Category Archives: Time after Pentecost

Jesus Eats with Sinners – Sermon on Luke 15:1-10

September 15, 2019

The tension is growing between Jesus and the Religious Establishment. He’s been challenging everything held dear by the Pharisees and teachers of the law. He’s also been challenging the crowds who gather to listen to him.

Last week, we heard him tell us that, unless we commit ourselves fully to living our lives in him, we cannot call ourselves his disciples. Jesus is raising the bar, and we are beginning to understand what the disciples mean when they wonder out loud, “who then can be saved?” (Luke 18:26) or “this teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” (John 6:60) And if his own disciples are struggling, just imagine how hard it is for the religious leaders to grasp what Jesus is demanding of any who want to follow him. But there is one group of people who are eating up everything Jesus says. Continue reading

Know the Cost – Sermon on Luke 14:25-33

September 8, 2019

First, I’m not preaching a new sermon. I’ve trimmed the one from three years ago and will use it again this year because, well, it’s still true.

But there are two things I hope to emphasize this time that I’m not sure I made clear before. One is that knowing the cost of discipleship means knowing we can’t afford it. The price is too high, it’s beyond our capacity. And the other is that following Jesus means devoting our whole selves to following Jesus, not the way we follow him. Let me explain.

It is easy to get caught in the trap of believing that our particular method of following Jesus is the only way to do it. Because it works for us, we think it’s not only best, but anyone who doesn’t follow Jesus the way we do isn’t really following Jesus. Not only does this thinking bring us perilously close to judging others, our form of discipleship becomes more important to us than our relationship with Christ itself. And that’s just wrong.

Jesus doesn’t say, “Follow me according to a particular formula,” or even “Follow me according to your understanding of scripture.” Jesus says, “If you want to be my disciple, you have to give up all your pre-conceived notions of what that means, and just stick close to me.” Discipleship means becoming a student of Christ, not a student of ‘following.”

Maybe I’m just picking at nits, but I think this is an important distinction. Christ calls us to follow Christ, not whatever form of Christianity we claim to practice. May I be faithful, may you be faithful, as we follow Jesus together.

Your Place at the Table – sermon on Luke 14:1, 7-14

It may come as a surprise to you that Jesus was friends with Pharisees. Back at the end of chapter eleven of Luke’s gospel, Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house for dinner on the Sabbath. This might seem like a small detail, but it’s actually pretty significant.

Being invited to someone’s house for dinner was a way to climb up the social ladder, but being invited for the Sabbath meal meant you were almost family. We usually think of the Pharisees as ‘the opposition,’ but Jesus didn’t always behave that way. Continue reading

A Posture of Praise – sermon on Luke 13:10-17

August 25, 2019
Here is an earlier version of this sermon, told in first person narrative style.

Hearing just a few verses of the gospel each week, it’s easy to lose track of the bigger story. It seems like ages ago that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. And for the past three weeks, he’s been in the same spot, even thought Luke doesn’t tell us exactly where that spot is.

Now we’ve moved into the next phase of the journey. Jesus is still teaching outside the Pharisee’s house where he had dinner back in chapter 11. And he’s telling parables again. He has just told the story of the barren fig tree (13:6-9). In that parable, the landowner gives the gardener one more year to work the soil around the tree so that it can bear fruit. If that doesn’t do any good, the tree will be cut down.

In the verses that follow today’s reading, Jesus will give two analogies for the kingdom of God: the mustard seed growing into a great bush where many birds will roost, and the leaven growing in the lump of dough (13:13:18-21).

But here, sandwiched in between these stories about things that grow and things that don’t, is a real-life encounter with Jesus. It wasn’t expected. It wasn’t planned. But this encounter introduces us to two people who could easily have been represented by the parables surrounding their story. Notice which one seems more like a mustard seed growing into a tall plant, and which one resembles a fig tree that won’t grow any fruit. Continue reading

God’s Good Pleasure – Sermon on Luke 12:32-40

August 11, 2019

Last week, we considered how greed can actually make you poorer, as we heard Jesus tell the story of the farmer who wanted to keep all his crops for himself. This week, we pick up Luke’s story almost where we left off. Jesus has been teaching how different the Kingdom of God is from anything we might imagine. He has just explained how we each matter to God, and how God wants to provide for all our basic needs.

If our heavenly Father feeds the birds and clothes the flowers of the field, we can depend on him to care for every need we have, because God loves us so very, very much. You wouldn’t give your child a snake or a scorpion to eat, would you? How much more is our heavenly Father eager to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. And how much more God wants to give us, his own beloved children! So what are we afraid of? Continue reading

The Disciples’ Prayer – Sermon on Luke 11:1-13

July 28, 2019

Shortly after our son became engaged, his future in-laws invited us to Thanksgiving dinner with their family. Their son, Mike, greeted me with particular enthusiasm, and I soon learned why. Mike usually got stuck with saying the prayer over a meal whenever the family was together. He hated doing it. He didn’t like praying out loud.

Mike was so glad to see me, not because he wanted to meet his sister’s future mother-in-law, but because since I’m a pastor, he knew his dad would ask me to give the blessing over the meal, and he’d be off the hook for once.

Maybe some of you can identify with Mike. Praying out loud in front of other people is just not comfortable for you. In fact, I think that’s why we teach our children table blessings and bedtime prayers they can just memorize. Now I lay me down to sleep…. Lord, bless this food to our use and us to thy service… Continue reading

Martha Was A Methodist – Sermon on Luke 10:38-42

July 21, 2019

Do you ever get so busy you can’t think straight? You get so caught up in putting out fires and dealing with emergencies, there’s just no time left for the really important things like spending time with your family, or taking care of your own needs, or spending quality time with Jesus.

In 1967 (two years before the moon landing we remembered yesterday), Charles Hummel wrote a little pamphlet titled, “Tyranny of the Urgent.” It’s been revised and re-published over and over again, and it’s still available in print – in fact, if you want a copy, I have five of them to give away today. Just ask me after the service. These 32 little pages were foundational in developing the concept of time management. Continue reading