First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Neil H. Wilson, Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


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Sermon ~ October 28, 2018 ~ Pastor Greg Briggs

“Restoration, Refusal, and Reformation: finding comfort in the ashes and dust” – 10/28/18   by Pastor Greg Briggs

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Restoration, Refusal, and Reformation: finding comfort in the ashes and dust
  2. Two scripture stories about restoration – about “being made whole again”
    1. One in a series of theological “re-“ words.
    2. To go back (or re-turn) to a previous condition
      1. Redeemer
      2. resurrection
  • reclaim
  1. reunite
  2. renew
  3. revitalize
  • rebuild
  • restore
  1. Reform
  2. Revolt “from old French, to turn around”, like revolve
  1. Job’s Re-storation
    1. Rings a bit hollow to modern ears – can’t replace the loss of a child with a new one
      1. Children viewed as property or signs of prosperity, instead of people
      2. 3 beautiful daughters, with inheritances of their own – What a catch!
        1. So wealthy even supports his daughters – progressive for then, not so much now
      3. Before he was restored, he relented. He found, if not peace, then contentment in his interaction with God
        1. “He found comfort on dust and ashes”
        2. Interesting phrase. Contentment in the midst of suffering.  Not yet knowing he’d be restored
  • Job’s weakeness was centering his argument on his own righteousness, instead of God’s
  1. Added back in two verses that were excluded from the Lectionary reading
    1. Reminder this hasn’t just been Job and God, but a series of conversations with Job and his incorrect friends
    2. Job speaking correctly and his friends called to repent and sacrifice.
  • Then Job will pray for them and “they will not be made fools of”
  1. Job and this week
    1. Yesterday – 11 Killed in Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre – shouted anti-semitic slurs and had just hours before posted online of his hatred of a jewish refugee resettlement non profit
    2. Wednesday – Two black shoppers were shot at a Krogers in Kentucky by a white attacker, and is now being investigated as a possible hate crime. Reports are he first tried to enter a predominantly black church nearby
      1. And the fact that I had to debate whether or not to include this, wondering, is this violent enough?
    3. Also earlier this week – “the former Democratic president, vice president, attorney general, secretary of state, a Democratic congresswoman, a major Democratic donor, CNN/the former head of the CIA, and Robert De Niroall faced assassination attempts in one of the most ambitious terrorist attacks this country has ever seen.” https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2018/10/democrats-are-finally-learning-that-civility-polit.html
    4. The flip side of the Job story. We think often about unjust punishment from God, but what about justified punishment?
    5. God showed mercy to Job’s friends “won’t make fools of you”
      1. We give thanks for the Mercy of God, but so often we mainline Christians don’t like to talk about judgement for sins. I prefer to think of it as justice, as re-storation of Balance
    6. Paradox of my faith – I want to think that God welcomes all people, yet I also want to see justice for the downtrodden, which includes laying low the powerful
    7. Very aware of that paradox today.
      1. Why we should pray, not for what we want, but for what God wants.
        1. Every sermon starts off with a prayer to that end
      2. It’s dangerous when the two get confused – as we’ve seen this week
    8. Gospel of Mark and the story of Bartimaeus, the Blind Man
      1. Re-fusal – Unabashed entreaty
        1. Wouldn’t be quiet when he was told to
        2. When Jesus called for him, he threw off his cloak
      2. Asking for Mercy
      3. “What do you want me to do for you?”
        1. Jesus asked the same question in last week’s readings of James and John
        2. Compare what What he asks for, vs. James and John
          1. Mercy – relief from affliction vs.
          2. Enhanced status and reputation
          3. Jesus granted Bartimaeus’ wish
        3. “Your faith has healed you”
          1. What was that faith? Just piousness? Knowing the secret name for Jesus, son of David?
        4. I believe His faith was his loud persistence
          1. Dr. Theodore W Jennings, one of my seminary professors said about Bartimaeus
          2. “this faith is not right belief nor pious resignation to inscrutable providence . . . it is demonstrated as the refusal to be silenced, as the refusal to wait for a better time, as the refusal to wait for an appointment. It is the rude insistence that the calamity be attended to now.”
  • So what do we focus on – The rudeness, or the calamity?
    1. Also seen in Job not being silent in the face of his suffering
  1. After healing, he chose to follow Jesus, despite being invited to go on his way
  1. The Reformation – like Bartemaus
    1. Two examples of outspoken faith, Job and Bartimaeus
      1. Not quiet, not polite
    2. Neither was the Protestant Reformation, which we celebrate today
      1. Martin Luther, monk, objected to the church’s selling of indulgences to get people out of sin. Wrote his grievences, now called the 95 theses – some say he nailed them to a cathedral door, others say he sent them to his bishop
        1. Thesis 86 asks: “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money”
      2. Problem came when he re-fused to re-cant (or take back) his position
        1. As he was pushed to recant, he became more outspoken
        2. At a questioning in October of 1518, The hearings degenerated into a shouting match.
      3. Not the first person to refute Papal doctrine – but the one that seemed to set things off
        1. Largely due to new technology of the printing press, and Bible translations into reader’s native languages
      4. Rabble rouser – progressive in some ways, not as good in others –
        1. anti semitic
      5. Restoration of faith, through Reformation of Faith
        1. Every 500 years, big change in the church
          1. 400-500 CE – Christianity becomes accepted and the state religion of Rome
          2. 1060 – split between Orthodox and Roman Catholic
  • 1500’s – Protestant Reformation
  1. I believe we are at one now
    1. Shifts in Xity, new fault lines
    2. New technology of the internet and immediate knowledge and connection
    3. Discord in world and national politics and society in the last century (two world Wars, civil rights, women’s rights, the subsequent backlash, radical increases in wealth)
  2. For a time such as this – FCUCC Charlevoix and the world
    1. Not just a search for a new pastor but a call to be a re-new-ed church
      1. Job – stands up to his friends incorrect theologies, and is humbled and changed by God, though he hadn’t done anything wrong
      2. Bartemaus – refused to be silent, was given the same chance as the disciples did, he did not focus on securing his own position, but asked for mercy – after receiving it dedicated his life to God
  • Protestant Reformation – transformation from very imperfect beginnings. A challenge to all authority, including religious authority with secular powers. Use of new technology to empower people
  1. All of this, “finding Comfort in the midst of dust and ashes”
  1. Challenges to unity and Christian teachings
    1. How do you decide when being pulled in opposite directions?
      1. Stay silent to keep what you have, and lose those needing a prophetic voice
      2. Speak up, and perhaps lose some, but be speaking the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
        1. Civil war
        2. Civil rights
        3. Women as pastors
        4. Now, lgbtq, and immigrants\refugees, and climate change and the increase in geo-political uncertainty with the rise of more refugees
          1. You collect money for hurricane relief, shows direction of your hearts – but what if more emphatic action is needed?
        5. Check your leaders, civil, religious, and otherwise. If they don’t speak out about these hate crimes think about whether you should really be supporting anything they do.
      3. Congregational meeting and the interim time
        1. New leaders
        2. New questions, new challenges
        3. Prayers for Restoration, for Refusal to be silent or complicit, for Reformation, all in the redemption and reclamation of Jesus Christ

