World Pride and Jesus: a sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost – Matthew 10:37-42

world prideThis week as the city of Toronto welcomes millions to the World Pride Celebration, it is so very appropriate that the lectionary provides a reading that has the potential to open us up to a more radical understanding of what WELCOME might mean for those who yearn to follow Jesus. This sermon on Matthew 10:37-42 uses two stories to posit questions about who Jesus might be. The context of World Pride provides us all with an invitation to welcome the ONE who comes to us in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and gender-identities. The imagined conversation with Jesus is taken from New Zealand preacher Clay Nelson’s excellent sermon on this text entitled “I Know I Am a Priest, But Am I A Christian?”.

There’s a story that I learned years ago when I was exploring the riches of the Buddhist religion and rediscovered in Wayne Muller’s LEGACY OF THE HEART. (p. 136) 

There once was…. “A young widower, who loved his five-year-old son very much, was away on business, and bandits came, burned down his whole village, and took his son away. When the man returned, he saw the ruins and panicked. He took the charred corpse of an infant to be his own child, and he began to pull his hair and beat his chest, crying uncontrollably. He organized a cremation ceremony, collected the ashes, and put them in a very beautiful velvet pouch.  Working, sleeping, or eating, he always carried the bag of ashes with him. One day his real son escaped from the robbers and found his way home. He arrived at his father’s new cottage at midnight, and knocked at the door. You can imagine, at that time, the young father was still carrying the bag of ashes and crying. He asked, “Who is there?” And the child answered, “It’s me, Papa. Open the door, it’s your son.”

In his agitated state of mind the father thought that some mischievous boy was making fun of him, and he shouted at the child to go away, and continued to cry. The boy knocked again and again, but the father refused to let him in. Some time passed, and finally the child left. From that time on, father and son never saw one another. Continue reading

Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most by Marcus Borg – A Must Read for Those of Us Engaged in the Work of ReThinking Christianity

convictionsMarcus Borg, an elder of today’s progressive Christian movement, has commemorated his 70 birthday with the publication of Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most. Convictions is destined to become  a primer for all those who seek a succinct articulation of the faith progressives hold in common. In Convictions, Borg constructs a permeable framework within which those who are “living the questions” can explore the contours of the God “in which we live and move and have our being.” As a pastor serving a progressive congregation, I am delighted to have this new resource to share with those who are ReThinking Christianity.

I first encountered Marcus Borg during the summer of 1994, when a friend who was concerned that my preparations for seminary would lead me to a career in a church bereft of intellectual inquiry, gave me a copy of Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. What a gift it was to meet in Borg a scholar who so simply and authoritatively articulated so much of what I’d been learning in the academy as an under-grad in Religious Studies. Borg’s books quickly became allies in my own quest for ways to express my growing frustration with institutional Christianity which seemed hell-bent on keeping its members ignorant of the exciting and enlightening work of New Testament scholars.  

While sections of Borg’s memoir slip into reactions to the monolithic interpretations of the Jesus story that plague the United States and have served to bolster American Imperialism, those of us who live in the shadows of this Empire will appreciate Borg’s deconstruction of right-wing-christianity. Like his earlier work, Convictions is a must read for professional preachers and teachers who will find in it a review of progressive Christianity that is written in a manner that will inspire us to move beyond merely deconstructing conservative christianity and begin to articulate what it is that “progressives” hold in common.

As a “bit of a memoir” Convictions will engage readers from all walks of life, many of whom will discover in Borg a fellow traveller on an all too familiar journey. As always, Borg manages to express the Christian narrative in ways which embrace the riches of the tradition while opening his readers to current insights from academia into Christianity’s history. Rather than approaching the future with fear, Borg remains open to the ever-expanding knowledge of reality being generated in other fields of human endeavour and points to a way of being in God that does not rely on oversimplified personifications of a deity Borg knows as Mystery.

As an academic, Borg bravely revels his own mystical experiences. I have always suspected that Borg might be a closet mystic and his tentative accounts of his mystical experiences provide welcome insights into the bedrock of Borg’s being. 

I am convinced that Borg’s Convictions will quickly achieve the status of text-book for those of us who seek ways of being Christian in the 21st century. 

