Preparing for Reformation Sunday? Some of these posts might be useful:
A Reformation Day Nailing to the Internet – John Shelby Spong
A Prayer for Reformation – Thomas Berry
Preparing for Reformation Sunday? Some of these posts might be useful:
Drawing on John Caputo’s book “The Folly of God,” Peter Rollins articulates four ways of thinking about God. As our adult education class explores relationship to the Divine in a world beyond the creeds of our ancestors, these ways of thinking about God provided us with lenses to see beyond what is all too often a theological darkness. To view more of Pete’s facebook live videos click here or check out his website here
Recorded Oct.16, 2016: Matthew Fox preaches on Luke 18:1-8 at All Saints Church in Pasadena. Fox defines prayer as, “a radical response to life; a profound or deep response to life.” As such, working for justice is the embodiment of our response.
Before I read our Gospel text I like to took a few moments to reflect upon the story from the Torah that was our First Reading (Gen.32). I showed the short film below which was created by Jewish scholars to help rabbis teach the stories of the Torah to young children. I use this video to teach the stories of the Torah to our Confirmation students. I think it is important for those of us who follow the teaching of the Rabbi Jesus, to pay attention to the way in which the stories that spoke to Jesus continue to speak to Jewish people here and now. Watch the video and then listen to the sermon here
Our Gospel reading comes to us from a story told by an anonymous writer named Luke, who tells a parable that he attributes to the Rabbi Jesus: According to Luke: “Jesus told the disciples a parable on the necessity of praying always and not losing heart. “Once there was a judge in a certain city who feared no one—not even God. A woman in that city who had been widowed kept coming to the judge and saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a time the judge refused but finally the judge thought, ‘I care little for God or people, but this woman won’t leave me alone. I’d better give her the protection she seeks or she’ll keep coming and wear me out!’” Jesus said, “Listen to what this corrupt judge is saying. Won’t God then do justice to the chosen who call out day and night? Will God delay long over them? I tell you, God will give them swift justice. But when the Promised One comes, will faith be found anywhere on earth?”
I too have met this tiresome, troublesome, annoyingly, persistent widow who constantly cries out for justice. This woman won’t leave me alone. I must confess that I would rather not have this woman clamouring at my door! Each and every time I encounter this woman, she goes on and on, she wears me out! I cannot go anywhere without seeing this woman. She is everywhere. Pointing to her oppressor and demanding justice. She is on the radio in my car as I go about my business. She is on my computer screen as I try to keep up with the news of the day. She is in my living room as I try to relax flipping channels seeking respite from her persistent cries for justice. She appears in my facbook feed, and tweets at me from my phone, I cannot escape her cries for justice. I am sick and tired of this annoying woman. I cannot escape her shouts for justice.
I’m not sure that anything at all can be done to secure justice for this annoying woman. Too much time has passed. There are no witnesses. Boys will be boys. She needs to forgive, forget and move on. Why doesn’t she just leave me alone. There’s nothing that I can do for her. There’s nothing I want to do for her.
I have my own troubles. People to see, places to go, things to do. If only she’d leave me alone. Her persistent cries for justice have begun to haunt me and not even sleep gives me respite from her persistent cries for justice. If only she’d stop going on and on and on and on about her oppressor, about the injustice that has been perpetrated against her.
Maybe if she would just shut up about it, I wouldn’t have to wrestle with her in the night. Round and round we go, pinning one another down, she demanding justice, me pleading for peace. This wrestling over things beyond my control is wearing me down. I’m starting to wonder who this woman thinks she is. Hell, I’m beginning to wonder who I think this woman is. In the darkness of the night I sometimes wonder if this persistent, complaining woman, is just some trumped up version of myself. In her eyes, I sometimes think I see a glimmer of something far too familiar, something ugly, fearsome, unpleasant, and lurking in my own memories. In the wee hours before dawn, I think I can actually see myself in her.
But no, I’m not going there. We are not going there. Women all over the world don’t want to go there. Defenseless, innocent, naive children all over the world we dare not see them in the face of this persistent woman.
And then, just when I think that I have her pinned down and I’m about to wrestle something anything out of this insane encounter, the light begins to dawn on me, as I realize that there in the face of this persistent woman is the ONE in whom we all live and breathe and have our being; the ONE whose name eludes us.
