Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Preaching at Wheaton - a visual

Half-way through my summer interim preaching I thought I would give a visual! This is me making a point (!) in the "contemporary" service, which is held downstairs in the gymnasium. Many thanks to my gifted photographer friend Jim Whitmer who took it without my noticing and suggested I post it on my blog.

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No, that won't do! I suggested yesterday that I finish the Scripture reading at Mark 8:33 but the more I look at the text the more I realize I have to go onto 9:1! I know it involves much more detail but the rebuke Jesus gives Peter (verse 31) leads into verse 34...."Then he called the crowd to him...."

This gives an extraordinary context for the questions Jesus asks. Though it's still early on in my preparation (it often takes me more than twelve solid hours!) my sermon impact is shaping up like this:

By God's grace, what this sermon will SAY: Jesus asks questions about eyesight, and about himself with a specific personal question about "Who do YOU say that I am?", yet he opens up demanding teaching about his own suffering and what discipleship means. What this sermon will DO: challenge each of us afresh about personal faith and personal discipleship.

I know July 4th. will be a Party Day, but what a difference it makes to EVERYTHING to hear these questions of Jesus! Let's go on preparing.

Monday, June 28, 2010

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Yesterday's sermon on "Who are my mother and my brothers?" led to several responses, including some very painful ones. Some have come out of anguished human family relationships into experiencing God's family. Let's go on reflecting on what it means to be brothers and sisters in God's family on any given day!

This coming Sunday we look at Questions of Faith. You will already know in this brief sermon series how important it is to ask where a Scripture passage begins and ends! This week I invite you to immerse in Mark 8:22-33. Yes, it begins with the blind man in Bethsaida. Especially look at the four questions in this passage. Do you see connections between them? And how do they relate to us?

Thank you for partnering with me as we prepare for worship together.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

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In Sunday sermon preparation I have been thinking especially about God's family growing outwardly to do God's will in the world.

I love that description in our weekly church bulletin:
While our building is located at 1310 North Main Street, First Baptist Wheaton is a community of people devoted to following Jesus wherever they find themselves on any given day.

On any given day! This is the scattered church impacting society like salt grains in daily living. In what ways are we practicing as brothers and sisters in God's family on any given day? I am always grateful for stories and insights about real happenings.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

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As I have immersed in Mark 3:20-35 the repercussions of Jesus' question: "Who are my mother and my brothers?" (verse 33) keep widening. It seems that Jesus is claiming a new kind of family. He looks at his followers and uses the language of family, of blood ties, of love and loyalty, to describe what happens when doing God's will grounds a revolutionary new sort of community. Wow!

It's early days in my preparation but my sermon impact is shaping up like this:
By God's grace, what this sermon will SAY: Jesus shocks us by redefining what it means to belong to his family. And what the sermon will DO: challenge us about the two directions of his "family life" - growing inwardly in love and unity of fellowship and growing outwardly to do God's will in the world.

It's clearly a question with radical implications. I should love to hear any stories from you about your experiences of being in God's family. If they are confidential please use my personal email: mjquicke@yahoo.com As always, thanks for sharing in our worship preparation together.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

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Next Sunday (June 27) we hear a radical question from Jesus: "Who are my mother and my brothers?" (Mark 3:33). I call it a Question about Family. And what a question!

Often, looking at a Scripture passage it is difficult knowing where it is best to begin and end. Here, it is tempting just to focus on Mark 3:31-35. In the NIV (for example) these verses form a separate section. However, it seems to me that we ought to begin at Mark 3:20 in order to see the wider context. So let's look at Mark 3:20-35.

As in previous weeks I invite you to immerse in this passage with me, being particularly aware of the question that Jesus asks. I am really encouraged to know that many of you are following these posts. One or two have said they almost posted a comment! Please do! But if you would prefer just to say something personally to me then please use: mjquicke@yahoo.com Thank you for preparing with me. It makes so much difference.

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These very odd questions to fathers about snakes and scorpions triggered an unusual sermon about prayer this morning! A couple of things caused particular comment.

First, my prayer journal book (I only showed it during the 9.00 am service) relating to how a particular church practiced prayer from 1980-1993. My wife Carol said I should have shared at least one (!) story from it about the way that God, our heavenly Father, worked (extraordinarily) through the prayers of his children. Perhaps at another time! But I am looking forward to what God is going to do with his praying children at FBC.

Second, the FATHER acrostic. I suggested some key implications from Luke 11:1-13:

F - FOCUS - on Matt. 6:6 - about the room, closed door, and prayer to the unseen Father. Take specific practical action focusing on the real relationship made possible through Jesus. He is unseen, but this spiritual relationship is the most important one for eternity.

