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The main thing [readings for Sunday, October 26]

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln famously said (or is famously said to have said) that if he could find a church whose credo was the golden rule, he’d join it.  He never found one.

Religious leaders confronted Jesus with a question of essence rather like that.  You’d think it would be the first thing Christians learn, and that for which they’re mostly known.

“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”

Jesus said, “”Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ 38This is the most important, the first on any list. 39But there is a second to set alongside it: “Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 40These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Read the rest of this entry »

How odd the Bible is. (readings for Sunday, October 11)

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The oddness of the Bible—its miles-away foreign-ness—is, perhaps, too little allowed. Take this week’s batch of it:

Isaiah gives us a thrilling hymn of the end of tyranny and want. Perfect!  But he begins it in a destroyed city.

Psalm Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Psalm Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Jesus invents a story of a king who can’t get invited guests to show up at his son’s wedding—finally replacing them with homeless and helpless folk—quite a wonderful tale!  And then he tosses a guy who isn’t dressed right.  But wait – how could any of his lately-discovered guests be dressed right?  And isn’t it a little caddish to get so put out about it?

Why?  Save it, preacher:  Don’t give me that this means this and this means this. These stories are nearly impenetrable, and we fail the task of adequately communicating them if we make them simple: Jesus did not.

Impenetrable—but not completely so.  The process of spilling all their odd parts onto the table before me and wondering, “What on earth?” is among the richest pleasures of life.  And it is there amidst that strange mess that God defies expectations and reveals himself, refusing to yield mere information, but speaking in a way more wonderful.

What will we find here? Not much, if we simplify.  Moralisms.

But if we let it stand with all its oddnesses, and let the oddnesses themselves become the clues?

Well, in that case, who can say?

Proper 23 A: October 11, 2008

Exodus 32:1-14 or Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 or Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

Isaiah 25: God’s Hand Rests on This Mountain

1-5 God, you are my God. I celebrate you. I praise you.
You’ve done your share of miracle-wonders, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

October 6, 2008 at 11:31 pm

He doesn’t even hate his enemies! (Readings for 21 Sep 08)

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Jonah has pity on the gourd

Steinhardt: Jonah has pity on the gourd

The other thing the whale swallows in the book of Jonah is the story.

“Area man”—as The Onion often lampoons—would say if interviewed: “Jonah, yeah, that’s the one about the guy who gets swallowed by a whale.”  See?  Fraternity boys eat goldfish, only in reverse. No story.

The whale, though, is a bit player (ho ho).  Jonah, the protagonist and representative of the religious “in” group, is an ethnocentric bigot. God sends him to tell a despised enemy nation to repent; the nation does. Jonah hates it.  Burning sulfur was more what he had in mind.  Big disappointment.

Big story, too.  Apparently wanting to see one’s enemies dead rather than blessed is not a new way of resisting God.

I’m reminded of the German theologian who said, “God doesn’t hate my enemies; he doesn’t even hate his enemies!”

May we humans become so.  Read the climax of the Jonah story, along with this week’s Sunday readings, just below.

God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn’t do.

Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

September 18, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Changed from the inside out (readings for Aug 24, 2008)

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will my wife think it's hot?

The look: will my wife think it hot?

I’ve started shaving again.  Regrets.

Found out I had sleep apnea a few weeks ago, and have began using a CPAP at night.  It’s like sleeping with  a cool breeze (up your nostrils, anyway).  And my, sleep is delicious!  I’m awake!

I had to shave because the mask sits atop the whiskers under my nose, and that made that whisker-skin sore by morning.  Which woke me up, defeating the purpose.  So I shave.  And they grow back.  And I shave.

Friends of mine have had laser hair removal.  Something about the laser so zaps the whisker that, in many cases, it never comes back.  Something happens down in the follicle, inside your skin.  And there you are, smooth as a baby’s bottom.  No more stinky after-shave.

Shaving works outside-inIt’s never over.  Laser hair removal, I suppose you could say, works inside-out.  When it works, that one hair is gone for good.

The religious conservatives of Jesus’ day thought that God worked outside in.  You conform to the rules, God likes you better, good things happen.  But Jesus – and later, Paul – said “Uh, no!” about that.  Grace works – as an old fellow I knew used to say – “slow but fine:” inside out.  Watch how Paul says it in this Sunday’s Bible readings, just below.

I’ve got to go shave.

Proper 16 (21) August 24, 2008
Exodus 1:8-2:10; Psalm 124; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

Romans 12:1-8

Place Your Life Before God

1So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life–your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

August 22, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Politics

Power and Powerlessness (Easter sermon)

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Resurrection of the Lord: Easter Day, March 23, 2008

The Angel is Opening Christ’s Tomb, 1640Matthew 28:1-10; Acts 10:34-43; Colossians 3:1-4; Psalm 118:1-2,14-24 (Easter A)

Christ, the Lord Is Risen Today
Alleluia, Alleluia
Our God Reigns
The Wonderful Cross

Matthew 28
Risen from the Dead
After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God’s angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn’t move.

The angel spoke to the women: “There is nothing to fear here. Read the rest of this entry »

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