Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Monster in the Closet

Charlie did a good job with today's sermon keeping it to 14 minutes on this a "low Sunday" at ECOS. He focused on Death. To Charlie, Death is the monster in the closet, the fear we all have. The lessons for today dealt with the resurrected Christ and what Acts, 1Peter, and John tell us about close encounters of the early Church. Close encounters with the risen Lord that is. Charlie illustrated the close encounters with the lovely description of passing smells between Jesus and his disciples. For some reason I never thought about Jesus and whether or not He had brushed His teeth after the resurrection until this point. Talk about Monster breath! Charlie pointed out that we need not fear death (or morning mouth?)any longer. The monster in the closet has been conquered. (It now eats cheese doodles). Now, if we no longer fear death, why do so many people show up on Easter, and then turn around and miss the rest of the story the following week? Take away the fear of death and do you take away a reason to attend church?
How about the other monster in the closet, the plastic chairs we are using in Lumpkin Hall while the sanctuary is undergoing reconstruction. Could it be that the plastic chairs of our temporary abode are not as comfortable as the old wooden pews of the sanctuary? Do you know of anyone who is voting with their derriere and attending another church for this reason?
I did miss not hearing about "Doubting Thomas" today. I have always been fond of him, but that can be the topic of another sermon.
Speaking of other sermons, here is one that I liked. I call it "Show Me the Jesus." It has this great quotation "The church today has so muddied the gospel water that we can preach forever and never get around to Christ crucified. We’ve added cultural issues and social issues and theological issues to the gospel which probably would have confused the first-century Christians. They only had an eyewitness story to tell of a Messiah who died and rose again. This is what Christ did, and that is what the church preached.”


  1. One small but nagging thought kept creeping into my otherwise bleary consciousness: current cultures which have no fear of death are excellent breeding grounds for suicide bombers.

  2. The suicide bombers of today are too eager to go to heaven. Like the Shinto religion in Japan in the WWII era, the religion of the suicide bomber creates an abundance of people willing to die for their leader or even for God, but it is usually accompanied by equally misguided leaders willing to sacrifice their troops in needless suicidal charges. Do you agree that a healthy fear of death should be part of the balance of religion and life?

  3. I do. And an occasional "hellfire and brimstone" sermon might instill just such a healthy balance. While good orthodox Christians generally are prepared to meet their Maker at any time, I suspect that very few would decline to spend their last dollar for a few more moments of that precious thing we call life.

  4. Christians have always had "a healthy fear of death." Witness the responsory of the Office of the Dead, in the third Nocturn of Matins: "Peccantem me quotidie, et non poenitentem, timor mortis conturbat me. Quia in inferno nulla est redemptio, miserere mei, Deus, et salva me." (Sinning daily, and not repenting, the fear of death disturbs me. Because there is no redemption in hell, have mercy on me, O God, and save me.) The refrain "timor mortis conturbat me" appears frequently in Medieval poetry.

  5. We do view death differently than pre-Easter people, but the lessons of the O.T. are still some of our favorites. Psalm 23 always struck me when naming the monster in the closet, "the valley of the shadow of death" The psalm recognizes the fear of death and reassures us that we will not be alone and will be comforted.
    How does American culture tell us to walk through that valley? By denial of course. Woody Allen puts it, "I'm not afraid of death, I just don't want to be there when it happens."

    The resurrection did not eradicate our fear of death, but gives us hope and comfort in that time. I guess I will have to live with that. So, take the cheese doodles away from death, he still has work to do.