Only Don't Know; Grace Knows

  I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven fourteen years ago. I don’t know whether it was in the body or out of the body. God knows. I know that this man was caught up into paradise and that he heard unspeakable words that were things no one is allowed to repeat. I don’t know whether it was in the body or apart from the body. God knows. I’ll brag about this man, but I won’t brag about myself, except to brag about my weaknesses. If I did want to brag, I wouldn’t make a fool of myself because I’d tell the truth. I’m holding back from bragging so that no one will give me any more credit than what anyone sees or hears about me.   I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. It’s a messenger from Satan sent to torment me so that I wouldn’t be conceited. I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone. He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in wea

Music As a Metaphor for God

I have a friend, a dear friend in fact, someone I respect and admire. I’ll call him as I often do, G. When rarely the subject of religion comes up, G half-jokingly and half-proudly will declare himself a non-believer and anti-organized religion. He’d agree with Gandhi who’s been purported as saying, “I like Christ but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” At the same time, G profoundly loves music, Gospel music included. This love reaches the level of the sacred to him. Music provides him meaning, comfort, and joy, as essential to him as God is to others. G and I disagree when it comes to religion and God. But when it comes to music we are in sync. There is common ground there. Music is sacred to me, essential, a source of meaning, comfort, and joy. And G and I agree on the spiritual and musical genius of John Coltrane who composed and performed the musical masterpiece called A Love Supreme. The 4th and final movement of A Love Supreme ends with

Good Pride

This morning I’d like to talk about the word pride. It is a word that is everywhere in the month of June. Of course, our LGBT+ siblings celebrate and embrace their reality replete with parades in the month of June. The month with its celebrations has come to be called Pride month. Maybe you sometimes hear from folks that doubt the need  for Pride month this kind of question – isn’t pride a sin?  Well, from what I gather in studying scripture, there’s good pride and bad pride. Bad pride amounts to being selfish, narcissistic, always putting yourself first.  Good pride amounts to seeing ourselves as God sees us – as imperfect, sure, but as beings who God created in the divine image.  Father God created us in the divine image, and loves us unconditionally.  Good pride amounts to the feeling you get when you hear from your Father the words, “well-done, my good and faithful servant.” My father and I grew to have a solid, loving relationship. He would have been 87 last Monday. I miss him ver

Liberation Theology

  Here’s the question for You Choose Sermon number 3 – “how is Liberation Theology historically and presently similar and different to mainline belief?” I begin by defining what exactly liberation theology is.  Liberation theology begins with the idea that Christ is liberator. This is straight out of Luke 4. Christ’s liberation of the least of these mirrors God’s liberation of the enslaved in Egypt.  According to Liberation Theology, the biblical story as a whole is about liberation, about God freeing those stuck at the bottom. God and God in Christ seeks to save those at the bottom first and foremost. Yes, as the idea goes, a rising tide will lift all boats. But it lifts those boats at the bottom first. There’s a phrase that is often attached to the discussion of liberation theology. “God’s preferential option for the poor.” God sides with the poor and oppressed. And God in Christ primarily comes to save the poor. For liberation theology, the God of the Bible again and again joins th

Other Faiths & Christ, Part 2

A follow-up to the You Choose Sermon from last week (Other Faiths & Christ). This week's meditation is based on the questions, what do other faiths call God and what do they claim leads to God? In God, Christ, and Holy Spirit we have three avenues that lead to connection with God. We’ve heard it said, God has many names. And that’s absolutely true. The Christian notion of the Trinity alone proves that! Within these three avenues with different names that lead to connection with God, we can place various world religions. Let’s go through them, shall we? First, there is the first person of the trinity, God as in God the Father, God of Abraham. We might call this the strict monotheist avenue. We would include in this avenue Judaism and Islam. Now, I’d like to say a word about these two faith traditions. Of course, historically, adherents of these faiths have been on the other sides of a long, continual battle. This historic conflict is mostly related to geo-politics, s

Others Faiths & Christ

  This is the first of a series of meditations I’ve dubbed You Choose. A few weeks ago, I asked folks to give me their questions, scriptural passages, and topics for me to reflect upon Sunday. I got a few responses. It’s not too late if you want to add your own, but the first question I’d like to reflect on comes from a question regarding non-Christian religions and how they fit into the Christian idea of salvation. Are the faithful of other religions saved? Do faithful Buddhists go to heaven, for example? If so, how? Where does Christ fit in if, using our example, faithful Buddhists indeed go to heaven? Great questions, yes? Whenever a topic like this comes up, an ardent Christian based in the more traditional version of the Christian faith, one of our born-again Evangelical siblings, for example, will recite John 14:6 – I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but by me. In other words, only Christ saves. Unless Christ is involved, the non-Christian faithfu

The God Is Love Revolution

Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love...  So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.  God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. God is Love Those three words are found in two verses both from I John 4. The whole of the Bible leads us to that three-worded creed that in many ways is the gospel – the good news – in a nutshell. We should define what the Bible means by love here. So that’s how I begin this morning, defining the Love God is. We spell the love God is A-G-A-P-E. It is not pronounced like we’d pronounce “agape,” as in open (e.g., “leave the door agape”). It is pronounced a-gah-pay. C.S. Lewis states, Agape… is the kind [of love] God has for us and is good in all circumstances… Agape is all giving, not getting.” Dr. Martin Luther King describes it this way: “ Agape  means understanding, redeeming good will for all... It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless