Nov 25

Thanksgiving All the Way (A Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve)

Christ Jesus is our reason for thanksgiving. Christ rescues us from ourselves, opening us up to the new creation that he brings through his reign, opening us up to true life which is found in him and nowhere else. From the earliest days, the response of those who have been set free in Jesus Christ is to give thanks, gladly, joyfully, freely. Eucharisto: I give thanks. The Apostle Paul tells the Philippians to rejoice, chairete, and to make their requests known to God “with thanksgiving,” meta eucharistias. And the writer Justin Martyr, one of the first witnesses to Christian worship outside the Bible, tells us that prayer and thanksgiving were always a part of the regular Sunday worship services; in fact, Justin says that the Christian name for the bread and wine that were central to Christian worship was Eucharistia, the Eucharist, or what in some of our churches is called Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper. Long before there were Puritan pilgrims, or Abraham Lincoln, or turkey and gravy, followers of Jesus knew to call the most important food we share our thanksgiving meal. Continue reading

Oct 06

Your Church Is Too Small

I have good news for you this morning: your church is too small. Your church is too small! Now, I imagine you’ve heard that before, and I’m willing to bet that the last time you heard it, it didn’t sound like good news. Maybe you heard it in a meeting with the district superintendent: I’m sorry, she said, but your church is too small to support a full-time pastor. I’m sorry, but you’re too small to be on your own anymore.

Or maybe you heard it from a visitor one Sunday morning: I love your church, he said. The people here are friendly, and you obviously love to be together for worship. I wish I could stick around, but your church is too small. I’m looking for something bigger.

Or maybe you have found yourself saying it in at church council one night: It would be nice, you said, if we could do more for our community, but we’re just too small. We don’t have the resources.

“Your church is too small.” It doesn’t sound like good news, but today, on World Communion Sunday, at this Community Worship Service, it is the gospel, the good news, we need to hear. Your church is too small, but Christ’s church—ahh, that’s a different story entirely. Continue reading

Mar 07

The Lord’s Prayer 4: Forgive, As We Forgive

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” What a thing to pray! Of all that Christ insists we do as his disciples, forgiveness can be the most challenging. The friend who has betrayed you. The sibling who won’t speak with you. The neighbor who threatened to sue you. The enemy who tried to kill you. Forgiveness is never easy for us; sometimes, it feels impossible. Yet this is the point in the Lord’s Prayer when we ask God to hold us accountable, to hold us to a standard. Not: forgive us our sins. Not: have mercy on us. Forgive us, as we forgive. Give us according to how we give. Use our faithfulness as a measure of your grace, o Lord. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Continue reading

Aug 25

The Eucharist: Spirit and Life

It is, without a doubt, the church dedication service to end all church dedication services, a festival for celebrating a new worship building like none other. For generations the ark of God has gone about in a tabernacle, in a tent that moved with the people of God, the people of Israel. And now, Solomon, king of Israel, stands before his people at the altar of a new house for God, one that will not move. The image of God as a pilgrim with a journeying people that the ark and the tabernacle presented is being replaced by a new vision: of God resting with God’s people and of those people journeying in pilgrimage to the place God dwells. Continue reading

Aug 16

Eucharist: Spiritual Food

The Eucharist, the meal of holy communion at the heart of our worship here at Centre, the meal really at the heart of all Christian worship, has infinite dimensions. From the elements of bread and wine to the people who gather around the table, from the prayers we offer as we prepare for communion to the eternal Triune Lord who meets us here each time, the mystery of Eucharist unfolds unendingly for us, a foretaste of the eternal feast at Christ’s heavenly banquet.

This month I’ve felt called to preach on just five dimensions of Eucharist, and in each sermon I’m using a simple three-sided pattern: on one side, the words of Jesus from John 6; on the next side, the Old Testament lesson; and on the third side, some words or actions from our own weekly service of holy communion. So two weeks ago, we grappled with the importance of confession before thanksgiving as we heard Jesus say, “I am the bread of life,” as we listened to Nathan confront King David, and as we reflected on our saying a prayer of confession each Sunday. And last week we paused to remember that the grace we receive is costly grace. The Father draws all who come to Christ, Jesus tells us, but we are drawn by a wounded love the does not pretend there are no consequences to our sin. David’s own son Absalom died as a consequence of David’s sin. And in our prayer of Great Thanksgiving we are reminded that Eucharist is a sacrifice, the sacrifice of our lives, our praise, and our thanksgiving, in union with Christ’s offering for us in his self-sacrifice upon the cross. Continue reading