Monthly Archives: October 2014

Parabolic Questions

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Biblical Text: Matthew 22:1-14
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the third parable in a row that Jesus has told to the Chief Priests and the Elders in the temple. By this time the meaning at the time of telling is obvious, but the question is what does it mean on the other side of the parabola’s line of symmetry.

This sermon, with the help of Augustine and Gregory the Great, stakes out what it means for the church. In particular it looks at three things: 1) Where are we confronted with Jesus today?, 2) What do we take the wedding garment as? and 3) Do these things themselves point to something greater? Along the way we tackle a few other modern questions that cling to this parable.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Deuteronomy 9:1-22 and Matthew 11:1-19

Deuteronomy 9:1-22
Matthew 11:1-19
The temptation of Moses/Christ pleading for his people
Law & Gospel, John & Jesus, Flute & Dirge

You say po-tay-toe, I say po-ta-toe

For a long time the various church bodies shared more than they disagreed. The core of this really is the Nicene Creed. The various churches have different sacramental practices and ecclesial structures, but in beliefs, even the non-creedal churches, they believed the ancient creeds. The spillover effect of this in the West was that even if splintered the idea of Christendom was just observable enough to continue granting mutual recognition to each other’s ceremonies and rites. What this meant at a practical level was that one church never questioned the baptism of another church unless that baptism was by a clear cult like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Marriages were universally assumed to be valid. Yes, the argument could be heated and real, but they might have been so because the differences were so small.

Looking at the world today things are not as clear. What the state means by marriage is no longer what the church means by marriage. The church will have to deal with that in some manner. The first step in dealing with it is simply admitting it. Likewise within the church recognizing a baptism is tougher. It is not uncommon to find churches baptizing in the name of the creator, redeemer and sanctifier. Is that the same God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit that Christ told his disciples to baptize into? Of course there are the fringe churches within mainline denominations that substitute mother, friend and comforter. In each case the form of the triune God is hinted at, but is that the substance or is a different god and a different gospel at work in those waters?

Two generations ago if a church body expressed something it stood for the body. Today, that might not be the case. We have pretended it still held for a generation, early on it was a “no, they can’t really be doing that” while later it was more a conscious looking away like Sgt. Schulz (“I see nothing”). And that is simply within church bodies. What about the thousands of free standing “non-denoms”? You used to be able to assume they were Baptists, but today many of them are prosperity gospel-ers of various stripes. When the Nicene Creed which testifies to Christ “who was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried” is replaced with health and wealth, are sacraments valid? Can they be?

These questions go beyond the ancient questions about sacraments performed by a priest who later caved to Roman persecution. The ancient church held those sacraments valid because their source was clear. The status of the preacher’s faith does not impact them. But what about when the God invoked is Christ, but not any Christ that the church has known for 2000 years?

Again, I think we are just waking up to a world where things that have been assumed can no longer be taken for granted. The first step is admitting the changes that have happened. I wanted to share some of the articles that spur these thoughts.

This is Ross Douthat bringing up the idea that the church could decide that marriage laws in many countries no longer fit the pattern for valid natural marriage.

This isn’t the church, but “What Happens when your Rabbi decides He’s Gay”? The work is a piece of assertion and propaganda attempting to state “this is what all good people will think”, but it places the fundamental question of identity. Do I find my identity in God (Christ), or are there other things that are allowed to take precedent, like my view of my sexuality? What is the place of the law in the life of the believer?

This is the inverse of that situation, a woman who believes in the Catholic teaching of marriage but finds herself outside. Here plea is don’t accept what I am, but continue proclaiming the truth.

The last two are political and religious poles that I think help point the way forward. Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post calling marriage amendment backers “snake oil salesmen”. I think she is right. But accepting that means accepting that we the church must change how we act. And this is a call about one of the ways that parishes could be re-organized to address the problem.

