2/28/2016 Sermon: Betrayal

What was Judas thinking? He was one of a dozen men who were closer to Jesus than anyone.  They heard more of his teaching, spent more time with him, saw more of what he did than anyone.  They were considered his friends. So how could Judas do it?  How could he hand Jesus over? The Scripture for today is blunt.  Just three verses to tell us how Judas sold Jesus out: “Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I betray him to you?’ They paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26:14-16). Why in the world would he do a thing like that? Some think of Judas as pure evil, the typecast bad guy in the passion narrative who stabbed Jesus in the back.  I’ve always felt uneasy about that view of him, but I’m not the best judge of character.  So rather than go on my gut feeling, this week I took a look at Matthew’s account of Judas.  And it doesn’t start out putting Judas in a very positive light: When he’s introduced in Matthew 10:4 on a list of the twelve disciples, Judas is identified as “the one who betrayed him.” Labelled, right from the start. Then in today’s passage, 26:14-18, Judas makes the deal with the chief priests to give Jesus over. Not long after, at the last supper (26:20-25), Jesus reveals that one of them will betray him. Then he narrows it down:  it’s one who...

2/14/2016 Sermon

Matthew 21:12-17 On the Monday before he died, Jesus got mad. Well, I guess it doesn’t say “Jesus got mad” in Matthew 21, but that’s the only way I can picture this scene going down.  Jesus walks into the Temple – not the inner sanctuary but the outer courtyard where people are selling animals for sacrifice and exchanging currency.  Jesus walks in and drives all those people out.  He turns over their tables and chairs.  He makes a big, fat mess of things.  I can’t imagine doing all that without any emotion. So it’s fair to say – don’t you think? – that on the Monday before Jesus died, he got mad. Let’s talk about why he got mad. Growing up, I always figured Jesus was mad because there were some shady things afoot.  There’s money involved, and when money’s involved things can easily get shady.  And they are buying and selling in the Temple.  That seems so weird to me, like having a Starbucks in our church entryway or something.  No offense if your church has a Starbucks in it, but I’m just not used to it.  And if it made Jesus so mad, then surely they were charging too much and generally being unethical about it. Right? Well, maybe not.  There was legitimate need for those animals being sold and coins being exchanged.  People traveled long distances to the Temple, and it was often impractical to carry their own animals with them.  They needed to buy one once they arrived.  And in order to make offerings in the Temple people needed money – money that didn’t have...
2/7/2016 Sermon

2/7/2016 Sermon

Psalm 99 God is our friend. Isn’t that amazing?  After washing the disciples’ feet Jesus tells them that they’re his friends – several times, in fact (John 15:13-15).  Jesus is our friend.  God is our friend. I was fortunate to grow up in a church that taught me about this loving God who wants to be my friend.  And that is nothing but goodness for me… except that sometimes I can get so used to the idea that I take it too far.  At some points in my life I have acted as though God was my teddy bear, a benign warm fuzzy, a good buddy. But God is more than that. God is the creator of the universe.  God is all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present.  If we remember that God is God, we couldn’t possibly confuse God for a warm, safe teddy bear.  Psalm 99 says God is a mighty king whose presence makes people tremble and the earth quake.  God is so great that approaching God involves a dose of fear. I saw something on my trip last week that reminded me of Psalm 99.  I was on this golf trip with my dad and brothers, playing courses that ran along the Pacific Ocean in California.  The shoreline there isn’t like the Gulf of Mexico that I grew up with; it’s crashing waves and big cliffs and huge rocks.  At one spot in particular the four of us were so amazed, we stood still for a while before teeing off and watched the waves thunder in and sweep out again.  It was so beautiful… and yet, it also made...