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Gary Willis




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Deep Breathing

April 7, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 20:19-23

Although later in May we will celebrate Pentecost as the coming of the Spirit upon the church, John’s gospel records how Jesus breathed his spirit upon the disciples earlier. John’s encounter bears little resemblance to the Pentecostal experience reported in Acts 2, but in that single breath of the resurrected Lord we are re-created and offered the promise of new life.

 

 

Is That Your Final Answer?

March 31, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 Mark 16:1-8

The Gospel of Mark’s treatment of the resurrection is a bit different from the other gospels. The earliest known manuscripts ended before Jesus appeared to the disciples. We are given a glimpse, a snapshot of a moment in time, where we see a very human, authentic reaction to the empty tomb – fear.

 

 

Embracing the Unexpected

March 24, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 Mark 11:1-11

The Sunday before Easter has always been shared by the emphases on the triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the passion week that is to come. The cross is certainly not what is expected when Jesus rides into Jerusalem to cheers. Yet, it is the cross that has endured as the ultimate blessing.

 

 

Good Things In Heavy Packages

March 17, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 12:20-33

When Philip and Andrew approach Jesus on behalf of some Greeks who want to meet Jesus, the disciples find Jesus has weightier matters on his mind. Jesus signals the urgency of the great destiny before him, but he is also burdened by it. A voice from heaven leaves no doubt that the struggle ahead will be worth it.

 

 

Groping in the Dark

March 10, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 3:14-21

In this encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus, we notice the darkness, both literal and figuratively. Jesus is the Light, and yet Nicodemus fumbles his way in the darkness. Is this just one man’s search, or is it a potential ray of light aimed at a people of darkness?

 

 

Beyond Rules

March 3, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 Exodus 20:1-17

For the Hebrew children of God, the Ten Commandments formed the foundation for community life for centuries. They have instructed our values and shaped our own laws. But how relevant are they now? Maybe our answer is dependent on why they were given and what we understand about the God who gives us commands.

 

 

The Way of the Cross

February 25, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 Mark 8:31-38

Even though Peter understands Jesus is the Messiah, he clearly misunderstands the road Jesus must take. Maybe it is because Peter understands who Jesus is that he cannot comprehend such a path. As Peter discovers, following Jesus means we don’t get to choose the road and it does involve a cross.

 

 

Building Up Our Immunity

February 18, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 Mark 1:9-15

The writer of the Gospel of Mark doesn’t go into detail about the temptations Jesus endured following his baptism by John. We can find greater detail in the other gospels, but it is clear in all of them that this is a time of preparation on Jesus’ part. Like Jesus, we would do well to prepare as well, which is what Lent is all about.

 

 

Preserving the Passed

February 11, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 Mark 9:2-9

This is a mountaintop experience we celebrate each year. We like capturing the high moments of our lives and our world, and we’ve been doing just that ever since video recording devices have been invented. In an age when we seem to record everything, are we really preserving and transmitting what matters in our faith lives.

 

 

Whose Side Is God on Anyway?

February 4, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 Jonah 3:1-5, 10

Jonah is chosen by God to deliver a prophetic call to repentance to the people of Nineveh. Jonah proves to be a rebellious servant with all-too-human characteristics. This is not uncommon for God, to choose flawed vessels, nor is it uncharacteristic of that God to redeem those whom we have written off.

 

 

Abundance & Accountability

January 28, 2024

Charlotte Birdwell

 Matthew 13:1-9

Selling Good News

January 21, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

 Mark 1:14-20

Jesus begins his ministry by calling fishermen to follow him and become his disciples. He tells them he will make them “fish for people.” From the beginning Jesus opened a business intended to teach ordinary people to “catch” people with the news of the gospel. In case anyone has forgotten, we are enrolled in this school and our job is sales.

 

 

Caller ID

January 14, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

  1 Samuel 3:1-10

Eli is the experienced priest, and Samuel is just a boy apprentice. God is creating a generational shift, not speaking to the older leader, but to the young, unwitting servant. Eli is being bypassed, except it is he who provides some guidance to the boy, preparing him to take his place in God’s story.

