A Message for Easter: I don't mean to be political but... and other thoughts on resurrection

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
— EB White
Photo Credit: Katie Bariel

Photo Credit: Katie Bariel

Sermon Notes

I make reference in this message to a pastor I sometimes listen to in the midwest. He’s a Methodist and the author of Seeing Grey in a World of Black and White — Adam Hamilton. Here’s the talk he gave at the Aspen Institute on partisanship and the pulpit. You will hear familiar words about the difference between politics and ethics in the church. A wortwhile listen…from Aspen Ideas Festival, Offstage.

1/27, 2/3, and 2/10: Three Sermons on Beginnings

It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
— Leonardo da Vinci
The Great Library of Alexandria rebuilt and restored between 1986 and 2002. The original was built under the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and housed at its height between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls. It served as the center of intellectual life in the anceint world. I took this photo in June 2000, two years before its completion.

The Great Library of Alexandria rebuilt and restored between 1986 and 2002. The original was built under the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and housed at its height between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls. It served as the center of intellectual life in the anceint world. I took this photo in June 2000, two years before its completion.

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Luke 4:14-21

Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71-1-6, and Luke 4:21-30

Isaiah 6:1-13 and Luke 5:1-11

Upon Further Reflection

Dedicated to the twelve men and women formally seeking a new faith home in Bethel

Storytelling is an essential human activity – it’s why we binge on Netflix and why there will always be libraries full of books we can’t help but devour.  It’s why healthy churches are defined as places where regular people share their faith through story.  It’s why healing for people who have endured trauma, like war or violence or separations means storytelling – going back and interpreting the events of our lives to master our narratives and make meaning from what would otherwise feel random, meaningless, and chaotic.  Story reorients us, reorders us.  I can’t say this enough.  Change, transformation, empathy, surviving, arising, gathering – it all happens through story and for us as Christians, through one very precious story. 

The stories we have heard recently in worship, diverse as they are, share a common image: public interpretation of the scripture.  Reading our common stories then making sense of them in terms of the people gathered.  The Word is filtered through their needs. Jesus unrolls the scroll of Isaiah to read scripture to a crowd as the inauguration to his journey, a journey to rebuild a people .  In another verse, we have the story of the priest Ezra, returned from Babylonian exile, reading God’s Word within the gates of Jerusalem: "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the Torah. Again, this was a moment of inauguration to begin rebuilding a temple and a people. With this as well, we heard Jeremiah’s commission.  God said: I have put my words in your mouth. Jesus commandeers a boat from which to preach and tell stories to eager followers.   And this coming Sunday, he will offer his Sermon on the Plain interpreting the heart of biblical teaching. It is all storytelling and story-making. It will remind the people of the story of Moses and the commandments.

These are moments when the people are revitalized, grounded, and reborn.  As my mother put it in conversation last week, we are reconstituted in the Word.  These are stories of where we have come from, where we are going, and the promises that will get us there.  And we are called to respond by telling our own stories: love, loss, failure, triumph, doubt, hope, and resilience. Through it all, the Word shines through our words, binding us as One in Christ.

Sermon for 3/20/16: Protest and the Soul

Luke 19:29-46 and Psalm 122

Scripture readings follow the alternative lectionary outlined in Brian McLaren's We Make the Road by Walking (reference and public library).

Sermon Notes

A few weeks ago, I scanned the chapter for Palm Sunday in Brian McLaren's book. Chapter Thirty-Two is entitled "Peace March."  I think I've imagined the Palm Sunday processional as protest before, but with that simple McLaren phrase, it became all the more palpable.  It just hit me that much harder.  So thank you, Brian McLaren!  At the same time, I was listening to a Krista Tippett interview with Patrisse Cullors and Robert Ross.  They talk about the soul and protest.  Not my insight, by any stretch.  Turns out, demonstrating even has health benefits.  Anyway, all this swirled around as I thought about North County and our attitudes and the frustration I sometimes experience in teaching about the political Jesus. The historical context I offered regarding Jesus as political person comes from Reza Aslan's book, Zealot (reference and public library).  While I would argue with a number of his interpretations and his biblical analysis in the book, the contextual information he gives is really helpful in understanding the turbulent environment of Jesus' day.  My reflection on a political Jesus also holds a frustration I also have with myself and my commitments. Just sayin'.  And out of the chaos and wondering about ALL of that emerged this sermon.  I hope you feel as challenged by it as I was writing it.  Plus, here's the ever-inspiring Krista Tippett.  It's one of the sanest discussions I've heard about Black Lives Matter.  Thought provoking, challenging personally and professionally.

Question of the Week

What's your protest story?  How did it change you?