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    Entries in Sermon (7)

    Tuesday
    Nov202012

    The Generous Life :: Some Sermon Audio

    righteous, virtuous, good, honorable, upright, decent, worthy, moral, ethical, reputable; magnanimous, unselfish, generous.

    The past three weekends our family has had the privilege to drop in on three different church communities: Stilwell United Methodist, FirstLight United Methodist, and Jacob's Well. On the first two visits, I was invited to preach on generosity and stewardship, the subject of the devotional guide I wrote, published in May.

    I have uploaded the sermon audio from FirstLight United Methodist Faith Community here. You can right-click and "save as" to download the audio. Alternatively, on the click it might play directly in your browser.

    Pay attention to the URL. The audio file was creatively titled by a good friend of mine, who will remain unnamed.

    I gave a very similar message at Stilwell United Methodist, and here is a link to the audio. The sermon is dated November 4. I was a little more comfortable preaching this material the second time around, so if you're choosing either/or, I'd go with the FirstLight audio. If you give it a listen, feel free to let me know what you think.

    I enjoy preaching, though I don't get the opportunity all that often. Thanks to the people at Stilwell and FirstLight for inviting me to join them in worship. Each occasion brought me great joy, and it is my prayer that God would lead you to be increasingly generous, so that I might join you in thanksgiving for what God has done.

    As for our visit to Jacob's Well, it was a joy to be present in worship with my family. My son slept soundly, my daughter enjoyed her time in Sunday School, the people were hospitable and friendly, and it was good to chat with a good friend following the service. Molly and I are always blessed when we visit mid-town Kansas City.

    In another two weeks, Molly will return from maternity leave to Resurrection West, and we'll be establishing new rhythms with a newborn. I hope to find some space to write and create (more about this later), and to enjoy the winter months in De Soto, as I commonly do. If there are topics you'd like me to touch on, feel free to leave a comment, or drop me a note using the feedback form at right. Conversation is more fun than monologue.

    2013 looms; new ventures must begin. I'm hoping for much new life in the coming year.

    Friday
    Sep162011

    Remembering Granny :: A Funeral Message for Clara Arnold

    [SCRIPTURE: PS 46:10; PS 23; 1 COR 15:1-28; 35-58]

    [REMEMBRANCES] 

    What can one say following the death of a person who was not only loved, but who might be regarded as a treasure, or even an institution?  Granny Arnold, whose life spanned over 100 years, was a remarkable woman.  As we heard earlier, she worked at Arnold’s Garage late in to her 90s.  The Bradford place, where she lived, is a historic Texas farmstead.  She had three boys, whom she managed to keep busy at work on the farm until her last days.  She was featured on television on Joan Hallmark’s “Proud of East Texas”.  She was sharp, storied, and dignified.

    Over the past several days, I have heard stories from family members and friends concerning Granny.  The words that have been used to describe her have been profoundly consistent: stable, steadfast, strong, independent, opinionated, charming, southern, generous, discerning, practical, realistic, a matriarch, wise, proud of her family, conservative, calm, intelligent, hard-working, orderly, fair, and righteous, to name a handful.

    As one of her great grandchildren, I can remember going to the farm, or annually joining with others at Ebenezer for a meal.  My memories are of small things.  I can remember chasing her cats around her home.  I can remember the excitement I had coming to Arp, because I knew I would get to shoot my BB gun.  I also remember coming out with my dad to fish, Snoopy rod in hand, knowing that at Granny’s you could bet on pulling in a catfish or maybe a bass.

    In her later years, I was glad to hear Granny tell me bits and pieces about her life growing up as part of God’s people.  As a young lady, she began in the Presbyterian tradition, and was taught the catechism.  For those not familiar with this idea, a catechism is a teaching tool used to pass on an established body of knowledge.  As an example, The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with this question: “What is the chief end of man?”  The answer: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Other questions in the Westminster Catechism concern how we are justified before God, where the basis of the moral law might be found, the contents of the ten commandments, the meaning of repentance, the definition of faith, and the teachings found within the Lord’s Prayer.