 

 

The Word Is Getting Out

January 7, 2024

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 2:1-12

A baby’s birth in Bethlehem would have gone unnoticed by the world, but word about Jesus’ birth could not be contained. Shepherds were told by angels; a star stirred foreign astrologists; news was leaked to the king. Word has begun to spread, which is, of course, the intent of God’s message.

 

 

God Ads

December 17, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

This passage was read by Jesus in the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth, where Jesus proclaimed that he was the fulfillment of the prophet’s words. Originally Isaiah used it to apply to God’s people, and it still has purpose for us. If we are to follow Christ, he must be revealed through us.

 

 

John, You're in My Light

December 10, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Mark 1:1-8

John the Baptist does not feature prominently in the birth narrative for most of us. In the “City of Lights” and elsewhere, we’d like to keep our way to Christmas focused on the lights. John seems to get in the way. The scripture will not let us get to the Light without going through John. His preparation is a step we cannot miss.

 

 

Waking to God's Dream

December 3, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Mark 13:24-37

Sleeplessness is normally not a good thing, and we could all benefit from peaceful rest as opposed to insomnia. Jesus tells us to “Keep awake!” Clearly, the Lord is indicating that there is something that warrants us keeping alert in this life, and it is not the things that usually keep us up at night. Jesus points to a dream that comes only when we are not sleeping.

 

 

Judge Jesus

November 26, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 25:31-46

We love the Jesus we describe as our Savior, Shepherd, Comforter, Healer and Prince of Peace, but how do we feel about Jesus the Judge? The authority over the final judgment is none other than the Lamb, who was slain for our sins. Jesus doesn’t only want to judge us in the end times, but to be the authority who judges our living as well.

 

 

Decision Time

November 19, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 25:14-30

The parable of the talents seems to be a tail of testing, and it ends with a harsh judgment against those who fail the test. It is really a story about investment, and it’s not necessarily about the size of the returns. If we agree that we all have received immeasurable blessings from God, then there is a place to find ourselves in this story. 

 

 

Decision Time

November 12, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 25:1-13

 Through the parable of the foolish virgins draws a contrast between those who prepared and those who did not. It is a stark contrast which leaves those who did not bring enough oil for their lamps locked out of the bridegroom’s banquet. Is this a parable of unmerciful judgment or simply a truth that none of us can avoid? We can’t put off deciding forever.

 

 

People of the Lamb

November 5, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Revelation 7:9-17

Revelation paints a glorious image of the Lamb as Lord upon his throne. It is through suffering that the Lamb has risen to this position, and those who approach have suffered persecution on Christ’s behalf. He will be their shepherd. The Lamb led to slaughter has now become the Great Shepherd, qualified by that very suffering.

 

 

Q & A with God

October 29, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 22:34-46

Interaction in the New Testament between Jesus and the religious leaders is almost always contentious. Once again, the Sadducees and the Pharisees are intent on trapping Jesus. Here questions and answers flow both ways, all leading to the conclusion that there is but one authority, and it is not us.

 

 

Chosen

October 22, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

The Apostle Paul reminded the early church that they were chosen by God. In our lives, there can be quite a dramatic difference between having been included or excluded, selected or rejected. Such experiences can impact the course of our lives. Paul’s point is that the choosing of God should make such an impact.

 

 

Supply Side Christianity

October 15, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  2 Corinthians 9:6-15

It’s been said many times that Jesus spoke more about money than he did about prayer or many other concepts of our faith we consider important. The same may not be said about the Apostle Paul, but when he does speak about money it is not lacking in fervor. It is simply an inescapable fact that our faith involves how we use our resources.

 

 

A Question of Ownership

October 8, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 21:33-46

Hardly anyone could argue that we have made a mess out of God’s creation, yet we are very good at blaming “them” instead of taking responsibility ourselves. Jesus tells a parable about a landowner whose tenants did not respect the rightful owner of the vineyard. The comparison is hard to miss. 

 

 

Flying on Empty

October 1, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Philippians 2:1-13

In his letter to the church in Phillipi, Paul holds up the example of Jesus as the standard for living in relationship to God. Even Jesus “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Paul says in chapter 3 that he regarded everything as rubbish to obtain Christ. Clearly, humility is an essential quality for those who would rise in faith.

