Trinity Sunday; June 3, 2012; John 3:1-17; Ecofeminist Homiletics
2012-06-01 by David von Schlichten

The other day at pericope group, one of my colleagues spoke extensively about the whole "born again" controversy related to John 3:1-17. Is the phrase "born again" or "born from above"? Does being born again (or from above) mean that a person has to accept Jesus Christ as h/his personal Lord and Savior in order to inherit eternal life? Does the phrase "of water and the Spirit" refer to baptism? On and on.

I appreciated my colleague grappling with these issues, but I found myself wondering, "What does this have to do with the Trinity?"

Here's one connection. While we disagree over how to interpret this passage, especially the phrase "born again," we are still one, just as the members of the Trinity are distinct from each other while still one. Of course, those three do not disagree over issues, as far as I know. If the three do disagree, they do not allow that disagreement to divide them. No, the three persons are too busy loving each other and us to let an issue split them up.

Born again. What does it mean? I'm not completely sure. Perhaps it is enough to know that the phrase calls us Christians to a new life in Christ, and central to that new life is loving the way the members of the Trinity love. 

This idea is in accord with my ongoing desire to be an ecofeminist preacher. Ecofeminism calls for us members of creation to focus less on hierarchy and more on heterarchy. We are to worry less about who is better than whom, who is right and who is wrong, and more about embracing the diversity and working together for equality for women, non-human nature and, ultimately, all of us.

What thoughts do you have?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

May 20, 2012, Psalm 1, LGBT
2012-05-14 by David von Schlichten

Psalm 1 essentially says that those who follow God bear good fruit. This teaching recurs throughout Scripture. In other words, our good actions are manifestations, products, of our commitment to God.

When a person condemns members of the LGBT community, I want to note that many of those members bear good fruit. When, in Romans 1, Paul condemns homosexuals, he seems to suggest that there is a connection between rejecting God and living as a homosexual. These people have rejected God, so God has given them over to homosexual passions.

However, Paul's logic is faulty here (as it is elsewhere; Paul was human, after all). A person can be homosexual AND be devoted to the one true God. I have seen countless examples of such devotion. 

(By the way, the term "homosexual" is anachronistic vis-a-vis the first century. The word never appears in the Bible and was not coined until the nineteenth century. Technically, the Bible does not speak of homosexuality in the contemporary sense of a committed, loving relationship between two same-sex people.)

What are your thoughts?

Imitating Christ's prayer for unity,

David von Schlichten, Ecofeminist Christian and Lectionary Blog Moderator

Ecofeminist Mother's Day Sermon (John 15:9-17)
2012-05-12 by David von Schlichten


Sermon on John 15:9-17   

for St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church, Youngstown, PA

with Sunday, May 13, 2012,

6th Sunday of Easter, Year B,

with the Reverend Dr. David von Schlichten

(word count: 657)


Ecofeminist Sermon


            Women endure a strange and disturbing paradox here in the United States. On the one hand, we revere at least some women, including mothers. We speak reverently about a mother’s love, and so we should. At its best, maternal love is intimate and powerful. At the same time, while holding women, such as mothers, in such high regard, we often do not treat them well. In the U.S., women are still paid only seventy-seven cents for every dollar a man makes, and many of those women are mothers. If we revere mothers so much, then why don’t we pay them better? In general, in fact, we tend to treat women with disrespect, even while claiming that we respect them. For instance, in the United States, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every single day. You can bet that many of those women are mothers. In fact, abused women frequently receive their first beating when they become pregnant. Yet supposedly we respect mothers.

            Now, you might think, “But Pastor, aren’t men also victims of violence?” Sure they are. For instance, in 2001 about fifteen percent of victims of intimate-partner crimes were men. Of course, that means that eighty-five percent of the victims were women. Similarly, men make up about 7-9 % of adult rape victims; women make up the remaining 91-93%. Men are indeed victimized, but women are victimized much more.

            Then there are the burdens we frequently place on mothers. We often expect them to work outside the home and take care of all the domestic responsibilities. Men have become more helpful at home, but the bulk of the domestic chores tend to fall on the women. We expect women to be pretty and thin all the time, to be successful at their jobs, and to hold everything together at home.

