Sermons by Brian Morgan (Page 2)
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 “The security of the sun has been replaced by the dangers of night. The comfort of his parents’ tents has been replaced by a rock.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
Acts 21:27-22:29 Having completed our series “Does it Matter,” we will now turn our attention back to the hair-raising drama in the book of Acts, which by divine coincidence puts flesh and blood on many of the themes we explored over the summer. If you were with us in the spring, you may remember Paul’s boundless energy, evangelizing and planting churches throughout most of Asia Minor and Greece. But when Paul arrives in Jerusalem, his whole career abruptly changes. He is assaulted, arrested, brought to trial and endures five trials that transport him from Jerusalem to Caesarea and finally to Rome. Paul the evangelist now becomes Paul the apologist, giving a defense concerning the revelation he has received and the integrity of his character. The fact that Luke devotes six chapters (nearly 200 verses) to these trials is a clue to their theological importance both then and now. Perhaps we should title this section, “Do Apologetics Matter?”
Acts 21:1-26 In our text this week, Paul makes his historic return to Jerusalem. Historic because he has representatives from all the churches he has planted traveling with him, along with a significant amount of money collected from each church for the poor in Jerusalem. The gifts are the first fruits of his ministry among the Gentiles and symbolize the unity of the church. Like a college graduate returning home, not just with a degree, but with money to pay his parent’s back for his or her education, one would think the homecoming would be one of unadulterated joy. But there are disturbing warnings in every port that serious trouble awaits him, but Paul refuses to be deterred. The text addresses some key questions: How do we discern God’s will when both parties believe the Spirit is guiding them? And why is “coming home” often so difficult?
Acts 20:17-38 After the riot in Ephesus and return visits to Macedonia and Corinth, Paul was eager to get back to Jerusalem with the offering he had collected from the Gentile churches before the day of Pentecost. On the way he summons the elders in Ephesus to meet him in Miletus, for his farewell speech, where he commissions them to follow his example in life and ministry as the new leaders of the Ephesus church. This text not only sets a high bar for church leaders, it also sets forth what all followers of Jesus should aspire to.