Friday, August 14, 2009
If you are looking for sermon discussion questions, click on the link above and locate the tab in the upper right hand corner of your screen that says "Discussion questions."
Friday, July 17, 2009
We're not rejecting God; we just don't have time for him. We've lost
him in the blurred landscape as we rush to church. We don't struggle with
the Bible, but with the clock. It's not that we're too decadent; we're too
busy. We don't feel guilty because of sin, but because we have no time for
our spouses, our children, or our God. It's not sinning too much that's
killing our souls, it's our schedule that's annihilating us.
(Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality, p. 96)
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Once you invite me in, beware:
I toss you from your favorite chair,
I snip the daily news to shreds
And interrupt you in your bed.
By week's end you wish me away--
I drag around your thoughts all day.
You wrestle me down, chop and twist,
But I, with ancient art, resist.
Come Sunday, sweet as Spirit's dew
I gentle fall on folks, through you.
A Maddening mystery? Thus your part
To sink a word into a heart.
Friday, February 6, 2009
"Restore unto me the joy of your salvation."
The question came from the woman standing in the lift line next to me. The collar of her coat was pulled up tight against the cold and her goggles obscured much of her face. I glanced down at her, smiled, nodded, and we scooted forward in line. When our turn came, we plunked down in the chair and the lift swept us up the mountain. Within moments, the woman began to chatter away.
"Well," she said, "I really don't ski that much. My daughter--she's 26--she's the real skier in the family. Of course, she probably won't be doing much of it this year..."
The woman paused. Sensing that this was my cue to prod her along, I asked why.
"Well," she said, "She had climbing accident this summer. Terrible thing. She and some friends were taking the back route up Greys and Torrey's. A ledge snapped out from under her. She fell and broke her back..."
She paused again, giving me a moment to shake my head and cluck my tongue with the appropriate blend of shock and sympathy.
"But you know what?" She didn't pause this time--but leaned a little closer, letting me see the sparkle in her eyes as she spoke. "The doctors were able to perform some surgery--and they say she's going to be fine. In fact, she may very well be back on skis come March. Remarkable, isn't it?"
I've had a lot of ski lift conversations over the last few years--but there was something about this one that was different. I think it was the sense of urgency in the woman's voice, the impression she gave me that she just might burst if she didn't say something. She had some good news--and she just had to share.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Of course, he wasn't the only one celebrating. That night in Chicago's Grant Park, thousands gathered to celebrate the victory of their hometown hero. When Obama took the stage and delivered his solemn speech, the cameras pulled in close on the faces in the crowd--many of them black, many of them weeping. After the speech, the commentators noted (as they have many times since) that Obama's election carries special significance in United States--a country where, a generation or two ago, it was still an open question if black people should have the right to buses and diners and public education now elects a black man president. Remarkable, they said.
And undoubtedly, it is. But I'll admit--the significance was lost on me. It's not that I don't have a clue about where America has been. I've read Fredrick Douglas and Zora Neal Hurston and Martin Luther King. I've been to a town in Mississippi that still has a cinderblock wall running down the middle of it--a wall that divided the white part of that town from the black part for years. But all that seems like ancient history to me. It's so easy for me to put on the blinders--too shut out both the world and the darkened corners of my own heart--and assume that racism is nothing but a relic of an ancient past.
Of course, it's not. Last week, a friend in another corner of the country was praying with a group from his church. One man--a leader in his congregation--spoke up. He started well. Dear God, he said, be with our new President and Commander and Chief. My friend murmered his ascent. But then things took a turn. God, we do not like his politics, his attitude, his religion, or his color...
President Obama carries the hopes and expectations of many with him into office. And today, I (along with many others) add one to the list: my hope is that he will help us all confront the prejudice that lies within, that he will help us see not just how far we have come as a nation, but how far we have to go. And I hope that, somehow, God will use him to help us all take a step in the right direction.
Friday, January 9, 2009
I'm not really sure why. I've probably seen it (or bits and pieces of it) three or four times before. Plus, I've seen You've Got Mail a time or two, and that's more or less the same movie. So I knew the plot line, knew the jokes, knew the happy ending. But I watched it anyway. I blame my wife and mother-in-law.
Towards the end of the movie, the Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) character wakes up one morning and discovers that his house is empty--his eight-year-old son, Jonah, has run away. Somehow, the little boy managed to board a plane and fly to New York (by himself!) where he must navigate the bustling streets--alone.
I don't remember what my reaction to this scene was the first (or second, or third) time I saw it. Probably deep skepticism (how could that kid even find his way to the airport?!). But this time, I couldn't help but clutch my wife's arm and hold my breath as the desperate father (Hanks) boards his own plane to New York and then sprints through the streets of the city in search of his son. And I couldn't help but let out a huge sigh of relief when that Father finds his son--when he's able to pick him up in his arms and squeeze him tight. I was captivated by it all in a way that I never had before--because before, I was not a father. Before, it had not fully occurred to me just how terrible it would be to lose a son.
I suppose it's stating the obvious to say that I love my son--a lot. I imagine I would do anything necessary to protect him and keep him safe. And I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one.
That hit me when Adrian baptized this summer. I recall being deeply moved when Pastor Joy pronounced the blessing over him. Adrian Paul, for you, Jesus came into the world. For you he took on flesh. For you he lived. For you, he died. For you he rose again... The words hit me someplace deep inside and I suddenly understood--with new clarity--that there is someone who loves my son even more than I do. The love of Jesus for my son (for me, for you) is more profound and perfect than any earthly father's could ever be. I find that fact to be wonderfully assuring.
But there's a flip side. It's not just the way Jesus loves my child. It's the way I love Jesus back.
One of the lectionary readings for this week is from Matthew 10:34-39. It includes these words:
I do not like those words. At all. I want Jesus to love my son more than I can. But how can I love Jesus more than I love my son? My son--whom I can see and touch and hold? My son--whose soft cries float down the stairs, even as I type this? My son--for whom I would give up my own life? It seems like too much to ask. I fear that it is impossible.
Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of
me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy
But I pray that God would make it possible for me. I pray, not that he would make me love my son less, but that he would make me love his Son more.