Six ways that capitalism fails the church

The religion blog forum Patheos is hosting a Public Square conversation called “Has Capitalism Failed?” largely in response to Pope Francis’ scathing critique of capitalism in his Evangelii Gaudium. One blogger made the point that the answer to the question depends on what we call “capitalism.” There’s a difference between the free market system itself and what might be called the worship of the market. It’s possible to navigate the free market system without worshiping the market. The problem is that passive participants in the capitalist market do end up making it their god insofar as they allow the market to determine the value of the created objects in our world in place of God. So here are six examples of how market forces can corrupt the church’s agenda when we are not actively resisting their dominion. Continue Reading


Sharia law, capital punishment, and forgiveness

Sharia law. The name conjures up images of barbaric practices like stoning women for adultery or chopping off the hands of thieves. Lawmakers in the US have passed paranoid resolutions against Sharia law ever being used in their states. But a recent story from Iran about a mother who forgave her son’s killer suggests that Sharia law may have something to teach us about capital punishment. Continue Reading

resurrection poking

Resurrection and the gift of a wounded body

Since today is Easter, I’ve been trying to think of something inspiring to say. But I thought I would tell the truth about something in my life that sucks which I desperately want to narrate into a blessing. I have lost twenty pounds since December. It’s not because I’ve been good about exercising or eating well. It’s because I have a condition known as ulcerative colitis, which causes me to need to sit on the toilet 15-20 times a day. Over the past couple of months, my colitis caused a secondary infection called C. Diff., which has required heavy duty antibiotics. I have basically felt like I’ve had the flu for the two months, and I’ve spent half of my awake time in the bathroom. Twice I’ve had good days which I interpreted to mean that I was on the mend, but then my disease came roaring back. My church has been praying for me, and it’s really seemed to help, for a day or two at a time. So I guess I wanted to name the gifts I have received from this miserable disease as a way of flicking off Satan and proving to him that he has failed to disillusion me since God can turn all things into good. Continue Reading

Caesar or the tortured king? (#sermon #podcast)

In one of Jesus’ famous parables, he says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; give to God what is God’s.” This past weekend’s message asks us to consider how we divide our loyalties between Caesar and God, remembering that God chose to represent himself through a man who was killed as a common criminal on one of Caesar’s crosses. Subscribe to the podcast.

jesus vs pharisees

Nothing outside you can make you unclean

In week four of LifeSign’s “Jesus vs. the Pharisees” series, we look at a key moral distinction between Jesus and the Pharisees. The Pharisees understood morality in terms of moral cleanliness, basically avoiding things and people who were unclean for the sake of honoring God. Jesus understood morality in terms of spiritual purity, having a heart purified of idols so that we can live simply to love God and other people. Please subscribe to the podcast!

jesus and sinful woman

“Do you see this woman?” (Jesus’ outrageous response to an inappropriate foot massage) #sermon #podcast

Let’s say you’re a rabbi in 1st century Palestine, and you’ve heard of this really hip new rabbi named Jesus that everybody’s talking about, so you invite him to your house for a dinner party in his honor. Because you’re a generous person, you invite everybody in town to come and have some food, but then this trouble-making sinful woman comes in and she gets really intimate with Jesus in a completely inappropriate way, kissing his feet and rubbing them with her hair erotically while he’s eating. You don’t even say anything; you just shoot her a dirty look. And then Jesus responds by going off for being a terrible host, the worst possible insult you could receive from your guest of honor in a culture that prides itself on hospitality. How would you feel? If God speaks to you through this sermon, then subscribe to the podcast and share it with a friend.

“The Sabbath was made for humanity” (#sermon #podcast)

Our LifeSign “Jesus vs. the Pharisees” sermon series continued last weekend with their debate about the Sabbath. The Pharisees were going about policing their fellow Jews for violation of the Sabbath on the basis of defending God’s honor. Jesus tells the Pharisees that “the Sabbath was made for humanity not humanity for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath is very important, but it’s been turned into poison when we make it a duty instead of an invitation. If you haven’t done so already, subscribe to the podcast so that your phone will download each week’s sermon automatically.

“I desire mercy not sacrifice” (#sermon #podcast)

I’ve decided to keep the sermon podcast going for Lent. We are doing a sermon series at our LifeSign contemporary service called “Jesus vs. the Pharisees: A Debate on Holiness.” For the first week, we’re looking at Matthew 9:9-13, where Jesus calls Matthew and goes to a party at his house. When the Pharisees criticize this, he tells them, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’” But were the Pharisees really wrong to criticize Jesus? Matthew wasn’t just somebody who had a few vices and said a few cuss words; he was a vulture of his people. [Sign up to get the podcast delivered to your phone each week!]

jesus vs pharisees

Jesus vs the Pharisees: A Debate on Holiness (my Lenten sermon series)

One of the most important and often neglected threads of the gospel stories of Jesus is the ongoing debate that he has with the Pharisees about the nature of holiness. It’s very important for us to recognize that the Pharisees represent the very best that we could do without Jesus. They were genuinely trying with all their hearts to follow God, but God wanted better for his people which is why Jesus had to come. The forty days of Lent before Easter are a time for Christians to grapple with the nature of holiness together. So for this year’s Lent at Burke United Methodist Church’s Sunday evening Lifesign service, we will be looking at a series of stories that illuminate the distinction between Jesus’ holiness and that of the Pharisees. If you’re not able to make it in person, please subscribe to the podcast. Continue Reading

Wrestling with sex (#sermon #podcast)

This was the final sermon of our Wrestling series a couple of weekends ago. We went through a whole lot of scripture to try to understand where the Bible is coming from about sex. Paul provides us with three excellent principles for sexual ethics in 1 Corinthians 7: 1) “free[dom] from anxieties” (love of self), 2) “promot[ing] good order” (love of neighbor), 3) “unhindered devotion to the Lord” (love of God). So we looked at how these principles applied in various different scriptures, including the question of homosexuality as a concern of promoting the good order of society. Please subscribe to the podcast if you aren’t already.