Sep 10

Real Church Life



Two weeks ago, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Houston megachurch pastor Joel Osteen brought on himself the kind of attention nobody wants. His church, Lakewood Bible Church, was slow to open its doors to offer its neighbors shelter. Osteen himself was a little clueless, if not insensitive, in his answers about why it took so long for one of the largest churches in the country to help out after such a bad storm. I can’t stand Osteen, and I think in general he does more harm than good, but I don’t bring up this unfortunate situation to beat up on him. I’m more interested in the reactions from people both inside and outside the church.

Almost everyone I heard said something like, “This is a church. Don’t they know how they’re supposed to act? Don’t they get it? How could they let something like this happen? Don’t they know that they’re a church?!” And on the one hand, I support that response. We Christians ought to hold ourselves to a high standard, and we shouldn’t be upset when others hold us to a high standard, too. But on the other, I think that attitude is dangerous. It makes the church an ideal, a fantasy society that gets everything right all the time. But the church, in this world, is not filled with ideal people. The church is a hospital for sinners, a place where we are healed from sin so that we can live according to the new life given in Jesus Christ. But a hospital is not a place where everyone is well. And the church is not a place where no one sins anymore. The “ideal” church is a lie. And when we believe the lie, or let others believe it, we set ourselves up for disillusionment and even for falling away from the church when things go wrong. 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 16

Eucharist: Drawn By Love’s Wounds



We are now in week two of our sermon series, Eucharist. Eucharist is a name for the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, or holy communion. It comes from the Greek word eucharisto, which means, “I give thanks.” And even though we usually call this sacred meal holy communion at Centre, each week we also celebrate Eucharist through the central prayer of the Great Thanksgiving. And each week this month we are discussing different aspects of and various ways God addresses us through this holy mystery. The series itself was sparked by words from Jesus in John 6, which we heard last week and again this morning in the gospel reading: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Continue reading

Aug 04

Eucharist: Confession and Pardon



This morning we begin a 5-week sermon series on the Eucharist. Each Sunday in the month of August we will consider different aspects of this holy mystery, of this great sacrament. But before we can really even begin, we need to ask a question: what is the Eucharist?

The word itself comes from a Greek word for what Jesus does in John 6:11, which we read last week; before the feeding of the 5000, John tells us that “Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated.” The Greek word for “give thanks” is eucharisto, and from very early on the church called the meal it celebrated together the Eucharist, the meal of thanksgiving. Other names for this meal include the Lord’s Supper, which is what Paul calls it in 1 Corinthians 11, and holy communion, which is what we usually call this meal at Centre. Even for us, though, the central prayer of holy communion is the Great Thanksgiving. That’s when we begin, “The Lord be with you/And also with you; Lift up your hearts/We lift them up to the Lord; Let us give thanks to the Lord our God/It is right to give our thanks and praise.” And then we give thanks to God the Father for Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

Feb 20

Remember You Are Dust

You may be feeling a little dizzy after hearing all our Scripture readings for Ash Wednesday. “Blow the trumpet,” Joel tells us. “Don’t sound the trumpet,” Jesus says. “Gather a solemn assembly; sanctify a fast,” the Lord commands in Joel. “Beware of practicing your piety before others,” Jesus chides. And it’s about to get worse: “Whenever you fast,” Jesus teaches, “do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you they have received their reward.” Harsh words to hear moments before we disfigure our own faces with ashes as we begin our Lenten fasting and other spiritual disciplines. Are we also hypocrites? Continue reading