5th Sunday after Epiphany (C)
February 5, 1995
Making Something Out of Nothing
It happened frequently while Jesus walked the tranquil acres of Galilee. He made something out of nothing. It was one of the outstanding epiphanies of His Messiahship. Incredibly, He supplanted negative factors with positive results. For instance: life replaced death. Water was transformed into wine. The sick became well, the hungry fed, and the insane were made normal. He can still make something out of nothing. He can still pull sin inside out and provide the delight of unimagined virtue.
It is imperative that we learn from the Gospel writers the steps involved. We must do so — not so we can imitate His power like novices trying to outdo magician David Copperfield. Jesus was no magician. It was might, the Divine might that no one can duplicate but that faithful can appropriate. It was muscular love, powerful and generous.
The Sea of Galilee is a modest fresh-water lake that is no more than thirteen miles long, only seven miles wide, and 197 feet deep at its deepest. The Sea of Galilee is 680 feet below sea level, which makes the landscape around it a tropical Eden and the lake itself a paradise teeming with plentiful fish. When Jesus lived there, the shoreline was populated with nine townships no smaller than 15,000 persons each, says William Barclay.
It was an ideal setting for Jesus’ ministry. The climate was mild, the people plentiful, and outdoor preaching easily accomplished. Since He was literally thrown out of the synagogue in Nazareth and barely escaped with His life (Luke 4:16ff), Jesus opted for the open spaces and did most of His preaching in the open air near Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee. Luke describes a day like that.
People, eager to hear His every word, press so close that, on this day, Jesus is virtually backed into the lake. Good naturedly, Jesus steps into one of the boats — one belonging to Simon Peter — who as yet is not a disciple. Jesus makes it His floating pulpit. He has more to say to the enthusiastic crowd which crams around Him. His sermon is not finished. He is not given to quicky speeches or hasty homilies. The eagerness of the crowd encourages Him to share much more in words. Their hunger prompts Him to not only feed their souls, but to provide physical foods as well.
“Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch,” commands Jesus to the nearby fishermen.
“Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing,” explains a weary Simon. Quickly he added, “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
It was long past fishing time. At night is when the great shoals of fish can be easily netted, but the fishermen had not succeeded in the darkness that night. Sunlight discourages fishing, but Jesus lets nothing discourage Him. He is capable of making something out of nothing. And there, on the rippling waters of Galilee, it happened again.
But exactly what took place? There was but the Lord’s command and Simon’s obedience. That was all; nothing more. Yet look at the result! It was the Lord’s command and the prompt obedience to it that produced such a harvest of fish that “they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them.”
It was too amazing. Simon Peter knew it was no ordinary fishing luck that Jesus exhibited. Peter was frightened, this Big Fisherman.
“Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” said the awestruck Galilean. Peter’s cry was that of a man seeing the miracle of something made out of nothing. Empty nets were filling to overflowing; barren hearts were swelling with joy; eyes dull from a lackluster night’s fishing expedition were brightening to astonishment. Jesus does that. He frequently makes something out of nothing. Even yet.
There is more here than the rhythm of cause-and-effect. Whenever we follow the command of the Lord unhesitatingly and faithfully, He surprises us, for obedience is more than a rigid compliance with a request. It is plugging into the source of energy that makes something out of nothing. It is trusting Him, being faithful, accepting His Word and His outcome. It is being energized with His love. It is moving to the rhythm of His love so that we can share love ourselves.
The Savior used other means to make something out of nothing, but there by the seashore near Capernaum Jesus gave a command that was obeyed and a rich harvest of fish was the result. We do well to learn from this marvelous episode not to be hesitant in our obedience to the instructions of the Lord. Yet the great catch of fish was not the only miracle to follow that day’s preaching along the waterfront of Capernaum. Peter, James and John were to fish for more than carp, catfish and Galilee cichlids that thrive in the Sea of Galilee. Jesus said to them, “From now on you will be catching people.”
Luke tells us, “When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Him.” Jesus was about to make something important out of the ostensible nothingness of humble fishermen. They would change the world. They would become members of a small Christian army of disciples who would eventually invade the whole Earth and conquer much of it was the joy of Jesus. Here, once again, Jesus’ pattern was employed. The Lord commanded — not with bitter demand, but undeniable persuasion — and that trio of fishermen obeyed, not with blind ignorance, mind you, but with simple faith. And the result is Christianity worldwide! This was a greater miracle than the great haul of fish, and the better evidence of the Lord’s Messianic authenticity. It was not the love of fish but the love of people, not the haul of fish but the harvest of sinners that made this event memorable.
Here, then, is a lesson for all of us. It is not the extremes of piety that effect miraculous change, nor thundering voices from the heavens, but the simple will to obey the commonplace commands the Savior issues. He still makes His will known today. We hear it in His Word, the Word read and the Word preached. We can listen to it in meditation and discover it in contemplation. We can find it in Christian prayer and uncover it in openness and obedience.
This event in Jesus’ ministry says that His Church may become full like the empty nets of the fishermen if we take His command to heart and set sail to catch people; if we become partners in the enterprise, as Peter summoned James and John. Fishing for people is not the sole duty of any one person, but the responsibility of every Christian.
Writes Leighton Ford, “There are too many churches with impeccable credentials for orthodox theology whose outreach is almost nil. They are sound, but they are sound asleep.” Adds Ford, “It is far too easy for the Church to become a sort of religious clique where Christians retreat from the world.” He writes about a Chinese university student in Ann Arbor, who spent four years hiding in the attic of First Methodist Church there because he was failing. His hair was down to his shoulders; his skin was pallid. Yet he represents us when we fail to share Christ, to obey His command to “make disciples” (The Christian Persuader).
To be sure, the twelve disciples spent at least three years in personalized training with Jesus. Much of what they learned is preserved for us in the Gospels. Read them earnestly in order to join in their training. Paul was trained in another way. He, too, spent three years learning, but it was in the wilderness that he was prepared to fish for people. You would think that in the dry desert it would be impossible to learn anything about fishing — but it is not impossible when Jesus does the teaching, and the fishing is for people.
