Last week the New York Times ran a story about a disagreement between residents of rural Vermont. At first glance this doesn’t sound like a topic worthy of coverage in a national newspaper. Here’s what happened: A stocky man with a bushy beard moved from northern New York State to Vermont and bought 30 acres outside a small town. He made the move because of Vermont’s lax gun laws. Vermont is a rural state with a long tradition of hunting and the like. The New Yorker bought the land in order to open a special kind of gun range. Specifically, he wanted to establish a tactical weapons training site, a place where people from wherever could come and practice using their personal assault rifles. He set up several life-like scenarios for live-fire drills. According to the New York Times he tried to sidestep the usual permit requirements by not charging admission and thereby not officially operating a business.
Mark, the gospel writer, tells us that the Holy Spirit “drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness.” There he was tempted by Satan. He was in the company of wild beasts. Angles showed up to take care of him.
What a charged tableau this is. It almost feels like a screenshot from a video game. Mark packs all this energy and contestation—this fasting, battling, fearing and angelic ministering—into two sentences.
I enjoy podcasts. There are podcasts on just about any topic you can imagine. There are podcasts on topics that would not cross your mind if you were stuck on a desert island for a lifetime and told to come up with a list of podcast topics. As you would expect, there are lots of podcasts about church-related stuff: from worship to theology to pastoral leadership to A/V technology. Take a listen to a bunch of these churchy podcasts. They are a great way to hear voices from outside your usual circle. They are also a great way to better understand the church-industrial-celebrity complex. Who wouldn’t want that?
We live at a time when it’s hard to know what to believe. This is curious because every day of our life we have more information available to us than at any prior point in the history of the world. Yet it’s still hard to know what to believe.
The auto-correct feature is a lot of fun. This week I sent a text to someone trying to say that, indeed, I did have Cormac McCarthy’s book in my office. Auto-correct told them I had a book by an author named “Corkscrew McCarthy.” I imagine many of us have similar stories. I say this just to assure you that I know what an auto-correct error can do, and that my chosen topic today is not that kind of a mistake. Today I would like to talk about the “omnipresence” of God. I realize this sounds like a terribly boring topic. But I assure you it is not. So, no, “omnipresence” is not a typo. That’s really what I want to talk about.
The psalmist says, “The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl.” So we pray, oh God, let us hear your voice. Cause us to whirl; cause us to turn.
You can think of this as a New Year’s sermon or as a Lent sermon. In the church calendar Lent is the time when we look inward and prayerfully consider how well we are stewarding the life God has given us. It is annual spiritual maintenance. As it happens, our secular calendar has us doing the same thing at the start of each year. I sometimes wonder if this overlap gets in the way of celebrating Christmas. It’s hard to feast and relax when you know you’ve already committed to losing ten pounds and learning a new language.
“At the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem.”
It seems that our gospel reading is a story of a road trip. The culmination is a famous scene. It is the arrival of the travelers at the abode of Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus. This scene, usually called the Adoration of the Magi, has been depicted by scores of artists, especially those of the Renaissance. One of the reasons it was so popular was because it gave artists license to use expensive, lavish colors: vermilion red, ultramarine blue and gold leaf. In these scenes the travelers are often depicted in sumptuous flowing garments. The gifts they present to the child sparkle with expense. Leonardo da Vinci’s unfinished version is done almost entirely in glowing yellow. Continue reading “On the Road with the Magi – A Sermon for Jan. 3”→
As you know, last week a number of countries, including Canada, closed their borders to travelers from the UK. This was caused by fears of a new strain of COVID-19. It all happened so quickly that many truck drivers from continental Europe ended up stranded outside the port of Dover and the channel tunnel in Kent. One of these was a Brit named Rick Mayo. Rick told an American journalist that he had moved his family to Spain because the cost of living was cheaper. But there he was parked at a rest stop, unable to cross back to France. The BBC said that on Tuesday almost 3,000 trucks were stuck waiting for the border to reopen. Rick said that, even if the border opened in the next day or so, it was unlikely that he would be able to make it home for Christmas.
What our biblical texts offer us today is not so much a moral lesson or something to hope for, but a deep truth upon which to meditate.
Oh God, we believe that the Word was in the beginning, and we believe that all things were made through the Word, and that the Word has come to us, so we anticipate grace and truth . . .
It’s kind of interesting, if you think about it, that David was keen on building a stately mansion for God, but God was comfortable with a tent. David felt bad that, while he met with this assistants and advisors in a palace of stone and cedar, the people met with God in a tent. We sometimes call it a tabernacle, but a “tabernacle” is just an old fashioned way of saying it was a big tent, an impermanent habitation. To the highly-accomplished king David it must has seemed like an old, ratty RV trailer the neighbours parked outback and forgot. Continue reading “Favored Ones – A Sermon for Advent 4”→