Spiritual AND Religious – a sermon for Pentecost 12B – John 6:35,41-51

Listen to the sermon here

As many of you know, I’ve been on a diet for the past few years. Dieting is not easy in this land of such great abundance. I have had to work very hard to resist so very many temptations. Some foods have been cut out of my diet all together. Most of the foods that I have had to eliminate from my diet are foods that I love. The most difficult food for me to resist is bread. I love bread and in order to lose the weight that I needed to lose, I had to eliminate bread from my diet. For the first few months of this diet, the only time I ate any bread was here in this sanctuary during communion. I must confess that I was only able to abstain from bread for about three months and then I simply needed a fix. So, after the initial shock of no bread, I gradually introduced just a little bread back into my diet. But I really miss bread. All kinds of bread. I miss great big hunks of crusty bread, endless slices of buttered toast, croissants, baguettes, bagels, rye bread, sourdough bread, white bread, raisin bread, stuffing, croutons, buns, rolls, breadsticks…I could go on and on and on…telling you about all the breads that I miss…I just can’t eat any of them. So, I hope that you will all give me a big “aahh  poor Dawn” when I remind you that for the past few weeks all of the gospel readings prescribed by our lectionary have Jesus talking about bread. Come on I’m serious let me hear a big sigh of sympathy: “aah poor Dawn”.

Bread, Bread, Bread, the gospel according to John: “I am the bread of life. I am the bread that came down from heaven. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, and if you eat it you’ll never die. I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If any eat this bread they will live forever.” Bread, Bread, Bread, for five weeks in a row, preachers all over the world are doing our darnedest to serve up Jesus as the bread of life, bread for the world, bread that comes down from heaven, bread that provides eternal life. Bread, Bread, Bread. I who am not supposed to be letting bread pass my lips; I have been called upon to create sermons that will satisfy the lectionary’s insistence that we gorge ourselves on words and images which offer up Jesus as bread for the world. So, to help you understand a little bit of what it is like to be so hungry for bread, whilst trying to create sermons which inspire hunger for bread, I decided to bring you this basket of bread. Look at it isn’t it beautiful. Buns, buns, and more buns…bagels, croissants, more buns. Bread, bread, bread. Isn’t it beautiful? Take a long, deep breath and smell just how marvelous this is?

It is the aroma of bread that gets to me. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread. I read somewhere that it is not the smell of bread that makes us hungry for bread, but rather that the aroma of bread alerts us to our hunger. Which means that the hunger is already there, and the smell of bread simply reminds us of our desire for bread. It doesn’t make much difference to me, which comes first the smell or the hunger, I just want some bread. I love me some bread. Bread is comfort food to the enth degree!!! When it comes to comfort food, just give me bread. I don’t think I’ve ever met a bread that I don’t like; as long as it’s fresh, I’m hungry.

So, for weeks now, Jesus the great I AM has had his mouth filled by the storyteller we call John with words about bread. And all the while I have been hungry for bread. Jesus keeps promising to satisfy that hunger; Jesus is the bread of life, bread for the world, bread that provides eternal life. For weeks now, our liturgies have been full of hymns about bread, so have our prayers. It’s a good thing that I’m on vacation after today, because next Sunday the gospel according to John will give you more images of Jesus as the living bread. My hunger for bread, might just surpass my hunger for something more important than bread, so, before I gorge myself on this basket full of bread, let me try to shift our attention beyond the bread to that to which all this talk of bread is designed to point us toward. Remember it is not the bread that makes us hungry but rather the bread that alerts us to our hunger. So, what is it exactly that we are hungry for. As humans we all share this insatiable hunger for something more. Something beyond mere food. Something beyond that which we can explain with words. Something beyond all the images and symbols. Something beyond our very selves. Something beyond the sum of all of us. Something that we call God.

This longing to know, this desire to touch or be touched by, this hunger for that which is bigger than us, more than us, beyond us, out there and yet deep, deep, within here, this appetite that drives us to seek out, to question, to wonder, is the very stuff that drives us as a species. We call this something God. Others call it by other names; names like knowledge, wisdom, force, energy, spirit or love. This object of our desire, our hunger, our thirst, our quest, our longing, this thing beyond words or symbols which is sought after by those who see themselves as spiritual or religious. These days the seekers of this experience beyond words all too often describe themselves as spiritual BUT NOT religious.

