Friday, March 30, 2012

Video of Last Week's Sermon

Sermon starts around the 28:00 mark, there was thunder rolling while the deacon read the gospel, FYI

Watch live streaming video from sjecharlotteservices at

Text of Last Week's Sermon

Sermon for Fifth Sunday in Lent B
Jeremiah 31:31-34
When did you meet your parents? This is not some kind of existential question.
When did you meet your parents? I don’t mean when did you begin to know your parents, or when did you see your parents as real people with all the faults and virtues of normal people. No, when did you actually meet your parents? Having just welcomed another child into my family I can say that we introduce her a lot to other people. I introduced my daughter to the church, to her grandparents, even her big brother and big sister. But introducing her to my wife and me simply wasn’t necessary: she came from us, literally, so to be introduced is just silly really: we know who she is, and she knows who we are.
I suppose for those who are adopted, it’s a little different. In those cases introductions are in order, and there is considerable work to be done in making that relationship real and concrete. A lot of families celebrate the “Gotcha Day,” the day that the adopting family got the adopted child, the day they were introduced for the first time as family.
Throughout the early history of God’s people, God always has to adopt the People of Israel. Time and again he has to bring the people into his family, into his Covenant that he initially made with Abraham. This is why God is always introducing himself to folks as, “the Lord God the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph, the God of your ancestors.” God is establishing his resume; he has to introduce himself because as time has gone on, and successive generations have passed, they have lost touch with Him. So for the early people of Israel, God is constantly adopting them into his promises, into his covenant.
But today, here in the Jeremiah passage, God, in the mouth of the prophet, has taken a different tack. God begins by saying, “I’m going to do something new. I’m not going to do business as I did in the past. Back in the day, I used to take my people by the hand. But now, I’m not going to be an external force acting on them, instead I will be within their hearts and in their minds. No longer will my ways be written down in books, but within them.” It’s rather startling stuff really. The next part is most surprising of all. God says, “No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least to the greatest.” God is setting up a different model of relationship here. God is saying that people won’t have to teach about God anymore, they won’t have to say, “Know God,” why? Because God’s law, God’s way of behaving and doing business will be written on the hearts of all people. God is saying that he won’t need to adopt people anymore because no introduction will be necessary; people will know that they are in real relationship with God, to such a degree that introducing God would look something like being introduced to your own mother.
But that hasn’t happened has it? We still are evangelical, we still need to introduce God to our kids, to the world, heck even to ourselves. This business of having God’s ways written on our hearts isn’t quite a reality.
People who study the decline of faith and the erosion of church attendance point out all kinds of reasons for such a decline. They cite events from the French Revolution and the publication of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, to the advent of video games and the internet as the culprits for the erosion of the life of faith. There might be something to all that, but I think they miss the point; it’s not science and technology that cause the erosion of faith in our children and in ourselves: it’s a lack of authenticity. What causes any of us to leave the church, or worse yet, stay and go dry: just going to church because that’s what we were taught to do; has to do with authenticity. This is what God is saying to you today, quit following the rules that you think I have laid upon you. Be with me. Be with me, don’t simply talk piously about me; talk with me. Don’t teach your children about me; be with me and the teaching will come through in your life. As Saint Francis said, “Go out into the world and preach the Gospel, use words if necessary.” God is telling us to be authentic today, authentic about our relationship with him. If we can be authentic, then the erosion of faith, whether in ourselves or in those we love, will stop, it will simply stop. That is why adolescents and young adults leave the church, it’s not because we aren’t cool enough, I am cool, I am so so cool, just look at me, no they leave the church because they can smell a fake a mile away. This is the natural ministry of the young: the have finely tuned bologna meters. We must be authentic and stop trying to communicate about our relationship with God in a way that isn’t true to our experience.
This isn’t all to say that anyone here has not been authentic in their relationship with God. What God is saying today in Jeremiah is that we must be who we are in the Lord. It serves no one to simply ape another’s spirituality. We are not brought closer to God by being spiritual copy-cats. We must be the people, the individuals that God has created us to be. This is how the Christian life works: God takes us as we are and sets us on fire, he purifies those things in us that need purifying and he brightens those things that serve Him best. All of it is within us, we are the material which God breathes his Holy Spirit into: in short we become a sacrament. Yet we remain who we are, except for one thing, we now belong to a body, the Body of Christ. I had a talk this week with a parishioner who was unapologetic about his, shall we say personality shortcomings, he said, “Well in the body of Christ somebody has to be the butt!”
There is a trick to being authentic and it’s not all that complicated but it can be hard. It’s called honesty. Life with God can not be a fake-it-till-you-make-it enterprise. God wants us desperately to be honest with him. Of course he knows when we are being honest and when we are not, but God wants us to be honest with ourselves when we encounter Him. If we are feeling doubtful, go to God and say that you are feeling doubtful. If you are overjoyed, then go to God and tell him you are overjoyed. If you are angry, then go to God and tell him that. God works best in the clear light of total honesty and truthfulness.
The funny thing about being honest with God is that it enables us to more and more courageous acts of love towards ourselves and others. Having God within us, written on our hearts introduces us to the One who was always there, just waiting for us to peel away the veils and see Him there, all along.
Have you met your Father? His ways are written on your heart and mind. He’s the one who came again and again looking for you. Have you met Him? He is rather extreme and extravagant in His approach. He has done strange things: becoming a person, suffering and dying. He defeated death, and then He came again in the strangest way of all, He came in Spirit and power to form a people, and he said we would meet Him in each other, and in baptismal waters, and in bread and wine.
Have you met your Father?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Luke study guide for 3/30/12