 

 

No Bridge to Nowhere

September 17, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Exodus 14:15-31

One of the most dramatic stories in all of scripture is the parting of the Red Sea. God rescued the Hebrew people from Egypt, allowing them to pass through the waters. This image of water calls to mind our baptism, another symbol of the passage from nowhere to becoming children of God.

 

 

Three Strikes

September 10, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 18:15-20

We say in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Here in our gospel Jesus gives us instruction on how to handle those who have sinned. It seems Jesus is advocating a practical policy of “three strikes and you’re out,” which sounds different from “seventy time seven,” which is the number of times Jesus tells Peter we should forgive. Is there a limit to forgiveness?

 

 

Wood-Be Disciples

September 3, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 16:21-28

Peter, the Rock of the disciples, goes from professing Jesus as the Messiah to having Jesus call him “Satan.” All this happens in a matter of a few verses, and it all happens because Peter failed to accept that the way of the Christ was that of sacrifice. How often are we reminded that following Jesus demands a new identity, one who is willing to give up everything for God. This is one of those times.

 

 

Personally Speaking

August 27, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 16:13-20

In a candid conversation with his disciples, Jesus inquires as to what people are saying about him. This is not a difficult question to answer. Anyone can be a witness to what they’ve heard and seen. Jesus, however, is just leading up to a much more difficult question: “Who do you say I am?”

 

 

Faith Footprints

August 20, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Genesis 45:1-15

The story of Joseph is a lengthy saga filled with twists and turns. Maybe our lives could be described this way as well, and perhaps we have described our journey as filled with chance, luck or destiny. The Bible portrays the story of Joseph as something different, a story in which God seems to be integrally involved, although we may only see it in hindsight.

 

 

Lord, If It's You

August 13, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 14:22-33

We know this as the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, but this encounter reveals much more than what we already knew Jesus could do. Peter is not initially certain the figure on the water is Jesus. How Peter gets confirmation of the Lord’s identity is our focus as we re-examine this familiar story.

 

Is Change Possible?

August 6, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Genesis 32:22-31

Jacob’s name means “grabber,” recalling that he gripped the heel of his twin brother, Esau, as they were being born. He’s been a manipulative scoundrel ever since. Will he ever change? Can any of us really hope to be transformed from our baked-in characteristic dereliction? An intruder has something to say about Jacob’s possibility of change, and God may have something to say about ours.

 

Priceless

July 30, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

  Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The kingdom of God is described as invaluable, something for which one might give everything to obtain. While the value is described graphically, these parables of Jesus do not clearly define how to obtain this kingdom. In the end, for what it’s worth, whether we are willing to pay the price may be all we need to know.

 

Living with Weeds

July 23, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Continuing his parables of the kingdom, Jesus also resumes his analogy of farming. This time a farmer’s crop is plagued with weeds, which grew up with the wheat and cannot now be removed without harming the wheat. No one has to tell us there are weeds resident among the people of God. How do we deal with them? Or, are they us?

 

Wasteful Abundance

July 16, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

An examination of the Parable of the Sower reveals a rather inefficient reality associated with spreading the Word of God. In fact, many of Jesus’ stories seem to indicate that there is a whole lot of waste in the kingdom. This can be difficult to accept for us Western, production-minded people, at least until harvest time.

 

Human Moments

July 9, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Romans 7:15-25a

In Romans, chapter 7, Paul rather plainly spells out the human predicament. We cannot do what we know we should. Human nature, it seems, is to fight a battle within ourselves, although our better selves seem to be outmatched by our sin. It’s a good thing we have a Savior who won that battle for us.

 

Conflicting Interests

July 2, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Genesis 22:1-18

The story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac, ends well, but it leaves us with a lot of questions. It is a terrifying narrative for people who dwell on the nature of a God to whom we go for comfort and peace. So often we forget that the way to real peace is frequently through struggle.

 

God Satisfies

June 25, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Genesis 21:1-21

Life is not always fair, and plans do not always work out the way we desire. When so much is beyond our control, on what can we depend? We can truly count on only one thing. When all else seems to fade and fail, God alone satisfies.

