Offensive (Brad Childs)

Worship on the Lord’s Day
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost    10:00 am August 21, 2022
Onsite & Online (Mixed Presence) Gathering  as a Worshipping Community
Led by Rev. Bradley Childs         Elder: Iris Routledge
Music director: Binu Kapadia                      Vocalists: Peter and Cheryl Sheridan

We gather to worship God

Music prelude

Greeting
L: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
P: and also with you.

Lighting of the Christ candle
Welcome and announcements
Silent preparation for worship

Call to Worship
L: With all your strength, sing aloud to the Lord, who has brought you here and blessed you.
P: Our voices shall shout forth praise and thanksgiving to God.
L: With all your heart, reach out in service to those in need, remembering God’s mercy in your own life.
P: Our lives shall be witnesses to the love of God which has been lavished upon us.
L: Come, let us worship the Lord with great joy!
P: Let us bring all that we have and all that we are to God in gratitude. Amen

Opening praise: How great is our God

Prayers of approach and confession
O God, our strength and refuge,
We come together to worship you and praise your loving kindness.
In your presence, we rest from what distracts us,
to focus on your truth and goodness.
You call us to live in relationship with you.
Through the love of Jesus Christ, you repair our lives.
Through the power of your Spirit, you engage us to serve you in the world.
Receive our prayers and our praise this day,
Creator, Christ, and Spirit,
revive our hope and our energy
and make us ready to answer your call.
O God, our judge and our hope,
we confess we often turn away from your truth,
and ignore your call to do justice.
Forgive us when we say one thing in worship
but do another in the ways we live.
Forgive us when we ignore how others are treated
and think only of ourselves.
Let your judgment awaken us and your mercy refresh us.

Response: How great is our God

Assurance of God’s forgiveness
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Believe the good news of the Gospel. In Christ, God has offered us mercy and love. Receive God’s forgiveness this day and share it with each other for Christ’s sake.

Musical offering: Good, good father

We listen for the voice of God

Children’s time

Gradual: Open our eyes, Lord  (445)

Story
The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small an uninhabited island. Lost and alone with almost nothing the man prayed tirelessly for God to come and rescue him. Every day he scanned the horizon seeking help but no one was coming. Exhausted he eventually managed to build a small little Hut out of driftwood to protect him from the rain and store his few possessions. But then one day after scavenging for food he arrived at home to find the worst possible thing that could have ever happened to him. His small little Hut had somehow become lit on fire. The little Hut burst into flames and the smoke rolled up into the sky. All was lost. In anger and in tears the man cried God how could you do this to me, how could you do this to me God.

Early the next morning the man was awakened by the sound of a loud blowing horn. A ship was approaching it had come to rescue him. How did you know I was here as the man to his rescuers. We saw your smoke signal they replied.

It’s really easy to get discouraged when things seem like they’re going badly. But we shouldn’t lose heart because God is always at work in our lives. The apostle Paul wrote I’ve learned the secret of being content in every situation whether well fed or still hungry, weather living in riches, or in poverty. Philippians 412. Paul had confidence that good would come out of every situation. He learned to expect that God knows what he’s doing.

The next time things seem to be going very badly, and your little Hut his burning and you feel like you’ve lost everything, just remember it might just be a smoke signal that God is using to rescue you.

Prayer

The Lord’s Prayer (535 or 469)

Transition music

Song: Deep in the shadows (510)

Today’s Message

Scripture readings (NRSV):
2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 5:17-20

Response: Behold the lamb of God

Homily: “Offensive”

As most of you know I have never really shied away from the more difficult and even portions often thought of as being some of today’s more offensive potions of the Bible. In fact, I take a certain amount of pride in showing people the parts of the Bible that most people might not otherwise know are there. But why?

Part of it is because like most of us, I have heard the same sermons on the same 80 or so verses my entire life and I yearn to go a little deeper.

Part of it is because when I was a teen, I was once confronted by a person that absolutely despised Christianity and who showed me this very offensive verse in the Bible that I had really never noticed before… and I simply cannot escape this feeling that both I and my church had failed to properly prepare me for that difficult experience.

