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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John Calvin sermon by Chuck Barrett

topic_john_calvin.jpgJohn Calvin is in some ways the New York Yankees of Protestant theology. People either adore him or despise him, but it’s almost impossible to have no opinion of him.

But who was he? What events shaped him into the person he was? And how did his life and teaching influence the Protestant Reformation that we celebrate this year?

Title: John Calvin

Text: Hebrews 1

Sermon audio

Chuck’s Recommended Resources on John Calvin

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A Word about Fruitfulness


image courtesy of claitors

The age in which we live is obsessed with data. Statisticians have created elegant formulae to analyze everything from the economy to sports. So it is only natural for believers to carry that same thinking into the church. Are there metrics by which we can analyze whether we’re doing a good job? Some would say absolutely yes. The measurement of whether a church is doing well is found in outward success: growing attendance, increased membership, more baptisms, bigger giving. After all, numbers mean souls.

But what about churches in rural communities? What about Jeremiah? Bigger numbers alone cannot be the ultimate goal, so other Christians conclude that the measurement of whether a church is doing well is not found in outward success but in persistent faithfulness. We are to look instead to see whether we’re being faithful. Are we doing the right things? Preaching the Bible? Evangelizing? Then we’re all right, regardless of outward success.

But while there is a lot to like about this view, there’s still something lacking. Most of us have encountered churches that might be described by the phrase dead orthodoxy: the doctrine is sound, the programs are traditional, they’re doing the right things—and yet they are lifeless. And in those cases, faithfulness can actually become a justification for that very lifelessness: “we’re just sticking by the stuff.” In other words faithfulness can become the mirror opposite idol of success, just another way to justify ourselves before God.

Is there then a way to evaluate what we’re doing as a church? Is there any indication as to what we’re doing is right? Jesus answers this question in today’s passage.

Title: A Word about Fruitfulness (sermon preached March 19, 2017)

Text: Luke 13.6–21


  • cataclysm
  • tension
  • people


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A Word about Expectations

022716ciojacobstein1_1280x720.jpgA report in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal predicted that the rise of artificial intelligence will likely disturb job markets quite extensively in the very near future. And it’s not just blue collar work, like factory jobs or drivers, that will be replaced. One expert noted the development of an AI in London that predicts pulmonary hypertension better than cardiologists. The status quo is changing, a new order is coming, so people have to be ready.

Whether their prediction that such a world will arrive in the next ten to fifteen years (or at all) is not certain. But Jesus notes in today’s passage that in a much more profound way, the status quo we currently experience is not eternal and a new order is on the way—and it might not be at all what we expect.

Title: A Word about Expectations

Text: Luke 12.35–48


  • two analogies
  • two advents
  • the bad news and the good


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