Spiritual but not religious is a phrase that has come into fashion as religion has gone out of fashion. I am the first to admit that there are all sorts of good reasons for religion to fade from favour. The excesses and abuses of religion and the religious are legion. The number of times people have regaled me with stories justifying their desire to have absolutely nothing to do with organized religion has put flesh on the phrase, “I love Jesus, but his followers scare me to death.” Continue reading

Jesus Is Not a Super-Human Miracle Worker! Jesus Is Human! – a sermon for Epiphany 5B – Mark 1:29-39

Six years ago, I reluctantly gave in to requests to preach on the subject of prayer and I devoted my sermons during the season of Epiphany to the subject of prayer. I have been asked to re-post those sermons. In the course of six years, my theology has continued to evolve. However, I have resisted the temptation to edit the sermons and so the manuscripts are what they are, an exploration of sorts. Here’s the Fifth sermon in the series: 

Prayer #5 – Jesus Is Not a Super-Human Miracle Worker! Jesus Is Human!  preached on Epiphany 5B, 2012 – listen to the sermon here

Readings: Isaiah 40:21-31; Colossians 3:14-15; Mark 1:29-39

Usually, the stories in the gospels about Jesus healing the sick leave me wanting more. They usually seem so incomplete. I have always wanted more details about how exactly Jesus was able to heal those who were sick. Usually, the stories about Jesus healing are read or referenced by the notion that Jesus was some sort of miracle-worker and we are predisposed to believe that Jesus had miraculous powers; that he was somehow able to harness the healing power of God and dispense it at will. We are encouraged to believe that that very same power is available to us if only we figure out exactly how to cozy up to Jesus and ask him in just the right way to heal us or heal those we love. But these stories found in the earliest of the Gospels and attributed to an early follower of the Way known as Mark, don’t portray Jesus as a miracle-worker at all.

I love the story of Peter’s mother-in-law, because I can easily relate to it. I remember back when I was about 17 and I was suffering from a terrible cold. I had a raging fever and I was as sick as a dog. I also had tickets to an Elton John concert. Even though I could barely breath, when the time came, I got myself up out of bead, and whoa-presto, it was as if the power of Elton John’s name had cured me and I was able to follow the Yellow Brick road all the way to the Coliseum where, together with my friends I was hopping and bopping to the Crocodile Rock . So, I have no difficulty believing that when Simon Peter finally brought Jesus around to visit his mother, the sheer power of all the rumors she’d been hearing about this man Jesus, would have been enough motivation for this Jewish mother to rise up out of her sickbed to see who this fellow was who had enticed her son away from his nets. That Jesus could have harnessed the healing power that lies within our grasp as he traveled from town to town and cured the sick and drove out daemons isn’t difficult to believe. Lets face it, first century daemons sound a lot like mental or emotional illnesses, so Jesus ability to cure people who are disturbed by daemons really isn’t much of a stretch. But after centuries of interpretation and proclamation, we tend to hear these stories in ways that portray Jesus as some sort of super-human, miracle-worker, or dare I say it as some sort of God. Because after all, our image of God is that God is some sort of super-human miracle-worker. So for generations we’ve been looking to Jesus in the same way as we look to God to cure all that ails us. And so we are just as likely to appeal to Jesus in prayer, as we are to appeal to God to heal us. So, as our notions about God change, our notions about Jesus change also. Continue reading

Spiritual AND Religious – a sermon for Pentecost 11B – John 6:35,41-51

Spiritual & Religious pastordawnListen to the sermon here

Prayer – Epiphany Sermon Series – #6: Pray Without Ceasing and #7: Prayer Transforms Us

PrayerSermon series pastorDawnThree years ago, I reluctantly gave in to requests to preach on the subject of prayer and I devoted my sermons during the season of Epiphany to the subject of prayer. I have been asked to re-post those sermons. In the course of three years, my theology has continued to evolve. However, I have resisted the temptation to edit the sermons and so the manuscripts are what they are, an exploration of sorts. Here’s the sixth sermon in the series. The final instalment of this series comes in the form of a discussion. Rather than preach on the 7th Sunday of Epiphany, I responded to questions from the congregation. The audio recording of that reflection appears below.

Prayer #6 – PRAY WITHOUT CEASING – preached on Epiphany 6B, 2012 – listen to the sermon here

Prayer #7 – PRAYER TRANSFORMS US – responding to questions about the series, this reflection took the place of the sermon on Transfiguration Sunday, 2012 – listen to the reflection here

 Transcript of #6 PRAY WITHOUT CEASING

Cast you minds back to another time and place and tell what the numbers 33   45   and 78 have in common??? Vinyl Records anyone? When I was a kid music came from a portable RCA record player. The sound quality wasn’t all that great, but somehow we didn’t seem to care. Later when I was a teenager, my parents got a fancy state of the art Phillips stereo cabinet and suddenly sound seemed to be coming from booth ends of the room. I never did understand how those old record players managed to pick up sound from the grooves in the vinyl to produce music. I still remember my father’s first reel-to-reel tape recorder, and then there were the eight-tracks, followed by cassettes, followed by CD’s. I can remember these things, but I have no idea how they made music. It doesn’t matter how many times people try to explain it to me, I still think it’s a miracle that such beautiful sounds can come out of machines. Continue reading

Prayer – Epiphany Sermon Series – #5: Jesus Is Not a Super-Human Miracle Worker! Jesus Is Human!

