February 17, 2019

On the audio:

Minute for Mission from Aloha Church of God Food Pantry.

Music from Bell Choir:

“Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door” and “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho”.

Audio (from Video) about Sojourner Truth for children’s time.

Sermon audio starts at around 18 min. Transcription of sermon below.

2019 February 17 Order of Worship

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
–Malcom X

Harriet Tubman
If you hear the dogs,
keep going.
If you see the torches in the woods,
keep going.
If there’s shouting after you,
keep going.
Don’t ever stop.
Keep going.
If you want a taste of freedom,
keep going.

The Example of Esaa (Jesus) Imam Ali (son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad)
If you desire I will tell you about Esaa (peace be upon him). He used a stone for his pillow, put on coarse clothes and ate rough food. His condiment was hunger. His lamp at night was the moon. His shade during the winter was just the expanse of earth eastward and westward. His fruits and flowers were only what grows from the earth for the cattle. He had no wife to allure him, nor any son to give him grief, nor wealth to deviate (his attention), nor greed to disgrace him. His two feet were his conveyance and his two hands his servant.

Ain’t I A Woman! Sojourner Truth, 1797-1883
That man over there say a woman needs to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helped me into carriages or over mud puddles and gives me a best place…

And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!…

And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?…

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down, all alone, together women ought to be able to turn it rightside up again.

Luke 6:17-31 (Scholars Version)

On the way down with them, Jesus stopped at a level place. There was a huge crowd of his disciples and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured. And everyone in the crowd tried to touch him, since power would flow out from him and heal them all. Then he would look squarely at his disciples and say:

“Congratulations, you poor!
God’s empire belongs to you.
Congratulations, you hungry!
You will have a feast.
Congratulations, you who weep now!
You will laugh.”

“Congratulations to you when people hate you, and when they ostracize you and spread malicious gossip about you and scorn your name as evil, because of the Human One! Rejoice on that day and jump for joy! Because look: your reward is great in heaven. Bear in mind that their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.”

“Damn you rich!
You already have your consolation.
Damn you who are well-fed now!
You will know hunger.
Damn you who laugh now!
You will learn to weep and grieve.”

“Damn you when everybody speaks well of you! Bear in mind that their ancestors treated the phony prophets in the same way.

But to you who listen I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for your abusers.

When someone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well. If someone takes away your coat, don’t prevent him from taking your shirt along with it.

Give to everyone who begs from you; and when someone takes your things, don’t ask for them back.

Treat people the same way you want them to treat you.”

(Sermon from Transcription)

2019feb17 sermon transcription.mp3

One of those Sundays when I don’t have a sermon so we’re gonna wing it.

The text here [Luke 6:17-31], is actually a combination of this week’s and next week’s lectionary texts. But it kind of goes into a whole flow. So I put it all together in one thing. I want to say just a little bit about it. The translation is the Scholars’ Translation by the Jesus Seminar. We are having Mr. Jesus Seminar himself come to Southminster–Dominic Crossan–April 5th and 6th.

He was a very influential person in terms of my understanding of the Christian faith and the work of Jesus in particular. The Jesus Seminar’s work started in the 80s. Here is a quick recap. They were trying to find out who the real Jesus was. Who was this person that was enveloped in creed and legend and myth throughout the history of the Christian church? And so they used modern Enlightenment methods–Western scholarship–to see if they could look through the texts and find a voice print–try to separate the myth from the man, so to speak.

They ended up coming up with red and pink for sayings that were more likely to go back to Jesus; then gray and black sayings less likely. And so when they looked at the New Testament, of all the stuff Jesus said, probably about 15 percent was red or pink. The rest of it they felt probably was later tradition. But the reddest of the red are in this section that you’ll find today.

They all took votes, you know, blind votes so they wouldn’t be influenced by the others; did their arguments and what not about what sayings went back to Jesus and they came up with a number of them. The top eleven are the reddest of the red. What that means is that these scholars all agreed that Jesus really did say this. Anybody want to guess the most red saying?

“Turn the other cheek.”

They all said turning the other cheek was his voiceprint. “Yeah. That’s our guy.”

Number two coat and shirt.

‘If somebody takes your coat give him your shirt.”“Yeah. That’s our guy.”

“Congratulations you who are poor.” Not necessarily “poor in spirit” but, you know, really poor. “Congratulations” or “blessed” as the more common version, but they felt it was more of a proclamation. Jesus is up there saying, “Congratulations!”

“Love your enemies.”

“Give to everyone who begs from you.”

“Congratulations you hungry.”

“Congratulations you sad.”

So of the first 11 sayings, the reddest of the red of the historical Jesus, seven of them are in this passage here today. And so that’s why I thought it’d be fun to talk about that–who Jesus was at

least according to these scholars who have sifted through the deal. It doesn’t mean they’re right. That just means that they come up with this.

These sayings are what Jesus’s voice print is like, and it’s interesting that this study of the historical Jesus didn’t really start with these guys. It started in the Enlightenment and Western traditions much earlier. But in the Eastern tradition it started back with the Qur’an.

In fact, Mohammed and the Qur’an, felt that the Jesus that they had inherited through Christianity probably wasn’t really who Jesus was. And so, you might say, the first Jesus Seminar scholars would be Mohammed and his son-in-law, Ali.

