Is Anyone Just Plain Angry?
2007-08-03 by Rina Terry
Unlike so many others, as yet I do not have a Sunday Sermon. I don't know if I'll mention the bridge or not. I'm just plain angry. Angry at a country that ignores its infrastructure, its children, its education and healthcare and makes war based on power and greed its claim to greatness.
I believe that Jesus would weep at the bridge site. I believe Jesus would be angry and there would be some "woe to those who..." language. I don't think it would come down to guessing whether those who were on the bridge when it collapsed were suitable for the kingdom.
Why are we so horrified over the bridge collapsing and not equally as horrified at the number of young lives being sacrificed in Iraq? Why are we not equally as horrified and effected by the fact that we have the harshest criminal justice system among civilized nations? Why are we not equally as horrified and effected at the ongoing racism, classism and ageism in our society? Why are we not equally as horrified at the state of our environment and global warming? Our society is in a state of horrific neglect and disrepair and there are tell-tale signs of ultimate collapse. Is anyone ready?
Rev. Tim Johnson
2007-08-02 by Tim Johnson
No one would have imagined that our Gospel lesson for this Sunday would have such poignancy for the tragic events of this past week. A man yells out of from the crowd, "Jesus tell my brother to give my share of the inheritance." Jesus responds by telling the story of a rich man who thinks he has it made because of all his wealth. "Little does he know," says Jesus, "that the meal he enjoys tonight will be his last."
One of our members told me this week that she had been on the 35W bridge, three hours before its collapse. Another member regularly goes over that bridge as she travels to and from her job in Minneapolis. No doubt others of us travel that route or know people who do. The story Jesus tells reminds us we are all vulnerable to the uncertainties of life, whether it be the sudden collapse of a bridge or an unexpected and unwelcome diagnosis.
No doubt there will be more than a few preachers this Sunday who see in this story Jesus tells the basis for a scarred straight sermon. Like similar efforts to discourage behavior considered harmful, scarred straight sermons rely on fear – in this case the fear of death and the plight of one’s eternal soul. I have been to more than a few funerals where the preacher felt compelled to remind us we should be sure that we are prepared to die, meaning we need to have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior or face the fearful prospects of eternal damnation.
I see nothing in this passage that leads me to conclude Jesus is telling a "scarred straight" story. On the contrary Jesus is telling a story about this life, not the next and the opportunities that are there before us to live generously, compassionately and be the best we can be. It is a life we are called to live because we worship a God who is generous, compassionate and whose love embraces all those who grieve.
The Reverend Timothy M. Johnson
Cherokee Park United Church
St. Paul, MN
2007-08-02 by Beverly Robinson
I live 60 miles north of Minneapolis but that bridge is a part of my weekly routine. For others, it is part of the daily commute. All of us know someone affected by the disaster. It is an extremely upsetting and very personal disaster to us--it is unreal--it isn't supposed to happen, etc. All the euphenisms come to mind! I think the chaplain interviewed on TV last night said it all when he said "no great theological statements are or can be made. We all just want to know "why me?"" This disaster is certainly the best example of "ministry of presence"-- that's all we can be for one another--a face of Jesus in the midst of horror . . . .
Theodicial Sermon on Ecclesiastes 1 and 2 and Luke 12 (responding to the bridge disaster)
2007-08-02 by David von Schlichten
Here is my sermon for Sunday. I welcome feedback.
- David von Schlichten, poet and pastor
Love, Not Vanity; God, Not Barns
Throughout the movie, the knight struggles with the big questions. Is there a God? What is the point of life? Is there meaning to any of this, or is life as pointless as trying to catch the wind?
The writer of Ecclesiastes has a similar struggle. In Ecclesiastes 1 and 2, the writer laments that life is vanity of vanities. All is vanity. The writer exclaims that we humans work and work all life long. Then we die, and we lose everything. What's the point of life? Nothing really matters. It's all vanity, a waste, as stupid as chasing after the wind. These words of sorrow and despair recur throughout the book of Ecclesiastes. Just as the knight in The Seventh Seal is sick and weary from dread and doubt, so, it appears, is the writer of Ecclesiastes.
