the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Year B - Advent 1

Liturgy of the Word:

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37
November 27

The season of Advent used to be a mystery to my congregation. Being traditional Southern Baptists, they had never heard of any of the seasons of the Church. On my first introduction of the Advent season a prominent church member (not unlike "she-who-must-not-be-named") said that she was fed up with Advent and wanted to go back to celebrating Christmas instead. Perhaps I didn't do a thorough job of explaining that Advent, which means "coming" is a season that celebrates the coming of the Lord in the past (Christmas), in the present (coming into our hearts today) and in the future (the second coming of the Lord).

Isaiah is written in the time before the first coming of the Christ. He cries out in anguish for God to make himself manifest to the people. It has been a long, long time since God came down the mountain in the wilderness. God has disappeared. Which came first the chicken or the egg? God became angry and stopped revealing himself because the people followed after other gods. The people followed after other gods because God was no longer visible.

Isaiah begs God to "tear open the heavens and come down." The crowd in Jesus' day wanted a sign. Isaiah wants a sign. The people will not believe without a sign. The truth is, as the evidence of 9/11 proves, even a sign doesn't convince for long. We have short memories. Jesus answered the crowd that if they did not believe without a sign they would not believe even if they did have a sign.

And the word became flesh and dwelt among us...he came unto his own, but his own received him not

Today I am recycling a sermon I preached on November 27, 2005. You can find it HERE.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Georgia Baptist Convention shuns woman preacher

The Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell is senior pastor of the 2,700-member Decatur First Baptist Church. So far, no action has been taken against the church. Members indicate they would be happy to affiliate with a different Baptist group, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a national organization for moderate Baptists, which accepts women as pastors.

A better title would be: Georgia Baptists continue to seal their own fate.Click on the photo to see the original Atlanta Journal Constitution article and more photos of Rev. Pennington-Russell and First Baptist Decatur.

The Georgia Baptist Convention is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and is an ultra-fundamentalist group which has adopted the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. The BFM 2000 is a statement of faith that that breaks from traditional Baptist beliefs. Among other issues, the BFM 2000 prohibits women from being "senior" pastors. This position is based on a misinterpretation of Pauls letter to the Ephesians and on a chauvanist culture among the male pastors and educators. Many other Baptist organizations do recognize the calling of God to women and all people. I think that over time either the SBC will move toward a more moderate position on theology and church polity or they will go the way of the dinosaurs.

These people are locked in the culture of the nineteenth century and refuse to move forward. It's too bad that they do not go all the way back to the first century when Paul himself appointed female bishops, e.g., Phoebe, Romans 16:1, who was a diaconas. Diacone is a Greek word that means 'minister'. It has been transliterated into our English as 'Deacon' but it is clearly used by Paul and Luke (Acts) to describe the role of modern-day preachers, pastors and other ministers.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

As the Pendulum Swings...

Is There a Millennial Shift Occuring?

"For 25 years it occurred as steady as clockwork. Nearly every 5 years Southern Baptists would launch a national evangelism strategy that motivated congregations to reach their communities with a renewed zeal. But since the dawn of the Millennium that regularity has been short-circuited and strategies have rarely made it off the drawing board.

The denomination, slowing in baptisms and membership growth, is now finding it increasingly difficult to financially partner with state conventions in key evangelism strategies.

Southern Baptists may not be too supportive of Global Warming but may be caught up in what could be described as Millennial Cooling in how to fund those strategies.

Has evangelistic outreach become too expensive for the nation's largest Protestant denomination?"

A mellinnial shift? How about mainline Baptists coming to their senses. It is increasingly clear to the person in the pew that the Southern Baptist Convention no longer holds to the basic Baptist beliefs. The 25 years alluded to in the Christian Index article refers to the Fundamentalist (hostile) takeover of the convention in 1979. Since then the denomination has steadily lost membership. But the real migration of mainline Baptists away from the SBC came following the adoption of a non-baptist Baptist Faith and Message, the statement of faith that has bound together the independent congregations of Southern Baptists since the late 1800's. By adopting the 2000 BFM the fundamentalist convention leaders sought to distance the convention's beliefs from the teachings of Jesus as the main interpretative source for the remainder of the Bible. I have heard SBC evangelists say that the teachings of Jesus were delivered before the crucifixion and resurrection. They say that because Jesus lived and taught under a previous dispensation, his words are no longer relevant for Christian doctrine. The scriptures written after the crucifixion, mainly the letters of Paul and the Revelation (The Apocalypse of John) are now the source of Christian Teaching. I think this is one reason why fundamentalists are so intolerant of diversity.

