God Is Dead? – Good Friday Sermon April 18, 2014

time-is-god-deadThis Good Friday sermon (preached 2014) was born of the theological struggles our congregations has engaged in over the past few years. It mirrors our theological journey. This year members and friends of our congregation engaged in an “Atheism for Lent” study and so the sermon begins with a parable from an atheist critique of Christianity. I am grateful to the members and friends of Holy Cross Lutheran Church for the courage and wisdom they have shared with one another as together we seek to know the unknowable. You can listen to the audio of the sermon or read the manuscript.

Jesus of Nazareth taught using parables. So, in the shadows of the horrors of the cross, let us turn to a parable; not one of Jesus’ parables, but a modern parable. This parable was first told in 1887. It was reprinted in 1969, in the Time Magazine that bore the iconic “Is God Dead?” cover.

“Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: “I am looking for God! I am looking for God!” As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed.

The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances. “Where has God gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves?  That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it?  There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still travelling – it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars – and yet they have done it themselves.”

It has been further related that on that same day the madman entered various churches and there sang a requiem. Led out and quietened, he is said to have retorted each time: “what are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchres of God?”

This parable first printed in 1882, is known as The Parable of the Mad Man.” It was written by Friderich Nietzsche. One of the characteristics of a parable is that it surprises us with a truth that we already know. God is dead and we have killed him! Continue reading

PREPARING TO PREACH ON GOOD FRIDAY. Searching beyond the talk of sacrifice to see the Good News.

The Church’s Good Friday obsession with talk of  “sacrifice for sin” has been breed into the bones of this particular preacher.  I have been trained to speak the language of the Church.  I know full well the many doctrines of atonement that have been proposed to explain the reasons Jesus died upon a cross.  I’ve been studying the historical context and the theological consequences of Jesus’ death for more years than I care to admit.   Yet every year, I find myself wanting to book a vacation or call in sick so that I can avoid the awesome task of preaching on Good Friday.

I’ve put it off tackling the Good Friday texts as long as I dare.  So, I picked up my copy of “The Last Week” by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, together with my copies of John Shelby Spong’s “Resurrection: Myth or Reality” and “Jesus for the Non Religious” as well as Marcus Borg’s final book “Convictions” and Dom Corssan’s new book “How to Read the Bible and Still Be Christian and spent the day in pursuit of a sermon.

What follows is not the sermon I will preach on Good Friday, but rather, the notes I made a few years ago to remind myself not to fall into the trap of talking about the events surrounding Jesus’ death in the way I was trained to speak of those events.  I offer up my notes hoping that those who are engaged in the struggle of grappling with how to talk about the cross in the 21st century might find some solace in a fellow struggler’s ruminations.  For those of you who don’t have to come up with a sermon for Good Friday, I offer these notes as my humble attempt to see beyond the rhetoric about the cross to the Good News. As always I am indebted to Marcus, Dom. and Jack for their scholarship. 

There are many ways in which our focus upon the cross is disturbing.   Not the least of which is the way in which we as Christians tend to talk about the crucifixion as Jesus’ passion.  I have always thought it a tragedy that we should describe the events of Jesus’ crucifixion as Jesus’ passion. I’ve always understood talk of an individual’s passion to be concern with those things that people lived for. And so to insist that Jesus’ lived to die a horrible death might sooth those who seek to turn Jesus into some sort of preordained blood sacrifice.

But for those of us who look to Jesus in search of the face of God, such talk seems is indeed a crime against divinity. For what kind of petty, sadistic god would engineer the birth of, foster the life of, and then engineer the death of a beloved child. Surely such a god is no more than a wicked illusion of our own making. I wonder what Jesus himself would make of the god we have created. I wonder what Jesus himself would make of our Good Friday commemorations? I suspect that if Jesus is anything like the accounts of his life suggest, he would be mortified, and I mean that literally…I think that Jesus would be mortified …mortified ie shamed to death…of what has become of his life’s passion; for if Jesus’ was passionate about anything, he was passionate about life. Jesus declared, “I have come so that you may have life and live it abundantly.” Jesus’ passion was about living. Living fully, abundantly.  Continue reading

Preparing for Maundy Thursday: When you don’t believe that Jesus was a sacrifice for sin!

MAUNDY THURSDAY SERMONS:

Click here for Two Suppers – Maundy Thursday- A Strange Night

Click here for Scuffed Up Reddish Pumps

Click here for Is This A Big Hoax?

