In short, Pentecost reminds us that we aren't in the world to be spectators. We aren't here to wring our hands and act as if we are helpless to make a difference. No! We have a holy imperative and the assurance of God's Spirit as authority for being ordinary people who boldly take on the extraordinary issues of sin and suffering in our time and places. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. This is what it means to be part of a congregation. This is what it means to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.
God is appealing to us, imploring us, pleading with us. God calls us to come and receive from God what cannot be bought, sold, or stolen—restoration. We've been invited by God to a banquet although we have no way to pay the admission price. We've been invited to healing even though we have no health insurance or money to pay the healer. We've been invited. We've been invited. We've been invited.
God has prayerful changes for you and me also. There are places and spaces for us to enter, away from the routine noises and sounds of our living, where God will inspire us, reassure us, and prepare us to be divine instruments of righteousness, love, mercy, joy, hope, and peace. Let us turn aside to them.
Lent is a time of spiritual contemplation, preparation, and renewal when we voluntarily wrestle with the dynamics of living for God. Just as people voluntarily prepare academically before beginning the world of work, Lent is a time for preparing oneself for the work of discipleship. Remember, we always prepare for anything we do that we consider important!
Discipleship involves following Jesus in taking people alive for God so they become part of God's love, truth, peace, hope, and joy in the world. It means following Jesus in liberating people from oppressive forces and systems—including cultural, social, political, economic, and religious forces and systems—that trap and cripple them. Discipleship involves following Jesus in living as God's good news and work for freedom, healing, peace, love, justice, joy, and hope. This meaning of discipleship—following Jesus—in "people-catching living" gives the term "catch and release" an entirely new meaning.
Scripture that is alive warns that we will either fulfill God's radical and subversive mission of love, justice, and peace that the Gospels proclaim concerning Jesus or we will fulfill God's mission of judgment and condemnation on the idolatry of opportunism and self-centeredness.
How can pastors address the U.S. national deficit and fiscal policy without resorting to partisan labeling? Scripture reminds us that moral leaders care for the vulnerable.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., wasn't an aberration. Death and injury associated with firearms is sadly commonplace in the U.S.
Like Job, Jesus, Shady Hook parents and families, and the rest of the world, we wonder if God has forgotten or abandoned us when innocents suffer.
Advent season is about hoping and waiting for someone who will end the age of injustice and make things right in our lives. So despite the fact that Advent season contains none of the festive atmosphere of Christmastime, there is good news in it.
The Christian perspective affirms that God's messiah has been sent to deliver the entire universe ("cosmos") from the oppressive power of sin and death. We recognize Jesus Christ as God's designated Lord and King of the universe.
People are moved to sing by experiences that affect them at the deepest levels. Whether the experiences are profoundly pleasant and joyful or unpleasant and painful, across the ages humans have expressed their feelings about what we've gone through by songs.
Justice is the standard by which we are to measure every political and social system. Justice is the standard that defines whether a ruler is a success or failure.
What standard should we use to judge public policy? What factors should guide our decision-making?
So in God's name, let us challenge everyone we know to be "good and trustworthy" voters.
When so many have sacrificed so much to give us the power to vote, it is morally wrong to not vote. Yet some pastors are urging their members to do exactly that.
We hold as truth that the Spirit of the Lord is working on and with us. God has spoken to us. This isn't some casual undertaking we're about. We're on God's business! We're on a mission from God!
Frustrated faith isn't merely about feeling like God has put us on hold. It isn't about feeling like God has stepped out and left a message for us to use voice mail. It feels like we have called on God from the depth of our dark situations and experiences only to hear the phone ringing, ringing, and ringing!
By God's Spirit, let's love as Jesus loved, live as Jesus lived, welcome all as Jesus welcomed all, suffer for others as Jesus did, and be renewed people whose lives are overwhelming evidence of God's love, truth, joy, mercy, and peace for all.
May the Spirit of God that empowered Jesus work in and on us so that the "Gentiles" of our time and place experience the healing, liberating, and powerful love of God.
We must decide whether to live for God as prophets or for the Enterprise Empire as pawns.
Many people who say they are following Jesus reject the idea that "life" is defined by what is "spiritual," rather than what is material ("flesh").
God invites us into a "life forever" relationship with divine grace and truth that will challenge and change the world.
As followers of Jesus, you and I are messengers of this good news to people who face the dark side of life.
