Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sermon: Advent 1B

On May 21, 2011 I was on a plane traveling from from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Calgary, Alberta, having just finished attending a five day preaching conference, when I remembered the date, and a bead of sweat appeared on my brow.

How could I have forgotten so easily? After all it had been in the news for months. Warnings had appeared in my email inbox, billboards were erected all over the world, the TV was overflowing with news stories sounding the alarm for us to be aware of the impending scene about to unfold. Houses and businesses were sold in preparation. Millions of dollars were raised in the effort to make sure that the whole world knew what was about to take place on May 21, 2011.

As many of us were told, May 21, 2011 was to be the Day of Judgment. It was the Day when Christ would return in glory. It was the Day when God would judge the nations, and the dead shall rise in judgment, the righteous to be lifted up into heaven and the unrighteous left behind for destruction. It was a day of salvation and chaos. Heavenly joy and earthly suffering. A day when the good receive their reward and the the bad endure eternal punishment. It was a day when history was to come to a screeching halt.

And I was on a plane wondering if the pilot was among the righteous, lifted out of his earthly existence at cruising altitude upon Christ’s return. I wondered if he would go to his heavenly reward at 38000 ft, leaving the plane’s driver’s seat empty. Being that far up I’m guessing he wouldn’t have far to go. But then what would the rest of us do?

But then, three hours later, the plane landed safely in Calgary, the pilot still at the helm. I looked out the window and earth bound existence seemed no worse for ware. There was no fiery landscape, no weeping and gnashing of teeth. No mothers wailing or blood soaked mountains anywhere to be seen. The sun had not been vanquished by the night.

When I stepped off the plane I saw that it was just another day in Calgary. Sunny. Warm. Nothing to get excited about.

“H’uh,” I thought to myself. “It looks like...(whole thing here)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sermon Pentecost 22A

So it makes me ask: where is God in this passage? The traditional reading is that God is the boss, and as the boss, God expects great things from us, or we’ll suffer the consequences.

But I have trouble seeing God that way. There’s no forgiveness, no mercy, and no grace here. If we read this story with God as the boss then God becomes a nasty, punishing, overlord, who demands high levels of spiritual performance from us.

The boss cannot be God, because God does not behave this way.

You might point out that is was the boss who gave out the talents, and isn’t God who gives us our gifts?

But I want to ask, who gave...(whole thing here)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Sermon: All Saints Sunday

First. Class. Doormat. That’s what I said to myself as a little boy and heard this passage from Matthew for the first time.

And I’m not alone. American civil rights activist, Malcolm X once noted that oppressed people will continue to be oppressed if they follow this teaching. And US comedian Bill Maher likes to make fun of this “crazy” teaching that sets people up for abuse.

Those of us who’ve been around the church for a while might find Malcolm’s and Bill’s comments offensive. After all, they’re the words of Jesus, and their sharp edge might have dulled in our ears from years of hearing them.

But to fresh ears, Jesus’ words can sound astonishingly naive. Or even dangerous to our well being.

Blessed our the poor in spirit....blessed are those who mourn...blessed are the meek, the merciful, the peacemaker, and the persecuted.

Most of these are parts of ourselves that we’d rather keep hidden, aren’t they? These are human attributes that we’re trying to avoid. We don’t want to be on the same city block of mourning, or of meekness, or even of peacemaking.

We spend more time and energy trying to look strong. We put on brave faces to share with others, so we won’t look weak.

And this week, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out why these readings have been assigned to All Saints Sunday.

To me it seems that we’re being asked to...(whole thing here)