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Showing posts from April, 2013

Jesus Lives—In Our Love!

(A sermon based on John 13:31-35 for the Fifth Sunday of Easter)

The great Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (6th century BCE) said,

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

It is, like most pithy sayings, an oversimplification—some depression and some anxiety can have a biological and chemical basis, for example; but it is also, like many such sayings, packed with truth.

It is also a saying that a Christian can affirm, although probably not without some elaboration.

Here is one necessary elaboration: “If you are at peace you are living in the present because you are living in love.” That is a necessary elaboration because living in love is the necessity if a Christian is going to live a life of peace.

The Apostle Paul famously said, “Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). For as long as I can remember I have…

Jesus Lives—In Our Service!

(A sermon based on John 21:1-19 for the Third Sunday of Easter 2013)

You have likely heard the quote “Failure is not an option.” It’s a nice thought and it would be a good motivator in a time of crisis when all energies need to be focused on finding solutions that will help a person or group work toward a positive outcome.

If you really think about it, though, you have to admit that it doesn’t hold up. Failure is always an option; sometimes it comes despite our best efforts while sometimes it comes because we choose it by our failure to give our best effort.

I like this Chinese proverb better: “Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” Sometimes we will not succeed but we don’t truly fail unless we don’t get up and try again. I remember reading about a monk describing life in the monastery to a writer: “We fall down and we get up again. We fall down and we get up again. We fall down and we get up again.”

When it comes to talking about who we are as it compares wi…

Jesus Lives—In Our Lives!

(A sermon based on John 20:19-31 for the Second Sunday of Easter 2013)

[Note: the Abraham Baldwin College Chamber Singers led us in worship so I offered this brief message.]

Jesus is alive! And it is because Jesus is alive that we are alive! And it is because Jesus is alive and we are alive that we can offer Jesus’ life to other people!

The story in our text is set on Easter Sunday evening; Jesus appeared to his disciples who were huddled behind closed doors. There he gave them some gifts that would be necessary for their successful continuation of Jesus’ ministry.

One gift he gave them was his presence. He came to them and let them know that he was indeed alive; he gave them an experience with him.

Another gift he gave them was his peace. In his greeting “Peace be with you” was an affirmation of the ever-increasing wholeness and well-being that was their because of his life, death, and resurrection.

A third gift he gave them was the Holy Spirit. He conferred that great gi…

Holy Week Lingers—When We Live

(A sermon based on John 20:1-18 for Easter Sunday 2013)

Most of us have been there. Someone we love has died. The burial has taken place and we are still in that state of shocked numbness. The day after the burial, the first day that our loved one’s body lies in the grave, is a long and dark day. Maybe a lot of our family and friends have dispersed, returning necessarily to the routines of their lives. Or maybe a few are hanging in there with us for one more day, hoping against hope that they can do something to help.

The Saturday that Jesus’ body was in his tomb was such a day. The disciples huddled in hidden rooms, no doubt wondering if they might be next. Jesus’ followers were understandably crushed. As the travelers on the Road to Emmaus told the man who walked with them on Easter Evening, a man who was in fact the resurrected Christ, “we had hoped that he was the one who was to redeem Israel.” Was he just another of those messianic pretenders that came along with great…

Holy Week Lingers—When We Suffer

(A sermon based on John 18:1-19:42 for Good Friday 2013)

Our Lord suffered terribly on Good Friday. He suffered physically—the flogging, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion. He suffered emotionally—betrayed by one of his disciples, denied three times by one of his closest disciples, abandoned by all of them. He suffered spiritually, feeling abandoned by his own Father.

The Old Testament prophet reminds us, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 KJV). In Jesus’ suffering and death we find our healing. We are healed by his stripes in so many wonderful ways. First, our sins are forgiven. Second, we are able to enter into a full and free relationship with God. Third, our guilt is taken away. Fourth, we don’t have to be afraid of death. Fifth, we are enabled to live as disciples whose obedience to God is always growing and whose personal relationsh…

Holy Week Lingers—When We Love

(A sermon based on John 13:1-7, 31b-35 for Maundy Thursday 2013)

I’ve never been to a foot washing service. I think I’d like to. Of course, I’d be like those women I’ve heard about who clean their house before the cleaning lady gets there—I’d have my feet so clean before I went to the service that they’d hardly need washing. On the Thursday night that he was betrayed, the Synoptic Gospels tell us, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. Only John tells us that Jesus did something else on that night—he washed the disciples’ feet. Tonight we will observe the Lord’s Supper. We won’t wash feet. I wonder why.

We observe the Lord’s Supper because it reminds us of the love that Jesus showed for us in giving his life on the cross. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said, and Paul added that in so doing we remember the Lord’s death until he comes. When we remember the Lord’s death we are surely remembering his love. He died to show us his love but also to cause his kind of love—tota…