I awaken to the realization that this place where we have all been, this place where we cannot escape is indeed Peniel, for here and now, in the face of this persistent woman, in the face of every persistent woman, indeed in the face of every persistent man, woman, and child, crying out for justice we have seen God face to face. It isn’t always pretty, it isn’t always what we want to see or where we want to see it, but it is the face of the ONE that we call God; the face of God shouting, crying, pleading, for justice.
Wrestling with the persistent, pleading, ones who continue to demand justice from me, I rise wounded from Peniel – the place where I know that I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been spared. Limping away, forever changed, knowing that the wound that changes the way I walk in this world is the blessing given to me by those who have the courage to cry out for justice. Transformed by this wound I begin to see that I am at one and the same time both the judge who has the power to create justice and the one who cries out for justice.
In this Peniel, is where ever and when ever we have the courage to look into the face of another and see the face of God, and our lives have been preserved. We cannot walk away from an encounter such as this without responding to the ONE in whom we see the face of God, with justice. Whether our role in this life long wrestling match is that of the judge or the seeker of justice, may we see God face to face.
For those of you preaching on the text from Genesis 32:3-31:
You may not be able to tell from looking at me. But let me assure you that you are looking at someone who used to be a champion wrestler. Believe it or not, my wrestling skills actually helped me rise to the level of a world champion wrestler. Well, perhaps I should qualify that statement. When I was an amateur wrestler, I was a world-class champion wrestler. But like so many athletes, when my status changed from amateur to professional, I lost my championship status and although I still qualify as a professional wrestler, and I like to see myself as a champion, I’m no longer what you would call world-class.
Like many professional wrestlers my career began when I was but a child. Growing up I had a very clear advantage as I developed my wrestling skills. You see having a brother who was just 18 months younger than me meant that I had ample opportunities to hone my wrestling skills. My brother and I were always at it. I’ve got to say that even though we shared the same weight class for most of our childhood, when it came to world class wrestling holds, I had him beat. I had this wicked arm-hold sleeper, and that together with my full Nelson followed by a knee-arm press, was guaranteed to have my brother screaming uncle and agreeing to be my obedient servant until in no time at all. For years I reigned as the champion of our little world! I was unbeatable. My brother didn’t stand a chance. My reign as world champion would have continued if it weren’t for the abrupt ending of my amateur status.
One morning when I was about 13 and my brother was 9 and a half, we were going at it, and to his credit my bother had me in an ingenious hold. Somehow, he’d managed to secure me with what we professional wrestlers call an arm bar. That’s where you’re opponent wrenches your arm behind your back and applies just enough pressure to cause pain, but not enough to break anything. But just when Alan was approaching the point of no return, I managed with a feat of superhuman strength to rise up, twist around and swing for all I was worth and connect with what I though must be my brothers chest. I expected that such a thrust would have released my arm from Alan’s iron grip. But he still had me. I was about to hit him again, when for no apparent reason Alan released me from his grip. In an instant I wiggled free, spun around and connected with what I figured would be a fatal blow. Just before my blow connected with it’s victim, I realized that I was doomed.
Ai Weiwei’s exhibit “According to What? at the Art Gallery of Ontario inspired me to look beyond traditional interpretations of Jesus’ parable of the Pleading Widow to see our role as the unjust judge. The gentle breath of a newborn granddaughter enabled me to hear God persistently pleading for justice. Read the sermon manuscript below or Listen to the sermon here:
I spent time exploring the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It is a powerfully, disturbing, fascinating and compelling exhibit that I know will stay with me for years to come. Ai Weiwei is, according to the AGO’s description, “an artist with a very new kind of visibility. He has transcended his artwork to become a worldly figure who, for many, symbolizes the assertion of freedom of expression against great odds. Using the fame and recognition garnered by his art, Ai Weiwei has taken on issues that could not be raised publically in China.” The exhibit provides a unique window into a part of the world that continues to remain impenetrable.
Ai Weiwei and I are the same age but it is as if our worlds are light-years apart. I first became aware of his work during the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Ai is responsible for the spectacular design of the Beijing Olympic Stadium that has become known as the Bird’s Nest. With his conception of the Bird’s Nest Ai hoped to represent freedom. He saw the Olympics as a splendid opportunity to demonstrate that China was opening up after decades of seclusion with a dismantling of the barriers erected by successive totalitarian régimes. Sadly, Ai’s dreams were dashed as the stadium was constructed and the Chinese government resorted to old methods to drive the poor from their homes in order to build on Olympic sites.
