Posts Tagged ‘Touched by an Angel’

Sermon 12-01-19: "Your Prayer Has Been Heard"

December 3, 2019
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I’m always intrigued by the way angels are depicted in Hollywood. Think, for example, of Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life. Think of Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven. Think of Roma Downey and Della Reese from Touched by an Angel. All these depictions of angels have one thing in common: the angels are completely nice, friendly,and non-threatening. They would never do anything for which they would need to say, “Fear not”—because no one who encountered them would ever be afraid of them!

Clarence the angel from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Needless to say, Gabriel, the angel who shows up to talk to Zechariah in the sanctuary of the Temple—he’s not a Michael Landon/Roma Downey kind of angel. He’s a “fear not” kind of angel. I’ll get to him in a little while. But first, who is Zechariah, and what’s going on in today’s scripture?

We’re told that Zechariah was a priest serving in the temple. Priests were responsible for leading worship services, burning incense, accepting sacrifices and offerings, teaching the people God’s Word, and, more than anything, butchering animals for sacrifice. There were about 24 divisions of priests, each comprising about a thousand priests. Luke tells us that Zechariah served in the “Abijah” division. He and the other priests in his division served in the Temple for one full week twice a year—and also during the festivals of Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Day of Atonement. In today’s scripture, Zechariah is serving during one of his two regular weeks. 

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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!

father_of_the_year

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 »

Sermon 12-28-14: “They Rejoiced Exceedingly”

January 2, 2015

Giotto's "Adoration of the Magi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Giotto’s “Adoration of the Magi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Star of Bethlehem, which God graciously gave to the magi in order to bring them to Jesus, can teach us a great deal about the gospel of Jesus Christ and our church’s mission.

Sermon Text: Matthew 2:1-12

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Years ago, the senior pastor at the church where I was serving as an associate pastor got a call from a man who was not a member of our church, but who said he was sick and in desperate need of a pastoral visit. So Don, the senior pastor, called me in his office and said, “Brent, I got this weird call from this man—and just so you know, he might be crazy. I’d send Larisa”—the other associate pastor—“but frankly, I’d be worried about her safety. So I want you to go…”

I promise he said that! So I made an appointment to see him. And over the course of the next couple of years, we struck up a bit of a friendship. Turns out he was a deeply eccentric man—not crazy. More like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. He had a Ph.D. from Harvard. He was an engineer who retired with NASA. And he was an amateur astronomer. Once when I visited him, he was excited to tell me about a discovery he had made. He said, “I know the date on which Jesus was born.”

Let me preface this by saying that the church has never known Jesus’ actual birthdate. They chose to celebrate Christmas on December 25 because of its proximity to the winter solstice—the solstice marks the point at which the darkness recedes and the days get longer and longer. Symbolically, the solstice represents the light of Christ—the “light that enlightens everyone,” as John says—coming into the world. Read the rest of this entry »