Browsing articles tagged with " Genesis"
Feb 25, 2015

Intergenerational Covenant

It’s a great thing to be in a covenant with God. Over thousands of years biblical authors have painted the most wonderful pictures of what that means: blessing, wealth, love, health, peace, power, forgiveness, eternal life, whatever you may hope for in heaven and on earth, it has probably been spelled out as part of God’s covenant with us somewhere. Like when God promised to Abram:
“I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”
(Genesis 17:7 – Watchword for the Week of Sunday 1 March 2015)

Sunday’s Watchword adds an important twist though: God’s covenant is not only with you in the present generation but also “your offspring after you throughout their generations”. That is a challenge because it means that it is our responsibility to preserve the blessings that God provided us with for future generations. And we have to look at this in all aspects of our lives. All to often grown-ups say: “Children are the future” where in reality that is a distraction from our responsibility today. There are also passages where curses are handed down from generation to generation: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,” (Exodus 20:5)

How can we live here today and make sure that our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and their children inherit a world that is full of more blessings than ours has ever been? What can we do to preserve our social programs in a way that they are funded for generations to come? Are we making sure that we don’t leave our kids with generational debt that they need to pay on our behalf? Do we leave behind a world that is fun to live in with a sea to swim in, woods and fields to play in, air to breath and water to drink? Do we create a thriving church that inspires generation after generation? God’s covenant is for all generations. We need to keep our end of the bargain.

Feb 24, 2015

Blessed Connections – Sermon Podcast

Looking for a pot’o’gold at the end of the rainbow:

A Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent 2015 based on Genesis 9:8-17 and 1 Peter 3:18-22.

Feb 17, 2015

Ash Wednesday in a Protestant Church, really?

I grew up in a largely Catholic area in Germany. Cologne Cathedral has served the area since the 4th century. So as the Reformation came around in the 16th century Protestants needed to be different. We have gone along with the carnival season from November 11th to Ash Wednesday because we like a good mardi gras celebration with parades and floats and a lot of partying. But then when Ash Wednesday comes around you can still tell Catholics from Protestants because overwhelmingly we will stay away from that fasting thing.

For me that changed somewhat when we moved to Utah. In a community where 93% of the population are Mormon the liturgical roots of our tradition helped me to retain and strengthen my identity. My UCC congregation worked regularly with the Episcopal Church across the street to keep ourselves rooted in the desert. And I got my Catholic fix out of our joint Ash Wednesday services. Now in Rosenberg, Texas, at St. John’s UCC we have our own Ash Wednesday service – no Episcopal priest to impose the Ashes but it will be my turn tomorrow. That to me is a double-edged sword since the most disturbing thing about Catholicism for me is the role of the priesthood. The guy imposing the ashes seems so removed from the sinners who receive it. That just feels so wrong since our tradition puts a big emphasis on the priesthood of all believers. So I am very excited that I get to juggle that tension tomorrow.

The good news is that the whole ash thing at its core uses a scriptural foundation that fits well into the Protestant spirit:
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19)
God is quoted saying that to Adam and Eve after the scene with the forbidden fruit. Basically they are reminded of their limitations. That applies to all of us who were born to a human mother: Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, Priests, All Believers, oh yes, we are all sinners alike!

Jan 14, 2015

New Beginnings

Reflecting on the Lord’s Baptism with the help of Carrie Underwood:

May 29, 2012

Fathers of the Covenant

With father’s day coming up soon, here are some biblical thoughts on fathering:

“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…”
Every family has its own stories. God’s people tell the story of being slaves in Egypt and saved from there, please refer to Deuteronomy 26:1-11. The stories we tell make us who we are. What are the stories of your family?

“in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
God doesn’t care for family values. People of the covenant are mostly called to leave behind their loved ones, please refer to Genesis 12:1-4. Blessing is where the unknown is. Are you willing to leave your comfort zone?

“Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.”
Isaac’s faith was tested big time. He trusted his father with his life – literally, please refer to Genesis 22:1-19. How much do you trust your father?

“Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords.”
On his death-bed Jacob blesses his sons – each of them with individualized blessings. He is disappointed in some of them and brags about others, please refer to Genesis 49. Does that sound like your family? What kind of child are you?

“Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
Can you imagine how tough Joseph’s life was, raising the Son of God as his own? That teenager must have been hell to talk to. That’s probably why the Bible doesn’t contain a single story of Jesus’ childhood. A couple of things become clear in Matthew 2:13-15
1. God himself is part of a blended, non-traditional family
2. A wandering Aramean was my ancestor, please refer to the beginning of this article.

Feb 28, 2012

Culture Wars?

“America loves Dualisms: Coke vs. Pepsi, AT&T vs. Verizon, PC​ vs. Mac, Republican vs. Democrat​, Male vs. Female…”
That’s how I started a sermon titled “Yin Yang” a year ago.

Just the other day I read about culture wars:
“The popular notion of culture wars is premised on mutually held stereotypes – namely that two distinct moral cultures exist, one composed of urban, latte-drinking, antiwar, gay-loving, God-hating abortionists, and the other made up of blue-collar, truck-driving, gun-toting, flag-waving, Bible-thumping rednecks.” (America’s Four Gods, page 8)

The truth of the matter is: Reality is never that easy! When I order a Coke in a restaurant and the waiter says “Pepsi okay?” I say “yes”. This whole concept of competing cultures is based upon the notion that you belong to one tribe exclusively and cannot cross lines. It calls for a 100% pure, stringent philosophy that never changes. It is static.

Well, that has never been the case for people or God in the Bible for example:
Abraham bargains with God over Sodom to save 50, or 45, or 40, or 30, or 20, or 10 innocent people. Guess what – God’s ways are not set in stone. God changes all the time. God listens and acts differently in different situations. How could be people be different? No one can be one thing and not ever change. At least not in the image of God. We all live in all cultures at times. And even what you consider your home-base is unfamiliar territory at times. Yes, I actually know gay cowboys and I have seen pickup trucks with anti-war bumper stickers.

This post was inspired by my reading of “America’s Four Gods”:

If you live anywhere near Provo, UT, come and join us for this Lent Study.

Jul 14, 2011

Where do you want to be buried?

There is all kinds of factors that determine where you want to live: school, career, family, they all bring us to different places. Life is mobility and always has been – Jacob took his entire tribe to foreign Egypt.

When it was time for him to die Jacob commanded his sons, “Now that I am going to join my people in death, bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, at Machpelah east of Mamre in the land of Canaan. Abraham bought this cave and field from Ephron for a burial ground. That is where they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah; that is where they buried Isaac and his wife Rebecca; and that is where I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites. Bury me there.”

Machpelah is known as the Cave of the Patriarchs situated in Hebron. Here is a brief history of the place:
Abraham bought the Machpelah Cave and the whole field around it.
– In the first century BC King Herod the Great built a large, rectangular enclosure over the caves.
From around 600-1200 AD control of the holy site bounced between Christians and Muslims.
– Through 1967 it was under Islamic control and Jews were not allowed in at all.
– Finally during the Six-Day War Israel’s original ownership has been restored.

Can you imagine not being allowed to access the graves of your ancestors?

Jul 13, 2011

Macho Man

The Village People got it right: “He’s a special person in anybody’s land.”
Jacob blessing his grandsons does the unexpected: He gives the higher blessing to the lesser child. God’s people never conform with societal values. If you think certain qualities like gender or age make one person better than another, think again.

Jul 12, 2011

We are shepherds

No, not cool cowboys, more like Gypsies:

Would you want nomads like that party in your royal palace? Well Pharaoh didn’t. Egyptians thought that the wandering shepherds from the east were inferior and did not like to mix with them. Joseph wanted to tell the king that his brothers were shepherds so the king would give them their own area apart from Egypt’s main population further up the river. How might this decision have impacted their new life in Egypt?

Jul 11, 2011

We are family

Ever planned a big family event? It is crazy important to assign everyone the right spot. Not only at the tables but also in written invitations, announcements and such.

Now when the Jewish people where in exile in Babylon they had pretty much the same dilemma: Who belongs and what is their rightful place among us? They went to their priests and the priestly source created this wonderful list of the sons of Jacob.

This has nothing to do with a starving people seeking food south of the border. It is about assigning the right spot to the right people right here right now.