States are enacting laws to make it harder to vote or register to vote, claiming they're trying to prevent voter fraud. Disenfranchising millions of eligible voters is the real fraud.
God calls us through Jesus Christ. Trust the grace. Enter the life.
Grace rises to confront the wind and waves of our overwhelming circumstances. Grace rises to speak peace to our trembling and frustrated spirits.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are confirmed as followers of Jesus Christ. By the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have confidence to act as agents of God's grace and truth in our time and place.
People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender pose no threat to the institution of marriage. Marriages are threatened by hypocrisy, hatefulness, and self-centeredness.
God is love. Living for God and with God is loving and living as Jesus lives and loves.
The test for determining whether someone truly loves God is whether that person loves other people.
The risen Jesus is proof of God's life and God's love. The risen Jesus is proof of God's power. And the risen Jesus is the best evidence for hope despite the tomb-like circumstances and situations of life.
Richard Land, a leading SBC official, denounced civil rights leaders calling for justice in the Trayvon Martin shooting. Is this how Southern Baptists demonstrate God's love to people of color?
In Jesus, God showed up as friend to the poor and weak and disfavored, not the divine tool God of the privileged and powerful.
In a speech given 45 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. called the U.S. to account for its military adventurism, materialism and racism. We have a long way to go, but his words are still true.
Glory to God who gives us authority to make moral and material differences in a stuck world and for stuck people, despite what the stuck up "scribes" say, think, and do.
We're called by Jesus to embody God's grace and truth as servants! Suffering people are waiting and hoping. Let's meet them in the prayerful power of God's Spirit so they can renew their strength.
God calls us to become involved in what God is doing. That call requires us to react and respond to God.
Jesus was God's prophetic force in his time and place. What about us?
Let's join the radical and subversive saving work that God is doing in the world as we follow Jesus Christ.
We are here, like our slave ancestors, to remind and encourage each other that we share a trusting faith in God's justice. And we are here to declare that God will not abandon us. God will not turn us loose. God will not forget us.
Living with praise, purpose, and power involves being faithful to God's purpose for our existence.
No president should be allowed to order citizens held indefinitely without an objective judicial finding that they've done something unlawful. And yet that's what President Obama signed into law.
December 25, 2011 is Christmas Day, when followers of Jesus observe his birth. It is also the final Sunday in 2011. But even among followers of Jesus, this day is full of challenges.
God chooses to enlist us, despite our exiled situation and feeble nature, in the great work of calling and bringing exiles home.
Your will be done on earth as in heaven. We can trust God's grace and power to make us agents of the kingdom of heaven in this life.
God can still make something useful from us. The issue is whether we will prayerfully surrender ourselves to be re-made, redeemed, renewed, and reconciled for God's holy purposes.
Following Jesus means being ambassadors of the New Creation God introduced in Jesus. There's no greater work in the world.
Live, my sisters and brothers, as God's people. Live as God's emissaries. Live in God's redeeming power.
We've been called to a life of personal involvement and investment in obedience to the commandment to love God and love others.
God chose us, calls us, commissions us, and will provide for us so we can be agents of divine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness, and justice. Jesus said we can trust God to help us become fruitful.
This is the life that God has created us to embrace. Jesus has shown us how to do it. The Holy Spirit will empower and equip us for it.
Without being charged with treason in any court, two U.S. citizens associated with al-Qaida were targeted and killed by the United States. Why are religious leaders silent about their deaths?
God's Spirit is calling us, through the life of Jesus and the discipleship of Barnabas and others, into living that is "sold out" to the generosity produced by God's grace.
Rejoice because you are part of God's Love! Rejoice because you are obeying the life of Jesus! Rejoice that God is working through you to save the world!
God created a world for love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, truth, justice, and hope. That's what God deserves from the world, from religion, from government and from us.
Ten years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden is dead. The Taliban regime that hosted him in Afghanistan has been overthrown by a military coalition led by the United States. But justice still seems far from us. Ten years later, are we not walking in gloom?
God is sending prophetic people to challenge the empires of wealth and power that oppress workers, immigrants, those who are poor, elderly, weak, and otherwise oppressed. God's gospel is always working on people, working in people, and working toward justice.
As the national monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. opens to the public, it's an appropriate time to measure President Obama's record to King's concept of social justice. The assessment isn't favorable.
