Monthly Archives: May 2015

True Worship

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Biblical Text: John 3:1-17, Athanasian Creed, Baptismal Liturgy
Full Sermon Draft

A one worshipper said, “I felt like I went to church today”. It was Trinity Sunday so we confessed the faith with the Athanasian creed. We had a baptism at the start or service, and we celebrated holy communion. The recording trims most of that stuff, but it is that stuff which the sermon points toward. What this sermon attempts to do is two fold: a) it outlines potential mistakes in how we think about worship and b) it points to the primacy of worship in the Christian life.

The fact is that we were made to worship. Everyone worships. Religious and non-religious. And true worship is seated in the Soul. Situating it in the body or the mind leads to serious problems. The sermon examines those problems and points at the salvation from them. True worship is a gift of God through the Spirit. To worship rightly one must be born of water and the Spirit. True worship, instead of draining us, feeds us. And when our worship is rightly ordered, our lives are on the path to being rightly ordered directed at resurrection.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Psalm1 and Luke 23:1-25

Psalm 1
Luke 23:1-25
Jesus, the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked
Our inclusion by faith in the righteous

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Psalm 22:19-26 and Luke 22:47-71

Psalm 22:19-26
Luke 22:47-71
God’s abiding with the afflicted
The deliverance from our long affliction

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Psalm 94:8-14, Luke 22:24-46

Psalm 94:8-14
Luke 22:24-46
The Law as Blessing
Christ as the blessed one

Tomorrowland, Mad Max and Liturgy

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So Tomorrowland had a bad opening. Tomorrowland was the Disney produced move staring George Clooney that you can roughly guess the story from the title. (Admission, I also did not see it. I am going on reviews and trailers.) It has something to do with a rosy optimistic futurism that might be best captured by Walt himself and a nostalgic view of the race to the moon. The only troubles this futurism can admit to are either those of bad people holding back the future or speed-bumps on the way to greatness. Mad Max: Fury Road in its second week almost met Tomorrowland. Max of course is the flipside of Tomorrowland, a pessimistic futurism. A world where the sane are mad holding on to hope and escaping trouble today just means your road ends tomorrow.

As a liturgist one of our forgotten truths is that we embed our greatest truths in ritual. We all have ritual, even you atheists and Baptists. About a year ago our family took part in one of those rituals – the grandparents took us to Disneyworld. Disneyworld is the Vatican of that Tomorrowland futurism. It’s a great trip. Don’t take this as a complaint. Every American child really should go once – like on the Hajj. It is part of being American. Part of the American experience and birthright is the idea that we can do this. From the Pilgrims on the Mayflower to failure is not an option. Disneyland is the architectural realization of that ideal every bit as much as Chartres is of medieval Catholicism. But as my oldest child warmed my heart by saying when asked if she wanted to come back, “no, it’s all fake”. That might have been the harsh judgment of youth, but she parsed truth from a half-truth. The truth of we can do this in Disneyworld is hidden behind the half-truth of it is easy if we just clear the path and keep everything clean. Clearing the path and keeping everything clean in tomorrowland takes massive injections of outside funds. And even then “it’s all fake”.

I’ve been trying to think of the ritual expression of Mad Max and I think I know it now, the social welfare state. That state might have started out as an expression of Tomorrowland, but now it is simply an expression of power. When the sane observe that it doesn’t work and might have made things worse they are met with cries of cold-hearted bigot. The outcome of the ritual is not important. It is the fact of the ritual and our heart’s intentions. We mean to make life for the poor better. We have the right belief. Government is the only thing we do together, the ultimate ecumenical expression. Yes, we lost the war on poverty, but government goes on. Your road might end tomorrow, but the government will survive and keep on the fight. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. What are you, mad?

Tomorrowland and Mad Max are alternate expressions of the progressive worldview. And Satan could care less which rituals you want to take part in, because both are false and half-truths. He wins when you are led astray. What he doesn’t want you to see is the truth embedded in the church’s liturgy. I am, we all are, the bad people standing in the way of Tomorrowland. The bad people are not some others, but ourselves. I am “a poor, miserable sinner”. “I have sinned in thought, word and deed, by what I’ve done and what I’ve left undone.” The admission that we are by nature sinful and unclean takes care of that “it’s all fake” problem. We can still do great things, but it is going to take a massive injection from outside of us. Which we hear in the absolution. “Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all of our sins.” That is not fake but as real as a cross.