            Today, Mother’s Day, what if we vowed to commit ourselves to showing women, including mothers, real respect? I don’t mean put them on a pedestal. I mean treat them with dignity, respect, and kindness. Jesus tells us in John 15 that urges us to love one another. Essential to loving one another is regarding each other with genuine respect. Loving one another demands not hitting each other, not insulting each others, not belittling or bullying each other, not using sex as a weapon, and not playing head games. Loving one another entails showing everyone solid respect, including mothers. We say we respect them. Let’s truly respect them, just as we should respect all people. Let’s live the Resurrection.

            There’s another mother we tend to disrespect and brutalize, and that’s Mother Nature. Actually, we often treat nature the same way we treat women. We say we respect women, but then we beat and belittle them. Likewise, we say that we respect nature, revere it, yet we continue to be wasteful, continue to allow destructive and desecrating practices such as mountaintop removal mining and fracking. BP had its horrible oil leak. We were all appalled, but what really has changed? We claim to revere mothers and Mother Nature, but do we really?

            Perhaps you do, and if so, then thanks be to God. Wonderful! Be a model for others. Legions of us, however, are inconsistent in our respect for women, mothers, and Mother Nature. Sometimes we are respectful, sometimes not. How can we be more respectful?

            Indeed, may we be more respectful toward all, male and female, human and non-human. After all, Christ has respected us. In John 15, he calls us friends. Friends. Not servants. Calling us friends, even though we are unworthy. Even though we are sinful, Christ still respects us, loves us, dies and rises for us, saves us through baptism, teaches us through Scripture, feeds us his body and blood, forgives us our sins. Amazing! Christ is risen. Christ washes our feet and then says, “Now go, and wash each other’s feet.”                            

Sermon Thoughts for May 13, 2012 (Mother's Day; Ecofeminism; Gay Marriage)
2012-05-10 by David von Schlichten

Mother's Day: We tend to sentimentalize maternal love on that day, and maybe a little sentimentality isn't bad. At the same time, it is wise for us preachers to acknowledge that motherhood is far from ideal. However, God's love is ideal and always supports us, even when mothers (or any other human) fail us. God also supports the mothers themselves. Moreover, God offers loving care for women who want to be mothers but cannot.

We could even preach about God as Mother. God gives birth to us, teaches us, protects us, breastfeeds us.

Acts 10: Peter is surprised to see that the Gentiles have received the Holy Spirit. The Gentiles, like the Ethiopian eunuch of last week, are outsiders, yet the Holy Spirit comes anyway. What other outsiders does the Holy Spirit come to? How about members of the LGBT community, including those who are married? You bet the Holy Spirit comes to them.  

Psalm 98: Even nature is to praise God. Why? Because salvation is for ALL creation, not just humanity. Everyone is included. So then, if God cares for non-human nature, then we should, as well. 

John 15: We humans tend to love hierarchies, loving ranking people, yet Jesus softens a hierarchy by calling us, the disciples, not "servants," but "friends." Indeed, the vine image also softens hierarchy. Of course, the Father and Jesus are "higher" (vine grower and vine), but all Christians are branches (equally). And again, Jesus softens the hierarchy between God and humanity by calling us friends.

ECOFEMINISM: We revere mothers but still often treat women as inferior to men. We revere Mother Nature but still often exploit and desecrate her through drilling, fracking, mountaintop removal mining, and more. Jesus calls us to love one another, and loving one another demands, not this inconsistent reverence, but consistently treating mothers and nature--indeed, all--with true, durable, consequential love.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator 

Sermon Thoughts for May 6, 2012; 5B Easter
2012-05-02 by David von Schlichten

Acts 8 and John 15

Ethiopian eunuchs. Deuteronomy 23:1 says that eunuchs are to be excluded from the community of believers, but the Holy Spirit decides to use Philip to include the Ethiopian eunuch.

Whom do we exclude? Sometimes we exclude disabled people because including them is logistically more challenging. We also exclude people whose appearance we find disturbing or whose behavior is odd.

Then there is the likelihood that the eunuch is black, and he most certainly is a foreigner. Yet he is included, and so he should be.

John 15: We are all branches. We members of the Church are equals, and it is not our job to decide who gets lopped off. Once again, we're focusing on inclusivity.

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

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