity — the most important being the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Luther grasped the fact that sinners were declared righteous by God apart from any of their works; the Church in Luther’s day taught that sinners were made righteous in actual conduct as they cooperated with God’s grace. This actual righteousness, the Church taught, was the means by which a person was justified before God. Luther understood the subtle yet damning error in this teaching: for while it acknowledged God’s grace as helping the sinner to obey, it placed salvation back into the efforts of man and removed the objective peace of God that rested entirely in Christ alone.  [https://cruciformpress.com/luther-justification-by-faith-alone/,Luther: Justification by Faith Alone, by Charles E. Fry.]

Luther did not avoid – in any way – the responsibility that each sinner has for his or her own sin.  But he also stressed that the Lord’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace are freely given – despite our best efforts or anything we can do on our own behalf. Once Luther established this clearly in his own mind, he began to boldly teach it to his university students and his congregations.  This put him on a collision course with the Church’s hierarchy, who saw Luther’s teachings as dangerous.  Nevertheless, Luther also discovered something else in this idea of justification through grace: his own peace of mind.

Luther had struggled for many years with the guilt that his own sins and his distance from the forgiveness of God.  Now that he understood clearly the idea that he was justified and forgiven and loved by the same God he had once feared, Luther became a true man of God who was also at peace in his own heart.

What a wonderful lesson for any believer: as Paul wrote to the Romans: “…since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ…”

Amen!

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3rd Scripture reading – John 16: 12-15 (work of the Spirit)

3rd Mini-Sermon: “John Smithson and a Vast Number of Gifts”

James Smithson was an English chemist and self-trained scientist who traveled much of the world and published several scientific papers in his day.  He never married and had no children of his own. However, he maintained a sizable inheritance from his mother and several other relatives.  Because of this and because of his wish to give back to the knowledge of science, Smithson established a paragraph in his will that stated he wanted an institution created that would contain all his various scientific items for study.  Furthermore, Smithson requested that his institution be created in America, a country he was never able to visit but which impressed him.  

Upon his death, his nephew took over the estate, but died only a few short years later.  The nephew followed his uncle’s wishes to the letter, and the Smithsonian Institute was created in America.

Today, the Smithsonian Institute is one of the world’s largest scientific museums.  It has various wings containing exhibits and artifacts in virtually every area of science. Much of the various artifacts have been donated to the museum and to the American people.  To tour the Smithsonian is a major undertaking; many years ago, it was calculated that if the average person visited every single exhibit in the museum and stayed for only two minutes, it would take two full years to see everything. Since this calculation was derived, hundreds of items and many new exhibits have been added to the Smithsonian.

It is an amazing collection of items that can fascinate even the most jaded observer.

In much the same way, the community of Christians that exists in our world today contains a vast number of Spiritual gifts that are freely given. Each one is special and different from every other gift.  Even two believers who possess identical gifts often use them in very different ways, each as the Spirit moves them. 

Imagine if these various gifts of the Spirit were displayed in a similar way to the various items in the Smithsonian; what would the various exhibits of gifts look like?  What would they reveal?  Would there be a wing for “wisdom” and another for “speaking in tongues” and yet another for “mercy” and perhaps a large one for “knowledge”?  How long would you spend in front of each exhibit? How long would it take to tour the entire museum?  A lifetime? Perhaps…

And the most important question of all: How would these gifts of the Spirit change the world today?

We will never know if we don’t even consider thinking about them.  

We will never understand unless we are open to whatever our own personal gifts of the spirit might be.  

We will never do anything if we keep those individual gifts a secret.

NO!  Much like James Smithson’s dream of an institute dedicated as “an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men,” so the gifts of the Spirit should always be dedicated for the increase and diffusion of the Love of God among humans.

Amen!