This week's sermon...from Luke 1.
Life doesn't always pan out the way we expect it to or think it should. We all begin from a place of orientation, with hopes and dreams for our lives. But when those dreams fade or the hopes never materialize, it's disorienting, and the Church hasn't always been a place where it's safe to talk about the hard things. Christian faith isn't just about triumph and victory; it also sits quietly with those who are in places of darkness and difficulty. Let's make space for all the stories, even those that don't quickly and easily resolve.
This week's sermon...from Luke 1.
Hurricanes. Wildfires. Floods. War. Famine. Displacement. Nuclear escalation. Sometimes it feels like the world is riding on a knife-edge of chaos and destruction...like the world is going to hell in a handbasket. We try to protect ourselves. We try to insulate ourselves. But the turmoil is real. And it's disorienting. And there's no easy, satisfying answer to the problem.
But when all hell is breaking loose, when the wicked prosper, when we see corruption in the highest offices in the land, when injustice seems to have the day, and disaster strikes near to us...still those who are God's People, those who will be marked out as righteous, are those who remain faithful to God's Way of peace, love, justice, and mercy, as they wait for the Lord.
This week's sermon...from Habakkuk.
The whole of Christian faith could be understood as a movement through disorientation and into new orientation. We experience this in big and small ways in our own lives. But most of all we see this movement in the story of Jesus Christ himself as we move through the disorientation of the cross to the new orientation of the resurrection. Nobody saw this thing coming! It doesn’t make sense! It’s foolishness and a stumbling block! Unless we have been given a new orientation…God’s orientation.
This week's sermon...from Philippians 2:5-11.
Sooner or later, times of "disorientation" come for us all...times of turmoil, loss, chaos, brokenness, hardship. Christian faithfulness is not about pretending that everything is fine or that we like everything that happens to us; faithfulness is shown in how we move through the darkness and disorientation to find new life, hope, light, and rebirth on the other side.
This week's sermon...from Psalms 16, 137, and 30.
(We didn't catch the first several minutes of the sermon on the recording. Sorry!)
There are some very loud voices in our world...voices of news pundits, parties and politicians, our own prejudices and fears, and even loudmouth preachers! Too often, we let these loud voices tell us what to think and how to make sense of the world. Too often, we let these loud voices have more influence in our lives than the Way of Jesus. Too often we let these loud voices, like the Pharisees and teachers of the Law in John 8, tell us what the story is and what should be done about it.
When Jesus encounters that woman caught in adultery, he refuses to let the "loud voices" tell the story. Instead, he sees the woman, listens to the woman, and let's her tell her own story. Jesus offers her compassion, mercy, grace, and love, and he grants her dignity, even when she was caught in the act. If we want to be followers of Jesus and walk in his Way, then we too should be ready to listen to others as they tell their own story, even if they are "sinners," "enemies," "criminals," "illegals," "good-for-nothings," or any other label we can think of.
This week's sermon...from John 8:1-11.
How would Jesus respond to the book of Esther? And how should we who seek to follow in the Way of Jesus understand the action of the book of Esther when we see it through the lens of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus? Maybe we need to step back and rethink the "victory" of God's People in light of the one who willingly went to his death on a cross, killed at the hands of his "enemies," in order to bring redemption and reconciliation to all creation.
This week's sermon...some final thoughts on the book of Esther, with reference to Matthew 5 and 1 Peter 2.
God's covenant promises are one of the primary themes of the Bible: though we may not see their fulfillment, God will surely be faithful to what God has promised. But while we can rest on these sure promises, we also have to recognize that those promises sometimes demand our vulnerability, our willingness to venture into the unknown, our willingness to take a risk. Just like Abraham, like the Israelites in the wilderness, like Esther, we have to step out in faith in order to step into the blessing that God has for us.
This week's sermon...from the book of Esther...with reference to Psalm 46 and Hebrews 10:19-23.
What is a miracle, really? Is it limited to things we cannot explain? Things that defy reason and science? Or can we recognize the amazing gifts that are around us every day, the ordinary miracles? Because God is at work in the mists of regular, ordinary, everyday things. In the book of Esther, all of the unexpected twists and divine reversals emerge out of perfectly normal kinds of things. And far more often than not, it's the same in our lives. Let's look around and notice God's sustaining presence with us.
This week's sermon...from the Book of Esther, with reference to Psalm 147 and Romans 8:28-39.
The book of Esther is one more iteration of the larger biblical story of how God is making all things new. Though we see morally questionable and morally objectionable behavior even from the "heroes" of Esther, still God continues to work in the midst of this story; the drumbeat of God's redemption goes on. Haman and Xerxes couldn't stop it. Esther and Mordecai couldn't stop it. And you and I can't stop it. We are all mixed motive people, stumbling along in the dark, doing our best, making the most of what lies in front of us. Fortunately, God's redemption keeps going.
This week's sermon...from Esther, with reference to Psalm 130 and 2 Timothy 2:11-13.
The interplay between God's Will and Sovereignty and our free will and choice is a mystery of faith, but it is one of the big questions posed by the book of Esther. On one level, God's Providence is behind the scenes orchestrating events; on another level, Esther is very much required to choose to act in faithfulness to God's purposes. So maybe "God's Will" is less of a straight and narrow path that we must stay on than it is direction we move, steered by the compass of God's Word, even when we're bushwhacking through the wilderness. God has given us the tools we need to stay oriented, but it's up to us to walk and act in ways that are consistent and faithful to the goal and destination that God has laid in front of us.
This week's sermon...from Esther 4:13-14 and with reference to Micah 6:6-8 and Psalm 25.