Tag Archives: Jesus

Who is Jesus?

An excerpt from a poem by Mother Teresa, written in 1983 during a hospitalization. That old lady knew her theology; but more than that, she knew Jesus.

Who is Jesus?

You are God.
You are God from God.
You are Begotten, not made.
You are One in Substance with the Father.
You are the Son of the Living God.
You are the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

You are One with the Father.
You are in the Father from the beginning:
All things were made by You and the Father.
You are the Beloved Son in Whom the
Father is well pleased.
You are the Son of Mary,
conceived by the Holy Spirit.

You were born in Bethlehem.
You were wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary
and put in the manger full of straw.
You were kept warm by the breath of the donkey
that carried Your mother with You in her womb.
You are the Son of Joseph,
thee Carpenter, as known by the people of Nazareth.
You are an ordinary man without much learning,
as judged by the learned people of Israel.

Who is Jesus to me?

Jesus is the Word made Flesh.
Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross.
Jesus is the Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass
for the sins of the world, and mine.
Jesus is the Word — to be spoken.
Jesus is the Truth — to be told.
Jesus is the Way — to be walked.
Jesus is the Light — to be lit.
Jesus is the Life — to be lived.
Jesus is the Love — to be loved.
Jesus is the Joy — to be shared.
Jesus is the Sacrifice — to be offered.
Jesus is the Peace — to be given.
Jesus is the Bread of Life — to be eaten.
Jesus is the Hungry — to be fed.
Jesus is the Thirsty — to be satiated.
Jesus is the Naked — to be clothed.
Jesus is the Homeless — to be taken in.
Jesus is the Sick — to be healed.
Jesus is the Lonely — to be loved.
Jesus is the Unwanted — to be wanted.
Jesus is the Leper — to wash his wounds.
Jesus is the Beggar — to give him a smile.
Jesus is the Drunkard — to listen to him.
Jesus is the Retarded — to protect him.
Jesus is the Little One — to embrace him.
Jesus is the Blind — to lead him.
Jesus is the Mute — to speak for him.
Jesus is the Crippled — to walk with him.
Jesus is the Drug Addict — to befriend him.
Jesus is the Prostitute — to remove from danger and befriend.
Jesus is the Prisoner — to be visited.
Jesus is the Old — to be served.

To Me—

Jesus is my God.
Jesus is my Life.
Jesus is my Love.
Jesus is my All in All.
Jesus is my Everything.


What to do with Christmas

Do you ever find yourself getting frustrated by the apparent secularization of Christmas? As the baby Jesus shares the spotlight with Santa Claus, and glowing, mailbox-size candy canes pop up alongside nativity displays, it’s easy to grow nostalgic for a time when the celebration of Christmas as a Christian holiday was unfettered by commercialism — when reverent worship services and quiet family gatherings weren’t juxtaposed alongside raucous winter festivals and velvet-clad pop stars.

But was there ever really such a time? Why did Christians begin celebrating the birth of Jesus to begin with?

Despite its contemporary prominence in Christian culture, formal celebrations of Christmas did not begin until the fourth century. Easter, not Christmas, was the focal point of the year for the early church. The gospels themselves reflect this: only Matthew and Luke give any account of the birth of Jesus, and they vary greatly in details and significance, while all four gospels share a powerful record of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. When Christmas celebrations began to take shape in the church, Christians combined elements of the nativity stories presented in Luke and Matthew with other traditions that had been picked up along the way. The first record of Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus is found in the Philocalian Calendar of 354. Long before this, however, December 25 had been a high point in Roman culture.

Traditional calendars marked December 25 as the winter solstice, and it was popularly celebrated as the birthday of the pagan god Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. The festival for Sol Invictus fell right in the middle of two other popular Roman feast days — the harvest festival, which began on Dec. 17, and the New Year’s festival that typically lasted five days (ending on what also became an important Christian holiday, the Day of Epiphany, or “The Twelfth Day of Christmas” according to one obnoxious Christmas jingle)

Naturally, it made sense for the church to take advantage of the existing excitement that surrounded the winter festival when forming a new holiday to celebrate the birth of God’s son. From the very beginning, Christmas has not been a day set apart for Christians to retreat from the world; rather, it has been a day Christians use to celebrate with, and hopefully, transform the world. Taking unholy things and making them holy, as the 4th Century Christians did with the pagan worship of Sol Invictus, is a fitting way to remember the reason that Christ came into the world to begin with. He has transformed us, unholy as we are, into new creations. Let us continue searching for new ways to do the same.


Questioning God, or Standing in Awe?

By the tender mercy of our God,
      the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
      to guide our feet into the way of peace.

This evening Kristen and I met with a few friends for a great time of Bible study and fellowship. We didn’t have a program or a lesson guide, we just took turns reading a chapter or two of scripture and then sharing whatever thoughts came to mind. In two and half hours, we moved through the first four chapters of Luke. Our discussions were broad and deep, covering questions that were both lighthearted and serious. It was a meaningful gathering that I was glad to be a part of.

