My first wedding sermon

Today I officiated my first wedding for Kevin Colpitts and Mary Vafiadis, a couple who was visiting our church when my wife Cheryl and I preached a sermon on our egalitarian understanding of marriage and decided they wanted me to marry them. Kevin and Mary are very grounded, beautiful people who are exploring Christian spirituality. As part of their counseling process, we practiced praying together, which is the most important part of my marriage even though we don’t do it with as much discipline as we should. So here is my sermon with which I used the same text I use every year for our confirmation retreat: Ephesians 4:14-16. Continue reading

Journey to Eternity: our next sermon series

journey to eternity

Tomorrow night I will be starting a new sermon series at LifeSign called the Journey to Eternity. My hope is to offer a fresh perspective on eternal life that is more faithful to what the Bible actually teaches than the depictions of eternal life in popular Christian discourse which have created so many stumbling blocks for people who are seeking God’s truth with sincerity. Continue reading

Pinocchio and eternal life (my second Dominican sermon of 2013)

A few weeks ago, Bruxy Cavey at the Meeting House preached a sermon using Pinocchio as a metaphor for our existence as humans who are justified in Christ but have not yet entered into the full humanity we will fully receive when we are glorified. I was listening to it on the podcast as I worked in the Dominican Republic. I ended up using Pinocchio a little differently in my sermon that I preached in Santiago this past Sunday but the basic topic was the same: the new humanity we receive from Jesus Christ that Paul writes about in Ephesians 4:17-24. So here’s a basic paraphrase. Continue reading

Is Jesus saving the world from us?

Is Jesus saving the world from us? It’s a different way to talk about salvation, but honestly it’s the gospel that I’m hoping to be true as an evangelical afflicted by what Rachel Held Evans calls “the scandal of the evangelical heart.” When did we become the Pharisees Jesus came to Earth to stop us from being? How many of us have been secretly asking that question in our minds? How many of us need to be saved from a toxic salvation? I really feel that we are in the midst of a great awakening. The legion of demons that poisoned our gospel for so long is running off a cliff in a herd of hateful pigs, leaving us to wake up in the graveyard where we chained ourselves. We are discovering that Satan is our accuser and oppressor, not God.  We are realizing that our need to be right and justify ourselves has kept us inside a tomb whose stone was rolled away by Jesus. So I wanted to share five things God has been teaching me over the past few years about what Jesus saves us from and what He saves us for. Continue reading

Strength vs. integrity: a Biblical response to the presidential debate

What I learned from last night’s final presidential debate (which was the first one I watched) is that the way you “win” mostly has to do with how long you can talk without taking a breath or how willing you are to yell “Liar, liar, pants on fire” while the other guy is in the middle of what he’s saying. The fundamental thing Romney and Obama agreed on is the importance of projecting strength in US foreign policy. “Strength” seems to be defined as not apologizing for anything the US has done in the past and making sure that other nations understand that the US knows what’s best for them. I realize we live in a secular nation-state, but I am really bothered by how thoroughly un-Biblical that way of thinking is. Whether or not it’s effective foreign policy from a realpolitik perspective, the Bible calls us to integrity, not strength.

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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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Is what I’m doing or thinking or saying building trust or undermining trust?

There’s a song stuck in my head from our mission trip: “Is what I’m doing or thinking or saying building trust or undermining trust?” I learned it from a woman named Katie who has one of the most gentle, Christ-like spirits of anyone I’ve met in a long time. I think if God wanted to teach the world something, he would get the best results using someone like Katie whose demeanor builds trust. Being an impulsive, opinionated firebrand, I am convicted by those who actually embody the gospel that I love so much in theory. Continue reading

What I taught the confirmands: the sea of wrath and island of mercy

For the past two years at our church’s confirmation retreat, I’ve shared a message based on Ephesians 4:14-16 that summarizes the way that I understand Christ to save us from sin by incorporating us into His body. I have often described my dissatisfaction with the popular evangelical account of salvation in which sin is understood solely as an offense against God’s honor which is “paid back” by Jesus’ blood on the cross. The problem with this predominant account is that it allows little recognition of the cross’s role in addressing the spiritual imprisonment sin creates as a powerful social force. In any case, the way I explained to our church’s confirmands the problem that Jesus’ cross resolves was by using the metaphor of a sea of wrath that we can only escape through an island of mercy created by Christ. Continue reading

Opinion and relationship: the two American evangelical idolatries

Everyone else is writing about the “crisis” of American Christianity so I figured I’d add my own two cents. Andrew Sullivan wants us to cut up our Bibles and follow “Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a simpler, purer, apolitical Christianity.” Ross Douthat writes that the problem is we’ve been overrun by heresies. Christian Piatt claims that young adults are “leaving the church to follow Jesus.” I think that underneath the prosperity gospel, the ideological echo chamber, and the shallow, therapeutic Jesus-as-boyfriend theology considered by all three of these writers are two basic idolatries  — opinion and relationship — which have filled the gap created by the loss of a sacramental understanding of Christ’s body within popular American evangelical Christianity. Continue reading

Reconciliation: Dr. King’s main agenda

There have been many political movements throughout history that were successful without being morally virtuous. What works and what’s right are often in opposition to one another. We are now living in a time when political success is directly related to how sleazy and manipulating a politician is willing to be (and how much money his/her supporters have). But Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday offers an opportunity to dream about a time when taking the higher moral ground resulted in political success. Even though Dr. King’s movement came to be known as the Civil Rights Movement, his agenda wasn’t primarily about rights; it was about reconciliation between enemies. I thought I would look at a couple of his quotes and ponder briefly what our political world would be like if we followed his example. Continue reading