Friday, August 27, 2010

Aug. 22 Sermon: Changing Your Mind

Matthew 5: 21-30
Romans 10

Sermon notes

Some of my notes today were a bi-product of a great conversation I had with David Bruce, webmaster of  Check out the website for insightful commentary on finding aspects of faith in film. 

Many movies that come out follow a particular formula, and yes it is a bit comforting to be able to predict the different turns or twists, but sometimes we grow tired of that, don’t we?

I’ve noticed that there are often two movies with a similar premise out at the same time. And sometimes after I watch a movie (or more likely ¼ of a movie) I think, “I thought it was supposed to be hard to get a script bought and made into a movie. That was incredibly stupid!”)

The film that I lift up today are impossible to predict and there is nothing else like them on film.

Dreamweaver: Inception and the Idea that Changes our Life

Use scriptures of dreams: Joseph, or Jacob’s ladder, or Gideon

The history of dream interpretation in scriptures:

Daniel, importance of dreams to Nebuchanexer.

Plot of Inception. Clandestine group puts people to sleep and then learns their secrets from their dreams in order to take their money, etc. They get a job offer where their client wants them to implant an idea in a dream that will cause the person dreaming to want to divide up his father’s company that he has just inherited.

They need to engineer a dream within a dream within a dream in order to plant the idea deep enough in the person’s subconscious for it to seem genuine and life-changing.

Whereas the team of “extractors” are doing what they do with deception and self-motivation, Jesus was interested in “implanting” an idea in the minds of his followers that would surely change their lives forever too. “You are loved. You have fallen short, but God has a plan for you. God wants to see you achieve at the real goals of life, so God plants in your subconscious (and perhaps even reveals to you in your own dream life) what this purpose might be.

IF dreams are so important, then what can we do to be more attentive to them? They say to leave a pen and paper by your bed.

What we believe is important. An idea can change a life, as it does in Inception.

A memory can become an obsession. It can ruin a life, especially if it involves guilt. Which we take form in Inception. A memory can also give great strength for the present or future. Cobb, the main character of Inception, has a lot of emotional baggage about his wife, and this plays into his work as a “dream-thief.” In the movie, we see him deal with her memory.

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Toward the end of Inception, two important characters give voice to two important, life changing ideas, and through that idea given voice, (which is confession) they find salvation.

Be transformed by the renewing of your minds. The person who makes a change first has to take root in the mind.

You have to let the idea change you, if you allow it. It’s like the seed that Jesus talks about.

If you share an idea with a friend, a dynamic happens.

Jesus said murder first happens in the mind.

Biblical “Repentance” in the original Greek is metanoia, which means a change of mind and purpose and life.

Allow thoughts to change them. One reason devotion and the prayer life is so important.

It’s not what goes into our mouths that defiles, it’s what comes out.

What are you entertaintaining in your mind.

Greek Orthodox Story about 3 priests in training. 3 trainees avert their eyes. The master looks directly at her

God knows us not only by our actions—God knows us by the thoughts of our hearts. (beatitudes, Samuel choosing David for king, “I look not on the face, but the heart.” We cannot hide them from God—which is why we are to “practice holiness.”

Romans 10:7So faith comes from (Z)hearing, and hearing by (AA)the word of Christ.

Thoughts matter—sometimes our thoughts are reinterpreted to us in our sleep—sometimes they are no doubt strange and meaningless—but sometimes, and you know when they should be reflected upon—they contain moments of clarity.

Why should we disregard what goes on in our minds? Our waking thoughts, our flights of fancy, our dreams—they are important, and can shape our lives. Jesus thought they were important enough to be equivalent to the actual actions that were regulated by the law.

Perhaps much of the basis of many of our societal ills are as much to blame on our collective thoughts as our collective actions.

Friday, August 20, 2010

August 15 Sermon: Wax on, Wax off

Sermon Texts:
Philippians 4: 8-9

Psalm 78: 1-8

Sermon notes:
(hmm, as I copied and pasted these, it occured to me how much I got off my notes in the actual sermon--so, I guess you get two sermons for the price of one ;D

Sunday sermon notes

Karate Kid: young man must trust his teacher and submit to the authority

Youtube: Karate Kid Wax on Wax off.

Teachers in the bible, ultimate teacher is Jesus

Gives his disciples tasks that they don’t understand at the moment: later, those skills will connect them to him.

Letter of John, we cannot love God if we do not love one another. Daniel-San, you cannot learn Karate if you do not wax the car, sand the floor, catch the fly, paint the fence. Could learning to love one another be the same kind of practice for our eternal life of loving God.

If one of our goals as Christians is to praise God in all things and to be able to discern the praise of God in all things, as the Pslamists frequently do, a good teacher can help a child see the power of education in all things.

One of the movies that always gave me chills as a teenager was Dead Poet’s Society. In that movie, Robin Williams takes his first dramatic role as a English teacher at a preppy private boy’s school in the 1950s. He begins blowing the students expectations of a boring old English class by asking the students to rip out the introduction (a staid and dusty academic approach to poetry) to their Poetry books.

