Read Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:11 to start
In the past I’ve preached sermons inspired by songs, by animals, by body parts, and on one occasion, by cookies. This morning my sermon arose from a picture I saw online not long ago. It was a picture of a bag of packing peanuts, you know, those white foam pellets that you sometimes find when you open a shipping box. We see a fair number of those at work, they are annoying and messy when you unpack a box. This was a picture of a medium sized bag of those, labelled “Void Fill” quite prominently. If you went and searched on google this morning you’d probably find the same picture in the first few results. What makes the picture memorable, and the inspiration for my sermon, is the caption that someone added – I had no idea you could buy this, I’ve been using alcohol all this time.
Continue reading The Emptiness Within
Read James 1:19-27 to start.
How do you feel about winter? Maybe you enjoy it. Maybe you endure it and just hold on waiting for spring. Even if you do like winter, I’m sure there are some aspects of winter that you don’t particularly appreciate. Myself, I don’t like the bitter cold, it bothers more than it used to. And I don’t like slush, it’s lousy to drive on, and worse to walk through. And I don’t like road salt. I appreciate that it serves a useful purpose, but when you’ve had a few cold days in a row and the trucks have been out salting the roads and the parking lots, then the salt gets everywhere. You drag it in on your boots, even if you are careful to wipe your feet. It gets all over the vehicles, and it gets all over your clothing. If you wear black pants in the winter, you know it’s only a matter of time until those white stains get all over them. Even if you are careful, the salt gets on you, and it leaves its mark. And you may not even realize it.
Continue reading Marked by the World
Read Acts 4: 32-5:11.
Some Bible stories are cheerful and pleasant. This is not one of them. The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a sobering account of the early church. We might read it and see it as a lesson on the dangers of greed and deceitfulness, and certainly, that would be correct. Ananias and Sapphira were undoubtedly greedy, and they were equally deceitful. They chose to sell their property, they chose to give money, and they chose to lie about it. Nothing in that is hard to understand or unfamiliar. The fact that they were so immediately and dramatically called out on their lie and instantaneously judged for it is what makes this passage particularly memorable. They say that if you can’t be a good example, you may instead serve as a horrible warning, and this couple did indeed do that. Continue reading Servants and Selfishness
Read Genesis 49:29-33, 50:22-26.
Is everyone familiar with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Even if you’ve never actually read it, or if it’s been many years since you have, it is of course a very well known book. It is the best known book from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, which is a series of seven books about people from this world who travel into a different dimension, into a land called Narnia. Perhaps you’ve read only the first book, or just a couple of them. Perhaps you’ve read them all. They come highly recommended.
I would give you a cautionary note, though, about the last book, entitled The Last Battle. It’s, how can I say it, it’s odd. I remember reading it when I was much younger, and finding it dark, somewhat disconnected with the other stories, and frankly, dissatisfying. While the Narnia books are allegorical fiction, and certainly not a text for Biblical instruction, The Last Battle also implies some rather questionable theology. It is not a strong end to an otherwise superb series. Continue reading Finishing Well
This morning I’d like to talk about binary states. No, we are not going to have a lesson in technology, although you would be entirely within reason to think that. Computers use binary code in order to store information. That’s how computer storage works, it’s all ones and zeroes. Every piece of data on your computer, on your phone, on the entire internet, in fact, it is all stored as ones and zeroes. A bit is a one or a zero, and from that single piece of information, from millions and billions of ones and zeros, we store information.
But that’s not what I want to talk about. A binary state is something that is an either/or condition. Ones are zeroes are hardly the only examples. Look at the lights above you. Those are all LED bulbs, they are either on or off. These bulbs don’t dim, but even if they did, they are still on or off, because on-but-dim is still one. The windows on either wall, those are either open or closed. They’re closed right now, but if it was summer the windows would probably be open. A window might be open a little or a lot, but it’s still either open or closed.
Continue reading Binary States
Read selections from 1 Kings chapter 21 to start.
Who here can recite the ten commandments? Probably most of us are pretty familiar with those. We’re going to look at one of those this morning. It’s not one of the really high profile commandments, not one that gets a lot of attention, such as “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” or ‘Thou shalt not kill.” We can see several of the commandments being violated in the passage we just read, such as bearing of false witness, and stealing, and obviously thou shalt not kill went right out the window. Those are obviously good and important commandments to follow. But those are not the ones I want to look at today. Frankly, we all know that it’s wrong to kill, that shouldn’t need any explaining. We all know it’s wrong to lie, and it’s wrong to take what belongs to others, and hopefully as adults we all understand this, although we might need reminders from time to time, and if you have children you probably need to remind them of those things on a more regular basis. But we know those commandments, and we understand what they are about.
No, the commandment I want to look at today is the 10th and final commandment – thou shalt not covet. Continue reading The Tenth Commandment
Psalm 23. 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
The passage we just read is of course one of the best loved and best known of all the Psalms, indeed in all of scripture. It is a passage that I would expect most of us here know by heart. I know Laura had her Sunday school class learn it last year, and I believe they all got to the point so they could recite it from memory. You’ve probably heard it preached on in the past, probably more than once. So I’m not actually going to preach on the 23rd Psalm today. Yes, I know that we read it a moment ago, and that does seem like a bait and switch to read something and then not speak on it. Well, I didn’t just read because I like it, I am going to speak on one verse, actually one phrase from one verse, at least in a way of introduction. That phrase is from verse 5: my cup runneth over.
Continue reading Cups and Choices
Read portions of Genesis 2:7-3:24 to start.
In 1969, there was a large music festival held near the town of Bethel, New York. This was of course the Woodstock festival, which was the biggest music festival that had ever happened up to that point, and remains easily the most famous gathering of that type in history. Dozens of musicians and hundreds of thousands of people attended, and it is considered a watershed moment of an entire generation.
Continue reading Back to the Garden
Read Proverbs 23:12-19 to start.
When I was a kid, I frequently had the opportunity to spend time at my friends’ houses. That’s pretty normal for most children I would think, unless they don’t have any friends. The reason I bring this up is because I remember at one house in particular, and I won’t tell you whose house because many of you would know him, or at least know the family, but at this one house there was a sign posted on the fridge. It was there as a joke, no doubt, written as it was in old-fashioned script letters, and I’ve seen the same thing printed on T-shirts more recently. Posted on their refrigerator was the motto Beatings will continue until morale improves.
Continue reading Correction and Discipline
Read Matthew 7:1-20 to start.
When I was younger, there was a topic that many of my friends and I were frequently concerned with. It kept coming up, and was never adequately resolved, because some people took a firm stance on one side, and some on the other side. Some people did not care either way, and some said that it was too difficult to really tell the difference. I recall once actually testing some friends to see if their imagined preferences actually lined up with reality, and could they tell the difference.
This is not some great and important spiritual or philosophical matter. This is not about right versus wrong. This is about Coke versus Pepsi.
Continue reading Evaluation and Condemnation