Posts Tagged ‘preaching’

Where have all the posts gone?

December 28th, 2010 No comments

Generally it drives me crazy when people write posts about not writing posts.  Usually they are either apologizing for not writing, or promising more to come.  I just don’t get that.

But… that being said… I want to comment on my decrease in blogging.

Sure, I could complain that I have been too busy.  I could admit I have been too lazy.  It could be the fact that in preparing for our move I have had less time to think about blog-worthy subjects.

But, the truth of the matter is that I have found another outlet.  A couple years ago I noticed the rise of my blogging coincided with graduating seminary and ending my tenure as pastor.  Basically I took up blogging because I had lost my other outlets for writing and processing big ideas: sermon writing and papers for seminary.

Now that I have returned as the pastor of Stevenson’s Chapel in Russellville, I am once again writing 8-10 pages a week for a typical sermon.  This has not only taken up my time, it has also been my release for thinking through big picture ideas.

If you are missing your fix of Ben’s writing (HA!  Who am I kidding?), you can read my sermons online.


June 19th, 2009 No comments

For the past 6 months I have been the “guest speaker” at a rural church in Logan County.  Stephenson Chapel has been good to us and Beth and I have enjoyed our time there.  Even though there are some cultural differences (most of the church works on the farms and 80% of the families are related to each other and have been there for decades), they have granted me an amazing amount of flexibility.  I have benefited from being able to take some of the thoughts floating in my head from Seminary and give them flesh and coherence.  At first I just modified some sermons I had previously preached, but as time went on I began developing my own sermons series from scratch.  Knowing you only have a limited time, it is challenging to decide what is the most important things to focus on.

My first series was a merger of Rob Bell’s New Exodus material and Sandra Richter’s approach to understanding the Old Testament. This series focused on the major flow Israel and God’s constant desire to use his people to bring about a reconciled world.  From there, we transitioned into Lent where we looked at how Jesus fulfilled and continued this trajectory of redemption.  We ended by looking at what Jesus focused on when addressing believers and looked at wealth, possessions, worry, hate, etc.  Through all this my intention was to paint a picture from Genesis to Revelation of how God expects his people to join him bringing about a restored earth.  I always had in mind the picture from Revelation 21-22:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

When I first began to work through my faith, I never understood Christianity in any other way than a personal relationship with God that resulted in eternal life when I died.  The more I have worked through the Christian Narrative, the more I have realized following Jesus is just the entryway into a life of reconciliation that places Christians as the primary agents of restoration.  It was my goal in laying out the sermons at Stephenson Chapel so that this fuller understanding of Christianity was taught.  I don’t know if I succeeded or not, but it was helpful for me in my own faith to work through it.

Well last Sunday was my final day at Stephenson, and part of the motivation to write this post was my own reflection on the message I left them with.  Even as Beth and I were driving back to BG, I was thinking through these ideas.  It was during that drive that John Lennon’s song “Imagine came on.  I have included the video and lyrics below:

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

At first blush it seems this song has nothing to do with Christianity (and I am sure Lennon would have agreed with that).  It talks about a world where there is no religion and heaven and hell are absent.  In fact, Lennon himself called Imagine “an anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic song.”  So what in the world does this song have to do with picking sermons to preach?

Well, I am convinced the world Lennon imagined is not far off from the world God is seeking to bring about through redemption.  The picture Revelation 21-22 paints is of a perfected earth where unity and peace are experianced.  The biblical witness highlights a life where greed is no more and where possessions are unimportant.  The unity of all nations is part of the expected telos that is to come.  As for heaven and hell, the golden streets and pearly gates are not way off in the by and by, but here on this earth.

In the end, the world Lennon imagined is not too far off from the world God imagined and is working to bring to fruition.  Of course there are myriad tangents this discussion can go, and plenty of proof-texting from both sides of the aisle.  But for now, I am content being a dreamer, and stand with confidence that a world where we will live as one is coming.