Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marriage and Loving

Today the Supreme Court takes up the issue of gay marriage, and strangely the conservatives aren't arguing for state rights, instead the argument is the opposite.  At the same time, the Supreme Court of Mexico recently ruled in favor of gay marriage, citing two US Supreme Court Cases, including Loving v. Virginia, which I wrote about on it's 45th anniversary.

But today I think it might be worthwhile to reiterate Mildred Loving's words about her famous case and about marriage:
"Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the 'wrong kind of person' for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights. I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard's and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March Madness Begins With Madness For Me

Tonight the University of New Mexico, my alma mater, plays Harvard University, also my alma mater, and so I'm left wondering who I should be rooting for, and so I thought I'd try and work this out:

UNM is ranked highest ever going into the tournament, and many think they could make it to the sweet sixteen for the first time, and so maybe I should root for them.

I love rooting for the underdog, and Harvard is decidedly the underdog, so maybe I should root for them.

Most people have closer ties to their undergraduate schools than graduate school, so that would be UNM

Should it be based on amount of time?  I spent more time at Harvard than at UNM.

Money spent and debt incurred? Easily Harvard.

Teams that travel farther tend to be at a disadvantage, so maybe UNM (they are playing in Denver)

Based on mascots?  A lobo is clearly bigger and better than a crimson, so UNM wins.

Both cities are beautiful and great in their own ways.  Albuquerque has better views and food, but Cambridge is also great, so that's a tie.

Beauty of the campus? Harvard, not even close.

Age of the school? Harvard, not even close.

Graduation speaker?  Oprah this year at Harvard, UNM not yet announced, so we're going with Harvard.

Colors? Harvard Crimson, UNM silver and cherry.  Going with Harvard.

I'll be very happy if either team wins, although UNM making it far into the tournament will be better, because Harvard doesn't really stand a chance.  But my daughters went to school wearing their Harvard shirts today, and I'll be wearing mine tonight, but come Saturday, the next game, I will be wearing my UNM Lobo shirt.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

People of the Passion: Preparing

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The texts were Luke 7:36-39, 44-50; 19:29-38; 22:7-13:

It seems like ages ago, to me at least, that we began this journey looking at the people of the passion.  You might remember that was when we changed things up and had worship in the fellowship hall because the heater broke in the sanctuary and it was a nice comfortable 53 degrees.  Much has changed since then.  We began at the cross and have been making our backwards to today, and then next week we reverse the process starting at Palm Sunday, making our way to the cross and then the celebration of Easter morning, which we will begin at 6:45 outside in the dark and the cold, although I hope it’s not as cold as I imagine it’s going to be.  But today we look at those who prepared the way, all of whom are unnamed in Luke’s gospel, and unlike those we look visited at the cross, with one exception, tradition has not named them at all.

We begin with the woman who anoints Jesus with oil.  Even though this story which we just heard from Luke occurs way before the last week, it is found as part of the last week in Matthew and Mark, and it is the last thing that happens before Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem in John.  Now there are some significant discrepancies between the telling of these stories, so much so that there are debates among scholars of whether these are actually two different events, or if it was only one event over time the stories diverged in the communities where they were told such that we get two different tellings, and where they are placed in the gospels also give them different meanings and messages.

Now if you’ve been here for a while then you’ve heard me say that although I tendency is to try and combine the gospel texts all into one, to make them tell us the same story, but they don’t each gospel author has a unique story to tell and we have to respect that, and when we combine them we end of creating a new gospel, one of our own creation, not the one we have presented to us.  Now, that being said, I am going to do that which I just said we shouldn’t do, and treat these stories as if they are not only the same, which they are not, but also as if they are the same person doing it, which they are also not.  I will make the differentiations known where they are, but I am going to treat them as if they are the same and treat the story from sort of a 30,000 foot view so that we can learn something from the general more so than from the specific.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Well That Was... Interesting

Last week I read an article, or something since I don't remember where or what it was, that said if what you hear at the end of your sermon is "that was interesting" then you haven't closed the loop. You have not told people what you expect them to take from the sermon and how to apply it to their lives.

