Sunday, June 26, 2016

"God, I Don’t Believe You Exist, But We Really Need to Talk."

From Third Person to Second Person; The Grammatical Shift of Faith

Year C • Proper 8 • Semicontinuous Track
2 Kings 2:1–2, 6–14 • Psalm 77:1–2, 11–20
Galatians 5:1, 13–25 • Luke 9:51–62

Falling Trees, Empty Woods
We have all heard that deepest of deep philosophical questions, you know the one about falling trees and deserted forests. “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?” You wouldn’t believe how many responses there are to this question on the internet. Lots of people said, “Yes.” Lots said, “No.” And a fair number of people argued that it all depends upon your definition of sound. Others simply said that it was a stupid question.
     My favorite response is from the guy who wrote, “Does it make a sound? If you really want to know, set explosives to the trunk of a tree, activate a decent quality recorder, and explode the tree. Play back the recording and let me know whether you hear the tree say ouch or not.” When I read that, I had a mental image of a tree lying on the forest floor, crying out: “Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”
Instead of answering the question, some people modified the question. So for example, Gary Larson, the famous originator of the Far Side cartoons, asks this question: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around and it hits a mime,… does anyone care?”
     So I wonder, how would you answer the question? Or, what alternative question would you come up with? Or better yet, what question would the author of today’s psalm come up with? Today, we recited Psalm 77. It’s a psalm of individual lament, a psalm in which a lone voice cries out to God. But you may have noticed that we only recited verses 1 through 2 and 11 through 20; that’s because those were the only verses assigned by our lectionary. So what we ended up with was the good parts version, the sanitized version. And what we missed was the depth of despair that the psalmist expresses. But let’s look at that distress in a little more detail. If you want to follow along, I would invite you to turn to page 693 in the Book of Common Prayer.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ora et Labora — Praying and Working for Peace

RCL Year C • Proper 7 • Semicontinuous Track
1 Kings 19:1–4, (5–7), 8–15a • Psalm 42 and 43 • Galatians 3:23–29 • Luke 8:26–39

The Principalities and Powers Are Real
I have a confession to make: I believe in the Devil. I believe in Satan, in Beelzebub, whose name means “the Lord of the Flies.” I believe in demons and unclean spirits. I believe with the Apostle Paul that we must put on the full armor of God, that we must equip ourselves with all of the resources that God has made available to us through the Holy Spirit, “For our struggle [in this life] is not against flesh and blood,”—No, it is “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and [it is] against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:11–12). How’s that for the beginning of a sermon?
     Now I know that believing in the existence of demons and the Devil is not particularly popular in today’s scientific world. In fact, there are even many Christians “who have a lot of doubts about things like demon possession and exorcism.”[1] As theologian Walter Wink once wrote, “Demons… are the drunk uncle of the twentieth century: we keep them out of sight.”[2]