Showing posts from May, 2019

Be My Witnesses -- An Ascension Day Text

Acts 1:1-11New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;…

As I Recall (Case Tygrett) -- A Review

AS I RECALL: Discovering the Place of Memories in our Spiritual Lives. By Casey Tygrett. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2019. 205 pages.
The prophets often tell us to forget the former things, though Scripture also regularly calls on us to remember what God has done in the past. The point of forgetting often has to do with letting go of failed pathways, when we chose to go it alone without God. The call to remember is often related to the promises of God, the memory of which reminds us that since God was faithful in the past, we can expect God to be faithful in the present and in the future. So, which is it? Should we forget or should we remember? Apparently, it depends on the circumstances. As I was thinking about it, the pastoral side of me might encourage forgetting, while the historian side of me wants us to remember.

Writing in support of the cause of remembering, though not from a historian’s perspective, is Casey Tygrett. Tygrett’s bio tells us that he is a writer, pastor, and …

The Power of Hymn Singing

Acts16:16-34 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” 18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. 20 When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21 and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clot…

Memorial Day Invocation - Troy, Michigan - 2019

It is Memorial Day. We may spend the day grilling burgers or hot dogs, playing games, and enjoying time away from daily life. It is easy to forget why the day is set aside. I have had the privilege in recent years of offering prayers at the Memorial Day observance for the city of Troy, where I live. I seek to bring a balance between remembering those who have died in service to the nation, as well as those persons whose lives have been irreparably altered by their service. I did not serve in the military, nor have I had a family member who perished in such service. So, I do not know the fullness of such sacrifices. Nevertheless, I understand the importance of honoring lives lost and lifting up families who have experienced loss. As I was reminded at the observance, we should not forget those who remain Missing in Action. That is not part of the prayer, though I did add it into my benediction at the end of the observance. May this prayer, offered in a public setting, serve as a word of…

Divine Reminders - A Sermon for Easter 6C (John 14)

John  14:23-29

We are one step further along the path that leads from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. One of the benefits of these seven weeks of Eastertide is that we get to hear more of Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” that runs from John 14 to 17. These words are intended to be heard as Jesus’ final instructions to the community that will carry the good news to the world. They are spoken, according to John, on the final evening of his life, but we hear them in worship as part of the season that follows the resurrection. As I read this “Farewell Discourse,” what I hear is a word of encouragement. Jesus may be leaving them physically, but he is not abandoning them. He goes to the Father, but the Father will send the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. So, don’t be afraid. Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Instead, rejoice at what is to come. 
In the Gospel of John, the Father sends the Holy Spirit to be the continuing presence of Jesus with the church, teaching them, and reminding…

When a Church Hosts an Iftar Dinner

It is the season of Ramadan for Muslims. According to the Quran, "The Month of Ramadan is that wherein the Quran was sent down as guidance to mankind, as clear proofs of guidance, and as the Criterion. Let him among you who is present fast during that [month]." [Surah 2:185]. As a season of fasting, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, refraining from even drinking water. It is a season of spiritual reflection. At the end of the day, the fast is broken, and a meal is shared. It is called an Iftar meal. It might be shared within the family, and perhaps with a few friends invited in. Sometimes it is shared in community.

During this season of Ramadan, before last night, I had participated in two meals and had been invited to a couple of others, all of which were efforts to reach out beyond the Muslim community to demonstrate hospitality. Last night, however, was a rather unique Iftar dinner. That is because it was hosted at a church. 
Now sometimes churches rent out their buil…

How are the Dead Raised?

One of the big questions Christians face concerns the resurrection. We’re still in Eastertide, so the question is a live one. The hymns of the season boldly proclaim Christ to be alive. Death cannot hold him. Therefore, death has lost its sting. This is good news, is it not?
Then comes the question of how this all happens. Science seems to represent a significant hurdle. Though there are numbers of reports of near-death experiences, they remain controversial and problematic. I won’t argue for or against them, but I confess to being skeptical about the reports. But, for some these reports have proven helpful, and so I’ll leave them there.
The reason I ask the question is that my Wednesday Bible Study has reached part two of 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul responds to the question of how the dead are raised. People apparently asked then, as they do now: “With what kind of body do they come? (1 Cor. 15:35). It’s a good question, though Paul’s response suggests that he found it without merit …

Come on Over - A Lectionary Reflection for Easter 6C (Acts 16)

Acts 16:9-15 NewRevised Standard Version (NRSV) During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were bapti…

Preaching Romans (Scot McKnight & Joseph Modica, eds) -- A Review

PREACHING ROMANS: Four Perspectives. Edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2019. Xi + 191 pages.
Paul is an intriguing person. He is loved and hated within the Christian community. He's often accused of messing up what Jesus began, even if the earliest Christian writings come from Paul. I find myself somewhat ambivalent about Paul. I like a lot of what I read, but he does say things that cause me headaches and heartaches. Yet, his letters form a significant portion of the New Testament and as a preacher who seeks to root his preaching in Scripture, I have to spend time with Paul. That includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.
In recent years Paul has undergone significant re-evaluation. There are these new perspectives on Paul that have emerged since I was in college and seminary. I've read about some of them, but not in any depth. I like a lot of what I read, and I feel as if Paul has been increasingly freed from the stric…

Sign of Discipleship - A Sermon for Easter 5C - (John 13)

John 13:31-35

We might be nearing the end of the Easter Season, but according to the lectionary we’re back at Maundy Thursday. We opened worship singing the ancient Easter hymn “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness” as a reminder that we’re still celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. We give voice to this celebration in the second stanza of the hymn, when we sing:  ‘Tis the spring of souls today; Christ hath burst his prison, and from thee days’ sleep in death as a sun hath risen; all the winter of our sins, long and bleak is flying from his light, to whom we give laud and praise undying.  (Chalice Hymnal, 215) Though the “sun hath risen” we need to return to the upper room where we hear a word from the Gospel of John.
Judas has just left the building following Jesus’ last meal with the disciples where he had washed the feet of his disciples, including the feet of Judas. With Judas off on his errand, Jesus is ready to offer his Farewell Discourse. He has demonstrat…