Monday, May 18, 2015

Looking Ahead to May 24, 2015 -- Pentecost Sunday

The Scripture Readings for this week are:
  • Acts 2:1-4
  • Romans 8:18-39
The sermon title is How Can We Be the Church?

Early thoughts: We are called to be the church....but sometimes that is easier than others.  When things are hard, how can we be the Spirit-filled body that is the Church?  When things turn against us how can we have the confidence that the Spirit is leading us forward?

Simple.  Because God is with us.  Because no matter what happens God is with us.

That is why the first apostles were able to go out and build the church.

That is why the early church survived through persecution.

That is why the great Reformers were able to challenge the way the church was operating.

That is why a congregation can keep going after a building burns down.

Because God is with us.  Because there is nothing that can separate us from God.  Because the Spirit moves in us, in our prayers which come out as sighs too deep for words.

On Pentecost Day the Spirit lit a fire.  Every day since the fire has been burning, sometimes smoldering slowly, sometimes a blazing inferno.  In the heat of that fire the Kingdom is being born, shaped, brought to life.

It doesn't happen all at once.  But it is happening.  And throughout that process we know that God has been, is, and will be with us.

THAT is how we can be the church.  (How WILL we be the church may be a whole other discussion)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Looking Forward to May 17, 2015

The Scripture Reading this week is Romans 6:1-14

The Sermon title is Dead to What? Alive for What?

Early Thoughts: From ancient times baptism has been understood as a passage through death to life.  That is to say, in our baptism we have died and been resurrected.

But what does that mean?

For Paul, the process is transformative.  For Paul we are a new creation.  For Paul we have been released from bondage.

Paul sees the world in a state of conflict.  On one side is God and life.  On the other is sin and death.  The death and resurrection of Christ, for Paul, defeats the forces of sin and death.  In baptism we share in the death and resurrection of Christ (an image which works really well with baptism by full immersion where the baptized goes under the water and then rises back up).

SO as those who have been baptized we are, in theory, dead to sin.  WE are alive to a transformed life.  We are called to live as transformed persons. Sin and death have no power over us.

How do we live that out????

Monday, May 4, 2015

Looking Forward to May 10, 2015 -- continuing with Romans,

The Scripture Passages for this week are:
  • Romans 5:1-5
  • Matthew 11:28-30
The Sermon title is Suffering-Endurance-Hope...Love

Early Thoughts: What possible good comes from suffering?  And what possible good comes from boasting for that matter?

Normally we discourage boasting.  And in matters of faith we particularly (in theory) discourage boasting.  Boasting would suggest that faith is something we do, that salvation somehow depends on us and our actions.  Christian tradition is clear that salvation has nothing to do with us, but is an act of God's grace.

But here Paul is, encourage us to boast in our sufferings.  What's up with that?

Paul sees the possibility of good coming through suffering.   It is true that at times when we persevere through hard times it builds character, it allows us to find hope.  It is true that sometimes we have to learn through struggle.  And it is true that this happens the most where there is love, where God's love is being made real in our lives.

But there is a big problem looming.  Does this just give us a reason to say "suck it up" to the person who is struggling?  Does this idea of suffering producing endurance producing hope lead us to ignore the reality of suffering?  How would we apply those verses to Nepal? or to the streets of Baltimore? or to the families of murdered/missing indigenous women?

Obviously not all suffering should be lifted up.

Or maybe we only know which suffering produces endurance produces hope in retrospect?

Or maybe the real question is how we respond to our own suffering and the suffering of our neighbours?

WE will struggle in life.  Some struggles will be minor, some will be and feel catastrophic.  But we have hope.  We have hope because there is love.  We have hope because we have the God who offers to give us support and rest.  And in that hope, in that love, with that support we can endure.  And maybe there we will find the hope for next time....