Disarming the Powers

Colossians 2:5-15 is wonderfully rich.  Let me quickly mention three important facets of the text.  We will spend time on the third.

First, this passage is the text that Moravians and other paedobaptists use to justify the baptism of our children. In verses 11 and 12 the apostle identifies baptism with circumcision which, in Jewish communities,  was always performed on the 8th day!  Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant, and the promise is to us and to our children.

Second, this text is one of the most powerful descriptions of what Christ accomplished on the cross on behalf of sinners. In verses 13 and 14 the apostle writes that God “erased the record that stood against us with its legal demands.This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”  One scholar suggest a more up-to-date translation. He writes that God “took the rap sheet which listed all of our crimes against God, against one another, and against ourselves, folded it over so that it cannot be read, and then nailed it to the cross.” I love that image! It makes me feel innocent.

Third—and this is what I want to talk about at length, the apostle writes that God “disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it,” meaning  “in the cross of Jesus Christ.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is Anything too Wonderful for the Lord?

This morning I want us to reflect on the Watchword for the Week.  In Genesis 18:14 we read, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”  That is the New Revised Standard Version. The Revised Standard Version translates, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” It is, of course, a rhetorical question, asked by the LORD himself. The point of the question is that God can do things that we consider too hard for anyone but God; and when God does those things, it is absolutely wonderful in our eyes.

Now a text without a context is a pretext, so we must begin our reflection with the situation in which this rhetorical question is asked. In Genesis 12 we read that when Abram was 75 years old God called him to leave his country, his kindred and his father’s house, promising him a land, a seed and a blessing.  Abram went out in faith—and he had a series of adventures, and misadventures as God tested him, tried and taught him. Then in Genesis 18, we read that when Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless; and I will establish my covenant between me and you, and multiply you greatly.” And Abram did what anyone would do in the presence of the Almighty; he fell on his face. And God said to him,  “No longer shall your name be Abram—which means “exalted father,” but your name is going to be Abraham which means, “…the father of a multitude.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can We Handle the Truth?

This written sermon has had additional information of interest added to illustrate the points made in the oral version.  WNG

This morning I am going to attempt a short sermon.  The late Peter Marshall, who was once chaplain of the United States Senate said, “No short sermon is a bad sermon.”  Well, from one perspective that is true! Short is short. A short sermon gets you out of church on time! To quote Monroe Bowles, “The Preacher quits talking before the people quit listening.” From another perspective Marshall’s statement may not be true. The fact that a sermon is short does not guarantee it is worthy to be heard.  Short sermons and speeches require more careful preparation than longer ones. President Woodrow Wilson was know for his speeches. A member of his cabinet asked him how long he needed to prepare a speech. He said,  “It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”

A short sermon requires focus!  So, I want to focus on just two verses in Psalm 25. In verses 4 and 5 we the Psalmist addresses his savior God, saying:

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for thou art the God of my
salvation; for thee I wait all the day long.

I want to lift up the word truth, for truth is the key word in our text.  The Psalmist rightly assumes that it is not possible for him to know God’s ways and follow God’s paths unless he learns the truth that God want to teach him—and us. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unity in Diversity

John 17:20-26

Some of you know that I collect typewriters. I love them for their quality, and variety, and for their historical associations. I have a typewriter like the typewriter that Ernest Hemingway used to write most of his novels. Each time I use it, I am reminded of how he  once said, “Writing is easy, you just sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”  And I have a typewriter like the one that Theodor Geisel used to write the books loved by generations of children. Sometimes, when I use my Smith-Corona Silent-Super, I imagine what it was like for Dr. Seuss to create Cat in the Hat, the Grinch, and bevy of Star Bellied Sneeches. I am just getting warmed up. I have typewriters like the machines used by Agatha Christy, Orson Wells, Larry McMurtry, and Cormack McCarthy. Cormack McCarthy gave his well used Olivetti to charity. It brought $154,000 at auction.  He replaced it with another just like it he bought at a yard-sale for $14.00. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Glory and Love

Psalm 148 and John 13:31-35

In Psalm 148, the Psalmist calls for everything (and everyone) created by the Lord God to  praise the Lord God. It is interesting to take note of the categories he assigns.

In verse 1, the Psalmist calls upon the angels and all the heavenly hosts to praise the God. According to the New Testament book of Colossians, the heavenly hosts include not just angels, which are ministering spirits sent forth to serve, but principalities and powers and all rule and authority. Like Plato this suggests that God made “ideas” before God made the “expression of those ideas.” In other words, God created the idea of a great light to rule the day and a lesser light to rule the night, before God created the sun and moon themselves. Likewise, God created the idea of rules and governments before the nations themselves came into being. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment