April 20, 2021

It's Not about You (sing.)

I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you.
Genesis 9:9-10
Many Americans have been conditioned to see Christianity as a transaction between God and the individual. The point of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ was so that I could accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. This shouldn't be a bad thing. This idea that I have this personal relationship with God, that I realize the extent of God's love for me, should fill me with gratitude and move me beyond myself.

The problem is that this form of evangelism has too often resulted in a selfish religion that sees nothing beyond the individual—a problem that is exacerbated by the English language itself, which uses the same pronoun for you (singular) and you (plural).

April 19, 2021

Three Ways to Stumble

Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.
Psalm 37:23-24
There are at least three ways to look at this small (but important) passage of scripture: the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual. In the physical sense, all mortal bodies are subject to infirmities which cause us to stumble—either literally or figuratively. There are outward injuries and inner diseases which can bring us down. Some of these are temporary, others seem to be permanent. Some are not life-threatening, others are.

What is true of the physical, though, is even more true of the emotional. There are so many things that can set us back emotionally—some of which are evident to others, but many (maybe even most) of which are only known to the individual being affected.

April 18, 2021

Easter 3 Worship

I preached today on the appointed gospel reading, Luke 24:36-48. Songs included Break Thou the Bread of Life, Thy Word Is a Lamp, and Wonderful Words of Life. There is a small piece of the service missing at around the 5:22 mark, due to a timer I accidentally set on my phone, which interfered with the recording. Below the video of the service is another video—it is of a song I quoted in my sermon.

Thank you to presiding elder Jenny Gilles, organist Ann Doersam, and videographer Bill Arotin. The sermon begins at 9:08.

Created for a Purpose

Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?
2 Samuel 7:18
When I read these words spoken originally by King David, I imagine them being spoken by a variety of people: A queen on the day of her coronation, a young man starting a new job, a mother of three fleeing warfare who has made it to a refugee camp, to name but a few. Some people get more attention, some less. Some are exalted, others pitied. But the Bible tells us we are all the same in God's eyes, and no matter who or what we are, God has made us for a purpose.

This does not mean that we shouldn't strive for improvement. But it does mean that we are somebody in God's eyes. When we despair that our life has no purpose, it is good to remember that nothing God makes is pointless.

April 17, 2021

The Clarity of the Commandments

The commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes.
Psalm 19:8
This verse from the 19th Psalm is beautiful, but troubling. That's because God's commandment isn't always completely clear. Indeed, there are many commandments that aren't clear at all—which I choose not to follow either because they seem to contradict commandments on which I place a higher priority, or because they make no sense. Take commandments which call for the death penalty, for example... or ones which tell me what to do with my facial hair.

Though we might be concerned with the clarity of God's commandments, we should not fret about them. That's because we've been given a forum in which to sort them out.

April 16, 2021

Christians and Horoscopes

No one shall be found among you who practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord.
Deuteronomy 18:10, 12
The Bible is a collection of books filled with encouraging words and joyful acts. Those of us who read it like that part. And if we share it at all, that's the part we're most likely to share. But the Bible also contains words of discouragement. And whenever God's people are tempted to hand control of their lives over to powers that are not God, the scriptures come down hard against it.

We've been told of a God who is eternal and sovereign and ever-present. But most important is something the emphasizes from beginning to end, but which we either miss, or neglect. And that is that God is a Person.

April 15, 2021

No Match for God

Those who love your Name may exult in you.
Psalm 5:11
The fifth psalm is a song of struggle. The psalmist's convictions are strong, but they are under constant challenge. The person of faith must, it seems, put up with a great deal of resentment. Whether through gossip or violence (there seems to be no distinction between the two in this psalm), the deceitful are bent on destruction.

Yet the psalmist knows who and whose they are. Their opponents may triumph for an hour or a day, but they are no match for God. Indeed, the struggle isn't even a personal one, but has been taken on for the sake of all the faithful. 

April 14, 2021

God Remembers Us

The Lord had made them joyful.
Ezra 6:22
Having to wait too long is what we might call a first world problem. It's something Americans love to complain about. When we have to wait too long in traffic, in a line at the grocery store, for our number to be called at the DMV, on hold with customer service, we consider it the height of torture. And when we share our experiences of waiting, we might get sympathy from our listeners. But more likely, our account will elicit stories about how long other people had to wait under the same or different circumstances. 

One of the worst aspects of waiting is the feeling that we're not important, or even that we've been forgotten.