If Jesus is to be taken seriously—and certainly people who claim to follow him should do so—controlling "weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun" is important.
Weeds always show up close to what has been planted so expect weed-like people, things, and relationships to show up close in your living. Watch out for them in family and other intimate relationships. Expect them in work and study.
In the debt-ceiling debate, President Obama caved in to those who demanded drastic cuts to programs to help the needy, children and elderly. He needs to believe in social justice enough to fight for it.
God's calling on people with deep rooted faith that can survive the rough realities. God has promised to be with us in those rough realities. God has promised to sustain us through them.
We each begin life at pedestrian morality. God calls us, woos us, and welcomes us to "higher ground" where grace and truth can take root, grow, mature, and become fruitful.
According to Jesus, God sees a potential for fruitfulness where others would predict failure. According to Jesus, God believes in the miracle of fruitfulness. God believes. God cares. God loves. And God has called us to come alongside God's redemptive work in the world even with people and situations that don't look promising.
The Bible does not begin with "In the beginning God and country." The redemption theme that runs through the Hebrew Testament and the Christian Gospel isn't based on patriotism, but on divine love and truth.
In the name of Jesus live for God in every breath and heartbeat as followers of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to turn the world upside down.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a leader at his Baptist church, signed one of the nation’s harshest anti-immigration law. With the Bible’s call to protect the stranger, one might wonder what god the governor serves.
The Holy Spirit is God's wind, God's free, unpredictable, unstoppable, and unrelenting force in the world. The Holy Spirit shows that God can't be programmed. God can't be orchestrated.
Human children take longer to rear than most other creatures, so it's no surprise that human mothers have a lot on their minds and hands.
Despite being told by his comrades that Jesus had risen and been seen, Thomas demanded proof that he could see and touch.
Too many churches have decided that loving God doesn't require attention to social issues. They fret more about church decor than they do about war and peace.
The powerful witness of the Gospels is found in what God did to prompt the audacious testimony of Mary Magdalene—"I have seen the Lord."
Humans are inquisitive creatures. We explore, inquire, and question. We do these things because we are intelligent. So when we meet other persons, we try to learn about them. Then we try to make sense of what we have learned, or make sense of what we don't know based on our efforts to learn. We do these things because humans are inquisitive creatures.
And for every death situation, a question lurks in the background. Is life nothing more than a march toward death, or is there something more? And if there is something more, what is it and how do we experience it? That's part of the resurrection issue.
The good news for you and me is that God sees our potential even when those around us can't or won't. Even when others ignore us, misjudge us, or mistreat us, God knows our worth. God loves us.
The entire message of Scripture and the central theme running through the life of Jesus is that God's purpose is to restore humanity to God in "oneness." God is determined to fix all that is broken in the divine-human relationship.
Sadly, many people seem to live without giving serious thought to the meaning of their living. Others appear convinced that living means getting all one can acquire, keeping what one gets, and holding it as long as one can until death comes.
But God will not forget us. God will not abandon us. God will not give up on us.
A group in Arkansas wants to bar immigrants from receiving public assistance benefits from state agencies, but a religious or social ethic that seeks to justify denying help to immigrants isn't true to the heart of God.
What does the order of worship have to do with being salt of the earth and light of the world? How can the order of worship impact our witness for God?
Religion does not exist to make people more religious. God's light calls us to focus on living with justice, compassion, and humility.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared that those who haven't accepted Jesus as Savior are not his brothers and sisters, demonstrating why many draw a distinction between "the religion of Jesus" and Christianity.
God isn't just concerned about us. In Jesus, God intimately knows how we live, breathe, hunger, thirst, learn, hurt, and die. In Jesus, God isn't just "out there" or "up there." God has moved into our neighborhood.
In Jesus Christ, God's light has come to our dark places. God's glory is with us to illumine, guide, encourage, and inspire us. God's glory has come to be with us in Christ so that we may become agents of God's glory. God is light, and in God there is no darkness.
People who say the Bible has nothing to do with social justice ignore the fact that Moses and Jesus were what we would call "at risk" children. The decision by the magi not to return to Herod as he had directed was a moral and ethical issue. They disregarded a royal directive to protect a child who was "at risk." Like the midwives who disobeyed the political directive to kill male babies during the time of Moses, the magi disobeyed in order to protect Jesus.
