Grace Chicago had the privilege of hosting Rev. Elizabeth Poest on Sunday, February 18. She preached a sermon on Acts 16 where Paul is in prison for telling people the story of Jesus. Stories have an incredible power, and they are what make life interesting. All of us have a story to tell of God's faithfulness, and as we tell our stories, others are encouraged.
Pastor Caleb breaks down the story of Elijah and Elisha into three scenes. The first is of Elijah's personal struggle where we learn that God uses all people. The second scene is Elisha's calling, which teaches us that when we are given more than we can handle, God provides people to share the load. The final scene is of Elijah's mantle falling to Elisha. God's Spirit is given to Elisha, to Christ, and to us.
Katherine James book, "Can You See Anything Now," won Christianity Today's award for best fiction. Paula published her first book, "No Relation," in November '17. Grace Chicago had the opportunity to host both authors for a reading and Q&A. After Bob's introduction, each author will read a selection from their books and then there is a conversation between the two about the difference between writing fiction/non-fiction, how faith is or isn't obvious in their writing, and what authors/artists inspire their own creativity.
On the 5th Sunday of Epiphany, Pastor Bob reflects on a passage from Mark 1 and suggests that "Jesus presence with us draws us out of the shadows...In Christ, our desires to objectify others are crucified with Christ."
Mark 1: 21-29 tells the story of Jesus teaching in the synagogue and being encountered by a man with unclean spirits. The first question we might as is what sort of legitimacy and authority do we give to NT texts about unclean spirits. The better question is whether Jesus still has the same power to heal and command. Mark is eager to impress on his readers that Jesus' authority was unlike any other. Where does Jesus claim to source his authority? How does Jesus use his authority? Pastor Caleb takes up these questions in this homily.
Bob's homily on Mark Chapter 1 makes a simple, perhaps obvious, yet profound point: You can be connected to God, that connection ought to invite others to connect to God. This is a simple, but transformative message.
Engrained in us is a standard way of doing things. For early Christians, the law was engrained in them. Often, the story of Jesus was taken and appropriated into the religion of moralism and law. In fact, at Christmas, God interrupts the engrained patterns of achieving, earning, and striving. In Christ, we can go about our lives, but not simply as if things are business as usual.
In this homily, Pastor Caleb writes a letter to his daughter about why she was baptized. It is a brief reflection on the significance of baptism.
The first week of Advent begins a new Christian year. If it has been difficult to find hope in 2017, listen to this homily, which highlights the differences between hope and optimism. In this homily, Pastor Caleb looks at a tough passage from Mark 13 about the "day of the Lord." As we prepare for Christmas, Advent encourages us to not only look back at the birth of Christ, but also forward to Christ's coming. Caleb argues on behalf of hope, even when optimism is unlikely.
Matthew 25 is the familiar passage where Jesus tells followers that whenever they show love to the least among them, they are extending love to Him. God's particular love for the poor and marginalized is on display in this text, along with His justice and judgment. Bob suggests that "oracles of judgment" like the one in Matthew 25 are good news that remind us that God is on the side of justice and peace.
"In what story," Dr. Kuecker asked, "does Grace Chicago's mission statement make sense?" The story the Israelites found themselves in, which the New Testament picks up on, is the story of being freed from captivity and led to the Promised Land. What does it mean to be caught up in that story? Kuecker's homily provides some answers and provokes several other questions.
Paul's letter to the Thessalonians is one of the Paul's earliest writings. He refers to himself as a wet nurse, and paints a picture of leadership and authority that causes us to do a double take. In this homily, Bob suggests that the Gospel rearranges the furniture of our minds. It challenges our approach to power and forces us to examine how we love God, others, and live sacrificially in community with one another.
Render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's. What does this saying mean? Jesus' response to the conniving pharisees puts them on their heels by insisting on the dignity of all people. Christians are called to live in the middle of division, insisting on the dignity of all people as well.
In this homily, Pastor Bob looks at Revelation and the broad sweeping salvation that comes through Christ. The text talks about the glory of God, which is tied intractably to the flourishing and glory of human beings. This homily explores the maxim from the Early Church Father, Irenaeus, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive."
Philippians 2:1-13 is an iconic passage. Much of it is actually a hymn. Paul reminds the Philippians of what is more important and the most important things cannot be spoken, they must be sung. Paul's use of worship reminds us that our "being in one accord" (the word we get symphony from in the Greek) has to do with gathering around the person of Christ, who shapes and forms us at our core.
When God took on flesh, He talked about the Kingdom of Heaven. The community woven together in Christ has their citizenship in an upside down kingdom where the first are last and the last are first. Caleb explores a parable from Matthew 20 about God's priorities regarding profit, fairness, and people.
Pastor Bob explores Romans 13:8-14 and considers Paul's simple command to love one another. It is the final sermon in a series on how our worship as a church ought to form us.
In Romans 12, Paul lists a set of moral imperatives, which at first seem daunting and may even cause anxiety. Pastor Bob makes the argument that these commands are invitations that come from God and can be lived into only as gifts of God. They are Life Giving! In worship, God does the work of making us more Christ-like.
In Romans 12, Paul pivots from the dense theological material of the preceding chapters towards its application. Paul urges us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, and he suggests that our minds can be transformed. Pastor Bob points out that for Paul, it is our participation in right worship that shapes us. What and how we worship shapes us and we ought to pay close attention therefore to what we are worshipping.
What is the story of Joseph about? There is a lot going on, but what Joseph realizes in the end is that his life is ultimately a story about God thwarting the devastating effects of a famine. This is a tale about how the Jewish God saved Egyptians lives. God is at work to preserve lives. He still is!