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Category: sermons

11/20/07 11:18 - ID#42212

Sneak Peak!

This is probably what next Sunday's sermon will be, unless I change it between now and then, or your comments add a particular insight.
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11/15/07 05:54 - ID#42149

another sermon:

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09/24/07 08:47 - ID#41283

You're fired. Now get to work

This sermon is from Luke 16. You've really got to read the story before you read the sermon, as it is quite unusual. First the reading, then my sermon below that.

1 Then Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2 So he summoned him and said to him, "What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.' 3 Then the manager said to himself, "What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.' 5 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he asked the first, "How much do you owe my master?' 6 He answered, "A hundred jugs of olive oil.' He said to him, "Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.' 7 Then he asked another, "And how much do you owe?' He replied, "A hundred containers of wheat.' He said to him, "Take your bill and make it eighty.' 8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 10 "Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

"You're fired. Now get to work."

How many of you remember the Apprentice?

One of the big hit television shows recently is "the Apprentice." On this show, Donald Trump, mega-billionaire, has a number of different people working for him, on a trial basis, completing different tasks for him. Those that do a good job stay in contention to become "the apprentice," but after every task, one person is brought into Trump's board room, where he or she hears Trumps catch phrase, "you're fired." After they get fired, they're done, off the show, and gone.

Now imagine something different:

Now, imagine if the show had a little twist. Suppose one of Trump's contestants had completely abused his or her expense account, got fired, and THEN were sent out on one more task.

Things are different when the contestant has one last chance.

There is one more chance to be seen on tv, one more interaction with Trumps customers, and one more chance to make a deal-only now they know that they are not going to win the game. Because they are freed from that pressure, they have the chance to deal in a whole new way. They can take advantage of Trump's resources, and do something with them that they never would have done when they were trying to win the game.

Now Trump, of course, would be an idiot to do this.

Why would anybody put their money in the hands of somebody that has already demonstrated themselves to be incompetent?

Why would anybody give money to a person that hasn't demonstrated any loyalty?

But isn't that what God does?

In this story, WE are that bad manager that gets fired.

We know that God puts his wealth in the hands of managers (us) that have a bad habit of abusing the expense account, squandering the boss's resources on ourselves.

And, like the manager in the story, we know we have heard Trump's trademarked phrase "you're fired."

Think about it . . . We were given the task of managing God's stuff, but we've been terminated from the position.

We're fired, because we know that our jobs as managers of God's stuff will come to an end. We were given the job in Gen 1:26, when God said, "Let us make humankind in our own image, according to our own likeness; and let them have dominion (MANAGEMENT!) over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."

We see that God put us in charge as managers, but the fact that we die (which is revealed in the next chapter of Genesis) tells us that we aren't going to keep our position as middle management. It turns out that the old cliché is true. You can't take it with you.

So where does that leave us?

So we have some resources, and we have some authority, but we know that ultimately, we've been fired, and those resources won't be ours forever. So what do we do?

The manager in Jesus's story doesn't think "I'm fired, I might as well go home." He considers a new job, but he know he isn't fit for it. So then he thinks, "what can I do now?"

And this manager rightly figures, "I've got to make some friends!"

Therefore, the manager uses his bosses wealth on other people, making friends for himself.

And surprisingly, the boss commends such an activity.

Now here's the big question. Why would Jesus tell such a story? Why would Jesus tell us to make friends by means of dishonest wealth?

First, let me tell you what this phrase does NOT mean.

I don't think it means that we should lie, cheat, and steal, so that we might make friends. I don't think that this is to justify the church taking money from Casino operators or drug dealers.

In this story, the dishonest wealth was the bosses' wealth. And who is OUR boss?

The fact is that we have already lied, cheated, and stolen, whenever we have pretended that anything belonged to us. Any wealth that WE possess is dishonest wealth, because we are but managers. Everything belongs to God, not to us!

Jesus is telling us that we've already got the dishonest wealth, and we might as well use it!