Readings

Job 42: 1-8, 10-17

Job answered the Lord:

I know you can do anything;
    no plan of yours can be opposed successfully.
You said,[a] “Who is this darkening counsel without knowledge?”
    I have indeed spoken about things I didn’t understand,
    wonders beyond my comprehension.
You said,[b] “Listen and I will speak;
    I will question you and you will inform me.”
My ears had heard about you,
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore, I relent[c] and find comfort
    on dust and ashes.

After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, he said to Eliphaz from Teman, “I’m angry at you and your two friends because you haven’t spoken about me correctly as did my servant Job. So now, take seven bulls and seven rams, go to my servant Job, and prepare an entirely burned offering for yourselves. Job my servant will pray for you, and I will act favorably by not making fools of you because you didn’t speak correctly, as did my servant Job.”

10 Then the Lord changed Job’s fortune when he prayed for his friends, and the Lord doubled all Job’s earlier possessions. 11 All his brothers, sisters, and acquaintances came to him and ate food with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him concerning all the disaster the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a qesitah ( a sum of money) and a gold ring.

12 Then the Lord blessed Job’s latter days more than his former ones. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. 13 He also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 He named one [daughter] Jemimah, (Dove) a second Keziah, (Cinnamon) and the third Keren-happuch (Eyeshadow) 15 No women in all the land were as beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave an inheritance to them along with their brothers. 16 After this, Job lived 140 years and saw four generations of his children. 17 Then Job died, old and satisfied.

