Rejected Sermon Titles: Jesus and disabilities

Mark 2:1-22

Psalm 103:6-14

There is a certain amount of mourning that goes on when you have a child with disabilities. Immediately you start to try to figure out “what went wrong” which is code for who to blame. Most people start with themselves. When I found out Westley had autism, I worried about my two week trip to Israel while I in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy. My mom pointed out that genes are formulated way before that.

My husband talked about his own worries “You know I”m neurotic, and I have ADD” for that matter people in my family have ADD too, and I didn’t eat most foods for most of my life because the textures bothered me, but sure it’s solely your fault that our child has autism.

I think in all societies there is a tendency to try to blame someone for disabilities and the imperfections. We try to find the sin that caused  the sin. It is here that we can start to understand that it was more shocking  for Jesus to forgive the paraplegic man than it was to see a bodily healing.

Eventually I have come to conclude that no human body is perfect. Not one of us has a body that works perfectly. We all have things that are different. And we are all sinners, we all are imperfect in that way too.

What causes this forgiveness and healing is the communal faith. The parapalegic faith, and his four friends. His friends who haul him up onto the roof, dig a hole in the grass and thatch and lower him down through the roof. Perhaps the lowering through the roof was less amazing than the fact that probably the friends had to touch this crippled man in order to get him to Jesus.

I wonder what that moment was like. I wonder if Jesus saw them trying to get through out of the corner of his eye, or if suddenly a man just appeared out of the sky, like an angel.

Like Jesus lowering himself to human level.

Like a miracle of community.

Then Jesus says because of all of their faith, not one, not another but all including the paraplegic man, he is forgiven…and then healed. Per usual in the Bible faith is used to describe the beliefs and actions of faith (as opposed to belief which is used in ref. to the individual). Not all of them had the same faith or beliefs, all of them had different bodies and skills, but together they formulated the faith for forgiveness and healing.

That is what we practice here in church. We pray for one another when our bodies don’t work well, when we sin, we work on forgiveness together. This church is a communal thing, because that is how we see Jesus.

#hopewins #notafraid #diwali Practicing Humanity & Defeating #Terrorism

Today is diwali the celebration of light winning over darkness, how fitting a reminder, for me a Christian when mercy and justice are hard to find today.

Fear Not!

Every time an angle appeared, every time God speaks, fear is cast out. God doesn’t want us to live in fear, God wants us to live into hope.

But that’s hard, its hard when attacks occur all over the world on one day–Beruit, Paris, Baghdad. Its difficult when gun violence continues to cause school shooter drills and institutional racism is unveiled again and again and again.

So what I do is, I cry. I pray. I look at the stars. I light candles.

(until we find the right words, we’ll light candles–Martha Spong)

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I live in hope.

This expression is one I use when things are uncertain. I toss it off in casual conversation as though it is easy, but it is so, so difficult.

Worrying is a human past time. Its a way to cope with the reality that evil is in the world. It is a tool that can be overused to the point where we worry too much and forget to live.

Fear also, is interesting. As Christians a tenant of our faith is the fear God. We are not supposed to base our decisions on what could happen, we are not supposed to live our life based in fears, we aren’t supposed to live into the worry and the guilt, because the truth is, we humans do not function well in those state.

When we are anxious and afraid, when we are guilty or judgmental, we make bad decisions.

No doubt, this is why over and over again we are urged only to fear God. “Those who fear God” is an expression in the Old Testament to describe all those who are trying to follow God instead of giving in to other things. But then God tells us over and over again to fear not. And counsels us to hope and trust in what is going on….

Its hard not to fear, not to worry that I’m not secure enough in money or friendships. Its hard when my body does not function the way I want it to, or when my children get hurt from the bad things that go on in the world. Its hard when the news talks a lot about the problems of the world and little about the solutions. Its hard when refugees and children are dying from violence and rejection. Its hard when people proclaim “its not like it used to be” with authority as if evil is new and spreading instead of being old and already defeated by Jesus.

But I live into hope.

I practice not being afraid.

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Building trust, assuming people are trustworthy, treating everyone with respect and kindness.

Because those are hope building practices, and this is how to defeat evil. This is how #hopewins, this is how we defeat #terrorism, not with weapons or policies, but with the refusal to live a life of fear.

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Explaining #christmas #mystery #joy and Madeline L’engle

“Don’t try to explain the Incarnation to me! It is further from being explainable than the furthest star in the furthest galaxy. It is love, God’s limitless love enfleshing that love into the form of a human being, Jesus, the Christ, fully human and fully divine. Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy?” -Madeline L’Engle

Naked as the day you were born: Job 1:13-22

For Job becoming Naked as the day he was born means loss. Loss of status, loss of goods, loss of food and security

Loss of family<–that one really gets me

Loss of respect, Loss of manhood (esp. in that culture), loss of legacy, loss of history.

and Job says “Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[c]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”

i.e. naked as the day he was born. An oft heard expression. Here Job acknowledges that those things that he claimed, his wealth, his house, even his family were not actually secure. For security is actually in God.

