Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sermon from 25th Sunday after Pentecost, Nov. 18, 2012

The apocalyptic beginnings of Jesus' discourse, where he talks about the end of the world, can drive us to fear the world around us. But at the heart of Jesus' words is the promise of God's enduring faithfulness to his promise of redemption.

An excerpt from my sermon:
In the midst of all of what Jesus says in Mark 13, we are faced with many terrible things... wars, famines, earthquakes... typical visions of end of the world prophecies but as one biblical scholar has said these events are also “persistent ingredients of history’s pageant of suffering.” For Jesus, the issue is not to get worked up about any of this. The earthquakes, famines, wars and such all continue to show the brokenness of the world and the end will be no different from the beginning. What is important for Jesus is that we know the end... not necessarily when the end will come or what historical sign will happen to let us know it is coming about... but the end. That in the midst of the the brokenness of these relationships, God will not overlook the people he has chosen... and knowing that God will continue to watch over and keep us even in the midst of terrible things (not that we will be spared from such things) we are free to live.

Read the whole sermon, or listen to it here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Strange Attractors: An Atheist, Creationism and Facebook

I have an atheist friend... ok, I have a number of atheist friends, some of whom are open and honest about it. But one friend I have known since elementary school and while we do not have regular contact, we find ourselves in interesting conversations on Facebook. So for all of the posts on Facebook that are stupid, meaningless, frustrating or the like, I get these occasional interchanges with her and others that seem to make the whole site worth it. 

It all started with an article from the website Raw Story my friend shared about Marco Rubio's recent interview in GQ where he was asked how old he thought the earth was. His response was probably typical of a politician. He remained non-committal toward either a literal seven-day creation or one as described by the accepted cosmological models. In part of his response, he said,“Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”

After reading the piece, I do see Rubio as engaging in politico-speak. He simply wants to maintain distance from anything that will keep him from alienating supporters but at the same time he does not want to necessarily denigrate science.  I understand that. But I believe we need to have a society where we say what we believe and consequences be damned. Speaking in generalities and subtly changing the topic to avoid the question does not help us. Rubio claimed that he wasn't a scientist (subtly granting them authority on the matter) and didn't feel qualified. Well, the scientists do have some disagreement on finer points of the cosmological model, but age of the universe is not one of them. Just cede to their knowledge and let the chips fall where they lie. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wendell Berry... a chance encounter

On a car ride this morning, I heard an interview on the Diane Rehm Show, but I did not know who was speaking. But when I turned on the radio, I heard the following:
Well, the Port William Membership is not meant to suggest that everybody in the community is consciously a part of the membership. But the term in my work derives from a statement by one of the characters, Burley Coulters in which he improves a little, I think, on St. Paul. He says, we're members of each other, all of us, everything. The difference is not in who is and who isn't. The difference is between the people who know they're members and the ones who don't.
I sat rapt with attention as I listened to the remaining forty minutes with Wendell Berry. I admit it, I had heard his name, but had never read anything by him as far I knew. Shortly into the interview I wanted to run out and get everything he has ever written.

This interview is worth a listen, or read through the transcript. It can be found here:
Wendell Berry: "A Place in Time: Twenty Stories Of The Port William Membership"

Wendell spoke of a reality, broken yet rich with hope. Preachers could learn a lot, I believe from the way he speaks about life.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Finding the Lost...a brief sermon on Luke 15:1-10

Having just moved into a new house, and living amidst a maze of boxes, the story of the woman turning her house upside down to find two lost coins resonates deeply with me. Just a few days after we moved in, a workman arrived to do an installation. He needed a part that I knew I had packed. Only... where? I stormed through the house. I went through the likely boxes. I opened the box that SAID it had the thing I was looking for... but that wasn’t it. That label was from the previous move. I kept looking. I began looking in the unlikely places. I recruited my wife. It was urgent. The installer was on a schedule. My wife finally dug the piece out of a box, that I had passed by because this box was labeled “Shoes.” I made a little shout for joy and got it to the workman.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Politics and Jesus: A brief election day Eucharist sermon...

We live in a divided world. It is clear. Last week when the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie applauded President Obama’s handling of the Hurricane Sandy aftermath, he was pounced upon by his own party, in effect claiming such as act treasonous in the midst of a presidential campaign. Americans increasingly live more partisan lives, watching the news they agree with... or attending a church whose beliefs are already in line with what they believe...

All too often we live our lives through a filter that seeks to keep us divided by labeling our opponents as enemies be they socialists, tea baggers, or heretics. In all of our discourse, we lose sight of the common good. We are more concerned with staying in power than what should be done to help the whole of our society. We appeal to selective readings of the Founding Fathers, political philosophers, and even Jesus, trying to take entire bodies of teaching and reducing them to soundbites and slogans to get people to pay attention. In so doing, we lose nuance and shades of gray, creating a caricatured world that only has black and white.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The End of Elections Is Nigh!

The end is almost in sight. Just a few more days until the election season winds to a close.

And maybe this reflection comes too late or simply ill-timed, like the pastor who knows that she cannot combat the terrible theology of some funeral home poems in the immediate aftermath of a parishioner's death, when loved ones want to cling to "Do not stand at my grave and weep" more tightly than they do to "I am the resurrection and the life."

Nonetheless, I feel compelled to write, because it seems many people (myself included) can forget about our identity in Christ when it comes to elections. I do not know what it is about elections that gets our blood pumping and our passions inflamed, but they do... sort of. I do find it interesting that while political discourse has grown increasingly divisive, voter turnout continues to slide. We will often point to the statistic that in general half of our nation has no connection to a regular church life. And yet voter turnout is pretty much the same. The same for presidential year election. In other years, national voter turnout is even worse. In 2010, turnout did not even hit forty percent. For all of the money spent in campaigns, for all of the vehement diatribes, for all of the apparent urgency campaigns try to instill, much of America just doesn't seem to care. But a number of us do. Maybe too much because we seem to dump our identity as children of God for partisian political supporter. If we believe our faith leads us to support a particular candidate, we should likely behave toward others as said faith teaches.