Sermons from 2016
And Heaven and Nature Sing
Luke 2:1-20 On this fourth Sunday of Advent, Christmas Day, we hear the voice of the angel announcing to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10-11). At critical times in Israel’s history when their world grew oppressive and morally dark, God intervened to subvert the existing order announcing “good news” of a new beginning, a fresh start, often through a deliverer who would be born to a barren woman. Yet, despite God’s faithfulness, giving Israel a fresh start again and again, it never lasted. There was always an ominous crack in the foundation of the new order, a fatal character flaw in the human instruments. Why should we expect this “good news” to be any different? How can we be sure it will last? What clues does Luke give us that this will be history’s last new beginning upon which everything else will be built, a beginning that evokes everlasting praise from every creature and all of creation? Join us Christmas Day to receive God’s gift and when you open it, “heaven and nature sing!”
What Are You Waiting For?
Luke 2:25-35 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” These are the words spoken by Simeon upon holding a 40-day old baby Jesus. He didn’t know how the Lord would bring an end to the waiting, but as soon as he beheld the Baby, he knew his waiting was over! We have become accustomed to waiting as well. We wait for many things. We wait for Christmas morning and the giving and receiving of gifts. We wait for a spouse. We wait for a house. We wait for promotions or new job opportunities. But do we wait for the Messiah like Simeon? We are reminded in this season that the greatest gift ever given came on a Christmas over 2000 years ago. He came then. He will come again! Most of the gifts we give and receive this Christmas will be out of our lives within 5 years… or even 1 year. But the gift of Grace that came in the Baby, that gift will never be rendered obsolete! What are you waiting for this Christmas? Join us this Sunday as we will all gather together as His family (from kindergartners on up) and continue to prepare for the coming of the King!
The Benedictus: Advent Blessings
Luke 1:57-79 “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.” When John is born and Zechariah suddenly regains his speech, these are the first words out of his mouth. Why does Zechariah bless God? Why should we bless God? Advent is a “speed bump” during the year that allows us the opportunity to remember the blessing of the incarnation and to bless and praise God in return. During these weeks of Advent, we are focusing on the songs of Mary, Zechariah, Simeon, and the angels which we find in the opening chapters of Luke’s gospel. This week we turn to the Benedictus, named for the first word of the song in Latin, “blessed.” Many people do not feel blessed during the Christmas holidays, but Luke’s gospel comes to the rescue. As we gather this Sunday we will look to Zechariah’s song to set our hearts on God and remember the blessings of the Christmas season.
The Magnificat: He has remembered his love!
Luke 1:48-55 While the world rushes from Black Friday and Cyber Monday into the hectic frenzy of Christmas, with its seasonal liturgy of music and art, much of the church observes Advent, when we remember God’s promises to come to his people, and anticipate the second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. How would you have responded had you been there when God fulfilled those promises through the birth of Jesus? According to Luke’s account, those who were there responded in song. Rather, they responded in psalm-like poetry, which the church quickly set to music and has sung ever since, often every day. We know these Lukan canticles (songs) by their opening words in Latin: the Magnificat of Mary, the Benedictus of Zechariah, and the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon. In the three remaining Sundays of Advent we will look at these three songs in turn. On Christmas Day itself we’ll consider the Gloria, sung by the angels announcing to the shepherds the birth of Jesus.
The Beatitude Effect
Matt 5:13-16 What kind of effect can Beatitude people have on the world? After the Beatitudes, Jesus goes on to describe that very thing by calling Beatitude people the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It has been said that ‘Christians are ordinary people making extraordinary claims.’ With these verses in Matthew, one could turn that saying around like this: ‘Christians are ordinary people about whom Jesus makes extraordinary claims.’ Jesus has a strange confidence in the ordinary people sitting in front of him on that hillside in Galilee. He has the same confidence in his followers today. And, through these two metaphors of salt and light, Jesus reveals his startling assessment of life on this planet. And, what he reveals is just as true today as it was back then. Join us this Sunday as we consider the Beatitude Effect on our culture and in our world.
The Blessed Persecuted
Matt 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. We now come to the eighth and final Beatitude, and it is the consequence of living the Beatitudes: persecution. You can almost hear Jesus say, “Sorry!” as he pronounces this one. Note that Jesus is not blessing those who seek persecution or those who are obnoxious or rude or proud. He blesses those who by find themselves encountering opposition simply by living a Beatitude life. The bottom line is this – the life Jesus provides us will provoke hostility. It provoked hostility for him, and it will provoke hostility for his followers (John 15:18-20). Jesus will go on to make this a double beatitude in verses 11-12. Maybe he knew we wouldn’t like it, and we needed to hear it twice? :) Join us this Sunday as we explore the different parts of this, the last, beatitude.