The real reason the SBC fundraising efforts are failing is because the rank and file membership is leaving the SBC for other Baptist groups. Groups like the American Baptists, the National Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship offer a knder, gentler, more tolerant view of Baptist Christianity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Year A - Christ the King

Liturgy of the Word:
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 100
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46
The following message is certainly alarmist in nature. I think it is no more alarmist, however, than the message of the Old Testament Prophets. Without claiming to be a prophet, I must state clearly and forcefully what I see as the future condition of life on this planet. You have every right to disagree. If you do, or if you agree, I hope that you will comment on what you read here. May the Grace of God and his Mercy be always with you.

This week the passage from Ezekiel and the one from Matthew are about contrasts. In Matthew sheep and goats are contrast based on their treatment of the "least of these, my bretheren." In Ezekiel the contrast is between the fat sheep and the lean sheep, the have's and the have-not's. Here there is no third group.

Ezekiel is preaching to the lost sheep of Israel from his residence in Babylon. Matthew is writing to an isolated community of Christians under constant persecution by both Jews and Romans. There is similarity here along several fronts that speak to us in our current sociological environment.
  • Both passages contrast the good from the bad.
  • They are about the struggle between good and evil.
  • They speak of how those two deamons lie in the background of our behavior toward others.
  • Both passages speak about the final judgment and the disposition of those who do not pass muster.
My greatest concern is with the future of the world's society. In his online Journal, Al Gore talks about the collapse of the global society. He sees the cause related to global warming and climate change.

Equally viable as a cause, I think, is the continuous downhill slide of the global economy and the effect this will have on us. Not only will our quality of life be reduced to a 1920's era life style, but the strong will be turned by greed, and need, to exploiting and persecuting the weak. Life will truly be a Darwinian experience of survival of the fittest.

Nations and psudo nations, such as Al Queda, the Somalian Pirates and Rebel groups around the world, will be competing for supremacy in their own part of the world. Large nations, such as The United Sates, Europe, Russia, Iran, China and India, will be competing for and perhaps fighting for control of the entire planet.

In this sociological environment, how will we as Christians respond to the world around us? Certainly we, both collectively and individually, have not responded in the context of either Luke 4:18-20, or Matthew 28:19-20. What will we do when faced with the scarcity of food and shelter? How will we protect ourselves and our loved ones from looters and others who have less than we do? How will we endure the persecution that surely will come? We are dependent on an abundant supply of food, above average shelter and the protection of sound government. We do not know how to survive in a hostile environment filled with chaos. We have done what Christ told us not to do: We have stored our treasures on earth and those treasures are increasingly subject to corruption.

When an impoverished life style comes, as I believe it will, we must put our faith in God to supply all our needs and to provide us with his protection. I have no doubt in God's goodness and grace to provide for us. I do have doubts in our ability to see the goodness and grace of God in the reduced life style in which we will find ourselves. There will be many who will curse God and die. There will be many who turn to a life of violence and crime because they are not content to live with what God provides. In Sunday School we have been studying the Old Testament story. In Exodus and Numbers we studied how the Israelites were not content with God's provisions of manna in the wilderness. The last generation who lived in slavery with every need supplied by their Egyptian captors had to die out before a new generation of people who had experienced living on God's provisions became the dominant generation. Will we complain about what God gives us? Or will we give thanks for his goodness and mercy? Will we be willing to reach out to others less fortunate in the spirit of bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, bringing sight to the blind, helping the opressed go free and proclaiming the year of the Lord's favor?

A Universal Prayer

Pope Had `Prophecy' of Market Collapse in 1985

Pope Benedict XVI was the first to predict the crisis in the global financial system, a ``prophecy'' dating to a paper he wrote when he was a cardinal. vanishes, it is nothing...the only solid reality is the word of God
Read the rest of the story.

Matthew 6:19-21
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
IMO The press continues to refer to the impending global recession. The global economy is already in a recession. What we are wittnessing is the collapse of the market system It is a global depression that is impending. If you have any thoughts please leave them in the comment section of the blog.

