Lenten Levity 2

29 02 2008

Overheard at a random place ….

Churcgoer:  oh my GAWD you observe Lent that’s so cool what are you doing?

Episcopalian:  Ignoring it (lights cigarette and sips martini)

——————

NO THAT IS NOT ME!

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Caption Contest

29 02 2008

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Courtesy of the Church Times.

OK, folks have at it!





Ungodly Christians

23 02 2008

Texts:  Romans 5: 1-11; John 4:5-42

We all go through life comparing ourselves to others.  There’s always someone who is better or worse off than us, someone we wish we were like or are glad we’re not like at all.  There are those we feel superior to.  Our tendency as a race has been and still remains to divide, to put ourselves into boxes and categories.  Jesus did not do this.  In fact, he was so good at NOT putting people into boxes that it got him into trouble, especially with religious people.

Many people in the United States feel (wrongly) that we are, or are supposed to be, or were founded as, a Christian nation.  If that were so, we would not have our first amendment to the Constitution as it was written.  However, I would say that America does have its own religion of sorts.  Its gospel is enshrined in the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves,” something that was actually said by Benjamin Franklin but many people think is in the Bible (or should be) somewhere.  We see this type of gospel sneaking into the pulpits, especially in the sermons of many televangelists.  “God wants to bless you,” they say.  Their idea of blessing become a siren song for our desires for material comfort, a comfort which the God who revealed himself through history and Scripture does not guarantee.  Their message gives birth to the idea of a God who is nothing more than a genie in a bottle and yet another person to whom you can say, “What have you done for me lately??”

Televangelists and other mega-church pastors will often point to their material possessions as God’s blessing in their lives, and in some instances it could be.  But, as find in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, we should not boast or brag about our worldly possessions.

Now, Paul does say we who call ourselves Christians do have a right to boast and brag, but they are in very different things.  It is totally different than the idea of “God helps those who help themselves.”  Our bragging rights are found in God’s actions, not ours or our work ethic. Our boasting comes in the form of proclaiming hope, our suffering, and reconciliation.  Some points of clarity are called for here …. when I say hope, I do not mean a wish or a preference for a given outcome, but a certainty that a future will be realized.  When I say suffering, I do not mean giving in to a martyr complex, but knowing that God gives us strength to endure tough times and hard challenges.  The crux of the matter is we can boast in our reconciliation, that because of Jesus Christ, we are united and reconciled to God, each and every one of us, not because we have helped ourselves to the bounties of God’s blessing, but that God has done it all.  This is the real Gospel … “While we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly….”  each and every one us.  We are all ungodly and immoral Christians.

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Lenten Levity

21 02 2008

An Anglican Nightmare …..

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A Must Read on “Born Again”

19 02 2008

As one of my Lenten disciplines, I wanted to really focus on the Epistle readings from Romans when writing my lectionary reflections.  I was really looking forward to exploring what St Paul was saying when he said in Romans 4 (emphasis mine)

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his [Abraham’s]  descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

We believe in a God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.   A God who not only calls into existence “things” such as the earth, sky, trees, animals and so on, but life where there is death.  Love where there is hate.  Faith where there is confusion.  Light out of darkness.

This would also be a good lead in into talking about a phrase which causes most progressive Christians to have apoplectic fits, a phrase out of our Gospel reading, and that phrase is “born again.”  Or you could translate it “born anew” or “born from above.”

When I stumbled across Sheila’s gem over at Good News in the Wilderness, I realized she was saying things much more eloquently than I ever could.   THIS is a gifted preacher.  Please check it out.





Voices of Life and Death

10 02 2008

Texts: Genesis 2 and 3; Romans 5

Many look back to the time of the 1960’s and 70’s as ushering in an era of freedom and liberation, particularly when they remember the civil rights movement. Major shifts in thought began to creep into the consciousness of the world, particularly in the West … namely the beginnings of true equality for women and non-whites. Everyone seemed to be able to find their voice, and liberal Western values seemed poised to create a truly just society. Patriarchy became suspect. Figures such as Gloria Steinem, Martin Luther King, Jr., and even artists such as Andy Warhol used their talents and gifts to criticize that institution known as “the Establishment.” Today, we also look towards a hopeful future as the tide begins to shift once more and promises to usher in a new wave of inclusive ideals, particularly along the lines of equality for GLBT people.

But, are we really in a better place? The grim reality is that we still live in a world of dirty bombs, genocide, pandemics, natural disasters and even new waves of fascism as we give up our prized freedoms all in the name of “homeland security” and “safety.” As connected as the Internet has made us to each other, it has also created niches where people can live their entire lives being exposed to people only like themselves with similar thoughts and values.

Our readings in Lent this year invite us to take a long hard look at ourselves, and what it means to be human. We are challenged to take off our rose-colored glasses. We are told not to continue our efforts to build an inclusive society without pondering why we as a race cannot break a cycle of cruelty, destruction, even death.

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Up on the Mountain

3 02 2008

Texts: Exodus 24: 12-18; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9

My Rector at the Church of the Immaculate Contraption in NYC said to me while we were cleaning up after the Christmas Day service that preaching on Christmas and Easter could be very difficult. On these days, the preacher’s challenge is to try and explain great theological truths that we as Christians believe to those who happen to wander in, perhaps for the first time, or perhaps after a long absence from a worshipping community. Not only that, but you have to reach those who are faithful week after week who come and expect to be spiritually fed with something really meaty. Indeed, most of the Christian ethos can be distilled to the phrase, “Be nice to each other and treat them as you want to be treated.” The story of the Transfiguration then could be considered another one of those difficult days, because here we are talking about a specific revelatory event in the life of Christ. While this is not nearly as heavy as it is along the lines of trying to explain the Incarnation or the Resurrection, it is an event which eludes a simple description or moralizing. The preacher’s challenge today is to reflect on the significance of this event without getting bogged down in trying to explain everything.

Many of us have had we can be called mountaintop experiences. These are moments when we feel really close to God and his presence feels so near we think that if we were to speak to him, he would speak back in an audible voice. Many times, we do not want to leave that space or we hope to carry that with us for a while and are always somewhat sad when it starts to slip away and we are faced with returning to a mundane reality. We get a glimpse of what it will be like when God fully redeems our world or carries us home to be with him, and at the same time, we understand that the Kingdom of God is not yet as close as we would like. Perhaps this is something similar to what Peter, James and John experienced when they ascended a literal mountain with Jesus to pray and they found themselves surrounded by clouds and saw Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah. Incarnate God speaking and chatting with two people who represented in Jewish thought what is the highest understanding of Law and what it means to be a Prophet.

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