Nate Loucks

Blog

A place for my thoughts.

Posts tagged sermons
Why preach a Revelation series?

A few months ago I watched a VICE on HBO show that dealt with the issue of American Evangelicals and their perceived obsession with Israel. They asked this question: what do Evangelicals believe needs to happen for end times to begin? The program followed a group led by self-proclaimed Revelation expert Irvin Baxter visiting Israel and Palestine. It was an interesting look at how one faction of evangelicals interpret a certain set of Scripture. Here's a bit of Baxter and his teaching for those curious:

The program troubled me for two reasons. First, I find the opinions that Baxter espousing to be in error. Serious error, in fact. Very soon we will get yet another Left Behind film that will support and encourage much of this same thought. Many are fascinated [if not obsessed] with this type of reading of Revelation. But, is this the best reading of the text? 

Secondly, I know many evangelicals that don't support such ideas/theology. VICE painted this issue with broader strokes than are necessary. As a matter of fact, the church throughout much of our history hasn't supported this theology. Not all Evangelicals read Revelation in a similar way. What about them? Maybe those who don't read it similarly haven't taught on it enough or presented a case for alternative understanding. 

After watching the program, I started talking to some friends [including the staff at State Street] about what I had watched and many, much to my surprise, had [at one point] bought into these ideas. Some even joked about how they would be terrified going into a room without any people in it wondering if their loved ones had been raptured. A few mentioned about how much fear was instilled in them because of the effects of this theology. Interestingly, most [if not everyone of them] couldn't tell you about why the early church didn't support such theology or the evolution and development of rapture theology, but they knew that many of their teachers scolded those who didn't support an identical reading of Revelation. It was [and is] an essential doctrine in many Christian movements [someone please alert those in Nicea!] So, I think it's time to deal with this giant literarily-complex, theologically-rich apocalyptic elephant in the room at State Street. The goal is not to do this series in a combative, reactionary way [though much of it was birthed from a reaction], but in a way that hopefully illuminates and brings hope to our understanding of the narrative. 

My objectives for this series:

  1. To preach what I believe to be a proper and responsible reading of Revelation. You may not agree with such a reading, but at least you'll be familiar with other possible interpretations. Ultimately, it's fine to agree-to-disagree but it's best to fully know and understand the basis of the disagreements.
  2. To open up a counter-narrative interpretation of the text that combats a more modernist, dispensational reading with an understanding of the text that is, ultimately, more congruent with how the church throughout history has taught Revelation and fits better within the scope of the biblical narrative. We'll be looking at literary style, genre, functions of apocalyptic literature, etc. To make my former professors content, we'll employ a Wesleyan hermeneutic to Revelation: prima scriptura, tradition/church history, intellect, and guidance by the Holy Spirit. 
  3. To be encouraged and made hopeful by how Christ is bringing the world back to rights [to steal a N.T. Wright-ism]. This is our peculiar Christian hope. 

I hope you can join us.

Come Together [a new series at State Street]
Background-2.jpg

I will be finishing up our "Parables of the Kingdom" series soon. We will then begin a series I'm very excited about. The series was designed to do a few things; (1) talk about the different Christian movements that have influenced State Street, and (2) seek understanding across our ecumenical borders leading to a better appreciation of other expressions of our faith. 

My two primary influences are the Wesleyan and Anabaptist movements. This bleeds through to the culture at State Street in very tangible ways. But, there are other influences that we embrace as well. Many people at State Street come from other backgrounds that have helped them (and us as a community) see Christ more clearly. Some in our community are unfamiliar with other denominations as a whole. We'll talk about the founders of the movements (Menno Simons, John Wesley, Martin Luther, Alexander Campbell, etc.) but also abou the larger contributions of each theological distinctive. 

Here's the series schedule:

June 16Introduction [taught by Nate Loucks]
June 23The Wesleyan Movement [taught by Nate Loucks]
June 30The Anabaptist Movement [taught by Nate Loucks]
July 7: The Restoration Movement [taught by Tim Baines]
July 14The Lutheran Movement [taught by Nate Loucks]
July 21: The Catholic Movement [taught by Nate Loucks]
July 28
The Anglican/Episcopal Movement [taught by Nate Loucks]

Sermon at State Street: Acts 4:1-31

Here's my outline from last Sunday at State Street. At the bottom, you can watch the message. 

Key Text: Acts 4:1-31

The Big Idea: Action and contemplation are sacred helpmates.

Supporting Points:

  • Prayer is being willing to engage the things of Christ on the deepest of levels in silence, in conversation, and in communion.
  • We pray not to draw God closer to us, but to remind ourselves that God is already near.

Quotes

  • “Dear Jesus, do something.” - Vladimir Nabokov
  • "The response of the apostles to persecution is prayer, not for relief or deliverance from persecution but for boldness and power to continue to proclaim the word even in the midst of such adversity." - Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary
  • “The wise man in the storm prays God not for safety from danger but for deliverance from fear.”  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Text:

1As they were speaking to the people, along came the priests, the chief of the Temple police, and the Sadducees. 2They were thoroughly annoyed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming that “the resurrection of the dead” had begun to happen in Jesus. 3They seized them and put them under guard until the next day, since it was already evening. 4But a large number of the people who had heard the message believed it, and the number of men grew to five thousand.

