Sermon: The God who became flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John 1:1-14 ESV)


It Began in a Garden


The place was a garden, typifying the paradise of old.  For in this place, as it were, all places were recapitulated and our return to humanity’s ancient condition was consummated.  For the troubles of humanity began in a paradise, while Christ’s sufferings, which brought us deliverance from all the evil that happened to us in times past, began in this garden.  — Cyril of Alexandria (early 5th Century)

It began in a garden, that is where our sufferings and difficulties began. God, who is named “I AM”, had made man in His image, to be in a relationship with him and placed him in a garden. To tend it and keep, or guard it. God was present with them, walking among them in the cool of the evening. So in this garden-temple, Adam was to have been a priestly king, reigning over all creation. We had access to the Tree of Life, and one prohibition. To not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, “for on the day you eat of eat you shall die”. To disobey meant death.

But in the garden our troubles began. Adam’s wife, his fit helper was deceived. The serpent had entered the garden of life and made them question God’s Word. They questioned God’s good gifts. He tempted them – your eyes will be open – you will be wise – you will see – you will know – you will be enlightened, illuminated. You will be like God. And so man, tempted to be God came to the Tree of testing and disobeyed. Adam and Eve ate. And their eyes were open. But the serpent had tricked them, they didn’t know all that would happen to them. Their eyes were open to their nakedness, weakness, brokenness, and vulnerability. They had traded God’s wisdom for their own, light for darkness, righteousness for sin. And in shame they hid themselves from the all-knowing God.

And in the evening, God seeks them, he comes to them calling and asking “Where are you?” God, who knows better than Adam and Eve, asks “Where are you?”. Adam answers, “I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” God, who keeps his word, pronounced his curses on man (he who is from the ground will return to the ground), woman, the serpent, the ground. All of Creation, of which Adam was charged to be a steward, was disrupted and not least our relationship with a Holy God. He lost all that the Father had given him. And God drove them from the Garden, sending them East of Eden and leaving the Garden to be guarded by cherubim, angels bearing swords, blocking the way to the Tree of Life. But not before promising that one day the Seed of the woman would bruise the Serpent’s head, yet only by having his own heel bruised.

And Adam’s children grew in their sin and rebellion. As permanent residents East of Eden they continued to seek their own wisdom, to be as gods, and to hide themselves from the ever seeking, all knowing “I Am.”

It began in a garden, that is where his suffering began. It was a Garden named Gethsemane where Jesus went with disciples after the Passover meal. Jesus, the very Image of God, the firstborn over all creation walked with his disciples in the cool of the evening. He came to this garden, knowing that it was for him a garden of death. His words to Judas at the Last Supper showed that he was well aware that he was to betray him and rather than hiding from his pursuers he goes outside the Temple City, they go East across the Kidron to a place Judas knew well.

And Judas comes. He is leading a band of the king’s soldiers, some of the priest’s officers, or temple guards, and Pharisees, who put their words in place of God’s word. We see in this throng an reflection of Adam’s fall. We were to be priests and kings, to obey the word and guard the temple. Now these come seeking the destruction of their true sovereign, steward usurpers, claiming as their own their delegated authority. They come with “lanterns and torches”, seeking the one who had told them “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” But this is the foolishness of those who are tempted to be wise apart from God, who seek the “know good and evil” by their own grasping. We refuse the Light of Life and fashion our own dim torches to fumble around in the shadows.

Before they can say anything Jesus, “knowing all that would happen to him”, comes forward and asks them “Who do you seek?”. This man does not hide. He knows the answer better than they do. They don’t have a clue who he is, but answer “Jesus of Nazareth”. And Jesus answers, “I AM”. There is no hiding from the ever seeking, all knowing “I Am”.

God himself has come to us. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The light that enlightens the who world, who is life and the light of man shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not comprehended, has not overcome the light. God himself coming was the only way for creation’s curse to be removed. The sin of a man who would be as God, could only be reversed by a God who would become man. The First Adam’s disobedience could only be cured by the obedience of the Second Adam.

When Jesus identified himself with the divine “I Am”, they drew back and fell to the ground. He tells them that if they were seeking him to let the disciples go. John reminds us that Jesus had just prayed, “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” The Second Adam is a perfect Steward of all with which he is entrusted, promising that of those whom the Father has given him, “no one will snatch them out of my hand.” But Peter draws his blade and strikes, as though he would protect the Lord who commands angels with a sword. Peter put away your sword. The Garden is not won back through force, but by humility, suffering, and the Son of Man laying down his own life.

Peter, put your sword into its sheath, “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me.” The cup is God’s judgment and wrath on sin. “it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.”

But this cup is taken not by the wicked, but by the Righteous One. God’s judgment and wrath is poured out on the cross. Our return to the Tree of Life won back by way of the Tree of Death. God, who keeps his word, crushed the serpents head. Himself become the woman’s Seed, himself having his heel bruised.

