The final sermon I preached at Belton on 2 Corinthians is linked below. You can go to the Belton web page and see the entire series on 2 Corinthians preached by me and three of my colleagues, Drs. Mason Lee, Rodney Ashlock, and Cliff Barbarick.
Category Archives: Sermons
My sermon at the Belton Church of Christ entitled God’s Co-Workers was posted today, August 6, 2023.
In 2023 I find myself preaching most every Sunday. Most of those sermons are not recorded. On July 3oth, The Belton Church of Christ did post the sermon. It begins at about the 31-minute mark. Blessings.
Core Affirmation: Because God has blessed us, we salt the world and shine brightly for the cause of Jesus on behalf of others.
Plot Line: *The Beatitudes are an invitation to be what we already are in Christ Jesus. We are salt. We are light. *On the one hand, sadly, Christians who have not carried the name of Christ honorably are not without effect. *On the other hand, now that you are a flourishing person in Jesus Christ, now that you are a person living the blessed life, you are called to impact the world. * And if you are salt and light, the flourishing of God’s life will spread to others.
Matthew 5:13 ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. 14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
* The Beatitudes are an invitation to be what we already are in Christ Jesus. We are salt. And we are light. One of my favorite authors on the Sermon on the Mount, Jonathan Pennington says it this way, “The Beatitudes are an invitation to the way of being that will result in their flourishing, while the salt and light statements are the spreading of this flourishing to the world through witness, deed, and invitation to the same.”
- Salt has the power to accomplish three tasks—flavor, antiseptic, and preserve. These last two functions are possible because of salt’s inherent properties that attack corruption. Salt provides First, salt provides some of the basic body fluids with the elements needed for good health. Second, salt prevents corruption and petrification. That is why in the OT, salt is used when establishing covenant as a sign of loyalty (Lev 2:13; Num. 18:19; 2 Chron. 13:5; Ezra 4:14). Especially as the two metaphors, salt and light, are coupled together to accomplish the same purpose.
- The Light metaphor is already established by Matthew’s use of Isaiah. For example, Matthew 4:26 (Isa. 9:1; cf. 42:6 [1–10]; 49:6; 60:21). We are called to be light bearers with Jesus.
- Take for example a sealed dark box with no light. It is filled with absolute darkness. By taking a pin and piercing the side, you have not allowed any of the darkness to escape. But the light will penetrate the darkness. Much like the light set on a table that illuminates the whole room. Like a streetlamp in a dark deserted corner, it attracts you to it. The street corner light protects you from all that might lurk down dark alleys. We are the light to a dark world like the moon is a light to the darkness at night. The moon reflects the light of the Sun without any inherent ability to give a light of its own. And the light it reflects is all to the power and glory of the sun.
The Beatitudes say, “Blessed are you …” Our identity in Jesus Christ flourishes because of whom God blessed us to be.
* On the one hand, sadly, Christians who have not carried the name of Christ honorably are not without effect. This Christian has a negative influence that has damaged severely the cause of Christ.
- Salt that has lost its savor.
- This is the one who tries to hide his light under the bushel. He does not use his influence.
- Remember influence whether good or bad cannot be hidden. The city lights shine brightly in both the shining city and the slum.
- On the one hand, Christians have often lived dishonorable lives.
* On the other hand, now that you are a flourishing person in Jesus Christ, now that you are a person living a blessed and honorable life you are called to impact the world. Now that we are salt and light, in what capacities is that impact expressed? Explicitly, Jesus says, “good deeds.” If I use the Beatitudes as my guide to being salt and light, the effect will be seen by …
- By lifting up those who are poor in spirit.
- By caring for those who suffer loss and grieve.
- By valuing those who are dispossessed.
- By seeking to do justice toward those who are wronged and treated falsely.
- By showing mercy toward those who seek mercy.
- By having integrity with those who are pure in heart.
- By being peacemakers toward those who live in conflict.
- By standing strong when others oppose your witness
- By courageously standing with others who are oppressed.
You are salt and light already. Jesus is not challenging you to try harder. You are a blessed person now in God’s Kingdom; therefore, live in the new reality of who you are in Jesus.