Among the questions that rose out of our reading was the starkly different responses Zechariah and Mary received when they questioned the angel Gabriel. If you are not familiar with this story, I suggest you read it for yourself. The first people we meet in Luke’s gospel are Zechariah and Elizabeth — an elderly couple of priestly lineage who have lived good lives, were respected in their community and were seen to be “righteous before God.” Despite their highly exalted social and religious status, however, Zechariah and Elizabeth had no children of their own. As Elizabeth was already beyond the normal age for conception, it seemed unlikely the couple would ever have a son or daughter to carry on their name, yet they remained faithful to their God and their people. In ancient Israel, because there were many priests, but one central temple in Jerusalem, the priests were divided into orders; each order was assigned two weeks out of the year during which the priests of that order were responsible for maintaining the altar and offering prayers at the Jerusalem temple. Each day, lots were cast to determine which priest from the order would enter the holiest part of the temple to burn incense at the altar and pray for the people. This was a big honor, and on this particular day, it fell to Zechariah. The elderly priest made his way into the temple, as perhaps he had done before. A great crowd of people stood outside in the courtyard of the temple where the general population met to pray, but Zechariah was responsible for carrying those prayers into the sanctuary, where he would send them up to God wrapped in a sweet cloud of incense.

Then the story really gets interesting. While the incense offering is burning at the altar, the angel Gabriel appeared before Zechariah. Zechariah was startled, but Gabriel comforted the old priest and assured him that his prayer had been heard. Elizabeth is going to have a child. He will be a great prophet among the people, and will even be great in the sight of the Lord! Good news, right? Then Zechariah said the words that would be on anyone’s mind, though few of us would have the courage to speak in such a moment: “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years (if you know what I mean).” Gabriel responds to this inquiry by silencing Zechariah’s voice and apparently rendering him partially deaf, at least temporarily; All of his senses will be restored once the boy is born and Zechariah follows the Lord’s instructions to name him John. That seems to be kind of a harsh move against a faithful old priest, but once John is born, Zechariah’s joy positively overwhelms everything else. This is good news indeed!

A few months later, Gabriel makes another visit. This time he calls on a young girl named Mary who is betrothed, but not yet married, to Joseph. Gabriel gives Mary a similar message, announcing that she, too, will have a son. While Mary doesn’t have the issue of age to worry about like Elizabeth did, she still has some questions about how she might possibly become pregnant with a son, as she has never done any of the typical things that precede pregnancy — like having sex. “How can this be,” she asks the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Instead of sealing up her tongue or rebuking her for a lack of faith, however, Gabriel simply assures Mary that while this message may not make since at first sight, “Nothing will be impossible with God.”

So, to sum up the dilemma:

  • Elizabeth and Mary both cannot have children; Elizabeth because she is too old, and Mary because she is a virgin.
  • Both are told they will miraculously conceive sons.
  • Zechariah asks “How will I know this is so?” and is punished for a lack of faith.
  • Mary asks “How can this be?” and is gently reassured of God’s presence in her life.

What’s going on here? Why do these two people get such different responses in such similar situations? I have heard many explanations on this before. Some people see the subtle difference in the questions posed by Zechariah and Mary and infer that Zechariah’s question expressed a since of disbelief, while Mary’s was simply innocent curiosity. I don’t doubt that attitude is very important in weighing how we frame our questions to our friends, or to God. I can respect this view, but for me, it has never seemed quite sufficient. There simply isn’t enough information given for me to honestly interpret the attitudes and feelings of Zechariah and Mary. One major difference between the two situations I do notice in the text, however, is setting. A great deal of effort is put in to explaining the setting of Zechariah’s encounter with the angel Gabriel. Zechariah, as well as his wife, are both of priestly lineage. Zechariah’s order was on duty. A lot was cast (basically, the priests asked for God to make a choice clear) and Zechariah’s name came up. Zechariah left the praying crowd and moved into the sanctuary. Zechariah lit the incense offering. Zechariah stood by the altar and prayed. Gabriel appeared and announced that God had not only heard Zechariah’s prayer, but that was he was going to bless his family in a special way. The only word we have concerning the setting of Mary’s meeting with Gabriel is that it was in Nazareth — a small town about 65 miles away from Jerusalem. We don’t know if Mary was at home, visiting with a friend, at work in the field or walking down the street. What we do know is that she wasn’t in the temple — she wouldn’t have been allowed into the sanctuary where Zechariah had met Gabriel.

I don’t say all of this to imply that God can only speak in special places, or in certain ways. Clearly this story, and the ones that follow it, demonstrate that is simply not the case. What I do think is made clear by this story though, is that while Zechariah and Mary were both very surprised at Gabriel’s presence, only one of them should have been surprised. Zechariah had gone through a lot of effort — a lifetime of effort, one could argue — to make his case before God. Zechariah had done everything he could possibly do to demonstrate his respect for God and to show that he was sincere in his prayer. Zechariah was asking for God to intervene in his life, yet he was astonished when God actually showed up. Mary, on the other hand, probably wasn’t hoping to find herself pregnant at this point; she certainly hadn’t asked God to intervene on her behalf. Her surprise is understandable, and she is granted a little understanding.

It is not lost on me that of course, someone went into the sanctuary to offer prayers at the altar every day, yet every day an angel did not show up to deliver a special message from God. In fact, it had been sometime since God had moved among his people in a powerful way; prophets had grown silent; visions were rare; people were complacent.

But is that really any excuse? If we believe that God is alive and well, then we must not be surprised when he makes his presence known. If we pray to God expecting him to hear and honor our prayers, then why should we be surprised when we see him act? If we don’t believe our prayers matter, then why even go through the motions?

If, on the other hand, we come before God in awe and reverence, eagerly awaiting his command and longing for his blessing — just as that old priest did many years ago — then it will be our great joy to find him waiting for us, right there where he’s always been.


India

So, I’m going to India.

