Archive for March, 2009

5th Sunday Of Lent


I.        Way In

A.      Very important lessons I have tried to teach my sons

1.      about music

a.      The Beatles are the best band ever

b.      The Rolling Stones are the best rock and roll band ever

2.      these are important distinctions

a.      it’s my onion, I know

i.        my sons have their own opinions and favorites, too

ii.      Miller and Jack more so than Pauly

            the older boys do recognize the superiority of the Beatles, but they have others – some of whom I have never heard of, nor particularly care for

            much like my own father viewed my music

            Pauly likes the Laurie Berkner, and the Naked Brothers (really brothers, not really naked)

b.      but I am proud to say that when a Beatles or Rolling Stones song comes on the radio – they will acknowledge, or at least seem to the status and stature of these bands with their father

i.        they also show some reverence for other music I hold dear … or maybe they’re just humoring me, like:

            Springsteen, U2, Pete Seeger, The Band, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Yes, and a few others

c.       As far as I’m concerned, these musicians have done an awful lot to shape music as we (or at least, as I) know it

3.      You may be disappointed that I didn’t’ mention any “official” Christian musicians

a.      there’s some fine Christian music out there

b.      I’m just saying, none fall into these ‘greatest ever’ categories

i.        I’ll probably hear from the home office on that one …

B.      I’m trying to get you thinking about ‘the greatest’

1.      who is your ‘greatest?’

a.      musician, actor, politician, athlete

2.      no doubt, these are important people to you

a.      made some difference for you, or for others

b.      maybe for a moment, maybe longer

C.      But let’s just be real for a moment

1.      do you think these really matter?

2.      the ‘greatest ones’ we’re talking about  right now, that is

3.      maybe they have made great strides in their field

a.      maybe made a difference in the real quality of people’s lives

i.        not only in music, the arts, culture, politics, society

4.      all very important…

a.      might even point to a moment of ‘glory’ for them

D.     ‘Glory’ has been on my mind all week

1.      we talk about ‘basking in one’s glory

2.      like being recognized or honored for one’s accomplishments

E.      this really stands in contrast to the glory of our Lord Jesus

1.      who, in today’s gospel reading, comes into the hour of glory that he has been working so hard to prepare the disciples for

II.      Tell the Story

A.      the were all coming to Jerusalem for Passover

1.      people from all over were arriving for worship, to recognize a this major feast/festival

B.      there were Greeks in the crowd

1.      and some of them approached the disciple, Philip

2.      said that they wished to see Jesus, of whom they had head from far away

3.      Philip and Andrew went to tell Jesus about the Greeks

C.      Jesus answered them, “the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified

1.      Amen, I tell you, unless a grain if wheat falls into the earth and dies…

a.      it remains just a single grain

b.      but if it dies

i.        and goes into the ground

c.       it bears much fruit

2.      those who love their life will lose it

a.      those who hate their life I this world will keep it eternally

3.      whoever serves me must follow me

a.      where I am, there will my servant be also

b.      whoever serves me, the Father will honor

D.     “Now my soul is troubled

1.      should I say, ‘Father save me from this hour?

2.      No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour

E.      “Father, glorify your name”

F.       and a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

G.     The crowd that was gathered around heard the voice

1.      some said it was thunder

2.      others said it was an angel

H.     Jesus said, “the voice has come for your sake not mine”

1.      he already knew about all the Father was saying and had planned

2.      this was an announcement for them

I.        Now this is what will happen

1.      the ruler of this world will be driven out

2.      and when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself

J.        the gospel says, that Jesus “told them this to indicate the kind of death he was going to die.”

III.    So What?

A.      Jesus’ hour of glory has come

1.      in John’s gospel, he has been telling the disciples over and again

a.      “my hour has not come yet,” it is not time

b.      he has been preparing them

c.       and when you read through the gospel

i.        like our Tuesday afternoon Bible Study class is doing

ii.      you can feel that tension, or anticipation

iii.    the technique of suspense that a good writer uses

d.      and it was Jesus’ way of telling and teaching his disciples

e.      and the fulfillment of the prophecies about  his death

i.        — that are about to all come true

            happen just the way the prophets and Jesus said they would

f.        and we begin to realize the significance of Jesus waiting and going as planned – as prophesied

i.        because in these fulfillments, Jesus’ purpose, as described in John’s gospel, is fulfilled – so that they would believe

2.      the hour of glory has come for Jesus

a.      and it’s not the glory we tend to expect for a well-known figure

i.        the glory we expect for ‘our greatest’ whom we named before

            greatest musician, actor, politician, athlete, etc.

ii.      is most often an award, recognition, election, reward, etc.

b.      but the hour of glory that Jesus has come to is his suffering and death

i.        because, as he teaches (in quite a ‘teachable moment’

            a seed of grain must fall into the ground and die

            and from this seemingly lifeless husk

            comes a harvest of produce

ii.      the hour of glory, Jesus has been anticipating, and declaring

            is the time that he will be taken away

            taken up, and executed by the state

            taken down, and buried in the earth

            behind a great stone

            and when he is lifted up from all this,

            springing forth as growth from a seed planted in the ground

            then will his hour of glory be complete

            and as God lifts Jesus up, the people will come to him

iii.    but the time that he has come to today

            the time of his betrayal and arrest

            the time of brutal, excruciating suffering

            and the time of the humiliating execution crucifixion

            the death suffered by the vilest criminals of the day

            surely this is no the time of glory, is it?