* And if you are salt and light, the flourishing of God’s life will spread to others. As God has given to you and blessed you with every spiritual blessing, you in turn bless others all to the glory of God. Because God has blessed us, we are called to be salt and light in this world all for the glory of God. If we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and we are expected to exhibit our heavenly citizenship. In this world’s deep darkness, the light from even a dim lamp gives off an incredible brilliance. Others will find their way by our glow. If you are blessed, be a blessing. Blessed be God!
 Pennington, Sermon on the Mount, 119.
Focus: God calls us to an honorable and flourishing life.
Function: To exhort the congregation to embrace a virtuous and blessed life in God.
Plotline: * The pursuit of happiness is foundational to the American Dream. * Yet people are looking for happiness in all the wrong places. * Even at church, we look for happiness in all the wrong places. * Jesus calls us to a different way of being in the world. * You might not always feel blessed now, but rest assured, God is stretching out strong hands of blessings with a word of power.
Matt 5:1 “When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
- The pursuit of happiness is foundational to the American Dream. To call Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence a masterstroke of political theory is to condemn it with faint praise. It has been revered and memorized by generations of Americans and has inspired similar documents around the world. One of its most famous phrases declares that “all men are created equal” and “are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Since then, happiness has been taken for granted as a God-given absolute part of the American destiny.
- Yet people are looking for happiness in all the wrong places. What we watch in Hollywood or see on Social Media fools us that our modest dream is not enough. There is something missing. We have the right to pursue happiness — but instead, people pursue a lifestyle characterized by freedom from responsibilities and encumbrances. The right to pursue happiness is measured by money, possessions, pleasure, comfort, and ease. Millions of dollars are made in profits because merchants capitalize on people’s desire to be happy. The Culture Wars are fought because people fear their happiness is being attacked and their freedoms restricted. They fear their way of life in America will be robbed from them. And they look for happiness in all the wrong places. From the hottest political issue to toothpaste, from the latest health craze to investment strategy, people are seeking fulfillment in life. In our world of affluence — happiness is still evasive. In our world of the latest technological advancements, happiness eludes us. People look for happiness in all the wrong places.
- Even at church, we look for happiness in all the wrong places. The Christian mother of three came into the preacher’s study in tears. Her story: Raised in the church by Godly parents. Baptized at the age of 12. Taught Bible classes. Took a summer to go on a foreign mission. She went to a fine Christian college. Faithful. Married a Christian man. Family devotionals every night. Involved in the visitation and benevolent programs. “All my life,” she says, “I have done exactly what the church expects of me.” But I am so unhappy. There is a hollow pit in my stomach that is filled only by an aching sadness.”
- This describes many. After doing all that you were told to do, you still do not know the Blessed Life. Maybe there is a program, a book to read, a self-improvement course, or another activity to be involved in — “I have done all these things ever since I was a youth” we hear the rich young ruler say. “But there is one thing you still lack.” Wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus would appear to each of us personally and tell us the one thing in our lives that we still lack? Just one thing — and maybe then we could be really happy.
- Even at church, we look for happiness in all the wrong places.
- Jesus calls us to a different way of being in the world. Jesus, who is in the very nature God came and sat down on a mountainside teaching his disciples. He gave up the glorious mansions of heaven to a place where foxes have holes, but the son of man has no place to lay his head. He turns the world’s notion of happiness on its head. He reverses the world’s values as well as much that passes for religious piety. Jesus says NO! to all this nonsense.
- Blessed are you when you live in the Kingdom in the way of Jesus. Blessed are those who realize how much they need God. The cable of self must become thread before it can pass through the eye of a needle. Or as the old hymn sings, “Nothing in the hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” It is only when I come to God empty-handed that I can enter the Kingdom of God. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit.
- Jesus invites us into a way of being in the world that results in a full and flourishing way of life here and in the future. The Beatitudes do not offer us a list of the heroes of faith to follow or a list of moral demands and challenges to whip us into shape or describe the ideal pious person, or some set of preconditions or entrance requirements but rather a redefinition of the people of God, a redefinition of us. This is who we are and who we will be.
