bible and gun

Asking the Hard Questions

First Sunday of Lent

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Matthew 4:1-11

In the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction category was the story from a few days ago about the Kentucky Baptist Convention leading what they’re calling “Second Amendment Celebrations” where churches around the state give away guns as door prizes to lure in nonbelievers in hopes of converting them to Christ.

At one such upcoming event organizers are expecting as many as 1,000 people where they will be given a free steak dinner and the chance to win one of 25 handguns, long guns and shotguns.

The goal is to “point people to Christ,” says a church sponsoring the event, and the Kentucky Baptist Convention said 1,678 men made “professions of faith” at about 50 such events last year, most of them in Kentucky.

Is anyone asking any questions about this? Read more

rope

What is the Good News Anyway?

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 65:17-25
Luke 21:5-19

Years ago I heard Walter Brueggemann say that the task of the church is to always proclaim the vision and vocation of God’s reign. Always. But at the same time always be patient with one another as we fail to live up to that vision and vocation. Always.

Keeping that tension is part of the task of the pastor. Read more

sheep

Amazing Grace

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 15: 1-10

About a year ago I buried one of our church’s founding members. Back in 1968, Archie McDonald and a handful of others started our congregation, in order to have a local church with membership policies that were not segregated. Archie was a professor and historian, ornery and rough-hewn, but he had a profound sense that it was only due to the grace of a loving God that he existed at all and only by God’s grace did our church exist. He knew what the dying priest knew in Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest, “It’s all grace.”

The very meaning of the word “grace” is “undeserved favor.” We do not deserve it. If it is deserved, then it is not grace and it is certainly not amazing.

Which is why Archie’s favorite hymn was “Amazing Grace.” As he said, “it is the one hymn most about me, especially the part about saving wretches and being found.” And he liked to call our congregation, the “Amazing Grace Baptist Church” because there was and continues to be a sense that we’re all lost yet we’ve been found by the loving Good Shepherd. Read more

Mary and Martha

Listening to the Word

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 10: 38-42

Jesus is getting close to Jerusalem and confrontation. Luke says that Jesus goes to the home of Mary and Martha, which we know from John is also the home of Lazarus, which is located in the village of Bethany, just over the hill from the outskirts of Jerusalem. Luke says they welcome him into their home and Martha gets busy doing the many things a good hostess does: preparing food, setting the table, straightening the room, picking up the newspapers that have piled up, and on and on. Meanwhile, sister Mary sits in front of Jesus listening to what he has to say. Martha, understandably frustrated says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister just sits there while I do all the work? Tell her to get up and help!” Jesus replies, “Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things: there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part…”

It is important to note that Jesus says to Martha, “you are worried and distracted.” He doesn’t criticize her for working and doing. Remember this comes just two verses after Jesus has given us the parable of the Good Samaritan with the concluding words, “Go and do …” The issue here is not simply that Martha is doing while Mary contemplates. The issue is Martha is distracted. The word translated “distracted” is a Greek word which means to be jerked around like a horse is jerked by a rider pulling on the reins. The image is that Martha is being jerked around by her frenetic busy-ness. It’s as if her desires are out of order so she is out of control in her busy-ness. The result is that she is unable to attend to the one thing most needful – sitting and listening to Jesus. Read more

jets

Our Place Redeemed

Sixth Sunday in Easter

John 14:23-29
Revelation 21:10, 22:1-5

In our contemporary world, it is difficult to belong. We are so busy and on the move, it seems to be better to keep commitments to a minimum. 20% to 30% of all Americans move each year and the average American moves fourteen times over a lifetime. Poet, essayist, and editor of Poetry magazine Christian Wiman remembers that when he was thirty-six years old, he had moved forty times in fifteen years. He said he owned nothing that would not fit easily into his car. When talking about this with some friends, all of whom were in their twenties and thirties, all smart, well-educated and upwardly mobile, they compared notes and realized that between them they had lived in every state and dozens of foreign countries. Not one person lived near where they were born and raised and none of them ever asked anyone else where they’re from, “skirting the question as if it were either too intimate or, more likely, too involved to broach.”

We are a society that believes in being mobile – people with no sense of belonging to a place or to anyone else but themselves and who can pick up and move whenever the corporation, the job, the career demands it. Read more