Tonight was our Good Friday service at Grace. We had a powerful time together remembering the crucifixion of Jesus and reflecting on what it means for us. I preached a sermon from the book of Hebrews, using the temple passages from chapters 9 and 10 as my texts. It was a powerful time of study for me, as you may have guessed if you had seen this tweet.

Through his death, Jesus has become both our perfect priest and our sufficient sacrifice. He entered the Most Holy Place of heaven on our behalf, and he has made it possible for us to confidently approach God. If you listen to the message, you will hear how radical it is to be able to draw near to God with anything other than abject terror.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

A refrain spoken over the dead. A reminder for the living. We are but dust, and to dust we shall return.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. We close our eyes and abandon ourselves to God. These are the symbols of our humility, the reminder that our time here is short, and that we are not in control.

Ash and dust bring us into confrontation with our own mortality, our own sinfulness, and the fleeting nature of our lives here on earth. Ashes and dust are a reminder that our hope and faith must be in God alone, and not in what we can accomplish in our short time.

What, then, are we to do in the face of such confrontation with our own mortality? We must repent. In dust and ashes.

The ancients placed this symbol of death, these ashes, upon their heads as a sign of their repentance. Like worship, it was an external action that reflected an internal reality. Finally seeing the folly of their old ways, they repented in dust and ashes, hoping that the god to whom they prayed was a forgiving god. A gracious deity. A merciful Lord.

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This morning I had the honor of preaching a sermon on the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, which can be found in Genesis 39. The sermon is part of the Everyday Virtue series at Grace Church, and I was able to draw on some material I had already written here at the blog. (See the posts Biblical Marriage and Gay Marriage for a fuller treatment of those particular subjects.)

The lesson that we learn from Joseph is that purity requires distance. Sexual temptation is not something that you’re able to resist when it’s up close and personal because you are designed to give into sexual desire. That’s the way that God has made you, for the good of humanity. You are supposed to indulge in up close and personal sexual activity. But it’s also supposed to be channeled toward that one person of the opposite sex with whom you have covenanted before God. You are not built to say “No.” That’s why you have to keep your distance from disordered and misdirected sexual desires. Purity says “No” in order to shout “Yes!”

There is also a lot in the message about the Christian Sexual Ethic, which I have defined this way: The Christian Sexual Ethic is for one man and one woman, upon covenanting with one another in the presence of God, to enjoy sexual union together, in the hope of bearing and raising children, and doing so exclusively with one another, and with pure hearts toward all people, for as long as both of them live. The ethic is built upon a foundation of the theology of creation (Gen. 1-2), the theology of the body (1 Cor. 6), and the theology of marriage (Eph. 5). This ethic stands in stark contrast to the sexual ethic of the West, which is built upon the principle of consent.

There’s a lot more in the message, and I hope you find it helpful and edifying!

 

We recently started a new sermon series at Grace Church called Everyday Virtue. In it, we are exploring the lives of Bible characters, learning certain virtues from them. My sermon was on John Mark, whose story is found in several books of the New Testament. The virtue we learn from John Mark’s life is perseverance. He failed in a couple of big ways, but God remained faithful to him, and powerfully redeemed his story.

The history of the glory of the Lord and the temple in Jerusalem makes for a fascinating story. This is one of those subplots of the Bible that we find woven across many books and in both Testaments. It is a complex relationship full of tension, betrayal, despair, exile, and unforeseen hope.


Exile is not simply political or geographical or economic. Exile is the absence of God in you and you in God.
In this message, which is a part of the series The Hope of God’s People at Grace Church, I tell the part of the story that is most relevant to the Christmas season. Building on the temple construction and dedication stories of 1 Kings 8 and Ezra 6, I follow the story through the eyes of Ezekiel, the prophet in exile. His prophecies portend both doom and glory, a relationship broken beyond repair and yet one that holds the possibility of hope for future reconciliation.

The story finds its resolution in a dramatic and unexpected way. An unforeseen fulfillment of Ezekiel’s final prophecy leads us to an exciting new hope and a new way of finding our way home.

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