Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No this is not about Law/Gospel

My apologies to Mark who left this comment on the post below and instead of approving it I deleted it.  Which is too bad because I want to address it.

I think you are both teetering on the edge here. Gospel and law. Law and gospel. Like the song about love & marriage: "can't have one . . ."

Me:  No you can't get away with just saying "Law and Gospel"   Someone else tried to pull this out on this same topic.  That somehow Law/Gospel applies here.  This is what I say:  Yes Law and Gospel  - NO NO  NO to turning Gospel into Law which what this Cheap Grace stuff does.  

NO NO NO to trying to pull Law into salvation talk to make people behave.  Doesn't work. "The Law says 'do this' and it is never done.  Grace says 'Believe this' and everything is done"  
 In the Law/Gospel dynamic the Law has one purpose and one purpose only - to drive us to the grace of God.

And no, I do not believe in the third use. So don't even go there with me.  

Anybody else wanna try?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Apologies to Bonhoeffer but There is NO SUCH THING as Cheap Grace

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”   
                                      The Cost of Discipleship

There's the quote.  I hate it.  

I hate it because it is used to try to drag out law to make people behave. 

I used to think I hated the quote because it was used out of context, and believe me it is.  But now I think the problem isn't just that this has been misused.  

I believe the problem is that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was wrong. 

There I said it.  Nobody is supposed to say that.  His writing has taken on the status of scripture in some places.  Bonhoeffer said it, that settles it.  

Every time anybody gets nervous about someone getting something from God they don't deserve, this quote gets trotted out.  "CHEAP GRACE!  CHEAP GRACE!"

And so I ask "and who, pray tell, is paying too cheap a price for grace?  Who is selling grace for too cheap a price?"

And then I am patronizingly told that I should read the "Cost of Discipleship"  As though I haven't read it several times.  Because, you know, nobody ever read Bonhoeffer and actually said "I don't agree with that" 

I have been wanting to take another look at Cost of Discipleship and dispute it in a more scholarly fashion.  Well maybe when I retire I'll write a book.  For now, these are my thoughts shooting from the hip.

Right off the bat this part of the quote rubs me the wrong way "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance" 

Forgiveness does NOT depend upon repentance. 

Because that would make it about me and my repentance and then it would not be grace.  Cheap or costly, it would not grace.  Grace does not depend upon me.  I do not have the power to cheapen it.   

Either grace is free and undeserved and unearned or it is something else.  

Grace without the Cross?  That's not cheap grace.  That's not grace.  It's excusing, it's enabling, it's looking the other way, but it's not grace and it is not freeing.  

Grace is not cheap.  

It's free.  It cost God a lot, but it costs us nothing.  It is free but it ain't easy.  We fight it like crazy and I think Bonhoeffer was having his own struggles with it.  And if he had lived through the struggle, I think he'd say it differently. 

This is where some more scholarly work needs to be done but I suspect that Bonhoeffer was influenced by the Baptists in Harlem he hung out with.  

And let me just come out and say it - Baptists are semi-pelagians. Pelagianism can be very compelling.  Especially when people are behaving badly.  Especially when Christians are behaving badly.  

Bonhoeffer was dealing with some very badly behaving Christians and he just overstated the case trying to get them back in line.  That's what I think anyway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

So the way I see it...

The latest scandal all started because some FBI guy couldn't impress an army groupy with a picture of his chest, so he tried to prove he was a big shot in the FBI.

And I feel the press needs a little vocabulary education:

1)  A "mistress" is a woman who is woman who is financially supported by a married lover.  Paula Broadwell is nobody's mistress.  It's an outdated concept and no self-respecting journalist should be using the term.

2)  Losing your home in Hurricane Sandy is  tragedy.  Losing your job because you had an affair while in a job that you knew such behavior would cost you your job (not to mention your FAMILY) is not a tragedy.

That's all.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Presidential Election Memories

My father was a union organizer.  I feel like that's all I have to say to explain why I have always voted a straight Democratic Party ticket.   He was crazy liberal.  Hated Nixon.  Broke my heart that he died before he could see him have to resign. 

I voted in my first election when I was 19 and I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976.  Yea go ahead and do the math to figure out how old I am.  I don't care.  Pretty sure I voted for Teddy Kennedy in the primary.  I rarely vote for the winner in a primary.  In fact, I don't think I ever have.  

