Resurrection "My Way"
March 29, 2020
Lazarus by Jacob Epstein. Housed at New College, Oxford. This is a photograph of the bust only.
In the back of the chapel of New College, Oxford, stands a statue of Lazarus by Jacob Epstein. Lazarus is depicted still bound in his grave-cloths as he turns in response to Jesus’ command to come out of the tomb. His face, which is looking directly up the length of the chapel to the high altar, betrays a mixture of terror, confusion, supplication and perhaps — but only perhaps — joy.
The story of Lazarus as John tells it offers no indication of Lazarus’ own emotional response to Jesus’ command. But if we are invited to put ourselves in Lazarus’ place, and to apply this story to our own spiritual struggle, then Epstein has demonstrated his usual discernment in portraying Lazarus as a man who is at least ambivalent, and at most dismayed, at the prospect of a new life beyond the grave.
The story of the raising of Lazarus provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our own real desires and fears when it comes to eternal life in Jesus Christ, and to get clear about just what we think we are saying when we confess our faith in Jesus as our risen Lord.
Do we have faith in God’s timing? Mary and Martha believed Jesus could help them but were sure that they had been forgotten. Jesus arrived 4 days after Lazarus died. Mary, Martha and even Lazarus appear to be surprised that the rescue from death was very different than the bedside miracle they had imagined.
Is the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead good news even if it is 4 days after the burial? Is the promise that we shall rise from the dead good news? And even if it is good news for us, is it good news for the world? How can we make room for the will of God?
This week we will conclude our series, “American Idols” with a sermon titled, “Wanting It My Way.” How have we individually and culturally come to believe that we can get answers to prayers that will be just the way we want them? Are you willing to think first of God, then your neighbors, and pray for God’s will (not yours) to be done? Remember patience, trust, and faith in our God isn’t always our way, but by waiting expectantly we can find God’s way.
Join me Sunday at 11:00am and connect through live.mychapelhill.org.
Grace & Peace,
Let Your Love Shine!
March 22, 2020
This week we have all become aware of the uncertainty facing the entire world as we fight Covid-19. While we respond to this challenge differently, many of us feel increased anxiety. But fear cannot become the center point of our life. A large part of our struggle as Christians, is to refuse fear the opportunity to overshadow the love of Christ.
In an article titled, Choosing Love Over Fear, Nina Rothschild Utne writes:
I was in Colorado, laying in a bed next to my friend Ginny, whose 14 year siege of illness – breast cancer, Meniere’s disease, and parasites, to a name a few – would defeat the average mortal. But she bounced back again and again, luminously and incongruously beautiful, full of laughter and wisdom, as she was that morning, miraculously well for the first time that month. ‘I don’t understand this any better than I ever have,’ she said, ‘but I do know that we are living out of love, moment to moment, or we are not. It’s that simple.’
Ginny reminds us how to live, with love, through anything. We believe that is possible through the strength of Christ, and his love for us. Remember fear has stalked humanity from the beginning. It's been getting more powerful for a long time, but recent events have allowed fear to come out into the open.
When fear bombards us it can be difficult to trust in the love of God. But remember with God's grace all things are possible: even peace in chaos. This Sunday I will explore what it means to live our lives as God's children of light, instead of as worshippers of fear.
This Sunday, we will be worshipping online only at 11:00am. Please join us at live.mychapelhill.org to view our service on YouTube. I will be continuing the "Amercian Idol" series with the "The Fear Idol." We may be worshipping differently, but we'll still be together: living in Christ's love, conquering fear and helping where possible.
Grace & Peace,
The Whole World in God's Hands
March 12, 2020
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” – Psalm 56:3
It’s normal to feel anxious as the impacts of COVID-19 are felt in our community. We are concerned for your family and our neighbors. We may go about our business a little differently, but the church will continue to be present and involved, connecting people with the love of Christ where we can.