Likewise contra Max, this road is going somewhere. “This is the feast of victory for our God. Worthy is Christ the lamb…the lamb who was slain has begun his reign.” We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. The intersection of this life and death is found in that highest ritual, the Lord’s Supper. We admit the gritty reality a Max. It took flesh and blood. It took sacrifice. But that sacrifice was not madness. That was the sacrifice of a true innocent which covers us. In this supper we have a foretaste of the feast to come. We have a celebration of the marriage feast. We have a glimpse of the end of the road. We are not mad to persevere, because in our flesh we will see God.

We all have ritual or liturgies. And those liturgies form us and how we see the world. Be careful of the yeast of Tomorrowland or Mad Max.

Can These Bones Live?

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Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 15:26-27, 16:4-15
Full Sermon Draft

Given the recent Pew Report on American Religion I’m surprised the image of dry bones hasn’t been used. I suppose it is because Satan knows scripture and there is a sturdy reply in this text. But we have heard some church members, and I myself at times, sounding like Israel in the Ezekiel text, “Our bones are dried up, and our Hope is lost.” This sermon is God’s answer to that. It is the answer of Pentecost. Therefore prophesy, and say to them, thus says the Lord God: “Look, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people.” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live…Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Numbers 20:1-22 and Luke 20:19-44

Numbers 20:1-22
Luke 20:19-44
What do we expect of the Promised Land? What does it mean to be in the presence of the Holy?
When in dialog appropriate and when is confrontation the only course?

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Numbers 16:41-17:13 and Luke 20:1-18

Numbers 16:41-17:13
Luke 20:1-18
Envy & Call
The transfer of the vineyard

Kids, Sports and Grace

This article got me on edge. Here is a quick quote:

While neighborhood games become increasingly scarce, year-round travel teams have never been more prevalent. The U.S. Specialty Sports Association, the dominant organizing body for travel baseball, said it has around 1.3 million players spread across 80,000 teams, more than double what it had 10 years ago. The company’s website includes national rankings for teams in age groups that begin at “4 and under.”

Ismael Gonzalez, who manages the Miami-based 9-and-under team MVP Juniors Elite, said his team travels throughout the Southeast, playing more than 100 games a year and practicing two or three days a week. “These kids work like machines,” he said. “This is not just for fun. This is their lifestyle.”

That is child abuse. I don’t remember playing organized sports other than baseball before 7th grade. In High School I played a sport each season. I loved Basketball, but the thought of playing nothing but would drive me crazy. This is the hard saying nobody wants to hear. If your kid is going to make the big leagues in any sport, the level of innate physical talent, usually speed, is such that they will make it dedicating themselves to it starting in High School or later. If they aren’t going to make it, it doesn’t matter how early they specialize, they aren’t going to make it.

The problem with many rec leagues is that the zealots have taken over. The casual league is managed and run with the express purpose of giving travel teams free reign and developing a star player. That is not the purpose of rec leagues or rec facilities. The purpose is to give the average kid something to do for a few hours other than play x-box. To learn the love of being part of a team. To learn that just playing, win or lose, is valued and important. (Not that winning isn’t more fun.)

There are a couple of interesting theological ideas playing out here. The first is the freedom that the idea of election actually gives. Theologically election might be expressed in the biblical phrase, “those that have more will be given, those that have not even what they have will be taken away (Matt 25:29).” Knowing that God gets what God wants or that “my sheep hear my voice” takes the burden off our effort and allows for grace. Baseball wise, little league is not going to make or break a future big leaguer. When you reject election, it is all on you. When it is all on you, life gets out of whack and grace disappears. The second is that the law always accuses. When grace has been abandoned for the law alone, baseball wise when leagues are run for producing the future hall of famer, all who don’t measure up to that level are condemned. The law is unyielding. What grace does is not take away the chance to be a hall of famer, we still have saints. What it does is say is play it for love.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Numbers 16:23-40 and Luke 19:29-48

Numbers 16:23-40
Luke 19:29-48
The Holiness of God and What we approach in Communion
Recognizing when God is acting in our midst