Sermon: July 29, 2018 – “The Light Shines”

The Light Shines

Text: John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

I think I have probably mentioned before that this particular text is one of my favorites in all of scripture. While we normally hear this text around Christmas time, I wanted to use it today because I was recently reminded of this text as we toured the Redwoods National Park in northern California recently. More about that later. The portion of the text I want to really zero in on today is actually just verse 5 – the translation that I read from is the NRSV, the New Revised Standard Version, and there it states that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

One of the things I find to be an interesting thing to do, is to take a text and read it in several different translations and see if anything jumps out at me. In this case, if you read several translations, you will get several different interpretations of the light shining in the darkness. Even though they are each a little different, as I think about each one, they are all correct. Let me see if I can explain.

The first text that I read said the darkness has not overcome the light. One of the things I think about when I hear the word overcome, is a total annihilation or complete destruction or a complete and total overwhelming of one thing over another. An image that comes to mind for me is a flash flood. The waters rise quickly and fill an area to the point of overflowing. Anything and everything in the path of the flash flood is in serious danger. This image resonates with me because one of my favorite places on planet earth so far are the slot canyons in northern Arizona. These canyons are formed by flash floods, so the image of a flash flood representing the word overcome has multiple layers of meaning for me.

Whatever image comes into your mind when you hear the word overcome is probably a good one to work with, because the point is that the light prevailed. Even in the midst of a flash flood, or completely overwhelming odds, or whatever kind of disaster you can imagine, the light prevailed, the darkness did not overcome it. And the light of Jesus continues to shine.

But that is not all. If you read the King James Version of this text, you get a slightly different take on things. In the King James it says the darkness did not comprehend it. Now that paints a little different picture. What I think of when I hear the word comprehend is entirely different than what I imagine when I hear the word overcome.

To not comprehend something creates an image in my mind of just being clueless; it’s not necessarily violent or riddled with conflict, the word creates an image of mystery in my mind. One of the things that the words “did not comprehend it” brings into my mind is the distances involved when we speak of outer space and space travel and the far reaches of our own galaxy or of those galaxies comparatively near to us. For example, this image taken from the Hubble telescope just a few weeks ago is of the Lagoon Nebula, which is about 3,000 light years from our own galaxy. Now if you try to get your mind around that number, you might get an idea of what it means to “comprehend it not.” The distance of one light year is almost incalculable; it is the speed of light, which is about 186,000 miles per second, multiplied by the number of seconds in an entire year. That number is hard enough, there are 31,536,000 seconds in a year; so if you traveled 186,000 miles every second for 31.5 million seconds, you will have traveled one light year. This image of the Lagoon Nebula is 3,000 light years away. It is a light that shines in the darkness to be sure, be we comprehend it not.

Now those of you that are here, I believe have some level of comprehension about the impact the life of Jesus has had on our world. But there are still many who are not here, and those are the ones I would say still comprehend it not. They just don’t get it. But the light of Jesus continues to shine, even in the midst of those who don’t comprehend it. But we can help, we can tell them about it.

Getting back to our multiple translations for a minute, I think we have time for one more. In the Contemporary English Version, and other translations as well, you can read John 1:5 and the words will state that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out. It doesn’t seem to matter what you do, the light will always shine. This image for me conjures up weeds in the yard. It doesn’t matter what you do, it seems they always come back. You pull, you spray, you mow, you starve, you hack and weed-eat, and yet the weeds prevail. You just can’t ever seem to put them out.

By almost every measure, when Rome executed Jesus, it should have been over. Rome should have been successful in their attempt to put out the light. Yet the light prevails and the darkness has not been able to put it out. This remarkable life of Jesus can be looked at in so many ways.

All of these things came into my mind a few weeks ago as we wandered through the forest of the giant redwoods in Redwoods National Park. If you have ever been there, you might remember what it is like to get out among these giants. If you have not experienced this, it is something not to be missed.

