Why So Angry?

Why So Angry?

Have you been paying attention? There has been a common theme, these last few weeks, of raising the stakes and expectations upon what it means to be a follower of Christ. It began as we joined the disciples and crowds who gathered along the shores of Galilee to hear these teaching statements when they were first delivered. We gather, today, to reflect upon what it means to live for Christ.

Throughout this study of Matthew 5, we’ve talked about some difficult and challenging passages and how they apply to our lives. If you remember, we said Jesus gathered this group together to express what the kingdom of God was all about. This was after people were curious about Jesus after he began preaching and healing throughout Capernaum and Galilee. As the crowds gathered around him, Jesus wasn’t interested in creating a popular movement that gave people what they wanted to hear. He wasn’t there to please the people.

He came to raise the expectations by expressing what it means to follow God and live out our faith. Jesus does not desire disciples who merely just show up or claim a faith in God but never put it into practice. He is interested in disciples – followers of Christ – who seek to become less of their own self and more like Christ every day. Continue reading “Why So Angry?”

A Light of Hope

A Light of Hope

Have you ever seen an eternal flame?

They are often a beautiful memorial signifying an event and are meant to cause the person seeing the flame to reflect upon what took place. There are several examples of eternal flames throughout the world. One of the most famous sits adjacent to the tomb of President John F. Kennedy as a way to symbolize his vision for the nation. Among the most powerful exists at the Holocaust museum in Washington and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Both call the person viewing the flame to remember the atrocity of the Holocaust and how we are called to be a light of God’s love so that it never happens again.

These flames – natural gas that is lit to produce fire – are to remain lit, so that these memories, and their values, become a constant reminder of hope in the midst of darkness. It is to never be extinguished, so that the light continually shines for all to see in such a way that it calls the person to remember and reflect. Continue reading “A Light of Hope”

Peacemaking in Difficult Times

Peacemaking in Difficult Times

As Jesus was starting out in his earthly ministry, there was a deep spark and excitement that surrounded what he was doing. He healed the sick. He taught in a way that inspired. Up and down the coast of Galilee, Jesus was making a difference in such a way that people were wondering what was going on. They wanted to be a part of something that inspired and seemed different.

At the same time, though, they were wondering what this Jesus was all about. Why should they follow Jesus with more than just their words and affirmation? What will Jesus ask of them if they were to follow him?

Maybe those are questions we are asking of ourselves this morning. In fact, I hope they are questions we are asking. Never should we assume we have it all figured out. Never should we be afraid of asking hard and difficult questions in the church about what it means to follow Christ in this time and in this place. When we gather in worship, we come together as members of the body of Christ to discern where God is leading us and what it means to be faithful in the world. Because when the worship service ends on Sunday morning, the worship of God continues as we seek to be the hands and feet of Christ in our mission field of Huntington, Cabell County, the Tristate area, West Virginia, and around the world. To do so means for us to take seriously conversations about how our faith interacts with the world. Continue reading “Peacemaking in Difficult Times”

What is Worship?

What is Worship?

One of the most important and misunderstood parts of faith is worship, especially worship as it pertains to a community gathering. It is at the core of who we are as a faith community and, yet, it can be the source of the most complaints and frustrations within a community. Why? Because it is the largest gathering of a faith community each week and, also, the only time some people will step into a door.

Worship is the act of giving praise to God. It is at the heart of everything we do as followers of Christ, but it has its most powerful connotation as the body of Christ comes together to praise God. When we gather as a community for worship, we are joining the entire global body of faith, and those who have gone before us, to express our joy in Christ and to reflect upon where God is leading us as individuals and a community.

That is a very basic definition of worship. Many of us recognize this definition, but we will come to worship with our own expectations. We come to hear from God, but at the same time feel the need to be entertained or affirmed in our basic ideas of how the world should work. So, what is worship and, as well, what is not worship? Continue reading “What is Worship?”

Following Jesus

Following Jesus

Jesus was about to get started.

He was about to get started on a world-shattering mission and ministry that would call people to see the working of God’s grace in the midst of life. A life that was personified in Christ who, as the Son of God, came to show people the way to the Father’s eternal love and how to live that love out in their lives.

We pick up with Jesus as he has moved into a new neighborhood. He has returned from being near Jericho and the Jordan River to start out on this mission. Jesus does not return to Nazareth, which has been his home since he was a young child after his family moved to Egypt to get away from Herod’s and his attempts on their life. He is setting up his ministry base in a city called Capernaum.

At the time, Capernaum was one of several villages that lined the shores of the Sea of Galilee – which is, actually, more like a large lake – and were prominent with the fishing industry. It was also a community that was financially poor and was a contrast, in many ways, to the Galilean financial base in Tiberias. Even today, Tiberias is full of hotels, shopping malls, and a unique McDonald’s, whereas Capernaum is a quiet area reserved for pilgrims to visit and reflect upon the life of Christ.

For Jesus, though, this was home and it was the launching point. Matthew 4:18-22 picks up on Jesus’ initial ministry and calling of his initial disciples. Matthew’s narrative doesn’t include some of the tidbits we pick up from Luke or John. Luke describes this moment coming after a miraculous catch of fish. John says the early disciples came to Jesus, as we looked at last week, after John the Baptist pointed them to Jesus and said, “that’s the one.” Matthew’s account is intriguing for what it doesn’t include and for what it does show. It doesn’t include any previous relationship or conversation, but comes right after Jesus has called people to see the kingdom of God at work in their midst.

Jesus, in Matthew’s account, starts out after preaching the initial message to call people into this new life. This was the ethic and practice of rabbis, like Jesus, in those days. Rabbis would invite people to be guided by their teaching, so they could grow, serve, and learn what it means to follow God in all aspects of life. Continue reading “Following Jesus”

Sermon: Come and See

Sermon: Come and See

Let me ask you a question: How did you get here this morning?

Maybe you arrived like I did and walked from your home to the sanctuary. Maybe you drove by yourself or with a family member. Maybe you got a ride from someone as they were coming to worship. Maybe, just maybe, you rode the bus to get here.

When we hear that question posed to us, our minds immediately turn towards responding with a mode of transportation and some curiosity as to why I might ask.

So, let me ask that question to you again: How did you get here this morning?

I’m not thinking about modes of transportation of feet, cars, or buses. I’m thinking about what motivated us to get out of bed, get dressed on a Sunday morning, and be part of a worshiping community. How did you get here to this place, in this moment, and with this desire to hear what God is saying into our lives?

Maybe, then, we should ask a different question. Why are you here? Presumably at some point in your life someone introduced you to the idea of a loving God who desired to be in deep relationship and connection with us. Maybe it was a family member – a parent, a sibling, a grandparent – who sewed the seed of that connection in our lives. Maybe it was a pastor or Sunday School teacher. Maybe it was someone you barely knew, but who reached out to you to share God’s love with you. Continue reading “Sermon: Come and See”