I was asked by a colleague: “So, if you do not believe that Jesus died for your sins, then why bother celebrating the events of Holy Week?” Behind this question lies the assumption that the only way to understand Jesus’ death is to frame it within the context of the theology of “penal sacrificial atonement” ie “we are judged to be sinful creatures, punishment is required, God sends Jesus to pay the price for our sin”. That Anslem’s theory of sacrificial atonement was formulated in the 11th century and continues to hold sway in the minds of so many followers of Christ is a testament to the power of our liturgies and hymns to form our theology.  However, Anslem’s theory is not they only faithful way to understand Jesus’ death. 

When one seriously engages the question, “What kind of god would demand a blood sacrifice?” the answers often render God impotent at best and at worst cruel and vindictive. I have often said that atonement theories leave God looking like a cosmic son of #%#%# ! Progressive Christian theologians are opening up new ways of understanding the death and resurrection of Jesus that empower the faithful to see new possibilities.

To my colleague, who fears that I am leading the faithful astray, and to those who find little comfort in the theories of an 11th century monastic, I offer the following:

Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. And you’re to love one another the way I have loved you. This is how all will know that you’re my disciples: that you truly love one another.”

That we should love one another is not a new commandment. There have been many before Jesus and many who came after Jesus who have commanded, advised, encouraged, implored, and even begged us to, “love one another.” What is new about Jesus commandment is that we are to love one another the way that Jesus loved. Which begs the question:  How exactly did Jesus love?

I believe that Jesus loved in ways that I am only beginning to understand. I believe that Jesus was so open to the power of the LOVE that is God; that Jesus was able to live his life fully without fear.

I believe that Jesus wanted more than anything else for his followers to be so open to the power of LOVE that is God so that they too would live their lives fully without fear.

I believe that that’s what Jesus meant when he said, “I have come that you might have life and live it abundantly.”

I believe that Jesus lived life abundantly and that means that he loved abundantly and without fear.

Jesus was so open to the power of LOVE that is God that Jesus would not let the powers of darkness stop him from loving and living fully.

The kind of LOVE that Jesus embodied and taught has no boundaries.  No darkness, no power, no fear, not even death can limit the power of LOVE.

For if LOVE is limited by death, then love will always be qualified and quantified.

That Jesus was willing to LOVE without boundaries, came at great cost to himself.

But Jesus was willing to pay that price in order to show  others the way.

The way to LOVE without limit, without fear, without boundaries.

LOVE without boundaries is abundant life.

That Jesus’ LOVE endured the worst that the world could send his way, that Jesus’ LOVE was for all the world, dead and buried, and yet bursts free from the grave, bears witness to the power of LOVE.

That Jesus LOVE could not be destroyed, not even by the thing we fear the most, death itself, saves us from the need to fear death.

Jesus has shown us the way.

We can live abundantly lives that are free from the fear of death. Because Jesus has shown us the way we are free to live fully, to love extravagantly and be all that we were created to be.

LOVE shines in the darkness and darkness shall not overcome LOVE.

If Jesus, life, death, and resurrection teach us anything, surely they teach us not to be afraid.

Not to be afraid of the darkness.

Not to be afraid of living fully.

Not to be afraid of loving extravagantly.

Not to be afraid of the powers of evil.

Not to be afraid of the power of death.

LOVE will endure.

All will be well.

Jesus can’t save us from life.

There is evil to contend with.

There will be darkness and there will be death.

Jesus couldn’t save himself and he cannot save us from life. Darkness and death are part of life.  Each of us must walk into the darkness that lies before us.  We can beg God to take the cup from us!  But the darkness will still come.  And there will be days when the darkness will triumph.  There are good Fridays too many to mention out there.  We can shout all we want for Jesus to save us, but in the end we too will have to take up our cross and find a way to follow Jesus into the darkness and beyond, trusting that even though it feels for all the world that God has forsaken us, we will make it beyond the darkness.

The cross will not look the same for each of us. But there will be crosses to bear. Jesus has showed us the way. If we are to follow Jesus, then we must love one another they way that Jesus loved.  It is the way beyond the darkness. Do not be afraid of evil, of death, or of the darkness. Follow Jesus who by love frees us from the power of darkness to hold us captive to our fears so that we can have life and live it abundantly.