The thing is, we almost put out the light. The greed and seduction of more money logged the redwoods to near extinction. The estimates are staggering; a full 95% of the giant redwood forest that once was, is now gone. But what has been preserved is amazing.

The struggle to save the redwoods reminded me of this passage in John. How the redwoods were not overcome by the greed and the clearcutting. They continue to shine. The redwoods were not put out by the logging, they are now protected and they continue to shine. And when you visit, and you walk into that forest for the very first time, you comprehend it not. How can a tree be so big? How can a tree be so tall? What holds them up? How is this even possible?

Just as the light and life of Jesus continues to shine in the darkness, so do the redwoods. The experience of walking into that forest and trying to comprehend what you are seeing is a mind boggling experience. But the trees stand for more than just a great tourist attraction. In my mind, the trees, like Jesus, stand for hope. The hope that good will prevail. The hope that we as human beings will learn from our past. The hope that our care for each other and our care for God’s creation will increase. The hope that each of us has the potential to stand as tall as a redwood. The hope that we can draw strength and wonder from what we observe around us. And the hope that in spite of incredible odds, the trees will remain and the light will continue to shine.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not put it out. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.

For me, the experience of the redwoods confirms all I believe to be true about the life and light of Jesus. The experience of the redwoods also confirms for me, all I believe to be true about this church as well. This church is a light shining in the darkness and the darkness has not and will not overcome it nor will it be put out.

As we wandered the trails in the giant redwood forest, as you might imagine, I took a few pictures. It is a frustrating subject matter for a photographer, because try as you might, one cannot communicate the experience visually. The task is just too big. But you can try, so I wanted to share a few minutes of the giant redwoods with you at this time.

Amen.

Sermon: July 22, 2018 – “The Human Element”

The Human Element

Texts: Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10

Normally I begin a sermon by reading the text and then moving on from there.  Today, before we look at these texts, I wanted to give you a little bit of background information.  First of all, as we read the texts a little later you will notice right away that these two texts tell approximately the same story.  The story in Matthew is slightly different than the story in Luke, but the primary points of story, I think remain intact.

This is the story of the Centurion’s servant.  You might remember the story from your own readings or have heard the text read at one time or the other.  Essentially, what takes place is that a Roman Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant.  Jesus offers to come and see the servant, but the Centurion says that is not necessary, because he knows how being in command works.  He simply wants Jesus to say the word, and his servant will be healed.  This is a great story of faith and the power of the spoken word-but I don’t want to talk about either of those things today. These are also the main ideas of the story; the power of faith, the power of belief, the power of the spoken word. These primary concepts remain unchanged from one reading to the next.

These two texts, taken in tandem, are also a great example of what I call the human element when it comes to the Bible.  You see, there are some who claim the Bible to be inerrant and infallible, that it is strictly the word of God without any human influence.  I do not believe this to be true. You may have encountered relatives or acquaintances that seem to think if something is in the Bible, then the discussion is over. If you can quote a scripture about a topic, then you win the argument and no further discussion is required. I don’t believe this to be true either.

I do believe many of the writers of both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament were truly inspired, that is, “in-spirited” and possessed a great connection with the Divine.  But that connection does not prevent you from putting your own spin on a particular story.  These two texts demonstrate a little of the ‘spin’ I am referring to. Further, I also believe that many times when scripture is quoted, the portion that is quoted is more spin than primary concept.

Before we can become fully aware of the spin, it is necessary to have a little background information concerning the texts and how they were written.  Both authors of Matthew and Luke were not eye-witnesses to the events and stories of Jesus they were writing about.  Written at about the same time, these two Gospels were written by authors that were separated geographically by a great distance and the belief among most scholars is that they did not communicate or cooperate in the writing of their Gospels.  Both authors had to rely on other written sources and the oral tradition of the time.  This helps to explain why there are a few differences.  One of the sources both authors used was the Gospel of Mark; this Gospel is one of the oldest of all Gospels and was written about 50 or 60 years before Matthew and Luke were written.

