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Sermons from Main Branch

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What Does the World Want?

Rejoice in what you have been given and have courage. Follow where your Lord goes this week. Follow where he leads every day. Should you do that, you, too, may become instruments for teaching the world about what it really needs. Maybe, despite everything, the world will listen. It needs to.

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A Matter of the Heart

The old covenant, Jeremiah prophesied, would be transformed into a new covenant, a new testament – and it is from him that we get that term. Unlike the old one, which was broken on a regular basis, and that seemed to yield a merely external piety, never what God’s Law really was supposed to yield—namely, righteousness—this new covenant would be different.  It would aim at righteousness, but it would not be external. Jeremiah declared that God said, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” It would be a matter of the heart. That is what had been lacking before. That is what the new testament is all about: the worship of God in spirit and in truth, the worship of the heart, worship that comes from inside. That is absolutely essential to understanding what the Christian faith is about. What Christian faith is, is a way of freeing the heart and a way of living from the inside. It means being freed from nationalistic or ecclesiastical pride in being God's chosen people. It means being freed from keeping the Law without really being concerned about righteousness. It also means being freed from all that Jesus complained about--keeping the Law but remaining angry, resentful, covetous, jealous and lustful inside. It means non-violence. It means no longer making the Temple into a den of robbers and a place of commerce. Freeing the heart means all of these things. To live the Christian faith is to free oneself from all that, for the matters of the heart. For freeing the heart is more than just doing the right thing. It means acting from the heart.

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Just Looking

To say that one is "just looking" is to convey an attitude that, if not one of utter nonchalance, at least stays well short of commitment. If someone visits a church, for example, she may be interested someday in becoming a member, but if she says that she is just looking, you know that it isn't going to happen very soon. She is likely weighing other options as well. There are plenty of times when we should be "just looking". With regard to mot things of middling value, things that are only of relative importance, we should probably just look until we have decided on how they fit with the things that are most important. With respect to what is actually most important--God, for example--most Americans are "just looking," and with respect to things of middling value they aren't looking at all. The result of this inversion is a sort of uprooted restlessness that results from a lack of awareness of which way to go or of where we come from. One might even say that it is a matter of finding a polestar in the heavens to guide you in life. Having one can save your life. Like the Hebrews wandering in the desert, we need something that will deliver us; we need something lifted up to look upon that we might be saved. We don't need a slogan; we need a real savior for we are often in real trouble. The Cross, Christ's being lifted up, is that salvation. It is real salvation for real trouble, but it is also a real death, and a real death that comes at the end of the fangs of the serpents that beset us. Looking on him is what really saves us. As we go through Christian life, be aware that to get to resurrection we, as also the one in who we believe, go through death and a world beset by serpents. Faith in Christ does not avoid them, but it does believe and act as if their bite is not fatal. For it is by looking on him that we are given in his love and sacrifice a way to go. In the Cross, he gives us a polestar to direct us in how to live and to love, and how to save our lives.

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God's Only Power is Love

Power is what allows one to act and to do things. It is by power that we get things done. Power of a certain sort allows us to express ourselves; power is how we defend ourselves; it is how we change the world. Power is so very crucial to our lives, because we are constantly chasing after it when it is not chasing us around. God actually tries to get us to think about power differently than we normally do; for God, in reclaiming our lives as God’s own, is trying to give us God’s power and not worldly power. And God’s only power is love.

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Profit and Loss

During Lent, we are in the midst of a penitential season. In order to save our souls, and to find profit in them, it is necessary to repent, to turn around. But it is also necessary to know that repentance is not breast beating.  It is not something that is damaging to our sense of self-worth, which is often pretty shaky. Rather, repentance is, by the prayers we pray, a matter of opening ourselves up to God, a matter of peeling away the layers of all the false self that we have accumulated and foolishly have counted as profit up to now. Peeling away is not a matter so much of confessing failure; it is far more a matter of discovering a true self and of finding the good gift that lies at our center but which we have covered up with so much stuff that we can’t see it anymore. In that sense it can be a joyous matter for it is a matter of being grateful for who we are, and of being grateful to a God who keeps that gift alive even when we have tried so hard to lose it.  It is a matter of being freed, for in losing the world, we find its Source, and our own home.

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