We're familiar with the expression "can't see the forest for the trees." The lessons for the Fourth Sunday of Advent from the Hebrew Testament and Gospel of Matthew provide a working example of that expression.
Nothing's wrong with a festive attitude toward Christmas, but our festive Christmas observances seem disconnected from God's prophetic work in Christ. We need to celebrate being prophetic followers of Jesus.
Political leaders are supposed to execute justice for the vulnerable. They can't fulfill that duty without the revenue produced by taxes. President Obama knows this is true yet is willing to extend the Bush-era tax cuts.
he peace God promises will be characterized by socially just leadership, fellowship built on genuine harmony, and the humbling and liberating work of repentance.
President Obama and Republicans in Congress appear willing to continue the national pastime of pandering to the wealthy at the expense of the needy. Their deal should offend anyone who cares about justice.
We live in a world where people carry dangerous objects onto airplanes. We can't ignore that some people want to hurt others. But is it right to scan and search every airline traveler like a potential terrorist?
Faith determines how we live. Many people have a rear-view mirror approach to life. Their lives are spent replaying old dramas, remembering past glories, and even trying to re-capture bygone energies because they have more faith in the past than in new possibilities for the future. But Jesus did not call us to such a faith. We are called to live looking ahead.
Are we following the example of Jesus as leaders of families, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and communities? Are we choosing leaders who follow the example of Jesus? Does our leadership give God's sheep the blues or does it deliver God's blessings to them?
President Bush says he authorized the waterboarding of suspected terrorism detainees. While most people understand that trying to drown people is torture, many religious leaders remain strangely quiet.
The challenges, frustrations, anxieties, and other stuff we experience often make it hard to believe in anything better. We seem beset by so many catastrophes, calamities, heartbreaks, tragedies, scandals, and other problems that it's hard to hope for daylight in the face of so much darkness.
Effective leadership demands that one have the courage and audacity to look critics and sympathizers in the eye and speak truth to power. It's time for President Obama to use the bully pulpit in a prophetic sense.
White supremacy is one of this nation's oldest cancers. And it is the core consistent subliminal theme running throughout many of the Tea Party factions.
Fight the good fight with courage trusting God's justice and mercy for strength. Finish the long race trusting God's justice and mercy as you run.
Jeremiah understood their homesickness. He recognized how embarrassing it was in Jerusalem and Judah to be a sacked capitol and defeated nation. So Jeremiah began wearing a wooden yoke in public to demonstrate his nation's plight.
There is no quick or easy way to discuss the problem of suffering, pain, and hope. None of us needs to be convinced that suffering and pain exist. There is too much of it for any sensible person to ignore. And there's also no reason to try proving to anyone that hope exists. We see too many people living and acting hopefully.
Base your living, your loving, your outlook, and your relationships on God's purposes, God's ower, and God's hope. That's betting on God.
I know we want praise and worship faith, but the bitter reality of living is that our kingdoms die. They become diseased and die. They suffer wounds, whether self-inflicted or caused by others, and die. Sometimes our kingdoms are murdered. We need a faith that will sustain us through the pain we experience when our kingdoms die.
The Jesus we see in the Gospel reading from Luke makes lots of waves. To follow this Jesus means giving up possessions, family ties, and even going against social customs and norms in religion. According to this Jesus, none of us can be his disciple without that kind of devotion and commitment—none of us.
What do the construction of an Islamic center near Ground Zero and calls to deny citizenship to children born to parents who are in the United States illegally have in common? Too many faith leaders have remained silent.
The thought that God could become so disgusted with worshipping people and worship activity as to not even hear prayers, let alone turn aside from worship efforts, is not comfortable. Our society is full of places where people gather to worship.
Many fiscal conservatives have denounced spending money to help unemployed working people survive the current recession, yet they have said little against the three-quarters of a trillion spent on the Iraq War.
In order for us to truly exercise a redemptive influence on the world, Christians must live from a radically different set of values than the crass materialism, consuming greed, and rampant viciousness that characterizes so much of life.
Hosea and Gomer were to be object lessons to Israel about the moral and spiritual condition of that society's relationship to God. Just as Gomer was scandalously unfaithful to Hosea, Israel was scandalously unfaithful to God.
We do not often hear sermons dealing with rage, holy or otherwise, because preachers do not often preach them. The subject is not easy to think about, let alone consider from a moral perspective.