On the opening day of the Olympics, Ai wrote this about his of his decision to boycott the events: “Today China and the world will meet again. People will see that the planet is now smaller than at any time in history, that mankind should bid farewell to arrogance and indifference, to ignorance and discrimination, and understand that we share the same small piece of land. It will be a time to rediscover each other, to share what is good in life, to look each other in the eye and link all 10 fingers. The colourful festival is a time not just for celebration, but also for peace and friendship. To rediscover our future, we should say goodbye to our past. We must bid farewell to autocracy. Whatever shape it takes, whatever justification it gives, authoritarian government always ends up trampling on equality, denying justice and stealing happiness and laughter from the people.
We should also leave behind discrimination, because it is narrow-minded and ignorant, denies contact and warmth; and corrodes mankind’s belief that we can better ourselves. The only way to avoid misunderstanding, war and bloodshed is to defend freedom of expression and to communicate with sincerity, concern and good intentions.
The “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium, which I helped to conceive, is designed to embody the Olympic spirit of “fair competition”. It tells people that freedom is possible but needs fairness, courage and strength. Following the same principles, I will stay away from the opening ceremony, because I believe the freedom of choice is the basis of fair competition. It is the right I cherish most. If we want it to be, today can be a moment of courage, hope and passion. This day will test our faith in the human race, and our determination to build a better future.”
The Chinese government has not reacted kindly to Ai’s public descent and he has felt the weight of their abuse. He remains under house arrest and was not allowed to travel to Toronto for the opening of his exhibit. It is only, Ai’s world renown as an artist and public dissident that protects him from the ultimate fate of so many Chinese dissidents. Ai Weiwei’s courage in speaking out against injustice over and over again, has robbed him of his liberty and put his life in grave danger and yet he continues to publically protest the abuses of his overlords. Ai’s testimony, expressed in his art, speaks volumes to the world and even tough his protests fall on what appear to be the deaf ears of a régime that continues to oppress the people of China, one wonders how long these unjust judges will be able to resist his persistent pleas for justice. Continue reading
Over the course of the past nine years a group of little people have come into my life. Lovely little people who call me Gran. There are seven of them and participating in their little lives is a source of such great joy. Each stage of their development is a wonder to behold. I particularly enjoy watching their parents as they attempt to teach these little darlings the things that they need to know about being human. One of the first things that we teach little humans is the fine art of saying thank-you. It takes a fair amount of repetition to teach a child to say thank-you. Over and over again, after giving them exactly what they want, we ask, “Can you say thank-you?” and the little darlings repeat the words “Thank-you.” Sometimes all we have to do is ask the question: “What do you say?” in order to hear the words “Thank-you” uttered in such a delightful way as to inspire us to praise them as such good little girls and boys.
Expressing gratitude is a skill that all tiny little people must learn in order to develop into well-rounded human beings. Indeed, scientists insist that being grateful is a prerequisite of happiness. Happy humans it seems, are humans who embody gratitude. But there is more to gratitude than simply saying thank-you. I remember learning that gratitude includes more than simply expressing our thanks. It happened when I was about sixteen and actually noticed the beauty of a sunset and for the first time I realized that I was part of something so much bigger than myself. I know I must have seen the sunset before, but this time I actually saw the sun set. We were driving down the road, my friend Valerie and I were riding in a car driven by her mother, Lola. It was a partly over-cast day on the west coast of British Columbia. Just a few clouds. You could see the mountains off in the distance. We were chatting back and forth when all of a sudden, Lola pulled the car over to the far side of the road, switched off the engine and got out. Valerie followed her mother out of the car, so I figured I had better do the same. Val and her mother scampered down from the road and onto the beach. When they reached the water’s edge, they stopped and just looked off into the distance. Apart from a tanker-ship making its way across the horizon, I couldn’t see much of anything. Lola had the most amazing expression on her face. She positively glowed with happiness. Valerie wore a similar expression. I must have looked somewhat puzzled because Val smiled at me and said “Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?” This only confused me more. What were they looking at that had made them stop the car, scamper down the bank and stand there at the water’s edge on a cold autumn evening.