 

Mark 10:46-52

46 Jesus and his followers came into Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho, together with his disciples and a sizable crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, Timaeus’ son, was sitting beside the road. 47 When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was there, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, show me mercy!” 48 Many scolded him, telling him to be quiet, but he shouted even louder, “Son of David, show me mercy!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him forward.”

They called the blind man, “Be encouraged! Get up! He’s calling you.”

50 Throwing his coat to the side, he jumped up and came to Jesus.

51 Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.”

52 Jesus said, “Go, your faith has healed you.” At once he was able to see, and he began to follow Jesus on the way.

Listen to the audio version of Pastor Greg’s sermon  below:

 


Sermon ~ October 21, 2018 ~ Pastor Greg Briggs

sermon title – date   by Pastor Greg Briggs

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Mysterium Tremendum et fascinans
  2. Driving by the Baptist church
    1. “beyond doubt” on their marquee
    2. I really wonder what they are talking about
    3. All about doubt, and limits
  3. Fear and Trembling
    1. Job – magnificence, power, and scope of God’s concerns
    2. Humbleness, fear, tininess
    3. Mysterium tremendum et fascinans
      1. The Tremendous and fascinating mystery of God
      2. Intentionally choosing a mouthful –
        1. Some shorten it into ‘mystical,’ or the ‘numinous’
  • I want us to have to wrestle with it, savor it like a jawbreaker candy, something to be sucked on, sweet and slow to diminish
  1. Interconnectedness, intricacy of God’s creation – limits of our perception
  1. Challenges of knowledge, and limits of human comprehension
    1. “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
      ― Galileo Galilei, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina
    2. Example of the wolves in Yellowstone, changing the flow of rivers
      1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSzQ9w5TCqc
      2. Wolves, reduce deer population, helping trees grow, which restores habitats that encourage other animal life
  • Wolves also reduce coyote population, enabling smaller mammals to recover – including beavers
  1. All influences combine to creating a more robust watershed, reducing river erosion, restoring wetlands, further increasing biodiversity
  1. Individual vs. collective human knowledge and perception
  2. Starting to encroach on some of the things on God’s list in today’s scripture
    1. Can you issue an order to the clouds so their abundant waters cover you?
      1. Cloud seeding
    2. 35 Can you send lightning so that it goes and then says to you, “I’m here”?
      1. We can make lightning. It powers most of our technology
  • 36 Who put wisdom in remote places, or who gave understanding to a rooster?
  1. 37 Who is wise enough to count the clouds, and who can tilt heaven’s water containers, so that dust becomes mud and clods of dirt adhere?
  1. Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans –
    1. Knowing limits of reason are even more important in this age of knowledge
      1. “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop and think if they should” – Jurassic park
    2. The dangers of unintended consequences
      1. Environmental impacts
        1. Water pollution – all over Michigan
        2. Climate change
        3. We collectively have the impact of geologic era
        4. Essay in GRE test prep – whether technology is the solution to our woes
          1. Got harder and harder for me to grade, because the arguments got more complex for me
        5. Moving on to gospel – Mark
          1. Ah, James and John – did they get what Jesus was teaching, or not?
            1. One interpretation is that they are missing the mark about what it means for Jesus to be the messiah
            2. Another interpretation is that they understood very well, perhaps better than most, so they were trying to protect themselves
  • In either case, missed a deeper truths, “
    1. “they don’t get what they are asking,”
    2. Again, about the subversion of the world order
    3. the Human One (or son of man) didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”
  1. Extreme danger of moral certainty
    1. Societal impacts of unintended consequences
    2. Petoskey Pharmacist
      1. Theological stance is questionable
      2. CERTAINTIY and lack of trust of woman
  • Throw in a dash of toxic masculine certainty
  1. Racial profiling – who is or is not “supposed” to be in a certain location
    1. False calls to police
      1. 10/12/18 – D’Arreion Toles had police called on him by a white woman for trying to enter his own apartment building by another, white, resident
      2. April 29, 2018 Oakland Ca. police called on African American family for grilling in a BBQ area in a park, by a white person
      3. 2009 – Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
    2. “policing” of black behavior by white onlookers
  2. Mysterium tremendum et fascinans destroys certainty
    1. At odds with worldly culture of assuredness and never showing doubt
    2. See it in politics all the time
      1. No desire or room for compromise
    3. Theological question, “what if I’m wrong?”
      1. Harm reduction
      2. Trying to get at unintended consequences
  • Needs listening
  1. Brings us closer to Jesus’ call to serve
  1. Conclusion – That’s not the way it will be with us
    1. Here’s what Jesus has to say
    2. 43 But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. 44  Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, 45  for the Human One[a] didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”
    3. Don’t be certain, don’t move beyond doubt. Move into curiosity, move into astonishment, move into caring and serving one another. The genuine will be realized, and the false and ill minded will be driven away
    4. Stop trying to preserve seats of power and privilege, like James and John or how things are in the US today.
      1. Serve and love, because we cannot know all that is going on around us.
      2. We choose to live in terror or wonder

