Monday, September 29, 2014

The Good Shepherd---Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Our sermon series for this month is called "The Upside-Down Kingdom." During the next month, we will return to the gospel according to Matthew. This week, the second half of our passage, which is 18: 6-14, is the parable of the lost sheep.

I usually approach this text through the eyes of the lost sheep. Jesus says quite plainly that someone who owned 100 sheep would leave the 99 to go and search for the lost sheep. How reassuring it feels to know that Christ will always search for his lost, and that he assumes any good shepherd would do the same. We need that word for us. How many times do we feel lost??

But what about the 99 who were left by the shepherd, how would they handle it? This passage is really about what God does, that God searches for his lost children. I think we can get hung up on the fact that the shepherd leaves the 99, but the real focus, I think, is that he searched for the 1 lost sheep. God does not leave us, EVER. 

So this parable might be a bit limited because the shepherd obviously cannot simultaneously search for his 1 lost sheep and remain with the other 99, but God can. 

See you on Sunday!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Glorify God---Sunday, September 28th, 2014

This week's message will focus on Romans 15: 1-13. Here, Paul reminds us that we are to "please each other" because the body of Christ now includes everyone, even Gentiles.

The Gentiles were the last folks that new Christians, a lot of them coming from Jewish backgrounds, thought would be included, or wanted to include, in their "family," the body of Christ. They were the ones who misbehaved, did not follow the rules; they were the "outsiders."

One of the key themes of this passage that makes it so practical and important to me is that it is pointed out that "Jesus did not please himself." Jesus was ridiculed, suffered, and died a sinners death. I'm sure that did not "please" him. But it did, because it glorified God. Jesus treated people like they all had the potential to glorify God, and we should too.

See you Sunday!

Monday, September 15, 2014

God Accepts Us---Sunday, September 21st, 2014

We devote a lot of our effort and energy, I think, to making sure that we love God and neighbor the "right" way. This may disable us from loving in a way that is from the heart; we may over-think the way we love God and neighbor. This may also cause us to judge people in the way they strive to love God and neighbor.

In this week's passage, Romans 14: 1-11, we are reminded that God has accepted everyone in God's unending love and grace. No matter how people worship, love, pray, or spend their week, if it is rooted in love for God and neighbor, it is acceptable in God's sight!

This scripture is a good one because it grounds the way I think about people who love in different ways than I do. For instance, I am not much of a hand-raiser in worship. But that doesn't mean that it's wrong! It's just not the way I typically worship God.

So this passage encourages us not to over-think the way we love or judge others, but it also frees us up to love from our heart and souls, not our minds and our comparisons to others.

Be authentic. Be you. Love God. Love neighbor. Love the way you do it! You are accepted.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Wake UP!---Sunday September 14th, 2014

This week's passage, Romans 13: 8-14, begins with a reminder that all the law is summed up in one: you must love your neighbor as yourself. Love fulfills the law. It's interesting to me that Paul does not include "love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul" to his new understanding of the law. Perhaps truly loving your neighbor IS loving God....

Then Paul, saying "as you do this" (I love his optimism here), you know what time it is, and it is time to WAKE UP, the day which came from the Light is near. Charles Wesley preached a sermon called "Awake, Thou That Sleepest." What he meant by someone who was "asleep" was someone that was satisfied or content in their sin, ignorant of it and the "cure" for it, or never heard, recognized, or cared about God's invitation to faith and salvation. Whether we are "asleep" right now, or have momentary moments in our lives that we "take a nap," the message here for us is: "wake up to my graceful invitation to faith and love, and go and do likewise." 

Our salvation is at hand, folks, and it is brought forth by loving our neighbor. To be saved is to be freed to love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other obligation, but to love. In a world where we have to earn everything, grace is is un-earn-able.

In a world where we keep tabs of all of our debts and receipts that are owed to each other, God does not. God only requires that we love our neighbor. And that indicates our salvation. It's so earth-shattering to me that loving people shows God that we are indeed saved by God's grace through his son Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.

See you Sunday!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lord of All---Sunday September 7th, 2014

Well, this past Sunday's passage and the sermon I preached made me a bit emotional. There is something about the overwhelming sense of love I know and feel from God when I sit back and truly realize that Jesus Christ came to this world to love, live, and die for us. Like Peter, I don't quite grasp this unless I experience it, which he hadn't yet when Jesus told him he had to suffer for the first time. I experienced God's loving grace and the invitation to take up my cross and follow Jesus the past week that led up to that sermon. I found my soul once more.

This next month, I'll be preaching a series called "Love of God, Love of All." You may think of this as a follow up series, one that will explore what loving God means for our lives. It means that we try to love ALL people, because GUESS WHAT? God loves everyone, and sent Jesus for everyone. God is here for everyone, and wants to save, reach, and have a relationship with everyone. That means you, me, that neighbor you can't stand, your stubborn co-worker, that someone that "just doesn't get it," that person who just keeps making mistakes, the wealthy, the poor, the outcast, the popular, the lost, the forgotten, the accepted, the spoiled....ALL PEOPLE.

This was what my last sermon was about, and we will be taking a closer look at this topic through this month. This Sunday's passage is Romans 10: 5-15. The key verses for me right now in this passage is "there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. All who call on the Lord's name will be saved."

I'll see you all on Sunday, where we will  worship the Christ, the son of the living God, because he is Lord of all.