Friday, November 21, 2008

Nov. 16 Sermon: Politics of Domination

Sermon Scriptures:
Deuteronomy 24: 16-22
Leviticus 25: 8-22

Politics of Domination:

One could be schizophrenic if you applied all the biblical injunctions regarding power and domination. To me, it is one of the clearest examples of humankind’s projection of values onto God.

How could an “unchanging God” advocate the slaughter of the Canaanites and the provisions for Sojourners found in Deut. 24: 16-22?

This is a problem with prooftexting with scripture. If we’d like to advocate systems of dominance such as patriarchy, slavery, and invasion with clear and concise scripture, they are there for the taking: Ephesians 6:5 “Slaves, obey your masters.”

This is why taking a “narrative approach” with the Bible as sacred scripture is an important witness for us to advocate. A “narrative approach” to scripture recognizes the over-arching trajectory of the Scriptures.

It takes into account that there is a scriptural “movement toward love and compassion” even though the individual verses are sometimes filled with blood, severed limbs, and the bashed skulls of infants.

The abolitionists had to appeal to the “Spirit of the Bible” in their theological disputes with the preachers of the slave-holders. They didn’t have that many scriptures to go on.

The Spirit of the Bible advocates a Politics of compassion even though the individual scriptures sometimes advocate a politics of dominance.

Notice that the Politics of Dominance occur when participants are high on the ego strength level, low on the relational level.

Perpetrators of the politics of dominance are not necessarily acting out of malice and sadism, but because they focus so much on their own needs, interests, and desires.

In the case of Israel’s conquest of Canaan accounted for in Joshua, the people moving into the promised land where so focused on their own sense of promise, their own needs and interests, and desires, that they perpetrated a politics of dominance on the inhabitants of the land.

Interestingly, the account in Joshua is seemingly an exaggeration, because we get to the accounts of the Judges, and the people are still existing alongside the Canaanites, even though Joshua tells us that the Israelites were faithful in carrying out the commands of God in Deut. 20: 16-18.
There are still Canaanites around after Joshua.

Reading between the lines, we see what actually happens when the Hebrew people land in Canaan is syncretism. That’s what the ethnic purists in the Bible lambast the people for throughout the prophets and historical books. It’s the problem with Solomon.

So—a politics of domination is discouraged in a nuanced way in the Bible. The domination of debt and landlessness is assuaged by the commands by God to observe a Jubilee year in Leviticus 25.

Despite advocating an annihilation of the Canaanites in Deut, God also advocates for the “aliens in your midst,” and the “sojourners (immigrants, migrants, transients) by leaving food on the vine and in the olive tree for those unfortunate people to have for food.

If God was so interested in setting up a pure society of ex-slave Hebrews, why would these instructions for mercy be included? It is part of the arc of the story of scripture that confounds the proof-texters of hatred: God undeniably calls toward a society of compassion and peace.

Executing a person for their own sins is an improvement over executing a person’s whole family for the sin of one in the family. Holding life as a sacred gift always redeemable by a God who turns murderers into saints is another step in the direction of compassion.

Though it is not spelled out in the letter of scripture, with the exception of The Bible telling us that it is God's will that no one perish but that all come to faith (2 Peter 3:9). But it seems clear that the absence of capital punishment is where the “Spirit of the Bible” leads.

We have all encountered a politics of dominance in our relationships—you have all met people who dominate a conversation, who insist on their own way, who seem unyielding or even blind to the concerns of others.

We must be agents of reconciliation—we must recognize the string wills of these people in our midst and help them come to an understanding of the value of others.
What the dominating personalities in our midst need is to be drawn toward intimacy with others an to have more concern for them.

Trying to force people into this point of view doesn’t work. Coercion is the operating method of the politics of domination, and will only reinforce that in their hearts. Instead, we must give them opportunities for broken hearts.

This is how the Politics of Compassion practiced by the martyrs exposed the politics of domination practiced by Rome. It was by the steady, willing, loving witness of those who died in the arenas of the politics of domination.

Nov. 9 2008 Sermon: Politics of Resentment

Jonah 3 and 4
Luke 15: 11-32

Sermon Notes:
Politics of Resentment:

Bible chock full of stories of people relating to one another in resentment:
Cain and Abel
Joseph and Brothers
Mary and Martha

Parable of the Laborers is a good example of how resentment is on the grid of low ego strength/low power, not low on the relationship.

They complain to the hirer—that takes some relational

In our Jonah story, we see Jonah complaining to God—telling God he’d be better off dead—when he sees his warnings to the Ninevans heeded. He resents them for repenting and for God changing his mind.

