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Reverend Kenneth E. Kovacs' Sermons - 2003

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 21, 2003
"From God’s Storehouse of Snow
"
Job 38: 16-27; Micah 5: 2-5a & John 1: 1-5, 10-17

Today we stand upon the threshold of a new dawn.  The darkness of Advent is slowly giving way to the Morning Star.  At the turning of the tide, the coming Light will swallow up Shadow and darkness will yield to the New Day.  Today we stand upon the threshold of a new dawn as we wait to celebrate again – or maybe truly for the first time – the birth of God in flesh and blood.

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December 7, 2003
"
Meeting God in the Wilderness"
Malachi 3: 1-4 & Luke 3: 1-6

How does one get ready for the birth of God?  It’s an odd question, but gets at the heart of Advent.  Advent is to Christmas what lent is to Easter.  It’s a time of preparation, when we take stock of our lives and reflect upon the meaning of Christmas.  As I wrote in The Messenger this month, every year I am astonished by the amazing claims we make as Christians, especially this time of year.  These claims never cease to overwhelm me with a profound sense of mystery and awe and a little fear.  For, as Paul put it, Yahweh, the Living God of Israel, was actually in Christ reconciling an estranged humanity back to God (2 Corinthians 5:16). 

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November 30, 2003
"Getting Ready for God"
Jeremiah 33: 10-16 & Luke 21: 25-36

...I left the Hopkins around 4:00 p.m. in a daze and drove west along Route 40, west on Edmondson Avenue.  It was that time of the day when the light is soft and everything takes on a warm hue.  The sky was dramatic, full of dark clouds and white clouds against a deep blue sky, blown about by cold November winds.  If you were outdoors yesterday around this time, you know what I’m talking about.  The sun was setting in the west.  I passed a bus, just west of Edmondson, and proceeded up the hill, and stopped at the next traffic light.  On the corner three people were lined up, standing close to the curb, making sure they had their bus passes ready.  They were focused, concentrating, looking east, and almost straining their necks to see the bus I knew was coming and which they knew was about to arrive.  They were actively waiting for the arrival of the bus and knew it was going to come any minute.  And I said to myself, “That’s what advent is like.”

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November 16, 2003
"Stepping Out in Faith"
Psalm 104 & 1 Timothy 6: 6-19

This morning we are here to celebrate what God is doing in our lives!
This morning we are here to rejoice and be glad for all the blessings we have in Christ!
This morning we are here to revel (can Presbyterians really revel?) in the fact that God provides for our every need and therefore we shall not fear.
We can cheer and be happy and take immense delight in the goodness of this amazing world!

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November 2, 2003
"In the Parade of Saints"
Revelation 21: 1-6a

Two weekends ago I was in New Orleans for the wedding of a friend.  Both the rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception were held in the lively French Quarter – and what a reception it was, held on the site of an old bank on Royal Street.  One room was set apart for dancing, where a band played contemporary music and spicy-hot, Louisiana Cajun pieces.  The reception began at 5:00 p.m.; at 8:00 p.m. the party was winding down.  Everyone was gathering around the dance floor.  It seemed odd to end a wedding reception at eight o’clock, especially in the French Quarter in New Orleans – which doesn’t come alive until eleven o’clock!

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October 26, 2003
"
Hearts on Fire for God"
2 Kings 23: 1-3 & 2 Corinthians 5: 16- 6:2

This morning we opened worship with Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) stirring hymn and we will close with one attributed to John Calvin (1509-1564).[1]  Martin’s we know very well; John’s we know less so.  When we think of the church reform movement of the sixteenth century, we think first and foremost of Martin Luther.  It was on the 31st October 1517, when Luther nailed his 95-theses on the door of Wittenburg Castle, protesting the Roman church’s sale of indulgences, the proceeds of which went to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. That’s why we celebrate the Reformation on the Sunday just before the 31st October. 

