Occupy the Kingdom

Sermon preached on 10/15-16/2011
Two texts: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Matthew 20:1-16

I spent a week last summer on the ranch of my wife’s cousin near Bastrop, Texas. Having grown up in Texas, I’m used to hot weather in the summer time. But I’ve never experienced heat in Texas like this summer. The air was hot even after the sun went down. We tried to stay inside most of the day, but one morning my boys wanted to learn how to ride a horse so we walked with them back and forth on a trail that had some shade. There’s something uniquely sad about the large trees we saw on that trail whose branches are starting to collapse because they’re dying of thirst. Continue reading

How worship makes us welcome others

Sermon preached at Burke UMC LifeSign service 10/8/2011
Text: Deuteronomy 10:12-22

Many of you know that I have been coaching my son’s soccer team this fall. Not only do I not know what I’m doing, but my son is often uninterested in kicking the ball or even staying on the field. Our game last Saturday was cold and rainy. The other team’s coach and I decided to play anyway since we’ve had so many games rescheduled because of weather. One kid on my team is a beast who attacks the ball no matter where it is and keeps running the entire 8 minute quarter. I’m often reluctant to pull him out of the game. Well in the third quarter, he was starting to run out of steam, so the next time the ball went out of bounds, I took out our star player and put in my son. Continue reading

Only beggars get in (Luke 14:15-24)

Sermon preached at Burke UMC LifeSign service 10/1/2011
Text: Luke 14:15-24

What if God threw a party and nobody came? What if he sent out messengers a month ahead of time to make sure that everybody saved the date and didn’t make other plans? What if the people he invited checked with each other and figured out that nobody else wanted to go to God’s party since it was going to be lame so when God’s messengers came back to remind them, they responded with a bunch of lame excuses like “Sorry, I have to inspect this new field I bought” or “Sorry, I’ve got to break in my new oxen” or “Sorry, I just got married”? How do you think God would feel if his messengers came back and told him that not one of the people He had invited said yes? Continue reading

When Welcome is a Problem

Sermon preached at Burke UMC Lifesign contemporary service 9/24/2011
Text: Luke 7:36-50

Simon had a hospitality problem. He had invited a group of rabbis to an intimate gathering to hear this fascinating street prophet from Galilee. They had been waiting all week to pick his brain about the theological issues of their day. Some were skeptical. This Jesus character hung out with tax collectors and illiterate fishermen. But his connection with the masses was so electrifying. Simon had heard him speak before. And he really did feel like Jesus was a true prophet. Attendance had been sagging in Simon’s synagogue. He was burned out. He wanted to study the new prophet and find out his secret. He needed inspiration. Continue reading

Seeking Rest in a Weary Messiah

Sermon preached 9/10/2011 at Burke UMC Lifesign Service
Text: Matthew 11:28-30 (as well as selections throughout Matthew 11)

What makes you weary? I get weary every time I look at the kitchen sink. In the division of labor in our household chores, the sink is mine. But I’m so weary when I look at it that I just put another plate inside. And then the plates start to come out of the sink onto the counter, and that makes me wearier. It usually has to get really bad before my frustration overcomes my weariness and I actually do something about it. Continue reading

Welcome: It’s More Than A Mat

Welcome!We say it when company comes. It’s a warm and pleasant word to say, which you can’t really do without smiling. Welcome is a word that we try not to use with insincerity. And yet, it’s a word that’s most often used in the artificial context of trying to sell something. People who go to Moe’s Southwest Grill for the first time are often startled by the cacophonous scream that goes up every 90 seconds from behind the counter: “Welcome to Moe’s!” In our daily lives, we are often welcomed into businesses by people for whom it is just part of the script and a requirement for their job. Continue reading