Sermon for Sunday, March 5, 2023 || Lent 2A || John 3:1-17
Today we’re going to talk about the most famous verse in the Bible. I read it a minute ago. Did you hear it? How does it start? For God so loved the world…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
This verse, this famous verse, is tricky for three reasons. First, people tend to isolate it by itself, far from the context of the verses around it. This happens even in the way English translations of the Bible lay out the text; they make John 3:16 its own paragraph for absolutely no discernible reason. Second, people tend to focus on the second half of the verse and decide (because they haven’t read it in context) that John 3:16 is a verse of exclusion. You have to “believe” to have eternal life, and that usually means in practice that you have to assent to a certain set of doctrines that a denomination or a charismatic pastor lists out for you. And third, people tend to make God smaller than God is, in order to fit God inside our limited human understanding. Rather than expand ourselves through prayer and spiritual practice, we instead shrink God to conform to our meager expectations.
The writer of the letter to the Ephesians says something in today’s second lesson that makes my heart sing: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
This is one of those verses that makes me take a deep breath after reading it, a cleansing breath of the Holy Spirit who is so vibrantly present in those words. “For by grace you have been saved through faith…”
Today I want to talk about being saved. And I have to start, as I have before, down in the Deep South.
Sermon for Sunday, April 9, 2017 || Palm/Passion Sunday, Year A || Matthew 22:1-11; Matthew 26:36 – 27:56
As we move in our service from the humble triumph of Jesus’ festive entry into Jerusalem towards his arrest, trial, and crucifixion, there is one question on my mind. It is the question asked at the end of the Palm Sunday Gospel reading. “When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’”
Who is this Jesus?
At the end of today’s service, we will read the Passion Gospel; that is, the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, suffering, and crucifixion. It is a story that is at once beautiful and heartbreaking, and I cannot read it without being moved. Indeed, it makes me tremble, tremble, tremble, as the old spiritual says. Today, as we hear this powerful story of our Lord’s unbreakable love for us and for all creation, I invite you to listen to how Matthew’s telling answers the question asked in today’s first Gospel story: “Who is this?” Continue reading “Who is this Jesus?”→