Sunday, September 27, 2015

No Cause for Stumbling -- Sermon for Pentecost 18B


Mark 9:38-50


It seems as if scandals are breaking out all around us. It’s true that scandal sells, so the media will share the news. You can’t blame them. If inquiring minds want to know, then they will give them what they want.  

Speaking of scandals, here in Michigan we got a front row seat as one of the more seedy political scandals unfolded right before our eyes. It’s rare that a legislature gets so embarrassed that it decides to kick out two of its own, but when these two state representatives not only had an affair while in office, but tried to cover it up using tax payer money, you can understand why action had to be taken. What made this scandal even more noteworthy is that these two legislators ran on a “family values” platform. So, the real scandal was their hypocrisy.

But, if the news hour doesn’t provide you with enough scandalous news, there are other options, including a highly regarded TV show simply titled Scandal.  I’ve not watched it, but I understand that it’s about politics. That probably should not surprise any of us!  Then, if you’ve been scandalized enough, you might decide to throw up your hands, declare pox on all houses, and retreat to a more pleasant state of being. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Welcome the Children -- Sermon for Pentecost 17B


Mark 9:30-37

When Christmas Eve rolls around we celebrate the coming of the Christ child into the world. Some of the carols we sing that night and throughout the season seem a bit sentimental. Consider the opening verse of Away in a Manger: 
 Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
It’s a comforting picture, but does it reflect Jesus’ own reality? 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Way of Discipleship -- Sermon for Pentecost 16B


Mark 8:27-38


Who am I? That’s the question Jesus posed to Peter, the rest of his disciples, and us.  It really doesn’t matter what other people are saying; “who do you say that I am?” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus asked this identity question in the region of Caesarea Philippi. That’s because it’s not only an identity question; it’s a question of allegiance. Is Jesus Lord or is Caesar Lord? That’s a question that continually confronts us, because it’s so easy to confuse our allegiances. Allegiance to country isn’t the same as allegiance to Jesus!

Peter makes the good confession – you’re the messiah – but I’m not sure that Peter completely understood his confession. That might be one reason that Jesus told him and the disciples to keep this under their hats. You see it seems as if Peter thought in political and maybe military terms. He thought of power in terms of the ability to coerce. Maybe he was even hoping to get a cabinet post in Jesus’ new administration. But Peter totally misunderstood Jesus’ vision of God’s realm, and he got so upset with Jesus that he rebuked him. Peter told Jesus that he had gotten things totally wrong. So, until they got these issues settled, there wasn’t any reason to say anything publicly. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The Lesson Jesus Learned -- Sermon for Pentecost 15B


Mark 7:24-37


If Jesus is the Son of God, then he must know everything. After all, he lived in perfect communion with God and  had access to sources only Commander Data might have available. If that’s true, then when he was a child he wouldn’t have to study before a test. He probably knew the answers before the questions were created! Or did he?  What did he know? And when did he know it?

As we return to the Gospel of Mark, it’s good to remember that Mark’s Jesus appears out of nowhere at the Jordan River where he’s baptized and then receives his commission from God. Mark doesn’t tell us anything about Jesus’ upbringing, but Luke does offer us a peak into Jesus’ childhood. Remember how Jesus took a trip to Jerusalem with his family at the age of twelve and ended up talking theology with the religious leaders in the Temple. Luke’s Jesus is a bit precocious and perhaps even something of a handful, but after the family returned home, it’s written that Jesus “increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor” (Luke 2:22-39). Perhaps Jesus still had lessons to learn. Maybe he even had to overcome a natural ethnocentrism that seems to afflict us all.