Thursday, April 28, 2016

Science Vs Religion

So my friend Brad and I went to the car museum, Okoboji Classic Cars,  in North Milford - a great place.  We're looking at these gorgeous old cars and Brad is excited to look under the hoods at the gears, belts and tranny.  Me, I'm looking at the paint, the interior, and thinking about going for a ride around the lake with someone special.    We're both looking at the same car, appreciating the maker and the owner's work to make it so nice, but we are approaching it from different points of view.

This is how I feel science and religion differ in their ways of looking at Creation.

Science looks under the hood at the processes that make the universe work.  Scientists are figuring out what makes this do that by coming up with a theory and testing the theory with an experiment done over and over to see if its right or wrong.  If the experiment can be repeated by other scientists and proves the theory then the theory is accepted as truth.

Religion is looking at the beauty and awe of the universe.  Clergy look at relationships in nature and theorize what they tell us about God and how God wants to be in relationship with us.  A religious theory can't be tested by an experiment, but it does get "chewed on" by other people of faith who look at scripture, reason, experience and tradition to see if the theory "tastes good".   Over much time theories become accepted Truth when enough theologians and people of faith "swallow" the idea and it becomes a part of our belief system.

Both science and religion look for truth, but we look for different kinds of truth in different ways.  Each way, I believe, ultimately leads back to the Creator, the one who made all the universe.  We are simply focusing on different questions and different paths to truth.

One of the greatest lies that modern society has been sold is that people have to choose between science and religion.

This lie is a new idea begun in the late 1800's when Charles Darwin's work began to make some religious leaders very scared.  Darwin himself was trained at a religious college and studied for a brief time to be a pastor but changed to biology.  He struggled with the problem of evil in the world - in nature itself - and lost his faith completely when his daughter died at a young age.  His published works "On the Origin of the Species" was controversial for religious leaders, but not to scientists.  Religious leaders felt that Darwin's work showing the process of evolution negated the hand of God in that process.

I don't feel that this is true.  Genesis 1 & 2 show two very different stories of how God created the universe.  One is more poetry, it is almost a liturgical call and response.
On day one God spoke, God made, God blessed, God saw that it was good.  On day two God. . .
over and over for six days God speaks, makes, blesses and sees that creation is good.  

God starts with nothing, but each day creation gets more complex.  
Creation gets more diverse.
Water creatures give way to insects then to land creatures and to birds and then to humanity.
And it is good.

Look at the theory of evolution and I see the same kind of process - creation starts with simple one celled amebas and becomes more complex, more diverse.  Water creatures give way to insects and then to land creatures and to birds and to humanity.

Evolution describes the process that God used to make the universe.  Evolutionary theory does not say who does the creating or who started it all -- it simply says this is how.  Religion looks at this process and says - wow, the One who started this and came up with this really is amazing!

The United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline (official laws & beliefs) states:
We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world and in determining what is scientific. We preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues and theology from making authoritative claims about scientific issues. We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology. 

Religion and science do not have to be in conflict. And for the most part I think Christians are the ones who have stoked the fire of conflict with science.  We need to stop it because young people do not want to turn their brains off at the church door.  They want to know that their faith can inform their scientific curiosity and that they do not have to choose between science and faith.  The more Christians push people to choose one or the other the more they will choose science and not the church.

When Christians get it Wrong

Since the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and made Christianity the official religion of Rome in 380 AD Christianity has been the dominant religion of the North West Hemisphere.  Everyone was Christian and no one would question the Church (by love or by force) for nearly 1400 years.   But that time has ended.  The Industrial Revolution first and now with the Tech Revolution we are a much smaller world with much more personal choice in religious belief.  More and more people are opting out of the church, yet Jesus remains popular.   Why?

Why do people who love Jesus and profess to follow Jesus turn off so many?

Perceptions of the church are shocking.  The Barna Group did a survey of non-Christian young adults on what their perceptions of Christians are, they said:

91% thought Christians were anti-homosexual
87% thought Christians were judgmental
85% thought Christians were Hypocritical
70% thought Christians were insensitive

Yet people look at Jesus and they love him.  They see Jesus as a guy who stood up to the religious hypocrites and confronted them with the way they judged others.   Jesus ate with sinners.  He hung out with them and knew them and cared for them and they loved him in return.

Are we the church of Jesus being more like Jesus or like the religious people he critiqued??