How exactly did Jesus love?

Without limit.

What did Jesus save us from?

Our fears.

Journeying Toward Resurrection: John Philip Newell


snowdropsA powerful series contemplating resurrection in ever deepening ways in order to explore what a risen christianity might look like in terms of its offering of healing and blessing for the earth. Created by John Philip Newell a poet, pastor and scholar who opens our eyes o a vision beyond doctrines and dogmas that fail to proclaim the wonders of the universe in which we live.  “Christianity will rise again to the extent that we remember the sacredness of everything that has been born in the universe.”

Mary Speaks: “The Testament of Mary” and “The Confession Stone” a Midrash for Palm Sunday

Palm Sunda 2015Judas, Peter, Pilate, Caiaphas, and John – these are the names most often heard in the stories we hear during Holy Week….the men who failed Jesus or who conspired against Jesus, their names we hear during this holiest of weeks. But what of the women who stood by Jesus, who wept for Jesus, who bore witnesses to the betrayal, the trial, the execution, and the death of Jesus. Where are their stories during this week of weeks? For centuries, the church has failed to listen to the voices of the women whose lives were intertwined with Jesus’ life. The stories of these faithful women have been hidden in the mists of time. This Palm Sunday we turned to one of those women; to Mary the mother of Jesus. Her voice has been silenced by the church. She has been confined to works of art that speak not with words. 

So, as we enter Holy Week we turn to two new works of art that give voice to Mary’s story. Anne Keith and I will do our best to give voice to Mary’s story using the words of the Irish writer Colm Tóibín whose book, “The Testament of Mary” imagines Mary as an old woman, nearing the end of her life, looking back on the life of her beloved child Jesus. You will hear cynicism in the voice of Mary who is visited by the men who will tell her son’s story; men who are determined to make a particular meaning out of Jesus life and death. Mary does not share their enthusiasm for the tragedy that robbed her of her child, nor will she twist her own story to suit their needs.

Mary’s voice will also come to you through music. Mezzo soprano, Linda Condy, accompanied by our Musical Director: Marney Curran, B.S.M., A.R.C.T., will preform “The Confession Stone: Songs of Mary” composed by Canadian Robert Fleming based on the poems of Owen DodsonOwen Dodson was an African-American poet whose work is part of what has been dubbed the Harlem Renaissance. Dodson’s poetry brings a lively humanity to the Mary empowering her voice to evoke the passion of a mother’s loss.

Both Owen Dodson and Colm Tóibín provide a powerful midrash with which to begin our Holy Week. 

Jesus: Human or Divine? – A Question for Palm Sunday

SPONG Living pastordawn“….when he returned to the city…Jesus entered the Temple precincts and began teaching. The chief priests and the elders of the people came to him and said, ‘By what authority are you doing what you do? Who gave you this authority?’ And I,” replied Jesus, ‘Will ask you a single questions; if you give me the answer, I will tell you my authority for these actions. What was the origin of John’s right to baptize? Was it divine or was it human?” They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, ‘divine,’ he will respond, ‘Then why did you refuse to believe him?” But if we say ‘human’ we have the people to fear, for they regard John as a prophet,’ So they replied to Jesus, “We don’t know.” (Matthew 23:23-27)

Divine or human? We don’t know? Really? Of course we know? Divine or Human? You bet we know! We’re just afraid to say. These few verses are usually ignored during the lead up to the big events of Holy Week. It seems to me, that they may well provide those of us who live in the 21st century about as much angst as they provided to people of the first century, but for entirely different reasons. I think perhaps, the writer of the gospel according to Matthew, whoever he was, may have been messing with his first century audience. “Human or divine?” was just as much of a loaded question in the first century as it is in the 21st century but for entirely different reasons. The writer of the Gospel According to Matthew may have placed the question in the mouth of Jesus, but today, just as I’m sure it did all those centuries ago, the question echoes back and forth between Jesus and the listeners to the narrative until it is not so much about John the Baptist’s authority to baptize as it is about Jesus himself. Which is exactly what the author designed the interchange to do in the hearts and minds of his listeners. “By what authority are you doing what you do? Who gave you this authority?”