These happy, glowing, smiling people made me nervous. There they stood grinning from ear to ear. What were they on? And then, I saw it. For the first time in my life, I saw it. It had been there before. But I had never really seen it before. The sky was amazing. The colours were overwhelming. It almost didn’t look real. It looked like someone must have painted it that way. It was magnificent. A work of art. The most beautiful thing I have ever seen. If you’ve never seen a late October, Pacific Coast Sunset before, you’ve missed one of the great wonders of the world. Neither Emily Carr’s paintings nor picture perfect post cards do a western sunset justice.
Believe it or not, even though I had been living on the west coast for about four years, at that point I had never before really noticed just how beautiful a sunset could be. No one in my experience had ever taken the time to stop and look at one. No one had ever pointed one out to me before. I would never have dreamed of stopping a car and getting out to watch as the sun put on a show while setting. So, I stood there. Overwhelmed by it all. Amazed at just how beautiful it was. Wondering just who or what could be responsible for such a spectacular thing as this. Before long my thoughts drifted to the Creator. Actually noticing a magnificent sunset was the beginning of a journey beyond myself as the reality that I am part of something so much bigger than myself continues to permeate my being.
Back then, I expressed my gratitude by very much the same way as my grandchildren are being taught to express their gratitude, simply by saying “Thank-you”. The object of the Thank-you being God. At the time, God was an old bloke up there in the sky somewhere. As my images of God changed over the years, my Thank-you’s continued to be expressed to my ever-changing images of God. But I must confess, that it was a whole lot easier to say thank-you to God when God was some big guy up there, out there somewhere? It was so much easier when I thought of God as “Father” or even as “Mother” to express my gratitude by simply mimicking the behaviour that I’d been taught as a child, “Can you say “Thank-you” Oh yes indeed I can say thank-you. “God is great, God is God, let us thank him for our food. By his hand we must be fed, Give us Lord Our Daily Bread.” Continue reading
This sermon is inspired by, infused with, and indebted to the work of Kurt Struckmeyer whose essay “The Words of the Eucharist” articulates communion in terms of “liberation” and pointed me to the work of the Roman Catholic liturgist Gabe Huck; with just a little Martin Luther thrown in to insure that “this is most certainly true.” The readings included 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Mark 14:22-25 and Luke 22:14-20 – listen to the sermon here
In his book, “The Orthodox Heretic”, Peter Rollins creates a parable which he calls “Finding Faith.”
In a parable handed down to us from our ancestors in the faith, Jesus’ disciples ask him to “increase their faith”. It is a request that I believe many of us can identify with for who among us has not at some point or other asked for the gift of more faith? If only we had more faith we would be able to believe and if we could believe we’d have the courage to cope with whatever crisis is overwhelming us. If we could only believe, we’d be able to understand why, or how, this or that. If we could just believe strongly enough, we’d have the courage to risk, to speak out, to stand-up for, to open up to, to ask for, to go on, to do something. If only we could believe in God, believe in the life death and resurrection of Jesus, believe in the power of the Holy Spirit if only we could get it all straight in our heads we’d be able to tell all the world what it is we believe. In the meantime, we’ll just keep on struggling to believe.
For years, and years, I used to believe that what was necessary was to just believe. So, I struggled to understand what all those “I believe statements” that the church, the community of believers asks its followers to make.
Over and over again, in liturgies, Sundays after Sunday, the church; the institution of the faith, offered me the opportunity to stand among the faithful to declare what it is that we believe. Whether it was the Apostles or the Nicene or heaven forbid the Athanasian creeds, the Church made it very clear exactly what it is that we are supposed to believe in order that we might number ourselves among the faithful. The very word “creed” itself, was handed down to us from our ancestors creed from the Latin “creedo” which translates into English as “I believe”. Continue reading
A conversation sermon on Jesus’ parable of the Rich Person. This parable has often been interpreted in ways that fail to see beyond the parable to the hell of our making to the possibility of creating heaven here and now. The website referred to in the in the conversation is http://www.globalrichlist.com Listen to the sermon/conversation here
The time came for Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the Temple area, in Solomon’s Porch, when the Temple authorities surrounded him and said, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you really are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus replied, “I did tell you, but you don’t believe. The work I do in my Abba’s name gives witness in my favour, but you don’t believe because you’re not my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never be lost. No one will ever snatch them from my hand. Abba God, who gave them to me, is greater than anyone, and no one can steal them from Abba God. For Abba and I are One.” With that, the Temple authorities reached again for rocks to stone him.
