Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Word of Healing -- Salvation Sermon Series #3

When we get sick, we may ask for prayers, but we probably will also go to the doctor. That’s probably a smart move. But, according to the letter of James, if you’re sick you “should call for the elders and have them pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and any one who has committed sins will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15).

The Gospels tell us that Jesus was a healer. Morton Kelsey has pointed out that the gospel writers devote 20% of their accounts to Jesus’ healing ministry. When Jesus came to town it’s quite likely that he healed someone. That might make him a healing evangelist like Aimee Semple McPherson.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Jesus the Liberator -- Salvation Sermon Series #2

Luke 4:16-21

Jesus was a church-going man. Actually, he was a synagogue-going man, but you know what I mean. So, when he went home for a visit after his ordination by the Holy Spirit and the training exercise in the desert, he went to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath “as was his custom.” As is often the case when young adults return home, perhaps from college, they get asked to help with the service. In this case, the leaders asked Jesus to read the scriptures and share a word of interpretation.

Now preaching in your home church can be a blessing or a curse, depending on what you have to say. Sometimes it’s not wise to go home and share everything you’ve learned at seminary. The people back home might not like those newfangled ideas you learned at school and won’t appreciate your message.  That’s what happened to Jesus after he opened the scroll to Isaiah 61 and read about how the Spirit fell on the messiah, anointing him to bring good news to the poor and preach the year of jubilee. Maybe things would have gone differently if he hadn’t told the congregation that this was his mantle and that he had fulfilled the promise of this Scripture. In fact, the congregation got so upset that they tried to throw him off a cliff. Fortunately he escaped to preach another day.  But it was a close call nonetheless! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Gift of Salvation -- Salvation Sermon Series #1

2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2

Paul declared that “now is the acceptable time; see, now is the Day of Salvation!” That may be true, but what does it mean to be saved or to proclaim Jesus as savior?  This is a question that many struggle with. We sing about it and pray about it, but we’re not sure what salvation really is. 

That’s the impression that Mark Love got from his interviews and surveys. We have a strong sense of the presence of God in the world, but we’re not quite sure how that relates to our own lives. He found that there’s a lot of discomfort with traditional understandings of Jesus being our “personal savior,” despite all the salvation imagery present in our hymns and prayers, including the prayers at the Table. 

Could it be that we’ve been overly influenced by an atonement theory that many of us find problematic? The idea that Jesus died on a cross as a sacrificial victim to satisfy God’s need for blood as atonement for our sins no longer makes sense. The traditional Protestant vision of salvation tends to be very individualistic. I sinned; I’ve been judged guilty by God; God demands justice; Jesus pays the penalty. It’s quite simple and it works for a lot of people, but is this the only option?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Unfinished Story? -- Sermon for Easter 2015

Mark 16:1-8

The TV show M.A.S.H. ran for eleven years. It first went on the air when I was starting high school and it ended the year Cheryl and I were married.  In between, we hiked into the M.A.S.H. set on our first date.  The series ran nine years longer than the war it portrayed. There were numerous cast changes over the years, but those of us who loved the show enjoyed them all.  It was fitting then that the show closed by bringing the war to an end, and the parting of ways. It was a celebration of peace and the bittersweet nature of going one’s separate ways. The final episode gave the writer
s the opportunity to bring closure to the story and tie up loose ends. 

One by one, beginning with Father Mulcahy, the characters depart for their new lives. In the final scene, after Colonel Potter rides off one more time on his cavalry horse Sophie, only Hawkeye and BJ remain. Hawkeye is frustrated that B.J. won’t say goodbye. In the final moments, Hawkeye boards a helicopter and B.J. heads off on the motorcycle that once belonged to a group of Chinese soldier musicians.  As the chopper rises into the air, Hawkeye looks down on the hillside, where B.J. had written with rocks the word Goodbye.   With that the show that so many of us loved went off the air.    

The finale offered us an opportunity to say our goodbyes. While the ending might have been bittersweet, this is the way we prefer them. But, sometimes shows just go off the air, leaving the story hanging. You want to know how things end, but that isn’t in the cards.  Of course, you might try to finish the story in your mind, but you’re always left wondering how the writers would have ended it.