Several weeks ago, I was presented with the opportunity to be a part of Campbell University’s first official mission team sent to India. After much prayer and discussion, Kristen and I decided I should take advantage of this unique opportunity for ministry, spiritual growth and education. I am very excited; I know God will do great things with and through our team. The trip is quickly approaching, however, and a few things still have to be worked out. 1,825 things, to be exact. I am responsible for raising $2,500 towards the expenses of our mission team, and there is still a good ways to go. Oh yeah, and I need to get this together within the next three weeks or so.

If you are able to help with this effort, in any way whatsoever, it would be much appreciated. I have setup a secure PayPal account that allows you to easily make a contribution to this mission opportunity using your check card or any other major credit card. Donations can be tax deductible, but contact me first so I can be sure your donation goes through the proper channels.

I look forward to sharing more information with you as we continue to prepare for the trip. You can bet photos and stories from India will be popping up on the blog during and after the trip. In the mean time, here is an excerpt from a letter I sent out to a few close friends.

Thank you all for your prayers and support as we prepare for this mission, as we travel and as we serve others in the name of Christ in India.



In December, I have the opportunity to participate in a unique experience: a mission trip to Kolkata, India. This will be the first time a mission team of Campbell students will travel to India. The majority of our time will be spent in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), working with the Missionaries of Charity — the society of aid workers founded by Mother Teresa in response to Christ’s call to carry his gospel, and his love, to the poorest of the poor in our world. Our team will minister alongside the Missionaries of Charity, assisting them as they care for orphans, the sick, the dying and those with special needs. We will also participate in “as you go” ministry, providing food and a word of prayer for the poor on the streets of Kolkata, Delhi, and Agra as we move through India.

First of all, I ask for your prayerful support of our endeavors. Pray for our team as we prepare to travel to India. Pray that Christ would give us open minds and open hearts, that we will be able to recognize the specific opportunities he has called us to as we seek to minister to his hurting children in India. Pray for us during the days that we are in the country (Dec. 27 to Jan. 7) that we would not be overwhelmed or discouraged by the needs that come before us, but that we would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to listen as only he can, to speak a word of truth and encouragement to the ones who need to hear it, and, most of all, to demonstrate the love of Christ in all we do. Pray for the brothers and sisters that oversee the mission houses in India. Pray that they would be strong and courageous as they go about their work, especially during the hard days. Pray that they would not be lured into feelings of complacency or despair by the nature of their work, but that they would be alert and sensitive to the movement of the Spirit in their lives as well. Additionally, if you feel led to contribute financially to this mission trip, checks can be made payable to Campbell University and given to me or sent directly to the school.

I look forward to partnering with you in this endeavor, as we seek to share Christ’s love with those in need.


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Dirt

I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains by itself, alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain.

— Jesus (John 12:24, NET)

I haven’t had much creative energy lately. It’s been all I could do just to squeeze out the bare minimum amount of writing I needed to get done for class. I’ll have several ideas for writing captivating blog posts or deep, reflective essays in my journal, but when it comes time to put pen to paper, it all just seems like gibberish. It’s hard for me to take the time to sit down to write. I don’t do this often, but I thought it would be a good time to share someone else’s thoughts. This excerpt came up in my devotional time this week, and it has stuck with me. Last summer, as part of my Bible study lesson on submission as a spiritual discipline, I used this simple metaphor from Jesus to drive my main point home: that it is only when we offer ourselves up to God, and pour ourselves out for others, that we truly find our own identity. Anthony Bloom continues with the gardening motif, which I find helpful. Let me know if you get anything out of it.

Basically humility is the attitude of one who stands constantly under the judgement of God. It is the attitude of one who is like the soil. Humility comes form the Latin word humus, fertile ground. The fertile ground is there, unnoticed, taken for granted, always there to be trodden upon. It is silent, inconspicuous, dark and yet it is always ready to receive any seed, ready to give it substance and life. The more lowly, the more fruitful, because it becomes really fertile when it accepts all the refuse of the earth. It is so low that nothing can soil it, abase it, humiliate it; it has accepted the last place and cannot go any lower. In that position nothing can shatter the soul’s serenity, its peace and joy.
Anthony Bloom, Living Prayer

Healers and Hoarders

I don’t make a habit of starting up, or even joining in on, political discussions nowadays, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe good discussions aren’t important. They are. It just seems harder and harder to have a good, honest, respectful talk on controversial issues with any depth. It seems like so many people are quick to make up their minds on the best course of action, either to one extreme or the other, and thus, debate and discussion becomes futile at best — and aggressive shouting matches at worst.

I hate the fact that the word “politics” in our culture has come to mean something along the lines of professional networking, image-crafting, backstabbing, people pleasing and basically anything else that will advance a politician’s idea of personal success. Politics, at its core, is about making policy. Families make policies — whether they know it or not — for how the household will be run. Businesses make policies for how they will operate. Societies make policies for how citizens and aliens should be treated, how justice will be administered, what services should be provided for the community and what should be the responsibility of the individual. Crafting these policies is a never-ending process; it is a process that each person should take seriously, contributing in whatever way he or she can.

