Sermons

The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

"Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not" | Sermon from Sunday, 19 March 2017

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, March 19, 2017

What's makes for a really good story?  A good plot, sure.  Compelling characters and character development; yes.  Indeed, that's one of the greatest gifts of the author of the fourth gospel, John.  Particularly, the story he tells in the 4th chapter -- and which we heard today (Sunday 19 March 2017) ... a long, long gospel reading! -- is a thoroughly developed, rich tapestry of characters and plot lines and ways in and ways out of the larger narrative of God's redeeming power.  It makes for a great story because it points to a bedrock truth we know in Jesus -- that all of us, yes, all of us have a place and role and 'plot line' in God's story of redemption.  All of us.  Sometimes we check out; sometimes we check back in.  Sometimes we're playing our part; sometimes we're in the chorus.  But all the while we're part of God's big story, as St. Augstine (kind of!) said: "Without God, we cannot; without us, God will not."

Lent 3, Year A

  • Exodus 17:1-17
  • Psalm 95
  • John 4:5-42 

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Moving in the Darkness, Steps into Deeper Discipleship | Sermon from Sunday, 12 March 2017

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, March 12, 2017

It took place at night, in the dark, the gospel tell us, when Nicodemus came to Jesus.  Nicodemus was a teacher and leader of the Jews, schooled in the ancient traditions of God's people, and yet something pulled at his heart, nagged at his mind, left open questions where answers couldn't be found.  And so he secretly, inquisitively, full of wonders and questions approached Jesus -- at night, in the dark.  That's the first 'movement' of discipleship, as Fr. Greg notes in today's sermon: our movement towards God based on God's initial redeeming movement toward us.  God catches a hold of our heart, our mind, our wonderings and questions, and we start turning in a God-ward direction, too.  In fact, we meet Nicodemus three times in John's gospel, and all three might make for a primer on discipleship.  If that's the first one (John 3:1-21), the next time we see him he's speaking up for Jesus -- not whole-heartedly, but he makes sure that Jesus gets 'due process' under the law, at least (John 7:5-51).  That's movement two: once we move toward God, perhaps in the darkness at first, we start to think like, speak like God, even in shades and variances.  We meet Nicodemus one more time in the gospel, in John 19:39-42, when he comes to take Jesus' body down from the cross and, together with the women and Joseph of Arimethea, lays his body in a newly hewed tomb.  That's movement three: when suddenly, perhaps unexpectedly and what feels like 'overnight' we not only feel God moving through us, but our hands, our hearts, our voice, our witness moves for God in this world.  We shouldn't be surprised when it happens, this third movement, nor should we settle for anything less than being the hands, the body, the heart of Jesus in this world God so dearly loves.

Lent 2, Year A

  • Genesis 12:1-4a
  • Psalm 121
  • John 3:1-17

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Salvation's Song | Sermon from Sunday, 19 Dec. 2016, 4 of 4 in "Peace that Passes Understanding"

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, December 18, 2016

This sermon series which we've called "Peace that Passes Understanding" (Philippians 4:6-7) is about the message that when God is talking about the end of this world He's really pointing to the beginning of life in Him -- full life, real life, the life we were created to celebrate, a life that brings with it the only peace that can be called peace.  In today's sermon, the fourth of four, Fr. Greg focuses on one final type of biblical peace: the peace which comes from salavation, indeed knowing that we are already saved.  Paul says in Romans 5:1, "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."  The peace that is the fruit of salvation is a freeing gift because it enables us to live, now and every day, not as the world teaches but as the people God created us to be.  This peace also comes because we knowing from whence our salvation comes -- we celebrate that in Christ we not only have an exit from living like this world teaches, but also an 'exit strategy.'  Taking a final look at the whole of the last book in our New Testament, the often avoided Revelation (Apocalypse) to St. John, Fr. Greg shows that it's really a beautiful love story about God who loves His creation so much that He helps bring about a profound, powerful, and final end to the walls that separate earth and heaven, empowering us to live like He created us to be!  Revelation, then, is partly about the end of this world, but primarily about the restoration of the whole creation, as we see especially in Rev. 21:1-4: "...Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'”  Revelation, as Fr. Greg teaches, is really a "play in four acts"; here's an outline from author Ron Graham / www.simplybible.com, or study guide which might be helpful as you read it (and we hope you'll read it!)