Of course yesterday the first comment after I was done at my first church was that my sermon was "interesting." I'll be honest and say that it was not my best sermon by any means, and I knew that going into it. On Saturday my wife asked how it was, and I was brutally honest and said that it sucked. I think it preached a little better than it read, and it was better at my second church than the first, but it still wasn't great. But I did try and tweak it to try and close the loop, but I wasn't totally successful.

I will also say that just because someone says it was "interesting" does not mean that the sermon necessarily failed. I have sometimes found that people will say this not because they didn't think it applicable, but instead because they disagreed with what I had to say or it contradicted everything they had been taught their entire life, and therefore they are either still processing or have ignored it altogether. So this comment doesn't necessarily mean that I did a bad job, although perhaps I could have explained better or differently.

But whatever the reason given, "that was interesting" is not really good feedback for a preacher, because without more context on the givers part it doesn't communicate much information, the same as "I really enjoyed that" doesn't really tell me anything.

I did have one person post something on facebook about the sermon, and what she thought it was about was not what I would have said was the central focus, but she said it was about forgiveness and so I'm totally okay with that.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

People of the Passion: Judas

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Luke 22:1-6, 14-16, 21-23, 47-53:

In one of the most dramatic scenes in theater, Julius Caesar is attacked by those conspiring against him, including his beloved friend Brutus, and Caesar utters the words that have echoed down to us since the day that Shakespeare first wrote them, “et tu, Brute?”  Then Caesar says words that are just as important, but not as well known, “the fall Caesar.”  That might be one of the most famous scenes of betrayal in history, except of course for the one we just read between Jesus and Judas, but I have to be honest and say that I think that Judas might be the most tragic and misunderstood characters of history, but what do we really know about Judas?

Often in the New Testament, people’s names will tell us something about who they are.  While there are several Judases in the gospels, including another disciple, the Judas we are focusing on is always referred to as Judas Iscariot, not only so we can tell him apart from the other Judases, but also to give us some information, but the problem is we don’t really know what that means.  The answer you are most likely to find is that Iscariot may mean he was from the town of Kerioth, a town recorded in the book of Joshua as being in southern Israel, but there are some problems with this identification.  The first is that there is no indication that the town of Kerioth still existed 1200 years after Joshua mentions it, as there is no record of it during the time of Jesus, the other problem is that all of the other disciples’ were from Galilee, where Jesus is from, so what would someone from southern Judea be doing up in Galilee.  Does that mean it’s impossible, of course not, and if it was true, it would mean that Judas has been separate and different from the very beginning.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

People of the Passion: Peter

Here is my sermon from Sunday.  The text was Luke :

Just about every time we see an interaction between Jesus and Simon Peter, or when we see Peter by himself doing something, I imagine Jesus’ putting his head in his hands and shaking it and saying “Peter, Peter, Peter,” because Peter just never seems to get it.  He wants to get it.  He wants it so badly you can feel for him.  Peter is the impetuous one.  We could say that he is the extraverted extravert, but I’m not sure it has anything necessarily to do with extraversion; instead it appears that Peter has no filters in his life.  Whatever he thinks to say immediately comes out of his mouth, and whatever he thinks to do he immediately does.  Most of us know someone like this, and while there is something endearing about it, there is also something totally exasperating, and that is what we see with Peter

During the Sundays of lent we are looking at the people we find in the passion story.  So far in looking at those we find at the cross and the trial, there are characters we know little about.  They have little back-story or little other involvement in the gospel narratives.  Even with people like Mary, Jesus’ mother, we are truly told very little.  We have her at the beginning, we have her at the cross, but there are few stories of her in between, and where she does have interactions they are very limited.  Peter, on the other hand, is someone who is crucial to the story that is told not only when Jesus is alive, but also post resurrection and in the beginning of the church.  Peter is maybe the most important disciple, and while it has been said that besides for Jesus himself that Paul is the most important person in the history of Christianity, it could be argued that Peter comes in third in importance.