Is Christ the Only Way to God?

Sermon Text:  Acts: 17:22-31 & John 14:1-14

Is Christ the only way to God? As a Christian, I affirm this. “I am the way, the truth and the life,” says Jesus in our Gospel Lesson today. “No one comes to the Father but by me.” In Acts 4:12, referring to Christ’s name, Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” For Christians, Christ is God incarnate and apart from him there is no salvation. But if that’s true, what does it mean for people of other faiths or no faith?...Read full sermon here (PDF)

 

A New Kind of Family

Sermon Text:  Acts 2:42-47 & 1 Peter 2:1-10 & John 15:1-11

Family can be a wonderful thing, or not! Some families look forward to gathering together, while others dread the holidays precisely because that’s when they gather. A woman told me once that when she was growing up she dreaded every meal with her family because her father was so strict about table manners that everyone was on edge. You don’t pick your families like you do your friends. Even adoptions come with many unknowns about personalities and health and childhood traits that may blossom into success or develop into failure in the adult. All things considered, Sally and I are lucky to have the families we do. I don’t know where I’d be without the love and care of my family. How about you?...Read full sermon here (PDF)

Suffering and Security

Sermon Text:  Psalm 23

Life seems to contradict the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . . . Yea, though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil,” it says. Jonathan was a soldier from Orange Park. He told his mother not to worry when he left for Iraq. “God is my rear guard, and Psalm 23 [is my] heartsong,” he told her. But he died in an ambush in southern Iraq. He was her only child. John Claypool was a Baptist minister. His 8 year old daughter Laura Lue was diagnosed with acute leukemia and died 18 months later. How do we understand the promises of Psalm 23 in the light – or maybe I should say, in the darkness – of tragedies like these? ...Read full sermon here (PDF) 

Christian Rules of Speech

Sermon Text:  James 3:1-12 & Matthew 12:33-37

James warns us not to underestimate the power of speech. “The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits,” says James. It can be very creative or very destructive. We live in an age of fake news, alternative facts, and incivility. “Every species of beast has been tamed by humans,” says James, “but no one can tame the tongue.” If you squeeze toothpaste out of a tube, once the toothpaste comes out you can’t put it back in. Just so with words: once they come out of our mouth we can’t put them back in. Once they’re said we can’t un-say them. Therefore, Jesus warns us in Matthew, “On the day of judgment you will have to give an account of every careless word you utter. For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.” And Paul advises, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.” How do we do that? How do we speak in a Christ-like way? I’d like to mention seven rules of Christian speech today. Taken together they provide helpful guidance in our use of language....Read full sermon here (PDF)

How Do We Know Christ was Raised from the Dead?

Sermon Text:  1 Peter 1:1-9 & John 20:19-31

How do we know Christ was raised from the dead? Why do we believe it? All four gospels mention doubters among Jesus’ followers at the news of his resurrection. Matthew 28:17 says that when Jesus appeared to this disciples in Galilee, “they worshipped him, but some doubted.” How about you? Do you struggle with doubt, like I often do?

Thomas also doubted. His story begins with Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem the evening of the day of his resurrection. The disciples are gathered in a room with the doors locked because they were afraid of suffering the same fate as Jesus did at the hands of the religious leaders.

But suddenly Jesus “came and stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he showed them his hands and his side, which still bore the wounds of his crucifixion,” says John. Notice the doors are still closed. So there are two levels of meaning here. On the physical level, Jesus’ body is still a physical body but is now capable of passing through walls and locked doors, so he is already showing signs of his transition to eternal life. And on the spiritual level, his resurrection breaks through his disciples’ fears and gives them joy....Read full sermon here (PDF)

Light My Way

Sermon Text:  John 20:1-18

Our journey to Easter morning this week has led us from a Palm Sunday celebration where, incidentally, I should have realized every time I said “donkey,” you would think of Shrek. We then experienced a very meaningful Maundy Thursday service, where many took part in our prayer vigil, and our thoughtful Good Friday service. We have travelled well. We have experienced the emotions of Holy Week. We traveled through those dark days so that the joy of Easter morning finds its proper context. The joy of the Risen Lord finds its context in the pain and sorrow that leads to resurrection. We do not expect to hear more about darkness on Easter morning. Instead it is a time of sunrise, light and brightness....Read full sermon here (PDF)

