Posts Tagged ‘Downton Abbey’

Sermon 03-09-14: “The Coming Judgment”

March 18, 2014


There is something within us that demands that justice be done. We live in a world, however, in which justice can never be done fully or perfectly. And sometimes when we try to do justice ourselves, we make things worse.

The good news is that God promises that justice will be done—on Judgment Day. But if God judges the world, that means he judges us as well. Is that still good news? Yes! And this sermon explains why.

Sermon Text: James 2:8-13

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.

Some of you watch the PBS show Downton Abbey, about a family of aristocrats and their servants living in 1920s England. One of the story lines this past season revolved around one of the servants named Anna—a “ladies maid” who is one of the most kindhearted, sympathetic characters on the show. This season she was raped by another servant who was visiting the house. It’s difficult enough today for women to come forward and seek the justice of the courts when this happens today; it was much more difficult back then. So going to the police isn’t really an option.

At first, Anna tries to keep it a secret from her husband, Mr. Bates, because she was confident that if he found out, he would definitely take the law into his own hands and murder the man who did it. And then he would be imprisoned and hanged—and what good would that do for anyone? Eventually, Mr. Bates does find out most of the truth, except Anna lies and tells him that a stranger did it—someone she had never seen before who broke into the house. Again, if Mr. Bates knew who really did it, he would hunt him down and kill him.

So, one of the suspenseful elements of the story this season was watching Mr. Bates piece it together, solve the mystery, slowly and surely figure out the full truth about who did it. What’s he going to do?

Since in the past I’ve been accused by my own family of giving away the endings of movies in sermon illustrations, I won’t reveal what happens to either the rapist or Mr. Bates. What I will say is this: the writers wrote the story in such a way that they had even Christian pastors like me rooting for Mr. Bates, hoping that he would avenge this terrible crime against his wife, Anna. I don’t think I’m the only one who felt that way, either.

We want justice to be done in this world. It angers us to see people who perpetrate evil get off scot-free. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 10-27-13: “Rich Towards God, Part 3: The Rich Man and Lazarus”

November 1, 2013


Most Methodists avoid talking about hell. It’s understandable: It makes us uncomfortable. It may frighten us. We may wonder how a God of love could send people there. As I argue in this sermon, however, hell is a natural consequence of God’s love. And it’s out of this same love that God sent his Son Jesus Christ in the world, to bring us into a saving relationship with God. We who place our faith in Christ don’t have to experience hell because Christ experienced hell on our behalf.

The parable that Jesus tells in today’s scripture is, in part, about hell, but it also speaks to the idolatrous faith that we often place in money and possessions, rather than God. Lazarus, by contrast, depended on God alone for life, security, and true wealth. Do we? Why or why not?

Sermon Text: Luke 16:19-31

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

The PBS show Downton Abbey is set in England in the early 20th century. It tells the story of a family of aristocrats who live on a vast estate called Downton Abbey. The first episode of the show begins with the news that The Titanic has sunk. The lord of the estate, Lord Grantham, has three daughters. Under English law, daughters weren’t entitled to inherit anything. So the heir of Downton was a male cousin. Only that cousin died on board The Titanic. And the next heir in line also died on board the ship. So during the first episode, the family is scrambling to figure out who the next heir is.

"What's a week-end?"

“What’s a week-end?”

Turns out it’s a very distant cousin named Matthew. The family has never met Matthew, and they are shocked to learn that—get this—Matthew actually works for a living. He’s a lawyer. He’s—gasp!—middle class. During one of his first dinners at the mansion, Matthew refers to doing something over the “weekend.” And Lord Grantham’s mother, the Dowager Countess asks—completely innocently—“What’s a weekend?” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 03-10-13: “Journey to Jerusalem, Part 2: God’s Word”

March 13, 2013

Fading Footprints in the Sand

In today’s scripture, Mary took a bold step in order to sit at Jesus’ feet alongside his male disciples. By doing so, she risked scorn and rejection. She wasn’t doing it, however, to be the first-century equivalent of Susan B. Anthony: She was doing it because spending time with the Lord, listening to his word, was her top priority. Do our lives as disciples today reflect this same priority? Or do we too often listen to that “Martha voice” in our heart that tells us that we’re too busy to spend time with the Lord?

Sermon Text: Luke 10:38-42

Please note: There is no sermon video this week. It will return next week!

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes and pictures.

I recently started watching Downton Abbey. If you haven’t seen it, the show portrays two very different groups of people. They live in very close proximity to one another and constantly interact with one another. But in many ways they couldn’t be further apart: one group is an incredibly wealthy British aristocratic family, the Crawleys, and the other group is their large staff of servants who attend to their needs and maintain the large estate on which they all live. One of the tensions early in the series is that the lord of the manor doesn’t have a son to inherit his estate. After a couple of heirs die aboard the Titanic, the family is shocked to learn that the next heir in line is a distant cousin who—shockingly—belongs to the middle class! And he actually has a job! He’s an attorney! He works for a living! I’m proud to say that it’s hard for us Americans to imagine how working for a living could be considered a bad thing, but from the perspective of these upper-class Brits, it is a necessary evil that other people have to do.


The servants at Downton Abbey cannot cross an invisible boundary.

Another tension in the show is that many of the butlers, valets, chauffeurs, footmen, maids, cooks, and housekeepers are clearly as naturally bright, articulate, gifted, and capable as the people they serve, but they’ll never be able to do anything to prove it: they’ll never gain entry into the Crawley’s world; they are separated by an invisible but very real boundary line.  Read the rest of this entry »