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Ambition to Serve

22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Ambition to Serve

Text: Mark 10:35-45

What a journey!  The disciples had been on quite the road trip with Jesus.  They were meandering their way south through Judea down toward Jerusalem for the final time.  Jesus was making his last trip there to accomplish his mission and our salvation.
But even more extraordinary was the spiritual journey the disciples were taking along the way.  Parents had been bringing little children to Jesus and the disciples rebuked them and tried to send them away.  Jesus was indignant with them.  Then a rich man runs up to Jesus and the disciples let him right through.  But they were amazed when Jesus told them how hard it is for the rich to inherit the kingdom of God.  Then Jesus began to teach them more specifically about what was coming, that he was going to suffer and die and rise again in Jerusalem.  The disciples were astonished.
And now this.  James and John approached Jesus and tried to secure seats of honor on Jesus’ right and left in the glory of heaven.  That made the others indignant with James and John.
What is going on here?  Up and down the disciples go in their journey of faith.  Mistake after mistake.  Wrong motives.  Weak faith.  Hidden agendas.  What kind of faith did they have here anyways?  Well they had a faith much like mine.  That’s certainly true of the story today. Read the rest of this entry

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Why Follow Jesus?

3rd Sunday after the Epiphany

Why Follow Jesus?

Text:  Mark 1:14-20

Come, follow me,” Jesus said.  We do.  We follow him.  We’re Christians.  But why?  Why Follow Jesus?  Have you ever thought how strange it is to be a Christian and follow him?

Everyone else sleeps in on Sunday morning.  They sip coffee in their jammies and watch the news while I’m hustling to make it here on time.  Everyone else goes home from work and hangs out with the family or unwinds or cleans up a bit around the house.  But I make my schedule even more busy (as if that were possible!) by going to midweek Bible studies and dinners and services coming up during Lent.  That’s strange.

Here in America, the king country of consumerism, my fellow Americans make money and buy whatever they want and can possibly afford (sometimes even what they can’t afford).  Meanwhile I first plan and pray about my money.  I set money aside—money I worked hard for and earned—and I give it away to support God’s work.  And I’m directed by God to do this cheerfully and joyfully and before I even think about how I would like to spend that money on anything else.

Speaking of prayer by the way, I find myself at random times of the day with folded hands and bowed head showing utmost humility and trust in a God that I’ve never met and never seen.  That’s strange, too. Read the rest of this entry

The Unusual Path to Greatness

4th Sunday in Lent

The Unusual Path to Greatness

Text:  Matthew 20:17-28

Reality TV is ruining our country. That’s probably not a surprising or controversial statement. It seems pretty obvious that Reality TV is causing a lot of problems.

The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are ruining the way Americans think about dating and love and marriage. There is very little on those shows that would be considered God-pleasing love or relationships.

Celebrity reality shows are ruining the way we think about our lives. When we see the homes and cars celebrities have and the carefree, lawless lives that celebrities live, all we do is crave things we cannot and will not ever have.

Reality game shows are ruining our work ethic. People think that they can just sing in front of a famous judge on American Idol or X-Factor or The Voice, or dance on So You Think You Can Dance, or present your business on Shark Tank and you’ll get the golden ticket to fame and fortune. Rather than putting in all the blood, sweat, and tears to work toward your dreams, people think they can get in front of someone famous and take the easy way to success.

Now it is certainly nice that certain people “get a shot” in life, like the small town Texas girl that might win American Idol. But for that one person that wins a reality show there are tens of thousands that do not win. It’s always humorous, yet somewhat annoying, to watch people’s pride on these TV shows when they don’t win. Most contestants feel like they deserve to win. They’ve been waiting. Their life has been tough. They need this. Then it’s even more humorous, and more annoying, to watch the people who can’t sing or can’t dance but think they really can. They get cut from the show and they blow up in anger because they really are great and they really deserve a chance and they really should be winners. Really? Read the rest of this entry

A Glimpse of Glory

Transfiguration

A Glimpse of Glory

Text:  Matthew 17:1-9

A few of you have heard this story before.  I was in about 4th or 5th grade.  My younger sister and I got pulled out of class to see the principal.  We were leaving early that day.  Shortly after, my mother was burning rubber down the street and came to a screeching stop at the school.  “Jump in the car.  We have to go get dad from the airport.”

My father had been on a flight from Oakland to Milwaukee.  He saw a man he knew on the plane who was working for the Oakland Athletics baseball team at the time.  You might know him—Hall of Fame baseball player Reggie Jackson.  Fearless, he walked right up to Reggie and asked if he wanted a ride to his downtown hotel because he was the pastor of a church just down the street.  Amazingly, he said yes.

I will never forget that 25-minute car ride from the airport to the hotel.  My dad drove and Reggie Jackson was in the passenger seat.  My sister and I were in the back with my mom in the middle.  As a huge baseball and sports fan I was hoping my dad would take a couple dozen wrong turns to make the drive last longer.

After an awesome ride, with my dad even having opportunity to witness to Reggie and give him a Bible, we finally arrived at the hotel.  I asked Reggie Jackson if he would sign two baseball cards for me.  He said, “What was your name again, Scott?”  I remember thinking, “You can call me Sally for all I care Mr. Jackson!”  That was a glorious moment I never wanted to end. Read the rest of this entry

What Does Humility Look Like?

15th Sunday after Pentecost

What Does Humility Look Like?

Text: James 2:1-13

What Does Humility Look Like?  Does humility look like the Pharisees in the gospel today?  They would go to dinner parties and feasts and sit down at the places and positions of honor.  If it was a dinner party, they would have sat at the head of the table.  If it was a wedding, they would have sat at the head table with the wedding party.  If it was a king’s feast, they would have sat down at the royal table.  After all, they were Pharisees!  Is that humility?

Does humility look like our American celebrities?  They scratch and claw for millions of dollars to act in a movie or perform at a concert or simply endorse perfume.  They have houses in the most prominent positions.  When you drive over that bridge to South Beach or weave through Beverly Hills, you can’t miss their mansions.  They fight to have their faces on magazines and billboards.  They Tweet foolish comments to get publicity, or they make stupid choices like naming their child North West (yes, Kim Kardashian actually did that).  Anything they can do to gain recognition, fame, or money.  Is that humility? Read the rest of this entry