A.      SETTING THE 'STAGE': ON EARTH AND IN HEAVEN – Rev. 1 to 5

1.       Prologue – 1:1 to 20 (First Vision is a Vision of Christ, vv.8-20)

2.       Writing to Seven Churches – 2:1 to 3:22

3.       Seven Scenes in Heaven – 4:1 to 5:14

3.1.       Elders around throne - ​4:1-5

3.2.       Four living creatures - ​4:6-11

3.3.       Sealed scroll - ​5:1-4

3.4.       Worthy lamb - ​5:5-7

3.5.       Song of the creatures and elders - ​5:8-10

3.6.        Song of the angels - ​5:11-12

3.7.       Song of the universe - ​5:13-14

B.      PROBLEM: TIMES OF TRIBULATION – Rev.6 to 11

4.       Seven Seals – Rev. 6:1-8:5

4.1.  White horse of earthly conquest and division - 6:1-2

4.2.  Red horse of slaughter and bloodshed - 6:3-4

4.3.  Black horse of commerce and economic crisis - 6:5-6

4.4.  Pale horse of death - 6:7-8

4.5.  The little while - 6:9-11

4.6.  The day of God's wrath - 6:12-17

...The multitudes of those saved - 7:1-17

4.7.  The Seventh Seal is broken - 8:1-5

5.       Seven Trumpets Sound – Rev. 8:6 to 11:19

5.1.  Scourge of earth - 8:6-7

5.2.  Scourge of sea - 8:8-9

5.3. Scourge of rivers - 8:10-11

5.4. Scourge of heavens - 8:12

...Eagle announces three woes - 8:13

...The bottomless pit - 9:12

5.5.  1st woe, plague of locusts - 9:3-12

5.6. 2nd woe, killing horses - 9:12-21

...The little book (10:1-11); Two Witnesses Prophesy (11:1-6) & are Killed (11:7-13)

5.7. 3rd woe, God's wrath and the eternal kingdom - 11:14-19

C.      GOD'S SOLUTION (=THE WORLD'S PROBLEM): BRINGING ABOUT THE END – Rev. 12 to 20

6.       Seven Signs – Rev. 12 through 14: (1) Woman, 12:1-4; (2) Dragon, 12:4-17; (3) Beast, 13:1-10; (4) False Prophet, 13:11-18; (5) Lamb, 14:1-5; (6) 3 Angels, 14:6-13; (7) 2 Reapers, 14:14-20

7.       Seven Plagues – Rev. 15 & 16

8.       Seven Final Visions – Rev. 17 – 20:15 (woe to Babylon, wedding supper, King on white horse, abyss and thousand years, judgment of the dead)

D.      FINAL ACT: RESTORATION, A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH – Rev. 21 & 22

9.     New Heaven and New Earth – Rev. 21:1-8

10.   Heavenly City 21:9-27

11.   Heavenly Eden – Rev. 22:1-5

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Live like you were dying | Sermon from Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, 3 of 4 in "Peace that Passes Understanding"

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, December 11, 2016

From this, the third of four sermons in the series "Peace that Passes Understanding," Fr. Greg offers from scripture another type of God's peace -- the peace that comes from surrending everything, turning it all over to God.  This is the type of peace and peacefulness that lies underneath Paul's message to the Philippians.  As he writes so beautifully in Phil. 4:6-7, one way to receive God's peace is to stop trying to understand, control, micro-manage it:  "Do not worry about anything," Paul writes (v.6), "but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."  It calls to mind Jesus' words in John's gospel, specificallly the message he's imparting to his disciples as he is preparing to be handed over to suffering and death: "Do not let your hearts be troubled," Jesus says (Jn. 14:1), continuing: "Believe in God, believe also in me."  "...Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world givfes.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (Jn. 14:27)  One of the most powerful messages of John the Baptist is what he did not do -- he did not claim to be the Messiah (even though he had followers and disciples); he did not claim to be God (even though many turned to him for answers); he did not claim to be in charge.  Instead, he surrended everything, including his own life, turning it over to God and pointing toward Jesus, the Lamb who is come into the world.  Perhaps in John's message we, too, can find peace -- the peace that comes from surrending our whole lives to the Lord.

Sunday, Dec. 11.  The Third Sunday of Advent (year A)

  • ​Isaiah 35:1-10
  • Psalm 146:4-9
  • Matthew 11:2-11

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It's the end of the world as we know it ... How do you feel? | Sermon from Sunday, 4 Dec. 2016, 2 of 4 in "Peace that Passes Understanding"

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Continuing the sermon series on peace, indeed "the peace that passes understanding" -- ala Paul in his letter to the Philippians (4:6-7), Fr. Greg is focusing on three types of peace mentioned in the bible, as contrasted to more secular attempts to find peace.  There's a consistent thread throughout the bible that true peace is when God will return in glory, bringing to an end the power structures of this world and tearing down the wall which divides us from God's kingdom.  This was the message of peace Isaiah offered God's people when they were far away from home.  This is the message of peace John of Patmos offered seven communities in the first century, sending his "Revelation" to groups of people whose lives and faith were threatened on a daily basis.  And this is what peace is to 21st century American Christians, as well -- although we might not recognize that as 'peace'!  It's hard to wrap our minds around it, especially when Christmas catalogues flood our mailboxes day in and day out, but this world's peace is all about having more, keeping what you've got, and making sure it's nice and pretty, whereas God's peace is pretty much the opposite: giving it up, letting it go, being okay with (in the words of R.E.M.'s 1980s anthem) "...the end of the world as we know it."  How do you feel?  Fine? (As R.E.M. sang?)  Good?  Scared?  Uneasy?  It's a hard and, yet, liberating message all around.  As Fr. Greg said, "Repentance has with it an end, because we cannot begin to do what God wants for us if we don't stop doing what the world tells us."

The Second Sunday of Advent, year A

  • Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Psalm 72:1-7,18-19
  • Matthew 3:1-12

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