An All-In Kind of Faith (1 Kings 19:19-21)

Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany (1/25/2015)

Text: 1 Kings 19:19-21

Theme: An All-In Kind of Faith

            Alea iacta est. How many of are familiar with that Latin phrase?

On January 10, 49 BC, then General Julius Caesar reportedly uttered this phrase as he crossed the Rubicon River. Alea iacta est, “the die is cast.” You see, it was against Roman law for a general to cross over the Rubicon River into Italy with an army – it was an act of war, it was treason. General Julius Caesar was making a bid to be the emperor of Rome.  As his army crossed the Rubicon he had reached a point of no return: either he would win and become emperor, or he would loose and be executed. The die was cast – one of those two outcomes was destined. There was no turning back. Things could never again be as they once were for Julius Caesar and Rome.

And so, to this day in Italy (and all around the world) people use the phrase “the die is cast” to signify that there is no coming back from what just happened. Things can never again be the way they were before.

Today in 1 Kings 19 we see one of these life defining, no-turning-back moments.

Elijah, the renowned prophet of God who stood up to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who had defeated the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, came up to Elisha, the seemingly wealthy farmer, and threw his cloak over his shoulders. This was no ordinary cloak. What Elijah was doing here was clear to Elisha. This was the garment that signified that Elijah was a prophet of God (which, interestingly enough, is the historical and biblical background for this stole I wear over my shoulders – the cloak or yoke of responsibility as an ordained, public servant of God). Elisha was being called by God through Elijah to be a public minister – a prophet.

And how did Elisha respond? He crossed the Rubicon. He cast the die. He made this a point of no return. As those ox steaks sizzled over a fire fueled by what used to be his plowing equipment it was clear that things would never be the same for Elisha – they couldn’t be. Life as he knew it, his career, his way of putting food on the table was going up in smoke in front of him. There was no turning back. He was no longer Elisha the farmer, he was Elisha the prophet. Continue reading

Come and See My Jesus (John 1:43-51)

Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany (1/18/15)

Text: John 1:43-51

Theme: Come and See My Jesus

            It made children anxious – so anxious that even on the hottest summer days the public pools would be empty. It terrified parents – made some want to lock their kids inside all summer long. Apart from the Red Scare (fear of nuclear war with Russia), it was the number one fear for Americans in the early 1950’s. Every summer it came – year in and year out – this relentless terror. It was particularly appalling because it targeted young children. Every summer it came, and left in its wake thousands of dead children, and thousands more permanently paralyzed.

It was the disease called polio.

This fear that gripped the nation was well founded. In 1952 alone almost 60,000 children were infected with the virus. Thousands died, thousands more were left paralyzed.

Then in 1955, an amazing announcement was issued. Jonas Salk, a virologist working at the University of Pittsburg, had developed and tested a vaccine that worked – a vaccine that would completely eradicate polio from the US in just over 20 years.

And with the announcement a country collectively breathed a sigh of relief, because the end of polio’s reign of terror was in sight. It was one of those moments in American history that brought the country to a standstill. From coast to coast, in small towns and large cities, people crowded around fuzzy TV’s in living rooms, and crackling radios at the workplace or local diner. It was one of those moments that moved people all across this country to say to friends, relatives, and complete strangers, “Come here, you have to see this.”

Imagine what that must have been like. I imagine most of you have felt that before. You know, that feeling when something amazing happens – something so momentous, and life-changing – and you realize that this is something everyone needs to know about – it makes you want to stop complete strangers in the street saying, “Did you hear what happened, you’ve got to see this!”

“You’ve got to see this,” was undoubtedly what Philip was thinking as he rushed up to Nathaniel sitting under a fig tree – bursting with THE good news.

Philip had been called to follow the one and only Jesus Christ, “The one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Continue reading

The Anointed One Reigns! (Psalm 2)

Sermon for Baptism of Our Lord Sunday (1/11/15)

Text: Psalm 2

Theme: The Anointed One Reigns

1) Resistance is Vain

2)  Take Refuge in Him

           February 2nd 1989 is a day my parents will never forget. My dad, a young pastor in Helena, Montana, shot out of bed to the sound of an explosion. He looked out the window and saw transformers exploding down the power line behind the house. His first two thoughts were: either the world was ending or Helena was under attack. It turned out to be neither of those.

In the wee hours of the morning a train engine detached from a train up in the mountains and careened out of control back into Helena where it slammed into a parked 48 car freight train – a train which happened to be holding isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. The crash caused an explosion that threw debris for blocks and shattered windows up to three miles away. Electricity was instantly cut for much of the city. A short time after the explosion, a police officer knocked on our door in Helena telling my parents they had to leave because they didn’t yet know what chemicals had been released in the explosion. The temperature at the time of the accident was about 28 degrees below zero with a gusting winter wind making it feel like minus 75… When firefighters tried to put out the fire, the water froze in their hoses.

A train running out of control created a memory that those who lived in Helena at that time will never forget. A train running out of control is a scary and dangerous thing.

Trains were created to carry out a specific purpose. Trains were made to carry massive cargo along a specific route at a specific time and speed. When a train deviates from what its owner and operator planned, chaos ensues. Just try to imagine that night in Helena. Picture what happens when a train leaves its tracks. Trains were created to work in a certain way and when they stray from the plan, wrecks happen…

Contrary to what is becoming more and more popular opinion, human existence is not a random cosmic mistake. Much like trains, we were created for a specific purpose. Our daily activities are not independent choices that have no objective guidance or effect on the world around us. We were made for a purpose. We were created to fulfill certain roles. We were fashioned to follow certain tracks or guidelines, and much like a train out of control, when we deviate from the blueprint our Creator gave us, wrecks happen. Continue reading