Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Artists make me think about the Holy Spirit

More and more I've come to love artists--not just for their craft, but for their heart. Whether visual or literary, musical or pictorial, artists help me see the work of God in ways I could never get from academia. To be sure, most people already know this; I admit that I'm a slow learner.

There can be no creativity without God--the Master Creator. The evil one has created nothing. He will never create anything (and I think that drives him mad). But we, made in God's image, create. What a generous God we worship.

Why would He share such power with us? Why would the Holy Spirit inspire such beauty? Why did Jesus prefer fiction? Because He is God. He can't help it. He is beauty. He is creativity. He is the story. Creation reveals the glory of God. We are the creative work of God so that we can do the creative work of God. Receiving and giving. Being and becoming. Art and artist.

I am overwhelmed by the sheer joy of art because God is.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Sermon in the Valley (aka the Sermon on the Mount upside down)

Last Sunday I broke from conventional wisdom and preached an "anti-sermon." I took Jeff Foxworthy's bit ("you may be a redneck if . . .") and used it to recover the provocation of Jesus' famous Sermon in Matthew 5-7. (BTW, have you noticed Foxworthy's audience is composed primarily of rednecks laughing at each other?). What most people miss (especially at the end) is that the entire sermon was directed against the scribes and the Pharisees. So, I went through the sermon--hitting the highlights (an impossible task!)--and tried to turn Jesus' teaching upside down, rendering the following monologue (a few examples):

You might be a Pharisee if you believe people get what they deserve.

You might be a Pharisee if you believe the world would be a better place if everyone kept the ten commandments (or especially if you believe it's your job to enforce the decalogue).

You might be a Pharisee if you believe God hates your political enemies as much as you do.

You might be a Pharisee if you're convinced people love to hear you pray.

You might be a Pharisee if you ask God, "why me?" when bad things happen to you.

You might be a Pharisee if you believe you're on the "straight on narrow."

Before I ended the sermon by following Jesus' lead (there are two paths, two choices: either you enter the broad way that many righteous people find [Pharisaism] or the narrow path which is the Jesus way [mercy!]), I asked the congregation to add to the list. Here are a few zingers they offered:

You might be a Pharisee if you think God cares what you think.

You might be a Pharisee if you believe your denomination is theologically correct.

The anti-sermon seemed to inspire the congregation more than I anticipated. It's the most fun I've had preaching a sermon in a long time. And, I didn't like it at all--left me very conflicted.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount was more provocative than I expected.