Paul

Try not to fall for Dumb Idols

Idolatry is a big thing today. I visited Edmonton, Canada a few years back. They have this big silver thing in the middle of town. It’s a reproduction of the Stanley Cup that their hockey team has won a few times. Pittsburgh gets one of them things every once and a while. We try not to make an idol of it. How are we doing?

Ever since Mohamed Ali people have been saying, “I’m the greatest.” Most have been less deserving than Mr. Ali. You may have someone over you at your workplace who thinks that they are the greatest — it has a way of making them a lousy boss. Many people today work for a business that wants them to idolize the company — that is — to sacrifice your thoughts and your family time for its ends. No job should do that.

There are people both commoners and politicians today, who are making an idol out of their political party. They believe that any end that advances their agenda can be justified — whether it means gerrymandering voting districts, or spreading rumors about an opposing candidate, or giving their unqualified relatives and friends a position in office, ahead of those who know something about governing. Political crap and idolatry is ruining American democracy. If we want them to stop it, we best start calling it what it is, idolatry.

Face it, though, from the moment we are born, we are encouraged to worship false idols. As a child, I was taught that people who had lighter skin were superior — I had to unlearn, with great embarrassment and difficulty — the idolatry of racism. Some of us were led to the false idols of alcoholism and drugs. Some of us took on compulsive addictions like pornography and endless hours of computer gaming.

Paul writes in I Corinthians 12:2:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Pentecost 1
Day of Pentecost

Connecting with the Athenian Philosophers

The Bible is a big book, but much of it is repetition. God speaks common sense in triplicate. But, real self-revelation from the divine is doled out very sparingly. To compensate for this, God has gifted people in every era and location to be storytellers, artists, musicians, and dancers. Wherever an inspired work helps people to live more wisely, to seek for healing in their relationships, and to grasp that there is something beyond this material world, there the voice of God is heard. By being both multicultural and multilingual, God does an end run around our tendency to associate religion with our pet dogmas. When the Apostle Paul paid to visit to Athens, he stood in very spot where Socrates had taught some four hundred years before. Paul made a point of complimenting the Greeks for their diligence in pursuing both philosophy and religion. In his mind the search for shalom was a universal activity something that both united and challenged all human beings. He said, “[God] is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’” (Acts 17:27-28). In our world of polarization and religious fanaticism, we need to once more speak about the common grace that God gives to all nations.
Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Passing of Old Religion

Under the old system of religion, religious leaders were called reverend (as if they were to be revered for their higher degree of holiness), those who prayed or spoke with God were thought to have halos or skin that glowed, and keeping track of all the petty laws and rituals of orthodox belief was a full time job. Moses represents the old religion when he veils his face. Many of us represent old religion when we expect people to treat us as holy people just because we spend an inordinate amount of time in church. Hear the good news; in Jesus Christ we are all equal inheritors of holiness. The old divisions of lay verses clergy, secular verses holy, are falling away.

 

Sunday, February 7, 2016
Epiphany 5
Transfiguration Sunday

Passively Entering the New Year

To write well, I avoid the passive voice. Or to put it the wrong way, my writing is becoming less passive. Yet, when Paul greets the church at Ephesus with the rich and sonorous, ‘blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…’ everything he says for the rest of the page is passive. It has to be this way. God already is fully blessed by His nature and totally the gift-giver in our relationship with Him. We are like young children on Christmas Day, requiring fourteen minutes to tell of all the things that we received, but since we are not yet active in the real world, can’t point to a single thing that we have given back. So, Paul goes fourteen verses listing the gifts we have from our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

 

Imagine a child in a car seat with a little plastic steering wheel. That’s us. We have entered the New Year with someone else driving the issues that will really matter for us in the year ahead. Our health, our family unity, our safety, our daily bread and our weekly rest; all God. Paul is one of those rare voices in our lives that points to the steering wheel in our hands and says, ‘it’s plastic and not connected to the control arms of our vehicle, but that’s okay.’

Sunday, January 3, 2016
Christmas 2
New Years
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