Abbott and Costello, Peanut butter and Jelly, Sodom and Gomorrah . . .What the?

 

Abbott and Costello

Romeo and Juliet

Batman and Robin

Tom  and Jerri

Peanut butter and Jelly

Laverne and Shirley

Thelma and Louise

Shaggy and Scooby

Ketchup and mustard

Adam and Eve

Sponge bob and Patrick

Barbie and Ken

Bread and butter

Click and Clack

Divide and conquer

Jekyll and Hyde

Bonnie and Clyde

Bacon and eggs, well for some bacon and just about anything.

Some things just go better together.

There are so many famous pairs.  And, as you might have heard in that list, infamous as well.  This morning we read about a particular pairing.  A pairing of two cities.   Sodom and Gomorrah.  Even if you haven’t read the story from the 18th chapter of Genesis, you may be familiar with these two names as they are infamous for being examples of God’s wrath.  We are told already in chapter 13 that the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.

 

So eventually the outcry, the sin of those two cities becomes so bad that in chapter 18 God sends two of his messengers to check it out.  Upon entering the walls of the town they are greeted by a man named Lot, who begs them to come and stay with him at his house.  Soon word has spread that there are two strangers in town, and a crowd of the men start to attack.  And this is unfortunately where the link between Sodom and homosexuality comes in.

 

However, that’s not as simple as some would like it to sound.  A careful reading of the passage makes it clear that the crowd is out to beat, abuse, even rape and eventually murder the strangers.  Needless to say, that is not the same thing as being gay or lesbian.  What is happening at Sodom and Gomorrah just a sexual sin.  It is most importantly a sin against God’s command to show hospitality and welcome.  Remember this is the world before a McDonalds on every other corner, before there are motels and hotels.  Travelers are literally at the mercy of those they meet.  The proper response is to open your door, feed the stranger, give them your bed to sleep in.  But this takes a generous spirit that was shared by the people of Sodom and Gonorrah.  As the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 16 tells us: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.” 

 

Unlike a sin just a crowd of men could commit, this violent greed is something the whole community could be guilty of, so that there wouldn’t be even 10 righteous in the bunch. So that in passage after passage, and there are about 45 passages in the Bible where  Sodom and Gomorrha is paired with God’s judgement and destruction-an example of utter desolation.

 

Which brings us to our first reading for today from the prophet Isaiah, which if you were paying attention may seem to be a strange choice for us to read together on a Sunday morning.  After all, aren’t we here with offerings, with prayers. And while ‘re not sacrificing rams, bulls, goats, we do sacrifice our time and the many other things we could be doing on a Sunday morning you know like-soccer, shopping, coffee and the paper, laundry, running, ok– sleeping in.

 

But we a here, and shouldn’t it count for something?  Well according to the word of The Lord we heard from Isaiah, it does.  It counts against.  It counts against if worship isn’t paired with a changed life.  Just as important as what we do here for an hour is what we do every other hour.  The prophet Isaiah and prophet after prophet, up to and including The Lord Jesus is asking us, “How does what we do and say here week after week change what we do day after day?”  How are we working to make sure our city isn’t one of violence, but is of peace?  How are we doing our part to make sure that our country isn’t one of weapons and walls, but of welcome.  Because if it isn’t we’re wasting our breath, wasting our time, and worse wasting God’s.

 

Because some things just go better together, and that’s not just some catch phrase, it is the gospel truth.  For at the heart of the gospel of Jesus is the bringing together–the bringing together of the rich and poor, the outcast and the powerful, the hungry and those filled with good things, and ultimately the sinner with God’s love and forgiveness.  That is why our worship is not meaningless, because we believe that it’s not just tradition, not just convenience, not just habit that bring us together.  It isn’t because we have a sign on a wall somewhere that says that we are reconciling in Christ, but because God wants us gay and straight, rich and poor, black, white, asian, and everything else under the sun, immigrant, documented, and undocumented, young and old, victim and offender, all of us are welcome not just to sit in the sanctuary but to struggle together to change one another.  It is in this togetherness that we become more than stereotypes–the rich are not all out to get the poor, the poor are not all lazy.  The stranger moves from guest, to friend, to brother or sister in Christ.  When this happens worship is not offensive to God but is genuine. It is a pure expression of love for God, for the God of us all.  Worship that praises God’s giving,saving, proclaiming, sharing, God’s love lived really, lived fully, lived radically because in Christ, we people are better together.  Amen.