Jesus wants to set us free to set others free. It can’t be done just inside the walls of a church. The four Gospels record 132 direct contacts that Jesus had with people. Only ten of those contacts took place inside a synagogue or the Temple. The remaining 122 were contacts He made out in the community. Matthew Prince tells us, “If we follow Christ’s example, we will break out of the holy huddle.”
Wouldn’t you like to see Jesus make something out of nothing again? (RA)
6th Sunday after Epiphany (C)
February 12, 1995
The Glad Good News of Original Sin
The mother of Charles William Eliot, who was to be the president of Harvard University and a powerful influence in American education, is reported to have protested to a friend who had joined the Episcopal Church. Recalling the words of the “General Confession,” she said, “Eliza, do you kneel down in church and call yourself a miserable sinner? Neither I nor any of my family will ever do that!” (Methodists must agree, for we took that phrase out of the General Confession!)
I. None of Us Enjoys Being Told that We are Sinners.
When the beloved autocrat in Clarence Day’s Life With Father interrupts the prayer of his wife Vinnie’s pastor to tell God that the pastor is wrong, that Vinnie is not a poor sinner, he speaks for most of us. Mr. Day sees his wife’s goodness, her charity. She is a good mother and a good wife. Yet, while he is right in protesting pompous piety, he was wrong in insisting upon his wife’s sinlessness. Even Vinnie Day was a fallible human being like the rest of us — in other words, a poor sinner.
We don’t like to hear that. It goes against the grain. We’d rather live with the illusion that we are merely maladjusted angels but not sinners. The folks over there — they may be sinners. We are not. To paraphrase the title of a popular book:”I’m O.K. — you, I’m not so sure about!”
Theologian Paul Tillich told us that, in reality, sin is alienation; and we are alienated in three ways: from God, the Ground of our Being; from others; and from our own truest and best selves — the selves God made us to be. We are all sinners, born of sinners, who were born of sinners, ad infinitum. It is hard to convince average, decent, law-abiding churchgoers that we are sinners; but that is what we all are, dear friends. All have not sinned alike, but all alike have sinned. “Sin” is the human condition.
Jeremiah looked into the hearts of his people and saw darkness. The historical situation was a familiar one: people putting their trust in just about anything except God. Tillich was right: our problem is not atheism but idolatry. The people were worshipping the asherim — the popular pagan gods of the day. The sin of his people, he said, is engraved on the heart, the conscience, the mind of people, like an inscription chiseled into a rock face by an iron tool or a diamond point. There is no way in which it can be rubbed out or ignored. No doubt the people would have admitted they had made a few mistakes, but could it not all be taken care of by a good dose of religion?
No, answers Jeremiah, religion is the root of your problem. Often it is a method of escaping, or trying to escape, the judgment of God. The sin of Judah is engraved on “the horns of their altars.” The horns of the altar projected upwards from the four corners. They were made of stone, and carved into a horn shape — I’ve seen many of them in excavation in the Holy Land. Whenever sacrifice was offered to God to deal with the sins of the people, some of the blood of the animal was smeared on the horns of the altar (Lev. 4:7).
But a little blood splashed on a stone cannot cleanse the heart of the people, said Jeremiah. There is plenty of religion around: they have given their devotion to asherim — fertility gods and goddesses. We tend to deplore half-empty churches and the decline in religion, but that was not Jeremiah’s problem. Religion in his day was big business, but it was the great illusion. In Jeremiah’s day the streets of the cities were filled with images and symbols of pagan gods. One might even draw some parallels to our own day, if we looked around a bit. You see, anything good can be corrupted — even religion. Did you know that our word “bigot” originally came from “by God”? And “hocus-pocus” came from the Latin Hoc Est Corpus Meum, meaning “This is my Body” — and referred to the act whereby the priest was supposed to transform the bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ. Religion can so easily degenerate into superstition.
Jeremiah reflects on the perversity of the human heart or mind. The human race can produce a St. Francis and a Hitler, a Mother Theresa and an Ayatollah Khomeini. Our motives are often hard to understand — even by those closest to us. Does anyone know what really goes on in the human heart? Only God, claims Jeremiah in verse 10: “I, the Lord, search the mind and try the heart.” The Hebrew word translated “mind,” in the first half of this verse, is the same Hebrew word translated “heart” in verse 9, while the word translated “heart” is the Hebrew word for “kidneys.” The kidneys were thought to be the seat of human emotions in ancient Hebrew psychology. “Mind” and “heart” are used here to describe the whole range of a person’s inner life. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).
II. All of Us Have “Heart Trouble.”
At a Methodist Annual Conference meeting over twenty years ago, the conference preacher was the great Presbyterian George Arthur Buttrick. At one point in his sermon, Buttrick looked up from his notes, stepped beside the pulpit, pointed his finger at the congregation, and said, “Some of you Methodist preachers, I hear, do not believe in original sin. I have only one thing to say to you: Look into your own hearts!” He got our attention! And he was right!
Here is my definition of original sin. You won’t find it in any catechism, but I am fond of it. I define original sin as “our infinite capacity for lousing things up.” I agree with G. K. Chesterton who said that of all the Christian doctrines, original sin is the only one that is provable — all one needs do is look around.
I once heard the story of two theologians who were deep in discussion. One asked, “Do you believe in original sin?” The second replied: “Of course. My wife and I have a child.” Then came the next question “Do you believe in Total Depravity?” To which the second man replied. “No. That’s a pessimistic Calvinistic doctrine.” The first man then said, “Just wait until you have two children!”
Original sin is “our infinite capacity for lousing things up.” It’s there, believe me! We can take anything good — religion, sex, food, drink, nuclear power — and twist it and misuse it and abuse it to our own detriment and the world’s danger. We are stubborn, self-willed, self-centered creatures. All have not sinned alike, but all alike have sinned. It “goes with the territory;” it is a part of the human condition — all humans.
A healthy doctrine of original sin has kept me from a good deal of disappointment in this life. I’m not surprised when things and people go wrong; I stand amazed when things and people go right — and the miracle is that they do, once in a while, by the grace of God!
The Bible speaks of sin as sickness and bondage. What is implied in such analogies is that we do not have within ourselves the power to achieve that for which we were created. Jesus said that the whole of the Law could be summed up in two commandments: Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. It sounds simple — but it isn’t easy. Few of us ever come close. Do you honestly love your neighbor as you love yourself? That’s a tall order! The popularity of books on “Looking out for Number One” gives the lie to any such pretensions.