PrayerSermon series pastorDawnThree years ago, I reluctantly gave in to requests to preach on the subject of prayer and I devoted my sermons during the season of Epiphany to the subject of prayer. I have been asked to re-post those sermons. In the course of three years, my theology has continued to evolve. However, I have resisted the temptation to edit the sermons and so the manuscripts are what they are, an exploration of sorts. Here’s the Fifth sermon in the series. I shall repost the seven sermons in the series over the course of the Season of Epiphany.

Prayer #5 – Jesus Is Not a Super-Human Miracle Worker! Jesus Is Human!  preached on Epiphany 5B, 2012 – listen to the sermon here

Readings: Isaiah 40:21-31; Colossians 3:14-15; Mark 1:29-39

Usually, the stories in the gospels about Jesus healing the sick leave me wanting more. They usually seem so incomplete. I have always wanted more details about how exactly Jesus was able to heal those who were sick. Usually, the stories about Jesus healing are read or referenced by the notion that Jesus was some sort of miracle-worker and we are predisposed to believe that Jesus had miraculous powers; that he was somehow able to harness the healing power of God and dispense it at will. We are encouraged to believe that that very same power is available to us if only we figure out exactly how to cozy up to Jesus and ask him in just the right way to heal us or heal those we love. But these stories found in the earliest of the Gospels and attributed to an early follower of the Way known as Mark, don’t portray Jesus as a miracle-worker at all.

I love the story of Peter’s mother-in-law, because I can easily relate to it. I remember back when I was about 17 and I was suffering from a terrible cold. I had a raging fever and I was as sick as a dog. I also had tickets to an Elton John concert. Even though I could barely breath, when the time came, I got myself up out of bead, and whoa-presto, it was as if the power of Elton John’s name had cured me and I was able to follow the Yellow Brick road all the way to the Coliseum where, together with my friends I was hopping and bopping to the Crocodile Rock . So, I have no difficulty believing that when Simon Peter finally brought Jesus around to visit his mother, the sheer power of all the rumors she’d been hearing about this man Jesus, would have been enough motivation for this Jewish mother to rise up out of her sickbed to see who this fellow was who had enticed her son away from his nets. That Jesus could have harnessed the healing power that lies within our grasp as he traveled from town to town and cured the sick and drove out daemons isn’t difficult to believe. Lets face it, first century daemons sound a lot like mental or emotional illnesses, so Jesus ability to cure people who are disturbed by daemons really isn’t much of a stretch. But after centuries of interpretation and proclamation, we tend to hear these stories in ways that portray Jesus as some sort of super-human, miracle-worker, or dare I say it as some sort of God. Because after all, our image of God is that God is some sort of super-human miracle-worker. So for generations we’ve been looking to Jesus in the same way as we look to God to cure all that ails us. And so we are just as likely to appeal to Jesus in prayer, as we are to appeal to God to heal us. So, as our notions about God change, our notions about Jesus change also. Continue reading

Prayer – Epiphany Sermon Series – #4: AWE – Reclaiming the word Religion

PrayerSermon series pastorDawnThree years ago, I reluctantly gave in to requests to preach on the subject of prayer and I devoted my sermons during the season of Epiphany to the subject of prayer. I have been asked to re-post those sermons. In the course of three years, my theology has continued to evolve. However, I have resisted the temptation to edit the sermons and so the manuscripts are what they are, an exploration of sorts. Here’s the Fourth sermon in the series. I shall repost the seven sermons in the series over the course of the Season of Epiphany.

Prayer #4 – AWE: Reclaiming the word Religion,  preached on Epiphany 4B, 2012 – listen to the sermon here

Readings: Genesis 28:16-22; 

Hildegard of Bingen – Soul Weavings

“The soul is kissed by God in its innermost regions.

With interior yearning, grace and blessing are bestowed.

It is a yearning to take on God’s gentle yoke,

It is a yearning to give one’s self to God’s Way.

The marvels of God are not brought forth from one’s self.

