Sermons by Brian Morgan
Psalm 23 When life spirals out of control, our most common response is fear. Even for those of us who are followers of Jesus, it is easy to lose our focus and be overcome with anxiety, even despair. This week in the midst of the coronavirus crisis we will draw near to our true Shepherd in Psalm 23. Derek Kidner writes, “Death and strength underlie the simplicity of this psalm. Its peace is not escape; its contentment is not complacency: there is a readiness to face deep darkness and imminent attack, and the climax reveals a love, which hime towards no material goal but to the Lord Himself.”
Gen 29:31 – 30:24 The subject of this week’s text is children. The promise of children was a significant driving force in God’s covenant to Abraham, especially when given to barren women like Sarah and Rebekah. What follows is a very surprising birth narrative of Jacob’s twelve children, and with it we discover how two wounded women learn to connect with God. These two sisters give voice to the question, “Can children make you happy? At what price?” After we examine this question we will address the theme of children in the context of the New Covenant.
Gen 29:15-30 Anyone who is married knows it doesn’t take long to wake up from the dream-like world of the honeymoon and discover you married a sinner. For some, the revelation of these changes can be so dramatic that they may even question the sanctity of the marriage. No one woke up to the fact that he had in fact married the wrong girl as quickly as Jacob. Can you imagine the initial shock to wake up after your wedding night only to find the bride’s sister in your bed? The question our text addresses is, “Can we be blessed by God if we are seemingly trapped in an unhappy marriage?”
Gen 29:1-20 Jacob’s heavenly encounter with God and angels at Bethel has energized him as he journeys to Haran with eager anticipation of what God might have in store. Approaching the city, he encounters a beautiful girl by a well, a typical scene in the Bible that initiates a betrothal. The story strikes a resonant chord in every man, who wants to be a “prince charming”, and every woman who longs to be a beauty worth searching for. But deeper still, the story speaks to the longing of our hearts to be sought and courted by God.
Gen 28:10-22 We come to place in the Jacob story that is every parent’s nightmare, when a son or daughter goes off into exile. The conditions are anything but ideal. “The security of the sun has been replaced by the dangers of night. The comfort of his parents’ tents has been replaced by a rock. Behind him lays Beersheba, where Esau waits to kill him; ahead of him is Haran, where Laban waits to exploit him. He is situated between a death camp and a hard-labor camp” (Bruce Waltke). Though terrifying, exile can be a place of profound transformation. When we are offstage in extreme loneliness, we are better to hear the tender voice of God pursuing us. Once Jacob hears God’s word, his ordinary journey is transformed into a holy pilgrimage. May it be true of us as well.
Gen 27:1-29 In this week’s text we are drawn into the intimacies of a sacred meal where the patriarchal blessing, with all its eternal promises, will be passed down from one generation to the next through the chosen son. Sadly however, the sanctity of the occasion is crushed by dysfunctional family dynamics, where each party serves their personal interests through deceit, blasphemy, manipulation, and a literal “coverup.” How will God intervene to further his kingdom when the chosen family has all but denied God’s presence? There is so much in this text that speaks to family dynamics, birth order, competition, favoritism and the “coveted blessing” we all long for. I wish I had three weeks to tease our all of its implications.
Gen 25:19-34 This week we begin a new series on the Life of Jacob: Encountering God in the ordinary and often messy stuff of life. Paul Stevens writes, “As we travel through all the stages of Jacob’s life we discover that God is with Jacob in every aspect of his journey. The Bible is not an instruction manual that contains principles of spirituality. It is a story, a story about God in search of humankind and his progressive establishment of his kingdom on earth. And the amazing thing about this God is that he condescends to come right into the midst of our mundane, messy worlds of home, work and play as the stage where this ‘holy’ work occurs.” Each week we will discover how God is at work forging Jacob’s identity in the midst of a very dysfunctional and fragmented family, one that may be strikingly similar to our own.
John 1:6-13 Like a musical overture to a symphony, the prologue to John’s gospel introduces the major themes of his work — the pre-existent Word, light, life, witness, darkness, rejection, believing, birth, glory. It is poetic — prose, dense with layers of meaning, ambiguity and especially surprise. After we are initially captivated and seized by awe with John’s exalted view of the the Word — preexistent, creator of all things, equal with God (John 1:1-5) — we can’t help but wonder, How will the Word make its grand entrance on planet earth? What kind of reception will the Word receive? What impact will it have in a world shrouded in darkness? The answers John gives are not what we would expect, but equip us with realistic expectations and tools for how to spread God’s light and love in a hostile world.
Acts 28:1-31 This week we come to the conclusion of Dr. Luke’s two-volume work Luke/Acts. It has been a long, adventuresome journey, especially following Paul’s relentless energy and patient endurance, as he spread the gospel over 10,000 miles, visiting 29 cities, 8 provinces and 2 continents. With great skill, Luke has captured our imagination and held us in suspense through Paul’s countless trials and shipwrecks, wondering how will it all end. Will Paul make it to Rome? Will he get his day in court? Will Paul be vindicated or martyred? On the surface, Luke’s ending seems inconclusive, leaving our questions unanswered. But on closer examination, it fits his purposes perfectly, pulling us into the drama in ways we couldn’t have imagined. Acts 28:1-31
Acts 27:1-44 Have you ever been in a situation when a family member, colleague, or company you worked for was at a potentially dangerous crossroads, and you had the foresight to know the right course of action, but your advice was not heeded and the result was a disaster? It’s even more painful when the consequences impact you and your loved ones, and you can’t do anything about it. That’s the situation Paul finds himself in as he begins his voyage from Caesarea to Rome and ends up shipwrecked. Like Paul, poor choices of others can plunge us into the dark depths beyond our control, making us feel like prisoners to complex social entanglements that put our calling and lives at risk. What do we do? Come Sunday to find out. (Note: Because of the length of the text, it will not be in the worship guide. I encourage everyone to read it before Sunday.)
Acts 24:1-27 In this week’s text we continue the theme of “Paul and politicians.” Last week we observed how a Roman tribune, who was governed by rules of law, was the instrument God used to rescue Paul from three riots and transport him safely to Caesarea. Having been escorted by half of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem must have encouraged Paul that God was confirming his promise that he would soon testify to God in Rome. But in Caesarea Paul’s hopes are dashed when his case is turned over to Felix, the Roman governor. Felix has no interest in being a servant to the people nor in justice. Rather than giving a ruling on Paul’s case, he vacillates, postpones, manipulates and finally puts his ruling on hold endlessly. What do followers of Jesus do when faced with corrupt officials and the justice due us is delayed with no end in sight?
Acts 22:30-23:35 How ought we think about how we relate to structures of power in society? If Jesus is reigning as Lord of the world, what does that imply about how we relate to the authority structures in society? Both Paul and Peter seem to be very clear in their writings that we are to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom 13:1-5; 1 Pet 2:13-15). But is it really that simple? What happens when those institutions become corrupt instruments of evil and our submission enables further injustice? In the aftermath of WWII, we condemned those who carried out Hitler’s abominations with the excuse that they were just doing what they were told. So there must be more to our responsibility to governing authorities than mere submission. This Sunday we will get a glimpse at how Paul thought about the structures of power in society, and discover how the kingdom advances in a very imperfect and, in some cases, corrupt world. Acts 22:30-23:35