Let me start
today with a cartoon:
Which one is
First Christian Church? I don’t know that it matters, for don’t
they balance one another out?
I have to
thank the “naked pastor” – real name David Hayward – for helping
inspire the message this morning. It actually all started with
the work the Vision Action Team has been doing – books and
articles we’ve been reading, the worship discernment surveys
many of us completed in the early part of 2012.
were asked questions like, what is the reason we gather for
worship? Rank the top 5 most important parts of worship for
you. And the like. Guess what I learned? That some items come
to the top as maybe top three favorite parts of worship, but
otherwise everyone picks something a little bit different.
Music is the most important. Preaching is the most important.
Come! Join us, we are the ones who think Communion is the most
important. No! We are the ones who think the Coffee Hour is
the best! We are a community. The larger we become the more
like a community of communities we become. One size will not
fit all. One song will not represent all. One style of worship
will not feed all.
Tao te Ching:
Tao Verse 2:
(as translated by Brian Browne Walker)
find one thing beautiful, another consequently becomes ugly.
When one man is held up as good, another is judged deficient.
Similarly, being and non being balance each other; difficult and
easy define each other; long and short illustrate each other;
high and low rest upon one another; voice and song meld into
harmony; what is to come follows upon what has been.
of the Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu were developed over a period of
two-three hundred years by not just 1 sage, but at least 5 –
men, women…back in the 4th-6th centuries BCE.
It is another
sacred text that many find meaning and insight in – who else
reads the Tao? Who can say they understand it all?
wisdom and truth out of the Biblical text is no different than
reading the Tao - both rely upon the hard work of many
commentators, many linguists, historians to bring us as close to
the real translation as we can. I’m bringing for reflection
verses 14-22 of Chapter 2 of Ephesians. And there’s plenty
disputed in Ephesians: it’s authorship, is it Paul? Is it
not? It’s theology, it’s audience. The most conclusive answers
to these questions come from comparing this letter to the others
– Colossians, Galatians, Romans 1 Corinthians– and in the
comparison some beautiful and unique images are offered for our
And as an
aside, If you are interested in learning more about the
Authentic voice of Paul, why Ephesians is a disputed letter,
etc. Go back and read Dan’s sermons from Summer 2010 and even
Spring 2011 - and also pick up a copy of The First Paul, a great
little book written by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.
For this area is not my focus today; my focus is on the vision
that is put forth in Ephesians and the one we express today.
14 For he
himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and
has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of
hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its
commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in
himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making
peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God
through the cross, by which he put to death their
hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far
away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we
both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow
citizens with God’s people and also members of his
household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and
prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief
cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together
and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him
you too are being built together to become a dwelling in
which God lives by his Spirit.
Here it is,
another cartoon from @nakedpastor. Sort of an anti-cartoon:
There is no
wall. There is no barrier. There is no divide across tradition
or tribe or nation that God cannot reconcile and unify.
understand the text:
The Spirit of
God, also known as Christ, made alive in Jesus, reflected in the
teachings of the disciples and apostles that followed, is the
way toward peace. When we find ourselves again wrestling with
“who’s in? who’s out? Who is right and wrong?” we are reminded
that all the divisions we experience in this life are
The reader is
to come to know himself in relationship to God – to yourself and
with one another and to find peace in the space between. In its
original context – this peace is for Jews, Gentiles, to see
themselves as members of one household. They are no longer one
group that’s in and another that’s out.
There are no
Christians without Jews, we understand this – That wasn’t the
only wall dividing the people in Ephesus but it was a
significant one. But apply it to yourself today – who is it you
are keeping out? Purposely denying, judging as less than,
certainly not your problem?
Today we have
so many walls – our creeds and the words we choose to speak in
those creeds are walls to help us to know ourselves as believers
but they still divide. Church polity –continues to divide
persons of the SAME tribe – just ask our Presbyterian friends.
There are emotional walls around our hearts for somewhere,
someone taught us that showing ourselves, vulnerable and
transparent is a weakness. Physical walls are built as
solutions to immigration and political turmoil. That, or a wall
of missiles, the invisible threat of nuclear war all to keep
someone else out, keep us safe, protect us from the other.
WE come to
know ourselves by hearing about others, learning who others are
– and as frustrating it as it is to grasp, I still need to be
reminded that God loves that person, that theology, that
political nitwit as much as he loves me, another nitwit.
gives us a image of God – one we may or may not agree with:
God intends salvation for all. God is loving towards all.
God has a will – a plan - from the beginning.
And the plan
is for peace. Started with the prophets. Then through Jesus.
