Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Is not this Joseph's son?" the Nazareth Crab Bucket

Luke 4:21-30

In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus read from the book of the prophet Isaiah, and began to say, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?"
He said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Doctor, cure yourself!' And you will say, 'Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'" And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."
When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

"Is not this Joseph's son?"
Wisdom from Boggy Creek:

If you put one crab in a bucket alone, it will surely escape unless you put a lid on the bucket. But two or more crabs can be kept in a lidless bucket. Why?
Because any crab that rises above its fellows will be pulled back down long before it can make good an escape.

When applied to a community of humans, especially an oppressed minority, this is termed The Crab Bucket Syndrome. (“CBS”)

When seen in action an observer may be heard to spit “Crab Bucket!” which is no complement.

The Jews of Roman occupied Palestine are just such an oppressed minority community and the CBS is clearly in evidence on several occasions in the Gospels, not the least of which is the Passion of Our Lord.

Today we see the Nazareth Crab Bucket operating in a single sentence.
"Is not this Joseph's son?"

The question could be genuine, or even awed and admiring, but it isn’t.
How do we know? Look at the emotional flow of the story.

Jesus reads and preaches. – Every one speaks well of him.
"Is not this Joseph's son?"  
Immediately, Jesus starts to articulate the unspoken, snarky thoughts of some of them. Drawing out the baiting, jeering questions that he knows they are thinking.
Then having dragged their venomous reptile thoughts into the light, he stamps down on them with two very big boots:
Elijah -- 1 Kings 17:1
& Elisha -- 2 Kings 5.1

"Is not this Joseph's son?"  

Is clearly spoken by someone who is used to looking down the social ladder on Joseph and his class.
Someone who is accustomed to speaking in the synagogue and being thought well of themselves.
Someone for whom the rank and position of the speaker is more important than the words spoken. Akin to the man who stays in the burning restaurant because the waiter told him to get out, and he “doesn’t take orders from servants!”

But the speaker is not alone.
Class is a groupthink operation. The lower classes in a class society are every bit as invested in the Class structure as the upper class. Often more-so as their hold on their position in the structure may be more tenuous.

"Is not this Joseph's son?"  

Is the seed crystal that causes the entire crowd to self-consciously remember their own haughtiness. In a flash their hearts go from being open to the Word of God to being hardened against this uppity young whippersnapper.

And snap the whip is exactly what Jesus does.
Both the Elijah & Elisha stories are examples of God’s love – but as Jesus points out, God was loving people who were not Jews, who had no claim on the Covenant with Father Abraham, who were not part of the Chosen People.

Jesus is saying, and they hear him clearly, “You think you are privileged, but you are wrong. You think you know what your place in the creation is, and that it is secure but you are wrong.”

This is worse than a death threat.

Think about it. Men and women willingly give their lives for a cause greater than them selves. But undermine the cause, or their belief in the cause, and you do not threaten them with mere death. You threaten them with a wasted or meaningless life.

No wonder they wanted to kill him.

But you can’t get rid of the truth by throwing it off a cliff.
Jesus is The Truth.
And if you have to choose between following Him, and anything else, everything else, that which defines you and which you hold most dear…
choose Him.

Choose to find the place you have been called to in the structure of the world as revealed by its author.
Choose to measure all things against God’s Loving Word.
Choose to be open to the Truth no matter how unexpectedly it comes.

Choose Jesus, and make all your other choices in submission to Him.

And the next time you see someone unexpectedly rising up above their station, overcome the Crab Bucket Syndrome, give’em a push!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

When you say, "Please come with me to Church" - What do they hear? pt. 1

"Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoiled. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can do to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it." C.S. Lewis 

We who are in Christ can be both blind and pig-headed when it comes to inviting people to join us. 

We who exhort other Christians to issue those invitations are false teachers if we do not truthfully disclose what must be lost if Christ is to be gained.

