Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sermon: Epiphany 3B

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Repentance. I think the Christian proclamation has twisted this word into so many knots that it would be unrecognizable to Jesus’ first listeners. And now, the mere utterance of that word evokes strong feelings of shame. At least it does for me.

“Repent!” we hear preachers say. And what they usually mean is “Stop sinning! Change those parts of your life that is putting you in conflict with God. Cut out those impure thoughts and actions and turn to the purity of God’s will. If you want to be close to God then you have to remove anything that gets in the way with your relationship with God.”

I heard that a lot from too many preachers. For me, when I hear that, and if it`s true, I always wonder if I have repented enough. I always worry that there’s something that I’ve missed, that there might be a spiritual blind spot that is keeping me from growing in my faith.

Luckily, in an old prayer of confession, there’s an escape clause. The prayer confesses those sins “known and unknown.” 

However, while we may be forgiven of those unknown sins with a linguistic sleight-of-hand, practically, we are no better off because we cannot change that which we do not know that we SHOULD change. If being close to God and greeting the kingdom when it arrives is dependent on something that I do, than I’m not sure that really sounds like good news. 

As Christians, we tend to...(whole thing here)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sermon: Epiphany 2B

New Years day was quite an education for me. I was told that Japanese people are not religious, yet they pray at the shrine. And from the lineups I saw at the various shrines in the area, I could see what people meant.

I would say that makes Japanese people VERY religious. At least in practice if not in belief. It seems that in such a highly ritualized culture, the act of praying at the shrine is a quite a religious thing to do, even if folks sometimes do so out of ritual or simple tradition.

Tokyo is this amazing city where I can walk through blocks and blocks of highly modern landscape, with its massive steel and glass buildings, and stunning architecture. Then I encounter - out of nowhere - a small Buddhist temple. And someone might be praying there. And down the block I’ll stumble upon a Shinto shine, reminding people of the city’s deep history.

And of course, on my way to the office I walk through the Yasukuni Shrine, where there is, often, a crowd gathering. And knowing its complicated history, and the strong feelings it arouses, I make my way as quickly as I can when the young men in black shirts and sunglasses start shouting into their microphones.

Religion is everywhere here. Yearnings for the sacred are found on every city block.

This wouldn’t have been news to the Christians in Corinth. The Corinthian Christians knew shrines, and they knew temples. They knew that temples and shrines were places where gods and goddesses lived.

Temples were expensive to build and even worse to maintain. Temples were sacred, holy, awe-inspiring places. They were places people went to celebrate life’s special events, those transitional moments that helped them along life’s journey. If they wanted to find the Holy, they went to the shrine and the temple.

So they were probably surprised when Paul asked them..(whole thing here)

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Sermon: Baptism of Jesus

As it turns out, Jesus wasn’t the only one being called into a new life that day in those waters. God was calling them into the same life that Jesus was called into. Baptism isn’t just a ritual that we perform as an entry way into the church family. And baptism isn’t just a one-off salvation ticket.

Baptism is about being recruited - drafted - into a movement. In baptism, we are joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection, so we can live resurrection lives in a world so often more interested in death. 

Baptism is about...(whole thing here)