 

A Celebration of Love and Life: a sermon for York PrideFest

PrideFest WorshipToday Holy Cross hosted the York PrideFest worship and it was our great pleasure to welcome members of York Region PFLAG – our readings included Leviticus 19:17-18 and Matthew:34-40 a copy of the service bulletin can be found here

Listen to the sermon here:

Pridefest June 15 2014

Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything by Barbara Ehrenreich

Living with a Wild GodAfter listening to my sermon from this past Sunday, a blog follower recommended Barbara Ehrenreich’s latest book, Living with a Wild God. The suggestion that my tentative attempts to express my personal mystical experiences might be improved by reading Enrenreich’s  engaging memoir, which chronicles her own encounters with the inexpressible, propelled me into a sleepless night of reading as I devoured Erenreich’s stellar work that recounts her epic quest to make sense out of experiences that are so often never spoken of.

Suggesting that I turn to Erenreich for enlightenment is like suggesting that I return to an wise, familiar friend. I first encountered Enrenreich’s thinking way back in the late seventies when I was growing into the radical feminist movement and “For Her Own Good” awakened me to Enrenreich’s genius and introduced me to a way of articulating my own innate suspicions of the advice that was coming my way. Enrenreich’s wit left me hoping that I might grow up to become a careful thinker who could use incisive humour to move mountains. Recently her exploration of the darker side of positive thinking caused me to cheer out loud as I turned page after page of “Smile or Die,”  in which Enrenreich’s observations revealed “How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World”

I never would have imagined that Enrenreich would pen a “spiritual” memoir that reveals her personal mystical experiences. The book chronicles the mature, dare I say curmudgeonly  adult’s relationship with her teenage self. While Enrenreich herself is mortified by the word “spiritual” the epiphanies of her younger self reveal so very much about the human quest for meaning. Enrenreich enjoyed an earlier career as a molecular biologist and her rational approach toward the examination of her experiences is priceless! The book speaks of the unspeakable in ways that defy easy or esoteric answers. As always Enrenreich’s considerable writing skills provide a compelling window into the human condition as she attempts to make meaning out of her experiences while steadfastly refusing to glorify her epiphanies. Will I doubt that either theists or atheists will be pleased with the book, those of us who are willing to live in the questions can’t help but applaud Enenreich’s courage!   Enjoy CBC’s Mary Hynes interview in which Enreneich exhibits her characteristic surliness that makes her writing so engaging and refreshing!

Wolf Blitzer Learned that there are Indeed Atheists in Fox-holes! – a sermon for Trinity Sunday

Eckhart rid me of GodThis Trinity Sunday sermon owes much to John Shelby Spong’s book a “New Christianity for a New World” You can listen to the sermon here then watch the tail end of the Wolf Blitzer interview mentioned in the sermon.   

In the midst to the devastation and debris that was left of the town of More, Oklahoma, it was all to clear that the power of the tornado that whipped through such a heavily populated area had left behind the kind of destruction that tears not only the foundations of buildings but also of lives. In living rooms around the world millions of people watched as the news media descended on what was left in the wake of nature’s wrath. One particular news report is still reverberating around the Internet. I had just come from my office where I had spent the afternoon, reviewing the Doctrine of the Trinity in order to write this sermon. My wife Carol was in the kitchen cooking supper and I sat down to catch up on the news events of the day. I tuned into CNN and there amidst the rubble of More Oklahoma was the familiar face of Wolf Blitzer. It was the day after the tornado and the big name newscasters had been rushed to the scene in time to provide color-commentary on the evening news. Wolf was interviewing a young mother named Rebecca Vitsmun who was holding a squirming her 19 month old, toddler Anders in her arms. The young mother gave a blow-by-blow account of her narrow escape from. All afternoon Rebecca was paying attention to the weather reports. Rebecca was not from More, but rather from New Orleans and so she was not used to tornado warnings. She’d grown up with Hurricane warnings and so her first instinct was to evacuate the area. But her husband and neighbours had told her that the safest thing to do would be to take shelter. Six-teen minutes before the tornado struck the weather service issued a warning to take shelter. As Rebecca’s husband raced home from work, this young mother grabbed her laptop, a mattress and her toddler and took shelter in the bathtub. Huddled in the tub covered by a mattress she anxiously watched the reports on her laptop. Tracing the path of the tornado, Rebecca realized that the tornado was headed straight for her street. Rebecca’s New Orleans’ instinct kicked in and with her baby in her arms she jumped into her car and without taking time to put her baby in the car seat, she drove as fast as she could out on to the freeway where she pulled over and put Anders into his car seat and then drove some more. After the tornado, Rebecca reunited with her husband, and they headed back to what was left of their home. The bathtub was so full of debris that it was clear to them that Rebecca’s instincts had saved her life.

