Jesus Christ calls us to be a joyful community that celebrates God's love, transforms lives, and is a force for justice in the world.

Sermons on Jesus

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Look up, look down, all around

The Ascension is probably one of the most important holidays on the church calendar, yet also the most overlooked.. If we can push past our scientific qualms for a minute—not ignore them, but suspend them for a bit to look at the meaning of the story—there’s profound truth here.

Courage: where does it come from?

St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church – The Rev. Bart Smith The Third Sunday of Easter (April 30, 2017) Acts 6:1-15, 7:51-60 – “Courage: where does it come from?” About that time, while the number of disciples continued to increase, a complaint arose. Greek-speaking disciples accused the Aramaic-speaking disciples because their widows were being overlooked in the daily food service. The Twelve [apostles] called…

We Had Hoped

We know all too well that the road to Emmaus is the road we walk when our hopes are dashed and our dreams are crushed and our hearts are filled with despair. The Emmaus Road is any place where we find ourselves seven miles from certainty, as we lament the things didn’t turn out how we had hoped.

Idle Tales

The people (the women and men) telling idle tales today are those who—like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others—dare to look for life in seemingly dead places, or better yet, people who work for life in places that have only known death. These are people who aren’t visionaries, necessarily, but who are still willing, in the grunt work of daily life, to keep telling stories of what is possible.

A Mirror to Us

This story—the whole story, all parts of it—hold up a mirror to us. In the harsh light, we see the truth of what humanity is capable of. We can see ourselves in Pilate washing his hands saying, “I’m just doing my job.” We can see our reflection in Peter’s betrayal a friend because of fear. We can see ourselves in the other disciples, as they flee; in Mary, who faces the agony of losing a child. We can see our reflection in the fickle crowds who shout “Hosanna!” one day and “Crucify him!” a mere few days later. It’s all there: disloyalty, dodging responsibility, mob rule, persecution, blaming, bloodshed, you name it.

Virtue in the Vice – Lust

So, is Jesus talking about sexual desire in itself? Or about a desire that warps to see another human being as an object to be possessed rather than a partner to be in covenant with? The question becomes, does our desire reflect the love of God or the domination systems of this world? Does it draw us closer to God and one another, or does it drive us away from God and one another?

esplanchnisthe

That’s one reason why I love Jesus and am fascinated by him: the profound compassion he has for crowds, for random strangers, for vulnerable and suffering people… What I have trouble with, in this story and with Jesus’ teaching in general, is the compassion he has for the likes of the Centurion. I’m fine with Jesus having this gut-level mercy for someone marginalized like the widow, but a Roman solider, a commanding officer?

Resist and Rest

Two thousand years later and a world away, what can we learn from how Jesus confronts the Pharisees, while still upholding the practice of Sabbath? I see two relevant take-away points here: 1) resistance and 2) rest. Being faithful and courageous in these times is going to take holy stamina. As we try to follow in Jesus’ footsteps right where we are, Luke reminds us that there’s a time to resist and a time to rest… so we can keep resisting.

…for people

The point is that Jesus meets Simon exactly where he is. Jesus speaks to him in the matrix of his livelihood and culture. He gets in the boat with Simon and shows him how to catch an abundance that yields far more than he could have ever imagined. Simon’s vocation comes in the midst of everyday life. And that’s exactly where Jesus meets us: right where we’re standing.

Go the cliff

To quote Jack Good, “The text, then, is about both calling and task. Those who speak out must be able to report: ‘I cannot refrain from doing this. I am anointed by, pushed by, inspired by One who will not let me express my faithfulness in any other way.’ The opening scene of Jesus’ public ministry left no doubt: a commitment to Jesus involves a commitment to build communities of peace and justice. But first comes the calling.”