First, and most important. We will have worship as normal, at 8:30 and 11:00am on Sunday. Please do not be embarrassed or pressured to shake hands, or hug, and respect the personal space of others. It is a wonderful thing to be able to greet each other face to face with simple words of grace!
We are also going to change the fellowship time in between our services a bit. We’ll still have treats, but the plates of donuts will be gone. Instead pre-packaged individual servings of granola bars and goldfish crackers will be available. And to further reduce risks the coffee service area and door handles will be disinfected throughout Sunday morning.
It is spring break for our Mothers’ Day Out. Extra provisions are being made to thoroughly disinfect and clean the childrens’ area with appropriate products. We will establish protocols that are responsive to the concerns of families and children while maximizing the protection of all who use our building.
For those who wish to minimize contact you will be able to watch the entire 11am service as it streams live on YouTube. As you know we want to reach the next generation and help them become Jesus Followers. Live streaming was part of our plan toward that goal and we have been able to put it on a fast track. To watch the live stream at 11am on Sunday, or to view it at a later time, please go to live.mychapelhill.org. Push subscribe and you will be notified when a new video has been posted. We will also have a link that allows you to give online.
And last, but not least … worship online can be a new kind of community experience. Live Chat will also be available during the service. A member of the church will be moderating the service through YouTube. We will be able to exchange greetings and to register your attendance.
I will not be at church this Sunday, or next week, because of previously scheduled time off. However, I wanted to take a minute and encourage all of us to extend compassion to each other as we navigate a new landscape. Try to do what you can to be a helper and show the light of Christ to others who are anxious. If there are inconveniences, seek patience. Be kind to people. And remember pray. It will calm you and it works. Finally, take sensible precautions and remember the things we know that can make a true difference.
The whole world is in God’s hands, but you still have to wash yours!
Grace & Peace,
March 8, 2020
Consultant/author/grenade-launcher Bill Easum has exposed just how difficult it is for us to give up our family-as-idol. He asks clergy, "What are your non-negotiables?" "What won't you sacrifice, even for God?" Among those who have specifically answered a call to a lifetime of service, there is one portion of their lives usually designated as "off limits" to God or anyone else - their families.
Clergy will gladly give up the lure of a larger salary, a more prestigious position, private comforts and even personal safety, for the sake of serving Christ. But time with family, space for family, the security of their families are all issues that raise red flags. Strange, how men and women who willingly entrust their own lives to God with confidence, are not willing to trust the Creator of the universe to watch over their loved ones. But when we idolize our families, we try to take them out of God's care, somehow convinced that we can do a better job ourselves.
In our culture if this is true of our clergy it is even truer of our general population. This week, as we continue our series on the “American Idols”, we will explore the Family Idol. I hope you will join me as we engage together to worship the One who wew are cast aside all our idols to worship, even family.
Grace & Peace,
My Favorite Subject
March 1, 2020
Our hope and prayer as Christians is that others see God in us.
Not everyone lives that way. In the movie "Men of Honor" it's 1948 and Robert DeNiro plays the part of cranky, belligerent naval training officer named Billy Sunday. What a shock to the nervous recruits that their "Master Chief Sunday" shared the same name as the famous evangelist Billy Sunday. Navy Billy Sunday makes things clear. He tells the recruits, "The difference between the other Billy Sunday and me is that he preaches about God and I am God."
I remembered those words as I began to work on this week’s sermon, The Self Idol. I will be exploring the text from Romans 5:1-11, and I invite you to read and meditate on this passage before you come worship on Sunday.
We live in a culture filled with all kinds of opportunities to hype ourselves. I remember as a child the old saying, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease." I also remember the saying, "Empty wagons make the most noise." I believe as Christians we are called to be squeaky wheels, but we are not called to be empty wagons going on about our goodness. We will explore how we are called to be signs that point to God’s goodness without focusing on our own goodness.
This sermon kicks off our Lenten sermon series, “American Idols." I hope you will gather with me this Sunday as we worship the only true God together.
Grace & Peace,