Posts Tagged ‘This American Life’

Sermon 05-14-17: “The Christian and Final Judgment”

June 8, 2017

I suspect many Christians are confused about Final Judgment: They think that they won’t have to face it because of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. But the Bible is clear: when Christ returns at the end of the age, we will all be resurrected and face judgment. How does this doctrine square with our belief that we’re saved by grace through faith, and not by works? How will our judgment be different from non-believers? This sermon answers these questions.

Sermon Text: 1 Peter 1:17-19

Sometimes I think that the world of social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—exists to judge us. Seriously. We compare ourselves to our friends and, worse, our “frenemies,” and we feel judged by them. Someone has a wedding anniversary, and they post this mushy, gushy statement about how wonderful their wife or husband is, and we feel judged: “What am I doing wrong in my marriage?” Someone posts some amazing accomplishment of one of their kids, and we think: “I have obviously failed as a parent, because my kids can’t do that!” Someone posts vacation pictures from some exotic paradise, and we think, “Where did they get the money to go there? What am I doing wrong?”

We don’t like being judged… I don’t like being judged. Every once in a while, my wife, Lisa, will say to me—perfectly innocently—“Oh, by the way, Mom and Dad are dropping by in a little while,” and I’ll be like, “What? Why didn’t you warn me? I’ve got to cut the grass! Clean up the yard! Blow off the walkway!” Why? Because I don’t want to be judged—especially by my father-in-law! Because if the yard is unkempt, that’s a direct reflection on me!

We don’t like being judged. We’re afraid of being judged—at least by other human beings. But here’s my question: Are we more afraid of being judged by people than we are by God? Why aren’t we more afraid of being judged by God? Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 09-25-16: “Keeping the Promise, Part 6: Our Witness”

September 30, 2016


This sermon is mostly about integrity: Do we believe what we say we believe about Jesus? Have we experienced the gospel as genuinely good news? If so, why wouldn’t we tell others about what we’ve experienced? Yet most Christians would rather undergo a root canal than initiate a conversation about their Christian faith! Why is this? And what can we do to change?

Sermon Text: Acts 1:1-11

Have you heard of Penn and Teller? They’re a comedy-magic duo famous for outlandish and often squirm-inducing magic tricks. I used to watch them on Letterman when I was in college back in the ’80s. They’ve been around a while, and they’re very good at what they do. Penn Jillette is the half of the duo that speaks. His partner, Teller, never speaks.

Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette

Anyway, Jillette is an outspoken atheist. I mean, he really, really doesn’t believe in God, and he wants you to know about it. Which makes it all the more surprising, several years ago, when he posted a video on his blog describing an encounter he had with a Christian businessman who, like other fans, met Jillette after a show. This Christian began by telling Jillette how much he enjoyed his work. He was sincere. And then he said that he would like to give Jillette a gift. And he handed him a new Bible—from the Gideons, I think—and said he really hoped he’d read it.

And I watched the video—Jillette was deeply moved by this man’s gift. So much so that even as he was describing the incident, tears were welling up in Jillette’s eyes. And he said something surprising. This man—who, again, isn’t anywhere close to becoming a Christian, at least right now—said that he doesn’t respect Christians who don’t share their faith with others. Christians who don’t do that thing that all of us Methodists promise to do when we join a United Methodist church. “I don’t respect it at all,” he said. He continued:

If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life, or whatever, and you think that, uh, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward… how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize them? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming to hit you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there’s a certain point where I tackle you. And [eternal life] is more important than that! Read the rest of this entry »

“Many of your hopes will have to die…”

June 30, 2016

this_american_lifeLast week’s This American Life episode, “Choosing Wrong,” should remind everyone why Ira Glass’s show remains the best thing in spoken word media. I especially enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on Wilt Chamberlain: It explores why the basketball legend, a legendarily bad free throw shooter, refused to shoot underhanded free throws—except for one mid-career season during which his free throw percentage improved from 40 to 60 percent.

But the topic of this blog post relates to Ira Glass’s conversation with British author Alain de Botton about marriage. De Botton gives advice to couples who are getting married during this wedding season:

Be incredibly forgiving for the weird behavior that’s going to start coming out. You will be very unhappy in lots of ways. Your partner will fail to understand you. If you’re understood in maybe—I don’t know—60 percent of your soul by your partner, that’s fantastic. Don’t expect it’s going to be 100 percent. Of course you will be lonely. You will often be in despair. You will sometimes think it’s the worst decision in your life. That’s fine. That is not a sign your marriage has gone wrong. It’s a sign that it’s normal, it’s on track.