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October 12, 2003
"
Treasure Hunt"
Mark 10: 17-22

Man, this guy was having a bad day.  He probably woke up feeling pretty good about himself.  He probably heard that Jesus would be walking through his village and this was his chance to meet the great rabbi who had been stirring things up.  As Jesus approaches, he runs up to him with high expectations.  He’s about to meet Jesus, this holy man who has demonstrated his wisdom and preached God’s hope for the world.  He runs and then kneels before him, eager to grow in his understanding of things holy or religious, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  This was the high point of his day.  From here it all goes downhill.  He runs up all excited, eager to meet Jesus, eager to grow in his knowledge of divine things.  He’s searching after eternal life?  Right?  Good motives.  Then it’s as if he’s smacked upside the head and he staggers away from this encounter in a daze, baffled and very sad – we might say infinitely sad.

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October 5, 2003
"
Repair the World"
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2: 1-12

It’s been said that on September 11th, 2001 we Americans entered into a new world, that our world would never again be the same, believing that everything has changed.  It’s true that we are all a little more nervous than we were before, it takes longer to get to our flight at BWI, we’re learning more about Islam, and learning about cities and countries we probably would have had difficult finding on a map, let alone spelling it.  We’re defining or redefining what it means to be an American, a citizen of the world, what it means to be human, what it means to be a Christian. 

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September 21, 2003
"Welcoming the Child"
Mark 9: 30-37

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

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September 14, 2003
"
Who Do You Say That I Am"
Proverbs 1: 20-33 & Mark 8: 27-38

This morning we kick-off a new church program year at Catonsville Presbyterian Church!  The choir is back.  We’re back to our regular worship time.  Church school got off to a rousing start this morning.  Adult education resumed at 9 a.m.  This morning, in worship and education, we introduce our theme for the upcoming year: The Whole Family of God.  We’re excited about exploring what this means for this congregation. On this morning with a lot going on during and after worship, I thought it would be good to offer some preliminary remarks on the biblical understanding of family.

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September 7, 2003
"We’re All Children in the Family of God"
Genesis 15: 1-6 & Romans 8: 18-30

This morning we kick-off a new church program year at Catonsville Presbyterian Church!  The choir is back.  We’re back to our regular worship time.  Church school got off to a rousing start this morning.  Adult education resumed at 9 a.m.  This morning, in worship and education, we introduce our theme for the upcoming year: The Whole Family of God.  We’re excited about exploring what this means for this congregation. On this morning with a lot going on during and after worship, I thought it would be good to offer some preliminary remarks on the biblical understanding of family.

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August 24, 2003
"Happiness is in the House of God"
1 Kings 8: 1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, and 41-43 & Psalm 84

In my childhood, one of the happiest places for me to be was in my church – the First Presbyterian Church of North Arlington, New Jersey.  I loved going to church every Sunday.  It was my favorite day of the week.  My church was beautiful, with its Georgian architecture, clean, classic lines.  I can remember the winding walk, under Dogwood trees and past the perfectly trimmed hedges, which led up to the steps of the church.  I can remember the garden that graced the front of the church as you approached the door – full of roses.  I remember the brilliant color.  It was a welcoming, joyous, happy place (full of people with Scottish brogues).  That was my second home and the people who worshipped there were my extended family.

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August 17, 2003
"Becoming Generous People"
Ephesians 5: 15-20

The highly-respected Barna Research Group, a firm that keeps tabs on religious trends in the United States, recently released a new report that confirms what has always been the case.  There is a link between faith and money.  How we use our financial resources says something about our trust in God.  What this study made explicit was something that had been generally assumed. The study compared “upscale” and “downscale” families.  “Upscale” families (college-educated and with a household income of $60,000 or more) were compared with “downscale” families (families with no college education and household earnings of less than $30,000).  Fifty-six percent of downscale adults said that their faith is constantly growing, compared to 44 percent of upscale adults.  Upscale adults seem to have lower faith commitments than downscale adults.

