Well they say time loves a hero, but only time will tell, If he's real, he's a legend from heaven, If he ain't he was sent here from hell.
Written by Bill Payne & Paul Barrere and recorded by Little Feat.
I know of one hero, since people have considered him a hero for almost 2,000 years he could be considered a legend, or rather, He could be considered a legend.
Welcome to my sermon blog.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Go and Be Reconciled
This sermon was heard at the First Presbyterian Church in Marshall, Texas on Sunday February 13, 2011, the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.Amen.
As many of you either saw or heard last Sunday, pop music diva Christina Aguilera “sang” the national anthem at Super Bowl XLV.Well there were a lot of folks who were outraged by her rendition, wishing that singers of the anthem would just stick to the tune Francis Scott Key used when he put lyrics to melody in the first place.It was reported by Us Weekly that among the many Americans who felt this way, the most famous was former Alaska Governor and Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin.
According to a source, Governor Palin reportedly blasted Christina Aguilera’s disastrous performance of the national anthem at Super Bowl XLV calling Aguilera a “demanding beauty queen who’s clearly in over her head.” The report also mentioned the Governor wanting to “deport” Aguilera, after having “to suffer through a performance by a foreigner with a poor grasp of the English language.” Palin also levied criticism on the Obama administration for allowing “spicy Latin princesses” to do the jobs of American pop divas.
The source reported a radio interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity where the Governor says “Quite frankly, Sean, public figures must be held accountable for what they say,” explained Palin.“Here’s another case of an airhead diva going on TV, running her mouth off, sounding like a fool.She doesn’t understand something so basic about America, yet we’re supposed to tolerate her diva behavior?Americans can see through that, Sean.”
These are pretty heavy words.She even used the “F” word, fool.But there’s one more thing you need to know about this, none of it was true.The story was created by a satirical “news organization” called SuperTuesdayNews.com.
The real Governor Palin later responded to the false reports. “I had no interview with Sean [Hannity] and I have never bashed Christina. In fact,” Palin adds in an on the record interview with Us Weekly, “I’ve defended her by telling folks to back off the criticism of her mistake.”
This spoof of Governor Palin has been blown way out of proportion after media reported the former vice presidential candidate’s fabricated comments as fact.It was comedy, it was satire, and it was taken for fact by “real” news organizations.
Anyone who says Raca, an ancient Aramaic insult, is answerable to the Sanhedrin.But anyone who says, “You fool” will be in danger of the fire of hell.If there is a problem with the written word it’s that it’s hard to detect sarcasm and anyone who has accidently insulted somebody online knows this.SuperTuesdayNews.com was telling a joke, a joke that got lost on Us Weekly and everyone else who picked up this item as gospel truth.
SuperTuesdayNews.com was being mean for the sake of the joke.By our reading, this would place them in danger of the fire of hell.The only people on a slipperier slope would be those who repeated this story as truth, without first finding that it was a joke.
There are two parts to our gospel reading today.The first we have just touched upon, injuring another.Jesus tells those who have just heard the beatitudes, those who had just heard that they are salt and light, that if they are angry with their brother they are as subject to judgment as they would be if they murdered.Insult your brother and you’re answerable to the Sanhedrin, but calling someone a fool, well, that makes God your judge.This is expanded in the rest of our reading.
It’s easy to understand the injunctions against taking vows.This is the heart of the commandment that says thou shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.Don’t swear by anything because once your reputation is damaged all that is left is to try to earn back the trust you have lost.Also taking oaths by greater things adds nothing to your word.Demanding others take oaths by greater things simply means distrust.So let your yes mean yes and your no mean no, anything else is either window dressing or a smoke screen.
As for the injunctions against adultery and divorce, these are landmines of our time.
Jesus tells us that anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery in his heart.If this causes you to sin, it is better to eliminate the part of the body responsible than to allow the possibility of sin.
Well, this is one of those times when something gets lost in the translation.Let me explain this by comparing two levels of lust.Let’s call the first “Gee, she’s (or he’s-your choice) kinda cute” and the second “Gee, how can I go all King David on this Bathsheba?”The first type, noting someone is attractive, is not the lust of the original Greek language.Doing something about it, as David did with Bathsheba, that’s a sin.On top of that, considering how to do “The David” is a sin.That’s what this passage is talking about.
Oh, and scholars agree that the self mutilation of this passage is an exaggeration, it’s just an expression used by Jesus to make sure the people understood how important this teaching was.I’m willing to agree with them, but then again, the vast majority of these scholars were men as am I.Men probably aren’t the most unbiased of judges on the whole “pluck it out/chop it off” matter.
The divorce statutes are even more difficult to interpret for our day and time.It’s because so many of us are either divorced or have friends and family who are divorced.This includes my family where among the five of us, two parents, two siblings, and me, there are seven divorces, so finding an interpretation that is faithful and pastoral means cutting away a lot of things that aren’t necessary to the core of this teaching.
That ground is here.Jesus is teaching faithfulness.I look to our reading from Deuteronomy when interpreting this passage.Deuteronomy tells us to be obedient, not to bow down and worship other gods.The passage ends with Moses declaring to the congregation to choose life so that you and your children may live.This is our call, to choose life so that we all may live.
Divorce and adultery are about the ancient legal status that someone bestows upon another by their actions.Whether it’s by infidelity or by legal certificate, it is about what one person in a relationship does to another.What the passage is saying is that we are not to behave in a way that would cause dishonor to another, particularly someone we love.
Jesus is talking about relationships.Jesus is talking about faithfulness.Jesus is talking about choosing life not just for yourself, but for your whole family. It’s about life that is wonderful and glorious, a delight in the eyes of God.
