Here you will find links to the audio from sermons in 2018.
To access sermons from other years, please click the appropriate link:
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The Gospel According to Disney
Connecting Biblical truths to our lives through Disney movies
August 12 2018
The Gospel According to Disney: Labels (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
We use labels for all sorts of things and even for people. While these labels can sometimes be helpful, they can also be harmful, especially if we all them to limit ourselves or others. The seven dwarfs are named (labeled) by characteristics of their personalities, but aren’t they more than just those labels? Aren’t we more than the labels that are given to us? In the movie, the Queen is obsessed with being the most beautiful – another label. How do we allow labels to define and limit us? Our passage from Ephesians reminds us that in Christ we are called to put away the old self and be clothed with the new self. How do you need to leave old labels behind and awaken to new life?
August 5 2018
The Gospel According to Disney: Who Are You? (Moana)
Guest Preacher: Kevin Walker
Church member Kevin Walker starts our Disney series by reminding us who we are: beloved children of God. He connects the story of the Prodigal Son, who forgets that he is a beloved child, and Daniel, who remembers that he is part of a larger story of God’s people seeking love and justice, to the movie Moana, a film about a young girl who claims her own identity and overcomes all odds to save her people. Kevin reminds us that it is easy to forget who we are but that God’s love never leaves us alone.
Allowing Biblical poetry to help us express and experience faith
July 29 2018
Psalm 137 is one the most jarring passages of scripture. The author cries out, full of emotion, and asks that the children of oppressors be dashed against the rocks. On one level, it is hard for us to understand this level of national lament; Pastor John offers a few illustrations to help. On another level, we are all acquainted individually with these feelings; they are part of the human experience. What matters most is what we do with these feelings. This psalm reassures us that it’s good to experience and express them, but the larger witness of scripture reminds us not to do harm with them. Our instinct is often to move to the good, but sometimes it’s just as important to sit with the bad for a while.
July 22 2018
Psalms: Unity and Community
Note: There is no audio recording for this date
Psalm 133 tells us that it is good for kindred to dwell together in unity, but what does unity mean? Throughout our history, there has been strife and separation. Today, as well, we are not of one mind on many different issues. In particular in The United Methodist Church, we have different views of inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community, and in February 2019 we will have special called General Conference to examine the issue and try to find a way forward together. In the end, we will not be of one mind, but true unity in Christ is about being of one heart – a heart of love. Though we may not think alike, perhaps we can learn to love alike.
July 15 2018
Psalms: Praise and Worship
What does it mean to worship? Who or what do we worship? How do we worship? Psalm 100 invites us to make a joyful noise and to worship the Lord with gladness. But what if we don’t feel much like worshiping or being joyful because of the circumstances of our life? Pastor John confesses that sometimes he feels this way – we all do. In those moments, our church family can lift us up and sing in our stead.
July 8 2018
Psalms: The Good Ol’ Days
Preacher: Nate Partee
Our pastoral intern reminds us that throughout history, humans have tended to look at the past with fondness and nostalgia. This was true for the people of Israel as well, especially when Psalm 84 was written as they were in exile in Babylon, longing for home and to worship at the Temple. But God is always with us in the present moment, and we are invited to experience God’s love and grace in the here and now.
July 1 2018
The Psalms are poetry and can express our feelings and thoughts through words. Pastor John teaches for a few minutes on Hebrew poetry and then explores Psalm 40 in more detail. This Psalm is an example of a cry for deliverance and shows a movement that we see in scripture and experience in our own lives: remembering God’s past faithfulness, crying out for help in the present, and trusting in God to provide for the future. We are invited to live into this pattern and have hope for tomorrow, regardless of where we find ourselves today, because of what God has done yesterday.
With All Our Art
Exploring connections between our faith and well-known paintings
June 24 2018
With All Our Art: The Yellow Christ
We conclude our series with a painting that is perhaps less familiar: Paul Gaugin’s The Yellow Christ. It portrays the crucifixion in the middle of the Brittany countryside. Pastor John asks us what it means to, as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “know only Christ and him crucified.” Christ is at the center of the painting and at the center of the lives of the women who are praying and working in it. What would the picture of our lives look like? How can we place Christ at the center of who we are?
June 17 2018
With All Our Art: The Scream
Edvard Munch’s The Scream is a prime example of Expressionism in which the art is intended to express a particular feeling or experience rather than to reflect physical reality. At one time or another, we all feel some of those emotions portrayed in this painting: terror, sadness, despair, anger, hopelessness. Whatever we are feeling or experiencing, God’s loving arms are big enough to accept it and embrace us. The Apostle Paul reminds us that God is always with us – even in the midst of our angst – and is working on our behalf. Pastor John offers a personal example related to his grandfather of this universal truth.
June 10 2018
With All Our Art: Guernica
We examine Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, which depicts the bombing of the town by the same name during the Spanish Civil War. Pastor John shares the story of Picasso’s inspiration for the painting and explores what inspires us – in art but most especially to make changes in our lives and the world. He shares his own experience of deciding to get divorced and make a huge change. Finally, he draws parallels between the increasing suicide rate in the US and the epidemic of school shootings to war and asks what will inspire us to beat our swords into plowshares.
June 3 2018
With All Our Art: The Creation of Adam
In this new worship series we are exploring connections between our faith and famous works of art. Some of this art is explicitly religious, such as Michelangelo’s masterpiece from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: The Creation of Adam. While the work is now part of our culture, history, and faith, it diverged from the tradition quite a bit at the time. Listen to Pastor John explain the revolutionary portrayals of both God and Adam. Through the painting, we are also reminded that humanity is created in God’s image, and Pastor John explores what this might mean and how we are called to partner with God in creative works for good in the world.
Major messages of hope and instructions from minor prophets
May 27 2018
Minor: Amos and Caring for the Poor
Preacher: Nate Partee
Nate Partee, our Pastoral Intern, preached from Amos and reminded us that there is lots of suffering and injustice in the world. While we may try to use our worldly power in the face of these realities, it is ultimately God’s power and might that enables us to ease this suffering and right the injustices of the world.
May 20 2018
Minor: Joel and the Outpouring of God’s Spirit
Our tradition at Blakemore has become to hold a Membership Sunday a few times per year in which a group of individuals will join the church together and share about their own faith journeys. There’s no better day for such a Sunday than on Pentecost, on which we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church. We invite you to listen as three new members share about their experiences in faith, what brought them to Blakemore, and why they are deciding to join.
May 13 2018
Minor: The Labor Pains of Creation
Preacher: Rev. Emily Reeves-Grammer
Rev. Emily Reeves-Grammer, who was an intern at Blakemore when she was in seminary at Vanderbilt, filled in this morning at the last minute when Pastor John was sick and did a marvelous job. She offers a thought-provoking sermon on Mother’s Day and reflects on her own identity as a mother, motherly images for God in the Bible, and some present controversy within The United Methodist Church. Ultimately, she reminds us that God is a creating God and invites us to join in the work of creation through the birthing of new ideas and ministries in the world.
May 6 2018
Minor: Jonah and God’s Surprising Grace
Preacher: Julia Crone
After about two and a half years, this was Julia’s last Sunday with us at Blakemore as our youth minister. She just graduated from college and is headed to seminary in the fall. We will miss her, but she leaves us with a powerful message inspired by the prophet Jonah who didn’t want to show up for what God was doing and for whom things didn’t turn out exactly as he hoped. She reminds us that even though an Almighty God may not need us, God chooses to work through us and is always with us.
April 29 2018
Minor: Micah’s Call for Social Justice
We begin a new series on the Minor Prophets with an overview of how the Bible is structured and the role of the prophets, especially the Minor Prophets. Pastor John delves into the situation of Micah’s day and his call for covenant faithfulness to the people of Jerusalem and Judah. This includes Micah 6:8, one of the most well-known passages from the Old Testament, in which Micah calls God’s people to a life of commitment to one another and to God.
Connecting Christ’s resurrection to new life here and now
April 22 2018
Resurrection Life: Sowing Seeds
We shift away this week from stories about others encountering the risen Christ to Paul’s writing about the importance of the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. While many of us think about life after death as our spirits living on after our bodies die and going to either heaven or hell, the Bible seems to paint a different picture at several points. The promise of resurrection moves beyond this conception to something more. Specifically, Paul compares it to a seed planted in the ground that leads to the growth of a new and very different plant. Because of Christ’s resurrection, we have hope for future resurrection too.
April 15 2018
Resurrection Life: Ch-ch-changes
Pastor John shares three stories today of people who encountered the risen Christ and then experienced Resurrection Life. The first is the Pharisee Saul on the road to Damascus, who was on his way to persecute Christians and became Paul, the great evangelist. The second is a camper named Woodrow from when Pastor John worked at church camp. The third is the new life that Pastor John is discovering in the midst of a difficult personal time. As David Bowie sang, sometimes we need to “turn and face the strange” and allow God to change us.
