The Death of a Conscience” July 15, 2018

Posted by on Jul 22, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“The Death of a Conscience” 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 Ephesians 1:3-14 Mark 6:14-29   We’ve all seen the comic strip “Family Circus” written by Bill Keane. I admit that if given the chance, this is a comic that I never skip over. It’s funny, sure, but what makes it especially likeable is that it touches on our human condition. The funny part happens when Mr. Keane shows us this human conditions through the eyes of little kids. The strip that came to mind while reading this gruesome and icky account of the death of John the Baptist just happened to be one in which the little boy was at his bedside saying the Lord’s prayer. In it he on his knees at his bedside with hands clasped together and is saying, “As we forgive those who trespass against us. And leave us ninety two temptations….” You know, that wouldn’t be such a bad deal. I mean, if there were only 92 temptations to deal with in this world, then at least we might eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel. But of course, the temptations of this world are both infinite and diverse. With that being said, I have to admit that I was tempted to skip over this rather perplexing story. It’s the kind of scripture that, no matter how you slice it, is going to leave a bad taste in your mouth so why bother? More importantly, where is the good news in this? Where is the lesson – the gospel truth – that we can take away, that brings us closer to God? So yes, I have to be honest with you: I just wasn’t feeling it. It’s all so petty and …well, worldly. I don’t need scripture to tell me about the world we live in; I get to see it and hear it and smell it and taste it and touch it every day, thank you very much. But you know, I couldn’t let it go. I kept thinking that if the writer of the gospel found it important enough to put down, then we shouldn’t ignore it. Also, unlike most of the writings in Mark, this account is detailed; lengthy almost. So I had an idea. What if instead of reading this as just another account of disgusting behavior by another disgusting Roman governor, what if we read this as if it were a parable? That works for me. That works for me because I simply can’t believe that Herod Antipas would have offered this 14 year old girl anything she wants. (vs 23) “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” See what I mean? This is the guy that poisoned his half brother and tried to kill his own father to get this job; and he’s going to offer it up because of what….a...

Read More »

“Ubuntu” July 22, 2018

Posted by on Jul 22, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Ubuntu” 2 Samuel 7:1-14a Ephesians 2:11-22 Mark 6:30-34, 53-56   A western Buddhist woman was in India, studying with her teacher. She was riding with another woman friend in a rickshaw-like carriage when they were attacked by a man on the street. In the end, the attacker only succeeded in frightening the women, but the Buddhist woman was quite upset by the event and told her teacher so. She asked him what she should have done – what would have been the appropriate, Buddhist response. The teacher said very simply, “You should have very mindfully and with great compassion whacked the attacker over the head with your umbrella.”           Our gospel text for today threw me for a loop, at first. As I have said before, I try to follow what is called the Revised Common Lectionary. In a nutshell, the lectionary is a collection of scripture suggestions for each Sunday, as well as special holy days, that encompasses a 3-year cycle. Scholars and clergy from over 20 denominations gathered together in the 80’s to come up with what was called the Common Lectionary, which was revised in 1993. So you see, I don’t pick out scripture at random for the themes of our worship together. I try to stick to the lectionary. Sometimes I have to scratch my head wondering what the creators of the lectionary were thinking, and at other times the wisdom of their choices is quite obvious. Take today’s selection from the gospel of Mark for example. At verse 30, the disciples are returning from a major evangelical mission. They were tired and excited at the same time, and Jesus seems pleased with them. (vs. 31) And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. So you get the idea: everyone is dog-tired and Jesus suggests that they sneak off to some out of the way place to rest. And so they hopped in a boat to go to this out of the way place, but the crowds wouldn’t have it. They raced along the shoreline and were waiting for them when they pulled up on the shore. (vs 34)  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. So much for getting some rest; but the key phrase here – the one that I believe we are meant to take home from this lectionary text is “and he had compassion on them.” At this point we skip to verse 53. What happens in this space that we skip over? A lot. Jesus preaches to the crowd, heals the sick and the lame, it gets late, the disciples want to send folks away to...

Read More »