 

Readings

Job 38:1-7, 34-41 Common English Bible (CEB)

38 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:

Who is this darkening counsel
    with words lacking knowledge?
Prepare yourself like a man;
    I will interrogate you, and you will respond to me.

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
    Tell me if you know.
Who set its measurements? Surely you know.
    Who stretched a measuring tape on it?
On what were its footings sunk;
    who laid its cornerstone,
    while the morning stars sang in unison
        and all the divine beings shouted?

34 Can you issue an order to the clouds
    so their abundant waters cover you?
35 Can you send lightning so that it goes
    and then says to you, “I’m here”?
36 Who put wisdom in remote places,
    or who gave understanding to a rooster?[a]
37 Who is wise enough to count the clouds,
        and who can tilt heaven’s water containers
38     so that dust becomes mud
        and clods of dirt adhere?

39 Can you hunt prey for the lion
    or fill the cravings of lion cubs?
40 They lie in their den,
    lie in ambush in their lair.
41 Who provides food for the raven
    when its young cry to God,
    move about without food?

 

 

 

Mark 10:35-45 Common English Bible (CEB)

35 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

37 They said, “Allow one of us to sit on your right and the other on your left when you enter your glory.”

38 Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you’re asking! Can you drink the cup I drink or receive the baptism I receive?”

39 “We can,” they answered.

Jesus said, “You will drink the cup I drink and receive the baptism I receive, 40  but to sit at my right or left hand isn’t mine to give. It belongs to those for whom it has been prepared.”

41 Now when the other ten disciples heard about this, they became angry with James and John. 42 Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the ones who are considered the rulers by the Gentiles show off their authority over them and their high-ranking officials order them around. 43  But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant. 44  Whoever wants to be first among you will be the slave of all, 45  for the Human One[a] didn’t come to be served but rather to serve and to give his life to liberate many people.”

 

Listen to the audio version of Pastor Greg’s Sermon below:


Sermon ~ October 14, 2018 ~ Pastor Greg Briggs

“Too bad we aren’t literalists…” or “sitting-with instead of explaining-away”

10/14/18 by Pastor Greg Briggs

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. “Too bad we aren’t literalists…” or “sitting-with instead of explaining-away”
  2. Interesting lectionary scriptures for stewardship season
    1. Job – lamenting God abandoning him
    2. Jesus – saying hard things about money
      1. Give more, or scare people away?
    3. Glad you have the offering before the scriptures here.
  3. Last week’s sermon title and topic – why I’m glad we aren’t Biblical literalists and prooftexters
    1. Talked about how Job was afflicted, and Jesus talked about why divorce should be illegal.
      1. We talked about how the set up for Job’s story was to eliminate any doubt that he was a truly a man of integrity – not that God will just smite us for sport or gambling
      2. We talked about how Jesus forbidding divorce was a measure to protect the women, and the asking for divorce was to highlight the selfish and hard hearts of the men who didn’t consider the consequences of divorce for anyone but themselves – now a days, divorce is a safer option for many people, especially but not exclusively women, to escape from abuse
  • We also talked about how Jesus focused on two spirits becoming one, and that we should not separate what God brought together.
  1. So, we shouldn’t take a single phrase from the Bible literally, but we should take these stories very seriously. This is to be in covenant
  1. Yet, this passage from John so many supposedly “Biblical literalist” preachers and listeners go out of their way to avoid any sort of literal interpretation
    1. It’s not all rich people, just this guy’s problem
    2. It’s a spiritual allusion
  • Need to demonstrate willingness, not actually do it.
    1. Like Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac
  1. Explanations of the whole camel and eye of needle pun
    1. Eye of needle being a narrow gate into the city – difficult, but not impossible
  2. And many not Biblical literalists also seek to neuter these assertions, too

