On Sunday I preached for our sister church, Christ Presbyterian Church, Fairfield again as part of their sermon series on the parables of Luke. I preached on Luke 13:18-21 where Jesus, challenged by the religious leaders, responded by pointing out that their expectation of what the Kingdom of God would be like was too small. The leaders were looking for a kingdom that was basically more of the same, but better for them: a kingdom that looked like their ethnic/religious/tradition/political tribe, but with power (rather than being subservient to Rome). Jesus’ Word continues to speak into our context to challenge our expectations that God’s Kingdom will fit our expectations of looking “like us, but but with more stuff” with the reality that His kingdom is quantitatively and qualitatively better, bigger, fuller, both here-and-now and in eternity.
In the churches of Puritan New England, “Sunday after Sunday, week after week, year after year, even generation after generation, the same underlying narrative provided the interpretative horizon for reading and hearing the Scriptures. The narrative of Scripture was found in the order of salvation. Salvation, however, was not understood as individual participation within the biblical narrative that told how the God of creation made a promise to Abraham that was fulfilled in Jesus in order to bring about a witness in the life of the church as a foretaste of the new creation. Instead, salvation was limited to a story of the individual moving from sin to salvation to service in preparation for eternity in heaven. The spiritual movement of an individual’s life became deeply encoded as the meaning of Scripture within the emerging European-based North American culture.”
— John W. Wright, Telling God’s Story, 55.
On Sunday I preached for our sister church, Christ Presbyterian Church, Fairfield again as part of their sermon series on the parables of Luke. I preached on Luke 10, about Jesus authority and our authority as authority is a major theme in Luke’s parables. Jesus both claims, and bestows enormous authority in this passage. We should note, however, that the enormous authority given to his followers is to be wielded within the same framework of constraints Christ places on his own authority: whether used in the Church, or in our vocations, it is to be exercised in humility, not for the sake of the wielder, and always for the building of the Kingdom.
On Sunday I preached for our sister church, Christ Presbyterian Church, Fairfield as part of their sermon series on the parables of Luke. I preached on Luke 3 as an overview of the book, looking at what Luke is saying about Jesus: In this passage the Father identifies Jesus as the Son of God, the ideal Adam, the ideal Israel. Jesus then goes into the wilderness to prove his faithfulness where Adam failed, and where Israel failed, showing his victory against Satan over fear, in identity, and in trust. Because Jesus shows His victory over the fundamental human struggles of faith in Israel’s history, He offers victory over those same struggles in our lives.
“Private Bible study, family devotions, and neighborhood discussions were all important activities, but they were not converting ordinances; the primary work of the Holy Spirit came in hearing the sermon. Without that voice of guidance, an ordinary saint would drift like a ‘ship without a compasse.'”
— Harry S. Stout, The New England Soul
The New England Puritan’s view of preaching may go a little far… but is humbling!
I got to preach for our sister church, Grace Pres. in the Hamptons on Long Island at the end of December. I preached on Isaiah 66 and, thinking about New Year’s resolutions, how we often want simple rules to follow so we can feel like we’ve taken care of things ourselves; so we can feel like God needs to relate to us on our terms. But God demands humility and obedience, and will produce these in us Himself.
I got this flyer today for a new church plant in Carbondale. Having just preached Sunday about how new churches help provide vigour, enthusiasm and “young blood” to established churches, which in turn provide wisdom, resources, funding, experience, etc. and how the two can have a symbiotic relationship which blesses each other and their community for the Kingdom, part of me was excited to see a new work happening “in our backyard.”
As a Carbondale pastor, who heard nothing in advance about this new work (launch day is Sunday), I have to confess I felt a little slighted, even as someone on my way out-of-town. A recent church planter who came to Carbondale made a point of reaching out to the other pastors in town while he was laying groundwork, and it went a long way to getting us “established” pastors on-board with, excited for and supportive of his new work (they are now using our old building as a worship space). I think I’m going to go look up churches in our target area and make some new pastor-friends…
The scope of [the pastor’s] Office is to work upon the will and the affections, and by savoury, powerfull, and affectionate application of the truth delivered, to chafe it into the heart, to wooe and win the soul to the love and liking, the approbation and practice of the doctrine which is according to godliness… his labor is to lay open the loathsome nature of sin, and to let in the terrour of the Lord upon the conscience, that the careless and rebellious sinner may come to a parley of peace, and be content to take up the profession of the truth.
–Thomas Hooker (founder of the Connecticut Colony), A Survey of the Summe of Church Discipline, 1648.
We had a wonderful weekend reconnecting with folks from the church we called “home” for seven years in St. Louis, Old Orchard Pres. It was great to get to see so many friends and worship with them for the first time in more than four and a half years!
We also received pledges from a couple of new financial supporters, putting us just $2,300 from the “half-way” mark!
“Park Street defies the myth that Boston and the rest of New England have shed their religious heritage for a secular society. It also defies the institutional hold that the Catholic church has on America’s most Catholic city. In fact, evangelical Christianity is thriving in Boston. During the past 30 years, church growth, fueled by evangelical university groups and immigrant communities, has dramatically outpaced population growth. At the same time, mainline denominations have dwindled and the abuse scandal in the Catholic church has forced the closing of dozens of parishes. Evangelical leaders expect this “quiet revival” not only to continue, but to blossom into another Great Awakening.” (see more here)
Pray for the same thing to happen a little ways to the south in Greater New Haven!
Yale was once the bastion of Christian teaching in New England after Harvard’s Unitarianism led it away from the faith. Pray for Yale and Connecticut colleges to experience the same revivals that Massachusetts colleges are experiencing!