Pastor

Gary Willis



2020

Consolation

December 27, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 2:21-35

Simeon is looking for the “consolation” of Israel. That word forms a play on words contrasted with how we have come to define consolation, as a prize for the loser. If the child Jesus is the consolation, how might we understand God’s prize? The incarnation is the gift of love and a new identity, with the power to do much more than console.

As a Child

December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 2:1-20

God comes into the world as a child, and we must become as children if we are to enter the kingdom.

Simple Treasures

December 20, 2020

4th Sunday of Advent

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 1:26-38

Mary’s Annunciation is surrounded by other angelic encounters, as the world is prepared for the coming of Jesus. A great treasure is about to be imparted to the world. To whom would it be entrusted? Today we explore the qualities sought, as God contemplates that question. The necessary characteristics of trust and obedience are found in those who are willing to confess their inadequacy.

The Advent Turn-on

December 13, 2020

3rd Sunday of Advent

Rev. Gary Willis

John 1:1-18

The introduction to John’s Gospel is a beautiful description of God’s eternal Light coming into the world. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus, who proclaimed that we were to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus began his ministry in the same manner. This begs the question of which comes first, repentance or forgiveness? The implications are pertinent to Advent, as we prepare for the coming of Christ into the world. The order of which comes first impacts how we will respond to the Light of the world.

The Wilderness Voice

December 6, 2020

2nd Sunday of Advent

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 1:1-8

The road of Advent travels through John the Baptist, and we must go through him to get to Christmas. He represents a voice crying in the wilderness, far from the mainstream. And yet that is often where we will encounter the voice of truth and revelation, outside our comfortable, familiar places. Advent is a time to reacquaint ourselves with the realities to which we have become numb, a time to listen to the voice in the wilderness.

The Dangers of

Wait-lessness

November 29, 2020

1st Sunday of Advent

Rev. Gary Willis

Isaiah 64:1-9

Advent means prepare or wait, and we hate waiting. Nonetheless, waiting seems to be built into our design in relationship to God. Without waiting we attempt to control, minimizing the initiative of God. While we are all tired of waiting in the year of the pandemic, we know there is much more to come. The focus of today is that there must be purpose defining our waiting that gives it meaning.

Thanks-Living

November 22, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

1 Thessalonians 5:15-19

Ephesians 5:15-20

We are often preoccupied with the notion of giving thanks “for” something. If thanksgiving is contingent on our circumstances, we are scratching the surface of what Paul advocates for believers. We are to be thankful people, living with joy in all circumstances.

Buried Treasure

November 15, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 25:14-30

The Parable of the Talents, often used on stewardship occasions, is not exclusively about money. Most scriptures about money are not only about money. The real issue is revealed in the rather amazing contract made here and the divergent reactions to it. To be deemed “good and faithful servants,” is to be judged by what we have done with what we have been given. Since we all have been given much, much is required.

Emergence Preparedness

November 8, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 25:1-13

The parable of the Ten Bridesmaids seems to be a proverbial lesson in being prepared. As with other stories in this section of Matthew, the stakes of entering the kingdom couldn’t be higher. The lesson we will highlight is defining what it means to be prepared. We are to be ready for the emergence of God’s Spirit at all times now.

Blessed Are the Sensitive

November 1, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 23:1-12

Matthew 5:1-12

Jesus redefines success, proclaiming that greatness is not achieved by the standards of the world. Our greatest saints knew this. They, Like Jesus, defined life by servanthood. The Beatitudes echo this upending of the world’s values. The key that’s often missed is the interconnected, relational focus of greatness in God’s kingdom.

Lost That Lovin' Feeling

October 25, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 22:34-40

When asked, Jesus repeats the greatest commandments, to love God and neighbor. We struggle with being consistently loving, because we define love differently than God and we forget that loving God comes first in the order of these commandments. Minimizing our sin and real need for love often thwarts our capacity to love. While we wait on a feeling of love, God commands us to love one another.

