The Word Became Flesh (Christmas Sermon)

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De la Tour, Christ in the Carpenter’s Workshop

“The way to Christian growth is to allow oneself to be puzzled and startled by new apparent complexity.  There is great simplicity at the heart of this picture, but it is costly.  The price it demands is sustained attention to the specific, and to us strange and perhaps even repellent, first-century ways of thinking that characterized Jesus.  Is it after all Jesus we want to discover and follow, or would we prefer an idol of our own making?” – N.T. Wright
That’s a powerful question: Is it after all Jesus we want to discover and follow, or would we prefer an idol of our making? Unfortunately, there are many idols that go by the name of “Jesus” – there is the Jesus of the Da Vinci Code; the Jesus of who is kept on a leash to dispense his approval for every act of tyrants; the Jesus of consumerism and prosperity preaching, whose one purpose is to bless you with wealth; the Jesus of sexual liberation whose one and only commandment is that you not judge. Then there is the Jesus of bad hymns: “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”, and “the little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes” – the Jesus who never needed His diaper changed; who let Mary and Joseph sleep through the night from Day One; who never needed a shower.
But these are not the real Jesus, the one who was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger. To understand that Jesus – to understand the first Christmas – we need to do what Wright says: we need to pay “sustained attention to first-century ways of thinking that characterized Jesus.” So this morning, I want to think about the coming of Jesus in terms of the Scriptures and the story of Israel. My hope is that by doing this, we may both know Jesus better and know our own place in His story. Continue reading

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Sermon on Ruth 4

I have mostly relegated my sermons to the Colvinism blog, but since this one was delivered for our church here in Davao, I thought I should post it here.

Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah, by William Blake

Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah, by William Blake

Pastor Vic is in the middle of a series on Exodus right now. I preached last time on the time Sarah and Abraham went down to Egypt, and pharaoh took Sarah, and God brought them out again. My point with that sermon was that the Exodus motif is everywhere in the Bible: God the creator rescues His people, defeats their enemies, delivers them from all their sins and misery, and condescends to dwell with them and be their God. He gives them laws to live by and promises for their future. That is the story of the Exodus. It is also our story, so that we may live in terms of it.

Today, I want us to look at another instance of this Exodus motif, in the book of Ruth, which is one of my favorite books of the Bible. From a literary perspective, it shows an economy, a tight-knitness of plot, that is without comparison. All the characters have significant names: Elimelech (“My God is king”) takes Naomi (“the pleasant one”) to Moab. He dies, and so do his two sons, Mahlon (“Sickly”) and Qilyon (“Weak”). Of the two sons’ wives, Orpah, “the turner-back” goes back to Moab, while Ruth, “the friend”, insists on throwing her lot in with Naomi. Once back in the land, they find a relative, Boaz, “the Pillar” and seek to redeem their family’s property.

Ruth starts, as does the book of Exodus, with the chosen seed in a foreign land: just as Jacob’s family came down to Egypt because of a famine, so here, an Israelite family has moved to Moab, because of a famine. Affliction and trouble have removed them from Israel. They are in exile, just like Israel in the book of Exodus. They need to be redeemed and brought back to the land, to live with God again.

Continue reading