Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

Sermon 05-05-19: “The Most Important Healing”

May 8, 2019

I’m happy to report that I will once again be preaching regularly! For the next seven Sundays I’ll be preaching at the Lavonia United Methodist Church in Lavonia, Georgia. After that, in late June, I will be appointed senior pastor at Toccoa First UMC. I’ll be posting sermons here and on my podcast each week.

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Sermon Text: Luke 5:17-26

The following is a manuscript I prepared from my outline. It will differ slightly from the sermon I delivered, which you can listen to above.

Last week I listened to a podcast from the Gospel Coalition, an evangelical Christian ministry. It featured an interview with New York Times columnist and political writer David Brooks. Brooks was raised in a secular Jewish family. Throughout most of his adult life he would have identified as either an atheist or an agnostic at best. But recently something changed, and in this interview he described his conversion to Christianity.

He said he knew he had a profound spiritual problem 15 or 20 years ago… when his dreams came true; when he satisfied what he believed was his heart’s deepest desire; when he wrote his first New York Times-bestselling book. Isn’t this what all aspiring authors dream of? To land a book on top of the bestseller list! Brooks thought, “If only I could write and publish a #1 bestseller, my problems would be solved. My life would change dramatically! I could have lasting happiness and joy. If only...” Yet he said that when his publisher called to give him the good news that he had a bestseller, he felt “completely empty.” It didn’t make him happy. It didn’t change his life for the better. It didn’t fulfill him—even though it meant greater fame, more career opportunities—not to mention more money.

He needed something more… something else… Someone else to satisfy him.

And I believe the paralyzed man and his friends in today’s scripture aren’t so different from David Brooks. They undoubtedly had an “if only” condition as well. I’m sure that before he encountered Jesus, the paralytic thought something like this: “If only I could walk again, then I would be truly happy, then my life would be everything I want it to be, then my problems would be solved.” Read the rest of this entry »

Advent Devotional Day 22: “The Meaning of Christmas Is Easter”

December 22, 2018

During the month of December, I’ve prepared a series of daily devotionals to help my church get ready for and celebrate Christmas. I created a booklet (if you’d like a copy, let me know), but I’ll also post devotionals each day on my blog.

Devotional Text: John 1:1-18

In January 2007, a 50-year-old construction worker and Navy veteran from New York named Wesley Autrey was taking his two young daughters home on the subway in Manhattan. While he was standing on the subway platform, a 20-year-old film student suffered a seizure and collapsed onto the tracks in front of a fast approaching train. The student was dazed. He struggled vainly to climb back onto the platform but fell down. That’s when Autrey did something so brave and heroic I can’t comprehend it.

Without having a moment to spare, Autrey leapt onto the tracks as the train neared. There was a trough between the two rails about a foot deep. Autrey pushed the student down into the trough and lay on top of him, holding him down, while five subway cars passed over the both of them, inches above Autrey’s head. Autrey, who was underneath the train, shouted to bystanders that they were O.K., and could someone look after his two daughters until he got out.

Both men were saved. Autrey said afterwards, “I don’t feel like I did something spectacular; I just saw someone who needed help. I did what I felt was right.”[1]

All I can say is, I hope Wesley Autrey is around if ever I’m in trouble!

I said a moment ago that I can’t comprehend his act of heroism, but that’s not quite right: I can comprehend it, but only because I’m a parent. Not that I’ve ever had to put it to the test—and not that I want to—but when my daughter was born—my firstborn—I understood for the first time the impulse to sacrifice one’s life for someone else. I remember thinking for the first time, “In the interest of love, I would do anything to protect and save this precious life. I would jump in front of a speeding locomotive to save her. I would push her out of the way of a fast-approaching bus. I would take a bullet for her. Without giving it a second thought!” (And, by all means, I would do the same for my two boys!) That’s love, and I fell in it deeply and unshakably and unfailingly when I became a father.

Now consider our heavenly Father’s love for us: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 KJV). The “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” so that God could lay down his life to save us, his children. 

My friend Kevin Hargaden, a Presbyterian minister in Ireland, put it well in a Facebook post one Christmas: “And remember, folks, the real meaning of Christmas is Easter.”

Christmas means that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And the word that God spoke so powerfully through the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of his Son is “I love you.”

Have you experienced God’s love for yourself? You can!

If you’re ready to receive God’s gift of salvation in Christ, begin by praying this prayer:

Almighty God, I confess to you that I am a sinner in need of your forgiveness. I know that because of my sins I deserve nothing better than death and hell. But I also know that you loved me too much to leave me this way. I am sorry for my sins and with your help I am turning away from them now. I believe that your Son Jesus is Lord. I believe that through Jesus—through his death on the cross and through his resurrection from the dead—you are offering me forgiveness and eternal life. Enable me to receive that gift now. I promise, by your grace and power, to be a faithful follower of Jesus for the rest of my life—in this world and in the world to come. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

If you prayed this prayer, please let me (brentw@cannonchurch.org) or someone else know. I would love to help you as you begin this journey as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

1. Cara Buckley, “A Man Down, and a Stranger Makes a Choice,” New York Times, 3 January 2007.

Christmas Eve Sermon 2016: “Angels, Why this Jubilee?”

December 30, 2016

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In today’s scripture, the angels announce good news to the shepherds, not good advice. In other words, it’s an announcement about something that God has done for us, rather than something we do ourselves. As I say in this sermon, this distinguishes Christianity from every other world religion. Apart from Christ’s atoning death and resurrection, we face a crisis in our lives that none of us is able to solve. The good news is that, like any gift under the Christmas tree, God has given this gift of forgiveness and eternal life for everyone. All we have to do is receive it.

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

Sermon Text: Luke 2:1-20

A couple of days ago, my boys and I went to see the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One. It began the same way all the other Star Wars movies began—with a black screen and these words: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”

In other words, no matter how much tinkering with computer-generated imagery that George Lucas and others have done to keep the movies looking as visually “realistic” as possible, these ten words may as well read, “Once upon a time…” They remind us from the beginning that, despite the fact that thousands of British people in a recent census claimed “Jedi” as their religion, the world of Star Wars is nothing more than a glorified fairy tale.

star_wars

There’s nothing wrong with fairy tales, of course. But please note that the beginning of Luke’s Christmas story couldn’t be more realistic. True, it does take place long ago and far away—but not so long ago that we can’t date it and not so far away that we can’t pinpoint it on a map. No, it happened in “those days” during the reign of Caesar Augustus reigned—we know when that was—and when he issued a decree that the entire Roman Empire would be registered for a census. And not just any census—this was the first one, Luke tells us, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Luke wants us to know, in other words, that the birth of Christ was a real and verifiable event in history.

Why does that matter? Because Luke is reporting news to us—this happened in this time and place, and you need to know about it. He’s not giving us advice. Think about it: Fables, fairy tales, and even science-fiction fantasies can impart valuable life lessons to us. They can give us good advice. Live your life like this, they say. But they can’t give us good news. Read the rest of this entry »