3.      even as he knows the horrible ordeal to come, would Jesus asked to be delivered?

a.      and even though he asks again for God to take away this cup

i.        if it is at all possible

4.      even though he is troubled to his soul

a.      Jesus knows this cup will not be taken away from him

b.      he shall not ask his Father to be delivered from this hour

i.        because this is the hour  is the reason for who he is

            so Jesus calls on the Father to glorify his name

            “I have done it” said God

B.      No, this is not glory as we know it

1.      nothing we would sign up for

a.      don’t we prefer to think of the glory we like to see for our heroes?

i.        a nice award show

            trophies, plaques

            recognition among the other “greats”

ii.      ceremonies, inaugurations, championships, parades

            cheering crowds, smiling faces

            confetti, streamers, fanfares

2.      this is the glory in which we, as fans, want to participate

i.        these are the ones whose fan clubs we join

            the ones we cheer on

            the ones whose pictures we out up on the wall

            or erect statues to

3.      so Jesus teaches of a different glory

a.      glory that comes at great cost

i.        the ultimate cost – his very life, all that he is

            because it is only through giving that over

            will come the great harvest, bearing much fruit

4.      yet this harvest is beyond that which we can imagine

a.      or, because it seems so costly, more than we would hope for

i.        the cost is too dear

5.      because it costs what we believe is the most

a.      even life as we know it

b.      are the followers of Jesus prepared to give up the things we treasure the most?

C.      Next Sunday we prepare to enter Holy Week

1.      today, we look at “glory” in another way

a.      glory that comes at great sacrifice

i.        glory that may seem to cost too much to buy into

            yet comes only to the ones willing to give it all

2.      so we will think of “holy” in another way

a.      not as in kneeling and folding your hands to pray

i.        not ‘holy’ as in pious or “religious,” — quiet and reverent

b.      but “holy” as the Biblical languages mean it

i.        set aside

ii.      set aside for a purpose – God’s purpose

3.      then shall we buy into this glory? (delivered from the foot of the cross)

a.      will we?, even though it comes at great cost?

b.      will we set aside that which is most precious and dear

i.        really, dying to our self, and the things we think are so important

            to the sacrifice Jesus has made for our sake

            and asking of us our life

            but he is really calling us into relationship with him

            and by that, relationship with others, for his sake

            making us of a community of sacrifice

            of giving ourselves over for the sake of others

            setting aside that which we think is so precious

            yet is really holding us back

            what are we willing to give up

            so that we may know this glory

            that may sound more like death at first

            but in God’s purposes

            is really the key to abundant life

            So may it be with us.  Amen.


Read Full Post »

4th Sunday Of Lent


John 3:14-21



I.      Way In

A.   John 3:16, a well-recognized text.

1.    “For God so loved the world…”

2.    You can fill in the rest, right?

B.   What it makes me think about…

1.    Football games

a)    U of Alabama

b)    Guy with rainbow-colored, “afro”-style wig

c)    “John 3:16” painted on his chest

(1)  Bare-chested when weather permitted

(2)  Or on T-shirt

2.    Bungee-jumping rig at Panama City Beach, Florida

a)    Describe

(1)  Metal cage suspended between 2 towers on bungee cords

(2)  The ride

(a)  Person sits in cage

(b)  Raised to top

(c)  Dropped

(d)  Bounces on bungees

b)    As I watched the cage go up with a rider

c)    Saw “John 3:16” painted on bottom

C.   Bridge

1.    another example of a familiar text that it’s helpful for us to read as if for the first time…

II.     Tell The Story

A.   Context

1.    part of Jesus’ visit with Nicodemus

a)    religious leader who came to see Jesus at night

(1)  interested/curious, but didn’t want anybody to know

(a)  esp. the rest of the relig.

b)    he was confused by Jesus’ teachings

(1)  esp. being born again

c)    made some difference to Nicodemus

(1)  he spoke up for Jesus one time after when the Sanhedrin was coming down on him

(a)  but didn’t really stick his neck out

2.    Jesus ref. to Numbers passage read before

a)    Israel complaining

(1)  Why bring us here to the desert to starve?