The Jericho Roads of our time are not dangerous merely because there are bandits in the world. They are especially dangerous—and people and the creation are left wounded and suffering—because too many religious people would rather be like Amaziah than like Amos.
The Bible does not simply proclaim that God exists. It declares that God is working in creation and in us! God is up to something.
Elijah and Moses are the most prominent prophetic forces in the First Testament. Moses challenged the Egyptian moral, religious, political, and social system that was characterized by the slavery it imposed on the Hebrew people. But Elijah challenged moral, religious, political, and social oppression imposed by a Hebrew king named Ahab and his Phoenician wife named Jezebel.
People who love God know that evil is real and that people can choose to behave in wicked ways. People who know God know the difference between misfortune and wickedness, both personal and social.
Most of the nation now recognizes the risks associated with offshore oil exploration. Thirty years ago, President Carter warned us that we were overly dependent on oil. What if we had heeded his words?
If the Holy Spirit is one with God, then the Spirit is as real as God the Creator and the Son of God. And if the Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit are one, and we are one in Christ with them, then the impact of our lives and living is more powerful than we can imagine.
Christianity largely owes its start in Europe to two women mentioned in Acts 16—Lydia, the woman who owned her own business selling purple clothing to wealthy purchasers and this un-named slave woman whose exorcism triggered the first public conflict between the followers of Jesus and the established order.
The good news, from Babel and Pentecost, is that God nudges! Hallelujah! God nudges us out of our fears. God nudges us to new understanding about fellowship, peace, prosperity, and community.
In the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has shown that divine love is not limited to my tribe or your tribe, my nation or yours, my language or yours, or my denomination or yours. Divine grace and truth—what God has liberally provided the world in Jesus Christ—emphasizes that we are one community.
My friends, one of the great challenges of 21st Century Christianity is for us to be agents of loving fellowship with people in God's love. It is not enough for us to have buildings, budgets, and programs. People need help as they wrestle with the claims of divine love on their lives and relationships.
Stormy things happen to us and to other people around us. Like John and the Christians of his time, there are personal, social, religious, economic, and political challenges to endure. Yet, we are loved by Jesus Christ, the faithful witness who sacrificed everything to free us from the tyranny of sin and death. We are called by Jesus Christ, the Supreme Ruler above every other authority in the world.
God has called us to live anew with a power that only God can provide. Don't hang around the cemetery. Start living that life within the fellowship of followers.
There were two processions into Jerusalem that Passover week of the first Palm Sunday. Scholars have concluded that Pontus Pilate, the Roman governor over Palestine, entered the city from the west with the customary accessories of imperial power.
Life is always full of drama. Even when events in life seem routine, living by faith is never dull. No, there are always dimensions of drama stirring beneath the surface of what may appear to be smooth situations and commonplace occurrences.
Forgiveness and reconciliation are two issues that we encounter throughout the Bible. Whether we like to admit it or not, God does not allow us to avoid or escape the notion that humans need forgiveness.
The idea of being thirsty is familiar to us. No matter what the season of the year or time of day may be, no matter what part of the community we come from, work in, or now call home, and regardless to our age, we know what it means to be thirsty.
If we respect who God is, who we are as children of God, what God's purposes are in the world, and the laws of nature and life that God has ordained, then we will follow the example of Jesus. Because of Jesus, we cannot claim that we do not know that these forces will confront our faith. Because of Jesus, we know how to deal with these forces. Because of Jesus, let us do so as consecrated children of God.
What does it mean to live for God? Religious people, especially in Christian circles, often speak and sing about living for God, but what does that truly mean? How does living for God work? Can people live for God and live for themselves at the same time?
The passages we read today are guides for meditating on what it means to be called to live for God. Living for God starts by being met by God. There must be an encounter with God, on God's terms rather than our own. God confronts us and we are forced to make sense of who God is. How did you meet God?
Make no mistake, my friends. This is not a call to tourism Christianity where we drop in on suffering people at times and under circumstances we find convenient. This is a call to travel the Jericho Roads where people are beaten, bruised, and abandoned by the systemic powers of our time. It is a call to enter into the experience of people who are cast out of life because they are different. It is a call to walk like Jesus, live like Jesus, pray like Jesus, love like Jesus, heal like Jesus, be criticized like Jesus, become labeled as subversive like Jesus, and even to suffer like Jesus.
