Seventh Sunday After Easter [2009-05-24]
SCBC Adult Ed video was on Luke 5:17-26 ... Jesus heals the paralytic ... "Faith From The Roof"
Capernaum: "Jesus' home for the remainder of his time on Earth"
"Having Jesus around could be expensive -- especially if you invite him into your house."
"Jesus loved having his church services interrupted by people with faith and determination."
"Jesus saw the faith of the man's friends and was touched."
Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven," and the narrator asked if he was ignoring the obvious in favor of the spiritual (commenting that this is something many pastors nowadays do) and said no, explaining that in those days people thought if you were sick it was because you had done something wrong, and so Jesus was saying, "God is not angry at you." I was really impressed, because you have to work to get that interpretation from the text -- have to go in with the agenda that Jesus is not just saying, "Your sins being forgiven trump any other problems you have," and that is not a theological agenda I would have expected from this series. I was, however, uncomfortable with the way that the narrator kept being like, "THE JEWS had a system wherein you had to make a sacrifice (which you would usually have to buy) to have your sins forgiven," though yes his message that "Jesus freely forgiving sins upset the economic structure and took power out of the hands of people who didn't want to give up their power" was totally a message I hear a lot in my leftie churches. (In discussion later, Owen was talking about how preachers often don't challenge their parishioners, preach this tame Jesus, and I was like, "Actually, in a lot of my churches, especially in my evening church, we often talk about how Jesus was really radical, turning over the established order -- though we try to do it in a way that's not so negative on Judaism, by the way ... I was kind of offended by that in the video ... just wanted to put that out there," and Owen nodded understandingly, like, "Yes, I too noticed that very problematic aspect of the video.")
At one point Owen told a story of being at a funeral during the Iran hostage crisis and everyone being all, "Let's wipe those people off the map," and he was like, "I don't think that's what Christ would want, I don't think that's what our grandmother taught us," and he said, "We just wanna have a powerful reaction because we have the power." I was really impressed and surprised given my impression of the post-9/11 Christian Right. (Yes, for all that I'm, "No, the people who are on the other side from you are not necessarily scary," my time at SCBC has been frequently reminding me that just because people are not socially/theologically left-of-center in the way that I'm used to doesn't mean that they're necessarily going to hold all the opinions that I expect them to.)
We talked about how even nowadays people will often say that if you prayed to be healed and you weren't healed it's because you didn't have enough faith or whatever. (I commented that Jesus was moved by the faith of the friends
, and we don't know anything about the man's own faith, and that's really interesting given our traditional ideas about forgiveness being something that comes through your personal relationship with Jesus/God.)
Apparently they had done a session on the Prosperity Gospel (and agreed that they didn't think that was actually how God works). Owen mentioned the Book of James "ask without doubting" bit, and I said that that exists in tension with other parts of the Bible, that for instance the Great Commission we read that "some doubted" but Jesus empowers and sends forth ALL of them. (Yes, Mark Allan Powell's Loving Jesus
is clearly one of the most influential books I have read.)
Owen asked us if we'd have negative consequences of out choice to follow Christ, and after the second person talked about their moment of accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior and whether that created a rift between them and some of their loved ones, I commented that the whole "accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior" is really not a part of my personal theology and while I can see how it could cause rifts between people (though I don't think that's what Christ wants
-- which I said), what I was thinking about when I was thinking about Owen's question was how as followers of Christ we are called to do HARD things, that we are called to love EVERYBODY, that we are called to give up everything we have and follow Jesus
, and we argue around that, saying that people were more nomadic in those days and they actually had Jesus with them in the flesh and they could trust in the kindness of strangers, but we are told the story of the rich young man who did so many good things and he asked Jesus, "What's the next step? What do I need to do to get to heaven? How can I truly follow you?" and Jesus said, "Give everything you have to the poor and follow me," and he couldn't do that, the rich young man went away sad
. I actually felt bad that I'd gotten into the economic aspect, because the whole question of how we can best use our money and should we trust that God will provide for us like He does for the lilies and the sparrows is a whole nother conversation I wasn't even interested in having ... I'd initially meant to focus on the fact that we are called to do really difficult things like LOVE EVERYBODY, but thankfully no one continued the discussion in the "What should we do with our money?" vein.