    Granny also told me that because there was no Presbyterian church in Arp, she took part in the life of the local Methodist Church.  After marrying Loys, who I also remember, particularly playing dominoes after he had fallen ill, Granny was part of a Baptist congregation here in Arp, until circumstances led her back to the Methodists.  She was glad to find her way back to where she began.  She got her wish in having a Methodist minister officiate her funeral--doubly in fact, with both David and Molly.  I don’t know how she would feel about having a Baptist deliver the message.  I am hoping she would pardon me, considering I am family.

    Last night following the visitation, I was also fascinated to hear my grandfather, Jim Arnold, tell of Granny’s days at Arnold’s Garage.  During the East Texas Oil Boom, Arnold’s Garage was a hub for information.  Before cell phones, the internet, and other means of communication had been developed, there was the Garage, which could be reached in Arp by dialing the number “1”.  No nine digit telephone number, as there would be today.  Dial 1 for Arnold’s Garage.

    My grandfather said that land men and other oil field workers from Tyler would check for messages at Arp before heading out to the wells, and if any information of note had come to the attention of those back at the main office, they would call ahead and leave a message with someone at the Garage.  Before they returned, the ritual would be repeated.  And thus, Granny, Loys, and those working at the Garage  came to know a great deal about their neighbors, about land speculation, about the history of this community and this land.  Modern America is a land of continual change and transition.  Yet Granny’s life presents a compelling alternative, one of deep roots and priority of place.  Rooted in East Texas soil, her life, and the life of her family, has prospered.

    Other family members had stories to tell, also, and each story reveals a bit of Granny’s character.

    James Arnold wrote: 

    One of the stories that comes to mind was one weekend when I was in town visiting and I drove out to Arp to visit Granny, at the time I believe she was in her 90s.  As I pulled into the drive way I saw that she was on her lawn mower cutting her grass. When asked if she needed any help she politely declined and continued mowing. When she finished her chore and came in and sat down I asked her when she was going to have someone come mow her lawn. And much to my surprise the answer to my question was "when I cannot do it any more".

    Bill Arnold shared this story, saying: 

    [Granny] was a hard working business woman as well as "farm hand".  About 12-13 years ago, as we were coming down CR 2110 on our way home, we saw Granny's white Caprice out in the middle of the pasture on the hill near where the "old red house" used to sit.  Suzanne and I were wondering what in the world was her car doing out in the middle of the pasture!  We eased up the road a bit and finally saw Granny over on the other side of the hill.  There she was with that perfectly "coiffed" beautiful white hair, blue windbreaker, pants and rubber boots standing with a hoe in her hand.  She was chopping down thistles in the pasture.  We stopped and I walked out into the pasture to check on her.  I asked "Granny, why on earth are you doing that?"  I told her that it was too much work for her. . . her response. . ."because it has to be done"!

    Walt Arnold remembers:

    One time Wes and I went to learn how to make fudge and date loaf.  Her measuring spoon and cup was an old fashion tea cup, and it was not to standard measurements.  It frustrated her that we had to re-measure everything she did. 

    My mother, Sherry Simpson, remembers:

    When people would ask what was her secret to living a long life, I heard her say “good clean living”.  She did not overindulge herself in any way, in fact, she lived what most of us might think of as an austere life, just the basic things, nothing frivolous.  She was not attached to things, clothes, or possessions. She was proud of her family, her land, and her church. 

    My aunt, Jamie Landes, wrote:

    She had an incredible memory!  She could remember dates, facts, numbers, a person's full name...even to the point of carefully and tactfully correcting someone who did not have their facts right. It was entertaining just to ask her questions and hear her recall the facts of stories, places, people’s names, etc. that had happened so many YEARS ago. 

    Others in our family likely remember Granny’s thoughtfulness in sending birthday cards, maybe along with a little bit of fun money.  At Christmas time, Granny would give cash gifts in envelopes from Arp State Bank, asking us to share with those gathered our highlight of the year.

    [THE SPOKEN WORD]

    Granny Arnold’s life spanned fifteen presidencies, some of them, no doubt, better than others.  Yet she was born in Smith County, she lived in Smith County, she died in Smith County, and she will be buried in Smith County.