- It is not an easy invitation. Jesus invites us into a way of being that will demand the best of us as we find our fullness in God. The Beatitudes invite us into humility, poverty of spirit, mourning, hunger and thirst, mercifulness, peacemaking, suffering, and yes, even persecution. And while the world does not describe this kind of life as happy or honorable or fulfilling because the world seeks happiness in all the wrong places. However, we enter this way of being in the world knowing this is how God created us to live. And, therefore,
- God will comfort us,
- we will inherit the world,
- God will satisfy our desire to live and be righteous,
- God will give us mercy,
- we will see God,
- we will be called children of God,
- and the Kingdom of Heaven will be ours.
- we will be called children of God,
- we will see God,
- God will give us mercy,
- God will satisfy our desire to live and be righteous,
- we will inherit the world,
- God will comfort us,
- The Kingdom of Heaven is ours in the present tense. And we live blessed now, ahead of time. “Blessed are you now for you will…” What we already have we are waiting for the full consummation, the finishing of God’s New Creation. “Christianity is not a scheme to reduce stress, lose weight, advance in one’s career, or protect one from illness. Christian faith, instead, is a way of living based on the firm and sure hope that meekness is the way of God, that righteousness and peace will finally prevail, and that God’s future will be a time of mercy and not cruelty. So, blessed are those who live this life now, even when such a life seems foolish, for they will in the end, be vindicated by God.”
- Jesus calls us to a different way of being in the world. Stop pursuing happiness. Live in the flourishing, abundant, and virtuous life found only in Jesus. Give up your life, your liberty, and your pursuit of happiness, then and only then can we know the Blessed life of God. The honorable life of God will receive honor from God. The flourishing life of God that we cherish is a different way of living in the world.
- You might not always feel blessed now, but rest assured, God is stretching out strong hands of blessings with a word of power. “Blessed” is a performative word.
- Weddings have an example of performative language—”I now pronounce you husband and wife.” The two become one flesh.
- When the child comes in from the front yard and you say, “The door is open.” You expect a response. You expect the child to close the door. If a colleague comes to your office with a confidential matter and you say, “the door is open.” You may mean, “you need to close the door,” but you may only mean, “I am a safe place for you to share this matter,” or “You might want to lower your voice.” The statement anticipates a response.
- Blessed is a word that connects with action. Something happens. God activates blessing. Listen again as you receive a blessing from God. For example, “the merciful” are people who experience God’s abundant life now. Extending mercy is honorable. They are already living a flourishing abundant life in God. Therefore, according to God’s intended future for their lives, “they will receive mercy.” Christians who have a “pure heart” now live within the realm of God’s blessing now and in God’s intended future, “they will see God.” This is true for all nine Beatitudes.
- Listen again as I stretch out my hand and speak this performative word over you.
3 ‘Blessed are you now who are the poor in spirit, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are you now who mourn, for you will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are you now who are meek, for you will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are you now who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be filled.
7 ‘Blessed are you now who are merciful, for you will receive mercy.
8 ‘Blessed are you now who are pure in heart, for you will see God.
9 ‘Blessed are you now who are peacemakers, for you will be called children of God.
10 ‘Blessed are you now who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you now when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad today, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
 M. Eugene Boring, The Gospel of Matthew, NIB Volume VIII (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995) 181.
Focus: The Gospel of the Kingdom calls the church to follow Jesus.
Function: To call the church anew to virtuous living for the sake of others.
Plotline: * Our calling first and foremost begins with Jesus calling us to be disciples. * As disciples, we are called to follow the teachings of Kingdom living and follow the ministry of Kingdom engagement. *When I reflect on my calling… *Discerning the voice comes with where the voice takes you, The Kingdom of God!