Part of it is because I believe the bible actually demands that we examine it in full. In 2Timothy (3:16-17) it says “All scripture is God-Breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and for training in righteousness, so that the people of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In short, I have not run away from the more difficult and offensive portions of scripture because… while it’s true that not every verse in the bible will make for a good and inspiring sermon, each verse is important to the gospel message.

Living Faith, a statement that says what Presbyterians believe: “The Bible has been given to us by the inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life. It is the standard of all doctrine by which we must test any word that comes to us from church, world, or inner experience. We subject to its judgment all we believe and do. Through the Scriptures the church is bound only to Jesus Christ its King and Head. He is the living Word of God to whom the written word bears witness.”

And while our denomination proudly states that the whole of scripture is the “infallible word of God, sixty-six books in Old and New Testaments, forming a complete and unified witness to God’s redemptive acts” most of us behave functionally as if we follow just the Red Letter words or Jesus, or just the gospels and relegate the majority of our sacred text to some kind of lower teir of value. But that’s not how this thing works.

Each verse has its own story to tell; has its own irreplaceable value. For the Christian, each verse is sacred. No matter how difficult to understand, how complex or how unpleasant it appeals to our modern sensibilities, the scripture tell us that each line God-breathed and profitable to the people of God.

With that said, understanding the significance of certain verses is far easier than others sections might be. After all it’s a lot easier to see the importance of Matthew 6:34 “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today” than it is to see the importance of Deuteronomy 28:27 where Moses warns the Israelites that God will punish their disobedience with “hemorrhoids”. (Deuteronomy 28:27)

In 2 Chronicles 21:14-15 it’s diarrhea they’ll get for punishment (which was until pretty recently in history, deadly).

In Deuteronomy 23:13-14 the bible gives us ever important information about what to do with solid waste when camping. In Nahum 3:5-6 God tells the women of corrupt Nineveh that their actions embarrass him and so he is going to (metaphorically we assume) lift up their skirts above their heads in front of the whole kingdom and embarrass them right back. That’s not a story you here every day. But I promise you, it has value.

At times the bible is like a tragic comedy, In 2 Kings 2:23-24 a group of bothersome teenagers are mauled by a bear as a curse… the reason, because they mocked God’s prophet by calling out at him “bald-head”, “bald-head”. An important lesson to you young people about respecting your elders (especially if they happen to be prophets, or balding).

In Isaiah 16:11 Isaiah says that he is so saddened for the people that his inward parts and his bowls “sound out like a harp for the people”. That’s a phrase you don’t hear to often, “I feel so bad for you that I… have loud gas”. That’s an odd one.

The bible also has some verses that are shockingly suggestive. In I Samuel 20:30 Saul yells at Jonathan and calls him the “son of a perverse and rebellious woman!” – I’m sure there’s a slightly more modern way of translating that phrase.

In 1 Kings 16:11 the evil king Zimri commands the death of everyone in the old kings family who can (as the King James Version says) “all who pisseith against the wall”) – presumably he means all the men, though I’m sure some rather creative women might also fit that criteria.

And in Song of Solomon 7:11-13 the writer asks his female companion to come to the vineyard and eat pomegranates and mandrakes with him (something that doesn’t seem that special unless you know that pomegranates were considered a form of birth control and mandrakes were used as an ancient form of Viagra.

It bears mentioning as well, that just before this in verses 7-8 the same writer declares to his beloved “You are like a tall palm tree and your chest like a cluster of fruit, I said to myself I will climb this palm tree and I will grab your fruit” (Yikes!). A pretty racing allegory for God and his love for his people isn’t it? Or, maybe, just possibly, the only book in the bible that doesn’t really mention God, isn’t so much about Him, as it is about Love in general – and specifically romance.