    Granny lived through two world wars and numerous other conflicts, including the Korean War, Vietnam, the Cold War, and both Gulf War conflicts, first under George H.W. Bush, and later, under his son George W. Bush.  Granny lived through The Great Depression and The East Texas Oil Boom.  She witnessed the highs and lows in American life.  And she died on the date of the ten year remembrance of the most devastating foreign assault on American soil, September 11.

    Her life was a tremendous life, and though in her later years she would often remark that she was very tired, she was a great blessing.  She aged with great dignity, she inspired others with her memory and resiliency, she remained beautiful all of her days.

    As we reflect upon Granny’s life, my hope is that we would not make a clear division between the remembrances we have and the words of the liturgy we have engaged together in worship, for each belongs to the other.  They should be seen in parallel and considered together, both pointing in the same direction, calling our attention to a shared horizon.  Granny would often remark that it was the Lord who granted her “one more day”.  She would wonder why God let her live so long.  She would ask the reason for it, including why God permitted her to recover after battling illness.  And while she would remind us that she was tired, she recognized the source of her life--given by God’s sovereignty, providence, and grace.

    Our Scripture readings, considered together, speak a message worthy of our attention.  But when coupled with Granny’s life, that message becomes amplified, for no longer are we simply dealing with words in a book.  We are considering how those words became embodied in the life of Granny Arnold.  We are seeing how the Word of God showed up in the life of a citizen of Smith county, who then became a blessing to her family and to those around her, pointing beyond herself, like a signpost, to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  And we are catching a glimpse how we too might come to live such a life.

    Our readings from Psalm 46, Psalm 23, and 1 Corinthians 15 have three things to teach us: The Importance of Memory, The Appropriateness of Mourning, and The Magnitude of Christian Hope.

    The Importance of Memory

    The Bible is a story.  It is the story of God’s bringing this world in to being, calling all that had been created “good”, seeing that Creation go terribly wrong, and then working to repair all that has been broken.  God calls Abraham, establishing a covenant with a particular people, Abraham and his descendants, who come to be called “Israel”.  God continues this covenant relationship by rescuing his people from slavery in the land of Egypt, giving them the Law at Mount Sinai through Moses, and remaining faithful to them even when they fail.  God speaks to his people through prophets and kings, seeing them through their ups and downs, giving them hints that further signs of God’s faithfulness will come through a deliverer, a Messiah, one who has come to fulfill the law written in stone and provide a new law written on human hearts.  This Messiah does indeed come in the person of Jesus, who lived, taught, performed miracles, and laid down his life on the cross for our sins.  On the third day he was raised.  The tomb was empty.  And from that time forth, those whom he has called have gone forth announcing this good news, that the forgiveness of sin has been made possible through his death and the hope of resurrection is assured.  Christ has paid our debt.  Eternal life--life with God--can begin now by faith in Jesus.  The Kingdom has come, and is coming.  The corruptions of this earth will pass away, and a new heaven and a new earth will one day come, where God will dwell among people.

    This, my friends, is a story.  It is a story that stands above all stories.  In our reading today from 1 Corinthians, Paul is relying on this story in order to frame the stories of his hearers.  Paul tells the Corinthians, “I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message.”  He calls them to remember, to preserve the memory of what he has said, and what God has done.

    Over the past several days, we have collectively shared our stories with one another.  We have sought to preserve knowledge across generations concerning Granny Arnold.  There are things that we want to remember, that we want our children to remember, that we want our neighbors and this community to remember.  We want others to remember that Granny was generous.  That she was kind.  That she loved her church and her family.  That she was tied strongly to the land.  That she was tough.  We tell those stories because we hope that those same traits show up in our own lives.

    Stories do that to us.  They form us.  They give us meaning.  They help us to determine what amounts to good character, and thus gives us a picture of what to pursue, as well as helping us to understand bad character, warning us concerning what we should avoid.

    But even as we remember these stories concerning Granny, we should remember that she considered herself a part of a greater story--the story of God’s salvific work accomplished in Jesus Christ.  She had received what Paul called in 1 Corinthians 15 “of first importance...that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.”  Her life was caught up in God’s life.

