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Liberate Yourselves My Brothers and Sisters Oct. 3rd, 2008 @ 03:31 pm
movehalfaninch
With the InnerPartySystem:

Is God a Republican? Sep. 9th, 2008 @ 09:54 am
markctaylor
This is a question posed to me by my father-in-law, who is not affiliated with any belief system that does not have a monetary bottom line attached to it. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good man and I am very close to him and consider him a friend, however, he is a nonbeliever.
            His question stemmed from a quote from the book of Matthew, 25:29, "For onto everyone that hath shall be given and he shall have abundance; but for him who has not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” , which, of course, is taken out of context. (As is most scripture) The passage is the next to the last verse in the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30, NRSV). This is not the first time this parable has been questioned to me by an unbeliever so, I thought, what a great opportunity to sermonize on the subject. Here is my response to him:
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            The political connection can be made if the word “talent” is replaced with “opportunity.” To each is given the opportunity to succeed and better themselves. Sadly, opportunity is not given equally, but it is given. Welfare programs like TANIF, food stamps, unemployment benefits, college Pell grants, etc, are available to help people get a leg up to succeed, improve and be a productive member of society. Obviously, to those who use these opportunities in order to accomplish these goals, “more will be given” in terms of financial success, education, health care, etc. On the other hand, to those who take the opportunities and make no productive use of them, it will (should), be taken from them.
            From the perspective of social justice and responsibility there is one more area that should be covered. That is, the slave who received no talents. Yes, I know that’s not part of the parable but it does raise the question: what about those to whom no opportunity is given? I do not believe it is too far a stretch to read into the passage the idea that part of the responsibility of those to whom much is given is to help those to whom nothing was given, in terms of opportunity. The scriptures are full of commandments to take care of each other and that by doing so we are serving God.
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“To those who are given much, much is expected.”

                                                            Quote by my brilliant wife



Are we building blocks or stumbling blocks? Sep. 7th, 2008 @ 06:03 am
markctaylor

Here is the revised written version of the sermon I preached last Sunday at church. It is from the lectionary readings for that day from Matthew 16:21-28 and Romans 12:9-21

On my way to class the other morning I was on the on-ramp to merge with traffic on I-40 when another commuter came up on me at what I viewed as a dangerous rate of speed. I realize that this is normal during regular rush-hour traffic however I have not had to commute in traffic as regularly as most working folks do, and this action made me quite nervous. As I had left the house in a very good mood I began to resent this man for ruining it for me when suddenly he waved at me. Ah, I thought, he just wanted to be friendly! How nice! This left me in a dilemma for it was clear to me that some tragic accident had left that man with only one finger on his right hand. I wanted to return the friendly gesture but I felt guilty about flaunting the fact that I still had all five fingers and did not want to make him feel inferior. What to do?

So, in a brilliant show of solidarity, I decided the thing to do was simply wave back in the same way, with only one finger. I could tell it was the right decision and I had made a real connection with that person. He got so excited he began to flash his lights, honk his horn and started weaving back and forth. Yes, I could tell he was feeling the love!

In retrospect, I admit that I may have miss-read that entire situation. But, it’s OK; my motives were pure. My intentions were good. My love was genuine. Isn’t that what Paul is asking of us in the scripture reading for today? So, with this in mind, how is it possible that my good intentions, with God’s love in my heart, could be perceived as a detriment? It is almost a trap that we cannot avoid isn’t it?

We read here in Matthew a similar situation. In chapter 16, verse 15, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am.” And Peter replies, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” In verse 18 Jesus says to Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Now, it only takes five verses for Peter to go from being the cornerstone of Christ’s church to being a stumbling block. One minute Peter is the most important stone in the building of God’s kingdom and almost instantly Jesus tells him that he is a stumbling block, a hindrance, he’s in the way. Not only is Peter not helping to build the kingdom, but he is actually preventing others from helping because now they are tripping over him.

Was Peter’s love not genuine? Of course it was. Peter loved his lord so much that the thought of any harm coming to Jesus was simply unbearable. Peter’s only motive was for the safety of his Christ, his lord, his teacher and friend. I don’t believe that Peter’s motives could have been more selfless. It wasn’t as though Peter did not know what the divine plan was. Jesus had just spelled it out for him and the other disciples. The problem was that he was just not comfortable with what God’s plan entailed so he made an honest attempt to change it. This is something we can all wrap our minds around as we are just as mortal as Peter was. Sometimes the plan God has for our lives does not seem like what we expect it should be.

So, if Peter really did have Jesus’ best interests at heart, why such a severe reprimand? To be called Satan must have felt extremely harsh coming from the leader of a peaceful man like Jesus, especially after having just been told that he was going to be the cornerstone of the coming church. Could it be that what Peter was actually offering Jesus was a way out; a more comfortable alternative option than the one he was going to have to face? Peter had just suggested a worldly alternative to a heavenly mandate. Just as the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness with worldly riches and power, now Jesus’ number one disciple is tempting Jesus with a very attractive “human” temptation to avoid pain, suffering and ultimate death. And, it is the temptations of worldly things that cause each of us to stumble, or become stumbling blocks that others could trip over. Is it any wonder Jesus reacted the way he did?

So, how do we avoid the temptations that cause our stumbling? How can we recognize when we are falling into that trap of being mindful more of worldly things than of heavenly things? It is often hard to see, especially when it is within ourselves that we must look for the answers because as we know, it is much easier to find fault in others than in our selves, isn’t it?

