Posts Tagged ‘Jesus

12
Oct
09

Yes, but who do you say Christ is?

In Matt 16:13-20, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” There followed a series of answers – John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or any number of other prophets. The common denominator in the answers may or may not be obvious.

They were all people who proclaimed God’s message. Many times that message was difficult to hear, and probably equally as difficult to proclaim. The messages compelled some people to believe and to act, and it turned others away. The messages were harsh, and the responses of those who rejected them even more harsh. But they proclaimed the message of God as best they understood it even in the face of rejection and death.

That’s what they did – each of them proclaimed a message of God. These answers to Jesus’ question, however, were not good enough. Jesus followed with a much more pronounced and difficult question – one which showed that the answers about Jesus simply being a prophet of God’s message were not accurate. Jesus asked, “But, who do YOU say that I am?” Continue reading ‘Yes, but who do you say Christ is?’

29
Sep
09

It Isn’t Easy to Love – a reflection on Matt 22:34-46

Readings: 1 Thess 2 & Matt 22:34-46.

In the first century Roman world, status was critical. By someone’s place in the social order, he or she would be allocated value or worth. The emperor stood at the top of Roman culture. Everyone else like politicians, soldiers, business people, general citizens and slaves had their places in relation to those above and below them.

Like Rome, every outlying city had its own social stratification. People attempted to maintain or raise their position in many ways. Making major gifts to the city was a way of gaining public honor. Funding a building, education or some other public facility like a bath or gymnasium, which were very important in Roman culture, were all ways to gain status. So was supporting an artist or artisan, guiding a young person or helping people find work.

These were all very good things, but the reasons for doing them were self-serving. It was called patronage and it was essential to the social system. Beneficiaries gave respect and status to their patron – flattery that had currency because it elevated the patron’s power, prestige and position.

In return, the beneficiaries expected more favors, assistance and general support. Conferring honor to those higher up in the social order was an economic transaction that had material benefit for those lower on the scale. It was a system designed to keep people in place in the social order by making each dependent on the patronage of those above them. Continue reading ‘It Isn’t Easy to Love – a reflection on Matt 22:34-46′

14
Sep
09

Christology of Jon Sobrino

The Concept of Jesus as a Model of Radical Political Action with Reference to the Theology of Jon Sobrino.

In his 1972 book The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder developed the biblical evidence which justified his belief, “Jesus is, according to the biblical witness, a model of radical political action …”[1] Yoder, disturbed by theological thought that separated Jesus from the political sphere, attempted to prove that faithful Christian disciples should adopt Jesus’ political approach, which included pacifism.[2] Another area of Christian thought that encourages active participation in the arena of politics and justice is Latin American Liberation Theology (LALT), with Jon Sobrino being a particularly vocal advocate. Sobrino comes from a completely different tradition, culture and political climate than Yoder, and would have dissimilar beliefs in many regards – absolute pacifism being just one. The aim of this paper is not to compare and/or contrast the principles upon which these theologians’ beliefs are built, but rather to determine if this particular quote of Yoder would also be compatible with Sobrino’s theology. Continue reading ‘Christology of Jon Sobrino’

09
Aug
09

The Ten Commandments – Exodus 20:1-20

One of my former ministers once told me that if I ever get a chance to preach on the Ten Commandments – don’t. He told me that whenever he had preached about them in the past, someone got very upset. Some people, he said, think they are the cornerstone of righteousness – the sign of a faithful nation that should be displayed prominently on every government building. And some, he said, think they are pie-in-the sky ideals that are impossible to live up to, and have no place in public discourse.

So I well imagine Thom shaking his finger at me right now and saying, “I warned you.”

The Ten Commandments or Decalogue – literally “Ten Words” – are foundational in both Judaism and Christianity, and for good reason. Scripture tells us they were given to Moses directly from God. The scripture that tells us this is our reading that follows, but also Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 5.

The Ten Commandments are clear, concise, memorable and unambiguous, and form the basis for ethical behavior of two of the world’s prominent religions. That, at least, is what we learn in Sunday School or catechism. Reality, as usual, says something different. Continue reading ‘The Ten Commandments – Exodus 20:1-20’

03
Jul
09

Idolizing Wealth – Luke 12:12-21

Jesus is asked to intervene in an inheritance dispute, and responds by telling a parable about greed. Obviously, Jesus has decided that greed is the underlying motivation of the person who asks for their share of the inheritance … and that this is a good time for a lesson about greed in general.

