You Might Be A Christian If…You Believe ‘Love, Baby; It’s All About Love.’

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 10:25-37.

Early on in my homiletics course in seminary my professor admonished our class, “Not every sermon is about love. Do not make every sermon about love!”

Pardon me? What did you just say? Isn’t that the preacher’s bread and butter? Love!?

Dr. Tom Long was in the midst of lecturing on the importance of each sermon having a focus and a function. Both can be (and should be!) distilled one-sentence statements. The focus captures the subject of a sermon while the function directs the hearers – including the preacher! – in what they are to do because of their hearing.

To drive home his point further, Dr. Long proceeded to show the class a number of commercials – one from an automobile manufacturer, another from a grocer, and the last from an insurance company who’s mascot, if you will, is always up to shenanigans of the mayhem variety. Our assignment: write distilled one-sentence focus and function statements for each commercial. When we finished Dr. Long said, “Did any of your focus or function statements include or result in love? No? No. Then neither should the bulk of your sermons.”

As much as I felt agony in that moment – I will never preach on love! – I have grown in understanding to see the wisdom behind Dr. Long’s counsel. Firstly, harm can be done to our sacred text as well as to those who hear it if misrepresentations are made to and about that text – for example – making a text about love when it is not actually about love. Secondly, when preaching about love becomes a delight rather than a default, those occasions are all the more important, all the more special.

I think what Dr. Long was really saying was this, “Do not make every sermon about love. But if the sermon is about love, make it a good one.”

(Here’s hoping this Sunday’s is a good one, Dr. Long!)

Jesus uses the Parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate The Greatest Commandment. The Greatest Commandment is a marriage of two commandments in the Torah. The first is from The Shema found in Deuteronomy 6, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (v. 5). The second is from the Holiness Code in Leviticus 19, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (v. 18). Jesus affirmed for the questioning lawyer, for his disciples, for the people that followed him then, and for the people that follow him nowthat we show our love and knowledge of God through our acts of love and behaviors of kindness towards others.

I adore the series Downton Abbey. I watch it again and again and again…when I grow up I want to be the Dowager Countess Lady Grantham. She is both my patronus and spirit animal. Spoiler Alert: At Edith’s wedding at the close of Season Six, the priest says these words concerning the covenant of marriage, “which is an honorable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God.” I believe it is with that same spirit that we show our love and knowledge of God through our acts of love and behaviors of kindness towards others – it is “an honorable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly and in the fear of God.”*

Love – this is our most important work, our most important responsibility.

Love – it is our delight as disciples!

Prayer: “Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart, in my heart; Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart. In my heart, in my heart, Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart.** Amen.

*Downton Abbey Season VI Episode IX.

**“Lord, I Want To Be A Christian,” The United Methodist Hymnal 402.

Parable of the Mustard Seed

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 13:31-32.

On Tuesday evening I had the privilege of attending the Spring 2017 Seminole State College Commencement to celebrate Alaine Gorman’s graduation. Alaine, I am so proud of all your accomplishments and know – with full confidence – the the world best be ready because you are going to take it by storm. 

I am so grateful to know you. 

Education, for many of us, begins like a tiny seed planted inside of us. As children we learn our names; we learn languages! We learn shapes and colors. We learn textures and sounds. Our horizons expand. Our knowledge grows. 

Why is this needful? Why is it necessary? Because as my high school principal loved to say over the campus intercom, “Knowledge is power and the power is on!”

Knowledge takes us places. Knowledge is the gateway to a greater world, full of opportunities for us to know and be known. Knowledge – and encouragement in the pursuit, refinement, and application of that knowledge – is what helps us blossom to our full potential. And in the process of maturing to our full potential – a process that I consider to be lifelong – we become teachers and sharers of knowledge each in our own way. 

It is a true gift to watch Alaine share her life experiences, passion, and truth with our students. She shares from a place of “this is what I know and I hope it will help you as you grow to know yourself, others, and how you want to contribute in the world.” Alaine shares authentically with fantastic wit and cunning sense of humor. She shares because – I truly believe – she was raised in an environment that values planting and nurturing seeds of knowledge so that in time she would (and does!) plant and nurture seeds of knowledge in others. 

