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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

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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When I read the Bible, especially the New Testament, I’m struck at how remarkable the message is. God loves the world – the whole world! Now, you may find this peculiar, but the thing that really stuns me about this message is that the love extends to human beings. I have no problem thinking God loves “cats and rats and elephants” (to borrow the words of a favorite childhood song), but it mystifies me that he loves us. ALL of us. For me, the message that comes through loud and clear when I read the Bible is that God’s love for the world is inclusive – it’s already expansive, and still-expanding!

Yet, the germ of Peter’s third sermon here in Acts gets trotted out regularly as proof of the exclusive nature of the Christian faith: “no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, Common English Bible).  I do believe, firmly, there is salvation in this name – God has willed it so, and so, it must be.  But I also firmly believe the Bible’s revelation of God’s complete sovereignty and freedom. The most sensible (and humble) statement I’ve ever heard on the matter came from Heinrich Bullinger in The Second Helvetic Confession (1561), when talking about the preaching of the Word of God: “At the same time we recognize that God can illuminate whom and when he will, even without the external ministry, for that is in his power; but we speak of the usual way of instructing men, delivered unto us from God, both by commandment and examples.” (5.007)  So, Christianity is exclusively inclusive?Or inclusively exclusive? How the heck is anybody supposed to logically hold both those things together?

Ah, there would be the problem. Logic is a great servant, lousy master. All we can do is confess the bit of truth that we’ve been given to know. Turns out, that job is plenty big enough.

In Jesus’ Name

Preached at Mt. Comfort Presbyterian Church on 29 April 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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I have to admit I’ve always had trouble getting into Peter’s sermons. The Peter in Acts is not the good old Peter I’ve come to identify with in the gospel accounts. This Peter cuts right to the chase, eloquently. It’s the eloquent part I find jarring, he was always pretty frank about whatever was on his mind. But when I listened to his sermon this time, in the context of the angst currently churning through our denomination right now, I heard it in a way I’d never heard him before. This sermon was certainly addressed to the troubles “in the family” back in Peter’s day, I don’t doubt that in the least. But the kind of troubles we experience “in the family” don’t, evidently, change all that much. We still can’t resolve the tension between law and grace on our own – but today, I heard a clear voice and simple, straightforward advice: stop, and turn around.

Times of Refreshing Will Come, Acts 3:12-26

Preached at Mt. Comfort Presbyterian Church on 29 April 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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Resurrection can be one of those confusing, embarrassing things. Not Jesus’ resurrection, of course. The problem comes when we start thinking about ours. Most people I know opt for the “death is a doorway into the next life” explanation and bypass the resurrection altogether, because why mess with this old body when you can get a new model with wings?  I don’t seem to have a lot of company, but I am comforted by the thought that when I die, I will be really truly dead. I actually think that’s the way God intended it from the beginning. But the idea of a bodily resurrection when God is ready to make good on the promise and make all things new is also incredibly comforting. A God big enough, smart enough, and powerful enough to reassemble not only my body, but my experiences, my memories, and my emotions is big enough, smart enough, and powerful enough to make good on every promise.

The Last Word, 1 Corinthians 15:1-27

Preached at Mt. Comfort Presbyterian Church on 8 April 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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Jesus Saves

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different ways we imagine Christ, trying to understand who he is. Our physician, our shepherd, our king. His disciples called him rabbi, teacher, and he certainly speaks like one with wisdom. Throughout these weeks of Lent, however, Jesus has been showing us different colors. Maybe these are his true colors, as a prophet of God? Yes, yes – that must be the right way to think of him, as God’s chosen and anointed messenger. But then last week, as I was contemplating Mark , I decided Jesus’ anointing was actually that of a martyr, a witness to God – after all, what else could it mean to give yourself as a ransom for others? This week, I’m neck-deep in Hebrews, and I discover, clearly, I was wrong. Jesus’ anointing is as the high priest. Or as the perfect sacrifice. Or both.

In a few weeks, we will be talking about Christ as the victor over sin and death, which he is. But how does he save us? Is it that he relived our experience as human beings, but got it right this time? That’s what Paul’s talking about when he calls Jesus the new Adam.  Perhaps he’s our trailblazer to heaven? – he found the way through, and so we can follow. Or it may be that he’s the intercessor, who can put in a good word for us because, strangely, he loves us. I even have to entertain the thought that Calvin might have been correct – perhaps we are bound to Christ by the Holy Spirit – kind of like super glue? – and when we stand before the judge, all God sees is the beloved Son he loves. Is this the way we are saved? If we stand close enough in Jesus’ cross-shaped shadow, the only way God can see us is through the prism of Christ’s pure light?

We seem to haggle a lot about how Jesus saves, and miss the miracle. He is all these things, and much more.

It’s the “much more” that gives me such deep hope.

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