 

Called to Great Things 

June 18, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Matthew 9:35 - 10:8

 Jesus has poured himself into his disciples, teaching them values and showing them miracles. Now it is their turn. The disciples are turned loose upon the world with motivational instruction, sent forth to change the world. At its heart, this activity seems very close to a model of what church should be.

 

Sinners, Inc.

June 11, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

 As Christians we honor the Apostles, including Matthew, for whom this Gospel is named. Although the honor is deserved, perhaps we tend to forget what a sinner he was when Jesus called him to be his follower. Maybe, as Christians, we have forgotten that Jesus only called sinners, and that includes us.

 

The Interpreter

May 28, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Acts 2:1-21

It seems that in every walk of life we struggle with communication. Interpretation is required for many of the messages we send and receive. The day of Pentecost is a celebration of God sending an interpreter to us, which is how the Holy Spirit is introduced. Our part, of course, is that we must listen.

 

Pre-Occupation

May 21, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Acts 1:1-14

“Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.” We say these words each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We treat these statements as “past” and “future,” but what about the present? Both the rising of Christ and the promise of his return must inform our life today.

 

Thou Shalt Love

May 14, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 14:15-21

Jesus defines love in relationship to us and to God, and it is not merely a feeling. Love is clearly connected to obedience, the keeping of God’s commandments. As we know, Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbor. Can love really be mandated? Perhaps it is much more than an obligation.

 

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Ask for Anything

May 7, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 14:1-14

Jesus makes an incredible promise in John 14:14. “If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it,” he says. It’s the kind of bible verse that causes one to do a double take. We don’t doubt that Christ can do anything, but are we confident in whether he will. How might such assurance change our outlook?

 

The Door

April 30, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 10:1-10

Jesus uses many images in scripture for himself, particularly in the Gospel of John. In chapter 10, Jesus refers to himself as “the door,” or in other bible translations – “the gate.” Using the New King James version, we will explore the image Jesus gives us when he says, “I am the door.”

 

Heartburn

April 23, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Luke 24:13-35

After the resurrection of Jesus, various sightings and visits of the risen Christ are reported in the gospels. One such visitation happens to traveling disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples did not recognize Jesus until he broke bread at a meal, at which point they were amazed. Can we reclaim such amazement?

 

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Believing Is Seeing

April 16, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 20:19-31

The disciples had great difficulty adjusting to the reality of a risen Christ. They were given the opportunity to see Jesus in the flesh post-resurrection. Jesus tells Doubting Thomas, “Blessed are those who did not see, and yet have believed.” Is Jesus talking about us?

 

So What ?

April 9, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 20:1-18

This is Easter, the Church’s celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most important day of the Christian year…But why? If this miraculous event does not change us, then is it important? What does Easter mean for us? Jesus should not be the only one raised from the dead because of Easter.

 

Palm Sunday Test

April 2, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Matthew 21:1-11

Holy Week begins with the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowds love him, but we have come to know their fickle nature. Their celebrative voices give way to hypocritical mob condemnation later. Praise upon our lips is not confirmation of devotion in our hearts.

 

Condemned to Fear

March 26, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 Romans 8:1-17

 Paul’s letter to the church in Rome and his other letters are filled with the message of grace, mercy extended through Christ Jesus as opposed to the futility of the law. “There is, therefore, no condemnation…” he writes in verse 1 of Chapter 8. In real life, however, there is an awful lot of condemnation, and we all have scars as evidence.

 

Seeing is Believing

March 19, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 9:1-41

Jesus performs another miracle, this time healing a man blind from birth, restoring his sight. While that may seem common in the gospels, in this case we get the full story of the aftermath. The blind man is interrogated by the religious leaders, revealing that there is more than one kind of blindness.

 

 

Leave the Jar;

Carry the Water

March 12, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 4:5-42

What seems like a chance, and hardly welcome, encounter with Jesus at a well, becomes the beginning of the beginning of the gospel’s spread beyond its Jewish circle. The woman at the well, coming to draw water, appears to be an inadequate vessel for the Good News. But, then, she was never meant to contain it.