    We remember to help us understand from whence we come.  Remembering Granny is a small exercise in helping us to remember something more, something larger, something that reaches beyond her life to the Life of the One who gave her life--101 years of  earthly life, and now life beyond in the presence of God.

    Memory is important.  It grounds us in reality.  It forms our character.  It shapes our identity.  And it gives us direction.  But in this moment, as we remember, we also mourn, for that which we remember has now been lost.  Granny has died.  And mourning is right.  First, we have explored the importance of memory.  Now, we turn to the appropriateness of mourning.

    The Appropriateness of Mourning

    It has become a fairly common occurrence in some circles to refer to proceedings like these as “celebrations of life”, rather than as a funeral.  We prefer to dwell on our memories of those times that were good, rather than to think of the harsh reality of death.  But today, we face death.  We have lost someone we love.  We have lost someone with whom we have shared a pew in worship or shared a conversation at the local filling station.  We have lost someone who served this county, who loved this town, who cared for her land.

    Granny’s death should be mourned.

    Christians have long been realistic concerning death.  We recognize that death is the enemy.  When sudden tragedy strikes, or even when someone dies an expected natural death, we are sad.  We recognize that the way things are is not the way things should be.  Though the Psalmist writes that while we pass through the valley of the shadow of death that God is with us, the valley is still named as the valley--a place wherein we long for comfort in the face of hardship, despair, or hopelessness.

    If you are sad today, the feeling you have is right.  We are rightfully sad.  But God has assured us of his presence even in the midst of darkness.  We are not alone.  Just as David spoke of his rod and staff, a means of defense and support while passing through treacherous terrain, so too have we been given tools that provide comfort.  We have one another.  We have family.  We have friends.  We have shared our presence with one another, last night during the visitation, and today during the funeral.  We have stood together beneath the Word of God.

    We are also comforted by the knowledge that death does not have the final word.  How do we know this?  In 1 Corinthians 15, as you recall, Paul assures his hearers that Christ has defeated death.  That death no longer has a hold on the one who has trusted Christ for salvation.  That for those that have placed their faith in Christ, one day we will be raised as Christ has been raised, that our earthly bodies, that will one day die, will be transformed, and we shall put on a body like his.  Which brings us to our third truth: The Magnitude of Christian Hope.

    The Magnitude of Christian Hope

    Friends, though Granny’s body is here with us, it is our hope that her soul now rests in the Lord.  And for those that knew her best, there is a peace that this is indeed the case, that Granny had trusted Christ for her salvation, and had sought to live a faithful life in accordance with his commands.  Yet, as glorious as her present state may be, there is still more for which we can hope. 

    Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, writes that our hope is not simply heaven, but is resurrection.  Paul writes that we will be given a body like that of Jesus after he broke forth from the tomb.  Like a seed, what is sown as perishable will pass away, but what is raised will be imperishable.  And because we have this hope, Paul writes, “When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body put on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

    Granny’s work was not in vain, for her trust was in the Lord, who has defeated death.  So even now, as this day has come, as we mourn together her loss, we should not grieve “as those who are without hope,” as it is written in 1 Thessalonians 4:13.  Instead, we can have assurance.  God will be faithful to that which has been promised.

    We must remember Granny’s life, but moreover we must remember God’s story, the story that provided Granny, and now us, with firm ground upon which to stand.  We rightfully mourn, for we have lost someone that we love.  But we should not despair, for we have an immeasurable hope that through Christ we might know God now, and enjoy him forever.

    Amen.

    [PRAYER]

    Thursday
    Feb032011

    Work and Christian Commitment

    Today I was a guest of Faith and Learning, a chapel-like forum at Friends University in Wichita.  I spoke to somewhere around 300 to 400 college students.  Below is my manuscript from today's talk, though I did ad lib at times.  I enjoyed my time at Friends, and am deeply grateful to Jim Smith and Friends for having me as their guest.

    §1 Introductory Remarks 

    I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to speak here today at Friends, and I am particularly thankful for Jim Smith and the Apprentis Institute, for it is through the work of people like Jim that I have found my own commitment to Christ and his Kingdom strengthened and renewed.

