Sunday, March 06, 2011

Q. So how'd that sermon with a mind of its own turn out?

A. Like this. (Link to the video of the 11:15 version)

It was longer than I usually preach and it was notes-rather-than-a-manuscript ... but here's an excerpt:

The people I prayed for are people who will never hear about the God of love because they are surrounded by those who have chosen to follow the God of fear.

Who will never align themselves with the God of justice because having rejected the God of judgment they don’t know there’s another option.

Who think they know enough about being a Christian not to want to be one because somebody told them God gives people cancer in order to bring them to Jesus. They don’t believe in that God and neither do I.

And so my heart breaks for those who are starving for what we dish up and serve here every single Sunday … great big heaping plates of God’s love, justice and compassion … along with that side of grace that like grits “just come” … for those who are yearning for what we can too easily take for granted because they don’t even know what’s on the menu.

We lost one of our finest preachers, theologians and advocates when we lost Peter Gomes last week. Dr. Gomes was with us here in 1997 for our Lent Event … and so as we celebrate his work and witness it seems fitting to remember his cautionary words from 1992 about the power and danger of the religion we’re giving up for Lent:

“Religious fundamentalism is dangerous because it cannot accept ambiguity and diversity and is therefore inherently intolerant. Such intolerance, in the name of virtue, is ruthless and uses political power to destroy what it cannot convert.”

The good news is we here are All Saints Church are not the only ones giving up that religion for Lent.

Rob Bell – an emergent evangelical known for his provocative views and appeal among the young, is making headlines – and waves – by describing as “misguided and toxic” the dogma that “a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better.”

He called it misguided and toxic. Conservative bloggers are calling it heretical and apostate. I'm calling it Amen and Alleluia.

Enough for now. Off for my post-homiletic nap and then back for new member class tonight ... where we had to add two new small group leaders and 20 more chairs to make room for everybody. Just another day in paradise!

28 comments:

Martin T. said...

Nice, so if we're all going to heaven anyway, what's the point of going to Mass or even bothering to have a relationship with Christ and following any commandments at all? Why put in any effort? Heck, why should you even be employed at your current place of work if that is the case?? I'm telling you, that kind of mindset will be the far-left community's own undoing.

susanbrown1 said...

It turned out beautifully.

PseudoPiskie said...

Your comment about changing clothes reminded me of the new sign on a country Presbyterian church I saw today. "Would you preach what you practice?" Scary thought.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

Pay you later, Martin! (If anybody else wants to "try on" a response to "why bother" by Brother Martin, please party on. I'm running out the door to get ready for the bursting-at-the-seams new member class tonight full to the brim with new people looking for exactly what's on "the menu" I preached about this morning. In fact, I think "Why bother?" may be the title of my Ash Wednesday sermon!

Thanks again, Martin. Later, Alligators!

IT said...

Somehow, this made me think of martin T:

‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’

Luke 15:25-32.

Martin T. said...

Oh IT, there is a great difference between that passage and what I am saying. The Prodigal Son realized that he was in a state of sin and needed mercy. He came home and repented! His father was full of joy!! On the other hand, Mr. Bell, the person that Susan was mentioning, seems to be saying that you don't even have to realize that you are in need of God's grace and mercy, you already have a ticket. You don't have to do anything. Since when has any Church in the Anglican Communion taught Universalism as doctrine. If you have any question, please refer to the Holy Scriptures AND our Catechism in the BCP. Does anyone even look at those anymore or do we now decide what we feel we should follow?? Hell and Heaven is eternal, and we have a choice of where we're going to end up by how we live and who we accept as Lord and Savior. IT, if you're going to quote scripture, at least look and see if the passage you are quoting even applies to the conversation, otherwise you look silly and misinformed. If you have a Bible and a BCP, I suggest you do some remedial reading. Thank you.

Paul said...

My faith is more than a ticket to get in to heaven. My faith is a calling that gives meaning to my life. My faith deals with the here and now as well as the hereafter. There are the hungry to be fed, the sick to be cared for, prisoners to be visited and strangers to be welcomed into the fold. This is our response, our "thank you" if you will, to the free gift of Christ.

Martin T. said...

You're right Paul, you're absolutely right. But it is a free gift to receive or deny. The point here is that some are saying that it doesn't matter if you flat our deny Him, and it most certainly does. Christ Himself made that clear.

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

The part where he said "not everyone who says 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom?"

Found the "Jesus Saves" sermon ...

http://inchatatime.blogspot.com/2007/02/jesus-saves.html

IT said...