When Luther and Calvin said that we are totally depraved, they did not mean that we are incapable of doing anything good. What they were saying is that even our goodness is tainted. We are, to use their words, “curved in upon ourselves.” (Seeing a group photograph in which we appear, whose image do we look for first?) Curved in upon ourselves, even our best and brightest deeds are tainted. Created to love God and our neighbors, we find ourselves curved in upon ourselves, preoccupied with our own ends. We may give generously to the poor, but we do so to make ourselves feel good or earn brownie points with God. We are religious because we believe that being religious will win for us joy in heaven, protect us from earthly ills, and bring us happiness and peace of mind in this life. We dare not examine our motives too closely. Original sin explains our human condition.
III. What is the “Good News” of Original Sin?
Original sin sounds more like “bad news.” Well, the phrase “glad good news” comes from the writings of G. K. Chesterton who wrote, in a book on St. Francis of Assisi, these startling words: “The glad good news brought by the Gospel was the news of original sin” (G. K. Chesterton, St. Francis of Assisi, New York: George H. Doran Co., 1924, p. 39). Why good news? Because to be a sinner is a token of our human greatness. Only creatures created in the image of God can exercise their godlike endowment by rebelling against their Creator. Created in freedom, we have rebelled. The “good news” of original sin is that there is a covenant relationship with a creator God for which we have been created. We have been created to be like Jesus Christ. He is our pattern and our goal. Human beings, as we meet them on the street and see them on the television tube, are not what God intends for us to be.
The Fall is not something that happened “back then”; it is a description of what theologians and philosophers call our “existential predicament.” We don’t even need the biblical story of Adam to demonstrate the reality of humanity’s fall. Having Christ, it is enough. We can say, “I’m not perfect, but I’m as good as the next fellow,” but you cannot say that when the “next Fellow” is Christ! And, according to the Bible, Christ is God’s plumbline to measure our humanity. “True God and True Man,” the creeds say of Him. Standing before Him we can only say with Peter of old, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). We — you and I — are “fallen” creatures, you and I are less than God intends us to be.
A falling presupposes a step or a riser from which to fall, just as a divorce presupposes a marriage. Chesterton wrote elsewhere: “If I wish to dissuade a man from drinking his tenth whiskey and soda, I slap him on the back and say ‘Be a man!’ No one who wished to dissuade a crocodile from eating its tenth explorer would slap it on the back and say ‘Be a crocodile’!” That is precisely what Adam was doing. The matchless beauty of the Genesis story is this: created for God, we said “no” — and the nuptial drama began with a divorce. Yet, the cross of Christ effects a reconciliation. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).
“The heart is deceitful above all things. Who can understand it?” God can! Christ can! He knows what we really are — and loves us anyway. Jeremiah prayed, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for thou art my praise.” That prayer was not fully answered until six centuries later when an angelic choir proclaimed on a Judean hillside: “Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior” (Luke 2:11).
C. S. Lewis said that it is humility, not arrogance, to say that deity has visited us on this planet, for we are a fallen race in need of redemption! If, being curved in upon ourselves, we cannot be cured by our own efforts, what’s the answer? The cure for being curved in upon one’s self lies not in denying or hating one’s self but by forgetting one’s self. And how on earth can we do that? The more we concentrate upon forgetting ourselves, the more we think of ourselves. Thus, it is a sound principle of psychology and of life experience that we forget something by becoming preoccupied with something else, not by trying to forget. This occurs when we truly love, when we forget our own interests and seek to satisfy the interests of the one we love. If we accept God’s love with a loving trust, inevitably we desire to please God, because it is of the very nature of love that it wishes to please the beloved.
John Wesley preached again and again a sermon on the subject of original sin. He was troubled by popular preachers trying to convince people there was really nothing much wrong with them or their world — that a little social tinkering here and there would make a heaven on earth. Meanwhile, people were bent on making hells on earth (just as today). Wesley believed that, without God’s aid and without a recognition of their true fallen condition, people would continue their tragic ways to destruction. And so he said: “Keep to the plain, old faith, ‘once delivered to the saints,’ and delivered by the spirit of God to our hearts. Know your disease! Know your cure! Ye were born in sin: therefore, ‘ye must be born again,’ born of God. Now, ‘go on from faith to faith,’ until your whole sickness be healed, and the ‘mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus’!” (DBS)
7th Sunday after Epiphany (C)
February 19, 1995
Loving Beyond Ourselves
When I was a small child and my grandmother came for a visit, I would run to her as she entered the door, throw my arms around her, give her a big squeeze, and then exclaim, “What’da bring me?”
That’s behavior we might excuse in a child but we’d find offensive in an adult. Yet the same “What’da bring me?” principle is at work in many if not most of our relationships. We still tend to judge most relationships on the basis of what they do for us: Do I enjoy being with them? Do they satisfy some need in my life? Can they do something for me?
That’s because, for most of humanity, our driving force is self; our own will sits on the throne of our lives and most events, people, and things are judged on the basis of their value to that self.
In the gospels, Jesus has proclaimed a revolutionary change for all of humanity: we are to take self off the throne of our lives and place God there. We are to make Christ the Lord of our lives. And in this text Jesus is helping us understand that one of the implications of that fundamental change is that love becomes a dominating principle of our lives. And that love even extends to those who are “unlovely” — to those who are not our friends and may even be actively opposed to us.
Jesus calls us to love beyond ourselves. What does that kind of love look like?
I. Authentic Love Seeks the Best for Others
Our natural human instinct is to seek the best for ourselves. But in a life in which God’s love has become the driving force, we also seek the best for others, including those who dislike or even abuse us.
This is the real “tough love” — to act in love toward the neighbor who is constantly taking advantage of you, or the business colleague who is always trying to get ahead of you, or the person at your school who spreads false stories about you. We are to act in a way that always seeks the best for that person, and that is tough!
The operative principle is found in verse 31: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” It’s what we used to call the golden rule, before American culture distorted that idea into “He who has the gold makes the rules!” When you have placed God on the throne of your life, then you have a new motivation and a new master. The true “golden rule” of verse 31 embodies what it means to love beyond ourselves.