With that, the Temple authorities reached again for rocks to stone Jesus. Welcome home. On this Homecoming Sunday, we are reminded that home is not always a safe place. The buffalo have ceased their roaming, the deer and the antelope no longer play, and all too often is heard a discouraging word. Welcome home. As many of us know all too well, home may be where the heart is, but home is also a place where the most cutting of family arguments can wound even those of us who’s strength of character has lead us far from home.
Jesus never faired well at home. Whether it was his home in Nazareth where his neighbours wanted to toss him off a cliff, or his spiritual home in Jerusalem, where the Temple authorities reached again for rocks to stone him, Jesus words, his teaching, his way of being in the world made the people at home so angry they could kill him. There was something about this fellow Jesus that got on people’s nerves. I mean the nerve of the fella, imagine insisting that he, Jesus, and Abba are ONE. Bad enough that Jesus had the audacity to call God Abba, “daddy” as if he and the Creator are on intimate terms, but then to suggest that God, the Creator of all that IS, and all that ever shall be, to insist that he and God are ONE, well is it any wonder that the Temple authorities reached again for rocks to stone him. After all the Temple authorities are charged with the solemn responsibility of preserving good order.
Every home needs rules and when it comes to the rules the Temple authorities know the rules backwards and forwards, and this guy Jesus seems incapable of sticking to the rules. Everyone knows that according to the rules God is up there and out there, beyond us and from time to time God comes down here and the best place to find God is in God’s house, and in God’s house we have rules about who, how, and when people can approach the ONE who IS the source of all life. God’s house has rules for a reason. Without rules there is chaos and chaos is the very thing that the Creator established creation for. In our earliest myths we imagined that in the beginning there was chaos and God’s Spirit hovered over the chaos and said, “Let there be light!” and so began the slow and steady evolution out of the muck and the mire of chaos and into the natural order of things, with God up there in the heavens and we earth creatures down here, going about our business, and remembering to pay homage from time to time to the ONE who makes it possible for us all to feel at home here in creation. Then along comes Jesus, suggesting that God is not safely out of reach but that indeed God is ONE with him, why the next thing you know people will be imagining all sorts of things, and some one will suggest that we are all ONE with God. Quick find some rocks so we can stone this guy before things get out of control. After all our home is our castle, and we need to stay in control of the castle lest our carefully held ways of doing things devolves into chaos. We’ve got to keep God safe from such ideas.Ideas are far too dangerous to be allowed to infect the masses, pardon the pun. If ideas are allowed to fester, the next thing you know we won’t recognize our homes anymore and we’ll have to find new ways of living together.Get me a rock, will you? I can’t stand it when my home is threatened by an idea; especially an idea that is so dangerous that it threatens my image of who I am by suggesting that the god I worship and adore might be something other than who or how I want god to be. If you don’t believe me, just look at our neighbours in the United Church of Canada. If only they’d reached for their stones a little sooner, then that Greta Vosper woman would never have gotten all the attention she’s getting now and she’d never have been able to infect their house with ideas about God being dead.
JEEZUS H CHRIST! Just imagine what might happen if people are allowed to suggest that God is dead!
Ok, I know, I am grossly over-simplifying things here.But we are at home here aren’t we. We’re family and we don’t have to spell everything out do we.We know who we are and whose we are. Whether we say it out loud in here, where we all know what we mean, our whisper it out there where people might not understand, we know that God being dead is precisely the foundation upon which many of our homes have been built for generations. Jesus said, “I and Abba are ONE.” and we all know how that worked out. Jesus was executed by the state, aided and abetted by the Temple authorities, Jesus died at the hands of those who firmly believed that he was a troublemaker capable of creating chaos. Jesus died believing that he was ONE with God.
We have been taught to believe that JESUS and God are ONE, so dear friends and family, here in this house we can safely say that God did indeed die. God died and was buried. The good news is that we also believe that death does not have the final word. God is dead. Long live God! For we in this house know the sweet beauty of resurrection. We know that God dies over and over again, precisely because we know that when Jesus said, “I and Abba are ONE.” Jesus pulled God out of the heavens and the faraway God of our ancestors was reborn as the Abba whose intimacy with us is so palpable that we can say that Abba and I are ONE. We are ONE with God.
