Showing posts from July, 2012

Series on the Family: Caring for the Aged

Pope John Paul II said, “A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members, and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying.” This excellent quote sets the stage for the first installment of a sermon series on the family. This week’s lesson looks at how we treat some of our society’s weakest members: the aged.

Throughout August, I will be preaching about the unique situations of today’s families. This won't be your typical sermon series about families. I won't propagate the stereotypes about happy mom, dad, 2 kids and a dog/cat. I have nothing against normal, happy families, and one of my sermons will talk about marriage. But the situations faced by today's families are far more complex than what stereotypes can handle.

The apostle Paul’s comments on this subject were perhaps more stark than the pope’s. He wrote, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is w…

Big Conversations about Declining Churches

In the past week, a conversation has filled Facebook walls and Tweet chats. Many have hit the blogosphere. They want to discuss an op-ed article by Ross Douthat in NY Times & a follow-up by Diana Butler Bass in the Huffington Post.

Ross Douthat wrote to pile on with those who describe the steep decline of attendance in the Episcopalian Church. Could there be complex and multiple reasons for their decline? Not according to Douthat. He views the culprit as the embrace of a social liberal agenda. He writes, "But if conservative Christianity has often been compromised, liberal Christianity has simply collapsed. Practically every denomination — Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian — that has tried to adapt itself to contemporary liberal values has seen an Episcopal-style plunge in church attendance." In other words, embrace liberal values and plummet in attendance.

Douthat may be right. The liberal social agenda may drive many church-goers to more conservative congregations. But…

For God So Loved -- John 3:16 in Context

It's perhaps the most well-known verse in all of scripture. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). From the crazy colored-hair guy who always showed up at sporting events to the black strips under Tim Tebow's eyes, the shorthand for this verse is etched into our minds.

But what does it mean? How are we to understand these words?

When we step back and read the entire section of John 3, we find a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a highly placed Jewish teacher and leader. Nicodemus is in the dark (figuratively, perhaps), and he is curious about "the signs" Jesus has been performing. These signs indicate that Jesus must be from God, but Nicodemus doesn't understand who Jesus is.Jesus begins to talk about rebirth as a prerequisite for entrance into God's kingdom. Nicodemus doesn't understand spiritual rebirth--it apparently wasn't a par…

I Can Do All Things -- Phil 4:13 in Context

In the 2011 movie Soul Surfer, 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton lies on her hospital bed. She is a prize-winning surfer who just lost her left arm in a shark attack. Fearful that she will have to give up her life's passion, she asks her father (played by Dennis Quaid) when she can get back on her surfboard. He leans toward her and begins to quote (sort of) Philippians 4:13, "You can do all things." At this point, Bethany joins in and recites it with her father, "Through him who strengthens me."

Here's a link to the movie clip.

The real life story of Bethany Hamilton is touching and inspirational. I'm all for her and her story. The movie is a great pick-me-up, and I am grateful for any film that puts a relatively good spin on Christian faith.

But something here is lost in translation (so to speak). Paul's statement in Phil 4:13 comes across as an endorsement for wishful thinking. One might get the sense that Christians think Jesus can help them do anythi…

Higgs Boson (subatomic particle) & Human Perspective

I love this David Horsey cartoon from the LA Times. "Perspective is everything." Isn't that the truth?! Doesn't that phrase apply to so many things that are "hotly debated" or "deeply divisive" or even "incredibly important" to the future of our churches, our planet and our human race? This could describe the way some folks in our churches marvel at certain insights while others could care less. Great satire.