Meditations, Quotes and Benedictions

These were originally delivered as Benedictions at Saratoga Federated Church in Saratoga, CA. The passage on which that day’s sermon was based is listed in the title.

Benediction: Truth or Dare

How fascinating is it that the game “Truth or Dare” exists? The whole premise of this game is that as often as not, we’d agree to do some unknown, humiliating and shameful task in front of other people, instead of risk making ourselves known. But why does anyone ever choose to play this game? Why… Continue reading Benediction: Truth or Dare

Benediction: The Prodigal Son

One of the jokes I’ve always heard about Sunday School is that if you don’t know the answer to a question, just answer “Jesus,” “God” or “The Bible” and you’ll probably get it right. I think I’d like to add “God throws a feast” to that list. God creates man and invites him to eat… Continue reading Benediction: The Prodigal Son

Benediction: Sabbath

I know for me, the greatest hindrance to Sabbath rest is fear. What would happen if I paused? Because I’m addicted to the suffocating idea that I’m somehow in control. Or, if I’m not, it’s something in my life — my boss, my spouse, my kids, my parents, my culture, someone in government, my plans… Continue reading Benediction: Sabbath

Benediction: The Prodigal Son

Enter into the perspective of the younger son. You’ve spit in your father’s face, left home and lived a failed life, and are now headed back to his house.You crest the hill and your father’s house comes into view. Do you believe he would still run to you? Or are you still practicing your speech?… Continue reading Benediction: The Prodigal Son

Benediction: Psalm 139:23-24

“Search me, God, and know my heart;”So what if he does?And isn’t that question answered when God took on flesh and he searched us by becoming us?He lived with us, he questioned us, he danced and sang and cried with us, he suffered with us and then suffered and died because of us.And after all… Continue reading Benediction: Psalm 139:23-24

Benediction: Jonah 3-4

There are some theologians who think that when Jesus was telling the story of the Prodigal Son he was intentionally re-imagining the story of Jonah. If we think about Jonah sitting on the hillside, angry at God’s mercy toward undeserving people, we can see how similar it is to the Older Brother, refusing to join… Continue reading Benediction: Jonah 3-4

Benediction: Matthew 5:20

The Old Testament is a story of failure. Repeated Failure. A thousand odd pages of God telling people “Trust me and live”, and people responding with a “No thanks.”. And apart from a jump in time, my story, and your story would fit in perfectly well. Which is why these passages from Jeremiah read with… Continue reading Benediction: Matthew 5:20

Benediction: Parenting

One of my favorite songs is called “Broken Tether” by the Collection. The singer is wrestling with his failure and claims that if he were to meet God in person he’d change all his ways and be a better person–which might be true. But then comes a line that gets me every time: I hope… Continue reading Benediction: Parenting

Benediction: Jonah 1

Jonah is clearly a failed Christ figure. He even spent 3 days in a tomb that should have been the end of his life. Both were asked to go into the middle of those who hated them and preach the love and grace of God. Jonah chose to run, but Christ chose to die, even… Continue reading Benediction: Jonah 1

Benediction: Jonah 2

Many of the questions we ask God can’t be answered directly, not because God doesn’t know the answers but because our questions don’t make sense. As C.S. Lewis once pointed out, many of our questions are, from God’s point of view, rather like someone asking, “Is yellow square or round?” or “How many hours are… Continue reading Benediction: Jonah 2

Benediction: Isaiah 42:1-9

One of our biggest roadblocks to justice is the zero sum, winner takes all mentality.We also can’t just pursue Justice, but we must do so from a properly oriented heart.Maybe one helpful step in getting there, especially as we continue through this season of lent, is to remember that we were playing a zero sum… Continue reading Benediction: Isaiah 42:1-9

Benediction: Luke 2:8-20

I’m really fascinated by the Shepherds. This reprehensible, foul-smelling, swearing, group of men that spend their days with stupid animals, far from the center of anything important. But I’m really fixated on the moment of entry into the stable, or cave, or whatever it actually was where Jesus was born. Joseph, after the previous night’s… Continue reading Benediction: Luke 2:8-20

Benediction: Luke 1:26-28

I’ve always been fascinated by the “Island of Misfit Toys”. But it’s also always bothered me, because honestly, most of the residents aren’t that misfitted — a lot of them are really just misnamed and if I were empty-handed and on my to a child’s birthday party, I wouldn’t feel that terrible about buying one… Continue reading Benediction: Luke 1:26-28

Benediction: Luke 2:22-28

If I were asked what emotion I most associate with Christmas, it would probably be melancholy. Not sadness, but whatever feeling it is that accompanies “Christmas Time is Here” from a Charlie Brown Christmas. That lonely melody, to which a chorus of children sing “Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer, fun for all that… Continue reading Benediction: Luke 2:22-28

Benediction: Philippians 3:1-14

In the Old Testament, God established many feasts and celebrations. These were often command performances — no opting out. Because God loves His parties, and while they are certainly for His people, they are not about His people–but about His provision, His love, His faithfulness. I have to imagine there were plenty of Jewish people… Continue reading Benediction: Philippians 3:1-14

Benediction: Philippians 3:15-21

Wendell Berry has characterized modern political discourse as “groups pressuring other groups to do the things they themselves are unwilling to do.” Certainly the way we vote should reflect the love we are called to as Christians, but if it is not accompanied by person to person expressions of that same love, what good is… Continue reading Benediction: Philippians 3:15-21

Benediction: Matthew 11

Jesus invites his listeners — “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens.” You’re burdens aren’t too heavy. You’re not too stuck. Jesus is in the business of defying expectations, defeating death and raising us from the grave. Move toward him. Take a step toward the God of Grace.Go in… Continue reading Benediction: Matthew 11

Benediction: John 13:34

When John first heard the commandment “as I have loved you” he may have thought it was a reachable goal. But I imagine him standing at the foot of the cross remembering “as I have loved you” and realizing that it was always an impossibly high bar. But at the same time realizing what it… Continue reading Benediction: John 13:34

Benediction: Mark 5:21-43

When you’re afraid, when you’re alone, when you’re angry, when you’re hurting, when you’re overwhelmed with the reality that there’s not a part of you that isn’t broken, when you’re at the end of your rope, may you let go and fall into the hands of Jesus May you be constantly surprised by the grace… Continue reading Benediction: Mark 5:21-43

Benediction: Ruth 2

We risk when we value what we can gain and determine that we can ultimately afford the potential cost–whether it is a lot of money, a relationship, an experience of pain, our pride, or whatever else we put on the line. But what if the cost was a 100% chance of betrayal by closest friends,… Continue reading Benediction: Ruth 2