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Showing posts from March, 2014

Jonah: Forty Days of Repentance

(A sermon based on the story of Jonah for March 30, 2014; fourth in a Lent series entitled "Making Good Use of Forty Days")

We learn it in childhood as a story about how God saved a man from drowning by means of a great fish; I hope that today we can hear it as a story about how God saves us from our sins and from ourselves.

Let me first introduce you to the main characters. First, we have the prophet Jonah; the character in this story is apparently based on an obscure prophet of the same name who offered some nationalistic encouragement during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (2 Kings 14:25). Second, we have the people of the city of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire, a devastatingly expansionistic power that dominated the Middle East during the eighth century B.C.E. Third, we have some foreign and pagan sailors. Fourth, we have a huge fish, some cattle, and a tiny worm.

God told Jonah to go preach to Nineveh; Jonah did not want to do that (to under…

Elijah: Forty Days of Pilgrimage

(A sermon based on 1 Kings 19:1-9 & John 6:47-58 for Sunday, March 23, 2014)

[Third in a Lenten series entitled "Making Good Use of Forty Days"]

Elijah the prophet had just won a great victory for the Lord over the prophets of Baal and Asherah; in the contest on Mt. Carmel, God had, in response to Elijah’s simple request, rained down fire from heaven while the Canaanite God Baal, in response to the fervent entreaties of his prophets, had done nothing. In a contest of God and Elijah against 850 false prophets, it had been no contest: the 850 didn’t stand a chance against those two.

But when Jezebel, the Baal-worshiping queen of Israel, sent word to Elijah that she would have him killed by high noon the next day, he high-tailed it out of town as quickly as he could. He fled to Beer-sheba, which would be like one of us fleeing to Key West—it was about as far as he could go and still be in the country. And then he went a little farther.

Exhausted and depressed, Elijah sat …

Moses: Forty Days of Restoration

(A sermon based on Deuteronomy 10:1-5, 10-11 for the 2nd Sunday in Lent 2014)

[Note: during Lent I am preaching a series called "Making Good Use of Forty Days." This is the second sermon in the series.]

The Book of Deuteronomy is cast in the form of a farewell address of Moses to the people that he had led out of captivity in Egypt and through a forty year-long sojourn in the wilderness. The narrative setting of Deuteronomy is on the plains of Moab on the eastern side of the Jordan River where the people are encamped as they prepare to at long last enter the Promised Land. Moses leads the people who are about to enter the land in a covenant renewal ceremony, reminding them that the covenant that God had established with their ancestors forty years ago at Mt. Sinai was also a covenant that God had made with them and that the relationship God has established with them forty years earlier was still in place.

So Moses walked them back through what had happened all those years ag…

Noah: Forty Days of Rescue

(A sermon based on Genesis 7:1-17 & 1 Peter 3:18-22 for the 1st Sunday in Lent 2014)

[Note: during Lent 2014 I am preaching a series called "Making Good Use of Forty Days." This is the first sermon in the series.]

We can focus on the death and destruction, on the terrible and the negative—and there is plenty to focus on.

Let’s spend today—and let’s spend these 40 days of Lent—focusing on God’s rescue of us from the terrible and from the destructive. After all, in the story of the great flood, we see God showing mercy to Noah and his family. In this day and time, God shows mercy to us.

God rescued Noah because Noah was “righteous.” Generally speaking, in the Bible to be “righteous” is to be in a sound relationship with God. In what ways was Noah righteous?

First, Noah walked with God. If Noah was righteous, he walked with God, because righteous people walk with God. It is said of Enoch, the other righteous person in Genesis 1-11, that he walked with God. Such walking with …

The Letters to the Seven Churches: Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11)

(Third in a series on the Book of Revelation)

Smyrna was a city with a very long history. In fact, there is now a major Turkish city on the site. During its long history, the city had known many setbacks that had been overcome, such as destruction by war and earthquake. Always, though, the city had bounced back. So, the opening line of the letter could have resonated with the citizens of Smyrna: “These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life.” They lived in a city that had a way of coming back to life! Of course, the reference is to Jesus Christ, who as “the first and the last” is sovereign over history and is working his purposes out, and who as the one “who was dead and came to life” reigns as resurrected Lord. As we will see, the fact that they served a risen Lord would be very reassuring to the Christians of Smyrna.

This is one of two letters among the seven that contains no words of criticism but only words of commendation, the other being th…