Posts Tagged ‘Tom Hanks’

Sermon 11-26-17: “Rejoice in the Lord Always”

November 30, 2017

Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Does “always” really mean always? If so, I suspect most of us struggle to obey these words. Our main problem, as I point in this sermon, is that we usually rejoice in our circumstances: “I got the job, therefore I rejoice!” “She said ‘yes,’ therefore I rejoice!” “The tests came back negative, therefore I rejoice!” But notice Paul says to rejoice in the Lord. If we are in the Lord, we always have reasons for joy.

Sermon Text: Philippians 4:4-13

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The family and I went to my in-laws house in Snellville on Thanksgiving. After the meal, I stayed awake watching football as long as I could—without being rude—before creeping back to the spare bedroom and taking a nap. When I woke up, everyone—my entire family and my in-laws—were no longer watching football. They were watching a movie on the Hallmark Channel. Maybe you’ve seen it? It was that one about this man and woman who meet but don’t get along at first. In fact, they don’t even like each other. But over time they start to secretly fall for one another. But they can’t tell each other, because there are all these obstacles that stand in the way of their relationship. And then, at the very end of the movie, all the obstacles are removed. They finally say, “I love you.” They kiss. And it’s clear they’re going to live happily ever after.

Have you seen that one?

Actually, this one was almost exactly like You’ve Got Mail except it was set at Christmastime. At the end of the movie, the woman gets everything she wants, including a big promotion at work, the perfect Christmas gift, and the man of her dreams. So of course she is deeply happy! She has reason to rejoice! If she got passed over for the promotion; if she lost her job; if her Christmas wishes went unfulfilled; if she didn’t end up with Romeo, well… she would be not be rejoicing. And we the viewers would not be rejoicing.

Because our ability to rejoice depends on… how things turn out. We need the “happily ever after,” or something reasonably close to it, in order to experience joy. That’s because we rejoice in our circumstances—when you get the promotion, when you fall in love, when your dreams come true. If the circumstances are bad, not so much.

Yet notice Paul’s words here in verse 4: “Rejoice in the Lord”—when? “Always.” And as if that weren’t clear enough he repeats it: “Again I will say, rejoice.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 06-25-17: “A Loving Father and His Older Son”

July 13, 2017

Detail of older son from Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son”

Our scripture today tells the story of the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. As this sermon makes clear, we Christians—who are justified by faith alone through grace alone—can easily slip into the “religious” mindset all over again: we believe that we have to earn our place in God’s family.

Sermon Text: Luke 15:(11-24) 25-32

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

We got heartbreaking news last week about the University of Virginia student, Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor last year in North Korea for allegedly stealing some political artwork from a hotel. He died last week of some kind of brain injury, which he received while in North Korean custody.

After his death, a sociology professor at the University of Delaware posted on Facebook that Warmbier “got exactly what he deserved… He went to North Korea for [heaven’s] sake and then acted like a spoiled, naive, arrogant, US college student who had never had to face the consequences of his actions. I see him crying at his sentencing hearing and think ‘What did you expect?’”

As you might expect, she received a lot of criticism for her comments. People on social media were outraged. The university apologized on her behalf. And as tempted as I am to pile on, I remember the uncharitable thoughts that crossed my mind when the news broke last year that Warmbier had been arrested: “Why the heck was he in North Korea anyway? And if he did do something to that artwork—oh my goodness—what was he thinking?

I felt morally superior to him—and obviously this professor did, too.

But why do we feel morally superior? We’ve all made plenty of foolish decisions. We’ve all sinned spectacularly. The difference is, unlike this poor college student, none of us has received a death sentence for it! Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 03-19-17: “Dealing with Doubt”

March 30, 2017

Do you ever have doubts about your faith in Jesus Christ? In today’s scripture, John the Baptist, surely one of the most headstrong of Bible heroes, expresses doubt in Jesus. He sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the One”—meaning “Are you the Messiah”—”or should we expect someone else?” How could John, of all people, ask this, unless doubt is a normal experience for Christians? Nevertheless, God doesn’t want us to remain in a state of doubt. This sermon explores reasons we often doubt and potential traps we may fall into while we’re doubting. If you’re in a season of doubt, I pray that this message encourages you.

