There is no fear in love (Rachel Epp Miller)

Title: There is no Fear in Love
Text: 1 John 4:7-21
Date: November 14, 2010
Place: San Antonio Mennonite Church
Author: Rachel Epp Miller

Last Sunday we shared about things that cause us to fear in our lives. We named our fears and hung them out for all to see in hopes that if we, together, would name our fears and pray for one another, our fears might lose some of their power. I found it a meaningful exercise – not just to name my fears and get them out in the open in order for me to feel better, but to also recognize that this is part of our calling as church – to shine light in the darkness, to name the fearful places in our lives and infuse those places with God’s love so that we can together be a loving, non-anxious presence in a very fearful and anxious world.

This morning we continue on this theme of fear by widening our reflections to look out and around us – to name the fears that we sense and feel in our culture, in our society, in our global community and discern together how we, as people of faith might respond.

We hardly have to look further than the evening news or conversation around the water cooler at work to get a sense of the fears that bind us. We fear the current economic climate that has left many people without jobs, with home foreclosures, and depleted retirement accounts; we are fearful of crime—in our neighborhoods and city; we fear for the education of our children in public schools that lack adequate funding; we fear the effects of a depleted ozone and polluted air and water; we fear the stranger—the immigrant (with papers or without) who we perceive as a threat to jobs and government resources; we fear Democrats; we fear Republicans; the list can go on and on.

I don’t think we can talk about the culture of fear in this country without referring back to 9/11. It has been said that when the planes hit the World Trade towers, the world stopped turning for a moment and nothing has ever been the same. There is no denying the pain and loss brought on by this violent attack. Nearly 3,000 people died that day on the planes or in the towers. Many rescue workers continue to suffer the side-effects of having worked in the rubble for months, permanently damaging their lungs. In addition to the tragic loss of life, the terror of 9/11 was so acutely felt because we were under the illusion that somehow here in the United States, protected by the largest military power in history, we were untouchable by the type of violence that is daily present in so many other countries of our world. What was so terrifying about 9/11 is that it happened here, to us, when the people of New York City were busy going about their daily business—and couldn’t that also mean it could happen in our shopping malls or theaters or schools or workplaces? What was so terrifying was that it brought a new level of violence and loss to our shores that we had never had to experience, at least not for a long time. It was a horrific event, but no more horrific, no more devastating than what is daily happening in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Sudan, and any number of places at this moment. Continue reading

How God defeats evil (Brian Miller)

Title: How God defeats evil
Texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Luke 23:33-43
Date: November 21, 2010
Place: Sunnyside Mennonite Church (Lancaster, PA)
Author: Brian Miller

Rayford Steele was born in Belvidere, Illinois to working-class parents. While growing up, Rayford is embarrassed by his family’s low socioeconomic status, and he makes it his goal to attend college and become either a professional athlete or a pilot. When he attended Belvidere High School, he was voted homecoming king, He eventually obtains an Air Force ROTC scholarship to attend Purdue University; while there, he meets a fellow ROTC cadet two years his junior, Irene. They fall in love, get married and over time have two children—daughter, Chloe, and then a son, Raymie.

He eventually leaves the Air Force and begins working as a pilot for Pan-Continental Airlines. It is during an overnight flight to London that something strange happens. He returns home amidst chaos to find Irene and Raymie missing. His wife had often told him how she anticipated Jesus “calling his people home.” Now his fears are realized. The rapture has happened and he has been left behind.

This is how the plot begins in the overwhelmingly successful bestselling Left Behind books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The vision of the end times in these books is of a small group of people who are fighting evil. The lucky ones are raptured by Christ into heaven and thus are saved while the countdown toward total annihilation of the globe ticks mercilessly on. The majority of the earth’s population will, however, be left behind.

Many Christians subscribe to the worldview of these novels: that we are living in the end-times and that all sorts of “catastrophes,” from September 11 to Hurricane Katrina and the East Asian Tsunami, prove that the end is near. These things must happen so that a few can be snatched away by Christ and rescued. Wars and famine are not seen as events produced by human actions, but as steps in God’s final plan.

On the last Sunday of the church year we are invited to consider once again what it means for Christ to be King. Here is the question: How does Christ reign? How is it that King Jesus fights and defeats evil? Continue reading

First above all powers (Phil Kniss)

Title: “First above all powers”
Texts: Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 1:68-79
Date: November 21, 2010
Place: Park View Mennonite Church (Harrisonburg, VA)
Author: Phil Kniss
– – – – – – – – – – – –

(For video of Pastor Kniss’ sermon, follow this link)

– – – – – – – – – – –

How in the world do we make sense of a scripture
like the one we just heard from Colossians 1,
when we live in a world like we do?

