I have had the pleasure to preach the past two weeks, first at Cullowhee UMC and then at Webster and Love’s Chapel. You can check out my sermons below if you wanna!
July 28th, 2013
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples. ’He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’
And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.”And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.
‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’
Sermon: Just Ask! (click here for the audio.)
August 4th, 2013
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Sermon: Clothe Yourself
Some of you may have seen a TV show called “What Not To Wear.” On this show, the hosts take a participant, usually a woman, who wears inappropriate clothing for her age or her work context and transform her wardrobe into something more appropriate. But the show not only changes the woman’s wardrobe; it changes her life. By simply putting on clothes that fit and adequately reflect her profession, the woman can more properly express her personality, abilities, dreams, and confidence, things that went missing while donning baggy clothes or sweat pants at work. It changes the way people see her.
I’ve experienced something similar in my life. When people see me wearing casual clothes in a restaurant or at the grocery store they think, “Oh, that is just a young girl.” They are shocked to discover that I’m a minister because it is so unexpected. But when I wear my robe, no one questions my vocation. Our clothes reflect who we are on the inside. What can be seen on the outside reveals essential qualities about each of us to every person we encounter and communicates to others who we are.
The writer of Colossians begins the passage we read today by referencing literal clothing. He is speaking to a Christian community filled with baptized people. In the early church, people would strip off their old clothes, usually a dark colored cloak, before baptism, then would be baptized naked, and then would put on a brand new, crisp, clean white robe after emerging from the water. Changing clothes signified that they had died to their old, sinful life and had been raised with Christ into a life focused on heavenly things. The new robe reflected the renewed life the person had taken on at their baptism.
Just as early Christians took off their old clothes at baptism, so do we take off the things that are earthly at our baptism. The writer gives a pretty extensive list of the things we must shed: fornication, impurity, lust, evil desire, greed, lying, slander, and abusive language. As Christians, Christ has become our life. At our baptism we begin our journey as disciples who are given the responsibility to act as Christ’s representatives on earth. What we present on the outside reflects not only our own beliefs and values, but also directly reflects Christ and Christ’s church.
When we call ourselves Christians yet gossip about our neighbors, we misrepresent Christ. When we call ourselves Christians yet have an extramarital relationship, we misrepresent Christ. When we call ourselves Christians yet hold our money tightly in our fists, we misrepresent Christ. We can’t just talk the talk and not walk the walk. We can’t proclaim Christ as our lord and savior and then act like we’ve never cracked a Bible or heard the Gospel proclaimed. Other people are looking to us to show them the loving nature of Christ, both people within these church walls and without. We have a responsibility to love all of our neighbors. As disciples of Christ, we must shed all things that wound our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. We must strip off the old self.
But it’s not just about what we take off; it’s also what we put on. What does our new, crisp, white robe look like? In verses 12-14, the writer reveals what holy things we should wrap ourselves in: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and above all love, which binds all things in perfect harmony. Wearing the robe of Christ means showing abundant hospitality to everyone who walks through these church doors. It means looking at a homeless person in the eye, embracing them, making them feel like a human being with dignity. It means approaching mission work with the attitude of a humble servant instead of a self-righteous savior. It means forgiving that one person you love to begrudge. It means showing Christ’s love to others in every word and deed.
We can’t just talk the talk and not walk the walk. We can’t proclaim Christ as our lord and savior and then act like we’ve never cracked a Bible or heard the Gospel proclaimed. Other people are looking to us to show them the loving nature of Christ. We have a responsibility to love all of our neighbors. We must take on all the good things that were once lost to sin, but have been renewed in us by Christ at our baptism. We must clothe ourselves with the new self.
I don’t know about you, but reading these lists of do’s and don’ts makes me feel pretty overwhelmed. Some of our earthly self is hard to let go of, and some of our new self is hard to put on. And the weight of knowing you are representing Christ every second of every day can prove pretty taxing. How can we be perfect enough? How can we adequately represent Christ?
(Insert a big long dramatic pause… wait for it… wait for it…)
The good news, my friends, is that we simply can’t. Even though we were regenerated at our baptism, we are still sinful people. It’s like we have one arm in the sleeve of our old cloak and one arm in the sleeve of our new cloak. We have been blessed with the awesome responsibility to live as disciples, but we cannot do so alone. We need Christ. And our need for Christ unites us.
I have been attending a Bible study comprised of people of both Webster and Love’s Chapel since I arrived in this community a month ago. We have been studying Paul’s letter to the Romans, and every week we always reiterate what Paul says, “All of us are sinners. We are not better than another person just because our sin if different from theirs.” We all fall short of following Christ in our own ways. We are not better than the person sitting beside us in these pews just because our sin looks different than theirs.
And just because we, as Christians, have been given the responsibility to put on our clean, white robes, does not mean we are better or more holy than people who never step foot inside of a church or believe the Gospel. All of us are created in God’s image and God called all of us good. We, as Christians, have the privilege of knowing the good things God intends for us to clothe ourselves in, and we should strive to be holy every day. But even with our knowledge of God’s goodness and our responsibility to walk as Christ’s disciples, we fail every day. No one, inside this church or out, is holy.
Humans cannot judge each other and divide ourselves into “the perfect, holy ones” and “the terrible, unholy ones.” We are ALL unholy sinners. We are ALL unworthy of Christ’s love and forgiveness. And yet each of us receives it. Christ unites us in his grace, for in Christ’s renewal there is no longer Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free, but Christ is all and in all!
Our unity as sinners in desperate need of Christ’s love to even begin to put on our new selves each day does not get played out more openly and beautifully than at this Communion table. A few years ago I attended a worship service at Haywood Street Congregation in Asheville, a congregation that focuses on homeless ministry. When I went forward for Communion, I was served the cup of juice, Christ’s blood, by a homeless woman. It was very apparent that she was homeless. Her clothes were old and very dirty and her hair was matted. I could smell that she had not bathed in many days. As I paused before dipping the bread in the cup, I wondered about her story. Was it addiction or mental illness or a desperate escape from an abusive relationship or simply the economic injustices of our country that kept this woman in poverty? Ultimately, it didn’t matter. I was a sinner and she was a sinner. I was a human and she was a human. I was in need of Christ’s love and forgiveness, and she was offering it to me. I looked her in the eyes, ate the bread of life, and thanked God for uniting me with this woman at Christ’s table. That encounter completely and utterly humbled me. It was a life-changing moment in which God taught me how to pull the cloak of humility and love and compassion and forgiveness a little bit farther up my arm.
Here, at this table, we are reminded that Christ died for ALL of us because we are sinners. Here we remember his sacrifice so we may remove our old cloaks and clothe ourselves in a way that reflects Christ. Here we join together with other sinners to beg for God’s forgiveness. Here is where we receive it. Here is where we are renewed and once again find the strength and courage to try putting on our new selves and living out our call as Christ’s disciples. Here is where we learn to love each other. Come and see and taste and smell the truth that Christ is all and in all.