A - ADORATION - there is no one like our heavenly Father, Creator, Holy, Wise, Loving and Gracious. Let's use Bible descriptions to praise Him as he deserves.

T - THANKSGIVING - because everything good in life is His gift. We should try to get into double figures every day saying "Thank you Father."

H - HONESTY - it's vital to be "real" in this relationship. Finish sentences which express to God your problems, doubts, fears and possibilities. If you have trouble even beginning to pray, tell him!

E - EVERY DAY - this relationship needs continuous connection. We don't need to spend long periods of time but we do need daily relationship. No days are wasted. There are no unimportant days in God's creation.

R - RECEIVE - in prayer it's what God does that matters most. He promises his Holy Spirit to give strength, healing, conviction, direction and that's the wonder of prayer. He turns "Yes, but how" into " Yes...and how!"

I am sure you can find other ways, better ways, to develop this acrostic. I know that having immersed in this passage again is enlivening my prayer life. May God's word in Luke 11:1-13 help your praying too. I'd love to hear any responses.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

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As I have spent much time this week, concluding with study and prayer today (Saturday), I have grown to see how much tomorrow's sermon on prayer actually relates back to practical questions following last week's question. When Jesus asked the paralyzed man if he wanted to be whole (John 5:6) we know the outcome was his healing. But there is a critical gap, isn't there, between that man hearing good news and actually standing up on his own two feet? It's the practical bit of processding spiritual possibility into reality. I call it the "Yes But How?" bit. Too often we skate over this. We preachers announce good news and move quickly to an assumed good response.

But for anyone who has said, since last week, "Lord I want to be well" how does the practical process of healing and renewal work? How do we put our wills into Jesus' power? How do we get through this interval bit, between hearing good news and living it!

I see tomorrow's sermon on prayer as a vital response to this "Yes But How?" part. When we enter the prayer relationship that Jesus talks about with his heavenly Father (in Luke 11:1-13) then we belong to an intensely practical process. Please pray that tomorrow's worship will help us all grow in practical prayer relationship.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

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As I have immersed in Luke 11:1-13, I have become more convinced than ever that these questions to fathers: "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? throw extraordinary light on Jesus' preceding teaching about prayer. And isn't Father's Day a good day to preach about this?

My sermon impact is shaping up like this:
By God's grace, what this sermon will SAY: Prayer is all about our relationship with God our Father - being, asking and receiving from Him. And what the sermon will DO: awaken us to the wonder of our heavenly Father who gives us to Holy Spirit to help us stay close in relationship, and encourage renewed prayer practice.

Much is going on here. Let's keep preparing and, as always, any of your insights along the way will be gratefully received.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

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When I was planning my sermon series (many weeks ago) I had forgotten that Sunday June 20th. marks Father's Day! Remembering fathers involves a wide range of emotions, but it's good to be positive!

Interestingly, in the list of questions Jesus asked there is one set of questions that specifically asks fathers about their actions. In Luke 11:1-13 we first have some familiar teaching about prayer and a parable, and about waking up a neighbor for bread. Ask, Seek, Knock are key commands. How many times have we heard this?

Then suddenly at verse 11, Jesus addresses some questions to fathers: "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? What's the point of these questions? The more I look at them, the more differences I see they make to all Jesus' preceding teaching about prayer.

So, on this Father's Day it will be good to focus on these questions Jesus asked fathers! As before, I invite you to immerse yourself in this passage. Unlike the last two weeks it is not a narrative text but some teaching. Yet within it, Jesus dramatically engages with us in our family life? What do you see going on here? As always, I am grateful for any responses.

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This morning the second question in the TRUTH SPACES series led us into deep places. When Jesus sees the paralysed man, who had been helpless for 38 years he doesn't immediately say: Get up! Take up your mat and walk. He could have done. Indeed, later he does. No. He slows down the encounter by asking this question: Do you will to be well? (John 5:6)

We saw it's a question about spiritual will-power. Human will-power is about self-belief and says "I can do it." Spiritual will-power is about putting will into Jesus' power to change. Its not self-belief but Jesus-belief; not "I can do it" but "I will that Jesus Christ does this."

We saw how this question about putting our wills in Jesus power addresses physical healing, moral healing, and social healing. At one point I raised the question "What do we believe Jesus is capable of doing in the twenty-first century? Too often modern skepticism about supernatural power has killed off any spiritual will-power to trust in Jesus to make changes in us today."

