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Showing posts from January, 2013


(A sermon based on Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 & Luke 4:14-21 for the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany)

Can you go home again? And if you do will they listen to you?

On May 7 I will be preaching at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia’s Senior Adult Celebration at the First Baptist Church in Forsyth, Georgia, which is about fifteen miles from the house in Barnesville in which I was raised. This will be the first time, except for a couple of funerals, that I have preached that close to home in many years. Many of my remaining family members and friends in the area are chronologically qualified to attend the meeting and I hope they will.

If they do, though, I will be a little intimidated. Some of them will be very curious about me. They’ll be asking themselves questions like, “Is he a know-it-all?” “Is he full of himself?” “Where did his hair go?” “Didn’t he used to be skinny?”

I don’t know what I will say to them but I hope it will be a lot like what I want to sa…

The Best

(A sermon based on John 2:1-11 for the Second Sunday after Epiphany)

In the Harry Potter book and movie series, there are creatures called Dementors; they have the ability to suck the soul out of a wizard. In the stories, those who experience the work of the Dementors report that they felt like there was no more happiness in the world. According to one of the adult wizards, a man named Lupin, dementors drain “peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them” (The Prisoner of Azkaban, p. 10).

There are events that can seem to drain the life from us. There are events that can drain the life from us.

Not all events to which we give that kind of weight deserve it, though.

It is good and necessary that we learn the difference between a crisis and an inconvenience. The world if full of both; our lives contain both. What the family at the wedding feast at Cana was confronted with was not a crisis; it was an inconvenience—a very embarrassing one, but an inconvenience nonetheles…

When You Pass Through the Waters

(A sermon based on Isaiah 43:1-7 & Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 for the Baptism of the Lord)

The images are ones we still use. “I feel like I’m going under.” “I really got burned.” Water and fire have long been images of trial, testing, and suffering. We experience events and situations that either are life-threatening, such as a serious illness or accident, or feel like they are life-threatening, like a divorce or job loss or serious problems with a family member. We feel like we’re going under. We feel like we’re getting burned.

Sometimes, we don’t just find ourselves in such a situation; we rather put ourselves there. So the prophet speaking in Isaiah 43 spoke his words to guilty people, to people who had sinned and who either knew they had sinned or needed to admit their sins. Their nation had been devastated by the Babylonians and they had been transported into exile hundreds of miles away and it was all because, the true prophets had told them, they had sinned against th…

The Gifts of the King

(A sermon based on Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12 & Matthew 2:1-12 for Epiphany).

In many a Christmas pageant, men dressed in bathrobes and plastic crowns have come down the church aisle bearing objects meant to represent the gold, frankincense, and myrrh that the Magi delivered to the Holy Family. It’s usually quite a sight to behold.

When I was a child I was captivated by the irony (although I didn’t know that’s what it was) of blue collar mill workers from the South pretending to be Wise Men from the East. I couldn’t help but stare.

Let’s stare again. When we look at our basic Epiphany text—the one about the Wise Men coming from the East to find the newborn King of Israel—we tend to focus our attention on the Wise Men themselves (Who were they exactly? Astronomers, maybe? And where were they from? Arabia, perhaps, or maybe Babylon?) and on the gifts that they brought to the infant (How much were they worth? What did they symbolize? The answer to the first quest…