In good rabbinic style the author of this text has Jesus reply to a question with a question. “I will ask you a single question; if you give me the answer, I will tell you my authority for these actions.” Do you want to know why I came riding in here on an ass? Do you want to know what gives me the right to mock your notions of Messiah? Do you want to know by whose authority I rube the Roman’s noses in it, parading into town mocking their leadership with a farce designed to make you laugh at the way they dare to laud their power over us? Do you want to know what or who gives me the right to march into the Temple at Passover and turn the place upside down, attacking the financial system that lies at the heart of our peoples’ collaboration with Roman oppression? Do you really want to know by whose authority I challenge the injustice that surrounds us? Do you really want to know? Well I’ll tell you if you answer me this? “What was the origin of John’s right to baptize? Come on you tell me. Was it divine or was it human?” They lopped of John’s head for daring to challenge injustice. Served it up on a silver platter for the crime of challenging Roman authority. Do you really want to challenge my authority? Human or divine? Come on tell me, I dare you.

They discussed it among themselves and they knew they were trapped. “If we say, ‘divine,” he will respond, ‘Then why did you refuse to believe him?” But if we say, ‘human” we have the people to fear, for they regard him as a prophet.” So they replied to Jesus, “We don’t know?”

Human or divine? We don’t know. Of course they knew! They know and we know. We are just afraid to say. Because if we say, we know full well what the next question will be and we don’t want to go there. Human or divine may not be a 21st century question. It is a question that has different implications in our day than it did back when the writer of the Gospel According to Matthew put it into the mouth of Jesus. To question someone’s authority in the first century meant pretty much what it does today. We, like our first century ancestors in the faith, want to know if Jesus has the right stuff to challenge the system. If Jesus has the right stuff; then maybe just maybe he’s worth paying attention to. Show us your credentials Jesus. We want to know who you are before we take any advice from you; especially advice that will have us taking a stand against the powers that be. Continue reading

On Palm Sunday, An Inconvenient Messiah Parades Into Our Midst

palm sundayI wrote this sermon years ago, when I’d first given up theologies which required a subscription to the notion that humans fell from grace and need a Messiah to save them. It’s funny how we cling to ideas about what it means to be human as if centuries of human evolution have no bearing on who and what we are. The illustrations in this story come from an old shoebox of clippings; they do not cite the source, but the name Ed Riegert is scribbled in the margins. Ed was my homiletics professor. He used to encourage us to keep a file of stories that we might tell. That old shoebox has long since been replaced by a hard-drive. But the shoebox still draws me back from time to time. This sermon was a first attempt to move beyond notions of atonement that paint a picture of humanity I no longer cling to. Perhaps it will be helpful to those who are beginning open themselves to a new understanding of who Jesus is.

For previous Palm Sunday sermons click here, here, or here

There was once a man who suffered from various illnesses for a very long time. This man had seen countless doctors who over the years had performed countless tests on him and had prescribed lots of medicine. But, the man’s condition did not improve. This man even tried home remedies to make himself feel better. He drank herbal teas, and took mega-doses of vitamins along with his prescriptions. But still he did not feel any better. Then one day the man heard about a doctor who was said to be an outstanding diagnostician. So the man called the doctor to make an appointment and even though the doctor was booked for months in advance the man was delighted when the receptionist managed to fit him in. As the date of his appointment drew near the man was excited by the prospect of finally getting to the bottom of his problem. At last, he would find out just what was wrong with him and in no time he was sure that this brilliant doctor whose praises were sung by one and all, this doctor would be able to cure him. The day of the appointment arrived. After the doctor had thoroughly examined the man and had reviewed his tests, she sat down with him and she said, “My friend, you are not a healthy man. But you can be well again if you will only follow my advice. What you need to do is lose about sixty pounds, get involved in a regular program of exercise, and eat more grain, fruit, and vegetables. You don’t need to take any more of the medicine that has been prescribed for you and you don’t need all those vitamin pills.” When the man heard this, he was indignant. He demanded that the doctor prescribe some new medicine for him, possibly some experimental drug not yet on the market, which would cure his illness. The doctor smiled patiently and repeated her advice. “You don’t need medicine,” she said. “You need to change your lifestyle.” The man simply cursed the doctor and stomped out of the office. For the rest of his sickly life, he told everyone that she was a quack who didn’t deserve to be called a doctor. Continue reading

Jesus Sets Us Free to Save Ourselves: a sermon for Palm Sunday – Matthew 21:1-11

palm brsIn our parish, on Palm Sunday our liturgy stays with the commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. Trusting that our members will join us on Good Friday, we have not adopted the practice of rushing to the Passion of Christ. This allows us time to linger over our Hosannas. Our worship began outside with the reading of Matthew 21:1-11, followed by a procession of palm waving, hosanna cheering congregation. This year I changed the first reading to the story of Jacob’s wounding during a wrestling match with God in Genesis 32:22-31, followed by an feminist interpretation of Psalm 118, and the Gospel text John 12:12-15. I am indebted to Michael Morewood’s book “Is Jesus God” for the inspiration behind this sermon and to John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg’s “The Last Week” for the historical details. 

