Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sex, Spirituality, Dog Food and a Halo

If you were there Sunday for the sermon, you know exactly what the subject is about, if not, then let me explain.

In Rob Bell's book Sex God there is a chapter called Angels and Animals. In it, Rob Bell discusses two extremes in how we treat sex. The first extreme is to treat it like we're animals. To just let our natural cravings control us. To just give into to our animal like urges. Obviously, when we treat sex like we are animals, we are failing to recognize that we bear the image of God.

The other extreme is to treat sex like we are angels. Angels do not have a physical body, five senses or sexual desires. So the angel impulse is to deny and stuff our sexual desires. To either ignore sex or simply claim that sex is evil.

He goes onto to say that to deny the spiritual dimension to our existence is to live like animals and to deny the physical and sexual dimension to our existence is to live like angels. Both extremes are dangerous becuase God made us human.

As I talked about in the sermon, from God's perspective, the truth about sex lies in the space between animals and angels. I even ate "dog food" from a dog bowl (they were actually cocoa puff knockoffs) and soon after that I wore a Halo to illustrate the two extremes. I degraded myself in hopes of making a point stick. That point is that sex the way God intends it is a physical represenation of a spiritual reality. Much like bread and wine (or juice) used in communion are physical representations of the spirituality reality that Christ gave his body and blood on the cross to free us from sin. And much like water used in Baptism is a physical representation of the spiritual reality that God has cleansed us when we claim Christ as lord and savior.

In the same way, sex in marriage is a physical representation of a spiritual reality. That reality is connected to our relationship with God. Just as sex creates a oneness in marriage, God wants us in union with Himself. Just as sex in marriage involves trust and faithfulness, God wants us to trust in His faithfulness. Just as sex in marriage involves vulnerability and nakedness, God wants us to be open and vulnerable and "naked" in our relationship with Him. Just as sex in marriage involves serving one another, God wants us to commit our lives in service to him. Just as sex in marriage involves pleasure and joy, God wants us to live lives full of joy and celebration. Just as sex in marriage often involves waiting and anticipation, God wants us to anticipate and look forward to the future He holds for us. Just as sex in marriage sometimes involves procreation, God wants us to remember and live as though we were created in His image.

I'm sure there are other connections. If you can think of other ways sex from God's perspective is a physical representation of a spiritual reality, please post it in the comment section of this blog and I will share some of them in my next blog entry.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sex and Spirituality

In our series titled Confessions of a Pastor at Good Shepherd, I'm preaching this Sunday and my confession is: "I have to work hard to stay sexually pure." For preparation, I stole ideas from several different books. Mainly Rob Bell's Sex God and Gary Thomas's chapter on sex in his book called Sacred Marriage. I highlyl recommend both books.

The sermon would've looked quite different if I would've read the sex chapters in Richard Foster's Money, Sex and Power before I had written the sermon out. His chapter titled Sex and Spirituality is really what I wanted the sermon to look like. In three chapters, Foster writes a Biblical theology on sex and he does an excellent job. I highly recommend his book as well.

Anyway, I've been amazed at how difficult it is to put the connection between sex and spirituality into words. I'm still praying that God would bring clarity to my understanding and verbage so that the sermon will be clear to those who hear it.

I don't want to give anything away before I preach, so I will write more about the connection after the sermon. I hope many of you will come this Sunday and explore the connection with me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rapture Website

Good Shepherd, the church I'm a pastor at, just finished a series called Numbers that focused on the book of Revelation. One of the sermons was on "0" raptures. So, with that context I want to share a website I found.

You ready...check this out:

It has to be a has too! Just click on the evaluation bar and you will see that it can't be serious. There's even a pet sitter Barbie available in the products. This can't be serious, can it?

If its not serious, then its witty and hilarious. Even if it is serious, its funny and sad at the same time. Sad because whether or not someone adheres to a rapture theology, Christians should be more focused on sharing the truth about Jesus than on finding petsitters.

The website even suggests a prepayment plan in the Planning tab. I'm available as a prepaid petsitter in case of rapture if anyone needs me!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Annual Conference

For those that don't know, every year, United Methodists of a particular area (conference) gather together for a few days to do things like vote on policy, nominate delegates, worship together and ordain pastors. This past weekend was the second annual conference I have attended. This year was special because I was commissioned as a probationary elder. Yes, I'm on probation. Sounds bad, but its actually a good thing.

The bishop hovered over me with his arms raised (as he did with each of us) and prayed that the Holy Spirit would guide and direct me in ministry. I usually don't like formal stuff, but I must say that it was a special moment. So, I am now officially on probation. I don't feel any different and I didn't get a raise or anything like that, but it was the next step for me in my career as a professional religious person.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Homosexuality and the Bible (Part 6...Final Part)

We now turn to one New Testament reference of homosexual behavior. While the New Testeamnt contains three references, for brevity, I will only cover the biggie. If you want to check out the other two passages, they are 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:10. In both passages homosexual behavior is a part of "vice lists." Check it out for yourself. I now turn to the passage in Romans.

In Romans 1:26-27 Paul writes:

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

Again, what seems obvious has been challenged by revisionists. Similar to their argument regarding the Levitical prohibitions, most revisionists will say something like this: Paul's initial comments on pagan idolatry form the context for his comments on homosexual acts and therefore his focus is not on the homosexual acts per se, but rather the idolatry in league with which the homosexual acts are performed. For some revisionists, the sin is idolatry, not homosexual behavior. Other revisionists suggest that Paul is referring specifically too pederasty, not all types of homosexuality.

As one traditional scholar Guenther Haas suggests, "Paul's point is not that God's wrath is only directed against idolatry. It is that all three representative phenomena - idolatry, homosexuality and social strife - elicit the wrath of God in human culture." Another traditional scholar inisits that God punishes them for acting contrary to the knowledge they already have: knowledge regarding the sins of idolatry and same-sex intercourse. It is interesting that Paul observes the trading of natural acts for unnatural ones, it seems that for Paul there is an assumed norm for the way God created humans to act sexually. This is not surprising since Paul was an educated Jew. He was just reiterating what all Jews already knew.

As far as the argument of pederasty goes, why would Paul include women in the pericope if his discussion was limited to pederasty. Also, N.T. Wright discusses proof of Paul's knowledge of the possibility of a loving and lasting relationship between two men, which means his cultural scope of awareness of homosexuality was not limited only to the practice of pederasty.

While I could say more, it is obvious that Paul condemned homoerotic behavior. While I haven't read all arguments that favor a revisionist interpretation, it is hard to believe that any revisionist interpretation would supplant the modern scholarship that places this text in its context.

Honestly, I've gotten kind of tired of writing about homosexuality and look forward to broaching a new subject. Hmmm...