Voices & Echoes (Sunday 12/4/11)

Voices & Echoes Isaiah 40: 1-11, Micah 5: 2-5a, John 1 6-8, 19-28, Luke 1: 26-38   Back when I was en English major, we used to talk about how the texts would speak to each other, across generations and genres.  The idea is that no art or speech or idea is in a vacuum, contained to its own time and creator.  It is in conversation with other texts.  It necessarily stands in connection – or disconnection (a kind of connection) – with what has gone before and even with what will come.  Some writing is clearly informed by what precedes it, while other writing seems ahead of its time.   And here we are, trying to hear what it’s saying all these years later, amidst the many echoes of those other texts.   Maybe this is why it has always seemed strange to me when Christians draw hard distinctions between the Old and New Testaments, as if they aren’t one long story, as if you can even hear what the New Testament says without all those Old Testament writings echoing into the newer story.   Imagine how different these familiar Advent readings would be, without their conversation with one another through time.  What would John have said when the priests and the Levites trekked out to the desert to ask him just who he thought he was?  I’m trying to tell you about some cool things coming up shortly here.  God’s going to blow your mind.  Just you wait and see.  Want to be baptized while you wait? Perhaps it carries some of the same meaning, but the...

Wait (Worship 11/27 – Advent 1)

Wait Mark 13: 24-37   I was trying to watch a video on Hulu last week.  I guess it had been a while since I’d done that because I was surprised to see that underneath the video I selected, there was a little box with the come-on question “What are you thinking?”  Next to this box was another hyperlinked box that said, “Post to Facebook.”  From the moment the video started to play the opportunity to comment was there, too.  Not after the video finished or even halfway through – right from the moment I clicked on it to play.   I immediately homed in on the word “thinking.”  There was, in fact, no opportunity for thought before that question appeared.   Maybe if the little box had said “React – now!” I wouldn’t be talking to you about it tonight.  The medium and the message would have been in synch that way.  But it asked what I was thinking.  As if I had experienced enough of it to formulate a thought.  As if I had had time to reflect – or even to finish viewing it once through.  As if anyone should care in the slightest about whatever slop I might slap into that box after 10 seconds of viewing.   What are you thinking – right now?  If you were to post your “thoughts” on the sermon right now, what would you have to go on?  Do you know where I’m going or what you’ll think of it by the end?  Have you taken in enough to actually be thoughtful?   This is the season of time, of...

Fear and Hope (Worship 11/13 at Fluvanna prison)

Fear and Hope Matthew 25: 14-30   All over the gospels we hear Jesus introduce a parable by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who…” and then he tells a story.  Some of the stories seem like the life we know and understand.  Some of them seem pretty weird.  Some of them are a little scary.  Many are just plain confusing – especially on the first listen. If I had to boil it all down, here’s what I hear Jesus saying about the kingdom of God: 1.       This world doesn’t operate like the kingdom of God operates 2.       God is in the middle of re-ordering this world to reflect and to be the kingdom 3.       We are all called to live now as if that re-ordering is already finished – so, we live by God’s rules and priorities, not the world’s That’s it.  This world doesn’t run on God’s rules but we are called to live by those rules in the midst of this world, to help God bring about a new order, a new creation. It’s like a rich man who is headed out on a journey and he calls his three slaves to him and gives them everything he owns – all of his property.  He gives 5 talents to the first man, 2 to the next, and 1 to the last and then he leaves for his trip.  The first two invest the rich man’s money and they each end up with double the original amounts.  The third slave buries his money in the ground to keep it safe. When the rich man...

Asleep and Awake (Worship 11/6/11)

Asleep and Awake Matthew 25: 1-13     I try to listen carefully whenever Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven.  He’s not describing what heaven is like, as in that “place” we go after we die.  But he is describing how God sees things and how God means for things to change, to be on earth as they are in heaven.  When Jesus mentions the kingdom of heaven, he’s giving us a glimpse of the map so we have something in mind as we travel into unfamiliar territory.  He’s giving us a sneak peek at next week’s show, so we’re anticipating the plot twists hinted at in those images.  He’s saying “spoiler alert” and then launching into a parable, saying This is how it’s meant to be – do you see it? Do you want to come along and help make it happen?   It’s harder to hear Jesus this way because it demands something of us.  If we believe that Jesus is not just telling a nice story about life on the other side of death, but that he’s urging us into abundant life right here and now, that changes how we listen.  It might even wake us up.   In today’s parable from Matthew Jesus says that this is what the kingdom of heaven is like:  Ten bridesmaids waiting on the bridegroom, waiting with their lamps for him to show up.  They all fall asleep while they are waiting and then awaken to a shout when he approaches at midnight.  As they wake up and stand up, the 5 wise bridesmaids are already ready.  The brought along...

The “To Be” List (Worship 10/30/11)

The “To Be” List Matthew 5: 1-12   As I was driving last week, I was introduced to Claudia Folska, a blind dual doctorate student at the University of Colorado in Denver.  She is studying urban design and cognitive science, which she is putting to use in proposing ways that the city of Denver can make life more navigable for people who are blind.  She suggests, for example, that public emergency phones might emit audible signals so that everyone can find them when needed.  It was a fascinating interview on the NPR show “Talk of the Nation” and I recommend it to you.  But the part I found most interesting – and refreshing – was her response to one of the questions the host asked her.  After a 20 minute or so conversation in which she offered innovative ideas and talked about projects she is working on, on top of preparing to defend her dissertation, the host asked her what else she is working on.  She answered, “Isn’t that enough?”  (“Talk of the Nation,” 10/19/11, http://www.npr.org/2011/10/19/141514387/blind-student-helps-make-denver-navigable-for-all )   Isn’t that enough? I was driving alone in my car when I heard this.  I laughed out loud and said, out loud, “Good for you!”  What a great way to turn the question on its head, to illustrate the problem with the question itself, to refuse to take it on its own terms.  That’s creative thinking.  And oh so refreshing.  When’s the last time you heard anyone do this?   I wonder if Claudia Folska might be a patron saint for college students.  She combines innovative, community-minded thinking with the wisdom...

“What Belongs to God?” (Sunday 10/16/11)

What Belongs to God? Matthew 22: 15- 22   Here’s what today’s gospel reading reminds me of:   You know how it is when you are in the check out line at the grocery store and you’re thinking, Wow, I put more in the cart than I meant to? Or maybe you’re just thinking, Can’t wait for everyone to come over tonight and watch the movie while we eat these brownies. Or maybe you’re not thinking anything at all, just ready to pay and get out of there, on to your next errand. And then the question comes:  “Do you want to help the children who starve today?”  It’s always like that, a completely impossible question which no normal person wants to answer “no” to – as in, “No, I do not want to help starving children.”  The question never comes in a format where you can still be a humane human and answer negatively.  They never say, “Would you like to make a donation?”  No, it’s always extreme, demanding a “yes” answer:  “Do you care about homeless grandmothers?”  Who is going to say “no” to that? I know, I know.  People who didn’t do time as English majors probably don’t fret over these things like I do.  You probably just say, “Can’t today” and move on with your life.  But I fret.  I get annoyed.  I am offended to be asked a question with only one “right” answer – a question that is not really a question but an intimidating invitation to join in whatever they’re pushing. Of course I’m not here to preach against homeless grandmothers, starving children,...
Weekly Meeting Schedule
  • Sunday
    • 11:00 Morning Worship at Wesley Memorial UMC (next door)
    • 5:00 Sunday Night Worship
  • Tuesday
    • 6:00 Tuesday Night Dinner
    • 6:45 Forum — Discussion/speaker on a variety of faith topics and student life.
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