For previous Palm Sunday sermons click here, here, here, or here

Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us! Save us! Save us! Save us from who? Save us from what? Save us for what? What is all the shouting about?

Two millennia ago, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, when Jesus mounted that donkey it was pretty clear who needed saving from who; it was clear what they needed saving from and it was fairly clear what people longed to be saved for. The people longed for freedom: freedom from the brutality of their Roman rulers, freedom from the ravages of poverty, freedom from the strict oppression of their religious authorities, and freedom from the fear of illness and death. Life among the conquered peoples of first century Palestine was cruel, oppressive, impoverished and filled with fear and suspicion. Whatever hope of deliverance there was all too often false hope. Among the oppressed there are always calls for revolution and the conquered people of first century Palestine had seen more than their fair share of wanna-be saviours.  Some of their young people had fallen prey to the incitement of the Zealots and in youthful, exuberant, impatience had taken up arms against their Roman oppressors. Some of their neighbours had betrayed their own people and taken up whatever crumbs the Romans were offering, sold their souls and become collaborators, lining their own pockets at the expense of their own people. But far too many people had given up and given in, settling for whatever life they could eke out under the cruel regime hoping against hope, that someday, someone, somehow would come along and save them from the horrors of life. And so, they longed for the good old days; The days when their people and not the Romans dominated the land, the days when one of their own was king. But not just any king, they wanted a king like David; a king who would ride at the head of their army full of pride and power and conquer all their enemies. The elders, the wise ones, pointed to the past and heralded David as a Messiah; an anointed one; anointed by God to lead the people. How they longed for such a messiah to rise up among them and lead them; lead them to victory against all their foes and save them from their miserable existence. One by one, they’d hear these wanna-be messiahs, these trumped up saviours, call the people to rise up. But they knew, with each successive saviour, there was no hope that they could triumph over the mighty Roman army and so over and over again, they hunkered down, waiting and watching, longing and hoping for the one who could save them. Continue reading

Faith and Begorrrah – A St. Patrick’s Day Sermon

Tomorrow is  St. Patrick’s Day and I was asked about the sermon I preached two years ago when the celebration fell upon a Sunday. The person who asked about the sermon remembered laughing a lot during its delivery and encouraged me to re-post it. So, pour yourself a glass of your favourite tipple, sit back and enjoy a laugh.

Readings:  Numbers 27: 1-11; Acts 13:44-51; John 12:1-8

guinnessbeerSt. Patrick’s Day doesn’t often fall on a Sunday, but as our congregation’s Annual Meeting would begin immediately following our worship service, I decided to be somewhat playful and irreverent with a sermon designed encourage folk to think beyond words on a page. The first reading brought the wonderful story of the Daughters of Zelophehad to church and as this reading does not appear in the Revised Common Lectionary it was fun to play withirish these feisty women. The reading from the book of Acts is actually the prescribed reading for the commemoration of St. Patrick and the Gospel text is prescribed for Lent 5C. The Guinness was just for fun! Enjoy.

Read a transcript of the sermon here

Listen to the sermon

https://pastordawn.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/st_patricks_sermon.m4a

Beyond the Serpent. Beyond the Idol Jesus. Beyond the Beyond and Beyond that Also: a sermon Lent 4B – John 3:14-21

bronze serpentA sermon that peers beyond the mess we have made of John 3:16. 

Listen to the sermon here

 

Janis Ian and Miriam Therese Winter: Two Jersey Broads – Who Knew???

MT Winter Janis WinterAt the tender age of fifteen, I was introduced to Miriam Terese Winter’s classic “Joy Is Like the Rain” when I nervously attended a “Christian Youth Group.” Later, MT Winter’s feminist resources for worship changed the way I approach worship-planning. Janis Ian’s classic “Seventeen” was released in my seventeenth year and captured my teenaged angst in ways that have taken me a lifetime to begin to understand. Since then, the music of these two women have floated in and out of my life in various revolutionary ways. So, this conversation between two powerful women of spirit and song resonates in me. Enjoy!

