Sunday, November 15, 2009

Messianic Vision (Sermon Delivered 11/15/09)

A rabbi was invited to speak to a class of Christian students. One of the students, asked the rabbi why he didn't think Jesus was the messiah. "Your scriptures," he told the rabbi, "prophesy about a messiah in very particular ways, all of which Jesus fulfills. He is the suffering servant of Isaiah. He was born of a virgin. He was of the tribe of David, born in Bethlehem. He was preceded by Elijah in John the Baptist. He performed many miraculous signs, healing the sick and forgiving sins. He took his iniquities upon him when he hung on the cross. And he rose from the dead, conquering the grave. And you're a religious man, certainly you can't say our scriptures are false, but yours are true. Why don't you believe in Jesus?"

The rabbi went to the window and pointed out it at nothing in particular. In a truly rabbinic fashion he told the students to look out the window and asked, "What do you see?" I don't know what those students saw out that window, but I can tell you what is out there today. I see leaves drying up and falling. I see cars that emit noxious gases from fuels purchased with blood money. I see a beat up, old house falling apart.

The rabbi would tell us we see things dying. In this world, growth leads to death as much as death leads to growth. What we see is the cycle of life and death and it has always been. The only thing to alter this cycle, the rabbi would say, will be messiah.

But we believe in Jesus, friends, the messiah has come and has altered the cycle of life and death. But look around you. What do you see? How can we say life and death no longer work like they used to when they work just like they always have? If Jesus is the messiah why is there still death? sin? war? oppression? poverty? suffering of every kind? Where are the signs of the messiah?

The rabbi doesn't believe in Jesus, but he wants the same thing we want and struggles with the same things, friends. We all want God's kingdom established on this earth, for love to reign, and all evils to cease. And even if Jesus as the Messiah is what separates us from religious Jews, both groups must address why this world is the way it is. Jews deal with evil in light of God's existence and the absence of a messiah whereas we deal with evil in light of God's existence through the arrival, departure, and delayed second-arrival of our messiah.

I don't know exactly how to deal with this problem. I pretend not to solve the issue. I don't use the pulpit to give answers, but to collaborate. I offer you a perspective and hope we can all engage with it personally and collectively, in words and deeds. Let us pray.

Jesus spoke to this issue of looking around for messianic signs. He said people looking for a sign and said they would only receive the sign of Jonah. Of the three times Jesus mentions the sign of Jonah, one time he gives no explanation of what it means.

Another time he compares Jonah's three days and nights in a fish to the three days and nights Jesus will be in the grave. In order to talk more about this connotation, I would like to invite the children to come up and we'll talk about Jonah.

At this point, I told the story of Jonah being swallowed by a fish. I don't think I can represent this part of the sermon without the kids. To summarize though, we decided you cannot get away from God. Jonah was on a boat, but God found Jonah. Jonah went into the sea and God found him. Jonah was in a fish and God heard him. Jesus was on a cross, but God found him in the grave.

The last time, Jesus mentions the sign of Jonah, he says he will be a sign just as Jonah was a sign to Nineveh. This third correlation reaches to a part of Jonah with which many of us are unfamiliar, because it has nothing to do with a fish, although it is just as fishy.

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you." So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across. And Jonah began to go into the city one day’s journey. And he cried out and he said, “Yet 40 days and Ninevah is overturned.” And the people of Ninevah trusted in God and they called a fast and put on sackcloth, the young and the old, the rich and the poor. And the word reached to the king of Ninevah and he arose from his throne and removed his cloak. And he covered [himself] in sackcloth and sat upon the ash. And he cried out and said in Ninevah: “From the decree of the king and his great ones, saying, let neither human nor beast, neither herd nor flock, let them not taste of anything; let them neither graze nor drink water. And let the people and animals cover themselves [with] sackcloth and let them cry mightily unto God and let each turn from their evil ways and from the violence that [is] in their hands. Who knows? God might repent, be sorry, and turn from that burning anger so that we will not perish.” And God saw their deeds, because they turned from their evil ways and God was sorry about the intended evil, so God did not do it. Jonah 3:1-10 (1-4 RSV; 5-10, my translation)

"Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown"? Not really the most eloquent of sermons, the message leaves a little bit to be desired. No hope. No call to repentance. Why even deliver the message? Why give the Ninevites a timeline? Since when is the God of Israel--Jonah's God and our God--a sadist? Certainly God didn't want the Ninevites to run around town panicking for forty days as they await their ineluctible doom. I wonder, did Jonah really deliver the whole message and nothing but the message God gave him? Or does the book give us a summary of what Jonah said?

