Friday, December 09, 2016

My latest book, upcoming projects

I just realized I never mentioned on my blog that I have a new book out. Well, I do, it is "Christopher's Contemporary Catechism: 19 Sermons Answering 25 Questions from the Pews"
It is a compilation of my homiletic answers to 25 questions parishioners have asked in the last 3 years.

So I keep chugging books out. At this point there is my M. Phil. Thesis along with a weird play and a few other essays, the Prayer Book, some sermons from my fellow 2011 seminary grads, my rockin' Sci-Fi novel, and some reflections on Luke's Gospel co-authored with a parishioner.

So, what's next? My co-author and I are looking to do a sequel to our Luke book about Matthew's Gospel, and I participated in National Novel Writing Month again this year. I ended up with a 25,000 word re-write of Shakespeare's Richard the Third... so I'm looking forward to seeing what I make out of it.

So, keep reading my friends!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sermon: Matthew's Gospel

          Last I left you it was Christ the King Sunday and we were turning the page on the Gospel of Luke. Now, we’re a week into Advent and one Sunday into the Gospel of Matthew.
          While we’ll occasionally veer into John’s Gospel, and even make our ways into Luke’s once or twice, from now until the end of November we’ll be heavy in Matthew’s gospel.
          Make no mistake, each Gospel
—while focused on telling the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and making the case that it is Good News
—each Gospel has a different tint to it, makes the case in a different way.
          And since we’re going to be enmeshed in Matthew’s Gospel, we might as well know what we’re getting into; we might as well hear clearly and concisely Matthew’s Gospel.

The Kingdom of Heaven is coming.
Gather together.
Be ready for it!
It will reveal our true natures.


The Kingdom of Heaven is coming. Gather together. Be ready for it! It will reveal our true natures.

The Kingdom of Heaven is coming.
          The Kingdom of Heaven—a funny way to say God’s reign, or God’s rule. That God’s presence will be felt in a unique and powerful way.
Again and again, Matthew points to examples in the Old Testament of God acting—being present, ruling
And insists that is happening as well when Jesus is around. Jesus’ presence is God doing a new thing—acting in a heavy and unignorable way.
          God has acted as recorded in Hebrew Scripture and is acting in Jesus.

Gather together.
          More than any other Gospel, Matthew is concerned with community. His Gospel is the only one what mentions the word Church, those assembled, in the original Greek, Ecclesia.
The natural response to God showing up in Jesus is to gather, or maybe better said to “be gathered” because it is almost a compulsion, we hardly have a choice in the matter.
Matthew gathers a boatload of stories Jesus tells of:
people invited to banquets and gathering there,
fish gathered together in nets,
sheep and goats gathered in flocks,
wheat and weeds gathered together after the harvest.
          When the Kingdom comes, people gather.

Be ready for it!
          The Kingdom nears, how can you help but stretch your neck to see?
How can you help but prepare when:
You’ve been sent an invitation
or called by your shepherd
or asked to light the way for the coming bride and groom?
          The Kingdom will change everything, be ready for that change!

It will reveal your true natures.
          This is the big one for Matthew. When the Kingdom arrives it shows you for who you really are, and the effects of the way you’ve lived.
Sheep may no longer claim to be goats, nor goats claim to be sheep.
We can no longer pretend rotten fish or weeds are good fish and wheat.
The chaff in all these examples will be burned away.
          Just so, Jesus’ presence reveals who is who. Who is living in line with the Rule of God and who is living in another way.
          The most obvious example of this that at one point in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus berates the Scribes and Pharisees…

          And before I go any further it is worth remembering Matthew is writing as a Jew to fellow Jews about the Jew Jesus. One of the verbal ticks in Matthew’s Gospel that ought to be unsettling to us all, is that Matthew’s Gospel is the one that most clearly attacks Pharisees, Sadducees, and Judaism writ large.
          He does this because he and his community have been booted out of the Synagogues and declared heretics. He’s hurt, his own religion and people have said he’s not one of theirs. And he lashes out.
          If you ever want to hear someone’s dirty laundry described in the worst of terms—talk to their ex.
          All that to say, this Gospel has been used to justify horrible acts of Anti-Semitism from the destruction of Roman Synagogues all the way back in the 300’s to medieval persecutions during the black plague and the crusades to Luther’s Anti-Jewish writings and the Holocaust to actions by present day Neo-Nazis.
          With that said, Matthew describes the teachings of the Pharisees and the Teachings of Jesus in stark terms, as two very different ways of being.
          He says Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees
who talk well, but act poorly,
who are collectors of titles,
superficial, hypocrites, who major in the minors, and ignore the Kingdom of Heaven as it dances on the very tip of their nose.
          At the same time,
blessed are those who live to reveal the Kingdom of God in all they do—they are salt and light. They are centered on God’s actions in all that they do.
Their holiness is not for show, but instead is done in secret.
          In Christ’s presence these two ways of being will be exposed and separated
—outside of Christ, it is never clear who is who and what is what
—who are sheep and who are goats
and no one has room to judge.

          Matthew’s Good News is that
Jesus is coming,
gathering us,
calling us to prepare,
and he will show us all for who we are.

          Look at today’s lesson.
John warns that the Kingdom is coming, recognizable to Isaiah and all the prophets who have experienced its power!
They gather, the people from all around, including Pharisees and Sadducees!
They prepare with a Baptism of repentance.
They are reminded that the fruit they bear will indicate the kind of tree they are. Good trees kept, bad trees burnt. Wheat stored, chaff burnt. Their nature revealed.

          A stark thing, this Gospel of Matthew, but instructive too, this Advent season.
Like him, we trust the Kingdom is coming.
We gather together a mixed body of saints and sinners.
We light candles and focus on anticipating the kingdom, preparing for its coming.
We dare wonder what will be revealed.

Matthew’s Good News is that
The Kingdom of Heaven is coming.
Gather together.
Be ready for it!
It will reveal our true natures.