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...

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“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...

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“You Can’t Go Back Home Again” July 8, 2018

Posted by on Jul 14, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“You Can’t Go Back Home Again” 2 Samuel 5:1-5,9-10 or Ezekiel 2:1-7 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 Mark 6:1-13   First of all, let me say it is good to be back – back home – and I have to confess that nothing gives you new perspective on the place you now call home more than by going back to a place that you used to call home, only to find out that it is no more. Different time, different place. Now right off the bat, I have to give Mark credit for writing about Jesus’ homecoming the way it was. I mean, if we are to totally believe in the ultimate powers of Christ, how are we to understand the statement, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them;” a statement which was followed by, “and he marveled at their unbelief.” And so today I’d like to talk about homecomings. They’re complicated, they’re confusing, and they rarely turn out to be a heartwarming as we had hoped. I’d like to start this conversation by reading you a letter, but first you will need a little background to get the full understanding of why it is that I say you can’t go back home again. Last week I was in south western So. Dakota where Margie was born and raised. Her two sisters also showed up and besides celebrating the fourth together, which was a family tradition, they had also committed to sorting through the last of their mother’s things that were locked in a storage unit. When I walked in the house I was surrounded by boxes and boxes of paper. There were magazines, old sheet music for band and piano and who knows what else, and then there were letters. I swear her mother kept every letter and note that had ever been written to her and here they all were. It was a nightmare. There was the obvious tension over who gets to keep what and all that, but the revelation that made me chuckle was learning that grandma Grace, who everyone simply adored, had a bit of a mean streak. Now, I know this is private family stuff but I did get their permission to speak on this today. So OK, 3 things: (1) all the grandkids loved grandma Grace. She was quirky, she spoke her mind, and she let you do whatever you wanted.  (2) Grandma Grace was a bit on the bossy side, especially to her own children, and (3) Mary Two Eagle was a local native American woman who made her living by dressing in traditional beads and buckskins and posing for pictures with the tourist crowd that showed up by the thousands in Custer, S Dakota every summer. So there’s the set up. Grandma Grace is writing her daughter...

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