(a)  at least we had food in Egypt

(i)    God teaching them not to live and think as slaves

b)    God brought on the snakes

(1)  brought suffering and death among Israel

c)    and God brought healing

(1)  Moses’ staff with the snake

(a)  now a symbol for medical Dress – caduceus

d)    God didn’t eradicate snakes from creation

(1)  but does provide healing from the poison/venom

B.   as Moses lifted up the serpent, so must the Son of Man be…

1.    …and this is the judgment, the truth

a)    the light has come into the world (cf. chap. 1)

b)    and the people preferred the darkness

(1)  because their deeds were done better then than by day

c)    the ones who do evil hate the light, so their deeds are not exposed

d)    but those who do what is true come to the light

e)    so that it may be seen that their deeds have been done in God

III.    So What?

A.   Today’s message

1.    The light has come into the world

2.    those who do what is true come to the light

a)    their deeds have been done in God

B.   Light has come and the darkness shall not overtake it

1.    tell the story about the mountain cabin

a)    mtn.s of N. Georgia

b)    proud owner showing it off to a friend

c)    favorite room, the den

(1)  giant windows along one wall

(a)  giving a view of the Appalachians

(b)  valley, river below

(2)  track lighting above with dimmers

(a)  focused for reading and other activities

d)    friends’ comment

(1)  “You’re gonna need all those lights …

(a)  because those windows are gonna let in a whole lot of dark”

2.    At first, that almost makes sense …

a)    but you can’t shine darkness into a room

3.    yet light can be brought into any dark situation

a)    and John’s gospel is full of light imagery


C.   We can all think of places where God’s light needs to be shined

1.    in our lives

2.    in the lives of others

a)    community

b)    nation

c)    world

D.   we have seen the light

1.    how it makes a difference in our lives

2.    and how we care called to pass it on

a)    like we each have our own flashlight our calling is to shine the light of truth where there is darkness

E.   Jesus says there will be those who reject the light

1.    some who prefer the darkness

a)    like Nicodemus who had something to hide

2.    … prefer to remain in the shadows

F.    just as God provided a solution to the snake’s venom

1.    those who looked upon Moses’ staff were saved

G.   In Christ, God will always give us light – there will always be the light

1.    people can choose it or refuse it

H.   What will we do with the light that we know in Jesus Christ?

1.    will we shield it away?

2.    or let it shine through us?

a)    by the way we live our lived

(1)  serving God, proclaiming God by

(a)  the way we treat others

(b)  the decisions/choices we make

3.    shall we let the darkness overtake the world?

a)    or shine the light of Christ

b)    so let it be with us.  Amen

As preached, the sermon ending included extemporaneous thoughts expanding the notion of bringing the light of Christ to bear on our world.

Read Full Post »

Thank You

I am grateful to hear that people take the time to read the sermons I post.  I have done some tweaking to this blog and appreciate your patience as I move things around a bit.  Thanks also to those who scroll down the right colomn and click to join my blog network, this helps get the word out to more readers.

May each one of you know God’s best blessings of grace and peace,


Read Full Post »

3rd Sunday Of Lent



John 2:13-22


I.        Way In

A.      Homiletics Class at CTS

1.      Preaching, content and style

2.      formats, guidelines

3.      My current format

a.      Way In – contemporary hook

b.      Tell The Story – context (when, where, who?) other notes, and analysis

c.       So What? – what does the text mean for us today?  those seeking relevant Xnty?

B.      two contemporary hooks today

1.      Overturned

a.      like in the picture

i.        this stuff (media projection) is helping me with imagery and description

b.      well, not exactly “overturned,” like in the picture – rather I have a contrasting example

c.       Satellite radio in my truck

i.        love it – enjoy being able to hear my favorite music, uninterrupted.  well, mostly

·        at least the music channels are advertising-free, almost no ads

·        but the comedy channels, which I admit to listening to, and enjoying – they do run some advertising

·        although there are plenty of acts there that are not “family entertainment”

d.      the debt management program ads are in heavy rotation

i.        targeting people with high levels of consumer debt (mostly credit cards)

ii.      lots of problems in this market these days

iii.    “with the economy the way it is”

e.      interesting thing is that there are some that claim to have practically “turned the consumer debt crisis” upside down

i.        making big claims about being able to help consumers get out of debt by uncovering little-known consumer rights to pay off credit card debt at a fraction of what they owe

f.        now, I know, through lots of questions and investigation …  (on behalf of parishioners in more than one place where I have served)

i.        that credit card companies, and other creditors, will work with the debtors

·        not totally forgiving their debts (like in the Lord’s Prayer)

ii.      and negotiate interest rates and fees if it makes it more likely that the debtor will pay them back

g.      this is no secret

i.        most cc issuers, have some kind of program for customers who are in trouble

ii.      and there are some non-profit service providers

·        providing these services at nominal fees,

·        esp.when there are multiple creditors involved

h.      yet recently, I heard many ads for agents

i.        that offered, for a fee, to connect people with high cc bills with debt management firms