What for? God, through this story, recommends that we use it to make friends! Friends with who? People outside the company. You know, other people. Our faith is a blessing to us, but it isn't only to bless us. We are blessed so that we may bless other people!

The true test of us as Christians is how we treat those outside the family-non-Christians.

We are to share the best of what we have-and this includes, but isn't limited to, our possessions, our time, and our ideas, to bless those outside of our family.

And, of course, we've done a bad job of this-and that may be why the Church (big C) struggles so, because even though it is in our own best interest bless those that are different then us, to use God's stuff to make friends, we tend to horde our resources!

But it IS in our best interest to let these things go, because, like the like manager in the story, we need some friends! Don't forget that we are still getting fired-and it is hard to get through this world alone! Thank God that he lets us use his stuff to make friends.

But this isn't good for us alone-it is part of God's fantastic plan to further his kingdom.

Why? Because when we, in our self-interest, use God's resources to make friends. we are doing exactly what God would want us to do!

All along, God wanted to put his resources in the hands of God's people. The biggest mistake we can make is using it on ourselves, or taking it out of circulation!

When we think in human terms, our goal is to maximize efficiency, to collect maximum profit, or to sell more widgets. But God's plan is different. He told Abraham that he was going to bless him, so that through him, all people might be blessed.

Here's what I want you to do today. Consider what dishonest wealth you have. Consider the stuff you have, but also the less tangible gifts that you might have.

I got to think about it ahead of time, so while you are reflecting, I'll share 3 things of mine.

Education. I've spent more time and money on my education than I have on anything else. Now I can squander that, and I can use it to puff myself up, or I can use it to make friends, right?

My house. By far the largest possession that I have ever made. Do I use it for welcome? Am I hospitable? Am I contributing to the neighborhood? Again, I can make my house a trophy and a source of pride, or I can use it to make friends.

My family. I realize that this is not a typical kind of gift, but it is something that I in no means earned, and that isn't mine, that I count as a gift from God. I am who I am because of the people that love me. My choice is whether that love stops with me, or extends through me.

God's plan is to bless all people! And to accomplish that, God has already blessed us, these blessing are not ours to horde, but to disperse it! And for hard-headed people like us, it takes the message of "you're fired" to start doing that!

Here is the good news for us today: We were lousy managers of God's resources, and we've been fired. Now we have been promoted to specialists of distribution. Our budget is unlimited, and our goal is to win friends to ourselves and to God, to be exorbitantly generous with somebody else's assets, which we can find conveniently placed in our own wallets, bank accounts, and homes-ingrained into our very lives. And we better get to work, because this position lasts only a short time, and we have a large territory to cover.
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09/04/07 11:36 - ID#40927

The elevator effect.

Haven't posted a sermon in a while, but I really do write one just about every week. Keep in mind, they come out of my mouth significantly different than what you see here, because there is give and take with the congregation, and I sometimes stray from my notes.

Jeremiah 2:13

13for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.

luke 14:1, 7-8

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. . .

7When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." 12He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Did you ever notice that you can't feel an elevator moving?

Sure, you can feel when it starts up, and when it slows down, but when speed is constant, you don't notice it.

Which is just one way of pointing out that we are all relativists. At least about some things.

It's hard to judge "fast" and "slow" without a point of reference. But we can always tell "faster" and "slower."

Here's a tricky question: How much money does a person have to have to be considered rich?

So much depends on circumstance, on who is around you, or where you have been.

Now some things aren't relative, right? The speed limit is 65, regardless of who you are, what you think, or what you drive.

But even then, other variables come into play. When I drove a Buick LeSabre, I got speeding tickets all of the time. Why? Because I would speed accidentally. Everything was so smooth. Since that car, I've always purchased little cars.

Have you ever gone 65 in a Geo metro? It feels a lot faster than 65 in a Buick! Same speed, different feeling.

This week was move-in week for so many college students. When I was a freshman, moving into a dorm was the greatest thing I could imagine! How many of you would be excited to move into a dorm now?