Politics are important, but still, I tend to be silent. I have found that the more I learn, the less I know, and the less prepared I feel I am to make a black-and-white decision on a technicolor issue. So I listen, I learn, and I think. I think about when it will be appropriate for me to lend my voice to the discussions. Should I speak up for what I believe is right if I find myself working as a pastor in church one day? As one charged with mentoring and shepherding the flock, should I weigh in on the real issues of the day? Should I write letters to the editor of the local newspaper, speak at community meetings, and explain my views to my parishioners? Or should I be silent? If I find myself working as a reporter again, should I write editorial columns aimed at persuading my readers to join me in advocating the policies I see as most beneficial to society? It would mean harsh letters back; it would mean every news article I write from that point forward would be taken with a grain of salt, or simply disregarded, regardless of how hard I work to present a fair and balanced perspective. If Kristen and I are blessed with the opportunity to serve as international missionaries, should we limit our work to preaching the gospel and sharing with those in our small circle of friends, or should we become vocal advocates for the real needs of the people we are serving? Would we even have a right to an opinion on national policies in a country we live in, if we are not citizens? Would we have a right to share our opinions on policy in the United States if we no longer spend our lives here, no matter how passionately we might care for the land and people of our native country?

I think about these things, but right now, I mostly stay silent. That doesn’t mean I don’t wrestle long and hard with the issues of the day though. One of the things I find myself swinging back and forth on all the time is the increasing role government plays in health care. There are hard feelings on both sides of this debate. I believe that although the health care reform bill passed in Congress during this last session, and it is already in the process of being phased into effect, the policy making on this issue is far from over. It will continue to be controversial, and will continue to be a topic of debate, as it should be, probably for as long as our society exists. Regardless of which side of the debate you find yourself on, I have found nearly everyone — whether they admit it in as many words or not — agrees that changes need to be made in the health care policy of our government. Either insurance companies have too much free range and it is too difficult to get the basic health care a person needs in our country, or else government is already shelling out way to many tax dollars to people who only abuse the Medicaid and Medicare systems, encouraging personal irresponsibility and destroying the hard work of the very people who drive progress in our world.

One way or another, something has to change.

When I hear stories of how, just in North Carolina in the past few years, billions of dollars of government money have been siphoned off by phony mental health providers who claim to be serving the poor, but are actually only lining their own pockets, using fraudulent Social Security Numbers and stolen credentials to bill the government for services to people that don’t even exist, I nearly cry when I think of the percentage of my family’s income — not even a drop in the government bucket though — that we pay in taxes each year. When I walk down the street in Raleigh and I meet a woman who has fallen through the cracks in the system, who lives on the streets, who has been overlooked all of her life and doesn’t even have the interpersonal skills necessary to apply for help, if help was available, then I wonder how we let that happen.

I hear doctors tell stories about patients that play the game and milk the system for everything they can get. A woman comes to the hospital emergency room, without fail, each month, bringing in one of her children with a cold or coming alone when she has a sore throat. She parks her new Mercedes at the curb. Walks up to the receptionist with an air of entitlement, flashes her gold bracelet and diamond ring in the poor nurse’s face when she doesn’t get service fast enough, pulls out her iPhone to call her friend and complain about the poor state of things in the emergency room, and then walks out the door with a bag of free medicine, having stuck the taxpayers with the entire bill. Stories like this are endless.

Then there’s the poor single mother of three. She dropped out of college to raise her kids. She works three jobs. Her young children ride the bus back and forth to school, come home, fix their own dinner, don’t get any help with their homework, go to bed, wake up and start all over again, all without seeing their mother because she’s working around the clock just to get enough money to pay the rent and keep the water turned on. She doesn’t have a dime left to spend on health insurance, and she certainly can’t pay a hospital bill. But then her 7-year-old boy gets sick. He needs a blood transfusion and a heart transplant. Does he have any less right to it than the child of a stay-at-home mom who spends her days trying out new recipes and swapping parenting tips with her friends while her lawyer husband — who, by the way, worked hard and made it through law school on a scholarship because his parents were able to tutor him three nights a week from the time he was four-years-old until he graduated from high school, number one in his class, thank you very much — pays the bills?

Or how about the young college grad. She comes from a pretty well-off family, not rich, of course, but they’ve worked hard and never gone without much. Growing up, she was the model student and model daughter. She worked hard in high school and got into a good college. Then she got sick. As it turns out, she has a rare disease that makes it excruciatingly painful, if not impossible, to move through the activities of a normal day. She get’s the latest medicines and has to have frequent surgeries, but she always maintains a good spirit and pushes through. She draws strength from her illness and wants to learn more about what has happened to her. She goes to medical school. She misses class all of the time because of her disease as her minor surgeries become more and more frequent. To make up for it, she works three times as hard as the other would-be doctors, and graduates at the head of her class. Then she finds out, while all of her medical expenses and surgeries were covered under her parents’ insurance plan before, now that she is out of school, she is no longer covered. No health insurance provider in his right mind would offer her a policy. She can’t get insurance — she has a pre-existing condition. She can’t get treatment — paying the bill is simply impossible. She made all of the right choices and gave it all she had, but now, she is out of luck.

The anecdotes are endless.

One way or another, change needs to happen. What kind of change, though, depends entirely on your perspective.

Politics are never black and white. Do we extend generous resources and care to help those who need it, even when we know people are abusing the system and stealing from the community chest to fund their own personal frivolities? Do we stop offering handouts and encourage people to take personal responsibility, to prove their worth first, to work hard and give back to society before expecting to get something for nothing?

What is the Christian response to this? For people of faith, making the right decision doesn’t often seem easy either. Jesus told his disciples to “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you,” and “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back.” The same Jesus warned his followers not to “give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.” So what is a Christian supposed to think about health care reform? The great thing about looking at Jesus’ as our example is that he didn’t just tell us how to live, or tell us how we should treat people. He showed us. He wanted to make the right course of action perfectly clear, even in the hardest of times, so he lived life as God intended each of us to live — and, as it turns out, he also took health care pretty seriously.

