Moses’ Return – a Narrative Sermon

It is summer so I am experimenting with a story telling style of sermon.  In the summer the kids are in Church, so it is helpful for them to remain interested.  Also, I think featuring the text over the preachers formation of the text has more impact.  Here is the text with my apologies for typos…

Moses Return


The 9th Commandment and Politics



We are in a political season.  Our TVs are filled with men and women running for office.  They are all the way from President down to the City Council.  You will see commercials.

One groups tests political ads for truthfulness.   This is helpful.  It is sad to say, but not everything you hear on the news, on a talk show, in a debate or in a commercial is truthful.

There are those who like to get the people afraid and angry.  This is never good.  Important decisions need to be made with the facts, not with angry feelings.

So let me suggest this verse, proverbs 29:8

    Scoffers set a city aflame,
but the wise turn away wrath.

We can actually cause acts of violence with our words.  Wars and riots have been caused this way.  Whole parts of cities have been set on fire.

Let us choose wisdom.  In this season of politics here are some suggestions:

  • Check to see if what you hear is true. It may be a lie that people have come to believe.
  • Before you repeat it or send it out by the internet, ask if this is truthful and helpful? Sometimes we can do harm by telling the truth at the wrong time or with the motivation of anger.
  • Before you accept the lie and repeat it, ask yourself what you can do to make the community better.

Complete Sermon Here: Say No to Lies

Who is Looking for Jesus?


the Sermon for the Sunday following Christmas this year was a reflection on Isaiah 9:6

star  I want us to do a little work together today.  I have laid out in this Advent Season the significance of the names of Jesus given in Isaiah 9:6.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In Matthew 2 we find the story of how the Magi, also known as the Wise Men or the Three Kings came to worship Jesus.  (Mt 2:1-2)

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 

I want to put these two short passages together and ask a question. Who is looking for Jesus?

  1. Isaiah’s Description of Jesus

There are five parts to this description of Jesus that we have talked about.

            Government:  On him will rest the leadership for Government.  The promise is that we will one day live under the leadership of the Lord, here on the earth.

That is a future promise as far as world governments go. At various times people in this age have tried to combine their faith with civil government that has led to disaster.  The Roman Empire declared everyone a Christian at one point.  Believers at the time thought this was a great improvement over being persecuted. But really it just created a half-baked loaf.  People were Christian in name and maybe in how they treated their holidays, but they were not born again. Even today we have Christmas and Easter Christians, who live how they wish the rest of the time.  Medieval Europe, the State Churches of Europe and even the Puritans of New England had this idea.

Yet the spiritual government of Jesus has begun, though he Gospel.  He becomes our LORD, does he not?  We are made CITIZENS of the kingdom of God. 

Wonderful Counselor:  We saw that this meant that Jesus possesses wisdom to know what we need to do to move from Darkness to Light.  He is not just a source of come good advice. He is not just quotable, like a Yogi Berra of the Bible.  He is the source of supernatural wisdom. Wisdom from God.

Mighty God.  We saw that this meant that Jesus was able to defeat our enemies.  I am not talking about political enemies but spiritual enemies of darkness. He has defeated Sin by becoming the sacrifice for sin. He defeated death by going from the cross to the grave and back to life. He defeated the Devil by resisting all temptation and by striking a blow to the evil empire.

Everlasting Father reminds us of the committed love of the Lord. He not only can do what is needed, but he wants to do it.  He is willing and able.

Prince of Peace reminds us that the result of Jesus’ leadership in our lives is that we have peace. We have peace with God through the gospel we have inner peace as the shame and guilt of our lives is washed clean in the blood of the Lamb of God.  We have peace with others as we receive and give forgiveness.

In the time of Jesus, how many people were looking for him?  When he did miracles such as healing and feeding the crowds with bread and fish, they followed in a great crowd. Yet when they wanted to make him King he slipped away from them and returned to teaching the 12.

When he was crucified there were only 3 or 4 of his followers there. The rest were mockers or executioners, but all the crowds and most of the 12 were gone.

There was no real number until the Day of Pentecost when the church began with thousands of new believers.

In our day, how many people are looking for Jesus?

