Gary Willis

August - October

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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