Posts Tagged ‘Robert Duvall’

Sermon 09-24-17: “God’s Word Alone, Part 2”

October 11, 2017

This sermon is the second of two on Sola Scriptura, the classic Protestant (and ancient church) doctrine that the Bible is the ultimate authority guiding Christian faith and practice. I contrast this doctrine with ideas put forward by Adam Hamilton in his recent book Making Sense of the Bible. From my perspective, Hamilton is misguided—dangerously so. As with my previous sermon, I hope to inspire confidence that the Bible is, as Wesley said, “infallibly true”—every word of it—and that we can built our lives on it.

Sermon Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

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[Read Psalm 1 as an opening prayer.]

Paul begins today’s scripture with these words: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed.” And what Timothy has learned, and what he has firmly believed, Paul says, is found in the “sacred writings,” our holy Bible. Remain there, Paul says. Remain in God’s Word. Don’t stray from its teaching. Don’t stop reading it, studying it, treasuring it. Don’t stop putting it at the center of your life.

Aside from the gift of eternal life in his Son Jesus Christ, God has not given us a greater gift than the holy Bible. And of course, everything we know about Jesus Christ and God’s great love for us, and God’s plan to save us through faith in his Son comes from this book. Don’t leave it! Don’t think that you can progress beyond it. Or find something better. There’s enough in here for you, every day, to last a lifetime.

Brothers and sisters, do you believe it?

My second-favorite movie about Christian faith is a movie called The Apostle, starring Robert Duvall. It came out about twenty years ago. My first favorite is Chariots of Fire. You should see both of them. But The Apostle is wonderful: It’s about a deeply flawed but sincerely Christian pastor in the deep south. Someone gives him the deed to this tiny church in the middle of nowhere. And he starts preaching there, and slowly but surely more and more people start coming. But the they’re not the “right” kind of people—because most people in his congregation are black or Hispanic, and poor. And at least one person in town—a white supremacist played by Billy Bob Thornton—doesn’t like it at all. One Sunday, while the people at this church are worshiping, he shows up in a bulldozer. And he intends to literally tear the church down.

And Robert Duvall comes outside and places his black leather-bound Bible in front of caterpillar tracks of the bulldozer—daring the man to run over it on his way to destroying this church. And Thornton is like, “Move the Bible.” “I’m not going to move it.” “Move that Bible.” “I’m not going to move it.” The two men are at an impasse. Is Thornton going to run over the preacher’s Bible? Then, after several tense moments, Thornton gets out of the cab of the vehicle in tears. Duvall embraces him. This sinner repents. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 09-13-15: “When God Seems Far Away”

September 26, 2015

Fight Songs

Psalm 42 is about an experience that all Christians will have during their journey of faith: a spiritual dry spell, when God seems far away. How do we deal with it? This psalm offers guidance. First, recognize that this isn’t necessarily happening because you’ve done something wrong. Second, be honest with God about what you’re feeling. Third, speak truthful words to your soul—encourage yourself with the gospel truth.

Sermon Text: Psalm 42:1-11

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

I was talking to Lisa, my wife, about today’s sermon, and she said, “Are you going to sing this week?” And I’m like, “No. We’ve got talented people like Ryan and Matthew and Haley to do the singing around here.” And she said, “No. In your sermon, I mean.” And I’m like, “Oh, right! Yes, I guess the past few weeks I’ve broken into song—a cappella—in the midst of my sermon. And it’s been the highlight of your week, I’m sure.

So as not to disappoint anyone, I will, in fact, begin this sermon with a song that was a hit a couple of years ago. It goes like this:

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you’re part of the team
Everything is awesome
Living our dream

That’s, of course, from The Lego Movie. And it’s ironic because in the movie itself it turns out that everything is most assuredly not awesome, no matter how badly all the Lego people wanted to believe that it was. It’s never the case in the real world that “everything is awesome.” That’s not realistic on this side of eternity. Read the rest of this entry »

Do we need to “make sense of” Boston?

April 23, 2013

HuffPost Religion’s Twitter feed thought I would like this article by the Rev. Ian Punnett in response to the Boston Marathon bombings. I don’t.

By all means, if you’re angry at God, tell God about it! We have biblical warrant for complaining to God. Angry prayer is better than no prayer. And it reveals a much deeper faith than the false piety that says we shouldn’t bother God with these very “human” emotions. As Punnett writes, “Learning to pray through our anger, instead of around it, can heal.”

Amen to that.

I’m reminded of this scene in the great Robert Duvall movie The Apostle.

Duvall’s mother, played by June Carter Cash, explains to a neighbor: “Ever since he was a little bitty boy, sometimes he talks to the Lord and sometimes he yells at the Lord. Tonight he just happens to be  yellin’ at him.” Beautiful!

Nevertheless, I disagree with the author’s premise that something happened in Boston last Monday that we need to make sense of.

Don’t get me wrong: I want to understand what possessed these two men to do this particular evil—let’s learn from it whatever we can. If there’s something we can do that will contribute to greater safety at public events such as this one—far short of turning our country into a police state—by all means let’s do it.

But therein lies part of the “answer” to what happened last Monday. God didn’t create the world as a universal police state in which he continually intervenes to prevent human beings from doing what they freely choose. If God regularly did this, how could we human beings be free in any meaningful sense?

My point is, nothing happened last Monday that we didn’t understand perfectly well on Sunday. We shouldn’t be surprised that there’s evil in the world. Isn’t there plenty of it in our own hearts?

Be angry at God if you like, but be angrier at the sin, evil, and suffering that God sent his Son Jesus to defeat through his death and resurrection.