Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sunday Sermon on the OT reading

I kinda went on a limb with this one, please comment.

What do you seek?

How is God connected to this burning bush? When did the bush stop burning? When, and if, it finally did stop burning, what happened to the goat that nibbled on the burning bush? Did the goat die? Did it not die, as in ever? Should there be such a thing as a picture of the burning bush? Doesn't that go against the whole idea of a burning bush? Can there be an icon of the Unknowable?

Why am I only asking questions? Why won't I make a statement? Can an entire sermon be written in the interrogative mood? Does English have an interrogative mood, or just interrogatory words? Given your own life, would you rather have God talk to you out of a burning bush or something else that burns, "yet is not consumed"? What would it be, a car, a desk, a professor? What defines Moses? Is Exodus in the Old Testament? Did the writer of Exodus think that his or her writing would ever be "old"? Why do you think God chooses these counter-intuitive ways to speak to people?

Shouldn't there be some form of introduction? What defines me? Is it that I am Josh Bowron, that I am a husband and a father, and a seminarian? Am I who I am because I am from Atlanta? Why do I love this Mountain? Is this a good idea? Would you like to know me better? What do I seek? Can we know a person by the questions they ask? Shall we continue?

What does it mean in the Old Testament when it says LORD, in all caps? What does taking off shoes on holy ground mean? Why don't we take off our shoes in church? Who were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Why does it matter? Should I care that I don't care? Can God hear? If so, does God hear with ears or is he psychic like that lady in the X-Men? What's so great about milk and honey? If they flow, you know, out of doors, won't they spoil? Wouldn't it stink?

What will happen to all those people that are already living in the land? Is God advocating for ethnic cleansing? What about all those Canaanites, and Hittites? I know some Israelites, but where are all the Amorites? Is "I AM" really God's name? How do I read the Bible anyway? How does the Church read the Bible? Do we have to think the same thing as the church? What happens when the church disagrees? What is my obligation to the church?

Is there anything outside the text? Am I a text? Can I tell my own story? Is telling my own story like biting my own teeth? Does the church read me? Am I on God's night stand?

What do you seek? What does this story of Moses and God in the Burning Bush mean? What is going on, back then and over there? What's it got to do with us, or, more importantly, me? Does God call people? Why does everybody talk about God calling us? Can God nudge? Can God hint? Does God ever say..."pssst!"?

Does God speak in tectonic plates?

Do you assume that I know the answer? Given all the characters in the Bible that God calls, is there a single one who was not offensive or messed up in some way? What is going through Moses' head? Was he afraid, was he nervous? Why do you think God chooses these counter-intuitive ways to speak to people? Why does God continually insist on calling the unrighteous and the broken? Can this shepherd be a liberator? Can this yokel be face to face with God? Did it happen? Did it not happen? Does the difference scare you, energize you, leave you flat, or something else altogether? What was Moses seeking, up there, on the mountain? Was he simply curious or did he have any idea whatsoever that he would encounter the long lost God?

What's God's voice like? Is it a tornado, an atom splitting? Is it a Big Bang or more like Yoko Ono? When you look at stained glass do you notice the colors first or the story? Who here will end up depicted in a stained glass window? If God can come to a person as a burning bush, why not as a chunk of bread and a sip of wine? Would the story of Moses and the Burning Bush have been possible without Moses? What I mean is, in any sacrament, we are there, so can a sacrament be a sacrament without us? Do we make it sacred? How important are we to God? Who's we? Why does God bother? Is He serious? Given the apparent cheapness of life, what is sacred?

What do you seek? What is going on with us? I mean me and you right now in this big marble room, are we o.k., you and me? Where, whence, whither, and how does the time go? What are the fundamental differences between Moses and me? Why do you think God chooses these counter-intuitive ways to speak to people? Why does God continually insist on calling the unrighteous and the broken? Is there some ulterior motive on God's part for talking to us through stuff, why does matter matter to God? What will tomorrow bring? Did Moses know how to be a patriarch? Do I know how to be an adult? Do I have to be an adult? Did God show Moses how to be a patriarch? Did you ever wonder why there is such a close etymological connection between adult and adulterated? What is my agenda in bringing that up?

