Tag Archives: sermon

Reflecting on the Wilderness

Reflection on Exodus 33:12-23 (October 22, 2017)

I was invited to share a reflection with a Spanish-speaking congregation.  This was my reflection, which was translated and shared with those who attended.

When Moses was praying to the Lord on behalf of his people, there was a separation between people and God.  The people expected Moses to intercede for them.  They had received a promise from God of the Promised Land, and were traveling through the wilderness trusting that promise.  But a promise is not the same as a relationship, and at the end of Moses’ prayer we see that as God passed through the community, it was like they looked up just in time to see God’s back pass by.  The relationship—the face to face conversation—was Moses’ responsibility.

But God invites them into relationship—even in the middle of the desert, and even though they don’t always respond to that invitation.  They were no longer in Egypt, but they were also not yet in the Promised Land.  And yet—even in the wilderness—they are not lost to God.  “I know you by name, and you have found favor in my sight,” we hear in Moses’ prayer.  “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Moses heard and could repeat these messages from God because he entered into God’s presence in prayer on behalf of his people.

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Put down the book and get into the story

I was setting up my nativity characters for chapel this week, and was reminded about a preschool chapel last year that became the central illustration in a sermon I preached on Dec. 20, 2015.  The sermon was in the context of a ‘Traveler’s Christmas,’ a Christmas Eve service for those who would be travelling over Christmas.  I found the manuscript to that sermon and realized I needed to hear it again this year.

Text: Luke 2:1-20

Last week in preschool chapel here at Grace, the kids were helping me tell the Christmas story.  I had a few sets of characters scattered around up front, and together we organized them to look something like a nativity scene.  And because I know that epiphany doesn’t come until after Christmas, the kings were a distance away from the rest of the animals and characters.  Someone noticed this and said, “the kings don’t have a star to follow!”  Without missing a beat, the kid sitting next to me holding the picture Bible put it down and jumped up, saying, “I can be a star…like this!” and he spread his arms and legs out while we sang “Go, tell it on the mountain.”

grace-preschool-star

I tell you that story tonight because it was a moment full of joy and life that I just can’t get out of my head.  But also, the more I think about it, the more I think that kid got it right.  For many of us, this story we read in Luke 2 is really familiar, and every year we arrange the various pieces of our nativity sets to illustrate the story…and then we stand back and admire it from a distance.  In fact, I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we keep the whole message of Christmas at a distance.  We distract ourselves with questions about the historical accuracy, the literary details, the cultural specifics.  Maybe we honor the traditions of those around us.  Maybe we even find meaning in these traditions for ourselves.  But, for the most part, we keep this God who breaks into the world at a distance.

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baptism-water

The 2nd sermon: “Remember who you are”

In pondering the sermon for this Sunday, I discovered that I actually had two sermons.  This is the one that won’t get preached.

Text: Matthew 5:13-16

In the movie Lion King, Simba is born into greatness.  A descendant of the king, he is told from a young age that he will one day rule over the pride land.  He doesn’t do anything to deserve this honor.  It’s just who he is.  It’s his identity—not because of who HE is, but because of who his father is.  And Simba is raised to be confident and comfortable in this calling.  He can sing and dance with his friends, saying, “I just can’t wait to be king,” because his calling is clear to him.

But then he starts listening to other voices.  After a serious accident, Simba listens to his uncle who tells him he has failed at life and must run away.  And Simba does.  He runs away and loses sight of who he was born to be…he loses sight of his calling.

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Reflections on a Christmas Eve sermon

I have found that often when I am preparing a sermon, I end up convicted by the very thoughts I am forming into a sermon.  I was not expecting to preach on Christmas Eve, but at the last minute I was given the notes of a sermon the pastor was going to preach and tasked with crafting it into something.  This is what I came up with.

And wouldn’t you know, I was struck by this idea that God is not ‘watching from a distance,’ but is indeed in the middle of the messiness of life.  I was struck by the idea that to move towards someone in relationship, which is risky and carries with it the potential of rejection, is the Incarnation.  Doesn’t matter who that person is…whether it’s the little old lady in the hallway on Sunday morning, the three year old who likes to sit with me during worship, a family member or a friend…when I move towards relationship, I am experiencing the incarnation…the God who is NOT watching from a distance.

So this year, that’s the goal.  Work on getting up the courage to potentially… consider… and maybe even attempt… at least once…

hmmm…probably need to write a sermon about moving ideas into action.