Now on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten men with leprosy met him. They stood at a distance, raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

When he saw them he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went along, they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He fell with his face to the ground at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. (Now he was a Samaritan.*)

Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to turn back and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to the man, “Get up and go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19 (NET)

Abundant thanks didn’t come back to Jesus for his healing work. The vast majority of those he served were too focused inward to even acknowledge the gift they had received; none of them really seemed concerned about paying back the favor. Yet Jesus keeps on doing this kind of thing again, and again, and again.

Politics are never black and white. Understanding what Jesus would do, however, is often crystal clear. That doesn’t make following him any easier though.

* That is, he was an alien in Judah; An outcast, no doubt hanging around town looking to steal work from the poor Jews who have lived there for generations. He even tricked Jesus into healing him just like he was one of the native, legal Judaeans. It’s a good thing he came back to thank Jesus, huh? Who knows what Jesus would have done if he would have known the truth about this guy.


Faith Enough to Forgive

Jesus said to his disciples, “Stumbling blocks are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

“Watch yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him. Even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times returns to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

So the Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this black mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled out by the roots and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Luke 17:1-6 (NET)

I came across this passage from Luke during my devotional time this weekend. I’ve read it and heard it so many times before, the temptation is to let my eyes glaze over it without really listening. But I did listen, and I heard something I have missed all those times before in my haste to move through the book and get on to something fresh.

Normally, my mind is drawn to the serious warning Jesus gives to anyone who might lead another into sin. This business about the millstone around the neck is tough stuff; it’s hard to get past that.

“Could Jesus be talking to me about this?” I’ll think to myself. “What if I don’t mean to lead anyone else to sin, but it happens anyways? Am I still responsible? This is kind of a scary lesson. Maybe following Jesus isn’t really for me after all; it sounds pretty risky.”

This is where my mind usually stops, but for the Christ, this is only the beginning. As if this grim admonition wasn’t enough for one day of contemplation, the lesson moves on to another tough subject — forgiveness.

Offering true forgiveness is rarely an easy thing to do, but here Jesus is making it the explicit responsibility of his disciples to hold one another accountable, and, when the time is right, to eagerly offer a warm embrace and a full measure of forgiveness. It’s as if failing in these two charges could push us down the dangerous path the Teacher first alluded to. Repentance, and then forgiveness, are the markers believers must use not only in their own quests after God, but also in any efforts to lead others to Christ as well.

Then, before anybody (I’m looking at you, Peter) can second guess what Jesus means by forgiveness, the Master tells his disciples: “Even if a man wrongs you seven times — that’s seven times in a single day — you must be ready to offer him forgiveness as soon as he comes to you. Don’t put it off! Forgive him, just as your Father has forgiven you.”

Forgiving an abstract sin in the name of Christ to help your brother or sister move forward in faith can be a great joy, but forgiving another person who has seriously wronged you personally is much harder to do. Forgiving someone time and time again, over the course of a lifelong relationship that just never seems to fall into sync is one of the most difficult tasks we can deal with — one that never gets any easier as we get more and more opportunities to practice it — but still, it can be done. But forgiving someone for a serious wrong, and then to be injured again by the same person a moment later, only to forgive him again, and then to have the cycle repeat itself seven times in one day? How can I possibly do that? The best effort I think I could muster would be to just stay away from the offending party so that I don’t lose it altogether and go off the deep end.

But that’s not the action Jesus has called us to. We can’t just sit idly by while another person flounders in a sea of ever increasing sin. We have a responsibility to reach out a steady hand and offer quick forgiveness.

I’m sure my feeble response would echo that of the other disciples: “Lord, increase my faith! I know I can’t do this without you.”

Increase my faith!

That is a prayer I have voiced many times before, though not usually in this context. Typically it is connected with another clause, such as “Increase my faith so that I can be patient and trust you, God, to show me the job opportunity you have for me.” Or “Increase my faith so that I can stop stressing over my financial situation and believe in your promise to meet my needs.” Or even “Jesus, please increase my faith so that I can step into this ministry opportunity you’ve set before me; give me the words to say, and the courage to say them, so that you may be glorified. Increase my faith!”

I’m not sure that my prayers have ever been in line with this teaching. I don’t think I’ve ever said, “God, increase my faith so that I can learn to forgive as you do. Increase my faith so that I might know, as you do, that my brother isn’t going to be a slave to this cycle of sin forever. Increase my faith so that I can understand how each small act of love chisels away a piece of the chain that’s keeping him, and me, from living in the fullness of your kingdom. Please, Lord, increase my faith.”

I have often prayed for a stronger faith to help me climb the mountains I have set my sights on. Perhaps a better place to start, if I’m really serious about growing in my faith, is here, at the place where Jesus has pointed me to. Maybe it’s best to start here, with the faith necessary to forgive; or maybe, as far as faith goes, forgiveness takes everything we have.


Living in the Light

Not content to let two months go by without making a little headway on my M.Div degree, I signed up for two courses this summer — the first course is really a practicum project related to my ministerial internship, while the other is a pretty intense introduction to urban and social ministry; in fact, that’s the name of the course: Introduction to Urban & Social Ministry.

Each week we spend several hours visiting a multitude of ministry sites and service agencies, listening to staff, asking questions and talking with the people they serve. Though each organization has a unique mission statement and a slightly different target group of clientele, I think it’s fair to say that all of them are focused on making the world, and specifically central North Carolina, a little better representation of the Kingdom of God.