 

  1. Question asked and responded to in love not confrontation
    1. A big difference between last week’s question and this weeks
    2. Not the pharisses trying to trip Jesus up, but a genuine question from a seeker
    3. Jesus’ dialogue with the man
      1. Look at the commandments
        1. One added that’s not in the 10
      2. Jesus’ response “Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him”
      3. Apostles followed up later, and Jesus said the same thing
      4. Then who can be saved? No one
        1. With God, all things are possible
      5. Then Jesus emphasizes the sacrifice the disciples have made, leaving family, parents, behind for the sake of the good news
      6. Will gain 100 fold
    4. Why so scary?
      1. Challenges so many of the assumptions we have, both back then, and now in our American capitalist society where we treasure the idea that we are get a fair and equal chance to make a go of it. Pull us up by our bootstraps
      2. So, what if this passage is literally true?
    5. Psychology of Money
      1. TEDx talk – Psychologist Paul Piff, does money make you mean?
        1. Rigged game of Monopoly – over 100 pairs of strangers, flip of a coin to determine who gets advantage
          1. 2x money, got twice as much money for passing go, and got to roll two dice to move around the board
          2. Watched for 15 minutes
          3. They knew it was rigged
        2. Noticeable differences rich player
          1. Moved around board louder
          2. More likely to see signs of dominance and power
          3. Bowl of pretzels – consumption rate – rich ate more
          4. Became ruder to other player
          5. At the end, rich players attributed their success what they’d done, and earned their successes, not the flip of the coin that got them into that position first
  • Compassion and empathy decrease with rise in wealth, with increase in self interest and entitlement go up.
    1. Richer more likely to moralize their behavior – greed is good – the pursuit of self interest is favorable and moral
  1. UC Berkley – How Money Changes the Way You Think and Feel
    1. More money, less empathy
    2. Wealth can cloud moral judgement
  • Wealth has been linked with addiction
  1. Money itself can become addictive
  2. Wealthy children may be more troubled
  3. We tend to perceive the wealthy as “evil”
  • Money can’t buy happiness or love
    1. After basic needs are cared for 50k to 75k a year.
  1. Create moral justification for their success and behavior.
  1. Anxiety
    1. The flipside of this, is the increased fear, or anxiety, of losing what one has
    2. Not just about the money or not, but also the mindset
      1. Americans all act like we are soon to be millionaires
    3. Myth of the zero sum game
      1. Not an economist, but one of the fundamentals of money is, the more you keep it moving, the more wealth it creates.
    4. Same challenges today
      1. Richest political cabinet in history, richest congress in history
        1. Increasing disregard, distain, and hostility for anyone who disagrees with them
        2. NOT following the commandments discussed
      2. Could go on for a long time
    5. Job and the Anonymous rich man
      1. Contrast with Job
      2. Not taken literally, but taken seriously
      3. Don’t spiritualize poverty
      4. Not impossible – but requires focus and effort
        1. Regular reminders of compassion and empathy – need for church
      5. Despair of Job – loss of privileged blinders
        1. Wealth, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism,
        2. You will see how easy you’ve had it, and how hard it’s been for others
      6. Call to make the faith the central focus of our life, over ALL else
        1. Reversing the social order
        2. Start in small ways, but continue to grow

Readings

Job 23:1-9, 16-17

23 Job answered:

Today my complaint is again bitter;
    my strength is weighed down because of my groaning.
Oh, that I could know how to find God—
    come to his dwelling place;
    I would lay out my case before God,
        fill my mouth with arguments,
    know the words with which he would answer,
        understand what he would say to me.
Would God contend with me through brute force?
    No, he would surely listen to me.
There those who do the right thing can argue with God;
    I could escape from my judge forever.

Look, I go east; he’s not there,
    west, and don’t discover him;
    north in his activity, and I don’t grasp him;
    he turns south, and I don’t see.

