Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Presenting Jesus

This piece is titled Anna the Prophetess, by Louis S. Glanzman. Isn't it wonderful? Anna gets very little press unless The Presentation of Our Lord falls on a Sunday or you use her story at Christmas time. I forget sometimes that she was 84 years old and that she had spent the majority of her time praying and waiting for Jesus to come. And then he was there! How excited she must have been. How stunned Mary and Joseph must have been. Luke uses words like "ponder" to describe Mary's experiences, but it seems a bit tame. Ponder! I might ponder what to make for dinner. I might ponder what movie to go to. But this kind of news?!? Ponder just doesn't cut it. To know that my Redeemer is present? A redeemer is your next of kin who is obliged to be your "get out of jail free" card. A redeemer is the person you can call when nobody else will answer. A redeemer is going to save your bacon! Mary and Joseph must have been totally amazed. First Simeon meets them and then Anna. Fantastic day at the temple!

President Skippy and Stale Ice Cream

I thought about watching the State of the Union address last night but I was too tired. So I had a little nightcap and off to bed I went.

This morning as I listened to NPR, they broke it all down for me and as I listened I became perturbed. It seems to me that listening to the speech is kind of like buying an ice cream bar from the 7-11. It looks good. The packaging is intact. You take the ice cream out of the wrapper and the chocolate seems to be fresh. But then you bite into it and you realize the ice cream is stale.

So much of what the President said seemed palatable, but then as you dig into it, you find that it's not quite what it seems.

Only a fifth of our petroleum imports come from the Middle East. A great percentage comes from crazy places like.... Canada!

The biggest cutback in petrol usage in the last few decades came not from using something different but from using less oil. It was a result in improvements to automobiles. It was a technological improvement, not a change in fuel.

And don't ask me about the whole war thing. Or whether we could have stopped 9/11 by spying on our neighbors.

And the budget numbers GW crunched that sound so positive? Didn't include expenditures for the war or aid for Katrina victims.

Stale ice cream. The only reason you eat it is because there's nothing else available.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Jesus in Capernaum - A Question of Authority

Last week, I blogged about a comment made on NPR. A woman said she trusted George Bush because he was a Christian. It made me crazy and I blogged. (See "Do you trust the President? Why") Thanks to Pounding Softly's comments on that post, I found myself rewriting my sermon this morning.

I was going to go a safer quieter route, but why? What's the fun of being the supply preacher if you can't just say what you think?

So here's the end of today's sermon...

In our world today there are so many people who claim to be speaking for God. Their proclamations are in the news and on the bookshelves. Magazines and television reports are filled with people saying this is what God wants. The most notable recent example being Pat Robertson and his claim that the people of Dover, Pennsylvania should not be surprised if God sent a natural disaster for the stand taken by their Board of Education.

The trouble is, we are left with the difficult task of discerning who is really speaking the authoritative word of God. And our discernment cannot just be based on whether or not we agree with the person making the proclamation. Pat Robertson and I have very different political views, but that doesn't mean that he is always wrong and I am always right.

We need to listen carefully and watch closely. The phrase “What would Jesus do?” has become greatly overused. But it is not a bad idea to measure the things we hear against that phrase. Jesus’ ministry was about love and forgiveness. He could be painfully direct in challenging people. But it was because he was constantly working for justice for all of God’s children- not just a chosen few.

So if the words that we are hearing do not call us to live out that same kind of loving justice- it might be good to be more than a bit skeptical about the person who’s preaching to us.

We need to measure the news against the truth that the Lord has promised to be with us always. No matter what. There is no place where his love cannot surround us with care and comfort. Would the God we know really punish Ariel Sharon for his stance on the Gaza strip? Is that what Jesus would do?

We need to challenge those who claim to speak on behalf of God with the truth that Jesus’ activities demonstrated a concern for the whole world. Ours is a Lord who teaches that anyone in need is my neighbor- not just the people in close proximity.

At times we may think that we want an authoritative Lord who would lay out all the rules for every situation. "Wouldn't it be great if Jesus had just talked to the disciples about this?" It would be much easier for us to know what to do. But what we have is a God who in all his power has made our welfare his chief concern. And he chooses to use his authority to work out our forgiveness and salvation. Because he loves us he calls us to be a part of his kingdom. Because he loves us, he invited the whole world to be embraced with his grace.
And we honor his power and we respond to his authority when we act with that same kind of care and that same kind of love.

I don’t know what Jesus said that day at the synagogue, but I have to believe it was a message of love. A powerful message of love. And I gladly bow to his authority.