Rather, it is more like a chord, a sound that is played.
The tone does not come out of the chord itself, but rather,
through the touch of the Musician.
I am, of course, the lyre and harp of God’s kindness.”

Our Gospel reading was extended to include Mark 1:21-35 “Rising Early the next morning, Jesus went off to a lonely place in the desert and prayed there.”

I was about 16 or 17, when God first overwhelmed me. I’d been attending church for about two years. Looking back on that confused young girl, I can see how I might have been attracted to Christianity by Jesus. Jesus the radical, who changed the world, is a compelling figure for a teenager who’s out to change the world. I remember that I prayed a great deal back when I first got involved in the Church. I can remember believing that prayer could change everything. Prayer could change the world. Prayer could change my life. Prayer could change other peoples’ lives. Prayer could even change the mind of God. If only I could figure out the correct way to pray. And if I prayed often enough and hard enough and at just the right moment, prayer would change everything.

The trouble was, I was praying often, I was using all sorts of types of prayer and nothing seemed to be working. So, I remember deciding, that my ineffective prayers had nothing at all to do with the power of God or the power of prayer, but with the power of me. I kept telling myself that if I could just learn how to pray, God would definitely do the rest. So, I prayed and I prayed, and I prayed and when nothing much seemed to happen, I blamed myself for not being a good enough Christian: if only, I’d spend more time reading the bible, or if only I was a better person, or if only I was a better believer. It was all up to me. So, I promised myself, and sometimes I even went so far as promising God, that someday, I’d learn how. Someday, I’d find the right teacher, I’d study hard and I’d learn exactly what I needed to do to make my prayer life, more effective. But in the meantime, I’d keep trying, even though it felt like no one was listening. I told myself that this kind of persistence is precisely what people meant when they said, “have faith”. Having faith means praying when it seems like there’s no point at all, in praying. So, I had faith and I prayed…and nada. Not a single thing. It was like talking to myself. Not even a warm fuzzy glow. But I had faith that somehow God, that big guy up there in the sky, He, and I do mean He, cause back then God was an old, bearded, guy who lived on a fluffy cloud, and spoke King James English, in a very lofty way. Anyway, He, must have been hearing my prayers, but because he was God and all, and knew everything there was to know, he was keeping stuumm in an effort to teach me something. So, all this empty praying was going to pay off in the end.

Eventually, I began to expect very little from prayer. Prayer became something akin to my car insurance. I knew I had to pay it, even though I couldn’t afford it, because someday it might just come in handy. But I never really expected my car insurance to do anything for me, especially as I couldn’t afford to pay for collision insurance. But if I hit someone else, well it just might keep me out of jail. So, I kept on praying, trusting that if I happened to hurt someone else, God would function kinda like my car insurance, only instead of keeping me out of jail, God would keep me out of hell. It was all about me back then. And then one night it happened.

My little world was blown apart and for the first time in my young life, I knew that life wasn’t all about me. It happened on the beach. Actually, it was on a boardwalk down by the ocean. A bunch of my friends and I had managed to talk our parents into letting us spend the night sleeping out under the stars. It was late August and there was supposed to be a particularly amazing meteor shower. The only problem was that in our part of the globe, the best viewing time was supposed to be between 3 and 6 am. So, we begged and we pleaded, or we miss-lead our parents and told them we were staying over at a friend’s place and about a dozen of us headed down to the boardwalk to sleep out under the stars.

It was a fabulous night. No adults to tell us what to do. Good friends to talk to. Swimming after dark. An illegal campfire to make us feel just a little bit afraid that someone might catch us. And just enough beer to make us feel like we were big shots and not enough beer to give us a buzz, because only a couple of us were brave enough to try to buy beer from the dozy lady at the convenience store who never seemed quite able to do the math when she bothered to card us. Did I mention that we’d slipped down across the boarder, not because the meteor shower would be any better down there, but because we lived close enough to Washington state and the beaches in Pt Roberts were very attractive because, we knew that there was only one sheriff on patrol and we figured that we could out-run him if we had to. Besides old Dusty, weren’t much of a sheriff and he pretty much stayed away from the boardwalk cause he knew better than to go looking for trouble. And we were trouble. We were a gang of kids from church, about a dozen kids, with about a dozen beer, and we were gonna stay up all night and watch the stars and no, no good copper was gonna stop us. Continue reading

Through the Lens of Grace Held Firmly in 21st Century Frames

lens of grace

Homecoming Sermon September 22, 2013

Creation IV – Proverbs 8:22-31, Colossians 1:15-20, John 6:41-51

Companion from the Latin “com pinionem” for “with bread” or “bread fellow”