Tag Archives | sermons

Deliverance to the Captives | Karl Barth

The cover of Barth's Deliverance to the CaptivesKarl Barth is a theological giant of the Twentieth Century. His fourteen volume, 9,200 page Church Dogmatics has cemented his legacy. This background is what makes Deliverance to the Captives so interesting. It’s a collection of sermons Barth delivered to “avowedly critical and ‘un-Christian'” (Schwarz in Barth 12) prisoners. Is it possible for Barth to simplify his theology to connect with the every-man?

The answer is a resounding “Yes!” For each message, Barth takes a short snippet of scripture and simply reflects on it. “You Shall Be My People” (60-66) is a good example. In preaching on Leviticus 26:12, “I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people,” he simply breaks the passage down into its three statements and shares his thoughts on them.

I was impressed by Barth’s bold humility. He didn’t shy away from the fact that he was preaching to prisoners. In fact, he specifically chose passages like Romans 11:32, “For God has made all men prisoners, that he may have mercy upon all.” He didn’t hesitate to include himself as “prisoner.”

Barth’s messages in Deliverance to the Captives have the power to speak to spiritual and physical captives even today.

Barth, Karl. Deliverance to the Captivesds. Translated by Marguerite Wieser. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961.

Homilies on the First Epistle of John | Saint Augustine

The Cover of Augustine's Homilies on the First Epistle of JohnFun fact: St. Augustine’s sermons on First John are our earliest extended work on this book of scripture. Preached in 407 during Easter Week, they focus strongly on the epistle’s main theme of “love” which he unpacks in detail. Here are some examples:

The greater the charity, the less the fear; the less the charity, the greater the fear. (135-6)

You shouldn’t think that you love … your neighbor when you don’t correct him. That isn’t charity but indifference. (112-3)

A wicked person, therefore, can have all these sacraments, but a person cannot be wicked and also have charity. (108)

Unfortunately for modern readers, Augustine spends a significant amount of time confronting the Donatists—a church schism with a strong belief in their people’s own moral purity. While germane to his time, his strong stance seems to undercut the message of brotherly love.

After reading his magisterial Confessions, these sermons felt a little lackluster. Still, they reflect the mind and heart of a brilliant theologian preaching for the benefit of his own people. We are blessed to be able to listen in some 1600 years later.

—Saint Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Trans. Boniface Ramsey (New York: New City Press, 2008)

The Silence of God | Helmut Thielicke

Pastors always have difficult situations to address—the death of a child, a natural disaster, or an incurable illness. There are times when the situation is so central to the life of the congregation that the pastor must address it from the pulpit. The difficulty here is perspective. The pastor, often in the middle of the situation, must rise beyond the situation and speak to the messiness of life from a divine perspective. It’s not easy to do. It’s almost impossible to do well.

Put yourself in the shoes of Helmut Thielicke during the Second World War. In light of the bombings, mass burials, and infiltration of demonic philosophy, he preached. In the preface to these sermons he admits that sermons at this time “have to be expressed before distracted people whose eyes still reflect the glare of the last air-raid and who thus have very accurate scales by which to assess the message” (ix).

Fortunately, you don’t have to live through the horrors of war to recognize that Thielicke’s words are solid truth. These messages are hard, always avoiding false hope while pointing the listener to the true light.

If you’ve read Thielicke before, you’ll recognize the way he transforms perceptive observations into a pithy phrase:

If the last hour belongs to us, we do not need to fear the next minute. (“I Am Not Alone with My Anxiety” 9)

Jesus is the one place in the world where we need not restrain our sorrows because He already knows them all. (“The Great Mercy” 36)

We cannot sink so low that God is not lower. (“The Message of Redeeming Light” 63)

Golgotha means pain in God. (“The Final Dereliction” 70)

The trouble is that we speak far too much about God in the third person. (“The Final Dereliction” 75)

When you take a minute to reflect on Thielicke’s pastoral setting, you can’t help but thank God that he still speaks to us through his servants in our struggles.

Secrets in the Dark | Frederick Buechner

Buechner’s writing is just plan beautiful. At times it has the potential to take your breath away. He combines deep spiritual insight—something only acquired through years of living with God—with a poet’s flair for prose.

Secrets in the Dark is a collection of sermons (with a couple addresses thrown in for good measure) spoken over the course of his life. As you read through them, you can see how God has led his life.

Here’s an example of the sort of beautiful insight I mentioned:

If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. (“The Church” 149)

As a pastor, I don’t get to sit and take in many sermons. When I do have the opportunity, I have a tendency to pick apart the homily to see how it was constructed and what I would change. It’s been very healthy for me to hear these sermons. They’ve cut through my professional defenses and left a mark.

The Servant Songs (A Series of Sermons)

Isaiah chapter 40 and onward was written while God’s people were in exile in Babylon. Their land was taken, their cities destroyed, their friends and loved ones killed and scattered. Still, the prophets had hope. In fact, they had more hope in exile than they did while they still lived in Jerusalem!

One of those hope-full prophets penned four poems about a “servant” of God who would accomplish some pretty amazing things. While at first glance the servant seems to be Israel in general, the more you read the more it becomes apparent that the prophet is talking about a specific Israelite who would act on Israel’s behalf. Christians have identified this person as Jesus.

As we looked at these four poems during the season of Advent, we considered what they meant about Israel, about Jesus, and even about us: Jesus’ body on earth.

You can find individual write-ups along with the resources I used in each message over at wspc.ca. As always, you can find the download links right here on the sermons page.

  1. The First Song (Isaiah 42:1-4)
  2. The Second Song (Isaiah 49:1-6)
  3. The Third Song (Isaiah 50:4-9)
  4. The Fourth Song (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

FAQ (A Series of Sermons)

We tried something new this fall at WSPC. Over the summer months I solicited questions from the congregation about matters of faith. Then, in October and November, I condensed the questions into 7 messages. The results of our experiment are below.

You can find individual write-ups along with the resources I used in each message over at wspc.ca. As always, you can find the download links right here on the sermons page.

  1. How Can I Trust The Bible When Our Interpretation Of It Keeps Changing?
    (Unfortunately, we lost the audio on this one. You can read the write-up here.)
  2. Do Science and Faith Contradict Each Other?
  3. Why Can’t My Faith Move Mountains?
  4. If God Knew We Would Fall, Why Did He Create Us?
  5. Where Did Pentecostals Come From and What Happened To Us?
  6. How Can I Figure Out God’s Will For My Life?
  7. How Can I Be A Great Christian In Today’s World?

Back to Basics (A Series of Sermons)

It’s been at interesting summer at Wellington Street Pentecostal Church. We’ve spent our Sundays going back to the basics of what the Christian life is all about. Now that the series has ended, I thought I’d collect all the messages in one post. You can find individual write-ups along with the resources I used in each message over at wspc.ca. As always, you can find the download links right here on the sermons page.

  1. Salvation (Mark 8:34-38)
  2. Prayer (Matthew 6:1-15)
  3. The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16)
    Unfortunately there was an error recording this message. You can find the write-up on it here.
  4. Growth (Luke 11:28)
  5. Stewardship (2 Corinthians 9:6-11)
  6. Temptation (James 1:12-16)
  7. Church (Ephesians 2:13-22)
  8. Tradition (Joshua 4:1-7)
  9. Old Testament (Genesis-Malachi)
  10. New Testament (Matthew-Revelation)

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