This is the text I preached on this past Sunday.
“When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.””(Luke 14:7–14)
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” (Hosea 11:1–4 NRSV)
This summer we are reflecting on the question how do we listen to God, and what happens to us when we do?
We have covered the topics of listing to God in Chaos, listening to God in the dynamic present, listening to God that moves us towards sympathy of the other person and last week Ashley Wilcox talked about a kind of listening to God that removes our fear.
Something that stood out to me about Ashley Wilcox’s message last week is that she said that some of us fear death and some of us fear life. And both of these fears are very real.
Our fear of death can be about where we go when we die, or if we go anywhere at all. It can be around the loss of loved ones. It can be about the death of our institutions, organizations, or even a way of life that we have become accustomed to.
Our fear of life is the fear of what might happen that we cannot control. The fear of what others might think of us. The fear of losing someone or something. The fear of not having enough. The fear of the toll of living. The fear of the big questions that go unanswered.
But Ashley said something else that has stuck with me. To paraphrase her, she said that convergent friends are friends who lean into both death and life with courage and perseverance. Continue reading
As you are all well aware this past weekend a not guilty verdict was handed down to George Zimmerman acquitting him of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the teenage african-american boy he shot last year. Martin had been walking through Zimmerman’s neighborhood wearing a hoodie and carrying a bag of skittles and some iced tea.
I, along with many others, are heartbroken by this Martin/Zimmerman pronouncement. But my sadness isn’t that I wanted to see Zimmerman face the death penalty, because to me the death penalty would only further perpetuate the cycle of violence. This isn’t simply a story about white and black America, nor is it a story that doesn’t really matter much to us because that kind of thing only happens in places like Florida and in the South.
This is symbolic of a much deeper issue and that’s what I want to talk about today.
Remix and Bob Dylan’s Self-Portrait
The ‘Self-Portrait’ as Remix
A couple weeks back I showed you this image [Bob Dylan's album titled Self-Portrait]. The cover image is one that Dylan himself painted. I couldn’t find any mention of who the cover was supposed to be, but it has a certain resemblance to Pablo Picasso’s own painting also titled “Self-Portrait.” When you line these two images side by side you can see that there is a borrowing or adaptation from the one painting to the other.
There is a second way that Dylan adapts and builds upon the works of others to make up this “self-portrait” album: It’s mostly a collection of other people’s songs slide*.
Making Heads and Hands of the Mark of the Beast
If there is one aspect of Revelation that has been overused, abused and fallen prey to our constant temptation to make John’s first century letter a document that predicts the future it has to be the mark of the beast. What was the mark of the beast? What does 666 stand for?* There are many questions come up when we read passages like this.
When I read this I automatically gravitate to this unknown feature in the text. What are some of the things you have heard the Mark of Beast represented as?
Mikhail Gorbachev’s Birthmark, Obamacare, Enforced Sunday worship, One world government or The UN, Refers to a specific year, Verichip, Credit Cards
It raises a level of fascination that can be fun to imagine, but there is a problem with trying to figure out the mark: we don’t know the story behind the story. And when we don’t know the story behind the story we begin to read into it our own worldview, our own prejudices, and assumptions and this can really skew our reading and understanding of scripture. So it is essential that when we read this we remember that there is a story behind the story. Continue reading