Well, we just had Christmas didn’t we. Didn’t the whole country look for Jesus?  Or maybe Santa Claus, or maybe for boxes under the tree?

Here is what I think.  There are people looking for what jesus has to offer.  There have been and there will always be those who are looking for good leaders, for wise counsel, for power to overcome, for love and for peace.  But most people do not look for the One who gives those.  We look in the wrong places.

  1. Evidence

Leaders:  think about all the places people look for leaders.

In politics we look for someone who can be a president.  What does that take? Experience, vision, skills to communicate, money, and it often helps to be good looking.  We look for someone who can inspire, unite, make wise choices, and remain popular while making difficult decisions.  We want peace – not just no wars, but a just and fair society with good jobs and healthy places to live for young and old alike.

We also look to celebrities and sports figures.  There are debates all the time over who the best Quarterback in football is, or who was the best hitter in baseball.

But who among these people can achieve peace on earth?  The problem that every leader faces is that all people are flawed.  The leaders are flawed and the people they lead are flawed.  How can all these flaws achieve peace?

They can’t but we still hope. Sometimes we get good leaders – say the presidents who made it onto Mt. Rushmore. But by leader worship we have also gotten dictators and villains.

Wisdom – we look a lot of places to decide what is wise.  There is a constant growing body of knowledge on all things.   We know more about outer space and about subatomic particles that we did 10 or 40 years ago.  The same can be said for all fields of knowledge.  It is so vast that any one person can only know a small amount well.  We can not a little about a lot and a lot about a little.

We have the internet. I remember reading about how the internet will bring social equality and peace.  It was social media that contributed to the “Arab Spring” a few years ago, when dictators were removed.  However, they have been replaced by civil wars.

Where do we find the answer to human happiness?  In my lifetime the answer to the need for happiness was supposed to be solved by these: Progress, Affluence, Drugs, Medicine, Cars, Trains, Music, a return to Nature, a return to the City, drop out, drop acid, get involved, shop local, be a world citizen.  As these trends come and go, it does not matter much that they contradict, we have become very interested in the next thing that will fix all things.

Power – We are the most powerful nation on the earth, if you measure based on the economy or on military power.  Yet the position that is Second in Line to the President, the Speaker of the House, was almost no filled.  No one wanted the Job. No one could keep the job.  Now Paul Ryan has the job, and he admitted that it will most likely be his last job in politics.

Power is hard to gain in a democracy.  Power is oppressive in a dictatorship.  We want a strong leader but we don’t want him or her to have too much power.

Belonging – we are a very mobile and segmented country.  Years ago when we traveled by horse and spoke by word of mouth, and the printed word was advanced technology, people belonged to small towns or neighborhoods.  People belonged to churches where they knew other people for years at a time.

Today we belong to Facebook groups and we connect with people like ourselves who think and listen to and read what we do.  We belong less.

Families continue to fracture.  Business, education and even the church have gotten to be bigger and more impersonal.

One of the things that still binds us is sports – the Packers and the Badgers.  Go Pack Go!  But mostly we watch the game with only a few others.  Few of us go to any of the games.

Peace – clearly we do not have peace.  We are wealthy and we are powerful.  Yet we are troubled by ISIS – did you know about ISIS last year?  We are troubled by mass violence in our own cities – The Boston Marathon Bombing, School shootings, Santa Barbara, Fort Hood, etc.

What I want to show by this is that people are looking all the time for the things that Christ has to give.  The five things found in Isaiah 9:6 are desired by everyone.  You do not have to be religious or idealistic or young to want things like peace and belonging.

If you have a need you have to find where to meet that need.

Here is where the miss happens.  In the world people are searching for the things that Jesus has to offer, but they are not looking for Jesus.

This is human nature.  This is why Psalm 53 and Romans 3 says that No One Looks for God.

But God looks for us.  The question is not: Who is looking for Jesus? It is:

III. Jesus is looking for us.

Son: The most famous verse in the bible is John 3:16.  It does not say, “For the world was so eager to know god that they looked everywhere to find him.”

It says that God so loved the world that he sent his only son to us.

