Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I see your hinny, so bright and shinny: Becoming a people of the light, James 1:17-27

The title of this entry is a little saying my mother-in-law uses around the boys. she doesn't say it as much anymore simply because their not naked as often as they use to be when they were infants and toddlers. She use to say it back when they were little and were getting out of the tub or getting a diaper  change. We so often refer to God as a parent I thought that perhaps this "saying" might be approperiate. When God sees us, in all our vulnerability and simplicity what does he say? I would hope that in my life he would say something like this saying of my mother-in-law. I would hope he would see a light, so bright and shinny.

This book of James is notorious for being a book that see's Christian faith and life as a work. James is clear that all the stuff we say about God, all the stuff we say we believe means nothing without actions backing up our words. 15th century Augustinian Monk and church reformer, Martin Luther, was so concerned with the "works righteousness" theme of James that he referred to it as "a straw epistle" and almost refused to translate and include it in the German language bible he is so famous for.

This passage is one of the most well known passages from the book of James along with "the tongue is a flame"and "Faith without works is dead". Just like the other two passages, this one reminds us that faith is more than belief. This is the only passage in the New Testament where God is called "father of lights". This is referring to creation when the father placed the heavenly lights in the sky. This also refers to believers since we are called to be lights in a very dark and scary world.

Our world is as dark as it's ever been and I'm not speaking globally as much as I am speaking locally and nationally. We live in a world were economies are crashing, jobs are drying up, temperatures are rising and crops are dying. More and more people struggle from paycheck to paycheck, more and more people are receiving government aid in the form of HUD, TANF and FOOD STAMPS. More and more people line up at unemployment and job seeking agencies everyday.

This weekend is Labor Day. It's the unofficial end of summer and start of "back to business". It was a holiday to celebrate our right and ability to work and therefore our ability to provide a safe and comfortable life for ourselves and our families. Now more often than not its another holiday where most Americans can't afford to do anything other than what they do everyday...LABOR. Much of the strife and suffering that has arisen in our country over economic issues is tied to greed and selfishness and is tied to politicians who's goal it is to support and care for the wealthy and corporations instead of the needs of the common.

I could go on for hours complaining about the insurmountable greed and sensationalism of our nation, but I won't. Instead I'll leave it to scripture to point out that in life's most darkest hours the people of God are called to be lights, not to simply bask in the light, but to be the light. The Apostles James reminds us what it means to be a light and the shine in the darkness when he says, "This is true faith, to care for the vulnerable in their time of distress." (James 1:27). Shine christian, shine! Let the love, compassion and hope of God radiate from you in all the things you do, and remember true Christians do, not just hear the word of God.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Eph. 6:10-20 "Fighting the Empire: How to defeat the cosmic forces of evil

Darkness reigns, right? We seem to be in an age where darkness reigns supreme, but there is hope. Much like the galaxy faced certain doom as the Empire lunched the death star, there seems to be a certain doom the engulfs our current situation.

I love museums. I have been to some of the best in the world, the Louvre, The British Museum of Arts, the D.I.A and the Philbrook in Tulsa, OK. I have yet to visit the "MET", but it's on my bucket list. When I was young I loved to go to the part of the museum that housed the Medieval suits of armor. I thought. "those are so cool", but in reality I bet they were pretty hot as well as inconvenient. Could you imagine battling in something that bulky? Now Roman armor, that was built for comfort and speed.

Romans wore a light metal mesh "shirt", carried a light wooden shield over laid with animal hide, a light metal sword with a wooden handle, a breathable helmet made of animal hide, a leather belt with a leather and metal beaded mesh to protect the "jewels" and treaded, leather sandals. This suit of armor was designed to make the soldiers mobile and to keep then from receiving any mortal wounds....simply so they could go on fighting in battle.

