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Jesus’ Upside-Down Kingdom

The kingdom of Jesus turns everything “upside down.” We settle far too easily for a tame and non-threatening gospel where grace does not surprise us. This sermon was preached at Lutheran Church of the Master, Carol Stream, IL, on June 11-12. I share it because I hope it will edify and encourage you if you like to hear a biblical sermon as an audio file.

The Pope’s Appeal for Inter-Religious Unity and Love

In the light of the debates now raging among Christians regarding how to respond to people of other faiths Pope Francis gives us here a short video in which he expresses his heart and personal hope.

Many evangelicals will see this video and conclude something like the following: “Pope Francis believes all people are brothers and sisters and thus he believes all will be saved by God regardless of their life and faith. Therefore, it makes no real difference whether or not the church does evangelization and mission since ALL people who are sincere in their faith will be saved in the end.”

Am I right or am I wrong in the way in the way I state this conclusion?

I think I am right. I know this is how I would have heard this message twenty years ago. So, my next question is this: “Does this make me a pluralist (or liberal) who denies John 14:6 or sees no urgency for sharing the good news and making disciples of Jesus?”

The problem lies in the meaning of all the words and ideas presented here by my comments. The Catholic

The Passing of My Friend Joseph F. Girzone

224465_215055838545526_6641788_nSeveral years ago I shared the story of how I met Fr. Joseph F. Girzone (1930-2015). I had read Joe’s wonderful book, Jesus: A New Understanding of God’s Son (New York: Doubleday, 2009). I simply loved it. Frankly, it changed my life in many profound ways. I wrote my first ever review on Amazon and as a result someone showed it to Joe who then reached out to get to know me. Since this is the kind of thing I would do, and it is rarely done to me, I had an immediate desire to know this lovely man. Well, we began to chat on the phone and by email. The man who wrote the huge best-selling novel, Joshua (1983), was a friend. What a pleasant and divinely-orchestrated surprise. When I first encountered Joshua in the days of its immense popularity in the early 1980s I was so profoundly influenced by Puritanism that I considered a novel about Jesus a virtual sacrilege. (So much for a mind that was open!) So getting to know this unusual priest became an

Pope Francis and the Faith of Non-Christians

UnknownOn Friday, September 25, Pope Francis visited Ground Zero in New York City to pay respect for life and to pray for healing and peace. Many Christians have expressed dismay that the pope did not mention the name of Jesus at this occasion. Some have specifically stated that he actually proved that he was a religious pluralist who does not believe that Jesus Christ is the true Savior of the world. This entire debate is often absent both the context and the content of his actual words and actions. The pope’s entire address can be read here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/september/documents/papa-francesco_20150925_usa-ground-zero.html

Pope Francis said:

I feel many different emotions standing here at Ground Zero, where thousands of lives were taken in a senseless act of destruction. Here grief is palpable. The water we see flowing towards that empty pit reminds us of all those lives which fell prey to those who think that destruction, tearing down, is the only way to settle conflicts. It is the silent cry of those who were victims of a mindset which knows only

One of the Most Joyful Weeks in My Remembrance

1024x1024As I sit this evening at my computer I am  amazed. For five days every newscast and commentator has responded the visit of Pope Francis to America with such joy and positive energy. From every perspective, including the most non-religious journalists and broadcasters, people have talked about the pope but in doing so they have talked a great deal about Jesus, the Bible and the joy of the gospel. I have never heard so much public talk about matters of profound truth and faith in my lifetime, except perhaps at the funerals of President Kennedy (1963) and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968). We have seen pictures of Pope Francis with prisoners, in a seminary speaking to bishops and students about the two greatest works of a shepherd (prayer and the preaching the gospel), praying at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York with representatives of world religions, speaking before the United Nations, speaking before Congress, meeting with the Speaker of the House, meeting with the President and then this evening leaving our shores after being with

