The Big, Short Sermon

Maybe you remember the old children’s books where you could “choose your own adventure” by choosing how the story would end. You don’t get to choose how this sermon ends but you can choose what to call it.

The title of this sermon is either:   a) The Big Short Sermon, b) the Big, Short Sermon, c) or the Too Big To Fail Sermon.

Put simply this sermon is too big to fail, or it’s not.

Some of you may know the name, Kareem Serageldin. Mr. Serageldin was an asset manager at Credit Suisse, an investment bank, during the 2008 housing crisis. Serageldin has the dubious distinction of being the only person criminally prosecuted for his actions related to the subprime mortgage crisis that led to what is now known as the “Great Recession”.

8 million people lost their jobs. 6 million people lost their homes. 3.3. trillion dollars in home equity was lost and another 6.9 trillion in shareholder wealth was erased. 6.9 trillion, is almost 7 thousand billion, right? The failure was huge and involved many, many people but only one person convicted of a crime. I don’t know if it’s right or not, but it doesn’t “seem” right, does it? Continue reading

Water from the Rock and Wonder Bread

“God’s name is not known, it is wondered at.”

“Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees.” – Gregory of Nyssa

I have been known to say to someone I am close to, that I think she/he uses the word beautiful too much. An iPhone can be cool, impressive, really, really functional, but I think to call it beautiful is pushing the envelope. A Kansas sunset is beautiful when examined through an iPhone application but does that make the app beautiful? Effective? Yes. Highly functional? Sure. But is it a thing of wonder? Is that app an object of beauty? Continue reading

Do All Things Happen For A Reason?

Does everything happen for a reason?

When we ask this question we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. If we say that everything does happen for a reason, that God is ordaining every good moment and every bad moment, we are left having to accept divine involvement in things that are so horrific that to attribute them to God’s wisdom is tantamount to taking the Lord’s name in vain, of misusing the name of God. To assert that God is the author of every rape, every murder and every act of abuse toward a child is to blame God for the work of the devil. God is not bound to a law higher than himself but it seems contrary to his character to rule such acts as the ones listed above as abominable and then to make those things happen for his higher purpose. If God commands us not to sin why would he break his own law?

On the other hand, if we say that there is no purpose behind difficult experiences we run a different kind of risk that leaves us feeling like the events of our life, whether they be good or bad, are random accidents and that God has nothing whatsoever to do with them. God doesn’t have to be the initiator of every experience we have in order to initiate some of them. In spite of this, however, we are confronted with a greater concern which is why did God allow something bad to happen to us, and what do we do with the memories of our past that are so painful? What do we do about fears of the future? Bad things may yet happen to us. How is God involved in our future if we say he isn’t involved in our past?

One “middle way” in this circumstance is to recognize that while God does not cause every thing that happens, and some things happen for no clear reason, God remains connected to us in the experience in such a way that he will redeem it. Rather than orchestrating every moment of our life, programming us like computer code, he is allowing our experiences, our stories to unfold, and through his omnicompetence he redeems every sadness, every injury, every loss no matter how great or devastating.

Does everything happen for a reason? No. Everything does not happen for a divine reason. Yet everything that does happen remains a thread of grace that God weaves in the fabric of a life of grace and redemption.

Lent: Beginning Again, and Again

“So our sins become not stopping points, but starting points. They can be the occasions of constantly fresh, constantly wider visions of the grace of God. It’s often been said, boldly, that the saints in heaven rejoice over their sins, because through them they have been brought to greater and greater understanding of the endless endurance of God’s love, to the knowledge that beyond every failure God’s creative mercy still waits. We have a future because of this grace.”  ~  Rowan Williams

Talking About The Atonement

“The single central thing is the conviction that for us to be at peace Jesus’ life has to be given up. It isn’t that a vengeful and inflexible God demands satisfaction, more that the way the world is makes it unavoidable that the way to our freedom lies through the self-giving of Jesus, even to the point of death. In the kind of world that you and I inhabit, the kind of world that you and I make or collude with, this is what the price of unrestricted love looks like. Hang on to that, and the jostling images and theories are kept in perspective.” – Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust