Sermons from August 2020
Peace and Security
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 The coronavirus has shaken people’s sense of peace and security, arousing fear and uncertainty. Some have asked if the pandemic is a sign of the End Times. And now the fires that rage all around us have turned the sun into darkness and the moon into blood. Is the Day of the Lord upon us? The Thessalonian Christians were wondering about “times and dates” of the end and were worried about how they would fare. What word of comfort does Paul give them? And how should we live today in such unsettling times?
The Communion of Saints
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The pandemic has brought months of enforced isolation. Loved ones have been dying in hospitals and nursing homes, isolated from family and friends, unable to feel a comforting touch as they pass. These family and friends are themselves isolated in their grief, unable to receive visitors to wrap them in a comforting hug. News had reached Paul that some Christians in Thessalonica had died, probably due to persecution. Unable to be present with those grieving to provide comfort, he wrote a paragraph in his letter to them (1 Thessalonians). This paragraph has prompted much speculation about end-times, including the supposed Rapture. But Paul intended it for comfort not speculation. He ends the paragraph, “Comfort one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 A Life Pleasing to God (1 Thess 4:1-12) Being a Christian is not just about believing the right things about Jesus. It is about embarking on a lifelong journey of learning how to live a life that is pleasing to God, a life in which we are transformed into Christ-likeness through the Spirit whom God has put within us. We resume our earlier series in 1 Thessalonians. In the final two chapters Paul gives remedial instruction about several matters on which the young church is confused. In this Sunday’s text (4:1-12) he addresses sexuality and life together. A Christian sexual ethic presupposes spiritual formation. Life together as Christian community presupposes philadelphia, brotherly and sisterly love for one another. These are both hot-button topics today. Sadly the church often seems more conformed to the pattern of this world, rather than transformed by the renewing power of God in Christ through his Spirit.
A Future to Die For
Isaiah 65:17-25 In our four-part series Comfort O Comfort My People we have gone through three steps: First, we received God’s word of comfort (Isa 40:1-11). On the second week, we drew near to God to lament and listen (Isa 49:1-6). Last week we caught a vision for the blessings we receive in doing acts of justice (Isa 58:1-14). To conclude our series, the prophet strengthens our hope and stirs our imagination for a future to die for—in the words of Paul, “an eternal weight of glory” beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17). My hope is that when your children or friends ask you what heaven is like, you’ll be able to reframe their question and light their hearts on fire with a vision of a new earth, which is crammed with the life of heaven.
Doing Justice, the Pathway to JOY
Isaiah 58:1-14 Our text this week opens with a heated exchange between God and his people. The people are disgruntled because they have been zealous in their ritual observances, but find that God no pays absolutely no attention. “Why do we fast, but you do not see?” Sound familiar? In response, God sounds an alarm from heaven, as if this is a life and death matter, therefore we better get it right. There is gaping disconnect between their “religion” and their relationships, an insidious hypocrisy that perverts righteousness for profit and destroys lives. In relentless severity God exposes their “religion” for what it really is. What happens next is not what we would expect. Instead of thundering down judgment, God shows them the road home and the manifold blessings that pour forth when his people join him in doing the holy work of justice. Read his appeal (vv.6-14) out load before Sunday and allow the repetitive cadences to wash over your soul with increasing intensity. This is God’s “I have a dream!” speech. May it stir our hearts and awaken us from sleep to “ride on the heights of the earth” (58:14). After the message we will partake of the Lord’s table together. So have the elements ready before we start. The love of Christ be with you all.