sermon

Thank God this Scripture is false

The final verse in the original ending of the gospel of Mark reads:

So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. - Mark 16:8

But we know this is false. the women said something to someone otherwise we would not know of this story at all. So this scripture is false. Thank God it is. 

Photo by  Peter Forster  on  Unsplash

Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

If my loved one was resurrected I bet that I would be shouting it from the mountain tops! There is a whole industry of books that exist that intrigue so many people. These books share stories of "near death experiences." You may not believe these books, but there is little denial that there is much fear around when people "come back from the dead." So why were these women afraid? 

Perhaps they were afraid because for the most part, stories of people coming back is bad news. The story of Zeus coming back and banishing Cronos is bad news. The Nero Redivivus Legend was the story of how emperor Nero (who had died around the time Mark wrote this gospel) was coming back. The movie depicts Harry Potter's return from the dead was one build on killing (he shot a fireball killing some Death Eaters) and revenge ("We have to kill the snake!").

It may be no wonder the women were fearful when they heard of Jesus' return/resurrection. These women were a part of the group that abandoned, disowned and betrayed Jesus. Maybe they thought he was coming back, like all others who come back from the dead, to bring death and revenge for the sake of "justice." I find it difficult to believe that it would be at this moment the followers of Jesus would have "gotten" his message, when they had yet to understand even while he was alive. I find it difficult to believe that they would have "gotten it" and believed Jesus' resurrection would be a peaceful one. I think they ran because they did not "get it" once more. 

Perhaps the reason the women did say something to someone so that we have this story, is because Jesus does not come back fro revenge or violence. His resurrection is of peace, forgiveness and love. This resurrection, unlike so many others told of old, was Good News. 

So yes, "they said nothing to anyone" is false. Thank God it is. Because if it was true that the women said nothing to anyone and we did not have this story, then Jesus' resurrection would not be Good News, but just more bad news of revenge and death having the final word. 

He is risen, indeed!

The Time I Hear a Sermon in the Bathroom

This very hard working man violating two social mores in one moment: 1) the oft cited rule that socially acceptable conversation avoids politics and religion and 2) the unspoken rule that conversation between men in the restroom is restricted to dads coaxing their sons to aim properly. So when he said, “give me a word.” I was caught off guard.

Photo by  Paul Green  on  Unsplash

Photo by Paul Green on Unsplash

I shared with him that I have been reading about Saint Moses who said that a monk should sit in his cell for the cell will teach you all you need to know. I said I have been reflecting on this as a need for silence and solitude in a hyper-connected and noisy world.

The worker smiled and grunted with satisfaction. So I asked in return “give me a word.”

The worker began to tell me the story of the rich man who avoided Lazarus their whole lives. He recalled how when they both died the rich man, from hell, asked that Lazarus would come, from heaven, to give him a cool drink. (Those of you who know this story from the Gospels can fill in the details.)

I smiled and grunted with satisfaction.

We “man hugged” (the handshake where you pull each other to bump chests and slap the back of the other two times before you disengage) and went our separate ways.

The life of the Christian is one that holds the call to action and the call to contemplation in tension. It is not sufficient for the social justice warrior to dismiss the need for silence and stillness. It is not sufficient for the hermit to dismiss the prophetic action need in the world.

You may think that action and contemplation are opposite ends of the spectrum, that they cannot coexist in one church much less in one person. We are led to believe that we must be either/or. Justice or worship. Action or contemplation. Left or right. Unity or disunity.

The deeper call of Christ is not either but both. Perhaps this is in part why the way of Christ is so difficult – you have to embody a constant and unresolvable mystery.

It is easier to take a side.

The national leader had an irrational fear of people with a different religion

Just a portion of a recent sermon I delivered prior to Thanksgiving this year:

The book of Deuteronomy derives its name from a word meaning “a second” or “a copy” of the law. Meaning that this book is a copy of the law given to Moses from Mount Sinai. Deuteronomy is a book that is set in time before the people enter the promised land.

Deuteronomy takes seriously the reality that people do NOT innately know how to build relationships, how to build a healthy sense of self and how to be in right relationship with God. Deuteronomy assumes that even those the people have been living together for 40 years in the wilderness, they need help in order to be in right relationship with others, self and God.

The text expresses that when the people enter the promised land there are some basic things that you need to do in order to not lose your way and become like the Egyptians that oppressed them.

It is easy to think that just because you won the battle for your freedom or just because your side is the victor you know how to govern and how to build a society built on the things that last such as justice, mercy and love.

By Lucas Cranach the Elder - Own work (BurgererSF), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31394816

By Lucas Cranach the Elder - Own work (BurgererSF), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31394816

God saw what happened when a society grew powerful and did not practice the foundations of humility and love. They were the Egyptians and they enslaved a whole group of people based upon their religion. Then the leader of the nation had such an irrational fear of the numbers of these people with an odd religion that the Pharaoh called for the death of all baby boys of the group.

What we see in Egypt is that if power is left unchecked by love, mercy and justice then power becomes oppressive and sacrifices others for the benefit of the few. Scripture tells the story of God’s displeasure with such a way of living for instance the prophet Hosea said, God desires mercy and not sacrifice.

A first breath after the General Conference dust storm

Over the next several posts I would like to share some General Conference reflections as now the dust is settling. These posts will not so much look at the bits of legislation that did or did not pass. These posts will use specific conference actions as examples for a larger point. These posts are designed for those who did not attend, don't care or are tired of reading what did/did not happen, or those who are looking for the larger Spirit of the UMC as lived out at the General Conference. These are only my thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the Central Texas Conference or her delegation or Bishop. 

In order to better get a sense of where these posts are headed here are the topic headings:

  • Language Monopoly
  • Sit, Stay, Go - A Dilemma in Table Manners
  • Double Victory in an Age of Winners and Losers

And so while I am still processing all that happened in the ten days and the fall out of General Conference there is still ministry to be done. Until these forthcoming GC posts arrive. I invite you to hear/watch (beginning at the 30 minute mark) this sermon called "Why did Ananias and Sapphira really die?" It is the story in Acts when two people dropped dead after it was discovered they held back money from the Church. It is an odd story, however, it relates to General Conference and the state of the UMC. Peace.