Dear Lord, I ask you to recognize the different kinds of anger within us. I ask us to recognize the anger. The anger that is ours, Lord, I ask you to transform into love. The anger that is yours, Lord, I ask you to channel in the manner that you see fit.
My Gospel today is from the book of Matthew, from the 21st chapter:
'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
"Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.
"Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
"The first," they answered.
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
The word of the Lord.
I am a fundamentalist Christian.
What I mean by that is that I believe in the fundamentals of the Christian faith: the words of Jesus. The words printed in red in the Bible. I take them very seriously.
The theology that has been piled on for the next two thousand years... not so much so. There's some wonderful stuff there! On September 11th, I preached on St. Francis. St. Francis has been a tremendous inspiration to me... but he wasn't Jesus.
Jesus is the one we really have to take seriously. Everything that came after we need to check back against the Gospel.
And the Gospel itself is, in a way, suspect. I am not a 'Biblian'; I do not believe in the Bible. I regard it as a collection of historical records. They can be mistaken. They can be confusing. They were written at a time that lacked our modern standards of scholarship; they didn't have footnotes or references. Much of what is in them was recorded decades later from oral tradition, then handed down, and then it was copied and recopied; they didn't have photocopies or digital scanners. None of the original documents that were even written in the first century have themselves survived; all we have are copies. Oh, and it's been edited and selected since then, but ultimately it's the best record we've got of the man Jesus.
It's a little bit like the records we've got of any other two thousand year old figure. Julius Caesar, for example - did he actually say, "Now the die is cast" (or whatever in Latin) as his crossed the Rubicon? Who knows? Maybe; maybe not. But I'm pretty sure there was a guy named Julius Caesar and he pretty much did what history has recorded that he did. And it's kinda the same thing with Jesus. We have to look carefully at the Bible. But it's pretty much a good record of what the man said and did.
And when we hear the same message repeated over and over again. Luke 6:30: "Give to anyone who asks". Matthew 5 or 6: "Give to anyone who begs of you. If a man steals your coat, give him your cloak as well." He tells a rich young man to sell all of his worldly possessions and give the money to the poor. He commends an old widow giving a donation at the temple because she gave all that she had; it was the totality of her generosity that redeemed her. As opposed to these men giving all these big donations, he didn't have much to say about them.
So we hear the same message repeated over and over again, in different ways, in different forms, we figure that that probably was an essential part of his ministry, and it's been passed down pretty much intact.
Now there are other people who call themselves Christian fundamentalists. They talk a great deal about the Bible. They say it is the inalienable word of God, some of them. Some of them go so far as to look at the chronology in the Old Testament, and conclude that evolution must be false, because the universe was only created a couple thousand years ago, and we get this whole evolutionist vs. creationist controversy.
And they talk a lot about believing in Jesus, oh, oh yes, they ask you "Have you been born again?" "Have you been saved?"
How much have we heard this?
"Have you been born again?"
I have a hard time answering that question. I look back on my life and I think, well, this is how I've always lived. I was raised in a Lutheran church by a devout mother. She took me to church every Sunday. Well, the fact that she was the church treasurer, kinda, helped. I stayed there a lot longer than the other kids. Had to wait until the offering was counted, every Sunday.
When I was 23 years old, I rode a bicycle across the country; I had really, practically a vision. I'd gone from New Jersey, I was heading for California; when I had gotten to Arizona, I was almost there, I had a vision, really, that showed me that my problems were because I was trying to do it all myself, and not really enough (at all, sometimes) on God.
I gave the bicycle, the debit card, all my money, ID away and started walking through the Arizona highlands. That's what I felt I was called to.
When I was 27, I was in another crisis in my life, contemplating a political campaign in the nation's capital. I sought re-baptism, and I did. I went out to Ohio, a minister I had met on the bicycle trip.
I wrote about this; if you go to my website, freesoft.org, the essay "Bicycling Across American"; I talk about the vision.
27, re-baptized, and now at 41, I'm here, because I had dreams about coming to Alaska, about preaching in Alaska. I think it's what I'm called to by God.
It's what I've been doing my whole life! I can't look at any one point in it and say "that's when I was born again." I'm a better Christian now that I was then, but it's been a progression.
The fundamentalists now, are very political, and there's an election coming up next year. The democratic nomination is pretty much locked up, but the republican campaign, oh, it's just shifting into second gear. And you know the fundamentalists are going to be out in force. They've been out in force for the last quarter century. They're going to have a lot of questions to ask Mitt Romney and Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.
I've got a few questions of my own that I'd like to ask... them.
They believe the Bible is the inalienable Word of God, that it is word for word accurate, so we shouldn't have any problem with Luke 6:30: "Give to anyone who asks".
I'd like to know what happens if a beggar comes up to them on the street and asks for ten dollars.
I'd like to know what happens if someone comes into their business, asks for a product or service, and doesn't have the money to pay for it.
I'd like to know what happens if someone steals from them.
"Give to anyone who asks."
Do they do it? Or do they just say, "Yes sir, I will!"