1.) read through Luke 8
2.) read Luke 6:20 until the end of the chapter. Pay close attention especially to 6:46ff, compare with 8:19-21. How does Jesus characterize those who listen to him and do what he says, in each chapter?
3.) looking at the first 8 chapters, list the geographical places Luke mentions. Is there any rhyme or reason to it? What is Luke telling his readers with the geographical references?
4.) be sure to go over the preceding chapters to remind yourself of where we've been.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Outline for 3/23/12

Brief overview of Luke's sources: Mark, Lucan, and Q.
Analyze the genealogies in Luke and Matthew. (and Mark and John)
Discuss the Spirit in Luke.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Luke-Acts study for 3/23/12

1.) read through Luke 6
2.) how is the Spirit at work in Jesus according to Luke?
3.) using your notes, how does Luke use Isaiah in Luke 4:16-21? Why does he do this in the manner he does?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Luke questions week one

1.) Speeches and non-speeches play a prominent role in the first two chapters of Luke, see esp. 1:46-55, 1:67-79, 2:29-32. Who is making speeches and why? Who is decidedly not and why?
2.) Speaking of speeches, reread 1:46-55. Does this speech parallel any others in Scripture?
3.) There is a genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23-38, comapre it with the genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17. Where is each genealogy placed in each text? Why would each author choose to place the genealogies in different places? In other words, what is the narrative use of putting the genealogies where they are?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This Week's Bible study on Luke-Acts

Friday Morning Bible Study

Luke-Acts for 3/16/12

In an effort to understand the underlying structure, message, and meaning of Luke-Acts, please consider these questions as you read. Below are three levels of involvement in the text.

Level One: Shouldn’t be too hard…

1.) How many chapters are in Luke? How many pages does that represent in your Bible?
2.) How many chapters is Acts? How many pages does that represent in your Bible?
3.) What is the first name mentioned in each book? What does that name mean? Who was this person?
4.) How does the Lucan infancy narrative differ from the Mattean?

Level Two: If you have some extra time…

1.) Read Acts 7:17-44
2.) Read the first four chapters of Luke.
a. Describe in one sentence each, what happens in each chapter.

Level Three: Oh, you really want to get into this….

1.) Read Luke in its entirety. Read for the structure and story, noting big ideas, not details. Try reading it in a contemporary version, such as the Message, to make this easier.