And many of the hopes that took you into the marriage will have to die in order for the marriage to continue—that some of the heaviness and expectations will have to die.

When Glass interjects that this sounds “so dark,” de Botton says,

It’s very dark. But in love darkness is a real friend of relationships. Because so many problems of love come from unwarranted optimism.

I think that there are aspects of a good marriage that should encompass a kind of melancholy, as we realize that we’re trying to do such a complex thing with someone: We are trying to find our best friend, our ideal sexual partner, our co-household manager, perhaps our co-parent. And we’re expecting that all this will miraculously go well together. Of course it can’t. We’re not going to be able to get it all right. There will be many areas of misunderstanding and failure. And a certain amount of sober melancholy is a real asset when heading forth into the land of love.

I agree. I’ve explored many of these ideas in sermons, book studies, and blog posts over the years. What resonates with me today are these words: “Many of the hopes that took you into the marriage will have to die in order for the marriage to continue… A certain amount of sober melancholy is a real asset when heading forth into the land of love.”

This is true, but it’s true of life in general: The hopes that we take with us into any worthwhile endeavor need to die. A certain amount of sober melancholy is a real asset when heading forth into any land.

Have you noticed that the dreams you had for your life haven’t come true? Have you spent any time grieving that fact? Why not? They were good dreams. It’s sad that they’re dead.

Nevertheless, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24 KJV). The death of our own dreams can always mean new life for us, when we summon the courage to choose it. God’s dreams for our lives are always better than our own.

At least that’s been true in my experience. What about yours?

Sermon 05-03-15: “Warts and All, Part 4: Tested by Fire”

May 12, 2015

1 Corinthians sermon series graphic

The foundation of the church, Paul says, is Jesus Christ and him crucified. Unfortunately, in one way or another, we often forget about the cross and fall back into “works righteousness”—the idea that we can be good enough to earn salvation. Are you living your life on the foundation of the cross? Watch or read this sermon and find out.

Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 3:10-23

[Want to listen on the go? Right-click here to download an MP3 file.]

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Back in 1999, an almanac was published, which ranked cities in the U.S. and Canada from best to worst. They used criteria such as crime, job outlook, climate, and culture. According to this book, the city of Kankakee, Illinois, won the distinction of being America’s worst city—a distinction which might have been quickly forgotten, if not for late-night television personality David Letterman, who featured a Top Ten list related to Kankakee: “Top Ten slogans for Kankakee, Illinois.”

Number ten: “You’ll come for our payphone, you’ll stay because your car has been stolen. Number nine, ask about are staggering unemployment rate. Number eight, we put the ill in Illinois. Number seven, we also put the annoy in Illinois.” Number one: “Abe Lincoln slept here… by accident.”

You get the idea… But the jokes at the town’s expense didn’t end there. For weeks, Kankakee became a running joke on the show. Not long afterward, Letterman called the mayor of Kankakee during the show; he interviewed him; and then, with cameras rolling, Letterman’s people unveiled a new gazebo in the town square, which the Letterman show was donating to the city—hoping, he said, that it might spruce up the town and make it a more livable city. And not long after that, he gave them another gazebo.


So for the past 15 years, Kankakee has had two gazebos in the town square, which were given to them by Letterman, as a joke… Until a few months ago Some students in a high school civics class learned the history of these gazebos, and how they were used to make a joke at their city’s expense. And these students love their city. Sure, like a lot of U.S. cities, they lost some manufacturing jobs back in the ’80s and ’90s, but they’re doing O.K. now. So these students organized a publicity campaign to tear down the gazebos. They even had a carpenter take the wood from a gazebo and build a rocking chair for Letterman as a gift, for him to enjoy during his retirement, which of course will be happening soon. Read the rest of this entry »

A lesson on suffering from the Batman

January 26, 2015

this_american_lifeYesterday’s sermon on the Lord’s Prayer dealt with the petitions, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” My sermon ended up being mostly about God’s sovereignty. After all, we don’t pray, “God, what can we do to bring your kingdom to earth?” Or even, “God, how can we accomplish your will on earth?” We trust that God will ultimately see to both of those things, regardless of whatever role he wants us human beings to play in it. The inescapable conclusion—which so many Methodist clergy resist saying, for some reason—is that God is in control.

