I’m just finishing up reading Shauna Niequist’s book, I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet, and I’m touched by the way she walks back through these last couple of years and details her own pain and struggle.
I believe 2020-2022 have been the hardest years of my own life, and I think that’s true of everyone I know in my own generation. We’re exhausted. My wife is a Northwest Arkansas therapist and she’s more covered up than anyone should ever be and the calls just keep coming.
This past weekend, we dealt with the report about the Southern Baptist Convention’s sexual abuse scandal and, before we could catch our breath, we were dealing with another school shooting. Both issues automatically incite a range of political viewpoints and strong emotions.
I want to offer a word of encouragement for those of you who serve on the frontlines. When you’re preaching and serving and leading the church the best you can, you should realize that you cannot possibly please everyone. You will disappoint people.
But you didn’t go into ministry to please people, did you? You entered ministry because you believed God was calling you to make the name of Jesus and his good news known more broadly by as many people as possible.
Keep it up! The world has never needed the gospel more than today!
This past week, I wrote a piece about How to Make Church Safe Again and wanted to pass it along. I’ve already heard from church leaders who are going to use it to start a discussion amongst their staff members and leaders in the next week or two.
Please remember that I do coach church leaders and have some openings right now, whether you need wisdom about your next steps in leadership or need to work through personal issues of burnout and spiritual growth.
Enjoy The Reflectionary this week and please feel free to share it with others!
Lectionary Sermon Starters
For Sunday, June 5, 2022
Pentecost Sunday, Year C
In case you need it:
There is the Kingdom of God – the realm in which God rules and reigns. Jesus came announcing the nearness and availability of God’s Kingdom rule to anyone who would welcome it.
Throughout the Bible are scattered the records of a thousand other little kingdoms, built by men generally uninterested in yielding to God’s influence and control. Chief among these kingdoms is Babel. Elsewhere, Babel is Babylon or Shinar.
And from the first book in the Bible until the last, this city represents the best (or worst, depending on how one views it) of what man can produce and create apart from God’s kingdom rule.
I’m not sure why this particular story was passed down from one generation to the next before making its way into the Hebrew scriptures, but I do believe there is one, big glaring point for us today.
Whatever we build of our own little kingdom – whether on our own or in cooperation with millions of other humans – is at best, temporary and at worst, evil.
This little kingdom of Babel was brought down. It would be brought down again in Nebuchadnezzar’s day and is promised another momentous ruin in the Revelation. And the big takeaway for each of us is:
Are you going to invest your life in building your own little kingdom? Your tower of Babel? Or will you allow God to come into your life to offer his rule and his grace so that you can invest the rest of your life in a Kingdom that will outlast everything?
Aside from the resurrection of Jesus, no event in the history of Christianity has created as much awe and wonder as the Day of Pentecost, when the church left behind by Jesus gathered and experienced an outpouring of God’s Spirit and powerfully gave witness to Christ.
The point of Pentecost has been the subject of debate amongst various scholars and denominational traditions for hundreds of years now. What we can certainly agree on is this: The church was never the same after this day.
Until Pentecost, we see the disciples confused, immature, and hiding. After Pentecost, they are boldly facing persecution and powerfully giving witness to the risen Christ.
Whether you believe that this day was the beginning of a new kind of spiritual baptism or simply the mass empowering of God’s people once and for all in this present age, perhaps the bigger points of the story are these:
- God shows his power. He doesn’t leave us hanging forever. We see in this story a God who shows up, in his own way, in his own timing, and for his own purposes.
- God shares the moment. The disciples, themselves, participated in the greatest miracle of all on that day – the sharing of the good news about Jesus with people from all walks of life. And we still participate in his work today.
- God draws more people. Seventeen languages were understood that day, demonstrating that God wasn’t merely interested in a Jerusalem-based Jewish movement but was planting the seeds for a worldwide, multi-cultural movement to spread the very good gospel to the ends of the earth.
I’ve never attempted to stage a repeat of the Day of Pentecost, even on those biggest of Sundays when the crowd is at its largest. But I do believe we should hunger to enter into the empowering work God began that day. And I believe God invites us into it anytime we’re ready.
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
In the Genesis reading (11:1-9), we see the pinnacle of early mankind’s accomplishments apart from God, which didn’t and couldn’t last.
The 104th psalm gives us a grand tour of the universe and puts on display what God has created. And there is no comparison.
