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.
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.
One of the least desirable benefits of being chosen is that God disciplines those he loves. How well do you accept the discipline of God?
Throughout Israel’s history, God has used the prophet to protect the nation’s identity and to guide her moral and ethical practices. Strange as it may seem to some, the same people are called for today, in our society, because we’re confronted with the same moral and ethical challenges. But who are these prophets? And what is their message? What is the core of a prophetic community? How does our community, at CWC, become part of a larger movement bearing witness to the gospel in our day?
The Temple was the heart of the Jewish people, it was the place where YHWH had promised to live in the midst of his people, it was the place where heaven and earth overlapped. But God did not originally design his temple to have four walls. As we follow the temple motif throughout the biblical narrative, God reveals his invitation to participate in extending the kingdom of heaven by building a new temple… or perhaps it’s an old temple, made new by his Spirit.
The heart of any shepherd is to reconcile, to gather, to unite yet the culture seems scattered by controversial shepherds and angry sheep empowered by churches that divide and condemn. How do we shepherd in tense places and help to heal the world until there is “one flock and one shepherd?”
Throughout the story of Exodus God is “with” his people in the form of a fire and a cloud. And as long as he is, Israel is safe. How does this inform the ministry of Presence for a shepherd? Why is the presence of some so powerful, and others … well, not? When is Presence most important? And how does one practice it with increasing skill?
From the previous sermons on shepherding, one could almost forget that it’s sometimes hard and frustrating work. The challenges, the risks, the raw emotion that comes with caring for others can discourage us or tempt us to stay with only the most compliant. From Moses life comes these lessons for navigating the challenges of this good, but sometimes frustrating work.
The study and pursuit of good leadership is big business today. Companies spend over $50 billion annually developing it. But leadership becomes something different when it’s done by a shepherd, and done in the context of the other three disciplines (know, feed and protect).
Something happens when we notice we notice what’s happening. We see things (or people) that others don’t see. And we see them, not because we’re looking for them, but because we’re looking into them, where no one else is looking. Who are the people God wants us to notice? What are we looking for? And what does God want us to do with them? In this message, we’ll discover who, exactly, God wants us to shepherd.
Even though the term is unpopular, people are still looking for a shepherd and that’s why they’re so critical of their leaders. When God raises up a shepherd, the people have a future with possibilities they didn’t have before. Maybe the work inside our jobs begins with shepherding.
The story of Hannah is the story of a woman and a nation who is barren, “who cannot bring salvation, who cannot give birth to the people of the world,” (Is. 26:18). Still, year after year she worships in the sanctuary of barrenness and it’s here where Yahweh finds her. Then a sudden joyous turn. Hannah unceremoniously conceives and what she brings forth is no ordinary child. Samuel will be the link. Samuel is the future. Samuel will bring the Word of the Lord.
Naaman’s successful life is summarized in a few sentences but the final phrase, “he suffered from leprosy,” overshadows everything else. What do we do when one monumental phrase looms over the sentence of our life? Naaman’s story shows us that God’s seemingly simple instructions for our monumental problems aren’t always easy.
When God seems absent, look for Him in the negative space, in the places between the other things you’ve been looking at.
Israel has lost her way. Her kings are evil; her prophets, rejected; widows, abandoned; and sons, without breath. A devastating drought appears to be her end. But just as the brook dries up and only crumbs remain in the flour jar, Yahweh brings a sudden joyous turn. Miraculous meals are provided, sins are forgiven, a child resuscitated, as Yahweh tells the story of Israel coming back to life through a prophet, a widow, and her son.
How do we manage the many transitions we’ve been asked (required?) to make in the last year of our lives? Toward the end of his life, Jacob was forced to gather his possessions and head to Egypt, where he would remain for the rest of his life. Many times, we’ve made that journey, leaving what we know, for what is unfamiliar; foregoing what we love, for what is unpleasant. But God meets Jacob at the border and offers a promise that every child of God should hear.
From Moses’ life, we learn that the world is littered with possibilities of divine intervention (burning bushes, plagues on enemies, waters parted, God’s people delivered). But if we zoom in on Moses’ first days, we learn from another figure (Moses’ mother) that sometimes, God doesn’t remove suffering or give clear direction, and we’re left to make the most of a desperate circumstance. This sermon will meet us in that space, helping us to learn to lean into the Spirit, even when God doesn’t offer clarity or relief.
“Then he remembered the dream…”. We’ve all had dreams, at one time or another, but where did they come from? And what are they for? Joseph’s dreams are an example of what God intends for ours. Like Joseph, we have them and forget them, but on the day we remember them, everything changes and everything comes together.
Protagonists of many stories have to survive wilderness experiences. We watch them overcome struggles of circumstance or injustice. The story of Hagar, Sarai, and Abram challenges our assumptions about how to overcome the wilderness while simultaneously showing us how God’s unfailing love and faithfulness is unexpected good news in our own stories of struggle.