·        which anybody can do for themselves for free, if they have access to a computer or a library

i.        claiming to have overturned the consumer credit market…

i.        with loopholes, secret tactics, even trying to make it sound like a new law

j.        funny to think …

i.        if a new law was enacted to help people get out of debt

·        or a major loophole was identified

·        to completely overturn the consumer credit debacle

ii.      it would first be announced on a paid ad on a satellite radio comedy channel?

k.       nothing has been overturned here

i.        except maybe the already hurting bank account of ppl with consumer credit problems

2.      (another Way In, contemp. hook) giving an inch and taking a mile

a.      when Kazy, Pauly, and I go out to eat, we usually take along some toys for Pauly

i.        action figures, cars, activity books, etc.

ii.      something to keep him occupied while Mom and Dad eat our meal

b.      usually we sit in a booth

i.        me on one side, Kazy on the other

ii.      Pauly will choose one or the other of us to sit beside

·        play with his toys, occupied long enough for us to have a reasonably calm meal

c.       Recently at Culver’s (I ate there 3 times last week)

i.        P wasn’t content to share one side of the booth with Mommy or Daddy and play

ii.      he wanted his own side – so Kazy and I squeezed in to one side

·        this wasn’t even one of those big, corner booths

iii.    while Pauly spread out in the entire other seat

d.       At first I was annoyed …

i.        here we were, 2 grown-ups, squeezed in, trying to eat our lunch

·        while our 5-year-old, luxuriously spread out in the whole other seat – playing “cars” or “Power Rangers” or something

ii.      at first, I was annoyed, then I had to laugh at us

·        “Who’s in charge of this situation?”

e.      give him an inch, he’ll take a mile

i.        give him some toys to play with in his seat so we can eat our lunch

ii.      —and he’ll take the whole side of the booth

C.      Bridge, “so what’s that got to do with Jesus clearing the temple?”

1.      the moneychangers and livestock dealers weren’t technically breaking any temple law

a.      they were; however, pushing it

b.      taking the mile, when given an inch

2.      and Jesus certainly did overturn the tables

a.      really overturned the whole temple marketplace system, as they had come to know it

b.      and he did it in a very public and obvious way

II.      Tell The Story

A.      Context

1.      the “cleansing of the temple” occurs in all 4 gospels

a.      yet, the Synoptics each record this event at the end

i.        after Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday

b.      John – it’s at the beginning

i.        2nd public act, after the wedding at Cana

ii.      Tuesday afternoon Bible scholars can tell you

·        writer of John’s gospel is more concerned with theological concepts that a precise chronological account

2.      here we find everybody going “up” to Jerusalem for Passover

a.      the temple there was the center of religious life

B.      Content

1.      the sellers of cattle, sheep, and doves

a.      were there for pilgrims and travelers who needed them for their sacrifices

2.      Money-changers

a.      exchanging Roman coins into Jewish money

i.        Sanctuary Shekel (Exodus 30:11-16) was the only acceptable currency to pay the temple tax

3.      both of these enterprises were permitted by temple law

a.      a way to accommodate those who travelled great distances

4.      Yet, Jesus responded explosively

a.      made a whip, drove the animals out

b.      overturned the tables of the money-changers

c.       “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

5.      Not clear whether Jesus opposed every commercial enterprise in the temple

a.      after all, these were permitted practices

i.        or at least the religious authorities permitted it

ii.      and we know how they were about following the law

·        remember how it’s against their laws to execute somebody

·        so they turned Jesus over to the Romans for execution

·        their law didn’t permit it, so they found somebody who did

·        and let them do it for them

·        for they were zealous in following the law

iii.    but we have to wonder if the temple market was getting out of hand

·        can you imagine some of the vendors setting the prices a little high

·        or finding other ways to get a little bigger cut

·        maybe the religious officials were raising the rates on sacrifices offered

6.      It made his disciples think of Psalm 69

a.      “Zeal for your house will consume me”

7.      and the religious officials asked for a sign of his authority

a.      Jesus said, then “destroy this temple and I will raise it p on the 3rd day”

i.        but that was impossible, the temple had been under re-construction for 46 years

8.      John said,

a.      when Jesus said “the temple,” he meant his body

b.      and the disciples remembered that statement after the Resurrection

i.        and they believed the scriptures

III.    So What?

A.      Overturned

1.      Whatever the meaning was….the marketplace was in a wreck

2.      Jesus had freed all the animals there, or driven them off

a.      and overturned all the tables of coins

b.      maybe you recall the scene from “Jesus Christ Superstar”

i.        that’s how I imagine the temple market at this point

3.      but we still don’t know exactly what it was that set Jesus off

4.      but I think of the cleansing of the temple as overturning notions about worship or religion that we have set up to be so critical

B.      If Jesus were to come into my house …  WWJO  “What Would Jesus Overturn”

1.      what have I set up as sacrosanct? so sure that God must think it’s important, too

a.      are there tables I have set up with things I value so highly that it turns my attention from God?

i.        maybe they are more intangible things

·        assumptions about others

·        grudges or even enmity

·        presumptions about my own beliefs and standards

·        excuses and rationalizations

2.      what about the church?

a.      what tables have we set up that have become sacrosanct?

i.        are there practices, habits, or arrangements we have developed

·        or made to be so important in our minds that we can’t imagine doing it any different?

