The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Standing in the Gap | Sermon from Sunday, 27 Nov. 2016, 1 of 4 in "Peace that Passes Understanding"

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Late November, early December is a busy, crazy time of year as is, and this sermon series -- borrowing Paul's language to the Phillippians, "the peace that passes understanding..." (Phil.4:7) -- is all about finding, claiming, resting in God's peace.  Even if it wasn't so busy in the shopping malls, it's awfully crazy in church-world, too, for the Sundays of Advent treat us to lessons that focus on the apocalypse, the end-time, when God's comin' back to end it all.  Advent isn't so much about that first coming -- tiny baby in a manger -- but more about what some people think of as the 'doom and gloom' of the Second Coming.  In other words, for the next few weeks, both the outside world and the church world converge with pressures and stressors.  But it's not so bad that there are both external and internal pressures pushing us to wonder if there is such a thing as peace, real peace, God's peace -- otherwise, we'd keep searching on our terms, which isn't always about peace and sometimes it's called 'avoidance.'  Scripture lessons about the end of this world are really, in fact, messages about the God's everlasting peace, the peace this world doesn't give, the peace this world can't​ give, the peace that passes all understanding.  Fr. Greg talks in today's sermon, the first in a four-part series, about what it means, how it feels to "stand in the gap," borrowing that phrase from the book of the prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 22:30).  Perhaps Step One to finding God's peace is to do just that -- stand in the gap, stay in the moment; don't fear the unknown future, don't dwell in the distant past, don't avoid the feelings and issues, and don't fret about things outside of your control.  Stand in the gap.

Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016 - First Sunday of Advent, Liturgical Year A

  • Isaiah 2:1-5
  • Psalm 122
  • Matthew 24:36-44

Here's a snippet of good advice from the sermon -- the findings from a Duke University study (2011) on eight factors likely to contribute to someone's peace of mind.  Food for thought!

  1. Rid yourself of suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge was a major factor in depression.
  2. Cease negative thinking about the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression.
  3. Don’t waste time and energy on fighting conditions you cannot change: cooperate with life instead of trying to run from it.
  4. Force yourself to stay involved with the living world. Resist the impulse to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress.
  5. Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.
  6. Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues -- love, humor, compassion, and loyalty.
  7. Do not expect too much of yourself. When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.
  8. Find something bigger than yourself to believe in. Self-centered, egotistical people score lowest on any test measuring depression.

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Faith as the Squeaky Wheel | Sermon from Sunday, 16 Oct. 2016

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Jesus parable of "the unjust judge" (Luke 18:1-8) -- rightfully also called "the persistent widow" -- leaves some to wonder why Jesus chose such a downright bad example of God's mercy and grace.  Couldn't you have chosen a better example, Jesus?  Something other than this unkind judge, whose outward behavior and inward thoughts are less than charitable?  And couldn't the woman be a bit less annoying -- such that the judge complains, in the Greek, that she's pretty much "giving him a black eye"?  Perhaps Jesus is using these character examples intentionally, teaching the early Christians and, indeed, us that faith in God doesn't get rid of unjust systems and doesn't free us to no longer worry about working, enduring, stickin' to it.  Perhaps this is an invitation to faith as a life's operating system, not just nice thoughts on our way (hopefully!) to heaven.  It's something our nation could use in these last weeks of the election season.  It's something we all could use, for which reason it's very much a gift Jesus was imparting and seeking to teach.

Sunday, 16 Oct. 2016  |  Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 24c

  • Jeremiah 31:27-34
  • Psalm 121
  • Luke 18:1-8

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Through all our life be near us | A Sermon from Sunday, 9 Oct. 2016

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, October 9, 2016

"O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us,
to keep us in his grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
of this world in the next."

- Stanza 2, Now Thank We All Our God

Once, Jesus healed ten lepers but only one returned to show his gratitude -- and that one, a Samaritan.  On the surface, it appears to be a story about thankfulness, gratitude; maybe a reminder to say those two important words: 'Thank you.'  But in its own context, it's actually much more -- it's a story about discipleship.  Not only did the Samaritan return to say 'thank you,' the Samaritan is the only character in the story -- indeed, one of the few characters in this section in Luke's gospel, all of which is building up toward the events in Jerusalem -- who knows that faith is not some mysterious gift, revealed only to the few and the fortunate; no, the kind of faith by which we can move mountains and overcome obstacles is closer, more readily available than we might otherwise think.  It's "among you," Jesus teaches -- "within" some textual variants suggest.  It's closer to you than your own heartbeat, and the most true thing about who God knows you to be.  The Samaritan knew to stop moving forward, to pause, stop, turn around and come face to face, again, with that living power -- known to him as Christ; known to us, ever since, as the One who is among us, near us, indeed within.


The 21st Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 23c

Jeremiah 29:1,4-7

Psalm 66:-1-11

Luke 17:11-19  

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Positive Thinking in a Narcissistic Age. Knowing our place, and God's | Sermon from 2 Oct. 2016

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, October 2, 2016

...I think it might be worth our while in these trying and uncertain times to know our place.  This may not be a story we like to tell, but we are not solely in charge, we do not possess all wisdom, and our might doesn’t always make right.  We do not always know the way.  We will often find a way, it’s true, but it’s not always forward.  And the greater danger is when we really do go it alone, which means nothing more than we compare ourselves to ourselves, pit human against human, the future we hope for against the past we think we remember and want to re-create.  Only when we find ourselves in our place, are we able to find God in His – creator of the only life that can be called life, who sustains goodness, and sanctifies even our best, but muddied attempts.  That One, God, not us, uproots mulberry trees, plants hope when hopelessness seems the only choice, shines light into the future even when we can’t see.  And, that One, God, chose to work through us, to empower us, not of our own merit or might, nor of our wisdom or wit, but because of Jesus Christ, who took all of this into heaven with him.

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The Power of Love: a Mother's Day Easter Sermon | 8 May 2016

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, May 8, 2016

...For the next forty years, Anna Jarvis led this Mother’s Day movement – a movement of mothers standing up against poverty, war, injustice, and bigotry. Alongside her husband and family, she was committed to the idea that in a violent time, with the ravages of warfare and industry, the voice of women – in particular, the wisdom of mothers – was the only deciding factor between death and life. That’s why her daughter, Anna Jarvis, wanted to celebrate her mother’s legacy on the second Sunday in May, 1907, just two years after she died.

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