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 →
We like to remember that the word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news.’ But the sad truth is that hearing good news doesn’t always mean receiving the gospel. Hearing is not necessarily accepting. Seeing doesn’t always mean believing.
Our scripture passage for this third Sunday after Epiphany comes from the gospel of Luke. The evangelist places the story immediately after Christ’s baptism and temptation in the desert, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus has already been teaching and performing miracles in other towns nearby, and his reputation has returned to his hometown of Nazareth.
This was one of those “hometown kid makes good” stories. You know the kind. Continue reading →
The story of Blind Bartimaeus acts as a bookend in Mark’s gospel. It closes out a long section that began back in chapter eight, when Jesus healed another blind man – only that time, Jesus had to spit twice before the man could see. This whole section has come to its climax here in chapter ten, where we’ve been walking with Jesus this month. The itinerary Jesus and his disciples have been following, as they travel from Galilee to Jerusalem, has been pretty … eventful. Continue reading →
Have you ever held a garage sale? Somewhere in the process of getting all the items ready for the sale, did you ask yourself “How did I accumulate so much stuff?”
Our culture encourages consumerism – advertisers play on our emotions to convince us we really need something that, to be honest, we probably don’t need at all. Mary Hunt, who writes a newspaper column called “The Everyday Cheapskate,” has a saying that many of us could put on our bathroom mirrors to read as we brush our teeth every morning: Continue reading →
Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to make a decision, and you just couldn’t decide? You’d looked at all the options, and there didn’t seem to be one right answer, one perfect solution. So you asked for some help. You talked to someone you trusted to get their opinion. And after they listened to all those options, they just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Do whatever you think is best. You’ll just have to make a judgment call.”
We see it all the time in sports. The referee makes a call on a play that isn’t really clear from the sidelines, so they review it. And as the commentators in the booth discuss the slow motion video of the play from all possible angles, they can’t decide which way it should go, either. But the game has to go on. Everyone depends on the ref’s best judgment to make the final call.
We make judgments all the time. We make choices based on the best information we can gather. Sometimes those choices are good ones, and sometimes we make poor choices, Either way, every choice we make is a judgment call.
The New Testament is mostly letters – letters from Paul to various churches, letters from Peter, and from James, Jude, and John. It’s mostly letters, but not entirely letters. There’s the Revelation of John at the end of the New Testament, and the four gospels at the beginning. And sandwiched in between the gospels and the letters there’s a book called The Acts of the Apostles, or simply, “Acts.” Some Bible scholars like to call it “Second Luke” because it continues the story of Luke’s gospel beyond the resurrection of Jesus. So it’s appropriate that the assigned readings for the season of Eastertide include passages from Acts, or “Second Luke.” Because, as we learned last week, the story isn’t over when Jesus rises from death to life. It’s just beginning. Continue reading →
You can find the script for this message here. This account of the Samaritan woman at the well was first preached in 2014, a few months after I began an appointment as First UMC’s pastor. Three years later, this text fit quite well in the Unbinding Your Heart sermon series. So here is the updated version.
Sometimes, a first-person story gets to the heart of the matter more effectively than a description of events. Sometimes, talking about the Word doesn’t mean as much as simply speaking the Word from inside the story. So on this fourth Sunday of Lent in 2017 (third Sunday of Lent in Year A, if you follow the lectionary cycle), I put on a scarf and told the story of the Woman at the Well from her perspective. Here’s the video.
As you meet Christ at your own personal well, may you recognize what the people from Sychar recognized: Jesus is the Savior of the world. That means he is the Savior of you. Believe this Good News!