Tag Archives: sermon

Karl Barth, Zilpha Elaw, and Fox News Channel


First, two quick stories from my days being indoctrinated educated in undergrad and grad school. In undergrad, my Christian Ministry professor often quoted Karl Barth from Time Magazine, that Christian preachers should keep the Bible in one hand, and a copy of the New York Times [enter other said newspapers] in the other. As a seminarian, one of the worst sermons I ever heard came from a professor who was preached a sermon from a newspaper, trying to show us an example of what a political sermon should look like. Not only did I walk away from class in complete disagreement with the professor, I was disillusioned with the folksy Barthian approach to preaching. Be relevant, use the Bible, and just try not to lose your nice ministry job in the process. It’s enough to make me want to vomit the more I think about it.

I had never considered anything wrong with Barth’s suggestion until I considered what “holding the Bible along with the 24 hour news cycle would feel like.” We get too much information too fast in this day and age, and false rumors ruin lives at alarming rates. One douchey journalist can take a silly talking point and just ruin 30 years of good community service for one woman or man. It happens. Especially in Christianity today, we feel that if there is a preacher who is wrong out there, we take our case to the interwebz and just let them have it! All churchly bloggers, magazines, and newspapers have fallen short of the glory of God.

Then, I came to Zilpha Elaw’s introduction of herself in her own Memoirs. And guess what sin she denounced? It wasn’t slavery or drunkenness or sexual immorality (even though she talks some about 2 of those), but she give a back hand to men who gossip. Really, I do think that U.S. American men have an unrepentant love of gossip, it just comes in the form of sports and politics. Elaw instructs us, “Deal not in tale-bearing; neither be busy bodies in other men’s matters.” She continues, “above all, shun an infidel, obscene, or disloyal newspaper press, which is the scavenger for slander, and the harlequin of character […] Do not defile your eyes with the sight of its columns, nor your hearts with its proximity. Remember, you were called to be saints, not politicians or newsmongers.” (page 52, Sisters of the Spirit).

While Elaw goes on to say that we should look to the title-deeds of the Christian covenant (the Gospel/the Bible) first, it’s not like she does not have anything relevant to say pertaining to the context of her day, with slavery and race, and economics, and drunkenness and what not. She is just saying, put down the newspaper, cut of the television for a few hours, and read the Bible, spending time with the Holy Trinity. Can I get an Amen?

It’s just so interesting that in my argument with others over dominionism, that it is this quote that sums up my side of the argument so well, that we as Christians are called to be saints first, and everything else second. It’s about holiness, not domination. Which leads me back to American men and gossip in the 24 hour news cycle. I think there is something to this, that needs to be explored, but for the most part, is not gossip a play for power in the first place, that it exposes what voices have the power in our society, community, what have you?

Just something to think about.

Message for iNeed service 2/28/2010: In the end, Love.

Scripture: John 3:14 (my translation) and 1st Corinthians 15:54-57 (The Voice)