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Oyster Pie and Christ the King

Christ the King, 2011
I don’t have visions of dancing sugar plums (whatever those are) in my head, but we’ve already entered what is known as “The Holidays”. While I’m not ready for Christmas yet (heh in the church we haven’t even started the four weeks of Advent), I am so ready for Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, biscuits, cornbread, cranberries, egg nog, green bean casserole, fruit salad, filling, turkey, pumpkin pie, oyster pie. Yeah, I said it. Oyster pie. My family added oyster pie to our holiday feasts as a way to include my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, oh and did I mention I really don’t like turkey. And that’s what we want, choices. Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for a bounty of foods, in my case so much food that I can skip what I don’t like.
That’s how we like to live our lives with plenty of choices, of options so that we can skip over what we don’t like, and enjoy what we do. Just go to the mall, or maybe stay away at least this coming Friday. We have the choice of looks, do we want to be skater, urban, hipster, conservative, flirty, power suits, and then within those categories there are options galore.
Options, that’s what our political system is based on, our desire to have a choice of leaders. We don’t want to be stuck with a dud. I think that’s also at least one of the messages of what the Occupy Wall Street protests are about—we have options—we don’t need to have banks that are too big to fail, we don’t need to have a stock market and credit agencies determine the present and future, we don’t need to have some 20,000 or so more millionaires pay no/ 0 federal income taxes if the capital gains tax is ended.
We want options. And, if we’re being terribly and faithfully honest we want to choose our spirituality and our religious traditions. Several years ago a new label came into fashion among church leaders—church shopping. It’s when folks visit several different congregations (denomination unimportant) looking for the right fit, or looking for their needs to be met. Along those lines, if honesty is the policy of the day we need to admit that we even pick and choose in regards to our scripture. We value certain passages and stories over others. Mark Twain put it this way, “It is not those parts of the Bible that I do not understand that bother me. It is the parts of the Bible that I do understand that bother me the most.”
Take Jesus’ words in our gospel reading. In Matthew’s gospel, these words come as Jesus is wrapping up his time with his disciples, his enemies are plotting to get rid of him, to get rid of this inconvenient rabble rouser. And, I can see why. His words have as we like to say, comforted the afficted and afflicted the comfortable. He was always turning the tables. This morning it’s no different. We, especially us Lutherans with our Reformation faith, with our belief that God loves us and saves us through sola fidei (faith alone), this passage couldn’t have been on the Reformers (Martin Luther and others top ten). Here Jesus gives us a completely different picture–one where it’s not our faith, not our creed, but our actions that matter. It’s what we do for and with those who are the most vulnerable among us. It is being with the thirsty, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned and oppressed.
The other thing about this is that these are actions that are done unaware, almost unconsciously, not out of religious devotion, not out of any desire to please God, but simply out of the goodness, or out of the pure need of the other.
Jesus redefines what and who is holy. It isn’t worship attendance; bible reading; it isn’t creed confessing; it isn’t check writing, committee serving, but pure compassion for the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, the oppressed, the stranger, the exile, the immigrant.
And it doesn’t seem all that optional either.
Today, in many churches, not all is Christ the King Sunday. Unlike so many other feasts and festivals that are long on history and tradition. The designation of this day as Christ the King isn’t even 100 years old. It was created in 1925 by the Pope – Pope Pius the XI (11th). As he observed the world he was living in, a post World War I, a world on the verge of a Great Depression, a world becoming more secular (or in our terms – a world becoming more worldly) and with Fascists (ultra-nationalistic dictators) becoming more and more powerful. The Pope thought it was about time declare Christ as King—not Mussolini, not Roosevelt, not Obama, or Reagan, or Grover Norquist, or Walker, or democrats, republicans, not even capitalism. As Christians we are seriously limiting our choice. Christ is our King—means our ruler, our guide, our savior.
The choice we have is to admit it and live it. We don’t have the option of letting the Salvation Army be the only ones doing the most good. If Christ is really our king, Matthew’s words tell us what that looks like. There’s no avoiding it. Jesus just says if you say you follow me, this is what it looks like, this is what eternal life looks like. Jesus says, if you choose to call me Lord, this is what you and your life look like. For us there is no other option, in a world of so many, sometimes even too many choices– it’s that simple. Amen.