In our Bible there are also things that seem so contradictory to modern readers that we just don’t know what to do with them. A good example of this can be found in Proverbs 31:6 it says, “Give strong beer and hard liquor to those in pain and suffering to relieve them of their burdens.” And while this verse may originally have had to do with calming individuals down before civil executions, the truth is we don’t really have any context for this verse or any of the proverbs at all. They are short and stand alone, meaning it’s perfectly within your right to interpret this verse as saying, it’s alright to give liquor to street workers and homeless people (though I wouldn’t advise it). I wonder how different the world would be if all the Christians were handing our beers on Whyte Ave? I’m sure that would make us a few new friends and a lot more enemies.

But what is the most difficult or offensive thing in the whole Bible?

Well, a good case could be made that it is 2 Kings 18:27. That verse says that the people will be starved until they “eat of there own filth and drink of there own urine”. That doesn’t seem like a loving God. But the larger picture explains well this text, though it doesn’t really smooth things over completely. Here God is punishing a sinful nation. As they starve to death they resort to doing anything that might keep them alive. Because God is the God of all, nothing is random. Thus, when natural disaster or famine strike, it must be attributed to the divine.

Perhaps the most offensive thing in the Bible comes from 2Kings 6:28-29. That this story there are two starving women during a period of exile who become so desperate that they make a pact. To avoid death they will eat each other’s infant sons. One of the women’s sons will be eaten first and when he is all gone they will eat the other woman’s son. Pretty awful. But to make matters worst, it’s only a trick and the second woman hides her child after she has had her fill eating the first child.

That’s pretty bad. But it’s not like everything every person does in the bible is endorsed by it. In fact, the buety of narrative is that it almost never tells you straight out what the lesson is. You have to struggle with it.

Some might suggest that in 2022, the most offensive part of the Bible comes from the very graphic chapter 23 in the book of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 23:19-21 the prophet explicitly depicts a sinful Israel and Judah as if they are two sisters (a couple of verses, I’m really not comfortable reading aloud in church).

So, at this point I’ll ask you to pick up your pew Bibles and read this one to yourself silently. Ezekiel 23:19-20 can be found on page 790 in your pew Bibles. I’ll wait… (it reads: “Yet she increased her whoreings, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose emissions was like that of a stallion. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians fondled your bosom and caressed your young breasts.”)

Now, to be fair, Ezekiel is simply trying to convince an evil and desensitized nation that they have turned from God. He is trying to save them from the path of destruction they are on. Because he believes they have distanced themselves so much from their values he uses the most explicit of language in order to shock them back into correct action.

Others might suggest that Isaiah 64:6 is the most difficult or offensive verse in the Bible. It can be found on page 694 OT in your pew Bibles. I’ll read this one with you. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

What’s that? Well that’s not that bad you might say. Well… that’s not that bad, until you understand just what a “filthy cloth” is. You see, most commentators agree that this “filthy cloth” or “behg-ed” is more specifically translated “menstrual rag”. In other words, it’s a tampon. And just what does Isaiah say is a “filthy rag”… Well, it’s “all our righteous deeds”. He says, if you’re trying to earn God’s favour, everything you do, no matter how good is less than nothing to God. In fact, the things we call good deed or “righteousness” are sickening to God… just filthy rags. So is this the most offensive thing in the Bible. I don’t think so… In the end no matter how dramatic his statements, Isaiah is simply explaining to the people that good deeds do not cover up bad ones. That even a persons good works are contaminated by the wrongs they have done if they do not seek forgiveness. No, no… that’s not bad. That is not the most offensive thing in the Bible.

There’s no shortage of candidates. From Levitical codes to death sentences, to mass murder, to just war, to Sodom or the great flood God used to start the world over again.

But… I can show you the most difficult and offensive thing in the entire Bible. I can show you the most disturbing and offensive thing in all of Christianity.

And I can do this because the apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians tells us exactly what it is. He says, it outright. He even uses the word “offense” when describing it. He says that there is something in God’s word so offensive to everyone, that it will be our greatest downfall as Christians and our biggest obstacle.

