The Least, First

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The baptism of Jesus

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[This sermon was first posted in January of 2007. Rick Reilly’s comment reminded me that many may be working on something similar, so it seemed good to update and re-post it.  Best wishes!  – Monte]
I have often thought of Jesus as pretty uncertainty-free: so totally God that humanity is just a minor irritation. So certain, so unsurprise-able, so un-swayed by what’s up.

For instance, I might think of his baptism like so: I imagine he becomes off-to-on aware that it’s time (click!), appears on the banks of the Jordan (click!), where the crowds part and everybody understands the obvious (click!), and he all but comes up out of the water with one finger extended for the dove’s perch. Of course he knows it all before it happens.

Doesn’t he?

We’ve been talking about the three audiences to the events of the Bible, especially regarding the gospel of Luke. Remember them?
1. The A.D. 30 Jews, who see it all first-hand.
2. The A.D. 80 or so Jews and Gentiles who first read Luke’s gospel.
3. And us. Now. Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus, ooey-gooey, and The Onion (Sermon of Nov 23)

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Jesus paints the end of time over and over in the runup to Matthew’s version of passion week.  But, whew! The implications of these stories are startlingly controversial.

He tells of a great sorting of people (Matthew 25:31-46).  Goyim —gentiles—people, perhaps, like me.  The method of his sort, though, I never heard in Sunday School.

He's an Author and Homeless i...

He explains his choice to the group invited into his “kingdom:”

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me-you did it to me.

Huh.  Wonder what that means.  To him?

Don Jail

Now the second group, whom he says are “good for nothing but the fires of hell.” And why?

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Say what?” they respond.  “We never saw you like that.”

His answer?

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me-you failed to do it to me.

The “goats” go off to their doom, the sheep to their reward.  The end.

But wait, this is going to get very strange. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Jesus MIA? (Readings for September 14, 2008)

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Jesus Christ is, of course, what’s missing from Christianity.

We have positions aplently—”Biblical” positions—or so we’re told by experts. Perhaps we should call our religion “Biblianity.” For Jesus Christ, incarnated again in his ever-new Body, the church, and lived out through the love and acceptance of his apprentices for each other and the whole world—well, Jesus Christ expressed that way is rarer than Nazarenes at a bingo hall.

Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi

It’s not a new problem.  And those who don’t call themselves Christians often see it more clearly than those who do. For example, consider these insights of that spiritual giant Mohandas Gandhi:

  • I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
  • If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.

Imagine. He’s not suggesting proselyting, but rather simply that Jesus Christ lived-out in public and private is mighty appealing.  Which is, of course, just what Jesus did.

So in this week’s readings, Jesus explains one element of what that would look like.  Then Paul brings it home, expecting a new kind of normal for we who follow Jesus together.  Let him take your breath away.

Hope you get to hear it preached somewhere this Sunday.

Proper 19 (24) A; September 14, 2008

Hebrew Bible: Exodus 14:19-31 [Moses parts the sea]
or Genesis 50:15-21 [Joseph forgives his brothers]
Psalm: Psalm 114 [after Israel left Egypt]
or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 [Moses’ song of victory]
or Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 [God is sheer mercy and grace, slow to anger]
Epistle: Romans 14:1-12 [Welcome the weaker brother]
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35 [How many times shall I forgive? Parable of unmerciful servant]

A Story About Forgiveness

21At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Read the rest of this entry »

The radicalism of Jesus [readings for Pentecost Sunday, May 11, 08]

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I was magnetized, attracted, to Jesus Christ. Especially as a university student, thirty-five years ago, his fearless declarations of world altering radicalism gave me goosebumps. He felt the tragedies that others overlooked. He saw the people that others overlooked.

And he infected his disciples. Imagine how, in an ethnocentric culture, these words might have been heard on the day of Pentecost:Aimee Semple McPherson

“Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?

Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene;
Immigrants from Rome, both Jews and proselytes;
Even Cretans and Arabs!

God, whom we believe had entered human culture through Jesus Christ, was at it again. This time, he began by stripping away barriers between human cultures, valuing each by speaking their native languages. He builds the bridge. He shows respect.

And there’s more. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

May 5, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Politics

We see abstractions; Jesus sees people (sermon for March 2, 08)

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Jesus heals the man born blindFourth Sunday in Lent (March 2, 2008)

John 9:1-41; Ephesians 5:8-14; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23

Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem. Watch what happens . . .

John 9:1-41
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

So they see a guy who’s blind. Their thoughts go one place: somebody’s been bad.

For 2,000 years what’s about to happen will be talked about. But the possibility of this poor guy getting well doesn’t even seem to have occurred to them. Read the rest of this entry »