Walk to the Water

Sermon Text:  Exodus 17:1-7

Brennan, my youngest son, and I have had this little ritual for the last five or six years. One night when he was in bed he asked me to bring him a glass of ice-cold water. I did, then I did it again the next night and the next. Now every night for the last six years when he goes to bed, I take him a glass of ice-cold water. It has to be ice cold and it has to be from me. In fact, when I am gone and Sara takes him his ice-cold water, he tells me it doesn’t taste the same, not as good. You can say what you want about me, but I know how to make a mean glass of ice-cold water. I take him the ice-cold water; we smile, maybe chat a little; he drinks the water; we kiss good night and that’s it. Simple, simple for all of us. Well, maybe not for all of us. Read full sermon here (PDF)

In the Light

Sermon Text: Matthew 17:1-9

Most of you know, I like to tell stories. I may have told these two before. I hope not. 
I remember a youth-lock in many years ago, when after the games and food and movies and all the other great stuff that happens at a lock-in, we had our evening devotion. It turned out to be a particularly moving time; it was one of those times when it seemed God was walking through the room. At the end, we stood in a circle to pray, and, as we prayed, I had the urge to sing a worship song. Now, anyone who has heard me sing knows this could end up in a bad way! The song, I Love You, Lord, and I Lift My Voice, was running through my head. It did not end up coming out of my lips, however. I kept thinking things like, “these kids don’t sing,” “they will think this is stupid,” or “I will end up singing by myself and looking weird.” After a few minutes of silence and my fighting the urge I felt inside to sing, I decided not to do it. The silence continued for a moment, Then one of our youth, who was unbelievably a worse singer than I and more of an introvert and the last guy in the group who you would imagine would do such a thing, started singing. I heard the words, “I Love You Lord, and I Lift My Voice,” coming from his lips. The whole group started singing, and it went on for a while as the kids experienced a moment of fellowship that was very special. After it was over, hugs and tears were shared. I watched all of this going on, feeling blessed to be part of it. This does not happen every day in youth ministry! It was almost as if I could hear God saying, “Brian, if you won’t follow me, I’ll find someone who will.” It was a very humbling moment, and I shared it with the group later and thanked Mark, who sang, for actually listening and responding to the Spirit’s prompting. What a moment, what a lesson.
Read full sermon here (PDF)
 

A Good Heritage

Sermon Text:  Psalm 16

Our text today is Psalm 16, with perhaps a focus on verses 5 and 6, where the psalmist states he has a goodly heritage. Of course, the heritage we are being obvious about today is our Scottish heritage. Perhaps our first Scottish issue today is the pronunciation of Psalm!

Before I went to school to study for ministry, I worked as a telephone engineer. I spent seven years travelling around Scotland installing telephone systems and eventually diagnosing faults and repairing them. I remember one afternoon we were installing a system in an empty office on the second floor of a building on Princes Street in Edinburgh. Princes Street is the busiest shopping area in the capitol; it is also directly across from Princes Street Gardens and above them on the rock is Edinburgh Castle. The view of Edinburgh Castle from the windows of this office was pretty spectacular. I stood looking out at this with Alex, my workmate who incidentally was from Glasgow. You have to understand there is a pretty fierce rivalry between the two cities. In the 1980’s Glasgow came out with a new slogan for the city, “Glasgow’s miles better than.” When you asked Glaswegians what it was miles better than, the answer was usually “Edinburgh!” Anyway, Alex and I had been working here all week, and as we stood in that office and looked up at the castle, he turned to me and said, “What a dump!” I, of course, laughed, because it was beautiful and responded with something along the lines of, “Yeah, I can’t believe people spend thousands of dollars to come and look at that.”

From the doorstep of my house where I was growing up, you could see Stirling Castle, which sits up on a rock like Edinburgh Castle. You could see the Wallace Monument, Scotland’s memorial to William Wallace (Braveheart) you could see the Ochil Hills, which are beautiful. But do you think I appreciated any of that? Maybe briefly, but for the most part when you are close to your heritage, when you are living right there every day, even though it is a good heritage, you take it for granted. It is easy to miss the blessings around us because we take them for granted. Read full sermon here (PDF)

New Year's Day

Sermon Text:  Jeremiah 1:4-9

I am glad to see you all this morning. The Sunday before Christmas is traditionally the busiest in the church calendar and what is the Sunday after Christmas? Yes, you’ve guessed it; traditionally it is the least well attended. Not only that, but today is New Year’s Day, a holiday. So, well done on being here; you all get to definitely go to heaven. I think it’s a rule!! Read full sermon here (PDF)