This is why the self-satisfied and comfortable are the hardest group to reach. The slave, the addict, the man in the gutter knows that change is needed, and is brave or desperate enough to try even the most radical change. But how do you invite someone to abandon "perfectly-fine-thank-you." for a promise of Glory?

Well... to begin with; Don't pretend you are not asking them something important! 

The invitation to Church is not an invitation to a cocktail-party or a cook-out. Don't try to pass it off as such. You are inviting them into a deep and dangerous mystery that demands much of them and promises even greater rewards. 

Such an invitation is a solemn undertaking. It should be undertaken in prayer and discernment, because in the end, your human invitation is useless unless it is the expression of God's Call.

"When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. …death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man [or nature] at his call. Jesus’ summons to the rich young man was calling him to die, because only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ. In fact, every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts. But we do not want to die…" Dietrich Bonhoeffer  (1906-1945)

Indeed! We do not want to die! 

Only God by grace can open our eyes to see that the invitation to the grave is the invitation to Eternal Life. 

So the next time you go to invite someone to Church, remember what you are asking of them and do not go alone, invite The Holy Spirit!


Monday, January 18, 2010

King wasn't dreaming of Diversity

Dr. King’s I have a Dream speech is iconic, today of all days, but I submit to you that today’s Diversity Agenda is a usurper of Dr. King’s legacy.

Listen to the dream:
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

Hear the words for themselves. Not what you have been taught that they mean.

This is not a dream of Diversity – This is a dream of Unity.

To my mainstream progressive friends I say “Pause”
“Take a break from making hyphenated lists.”
“Refrain from counting us into smaller and smaller categories.”

Listen again to the Dream.
The Dream that came to Moses,
The Dream that came to King,
The Dream that is coming to you, if you will allow it.

Only one category, no hyphens, no subdivisions, no separate revelations, covenants or dispensations; – Just Children of God.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward." So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now." Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

  • Who is the 7th Jar?
  • Jesus is the 7th Jar at the wedding,
  • But today, you & I are the 7th Jar today.

Filled with the miracle wine of the Eucharist.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Epiphany – the Feast of Radical Inclusion

Diversity and Inclusiveness seem to be the virtuous twins of current culture.

But I’d suggest that this is the worst form of sloppy thinking. Akin to eating the cake and having it too.

The goal of Inclusion is Unity, not Diversity.

(For those who want to posit “Unity-in-Diversity” I’d recommend a study of the Balkans under Marshall Tito and after. That was Unity-in-Diversity, also spelled Vendetta-in-Waiting.)

On the Feast of the Epiphany we celebrate the manifestation of the Christ to the Gentiles.

Now that is Inclusion!

The Magi, Wise-Men, Kings - These uncircumcised, pork-eating, star-gazers, are drawn across half the known world to the Light that has come into the world.

And having done so, do they demand that we honor their diversity by incorporating Astrology into the worship of YHWH?
No, they bow. Acknowledging what they have been seeking all their lives.  The Truth.

Galatians 3:27-28 (NRSV)
27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

To be included, is to leave diversity behind.
Why cast horoscopes when the Word of God lies before you?
Why quibble about honoring our differences when Jesus has made us One.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2nd Sunday of Christmas

