A new sermon series is always an exhilarating moment. The canvas is empty...the paint brush is in hand...so many colors and possibilities! What should be created and ultimately offered to the community?
In a moment of clarity and inspiration, a few weeks ago I knew the series MUST be about Jesus.
But...just a moment. Aren't all sermon series about Jesus? Well, yes and no. Of course, Jesus is often implied even if the topic is about marriage, or finances, or conflict resolution, or parenting, or 5 steps to being a happier person. But often, even with Jesus being the backdrop for these practical (and sometimes useful) sermons, the thing in the forefront is something other than Jesus. Sadly, the one in the background gets overshadowed by the thing in the forefront.
No wonder churches feel like they are about almost anything except Jesus.
I have a sad confession: I can't remember the last time I did an entire teaching series just on Jesus. Two months on Jesus. Nine luxurious weeks on Jesus. The man who lived, died and continues to live. It turns out its easier to market marriage, relationships, finances, parenting, happiness than it is to market Jesus.
No wonder many are leave Sunday worship with useful takeaways about how to have a better marriage, but feeling strangely hungry for Jesus.
During this time of preparing for a new sermon series, I've been teaching a graduate course on Pre-Reformation Church History. In the first four centuries of the church, Jesus is unavoidable. It's Jesus all the time. The dialogue is about Jesus. The controversies are about Jesus. The divisions occur because of disagreements about Jesus. The creeds are Jesus-centric. The worship is centered on Jesus. As I studied, lectured and discussed this era, I realized it's time to cast some light on Jesus. The desire in my heart is growing for the renown of Jesus. It's way past time for the forefront, the background and the frame to be Jesus.
The birth of Jesus is so important he split history into two parts. Everything that happens on earth has either happened before or after Christ. This man changed the world more than any other person. He introduced a new force field into life. Today one-third of the world's population claims allegiance to him. You may not admire him and you may not be close to him, but he is inescapable. He is so prevalent even his name is a curse. (How strange would it be to hear a person missing a putt to scream, "Thomas Jefferson.) You can't get away from him. He is truly extraordinary and I'd love for you to get acquainted with him.
But I am not inviting you to a new teaching series because he is a great man who changed history. I have a more personal perspective. I want you to get acquainted with him because he has become the dividing point of life--my life. Recently, I've been rediscovering Jesus. This rediscovery process dates back a few years and it has slowly been picking up momentum and gaining central importance in my life. The fresh appraisal of Jesus that has resulted has led me to begin rethinking the meaning of my own existence and the pattern of my own life. The process is not complete but I am more hopeful that ever before. I am freer than I have ever been. I sense more abundance in my life than ever before. I attribute these gains to the rediscovery of Jesus. He is becoming for me revolutionary, the center, the unparalleled One.
I can hardly wait to show you what I have been discovering about Jesus. I can't wait to see what will happen for you, and to you, when you begin rediscovering him, too.
The series begins the first Sunday of 2016, January 3, with a message called "Jesus, the Center," based on Mark 1:1. Our worship begins at 10:00 a.m.
The start of a new series is a chance to share some resources that have helped me prepare for this series. If you want to read some of what I've been reading, here is a list of books:
The Gospel of Mark (New Testament), the Apostle's Creed, Letters to Marc about Jesus (by Henri Nouwen), Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did and Why He Matters (by N. T. Wright), The Jesus I Never Knew (by Philip Yancey), and Jesus, The Man Who Lives (by Malcolm Muggeridge).