The "armor of God" in the Pauline letter to Ephesus uses this roman armor as a template for the battle ready armor of the followers of the way of Jesus and it was not simply to keep them from dying, but to empower them for living. Each piece of armor as  a spiritual signifigance. Essentially what is being said is this, believers are armed with, or better yet given the "tools" (I say tools because "armed" denotes weapons and weapons denote violence, something our society needs to deal with) of truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, faith and Spirit.

It is with these these tools that we are to dispel the forces of darkness the rule this current age. These tools are the things that we, the church, are building the kingdom of God with. The truth that God loves all, a righteousness that seeks the well being of all humanity, a peace the transcends all understanding, a salvation from hate, intolerance and greed, faith that moves mountains and a Spirit that empowers, heals, and comforts all.

With this tool box it seems to me that evil, darkness and hatred don't stand a chance.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Wise, Worshipful, Wayward: The Christian Difference, Eph. 5:15-20

What makes us different? Not different in race, sex, culture and so on, but what makes us Christian folk different form everyone else? The bible calls us to be different, markably different too, as in, people should know there is something unique about our lives...our lives as individuals and or life as a community of faith.

The bible tells us that the love we have for each other is a hallmark of Christian living, "they will know you by your love." What else? To be known for your love is kind of a loaded answer to a loaded question. There are some distinctions regarding that love.

Our passage for this week seem to indicate that what ought to be different about us is our wisdom, worship, and waywardness. The waywardness is also loaded, or as my Systematic Theology Professor from St.Paul, Dr. Chun would say, "It is pregnant with infinite possibility." Wayward is normally considered a bad thing, but hold on, there's more to it.

First wise. How are we wise, where are we wise, when are we wise. All the correct journalism questions. Our wisdom ought to transcend the perceived wisdom of this age. Our wisdom hails from a king, who's kingdom is like anything this world has seen. It must be a wisdom rooted firmly and only in the agenda of a loving, kind, compassionate and forgiving God.

Second worshipful. We are not a people who ought to fit snuggly into the prevailing religions of this age, both the fundamental "christian" religions that claim to know all of God's mind and will and who propagate a doctrine of intolerance and hate. And neither should we worship at the altar of greed and materialism. Our worship is rooted simply in one word, thankfulness. Our worship is centered in the eucharist (the Lord's supper) which in greek means thanksgiving. It is a thankfuness that recognizes our complete and total dependance on God.

Finally this term wayward. Wayward means to drift away from what is the correct path. I venture say that what we are doing is neither drifting nor the correct path, at lest as perceived by the world. We are wayward, in that our path is different, and we do not drift, but we are driven, driven by a conviction that life is exceedingly and abundantly better following the way of Christ.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tincture of Time and of Truth, Eph. 4:25-5:2

I'm trying something a bit different in regards to this blog. I'm not sure how many people are viewing, but I have a suspicion it's not many. For know I'm going to tie this blog into my weekly sermon prep and will post one or two time a week regarding the topic, progress and insights of my sermon.

Tincture, perhaps an old fashion word? I can't say I have ever heard anyone use the world in a sentence. I asked my wife about the word and she was unfamiliar with it too, and I though for sure if anyone had ever heard the term it would be her. She's an Okie, and often she will recognize old sayings and refer to them and "Okieisms"

The term refers to some type of remedy, either chemical or herbal. Most tinctures are chemical compounds containing an extract of some sort in an alcohol solution. Some older tinctures are mercurochrome, methalite and iodine. Two of three are not longer sold because they contain mercury.

Herbal tinctures are those that are homeopathic and not chemically based. They are tea, alcohol, mustard and other "old timy" remedies. These take time to heal, they are not as powerful or abrasive, but need time to steep and be absorbed by the body.

In this weeks passage, Eph 4:25-5:2, Paul prescribes a sort of spiritual tincture to a church infected with anger towards each other. The tincture consist of the extracts, kindness and compassion which is mixed with a solution of forgiveness. This Spiritual compound can heal both in time and immediately, it is in a sense both herbal and chemical.  God's remedy for a sick, bitter, malicious and angry church...or person....kindness and compassion steeped in forgiveness.