This week we begin our new sermon series on “How to Be a Christian in 7
Easy Steps.” Over the course of these seven weeks, we will explore the core of our faith in what I hope will be an empowering, uplifting, and inclusive way of looking at our Christian theology. As a congregation that is both theologically and socially progressive, this will be an exploration that seeks to broaden our understanding of God’s unending love rather than restricting our ideology to a select few. Here is a short video preview of the series:
This Sunday, we will explore some ways that we can sometimes discard some of what we’ve been told about Christianity and the Bible. We explore this thoughtfully and faithfully, not flippantly; and we do so because humanity has continued to grow into new understandings of God in Jesus Christ. We understand today that some aspects of our Christian traditions and history have been unhealthy and even hurtful. Addressing these honestly is a must.
I have had many friends who label themselves as agnostic or even atheist. Of these people, most have felt in some way injured by the church and a few have challenged and questioned me on my own faith. Very often I tell them this: “I don’t believe in the God you don’t believe in, either.”
Come this Sunday to join in a conversation about how we can still be a congregation of deep faith while honestly exploring what may be unhealthy about our traditions and history.
3Some Pharisees came to him. In order to test him, they said, “Does the Law allow a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”
4Jesus answered, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator made them male and female? 5And God said, ‘Because of this a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh.’ 6So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, humans must not pull apart what God has put together.”
7The Pharisees said to him, “Then why did Moses command us to give a divorce certificate and divorce her?”
8Jesus replied, “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts are unyielding. But it wasn’t that way from the beginning. 9I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
Consider these questions:
- What examples of unhealthy religion do you see in the world today?
- There have been a number of movies and books (and people!) arguing that all religion is toxic and must be rejected completely. How do you respond to this argument?
- Who’s not here in this congregation who might find this exploration helpful? Are you willing to invite someone?
Post-Sermon Update on 1/9
We explored a list of items that many – including your Pastor – who have found unhealthy and even harmful in our history and tradition. Check out the audio of the sermon below:
Do you agree with these critiques? Do you disagree? Have you seen people hurt by what’s described in these examples?
Part of the discussion included the following:
- Divorce – See the UMC’s official statement on divorce
- Why bad things happen (theodicy) – Hear a sermon on this topic
- Science and evolution
- How we read the Bible – read our statement
- Differing faith traditions
- Women in the church
- The environment
- Rapture (“Left Behind”) theology
- LGBT Inclusion – read our statement
We concluded with John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules:
- First, do no harm
- Do good
- Stay in love with God (not exactly how Wesley said it, but simplified for this message)
How can you follow these rules in your own faith?