Another possible source is what Bible scholars call “Q”, this source is assumed to have existed, because an actual copy of “Q” does not exist.  When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, it was hoped that the discovery would include this missing document.  What they thought might be “Q” turned out to be what has become known as the Gospel of Thomas instead.  The reason we believe “Q” actually existed is because of texts like these, and others, that are so similar (actually there are some that are identical) that appear in both Matthew and Luke, but do not appear in Mark.  The assumption is that the authors of Luke and Matthew had to have another matching source to work from, and that source is what we refer to as “Q”.

All this is simply background information leading up to the conclusion that I am making regarding the author of Luke and his introduction of the human element into this particular story.

Let’s begin by reading the story as it is found in the Gospel of Matthew. (Matthew 8: 5-13)

5 When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him 6 and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” 8 The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 10 When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.

In the Matthew version of the text, the Centurion comes to Jesus.  He admits that he is not worthy to have Jesus come to his house; therefore he just wants Jesus to speak the word.  There is a lot of speculation around this idea of the Centurion not being worthy to entertain Jesus as a guest of his house, but the most widely accepted theory is that because of the tension between Jesus and Rome the Centurion would be better served to keep his distance from Jesus.  The Roman soldier did not really want to be seen associating with the enemy is a simpler way of understanding what was going on here.

If we read the same story in Luke, we will notice a few differences; the primary differences in the story are how the Centurion communicates with Jesus.  In Matthew, Jesus and the Roman guard speak face to face; Luke goes to great length to make certain the two never actually speak face to face, but rather through friends and mutual acquaintances. Let’s read:

Luke 7: 1-10…

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Can you see the difference in the two texts?  I don’t believe the value of the story is diminished in either telling of the story-the same message still gets through.  But to think that both stories are inerrant and infallible is nonsense.  You would have to be schizophrenic to believe that both stories are the absolute true inspired word of God.

I spoke earlier of the ‘spin’ of Luke’s telling of this story, and I think it may have something to do with who Luke was writing for.  If you check at the beginning of both Luke and Acts, you will discover that Luke was commissioned to write these two books for a person named Theophilus.  Now, the literal meaning of Theophilus is simply friend of God, and so it could be considered a generic greeting, but most scholars agree that Theophilus represents an actual person.  It is also believed this person was a high ranking political figure prominent in the Roman government of the day.  Perhaps even an older brother of a Roman governor according to some historians.

If this tension between Jesus and the Romans was still high when Luke was writing his Gospel, doesn’t it make sense that Luke would show the Roman Centurion in the best light possible and have the soldier make special effort to not actually associate with Jesus?  It is just an idea, but it demonstrates how the human element can enter into the writing of our Bible.  It is only natural to tell someone a story in the best way possible.

I think these two scriptures give us a glimpse of what I call the human element that is present in our Bible.  It is the presence of the human element that is one of the reasons I do not believe in Biblical inerrancy and infallibility In the days to come you are likely to hear a lot of scripture quoted. I believe it is part of my responsibility to you to prepare you for that day. To prepare you to have some knowledge and background concerning the validity, the authority and the extent to which it is safe to rely on scripture alone to guide our way…I think it is valuable information and so now you have it too.

Go in peace, and go with God.  Amen.

Sermon: July 15, 2018 – “Where and Who is God?”

“Where and Who is God?”

Texts: Romans 8: 38-39, 9:16-18

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

16 So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. 17 For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

I am often engaged in some public wrestling over the ideas of what kinds of influence and to what extent God influences our world and our lives.  As part of that public wrestling, I often ask questions about God in our lives; and it seems every time I ask a question, I can only answer the question with more questions or with a ‘sometimes’ or in most cases a yes and a no answer.  I’m not finding very many absolutes when we dive into these waters.

