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

Madmen, Destruction, and the Art of God’s Patience

Sometimes my worlds race toward collision in frightening, yet illuminating ways. Friday, I watched the entertaining story of a ‘madman’ thwarted on the brink of high-tech global genocide by Captain America. Later than night, 60 days of growing zucchini vines was destroyed in less than 60 minutes of torrential rain. Saturday morning, I heard the tragic news of a ‘madman’ who wreaked local carnage in Norway using a few guns and a truckload of fertilizer.

In the aftermath, our temptation is to mouth platitudes about justice which are usually little more than vengeful sentiments in disguise. Read more

Supporting the Troops?

Craig Watts is pastor of Royal Palm Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Coral Springs, Florida and co-moderator for the Disciples Peace Fellowship.

In a recent conversation about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan I found myself echoing the words often spoken by antiwar folk: “I oppose the war but I support the troops.”  My conversation partner was quick to respond, “You really don’t.”  I replied, “So, you don’t think it’s possible to be supportive of the troops and stand against the way that are being misused in this war?”  He answered, “Perhaps that’s possible for some people.  But you’re a pacifist.  Even in the best of circumstances you don’t support the troops.  You may support the soldiers as men and women but not as troops.”

I had to concede his point.  I don’t support the troops as troops.  Since I oppose, not just the war in Iraq but war altogether, I oppose the very purpose of the troops.  While I do believe they are being abused as troops by placing them in an unjust war, I believe they are being abused as people – and abusive of people – when fighting any war.  I simply can’t square the purpose of troops with the purpose of Christians as taught by Jesus, and so I believe no Christian should be part of the troops. Read more