But to say that God is in control is to risk being misunderstood. I referred to this recent interview with physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose biggest objection to belief in God is human suffering. If God is in control (and good), and everything that happens is enfolded into God’s sovereign purposes, then he thinks that we theists must believe that everything that happens—even evil things—must somehow be good. He said he’s not willing to go there.

And I’m not either. As I said in my sermon, there’s an important difference between God’s permitting evil and God’s causing it or approving of it.

But we still have to deal with why God permits evil and suffering to occur. After all, we believe God has the power to grant our petitions in prayer. If we pray for God to give us something—even for God to enable us avoid suffering—and God doesn’t grant our petition, do we say that God is capricious in answering our prayers, or that God has his reasons? And if God has his reasons, we can only trust that those reasons are good—that he’s using our suffering for some good purpose.

Daniel Kish is blind, yet he rides a bike.

Daniel Kish is blind, yet he rides a bike.

To help illustrate this, I used the story of Daniel Kish, who was featured in this intriguing This American Life story. Daniel lost both his eyes to cancer when he was an infant, but using “echolocation”—the same ability that bats have—he has learned to find his way in the world without assistance. He can—amazingly—even ride a bike! As I said in my sermon,

Daniel learned to do these things because, for whatever reason, his mother wasn’t afraid to let him get hurt—she wasn’t afraid of her child getting bumps, bruises, scrapes and even broken bones if these things helped him find his way in the world. Most parents of blind children, by contrast, are afraid to let their kids experience this pain; they want to protect their children from suffering. According to one blind man who uses echolocation to get around, this desire to protect their kids from suffering ends up hurting them.

The reporter of the story kept saying that the parents’ love gets in the way of their blind child’s ability to overcome their disability. But I disagree. Maybe fear and ignorance get in the way, but not love. Because love doesn’t always mean protecting children from pain and suffering—not when pain and suffering would help us grow and become everything we’re capable of becoming.

God our heavenly Father loves us perfectly, which means he loves us enough to let us experience pain and suffering sometimes. Because it’s good for us.

Anyway, I hope you’ll listen to Daniel’s story. It’s astonishing.

New “Serial” podcast: What does an innocent man have to feel guilty about? Plenty!

November 24, 2014
Reporter Sarah Koenig, producing a new episode of the "Serial" podcast.

Reporter Sarah Koenig, producing a new episode of the “Serial” podcast.

Like 1.5 million other listeners, I’m hooked on a podcast called Serial, produced by the same people who bring us This American Life, the best thing on radio as far as I know. I can’t say what Serial will become during Season 2, but its first season is an engrossing true-crime drama about the murder of a high school student named Hae Min Lee near Baltimore in 1999, and her 17-year-old former boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was convicted of the crime back then and is now serving a life sentence. Adnan, a Pakistani-American and Muslim, is now 32. Adnan appears on the show through taped phone conversations from prison.

Each week reporter Sarah Koenig, a veteran This American Life producer, unfolds the mystery of Adnan’s guilt or innocence by interviewing Adnan and as many key people associated with the case as possible.

Maybe I’m naive or gullible, but I think he’s innocent. And I’m in good company: an “Innocence Project”-type law professor and her team of law students at the University of Virginia reviewed all documentary evidence from the trial and believe, to a person, that Adnan is innocent. And as of the end of Episode 9, Koenig herself said, “I confess to having reasonable doubt about whether Adnan killed Hae. I’m not talking about the courtroom kind; I’m talking about the normal kind.”

But if he’s innocent, that raises a question that has nothing to do with what happened back in 1999. It’s a question that Koenig raised in last week’s episode: “Once, early on, I asked Adnan, ‘If you’re saying you’re innocent, why aren’t you bitter and angry? Why do you sound so calm?'”

Yes! This is a question I’ve had, too, as have—probably—most other listeners. Adnan’s equanimity has been startling, especially when Koenig talks to him about Jay, a former associate who was the state’s star witness against Adnan. To be clear: If Adnan is innocent, Jay lied, and those lies put Adnan in prison.

Again: Why isn’t Adnan angrier about all this?

