February 9, 2014

Sunday February 9, 2014 at 11 a.m.

Have an Epiphany at Sunset Park Christian Church

Epiphany is about seeing something old (eternal) in a new way, and blossoming.

 

Mark 8:36-37  “What does a man gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his true self? What can he give to buy that self back?”

 

From the Lotus Sutra’s Rain Cloud Poem: The Buddha says:
I appear within the world
Like a great cloud of rain
Nourishing all
parched life forms,
So they may end their suffering
And gain peace and bliss
And the joy of Nirvana.

 

 

Join us as we celebrate the insights of Epiphany with Christian and Buddhist wisdom with crazy music , wonderful food, and stimulating conversation.  Even if you’ve been to an Epiphany service already, it wasn’t like this!  Check us out and enjoy!

SUNSET PARK CHRISTIAN CHURCH

1515 Maple, Santa Monica, Ca. 90405 – Sunday, June 10, 2012 – sunsetparkchristianchurch.org

Pastor, Jim McGrath – Accompanist, Joan Killian

 

Happy 2012! Mark 1: 4-11/ January 8 Sermon

Since this is the year 2012, and there are those who predict a change for this year, let’s look at the early part of Mark and see if we can sense the positive side of that change.  Mark tells us John the Baptist was in the wilderness wearing funny clothes and living on an odd diet, and all of Judea came out to be Baptized.  This was not ordinary for Jews because Baptism was for gentile converts, not them.  Yet they came, embracing a new meaning of an old practice, the washing clean of the past as readiness for the future.  Jesus came to be baptized too, and when that happened a dove appeared announcing God’s favor.  This was sign (of the beginning of the change, the new covenant) and a wonder (doves don’t usually do that), there to get our attention all these years later.  The dove is peace, and may you find the force of God’s favor.  Come see us at Sunset park Sunday, and we’ll all find it together.

1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18/ November 6 Sermon/ Left Behind is a Joke

Here we get into the problematic territory of the Rapture, when evangelical preachers are telling us that those of us who are in Christ will be swooped up and others will be left behind, as you see in the drawing above.  Time is the issue.  Must we wait around for a time in the future when some of us get left behind?  I don’t think anybody gets left behind.  Here in 1 Thessalonians, Paul tells us that the dead as well as the living will all be bundled up together, although the dead will rise first.  But we know from Jesus’ parables that the Lord counts every sheep.  And the judgment of those with no hope is not up to us, it’s up to Jesus, a more compassionate judge.  That is to say that the worst of us have only a compassionate judge.  But at some future time?  Why?  We’re all one now, we just don’t all of us know it.  Paul bundles the believers with the doubters in 1 Corinthians, he bundles the men with the women in Galatians, and here he bundles the living and the dead.  I think we’re talking everybody, the Mormon, the Jehovah Witness, the Muslim, the Catholic, the Jew, and the Moonie.  Time has nothing to do with it.  The time of creation has nothing to do with anything.  Creation, resurrection, and rapture are available to us in any given moment.  And only in the present moment.  The future and the past are human constructs.  God only hangs out in the present moment.

Back to the Blog!/ October 30 Sermon/Matthew 23:1-12

Sorry about the long absence from weekly commentary.  This has been regrettable and is now remedied.  So let’s look at this diatribe against the Pharisees in Matthew 23.  Jesus calls them out, both respecting their knowledge of the law and regretting their hypocrisy toward it.  What did they know about?  The Law!  What did they do?  They tied up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but refused to lift a finger to help with them.  They coveted the places of honor and sought status.  Now status, according to Jesus, is a double-edge sword.  On the one hand it places one human being above another.  On the other, it leads to a quick fall.  For while Paul spoke of equality of all men and women in Christ, Jesus taught that the high would be made low, the low made high, the servant the master, and the master the servant.  Instead of equality, total reversal.  The greatest example of all this is God’s son crucified by those in authority.  The true authority is held by the oppressed, according to Jesus.  The social order we observe is upside down.  To seek the place of honor is to be laid low.  To serve another is to be master.  It’s a very simple equation that could serve us today if we were to heed it.  But we’re too busy cow-towing to money and grasping onto our desperate belief in a middle class.