 

 

Risking the Impossible

March 5, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

 John 3:1-17

Nicodemus finds Jesus’ talk of new birth impossible. From his worldly perspective it is nonsensical, irrational. He has taken quite a risk coming from his position of power to confer with Jesus. However, Jesus is inviting Nicodemus and us to risk more, if we want to see the impossible happen.

 

The Deeper Temptation

February 26, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 4:1-11

We are all tempted in many ways each day, so we have confidence that we know what temptation is. We cling to the hope that willpower will prevail, and we can modify our behavior to do right. But what if temptation is not the threat of doing what we know is wrong, but, instead, a more dangerous threat of losing ourselves.

 

From a Mountain to a Hill

February 19, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration is a glorious high point in the life of Jesus that we celebrate every year. But we don’t live nor do we stay on the mountain top. In the valley we see God’s purpose fulfilled, and on a hill we see Christ’s glory.

 

Lagniappe Discipleship

February 12, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 5:38-48

As Jesus continues preaching, his demands get more extreme. We know how difficult it is to “turn the other cheek,” “walk the extra mile,” or “love our enemies,” and yet Jesus commands us to follow this narrow path. This way of the cross seems to leave us powerless, unless we realize how powerful love can be.

 

The Fullest Extent of the Law

February 5, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 5:21-37

Jesus was a Jew, serving in the context of a Jewish people for whom the law, the Torah, was paramount. It was God’s law, and it guided all religious and civil life. As if the Torah wasn’t tough enough, Jesus seems to strengthen its demands. Jesus knew what we often fail to accept, that the law is powerless to save us.

 

Jesus, Coming of Age

January 29, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

Acts 10:34-43

The Christian Year moves quickly once Jesus begins his public ministry. With very little recorded about Jesus’ childhood, we move rapidly from the manger to God’s actions to change the world. That world change will not happen without changed people.

A Reproductive Following

January 22, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 4:12-23

After John the Baptist was imprisoned, Jesus began to recruit others for his ministry, calling the disciples to follow him. It is this simple, irreplaceable action that every Christian has as a prerogative to duplicate. We must always continue inviting others to follow Jesus.

Where Jesus Lives

January 15, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

John 1:35-42

Disciples of John the Baptist seek out Jesus upon the recommendation of their teacher. The question then becomes what are they seeking? Their awkward way of asking about Jesus may have more meaning than they know.

Obedience Fulfills

January 8, 2023

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus comes to John at the Jordan River to be baptized. We mark this event each year as we begin the season of Epiphany. Those of us who have been baptized should understand the significance. Jesus is trying to teach us something about obedience.

All Things New

January 1, 2023

Rev. Lindy Broderick

Revelation 21:1-6

The Real Night Before Christmas

December 25, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 2:1-21

As It Is in Heaven

December 24, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

John 1:1-14

As often as we have celebrated Christmas, the full significance of the incarnation may have eluded us. “Thy Kingdom come” has been fulfilled in Jesus. Immanuel, God with us, is not just a visit but an occupation.

Joseph Was a Righteous Man

December 18, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 1:18-25

While much is always made of the Annunciation, along with Mary’s faithful response to being chosen by God, but there is no doubt Joseph’s life also was disrupted by the news from angels. Both persons seem so dutiful, but the Law, which was given by God, would not have interpreted Joseph’s action as precisely obedient.

Are You the One?

December 11, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 11:2-11

The forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist, has been imprisoned while Jesus’ ministry is building. Anyone should be able to see the contrast between Jesus’ ministry and his cousin John’s. Perhaps John has wondered at the differences as well, enough to ask if Jesus is actually “the One” for whom Israel has waited. Jesus redefines our expectations with his answer.

Invitational Warning

December 4, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 3:1-12

John the Baptist, the announcer of the coming Messiah, makes his thundering pronouncements with a call to repentance. His tone is fearsome, but his invitation need not be. Repentance is not a hurdle to jump, but rather a gift of gratitude we bring to the dawning of Christ. 

