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1999-2001 Sermons

Reverend Kenneth E. Kovacs' Sermons - 2002

Maybe you missed a worship service, maybe you want to review a favorite sermon, maybe you're looking for a little inspiration today, or maybe you would like to visit our church and you wonder what to expect.  Whatever your reason is for stopping here in your web travels, you have found the right place.


December 29, 2002
"Auld Lang Syne"
Colossians 1: 15-20

On Tuesday night, millions of party-goers will usher in 2003 singing that old traditional song, “Auld Lang Syne.”  Now, I’m not the gambling sort of person, but I’m willing to wager that most people don’t know either what they’re singing or even why.  I was amazed to hear Today show’s, Katie Couric, confess on Thursday morning that she didn’t know what the song was about and didn’t even know what language it was.  In fact, no one on the set knew anything about the song!  Katie thought it might have been a Welsh song.  But as good Presbyterians, we know it’s not Welsh, but Scots...

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October 13, 2002
"God's Faith in Us"
Psalm 8 & 2 Corinthians 4: 1-12

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that people have faith in you.  It feels good to know that people believe in you. They know your gifts and skills and they cherish them.  They see the good in you and celebrate the better parts of your nature.  It makes us feel good when people put their trust in us.  It’s not unlike the way our pets treat us.  You might be familiar with the pet-owners’ prayer, “Lord, make me the person my dog thinks I am.”  

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October 6, 2002
"Getting Out Of God's Way"
Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Matthew 21: 33-45
World Communion Sunday
October 6, 2002

Put yourself in their position.  Put yourself in the position of the chief priests and Pharisees.  What do you think was going through their minds?  What were they feeling?  What were they thinking when they heard Jesus give this parable?

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September 15, 2002
"Choruses from “The Rock”"
Psalm 114 & Matthew 18: 21-35
Remembering September 11th

At the lower end of Broadway, just one block away from Ground Zero where the towers stood you will find St. Paul’s Chapel. Built in 1766, it’s the oldest public building in continuous use on the island of Manhattan and the place where Washington worshiped on the day of his inauguration in 1789. The pew where he sat is still there to the right of the nave. It’s been called a place of miracles because it’s the only building in the “red zone,” that area of thirty buildings around the World Trade Center complex, which was left relatively untouched by the devastation of 11th September. 

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September 8, 2002
"A World Fit for a Child"
Genesis 9: 8-17 & Matthew 5: 1-16
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

If you were in the fellowship hall this morning you would have seen all the children with their parents and their teachers, getting ready to begin another year of church school, going over the curriculum, highlighting some of the themes for the upcoming year. This week I couldn’t help but think of my own experience, growing up in the church in New Jersey. I loved church school - and always looked forward to the September start-up day. Church school teachers are a special breed, given the extraordinary responsibility and joy of sharing their faith and teaching the faith. I feel very blessed by the great teachers I had growing up in my church, especially my mother. My mother taught church school for about forty years and probably had more than a thousand students throughout her life. I had fun. I felt safe there. The church was my extended family. I can remember memorizing the books of the Bible and memorizing scripture verses, especially the Beatitudes - these wonderful sentences that Jesus offers in his Sermon on the Mount.

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August 11, 2002
"Asking a Lot of God"
1 Kings 3: 3-14
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

At the holy shrine in Gibeon, while Solomon was deep in sleep he had a dream. During the dream, from deep within his unconscious, Solomon heard a voice. From the deepest part of Solomon’s being, the voice of God speaks; he hears a Word from the Lord. And this is what it says, “Ask what I shall give you.”

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August 4, 2002
"Table Talk"
Psalm 23 & Luke 24: 28-35
Eighteen Sunday in Ordinary Time

One of the terrible sacrifices we have made in our busy, non-stop lives is the experience of Sunday lunch. Can you remember the time when Sunday lunch was a special meal? I remember how the smell of ham or roast beef always greeted us when we returned home from church. The good china and crystal were properly and perfectly set on a fine linen tablecloth. We didn’t pray before every meal in my family, but we did at Sunday lunch. That was a special meal. There was something almost holy about that event. Up on the wall in my grandmother’s house there used to be a plaque, that is now in my house, which reads, “Christ is the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” I can remember eating dinner with my family, reading that plaque on the wall and believing that Christ was there sharing the meal with us.

