Give Generously, Practice Discreetly

Sermon for Wednesday, June 17, 2015
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Today’s scripture readings tell of two pitfalls in the spiritual life.  The first, in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, is a lack of generosity.   Paul writes:  “The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.”  Today’s passage is part of a letter in which Paul encourages the Corinthians to contribute to a donation for the poor in Jerusalem.  If the Corinthians give grudgingly (or reluctantly, or with a tight fist) Paul says that they will receive the same in return.  “The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly.”  A lack of generosity pinches on and constricts our spiritual life. Continue reading

The Narrow Path of Discipleship

The path of discipleship is narrow, and it is fatally easy to miss one’s way and stray from the path, even after years of discipleship. And it is hard to find. On either side of the narrow path deep chasms yawn. To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet to be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify to the truth as it is in Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenseless, preferring to incur injustice rather than to do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed a narrow way. Continue reading

Just to BE with Jesus

He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons.

– Mark 3:13-15

In Mark’s gospel the first thing Jesus appoints his apostles to do is not something to do, but something to be:  “And he appointed twelve… to be with him.” So often we think of Jesus as one who does.   Especially in Mark’s gospel Jesus seems to be perpetually doing, moving from one ministry opportunity to the next, preaching and healing and casting out demons at a pace that might well leave the reader breathless.  Given Jesus’ prodigious activity, we might suppose that Jesus would appoint apostles who could keep up with his action-packed schedule, who could join him in going “immediately” (one of Mark’s favorite words) from one act of ministry to the next.   But the first thing Jesus appoints the apostles to do is not something to do, but something to be:  “to be with him.” Continue reading

“No one comes to the Father except through me”

Sermon for Sunday, May 18, 2014
Fifth Sunday of Easter
John 14:1-11

I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.

I can’t remember the last words my mother said to me before I went off to college.  It was probably something like, “Well, Good luck,” or “Don’t forget to write home,” or maybe something prosaic (but, in my case, needed!) about doing the laundry.  I do remember, though, that when I finally bought a car – a real clunker that usually started and through whose floor I could see the freeway speeding by under my left foot – and headed back to school one summer, my dad sent me off saying, “Don’t forget to change the oil.”  And I remember, too, the last words my seminary professor told us just before we graduated, words his bishop had told him just before his ordination service:  “Gentlemen,” – in his day, it was all men – “three things:  remember to polish your shoes, make sure your fingernails are clean (these are what people saw when they were kneeling at the communion rail), and – by God! – make sure you turn off that wireless mike before using the bathroom!”

This morning’s passage that we just heard – “I am the way, and the truth, and the light.  No one comes to the Father except through me” – is a famous, and troubling, passage.  Famous because we’ve probably all heard about Jesus being “the way, and the truth and the life;” troubling because we live in a multi-cultural, multi-faith town, and we all have neighbors and friends who are not Christian.  How, then, can Jesus say that no one comes to the Father except through him?  What about our friends and neighbors?  What about their faiths? Continue reading