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Two Christianities

Seventh Sunday of Easter

John 17:6-19

During a haircut my barber asked me, “Do you believe that zombies are real?”

I said, “What?” not sure if I had heard her correctly. She asked again, “Do you believe that zombies are real?”

Realizing that it was a serious question, I said, “No. Zombies are in movies, books, TV shows, and games. But they’re not real.”

She said, “My preacher says that zombies are real. He preaches that the Devil reinvigorates dead bodies and that’s where zombies come from.”

Trying to avoid public criticism of another preacher I said, “Where in the Bible does he get this?” She shot back, “Well, I don’t know where he gets it. All I know is that he says we’d better get our guns ready because zombies are real.”

“Where do you go to church?” I asked.

“I go to the Cowboy Church outside the loop. You know, you can see the rodeo arena out back.”

“How many people attend on Sunday mornings to hear that zombies are real?”

She said, “Oh, we usually have somewhere around 400 on Sunday mornings, with most staying around Sunday afternoon for pot-luck dinner. We have roping, barrel-racing and other rodeo events after that.”

I didn’t know whether to cry, cuss, or pray for mercy. Every Sunday I preach well-prepared, biblical sermons to a congregation of 80 to 100 people, while across town 400 people dress up as cowboys and pack into a church to hear that zombies are real and go rodeo afterwards. Read more

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Year B links

We’ve been doing bLOGOS for a while now. The 2014-15 bLOGOS posts will be our third cycle of lectionary reflections for Year B. This list is the complete collection of previous posts for Year B. Due to calendar changes and times when authors were unable to submit, there may not be two posts for each week, but we hope this set of links will be helpful. The authors for the two years, mostly by order of appearance were:  Jesse Larkins, Jake Wilson, Erin Martin, Doug Lee, Ragan Sutterfield, Kyle Childress, Debra Dean Murphy, Joel Shuman, Brian Volck, C. Christopher Smith, Janice Love, Halden Doerge, Mark Ryan, John Jay Alvaro, Danny Yencich, Jenny Williams and Heather Carlson.

A pdf file of the complete reflections can be downloaded here. 

Advent-  1: 2008, 2011  2: 2008, 2011 3: 2008, 2011 4: 2008, 2011

Christmas2011

1st Sunday after Christmas – 2008

Holy Name of Jesus2011

Epiphany-  +1: 2012 +2: 2009, 2012 +3: 2009, 2012 +4: 2009, 2012 +5: 2009, 2012 +6: 2009, 2012

Transfiguration: 2009, 2012

Lent- Ash Wednesday: 2009, 2012 1:  2012 2: 2009, 2012 3: 2009, 2012 4: 2009, 2012 5: 2009, 2012

Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday: 2009, 2012

Easter- 2009, 2012 2:  2012 3: 2009, 2012 4: 2009, 2012 5: 2009, 2012 6: 2009, 2012  Ascension: 2009

Pentecost: 2009, 2012 Trinity: 2009, 2012

Ordinary Time 10: 2012 11: 20092012 12: 2009, 2012 13: 2009, 2012 14: 2009, 2012 15: 2012 16: 2009, 2012 17: 2009, 2012 18: 2009, 2012 19: 2009, 2012 20: 2009, 2012 21: 2009, 2012 22: 2009, 2012 23: 2009, 2012  24: 2009, 2012 25: 2009, 2012  26: 2009, 2012 27: 2009, 2012 28: 2009, 2012 29: 2009, 2012 30: 2009, 2012 31: 2012 32: 2012 33: 2009,  2012

All Saints: 2009

Reign of Christ: 2009 2012

 

saints

Do As They Say, Not As They Do

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Micah 3:5-12
Psalm 43
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23: 1-12

Apart from a somewhat odd convergence of occurrences over the past few days, I would have been clueless as to how to write about this week’s lectionary readings. To be honest, my first couple passes at them left me mostly flat and uninspired. And then, as sometimes happens, things became just a bit clearer.

I was first awakened to the possibilities offered by the texts when I read Kyle Childress’s bLogos post from last week, which focused on that week’s epistle (1 Thessalonians 2:1-8, the verses immediately preceding today’s epistle lesson). Serendipitously for Kyle, and by extension, for me, this passage from Paul’s earliest extant letter was the text which our mutual friend Stanley Hauerwas had preached several years ago at a celebration of the tenth anniversary of Kyle’s pastorate at Austin Heights Baptist Church down in east Texas.

Kyle channels Stanley in noting the outrageousness of Paul’s words for those of us who, having been thoroughly formed, first by certain strands of Protestantism and then by modernity and its emphasis on the autonomy of the individual, to think of our relationship to God as pretty much our own private business, mediated neither by community nor priest nor pastor. Read more

choir

Priests at Every Elbow

I Thessalonians 2:1-8

Indeed, the appeal we make never springs from error or base motive; there is no attempt to deceive; but God has approved us as fit to be entrusted with the Gospel, and on those terms we speak… With such yearning love we chose to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves, so dear had you become to us. (I Thessalonians 2: 3-4, 8).

Unbelievable! Paul it seems identifies himself, his very person, with the Gospel.‘God has approved us as fit to be entrusted with the Gospel,’ so that we have imparted ‘to you not only the gospel of God but our very selves.’ These are not exactly expressions of humility. What would you think if Kyle said that of himself? ‘God has entrusted me with the Gospel so that my very self makes present God to you. Indeed, if I fail in the ministry then all our salvation is in doubt.’ I suspect you would think if Kyle expressed such views, he would have gone around the bend. But I am telling you not only is that exactly what Kyle should think about his ministry but also it’s what you should hold him to. For if the Kyles do not exist and churches like Austin Heights Baptist do not exist to make Kyle’s ministry possible, then we are indeed lost.

So said Stanley Hauerwas, preaching on the I Thessalonians lectionary text, in the worship service that was part of my tenth anniversary celebration as pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church.

These were strong words in Stanley’s provocative sermon. These were words that made all of us in the congregation sit up and pay attention to what the Apostle Paul was saying about ministry to the small, struggling congregation in Thessalonica. For me, they were uncomfortable words.

In listening to Stanley’s high view of pastoral ministry, I squirmed. I was not so sure I agreed with such an elevated perspective of ministry. I mean, I know pastors! I also knew then and know now that when anyone is put up on a pedestal they will eventually fall off or get knocked off. It is much safer to never be on the pedestal in the first place. Read more

vineyard

Fruit of the Vine, Work of Human Hands

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Psalm 19
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

“Wine is bottled poetry.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.”

Our text this week of parable and interpretation raises a number of compelling questions for the church. Knowing the story as we do, it is perhaps understandable for us to look at Jesus’ interpretation of the parable of the wicked tenants as a prophecy foretelling the opening of the kingdom of God to the Gentiles. While this isn’t perhaps an invalid interpretation, it is one that allows us, as the church, to be bystanders to the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees, instead of locating ourselves within the story itself.

The parable begins with the planting and establishing of a vineyard, and the owner of the vineyard leaving tenants in charge. Servants come to collect the produce for the owner, but again and again the tenants wound and kill the servants. Finally the owner’s son comes, and the tenants murder him in order to get his inheritance.

What is at stake in this story? It doesn’t seem to be the vineyard itself in the sense of land lust, but rather the withholding of the fruit which rightly belongs to the owner. The story is that of a harvest theft. Read more