Tag Archives: Jeremiah

Sermon: “Covenants”

I prepare and delivered this sermon at the installation of a neighboring pastor who had selected the scripture readings for the worship service.

A video of the sermon is available here for downloading.

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 6:25-37

B. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

27-28 — In Chapter 29 Jeremiah warns the exiles to stay for the long haul. Here, perhaps decades later, he warns them to get ready for planting.

27-28 29-30 — Punishment for sin will only be for the sinner and no longer for generations.

27-28 31 — Are the days still to come or have they come and we have yet to recognize them?

27-28 32 — How will it be unlike the Decalogue? Will it be unbreakable? No. But Christ suffered the breaking for us.

27-28 33 — Hearts => wills and minds.

27-28 34 — Is the disestablishment of the church a foretaste of the time when all people will know the LORD? For what Jeremiah predicts is not a knowing about God, but thorough adoption of God’s ways by all people.

F. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

– From among a series of oracles of restoration of Israel from Babylonian captivity pledging the restoration of the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants.

– This oracle possibly begins with a v. 27. vv 27 -30 convey the restoration after destruction and the personalizing of sin and punishment from punishment of children for the sins of their parents.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

– These oracles are presumed to have been collected over Jeremiah’s lifetime and rather than in historical order of the prophetic statements against various countries.

Hope for a Losing Team

English: Chicago Cubs logo
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports fans of losing teams amaze me.

One gentleman, has the logo of his favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, on the front of his car. When I asked why it was upside down, he explained he will up right it as soon as they have a winning season. The bolts are rusted.

The church has had a few bad years too. Perhaps a string of bad decades. Between a few immoral pastors making headlines, fundamentalist groups pushing extreme theologies based on weak interpretations of Scripture, and atheists arguing that God is a delusion, it is not surprising many members are reluctant to invite friends and neighbors to worship. It is not surprising that membership in mainline denominations peaked in the 1960’s. It is not surprising that the fastest growing faith segments are Spiritual-But-Not-Religious and None of the Above.

But a few bad years is nothing new for the Church:

  • Exodus records Hebrew slavery in Egypt.
  • Judges tells of cycles of decades long lapses of faith punctuated by heroic leaders.
  • The Books of Kings culminate in Babylonian exile. Jeremiah tells the exiles to build houses and marry, implying they won’t becoming home soon.
  • John recorded his Revelations during violent persecutions.
  • In various countries around the world Christians endure church bombings and burnings.

Yet, the Church endures. Perhaps it will flourish again before the Cubs have another winning season.

For thus says the Lord:
Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed
will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise
and bring you back to this place.
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.
— Jeremiah 29:10-11

 

Time and the River Flowing

The Grand Canyon looking East.
The Grand Canyon looking East. R Shaw photo.

The Grand Canyon at a glance is both timeless and transient, epic and ephemeral. Its scale proclaims that it will not change, yet everywhere it shows continual change from erosion by wind and water, from plants digging into cracks and people digging paths along its crags. Its geology shows the result of eons of sedimentation and slow erosion of seismic faults gouged into side canyons. The rocks themselves tell a history of a vast inland sea through tiny fossils. It tells of a persistence that exceeds humanity.

This month we celebrate the birth of Jesus; an event according to Matthew that was forty-two generations in preparation, an event that in a few months transformed the lives of Mary and Joseph, an event that changed everything and changed very little. A few months following our Savior’s birth Herod slew dozens of boys out of fear. And two thousand years later our fears still affect how we feed and house the poor. Yet the growth of Christian love shows a persistence that exceeds humanity.

In my own life I have experienced dramatic events that change everything and very little: school graduations, collision at sea, sonars designed, and church ministries. The persistent flow of culture resists change and eventually erases all but the memories of great tragedies and accomplishments and eventually even memories will fade away. But through all these events I also recognize a persistent thread that I trust links these events into a whole that supports the coming of the Kingdom of God into the world.

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.
– Jeremiah 29:11

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No Plan B

Does God have a back up plan?

Engineer with plansI like making plans. Every day I decide what I want to accomplish and what else I might accomplish if things go well. For complicated projects, I often have contingency plans, for when things don’t go well, tasks that can be delayed and other tasks that can be accelerated if a needed item does not arrive on time.

But, what about God? Does God have backup plans for when we humans fail to meet divine expectations?

I’d like to think that most days my Plan A lines up with building God’s kingdom. But I have a Plan B when things fall apart.

But I have come to realize that when my plans fall apart it’s because I have focused too much on God’s backup plan, a plan that may have seemed less than optimal. Only then do I begin to turn towards God’s Plan A.

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. — Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV)

July 10th: “sharing the Gospel with the community in word and deed”

This week, as on the last three weeks, the sermon will consider one of the four facets of the congregation’s vision statement. The notes below lift up exemplifying passages from the Bible and the Book of Confessions.

Exemplifying Scripture

Jeremiah 3:12-15

Matthew 13:1-9 & 18-23

Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Mark 16:15 – Go into all the world, and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.

John 20:21 – Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’

Acts 16:25-34

The Westminster Confession of Faith:

6.055 1. God in infinite and perfect love, having provided in the covenant of grace, through the mediation and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, a way of life and salvation, sufficient for and adapted to the whole lost race of man, doth freely offer this salvation to all men in the gospel.(1)

6.056 2. In the gospel God declares his love for the world and his desire that all men should be saved; reveals fully and clearly the only way of salvation; promises eternal life to all who truly repent and believe in Christ; invites and commands all to embrace the offered mercy; and by his Spirit accompanying the Word pleads with men to accept his gracious invitation.(2)

6.057 3. It is the duty and privilege of everyone who hears the gospel immediately to accept its merciful provisions; and they who continue in impenitence and unbelief incur aggravated guilt and perish by their own fault.(3)

6.058 4. Since there is no other way of salvation than that revealed in the gospel, and since in the divinely established and ordinary method of grace faith cometh by hearing the Word of God, Christ hath commissioned his Church to go into all the world and to make disciples of all nations. All believers are, therefore, under obligation to sustain the ordinances of the Christian religion where they are already established, and to contribute by their prayers, gifts, and personal efforts to the extension of the Kingdom of Christ throughout the whole earth.(4)

The Confession of 1967:

9.37 The church disperses to serve God wherever its members are, at work or play, in private or in the life of society. Their prayer and Bible study are part of the church’s worship and theological reflection. Their witness is the church’s evangelism. Their daily action in the world is the church in mission to the world. The quality of their relation with other persons is the measure of the church’s fidelity.