5On the next day their rulers, the elders, and the scribes gathered in Jerusalem, 6along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and all the members of the high-priestly family. 7They stood them in the midst.

“How did you do this?” they asked them. “What power did you use? What name did you invoke?”

8Peter was filled with the holy spirit. “Rulers of the people and elders,” he said, 9“if the question we’re being asked today is about a good deed done for a sick man, and whose power it was that rescued him, 10let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man stands before you fit and well because of the name of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, whom you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead. 11He is the stone which you builders rejected, but which has become the head cornerstone. 12Rescue won’t come from anybody else! There is no other name given under heaven and among humans by which we must be rescued.”

13When they saw how boldly Peter and John were speaking, and realized that they were untrained, ordinary men, they were astonished, and they recognized them as people who had been with Jesus. 14And when they saw the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15They ordered them to be put out of the assembly while they conferred among themselves.

16“What can we do to these men?” they said. “This is a spectacular sign that has happened through them. All Jerusalem knows it, and we can’t deny it! 17But we certainly don’t want it to spread any further among the people. So let’s threaten them with awful consequences if they speak anymore in this name to anybody.”

18So they called them in and gave them orders not to speak at all, or to teach, in the name of Jesus.

19But Peter and John gave them this reply. “You judge,” they said, “whether it’s right before God to listen to you rather than to God! 20As far as we’re concerned, we can’t stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

21Then they threatened them some more, and let them go. They couldn’t find any way to punish them because of the people, since everyone was glorifying God for what had happened. 22After all, the man to whom this sign of healing had happened was over forty years old.

23When they had been released, they went back to their own people, and told them everything that the chief priests and the elders had said. 24When they heard it, they all together lifted up their voices to God.

“Sovereign Master,” they said, “you made heaven and earth, and the sea, and everything in them. 25And you said through the holy spirit, by the mouth of our ancestor David, your servant,

‘Why did the nations fly into a rage,

And why did the peoples think empty thoughts?

26The kings of the earth arose
And the rulers gathered themselves together
Against the Lord and against his anointed Messiah.’

27“It’s true: Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the nations and the peoples of Israel, gathered themselves together in this very city against your holy child Jesus, the one you anointed, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had foreordained to take place. 29So now, Master, look on their threats; and grant that we, your servants, may speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand for healing, so that signs and wonders may come about through the name of your holy child Jesus.”

31When they had prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the holy spirit, and they boldly spoke the word of God.
— Acts 4:1-31 (Kingdom New Testament)
Sermon at State Street: Acts 2:42-47
44-Acts_1920x1080_72dpi.jpg

Here's my outline for last weekend's sermon at State Street (note: we went through Exodus 1-16 rather quickly, but the references are in the video):

TEXT: Acts 2:42-47 (Kingdom New Testament)
42They all gave full attention to the teaching of the apostles and to the common life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43Great awe fell on everyone, and many remarkable deeds and signs were performed by the apostles. 44All of those who believed came together, and held everything in common. 45They sold their possessions and belongings and divided them up to everyone in proportion to their various needs. 46Day by day they were all together attending the Temple. They broke bread in their various houses, and ate their food with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and standing in favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being rescued.

POINT 1: Christianity invites us to imagine and work towards a world of community solidarity. But, to work towards this world, we must never fall into the trap of scarcity [i.e. being in fear of not having enough].

POINT 2: Entering into a new community, one defined by faith, generosity, and commonality, requires a constant turning away from the ways in which we came. Even when we do not know what may or may not happen. It requires a steadfast trust that what is ahead is better than what is behind.

POINT 3: The temptation of scarcity and the needful reminder of God's generosity was prevalent in the early formation of God's people (Israel), in the formation of the early Church, and even today. 

QUOTE:

“Wilderness” is a place, in biblical rhetoric, where there are no viable life support systems. “Grace” is the occupying generosity of God that redefines the place. The wonder bread, as a gesture of divine grace, recharacterizes the wilderness that Israel now discovered to be a place of viable life, made viable by the generous inclination of YHWH. - Walter Brueggemann

THE WAY IN WHICH SCARCITY IS COMBATTED IN THE EARLY CHURCH:

  1. teaching of the apostles/learning the way of Jesus
  2. the common life/the shared life
  3. the breaking of bread/eucharist and common meals
  4. prayers/joining of hearts with God

Sermon at State Street: Acts 2:1-41
44-Acts_1920x1080_72dpi.jpg

Over the next few months at State Street, we are going through Acts 1-8 in our weekend gathering times. This last Sunday was our second week; Acts 2:1-41. Here's my outline: 

TEXTLuke 2:1-41 [Kingdom New Testament]
1When the day of Pentecost had finally arrived, they were all together in the same place.2Suddenly there came from heaven a noise like the sound of a strong, blowing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3Then tongues, seemingly made of fire, appeared to them, moving apart and coming to rest on each one of them. [unique, this won't happen again] 4They were all filled with the holy spirit, and began to speak in other languages, as the spirit gave them the words to say.

