The Far Country

EP endorser Matt Morin preached this sermon not long after the Summer Gathering: Immigration meets the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Luke 15:11-32; Ephesians 2:11-22

The fifteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel begins with a group of scribes and Pharisees grumbling about Jesus’s habit of becoming friends with social outcasts: “This fellow welcomes law-breakers and eats with them.”

It might be tempting for us file this episode under the heading of “pride” and use it to repeat the old trope about self-righteous Pharisees: “There they go again, those elitist Pharisees—always thinking they are better than everybody else, when in fact they are sinners just like the rest of us.”

Or, it might be tempting for us to file this episode under the heading of “nice” and use it to repeat the old trope about everybody’s friend Jesus: “There he goes again, that Jesus—always kind, always accepting of everyone he meets.”

And yet, to read the story in this way—either as an example of individual pride by the Pharisees or as a display of sentimental kindness by Jesus—is really to have the story read us; it is to be shown by our own words what really matters to us; it is to find exactly what we had hoped to find in God’s word. So to whatever extent we are tempted to give an individualistic and moralistic interpretation of this Scripture is the extent to which we must reject such an interpretation. For surely nothing could make us happier than to hear a quick sermon asking us to try a little harder to not be so full of ourselves, and to try a little harder to be nicer—and then to go about our business as usual until next week. Read more

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For God So Loved the World…


For God So Loved the World He Sent Nahum

A sermon shared with us by John C. Nugent of Delta Community.

Michigan pastor, Rob Bell, recently made a splash in the media by going public with his “unorthodox” position on the afterlife. What has raised the hackles of several readers is Bell’s insistence in Love Wins that, when it comes to eternal destinies, God’s love overrides our sinfulness—not just for the elect (which would be orthodox for some), not just for those who say the sinner’s prayer or are immersed into Christ (which would be orthodox for others), and not just for those who actually seek first God’s kingdom with their whole life (which would be orthodox for still others)—but that God’s love overrides the sinfulness of all people, including those who have never heard the message of Christ and those who have heard and have rejected it for some reason. Since God wills all people to be saved, Bell surmises, at some point in time God must get his way. If that doesn’t happen in this life, it must somehow happen in the next one.

Now I have no intention of addressing Bell’s book in this sermon, other than to say that he is going to have to do a lot more work to convince me. Read more

“What’s Up”

An Ascension Sermon
(please note Ed’s diagnosis and pray for him)

Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15-16). Sometimes Paul is frustrated with the church. Sometimes he is exasperated with the church. Sometimes he is just plain mad at the church. But not always. When Paul prays for the little church in Ephesus he is filled with gratitude for a congregation that trusts its life to Jesus and, as a result, has an abundance of love for one another. I know what it is to be filled with gratitude for a congregation that trusts its life to Jesus and, so, is marked by love and affection for one another. Three weeks ago, when the doctors confirmed their suspicions and told me that I have multiple myeloma, I was shocked and sad and grateful.

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Let’s Talk About Haiti

 

As I wrote in our monthly newsletter, I’m confident we are already praying for the Haitian church and people “with our hands and feet, our sweat and tears, our time and money.” This way of putting things, and deep wisdom about natural disaster, are found in Debra Dean Murphy’s eloquent blog.

With agrarians like Norman Wirzba and Ragan Sutterfield in our midst, I’ve been mindful that Haiti’s crisis was made over centuries of political and economic injustice, culminating in decades of ecological devastation. Things didn’t first go wrong when the earth shook last week, but in the last few decades as deforestation made the soil slide down the mountains and as the best arable land was expropriated to service foreign debt. For now the earthquake is the crisis of the moment, and we must pray and care with immediacy and focus. But Haiti needs more than triage for a sudden crisis. Let our praying and caring have enough perspective to see the larger ecological and economic problems in Haiti, and enough patience to stay engaged long after the Red Cross has moved to the next emergency.

I suggested Prichard’s article (in the Evangelicals for Social Action newsletter) for some perspective, and because it links to an organization, Plant with Purpose, which has been attending to Haiti’s ecology for quite a while. Endorser Andy Johnson writes that his Sunday School class has been sponsoring a village in Haiti through Florestra, a Christian non-profit which works to reverse deforestation and poverty. So let’s talk about Haiti. Are there other organizations you would recommend to your fellow EPers? Have you a story or a website to share?

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Some Pastoral Reflections on Planning (and Its Opposite)

Some Christians are reluctant to talk about the future. While there may be ‘biblical’ reasons for it, that reluctance can have a destructive effect on our life together in Christ as the Church.

Whether it is the cumulative effect of misreading numerous Scriptures or an over-reaction to those who plan in arrogance and rigidity, the simple fact is that planning is an important part of all sustained work. Too many read Jesus’ words “..do not be anxious about tomorrow” as “anti-planning” Scriptures, when Jesus was simply teaching that in God’s kingdom we can trust in God’s ultimate provision. Or, anti-planners like to reference James 4:13-17, which is more a cautionary note for those who trust in their wealth and their ability to produce wealth. Read more