Working the Nets

Luke 5:1-11

One of the things I love to do when I am with a confirmation class or a youth group is to offer them the chance to ask me any question they’ve always wanted to ask a pastor. It’s a fun thing for them and fun for me as well. I often get questions like, “What do you do all week?” I always answer the same way: “I pray..all day…and if you’d stop sinning, I’d get some other work done!” Some ask about sermon preparation, others ask about seminary and a host of other things.

The number one question that young people ask, however, is, “When did you know you were called to be a pastor?” That’s a great question, one that is asked often of ministers. I like telling the story, but over the years I’ve come to realize that often when this question is asked, by either youth or adults, the implication is always that a “calling” is something that a professional Christian like a preacher gets. That ministry is a “calling” but normal work is more like a job.

Continue reading →

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 →