The Good Earth

“The Good Earth” | Proverbs 8:22-36 and Luke 8:22-25 | Ninth Sunday After Pentecost | A Time to Be Wise Sermon Series | July 26, 2015 | Dennis Sanders Preaching


—-more—-

Wisdom is not something we defend or have to hold on for dear life because that’s all there is, it is something that should give us hope, give us humility and joy and something we want to share with others.”

Bigger Than Mom and Dad Together

Proverbs 1:1–19 | A Time Be Wise Sermon Series | Seventh Sunday After Pentecost | July 12, 2015


—-more—-

“God is awesome, but God isn’t safe.  When we encounter something that is dangerous we learn to respect it.  Boaters know how to respect the water, because what can give joy can also kill.  We are taught or should be taught to respect fire.  Fearing God means respecting God’s power.  God isn’t safe. “

Read the sermon text.  

Don’t Dream It’s Over

Psalm 146 | Sixth Sunday after Pentecost | The Music of My Mind Sermon Series | July 5, 2015 | Dennis Sanders, preaching
—-more—-

“The writer can praise God because God is the one that gives justice to the oppressed and feeds the hungry.  This is the God the frees the prisoners, makes the blind see, protects the immigrant and helps the orphan and the widow.  This is the God that can help the down and out when it seems that there is no hope.”


Read the sermon text.

First Comes Marriage, then Comes Grace

dde07baf134d52714f503dfb792443f9Well, it finally happened. After a decade or so of amendments, court challenges, referreudum and the like, same sex marriage is now legal accross the United States.  The 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court was a momentous day for many LGBT Americans, myself included.

Of course, this news is personal for me.  Like a lot of gay couples, I’ve had to say my wedding vows twice.  The first time was at my church wedding in 2007.  Then in 2013 same sex marriage became legal in Minnesota, and on Labor Day 2013, my husband Daniel and I had our civic wedding.  The result of that one meant that in the eyes of the state of Minnesota, we were married just like any other couple.

But there were still problems.  For example, if Daniel and I went to our home states, North Dakota and Michigan, we would not be recognized as a legal couple because those state had banned same sex marriages.  Now, we can go and visit any place in the USA and know that are rights are the same everywhere.

But while I along with millions of LGBT Americans and their allies rejoice, I am well aware that there are those that are not happy.  Some of these people are my friends even though we disagree.  They fear that America is losing its spiritual moorings and they fear that they will be forced to break their consciences into doing things that goes against their faith.

When social conservatives start bringing up the religious liberty argument, it doesn’t take long for the eyes of many an LGBT supporter to roll.  The claims of religious liberty are viewed as silly by gay marriage supporters and even progressive/liberal Christians make fun of these social conservatives and dismiss their arguments.

But what if there is something to those complaints?

Most of my fellow progressives ignore social cons, seeing them as backward homophobic hicks.  We tell ourselves that no one will force a conservative pastors to marry a lesbian couple, and they are probably right.  But the religious liberty argument is far more complex than this.

Damon Linker, who is not a conservative in any sense of the word, explains that there is something to the concern of some about religious liberty:

There’s very little chance that the government will force a church to marry a gay or lesbian couple, or forbid a priest or pastor from preaching from the pulpit against same-sex marriage….

But what about when that priest or pastor, or a conservative member of the parish or congregation, leaves the doors of the church? Throughout American history, the First Amendment has been understood to permit these Christians to act in the world as moral representatives of their faith communities — to exercise their religion by forming and joining groups in civil society that are affiliated with their churches or advance their moral vision of the world. These might be private schools, colleges, and universities, or hospitals, soup kitchens, and other charities. They might be think tanks or lobbying firms. They might be businesses whose owners want to express their Christian faith (as they understand it) in their dealings with customers.

…what about a conservative Christian college that seeks to conform to historic Christian teachings about sex and marriage? Should it be forced to allow same-sex married couples to live in married housing? Should the college lose federal funds for refusing? Lose its accreditation? Its tax-exempt status? Any one of these consequences could drive the college out of business, or force it to abandon the religious beliefs that define it.

Now, I would disagree with Linker about the businesses, but what about church-run schools? What about church-run colleges? Does the changed climate conflict with their beliefs?

What about the employee that might say they think same-sex marriage is wrong? Would they then be fired?

None of this means that I believe social conservatives are being persecuted, per se, but it does mean that the religious liberty argument isn’t as cut and dried as we would want to think.

My belief in loving the enemy, means I have to see my enemy as a child of God.  I don’t think most social conservatives are bad people.  Which is why I want to at least listen to them.

My guess is that most of us don’t want to be nice to social cons for very obvious reasons.  When one has been hurt by words that are supposed to heal, it can be hard to forgive that person, let alone see them as human being.

But I would also add that if social conservatives want to be respected, then they too must show respect.  Some have, but others haven’t and as Canadian evangelical Carey Neiuwhof notes, that isn’t good witness to Christ:

Even the first 72 hour of social media reaction has driven a deeper wedge between Christian leaders and the LGBT community Jesus loves (yes, Jesus died for the world because he loves it).

Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy.

People don’t line up to be judged.

Indeed.  If social conservatives want respect, they have to show it as well.  No one is asking them to change their views on homosexuality.  If you’re understand of the scriptures lead you to conclude that homosexuality is sinful then believe this.  But remember, Jesus didn’t banish sinners; he hung out with them.

I am happy that same sex marriage is now legal all over the place.  But I won’t make fun of those who disagree.  I will also try to listen to them and seek to treat them as a child of God.

I pray for a little grace on both sides.  But I know grace will be very little indeed.

Repost: Grace and Race

A post from 2013.

32695-01I sure loves me some Maria Dixon.

