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Lexington United Methodist Church

Lexington, AL

Sermon Notes

Bro. Michael's sermon notes are posted here each week.

"A Good Word for Words" - Acts 17:22-32

May 17, 2020

“Talk is cheap.”

We have all heard that before. Maybe we have all even said that before. We say things like “talk is cheap” or “actions speak louder than words” or something similar because we know that words sometimes can be used to mislead, and sometimes even to completely deceive us. To be told that one speaks like a fast-talking politician or used car salesman is usually not a compliment.

But this message, based on Paul’s encounter with the Athenians at the Areopagus, is based on the notion that words also can be used to convey the greatest and most profound truths imaginable. The Ten Commandments were God’s words for us carved in stone. The gospels are words written by the evangelists so that those who were not eyewitnesses can still know what we need to know about Jesus in order to come to saving faith in his name. The whole Bible is given to us by the one who is himself “the Word”!

That’s why this message is entitled, “A Good Word for Words.”

The Athenians are a great example of how to listen to words. Because mature, healthy people know that character and reputation matter, we should weigh and test those things spoken by those we don’t know. That is exactly what the Athenians did. They gave Paul a fair hearing. They even promised to hear more from Paul. But they also allowed themselves time to consider the things Paul was talking about—especially the Resurrection.

But if the Athenians are a great example of how to listen, then Paul is a wonderful example of how we might witness to, and persuade, others. Rather than beating them over the head with scriptures they did not know, Paul spoke to Athenians using language and ideas they did know!

Of course, by the time the story ended, the Athenians were still thinking about the things Paul said. But he gave them a chance to believe. And they gave themselves a chance to believe. Thanks be to God!

Grace and peace, Michael

"A Mother's Love" - Matthew 23:37

May 10, 2020 - Mother's Day

In August, 1969, my grandmother presented me with a small, black New Testament. The inscription read, “To Michael Bailey, With Love, Monnie.”

The name my grandmother used to sign that New Testament is a story unto itself. But the more interesting thing about that inscription is the name by which she called me: “Michael Bailey.” Without going into all the details, Bailey was my natural father’s name.

Unfortunately for us, Bill Bailey was not a very responsible husband or father. And it wasn’t long before my mother packed up her meager belongings and brought us back to Anniston to live with her mother and father. A few years later my mother remarried, and her new husband was responsible enough to adopt my brother and me. Ever since that day I have been Michael Burgess.

I mention the inscription in that New Testament because it reminds me of the image Jesus used to describe himself in our gospel reading this morning. 

Standing in the heart of the city that would shortly be witness to his crucifixion, Jesus called out, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I have longed to gather you up under my wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” While scripture is rife with masculine images for God the Father and God the Son, this is surely the most powerful feminine image Christ ever used for himself!

My mother drew her two sons close to her heart, and she protected my brother and me by taking us to the one place she knew we would be loved and cared for the way she thought we ought to be—her own mother and father’s house. I thank God for all those mothers and grandmothers who have sacrificed so much that their children and grandchildren might be loved and protected. And I thank God for his Son who loves us in the same way, and even better! Happy Mothers Day to all who have blessed us! 

"Ordinary Miracles" - Acts 2:42-47

May 3, 2020

There were miracles aplenty in the early Church. For what else would you call it when someone as notoriously unreliable as Peter was able to stand up in the very city that crucified Jesus, and proclaim the Lord’s name with such power and such conviction that three thousand people rushed forward to be baptized, and to become part of the early Church?!

And it wasn’t just Peter. After Christ ascended into heaven, the disciples picked up right where Jesus had left off. They healed the sick. They cast out demons. And on at least one occasion, both Peter and Paul brought the dead back to life!

If only we had such miracles today. Who knows how full our churches might be?

According to our scripture reading this morning, we already have all the miracles we need. They may not be especially spectacular miracles. But even these ordinary miracles had then, and continue to have today, power to draw others into the faith.

For what was it that those in this morning’s lesson saw? They saw the apostles teaching and fellowshipping and breaking bread together. They saw the apostles sharing with one another, and selling their possessions to help the poor. They saw the apostles filled with glad and generous hearts, and they saw them praising God.

There was not one lightning bolt or parted sea in sight. And yet, these ordinary miracles were enough to draw new Christians to the apostles every day.

The best news of all? There is not one thing in this entire scripture reading that you and I can’t do as well!

Let us break bread together, and see what happens.

"Half a Sermon" - Acts 2:14, 22-39

April 26, 2020

When Peter had finished his famous Pentecost sermon, the crowds cried out in response, “Brothers, what should we do?” (v. 37)

That got me to thinking. Most preachers spend a lot of time praying, studying, and preparing our sermons; usually a lot more time than people realize. As you can probably imagine, given all the holy work that goes into a sermon, it is a satisfying thing indeed when those effort results in a message that is not only effective, but faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, the cry of the crowd in this week’s scripture reading reminded me of something I always knew, but sometimes lose sight of. Even the best prepared, most eloquently preached sermon does not end just because the preacher says, “Amen.” Whether it is Billy Graham, or the Pope, or a small-town preacher in extreme north Alabama, we preachers only get the sermon started. We only get us halfway there.

When the crowds cried out at the end of Peter’s sermon, “Brothers, what should we do?” they remind us that no sermon is ever finished, no sermon is ever really complete, until those who hear that sermon supply the conclusion.

That’s why this week’s message is entitled “Half a Sermon.”

When I was a seventeen year old recruit at Parris Island, South Carolina, I learned a very valuable lesson. If a recruit ever tried to do something his way, instead of the way the drill instructors taught him to do it, Sgt. Thomas was immediately there to holler out, “We don’t have any John Waynes in this platoon!”

It occurs to me that the Church doesn’t have any John Waynes either. Everything we do, including the sermon, we do together, as a church family. As Paul once said, there may be many members, but there is only one body (1 Corinthians 12:12). Amen. 

"A Good Word for Thomas" - John 20:19-29

April 19, 2020

It’s really not fair that we should know Thomas as “Doubting Thomas.” It’s true that he didn’t believe the other disciples when they told him they had seen the resurrected Jesus. They hadn’t believed either; at least not at first, or not until they saw Jesus with their own eyes. When Thomas, who wasn’t there that first Easter Sunday evening, saw Jesus with his own eyes, he believed, too. Just like they had believed.

In fact, Thomas took his belief one step further. Whereas the other disciples remained silent after Jesus appeared to them, Thomas offered the best, and most complete, confession of faith to be found in the entire gospel: “My Lord, and my God!”

Jesus did not remember Thomas in his lowest and most embarrassing moment. Instead, Jesus gave Thomas everything he would need to believe, and everything he would need to be the kind of disciple Jesus needed him to be. Just as he will give us, too.

Sometimes lost in the story of “Doubting” Thomas is the promise Jesus made at the end of the story. After making his powerful confession of faith, Jesus asked Thomas, “Do you believe because you have seen me? I tell you this. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet still believe!”

Because none of the disciples believed before they saw the risen Jesus, he was not talking about them. But if Jesus was not talking about the disciples, who was he talking about?

He was talking about us. For we are the ones who have not seen, and yet still believe.

May the Lord give to all of us everything we need to believe in him even more. And may he give to us everything we need to do all the things he needs us to do for his Kingdom, and for his Church. Amen.