This goes to show us that we are feeling people. We like to think that we are rational, but we aren't. We always compare. I want my lawn greener, my car newer, my phone smarter, and my computer faster! We don't know what we have until we compare.

That's what's happening in today's Gospel lesson. Jesus saw the pharisees scrambling for the best seats--establishing their hierarchy. If this story took place on the first day of summer camp, the pharisees would be comparing their flashlights. For some reason, every kid, on the first day of camp, wants to have the biggest and best and fanciest flashlight, and they've all got to compare.

Every kid at camp needs a great flashlight, And every church needs a tall tower and an organ with lots of pipes. Or a bigger projection screen, or prettier stained glass. Or a preacher that can really preach, or a really long list of members, but guess what?

Jesus says, in this story, says "don't reach for status." Not in what seat you have, not what stuff you have, and not even in what your church can do.

Take low status.

And in doing so, you will find joy.

Why? It's the elevator effect. We can feel the change of speed, not the speed itself.

And when we start out humble, God who loves us and wants the best for us will bless us. When we choose to lower ourselves, we can feel God lifting us up.

I'm going to ask a silly question today.

How much does God love you?

Can you quantify that?

On a scale of 1-10, does God love you at about 8.5?

This is what Jesus said: "Greater love has no one than this; that he lay down his life for his friends."

In Jesus, we see that God loves you, and me, and us, enough to die for us.

And he always has.

And always will.

The writer of Hebrew says it this way, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

Do you see the problem?

It's the elevator effect.

We are loved eternally, and infinitely. But because we are loved eternally, we can stop noticing how we are loved infinitely.

And when we stop noticing, we don't stop searching for that love. So we try to find meaning in other things. This is what God was talking about inJeremiah when he said "they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water."

We trade the fountain for a cracked cistern. A spring for a tub. We take the ever-flowing loving kindness of God, meaning and purpose and worth, and we put that aside to focus on getting somebody that we don't even like to like us. or we focus on doing well in our career. Or making sure people notice us. Or making sure we feel good.

No matter what we use to make ourselves feel worthwhile, be it sex, drugs, money, power, popularity or comfort, ITS NOT NECESSARY. God has already deemed you worthwhile.

Which frees us to take the "lower seat," which I believe means, "you can put that other thing that you think makes you worthwhile aside."

And in stripping away all the lesser stuff, we discover the greater stuff.

That's why this table is so simple. We've got bread, we've got juice. When we gather around it, our new family is with us, and God is with us.

And we have all need.

Friends, this is, at the same time, a simple meal and a great banquet. We humble ourselves as we approach, because we are not worthy to eat at the King's table, but he is inviting us to a higher place.

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08/21/07 12:51 - ID#40655

Preparation for Sunday.

I'm going to try something new: This is the beginning of a sermon for NEXT Sunday. It's not done yet. I want to see what you all think of the text and my reflections on it, and encourage you all to add comments/feedback.

Here's the text: Luke 13:10-17

It seems as if this, coming after a series of teachings for the disciples, is Jesus showing how he lives out these teachings. I'm thinking this is going to be a Christian Ethics lesson.

The occasion is Jesus teaching in the Synagogue, but none of the teaching is recorded, instead, Jesus uses healing to teach. This brings us to value number #1:

We value actions over words.

We also see that this is a power struggle between the synagogue leader and Jesus. My guess is that the leader felt threatened--a healer like Jesus could steal his power, so he jumps on Jesus (and the healed woman!) in an attempt to maintain his own power.

This points out value #2:

We value service over power.

Jesus, in healing this woman, shows mercy and disregards the law.

  1. 3: We value mercy over law.

Of course, this woman waited 18 years. She could have waited one more, right? But Jesus took action when he saw her, even though he was teaching at the moment.

Value #4: We value moving in the moment over waiting.

I'll find a nice way to wrap it up, and that's my sermon! But I want to hear how you all would preach this text, and see what you think of my way.

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07/17/07 04:33 - ID#40147

Another sermon: My addiction

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 27He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" 37He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Hi. My name is Drew, and I am addicted to being right.