Sermon Notes

As you sit in the pew, imagine babies, one on either side of you, newborns – just like the baby in the manger- one on the right and one on the left. Hold that thought.
The murder of children, infanticide, is found in every human culture worldwide, and throughout all the history to which we have access.
Child-Sacrifice as a religious ritual, and Child-Murder as population control are both widely documented. To some extent the distinction itself is a modern mind-set imposed on an ancient world that would never have recognized any difference.
If the corn crop failed, starvation loomed. If the local idol demanded sacrifice, or the local king ordered decimation, the outcome was the same. When all we have to examine are the bones, we may never know the context.
Of course we have to remember that many times the god and the king were the same man. Take Pharaoh for example: Exodus 1:22 (NRSV)
22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live."
This is at once both a political and religious act. The conflict in Exodus is a God-War between YHWH & Pharaoh. This is also an example of Gendercide, which here targets the males, but is much more often aimed at females.
It is no accident that The Christ, who liberates us from slavery to sin and death, experiences again the great thematic motifs of the Exodus, when God liberated me when I was a slave in Egypt. Dut 26:8
Demographic speculation tells us that Herod may have found as little as 2 or as many as 12 children under age 2 in Bethlehem. The atrocity left no record other than the Gospel, and Herod slew as many or more of his own family in dynastic disputes. Provoking Cesar to remark “It is better to Herod’s pig, than to be Herod’s Son”
What does the Slaughter of the Innocents have to do with us today?
We are past all that barbarism, aren’t we?
In Modern times, the only thing that has changed is that technology has magnified our abilities, for both good and evil. Preindustrial Europe had the Pogrom, post industrial Europe had the Holocaust. We make a terrible mistake if we look on the horrors of the past, or those across an ocean, and say “We aren’t like them. We are (modern/American/enlightened/Christian/white – pick your bigotry of choice).”
In 2006, 846,181 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC 
82,056 in Texas.
55 in Matagorda County. That is about twice the average Sunday Attendance at Christ Church. Remember the babies, one on either side of you? That’s who they are.
We are in the midst of a debate on National Health Care in this country which will turn in large part on the funding of abortion. This is still both a political and religious act.
The issue of a Woman’s Right to Choose is as powerful and compelling as the issue of a Child’s Right to Life.
There are also some less-mentioned issues: Poverty, Race, Gender and Eugenics still drive reproductive choice, and public policy, today as much as they ever did.
But the silent scandal in the Church today is the number of Christians who are Pro-Life and neither support programs for children born into poverty, nor open their homes to foster or adopt the children born into situations incompatible with survival.
Is abortion different from infanticide?
If our public policies make the Clinic more attractive than the Cradle, are our rulers any different from Herod or Pharaoh? Well, they are more subtle, at least.
And if we are a government of, by, and for the people, aren’t we those rulers?
You see, it is not just poor, pregnant, women who have a right to choose.
You do too.

Choose Wisely.

Kids In Distress (K.I.D.S.)
P.J. Prather - President - EMAIL:
PO Box 1242, Bay City, TX 77404-1242
FAX: 979-245-1618
Susan Maxwell - Local COntact - PHONE: 979-244-7567 or 979-245-7405
Sharyl McDonald - Treasurer - EMAIL:
Charlotte Brown - Secretary PHONE: 979-245-7405

KIDS provides certified therapy for sexually, physically, and mentally abused children in Matagorda County. KIDS provide information dealing with child abuse in order to prevent abuse of potential victims. KIDS educates the community on the issues of child abuse. NO FEE.

Women's Crisis Center
Rachel Stone—Director  
3010 6th Street P.O. Box 1820 Bay City, Tx 77404-1820
PHONE: 979-245-9109 FAX: 979-245-3426
HOTLINE: 1-800-451-9235 Wharton Phone: 979-531-1300 

The Crisis Center is a community based non-profit organization. Provides safe refuge for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. Crisis hotline designed to help people in a crisis situation; those needing help or information for family violence, sexual assault, suicide, or other crisis.

Matagorda Episcopal Hospital Outreach Program (MEHOP)
Celeste Harrison - Director
101 Ave. F., Bay City, TX 77414
PHONE: 979-245-2008, Fax 979-245-0744

MEHOP MOBILE UNIT: Not in operation at this time

Mon - Tues: 8am - 5pm
Wed - Thurs: 8am - 6pm

Mon - Tues: 10am - 5pm (closes for lunch 12pm - 1pm)
MEHOP Dental accepts Medicaid and most private insurance and self-pay at low cost.