5There were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem at that time. 6When they heard this noise they came together in a crowd. They were deeply puzzled, because every single one of them could hear them speaking in his or her own native language. 7They were astonished and amazed. “These men who are doing the speaking are all Galileans, aren’t they?” they said. 8“So how is it that each of us can hear them in our own mother tongues? 9There are Parthians here, and Medians, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judaea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya that belong to Cyrene; there are people from Rome, 11proselytes as well as Jews; there are Cretans and Arabs. We can hear them telling us about the powerful things God has done—in our own languages!” 12Everyone was astonished and perplexed. “What does it all mean?” they were asking each other. 13But some sneered. “They’re full of new wine!” they said.

14Then Peter got up, with the eleven. He spoke to them in a loud voice. “People of Judaea!” he began. “All of you staying here in Jerusalem! There’s something you have to know! Listen to what I’m saying! 15These people aren’t drunk, as you imagine. It’s only nine o’clock in the morning! 16No, this is what the prophet Joel was talking about, when he said,

17‘In the last days, declares God, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy; Your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams;
18Yes, even on slaves, men and women alike, will I pour out my spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.
19And I will give signs in the heavens above, and portents on earth beneath, blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
20The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and glorious day.21And then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 

22“You people of Israel,” Peter continued, “listen to this. Jesus of Nazareth was a man marked out for you by God through the mighty works, signs, and portents which God performed through him right here among you, as you all know. 23He was handed over in accordance with God’s determined purpose and foreknowledge—and you used people outside the law to nail him up and kill him. 24“But God raised him from the dead! Death had its painful grip on him; but God released him from it, because it wasn’t possible for him to be mastered by it. 25This, you see, is how David speaks of him:

‘I set the Lord before me always;
Because he is at my right hand, I won’t be shaken.
26So my heart was happy, and my tongue rejoiced,
And my flesh, too, will rest in hope.
27For you will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will you allow your Holy One to see corruption.
28You showed me the path of life;
You filled me with gladness in your presence.’

29“My dear family, I can surely speak freely to you about the patriarch David. He died and was buried, and his tomb is here with us to this day. 30He was of course a prophet, and he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to set one of his own physical offspring on his throne. 31He foresaw the Messiah’s resurrection, and spoke about him “not being left in Hades,” and about his flesh “not seeing corruption.” 32This is the Jesus we’re talking about! God raised him from the dead, and all of us here are witnesses to the fact! 33Now he’s been exalted to God’s right hand; and what you see and hear is the result of the fact that he is pouring out the holy spirit, which had been promised, and which he has received from the father. 34“David, after all, did not ascend into the heavens. This is what he says:

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
35Until I place your enemies
Underneath your feet.’

36“So the whole house of Israel must know this for a fact: God has made him Lord and Messiah—this Jesus, the one you crucified.”

37When they heard this, the people in the crowd were cut to the heart. “Brothers,” they said to Peter and the other apostles, “what shall we do?” 38“Turn back!” replied Peter. “Be baptized—every single one of you—in the name of Jesus the Messiah, so that your sins can be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit. 39The promise is for you and for your children, and for everyone who is far away, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40He carried on explaining things to them with many other words. “Let God rescue you,” he was urging them, “from this wicked generation!” 41Those who welcomed his word were baptized. About three thousand people were added to the community that day.

At the beginning of the sermon, I use statistics from this book: The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries by Rodney Stark. 

Question we're asking during this series:  The question all must ask in a post-resurrection, Christo-centric yet broken world; What now?

look at the Galilean reputation: 

Acts 4:13 KNT 
13When they saw how boldly Peter and John were speaking, and realized that they were untrained, ordinary men, they were astonished, and they recognized them as people who had been with Jesus.

Galileans as "Boorish dolts in the eyes of sophisticated Jerusalemites." 

John 1:46 KNT
46“Really?” replied Nathanael. “Are you telling me that something good can come out of Nazareth?”

POINT 1: In our story, God does beautiful and redemptive things in the most unlikely places, often times in the places you’d least likely expect Him. 

POINT 2: Salvation is found in who you call "Lord".

POINT 3: Baptism calls people to death, so we might live. Baptism is the proper response to those that are witnesses to resurrection. Baptism engenders a new community of love, resurrection, and justice.

PRAYER:
O Lord our God,
you know us better than we know ourselves.
As we come before you now,
believers and doubters alike,
we all share a deep need,
for we are all lost without you.
Search us, O God, and know our hearts,
test us and know our troubled thoughts.
Give us true repentance.
Forgive us of our wrongs.
Transform us by your Spirit to live for you each day,
to learn to serve each other
and, through the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord,
to come at last to the age to come. 
Amen.

TheologyNate Loucksacts, sermons