I discovered that I was addicted to being right when I realized that I would always try for the last word in any discussion. This would lead to fights over the smallest things. But I am not only addicted to being right in the small things. I want to be right when it comes to politics and religion. My addiction to being right has cost me friendships, and it has also hurt my relationship with God.

I never thought that it would hurt my relationship with God, because it always seemed like the people that talked the most about God WERE always right. People that talk about God talk about God with conviction, and they live their lives with conviction. They say things like, "if God is for us, who can be against us?"

Which means that church enabled my addiction to being right all the time, at least for a while. It was a place where I met other addicts, and it was a place where we got our fix of being right, every time we compared ourselves to the wrong people that didn't go to church, or went to the wrong church.

Come to think of it, while some Christians re- enforced my beliefs, others indulged my addiction by believing different things. Church life gave me a whole new list of things to argue about. I could argue theology, soteriology, eschatology, worship style, stewardship, hymn selection, the color scheme of the sanctuary, clothing choices, what kind of car a person ought to drive, what kind of food that we serve--anything at all, it seemed, could be turned into a "spiritual issuse," with a "right" and a "wrong," and I would always be on the right side.

My faith turned into an exercise in making sure that I was right. I wasn't alone. So many Christians in this country spend so much time focusing on being right that they never get around to doing right.

We'd rather argue than work.

We'd rather try to change another persons mind than change our own heart.

I'm addicted to being right. Fortunately, I know that I have this addiction, and I am working on it, so I guess I am a recovering addict, but I know that I will always be addicted.

Would you please stand up if you would like to admit being addicted to being right.

Here's the good news for those of us who are standing. While churches sometimes feed this addiction, especially when they aren't healthy, the church also breaks us of this addiction.

Confessing our sins is one of the practices that we do to fight this addiction. Every week, together (and hopefully every day, on our own), we look at ourselves and ask: "How have I been wrong? How I have I fallen short?" We admit, again and again, that we cannot be good enough without the grace of God.

And the stories like the ones we hear today are great for breaking our addiction.

Lets look at our Gospel lesson for today.

The lawyer in this story had an encounter Jesus, God in flesh. During that encounter, Jesus gave him a mission--it wasn't new, it was something that had been part of the Jewish tradition for ages, but it was a clear and concise. Jesus said, "if you love God, and love your neighbor, you will have life."

What more could he want? He found the meaning of life. Jesus gave him purpose. Jesus gave him a job.

but then there's that one phrase that is a hinge that turns the whole story. "But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus . . ."

The lawyer shared our addiction.

Following God's mission wasn't enough. He wanted to be right. He wanted the last word.

Can I give a piece of advice? Don't try to have the last word with God.

That's what King Jeraboam wanted to do in our first reading.

The King of Israel thought he deserved the last word with Amos. After all, he was the King, ruling in God's place. And Amos came and told him he was wrong.

This is when Israel and Judah were separate nations. The King was King over Israel, and Amos was from Judah.

Worse than that, Amos was not a professional prophet. He was a shepherd from another nation that came and told the King that he wasn't doing the right thing.

This King, by the way, was good for the religious community at the time. Everybody made their sacrifices. Everybody went to church.

They made a big show of how much they loved God, but they ripped off their neighbors. They didn't care about justice.

And Amos told the King that they were not being faithful.

And the King didn't want to hear it.

The King didn't want to hear it from anybody, but why especially should he listen to a foreigner, an uneducated shepherd, a nobody with no credentials?

When we don't like to admit that we are wrong, we especially don't like to admit that an outsider is right.

But God likes to use outsiders.

The king was wrong. Amos was right.

And it gets even worse when Jesus tells his story.

Jesus flipped the script in his story.

I could imagine the story being told. The stage is set with the man getting attacked by robbers.

But! says Jesus, "along came a Priest,"

and the crowd cheers,

"but the Priest walked past"

but soon a Levite, another church leader came by

and the crowd cheers again

The priest was limited by his rules and duties, but Levite was a good guy that was bound by less rules. He could have done something. The crowd knows that he can be the hero.

but the levite walked past.