Do you ever have such questions, such doubts? I have. What is life about? Is there really a God? Does anything I do truly make a difference? Why am I here? What is my purpose? Is this all just one big waste of time?
This past week was the shocking and horrible bridge-collpase in Minnesota. When such events occur, we find ourselves asking why. Why did God allow such a disaster to happen? What is the point of it all? We feel anger, confusion, doubt. What are the answers?
Of course, the Bible offers a bold, strong answer to its own questions of doubt and anxiety, even while not fully answering the why-question. The answer is Jesus Christ. God sent Christ to die and rise so that we can live forever, even though we do not deserve to live at all. We, the baptized, have life forever in paradise, because of Christ.
As the baptized, the saved, the made-holy ones, we are to spend our lives loving God and one another. That is our purpose, to love God and others. Loving God and others are the two greatest commandments. Jesus has taught us through action and words that our lives are about love. Love is your purpose, your source, your end, your strength – the love from God, for God, for humanity and creation.
The Bible also teaches what life is not about, and one point the Bible announces is that life is not about having lots of stuff. In our Gospel reading from Luke 12, Jesus tells the story of the rich man who wants to have more room for hoarding all his stuff. Then God shakes his head and says, “Oh, you poor, foolish man. Tonight you will die, and what will become of your stuff? Who will get all your riches that you saved for yourself?” The Bible is clear: life is not about storing up things.
This point is not that we are never to save things. Recall the story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids. The wise ones had extra oil saved, so they were ready when the bridegroom delayed. Likewise, we also need to be smart about saving, so that we have enough money and other resources for our lives.
No, the Bible is not saying that we should never save, but the Bible is saying that accumulating stuff is not what life is about. Life is about loving God and others. Our accumulation of stuff in our garages, closets, attics, basements, purses, wallets, and bank accounts, including church bank accounts, should contribute toward loving God and others.
So let me ask you and myself, “What are we saving in our barns, and why?” Are we saving too much? Are we hoarding stuff for no good reason? Are we using what God has given us to love God and others? Think of your stuff. Does saving all that contribute to loving God and others? Are you rich toward God? Am I?
In The Seventh Seal, the knight is able to distract Death so that a young family can escape. The knight finds at least some meaning in helping others, and we do, as well. Loving God and others, helping people, not hoarding and saving – there lies life's purpose.
We see life's purpose in the bridge disaster, too. We do not understand fully why such dark events happen, but we do know that part of our purpose is to help one another. We have witnessed and heard about people helping one another in response to the bridge disaster. We can help, too. Indeed, through the caring of one another God cares for us.
We can also ask with loving firmness why the bridge had not been repaired when it was known that the bridge was in weak shape. Are we so busy hoarding money or using it unwisely that we are neglecting bridges, levees, and the like? I don't know. That is something to talk and pray about, not with nastiness, but with the goal of improving conditions.
As we strain to love God and others and not fixate on saving possessions, we end up falling short eventually. Thanks be to God that, even though we are sometimes stingy with our possessions, Jesus Christ has not been stingy with his life. Jesus Christ did not hoard his life but, in the name of love, gave away his life so we could live forever and receive a wealth of forgiveness. Jesus offers endless wealth to us. “Take, eat. Take, drink. I give you my wealth.” Jesus makes us into trillionaires.
Sermon on August 5
2007-08-02 by Rick Brand
I am not sure I could have wanted a better contemporary event to illustrate the suddenness by which death changes our plans than the bridge collapse. Surely all of those people had other plans, barns to build, crops to harvest, places to go. Then the collapse and the question comes how had you used what you had to prepare yourself to live in the joy of the Kingdom of God forever?
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