The Work of Waiting

November 27, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 24:36-44

Advent is a time of waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ. Often, we just experience it as the weeks we have to wait for Christmas that are to be filled with commercialism and shopping. But it really is a metaphor for where we all exist. We are in the time between the beginning and end of life as we know it. How are we to live between the times? Is there a key to waiting for people of faith?

The Work of Waiting

November 27, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 24:36-44

Advent is a time of waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ. Often, we just experience it as the weeks we have to wait for Christmas that are to be filled with commercialism and shopping. But it really is a metaphor for where we all exist. We are in the time between the beginning and end of life as we know it. How are we to live between the times? Is there a key to waiting for people of faith?

Trust in the Indestructible

November 13, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 21:5-19

As the disciples gawk at the impressive Temple building, Jesus offers a foreboding look into a future of destruction. As shocking as the vision seems, we don’t have to look far to see the metaphoric walls of most of our human institutions crumbling. We are drawn by a need for something solid on which to stand.

Married to Mystery

November 6, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 20:27-38

The Sadducees were an order of scribes and priests who did not believe in the resurrection from death, and their encounter here with Jesus is an attempt to trap him into admitting that the resurrection is illogical. Jesus makes it clear that earthly logic is no match for divine, eternal wisdom.

Body Language

October 23, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 18:9-14

 This story told by Jesus, known as “the Pharisee and the Publican,” is a study in contrasts. Two extremely different men are observed praying in and around the Temple. Only one of them seems to receive favor from God. But there is one thing they have in common. Compared to God they are both unworthy. 

Signs of Salvation

October 30, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 19:1-10

The story of Zaccheus is not merely a tale for children. It is a powerful story of the redemption of a recognized sinner. Jesus uses the word salvation to describe it, but only after Zaccheus responds to Jesus’ gracious acceptance in a way that was repentant and financially sacrificial.

God's Integrity

October 16, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 18:1-8

 We say there is power in prayer, and yet few of us avail ourselves of the potential it holds. All of us seem to fall short of mastering what is the most accessible practice of our faith, a practice so simple that a child can do it. Despite numerous books and studies written on learning to pray, rarely do we like to admit that it comes down to the will and not any technique.

One Out of Ten

October 9, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 17:11-19

While traveling to Jerusalem, Jesus encounters ten lepers. It is a fortunate day for them, because Jesus grants them all complete healing. They all proceed to the priests to verify their healing, but one turns back to express his gratitude to Jesus – only one out of ten. 

Faith Enough

October 2, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 17:5-10

Among Christians few words are used more than the word “faith.” We understand faith to be essential to our identity, “for by faith we are saved.” But what does faith look like? Surely it is not simply church membership nor is it “fire insurance” from eternal condemnation. Whatever faith is, the disciples of Jesus felt they had need of more of it, as we learn in this encounter found both in Luke’s and Matthew’s gospels.

Biblios Regularis

September 25, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 16:19-31

The story of the rich man and Lazarus is about the haves and the have nots. While teaching his disciples, Jesus addresses this story to the Pharisees, religious leaders in the synagogues. What these leaders and the rich man have in common is their withholding of blessings for themselves. Jesus makes it clear that we are to be conduits not containers.

A Crooked Teaching

September 18, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 16:1-9

Our scripture is a disturbing story, in which a scoundrel seems to be praised for questionable financial management. It is an affront to our moral sensitivities, and we are surprised to hear this sort of thing from Jesus. In our indignancy, we may fail to notice the nature of the master, and this would be a critical message we don’t want to miss.

Faith and Life Budget

September 11, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 14:25-33

We are all about finding discounts, especially in these days of heightened inflation. We value getting something for a bargain and making a profit on what we sell. There is one area, however, in which we are required to pay full price. Following Jesus will not be cheap.

Starting Over

August 28, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Amos 7:7-17

Many of us have had a desire for a do-over at some point in our lives. Usually these considerations occur with regret that needs to be erased or the need for some new lease on life. The prophet Amos is given an opportunity to change course dramatically in his life when God calls him. His restart breaks with his past, but the future is anything but carefree.

What's in a Name?

