Are you a pilgrim or a tourist? (Hebrews 11:8-16) #sermon #podcast

camino de santiago 1 cropGrowing up in the church, I would often hear the phrase, “We’re just pilgrims passing through,” usually in response to someone’s passion for changing the world. It means that since this is not our “true home” (heaven is), we shouldn’t worry about what happens to our world other than keeping our family safe. Hebrews 11 talks about the Israelite patriarchs who “confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth” (v. 13), not because they considered earthly life irrelevant compared to “heaven,” but because they “desired a better country” (v. 16). Those who see our lives on Earth as a brief visit are tourists; those who are seeking a kingdom of God that requires more than one lifetime to build are pilgrims. Which are you? Continue reading

Locusts vs. prophets (a sermon on Joel 2)

locust swarmLast weekend, I preached on the passage from Joel that Peter quoted in his famous Pentecost sermon that we read from Acts 2 every year. But the context for Joel 2:23-32 is very different than Acts 2. The Israelites have just returned from their Babylonian exile and their land has been devoured by a swarm of locusts. In preparing for the sermon, I did a lot of research on locusts and learned that they have a very interesting trait that humans tend to emulate when we have not put our trust in God. More commentary below with sermon audio here: Continue reading

Sowing God’s new covenant (Reformation Sunday sermon podcast)

Planting-SeedsI’m a week behind on sharing my sermon podcast, but it actually seems to go with Reformation Sunday so I’m just going to run with that. Last weekend, I preached on Jeremiah 31, where God says that He will write a new covenant into the hearts of His people. What caught my eye though was several verses before that when God says, “I will sow the house of Judah with the seed of humanity.” It’s a phrase that seems like it could have two possible meanings. Is God promising to fill an exile-depleted Judah with new human seeds? Or is God sowing the seeds of Judah amidst the seed of humanity? I think both meanings work as we think about the gift of God’s New Covenant that is always new amidst a church that is always reforma reformando. Sermon audio here: Continue reading

Fasting, my iPhone, and praying Hebrew

I’ve contributed a guest post today at Suzannah Hartzell Paul’s blog about my strange spiritual practices. Why do I carry my iPhone around with me on my Monday sabbaths? Because it has my Hebrew lexicon and for some reason prayer works better for me in Hebrew than it does in English. Check out the post for more on how this strange phenomenon developed.

“Seek the welfare of the city to which I’ve sent you” (sermon transcript + #podcast)

potomacLast Sunday was week two of our sermon series “By the rivers of Babylon: how to live as a people in exile.” We looked at Jeremiah 29:4-11, the contents of a letter Jeremiah sent to the Israelite exiles in Babylon. Oftentimes, the contents of this letter are read out of context to have a hopeful spirit to them. What we don’t think about is that God is telling the readers of the letter to settle down in Babylon because they will die in exile. With this sermon, I had to write out the entire transcript because I’m turning it in as my ordination sermon. So the podcast is here and the transcript is below. Continue reading

Singing songs of Zion in Babylon

541696_by-the-waters-of-babylonFor the month of October, our LifeSign service at Burke United Methodist Church is journeying through a sermon series “By the rivers of Babylon: how to live as a people in exile.” My first sermon on October 6th looked at Psalm 137. Here is the audio podcast with some additional commentary below: Continue reading

The God who wants us to be gifts (agape love) #sermon #podcast

If you do right in order to be right, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. People whose lives are built around being right become bitter misanthropes like the ancient Pharisees of Jesus’ day. And the way that Christians today are often taught to understand agape love encourages this behavior. Specifically, agape love is often presented as a choice to love people who are unlovable. This is a gross misrepresentation. Agape is not our choice. Agape is God’s choice to love us and move our hearts with His love so that we become His love for the world. That’s why 1 John 4:10 is so important: “In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, we are set free from the need to be right so that we can live as gifts from God instead. Check out the rest of last weekend’s sermon audio here:

The God who wants us to stay thirsty

cupid1Eros is an exasperatingly paradoxical kind of love. It is most fulfilled by being perpetually unfulfilled. It is a thirst that wants to stay thirsty. It is also a passion that is beyond our direct rational control, which is what gives it such a dangerous power to destroy the relationships to which we have committed ourselves. At the same time, eros perfectly channeled is nothing less than worshiping God with all of our hearts. It can be directed entirely to God like King David’s eros is in Psalm 42 or it can be directed to God by way of our longing for the intimate depth of another human person who radiates the image of God. What has killed eros in our time is the commodification of sexuality. To see others as “meat” to be consumed sexually is the opposite of true eros. Hear more from my September 22nd sermon:

The God who wants us to be friends #sermon #podcast

friendsFor the second weekend of our sermon series “Love Actually,” we talked about philia, the form of love that is friendship. James 4:4 says, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.” When I was young, I presumed that becoming Christian meant most fundamentally leaving your old friends behind. You showed Jesus that He was number one by who you were willing to stop hanging out with. Since that time, I’ve come to understand James 4:4 differently. “The world” does not describe a group of people we’re supposed to stop being friends with but a way of perceiving people that does not allow for the authentic friendship that we learn from Jesus. My sermon audio is here, with more thoughts added below: Continue reading