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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Three thoughts from my last sermon (Part III)

What does it call us to do?  

If the only essential is faith in Christ, and unity means that we are intimately connected to all who profess this essential, then what that means in our modern world is that we have a responsibility to do more than just be happy with our own recognition of this truth.  We must boldly and actively proclaim it to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  And that is not necessarily easy.

Consider the historical examples of those who were married to people of different races or those who remarried after divorce.  Consider the modern example of those who are hear without proper immigration status or who are gay.  Is it enough for our little church to just quietly open its door?  I think not.

For one, it was not fair to our brothers and sisters in Christ who were in mixed race couples or had been divorced.  It is not fair to our brother and sisters who are here in violation of immigration law or who are gay.  Our little progressive church has its own style of worship and Bible study that is pretty much its own.  What about the gay man who prefers High Mass?  What about the undocumented immigrant who enjoys a meditative worship?  Or the divorced couple that likes singing "Old Rugged Cross"?  Should then be condemned to singing from the Chalice hymnal and listening to intellectuals drone on about the Jesus Seminar or Spong's latest jab at literalists?  Why?  Because we are the only ones that will take them?  That's unacceptable.

And for two, we owe it to our brothers and sisters in Christ who would turn them away.  We are not at liberty to watch them sin against the body of Christ without alerting them to their misdeed.  Will it be easy?  No.  At Sunday dinner it is best to avoid religion, sex and politics and these topics touch all three.  But we have no choice.  Indeed, they may disagree.  They may think who you have sex with is in fact an essential.  They are wrong, and we can't just be satisfied with being right.  It is our obligation to our brothers and sisters with whom we are unified in the body of Christ to witness to them.

But not with violence or vitriolic rhetoric.  In all things charity, after all.

Answer three:  With charity, but with clarity, we are called to witness for equality.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Three thoughts from my last sermon (Part II)

What is unity?  

The Disciples initial idea of unity involved structural unity.  Like, ending denominationalism.  A concept as useless as the word denominationalism.  Not that there is anything wrong with something of a unification effort among mainstream denominations.  But, the notion that we can all worship, and have communion, and ordain together is a little foolhardy.  Particularly given that it is only in essentials that we must have unity.

Rather, unity is more an idea like Paul's expression of one body in Christ.  We are all connected in a profound an intimate way.  There isn't a Fundamentalist Body of Christ and a Process Theology Body of Christ.  There is one body of Christ.

Of course, in the middle of all of this touchy feel good time we then stumble across something ugly.  If we as Disciples are "Christians only," then we have to let in everyone who is a Christian AND if we deny access to anyone, we aren't saying they don't belong to our club, we are saying they don't belong to the body of Christ.

So, what about people who believe in transubstantiation?  In.  What about people who don't even take communion every Sunday? In.  What about people who believe that the Earth is coming to an end so soon, that Global Warming is not a problem? In.

What about people who believe that Aurora, Colorado would have benefited from more guns in the theater?  What if I'm asking that to a Congregation that lost one of its most beloved members, a boy of 17 years, to senseless gun violence?  In.

What about people who would say that to be gay is a sin?  What if I am asking this question to a group of people deeply scared from the wickedness perpetrated against them by a homophobic society?  Well, is one's belief about being gay an essential?  No.  Then it is a non-essential, in which case it is to be treated with liberty.  IN.

Answer two: Unity means recognizing the connectedness of all Christians and accepting our intimate relationship with each one regardless of where they stand on non-essentials.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Three thoughts from my last sermon (Part I)

In my most recent sermon at Chalice Christian Church, I answered three questions that spring from the slogan, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."  The questions are (1) What is essential to being a Christian? (2) What does it mean to be unified? (3) What action does this understand compel us to take?

What is essential?  The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a movement that seeks to bring wholeness to a fragmented world.  From its beginning, the founders pursued to potentially contradictory ends--restoration and unity.  Restoration meaning returning to the ways of the early church.  If you know anything about the early church, you know that it was not unified.  It fact, it was this disunity that gave rise to the creeds that Disciples so loathe.  Hence the popular slogan, "We have no creed, but Christ."

As mentor and friend Reverend Dale Copsey pointed out to me, the commas is key.  Christ is not our creed; Christ is instead of creeds.  And that goes a long way to answering the question of essentials.  To be Christian one must believe that there is something special about Jesus Christ.  Furthermore, that belief must have personal impact.  The essential is the good confession.  Words that I usually formulate as: Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the Living God?  Do you take him as your personal savior.  (BTW, I am intentionally vague on these things.  Reverend Jim Corner, another close personal friend of mine, rejects almost all Christology.  But the primacy of Christ in his personal life is evident despite is predilection toward provocation when it comes to questions of His divinity.)

That is it, as the kids say, IMHO.

IF Christian THEN one believes in Jesus.  We can test it.  TRUE? (IF One does not believe in Jesus THEN One is not Christian)  I think the test is true.  If you believe Jesus was an important and valuable teacher, but he means nothing particular to you, then I think it is fair to say you are not a Christian.  It doesn't mean you're evil.

Does it mean you'll go to hell?  I don't know.  I think it means you cannot achieve Salvation, or living in The Way, or entry into the Kingdom of God--whatever those terms mean.  I used to get hung up on this sentiment.  But frankly, if you think outside of the Christian context, it is pretty easy to see the truth of it.  Can you live a Kosher life by studying Zen Koans?  I think not.  Neither can you achieve Enlightenment or Detachment from reading the Koran.  These ends or unique to each of the world religions, and it would be bizarre bordering on chauvinistic to suggest that they all lead to the goal of Christianity.

Answer one: To be Christian one must only believe in Christ.