The Least, First

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Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ Category

Pentecost, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Cyclone Nargis (sermon for May 11, 2008)

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Day of Pentecost
May 11, 2008

Acts 2:1-21; Psalm 104:24-34, 35b; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13; John 20:19-23

Meet With Me; You Are the One; Light the Fire; Meet Us

Acts 2 [sermon follows]

A Sound Like a Strong Wind

1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force-no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

5-11There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs! “They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

12Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?” 13Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”

Peter Speaks Up

14-21That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk-it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:

“In the Last Days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit On those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy. I’ll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, Blood and fire and billowing smoke, the sun turning black and the moon blood-red, Before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous; And whoever calls out for help to me, God, will be saved.”

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

What’s on my mind is how much God cares for the whole world, and how much I want my own heart to be that way. His story is always so “go-ey.” Here, the guests in the city understand – in their own language. See? God causes people to go communicate with other people.

This kept coming up this week. Human culture isn’t often that way.

A friend blogged about a Muslim boy who fell under the spell of some extremists, was going to be a suicide bomber, got caught, probably went to prison. My much-valued friend is an agnostic, and she saw the fault of religion in it—especially given the fact the the books of our faiths (my own included) seem to advocate violence sometimes. She ends:

Reality-based morality is the only way humanity is going to make it to a peaceful future. To see the oneness of our species shows the violence for what it is: brother killing brother, an abomination.

[At that sentence I saw a glimmer of familiarity in the eyes of my friends in church. They liked it!]

I found that moving. So I wrote back: Read the rest of this entry »

Funnier than it seems (sermon for May 4, 2008)

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Seventh Sunday of Easter; May 4, 2008

Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10,32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14; 1 Peter 5:6-11; John 17:1-11

Holy Is the Lord
There is a Louder Shout to Come
He Who Began a Good Work in You
Knowing You
Emmanuel
In His Time

Acts 1:6-14
6When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”

7-8He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”

9-11These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared-in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!-why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly-and mysteriously-as he left.”

Returning to Jerusalem

12-13So they left the mountain called Olives and returned to Jerusalem. It was a little over half a mile. They went to the upper room they had been using as a meeting place:

Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas, son of James. 14They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his brothers.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

This is funnier than it seems.

Jesus has been with them for 3 1/2 years. He’s taught them every day. He’s lived the perfect example of what God is like, and right in front of them. What lessons they’ve had! What amazing moments they’ve seen! Read the rest of this entry »

You know the Voice [sermon for April 13, 2008]

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His Masters VoiceFourth Sunday of Easter

April 13, 2008—Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10

Let’s say you breed beautiful, valuable hunting dogs. You have new puppies. You keep them in your fenced yard.

One afternoon, you come home early, walk into the house, look out the kitchen window. You’re watch the puppies play – when a stranger pops his head up beyond the fence, looks around, throws one leg over, and rolls over into the yard. Read the rest of this entry »

White evangelical voters: poverty no. 1 moral issue

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The Great AwakeningI had always been a skeptic of the church of personal peace and prosperity … of righteous people standing in a holy huddle while the world rages outside the stained glass. But I’ve learned that there are many people of the cloth who are also in the world, and from debt cancellation to the fight against AIDS and for human rights, they are on the march. – Bono

Change is indeed in the air. As voters head to the polls (I write this on Super Tuesday, 2-5-08, in the USA), the main moral issue on the minds of white evangelicals is now poverty! That homecoming is nothing short of astonishing.

clipped from blog.beliefnet.com
[New York Times] columnist Nicholas Kristof quotes The Great Awakening, where Jim Wallis says, “Evangelicals are going to vote this year in part on climate change, on Darfur, on poverty.” Kristof then adds that, according to a CBS News poll, this year white evangelicals consider the fight against poverty to be the top moral issue, displacing abortion to a distant second.
Kristoff quotes CARE’s Helene Gayle about evangelicals’ work against global poverty: they “have made some incredible contributions … We don’t give them credit for the changes they’ve made.” Similarly, Environmental Defense president Fred Krupp said, “Many evangelical leaders have been key to taking the climate issue across the cultural divide.”
Kristof concludes, “In parts of Africa where bandits and warlords shoot or rape anything that moves, you often find that the only groups still operating are Doctors Without Borders and religious aid workers: crazy doctors and crazy Christians.”
  blog it
More of Rick Warren’s story:

I could see this shift in action a few weeks ago in Davos at the World Economic Forum. I got to see Rick Warren in action, motivating business and political leaders to put poverty, disease, and peace-making higher on their agenda. Kristof tells a story about Warren, who for many years didn’t pay much attention to these issues of social justice and compassion. Then, during a 2003 visit to Africa, Rick came into a ramshackle tent where a little church was caring for 25 AIDS orphans.