·        are these done to please God or ourselves?

b.      Lent is a season for introspection – for searching ourselves

i.        what have we done  – each one of us – to open up God’s house

·        as a place of true worship – praise, prayer, service, and hospitality

·        in a way so as to present to the world (or at least the neighborhood) – the saving love of God in Jesus Christ

·        or at least that somebody gives a rip about you?

ii.      are there practices, habits, things that make us comfortable …

·        so much so that they have come to BE  religion for us

·        maybe to the point that we convince ourselves that God must think so, too?

C.      overturned – think about this

1.      what is it?   what do we have?

2.      think about it this way

a.      aside from people, pets, and photographs/paintings –

i.        in your imagination, take those things and put them on tables

b.      what would be on your tables?

i.        what are the most precious things to you? (aside from people, pets, etc..)

c.       and while we’re at it….what about church?

i.        what would we take from church – the most precious things

d.      since we’re imagining,

i.        we can out ideas and metaphors on the table, too

ii.      free to put our EVERYTHING that’s precious

e.      so imagine these precious tables all set up …

i.        and Jesus comes along

·        looking for disciples

·        people to come and follow him

·        to show the world what the kingdom of God is like

·        to preach forgiveness and reconciliation

·        to heal us from despair, and self-righteousness

·        … what would he overturn?

·        what good would any of that stuff do for the kingdom of God

·        or how would zeal for our stuff keep us from following

·        would we/could we be like James and John

·        drop our nets, leave our homes

·        and go follow Jesus

D.     Surely Jesus wouldn’t turn over THAT table

1.      or would he?

2.      so let it be.  amen

Read Full Post »

2nd Sunday Of Lent

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Mark 8:31-38



I.        Way In

A.      You can tell the way somebody walks – “spot them a mile away,” you could tell these from TV and movies, even if all you saw was a shadow or outline

1.      Charlie Chaplin (waddle – like a penguin)

2.      John Wayne (swagger – like a hero)

3.      Chester on Gunsmoke (unmistakable limp)

4.      Audrey Hepburn (perfectly poised)

5.      other examples?

6.      The ones I think of

a.      Beatles, Abbey Rd. album cover

i.        spot the stride of the 4, Paul barefoot, etc.

b.      NYT photo of U2 last Sunday

i.        b/w photo from behind, they were walking down an alley

c.       Mr. Bean (BBC, how Pauly and I watch him)

B.      You can tell a lot by the way somebody walks

1.      purposeful, determined stride

2.      timid, uncertain .. short, reluctant steps

3.      eyes up, eyes down

4.      courteous when crossing another’s path?

a.      or dart ahead, afraid to fall behind

C.      Bridge

II.      Tell the Story

A.      Genesis

1.      the Lord invited Abraham to walk with him

a.      blameless?

i.        the Hebrew, thamim, does not imply sinless perfection …

ii.      but  the state of being blameless

·         as it is used in Deut. 18:14, “you must be completely loyal to the Lord your God.”

2.      more than an invitation

a.      this was a requirement for the covenant God made with Abraham

b.      “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless.

i.        and I will make my covenant with you:

ii.      you shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations

·         your name shall be Abraham

·         you will be exceedingly fruitful

·         nations and kings will come from you

iii.    this will be an everlasting covenant

iv.     and your wife shall no longer be known as Sarai, but Sarah

·         name changes often accompanied great movements with God

·         Jacob – Israel

·         Saul – Paul

·         Simon – Peter

B.      Mark

1.      “Then Jesus began teaching them that he would …

a.      suffer (greatly)

b.      be rejected by the religious officials

c.       be killed

d.      and rise again after 3 days

2.      Peter pulled Jesus aside and rebuked him

3.      Jesus responded to Peter

a.      “Get behind me, Satan!”

b.      “You are setting your mind on human things, not divine things”

4.      Then he said to everybody around (disciples and the crowd)

a.      “If any of you want to be my followers …

i.        Deny yourselves

ii.      Take up your cross

iii.    And follow me

b.      the ones who want to save their life will lose it

i.        yet, those who lose their life for my sake will save it

ii.      For what good would it do to gain the whole world if they had to give up their life to do it?

·         What can they give in return for their life?

c.       And if any of you are ashamed of me and of my words, then I am ashamed of you

III.    So What?

A.      Walk

1.      God told Abraham, “walk before me and be blameless.”

a.      walk in my ways, loyal to me

2.      Jesus invited his disciples to, “deny yourselves, take up your cross

a.      follow me.”