The community of people who followed Jesus after his death understood this. The Apostle Paul understood that God was no longer up, there, far away, distant, beyond our reach, or tucked away in the Holy of Holies. The Apostle Paul, knew that that particular God died upon the cross with Jesus, but death did not have the final word. The power of the resurrection empowers us to know that God is the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being. We are ONE with God and this dear family means chaos. For if we are ONE with God, then those people out there, those other humans, indeed all those other beings, in fact creation itself, is ONE with God. That means that every life is precious, including the life of this planet. That means that all the walls in the world won’t be able to separate us from the ONE in whom live and move and have our being. It means that even the biggest, baddest, most scary ones out there, are ONE with God. How will we know how to be in the world when each and everyone we meet is kin?
God is Dead! Our lovely, God, the one we created in our image, the one who we safely tucked away up in heaven, the one we allowed to come into our sanctuaries only if he behaved and followed our rules, that god, the image formed by the art and thought of mortals, is dead. Long live God. Long live the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being. Long live the ONE with whom we are ONE. We can throw all the stones we want at the Gretas of this world, who dare to point out that our images of the ONE are for all intents and purposes dead, but our rocks won’t help us preserve the order that we are counting on to save us from chaos.
Life is chaotic. Our rules, regulations, and houses can offer us sanctuary from time to time from the chaos, but the rules and regulations, the carefully held beliefs, the doctrines and the dogma, even the images we hold dear cannot save us. We can toss all the rocks we want, but alas, the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being, lives and dies over and over and over again, in, with, through, and beyond us, that’s the beauty of the chaos that the light brings into view.
The ONE in whom we live and move and have our being is more than we can begin to imagine. The “Idea of the Holy” is in and of ITSELF, “Mysterium, Tremendum, et Facinans” (Rudolf Otto) Mysterious, Tremendous, and Fascinating. Take and eat. Taste and see for LIFE in the ONE is Mysterious, Tremendous and Fascinating.
Chaotic, always transforming, ever changing, awe-inspiring, terrifying, delicious, pungent, devastating, jaw-droopingly real, compelling, exhausting, dangerous, sublime, enchanting, revolting, magnificent, challenging, refreshing, frightening, unimaginable, surprising, beyond our ability to express, and yet this Chaos of which we are ONE, is home.
So, welcome home. Take and eat. Taste and see. For it is, in the words of our ancestors, good, very good. And be prepared, because the ONE in whom we live and move and have our being, lives and dies, over and over again. For we dear family are the people of the resurrection. We are the ones who proclaim, “God has died. God is risen. God will come again and again, and again.” Welcome home: Taste and see. For God is God. Can I get an Amen?
Commenting on her former role as the Anglican Church of Canada’s director of public witness for social and ecological justice Henriette said that she had “a front-row seat, and was a witness to a truth process that is unique in Canadian history, that is deeply, deeply relevant to the work of our church, is deeply relevant to who we are as Canadians and whoever lives in this land.”
Listen to Henriette’s sermon, which explores the Parable of the Good Samaritan within the context of the work of reconciliation, here
Jesus was and is an absolute fool! An absolute fool, I tell you! Among the teachings of Jesus, the parables of the lost and found are so well known, so familiar that we are in peril of failing to hear the foolishness they advocate.
Although only a few of us have had the opportunity to tend a flock of sheep, most of us at one time or another have been responsible for the welfare of a flock. Whether that flock be sheep or co-workers, clients, customers, students, friends, or children none but the foolish among us would leave 99 to the perils and dangers of the wilderness in order to go looking for one idiot who’d been stupid enough to get themselves lost.
We may not keep our coins at home, but I daresay that most of us have felt the sting of loosing a drachma or two or three in this recession. Only a fool would waste a moment searching for our losses when our portfolio’s are so full. I dare say that if we managed to find or recoup our loss, we’re hardly likely to invite the neighbourhood to a party that would in all likelihood eat up more than we had found. Continue reading
Recorded Aug 8/2016 at the Chautauqua Institution.
