There is a Sermon Here…

23 09 2010

but not sure where it ends up.

Guy to Me: “So. I found a great place to live, but it doesn’t have enough closet space or space to put all my stuff”

Me: “dude, how much closet space do you need? If you didn’t bring it with you, you probably don’t need it. And what you brought with you, I’m sure you can ditch at least half….”

Purple Stole Moment

18 09 2010

One of the things I look forward to doing the next time I go on vacation is when vacation is ending and I say to folks, “I’m going home to Key West.”

Tip of the Hat to Nick.

Quote of the Day

18 09 2010

Darlin’ this life aint about our comfort level. Even though we know our good-byes are never final, they may not know that yet. Spend time with the people who want to spend time with you.

Ministry is about a lot of things but it is never about you and certainly isn’t about what makes you feel good. Fulfilling…yes. Feeling good? Not all the time.

Feast of the Exaltation of The Holy Cross

14 09 2010

Today is Holy Cross Day. For those of you who wonder what the Feast is all about, here is some background, courtesy of James Kiefer.

During the reign of Constantine, first Roman Emperor to profess the Christian faith, his mother Helena went to Israel and there undertook to find the places especially significant to Christians. (She was helped in this by the fact that in their destructions around 135, the Romans had built pagan shrines over many of these sites.) Having located, close together, what she believed to be the sites of the Crucifixion and of the Burial (at locations that modern archaeologists think may be correct), she then had built over them the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was dedicated on 14 September 335. It has become a day for recognizing the Cross (in a festal atmosphere that would be inappropriate on Good Friday) as a symbol of triumph, as a sign of Christ’s victory over death, and a reminder of His promise, “And when I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)

What is the significance of the sign of the cross? Well, in the first place, we often place our initials or other personal mark on something to show that it belongs to us. The Cross is the personal mark of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we mark it on ourselves as a sign that we belong to Him, just as in the book of Revelation, as noted above, the servants of God are sealed or marked on their foreheads as a sign that they are His.

You can read the whole thing by following the link:

Lost and Found and Forgiven

11 09 2010

Text:  Luke 15:1-10

“It’s all about me!”

This is a phrase that was rather popular some ago and still pops up on occasion.  I believe I even saw a T-Shirt in one of those little shops on Duval Street with this saying on it.  In embracing this phrase, we embrace our own capacity for self-absorption, self-indulgence, our accomplishments.  “Look at what a great person I am! See all of these things that I have and how great my life is!”  When things are bad, we use it to try and make the world stop and pay attention, offer us comfort, and put everything else on hold to commiserate and help us put everything back together.

This even translates into our walk of faith as we try to “earn” our salvation.  How many of have listened to that siren song of those who say “if we try just a little harder, do just a little more, we’ll be in with the right folks and in the right situation and God will bless me.”  Earning our salvation and embarking on a self-help kind of faith is totally antithetical to what our faith is about.

In our Gospel reading today, we see that Jesus is at it again, causing trouble. He is hanging out with the lowest of the low of society and the big scandal is, he seems to attract them and does nothing about it to send them away!  In this case,  Jesus is attracting tax collectors and sinners.  Tax collectors were Jewish people who were collaborating with the Roman government to fleece the local population and seen as traitors.  Sinners in this context were religious and social outcasts of  the day.  The big issue here is one of fellowship, or to what extent Jesus is willing to fully welcome and accept other people.   Jesus is breaking every social convention here and it disturbs those who are the guardians of tradition.  Those of us who call him Lord still find his all-embracing love and compassion disturbing today.

Jesus position, as it is with everything he says or does, is rooted in love.  A love so powerful, so deep, so strong, so wide, that it risks everything, and he describes this love in the parables for today, the lost sheep and the lost coin.  In the parable of the lost sheep, we see the shepherd risking safety of his flock to go and find one that has wandered off.  A lost sheep is, for all intents and purposes, dead.  The shepherd is not only risking the flock, but his entire livelihood for the sake of a sheep that could have been ravaged by dogs.  In the parable of the lost coin, we hear about someone who drops everything to search for the missing asset, and once it is found, everyone is told about it and there is great rejoicing.  And so it is we are told that when one sinner repents, there is great rejoicing in heaven.