Hold on, dear ones. As we struggle with grief and watch the tragic scenes from Haiti, hold on to the truth that we are God's kinfolk, even when earthquakes strike. As we try to make sense of life when painful things happen to us, hold on to the truth that we are God's kinfolk. God has called us by name. We are not strangers or stragglers. We are God's kinfolk when we cry, God's kinfolk when we scream, God's kinfolk when we hurt, and God's kinfolk when we die.
The lesson of the magi ends as it began, with the magi following God. As they did, we must be willing to go on a quest with God. Be encouraged, my friends. God has a light to guide us. Be encouraged. Jesus has come to love us. Be encouraged. Knowing Jesus will give us new insight, new perspective, and yes, new life as we journey home with God. Guess who's coming to Jesus? Guess you?
Find some Elizabeth people. Get up. Make your way to some Elizabeth people in whom God has been working. Show up however you can. Text them. Tweet them. E-mail them. Phone them. Take your pregnant self—with all the circumstances and questions that come with it—to someone who has seen what God will do. God has someone in whom the ministry of presence will work a comforting blessing as you journey through your circumstances, with all the questions that come with the journey. When you face pregnant circumstances, God has some Elizabeth people who will help you journey by faith through the questions.
As followers of Jesus, our hope for Advent peace requires that we live in the paradox and all the tension it involves as prophetic agents for love, justice, righteousness, and truth. We do not proclaim a gospel that would have people wait for pie in the sky. We are followers of Jesus, the promised Righteous Ruler of God. As followers of Jesus, we pray and live to prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight. We pray and live to fill every valley of despair and push down every arrogant system of pride and prejudice. We pray and live to confront crooked government, crooked rulers, crooked systems, and crooks with a call to straighten up and fly right. We pray and live to make the rough places of life smooth for the weak, vulnerable, oppressed, and poor. We do this because we live in the paradox of Advent peace as followers of Jesus Christ, the coming Prince of Peace.
What about us? What about our congregation, community, state, nation, and world? What must change for us to be a presentable people? What must become different, be moved, refined, and purified? Are we content doing life, politics, business, government, family the way that is comfortable? Are we willing to change, seeking to change, praying to change, living to change from earth to ore, ore to molten metal, and metal to precious jewelry for God? I think of this as I ponder the refusal of our Governor to appoint people of color to the all-white Arkansas Supreme Court, and when I ponder so many other things about the way we rationalize in life. What must God's Christ do in us to make us—the people of God—"offerings to the Lord in righteousness … pleasing to the Lord? What does how we live say about what we are offering God?
Advent season draws nigh, so we are Singing, Seeing, Shining, and Sharing. Advent season draws nigh, because God's Love deserves our Song, God's Life is too real to not see, God's Truth is too brilliant to be hidden by the darkness of our situations and the reality of evil, and God's Christ deserves our reverent acts of sharing. We sing of God's Love. We see God's Life. We are inspired by God's Shining Truth. And we share in reverence for the Christ who is the Way, Truth, and the Life to God.
But remember the healed man! Remember him standing there, bristling with new strength by the power of God. Remember him, and follow Jesus. Remember him, and love oppressed people in the name of Jesus. Remember him, and look critics in the eye without fear. Remember him, standing upright—so healed!
Seeds are often inconspicuous. Change is noticed. Seeds are planted in relative obscurity. Crops are noticed at harvest time. Loving people privately in obedience to Jesus Christ will always be necessary before their lives and situations will change. Loving must happen before discipleship can be effective. Loving must happen before people will believe what is printed on a bulletin or tract. Loving must happen before what we sing and preach about can take root and grow into a harvest for God.
But the Jesus Effect lifts us in order to bring us into new community with God and others. Notice that the joyful man entered the Temple with Peter and John. He praised God with Peter and John. He became part of the community! Peter and John were his fellow worshippers, not merely his enablers. Together, they were evidence to others about God's redemptive power, purposes, and love.
People need to know that God's love is real, so let's be the Church. Let us live like people who believe that God loves, forgives, and welcomes every soul thru Jesus Christ. Let's call people to trust God's new reality of redemptive love and resurrection hope by our living. Let's challenge the sin system of self-centeredness, self-righteousness, alienation, oppression, and death. Let's be the Church of Jesus Christ by doing what the Church is called to do. Then people will know that God's love/life is real!
