Potential Sermons

The Only Answer To Accusations of Hatred and Fear

by admin

I’ve written several blogs in the last few months, but they sit in my drafts, not quite making me happy enough to post.  Like that’s their job.

Onwards.  Today I have been thinking about love.  For years, I have struggled with too much emotional investment in political discussion.  I’ve allowed myself to get very upset when people have voiced opinions that I don’t just agree with, but are on their face nonsensical.  Full disclosure: I consider myself a rationalist, but I concede that I may not be right about everything.  There is a difference between disagreeing and being wrong.  Most times, disagreement is fine.  But when someone holds an opinion based on how they feel, and not on reason, I have a huge problem with that.

Anyways.

That wasn’t what I wanted to talk about.  What I wanted to talk about is that despite that emotional investment, the world still seems bent on sliding into irrationality and dysfunction.  Once again, the tides of public discourse seem to be turning judgmental and stereotypical.  The Twitter-like process of reducing everything to soundbites and 140 characters means little is given deep consideration by anyone.  Rarely do people think through the consequences of their thoughts, feelings, and actions anymore.  The results are predictable.  And the worse for us all.

My instinct is to ask the question, how to fight this rising tide of ignorance and, well, hatred?  And the answer was in Scripture all along.  Love.

There is no argument that will convince the BC Law Association that Christians are just as capable as anyone else in society in representing the legal profession, in fairly and competently working for their clients, as well as any atheist or any Muslim or any Buddhist.  There is no argument that will convince voters that a Christian candidate for political office will give as much consideration to constituents of other faiths as they would their own.  There is no argument that will convince the media that people who believe the Bible are not secretly waiting for their chance to seize the reins of power and herd everyone else of unlike mind into concentration camps.  The very irrational belief Christians are accused of having is held by those who hate them as well – regardless of proof to the contrary, people will fear what they do not know and hate what they fear.

There is only one answer that will be heard: love.  If we want to represent Christ fairly, we must simply love.  We must do good.  Not just when it’s convenient.  And not just to each other – which is something Christians all too easily slip into.  We must love our neighbours – and unless we live in communes, our neighbours are of every creed, race, gender, orientation, colour, and TV show preference.  We must love them so ridiculously, so disarmingly, that they look at us funny.  We must put that question mark in their mind: why are they being so nice to me?  We must keep it up, keep on, stay focused, until finally they give up and scream at us: “WHY ARE YOU SO KIND?”

And then… only then will they hear the truth about why.

1 Peter 3:15


Defining Manliness: Living Under Authority

by admin

When he (Jesus) had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

(Matthew 8:5-13 ESV)

I just got home from one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  Our family vacation this year was one of great reflection and also seeing life from a profoundly different perspective.  I am still digesting everything we did and learned.  I know the kids had a good time but I don’t think they realize what a watershed this trip was.

While I was travelling I was thinking a lot about the hand that God has dealt us.  In some ways it is nontraditional.  In some ways it is very traditional.  At least, it could be.  And that is what I am unpacking.

Being the father of 6 boys, I have been wrestling for year with how to teach them what it means to be a man – but not just a man, a mature man, a man who is everything that God wants Him to be.  In many ways I have let them down in modelling this for them, but I am trying very hard to change.

The picture of manliness offered by the world is a picture of independence.  It is a picture of freedom, to do what you want, when you want.  It is a picture that really, at its core holds up selfishness and self-centeredness as its idol, supreme goal, and ultimate end.  I have found that a lot of people speaking truth about manliness and masculinity still fall into this trap, though there are a few that realize there is something more.  This something more I think is obvious when you are a follower of God but I think it is still clear from basic human nature that manliness – true masculinity involves voluntary submission, and living under another authority.

The story I relate above is a story of faith.  It recounts the centurion, a commander in an centurionarmy, caring for one of those under his authority.  The picture of the Roman Centurion, a legionnaire, has been a picture of masculinity for millenia now.  It is recognized and not debated.  Yet, this Centurion in the story is not just a tough man.  Not just a man capable of sending men to their deaths for a cause, for controlling and orchestrating death, for guarding and protecting.  He is also a man who cares, who sees value in the people in his care.  He has a sick servant, and he is willing to take time out of his day to personally seek out the only one who could possibly help – a strange holy man who seems to have a reputation for bringing about healing where no healing should come.  A man who claims to be sent from God.  The Son of God Himself.