Several of our visits have been incredible, eye-opening experiences, but this week was particularly meaningful for me. We didn’t have a regular class session this Monday because of the holiday, but we were still assigned independent visits for the week. So Saturday night I found myself sitting in the back row of my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I needed to attend the meeting for class, but apart from school, this was an important moment for me as someone I am close to was celebrating a new Spiritual Birthday — the one-year anniversary of an addict’s last commitment to get clean and stop using. It was much more exciting, and more important, than celebrating a biological birthday.

“I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

—Jesus

As I sat through the meeting listening to speaker after speaker giving personal testimonies, reading passages from the NA book and encouraging one another through their struggles, I was struck by the simple honesty that pervaded the group. Every time someone stood to speak, whether it was to deliver a keynote speech or to ask a short question, the first words to come out were always “I’m David (or Charlie, or Bobbie or Rachel) and I’m an addict.” It didn’t matter if the speaker had gotten high that morning or if he had been clean for 30 years. There was not a stigma of shame or embarrassment associated with the label — something I’m sure takes many, many meetings like this to overcome — it was just the simple truth. “I’m a human, and I’m an addict.” These were authentic people.

I left the meeting that night wondering what the world would be like if everyone was as honest with themselves, and as authentic with others, as this group of humble addicts. I went home. I went to bed. Then I went to church.

Our Sunday school passage that day came from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians:

For you all are sons of the light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of the darkness. So then, we must not sleep as the rest, but must stay alert and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But since we are of the day, we must stay sober by putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, our hope for salvation.

For God did not destine us for wrath but for gaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that whether we are alert or asleep we will come to life together with him.

Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:5-11 (NET)

Paul is writing to the church in response to questions the believers had about the Parousia, but his instructions are meant to be a guide for daily living at all times, not just in the final days.

The metaphor of light and darkness is an oft used one. In my experience, Christians like to think of living in the light as leading a righteous life; that is, avoiding the major pitfalls of sin and obeying God’s law to the letter. In contrast, being a child of darkness implies living a life marked by sin, day-in and day-out; a life totally separate from God and the law.

I think there may have been a little more depth to the “light” Paul spoke of than we tend to acknowledge; we have a way of trimming God down to size when he gets too big for our tastes. From time to time, we may fool ourselves into believing we are living righteously, pleasing God with our good works and outdoing those poor fools who still choose to walk around in darkness. I heard it said today that there are really only two kinds of people in the world: Baptists, and sinners. I’m afraid a handful of people from my own faith tradition aren’t the only ones to fall into this trap of ignorance. Such thinking proves at least one fact with absolute certainty — those who call themselves righteous have yet to stumble out of the dark their religion has pulled them down into.

I think the “light” Paul spoke of is best described not as righteousness, but as truth. Truth with God, truth with others, and especially truth with one’s self. Jesus has called us to live our lives within the truth of his Creation, of his Divinity, of his Humanity. We must accept the truth that we will never measure up to the righteousness of God, but we can accept his Grace and continue striving to live within his will for our lives.

Unfortunately, we live in a world that doesn’t put much value in authenticity or in truth. We put on different facades when we go to work, when we go to school, when we go to church, when we’re out with our friends and when we’re at home with our families. It’s expected of us, and those who don’t follow the status quo are often penalized for their lack of conformity.

“A time is coming — and now is here — when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers.”

—Jesus

What would happen to our world if our churches began to live and breath with the same spirit of honesty and truth that pushes that group of recovering addicts to better themselves, to value true fellowship over fleeting pleasure and to walk together on the journey that leads them closer to God? What would happen if before I got up to deliver the invocation this Sunday, I felt compelled to tell the congregation that “I’m David, and I am a sinner,”?

I think we would begin to see the light of Christ a little more clearly.


A Tale of Two Kings

This is a manuscript of the sermon I preached earlier tonight. As I said in an earlier post, one of my great challenges in sermon writing has been seeing the sermon as more of a conversation than an essay. With this goal in mind, most of my sermons have ended up being perhaps too colloquial in order to break away from the routine of essay recital. While I don’t want to tout this sermon as a wonderful example of homiletics, I do feel like it represents the best balance between the colloquial and the reverent that I have yet come up with.

Let me know what you think.


First Scripture Reading:

Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”

But Naboth replied, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”
So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.

His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”
He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’ ”
Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”

So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned and is dead.”

As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.

Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. Say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’ ”

Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!”

“I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD. ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. …’”

I Kings 21:1-21a (NIV)


Second Scripture Reading:

When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.

The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.”

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'”

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the LORD, the son born to you will die.”

After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.

II Samuel 11:26-12:10, 12:13-15 (NIV)


A Tale of Two Kings

We all love heroes. As children, our heroes are always the clear good guys — Superman, Batman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman. We look to our heroes to see what we like best about ourselves. Our fictional heroes often personify this goodness. When we see them on the streets fighting the good fight, living honest lives and helping others, it makes us feel better about ourselves because we see a little bit of our own desire in them.

From time to time, though, even the strongest heroes stumble. Every other movie or so, Spiderman seems to stray off the straight and narrow path for a bit, only to recognize he’s not really himself unless he’s there, fighting on the side of good. Every now and then the egotistical, slightly conceited Bruce Wayne leaks through into Batman’s persona.

We turn a blind eye to these flaws in our childhood heroes. Maybe it’s because we’re still so pleased with the overwhelming number of good things they do that we let them off the hook. Or maybe it’s because we see ourselves in their failures too; we understand what it’s like to be human.