B.      You can tell somebody by how they walk

1.      What can you tell about Abraham by his walk?

a.      faithful to God?

i.        perfect? hardly

ii.      he did the best he could

iii.    he remembered God and the covenant

b.      what can you tell about the ways the disciples walked?

i.        perfect?  hardily

ii.      stumbled, fell

·         even falling completely away

iii.    but the ones who remained…

·         when you follow them in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles …

·         started to get it together

·         the community they made – the church they formed

iv.     they walked, faithfully, in the ways Jesus showed them

2.      what can people tell by the way we walk?

a.      loyal?

b.      in God’s ways?

c.       following Jesus?

d.      remembering who we are and whose we are?

C.      Walking is a way

1.      it’s how Jesus got around

a.      except for a couple of times on a donkey

2.      of course, most everybody walked then

a.      there were some who rode horses, camels regularly

b.      some who rode chariots

c.       some were carried

d.      certainly kings and emperors

i.        rode on horseback

ii.      chariots, even carried by servants

e.      Jesus was a different kind of kin

i.        we see that on Palm Sunday

ii.      how he chose to travel

iii.    even as a king

3.      Jesus walked, he noticed people around him

a.      close to God’s people

b.      he walked and he stayed among them

i.        even though a king, the son of God

ii.      never went like a megalomaniac

4.      Abraham walked in the ways of God – faithful to the covenant

a.      remembered who he was

b.      and what God promised him, and what he promised God

5.      a life of discipleship is often called a “walk with the Lord.”

a.      a way of faith

b.      a faithful way

D.     how is the way we walk?    what can people tell by the way we walk?

E.      I read about “The Waiter Test”

1.      pay attention to how people treat waiters

a.      or others in serving positions

b.      hotel maids, washroom attendants, garbage collectors

2.      does somebody treat these folks with the same kindness and respect as others?

a.      or are they impersonal or demanding?

3.      We were at dinner with friends once …

a.      the waiter spilled salad dressing on my friends sweater

i.        he didn’t exactly go off on the waiter,

·         but was curt and indignant

·         demanding that they pay the cleaning bill

ii.      would it have been different if they were eating at our house

·         and I spilled the dressing on the sweater?

4.      I can be all smug, and avow to never treat somebody like that …

a.      but then again, there was the clerk at Barnes and Noble

i.        I got all snippy because she got fussy

·          about me removing the cellophane from a calendar before I bought it

5.      then I read about another example of the Waiter Test[1]

a.      where a big-time CEO reflected on a time when he was a waiter

i.        “spilled a purple sorbet on the expensive gown of an important woman” at one of his tables

b.      he stood apprehensively for a moment as the woman regained her composure, turned slowly and deliberately to the waiter’s face and said

i.        “it’s okay, it wasn’t your fault.”

F.       You can tell about somebody by how we treat other people

1.      do we treat them the way Jesus shows us?

a.      forgiving

b.      welcoming

c.       honestly

G.     Abraham walked before God – with loyalty, doing the best he could to keep covenant with God

H.     Jesus called his disciples to …

1.      take up their burdens

a.       as he was taking up his

b.      although his was much greater

c.       although his back bore the scars of scorn

i.        and his shoulders bore the sins of the world

2.      …take them up, and follow me

a.      walk in his ways

I.        The walks we read about in the Bible today are ways –

1.      journeys of faith, assurance, promise

J.        You can tell a lot about somebody by how they walk

1.      how is my walk?

2.      how is your walk?

3.      how is our walk?

K.      through he witness of the scriptures, the example of Abraham, and the life & witness of Jesus Christ …

1.      so may it be with us.  Amen

[1] Rev. William W. Willimon; April 23, 2006

Read Full Post »

1st Sunday Of Lent

Mark 1:9-15



I.        Way In

A.      Ministerial Association meeting a few weeks ago

1.      somebody said Lent seemed to be coming fast this year

a.      can’t believe it’s here

b.      setting our clocks back next week

i.        earlier, too – moved to March a couple of years ago

B.      Different practices and customs of Lent

1.      Beginning

a.      simple pancake suppers for Shrove Tuesday

i.        where you eat up all the fattening foods in the kitchen

ii.      removing temptations for Lent

b.      or the final blowout of Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday

i.        last big party before Lent

2.      Ash Wednesday

a.      repentance, accepting forgiveness

b.      marked with the ashen cross

i.        sign and seal of God’s grace in Jesus Christ

3.      Spiritual discipline

a.      penitence

b.      taking up – prayer, practice

c.       laying aside – favorites to cleanse your mind and body

i.        sweets, coffee, TV, etc.