One possibility, of course, is that Adnan really did kill Hae, so on what basis would he feel indignant? While this seemed distinctly possible early on in the series, it now seems less likely with each passing episode. As I say above, I don’t think he did it. So what else would account for Adnan’s state of mind? Koenig continues:

“I refuse to be miserable,” he said to me. “Being religious helps,” which you hear all the time about people in prison, but I never thought about it too much before I got to know Adnan. When he ended up in prison, he said he made a choice: to be a better Muslim. Now he can say that for nearly half his life, he’s lived like he’s supposed to. He knows it’s a rationalization of his situation, but it’s been the most helpful one.

Finally, he says he’s got a clear conscience because he didn’t kill Hae, though once he did say to me, “I’m here because of my own stupid actions.”

Koenig asked him what he meant by this. Adnan said that if he had been living the way he was supposed to back in 1999—like a “good Muslim,” he said—by which he meant making more responsible lifestyle choices, choosing better friends, and being truthful with his parents—he wouldn’t have put himself in the position of being suspected of the murder.

And while life behind bars isn’t Club Med by a long shot, Adnan is making the best of it. He’s also well-served by his gift for making friends easily.

Adnan told Koenig, “I have a life. It’s not the life I planned or imagined, but I have a life.”

Adnan’s testimony of faith here resonates with me. By all means, I hope that some day he’ll discover the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ and convert to Christianity. But I identify with him when he says he’s found redemption in prison, that it’s afforded him the opportunity to get his life right with God, at least as he understands God, and that makes prison worthwhile.

Don’t we Christians believe that finding God is worth any cost—including spending our lives in prison, or worse? Aren’t there plenty of Christians in the world right now who have decided that living with God in chains—and even facing martyrdom—is far preferable to living without God, even while remaining ostensibly free?

If life in prison meant eternal life for us, wouldn’t that be a bargain? I’m not saying that I’d relish the thought of paying that price, but you know what I mean.

I’m reminded of that Who song, “Bargain”:

I’d gladly lose me to find you
I’d gladly give up all I had
To find you I’d suffer anything and be glad

I’d pay any price just to get you
I’d work all my life and I will
To win you I’d stand naked, stoned and stabbed

I’d call that a bargain
The best I ever had
The best I ever had

I’m also not surprised that Adnan looks back at his early life with shame for his sins—even while he maintains his innocence about the murder.

To put it another way, even if we haven’t murdered someone, we all stand guilty before God. We all deserve death and hell for our sins. None of us who has come face to face with our sins wants to nitpick about whether our sins are as bad as someone else’s. We know that our sins are bad enough. Left to our own devices, we are lost and hopeless.

The good news is that God doesn’t leave us to our own devices. Instead, he came to us in the flesh, in his Son Jesus, and took upon himself the guilt of our sins and suffered in our place the death and hell that we deserved.

Here’s the Serial website, with all nine available podcasts. A new episode is released every Thursday. (They’re taking a week off for Thanksgiving.) If you decide to check the series out, start with the first episode, which you can download here. It’s also available through whatever app you get podcasts.

Sermon 10-06-13: “Back to School, Part 8: Jesus’ Toughest Command”

October 10, 2013


This week’s scripture deals in part with what I believe is Jesus’ most difficult—or at least most easily ignored—command: “Do not worry.” If we’re going to live it out, we need to trust that God will really take care of us. We also have to trust that Jesus knows what he’s talking about when tells us that his way is best: that obeying the Sermon on the Mount leads to “treasure in heaven.” This treasure isn’t merely a reward in the sweet by-and-by but is available to us now. 

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:19-34

No video this week, but you can click below for sermon audio or click here to download as a podcast.

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

A recent episode of the public radio show This American Life featured Michael Lewis, the author of the The Blind Side, the book on which the Sandra Bullock movie was based. On this radio program, Lewis narrates the story of Emir Kamenica, a Harvard-educated economist at the University of Chicago.

When Emir was a child, his family emigrated from their home in war-torn Bosnia to the Atlanta area—specifically, to the very diverse international community of Clarkston, Georgia. Emir’s family was poor when they got here, and Lewis describes the unlikely path that Emir’s life took, from getting a scholarship to an elite private high school in Atlanta, to a Harvard Ph.D., to the top of his field in economics.

