Posts Tagged ‘Sermon Notes’

Confirmation Questions 2-23-14

Last Sunday’s sermon came from Matthew 5:38-48. In it I tried to wrap up 4 weeks worth of Sermon on the Mount focus as well as discussing the notion that we are able to join with God in the work that God is doing in the world. You can find that sermon here.

The confirmation students posed the following questions on their sermon notes. I’ll attempt to answer them.

-Why would Jesus tell a person to give up more (in the context of giving someone asking for your shirt both your shirt and your cloak)?
This is a great question…and honestly one that doesn’t make a great deal of sense, especially at face value. It is strange to wonder why Jesus tells us to go above and beyond what is being asked of us. In this context, its also important to note that the language of the text indicates that if someone is suing you for your shirt…a strange notion to us, but it implies the idea of property…Perhaps what Jesus is saying here is that if someone takes legal action against you, don’t give them the minimum, but go above and beyond. Make sure that you are not shorting them in how you respond. A difficult teaching to be sure, and honestly one that leaves me scratching my head as well. Perhaps, in the end, Jesus’ main point here is that we are always to go above and beyond for the sake of our neighbor, even those who are acting in a negative way towards us. For Jesus, this took him all the way to the cross…because he was so self-sacrificial…everything he did was for the benefit of others. We are called to mirror this attitude.
-Why does Jesus constantly fail to make sense with some things that he says?
This is another great question…and one that I tend to ask myself often, particularly in situations where I’m trying to figure out how to preach on a difficult text. My first thought on this question is that our failure to really understand either what he’s saying or why he’s saying it speaks to the utterly drastic change that Jesus has brought into our reality. The kingdom of heaven is so radically different that we simply cannot always understand it. And Jesus knows that…Sometimes we get the benefit of his explanation into what he’s talking about, but we really have that in this particular instance.  Sometimes in moments like this, when we find ourselves confused by Jesus’ teaching, we can only pray for understanding and ask for forgiveness when we fail to follow what he says. And then one day, when we encounter Christ, then we can ask him what he was talking about.

Confirmation Questions 2-2-14

Last Sunday’s sermon was based on the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-12. You can find that sermon here.

A great question was raised by the confirmation students on their sermon notes. I’ll attempt to answer it here.

-Why does Jesus say “Great are your rewards in Heaven?”
This is a really excellent question. In the final Beatitude, Jesus says “blessed are you [when you are persecuted on account of me]. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.” Now, just what Jesus means by this is up in the air. We could think that he’s referring to our salvation and that Heaven itself is the reward. Those who do not deny Jesus and are, in turn, persecuted or even killed because of it can rest assured that they are in relationship with Christ and therefore with God. Acknowledging Christ as our savior is evidence that we are, in fact saved from our sin. That being said, it is important to note that it is not up to anything that we do to guarantee our salvation. But all that being said, it is admittedly ambiguous what Jesus means by saying we’ll be rewarded in heaven. Does it mean that we gain higher status in Heaven, or that we’ll have riches of a sort that we do not understand in this life? Perhaps, but we just don’t know.  All we know is that Jesus says (later in the Sermon on the Mount) that we will be rewarded by God. What Jesus does not say is what those rewards will be.

So long story short, I can’t really give you a good answer to this question, aside from the assurance that Jesus says we will be blessed and that in Heaven there will be a reward. May we all see that one day.

Confirmation Questions 1-26-14

Last Sunday’s sermon was based on Matthew 4:12-23. You can find the sermon here.

An excellent question came from the confirmation students in their sermon notes. I’ll try to address it as best I can here.

-Why did the disciples just follow Jesus?
This is a great question, and one that is difficult to answer. We don’t know what it was about Jesus that compelled the men to drop everything to follow him just because told them to “follow me.” But whatever it was, this was not a fluke. We see the same thing in the calling of the disciple Matthew as well (Matthew chapter 9). Jesus walks up, says “follow me,” and Matthew does exactly that.  So there is something about Jesus that brings people to him, but we don’t know what that quality is. John’s gospel gives us a little bit of insight in that the first disciples were directed towards Jesus by John the Baptist. Once they encountered him, they in turn invited others to come and meet him as well, but that’s a different account than what we see here in Matthew’s gospel.

So, in the end, great question. I wish I had a better answer for you, but unfortunately we just don’t know.

Confirmation Questions 12-22-13

My sermon this week came from Matthew 1:18-25. You can read it here.

Though the confirmation students are “on break” over the Christmas holidays, a few are still doing sermon notes just to keep on top of things.  A great question came out of this.