Several of you promised afterwards to think through personal implications of questions in the bulletin. But we know it's not just a cerebral response that's needed. Indeed, one person said they wanted to go forward for ministry -"How I wish I could have been able to respond there and then!" Let's be open to the Lord who keeps asking: "Do you will to be whole? "

Thank you for praying and preparing alongside me...these questions take us into demanding areas don't they?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

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I don't know about you, but I have found that question in John 5:6: "Do you want to be well?" a very challenging one. Clearly it is a question addressed to the will of this man. The Greek word emphasizes: Do you will to be well? But it's not just about his will-power is it? Is Jesus is asking about how much his will-power is willing to trust in Jesus' power for healing?

And there are several dimensions to the healing too. Obviously it's about physical healing because he is a long-term invalid. But there is also moral healing and even social healing hinted at in this story.

As I prepare the sermon I see its main impact as:
By God's grace what this sermon will SAY : Jesus gives a reality check about our will-power's willingness to trust him for healing - physically, morally and socially. What the sermon will DO: confront our will-power and commitment to trust in his power to make us more whole.

Lots of issues come into my mind and heart from this story. Let's keep open to what He wants to teach us. What particularly impacts you?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

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On June 13th. I shall preach on the next searching question, in John 5:6: "Do you want to get well?" As before, I welcome you to join with me in immersing in the whole story of the healing at the pool in John 5:1-15.

Let me remind of the preparation process I am trying to follow (!):
1) Prayerfully read John 5:1-5 out aloud, spending quality time immersing yourself into this story. Listen with the help of the Holy Spirit.
2) Ask what God is saying and doing in this encounter, especially when Jesus asks this invalid of 38 years the question: "Do you want to get well?" Responding to Scripture means not only understanding its message (what it says) but obeying what is does, at it makes fresh demands on our lives.
3) What surprises you about Jesus' question?
4) Join in with me as I ask the same questions and try to focus on what I call the sermon's main impact: "By God's grace what this sermon will SAY is....and DO is...."
5) If you are able, post your own insights on my blog.
6) Keep praying for the worship on June 13th.
7) And, yes....please post your responses on my blog in the days afterwards.

I am so grateful for all the love of the church family at Wheaton already so evident with just one Sunday gone. Pastor Mike Rowe and Maggie are due to have landed in Turkey earlier today on their sabbatical, and we keep praying for them a time of deep refreshment too.

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Well....we're off! I preached the first in my short TRUTH SPACES sermon series this morning on John 1:38. Several people expressed surprise at the strategic placing of this question "What do you want?" Such an open-ended question lies at the very beginning of Jesus ministry. Yet, Jesus actually knows the answers (John 2:25, Mark 2:8, Matt. 12:25, 22:18) Jesus does not ask questions for him to find out about us, but for us to discover with him what we don't yet know about ourselves.

We saw this honest invitation probes their motives. When they ask where he is staying it seems that they want to know if they can spend more time with Jesus. Will he give them more of himself? By his welcome: "Come and you will see" they learn that Jesus comes alongside with transforming friendship. He is a side-by-side Lord, not a top-down Lord.

This sermon set me thinking. Even between the two services it changed greatly. I continue to think about it as I write more this week. I posed some questions in the service sheet:

1. When Jesus asks: "What do you want?" of people who are following him what sort of answer do we give? (We can follow him out of respect for others, belief, needs and despair). What are our answers now?
2. Jesus invites Andrew and his friend to come and stay with him. In what equivalent ways can we stay with Jesus today? (It was wonderful to conclude with Communion which gave us space and time with Jesus in exactly the way he commanded - but what other ways?)

Many other questions arise too. As you go on thinking please let me know your responses. You can post them here, or send me a confidential email on mquicke@seminary.edu, or hand write a note! Thank you for sharing this journey.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

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I wonder what has surprised you about Jesus question in John 1:38? So much is going on in this story through which God continues to speak. What insights have you gained? For example, when Jesus asks: "What do you want?" to those who follow him, what kinds of reasons do we honestly have for being in church? Honestly!?

As I have been preparing the sermon I see its main impact as:
By God's grace what this sermon will SAY : Jesus invites people to be honest with him and spend time with him as he promises to give them space and time. What the sermon will DO: encourage every disciple and would-be disciple to be honest in response and stay close to him.

This is likely to be refined as Sunday gets closer! Please let me know your responses? You can either post publicly on my blog or, if it's more confidential, let me know on mquicke@seminary.edu.

Thank you for sharing.