- Published on Tuesday, 01 March 2011 00:04
Time: The Eighth Day of Christmas: January 1, 2011
Texts: Psalm 148
Title: Can Monsters Praise God?
Topic: The Sacred Calendar
Theme: Timely Dragons
Thesis: God’s redemption in time offers us a “sacramental quality for everyday living.”
Transitional Question: Is the sacred calendar as irrelevant to our real world existence as monsters are to our sacred stories?
New Years Celebration & the Secular Interruption of the Christmas Season
This morning, while others brave the outdoor elements (at the Pasadena Rose Parade), we gather in the comfort of this sanctuary. Every year Christians overlook (if not forgive) the rude intrusion that the secular New Year celebration imposes on the sacred season known as Christmastide. The eighth day of Christmas, for the sacred calendar, becomes the first day of the secular New Year. The New Years celebration, like an unwelcomed alarm clock, awakens us to the reality that two schedules run our time. What do we make of this reminder that bills and banking now focus our thoughts more than the babe from Bethlehem? How do we square with the irritating fact that removing Christmas lights now centers our activity rather than reflecting on the light of the world?
We carry on: all too aware that we operate on two different time clocks. One clock synchronizes to the rhythms of secular activity. To be relevant, we accept the realities of our historical conditions with its material demands. The other clock pulsates to the tempo of another world. To stay true to our proclamation that “the fullness of time is at hand,” we wear a timepiece made of different textile. Can we ever synchronize these two clocks? Christians accept this world’s schedule with its demands. But we do so reminded that time, redeemed by the very act of the incarnation, places new expectations on our datebooks. God’s work redeems and renews the whole temporal realm. Now, time holds creative and re-creative power. The Christmas season reminds us of this power.
- Published on Tuesday, 01 March 2011 07:57
The Gospel text today consists of two contiguous units of the Sermon on the Mount, which is found in Matthew 5-7. The first unit, “On Serving Two Masters,” is in 6:24. The second, “On Anxiety,” follows in 6:25-34. Both units are also found in Luke, although there they are unrelated and widely separated. Because there is no comparable material in Mark, this Matthew-Luke material is part of a Double Tradition we call “Q”, from the German word Quelle meaning “source.” Matthew and Luke independently adopted and adapted these units from a common source(s) separate from Mark.
We note that these units, although missing from Mark, are reflected in other early Gospel materials outside the New Testament. The first unit is echoed in the Gospel of Thomas, logion 47. The second is reflected in Thomas 36. These texts probably existed about the same time as the versions found in the New Testament.
The location of these units in Matthew is typical of his tendency to gather similar materials together. The common element in this case is the matter of wealth and includes the two units of our text today along with the unit “On Treasures” in 6:19-21.
- Published on Tuesday, 08 February 2011 09:33
I understand passages better when I know a little about the background and place in history. The verses read in 1 Corinthians this morning, referring to strife among believers, are part of the letter written to the church in Corinth while he was visiting Ephesus during his third missionary journey. Paul founded the church in Corinth on his second missionary journey. Only eighteen months after he left, he heard from the family of Chloe, that the people were arguing, divisions had arisen, and some had slipped back into an immoral lifestyle.
When Paul heard about the divisions, he obviously was distressed. “I appeal to you, Brothers and Sisters,” he pleaded hoping to correct the situation. By calling them brothers and sisters, he was reminding them that all Christians are part of God’s family. Didn’t they remember that believers shared a unity that ran deeper than that of brothers and sisters?
One of my commentaries states that the Corinthians apparently had the reputation of jumping from fad to fad. Paul wanted to keep them from making Christianity another fad. He urged them to be in agreement, not to allow divisions among themselves and to be united in the same mind and the same purpose. He used pretty strong words, be in agreement, no divisions among you, be united in same mind. How can that be possible?You and I know that Paul, of all people, never required everyone to believe exactly the same. He believed there could be a difference between having opposing viewpoints and being divisive. A group of people, then and now, will not agree on every issue, but they can work together harmoniously if they agree on what truly matters. Petty differences should not divide Christians.
- Published on Tuesday, 08 February 2011 09:35
Our gospel this morning concerns blessing. There Jesus suggests, to pick up on what Paul says in our epistle, that the Holy Blessing One prefers gospel fools over the worldly wise. Who are the ones Jesus commends? They are the poor in spirit who know they depend on God, they mourn over the wrongs and sufferings of the world, they meekly trust in Jesus, they hunger and thirst to see God’s will and justice prevail, they show mercy and extend forgiveness to others, their pure hearts long to see God not only in the future but here and now, as peacemakers they seek to heal the broken relationships about them, and finally they are ones whose lives are made miserable by others owing to their loyalty to God.
Truly the sophisticated and worldly wise find them strange. These people work quietly to bless others. The world takes little note of them. They don’t often occupy the highest positions. They try not to appear smarter or more polished than they truly are. In short, they are gospel fools.
Paul writes, the Almighty "chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise;” the Lord “chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;.” In addition to this reflection from Paul, we also have our text from Micah, who mentions Balaam, the Gentile soothsayer and prophet. He provides a wonderful example to illustrate this dichotomy between true wisdom and folly.
- Published on Monday, 17 January 2011 00:00
45s. LPs. 8--‐Tracks. Cassettes. CDs. MP3s. I’ve heard it all.
But my favorite way to listen to music will always be those first albums that captured my imagination with beautiful artwork, creative design, and of course—the incredible music, heard for the first time.
One of my favorite albums is an old Joan Baez LP that I have owned and loved since 1972. Released near the end of the Vietnam war—when the country was in anguish over the thousands whose young lives has been taken in Southeast Asia—the cover shows an elderly couple, surrounded by police and young demonstrators. Looking closely at their faces, they seem out of place—and just a bit fearful. Are the police escorting them to the bus, whose door stands open? Have they been arrested?
Click on the attached PDF to read the rest.