When we read the story closely, we see the book continually leaves out details, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps in the story, a technique very familiar to any narrative, fiction and nonfiction, biblical or not. So I can't imagine God sent Jonah only to bring news of destruction. I have no reason to think the Jonah in this story said exactly those words. Whatever Jonah said, I doubt it was all rainbows and butterflies. But in spite of the depressing, imprecatory feelings we get from the story, the Ninevites held out hope.

After one day of a depressing message, the whole city somehow manages to repent. Ignoring how ridiculously fast the message traveled, I wonder what exactly compelled them to believe? What compelled them to fast and wear sackcloth?

Or, here's an even better question: Why did they make the animals fast and wear sackcloth? Was their too much gossip in the barnyard? Too much oppression? Maybe the white sheep continued a residual racism against the black sheep. Maybe the bulls wouldn't associate with the steers. And surely the ostriches were ostracized.

Cheesy puns aside, God's reaction is crazier than the animals being forced to fast and wear sackcloth because of a message of destruction from an angry prophet who was just vomited up from a large fish after being tossed into the ocean and left for dead by a group of sailors who thought the God of Israel would stop a storm if they tried to drown some guy who paid to get on their boat in order to flee from the divine presence.

God's reaction is so revolutionary, because the Hebrew tradition was pretty straightforward about how to repent and be favored by God. First, you had to be chosen, which by Jonah's time meant you had to be an Israelite. You had to obey the law, be circumcised, and engage in worship that focused on one God whose glory was represented in a temple in Jerusalem. The Ninevites likely had little knowledge of Israel's covenant relationship with God outside of stereotypes and misunderstandings and they likely stayed ignorant of that relationship and the subsequent laws. Instead of following the laws and repenting the way God demanded of Israel, they simply believed God, which means they believed the words Jonah spoke on behalf of God, they didn't "believe in God" in the turn of phrase we toss about today. They only repented of what their consciences demanded and God still accepted their repentance. And Jonah got madder than a hornet in response, as we find out in chapter 4.

But chapter three is why Jesus reached back to Jonah. Jonah was a messianic sign to Nineveh, a sign of a God whose love is greater than our sin. And Jonah got so mad because he knew God's love was boundless. If Jonah brought a message of salvation to anyone, he wanted it to be to his own people. But despite his efforts, Jonah becomes like a messiah to Nineveh, being God's voice to them, a voice followed by love, acceptance, and forgiveness: that's salvation, friends.

Both times Jesus explains the sign of Jonah, he also says, "and now one greater than Jonah is here." Jesus calls himself similar to Jonah in making a comparison, but also greater than Jonah. Which reminds me: according to the Gospel of John, Jesus said, "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. [Those ones] will do even greater things than these" (John 14:12).

If Jesus is greater than Jonah and we who have faith will do things greater than Jesus, then right now many greater than Jonah are here. I see a whole room full of people greater than Jonah, people empowered by Christ to be like Christ.

Isn't this what we mean when we call ourselves part of the body of Christ, that we, together, are the presence of Christ in this world? Friends, if we have faith in Jesus, we will also be messiah.

And this perspective isn't terribly different from that of the rabbi I spoke of earlier. Many Jews remember God telling Abraham he would become a blessing, which means Abraham would be so blessed that he would bless others. So many Jewish people aim to bless this world in their actions. In the absence of messiah, they are God's means of blessing the whole earth and all that is in it.

