We Believe in One Lord, Jesus Christ

Part 3 of “We Believe: The Nicene Creed”

Texts: Colossians 1:15-20; John 1:1-18

www.richard-seaman.com

www.richard-seaman.com

One of my favorite assignments as a young infantry officer in the Army was my stint as leader of the battalion scout platoon. The scout platoon was the reconnaissance unit, which meant that we spent a lot of time operating forward of the battalion and which also meant that we spent a lot of time being inserted into the area of operations by helicopter.

Back then, our aviation units were still flying UH-1s, which were the iconic choppers of the Vietnam War. In fact, many of our pilots were senior chief warrant officers who had flown combat missions in southeast Asia and still flew like they were there. I remember a lot of crazy rides where the skids were smacking the treetops and landings where you had to jump out of the chopper about three feet off the ground as these pilots had learned that touching down in an LZ could mean landing on a mine. It was ok if you found one,  though—infantrymen are more expendable than helicopters!

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The Need for a Creed

Part 1 of “We Believe: The Nicene Creed”

Nicene-Constantinopolitan-CreedThis week we began the season of Lent—a forty day preparation for Easter and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from dead—the most important event in history and the foundation of the Christian faith. In a lot of ways, Lent is about going back to basics: remembering what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and taking some time to consider our response—repentance, belief, and obedience to God.

The thing is, however, we assume that we know the basics of Christian faith—that we have them down pat. We’ve heard it so many times. We’ve recited the creeds of the church over and over again. I know I’ve been doing that since about the 3rd or 4th grade when I memorized the Apostle’s Creed in order to get the coveted Sunday School award. I could say it along with the congregation, but at that time I don’t think I actually knew what it meant. If I knew, I might not have said it…

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Sex and the Single Savior

Part V of “Redeeming Sex”

Scriptures: John 8:1-11; Matthew 9:9-13

Redeeming Sex Logo2-01So, let’s review where we’ve been so far in this series. We began with a look at sexuality as a gift from God, part of our creation in the image of God in which we reflect God’s nature as community and in which we carry out God’s mission for God’s creation. In the second sermon we discussed what happens when sex is taken out of this context, when we make it a self-imaging idol that we worship. When that happens, all of our sexual orientations become disoriented and need redeeming. In the third sermon we looked at marriage as the proper context for which God made sex, as a sign pointing toward our ultimate intimacy with God. Marriage is a sign of the kingdom of God and, when lived in that context, it is a witness to the image of God in its kingdom community and kingdom mission. Last week we turned our attention to the culture and its obsession with sexual identity as the ground of our being. Our culture wants to define people by what they  desire, but we argued that God calls us to be defined by his image in us, an image that is lived out in holiness and humility. Jesus is the perfect example of that image, and it’s to his example that I want to turn today.

It’s hard for most people, especially most Christians, to imagine Jesus as a real human being with a sexuality. You might remember several years ago when the movie The Last Temptation of Christ came out, suggesting that Jesus had sexual desires. Christians were appalled at the possibility. Then The DaVinci Code came out and made the bold claim that Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalene and that their child was the real Holy Grail. I got a lot of calls about that one, even did a class on it.

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Transforming the Mind: The End of Sexual Identity

vandykeIt’s no secret that our culture has undergone a sea change in our attitudes about sexuality during our lifetimes. I remember watching old TV shows, for example, where couples were depicted as sleeping in separate beds, houses seemed to have no bathrooms, and even the word “pregnant” made network censors nervous. That seems quaint today given that, according to a University of Washington study, two out of every three television shows include sexual content (that’s up from half in 1997/98). Some of us are old enough to remember when Bruce Jenner was a gold medal decathlete in the 1976 Olympics, the all-American man, the one who adorned my Wheaties box as a kid. Now he is known for identifying as she, Caitlyn Jenner.

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The Mission of Marriage

Part III of “Redeeming Sex”

Texts: Matthew 22:23-33; I Corinthians 7:25-35

Wedding-CakeAsk most pastors which they would rather do, a funeral or a wedding, and most will tell you that they would prefer to do the funeral every time. It seems counterintuitive—funerals are “sad” and weddings are supposed to be “happy,” so why prefer the downer?

For me, it’s a theological thing. At a funeral, people are generally focused on God and on eternal things. One cannot sit at a funeral without thinking about one’s own mortality, about ultimate things, about the mystery of death and eternal life. At a wedding, on the other hand, people—in particular the bride and groom and families—are generally more focused on themselves as the center of attention. Practically speaking, God is an interesting addition, if he is there at all.

It’s like the bride who called our church in Utah and said, “Your church is so pretty and we’d like to have our wedding there, but is all that ‘God stuff’ really necessary?” I explained to her in terms that she could understand—it’s part of the package. I didn’t do the wedding. I have seen a lot of bad behavior at weddings because everyone is focused on themselves—breaking up fights between the mother of the bride and the wedding coordinator; a couple who talked to each other all through the ceremony as though neither I nor anybody else was in the room; another where the bridal party stopped at a bar on the way to the reception, leaving the guests waiting for two hours before the meal, which largely had to be abandoned.

I could go on and on. There’s a book there waiting to be written, actually. As I think about it, however, a lot of these weddings are not necessarily the fault of the participants, but rather the result of the way that our culture views marriage (and sex, by extension). For most people today, marriage is a private contract between two individuals that is based on mutual love and attraction, wherein each party finds a sense of personal fulfillment. People get married because they “fall in love,” which means they feel love toward one another. Marriage is an important societal institution, but what happens in the marriage largely remains a private affair.

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