After telling her harrowing tale, Wolf Blitzer congratulated Rebecca for saving her baby’s life and then said to this young woman, “You gotta thank the Lord.” Rebecca was clearly taken aback by the comment and hesitated. I held my breath, annoyed as hell at Blitzer for asking such a stupid question. Rebecca’s hesitation gave Blitzer the opportunity to move on, but no he just had to have an answer, and so he persisted. “Do you thank the Lord?” Rebecca gave Blitzer the kind of look that says, “Are you kidding me?” Then Rebecca gave Blitzer an answer that he sure wasn’t expecting from an American from the heartland of Oklahoma; Rebecca smiled as she answered, “I’m actually an atheist.”

As Rebecca laughed awkwardly, I cheered so loudly that Carol came into the room to see what was going on. I was so proud of that young woman for not going along with Blitzer’s nonsense. Who in their right minds would believe in a Lord who would pluck one family out of a bathtub and let seven children die in an elementary school? I mean, if this Lord that Bilitzer is so willing to give credit too is such a great rescuer, why didn’t this Lord change the twister’s path and send it out over the cornfields where the only damage it could do would be to crops?

I know they say there are no atheists in fox-holes, but I for one think that that bathtub Rebecca was hunkered down in was indeed a fox-hole and I’m delighted that when all was said and done, she and little Anders were saved by her instinct for survival. As for this Lord of Blitzer’s, well, judging by the awkwardness that Blitzer exhibited after Rebecca stood her ground, I can only guess that this reporter misjudged the situation. Blitzer a city-slicker from New York, assumed that all the local yokels must be bible-thumping Christians, and he probably thought that his question would have received a mindless ra, ra, yeah God, kind of response from all Oklahomans. I trust he won’t make that mistake again. I kind of feel sorry for him, because after all it only took a few hours before some televangelist’s were suggesting that God did indeed send the tornado to teach people a lesson. According to some bible-thumpers, if people prayed hard enough they would have been saved. Some even went so far as to suggest that the tornado was punishment for gay marriage. Continue reading

The Athanasian Creed and an Unholy Trinity – a sermon for Trinity Sunday

Beyond the Beyond - Dawn Hutchings

I don’t remember the first time I ever saw him. I was barely 18 months old when my brother Alan arrived. Despite the fact that he ruined my gig as an only child, Alan and I grew close over the years. We moved around a lot so we became one another’s best friends. But we went our separate ways when we became teenagers. When I tell the stories, I say that we went our separate ways because Alan became preoccupied with sports.  I suspect that when Alan tells the stories, he says that we went our separate ways because I became preoccupied with the church. Either way you tell it, family and friends used to say that it was hard to believe that we grew up in the same household. Alan developed a reputation for being a bit of a redneck. I developed a reputation for being a bit of a radical. Alan drove four-wheel-drives and went hunting. I drove old beat up cars and lived at an ecumenical retreat centre.  Alan learned a trade, settled down and raised a family. I travelled the world and didn’t get around to figuring out what I was going to be when I grew up, I went back to school at the age of 30.

Alan and I didn’t get around to understanding one another until we were in our mid-40’s. When I grew to appreciate the gentle man that he has become and Alan began to respect the person I’ve become. We still love to talk politics, but these days we tend to agree more than we disagree, I’m not sure who mellowed, the redneck or the radical. We don’t talk much about religion, though. Growing up, Alan would claim to be an atheist, and scoffed at my involvement with the church. These days, Alan, suggests he is an agnostic, and although he’s come to respect my life in the church, he still scoffs at the hypocrisy of the church.