August 21, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 13:10-17

 Names are important. They can shape who we are. We know this, because we often make up nicknames or use crass name-calling for labels of who we think people are. Most of have such names we’d like to forget. We don’t know the name of the woman Jesus meets in our story, at least until he tells her.

The Race of Endurance

August 14, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

We’ve heard it said, “It’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you run the race (or play the game).” Of course, we don’t really believe this in our world, even if we do teach our kids this. We value winning. As always, God’s ways are not the world’s. What is valued in a race which has already been won?

No Bull

August 7, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20

We are praying people who believe God hears our prayers. The prophet Isaiah dares to suggest that God may decide whether to listen or not. While we cannot guarantee our prayers reach God’s ears, might there be some things we do that increase the likelihood of God not listening?

Ready or Not

July 31, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 12:32-40

Jesus urges his followers to be prepared as though they were servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet. This warning applies to Christ’s return, but Jesus doesn’t seem to limit this alert posture to the end times.

Church Presentation

July 24, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

An informational session about some significant proposals regarding our church-owned facilities. For several months, a task group has been researching options for the best use of these facilites. The Board has affirmed the feasibility of their proposal and supports proceeding with this next important step, which is to inform the congregation and get feedback. 

Managing

Our Miracles

July 24, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 12:13-21

The story is called the Parable of the Rich Fool. While there is no debate that the man in the story is rich, we are not all convinced he is a fool. Viewed through the lens of the world’s values, we are less likely to condemn this man’s actions, which only goes to prove God’s values vary greatly from those of the world.

Hosting Jesus

July 17, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 10:38-42

 While staying at the home of Martha and Mary, Jesus is drawn into a judgment of the very different ways the two women have chosen to act. Especially in our contemporary, workaholic praising culture, Jesus seems to take a side that polarizes those who hear it. Somehow Jesus manages to remain friends with Mary and Martha.

Faithful Doing

July 10, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 10:25-37

We are back in very familiar territory, hearing the story of the Good Samaritan as we have many times before. Is it possible to hear this story with new ears? We know this story of help coming from a very unexpected source was a shock to its first hearers. Maybe it all depends on where we see ourselves in the story.

Humbled Healing

July 3, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14

What seems like a delicate, high-level diplomatic quandary is reduced to its simplest form, once the powerful swallow their pride. A man, Naaman the king of Aram, is in need of healing, but he must first submit to the One who has the power Naaman does not have.

Irreligious

June 26, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Galatians 2:15-21

We say that Christianity is one of the major religions, similar to other religions in being comprised of a belief system and practices. But, is being “religious” really just all about us? Is religion something we do, or is it something God has done and continues to do?

Producing Hope

June 19, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Romans 5:1-8

There seem to be plenty of opportunities for hopelessness in our world today. Our plight of uncertainty often leads us to many alternatives in which we place our hope. Or worse, we simply lose hope. Paul’s words in Romans are an invitation to hope and a reminder of the one and only source.

Bending with the Spirit

June 12, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

John 15:26-27; 16:4-15

Before he ascends, finally leaving the world and his disciples, Jesus promised to send the Spirit. This new divine presence would not simply replace Jesus but would build on the work that he began, revealing new things to all who are open.

Wind Powered

June 5, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Acts 2:1-20

On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit blew through the gathering where the disciples were like the rush of a mighty wind. Having witnessed powerful winds, we know they can be frightening and uncontrollable. It is such a power with which we must interact if we are to truly be alive in Christ.

Feed It Forward

May 29, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

John 21:1-19

In this post-resurrection encounter between Jesus and his remaining disciples, the symbolism makes it clear that redemption is being offered. With a miracle, a memory and a meal, Jesus gives Peter and the others the opportunity to begin again. Their response to this grace must be to feed and tend the flock of God’s people.

Giving a Hand to Faith

May 22, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

John 20:19-31

Thomas did not believe in the resurrection, until he saw the nail-pierced hands of Jesus. His hands revealed not only the truth but his sacrificial love. Hands can say a lot about us at times. What are our hands saying about our faith today?

The Impact of the Love of Jesus

May 15, 2022

Connor Dean

John 13:31-35

In his last teaching opportunity with his disciples, Jesus plainly lets his followers know how others will see Christ in them. It is in loving that we are identified with Jesus.

