What if we won’t ever really understand Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection until we understand that God is dead? – a Reformation Sermon

Listen to the sermon here

All over the world, Lutheran churches celebrate the earth-shattering events that were set in motion on October 31st 1517, when a Roman Catholic priest named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. Luther challenged the most powerful institution that his world had ever known. Luther shook the very foundations upon which the reality of his fellow humans was based. The power of the Holy Roman Catholic Church rested upon an interpretation of reality that envisioned a God who sits in judgement upon a throne in the heavens, a God who commanded a quid pro quo relationship with HIS subjects; a God whose determination to tip the scales of justice was so precise that he sent HIS only Son to die as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity, a God who used the sacrifice of that Son to somehow atone for the sins of every man, woman, and child who ever lived; saving them from the wrath of this God who had no other choice but to condemn sinners to eternal torment in the fires of hell, a God who established the church on earth to oversee the administration of the atoning power of Jesus death upon the cross, a church so powerful that they could sell you a piece of paper called an indulgence that would whisk you or your loved one out of the pits of Hell and up, up, up into the willowing, billowing, soft, gentle fluffy whiteness of Heaven, so that you could spend all of eternity basking in the Glory of your Father in heaven’s presence. These indulgences were more valuable than gold and it’s no wonder that the Church was able to sell them like hot-cakes, pardon the pun, and yes, I’m been sarcastic in my telling of this tale. Yes, history is more complicated than I’m telling it right here and right now, because I’m trying to make a point. The selling of indulgences was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the abuses the church on earth and in heaven. Continue reading

God Is Dead: Beyond Dogma

keep calm God is DeadSo, I learned something about myself at our PubNight: I need a manuscript! Even though I had committed the talk I intended to give to memory, when I got up to speak the entire talk disappeared from my memory banks and I was pretty much reduced to babbling. So, for those of you who were there here’s the talk I thought I had committed to memory. For those of you who weren’t there, here’s what you might have missed:

I know that I’m supposed to tell you something that will provoke you into thinking differently about Christianity. But the truth is I’d much rather you thought less about Christianity and more about living. That’s why this little talk was advertised under the title “Beyond Dogma”. You see I happen to believe that there is so much more to life than Christianity. But what do I know really. After all I’m always getting things wrong, especially when it comes to Christianity. I mean ever since I was a kid, I’ve been getting Christianity wrong. I just didn’t get it.

I remember the first so-called “Christian” event I ever went to I must have been five or six years old. It wasn’t church or Sunday School. No the first “Christian” thing I ever went to was a funeral. It was amazing. I’d never been inside a church before. And the first time I saw that guy hanging up there in his underwear, I had absolutely no idea who he was or how he got there. So, I asked my Dad and I simply couldn’t believe it when he told me it was Jesus.

“How did Jesus get up there?” I asked

“He was nailed up there, a long time ago?” Dad answered.

“Why Daddy, why did they nail him up there?”

“So he would die?”

“What? You mean they killed the baby Jesus? Why did they kill the baby Jesus Daddy?”

At this point my mother had had enough! So she tried to baffle me with the facts of the matter. “Jesus died for you, for all of us, because we’ve been bad. Jesus died so that we could all get into heaven?”

“Why Mommy? Why can’t  we all just go to heaven? Why doesn’t God just let us in?”

“Because we’ve done bad things. Bad things must be punished.  So. Jesus died on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to?”

By this point all I wanted to do was to get out of there. I mean, the murdering so and so’s killed the baby Jesus.Nailed him up there on the cross so that he would die. And all because of something I’d done? It was awful?

I remember watching the guy up at the front. I didn’t even want to ask why he was wearing a dress. And he kept doing this X (crossing himself)  And when he did this X he kept mumbling something but I couldn’t figure out what he was saying. So, I spent the rest of the service waiting and watching for him to do this  X  and trying to figure out what he was saying when he did this X.

Well it wasn’t until we got out to the grave-side where I could get closer to the action that I finally figured out what the guy in the frock was saying when he did this  X  “In the name of the father and of the son and into the hole he goes!!!” For months after that funeral I would do this X, cross myself and repeat the magic words:  “In the name of the father and of the son and into the hole he goes!!!” Now for those of you who don’t recognize it, I stole that routine from the great Irish comedian Dave Allen. I hoped it would make you laugh. But I also hoped that it would help you to think how ridiculous Christianity can be. Most of us have been hanging around Christianity for so long that we can’t or won’t see the humour in it. But it’s not all funny or laughable. It’s full of tragedy as well. Continue reading

Peacekeepers, Diplomacy and Humanitarian Aid: a Remembrance Sunday Sermon

war on warI am indebted to Joshua S. Goldstein’s book “Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide” and his brilliant statistical analysis and summation of the successes won by peacekeepers, diplomacy and humanitarian aid.  

Our liturgy this Remembrance Sunday was a service of lament. Our readings included a section from Elie Wiesel’s book “Night”.  Here you will find a copy of our bulletin which contains the readings as well as the words to Brian Wren’s hymn “The Horrors of Our History” with which our Choir opened our lament.  (pdf of the bulletin laid out to be printed double sided on legal paper)