I still remember the very first time that I saw Manjit. Her face was the colour of pure milk chocolate. Her jet-black hair was long and wavy. She sat at the very back of the classroom. When the teacher introduced me to Manjit, her toothy grin welcomed me. We were twelve years old. I was the new kid in town and Manjit was the only East Indian in the class. We were to share a double-desk for the remainder of the school year. I remember my first trip to Manjit’s home. A science project needed our attention. I can still smell the aroma of Manjit’s home where exotic curries released their pungency into the air. Over several meals at Manjit’s, I learned to like my food hot and spicy. Manjit’s mother would blend her own spices and she never forgot to send a package or two of her specially blended curries home with me.

Manjit is a gentle soul who introduced me to the wonders of her faith. Manjit is a Hindu. Manjit never tried to encourage me to become a Hindu.  Although over the years she would remind me of the Hindu saying that admonishes Hindus to be better Hindus, Muslims to be better Muslims, Jews to be better Jews, Buddhists to be better Buddhists, and Christians to be better Christians.  Manjit grew into a kind and gentle woman. She works as a social worker in Vancouver’s rough east-end neighborhoods. The last time I saw Manjit she was patiently guiding the students of a confirmation class that I taught, around her Temple. Later that evening Manjit and I talked a long time about Jesus. Manjit told me that she’d always been fascinated with Jesus’ teachings and that she had no problem believing that Jesus is God, but then she explained that Hindus have a thousand god’s.

I can still remember the very first time that Henry walked into my office. A long black beard together with the yarmulke that he wore on his head gave Henry away. So, from the very beginning I knew that Henry was Jewish. But it took a few years of working together before I discovered that in addition to being a graphic artist, Henry is also a rabbi. Henry became a dear friend of mine and over the years he shared so much of his wisdom with me. Many a night Henry and I sat up to the wee hours discussing the Scriptures. Henry even arranged for me to study Hebrew at his Yeshiva. I learned a great deal from Henry. We often talked about Jesus. We rarely agreed about Jesus, but we often talked about him.

Alan, Manjit and Henry, some would call them an unholy Trinity. But to me they are, each of them, sacred. Trinity Sunday is my least favorite Sunday of the Church year. It’s the only festival of the church year that is designed to celebrate not God, nor Jesus, not even the Holy Spirit, but rather a doctrine of the church. The notion that God is One in Three; a doctrine that was created by theologians to explain the inexpressible, a doctrine the church “fathers” began to cast in stone in the words of the Apostle’s, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.  Three Creeds that make up an unholy trinity in and of themselves. Three Creeds that the Lutheran Church continues to hold as articles of the faith. Three Creeds that continue to hold sway in our church.Three Creeds that in my humble opinion make up an unholy trinity. Three Creeds upon which the doctrine of the Trinity rests. Continue reading

“Trinity: Image of the Community that is God” Desmond Tutu

Trinity Desmond Tutu - Dawn Hutchings

Tutu: “Isn’t it wonderful that we have this Doctrine of the Trinity that speaks of God as a fellowship, a community. And so, you have this wonderful image of the community that is God, the Trinity. So that, all eternity the One who is called Father pours out all of God’s being into the Son….and the Son returning from all eternity this love and you have this movement between the two that is so tremendous that it is God the Holy Spirit.”

Desmond Tutu received the Templeton Prize in recognition of his lifelong work in advancing spiritual principles of love and forgiveness. This video was made to commemorate the honour.  

While Preachers Dutifully Ponder the Doctrine of the Trinity, Our Congregations Shrink???

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday.  In anticipation, preachers all over the world are dutifully pondering the Doctrine of the Trinity desperately searching for something to say to encourage their congregations.

Preachers will trot out tired old clichés conjuring up images of triangles, shamrocks around, or point to H20’s ability to appear as water, ice, or steam while still maintaining it’s unified essence. Or have you heard the one about the 3 blind men and the elephant in the room. That old chestnut is trotted out by many a desperate preacher struggling to put flesh on the doctrine of the trinity. But for the life of me I can’t see how 1 blind man touching the elephant’s trunk and presuming that there is a tree in the room, while a second blind man catching wind of the elephant’s ear is convinced that there is some sort of giant fan in the room, while a third man grabs hold of the tail and is sure that he has hold of a rope, helps you to conclude that just because they’re all sharing a room with an elephant you can now confess that God is indeed Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever amen. But all sorts of mental gymnastics will be exercised in the vain attempt to make some sort of sense of the doctrine of the Trinity!