In spite of the lack of answers, however, I feel it is a good exercise for us to be engaged in.  It is food for our souls and it enriches our faith journey.  I don’t believe the point of these periods of questioning are really to find one true answer; quite the contrary as a matter of fact.  I believe each of us may encounter a slightly different answer that resonates with us and if that answer is true for us, then it is truth.  I believe in a God who affords us that level of flexibility and that level of responsibility.

That being said, let me also say I am offering my insights and personal struggles with these questions for encouragement for you to come to your own conclusions – to work out your own answers to questions like these.  I do not claim to hold any answers that are right or true or absolute; they make sense for me, and I hope they can act as a catalyst to enliven your spirits and cause you think, so you too, may find answers that are right for you.

Today, I want to ponder a question that often arises in our lives; what is the relationship of God to natural or personal disasters?  If you are like me, sometimes we struggle to understand the earthquake, the volcano, or the mass shooting. Then when personal tragedy strikes, it makes the question even more relevant.  Perhaps another way of asking is to say; did God single me out for this?

If you feel a little confused by this questions, take heart – I think you are in good company.  The texts that I have chosen for today I did so because I believe they reflect for us some of the same kind of confusion.  In other words, if you feel confused, don’t feel bad, because I think Paul was confused as well.  Consider that late in chapter 8 of Romans Paul wants to reassure us that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.  And he lists all kinds of disasters that we might think could separate us, but he says no – nothing can separate us.  Then just a few verses later – early in chapter 9, Paul claims that the very reason God created the Pharaoh was to harden his heart and in essence, separate the Pharaoh from the love of God.  And most of us are familiar with the long list of disasters and plagues that followed that separation.

You may not see any contradiction here or confusion on Paul’s part, after all, the Pharaoh was Old Testament and Paul is New Testament.  That is true.  But what Paul is talking about is the character of God – the nature of God – who God is.    If you are comfortable with a schizophrenic God who is one character early in our history and then changes to another character later on, then go for it.  But for me, I choose to believe in a God that is more stable than that.  I choose to attribute all the emotions of anger and wrath and the flip-flop on positions found in the Old Testament to people, rather than to God….in spite of what the Bible says.

So who is God?  And what relationship does this God have with personal or natural disasters that impact our lives?

I have found that it is sometimes easier to create for yourself some things that you believe to be true about the nature of God first; and then compare your experience or other’s experiences to that character of God you have created and see if the experience and the belief are compatible.

I don’t have time in just one setting to give you all of the things I believe to be true about God and to talk about each one as well.  So I want to offer just one of the things that help me define God and also help me to live with the experiences of my past.  That one thing is this; I believe God to be a radical egalitarian.  That is God treats everyone equally.  God does not play favorites.  God would not do something for one and not the other.  Now let me give you the conflict.

In the late summer of 1990 on a lonely stretch of highway in central Oklahoma there was an automobile accident.  My sister was driving a mini-van returning home to Texas after attending a class reunion in Iowa.  There were three children in the car, two of my sisters and one cousin who had come along just for fun.  My mother was also riding along.  As my sister drove along in the doldrums of a late summer afternoon, she fell asleep at the wheel.  The vehicle left the highway, just missing a guard rail and then plunging off the side of an overpass.  The three children in the back of the mini-van were all thrown from the vehicle, with just one being hurt seriously.  My sister, in the driver’s seat was bruised severely, but survived the accident.  My mother in the passenger seat did not survive and was killed.

We dealt with the tragedy as any family would.  We counted our blessings when we considered how much worse the accident could have been.  We took solace in the fact that my mother had lived a full life and that she was doing what she loved to do, traveling and being with grandchildren, when the end came.