The Example of Esaa (Jesus) Imam Ali (son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad)
If you desire I will tell you about Esaa (peace be upon him). He used a stone for his pillow, put on coarse clothes and ate rough food. His condiment was hunger. His lamp at night was the moon. His shade during the winter was just the expanse of earth eastward and westward. His fruits and flowers were only what grows from the earth for the cattle. He had no wife to allure him, nor any son to give him grief, nor wealth to deviate (his attention), nor greed to disgrace him. His two feet were his conveyance and his two hands his servant.

And they found a Jesus who kind of wandered around and used a stone for a pillow–didn’t have anything. That’s what happens when you give to everyone who begs from you. You end up like Esaa in Ali’s description of him wandering around through the desert.

There’s a wonderful whole collection of Muslim sayings of Jesus because Jesus is very important in the Islamic tradition. So he ends up becoming kind of a wandering prophet-preacher-teacher.

So there’s actually kind of this interesting similarity, I think, between the Muslim Jesus and the historical Jesus of the Jesus Seminar. All right. So Dominic Crossan writes his book on the historical Jesus and then he writes a popular book for the rest of us that we can read that’s called Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. And it was a church member who gave me that book back in 1994.

In the preface of Dominic Crossan’s book, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, he imagines having a conversation with the historical Jesus. So he’s done all of this work separating all of this stuff out– doing his thing–and then he imagines a conversation with Jesus and so the historical Jesus is speaking to Dominic Crossan:

I’ve read your book Dominic and it’s quite good. So now you’re ready to live by my vision and join me in my program?

Well I don’t think I have the courage, Jesus, but I did describe it quite well, didn’t I? And the method was especially good wasn’t it?

Thank you, Dominic, for not falsifying the message to suit your own incapacity. That at least is something.

Is it enough, Jesus?

No, Dominic, it is not.

So here’s my question. You are going to help me finish this sermon.

Let’s say someone comes to you and they come to you because they trust you and they come to you and they say, “I want to do this Jesus thing. I’m feeling it.”

Maybe it is your son. Maybe it’s a daughter. Maybe it’s your grandchild–maybe it’s a parent. Maybe it’s a spouse. Maybe it’s a friend, but someone you know. They heard something in church, somewhere, and they said, “You know, I really want to do this.” And they’re coming to you. What would you say? What question would you ask them about this “wanting to do this Jesus thing?” OK?

So I’m going to let you ask that question and give you the microphone. Someone comes to you. What would you ask? All right Judith. We’ll start with you.

Voice 1: I would ask, “How did you come to this decision?”

All right. Good question. Others? There we go, Patty.

Voice 2: “I’d like to know more about what you’re thinking. How did you come to this decision?”

Anybody else? Somebody comes to you and says, “I want to do this Jesus thing.”

Voice 3: So I understand in Jesus time the typical garb was a coat and it is just a dress kind of thing. And if you took it off you’d be naked. “Did Jesus have a sense of humor?”

Voice 4: I think for me it would be, “What is your passion and how can you share that with people to help them?”

Voice 5: I’d say, “I’m too much of a coward to do this myself. But how can I help you?”

Voice 6: “Who have you forgiven lately? What does that mean to you?”

Voice 7: “What do you mean by this Jesus thing? Tell me more.”

The assignment is somebody is coming to you because you’re a spiritual leader and this person has felt something. They’re coming to you for advice.

Voice 8: My inquisitive mind wants to know more but maybe I’m a little too lazy to do the research on my own. So here’s a good opportunity to get it in a good synopsis.

Voice 9:  I would ask them, “Are you ready to get rid of your guilt and shame?And are you ready to be loved like you’ve never been loved before?”

OK, well let’s wrap it there with those good questions because somebody could come to you at any time or you could go to somebody else. Good listening is the greatest gift that we can give another person. To help their soul come into a sense of disclosure.

I think that Jesus at least represents to me one who is completely open to life.

This is a poem by Caitlin Johnstone. She is an Australian writer and she wrote this just the other day. It’s called, “Excuse Me.”

Once upon a time

there lived a blue world full of nattering apelings.


They spent their time shrieking at screens

and turning trees into black smoke

and turning whales into coins

and digging holes in the planet

and figuring out how to kill millions of each other at a time.


They’d spend all day yipping and yammering

about who owned what things,

about whose things were the best things,

about whose thoughts were the best thoughts,

and then when they were alone at night

they’d sit quietly under flickering electric lights

and wish that everything was dead.


And then, one day,

in the midst of the whooping and the howling,

the burning and the bulldozing,

the hating and the hurting,

life finally got a word in edgewise.


“EXCUSE ME,” life said,

from underneath the arguments,

from behind their insecurities,

from the spaces in their DNA strands,

from the depths of their being,

from their heart of hearts.


And the apelings stopped and stared,

every last one of them,

and they saw it all for the very first time.


They stared at each other,

at their flesh and their hair

and their eyes and their hands

as billions of tears

streamed down billions of faces.


They stared at the world,

at the birds and the trees,

at the sky and the dirt,

at the oceans and mountains,

and they all fell to their knees.


They opened their mouths to talk about what happened,

and nothing came out but poems and love songs.

They tried to remember their old illusions,

but it kept giving them fits of laughter.


They wept and they hugged,

and they helped each other up,

and from then on they walked gently upon the earth

as though caressing a dear lover.


Life is made of miracles,

and brimming with thunderous beauty.

The scales fall from our eyes,

and the callouses from our hearts,

and our war with our world ends forever

when we let life get a word in edgewise.