A Clash of Worlds: Luke 10:25-37

(This sermon was preached 39 years ago. I was a college professor teaching religion in a Baptist college. Fundamentalists had chosen me as their target in that college with the intention of having me fired. Susan and I decided that we were no longer Baptists. The straw that broke the… Continue reading

John 3:16; 1:43-46; 1:14 “Are You Ready for Christmas?”

Are you ready for all the feelings of worthlessness to melt away in the glory of God’s love poured out for you? Are you ready to realize from the inside out and in the deepest recesses of your heart and soul that rather than being “nobody’s nothing,” you are a precious, unique child of God whose worth has been sealed forever by sacrificial love? Are you prepared to embrace the identity you already possess in the eyes and heart of God? And are you willing to recognize that such an identity is the birthright of each and every person in this world? If you are ready to know who you really are, then you are ready for Christmas. Continue reading

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 “The Hand of God on the Shoulder of a Troubled World”

The third Sunday of Advent often focuses on joy. Laughter motivated by unadulterated joy can indeed be the hand of God on the shoulder of a troubled world. Such laughter is a gift from God, a gift that we need in a world of terrorism and violence, estrangement and bigotry, greed and lies. Continue reading

Jeremiah 6:13-14 “On the Tiptoe of Expectation”

This standing on tiptoe reminds us that Advent is about expectation, not passive waiting. Advent is related to our word “adventure,” and there is nothing passive about an adventure. Adventurous expectation, as Presbyterian minister Marc Mullinax reminds us, posts a vigilant watch and prepares for that which is promised. God’s reign can break in at any time, and it is our sacred duty to prepare for a God-shaped destiny.  Continue reading

Luke 17:11-19 “Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude”

I sense that in this post-modern world, we need to cultivate this “attitude of gratitude” – not a hokey, Pollyanna approach to life, blind to evil and suffering and too syrupy for anyone with sense to stomach; but an attitude, a perspective, a basic stance concerning life that flows from the experience of God’s presence in our midst – a Presence perhaps standing at a distance to give us the space and freedom to choose – a Presence to be found in the beauty of nature, the compassion of our friend, the joy of a child, the face of one so different from us but who is also a daughter or son of God.  Continue reading

James 2:1-17 “Clubhouse Rules and Counterfeit Faith”

Faith is all about the basic trust of our lives and what we depend on for our identity and security. James says faith that is only objective belief or sentimental emotion is thoroughly counterfeit. If faith were just a matter of proper belief, then the demons who know God is One (the cardinal doctrine of Judaism and Christianity) would be on the front rows in heaven. And if faith were a matter of sentimental emotion, those with an overactive hypothalamus would be singing in the celestial choirs of the angels with big crocodile tears streaming down their faces. Genuine, 24K faith is a trust that takes concrete form in the way we live our lives. Only such faith is saving. Continue reading

Habakkuk 1:1-12 “The Rise and Fall of Empires”

History is littered with failed kingdoms and empires which have brought destruction upon themselves. Every empire has assumed that it is the exception—that it will last forever and is exempt from the consequences of practicing evil. But every one of these empires have brought about their own destruction. Continue reading

Ephesians 1:1-10 “What Do We Mean by Grace?”

Accepting ourselves as loved unconditionally, sacrificially, and eternally by God can be the most difficult step in our Christian pilgrimage. We just can’t believe that such good news is for the likes of us. But it is for us and for everyone else in God’s creation. That is what grace is all about. And it is only as we accept such grace that we will be free to love others, to live victoriously and courageously, and to dance in the light–and even in the darkness. Continue reading