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July 28, 2002
"Deceptions, Seductions, and Lies"
John 14: 6 (John 14: 1-17 & John 18: 28-38)
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

When I was a student at Princeton Seminary I lived on Fourth Alex. The Fourth Floor of Alexander Hall had a reputation for being wild, sort of like a fraternity house. We often got in trouble for the various pranks we pulled on fellow students - and sometimes the faculty. The koinonia or fellowship on that floor was intense. We knew how to pray together and study together, but we also knew how to play together, too. In fact the rule of the floor was that praying and playing took precedence over studying. Sometimes we had water balloon fights - indoors. Because we were on the fourth floor, we also had fun throwing water balloons out the window onto “friends’ passing by, suspecting nothing. Because we were up so high, no one could see our faces. (I didn’t say we weren’t cowards.) The week after we lobbed balloons out the window, one of my friends on Fourth Alex, Dan Caldwell, received a letter from the Seminary’s Housing Office. “Dear Mr. Caldwell, it has come to my attention that you have been throwing water balloons from the Fourth Floor of Alexander Hall. A visiting professor’s wife was driving her car close by which you nearly hit. She was not happy about this. Please come to my office immediately so that we can talk about this incident.” So, Dan went to the Housing Office and handed Mr. Pointsett the letter. He said, “Thanks for coming in to see me Dan. Have a seat.” Looking over the letter, Pointsett said to him, “ This is very interesting, Dan. Look at the date, first of all. My secretary was away that week and I can’t type. Second, see this reference code on the top right. That code is from two years ago. I didn’t write the letter. But now that you’re here, Dan, and I see what you’ve been up to, what do you have to say for yourself?” 

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July 21, 2002
"Till We Have Faces"
Exodus 34:29-35 & II Corinthians 3:7-18
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you remember being asked that question when you were a child? Can you remember being flat on your back on a lazy, humid summer afternoon, looking up at the clouds and asking yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Maybe, if you’re like me, you’re still asking this question. It was fun to imagine the possibilities and fantasize about putting on different masks or hats. I wanted to be a fireman, then a doctor, a tour guide (still love doing that), a pianist, a conductor, a minister (which I considered for about two days when I was in junior high school, when I realized that I would have to preach every week and couldn’t come up with anything to say), and then a history teacher. What did you want to be? What do you want to be? Or do you still ask this question?

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July 7, 2002
"In God We Trust"
Psalm 23 & Hebrews 13:20-21
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Within the Reformed tradition, the book of the psalms has always been at the center of our spirituality. The psalms, or songs, of the Old Testament served as the primary hymns of the Presbyterian church. The psalms and their paraphrases (like the one we just sang this morning, “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” to that wonderful Southern tune) were the only acceptable hymns in Geneva, Hungary, Holland, Scotland, and America up to around the time of the American Revolution. The early Reformers looked to the psalms to learn how to pray, to learn how to worship, to learn how to open themselves up to the larger work of God in the world. 

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June 30, 2002
"Notes from a Wayfarer"
Isaiah 55 & 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Over the last two weeks I’ve had the privilege of attending both the General Assembly in Columbus, OH, and joining our youth in Denver, Colorado. I say “privilege,” because in Columbus and in Denver I was privy to what I like to call “God-sightings,” signs that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world, renewing the face of the earth, and engaging in the work of reconciliation. I saw the national church and the local church seeking to be faithful to Paul’s prayer that we be “ambassadors for Christ.” In fact, this was the theme of the assembly, “Ambassadors for Christ.”

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June 9, 2002
"Krispy Kreme and the Kingdom"
Deuteronomy 10: 12-22; Titus 1: 7-9; Hebrews 13: 1-3
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

For quite some time I’ve been thinking about the importance of hospitality in the Christian life. It’s an aspect of our life together that is often overlooked. As many of you know, I have a great interest in Celtic Christianity, the unique expression of the Christian life that prospered in Britain and in Ireland between the 5th and 10th centuries. My interest is rooted beyond the fact that it has to do with Scotland and all things Celtic. My attraction to Celtic faith is because I think it possesses the tools and outlook so desperately needed in the churches of Europe and the United States, which find themselves in a post-Christian world.

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June 2, 2002
"A Church on a Mission"
Matthew 25: 31-45
Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Did you know the word ‘mission’ is never found in the Bible? It’s true. You won’t find it anywhere. Which is quite surprising given our association with this word and the work of the church. The word ‘mission’ never occurs in the New Testament. What we do find is the Greek word apostolos, which means ‘sent.’ There’s a whole lotta sending goin’ on. In fact, the one doing most of the sending is not the church, but God. Even Jesus was sent. Hebrews 3:1 calls him “the one who is sent.” “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be save through him. (John 3:17)” Which means that if we take the name of the Son, and know ourselves claimed by Christ, then in one way or the other we will be called, commissioned - sent.

