The Powers That Be

Biblical Text of Sermon: Mark 1:21-28
Full Text of Sermon

So, if you are not from a pentecostal denomination, when was the last time you heard a sermon about powers and principalities or demonology? There is probably a good reason. Denominational pastors are by and large an educated lot (often over-educated) and talking about spiritual forces just seems “icky” and doing so feels like sacrificing any respectability. The educated world is thoroughly materialist in philosophy and to preach on the “powers” means a thorough-going super-naturalist stance depending solely upon revelation (unless the preacher has had a mystical experience and then its still revelation for the hearers and no longer biblical but personal). Add in the fact that popular understanding of the powers is summed up in Halloween and The Exorcist part 18, and you just kinda pick a different text. Or worse you preach on the exorcism text and explain it away through various “they just weren’t that bright” mechanisms.

But the gospel according to Mark just doesn’t allow that. If you are going to preach on Mark, you have to come to terms with the powers that be, because that is who Jesus is to Mark. Jesus is the one who breaks the backs of the powers. Jesus is the one sent to put away that greatest power – death.

And right there I think is the intersection with the modern world. Even though we are materialist in philosophy allowing smaller spiritual forces to hide, death doesn’t hide. We try to hide from him. We do our best to move him out of our sight. And the materialist will try even at funerals to say something like, “death is part of life”. But most people react in horror at that banality. We all have an intuitive reaction that this isn’t right, this isn’t how it was supposed to be. We have nothing to support that – other than revelation.

Jesus came with authority to break the back of the powers – including death. From the very start of his ministry Jesus commanded the spirits. His death and resurrection has disarmed them. In Christ as part of His body the church, we are already part of a resurrection body – something that even death has no power over.

Kindergarten Wisdom

I’m not exactly sure how we got on the subject. I think we were trying to get the idea of working across to the Kindergarten son in the vain hope of picking up his room.

6 yr old – “Where does the money come from?”
Mom – “Right now Daddy works”
6 yr old – “How do you get money?”
Mom – “Well, I take care of you, and I beg Daddy for some money.” (Said with a grin.)
6 yr old – “We don’t beg, we just take it from him.”

1 step forward, 5 steps back, sigh…

Discipleship: Dropping the nets, Identity and the Reign of God

Biblical Text: Mark 1:14-20
Full Text of Sermon

I think it is sometimes difficult to relate the call to discipleship we hear in the gospels to our lives. These are men (and women) who literally dropped their nets. How do you proclaim that without completely gutting it or spiritualizing it too much?

The epiphany season’s texts give us some insight. God meets us where we are at. The specific call to discipleship, when God passes by, is different for everybody, but it has a couple of things that are the same for everybody. 1) We are all being made into fishers of men. All disciples are called to be part of the mission of God which is to save sinners. 2) Part of being made into fishers of men is finding our identity not in our nets or our family or our boats or any of the variety of things that define us. The disciple finds their identity in Christ. 3) Finding our identity in Christ means being part of the body of Christ – the church. We are all equally sinners at the foot of the cross. All equally saints washed in the blood. We have the same baptism and eat the same holy food.

Wherever you are at – and God condescends to us where we are at – you can be on that discipleship walk. Dropping the things that now define you is just as radical as dropping the nets.

A Snowy Song!

We’ve been singing a song this week in the preschool, and the kids have really been enjoying the actions. It’s from The Mailbox website. I wanted to share it in case you want to sing it with your children!

To play this entertaining game, give each child a small piece of cotton batting to represent snow (we used cotton balls). Lead students in singing the song while they hold the batting on their heads as indicated in the first line. Sing repeated verses of the song, changing the name of the body part and encouraging youngsters to place their snow accordingly.

(Sung to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”)

The snow is on my [head].
It landed there, you see.
I went outdoors to play
And snowflakes fell on me!

The Exclusive/Inclusive Jesus

Biblical Text of Sermon: John 1:43-51
Full Text of Sermon

The modern world is one full of distractions. I’m the geek that as a kid you could find reading an encyclopedia. My schoolmates were sure that “Encyclopedia Brown” was biographical. But today I find myself reading a few pages and flitting off to something else. And the Kindle doesn’t help with that. That approach to spirituality and religion goes no place good. Oh you can fool yourself into thinking that you are getting a broader view or are just sharing in the wisdom. The problem is that everything else out there is a shadow compared to the reality of Jesus Christ. That is the Father’s Epiphany to us. Things we saw glimpses of elsewhere we see the fullness of in Jesus. And it takes time to incorporate an Epiphany – sometimes an entire life. Not the least because it usually demands that we change something in ourselves. To accommodate what we have become comfortable with to what Jesus intends. That is ultimately the question of discipleship. Do you want to stick around, go deep, to see the greater things of Jesus? Or is the world’s buffet too tempting?