When he was still in Bosnia, packing to come to America, Emir slipped into his luggage a novel that he had checked out of a library near his Bosnian home. So, basically, he brought to America what amounted to a stolen library book.

One day, for a writing assignment at the public high school he attended, Emir plagiarized a passage from this stolen book. His English teacher, Ms. Ames, was so impressed with his paper that she took Emir for an interview at the very elite and exclusive Paideia School in Atlanta. She showed the admissions officer the essay that she thought Emir wrote. They were so impressed that they offered him a scholarship.

So Emir changed schools and, as a result, dramatically changed the course of his life. And it was all because of this plagiarized essay from a stolen library book and one idealistic teacher who went out of her way to help him. Emir got an incredibly lucky break.

Or at least that’s how Emir remembers it. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 09-15-13: “Back to School, Part 6: Love & Marriage”

September 20, 2013
Marriage is not a romantic comedy.

Marriage is not a romantic comedy.

We Christians understand the nature of self-denying, cross-carrying Christ-like love when we choose to love our neighbor “out there”—in the mission field, suffering and sacrificing for the Lord. When we marry, however, we now have a neighbor who lives under our roof, sleeps beside us, and makes a life with us. Are the demands and expectations of this kind of love any different?

As I explain in this sermon, the answer is a resounding no.

Sermon Text: Matthew 5:31-32

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

[Ask congregation to snap along. Begin by singing:] “Love and marriage, love and marriage/ They go together like a horse and carriage/ This I tell you, brother, you can’t have one without the other… Try, try, and separate them/ It’s an illusion/ Try, try, try and you only come/ To this conclusion.”

Today’s sermon is about, yes, love and marriage. In so many words, Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that you can’t have one without the other. They are inseparable. Last week’s scripture touched on that theme. But Jesus goes a step further in this week’s scripture to say that not only are they inseparable, they are also permanent. Or at least they ought to be.

Obviously, when we consider the divorce rate, even among Christians, it’s clear that we are failing to take Jesus’ tough, uncompromising words as seriously as we should. There’s no way to read these words of Jesus and come to some conclusion other than divorce, in most cases, is wrong. It’s a sin. Listen: I made this point in last week’s sermon, and I need to make it again and again. We are all sinners. Church is a sinner’s club to which everyone is invited. We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. And even if we haven’t sinned in one particular way, we have sinned in so many other ways. When it comes to sin, none of us has any moral high ground on which to stand. O.K.? The good news is that there’s always, always, always forgiveness for us sinners who repent, and our gracious God always gives us an opportunity to start again. If you hear me say nothing else, please hear me say that. Remember God’s grace! Read the rest of this entry »

The story you hear from “every miserable bond-trader at Goldman Sachs”

September 10, 2013

I love the most recent episode of This American Life, first because it name-checks my alma mater in Ira Glass’s funny interview with Georgia Tech’s director of undergraduate admissions. Glass concludes the interview, appropriately enough, with the cheer, “Go Jackets!”

As if that weren’t good enough, I was blown away by the episode’s main story, “My Ames Is True,” narrated by Blind Side author Michael Lewis. In it, Lewis talks to Emir Kamenica, an economist from the University of Chicago, who describes his unlikely path from a childhood in war-torn Bosnia to Harvard. The way Emir remembers the story, he was one of a small handful of white students in a dangerous inner-city high school in Clarkston, Georgia (not far from where I grew up, by the way, in Tucker), after his family emigrated to the U.S.

One day, for a writing assignment, Emir translated and then plagiarized a passage from a favorite Bosnian novel that he had stolen from a library before he came to America. His teacher, Ms. Ames, was so impressed with his paper—not suspecting the plagiarism—that she persuaded an elite private high school in Atlanta to offer Emir a scholarship. Emir changed schools and, as a result, drastically changed the course of his life—all because of a plagiarized passage from a stolen book and one idealistic teacher.

Or at least that’s how Emir remembers it.

With the help of a private investigator, the show’s producers tracked down Ms. Ames (who had long since left teaching and moved to another state) to get her side of the story. She remembered Emir as her most gifted student. In fact, she said she checked the names of Nobel Prize winners each year, half-expecting to see Emir’s name on the list.

But she didn’t remember the plagiarized essay and said it would have played little role in her effort to get him into private school. She said that Emir had distinguished himself in her class in many ways over the course of months. It was hardly any one thing that he had done to inspire her to help him.

