Nov 06

Finding Ourselves Among the Saints

Two years ago Misty Copeland became the first black principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. At the time she told reporters, “I had moments of doubting myself, and wanting to quit, because I didn’t know that there would be a future for an African-American woman to make it to this level. At the same time, it made me so hungry to push through, to carry the next generation. So it’s not me up here — and I’m constantly saying that — it’s everyone that came before me that got me to this position.” In a world—and not just the dance world—where pictures of success are still often filled with white faces, Copeland has become a model of new possibilities for people of all races. To those, like her, who have faced difficult circumstances just because of the color of their skin, she demonstrates the virtue of persistence and destroys the lies of limitations imposed on them. To those who have not faced such difficulties, she embodies a new world that is not chained by past prejudices and expectations. Misty Copeland is a gift, someone whose accomplishments are not just to be celebrated for their own sake but also for the fact that they make the world around her a better place. Continue reading

Oct 01

Reformation at 500: Scripture Alone

What happens when we read Scripture? What do we expect to happen when we read Scripture? In Nehemiah, our Old Testament lesson for this morning, Ezra reads from the scroll of the law of Moses. We don’t know what, exactly, he read, either what part or how much. Maybe he read from Exodus, or maybe he read all of Deuteronomy. What is clear is that this kind of reading hadn’t happened in a while, maybe in a generation or more. Imagine, decades without hearing Scripture read, interpreted, or proclaimed. Not just for one or two individuals, but for the whole people of Israel. Continue reading

Aug 20

Jesus Christ: Object of Our Faith

Jesus says to her, “Woman, great is your faith!” This woman, this Gentile woman, she, of everyone who meets Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, she alone has great faith. I don’t know about you, but I want to hear Jesus say to me, “Mark, great is your faith!” Do you want great faith? This Canaanite woman shows us the way.

Last week Jesus told the disciples that they had little faith. Little faith is better than no faith. With little faith, the disciples listened to Jesus’s command, got into a boat, and crossed the sea of Galilee at night for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. With little faith, Peter got out of the boat when Jesus ordered him to come. Little faith is trusting Jesus, taking him at his word. We all need this little faith to be his disciples. With little faith we can go where Jesus sends us, even into situations that are frightening, without fear, because we trust that the one who sends us is Lord above all—and all means all. Continue reading

Jul 31

Discipleship 101: Scribes for the Kingdom

For the past six weeks we have been sitting at the feet of the master teacher in Discipleship 101, where we have gone back to the basics of what it means to follow Jesus. Today our sermon series ends, but the class is never over. Even the most experienced disciples need to retake this course from time to time. And, in my experience, the longer you’ve been a part of a church, the more you need to pay attention to the basics.

The word “disciple” literally means “student.” A disciple studies; a disciple is a student. Whether we know it or not, we always end up being something like our teachers. The best teachers are the ones we imitate deliberately, but every student ends up being something like her teachers at some point. Discipleship is not just about information; it’s about life transformation. Following Jesus is about becoming like Christ. So we have learned over these past few weeks that discipleship means we belong to a kingdom not our own. Jesus is in charge, not us—and that’s good news! Being disciples means submitting to the test of the cross: the cross tests everything! No relationship, no allegiance, no good idea should have anything to do with disciples of Jesus unless it has been tested by the cross. So when we follow Jesus out into the world, it is without worldly power or authority: unarmed, unforceful, dependent on being welcomed by strangers so that we can bear the good news in the name of Jesus Christ. But if all this sounds like a burden, we must always remember that the call to discipleship is the call of love: Christ loves us, woos us, beckons us to follow him, and his yoke is easy, his burden is light. Still, we must respond. Hard-heartedness or shrinking back from potential difficulties or giving in to the cares of the world cut short our discipleship. God offers us grace at baptism and throughout our lives to be transformed into good soil and to produce good seed for the gospel harvest. Continue reading

Jul 17

Discipleship 101: Sower, Seeds, and Soil

A sower went out into a field to scatter seed. That’s the job of a sower, right? Sow seeds. The name says it all. Get a big, brown sackcloth bag, fill it with seed until it’s heavy, until it pulls on your shoulder and your back, walk down the path to the fields, and scatter the seed. Start out early—it will only get hotter during the day. And all that walking back and forth, up and down the fields—there’s not much to the job, but it’s definitely work. Sowing seed. It’s what a sower does. Continue reading