Sermon: True Christian Community

This was one of those weeks that brought forth all the emotions of life out of me. I’ve been sad. I’ve been happy. I’ve been nervous. I’ve been pleased. I’ve been anxious. And I’ve been relaxed. That seems to be the state of a Methodist pastor during General Conference season.

If you followed my posts or seen the news, this week, our tradition of faith has seen better days. The world unfortunately saw us at our worst. We focused on our divisions between conservatives and progressives. We became disinterested in doing ministry together. We lost our way. Yet, in the news of the discord over issues that have defined our nation – such as human sexuality, which we will talk in more detail about on Wednesday – came word that approximately 70 percent of our congregations did not have a profession of faith or a baptism in recent years.

We are a church that is struggling. We are a church that has lost its purpose. We are a church that is dying. Continue reading “Sermon: True Christian Community”

The Apostles: Where Are You Looking?

We continue, today, our journey through the Books of Acts by picking up right where we left off last week. To refresh your memory, we looked at how Jesus called the Apostles, the group who had followed him throughout his earthly ministry, to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit. We even said there are times when we need to wait on God as we go out to share the message with others.

We pick up the story still as the Apostles and Jesus are still in Bethany at the Mount of Olives. Jesus is giving his final instructions, but he is preparing to leave them soon. This Sunday, which we affectionately call Mother’s Day, is, this year, also the day we celebrate as Ascension Sunday. It focuses on an event 40 days after Easter when Jesus ascended to heaven to return to his place at the right hand of God the Father. This day anticipates the celebration of Pentecost, which is next Sunday, when we will celebrate the church’s birthday when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles.

For now, we are on the mountaintop receiving these last words from Jesus. He tells them that they will receive power from God and that they would be the witnesses of God’s love to all people. And then he ascends into the clouds.

After this moment, the Apostles cannot help but to stare into the sky looking at the clouds. Maybe they are thinking to themselves that the cloud is a sign of both the heavenly realm and God’s presence. But, most likely, the Apostles are staring into the clouds waiting for Jesus to return. Continue reading “The Apostles: Where Are You Looking?”

Sermon: How Do We Respond?

In my office, I have a list of sermon topics for the next few weeks. Topics that have been prayed over and approached with a hope of seeking what God desires to say to us for that specific Sunday. That list has sermon topics and passages through the end of the summer.

Sometimes, though, plans need to change. Today is one of those Sundays. If all things were the same, we would continue our series on the “Life of David” by looking at the story of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel 17. We would have marveled at David’s ability to defeat Goliath and, perhaps, say something about how God enables us to overcome the overwhelming challenges we face.

That would have been a nice message, but it would not be appropriate for this Sunday. We’ll get back to David next week, but for now I think it is important for us to reflect upon the events of this past week.

On Wednesday evening, nine people were killed at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., following a Bible study. Among the dead were pastors, parents, and people who had their whole life before them. The accused shooter, Dylan Roof, has been arrested. In the days since the shooting stories have come out that suggest this was a targeted event because of their ethnicity. Continue reading “Sermon: How Do We Respond?”

Sunday Sermon: Hope That Comes With Us

There are some things that frustrate me. You know what I mean? Things just that just make me want to groan in agony.

You want to know what frustrates me? That we spend so much of our time belittling someone, because they do not look like us or share our same opinions, or they go about things in a different way than we would like. That frustrates me.

When I look at all the violence that exists in our world. When I think about the violence that exists in our streets. That frustrates me.

When I think about the drug problem in our Commonwealth. When I think about the struggles families experience trying to make ends meet or get out of debt. When I think about how families spend so much time in the rat race of schedules. That frustrates me.

When I think about the state of the church and the statistics that show the decline of Christianity in the United States. When I think about the fact that for someone to be considered an average attender in worship that they only need to be in church two times a month. When I think about the fact that people think they no longer need God or church. That frustrates me. Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: Hope That Comes With Us”

The Story of Exodus: Love God … Love Others

Ten words. Ten statements. Ten Commandments.

No study of the Book of Exodus would be complete without taking a look at these hallmark statements, given to the people of Israel by God at Mount Sinai. These words are familiar to us. We have hung illustrations of these words on our walls. We have established much of our understanding of law and justice around these words. We have watched Charlton Heston receive these words in “The Ten Commandments.”

As familiar as we are with these words, we often wonder what they mean for us today. The commands set up questions about their application for our lives and how we should interact with them. Are they words that we are to follow? Are they marks that define our lives? Or are they words that have no bearing on life today? What are we to do with these Ten Commandments? Continue reading “The Story of Exodus: Love God … Love Others”