sermons

This is the Time to Honor

Esther pic - final - fade out edges

His adopted daughter is queen. Mordecai still misses her. He waits by the gate for word from Esther. One day a trumpet blasts. Every noble passing in and and out of the gate, all the guards, everyone drops to the ground on their faces. And as they do, a man in regal robes and a massive black curly beard passes through.

Mordecai looks at all the people groveling on the ground. Clearly this noble passing through is some big-shot, someone very full of themselves. Now Mordecai has no problem showing respect, but he’s got a big problem worshiping anyone but Creator God. And these people aren’t just showing respect. At least, that’s not what it looks like. So Mordecai stays on his feet.

A man with a perfect oiled beard and orange-colored robes stands up next to him after the noble has passed. “What’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you bow down to Haman?” (more…)

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This is the Time to Do Good

Esther pic - final - fade out edges

Hadassah’s parents’ voices were filled with longing. “Someone is coming to save us. The Savior will be born back home in Israel, from our people. He is coming to redeem us from our sins. And our God will not forget his promises.” They told her of God’s faithfulness to sinners like Adam and Eve and Noah and Abraham. They filled her with wonder that God wold love sinners like her no matter how bad she was. They told her, “And we have a promised land, Hadassah. So many of our people already went home. And someday we will go, too. We’ll leave Persia and go to the land our God promised us.”

And then… her parents died.

Hadassah went to live with her older cousin Mordecai. He told her those same promises over and over again.

And then the king exiled his queen. And then he got lonely. And then there was a contest. And Hadassah was taken. She was pried out of her home by the king’s guards, stolen from the man who had raised her, kidnapped by the government from Mordecai. As the guards marched toward their home, Mordecai grabbed Hadassah. “Don’t tell them who you are. Go by your Persian name!” He knew how dangerous it would be to be a minority, especially if the king’s eyes were on you. And so she was known as Esther.

And then Esther won the contest. She pleased the king so much, he threw a week-long party to celebrate. (more…)

Review: The Foolishness of Preaching

The Foolishness of Preaching: Proclaiming the Gospel against the Wisdom of the World
by Robert Farrar Capon

How can a preacher preach? What is the foundation of a good sermon? What steps can a preacher go through to make sure he has a great sermon? In The Foolishness of Preaching Robert Capon teaches his method for creating good sermons. In part one of the book, he emphasizes that for a sermon to be good, the preacher must first be passionate about Jesus. In part two, he takes a look at the mechanics of forming a good sermon. In the end, he reminds readers what preaching is all about.

Capon gives some fantastic advice in the book. For instance, he insists that a preacher must simply listen to the Word and proclaim it faithfully. “I don’t have to like it; I just have to hear it. Nobody made me the boss of the Bible – and I bridle at people who make themselves bosses because the Boss himself strikes them as too bossy” (77, emphasis in original). In that vein, he reminds that most listeners in the pews really don’t want to hear what God says. But, in response, “You were not sent to spout opinions they can dismiss. You were sent to proclaim the sharp, authentic Word to them – the Word who isn’t NutraSweet. Tell them that no preacher worth his or her salt ever turned the Gospel into a trademarked substitute for the authentic sweetness of Jesus’ death – and that you’re not about to risk it yourself” (134). (more…)

Man, am I preaching wrong!

I’m doing it all wrong.

I’m currently reading The Foolishness of Preaching by Robert Farrar Capon. This professional book about putting together a sermon has some good advice: Let the Word speak. Read the context. Forget PC or what you’re “supposed” to say; just speak the Word. Let the Word dwell in you all week long. These aren’t bad things.

But then Capon starts talking about the timeline of the sermon:

Monday morning, read the text, in the original language if possible. Print it out with lots of room in the margins. Write your notes all over it. Scriptural allusions. Illustrations. What it means. Applications. Everything. And do that every day of the week until Saturday. Then Saturday take all your notes, look them over, and streamline them. Then put them away. Memorize them Sunday morning. Preach.

According to this, I am a terrible preacher. (more…)

An Easter Eve Nervous Breakdown

 

He is risen.

How can I? How can I stand in front of anyone and preach on a day like this? How can I explain what the big deal is? How can I possibly take glory and put it into words? How can I shape awe into syllables or craft wonder into sentences?

This day is too big. I can’t wrap my arms around it for myself. His heart beats. His pulse races. He smiles. The God that I was not good enough to bow to, who came and died for me, he looks at me and reaches out with a scarred hand. He grins. “Jon, come on. Come walk with me. Tell others.”

And I can’t. (more…)

It’s the Pastor’s Job.

Lies we tell ourselves about the church:

It’s the pastor’s job.

 

You have a pastor. You have a man who’s staying here. We said way back at the beginning of this series that now isn’t the time to get busy. Now is the time to get into God’s Word. And it’s true! Now isn’t the time to “get busy.” But we need to be aware of falling for the opposite lie: Since it’s not time to get busy, it must be time to relax! Time to sit back and let the pastor take care of everything! And here we have the exact opposite lie from “We need to get busy.” This lie says, “It’s the pastor’s job.” What is the pastor’s job? What’s the pastor supposed to do? (more…)

When St. Peter Rejected the Gospel

This is the first version of the sermon – after a third revision. I was displeased with it. I’ll post the final, totally reworked version in a day or two.

 

Galatians 2:11-21

 

11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

15 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

17 “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

 

When St. Peter rejected the Gospel

  1. Why would he?
  2. Who would dare correct him?

(more…)

Sermons that Live

Not for eating, kids. Play-Doh is serious stuff. Only use it to illustrate Scriptural truths.

Sometimes my sermons get… creative.

Last week the sermon was on a section from Galatians that said we can’t add anything to Jesus. He did it all, we did nothing. To expect otherwise would be to expect Play-Doh to help in sculpting itself.

So, the entire sermon I had Play-Doh up there with me, using it to demonstrate and illustrate. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from it.

And then I looked at the text for this week: Galatians! And the main point seemed to be pretty close to what I’d preached on the Sunday previous!  Ack! What to do?! (more…)