Salvation

Remember Where You Stand

The old New English Bible that I used while I was in college falls open to Hebrew 12. The page is ratty, covered with ink underlines hued red, blue, and black; minuscule notations cram the corners, and a box brackets verses 18 to 29. This was the rock that I clung to throughout my transition from free-spirited teen, to married man, to seminary student. It says, simply, “Remember where you stand.” I learned during that quartet of years that surrounded my entry into a second decade, that religion, and life in general, offered a number of places to stand.

Pentecost 16
Sunday, August 21, 2016

Death 2 Seeds

Jesus gives a profound explanation for our lives: We are seeds. We get planted on this earth as seedy-self-centered beings. What we were before is unknown, and who we have to thank seems an irrelevant question. We live seed-illy, bumping up against other seeds, facing rejection, misunderstandings, and a general shared ignorance about life. Then the hour comes when we are cracked open and transformed. The new life, the miracle, casts our seed-shell aside. Jesus asks, “Shall I say No to this hour?”

Lent 5
Sunday, March 22, 2015

Nicodemus and the Three Stooges

As mentioned before, HBO’s Bill Maher has laid down a challenge to all Christian Ministers. He states that our religion creates an urgent problem, namely sin, and then sells a solution, salvation and/or the regular support of the institutional church (see http://billkemp.info/content/bill-maher-and-nicodemus). He compares today’s ministers to an episode of The Three Stooges, where the guys have an extermination business. Moe, Larry, and Curly are seen planting mice and bugs in the homes that they hope to sell their services to.

Bill Maher and Nicodemus

This past week (3/6/2015), HBO’s political commentator/comedian, Bill Maher, spoke about salvation in this way:  “Take any religion, let’s say, Christianity. First they invent a problem, like sin. Then they sell you a solution [getting saved].”*  This was in the context of Bill and his guest, Lawrence Wright, discussing Scientology, a religion that certainly has a questionable marketing strategy. But, before we laugh with Bill and Larry, we ought to ask how Christianity is different.

Lent 4
Sunday, March 15, 2015

Say Yes to the Dress

TLC does a bit of fluff called “Say Yes to the Dress.” It shows brides arguing with their mothers as they choose a dress for her to wear for three hours on one day and costs — well, if you have to ask the price you’re not really putting yourself into their demographic. It’s Queen for the Day, remade for today’s cable channel surfer, minus the backstory of how miserable the woman’s life was before this moment and how much she needs to feel special for an hour. My hatred of Say Yes…  may be why Isaiah 62:10 popped out a me this week.

Advent 3
Sunday, December 14, 2014

Unknowns

We don’t know how to pray as we ought is a striking and often overlooked line. Yet, it may be the truest thing the Apostle Paul ever wrote. It is not in human nature to distinguish between true and false communion with God. We think praying is simply a matter of closing our eyes and folding our hands. Or mentally doing something like that. Some describe prayer as simply talking to God like you would a friend. God is wholly other. The pre-socratic philosopher, Meno, asks, “How do you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” Having glimpsed God down a long corridor, dimmed by your own inadequacies, how do you pray?

Pentecost 12
Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wheat and Tares, together sown

It seems strange dealing with the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) in the middle of the summer. The hymn, “Come Ye Thankful People Come,” puts this parable to music. It is rarely sung except at Thanksgiving. Then, the actions of the farmer make sense. By telling Jesus’ parable in the summer, we preserve its shock value. The farmer lets the weeds grow among his corn. He’s my kind of gardener. We aren’t meant to imitate the farmer of this story. We are meant to think about what it means to be wheat or corn. We are meant to think about what happens to the weeds in the end.

Pentecost 11
Sunday, July 20, 2014

Being Light

Let’s be blunt; I’m not good enough. Jesus says, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” I’ve been doing some reading lately on first century Judaism and am ready to conclude that the scribes, Pharisees, Essenes, and even, the Sadducees, were a lot better folk than the average church going Christian is today. They, at least, sought to know the commandments of God and worked at obeying what they had been taught. This meant fasting, tithing, attending week-long religious celebrations, and setting aside hours each day for prayer.

Epiphany 5
Sunday, February 9, 2014
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