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April 17th, 2016

God will start with you right where you are.

James 1:19-27

What everybody knows

While Linda and I were away the last couple of weeks (part work and part rest), y’all have let North Carolina get into a hot mess. It started back in February when Charlotte passed a law saying transgender people can use the bathroom of their choice. The North Carolina legislature passed a law saying Charlotte can’t pass that law. Now we have boycotts and protests and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

I’ll give you my political opinion, whether you want it or not. In my view, the original Charlotte ordinance was an overreach. The legislature’s response was an overreaction. The protests and boycotts since were an overstretch. I wish we could all go back for an overdo (a do-over). You may or may not agree with my political response. You might guess, however, that I’m not as interested in the political response as I am in the Gospel response. What is the biblical way to think about and respond to this conflict? Read more »

March 28th, 2016

Jesus knows your name, which means he knows your story.

John 20:1-18

The girl and the boys

I have two questions for you today as I begin the sermon. Why did you come?  What will you take home? I’ve been thinking about them all week.

My friend Todd Byrd was at my house Friday, kind enough to help me spread mulch. While we were lifting pitchforks of mulch into our wheelbarrows he turned the first question back on me, “Why do you come to church on Easter?”

Fair enough. I come for many reasons. I come out of duty and tradition. This is my 60th Easter, and I’m quite sure I attended church every single one of them. Even if I weren’t the pastor, I can’t imagine not coming. I come because of the people who are here – my family, all of you. I come because it pumps me up, especially on Easter. I come for the music that lifts up Jesus – the brass, the bells, the hymns, the Hallelujah Chorus. I come to worship Christ because I really do believe what I preach about him. I come because I need this message. I come because there’s always a fresh angle to Easter. Read more »

March 21st, 2016

Do I honor Jesus for who he is or who I want him to be?

John 12:12-19

Palm Sunday or Branch Friday?

It’s been interesting, to say the least, to take another look this week at one of the more familiar stories about Jesus in the Gospels. Alongside the story of Easter, Good Friday, and Bethlehem, everyone knows about Palm Sunday, right?

The story is usually told like this: On the Sunday before Jesus died, crowds waved palm branches, hailing Jesus as Messiah and king as he entered the city riding a donkey. We need to wave our palm branches in praise like they did, only be careful not to turn on him as they did five days later, shouting, “Crucify him!” on Friday morning.

As you might expect, I spend a good bit of time during the week reading or listening to others’ views on the Scripture passage I’ll be preaching on. Here are a just a few ways the common narrative for Palm Sunday has been challenged this week – Read more »

March 13th, 2016

For the ordination of Amy Stickler

Colossians 3:12-17

March 13, 2016

Thank you

Amy, thank you for the privilege of preaching this sermon.  Linda and I have had a special bond with you for more than a decade, and our daughters also came to know and love you.  A couple of weeks ago on Jeni’s 7th birthday (she’s a Leap Day baby), we looked through some pictures of past birthday celebrations, and you were part of the family!  We’re still Amy fans, as you would have known if you had been a fly on the wall during lunch at our house today as we discussed the sermon you preached this morning at our 8:30 service. Read more »

March 13th, 2016

Glory and Love

His love made it possible for us to see glory in one another.

John 13:31-35

The glory of love

I’ve had an unchurchy song in mind since I chose my sermon title.  The song won an Academy award for as the “Best Original Song” for the movie Karate Kid Part II.  This was Peter Cetera’s first release after he broke away from the band Chicago in 1986, climbing to number one on the pop charts.

I am the man who will fight for your honor
I’ll be the hero you’re dreaming of
We’ll live forever knowing together
That we did it all for the glory of love

I hope it doesn’t seem to diminish God in any way for me to say I can picture Jesus singing those last two lines to the Father when he ascended to heaven forty days after his resurrection:  “We’ll live forever knowing together that we did it all for the glory of love.” Read more »