Being Makers of Shalom
Matt 5:9 In the wake of yesterday’s election, the culmination of a highly contentious campaign season, our text for this coming Sunday is the seventh Beatitude: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Jesus, being the ultimate peacemaker, calls us to not wage war, but to wage peace. He went and waged peace by going to a cross, in the process praying for his enemies. Paul will go on to say that as far as it depends on us, we are to live at peace with everyone. What an appropriate word for us for this week. Regardless of the outcome of the election, we are called to make peace wherever we go. It is many times not easy, but a cross is not easy either. In fact, the cross is the way to think about peacemaking. Once again, Jesus says that we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow him. Peacemaking is one of the ways we take up our cross daily. In peacemaking, we deny ourselves and take great risk. But, so did Jesus. And, the reason peacemakers are called children of God is because they look like him when they make peace. God made peace with us through his Son at great sacrifice, and at great risk to his reputation. As his children, let’s do what we can this week to produce peace in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing
Jas 1:2 – 5:20 This Sunday we have a special privilege to hear from one of our dear friends, Mariam (Kamell) Kovalishyn, who was our 2012 women’s retreat speaker. She is currently a professor of New Testament at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. Mariam has a M.A. from Denver Seminary and a Ph.D. from Saint Andrews. Much of her research has centered on the epistle of James, which involved extensive work in both Jewish wisdom literature and the gospel of Matthew. Mariam has co-authored a commentary on James, has published several articles in books and journals, and is currently working on a biblical theology of social justice. Mariam has a diversity of interests including music (both making and listening), hiking, skiing, and backpacking, art (painting and now pottery), and hanging out with her nephews and niece. She and her husband, Val, have been married for 2 and 1/2 years.
The Blessed Pure
Matt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. We come to the greatest promise ever made by Jesus: the pure in heart will see God. The pure in heart are those who are unmixed at the center of their being. The pure in heart have a single, undivided devotion to Jesus. They are Jesus-oriented at the center of their being, leading lives of integrity before him and before others. Notice as well, that Jesus does not say, ‘perfect in heart’. The pure in heart are not perfect in heart, like David, who after his failures prays that God would renew in him a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within him (Ps 51:10). And, in the end, the pure in heart will see God. I believe that this is the greatest promise ever made by Jesus. But, in your perspective, is this the greatest promise he ever made?
Matt 5:7 As we continue our journey through the Beatitudes (and the theme of Living Right Side Up in an Upside Down World), we come to Beatitude #5 – “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” We all like receiving mercy, but Jesus makes it clear throughout the gospels that we must show mercy if we ever hope to receive it. So is mercy free or not? And if not, how is THAT merciful?!
Right-side Up Appetites
Matt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. In this beatitude, Jesus is describing those who, because of their attachment to him, yearn for righteousness ‘as a deer pants for streams of water’ (Ps 42). As we walk down the road of life, Jesus intercepts us on the road. He moves into our lives and begins transforming our appetites. He begins to repair all of our broken cravings. He begins to heal all of our longings, which have been distorted as a result of sin. Instead of ultimately longing for other things, he causes us to long for righteousness instead. What is this righteousness he is talking about? I defined it a few weeks ago simply as ‘right-relatedness’. Righteousness is fundamentally a relational term and begins with our relationship with God, but includes our relationships with others, with ourselves, and with creation. In this beatitude, Jesus takes us right into what it means to be human, made in the image of God. To prepare for this Sunday, you can meditate on Psalm 63 and begin to think about what you really crave. What are your appetites? Are they right-side up or not?
The Blessed Meek
Matt 5:5 We tackle another Beatitude this week – the meek. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Jesus switches the price tags once again with this one. Jesus is saying that it is not the ‘survival of the fittest,’ but the ‘survival of the meekest.’ This is completely upside-down to how the world operates. Take a look at the executives at your company – would you describe them as being meek? Those who are at the top in the sports world – are they meek? Those at the top of politics – are they meek? Maybe they are, maybe they are not. It all depends on how you define meek. And, here, Webster’s dictionary does not help, but Psalm 37 does. So, in preparation for this Beatitude, it would be helpful to meditate over Psalm 37 because it gives us the best definition for meekness. Hope you can join us this Sunday as we aim to discover the blessedness in being meek.