We, too, see problems in the world and realize it is our job to change the world, to establish God's kingdom on this earth. In the physical absence of our messiah, we, too, become messiah. And when we look out the window with our messianic vision, we see some pretty ridiculous things. Where some see death, we see life. That run down house may be falling apart, but inside, it houses a great amount of food to feed the hungry who come to this church on Mondays and Thursdays. The house may be dying, but we're using it for life.

When we look out the window with our messianic vision, we see life, but don't expect death to turn the corner. I think Christians are pretty famous for not seeing death. For how long have Christians prayed the Lord's prayer or recited the Apostles' creed? How long have Presbyterians worshiped in a structured, liturgical form? Any level-headed person would have expected these things to die long, long ago. But we look at the liturgy, add some music in a style born in the 60s and 70s, call it contemporary, use some powerpoint and voila, we have really brought some sort of new life where death should happen. I don't understand how, but it is working. And I love it. We hear the statistics about how many churches and denominations have waning numbers, but we see life around us here this morning and know, somehow, the Church will continue despite the statistics--with or without the liturgy--so that the life we foster in here will bring life out there. The church isn't about what goes on in here, it is about what we do out there.

And this messianic vision is hard to maintain. As a "lighter" example, I've taken up sewing so I could keep these jeans alive and somedays I wonder if it is all for naught. I've got the money to buy a new pair, but the minute I do, I'm using my financial blessings to acknowledge death, not life. We all know there are so many other things I could do with money than support the cycle of life and death. And even if I do buy a pair of jeans, somebody could use them a lot more than I could.

Please don't misunderstand me church, I'm not suggesting we are not part of Christ's body if we buy a new pair of jeans or a new sofa. I obviously buy new things, as you see on my face. I share my sewing story, because one story can prompt another. And stories prompt ideas. In this world, life is birthed from death, but if I tell you my story and you are inspired, then newness was birthed not from death, but from other newness. Life begets life; not dog eat dog.

Besides, it isn't for me to judge precisely what you should and should not do with your blessings. Remember, I don't give answers from the pulpit. Instead, I share so we can work together. And I suggest we maintain a messianic vision of newness and life without death and obsolescence. For me, that newness means sewing patches on my jeans until I look like a slob, while those around me wear nice things--even in church, because one day somebody might come into this congregation who cannot afford nice clothes and I want them to feel just as comfortable as the visitors who come in dressed to the nines. And although my clothes look like they're dying, inside I am alive, because Jesus lives in me, because I am a part of the messiah.

But I can only be a part of the messiah with you. We can only do it together. I'm going to sew patches on my jeans and eat food with the hungry, food I get from that house over there.

What are you going to do? And I say "you" not to exclude myself or accuse you, but rather to emphasize the individual aspect. Like Jonah and Jesus are you going to bring God's love to the most surprising of peoples? Who would it surprise you to find God loving? Who would you be mad for God to love? A specific person? Someone of a certain religion? Someone of another race, ethnicity, nationality, skin tone, language, or sexuality? Those of another political party? People who use words we don't use? Those with a certain amount of money--rich or poor? Maybe people whose sins are not your sins--thieves, murderers, sexual offenders? People who don't believe what you do, do things you don't do, or approve things of which you don't approve? Are you going to see them with a messianic vision? A vision that forces you to look past stereotypes? Are you going to see them as God sees them, as God's beloved?

And what are we going to do together? Alone we can only do so much. I can sew poorly and eat with the hungry while you heal the sick and give money to the poor. But together, friends--together we can do things greater than what Jesus did, because together we are who is greater than Jonah. Together we can establish the kingdom of God on this earth.

It is a "messianic age [and] we are a messianic people." The time for the kingdom is now and the place for it is everywhere. "It is found every time an offense is forgiven, every time a stranger is made welcome, every time an enemy is embraced, every time the least among us is lifted up, every time the law is made to serve justice, every time a prophetic voice is raised against injustice, every time the law and the prophets are summed up by love" (John Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct?).