    Today I’ve come prepared to talk to you about work, because, like most of you, I recognize that work is and will be a significant part of our lives.  The significance that work holds, however, is often unexamined, and therefore I hope that today we can raise a number of questions, and together seek a few answers, concerning how we think about work, and how we might undertake our work in a way that is informed and guided by commitment to Christ.

    Many of us will work, and as we work, we will be challenged by the demands work places upon us.  Work is a reality all of us face, either as part of the warp and woof of our own lives, or in our relationships to those near to us, as they punch the clock, collect their pay, and toil away.

    Today, we’ll reflect on four aspects of work through the lens of Christian faith: work and excellence, our experience of work, our expectations of work, and, finally, the redemption of work.

    §2 Excellent Work

    Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, once relayed the story of a man who became a Christian underneath his car.  The man was an actor.  During a pastoral visit, the man asked Pastor Keller a question pertaining to his work  He said, “I’ve been having a tremendous struggle.  You see, in acting there is a debate about a form of acting called ‘method acting.’”  In method acting, you don’t act angry, you get angry, creating in oneself the thoughts and emotions of one’s character.  As a Christian, should I pursue method acting as a valid approach to my craft, or not?”

    Keller replied, “I have no idea.”

    Keller then had an epiphany.  He realized that he spent most of his time trying to get his people out of their work world and into his church world, rather than equipping his congregants so that the church world might somehow be integrated and revealed within the work world.  The question then became, “How could he help his people to do their work with a Kingdom focus, in a way that brings glory to Christ?”

    The book of Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  If we take these words to heart, then we must take “whatever you do” to include our jobs, our work.  And if this is the case, we will need guides who are able to instruct us not only in the competencies required for us to perform our work excellently, but who also can instruct us with regard to how we might offer such excellencies as an offering of thanks.

    Work, as a realm that will require much of our time and energy for most of our lives, demands critical reflection as a subject of inquiry.  How might we work in a way that is excellent; that brings honor not foremost to ourselves, but to the one in whose image we have been created?

    My current line of work is in the transportation industry.  I am a “student transportation specialist.”  Everyone knows what that means: I am a bus driver.  The job is not glorious.  But everyday my job fulfills a requirement.  I serve young people by delivering them safely to and from school.  And everyday, an excellent day of work does not happen without training, preparation, focus, and intentionality.

    As an aside: one day, while driving students to school, I looked up in my mirror, only to see one of my students removing a hot dog from his pocket, not the bun, only the frank, and waving it through the air.  The middle school girls on my bus were disgusted.  But this is my reality.  And how does one do excellent work in such instances; work that brings glory to God?

    Dallas Willard, with whom I am certain you are familiar, once wrote these words: 

    We have to come to terms with the fact that we cannot become those who ‘hear and do’ without specific training for it.  The training may be to some extent self-administered, but more than that will always be needed.  It is something that must be made available to us by those already further along the path. 

    Fortunately for you, Friends is a University that might offer you just such a form of training.  The training you receive will then be put into action.  Which brings me to our second topic of concern, the experience of work. 

    §3 The Experience of Work 

    My own experience of work has been varied.  Some experiences have been positive; others negative.  My employers have given me both encouraging and disciplinary reviews.  I’ve been fired.  Once.

    Has anyone here worked at a  coffee shop?  I have.  I probably shouldn’t reveal the company I worked for, for if any of you are hipsters, or have worked in locally owned places, you will associate me with the evil Galactic Empire.

    Confession: I worked for Starbucks.

    I’ve had other jobs as well.  I worked as a lawn man, having teamed up with a friend in high school to start a business and generate income, so that I could frivolously spend my earnings on car stereo equipment and music.  I worked as a cashier and sales associate for Service Merchandise, a one time box-retailer that now does business exclusively online.  I also worked as an office aid in the Department of Religion during my undergraduate work, as a special assistant to a retired history professor by the name of Robert L. Reid, and, at different times and in different places, I have worked as a minister to children and youth.