What it’s not about is life lived in abuse.It is not about life lived where you wonder where your partner is, and with whom.It’s not about worrying if you are going to survive your partner’s viciousness or carelessness.It’s not about staying in marriage because it’s what the law requires.It’s about relationships grounded in God’s loving kindness given without reservation to those who have not earned it, but it’s not about tolerating infidelity and horror.
The common bond of all of these specifics, murder and anger and adultery and divorce, and even oath taking, the common bond between these is that there is a higher calling than what the law calls us to live.That higher calling is the law made and embodied in the living Torah that is Jesus the Christ.It is Christ who tells us that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.It is about relationships lived in faithful gracious love with one another, and the truth that we often make this life more difficult than necessary.
The way we live into this new life is the second major part of our reading.
Earlier this week I got a facebook friend request from an elementary school buddy who I haven’t seen in thirty-five years. He began, “Dear Paul, I’m sorry.”Now, I expected the usual things someone says in a facebook friend request. I did not expect this and I had no idea the emotional impact that it would have on me.A simple “Dear Paul, I’m sorry” made me reel.
He went on to say that after his family moved away, he had become messed up because of drugs.He reminded me of a time at the old municipal swimming pool a few years later, we must have been about thirteen or so, and he said something about my weight. I said, “Thanks a lot.”
He wrote, “I never forgot how mean and wrong it was to say that and I still hurt really bad for having said it.” He said he had tried to find me for the last few years on line and succeeded just last week.He repeated his apology and asked me to forgive him.He regretted that I was hurt and that he did not apologize then.
Jesus says “If you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there.First go and be reconciled to your brother.”
This is what he did.This is what God calls us to do.But it is very important to note what he did and what Jesus says, “If you remember that your brother has something against you, you are to go and be reconciled.”It doesn’t say we get to sit in self pity and wait for someone who has wronged us to come and make it right, it says to go out and seek who you have wronged, who we have wronged.It says go and be reconciled.
Jesus does not call us to passively sit by waiting for the world to apologize for its injustices.It calls us to go out and right the wrongs we have done against others.Take my word for it, having been on both sides; these words can be difficult to say, but they are glorious to hear. It’s not easy, but it is glorious.
My response began, “Think nothing more of it.I forgive you.”
This is something we do every week.Every week we come together and pray a Confession of Sin.Then we hear the Assurance of Pardon.
Today we prayed God’s compassion and mercy on us.We prayed that we acknowledge God’s statutes and our way of replacing them with our own desires. We prayed God set us right in accord with his design for us.”
Then we heard the Assurance of Pardon, We boldly declare God will put the law within us, writing them on our hearts.God will forgive our iniquity and remember our sin no more.
We hear the Good News of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
The Rev. William Sloane Coffin preached that he is “stunned by people who… say, ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins,’ as if it were a piece of cake.” He continues “The Assurance of Pardon is what takes humility, because it means giving up your opinion of yourself and accepting someone else’s opinion of you.It means allowing someone else to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.It means that you recognize that finally your value is a gift, not an achievement.”
Coffin says that he believes the Assurance of Pardon is the most exciting part of the worship service.Yet there is another part of liturgy that I believe is just as exciting.
There is something called “Passing the Peace” which you may have participated in at another church or at Presbytery worship.It isn’t a time to meet and greet one another; it is a time when after we confess our sin and receive the assurance of pardon people extend that same peace to one another.People shake hands and hug, usually saying something like “Peace be with you” and are answered with something like “And also with you.”It is a way that people in the church offer and share forgiveness received from God with each other.It is a way people go and become reconciled one to another before coming to the altar.
The 2010 film “The Book of Eli” ends with this prayer, this benediction if you will.Denzel Washington’s Eli says:
“Dear Lord, thank you for giving me the strength and the conviction to complete the task you entrusted to me. Thank you for guiding me straight and true through the many obstacles in my path. And for keeping me resolute when all around seemed lost. Thank you for your protection and your many signs along the way. Thank you for any good that I may have done, I’m so sorry about the bad. Thank you for the friend I made. Please watch over her as you watched over me. Thank you for finally allowing me to rest. I’m so very tired, but I go now to my rest at peace knowing that I have done right with my time on this earth. I fought the good fight, I finished the race, I kept the faith.”
So be strong, be straight.Lord, keep us on straight paths through the many obstacles life places in our way.Thank you for keeping us when all seems lost.Thank you for your protections and signs.Thank you for new friends and watch over them as you have watched over us.Be with us so that we may know the higher law that is your life and the good we do by it.And when we stray, we are sorry about the bad and pray for your forgiveness and grace as you send us to go and be reconciled, to one another and to you.
 Oops! Sarah Palin Didn’t Call Christina Aguilera an Airhead,” http://www.popeater.com/2011/02/10/sarah-palin-christina-aguilera-super-bowl/, retrieved February 10, 2011.
 “Palin Says She’d Deport Christina Aguilera for Botching National Anthem,”
http://www.supertuesdaynews.com/1/post/2011/02/palin-says-shed-deport-christina-aguilera-for-botching-national-anthem.html, retrieved February 10, 2011.
 Kirk, James G. “When We Gather, A Book of Prayers for Worship.” Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, 2001, page 33-34.
 Coffin, William Sloane, “The Collected Sermons of William Sloane Coffin, The Riverside Years.” Volume 2. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008, page 312
 “The Book of Eli.” A Warner Brothers Movie, 2010.The quote comes from the Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1037705/quotes, retrieved February 11, 2011