Build trust with the teacher, he helps them get inside poetry and letting it change them

Respect our teachers. I’ll never forget the shame I felt when I was a kid and one of the teachers found a drawing that I had made of my teacher. “Hippo Hopper” it read, with a caricature of my teacher as a hippopotemous. I don’t remember doing the drawing, but I remember feeling so sorry for what I had done when another teacher found it in my desk. It wasn’t just the shame of insulting someone. It was the shame of insulting someone who had never done anything to me besides try to teach me.

Robin Williams inspires the boys to live more authentic and exciting lives than the parents of the boys approve of.

Part 6 7:30, I sound my barbaric yawp.

Part 7: 6:45, importance of conformity, walking exercise.

One son of a maniacally strict and condescending father follows his own dream of being in a play to audition for Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” When negative fallout occurs from that decision, the parents and the school pin the blame on the teacher.

In this way, Robin William’s character becomes a kind of Christ figure, a character the reminds us, intentionally or not, of the sacrifice that Jesus made on behalf of his own students. God gave us the freedom to live truly authentic lives, and the authorities didn’t like it, so the teacher—the rabbi, took the fall.

Most of us would say that our object of study as a person of faith is the Bible. We are “people of the Book,” and are formed by the stories and commands of Scripture. Many people find the answer for our relative ignorance of scripture in the study of the Bible in public schools. And, many English teachers find uses for the scriptures to communicate aspects of that discipline.

But, the Scriptures are hard to pin down. They are hard to teach. I watched a movie this past week called “The Book of Eli”

Describe plot.

Post apocalyptic setting. One man walks the landscape protecting a Bible, which is said to be the last remaining Bible on earth. A harsh and corrupt leader of a community in the desert also covets the Bible, because he sees it as a “weapon—aimed right at the hearts and minds of the weak and the desperate. They’ll do whatever I tell them as long as the words come from the book.”

This is the difficulty of our scriptures. They can be used and abused, or they can inspire beauty, love, and faith.

This is the difficulty of education in general! The gift may lead some to create horrible weapons or learn the skills to persuade people to destruction—or it can be entrusted to others to better the world. It has to be given in faith.

Perhaps this is why our scriptures speak of Wisdom as something almost Divine. In the Proverbs, Lady Wisdom identifies herself as being “

1 Corinthians 1:24, 30—“...[but we preach] Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. . . .Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God...” (NASB). Others point to Matt. 11:19b and Luke 7:35. In Matthew, Jesus defends Himself by saying, “But, wisdom is vindicated by her actions.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Aug. 8 Sermon: Parable of the Sower: It's in the Way that you use it.

Isaiah and Matthew

Sermon Notes:

Wanted to give you a taste of the things we taught around 24 kids this past week at Vacation Bible School. Our theme was the parable of the sower, and the two lessons we really drove into the kids was that the seed falls on people, who are represented by the different kinds of soil, and that planting seeds is something that God loves doing, and that we can learn a lot about God by planting seeds—by getting our hands in the dirt and by having a relationship with the natural world.

Song has been going through my head in my preparations for this weeks sermon, Eric Clapton’s 1986 hit from the movie “Color of Money” It’s in the way that you use it.

Truly, this is one of Jesus’ points when telling this parable. One key part of our relationship with God is “in the way that we use it.” Is the seed brought to it’s potential by falling on nourishing soil? Meister Eckhart, a 14th century mystic preacher and theologian, wrote, “The seed of God is in us. Itf you are an intelligent and hard working farmer, it will thrive and grow up into God, whose seed it is, and its fruits will be God-fruits…Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds grow into nut trees, and God seeds grow into God.”

The song is from the movie with Tom Cruise as the protégé of a famous pool hustler named Fast Eddie Felson, played by Paul Newman as the continuation of a part he brought to life in 1961’s “The Hustler.”

Can you imagine if you were able to speak about your faith life like Eddie talks about playing pool? Can you imagine following Jesus with such a sense of purpose and determination. The thing is, Jesus’ followers were told that they were “losers” because of what they stood for too. In fact, it’s one of the hardiest weeds out there seeking to choke the life out of the kingdom seed that is within you—that you’re a “loser” if you take the side that Jesus took. You watch and see. You teenagers about to start school: Imagine the things that Jesus would stand up for, and the way standing up for those same things would brand you if you really stood up for them.

But, if you are fertile soil, and that seed takes root in you. It doesn’t matter what people say, because you’re in the flow—you know you’re doing what is right. I want to be in that fertile soil! I want to live outside the grasp of the weeds or the birds. I want to sink my roots down deep into God so that the Sun, the passage of time, makes me grow and give fruit instead of whither and fade.

Teilhard de Chardin, another mystic, wrote, “God…is not far away from us, altogether apart from the world we touch, hear, smell and taste about us. Rather, God awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment. There is a sense in which God is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle—of my heart and my thought.”

God is interested in what we do with that seed.

In the sequel to “The Hustler,” Scorcese’s “The Color of Money,” Fast Eddie Felson has learned some of these lessons (the hard way) and seeks to mentor a brash young pool shark who reminds him of himself. If you use the gift of pool as the metaphorical seed in Jesus’ parable, you see it passing quite nicely through the different soil types in the life of Tom Cruise’s character.