April 8 2018
Resurrection Life: Walking the Journey
Today we hear about what happens on the afternoon and evening of the first Easter. Two followers of Jesus are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus and encounter a stranger, who – spoiler alert – turns out to be the risen Jesus. Pastor John takes us through the story and highlights several important plot points that show us what it can be like to experience Resurrection Life. These include Jesus journeying with us, sharing deeply of ourselves with God, tending to the means of grace, and taking time to reflect on our experiences.
April 1 2018
Resurrection Life: Easter Sunday
In this series, we connect the story of Christ’s resurrection to other stories where hope springs from places where all seems lost. Beginning with some familiar tales that seem impossible, Pastor John challenges us to remember times in our lives when we thought the dark would last forever. These stories tell us that the way of the world is for darkness to give way to light, for winter to yield to spring, and for death to lead to new life. He reminds us of the message of Easter: that death and darkness do not have the final word…that God is still crafting the story of our lives in the world.
Good and Beautiful God
Getting in touch with the God that Jesus knows
Lent: February 14 to March 30, 2018
Maundy Thursday 2018
Good and Beautiful God: Good and Beautiful Us
This worship series has focused on narratives that Jesus tells us about God that counteract false narratives we have been told by others. Pastor John challenges us to look beyond the narratives that Jesus speaks and to embrace the narratives that Jesus embodies with his life. On Maundy Thursday, we remember the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples and how he instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion and set for us an example in washing the feet of others – even the one who betrayed him. On Good Friday, we remember his sacrificial love. On Holy Saturday, we remember that not even death or hell can stop God’s good and beautiful love. As we follow in the footsteps of Christ, we too are made good and beautiful.
March 25 2018
Good and Beautiful God: God Is Self-Sacrificing
As Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, we encounter two images of Jesus that create a paradox: humble servant and glorious king. As we try to make sense of both of these pictures, we are reminded that we don’t have to seek God, but that God is always seeking us. Pastor John reflects on the events of the coming week: the Last Supper, Jesus’ crucifixion, and the Resurrection. Sometimes, it’s hard to make sense of what all this mean. Pastor John explains a few different ways to think about the Atonement and invites us to experience God’s self-giving love.
March 18 2018
Good and Beautiful God: God Is Holy
Hebrews 12:14-29 is a strange and complicated passage of scripture, full of weird phrases, obscure references, and difficult theology. Pastor John takes a step back from it to define holiness from a biblical perspective, and we discover that it may be a little different than how we typically think of holiness. We break from what our study book identifies as the important narratives around this topic and conclude that God’s desire, even though God is Other, is to be in relationship with us. Pastor John picks two thought-provoking metaphors to illustrate the idea, but you’ll have to listen to discover what they are!
March 11 2018
Good and Beautiful God: God Is Love
The bible is full of commandments. In fact, the Old Testament has 613 of them. It’s no surprise that we can fall into thinking that God only loves us when we’re good, when we follow the commandments, when we are righteous. But Jesus’ calling of Matthew (a tax collector) and dining with tax collectors and other sinners in Matthew 9:9-13 shows us that God’s love is unconditional. Indeed, God is love; it is God’s very nature to love, and we are the recipients of that unconditional love.
March 4 2018
Good and Beautiful God: God Is Generous
Jesus tells us a pretty shocking parable in Matthew 20:1-15 about a landowner who pays people to work in his vineyard – but he pays them all the same regardless of how much work they do. While this offends our sense of fairness, it betrays our wrongheaded view that we need to earn God’s favor. Jesus reveals that God already loves and favors us and gives to us generously. Pastor John relates Thomas Merton’s experience of seeing those around him shining like the sun. God loves and takes care of us all, much like the shepherd described in Psalm 23.
February 25 2018
Good and Beautiful God: God Is Trustworthy
Preacher: Julia Crone
Our youth coordinator, Julia Crone, preaches a powerful and vulnerable sermon about Jesus’ fears and disappointments as he faces suffering and death on the cross. She reminds us that it’s okay to feel those things, that God in Christ experienced those emotions, and that true strength is found in admitting them to ourselves and sharing them with others. In the midst of all that Christ was experiencing, he still was able to trust God: “not my will but yours be done.” God is indeed trustworthy and journeys with us throughout life. Julia invites us to experience the pain and also to look for the blessings and practice true gratitude.