C.      Whatever your practice – join me in thinking of the Lenten journey

1.      from penitential Ash Wednesday to

a.      shouts of “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday

b.      passion of Holy Week

c.       Dark noon of Good Friday

d.      deep grief of Holy Saturday

e.      victory of Easter Sunday

D.     Bridge

1.      gospel reading today is a journey

a.      from Jesus’ home in Galilee through the wilderness, and back home

b.      Baptism – wilderness – ministry of angels

2.      Think of a spiritual journey – a familiar journey

a.      I remember travelling to see my grandmother and great aunt on the O’Neil side who lived in Vicksburg, MS – the Delta

i.        Delta begins on Catfish Row in Vicksburg and ends at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis

b.      remember hearing Momma and Daddy talking s we drove about towns with funny names

i.        Toomsuba. Chunky, Bovina, Pelahatchie

c.       remember the sharp, thick smell of my father’s cigarette smoke in the car

d.      tastes of road food

i.        Cokes and Snicker bars

ii.      packs of cheese of peanut butter crackers, Momma called them Nabs

e.      childhood journey seemed familiar last time I drove it as an adult

i.        smells and tastes I remembered mixed with the roadside sights that remained as I drove some 40 years later

3.      Journey in Marks’ gospel seems familiar too

a.      can you feel it?

b.      is there a connection for you, too?

II.      Tell The Story

A.      Spiritual journey that begins with baptism

1.      exuberant pouring out of God’s grace

2.      Jesus is filled with grace

a.      poured over him in the waters of the Jordan

b.      descended upon him in the dove

3.      God within him, Jesus is God among us

a.      coming up from the waters of baptism and out as God’s Word for the world

4.      can you connect with baptism through recalling Jesus’ baptism

a.      consider your own baptism

b.      or one you have witnessed

c.       maybe at this very font

i.        a moment full of grace and love

ii.      as God claimed one of his very own

iii.    and marked that infant, child, or adult in the same spirit as Jesus

B.      As Jesus’ gospel journey continues we remember something Jesus taught in another place

1.      what he teaches us about the life of discipleship

a.      it’s not easy

b.      “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves. and take up their cross daily, and follow me.”

c.       If any  want to be followers

i.        remember, Jesus himself couldn’t get but 12 to commit, solid

·         and he couldn’t count on all of them – all of the time

ii.      they said, “Yes, Lord.  We’re with you all the way.”

·         but where were they when the Roman guards showed up in the garden?

·         where were they usually when times got rough?

·         hiding in the upper room

2.      Jesus says you have to take up your cross every day

a.      not just 1 day, or 2, or 3, but every day

3.      following Jesus is not easy

a.      because we can’t talk about following him anywhere unless we commit to following him everywhere

i.        can’t just go to Bethlehem to visit the child then rejoice in victory on Easter morning

ii.      we have to also go to Gethsemane, and Calvary

4.      some days it’s easier than others

a.      some days it’s easier to bear

b.      some days, somebody helps

i.        maybe even a stranger, like Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus bear his cross up the hill

5.      and some days, it seems we’re all alone

a.      it’s not always easy

C.      We know for sure that our spiritual journey will lead us into the wilderness

1.      maybe even while our hair is still wet from a baptism of God’s grace

a.      with God’s affirmations still ringing in our ears

b.      filled with the exuberance of God’s love

i.        the companionship and assurance of our family and community

2.      even then, right away, just like it happened to Jesus

a.      we can feel ourselves immediately driven into the wilderness

i.        I remember the feeling a the end of  a 14-year marriage

·         making the decision to separate and divorce

·         recall the pain of my sons going to live with their mother

·         I remember crying out to God, “Where do I belong?  How will I be a father to these boys?”

ii.      I remember the death of my grandfather, Joe Hinds Sr.  – my first relative to die

·         and I remember the death of my mother – the most heart wrenching loss for my family

·         how could God take these precious people from my life?

iii.    these moments felt like wilderness – actually, these moments felt worse

·         I felt abandoned, orphaned, lost

b.      Can you feel a connection with the wilderness?

i.        have you been there?

c.       Think of Jesus going straight, practically, from the baptism river of Jordan

i.        into the wilderness for 40 days

·         tempted by Satan

·         living among the wild animals

ii.      imagine that separation and even loneliness

iii.    like a time your soul has suffered …

·         dark, hollow tolling of an enormous bell

·         droning dark tones of separation, despair and emptiness

d.      do you feel a wilderness connection?

