Category Archives: Theology

A God Veiled in Time and Space but Revealed in Christ

Second Time Around Sunday.

First published in the October 19, 2018 issue of Christianity Today.

But why would God want to hide? Is he just waiting to jump from his hiding place in quantum uncertainty and shout, “Surprise!”? Does he want to astonish us by the revelation that he has been here all along, working in our lives and our world, turning evil to good, and making all things serve his incomprehensible purpose?

Perhaps. God, as the Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon once pointed out, loves throwing parties: “Creation is not ultimately about religion, or spirituality, or morality, or reconciliation, or any other solemn subject; it’s about God having a good time and just itching to share it.”

Yet there is more to this than God’s love of a good party
Continue reading

Posted in Theology, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Telling the Good News: Answering Tough Questions

“Religious people think they are better than everyone else. They are so judgmental. I don’t even want to be around them.”

How do you answer? You go back to Jesus. “I don’t know if you know this, but Jesus felt that way too. The people he liked to hang out with most were the ones religious folks looked down on. When they put them down, Jesus stood up for them.”

Jesus had a lot to say about that too. Check out: Matthew 7:1-6; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 10:3-37 (the story of the Good Samaritan); all of Luke 15; Luke 18:9-14.

Some people say, “You know, I’m just not the religious type.” Whenever someone says that to me, I always respond, “I’m not either.” They can hardly believe it. But then you can go on and say: “And you know what? Jesus wasn’t either.” Then you can tell them about Mark 7:1-13, where Jesus distinguished between religion and knowing and loving God. Religion wasn’t his thing, but he was all about God. You might go on to say that the Bible hardly ever mentions religion – that’s not what it’s all about.

Then you can ask: “What? Did you think Jesus was really religious or something?” You will get their curiosity up. Who knows? That may open the door for further conversations – either with you or with some other person God will send along.
Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Mission, Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Telling the Good News: Right Words, Wrong Life?

It is natural, when we are telling people the good news, to want to make sure we have all the right words – it makes us feel safer. But having the right words won’t help if we’re living the wrong life! A life with God that is authentic and satisfying is what provide opportunities.

I’ll mention three characteristics of that kind of life. (There are of course more.) First, it is genuinely optimistic. This is not a Pollyanna, turn a blind eye, kind of thing. This is a life of hope built on the certainty that God will make things right. God is so much a part of the hopeful life that it is inexplicable apart from him. If your life can be explained without recourse to God, you’re too much like everyone else.

The authentic God-filled life is also a connected life. Connectedness is largely missing in our society. Over the past few decades, social scientists have consistently found “slippages in self-confidence, growing regrets about the past, and declines in virtually every measure of self-reported physical and mental health … regardless of gender, age, marital status, and educational attainment.” This in one of the world’s wealthiest nations.

Studies have found that this unhappiness is rooted in a failure to connect. Here’s how one sociologist summarized it: “Americans over the past several decades became increasingly detached from family and friends …. There is indeed a large body of evidence indicating that social connectedness … has a powerful influence on self-reported health and happiness.”

It was God who said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We understand that, but we don’t know what to do about it. Jesus does. He offers a connected life. If we are living that life, connected by dozens and dozens of threads to our church family, we will have opportunities to tell others the good news.
Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Church, Mission, Theology | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

What Will Be Missing in the Future (According to the Bible)

There are other things that will not make it into God’s future kingdom. Revelation 21 and 22 mentions some of them. One, according to Revelation 21:1, is the sea. How could there be no sea?

It is important to remember that The Revelation belongs to an ancient (now extinct) genre of literature called apocalyptic, for which symbolism is its stock and trade. The symbols in Revelation are drawn largely from the Old Testament, which is the key to understanding them. One example is the sea. John says in verse 1: “And there was no longer any sea.”

This makes sense when we understand that in Old Testament symbolism the sea regularly represents chaos and evil. For example, in the Book of Daniel (which belongs to the same genre), the beasts that devastate the earth arise out of the sea. When John says that there will be no more sea, he is telling us that the source from which chaos and evil arise will be gone. There will be no more turmoil, disorder, and confusion. That is good news.

Look at verse 4: “There will be no more death.” Death is an intruder. It was smuggled into our world, our lives, and even our bodies through Adam’s sin. If you have been around for any time at all, you know The Book of Common Prayer is right: “In the midst of life we are in death.” But it is even worse than that: not only are we in death; death is in us. But through the resurrection of Jesus Christ our ancient enemy has already been defeated and at our resurrection it will be obliterated – expunged from the universe. That is good news! Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

HOPE: Good News About the Future

The Bible gives many reasons for hope. Christians believe that the future will be good – incomprehensibly and incomparably good! This sermon shows us why. (Excerpts will be posted later in the week.)

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Sermons, Theology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Shame and Our Hope

Humans were designed to rule the world but powers they do not understand now rule them. Under God’s rule, they could rule, but the moment they stopped being subject to God, they became subject to fear (verse 10) and were … Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Sermons, Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Creation and the Butterfly Effect

Adam and Even needed to be trained for the awesome task before them, but they didn’t want to wait. They spurned the opportunity to rule under God and the preparation it required and chose instead to rule beside him. They … Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Sermons, Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

When God Became Immanuel

It was not in a stable that the Creator became Immanuel. It was in a Garden. Do you remember what the Scripture said? “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking … Continue reading

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Theology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

America’s Other Religion (Hint: It Is Not Islam)

According to Pew Research center, 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian. This includes evangelical protestants, who make up the largest bloc in American Christendom, along with Catholics, mainline protestants, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The next largest religious bloc in Pew’s study is Judaism, which comprises a little less than 2 percent of the population. Then Islam, which makes up less than 1 percent. Some have argued that the second largest bloc, dwarfing both Judaism and Islam, are those who identify as “nothing in particular.” They come in at about 16 percent of the total population.

It is, however, debatable that the “nothing in particular” folks form a religious bloc. It’s like giving an empty space on my bookshelf a catalog number. However, there is another religious group that is much larger and more influential than all those listed above, with the possible exception of Christianity.

Unlike the “nothing in particular” group, this bloc clearly meets the criteria to be considered a religious group, though it is entirely overlooked by Pew and by most sociologists. This group has no official structure or hierarchy, but it invokes a god, possesses a historical narrative (or mythology, as some deem it), and reverences its saints.

This religion has received various labels over the years, but the one that has been around longest, given to it by Rousseau before the American Revolution, is “Civil Religion.” According to the sociologist Robert Bellah, Rousseau outlined the simple dogma of Civil Religion as: “the existence of God, the life to come, the reward of virtue and the punishment of vice, and the exclusion of religious intolerance.”
Continue reading

Posted in Theology, Worldview and Culture | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Role of Witnesses: Revolutionary or Religionist?

Once the disciples had grasped the big picture – that the kingdom of God had broken into our world with Jesus’s resurrection – they began telling others. They started functioning, just as Jesus said they would, as witnesses to him and the resurrection.

We will go wrong if we think those early followers of Jesus thought they were spreading a new religion. Nothing could have been further from their minds or more repugnant to their hearts. They were Jewish people who worshiped the God of Abraham, who had acted through Jesus to bring the world under his rule and would take further action still.

The apostles didn’t think of themselves as starting a religion but as carrying on a revolution. They announced that Jesus, not Caesar nor anyone else, was the rightful ruler of the world. Continue reading

Posted in Christianity, Sermons, Theology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment