Do you remember the old knock, knock joke about a banana?
And that setup repeats at least 5-6 times before you get to the punch line.
Orange you glad I didn’t say banana again?
Even as a kid, I knew the punch line wasn’t funny. The funny part of that joke is the obnoxiously long set up that seems to go on and on and on until you are almost ready to fill your ears full of cheese whiz just to make the noise stop.
But since I trust by now you all don’t show up to church to hear me preach without something to stuff in your ears and tune me out already, then allow me to tell you another joke with the same obnoxiously long setup. And this, friends, is the abridged version of the setup. Read More...
I’ve never been a part of a faith tradition that regularly practiced altar calls, and I’m kind of thankful for that as a preacher. I think it would be an awfully big temptation to judge every sermon I preached based on how many people responded on any particular Sunday. Were 3 people or 30 people moved enough by that sermon to get up out of the pews and walk forward?
Which is why I really want to know what on earth it is that Jonah preached to the king of Ninevah that was so earth-shattering, so transformational, that the king called for the entire nation to walk around the streets in sackcloth and ashes. What was in his sermon that prompted the entire town to respond to the altar call. `Most preachers I know, we feel lucky when less than 50% of the congregation falls asleep during the message. Read More...
Some families have really sweet Christmas traditions of doing kind, loving things for one another. Sarah, for example, makes these really pretty Christmas Tree ornaments for Wallace, a new one each year of his life, so that the tree becomes a little like a scrapbook as he grows up. My family growing up, on the other hand, had a little different tradition. Specifically my dad and his sister, Bonnie, when it came to Christmas gifts.
To fully appreciate this, you should know that both Dad and Aunt Bonnie are the type of people who go to great lengths not to offend anyone, and who would bend over backwards to be kind to everyone they encounter.
But when it came to exchanging Christmas gifts, they threw all that aside for one week a year. The gift exchange went on a two year cycle. When I took notice, it had already been going on for some time. Aunt Bonnie sent dad a 2500 piece jigsaw puzzle of the woods. Everything was trees, trees and leaves, so consequently every piece looked pretty much the same. That same year dad sent Aunt Bonnie a fruitcake.
The following year, Dad was not one to be outdone. He scouted all over town until he found puzzle with something like 3000 pieces. And the entire puzzle was a gigantic red circle. No corner pieces. All the edge pieces were curved. And there wasn’t even any gradient to the red. It was all the same shade. One enormous 3000 piece red circle. My guess is that puzzle is still sitting unopened in a box somewhere. That year Aunt Bonnie sent Dad a fruitcake. But not just any fruitcake. That year Aunt Bonnie sent Dad the same fruitcake. The same year old (at least) dried out, 8 pound fruitcake. I’m not sure which one of them won Christmas that year. Read More...
Christian tradition calls today ‘Good Friday. ’ But even long before I became a preacher, went to seminary, got a few degrees in religion and theology and all that, even before all of that, as much as now, I have never been able to make much sense of what is considered ‘good’ about today.
I know that with the lenses of Christian history, we now look back and see the good that came out of the crucifixion. We see the other side of the picture, the empty tomb of Easter morning, the forgiveness and reconciliation with God and one another shown to us through Jesus.
But according to all the gospel accounts, we pretty much see nothing but the worst of humanity on ‘Good’ Friday. We see brutality and violence inflicted upon another human being. We see Jesus, who spent his life teaching love of enemy and forgiveness for wrongs, we see him scourged and mocked. Read More...
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” Jesus’ whole life has been spent sitting down at the table with those considered enemies. He has eaten and drunk with prostitutes, with sinners, with tax collectors, with Pharisees, and later this week, he will sit down at a table with Judas, later kneeling to wash Judas’ feet. Some of those enemies were simply outsiders to the community, people who for one reason or another didn’t adhere to the community standards of Jesus’ day. But others were indeed enemies who at some point meant to harm Jesus, who would turn against him, deny him, or sell him out for a bag of silver. Read More...