Quite simple, really. Hardly much point in preaching about it, since it’s just so obvious, eh?

There is more here than is initially apparent, however. To find it we have to delve a little deeper into the text. And my job is to do that without turning this sermon into a geek fest of language and theological study that leaves you groping for the exit door in a bored stupor. We’ll see how I do.

There are many patterns in Luke, but one in particular is how Jesus answers questions. Rarely does Jesus give direct answers to direct questions. Jesus generally answers a question with either another question or a parable, and many times with both… and it strikes me that Jesus does this so people can learn to discern their own answers. Continue reading ‘Idolizing Wealth – Luke 12:12-21’

29
Jun
09

God as Mother – More traditional than you might think

As a preface to this series, I would like to be open about my journey with feminist interpretation and theology. Because of my terrible relationship with my father, I could not grasp nor find comfort in the image of Father God, which is the language I grew up with. “Father” and “God” were not words that could go together, since “father” was the equivalent of abuser, torturer and imprisoner – concepts I could not reconcile with my concept of God. As a result, I spent a long time away from church. As I was being pulled back into church by God, I had to somehow deal with my cognitive dissonance. What helped me immensely were materials normally reserved for women who have experienced sexual abuse by a father or father-figure. I then began an amateur study of feminist and womanist theologies. Several years later, when I started seminary, I met the woman who is now my wife, Rev Jenna Zirbel. She was two years ahead of me in seminary and lightyears in thinking. 

ORTHODOXY – GOD THE FATHER, FATHER GOD, FATHER

Modern orthodoxy views God as male – basically through the various characteristics of Father-hood.  I don’t know about you, but my childhood recollections of God were as an old, white man with a flowing pure white beard, long white hair and distinctly European features. I always thought this must be the way the Bible describes God. Imagine my surprise when I found out that nowhere in scripture is God ever described like that. Continue reading ‘God as Mother – More traditional than you might think’

27
Jun
09

Jesus Save Me From Religiosity

Lately, I’ve developed a renewed appreciation for Jethro Tull – a band hailing back to my drug-crazed youth. Back then, I never actually heard the words, just loved the music. While some lyrics are certainly cynical, two songs in particular call out to me right now – My God and Hymn 43. Below are the transcribed words and video of each. In the case of the live performance of My God, the differences between the recorded version and live version are in italics and brackets. The live version of Hymn 43 is a remarkable (in my opinion) remake of the original by Tull and I hope you like it as well.

Enjoy – I certainly do. Continue reading ‘Jesus Save Me From Religiosity’

08
Jun
09

The Economy of God

BUMP – Just because I like this one.

Having accepted the challenge to discuss economic theology with a Presbyterian session of a large metropolitan church, and having overheard in conversation the “ideal” minister being described as a “CEO” type, I began with a simple exercise – one I had presented several times before to different audiences. The exercise takes advantage of the preponderance of business language and processes being used by sessions and boards of religious institutions.

Continue reading ‘The Economy of God’

27
May
09

A Personal Journey in Leadership

The attitudes about leadership that I brought into my first church assignment as an administrator were saturated with bias, largely because I equated leading with managing. In retrospect, I had witnessed very few examples of leadership, as I now understand it. I had, however, been privy to and used many management styles, most of which were based on the manipulation of people and situations to satisfy corporate and/or self-interest.

Eventually, I resigned from the business arena because I couldn’t reconcile my role, or generally accepted management practices, with a newly developing worldview after becoming a Christian. After a semi-reclusive period spent building furniture and helping develop small group ministries at my church, I re-entered the public world as a church employee, only to encounter the same management attitudes that had repulsed me in the business environment. On the first night of a class on church leadership some years ago, we listed words describing leadership. If I remember correctly, my only contribution to that original list of words was ‘manipulative’.

Any description of my leadership style will be somewhat nebulous, as I am still processing the significance of concepts contained in various books and discussions and, most importantly, experiences from life in church. This will not be an exercise that ends with my last call.

Continue reading ‘A Personal Journey in Leadership’

17
May
09

Mary’s Song – Magnificat Not Just for Advent

Normally, we hear this passage in Advent. It prompts images of the gift of God that coincides nicely with our gifts at Christmas. The gift of God in the person of Christ, however, is not limited to one short period in the Christian year – it is ongoing 24/7, 365, year after year. It is the gift that keeps on giving no matter the season.

