I wanted to start off by saying something about happiness.
There’s been plenty of research done around what is happiness and how do we achieve it? In one recent study by Arthur Brooks he stated that scientists have proven that up to 48% of happiness has to do with genetics, 40% has to do with a “isolated events” like getting a dream job (but they unfortunately rather short-lived), leaving about 12% under our control in four key areas of life: faith, family, community and work. Continue reading →
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.” (Matthew 4:23 NRSV)
[I opened my sermon by sharing a story about my car battery dying and trying to push the car on my own to move it and the relief that came when other’s came to help me.]
It’s pretty silly to get caught pushing a car up a hill by yourself, when the remedy is to realize you can’t do it on your own and you need help from others. How many of us get caught doing things like this in our lives because we’re trying to be self-sufficient, we want to be successful, we want people to think we’ve got it altogether.
The last thing I want people to think of me as is ordinary or average. Because if I am ordinary or average, I am afraid I won’t be accepted.
How often are we caught pushing cars by ourselves in our spiritual lives? Shoes slipping off, straining far more than necessary, working so much harder than we need to because we don’t want to show any sign of weakness, we don’t want to ask for help, or appear ordinary? Continue reading →
Abraham had Isaac, Isaac had Jacob, Jacob had Judah and his brothers, Judah had Perez and Zerah (the mother was Tamar), Perez had Hezron, Hezron had Aram, Aram had Amminadab, Amminadab had Nahshon, Nahshon had Salmon, Salmon had Boaz (his mother was Rahab), Boaz had Obed (Ruth was the mother), Obed had Jesse, Jesse had David, and David became king. David had Solomon (Uriah’s wife was the mother), Solomon had Rehoboam, Rehoboam had Abijah, Abijah had Asa, Asa had Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat had Joram, Joram had Uzziah, Uzziah had Jotham, Jotham had Ahaz, Ahaz had Hezekiah, Hezekiah had Manasseh, Manasseh had Amon, Amon had Josiah, Josiah had Jehoiachin and his brothers, and then the people were taken into the Babylonian exile…Jacob had Joseph, Mary’s husband, the Mary who gave birth to Jesus, the Jesus who was called Christ.
One of the things I like about Christmas is getting all the pictures in the mail from family and friends. Even if I don’t hear from these friends all year, it is fun to get a card and see a picture of their family, see how old their kids are getting, be reminded of their presence in my life. And the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel shows us that family is a part of the original Christmas story as well. Continue reading →
This is the third week of advent which is to be marked with Joy. But when we hear the reading this morning from Matthew 11, what joy is given to John who finds himself imprisoned as an enemy of the state? Continue reading →
This is the Gospel reading for Advent 1 and the text my sermon was based on for yesterday:
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
(Matthew 24:36–44 NRSV)
Let’s Get Out of Here!
This passage has been the root of many a children’s sleepless nights and nightmares. Children laying in bed, terrified from what they learned in Sunday School, or a story they heard.
But is that really the intention of this passage? No, I don’t think so. Continue reading →
“He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” [Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.] When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” (Luke 22:39–46 NRSV)
Participation as Production
The word participation is an important word for our church. We talk about being a participatory church but what do we mean by that? I want to unpack that a little here.
Participation means to partake, to partner.
We live in a participatory culture. Back 50 or 60 years ago when you listened to a story around a radio, it was one way. TV in its earliest stages was one way. There was someone who wrote a story, produced a show that he or she thought consumers would like. But nowadays things are very different. Reality shows like Survivor, So You Think You Can Dance (my favorite), American Idol and many others build on the content that the audience gives. It could be through voting. It could be through suggestive story lines. Producers are constantly looking for interest of fans and which characters they like most, which ones they connect with, which story lines are most popular. There are shows like Arrested Development, Veronica Mars or Joss Wheadon’s Firefly where when they go off the air the Fans rally and actually get the producers to make more of their favorite show, even in helping raise money for the show to get it back on the air.
“He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NRSV)
Zacchaeus Breaks The Mold
Zacchaeus is a pretty well-known story from the bible. There is a song written about him. He has some colorful traits that make him somewhat easy to identify, like being short and climbing a tree.
But the familiarity with his story in this instance might actually work against us.
The way that Luke tells the story we are supposed to pick up on certain characteristics that Zacchaeus represents.