The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘God

When atheists come to church (sermon of July 5)

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C Vonaesch - Femme Touchant Jesus

C Vonaesch - Femme Touchant Jesus

Last week, Jesus, pushing through a crowd, was secretly touched by a woman who’ d been bleeding for 12 years; her bleeding stopped.  She who’d been untouchable by the rules of the day touched him; she was then well, and he became untouchable.  She gets well. He takes on her “uncleanness.”

And then he touched a 12 year old girl who had recently died. He was now “unclean” twice-over (touching a dead body made him so a second time), but the girl was alive.   She gets life. He takes on her “uncleanness.”

Magnificent.

And the next thing that happens is that Jesus, the now-famous, compassionate, but scandalously irreligious traveling teacher, goes home to Nazareth. And while he’s been amazing everyone, at Nazareth, Jesus is amazed.

What could possibly amaze Jesus? Read the rest of this entry »

Bible vs. homosexuality? Handle with care!

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UPDATE (June 4, 2009):  The 40-some page paper from the late 1990’s by Nazarene scholar/theologial J. Kenneth Grider, which is mentioned in the comments after this post, is now available here:  Wesleyans and Homosexuality by J. Kenneth Grider.  Grider, who died in 2006, taught at Nazarene Theological Seminary for 38 years, served on the translation committe of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, and wrote the 1994 book A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology. Many thanks to Lin Wells, who gave me a copy of the paper.

Further, my nephew Amos Patrick unearthed the link to Real Live Preacher’s exposition of the scriptures mentioned below: A Look at the Bible and Homosexuality. Thanks, Amos!


Caution Lights

Just how strong are those Bible arguments against gay marriage—and homosexuality in general—that we hear about?

It’s a critically important question.  Given  Jesus’ inclusion of despised people, seems like we’d want to stand on solid ground if we are to justify becoming ex-clusive.

In all the Bible, homosexuality is mentioned only six times—three in the Old Testament and three in the New.  And surprisingly, all of the six comments include tough challenges for Bible students.

Real Live Preacher sketches the problem in a challenge thrown down to those who would be judgmental:

Sit down Christian. You cannot wave your unread Bible and scare me because I know the larger story that runs through it beginning to end. […] I am your worst nightmare, a Texas preacher who knows the good book better than you do. Show me your scriptures. Show me how you justify condemning homosexual people.

Show me what you got, Christian. The Sodom story? That story is about people who wanted to commit a brutal rape. Let’s all say it together, “God doesn’t like rape”. You could have listened to your heart and learned that, Christian. Move on. What else you got?

A passage from Leviticus? Are you kidding me? Are you prepared to adhere to the whole Levitical code of behavior? No? Then why would you expect others to? Move on. What else?

Two passages – two verses from Romans and one from I Corinthians. There you stand, your justification for a worldwide campaign of hatred written on two limp pieces of paper. Have you looked closely at these passages? Do you understand their context and original language? I could show you why you don’t have much, but there is something more important you need to see.

Though few I know are involved in a “world-wide campaign of hatred,” RLP has, in a few quick strokes, revealed the dicey-ness of Bible verses often proclaimed as open-and-shut cases.

Have we done the work required to truly understand?  Do we risk over-ruling the example of Jesus—and driving away millions—by interpreting a tiny set of difficult verses through cultural preference rather than Bible context?

Those are mighty high stakes. Gonna take a lot of love to work this through. What’s your thought?

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“I am the vine:” bearing fruit in a brutal world

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Urban poverty is common in developing countrie...
Image via Wikipedia

Tomorrow’s gospel reading is from Jesus’ “I am the vine, you are the branches” lesson.  It’s a beauty, about which we evangelicals can easily be moved to misty-eyed marveling.

But read along as Lawrence Moore begins his analysis at Disclosing New Worlds:

Vines, branches, fruit and pruning – and “abiding”.  This is one of those “purple passages” from John’s gospel that most of us know well.  It’s a time to expound parables of grafting, pruning, getting rid of excess foliage so the grapes are plentiful and fat, about feasting and celebration … and stuff about “abiding” that hovers constantly on the edge of twee and a bit precious.

