Following the Teachings of Jesus

For the last few decades I have been learning about and seeking to follow the example of the Way of Jesus.  Occasionally I encounter words that are so real, so relevant, and so riveting that they capture my attention and help me refocus. The following words, taken from the second article of First Congregational (UCC) Church of Santa Barbara's Statement of Faith, have played that role in my life in recent days: We strive to follow the teachings of Jesus by practicing love and forgiveness, Read More …

View from the Pew: 12 Sacred Spaces

Most followers of the Way of Jesus have a primary sacred space in which they gather for corporate worship.  Opportunities to experience elsewhere with another group of people are typically few and far between. While these words describe the norm, I have been living the exception since last September.  Over the last several months I have visited a new sacred space and worshiped with a new community of faith most weeks. Previously, I have shared images of my earliest experiences on this Read More …

Sermon: A Sin Problem?

Sermon Text: Mark 2:16-17 Sermon Excerpt A few years ago Stephen Prothero, a bestselling author and professor of religion at Boston University, wrote a fascinating book titled God is Not One. In this text he explores the eight world religions he thinks are currently the most important. For each religion he presents the problem that religion is trying to solve, the solution to that problem, and techniques that can be used to move toward the solution. Professor Prothero proposes that Read More …

Sermon: A Radical Recipe

Sermon Text: Luke 13:20-21 Sermon Excerpt A few months ago I shared with you how in recent years my wife Susan and I have been intentionally downsizing - moving to smaller and yet smaller residences.  While I was truthful about the significant decrease in square footage, I omitted an important part of the makeup of our current home.  Even as the overall size of our house shrunk to less than half of the size we had once known, our kitchen remained large.  And, even more importantly, our Read More …

Sermon: Your Healing Touch

Sermon Text: Luke 8:40-56 Sermon Excerpt Have you heard about people who claim to heal in Jesus’ name by doing very unusual things?  Perhaps in flipping through channels on your television you have stopped on a curious sight only to find yourself watching a faith healer in action. Today there are more odd options than ever before.  In my own limited quest for understanding I have found one man to be the strangest of all.  This so-called man of God is best known for holding what he calls Read More …

Sermon: The Gift of Children

Sermon Text: Mark 10:13-16 Sermon Excerpt In many churches the simplest way to identify which rooms are intended for children and which are reserved for adults is to observe the size of the furniture.  Since so many of you are parents and grandparents, I hope you know that children are not miniature adults. Some of the adults here have talked to me about our recent use of many different versions of the Lord’s Prayer.  The most common comment is that this variety has led you to really Read More …

Sermon: An Opportune Time

Sermon Text: Ecclesiastes 3:1-6 Sermon Excerpt: A month before I graduated from seminary I started my first pastoral position.  I was one of the associate pastors in the oldest continually meeting Protestant congregation in Dallas, Texas.  My official job title was so long even I had a hard time remembering it.  It included elements of congregational redevelopment with an emphasis on reaching new people – especially those who were younger. For some reason people assumed that since I was Read More …

Sermon: The Easter Difference

Text: Matthew 28:1-10 Sermon Excerpt Pam Driesell, a Presbyterian pastor, tells a story of her good friend Mary’s recent Easter experience.  To make sure her four-year old daughter Elena really understood what Easter is all about Mary tried talking to her about it. "Mommy, will the Easter bunny bring me purple jelly beans?" I am sure he will bring you jelly beans, Elena. But, remember, Easter isn't about the bunny. It's about Jesus. "But will they be purple?" Yes, honey, I am Read More …

Sermon: Competing Expectations

Sermon Text: Matthew 21:1-11 Sermon Excerpt Scholars rarely agree on much of anything, but when it comes to Palm Sunday there is a general consensus that this is the beginning of the final week of Jesus’ earthly life – at least inasmuch as life had always been understood. If we lived back in this era, I think our individual decisions about whether or not to attend the parade would have been focused on our understanding of Jesus’ ministry up until this moment. We cannot really imagine Read More …

I Love Jesus Because

Heidi Weaver, founder and president of LOVEboldly, recently shared her list of 16 reasons why the real historical Jesus is worthy of our love, including: because he is wild and passionate, zealous and out of line, unpredictable, defender of the defenseless, lover of the unlovable, friend of the most unlikely folks to receive anyone’s friendship; because he defied the meaningless and empty customs of his day in exchange for redemptive relationship, boundless mercy, and hospitality to Read More …