On Trinity Sundays, mindful of the fact that trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity usually leads to heresy: dusty theological books that have not seen the light of day since last Trinity Sunday have been poured over to ensure that the formula’s learned in seminary are repeated correctly and heresy scrupulously avoided. The imaginative among us have attempted to baffle our congregations with our theological intellect, the pragmatic among us have attempted to baffle our congregations with something akin to BS, while the desperate among us have simply tried to survive the Trinity Sunday hoping against hope that no one will notice that we haven’t a clue what we’re talking about.

Perhaps only dear old Dr. Martin Luther possessed the theological integrity sufficient to save a preacher from the perils of preaching on Trinity Sunday. So, before I launch, forth, let me remind you what the instigator of the Reformation had to say on the subject of the Trinity. Martin Luther warned that: “To deny the Trinity is to risk our salvation; to try and explain the Trinity is to risk our sanity.”

I will confess that Martin Luther had much more at stake, literally at stake, than I do, because the truth is that for centuries the punishment for heresy would have found many an ancient preacher burned at the stake. But while the death penalty for heresy has been lifted, the risk to one’s sanity remains.

Now, I will confess that when faced with a particularly difficult theological knot, I prefer to begin by quoting Jesus and not Luther, but alas Jesus remained silent on the issue of the Trinity. So, I did try to find something helpful in the words of the Apostle Paul. But alas, without some really amazing theological gymnastics that are beyond my abilities to comprehend, even the Apostle Paul remains mute on the issue of the Trinity. So keeping in mind Dr. Luther’s dire warning that to,  “To deny the Trinity is to risk our salvation; but to try and explain the Trinity is to risk our sanity.”

Let me remind you that the Trinitarian formula appears in Scripture only once, in Matthew 28, during what is called the Great Commission, when Jesus commands the disciples to go forth, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. But the doctrine of the Trinity does not appear in the Bible

– The doctrine of the trinity, as we know it, was first formulated in the fourth century, by a couple of guys named Gregory and a woman called Marcrina.

– The doctrine of the Trinity was then developed over hundreds of years

– The doctrine of the Trinity was at the heart of several wars

– Thousands of Christians were killed because they came down on the loosing side of arguments over the doctrine of the Trinity

– No one has ever been able to adequately explain the Trinity

– Every explanation of the Trinity that I have ever come across includes some form of heresy

By the way, just so we’re clear, I rummaged through some of my previous sermons on the doctrine of the Trinity and I must confess that if this were the twelfth century, an angry mob would be stoking up the fires beneath my feet  because based on things I have proclaimed on various Trinity Sundays a charge of Modalism could very successfully be laid against me, as could a charge of Sabellianism. You might be interested to know, that more traditional preachers than I, will no doubt preach sermons this Sunday which will prove them guilty  of Arianism or at the very least Subordinationism. All of these heresies in a bygone age would have left us with a severe shortage of clergy in the church, as many of us would be smoldering at the stake for our crimes. Deciding who is right and who is wrong, who is in and who is out is a deadly preoccupation of humanity, a preoccupation that the church has not been able to escape. Continue reading

Pentecost: A Human Phenomenon

flaming tonguesIn the Spirit of Pentecost, I preached without a manuscript and conscripted the congregation into helping me to describe mystical experiences. The cacophony of voices you will hear captures what happened. If you fast forward past the congregational uproar you will hear a recap using Rudolph Otto’s description of the experience o the Numinous which he describes as “Mysterium, Tremendum et Facinans – Mysterious, Tremendous and Fascinating. 

You can listen to the sermon here

Pleas for the Earth: Chief Seattle

seattleOn this splendid June morning, I am reminded that June 7th is the day the Church commemorates Chief Seattle; a saint of creation! “Chief Seattle, led the Duwamish and Suquamish Tribes as the first Euro-American settlers arrived in the greater Seattle area in the 1850s. Baptized Noah by Catholic missionaries, Seattle was regarded as a “firm friend of the Whites,” who named the region’s future central city in his honour. He was a respected leader among Salish tribes, signing the Point Elliott (Mukilteo) Treaty of 1855, which relinquished tribal claims to most of the area, and opposing Native American attempts to dislodge settlers during the “Indian Wars” of 1855-1856. Chief Seattle retired to the Suquamish Reservation at Port Madison, and died there on June 7, 1866.” Chief Seattle’s please for the Earth echo through the years and call us to a deeper compassion for Creation.