Approaching the Resurrection – What Did Paul Actually Say?

trouble with resurrection

Far too many preachers stumble into the celebration of Easter without doing our homework. Resurrection is a central tenant of the Christian faith and Easter is the primary celebration of resurrection and yet, too many of us fail to open ourselves to current scholarship surrounding the doctrine of resurrection. Questions about the nature of the resurrection ought to send us back to the words of the Apostle Paul. Bernard Brandon Scott is a charter member of the Jesus Seminar. His book “The Trouble with Resurrection” is a must read for those who preach during the Easter Season.

If you are planning to write a sermon or listen to a sermon this Easter, this video provides essential background information about the words of the Apostle Paul on the nature of the resurrection which may surprise you. Scott’s treatment of 1 Cor. 15 provides a new understanding of resurrection which is compelling as well as liberating.

 

“I Am Woman” – a sermon for International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

Gospel Reading:  John 2:13-22  and I Am Woman by Helen Reddy

Listen to the sermon here

Where are the Angry Women? Where are the Angry Christians? Where are the Angry Humans? – a sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent – International Women’s Day

International Women's DaySunday March 8, 2015 is International Women’s Day. The appointed gospel reading for this the third Sunday of Lent is from John 2:13-22 which recounts the story of Jesus turning over the tables in the temple. This sermon is inspired by the work of Beverly Wildung Harrison and the prophetic witness of Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. 

Today is International Women’s Day a day. International Women’s Day has been celebrated since 1911. It is also known as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. Women have come a long way since 1911. Sadly, we must all confess that women have a long way to go before we achieve our vision of a world in which all people have equal access to opportunity. There is much for us to celebrate on this particular International Women’s Day and there is also much to lament. In our world the phrase “war on women” is bandied about by the media and each time I hear it anger rises in me and it is all I can do to stop myself from screaming. In our own country we have watched the steady erosion of hard one gains as our federal government continues to cut funding to women’s organizations and continues to refuse to launch a federal inquiry into the disappearance of far too many of our aboriginal sisters. Any serious reflection on the plight of women in the world makes my blood boil and I can’t help but wonder why we don’t just follow Jesus’ example because maybe if we turn over a few more tables in the halls of power we might be able to draw some serious attention to the abuses perpetrated upon women for the sake of maintaining the status quo.

The story of Jesus turning over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple has always intrigued me. The idea that Jesus could have become so angry with religious authorities for cooperating with the violent and oppressive, Roman Imperial system that he would create such a scene in the Temple is so far from the image of Jesus as the meek and mild long-haired peace-nick that we’ve all come to take for granted.

For generations, biblical commentators have gone to great pains to ensure that any hint of Jesus humanity is scrubbed clean from interpretations of this story. Anger is a perfectly normal human emotion. Jesus was a human being and therefore he was subject to normal human emotions. But the institutional church frowns upon anger. Indeed, in many places one can still find anger listed as one of the seven deadly sins. “ira” which can be translated as anger or wrath made the list of seven deadly sins. This list is often attributed to the early Christians. Indeed, there are those who would argue that these sins are biblical. However, they are actually the work of a 4th century monk named Evagirus Ponticus, whose nickname was Evagrius the Solitary. He spent most of his adult life living as a hermit in the desert. I suspect that if a modern psychologist were to take a brief look of Evagrius’ personal biography they could very quickly make a diagnosis of clinical depression. Evagrius himself prescribed tears as the pathway to God and was known to have spent days at a time alone and weeping profusely. He is best known for his writings on the various forms of temptation, which the institutional church latched onto with a vengeance. His original list included eight deadly sins. But the church erased “sadness” from the list and elevated the seven deadly sins to the category of mortal sins. Mortal sins were those sins that actually placed one’s soul in danger of eternal damnation. Continue reading

Learning to Die Daily: a sermon for the second Sunday in Lent

let suffering speak

Lent 2B – Mark 8:31-38 this sermon is inspired by my study of the work of Dr. Cornel West. His words flow through this lines of this sermon and his prophetic imagination provides the hope-filled vision of LOVE parading around the world as justice.

Listen to the sermon here