Sunday, August 21, 2016

If it Delays... (Preach It Again!)

If it Delays (PiA) from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Luke 17:20-24
20Pharisees asked Jesus when God’s kingdom was coming. He replied, “God’s kingdom isn’t coming with signs that are easily noticed. 21Nor will it say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Don’t you see? God’s kingdom is already among you.”

22Then Jesus said to the disciples, “The time will come when you long to see one of the days of the Human One, and you won’t see it. 23People will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Don’t leave or go chasing after them. 24The Human One will appear on his day in the same way a flash of lightning lights up the sky from one end to the other.”
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God 

Habakkuk 2:2-4, 18-20
2Then the LORD answered me and said,
Write a vision,
and make it plain upon a tablet,
So that a runner can read it.
3There’s still a vision
for the appointed time;
it testifies to the end;
it does not deceive.
If it delays, wait for it;
for it is surely coming;
it will not be late.
4Some people’s desires
are truly audacious;
They don’t do the right thing.
But the righteous person
will live honestly.

18Of what value is an idol,
when its potter carves it,
or a cast image that has been shaped?
It is a teacher of lies,
for the potter trusts the pottery, though it is incapable of speaking.
19Doom to the one who says to the tree,
“Wake Up!”
or “Get up” to the silent stone.
Does it teach?
Look, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
but there is no breath within it.
20But the LORD is in his holy temple.
Let all the earth be silent before him.
This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Afraid to Ask (Preach It Again!)

Afraid to Ask (Preach it Again!) from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 20-25
4Hear O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
20When your children ask you in time to come, “What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the LORD our God has commanded you?” 21then you shall say to your children, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out with a mighty hand. 22The LORD displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. 23He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24Then the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case. 25If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Mark 9: 30-37
30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37”Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

A number of year ago, I had the opportunity to worship at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. ITC is a consortium of six Historically Black Seminaries from various different theological backgrounds. Together, those six schools build a boundary-crossing theological education. The students and faculty at ITC have shaped theological discussion across the country for fifty years or more.

In the mid-week chapel service I attended, the preacher lifted up an ancient proverb from the West African country of Ghana. “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.”

“It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot.”

“Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” “It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot.”

Jesus and the disciples are headed back through familiar territory. They’re returning from a mountaintop transfiguration, they have passed through the healing prayer “I believe, help my unbelief.” “They went on from there and passed through Galilee”

This passage does not contain new healings, new deeds of power, or new sermons to vast new crowds. “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot. This passage is a review. The mysteries are already revealed. This is a text where Jesus is teaching the intimate circle of disciples. We can see ourselves in the reflection of Christ’s early disciples, following our Lord through the familiar territory of the churches and communities in which we were raised. We step back into the traditions of our ancestors so that we may remember “the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the LORD our God has commanded [us].”

“Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” “It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot.” We have come back to this familiar territory, and Jesus reminds us why we are here, “…Saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’”

The promised hope of the cross and the empty tomb is worth remembering even if we do not fully understand it. This is the second time Jesus has predicted his death and resurrection. “But [the disciples] did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.” Verse 32 tells us that they did not understand, and their actions in verses 33 and 34 show that they do not understand. “Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked home, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way that had argued with one another who was the greatest.” The disciples have lost sight of the gospel, so they revert back to arguing over their own greatness.

Hey disciples, there’s something you may have forgot. You may want to go back and review. The gospel is not about advancing our own greatness, it’s about declaring the greatness of God. Christianity is not an olympic event or a political platform, or a specific checklist of morality. God does not grant high scores based on performance. The only one who has won is Christ. Every aspect of the Christian life should proclaim the gospel, because the gospel story is the bedrock of our identity. Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi. It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot. Go back to the text, go back to the gospel, go back to the unyielding grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, go back because you may have forgot that our lives are based on love of God and neighbor, and on the teachings which Christ has commanded us. Christian living reminds us of the power of the gospel to transform our hearts. We live lives of love and service because God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.

So Jesus brings us back, and gives us once again that which we may have forgot. “[Jesus] sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’” The disciples have got to get that “which of us is the greatest” nonsense out of their heads and be claimed by the cross, wrapped in the sure hope that resurrection is waiting on the other side. Jesus did not come to make Jerusalem great again. Christ is not called to drive out the Roman empire and re-establish a Davidic King in Judea. “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.”

The disciples did not understand. Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi. They needed to return through the familiar territory of Galilee, they needed to return the the stories of their ancestors for what they had forgot. They had forgotten that if God had stopped at bringing them out of Egypt it would have been enough. They had forgotten that if God had stopped at leading us through the Red Sea to liberation, it would have been enough. They had forgotten that if God had only given us the Torah, it would have been enough.

But whenever we return to our traditions, to the stories that form who we are, we find that God is still working on us. God is still active, fulfilling the covenant in new ways, not for our greatness, but to show his own. The disciples, though, were so caught up in pursuit of their own greatness that they had forgotten with whom they were dealing. When they didn’t understand, they were afraid to ask. Because asking is disruptive, is risks losing our position, because we may look foolish.

But what if they had not been afraid to ask? What if instead of arguing about which of them was the greatest, they had gone back to their Lord for the good news which they had forgot. I wonder how this story would have been different if the disciples had not been afraid to ask. I wonder how Jesus would have replied if they had reached out in faith. What if they had asked, “Lord, why must it be this way? What is the meaning of your suffering and death?”

