Showing posts from July, 2014

Bless This Home - Week 3: "Persecuted"

This week we are concluding the three-part sermon series, "Bless This Home: Lessons for Families from Jesus."  We've been guided by some of the very words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount: three short passages found in Matthew chapter 5.

Over the past couple of weeks we've been highlighting the difference between having a "Christian" home as opposed to having a "Christ-centered" home.  In todays culture, it's easy to let the word "Christian" trip off of our tongues when we describe ourselves or our family life.

But what we've come to understand is that the word "Christian" doesn't always have the most positive connotations for emerging generations of people in our culture.  Far too many people equate being Christian with bigotry, intolerance, judgement and a holier-than-thou attitude.

We've been trying to reframe the conversation a bit by highlighting the differences between merely saying that you are a…

Bless This Home - Week 2: "Peacemakers"

This week we are continuing the sermon series that we began last week--a three-part series entitled, "Bless This Home: Lessons for Families from Jesus."
And we're focusing primarily on three verses--all of which are found in the Beatitudes, the very beginning of Jesus'Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapter 5.

In the first installment of this series we talked about how there is a difference between saying that you have a "Christian" home as opposed to having a "Christ-centered" home--a difference that is highlighted in the things that we long for in our homes.

Matthew 5:6 reads, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled."  We determined that righteousness--which is a shorthand way of saying a "right relationship with God"--is always on the menu in a Christ-centered home.  In a Christ-centered home the things of God are lifted higher than anything else.  The family in a Christ-centere…

Recovering The Sermon Part 4: Processes, Furniture, Remodeling

Welcome to Part 4 in the "Recovering The Sermon" blog posts--loosely based on a preaching workshop I facilitated recently for pastors, preachers and communicators.

In this post we get down to the nuts and bolts--the old nitty gritty--where the proverbial rubber meets the proverbial road.  I can't think of any more cliches.

We're going to begin with antennae.

A few posts ago, I mentioned that when you are planning your sermons or talks several weeks or months in advance, you will find that you walk around with your antennae up, so to speak.

But I would argue that the great communicators always have their antennae up--they are always open to seeing God, truth, Jesus, hope, beauty in the world around them.

"Have your eyes open to the world, be alert to the things that are curious, that speak.  If you find the world interesting, you will be interesting." - Rob Bell

Rob Bell famously uses a term called "buckets" to describe where he stores the ide…

A Lesson On Making People Hate Church

If you are a church leader, pastor, or otherwise church-y kind of person---this will sting a little, but it needs to be said:  You are probably the reason someone, somewhere doesn't want to ever go to church again. 

I know.  Feel the sting.

It's like Bactine on a knee-scrape.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step.

The second step is asking the obvious question: "In what ways have I caused others to hate church?"  Or to put it in corporate terms, "What is my church doing to make people hate coming to church?"

A lot, as it turns out.

There are hundreds of things that church-y people do to make people who aren't that church-y feel like an outsider because... they aren't that church-y.  It could be the way a church welcomes--or doesn't, insider-friendly worship, closed groups, you name it.

But I have come to believe that the biggest culprit when it comes to antipathy toward church is when a congregation, faith community or denominatio…

Bless This Home - Week One: Hunger & Thirst After RighteousnessRom

This week we are beginning a brand new three-part sermon series entitled "Bless this Home: Lessons for Families from Jesus."  And as part of our study, we're going to be focusing on a few key verses from the introduction to Jesus powerful Sermon on the Mount--what some people call "The Beatitudes."

This is the first full-blown sermon series that I've preached on the issues that are facing families in our culture in a very long time--perhaps the first time since I've been at First Church.  Which might seem odd at first, but I gave some thought as to the possible reasons.

To begin with, it's a broad topic.  Where do we even begin?  How do we figure out what areas to focus on when it comes to family issues--because there are so many things that families in our culture seem to be struggling with right about now.

Secondly, family dynamics in our culture are changing more rapidly than in any other time in recent history.  Our understanding of what con…

Recovering the Sermon Pt. 3: The Sermon As A Work of Art

This is the third installment of the blog series that I am doing--recapping a recent preaching workshop I facilitated, and adding a bit of content to what I shared then.

Today, we're going to explore what it means when we say that the sermon is a "work of art."

To begin with, there is a loneliness to the act of creation--at least at the outset.  I think all artists experience this.  At least in the first stages of creation the idea, the dream, the imagery, the vision of what is to be created exists only in the mind of the artist.  And more often than not, the ideas, dreams, etc. may not be all that fully formed.

I think the loneliness we feel at this stage of creation is our own finite taste of what caused God to create to begin with--a desire for connection, to see see our creation live, breathe, move, appear.  The desire to create is powerful, and so the loneliness we often feel in those early moments can be powerful as well.

Which is how it should be.  The preach…

Recovering the Sermon Pt. 2: The Sermon As Our Story

This is the second installment of the blog post series recapping the Rob Bell-inspired Preaching Workshop I facilitated recently.

If you missed the first installment, you can find it HERE.

When last we met, we were just about to touch on the idea of how the preacher can tap into the universality of his/her experiences to help a congregation begin to exegete the world with the same intentionality that they exegete the word.

"There's a moment in all great stories where the word takes on flesh and blood..." - Rob Bell 

Great stories move back and forth between the universal and particular.  They oscillate between them, creating tension and then releasing it.  Take the television show Lost for example.  The story of Lost oscillated between the stories of the group, together lost on The Island, and the individual stories of the castaways themselves.  This back and forth movement between what was common to all, and what was particular to some created and released tension, w…