Reverend Billy Graham, whom I admired greatly, died this week at the age of 99. Growing up just north of where Dr. Graham lived, I joined in the admiration of him and his ministry by very diverse Christians theologically. I even thought of him as a role model. You always felt he was doing the work of ministry for the right reason. I always believed He had taken the words of Jesus to heart “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)
Years ago, a pretty famous televangelist was speaking in Portland, OR on a program when another role model of mine was also on the platform. The televangelist made statements like this: “Are you afraid to fly … well, come fly with me. Nothing will happen to the plane while I’m on it.” He said sarcastically to a woman in a wheel chair, “Why are you sitting there? Get up! … If you’re there, it’s because you want to be!”
My mentor got up and left the stage. The Program Coordinator caught her as she was leaving and ask where she was going. She replied, “I’m going home. What that man is saying is dangerous and is not the gospel. There is no cross in it and it damnable heresy.” Her answer may seem extreme by she was right.
Too often evangelical Christianity in America has become too much of “What’s in it for me?” It promises the fruits of the spirit without enduring the realities of life, nor does it reflect what Jesus said being followers of His would be like. During Lent, let’s allow our spiritual reflection to help us become disciples of Jesus who are committed to following Christ even during the cross-bearing moments of life that is surely to come.
Join us at Covenant for worship this Second Sunday of Lent for my sermon called “What’s in It for Me?” based on Romans 4:13, 18-24a and Mark 8:31-38
I grew up learning to trust promises from God like “a peace that passes understanding” and “peace in the midst of a storm.” Over the years they have comforted me during difficult and troubled times.
Recently my heart has been troubled with the thought: “Is there no end in sight?” Houston and its surrounding areas of that part of Texas are trying to recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey that left a trail of death, destruction and disrupted lives. While much of our attention as a nation has been properly focused on helping those whose lives were affected by Harvey’s record rainfall and flooding to our nation’s 4th largest city; Hurricane Irma is already causing death and destruction in the Caribbean. As I write this; the best projections have Irma headed for Florida and going up the east coast. Also, there are 2 more named storms, Jose and Katia, gathering strength out in the Atlantic. So, “is there no end in sight?”
Storms like these can’t distinguish between good or bad people. They ravage, damage and destroy anything and anyone in their path. The storms we face emotionally, spiritually and sometimes physically are like that as well. They don’t care if you are a good or bad person; they come to ravage, damage and destroy you. The assigned scriptures for this Sunday offer “Incredible Promises Despite the Storms.” From Romans 13:9, “The commandments … are summed up in this one word. ‘Love Your neighbor as yourself.” And from Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there among them.” The affirmation of knowing that if we love one another and gather together in His name then God is present with us are “incredible promises despite the storms” we will have to face.
This Sunday is Back-To-Church Sunday across America. Join us at Covenant for worship. I’m back also; and I will be preaching on “Incredible Promises Despite the Storms” based “Romans 13:8-10” and “Matthew 18:18-20.”
The theme for this Second Sunday of Advent is “Peace.” Many preachers commonly refer to this Sunday as “John the Baptist Sunday” because the lectionary Gospel text on this liturgical Sunday always includes the ministry of John the Baptist.
As I prepared for this Sunday by reading the four assigned scriptures, I noticed that none of them really talk about “peace.” The word “peace” is only mentioned in one of them. I’m of the opinion that these scriptures were chosen for a Sunday when the theme is “Peace” because they point to the coming “Prince of Peace.” That got me to think that perhaps too often we talk about peace when really we should do more “practicing peace” and pointing to the “Prince of Peace.” By that I mean we should make every effort to “BE” the peacemakers first, rather than expecting or seeking peace efforts from others first. Remember, we are not responsible nor can we control others actions; but we can decide whether we will practice peace in our lives and situations we face.
Perhaps this can be illustrated from a wonderful story out of Florida, back when African-Americans in the south were not allowed to vote. During times of political elections, a certain community of African-Americans in Florida would rent a voting machine and go through the voting process. Now, they knew that their votes would not be counted, but they voted anyway. When asked by members of the white community why they did this every year, they replied, “Oh, just practicing; just practicing.”
They could not vote at that time, but they felt in their hearts that a new day was coming. They believed in a just God who had not forsaken them. One day they would vote. Right now they were “just practicing,” but one day the promise of freedom, dignity and justice would be realized.
Practicing peace and pointing to the Prince of Peace means that even when we are not experiencing peace, we still believe that God is at work in this world and our lives. We still believe in the promise of Peace and the Prince of Peace and we believe that peace begins with me. And so this week the scriptures encourage us on “The Road to Peace” saying, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
Join us for worship at Covenant on this Second Sunday of Advent and let’s learn to practice peace. My sermon is “The Road to Peace” based on Romans 15:1-13 and Matthew 3:1-12.