D.     The journey starts with the baptism of God’s grace

1.      this journey is guaranteed not to be easy

2.      there will be wilderness times

E.      This is  a journey with a promise that the wilderness is not the end

1.      Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days

2.      tempted by Satan

3.      among wild beasts

4.      and the angels waited on him

a.      that’s the promise

b.      there will be angels

F.       NRSV says angels waited on Jesus

1.      if you look at the Greek you will see the word dihko,noun (diekonoun)

a.      we trans. to English as “waited on”

b.      but this is the kind of waiting we discussed before

c.       doesn’t mean they “waited on him” to come back pout where it’s safe

d.      the Greek word dihko,noun is more like “ministered to”

i.        we discussed this word before, it’s where “deacon” comes from

·         ministered to – acts of mercy and compassion

2.      the angels ministered to Jesus

a.      cared for him, served him

b.      and this is the promise for us

i.        even in the wilderness, there will be angels to minster to us

c.       there will b angels

i.        maybe while we are still in the wilderness

ii.      maybe as we struggle to find our way out

iii.    there will be angels

3.      the wait may seem endless

a.      or they may come quickly

b.      maybe as we are struggling and stumbling

c.       or maybe as we regain our strength and take our way out of the wilderness with great, long strides

d.      they are there, holding us as we stagger or stumble

i.        or picking us up on their shoulders as we make our victory run

4.      can you related to the ministry of angels being around you?

a.      they day the mother of my sons and I separated, I went to the airport with them

i.        the day they flew to their new home in NJ – away from me

ii.      my heart was broken that day, I went to the airport to see them off

iii.    after they got on the plane, I went to the window to see their plane take off

iv.     and when I walked to that side of the waiting area, I saw an angel

·         my friend Dave

·         had come to the airport that morning

·         he knew we would be there

·         knew I would have a terrible morning

·         and there he sat – there for me

·         God sent an angel for me named Dave

·         he held me as the plane left

·         then took me to eat lunch and sit with me

·         he had the time – he had taken the day off work

·         he cleared his appointments to be there

5.      have you known an angel?

a.      Following the funerals for my grandfather and my mother ..

i.        there were angels in the house

ii.      they brought food

iii.    and they offered the very best thing that had to give – themselves

·         to sit and be with the ones who were sad

b.      what are the times angels have ministered to you?

III.    So What?

A.      During our spiritual journey

1.      we go through times when baptism of God’s grace is as sure as the water on or head

2.      and we have times when the wilderness of separation and brokenness is al around us

a.      and angels wait on us – minister to us

3.      baptism, grace, and ministry of angels all feel good – but the wilderness part seems more full of dread

a.      there is temptation there, there are wild beasts

i.        maybe it’s our own struggles of wild beasts within us:

ii.      things like greed, envy, lust, apathy, fear

b.      we prefer to avoid this part of the journey, don’t we?

i.        this is the scary part

ii.      we feel abandoned

iii.    don’t want to face the beasts alone

c.       “Out there” in the wilderness or “in here” in the wilderness

i.        it’s easy to forget God’s promise

ii.      and forget to act is if God is with you

·         even though we feel abandoned

·         this “acting as if” is part of the life of faith

·         claiming and believing God’[s promise for ourselves

·         and acting as if we believe it

B.      Lent can be a time to consider the journey

1.      and expect the wilderness part of it

a.      it was that way for Jesus and it is that way for us

2.      wilderness is the place also for testing ant temptations

a.      we are forced to look deeply at the external and interlay “wild beasts”

i.        where do these try to lead us?

ii.      where can we be led by fear, jealousy, insecurity, greed?

b.      and as we look for ways to overcome these burdens

·         we find, like Jesus knew, that we are powerless on our own

·         we rely in God

c.       and even in the wilderness, when we claim God’s presence

i.        and act as if God is there

C.      Time in the wilderness can transform us

1.      we may come out ragged, dirty, and tired

2.      but we have the opportunity to recognize and claims God’s presence and care


Remember the promise that it won’t be easy.  For we will also be spending some time in the wilderness.  We will spend some time struggling with beasts and demons outside, and even inside of ourselves.  May we resist the temptation to want to rid our lives of these beasts completely – to do away with wilderness times.  The journey we are on is about wholeness, and we cannot deny that our struggles are part of who we are as surely as our joys.  It is our struggles that lead us towards wholeness, and we do so with the promise that God is with us.

May we also remember that angels will minister to us along the way.  Sometimes we may know the angel only by the grace extended to us, but remember that there are times when we are gifted with the beauty of their face – sometimes in a loving friend, and sometimes in a stranger – another traveler on the journey.

My friends, this is our journey.  Before we go any further, let us pray.

God of love and grace, how we give you thanks for the way you are pouring yourself out all over us.  Continue to walk with us Lord, and hold us in your peace and love.

Keep us mindful of your steadfast love for us, God, even when our journey takes us into the wilderness.  Give us the courage to face the beasts and demons, especially the ones inside of us.  Especially the ones that would have us forget who you are, and so – forget who we are.  Give us the wisdom to transform these beasts and demons as we struggle towards wholeness – the fullness of life you want for us.

We give you thanks, Almighty God, for your angels.  We thank you for the ways they minister to us, care for us, look after us, and wait on us.  Thank you for the many angels you send our way as we walk along this journey.

We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our friend and savior, and for his sake let every heart say together …   Amen

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: