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Pastor

Gary Willis




Past


The Case for a King

November 21, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

John 18:33-37

The Jewish religious leaders have captured Jesus, dragging him before Pilate, the Roman authority in Jerusalem. Jesus seems to be at the mercy of his handlers. The priests have accused Jesus of claiming to be a king, and Pilate cynically questions him about this. Jesus’ answers leave us asking, “Who is really in charge here?”

Birth Pains

November 14, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 13:1-13

Upon our initial observation of this text, Jesus seems to be acting as a “Debbie Downer.” These untraveled disciples are admiring the grand structures of Jerusalem, and Jesus informs them that this will all come to complete ruin and calamities await them as well. The disciples seem frightened, but doomsday means birth to Jesus.

Supersizing

November 7, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 12:38-44

We live in a world in which we have become accustomed to supersizing. Small portions are unacceptable, and more is almost always better. Jesus turns our attention to a seemingly insignificant scene of a poor widow dropping a few coins into an offering plate next to a big check written by a man of prominence. Perhaps Jesus is suggesting there is something supersized about her giving.

Not Far From The Kingdom

October 31, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 12:28-34

If any one of us were asked, “How far are you from God’s kingdom?” most of us would feign humility and say we are a long way from perfect. Here we read of a man who is told by Jesus, “You are not far from the kingdom.” Is this man really that good, or could Jesus be talking about a different distance?

The Blind Are Not Quieted by Sight

October 24, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 10:46-52

Yet another needy person comes to Jesus, this one asking to be healed of blindness. There is an endless sea of need. Sometimes it seems as though Jesus cannot possibly make a difference. Do we ever again hear from those persons whom Jesus heals throughout the scripture? Is Blind Bartimaeus any different? 

Serving Up Greatness

October 17, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 10:35-45

James’ and John’s ambition is uncovered, as they request special treatment from Jesus. It was likely an embarrassing moment when the other disciples learned of it. Typical of Jesus, he uses it as a teaching moment. Success and status are defined very differently in the kingdom of God.

Mission Impossible

October 10, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 10:17-31

A rich, confident man approaches Jesus wanting that which Jesus speaks, eternal life. Unfortunately, he finds it impossible to perform the one task Jesus prescribes for him, and scripture indicates that it was because of his wealth. Money can certainly exert power over our lives, but it is still no match for God.

Good for Nothing?

October 3, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Job 2:1-10

Job is legendary for what he suffered, but we often forget that it is how he endured the suffering that makes this a faith story. Calamity does not guarantee character, as we have all seen those crushed by life. When bad things happen to good people we naturally ask, “What point is being good?” We are not looking in the right place for the answer.

Time Yields

September 26, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Matthew 13:24-30

It’s not necessarily a bad thing that most of us seem to have an innate sense of fairness. Today’s parable seems to be suggesting inaction when an injustice has been committed. Like most of Jesus’ parables, we are meant to see ourselves, not some detachable episode of fowl play. More importantly, we are to trust the one judge.

Priority Cuts

September 19, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 9:38-50

“If your hand causes you stumble, cut it off…” Mark 9:43. These are tough words from Jesus. Though we have to look deeper than the literal to understand what Jesus is suggesting, it does not make his words any less demanding. If we are going to follow Jesus, it is clear that we must make some consequential choices in our lives.

Are You Who You

Say He Is?

September 12, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 8:27-38

 It’s clear that nobody fully understood who Jesus was during his lifetime, yet he was intent on building understanding. He wants to know who we think he is, as that will determine who we become as followers.

The Gospel for the Desperate

September 5, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 7:24-37

Jesus healed many people throughout the Gospels, but this encounter with a foreign woman is arguably one of the strangest. The provocative nature of Jesus’ conversation may blind us to the obvious condition of this woman. She is desperate, willing to do anything for her child. Admitting she is unworthy is key to her healing.

Playin' Church

August 29, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Hypocrisy is a hurtful criticism often leveled at the church, but it was Jesus who used that rebuke first. His harshest criticism was delivered to the religious establishment of his day. Unfortunately, such critique is sometimes rightfully earned by professed followers of Christ, and there is nothing more damaging to our witness. On the other hand, Christian authenticity has the power to change the world.

Here's Your Sign

August 22, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

Solomon begins his inheritance of King David’s throne with distinction, asking for wisdom to lead. God grants his wish, but then the world began its inevitable interpretation of Solomon’s gift. Solomon is lured away by the labels of success the world offered. Discipleship is all about deciding whose “sign” you’re going to wear - the one the world wants you to wear, or the one God gave us on a hill called Golgotha.

Debt of Gratitude

August 15, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Luke 7:36-50

The writer tells the story of a woman who makes a spectacle of herself at a fancy dinner. What’s more is that she becomes another reason for the hosts to roast Jesus, which they had planned to do by inviting him. Just like at every meal Jesus attends, somewhere along the lines the tables get turned and grace emerges as a lesson. This time it’s a lesson in gratitude.

The Greatest Threat of Famine

August 8, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Amos 8:1-12

As many prophets have done, Amos is compelled to speak a word from God that is crushing in its consequences for unfaithfulness to God. It seems that God has threatened to terminate us in our disobedience throughout the human story. However, here the threat is uniquely devastating. Where would we be if God removes the Divine Voice from among us?

A Life Worthy

August 1, 2021

Rev. Karli Pidgeon

Ephesians 4:1-16

Bread at Work

July 25, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

John 6:24-35

Bread was a crucial factor in the progression of the civilized world. Not surprisingly, bread is also one of the most common and important symbolic elements in scripture. Jesus refers to himself as the Bread of Life. Today we are reminded that God's bread is at work, and it's about that more than it is about us.

Indispensable Rest

July 18, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Jesus had a demanding ministry. As his fame spread it became more difficult to get away. Nonetheless, he understood the necessity of balance and rest. Even in a sea of never-ending need, Jesus reminds us that our stamina is limited, and he knows that the success of ministry is dependent on practicing rest. This may be one of the hardest lessons Jesus ever taught.

Handling the Truth

July 11, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 6:14-29

John the Baptist has a tragic but straightforward narrative. He's a truthteller who offended the powerful. We could certainly also say the same about Jesus. With all the examples of our faith who spoke truth to power, where are those voices within our faith communities? The consequences our role models faced might suggest an obvious deterrent, but we can be confident Jesus would not lower the demands of discipleship based on our own discomfort.

Congratulations! You've Received a Weakness

July 4, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

On an occasion in which freedom and strength are celebrated, we encounter the Apostle Paul boasting of weakness. While it seems an odd choice for Independence Day, perhaps our nation could learn from Paul's wisdom. As we celebrate the great sacrifice of Jesus through the Eucharist, we are reminded that our weaknesses are what bring us to the communion table.

Reaching For Life

June 27, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 5:21-43

Interrupting Jesus as he makes his way to one healing, a hemorrhaging woman reaches from the margins to receive life-giving power from Jesus. It is more than a beautiful story of healing. It is a parable for our own pursuit of life.

Conquering Giants

June 20, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

1 Samuel 17:4-11, 32-49

On Fathers’ Day we have an opportunity to explore the notion of father that we project on God, for better or worse. The story of David and Goliath provides an heroic backdrop to what an earthly father might be. The most important lesson here lies in recognizing the real hero.

Awakening the Power

June 13, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 4:35:41

We love this powerful story of Jesus’ command of the wind and the waves, because we desperately want to know our God can calm the storms in our lives. We are not delusional enough to believe that our life’s threats can be eliminated with a word or a prayer. No, life doesn’t often, if ever, work that way. What people of faith do know is deeper, more reliable than that. God’s presence is that assurance that conquers all the storms in our lives.

How Does Your Garden Grow

June 6, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Mark 4:26-34

Jesus speaks of the miraculous nature of growth as illustrated by seed planting. Despite how naturally it happens, how a seed produces is still mysterious. The parables Jesus told were meant to reveal truths beyond the mysteries of farming, however, and this miraculous power extends to God’s kingdom as well. We are called to sow seeds in the kingdom, and our work is filled with powerful potential. It is also inherently mysterious, much like farming.

Against New Birth Control

May 30, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

John 3:1-17

So many of us can relate to Nicodemus, who tries his best to understand Jesus but is confused. It really isn’t surprising that Nicodemus nor we can comprehend what Jesus is saying, because he is communicating a mystery. Being born of the Spirit is a divine initiative that we will never fully grasp. We cannot generate new birth, but perhaps we can learn not to resist it or control it.

Is Our Church Full of Holes?

May 23, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Acts 2:1-21

This dramatic sequence of events marks the birth of the Church, and it has been celebrated since the first century. With the advancements in technology we are able to add dramatic effects to our celebration of Pentecost, but we can hardly rival what is described here. In fact, it would seem that our life as the church is moved by the hope that we might once again emerge with such spiritual power. Maybe what we need is to create some openings.

Loved People, Love

May 16, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

John 15:9-17

If a person is raised or goes through life receiving very little love, chances are they will love very little. As people of faith, we acknowledge what John 15 says – we are to love others as Christ has loved us. If our love is to be measured by the amount of love we’ve received, then we’ve got much love to give.

Vine Ripened

May 9, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Acts 8:26-40

We encounter that scary word “evangelism” as we consider the story of Philip and the Ethiopian convert. Once again it is made abundantly clear that the mark of a Christian disciple is to be obedient to the Spirit. Our proficiency or even desire to share the Good News is not really relevant. Following the Spirit means we must.

Spirit-led

May 2, 2021

Rev. Gary Willis

Acts 8:26-40

We encounter that scary word “evangelism” as we consider the story of Philip and the Ethiopian convert. Once again it is made abundantly clear that the mark of a Christian disciple is to be obedient to the Spirit. Our proficiency or even desire to share the Good News is not really relevant. Following the Spirit means we must.

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