Is God a micro-manager? Is God a. . . C.E.O.? Are you tired of questions? Does God tire of questions? Does God tire? Ought there be a moratorium on the word "God," as Bishop Spong suggests? Can you argue both sides on that issue?

Can a sermon consist of nothing but questions? What will my preaching teacher say? Will you tell on me? This is just silly, didn't Desmond Tutu preach here? Should I make a point and sit down? What is the cumulative effect of this barrage of questions? Will I ask a certain question just to get a laugh?

What is air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

What is the what, anyway? Who tells the truth more in Shakespeare's plays, the priests or the Fools? In terms of strict literary definitions, is the Bible a comedy or a tragedy?

Given the state of nature and society why do we still get our hopes up? Is that too pessimistic a question? Another way, given the changeability of life, why do we seek security? Can we remember life before life? Is anybody else here attracted to, and at the same time, utterly repulsed by post-modernism? What's the rush, where's the fire? No really, Church: Where's the Fire!? What's stopping you?

What do you seek? How can we proclaim a mystery? What is the use of experience? What defines you? If we talked for an hour could we come to an agreement on the taste of vanilla? Should we? How do we come to believe? Why do you think God chooses these counter-intuitive ways to speak to people? Why does God continually insist on calling the unrighteous and the broken? Is there some ulterior motive on God's part for talking to us through stuff, why does matter matter to God?

How will you meet God at this Table behind me tonight?

What do you seek? What does God seek? What do we seek?

Will we know it when we have found it? Can I find God at this table?

Will God find me at this table?

God, find us at your table.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Last Friday's Morning Prayer Homily

And the disciples had places to be.

So they left Jesus while he was telling yet another parable about the Kingdom of God. The disciples got into the boat and shoved off, Thomas looked over his shoulder and thought, "I think we forgot something...oh well." "And a great storm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling." The disciples began to bail out the water, but the waves, did mightily crash against the boat.

The disciples cried out, "Where is the Teacher, does he not care if we perish!?"

Thomas said, "Verily, I remember now! We left Jesus on the shore."

"Well...we had somewhere to be." explained one disciple.

"And now we're sunk." complained another.

The scene I describe is not the biblical account of Jesus calming the storm, but you recognize the story I told, as your own...don't you?

How often we have heard the actual Gospel account of this story preached: the story of the panicking disciples, Jesus calming the storm, and his chastisement of the disciples for their unfaith. How often we hear the preacher lambasting the meager faith of the disciples. Since Jesus excoriates the disciples for having no faith, it is open season on those poor guys, "The disciples really ought to have had faith, tsk tsk tsk."

But, not so fast, the missing piece happens before the storm. "And leaving the crowd, they took him with them into the boat." They took Jesus in the boat with them. All the parallel accounts agree, that it is Jesus that goes with them into the boat. They don't go with Jesus, Jesus goes with them. It's a fine point, but an interesting one, Jesus goes with the disciples, they lead...at least in this instance.

But for us, more often, we leave Jesus on the shore. We don't bring him into the boat with us.

Jesus is the rebuker of winds, the calmer of stormy seas. But can He do that if he is not in the boat?

All metaphors are limited of course. I recognize that there is a problem with suggesting that Christ must be invited to work in our lives. Yes, Christ is co-eternal with the Father. Yes, Christ acts out of his own spontaneous mercy, not out of propitiation, or any other works-righteousness.

But leaving all those doctrinal issues aside for a moment...you know what I mean. We leave Jesus on the shore. We get into our boats, we get to our schedules, to our thoughts, to our ambitions. We get to our service to our fellows and to the church; and eventually the storm hits. The storm hits and we look around for Jesus. We look around and we don't see him asleep in the stern, we look around and find him where we left him: on the shore.

This is not another, "Let go and let God, " homily. This is a call to the sober reality that sometimes, in the storms of our lives, we forget the one that deals with storms. Our God is not a pie in the sky god, we have a flesh and blood, practical God who wants to be in the thick of it with us.

Yes, Jesus can calm our winds and raging seas. But today's reading shows me that Jesus is so ...VERY ... comfortable in the turmoil, in the roiling waters. So comfortable, in fact, that he can nod off in the midst of the chaos!

Bring Jesus on board with you, before the storm hits, he'll be the quiet one, sleeping, back there, in the stern.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sermon from Sunday, in the raw.

