Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: Tough Talk

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: Tough Talk

Why do go to Church? What brings you to a weekly worship service when there are so many other things to do on Sunday? Doesn't sleeping in, reading the Sunday paper at a leisurely pace, sharing a relaxing brunch, or watching an exciting NFL game sound so much better than Sunday worship? Here’s another question to consider: Why do people leave the Church and decide to attend another congregation, or stop going altogether? Does one church fulfill someone’s personal need better than another congregation? Is it the people in the church, or the church building, or the pastor that draws you here? Or perhaps, is there a deeper need that makes you decide how you just might spend Sunday morning? Does self identifying as “Christian” somehow mean that you have to live out your faith in a church community? And if you do self-identify as Christian, does your faith have a core belief to it? Does it matter if you are fundamentalist or liberal? And of course the biggest question of all; does Jesus have anything to do with any of this?

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Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: What Lies Ahead

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: What Lies Ahead

A piece of rope walks into a bar and the bartender looks suspiciously. He says, "Sorry, we don't serve your kind here." So the pieces of rope walk out again. Sitting in the gutter outside and feeling really thirsty the rope thinks, "Hey! I've got an idea to get me into the bar." So he starts twisting and turning, wriggling this way and that, pulling out a few threads here and there. Then the piece of string walks back into the bar. The bartender looks at him a little suspiciously again and says "Here, you're not a bit of rope, are you?" The piece of rope replies…

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Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: Struggling with the Puzzle

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: Struggling with the Puzzle

A man took his son fishing one day. After a few hours in the boat with not much to do, the son started asking his father some questions. "How does the boat float?" he asked.
The man thought about the question for a moment, and then said, "I don't really know, son."
"Well, how do fish breathe underwater?"
The man scratched his head. "I guess I don't know the answer to that one either."
"Why is the sky blue?" the boy persisted.
The father replied, "I really don't know, son."
The boy started to worry that his father was getting upset at all the questions. "Do you mind me asking questions, Dad?"
His father immediately reassured him. "No, of course not, son! If you don't ask questions, you'll never learn anything!"

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Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: Power Lunch

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: Power Lunch

While attending seminary in the early 2000s I was a student pastor at a United Methodist church in Dayton, Ohio. Each day I would take a particular downtown exit to and from work. The on and off ramp was a perfect place for homeless folks to beg for charity or work in exchange for a meal. Although the faces of the poor would change occasionally from day to day, there was one guy I happened to strike up a friendship with. He told me his name was Bob, and I usually had a few dollars for him and some chit-chat ready for the minute or so it took the light to change. I felt sorry for Bob, because he sincerely seemed to need help. When I would tell him the places he could go for food and shelter, he already knew exactly where to go. But after a day or so he was back begging in the same spot.

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Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: Ice Cream Man

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: Ice Cream Man

I really admire the Ice Cream Truck drivers who get up early on the weekends and drive down the streets of neighborhoods peddling their ice cream treats to sweaty kids out playing in the hot sun. I remember being one of those sweaty kids, caught up in my own world playing ball in the back yard of our house, or riding my bike up and down the street of our middle class neighborhood in Vandalia. And whenever I heard the sound of the Mr. Softee or Good Humor ice cream truck coming down the street I stopped everything I was doing, and ran to the curb with anticipation. Now I started my first job as a paperboy when I was just 10 years old…so I always had some change in my pocket ready to spend. And I couldn’t think of anything better to spend it on, then an ice cold snow cone, popsicle or dilly bar. You ever eat a dilly bar? It was a round vanilla ice cream bar surrounded in hardened chocolate. My other favorites included the red, white and blue rocket popsicle and especially the peanut and chocolate covered drumstick. Now that was living!

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Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: Costly Courage

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: Costly Courage

We are starting a new worship series today. It’s called, “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.” Now some of you might be thinking, “I already know who Jesus is. I’ve been saved by God’s own son who came to earth enfleshed in bodily form, was crucified, died and resurrected so that I could be redeemed from my sin. Easy enough. Case Closed. End of Story. It’s easy to think that is the core belief of our faith. In fact, we’ve been told that most of our lives. Once saved, always saved. It’s the ticket to getting into heaven. There is no other reason for being Christian. We’ve been told, as long as you accept Jesus Christ as Savior and believe in his death and resurrection, then you are home free. Yet across the ages, the church has debated this simple topic, sometimes in very bloody ways.

