March 3, 2019
This message is based on an outline provided by J.D. Walt for the Listen to Him Lenten study series.
A lot has happened since we left Jesus preaching on a level place last week. He has traveled all over Galilee, healing, casting out demons, preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God – and it seems that everywhere he goes, the Pharisees are on his trail. They question him and challenge him. They invite him to dinner, and then criticize him to the other guests. Those Pharisees…
By the time we get from chapter six – where we left off last week – to today’s reading in chapter 9, Jesus has even raised a young girl from the dead. He has fed 5000 people and calmed a storm in the middle of the lake. He has sent out his apostles on their first mission trip, and explained that whoever wants to follow Jesus must deny themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow him. Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for his sake will save it.
And then he tells them something really amazing. Jesus says, “there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God.” (9:27) He isn’t predicting that some of the disciples will live until the second coming. He’s telling them about an event that is just around the corner. Continue reading
February 24, 2019
We are back with Jesus on the level place, right where we left off last week. He started out by describing the blessings we experience when our hearts are tuned to God and our attention is focused on God’s kingdom. But they didn’t sound like blessings to those people who gathered around Jesus to hear him teach.
It sounded like Jesus was getting it backward – you’re blessed when you’re poor or hungry and you’re doomed if you are rich or well fed. You’re blessed when you sorrow, and you’re doomed when you laugh. It just doesn’t make sense!
But that’s because we hear these blessings and woes through a worldly filter. If we listen carefully, we can hear a different message. It isn’t about food or money or social approval at all. It’s about what we give our attention to, what we place at the center of our lives. Continue reading
February 17, 2019
Today’s gospel reading reminds me of the phrase “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I have often heard this phrase applied to good preaching, and the words we are about to hear from Jesus certainly qualify. But I was surprised to learn that this phrase was first used to describe not preaching, but newspapers.
In the early 1900’s, Chicago humorist Finley Peter Dunne wrote, “The newspaper does everything for us. It runs the police force and the banks, commands the militia, controls the legislature, baptizes the young, marries the foolish, comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable, buries the dead, and roasts them afterward.”
Mr. Dunne was lampooning the power of the news media to shape events by the way those events get reported. Even in the early twentieth century, someone who worked for a newspaper could make fun of the way newspapers influenced the news.
After all, newspapers are supposed to keep opinions about how things should be on the editorial page, and report objective facts in the rest of the paper. Newspapers are supposed to just bring you the news.
And that is what Jesus was doing as the people gathered around to listen to him teach. He presented the objective facts about the Kingdom of God. But those facts, like a good newspaper, can have the affect of comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable. Continue reading
February 10, 2019
Let’s review what’s happened in Luke’s gospel so far. Luke spent the first chapter introducing us to John the Baptist’s parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah. We met Mary and Joseph, and heard Mary and Zechariah sing praises to God for what God was about to do.
Luke 2 is all about the birth of Jesus, his presentation in the temple – where Anna and Simeon recognize him as Messiah – and what little we know about Jesus’ childhood. There’s that story of Jesus hanging out with the scribes and teachers while his parents head home to Nazareth, but that’s about all we know from Luke about the boy Jesus.
Then chapter three brings us back to John the Baptist, but now he and Jesus are grown men. John baptizes Jesus and moves into the background. He knows that it’s time for him to become less so Jesus can become more.
Chapter 4 has taken us into the wilderness of temptation, and back home to Nazareth to hear Jesus preach his first sermon in the synagogue there. It starts out well, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, but it ends up with the people of Nazareth trying to throw Jesus off a cliff. Jesus passes through their midst and gets away. He knows this isn’t the hill he’s supposed to die on. He still has work to do. Continue reading
February 3 2019
Last week, we heard Jesus begin his first sermon back in his hometown church of Nazareth. Local boy makes good, right? Everyone came to the synagogue that day, to see what this kid who’d grown up in their midst might have to say.
When they give him the scroll of Isaiah the prophet, he reads a few verses that most people would have associated with the year of Jubilee – the year of the Lord’ s favor. Captives will be released, the poor will get some good news for a change, the blind are going to see, and the oppressed will go free. This all sounds great – unless you’re the oppressor, the rich, or the captor, that is.
But Jesus hasn’t actually started preaching yet. He’s only read them the scripture passage he will use as his text. Today, we get to hear the actual sermon. Get ready. Jesus is about to flip the town of Nazareth on its ear. Continue reading
January 27, 2019
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
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