In the midst of all of the noise in our lives, is there hope to clearly hear from the voice of God? How would you know it was God? Those are questions that arise for me from the passage that calls us to worship (I Samuel 3:1-10). Another question arises form our reading from the Gospel of Mark (2:13-3:6). In this reading, Jesus says, provocatively, that the Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath, prompting me to ask: when does religious practice become an obstacle to recognizing God's presence in our midst?
What does it mean to be born again? Whatever it means, John's account doesn't make it sound very straight forward. Nicodemus is faced with the prospect of being born again, of starting over. All of his professional accomplishments and accolades will look like rubbish in this rebirth. What Jesus promises in this rebirth is not entirely clear, but Nicodemus makes the decision that it is worth everything. What does it look like for us to be born again this week?
The Ascension is a mysterious story. It opens the book of Acts and is a significant event, as it is referenced through the New Testament. But what does it mean? Why is it significant? Pastor Bob explores what Jesus' ascension means for our own lives (bodies).
Peter is preaching. Cornelius and his crew are listening. But a third thing happens. God's Spirit falls. Sometimes where you don't expect it. Sometimes when you aren't looking for it. We believe that God is always doing a third thing and there is great encouragement that God's Spirit can show up when we might think it unlikely.
John's Gospel begins the resurrection story with the detail that Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb while it is still dark. Caleb suggests that we ought to bring the darkness of our doubts, the darkness of our griefs and of our disappointments with us to Easter. Secondly, he points out that no one recognizes Jesus at first. It is difficult to see the risen Jesus, for the disciples and for us. Until Jesus calls Mary by her name, and Peter by his (three times!), they do not really believe that Easter has changed the world.
Greeks approach Jesus, interested in being a part of his growing movement. Jesus says, "yes, it is time for my glory." But he then goes on to define that glory as requiring death and the cross. In what story does death result in glory? Caleb tells the story of a recent trip he took while in Uganda and encourages us to think about what story we find ourselves in.
This week our text for our homily comes Ephesians, chapter 2:1-10. In this portion of the letter, Paul writes these lines that, through the ages, have been a great comfort to the church: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
We will be reflecting on this simple, yet profound, summary of the gospel. Among the questions we will ponder: why is it so hard for many of us to accept that we have been so radically accepted?
In this homily, Caleb explores the claim that Jesus is making by comparing his own body to the temple. How does Jesus replace the temple? What might God's Spirit being with us in Jesus' body mean for our own bodies?
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.