New Sermon Series Begins Sunday, January 5
In the first century world, it was no exaggeration to say that “all roads lead to Rome.” Rome was the center of the empire, the capital of commerce, and a symbol of power that still echoes in the modern world. One of those who took the road to Rome was the apostle Paul, but rather than go to marvel at the might of the empire, Paul confronted Rome with the news that the world’s true Lord didn’t live amidst the temples and marbled halls of Caesar’s palace. Instead, Paul preached that the true king of the world was a crucified Jew who was also God in the flesh. It was to a small community of Jewish and Gentile believers that Paul wrote his greatest exposition of the Christian faith: The Letter to the Romans.
Many of us learned read Romans more like a shortcut, using a few verses to construct a “Romans Road” theology of how individuals can get into heaven. But like any shortcut, taking out just a few verses of Paul’s great treatise on the Christian faith can cause us to miss the greater journey and destination of faith to which the gospel calls us. When we explore the whole map of Paul’s theology of Jesus, Israel, salvation, justification, and community, however, we discover a road that not only invites us to consider our own salvation, but also God’s saving plan for the whole creation. Romans was the key biblical text that brought John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, to a new and dynamic faith in Christ, and it can do the same for us. During this series we’ll discover how the truth of the gospel can call us to a new life and reconciliation with God and each other, just like it did to those in Rome and millions of other Christians since Paul put pen to paper.
Join us for an epic journey through the foundational truths of Christian faith as we take the Romans road less traveled beginning on Sunday, January 5 and running through March 2. You can read the sermon texts here on the blog, or listen to them here.
Think Christmas is coming earlier every year? Think again. In fact, we could all use an even earlier Christmas…
Well, it’s finally here. Just a few more hours and it will finally be Christmas. Children will soon be tucked in their beds, visions of Legos and X-Boxes dancing in their heads. When you’re a kid, it seems like Christmas is never going to come. For adults, however, it always comes too soon!
When I was a kid, you always knew it was the Christmas season when the Norelco Santa ad started playing, right after Thanksgiving. You know, the one where Santa rides the Norelco razor over the hills. But now it seems like Christmas is coming earlier every year, doesn’t it?
Advertisers keep pushing the Christmas envelope. This year it was K-Mart kicking off holiday advertising on September 8 with a TV ad featuring a gingerbread man stalking a woman in an office. That was 108 days before Christmas, mind you, violating the unwritten retail rule that bars any advertising more than 100 days out.
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Fourth in an Advent series on Charles Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
One of the more interesting and, for me sometimes, inconvenient tasks of the Christmas season is the whole putting up the Christmas tree thing. While I like having a Christmas tree in the house, it’s the whole process of getting it out of the basement and putting it up that I’m not thrilled with. It can be a frustrating process…
It’s like the two blondes (ok, we’ll call them “Hittites” instead) who went deep into the woods searching for a Christmas tree.
After hours of subzero temperatures and a few close calls with hungry wolves, one Hittite turned to the other and said, “I’m chopping down the next tree I see. I don’t care whether it’s decorated or not!”
When I was a kid we used to get our tree every year from the Lion’s Club lot down by the YMCA, where we’d select some Charlie Brown-ish tree with the needles falling off, strap it to the roof of the station wagon, cram it through the door and water the heck out of it to keep it alive. I remember the trees being pretty when all dressed up (my mom had a thing for those artificial icicles, you know – that you throw on the tree and then pick up for the next six months). But then, the day after Christmas, you began to notice that it stank and was getting brown and then you’d have to take down all the ornaments and get it out of the house where it would sit in the driveway for a couple of weeks until the garbage man came to haul it away.
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Third in an Advent series on the theology in Charles Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
One of the things about turning 50 is that it causes you to get a little bit nostalgic. One of the birthday presents I got a couple of weeks ago was a little booklet that outlined all the stuff that was around and popular in 1963, but what’s even more interesting about that is all the stuff we have now that was still a futuristic dream back then: microwave ovens, cell phones, home computers, and the internet. It’s amazing to think that we actually lived without those things at one time, isn’t it?
I mean, what would life be like without Google, for example? Back in the day we used to wait for the newspaper to show up on the doorstep or wait for Walter Cronkite to tell us what was going in the world after supper time. As kids, we did research using the encyclopedia and looked up books in the card catalog (with actual cards). Now, in just a finger clicks, we can have nearly all the information in the world at our finger tips—“Google” being a verb as much as it is a noun. Need an answer? Just Google it!
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First in a series on the gospel in Charles Wesley’s famous carol, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”
One of the dilemmas that preachers run into during Advent is which hymns to plan for the congregation to sing during the season. Liturgically speaking, Christmas hymns should be reserved for Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, while Advent is all about preparation. There are a couple of problems with this approach, however. One is that there just aren’t many Advent hymns to begin with—in fact, we’re pretty much singing them all today on the first Sunday of Advent (“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”). A good songwriter could make some money writing some more decent Advent hymns, but nobody seems to want to do that because, as we all know, Christmas music is what people actually want to sing, even if it’s still November or even October. After all, no other holiday gets the airplay that Christmas does. You don’t see, for example, radio stations dedicating their full program schedule to Easter or Thanksgiving music.
So, even those of us who are liturgical legalists have to give in a bit during this season, but I also like to think that the preponderance of Christmas music also gives us an opportunity to think about the message that music conveys. Some Christmas music is just for fun (Frosty and Jingle Bells, for example, which really have nothing to do with Christmas); some of it is very sentimental (White Christmas, I’ll Be Home for Christmas); and some of it is religious in tone, if not fact. Take “We Three Kings,” for example. That song, and not the Scripture, is why there are always three wise men (not kings) in every manger scene. I mean, biblically speaking, we don’t know how many magi there were, and they showed up two years later and in a different Gospel than the shepherds. When we have the kids put the figures in the manger scene each week during Advent, I always think they should put the wise men over in the closet and bring them out two months after Christmas. Then again, I’m a bit of a historical Grinch.
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