II. Authentic Love Does Not Expect Repayment
“Well, suppose I do love those lousy people at the office,” we ask. “What am I going to get out of it?”
If that’s our question, then we’ve already missed the point, for authentic love seeks the best for others without concern for repayment or reward. To love only those who will repay love is nothing special; it’s the way the world works: you scratch my back, I scratch yours.
Yet authentic love, Christ-centered love, goes beyond concern for the self. Jesus calls us to love those who can’t or won’t repay our love. Only then do we truly experience what it means to love beyond ourselves — only then do we sense what it means to love as God loves us (v. 36).
III. Authentic Love Leaves Judgment to God
Christ calls us to experience love that is committed to seeking the best for others, without concern for repayment and without clinging to bitter or harsh attitudes.
In verse 37, we are instructed not to “judge” or “condemn.” Both words express a bitter or vindictive attitude: “He’ll get his one of these days.” “She’s going to get what’s coming to her.” When we allow our hearts to harbor bitterness, it pushes love out of its central position. It’s impossible to love and hate at the same time.
The solution is found in the same verse: “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Loving beyond ourselves involves letting forgiveness so grow in our hearts that there is no more room for bitterness or a judging attitude. Judgment is God’s job; He’s better equipped to handle it than we are.
Love and forgiveness go hand in hand. One of the key truths about forgiveness is that you won’t truly feel it in your own life until you start giving it away. Forgiveness may well be the single most important element in loving beyond ourselves.
Our world talks about love so much; the word is tossed about in soap operas and popular music in such a way that it’s amazing anybody knows what it means. But Jesus Christ went to the cross to demonstrate what authentic love really is, and He calls us to a new life that models such love in our own lives — that a lost world might see and know the truth. (JMD)
8th Sunday after Epiphany (C)
February 26, 1995
Dealing with Death and Dying
(1 Corinthians 15:51-58)
From the beginning of time people have dreamed of being able to walk between two worlds, to have the ability to walk between this world and the spiritual world. When Jesus arose from the dead, He showed us a body that transcends time and space and walks in the spiritual world. The Bible tells us we are going to have that kind of body.
When He speaks the word, we shall all be changed. That is what the Bible says. Bodies that are sown in weakness shall be raised in strength. Bodies that are sown in dishonor shall be raised in glory. Bodies that are sown mortally shall be raised in immortality. And bodies that are perishable shall be raised imperishable. Each of us, God’s children, shall have a body like Jesus.
Bob Ingersoll, an avowed atheist of years ago, traveled around giving lectures against the Christian faith. One of his favorite points of attack was the miracles. He came up with the preposterous story that Mary and Martha were hiding Lazarus in the tomb and had staged the resurrection of Lazarus! That is why Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” Ingersoll posed the question, “Why did Jesus call Lazarus by name?” During one such delivery of that ridiculous speech, a fellow responded, “Brother Bob, if He had not called Lazarus by name, every dead person in that cemetery would have jumped up and risen to this Lord!”
God has already won the victory, and as God’s child you have already won the victory. You and I are just waiting to claim the victory that is already ours. Because Jesus lives, we shall live also. What does that mean?
I. It means we can handle the death of loved ones creatively.
Death is the most common experience on our planet. Over 5,000 people die in the United States every day. It is a common occurrence, but when death touches our lives and when we lose someone we love, it is anything but ordinary or common. It hurts! When we lose someone we love, it hurts!
God is Lord of life and light. Death as we know it in this existence stands against God and everything He stands for. Death is the enemy. The Bible promises us, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that we already have the victory over our greatest enemy, the enemy of death.
When we realize that we have victory over death, we can then handle deaths of loved ones creatively. The process of grief is a fairly uniform process. Some of us work through grief in a matter of hours or days while for others it takes weeks or months. Sometimes, tragically, it even takes years. But the process through which we go is a fairly uniform one. It begins with an initial shock and disbelief. It carries through with such stages as anger, hostility, guilt, pre-occupation with the loss, and physical symptoms. As we move through the darkness of these various stages we begin slowly to adjust. We begin to see the light flickering through and gradually we begin to adjust to the loss and to reality.
God is with us every step of the way. When Jesus came to the village of Bethany and saw Martha and Mary grieving over the loss of their brother, Jesus didn’t spout pious platitudes. He didn’t tell them they ought to be ashamed of themselves land to go read their Bibles. He didn’t even detail the process of grief. No, Jesus stood beside them and He wept! When we go through these agonizing ordeals of losing those we love, Christ is right by our side, suffering with us. When we realize that Christ is with us, we can handle even our greatest enemy — the enemy of death.
II. We can also look forward to the future.
In a sense, we can plan our own deaths. The 11th chapter of Hebrews tells us that Jacob, Joseph, and Isaac prepared for their own deaths by equipping their families and children with blessings and promises for the future. If you could write your own epitaph, what would you write? One epitaph says, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” My favorite one reads, “See, I told you I was sick!”
What statement would you leave behind that would characterize your life? Each day we are living lives that create that statement. Many people are preparing for death in the wrong way. They are scripting their own deaths. Tragic examples abound; one might be the famous country singer who lived his life in such a way that he would die young as his father had.
Some of us not only wrongly script our lives and deaths, some of us try to deny death. We pretend it isn’t going to happen. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross writes that the poor die easier; they can let go. Yet, middle-class Americans — with all of our things and possessions — do not let go so easily. We want to cling to that which we have spent our lives collecting.
The presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives assures us of the ultimate victory over death itself. Because He lives, we can handle the deaths of others in creative ways. We can creatively prepare for our own deaths by living lives that are hopeful, loving, caring, and encouraging. We can live life to its fullest! We can live so that every day prepares us for the life to come.
How does the Christian respond to death? In verse 55, Paul taunts, “Oh, death, where is your sting? Oh grave, where is your victory?” We know that ultimate victory belongs in Jesus Christ. Because we know Him, we can live each day to its fullest. We can seize each and every moment, each and every hour, each and every day as being the special gift of God that it is. If we really believe this Word, we seize each and every moment as God’s precious gift to us.
Several years ago Merv Griffin had a group of body-builders on his show — muscles everywhere! They started posing. Finally, Merv said, “Tell me, what do you do with those muscles?” Again, they began to pose. He said, “No, no! Tell me, what do you do with all those muscles?”