There is a story a friend of mine tells about a man that never missed a Sunday service. Every Sunday, after the service he would approach the pastor and say, “Well preacher, you sure told them today, didn’t you?” This man’s response to the sermon was as regular as clockwork and never varied. The irony was that this particular man was probably the biggest sinner in the congregation. One winter day there was a blinding snow storm and this man was the only one who made it to service that morning. The pastor decided to take full advantage of the situation and preached a hard-hitting, personal, sermon just for that man. When he was finished, the man approached him and said, “Well preacher, if they had been here this morning, you sure would have told them.”

I am reminded of the story of Cedar Grove UMC as told by their pastor, Grace Hackney. Grace had received her appointment to Cedar Grove soon after a fire had tragically burned that church’s building and her task was not only to help guide that congregation through a re-building process but to do so without dividing the congregation into opposing factions. She recounted to us how every little minute detail of that building project, from the color of the carpet to the location of the piano, was a subject of contention between two or more groups within the congregation. Every detail no matter how small or large had to be argued, debated, committeed, and voted on. The members of Cedar Grove were so focused on the material details, each believing that they knew best what God wanted for that church that they often forgot to ask God what He wanted. Ultimately that project was completed due in no small way to the fact that they finally realized that what they were building was not their building, but God’s building. And, I could venture a guess that God cared very little about the carpet color or the location of the piano to begin with.

Let me offer a suggestion on how we might be able to know if we are becoming like the man in the story I just told. It really comes down to grammar. It is a pronoun problem. Let me give you an example: I am right with God, my intentions are pure, my love is genuine, etc. Then there is that most dangerous possessive pronoun, mine or ours, etc. The pronoun we should be using is Him, He, His, etc. Or, if you are a hard core feminist you could say Her, Hers, She. We need to look at what Jesus said in this reading from Matthew. Verse 24 says, “If any want to be my followers let them deny themselves; for those who want to save their lives will loose it.” The denial of self means to deny the “I, me, mine, ours, us” and set our eyes on the “He.”

It was Peter’s profession of faith that transformed him into the solid rock that Jesus could use to build his church on. Like Peter, we also become building blocks for God’s kingdom when we acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the son of the living God, the savior. But, also like Peter we are fragile and fallible and human, and we easily can become stumbling blocks instead.

The building of God’s church, or kingdom, is not unlike building a physical building. The blocks must fit together and the mortar must be strong enough to hold them together. How we witness to others the good news of Jesus Christ is what makes up the mortar that holds us together. If we mix our mortar with selfishness, resentment, envy, or greed, then the mortar will be weak and unstable which will cause the wall of bricks to fall. In our scripture lesson today from Romans, Paul gives us the recipe for mortar that is strong and will not crumble.

Let love be genuine. Love one another with mutual affection. Extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Live peaceably with all. If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

God bless.

Faith of the Centurion (Luke 7:1-10) Feb. 24th, 2008 @ 12:10 pm
jic
February 24, 2008
3rd Sunday of Lent
Jo Ayers

Luke 7:1-10

 

When Chris asked me to choose a passage – my favorite passage – this was the story that sprang to mind: the Faith of the Centurion.  It has so many layers and so much meaning that can be taken from it.  I’m not typically a person who articulates primarily with my heart.  The things that stick with me, the tales I can find something to say about, are the ones where I can react with my head, where I can analyze and draw parallels.  And the story of the centurion, his servant, his messengers, and Jesus has a lot of stuff.

 

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At the Center Jun. 27th, 2005 @ 07:29 pm
jic

June 26, 2005
6th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 8)
All Saints Episcopal Church
Father Chris Cole

Isaiah writes, "The haughtiness of people and the pride of everyone shall be brought low.  The Lord alone will be exalted on that day."

These are, I think, important words for us to remember.  They are important because they remind us that God needs to be at the center of our life.  God needs to be at the very center of everything we do.

I think really, that's what Jesus was getting at in the Gospel when he says, "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me."  That is, "It's okay to love your mother; it's okay to love your father.  But, your love for me has to be greater.  I need to be at the very center of your life." 

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Other entries
» "Pardon Me, but my Mask is Slipping"
June 5, 2005
3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 5)
All Saints Episcopal Church
Father David Brownmiller

"Pardon Me, but my Mask is Slipping"
(Hosea 5: 15-6:6; Romans 4: 13-18; Matthew 9: 9-13)

Today we consider together the calling of Matthew, the tax collector and collaborator with the hated Roman occupation army. Read more...Collapse )

» "I am nothing"

A deranged preacherboy's conflicting viewsCollapse )
» Getting into the Kingdom

May 29, 2005
2nd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 4)
All Saints Episcopal Church
Deacon Ken Russell

But what about me, Lord?  I haven't prophesied or cast out demons, or done many deeds of power.  What about me?  Will I enter the Kingdom of Heaven or will you send me away as an evildoer?

This is what I have thought about when I read this passageRead more...Collapse )

» The image of God

May 22, 2005
Trinity Sunday
All Saints Episcopal Church
Fr. Chris Cole

Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the cattle."  So God created humankind in his image.  In the image of God he created them.  Male and female, he created them.

So God created humankind in his image.  In the image of God he created them.

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» As the Father has sent me, so I send you

May 15, 2005

Pentecost

All Saints Episcopal Church

Fr. Chris Cole

 

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  When he had said this he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

 

“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

 

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Two in one day!  Now, if Chris can keep his mike on ;-)


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