Saturday, March 26, 2011

An Open Letter to Andy Burnette

[This entry is a response to an editoral written in the Indianapolis Star on Saturday, March 26, 2011.  It was written by Andy Burnette, pastor of Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Danville, IN, and is called "Use history of faith to stand up for rights."]

Dear Mr. Burnette,

I read your editorial piece in today’s edition of the Indianapolis Star (Saturday, March 26, 2011). I am writing to agree with some of the things you have said in that article, and I am also writing to challenge you on some of these points. Because your assertions about what the Scripture teaches have been made in a public forum, I felt it necessary to respond publicly.

First, I am in complete agreement with your statement that “many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people have been deeply hurt by faith communities.” You rightly say that “Bible verses provide easy cover for bigotry.” Part of the difficulty is that the word “Christian” covers a lot of territory in our culture. The Westboro Baptist Church out of Kansas City claims the title “Christian” but spews the kind of hatred which disgusts both you and me. Their claim that the death of every American soldier is an act of judgment by God because of the toleration of homosexuality in America is ridiculous! Certainly, they have made Bible verses an easy cover for bigotry.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Are All Natural Disasters Supernatural Judgment?

[The following entry follows a sermon titled "God's Grapes of Wrath". Click on the title to listen to the audio.]

Today at Gray Road, we worked our way through Isaiah 5. It is a devastating picture of the trampling of God's kindness and the certainty of God's wrath. In verse 25, Isaiah proclaims, "Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still." To summarize this verse, God's anger against sin has been clearly displayed in the past, and his anger against sin has not yet been fully seen.

In the past, God displayed His anger through the quaking of the mountains...a shaking so violent that "corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets." It is likely that this is the same earthquake referenced by Amos in the first chapter of his prophecy (i.e.- Amos 1:1). Alec Motyer comments on this earthquake: "The Old Testament view of such an event as expressive of divine wrath does not testify to the quaintness of ancient thought but is an abiding instruction in how to understand natural catastrophe. The created world, in all the complexity, splendor and ferocity of its powers, is a controlled tool in the hand of the Creator, serving his righteous purposes."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

God and True Humanity

[This entry follows a sermon titled "Go Rest High On That Mountain". Click on the title to listen to the audio.]

First...let me give a quick recap of what is happening in Isaiah 2-4. These chapters display a glorious future, a sinful present, and a gracious way forward. God will bring all His purposes to fulfillment, and this will mean that His people will live in perfect peace with Him and with one another (Is. 2:1-4). However, the present picture is filled with people who are rejected by God because they worship false idols, they trust in wealth and power, and they put all their chips on human leadership rather than trusting God (Is. 2:6-4:1).

The way forward is marked by a branch...called the "branch of the Lord" (4:2). This branch will bring blessing back to the people of God, including the removal of sin's stain and the bringing of God's presence. This branch is God's Messiah...Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus, the Branch, that these things will happen. (For more on the idea of "branch" as Messiah, see Is. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zec. 3:8; 6:12.)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

What God Cannot Endure

[This entry follows a sermon titled “Rebellious Children and a Responsive Father”. Click on the title to listen to the audio.]
In the opening chapter of Isaiah, God lays out a convincing case against His people. They are a “sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, [and] children who deal corruptly” (v. 4). Their persistent rebellion against God has broken their relationship with Him, leaving their nation ruined and their religion empty of any real meaning or effectiveness. It is this last bit of information that prompts my writing today.

Focusing on the religious life of His people, God basically tells them to stop making sacrifices but not because He is putting an end to the sacrificial system. Rather, their sacrifices are empty religious tokens and not genuine expressions of repentance and the need for forgiveness. Since that is the case, they may as well gather their lambs, bulls, and goats, and head home. God essentially goes on to say, “While you’re at it, don’t celebrate any more special holy days, and quit praying, too, because I’m only interested in listening to and intervening for those who are repentant about sin…not reveling in it.”