Au contraire, Martin T, the passage I quoted was perfectly a propos:

you are complaining that YOU go to Mass and work on a relationship with Christ and how offended you are that anyone suggest the Father figure might accept people regardless, those who haven't done the work you have, that haven't "got" it like you have.

i think the whining elder son in the parable is exactly where you are, particularly in your willingness to judge others when it's none of your business to do so.

But I'm sure the folk here will correct me if I'm wrong.

Martin T. said...

Yes Susan, and also the part when He said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." We're talking about folks who flat out reject Him. Not those that never heard His message, but those that flat out told Him,"No".

Martin T. said...

Again IT, I believe you are mistaken. The Prodigal Son repented. He came back to the side of righteousness. My point is, why would we be in Church if the doctrine of universalism was true? If we are all saved anyway, we wouldn't have to accept or do anything right? So no, it doesn't apply. Stop trying to stick that on me. Did you even read what her sermon was about? I actually listened to it! See, I give things a chance Susan.

Michele said...

Martin --

My own take is that God's love is stubborner than the most stubborn person, and eventually everyone will want in out of the cold; even the people who are the model for the Dwarves in Lewis's _The Last Battle._

But in any case, the very idea of going to church, or spending time in prayer or meditation, or trying my best to treat people as I would treat Christ, *In Order To* get into heaven -- ?? Really does not work for me.

I do those those thing because they make me whole. I think that's the only reason to do them.

Martin T. said...

Michele, faith without works is dead, as are works without faith. My point however,again, was about those who told God "No, I will not follow you". Once more time... My point was about those who told God "No, I will not follow you".

danielj said...

Dear IT see also Jesus' story about the hiring workers at the local HomeDepot. the landowner hires some at daybreak, some at midday, some at late afternoon. all get paid the same. the full time workerws complain about this...landowner say 'it is my business; i will reward as I see fit.

Some folks are freaking out about Bell's book even before they have an opportunity to read it. i dont know what sort of 'universalism' he speaks of, but Jesus' universalism is quite clear... many from all over will dine at the table, while some from the very religion that seek to set the table and dominate the seating arrangements, will not.
blessings Danielj

Martin T. said...

Danny, are you an Episcopalian, because if you are, our catechism disagrees with you, and it definitely disagrees with Bell. You're in league with the PB though...not so sure if that's a compliment or not, to you I mean.

danielj said...

Dear MartinT only my mother gets away with calling me Danny or Dannyboy; from her, it is a term of affection. From you...? so, to you I am Danielj

I have been a Jesus follower for 54 years; water baptized at age 12 in a baptist church; spirit filled at age 19 in an A of G Bible college; received a BA in Biblical studies at age 27 and a MDiv at age 32 (both from respected evangelical schools. Became an Episcopalian at age 35. Ministered for 25 years and am now retired. This is my history...what is yours?

As for being in league with ++KJS....that is so funny... i'll leave it at that.

But I will suggest that it would be a really bad idea for you to insult her in my presence
blessings Danielj

dr.primrose said...

Some random comments on this thread.

Jesus's day-laborer parable is found at Matthew 20:1-16. The landowner's concluding words are: "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?"

I've never found the argument in this context based on "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6) very convincing. Despite what people read into it, it just doesn't say "No one comes to the Father except through acceptance or non-rejection of me." Interpreting this verse this way, to me, puts the focus less on Jesus and more on us. It tends to make salvation dependent on our action, not God's. This verse does not exclude people coming to God through Jesus even though they have rejected Jesus.

(Actually, there are some verses that are more on point with the point of view that people try to use this verse for. But somehow they never get used. You're on your own to dig them out ....!)

There have been volumes written about faith versus works since New Testament times. I don't think properly understood that there's a real difference between Paul ("For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law." Romans 3:28) and James ("So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." James 2:17). Salvation is based entirely on God's grace; we don't earn through Church attendance or doing good works. But a claim that one has faith without doing anything about it is not a convincing claim.

I also get quite uncomfortable about claims that we do anything to gain eternal life. Not only does it appear to me to be a form of works-righteousness but it also has an unseemly quid pro quo aspect to it -- what can I personally gain by being a Christian? Again, I find that view focused on "me" rather than God.

I've always thought that one the healthiest expression of good theology on this issue is Hymn 682, which includes these verses:

I love thee, Lord, but not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
nor yet for fear that loving not
I might for ever die;

Then why, most loving Jesus Christ,
should I not love thee well,
not for the sake of winning heaven,
nor any fear of hell;

not with the hope of gaining aught,
nor seeking a reward;
but as thyself hast loved me,
O ever loving Lord!

