“Living The Question” Sept. 16, 2018

Posted by on Sep 19, 2018 in Sermon Archives

Living The Question” Proverbs 1:20-33/ James 3:1-12 Mark 8:27-38   Did you know – that in the Gospels, Jesus was asked 183 questions? And although Jesus himself asked 307 questions, he only answered 3 questions directly. So this leaves us with 487 unanswered questions. It’s no wonder that people will say to us, “You know, I been reading this Bible of yours, and I’m not getting a doggone thing out of it.” And if you press them – if you ask them why they figure they’re not getting anything out of reading this, the most popular, the most widely circulated book in the world – they might say something like, “I don’t know. It just seems like I got more questions now than when I started out.” But you know, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because, let’s face it, if you’re not asking questions, you’re not learning. And as much as I would like and as much as we would like to just know how this whole thing works – how it all fits together and makes sense – as much as we would like that, Jesus is aware that it won’t work that way. It won’t work that way because our faith and our relationship with Christ is never a done deal….a done deal where we can announce to the world that “Hallelujah, I’ve finally made it!” To love the question, to live the question: that’s what I’d like to talk about today. Our Gospel text today is a classic example of asking the right questions. I am continually amazed whenever Margie tells me of how she deals with kids in trouble at her school. Whether it is a fight or theft or just plain meanness going on, the technique is the same: isolate the suspects and ask the right questions.  What amazes me is that with the right questions – by living the question, if you will – she is not only able to get to the bottom of who did what, but she usually can bring about some kind of repentance in the process. Trust me, it takes some real skill to get two 5th grade boys who have sworn death to one another to finally shake hands and admit that maybe-just maybe- they might have made some bad choices in their behavior. Therein lies the power of our Gospel text today: the power to change, the power to transform. (Mk 8:27) And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Now Mark doesn’t give us a lot of detail here, but I can’t help but imagine that his disciples jumped at this question. Think about it: after all the tricky parables and head scratching as to “what does he mean...

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“The What, the Way, the Why, and the Who” Sept. 9, 2018

Posted by on Sep 19, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“The What, the Way, the Why, and the Who” Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 James 2:1-17/ Mark 7:24-37 “You can’t go in there,” said Peter. “Well, I am going in there whether you like it or not.” “I said, you can’t go in there, woman.” “I am going in, mister. I have a sick daughter at home, and I am going in there and that prophet of yours is going to fix her. Now get out of my way before I give you a swift kick in the shinbone.” And so begins, paraphrased of course by Ralph Milton; so begins our story of Jesus and his disciples as they try to take a well needed break by going to the beach in the little coastal towns of Tyre and Sidon. Rest, relaxation; a time to meditate, a time to recharge and renew. And then this woman – this annoying woman – shows up. Now before we go any further, I would like to offer up a disclaimer. Just about every other year the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman comes up. It is written in Mk 7, which we read today, and also in Matthew 15; both stories pretty near identical. And each time it rolls around, preachers and lay members alike become great bible commentators. They observe the incredible fatigue that Jesus must have been feeling at the time. They argue back and forth on the different translations for the word “dogs” – is it puppy or good dog or bad dog? Or they use this rather uncomfortable story to emphasize the importance of getting enough rest. On an on it goes. But is seems to me that all these theories and conjectures end up serving only one thing: to avoid the most troubling question in this text, the one that we don’t like to talk about, which is, “What did they do to Jesus?” What happened to the Prince of Peace, the Master of Compassion? This story – let’s face it – puts Jesus in a very bad light. How are we to think about that? How are we to feel? What’s the explanation? Is it really as simple as, “Well after all, this is Jesus’ first encounter with a non-Jewish person. It took this woman to convince him that the kingdom of God is for all people and not just the nation of Israel?” Yes, that might be the simplistic answer, but deep down inside, I ain’t buying it. So here’s my disclaimer, of sorts. I am willing to drop all my doubt and suspicion and general uncomfortable-ness with the way that Jesus our Lord is depicted in this story for one reason, and that is so that I won’t miss the “what” of what this story is trying to drill into my head. What is so important that the writer of the Gospel of Mark would risk...

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“Fault Versus Responsibility” September 2, 2018

Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Fault Versus Responsibility” Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 James 1:17-27 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23   Don Miller has been one of my favorite authors for the last 10 years or so. In his book, “Blue Like Jazz,” Don told a story about Santa Claus that is one of those that sticks with you forever and ever. He writes, “I remember being at the mall when I was about 8 and seeing Santa Claus relieve himself in the men’s restroom. I was excited because we were going to see him that day, but I didn’t want to disturb him as he was hardly in his element. The Santa in the bathroom was a very tall man, younger than you would think, and a bit depressed in the eyes and unshaven under his beard, (if such a thing is possible.) “Ho, ho, ho, kid,” he said to me, zipping up his fluffy pants. I didn’t say anything back. I just stood there and tried to keep my shoes from getting wet. He looked at me, raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders, and walked out. That is when I realized the most terrible thing I’d ever realized. Santa doesn’t wash his hands after he uses the bathroom. How awful, I thought to myself. And I was horrified. All those little bacteria, the little flus and colds and cancer bacteria that grow in small villages that grow on a person’s hands if he doesn’t wash them. I could see in my mind the village of bacteria on Santa’s hands, a kind of Tim Burton version of the microbial North Pole, all the textures and contours of the village correct, but the colors off: grays for greens, blacks for blues, lots of coughing, lots of mad cows.” Such is the imagination of a young boy. But you know, he was right. Like most of us, young Don had been taught over and over again the importance of washing your hands. And like young Donald, most of us have been taught the reason for why this is important: to stop the transmission of disease. Needless to say, the Pharisees at the time of Jesus were not aware of microbial things like bacteria and viruses. No, they scrubbed up only because it was the tradition handed down to them by their elders. And like so many traditions, after a few generations they become law – to the point where no one really knows why the heck we are even doing this in the first place. Yet, because it was tradition and because the Pharisees were the ones large and in charge, they expected everyone else to do the same. They expected folks to conform; to conform to a cleansing ritual that consisted of getting the proper holy look on your face, saying the right words, and then sprinkling water on your hands and arms all the way to...