Here are 4 things Jesus critiqued about the religious leaders of his time:

1.  They had Wrong Motives

Jesus condemned those who prayed out on the street corner so everyone could see them, he criticized those who made a big show of their generosity and giving.  He said we shouldn't do religious things to get pats on the back -- thats the wrong reason.   You can do a good thing for the wrong reason -- and it does negate the good thing because people see your attitude and are turned off.   If you want to serve God, if you want to do something good for others then great - hallelujah!  But if you are just putting in your time and inside you aren't joyful about what you are doing then go home.   Think about it, pray about it and do good for the sake of doing good not for the sake of recognition.

2.  They pointed out other's sin.

Superiority and moral pride turns people off.  No one wants to feel looked down on.  No one wants to be told they are bad.  Inside we know that everyone has their own issues and their own sins.  We need to focus on our own sin and loving others with radical acceptance.

3.  Majoring in the Minors

The Pharisees condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath (technically breaking the law).  But they missed the bigger message of love and God's healing power because they were too worried about the little things.  We have to learn to let things go -- don't sweat the small stuff.   It makes us look bad, it makes the church look bad and it makes Jesus look bad when we get bent out of shape over small things.

4.  Being Two-Faced

Come to worship as you are.  Don't put on a different face, use different words or act different because you are around "church people".  As a minister I find it refreshing when I'm in a different place where no one knows my profession and people are being real, being themselves.   But all too often they ask about what I do and all of a sudden they become different.  It makes me sad.  God doesn't love us only on our "best behavior" God loves us as we are and the world respects us when we are real.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

When Christians Get it Wrong

Working to be better means taking a good look at what we do wrong.
Lets explore together how Christians negatively impact the world we are trying to love for Jesus.

Saturday Night 6 PM at the AP City Hall

Sunday Morning 9 AM at the AP Amusement Park Majestic Pavilion

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Holy Hilarity Sermon

Jesus, resurrected, appears standing in the middle of the locked room of fearful, terrorized people and says “Peace be with you”.  I’m betting that their reaction was more like the first time you open a can of peanuts and out springs coils of snakes.  Peace – what you talking about Willis, Peace? 
Peace – you scared us, we watched you die man.  We watched them beat you to a pulp and nail you to a cross.  We saw you buried in a tomb.  We came up here to this room, locked the doors, shut the windows and have been shaking in fear worse than a nervous dog on July 4 in Arnolds Park.  And here you are coming like a hippy at a NRA conference saying – hey Peace Man!  Are you serious?!?! 

Peace be with us.   How can there peace be with us, we just experienced in a really, truly horrible and visceral way just how corrupt, vicious and violent humankind can be and you want us now to have peace.

Peace in the Greek here is  Eirene  which means security, safety, community and tranquility.  The furthest thing that the disciples were feeling in that moment was Eirene.  And yet that is exactly what Jesus wanted to give them.  Eirene.  A community of security, safety and tranquility a peace that made no sense but was because Jesus was alive.  The grave had a joke played on it, devil had a rejection, Get stuffed Satan – No no no not today death.

Eirene – That is what we have from Christ.  This Peace does not mean we won’t have sorrow, or we wont’ have suffering.  Like Christ we too have to live in a world that is corrupt, vicious and violent.  And like Christ we do not have to give into that world but we can bring to the world a vision of peace, a community of Eirene that demonstrates love in the face of harm, forgiveness in the face of trespassing, transformation in the face of the death-dealing status quo, resurrection in the midst of death. 

Jesus said, Eirene, Peace be with you.  Despite your fear, despite your sorrow, despite the unfairness the world hands to you receive from the hand of God – Peace.

Poor Thomas, there is nothing worse than walking in a room where everyone is laughing and you don’t get the joke.  Not only do you not laugh but you bring down the others.  But Jesus loved him too and offered him the same peace.  The same community, the same blessing, the same love and tranquility are given to Thomas and then extended to those who aren’t going to directly see the resurrection but will believe because they heard the good news. 

The world still doesn’t get what the resurrection means.  They still are living in the delusion of having to fight for love, for community, for peace and tranquility.  When all these things are a free gift.  Our joy is in showing and sharing the peace of God lived in a community of caring and tranquility.  A community where it is safe to be yourself – your imperfect, searching for answers, having doubts and questions, facing temptations and sometimes losing, sometimes together and sometimes falling to pieces self that is beautiful and beloved and belongs here.   And in that community the resurrected Jesus is alive saying Peace be with you.  AMEM.