Saturday, January 31, 2009

From the "Jonah" Sermon...

"If God does not love everybody, then there can be no love for anybody.
If God is not gracious toward all, there can be grace for none."
Pastor John Jewell

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reading the Bible Again for the First Time....

I love to read and I read a lot. I just finished a book by Marcus Borg with the title (above). I should say that I thought it was a great book - though much of it was a review of things that were covered in seminary. To a large extent it was an introduction to Literary and Form criticism. The core of the book was to look at the Genesis creation stories, the Pentateuch, the prophets and wisdom literature in the Hebrew scriptures. And in the New Testament he looked at the Gospels, Paul and Revelation. I particularly enjoyed his chapters on wisdom literature and Paul.
***By way of introduction he uses the analogy of the "Finger Pointing At the Moon." The bible is like this - the question is do we see the moon, or do we focus on the finger. Too often Christians focus on the finger and not the moon. Too often we look at the bible as the focus rather than at the God to whom the bible points.
***In the epilogue he sums up much of what he has discussed through the book. There are many voices from a wide variety of times and cultural environments represented in the bible. But the major voices in the bible come together and share three primary convictions in common.
1. “There is a deep sense of the reality of the sacred. God is not only real, but knowable.” At the same time God is beyond human comprehension and experience. God is a mystery that transcends all of human endeavors and cultures. Also, importantly, “God also transcends empires and emperors, nations and kings.” Even our own. God is Lord.
2. “There is a strong conviction that our lives are made “whole” and “right” by living in a conscious relationship with the Mystery who is alone Lord.. Life with God is not about believing certain teachings about God. It is about a covenant – a relationship! More specifically, it is about becoming conscious of a relationship that already exists, for the God of the Bible has been in relationship with us from our beginning, whether we know it or not, believe it or not. And we are not simply to become conscious of it; we are to become intentional about deepening the relationship. Christian faith is not about believing, but about faithfulness – fidelity – to the relationship.
3. “God is a God of justice and compassion.” “God’s passion for justice flows out of the very character of God. God cares about suffering, and the single greatest source of unnecessary human misery is unjust and oppressive cultural systems.” God’s passion is the ground of a biblical ethic centered on justice and compassion.” (We are not talking about criminal justice here – but rather, systemic justice.)
***Too often we comfortable American Christians focus so intently on the “finger” that we miss the magnificence of the Mystery of God; we replace covenant relationship with rules and standards. One of the things that reading Borg reminded me is that the gifts of God’s grace and the call to discipleship are a calling to which we are to respond. It isn’t up to us to “find” or earn our place in God’s Grace – God has found us and there is nothing to earn. We are called to respond, to follow, to open our hearts to God’s love and be “open vessels.” Let me end this entry with one final quote from Borg:
What God gives us through the bible is a "vision of life with God: a sacred Mystery at the center of life, with whom we are to be in a conscious relationship and who is passionate about the well-being of the whole creation. We are called to participate in the passion of God. This is what I perceive when I use the bible as a lens for seeing life with God… and when I listen to it as a sacrament of the sacred.”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Under the Sea

January 11 - The Baptism of Our Lord. This Sunday in my sermon I used an image from the wonderful Disney animated classic "The Little Mermaid." I suggested the image of Ariel bursting through the surface of the water and taking in her first breath as a human as a metaphor for baptism. In our baptism we too are buried with Christ and then are brought through the waters, and as we burst through the baptismal waters we take a breath of the sweet air of God's grace. If you want to see this clip it is on YouTube and happens at the very end of Ursula's big number "Poor Unfortunate Soul." Ursula is the devil character and the entire scene is somewhat reminiscent of the Faust legend. Here is the URL for "Poor Unfortunate Soul" - Ursula is played by the legendary Pat Carroll: (you will need to copy and paste the url into your brouser).

While your at it you might want to check out two additional clips:
1. "Under the Sea" The brilliant Oscar winning song from the film:

2. "Under the Sea" The broadway version of the song. The actor/singer playing Sebastian is amazing!:

Lastly - The is a series on YouTube called "Father Matthew Presents..." Fr. Matthew Moritz is an Episcopal priest and does a great job. Check out his video on Baptism:

Enjoy and God bless....
Pr. Duncan