disciples

Sermon on Losing Your Life and How Jesus Isn’t Your Magical Puppy

Image by Kelly Richardson /Shutterstock.com

Image by Kelly Richardson /Shutterstock.com

Dear HFASS,

How are you? I am fine.

Actually that’s not true.

See, I wrote another sermon this week. A real one. I worked on it all week. And then yesterday afternoon I threw it away and just wrote you this letter instead. Because I realized that in my sermon I was trying really hard to convince you of something.

God's Church is Not a Building

Catholic Cathedral Interior, Rechitan Sorin, Shutterstock.com

Catholic Cathedral Interior, Rechitan Sorin, Shutterstock.com

What is a church?

Is it the stained-glass windows or welcome bell mounted in the steeple? Is it the straight-backed pews or scent of incense wafting into the narthex? Sunday school classrooms or spaghetti dinners in the basement?

If you view a church as a building, what happens when it goes away?

According to Reuters, 2011 was a record year for church foreclosures:

“Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans, with 90 percent of those sales coming up after a lender-triggered foreclosure, according to the real estate information company CoStar Group," the article reads. "In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks, an annual record, with no sign that these religious foreclosures are abating, according to CoStar.”

Sermon on Jesus’ Dream Team: Rank Fishermen, Demoniacs and Sick Old Ladies

"Jesus Healing the Mother of Simon-Peter." Via Wiki Commons http://bit.ly/zTeWKC

"Christ Healing the Mother of Simon-Peter" by John Bridges. Via Wiki Commons, http://bit.ly/zTeWKC.

That famous yet fictional saint of the church, Homer Simpson once said Well, I may not know much about God, but I have to say we built a pretty nice cage for Him.

So, we’ve been slowly making our way through Mark’s Gospel since December and our reading for today starts exactly 26 verses into the book. Here’s a little re-cap to catch you up to speed: The Beginning of the Good news of Jesus Christ.  John the Baptist appears in the wilderness with his questionable wardrobe and dietary choices and baptizes Jesus. Heavens torn open.  This is my beloved. For which Jesus is rewarded with 40 days in the wilderness with the wild beasts and angels. Repent and believe the good news of the kingdom.

On his way to Capernum he picks up some stinky fishermen.

Then on the Sabbath he’s teaching in the synagogue – and everyone’s like “wow.  That Jesus isn’t totally full of it like the other guys” Finally he casts out an unclean spirit after commanding it to shut the hell up.

And that’s pretty much where we pick up the story today.

#Occupy: The New Pentecost?

Pentecost depiction by Duccio di Buoninsegna via http://bit.ly/w3Q6IA

Pentecost depiction by Duccio di Buoninsegna via http://bit.ly/w3Q6IA

For those who re-discover their faith by taking seriously the vision offered in the second chapter of the book of Acts, the Occupy movement may appear to them as the New Pentecost. Note the similarities between the ancient story and the contemporary movement:

  • In Acts, the emergence of new power occurred when the “gossip” about the Resurrection became a life-empowering message that transcended all lingual differences: “each heard in his own language.” Likewise in Occupy Wall Street: in the development of a new means of communication, people of diverse backgrounds both spoke and heard in a common language. It was, indeed, a New Pentecost.

The Jesuit Jester

Between Heaven and Mirth by the Rev. James Martin

Between Heaven and Mirth by the Rev. James Martin

For years, I've liked to call the Rev. Jim Martin, author of the new book Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life, "my favorite Jesuit."

I'm certainly not alone in my fondness for Martin and his wry spirituality.

Stephen Colbert is so enamored of the exceptionally clever cleric's wit and wisdom that he made Martin the official chaplain of the Colbert Nation. (Click HERE to see some of Father Jim's past appearances on "The Colbert Report.")

Martin, culture editor of America magazine and a prolific writer whose previous books include My Life With the Saints, A Jesuit Off-Broadway and last year's The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life, has an uncommon gift for making faith — and even religion — both accessible,  genuinely hip and if not fun, exactly, at least enjoyable.

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