Posts Tagged ‘The Onion’

Sermon 07-16-17: “The Gospel, Noah’s Ark, and Christ’s Victorious Reign”

August 8, 2017

Today’s sermon deals mostly with what many scholars consider the most difficult verse in the New Testament, 1 Peter 3:19, which says that sometime after his death, Christ “went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.” This verse has been used as a proof-text for a part of the Apostles’ Creed that we United Methodists no longer say: “[Christ] descended into hell.” But is that what it means? This sermon will help us figure it out.

Sermon Text: 1 Peter 3:18-22

My sermons are now being podcast! My podcast is available in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

I personally have never shopped at IKEA, nor have I ever put any of their furniture together. My wife, Lisa, has, and she’s a champ at it. But I know from its reputation, that their instructions can be notoriously difficult: They’ve inspired memes and satirical articles. One Buzzfeed article was entitled, “Why Building Ikea Furniture Is Probably Satan’s Favorite Hobby.” Two years ago, when IKEA announced that they were assisting Syrian refugees by donating ready-to-assemble shelters, one Onion writer said, “Haven’t these people been through enough without the added struggle of assembling IKEA products?”

But we all know the frustration of trying to assemble something at home—I’m thinking of baby cribs, for instance—only to find that when we get through assembling it, there are these mysterious parts left over. And we don’t know where or how they fit in, and the prospect of taking it apart and reassembling it makes us want to use words that we wouldn’t want our pastor to hear—and you wouldn’t want your pastor to say. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 10-30-16: “Generosity, Part 3: Generosity and Relationships”

November 4, 2016


How do we know that we’re saved? The test, according to Jesus, isn’t whether or not we prayed a “sinner’s prayer” when we were young, or made a profession of faith, or went through confirmation class. The test is this: Are we becoming more forgiving people? Are our lives increasingly characterized by grace and mercy toward others? Are we willing to forgive others when they sin against us?

This may be a sobering thought for many of us. If we struggle to forgive, what’s wrong with us, and how can we change? This sermon explores these questions.

Sermon Text: Luke 17:3-10

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

Last week, I saw a depressingly funny headline in the Babylon Bee, a satirical Christian news website—which is like the Onion except it deals with church- and Christian-related themes. The headline read: “Unrepentant Hedonist Really Banking On Sinner’s Prayer He Recited At Age 7.”


The article begins:

As he continues to live out a vigorous and shameless pursuit of anything and everything that gives him any degree of temporary pleasure, sources confirmed Friday that local unrepentant hedonist Justin Bergman, 29, is really banking on the sinner’s prayer he recited as a small child.

After a sleepless three-day binge of drugs, alcohol, and sex, Bergman was approached by a friend who expressed concern over the man’s eternal soul, to which he is said to have replied, “Don’t worry about me, man—I asked Jesus into my heart a long time ago. Me and God are good.”

You and I both know that there are plenty of Justin Bergmans out there—people who live their lives as they please, with hardly a thought about Jesus Christ and what he demands of his disciples; whose Christian faith, such as it is, has hardly made a dent in their behavior. Yet when it comes to their salvation, these same people are banking on a prayer they prayed when they were young; or maybe they’re banking on their baptism; or their confirmation; or their name on a church roll somewhere. They’re counting on these mere tokens of faith to save them, rather than their faith in the atoning work if Jesus Christ on the cross.

Matthew chapter 18 parallels Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness in verses 3 and 4 of today’s scripture. But it includes a parable about a servant who owed the king millions of dollars—an amount he couldn’t begin to pay back. The king was going to have him and his family sold into slavery, but the man pleads for mercy, and the king has mercy and forgives his debt. So what does this newly forgiven man do next? He finds a fellow servant who owes him a small amount of money, and demands that he pay him every last red cent. The debtor pleads for mercy, but the recently forgiven servant starts choking him, saying, “Pay me what you owe.” When the king finds out, he’s furious: the king tells the man: “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.”[1]

And here’s the frightening moral of the story: Jesus says: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

My point is, Jesus makes an uncomfortable connection between God forgiving us our sins and our willingness to forgive other people theirs. Read the rest of this entry »