Opposing conceptions of reality, the tendency to label as insane what doesn’t conform to your reality, absurdity, the necessity of witness
Tag Archives: witness
Biblical Text: Mark 13:1-13
Full Sermon Draft
Eschatology or Last Things circles back around to first things, the alpha meets the omega. And right at the base if first things is identity – who or what do you see yourself as? Do you emerge from a random universe, a brief flowering of dust that will go back to dust having done nothing other than move some dust around? Are you unknowing about such things, better to eat, drink and be merry. Or are you the special creation of a personal God who knew you before you were formed? Who you think you are will have a big influence on where you think you are going.
But being sinful creatures, even if we mentally have our first things in line with truth, we are often drawn to temporal replacements for that identity – the temples of this world. They are big and impressive and often cohesive and can be good, but not even the temples are a first thing. If they obscure our identity as a Child of God, its got to go. We so easily latch on to created things to build our identity. Jesus’ warnings, and the roiling turmoil of the birth pains, are reminders to watch. To remember whose we are. And to remember whose promises we can trust.
The struggles of the last things are a sharing in the sufferings of Christ – The First Thing. God did not choose works or any other means to save us, but he chose faith. A faith that the cross is actually the victory. That a death is actually the life. That God can be found in the depths just as surely as the heights. That God has shared everything that is common to man. Last Things are not so much a peering into the future, but an appeal to faith that the glory of God is concealed, is held, in the present tribulations. That God has not abandoned us, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. For we hold this eternal treasure in jars of clay.
Scripture Text: Luke 24:36-49
Full Text of Sermon
Facts, assertions, methods, inferences, hypotheses, stories. Facts are nice. We all like facts. But lets also be straight: 1) facts are usually boring or maybe better inert and 2) a lot that parades as fact just isn’t. My 3rd grader does a lot of learning of facts and methods. There are some things that come home as fact that I might question. I’ll challenge her every now and then to evaluate or analyze the facts, but that is not the role of a 3rd grader. That is the role of an adult. Unfortunately, in our postmodern world, that is a responsibility that we often neglect.
Probably the biggest reason that we have come to metaphysical despair is simply the question in the title – How do you know? I can (and do) proclaim the wounds of Christ, the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and all of the apologetic strategies. As the great lenten hymn says, proofs I see sufficient of it, ’tis the true and faithful word. Those are the facts of the Jesus story. The question is what to say about them: A ghost, like the disciples at first, a fraudulent conspiracy, a mass delusion, a myth, a resurrection triumph over sin, death and the power of the devil? You can tell most of those stories with a purely materialist mindset. You can’t tell that last one. How do you know that Christ is arisen? The Spirit who spoke by the prophets lives in me, lives in the live of the church, the people of God.
The adult task of the Christian is to work with the Spirit – in word and deed. Be in the Word on a daily basis. Live that word out in our daily lives. We are witnesses of the resurrection – starting in Jerusalem.
If I’m looking at this sermon critically – it is too much lecture and not enough preaching. Here is what I mean by that: a lecture conveys information while preaching reaches beyond that.
The core of the text (1 Pet 3:13-22) as I read it was a summary of Peter’s argument up to this point, and a reiteration of the purpose. The argument is be holy. The longer form of that is Be Holy because you are a child of God and that is what God’s children do. The purpose – to point the glory and all eyes toward Christ.
Peter’s words are “be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in you.” For me the summary of the hope that is in me is creeds. The creeds themselves are intellectual things. The make statements of what I take to be facts. (Non-Christians would say that make claims that are probably not facts.) But it is not that intellectual content that is the basis of my or the church’s hope. The basis is the truth that the creeds speak about – the God, Father, Son and Spirit, reigns. Hope rests not in this suffering world, or hope rests not in this ill-at-ease contentment of safety and plenty and its continuation. Hope rests in the fact that God acts and has acted and continues to act. Hope rests in the fact that the God who has acted has revealed himself not to be a harsh judge, but one moved to compassion (I’m bringing back a greek work – splagnizomai), who has his guts torn out over his world.
Our proclamation of that Hope (the church’s proclamation of that hope) is displayed in our holiness. Being prepared is not just about knowing the creed, but also about living it. And living something is always messy.
Our litany of prayers on Sunday usually includes a line, “for all those in need…for all those in prison.” That line, even though as Christians we are supposed to care about prisoners (Matt 25:36), I’m sure is a stumbling block. The typical middle class response to prison is something like Paul’s line, “but if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing.” (Rom 13:4).
Now here is the sentence to ponder. From David Brooks…
“The average corrections officer [in California] makes $70,000 a year in base salary and $100,000 with overtime (California spends more on its prison system than on its schools).”
Now that line would typically get used as a club by the political left to argue for higher education spending and by the political right as a club about prisoners getting bread and water only. Maybe both sides should take it, instead of as a chance for talking points, as a chance to repent. The society matters. Any society that is producing that many people that need to be locked up has something wrong at its core. The people matter. Lock’em up and throw away the key isn’t a valid answer.