The Promise

[Still working on the Facebook Live streaming problems. Here is the text of the sermon.]

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe promises, especially promises that depend on a son whom you’ve never seen. Abram has such a promise. God promised him that He would make Abram into a great nation, and that in him God would bless all the nations of the world. The problem is that in order for Abram to be a great nation, or a “father of many” as his name says, he has to at least have one child. There aren’t going to be many descendants or a great nation, without at least having one descendant.

God appears to him and says, Don’t be afraid—or, maybe, stop being afraid—I am your shield. Your reward is very great. But Abram is having trouble believing that promise. O Lord Yahweh, what reward? What will You give me? I continue childless. That word is “stripped/empty.” I have nothing. And Eliezer of Damascus is going inherit everything. I have no offspring at all, let alone many offspring, and someone who isn’t even related to me is going to be my heir. God say, No. This man will not be your heir. Your very own son will be your heir. A son from you and Sarai. Come outside. Look at the stars and count them if you can. We can see a lot of stars, more than in a bigger city. But imagine being there with Abram, with no electric light pollution at all. How many stars he could see. Perhaps you’ve been out in the open, in the desert or somewhere, and you’ve seen stars like that. Count them, if you can; thus will your offspring be.

It’s hard to believe a promise that depends on a son you’ve never seen. But Abram believed God, and God counted it to him, reckoned it to him, as righteousness. The word for believe is related to the word for trustworthy, faithful, firm. When Abram says that he doesn’t have a child, what does God do? He doesn’t magically produce a child in front of Abram’s eyes and say, Look, here he is. He simply repeats the promise. So the question is no longer about what evidence Abram has about the promise. Now the question is whether God is faithful. Can God be trusted? Will God do what He said?

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What Kind of God?

[Still having problems saving the video from Facebook Live. The text of the sermon follows.]

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A lot of times, when we ask what God is doing, or has done, or should do, we’re really asking, What kind of God do we have? When Jesus’ disciples see Him praying, they say, “Teach us to pray like John taught his disciples.” And Jesus does give them words. He says, “When you pray, say this: …” But unless they know the God to whom they pray—unless they know the God to whom Jesus is praying—they will not be able to pray even the words from Jesus with full confidence.

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Jesus and Everything Else

Mary and Martha

[Unfortunately, the video of this service, including the sermon, did not get posted to Facebook, so it was not saved. The text of the sermon is below.]

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This is a well-known account from Luke’s Gospel, about a time that Jesus was at the house of Martha and Mary in Bethany. Jesus seems to often stop here on His way to Jerusalem, and of course you know about the time Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead. This passage is strangely intriguing to people. I thought there was one book using Mary and Martha as examples, but when I looked it up, I found at least ten books written about how Mary and Martha apply to us. Ten—none of which I’ve read, so I can’t tell you if they’re any good. But obviously there’s something that people find interesting about this interaction between Martha and Jesus (since Mary doesn’t say anything here).

But there are at least two misunderstandings about what happens here. The first is that Jesus is comparing Mary and Martha. It would be easy to think that what’s happening here is that Martha is doing bad or wrong things, and Mary is doing a good and right thing. Of course, Mary is doing a good and right thing, but is it true that Martha is doing something bad or wrong? Notice that Jesus does not rebuke Martha for the things she is doing. As far as we can tell, Jesus never goes to wherever Martha is busily working and tells her that she needs to stop and come and sit by Mary. It is not recorded that Mary brags about how much more pious and holy she is because she’s listening to Jesus while Martha is just doing housework, or something.

No, the problem is not that what Martha is doing is wrong. It is not until she comes to Jesus and tells Him that He should tell Mary to help Martha out. Jesus only speaks to her about what she’s doing when she tries to take Mary away from the feet of Jesus. The comparison here is not between Mary and Martha.

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