Category: Sermon in a sentence


Mark 10:2-26

“Jesus, what’s the point of the Law?  On what grounds is divorce acceptable?” the Pharisees ask Jesus.  You would think that the Pharisees would learn their lesson.  Every time they come to test Jesus, to back him into a corner, it is they who leave entangled.  This encounter is no different.

The Pharisees want to talk about the Law and divorce, but Jesus wants to talk about Creation and love.  The Pharisees are concerned with Deuteronomy, Jesus goes back to Genesis.  Jesus says, “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female’…and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”  God created humanity in love for the purpose of loving God and one another.

Love, not a rule about divorce, is what Jesus wishes to promote. But not just any love.  Christ calls Creation to a love for Him and one another that is unconditional.  A love without boundaries.  A love without limits.  Jesus might say, “If we can get the beginning right- if we can get the love right- then the divorce question will take care of itself.”

How are we able to love our spouses and neighbors in such an extraordinary and extravagant way?  With the grace of God.  By knowing that we have a Lord and Savior who loves us this way.  Christ didn’t come to earth to gives us a bunch of rules.  God became incarnate, died, and was resurrected in order to show us how to love.  He came to show us true obedience, commitment, sacrifice, and fidelity.  We love because Christ first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).

This love without limits that Christ calls us to is articulated nicely in our marriage vows.  We love in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, for pricher or poorer.  We love when we don’t feel like it. We love even when its difficult and we don’t think we can.  Some will say, “But my neighbor is a scoundrel. My wife is my enemy.  Love is just not an option!”  But what did Jesus say about our enemies?  Love even them…unconditonally…without limits.

Psalm 46 — “Be still, and know that I am God.”

We love the Psalms.  They’re a source of comfort in times of trouble, and a source of praise in moments of joy.  Many Christians know they can turn to the “middle” of their Bible and finds words that express their deepest emotions.  Psalm 46 is no different.  The music of Psalm 46  begins begins with a familiar refrain, one of serenity and comfort.  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (v. 1).  But then we turn to verse 2?  What about the trembling mountains and roaring waters?  How do we put these two verses together?  How do they make sense together?

If we’re honest, we oftentimes diminish verse 1 and emphasize verse 2.  We may say, “God, I know you’re good, but my world is really shaking right now!”  Or, we may not even acknowledge verse 1 and go straight to verse 2 and say, “God, things are crazy here!  The mountains are really moving, the water is rushing!”  How then, do we reclaim the Lord’s goodness in the midst of trouble?  How do we remember that the Lord is our rock in the midst of stormy seas?

Fortunately, verse 10 provides part of the answer.  If we wish to know that God is our refuge in the midst of choppy waters we must “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Our society tells us that whenever we face a challenge, dilemma, or problem we must go find the answer.  We must “do” something about it.  But maybe, in the midst of turmoil the answers is not something we “do” or “find.”  Maybe the thing we must “do” is to “be still, and know that I am God.”  If we’re still, if we focus on God, we are reminded that there is One who makes the wars to cease, who brings peace, and who calms the waters.  Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”  In times in which we feel we must “do,” or solve a problem, perhaps it’s best to take a moment to stop and remember that we are in the hands of a God who is more merciful, loving, and gracious than we could ever imagine.  While troubles bring chaos and noise, we recall that “for God alone my soul waits in silence” (Ps. 62:1).  Instead of a joyful noise, perhaps we are called at times to make a joyful silence.

Song of Solomon 2:8-13  –  “Arise, my love, and come away with me.”

Whether your Bible refers to the Song of Solomon as the Song of Songs or Canticles, we might blush or squirm at the words of main characters.  At times their love is portrayed in a “PG” way, but at other moments the language warrants an R-rating.  We may even chuckle at the way the lovers describe one another.  Try telling your spouse that his or her hair is like “a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead (4:1), or that their teeth are like a “flock of sheep” (4:2). We are quickly reminded that this is ancient Hebrew poetry, not contemporary prose.  Yet, the Song of Solomon is Christian Scripture.

Throughout the history of the Church, the Song has been interpreted in a variety of ways.  Some believed it was simply a love poem between two lovers.  Others argued that the Song was a secular ballad.  Traditionally, however, many Christians (including John Wesley) believed that the love presented in the Song alludes to God’s love for His people.  In that way, I think the some of the most beautiful words in the Song come in 2:10 and 2:13.  One lover cries out to the other, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away with me.”  I imagine that these are God’s words to us.  God beckons us, calls out to us, to come away from whatever it is that distracts us and spend time with Him.  We become busy, fearful, and stressed.  We are seduced by the world away from God. But God still calls, “come away with me.”

