"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."
A sermon preached June 19, 2016
The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector
The Falls Church Episcopal, Falls Church, Virginia
(“Dear Lord: Carry your word into the most protected parts of our hearts.”)
Today I don’t have a traditional sermon. I certainly don’t have a sermon about Father’s Day, but now that I’ve mentioned it, happy Father’s Day. Today, instead of a traditional sermon, I feel led to share some things that have been on my heart this past week.
I’ve been your Rector here since August of 2012. Those of you who have been here a long time know that my preaching style is almost always “expository,” a fancy word that simply means you take a passage of scripture, and having studied it during the week, you show – or expose – its meaning and relevance as best you can, and then you sit down, trusting Holy Spirit will be hard at work simultaneously translating for each of you what you need to hear on any given Sunday.
One of the implications of this style of preaching is I tend not to preach “to…
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…