    As you have already discovered, I have also worked as a bus driver.  Each of my jobs could be described in different ways.  Yard work was hot, satisfactory, and hot.  I grew up in East Texas.  My work as a cashier and office aid were transient and fleeting, responsibilities I held for a short while, collected my paychecks, and moved on to other things.

    Starbucks was relational, irksome, and deeply revelatory of the human condition, particularly concerning sin.  It’s hard to discern the image of God in a person who orders a Ventí Green Tea Frappuccino with a glaze of chocolate drizzle over the top of their whipped cream.

    Our experiences of work shape us.  We either walk away from our jobs with a sense of satisfaction or disappointment.  Whatever our experiences have been, it is likely that those experiences, combined with other narratives that have been supplied by our families, electronic media, or other sources have informed the expectations we have of work.  Work is expected to fulfill us, to serve us, to satisfy us, to signify our lives as valuable, or as worthless.  For example, tt isn’t often that the son of upper-middle class attorney can imagine and embrace an occupation such as a garbage collector as dignifying and worthy of one’s upbringing.

    Our experiences and our expectations of work constantly inform one another in a kind of feedback loop.  Whether those experiences are first-hand or if they are gained by observing one’s parent or other adults as one matures, our expectations begin to crystalize into expectations, informing our identities and our lives.

    §4 Expectations of Work

    Let’s think more broadly for a moment.  What do we expect of work?  What do our peers expect of work? 

    In his book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Alain De Botton investigates a number of industries: aviation, accounting, logistics, entrepreneurship, art, and even “biscuit manufacture.”  He marvels that in an industry that we would associate with Nabisco (Oreo, Ritz, etc.) or Pepperidge Farm (Milano, Bordeaux, etc.) a vast range of specialized jobs exist, whether it be in marketing, research and development, or quality control, to cite three areas.  The jobs become highly specialized.

    As an example of specialization, de Botton observes a pair of women who have the responsibility of picking out the occasionally mal-formed cookie that emerges from the oven.  He wonders what affect such a job might have on the one who performs it.  Might it lead these people to wonder “how meaningful” their lives truly are?

    We want our work to be meaningful, and it should be.  Rightly so.  In addition to meaningfulness, we expect our work to make us happy.  Our jobs are burdened with the expectation that they will leave us satisfied and content.

    De Botton again writes:

    However powerful our technology and complex our corporations, the most remarkable feature of the modern working world may in the end be internal, consisting in an aspect of our mentalities: in the widely held belief that our work should make us happy.  All societies have had work at their centre; ours is the first to suggest that it could be something much more than a punishment or a penance.  Ours is the first to imply that we should seek to work even in the absence of a financial imperative.  Our choice of occupation is held to define our identity to the extent that the most insistent question we ask of new acquaintances is not where they come from or who their parents were but what they do, the assumption being that the route to a meaningful existence must invariably pass through the gate of remunerative employment.

    Do you see what he is saying?  Over any other distinctive, work has come to define us.  But if work is our source of ultimate definition, ultimate meaning, and ultimate happiness, that, my friends, is a danger.

    §5 The Redemption of Work

    So how can we approach work in a healthy way?

    After talking with numerous young adults, it seems that many of us have jobs that differ little from the type of work that Jesus did for the majority of his life.  Yet I imagine that Jesus’ attitude toward his work differed greatly from yours and mine.  Jesus surely took pleasure in a job well done.  His small accomplishments were surely something in which he delighted.  Jesus went about a craft (carpentry), and as he became more skilled with his hands, I am certain he found that work was enjoyable.

    Jesus spent three years of his life, the part of his life we know the most about, carrying out a different type of work.  He taught us about the Kingdom of a good, loving, and beautiful God.  We ask, “What does Jesus’ teaching and ministry have to do with the time that he invested as a common day laborer?”  The answer: more than you might think.

    In the Incarnation, you see, Jesus not only redeemed human souls through his death on the cross and his resurrection three days later.  He redeemed human work by working.

