Archive for February, 2008

call to ministry – who, me?

Posted in Humor, Ministry with tags , , on February 24, 2008 by Robaigh

(KJV) 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before God.

This text – particularly the bit about “base things” hits home today, as I realize a visitor stopped by here searching under the tag “sheep-shagging.”  I’m not likely to boast about that.  🙂

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Spiritual, but not Religious

Posted in Christianity, Identity, Ministry, religion with tags , , , , on February 24, 2008 by Robaigh

I’ve heard this phrase hundreds of times in the past few years.  I was just thinking about it the other day while reflecting on my own “defection” from the RC Church back in the ’80s – only my mantra back then was, “I have faith, not religion.”  Maybe that was true, maybe it wasn’t.

The other day I was flipping through CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity, a book that really helped me turn a corner in my relationship with God.  He wrote a little about the spiritual vs. religious schtick.  He noted that many spiritual-minded people tend to disregard religion and theology on the basis that they are less experiential, more intellectual, and less “real” than standing on the Atlantic coast and experiencing it than it is to read and think about it or to look at a map of the Atlantic.  Well, rather than me writing about what Lewis said, here’s the quote in full:

In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.

Now, Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God-experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion-all about feeling God in nature, and so on-is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.”

My cynical response to Lewis’s claim here is that a lot of people who claim to be spiritual-not-religious is that they just don’t want to be held accountable.  Yes, I know there are many sincere people who are skeptical of organized religion for legitimate reasons, too, but I don’t think that they constitute the majority of people who make this “spiritual” claim.

There’s an interesting-appearing article that I just ran across today here.  It’s by Richard Cimino and I’m excited to finish reading beyond the first page. 

A challenge!

Posted in Humor, Identity, Ministry, Sexuality with tags , , , on February 19, 2008 by Robaigh

In a few weeks, I’ve got to deliver a sermon (kinda) that pertains to identity.  It may be bad form to tell a joke in a sermon, but the joke I’m thinking of really fits the topic.  Trouble is, it’s filthy and unfit for family audiences.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story about the  geneaologist who goes to Scotland to dig up some information on his ancestral home.  He makes it to the proper village and begins chatting up all the locals he can find.  Naturally, he reasons, the pub will be a grand place to begin his research.

After having spent several hours in the pub, he’s pretty much exhausted all of his oral history resources – all except the drunken guy in the dark corner.  With some hesitation, but with determination to finish his project, he orders a pint for himself and a pint for the other guy, then heads over to the corner to chat the guy up, find out what his story is.

As he sidles up to the drunken chap, he explains what he’s doing – searching for his roots in order to better understand his own identity. 

 “Identity!” the man shouts.  “I’ll tell ye aboot identity!  Did ye cross over that stone bridge on your way into town?  Do ye know who built it?  I did!  Wi’ me own two hands!  But do they call me Cameron the bridge builder?  No!

And did ye see the kirk down the road?  Who designed that kirk?  I did!  But do they call me Cameron the architect?  No, no they don’t!  But you go and shag ONE sheep and you’re branded for life!”

Now you can see my conundrum.  My challenge is this: can you come up with an alternative ending that does NOT involve untoward acts like bestiality, but that still packs the punch?  This is your mission, should you choose to accept it.

A meditation of sorts

Posted in Christianity, Counter-culture, Identity, Lay School, Ministry, religion with tags , , , on February 7, 2008 by Robaigh

Genesis 2:15-17,  3:1-7

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God [or gods], knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.  The tempter came and said to him, “If yo are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and

‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of th world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

—————————————–

I think those are pretty cool readings.  In Genesis we hear the story of Eve’s temptation by the serpent in the garden; in Matthew we hear the story of Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the wilderness.  It just seems so fitting to hear these stories as the season of Lent kicks off, since this is the time of year in we we tend to be most reflective about our need to repent and to reconcile with God.  It makes us think about the many temptations we encounter in our daily lives.

What are some of the things that we (well, surely not *I* but we as humans in the broad sense – ahem) find ourselves tempted by?  Money, sexual gratification, material goods, food, power…

All of these have something in common.  Well, they have a few things in common but let me focus that a bit differently.  When was the last time you were tempted to drive a fork through your hand into the table?  Or how about this: have you ever been tempted to dive into the deep end of an empty swimming pool, or to stick your finger into an electrical socket?  How often are you tempted to drive at 80 mph into a highway divider?

It doesn’t happen!  Well, I’m not saying that those thoughts haven’t crossed my mind, but really it’s been more in line with morbidly curious thoughts than with actual temptation.  I’m not tempted to do those things because there are clear, ugly, immediate consequences.  The real temptations that I mentioned earlier – not to speak of the tempations Adam & Eve and even Jesus faced – are tempting because the consequences aren’t as immediately clear. 

In fact, giving into those temptations could be quite pleasurable.  The forbidden fruit, whether you regard it literally or figuratively, is pleasing to the eye and promises to be quite delicious.  Jesus’ temptation to create food from the stones following 40 days in the wilderness also had to be pretty alluring.

Cranking things up a notch, those temptations are just as powerfully attractive in the long-term as in the short.  If Adam and Eve – or Jesus for that matter – gave in to their temptations, they could be wise and could weild great power for good.  (It’s almost like that scene in Fellowship of the Rings where Frodo tries to get Gandalf to take the Ring.)  Can you imagine a more benevelent ruler than Jesus?  He could turn all the stones into bread and feed the hungry… The possibilities were enormous.

But in both the Genesis story and the story from Matthew, as well as in our own lives, we know that the so-called promises offered by these temptations are checks written on an empty bank account.  Giving in means disobedience and the consequences are just as real and ugly as driving into that traffic barrier.

The bad news is that temptation seems always to be with us, everywhere we go.  In the human story, temptation is kind of like a cultural handrail that runs from the origins of humanity, right through Jesus’ time, straight into our present and it’s hard to see the end.

But the good news, well, it’s literally the Good News!  In Jesus, God has taken on our form and has faced our temptations.  In Jesus, God has given us both a role model of extreme obedience and discipleship and a sacrificial lamb whose blood washes away all the times we screw up.  In Jesus, God grants us the promise of His steadfast love and of His gracious mercy.

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, you are the God of the Universe, and you are God Among Us.  We confess that we’ve sinned against you – that we’ve given into temptation more times than we’d care to admit.  Like Adam & Eve, and even like Jesus, we face the temptations of this world – and we face them a lot, to be quite honest.  We pray that you wtir within our hearts the power of your Holy Spirit, and grant us the strength to be more like your obedient servant Jesus.  Help us to resist temptation, no matter how appealing it may be on the surface.  These things we ask of you in Jesus’ name and for his sake.  Amen.