Other topics of discussion might be:

  • In the wake of a global depression, what will our quality of life be like?
  • What about the possibility of global warfare as nations vie for control of the planet?
  • Do Christians face persecution such as has not been seen since the early centuries of the era?
  • Is our faith in God sufficient for us to hold on to our beliefs in the face of persecution?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Year A - Proper 28

Liturgy of the Word:
Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
Psalm 90:1-8, 12
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Year A - Proper 27

Liturgy of the Word:
Amos 5:18-24
Psalm 78:1-7
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13
Having gone through the lectionary cycle twice using the Gospel lessons for my sermon text each week, it is time to move on. I am primarily an Old Testament reader. Since my own personal revival, I have concentrated on the Hebrew Scriptures. The past six years concentrating on the Gospel passages has taught me a lot about the New Testament, especially about the teachings of Jesus and the differences of the four Gospels. But I long to get back into my study of the Hebrew Scriptures. So, beginning with this Sunday's sermon, I will be taking my text from the Old Testament lesson, still using the lectionary as a guide to the particular message God has for me and my congregation.

This week, I have been thinking about what Amos says about the expectations of the Day of the Lord. For Christians this would be the Second Coming of Jesus. It's all about the end-times. In the nature of "Pie-in-the-sky-bye-and-bye" Christianity, looking toward the end times is filled with hope. Hope for a better life. Hope for deliverance from our persecutors. But Amos reminds us that the Day of the Lord, the Second Coming, is still, and always has been, a day of Judgement. In the words of anglobaptist it will be a day of "rigorous honesty." Can we face a trial by fire. Can we face the exposure of our darkest moments and still have hope that this day will come soon? Wouldn't we be better served if God delayed a little longer so we might have time to undo all the evil that men do?

Living below in this old sinful world
Hardly a comfort can afford
Striving alone to face temptations call
Where could I go but to the Lord

Where could I go where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to help me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord

Neighbors are fun I love 'em everyone
We get along in sweet accord
But when I pass the chilling hand of death
Where could I go but to the Lord

Where could I go where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to help me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord

Life here is grand with friends I love so well
Comfort I get from God's own Word
But when my soul needs manna from above
Where could I go but to the Lord

Where could I go where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to help me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord

Where could I go where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to help me in the end
Where could I go but to the Lord
Where could I go but to the Lord
- J. B. Coats, sung by Emmylou Harris

There is something disturbing...

...about this story. Read the entire article here.
By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) -- Lori Davis remembers a time when the doors were always open at her church -- and not guarded. "No one thought twice about their safety. I guess we took it for granted," said Davis.

But things have changed. In an era when terrorism threats and deadly shootings at schools and churches have made headlines, religious leaders are rethinking their security strategies. Last Saturday, a minister was fatally shot and another man wounded outside of a church in Kentucky where the men went to attend a funeral.

Such violence has houses of worship evolving from the days of walkie-talkies and video surveillance to armed guards, who keep a watchful eye over worship services and church.
The issue here is vulnerability/protection vs. the teachings of Jesus and Paul regarding persecution of the Church and individual Christians. It is true, that we live in a particularly violent age. But these times are not that much different from the first two centuries of the common era. The teachings of Jesus, and the examples set in our own times by people like Ghandi and King, have been replaced by a protectionism that borders on isolationism. Is this the Good News? I don't have any answers. I do have a lot of questions about the state of the modern Church and the Teachings of Jesus Christ.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Is the Rapture Upon Us?

Amos 5:18-24
18 Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light;
19 as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake.
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
21 I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
The texts this week deal with the coming of the end-times. I always walk a tightrope when preaching on the end-times. You see, I do not hold to the pre-milenialist view that the apocalyptic literature in the Bible is a literal description of future events. Rather, I see these texts as being metaphoric of the struggle between good and evil in the world. Of course, being deep in the Bible-Belt, many of my congregation hold very tenaciously to the pre-milenialist and literal view of the events. To them, Tim Lehay and Jerry Jenkins were writing additional books of the New Testament and will soon be added to the canon. I can get away with a postivist sermon looking at goodness of God in Jesus and his desire for all to be in the Kingdom. But I still get the same old questions usually wrapped in the trappings of the current news story. How long will the beast reign on earth? Who do I think is the Anti-Christ? And, of course, in the midst of the current political campaign, do I think Barak Obama is the Anti-Christ? I am tempted to enter into a psudo discussion with them on the Anti-Christ at this point. One knows instinctively that the candidate on the stump is not the power behind the political party or the presidency. They are merely the window dressing. The real power, and therefore the real candidates for the Ant-Christ are among the true power brokers. One cannot minimize the role played by the one in front of the camera to get the message out. "Believe in me for I am the way the truth and the life and no one comes to true equality/happiness/economic stability but through me." But I would not say Barak Obama is the Anti-Christ. I reserve that distinction for Oprah. :)

Don't miss this anglobaptist post: Hardly working and Sermon Mumblings.