Thursday, June 27, 2013

Words for the week: Spot the similarity

"There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."  Galatians 3:28
Last week during the sermon, I asked everybody to change places and go sit by someone they didn't know.  After finding out each other's names (a key first step!) the pairs spent a couple of minutes trying to find all the ways they were different from each other: gender, marital status, children or not, age, generation, ethnic background, favorite sport, education level, etc.  

The room was abuzz.  After people quieted down, I emphasized that we are bound together despite these countless differences.  We are drawn into relationships with people who are different from us because we need each other. But for Christians, there's a more fundamental reason to reach across all sorts of aisles. Christ loves that other person as much as Christ loves you. 
If we walk around humbly recalling that Christ died for all people - even those we find mean-spirited, opinionated in the wrong direction, profoundly sinful, or just plain annoying - we create relationships based not on outward identity, but on our identity as God's children.

To end, I asked people to turn to the conversation partner, make the sign of the cross on their foreheads and say: "Christ died for you." 
You can hear the sermon here

The previous week I preached on forgiveness.  Our resident poet-hound, Carol, finds a poem each week that goes along with the sermon.  Here is the one on forgiveness.  It helps if you know who Bill Buckner is.  This is Carol's description: 
"Buckner was a decent first baseman and a good hitter, but he is best known for an error he made playing for the Red Sox in a world series game. The ground ball went through his legs, the runner scored, the Red Sox lost the game and went on to lose the series. We all make errors, and we are all forgiven."

Forgiving Buckner  John Hodgen

The world is always rolling between our legs.
It comes for us, dribbler, slow roller,
humming its goat song, easy as pie.

We spit in our gloves, bend our stiff knees,
keep it in front of us, our fathers' advice,
but we miss it every time, its physic, its science,
and it bleeds on through, blue streak, heart sore,
to the four-leaf clovers deep in right field.

The runner scores, knight in white armor,
the others out leaping, bumptious, gladhanding,
your net come up empty, Jonah again.
Even the dance of the dead won't come near you,
heart in your throat, holy of holies,
the oh of your mouth as the stone rolls away,
as if it had come from before you were born
to roll past your life to the end of the world,
till the world comes around again, gathering steam,
heading right for us again and again,
faith of our fathers, world without end.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Words for the week - "situationally Christian?"

Last week, I preached about hypocrisy.  I have recently changed my diet to something akin to veganism, but because of all the exceptions to my rule, I can’t properly be called a vegan.  Instead, I call myself “situationally vegan” which means I’m not really vegan at all.  

Our lives can’t stand up to absolute scrutiny.  We all have commitments that would be easier to honor “situationally” or only when convenient.    Some would like to be “situationally married.”  Some would like to be “situationally a parent.” Some would like to only situationally pay the bills.  All of us, even with our best efforts, end up being “situationally Christian.”  It is impossible for us to follow Jesus with complete integrity, but the grace is that we don't have to.  Yes, we try. But we are humbled by knowing that we can't ever reach perfection.  Through Christ’s healing love we are given a wholeness we can’t achieve on our own.

This week I will preach about forgiveness.  The gospel (Luke 7) features a woman who is called “a sinner.”  Jesus angers the Pharisees by allowing her to wash his feet.  He then points out through a parable that the Pharisees are also sinners.  This, of course, would offend them greatly. Those who take offense at their sinfulness can't claim the great gift of forgiveness.  We have to come clean in order to be free from our guilt.  

We need hide nothing from God.  Forgiveness is as great a miracle as physical healing.  Better.  Forgiveness is ours for the taking but in order to take it, we have to be honest about our guilt.  As psalm 32 says:  While I kept silence, my body wasted away…Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and you forgave the guilt.”  

A frequent worshiper has taken to sending me a poem in response to worship and sermons.  This has created a wonderful dialogue.  In last week's sermon, I talked about how many of us would be embarrassed to have our financial life scrutinized.  The poem sent in response was "Oniomania" by Peter Pereira. I especially like the last line: "She's looking for love but it's not for sale, so she grabs 3 of the next best thing."

Oniomania - Peter Pereira
Not so much the desire
for owning things
as the inability to choose
between hunter or emerald
green, to buy
just roses, when there are birds
of paradise, dahlias,
delphinium, and baby’s breath.
At center an emptiness
large as a half-off sale table.
What could be so wrong
with a little indulgence?
To wander the aisles of fresh
new good things knowing
any of them could be hers?
With a closet full of shoes
unworn back home,
she’s looking for love
but it’s not for sale —
so she grabs three of
the next best thing.

Ten for Ten. Ten reasons it's great to be a pastor, in celebration of my 10 year anniversary of ordination.

I'm in there somewhere. I was ordained at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC on November 10, 2007, ten years ago today. ...