The universe God has created is absolutely mind-boggling. For example:
- It takes our sun 225 million years to travel around our galaxy one time.
- A spoonful of a neutron star weighs around one million tons.
- There are an estimated 400 billion stars in our galaxy.
- There could be 500 million planets in our galaxy that could sustain life.
- There are over 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe.
- The human brain is the most complex object in the known universe.
All of these facts about the universe beyond earth’s atmosphere are cool, but what’s even more amazing is the fine detail with which God has carefully crafted life on earth. We live in a beautiful world.
Everything about all of nature is designed to be a reflection of the goodness and character of its Creator, including you!
God formed you for his family! The Spirit of God bears witness within us to the intimacy of the relationship we get to enjoy with God.
Paul here likens that relationship to the intimacy between an adoptive parent and an adopted child. In these few short verses, he lays before us the great privilege of being a part of God’s family.
- We are forever free, never to be in spiritual bondage again.
- We have a forever home, never to be orphaned or left alone again.
- We enjoy the continual presence of God within us as God’s Spirit never leaves.
- We inherit all that God created when we enter into an eternal relationship with him.
Romans 8 is perhaps the most hope-filled chapter in the entire New Testament in terms of what it means to be a child of God and a follower of Jesus. God truly means for this life to be enjoyed to the full!
John 14:8-17, 25-27
If there was ever a moment in which Jesus likely felt a sense of frustration with one of his disciples, it had to be this moment with Phillip.
The Lord had literally just finished explicitly spelling out the truth that if you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father, and Phillip chooses that moment to ask Jesus, “Will you show us the Father?”
And Phillip is, in a sense, all of us.
Through Jesus, through scripture, through history and tradition, through nature, and through reason God has revealed and communicated spiritual truth to us. He has placed at our disposal many of the mysteries of the universe. He’s shown us who he is and what he is like.
And after having received all of this revelation, we often, like Phillip, still don’t get it. So we ask for more.
And when we ask for more of God, he graciously gives himself more fully to us. Jesus even issues the promise that those who believe in him and his teachings will not only do the kinds of amazing things Jesus has done but will actually do even greater things than Jesus.
Does this mean we will have more supernatural power at our disposal than Jesus himself? No, not exactly. What it does mean is that while Jesus was able to accomplish such great things during his life, he barely scratched the surface in terms of showing the world the power of the gospel.
In our era, in obedience to the Great Commission and in partnership with the ever-present, empowering Holy Spirit, we get to take that message to the very ends of the earth to see the lives of billions transformed for all eternity!
Creative Sermon Series Ideas from MinistryPass
My favorite resource for sermon series and message ideas, complete series graphics, and video bumpers (but NOT full notes or sermon outlines) to get you started is MinistryPass! Each week, I’ll feature a series I would recommend checking out for the upcoming season of the church year. This week:
From the Description:
This eight-week sermon series will take the congregation on a journey through Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Throughout this series, the congregation will hear Jesus invite them to follow him as he preaches about the coming of the kingdom of God.
Books, Links, and Resources for Pastors and Church Leaders
I also want to share helpful and encouraging resources each week including articles I’ve read, books I love, and practical tools for leadership. This week:
- Dale Hudson writes about How to Talk to Kids About Shootings.
- Pastor Rick Warren steps in with Nine Reasons for Your Burnout.
- Geoff Surratt hits the nail on the head with 5 Crucial Changes to Address Sexual Sin in the Church.
- Carey Nieuwhof addresses the trend of deconstruction very well in 7 Practical Ways to Counter The Wave of Deconstruction.
- Scott Cochrane shares a big leadership principle with How To Build Healthy Culture In the Midst Of Heated Debate.
- Brandon Kelley offers wisdom in 3 Areas Pastors Can’t Ignore to Lead the Church Effectively.
- Bishop Rob Wright interviews Catherine Meeks on the subject of Courage.
- This week, I have to recommend A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing by Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer
- And Nonviolence: The Revolutionary Way of Jesus, by Preston Sprinkle.
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Coaching for Pastors and Leaders
When a leader grows, the world gets better. Healthy teams, led by healthy leaders, create healthy organizations! Whether you’re going through transition, walking through discouragement, or pressing onward enthusiastically, I’d love to have a conversation with you about what leadership coaching can do for you and your church or organization.
Also, if your church needs help with communications, website design, social media, or marketing with paid ads to reach newcomers, that’s what I do full-time now and I’d love to help!