Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Love Leftovers"

Our texts for this Sunday, as we continue our "Being Broadneck" series by focusing on what it means to seek deeper relationship, our texts will be Exodus 33:12-23, 34:28-32 and Matthew 22:34-40, which you can read here.

Sometimes, when I get to the end of writing the draft of my sermon, I feel frustrated because there were things that I came across that were AMAZING that I really want to get in there, but that simply don't fit, either because of where I went in direction or because of time constraints (y'all likely would not take kindly to an hour long sermon--nor, honestly, would I!). I had that happen to me this week as I had two fantastic passages to work with. I ended up spending so much time with the Exodus story that I didn't get to talk a whole lot about the Gospel text, one that holds Jesus' beautiful response to the question of what the greatest commandment is:

But, to quote the great Haddaway hit of the early '90s, "What is love?" Here are two quotes I came across this week from two people I really admire, neither of which ended up fitting into the sermon, but both of which I think are compelling and worthy of your reflection before Sunday. Hope to see you then!

"The love of which spiritual tradition speaks is “tough love,” the connective tissue of reality—and we flee from it because we fear its claims on our lives. Curiosity and control create a knowledge that distances us from each other and the world, allowing us to use what we know as a plaything and to play the game by our own self-serving rules. But a knowledge that springs from love will implicate us in the web of life; it will wrap the knower and the known in compassion, in a bond of awesome responsibility as well as transforming joy; it will call us to involvement, mutuality, accountability." 
--Parker Palmer, in his book To Know as We Are Known (a title that relates to this week's Exodus story)

"Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name. If, therefore, I do anything or think anything or say anything or know anything that is not purely for the love of God, it cannot give me peace, or rest, or fulfillment, or joy. To find love I must enter into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God."
--Thomas Merton, in A Book of Hours






Friday, October 10, 2014

Envisioning the Calf

Our texts for this Sunday are two tricky ones--Exodus 32:1-14 (which will be our main focus) and Matthew 22:1-14. You can read both of them here.

Once again our blog this week will be a primarily visual one. Here are some pieces of art depicting the Golden Calf scene from Exodus 32. Pay attention to the colors, the expressions of the people's body language, what emotion the images give off. Then consider: if you had to create a modern day illustration of what it looks like when we worship "golden calves" of our own, what would that image look like? What would be at the center? What would the people be doing?

I'd love to hear your ideas, both on the blog and on Sunday!






Saturday, October 4, 2014

Picturing the Covenant

Our texts for this week are primarily from the book of Exodus--Exodus 19:1-8 and 20:1-17, which you can read here. These are the story of God forging a covenant with the people of Israel from atop Mount Sinai--a covenant that begins with God articulating what we now know as the Ten Commandments.

In my reading and reflection this week, I have been perhaps most intrigued to come across some remarkable works of art that strive to picture the Ten Commandments--not as numbers or words on a tablet, but with color and image that help us understand what really living into these words might mean. I am posting four of these works (two by the same artist) below for your reflection. Then I invite you to consider (and post, if you dare): if you had to picture what the Ten Commandments look like not on tablets of stones, but as lived in a community today, what would a community living by this covenant look like? A lot of these are images of how NOT to live--what would an image of embracing this covenant look like?

See you tomorrow in worship, I hope!

A woodcutting from Poland:



Modern artist Keith Haring's installment of images on the Ten Commandments:



The illumination of this passage from the St. John's Bible (on display now at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond):

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Speaking Christian: Heaven, According to Marcus Borg

As we come to the end of our "Speaking Christian" series today, one final quote from Marcus Borg's book of the same title, this one from his chapter on the word "heaven":

So, is there an afterlife, and if so, what will it be like? I don’t have a clue. But I am confident that the one who has buoyed us up in life will also buoy us up through death. We die into God. What more that means, I do not know. But that is all I need to know.

What would you define or describe as "all you need to know?" Is Borg's conclusion enough for you? Leave your comments below.

And join us for our final Soup-Salad-Supper at 6:30pm tonight to talk about how considering these words has impacted your life over the course of this month--and will do so into the future!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Speaking Christian: Heaven, According to Kathleen Norris


For your Monday, here's a thought on what, perhaps, heaven is really like, from the great Kathleen Norris' book Amazing Grace:

"My favorite definition of heaven comes from a Benedictine sister, who told me that as her mother lay dying in a hospital bed she had ventured to reassure her by saying, "In heaven, everyone we love is there." The older woman had replied, "No, in heaven I will love everyone who is there.""

Take a minute to reflect on the difference between these sentences. What would it look like to live this definition of heaven now? Respond in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Speaking Christian: Heaven

For our last week in our "Speaking Christian" series, we will be focusing on the word "heaven." Read our stories for this week, Exodus 16 and Matthew 20:1-15, and pay attention to where and how the word "heaven" shows up in each of those stories.

Then, I would ask you to consider this question: what do you think heaven looks like? I leave that question super broad, that you might answer it any way you feel led. Below is a collage of images I found when I googled "What does heaven look like"--very interesting. I am honestly not sure if any of these are the image of what I would hope for for life intimately together under the reign of God! How do you respond to these images?

Then below the collage, I am posting two cartoons that relate to what our stories for this week seem to indicate that heaven looks like. How do they challenge you?

See you Sunday!





Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Speaking Christian: Peace, according to Dr. Martin Luther King

For our final quote about this week's word--"peace"--it seemed right to turn to one of my peace heroes, Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. Read these words from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964. What do we, as a nation and a world, still have to learn about peace from his words and the way those involved in the Civil Rights Movement went about seeking that deeper peace that is the presence of justice?

The word that symbolizes the spirit and the outward form of our encounter is nonviolence, and it is doubtless that factor which made it seem appropriate to award a peace prize to one identified with struggle. Broadly speaking, nonviolence in the civil rights struggle has meant not relying on arms and weapons of struggle. It has meant noncooperation with customs and laws which are institutional aspects of a regime of discrimination and enslavement. It has meant direct participation of masses in protest, rather than reliance on indirect methods which frequently do not involve masses in action at all.

Nonviolence has also meant that my people in the agonizing struggles of recent years have taken suffering upon themselves instead of inflicting it on others. It has meant, as I said, that we are no longer afraid and cowed. But in some substantial degree it has meant that we do not want to instill fear in others or into the society of which we are a part. The movement does not seek to liberate Negroes at the expense of the humiliation and enslavement of whites. It seeks no victory over anyone. It seeks to liberate American society and to share in the self-liberation of all the people.

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

The nonviolent resisters can summarize their message in the following simple terms: we will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first. We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to truth as we see it.