Raising Disciples

October 18, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 21:23-32

2 Corinthians 9:1-7

Consecration Sunday will focus on giving, of course, but generosity is to be understood as an integral part of discipleship. The parable in Matthew clearly indicates that actions speak louder than words. Along with Paul’s solicitation in 2 Corinthians of an offering from the church in Corinth, the message is focused on the fact that what we do with our resources is really what we say about God. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Reception Distortion

October 11, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Exodus 32:1-14

The story of the Hebrew people building a golden calf, just as God chooses to communicate most directly, is ironic. It seems inconceivable that the people would rebel after seeing the hand of God in action at the Red Sea. As we can readily tell, the problem is not one of faulty communication on the part of God, but the recurring problem is a flaw in reception. Just as with any communication, many factors can affect reception. God, however, does not share this defect.

Wedding Dress

October 4, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 22:1-14

Without some research on the customs of the day, this story seems like harsh treatment of a guest who simply didn’t wear a robe. However, in stories Jesus tells, things are rarely as they seem. The parable, of course, is a metaphor for the Kingdom of God. Getting in is by invitation, though everyone is invited. Accepting the invitation is revealed as much more than merely attending for free food and dancing. As the scriptures express elsewhere, we are actually the bride, and the groom is Christ.

Our Landlord

September 27, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 21:33-46

The religious leaders, acting as guardians of the Jewish religion, have confronted Jesus, wanting to know by what authority he has come. They want to know who this man is that is stirring up trouble in their city. Jesus responds by telling this parable, which instead lets the religious leaders know whom Jesus thinks they are. All there is belongs to God, and yet so often the world acts as though we have rights and ownership. It seems baffling that God continues to reach out to us, calling us into relationship. Thank God.

The Unfair Deal

September 20, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 20:1-16

The Gospel of Matthew is written to a Jewish audience, so their customs and the law (Torah) are acknowledged and respected. This story of the laborers in the vineyard would have strained the comprehension of those under the Hebrew law. If you are partial to fairness, and who isn’t, then God’s grace can actually be an affront to our sensibilities. Nonetheless, God will be God, and none of us deserve it, but grace is offered to everyone.

What Are You Fighting For?

September 13, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Romans 14:1-12

On a number of occasions in Paul’s letters we see his pastoral side. Unfortunately, it is often because he is addressing some conflict among his flock. We are sinners and humans, so the church is not immune to conflict, but our inability to love and to maintain a unity in Christ threatens our witness. Perhaps the greatest gift we could give the world, especially now, is to model a better way to live together under a common mission, in spite of diverse opinions.

Pricking Our Conscience

September 6, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Exodus 3:1-15

The burning bush calling of Moses by God is a classic story, which means we come to it with engrained preconceptions. I will argue that this encounter is not so much a revelatory mandate upon Moses’ life, but rather a reminder of what Moses already knew about his people’s plight. God’s primary accomplishment here is not lighting a bush on fire, but reigniting Moses with a passion for deliverance. With God’s help, Moses moves to obey his conscience.

To Thine Own Self Be True

August 30, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Romans 12:2 & 9-21

Paul wrote this letter to some of the first Christians, who did not always know the difference between right and wrong. It may sound like a list of “do’s and don’ts,” but Paul is trying to tell them much more here. We aren’t good so we can be for Jesus, if we are for Jesus our goodness becomes whose we are.

Wrong Way Jesus

August 23, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 15:21-28

One of the most perplexing scriptures and provocative words ever spoken by Jesus. We think, “This must be wrong. This isn’t like Jesus.” Reading between the lines may reveal that, as always, Jesus knows what he’s doing, and the world is given another illustration of divine grace and inclusion.

Wet & Windy

August 16, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 14:22-36

The story of Peter attempting to walk on water is an exhilarating moment in his life. Wind and water become metaphors for the kind of life to which Jesus invites all of us. Discipleship is not meant to be a comfortable, self-controlled existence.

You Give Them Something to Eat

August 9, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 14:13-21

The story of the feeding of the five thousand is a lesson in discipleship and trusting Jesus. Sometimes we forget that it is also a reminder of the problems of hunger, poverty and inequities in our world. Through Christ, the lesson becomes an encouragement to act with whatever we have.

Assaulting Grace

August 2, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Genesis 32:22-31

Not all our encounters with God are sweet and gentle. As illustrated in the story of Jacob’s wrestling in Genesis, God can be confrontational and challenging. Through the struggle we emerge with a new identity, proving even the most difficult brushes with God are filled with grace.

The Treasure

July 26, 2020

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 13:44-52

From the parables of the Kingdom, Jesus compares it to a treasure of the highest value. This treasure demands our all, because we must belong to Christ to obtain it.

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