Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

Lord, Son of David

Biblical Text: Matthew 15:21-28
Full Sermon Draft

The text is the Canaanite woman’s request. In a week of Nazis and violence it would have been harder to pick a better text. The sermon explores the relationship between Christ and Tribe or between Christ and all the various things that we base our identity on. The text, with its blunt sayings, allows us to work in two direction. The woman’s repeated title of choice is “Lord”. Jesus’ responses to the disciples and then the woman allow us to understand just who this Lord is. He is not OUR lord, the Lord of created to back up our preferred identities, but He is THE Lord. The Lord is also the Son of David. Salvation comes from the Jews. It is that joint truth that is a God large enough to save, but particular enough to be human. I believe that in such a week this sermon offers both truth and hope.

I don’t address it in the sermon, because it is a speculative or allegorical reading, but it is a reading that captures this religious imagination. This anonymous woman has been called the mother of the gentile church. The woman’s request is for the healing or exorcism of the her daughter. The woman herself as a Canaanite from Tyre and Sidon stands in for the entirety of the Gentiles. In the OT time period the nations were given over to the idols. The woman’s request is to drive the demons or those idols from her daughter – the church growing. At that allegorical level where characters are not just themselves but stand for larger entities or truths, the request is to make the gentile church clean. Even more so, admitting being “dogs”, being outside the old covenant, to still share in the new. Does the Christian have to become a Jew first, the question of Acts 15, is addressed allegorically here. The Canaanite woman’s faith in the abundance of the Lord Son of David, that the lost sheep of Israel includes Canaanites, spurs Jesus to grant the request. Hence the mother of the gentile church. Not provable in a modern way, but it rings a lot of poetic images.

Grace was Never Practical

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Biblical Text: Mark 10:2-26
Full Sermon Draft

This sermon is a little longer than my typical one. The subject from the gospel text is marriage and divorce. Because the contextual density of the topic and because of its high profile in our general culture this sermon takes its time and spells out all the steps. I believe I arrive at the proclamation of the gospel, but it might not be the gospel we always want to hear.

Be Opened – The Kingdom Inbreaking in Unexpected Ways

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Biblical Text: Mark 7:31-37
Full Sermon Draft

This sermon is based on a “level 2” reading of the Gospel of Mark. What I mean by level 2 is that to make the connections necessary you have to look at the locations, characters and actions of what is being told and assume that the writer picked this story specifically to carry meaning. The deaf and mute man was chosen because his disabilities and their healings are symbolic for what the Kingdom of God is doing on a larger level. The first part of the sermon hopefully establishes at least the plausibility of that level 2 reading. The second attempts to apply it to our situation.

Doctrinally this puts me in the realm of election and sanctification. The sermon is about the tension or specific actions that these doctrines call for.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Isaiah 11:1-12:6 and 2 Peter 2:1-22

Isaiah 11:1-12:6
2 Peter 2:1-22
God’s claim over his people wherever they may be
The Kingdom which unites vs. The False Prophets which divide

Daily Lectionary Podcast – 1 Samuel 20:1-23 and Acts 28:16-31

1 Samuel 20:1-23
Acts 28:16-31
Jonathan as a type of the Apostle putting The Kingdom of God before his own Kingdom
Paul in house arrest but full free

Daily Lectionary Podcast – 1 Samuel 15:10-35 and Acts 25:13-27

1 Samuel 15:10-35
Acts 25:13-27
The weakness of Saul, seek first the Kingdom of God, Paul/Jesus Parallel with Agrippa:Festus::Herod:Pilate

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Genesis 39:1-23 and Mark 10:13-31

Genesis 39:1-23
Mark 10:13-31
The hard call of the gospel, prioritizing Jesus and the Kingdom

Daily Lectionary – Isaiah 63:1-14 and Luke 2:21-40

Isaiah 63:1-14
Luke 2:21-40
Reflections on LSB333 – Once He Came in Blessing & the Nunc Demittis (Song of Simeon)

Inequality & Spirituality

Here is NPR with economist Tyler Cowen on his new book, Average is Over. The core of Cowen’s thesis is that we have become used to looking at things like the average or median wage to gauge the economy. In post-WW2 USA, and really in the US for most of its experience, the economy (GDP) grew and everyone got richer. Labor was always scarce, there was always the frontier, the competition was lying in smoking ruins allowing monopoly-like cartels that could share the wealth. All that is over. Outsized returns are now accruing to the 1% alone. Because of data tracking, which is really just getting started, we will identify the contributors easier. If you are talented it will become easier to get real rich. If you are not, well, robots and computers are going to replace you. The end result is increasing financial inequality. Not the 1% and the 99%, but to Cowan the 15% and the 85%.

