Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

Month: September 2014

The Gospel According to Everyone

kells[1]This Sunday we begin a worship series called “The Gospel According to Everyone.”

We’ve all heard of the “Gospel according to Matthew”, and Mark and Luke and John.  We know these Gospels are “Good News about God in Jesus” as told by four different communities and authors.  The question that I’ve been exploring for months now is this: “What  would happen if we could write our own Gospel?  How would I, or you, share  our “Good News about God in Jesus”?  What would we share about the way our lives have been touched by God, shaped by Jesus’ life and teachings?

Some of you paint, or write, or compose music, or take wonderful photos as a way to connect with God, with the Holy.  Some of you have experienced the touch of God in critical moments – God’s comfort and presence through illness, for example.   Some of you feel most fully human, most fully alive, and connected to the grace of God during a Healing Pathway session, or through social justice activism, or in your daily work.

As I pondered all these myriad ways in which God has touched the lives of the folk of Cedar Park, the more convinced I’ve become that we are a Gospel waiting to be written and told! And now is the time to begin!

Over the next eight weeks,  various people are going to share a chapter from their Gospel;  we’ll hear stories, explore the creative process of one of our talented artists as they explain how this helps them to understand God, the world, themselves; we’ll hear musical compositions of some of our congregation members, hear poetry, or overhear interviews and short stories of faith.

I am really hopeful that as the first few brave souls  who’ve volunteered already share a chapter from their Gospel,  that others will be inspired to share a few verses of their Gospel too!  I’m really excited by this project, and hope you will be too.  If you want to be involved in some way, be sure to contact me.



Fairness and the Dream of God

Jesus is at it again!!  Another knock you sideways parable is coming our way for worship on Sunday morning.  (Matthew 20: 1-16.  Matthew is the only Gospeller to record this parable, of the workers in the vineyard. Perhaps because it’s one of those “Listerine” parables (I got this from another blogger, who uses the term to refer to those Gospel stories, which like Listerine, are good for us, but they don’t taste so good!)

The gist of the story is that a vineyard owner hires a bunch of workers, throughout the day, and at the end of the day, he pays them all the same.  The ones who worked all day “in the blistering heat” aren’t too happy, and cry “Not Fair!”  The landowner gives us four answers to this.

  1.  I paid you what we agreed to.
  2. It’s my money, I can do with it what I choose
  3. Are you jealous because I choose to be generous?
  4. The last are first, the first are last.

The way Matthew’s Jesus tells the story, we’re left holding all four answers, and trying to decide which is the least obnoxious answer .  What makes it even harder is that Jesus started the story by saying “the kingdom is like”…..  Matthew loves that language, doesn’t he? He’s also a bit too fond of that ‘preacher’s throwaway line, “The last first/first last”  – which some commentaries dismiss as a Mattheanism, rather than a Jesusism.

We, in the Western Christian tradition have tended to search scripture for “the” answer, for the one true ‘take away.’  This passage defies that completely; we’re given 4 answers, expected to juggle them all, and make kingdom sense of it.

I think it’s going to take all of us, in community, to make any sense of this one. See you at CPU tomorrow morning, and let’s see what we can discover, together!


Things we wish Jesus hadn’t said


Jacob Wrestling

Jacob Wrestling

The first weeks of September are  filled with the flurry of Fall start up. Families are frazzled with all the meet the teacher nights, registrations for this that and the other. It’s exhausting! My initial pastoral response to this is to want to create calm sacred space in Sunday worship as a mini-respite, or as a counterweight to the frenetic rush in lives beyond our wood and stone.

BUT!!!! With the Lectionary dumping us without warning into the middle of Matthew, fat chance! We are confronted for four weeks straight with an uncompromising, sharp-tongued Jesus we barely recognize.

Following  the state murder of John the Baptist in chapter 14, Matthew’s Jesus returns with a shadow looming over him, a tightness  of jaw, a steely-glint in his eye, and a fierce determination for truth-telling on his tongue.  And his truth-telling stings, taunts, shocks, causes consternation, and outright rebellion from those closest to him.  Peter accuses him of getting the Dream of God upside down, for which Peter is vilified as the tempter of Satan. A crowd, begging for healing for a man captive to seizures (chapter 17)  is taunted by Jesus as a “godless generation.”   From the mouth of Matthew’s Jesus come taunts, insults, and stern teachings we really wish he hadn’t said.

For the month of September, I’m going to wrestle with these texts, because as a faith community in the Christian tradition, the Scriptures are our script, our ‘holy words’ to live by.  And when they are hard words, we really need to know what to do with them.

In the first sermon in this series (which you can find on the CPU website, at this link:  ……) I explore the options we have in response to words we wish weren’t there: a) the scholastic shuffle – where we can demythologize, historicize and criticize any ‘sacredness’ or ‘liveliness’ out of them  b) pick and choose only the ones we want – effectively making Jesus in our image, rather than hearing the challenge to be formed as God’s people in Jesus’ likeness.  c) Dump the lot; stop reading Scripture altogether, dump the babies, Faith, Discipleship, Religion out with the scriptural bathwater  or d) Wrestle the text, refusing to let it go until it blesses us. (This is a reference to the story of Jacob wrestling the holy creature all night by the river Jabbok, see Genesis 32, when Jacob refused to let the stranger go til he received a blessing.

We’re in for a lot of wrestling as we take on these things we wish Jesus hadn’t said:

“Get thee behind me Satan!”

[When a brother or sister refuses to be reconciled with you]… let them be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector”

“So to will God your Father refuse to forgive you if you do not forgive them from your heart.”

The list could go on, and on. Perhaps you want to add your top “things I wish Jesus hadn’t said.” You can do that in the comment box below.

It’s my hope that by wrestling these texts until they bless us, we’ll get to know Jesus a little better.  I hope we’ll discover his biting humour, his capacity to grab our attention by saying outrageous things,  and to leave us stumped for days with his upside down, inside out, impossible but possible vision of God’s Dream.  I hope our image of Jesus will grow, expand, become more three dimensional, more capable of being a true “Way” for us to follow in our workaday world.

And I also hope we’ll discover the liveliness of Scripture, found to be all the more lively when we step onto the mat and wrestle with its texts.


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