Category Archives: Sermons

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Lectionary Year C

Time is just like money- it’s so annoying to be standing at the end of the week or month and be forced to say, “Now, where did it all go?” Let me use my work as an example. One practice I’ve picked up recently is taking a pro-active approach with my scheduling. It’s amazing the difference I notice in how I feel about my workload when I take steps to curb distraction. Time is just like money– think about what any financial adviser will tell you about budgeting. Mapping out where it will go at the beginning of the month is the best thing. I’m discovering this principle translates very well into my time. But we are human, and we’re going down this line of thought because, left to ourselves, distraction usually creeps in.

I’m sure you can relate to this experience somehow. Distraction. Even you Type A personalities out there. I mean, do you really always manage to filter out distraction? Raise your hand if so… Ok, no one? Because I was going to offer to let you preach instead of me. We all find ourselves asking where it all went, don’t we?

Time at work… I’ve already covered that one. Time on the weekend… what about that? Who has projects around the house that sneak under the radar Saturday after Saturday because Engineer Mountain’s wildflowers are in bloom right now, or the Denver Broncos are playing right now, or because that storm just dumped up fresh snow on Purgatory this morning, or because Russell needs your help in the youth ministry right now? Yes, we know how to play in this town, and it’s a huge battle for time.

I mentioned money earlier. Maybe your day-planner is tighter than a tourniquet, but your budget has a couple holes. Anina and I are pretty good with this, but we do have a month now and then where we look back and say “We spent THAT MUCH on the pets?!?” And I was utterly horrible at this concept when I first started managing my own money. How many of you students sometimes feel this way with your allowances?

Or here’s one: energy. Spending all your relational energy at work, and when you get home, it’s your spouse or your kids asking “You had a bad day, didn’t you?” When in fact, this may not really be the case, but instead you simply didn’t have anything left to give them when you got home.

Or who’s familiar with this scenario? A loved one passes away. In that quiet, solitary moment after you first find out, or while standing around talking with others at the wake, you ask yourself “Why didn’t I call them more often?” I didn’t deal with the passing of my mother’s mom very much at all, and this is one question that I really prefer not to confront.

All of these situations, and many others, have roots in our living of distracted lives.

I have good news for you: God knows.

And he used a stout and cantankerous but obedient man named Paul to give us some direction. Let’s pray, and then dig into today’s text. Continue reading

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Taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap

Windows Media Player allows me to bump up the playback speed of my music. LP players had this, so I don’t know why I never thought to look for it in my media software.

So… that being said…

A Fire Inside + Ctrl-Shift-G (Fast Playback Speed) = Great sermon-writing music.

(The taptaptaptaptap is my feet, btw…)

Checked out

Tuesday, August 7:

My brain has officially checked out for the next 6 days. :)

I’m done! I survived today, a day that spanned the gap between being out of town with work for 2 weeks and heading out to Los Angeles and Santa Barbara for a much-needed vacation.

As far as traveling for work the past couple weeks…

I’ve been to Indiana, for an event called the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, which entailed rushing 15 sr. high students through 2 different half-hour layovers in major airports, only to show up at Purdue University to be melded into and herded around in a crowd of 5000 people. (Maybe I’m using a bit of overstatement… overall, it was a great experience.) Stressful from a leader standpoint, but positive nonetheless.

Upon returning from Purdue, I had a couple days in the office to basically sit in meetings and hear about what I had missed. Not that I could do anything about it; there’s just a set of stuff that has to be covered. The couple days in the office were about catching up. Then I took a couple days off, for a combination of resting from what I just finished as well as preparing for what was coming up. So for Thursday and Friday, I was focusing on what lay ahead. For the upcoming week, I was headed off to speak at a great camp that the kids from our church go to (Sonlight Christian Camp). Thursday consisted of getting the thematic skeleton laid out for how to address the week’s big idea. Honestly, I had had this on the back burner since January, but it really never got much thought because all the day-to-day pragmatics took priority. On Friday, I got the chance to attach some specific ideas and references and whatnot to the skeleton.

An aside techie note: For this speaking engagement, I tried out a new idea-mapping program, Compendium Open Learn. I’d recommend it; Open Learn is a great hybrid between left-brain outlining and right-brain visualization.

Wednesday, August 8:

So when I showed up at camp, I had a basic idea of what each day should consist of. Each day entailed a couple hours of making speaking notes, putting together a powerpoint, double-checking scripture references, etc. The week turned out to be great. I left with the impression that the biggest ideas I wanted to drive home really stuck with them. Thanks be to God! The content of the talks merits its own post later.

