Thursday, August 28, 2014

From the Pastor’s Pen: A Summer Catechism (A summary of the 10 questions in 20 weeks sermon series)

From the Pastor’s Pen: A Summer Catechism
(A summary of the 10 questions in 20 weeks sermon series)

            The Lutheran understanding of what happens in Communion threads the needle between a Medieval Catholic understanding focused on Aristotelian Logic and a Calvinist understanding focused on a chunkily literal reading of scripture.
            Our understanding focuses instead on Christ’s promise to be present in the meal. Rejoice, he will be there! Rejoice, because his words point us to the reality of his forgiveness—in the meal Jesus promises us forgiveness, life, and salvation. And Jesus doesn’t lie.
What is the significance and meaning of the procession and recession of the cross?
            We process the cross to remind ourselves we are a cross shaped baptized community, a people redeemed by Christ’s actions for us. Having been fed with the bread and the word of life, we recess with the cross to go find God on the cross, following Christ wherever he may lead.

            Reflecting upon the nature of angels helps us to think about redemption as a passive reflection of the good light of Christ, and reminds us that redemption can involve the spirit of whole systems.
            We don’t become angels when we die, but we can trust that all the Saints of God—both living and dead—are one in Christ Jesus.
Is there a particular significance to Jesus casting the “Legion” of Evil Spirits from the Gerasene Demoniac into a herd of swine?
            Jesus found an unclean place for an unclean thing.

            It is unclear, but the arguments people make to link a Winter celebration of Christ’s birth directly with Paganism is not as air tight as it might appear. They ignore weather, historical facts about emperors, and the testimony of Irenaeus, an early Church Father.
Why do people go to church on the Sabbath? What is the Sabbath for?
            Sabbath is about rest, liberation, and holiness.
            It’s about rest, a time that is “good… for nothing.” It is also about liberation, acts of kindness and justice are part of living into the holiness of God’s time. It, finally, is holy in and of itself, dragging us into the reality of God through our worship together in which we receive and cherish the promises of God.

            There is a wide variety of ways to understand marriage and be a faithful member of the ELCA.
            Any pointing to purity laws to justify discrimination or worse against gay folk, if followed through logically, would have such severe consequences for everyone in our society, that it could make the Salem witch trials or the reign of the Taliban, ISIS, and Boko Haram, look tame.
            We are truly at a different place than people in the 1st century were—Romantic love, especially between same gendered individuals, just wasn’t a thing, but it is now.
            Pastor Chris is wholeheartedly convinced marrying gay folk is not baptizing gay sex, but instead creating a healthy and holy space for legitimate yearnings for companionship, the protection of gay parents, and the strengthening of the institution of marriage.

            Between Paul and Luke’s interpretations of the 1st council of Jerusalem, we end up with rules that try to bridge relationships between Christians who are different from one another.
            The basic rules for us Christians are rules that bind us one to another. They bind us economically to one another, but they also bind us to a modicum of decency and consideration for the sensibilities of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

            When we read about rewards in heaven we are not talking about our salvation, or if we are, we’re talking about God rewarding us because of the promise found in Jesus Christ, and finally, the reason reward makes us feel squirmy, is that at face value it could make us trust in our own goodness, which often is lacking.
What does “greatest” and “least” in the Kingdom of Heaven mean? How does that square with “neither Greek nor Jew” etc,? Aren’t we all equal?
            It is part of Jesus’ inversion of values, Jesus taking the God’s eye view instead of the human view.
            Proclaiming that when God rules, the last are first and the first are last.
            In Baptism we are entering into that God’s eye view, we’re struggling—just as the Galatians and Paul himself struggled—to live into who we are together—live into our calling to be part of the Body of Christ—live into the vision of humanity set out by God through Jesus Christ—a vision that breaks down barriers between believers and allows for nothing to get in the way of life together resting in God’s grace.

            The Church Universal, in this in-between time, suffers while fulfilling the Great Commission, so that Christ may be all in all.
Explain, “Death has died.”
            The whole creation will find redemption. All of us will find ourselves in the fullness of the Body of Christ. Even that last enemy, death, will be destroyed. Through the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, we can truly say Death has died.