We have experienced this in the financial crises, when all the “security” in our money went down the drain. We experienced this at 9/11 when we realized that terrorism can strike anyone at any time. We realize this when a family member experiences disease or struggle, such as cancer (or perhaps even more difficult addiction or mental illness). Why? Because none of these things were really secure to begin with. What is actually secure is God, and Job is able to acknowledge this.

The other oft quote passage from this is “the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away” (KJV sounds so much more authoritative doesn’t it)

Here is where I think Job gets it wrong. Because its not God who is taking all these things away….

Its evil. Whether it be Satan or the challenger, evil is what is taking things from Job, NOT God.job07a job08

What I find interesting about this interchange is that it is easier for people to believe in evil than good. I have met many people who have all kinds of beliefs, who are far more able to believe in Evil and evil forces than in God or good forces.

But (as my son pointed out this morning) the Devil can’t take God from Job<–from the lips of a child.

So, here is the question. Why is it easier to believe in evil than good? Why is it easier to believe that it is God who is angry or vengeful than to believe in a fully good and loving God who makes good things happen even admidst the bad.

After all, As it is so well stated in Dr. Who…the good things don’t negate the bad, but GOOD things can happen in the midst of bad! The Bad things don’t have to ruin the good ones.

So here is the question, why is it easier to believe in evil than good?
And what does that mean? Where does that put us. I can’t believe that there isn’t good and purpose for humanity. Honestly, my mind can’t even get around it. Good is stronger than evil, and I, ultimately, believe in Good. The Good of our Loving God.

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Millennials, Fantasy & Faith (and why does Katy keep putting them together)

Here is an article about our continued consideration of the “God is dead” question…

“Was Nietzsche right in thinking that God is dead? Is it truly the case that—as the German sociologist Max Weber, who was strongly influenced by Nietzsche, believed—the modern world has lost the capacity for myth and mystery as a result of the rise of capitalism and secularisation? Or is it only the forms of enchantment that have changed? Importantly, it wasn’t only the Christian God that Nietzsche was talking about. He meant any kind of transcendence, in whatever form it might appear. In this sense, Nietzsche was simply wrong. The era of “the death of God” was a search for transcendence outside religion. Myths of world revolution and salvation through science continued the meaning-giving role of transcendental religion, as did Nietzsche’s own myth of the Superman.

Reared on a Christian hope of redemption (he was, after all, the son of a Lutheran minister), Nietzsche was unable, finally, to accept a tragic sense of life of the kind he tried to retrieve in his early work. Yet his critique of liberal rationalism remains as forceful as ever. As he argued with masterful irony, the belief that the world can be made fully intelligible is an article of faith: a metaphysical wager, rather than a premise of rational inquiry. It is a thought our pious unbelievers are unwilling to allow. The pivotal modern critic of religion, Friedrich Nietzsche will continue to be the ghost at the atheist feast.”

 

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117082/nietzsche-and-death-god-new-books-peter-watson-terry-eagleton

 

Deep, deep thinking in this article and in these reviewed books. This is a response not only to this, but also the Pew Research Poll on Millennials (which I believe I was surveyed for)…..its time for us religious folks to look beyond culture and get creative in trying to understand where people are and why they are there–ie the unattached, economically underemployed yet hopeful millennials

This is an article the re-examines the “God is Dead” question from a modern perspective….Here is the way I understand it. Nietzsche, in light of the prominence of science, tried to make a moral code not dependent on religion.

Interestingly enough, this move away from religion relied heavily upon a “Superman” theory, in my nonexact layman’s terms think of it as the “myth of progress” which is the story/belief/mythology that humans are getting better and will always continue to get better, It is a different theory than the theology of Reformed Christianity, which states that the human condition is an imperfect/broken one, but that God intervenes to work within and among the gaps to create his new kingdom.

Here is one of the most exciting parts of this article, for me “Yet Watson is not mistaken in thinking that throughout much of the 20th century “the death of God” was a cultural fact, and he astutely follows up the various ways in which the Nietzschean imperative—the need to construct a system of values that does not rely on any form of transcendental belief—shaped thinking in many fields.”

Why, because I see where that played out in culture/the fantasy genre, and I THINK ITS CHANGING in the 22nd century!