No Bible study in Holy Week 4/6/12

Sunday's sermon

Sermon for Third Sunday in Lent B
John 2:13-22

About 7 years ago I attended my first church convention. I was an alternate delegate for my little Church, Nativity, at the 99th Annual Convention of the Diocese of Atlanta. It was everything a burgeoning Church nerd could love: legislative minutia, heated arguments, song, worship, and my favorite: rows upon rows of vendors, ministries, ecclesial dry goods, and merchandise, lots of merchandise. That year the diocese was feverishly hawking the coffee-table book which chronicled the history of every parish in the diocese. They were selling this book everywhere. I remember the youth delegation pushing t-shirts on everyone too. There was a lot to learn, see, and buy at the church convention. The t-shirts and books were even being sold in the narthex of the church were we had our closing convention Eucharist. When former Bishop Frank Allen took the pulpit for his sermon he opened with an announcement, he said, that we may have heard a ruckus in the church. He announced that a long-haired homeless man had come into the narthex where the things were being sold, he had scattered the merchandise, turned over the tables, and was shouting some blather about keeping his Father’s house holy. Well, don’t worry, Bishop Allen said, we’ve gotten rid of him.
What would Jesus Do? Remember that fad? For those of you younger than, I guess 20, there was a fad several years ago when a lot of folks would wear a rubber bracelet that had the initials WWJD on them: What Would Jesus Do? You don’t see many of those bracelets around these days. The idea I suppose was to have a constant reminder for oneself to think as Jesus did, and always do the right thing. I thought of it at the time as the Jiminy Cricket version of discipleship. I suppose wearing the bracelet was also something of an evangelistic tool, “hey I think like Jesus, so should you.” I remember my father making a comment about the What Would Jesus Do bracelets once, now you have to know my father, he is a good mid-Western sort of man, who I really can’t recall criticizing anyone or anything ever, so I listened when he said simply, “Well, I guess I just wear one of those bracelets on my heart.” That was enough for me.
I think when most people ask what would Jesus do they don’t have today’s Gospel reading in mind. Today what Jesus would do is tear the place apart. Today Jesus would turn over the tables and scatter the money, disrupt the entire sacrificial enterprise. Scholars have written on this subject in recent years and it seems that Jesus may have been upset over moving the business end of the legitimate sacrificial system from the Mount of Olives to the interior of the Temple. Jesus knows that the sacrificial system is good and fine, but the business of it, the changing of money and selling of animals is simply not proper for the interior of the Temple. And his disciples interpret his actions with the ancient words: “Zeal for your House, Lord, will consume me.”
Jesus is clearing out the Temple, he is railing against a sort of spiritual materialism. Hear that: spiritual materialism. It sounds like a paradox because we tend to think of spiritual as ethereal and non-practical. Of course, spirituality is simply the most real. Spirituality is the really real. And materialism, well materialism isn’t all bad, after all, God is the ultimate materialist, he made all material! The problem arises when we try to hold on to too many things for our spirituality.
You see, our hearts and minds are like a room. As we grow and even before we can speak a word, some furniture is put into our rooms. Some of the furniture is good, furniture that is beautiful because of the virtues they represent: hard work, care for others, justice, family. But over time, as we put more and more furniture into our rooms, the rooms of our hearts become crowded and even cluttered. What happens is that it becomes so crowded, even with good things, that we can’t move.
Like he did in the Temple, we need to invite Jesus to drive out everything to clean house. When Jesus cleared the Temple, he cleared it of things that were good, in and of themselves: the sacrificial system was good then, money is good and not evil. But they were encroaching on the thing that mattered, the one thing: worship, direct contact with God. So we must let Jesus clear out the room of our hearts so that we might be able to have room to actually worship God.
But Jesus will not leave the room empty. There will be one piece of furniture left in the room. It is Jesus. Now there have been lots and lots of ways of using figurative language to talk about Jesus: the Way, the Gate, the Son, the Good Shepherd, the Alpha and the Omega. I don’t think I have ever heard Jesus compared to a piece of furniture, so I guess we are breaking new ground here. But this one piece of furniture in our rooms is unique. I imagine Jesus might be a lot like that special piece of furniture in C.S. Lewis’ novel, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Wardrobe there is special because it is not simply an object of beauty but is the door into another world.
Jesus then is our door, which we go through to a transformed world. Unlike Narnia however, this transformed world is still our world, but through Jesus, it is different. And all those things that Jesus cleared out we find again, but our relationship to them: our money, friends, family, work; they are utterly changed when we interact with them in light of our passing through Jesus. So our relationship with money is changed in the light of Jesus. Our relationship with our family and spouses changes in light of our relationship with Jesus. This is the point: that the fundamental, the foundational relationship is with Jesus, period. Let your life be guided by that relationship first, and the others will fall into place. And by fall into place, sometimes the fall might be into a trash pile; some of the clutter in the rooms of our hearts is just trash and needs to go. Jesus changes things. It’s what he does. That’s What Jesus Would Do, that’s what Jesus does, he transforms things. When Jesus comes around, nothing is left as it was.
So let Jesus into the room of your heart, let him drive things out, turn things over, and leave the once piece that matters, through which all our lives become changed.
It is nearly Spring after all, what better time for a good cleaning?