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Showing posts from September, 2011

Sermon on Matthew 21:23-27, for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, "A Question of Authority"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. In today’s Gospel in Matthew 21, the chief priests and elders raise the question of authority. They asked Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” They were in a time and culture where authority commanded great power and respect, and the idea of “unauthorized activity” was a major source of contention. Questioning His authority, they wanted to silence Him unless He could justify His authority. Jesus’ teaching and other activities seemed to them to be “unauthorized”—without the proper authority.

Our present culture comes from a quite opposite position as them, and we’re more inclined to be suspicious or distrusting of authority. We’re surrounded by messages and attitudes like “Question authority” or even “Question Everything.” Bumper stickers proudly declare “I do what I like”—implying “don’t expect any consideration from me.” Or T-shirts that read: “Get your laws of…

Sermon on Matthew 20:1-16, for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, "The Compassionate Employer"

Sermon Outline

1. The irregular behavior of the master of the house: a) went himself to the marketplace 5 times in one day to hire workers, though he had an employee, b) pays the wages in reverse, creating a stir among the workers, c) pays an equal wage to all.

2. Reasons? a) not because he underestimated his needed workforce, but out of his compassion to hire all the workers and give them the dignity of a living wage. Day-laborers were like the unemployment line. Personal visit to the unemployment lines 5 times. Even at the last hour of the day some were still waiting for work—didn’t want to return home to a hungry family empty-handed. b) could have done in normal order, everyone would have gone home happy—but to show the first workers his generosity and teach them about grace. c) the master was free to do with his own as he pleased. Didn’t need to go out at the 11th hour, but had compassion for the unemployed. What dignity did it give them? Last call.

3. God’s incarnation in Jesus, w…

Sermon on Matthew 18:21-35, for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, "God's Mercy Received is Mercy Lived"

Sermon Outline:
1. Today’s Gospel continues Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness, repentance, and now mercy, begun last week. Various pitfalls to salvation.

2. Peter asks about forgiveness. 7 times is generous? Peter is asking the question out of the sense of fairness, not out of the sense of mercy. Mercy doesn’t deal with what is fair, but what is undeserved! No, 70 x 7. “Jesus raises the debt ceiling.” Don’t keep a record or count of sins. “Love keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5). A lesson in mercy and forgiveness: Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. God’s mercy received is mercy lived.

3. Important details: 1) scenario of master settling accounts like the final judgment we all have before God, 2) 10,000 talent debt was beyond payable. 1 talent = 20 years wages for a laborer. 10,000 talents is 200,000 years of work!! Millions or billions of dollars. Like a single individual being held responsible for paying off the US national debt. 3) ‘Have patience with me and I will pay you every…

The Faith of a Child

Every month we have a bulletin insert from an evangelical organization, which gives helpful Christian parenting advice, and an assortment of short articles and Q & A’s. I’ve often been blessed by the insights they offer into relationships. But the August 2011 issue had an article about “Your Child’s Faith,” titled: “Big Decisions.” It discussed a mother’s conflicting emotions over her 4-year-old daughter’s wish to make a “faith commitment” to ask Jesus into her heart. Even after reading her pastor’s response to the “dilemma,” I still felt it noticeably missed the heart of the serious Biblical question involved. That question, is “Can (or does) a child have faith?”

Before we look at some Bible passages to find the answer, lets first just consider how the situation described in the article would have played out differently, if the underlying premise had been “Yes, a child can have faith!” First of all, the child’s desire to have Jesus in her heart would not have been a source of any …

The One True God!

Why are the Scriptures so persistent in Old and New Testament in driving home the point that there is only One True God, and that He alone is to be worshipped? Why did the Old Testament prophets, and the New Testament apostles so strongly resist the age-old temptation to concede legitimacy to the diversity of other “gods” that have been worshipped in ancient and modern times? Why was God so angry with Israel when they combined worship of Him with the worship of other gods? Why can’t Christians be satisfied to have the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—be considered the equal, or even the alter-ego of the “god” or “gods” of other world religions?

Imagine a trusted family doctor had set up a practice in a small community. He had completed medical school with an exemplary record, and quickly developed the trust and respect of his patients. He gave them the best care, and was practiced in a wide variety of treatments. Then, a stream of other clinics began to open in town, with sleek n…

Sermon on Matthew 18:1-20, for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost, "Save the Lost"

1. Matt. 18—several teachings all about pitfalls to our salvation. Embedded parable of the one lost sheep; Jesus seeks after it because “it is not the will of [His] Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” In this chapter, Jesus is doing the work of a Good Shepherd to guard His sheep against the pitfalls that would cause them to perish, or keep them from the kingdom of heaven. Sheep wander, and in our blindness or error, we can get separated from the flock, and fall into personal harm or injury. Spiritually, the stakes couldn’t be higher, as Jesus illustrates through several examples in the reading.

2. Disciples walk into the first pitfall, of pride and exalting oneself. Who is the greatest? Jesus teaches humility—not to think highly of yourself, but to count others more significant than yourselves (Phil. 2:3). Humble like a child is the only way into the kingdom. Jesus turns the disciples’ (and our) paradigm upside down—adults are not the model of faith, b…