We must neither faint nor be crushed until we have established justice in the earth (Is. 42:1-4). We must do our small things--sewing patches and volunteering, serving each other and serving those who will never ever step inside this building. And together we must do great things, tirelessly breaking down systems of oppression and liberating the peoples under them.

We will neither grow faint nor be crushed until we have established justice in the earth. Friends, that's what we, the church, do together. Jesus didn't complete justice when he walked on this earth, but he is doing it now with and through us.

Our task remains before us: to love and establish justice through our individual and corporate lives. I'm going to start by sewing patches and eating with the hungry. But I want to do more. I know other people here want to do more, to see their little things be multiplied like loaves and fishes. They don't just want to help serve large meals to people who don't need to be served, especially when benevolences are cut in the church's budget every year. It isn't that they don't want to serve these meals, but that they want more--they want to take the life in this church and move it into the streets instead of waiting for the streets to come in here, because, let's face it. The streets aren't going to come to us. Like Jonah and Jesus, we have to go to them.

I've heard the voices of people in this church, like voices crying out in the wilderness, searching for something more and for God. I've heard their voices like the labor pains of something great being birthed in them.

Share with me and others the stories of your messianic vision and your messianic actions. You aren't the only person in this church who wants more but doesn't know how to do it. You aren't the only one struggling with the pains of birthing Christ in your life. You aren't the only one who needs to motivate and be motivated, to inspire and be inspired to more.

Now look out the window.

Look around you.

Tell me what you see.


A prayer:

God, in your mercy accept our offerings to your purpose and our self-sacrifices to you--swallow us into the innards of your love and spew us out to take your kingdom everywhere in this world.


Go and be aware of what surrounds you. Look at it with messianic vision and tell your sisters and brothers what you see, so together we can use life to birth life and we can refresh each other and neither grow faint nor weary until we establish love and justice all around us. In the name of the Holy Parent, the Holy Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"Christian" License Plates (It Starts Judgmental, but Turns)

Apparently a few groups in South Carolina are trying to pass some of those specialty plates (or "tags") for cars. You know, the license plates that shout "I like this," "I support this," or, "I'm one of these." These tags beg people to judge you before they meet you. People already judge you by your car, but they have more matter for judgment if your license plate says "United We Stand, "No More Homeless Pets," "NASCAR," "Nurses Care," or "In God We Trust."

Oops, my bias is showing.

Really, these plates are little different from wearing clothes with words on them. Tacky or not, the plates are quite the rage among diverse peoples, many states having hundreds from which to choose. Recently a South Carolina vetoed a Christian plate, apparently similar to one a group in Florida also tried to pass.

As you probably know, these plates cost more and the extra money goes to some organization. I only read a few articles on the South Carolina plate and did not find out to whom the money would go. It sounds like the Florida plate would fund Christian schools.

In all three of the articles I read (Slow down your research Trevar! Three articles?), the slant was separation of church and state. A government plate with a religious message. Government funds side-by-side with religious funds. I do see a potential issue with separation of church and state, which is a good thing, if memory serves me correctly. My soap box has little to do with history and legislation though. I'll let you think about church and state before and after Constantine, before and after the protestant reformation, and before and after the settling of the Americas.

My beef (or eggplant, if you prefer) is with the plate and the people pushing it forward.

If memory serves me correctly, Jesus told us to carry the cross. He didn't tell us to put a small cross on wheels and lead it around town. He told us to carry it. And let's be honest, if we don't read that text metaphorically, then we need to be so religiously and politically revolutionary that everyone--not "the Jews," not "the Romans," but everyone--will kill you on a tree, lynched, crucified, or otherwise. Maybe this "less" metaphorical interpretation isn't such a bad one, after all.

If we put crosses or the "I Believe" message on our cars, we damn-well better be the best, most conscientious, and nice driver ever (please don't be offended by my use of "damn," I thought it a very apt word in this instance, drawing on the curse as referring to a judgmental God who damns people). Jesus didn't cut people off, hold people up by driving too slow, drive too fast because he was late, or fail to let people go ahead of him. And let's not even think about driving gas-guzzlers or a car so nice that it draws attention to our economic status. If the cross has anything to do with economics, it is not with privilege. Also, let's start picking up hitchhikers, offering people rides, and paying for all the gas when we let people borrow our cars.

