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August 27th, 2018

Walk Humbly

What we can never do about injustice is nothing.

Job 31:13-28; 1 Timothy 6:17-19

 

The most dangerous threat?

Today is the fourth and final sermon on “Gospel Justice,” which has provoked a good bit of thought, conversation, and feedback. Next week we’ll include in the bulletin the ideas for action on “gospel justice” that have been submitted by the congregation. It’s not too late to add yours. Note carefully the criteria.[1]

I don’t go looking for what’s trendy in churches, traditional or contemporary, mainline or conservative. The focus on “Gospel Justice” emerged from a discussion at our Consistory retreat in January. But apparently, everyone’s talking about justice. Read more »

August 22nd, 2018

If you had sat down recently for a brief conversation with Valeriya Khudyakova and then followed by talking with me, your first thought might be that she and I are very different.  Valeriya, you would notice, is a small, thin, female from Russia who speaks mostly Russian but works hard at her grasp of English.  Pastor Bob is a larger-than-average American male who speaks only English.  You would notice that Valeriya is 90 years old, the same as my mother, born almost three decades before I was.  If you knew Russian and could learn more about her life’s work, you would soon learn that Valeriya Khudyakova was brilliant, a groundbreaking pioneer in her field with a grasp of theoretical physics.  By contrast, you would know that Pastor Bob has average intelligence, and is more of a practitioner of applied knowledge in matters of faith and the church.

Today is my opportunity to tell you that regardless of all the ways Valeriya and I were different, we were very much alike.  It’s the reason that we created such a special bond from our first acquaintance almost twenty years ago. Read more »

August 19th, 2018

Is my mercy about me, or is it about them?

Jeremiah 9:23-24

August 19, 2018

Toxic Charity

Today is the third in a series of four messages based on Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”  The theme is “Gospel Justice.”  We are looking for your ideas of what it might look like to engage as a congregation in justice ministries – addressing the systems that keep people poor.

Gospel Justice can put us into “But Mode.”  But shouldn’t sharing the Gospel have greater priority? But isn’t this more of a “liberal” thing?  But what if I can’t afford it?  But what if the person I’m trying to help misuses my aid?

Justice and mercy are consistently linked in the Bible.  Justice is doing the right thing, and mercy is doing the kind thing.  Is it possible that doing the kind thing is not always the right thing?  Read more »

August 13th, 2018

Act Justly

Justice says we are all deserving; Gospel Justice insists we are all undeserving.

Zechariah 7:9-10; James 1:26-2:13

 

Not them but me

I’m a little reluctant to begin a sermon this way, but I guess not too much so or I wouldn’t do it. Tell me about your “But.”

I began my sermon last week by acknowledging that this subject puts many of us in “But Mode.” That’s especially true of those raised in congregations where “justice” was not a part of the teaching. It’s true also of those who are politically conservative. And it’s true of those who are at least middle class, and believe they’ve made responsible choices. I understand all three categories, because they all fit me.

I received an email Monday from someone who shared his “But.” Read more »

August 12th, 2018

Erin and Ryan, I didn’t know either one of you when we sat down for the first time to begin your premarital counseling.  Now, a year later, there’s a very special bond with you, and I love standing in front of you on this day.

I’ve told you more than once, and told others about you, that you remind me of my wife Linda and me when we got married.  Your background is similar, in that you grew up in Christian homes, your parents are still married to each other.  You met in college, and many of your early connections were around the Bible and prayer and Christian community. You are getting married a week after Erin finished school; we got married three weeks after college graduation.  And I haven’t asked all the details, but I think you’re about as poor as we were when we got married. Read more »