Sermon: Ancient Stories–Who Inspires Risky Dreams

August 10, 2014 ~ Ancient Stories: Who Inspires Risky Dreams from John Knox Kirk on Vimeo.

sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on July 27, 2014.

Matthew 14:22-33
and Genesis 37:1-28


So I’m wondering,

are you enjoying these stories?

We’re winding our way through what some call the Hebrew Patriarchs,

the big men of the first testament,

and yes, the stories center, perhaps unfortunately,

around the guys.

But I’ve been arguing that if we can get a bit past the anachronism,

that is, the fact that these stories are three thousand years old,

at least,

and if we can get past some of the patriarchy

that comes with stories that are that old,

I mean, just look at stories that are 50 years old,

much less three thousand years old tales..

If we can try to understand the point of these old stories

about the foundation of our faith:

the ancient promises of God to Abraham

and God’s steadfast love throughout all of

our human folly;

the shaking of tradition and conventional wisdom

with Isaac

the blessing of questions and doubt

with Jacob

we can come to understand that even these ancient stories

have some meaning for us.

Life giving meaning.

Today’s reading is no different in that regard.

All of these stories offer a worldview, a way of thinking about humanity

and about our relationship with the divine,

who created us—you and me,

with the divine Ruach, the divine breath

each of us with the image of God imprinted in us.

If there was ever any question in your heart whether you matter,

whether you are important,

whether you have a purpose,

well, there’s an answer:

these ancient stories affirm that we are created by God and are loved by God

and are destined, each of us,

to live fully the lives God wants for the creation,

lives marked by that Hebrew word Shalom,

which means some combination of peace

and wholeness

and comfort

and community,

you know, where Lion will lay with the Lamb

and all will be fed

the whole bit.

One way to understand faith, and the diverse religious options out there,

is to see them as various ways of giving us a worldview,

a way to see and to live in the world.

And these ancient stories are the foundation of our worldview,

bequeathed to us, given to us by our Hebrew ancestors,

the forbears of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So we’ve been walking through these ancient stories,

and we’ve been seeing how humanity, from our very beginning,

has demonstrated all the characteristics we might expect

from looking at our own living:

crazy jealousy, passionate yearning, family conflict,

and also the capacity for deep empathy,

incredible love. [Read more...]

Sermon: Ancient Stories–Who Wrestles With Us, and is Okay with That

July 27, 2014 – Ancient Stories: Who Wrestles with Us and is Okay with That from John Knox Kirk on Vimeo.

sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on July 27, 2014.

Matthew 14:13-21
and Genesis 32:22-31



I had some tears writing this sermon.

It conjures up many memories from a lifetime of faith.

These stories in Genesis are life giving for us, I think.

But perhaps not the way one might expect.

I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to want things to be simple,

to prefer the black-and-white description of a problem,

with a clear and robust solution.

My car won’t start. The diagnosis is a bad battery

(caused by a forgetful driver who didn’t close the door)

and the solution is a jump start,

or at worst a new battery.

Hopefully not a new car.

Or, that noise in the garage,

thankfully it stopped once the mousetrap went off the other day.

No more noise. That must be the end of it, right?

I hope so.

Who doesn’t prefer things to be simple, clear and unambiguous?

Cut and dried.

But so much in our life never works this way.

*The blood work wasn’t quite clear, and there need to be more tests

but the treatment options aren’t very good regardless.

*Our friends are fighting, and we can see both sides of the argument

and we don’t know how to help or how to be honest

without hurting one or the other, or both!

*There is SO MUCH TO DO—around the house, for work, for school,

cleaning and cooking and mending—

how can there be time for it all?

So much in life is complicated, complex, multi-faceted.

We’d have enough if it were just our lives and our struggles,

but then heap onto it the crazy world we live in:

What is the right thing to do about tens of thousands of children,

young kids, mind you,

flooding into the United States,

fleeing not just poverty, but unspeakable violence

and political strife and drug cartels

in Central America?

Just pack them up and send them back?

Keep them in make-shift detention centers on military bases?

Free them to be with family and loved ones who will care for them?

If we acknowledge the biblical call to care for children in our midst,

along with all the vulnerable, the hurting, the hungry,

the responsibility to treat well

the foreigner traveling in our land—

my bible uses the word “alien” alongside with

widows, and orphans, to describe those

most in harms way

If we acknowledge that, how do we respond to so many kids

in the middle of an already fractious, tentative, politically fraught

question about immigration policy and reform?

Not easy. Not clear at all.

And that’s just one headline story from this week’s papers. [Read more...]

Sermon: Ancient Stories–Who Does Not Follow Convention

July 13, 2104 ~ Ancient Stories – Who Does Not Follow Convention from John Knox Kirk on Vimeo.

sermon preached at John Knox Kirk of Kansas City, Missouri, on July 13, 2014.

Matthew 13: 1-8, 19-23
and Genesis 25: 19-34


Today’s exploration of these ancient themes in Genesis is going to be a bit different.

 We’ve been walking with Abraham the last several weeks,

seeing God move in and among the creation

choosing a people to be God’s people

and then helping them SEE differently, ACT differently

and God shapes them, molds them, guides them.

These ancient stories are about who God is,

God’s persistent, challenging, sometimes inscrutable love

and how that goes head-to-head with human proclivities

to do things our way, following our convention.

But Abraham now has died, Ishmael even comes back from the wilderness

and helps Isaac bury him, in the very cave Abraham bought to bury Sarah

and the story moves on: with Isaac and Rebekah and their own follies.

Isaac and I will always have a close bond. We father’s of twins.

But If there is anything I’ve learned as a parent of twins, its that all twins are different.

These two: Esau and Jacob, seem to be completely different personalities:

One ruddy, athletic, a marksman

the other dark, contemplative, cunning.

My girls: much more alike, much less conflicted with each other. Thank goodness.

All twins are different.

And this story in Genesis is the beginning of another sordid affair

the first act in a multi-part production where Jacob wrestles

the birthright duly owed to Esau

first through this pot of lentil stew,

and then through tricking Isaac

for a blessing a bit later down the road.

It is part of Genesis’ explanation of how the lineage of the Hebrew people

passed not through the expected right of succession…

through the firstborn son (even in the case of twins)

but through Jacob, the one who later would wrestle with God

who would be renamed Israel

Israel—the name which literally means “wrestle with God”

Jacob, the one who would father 12 sons of his own, bless his heart

including Joseph,

and his Technicolor dream coat.

It continues the tradition of God being God, and not doing things the expected way.

God chooses the younger kid, the weaker kid,

even before they were born.

Esau would also be great, would also be the first of many nations

but the line of the Hebrews, of the covenant,

would go through Jacob.

Unexepected. Unpredicted. Unplanned.

What kind of God is this, exactly?

But we also have before us this terrific story of Jesus

that gets the same themes, the same rumblings, the same disruption.

Maybe today, rather than looking directly at Isaac and Jacob,

we could look at the parable of the sower… [Read more...]