About 10 years later I was in conversation with a clergy colleague of mine.  We were discussing the same kinds of question we are looking at the today.  The discussion came around to the idea of a guardian angel – an agent of God – that keeps you from danger.  I told my colleague that I had a little trouble with that idea – and she said that she used to, but now she knows for certain that they exist.  “For certain?” I asked her – “that sounds a little far fetched to me,” I said.  Then she told me a story about when she was driving alone on the interstate with the cruise control engaged.  She too, fell asleep.  For an unexplained reason, the cruise control disengaged at that moment and the jerk of the vehicle beginning to slow down is what woke her up.  She is convinced it was a guardian angel that disengaged her cruise control.

I tried to explain to my colleague that if her story was true, as she told it that would mean that God was willing to wake her up but not willing to wake my sister and that presented a problem.

“It’s true for me,” she said; “I’m not asking that it be true for you.”

That is why each of us must do the work ourselves and be encouraged to ask the questions, and find the answers mostly on our own.  The answers are borne of our experience, shaped by our thoughts and perfected by our theology.  The answers are unique and personal for each one of us.  There is no single right answer; you must find your own.  Go in peace and go with God – you have work to do.  Amen.

Sermon: July 1, 2018 – “Questioning Our Paradigms”

Questioning Our Paradigms

Text: Genesis 6: 11-17; Genesis 7: 17-24

6:11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.

7:17 The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19 The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; 20 the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; 22 everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, human beings and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days.

 

When I was in high school I won a state speech competition with an adaptation of Bill Cosby’s famous conversation between the Lord and Noah.  It was very funny – and actually, I think, still is – the problem is that the paradigm around Bill Cosby has changed. With new information comes new perspective and somehow the old “Noah” routine that I performed in high school has lost some luster because of what we now know. The content of the routine itself did not change, but the lens and the filters through which we view it certainly have. This is what we call a “paradigm” – it is the combination of information, perspectives, prejudices and assumptions through which we view the world. Sometimes paradigms change, and the world changes as a result.

Most of us have grown up with stories and songs and children’s toys about Noah and the ark.  It is all very cute and the animals are cuddly and in Cosby’s case, the stories are funny.

But in reality – it isn’t funny or cute or cuddly at all.  It is downright awful.  Did you hear what the scripture said?  All flesh died that moved on the earth; everything on dry land that breathed died.  Why do we tell this story to children?

The story of Noah and the ark has been romanticized to the point of ridiculous.  In shopping malls all across the country there are showrooms full of nursery furniture featuring various treatments of the theme of Noah’s ark.  Wallpaper borders and mobile toys to hang on a crib, stuffed animals and ark shaped bunk-beds; trinkets and toys and furniture of every size and description can be found.  Countless vacation Bible schools and Sunday school rooms have painted walls and murals full of arks and animals and rainbows; it is all very colorful and bright and cheery.

But does anyone bother to ask the question?  Does anyone bother to look beyond the color and consider the story?  Has anyone ever had the courage to simply say; “hey, wait a minute – this isn’t a healthy story, this isn’t fun or cute or cuddly.”  I don’t think so.  What I’m suggesting here is a paradigm shift. These are paradigm altering questions. To no longer accept the story of Noah’s Ark, just because it is in the Bible, or just because I learned it as a kid is a paradigm shift. Probably a needed one, I might add.

The photo on the front of your bulletin is a picture of a slot canyon in Arizona.  These canyons are formed by flash floods and they can be dangerous.  In this very canyon a number of years ago, 11 hikers were caught in a flash flood and they all perished.  It caused a paradigm shift and a re-thinking of policy and accessibility to the canyon; it caused the rules to change and caused some people to begin to ask questions.  The canyons are much safer now for hikers because there are always people watching the weather on your behalf.  The canyons are beautiful and inspiring, but they need to be approached with caution and rational thought.

This was a paradigm shift that was easy to make. The changes required to make the slot canyons safe for hikers were relatively simple and the added protection for those in the canyon were well worth the benefit. I wasn’t personally involved in any of this, so I can’t say for certain just exactly how things happened, but I do know that things changed. Things changed because the perspective changed. Perhaps what should have been obvious to anyone was not so obvious until the unthinkable made it obvious. The canyons were dangerous and common sense can’t always guide you. The thing is, it can be raining miles away and you would never know it until the flash flood was upon you. This is how a paradigm shift usually works.