February 18 2018
Good and Beautiful God: God Is Good
While it’s impossible to know fully what God is like, we try as humans. This leads to both conflicting narratives about God and a desire on our part to find answers and blame when things go wrong in the world. We labor under the false narrative that God is angry with us and wants to punish us. But the God Jesus knows is a good and kind God. Even though we cannot completely make sense of the tragedies that happen in the world, we can be assured that they break God’s heart just as they break ours. May we pay attention to the things that break our hearts and work with God to bring some goodness into the world.
Ash Wednesday 2018 (February 14)
Good and Beautiful God: God Changes Us
Pastor John explains some of the significance of Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent; specifically the desire for transformation described in Romans 12:1-2. Each sermon in this series will highlight a false narrative about God and replace it with something that Jesus reveals to us. Our false narrative is that we can change ourselves, but we learn from scripture that true transformation is God’s work in our lives accompanying our participation and effort. Especially during Lent, may we adopt practices that from and transform us in the faith of Christ.
A World Like This
Making sense of and living faithfully in a world where not all is as it should be
January 7 – February 11, 2018
February 11 2018
A World Like This: Immigration
Guest Preacher: Rev. Carlos Uroza
Carlos originally hails from Mexico and is the pastor of Primera Iglesia here in Nashville. He provides a unique perspective on the controversial topic of immigration because of his own experiences and the lives of the members of his church. He challenges us to think more broadly about the topic and to see the humanity in every person. He reminds us that God is on the side of the oppressed, and that we, as people who fear God, are called to be in ministry with those who are fearful of the world.
February 4 2018
A World Like This: Poverty
From the laws in the Old Testament to the prophets and Jesus himself, the Bible talks a lot about poverty. Despite our inclinations to the contrary, in James 2:1-8, we are reminded that God calls us not to show favoritism or partiality toward rich or poor. We all struggle with knowing who to help and how much; the need in the world is overwhelming. Pastor John suggests that our church focus on two particular issues: affordable housing and climate change. It is our calling and responsibility to live in solidarity with those experiencing poverty.
January 28 2018
A World Like This: Fake News
Note: There is no audio available for this Sunday
Less than two weeks prior to this Sunday, the GOP posted on their website the 2017 Fake News Awards. We live in a world where the President feels the need to attack the free press, where there is a 24/7 news cycle, and where we increasingly get our news from sources that simply reinforce our existing perspectives. How do we know what is true and what is fake? 1 John 4:1-6 invites us to “test the spirits” by having a standard when we evaluate, by looking at the motivation behind the story, and by asking if the source is trustworthy. It takes work, but ultimately we can have confidence that the Good News of God’s love for us is never fake, and that’s the truth.
January 21 2018
A World Like This: Gender
We live in a world where gender inequality still runs deep and where people who identify their gender in non-traditional or non-binary ways are often marginalized and even suffer violence. Pastor John reminds us that scripture affirms the value and worth of everyone and that in Christ distinctions like gender shouldn’t matter. He also shares a verse in which Jesus accepts people who don’t fit into traditional ways of thinking about gender, regardless of how they arrived at that place in their life. In the end, we are called to work for gender equality and justice and to remind anyone who has been ostracized that they are welcomed, loved, and accepted by God.
January 14 2018
A World Like This: Race
Note: There is no audio available for this Sunday
On MLK weekend, we examined the world we live in as it relates to race. Pastor John told two baptism stories from the Bible: Jesus and the Ethiopian eunuch. In both stories, it was suggested that something might prevent them from being baptized, but we were reminded that no such barrier exists to God’s love and grace. The church is open to people of all ages, nations, and races. While we often use race to divide and oppress, it is actually a beautiful part of the diversity that God has created. We are called to celebrate that diversity and include all in the abundant life of Christ.
January 7 2018
A World Like This: Different Religions
On Epiphany Sunday, we are reminded of the Magi who saw God’s handiwork in the heavens and traveled a great distance to meet a young child and offer him gifts. God was clearly at work both in the natural world and in the lives of these Wise Men, who were part of a different religion. As Christians, we believe in one God and in the unique revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ. But can we really deny that God is at work in other ways and in other religions, especially when we have encountered people of other faiths whose lives are enriched by those traditions?