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“Metaphorically Speaking” August 26, 2018

Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Metaphorically Speaking” 1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43/ Psalm 84 Ephesians 6:10-20/ John 6:56-69                      I couldn’t resist placing Storm Jameson’s words in the bulletin today: “Language is memory and metaphor.” It intrigued me because it’s so true – apart from memory, what do we have left to tell our stories and to make our point: metaphor. When faced with the choice of “It’s very hot outside” and “It’s a furnace our there!” we’ll take the furnace language every time. Because let’s face it, metaphor is one of the things that makes language fun. Now, we can best describe a metaphor as the art of using two completely unrelated things to make a point. “America is a melting pot,” comes to mind. With school about to begin, I think some school metaphors might be fun: “The classroom was a zoo,” is one. Or how about, “My teacher is a dragon, the kids were monkeys on the jungle gym, or the teenager’s stomach was a bottomless pit.” So, you get the idea. Also, metaphor is nothing new. It is found throughout scripture. (Jn 10:14)  “I am the good shepherd…and I lay down my life for my sheep.” (Isaiah 64:8) “but now O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay and you are our potter,” just to name a few. Metaphors can be serious and they can be hilarious; in good taste and in bad. Some of the most popular are the “Life is like” metaphors. “Life is like a jigsaw puzzle, but you don’t have the picture on the front of the box to know what it’s supposed to look like. Sometimes you’re not even sure you’ve got all the pieces.” And my all- time favorite, “Life is a maze in which you try to avoid the exits.” Now, I bring this up because our text today from Ephesians is just one big old metaphor. It’s one that gets used a lot in Vacation Bible School lessons and Youth groups…and it has always bugged me. I know, I know – it shouldn’t bother me, but it does and it’s really kind of silly. You see, there is something about these military metaphors that go against the grain of my preconceived notions of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I want a faith that is trusting and caring and full of compassion. I want to buy the world a Coke and live in perfect harmony. We don’t need to hear stuff like “take up the whole armor of God,” and metaphors like, “the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation.” It’s all just too much. But here’s the thing, the height and the breadth and the depth of our faith has not been passed down and preserved without a struggle. We are part of this, the Kingdom...

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“It’s So Obvious That It’s Not” August 19, 2018

Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“It’s So Obvious That It’s Not” 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 Psalm 111 Ephesians 5:15-20 John 6:51-58   I was driving around Mac last week running errands when I found myself listening to an interview with Bob Moore, the founder, along with his wife Charlee, of Bob’s Red Mill. Now I always suspected that the whole stone ground organic thing that Bob’s Red Mill flour promises was just a marketing gimmick, but I don’t think that so much any more. No, I can’t think that and as I found myself looking for other places to drive around just so I could keep listening to this interview, I found myself not only believing in the product but I found myself believing in the heart of the man who founded it; a man who saw an opportunity to do some good in this world and did it; against all odds, he did it. But it was when he talked about his 81st birthday that I started to see the hand of God at work. Imagine his employees’ surprise, if you will, when instead of receiving gifts Bob decided to give his greatest gift away – ownership of his business. Bob surprised all his employees on that day by creating an Employee Stock Ownership Program and making everyone an employee-owner. Quoting from the Red Mill website, “For those who know Bob, it’s just another example of his kind hearted generosity. As Bob puts it, ‘It was just the right thing to do. I have people that have worked for me for 30 years and each and every one deserves this.’” The interviewer said, “Mr. Moore, your company made over 100 million dollars last year, yet you’re giving 2/3 of it away. Aren’t you worried that you will end up just like you started with nothing?” Bob replied, and this was the clincher for me, “You know, the bible says to do onto others as you would have them do onto you, and I really believe that. I didn’t get where I am all by myself, so why should I keep it all to myself.” I have to say, Bob Moore’s story made an impression on me. He is selfless, caring, and compassionate and in the business world, these are not necessarily qualities that lead to success. Yet, here he is and you can find products from Bob’s Red Mill in every grocery store in the northwest. Now the reason I even bring this up, besides the fact that I think Bob Moore is an exceptional human being, is that our theme in scripture today seems to be about that elusive thing that we call wisdom. To be more specific, it’s the type of wisdom that’s begrudgingly know as discernment. Now discernment is a funny word. When Samuel as a young man found himself as king of the nation of Israel, it had to...

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