If you are a fantasy reader, you quickly notice a trend in 20th/most of the 21st century fantasy (ie since Tolkien  formalized the genre)–technology is on the rise, and magic is recessing…sercreting itself away and becoming more and more inaccessible. Imagination is on the decline, the elves are retreating across the sea, the Ents are disappearing, Oz is put under an invisible bubble, the Neverland Fairies keep on dying, Narnia is very remote and mysterious, there is only one unicorn left and she is the last. The fantasy genre usually is a reflection of the Western understanding of spirituality. The more science comes, inevitably the less faith will play a part…..this belief was so true in 20th & 21st century.

Behold the changes

J.K. Rowling & Harry Potter: Muggles and Magic live parallel and not so separate worlds, and once you know about it, you are a part of things (and muggles and wizarding folk are all related in a myriad of ways)

Charles De Lint/Neil Gaiman: Fay are a PART of the cities, they integrate into the varied spectrum of the city, oftentimes helping to explain the richness of human interaction. Ex: Charles De Lint “ I’ve taken to calling my writing “mythic fiction,” because it’s basically mainstream writing that incorporates elements of myth and folktale, rather than secondary world fantasy.

Once Upon a Time/Fables/10th Kingdom: The meta-fairy tale genre is relatively new in literature and cemented itself in the mainstream media with Once Upon a Time. No longer are we “stuck” in one fairy tale/one kind of understanding of magic/one culture–but sectarism gives way to the fact that we can all learn from one another and get a greater understanding of ourselves and the human existence! (rather like how the internet now instantaneously exposes you to so many other stories/people than ever before)

 

I really, really think that we should be studying this change, because it signals a CULTURAL shift in how we understand the human condition and faith. No longer are we sure that technology will change everything. Instead, the increased exposure, the uncertainty of the economy and the advances in technology have all influenced the Millennials.

Faith and Doubt

Faith and Doubt

If you read the about me statement of faith, you will see that I don’t believe everything all the time (technically I think that’s impossible). However, I stand as a Christian and trust that God fills those gaps for me (partially thru the church). Here is a post about a pastor who is wrestling with belief/doubt, and faith and what atheism means. It raises good, complicated questions about how pastors and churches should be looking at faith…

 

“I was trained to believe that there was no hope outside the Cross. That people are constantly looking to fill the God-shaped hole inside of them. That we are all looking for a Savior. I am not so sure about that anymore. Sure, some people are. Others are content to live in the moment, find happiness where they are, and simply be. Wherever I come out, it will not be the reformed charismatic pastor/theologian I once was.”

Faith

Faith is work, its communal, its varied, it contains all our varied beliefs and doubts.

Belief is us reaching towards God

Faith is God reaching towards us

In order to have faith, you must have community. Its different than asceticism or belief, it is more than the individual spirituality.

Spirituality is how we practice our beliefs.

Faith is RELATIONAL, its about our relationship with God and therefore is about our relationship with each other.

Our relationships with one another help us to understand God- hence God gives us Faith.

 

Have Faith!

Moses: Experiencing God (part II)

Part !

Ultimately God is relational, and our experience of God is relational….that’s why we need to know

However, what is hard is some people haven’t ever had that burning bush experience…I haven’t been in that place before, but I know that some people haven’t experienced God.

What I do know is that when I talk to people about experiencing/knowing God that when they try to UNDERSTAND who God is, that is the wrong way to go about things.

I don’t know about you but I personally live with four other beings, none of whom I will fully understand (and its more than the fact that I’m a female living with four males), having a relationship with someone doesn’t mean that you fully understand them. Also, I know that relationships are different with different people….

Every time a read a parenting blog or article about the “right way” to raise every child I think how can this be? Different children raised by the same parents turn out differently, even I know I parent my three child in different ways. I relate to each of them differently. God similarly relates to each of us in a different way.

That is why we need a faith community, because none of us can have a full experience of God…well…if your like me, then not more than for an nanosecond. I love those moments of experiencing God. Madeline L’engle describes some of those moments as when you are looking at the stars (her parents used to wake her up to stargaze and its a big part of her writing).

You can envision Abraham having that moment….looking at the stars with God, filling the fullness of God’s will and purpose. Having it for a moment, and then continuing (since we can’t hold the fulness of God all the time)  through a relationship.

What I do know, is that experiencing God is relational, not rational, that we cannot fully know God by ourselves, and that this is why we are relational with both God and each other. Thus we better know God through all of our relationships–with God and each other.

That is why we are in community, because we don’t all have the same experience of God. We are together, not to tell each other that the only way to experience and know God is the way that works for us! (Did you know that you shouldn’t like ALL of worship, ideally different people like different parts, because its not all for one person, its for a diverse group of people so different people can experience worship during different parts of the service)

The point of the variety is so that we can share, experience and relate to God differently and (in the best of times) simultaneously. I don’t know what to do if you haven’t experienced God, but I do know, that your best bet is a faith community…Because we can’t experience God alone, we can only believe in God…alone…..

 

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivitesand Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.”

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[d] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.

16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’ –Exodus 3:7-17