"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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Don't Make Me Poor. Or Rich?
I was recently listening to a
podcast of a wonderful on-line daily prayer resource called "Pray
as You Go," and the day's reflection was on part of Proverbs
" ...give me neither
poverty nor riches,
me only my daily bread."
Can you imagine yourself praying
that prayer to God? Can you imagine sincerely, honestly praying,
"Dear God: please... please
give me neither poverty nor riches. Don't allow me to be poor, but don't allow
me to become rich, either. Please give me only what I need to get through this
It's a counter-cultural (and
counter-intuitive) thing to pray for.
Well, actually, only part of it is
counter-cultural: I'll bet most of us would be perfectly comfortable -
certainly more sincere! - praying the "please don't give me poverty"
part of the prayer. (I don't know too many people who pray on a daily basis for
poverty, do you?)
But listen to the author of
Proverbs tell us, in the next verse, WHY he's praying this prayer, and maybe
it'll make more sense:
[If I become rich] I may have
too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the Lord?'
Or [if I become poor] I may steal,
dishonor the name of my God.
Or as Eugene Peterson paraphrases
this part of Proverbs in The
Give me enough food to live on,
neither too much nor too little.
If I'm too full, I might get independent,
saying, 'God? Who needs him?'
If I'm poor, I might steal
dishonor the name of my God."
That proverb was written thousands
of years ago, but what a timeless truth it conveys about human nature.
On the one hand, if we are too
hungry - too poor in life, we get desperate.
There's nothing wrong with
feelings of occasional hunger and there is nothing wrong with being poor, but
there is something wrong with being desperate, and chronic hunger, or a state
of poverty tends to breed desperation. And desperation is no way to live: it
makes us do things like lie, cheat, and steal that are contrary to our better
nature (or to put that in more explicit Christian language, it increases our
proclivity to sin.)
But on the other hand, if we are
too full - too rich - we may disown God: we "get independent."
There is nothing wrong with
feelings of occasional fullness, and there is nothing wrong with being rich, but
there is something wrong with forgetting our dependence on God, and chronic
fullness or a state of being rich tends to breed the illusion of independence:
it makes us lose the higher qualities of our human nature like empathy,
humility and service to others.
Or again to put that in more
explicit Christian language, it increases our proclivity to sin: except this
time the Sin is far more serious, because as C.S. Lewis reminded us, the sins
of the heart (pride, arrogance, cold-heartedness, judgmentalism, etc.) are far
more serious than the sins of the flesh (stealing).
And so - Proverbs reminds us - the
way forward...the way of avoiding either danger... is to pray what Jesus taught
us to pray, and that is for "our daily bread."
We're reminded to pray something
"God, give me enough. Not
less than enough because I don't want to fall into desperation.
But not more than enough, either,
because I want to remember my need for you, and my connection to others."
No one can -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out.
No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue. Although I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees.
But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal.
Take one of Saturday's tweets, for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this:
“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?”
Let's unpack: "What is our country coming to..." Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hopeful line of thinking? I wil…
A sermon preached January 29, 2017 The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the p…
Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal Falls
Church, Virginia James
7:24-37 In case you’re confused by the service leaflet,
where it says Kelly is supposed to be preaching today, well, she was, and she
was planning to. But yesterday she came down with the stomach flu, and of
course we encouraged her to stay home until she’s 100%. (And to think I came this close to getting out of having to preach on a couple of very tough passages…) (Kelly’s sermon, by the way, was written well ahead
of time and is, as we have already come to expect, excellent. And inspiring – I
was inspired reading it.* Hard copies are available, and will be made available
on line.) What you’re going to get from me today is a little
different than a normal sermon. Today I want to tell you a story – a bit of my own
family history -- and then read you a poem. And then show you how I think that
story and the poem relate to today’s lessons and to current events. …