There are two things that Cowen completely misses. Actually I don’t think he misses them so much as dismisses them as not credible. First, his explanation of happiness for a large group not in the 15%:

“Imagine a very large bohemian class of the sort that say, lives in parts of Brooklyn,” Cowen explains. “… It will be culturally upper or upper-middle class, but there will be the income of lower-middle class. They may have lives that are quite happy and rewarding, but they may not have a lot of savings. There will be a certain fragility to this existence.”

What does he mean by this? Well, I’ll take a stab. What he means is a class of poor enlightenment liberals. Let’s get even more explicit. A group that will largely practice self-restraint and late couple-pairing to raise their one child, but has no problem with: no-attachment sex, unlimited abortion, no-fault divorce and recreational drugs. Because they will have pseudo-prestigious (not real prestigious or they would be in the 15%) credentials they will be able to separate themselves from the riff-raff. They will socially amplify the difference by culturally associating with things the opposite of Monster Truck Rallies, say Shakespeare in the Park, which will be funded by a grant from the NEA in conjunction with the ABC foundation.

The first thing that Cowen misses is that we’ve seen that world before many times. A real power upper-crust, a cultural power broader based club like group with exclusionary behaviors and markers, and the people of the land. In the New Testament that equates to the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees and the crowds. What was the big problem with Jesus? He challenged and made fun of the Pharisees pseudo-prestigious markers. He ate with tax collectors and sinners – the equivalent of going to a monster truck rally. What eventually breaks out in such a world is Mary’s Magnificat – “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy (Luke 1:51-54).” That has happened many times.

The second thing that Cowen misses or discounts to nothing is the Spiritual understanding of prior American generations. Is it a co-incidence that great inequality is emerging at the same general time of a great falling away from Christian teaching among the real ruling class? Cowen is an economist and it makes sense to explain to concentration as economic rationality. Talented people are more in demand, so their pay has become outsized. That is part of the happy justification for actually using position to extract the rents – I deserve it, I’m a meritocrat. Did not previous generations have such justifications? (The answer is yes). Sometimes they acted on them, but in the west they were typically bounded by Christian teaching if just the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) or the Rich Man and his barns (Luke 12:13-21).

In a world oppressed by the rich and the oral law (your credit score record combined with all that big data), where the bread and circuses have lost their enchantment but we continue to rut around anyway because that is all there it, where society has become highly segmented class wise – hear this proclamation: Christ has come to set you free. There is neither Harvard nor University of Michigan, Temp employee nor Junior exec, beta-bohemian or alpha-elite. For you are all one in Jesus Christ. In Christ you are heirs. Through the Spirit you can live a life not of passing moments like envy and drunkeness and orgies and the like, but of of love, joy, peace, self-control. Because Christ has set you free.

Think that might preach?

Kingdoms, Thrones and Broken Vocations

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Biblical Text: Galatians 1:11-24
Full Draft of Sermon

We continue our reading and preaching from Galatians this week.

I can be fairly accused of being a grammar geek, at least with the Scriptures. For most writers, or speakers, the syntax of how they write gives you insight and information into how they are thinking. Now some texts don’t deserve such parsing because they are just stream of consciousness. But other texts, texts that border on art whatever their genre, scream for a close read. The author wants to get something across and has taken care to write it in the way thought best. Great authors are famous for being fastidious over words. In a 1000 page novel they will argue with an editor about a single word on page 251 as if the entire work depended on it. The scriptures might be written by the most fastidious of authors ever – the Spirit.

What stood out to me about Paul’s autobiographical section of Galatians was the pronouns and the switch of pronouns. When Paul describes his life before the Damascus Road, the pronouns are all I and my. They are all first person. Even though on the surface his was zealous for Judaism, the way he expresses it tells the truth. He was zealous for himself expressed through Judaism. Like we can be zealous for ourselves expressed through owning an Apple or a Samsung cell phone. But when he turns to his current life, the pronouns are now mostly third person – he or him. The primary focus of Paul’s life shifted from me to Christ. Put in different terms which this sermon explores, Paul puts the Kingdom first.

He still has his place. Paul has a vocation, a calling. He is an apostle. But the living of that vocation is not about expressing my will, but about glorifying God. With a side trip through George Martin’s Game of Thrones, art can help us see truth that we don’t want to see, the Realm comes first and then all these things (our vocations) are added.