Monday, February 27, 2012

Costly Grace - Kurt Nelson

Kurt Nelson
Rollins Chapel, 2.26.12
Romans 2:1-4, Matthew 5: 43-48
"Costly Grace."

It’s Lent again.
It seems to happen every year around this time.
That season of reflection.
Often of grayness and mud
A season penitence.
and of suffering,
of lacking and wanting,
A season of giving up things we like.
A season,
at least for me growing up,
of an extra church service per week
(and I might add, an extra-boring service it was).

If you went to a service on Ash Wednesday,
as I did,
you might have noticed that we read Matthew 6,
in which Jesus exhorts his followers to pray in secret.
And then we get smudged with ash on our faces,
and wander into the streets,
to proudly proclaim to the world,
via our foreheads, that we are dust.
It's a season
if we're paying attention,
that might just cause us to ask some questions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

"If you choose" (On Grace) - Richard R. Crocker

If you choose
Mark 1:40-45
Dartmouth College Chapel
Richard R. Crocker
February 19, 2012

We are talking about grace, God’s unmerited favor, by which we are saved, as St. Paul and Kurt Nelson reminded us last week.

Kurt presented the Lutheran view, which, though it has its critics, is generally redeemed by Lutheran good humor. It is up to me to present the Calvinist view, which, despite being central to the heritage of this college, this region, and indeed this nation, or perhaps because of being central to it, is often reviled and misunderstood. Calvinists are derided as rigid, humorless, narrow-minded, obsessively frugal people. We Calvinists today are a small group, but, dare I say, there are those who love us.

As a Presbyterian/Calvinist minister, I have presided at many funerals. There is one sentence in the funeral service that I identify as the essence of Calvinism. No matter who has died, no matter whose body or ashes or picture lies before us, we begin the service by saying: Our hope is not in our own goodness, but in the goodness of God.

The scripture passage today presents a problem.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Blind to Grace - Kurt Nelson

Blind to Grace
Kurt Nelson, 2.12.12
Rollins Chapel
John 9: 1-40

I suspect many of us here
could offer a reasonable definition of “Grace”
At least, those of us who were subject to as much
youth religious education as I.
“The undeserved, unearned love of God.”
“A divine gift,
Not gained through any works of our own.”
Some of us might even have Ephesians 2:8,
seared into our memories.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."
We know of grace.
We’ve likely heard it before,
and we’ll hear it again.

No doubt there are those in the world,
who haven’t heard this idea.
Those who associate the Christian faith,
with judgment,
or legalism.
With that strange pridefulness,
that comes from “being saved.”
If you know any such people,
I would really encourage you to invite them to chapel.
But most of us here,
I think we know,
at least on some level,
about grace.
If you’ve heard me speak before,
you’ve almost certainly heard me say it before.
Because I really only have one sermon in my head.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Gospel - Richard R. Crocker

Feb 5, 2012
Rollins Chapel
Richard R. Crocker
Isaiah 40:21-31
Mark 1:29-39

We have before us today two passages that pique our interest and offer us help. The first is a wonderful passage from Isaiah. It is a passage of comfort – the concluding verses of that famous chapter that begins “Comfort, comfort my people.” Its message of comfort is essentially that although we have heard, we have not really known, how powerful God is – and how this all powerful God, creator of the world, cares for us: “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will be exhausted; but those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Truly this message was a word of comfort for a people who were in exile; it was a promise of God’s power and constancy, even in a time of despair. It was good news to those who were weary and discouraged. And of course good news is what the word gospel means. Certainly these words were gospel to the people of Israel who were captives in Babylonia. And they are also good news for us, who may proclaim and exult in our freedom, but who are truly captive to so many things.