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Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

A Weak “Post”

I recently preached a sermon as part of our series on advent last week.  The audio is available here.  This was special for me because it marks the first time I’ve officiated (right term?) the Lord’s Supper in our church.  The audio is special because you get to hear my extremely talented friends sing a favorite song of mine at the end.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all (both?) of us here at BBG.  We hope you and yours have a great time remembering the astounding miracle we celebrate each Christmas.  As Luther said, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.”

4.  Since I clearly cannot maintain a blog with any regularity, I’ve recently joined twitter: @BMarchionni.  Perhaps I can manage to put out 140 characters of pith on a regular basis.  Hold your breath.

3.  The sermon I preached at The Harbor a few weeks ago is now available here.  Astute listeners will notice much overlap with the sermon I preached from Ps.107 earlier in the year, which is by design.  The sermon is actually an amalgam of the sermon on Ps.107 and another one I preached from Is.55 years ago.  It was a last minute opportunity, so I had only a few days to prepare.  In the process, I learned that it is extremely difficult to preach the same sermon (or even something similar to the same sermon) twice.  In the end, I probably spent as much time modifying, cutting and cleaning the pieces of the two sermons as I would have if I started over from scratch.

2.  Regarding Christmas, or more technically speaking, the Incarnation, I’ve always loved C.S. Lewis’ illustration:

Lying at your feet is your dog. Imagine, for the moment, that your dog and every dog is in deep distress. Some of us love dogs very much. If it would help all the dogs in the world to become like men, would you be willing to become a dog? Would you put down your human nature, leave your loved ones, your job, hobbies, your art and literature and music, and choose instead of the intimate communion with your beloved, the poor substitute of looking into the beloved’s face and wagging your tail, unable to smile or speak? Christ by becoming man limited the thing which to Him was the most precious thing in the world; his unhampered, unhindered communion with the Father.

1.  I recently caught a half-hour or so of BBC’s “Planet Earth” that focussed on the jungle, and had to manually re-attach my jaw.  The beauty and diversity of nature – however fallen – can easily fry my circuits when I consider what awaits us in the life to come, when He makes everything new.  If words cannot do justice to some of the beauty and wonder we experience now, how much more so for the New Heavens and Earth?  Statements like, “God is amazing,” in such a context seem so hopelessly impoverished.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons why our praise and worship needs to extend beyond what we can speak, write or sing.

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New Sermon

The sermon I preached on God’s Word is now available at The River’s website (or here, if you want to download).  As is my custom, I have nothing else to write…for now :)

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Last Sermon of the Summer

The sermon I preached at the Harbor a few weeks ago is available here.  I promise my next post will be actual written content, rather than another sermon link :)

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The sermon I preached in late June on 1 Cor. 15 is available here.

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Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 4:16)

I recently watched a sermon by Matt Chandler that has caught me in some interesting tensions.  In his sermon, Chandler offers a “test” by which one can know that they have really grasped the Gospel (my words, not his; and to be fair, the following loosely paraphrases his point, which was not the main point of his message).  The test boils down to this:  Do you approach God any differently on a good day versus a bad day?

Consider the bad day:  You wake in the morning with a complaining, ungrateful heart, skip your morning devotions, back slide into one of your recurring sin patterns, wimp out when you feel like you should share with the stranger sitting next to you on the bus, and short change your family in favor of watching the Bruins game, eventually falling asleep discouraged and convicted by your sin.  In every regard, you blow it.  Now, consider the good day:  Your morning is marked by a powerful encounter with God through His Word, you meet a friend in need and bring them encouragement and truth to help them through their hard time, you lead that stranger on the bus to Christ and plan to meet them at church that week, and you skip the Bruins game to finish your translation work for the sermon series in Hebrews, but only after you’ve spent another hour in deep, soul-satisfying prayer, and have given a month’s pay to a missionary couple heading to Bhutan.  In every regard, you “nail it” (to use Chandler’s language).

After either of these days, do you approach the Lord in prayer with any more or less confidence that He hears you?  Loves you?  Delights in you?  The short way of presenting this “test” might be: “How does your performance affect your posture to God?”  If you get the Gospel, Chandler says, it doesn’t.  You know that it is not by your righteousness that you have God’s ear, but by Christ’s, and you know that your righteous works “are as filthy rags” anyway, so on either day, you are equally confident and aware of God’s love, acceptance and attention.

On the surface, I like this “test.”   I think it illustrates the point of being saved by grace through faith quite clearly.  While I do take it as a mere illustration (i.e., not a systematic, precise, delicately nuanced description of our lives in Christ), it leaves me dealing with all sorts of tensions, some of which are quite  illuminating.  To throw out two:

(1)  Confidence and humility.  While we may approach God with confidence (on the basis of what Jesus has done for us), scripture testifies that we must also do so humbly (e.g., Lk.18:9-14, 1 Pet. 5:6, and about a million other places).  I think this is a tension for me because I’m not used to being confident without being prideful, or at best, confidence is often the slippery slope that leads me to pride.  Perhaps the reason here is that my confidence is often misplaced.  After all, one usually has a basis for one’s confidence.  Mine too often falls on my own ability or performance.  Don’t blink, because we’re right back at the Gospel again:  It’s about Jesus; who He is and what He’s done, not me.

(2)  Pleasure and displeasure.  Certainly God does not delight in my sin.  Yet, even though I still sin, in Christ, I’m white as snow.  So God takes pleasure in me as I’m in Christ, yet displeasure when I sin (which is quite often).  This tension can probably be filed in the (bulging) “already/not yet” folder, but for now it leaves me in an interesting place:  Do I not feel guilt and shame when I sin?  Am I not overjoyed when I experience victory over my sin?  So how could my good and bad days look the same with respect to my posture towards God?  Here, I think my tendency is to confuse emotions with reality.  I can feel ashamed and guilty as I approach God on my bad day, yet I remember that in reality I’m free of all guilt and shame.  I can feel joyous on my good day, yet I remember that in reality I’ve nothing good in myself; it’s all thanks to God.

Here are two examples of how the gospel changes everything.  To point (1), Confidence and humility can co-exist because the confidence is placed in someone other than ourselves.  For point (2), our standing before God doesn’t require us to trivialize sin, nor does it require us to exalt ourselves.   We can be simultaneously sorrowful (“I’m a sinner!  Forgive me!”) and joyful (“Praise be to God that I’m forgiven!”), or, joyful (“I spent my entire day helping the poor!”) and humble (“Thank you God for giving me a heart for the poor!”)

In all, I’d say Chandler’s “test” probably does require plenty of explanation and refining if we want to carry it beyond illustrative purposes; It’s certainly not meant to answer the question of one’s personal salvation (i.e., “I failed the test!  I must not be saved!”).  But as a point of meditation, or a question to ask yourself, it can be helpful, revealing, convicting and encouraging all at once, much like the Gospel itself.

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Good Friday Sermon

I got a hold of the audio for the sermon I preached on Good Friday.  Click here to listen and/or download.

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