What do you do with your muscles? What do you do with your time? What do you do with your opportunities with other people? What do you do with the situations with which you are confronted every day of your life? What do you do with your time and your talents and your abilities and your opportunities?
Jesus has taken care of death. We win! The verdict is in. I’ve read the end of the book; we win! God guarantees that. Now the question is: “What do you do with your life?”
It was Victor Hugo who said, “When you were born, you cried; and the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world will cry and you will rejoice.” Because Christ lives, we live also — today and tomorrow. (GLC)
1st Sunday of Lent (C)
March 5, 1995
Three Lessons of Temptation
A rather attractive woman was sitting in a drugstore, enjoying the last tempting bites of a chocolate sundae. After finishing, she walked over to the drugstore scale. Putting a penny in the scale, she was shocked by its reading. So she took off her coat, put another penny in, and weighed again. Still unhappy with the results, she removed her shoes and the scarf around her neck, put in another penny, and received a reading that again displeased her. She then noticed a young boy who was watching the whole procedure. She looked at the child with a disgusted eye and said, “Well, what do you want?” The young boy said, “I just wanted to tell you, don’t stop now. I’ve got a whole pocketful of pennies.”
We make jokes about temptation. We may even flirt with it; but seldom do we take it seriously, considering it a force we can control. We think we have mastery over it. And yet the Bible attempts again and again to tell us that we struggle with something greater than ourselves. Even the best of us can fall prey to the voice of temptation. Listen to Jesus’ story.
According to Luke’s Gospel, no sooner had Jesus felt the power of God move in His life through that baptism experience with John at the Jordan than the devil makes an appearance. True to the experience of many of us, Jesus went from a spiritual high to a time of severe temptation. In fact, in Luke’s Gospel, the only thing separating the baptism of Jesus from His temptation by satan is a listing of His family roots.
Luke records that Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit out to the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil for forty days. Knowing of His forty-day fast, the devil immediately tempts Jesus with the making of bread from stones. Knowing of His newly-found purpose and newly-assured Messiahship, the devil immediately talks of authority and splendor. Knowing of His importance and power, the devil talks of doing miraculous things.
It’s a cunning voice, a sly presentation, a bending of rules and even Scripture — it is the voice of satan trying to tempt Jesus. The temptation itself is actually a simple one. Using three separate words (vv. 3, 6, 9), satan says to Jesus, “Do something big, give us the spectacular, put on the big show.” It’s a word that we have been tempted to utter, “I’ll have faith when I see the miraculous events.” It is a voice that seeks to destroy our faith by asking for signs. It’s a voice that says, “If you can’t see any signs, there must not be anything to it. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Faith must always go beyond that which we can see, feel, or touch. If we have to have sensational demonstrations to validate our faith, then we have no real faith. Satan was asking Jesus to compromise the whole realm of spiritual faith by turning belief and confession into some sideshow. Faith for us is a relationship to a loving Father, not a loyalty to a cheap bag of tricks. Satan said, “Give me proof that you are the Son of God, then I’ll have faith.” Paul writes, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen.”
Here are three conclusions, or rules, about temptation, how it works, and how it seeks to affect us.
I. Lesson 1. Temptation comes to everyone.
Perhaps the most frightening thing about this scripture passage is that the temptation comes to Christ. If temptation can come to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One who has all authority on heaven and on earth, then it can come to you and me, too!
I have watched three ministry friends have their ministries destroyed as a result of temptations. This doesn’t mean they are bad people; all three are godly men who love the Lord and who have served Him well. But it does show their humanity. If temptation can destroy pastor and leaders, if temptation can wreck and ruin the work that God wills to do in a person’s life, then we better be on our guard. “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”
Temptation brings the spectrum of humanity to level ground. Kings and paupers, presidents and beggars are all confronted by temptations. There is no safeguard, no preventive measures to take. The devil can attack any Christian at any level. There is no invisible force field around us to keep temptation’s enticements from coming our way. Our only hope is in the knowledge that when it does come, we can be more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Some drug dealers went to the captain of an oil tanker that made regular trips from South America to Los Angeles. They offered him $10,000 to carry a load of cocaine. He refused. They came back the next day with an offer of $50,000. Again he refused. Then they came again and offered $150,000; this time he called the FBI, who put together a sting operation and caught the drug runners. They seized the shipment of drugs along with $340,000 in cash, plus a list of buyers in the LA area. After the arrests, a federal agent asked, “Why did you wait until they offered $150,000 before you called us?” The captain replied, “They were getting pretty close to my price and I was scared of what I might do.”
Lesson 1. Temptation comes to everyone.
II. Lesson 2. Temptation is always anti-God.
Look again at the three temptation of Jesus in this passage. The first (v. 3) was that of making bread. Translation: Forget God. Satan tried to convince Jesus that bread would satisfy His desires. Satan was saying to Jesus that His sufficiency would come from His own hands and not from God.
The second temptation (v. 6) is the request of the devil for Jesus to worship him. Translation: Cast off God. Replace God as the object of your worship. Let other things be of greater importance. Let other relationships take precedence.
The third temptation is also anti-God. “Throw yourself down, the angels will come” (v. 9). Translation: Test God. Force His hand; don’t let His will be sovereign in your life.
Every temptation of satan is anti-God. It seeks to destroy our relationship with Him, our faith in Him, our fellowship with His people. That’s the nature of temptation; that’s the nature of satan.
It is very important to distinguish between temptation and testing; both are mentioned in Scripture and they are very different. Temptation is of satan — it is evil in intent, and it leads to spiritual death. On the other hand, testing is of God; it has spiritual growth and development as its intent, and it leads to an enduring faith.
To distinguish real temptation when it comes your way, ask the simple question: “Does this action — this thought, this attitude — harm my walk with the Lord; does it force me to betray God and His will for my life?” If the answer is “yes,” that’s temptation, and you and I must run from it.
Lesson 2. Temptation is always anti-God.
III. Lesson 3. Temptation keeps coming.
Verse 13 in our focus passage is one of the most frightening verses in the Bible. “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.” Jesus had won round one, but the fight continued. Satan, as a crafty and cunning adversary, knows when to attack us. He knows our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities. He knows that persistently wearing us down will often carry the day.