Are mistakes “sins”? Are there degrees of sins? Is the sin in the intent or in the action or in the consequences? Ie. If you intend to do something good for someone and it turns out to hurt them?
            They are all Sin and the effects of Sin. Sin being a much more all encompassing thing that “sins.”
Explain, “Keys to the Kingdom.” “Which you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” etc.
            For Lutherans the key to “the Keys of the Kingdom” is the Word of God comforting our consciences.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sermon: Suffering and Death

          In this, our 2nd to the last sermon in the series “20 Questions in 10 Weeks” today’s questions are about a Pauline view of suffering and death.
          More specifically the two questions are,
1.    “Colossians 1:24 states, “Completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” question mark.
2.    Explain, “Death has died.”
     While that second phrase is not explicitly found in scripture, I assume it to be a riff on Paul’s message in 1 Corinthians 15 and in Romans 6.
Both questions are about the meaning of scripture associated with the Apostle Paul. Therefore, today I’m going to try and do a little Paul to you all, in the hopes that it will answer these two questions.
Let us pray.

     “I am celebrating my suffering, which is for your benefit. I am filling my flesh with the afflictions of Christ that currently overflow from him. This is done for the sake of his body, which is all of us, the Church.” (HSV Colossians 1:24)

     So, what does it mean to complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions? What does it mean that Death has died?
     My short answer is this:
The Church Universal, in this in-between time, suffers while fulfilling the Great Commission, so that Christ may be all in all.
Let me break that down for you.

The Church Universal:         A community that transcends all borders both of space and time, which is created in Baptism and is a part of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In this in-between time:                We live in the already/not yet. Christ has already completed the redemption of the world, but it is not yet so.        
We have been buried with Christ and we are suffering with him and we will be raised with him.
     The world itself is in labor, the new creation will be born, yet we are in the labor pains.
     We were wounded, and we will be healed, but right now that wound itches so very much.
     Normandy was stormed on D-Day, but it isn’t VE-Day yet.
     We are at an in-between time.

Suffers:                   This is the crux of it, I guess.
     The Colossians are a Gentile group of Christians—that is non-Jews, presumably formerly Pagan. They were led astray, they decided to add on to their Christian faith. They added worship of angels and astrological adoration. Additionally, and more to the point, they likely practiced a severe form of asceticism—ritual suffering in order to have visions.
     To this Paul responds, “You don’t need to whip yourself or starve yourself to be a good Christian, if you try to consistently live in faith, hope, and love, you will surely have struggle enough without adding to it.”
     As for Paul, he knew plenty about suffering.
     He experienced the suffering that comes with conversion, losing his former life and religious certainties that day when he fell from his horse on the Road to Damascus.
     Suffering imprisonment, beatings, stoning, shipwreck, that famous and unnamed “thorn in his side” and all the dangers of the constant travel that accompanied his proclamation of the Gospel.
     Suffering the experience of planting community after community, but never staying there long enough to see through his vision—only able to hear of the controversies in his young communities and respond in letter form, suffering as well the sadness that comes with not completing his most cherished wish, to form a Christian community in Spain.

While fulfilling the Great Commission:      
     This suffering is suffering for a purpose, it is completing Christ’s body, by spreading the Gospel, or borrowing Paul’s language—“Making the word of God fully known” and making new Christians, through the act of Baptism.
     It is also completing Christ’s body, by sustaining and building up the Christian Community—“presenting everyone mature in Christ,” making sure we are following after Jesus, making sure we’re disciples.
     Or to put all that another way, when we follow the Great Commission found at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” it will take effort and time and treasure and yes suffering, but it is a suffering for the sake of the Body of Christ, completing that body of Christ.

So that Christ may be all in all:            
     That the whole creation will find redemption.
     That all of us will find ourselves in the fullness of the Body of Christ.
     That even that last enemy, death, will be destroyed.
     That through the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, we can truly say Death has died.
The Church Universal, in this in-between time, suffers while fulfilling the Great Commission, so that Christ may be all in all. A+A