He says, that it is so bad that it is a stumbling block to the Jews and complete foolishness to everyone else. (1 Cor. 1:18) He says it is the reason he is persecuted, whey people are being killed. In Galatians 5:11 he tells us that the most offensive thing in all of creation is “the offense of the cross” and it is the most important thing in all our faith.

There is a lot to be offended by in our Bibles. But the idea that God became a human, like a kid who wanted to save a colony of roaches and lowered himself down to their level because he loved them, to live like bugs in the dirt and violence. The most offensive thing is that the people he loved defiled him and killed him in the most offensive manner in which they could conceive. (John 1:14) that the word of God became mere flesh and died at our hands. That through sin, we killed God and yet he used that very thing for our salvation.

When someone says, “Jesus was just a man and he died”. That is not offensive. What the world believes is not offensive. There is nothing remotely offensive about that. That he was a good man or a prophet or a teacher. Nothing in that is an offense.

What we believe is the offence. Anyone can die. The offense is that God became one of us, died and then climbed up out of the grave! That is the stumbling block. That is the most offensive thing.

The most offensive thing in all of Scripture and all of Christianity is that which we Proudly proclaim here each and every Sunday. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!

Thanks be to God, Amen.

Song: What wondrous love is this (242)

We respond to serve God

Reflection on giving: We have been giving faithfully since the beginning of the pandemic and we are committed to continuing the ministry and mission that define Dayspring – using the various ways described on the screen and in Dayspring Weekly News. Thank you all for your support of our shared vision and mission. For those in the sanctuary, if you have offering envelopes with you, simply put them in the offering plate at the back of the sanctuary as you leave the service today.

Prayer of gratitude

Gracious and all-giving God, may your Spirit of abundance, which gives to us all more than we could ask or imagine, harness our life for your purposes and bless the gifts we bring for the building up of your kingdom in your world. Amen.

Transition Music: In the Lord I’ll be ever thankful

Prayer for others and ourselves

Here is what is happening in our world.

  • War in Ukraine
  • Polio spreading in the West
  • Elections
  • Haitian Earthquake
  • Water Shortages, Even the Jordan River is nearly gone
  • Farmers and Regulations
  • Floods Northern India
  • Youth Mental Health Crisis
  • Inflation in central America and Zimbabwe
  • 2 million migrants cross the border without ID in the US southern border.

Lord God, Loving God, gather us into your presence as we pray.

Silence our hearts and minds in these moments

so that we may listen for the movement of your Holy Spirit

who prays within us through our sighs too deep for words:

O God, we lay before you our thanks and our concerns

as we remember those who have come to our attention through conversations

or chance encounters this week.

We offer gratitude for moments of joy and goodness,

and remembered pleasures stirred by your Spirit;

We remember all those whose situations are very close to our hearts today,

those facing stress or sorrow,

those challenged by pain or illness,

those making a new beginning or searching for a new path.

We remember the things in the news lately that concern us deeply:

the stress on the environment and worries about its future,

the pressures on those who have lost jobs or cannot find work,

the pain of those who meet discrimination or hatred in daily life,

tensions among nations who threaten each other

And we remember one another, and needs known and unknown in this community.

Bless us as we make a new beginning together as summer turns to autumn.

Show us the paths of ministry you are opening before us.

We believe you hear our prayers and will be faithful to answer according to your will. Amen.

Song: I danced in the morning (250)

Sending out with God’s blessing

May you be blessed every step of your path by the great God of light. May the sun shine upon you; may the moon move the tide of your emotions with every grace and magic; may your hearts sing; may your hearth be warm; and may your every blessed day be filled with joy. Amen.

Response: God to enfold you

Music postlude

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Numbers in brackets after a song/hymn indicate that it is from the 1997 Book of Praise of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Those and other songs are being used in accordance with the specified licenses with One Licence and CLC.

The Rev. Brad Childs retains the copyright (© 2022) on all original material presented by him. As far as Brad Childs is aware, all of the material presented that has not been attributed to others is his own creation or is in the public domain. Unacknowledged use of copyrighted material is unintentional and will be corrected immediately upon notification being received.

Posted in Recent Sermons.