Posts Tagged ‘Orlando massacre’

Sermon 06-19-16: “Taking the Form of a Slave”

June 22, 2016

Opening the Scriptures graphic

This sermon is all about God’s grace, although that may not seem obvious from today’s scripture. We often think of grace, after all, as God’s being “nice” to us. In this sermon, by contrast, I challenge us to imagine that sometimes grace brings pain and suffering. As I say in this sermon, God knows that “clobbering us” into a transformed life is more effective than “comforting us” into one.

Sermon Text: Genesis 37:2-13; 23-34

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

On this Father’s Day, let’s recognize a man who, over the past couple of weeks, has been hailed by many across social media and around the world as “father of the year”: a man named Allan Geiger Jr., who lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

A couple of weeks ago, he posted an ad on Craigslist, selling a 1998 Ford Explorer. For cheap. Not unusual. What caught the attention of everyone who read the ad was what Mr. Geiger wrote in the description:

I have my son’s truck up for sale that I bought for him as his first car. He thinks it’s cool to drive around with his friends smokin’ dope and acting all thug, and especially not showing me and my wife the respect that we deserve… This was a vehicle to finish school in, get a decent job and get a head start on life. But he chose to throw it all away because his friends would rather have an influence on him more than me! Now he can put those Jordans to use [and] walk his [butt] off on these hot summer days!


He went on to say he’d take $250 off the price if the buyer is from the westside of Jacksonville, where he and his family live. Why? “So [that my son] sees it every now and then [and will be reminded] of how good he had it!”

Tough love, huh? The good news, according to an article in Esquire magazine, is that this action has actually brought father and son closer together. So maybe Geiger does deserve father of the year!

In today’s scripture, there’s a father who, unfortunately, doesn’t deserve “father of the year” honors. And that father is… Jacob, also called Israel. Which just goes to show—like all of us Christians—you can have a new name and new identity in God’s eyes but still be the same old sinner. Because we see Jacob making the same mistakes that his own father, Isaac, made with him and his brother: he’s playing favorites with his kids. Jacob clearly favors Joseph, one of only two of his twelve sons who was born to his favorite wife, Rachel. Read the rest of this entry »

A reflection on Orlando

June 21, 2016

Click on a photo below to enlarge.

Last Sunday, in between services, we held a brief prayer and remembrance service for the victims of the Orlando massacre and their families and loved ones.

I began by reading Psalm 121 (“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?”) and Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-5. Then I spoke extemporaneously about our reaction to Orlando, and events like them, and how we can understand them in light of the gospel.

I said that when something like the mass shooting in Orlando happens, we often ask why God allows this kind of evil. In Jesus’ day, people asked the same question. In fact, in Luke 13, Jesus himself refers to two tragic events that were in the “news” of his day: a mass killing of Galilean Jews by Pontius Pilate and a freakish accident that killed 18 in one fell swoop. People asked Jesus, “Why did this happen?”—assuming, as people often did back then (see John 9:2-3), that these events were acts of God’s judgment.

Jesus rejects that interpretation in both cases. If God were judging them for their sins, why would God not also be judging the people in his audience? They, too, were sinners who deserve God’s judgment and wrath. Therefore, their response—and our response today—to these kinds of tragedies should be to remind ourselves that our own lives are no less fragile than the victims, and that we all need to repent while we have the opportunity.

Most importantly, we need to remind ourselves of God’s great love for us: out of this love, he made a way for sinners like us to find forgiveness, eternal life, and future resurrection.

Echoing words from last Sunday’s sermon, I said, “When Christ comes in final victory, all evil will be judged and avenged; the scales of justice will be balanced; swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. And he will wipe away every tear and death will be no more. We look forward to that day.”

We handed out and released 49 white balloons, each representing a victim of the massacre.