Saturday, July 08, 2017

New Sermon: Sin=Parasite

         Dear Siblings in the faith,
         I Paul write to you once again, for I believe you need yet another metaphor for Sin. I have already told you it is like an enslaving contract, but today, I wish to tell you about Sin another way, that you might more fully feel the insidious nature of sin, and understand the way in which you are trapped.
         Sin is a parasite. Your Pastor, Pastor Chris, once told you about the Holy Spirit—the Paraclete, and how it was like a Paramedic, Paralegal, and Parallel… perhaps you’ve grasped that the pre-fix Para means beside. And if so, you no doubt know that a Parasite comes from Para-Sitos—Eating at another’s table.
         And that’s just what Sin does. It lives by living in another creature—using it.
         Sin is a parasite—such creatures were unknown in my time—but through your natural sciences are now well known. They are creatures that infect hosts and use them to live and reproduce. In extreme cases you get parasites like Toxoplasmosis, which can only reproduce in cats, so they infect mice and birds, scramble their brains, and make them unafraid of cats, which leads to their host’s death and the parasite’s life.

         Yes, Sin is just such a parasite, with no life or strength of its own, save infection and manipulation.
         And know this, Sin has infected the Law and infected your Flesh.

         Now, when I say that Sin has infected the Law, you as a Gentile Church—that is a non-Jewish Christian Congregation, may hear something heading toward heresy—you may assume the Law of Moses is a throw away, or even you may make a simple equation of my warning of infection—you may say “Law=Sin.”
         This is by no means true!
         Instead, the Law has been infected by that parasite Sin… in fact, I’d venture if you looked at any law, those of Moses or those of any other peoples, including your own, with careful eyes, you’d see Sin’s sinister hold upon it.
         But, let’s stick with Moses’ Laws… I know in my bones—if not in literal history—that God said “Take Anything But This”… and I, we, coveted that thing immediately. Sin swept into that Command of God and commandeered it.
         It said, “Really? Not even a little taste? Not even a little lie? Not even a small death?”
         At the same time as it chipped away at it, it also built up the Law—making it more than it was, “Don’t just avoid this sin, avoid nearness to it at all costs!”
         Like cattle being rustled, it used the Law to chase me—one way, then another—it shouted, “Never! Never!” and “Just a little! Just a little!” until I nearly exploded. Popped like a pimple—my worst self revealed and inflamed.
         Yes, the Holy Law of God—reprogrammed to do me ill!
         How much more then the Laws of men? Imagine what Sin can do with them!

         And so too, my own Flesh
—Am I not of the Earth—this good home of ours?
Has it not been said that we are the height of the created order?
Are we not little lower than angels?
         For that matter, do I not have a moral compass? Do I not hear my conscience guiding me?
I do!
I really do!
         Yet, hear I as well the parasite disrupting paradise. The very good I am granted in my soul sloshes away from me. I am stuck!
I wish to paddle toward the North Star, but instead I choose to sink my boat!
         I know what is life giving, yet I give into death—for Sin uses me—riding roughshod over my better self!

         I, Paul, have experienced the Tempest released when these two goods—Law and Flesh—are infected, when the Parasite Sin sends them a clashing against one another!
         I heard the early church—they preached Jesus as Lord and Messiah—the Blessed One, the Savior.
         But I knew the Law. “All who die upon a tree are accursed.”—Deuteronomy 21:23. So says the Law!
         Infected with Sin, the Law blinded me to its central command—“Love God, Love Neighbor.”—Deuteronomy 6:5.
         Infected with Sin, my Flesh took it several steps further—I first held coats as Stephen was stoned to death for his faith.
         I then, with great zeal and righteousness
—as a religious duty, to fulfill the Law of God
—went and persecuted the Church of God.

         See how that all worked? Sin stunted the Law of God and lived in my most religious self. It infected us both—taking our best, so that it might be embittered and become our worst.
         Wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!


Friday, July 07, 2017

Contact your representative about House Resolution 2642 Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act!

Hi all.
As you probably know by now, ICE deported some members of FISDAC (First Indonesian Seventh Day Adventist Church). I’ve talked with folk on both the enforcement and protest side of things who seem to be in the know. Short of hiding Indonesian Refugees (for a short explanation the particular way the US government mis-settled persecuted Ethnic Chinese Indonesian Christians click here) in my home and church, the best way to resolve this particular injustice is through the passage of House Resolution 2642, the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act. It essentially resets the clock for Indonesian Refugees to seek asylum here in the US.

So, please contact your representative. Ask them to encourage the leadership to bring HR2642 to a vote, and then vote yes on it.

Tell them:
1. The lives of those we deport are in danger. We are sending these Christians towards persecution and maybe death. This bill will keep them safe.
2. We resettled these folk incorrectly, they had no way to seek asylum. Essentially, we forced them to overstay their visas. This bill fixes that problem.
3. Those in hiding are living in terror of being separated from their families—they’ve been here for decades and done everything right.

