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September 25th, 2016

Whose Servant?

“How long will you waiver between two opinions?”  (1 Kings 18:21) 

1 Kings 18:1-15

The gospel and the situation

You may have seen in the bulletin last Sunday that I participated in a panel discussion Monday on “civil discourse.” In my brief presentation I said that in a difficult situation believers need to respond with the Gospel and the Bible. The Gospel response to conflict is not separation but incarnation. We don’t disengage; we show up. We listen, we care, we do – because that’s what Jesus did in his incarnation. We also pay attention to Scripture – for example, its pervasive teaching on kindness – such as when Paul writes, “Let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5). Because the Bible says so, we step into anger with patience and grace.

That was Monday. By midweek chaos had broken out in the streets and air waves of Charlotte, our big sister city to the south. Once again there are lots of people on all sides who believe no one is listening to them. Read more »

September 18th, 2016

Who?

Yahweh, my God, let him live! 

1 Kings 17:7-24

 

Who or whom?

If I didn’t think it sounded odd as a one-word sermon title, I would have titled today’s sermon “Whom?” It would be more grammatically correct. The question of the day is this:  “Whom is this passage about?”

As I read commentaries and sermons on 1 Kings 17, some seem to focus on Elijah and others on the widow. I’m going to retell the story like Angie Pisel tells the story in her new novel, With Love from the Inside, about a woman on death row named Grace attempting to reconcile with her daughter named Sophie. Angie’s unnumbered chapters go back and forth between a chapter titled “Grace” and a chapter titled “Sophie.” I decided to structure my sermon around “Elijah” and “The Widow.” The way I tell the story will be part Scripture, part research, and part imaginative contemplation.  Read more »

September 12th, 2016

Just Like Us?

Your story is far from over. 

1 Kings 16:29-17:6

 

Not your best friend

From now through December, I’m going to (re-) introduce you to one of the most theatrical and mysterious figures in the Bible. Elijah is the best known of the prophets who never wrote a book. Most prophets don’t do miracles; Elijah’s miracles are dramatic and memorable. He appears and disappears in the Bible like Endora in Bewitched.

elijah-slide

He’s not the kind of guy you’d want to cozy up with and watch Monday night football. You wouldn’t like his sermons if we invited him to preach. He’s confrontational, eccentric, and moody. He can be bold for God one day and suicidal the next…literally. Read more »

September 4th, 2016

God is not worried about the election.

Romans 13:1-7

 

Um, thanks?

I hope you noticed an awkward omission after the Scripture reading this morning. Normally the reader says, “The word of God for the people of God,” and the people respond, “Thanks be to God.” I asked that we omit that response today so I could save you from mouthing words you don’t mean. All week long I’ve been listening to people read and discuss this passage, and no one’s first response was, “Thanks be to God.” It’s more along the lines of, “What was Paul smoking!?!” My goal by the end of the sermon is for you to say about this passage, “Thanks be to God.”

It is no accident that we chose Romans 13 for Labor Day weekend, the “official” beginning of the 2016 political campaign season. By most accounts, this year is unusual. Read more »

September 4th, 2016

Tom and Misty, thanks for the joy of sharing this day with you.  I have heard about your amazing family and have even met some of them briefly, but the way you talk about them with such appreciation and affection makes it very special to share this day with you.  I love how your Ryan and Carrie, Morgan and Ricky, and Gini and Dylan are symbolically surrounding you, each pair standing together to link your two families.  I love you how have involved in this service both sets of parents as well as your siblings who were able to join you today.

I love the songs you’ve chosen today, which remind me of what you wrote out for me when I asked you to write out why you are marrying each other.  In turn, many of those sentiments are also reflected in the passage of Scripture you chose.  Read more »