The Kingdom of God is like…

Continue learning and sharing, Alaine. Through you, God will continue amazing things. 

Prayer: “Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his name, you will be in the midst of them. Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.”*

*”Prayer of John Chrysostom,” The United Methodist Hymnal 412.

Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 13:24-30.

In reaction to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Patton Oswalt, renowned actor, comedian, and writer, shared these words,

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity where inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago. So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance, or fear, or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred, or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

These are incredibly powerful words that provided me with a sense of hope and comfort after that terror attack. They are words that I, unfortunately, continue to recall with each additional act of terror that happens in our nation and in our world.

As I think on these acts of terror – and as I read and reflect upon our Scripture passage for this week – I find myself asking – again – that powerful, haunting, one-word question.


Why do innocent people suffer? Why do hurt people choose to hurt people?

How do we cope with people – near or far – that seek to do us harm and yet we must grow alongside them? How do we heal from personal behaviors by which we do harm to ourselves?

Why do weeds grow among the wheat?

Why does God allow it to happen?

I do not think God allows it to happen; I believe people allow these sort of harmful behaviors to manifest-er into harmful acts. And I believe we must face these harmful acts caused by hurting people with grace and forgiveness. The Scripture says that we have to grow up together, for to take one from the other would cause damage to both. Jesus holds us accountable to how we treat our neighbors – neighbors that love us and that we love as well as neighbors that desire to cause us harm and, towards them, our thoughts are less than kind.

Scripture also tells us that Jesus is judge. Jesus is adjudicator. In trusting his sovereignty, we trust that he will enact justice. In coming under his lordship, we hope that we will be found among the faithful that responded to his commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors – all neighbors – as ourselves.

Since the time of the Fall God has been saying, shouting, praying that the good outnumber the evil and always will. I believe God calls us to join in saying, shouting, and praying this statement – not to puff ourselves up as the good – but to offer hope in a world that at times seems all too gloomy.

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

On all. On us. On me.

Prayer: “Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness. Come, my Life, and revive me from death. Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds. Come, Flame of divine love, and burn up the thorns of my sins, kindling my heart with the flame of thy love. Come, my King, sit upon the throne of my heart and reign there. For thou alone art my King and my Lord. Amen.”*

*”An Invitation to Christ,” The United Methodist Hymnal 466.

Parable of the Soils

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23

I took Algebra in the 9th grade. I was excited – I excelled at solving for X. One beautiful day my Algebra teacher said we were going to start working on parabolas. 

She said “parabolas.” I heard “parables.” I thought, “Yes! Solving for X in a word problem that has a lesson to teach me!”

Oh those parabolas taught me lessons all right…but not the lessons I anticipated. 

(Have I mentioned that math is hard?)

This Sunday the Tuskawilla Family will begin a sermon series for the Season of Easter through Pentecost Sunday where we will study the Kingdom of God parables in Matthew 13. Each of these parables will provide us with a different glimpse of what life is like in the Kingdom of God. 

Jesus’ disciples asked him why he taught in parables. Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given…’For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn – and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear” (Mt 13:11, 15-16). The people – our people – us – we have turned off our senses from God. Our receptors to encounter and acknowledge God’s presence have become dull, possibly even numb. And so Jesus tells these stories in order that our senses may come alive again in him.

I love the idea that through experiencing these parables – with our seeing, hearing, and feeling – Jesus will heal us. Jesus will draw us closer to himself. Jesus will draw us closer to our preferred future – our home with him in the  Kingdom. 

It is fitting that we begin our study of Jesus’ Kingdom of God parables with the Parable of the Soils. In it we are invited to examine our own hearts – the soil ripe for sowing and reaping in our lives. Join us at 8:30 for Morningsong or 11 for Traditional Worship as we reflect upon and refine the ground of our souls where God’s truths can flourish and grow. 

Prayer: “Lo! Jesus meets thee, risen from the tomb; lovingly he greets thee, scatters fear and gloom. Let the church with gladness hymns of triumph sing, for our Lord now liveth; death hath lost its sting. Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son; endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.”* Amen. 

*”Thine Be the Glory,” The United Methodist Hymnal308.