Jesus says the Kingdom is like the seed that that the sower goes out and casts in all directions. Sometimes it lands on the path and the birds come and eat it, sometimes it lands on the rocky soil, and the sun scorches it. Sometimes it lands among the weeds, and they choke it out. And sometimes it lands on the fertile soil.

The other angle our VBS took with this scripture is that being fertile soil for God’s Kingdom seed involves having a sense of responsibility for God’s creation. Do we treat the Earth as though it is “Just Us,” or though it deserves justice?

Avatar—relationship with the natural world. Understanding that we are interconnected with the life that inhabits the fields and woods and streams around us. The way we live makes a difference.

It’s in the way that you use it.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

August 1 Sermon: Brought to Life

this sermon begins a new series (during August) called "Summer at the Movies." The preacher will use themes from popular movies that resonate with aspects of our faith life.

Sermon texts:
Genesis 2: 7-9, 15-17
John 20: 19-22

Spent a day this past week at Disneyland. One thing that being married to a woman who worked at Disneyworld has afforded me is that I have a source for some of the trade secrets of Disney. One of those secrets is that all around Disney parks, there are “hidden Mickeys” in the architecture, sidewalks, all sorts of things. If you look closely enough, you’ll find a little mouse ears shape in all sorts of places, even the bathrooms!

I like this concept, you see, it’s how I approach my life of faith too. It is spiritually satisfying to me to find clues to my faith in symbols from our culture and art, and especially in the movies.

Pinocchio illustrates what so many of us have found about our own spiritual lives, and what is a major theme in Wesleyan theology: Grace comes with responsibility. The blue fairy tells Pinocchio when he asks if he’s been made into a real boy, “No, Pinocchio. To make Geppetto’s wish come true will be entirely up to you. Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish and someday you will be a real boy“.

One of those movies that is chock full of spiritual symbols is the story of a little wooden puppet who is brought to life by a magical fairy, and who struggles with the freedom and temptations that comes with such a gift: Pinocchio.

IN the scriptures, people being given the gift of life and freedom is inevitably followed by people struggling with temptation and usually falling victim to it. The flow of scripture is a series of Creation-Temptation/Struggle-Covenant.

In the first scripture we heard, the story of the creation of Adam, we hear of Adam receiving the breath of life and becoming a living being, much like the puppet Pinocchio receives the gift of life, but he is not completely a “real boy.” He must first prove himself worthy by facing tests—which he fails but is then propped up again to start over.

Adam receives the breath of life and then the scriptures turn directly to the source of his temptation and fall—the fruit of the tree. Adam will fail the tests too, but he will be propped up again to have another chance. Adam and Eve are God’s creation, and God isn’t going to give up on them just because they fail.

In our own lives, we find that new opportunities, new breaths of life, are most often times quickly followed by new temptations, new ways to exploit or abuse our new opportunities. We are selfish and self deceiving. And if we’re not, then there are selfish and deceiving forces in the world that are quick to take advantage.

We are so often lured off course by the John Worthington Foulfellows of the world, who promise us the easy street instead of the path that our Father has laid out before us.

Pinocchio’s story also reminds us that salvation is a gradual process. No sooner than Pinocchio is rescued from the clutches of the evil puppeteer Stromboli, that he’s right back with the fox and the cat again, headed for another misadventure on Pleasure island.

Being “brought to life” is something that takes time. We are brought to life as a baby, and we celebrate that gift with baptism. Then we are brought to new life again when we become aware of our own salvation, and we mark that occurrence with the profession of faith. Afterwards, we are brought to life again and again through all the myriad ways that we find our lives weaving. Salvation is a dynamic process that we are involved in our whole lives.

At the end of Pinocchio, when he finally escapes from Pleasure Island before he completely turns into a donkey, and makes it home only to find that Gepetto has gone looking for him and his been swallowed by a great whale named Monstro (yet another symbol from our holy scriptures) Pinocchio has the idea that they should burn their boat in order to make the whale sneeze them out. When I was watching this recently, it occurred to me that this too was an act of faith. Gepetto had pulled Pinocchio into the boat without realizing that he was even there, because he was so delighted with the amazing haul of fish that he is taking in. They are imprisoned in the belly of the whale, and now that they’ve finally found some kind of sustenance inside this prison, they must burn it all and leave it all behind in order to follow the revelation that Pinocchio has been given. They must abandon the trust they put in the material things they have just secured, and risk danger (“ohh, that will make him MAD!” says Gepetto when Pinocchio starts piling on the wood) in order to obtain freedom.

Real and true freedom isn’t obtained without a price. Our faith tradition says that the freedom that led to our adoption as “real boys and girls,” as true and light filled children of God, came at the price of Jesus giving his life for us.

In order to claim that inheritance, we must let go of everything else and hold on to that life-raft with all our might. Claiming that gift isn’t the end to our troubles. If we are really and truly living a Christ redeemed life, that might put us in the stormy waters inhabited by Monstro. And it makes him mad!