The Chief Follower

From the current issue of Homiletics, my Senior Writer’s Block column on being a follower before being a leader:

When I came to my current church in 2010, I remember that we had a long discussion about what my official title should be. Since “your eminence” was clearly a bit pretentious and requires a large hat, we looked at some of the other options. I have a marvelous staff and a really fantastic associate pastor, but not the minions of staff that seem to warrant the title “senior pastor.” Indeed, I remember being an associate myself and having people say, only half jokingly, “Well, if he’s the senior pastor, you must be the junior pastor!”

I know, hilarious, right?

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Scandalous Love

Hosea23Hosea 1:2-10

It must have been frontpage news at the supermarket checkout
counters in Israel, right next to the hummus and the Tic-Tacs: “Local Prophet
Marries Prostitute” screamed the headline of the Israel Inquirer. “Holy Man Hosea
Hooks Up with Hooker” winked the Samarian Post. You can just imagine the
pictures—the paparazzi following Hosea around, the seductive poses of his wife
Gomer there in the centerfold. If the Israelites had had Google, Hosea and
Gomer would have been the number one search term in about 750BC, especially
given that in 2012 the number one Google search term was Whitney Houston dying
in a bathtub.

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Weeping for the Children

I had just finished officiating at a funeral yesterday when I came into the office and heard the news about the horrific shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. Death is the enemy that stares us all in the face on a daily basis, but there are certain days that make it seem like the enemy is winning.

As I watched the news coverage, it struck me that this tragedy is especially difficult because of it’s proximity to Christmas. A season that we expect to be all sweetness and light has turned dark for the families of the victims and the family of the mentally disturbed shooter. It’s painful to imagine the unopened presents, the incomplete child artwork meant for Christmas cards for mom and dad, the empty places around the tree that families will be dealing with during this season that’s supposed to be about peace and joy.

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Expect a Miracle: A Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent


 So, have you put up your Christmas tree yet? We have the same
debate every year at our house—when to put it up, when to take it down, etc. I
know lots of people have different traditions about the tree.

No matter when you put it up: on Christmas Eve or the day
after Thanksgiving (or, if you’re a department store, sometime around Labor
Day), the Christmas tree is the most simple and recognizable symbol of the
season. It’s been the same for centuries, ever since the Christians adopted the
symbol from Germanic paganism — the evergreen being seen as a symbol of eternal
life because it’s always green even in the dead of winter. Wherever you go
these days, you can expect to see that basic triangular shape, be it artificial
or real — beautiful green boughs narrowing upward to the point where you put
the star.

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The Armor of God – Ephesians 6:10-20

Ballistic vestEphesians 6:10-20

the word “armor” and most people conjure up images of medieval knights in shiny
metal suits jousting in a tournament. Mention it to a soldier serving
“downrange” in a modern battle space, however, and you’ll get a very different

thousands of years military planners and engineers have tried to come up with a
solution to protect soldiers from injury and death through the use of body
armor. From those clunky knights to the steel vests designed for (and quickly
abandoned by) soldiers in the American Civil War to the iconic “flak jacket” of
the Vietnam era, soldiers have contended with the uncomfortable and, often,
ineffective weight and bulk of armor that only adds to the misery of war.

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