Sermon Text: Matthew 11:1-15

My boys and I have been bachelors this weekend, since Lisa and Elisa are out of town, which means we’ve had the TV all to ourselves. On Friday, we watched that recent Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips. It’s based on a true story about a cargo ship that got taken over by pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2009. It was good—suspenseful—and Tom Hanks, as usual, was outstanding.

Last April, Hanks gave an interview to Terry Gross on the NPR interview show Fresh Air. He said something that may surprise you. He admitted that he was plagued by self-doubt. He said,

No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’…

There are days when I know that 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon I am going to have to deliver some degree of emotional goods, and if I can’t do it, that means I’m going to have to fake it. If I fake it, that means they might catch me at faking it, and if they catch me at faking it, well, then it’s just doomsday.[1]

I guess I’m naive. I thought that acting was supposed to be about faking it, but what do I know?

Tom Hanks is one of the most successful and critically acclaimed actors in the history of Hollywood. He’s starred in some of the most beloved movies of the past 30 years, which have earned $8.5 billion worldwide. He’s won two Oscars and two Golden Globes—and he’s been nominated for a ton more. Literally a ton, if you could add up the weight of all those trophies. In 2014, President Obama awarded him a Kennedy Center Honors medallion.

If someone like Tom Hanks can doubt something—in spite of all this evidence to the contrary—is it any wonder that we Christians will sometimes also have doubts—about God, about Jesus? Read the rest of this entry »

Good Friday 2015 sermon: “Truly This Man Was the Son of God”

April 9, 2015

lenten_sermon_series

A parishioner told me after the sermon that this was the best she had heard me preach, and I don’t think she was far off. In this sermon I make the case for Christ as our substitute on the cross: truly, he lived the life we were unable to live and died the death we deserved to die. I challenge us to think about ways in which we are like the crowds on that Good Friday morning, yet God used even our sinful rebellion against him to accomplish the greatest good.

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

The following is my original sermon manuscript, with footnotes.

Lisa and I were at a party once many years ago with a friend named Kathi who was getting a Ph.D. in Old Testament from Emory. And most of her friends at the party were also Bible scholar-types and Ph.D. students. A real lively bunch! So I was trying my best to make small talk with these people. This was years before I ever thought about going to seminary, but I was a Christian, and I loved the Bible. So I said to one of Kathi’s friends, a woman who, like Kathi, was getting a Ph.D. in Old Testament: “Gosh, that would be really interesting to study the Bible at that level! I wouldn’t mind doing that. Maybe I should get a Ph.D. in the Bible.” And she looked at me with contempt—like, “Who is this idiot I’m talking to?” And she said, “Are you a Christian.” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Then I’m guessing that you’re not interested in getting a Ph.D. in the Bible.” I’m sure I looked confused. She said, “You probably want to get a Ph.D. in the appendix to the Bible.”

The appendix to the Bible. She was referring, of course, to that part of the Bible that we call the New Testament. And, you know… She had a point. We have this much Bible that’s part of the Old Testament, and this relatively tiny part of the Bible that’s the New Testament. And yet we spend by far the bulk of our time in the tiny part. You know? But I do hope that you are reading and studying the big part of the Bible and not just the small part because—oh my goodness—when you do, you begin to see Jesus in that part too—on nearly every page.

Let me give you three examples of places in the Old Testament that I see Jesus. In Genesis 18, three angels come to visit Abraham and Sarah, and they tell them that in a year’s time they’re going to have a baby—the long-promised son Isaac. But after giving them the good news, the angels tell Abraham, “Oh by the way, while we’re in the area, we’re going to check out what’s happening in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to see if there’s as much injustice and wickedness there as we’ve heard.” And if there is, they tell Abraham, God will wipe them off the face of the earth. And the angels leave for Sodom. Read the rest of this entry »