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Archive for May, 2011

The stoning of St. Stephen by Gabriel-Jules Th...

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This past Sunday the first lesson from the Revised Common Lectionary was the murder of Stephen.  The killers thought they were doing God a favor.  This is a timely lesson as battles of various kinds rage within the Christian family.  Here is my first attempt to preach on this story.  This photo shows an image of the story that sits atop the main gate to the church of Saint-Etienne du Mont (“St. Stephen in the Mountain”), in Paris.

Where Our Eyes Need to Be  A Sermon on Acts 6:8-7:1, 7:39-8:3

 

The Apostle Paul suffered from some kind of ailment that he called his “thorn in the flesh.”  We don’t know what it was, whether it was physical or emotional.  But whatever it was, it was never completely relieved.  If you ask me, the memory of what happened the day that Stephen died could count as a thorn, if not the thorn.  It was a memory that carried a sting.  Paul never forgot what he saw that day when he was still known as Saul, how he had guarded the coats, and how he had approved of the murder, and how he had then gone out and ravaged the church in like manner.

The murder of Stephen was the result of a family fight, a fight within the family of faith.  At that time Christians were still a group within the Jewish faith, and Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew just like the people he disagreed with in the synagogue.

People being people, jealousy was no doubt one factor that was at work.  Stephen’s opponents tried to out-argue and out-speak him, but Stephen was a gifted speaker.  They couldn’t match the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke.

The far-deeper issue was that they could not accept what Stephen said about Jesus.  As far as they were concerned, as far as Saul was concerned, people like Stephen who followed the Jesus Way were wrong, dead wrong.  These people of Jesus were dishonoring God and disrespecting and misinterpreting God’s good law.  They were condoning sin and leading others to do the same.  For the sake of the true faith and true belief, Stephen had to be stopped. (more…)

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Dortmund, Propsteikirche, door handle on glas door

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If Jesus is the door, then the church is called to be the doorway to the door.

The Open Door
 A Sermon on John 10:1-10, Acts 2:42-47, and Psalm 23

Thank goodness Jesus found him.  In John 9, as soon as Jesus heard what had happened to the man he had healed, Jesus went to find him.  Instead of rejoicing that he was healed, the religious authorities had kicked the man out of the fold.  They slammed the door behind him.  That’s like being kicked out of your home church.  Where should he turn now?  Jesus found him and answered that question.  Jesus, the good shepherd, welcomed this sheep into his own fold.

Those who had appointed themselves to be God’s gatekeepers were more interested in keeping the wrong people out—namely the unworthy, the sinful, people who didn’t keep God’s law the way the Pharisees decreed they should be kept—these gatekeepers were more interested in keeping people out than they were in welcoming people into God’s fold.

The human heart longs for a sheepfold, a safe place.  No wonder Psalm 23 is read at so many bedsides and gravesides.  Images of rich green pastures and still water, images of a cup running over and a table piled high, promise safety and sustenance.  The fearful long for safety.  The hungry long for the table.  Alone and isolated, people long for a community, a place to belong, where the people know your name, and they’re always glad you came.  Thank goodness Jesus found the man wandering outside the synagogue, and welcomed him home.

Jesus says, “I am the door.  I am the way.  This way to life, and life abundant.  This way into the sheepfold.  This way to the table.”

But there is no shortage of other voices calling, “Come this way—this way to the good life.  This way to fulfillment.  This way out of loneliness.” (more…)

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 Are you tired of “stuff”?  Are you tired of planned obsolescence, waste, clutter and trash?  Here is a book that will lift your hopes for a better way:

What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Harper Business, 2010.

In colorful detail the authors describe how network technologies have enabled “an explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping.”  You can read about it in detail on the book’s web site, Collaborative Consumption Hub where you will find lots of news, links and video clips.

You can view a 17 minute video in which author Rachel Botsman outlines what this is all about here.

We need to consider what collaborative consumption could mean for the church.  There’s inspiration here as we try to practice an Acts 2 kind of lifestyle personally, but there’s more: we need to ask how we can put models like these to work as congregations and networks of congregations.  Big or small, resource-rich or not-so-resource-rich, all congregations and judicatories need to be thinking about sharing and collaborating in new ways to serve the mission of getting the good news out beyond the boundaries of the church.  Presbyterians like me and others who regard ourselves as “connectional” can make that word come to life in new ways.

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An interesting collage of pictures:

Rachel Held Evans: Rally to Restore Unity

Rachel Held Evans is a fresh young voice in the Christian blogosphere.  Her first book, Evolving in Monkeytown about her journey from certitude through doubt to faith, appeared in July 2010.  I haven’t read it yet, but it’s in my queue.  Meanwhile, I am finding interesting posts on her blog.

With the picture above, Rachel invites her readers to participate in an event on her blog called the Rally to Restore Unity, May 1-7.  This is in response to the latest battles that have been burning up the Christian blogosphere, such as the many passionate responses pro and con to Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins.

Of the posters above, I think my favorite is: “I DISAGREE, but I’m pretty sure you’re not a heretic.”

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