The first evangelist in the gospels is the least likely, least prepared person … and that’s a why she’s the perfect example of what it means to share our faith in a culture that is hostile to evangelism.
In his Great Commandment, Jesus shows his genius and authority by bringing all of the feast and fruit of the Scriptures into one seed, bursting with potential harvest. It is the double pulse of the heartbeat of God. He not only pulls in every command of the past but unleashes and prefigures the future of love.
Toward the beginning of Paul’s career, he wrote a series of letters to young Christians worried about current events, telling them how to conduct themselves in times of chaos and moral confusion. In one of these letters, he contrasted children of the day with those of the night, those who are awake and sober with those who are asleep or drunk. This message is a pastoral word to the Church in our day, tired but awake just before dawn.
This is a message for anyone whose life has been interrupted by tragedy or injustice and they are suddenly alone, as if in prison. But it’s a message about surviving, about finding God in that dark place, about triumph despite one’s conditions. It’s a message about choices – hard choices – that some make (most don’t) in prison that transform them and become for others a powerful witness.
Generosity is typically understood as activity–described by actions of charity or through things we give away. But Paul describes generosity as something deeper: a responsive expression of the gospel itself, a disposition of our souls, and the means by which we allow God’s sanctifying work to continue in and through us.
What does it mean (really) to be humble? Humility is an often-praised virtue throughout the Scriptures; but how do we cultivate it in our everyday lives? And what – despite our best efforts – gets in the way? This sermon will address the shape of humility, and the ways our current habits, attitudes, and practices may choke it out.
In a culture of high suspicion, the creative minority will practice a rule of integrity.
Why is nearly everyone you know so overwhelmed? There is a silent scream for simplicity and yet it is more illusive and complex than ever. How do we in the Third Order practice this ancient discipline despite the speed and chaos of our everyday life? And what difference would it make in the workplace if we did?
Every Order or Society needs rules for engagement. How do members treat one another, especially those with whom they disagree? How do we make room for different convictions and how do we express them without tearing the Society apart?
In a culture of individualism, like ours, never underestimate the power of a two or three who gather faithfully around a common rule.
As Israel went into exile, the prophet Jeremiah, cast of bold vision, for a community of people devoted to their faith, yet committed to their cities. This community, though a minority, would both influence the empire and be influenced by it. Why is the prophets vision necessary now more than ever? How does it inform our vision as a Church, and our role as members in it?
Christians typically talk about the importance of submitting to God as part of our discipleship. But what about wrestling with God? Not just the cliche, topical-level struggles to believe, but deep conflict with God… what could be the value of that? This sermon will unpack Jacob’s struggle with God, and our own – and discuss how conflict with God–real and brutal –can leave us with a blessing, even as it leaves us with a limp.
The twelve minor prophets seem heavy on gloom and doom and can often form for us images of an angry and destructive God—the last thing we’d consider him is a passionate lover. But returning to the first book of the twelve, we are introduced to a faithful and devoted God who has bound himself to a broken people, willing to give everything to fulfill his covenant to bless them and make them a blessing to the world.
Toward the end of his collection of Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis suggests that “the fine flowers of unholiness can grow only in the close neighborhood of the Holy (for) nowhere are we more tempted as on the very steps of the altar itself.” Perhaps this is why the most devout are sometimes the most dishonest, or perverse, and thus the hardest to save. So Malachi preaches a message of integrity in our worship that reaches far from the sanctuary, to the most remote places in our lives.
Biblical justice does face the offender, but it is even more concerned with the offended and those who are not where they are supposed to be in society. Justice works to restore those on the margins. It acts to restore balance. It brings good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and liberty to the oppressed. It is always saying to those without hope, “This is the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Despite all that is wrong with the world, and despite how often we’ve been told avoid it, perhaps God is raising up a movement inside the nation but outside the Church. How might we cooperate (instead of compete) with that?
Once in the waiting room, Zechariah’s prophecy called Israel to the hard work of hope. But hope is more than wishful thinking or passively waiting for the world to change. Hope is the call of God to have faith in his promise, always preparing for the ultimate fulfillment of his promises, while actively partnering with God in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
There is a strangeness in God’s ways that makes even the most devout wonder, and sometimes stumble, yet the just are called to live by faith. What is God up to? Why is this happening? How long before He answers? And how do we manage the hurt and insult of unanswered prayer? What are we to do in the meantime? That’s the message of Habakkuk.
In the book of Zephaniah, the pronouncement of God’s judgment upon sin can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing, similar to the emotions we experience when consuming news or media. As Christians, we often shy away from discussing God’s judgment or wrath, feeling that they are unbecoming of His character. However, it is important to acknowledge that justice and wrath are integral parts of who God is. Zephaniah’s message to Judah, the surrounding nations, and the world at large was a call to seek righteousness and humility because the day of God’s judgment was approaching. The people had misplaced their trust in their own accomplishments and false gods, becoming prideful and corrupt. Zephaniah’s message encompasses divine judgment but also offers hope and the promise of restoration. Reflecting on this, we are prompted to consider how we may be hiding or downplaying God’s wrath in our lives. We are encouraged to seek refuge in God’s righteousness and favor, allowing Him to protect and guide us.
Haggai is an often-overlooked prophet – his book has only 2 chapters, and his main focus is restarting a building project God’s people have long left dormant. Our time and place may demand a different “building project” than Haggai’s, but his central questions hold up: why is there so often a gap between God’s priorities and ours? And how do we faithfully say “yes” to God’s invitation in a way that’s sustainable and lifelong? This sermon will explore those questions, and invite us to experience the Gospel as we build what God’s called us to.