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August 10, 2003
"Converting our Tongues"
Ephesians 4:25-5:2

A pre-school teacher tells the story of the four year old who was sent to apologize to a child he had hit on the playground.  Several minutes later, he struck again.  When the teacher called him over, he explained, “That’s okay.  I’ll apologize to him later.”  A major misunderstanding!  It took the teacher quite a while to persuade him that hitting another child was never okay.  That was not the point of apologizing.  When a pre-school child comes up with a skewed view of the moral universe, teachers and care-takers wonder what the child sees going on at home.

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July 27, 2003
"The Gospel and Your Health"
Mark 5: 21-43

Long before the expansive extensions at the Johns Hopkins Medical Center, the primary way of entering the hospital was through the western doors, into that great space underneath the dome.  If you walk through that space you will be greeted by a massive, towering statue of Jesus, made of white marble.  Most visitors to the hospital these days never get to see the statue.  If you enter through the parking deck to the south, a new hallway completely bypasses the great hall.  In order for me to find the statue of Jesus, I had to go looking for it.

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July 13, 2003
"Are You Walking in Grace?"
Genesis 21: 8-21 & Romans 6: 1b-14

“The detail of the pattern is movement,” T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) once wrote.[1]  “The detail of the pattern is movement.”  The orbits of planets and stars, the cycle of seasons, the process of life from birth to death and birth again all contain movement.  Movement is the pattern of a God who creates and acts within creation.  What is true for creation is equally true for the creature.  From Jesus Christ, who was present at and the means by which the universe was created, we learn that to come into contact with him means we are involved in a movement. 

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July 6, 2003
"Presbyterians and the Fourth"
Psalm 48 & Romans 12

At the corner of Connecticut Avenue and “N” Street in Washington, D. C. there’s a beautiful statue of John Witherspoon (1723-1794).  It’s easy to miss him as you’re driving up Connecticut.  Most of the people who walk by the corner, I’m sure, have never noticed him standing there.  Many are rushing to get their double-skim-caramel-macchiato-latte-no-foam at Starbuck’s, which is located just behind him.  To the right of the statute there is an office building, with a Citibank branch on the ground floor.  If you look to the right of the bank entrance, on one of the columns in front of the bank, you’ll see a plaque indicating that the National Presbyterian Church once stood on that site...

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June 15, 2003
"Groaning With the Spirit"
Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24 & Romans 8:18-23, 31-39

I would love to know what was going through Paul’s heart and mind when he wrote what we call the eighth chapter of Romans.  (One day I’m going to ask him.)  There’s so much passion and energy, so much movement and conviction in these verses.  They build with an increasing intensity so that when he reaches “there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” it seems like he’s about to explode in an ecstatic state of wonder and delight.  I think Paul was privy to something very special.  He saw something. He caught a glimpse of something that most mortals do not get to see.  Paul saw into the future... 

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June 8, 2003
"Receive the Holy Spirit"
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; Acts 2:1-21; John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Several years ago, I applied for an administrative position at Princeton Theological Seminary and was invited to Princeton for an interview.  I didn’t get the job, which, in retrospect was a good thing.  The seminary was looking for a director of admissions, someone who would be willing to travel around the country searching for the best students to attend Princeton.  As an alum, I have a great passion for the seminary and would give anything to serve Christ by serving Princeton.  In fact, I wanted to go to Princeton Seminary before I felt called to ministry.  (How sick is that?)  In the interview they told me that Princeton was searching for a particular kind of student - they were looking for students who were teachable...

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June 1, 2003
"Becoming a House of Prayer for All People"
Isaiah 56: 1-8 & 1 Peter 4: 7-11

The church is the people – the living, breathing, fallible women and men whom God has chosen before the foundations of the earth to be forged together into a new community of new women, new men who have been given new life in Christ.  This past week in Denver, five hundred-plus elders and ministers, as well as thousands of observers and support staff, gathered together to worship and do the work of the church. The Spirit gathered these people – a wonderfully wide assortment of people of literally all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, and persuasions, theological and otherwise – to do the work of the church through the 215th General Assembly.  Through worship, committee work, discussions over a meal, conversations with new friends, we discover just how wonderfully diverse God’s people are and how God is using the unique gifts and talents of these people for the sake of the Kingdom.

