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Archive for June, 2012

I really think Mark should have done his gospel as manga. I know there have been a few recent attempts to fill the void, but they haven’t met with a lot of critical acclaim. It seems nobody feels comfortable with a comic book Jesus.

Mark’s book, though, cries out for a few visual cues. And the story of Jesus’ first exorcism is one that would have been perfect material for a graphic novel. POW! KA-BAM! WHOOSH!

That Spirit on Your Shoulder

Preached at Mt. Comfort Presbyterian Church on 17 June 2012.

(The file is a Windows Media Audio file – if you have problems, right click and download the file to listen.)

Wes Seeliger (1938-2000) continues to influence some of us through the Foundation for Contemporary Theology and through his books, especially Western Theology. It’s a great little book, but be warned – it’s offensive to just about everyone. But then, so is the gospel.

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The societal pressures to change in response to technological advances were nerve-wracking. We think we’ve got pressure with smart phones, social networking, and global economies, but the move from Late Bronze to early Iron was serious. Makes me glad I live now instead of then, but then again, reading 1 Samuel, it seems eerily contemporary. If you were to substitute the phrase “big government” for “monarchy”, you’d think this came out of this year’s campaign cycle.

There are the conservative voices (Samuel, in this case). There are the progressive voices (the elders, whoever they were, exactly). And then, there is the divine voice, failing to validate either human faction, but holding out hope for a whole new, and fresh, direction.

Every now and then, you stumble across an elegant turn of phrase that seems to say it all. This is one of them – free as in beer (coupled, naturally, with its mate, free as in speech). It’s not original with me, of course. I most recently heard it from Landon Whitsitt (author of “Open Source Church“), but it’s been knocking around the open access community for a long time. You take the two together, and you have a pretty fair sense of the distinctive direction God has been leading in forever.

Free, as in Beer

Preached at Mt. Comfort Presbyterian Church on 10 June 2012.

(The file is a Windows Media Audio file – if you have problems, right click and download the file to listen.)

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Oh Lord, How Long?

There are some words (phrases in English) that just signal trouble. This is one of them.

It gets translated as “Here I am!”, like in the song of the same name, you know the one I’m talking about? The one we sing at ordinations, the one that celebrates letting go and letting God? In reality, though, like many things having to do with the divine-human relationship, this human utterance is not so blythe and breezy. It’s a word for situations where words fail us. “Behold!” is how the King Jimmy renders it, but it’s more like clearing your throat because, when you tried to say something, nothing articulate came out.

Most people think that “the call”, as in “call from God”, ends with some poor fool saying “Here I am”. But it’s only the beginning.

Oh Lord, How Long?

Preached at Mt. Comfort Presbyterian Church on 3 June 2012.

(The file is a Windows Media Audio file – if you have problems, right click and download the file to listen.)

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When I first read the Bible through for myself, as a teenager, I remember thinking, now I’ll find out what the “good news” is. That was the one urgent matter to me, because I didn’t buy the idea that anybody, especially God, could think Jesus’ execution was good news. I understood what it was trying to get at, and I’m deeply moved thinking that Jesus would give his life for us, but pressing the metaphor, to almost any degree, makes it fall apart for me.

What I discovered that year was what Jesus said the good news was – “the kingdom of God is near”. I’ve been chewing on that single assertion for 40 years. And despite the evidence to the contrary, I can’t help myself – I really do trust that Jesus knew what he was talking about. I see it on every page of the Bible – how near to us the reign of God is. As near as the breath of our bodies.

I love the stories of God’s promise to give us life, and new life, and more life. And Ezekiel’s vision in the valley of dry bones is one of the very best. I understand what it’s like to be an old, dry bone. That’s why the promise of the Spirit is so sweet.

These Bones Gonna Rise

Preached at Mt. Comfort Presbyterian Church on 27 May 2012.

(The file is a Windows Media Audio file – if you have problems, right click and download the file to listen.)

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