The devil left Jesus until an opportune time. When do you think that was? Maybe he came only days later when Jesus returned home to Nazareth and tried to begin His ministry. Luke 4:28-30 tells of His rejection and of how He was run out of town. Maybe he came that day when Jesus healed the Gerasene demoniac. The heavens rejoiced but not the townspeople; they asked Him to leave.
Maybe he came the day when Jesus talked to His disciples about dying. Peter said, “God forbid that this shall ever happen to you.” Jesus replied, “Get behind me, satan, you are a stumbling block to me.” Or maybe he came on the night when Peter denied the Lord three times. Here, one of His closest followers quickly claimed that he did not even know the man.
Maybe Jesus heard his voice — “Don’t do it” — while praying in the garden. Jesus said, “Not my will but Thine.” Even on the cross Jesus heard the voice. How He must have wrestled with the temptation to step down from the cross and put an end to His pain.
Throughout His ministry, the voice kept coming. It won’t leave us alone either. It’s a daily struggle and only in the power of Christ do we have the hope of victory.
Lesson 3. Temptation keeps coming.
Two movers were struggling with a huge crate, trying to get it through a doorway. After strenuous but futile effort, they became exhausted. As they sat the crate down, one of them said, “I give up, well never get this thing in there.”
“In there?” questioned his partner. “I thought we were trying to get it out!” Know your enemy and recognize which direction he is trying to pull your life. The devil will always pull you away from God.
May God give us the power to overcome temptation through Jesus Christ our Lord. (JRR)
2nd Sunday of Lent (C)
March 12, 1995
The Lord’s Legacy
(Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18)
“We love God,” John said, “because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Because of God’s lavish love for us, loving God presents us with a real struggle: how can we love God? Not even Hallmark has a card able to articulate the perfect love in the deepest recesses of the heart, mind, soul, and body that so easily moves to the beloved. Yet, when you feel that perfect kind of love, you often feel frustrated because there are no gifts perfect enough to express it.
God perfectly expressed His love for us in Jesus. God gave us His heart in Jesus. And though the lyrics go back to 1782, there is an old standard hymn most recently made popular by Godspell that tells us what we can give our beloved: “Accept the gifts we offer for all Thy love imparts, and what Thou most desirest, our humble, thankful hearts.” When you give your heart — and in the Bible the heart refers to everything a person is emotionally and intellectually, spiritually and physically — you give your all. Is that what you want to give to your beloved? That’s what God gave to us. That’s the Lord’s legacy. And that’s what God expects and desires from us.
Abraham’s love for God came from the heart. And whenever Abraham’s beloved called, he would not deny any part of his heart to God. The Lord called to Abraham, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Gen. 12). That’s the covenant: God calls, we go. As that great Old Testament scholar, Berhard W. Anderson, used to tell us in seminary, “God’s people are always on the move. They are always moving as God calls them to get up and go.” If we have a heart for our beloved, our hearts go with Him.
You may discover that people who always seem to want to debate or argue or contend aren’t among the happier people in this world. The need to argue and contend betrays their insecurity and uncertainty about what they pretend to believe or affirm. When you believe, however, you are more calm than contentious. When you believe in God, you know the only right choice is to go where God calls. The happy and whole and secure and joyful people of this world go where God leads. The Lord said to Abraham, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” Abraham went. Abraham performed his part of the covenant.
Of course, God’s covenant with Abraham is now God’s call to us to enter into the same kind of deal. As we look at this particular covenant, we discover how the Lord’s legacy continues to be felt and experienced by the faithful.
I. God’s bequest to Abraham reminds us of the Lord’s legacy of love.
When we think of God, the first words that come to mind are Father, love, care, and the like. John succinctly summarized the Lord’s legacy: “God is love” (1 John 4:16). God is always loving us.
When God called Abraham into a covenant relationship, God promised to bless him. God promised to give Abraham more than he deserved or dared to dream. That’s also the Lord’s legacy of love for you and me and all of the faithful.
II. Abraham’s belief in God’s bequest reminds us to faithfully embrace the Lord’s legacy of love.
God instructed Abraham, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them … So shall your offspring be.” And this was Abraham’s response to God’s bequest: “Abraham believed the Lord.” He rooted himself in the promises of God for his life; he had confidence in God; he did not doubt God’s faithfulness to him — that’s why Abraham went where God led even though he had no earthly idea of where God was leading him. God called, Abraham went.
“Faith,” wrote Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking (1973), “is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession. It is on-again-off-again rather than once-and-for-all. Faith is not being sure where you’re going but going anyway. A journey without maps.”
Faith is not management by objective. Faith isn’t an inflexible set of mission goals. Faith is stepping out of the boat and walking with Jesus. Faith is reaching out for the hand of the Holy Spirit to lead you through life.
I am reminded of Bishop Newbigin and the negotiations which led to the formation of the United Church of South India. After negotiations were frequently stalled because of excessively cautious people who wished to know each step before it was taken, Newbigin finally said, “a Christian has no right to ask where he is going.”
A Christian is expected to act like Abraham. God calls; a Christian gets up and moves without knowing the final destination. Yet, for a Christian, the final destination isn’t a burden because a Christian trusts God. A Christian believes God will take care of him or her.
III. God’s blessing of Abraham’s belief reminds us that the Lord’s legacy of love is felt and experienced by the faithful.
Too many of us have been haunted on occasion by these words sung by Neil Young: “My life is changing in so many ways. I don’t know who to trust anymore.” And there is a deep feeling with us — too often confirmed by the facts of life — that there aren’t that many folks out there who can really be trusted with our hearts and souls and minds and bodies.
When God said to Abraham, “Trust me.” Abraham did, and Abraham was blessed. God took care of Abraham. God took his faith and blessed him. To use the words of Psalm 37: Abraham trusted in the Lord, he delighted in the Lord, and God gave him the desires of his heart. It was just like the Psalmist would sing, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken.” The Bible says, “Abraham believed the Lord and He credited it to him as righteousness.” God only wanted Abraham to affirm, accept and acknowledge His love so that he could live within the full blessings of the Lord’s legacy of love.