Perhaps that’s why Jesus put a child in their midst. This is not the meek-and-mild, well trained model of politeness kind of child. This is the little one who, I can tell you from personal experience, is disruptive of your routine and life. The child Jesus tells us to welcome is the one who asks questions that make us re-evaluate why we do what we do, who makes us go back and remember the stories that shape who we are as the People of God. We welcome the disruptive one because he is not afraid to ask, not afraid to learn more about what she doesn’t understand. That one, who challenges us to go back for what we may have forgot, is the one through whom we welcome Jesus, and the one who sent Jesus.

It is not wrong, after all, to go back for that which you may have forgot. The disciples have forgotten that “The LORD displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household.” They did not realize that in handing over the Son of Man, in allowing him to be killed, and in raising him from the dead, God was bringing us out of bondage once again. Only this time, it wasn’t merely political or economic bondage.

“Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” We must go back, time and time again, to remember that once we were slaves to sin and death, but the LORD brought us out with a mighty hand. We must never be afraid to ask what God is doing, because it is not wrong to go back and get that which you may have forgot. The LORD displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders, breaking the power of sin and death through Christ’s death and resurrection.

When your children ask you in time to come, “What is the meaning of our Christian living? Why do we got to worship every week? Why do we not argue over our own greatness?” Then you will remember that Christian living grows from the Christian narrative of grace and hope. The source of Christian hope is Christian memory, for we remember the stories. We remember that the Son of Man was betrayed into human hands, that they we killed him, and three days after being killed, he rose again. That hope means we do not need to argue over who is greatest. Grace is not a competition, it’s a free gift. We know who is greatest, the LORD our God, the LORD alone. And even if we forget, “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.”

Then you shall say to your children, in parallel with our spiritual ancestors, that once we were slaves to sin and death, but God brought us out with a mighty hand. He brought Christ out from there in order to bring us in, to give us eternal life that he promised on oath to our ancestors. “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot, because regardless of our forgetting, we are welcomed into Christ’s household as children. And Jesus “took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’” The good news of God, that the kingdom of God is at hand, is shown in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Though we are prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love, we are not afraid to ask, because “Si wo were fina wosankofa a yenkyi.” It is not wrong to go back for that which you may have forgot. We are not afraid to ask what God is doing. We are not afraid to ask after our sovereign Lord. We are not afraid to live our lives in faith. We are not afraid to ask, because even if we forget, even if we wander off, we have seen the steadfast love God has shown us, is showing us still, and will show us from now to the end of the age.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

For Christ's Sake (Preach it Again!)

Note: This is part of the "Preach it Again!" series, where my congregation chooses which sermon gets revisited. For the original version of this sermon, click here.

John 17:1-8
1After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

6‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

Ezekiel 36:22-38
22Say to the House of Israel: Thus said the LORD GOD: Not for your sake will I act, O House of Israel, but for My holy name, which you have caused to be profaned among the nations to which you have come. 23I will sanctify My great name which has been profaned among the nations - among whom you have caused it to be profaned. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD - declares the LORD GOD - when I manifest my holiness before their eyes through you. 24I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you back to your own land. 25I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean: I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes. 26And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you: I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh; 27and I will put My spirit into you. Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules. 28Then you shall dwell in the land which I have given to your fathers; and you shall be my people and I will be your God.

29And when I have delivered you from all your uncleanness, I will summon the grain and make it abundant, and I will not bring famine upon you. 30I will make the fruit of your trees and the crops of your fields abundant, so that you shall never again be humiliated before the nations because of famine. 31Then you shall recall your evil ways and your base conduct, and you shall loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abhorrent practices. 32Not for your sake will I act - declares the LORD GOD - take good note! Be ashamed and humiliated because of your ways, O House of Israel!

33Thus said the LORD GOD: When I have cleansed you of all your iniquities, I will people your settlements, and the ruined places shall be rebuilt; 34 and the desolate land, after lying waste in the sight of every passerby, shall again be tilled. 35And men shall say, “That land, once desolate, has become like the garden of Eden; and the cities, once ruined, desolate, and ravaged, are now populated and fortified.” 36And the nations that are left around you shall know that I the LORD have rebuilt the ravaged places and replanted the desolate land. I the LORD have spoken and will act.

37Thus said the Lord God: Moreover, in this I will respond to the House of Israel and act for their sake: I will multiply their people like sheep. 38As Jerusalem is filled with sacrificial sheep during her festivals, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. And they shall know that I am the LORD.

This is the Word of The Lord
Thanks Be to God

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Not Perfect

Not Perfect from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Colossians 3:1-11
1So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him glory.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly; fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. 8But now you must get rid of all such things - anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Hosea 11:1-11
1When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.

3Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. 4I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.

5They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. 6The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes. 7My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all.

8How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. 9I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

10They shall go after the LORD, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west. 11They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Familiar Story

Familiar Story from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Deuteronomy 30:6-10
6Moreover, the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the LOURD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live. 7The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies and on the adversaries who took advantage of you. 8Then you shall again obey the LORD, observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, 9and the LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, 10when you obey the LORD your God by observing his commandments and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Luke 10:25-37
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26he said to him, “What is written in the law? what do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31.Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Do Something Difficult

Do Something Difficult from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Luke 10:1-11, 17-20
1After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in parts to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace; your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demon submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

II Kings 5:1-4
1Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’ 4So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

8But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ 11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

15Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before  him and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant." 16But he said, "As the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!" He urged him to accept, but he refused.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Strengthened by Grace

Strengthened by Grace from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Luke 8:16-18
16”No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lamp stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17For mother is hidden that will not be disclosed, not is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. 18Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Hebrews 13:7-21
7Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them. 10We have an altar from which those who officiate in the tent have no right to eat. 11For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his blood.

13Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. 14For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 15Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

17Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing - for that would be harmful to you.

18Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon.

20Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.