  • When I first got here, teaching Sunday school, explaining the story of Paul and Silas, telling them this happened a long time ago.  Lower elementary kids, asked me, are Paul and Silas dead? It came naturally for me to say that the Bible was written a long time ago, but the kids didn’t know. And then I was asked: What happens when you die? I had to explain to them, not some formula I learned at seminary, but about how God loves us, sent Jesus, and rose him from the dead.
  • if you were asked the average person walking in the street what they think the final judgment will look like, a probable answer would be that when we die, our souls separate from our bodies as we are transported to another world called heaven with some bearded giant guy sitting on his throne all alone, waiting for you and I, with a huge television screen replaying all of our good and evil deeds in front of strangers, our friends and family.
  • Today. Love. Resurrection in the Gospel of John and 1st Corinthians.
  • I have heard, because of the popularity of John 3:16 as well as the appearance of two of the verbs for love in Greek (both agapw and filw respectively) at least thirty-nine times in the fourth Gospel, that John should be called, “the apostle of love.”  And if you ever been to a wedding, you probably more than likely, just like in the movie Wedding Crashers, can expect to hear 1st Corinthians 13. Paul’s love letter to the church in Corinth.
  • Judgment is a power shared by the Father and the Son.   John 5:22 says, “For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.”  The ability to pronounce judgment on humanity is a gift from God the Father to Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man.
  • Jesus is the Son of Man, and in the Jewish tradition, like in the book of Daniel 7, the Son of Man is a person who lived in heaven, and at the end of the world, he was to come to the earth to judge people at the final resurrection. The Son of Man appears a lot in the Gospel of John.
  • I have translated: “And just as Moses raised up the serpent in the desert, thus it is necessary for the Son of Man to be raised up.”   Traditionally this is interpreted as a foreshadowing of Jesus’s death on the cross, and I agree with that view, but I also believe that just as Moses lifted the serpent up, so did the Father and the Holy Spirit raise Jesus from the dead.
  • we cannot separate the Crucifixion and Resurrection events as part of God’s revelation, God’s love for us.
  • At the end of the world, John insists that the Son of Man will call out to the graves and all of the dead bodies will rise at the sound of his voice (John 5:28).
  • The apostle Paul also talks about the Resurrection. Two chapters after he explains what love is, Paul starts to discuss how God loved Jesus, the Son of God, that he raised him from the dead (1st Corinthians 15: 3-5)  According to the scripture. The First/Old testament if you will, just as there are hints about Jesus’s death, there are also hints of Jesus’s (and our) bodily resurrection.  Take the instance of Jonah; Jonah was in the belly of a whale for 3 days. Know what that means: When an animal is trying to ingest something, there are acids that are released to dissolve whatever was consumed.  According to some scholars, jonah was good as dead, until God freed him from the giant fish.
  • We also have Ezekiel 37, and some say that the story of Issaac may be a resurrection story.
  • Without the resurrection, continues the apostle Paul in verses 16-19, our faith is not worth more than yesterday’s trash.
  • Some Christians today try to say that the God of the New Testament is nicer than the one of the “Old” testament.  That they are not the same.  This is just no true.  In fact, in the Christian tradition, that is a heresy. As I have shown, there is no separating God’s love from God’s judgment.  The resurrection is both a sign of God’s love and judgment.
  • My favorite verses: 1st Corinthians 15:54-57
  • This is such a beautiful passage, but you see the thing is, Paul is quoting the First Testament.  The Prophet Hosea 13:14.  There is only one God, of the Jews and the Christians; the God of the Resurrection.
  • Jesus is not some “ice dancer in an all-white jumpsuit, and doing an interpretive dance of my life.” Or “a mischievous badger” “or “a ninja fighting off evil samurai” or “someone with angel wings, singing lead vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd.”   He is the Risen Lord.
  • In the early 19th century, there were a lot of things being said about the historical Jesus. Particularly in Germany, before World War II.  A lot of folks say that the Nazi Germany was godless and I agree, but you see, they did have uniforms with badges that said, “God with us.”  Karl Barth, however, disagreed with these folks years before they came into power.  He said, in his “Letter to the Romans”: ‘The Gospel of the Resurrection is the action, the supreme miracle, by which God, the unknown God dwelling in light unapproachable, the Holy One, Creator, Redeemer makes himself known (Acts 17:23)  No divinity remaining on this side the line of the resurrection; no divinity which dwells in temples made by human hands or which is served by the hands of man; no divinity which needs anything, any human propaganda (Acts 17:24-25),–can be God.  God is the unknown God, and precisely because He is unknown, He bestows life and breath and all things” (35-36).
  • Outside of the Resurrection, there is no God.  There is no life.  God’s Yes to Life is Our No to Sin.
  • A lot of good people claim to believe in God.  In 1831, there were some good people who believed in God, working for Congress, but they forced some 15,000 Native Americans to move from Tennessee to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.  Did these good congressmen believe in the God of Resurrection? Thank God for the few good Christian missionaries who showed these First Nations peoples the love of God.
  • Is the God in the Pledge of Allegiance the God of the Resurrection?  Is the God in “In God We trust” the God of the Resurrection?  When we say “God bless America,” are we talking about the God of the Resurrection? Someday, I hope so.
  • But, as our praise band sang this morning:  There is none like our God.  There is none like our God.
  • The God of the Resurrection.