Do you hear God calling?  Do you hear God pleading for you to spend time with Him, to give Him your attention, focus and love?  Whether you feel intimately close to God or far off from God, we are never too far away that God’s voice can’t reach us.  Maybe your relationship with God is one of head-over-heels mutual love.  Or maybe you’ve been in an on-again, off-again relationship with God.  Whichever describes us, we know that God’s grace prevails.  We can never wander too far away that God can not call us back.  “Arise, my love, and come away with me.”

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 – A Time for Choosing

“Choose this day whom you will serve…as for me an my household we will serve the Lord.”  Joshua’s bold proclamation is the kind of refrain that gives us goosebumps.  His words cause something to well up inside of us.  He says what we all desire to say.  Joshua’s words are uplifting and inspiring.  They bring to mind paintings, stained glass windows, and needlepoint designs that bear his message.

Yet, Joshua’s words reverberate in other ways too.  His proclamation is demanding.  It requires something of us.  Joshua calls us to make a decision that is too important to delay.  “Choose this day…,” he commands.  Joshua’s words embody God’s claim on our lives.  Whom will we serve?  The gods of this world?  The idols among us?  Will we choose money and success over our Lord?  Intelligence and education over the God of Abraham?  Our own desires over God’s desires for our lives?  “Choose this day…” Joshua’s words echo in our ears and hearts.  Joshua presents to us a choice. However, it’s a choice we can make in grace knowing that God has already chosen us (John 15:16).

Finally, notice how the people respond after Joshua casts his family’s lot with the Lord.  The people cry out, “We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God!” (v. 18, 21).  Discipleship can begin with only one person.  If one person, or one family, commits to serve God, to stand boldly in the midst of others, perhaps others will follow.  What if one person, what if you and your family, chose this day to serve the Lord, would would that look like?  Would others follow?  What would happen if we all truly chose God’s way over the ways of the world?  Choose this day whom you will serve…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Ephesians 5:15-20 – Words for the wise

“Live wisely,” Paul exhorts.  “Not foolishly or drunk on wine, but wisely filled with the Spirit.”  Wisdom.  To be wise.  We don’t talk much of wisdom in our world.  We speak of being smart, intelligent, and successful.  Wisdom is something we relegate to past generations.  Yet, though we don’t think of it often, I suspect it is a virtue we all wish to possess.  In our rush to gain wisdom we often bow down at the altar of television sages such as Dr. Phil, Judge Judy, and Homer Simpson.

However, Scripture informs us that the world’s wisdom pales in comparison to God’s wisdom.  As Paul writes to the Corinthians, God has made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:20).  God calls us to be wise in God’s own ways.  The Psalmist proclaims: “God looks down from heaven to see if there are any who are wise, who seek God” (Ps. 53:2). Godly wisdom is to seek God.  To be wise is to seek God.  To be wise it to kneel at the altar of the Almighty, to seek and “know what the Lord’s will is” (Eph. 5:17).

Note for our students heading off to college (and others going back to school):  Proverbs 2:4 says to “seek wisdom as silver.”  It doesn’t say, “seek silver.”  The world, your professors, and many around you will tell you to seek silver, seek wealth and riches.  Education, for many, is the pursuit of silver.  But God’s Word offers a righteous alternative: seek wisdom.  Seek God.

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 — The crowds come calling

When Jesus and the disciples come ashore, the crowds recognize and flock to Jesus.  They desperately want an encounter with God; it’s an experience with Jesus they are seeking.  In Jesus, they’ve recognized love, healing, and compassion, and they want to be a part of it.  Today, I dare say the world does not always recognize the Church (Christ’s Body) as a place of love, mercy, and grace.  Too often the newspaper headlines speak of church fracture, church fighting, and church finger-pointing.  How can we expect people to encounter God in the midst of such unpleasantness?  Rather, if we wish to help others realize the connection God has already established with them perhaps we should do what Christ did for the crowds: Stop.  Listen.  Love.  Show compassion.  If we yearn for others to have an encounter with Christ maybe we start by simply loving them as Christ first loved us.

Mark 6:14-29 — The Beheading of John the Baptist

Many of us look upon this text with shock, maybe even fear.  We might best describe it as a “text of terror.”  Today, moments of terror, or fear, still break in to our lives.  There’s the terror of broken homes and fractured families.  We trembled when the doctor pronounces the diagnosis.  We fear the loss of loved ones.  Jobs, finances, uncertainty, and fear of failure are all terrifying propositions.  In those moments, our own “text of terror” plays itself out in our daily lives.  Yet, there is hope.  In the end, the disciples come to gather, hold, and bury John’s body.  God, not Herod, has the final say.  Today’s disciples, the Church, remains at the ready, waiting to hold those who hurt, grieve, and experience loss.  In the toughest of times, when it seems as if the terror is too much, call upon the Church.  Call upon God, who through the Christ’s body (the Church), promises to hold, to nurture, and to love those who call upon His name.

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