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May 26, 2002
"True Friendship"
Exodus 33: 7-11a & John 15:12-17
Trinity Sunday

“O my friends, there is no friend.” The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B. C.) apparently said these words on his deathbed. “O my friends, there is no friend.” Quite a paradoxical statement given the man. Aristotle wrote one of the finest philosophical reflections ever offered on the nature of friendship in his Nicomachean Ethics. The Greeks prized friendship in a way ours does not. “Friends live together,” wrote Aristotle. They spend time with each other, they walk and talk and eat together. In spending time with each other, in playing together, trust develops and mutual affection and the ability to share a life. Yet, for all his trust in the value of friendship, Aristotle gives us this cynical final testimony. Even these people whom he considered friends, are not friends, there is no friend. 

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May 12, 2002
"Spiritual Chiropractic"
Seventh Sunday in Easter

Every week, as the ushers bring forward the offering, we sing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow: Praise Him all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, & Holy Ghost.” Small, simple phrases (written in 1693), sung to an easy, familiar tune (from 1551). It’s so familiar that we probably don’t even realize what we’re saying. But, we present our offerings to God and praise God for them, because we acknowledge this important Biblical truth: all blessings flow from God.

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April 28, 2002
"Baptism: God’s All-Inclusive Embrace"
Galatians 3: 26-29
Fifth Sunday in Eastertide

On an autumn day in the late 1970's, dozens of youth gathered in an urban church for a presbytery wide event. There was one boy there who grew up in an all-white town and found himself afraid around boys and girls who were, as they used to say back then, “colored.” This was his first chance to interact with non-white people and it scared him. The retreat ended with a communion-like sharing of grapes and Pepperidge fish crackers, because this was before junior highs were allowed to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in the Presbyterian Church. They rolled out clean, white newspaper print on the floor which served as tables, and they sat cross legged. After sharing the crackers, the host said we were to take the grapes and feed the person sitting to our left. The boy picked up his grape, turned, and looked into the face of a black woman. He slowly lifted the grapes to her mouth, but not wanting to touch her lips because she was black, the grape falls to the floor. He picked up the grape and tried again, being ever so careful as to not touch her lips because she was black, the grape dropped to the floor. He sat there embarrassed, paralyzed with fear. But gently, without a word or a look of disgust, she graciously picked up the grape and placed it in her mouth.

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April 21, 2002
"Tyranny of the Should"
Matthew 5: 43-48
Fourth Sunday in Easter

I once saw a bumper sticker - maybe you’ve seen it, too - that read, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” It’s clever. But what does it really mean? What exactly is forgiven? Our imperfections? Isn’t it our sins that are forgiven? Or maybe that’s how some view sin, as not being perfect. I have met many people who understand God’s judgement is due to the fact that we have not been perfect. Which means that the life of the faith, for these people (perhaps like yourself), is understood as little more than striving after perfection.

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March 31, 2002
"Witnesses to Resurrection"
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; John 20:1-19
Easter Sunday, Resurrection of the Lord

"I have seen the Lord!" Peter and Mary were at the tomb early in the morning, found an empty tomb, but no Jesus. Peter left and Mary stayed behind and that's when it happened. Jesus appeared to her. The crucified Lord, in the flesh. At first she didn't recognize him, but then it all became clear when he called her by name, "Mary!" The voice was familiar, it was the voice that spoke of grace, she knew that voice. The voice belonged to the man who offered her the forgiveness of God, the one who offered her hope, the one who gave her life back. "I have seen the Lord!" 

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March 28, 2002
"Wounded By Us, With Us, For Us"
Isaiah 53:1-11
Maundy Thursday

In tenth grade, I was hurt in gym class. It happened while working out on the Nautilus machine, lifting weights. I was sitting down ready to do some leg presses. I asked one of my classmates, someone I really didn't trust, but I asked him any way, to put the ring in at 140. I positioned myself in the seat, took a deep breath, and pushed against the metal foot pads. But he didn't set it at 140, he set it at 40. I could push 40 pounds with little effort, but because I was really exerting myself, the pads flew ahead of my feet, my feet dropped to the floor, with the metal foot pads returning in place, pounding into my shins. Blood was everywhere. I was so mad at this guy - and I was happy that he got in trouble. Thankfully, I didn't need stitches, but the metal plates left two dents in my shins, you can still see and feel them today, the scars are still there.

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March 26, 2002
"Finished"
John 19:30
Service of Wholeness

"It is finished" Jesus cried. Just before he breathed his last breath, he cried, "It is finished." Finished what? His life? His suffering? His time with humanity? What is Jesus talking about? Is he in a delusional state brought on by exhaustion and dehydration? Or is something more profound going on? Three simple words; but one word in Greek. 

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(Reverend Kovacs did not preach on Palm Sunday, March 24, 2002.)
 