And if we believe in the "cause" that plate would financially promote, why don't we just give money? We are asked to give without expecting anything in return (Luke 6:30-36 ... yeah, that's straight from the words attributed to Jesus in the Bible). We give time and money and don't expect t-shirts, license plates, or time and money. If we get those things, fine. Take them and be glad. But we do not need to be conned into giving money to a good cause if it is a good cause.

Separation of church and state is a good, big issue about which to be concerned, but it isn't the whole story. And even though I don't wear (what I judge) pithy sayings on my person, I am far from being the audience of this judgmental blog.

Buying Christianity cheapens grace. We all do it. I have a Project (RED) t-shirt. I give money to the organized church I attend--money that comes back to me in the form of comfortable chairs, air conditioning (and occasionally heat), electricity, water, soap, paper towels, a janitor, coffee and donuts, the upkeep on pianos and a beautiful organ.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be (Matthew 6:21). For better or worse, our hearts are tied to our wallets. Sometimes we send our wallets to test the water. And perhaps our hearts never follow the treasure.

Sometimes I don't even send my wallet. I, too, cheapen grace, day by day.

Forgive us, O Lord, for we have sinned. Have mercy on us in the form of inspiration to jump into love with heart and wallet.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Local Soup Kitchen Serves Theology

Oh how often we go to serve and end up receiving service.

My church has a food ministry affectionately called "Soup Kitchen," although I haven't seen them serve soup. I've been going for about a month and have learned a lot. I often stand on a soap box (at least to preach at myself) about the growing theological divide in the church. I'm not talking about the much discussed divide between the church and the academy (aka, Jerusalem and Athens). Rather, I'm talking about the divide between the rich and the poor.

Friends, alongside the broccoli casserole, chicken pot pie, and store-made desserts, they're serving theology at that soup kitchen.

This last week I saw an older lady linger by the trash cans. My attention was focused on the people with whom I was eating; my peripherals paid her little attention. DJ had a heaping plate of seconds that he could not finish, so he got up to throw it away. At least, I think he intended to throw it out.

Instead of tossing the food in the garbage, he gave it to the lady lingering by the garbage. Maybe she asked for it. Maybe he offered it. Either way, he handed it and she took it. I saw her tip the plate over and let all of the food fall into her plastic bag. The ham, broccoli salad, and cole slaw slid off the plate into a gooey conglomeration in a plastic, grocery bag.

I wonder who else's leftovers were in that bag. Did she have any way to keep the food cold or secure from the bacteria we tupperware-laden people fear? How long did she have to carry that bag before she could set it down? Did she have anywhere to take it?

If my theology doesn't affect her life, then it is all for nought, my friends. We can argue about orthodoxy, the trinity, and The Shack until we're blue in the face, but time is running out on whether or not we can help people like that lady. I care about the theology that matters to her. The kind of theology that tells me to serve her food and keep her warm. The kind of theology that tells me to be Christ to her--which means to do Christ-like things to her, which means to eat with her, be her friend, and judge her not.

"Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," Jesus said.

The only stone Jesus cast was a word of a loving, unconditional forgiveness.


Last week I also made the acquaintance of DJ and Shanika. We are probably about the same age and the young couple really warmed up to me and my friend Dave, who are a good 40 years younger than the next youngest volunteer. DJ was rubbing Shanika's belly and told me, with a grin as large as Cheshire cat's, that she was pregnant. Shanika turned and looked so proud and so fulfilled. Their young joy gave a new meaning to the cliché, "living on love."

Those two loved kids. They already have two young ones and they separately asked me and Dave if we had any. In their struggles to stay afloat, I imagine love really is what keeps them going--loving and being loved in return.

