A Word about Hell, A Word about Privilege


image courtesy of PJ Media

The story of the rich man and Lazarus is one of the best-known of Jesus’ parables in the New Testament. But what is it about? What is the point?

It seems quite clear: the story is about hell. Perhaps every sermon I’ve ever heard on this passage has zeroed in on verse 24, and specifically the words “agony” and “fire.” Whole messages have been built on those two words.

But as I’ve reflected on this story, I think that focus actually misses the point. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying it isn’t about hell. But I am suggesting that it’s not mainly about hell. And like Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” if you listen carefully to what Author of this parable says—not only within the text itself but also in its context—you might discover the main point makes Jesus’ words about hell all the more vivid.

Title: A Word about Hell, A Word about Privilege

Text: Luke 16.19–31


  • contrast
  • reversal
  • help


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A Word about Shrewdness?


photo courtesy of money crashers

Jesus’ parables can be difficult to understand for many different reasons. Some are challenging because of their cultural distance from our late modern world (for example, the parable of the ten virgins). Others deal with difficult topics, like money or hell. Still more leave readers wondering what point Jesus was making, such as the last of the kingdom parables in Matthew 13).

This passage includes all three challenges, and for that reason demands much reflection. When I first laid out our sermon series on Jesus’ parables in Luke, I entitled this message “A Word about Shrewdness.” But the more I think about it, the less I believe shrewdness is really the main point. What our Lord is talking about gets at the heart of who we are, and why we’re here.

Title: A Word about Shrewdness?

Text: Luke 16.1–15


  • summary
  • contrast
  • investment


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A Word about Living Again


image courtesy of minotfirstnaz

The story of the prodigal son—and his older brother—tells us of two ways that we can be dead while still living. And it points away to the One who was dead but is alive again, whom we celebrate on this Resurrection Sunday.

Included in this audio is the testimony of the one baptized as part of our worship service.

Title: A Word about Living Again

Text: Luke 15.11–32


  • testimony
  • dying while living
  • dying and rising


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A Word about the King


image courtesy of James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love, p. 13

I distinctly remember the first time I heard this passage explained in a way that left me angry. It was the summer of 1994 and I was a student at Cornell, taking class on political theory. My professor was a highly respected historian, and he worked sequentially through Western political theory beginning with Socrates and Plato and ending with Marx.

This passage came up in his section on Christian theories of politics, during which he focused on three peo: Christ Jesus, Paul, and Augustine). What he said about verse 26 shocked me: “Jesus was a radical who opposed traditional family values.”

I was incensed. How dare he speak like that? And yet over time I’ve come to realize that he had probably reflected on that verse more carefully and more fully than I had. Granted, the professor was trying to be provocative, he sought to incite a response. Then again so was Jesus. But we Christians often try to limit the provocation, the truly radical nature of this statement—and in so doing, we’ve removed the teeth of this passage.

So what was Jesus really saying? What does it mean to hate father and mother and the rest of your family—to follow him? How could Jesus dare to say such a thing?

Title: A Word about the King

Text: Luke 14.25–35


  • disordered loves
  • divine claim
  • terms of peace



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This Weekend at First (4/13/17)

I hope you are doing well and enjoying this beautiful, cool Maundy Thursday. We have a big weekend in store. Here’s a look ahead to what our Lord has for us.

Tonight at 6.30pm: The Messiah in the Passover
Mitch_Glaser-Web.jpgMitch Glaser of Chosen People Ministries will be with us to lead a Passover Seder, showing us how this festival points to Jesus the Messiah. Mitch will conduct a demonstration at the beginning of our time together, so be sure to come on time. A meal will follow the demonstration. If you haven’t signed up, there are just a few seats remaining. Call the church office to reserve your spot as soon as possible (212.724.5600).

Tomorrow from 12pm to 3pm: Open Door
The sanctuary will be open from noon until 3pm tomorrow (Good Friday) if you’d like a place to pray, read Scripture, and reflect on the cross. A prayer guide will be provided for those who would like one.

Sunday at 10am: Community Brunch
In lieu of Sunday school, we will enjoy brunch together in the Chapel at 10am. This is not just for members but also for friends and guests. There is no charge, and everyone is welcome.

Sunday at 11am: Resurrection Celebration
We look forward to celebrating our Risen Lord during our Easter worship service. Come expectant for the Spirit to work in our midst as we sing his praise, pray with one another, hear his word to us, and witness the baptism of a new follower of Christ. It will be a fantastic day, and we look forward to rejoicing together.

Hope to see you tonight!

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