Chief Seattle’s response to a request to sell the land. (1894)

This translation of Chief Seattle’s 1894 Treaty Oration

appeared in the Seattle Sunday Star on Oct. 29, 1887

Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change. Whatever Seattle says, the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons. The white chief says that Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him for we know he has little need of our friendship in return. His people are many. They are like the grass that covers vast prairies. My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain. The great, and I presume — good, White Chief sends us word that he wishes to buy our land but is willing to allow us enough to live comfortably. This indeed appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also, as we are no longer in need of an extensive country.

Continue reading

Preparing to Fan the Flames: preaching on Pentecost Sunday

Resources for Pentecost Sunday from previous posts:
Beyond Tribalism – Preaching a 21st Century Pentecost
Celebrating Pentecost in the 21st Century
Pentecost Tongues Aflame with the Prayer attributed to Jesus
Global Engagement, Chaos Theory, the Butterfly Effect and a New Pentecost

fanning flames pastorDawnFanning the Flames: a sermon for Pentecost Sunday:

Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. Birthday celebrations lend themselves to the telling of stories. So, we begin with a parable by the radical theologian Peter Rollins. So, sit back and try to imagine that you live not at the beginning of the 21st century but at the middle of the 21st century; say about 2050. The world has changed quite a bit. “It seems that in the future laws will be passed declaring that all those who follow the teachings of Jesus are subversive. Churches have been banned and to be a follower of Jesus is illegal. You have just been accused of being a believer. You’ve been arrested, and dragged before a court. You have been under clandestine surveillance for some time now, and so the prosecution has been able to build up quite a case against you. They begin the trial by offering the judge dozens of photographs that show you attending underground church meetings, speaking at religious events, and participating in various prayer and worship services. After this, they present a selection of items that have been confiscated from your home: religious books that you own, worship CDs, and other Christian artifacts. Then they step up the pace by displaying many of the poems, pieces of prose, and journal entries that you had lovingly written concerning your faith. Finally, in closing, the prosecution offers your Bible to the judge. This is a well-worn book with scribbles, notes, drawings, and underlinings throughout, evidence, if it were needed, that you had read and reread this sacred text many times. Throughout the case you have been sitting silently in fear and trembling. You know deep in your heart that with the large body of evidence that has been amassed by the prosecution you face the possibility of a long imprisonment or even execution. At various times throughout the proceedings you have lost all the confidence and have been on the verge of standing up and denying Christ. But while this thought has plagued your mind throughout the trial, you resist the temptation and remain focused.

Once the prosecution has finished presenting their case the judge proceeds to ask if you have anything to add, but you remain silent and resolute, terrified that if you open your mouth, even for a moment, you might deny the charges made against you. Like Christ you remain silent before your accusers. In response you are led outside to wait as the judge ponders your case. The hours pass slowly as you sit under guard in the foyer waiting to be summoned back. Eventually a young man in uniform appears and leads you into the courtroom so that you may hear the verdict and receive word of your punishment. Once you have been seated in the dock the judge, a harsh and unyielding man, enters the room, stands before you, looks deep into your eyes and begins to speak. “On the charges that have been brought forward I find the accused not guilty.”

“Not guilty?” your heart freezes. Then, in a split second, the fear and terror that had moments before threatened to strip your resolve are swallowed up by confusion and rage. Despite the surroundings, you stand defiantly before the judge and demand that he give an account concerning why you are innocent of the charges in light of the evidence. “What evidence?” asks the judge in shock.