DJ also told us he was glad for his younger brother who was going into the marines. He wanted his brother out of this life and into the marines. I want to cry about how right DJ's desire might be. As a young man in Shelby, DJ's could easily have a life of poverty and gang violence in his life. DJ's brother could learn from the streets how to be violent and kill or he could learn it in the marines, where at least he would have plentiful food, health care, and the opportunity to go to college.

I'm not sure DJ's brother had the luxury of making a right decision. Perhaps he could get out of gang violence, but I am no one to judge, not being in his shoes. And how could he pass up food, shelter, health, and education, even if it means selling his body to the warring capitalist system? With little sight of a "right" decision, ethics is out the window.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Loaves and Fishes

The Feeding of the 4000. The Feeding of the 5000. The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes. The Miracle of the Seven Loaves and Fishes. The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. "The sign that he had done" (John 6:14). Or whatever you want to call it.

Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-38
Mark 6:31-44; 8:1-10
Luke 9:10-17
John 6:1-15

Either or 4000 or over 5000 people were listening to Jesus. Jesus wanted them to be fed. Sometimes the disciples wanted the people to eat. Sometimes Jesus wanted them to eat. In every story but the one in John, the disciples had food, just not much. Every time it was bread and fish.

Jesus prays over the food and breaks the bread, and the disciples give the food out. Everyone eats. Food is left over. The disciples gather that food and have more than they started with. In every telling but John 6, that's the end of the story. In John, the narrator says, "When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, 'This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.'"

Only two of the stories said the people had nothing to eat (Mark 8 and Matthew 15 ). And maybe none of the people had any food, except for that boy who only appears in John's account. And the disciples, of course. With well over 4000 people in both situations, I'm unsure how the disciples would know whether or not people had any food.

None of the stories say Jesus multiplied the food. John calls it a sign, even though he doesn't call the very next story a sign, the story of Jesus walking on the water. I'm not saying no miracle occurred, but I want to work with a different interpretation for a moment. I mean, even those who believe differently than us have fruitful thoughts, don't they?

I don't know if I heard it in a sermon or in class or read it in a book. Regardless of its source, some people think the "miracle" here is a moral one, not a physical one. These people say the disciples and/or a young boy started handing out bread and fish, which inspired other to give out of their abundance. They presume other people had food, but the disciples didn't know about it. Jesus was wise though.

In these interpretations, Jesus didn't multiply loaves and fishes, but caring and sharing. I don't know who is right, because the text does not tell us. Either interpretation, what a miracle!


I lamented to a friend the other day. I told him I only had small ideas, but big goals. I want to cure AIDS, but I only have a box band-aids and lips for kissing boo-boos.

"Loaves and fishes," he said. (Actually, he might have said, "loaves and fish." I like "fishes.")

I can't end homelessness or poverty or racism or sexism or bigotry or hypocrisy or oppression or people's aversion to deconstruction.

I can't do it; a trip to Miami solves no problems.
You can't do it; smiling to someone at the DMV doesn't fix anything.

But I've got a few loaves in the shape of a trip to Miami. You've got some fish for a smile. Together, we could feed a few. And with the Bread of Life at work, we're going to see others sharing their loaves and fishes. We're inspired by Jesus to share and sharing that inspiration.

Hunger will be no more when God does multiplication.

Loaves and fishes, friends.
Loaves and fishes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Reflections Hebrews 13: Jesus' Death Against Politics & For Love Withour Borders, The Sacrifice of Sharing, and Gay Marriage

"For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name." Hebrews 3:11-15

Atonement happened inside the sanctuary, but the leftovers went outside and were burnt. They were unclean; even the people burning the carcasses had to wash before entering the city (Lev. 16:27).

Hebrews tells us Jesus was sacrificed outside the city, where the unclean things happened. The language of "city" and "camp" separates the reforming remnant of the Israelite religion from the increasingly civil "religion." Hebrews separates Jesus from the politics of the city, from the politico-ethno-centricism surrounding Zion, because Jesus died outside the city in order to sanctify "the people" (ton laov, for you Greek readers out there). The people. Not the Judaeans. Not the Israelites. Not the "Jews." The people. Especially those outside the city. The ones who get dirty.