-Are the things that God plans for us always going to be good?
Great question. This likely came out of the statements that I made in which Joseph trusted that God was working in the midst of a really difficult situation. Likewise that God is always working in a specific direction. Creation and our reality is going somewhere and God is moving reality towards it.  Sometimes we are able to recognize and understand these movements but not always. Now in regards to the question of if God’s plans are always good for us, I would answer yes, they are always good…but that doesn’t mean that they are always easy. It also doesn’t mean that they are always going to seem like a positive thing when we experience it. We hear in Jeremiah 29:11-13
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This was God speaking to Jeremiah, and though God’s plans were good, Jeremiah’s life was not always easy. This speaks to the same situation that Joseph and Mary found themselves in once Mary was found to be pregnant. They faced difficult choices. The end results were good, but certainly not easy. Finally, we face the same sort of situation. God is still working, still moving reality towards the ultimate goal. We are effected by that work. Ultimately, it is for good, even in those instances when it doesn’t seem that way.

Confirmation Questions 12-15-13

Last Sunday I preached on Matthew 11:2-11 and focused on John the Baptist’s doubt that Jesus was truly the Messiah. You can find that sermon here.

The confirmation students presented some great questions on their sermon notes, which I will attempt to address here.

-If you had the chance to be perfect, would you?
This is an excellent question, and it really points towards the nature of sin and the human condition. If perfection was possible by our own actions or will, then there would have been no reason for God to come to earth. Jesus would not have had to enter into our sinful reality to overcome it. This poses a difficult notion for me on a personal level. On one hand, it would be absolutely wonderful to be perfect, to never disappoint God or anyone else. But on the other hand, my own experience of extreme gratitude for the grace of God, the free gift of salvation from my sinful nature made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ defines me. I hesitate to think about what my life would be like if that wasn’t present…or more specifically, if there was no need for it.

-How is the least in the kingdom better than John?This is another great question. Jesus makes this statement right after he credits John with being the greatest of the prophets. I believe what Jesus is trying to say here is that at this moment of doubt for John…or perhaps it is better to say the disbelief of John…in this moment, John does not have salvation from sin. He lacks faith at this moment because he is questioning if Jesus is the Messiah. He doesn’t believe it.  And so when Jesus says that the least IN the kingdom…that is to say anyone that has a saving faith in Jesus…is ahead of John in this moment.  Now that is not to say that John is excluded from salvation in the long run, because I don’t believe that is the case. Rather, Jesus is making a point about belief. It needs to be there. Belief in Christ for the salvation from our sinful nature.

Confirmation Questions 11-24-13

Sunday’s sermon came from Luke 23:33-43. You can find the sermon here.

The Confirmation Students posed an interesting question on sermon notes.

-Why was the criminal mocking Jesus along with the other people.
Great question. On one hand, we could argue that the criminal mocking Jesus was making a proper request. “Save us,” but that’s not really the point.  It seems that the criminal in this Gospel (both of them in the other gospels) were too focused on the immediate situation to really know what they were asking for. To say “Jesus save yourself and us” reveals the selfish nature of the request. The criminal is asking to be saved from the immediate pain and suffering of crucifixion. In other words, he is trying to be saved from death and remain living.  What he doesn’t realize is that Jesus is, in fact, saving all of humanity in the eternal sense. We are able to join in the resurrection of the body that Jesus made possible through his own death and resurrection.  So in short, he’s trying to save his own skin, but that’s not what Jesus was accomplishing.

Confirmation Questions 11-17-13

Last Sunday I preached on Luke 21:5-19. I focused on Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple and how the loss of the building might effect a congregation. You can find the sermon here.

The confirmation kids asked some great questions in their sermon notes. They were all focused around some of the history that I relayed regarding the temple in Jesus time. I will do my best to address them here.

-Why was there a barrier between God and Humanity?
The barrier in this question refers the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple…also it created the same separation in the Tabernacle, which was a special tent that served the same purpose as the Temple while the Israelites were wandering in the desert. It is described in Exodus 26. In this section, God is giving Moses the instructions on how to create the Tabernacle.  The Holy of Holies was originally where they stored the Ark of the Covenant…a special box where the tablets of the 10 commandments were stored. This was also where God stayed in the pillar of cloud when the Israelites camped.  The main point of the curtain and the barrier was because humanity could/can not handle seeing God. The only one to do so was Moses and he saw God from behind…not seeing God’s face.  The barrier was for the protection of the people.
-Is God’s presence greater in churches or holy buildings?
One could argue that during the time that the Israelites wandered in the desert, yes…because God would come down in a pillar of smoke to reside among the people in the tabernacle (see the last question). But I don’t believe this is the case any longer. As Jesus says in Matthew 18, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them.” God is not limited to a specific place. Though that being said, when we gather in worship in a sanctuary, God is certainly there.  So long story short, no God’s presence is not greater in one place over another, but God joins us when we gather together regardless of where we are.
-Why could only the high priest enter into the Holy of Holies?
It was the duty of the High Priest to bear the sins of the entire assembly of the people (the Israelites). On the Day of Atonement, which was the one day a year that the priest would enter into the Holy of Holies, there was a ritual that would essentially place all the sins of the people upon the high priest, who would go into the Holy of Holies and perform a sacrifice of atonement for the sins, so that God would forgive the sins of all the people. This is described in Exodus 28.
-Why were they afraid of God?
Because God is so completely and awesomely good, and we recognize our own sinfulness. An example is Moses in Exodus 3. When he approaches the burning bush and God tells him who He is, Moses is terrified and covers his face. I believe that to be in the presence of God shows us how completely non-righteous we really are.