Matthew 4:12-25 4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 4:13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 4:14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 4:15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 4:17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 4:18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 4:20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 4:21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 4:22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
*Our calling first and foremost begins with Jesus calling us to be disciples. M. Eugene Boring, The Gospel of Matthew, NIB Volume VIII (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995) 170–71 reflects on Matthew 4:18–22 saying, “Modern readers are tempted to refashion the biblical pictures of discipleship into categories more comfortable with our own ideologies and idealisms. To become a disciple means to accept Jesus’ principles for living, for example. There is an element of truth in such reinterpretations, but Matthew’s understanding of discipleship cannot be reduced to this modern rationalism and idealism. In this text Jesus appears disruptively in our midst and calls us not to admire him or accept his principles, not even to accept him as our personal Savior, but to follow him. A reasonable response to this command ‘Follow me’ would be ‘Where are you going?’ The fishermen do not yet know the destination, which they must learn along the way (cf. 10:5–42; 16:13–28).” … “The address ‘Follow me’ is in the imperative, but the indicative of the divine initiative is fundamental. the fishermen are already at work, already doing something useful and important, thus they are not looking for a new life. Jesus’ call does not fill an obvious vacuum or meet an obvious need in their lives, but, like the call of prophets in the Hebrew Bible, it is intrusive and disruptive, calling them away from work and family. the divine sovereignty is clothed in the call to human response: ‘I could not seek you, if you had not already found me.’ (Augustine Confessions Book 1.) ‘Discipleship is not an offer man makes to Christ. It is only the call which creates the situation.’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Macmillan, 1959) 68. Jesus Calls Us to be Disciples.”
*As disciples, we are called to follow the teachings of Kingdom living and follow the ministry of Kingdom engagement. Our calling is just like the calling of the first disciples. Just like them, we see Jesus teaching and we see Jesus doing. The Jesus we are called to follow is described in Matthew with two bookend texts that summarize the Gospel of the Kingdom.
- 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. 4:24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 4:25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
- Matthew 9:35-38 9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
- Jesus came to announce and usher in God’s kingdom. And calling folk to follow that message. There are no applications, resumes, or letters of reference. The Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus calls us to consists of …
- Matthew 5-7 Jesus taught as one with authority. If you are going to follow then, here is an honorable way to live. The Sermon describes how we can experience true Human Flourishing that is “only available through communion with the Father God through his revealed Son, Jesus, as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.” And human flourishing is grounded in becoming a virtuous person. And this is the Gospel of the Kingdom.
- Matthew 8-9 Jesus did as one with authority. Of the 32 miracles of Jesus, 20 are found in Matthew and 10 are found in these two chapters.
- Ten ministry stories.
- Ten stories that demonstrate what it means for the Kingdom of God to come.
- Ten stories that proclaim the Act of God in Jesus and proclaim the Good News.
- Ten stories of the saving work of God.
- Ten stories that call us “To hope for a better future in this world— for the poor, [to hope for a better future] the sick, [to hope for a better future] the lonely and depressed, [to hope for a better future] for the slaves, the refugees, the hungry and homeless, for the abused, the paranoid, the downtrodden and despairing, and, in fact, [to hope for a better future] for the whole wide wonderful, and wounded world—is not something else, something tacked on to the gospel as an afterthought.” Jesus was doing in the present what he was promising long-term in the future. And this is the Gospel of the Kingdom.
- And the ten stories are interspersed with two discipleship texts impressing again the calling and cost of the Gospel of the Kingdom, a Gospel of Kingdom teachings and Kingdom engagements.
*When I reflect on my calling… I do not have one of those grand narratives that get published in books, inspire the masses to lay down their nets, or even speak a still small voice in the quietness of the soul. My call is not all that spectacular.
- Growing up, going to church was the place I always felt accepted. As I kid, I looked forward to going.
- And when I preached my first sermon at age 13, I was affirmed.
- No one ever asked me, “Tell me about your calling into the ministry?”
- My call into the ministry was an ecclesial call.
- There are many voices out there calling us. Sometimes those voices are competing voices, calling us to some unworthy and contradictory ends. Other voices are good, and God would bless those paths just as readily (Pharmacy…labs; maybe not called).
- For some, the call is easy and discernable. For others, the call is garbled and hard to hear. Yet years later, I look back on the Gospel of the Kingdom and I still hear Jesus calling me.
*Discerning the voice comes with where the voice takes you. And when the first disciples decided to follow, Matthew emphasizes what Jesus sets about teaching and doing. Jesus goes throughout Galilee, “teaching in synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people” (v 23). Discerning the voice comes with where the voice takes you. Discerning the call of God and the will of God is not all that different. The call of God takes you to transformational virtuous living– Matt 5-7 teaching. The call of God takes you to the broken places in people’s lives that require Matt 8-9 engagement. If you are going to follow Jesus, the Gospel of God calls you and us as a church community to become virtuous. And we become a flourishing virtuous community for the benefit of others. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom!
 J. T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing, 14.
 N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 191.
