The Cross As Freedom

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

Luke 18.31-34; Galatians 6.14-16

Who loves a good action movie? You can admit it in here, it’s okay. I love a good action movie. I tell you, when Russell Crowe in Gladiator picks up that dirt and gets ready to do his thing out in the arena? That’s a good movie. I can get into the suspense and the excitement. And I confess, that sometimes there’s something very satisfying about the bad guys getting it.

I can get into a good action movie, but in the action movie, there is a hidden truth. Perhaps it’s not so hidden, perhaps it’s painfully obvious, this truth of the world. It is a truth that has its roots deep within human experience. It is true that the action hero is often a lame caricature of this truth, but this truth is pervasive. It is a truth that holds all of us captive in one form or another. And that is the truth that violence, as the ultimate means of exerting power, violence works.

Think about your garden variety action hero: a loving father, a husband perhaps, often desiring to live a quiet life in peace, by nature a calm, quiet man. But then terrorists attack or criminals are released from prison, or something from his (and it usually is a he) tortured past catches up with him and he is forced to once again to get his guns out, get his knives out and re-arm himself with the things that really have power. The only things that will ultimately allow him or his loved ones survive. Cold steel. Things that go boom. Things that take life.

So what if you have only a few minutes as we see in 24 almost every week, if you only have a few minutes to find that nuclear bomb and there’s somebody in front of you who knows where it is, what are you going to do? Ask nicely? Of course, the hero is a person of peace, but when push comes to shove, you have to rely on what really works.

Think of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Each side employs the language of peace, oh the rhetoric is powerful. But when push comes to shove, what do they rely on ? The cycle of violence continues back and forth, tit for tat, stronger and stronger , up and down it goes. Back and forth, it seems none are able to break it.

Think of the war on terror. Violence works, or so the world says. When we think there is no other way, we come up with “just” war theories and legal justifications for torture. We throw out human rights as something for better days, easier times. Because in the real world, that is the only way to stay safe. Violence as a method of last resort is the only answer, there is no other way.
You know it’s easy to be theologically and intellectually and philosophically and morally against this truth. It’s easy to speak words of peace and non-violence, but when push comes to shove, when someone has a gun to our heads, when the threat lies at our doorstop, words of peace, at first blush, seem particularly empty of power. And if there’s anything we don’t want, it is to be empty of power. We want power. We want control, because we think that with control we will have safety. Or protection. Or well-being. When push comes to shove, when we are threatened, violence seems to be the last answer, but the LAST answer. There is no other way.

To illustrate the tension, the mystery, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a famous theologian that I know many of you are familiar with. He lived in Germany in the time leading up to the second world war and he wrote eloquent words of peace. He was a pacifist. But when he saw what the Nazis were doing to the Jews in Germany, when he saw what was happening to his people, he wrestled with what to do. Ultimately, he was arrested for his part in a plot to assassinate Hitler. There are no easy outs when push comes to shove.

Even in the bible, even in the bible, violence makes it mark. Even at the cross, this focused symbol of our faith, violence seems to be the way God gets things done. That’s what the bible says, isn’t it? That God sent Jesus to die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. That the only way for us to bridge the gap between the human and the divine is an act of violence, an execution. Even for God there seems to be no other way.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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