The "Batman" movie shootings in Aurora, Colorado, are a painful tragedy.
East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert said on a radio show today, "You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of terror like this takes place." He was talking about this shooting.
Gohmert also said the tragedy could have been lessened if someone else in the movie theater had been carrying a gun and shot the gunman. He said, "It does make me wonder, with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying a gun that could have stopped this guy more quickly?"
Jesus of Nazareth said, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him to other."
Not easy words.
I wonder who is the most Christian, Jesus or Louis Gohmert?
Yesterday, the Boy Scouts leadership affirmed their ban against "open or avowed homosexuals." That silly, unnecessary, hurtful, exclusive romp reminded me of a sermon I preached a couple of years ago.
The sermon touched on Valentine's Day, evolution, Scouting, mental illness...and love.
Timothy B. Tutt
Pastor, United Christian Church
Sunday, February 14, 2010
9:30 AM Worship
(Lectionary Year C)
“Everybody’s Son and Daughter – Jesus, Mental Illness, and Us”
Luke 9: 28-43
28Now about eight days after these sayings
Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to
pray. 29And while he was praying,
the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and
Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and
were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were
weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory
and the two men who stood with him. 33Just
as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be
here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for
Elijah” —not knowing what he said. 34While
he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified
as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a
voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen;
listen to him!” 36When the voice had spoken,
Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any
of the things they had seen.
37On the next day, when they had come down
from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just
then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is
my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes
him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth;
it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I
begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41Jesus answered, “You faithless and
perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?
Bring your son here.” 42While he was coming, the
demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean
spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.
43And all were astounded at the greatness
things collide...or perhaps I should say (hopefully), three things hold hands on
the church calendar.
Valentine’s Day, of course.
Evolution Sunday. A group of
Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans and others have suggested that today is a
good day for churches to think about how science, particularly evolution,
intersects with our faith.
Third, here in our
little corner of the Realm, we are observing Scouts Sunday.
Valentine’s Day, Evolution Sunday, and Scouts Sunday.
the first one, Valentine’s Day is not so controversial. Everybody
purports to like love, and most folks like chocolate, so we’re okay with
Valentine’s Day. (As for me, I’m
allergic to chocolate so I would just as soon people give each other big boxes
of mashed potatoes or chicken enchiladas, but I doubt that is going to catch
on.) Still, we’re okay with
The second thing, Evolution
Sunday is more controversial. Maybe
it’s not so controversial here in this church.
We’ve got a fair number of scientists and teachers, so I suspect most of
us either embrace the idea entirely, or really don’t give it much thought at
all. But still, the larger world around
us seems to be all a-twitter about “humans descending from monkeys.” The Texas State Board of Education is a good
-- or rather, bad -- example of that.
Ever so often the State Board of Education gathers here in RiverCity
and people have a good fight about evolution versus creationism, mainly in
textbooks. Seems like there are a lot
of people who enjoy calling Charles Darwin names even though he’s been dead 128
years. So, there’s the controversy of
Scout Sunday. For some people, Scout
Sunday conjures up a Norman Rockwell painting of freshly-scrubbed lads and
lasses in their uniforms, pledging their duty to God. But for other people, the Scouts (both Boy
and Girl) are groups that symbolize intolerance in some ways through by
policies that bar certain folks from participation. GLBT people persons, persons of certain
religious persuasions, or lack thereof, have been excluded.
fact, one of our church’s denominational partners, the United Church of Christ,
has called into question these policies.
Yet, we have a dozen or more kids in our church who like tying knots, making
crafts, learning to cook in a Dutch oven, and sleeping out in tents. So, Scout Sunday presents a contrast – inclusion
me say, by the way, that here’s what we’re doing with Scout Sunday. We are combining Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I think that honors gender equality. Through this Scout Sunday, we are also
acknowledging the Scout pledge to “do your duty to God” is one way that young
people have the opportunity to think about their faith beyond the walls of the
church. That’s a shocking idea,
huh? That God doesn’t live only at
church. So, to our Scouts, thank you
for finding ways to think about God beyond Sunday. And we’re also used this Scout Sunday as a
time to invite others to come and see how our community seeks to live out our
faith. Learning from others, learning
from other faith traditions, is important.)
we’ve got these three contradictions bumping into each other. Valentine’s Day. Evolution Sunday. Scouts Sunday. As we think about these things, there are a
plethora of questions that come to mind:
How do Christians embrace evolution and express their faith? How can a family take part in two
organizations that may have contradictory ideas, like Scouts and the UCC? What if you’re a liberal on these issues and
your next door neighbor is a conservative on these issues – how do we get
along? How does one church express a
certain angle on theology while another church expresses a different angle?