And then the Samaritan comes around the corner

The hated minority comes around the corner

The religious heretic comes around the corner

The illegal alien comes around the corner

The enemy comes around the corner

The outsider comes around the corner (PAUSE!!!)

That's what people heard when Jesus said, "Samaritan."

and that man becomes the hero of the story.

The supposed good guys were actually the bad guys. The bad guy ended up being the good guy.

This story is still relevant today.

People see us church folk just as this story shows the Priests and the Levites to be.

We worry about appearances, and we ignore those that suffer.

We say that we're the good guys, but we act like the bad guys.

And who shows mercy?

People come to church and they feel judged. They are more likely to find mercy at the bar. Or the gay pride festival. Do you know why the Unitarian church is full? It's not because of their theology--it's because they show mercy.

The people that are supposed to be our enemies are, in reality, our examples.

The supposed enemies of our faith practice it better than we do.

The story of the Good Samaritan is hard therapy for people that are addicted to being right.

But our addiction will kill us.

And in loving God and loving our neighbor, in showing mercy, in breaking our prejudice against Samaritins, we find life.

Dueteronomy 31 says it. It was our call to worship:

God has placed in front of us Life and Good, Death and Evil.

We can imitate the Samartains and live, or blame them and die.

When I was being controlled by addiction, I thought that I could only find life in being right.

But real life came when I let God be right.

Are you trying to justify yourself? I'm inviting you to quit. Cold Turkey. Let it go. How will you do that?

Find your Samaritan--an outsider that shows mercy--and imitate him or her.

Life is available to you in these four words:

"Go and do likewise."

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07/02/07 04:30 - ID#39888

By Popular demand!

I haven't posted sermons in a while, but Mr. Deadlier asked, so here it is.

PS. I got away from my notes, so this is just an approximation of what I wanted to say. You gotta show up for the real deal!

Ooh, that reminds me: Two people visited us last Sunday. (Maybe a gay couple, but I'll feel bad if I assumed that and was wrong). Estrippers, by chance? If so, speak up, so I can justify posting from the office!

Luke 9:51-62

51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.

57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." 58And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." 59To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." 60But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." 61Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 62Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

Can you imagine a business person with a great idea, that they are sure will make money, who has no collateral except for her house? Every business venture has risk, and she knows she could lose her house. But she believes in her idea, so she quits her current job and mortgages her house, putting all she has into her new product. If she succeeds, she will be wealthy. If she fails, she will not only be broke, she may have no place to live.

Can you imagine somebody loving an idea enough to risk their house?

How about this. A fire fighter gets a call to burning building. It's bad, which means two things.

1. Time is of the essence--every second he delays, the more likely it is that people will die.

2. There is a very good chance that he could lose his life in this fire.

He knows that he might die, but because time means everything in this moment, he cannot pause--he rushes out to fight the fire, not even taking time to say good-bye to his family.

Can you imagine somebody acting with such urgency that he cannot stop for his family?

What about Martin Luther King, Jr. Here's a Christian man, that knew that he was putting his own life at risk. But did you know that his house, where his wife and daughters were, had been bombed? His activities led to THEIR lives being threatened.

Martin Luther King had to not only consider risking his own life for his mission, but he also had to be honest about the possibility of losing his family.

Can you imagine somebody doing something so important that it risks the lives of the people they love the most?

So maybe we do understand this shocking gospel reading a little bit more.

In this reading, Jesus tells us that following him might lead to homelessness. Following Jesus might lead to cut ties with your family. Following Jesus might even mean no chance to say goodbye.

This is a high price.

However, as we've discovered, somethings are worth a high price.

Friends, the call to follow Christ is not any less than the call to invest in a great idea. Nor is it any less that the call to save lives, or to fight for justice.

In fact, the call to follow Christ IS a great idea. It saves lives, and it brings justice.