Preaching in Season Podcast
In this episode, homiletics professor Dr. Tim Sensing leads us to consider how to preach the first chapter of Galatians.
On Pentecost Sunday I preached at the Linary Church of Christ in Crossville, TN. Below is the link to the sermon.
Sixth Sunday in Lent: Palm Sunday
Today is Palm Sunday remembering Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Read Text Luke 19:28-40—Imagine with me the choir singing the two songs that frame Jesus’ ministry. You enter the cathedral, you walk down the middle aisle, and in the choir loft, the chancel, on my left you have Heaven singing— on my right, you have the earth respond.
|Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!
|Luke 19:38 “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
|The Heavens say, “Peace on Earth”||The earth echoes back, “Peace in Heaven”|
|The chorus of angels sing, “Peace on Earth”||The choir responds, “Peace in Heaven”|
|As the antiphonal chorus resounds all around us, we hear Psalm 118:1-2; 19-29 ringing in our ears. Can you hear it?|
Palm Sunday celebrates Jesus arriving in Jerusalem. This is the moment the second choir begins singing.
This past week Laura and I have been entertaining our 5- and 3-year-old grandchildren. Our three-year-old granddaughter, Emily, is enchanted by the movie Encanto. I went to iTunes to buy the soundtrack which has several tracks that have no words. The score is mostly made up of background music. Emily asks, “I want Family Madrigal, ” whenever one of those tracks plays.” Or “We Don’t Talk about Bruno.” Whomever Bruno is.
- Imagine again with me that we are on the road with Jesus to Jerusalem. Jesus began this journey to Jerusalem in 9:51. All along the road, on the way to Jerusalem, can you hear the choir singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth, peace among those whom he favors!”?
- The story of Jesus on the road even begins with the Sons of Thunder wanting to call down lightning down on the Samaritans. Can you hear the choir singing in the background?
- Do we hear the background music as the parable of the persistent widow or Good Samaritan is told?
- Do we hear the background music when Jesus meets the rich man, the ten lepers, Zacchaeus, or the blind beggar?
The triumphal entry lives for just an instant. Palm Sunday will soon turn to Easter Sunday. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem will lead Jesus to the temple and the cross—The longest week in the Christian Year. All four Gospels spend more time on this one week than any other aspect of Jesus’ ministry.
- The last week begins in Matthew 21.
- For Mark, it begins at chapter 11
- John starts the story even earlier at 12:1.
- And here, the last week begins at Luke 19:28.
- And the second choir begins their song, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
And Pharisees say “STOP”! They demand the choir stop their singing – “Do not proclaim peace.” You see, peace is a political word.
- Are they afraid for Jesus’ own safety as in 13:31 where you have a small glimpse of compassion? Maybe.
- More likely, they were afraid of Rome, and that the disturbance in the city might call down retaliation.
And Jesus responds, “the Stones Would Cry Out if the choir is silenced!”
- Some things simply must be said. The church must always proclaim peace.
- The disciples are expressing the ultimate truth. In Jesus Christ, PEACE is proclaimed in the heavens and on the earth.
- Peace is proclaimed as humanity is reconciled back to God.
- Peace is proclaimed as the strife and fighting between peoples of every tribe, language, and nation is established.
- Peace is proclaimed when our own heart finds the peace the passes all understanding.
- Truth cannot be silenced.
- God will provide a witness of peace though every mouth be stopped.
So, the chorus keeps singing, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
The story takes a dramatic turn. A twist in the story occurs when we least anticipate it. Just after Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for saying “Silence the choir!” Jesus now stops the choir himself.
So, when to road finally reaches Jerusalem (Luke 19: 41-44) Jesus weeps and both choir lofts are silent. Jesus sees a Jerusalem that will not see peace. Jesus sees Jerusalem that will not recognize God’s visitation. The chorus proclaims peace, but Jesus weeps for there is no peace.
The choir sings peace, but there is no peace, and the choir has stopped singing.
- Like a boy on the playground who scrapes his knee. “Mommy, blow on it!” But she washes his knee with soap and water. “Mommy, blow on it.” And she takes the iodine and treats his wound.
- Peace, Peace, but there is no peace.
- At Jerusalem, the visitation of God is rejected.
- Jerusalem will call for Jesus’ blood.