Four years later everyone was pretty disappointed in Carter, including me, but really REAGAN???  I do not understand all this love and remembrance of him as this great president.  I think he was a disaster for the country and those of us who lived in California remembered him as such as a governor.  Much of the problems with the homeless mentally ill can be credited with his dumping of them on the streets when he was governor.  So I registered as a Republican in order vote for John Anderson.  I don't remember much about him other than he was not Carter or Reagan.  Then he went independent and to me, a vote for him would be just as good as a vote for Reagan.

So a cool evening in San Francisco, those of us waiting outside in line after work to vote got the word that Carter had already conceded.  I was so pissed off.  We all knew he was going to lose and we were still going to vote for him and the least he freaking could have done was waited until the polls closed.

I am pretty sure that the outcry from that (many people on the west coast just decided not to vote and that was very bad for local elections) is the reason why news outlets cannot call races at least until polls close.

For some reason, I remember being even more devastated when Reagan one again in 1984.  I really thought people would realize how horrible he was for the country.  But that was really the last time I was crushed at not having an election go my way.  Life goes on.

I did not vote for Bill Clinton in the primary.  Too conservative for my taste.  Seems like I was always voting for Jerry Brown or Jesse Jackson in those days.  And he was a dog.  But he's grown on me.  Like Carter, like him a lot more as an ex-president.

I went to see Bill Clinton in Waterloo Iowa last week.  Sharp as a tack.  Knew exactly what the issues are in Iowa.  Considering how many states he's been to stumping for Obama and how he is probably just on point there, he's really amazing.  If he could run again, I'd vote for him.

I remember going to bed thinking Al Gore had wrapped it up and waking up thinking "Oh crap".  I went to a rally for John Kerry but geesh! he was boring and I knew he never had a chance.

And then there was Hillary.  I'm sorry but I still think Hillary should have been president.  I never was seduced by the great speeches of Obama.  Too inexperienced, and I did not think he would be able to forge the necessary relationships with the congress to accomplish all he was promising.  I believe I was right about that and I still believe Hillary would have done a better job.  But she's a damn good secretary of state.  And Obama surrounded himself with good people to advise him.  And he got a lot of people not usually excited about politics involved and that is always a good thing.  And its nice to have a young couple and children in the White House. 

So here we wait.  I'd like Obama to win because I'm a straight party girl, and it would be sad to have the first African-American president only be one term.  And Romney is well, who knows what he would do.  Does he even know?

The country survives.  It will never be as liberal as I'd like so I've learned not to cry in my beer.   History ebbs and flows.  Things get better, things get worse.  People love, live, get married, have children.  And the God is here. 

PLEASE Do not preach a Stewardship Sermon Next Sunday

"Widow's Mite", James Tissot

The story of the "widow's mite" in Mark 12 is NOT a stewardship text.  It is not about how wonderful it was that she was willing to give everything she had and so therefore, no matter how poor you are, you have no excuse not to give.  

Pay attention to what Jesus says in Mark 12:38

"Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,  and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!  They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

Jesus is not pointing to the widow as an example of giving.  He's pointing to the religious leaders as an example NOT to follow.  Don’t be like these people who go around acting holy, and saying all the right things and making a show of being generous when in fact they are ignoring the real needs of people and are even taking advantage of the vulnerable.  Instead of taking this woman's money, they should be taking care of HER.

Now you pastor types who have been hearing and giving widow's mites sermons for all of your career are going to resist this and try to argue with me.  You maybe already have your stewardship drive planned based on this precious theme.  Too bad.  It's wrong.  And it misses the real challenge Jesus is giving.

Jesus is not saying it is a good thing this poor women is giving her last dime to support the temple.  Jesus has already condemned the system by driving out the money changers out of the temple and predicted its destruction.   If the religious leaders had been doing their job, she never would have been destitute to begin with.  Preach THAT if you want a stewardship sermon. 

Just Vote

Lord God, you call your people to honor those in authority. Help us elect trustworthy leaders, participate in wise decisions for our common life, and serve our neighbors in local communities. Bless the leaders of our land, that we may be at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against: And, 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”                             –John Wesley, October  6, 1774

Sure I'd like you to vote for my guy.  But just vote.  And know that it won't be the end of the world if your guy doesn't win.  We are a country of checks and balances.  And ultimately, God is in charge.  In the words of Julian of Norwich

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well"

So just go vote and get on with your life.