That brings us back
to Valentine’s Day. Love. I know, I know, it sounds so cheesy: Love.
I’m not talking about buying flowers, or going out to eat or signing
your name to a hallmark card. I’m
talking about, “Love one another.” The
words of Jesus, the words of the Apostle Paul, the cornerstone of the Good News
that the church has to share.
Love. The hard work of loving God
and loving others.
scripture passage for today is about love.
Jesus, Peter, James, John have this remarkable experience up on a
mountaintop, then they come down to town and there’s a pained father crying out
for help for his sick little boy. The
child is crying and convulsing and slobbering and hurting. And the dad begs Jesus, Please help my
little boy. He’s my only child. What was wrong with this little boy? I don’t know.
Maybe he suffered from epilepsy, or some terrible digestive sickness. Maybe he had the precursor to one of our
mental illnesses, some extreme version of Tourette’s Syndrome or some terribly
manic bipolar disorder.
You will see that
the title of my sermon includes mental illness.
At our 10:45 service I’m going to delve into that aspect a bit
more. I really don’t know what was wrong
with the boy. But I think I know what
healed him. Love. The love of a man who took the time to stop,
to listen, to touch and to care.
That is the same
love that houses homeless people. That
is the same love that Cathy described in talking about the Interfaith
Hospitality Network. That is the same
love that spurs you to give to the CROP Walk.
That is the same
love that our society needs to address the controversies we face. Evolution versus creationism, inclusive
groups and exclusive groups, liberals and conservatives, Fox News and MSNBC. How do we live with each other?
have strongly held views on these issues.
But I am not interested in digging up Darwin and “baptizing” him in the blessed
waters of post-modern scientific thought (particularly since he was already
baptized once as a good Anglican). And
I’m also not interested in digging up Darwin
and crucifying him on a cross of gospel tracts. I’m also not interested in preaching a
sermon that sounds like closing arguments in a case for or against the
I hope that what this
sermon does is cause us to think about living the contradictions and spur us
onto loving the contrarians.
another. Conservatives and liberals,
creationists and evolutionists, Scouts and not, the mentally ill, the
physically well, the Olympically healthy, homeless people and those with three
home. Love them by stopping, listening,
touching, caring as Jesus did.
To me the most
vital issue in our society today is learning to disagree with civility, with
respect, with dignity. Certainly we must
speak up with urgency and with passion and with justice when wrong is
perpetrated. We must cry out as the
daddy did in this text.
But we simply must
learn better ways to disagree.
I think that “more
excellent way" (as the Apostle Paul wrote)
I hope, I pray that
as citizens, we will find ways to end this debate over evolution. I hope, I pray that we will embrace
scientific views and faith perspectives that help us explain and care for our
planet. I hope, I pray that all groups
of people – Scouts, churches, garden clubs, nations – will transcend the lines
that divide us and truly embrace, welcome, and include all God’s critters.
But I’m afraid I’m
a fatalist. I’m afraid that once we’ve settled
the evolution-versus-creation debate, I’m afraid that once we’ve fully welcomed
GLBT people into, I’m afraid that once we’ve moved beyond the Christian versus
Islamic wars that tear us apart, we will just move on to some other “fight”
that we can’t even imagine today.
that seems to be how we humans are.
may settle the current issues. But
unless we learn to love, we will just move on to other issues. Unless we learn to heal, we will continue to
But if we learn to
love, to agree with kindness and to disagree with even more kindness, if we
learn to respect, to care and to include, then we can live the more excellent
way that beckons: “Love one another.”