16 God has weakened my mind;
    the Almighty has frightened me.
17 Still I’m not annihilated by darkness;
    he has hidden deep darkness from me.

 

Mark 10:17-31

17 As Jesus continued down the road, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?”

18 Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except the one God. 19  You know the commandments: Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Don’t cheat. Honor your father and mother.”[a]

20 “Teacher,” he responded, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him. He said, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” 22 But the man was dismayed at this statement and went away saddened, because he had many possessions.

23 Looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, “It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom!” 24 His words startled the disciples, so Jesus told them again, “Children, it’s difficult to enter God’s kingdom! 25  It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

26 They were shocked even more and said to each other, “Then who can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible with human beings, but not with God. All things are possible for God.”

28 Peter said to him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed you.”

29 Jesus said, “I assure you that anyone who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or farms because of me and because of the good news 30  will receive one hundred times as much now in this life—houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and farms (with harassment)—and in the coming age, eternal life. 31  But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first.”

Listen to the audio version of Pastor Greg’s Sermon below:


October 7 ~ Sermon ~ Pastor Greg Briggs

Sermon, Oct. 7 2018  “Why I hope we aren’t Biblical Literalists and Prooftexters” by Pastor Greg Briggs

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. “Why I hope we aren’t Biblical Literalists and Prooftexters”
  2. Mini Sermon series
    1. Job and integrity
    2. Mini sermon series – next 4 weeks
  3. Initial thoughts
    1. Limits of sermons – Better unpacked in study vs. sermon – need to wrestle with the perspectives and concepts
      1. Trying to whet your appetite
    2. One of the most direct attempts in the Bible to address theodicy
      1. “the vindication of the justice of God in the light of humanity’s suffering”
      2. What does it mean to say God is all powerful, all knowing, and all good, and there’s still pain and suffering in the world?
  • A question some of us spend as much time as possible trying to avoid
  1. Ancient folk tale
    1. If I read the Bible literally, the beginning of Job would make me lose my faith
      1. God is gambling with us?
    2. Prologue establishes moral certainty needed for this extended parable\thought experiment
  2. Patience, endurance, Integrity, Wisdom
    1. Asking the question, “are we only good or holy or pious because it benefits us?”
    2. Ha-satan the accuser – Job’s piety is only because he is blessed- take away blessings and he will forsake God
      1. First destroys his possessions and his children
      2. Then afflicts him will bodily injury
    3. Job’s wife
      1. Knows his sinlessness – his devotion, his piety. Seeing
      2. “10 Job said to her, “You’re talking like a foolish woman. Will we receive good from God but not also receive bad?” In all this, Job didn’t sin with his lips.”
    4. His friends (who won’t show up in our Sunday readings. Again, better as a study) look at his downfall as an indication of sin.  Divine punishment
    5. Integrity, like wisdom, is feminine in Hebrew
      1. Wrestles with the inaccessibility of wisdom
    6. the letter of James says “having the patience of Job”
      1. more accurate to translate as endurance or persistence
      2. Job in the story is not patient, calm, quiet. He is assertive, mournful,
    7. Presence of Suffering
      1. in Buddhism –
        1. Essential nature of Suffering – first of four noble truths
      2. In the book of Job, we see underserved suffering exists
        1. But is suffering necessarily punishment?
      3. Essential question of morality and faith
        1. How we treat others,
      4. Integrity revealed in times of distress, or suffering
        1. Endurance and persistence of Job becomes important
          1. Common benchmark, what people are like under duress
        2. “Have you thought about my servant Job, for there is no one like him on earth, a man who is honest, who is of absolute integrity, who reveres God and avoids evil? He still holds on to his integrity, even though you incited me to ruin him for no reason.”
        3. Integrity is lacking these days.
          1. Falling prey to “the ends justify the means” or
          2. Looking out for #1
        4. Are they the basis for our sense of self? Or can we go deeper?
          1. CS Lewis, in the Chronicles of Narnia wrote ““You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”
          2. We are sinful and blessed
            1. We are children of God, and we are also sinful
            2. So often, when we feel the one, we need to be reminded of the other
          3. What do we do with our blessings, and with our struggles?
          4. Always the temptation to look outside ourselves, and see it in other people, before we look at our allies, our friends, ourselves.
            1. Log in our eye before the speck in the other
          5. Jesus walking with Job
            1. Early Christians talk about Job as prophesying the coming of Christ, but I wonder more about what Jesus would say to Job.
              1. Both in his richness, and in his affliction
            2. Job in his riches
            3. Job in his despair
            4. To suffering
              1. To follow Jesus, our struggles will INCREASE, “Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”
              2. Avoidance of suffering is not a good reason to be a Christian
  • Transformation of suffering, redemption of troubles
  1. See this in today’s Gospel lesson in Mark
  1. Today’s reading from Mark picks up directly after last week’s reading
    1. Getting tested by Pharisses
    2. Questioned about divorce
      1. Legal or not?
      2. Jesus First asks what Moses allowed, but then berated the men for having unyielding hearts
  • Jesus transforms the question – from what is legal to what creates the greatest good?
  1. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.”
    1. 10 Inside the house, the disciples asked him again about this. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if a wife divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
  2. Dangers of proof texting
    1. See, Jesus said no divorce. So, nope!
    2. Different social situations
  • Divorced women would be abandoned by society
    1. Hence the unyielding hearts of the men who divorced them
  1. Back then, to divorce was detrimental to women
  2. Modern divorce is beneficial, if necessary
    1. Abusive relationships
      1. Physical, mental, emotional
    2. Divorce (and by comparison marriage) should not be about making life easier for ourselves
    3. Deeper truths
      1. People are not (just) property
      2. One (though not the only or ideal) way to feel and explore God’s love on earth
  • Connections after divorce persist
  1. If marriage is a religious ritual, why isn’t divorce?
    1. Northern Exposure – had an episode where a minister
    2. UCC “Order for Recognition of the End of a Marriage”
  2. Continuing connections – if partners truly cared about each other
    1. Anecdotal stories of divorcees getting back with one another
    2. Continuing feelings – caring for ex partners of deceased individuals
    3. Mutual ongoing connections
      1. Children
      2. Business
      3. Shared community
    4. Not advocating for re-engagement with past partners or making a religious claim about morals and ethics of marriage and divorce
    5. Recognizing deeper spiritual and emotional connections
      1. Not acting out of selfishness, but should act out of self care
      2. Emotional maturity
  • Don’t know each other, until at least the first big problem
  1. Bringing us back to Job.
  1. Another reminder of God’s kingdom and children
    1. Gospel ends with another reminder to be like children with God
      1. Less forward planning? Less cost\benefit analysis?

