Sermons

Raise It Up

Some of us have perhaps heard about Jesus cleansing the temple at Jerusalem - today’s Gospel story - as being the necessary work of Jesus to clear out the corruption that invaded the temple system.

Certainly corruption is an evil leach that seeks to attach itself to any and all human institutions, including religious institutions. And certainly God in Jesus Christ took a plunge into the grave as part of purging not only individual sin, but to cleanse the stain of sin from the places where our best efforts have not kept those lesions from infesting our institutions, thereby too often divesting them from their Godly and humanitarian intentions and leaving them hollow husks that do less to serve and more to hurt those they are intended to help.

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Living Uncomfortably

These are uncomfortable times in which we are living. There are tragic mass shootings at concerts and schools and churches that leave people mourning and which raise questions about guns and safety that make people uncomfortable. There is the revealing of racism lurking in the underbelly of our nation and our communities, like a poison in the veins of an otherwise healthy person, that makes us uncomfortable – or at least it should. There is a rollercoaster economy over the last several decades in this country that has left the wealthy wealthier and further marginalized the poorest of the poor – and this is an uncomfortable truth.

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Woken Up

Professor Jan Schnell Rippentrop writes that,

This (gospel) text (from John), which falls during the season of Epiphany, is an epiphany. Epiphanies tend to transform people. This is seen in Nathaniel’s change and in an epiphany-induced change that Martin Luther King, Jr. describes in his book, “Stride Toward Freedom.” (King writes):

I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud.

The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. "I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I've come to the point where I can't face it alone.
At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced God before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: "Stand up for justice, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever." Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.1

Martin Luther King, Jr. was changed by this epiphany often referred to as his “vision in the kitchen.” (from “Working Preacher,” Jan 14th, 2018)

Read more: Woken Up

We Labor On

There is a fever rising in our nation and in our world. It is a fever causing good people turning on good people. We are seeing fear and war-mongering preached where cooperation and consideration once roamed alongside idealism and optimism. We are seeing the almighty dollar placed in priority above decisions that could decisively help the least among us in society and the world. We are seeing some who would purvey hatred in the guise of reasonable rhetoric.

But we labor on.

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The Biggest Production, Ever

Some day I want to be part of staging the biggest Christmas Pageant ever!

There will be beautiful organ music playing and a gigantic children and adult’s choir singing classical Christmas carols, but there will also be an African steel drum band and interpretive dance ensemble. The woman who designed the larger than life animal puppets (carried by two people each) for the Lion King on Broadway will create animals for the manger scene. We’ll build an actual stable, complete with hayloft and cooing doves. We’ll set up the stable far ahead of time and outside somewhere so that real animals can live inside for a while so that the whole area, even after it is cleansed from all that animals can leave behind that we’d rather none of the actors step in, have a more authentic smell and feel to it. There will be real flying angels – children strapped in harnesses singing “Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to God’s people on earth.” This staging of the Christmas Nativity will be multicultural and multinational. I’m thinking Disney meets the United Nations meets the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall meets the acrobatic circus Cirque De Soleil.

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