March 17, 2002
"What We Learn From the Cross"
Mark 15: 25-39

On some Sunday mornings when I'm robing before worship, I forget to put my St. John's Cross around my neck before putting on my hood. I put my robe on, then my cross, followed by my academic hood. There's a little cord at the v-section of the hood that is attached to a button on the front of my robe. (You've probably wondered how all of this stuff is held together.) I place the cord through the v-shape of the cross and chain. If I don't get dressed in this order, the cross doesn't lay right. Then when I put on my remote microphone, the mike has to be at the right level so that the cross doesn't scrape against it. The whole robing procedure would be a lot simpler if I did not wear the cross. Sometimes I mumble to myself or say aloud, "See, the cross is always getting in the way." In more ways than one! 

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March 3, 2002
"Closer Than You Ever Imagined"
Genesis 28: 10-22 & Hebrews 12: 1-2

Jacob the fugitive, Jacob the liar and scheme, Jacob the deceiver is running from Esau because he stole his brother's blessing from his father, Isaac. He's running from Isaac. He's running from God, fleeing from everyone in Beersheba and running toward Haran. 

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February 24, 2002
"Searching for the Face"
Joel 2: 12-17; Psalm 27: 1-9a & 2 Corinthians 2: 1-6

These three texts this morning from Joel, the Psalms, and Second Corinthians call us to something new and send us in a particular direction. They establish specific goals before us. They hold us two different, but related and important images: a movement of the heart and a turning of the face. Heart and face. The Joel text calls us to turn to the Lord with all our heart. In scripture, the heart was understood as the more than an organ that pumps blood. It was viewed as the center of our personality, the core of our being. All that you are was represented by the heart. If your heart was not right with God, then something was wrong. If our hearts are devoted to gods which are no gods, instead of the Living God, then our hearts have betrayed us. Because the heart represented the center of the self, the health of one's heart was dependent upon that which pumps life into the heart; it was dependent upon God. God wants our hearts, meaning that God doesn't just want a part of our lives - our empty religiosity and putrid attempts at simply being moral. Instead, God desires the heart of our lives, the center of who we are, all that we are. 

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January 27, 2002
"Jesus at Twelve"
Psalm 139 and Luke 2:41-52

This time each year our thoughts and feelings focus on the birth of a very special child. The birth of Jesus causes us to ponder the wonder and innocence of infancy, of the potential goodwill found in every child. In his work, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the American author James Agee (1909-1955) wrote, "In every child who is born, under no matter what circumstances, and of not matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again." 

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January 20, 2002
"Investing In God's Future"
Psalm 24  and  Mark 12:13-17

The religious authorities were trying to trap him. They didn't like him very much. They didn't like what he had to say. They didn't like the authority of his teachings. They didn't like his popularity. They didn't like the way he could see right through the injustices of his day and expose them for the lies they were. They didn't like him because he was messing up their tightly ordered little worlds. Jesus has a habit of doing this. He was dedicated to truth at all costs and he came so that all might live in the light of that truth. The truth can be painful to hear sometimes; but it can also be liberating. 

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January 13, 2002
Baptism of the Lord
"When Water is Thicker Than Blood"
 Matthew 3: 13-14

"Well, so that is that.  Now we must dismantle the tree,
   Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes - 
   Some have got broken - and carrying them up to the attic.
   The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
   And the children got ready for school.  There are enough
   Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week - 
   Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
   Stayed up so late, attempted - quite unsuccessfully -
   To love all of our relatives, and in general
   Grossly overestimated our powers." 

This is how Auden (1907-1973) talks about the aftermath of Christmas in his poem "For the Time Being." 
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January 6, 2002
"Kneeling Before Mystery"
Ephesians 3: 1-12 & Matthew 2: 1-12
Epiphany

On Thursday in The Baltimore Sun there appeared an editorial by Crispin Sartwell, who teaches philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art. I know some members of the church were disturbed and troubled by what he wrote. It was entitled, "How can anyone possibly believe in God?" Sartwell is a thought-provoking writer. In the face of so many religionists these days who claim to know the will of God, I must say his plea for religious skepticism is refreshing. This might sound strange coming from a minister. When I was a religion and history major at Rutgers College, one of my theology professors (himself a minister) talked about the value of a "healthy agnosticism." Doubt and skepticism are an important part of faith. When I was at Princeton, I learned from one of the greatest American theologians, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), the need to be cautious about pronouncing the will of God and never be so presumptuous to say that God is only on your side. At St. Andrews, I learned from Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769) that, "The God comprehended is no God." You have to be a fool to say for sure that you know the will of God. Even the Christian philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) said, "Before God we are always in the wrong, and this is an uplifting thought." 

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"In Celebrating the Grace of God, and Sharing the Love of Jesus, We Grow Together"
Catonsville Presbyterian Church Vision Statement