Now the apostles. And now you, reader, listener. Good luck and
remember, God is with you.
Is that the
only way to view God? Certainly not – every book in this Bible
has a unique vision of God – some are closely linked in vision
but not all the same – not even when we compare multiple letters
So it’s in
our hands now. This text, the teachings of Christ. What is
your image of God? What do you think God is like?
Take out the
bulletin insert and grab a pen or pew pencil. This survey was
born from some research done at Baylor University, in Texas. In
identifying people’s perceptions of God, this team from Baylor
found they could predict much more about a person’s moral and
political beliefs than by just asking “what is your faith
background.” God knows this must be true because if you ask 5
disciples what they believe you’ll get 5 different answers.
is not comprehensive, but it is fun. It creates conversation.
And that is exactly my purpose, so fill it out, What we are
evaluating here is a) how engaged you think God is in the world
and b) how angry you think God is with this world. But it is
merely a stepping off point – the journey is still before us –
we aren’t here to solve anything.
Click here to view
the God Image Survey (Microsoft Word document)
Disagree – it certainly forces the issue.
Ok, so play
along, please. Stand up if you scored…A, B, C, D.
I need 5-6
volunteers to come forward and talk more about this with me.
Thank you for
coming up here with me. I know it is a vulnerable act to tell
us what you believe – did you know that in Greek to believe
means “To give one’s heart to.” I think we are accustomed to
asking “What do you think?” when we ask what another believes –
but this is a heart issue –(the heart part of the brain?) which
involves trust, it is subjective, based on who you are, where
you have been, what life is like for you. So thank you for
sharing in that Spirit – that is where God does the best work -
in our hearts.
Remind us –
what are your 2 highest scoring categories?
surprised or not?
Are there any
questions where you simply could not decide?
both as your answer?
What was the
hardest question to answer?
these images come from for you?
thought these were the hardest questions to answer:
13. Has no
human characteristics or emotions
Disappointed by humanity’s treatment of one another.
And from our
conversation – especially the ideas of sin and God’s
disappointment…some of us changed our answers right then and
What does it
mean that we change our minds and hearts daily or mid
conversation? What significance does that have for you?
For me it
shows great potential – for there are many things we need to be
willing to change in ourselves that feel nearly impossible to do
– but look how easy it is when we are honestly engaging with one
another? Gives me hope!
experience informed your faith today?
again. You are a brilliant illustration of the Tao &
Ephesians. Now just to illustrate the second half of Ephesians
passage, it’s time for you to build the human pyramid.
Kidding! You can go back to your seats.
are the herd or those who refuse to follow the herd – we are
really one in the same – we only know “who we are” today by what
we were yesterday. And only by comparing ourselves to others
can we see how these Scriptures come alive – Following and not
following are complements of one another. Questions and
answers complement each other. We cannot know beautiful and not
know ugly. Good/bad. Up/Down. Yin & Yang. Belief/Non belief.
Can you see the circle in all this?
There is deep
insight here in the experience of resting in differences – not
finding one answer but living in the multitude, living in the
puzzlement. And as a Christian I would say that the Spirit is
alive and present with us all in this moment. You are inspired,
right to keep talking, learning more, questioning? A Taoist
might say the light of Consciousness is on, that we are awake,
No one who
has shared here today is straight up right or wrong. No one’s
responses replace or one-up the other. All come together,
whatever the differences for all reflect the truth. How?!!?
message, another expression of Ephesians v. 20-22:
God is using
us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building.
he used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's
using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with
Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts
together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple
built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is
quite at home.
that as an image for God? God is building the place God feels
at home – and it doesn’t involve just one side or another. And
it’s no church building, people. It’s the world. It’s all of
our mess and thoughts and beliefs and histories, our drama, our
faith, our doubt, our devout disbelief. And that it is still in
process, still happening, it’s a beautiful mystery. I cannot
say I fully understand how believers and non-believers can both
live in Christ – I mean today that is a completely loaded
statement in our world today. It’s likely that it turns off
quite a few in the room. Don’t let Christ be the wall that
divides you. Find the things that unite us – things we can all
believe in – loving concern for our fellow humans, equal rights
for everyone, belief in our ability to make this world a better
place and belief it takes mutual respect for everyone.
That is the
world that God feels at home, that is the vision of Jesus, it is
the place God wants us to feel at home –
That is what
we can call the body of Christ, the kingdom of heaven, the way
the universe works, the path of peace. Today I give thanks to
the Spirit for working me into this mystery and for the wonder
and hope I gain from it. May we live into our inheritance as