Sunday, July 21, 2019

Theology Lesson From Prison

In this Sunday's reading from Colossians 1:15-28 St. Paul, writing from his imprisonment in Rome around 62 AD, lays out an encouraging, concise theology lesson to the church at Colossae which was in trouble due to false teachers. 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. 
And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. 
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
"Warning and teaching", if you are not getting that from your church, you are getting a watered down Christianity. If that is the case, I would advise you to hit the Book, the Bible, and find out what you have been missing. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

50 years later: Marriage and Lunatics

Fifty years ago I sat glued to the tube as the first men walked on the moon. My how things have changed over the past half century.

Most of us kids knew to never be alone with a Roman Catholic priest.

The churches were still full of children and adults.

Men married women and women married men and they raised families together.

I remember the first time I heard about a divorce was around the time of the ,moon landing, and my mother and father explaining divorce as a great tragedy especially for the children. My grandfather spoke out against divorce claiming that humans mated for life unlike the animals.

The gay men could be seen hanging around the public bathrooms in the park, swinging on the swings meant for children, and we all knew to hold it and not to use those facilities.

Yes, men dressed up as women and performed in the clubs downtown, but they rarely were seen on the streets.

No one had ever seen a Muslim.

And Neil Armstrong was still married to his first wife.

Flash forward to today. The world, which was already upside down, is now spinning backwards, out of its orbit, sucked away by an increasing powerful spiritual vacuum.

What was right is wrong and what was wrong is right.

Even those who are supposed to assess sanity and treat madness have lost their minds,
The American Psychological Association has established a task force on "consensual non-monogamy," an effort they say is necessary in order to reduce "stigma" on persons who practice polyamory.
"Finding love and/or sexual intimacy is a central part of most people’s life experience. However, the ability to engage in desired intimacy without social and medical stigmatization is not a liberty for all. This task force seeks to address the needs of people who practice consensual non-monogamy, including their intersecting marginalized identities," the website for the task force of the APA's Division 44 explains.

I have been called a lunatic by some for holding on to old values that I believe are rooted in the Gospel, but I will not give up praying for all of the other lunatics out there who do not ascribe to those values and who somehow believe that they are the ones taking the next giant leap for humankind.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Neighbors knock before they come in

This Sunday's Gospel lesson from Luke 10:25-37 contains the parable of the good Samaritan which will probably provide a good launching point for progressive preachers to slam our current illegal border crossing crisis.

"Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’"
"But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’"
A few weeks ago pewster spouse and I were dining with a group of died in the wool Episcopalians and the conversation strayed into forbidden territory... politics. The border crisis was brought up and they were all in favor of an open border policy because we are supposed to welcome our neighbor. I asked a simple question, "Do you lock your doors at night?" The silence at the table was stunning.

 How do we show love to our neighbors who want to live in the U.S.? By having an adequately funded and manned immigration center like the old Ellis Island where people wanting in can register, backgrounds can be checked, drug and disease testing, and men, women, and children can be processed in a speedy manner. That would require an act of Congress, and there is little chance of that happening.

Anyone caught crossing illegally will be brought to the center and put at the end of the line. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

"Christ is our Lord and master, and we live by his rules and under his authority, not our own."

While reading an article in Christianity Today on "What would a Christian conversation about transgender look like", the following stood out, 

"John Wyatt, a Professor of Ethics at University College London, describes the Christian view of self as an 'art restoration view' – we are masterpieces made in the image of God, yet battered and marred by the primeval fall of humanity. As redeemed Christians, we are in the process of being re-made and restored. We were not what we were, and yet not what we shall be.
This means, then, that our personal experience, although relevant, cannot be accorded a decisive role in discussions about this or any other ethical issue. All our experience is marred by human sin in some way, shape or form. This should lead to a certain humility in discussion, and in the presentation of our own experience as part of it."
Ah, someone who might agree with my proposal for Humility Month.
"All the differentials that should mark out a Christian discussion about transgender are, of course, products of a completely different worldview to that of our prevailing western culture. The shocking EllaOne advert for a 'morning after' tablet now on UK television exemplifies a non-Christian view of ethics: 'This body is mine,' the narrator says. 'What I'm doing right now is the right thing for me, because it's my future: I am my own master. It's my life. My rules.'"
There is the problem of autonomy again.
"But for Christians, of course, it's completely different: 'Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies,' (1 Corinthians 6v19-20).
That's because we are not our own master, and life is not lived by our own rules. Christ is our Lord and master, and we live by his rules and under his authority, not our own.
And, as the influential church leader John Stott said: 'Scripture is the royal sceptre by which King Jesus rules his church.'
This means that a Christian conversation about transgender is shaped first and foremost not by our own experience, or prejudice, but by the Bible."
Uh oh, I am afraid the conversation with the "transgendered" will end right there once you start mentioning the Bible.

I think you first have to understand your opponent's concepts of God and the theological worldview that they are probably unwittingly following. If their notions about God are wrong, you won't get very far until those are straightened out. 

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Woeful Lectionary Omissions

This Sunday's reading from Luke 10:1-11,16-20 is remarkable for the verses that get left out.  Verses 12-15 get the ax probably because Jesus uses very harsh language and that is not the picture of Jesus that the lectionary editors want to present to the Sunday pewsitters.
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy* others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!” 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”* 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11“Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.”*
16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’17 The seventy* returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’ 18He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

So, what were the harsh words Jesus had for those unwelcoming towns, places similar to the Samaritan village that would not receive him and that he refused to bring down fire upon in last Sunday's reading?

12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But at the judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.
The average Sunday pewsitter, if read these verses, would probably deny that Jesus was the speaker.

Woe to you, lectionary editors!

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

National Humility Month: Why Not?

Having just endured the seemingly unending news coverage of "Pride Month" and the media's unintended or intended objective to offend as many Christians as possible, it seems reasonable to propose a couple of possible remedies.

I would first propose a month of repentance. This probably would not work very well because our over-sexualized, iand increasingly atheistic culture sees repentance as a religiously based, oppressive concept that hurts people by inhibiting their free expression of their innermost desires.

Instead, I think July as "Humility Month" would be viewed as a good thing in part because most people are not aware of the religious connotations. Parades would not be held during Humility Month, nor would the humble take to the streets in sack cloth and ashes so that people would pay them any attention. No one will "come out" as humble while giving a valedictorian address. Can you imagine seeing modestly dressed movie and pop stars being photographed at public appearances?

If conducted properly, Humility Month would go by unnoticed, with zero media coverage and no credit given to its humble and lowly creator.

Why not?

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Harsh Words, Gentle Inaction

This Sunday's reading from Luke 9:51-62 shows Jesus' infinite patience with those who refuse to receive him, but also his heavy demands placed on his followers,
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
 "Let the dead bury their own dead..." I wonder if the person asking permission was from that same Samaritan village that Jesus spared.

"But let me first say farewell to those at my home..." Is it possible that this person too was from the Samaritan village.

Just something to think about.