God uses the shade vine to teach Jonah about his own resentment.

.Ending of the prodigal son story is thought by some to be tragic, I think it’s beautiful. There’s God the Father, pleading with the resentful brother to join them at the banquet table. Jesus leaves the parable unfinished so that we can answer it.

You will notice if you look at Hand and Fehr’s diagram in your bulletin notes that exiting the resentment quadrant is not by connecting better to others, although intuition says so. A person in the bottom right quadrant is alre4ady a strong relater.

No--Leaving resentment requires growing in self perception, it requires gaining ego strength—it means coming to love yourself more.

When we do feel resentment, we should first admit the problem.
-Illustration: Rick Warren has a slogan: Revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing.

Focus on the fact that you are beautifully and wonderfully made

“All I have is yours.” Ask for love.

Humility is not a characteristic of low ego strength. It is a characteristic of high ego strength. Don’t confuse humility with low ego.

Find a practice that is life giving. Resentment is a toxic element of low ego. The Ken Burns PBS series on jazz music has a terrific quote by jazz great Duke Ellington. Duke was asked about his feelings at not being able, as a black man, to stay in the guest rooms of the hotels he and his band performed in because of segregation. He said, "I took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.";

It happens in group politics as well—people under the thumb of the oppressors so long that they’ve swallowed the stigma and can’t seem to let go of the resentment. They try to buy respect by claiming that they’ve suffered more.

It won’t work—we’ll never be free that way. God loves us all the same—early to work, late to work. God gives us all the same reward.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

All Saints Day Sermon and Liturgy

The Scriptures for the All Saints Day sermon were: 1 John 3: 1-3 and Revelation 7: 9-17

Listen Here

And follow along with the notes if you wish:
Speak about ongoing sermon series, how it is interesting that in this Sunday previous to our voting Tues, we turn our attention to the politics that encompass this life and the next.

In our scripture readings, we see consistently that though it is impossible for us to comprehend the nature of our relationships with one another and with our God in the life after death, we are assured that there is a great peace, a great reunion, a great communion with God and with the Saints.

We use the term “saint” rather loosely compared with our Catholic brothers and sisters. We don’t ask that any earthly body approve who is a saint and who is not because we believe that if we are not sanctified before death, we are certainly sanctified at the moment of death,

If you aren’t familiar with that term, “sanctified,” what I’m referring to is that pinnacle state of grace when we are given the gift of returning to that original image that God created us in—displaying a “perfect love” for God and neighbor.

Our founder, John Wesley believed this state of grace was possible in our lifetime, and we celebrate that.

Living a “politics of eternity” is living with that goal as our primary focus—loving God and neighbor perfectly. It puts us in touch with the fact that even those who have gone before us continue to shape us and guide us through the love and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Many of us may have experienced that sense of presence and assurance from our loved ones after they have passed on to the next life, and if you take the assurance and peace that you have received from those encounters, and you apply them to your daily life—to the encounters and the relationships that you have on a day to day life, you are living inside this “politics of eternity.”

Living within this “politics of eternity” gives us a mandate to be open to others of different cultures and races and tribes. Notice the first line of our passage from Revelation, when John notices that those saints innumberable are from every “nation, tribe, people, and language, gathered there robed in white before the throne with palm branches in their hand.”

Living within the politics of eternity, living toward that goal of sanctification: perfect love, means living beyond the walls and boundaries and safety zones that we draw around the short sighted definitions of race, culture, nationality.

If you’re not ready to accept someone else because of their color or their culture, then you aren’t ready for heaven, because John sees that we are all gathered together in one place. Stretch yourself—be ready love those who you don’t know and can’t identify with as fully and capably as you love those in your own family or circle of friends.

But, on the other side of that same coin, living the politics of eternity means giving thanks and praise for those lives who have crossed our own, from whom we’ve grown with and discovered a new dynamic of love and devotion.

The lives of those have gone before us should be lifted up as a tribute of thanksgiving to the God who put that life together and loved it perfectly.

We give thanks today for the lives of all our brothers and sisters in creation—all the children of Earth and God. And we thank God especially for gifting us with the lives of those whom we have loved but lost only in a physical sense.

We thank God that through the politics of eternity, we have not lost those lives in a Spiritual sense, and will one day be in fellowship once again, in some way beyond our comprehension.

And so now as a reflection of that perfect communion and fellowship that surrounds God, we remember the meal that Christ offered us to preserve that Communion with him and the saints forevermore.

Oct 26 Sermon: Love of God by Pat Edmonds

Our Lay Speaker Preached on this Sunday--take a listen!
Scriptures are: 1 Corinthians and Mark 12: 28-34