Three Recent Sermons about the Spirit, the Church, and (of course) Jesus


1146167_601200084245_163955460_oI knew I’ve been remiss in posting here; but it blows me away that I haven’t posted anything since April! I’ve taken a several breaks from social media over the past three months, and so perhaps the best way to share what I’ve been thinking is to share my three most recent sermons:

The Spirit Poured Out (Acts 2): I’m not sure if it will come through on the recording, but I remember feeling a peculiar sense of empowerment during this sermon. This sermon wrestles with what it means to live between a past that we cannot change and a future we cannot control. The main idea is that the gift of the Spirit reframes our past, releases new possibilities for the future, and redirects us in the present.

No Other Name (Acts 4): This was a heavy sermon, preached the Sunday immediately following the shooting of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police, and the Dallas attacks. It asks, in a broken world, what does the church have to say that no one else can say?  The sermon reflects on the sixth commandment (Thou shalt not kill) and draws from Rene Girard at the end.

The Clean and the Common (Acts 10): This sermon, preached last Sunday, was a mediation on the tensions of Christian community. It starts with my reflections on attending the CrossFit games, and is an exposition of the way the Holy Spirit challenges our categories, confronts our self-congratulation, and clears a path for encounter with Jesus. (Can you tell I like alliteration)?

Now that I’m preaching regularly again, I feel a deepened sense of both the weight of the word as well and the joy of the gospel. I deeply love to preach, and am thankful for the opportunity to do so at Grace Pasadena. I pray that those who take time to listen to any of the above will be blessed!

Latest Sermon: “The Weight of Glory”: 1 Samuel 4

Here is my latest sermon from Grace Pasadena, drawn from 1 Samuel 4. The central idea of the sermon is not new, but it is pretty important to me right now. It takes awhile to get going as I re-tell the strange story of the Philistines taking the ark. But if I can say so, the sermon really starts around the 14:00 minute mark. But do listen to the whole thing if at all.🙂

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A New Sermon, and a Snapshot of My Process

Here is last Sunday’s sermon, entitled Walking in the Wilderness, from Matthew 3:16-4:11.

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A few people have asked about my weekly process for sermon preparation, so I thought I would share.

  1. I budget 8-10 hours during the week for prep. In the early days of preaching, it usually took twice that.
  2. On Tuesdays, I budget 3-4 hours for exegesis, consultation of commentaries, etc. I create a word document where I dump all I of my thoughts on the passage.
  3. On Fridays, I budget 4 hours for composition. Here I am trying to organize my scattered thoughts, distill a clear central idea, draw up an outline (usually three movements), and come up with at least two compelling illustrations, in 5 pages of uncluttered prose. I send this sermon draft to a dear friend who then comes over and talks me through what worked and what didn’t. This last component has been so valuable to me.
  4. On Saturday evenings, I budget 1-2 hours to revise and to practice the sermon. I want to listen to how it sounds, and get a feel for the flow of the text. I want to be familiar enough with it so that I’m not too tied to my manuscript on Sunday. As I go over it, I underline key phrases and write key words in the margin to trigger my memory.
  5. On Sunday mornings, I budget an hour to look over the sermon once more, and to take a prayer walk so I can offer the sermon to the Lord.
  6. I currently preach from a standard size three-ring binder. In the past, I tried preaching from a half-size binder for about six months, preaching without notes for about four months, and preaching from an iPad (using Good Reader) for about a year and a half. Since moving to California, I’ve gone back to the binder.
  7. I experience the act of preaching as a very personal, vulnerable, and (in my best moments) worshipful activity. Most of the time, I want to hide or disappear after I sit down. Thus, I am so thankful for the opportunity to take Communion directly after the sermon each week, and that the climax of our service is not the sermon, but the Lord’s invitation to the Table. No matter how well or poorly I feel like I did with the sermon, at the Table we are tangibly told that God is with us and for us, and He is known to us “in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35)

First Five: If you could only save five books, what would they be?

When we started planning our move to California, we initially thought that we would only be able to bring what we could fit in our little Honda Civic plus six suitcases (Mel and the kids flew). This meant downsizing 15 (lawyer) boxes of books down to 3. We ended up taking a (much larger) second car, and bringing more like 5 boxes of books. But still.

As painful as it was, there was something exciting about starting with those three empty boxes and choosing which books were important enough to make the move. Here is a picture of the first five books that I put into the box.

IMG_2097Since the move, I’ve added many important books to my library. But I think I would probably stand by these books as the “first five”. They have marked me deeply, shaped my imagination, and – like all classics – they reward continual re-reading.

Your turn: your house is on fire, and you can only save five books. What are your “first five”?