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May 11, 2003
"Caring with a Shepherd’s Heart"
Psalm 23, John 10:11-18 & 1 John 3:18-24

The image of the shepherd is near and dear to the hearts of both Jews and Christians.  There is no better-known psalm than the twenty-third, most likely written by David, the shepherd who became king, the shepherd-king.  Many have this psalm memorized - and for some only the King James Version will do.  This psalm with all its majesty and beauty dwells deep within our heart of hearts, it’s tucked away deep within us.  It’s a part of us.  It provides extraordinary comfort and assurance and hope.  It is often read or understood as a petition or plea or a prayer used in difficult situations, used to summon up enough faith in order to believe that Yahweh is indeed my shepherd.

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May 4, 2003
"Disbelieving for Joy"
Luke 24:36b-48

This is a curious turn of phrase, “while they were still disbelieving for joy, and wondered. . . .”  It’s often overlooked, ignored.   It’s not joy in their belief or because of their belief, but joy in a state of complete disbelief.  Remember, these are the disciples and friends of Jesus gathered together in Jerusalem, terrified and confused due to the strange stories they’d been hearing.  There were rumors that several women came upon an empty tomb and encountered two messengers from God who talked about Jesus being raised from the dead.  This is the same tomb, mind you, where just several days earlier you saw with your own eyes the Roman centurions sealing it shut tight.  Jesus was dead.  Completely dead.   Dead as a doorknob – dead.  And you saw it.  .

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April 17, 2003
"Jesus:  The Pure Victim"
Isaiah 53: 1-11

Ask most Christians (and some non-Christians) why Jesus died on the cross and most will reply the tried and true answer, “Jesus died for my sins.”  But ask most Christians how Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished this amazing feat, ask to explain how it is that through the bruises of this one man, as Isaiah put it, we are healed, there are no quick, easy answers.  Replying, “Well, we just accept it by faith,” just isn’t good enough and it’s not intellectually responsible.

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April 6, 2003
"Finding Grace in It All"
Jeremiah 31: 31-34 & John 12: 20-33

“Once upon a time, there was a boy who didn’t like himself very much.  It was not his fault.  He was born with cerebral palsy.  Cerebral palsy is something that happens to the brain.  It means that you can think but sometimes can’t walk, or even talk.  This boy had a very bad case of cerebral palsy, and when he was still a little boy, some of the people entrusted to take care of him took advantage of him instead and did things to him that made him think that he was a very bad little boy, because only a bad little boy would have to live with the things he had to live with...

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March 30, 2003
"When the Empire Strikes First"
Luke 2:1-14

One of my favorite shows is the British television program, “The Vicar of Dibley,” that airs quite frequently on PBS (usually on Saturday nights here in Baltimore).  A number of my friends here and in the United Kingdom love the show.  It follows the life of a single woman who is the vicar, the pastor of a small struggling church in a rural village in Devon.  Geraldine, the vicar, deals with the eccentric characters of her congregation with humor, compassion, and a considerable degree of irreverence...

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March 16, 2003
"The Way of the Cross"
Mark 8: 31-38

One of my favorite shows is the British television program, “The Vicar of Dibley,” that airs quite frequently on PBS (usually on Saturday nights here in Baltimore).  A number of my friends here and in the United Kingdom love the show.  It follows the life of a single woman who is the vicar, the pastor of a small struggling church in a rural village in Devon.  Geraldine, the vicar, deals with the eccentric characters of her congregation with humor, compassion, and a considerable degree of irreverence...

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February 2, 2003
"Liberation and Hope"
Mark 1: 21-28

When I was a student at Rutgers College in New Brunswick, New Jersey, I took a course offered by the religion department: Religion & Politics.  Growing up within the church I assumed that religion and politics had nothing in common and therefore was intrigued by the title.  My professor, Hiroshi Obayashi, led us through the writings of secular theorists, including Karl Marx and theologians such as the American, Rosemary Radford Ruether and Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez.  It was in that class, long before I went to seminary or had any interest in seminary, that I came to know about liberation theology.

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