All posts in Sermons

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.

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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.

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The Promise of Passover

Text: Exodus 12:1-13; 13:1-8

applying-bloodSeveral years ago, when I was serving another church, I became friends with the local Rabbi and we thought it would be great idea to do a joint study with our congregations during the season of Lent and Passover. It was a fun and fascinating experience as we had a chance to compare and contrast our two historic and biblical faiths.

One of the questions we were asked by a member of one of our congregations was a simple one: “How would you sum up the message of your faith in one sentence?” Josh went first saying, “That’s an easy answer for Jews: they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat!” I loved the simplicity of that and it reminded me that the whole identity of the Jewish people is found in the story of slavery, redemption, and celebration.

We see all of that in this week’s passage from Exodus, the story of the Passover, but to get there we need to catch up in the story. Last week we ended the book of Genesis with the story of Joseph, a righteous Hebrew who became a high official in Egypt after he was sold into slavery there by his brothers. A great famine hit the region, and Joseph’s brothers came down to Egypt to buy grain. There Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and forgave them. The whole family then moved to Egypt and there they began to fulfill the promise God had given to Abraham and the mission God had given them at the beginning of creation: they “were fruitful and multiplied” and the whole land of Egypt was filled with the family Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

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Joseph: 50/20 Vision

Genesis 37-50

scars-tell-a-storyOne of the key tasks that every parent seems to take on is teaching your kid how to ride a bike. When I did that with our kids (seems like an eternity ago), I was struck about how different it is to learn today than it was back when I was a kid. Sure, some things are the same – the process still involves a lot of running behind the wobbling bike yelling “Pedal and steer! Pedal and steer!” I taught Rob in the parking lot of an elementary school near our house in Utah, and there was a pole for tetherball there in the middle of the playground. It was like a magnet to him (he pedaled, mesmerized right toward it…bam!) Fortunately, he was wearing his helmet. To me that’s the biggest thing that’s changed. Nowadays we wouldn’t dream of letting our kids ride around without a specially-fitted bike helmet. But back when I was 6 or 7, learning to ride, going to the emergency room was a rite of passage.

I still have the scar on my forehead from when I took a header off my banana-seated, sissy-barred Schwinn. I remember being so freaked out about the stitches that they put me in a straitjacket! So, when we had our discussion about wearing helmets (which I do, too, now) I pointed out that scar to my son.

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The Beginning

A Sermon for the First Sunday of the Narrative Lectionary

Genesis 2:4-7b, 15-15; 3:1-8

I’m very excited to begin our journey through the Narrative Lectionary this week, which will take us on a sweep through much of the Bible between now and Pentecost Sunday next May. I’m excited about this because I love to tell this story—the most important story ever told.

Like any good story, it’s the kind that invites us to find ourselves within it. The difference, however, is that this story is actually THE story—the one that matters the most; the story in which all of our stories find their true meaning.

And like any good story, it begins at the beginning—this one from the VERY beginning. We’re only going to spend three weeks in Genesis on our rapid tour through the Bible, but this is a foundational story for the rest of the story. Like any good novel, the first few chapters set up the narrative, introduce the main characters, and provide the engine for the rest of the plot.

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