I know there are lots of political things going on, most of us feel pulled in a billion different directions, our hearts breaking or hardening all the time. But please contact your representative, ask them to bring HR2642 to a vote and vote yes on it.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Sermon: Duck Feathers

         Have you ever thought about duck feathers?
         They’re ingenious, they come in three types, Contour, Flight, and Down. The first keep the water out, the second allow for flight, and the third serves as insulation. They act like armor, water rolls off a duck’s back, yet ducks remain fluffy, warm, and cuddly.
         And, I would suggest today, that duck feathers can be an image for us to hold onto as Disciples of Christ—a unique type of armor to help us spread the gospel.
Yes, Duck feathers.

         There are plenty of good reasons we might want to be defensive as people sent out with a message and a ministry from God. And to be clear I’m talking about all of you—you all have a calling from God to spread the Gospel.
         Look at the argument between Hananiah and Jeremiah. Hananiah’s prophecy
—that God’s going to make everything just fine,
 right now
—Hananiah’s quick fix fortune telling
—is seen by Jeremiah as nothing more than pie in the sky wishful thinking—he says, in effect, “You know what—pretty much every prophet I know of, prophecies doom—and by and large they get it right.
If someone prophecies peace, and we find peace—wow! We’ll know God’s is deeply involved in that prophecy, because that’s not usually what we find in this world.”
—people telling folk what the world looks like to God’s eyes
—rarely claim everything is alright, that we humans have everything under control
—instead they point to wars, famines, pestilence. They call out injustices and idolatry.
         As you might imagine this sort of thing doesn’t make prophets popular—Jeremiah who we read today, gets shoved down a well and later drug off to Egypt by Hananiah’s political backers—and he is left to die there, lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, which he told folk was going to happen if they bought into Hananiah’s easy vision of their country.
         Yes—it would be easy to armor up, in order to safely serve God.

         Then there is the letter to Rome printed from Paul’s pen—he describes the human struggle with Sin and Death as akin to enslavement and war.
We’ll always serve a master, either Sin or Righteousness.
We’ll always be at war, the question is do we side with Sin or Righteousness?
That famous phrase he coins, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When he writes wages he’s talking Hazard Duty Pay, Commission, the Soldier’s Wage.
         For that matter, we know from Paul’s biography that he’s no stranger to troubles—because of the Gospel he proclaims, he receives:
hunger, imprisonment, shipwreck, lashings, beatings, and a stoning.
With all that, his talk about the armor of God in another of his letters, is not misplaced.

         And then we have the ongoing sending of the 12 disciples in Matthew 10—they’re given the important and seemingly impossible task of replicating Jesus’ ministry throughout Israel
—doing so without wallet or backpack or even a change of clothing
—they are to be as sheep among wolves, being hauled before public officials and having to give answer,
demonized—literally—you’re a devil just like that Jesus
—threatened with death, denied—family turned against them…
tough stuff they, and we, are called to… again, enough to get into a defensive crouch, enough to make you expect the worst from everyone you meet—enough to, after a while, demonize right back…
         Yet, we don’t stop at verse 39, thank God—Jesus leaves his disciples, and us, with some comforting words.

         Guess what—there are people waiting to hear the Word of God from you. People who will welcome you, whose hearts are ready to hold the Gospel, whose ears are ready to hear
–the field is ripe and ready and wide, it is only the harvesters—the workers—we disciples—who are few.
         There will be some, along your disciples journey, who are willing to welcomes you as Jesus,
hear your words of prophetic admonishment,
be built up in righteousness and for acts of charity.
         What I’m saying is even as we give the Gospel in many ways, we will also receive it
—Part of being sent is being received—being a guest to others.
Sometimes on our Disciple’s journey we need to be held by those who we so often hold!

There will be acts great and small upholding you in your ministries
—be prepared for God to revive you, through other people, to receive you kindly
—we can’t start with the assumption of persecution, because there are also moments of great grace in this vocation of ours.
         Receiving grace from those you tell about the Kingdom of Heaven, opens them up to the experience of it.
-You teach a kid about the faith—you may yourself hear the faith afresh.
-You serve the hungry a meal, you too are fed.
-You visit a lonely neighbor, your lives are linked by that connection… It matters to them!
-They care so deeply that you care for them!
-You’ve brought the very Kingdom of Heaven near, that ain’t nothin’!
         And these God moments don’t happen if you are closed off… and not only that, they can also eat you alive if you show up emotionally naked.
         That’s why I recommend trying on a duck-feather kind of attitude toward this calling that Jesus has on our lives.
Duck Feathers are a happy medium between the constraining-armor-of-cynicism and the vulnerability-of-naïveté. Water rolls off a duck’s back, yet they are still free to move and act and fly!
         And that’s what I hope for
all of us Called Ones
—all us Sent Ones
—all us guests invited to minister to our neighbors,
to preach the gospel in many forms
That the love of God may flow from us in natural and good ways—that any obstacle to that ministry might roll off you back and every joy of Jesus might be easily embraced and shared!