Oct 31

Zacchaeus: Identity Crisis

Luke sets us up, right at the beginning of this familiar Bible study, the story of Zacchaeus—the wee little man. In chapter 19, verse 2, Luke tells us in no uncertain terms that Zacchaeus is a sinner. There was a man in Jericho named Zacchaeus, and he was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. Tax collector, rich: in Luke’s gospel, these are both ways of saying, “Sinner! Outsider! Outcast!” The only question, it seems, is what kind of sinner Zacchaeus will turn out to be. Which side—the tax collector or the rich man—will win out? Continue reading

Jul 11

The Good Neighbor

We all want to be the person who can be counted on, the hero who comes through in time of need, the one who shows up the hypocrites and the elite. We want to be the person who’s ready to help, who’s in a position to help in the first place. The desire to be the helpful person is so much a part of who we are that we have laws in this country that protect people who try to help others in a crisis. We all want to be a good neighbor. Continue reading

Mar 13

The Lord’s Prayer 5: Deliver Us

We began our series on the Lord’s Prayer, four weeks ago, by reading about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. As we learned to pray “our Father” with the only-begotten Son of God, we watched as Christ turned away each of the devil’s tempting offers: turn bread into stone; worship me, in exchange for power over this world; test God to see if he’ll really protect you. Jesus Christ is the new Adam, the new Eve, the Son of Man who overcomes temptation. But today, as we near the end of our series on the Lord’s Prayer, we meet Judas Iscariot, the old Adam, the man who gives in to temptation, the man who cannot resist what Satan has to offer. 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

Mar 16

Looking to the Cross

The scene really is a bit bizarre. The Israelites, on their way to the Promised Land, have once again started their complaining; they’ve started to turn away from the Lord, and they’ve even started fooling themselves into thinking slavery in Egypt was better than wandering in the wilderness. This serpent of deceit, this snake bearing a bitter poison of lies, becomes horribly real when the Israelites discover live poisonous snakes in their camp; they repent and beg Moses to intervene for them. Instead of having Moses drive out the snakes, though, like St. Patrick in Ireland, the Lord commands Moses to make another snake, this one out of of bronze. It sounds a lot like God has just told Moses to make an idol, which is terribly confusing. And Moses does what God commands. He makes the bronze serpent, puts it on a pole, and all the Israelites need to do if they’ve been bit by a snake is turn their attention to the bronze serpent. Continue reading