Death really stinks, doesn’t it? I can remember the first time I smelled that smell. A mouse – or some animal – had died in the wall of the apartment where I was living. After a few days the stench was unbearable. I called the landlord, and he just laughed at me. “It’ll go away in a while,” he said. “Just live with it.”Continue reading →
Good sermons are supposed to start out by identifying a problem or a fear we face, then show us how scripture helps us deal with that problem or fear.
This week, that’s a no-brainer. Continue reading →
Who invented the light bulb? If Thomas Edison was the first name that popped into your head, you aren’t alone. He usually gets all the credit for this invention. But Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb. The first actual electric incandescent bulb existed years before Edison made it marketable. He improved on others’ ideas to create a longer-lasting incandescent bulb, and he was the one who filed all the patents necessary to manufacture the light bulb. But he didn’t invent it.
We think of the invention of the light bulb as the moment in history when everything changed – electricity became the standard, instead of mechanical power. Technology took off, and the world was never the same. But the light bulb wasn’t what Edison was after as he and his team worked together at Menlo Park. Their goal was something much bigger.Continue reading →
We often think of ‘coming to our senses’ as returning to sensible thinking or behavior after a time of behaving or thinking unreasonably. “I’m so glad she came to her senses and decided not to marry that person,” or “it’s a good thing he came to his senses before he drove his business into bankruptcy.”
But sometimes, coming to your senses involves learning something you didn’t realize before, in a way that helps you understand the world more clearly. It’s not that you return to reason, so much as you suddenly become aware of something you didn’t already know. Continue reading →
If this story sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because we heard it last October, only from Mark’s gospel instead of Luke’s. The two accounts are almost identical. They both describe the way wealth gets in between Jesus and us – not because money is an evil thing, but because it’s so easy to make money into an idol. The rich ruler didn’t have wealth, so much as wealth had him. His dependence on that wealth was all that stood between him and becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
So as we listen to Jesus, we have to ask ourselves “What am I letting stand between me and Jesus? What’s getting in the way, what’s preventing me from getting closer to Christ so I can listen to him more completely? Continue reading →
What’s your favorite story? Is it one you read when you were young, or maybe heard your parents tell you over and over? When our sons were young enough we could still tell them what to do, we made them sit through all of Lawrence of Arabia. We kept telling them we wanted them to be culturally literate, so they could get half of the jokes that flew past them when they watched the Simpsons.
Stories shape our worldview. They help us make sense of things we don’t understand. Stories teach us how to get along in the world, how to deal with hardships and challenges, how to behave toward others. It’s how the Inuit raise their children to be gentle and never explode in anger – they use storytelling to help young children understand the consequences of their actions.
Jesus fully understood the power of storytelling. That’s why he used parables so often in his teaching. Stories helped the people who were listening to Jesus get a better grasp of who God is, and just how much God loves us.
So here we are, in the fifteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel, and once again, it’s story time. Here we are, following Jesus toward Jerusalem for the last time, and once again, we find Jesus at a table. Continue reading →
In the Friday from First message, I mentioned a fancy theological term for the question, “How can a good and loving God allow bad things to happen to people?” That term is theodicy. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test. You don’t have to remember the term. But it’s the first thing we think of when catastrophes happen, especially when they happen to us, or to people we know.
Why does God allow evil to thrive? How can God just stand by and watch as hundreds of people are killed by a cyclone ripping through Mozambique and Madagascar, or while dozens of people are gunned down in Christchurch, New Zealand? How can someone who has never smoked a single cigarette die from lung cancer? How does a perfectly healthy young mother, who has devoted her life to ministry, die abruptly from an infection? Where is God in all that suffering?Continue reading →