Lectionary: 4th Sunday of Easter
Sermon text: Psalm 23
Lectionary: 5th Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon text: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
Excerpt: Did you know that religions can have diseases? One that is rampant in our world today is one we call “religious fundamental extremism.” Fundamental extremism holds the idea that there are certain fundamental truths related to their faith that cannot be altered. Which, in itself, is nothing wrong. You cannot be a Christian unless you can say, “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by Him.” If you don’t agree with that statement, I question whether or not you can really call yourself “Christian.” Just like if you say you’re a Jew and you can’t say, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” I question your Jewishness. And if you say you’re a Muslim and you cannot say, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet,” then I question whether or not you’re really a Muslim. There are things that a faith cannot survive being compromised. That’s intrinsic. Otherwise we would believe whatever and it really wouldn’t matter.
The problem is two-fold, really. It’s when people have religious extremist fundamentalism, they don’t just hold those basic one or two things that are necessary for religion. They start saying that the fundamental is this, AND the way we live our life. The fundamental is THIS, and all these other things. This was the problem in Jesus’ day with the Pharisees. The Pharisees said, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” AND you’ve gotta make sure you do all these other things or you’re not a good Jew. And they came into conflict with Jesus. So the first problem is that people add things that are essentially cultural variants to their fundamentals, and then the other thing is that extremism part.
When people become religious extremists, from whatever faith, they do bad things in the name of God. They blow up buildings. And before we start pointing any fingers, long before 9/11 , the Oklahoma City Federal Building was blown up by a good Baptist, because he believed the Federal government was corrupt and an enemy of God. This is what fundamental extremists do. And they think this is the way religion should be. The problem is that the people outside of the faith see these people and think, “Ah, that’s what their faith is like.” You go out to Walmart and ask the average person what’s a Muslim like, they’re not going to describe Alex Shunnarah, the lawyer you always see on TV, they’re going to describe Osama Bin-Laden. You ask somebody who’s not a Christian what a Christian is like, they’re going to describe these people who march around carrying signs about, “Jesus doesn’t love you,” and who try to take money from poor people. They’re not gonna see us.
Now, the thing about religious extremist fundamentalists’ behavior, especially among Christianity–I’m not really concerned about those other people because they’re wrong to begin with–in most parts–I’m more concerned about Christianity and fighting this disease.
Well, how do we get this disease?
Lectionary: Christmas Day
Sermon text: Luke 2:1-20
Excerpt: The Christmas story. So well known it has become a part of the fabric of the American consciousness. Linus Van Pelt, with his little blanket, in the spotlight, reciting this passage, so that even those who would never darken the door of a church hear it every year. What’s interesting is that we don’t think about Luke and the writers of the other gospels made choices about what to include. There’s no Christmas story in Mark. There’s no Christmas story in John. Matthew even skips ahead until he’s two years old when the Magi, the wise men, come to visit him at the house where they lived. Luke is the one who details the birth. And this very peculiar occurrence of angels appearing to shepherds.
Angels in their appearance and annunciation happen all around the birth of Christ. We’re told this in Luke and other gospels that angels appear to Zechariah, who was John’s father, they appear to Joseph to tell him not to put Mary away, an angel appears to Mary to tell her that she is going to have a child. All of which makes a degree of sense. These are, after all, the parents of these prophesied children who are involved in this.
But Luke tells us that angels appeared to shepherds. What qualified them to have angels appear?
Matthew tells us that a star appeared to the Magi, to the wise men in the east and they came to find the child who would be king, that their learning told them that this star was a sign that a king would be born. So there’s their qualifications. But shepherds?
Lectionary: 20th Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon text: Romans 8:15
Description: Instead of receiving a spirit of slavery to fear, Paul writes, we’ve received a spirit of adoption. You are a child of God as a Christian. Your Daddy created the universe. You’re afraid to stand up for what’s right, afraid to try? Your Daddy is holding onto you. How can you fall? He made gravity, he can handle it.
Sermon text: Matthew 22:34-46
Description: Love is confusing. We use the word “love” in so many different ways. How do you love your neighbor as yourself? How do we love God? If we don’t love our neighbor, how can we love God?