Sermon: God’s Word Causes Division

Text: Jeremiah 23:16-30 &  Luke 12:49-56
Old Testament and Gospel Reading for Proper 15, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 1:7)

Sometimes, people don’t want to listen. Consider the example of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Earlier this month, ELCA’s General Assembly took a surprising turn when a new policy about non-Christian religions was proposed. This new policy states that we cannot know for sure about what God thinks about other religions.  According to this policy, neither can we judge those who practice other religions. What do they mean? They’re claiming that other religions can be legitimate ways to God. Adherents of religions which deny Christ, don’t need the Gospel. As a large group of inter-religious guests stood on the stage, one Lutheran pastor opposed the new policy. This pastor came to the microphone and said yes, we can know exactly what God thinks of other religions. “We have a clear statement from Jesus, who is fully God and fully man” John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” Despite his protest, the motion passed by 97% because they simply didn’t want to listen what God’s Word had to say. Jeremiah the prophet also had a problem with people who didn’t want to listen to God’s Word. Continue reading “Sermon: God’s Word Causes Division”

Sermon: Faith and Righteousness

Text: Genesis 15:1-6
Old Testament Reading for Proper 14, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Rom. 1:7)

You no longer have to go to church to hear about faith. We are constantly surrounded with talk of faith and belief. From Hollywood to pop-music; professional sports to political campaigns; the language of faith is everywhere. And in each context, it seems to take on a new meaning.  We are told to have faith in ourselves, have faith in our dreams, and sometimes, we’re told simply to just have faith. In our culture, “the faithful” is another way of referring to people who use faith to muscle up belief in something that lacks evidence – blind faith we might call it. Strangely, that’s also how many Christians understand faith. It’s equivalent to wishful thinking, or something inspirational and motivational. 

And then we come to today’s Old Testament reading. “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” This is one of the most important verses in the entire Bible. It is quoted by St. Paul in Romans and Galatians as definitive proof of his teaching that we are declared righteous by faith alone. It is not a teaching made up in the New Testament. Justification by faith can be found here in Genesis, at the beginning of God’s dealings with mankind. This goes to the very heart of Christianity and the good news which we proclaim to a sin-sick world. So, it’s important that we take a moment and look at Abraham and see what is meant by faith, and why that faith is counted as righteousness. Continue reading “Sermon: Faith and Righteousness”

Sermon: Do you have Dragon-Sickness?

Text: Luke 12:13-21
Gospel for Proper 13, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Col. 1:2)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Hobbit has become a classic of children’s books. The Hobbit’s plot couldn’t be simpler: A dragon dispossessed some dwarves of their mountain-home and their vast treasure hoard. Over the mountains and through the woods to Smaug’s house we go. Kill the dragon, get the gold. It is the very essence of an adventure story. But it is how Tolkien describes reactions to the gold which is of interest. Bilbo the Hobbit, “had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him. His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment … and he gazed motionless at the gold beyond price and count.” After the dragon has been slain, Thorin the dwarf prince barricades himself and his men into the mountain, fearing others will seek some portion of his gold. Tolkien describes that Thorin “did not reckon with the power that gold has upon” people’s hearts. “The lust of it was heavy on him,” Tolkien writes. There’s a name he gives to this kind of insatiable lust for gold – this selfish greed – Dragon-sickness. It’s not just about the gold that one craves to possess, but gold that one believes is owed to them. Nothing else occupies that person’s mind. And when that treasure has been acquired, it will be protected and not one penny will be parted with. 

Tolkien is a master storyteller and is able to show in story-form how subtly greed can overpower our own hearts. And he isn’t the first one to use the story format to talk about the dangers of greed. Jesus uses a story it in today’s Gospel reading. Continue reading “Sermon: Do you have Dragon-Sickness?”

Sermon: Questioning God’s Justice

Text: Genesis 18:17-33
Old Testament for Proper 12, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Col 1:2.)

One of the biggest obstacles to faith today is the presence of suffering in the world. This objection is often intensely personal and emotional. Those who have deeply experienced pain, suffering, abuse, and loss, are the ones who most commonly identify with this objection. One person remarked, “This is personal, I won’t believe in a God who allows suffering, even if he, she, or it exists. Maybe God exists. Maybe not. But if he does, he can’t be trusted.” Many refuse to trust or believe in any God who would allow history and life to go on as they have. The reasoning goes, if God is all good and all powerful, then surely he would have the motivation and ability to do something about the evil and suffering in the world. The fact that evil and suffering exist means to many that this God simply can’t be trusted. Once, Abraham also wondered if God was about to do the right thing. Continue reading “Sermon: Questioning God’s Justice”

Sermon: Hearing Jesus’ Word

Text: Luke 10:38-42; cf. Col. 1:21-29,
Gospel & Epistle for Proper 11, Year C

Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Col 1:2.)

Imagine for a moment you have an important guest coming to your house for dinner. How busy do you think you’d be preparing for it? You would scrub, polish, plan a nice menu, go shopping, maybe bake a special dessert. You’d be busy for days before preparing for the big day when the guest of honour finally showed up. And when He did, you’d be just as busy as before, stirring pots, making sauces, dressing the salad, warming the bread. Now you know what happens when you get whipped into this kind of frenzy, don’t you? I’m sure it’s happened to you. You get so wound up in preparations, you get so absorbed in your seven course meal and fancy dessert, you are so obsessed over how clean the bathrooms are and how scrubbed the floor is, that you actually spend very little time with guest of honour; You’re busy in the kitchen, and your guests are left to be entertained by other family members. Continue reading “Sermon: Hearing Jesus’ Word”

Sermon: Ambassador’s of God’s Peace

Text: Luke 10:1-20

Gospel for Proper 9, Year C, RCL.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ga 1:3).

Introduction

Imagine for a moment, you have to go to Service Ontario. Perhaps when you went there were, already a ton of people there. You sat there waiting for over half an hour in a hot office. When your number was finally called, it took the agent 30 seconds to tell you that you didn’t bring the right documentation, you’re going to have to go home through rush-hour traffic and bring it back and fill out this form and pay an obscene amount of money. And so how might you react? Sometimes, we get angry at the agent sitting behind the desk. Did you think to yourself afterward: why on earth did I get mad at them? It wasn’t their fault! “Don’t shoot the messenger,” they might have said back to you. It isn’t their fault is it? They are simply an agent, a representative of the provincial government, just doing their job.

Continue reading “Sermon: Ambassador’s of God’s Peace”

Sermon: Why does the Trinity Matter?

Text: John 3:1-17

Gospel for Trinity Sunday

Grace to you and peace from God our Father 
and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ro 1:7).

Introduction
There is a saying that goes something like this, “In the beginning God created man, and ever since man has been returning the favour.” There’s something to this. We are tempted to fashion God after ourselves, to have a god to suit our fancy. We are tempted invent a god who will solve all our problems or satisfy all our perceived needs. And this is exactly why many don’t like the Creeds, because they won’t be told what to believe. People want to have a pick-and-choose, do-it-yourself, smörgåsbord kind of god.

But, today is the Sunday of the Holy Trinity. Today we confessed the Athanasian creed. This creed stands in the way of our self-chosen gods and says, “Whoever desires to be saved must confess this catholic faith.” Trinity Sunday is a day to take a big, deep breath and confess the incomprehensible – God as one Divine Essence in three Divine Persons, a Unity in Trinity and a Trinity in Unity. “Neither confusing the Persons nor dividing the Substance.” But it’s sure confusing, isn’t it? But this raises two important questions: what exactly is the Trinity and why does my eternal salvation depend upon confessing it? Continue reading “Sermon: Why does the Trinity Matter?”