Gen. 15:1-12, 17-18


Abram, Abram,
Not AbRAham, but Abram
Abram, who was called out of his hometown by, who, God?
Did Abram know all that we know about God?
Abram is the first person God has spoken to since Noah, several hundred years prior.
who, or what is this voice that calls to Abram?
Yet, Abram listens to the voice and heeds the call.
The next several chapters of Abram's life, chronicled in Genesis, is one swirling adventure after another
Abram leaves his hometown, takes a wife, Sarai, not yet Sarah.
Abram goes into Egypt, allows his wife to be..ahem...compromised, by the very icon of ancient political power, the Pharoah.
because of his deceit about not claiming Sarai as his wife the Pharoah and his house is plagued, Pharoah knows what's going on and sends Abram and Sarai away.
Abram the trickster.
Abram prospers along with his nephew Lot
they prosper so much they need to split their holdings so as not to despoil the land.
Where Lot goes, there is military intrigue, he is kidnapped.
Abram assembles a crack squad of warriors.
Abram gets Lot back.
Abram is praised by the mysterious Melchizedek.
The kings of the area try to reward him, but noble Abram refuses.
Through all this adventure: (raise the tension)

and then we are met with these quiet words:
"The LORD came to Abram in a vision"

And God says to Abram:
"Fear not"
A few weeks ago, our Chaplain, Annwn Myers, noted that "Fear not" is one of the most common sayings of God in the Bible.
Now, being a seminarian, I was immediately seized with the hermeneutic of suspicion, so I, of course, looked it up.
and...she's right
there are hundreds of instances where God, or an angel says, "Fear not."
And the funny thing is, when God says fear not, the ones hearing it...the ones hearing GOD...SPEAK...well, they FEAR NOT.
And Abram fears-not and listens to and even talks with God.
We read the most amazing things in the Bible,don't we, just hear that again, "Abram speaks with God."
What follows is a story with extrodinarily potent imagery.
There is a vision
Abram argues with God
God widens Abram's perspective to a literally cosmic scale,
"Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them."
"So shall your descendents be."
But Abram needs more, he still wants to know how he can trust God.
Then God, and it is hard to tell whether what follows happens in the physical world or within the context of the vision,
such are the misty-myth-realities of God-encounters
But God tells Abram to take select animals, and in a very specific manner, slaughter them, each laid, "half over against the other."
to us this a strange thing for God to ask
But to Abram, he is thinking: God is speaking my language!
God is implementing a covenant ceremony so solemn, so permanent, that our pre-nup-divorce-broken-lease-culture cannot even come close to understanding it.
God is linking his destiny to Abram's destiny.
God is linking His destiny to Abram's.
All theology starts with mystery.
God is so very big, and we are so very small.
God is God, and I am not.
Our Arch-bishop of Canterbury says that we come to theology with "wounded knowledge," the wound in our knowledge of God is the essential incomprehesibility of Him.
When asked what God was doing before the creation of the universe, Martin Luther, responded that God was whittling switches for people who ask such useless questions.
Since God exists outside of creation as its creator, He is ultimately unknowable.
Met with such a large and wholly OTHER God, we can almost be forgiven one of our great sins
the sin of abstracting God,
the sin of seeing God as force.
the sin of knowing God's ways as if God were a reducible formula.
But the rub is that... God.... meets us.
God came to Abram.
While the infinite, eternal Creator God is absolutely unknowable
that same God meets us, comes to us, reaches out to us,
is destined to bring us to him.
The Unknowable God makes himself known.
Julian of Norwich called this unknowable God that makes himself known, the Courteous God.
How courteous of God to make himself known to us!
How merciful that God doesn't let us flounder in our being.
Instead, God mercifully makes himself known, and not only that, but he lets us know in no uncertain terms, indeed,on our terms, like he did with Abram, that the foundation of the entire creation and the motivation of the creator is Love.
This is the greatest glory that we can experience of God, not his power, but his presence,not his majesty, so much as his ministry.
From the first covenant with Abram to the new covenant through the Word made Flesh, the same refrain rings throughout all space and time: Emmanuel. God with us.
How merciful that God is so courteous as to regard us to be his companions.
Incidently, it is worth noting that the derivation of the word, companion, means someone you break bread with.
May all of us here, and all creation, come to know our Unknowable Companion.