An Easter Sermon: A Sissified Jesus?

No, we (who are seen by some as “Liberal” Christians) do not believe in a sissified Jesus. We follow a Jesus who died for us. A Jesus who will never let us go, and a Jesus who loves us no matter what. That kind of love, that walks through any fire, endures any cross, is an uncompromising and fierce love. This is a Jesus who’s Gospel – in whatever form it may take – is for all, not just for some.

Kneeling at The CrossYou know, loving others is hard.

Loving those lost in grief or pain, loving those who have turned away from the world out of their illness or fear or abuse, is hard.

Loving those who are different from us; who’s ways are alien to us; who’s politics or faith, or piercings and tattoos, are offensive to us; is hard.

Loving people when they shout at you, when they refuse to hear what you have to say, when they call you ugly names, when they slander you and despise you and shut you down, is hard.

Loving those who abuse or oppress you, loving those who cannot or will not love you in return, loving others when you are in such pain yourself, loving those who are nailing you to a cross, is hard.

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Sermon: The God Who Hugs

Christianity is unique in that it claims that God wants to physically walk with us – a point that comes out very strongly in the Gospel of Luke, in particular. So, it is not just our spirits, but also our bodily existence, that matters greatly to God.

Dad and AJ Cuddling
Dad and AJ Cuddling

I’d like to begin with this photo. Although my Dad had held our son AJ many times before this, this was the first time that AJ really sought out a snuggle with Grandpa. It was a special moment for them, and for me too: my Father still keeps a framed print of this on his nightstand.

Please join me in prayer…

Lord God, we lift up this morning’s message. May it touch our hearts, may it speak clearly to our souls. You have come to earth to reassure us, comfort us and heal us. You understand the importance of presence and touch. Speak to us now, Lord. Help us to love you in the ways you have wanted us to love you since the beginning, and help us learn how to actively share that love with all whom we encounter. Amen.

Physical touch is such an important thing. In fact, you can find references to physical intimacy (and no, I don’t mean THAT kind of intimacy) all through the Gospels and especially in the Gospel of Luke, beginning with the infant Jesus being held by the elderly Simeon and Anna in the temple in Luke 2, to the woman washing Jesus’ feet and drying them with her hair in Luke 7, to Judas the Betrayer (as a counterexample) hugging and kissing Jesus in Luke 22, and ending with Jesus request that the disciples touch him in this morning’s reading from Luke 24.

As I’m sure you know, research has shown that children who are not cuddled and lovingly held on a frequent basis, starting at birth, do not thrive: they do not develop as fast, and are not as healthy. Even now, at age 5, AJ still reaches for Mommy or Daddy, or his teacher, when he’s distressed. A hug, or even just the touch of a hand, will reassure him, calm him, and help him find stability. And then, once he’s there – he’s off again: playing, tromping in the mud, and climbing on everything!

How many of you remember Leo Buscaglia?

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Changing Perspective

The last Chapter of the Gospel of Luke and the First Chapter of Acts are readings that describe the same event, Christ’s Ascension. Both passages are written by the same author (Luke) and both are addressed to the same person (Theophilus). Yet, there are significant differences between the two narratives, to the point where reconciling them (if both are viewed as absolute fact) is difficult to do. The reasons for these differences lie in an existential crisis that Christians were struggling with at that time. In these two readings we see Luke’s thinking on the crisis evolve as he struggles to reconcile his faith with the facts and then portray The Ascension in a way that helps his audience to see their faith and relationship with God in a new light, and so find new hope for their Salvation.

Salvador Dali's "The Ascension"
Salvador Dali’s “The Ascension”

Sermon: “Changing Perspective”
Delivered at ARK Community Church, Dalton MA
Seventh Sunday of the Easter Season: June 1, 2014.

Scripture readings:
Luke 24:44-53 (from “The Message”)
Acts 1:1-11 (from “The Message”)

Our readings this morning both cover the same event, Christ’s Ascension; both are also written by the same author, Luke; and both are addressed to the same person, Theophilus. Yet, there are some significant differences between the two narratives, to the point where reconciling them (if both are viewed as absolute fact) is difficult to do.

Why is this, what are those differences, and why do they matter?

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Children’s Message: Dragon’s Tongue

Megalodon Tooth Fossil

Preparation:

For this particular Children’s Message, I bring a “Megalodon” tooth, which is the tooth of the largest predator that ever lived – a giant shark (possibly the direct ancestor of the modern Great White Shark) that could grow to almost 60 feet in length, and which swam the seas of this world from about 28 million years ago until around 1.5 million years ago.

If you don’t have one, you can easily find photos of them online.  You can also buy them on eBay: depending on size and condition, they go from under $10 to several hundred dollars in price.  You can also find online photos of reconstructions of the Megalodon’s jaws, which are stunningly huge!

 

Scripture Readings:

Luke 24:44-53 and Acts 1:1-11 (The Revised Common Lectionary readings for The Ascension, focusing particularly on how these two readings are written by the same author, were both addressed to the same audience, and are about the same event, but differ greatly in their portrayal of the Ascension of Christ.)

 

The Point:

We sometimes think of our beliefs as facts; but in reality, facts, and our beliefs about those facts, are not the same thing.  Sometimes, looking at the facts in a new way will change our beliefs, and in doing so open up new vistas of revelation and wonder.

 

Script:

For thousands of years, and even up until the time of the Pilgrims here in America, people would find the bones of weird animals eroding out of rocks and cliffs.  [Did you know that?]

We know them as “fossils;” but back then, they didn’t know what they were.  Since these things were always found embedded in rock, they figured that they were the bones of creatures that grew in rock.  Some of these skeletons had wings, and many of them looked lizard-like, and so it was from these that we get our legends about “dragons.”

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