And so it requires radical commitment.

This is different than the standard message that churches usually give. What we usually here is something like this.

God wants you in church on Sunday morning for an hour, maybe two. And then he would like it if you did one more thing with the church, during the week. If you don't lie, cheat or steal and you give us four hours, and ten percent of your income, then you are a good person.

There's a value to that message. If each of us gave 10%, and spent four hours here, we would get a lot more done, and have plenty of money for God's mission. We would be an amazing church, at least by most standards.

But does Jesus say "Give me four hours and 10%?"


He asks for you lives. 24/7. 100%.

Which means that we don't give ourselves to our homes. Or our families. Every ounce of our energy is lived toward God. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. 100% of our income. 100% of our time. 100% of our energy. 100% of our thoughts.

I've spend a lot of time in youth ministry. Talk to youth ministers and do you know what they will tell you is the number one enemy of the church in the USA?

Soccer practice. Soccer practice, and band practice, and homework, and all of those other things that kids say when you ask them if they can go to church.

Can you imagine the soccer practice kid in this story of Jesus. Jesus says, "Come follow me." And the kid says, "I'll be right there, after soccer practice."

"Ok--I'll hold the reconciliation of humankind with the divine until after you are done with your practice."

Doesn't sound very likely, does it.

But soccer is good, right? School is good, right? family is good, right?

yes. at least most of the time. and being in church is good almost all of the time (although there's more to following God than showing up here, this is a good place to start!)

But none of those things are the best thing.

Following Jesus is the best thing.

And how do we follow Jesus?

We trust his Spirit, which is in us and among us.

So we can be loyal to Jesus over soccer, but guess what, Jesus might lead us to soccer, because soccer players need Jesus. Jesus most likely will lead us to care for our families, and to care for our homes. But Jesus comes first.

Which sounds harsh, putting Jesus absolutely first, but it really is freeing, because when we follow Jesus, the Spirit guides us.

And the Spirit guides us through the hard questions that we face.

Our radical loyalty to Christ is incredibly freeing, because it becomes a guide for all that we do. When we exercise, sleep, or eat, that is part of our mission, building up our bodies to follow Christ.

When we read, listen to music, or take in the sights and smells of the natural world, we are refreshing our spirits, so that we may follow Christ in this world.

When we make beautiful music, or paint paintings, or write stories, we are illustrating the way the world is, and how God is working in it, and thus following Christ in bringing others into God's mission in this world.

When you are guided by the spirit, School becomes the place where you live your mission. So does soccer practice, so does work. so does home, even vacation is your chance to become refreshed for God's mission!

We don't follow Jesus with the time we have left over. We follow Jesus all the time: to soccer practice, to work, to school, to our families.

And we do this because of the wonderful gift of Holy Spirit takes us there.

It's all consuming. Listen to these last words from Paul, using Eugene Peterson's translation:

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.

Which is why we are going to practice the spiritual discipline of eating today. Eating isn't just something we do. It defines who we are. If I eat nothing but donuts, I will look one way, if I eat fruit and vegetables, I will look another way.

When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we welcome Jesus to be a part of us. All of us. Just as this bread and juice travels into every last cell of our body, so do we, invite Christ to permeate our entire being. You know what we'd look like if we ate donuts. you know what we'd look like if we ate vegetables. Today, I invite you to imagine what we look like when we are nourished by Jesus Christ himself.
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Category: sermons

06/19/07 04:46 - ID#39734

Last week's sermon

Some people liked the sermon from the week before. Here's last Sundays. In the future, I may try to post ahead of time, so that it can be a collaborative effort. We'll see.

Oh shoot. I just remembered I promised pics of the falls. That will come later when I have my phone set up. I promise. Really.

The sermon comes from these texts:

1 Kings 21

and Luke 7:36-8:3

"The Gospel According to Spiderman."

Sometimes, a question is more than a question.

For example:

"Don't you think you've had enough potato chips?"

"How fast are you going?"

"What's THAT going to cost?"

"Are you going to leave the house wearing that?"

