Five verses God has tattooed on my heart: #5 Ephesians 2:10

Ephesians 2:8-9 is a passage I have often turned to for a tight summary of the evangelical doctrine of justification by faith: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works so that no one may boast.” What I love about these two verses is that they explain why we need to be saved by faith and not works: so that no one may boast. When Christians are prideful about their salvation, that means it hasn’t worked. But it’s actually the verse after these two that God has really tattooed on my heart in the last year. Continue reading

Eucharist is how Jesus makes love to His church

jesus water blood
Hear me out; I’m not trying to be offensive. Several weeks ago, I listened to a podcast from Bruxy Cavey in which he said that we need to reclaim the phrase making love. We shouldn’t be offended by talking about sex; we should be offended by the desecration of sex. I preached one of the worst sermons I’ve ever preached this past Saturday because I couldn’t muster the courage to come out and say directly what I felt called to say: that Eucharist is to the church what sex is to a marriage. Living without either is about equally bearable. Continue reading

Monday Merton 4.8.2013

I’m going to start spending Mondays on my blog with Thomas Merton since I’ve been deeply influenced by several of his books. Merton was a Trappist monk who spent most of each day in prayer; his words are rich and beautiful and liberating. Because he is from a different generation and lived only with men, he doesn’t use gender-inclusive language, so I apologize for that distraction. Because he was evangelizing a secular intellectual audience, he doesn’t always fortify his paragraphs with scriptural proof-texts. This will make it difficult to accomplish my purpose, which is to evangelize evangelicals out of some of the more poisonous aspects of our theology. Those of you who fall in that category will hear things you don’t like that will be easy for you to dismiss as “un-Biblical,” but I urge you to be open to what God might be saying to you through the words of someone who pursued God relentlessly. Continue reading

Relationships: Tools, Idols, and Foes or Family, Body, and Kingdom

This week’s sermon concluded our post-Christmas sermon series “Spiritual Not Religious” in which we were exploring some basic human longings that all people share whether they follow Jesus or not. This last week I preached about our innate human longing for relationships. I think this is the strongest longing we have. We make a lot of choices in life out of the need for authentic companionship. The question is whether our relationships are dysfunctional or healthy. In the first half of my sermon, I talk about tools, idols, and foes: three forms of unhealthy relationships in which we either try to get the other person to orbit around us, fall into another person’s orbit, or clash endlessly because neither one can overpower the other. The second half of my sermon discusses three metaphors for the structure God provides for us to have healthy relationships: the family of God, the body of Christ, and the kingdom that is created by the Holy Spirit.

Lance Armstrong and the need for grace

ILanceArmstrong_620_011513‘m not going to argue whether or not you should forgive Lance Armstrong or not for taking steroids and lying about it. To me, it’s a farce of the age of celebrity that we would even be asking ourselves that question anyway. It’s comical to read the online comments from people who are angry enough to use ALL-CAPS at some guy they will never know for doing things that had nothing to do with them. Because I’m a pastor, I am going to take this opportunity to say something about grace because Armstrong’s apology and the cynical reaction to it in the media really do illustrate why we need a human community that is grounded in forgiveness. Continue reading

Unity in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1-16)

As part of our celebration of World Communion Sunday this weekend at Burke United Methodist Church, we had as our guest preacher Pastor Medardo Serrano of the Centro de Formacion Gran Comision, a Hispanic congregation that meets in our church building. I translated for Medardo, so I wanted to share some of the points that he made in his sermon along with a little bit of my own commentary. The text he preached from was Ephesians 4:1-16. The topic was “walking in Christian unity.” Medardo split the text into three parts: the attitudes that create unity (vv. 1-3), the doctrines of unity (vv. 4-6), and the diversity within the unity (vv. 7-16).

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