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Showing posts from April, 2013

Big Church Week Four: "The Threshold"

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This week I am continuing my sermon series on the book of Acts, entitled "Big Church"---a series based on the idea that the Church is a movement, not an institution.  As we continue to affirm each week:  Jesus didn't create a mission for the Church, Jesus created a church for his mission.

The passage of Scripture that I'll be preaching from this week is Acts 10.  Yup.  The whole chapter.  I tried to break it down a bit, but in the end I decided to just preach from the whole chapter.  I'm not going to reprint the entire chapter here in the blog, though.

Click here to read the whole chapter, which I highly recommend that you do right this instant.  

So this whole story starts off with a vision---Cornelius, the centurion has one of an angel who tells him to go send for Peter, the Apostle, and then the story jumps to Peter who has a vision of a sheet full of non-kosher animals that he is commanded to "kill and eat."

A word about visions might be in order.…

Big Church Week 3: "Tabitha's Tale"

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This week I am preaching the third installment of the sermon series, "Big Church."  The entire foundation of this series is grounded in the notion that the Church is not an institution, it's a movement.  Jesus did not create a mission for the Church, he created a Church for His Mission.

The text for the sermon this week is a strange little story embedded in Acts chapter 9 immediately following the dramatic conversion of Saul.  Here's it is:


36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”
39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing tha…

The Ladder: A Metaphor for The Church

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I took this photo outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the most famous Christian site in all of the city.   It is said to be built over the sites where Jesus was crucified, and buried.

In the years 326-328 Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, was given unlimited resources by her son to locate all of the Holy Relics and sites related to Jesus life, ministry, death, burial and resurrection.

According to Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem, the site of the true cross of Jesus was discovered when the remains of the cross healed a woman who was near death.  It seems that Helena arranged for the woman to be brought to the site in order to "test" whether it was really the cross of Jesus.  After this miracle, Constantine ordered a church to be built on the spot where it was discovered.

The original church was destroyed by the Persians in the 5th century, rebuilt in the Byzantine era and stre…

Big Church Week Two - "The Wrong Choice"

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God's ideas about fueling a movement are "whack."
[If you don't know what the word "whack" means, you need a primer on your hip-hop speak circa 1989.  Or you can simply read the various definitions here.]

Take the way that God transformed the Apostle Paul, for example.

God decided that Paul (formerly known as Saul) was the perfect choice to give movement to The Way (which was what Christianity was called in those early days... I sort of like it better to be honest!).

And that's exactly what Paul/Saul did.

Without Paul there would have been no rapid expansion of The Way to the Gentiles, and eventually to Rome itself.  Paul accounted for 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, not to mention being the Church's first real theologian.

Here's the thing, though.  If you didn't know how the story ended, you would have never predicted any of this stuff happening.  Saul enters the story of the Church as a bad guy.

The passage of Scripture that…

Dispatches from the Holy Land: St. Peter in Gallicantu

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Yesterday our little band of pilgrims began our first full day in the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. As part of our journey we travelled down the Mt.of Olives through the Garden of Gethsemane and then to the house of Caiphas--the High Priest. Caiphas' house is underneath a French church that is called St. Peter in Gallicantu which means St. Peter of the Crowing Cock--named for the moment when Peter realizes that he has indeed done exactly as he said he would never do and denied Jesus not once but three times.

If you recall Peter waited outside in the courtyard of the house while Jesus was being held and beaten on the inside. Below the house of Caiphas there is a pit that was filled in during the first century converting what had once been a ceremonial bath. The only way into the pit was through a hole that one had to be lowered into from above by ropes. Jesus was left in this pit no doubt probably manacled to a spot on the ceiling of the pit itself. Once the t…

Dispatches From The Holy Land - "Redemption"

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[For those who have been following along---I have been leading a group of church members family and newfound friends on a pilgrimage through the Holy Land. The last week has been spent in the Galilee region of Israel---as well as some memorable excursions beyond it]

This week that we have spent literally walking in the footsteps of Jesus has taken our little band of pilgrims on some incredible journeys. Our trip to the "Primacy of Peter" was one of the more memorable sites for me---as it was the last time I made the trip. I have been thinking a lot about what it means to follow Jesus lately and this site spoke to me in a fairly awesome way.

The Primacy of Peter is the traditional site on the Sea of Galilee where this took place:

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you lov…

Big Church Week One: "It's On!"

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When I was a kid I "went to church."  Church was both a destination and an act.
It was a place I went, and something I did.

Every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday evening my family would "go to church," which meant that we would gather with the members of whatever congregation that we happened to be a part of at the time and we would engage in what some might call worship.

We didn't.  We called it "church."

Church was an object rather than a subject.  It was wholly other to us.  We were a part of the churches we attended, but beyond our involvement at the appointed times, we didn't really walk around thinking about whether being part of a particular congregation pointed to some sort of higher meaning for us.

My experience is probably not that dissimilar from most church-going Christian folk.  Us Christian types tend to gravitate toward the notion that "church" is a destination, rather than an identity.  In other words, we…

Blurry Vision of Jesus

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Today was the third full day of the Holy Land pilgrimage that I am leading with members of my church and some new friends that have joined us.

One of the sites that we visited was the ancient city of Bethsaida--one of the many towns that Jesus visited repeatedly during his ministry to the Galilee. Bethsaida is a word that loosely means "House of Hunting & Fishing" and it indeed was a town that was famous for both. It was also a location that was blessed by fertile land all around it and had been a major city for nearly two thousand years before Jesus arrived there.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a major Canaanite city named Geshur on the site of ancient Bethsaida. Geshur was a city that was loyal to King David and even supplied him with one of his several wives from among it's royal family.

But Bethsaida is known more famously for two things: 1) the miracles that Jesus performed there--particularly the healing of a blind man which was done in…