Two things I had to ask my sons’ forgiveness for

matthew and isaiah 6-2013My wife is the one who follows the parenting expert books that teach you better techniques than the old-fashioned approach of yelling and spanking when yelling doesn’t work. I tend to rebel against following what “the experts” say to do about anything. As much as I critique my fellow evangelicals for having a knee-jerk reaction against the “worldly wisdom” of “secular humanism,” it’s part of my DNA too. When my sons aren’t obeying me, I want to put them in line with a look or my voice or my belt. But I’ve been convicted recently that my need to be the big mighty papa bear has led me into sin. I had to ask my sons’ forgiveness for being a bad parent twice last week. Continue reading

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

Sharing the gift of God’s forgiveness

Sermon preached at Burke United Methodist Church 2/4-5/2012
Text: Matthew 18:21-35

Is everyone familiar with the term straw man? It’s a word you learn when you get into a lot of arguments like I do. A straw man is like the opposite of an imaginary friend; he serves as your imaginary opponent in an argument that you can always win because there is nothing right about what the straw man believes. Well my whole life is an argument against a particular kind of straw man. Continue reading

On preaching for the self-righteous bogeyman

It’s very easy to write a mediocre sermon about forgiveness. I’m already halfway down the road of doing it. The scripture text for this week seemed an obvious choice for “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s the parable of the unmerciful servant from Matthew 18:21-35. It’s about a servant who owes his master thousands of dollars but has his debt forgiven only to go and throw a fellow servant in debtor’s prison for owing him a few bucks. The master finds out and rips the first servant to shreds for not forgiving when he was forgiven. Following the logic of the parable, we are infinitely indebted to God for our sins against Him, so it ought to be inconceivable that we would be unwilling to forgive other people. Continue reading

What you meant for evil, God used for good (Joseph’s story)

Sermon preached 8/21/2011 at Burke UMC
Text: Genesis 45:1-15

How long does it take for the past to become water under the bridge? How do we handle bumping into people from our past who did things that still bother us today? I’ve been thinking about this question lately as I’m preparing to go to my fifteenth high school reunion. There will be some people there who treated me poorly once upon a time. Now the great thing about high school reunions for nerdy kids like me is that we tend to be more successful than the cool kids who bullied us. There’s an art to rubbing it in when you’ve got a pretty wife and a good job and you’re talking to a former bully whose life hasn’t turned out quite as well. Continue reading