“Did God Say?” A Devotion on Genesis 3:1

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” —Genesis 3:1

Our scripture lessons for Lent feature a wily bunch of tempters, the serpent, Satan, the devil, who pose questions that cast doubt on the truth of God’s Word. That’s their job.

Although they make for a colorful cast of characters we don’t really need them since such questioning is more likely to come not from them but from deep within us.

We are all partisans in the perennial human rebellion against God. We revel in our personal sovereignty and unbridled freedom.

God made us for worship, but instead of worshiping God we “worship ourselves and the things we have made,” as one of our old UCC prayers of confession so wisely put it.

Some of what God says seems just too good to be true, and so we question the truth of it.

Did God say, “I will be your God and you will be my people?”

Did God say, “Look, I am doing a new thing, do you not see it?”

Did God say, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand?”

Did God say, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope?”

Did God say these wonderful words, full of comfort and love, of promise and hope for the whole human family?

Yes! God said them.

Prayer: God of the future, let us put our full trust in you, and in the truth that is always breaking forth from your Holy Word.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for February 18, 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.)

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“Epiphany: A Drama in Three Acts” (The Baptism of Jesus, Year B)

The reason for my title is there are three Biblical stories that are traditionally read in worship during Epiphany, and they all share the same purpose. Epiphany means “appearance” or “manifestation”, and the themes of Epiphany are about seeing and knowing Jesus as the incarnate One, the Light of the World. Continue reading

Awesome God: A Sermon for Trinity Sunday

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29

When I read today’s lessons, I am struck by the mystery, grandeur and majesty of the Biblical conception of God. In these lessons God is the One who is due reverence and worship by virtue of God’s very being and nature. Our God is an awesome God. Continue reading

Paul on the Relationship of Christians to the Civil Authorities in Romans 13:1-7

Chapter 13.1-7 of Paul’s Letter to the Romans has been highly controversial and is a good subject for a lively conversation on just how Christians should view the government. The Christians that Paul is writing to lived in Rome, the capitol of the world’s biggest empire. Christians claimed that “Jesus is Lord,” the title that the Roman emperor, seen as a divinity, required. Could one say both “Caesar is Lord” and “Jesus is Lord?” Paul would say no, “there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.” So was simply being a Christian an act of sedition against the state?

If this new transformed community said that Jesus, rather than Caesar, is the true Lord how shall they live in the heart of the empire? This is what Paul was addressing in Chapter 13.1-7. Continue reading

“Looking for Light in the Shadow of Death” A Sermon on Matthew 4:12-23

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“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, and those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

The “Shadow of Death.” That doesn’t sound very good, does it?

I asked Rabbi Josh Breindel of Temple Anshe Amunim in Pittsfield about the phrase and he said it is quite literally “shadow of death” in Hebrew. He said it is a colloquial saying and means something like “mortal peril.” We are all acquainted with that image from the 23rd Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Two of the traditional themes for the Epiphany season are “light shining in the darkness” and the “calling to Christian discipleship,” and I hope to combine them today. Continue reading

“Known knowns, known unknowns,” and the New Testament

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The good folks over at the Babylon Bee, a Christian satirical site, posted a gem of a fake article today called “Historical-Critical Scholar Doubts Authorship Of Paper He Wrote,” which comically captures some of the dubious certainties that sometimes come out of the New Testament studies combine.

The article quotes the fictitious Dr. Gunther Burg of Yale questioning the authenticity of an article he himself had written. Continue reading