Rick said, “I realized they were doing more for the poor than my entire megachurch. … It was like a knife in the heart.” Kristof recounts how Rick turned this heartbreak into action: mobilizing his church to constructive action in 68 countries, recruiting 7,500 members to pay their own way to serve poor people around the world – experiencing a transformation in their own values and priorities in the process.

Mm-mm. That’s renewal: hearts moved toward the priorities of Jesus.

OK, God:  Show me my place in it!


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Written by Monte

February 5, 2008 at 2:19 pm

Conservatives of Jesus’ time were against him

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Remarkable conclusions of theologian Stanley Hauerwas:
clipped from findarticles.com
“The functional character of contemporary religious convictions is perhaps nowhere better revealed than in the upsurge of religious conservatism. While appearing to be a resurgence of `traditional’ religious conviction, some of these movements in fact give evidence of the loss of religious substance in our culture and in ourselves. Christianity is defended not so much because it is true, but because it reinforces the `American way of life.’ Such movements are thus unable to contemplate that there might be irresolvable tensions between being Christian and being `a good American.'”
Phillips Brooks, a Protestant pastor in the late nineteenth century, wrote: “In the best sense of the word, Jesus was a radical. … His religion has so long been identified with conservatism … that it is almost startling sometimes to remember that all the conservatives of his own times were against him; that it was the young, free, restless, sanguine, progressive part of the people who flocked to him.”
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So it seems.


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Written by Monte

January 3, 2008 at 3:48 pm

My unrespectable hero (sermon of Sep 16, ’07)

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I loved preaching this sermon; even more, I loved preparing it. Discovering afresh who Jesus is and what his passions are still breathes life into my heart. May it serve you, so.

Two shepherds. Which best represents a Bible figure?

good-shepherd.jpgshepherd boy

Proper 19 (24) September 16, 2007
Luke 15:1-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Jeremiah 4:11-12,22-28; Psalm 14

We sang Cry of My Heart; Shout to the North; Above All; Be the Centre

And the sermon:

[With the opening of the Luke verses on the video screen, I moved between parts of the congregation, asking the people on one side to be the group described in the first verse. The first group’s job was to appear disreputable, which was really pretty funny.] Read the rest of this entry »

A Great Awakening?

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Justice in the BurbsHere’s some good news that dares my heart to hope. Listen to Will and Lisa Samson, authors of Justice in the Burbs: Being the hands of Jesus wherever you live

We both grew up in good Christian homes. … We figure, between the two of us, that we’ve heard about 4,000 sermons. … We went to Christian schools, Christian college, Christian camps. We were involved in Scripture memory programs.  And when did we memorize a verse about God’s concern for the poor? […]

And so one day we began to read Scripture with an open lens. One day we began to read Scripture for what was [really] there

Oooh-hooo, that causes trouble. Watch them tell it:

Justice in the Burbs

Ah, the mercy of God! Day after day, I see American Christians awakening from a long sleep, suddenly aware that their Bibles tell of a Jesus whose incredible passion for justice shouts from every page, and they have not known it.

Many of us—I speak of myself—have not well followed this Jesus. We’ve followed instead the less troublesome, personal-salvation-obsessed, who’s-our-enemy-now religion deduced from evangelical dogma and 20th-century eschatological novelties—and so startlingly absent from the Gospels. And now we scarcely know what to do when we look afresh at the breathtaking things Jesus says and does.

But something’s up. There’s a change in the air, I think. And I don’t know that I’ve sensed anything quite like it before. These things are subjective; I certainly could be wrong.

But dare we wonder if it might be so, or what it means?


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Written by Monte

September 20, 2007 at 2:38 pm