At first glance, Jesus appears to be saying that he is hanging out with all of these lost folks in the hopes they will turn away from the sins of their lives and clean up their act.  But this isn’t exactly the case and misses the point of the parables …

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Counting the Cost

6 09 2010

Text:  Luke 14:25-33

There once was a reporter who asked the financier JP Morgan how much it cost to operate his yacht on a yearly basis.  Morgan’s reply was, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”  This saying has been thrown around over the years and has become something of a joke or a dig at someone else.    JP Morgan certainly didn’t have to worry about the cost of anything.  With all his wealth, the price of something were just numbers on a page.  Even today, in the grip of a recession, the wealthy do not seem to appear overly concerned about how much something costs if they wanted to buy something or go somewhere.  In the early days of the recession, the concern was not so much about  the amount of money spent, but how it would look to their peers if they were seen doing  something seen to be extravagant.  Those of us who are not as well off as JP Morgan certainly do have to consider the costs of any new venture, a major purchase or investment.  But for more mundane things that are easily reached within our means, we certainly don’t pay too much attention what the cost is while someone who lives in public housing on a fixed income has very different ideas of where their priorities lie with what limited resources they have.

Jesus, in our Gospel reading for the week, deals with costs.  He gives a few of what we call his “hard sayings” and tells a couple of parables about the importance of considering the cost of following him.  The two parables draw from different lives and different scenarios but the lesson is the same.  Do not take on more than you are able or what you cannot see through to completion.  Jesus is warning his little rag tag band of followers as they head ever closer to Jerusalem that he is not some spiritual guru spouting nice pithy sayings, but he is inviting them to join a very costly operation.  He tells them of the person building a tower who would be the laughing stock if he couldn’t finish it, and of the King who was considering going to war who would surely have to surrender if he didn’t have enough resources to defeat his opponent.  And as if to underscore what he is talking about, Jesus goes ahead and says, “if you’re not willing to give up everything, you cannot be my disciple.”

There are several instances in this passage and elsewhere in the Gospels where Jesus says something like “Whoever does not do x, y, or z cannot be my disciple.”  It is a refrain that he uses to talk about discipleship and to remember what it means to follow Jesus.  Many new Christians find great joy as they come to faith in Christ but many also do not grow beyond that first moment and in some cases, get disillusioned when the discover that the church is full of people who are not perfect.  Or become shocked when they learn our faith actually requires us to do something beyond showing up to a nice building for an hour or so once or twice a week and putting a check in the plate that comes by.  Jesus wants to make it perfectly clear that following him is just about going to a fancy dress party and being in a march or a parade through the streets.

To add insult to injury, Jesus also talks about how you have to hate your family, your friends, your loved ones, even be willing to lose your very life in order to follow him.  Now, a much better translation of hate would be more akin to the idea of turning away from or even having a sense of detachment.  Jesus is saying that in the Kingdom of God our priorities are different.  Hating one’s life is not a call to self-loathing, but Jesus does want us to understand that following him could create tensions in our lives, and with the one’s we love.

So, where is the good news in all of these tough sayings?  When JP Morgan said, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it,” he was referring to material possessions.  Jesus is talking about something we can’t live without.  He’s laying out not only the best offer in town for Eternal Life,  Joy, Hope and the chance to get on the Great Gospel Train of Salvation, but he has also got the only offer that will work.  It is the real deal, but it will set you back a bundle.  After all, it cost Jesus everything.  And it will cost us as well.  No change given back.  All that life, joy and hope he promises is free, but it doesn’t come cheaply.  It is absolutely terrible, unreasonable, even scandalous that in order to gain all of this we have to lose it all, to be willing to give up everything we thought we had ever wanted. But turning away from the priorities of this world of dog-eat-dog is absolutely one of the most liberating things we can do.  When we follow Christ, we begin to live by the laws of love … Love God with all your heart, soul and strength … Love your neighbor as yourself .. and finally as Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”