And what did Jesus do to sanctify them? He died. Done. Sanctification achieved. Sanctification specifically achieved for those who did nothing to deserve it but exist.

No, "get a job, then I'll die for you."
No, "clean up your life, then I'll become a living sacrifice for you."
No, "move to a safer area, be more like me, and then I'll die for you."

And what are we to do? Likewise.

Love without reserve.
Love without borders.


"Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." Hebrews 13:16

Share. And remembered the preceding verses? The ones about "the people," those outside the city? Those who are not part of the politico-ethico-religion inside the city? That is, those who aren't "Jews," or, in our case, Christian? Share with them, too.

There are different kinds of living sacrifices. Sharing is just one of them.


The following is a bit judgmental. Please forgive my tone. Don't forgive the love that boiled into a bit of anger.

In Light of Maine's Recent "Defeat" of Gay Marriage

Consider Hebrews 13:4: "Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers." None of us can lay aside our biases, as much as we would like to. Therefore, I am not "objective" in my reading of this passage in light of Maine's recent vote on gay marriage.

But my bias on gay marriage doesn't matter right now. If you think homosexual couples are defiling the marriage bed by being homosexual, then your reading of a verse like Hebrews 13:4 says why you should be concerned: for love of the homosexuals. The author of Hebrews wants no one to be judged by God and therefore tells people to keep the marriage bed holy.

If you think homosexuality is wrong and you care for homosexuals, why place your concern in the ballot? Let's be honest, homosexuals are going to have sex whether you let them get married or not. Sex is marriage in the Bible, friends. When Jacob met Rebekah at the end of Genesis 24, he took her into a tent and they became married when they copulated. The only marital bed you can keep holy is your own. If you are concerned about the judgment of homosexuals--which means you care about the homosexuals, actively--then you need to befriend homosexuals. Really befriend them. Friendships don't start off with judgments, by the way.

After you love GLBT persons, then go to the voting booth. What will you accomplish there, anyways?

What Could You Leave?

As many of us are wont to do, I'm thinking about when Jesus asked that man to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor (btw, I don't understand why Jesus didn't suggest that man give some of his nice things to the poor) (also, it is late and I'm not going to look up references, but I'm pretty sure this one story occurs in multiple gospels).

I am glad many of us contemplate this story so often, even if it is so seldom pleasant, if it is ever pleasant. Just as each baby is a unique human, so does each spiritual birth yield something new and being born again means something different for each of us (note, the born-again story only occurs in John 3). I am not born again the same way you are, even if we both said the same "sinner's prayer" when we were in VBS so many years ago.

Like rebirth, we probably all won't respond to this story in the same way. I'm not sure many stories are meant to be applied to every human being in the same way. I cannot tell you to sell everything, because I haven't. But, I most definitely will not advise you against it. Anyways ...

The Jesus of the gospels asks people to leave a lot of things, from family to possessions. I was wondering, what would be some of the hardest things to leave, if God "asked" you?

First and foremost, it would hard for me to leave the people I love. I mean, it is hard enough to by spatially distant from people, let alone truly and indefinitely absent from them. Although, I guess sometimes we do have to leave people in a sense, when they die or disappear.

Next would be my laptop and my saxophone. Probably my laptop would be harder, because it allows me to communicate, write, and read. I could give up my books. I probably won't even bring them all with me when I move from Boiling Springs. But my laptop? That would be rough. And I don't even play that saxophone very often, but I love her so much. It is nice to just know she is there and know she'll sing with me, no matter how much I neglect her.

Oh, and somewhere in this top three, I need to include food or access to food. I mean, I "go hungry" sometimes, but I'm a fan of eating. Some people drink, others smoke, different ones take drugs, and still others have different addictions--from sex to cutting. I enjoy food. Taste is a gift from God, my friends. And, friends, since I like almost every food, I have been blessed!

What's your top three?