Sermon 04-10-2022: “Blessed is the King Who Comes in the Name of the Lord”

April 25, 2022

Scripture: Luke 19:28-40

The week before last, the Duke of Sussex, otherwise known as Prince Harry, and his wife Meghan made headlines again. You may remember that they resigned a couple of years ago from being full-time members of the British Royal Family and have been living in sunny southern California—instead of England—ever since… So… Go U.S.A.! I bet Harry doesn’t even blame us anymore for fighting our war for independence! But meanwhile, back in dark and dreary London, the rest of the Royal Family was attending a memorial service for Prince Philip, Harry’s grandfather. And Harry wasn’t there… He and his wife remained in California… as Royal watchers around the world fretfully observed.

And the reason Harry gave for not attending? Since he no longer lives with the rest of the Royal Family, he’s worried about his safety: he no longer has the same security team protecting him—the equivalent of our Secret Service. When Prince Harry goes to England, he no longer has the same level of protection that he used to have.1

Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 03-27-2022: “When Our Father Says, ‘From Now On'”

April 1, 2022

Scripture: Luke 15: 1-2, 11-32

Almighty, gracious Father, since our whole salvation depends on our true understanding of your holy Word, grant that our hearts—freed from worldly affairs—may hear and understand your holy Word with all diligence and faith, so that we may rightly discern your gracious will, cherish it, and live by it with all earnestness, to your praise and honor, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

We are nearing the end of March, and I have one question for you: Is your bracket busted?

Of course it is!

Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 03-20-22: “If You Stand, Take Heed Lest You Fall”

March 31, 2022

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Prayer for illumination

Blessed Lord, you have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning—grant us that we may in such a way hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them; that by patience and comfort of your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Book of Common Prayer (1552)

I want to describe something that happened to me and my family just before Christmas last year. My wife, Lisa, my son, Ian, and I were driving back from a restaurant in Lavonia. We had just celebrated the completion of Ian’s Christmas band concert. I was behind the wheel. It was dark. Highway 17 is a divided highway at that point. We were approaching a bend in the road up ahead, visibility wasn’t great… when suddenly I saw a fast approaching car, coming toward me, in my lane, on the wrong side of this divided highway! I looked in the lane to my left—and thought, “Can I get over?” Naturally, I couldn’t… there was a car right beside me… So I tapped the brakes and let that car pass, I swerved over into the left lane. And the fast approaching car passed us by without incident

Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 03-13-2022: “A Template for Trust in Times of Trouble”

March 15, 2022

Scripture: Psalm 27

The following paragraph comes from an article on the Encyclopaedia Britannica website:

It used to be a standard trope in action movies, although you don’t see it much these days: a patch of apparently solid ground in the jungle that, when stepped on, turns out to have the consistency of cold oatmeal. The unlucky victim starts sinking down into the muck; struggling only makes it worse. Unless there’s a vine to grab a hold of, he or she disappears without a trace (except maybe a hat floating sadly on the surface). It was a bad way to go. Quicksand was probably the number-one hazard faced by silver-screen adventurers, followed by decaying rope bridges and giant clams that could hold a diver underwater.1

Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 03-06-2022: “If You Are the Son of God”

March 14, 2022

Scripture: Luke 4:1-13

If you are of my generation or older, you will no doubt remember a song that was all over the radio back in the spring of 1985. I’m talking about the song “We Are the World” by USA for Africa, a group of American pop and rock stars. This was a song recorded for charity. The proceeds from the sale of the record went to famine relief in Ethiopia. Not long ago, my boys were watching a “making of” video on YouTube about the song, and I was struck by a rather glaring error in the song, which I promise I had never noticed before… and maybe you haven’t either. It’s from the lines that Willie Nelson sings… He sings:

As God has shown us by turning stones to bread

And so we all must lend a helping hand

Read the rest of this entry »

Ash Wednesday Sermon 03-02-2022: “What Would You Sacrifice for the Sake of Joy”

March 14, 2022

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Last Saturday, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was just getting under way, some allies in the European Union were offering to give Ukraine President Zelensky safe passage to Germany. There he could be “president in exile” while Russia did whatever they were going to do—and most of us probably assumed it wouldn’t take long for Putin and his vastly superior military to quickly overcome Ukrainian resistance. Regardless, if Zelensky took up the E.U.’s offer, he himself could remain safe. 