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Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: The Gift of Misfits

Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: The Gift of Misfits

Today’s excerpt from Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth is perhaps one of the most remarkable messages in his entire body of work. This passage finishes the end of our sermon series, “The Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit” and leaves us with a summary of sorts to Paul’s provocative message to this primarily Gentile congregation. It gives us an intensely personal glimpse into his own leadership experience and is a striking statement of theology that is a major theme in his ministry. It’s been known by many Pauline theologians as his “Fool’s Speech.”

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Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: The Gift of Disappearing

Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: The Gift of Disappearing

Getting a congregation to dig deep into its pockets is a task as old as Christianity itself. It has never been easy. Paul faced this task squarely in 2 Corinthians 8-9. The central theme of these two chapters of this second letter to the church at Corinth was an attempt to raise money from the well-to-do people folks in the church who were not eager to part with what they had. You see, the Jerusalem “mother church” was poor, really poor, barely surviving, and Paul is urging the more prosperous Corinthians to do the right thing. His mission in this second letter was to get the more prosperous churches in Greece and Asia Minor to provide economic assistance for fellow followers of Christ in Jerusalem, even though he was working on behalf of people who did not approve of him or his ministry. On top of that he was making his plea to largely Gentile congregations which had little affinity for Jerusalem. Paul had his work cut out for him.

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Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: The Gift of Getting Lost

Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: The Gift of Getting Lost

When I was 10 years old I went on a cross-country trip with my grandparents to visit my Uncle in Southern CA. It was during the summer of 1973, and he lived just outside of LA. This trip was a truly an adventure for me. Not only did I get to spend some time with my beloved grandma Bessie on the drive there, but I got to experience the wonder and excitement of my first visit to the California coast. My uncle was working as a bartender, living with several other single guys in a small apartment. During our visit my uncle invited me to spend the day with him at Disneyland. Wow! I thought. My dreams had come true. I was going to visit the land of Mickey Mouse…home to the Matterhorn, the Haunted Mansion, Animatronics shows like the Tiki Tiki Room, and probably my favorite the Country Bear Jamboree, It’s a Small World and the Hall of Presidents. I couldn’t wait to ride on Tomorrowland’s Circle of Progress and experience the unforgettable Main Street Electrical Parade with more than a million twinkling lights on various floats rolling through Disneyland. Now these were attractions I had read about, seen on TV and couldn’t wait to experience for myself. Unfortunately, I got separated from my uncle just an hour after we entered the park together.

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Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: The Gift of Emptiness

Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: The Gift of Emptiness

Of all the heroes of our Faith in the Bible I’ve really struggled most with some writings of the Apostle Paul. Needless to say, some small portions of his letters to the church have been filled with theological rhetoric that has given the Fundamentalist church and many Evangelical Christians permission to hurl homophobic slurs and behave in very un-Christian ways toward the LGBTQ community. I’ve resisted preaching on Paul’s letters, and have tried very hard to make sense of his teachings. I studied him in seminary, wrote academic papers on his life, and listened to professors who spent their entire careers interpreting Paul’s writings. And I don’t want to be one of those folks that just throws the baby out with the bathwater…just because it stinks a little or because it doesn’t make sense or seem useful to me.

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Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: The Gift of Uncertainty

Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: The Gift of Uncertainty

We continue our Pentecost sermon series today with a continuation of stories about the birth of the church. And just like our video clip, there were quite a few labor pains happening as this emerging church began to spread throughout the Roman Empire. Our scripture comes from Paul’s letter to the Christians residing in the city of Rome. Rome was the center of the Empire and was ethnically diverse. In the first century AD it had a population of around one million people in an area less than ten square miles. Of this large population, it is estimated that there were between 40,000 and 50,000 Jews in the city. Of course the city of Rome was predominately populated by Gentiles and so it is expected that the church was comprised of both Jewish and Gentile believers.

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Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: Where We Find Ourselves

Unexpected Gifts of the Spirit: Where We Find Ourselves

Birthdays are wonderful celebrations. I love everything about them, particularly the fact that I can keep my birthday celebration going for quite a long time. It was a joke around my house that I didn’t just celebrate the day of my birthday, I celebrate the entire month. I call it my birthday month. But what is it about birthdays that are so exciting? I mean, the older we get the less likely our birthday can be that exciting. Perhaps what makes it special to us, is that we are reminded how special WE are to the people in our lives. It’s like…for that 24 hours we are the center of attention and everyone reminds us of that by sending us cards and giving gifts.

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I Got Your Back

I Got Your Back

People often wonder what others will say about them at their funeral. One of the most difficult, but rewarding things I do as a pastor is to meet with families, try to understand the breadth of their loved one’s life…and then try to memorialize it in 20 minutes. It can be an arduous task…but if the very essence of that loved one can be captured in the eulogy; the Holy Spirit has plenty of good memories to use for healing grief and loss. And often these families will begin to think about their own legacies. How will I be remembered? For all of us, there is a curiosity about how others will remember us when we die. Often, the epitaphs on gravestones tell their story.