How can we say—
in a world of war, of domination,
of violent dictatorships, of abuses of power,
of nations who inflict or turn a blind eye to torture and atrocities,
of the grossest of evil that we humans do to each other—
how can we even begin to say that Jesus,
the cosmic Prince of Peace,
is truly Lord of all these powers?
That [quote], “in him all things in heaven and on earth were created,
. . . thrones, dominions, rulers, powers—
all things have been created through him and for him.”
That Christ “is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
That “he is the head . . . the beginning . . . the firstborn . . .
[the one who has] first place in everything . . .
whether on earth or in heaven.” Continue reading

Sermon at Trinity UMC (Taylor Mills)

Text: Colossians 1:11-20
Date: November 21, 2010
Place: Trinity United Methodist Church (Durham, NC)
Author: Rev. Taylor Mills

As my mother used to say, “put on your thinking cap” because I’m going to try stretch our brains for a moment to consider a theory in astronomy and cosmology called “dark matter.” Apparently, some very smart astrophysicists and other scientists have calculated the amount of total mass in the universe. Then, they calculated the mass of all the objects we can observe (galaxies, stars, dust, etc.), those within view of our telescopes and those things beyond the view of our telescopes.

Continue reading

Sermon at Duke University Chapel (Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove)

Date: November 21, 2010
Author: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Place: Duke University Chapel (Durham, NC)

To watch or listen to Wilson-Hartgrove’s sermon at Duke Chapel on Christ the King Sunday, follow this link. The sermon begins in the 29th minute.

The darkness, the light, and the water between (Ron Adams)

Title: The darkness, the light, and the water between
Text: 1 Sam 8
Author: Rev. Ron Adams
Place: East Chestnut Street Mennonite Church (Lancaster, PA)

“These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers….” (1 Sam. 8, NRSV).

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you. He will manufacture reasons to go to war, and with a bold face proclaim the rightness of the cause. He will tempt the children of your poor with promises of a better life, if only they join the military. He will teach those children how to kill. He will place them in situations in which killing is the only way for them to survive. He will insist that they do things that revolt them, that their consciences resist, for the sake of some reason only the king knows. And when they break, when they go too far, the king will imprison them in order to protect the king’s good name. And he will bury the dead, he will wipe them away, he will place their bodies and their memories in some secret and shameful place, so that no one will ever know what happened. He will make 66,000 civilians just disappear, 66,000 dead and as if they never existed, Iraqis disappeared by one wave of his mighty hand.

Oh, and one more thing. The king will arrest, torture, abuse, mock and, finally, crucify anyone who challenges his authority.

But the people refuse to listen; they say, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Sam. 8).
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Continue reading

Our God Reigns (Herman Keizer)

Title: Our God Reigns
Text: Psalm 96
Date: July 4, 2010
Place: LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church (Grand Rapids, MI)
Author: Chaplain (Col.) Herman Keizer, Jr., U. S. Army, ret.

This weekend our Nation pauses to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the establishment of our Nation – the intellectual giants who pledged their lives and fortunes to establish a Nation into which God breathed liberty. We watched parades, heard speeches and sang patriotic songs. As a Nation we proclaimed once again the ideals and ideas that we cherish as a free people.

But we all sense again in this year’s celebration that our National life has changed since 11th of September 2001. We are a nation fighting two wars that continue to add names to the list of those who sacrifice for our freedom. Our victory in both wars is complicated by hostilities that resist efforts for peace.

Continue reading

As Sunday Approaches…

“. . . read the biblical text for this coming Sunday, pray like a true warrior who believes Jesus can save even us and even this bloody age, and get up and risk getting it wrong. Tell the congregation about how scared you are, and then preach.

Preachers don’t have to bring the definitive WORD, for goodness sake. They need to risk asking their congregations to struggle together with what this news means for our collective and individual memory and for our witness in the years to come.”

– Amy Laura Hall, in Sojourners

Kingdom Table Manners (Mark Gorman)

Title: Kingdom Table Manners
Text: Luke 14:1, 7-14
Date: November 16, 2010
Place: Duke University Divinity School
Author: Mark C. Gorman

Jesus enters the house of a leader of the Pharisees for a Sabbath meal and starts to do something most of us would consider pretty rude. Looking around at all the other guests, he pokes fun at the way they jockey for the most important places at the table, and then he offers a little bit of tongue-in-cheek advice. First, to the guests: “Don’t choose the most honored place, or look out—someone better than you might show up, and you’ll suffer the embarrassment of being shown to the end of the line.” Then to his host: “You call this generosity? Isn’t it kind of a
cheapskate move to only invite people who can pay you back? Next time, invite the poor, lame, cripple, and blind—the ones who can’t pay you back. Then people will know how generous you are.”

Continue reading

Proper 29 Project in the Christian Media

Below are a few sources for news and interviews related to the project and its members which have appeared in the Christian media over the past several days:

Sojourners features an interview with Amy Laura Hall on the genesis and goals of the project as well as some pastoral reflections.

Dr. Hall also appeared on The Nick and Josh Podcast and discussed similar topics.

Steve Thorngate of Christian Century discusses the project, the origins of Reign of Christ Sunday, and the implications of this sometimes awkward feast day for the Church’s witness to the state.