The Lord’s legacy is love. It is a love that exceeds our greatest expectations and dreams. It is forever. It can be felt and experienced through faith, here and now. That’s what Abraham did. He lived happily ever after; so will we. (RRK)
3rd Sunday in Lent (C)
March 19, 1995
Suffering, AIDS, and Magic Johnson: Who Sinned?
It was one of the most poignant and powerful news headlines of the year. You don’t have to like basketball to love Magic Johnson. With his talent, his personal magnetism, and his spectacular smile, he is the big brother you wish you had, the guy shooting hoops next door, the role model for a generation of boys.
Then we saw Magic make the announcement: He had tested HIV positive; he had AIDS. The searing news cut through all the sweeping generalizations about safe sex, dirty needles, homosexuality — to touch the nation’s heart; we felt it.
That may have been how it was the day they came to Jesus, newspaper in hand, and asked about the morning headlines. “Jesus, did you hear about the Galileans who were killed while they offered their sacrifices?”
The obscure historical event was all too typical of the struggles for power in the Middle East. Pilate had sent his soldiers into the Temple with their swords hidden beneath their robes. When the Galileans were least expecting it, the soldiers pulled out their weapons and slaughtered them. The older Bible translations read rather indelicately: “… the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.”
Another story was in the newspaper’s local section: “Eighteen people died in Siloam when a tower collapsed on them.” The paper carried a picture of grief-stricken family members digging through the rubble in search of their loved ones.
Jesus read the headlines and asked the question all of us are tempted to ask: “Do you think the Galileans who were killed in the Temple were worse sinners than all the other Galileans? Do you suppose that the ones who died in Siloam were worse people than all the other people living in Jerusalem?”
They asked Jesus the same question when they met a man who had been blind from birth: “Who sinned,” they wanted to know, “this man or his parents?”
Sooner or later we all ask it: “Is there a connection between suffering and sin? Why do good people suffer and evil people prosper? Is success a sign of righteousness and suffering a sign of unrighteousness?” For the faithful people in Jesus’ day there was no doubt about it. They were sure of it. Life was a simple ethical equation: “you get what you deserve and you deserve what you get; if something good happens, it is God’s blessing on your good actions; if something bad happens, it is God’s direct punishment for your evil actions.”
There’s still a lot of that kind of folk religion around today. Choose any form of suffering, any tragedy — from car accidents to cancer — and some well-intentioned but biblically illiterate person will say, “I must have done something terrible to deserve this” or, “They are such good people; why did this happen to them?”
Jesus gives a clear, unmistakable, one-word response to that kind of simplistic equation. He says, “No.” To underscore the intensity of it, the English translation reads, “No, indeed!” When will we get it into our heads that God doesn’t go around zapping people with good things or bad things on the basis of their actions? Jesus knew that life is not that simple. It is a complex mixture of cause and effect. There is no guarantee that comfort comes with goodness; there is no promise of exceptions for nice people. Adversity is a part of the risk and reality of human existence; it can happen to the best of us.
There are, sure enough, consequences to our behavior. And we do, sure enough, bring a certain amount of pain upon ourselves. I never know whether to laugh or cry when someone who has smoked all of his life discovers he has cancer and asks why God did this to him. There are consequences to our actions. But there is also innocent suffering which is not necessarily the direct result of sin on the part of the sufferer.
Those Galileans in the Temple didn’t do anything to deserve what happened to them; they just happened to be standing there when the swords started flailing. And those folks in Siloam didn’t do anything to deserve their deaths; they just happened to be standing there when the stones started falling. Neither our innocence nor our guilt will spare us from the adversities of life.
The Christian response to people who experience pain and suffering is not judgment, but compassion. When it comes to people who suffer with AIDS — whether they are as famous as Magic Johnson, or as unknown as a sufferer who sits with you on Sunday morning — the only appropriate Christian response is love and compassion. Issues of right and wrong, morality and immorality, are overruled by suffering; they are superceded by the love of Christ for the person who is dying with a terrible disease. Our only appropriate response is to offer all of the love, compassion, support, and strength that we can.
Jesus asked the question for us: “Do you think these people are worse sinners than everyone else?” And He answered it: “No! They are just like all the rest of us: sinners who stand in the need of the love and grace of God.”
Then He went on with this disturbing warning, “Unless you repent, you shall likewise perish.” What on earth are we going to do with that?
It seems to me that the Church, the Body of Christ in this world, is not just to be concerned about individual or personal suffering. We are also called to see behind and beneath our suffering the larger realities of sin and redemption, and the factors in human relationships and societies which spawn that suffering.
Behind the tragic story of those Galileans who were slaughtered in the Temple is the long, sordid story of a fascination with war and violence, the tragic tendency in the human family to resort to violence in settling differences, the sorry legacy of struggles for political and economic power. Behind the deaths of those eighteen folks in Siloam was, I’ll bet, a corrupt builder who tried to trim the costs and squeeze out a larger profit by using cheap materials or by rushing the construction process. Behind the painful picture of Magic Johnson’s announcement is the larger issue of our society’s abuse and perversion of human sexuality.
We can’t escape; we are all connected in this life. The actions of the many affect the lives of the few. The attitudes, values, and assumptions which are shared by a people or a society affect individuals for good or evil. When those attitudes, values, or assumptions result in pain and suffering, it’s time to read the signs, get the message, and turn in a new direction — or, sooner or later, all of us will suffer for our failure.
And that’s why the Christian community sees the AIDS crisis differently than the rest of our society. The world generally sees AIDS from two perspectives. Some see it as a medical problem, the primary issue being how to stop the virus, find a cure, or discover a vaccine. Others see it primarily as a technological or educational process: how to build a better condom or convince people to use them. But people who are attempting to live out the context of the Gospel see things differently. There is something deeper here. It is not just a medical or technological crisis; this is also a moral crisis. It has to do with the choices we make as individuals and as a society. It grows out of the values, ideals, and basic operating assumptions with which we live.
With all due respect, it’s not enough to say that Magic Johnson is HIV positive because he didn’t practice safe sex. Magic Johnson has AIDS because he bought into promiscuity, the sexual immorality of our society — a society which grins when Wilt Chamberlain says he had sex with 20,000 women. Magic Johnson bought into the values of a society which tells little boys that their manhood is measured by how many women they seduce; he bought into the values of a society which tells little girls that their womanhood is measured by how many men they can turn on. He reflects a society which sees sex as a commodity, something to be used for self-satisfaction, or as a marketing tool to sell everything from cars to beer.