Beautiful Feet/ Romans 10:5-15

In Romans 10, Paul writes about the Jews.  Many people throughout the history of Christianity have used Paul’s  words to persecute, and often assassinate, Jews.  The thing they don’t take into account is that, to Paul, everybody’s a Jew.  Paul used the word “Jew” to describe practicing Jews who did not accept Christ as the messiah, Jews who did accept Christ as the messiah, and Gentiles (or any other “non Jews”) who accepted Christ.  Since everybody in Paul’s realm was one of the three (or perfectly capable of being), that’s everybody.  In his really useful 2006 book What Paul Meant, historian and writer Garry Wills said, “How the original Jews and the honorary ones will be united at the climax of time is a mystery Paul leaves to God for accomplishment… He does not know how the promise will be fulfilled, only that it will be, since God is the promiser.”  In other words, the fix is in.  Those who live in the wake of Christ’s resurrection (that,too, is everybody), have no cause for a holy war, or any kind of attack upon those of another or differing or slightly differing or not differing in any wise other that nomenclature religion.  Here’s how Paul puts it in verse 12: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, the same Lord is Lord of all, and richly blesses all who call on him…”  What does it take to call on the Lord?  Sometimes desperation, sometimes humility, sometimes faith, but always it means an openness to the possibility that a spiritual force called God calls us to be forgiven and to love.  If the openness leads to perception, the person has already been saved.  The person (of any tribe) has already been saved anyway, but often the perception that leads to understanding is lacking.  People run around and call that lacking part a state of sin, but it only takes a moment of openness to get rid of it.  This is good news of liberation indeed, and, in a comment that pointed to the perfection of his own feet and the feet of many others, Paul reflected (in verse 15) an expression of the prophet Isaiah, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news,” referring to those who came to inform the Jews that their Babylonian captivity had come to an end.

Who Shall Separate Us…?/July 24 Sermon/Romans 8: 26-39

In Romans 8: 35, Paul raises one of the most important questions in the New Testament: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  Here’s my answer: “Me.”  Only I can separate myself from the love of Christ by willfully clinging to fear, anger, envy, and ego, all of which do not really exist.  I can choose to blind myself to the one reality, which is God’s love, because I have an addiction to the compelling draw of such hallucinations as fear, anger, etc.  If I close myself off from the love of Christ because I refuse to be a vessel for that love, I can really only blame myself.  Nobody else can do that to me, and even I can’t permanently do it to myself.  In the heavenly court, Christ, Paul tells us in Romans 8:34, is always at God’s right hand interceding for us.  Christ can make the most compelling arguments on our behalf, and is right there doing just that around the clock, or so says the Bible and so says Paul.  In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable of the pearl of great price, where a man gives away everything to obtain it for it’s value does not diminish.  That pearl is Christ’s love.  With it, we can do anything.  Without it we lose that pearl of greatest value.  But Paul’s assurance is that we can’t lose it for no one can take it away.  It is always there, and it calls us to rise above fear, victimization, even death.

Romans 8: 1-11/ July 10 Sermon/ Ain't it a Sin?

I really hate talking about sin and sinners, because it seems to me the whole idea took a slip from the outset and Christian Theology has God sending Christ to fix all that.  Paul, in writing Romans, is caught in a bind: He knows theological law backwards and forwards, as few of his contemporaries do, and here he’s forced to admit that law does not hold sway over sin.  Then what is law in religion?  Law is a broken covenant, broken in the time of the prophets.  In the old days in the heavenly court, God owed Satan that sinners be punished.  Jesus came to act as both judge and defense attorney in the heavenly court, so now the fix is in for the defendant.  It is as common a practice today as it ever has been for most people to consider an individual or group to be evil.  The existence of evil is theologically unsound. If God is everywhere, how can an island of evil exist?  It can’t.  If another man is evil, then so am I.  But neither of us can be called that with any fidelity to God.  God in in everyone, period.  And the biggest sinner can experience fullness of God in an instant.  There is no spiritual hierarchy, there is only grace, freely given to anyone, already given.  Sin to me would be spiritual blindness, an unwillingness to see the Holy Spirit in action in everyone.

