Exchanging the Glory

Part II of the series “Romans: The Road Less Traveled.”

Romans 1:18-3:22

anglican baptismI saw an article pop up on Twitter this week that said that the Church of England is trying out a new baptism service that drops all mention of the devil and sin. Among the phrases abandoned are those referring to “the deceit and corruption of evil”, “the sins that separate us from God and neighbor”, and a promise to “fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world, and the devil.” Instead of that specific language, baptizands or parents make a broad pledge to “reject evil.”

The idea, according to the Church of England, is to provide a baptism service that uses more “culturally appropriate and accessible language” without words that “don’t resonate with the knowledge and experience of parents and godparents who aren’t regular churchgoers.” It’s a trial liturgy that will be tested until April.

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All Roads Lead to Rome

First in a series on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

Romans 1:1-17 

Artist conception of the Millarium Aureum in the Roman Forum.

Artist conception of the Millarium Aureum in the Roman Forum.

In the central Forum of Rome, there once stood a monument, erected by Caesar Augustus around the year 20BC, that marked the center and beginning of all the roads leading to and from Rome. All that’s left of the monument, the Millarium Aureum, today is the stone base, and scholars debate what the bronze monument actually said. Some believe it marked all of the distances from Rome to the outer flung cities of the empire. Others believe it was simply a milestone marker for Augustus. Most everyone, however, believes that the stone marked a very important truth in the first century world: “All roads lead to Rome.”

The roads throughout the Roman empire were a marvel of engineering, with many of those road beds still in use today. Romans roads allowed for the safe passage of people from one province to another. The “Pax Romana” or the peace of Rome was made possible by these roads—the stones marking the way to the center of the empire.

Interestingly, we might think the same way about the letter that Paul wrote to the fledgling Christian church in Rome sometime in the middle to late 50s AD. In many ways, all the roads of Christian thought and theology go through Romans, which is arguably the most comprehensive look at Christian theology in the whole New Testament.

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Romans: The Road Less Traveled

New Sermon Series Begins Sunday, January 5

Series LogoIn 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.

If Christmas Came Tomorrow: A Sermon for Christmas Eve

Think Christmas is coming earlier every year? Think again. In fact, we could all use an even earlier Christmas…

Isaiah 9:2-7; Titus 2:11-14

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!

Kmart_GingerbreadMan13When 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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Adam’s Likeness, Lord Efface

Fourth in an Advent series on Charles Wesley’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 5:12-21

Christmas-Trees-002One 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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