Read Luke 1:1-4 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 to start.
Back before Christmas, when I was preparing for the Christmas Eve service and deciding on readings, I looked up several familiar passages, in particular from Isaiah, and Micah, and of course the second chapters of Matthew and Luke. At the time, I also took a look at the context for the various passages. Some of this context is quite well known, such as the genealogy from Matthew chapter 1. Luke chapter 1 is also well known, it talks about the parentage and birth of John the Baptist and Mary’s angelic visitor. It’s a big chapter, there’s a lot that takes place in it, there’s 80 verses, making it the longest chapter in the New Testament by verse count. I’ve heard multiple different sermons that address various sections of the chapter. But not all of it. The very first part of the chapter, is one that I don’t think I’ve ever heard referenced in a sermon, or devotional, or a Sunday school lesson.
Continue reading Trust but Verify
Read James 4:13-17 and 2 Kings 5:1-8 to start.
A couple of weeks ago was New Years Eve, and as it happens on that day my family and I had gone to a festive gathering. There were some good friends there, some slight acquaintances, and some complete strangers. One of the strangers, who, as it turns out, is the brother-in-law of one of my best friends, because that’s how things go in PEI, is a pastor at a church in Charlottetown, and I chatted with him for a bit about sermon topics. I told him about the topic that I had chosen for this morning, and how it was an important and valuable topic, and also based on a passage that I don’t think I had ever heard anyone speak from before.
This is not that sermon. Maybe some month soon I will preach that, but not this morning. My original plans, my well considered outline, it went out the window in favour of something else. That is often the nature of plans, though. We make plans, sometimes simple and straightforward plans, other times elaborate and complicated plans with multiple stages that run over months or years, then things change, and those plans go down the drain.
Continue reading Best Laid Plans
Read Mark 10:17-27 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 to start.
Many years ago when I was in university, my first year of university, in fact, I took a course in economics. It was the only course in economics that I took, and I remember little from it, aside from the fact that I didn’t want to learn any more economics. I do however remember a few economic concepts. One of those is the idea of sunk costs.
Continue reading Sunk Costs and the Value of Letting Go
Read Luke 10:38-42 and Psalm 69: 1-5 to start, see also “What a Friend We Have in Jesus“.
This morning I’m going to do something a little different, or maybe a lot different, in a few different ways. First, I’m going to start at the end, which might sound crazy but I think it will make sense once we get going. Second, this is probably going to feel more like three small sermons that are linked together, rather than one cohesive sermon. And the reason for that is the third different thing, that even though we started with a scripture reading, and we heard an entirely different passage earlier, my sermon is not really about either of those passages, but it’s about a hymn. We sang it a few minutes ago, number 517 in our red hymnbook, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
Continue reading Take it to the Lord in Prayer
Read John 10:22-30 and John 14:1-7 to start.
Eternal life is a topic that you are likely familiar with. It’s a topic that comes up a lot, because it’s something that basically everyone wants. We’re not just talking about those who believe in God, we’re talking about the general public. Certainly popular media likes the idea of eternal life, I can think of any number of songs you might hear on the radio that talk about living forever and/or not dying, running the gamut from Alphaville to Steppenwolf. Last week I watched a movie with a couple of my kids, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In that movie, the characters are looking for the Holy Grail, which is supposed to grant eternal life to anyone who drinks from it. It doesn’t work out quite as expected. Of course, things are often quite different than we expect.
I imagine you have heard plenty of preaching about eternal life, how to get it, and how important it is to pay attention to it. I don’t know that I’ve ever preached an entire sermon specifically on the subject of eternal life, but certainly it has been a topic that has come up many times, because it’s a topic that troubles us. A lot of people are concerned with it, some you you might even say are preoccupied with it. In fact, while I was preparing this very sermon, one of my kids came to me to talk about eternity and what it would look like.
Continue reading This is Life Eternal
Read Jonah 1:1-12 and Genesis 3:1-13 to start.
American comedian Flip Wilson was known as the first black TV superstar, he was a frequent guest on variety shows, did a number of comedy albums, and hosted his own show for four seasons. There was a catchphrase he popularized in the early 1970s, “The devil made me do it.” You’ve probably heard someone say this, or maybe you’ve said it yourself. The same phrase was used as the title of a song by Dutch rock band Golden Earring, and in that song of course it’s about someone not willing to accept responsibility for their illegal actions, specifically the theft of a fur coat and a BMW.
Continue reading I’m The Problem
Read Luke 19: 1-10 to start.
In the spring of 1985, Canadian paralympian Rick Hansen set out on a world tour in his wheelchair to raise money for spinal cord research. He travelled 40,000 kilometres, across 34 countries, taking 26 months to complete his trek. It was called the Man in Motion tour, and it was an absolute success, raising 26 million dollars, and certainly increasing awareness of those living with spinal injury and how they could do things that no one expected of them. While he didn’t get much attention at the start, by the time he some months along he was making international news and folks took notice.
He met a lot of people on that tour, and no doubt shook a lot of hands. One of those hands was mine, because when he rolled into Charlottetown in the fall of 1986, I heard that he was going to be at the parking lot for the Ellis Brothers’ Shopping Center, which was only a five minute walk from my house, so I went down there to see him. There were a couple of hundred other people with the same idea, so there was quite a crowd, but ten year old Marko was pushy and persistent, and I made my way to the front. I wanted to see him, and I did. I don’t remember if I said anything, but I remember that I shook his hand.
Continue reading Seeing Jesus
Read Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:8 to start.
Sometimes I like to start a sermon with a story or a personal anecdote. But today there wasn’t one that came to mind, although this is a very personal topic, and I think a very personal sermon. This morning, I’m speaking to the younger folks in particular, but I hope that there is something here for everyone, regardless of your age. Because this is a topic that affects each and every one of us, and that is the subject of getting older.
Continue reading Age and Youth
Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-15 to start.
Before we get started, let’s take a short trip down memory lane. Back in October, I preached a sermon that I titled Work In Progress, and I started by talking about Sarah Winchester and the Winchester Mystery House. For that sermon, I read most of this same passage from 1 Corinthians. In that sermon I talked about how God is working on every believer, and how we are His handiwork, His workmanship as it says in Ephesians chapter 2, verse 10. The comparison of a building under construction is certainly a very apt one for this concept, because putting up a house or a barn or a tower or some other large project takes time, takes effort, and requires a design and a plan in order for it to come to a successful outcome. If we allow God to work on us and in us, if we are obedient and willing to let Him work, then that is what the result will be, even if it’s not at all what we first expect.
Every building, every construction project, needs the things we just mentioned in some measure, there needs to be effort, time, a plan, and of course some sort of input, some materials. But every building also needs something more than that if it is to be a lasting structure of any sort. It needs a foundation.
Continue reading Foundations, and Building Thereupon
Read Luke 2:1-18 and Matthew 2:1-13
At this time of year millions of people pay attention to the account we just read. The account in Luke chapter 2 is no less popular, because at this season we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, the likelihood that He was born on December 25 is about one in 365 at best, or even this month is about a one in twelve chance, but His birth is significant, and should be celebrated.
Continue reading The Manger and the Cross