Diana Butler Bass moves from her latest book Grounded‘s focus on nature to examine the sacredness of the city. Bass explores the theological images that appear in scripture that help us to think in new ways about the urban environments of our day. Seeking transformative images to usurp our tendency toward building empires toward a vision of the “urban cosmos” that empowers its inhabitants to live with justice, love, and humility, Bass paints a seductive vision of a universal city on a hill; a dwelling place of peace. In contrast to the system of globalization which seeks market control in the service of empire, Bass points to cosmopolitanism, a world view based upon our shared common humanity.
Jesus you’ve got to be kidding! “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and even life itself, cannot be my disciple?…None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions?”
Hate your father; hate your mother; hate your wife; hate your children; hate you brothers; hate your sisters; hate even life itself and oh yes while you are at it give up all you possessions and then, and only then will you be ready to take up your cross and follow Jesus. What is Jesus talking about? Has Jesus forgotten about the fourth commandment? Are we to forget about honouring our parents? Wasn’t it Jesus who said that we are to love our neighbours as we love ourselves? Didn’t Jesus try to talk people into loving their enemies? Has Jesus forgotten that God is love? Why does Jesus rant and rave about hating our father’s, mothers, children, sisters, brothers and even life itself?
It is difficult to recognize the Jesus in this text. This is not the gentle Jesus of my childhood. This is not the happy Jesus who smiled out from the pictures in my illustrated Bible.This is not the Jesus that the rightwing conservative Christians point to when they harp on about family values. This is not the gentle Jesus we have come to expect. This Jesus sounds to harsh. This Jesus wants to turn us into religious fanatics who hate everybody and give up everything, even life itself.
For a few years now, there has stood on the shelf above my desk a quotation from Deuteronomy 30. I put it there so that these word’s of God might guide me in my decision making. According to the writers of Deuteronomy, God says: “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live”. God says “Choose life!” How do I reconcile this to the Gospel lesson in which Jesus says whoever does not hate even life itself, cannot be a disciple of Jesus? Why was Jesus so harsh? What is going on here? Continue reading
Listen to the sermon here:
Earlier this week I was reminded of the fact that one of the most basic parts of my job of being a pastor is pointing out the sacred. Most of what I do revolves around noticing when we are in the presence of the Holy, the Mystery, the One who is so much more that we are, the Love that lies at the heart of all that is. My job is to point to the sacred Oneness, the Love that many call God and say “there,” or “here,” or “now,” “don’t miss it.” All too often we find ourselves in the company of angels, messengers of the LOVE that IS God, and we don’t even notice it.
For the most part we humans can’t quite grasp the magnitude of the Mystery that lies at the very heart of reality and so we do what humans always do: we personify this ONEness, or we use symbols and metaphors to indicate the presence of the sacred in our midst, and we tell stories. Stories that include burning bushes, ladders into the sacred realm, shepherds, lost coins, all sorts of symbols and metaphors that point to the ONE who IS. We have told some of those stories so often that the Reality of the Mystery that these stories were created to bring down to earth, seems ever so distant and far away, lost in the mists of time. The Reality that so many call God has been cast out there far away beyond our reach. So, week after week, I try to bring the stories, symbols and metaphors a little closer to the world that we inhabit so that you might be able to see in your own stories the angels that you have entertained without even knowing it. This morning I’d like to tell you a story that I’ve told twice before. It’s been about seven years since I last told this story, so some of you may not have heard it before and those of you who have heard it before; well we’ve been on quite a journey here at Holy Cross, and you’ve all helped me to understand my own story in a completely new way.
The story takes place back in October of 1977, when I was twenty years old. I was young and adventurous. With a rail pass in my hand, a back pack slung over my shoulders and several hundred dollars worth of American Express Travellers cheques in my pocket, I boarded a train in Zurich, Switzerland, bound for Athens, Greece. I was tired. Several months of back-packing in Northern Europe had left me weary. In just five days my rail-pass would expire, so I decided to head for Greece, where the living is easy, where the warm sun, blue skies and equally blue waters held the promise of rest and relaxation.