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The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect

I tested a theory this past week. When I was first called as your pastor I asked a lot of people how they found Holy Trinity. Lots of folks told me, and still tell me, that when they googled “friendly churches in Nashville” HTCC came up first in the search. Well, I googled friendly churches in Nashville, and sure enough…we came up as the number one friendly church in the city. Number one! Seriously! I’m still at a loss how this happens. And I think that is amazing! Now even if we don’t know how this happens, what is important is that being identified as a friendly church is very important to us. And it’s not just important to us…it is important to most churches. It seems that “friendly” is the quality to which most churches aspire. For the core belief behind this is; the underlying motivation for churches to be considered friendly, is that if you can be friendly, then people will feel welcome and want to come back.

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Powered

Powered

Now it would be quite easy for me to reflect today on my vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico two weeks ago. But I won’t do that, I promise. I could show you photos of beautiful beaches at sunrise and the wide stretches of white sand along the Pacific Ocean, but that would be mean of me. It would be tempting to share the amazing golden orange sunsets I experienced every night at the balcony of my resort hotel in the Romantic Zone, but that just wouldn’t be fair to you! Oh, I could tell you about my amazing snorkeling expedition into the coral reefs of the Arcos Nature Reserve, but that would be rubbing salt into the wound since you all had snow and ice that week. And I’m sure you would be jealous to see the multitude of skimpily clad locals and tourists enjoying their fun in the sun…and that I definitely won’t show you. Okay…just one photo of the local demographic in their swimming attire.

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The Smoking Gun

The Smoking Gun

It towers over the beautiful and picturesque city, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. If you happen to arrive there first thing in the morning with the mist still clinging to the mountain, you just might think you were seeing an Easter apparition of your own. Rio's famous statue of Christ as Redeemer, standing tall, arms wide, on Corcovado Mountain, is 98 feet high, and weighs 1145 tons. The distance between Christ's fingertips is 91 feet and is the largest statue of Jesus in the world. It is a monument that commands attention and it is not much wonder that millions of people a year travel to see it. This Jesus is an impressive sight.

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Mystery of the Tomb

Mystery of the Tomb

Easter Sunday at Holy Trinity was quite an event! Undoubtedly the most important day of our Christian faith, Easter is the event that completes the gospel story. It resolves all tensions we have with our faith. It turns the agony of the crucifixion on Good Friday into more than just some masochistic wallowing in blood and pain. It is the relief we have been waiting for since the beginning of Lent, and brings us hope in all of those desperate times when we are faced with death. And there you were, all gussied up wearing your Easter best, shiny and new, like you just stepped out of the Sears catalog. I must say that I was impressed. You all looked just like an Easter egg!

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The Real Deal

The Real Deal

One of the best parts about the Matrix series are the Christological themes we can discover within these movies. Many films have used Christ figures to enrich their stories. In The Matrix trilogy, however, the Christ figure motif goes beyond superficial plot enhancements and forms the fundamental core of a three-part story. Neo's messianic growth (in self-awareness and power) and his eventual bringing of peace and salvation to humanity form the essential plot of the trilogy. Neo gradually transforms from mild-mannered software programmer and hacker into a messianic figure who discovers the power within himself to defeat the machine enemy. But it’s his journey to self-realization that prepares him for becoming the One.I think it is fitting that our scripture text for this morning is also about journeys—specifically Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem

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Drawing Power

Drawing Power

Magnets are an important part of our daily lives, serving as essential components in everything from electric motors, loudspeakers, computers, compact disc players, microwave ovens and the family car. Their contribution is often overlooked because they are built into devices and are usually out of sight.Just as we did last Sunday with investigating the phenomenon of light, understanding the scientific properties of magnets can be a bit overwhelming at first. But there are some interesting principles about magnets that can inform or theological discussion today.

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True Colors

True Colors

Most of us see things every day, from the moment we get up in the morning until we go to sleep at night. We look at everything around us using light. We appreciate kids' crayon drawings, fine oil paintings, swirling computer graphics, gorgeous sunsets, a blue sky, shooting stars and rainbows. We rely on our reflection in mirrors to make ourselves look presentable. Turn to someone next to you and ask them, “Do I look presentable this morning?” Yes…you certainly all look quite presentable today! Now turn back to them and say, “You look marvelous!”

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