The issue here is not safe sex; the issue is careless, self-centered, commercialized, irresponsible sex, and the gross immorality of a sexually promiscuous society.
That’s not what sex is for. The Bible makes it perfectly clear: human sexuality is part of the image of God carved into our human flesh. Our sexuality is a divine gift intended for joy and fulfillment in a covenant of love and trust. When we abuse or cheapen that gift, we do it to our peril. “Unless you repent,” Jesus said, “unless you change your way of thinking, turn in a new direction, see things from a different perspective, you will all likewise perish.”
The good news is that repentance is always possible. Our hope for the future is not in convincing people to use condoms for sex or clean needles for drugs — as important as these may presently be. Our hope is not in finding a vaccine or medical cure for AIDS — as necessary as these may be. Our hope is in repentance: obtaining that grace of God which enables people to change their minds, to turn in new directions, to see things differently. Our hope is in ordinary folks like us who will show this world what the apostle Paul called “the more excellent way”: the way of self-giving love, the way of the cross.
Do you know what that love might look like in this crisis? It’s the love which wraps its arms around an AIDS victim with all the compassion, comfort, and hope that can be given. It’s the love that sees every human being as a person of infinite worth, too valuable to be used or abused for another person’s pleasure. It’s the love which welcomes every person into the family of God regardless of their weakness or their past.
It’s the love which values human sexuality as a marvelous gift of God, and teaches children to honor and respect their own sexuality and the sexuality of others. It’s the love that teaches youth, in a society based on instant gratification, that some things are worth waiting for; one of these things is the joy of sexual intercourse in the covenant of Christian marriage. It’s the love of Jesus in human relationships which surpasses the cheapened images of love in the world around us. It’s the love which always offers the gift of new life, the promise of forgiveness, the hope of transformation, and the promise of grace to a bruised and broken world.
Jesus asked the question: “Are these folks worse sinners than everyone else?” And then He answered: “No. They are just like all the rest of us: sinners who need God’s grace.” And He called us to repentance. May God help us to choose the way that leads to life. (JAH)
4th Sunday of Lent (C)
March 26, 1995
A New Point of View
(2 Cor. 5:14-21)
Everyone does not share the same point of view. Sometimes that fact is frustrating. Our education, experience, and interests cause us to see things from particular frames of reference. This is not something easy to alter.
Recently I was looking through Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In the first chapter there are three rough sketches. One sketch is a profile of an attractive young woman. Another is of a very large-nosed older woman. Covey said he first saw the pictures in a class at Harvard Business School where one-half the class was shown the first sketch, while the other half was shown the second sketch. The entire class was presented with a third sketch of a woman.
Strangely, the members of the class did not see the same thing. Those who had first seen the sketch of the attractive young woman saw her once again in the third picture. Those students who had started out by looking at the picture of the large-nosed elderly woman saw her image in the third picture. When the professor called on class members to describe what they saw, an argument began to rage. The various students, seeing the final sketch from different frames of reference, found it nearly impossible to make sense of their counterpart’s point of view. In fact, the lines in the third picture had been sketched so it could be viewed in both ways. The third sketch included both the image of the elderly woman and the image of the young woman.
A new point of view is hard-won. But the apostle Paul says that Christians have been given precisely that. “We regard no one from a human point of view,” he says. We once did, but no longer. What is a human point of view? When the people we gravitate toward are the ones who are the most physically attractive, then we see from a human point of view. When we neglect people who don’t amuse us or help us “get ahead,” then we see from a human point of view. When we assume the worst of people who are unlike us, then we see from a human point of view.
But, Paul says, “We no longer regard anyone from a human point of view.” Sounds odd, doesn’t it? After all, what other point of view can we have? I remember a television commercial for dog food. It showed a woman pouring the chunky nuggets into her pet’s dish. She then steps out on a porch and falls her dog. Suddenly — thanks to the wonders of cinematography — the television screen gives us a picture of the world from the pup’s perspective. As seen through the dog’s eyes — down close to the ground — we are given a sense of the animal running, charging up a path, crashing through the weeds, with blades of grass slapping at our field of vision. Finally — with the food dish filling the television screen — we see: Ah! Canine satisfaction!
But, of course, the apostle Paul didn’t have the animal perspective in mind when he said, “We no longer regard anyone from a human point of view.” It was not a perspective lower than ours that he was suggesting, but one much higher: the Divine perspective. We who recognize that, in Christ, God suffered and died for all people, cannot look upon anyone in a demeaning way. Because of the cross and the resurrection, we come to see the high value God places upon us all. We are given God’s point of view.
But if, indeed, we believe that Christ died for all, we know that there are no disposable people. There are only people who are beloved of God, people we ought to treat with dignity and recognize as having amazing worth. If God values these men, women and children enough to come into this world in Jesus Christ and suffer and die for them, we cannot judge their worth by how much they can do for us or by how productive they are in society. God has already set their value. We can see them as God does, or be blind.
Isn’t it true that we often make a few quick observations about certain people, stick a label on them, and put them aside as unworthy of appreciation? The Bible doesn’t tell us that Jesus met a homosexual. The Bible doesn’t tell us that Jesus ever saw a prostitute. Do you think our Lord would have treated them with any less respect than He did others? Can we really believe that He would have shunned them? Jesus was not one to miminize the seriousness of sin but neither did He define people by their sin.
For those of us who are convinced that Christ died and was raised for all of us, the love of Christ controls us — Christ’s love changes everything about how we look upon others and live with them. What we experience is nothing less than “a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” (CMW)
Sermon briefs in this issue are provided by Richard Andersen, Senior Pastor, St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church, San Jose, CA; Donald B. Strode, Professor of NT Interpretation and Homiletics, Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies; Gary L. Carver, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Chattanooga, TN; Jon R. Roebuck, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Gatlinburg, TN; Robert R. Kopp, Pastor, Logans Ferry Presbyterian Church, New Kensington, PA; James A. Harnish, Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist Church, Tampa, FL; Craig M. Watts, Pastor, First Christian Church, Louisville, KY; and Michael Duduit, Editor, Preaching.
5th Sunday after Epiphany (C)