We talked some about how people get so fixated on "enjoying" worship, and I didn't get to bring up Mark Allan Powell's "You would die for Jesus but you won't give him an hour of your time on Sunday morning?" (worship is for God, not us) versus the analogy I heard from Ari that God appreciates our worship like a parent appreciates gifts from a small child. Owen at least does seem to have a good balance between, "Yes, you should find a place to worship that works for you ... but it shouldn't just be about 'how you feel.'"
Owen mentioned that Arch Street Church [Googling, I think he means this
] used to have ads on the T specifically reaching out to be people who felt marginalized/outcast/whatever (only I don't think he quite used those words), and he said they had a lot of street people attend.
Ed said, "We could put a sign out." [as in, put a sign out front saying that all are welcome or whatever]
Owen said, "But if they come in and they don't get it..."
I agreed, "Welcome is hard
I actually would have been interested in a conversation about how we embody welcome in the church.
I will be sad for this to end for the summer (next week is the last one until after the summer).
Owen asked if anyone wanted to close us in prayer, and I volunteered. I opened by saying, "Great and Gracious God, Father and Mother of us all..." partly because when David (who wasn't here today) did the prayer last week, he said "Father God" like every other clause, and it was really bothering me -- plus Molly had emailed the listserv about this weekend
We're midway between Mother's Day and Father's Day, and so it's time to honor our own version at First Church: a post-gender Mothering Fathering Sunday.
Mother's Day, some of you likely know, was founded as an antiwar effort by mothers who were tired of losing their sons in violent conflicts. How times have changed...This Sunday, we'll celebrate mothering and fathering not as an exercise in materialism, but as a spiritual practice: to remember the Mother and Father of us all, to stick our finger in the side of those images of God who created us.
I'll be preaching, on the idea: "why does it seem like the default image for God in our imaginations is old, male, white?"
I totally fell asleep during Karl's sermon. This needs to stop happening.
Coffee Hour was really nice, though.
Jill asked me if I'd heard about Smith getting rid of all the chaplains, and I said I had
, though I should have asked her what she had read, 'cause she was complaining about the President having made statements which implied that as a strong academic institution our students didn't "need" religion.
CWM's Scripture Lesson was John 17:6-24 and John 17:24ff -- as paraphrased by Walter Wink (which, heh, is on TextWeek
; we ended with the penultimate paragraph on that first page -- last sentence: "When they discover that power, their joy will be boundless.") It felt a little too much for me -- some of the same feelings I get when I hear The Message version ... like it doesn't register as if I'm actually hearing The Bible, it just feels like a contemporary person talking.
Tiffany's sermon was much longer and more repetitive than I felt it needed to be, which is unfortunate since I usually really like her sermons. [Addendum: blogspot version of her sermon
-- edited down from what she preached at CWM.]
Tiffany kept talking about the status quo (Walter Wink had translated the Greek word "kosmos" as the "Domination System"), and I couldn't help thinking, "the status is not quo," even though I don't even really like Dr. Horrible
She said that Judas allowed betrayal to trump love -- he was alienated from relationship/God.
She mentioned that today is Ascension Sunday but that she wasn't going to be preaching on that -- "because I don't buy it ... I don't believe that Jesus ascended into Heaven and is sitting at the right hand of God ... because I look around and I see Jesus all around." I would argue that this is a different kind of "seeing Jesus."
txt msg exchange before church:
Michelle: Hey are you going to CWM tonight?
me: I am indeed.
Michelle: Cool I will see you there!
Michelle: So you support and validate my decision then? :-)
me: :P I do indeed. :D
Apparently she'd also texted Eric to ask if he would be going, and he said maybe, so when he saw her at church he asked, "Did my text message reply help you come?" and she said, "That's a loaded question," and he said, "No, that's a loaded answer" :)