MEHOP is a non-profit mobile medical clinic. Co-pay is $20.00 to $50.00 based on income if eligible for sliding fee discount scale. MEHOP accepts Medicare and Medicaid. MEHOP provides acute care on a minor emergency basis, chronic care, community screening, wellness, and health education activities. There is a Vision Program which screens patients for eye glasses, prescriptions for glasses for as little as $50.00. Dental services available: initial evaluations including x-rays for $25.00, also will do cleanings, extractions, fillings, and sealants. Free vitamins for children & adults. There are books for children. Also, diabetic self management classes are available.

Matagorda County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)
Joyce Richmond - Director of Matagorda and Wharton County
2200 7th St. - 2nd Floor, Bay City, TX 77414
PHONE: 979-245-4958, FAX 979-245-6453

Sandra (Sandy) Hochman - Volunteer Supervisor of Wharton County
526 N. Fulton, Wharton, TX 77488
PHONE: 979-282-9223, FAX: 979-282-9653

Provides trained volunteers to act as advocates to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children involved in the court system. The volunteer makes recommendations to the court as to the child’s best interest and placement.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 I wonder what is in 2:16-18? hmmm..

Sunday we will read  Matthew 2:13-15

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."

Then we will skip over Matthew 2:16-18 (NRSV) 
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."
and pick up again at 19-23

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean."

"Well we must read that some other Sunday, right?"
Nope. (you'd have to have been in church on Monday December 28th - not a big Church day around here.)

We Church Geeks ( I said "we"!) complain all the time that "people don't know the Scriptures."
While at the same time we are actively concealing the Scriptures from them!

The Slaughter of the Holy Innocents is an iconic piece of the Christmas story, (Google gave me 53,000 hits for artwork alone), there is an active and interesting scholarly debate about its historicity, it harkens back to pre-history & and the Exodus; and it informs today's debates from Darfur to Abortion; yet we are too squeamish to read, let alone preach it.

I wonder why some people see the main-line Churches as have a problem of relevance in the world today?

Sunday, some of you will hear Jesus at 12 years old in the Temple, some will hear the Adoration of the Magi, and some will hear the Flight into Egypt.

For those who hear the Flight, listen to see if you hear what they were fleeing from.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Prayers

Feast of The Holy Name
January 1, A.D. 2010
My friends,

First, we do not worship the calendar. We are not believers in astrology, horoscopes or numerology. Every day is the day that the Lord has made. Calendars are useful tools, but New Years Day is not a Holy Day.

Today is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. A Holy Day indeed!

One good thing about today, is the opportunity to reflect on the past and to make a deliberate choice about the future. New Year’s Resolutions are the conventional expression of this contemplation, but let’s face it, they are more often objects of regret than milestones of change.

Instead of New Year’s Resolutions this year, try New Year’s Prayers!
Better yet, Prayers invoking The Holy Name!

What is the difference? Let’s see, which do you think is more likely to work?

“This year I will exercise more and eat better.” (one of my perennial favorites – and failures.)
Or this:
O Lord, in the coming year I pray that you will help me to be a better steward of this body, which you knit together in my mother’s womb and gave to me in order that I may do the work of Christ in the world. Guard me from surrendering to the temptations of sloth and gluttony; and give me daily the resolve to care for my body as your handmade gift, in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.

“This year I will quit/cut-down on _________” (insert vice-of-choice here)
Or this:
Almighty God I confess that I am helpless alone to battle my addiction to _________. I call on your mercy to take this unwholesome appetite away from me. Bind my desire for that which is destructive, and show me a path to a healthy and holy life, in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.

And for all of us:

I consecrate this year to You Lord Christ. I invoke God the Holy Spirit to come into my life in renewed power and sovereignty every day of this year. Whenever I wander or stray Lord, draw my eyes back to the Cross that I may never forget that I have been bought for a price, paid in blood by my Christ, in whose holy name I pray. Amen.

                                                                                    God loves you & so do I, - every day of the year,