The Gift of Peace

Mother's Day- May 8, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

John 14:23-29

On a day we honor mothers of all kinds, we aspire to give them a gift worthy of their impact on us all. Jesus leaves his disciples with the gift of peace, which is perhaps the best gift we could give moms. How we define peace determines whether we can give such a gift and whether it can be sustained and shared. That’s a peace the world cannot give.

Eagle Christianity

May 1, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Genesis 1:1, 26-28

Drawing on the biblical proclamation, Christians believe that humans were created in the “image of God.” Living in the world has a way of tarnishing that image, causing us to forget who we are and, more importantly, whose we are. On a day that we celebrate Confirmation for our youth that have come of age in the church, we all need a reminder of our value to the Creator God.

A Bold New Experiment

April 24, 2022

Rev. Willis Dear

Matthew 4:12-23

Where Have You

Put Him?

April 17, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

John 20:1-18

Three times in this scripture, Mary Magdelene expresses her confusion upon finding an empty tomb where Jesus had been laid, saying “where have they put him?” Metaphorically, we will ask the question of “where have we put Jesus in our lives?” Even as we profess our belief, it is difficult to assimilate such an illogical reality into our sensible world. The two realities seem incompatible. Something needs to change, and it’s not Jesus.

The Mistake

of Betrayal

April 10, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 26

Thinking about what Judas did to Jesus, it is difficult to characterize it as a mistake. It is more heinous than that, which leads us to believe we cannot see ourselves in Judas. Are we not capable of betrayal?

The Mistake of

Denying Jesus

April 3, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 26:69-75

Peter finds himself caught off-guard in a threatening situation for which he was unprepared. It is questionable that any of us would have acted differently in that hostile environment. Once again, it is Jesus that surprises us, not Peter.

The Mistake of

Underestimating

the Cost

March 27, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 10:17-31

Although the disciples have left home, vocation, and possessions to follow Jesus, they still underestimate the cost of discipleship. Entering the kingdom seems impossible to them, and to us. If it were up to us, it would be.

The Mistake of

We Know Best

March 20, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 16:21-26

The disciples try to impose their own agenda on Jesus in order to protect him from danger and to pursue their own vision of a successful ministry. In the strongest of terms, Jesus reminds them of his purpose and their place behind him, not in his way.

The Mistake of

Desiring Status

March 13, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 9:33-37; 10:35-45

The disciples reveal their desire for recognition and status as they struggle to understand Jesus’ radically different view of success and greatness. Jesus’ idea of what is important runs counter to the world’s view then as now.

The Mistake of Underestimating Enough

March 6, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus demonstrates to the disciples that what they thought was not enough—a meager amount of food—was more than enough to feed a hungry crowd. Clearly it was Jesus they underestimated.

Holy Mystery

February 27, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 9:28-36

The tale of the event, taking place on a mountain in Galilee, is told every year just before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Even so, Christians cannot really make sense of this strange occurrence we call the “Transfiguration.” It’s still a mystery to us today, but is mystery a bad thing?

Nevertheless

February 20, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 5:1-11

In the Gospel of Luke, the story of Jesus calling his fishermen disciples to follow him involves an act of trust and obedience first. The future disciples were asked to risk in the face of evidence to the contrary. It is a fishing expedition that changes the lives of these men forever.

If I Do Not Have Love

February 13, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Love is not optional for those who follow Christ. In fact, it’s not optional for human survival. Love makes all the difference for the one who is loving and the one who is loved. The absence of love does as well.

More Than Words

February 6, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Exodus 4: 10-16

Servants of God, like Jeremiah and Moses, were promised that God would give them the words to say when they needed them. In sharing our faith, we can often be so focused on the words that we forget being a witness involves our living.

When The Gospel

Turns On You

January 30, 2022

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 4:14-30

Jesus begins his public ministry in the Gospel of Luke with a sermon in his hometown. One would expect this to be a celebration, as those who “knew him when” get to see how Jesus has blossomed into a leader. However, when a familiar preacher shares the writings of a well-known prophet things turn ugly, even violent, fast.

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