Moreover, the school she taught at was hardly a dangerous “ghetto school.” It had a sizable white minority (which statistics proved) and a large international population. Even if he hadn’t changed high schools, she said Emir would have gotten a good education. And from there he would have gotten into either the University of Georgia’s honors program or Georgia Tech (my alma mater, again!), after which he could have easily gone on to Harvard.

In other words, even without her intervention, Ms. Ames believes that Emir’s own talent and hard work would have enabled him to achieve the same level of success—if only by a different path.

If Ms. Ames is right, however, then the story that Emir had been telling himself and everyone else his entire adult life was wrong. He hadn’t simply been the beneficiary of some dumb luck that altered his destiny. As it turns out, he was just a bright, conscientious, hard-working kid who was responsible for his own success, just as everyone thought.

For his part, however, Emir wasn’t quite ready to let go of his story: about the stolen library book, the plagiarized essay, and the angelic teacher who comes to his rescue after mistaking his plagiarism for a mark of genius.

Why? Michael Lewis offers a possible answer:

Why does a man who makes his career as a scientist cling to his story in spite of evidence that it isn’t true? And that’s when it dawns on me: Emir Kamenica is just an unusually happy human being. He exudes the emotion from every pore. [Lewis asks Emir] “Have you always been happy?” [Emir answers] “I think I’ve been happy for a pretty long time now.” 

There was no obvious connection between a person’s happiness and the way he tells stories about himself. But I think there’s a not-so-obvious one: When you insist as Emir does that you’re both lucky and indebted to other people, well, you’re sort of prepared to see life as a happy accident, aren’t you?

It’s just very different if you tell yourself that you simply deserve all the good stuff that happens to you: Because you happen to be born a genius, or suffered so much, or worked so hard.

That way of telling the story is what you hear from every miserable bond-trader at Goldman Sachs. Or for that matter, every other A-hole that ever walked the earth.

Did you catch that? Lewis is suggesting that gratitude is the secret to Emir’s happiness. Emir’s version of events, more than Ms. Ames’s, conforms to his outlook on life: He doesn’t deserve all these good things. Therefore, he can afford to feel grateful rather than entitled. And the difference between those two states is nearly as great as the difference between heaven and hell.

Like “every miserable bond-trader at Goldman Sachs,” my own life is at its most hellish when I think I’m not getting what I deserve.

By contrast, when I realize that I deserve nothing and instead receive every moment of life as pure gift from a loving God, well… not that I achieve this outlook as often as I should, but when I do, I’m truly happy.

Sermon 04-28-13: “The Word Is Love, Part 3”

May 2, 2013

Paul and Linda McCartney, circa 1970. Paul’s decision to include Linda—not previously a musician—in his new band Wings was deeply unpopular with both fans and music press. On the other hand, the two never spent a night apart (except for the nine days he spent in a Japanese prison in 1980).

We understand that Christ-like love is self-giving and self-sacrificial when it applies to loving our neighbor “out there”—in the mission field. But when we marry, we now have a neighbor who lives under our roof and sleeps beside us. We have a neighbor who manages the household with us, raises kids with us, and makes a life with us.

So now that we’re married to our neighbor, it suddenly matters a great deal how we feel? It matters what we’re getting out of the relationship? Isn’t this a double-standard?

As I discuss in this sermon on love and marriage, happiness in marriage is important, but there is no path to happiness in any part of life that doesn’t lead us up a mountain called Calvary.

Sermon Text: Ephesians 5:21-33

The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.

I’m a fan of the public radio show This American Life with Ira Glass. Each week the show features a theme, and they have a series of real-life stories related to the theme. Last Valentine’s Day their theme was “people going to extremes to find and pursue their one true love.” One of the stories featured a 30-year-old man named Kurt.

Kurt had been with his girlfriend for 13 years—they started dating as high school sweethearts. And they had lived together for their entire adult lives so far. But they never tied the knot. And Kurt started to wonder why. “Maybe the reason I haven’t married this person that I’ve been with for 13 years is that she isn’t ‘the one.’ And since we’ve never dated anyone else, maybe we should take some time off—a month or two—and just play the field. See what else is out there first, and then decide whether or not to get married.” So that’s what this couple did. They took a break from each other. And after several months, they decided to break up once and for all. Read the rest of this entry »