If there is to be any finding of what is lost, it is not us who find God. It is God the father who finds us by sending his son.

Jesus went from city to city and town to town to preach, teach and heal.  He was out in the open. He gave reasons to believe – both by being the fulfillment of God’s promises, and by performing signs and wonders. Finally, referring to the Cross, Jesus said:

“… when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Jn 12:32)

            Father: Paul speaking to philosophers in Athens spoke of how all humanity came from one source.  And that God arranges things so that people move here and there and nations rise and fall. All this is done, “so that we might seek him.”   Acts 17:26-27

26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him

IF there is to be finding of what is lost, it is not us who think about finding God, but God the Father who arranges the world so that we get the idea to look for him.

You see immigrants and refugees in the news. Have you thought about how many immigrants and refugees of past ages also came to know God because of their wanderings?

The Day of Pentecost happened when a crowd from all over the Roman Empire was in Jerusalem.  For all sorts of reasons, Jewish people had been scattered all over the world. Then they met Jesus in the preaching of Peter. Then, they returned to where they had been.  There the seed of the Gospel grew.

Spirit:  In the upper room, on the night before he was betrayed, Jesus began to teach intensively about the Holy Spirit.  He said that the Spirit will get the attention of the world.

“And when he comes, he will convict the world about sin and righteousness and judgment….He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you…”

I heard a church planting couple speak a number of years ago. They were going to start a church outside of Chicago in a new community.  They began by meeting people in a variety of ways, including knocking on doors.  Their idea was not to persuade people to believe in Jesus. Their idea was to see who God had already prepared, who were ready for a message about Jesus or were looking for a church.

This is our job.  We cannot persuade. We can get people interested in a spectacle. We could have Santa Claus or a Living Nativity, or a Christmas Lottery or a great concert.  But those things at their best can only gather a crowd.

What we need to do is Pray and Look.  We need to pray for our seeking neighbors. That they will learn that what they seek can only really be found in the Gift of God.  We need to look. Who is really looking? In whom has God placed a fire of curiosity?  This is our mission field.

Preaching at what level?

scribe.2So the message last week was based on Matthew 12:15-21 – Servant King

Someone after the message, more or less implied that this kind of preaching is a bit over the heads of people.

Now I did adapt an academic paper on the use of Isaiah 42 in Matthew 12 for this message.

Yet, I adapted it to a more popular level.

It was not a story or testimony, but an exploration of the ministry of Jesus seen through this lens.

Is this too deep?  I don’t think so, but then each week I have already spent a week with the sermon.

How hard or easy should a sermon be?

Should it stretch our thinking?

Should add a few more polishing strokes to the smooth stones in our minds,

Or add a new rough piece that will need some time and thought to accommodate to our thinking?

Athanasius – “Theologian of the Year”

673655I preach a “Theologian of the Year” message every Reformation Sunday, the Sunday closest to
All Saints Eve (Halloween) in honor of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses.

This year, fitting with a series called Profiles in Courage, I chose Athanasius for his courageous stance on defending the orthodox view of the divine/human nature of Jesus Christ.  Below is my sermon and a document with quotes from his work “On the Incarnation.”  Reading this ancient author has produces a few responses in me, one is under “Reactions” below.

The second reason for the Incarnation according to Athanasius is found in this quote:

Once the mind of human beings descended to perceptible things, the Word himself submitted to appear through a body, so that as a human he might bring humans to himself and return their sense perception to himself, and then, by their seeing him as a human being, he might persuade them through the works he effected that he is not a man only but God and the Word and Wisdom of the true God.  (On the Incarnation # 16)

My reaction:   Jesus entered the material world.  All of humanity turned from the knowledge of God to the enjoyment and even worship of material things.  So Jesus was born in this material world to gain out attention.  Once we noticed his works, we could listen to his words and be restored to the knowledge of God.

John’s gospel called the Miracles of Jesus Signs – they did not exist as an end in themselves.  He did not turn water into wine just for the wedding. He did not feed the 5,000 just because they were hungry.  These miracles were signs.  Once they had their fill of wine and bread, would they turn to consider who it was that was among them?


Athanasius excerpts

Reactions to Athanasius