Tag Archives: confession

Faith Works: Pray for One Another – Sermon on James 5:13-20

September 26, 2021
Video

We’ve made it to the final chapter of James, and the final message in this series called Faith Works. James has urged us to avoid showing favoritism to the rich, he’s admonished us to be slow to speak, but quick to listen, and he’s given us further instruction on taming our tongues. Last week, James compared heavenly wisdom to earthly wisdom, encouraging us to lean into wisdom that comes from God. We can recognize that kind of wisdom as “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruit, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3:17), and the result of cultivating this kind of wisdom is “a harvest of righteousness.” (3:18)

When James compares heavenly wisdom to earthly wisdom, something else becomes clear, and it’s the underlying lesson James has been trying to teach us throughout this letter: wisdom from God focuses our attention on the needs of others, while earthly wisdom focuses our attention on ourselves. This whole letter is about how to behave toward one another, so our lives will reflect faith at work in us. Because when we work our faith, we develop a faith that really works. One place we can really see our faith growing is in the practice of prayer. You might think James is going to focus on how prayer connects us to God, but James knows the way prayer really helps our faith grow is in our prayers for each other.

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Hope for the Hypocrite – Sermon on Luke 11:37-52

March 17, 2019 Lent 3C

In today’s passage we come to a crisis moment on our road to resurrection. We’ve been endeavoring on this journey through Lent to surrender ourselves in order to “listen to him.” This made sense on the Mount of Transfiguration, when the Father told us to listen to Jesus as his glory was revealed. It made sense when Jesus challenged us to ask, seek, and knock for the “how much more” good gifts of the Holy Spirit.

But if we are honest, we will confess that it is painful to listen to the Jesus we find in these verses we are about to read. And when we are even more honest, we will confess that confrontations with Jesus are always catalysts for significant growth. Continue reading

Whoever You Are: First and Last – sermon on Mark 10:17-31

October 10, 2021
Video

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 on earth 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 writes a newspaper column called “The Everyday Cheapskate,” and she has a saying I really like. I think many of us could put it on our bathroom mirrors to read as we brush our teeth every morning: Continue reading

Hoarding God

We used a prayer of confession yesterday in worship that comes straight out of The Covenant Hymnal. I should probably mention that we do not, as a rule, include a prayer of confession in the order of worship. Confession might be part of the monthly Communion liturgy, or a regular feature of Lent, but it isn’t a weekly element of worship in our church. Sometimes I wish we did, but we don’t.

We added it this week, because the preaching text was Isaiah 6:1-8, in which the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God in his temple, and Isaiah’s reaction to this experience is to cry out, “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips…” A seraph touches Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal from the altar, and the passage concludes with God asking “Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answers, “Here am I! Send me!” Pastor Ryan wanted to draw a parallel between our order of worship and Isaiah’s worship vision, which moves from praise/adoration to confession, then forgiveness, and finally commissioning. It was good worship, and many people commented on how well it flowed, how meaningful it was to them, and how all the elements worked together.

But there was one line in that prayer, #909 in the hymnal, that stuck with me through both services, and I’m still grappling with it as I prepare an early Thanksgiving feast for my son (who will not be with us on Thursday, when we travel to his grandmother’s house).

Consider this:

“O Lord, we have conserved the bounty of your love as though it could be exhausted, and we have wasted the bounty of your universe as though its resources were imperishable.”

We have conserved the bounty of your love as though it could be exhausted. Conserved, saved, put away in a dark cupboard like jam and jelly … hoarded. And I realized, to my dismay, that this was true. I have been trying to hoard God.

Just like those folks wandering in the desert who thought they’d better collect a little extra manna “just in case, you know, we run out or something,” I try to save a little extra experience of God’s love for some time when I don’t feel so loved. And just like those folks wandering in the desert, I find that whatever I thought I was saving cannot be held in reserve. God isn’t something you save for a rainy day. God is here and now.

When the Apostle Paul was feeling sorry for himself, God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  There is no need to hoard that grace. It is sufficient.

How do you hoard God? What will it take to let go, and depend on that all-sufficient grace he so willingly offers?