Let’s consider Noah for a minute.  Can we talk about facts surrounding this story?  We do know that part of the world flooded frequently and that is about all we know.  We know there is a scientific reason rainbows appear and it is highly probable that rainbows appeared both before and after all of the floods in the region.  But what truths can we learn?

The truth of the story of Noah is that the person and the family of Noah found life through preparation.  From a position of connectedness, Noah prepared for a flood, even while the sun was shining and the land was dry.  We can find truth in a rainbow to know the sun is always shining somewhere and whatever the storm is that we currently are involved in, it too, will have a conclusion and a rainbow moment.  The truth of the story is that early humans lacked the ability to understand natural disasters and they attributed those disasters to God.  (If you think we have completely gotten over that frame of reference and that type of thinking, read an insurance policy – chances are, you will find a section entitled; “acts of God.”)

We can find truth in a story, even when all the facts are wrong.  We can find truth in stories that are hideous but the truths are helpful and uplifting and nurturing.  We can find the truths, but we have to be willing to look, we must be willing to question, we must be willing to break free of paradigms that influence us and keep us in complacency.

Breaking free of the paradigms that surround Noah’s Ark might be considered easy compared to some of the other paradigms we need to see challenged. At Annual Conference this last week, much of the time we spent together we spent talking about paradigms. Now I don’t think I ever heard that word used to describe what we were doing, but that is what it was. We talked about how we see people; how we make assumptions about people; how we sometimes view people as obstacles or the enemy. All of these things are paradigms and they must be challenged.

We have a number of conflicts and issues within the church where people are divided. The foundational reason people are divided is because they view the issues through different paradigms. The same can be said of our political climate as well. It is the different paradigms which is the cause of much of our political polarization at the moment.

So what can be done to bring people together? If we look back at the examples I have given the common denominator is information. I have experienced a paradigm shift around Bill Cosby, it just isn’t as funny as it used to be. What caused that shift was information.

The rules around hiking through the slot canyons have changed. There are now certain safeguards in place and other changes have been made. The paradigm around the slot canyons has changed because of new information and new experiences.

I can’t say if your paradigm around Noah’s Ark has changed or not; I know mine has over the years. What changes that paradigm is information and thoughtful contemplation.

Here is just one more thought. Jesus did not intend to start a new religion; at least I don’t think he intended to do that. What Jesus sought to do was to bring a new paradigm to ancient Judaism. So when we are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, you might give that some thought. We simply cannot ignore new information or new ideas or new ways of doing things because we think we like the old ways better; if we are to be followers of Jesus, part of our responsibility is to identify and change old paradigms that are no longer useful or helpful. Challenging the paradigm of Noah’s Ark is an easy place to start, but it is a start.

If we are to survive into the 21st century and beyond, we must learn to adapt to and learn to embrace new paradigms. This happens to us all the time, we would do well to recognize paradigm shifts from the past and try to learn from those experiences. The move from horse and buggy to automobiles was a huge paradigm shift. The move from pencil and paper record-keeping to a computer data base was and perhaps is a huge paradigm shift for some. Learning to use a cell phone is a paradigm shift that I still struggle with. The idea that we use and produce too much plastic is a paradigm shift I’m just becoming more comfortable with. The idea that meat may not be as good for you as you think is a paradigm shift I went through about a year ago. Paradigm shifts are a natural and necessary part of life.

A paradigm shift is what Jesus sought in almost every encounter; if you study the exchanges Jesus had with many people throughout the New Testament, I believe you will find that Jesus asked people to view their situations through a new paradigm. Be open to the Spirit of a new paradigm; be open to the renewal and resurrection of a new paradigm; be open to the transformative power of a new paradigm; in short, be open to the work of Jesus in your life.

And that is food for thought, Amen.