In the final analysis, we must be content to be identified as servants of God and followers of Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we stand on equal ground and rank with each other. As followers of Jesus, we are equally obligated to live to God's glory. As followers of Jesus, we must live together, advance together, serve together, rejoice together, grieve together, and hope together. Then, let us leave the honor roll assignments to the wisdom and goodness of God.
We are followers of the resurrected Jesus. The resurrected Jesus has sent us to tell people that he is raised from death. The resurrected Jesus has sent His Spirit to equip us to tell people about Jesus. The resurrected Jesus has commissioned us to live in the power of His resurrection, love in the power of His resurrection, hope in the power of His resurrection, and overcome all things in the power of His resurrection.
Be free, my sisters and brothers, in the Spirit of God. Live free by the Spirit. Trust the Spirit to equip you to be free witnesses for Jesus Christ. Trust the Spirit to call you and equip you and send you and sustain you come what may. Live in the Spirit. Trust the Spirit. Follow the Spirit. Be free in the Spirit.
Health insurance industry abuses abound, but religious leaders and groups have been standing silently on the sidelines. Shame on them for averting their eyes from this fundamental issue of social justice.
Because we have witnessed the power of resurrection in our lives, let us encourage others by our witness. As we love one another and demonstrate God's love, let us also encourage one another in resurrection faith, hope, and joy. Let the resurrection witness loose, my sisters and brothers. Let it loose and do not be dismayed or discouraged by small numbers. Let it loose, and do not tie it racism, sexism, or any other cultural and traditional limitations. Let it loose, and so that people will know that God will raise them, redeem them, deliver them, and renew them. Let the resurrection witness loose!
We have been called by Jesus Christ to be His witnesses. The Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen us for this great effort. This is the highest living we can do. Let's get on with it for God's glory, in obedience to Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let's stop quibbling about greatness and replace our competition with the service that Jesus has shown us. Pecking order religion is not faithful to Christ. Let's be imitators of our Savior and Lord by following him in serving God and others. Then we will do great things for the only one who matters: God.
Protesters vilify a black president. A congressman enjoys public health care but votes against health care for veterans. And ministers are silent as black leadership is demonized. What's happening to our character?
Let us follow Jesus Christ by living for God's holy and glorious purposes, not our self-centered comfort. If we know who Jesus is, let us follow him. If we do not know who Jesus Christ is, let us learn of him. Above all, let us not present the world a religion of imperial Christianity. Judging from the way Jesus responded to Peter, it is clear that he wants nothing to do with it.
God is much more interested in the out-working of our faith than whether our churches have choirs, the choirs have robes, or whether the robes match the lighting and other building décor. God is more interested in how our faith works for people without healthcare, people without jobs, people without influence, people without wealth, people without strength to protect themselves from bullies, and people without friends and family to protect them from discrimination on account of their immigration status than the size of church building funds.
The late Sen. Ted Kennedy was born into a life of privilege but he chose to devote that life to serve as a champion for the causes of those without powerful connections.
The highest demonstration of that persistent devotion is what God has revealed to us in Jesus Christ. In Christ, we see that God will not let us go. In Christ, we see God loving humanity with a persistent passion that embraces us when we are sick, receives us when we are rejected, heals us when we hurt, and comforts us when we are troubled. In Christ, we see the love that suffers for us, prays for us, and is patient with us. In Christ, we learn that God's love has the power to save us, yes even save us from ourselves! It does so because of God's great determination to love us.
Knowing this, let us live with death-proof hope. Knowing this, let us live with death-proof love. Knowing this, let us live with death-proof grace, joy, and peace. Let us live in prayer, because of prayer, and as constant agents of prayer in the lives of one another. Let all of these things and more become true in us and with us because for us, prayer is essential to life with God, and life with God, for God, and with each other is prayer. Amen.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are beneficiaries of the sovereign goodness of God. That obligates us to live the faith in God's goodness that we sing and pray about by working to accomplish the justice and peace of God. Let us do so with glad hearts and in the constant spirit of prayer, knowing that we can trust the sovereign goodness of God for the wisdom and strength we need to be witnesses of love, truth, justice, peace, and hope in a weary world. Amen.
