Missing the Metaphor | Lent 3

Sometimes it takes a little boat ride with Jesus to figure things out.

Do you know why Jesus said following him is hard? It’s because Jesus is asking us to share. Jesus is asking us to go out of our way and sacrificially love our neighbor. Jesus is asking us to show compassion and work for justice. Jesus is asking us to cross the street for people we don’t like and to love our enemies. Jesus is asking us to forgive the unthinkable. Jesus is asking us to resist vengeance and violence and systems the perpetuate it. Jesus is asking us to be concerned about the least of these. Jesus is asking us to live this way….to live as if the Kingdom has come and God is in charge. And guess what – it’s hard. Especially when there are Pharisees and Herods telling us otherwise.

Questions of Jesus | Lent 2

When the Bible talks about the heart it considers the heart to be the spiritual center of a human being. Your heart, according to scripture, is the source of your motives.

The Bible speaks of hard hearts and willing hearts, defiant hearts and discouraged hearts, trembling hearts and fierce hearts, broken hearts and whole hearts…Our hearts are what make us tick – our hearts are what matter most to God because out of our hearts come our intentions, words, and actions. You are not kidding anyone if you think God doesn’t know why you do this or that, if your heart isn’t in it – God isn’t either.

All too often we don’t give our hearts an examination until there is a problem. King David didn’t recognize his heart condition until the prophet Nathan pointed out to him that he murdered an innocent man just to get what he wanted. Diagnosed with an unclean heart he cried out to God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

The Questions: Answering to Jesus | Lent 1

The last landmine I want to point out is the reason we end our prayers with “and we pray in Jesus’ name.” Jesus says, “I will do whatever you ask in my name.” With a statement like that you can bet we are going to pray in Jesus’ name. But this is not a passage about prayer – and praying in the name of Jesus is not “hocus pocus.” Now don’t worry about how you end your prayers – but do be concerned about doing what Jesus did because that is what Jesus is really talking about here.

Now that I have told you where not to step let’s get to Jesus’ question. It is a question that I think is very important for a room full of Christians on the first Sunday of Lent. And even though Jesus sounds a little exasperated as he asks it – let’s try not to get defensive.

Jesus’ Ethic of Grace

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While associated with the internet today, trolls are nothing new. No matter what happens there is always going to be someone to take it to the most negative place. There are even trolls in the story about Zacchaeus. Did you hear them? In the Bible, comments are called “murmuring.”
And there is plenty of murmuring when Jesus singles out Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus lives in Jericho and is a chief tax collector. Tax collectors work for Rome, collecting taxes from their neighbors and towns people, to fund the empire. Tax collectors can, if they choose, to use the system to extort more than is owed. Given that this activity can make someone very rich, the temptation is great to betray everyone you know for the almighty dollar. Zacchaeus isn’t just a tax collector, he is a chief tax collector, and he is very rich. Draw whatever conclusions you want to draw from that.

Jesus’ Ethic of Collaboration

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There is no reason to think that the disciples are unsympathetic. My guess is that we might say the same thing when facing an overwhelming situation. We might write letters, post pleas on Facebook and Snapchat, and go to public meetings to get someone to do something! Someone else – someone with more power – someone with more influence – someone better equipped. That’s the someone we want to do something – someone other than me.

The plea of the disciples provides the perfect teaching moment for Jesus – and for us. Being a disciple is not about deferring responsibility for our neighbors – it is about embracing it – with compassion. Jesus tells the disciples, “You give them something to eat.”

Isn’t that brilliant? “You give them something to eat!” I would love to have a snapshot of their faces. Was he joking? Was this some kind of test?

Jesus’ Ethic of Non-Judgment

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Is it possible to go through life and not judge? I’m not so sure. How can we avoid judging people when we make decisions about who we want babysitting our kids or who we are going to marry? And don’t we have to judge crimes and wrong doing? We make judgments about who we hire, who we like, who we want to hang out with, and who we trust. We make judgments about who we want to entertain us and who we want to elect. We make judgments about who to help and who to blame. We make judgments about who is pretty and who is a hero. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it – because judging is a part of our culture and we need a certain degree of judgment to coexist.

Dashboard Jesus: The Ethic of Compassion

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SERMON: Dashboard Jesus: The Ethic of Compassion SCRIPTURE: Luke 14:1-6 This is a test.  I am going to make it real easy for you today.  The answer is always compassion. As you read this short little story about Jesus at the home of head Pharisee, on the Sabbath, the opportunity for compassion seems to suddenly […]

Jesus’ Ethic of Forgiveness

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SERMON: Dashboard Jesus: Navigator or Just Along for the Ride? | Jesus’ Ethic of Forgiveness SCRIPTURE: Luke 7:36-50 Do you know how to properly trim an old lilac bush?  I do. You don’t just go at it with pruning shears.  You reach down inside the bush and cut out the oldest growth.  That’s how you trim a […]

Time for a New Song

There are times in our lives when we start to sound like broken records. (A record, for those of you who don’t know, is a vinyl disc that has grooves in which a needle floats to produce music.) We get stuck on the same tune – repeating ourselves over and over – driving everyone around us crazy.

Have you ever met anyone like that? I have? I’ve been that person. It’s usually some version of “Woe is me.”

Do you have people that call you and as soon as you see their name on your screen you groan – because they just sing the same song over and over? Do you have certain ringtones for certain people?

Reflecting the Light | Christmas Sunday

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There is a story that I have come to associate with this passage that I would like to share with you. Author Robert Fulghum, the author of Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, tells this story of one of his professors, a wise man whose name was Alexander Papaderos.
At the last session on the last morning of a two-week seminar on Greek culture, Dr. Papaderos turned and made the ritual gesture: “Are there any questions?”
Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now, there was only silence.