Rebuke as Generous Invitation

In his book titled “The Beginning and the End of Religion,” Nicholas Lash invites us to look upon the world. “Summon up quietly,” he says, “with such clear-sighted courage as you can, all the cumulative evidence- from the depths of each one’s psyche to the centre of our politics; from the arbitrary and sporadic barbarism of our wars and cities to the well-oiled structures of rapacity and greed we call world trade- which suggests that the answer to the question is: ‘there is indeed, only power; and violence is master of us all’.”1

Perhaps violence really is what makes the world go ‘round. Surely, the events of the past week make it difficult to argue otherwise. Moreover, at first glance, today’s readings from Scripture don’t seem to be much help. Read more

Our Weak God

From a recent sermon preached by EP endorser Matt Morin, in keeping with our Slow Church theme . . . .

Mark 6:1-13; 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Milwaukee Mennonite Church
July 8, 2012

The scene in today’s gospel passage begins with Jesus entering the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. According to Mark, this is not the first time that Jesus has attempted to teach in the synagogue. In Mark 1, Jesus does so, but his teaching is interrupted by a demonic spirit. In Mark 3, Jesus’s actions in the synagogue anger some of his rivals, who in turn begin plotting ways to kill him. And, as you just heard in today’s scripture reading, Jesus’s third attempt to teach in the synagogue is met with scorn by members of his own hometown.

So, three times, Jesus enters the synagogue to teach, and three times, he is met with some resistance or rejection: first from evil spirits, then from his political adversaries, and finally from his own people.

It is clear, then, that the synagogue is not going to be the site where the good news is received and shared. In fact, this is the final time in Mark’s gospel that Jesus will enter a synagogue at all. Following this final rejection, he begins a new strategy for sharing the good news.

We’ll take a closer look at that strategy in a moment, but first let us give greater attention to the rejection Jesus experienced in Nazareth. “Where did this man get all this,” the people ask in verse two. “What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Isn’t this the carpenter? And they took offense at him.”

It is odd that the people would reject Jesus because he spoke with wisdom and worked deeds of power. We would understand if the passage said, “What is this man blabbering about? Why is he going on and on about nothing? He hasn’t done anything, he hasn’t said anything…. BOORRRING.”

To read the rest click here.

The Far Country

EP endorser Matt Morin preached this sermon not long after the Summer Gathering: Immigration meets the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Luke 15:11-32; Ephesians 2:11-22

The fifteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel begins with a group of scribes and Pharisees grumbling about Jesus’s habit of becoming friends with social outcasts: “This fellow welcomes law-breakers and eats with them.”

It might be tempting for us file this episode under the heading of “pride” and use it to repeat the old trope about self-righteous Pharisees: “There they go again, those elitist Pharisees—always thinking they are better than everybody else, when in fact they are sinners just like the rest of us.”

Or, it might be tempting for us to file this episode under the heading of “nice” and use it to repeat the old trope about everybody’s friend Jesus: “There he goes again, that Jesus—always kind, always accepting of everyone he meets.”

And yet, to read the story in this way—either as an example of individual pride by the Pharisees or as a display of sentimental kindness by Jesus—is really to have the story read us; it is to be shown by our own words what really matters to us; it is to find exactly what we had hoped to find in God’s word. So to whatever extent we are tempted to give an individualistic and moralistic interpretation of this Scripture is the extent to which we must reject such an interpretation. For surely nothing could make us happier than to hear a quick sermon asking us to try a little harder to not be so full of ourselves, and to try a little harder to be nicer—and then to go about our business as usual until next week. Read more