Archives: Proper 9

Stop Offering Hospitality (Yes, I’m Serious)

In our gospel lesson today, Jesus comes to his hometown, and far from welcoming him with open arms and proclaiming him their rightful king, his neighbors scoff at him, imply he’s crazy or deluded, and flatly refuse to believe that he is a prophet and a miracle worker.

Jesus is a big flop in Nazareth.

And he’s not expecting it. “He was amazed at their unbelief,” Mark says.

Poor Jesus. He must have been crushed.

Everyone wants to look good at their high school reunion, to show up twenty pounds lighter and a thousand dollars richer than everyone else.

But Jesus’ friends, the people he grew up with, the people who watched him play in the streets as a little boy and bought benches and tables from his carpentry shop as a young man, turn their back on him.

He wants to show them all the amazing things God is doing through him, but he cannot access his power and he has to leave in disgrace.

Anyone after this humiliating experience would feel vulnerable.

Anyone after this failure might consider approaching things a little more carefully, with a little more thought and planning, would want to ensure success before taking any more risks.

Not Jesus. Continue reading

The Adoration and Seduction of Your Soul

This is going to be a great, big, gooey, gushy, schmaltzy sermon, so just brace yourselves.

It is going to be embarrassingly emotional, uncomfortably intimate, and just all around hearts and flowers, so buckle up.

We are going to talk about God’s love today.

We are going to talk about the love of God in all of its extravagance and all of its irresponsible, reckless intensity.

I spend enough time in this pulpit talking about the challenges of life, our struggles to confront darkness both within ourselves and in the world.

Today I’m taking up the challenge Paul articulates in Ephesians: “I pray that, according to the riches of God’s glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through the Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Do you wake up in the morning and know that your destiny and your purpose is to know that you are filled with all the fullness of God?

Are you reminded at least once an hour that God delights in you?

Do you understand that God has never been disappointed in you?

God may have mourned your choices, grieved your hurting of yourself and others, longed for you to turn toward God in faith and trust, but take this knowledge and write it on your heart: God has never been disappointed in you.

You are God’s favorite, God’s darling, the light of God’s life.

God gets up in the morning to see you, to know you, to work in your life and try one more day to seduce you a little closer.

I’m telling you that nothing, and I mean nothing, in your life is more important that knowing that God loves you.

It sounds so simplistic, but most of us live the majority of our lives with only theoretical knowledge of God’s love, not experiential knowledge.

And thus when we try to love others, from our own spouses, parents and children to our colleagues to starving and oppressed people around the world, we find that sooner or later, our love runs out.

Self-generated love is a limited resource.

We can only love others truly, fully, unconditionally when we let God love us truly, fully, unconditionally.

And “let” God love us is absolutely the right verb. Continue reading