"Shame and Grace" October 17, 2017
Exodus 32: 1-14
We begin this morning challenging our most basic assumption leading to ANXIETY. That is that our World is finite. Humanity has been in existence for millions of years, Progressing through Manifest Destiny, so we assume EVERYTHING is THE BEST that can be,… COMPLETE… having survived… having surpassed the Enlightenment… having gotten beyond the 20th Century, it seems as though all that is left is Destruction and Judgment. September 11th ‘s attack over 15 years ago; the collapse of the Stock Market a dozen years ago, the collapse of the Housing Bubble a decade ago, Antiques Roadshow demonstrating all of our stuff is worthless, all seem to validate our anxiety over the future. The Prophet Isaiah seems to speak to this Circumstance: All flesh is grass, the Grass withers the flower fades. When in fact that is a passage about the GRACE of God, Comfort, Comfort My People says your God! Faith undercuts the limitations of Shame and anxiety with limitless Grace of God.
This morning’s are the most intricately written stories in the Bible. I invite us to unpack each, considering: Maybe there were stories behind these stories, that do not mean what we have come to possess. Because these same passages have become ugly awful stories used to justify anti-Semitism, persecution and Fear of God. Assuming this is about THE GOLDEN CALF, we know Exodus 32 to be about judgment of Israel, not only for SIN, but getting caught, worshipping idols. Following the passages we read, With righteous Anger Moses commands retribution by the Sons of Levi: Neighbor kill neighbor, brother kill brother, fight to the last Man.
Part of our shock at this passage is that the last thing we read of 10 Commandments, we interpreted was NOT about Law & Sin and Judgment, but about God extending through Moses through Israel: Our being in Relationship with God! The 10 Commandments we said are description of a trusting relationship with God!
So, what if we recast this passage, instead of The SIN OF THE GOLDEN CALF; naming this OUR ANXIETY SHAMING GOD. The escaped slaves had been left by Moses at the base of Mt. Sinai, as the mountain was engulfed in cloud, with Lightning, thunder, trumpet blasts, earthquakes,… left in the wilderness for 40 days... When else have you heard about 40 days in wilderness? This like Jesus’, is a story of TEMPTATION.
"Respecting God" October 8,2017
Monday morning, we awoke to reports of mass shootings at a festival in Las Vegas, and hour after hour, day after day, the circumstances of every person involved have been narrated to us. This was to have been an End of Summer Festival, a Concert of good feelings, which instead became a shooting gallery, literally of fish in a barrel. Over 500 wounded, 58 murdered for having been listening to music at a concert. Quietly, I have heard people say: “Why doesn’t God do something?” “Where is God?”
Thursday, many of us joined together at a Memorial at the Catholic Church, where the readings were Psalm 23’s “Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want” and Ist Corinthians 13 “Faith, Hope and Love abide, but the greatest of these is Love…” Those are the passages I long to preach this morning, those are the comforting words we want to hear, instead, Lectionary requires reading The 10 Commandments and Parable of the Wicked Tenants, which ARE NOT COMFORTING these are Commandments to Respect God, living as Tenants in God’s Garden.
The Gospel has been narrating this story of a Festival, told with increasing intensity. Growing up, my Grandparents had an old fashioned “Victrola” that as you cranked the handle, winding up the spring, the Victrola played faster and faster and faster, louder and louder, building to a crescendo. Like the Siren at the Fire Station…
With CD players and Computers, I do not have anything to compare to that sound like the building intensity of the Gospel…
"ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION", October 1, 2017
Matthew 21: 23-32
How many of us this morning, worry about the future? How many of us are filled with anxiety about what kind of world will be left to our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren? With the threats of Nuclear powered North Korea and Iran… With the reality of ocean temperatures increasing, spawning hurricanes, we are up to what Marie, so there have been 13 so far this year…
With the melting of the polar ice caps… With proposed revisions to the Tax Laws…
With nothing having been resolved about Health Care…
If I was not worried before I began this morning, I am now.
When the Hebrew people crossed over the Red Sea from Egypt into the Wilderness, the Wilderness was not a Land of Milk and Honey! The people of God were filled with Anxiety. We recall these Exodus stories as Miracles: How God provided Manna: Bread from Heaven, and Water from Rock, but more than miraculous circumstances, we need to listen for the underlying Real Question... The people complained:
In Egypt we sat beside boiling pots of meat, Moses, have you brought us here to die?