Readings

Job 1:1, 2:1-10  Common English Bible translation

A man in the land of Uz was named Job. That man was honest, a person of absolute integrity; he feared God and avoided evil.

2 One day the divine beings came to present themselves before the Lord. The Adversary also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to the Adversary, “Where have you come from?”

The Adversary answered the Lord, “From wandering throughout the earth.”

The Lord said to the Adversary, “Have you thought about my servant Job, for there is no one like him on earth, a man who is honest, who is of absolute integrity, who reveres God and avoids evil? He still holds on to his integrity, even though you incited me to ruin him for no reason.”

The Adversary responded to the Lord, “Skin for skin—people will give up everything they have in exchange for their lives. But stretch out your hand and strike his bones and flesh. Then he will definitely curse[a] you to your face.”

The Lord answered the Adversary, “There he is—within your power; only preserve his life.”

The Adversary departed from the Lord’s presence and struck Job with severe sores from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. Job took a piece of broken pottery to scratch himself and sat down on a mound of ashes. Job’s wife said to him, “Are you still clinging to your integrity? Curse[b] God, and die.”

10 Job said to her, “You’re talking like a foolish woman. Will we receive good from God but not also receive bad?” In all this, Job didn’t sin with his lips.

 

Mark 10:2-16 Common English Bible (CEB)

Some Pharisees came and, trying to test him, they asked, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife?”

Jesus answered, “What did Moses command you?”

They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a divorce certificate and to divorce his wife.”

Jesus said to them, “He wrote this commandment for you because of your unyielding hearts. At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.[a] Because of this, a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh.[b] So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.”

10 Inside the house, the disciples asked him again about this. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12  and if a wife divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

Jesus blesses children

13 People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. 15  I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he hugged the children and blessed them.

Listen to the audio version of Pastor Greg’s Sermon.