Dixon is a Methodist and decided to share he thoughts about the whole Paula Deen affair and decided to take Progressive Christians to task for their selective grace:

When it comes to discussing race, progressives have little tolerance for intolerance–past or present. We throw labels around as easily as the Pharisees threw stones at adulterous women. How dare someone not have OUR enlightened view on the world! How dare they not have been born with the innate view of justice, righteousness, and soul that we have!

So when Paula Deen’s transcript was leaked to the press last week, the script was already in place. The media would report that she used the “N” word–everybody would gasp–then the outrage would begin. She would be crucified by the New York Times, Facebook pundits, and of course, her fellow chefs. She would be tried by the court of public opinion who would judge her entire life’s work and character by the use of the “N” word in a private conversation. RACIST! we would yell. She would cry. Her business would be destroyed and progressives would declare victory.

Yet, here is the reality: Deen told the truth about her past. Knowing everything: her empire, her contracts, and sponsorships were at stake–she told the truth. She was more honest under oath than at least 3 US Presidents, several dozen Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, and Non-Denominational preachers and countless business leaders. Unlike the Pope, Joe Paterno, or Donald Trump, she acknowledged she hadn’t always gotten it right but that she and her company was committed to doing it better and were doing better.

Dixon isn’t done yet:

Progressives Christians love to talk about grace except when they have to extend it to someone who has offended their political reality. The grace that we proclaim that washes us clean and entitled us to a new life is for everybody as long as they have not offended our politics. A cursory look at the progressive schizophrenic (and hypocritical) view of who deserves grace bears this out. Anthony Weiner shows his weiner to someone other than his wife–Grace abounds. My beloved Bill Clinton gets a handy j in the oval office–Grace abounds. Barney Frank shacks up with a male prostitute–Grace Abounds. President Obama–doesn’t close Gitmo; listens to our conversations; and uses drones to kill civilians–Grace Abounds. A woman uses the N word AND admits it knowing that a great portion of her clientele is African American (I’d say Paula probably has used it more than that)–our verdict: Off with her head, her show, and her ham.

What really angers me is the fact that most of the people really tripping about Deen’s past are from the North. That’s not to say that Southern African Americans are passive about the use of racial slurs but we are also aware of the reality that mindsets don’t all change at the same pace and that if we judged every white southerner over the age of 50 by what they said in the past, we could never buy a car; house, or eat in a Waffle House ever again. Perhaps the reason that much of the civil rights establishment, the men and women who got their heads beat in on the regular, have not condemned Paula Deen is because they know the complexity of the human heart on matters of race. Moreover, they are also aware that someone’s past doesn’t predict their present. Perhaps they remembered that the same George Wallace that stood in the door at the University of Alabama saying that Blacks would never be welcomed, returned in 1985 to the campus to crown and kiss that year’s Black Homecoming Queen, my sorority sister Deidra Chestang at a time when our campus was threatening to boil over in racial turmoil. That kiss silenced the bigots that day and his words begged all of us to embrace a new South. Though we lost that game to Vanderbilt, that kiss symbolized the magnificent change that God’s grace can make in a man’s heart. Many African Americans are standing by Deen, especially those that through the years she has launched into business because they are judging her actions as well as her words.

When I first heard about this, my thoughts were: and this is shocking because….

Like Dixon, I don’t condone the use of the N-word or any racially insenstive word for that matter. But I don’t expect a nearly 70 year old woman from Georgia, who grew up in a very different South where the N-word was used a lot to somehow be a paragon of virtue. She told the truth of a past slip-up. PAST.

Having relatives and friends in various states in the South, I know it’s an odd place to a Northerner. People from South, can be friendly and caring to a fault to a person of a different color and yet still harbor some racial amimosity. To outsiders, it makes no sense. But the South is a place of contradictions and they don’t have a problem living with those oddities.

I remember Mrs. Martin a well-to-do white woman whose husband owned the local paper mill in Pineville, Louisiana. My dad and uncles did a number of jobs for her and whenever we went South, we would visit her. I remember one time she gave us a gift- a figurine of a black kid eating a watermelon and sitting on a bale of cotton. The porcalain figurine had a square hole that contained and acutal piece of cotton.

Now, this gift was offensive. I mean total racist. But she gave it to us, not out of spite, but out of love. So, while it was horrible, I understood the intent. So did my Dad.

The other thing to remember about Deen; she told the truth when asked. So, this is how we treat people who do the right thing? What this is telling people is that when it comes to having a “conversation on race,” it’s best to lie or just say nothing at all. When it comes to race, we expect perfection. Anything short of that makes you nothing more than a Grand Dragon.

Part of the condemnation of Deen has to do with the South. It’s always surprised me how many folks up north really, really hate the South. They see it as a backwards region, filled with stupid racist bumpkins and in their minds, Deen is the exhibit A.

What we seem to forget is that racism didn’t stop at the Mason Dixon line. Here in my adopted state of Minnesota, I learned shortly after I moved here that back in the 1920s, three black men were lynched in Duluth. Mind you, I said Duluth, Minnesota NOT Duluth, Georgia.

If we really care about racial reconciliation, then we have to have some grace for old Southern white women and men who may sometimes say the wrong thing. Not all of them are part of the Klan. Some of them are trying their level best.

Paula Deen said a horrible word a long time ago. I’m dissapointed by that, but I’m not going to judge her. And neither should the court of public opinion if they looked into their own hearts.

Sing.

Psalm 40:1–10 | The Music of My Mind Sermon Series | Fifth Sunday After Pentecost | June 28, 2015 | Dennis Sanders, preaching

—-more—-

“A friend used to tell people before he started preaching “what was God
doing in their lives. I think he believes that God is active, that God
changes us. And if God can give us a new song, then we have to share
this good news.”

Read the sermon text.