All posts in Sermons

Rules for (Not) Judging

Matthew 7:1-6

“Don’t judge so that you won’t be judged.” It’s one of the most widely quoted teachings of Jesus and one of the Scriptures that even non-Christians are quick to point out. We hear it used a lot these days in conversations that tend to be controversial as a way of kind of saying, “Live and let live” or “What I do is my business alone and no one has a right to say otherwise.”

In fact, a study by the Barna Group a few years ago, which was written up in the widely read book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity, revealed that nine out of ten young people view Christians as “judgmental.” Given Jesus’ command to not judge others, this means that many people view Christians as hypocrites.

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Our True Citizenship

We are “citizens of heaven” but our home and work is here where the King ultimately dwells.

Philippians 3:17-4:1

This week we will celebrate the 241st anniversary of the Declaration of Independence—the day when the British colonies in America chose to throw off the yoke of monarchical colonialism and become their own nation (or, at least the day the paperwork was finished–the vote for independence actually took place on July 2). Rather than being citizens of Great Britain, we would (eventually) become citizens of the United States of America.

In many ways, the American Revolution signaled the beginning of the end of colonialism for all of the great powers of the 18th and 19th centuries. Britain and France would wind up surrendering their foreign territories over the next two centuries as the name “colonial” became synonymous with oppression of indigenous peoples. People generally want to be citizens of their own country, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof. We value that citizenship and see the country where we live as our true  “home” no matter where we might travel or live abroad.

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The New Covenant: A Meditation for Holy Thursday

Luke 22:1-27

We are now reaching the climax of Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem and on this night, in an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem, Jesus will reveal to his disciples the real reason for the journey. It’s interesting that he does so not through another long exposition or systematic teaching, but he does so at a meal—indeed, a meal that has multiple layers of meaning in itself.

Luke tells us that the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Passover, was near. This was what brought Jesus and the disciples to the city along with thousands of others. It was the great festival celebrating the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt under Moses in the past; but its celebration was also a sign pointing to an even greater Exodus they hoped would come. They were still enslaved politically, chafing under the rule of Rome—the latest in a series of foreign rulers. Passover was thus a time for both the revolutionaries and the religious to hope that God’s ultimate liberation of his people was at hand.

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Living Stones

Luke 19:29-44

The road from Jericho to Jerusalem winds for about 15 miles up through the hot and dusty Judean desert. Today we travel it by bus or car, but in the first century the road was treacherous and an arduous journey by foot, given that it’s about a 4,000 foot elevation change over those 15 miles. But this was also the route that most Galilean Jews would have taken to come to the Holy City during the great festival of Passover and they had been doing it for generations—for so long that the Psalms reveal to us several “Songs of Ascent” that the pilgrims would sing on their way up the road.

Arriving in Bethany, the pilgrims would then crest the Mount of Olives and get their first view of the city laid out before them. After a long journey, the destination was finally in sight and it was impressive. The Temple, built by Herod the Great with white limestone quarried nearby, literally gleamed in the sun. Josephus, the Jewish historian, described the Temple “like a snowy mountain glistening in the sun.” It was one of the wonders of the first century world.

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Up a Tree

Luke 19:1-10

When you’re a kid, the presence of a great tree with lots of low branches was a certain invitation to climb up and see the world from a greater height. Of course, falling from that great height often leads to one of the first childhood trips to the emergency room and a cast on a busted arm or leg for the elementary school class to sign. Such a diversion, however, rarely becomes a deterrent for the determined child adventurer as there will always be another tree beckoning to be scaled.

Adults, on the other hand, usually have a more strained approach to being “up a tree.” Usually, being “up a tree” means that one is stressed and at wit’s end (As in, “Timmy fell out of the tree and needed a $250 trip to the ER. Now I’m up a tree!”).

Trees are often unpredictable. As living things they are constantly changing. That branch that looks strong may have rotted underneath the bark. The trunk may be waiting for that next strong gust of wind to finally give up holding on. Climbing a tree can be dangerous as well as fun, which makes it all the more enticing!

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