Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Old Time Religion vs The New

Old Time Religion versus the New

Thank you for listening to excerpts from sermons that I recently preached at the First Congregational Church of Glendale, California. The experience of listening to a sermon in a beautiful church with stained glass windows and high ceilings may be very different from listening to a sermon over the Internet, YouTube or any other mode of electronic communication. These technology-driven ways of communicating are widely used and I enjoy doing this recording with Charles, the sound person at our church.

Theologically I see myself as progressive and liberal. My challenge is to preach the Gospel in fresh and new ways while inspiring individuals to search for meaning in their own lives. In my ministry I emphasize Christian community and service, peace and justice, compassion and love.

On August 12, I spoke about Old Time Religion versus the New, and asked if we were not perhaps missing the point, when comparing the Old Testament with the New.

What we need to understand is the difference between LAW and GOSPEL.

LAW is a set of rules and regulations. It binds you, it ensnares you and it convicts you.

GOSPEL, on the other hand, means Good News! And the gospel liberates, forgives, pronounces God’s grace and embraces mercy and love.

This is but one of many examples of how things change, a concept or an idea changes over time. This internal conflict between the law and the gospel should not come as a shock or as a surprise to you. By now you should be aware of internal inconsistencies in biblical texts AND you should possess the theological tools to understand and interpret these seemingly contradictory texts. We cannot act like some biblical literalists do, and pull one Bible verse from its context only to muster public support for an opinion. The danger is too big, and sadly it is happening just too often; it leads to fundamentalism and extremism, and eventually to tragedy.

The theme for the next few Sundays is an expression used by Jesus himself: you can’t put new wine in old wineskins - indeed an expression that explains exactly that new times require new responses. If there is one thing we need today, it is a mature and balanced response to the challenges of our times, where we, reasonable and sensible people of faith, make our voices heard.

Thank you for listening.

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