Any tendency towards twee and precious should cause us to pause.  This world is a brutal, death-dealing place.  Most inhabitants of this planet live below the breadline.  The scale of global poverty is staggering; the magnitude of starvation is terrifyingly obscene.

What makes the statistics significant is not simply the scale.  The scale is tragic.  Yet if it was inevitable and unpreventable, that is all we could call it.  It is the fact that it is preventable that is significant.  The world has never been globally richer, nor has it ever produced more food.

Global poverty is not an accident but a deliberate human creation.  It is deliberate, not in the sense that we set out to cause starvation, but in that we build a global economy that gives those of us in the west a particular standard of living so that two thirds of the planet necessarily live in abject poverty.

Some tools utilized for pruning.

Image via Wikipedia

And “we” – the people with the power and decision-making ability – reckon that is an acceptable cost.  That is what makes the global statistics so obscene.

We in the West hold most of the world’s power.  We in the West hold most of the world’s money.  We could end starvation in a year.  We choose to try to get more power and money instead.

We’re busy fussing over government power or gay marriage or how we’d rather give through our churches.  And year after year, people die in droves.  Who is responsible for this holocaust?

If I were God, I’m afraid I’d begin pruning.  Maybe some other “branch,” if entrusted with the world’s riches and power, would get serious about bearing fruit.

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Not even the enemy of HIS enemies!

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Third Sunday of Easter • April 26, 2009

Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

Spring 09 home 014I’ve been thinking a lot about why we come here.

We need a sense of that – a sense of what we’re here for. Just making a church bigger – that doesn’t do it for me. We’ve been down that road. It isn’t enough to satisfy my hunger.

Why do I come here?

I think I want one thing more than anything else: I want to bring love into my world. I want to bring it to my family. I want to bring it to you. I want to bring it to people on the street. I want to bring it to political decisions. I want to bring it to unloved people. I want to bring it to people on the internet. I want to bring it to the nations of the world.

I want love to change this world. I want it to smother tragedy. I want it to expose selfishness. I want it to change the way my family lives, my workplace operates, my government thinks.

What I want to do here is to re-capture that source of love – and share it in such a way that you do, too – so that love will make everything you touch as you walk through your week just a little different than it was before.

But my world doesn’t get that. It thinks love is a wimpy thing, not the way of heroes. So all week long I talk and visit and write to people who are convinced the Kingdom of God is not enough, and it cannot bring what the world needs. And sometimes their arguments wear me down.

And that’s why I come here. It’s because we’re doing something together. We’re believers that the love of God is stronger than anything that’s wrong in the world. We’re determined to bring it to the places we live and work and vote and write. You’re doing something. Read the rest of this entry »

‘All wars are civil wars’

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Oil on canvas

Fenelon; Image via Wikipedia

“All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers. Each one owes infinitely more to the human race than to the particular country in which he was born.”

-17th c. bishop and mystic François Fenelon

“Wars play out a framing story of us versus them that seeks to take precedence over the deeper and higher framing story of God’s global family table, where us and them are equally invited, equally wanted, in the biggest ‘us’ of all.”

-author and pastor Brian McLaren; both quotes are from his Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope.

What do you think?
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

March 21, 2009 at 4:12 pm

Let’s chill. We’re both partly wrong. (Sermon of 1 Feb 09)

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In the aftermath of  World War II, many European intellectuals (later joined by Americans and many others) were forced to ask this question:  how could this have happened? This referred to two world wars, and especially the Holocaust. […] They diagnosed the sickness that had befallen Western civilization in general and “Christian” Germany in particular to be excessive confidence.

Brian McLaren in Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope

Mark 1:21-28 (NIV*)

Arguing over a sales commission (Chicago Theater Blog)

Arguing over a sales commission (Chicago Theater Blog)

21They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Strange thing to say, isn’t it?  Rabbis certainly did have authority to teach the Scriptures. But when Jesus spoke, something else happened.

And as if to prove it:

23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24″What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

Remember, we’re in Chapter 1 here.  Who else in the room would have even thought this? Virtually no one but Jesus himself. How shocked they must have been to hear it. What a statement!

And what a source! Jesus reacts immediately. First:

25″Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly.

Why would he shush, if it’s true? Why would an evil spirit say it, anyway? 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 »