We owe Dr. King’s legacy much more than nostalgic musing about his dream. We should be carrying King’s vision about the demands of social justice into the situations of our time and place. Now, King’s legacy demands that we become prophets who see injustice and denounce it. King’s legacy demands that we challenge the crass materialism and wicked addiction to power and profit that corrupts public ethics and compromises private morality. King’s vision of a just society challenges us to cast aside our self-centered focus on personal salvation while ignoring gross evidence of ever-increasing social injustice.
Hope in God's grace gives us strength to love bruised, battered, and oppressed people. That hope gives us strength to challenge entrenched forces of injustice and oppression. Hope in God's grace lifts us when we fall, strengthens us in times of weakness, quiets our trembling hearts, and gives redemptive meaning to our efforts. When we live in the power of God's grace with that kind of hope, we are more than witnesses about God's grace. We are, like Martin King and so many hopeful soldiers of faith, partners with Christ, and instruments of God's gracious purpose to redeem people and the world from the depths of sin. Amen.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to address human suffering and need around us on the material and moral levels. We are called to feed stomachs, but must never be satisfied with people who have full mouths but live empty of divine meaning. Our efforts must always point to God and the eternal life (meaning) that God has for every person who will take on (eat) the life of Christ.
The arrest of a black Harvard professor outside his own home is an experience endured by many people of color. Why are we surprised that they do not trust the police?
The latest political debate surrounding health care in the United States is contaminated by similar hypocrisy. Business leaders and lobbyists with ties to the insurance and medical industries appear to have influenced the thinking of some self-described "fiscal conservatives" in Congress who call themselves "Blue Dogs."
There is tyranny in our time. That tyranny causes great injustice and suffering. The tyrants of our time are just as vindictive as Herod. Let us find strength in the gospel of Jesus Christ to challenge the tyrants and be prophetic witnesses of divine justice and truth.
Is God's power being hindered because we are stuck on what we once knew about God? Are we like the people of Nazareth, stuck in the past concerning who God is, what God's love involves, and how God would have us operate?
Life with God does not make a person immune from health storms, family storms, school storms, work storms, or any other storms. Life can, life does, and life will become stormy. Faith in God will not change that reality.
Judging from the Gospels, Jesus did a lot of storytelling in what we know as parables.
A church encourages bringing guns to worship. A survey reveals regular church-goers believe torture is often or sometimes justified. Are we surprised that the Christian gospel has become associated with militaristic imperialism?
This sermon was delivered by Wendell Griffen, pastor of the New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark., on June 7, 2009.
This sermon was delivered by Wendell Griffen, pastor of the New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark., on May 31, 2009. This was the church’s inaugural sermon.
Wendell Griffen is the pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark. He is also a former Arkansas Court of Appeals judge and the CEO of Griffen Strategic Consulting.
For more than half of regular church-goers who believe torture is often or sometimes justified, Jack Bauer, the fictional anti-hero of "24," who disregards human rights and anything else in the name of national security, seems a more fitting savior.
The National Day of Prayer's original intent was to be a day when persons of all faiths could pray for the nation in their diverse ways. Regrettably, in recent years, fundamentalist Christians have perverted it into an exercise in religious segregation.
Why did so many of us permit torture, judicially unauthorized surveillance and assorted other improper actions to happen? We simply allowed fear-mongering to take the place of reason.
Our nation has already tried and punished enlisted military personnel for inhumane treatment of people in their custody. Why should political officials and intelligence operatives receive immunity for similar or worse conduct?
Despite the fear, hate, injustice and other trials of our time, we know and Obama proves the moral supremacy of faith over fear. Despite the fears and fury, we shall overcome by the power and relentless effort fueled by our faith.
Gov. Blagojevich is not guilty. He is presumed innocent of all the charges. Let us respect his right to a fair trial by acting like we understand what this means.
Hardly anything has been reported about how religious leaders are responding to the economic crisis, or even their present failure to be as forceful on behalf of the vulnerable as they have tried to be when working to influence elections and boost the political clout of their religious constituencies.
Richard Nixon's presidency ended after Watergate in disgrace with his resignation. The Bush-Cheney presidency will end on a much more disgraceful note if Scooter Libby is pardoned.
Forty years after King's death, it is noteworthy that except for North Carolina and Virginia, voters in Southern states were not part of the dramatic voting that resulted in the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.
Rather than speaking about a color-blind or "post-racial" society, the pundits and other observers of the Obama election should hope that it marks a society committed to "post-racism."