This was my first “official” sermon at Auburn:

Some years ago, a young professional woman living in New York City told her priest, in the wake of yet another breakup, with yet another man, that she was “so … very very … tired of always having to try to change who she was to try to please some … very very trying … man. Why,” she asked, “couldn’t someone simply love her for herself?”
To hear some Christians, you’d think that God is a rich, powerful old man who lives in a mansion outside of town. He invites us to be honorary members of his family. Which means, in practical terms, that once a week, we all have to put on our very best clothes and our very best manners for a formal tea at his mansion. And we’d better watch out. Because if we offend him in any way, he keeps a fully staffed torture chamber in his basement. And once once someone goes into the basement, they are never seen again.
Neither the endless stream of boyfriends (or, if we reverse roles, girlfriends) nor dear Uncle God with his torture chamber really love us – do they? Because they do not accept us for who we are.
Our God, the God Jesus calls Abba, actually loves us. (more…)

In his “Readings in St. John’s Gospel” William Temple says the following (in his commentary on John 1:29-34):  “The Sin of the World.  How utterly modern is this conception!  It is not “sins”, as by a natural early corruption of the text [we] were led to suppose, but “sin”.  For there is only one sin, and it is characteristic of the whole world.  It is the self-will which prefers “my” way to God’s – which puts “me” in the centre where only God is in place.”

This passage came to mind this morning while I was reading an excerpt from St. Augustine’s “The City of God” (In “Readings for the Daily Office from the Early Church” by J. Robert Wright):  “[God] foreknew that some of the angels, in their pride, would wish to be self-sufficient for their own felicity, and hence would forsake their true good; and yet [God] did not deprive them of this power, (more…)

In my most recent post, I talked about what happens in baptism.  I categorized the post, among other things, as being about seeing God.  And it occurs to me that it might not be clear to others why I did so.  The short answer is that, for me, my relationship with God became a personal relationship through other people, through community.

Back when I was living on campus at school, I had a relationship with a woman.  In retrospect, it was not a mature relationship. (more…)

So I wanted to say something more about Sabbath time.  Which in my mind is different than time off.  At the end of a full week of work, I have always found that I need time off.  I need to let go and begin to relax.  But Sabbath is really about renewal.  And at the heart of renewal, for me anyway, is God.  I’m reasonably good about taking time with God.  But a full day?  That’s more of a challenge for me. (more…)

The son of a couple who attend St. George’s died about a week ago.  He was 20 years old, and it looks like it was probably an accidental drug overdose (mixing alchohol and other drugs recreationally).  I’ve been wanting to address this, and didn’t know what I wanted to say.  This is simply tragic for him, his family and his friends (of whom there are many).  There is nothing that makes it alright.  But we do have to live with it.  And we will have to move forward from here.

My sermon for last Sunday, Mother’s Day, wrote itself once I started writing about a parent’s love and God’s love.  And, although it is not really about this death, the sermon does mention his death, and is really probably what I would want to say about his death.  So it’s about love and death and even something about my core beliefs as a Christian.

If you want to hear the sermon, you can find it here.  (The week beginning May 10 it’s the video sermon on this page.  In following weeks, it should be available in the audio links to earlier sermons.)  If you would like to read the sermon, it follows below: (more…)

I’ve been thinking, of late, about my own core beliefs.  And I find that there are, perhaps, three places from which I’m inclined to begin.  The first is Jesus’ story of the two brothers and their unreasonably indulgent father.  (Luke 15:11-32.  We usually call this the parable of the prodigal son.)  The second is Jesus’ summary of the law (see Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, and Luke 10:25-28 — but also Luke 10:29-37, usually called the parable of the good Samaritan).  The last is John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”).  You probably have to look at John 3:17-18 to give this a fuller context.  I guess I’d also have to add something about the incarnation (Jesus as fully human, not just God) and the resurrection (God’s power restore and renew even what seems lost forever) – and you can only talk about resurrection when you also talk about crucifixion.   I’m still thinking about this.  But this would form the core of my good news.

Most, if not all, of this is connected to narrative.  Which is fully appropriate.  Listening to some Christians, you might not know this.  But Jesus was a story teller, not a law giver.  Moses was the law giver.  Jesus was always trying to invite us into a story that made us think about what life with God was like.  I really like that about him.

I’ve already addressed Jesus incarnation in How God Made a Home, where I said:

God is looking for a new way to come into the world.  God is looking for a new way of working in the world.  He finds his point of entry in the person of a young woman.  We’d probably call her a girl.  My best guess is that she was 12 or 13 years old.  Marriage documents seem to have been signed between her and an older man.  I’m guessing Joseph could have been anything from about 15 to about 30.  They were living apart, with the marriage unconsumated — probably because they were giving her an extra year to grow up first.  And God sends a messanger to her (Luke 1:26-38 — our gospel reading).

God asks her to make a home for him.  God asks her to bear a child and call him Jesus.

I addressed it more directly in my Merry Christmas message, where I said:

Christmas tells us that God comes to us, not from on high, but from down below.  Jesus is born to an unknown woman from a subjugated people.  He comes to us as a baby — and there just isn’t all that much needier than a newborn baby.  Jesus comes to us from a position of dependence, not authority.  In my mind, in Jesus, God comes to invite us, even to court us, not to lord it over us.  There is an assumption of equality on God’s part that draws me into a very different relationship than it would to a God who came down from on high to make demands of me.

And that, for me, may be the most important thing there is to know about God.  God chooses to approach us by invitation.  God chooses to invite us into the beauty of holiness.  God chooses to share our condition, the human condition, and experience all the joys and trials and tribulations of our lives.

That probably says enough about my sense of the importance (centrality) of incarnation.  I’m expecting I will try to say more about other beliefs that are core beliefs for me in the near future.

Some people talk about God’s power.  For them, that’s the most important thing about God.  God is all powerful and all knowing and, when you come right down to it, completely overpowering.  And being in the presence of God can be overpowering.  But, for me, that is not one of the more important things about God.  At least, it’s not where my relationship with God starts.

(more…)