Sermon: Not Alone (Pentecost)

…We are not alone, [and] we are called to live that reality out in meaningful ways. We are to bring the Good News to all. No one is alone: no matter who they are, what God they worship, what color their skin is, their politics, the size of their bank account, what language the speak, where they were born, how able their bodies or minds may be, what gender they identify with, and no matter whom they love. God loves us all unconditionally: no prerequisites, no expectations, no limits, and no end.

So, how do we live out the reality of this infinite Love of God when we can’t gather together in the ways that have been essential to the life of our church for so long?

Let us pray…  …   Lord God, may your peace and Holy Spirit fill us this morning.  Open your scriptures to us, and may I clearly communicate what you intend us to receive.  May your Word take root and flourish within each and every one of us, and through it may we be strengthened and transformed by your unconditional, living, and limitless love for each and every one of your children.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

As I read this morning’s scripture (Acts 2:1-19), I imagine the disciples huddled in that Upper Room.  They are no longer afraid, but Jesus’ last command is to remain there, to “shelter in place,” until they receive the promise of the Creator.  So they wait, separate from those who resumed their normal lives after the turmoil and death of that first Easter week.

I’m sure they mourned.  I’m sure they prayed and planned.  They must have wondered about Jesus’ promise and his commission to be witnesses there in Jerusalem, then in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of all the earth.  How would this Great Commission be fulfilled?  They waited.

And there our church sits.  All of us are gone.  We’re waiting.  Only Pastor Tom is there this morning, all alone.  We have quarantined ourselves from our neighbors and friends.  But like the disciples, we know we must soon move on to something new.  

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Getting Real: Harvey

The New York Times just published an Op-Ed piece that discusses the link between Hurricane Harvey and Global Warming in a reasoned and balanced way.  The author, David Leonhardt’s point is that: “…when we are faced with actual misery that stems in part from climate change, we should be honest about it.  … What’s happening in Texas is heartbreaking, and yet it will be a more frequent part of modern life unless we do something about it. That, ultimately, is the most compassionate message about Harvey.”
Sadly, when we use the words “Climate Change,” many on the Right hear only “Libtard Conspiracy.”
Hurricane Harvey will not change that.

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Why Isn’t Jesus a Girl?

The point of this exercise is to challenge our preconceptions of what Jesus must have been like: Why do we think he is male, and why do we assume Jesus is just like us?

Slide1This particular discussion was inspired by this (admittedly facetious) blogpost entitled “Where Would Jesus Pee?”

In it, Andrew Seidel raises an interesting point:  Jesus had a biological mother, but no biological father.  Therefore, even if the Holy Spirit intervened to cause Mary to become pregnant, all of the genetic material was from his mother.

Now, a person of female gender has two X chromosomes (XX) while a person of male gender has an X and a Y (XY).   The gender of their child is determined by which chromosome they get from the father – either the X or the Y.  But, since Jesus has no biological father, then all of his genetic material would come from Mary, meaning he got an “X” instead of a “Y” and so must be female.

I recently presented this as part of our church’s “Message for All Ages” (being very careful of how I presented it, given that grammar school aged children were present).  Then asked the question, “So, what do you think; why isn’t Jesus a Girl?”

As you can imagine, this produced some amazing facial expressions (and answers) from kids and adults like!

The point of this exercise is to challenge our preconceptions of what Jesus must have been like: How can we be sure he was genetically male, or even that he presented himself as a typical male, for that matter?  Why do we assume Jesus is just like us?

Continue reading “Why Isn’t Jesus a Girl?”

Be Holy (Redux)

sistine-chapel-ceiling-creation-of-adam-1510I’ve had a few thoughts since my recent post on Leviticus 19 and “Being Holy” on the nature of Holiness…

First, as I discussed in that post, “Being Holy” is a process.  A process implies that changes are happening as a result of that process.  So, when God says “You shall be Holy for I am Holy.”  … God is changed by the practice of being Holy, just as we will be changed.

This makes sense from a second point of view, which is that Holiness, based on the commands in Leviticus 19, is about having healthy relationships.  In other words, being Holy requires relationship.  This makes perfect sense to Christians, since the whole point of Christ walking here on earth as one of us was to bring each and every one of us into closer relationship with God.  Christ, after all, was prophesied as being “Emmanuel” – “God with Us” (Matthew 1:23).

Third, relationship is not a one way street.  Relationships change both parties.  If not, it would be a one way interaction, such as a child might have with a doll – such a relationship might change us, but it sure doesn’t change the doll!  Such is not a full relationship, but only a partial or truncated one.

So, when God says “You shall be Holy for I am Holy” in Leviticus 19:2.  It means Holiness is a two way thing.  We are Holy because we are in relationship with God – You shall be Holy for I am Holy” – and that Holy relationship changes the both of us for the better.

Holiness and relationship both require that God is vulnerable to us, just as we are vulnerable to God – and what could be a greater demonstration of this than Jesus’ death on the cross?  Or Jesus as a babe, completely dependent upon his parents for sustenance and support?  It would seem, then, that being vulnerable isn’t such a bad thing, it leaves our hearts open for change, and deeper and more meaningful relationships with others.

The Bible asks us to be open to God and God’s movement within our spirits.  That movement is a two way street, and that is what is at the heart of being Holy.

Be Holy!

Copyright (c) 2014, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as you are not seeking (or gaining) financial benefit for doing so, and as long as proper credit for my authorship is given (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site).

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