Confirmation Questions 11-10-13

Last Sunday I preached on the Sadducees questioning the resurrection found in Luke 20:27-38. You can find the sermon here.

Normally the confirmation students pose questions on their sermon notes, but this week is a bit of an exception. This week in class, we were discussing the 3rd Article of the Apostles Creed which deals with the Holy Spirit. In class we talked quite a bit about the work of the Holy Spirit, and how it brings us to faith in Christ, which leads to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting (the last line of the creed).

This was good timing as the sermon text dealt with the same question.  Towards the end of class, I told the students “Hint, the resurrection and life everlasting are great things, but we really don’t understand it very well at all. Write that on your sermon notes today.”

I’m happy to report that the students did just that.

The real take away from the sermon is that we’ve been given glimpses of the resurrection and life everlasting, but in the end, we really don’t know what its going to be like.  The important truth from this sermon is that Jesus tells us that there IS a resurrection and through our faith we will experience it…whatever it looks like.


Confirmation Questions 10-27-13

My sermon on Sunday came out of John 1:1-5, 9-14. You can find that sermon here.

As usual, the confirmation students posed some great questions in their sermon notes. I’ll try to address them here.

-Why would God encourage us to be mad?
Great question. Rather than saying that God encourages us to get mad, I think its better to say that God fully accepts the full range of emotion that humanity experiences. When I talked about this subject in the sermon, I was trying to make the point that God wants us to be honest in what we are feeling and thinking. Sometimes that includes anger. God does not condemn our anger or our questions or our worries. God experienced all those same emotions through Jesus Christ. God lived a life as part of humanity and because of that God knows our struggles having experienced them himself.   Psalm 6 and 13 are great examples of this. If you would like to see more, go to and do a word search for “how long.” You’ll find a whole list of psalms that approach God in this way.

-Is God our only source of light in times of darkness?
Great question. John 1 discusses this question quite well. We read there that the light or the Word (aka Jesus, he is both things) is God (verse 1 and 4). Jesus is the true light…and so God is the true light because God and Jesus are one and the same.  A couple of verses later we hear that John (the Baptist) was sent by God “as a witness to testify to the light so that all might believe through him. He himself was no the light, but he came to testify to the light” (verses 7-8). We are also called to testify to the light. So in answer to the question, I would say that yes, God is the only source of light, but as believers we reflect the true light of God for others.

-Where does evil come from?
Another great question…and a tough one to answer. Evil is probably best defined as doing or seeking that which is contrary to God. The first being that did so was Lucifer. Lucifer actually means “light bringer” and we believe that Lucifer was the highest of angels…second only to God, but Lucifer wanted to be God and led a battle in Heaven. Lucifer, also called Satan was cast down from heaven with a third of the angels…those that also opposed God. Jesus mentions this briefly in Luke 10:18 “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” God created heaven and God created the angels, and we know only that these creations predate the creation of the world as we know it. So in Genesis 1-2, when we hear the creation story, including the Garden of Eden, we hear about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Evil already exists at this point, because Lucifer had already challenged God, but humanity had not yet experienced it. That’s why the serpent is also present to tempt Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve challenged the will of God who had told them not to eat the fruit of the Tree, but they disobeyed. This is how evil entered into/was experienced by humanity.

Confirmation Questions 10-20-13

This week’s sermon came from Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the Judge and the Widow. You can find my sermon here.

As usual, the confirmation student’s posed some great questions in their sermon notes. I’ll address them here.

-Why didn’t the judge [in the parable] want to help the widow?
We don’t know exactly why the judge refused (for a time) to help the widow. We do know that he had no respect for God or for other people, so we can assume that he simply didn’t care at all about the widow or her grievance. Also, it is important to note that widows at the time had no legal rights. As her husband was dead, she was on her own. Only men had legal standing at the time, and unless a man came with her to represent her before the judge, the judge didn’t have to do anything for her, even if she her grievance against the unknown opponent was valid.  What Jesus seems to be saying in the parable is that her persistence in coming before the judge wore him down and finally he helped her, though only because he wanted her to stop coming to him with the same complaint.

-What is a widow?
A widow is a woman whose husband has died. In Jesus’ time, being a widow was very difficult. As I mentioned in the last question, women had no legal standing. They couldn’t own property. When a woman’s husband died, she would typically be cared for in the household of one of her sons. But if she had no sons then she could quickly become destitute with no way to care for herself. Widows often became beggars because of this situation.