The people argued and complained with Moses over their thirst, as if he could make Lakes and Rivers to SATISFY, which Moses took as an affront to his leadership.
BUT Exodus is telling a different (far older) story than Numbers and Deuteronomy. In those the Books of Numbers and Deuteronomy, there is a second occurrence where Moses strikes Rock this time without being told to by God, and there are snakes sent to bite the people on the ankles.
Here, in Exodus, the story is simply that the people sought satisfaction and did not trust God. The people of God complained (Masah) and found fault (Meribah), so God used Moses as a divine-ing rod to bring water from rock, and immediately afterward the Hebrew Nation was again filled with fear, now of the Amalekites. There is this wonderful vignette of how when Moses raised his arms in the position of Jesus on the Cross, a Pastor Blessing the people, AND God was victorious, but when Moses grew tired, and his arms drooped, the Hebrews lost to the Amalekites. Hur and Moses’ brother Aaron found a stone for Moses to sit upon, and they held his arms up for him. The question of Exodus, is not: Did Israel have it better in Egypt than the wilderness, or Did God provide Food and Water in the Wilderness? But instead the question the people asked was: WHETHER GOD IS WITH US OR NOT?
In Egypt, Greece and Rome, there were Statues in every Community, the Currency also had the profile of the Pharaoh, King, Caesar, because having the image of the Ruler in that place demonstrated the Authority of that Ruler over those people. This why the toppling of the Statue of Sadam Hussein was such a powerful image. HOWEVER the people of God were given Commandment Never to make an Image of God, because we each already bear God’s living image on each of our faces.
With food, with water, with the Canaanite tribe of King Amalek, the people doubted. This is the very human question John Dau asked in the film about the S Sudanese: Did God grow tired of us? Has God forgotten us?
September 24, 2017 "The Importance of Murmuring"
Matthew 20: 1-16
My father had a favorite joke about the ministry. “Do not let people into the, they will ruin all your plans.” Which I found far funnier, when I learned every profession tells the same story, Lesson plans at School are changed because of students; Medicine is changed because of patients… HOWEVER I would tell you that I believe the Murmuring of people is the most important part!
Is it important to us that God is the Almighty Prime Creator of Heaven and Earth?
Is it important that God hears people in their suffering and enters in for salvation?
Is it important God cares so much about us, that Almighty God abandons all power and humbly enters into Creation, with God becoming One with us?
Is it important God suffered and died at our hands for our salvation?
Is it important that Death and what we have done in the past could not stop God from loving us?
BUT all that is meaningless historic fact without our wrestling with what these facts mean for us. Our Murmuring together allows us to consider other realities outside what we have known.
"Limits to UnConditional Forgiveness" September 17, 2017
Forgiveness is not for the sake of the one forgiven, but is for the forgiver.
There is an old joke, about an Amish Couple leaving the Church after their wedding. As the Groom attempts to climb into the Buggy the horse reared up on its hind legs, and the man took a book out of his pocket and making a mark said “That’s One.” Along the road, the horse kicked, its hoof striking the buggy, and he said “That’s two!” About three miles from their farm, the horse lost a shoe and began to limp. At which the man declared: “That’s Three!” got out of the buggy and killed the horse. Horrified, the Bride began to chastise her husband, as to how they would get home, and how he would plow the fields having killed their only horse. And the Man took out his book, made a mark, and declared: “That’s One.”
Simon Peter asks Jesus, “How many times must we forgive? As many as 7 X 7 =49?” Seven is considered a number representing Infinity, completeness, so depending upon our translation Jesus says, “I tell you no, but 70 X 70 or infinity times infinity!” This as description of compassion; unlimited forgiveness. Several years ago I came to realize, if we are counting, we are not really forgiving. But what occurs to me today, I have not found elsewhere, is that Jesus is describing What we ask of God. Not simply to forgive, or to forgive 49 times, but over and over thru life. If this is what we routinely ask of God, praying each day “Forgive us our debts” and we are emulating Jesus Christ, do we not as Christians need to forgive the same? The Lost Sheep, last week’s passages all are about Forgiveness, based on Jesus’ instruction: What you forgive is forgiven, what you bind is bound in heaven.
"Rallying Our Faith" September 10, 2017
This morning is about trying to do the impossible!