Loving our enemies – and our youth – for the sake of the Gospel

Lectionary 7 (Seventh Sunday after Epiphany)
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; Matthew 5:38-48
Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lectionary 7 Year A 2011

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

Last week’s Confirmation Class began with a thud.  I told the class,
“Alright, open up your Bibles to the book of Ruth. It might be hard to find –
    it’s a small book, buried in the Old Testament somewhere.
    Use the table of contents if you like.”
“Pastor Chris,” one of them said, “We know where it is. We read from Ruth last week.”
Oh, crud, I thought to myself.
I had prepared the wrong lesson, the one that Randy Correll,
    one of our wonderful Confirmation Ministry teachers, had taught the week before.
So, while my brain was spinning about what to do,
    I showed the class a video on YouTube of a Doritos commercial from the Super Bowl,
    something I had planned to do anyway. 
The commercial dealt with Doritos, yes, but also with resurrection,
    and I thought it would be a good way to start our class.

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It Doesn’t Matter What You Came Here To See

Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-11
Sunday, December 12, 2010


Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

Steve Martin, the noted actor, comedian, and writer, is a funny guy.
Find videos of his performances on YouTube, and you’ll be laughing for hours,
    often at jokes and references that are not entirely appropriate for church.
Tickets sell out quickly when he does live appearances,
    because people will gladly pay big bucks to have this living legend make them laugh.
And so when Steve Martin agreed to do a live appearance at the 92nd Street Y in NYC
    it was a surprise to no one that tickets sold out quickly.
Now, this particular appearance, back on November 29, was not a stand-up comedy act.
Rather, it was billed as an interview between Mr. Martin and Deborah Solomon,
    a columnist for the New York Times Magazine,
    about his most recent book, An Object of Beauty, which is about the art world.
Perhaps not the most scintillating of settings or topics,
    but about 900 tickets were sold, for $50 each, to benefit the work of the Y.
Even if Steve Martin were standing on stage reading a phone book,
    it would probably be worth watching.

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It Gets Better

Reformation Day
Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 8:31-36
October 31, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

The Israelites just had suffered a whopping at the hands of the Babylonians,
    the Temple was looted, desecrated, and destroyed,
    a weak, figurehead monarch was set up in Israel,
    and much of the population was forcibly relocated east across the Tigris River
    into captivity in the foreign land of Babylon.
God’s chosen people, removed from their promised land, were in exile.
For a people whose identity rested largely on their special chosen status,
    a status confirmed by God’s gift of a promised land,
    this current state of affairs was a complete and utter disaster,
    for that land was now far to the west, occupied by foreigners,
        and largely a place of memories.
The covenant, that promise between God and his people, seemed broken.

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Knick-Knack Jesus OK in VA

I just read Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's opinion regarding the constitutionality of religious displays on public ground during the holidays, including displays of Jesus (pdf document of opinion; Washington Post blogpost on the matter). The sad thing is this: displays of Jesus are allowed on public ground so long as such displays are "not making a religious statement."

Translation: As long as Jesus remains a knick-knack (and not, you know, the Son of God who destroys death, raises up the lowly, feeds the hungry, and inaugurates the Kingdom of God, among other things) He can be displayed on public ground in Virginia, according to the Attorney General.

Truth be told, I'm not picking on Cuccinelli. I just get really annoyed when Jesus is turned into a knick-knack, whether by politicians, marketers, or by fellow Christians who somehow think that a taxpayer-funded "Court House Jesus" is a good idea.

Question: Why would anyone who respects religion want to rob its symbols of meaning just so they could be set on a court house lawn?

After all, the Supreme Court has already ruled that the phrase "In God We Trust" is essentially devoid of religious content and thus perfectly suitable as a national motto.  How sad it is that we are glad to render God language meaningless so that it can be fit for a coin.

Dear Government: Please keep your hands off of religious symbols. Religious communities and individuals can practice their religion just fine without your help.  Thank you.


Church/State issues are a favorite of mine.

Sensitivity and Exaggeration in “Ground Zero Mosque” and Luke 13:10-17

Lectionary 21 (13th Sunday after Pentecost)
Isaiah 58:9b-14; Luke 13:10-17
Sunday, August 22, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

I hate to start off so negative.
But I fear for what some might be saying today about this Gospel text,
    in adult forums and pulpits around this country.
Today’s Gospel reading is a story of Jesus healing a woman in a synagogue on the Sabbath.
    As you just heard, after healing the woman,
    Jesus is confronted by the synagogue leader,
        who protests that Jesus performed a work of healing on the day of rest.
And so, I fear for what will be said today about that synagogue leader,
    that he will unfairly be pilloried as an enemy of Christ,
    a denier of grace more interested in divine law than divine love.
But let’s not walk that plank.

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We’re just a bunch of phonies trying to throw Jesus off a cliff (Lectionary 4, Year C)

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Luke 4:21-30
January 31, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, and who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

One you get a few paragraphs deep into The Catcher in the Rye,
    the classic 1951 novel by J.D. Salinger, who died this past week.
    it becomes painfully clear that there's something wrong with Holden Caulfield.
He's angry, depressed, scattered, desperate … yet, and perhaps not surprisingly,
    he shows glimpses of deep insight, as is often the case with those who are marginalized.
He longs for something real,     something authentic, something worth holding on to …
    but this yearning for authenticity contrasts with the phoniness that surrounds him.
You see, Holden Caulfield looks at the world and at those around him
    with a deep skepticism and cynicism,
    acutely diagnosing the phoniness of the people and places around him.
Though most of us might not share his quirks or crude language,
    and though we may not relate to his deep carelessness,
    there is something about his analysis of the phoniness of the world
    that has struck a chord for generations of Americans.

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