Paragraph to Ponder

Pointed out by Prof. Tyler Cowen

The U.S. median wage for 2010 was $26,363.
The average health care insurance premium today is over $15,000 and by 2021 it may be headed to $32,000 or so (admittedly that estimate is based on extrapolation).

That is the tip of the spear of American social problems. And I’d say at its core I’d say it is a spiritual problem. Can you have a materialist philosophy and an egalitarian social structure?

John Adams, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

A Supreme Court Decision – I guess a victory of sorts

Here is the Supreme Court Ruling (unanimous, 3 differing opinions) in favor of Hosanna-Tabor LCMS vs. EEOC representing a teacher. Seeing that the LCMS general counsel represented Hosanna-Tabor, I’m guess they would largely agree with this that this represents a great victory. And I don’t disagree that religious liberty is an important thing. But let me quote the Court Ruling facts:

After respondent Cheryl Perich completed the required training, Hosanna-Tabor asked her to become a called teacher. Perich accepted the call and was designated a commissioned minister…
Perich developed narcolepsy and began the 2004–2005 school year on disability leave. In January 2005, she notified the school principal that she would be able to report to work in February. The principal responded that the school had already contracted with a lay teacher to fill Perich’s position for the remainder of the school year. The principal also expressed concern that Perich was not yet ready to return to the classroom. The congregation subsequently offered to paya portion of Perich’s health insurance premiums in exchange for her resignation as a called teacher. Perich refused to resign. In February, Perich presented herself at the school and refused to leave until she received written documentation that she had reported to work. The principal later called Perich and told her that she would likely be fired. Perich responded that she had spoken with an attorney and intended to assert her legal rights. In a subsequent letter, the chairman of the school board advised Perich that the congregation would consider whether to rescind her call at its next meeting. As grounds for termination, the letter cited Perich’s “insubordination and disruptive behavior,” as well as the damage she had done to her “working relationship” with the school by “threatening to take legal action.” The congregation voted to rescind Perich’s call, and Hosanna-Tabor sent her a letter of termination.

Does that sound like what you want to be in court defending religious liberty over? Yeah, we are the church. We get to fire sick people. Yeah! If you continue, they were able to do that because she was a “minister”. A non-minister employee would have government protection. What does it say that this minister trusted Caesar more than her own church?

Of course none of this address the internal issue that a call is supposed to be a divine call. Something like “in sickness and in health”. The practical reasons cited are all true. And a minister should know enough that they couldn’t continue to work in such an atmosphere. They should place the good of the Kingdom over their own good. But none of those reasons are the traditional reasons for rescinding a call.

Luke 12:58 – As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison.

Matt 5:40 – And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

1 Cor 6:1-8 – When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud–even your own brothers!

I call Jesus and Paul to the stand. Why not rather be defrauded? Even if you win before the court unanimously, you lose. Can anyone tell me how I can read this as a glorious victory?

Wonderful Winter!

It may not feel much like Winter in the Rochester area so far, but here at St. Mark’s Preschool we’re learning all about this cold, snowy season! Since we got back from Christmas break, we’ve been reading books about Winter, including “Snow Bear,” “A Hat for Minerva Louise,” and “Biscuit’s Snowy Day.”

The children’s favorite activity over the past couple of weeks has been playing with our “Insta-Snow.” Since there hasn’t been any snow outside, I had to resort to the artificial kind! The children did a great job determining whether it was real or fake. We also discussed how water turns to ice when it freezes and watched an ice cube melt in our classroom.

Next week, we’re going to start learning about polar animals and how they stay warm!


Google Serendipity

This was the Google Icon this morning. It is sometimes interesting who they pick, but today’s was fascinating. Here is the Wikipedia entry for Nicolas Steno. Here is the Catholic Encyclopedia Entry. What a fascinating life. Lutheran, World Class Scientist, Convert, Priest, Bishop, Pious Ascetic, Missionary, Tragic Death.

This quote found in the Wikipedia entry betrays the lost foundations.

Fair is what we see, Fairer what we have perceived, Fairest what is still in veil.

He never gave up the hunger for truth. And from that quote what you can see is what he believed the foundation of all truth was. The world made sense – was fair, beautiful and true – because God made it make sense. Though parts might be veiled now, there is an order we can perceive.

Sainted by John Paul the Second, feast day Dec 5th.