    Jesus has given us the resources to do “everything” by himself doing “everything” as human and divine.  Therefore, whatever work we might do, we can do that work redemptively as Christ is in us.  Work then goes beyond simple utility or hedonism; it is neither only useful or capable of bringing us pleasure and happiness.  Through work, we are given an occasion for praise, “giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

    We would be mistaken to believe that the life-with-God that Jesus described for us in the Sermon on the Mount and demonstrated for us in his numerous miracles was anything other than the type of life-with-God Jesus knew and experienced while carrying out the daily tasks of carpentry.  There is no doubt that his experiences as a common laborer influenced and shaped how he talked about life in God’s Kingdom.

    Today, I have suggested that the preparation and training that you receive here at Friends is not only so that you might matriculate and move on to a job, a career, an occupation, and begin collecting your pay.  

    Rather, you are being prepared to enter into the workplace as an agent of the “new creation,” an evidence of a Kingdom that is coming, and, indeed, has come, a signpost to a reality and a grounding for identity that imbues your work with a sense of meaning that transcends all occupations, ranging from the highest to the lowliest of jobs.  

    You do this by performing your work excellently and through having right expectations of work.  These expectations have been shaped by your experience of Christ and your experiences of learning from those who follow after Him, those who prepare you to enter into and excel in the world of work in a way that gives witness to the redemption of the world.

    Therefore, your work is not an end in and of itself.  Rather, it is a means through which the glory of God might be revealed.  May your life, your work, be a conduit through which people see Jesus and the redemption he has brought, and that he brings.

    Tuesday
    Aug312010

    Wisdom From Wesley

    4. And it is as impossible to satisfy such a soul, a soul that is athirst for God, the living God, with what the world accounts religion, as with what they account happiness. The religion of the world implies three things: (1.) The doing no harm, the abstaining from outward sin; at least from such as is scandalous, as robbery, theft, common swearing, drunkenness: (2.) The doing good, the relieving the poor; the being charitable, as it is called: (3.) The using the means of grace; at least the going to church and to the Lord's Supper. He in whom these three marks are found is termed by the world a religious man. But will this satisfy him who hungers after God? No: It is not food for his soul. He wants a religion of a nobler kind, a religion higher and deeper than this. He can no more feed on this poor, shallow, formal thing, than he can "fill his belly with the east wind." True, he is careful to abstain from the very appearance of evil; he is zealous of good works; he attends all the ordinances of God: But all this is not what he longs for. This is only the outside of that religion, which he insatiably hungers after. The knowledge of God in Christ Jesus; "the life which is hid with Christ in God;" the being "joined unto the Lord in one Spirit;" the having "fellowship with the Father and the Son;" the "walking in the light as God is in the light;" the being "purified even as He is pure;" -- this is the religion, the righteousness, he thirsts after: Nor can he rest, till he thus rests in God.

    -John Wesley, Sermon on the Mount -- II

    Tuesday
    Aug242010

    Capturing a Vision :: Sermon Resource

    Last week I was a bit handicapped on my way to Wichita.  No radio.  But thanks to technology, I survived.  

    Portable speakers + iPod = Problem Solved.

    Before I headed south I had listened to one sermon from Redeemer Presbyterian Church's 2009 Vision Campaign.  On the way to Wichita, I listened to the remainder of the series.  It is fantastic.

    I love cities.  And I love my city: Kansas City.  The downtown area of KC is going through a process of renewal.  This brings with it a host of challenges.  Gentrification.  Homelessness.  Business start ups, and failures.  Relocation, building renovation, and the creation of common communal space.  And with new people come new interests, new power grabs, new lobbies, new special interests, new political maneuvers, and competing visions.

    For the church, the renewal of cities brings with it immense opportunities for good.  And Redeemer has a great deal to offer.  But whether you are involved in an urban renewal project or not, these sermons will build you up.  Here are the titles:

    • Hope for the World
    • Hope for the Poor
    • Hope for Your Life
    • Hope for the Family
    • Hope for Your Work
    • Hope for the Church
    • Hope and Money
    • Hope for the City

    You can listen and download the sermons here.  

    I have a couple of friends who are busy with urban renewal ministry.  Their work is incredibly important.  But wherever people live, Christians need to be there.  So whether you are in a city or not, whether you are in a small or large or no church, there is plenty in this series that will challenge you and perhaps inspire you.

    I'd recommend checking them out.