Of all the shining heroes of the Bible, perhaps David is the brightest.

David, Israel’s best king, established the temple at Jerusalem, led the people to live within God’s law and brought prosperity to the nation. He would forever be known as “A man after God’s own heart.”

In contrast, Ahab, Israel’s worst king, disregarded the Lord and condoned the worship of Canaanite gods. Ahab ignored the law Yahweh had given to the people of Israel and oppressed the nation. “Indeed,” scripture says, “there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”

At first glance, David and Ahab are polar opposites. Yet both of these men have committed grave sins — conspiracy to murder and steal

David’s story is a familiar Sunday school lesson. He has fallen into a trap of ever-increasing sin, beginning with his lust for Bathsheba and ending with the conspiracy to murder her husband, one of David’s own top warriors. The prophet Nathan tells David a story about a rich man who takes something that doesn’t belong to him. David regains his moral compass, his sense of what is right and what is wrong. He repents, and God forgives his sins. There are still consequences to his actions, but David’s humble confession allows the Lord’s grace to move into his life, washing away the sin. He will go on to be Israel’s greatest king.

Ahab’s plot to steal Naboth’s vineyard is the final episode in a long series of bad decisions and sinful acts. Honoring God was never a priority for Ahab. At the beginning of his reign, Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter of a rival king. He built temples and altars to honor Baal, the god of Jezebel’s homeland, while neglecting the altar of Yahweh. He oppressed his people. Ahab valued building projects more than the lives of his citizens. At the request of the queen, he had the prophets of God murdered. Even when the Lord continued to bless Ahab, giving him a military victory in what seemed to be a hopeless situation, Ahab disregards God’s instructions about dealing with the enemy king in order to gain a little praise and flattery for himself. We have no trouble understanding how this corrupt king could stoop so low as to plot against an innocent man for a few acres of choice farmland — land the king doesn’t really need at all. It’s simply in his nature. He’s that kind of guy, and Elijah is ready to give him what he deserves.

In “The Message” Eugene Peterson provides a little bit of color in the dialogue between the corrupt king and faithful prophet. Ahab’s “greeting” — if it can be called that — is characteristic of his relationship with the prophet. “My enemy! So, you’ve run me down!” “Yes, I’ve found you out,” said Elijah. “And because you’ve bought into the business of evil, defying God. ‘I will most certainly bring doom upon you, make mincemeat of your descendants, kill off every sorry male wretch who’s even remotely connected with the name Ahab. And I’ll bring down on you the same fate that fell on Jeroboam and Baasha — you’ve made me that angry by making Israel sin.’”

Confronted with the harsh reality of his sin, of what his life has become, David says “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Ahab says “So you have found me, my enemy!”

David confesses his sins because he comes to recognize them as evil.

Ahab admits his sins because he knows he has been caught.

Without hesitation, Nathan offers history’s great king a word straight from heaven: “Your sins are forgiven. The Lord has taken them away.”

Your sins are forgiven.” Is it really that easy? For God it is. For Nathan it was. For David, it had to be.

Elijah’s answer to Ahab’s confession is just as quick, but not quite as comforting. “’I will destroy you,’ says the Lord. ‘I will bring disaster on you. I will consume you.’”

On second thought, maybe Elijah’s judgment is just as comforting as Nathan’s. Don’t we want a God who delivers swift justice to the evil ones? Don’t we want a God who can look into the hearts of men and separate the sheep from the goats, the righteous from the rebellious, the penitent from the insolent? Don’t men like Ahab — men who let selfish ambition and reckless greed — need to get what they have coming to them? It’s only fair.

David understood this. He knew what was fair and what wasn’t. His strong sense of right and wrong is what ushered Israel into its greatest period of prosperity.

David also understood that he couldn’t do it alone. David’s relationship to Nathan is one of the best prophet-king partnerships in scripture. David appreciates having someone he can trust hold him accountable. He is always willing to listen to what Nathan has to say and considers his advice.

Ahab’s relationship with Elijah is likely the worst prophet-king relationship in Israel’s history. Elijah’s confrontations with Ahab get more and more heated as time goes on, to the point that Ahab seeks to have the prophet killed. Why is it so hard for some people to take good advice, or even to listen to someone who may come from a different perspective?

David also understood that he needed God. Hear the good king’s own words, recorded in Psalm 5:1-8:

        Give ear to my words, O Lord;
                Give heed to my sighing.
        Listen to the sounds of my cry,
                my King and my God,
                for to you I pray.
        O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
                In the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.

        For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
                Evil will not sojourn with you.
        The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
                you hate all evildoers.
        You destroy those who speak lies;
                The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty, and deceitful.

        But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
                will enter your house,
        I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
        Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
                because of my enemies;
                make your way straight before me.

NRSV

We may say we want a god of justice; a god who punishes evil and destroys liars. It’s true that God hates evil. David told us “The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.” But thank goodness he didn’t stop there. Our God is not a simple God.

In 1787, the Constitution of the United States marked the beginning of a new era in human society. It set a precedent for how government should be run and how justice should be administered. It has been replicated throughout the world and has withstood the test of time largely because of its revolutionary simplicity. For many people, justice and government, right and wrong, evil and righteousness, are simple things.

Fortunately for David, and for us, our God is not quite that simple. If he was, David would be right there with the worst of them. David’s sins put him in the same class as Ahab. Ahab conspired to murder a man because he wanted to steal his family farm. David conspired to murder a man because he wanted to steal his wife.

“The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.”

“But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
        will enter your house;
I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.”