As the train made its way through the Alps, I remembered a similar trip which I had made the year before and I tried to calculate whether my remaining funds would allow me to return to the village of Chania on the island of Crete. I knew that on Crete I could find work. So, I planned to mix a lot of rest and relaxation with just a little work and try to live out the winter on the Mediterranean. As the train rattled through Austria, towards what was then called Yugoslavia, it began to get dark. I was disappointed that my journey through Yugoslavia would be completed in darkness. I remembered my previous journey, by car, through Yugoslavia and how at the time, I had marvelled at the diversity of this strange little country. I remembered men and women driving oxen as they ploughed their fields in much the same way as their ancestors had done. I also remembered my surprise at entering the ultra modern city of Belgrade; the showcase of what was then Tito’s communist regime.I fell asleep pondering the sharp differences between the lives of the poor people in the villages who appeared to live without any modern conveniences at all and the lives of those who inhabited the city of Belgrade with its towering sky-scrapers and streets filled with automobiles. Several centuries seemed to co-exist in Yugoslavia.
I was awakened from my dreams by the sound of people shuffling to find their papers as the train conductor instructed us to get our passports and visas ready for customs inspection. When the Yugoslavian custom officials, with their rifles over their shoulders boarded our train they were preceded by men guided by vicious looking German shepherds. Even though I knew that I had all the right papers and that my back pack contained nothing more offensive than some dirty laundry, the sight of the dogs, guns, and uniformed officials struck fear into my heart. I nervously handed over my precious passport to an official who looked younger than my twenty years. He carefully read over the Visa which I had obtained in Zurich the day before; a visa that I could not read because it was written in an unfamiliar language and an unfamiliar alphabet.The young man handed my passport over to an older official and before I knew what was happening, I was being escorted off the train. I was shaking so badly that the young men on either side of me had to hold me up. I am not sure that my feet even touched the ground. After a long lonely wait in a drab windowless room, a woman entered. In broken English she told me that my visa was not in order. I gathered from what she was trying unsuccessfully to explain to me, that my passport contained the visa from my previous visit to Yugoslavia, but was missing an official exit stamp. She demanded to know why there was no exit stamp in my passport. Needless to say, I could not explain. I told her that I had only spent a little over a week in Yugoslavia the year before and then gone on to Greece. I told her that I didn’t know that an exit stamp was necessary and that I couldn’t understand why the Yugoslavian consulate would have issued my current visa if my paper work was not in order. She kept insisting that I needed an exit stamp. After several fruitless attempts to try and get her to tell me what I was supposed to do, I found myself in a small room. Its only window was reinforced with bars.
In the darkness of a Yugoslavian holding cell, I sat down and I began to cry. I cried like I have never cried before or since. I was terrified and my sobbing was uncontrollable. After a while I became conscious of a sound that did not come from me. “Susssssssssh.”
I realized that I was not alone in the darkness. Someone else was in the room with me. In the shadows, I could make out the shape of a woman. My sobbing began to subside as she continued, “Shussssssh.” The woman began to pace back and forth in our tiny room and gradually her shusssh turned into humming. She hummed unfamiliar tunes that somehow managed to calm me. Occasionally her humming would turn to singing. She sang softly and quietly and my sobbing began to ease.
In the shadows I could not tell how old she was. Her hair was long, dark and curly. She wore a plain cotton dress, ankle socks and a beaten up pair of shoes, whose laces flapped back and forth as she paced. It took only a few hours for my travelling companion to contact the British Embassy, sort out the mess and secure my freedom. The sunlight was just beginning to find its way into our room when my captor arrived to release me. As I left, I took a close look at my roommate. I smiled, hoping that she would understand my smile as gratitude for her kindness. Her tender sounds had calmed me and helped me through one of the darkest nights of my life. She returned my smile and added a wave of her own. Then the guard roughly escorted me out into the bright lights of the customs house.
Before I boarded a train that would take me safely out of Yugoslavia, I thought that perhaps I should try to help my roommate. Maybe I should try to find out why she was being detained. Perhaps I should try to help her get out. But this was not a place that welcomed questions and the warm sun of Greece beckoned me. And so, I boarded the train and I left. My few hours of captivity – I chalked up to just one more adventure on the road and I rarely thought of my room-mate again. Continue reading
Don’t get me wrong; I know that stereotypes rarely express the full character of a nation and so, it would be a mistake to paint all Americans with the same brush. But I dare say that you’d be hard pressed to find a Canadian who would disagree that even the most enlightened of our American cousins who might be found from time to time to speak softly, doesn’t underneath it all carry a big stick. Where Bravado flows through our American cousin’s national character, most Canadians prefer a quieter, softer, gentler approach, lest we be confused with the worst of American stereotypes: “the ugly American.” Continue reading