Many people say they believe in God, but don’t go to church. This fact has led to a multimillion dollar industry that aims to get those folk in the doors. Many of the resources suggest that if we’ll just get the marketing right or the sociology or the doctrine right, we’ll succeed. Some of these resources even confuse “outreach” with “in-drag.” My own conviction is that much of what isn’t right is more basic than these things. Nonetheless, it is a problem that people claim to believe in God, even in Jesus, but not in the church. But, let me… Continue reading
All of our scripture lessons this morning point to that which is foundational to our identity as the People of God and the Community of Jesus’ Disciples. The lessons emphasize the importance of paying attention to what God is saying and doing in the world. This morning I’ll give pride of place to the Old Testament text from Isaiah 51. Three times in the English text of the verses we read, the Almighty says “Pay Attention”! “Listen Up”! “Listen to me” (verses 1, 4, and 7).
The ones God summons to pay attention are, first, called “you that pursue righteousness,… Continue reading
Later in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is reported to have said: “Woe to you…you strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” This passage is not picked up in the Revised Common Lectionary readings, but it was intended to speak to the kind of community Jesus was seeking to form and Matthew was seeking to build. I say this latter because, as I remind us almost every week, Matthew was remembering Jesus’ words, not just to reproduce them as they were 60 years before he wrote, and just “get them right,” but as a relevant word to his own… Continue reading
In a few minutes we will sing a hymn called “O God, Unseen, Yet Ever Near,” written many years ago by the English hymn writer Edward Osler. The title speaks of a way in which I, at least, experience God in the world – unseen, unobtrusive, under the surface, and even, sometimes, unrecognized by me; yet, whom I sense as ever near, and so, vitally real!
The Bible has a reputation for always speaking of God as acting openly in the world, but, if we actually take time for a long read of the Bible and the world, we will… Continue reading
Anyone that has spent any time around First Baptist knows that we are a small congregation. That concerns some of us, since we worry about long-term viability. And we’re not wrong to be concerned. At the same time, it’s true that over 85% of American Baptist Churches have an attendance of less than 50, so we’re a denomination of small congregations. It’s been that way for a long time. You have to go back decades and decades since the Sunday worship attendance was 100 here. Nonetheless, many of us wish there were at least some more.
It’s easy to fall… Continue reading
I want to begin this morning with a little announcement. This will be the 650th sermon I have preached from this pulpit. I keep track of these things, and tell you of them from time to time, mostly because I cannot believe it. That’s more sermons than I have preached in both my other congregations combined, and all the guest preaching slots I preached when I taught in seminary. About 45 years ago, when I started my ministry, if someone had told me that I would preach 650 sermons (and counting, mind you) in one spot, I would have laughed… Continue reading
Let me remind you that our journey through Ordinary Time is intended to emphasize the teaching of Jesus. This year the Revised Common Lectionary takes the Gospel of Matthew as its primary source for that teaching in dialogue with the other lessons. As we began Ordinary Time, we started by putting God at the centre and emphasizing how Jesus is the lens through which we see God. We followed that up by emphasizing that Christian life is a journey that begins and ends with God in Christ. We illustrated the beginning of the journey with baptism. Last week, we saw… Continue reading
In your bulletin today you have two pictures that are sometimes called “optical illusions.” When you look at the bigger picture on the back of the insert, do you see a face or do you see a landscape? Most people, it seems, see a face.
In the smaller one that is beneath the order of worship, do you see a goblet or vase, or do you see two profiles? There is a little sign on the communion table that sat for a long time on my father’s desk and for thirty has sat in my own study. Do you see… Continue reading
Last week we began Ordinary Time by thinking about God and about how Jesus fits into the Christian idea of God. We need to keep all those thoughts at the centre of what we do as a congregation. We have set our own agenda on this second Sunday after Pentecost by participating together in what my father would have called the beautiful ordinance of believer’s baptism. We have been witnesses to, and really participants in Sawyer’s baptism. As I said, baptism is the act of God who calls, the act of the person (in this case Sawyer) who responds, and… Continue reading