The encounter the Centurion has with Jesus has most often been used with its most obvious intent – to encourage us to have faith like the Centurion – a faith Jesus had not witnessed even amongst the supposed people of God.  But the message for me, and for men seeking to understand manhood I think is clear.  This manly man, this Centurion, was a man under authority.  He didn’t resent it.  He didn’t rebell against it.  He didn’t seek a workaround.  It was a fact of his masculine being that he was a man living under authority.  Read the rest of this entry »


Woman at the Well, Part 4: Changing the Subject, Avoiding the Issue

by admin

SilhouetteWe are finally returning to a series I started a fair time ago.  The story of the Woman at the Well has always fascinated me for the many layers that are there, embedded in a simply recounting of Jesus meeting a woman while on a hot, dusty trek from Jerusalem up into Galilee, where He spent the bulk of His ministry.  The encounter is at once intensely countercultural, incredibly affirming, shockingly political, and startlingly irreligious.  In this story Jesus tears down walls of race, class, gender, religion, and even shame, hopelessness, isolation and despair.

Check out Parts 1, 2, and 3.  Now, we turn to a fascinating interchange that takes place as Jesus forces the woman to confront who she is and where she has found herself.

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”
(John 4:19-20 ESV) Read the rest of this entry »


Woman at the Well, Part 3: Cutting to the Chase – Herstory

by admin

The Woman at the Well is a fascinating anecdote in John’s Gospel.  It is featured in no other account of Jesus’ ministry but so much is going on in this story that I can’t help but reflect deeply on this story and all of the layers of impact it has on life today.

In Part 1 of this series, I reflected on the beginning of the story – the reason the story even came about.  Jesus was on a long hot journey by foot from Jerusalem to Galilee via Samaria.  He stopped at Jacob’s Well for water around noontime, and began an innocent conversation with a woman drawing water for her household.  Sounds normal right?  In that day, at that time, a Jewish man interacting with a Samaritan woman at a well in the heat of the day add up to a bizarre, almost singular occurrence.

In Part 2 I pried into the reality of how many cultural norms were being shattered by Jesus in addressing this nameless woman.  Many people today view Christianity as the conservative, regressive religion that oppresses people but this story as it unfolds demonstrates the shocking irreligious nature of Jesus and His message.  It spells out a countercultural Jesus, a Jesus who had enough of people treating Samaritans like scum; women like chattel; sinners like pariahs.

In part 3, I am going to expand on what the real issue was.  It wasn’t her Samaritan background that was keeping her from the living water that Jesus was offering.  It wasn’t her femaleness.  It was her story.  Her history.  It was the emotional aftermath of the life she had been living to this point. Read the rest of this entry »


Woman At The Well, Part 2: Crossing Barriers

by admin

The Woman at the Well – John Chapter 4 was one of the first texts I ever spoke on.  As the years have passed I have become more and more mesmerized by this anecdote from Jesus’ ministry and all the different issues it impacts in our life today in the 21st Century.

In Part 1, we began this study by examining the woman herself.  Why was she fetching water at midday?  What is the significance of this?  Who was this woman Jesus was talking to?  Can we relate to her at all?  Turns out, her story is becoming more and more common today, but the biggest difference between her day and ours is that today the zeitgeist tells us that this woman is a healthy, successful woman who has had a life of personal self-fulfilment.  In contrast, what led to her isolation in her day was both her own acceptance  of and society’s censure of the outcomes of the immense pain in her life, and the calluses that were forming over those wounds insulating her from love, closeness and intimacy both with other people and with God.

Here in Part 2, I want to wrestle with the reality that this conversation should have never happened.  There were too many reasons that Jesus, an unmarried devout Jewish man, should not have been talking to this half-pagan, Samaritan five-time divorcee, living with a man she was unmarried to.  How did it happen?  What does it mean that Jesus set aside all these barriers to speak to her?  And what was it that he had to share with her that carried such urgency? Read the rest of this entry »


Woman At The Well Part 1: Thirst and Avoidance

by admin

One of the first times I ever spoke was on John 4 – the woman at the well.  It’s a fascinating little anecdote from Jesus’ early ministry, and it holds a number of unique insights about both Jesus’ purpose, method, and outcomes, as well as a couple of unique insights about human nature and how people deal with stuff in their lives.

It’s a very contemporary story, because the woman Jesus encounters sounds very familiar to us.  She’s an intelligent, independent woman.  She has been educated.  She is up on the issues of her day.  She doesn’t sound like an undereducated, burkha-wearing middle eastern woman of 2000 years ago that most people imagine.  She isn’t a beaten down woman.  She isn’t a woman who is enslaved.  She follows her heart.  She makes her own decisions.

What plays out in this story is something many women and many men can relate to, because while the above description sounds quite modern, she carries burdens that most of us don’t carry today.  So I am going to do a series of posts here on this story, drawing out 6 fascinating truths from John chapter 4.

The first detail I want to point out is – the story begins with thirst.  And avoidance. Read the rest of this entry »


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