Martin T. said...

Fair enough...Daniel. I didn't ask your your whole life's story though, but suit yourself. I didn't insult the good doctor, not a fan of her as I'm sure you've sniffed out but I didn't "insult" her. I would challenge her ideas and erroneous beliefs however, in your presence or anyone else if they wanted to go there. I hope you can deal with that.

Doc,
If Jesus is saying "I am the way", wouldn't it be safe to say that salvation is through Him?...He's either the way to salvation or he isn't. And he sure didn't say, "I'm ONE of the ways, one of the truths, and the life" Christ is the only truth and the ONLY way. I have no idea why so many in the Church are afraid to say that. People will shun the truth for the sake of not hurting someone's feelings. Very dangerous.

dr.primrose said...

Martin, my concern about the use of that verse is that, in my opinion, it is a statement of objective reality. It is not a statement of subjective assent. It is objective statement that Jesus is the way. It has nothing to do with anyone's subjective belief or lack of belief in that statement.

JCF said...

It just cracks me up, to hear that "the Church can't preach universal salvation: how would we ever get people to come/pledge if so?"

The Church survived LIONS and crucifixions and boiling in oil and burnings at the stake (too often at the hands of other Christians) . . . and we're AFRAID of a "unsuccessful marketing strategy"????

*LOL*

Universal salvation might not be True (it's above my paygrade to know). But if it IS True, how then does the Church then lose, when NO ONE (ultimately) loses?

I *do* know that there have ALWAYS been Christians who were universalists . . . and there have always been Christians who weren't (Those Krazy Kalvinists, for example).

I think this is one of those Wheat/Tares kinda thangs (w/ each side thinking "We're the Wheat!" ;-p), that will persist till the Second Coming...

Just Me said...

This is the most confusing conversation ever & difficult to follow. In my opinion, it's the perfect example of people talking past each other.

I do want to try ask the same question that started this whole thing because I am genuinely curious.

If everyone is going to heaven and there is no choices to be made or disipline to follow; if Christianity is not unique... then what purpose (if any) does it serve? What would you (by "you", I mean anyone here; open question) say to someone who wasn't a Christian why they should be?

SUSAN RUSSELL said...

"If everyone is going to heaven and there is no choices to be made or disipline to follow; if Christianity is not unique... then what purpose (if any) does it serve? What would you (by "you", I mean anyone here; open question) say to someone who wasn't a Christian why they should be?"

I'm knee deep in staff meetings and an Ash Wednesday sermon to write, but in a nutshell:

1 - there are choices to be made and disciplines to follow ... listen to my sermon if you didn't -- there'd definitely a "choose this day" component

2 - there's a critical difference between "unique" and "exclusive." I believe the revelation of God's inclusive and abundant love in the person of Jesus was unique and I have chosen to follow him as my Savior. By making that choice I don't preclude that there are other paths ... equally unique ... that also lead to God's highest purpose for us as members of the human family.

3 - More to come on that one. Good question.

Martin T. said...

Out of all those "paths", only one took on the sins of the world, to die on the cross for the WHOLE world. That can't be said for Islam or anything else. The only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ. May God have mercy on those who told Him no to his face and think otherwise that He isn't the only path, especially those who swore to follow and defend the doctrine of this Church. Sad times we are living in.

David and John said...

I am a Christian, an Episcopalian, and I am saved. How? Through the blood of Christ. For me (personally) I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my faith and trust in Christ and his grace has "saved" me from eternal death and given to me eternal life.

The rest of the story (as it applies to this thread):

Who am I to judge who else God "saves"? Who am I to dictate to God Almighty who he "can" and "can not" save?

It is not my job to judge, it is God's job. He has not (nor I doubt ever will) solicit my input in his decision making process.

The scripture quoted by IT is quite applicable in this conversation.

Martin T. said...

Except that it turns out that it's in scripture and the catechism. The way to salvation was made clear in those things. No one is making this up off the top of their heads. So no, it doesn't apply. I still stand by what I said.

David and John said...

So lets see here... When I die, I will be judged by God....and Martin T.

Not.

Martin T. said...

Yeah, I didn't say that or anything near it. God will be our only judge when it's time to meet Him, but He was clear on the conditions in scriptures for salvation. All of a sudden after 2000 years, "oh, we can't interpret it like that that anymore, we'll hurt people in other religion's feelings!". Boo hoo.