The Church of Pope Francis: The Dialogue I’ve Being Waiting to See and Hear

With all the views of Pope Francis coming from right-left-and in-between I have wanted to see a god dialogue about the man, his view of important issues and his leadership style. Finally, the Jesuit magazine America has given me what I was searching for online. What is remarkable about this program is who is speaking here. The moderator is Nancy Gibbs, managing editor of TIME. Michael Gerson, next to Nancy in the panel, was a policy advisor to President George W. Bush. He is an evangelical non-Catholic. He is also a Wheaton College graduate. (He makes a joke about Wheaton College which is old but still funny). Michael was a TA to one of my favorite theology professors, Dr. Alan Johnson. Then there is the highly regarded progressive Catholic, retired Northwestern University professor and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Dr. Gary Wills. Wills has written some of the most critical contemporary commentary on the Catholic Church of anyone in American academia. At the end of this panel, on your right, is the editor of America, Fr. Matt Malone, SJ. I would describe this group, if

Who Needs a “Jubilee of Mercy”?

“Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world: have mercy upon us.”

UnknownEach one of us, many times during our lives, have raised our voices and cried, “Lord have mercy.” Mercy is the kind of forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly. From a Christian perspective, it is the gift that God or another person offers to someone by not treating him/her in the way they deserve.

For many, this cry for mercy is a perpetual line of their daily prayers. It expresses our deepest inability to cope with the pain in our hearts or the desperate frustration with the challenges of our sinful human condition.

We all long for mercy. The tragedy is that we are not prone to offer it to others.

This past March, Pope Francis announced, to the surprise of many, a holy year. From Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016, Catholics throughout the world are called to celebrate a “Jubilee of Mercy.” The celebration of a jubilee originated in Judaism and it was the occasion to offer forgiveness and reconciliation.

I

The Way of Jesus Beyond Doctrinal Propositions: Living the Love and Unity of Christ

P1240816The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service that I wrote about yesterday included a warm and deeply thoughtful sermon by Fr. George Byron Koch, pastor of Resurrection Church (Anglican), West Chicago, IL. Fr. Koch is the new chairman of the ACT3 Network board and a very dear friend. He is also a great writer and preacher. His sermon in the Christian Unity service was one of the best calls to our unity in Christ I have heard in a long time.

George Byron Koch is the author of What We Believe and Why (Byron Arts, Northwoods, IL, 2012), a magnificently readable and insightful study of Christian faith and practice. 51Uif1n6RHL._AA160_Two particular insights undergird this book: (1) The Christian faith has been torn from its Jewish roots, and; (2) The influence of philosophy on the church has divided it again and again, creating extremely deleterious consequences for Christ’s mission. I not only share George Koch’s view I believe you will hear both aspects of it clearly in this

Stay Awake for Advent (A Sermon)

Advent began last Sunday, November 30. I had the joy of preaching, and leading the divine liturgy, at Lutheran Church of the Master in Carol Stream, Illinois. This is the audio of my sermon based upon the lectionary Gospel text in Mark 13:24-37. I pray that this sermon will encourage you in your worship, edification and spiritual transformation during this wonderful new beginning to the church year.

By |December 5th, 2014|Categories: ACT 3, Incarnation, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Personal|

The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids

22271147Several weeks ago I preached at the Saturday Vespers service at the Lutheran Church of the Master (LCM) in Carol Stream. The lectionary text was Matthew 25:1-14. This text is the parable of the wedding banquet. This text is also often misunderstood by Bible readers. This particular sermon is quite short. It may help some of you grasp the essential elements of what this account is really about in light of the kingdom of God and the gospel of good news.

I will be leading and preaching at LCM this weekend at the Saturday Vespers at 5 p.m. (November 29). I will also lead and preach at the two Sunday services (November 30) at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Friends in the area are welcome to attend. Lutheran Church of the Master is located at 580 Kuhn Road, Carol Stream, Illinois, 60188. You are welcome to take part in one of these services of worship this weekend. I’d love to see old friends and meet new friends as well.

You can listen to the sermon on Matthew 22 below:

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