You Can’t Go Home Again: Lessons from the Mount of Jumpification

Luke 4:14-30

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “You can’t go home again.” Tom Wolfe, the famous American novelist, actually used it as the title of one of his books. It’s the idea that “home” is really more a product of our memories and that, in reality, the things we think are permanent about our hometown are always changing, as are we.

Anyone who has journeyed back to their hometown after years away knows what it means. Things are just not the same anymore. Every couple of years I get nostalgic and want to head back home to Slippery Rock, PA for a visit, to touch some of those memories from high school. I want to remember what it was like to be at a Saturday football game, to go over to the old Bob’s Sub and Sandwich Shop with its slanting, creaking floors and gruff ladies behind the counter to order a Senior Super (hold the tomato), grab a can of Pepsi from the cooler, and play endless games of Galaga in the back room. I loved that old place and the hours my friends and I spent there. 

Continue reading →

What Then Shall We Do?

Luke 3:1-22

As Luke 3 opens we see that we’ve jumped ahead quite a bit in the story. When we left Jesus last week he was 8 days old and being dedicated in the Temple. The next scene finds him as a 12 year-old in the Temple, amazing the teachers with his knowledge and exasperating his parents who have issued an Amber alert for their missing son. Chapter 2 closes with, “Jesus went down to Nazareth with them [Mary and Joseph] and was obedient to them.” As my mom would have said after all that, “You bet he was!” Then verse 52: “Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God’s people.” That single verse sums up the next 18 years of Jesus’ life.

Continue reading →

Manger Danger: A Sermon for Christmas

Luke 2:1-7; Colossians 1:15-23

“She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger.” We love the manger scene as we gather here on Christmas Eve, but if you think about it, it’s not exactly the kind of place you’d want to have a baby and not the kind of crib you’d choose. We would much prefer the hospital to a cave (which is probably was—that’s the setting in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem); we’d rather hear the controlled voice of a doctor and a labor coach than the grunts of goats in the room; and we’d much prefer a climate-controlled room with a sanitized bassinet than a cattle trough that was likely made of stone, chiseled in the floor, and filled with hay.

Continue reading →

What is the “Good News?”

Text: Isaiah 61

good-news-great-joyGood news!

That’s how Isaiah begins last Sunday’s text from the Narrative Lectionary. In many ways it’s appropriate. I mean, we’d all like some good news at Christmas, right? Especially given that this year has had a lot of bad news. This is the time of year that we like to focus on the angels singing “good news of great joy” and “peace and earth and good will toward men” and all that, even though we struggle to see how it’s possible given all that’s happening in our world.

But I think that’s why this text is so important for us to look at today on this third Sunday of Advent. It’s a reminder that Advent anticipates the good news that is to come in the coming of Christ. But what exactly is that good news? That’s the question I want us to focus on today. Sometimes the good news gets forgotten, sometimes it’s hard to articulate. Sometimes it even turns into bad news. I want to take a moment before the Christmas crowds gather to talk about this good news and remind us what it’s all about.

Continue reading →

Joel: Return to the Lord

joel-212-widescreenIt’s the second Sunday of Advent, and our attention here at the church has turned completely toward the upcoming celebration of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’ve often said that this is like the Super Bowl for us who lead churches—it’s the time of year when we have the biggest crowds and the most expectation. It’s something you actually have to train for—the extra stamina required for multiple services (four this year) plus Christmas Day is a Sunday. That means extra leg work at the gym and lots of preparation and practice for sermons, setting up extra chairs, etc.

Of course it’s also the time of year when many people wonder just why the crowds are bigger. Where are all these people the rest of the year? We go out of our way to prepare for them, but wouldn’t it be great if they all came back the next Sunday? Some ridicule them as “Chreasters” or H2O Christians (Holidays, 2 Only) and some churches make these folks feel guilty when they show up, not realizing that there sarcasm will ultimately insure that they never show up again. We’ve banned that sort of sarcasm here. For us it’s about rolling out the red carpet, no matter what it takes.

Continue reading →