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The Most Important Person in the Room

The Most Important Person in the Room

Exodus 32:1-17 This is a low moment in Israel’s history. Moses has been up on Mount Sinai with God for forty days (24:18).  To Israel’s credit, that is kind of a sizable sabbatical.  If I were gone from my church for a month and a half I would assume that my congregation would make some big decisions in my absence. But I’d also hope they’d make some good big decisions. Israel does not.  They lose patience with Moses’ delay.  They come up with a big idea on their own.  They go to Aaron, Moses’ brother and second-in-command, with this big idea: “This ‘Moses’ – we don’t know if he’s ever coming back.  So let’s stop wasting time and make gods for ourselves.  Then let’s throw a festival for those gods – let’s have a big party!” This is a huge mistake, and if you studied the Ten Commandments with us last week you know why.  If not, you can flip back to Exodus 20 and see: Rule #1:  No other gods. Rule #2:  No idols. I mean, it’s not just that theses two are covered in the Ten Commandments… they’re the top two.  Israel comes to Aaron with the idea (bad enough), and then Aaron’s response is along the lines of, “Sure, why not?” These are the moments of disobedience that will push a parent to the snapping point, like:  I JUST TOLD YOU NOT TO DO THAT FIVE MINUTES AGO AND NOW YOU’RE DOING THE EXACT THING I SAID NOT TO DO!  God is our Father, the perfect parent.  So does God feel that flash of human rage...
God is great, God is good

God is great, God is good

Exodus 20:1-17 There’s a prayer we say together before dinner at night.  I bet you can guess which one.  I’ll even give you a hint:  we have two small children. Yep, you got it: God is great, God is good, Let us thank him for our food. By his hands we all are fed; Give us Lord our daily bread. Amen. (Optionally followed by:  Dig in!) I’ve said this prayer my whole life… but I don’t think I thought about it until recently, when Anna Carter Florence made mention of it in a book I’m reading.  All of a sudden I stopped to wonder: What does it mean that God is great and God is good? Do we only say that because it conveniently rhymes with “food”? I don’t think so; I think we say it because it means something.  Our God is not small and bad; God is great and good.  And that has consequences.  Consequences not only for our basic beliefs about the Creator of the Universe, but for the way God’s creation (that’s us) is supposed to behave. Do you want to know what those consequences are? Then let’s turn to Exodus 20, more commonly known as the Ten Commandments. To set the stage, God has rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  God has led them across the Red Sea.  God has given them manna from heaven to eat and water from a rock to drink.  Now they’ve arrived at Mount Sinai.  God has descended in a dense cloud, and spoken loud enough so that Moses and all of Israel can hear. And here is...

Why We Go To Church

Revelation 7:9-17 Today I want to talk about why we go to church. I mean, seriously.  What do we get at church that we can’t get at home?  Most weeks, I listen to a sermon on my iPhone.  I can get almost any preacher I want.  Adam Hamilton?  No problem.  Andy Stanley?  You bet.  Barbara Brown Taylor?  All day long.  Even those not tech-savvy enough for podcasts can get a good sermon from the comfort of their own TV rooms.  Preachers like Harry Emerson Fosdick and Billy Graham have been delivering sermons over the radio and television waves for almost a hundred years. Sure, there’s other stuff we do in church, too – but we can do most of that in our living rooms, as well.  We can pray.  We can read our Bibles.  We can sing (and if not, we can listen to music).  And let’s be real:  it’s work to get up and go to church, and sometimes we just don’t want to do it.  We’ve been getting up and getting dressed for our obligations all week long, and we just want a day to throw on a ball cap and go to brunch. Why bother going to church? I’m a preacher, so you’re expecting me to make a case for church.  And you’re right.  I’ve been convinced that church is important for a long time.  But just recently I did something that convinced me all over again that actually going church is worth the extra time and effort. I went to a college football game. Wake Forest was playing Appalachian State on their home turf in...
The Way of Passing it On

