January 13, 2019
Do you know your purpose in life? Do you have a clear idea of why God made you, and what you are supposed to do with this one precious life you’ve been given?
Jesus did. He understood that his primary purpose was to bring us humans into right relationship with God. That was the whole reason he came into the world – God With Us, Emmanuel – not to condemn it (John 3:17), but to save it. In order to do that, he had to become one of us. Continue reading
January 6, 2019
Happy Epiphany! Epiphany always falls on January 6th, no matter what. This year, January 6th happens to be a Sunday, so we get to celebrate Christ’s Epiphany – a fancy word for unveiling or revealing – on this very first Sunday of the New Year.
The gospel lesson for Epiphany is always the same, year after year. We always get the story of the wise men seeking out the infant King. It only comes to us through one author so, no matter which gospel we are following in a given year, Epiphany always brings us to the second chapter of Matthew.
Since we hear it every year, we might be lulled into ignoring this story. It’s easy to let it drift in one ear and out the other, because it’s so familiar. As you hear it this time, I invite you to listen in a new way. I invite you to engage in something that schoolteachers like to call “compare and contrast.” Pay attention to what Herod does and says, and compare that to what the wise men do and say. There will be a short quiz after the reading. Continue reading
I have long thought it was pointless to write a sermon for Christmas Eve. I mean, how many Christmas Eve sermons have you actually remembered afterward? Hmm? Yeah, me too. Not one.
So I’ve always operated from the viewpoint that the gospel could speak for itself this one night of the year. The story of the incarnation is enough.
But lately, I’ve begun to realize that this is only true for people who already believe. For everyone else, it’s just a nice story. It makes us feel all fuzzy and warm, and for an hour or so, we can bask in the gentle glow of candlelight. We can pretend that the cute baby in the manger sleeps in heavenly peace, and won’t bother us too much with the reality of our human existence.
And that’s where we’d be wrong. Continue reading
December 16, 2018
We’ve been following the hymn ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’ through this season of Advent, and today’s focus is on the third stanza, where ‘love’s pure light’ radiantly beams forth at the ‘dawn of redeeming grace.’ Love and redemption go hand in hand. We call it ‘grace.’
Here’s a great definition of grace: love we don’t deserve and can never earn.
Redeeming grace is that un-earn-able love that saves us. It saves us from our sin, our darkness, and the eternal separation from God that our brokenness deserves. This is the grace that saves us from ourselves. Continue reading
December 9, 2018
Here’s the back story: Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age, after the angel Gabriel tells her husband, Zechariah, that this will happen. Zechariah questions the angel’s grasp of reality – they are both long past child-bearing age, just like Abraham and Sarah, or Hannah and Elkanah in the Old Testament. Because he doubts the angel’s word, Zechariah is unable to speak for the next nine months.
Here’s another little detail about Zechariah and Elizabeth you might find interesting: they both come from priestly families. In fact, Elizabeth is a direct descendant of Aaron. But Gabriel tells Zechariah that the child they will have is to be a prophet, not a priest. Continue reading
November 25, 2018
Christ the King B
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:4b-8)
The Alpha and the Omega … the “A to Z” … the beginning and the end: God is the one who is and who was and who is to come – in other words, God is beyond time. This is a pretty big idea for us to get our heads around. We often think in linear terms, so A to Z means a finite string of letters to us, not an all-encompassing understanding of everything that ever was or is or ever will be. Continue reading
November 18, 2018
Last week, I mentioned that Jesus and his disciples have been walking near the Temple, and that Jesus has predicted its destruction. The thirteenth chapter of Mark’s gospel begins like this: “As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” 2 Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:1-2)
This is the final chapter in the year of Mark – all that’s left is the passion story, which we heard at Lent. This is the final ‘regular’ Sunday in the church year – next week is Christ the King, and then Advent begins. It’s no coincidence that we are getting ready to look forward to Jesus’ birth, just as Jesus is telling us to get ready for his coming again. Advent is always a two-fold expectation of Christ’s arrival.
But right now, the disciples have joined Jesus across the valley from the Temple. Continue reading