Mentioning powerpoint made me think of a post I read recently over at Out of Ur. It’s well-written, and makes me double-check myself to make sure I’m not using technology in a manipulative fashion (which is especially easy to do with media-inundated sr. high students).

This morning we left the house at 5:00am, to fly out to Los Angeles. Got out of Durango pretty smoothly. Saw some friends from church on our flight out. I love small towns. 14k people and you’re almost guaranteed to see someone you know at 6:30 in the morning at the airport. Anyway, the flights were pretty uneventful, which I guess is the ideal. Sitting on the runway at Salt Lake City, there was some super weird new-agey music that it seemed only Anina and I could hear. I was listening everywhere to try to track down its source. But I just looked goofy standing up, or putting my ear against the window, or feeling the vents for vibrations, because no one else could hear it. Turns out that somehow my armrest headphone jack was specially equipped to become a speaker instead of a jack. My armrest was emitting the offending tunes! It was definitely funny to witness, but basically, you just had to be there.

On the bus leaving LAX, I couldn’t help but overhear a fellow passenger calling home to let someone know he landed safely: “Oh honey you wouldn’t believe how beautiful it is here… 70 degrees, clear blue skies…” If by blue you mean gray, yeah sure, I’ll buy that. I’m not bashing LA’s smog or that guy’s definition of blue, but it’s just funny… it’s muddy gray here overhead compared to places like Durango.

I love being on vacation!

Wikis, wikis, everywhere

The newest wiki (definition) I’ve come across is wikiletics. It was set up by Leonard Sweet, a forerunner in church imagination. Here’s what Rick Lawrence says about him:

In sum, Leonard Sweet sees things others don’t. He leans into the corners so he can peek around them. I can’t think of a better person for a brain-picking session on youth ministry’s second century. That’s why we asked him to point his mental browser at today’s young people and tell us what he sees.

I’m also excited that Sweet is going to be a keynote at Catalyst. (Oct. 3-5. Anyone else want to go? More people = better price…) At first I kinda dismissed him as a grandiose thinker without a gameplan, based on others’ descriptions of him. But the more I read, the more I see the error of my ways hahaha. A good example of me being proved wrong like this is in the above-mentioned interview he did for Rick Lawrence.

Anyway, back to the wiki. I created a login yesterday and put up my first contribution. It’s a sermon I composed and delivered last November. It’s also posted here within my wordpress.

Stewart, you should join in!

Unattractive

This is a sermon I had the privilege of sharing with my congregation today. The backwardness of Jesus, dare I say his unattractiveness, really intrigues me. Almost bugs me at times. So what do we do about it? Well, here are some thoughts to chew on…

Normally, I’m a pretty egalitarian person. I can’t stand arrogance. Nobody has the right to see themselves as more than a human. A sinful – although fearfully and wonderfully made – human. I find myself observing others and saying “Hey! Just who do you think you are?!?” People that have 17 items in the 10-or-less checkout lane at City Market. “Who do you think you are?!?” People going 45 or 50 miles an hour down North Main that recklessly cut me off, only to wind up right next to me at the great equalizer, the next red light. “Who do you think you are?!?” But I’m not completely consistent in this view. I defy my own norm when it comes to how I view leaders. I tend to put them on pedestals. I just started reading a biography on Thomas Jefferson. Oh my gosh! Let me tell you some of the cool stuff I’ve already picked up. We all know about his talents as architect, politician, farmer, etc. But in reading the biography, I learned about the rich tradition of surveying in the Jefferson family. His father, Peter, pretty much was responsible for drawing up the first accurate map of Virginia. Tom was so proud of Dad that he took up this skill-set at a young age. Later on in life, he ended up passing that knowledge on to his nephew, Meriwether Lewis… so we have Thomas Jefferson to thank for the Lewis & Clark expedition… how cool is Thomas Jefferson!

But see, there I go. I’ve put him on a pedestal. In reality, even Tom was a sinful – although fearfully and wonderfully made – human being. But he was a leader, so I end up concentrating on this, his insatiable thirst for knowledge, his political wisdom, his jack-of-all-trades arsenal of talents. I need my leaders to be these flawless, larger-than-life figures.

Can anybody here relate to that? Why do we do this? No doubt Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting fame helped them attain office. Ted Kennedy, like him or not, will stay in the Senate as long as he wants, because he’s a Kennedy; he hails from Camelot. Why was the “war hero” status of President Bush and Senator Kerry such a hot topic in the last election? Even Mother Teresa, as much as she probably wanted to, couldn’t stay out of the spotlight. Celebrity. Leaders. The words are inseparably linked. Why do we need our leaders to be strong, and on top of things? Continue reading