Where Adam grasped to be as God and disobeyed, losing all that he had been given and earning death; Jesus, the second Adam, emptied himself to become Man, obeying the Father to the point of death on the Cross, saving all he had been given and winning everlasting life.

Sermon: The Redeemed Community, 1 Peter 2:4-10

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”


“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

(1 Peter 2:4-10 ESV)1468506_581101655289536_301432628_n


Barronelle Stutzman and Religious Coercion

The Alliance Defending Freedom has a video on Barronelle Stutzman, the florist in Washington State sued for not providing services for a same-sex marriage.  On Feb 18, 2015 a State Judged ruled that by not making arrangements for the service, Stutzman violated anti-discrimination laws, stating:

“On the evening of November 5, 2012, there was no conflict … The following evening, after the … enactment of same-sex marriage, there would eventually be a direct and insoluble conflict between Stutzman’s religiously motivated conduct and the laws of the State of Washington.  Stutzman cannot comply with both the law and her faith if she continues to provide flowers for weddings as part of her duly-licensed business, Arlene’s Flowers.”

I want to point out two things about this.  First, this isn’t the case of refusing to sell a product to someone.  It’s a crucial distinction to make.  Refusing to be engaged creatively with something against your conviction is different from not provided a material product to someone you disagree with.  As the facts in the judges opinion noted, she was willing to provide flowers, but not do the arrangements herself.  While flower arrangements might not be expressive as lyric, the parallel is demanding that a musician compose a piece celebrating something he or she disagrees with.  (We have no problem when a musician asks a politician to stop using songs because of party affiliation.)

The second thing is that, as Stutzman explains, for Christians marriage is sacred.  It is a sacred event.  Christian weddings are worship services.  For some traditions they are sacraments, in the same category as the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.  In other words in a Christian understanding this is coerced participation in a worship service.  Stutzman had provided services to one of the plaintiffs for nine years.  She understands the difference between providing flowers for a birthday or valentines day and participation in what Christians understand to be a sacred ceremony.

There are attempts to reduce our first amendment right to the “free exercise of religion” into freedom of opinion or freedom of worship.  But exercise, for any religion means that convictions must be lived out through real decisions.  Whether that is through the decision to act, such as feeding the hungry, or a refusal to act, as in the case of conscientious objection to military service, the exercise of religion cannot be reduced to personal thought or private worship.  When someone is coerced by the state into participating on a creative level against their convictions in an event they understand as worship we are in danger of losing even that emaciated understanding.

10 things I love about being a pastor.

I’ve seen several lists around the internet of difficulties pastors face.  Ministry is unique in several ways and pastors do face stress, but all jobs have their own difficulties.  It’s natural for any group to blow of steam by commiserating and sharing war stories when they get together.  (And fellow ministers, if you don’t have some brothers who you can complain to and with whom you can share your struggles, you need to find some.)  However, in serving God and His people there are so many more delights than difficulties and I wanted to share a few that come immediately to mind.

Here are 10 things I love about being a pastor:

  1. BaptismGetting time to think deeply about significant ideas.
  2. Working with such a variety of ages.
  3. Seeing people in the church care for one other.
  4. The privilege of walking with families through deep sorrows and great joys.
  5. Watching husbands’ and wives’ faithful, committed love for each other over years and decades.
  6. Hearing funny stories of things kids said during family prayer – not so much for how cute the kids are, but knowing that parents are passing on the faith.
  7. Having something I’ve said challenged with a reference to scripture, they know where the real authority in the church is.
  8. When I see people with nothing in common but Christ spending time together.
  9. When people introduce ideas for ministry with a desire to lead.
  10. Watching God’s work of grace and redemption in spite of the sinner in the pulpit.

Pastors, what would you add to the list?

Easter Wings

George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) wrote the classic manual on pastoral ministry, The Country Parson.  He is more famous as a poet.  “Easter Wings”, is a celebration of the resurrection, formatted and printed vertically to appear as two pairs of wings.


Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poore:
With thee
Oh let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Most thinne.
With thee
Let me combine
And feel this day thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine
Affliction shall advance the flight in me

“The beginning of Christendom is, strictly, at a point out of time. A metaphysical trigonometry finds…”

“The beginning of Christendom is, strictly, at a point out of time. A metaphysical trigonometry finds it among the spiritual Secrets, at the meeting of two heavenward lines, one drawn from Bethany along the Ascent of Messias, the other from Jerusalem against the Descent of the Paraclete. That measurement, the measurement of eternity in operation, of the bright cloud and the rushing wind, is, in effect, theology.”

Charles Williams, The Descent of the Dove

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning,…”

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

C.S. Lewis

“It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it…”

“It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE.”

G.K. Chesterton