- Therefore, Jerusalem will be besieged by enemies. There is no peace.
And Peace is hidden…
- In the midst of tensions all around, for example, pandemics and the war in eastern Europe—peace is hidden. The invasion of Ukraine is a stark reminder that fears dark realities beset us. The threats represent real opponents to peace.
- In the midst of tensions in marriages, wars within our own families, cultural wars, political wars, school board infighting, and political gridlock—peace is hidden.
- In the midst of foreclosures, mounting medical bills, unemployment, and all sorts of financial unrest—peace is hidden.
- And even here at church where we also experience a lack of peace. Church history is filled with stories where the church participated with the hiding of peace more so than the proclaiming of peace.
- But our age is not the only age. You could look at almost any age and see how fear and death have reigned. Fourteenth-century Europe, for example, experienced devastating famines, waves of pillaging mercenaries, peasant revolts, religious turmoil and a plague that wiped out as much as half the population in four years. The evidence suggests that all this resulted in mass convulsions of anxiety, a period of psychic torment in which, as one historian has put it, “the more one knew, the less sense the world made.”
- Fears and anxieties press all around us. As an author once described America, “we are in the midst of a full-blown panic attack.” National Institute for Mental Health reports— nearly 20 percent of Americans experience an anxiety disorder each year; over 30 percent experienced an anxiety disorder over the course of their lifetimes.
- Generalized anxiety disorder, per the DSM-5 list of symptoms, includes the rise to both restlessness and fatigue; both lapsed concentration and profound tension of the muscles. In this conflicted state, the mind and body team up to deprive the sufferer of sleep and induce irritability.
- Peace is hidden!
- Jesus rides on a colt, not a horse that is 16 hands high bred for battle, but a colt that had never been ridden before. Even though peace is hidden, Jesus rides a colt through it all. 
Listen. Do you hear the choir? It is reaching a crescendo in Luke’s story. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
Palm Sunday is a day when the songs are about peace on earth and peace in heaven. BUT Palm Sunday ALSO remembers the day when Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because he finds no peace.
Lent is a season of waiting.
- Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is the longest week of the Christian Year.
- Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week.
- Early in the week there are several encounters in Jerusalem and the temple where Jesus’ authority is questioned. Jesus cleanses the Temple, witnesses the widow’s mite, and is questioned about taxes.
- Luke’s winding road through Jerusalem takes us to an Upper Room on Thursday. We recall the Last Supper and the Washing of Feet. Thursday is a long day. Jesus prays on the Mount of Olives, Jesus is betrayed and arrested, Peter denies Jesus. He is betrayed and arrested. He experiences two trials and is sentenced to death.
- But the longest night of the Christian Year is Friday.
- Afterwards, you have the long night of silence of Saturday. I cannot imagine the choirs singing.
Will there be peace on earth? Will there be peace in heaven? Will the choirs ever sing again? We will have to wait until next Sunday. But until then, we come to the table.
Until next Sunday, may the peace of God be with you all.
 Some thoughts and insights about the phrase “Age of Anxiety” come from the web, for example, https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/its-still-the-age-of-anxiety-or-is-it/ and https://newrepublic.com/article/153153/age-anxiety
 “Halfway down the Mount of Olives, there is a small chapel in the shape of a teardrop. It is called Dominus Flevit (Latin for “the Lord weeps”) It is the traditional location where Jesus wept over the city. Pilgrims gather there to share the Eucharist as they move toward Jerusalem. As they view a city still divided, with people of different faiths squabbling over the same real estate, they pass the bread to the words, “this is my body, broken for you.” Then they share the cup of wine, saying, “this is the new covenant in my blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins.” It is a moment to recall the great cost of reconciliation, as God sent Jesus into the world to [bring peace]. Sometimes we are clueless when it comes to peace. However, for those who continue to share the body and blood of Christ, it is common to say, “the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” How does each of us respond? With the words, “And also with you.” William G. Carter, “Luke 19:28-40,” Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol 2, pg. 156.
Now that I have children living in the metroplex, I realize how different Fort Worth is different from Dallas. Both are part of the metroplex but are very different places. Different places mean different contexts.
Churches have context. Albany is not Anson and is not Clyde. Churches just down the road from each other can differ significantly.
