Monday, September 26, 2016

Sermon: "Us versus Them", Acts 15:1, 6-11 (September 26, 2016)


(This sermon was written for worship with a group of PCUSA clergy that Andrew meets with annually at different churches around the country. This year, they met in Boise.)


Us versus them. It’s a mental dichotomy that we set up almost reflexively. If you say that you’ve never taken part in this sort of basic human categorizing, I’m not gonna believe you. It’s a natural way that our minds try to protect us: if someone is one of “us”, they’re unlikely to be a threat, but if one of “them”, they might threaten our resources, safety, or ideals. It’s not a foolproof system, by any means, but it’s a quick way to assess our situation and respond accordingly.

There are all sorts of “us-es” and “thems” that exist in today’s society: urbanites and country-dwellers, bosses and employees, introverts and extroverts, thinkers and feelers; you name it. In many places, people in “opposing” categories live side by side in natural tension. This is especially true here in Boise: in a decidedly red state, we’re the one place that Democrats seem to have a noticeable presence. We’re in a part of the country where Native American populations live in close proximity to those of European descent. Our LDS population makes up a larger portion of our community than every other major Christian denomination—including Pentecostals—combined. We’ve become a (perhaps surprisingly) major site for refugee resettlement. In many ways, we are a city divided into factions. How on earth do we live like this?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sermon: "Burrowing Deeper: Feeding our Spiritual Selves", Deuteronomy 6:4-9/John 3:5-13, 8:23-26, 31-32 (September 18, 2016)


Sermon video here.

(This sermon is the fourth and final in a pre-stewardship series on the topic of "Going Deeper" in our faith.)


Today, we conclude our series on “Going Deeper” with a sermon about our spiritual selves. While most of us can grasp how we might take our faith deeper physically or mentally, we in western society tend to struggle with the idea of spirituality—especially personal spirituality. We admire it in theory, but rarely attempt to try it for ourselves. It feels weird to us. Part of this, I think, has to do with the fact that it’s not something we’re ever taught how to recognize or engage in. We’re taught to think critically and logically, but never spiritually. Reformed theology is particularly guilty here. We’ve become so focused on the centrality of God’s word, with a lowercase “w” (reading it, studying it, discussing it) that we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that the intellectual approach is, at best, a superior one, and at worst, the ONLY one. But we forget that the Word doesn’t exist just for the benefit of our intellect. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Why I Will Never Endorse a Dress Code at Church

Church is a very special place.

I get it, I feel it, I believe it.

It's a place for reverence and focus. A place where we put something else (God) before ourselves. A place that lends itself to a respectful attitude and appearance.

I'm on board with all that.

What I'm not on board with is when we use these assumptions about Church (worship, really) to impose our own desires, aesthetics, and priorities on others.