And Zelensky refused. He said, “Thank you, but the war isn’t in Germany; the war is here… in Ukraine.” In other words, “I’m called to be the president here. I’m called to be commander-in-chief here. I’m called to fulfill my purpose here. So it would be inconsistent with my calling to be anywhere other than right here, in Ukraine.” For all I know, he was signing his death warrant; I pray that he wasn’t. But to his credit, here is a man who seems perfectly willing to die—if that’s what his particular “calling” requires.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 02-27-2022: “Down in the Valley”

March 10, 2022

Scripture: Luke 9:27-43a

I don’t know about you, but last week, on three different occasions, I had the rare privilege of spotting a truck in town that represents a certain brand of hot dog… This truck is actually in the shape of a giant hot dog. I’m referring, of course, to the Oscar Mayer “Weinermobile.” It’s ridiculous and funny and I absolutely love it… And I promise each time I saw this truck, I laughed at loud. It brought a big smile to my face. I mean, how can you not laugh when you see that thing coming?

And it is a rare privilege to see the Weinermobile, especially in Toccoa, because there are only six of them in the entire U.S.!

Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 02-20-2022: “How to Love Like Jesus”

February 24, 2022

Scripture: Luke 6:27-38

So Lisa and I were having an argument a while back—it wasn’t an important argument, and I was at fault. But we were having this argument, and—friends, let me tell you—my perfect, 52-year-long streak of never winning an argument remains unbroken. Why do I keep trying? It’s worse than Charlie Brown’s stubborn hope that this time Lucy is going to let him actually kick the football. “This time I’m going to win an argument!” But I never do. But during the argument, I promise that these words came out of my mouth: “Yes, sure… what I did was wrong, but I guarantee you that 99.9 percent of other husbands would have done—or failed to do—the exact same thing in this situation.” 

But do you see what I was doing? It’s as if I were saying, “Honey, your standards for my behavior are way too high! You expect way too much from me! You see, it is not in my nature to behave differently from the way I behavedthis is just the kind of person I am… I can’t change!” 

Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 02-13-2022: “Jesus and the Pursuit of Happiness”

February 24, 2022

Scripture: Luke 6:17-26

By now, many of you have heard about and are playing the online game Wordle. The game has exploded in popularity. All five members of my family play it every day… and we eagerly post our results in the family group chat. 

In a nutshell, you have six chances to guess a five-letter word that has been randomly selected by the Wordle app. With each guess, the game gives you feedback about which letters, if any, are in the in the word… and which letters aren’t. As one article on the Wordle phenomenon puts it, if you solve it, it makes you feel clever, but not too clever. And it doesn’t take much time. There’s only one Wordle a day, so it’s impossible to go down a Wordle rabbit hole.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 02-06-2022: “When We’re in the Middle of a Miracle”

February 14, 2022

Scripture: Luke 5:1-11

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time a dear brother in Christ named Trace Embry. Some of you know Trace. He created and runs a wilderness therapy school for troubled teenagers called Shepherd’s Hill Academy. It’s off Highway 17 in Martin. Young people from around the world get placed in this program. Among other things, these kids get a first-rate education… but they receive that education without having access to any “screens,” or smartphones, or devices of any kind. No social media. They are segregated by gender. They live in cabins in the woods, with no electricity, no indoor plumbing—and only a wood stove to keep them warm… And by the way, they have to chop, split, and dry their own firewood themselves. Counselors, of course, live with them and work alongside them the whole time. On the weekend, these students are responsible for cooking their own meals over an open fire. 

And many of them receive the gospel of Jesus Christ while they’re at it.

Read the rest of this entry »