History might record David as the great king, the righteous ruler of Israel, but David wasn’t quite so proud of himself. He knew that no matter how good he was, no matter how bad he was, it was ultimately God who had the power to save, and it was only through God that he, the king of Israel, could be redeemed.

From time to time, we may ask God for justice, but I for one am glad that what he offers is not justice, but grace; not judgment, but an abundance of steadfast love.

What, then, is to become of our friend King Ahab? How does he fit into God’s order of things? If there is a limit to this abundant love David spoke of, surely Ahab found it. Let’s go back and listen in a little more on this scene between Ahab and his “enemy,” the prophet Elijah. Elijah has pronounced his sentence on Ahab: total destruction. This is the justice man seeks. This is the justice Elijah cries out for with every ounce of mortal passion within him. This is the justice Ahab deserves.

“When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in sackcloth, and went about dejectedly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days, but in his son’s days I will bring disaster on his house.”

I Kings 21:27-29 (NRSV)

This business of the son being doomed for the father’s sin is confusing at first, but rest assured that Ahab’s son gets a fair chance as well. This line tells us more about how each person is responsible for their own choices before God, that is, each child has to seek out God’s grace on his own, not ride into heaven on the coattails of his parents. But that’s another sermon for another day.

What’s important here, is Ahab doesn’t get what he deserves any more than David got what he deserved. They are both helpless victims of God’s abundant, steadfast love. They are two of Israel’s most notorious kings — David is notorious for his general goodwill, his desire to serve his people and to please the Lord; Ahab is notorious for the way he oppressed his people and spent most of his life scorning Yahweh and all those who called on him. They are both great sinners. They are both helpless to save themselves, and, in the end, they both turn to the God of Creation, the God of Love, the God of Mercy, the God of Grace, to redeem them. And he does.

God is still able to redeem us today. He sent his son, Jesus Christ, to demonstrate his love for humanity. Confronted with this desperate need for salvation above and beyond the power of men, the world responded in much the same way Ahab responds to Elijah. “So, Jesus, you have found us out. “

Jesus was scorned, attacked and brutally murdered so that shameful men might not have to deal with their own shortcomings, with their own sins. Even this was not enough to test the limits of God’s abundant, steadfast love. To make his point once and for all, the Lord Jesus rose from the grave. He went back into the world of men — the world that had beaten him away in an effort to beat back it’s own sin. Jesus’ message to us is the same message Nathan took to David, the same message Elijah took to Ahab. “You can’t do it on your own. Admit it. Believe it. And then, once you’ve found your limit, believe in me. Believe in the God of all Creation. Believe in my power to save you. To wash away your sin and give you new life, abundant life, in me.”

This is the message everyone — humble fishermen, sun-burnt farmers toiling away at the family vineyard, and even the world’s mightiest kings — everyone, needs to understand.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes:

We ourselves are Jews by birth [you and I, we are already members of God’s family]¹ and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. … For through the law I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

Galatians 2:15-16,19-21 (NRSV)

1. My interpretative addition.


Preaching in the Crisis

I’ve wanted to share this message for a while now. Considering it deals with the same text (John 6) that I discussed in my last post, I thought it would be appropriate to offer it as an alternative perspective.

This sermon was delivered at Butler Chapel on January 19, during the first chapel service I had an opportunity to attend as a student at Campbell Divinity School. The guest speaker that day, Dr. J. Kameron Carter, set the standard high; other speakers this semester followed his precedent, making Tuesday morning chapel services an eagerly anticipated staple of my weekly spiritual diet.

Dr. Carter is an associate professor of theology and black church studies at Duke Divinity School. His sermon digs deep into the meaning of Jesus’s miraculous feeding of the 5,000, as recorded in the Gospel of John. Dr. Carter relies on archeological and historical research to move deeper into this text than I have witnessed any other preacher do, yet he still manages to bring it around to the heavy implications Jesus’s actions have for modern-day disciples. If you don’t believe sincere scholarship, extra-biblical sources and a fiery passion for the gospel can hold places in the same sermon, take a few minutes to watch this video and then we’ll talk.

Let me forewarn you, this sermon starts out slow — very slow. I think Dr. Carter knew he didn’t run the risk of having any of his audience leave the chapel early during the service, so he took some time to build up his message for effect. Stick with it and you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t have time to watch it now, bookmark this page and come back to it one day when you’ve got some free time or just feel the need to listen to some quality preaching. Or, if you prefer, you can download an MP3 of the sermon below and listen to it at your convenience. Enjoy!

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=10459076&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=ffffff&fullscreen=1

In writing sermons this semester, I have been trying to find a balance between reverent and colloquial language; between reading an essay and sharing a conversation. I usually find myself erring too much to one side, and then overcorrect the message to the other extreme — either making it so colloquial I fear I may have offended my listeners, or so lecture-like that I begin to bore myself. I don’t think Dr. Carter’s sermon is the best I’ve ever heard, and I wouldn’t hold it up as a perfect model, but I do think he achieves a wonderful balance between the scholar and the friend.

Let me know what you think.
Does this make for an inspiring message, or do you think too much analysis of the situation kills the sermon? If this doesn’t work for you, what elements go into great preaching that you have heard?

[audio:https://davidajr.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/myrtle-beach-116.jpgwp-content/uploads/2010/05/DrCarterSermonaudio.mp3|titles=Dr. J. Kameron Carter]
Dr. J. Kameron Carter @ Campbell Divinity School
January 19, 2010
Right Click to Download MP3 — 5.7 Mb