Predestination

Water and Spirit

Jesus says in John 3:5 that we come into the Kingdom of God by water and spirit. This makes me think of baptism, both the water kind that is common in worship, and the baptism of Pentecost that is less common these days. Water and spirit, here might also be related to the birth process. Water surrounds a baby for nine months. It gives way at birth to the spirit — in greek the same word also means breath and wind. When a child takes that first breath, they are inspired. We each re-spire until we die, or expire.  The word spirit and the words we use to talk about being creatures of the air, have deep linguistic connections. Think of it sequentially. The world was dark and void and God parted the waters. Then he breathed his breath into each creature and made us born again to a new life.Physical birth and spiritual birth have much in common.

 

Jesus goes on to say about the spirit that it is like an unexplained and unexpected wind. God is constantly involved in our world. We don’t stop to think about this as often as we should. What events are purely natural, and what events are spiritual?

Sunday, March 12, 2017
Lent 2

Wasted Seed

Anne Dillard whacks us on the side of the head when she says, “Nature is, above all, profligate. Don't believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is…  Extravagance! Nature will try anything once.” Jesus likens God’s evangelism to a farmer who throws most of his seed away (Matthew 13:1-9). The profligate sower throws his precious seed out on the path, where the Devil and the birds whisk it away. Then there is the story of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:19-34). We would like to blame Esau for wasting his birthright, but it’s God who puts the red-headed man on the stupid path where the Devil steals his soul.

 

Genesis 25, Matthew 13, and Romans 8, all seem to be driving home the point that the people who enter into God’s kingdom, do so by grace. Most people in this world are not spiritual. I’m not talking about religious affiliation or church attendance. I’m saying that the seed of having a real love for God is wasted on most people. Jesus says that God is willing to play the odds and let most people live their lives with nominal affection for him. But the few seeds that fall on fertile souls, burst forth into miraculous fruitfulness. They respond and yield a hundredfold, or sixtyfold, or thirty times more seed than what was sown.

 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Pentecost 10

Family Conflict

The story of Abraham in Genesis 21:8-21 is impossible to preach, so why not take it on this week? In it, God is criminally negligent, Abraham guilty of attempted murder, and the notion of predestination affirmed. There are few places in the Bible more open to controversy. There are some great truths, however, that you can teach using it. You can talk about the sacredness of family, marriage, and the grace of God. You can also preach the great lesson of Scott Peck, that life is painful and we can not grow as people until we embrace the emotional difficulties of our current situation. Because Abraham is unwilling to face the crisis of his family on this day, he subjects himself to a lifetime of regret.

 

But first, we have to talk about Sarah. Sarah sees Ishmael playing with her baby Isaac and is overwhelmed by the green eyed monster, Jealousy. Ishmael is Abraham’s firstborn child, something no son of hers will ever be. There is something more. Sarah sees the financial resources and the family’s prestige as a fixed commodity. The more one child gets, the less that is available for the other. This ‘zero sum game’ is Sin’s most popular myth. Her grandchild, Jacob, will divide the family’s wealth among 12 sons and not diminish the inheritance one iota. In todays world, people are always using the devil’s zero sum logic and abandoning God’s promise of abundance.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Pentecost 3

Predestined, Maybe?

The idea that my life is like clay in the potter’s hands is both wonderful and scary. The scary part has to do with predestination. Jeremiah hears the Lord say that his country is destined for either good things or destruction. What they get depends entirely on God’s plan (Jeremiah 18:1-11). We have no more power over our own fate than a lump of clay does when a great hand chooses to squish it. Is our nation predestined to get involved in another Middle East conflict? Is Ben Bernanke powerless to set our economic sails and bring us prosperity? In my own life, am I predestined to get cancer or Alzheimer's or end up with Tupperware bottoms that don’t fit my Tupperware lids? If life is predestined, why does my dryer keep producing an odd number of socks?

 

Sunday, September 8, 2013
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