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So this morning I preached my first sermon. To be able to preach was a great blessing to me, and I hope my words, by God’s grace, were a blessing to others.

Texts:
Romans 16:1-16
Acts 20:36-38 and 21:1

Brothers and sisters, today, for the first time, I step into a Methodist pulpit to preach, as did my father and grandfather before me. I am the product of two generations of Methodist ministers. Which means I have seen a lot of moving.

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God loves us, more than any human we can ever know.
God does not give the tiniest shit about us.

But make no mistake.

God is the Ancient of Days, gray-haired and venerable. God is not the Ancient of Days.
God is the Law, the Logos, the dharma. God is not the Law, the Logos, the dharma.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions.” So shall we tour all these mansions, guided by our brother and friend Yeshua. Without his guidance we would be eaten by the worms outside. We cannot imagine what shall come at the end of the tour. Mansion after mansion, further up and further in.

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Then the stars resolved themselves in petal, titanic petals, and I realized that the world was contained within a flower. But what kind of flower I could not tell.

“A tulip,” the angel told me. “For the tulip is a chalice and the world is properly contained within that chalice.”

And I saw then that the angel’s head was itself a tulip, of red petals tipped with orange. Whereupon the angel seized me and carried me aloft, higher than I could think.

Looking down, I could see great fields of tulips, graduating in color, blue to violet to black to red to orange and back again, stretching into infinity, the fields gridded and bounded by canals.

“These are the fields of God, and all of this is by and for God’s glory,” said the angel, holding me aloft over the uncountable worlds. As we flew ever higher, the angel’s grip began to slacken, as we grew closer to the Gardener of that place, down to the very tips of angelic fingers, until ultimately I began to fall, towards the infinity of tulips, feeling my own limbs become a stalk and my head petals. Whereupon I continued to fall.

Theologically speaking, Christmas is a celebration of the Doctrine of the Incarnation. See that “carn-” in there? It’s the same root as in “carnivore.” Meat. Today is about meat.

Jesus had a placenta, a big, red, dripping hunk of placenta. He had meconium, the dark, extremely sticky (though thankfully odorless) feces that results from ingested amniotic fluid in the womb. He grew. He ate. He got sick. He walked. When Christians say “the body of our Lord Jesus Christ” in Communion, we’re talking about mucous, blood, spit, semen, piss and shit.

God, in the person of Jesus Christ, has joined us here in the dirt. He has come to eat his own dog food and walk among us. God is meat. This is the core of the Christian revelation. Glory be to God.

Have a meaty, bloody Christmas. May it ooze and spew. And, as the hippies used to say, may the Baby Jesus shut your mouth and open your mind.

This ECC was a ‘serious’ one, in that it did not revolve around surreal agglomerations of pop culture references. But that doesn’t mean it was particularly dark & gritty. I was looking to invoke how Christmas feels to a child, in its joys and in its difficulties.  ———————————————————–
The weekly spelling quiz was canceled for the Christmas party. That, more than the party itself, made Chris’ day.  The party wasn’t much.   Mrs Morris brought in cupcakes, white frosting over chocolate with green crystals on top.  Every kid in the class got one and ate it at their desk, arranged in a ring around the tiny Christmas tree in front of the blackboard.  Joey Smith scooped all the frosting off his with his tongue and let it hang there, showing it to everyone, until Mrs Morris made him stop. Read More

Maybe we’ve got this ass backwards. Maybe, on the Judgement Day, we will be doing the judging.

That is, God will allow us a taste of his omniscience, just enough for us to see everything we have ever thought and done, in context, to feel empirically all the effect we had on the world, to honestly see ourselves for the first time. We will judge ourselves.

Practically all of us will elect for damnation, of course.

And the task of Jesus, the Savior, will be to talk us out of it.

Dishonesty is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Nor is it forbidden in the Decalogue. Now “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” is traditionally interpreted as forbidding lying, but that requires a skooch. There’s no nice and direct “Thou shalt not lie.”

The reason it bugs me is that, once you’ve noticed it, it seems almost premeditated. Deliberately leaving a loophole. Like the codifiers were nervous about cutting off too completely the option of deceit.

I used to think Pride was the root of all sins, since it requires putting one’s own wants before all other things. I guess that from a psychological viewpoint, one could still make a case for that, but it ignores that fact that some great sinners have been very humble people, thinking all for their causes and never for themselves. In practice, lying is often the first sin. The addict who says they don’t know where that wallet went. The spouse who neglects to say just how much time they’ve been spending with the co-worker. Lies provide a cover for other sins to grow, until such time as those sins are too large to conceal, and the initial lie can be discarded like a husk.

Where condemnation of lying really sticks out is in Revelation. I don’t know what happened to John of Patmos, but he makes sure to stress that “and all liars” are among the eternally damned. I think somebody hurt him bad once, lied and broke his heart. That’s what lies do.

Regardless of what might be down on paper, God sees our lies and the hurt they cause, and He remembers.