Note: this is the final sermon in the “Identity Crisis” series. The previous two weeks were preached by others, while I spent time with my family at my mother’s deathbed. Watch this sermon on Vimeo.
We’ve been exploring the idea of an identity crisis in Matthew’s gospel these past few weeks. We’ve learned that the crisis isn’t just about how we identify ourselves as followers of Jesus. The crisis also stems from how we identify Christ at work in our lives and in the world. Sometimes it isn’t so easy to recognize Jesus, even when he stands right in front of us. Sometimes we doubt who he is, as Peter did when he tried to walk on water. But when we can name Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God – also as Peter did – we find our own identity as well.
Many people operate out of a scarcity mindset – we are all too aware of what we don’t have. During the early weeks of the COVID shutdown, it was difficult to find toilet paper in the stores. Some of that difficulty was simply because most of the toilet paper being manufactured is for institutional use – office buildings, schools, hotels, for example. Suddenly, office buildings, schools, and hotels were empty. Everyone was at home, and the demand for Quilted Northern and Charmin Strong outstripped the availability of those products.
But there was something else going on, too. People were ‘stocking up’ on basic essentials like toilet paper because they were afraid. They were operating out of a mindset of scarcity, hoarding resources instead of sharing them.
The crowds following Jesus around Galilee were used to living a life of scarcity. Continue reading →
It’s been good to visit with a few of you this week, to learn what is on your heart as we begin the work of interim ministry together. You may remember a video that appeared on the church website a few months ago, where I explained the developmental tasks this congregation will need to address during this season.
Over the next several weeks, I will be explaining each of these tasks in greater detail, so that we can begin this important and urgent work with full understanding. The first task is to come to terms with your past. This might be the most difficult task of all, but the other steps of the process depend on getting this one right, so it’s a good place to begin. Continue reading →
“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me,” Jesus says to his disciples, “and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40)
We like to think we would welcome Jesus if he showed up on our doorstep, don’t we? We would recognize him immediately, and we’d usher him into our homes with joy. More than likely, we’d find some way to set out a meal for Jesus, knowing that good food usually makes for good conversation, and the gospels all tell us that Jesus liked to eat with people.
But what if Jesus showed up at your door when the larder was empty? What if the beds weren’t made and the place was a mess? What if there was no place for Jesus to sit, because every seat was piled high with newspapers, unfolded laundry – stuff… you get the idea. What if you hadn’t dusted or vacuumed in weeks, and there were dirty dishes in the sink? What would your welcome to the King of Kings look like then? Continue reading →
June 14, 2020 My final Sunday with First United Methodist Church, New Ulm, Minnesota
How do disciples become apostles? When does following turn into being sent?
Over the past few weeks, we’ve watched those first disciples of Jesus gather in fear after the crucifixion, be amazed at Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven, and receive the Great Commission to make disciples. We’ve seen them return to Jerusalem with joy, praising God, and we’ve looked on as they gathered once more in a room together, praying to receive what Jesus had promised them, power from on high. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit blows them out into the city to share the Good News, and the church is born.
Somewhere in there, they’ve been transformed from frightened followers to bold announcers of the gospel. Somewhere in there, they’ve changed from apprentice craftsmen to master builders in God’s kingdom here on earth. Continue reading →
There’s nothing quite like baptizing a baby to bring us hope. Thank you, Leah and Sean, for reminding us of the sure and certain hope we claim as followers of Jesus! But hope can be fleeting, and sometimes it seems like the tiniest challenge can shatter our hope.
The church in Thessolonica was facing a challenge like that. They had questions. When was Jesus going to come back? Had they missed it? Were they ‘left behind’ and putting their faith in something that wasn’t really true? Continue reading →
In a relay race, there is a critical moment when the baton gets passed from one runner to the next. It’s a short window of opportunity – only 20 meters, with a 10-meter acceleration zone for the next runner to get up to speed. And there are lots of ways things can go wrong. Continue reading →
Both the Old and New Testament readings today focus on scripture, the Word of God written on our hearts, delighting our spirits, and leading us to salvation. We are in the third of four Sundays examining Paul’s ‘last will and testament’ of faith in the second letter to Timothy. This week we move on from ‘wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening’ (2:14), to allowing scripture to work on us, to change us and equip us.
Remember that the Bible’s primary purpose is to reveal God to us. But what is the point of that revelation if we do nothing with it? Continue reading →
Words can be dangerous. We have to handle them with care. Here’s an example: On Tuesday, I had heard that one of our members had been hurt falling off a ladder. When I called to check on him, he assured me he had done no such thing.It’s easy for rumors to spread misinformation like this. Idle chitchat can have major consequences.
Here’s another one:Last Sunday, I announced my retirement in 2020. By Sunday afternoon, there was a rumor that Bruce and I plan to move to the east coast after I retire. I’m not sure where that one came from. We are not making any plans to move to the east coast! Rumors can get pretty interesting, can’t they? We have to handle our words with care. Continue reading →