“What about the poems and prose that I wrote?” you ask. “They simply show that you think of yourself as a poet, nothing more.” “But what about the services I spoke at, the times I wept in church and the long, sleepless nights of prayer?” “Evidence that you are a good speaker and an actor, nothing more,” replied the judge. “It is obvious that you deluded those around you, and perhaps at times you even deluded yourself, but this foolishness is not enough to convict you in a court of law.” “But this is madness!” you shout. “It would seem that no evidence would convince you!” “Not so,” replies the judge as if informing you of a great long-forgotten secret. “The court is indifferent toward your Bible reading and church attendance; it has no concern for worship with words and a pen. Continue to develop your theology, and use it to paint pictures of love. We have no interest in such armchair artists who spend their time creating images of a better world. We exist only for those who would lay down that brush, and their life, in a Christlike endeavor to create a better world. So, until you live as Christ and Christ’s followers did, until you challenge this system and become a thorn in our side, until you die to yourself and offer your body to the flames, until then, my friend, you are no enemy of ours.” “orthodox herretic pastorDawn

Rollins insists that this parable is true right here and right now. We don’t have to imagine a world were Christianity is illegal for this parable to be true. Rollins insists that: “If you or I were really to take the teachings of Jesus seriously, would we not sooner or later, find ourselves being dragged before the authorities? If we were really to live a life that reflected the subversive and radical message of love that gives a voice to the voiceless and a place to those who are displaced, if we were really to stand up against systemic oppression perpetrated by those in power, then would we not find ourselves on the wrong side of the lawmakers?”

On this the birthday of the church, we would do well to remember the stories our ancestors wove together about what it was like back in the beginning. Sure it was like they were on fire! There they were huddled together in fear. Afraid to go outside, incase the authorities might spot them. Tormented by their grief. Afraid the dream might be over. Some of them were even considering giving up and giving in. The Romans were just too big, too entrenched, too powerful, they didn’t stand a chance against the powers that be. Just look what they did to Jesus. Jesus had dared to speak out. Jesus had dared to challenge it all, the Empire, the religious institution and the culture itself, all in the name of freedom. Jesus had tried to set us free from the oppression of the Empire, from the power of the religious authorities, free from our prejudices, free from the lure of our own self-centeredness. Jesus had tried to let us see that there was so much more to life than survival. Jesus had taught us so much, helped us to question so much. And look where it got him. The powers that be had done their very worst and know Jesus was dead. Sure there were those who insisted that Jesus wasn’t gone, that they felt his presence, that there was no need to give up or given in, that we could still change the world. But, what to do? How do we go on? And then it was as if we were on fire! Suddenly we were alive with all that Jesus had taught us. You should have been there as the flames of justice flashed about igniting us with passion, with courage, with love. Oh we had fire in our bellies! Yes it was chaos back then with everyone from all over the place talking all at once, putting their two cents worth in to the mix. But stuff got done. We changed the world because the very Spirit of God that lived and breathed in Jesus, was living and breathing in us. You should have seen us back then; we were on fire; so much so that people came from far and wide just to try and figure out what had given us the courage to be who we were created to be. Continue reading

There Is A Crack In Everything, That’s How The Light Gets In! – a sermon for Easter 7A

Holy Cross congregation pastorDawnThese have been difficult days at Holy Cross as the results of our financial pledging program forced us to face some unpleasant realities about our ambitious hopes for the future of our ministry together. Last Sunday we announced that we could not see a way beyond the end of this year to maintain our current level of Team Ministry. This week we have grappled with the unpleasant possibility that without the necessary funding we might not be able to ensure Pastor Tom’s half-time position and indeed, Pastor Dawn’s full-time position was not assured. Toward the end of this week Council was made aware that two families have come forward with generous pledges that will allow us to maintain the current level of Team Ministry until the end of 2016. While these gracious pledges still leave us with projected deficits of approximately $10,000.00 each year, we are confident that together we can meet these needs. Holy Cross is a small community, just 47 households that graciously support many ministries, including this blog. Not many small congregations stretch themselves in the way that Holy Cross continues to stretch, employing one full-time and one half-time pastor, and a part-time musician, while bringing world-class speakers to challenge the wider community to ReThink Christianity, engaging in a lively adult education program, supporting a generous outreach program, producing  splendid worship and music, engaging in a first rate Global Justice program, all while coping with the challenges of our building. 

This sermon is an attempt to articulate the roller-coaster ride that we have been on this week and embrace the nature of the intensity of our wonderful life together in, with, through, and beyond the Reality we call God.

You can listen to the sermon here:

Here’s the Leonard Cohen song Anthem which haunts this sermon: