Sunday, May 29, 2016

Great is the Lord, and Greatly to be Praised -- Sermon for Pentecost 2C


Last Sunday when I preached the first in a series of sermons from the Psalms, we heard the Psalmist declare: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name” (Ps. 8:1). This morning the Psalmist invites us to sing a new song, for “great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” 

The Book of Psalms is a prayer book and a hymnal that is designed to help us be in relationship with the living God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that “the Psalms have been given to us precisely so that we can learn to pray them in the name of Jesus Christ” [DBW, 5:157].

Sunday, May 22, 2016

How Majestic Is Your Name -- Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Psalm 8

Homiletical theory suggests that the genre of a text should determine how it is preached. When it comes to the Psalms that bit of advice poses a problem for me.  Since I’m not a poet, trying to write a poetic sermon might not work all that well. But, even if you’re not a poet, it is good to regularly visit the Psalms. That’s because they speak powerfully about God and God’s creation. So, in the coming weeks most of my sermons will draw from the Psalms. However, I do want to put your minds at ease. I won’t be writing any bad poetry to share with you!  

The Sunday after Pentecost is known as Trinity Sunday. It’s on this day in the church year that we focus our attention on the nature of God. From a theological point of view, the doctrine of the Trinity is a good reminder that God transcends our attempts to define God’s nature. When we look to the Psalms for guidance on such matters there is a Latin phrase that captures the essence of this: Lex orandi, lex credendi. This translates in English to “the law of prayer is the law of belief.” 

The hymns and prayers that we find in the Book of Psalms can lift up our hearts to God in praise and thanksgiving. They also give us the words to share our laments and our complaints. Anyone who says that you can’t argue with God has never read the Psalms! 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Spirit Is On the Move - Sermon for Pentecost Sunday, Year C

Acts 2:1-21

The reading from Acts 2 should be familiar, especially since it defines the meaning of Pentecost Sunday. Since it is so familiar, the worship committee decided to present it in a more dramatic fashion. In this reading we’ve heard about fire and wind and movement. We’ve also been invited to envision the work of God’s Spirit in the world. It is a work that involves God’s people.   

The book of Acts focuses on the movement of the Holy Spirit. This movement begins with the commission Jesus gives the disciples in Acts 1:8: 
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  
The rest of the Book of Acts flows out of this commissioning. That movement of the Spirit gets underway in Acts 2 and it continues to this day. That means we’re part of this movement of the Spirit.  Our story begins in an Upper Room, where the disciples are waiting for the Spirit to come in power. As the followers of Jesus pray for the Spirit to move, the “rush of a violent wind” fills the house. Imagine for a moment the power of a violent windstorm blowing open the windows and filling your house. You would conclude that this wind is quite powerful.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

God Is Our Light -- Sermon for Easter 6C


Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5

On the first day of creation, God said: “‘let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good” (Genesis 1:3-4a). Every day when the sun rises the darkness flees, and we rejoice in the goodness that the light of the sun brings to our lives. As the Psalmist declares:
  15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
    who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance;
16 they exult in your name all day long, 
and extol your righteousness. (Ps. 89:15-16).
When I chose to preach on this reading from the Book of Revelation, I didn’t know that this would be the week that our new lighting system would be installed. I call it providential that we’re celebrating God’s light on the day that this room, which has been rather dark in recent years, gets bathed in new light. As we contemplate the new brightness of the room, we can imagine for a moment walking in the light of God’s countenance. 

Last Sunday we watched as the New Jerusalem descended from heaven to the New Earth. We heard the message that God had chosen to dwell among us. This morning, we hear that the Spirit has taken John to the top of a great mountain. From this perch, he can watch as the holy city of Jerusalem descends to earth. John invites us to use our spiritual imaginations to envision the breadth and length of the city, as well as the glory that radiates from it. If you take a look at the verses we skipped, you will get a good sense of the magnificence of this holy city of God.