- Our churches
- Some are thriving
- Some are tired
- Some enjoy their common fellowship
- Some are bickering all the time
- I knew a church in a small town with five distinct factions. On my first Sunday to visit, I was informed that this would be the last Sunday for about twenty members who were leaving. What do you preach when a church is about ready to split again?
- Churches have a context.
- Our churches
The Galatian churches had a context
- And while their faith began full of hope, Paul was fearful that some Jewish missionaries messing with the very heart of the Gospel would pervert their faith.
- Three pillars of practice exemplified that preamble: Jewish Christians equated dietary laws (Gal. 2:11–14), circumcision (Gal. 5:6; 6:15), and Jewish holidays (Gal 4:9–10) as boundary markers for their identity. These three practices were identity markers that Jewish Christians embraced. And these practices were not wrong for Jewish Christians; but very wrong for Gentile believers.
- It is like a multivitamin, merely a supplement, but yet lacking the power to cure a disease.
- I read an article about how taking too much Vitamin D is harmful. I looked at the various supplements I was taking. Whoa! I was taking way too much. Sometimes adding more is harmful. Adding to the Gospel is harmful, Paul says.
- Gospel + // A bundle like TV + Internet + Phone = new contract. And suddenly, I’m trapped again for two more years). The objection Paul has is that bundling the Gospel with Jewish practices is not essential for Gentile Christians.
- And such bundling had social implications. In Galatia, as in Rome, those implications were ethnic. In Corinth, those implications were socio-economic. Social implications can play themselves out in a wide variety of ways in how people relate to others who are not part of their group.
- Brad Braxton states it this way about the Galatians, “[The Gentiles] could not enjoy the blessings of God’s covenant unless they abandoned their ethnic identity and assumed another. If Gentile believers adopted another ethnic identity, they would deny that God saved them as Gentiles.” 
So, what does Paul preach to churches like those found in Galatia?
Galatians 1:1-5 —What is the Gospel?
- The gospel is not of human construction. It comes from God (1:1, 3-4).
- Grace is embodied and made effective by the self-giving of Jesus on the cross (1:4). Jesus’ death atones for our sins and releases us from the oppressive power of “the present evil age.”
- The self-giving of Jesus is in accordance with the will of God (1:4). Therefore, we have “grace and peace” that comes from God (1:3). Therefore, the death of Jesus is an act of God.
- God is our Father (1:1). We are God’s children and members of God’s family. Rooted in God as your Father (1:1, 3, 4). 3xs
- God raised Jesus from the dead. God has power over death and delivers us from the grip of death.
- A message that was revealed by Jesus. You see, the message, the messenger, and the origin of the message are bound tightly together.
- God breaks into this age in order to usher in a new age (1:4).
- In order to “set us free.”
- What you believe affects what you do.
So, Paul offers a doxology (the only time in a Pauline introduction). If Galatians is read in church and functions like a sermon, will the hearers say the “Amen” at the end of verse 5?
The Gospel is all about Jesus
- Who chose to come to earth, born a human in a manger.
- Who chose to associate with tax collectors, sinners, Samaritans, Syrophoenicians—the poorest of the poor, outcasts, and folks who were unclean.
- Each story you read in Matt, Mark, and Luke; each turn in the road; each city he entered; each conversation he had; was in obedient faithfulness to God.
- And that faithfulness took him to the cross.
- Paul summarizes this story in Gal 1:1-4; and concludes with doxology 1:5.
- And if we look elsewhere in Gal, Paul says it in compact ways with memorable statements.
- 2:16 Knowing that one is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, …
- 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
- “Faith of Jesus Christ” (2:16a, 20; 3:3, 5, 22) and by the effectiveness of the message.
- “Faith in Jesus Christ” (2:16b; 3:26)
And this is the Gospel!
No matter what the context. No matter what is going on right now in a church. No matter what the issues, you are saved because of the faithfulness of Jesus. You are part of God’s covenant family because of the faithfulness of Jesus. You are here! You belong! Look around this room…everyone here belongs because of the faithfulness of Jesus. And look around your neighborhood, this community, this county, and State. No one is excluded from the Gospel. No one is excluded from the waters. No one is excluded from the Table.
This is the Gospel (2:16).
 Braxton, “Galatians,” 334.