Ubuntu: A Person Is A Person Through Other Persons – Luke 17:5-10 – The Parable of the Mustard Seed

Ubuntu -- pastordawn.com

colemansListen to the sermon here: 

In his book, “The Orthodox Heretic”, Peter Rollins creates a parable which he calls “Finding Faith.”

According to Pete, “There was once a fiery preacher who possessed a powerful but unusual gift. He found that, from an early age, when he prayed for individuals, they would supernaturally lose all of their religious convictions. They would invariably lose all of their beliefs about the prophets, the sacred Scriptures, and even God. So the preacher learned not to pray for people but instead he limited himself to preaching inspiring sermons and doing good works. However, one day while travelling across the country, the preacher found himself in a conversation with a businessman who happened to be going in the same direction. The businessman was a very powerful and ruthless merchant banker, who was honored by his colleagues and respected by his adversaries. Their conversation began because the businessman, possessing a deep, abiding faith, had noticed the preacher reading from the Bible. He introduced himself to the preacher and they began to talk. As they chatted together this powerful man told the preacher all about his faith in God and his love of Christ. He spoke of how his work did not really define who he was but was simply what he had to do.

“The world of business is a cold one,” he confided to the preacher, “And in my line of work I find myself in situations that challenge my Christian convictions. But I try, as much as possible, to remain true to my faith. Indeed, I attend a local church every Sunday, participate in a prayer circle, engage in some your work and contribute to a weekly Bible study. These activities help to remind me of who I really am.’

After listening carefully to the businessman’s story, the preacher began to realize the purpose of his unseemly gift. So he turned to the businessman and said, ‘Would you allow me to pray a blessing onto your life?’

The businessman readily agreed, unaware of what would happen. Sure enough, after the preacher had muttered a simple prayer, the man opened his eyes in astonishment. ‘What a fool I have been for all these years!’ he proclaimed.  ‘It is clear to me now that there is no God above, who is looking out for me, and that there are no sacred texts to guide me, and there is no Spirit to inspire and protect me.’

As they parted company the businessman, still confused by what had taken place, returned home. But now that he no longer had any religious beliefs, he began to find it increasingly difficult to continue in his line of work. Faced with the fact that he was now just a hard-nosed businessman working in a corrupt system, rather than a man of God, he began to despise his work. Within months he had a breakdown, and soon afterward he gave up his line of work completely.

Feeling better about himself, he then went on to give to the poor all of the riches he had accumulated and he began to use his considerable managerial expertise to challenge the very system he once participated in, and to help those who had been oppressed by the system.

One day, many years later, he happened upon the preacher again while walking through town. He ran over, fell at the preacher’s feet, and began to weep with joy.

Eventually he looked up at the preacher and smiled, ‘thank you, my dear friend, for helping me to discover my 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.

“I believe in God the Father Almighty,

maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ,

his only Son our Lord,

he was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit

and born of the virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, died and was buried.

He descended into hell.

On the third day he rose again,

He ascended into heaven,

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.”

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

Filthy Rich – a conversational Bible Study of Luke 16:19-31

jesus-benchA 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

 

God Is Dead! Long Live God! – a sermon for Homecoming Sunday

Readings: Genesis 15:1-6; Acts 17:27-28; John 10:22-31  

Listen to the sermon here

John 10:22-31
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.

time-is-god-deadWith 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 idea-of-the-holybegin 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?

Global Justice Sunday: Truth and Reconciliation – Guest Preacher Henriette Thompson – Luke 10:25-37

hthompsonCommenting 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 – a sermon on Luke 15 for Pentecost 17C

lost-and-foundI am indebted to two beloved seminary professors for the formation of this sermon: Dr. Donna L. Seamone and Dr. Ed Riegert. All preachers stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us!!!

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

Love Made Visible – a sermon for Labour Day Weekend

No Hands but yours pastordawn

The extensive quote from Joan Chittister is from her essay entitled

“A Spirituality of Work” 2011

Listen to the sermon here