The apostle Paul would write that we have no business judging those outside the church, but those inside are our responsibility (1 Cor 5:12-13). I guess I see the current moment as a Joshua moment. You do what you want, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. That starts with subtly and civilly declining to accept and use bad definitions of sacraments. The benefit of the doubt is no longer granted.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Deuteronomy 8:1-20 and Matthew 10:24-42

Deuteronomy 8:1-20
Matthew 10:24-42
A thought on manna/what is this and the bread of the eucharist or the body of Christ
The dangers of wealth
The risk/reward of the Kingdom

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Deuteronomy 7:1-19 and Matthew 10:1-23

Deuteronomy 7:1-19
Matthew 10:1-23
Scandal of Particularity
The Continuing Form of Israel

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Deuteronomy 6:6-25 and Matthew 9:18-38

Deuteronomy 6:6-25
Matthew 9:18-38
Freedom, slavery and Powers that be

Turning a Chair – Parables of Election

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Biblical Text: Matthew 21:33-46
Full Sermon Draft

The gospel text today is the second “vineyard parable” in three weeks. Two weeks ago it was the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. Today was the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. Vineyard parables to me are always, at least in the background, parables of election. I suppose I’m using a technical term there, election. The doctrine of election is the Christian phrase for being chosen or God’s choice. It often gets invoked in debate about free will and determinism. I’m also completely convinced that every person has deep within themselves as part of how they understand the world a doctrine of election. That is because election is about love. Who loves you and why and how and how long.

This sermon starts off with secular parable of election of sorts – the TV show The Voice. It then turns to the vineyard parables to think about election in the Kingdom of Heaven and how it differs. Along the way we look at cornerstone vs. head of the corner in building and how that relates to Christ, the alpha and omega, and how misperception of election causes us to reject the stone/son. It finishes with a reflection on living the sacraments, especially baptism, and how we live into the grace of election. I’d invite you along to think about election and how you view and receive the Kingdom.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Deuteronomy 4:1-20 and Matthew 7:13-29

Deuteronomy 4:1-20
Matthew 7:13-29
Teaching as one with authority (Jesus on the Mount = Cloud of Fire on the Mount)
The difference of starting with the Beatitudes

Music Recital/Organ Fundraiser – Oct 5th @ 4 PM

I should have had this up much sooner, but I want to invite everyone to a great afternoon of music this Sunday at 4 PM. We at St. Mark are inching our way toward a new organ and some of our musical members (and some fabulous conscripts) have agreed to help out. The featured artists are the Vertex Saxophone Quartet. I’ll include their write up below, but they have a wonderful sound and you should come listen. Also on the program are the St. Mark’s choirs – adult and children. My amazing daughter with a friend of the congregation, and the Bare Bones Trombone Trio. As our organizer says, there will be plenty of kids around, so bring the family for an eclectic program of music.

Recital program

FEATURED ARTIST

The Vertex Saxophone Quartet has been performing in the Rochester area since it’s founding in 2009. All four members are graduates of the Eastman School of Music. Dr. Chisato Eda Marling is on faculty at both Nazareth and Houghton Colleges and is a Vandoren Performing Artist. Mrs. Kristin Bayer is the saxophone instructor for Eastman Community Music School. Dr. Mark Kraszewski is the Jazz Studies professor at the University of Rochester, and Mrs. Nancy Boone-Bahr is a faculty member at the prestigious Hochstein School of Music.

Upcoming performances for Vertex include a recital in Wilmot Hall at Nazareth College on Sunday October 19th at 3:00pm. The quartet is also recording at the Hochstein Performance Hall on Wednesday November 5th at 12:10pm as part of WXXI’s Live from Hochstein recital series. Both concerts are free and open to the public.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Deuteronomy 3:1-29 and Matthew 7:1-12

Deuteronomy 3:1-29
Matthew 7:1-12
“Greater Israel” and a covenant of the law
Judgement, personal holiness vs. group identity, theological candy