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Showing posts from March, 2014

Sermon on Ephesians 5:8-14, for the 4th Sunday in Lent, "Children of Light"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. In a world that is so thoroughly electrified, it’s rare that we get to experience true darkness. The constant glare of streetlights surrounds us, and the hazy glow of light pollution hangs over anyone who lives even close to a city. I’d bet even your bedroom is not completely dark—with little LED lights from your alarm clock or computer, or a power strip glowing in the dark. Total physical darkness is not much of a thought in our well lit modern life. Before electricity, things were very different. But have modern lights really changed what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 5, where he tells us, “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord?” Of course he’s not talking about physical darkness, as if flipping on the light switch brought us out of darkness. It’s spiritual darkness he’s talking about—and that is the same today as ever. But it should catch our attention that he doesn’t say y…

Sermon on Matthew 5:6, Beatitude 4, Lent 4, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness"

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Tonight we reach the fourth beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Physical hunger and thirst are easily recognized, and “hunger pangs” in the stomach or dryness in the mouth or throat inform us whether we are hungry or thirsty. The sensations are pretty easy to recognize—although people who talk about dieting say that even these ordinary sensations of our body can sometimes be misread. People say that sometimes when we feel hungry, a simple drink of water can satisfy us. As a parent (or maybe it’s just dads), you are sometimes uncertain whether your baby is crying because they are hungry, or just because they need your attention, or have some other need to be attended. If physical hunger is felt in the stomach or thirst in the throat, where do we feel spiritual hunger or thirst? What are the “spiritual hunger pangs”, and do we ever misread or misunder…

Sermon on John 4:5-26, for the 3rd Sunday in Lent, "Living Water"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Last week we read in John 3 about Jesus’ talk with Nicodemus about being born from above, of water and the spirit. Jesus said that just as the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but don’t know where it comes from or goes, so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. So Jesus taught that the work of the Spirit was recognizable, but moved by the unseen. Today the breath of the Spirit and the Living Water move yet again in an unexpected way, to restore and refresh a parched and thirsty soul, who did not even know her thirst at first. You ordinarily escape indoors from the hot noontime sun when you live in the Middle East, I understand. Before indoor plumbing, the women ordinarily went to the community well in groups during the cool morning hours, to avoid the heat and avoid going alone. So this Samaritan woman either had a reason to be, or wanted to be alone, even if it meant going out in the u…

Sermon on John 3:1-17, for the 2nd Sunday in Lent, "Where do God's children come from?"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. He came to Jesus at night; undoubtedly to hide his meeting with the famous teacher. It’s not hard to figure out why. He was a Pharisee, prominent Jewish religious leaders and constant rivals of Jesus, who frequently challenged His authority and teachings. Not only this, but he was one of the Sanhedrin, a ruling council of 70 influential men in Jerusalem. His secrecy was easy to understand at a human level, but his curiosity and his questions drove him to this nighttime meeting with Jesus. If there was something to what Jesus had to say after all, Nicodemus had to find out. If there wasn’t, no one would need to know about this late night interview. Nicodemus opens the conversation with an honorable and respectful greeting, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” While this was still far short of recognizing that Jesus was God’s own Son, the…

Sermon on Matthew 5:4, for Lent 2, Beatitude 2, "Blessed are those who mourn"

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. Today we continue our series on the Beatitudes, as a Christ-colored lens through which we see our Christian life. The second beatitude is, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” This beatitude helps make it clear that the Beatitudes are not commanding goals to achieve or attitudes to develop, per se, but are rather descriptions of Christians in the kingdom of God. Mourning isn’t something we aim or strive for, as though we should manufacture circumstances in our life in order to mourn, but rather it is our condition or state before God, in this sinful world. This is partly why the Beatitudes don’t make sense as commands to obey in order to get a certain reward.             But before we consider what causes us to mourn in this world, let’s first consider what causes God to mourn, or how Jesus mourned in His life. As the Christian life takes shape in Him, wha…

Sermon on Romans 5:12-19, for the 1st Sunday in Lent, "Grace is Greater"

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. In our readings today we hear about the original sin, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, and were thrown out of paradise. In the reading from Romans it tells us of the universal impact of this sin: “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” I’m sure almost everyone has thought at one time or another, “That’s just unfair! Why should the curse of sin and death would fall on all of mankind because of one man’s sin?” We might think that if we had had the chance, we’d have done differently, or perhaps simply that it is wrong for us to be punished for what someone else has done. Let’s examine that claim that God is being “unfair” in light of the reading from Romans, and see what picture emerges of God. Fair is fair! What does fairness really mean? It is fair to get all that you’ve earned or worked for, which is why our…

Sermon on Matthew 5:3, for Ash Wednesday, "Blessed are the poor in spirit", Beatitudes 1

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Today on Ash Wednesday, we begin the journey following Jesus to His cross and resurrection, taking stock of our sin and our need for repentance or turning away from sin, and witnessing the perfect love and sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. To aid our meditation during Lent, we’re going to study and meditate deeply on the Beatitudes. A few months ago on All Saints’ Day I preached on the whole set of the Beatitudes, and described them as “Christ-colored glasses” through which the believer in Jesus sees how they stand before God. They are not descriptions of the Christian life only and not about Christ—and neither can we understand them as only descriptions of Christ and not reflecting on the Christian life. Instead, they show Jesus as the source and strength of the Christian life and how it takes shape from Jesus’ own life. Since this is the first in the series, let’s briefly introduce them. There are nine “Blessed …