The Smoke from a Distant Fire

151213-GraphicSermon preached at Whatcoat UMC on Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015 as part of an Advent series: The Waiting Room (Doctor Luke Prepares Us for the Master Healer). Sermon text: Luke 3:7-18. The key verses are Luke 3:8a-9b:

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

…every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

For this sermon, I drew on two books, among other sources. One about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxis (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy) and one by Bonhoeffer (Discipleship – also translated as The Cost of Discipleship).

The tune by the Sanford Townsend Band I remember from my youth, riding in the pickup truck to the tobacco fields with Pam Pope and the gang, gave this sermon its title, vamping off verse 16: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The idea that plays in my mind involves the intersection of what we do (the simple obedience to which John calls the crowds – share, act justly) and God’s gracious, powerful acts in Jesus Christ, through the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Prepare the Way of the Lord

151206-GraphicSermon preached at Whatcoat UMC on Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015 as part of an Advent series: The Waiting Room (Doctor Luke Prepares Us for the Master Healer). Sermon text: Luke 3:1-6. The key verse is Luke 3:4:

A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.

Though John the Baptist might seem like a strange place to spend in the Advent season Waiting Room, as Dr. Luke prepares us to see the Master Healer, both Mark and John’s gospel accounts begin with John the Baptist, and include nothing we know from Matthew or Luke about Jesus’ birth. It’s as if John the Baptist’s preparation made possible Jesus’ entry into our world as Messiah, as much as his birth did.

This passage quotes the beginning of Isaiah 40, when the prophet speaks comfort to God’s people returning from exile. As we prepare for Sunday, I invite you to read and meditate on these passages from Luke and Isaiah, as you consider the following questions:

  1. What wilderness place has made it possible for you to speak or to hear a voice calling to prepare God’s Way? Why are wilderness places so necessary in the Way of God among us?
  2. What do you make of the list of rulers, sacred and secular, that Luke mentions at the start of this passage? To whom does the word of come in our own time, and who would make the list of rulers in our day?
  3. The Jordan River was the gateway to the promised land. John’s baptism of repentance was a kind of gateway as well. How do you remember and commemorate your own baptism of repentance during this waiting season? If you have not been baptized, in what ways has God been preparing a Way in your life for a kind of crossing into salvation and hope?
  4. What does any of this have to do with Jesus? In other words, what does it mean that God’s story of salvation includes us as preparers of the Way. How do you prepare God’s Way? What part does God play in that preparation? And how prepared do you feel in this season of waiting?

See the Worship Plan for 2015-16 at Whatcoat UMC.

Do You See? Our Redemption is Near

151129-graphicSermon preached at Whatcoat UMC on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015 as part of an Advent series: The Waiting Room (Doctor Luke Prepares Us for the Master Healer). Sermon text: Luke 21:25-36. The key verse is Luke 21:28:

When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.