Covenant Presbyterian Church – Athens, GA


Today: A Sermon Based on Luke 4:14-30

Today: A Sermon Based on Luke 4:14-30                                                                                                Preached by Mark Harper at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Athens, Ga                                     February 3, 2019 – The Fourth Sunday After Epiphany

“Today.” That’s the first word of the first sermon that Jesus ever preached. According to Luke, it occurred in the synagogue in Nazareth, a community gathering place that he no doubt knew very well from attending sabbath day services with his parents while growing up. And now as an adult who had left home for a while and gained a following as an itinerate rabbi with a reputation for powerful teaching, he was coming back. That was the word on the street. The hometown boy made good was coming home. A local hero. His presence would make this particular sabbath day special; the air was electric with anticipation. Read more

Ready or Not! (Jn.2:1-11 & 1 Cor.12:4-7 & Ps.36:5-9) January 20, 2019

This first recorded miracle of Jesus is such a delight.  It’s probably a family reunion, supporting a bride & groom at their wedding, and in such a small town as Cana near Nazareth.  Everyone was invited – all the friends of friends of friends, even those disciples who had ganged up with Jesus just 2 days earlier.  It was Nathanael’s hometown, after all.  You know – the disciple who, when he first heard about Jesus, said – Can anything good ever come from Nazareth?  Little did he realize.  And as with all weddings, but especially a Jewish one, there was lots of music & dancing and eating & drinking going on – with no end in sight – until IT happened.  Mary, the quiet & pondering one who saw all and knew all – Mary noticed first – the worst thing possible in small-town society.  The family would never live it down = they ran out of wine at the biggest party of the season. Read more

We Are Being Re-Routed: A Sermon Based on Matthew 2:1-12

Preached by Mark Harper at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Athens, Georgia                           January 6, 2019 – Epiphany of the Lord

Since we don’t know precisely what happened when the wise men first laid eyes on the baby Jesus, here’s my version. At least here’s what I hope happened. I hope at least one of them wasn’t as reverent as we usually picture them being, with slow bows and formal hand gestures and all. I would love it if at least one of the group, and there might have been ten  — or twenty — since Matthew doesn’t actually say three, slapped the others on the back and clapped his hands and let out a giggle and practically fell into the crib with delight and said, “I remember when you were just a twinkle in my eye!” And then broke into a little extemporaneous lullaby: Twinkle, twinkle little star, captured my heart and brought me this far …. Read more

Time to Catch On!

“Time to Catch On!”      (Luke 2:22-33 and Luke 2:41-52)
I think for the first time this Christmas I was struck by the images of quiet wonder & amazement in the stories about Jesus we read this time of the year.  Maybe it’s because my celebrations were pared down from the usual, spending much more quiet time at home now, caring for my mother – missing all the evening concerts & dinner parties, the energizing buzz of frantic shopping, the sugar coating of Hallmark movies, and the endearing interruption of family phone calls.  I didn’t get to do all I used to do, or all I wanted to do, but the basics turned out to be more than enough. Read more

Freedom Songs

Preached by Mark Harper at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Athens, Georgia                           December 16, 2018 – The Third Sunday of Advent

If we can take a minute; if we can slow down and reign in the stress for just a little while; if we can push back the hate and fear and non-stop gaslighting that keeps assaulting our minds and weighing down our hearts, we might just hear it: the miracle of music, the songs of this season that speak truth and give us hope in ways that maybe nothing else can. And I know that there are many songs out there, many of them lovely and inspiring, but many also nostalgic and as familiar as your grandmama’s sugar cookies – which, exactly like those cookies, can start making you a little sick if you’ve been consuming them since before Thanksgiving. So today I want us to tune in to some of the sacred songs of this Advent time. I want to invite us to listen again to the songs from within our story as God’s people, songs that well up inside the holy event of incarnation – cause, you know, baby, it’s cold outside. Read more

An Ear to the Ground

An Ear to the Ground: A Sermon Based on Luke 21:25-37                                                                  Preached by Mark Harper at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Athens, Georgia                              December 2, 2018 – The First Sunday of Advent

The Presbyterian Planning calendar got it wrong this week. When I was looking up the suggested Bible readings for this Sunday, the gospel selection was listed as Luke 21:35-36. That had us starting the reading in the middle of a verse with the words “… like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once” — which didn’t seem like the best place to begin. I knew the passage was about the return of Jesus to this world – his second Advent, his second coming into our lives. It just seemed like our reading should have at least started with  verse 34: “But be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping.” Now there’s a text for our times! Or at least for the day after the moveable feast that is Covenant’s annual progressive dinner, not to mention the stress-generating addiction of late-afternoon football watching.  Read more

“The Ruler of Kings” (Isaiah 32:1-8 and John 18:33-38) 11-25-18

Of all the political commentaries and editorials or personal memoirs from Capitol Hill – or Sunday sermons too – that you’ve heard through the years about speaking truth to power, surely the best is encapsulated in this slice of life we read today from the Gospel of John, this moment in time when the power of Rome came face to face with the power of Love.  It’s such a brief encounter, yet it is an everlasting portrayal each generation can identify with, as we learn about life in this world of “might makes right,” while we faithfully try to change it. Read more

Jesus Has Left the Building

Jesus Has Left the Building: A Sermon Based on Mark 13:1-8                                                            Preached by Mark Harper at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Athens, Georgia                            November 18, 2018

One of my neighbors is single-handedly building a new garage, or maybe it’s an in-law suite, or a shop, or something on his property. I’m not exactly sure what it is yet but I’m categorically impressed as I walk by with my dogs every day and note his progress. I’m especially impressed after days like I had this past week when I went home wondering what all my words and listening and thinking had accomplished. I knew I had not been able to do much for the fiercely addicted homeless vet who stopped by soaking wet. Hank found him a blanket and a bag of personal care items. It was one of those days when I wished that I could measure my day’s work in ceiling joists installed instead of prayers offered. Read more