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:

Our Lord’s Prayer for Unity in Triune Love

UnknownJesus begins his prayer in John 17 by asking the Father to glorify him so that he could glorify the Father. These words (“glorify”) are too easily passed over. When the Bible speaks of glory it uses the word doxa, a Greek word which comes from the Old Testament Hebrew word kabod. The widely accepted meaning of doxa is “fame and honor,” usually what is given for an extraordinary achievement. It also refers to the “visible splendor of the divine, the shining forth of a transcendent presence.” John’s Gospel suggests that the Father will be glorified in and through Jesus’ accomplishment of the task given to him by his Father (cf. 4:34; 11:4; 17:4). But in both John 11:4 and 12:23 it is evident that Jesus will be glorified by means of his death on the cross. According the the apostle Jesus was glorified in his messianic activities, especially in his signs. John 12:28 makes this clear: “‘Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again’”

Must the Reformation Wars Continue? (Part Seven)

Yesterday I asked an important question at the end of my post: “How do we evangelize church members, both Catholic and Protestant?”

Sherry Weddell, the cofounder of the Catherine of Siena Institute, with Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P., is a Christ-centered disciple maker who works to equip Catholic parishes to form lay Catholics for mission in the world. Sherry has been responsible for forming over 85,000 lay, religious and ordained Catholics in 105 dioceses in the art of evangelizing postmoderns, in gaining a better understanding of their spiritual gifts and vocational discernment and in understanding the theology and mission of the laity.

Sherry Weddell notes what every Catholic must honestly face in 2014:

1. Only 30% of American Catholics who were reared in the church are still practicing the Catholic faith in any meaningful way.

2. Fully 10% of all adults in America are now ex-Catholics. (I would guess many have left religion completely but many are evangelicals and charismatics!)

3. The number of marriages celebrated in the Church decreased dramatically, by nearly 60%, between 1972 and 2010.

4. Only 60% of Catholics actually believe in a personal God.

She argues that if the Catholic

The Divine Interpretation of Christ’s Death

twelve-thumbAs I have been working my way through writing the first draft of my book, Our Love Is Too Small, I have confessed that nothing draws us more deeply into the love of God than the death of Christ “for our sins.” I have also suggested that theories of the atonement often get in the way of our experiencing the death of Christ at the very core of our soul.

A friend suggested last week that I read a chapter in the famous A.B. Bruce book, The Training of the Twelve (1871), and see what he had to say about the death of Christ and the love of God. In a chapter titled “In Memoriam; Or, Fourth Lesson on the Doctrine of the Cross,” A.B. Bruce says:

Besides commemorating Christ’s death (“This do in remembrance of me”), the rite of the Supper is used to interpret the Lord’s death. He says the eucharist throws important light on the meaning of the solemn event. The institution of this symbolic feast was in fact the most important contribution made by

The Cross of Christ & the Love of God – What Saves Us?

The_Cross____by_jkinerI am currently writing a book on love, both God’s love and our love. In writing the first half of my book I have sought to deal with the cross. I do not know how you can talk about God’s love and not go to the cross. Every reader of the New Testament can readily see that the cross is central to the story of God’s love and redemption.

“Christ died for our sins” is central to the earliest confessions and is a bottom line teaching of the New Testament. But how we understand what happened on the cross, in terms of God’s saving us through the death of Christ, is another matter. Several theories of the atonement have been debated and embraced by various Christians over the last ten-plus centuries. (The early church also held a view and in general I do not fully agree with this view either as I shall show in my book.)

I have decided to make my way into this controversy, with fear and trembling in one way, precisely because I believe that

The Priority of Christ, Part Two

6764651One of my deepest concern for Christians today, expressed in my post yesterday, is not widely shared by many in the North American church, whether Catholic or Protestant, mainline or evangelical. In fact, I have discovered only a few single-minded souls (e.g. friends such as Leonard Sweet, Joseph Girzone, David Bryant come to mind here) who are currently speaking prophetically to this concern. This concern is a base line, or a north star, for how I listen to, and process, the message of the church – the heart of Christian faith is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah.  He is everything. He is all. His supremacy is self-evident if you read the New Testament. My question, the question with which I ended my post yesterday, was: “Could we have substituted a movement in morality and ecclesial practice for Jesus?”

It ought to be a simple truism that a lively concern for the gospel and the Christ-event, as it is centered in the life and person of Jesus of Nazareth himself, is the marrow of all true Christian faith and

The Priority of Christ, Part One

In 1956 a group of British theologians chose to honor the twentieth century’s greatest theologian, Karl Barth, with a collection of Essays in Christology. They chose this theme because Barth was a champion for high Christology but also because but because the editors and contributors believed the very heart of Christian theology was Christology, the doctrine of Christ. I believe we can learn something vitally important for this decision.

Interestingly, in 1966 the same group, now including English-speaking colleagues from around the world, decided to honor Barth’s eightieth birthday with a collection of essays. UnknownThis volume was on diakonia, or the service and ministry of the church. The order of these two major works is critical, at least to my mind. First comes Christ, always and in every circumstance. Second, comes the church, its service in mission and orderly arrangement and practice.

Make no mistake about what I am saying here. These two truths – Christ and the church (its order and mission) – cannot be separated. Nevertheless, the first ought to always precede the second in our thinking and teaching.

The Light That Shines Upon Us

Christmas_DayThe Gospel of Luke reveals to us an angelic prophecy regarding the birth of John the Baptist that was given to Zechariah. I never read this text (Luke 1:5-25) without imagining what it would have been like to go about one’s priestly service in the days of Herod only to have “an angel (later said to be Gabriel in verse 19) of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense” (1:11). When Zechariah saw this angelic person he was “terrified, fear overwhelmed him” (1:12). I’ll bet he was terrified.

Let that scene sink into your mind for a moment. This man was “overwhelmed” in sheer terror at what he saw. But what he heard was even more difficult to handle. His prayers were to be answered in the pregnancy of his wife Elizabeth, a woman who was “getting on in years” (1:18). Because Zechariah did not believe what the angel told him he would “become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur” (1:20).

Luke then gives an account of another visit from