Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day Sermon

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

I understand why we read this passage from John’s gospel every Christmas Day, but, I’m not always happy about. To me, it sounds bloodless, the abstract ruminations of a cloistered philosopher who comprehends the mysteries of the divine, but can’t get a date for Friday night. Maybe I’m missing something but John’s message of the Word made Flesh doesn’t quite make it down to earth. His words to describe The Word betray his message.

After all, we’re here this morning not to theologize about the nature of the incarnation or speculate about the inner-relationship of the Trinity.

We’re here to greet a baby. A tiny creature who cries all night and fills his diapers. We sing songs about mangers and barns, shepherds and angels, sheep and donkeys. And last night we heard stories so earthy that they have dirt on them and made our clothes smell. Today’s reading only leaves us lost in our thoughts.

So I worry about John’s Jesus. I worry that he can’t relate to me. Or to us. Or to anyone with a pulse and who bleeds red. I worry that he might come across as human in name only, that he doesn’t understand the limitations of a mortal life. That he’s comfortably abstract, afraid to touch our skin, uninterested in changing our lives or the world. I worry that he...(whole thing here)

Christmas Eve Sermon

For those who say that religion and politics don’t mix aren’t paying attention to tonight’s reading from Luke that we just heard. Maybe this passage has become TOO familiar to those who’ve been coming to Christmas Eve services for so many years or been watching endless loops of Linus’ monologue from A Charlie Brown Christmas, that the story has lost its political edge.

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their hometowns to be registered.”

I’m no statistician, but why people had to take time off work to head to their hometowns to fill out a government form is a mystery to me. They could just as easily been counted where they lived and the Roman bureaucrats probably would have gotten better information.

But Luke, in his sneaky sort of way, makes a point in telling us that Jesus was born during the reign of Caesar Augustus in the city of the great King David. And anyone listening who knew their history would have known the Augustus fancied himself as the “King of Peace” who was to bring an end to all wars everywhere.

On top of that, Augustus, in a stunning act of hubris, also referred to himself as “Saviour” and encouraged people to worship him like a god. He was the all-powerful, wise, and virtuous leader who would usher in an era of peace and prosperity, whether you wanted his brand of peace and prosperity or not.

This gives the angels’ announcement to the shepherds more of a political spin: “Do not be afraid; for see- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

So Luke presents us with...(whole thing here)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sermon: Advent 3A

Leap frog a few generations from last week’s reading and you’ll land in this morning’s passage from Isaiah. The past two weeks we were knee-deep in palace intrigue when King Ahaz of Judah buckled, making common cause with the enemy only to find the holy city in ruins.

A few kings later, and God’s people find themselves conquered and enslaved by the Babylonians. This has been their recurring national nightmare. Those who’ve seen the movie know that God’s people were enslaved in Egypt. Then they wandered lost in the wilderness for 40 years before finding the land that God promised them.

And, like last time, the people called to the prophet Isaiah for a word from the Lord. When will they be rescued from slavery?

This Isaiah, which many scholars call “second Isaiah” doesn’t have any inside information for his people. He doesn’t know the “when” or the “how.” He can’t tell them at what time they’re supposed to pack their bags. He only brings large promises. When first Isaiah brought grand visions for the history of the world, this second Isaiah has a word that is more personal than that of his ancestor in name.

This Isaiah talks about how the land and the people will be transformed. Deserts will have swimming pools. Arthritic hands will be like vice-grips, those with bad knees will throw away their walkers, blind folks will paint murals, and deaf people will update their CD collections.

In other words, the...(whole thing here)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sermon: Advent 2A

Against Isaiah’s counsel, King Ahaz of Judah rejected the calls for an alliance with the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Arameans to rebel against the Assyrian empire. And such a decision came with terrible consequences. The northern kingdom was destroyed. And Samaria soon followed. King Ahaz kept his crown, but his reign was effectively over. He lost his peoples’ trust. And so they turned their gaze to young Hezekiah, the heir apparent, who might be the righteous ruler they all longed for.

And this righteous ruler had quite the job description. If Hezekiah was the One, he had huge expectations on his shoulders.

A shoot shall come from the stump of Jesse. Jesse, as they would have known, was David’s father. And the news couldn’t have been better. 

But “stump” isn’t quite right. “Base’ is more true to the original. From the base of the tree of Jesse a shoot will come out, and a branch shall grow out of its roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and the awe of the Lord...”

This leader will rule not according to his own ambitions, but from God’s Spirit. He shall be wise and humble, righteous and fair, strong and just. He shall be everything God’s people needed in a king. He would lead their people back into their glorious past which would become their future.

God’s people had a long and weighty memory. The stories about King David nestled snuggly in their DNA. Those were Israel’s glory years when the kingdom was united and expanding. Their enemies feared them. Their lives overflowed with abundance. The world was their’s to win. 

And most importantly, they...(whole thing here)