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

Feb 15

Ash Wednesday: Real Means, Real Grace

Did you hear what Jesus just said? “Whenever you give alms.” “Whenever you pray.” “Whenever you fast.” Our human ears zero in on the negatives: don’t sound a trumpet before you, don’t be like the hypocrites, don’t make your face look dismal. But before the negatives, before the “how not to do these things,” Jesus gives us three clear commands: Give alms. Pray. Fast. These three spiritual disciplines are not optional for those who follow Jesus. Sure, Christians have been trying to wiggle out of them for as long as we’ve been around, and even today most of us find substitutes or ignore them altogether because we think, we’re sure, that we can bank on God’s grace. You didn’t give alms this week? Tell God how bad you feel about it—God’s grace is sufficient. Don’t like to pray, or still content with praying the way you did five, ten, twenty years ago? God’s got you covered—don’t worry about it. Never fasted? Not sure why you’d want to? Grace is there for you, too. 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

Jul 06

The Gift of Grace

Imagine with me for a moment, if you will. It’s Christmas Day, and you’re thirteen years old. For the last six months all you have talked about is how much you want a new bicycle for Christmas this year. You have told everyone: your parents, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Jane and Uncle Bob, your brothers and sisters. Everyone knows you want a bike for Christmas. They even know what kind: ten-speed racing bike, with hand brakes and all the bells and whistles. It feels like you’ve wanted this thing your whole life. And on Christmas Day, you’re the first one downstairs. You reach the Christmas tree, and waiting in the living room is the biggest gift you’ve ever seen, a bicycle-shaped package wrapped in beautiful paper and sealed with a large bow. A tag reads, “Merry Christmas! Love, Grandma and Grandpa.” You can barely contain your excitement, pacing around as everyone else finally wakes up and you can tear off the wrapping paper of this beautiful new bike. You open it up, run to your grandparents to say thank you, thank you, thank you. And then, the bicycle just sits in the living room. A week goes by. There’s no snow. Your mom says, “Aren’t you going to ride your new bike, honey?” And you’re confused. Ride the bike? Why would you ride the bike? You asked for it, Grandma and Grandpa gave it to you, you received it, you thanked them. What else is there to do? You’ve just received the nicest present you could ever ask for. If you rode it, you might seem ungrateful, like you deserve this thing, like you think you’re someone special, like it’s not really a gift. Why would your mom want you to ride a bike instead of receive it gratefully as the gift it is? Continue reading