This year, from the pulpit, I have shared insights that I have gleaned through the years of my Christian journey which have nourished and sustained me. I offer this material with the hope that there will be something that will be helpful to you as you seek to live the Christian life. The feedback has been very positive. So, allow me to offer a summary of my recent preaching.
1 – Through the years, I have come to see participation in the church as a privilege afforded to us by God. Thus, early in the year, we considered “The Cool Factor” from Romans 12:1-8. On this day, I suggested that we add another layer to our love for the church. We should love the church, in addition to all the other reasons, from a theological perspective. That is, we love the church because God has decided to work his will and his ways through fallible flesh and blood human beings such as me and you. We are the body of Christ. That’s cool!
2 – Through the years, I have found the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 edifying. Here the great apostle, who is responsible for more documents in the Bible than any other person, acknowledges that in this life our knowledge is partial. Furthermore, in this life, we see in a mirror dimly. Because our knowledge of God is now partial, we should walk each day, not with a chip on our shoulder, rather with humility. Of course, we must stand for our convictions as they exist. However, because we see dimly, our convictions must always be open to revision in case we should, in the future, see with more clarity. If we live with a posture of humility, such as Paul suggests, our world would be a much gentler place.
3 – Through the years, I have found it frustrating that people who profess faith in Christ disagree over fundamental issues of right and wrong. Christians disagree about abortion, homosexuality, guns, politics, and the Bible just to name a few issues. Yet, Paul tells us in Romans 14:1-10 that this is to be expected. In his day, people differed over whether it was acceptable or not to eat meat that had been sacrificed to false gods. Paul reminds us that we each stand or fall before our own master. Therefore, because we see dimly, we simply do the best we can. Some Christians will eat meat; others will not.
4 – Through the years, I have developed a strong appreciation for the centrality of resurrection to the Christian faith. Paul emphasizes this in 1 Corinthians 15. Here he defends the resurrection of the dead because some in Corinth found this belief ridiculous. As he contends for the resurrection of the dead, Paul makes us aware that even a small chip in belief in resurrection causes the very foundation of our faith to crumble. If the dead are not raised then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised then our faith is worthless, and we are still in our sins. Even though Paul’s understanding of Christian living contains significant latitude, he draws the line here. He suggests that without resurrection, we move into the realm of something other than Christianity.
5 – Through the years, Job has helped me with the difficult issue of theodicy – if God is good, why do innocent people suffer? Job was an innocent man. He did nothing wrong. His life was characterized by obedience to God. Yet, he suffered greatly. In Job 38:1-12, God reminds Job of the same principle we discovered in 1 Corinthians 13. Though we Christians pursue God passionately, we must live with the reality that we are incapable of fully understanding God’s ways. There is an enormous gap between divinity and humanity – God and us – and sometimes life is lived in this gap. When in the gap, we must trust and hold on.