The Way of Passing it On

Genesis 12:1-3 and Matthew 28:16-20 A sermon for the 10th anniversary of our Family Life Center! Today we have a lot to celebrate. Over ten years ago, many of you took a leap of faith. You wrestled in prayer, listened hard to God… and decided that God was calling you to build a Family Life Center. You said a prayer… and went for it. (You probably said a thousand prayers, right?) Today, we celebrate the answering of those prayers. We celebrate a two-story facility with a full basketball court, top-notch commercial kitchen, climate-controlled walking track, furnished exercise room, and spacious nursery… not to mention six classrooms, four bathrooms, and a shower. And… a new, integrated sound system, with echo-dampening panels on the way. That’s a lot to celebrate! But it’s not what we’re really here for. If the building sat empty, it’d be no accomplishment at all. What we’re really here to celebrate is what happens inside that facility. We’re celebrating the work of Donna Adams and Margie Carpenter and Rebecca Richard Guzman – and countless others who worked with them – who have encouraged the community to come into our Family Life Center. We’re celebrating a building that’s full of Welcome Table meals, birthday parties, exercise classes, Fifth Quarters, volleyball games, Wonderful Wednesdays, Boy Scout meetings, Chamber of Commerce dinners, Vacation Bible School, community fundraisers, health and nutrition classes, AA meetings, home school groups, basketball leagues… And I could keep going. On average, there’s one or two days a month our facilities aren’t used by some group for some purpose. That is a lot to celebrate. But that’s...

2/26/2017: Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-13 Last week was Peter’s identification of Jesus.  Jesus asked, “Who am I?” and Peter gave the right answer:  “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” This week we learn that it’s one thing to say it, and another thing to see it.  Before I went to the Grand Canyon, I could have said, “The Grand Canyon is a really big, very impressive national park.”  With a little research I could even have said, “The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and in some places over a mile deep.”  But that’s just book report. A whole different experience came during my family’s obligatory out-west trip as an 18-year-old.  We unloaded from our rental van and stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon.  It was near dusk.  The view went on from horizon to horizon, a huge rupture in the face of the earth.  My stomach flipped as I looked over the edge and saw just how deep a mile looks from above.  At that moment, all I could say was… “WHOA.” So here’s Peter – and James, and John – following Jesus up a mountain.  They’ve already given the book report about how Jesus is the Christ.  But now they’re about to see it. And what do they see? The gospels use a certain word to describe the event:  “transfigured.”  It comes from the root, “metamorphosis,” and it means “changed.”  It’s a strange word – not one we use in everyday talk.  What in the world does it mean to say Jesus was “transfigured”?  I think we’re...

2/12/2017 Sermon: Multiplication

Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus wanted some “me” time but he just couldn’t get it. Man, can I relate.  And not because I’m a pastor; it’s because I’m a mom.  Parents of the world, do you feel me? But before we talk about me – or us – let’s talk about Jesus.  Jesus wanted some “me” time on this particular day because he had just gotten some bad news.  His cousin, John the Baptist, had been killed by Herod.  Jesus is on his way to a deserted place to be by himself – no people needing healing, no disciples needing teaching, just Jesus and God and creation.  A little much-needed quiet time to grieve his loss and refresh his soul.  He even takes a boat there – what better way to ensure you’ll be alone than to head off in a vehicle by yourself? As he cruises across the Sea his weary soul is eagerly anticipating some space and silence.  As he steers toward land he’s mentally picking out his sitting spot.  As the shoreline comes into view he sees… …a crowd? His “deserted place” is far from deserted.  While he’s been sailing the crowds have been running.  They’re waiting for him.  They’re sick and they want healing.  They’re lost and they want leading.  They want him. While I’m hesitant to compare myself to Jesus, I think any parent knows what this moment feels like. I knew parenting would be hard.  Who wouldn’t guess that?  You’re responsible for a human being.  I figured my children would need a lot of attention.  I assumed they would change my life.  But I had...