A Cross-shaped Life: a sermon on Matthew 16:21-28

Sometimes when I’m leading a new Bible study I’ll start with some variation on a game I like to call “Shakespeare or Scripture?” Let’s play a little bit of it now.

shakespeare-bible

You can find an on-line quiz with these examples and more at Oxford Dictionaries

  • “Tell truth, and shame the devil” – King Henry IV
  • “Every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge” – Jeremiah 31:30
  • “Condemn the fault, and not the actor of it?” – Measure for Measure
  • “Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.” – Proverbs 23:2
  • “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die” – Isaiah 22:13

Continue reading

The God Box – a sermon on Matthew 17:1-9 for Transfiguration Sunday

Exodus 24:12-18
Matthew 17:1-9Alexandr_Ivanov_015

“It is good…” Peter says when he sees the face of Jesus change before his very eyes. It shone like the sun; his clothes began to dazzle, bright white. People appear out of thin air and start talking to Jesus, and Peter says, “It is good.” I’m not so sure I would have gone to “good” first, personally. I think I would have jumped straight to the fear the disciples moved to when the voice of God spoke on the mountaintop, but Peter knew it was good. Continue reading

The Next Level – A sermon on Micah 6:1-8 and Matthew 5:1-12

refugee.jpg

Matthew 5:1-12
Micah 6:1-8
If you, like me, have some friends who are not church-goers and who lovingly push back on your spiritual lives and beliefs, or if, also like me, you sometimes ask yourself questions about your own faith and devotion, “Why do we read this old book today? How could it ever be relevant?” I hope today’s readings help answer those questions. A call to do justice, the counter-cultural declaration that God is with the poor in spirit, the one who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, these are the words that the church and the faithful have been given by God to speak into a nation where the president signed an executive order that “suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.” (from the New York Times, “Judge Blocks Trump Order on Refugees Amid Chaos and Outcry Worldwide,” By MICHAEL D. SHEAR, NICHOLAS KULISH and ALAN FEUER, JAN. 28, 2017) Continue reading

Discipleship Foolishness – A sermon on Matthew 4:12-23 and 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

I carry in one of my wallets a little 3×5 index card that has been folded in half and tucked away in every wallet I’ve had for almost 30 years. The crease is getting weak and the edges are tattered, so I don’t open it up too often anymore. But I know it’s there and many of the words written on it are seared in my memory. It’s a list I made in the 8th grade, a list of things to do before I die, a bucket list, written before the term bucket list existed.

It’s a strange mix of things I could actually accomplish by my own hard work, determination, and planning (achieve a certain score on the SAT, perform in the All-State32420341796_3c89318127 Orchestra, visit Africa, be a missionary) and things that are completely out of my control or are impossible to achieve (give birth to twins – out of my control; own a chimpanzee – impossible). One of the items has been staring at me this weekend from the list’s spot among a ridiculous collection of frequent flier membership cards. I know right where it appears on the card, “March for something important in Washington, DC.” Continue reading

Training the Saints, a sermon on Luke 6:17-30

Luke 6:17-30

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/crhbt-644b9a

Download this sermon audio (right click and save)

All fall I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of a new television series on Netflix called The Crown.  It’s a historical drama depicting the rise and reign of Queen Elizabeth II and it was finally released this Friday. Please don’t ask me how many episodes I’ve crown0007watched already; it’s an embarrassing number.

That said, there was a touching scene toward the end of the first episode that I’d like to
share.  Princess Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, is becoming more and more aware of his own mortality even as he is kept in the dark about the deterioration of his health. Consciously or not he understands that he needs to begin to prepare his daughter for the role she will one day play as sovereign.  One day during their Christmas holiday he invites her into his office to talk to her about his daily routine.  Pointing a stack of papers in the royal in box he explains, “Everything they want me to know, they stick on top. Everything they’d rather I didn’t know… they tuck away at the bottom. Which is why… the first thing I do when no one is looking, is this,” as he flips the stack upside down and lets it slam down on the desk.  A very practical moment of education for the future queen, I’m sure. Continue reading

The Faith in Fear – a sermon on Mark 16:1-8 for Easter

Mark 16:1-8

The way a story ends can make or break the impression we carry of it.  Think of some of the all-time great TV shows and how they ended.  Do you have any favorites?

M. A. S. H.? Cheers?3634467193_81e130807b

I very clearly remember the end of Family Ties as a good ending to one of my generation’s favorite childhood TV shows.

One of the things we tend to like about a good series finale is when it leaves us feeling like there aren’t too many loose ends.  There can be some wondering about what comes next, but all in all we like to know that even if our favorite characters don’t come out alright in the end, their lives and the story had a purpose.

Continue reading