3rd of July 4th Blast!/Matthew 11: 25-30

On the third, come to Sunset Park in Santa Monica to really get into the fourth.  Like the great city of Santa Monica itself, Sunset Park blows off its illuminations on an alternate day: the third at eleven a.m.  Kablooie!  Let the fireworks begin!  We’ll be doing a “y’all come” Spirit of ’76 lunch after the service (no period costume required) and yes there will be all kinds of music.  Be with us on the third, then follow the dictates of recreation on the fourth.  And of course what all-American celebration would be complete without an international flavor?  But you’ll have to come to find out what I mean by that.  We’ll be turning to scripture, Matthew 11: 25-30 to be exact.  Find out from this passage what it really means to have God-given, inalienable rights (hint: it has nothing to do with bearing arms).  It’s all about the little people, the seemingly powerless folks who receive fully and freely the power that passes over the wealthy and influential.  Jesus, in this passage, offers to unburden the burdened , to free up those who are yoked with the oppression of structured judgmental religion.  It’s a nice offer.  In memory of the great founders of the signers of the Declaration and the women who grabbed the vote many years later and Frederick Douglass and the undocumented workers who make this country tick, let’s celebrate it!

Where's My Reward?/ June 26 Sermon/ Matthew 10: 40-42

What if you are generous with someone and then find yourself taken advantage of as a result?  In Matthew 10: 40-42, Jesus speaks of such things as generosity and reward.  “Anyone who receives you receives me.  He who receives me receives the one who sent me.”  Clearly enough, showing hospitality to anyone, then, is showing hospitality to God.  Is that the reward, knowing that you have hosted God?  It’s reward enough for some, but others of us would sincerely like to see a more palpable return on our generosity.  After all, times are tough, money’s tight, and any real act of generosity in this economy is like a high wire act.  Generosity can be expensive.  Jesus tells us that to receive a prophet because he is a prophet is to receive a prophet’s reward, and to receive a righteous man because he is a righteous man is to receive a righteous man’s reward.  But if you receive a scoundrel because he is a scoundrel, do you receive a scoundrel’s reward?  That’s where this breaks down as a formula.  The reward is mentioned, but it is a metaphorical reward, not cold cash.  Not material.  Generosity that seeks recognition and reward puts the lie to itself.  It isn’t generosity.  it’s something else.  Finally, in verse 42, Jesus sums up by saying that anyone who shows the slightest bit of generosity toward his disciples (a cup of cold water) because of being a disciple “will certainly not lose his reward.”  In that wording, the hidden message becomes clear.  The reward is already held by those who offer spontaneous generosity to his disciples, who carry with them no worldly rank or favor.  They will not lose what they already have.  The reward is already there.   The reward already happened.  It’s called grace, and what better reward can be had than the ability to wipe clean the slate at any given moment?  An openness to that reward can lead to spontaneous and uncontrollable and unpredictable acts of generosity.

Easy to Say/ 2 Corinthians 13: 11-14/ June 19 Sermon

In the stirring close of his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives three instructions: 1. Strive for perfection, 2. be of one mind, and 3. Greet one another with “the holy kiss.”  I’m saying that these instructions are easier said than carried out.  I think he left the stinger for last in this letter.  Don’t you know what the Corinthians wanted to hear, just as I would want to her, was 1. Let it ride, 2. Let your mind go where it wants, and 3. Fortify yourself against those with bad intentions?  But no.  We have to work at being what most of the world would consider patsies.  We have to try to attain the unattainable, focus our thinking, and overflow with expressions of love for just plain old anybody.  And why?  This is what, to Paul, meant readiness.  With a full commitment to these tasks, one might be ready for that higher understanding, without which, especially today, we will not move forward as a species.  That “holy kiss,” by the way, was not as unsanitary as it may sound today.  It referred to a token of mutual trust, what we now call a handshake, but one that would be exchanged “in Christ,’ or in Christian (meaning unconditional) love.  By referring to the Holy Trinity in verse 14, Paul alludes to the free-flowing love between the three parts that the Trinity represents in Christian theology, flowing not because of logic or rational explanation but from the first-hand experience of grace and fellowship.  Doing and knowing join to bring understanding, which combines the certainty that all is forgiven with the spontaneity of ones personal response to being forgiven.