Here's a question that we guys are especially sensitive to comes from people that are selling something:

"Why would you have to check with your wife?"

Now, what the salesman is really saying is, "you need to make this decision before your wife helps you realize how stupid it is and ruins my commission."

But what we hear is,"Aren't you a man? I thought you were a man! I guess I was wrong. I guess somebody else is the decision maker in your house, and you are a helpless little kid who has to ask for his allowance from Mommy."

We don't like hearing that. So we normally buy the item in question.

In todays texts, we hear to similar questions.

The first one is to a king, and the question is from the King's wife. She asks:

"Aren't you the king of Israel?"

She knew he was the king, of course. She wanted to get him to act the way she thought a king should. She thought he owned the whole country.

However, the king of Israel was called to maintain justice on behalf of God himself. His job was to uphold God's law, and he KNEW that the land in Israel was to stay forever in the families to whom God had given it. That was the law of Israel.

(This by the way, sounds harsh, but what it did was make sure that everyone always had access to a way to make money. The Old Testament can be harsh in some ways, but it is really socially progressive in others!)

Anyway, the King was thwarted in his attempt to buy the land, and became frustrated. His wife, however, appealed to his power, and to his pride.

Aren't you the King of Israel?

Aren't you the man of the house?

Don't you deserve to get what you want?

You deserve a raise

You deserve a vacation

you deserve better car

You deserve a break today

Doesn't your dog deserve Alpo?

Maybe I don't deserve a break today! Maybe my Dog doesn't deserve Alpo! Maybe I've been taking a break all day, and my dog made a mess on the rug!

But we don't like to think that way. We always believe a person when they tell us we deserve something.

And all of the sudden, Ahab, the king, because he had power, thought he deserved land.

Aren't you the King? Jezebel asked Ahab.

"Yes I am," Ahab should have said, "and so my job is to protect Naboth's land. I can't believe I even tried to buy it."

This story teaches us the principle that Spiderman lives by, "With great _______(power), comes great __________(responsibility)"

And it also comes with temptation. Ahab didn't handle that temptation responsibly, and it was his downfall.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus faced the same kind of dilemma, and the same kind of question. The Pharisee asked, "Aren't you a prophet?" --Aren't you supposed to have a special kind of connection with God? Shouldn't you KNOW what kind of woman this is TOUCHING YOUR FEET?"

"If you ARE a prophet, than you will use that power you have to get rid of this bad person in your midst.

Wow. talk about a temptation. Wouldn't it be good to get a KNOWN sinner, not just out of a neighborhood, but out of this man's home? Think about the good that it would do for everybody.

Most of us know better than to be tempted by bad things. We get tempted by things that seem good.

One temptation that we all face is the temptation to place the blame on somebody. Republicans blame democrats, democrats blame republicans, fundamentalists blame liberals, liberals blame fundamentalists, white people blame black people, black people blame white people. Younger people blame older people, older people blame younger people.

Pharisees blame sinners.

Sinners seem like as good as any group to blame, right?

But this quote from the Bible just sticks in the back of my head.

"Jesus didn't come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it"

So Jesus chose NOT to blame this woman.

He had the power.

He had the temptation.

But his job was NOT to condemn, but to save.

So Jesus exercised his power in line with his responsibility. The temptation was to humiliate. The responsibility was to celebrate.

That's what he did. He celebrated the good gift that this woman gave. This woman practiced the most basic and most important of all spirituals disciplines: She practiced hospitality. welcome.

The Pharisee, on the other hand, had forgotten welcome because he was focused on who's in and who's out.

Does that ever happen in churches? (PAUSE)

Holiness is important. But its not more important than welcome. And its never gained by humiliation. We find holiness through forgiveness.

Do we have the big point of the story? Good. Let's make it real. We've got three things at work in these stories, and we can break them down according to the Gospel of Spiderman.

Power Responsibility

What goes in the middle? Temptation!

So here's our task. What's our power? What's our temptation? What's our responsibility?