In return we are meant, as Christians, to be a gift to the world – again, not just at Christmastime, but in all times. This is not a passage for one season, but one for all seasons. Even though we tend to reserve Christmas for the anticipation of the coming Messiah, that too is a constant expectation.

So, this morning, we’re going to continue to wait, while listening again to the song of Mary. Read Luke 1:46-55. Continue reading ‘Mary’s Song – Magnificat Not Just for Advent’

07
May
09

The Hero’s Journey – or, Ministry Suicide

When the word “myth” is used to describe foundational social or faith stories, the result is oftentimes a reaction of insult and anger. For most, that word conjures up images of fictional or embellished stories, perhaps compiled from many disparate sources – in short, myths are not considered to be truth. The word “myth”, however, is value neutral on the criteria of truth. Myths are society’s fundamental stories, usually involving heroes or major events and based on reality, fiction or some combination of the two that explain or validate traditional practices or belief patterns. Myths are the foundations of culture – every culture has them – the bedrock upon which social values, mores and norms are built.

There is, then, a tendency to romanticize myths beyond the level of ideology, adventure and chivalrous displays that already exist. Entirely common is the process of day-dreaming ourselves in the role of the mythical hero – to become so enamored with the myth, that our ability to see ourselves apart from it becomes blurred. Generally, this very act circumvents the intended message of the story, and creates a compound myth that is now approaching fantasy. Most times, this is quite harmless, but when a pastor crosses this line, faith can become a casualty. Continue reading ‘The Hero’s Journey – or, Ministry Suicide’

07
May
09

Prayer For a Caring Community

Bumped

A PRAYER FOR CARING COMMUNITY

(adapted from the Ten Commandments)

 Save your people, God who is our God:

From not loving you as we should;

From the worship of the gods of material wealth and comfort;

Continue reading ‘Prayer For a Caring Community’

05
May
09

A Vision of Inclusion

The crux of chapter 9 of John, which you’ll be reading shortly, is found at the beginning and end. In between, we find examples that illustrate the points being made.  The verses that make up the middle paragraphs are rich with symbolism, but there’s only so much that can be covered in one page. So I will concentrate mostly on the beginning and ending. This is a powerful testament to including rather than excluding those we deem unacceptable. Continue reading ‘A Vision of Inclusion’

02
May
09

Beyond the Cross – Mark 1:8-15

We can get so used to hearing the longer versions of this story in the other gospels that we forget how very brief, but fulsome, this version is. It is the paucity of words that this story of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness that opens it up to us to make it our own. We can at times so easily get caught up in the frantic performance and goal-directed activity of 21st century life. And then, perhaps, we have created a soothing routine that runs along automatically so that we avoid the need for decisions. Only the secure knowledge that on Monday there is chicken for dinner, friends to call in the afternoon, or news to watch at 6:00. On Tuesday it might be book club or classes. On Wednesday, maybe it’s the weekly shopping. We could rely so heavily on routine that it robs us of the times necessary for reflecting on our own journey – for spending our forty days in the wilderness. Continue reading ‘Beyond the Cross – Mark 1:8-15’

01
May
09

The Winter of Our Discontent

A SERMON BASED ON MARK 1:40-45 & 1 COR 9:24-27

“She came out … just in time to see her young son playing in the path of the gray, gaunt man who strode down the center of the well-worn road like a mechanical derelict. For an instant, her heart quailed. Then she jumped forward, gripped her son by the arm, snatched him out of harm’s way. The man went by without turning his head. As his back moved away from her, she hissed at it, “Go away! Get out of here! You ought to be ashamed.” Thomas’s stride went on, … but to himself he responded, “Ashamed? Ashamed?”

“He saw that the people he passed, the people who knew him, whose names and houses and handclasps were known to him – he saw that they stepped aside, gave him plenty of room. Some of them looked as if they were holding their breath. Women, who had at one time chosen to flirt, recoiled from him as if he were some minor horror or ghoul, and he felt a sudden treacherous pang of loss. His inner being collapsed, as it did every day.”

This is an account in the day of the life of a leper. Thomas is the lead character in Stephen R. Donaldson’s series, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and he is a fictional twentieth century leper – albeit one based on a real person’s experiences. When I read the series many years ago I remember thinking, “People don’t react that way anymore. The world is not that archaic.” But, perhaps it is. Continue reading ‘The Winter of Our Discontent’




... or, preaching from both ends

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That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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