We're going to start by reviewing the Biblical stories, and then we'll sit where it hits our own story.

With Christ, in this last story. Power came from holiness. The temptation was to humiliate. The responsibility was to celebrate.

What about the King?

Power: office Temptation: wealth Responsibility: Justice

(I wrote all of this stuff on a whiteboard, by the way, and solicited answers from the congregation. So it came out a little bit different, but these are my notes)

How about that woman? Power: jar. Emotions. Passion. Faith.
Temptation: Greed. Sinful living. Passion for self.
Responsibility: Worship. Humility. Self Giving.

Ok, now what about our church?

power.temptation.responsibility =

money. greed. generosity.
self-preservation, selflessness.
location. destination. depot.
people. country club. welcome wagon.
loaves and fishes. charity. change.

There's on last thing I want to do with this chart. Let's lose this word. Because we don't really like responsibility. I mean responsibility to me sounds like changing sheets and cleaning the bathroom and picking up dog poop. I think we DO like all of these things (the things in the responsibility column). These are things that shape us. So responsibility works for the Spiderman quote, but lets make these things our identity. When we live in Christ, we practice these ways, and they become who we are.

Friends, that's our good news for today. God has given us the power in Jesus Christ to be free from THIS (temptation) and BECOME this (identity).

ps. IF you like this stuff, please consider linking to (my previous post) Right now we are WAY low in Google's index.
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Category: sermons

06/13/07 04:27 - ID#39644

What does Hopeless look like?

So I don't feel like writing new thoughts down today because I've been working all day. Instead, I'll share the sermon I wrote last week.

It comes from

1 Kings 17:8-24
Galatians 1:11-24
and Luke 7:11-17

I don't feel like copying those texts in, or making links, but the sermon really does make more sense if you read them first. So, if you put the texts in Google, then you will find links to the text. Forgive my lazyness.

Here it is:

What does hopeless look like?

What does hopeless look like?

Hopeless looks like a widow, saying, "I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." (from the Kings story)

Hopeless looks like a preacher so sure of himself that he goes as far as to kill anyone who disagrees with him. (Paul, the author of Galatians)

Hopeless looks like a widow's only son, being carried out of the city, dead. (Luke story)

Hopeless looks like an abused kid, who never learns how to love.

Hopeless looks like a mental hospital closed, with all its patients left on their own.

Hopeless looks like a chronic illness, and a lifetime of being cared for.

Hopeless looks like Christians shouting at the people they are supposed to love.

Hopeless looks like a world where over half of the people live on less than $2 a day.

Hopeless looks like an entire generation of Africans lost to AIDS.

Hopeless looks like environmental devastation, spiraling out of control.

Hopeless looks like war.

What does hopeless look like to you?

Write it down. Just for yourself. Name it.

Where have people given up?

Do you see hopelessness on a global scale? Where?

What about in our city?

What about in your family?

What about you?

Is there an addiction that you cannot break?

A fear you cannot defeat?

A sadness that will not pass?

Don't you wish there was a formula to make it all better?

Wouldn't it be nice if there were three simple steps?

We know that often our efforts aren't enough.

But even when we have given up hope, God is not done.

God changes murderous people.

God changes selfish people.

God feeds widows and prophets both.

God heals sick people.

God comforts lonely people.

God raises dead people.

God is redeeming the whole world.

And God sends healed people back into the world.

So that no widow goes hungry.

So that God might be revealed.

Even among those for whom we had given up hope.

Especially among those for whom we had given up hope.

And then people see how good God is.

And someday,

there will be no more wars

or poverty

or illness

or hunger.

Someday, there won't even be any more death.

The whole world will be made right.

and we won't even know what hopeless means,

because our being will be taken up in the love of God.

Until then, we pray, and wait, and work, and hope--even in the situations where there seems to be no hope.

Then we prayed for those situations.

Not my normal style--I normally joke more and have more interaction, but it seemed to come out ok, doing something a bit more meditative.

I'll get back to writing more normal posts later.
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