26 January 2006 


Originally uploaded by papertransaction.
Can you guess what table this is?!!!



Pursuits (In no particular order)

1. SEVENwillowBRAIN is sort of online. I can access it via Chicken of the VNC, but I can't get SAMBA networking to work w/ OS X. Maybe I will switch to NFS? Who knows!?

2. I want to make more artworks.

3. I want to spend better time with Colleen.

4. This is all leading up to the fact that I would like to be more spiritual. I would like to be a saint. I want to live like I actually believe in the good news of the Gospel. This will involve being less nasty about people who are screwed up and hurting.

5. Regarding number 2, numbers 3 and 4 (growing in complex relationship with God and my future wife), are necessarily and wonderfully prior to it.

6. I'm a mutinizer, in the Kierkegaardian sense.

7. I should be a better employee!


15 January 2006 

My sermon, titled "Ian Callahan's Kerygma Enigma"

Have you ever thought about how weird it is that we have eyeballs? All of us sitting here, light bouncing around the room and passing through holes in these little spheres of amazing biological complexity. And what about hands? These things are really weird too: bone and skin, capable of so much, 5 appendages, like a lizard.

This is strange and obvious evidence that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Think about it. You're made out of ATOMS. And they're made out of stuff that's smaller, and, in between? You guessed it: EMPTY SPACE. So we're mostly empty space, and we've got eyeballs and hands. That's just three things and they are incredible.

I'm going on about this for a couple of reasons. One is that, shortly, I'm going to be confessional with you and tell you a little bit about myself, and how this weirdness is important to me. Then I'm going to try my hand at preaching a little bit: I'm going to talk about how this weirdness, this strangeness that I am describing, might relate to what the Psalmist and our good man Paul of Tarsus have to say in Scripture. I might have titled this sermon "Simply Strange", or "Weird Words on Weirdness", but I went with rhyme over allitereation. Or substance. But let me begin:

There was a time, about ten years ago, that I started to either get really angry with God, and curse at him for the awful world he had created, full of disease and war, or that I would pretend that He didn't exist, and I would quote Nietzsche, by way of Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails: "God is dead, and no one cares. If there is a hell, I'll see you there." I did this mostly to hurt my mom, who I knew cared very much about God and about being a Christian. One time she chased me outside because I flaunted matches in my right hand and a bible in my left and was very clear that I was going to burn it outside while she was cooking us dinner. That was not a pleasant evening.

I think that a lot of the anger that I had then came from living in a pretty meaningless culture. We are surrounded by stories that make it easy for us to take for granted the fact that, not only that we are alive, but that anything exists at all. I think this comes from some of the worst things about modern philosophy, namely the arrogance of the Enlightenment in placing the human mind at the center of the universe. But I digress.

The point of bringing this up is that people don't seem terribly impressed and/or COMPLETELY dumbfounded by things like the Big Bang or the phenomenon of love or eyeballs, or fingers or trees. Or matter and the fact that we are made out of it. The greatness of this stuff explained away, mostly, or ignored. And I totally bought into it back then, I was blind and saw the brokenness of the world and stamped and shouted and pointed my finger that this is wrong, wrong, wrong, God, and you owe me an apology. I was the center, the arbiter, the judge, I could clearly articulate why people were wrong without any appreciation for the fact that the Big Bang is mind-blowingly strange, and so are hands. I didn't have any of the confidence of the Psalmist, and I had no idea that anyone was fearfully and wonderfully made.

So what does these details about my lack of perspective and former penchant for goth-industrial suicide anthems have to do with the scripture we've looked at today? Well, I have, hopefully, made one connection obvious. Whoever wrote Psalm 139 had something I really didn't at one point in my life (and many times since then): a deep, fulfilling knowledge of God the ever-present and all knowing creator; he had, I think, a sense of wonderment and awe and, well, what I have been calling this weirdness about God and about his own life.

So what about what Paul has to say to his (and our) sisters and brothers in Corinth? Before we can really talk about that, I think we need to say a few words about what was going on then and there. From what I understand, Corinth was a powerful commercial center that was attractive to all kinds of people and the religion of empire was present through and through. The ancient urban landscape was full of competing stories about humanity, mystery cults and ethical standards, much as it is today . The desire for wealth and power were surely in greater supply than faith and trust in any god, let alone in the God of Israel!

It is there, in Corinth, that Paul is writing to a group of Christians, some of whom it seems have not had great control of themselves. We, obviously, don't need to get into any details here, other than to say that Paul was addressing sexual brokenness in his time and that it also seems pretty obvious that we live in a time of sexual brokenness ourselves. That is to say, it's both important and possible for us to understand what Paul was talking about, because we're no strangers to it. So what, exactly, was Paul's response? First let me comment on what he doesn't do.

First Corinthians 6:12 reads: “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. When Paul says "All things are lawful for me", it looks like he is quoting them and how they might make their Christianity and their Corinthian lifestyle compatible, easy...typical. But his response isn't exactly to tell them that they are simply wrong about that, that they have, in fact, violated the new law of the Gospel. His response is surprising to someone looking for the moral guidance of a student handbook: "but not all things are beneficial." Is Paul a relativist? Hardly! It is pretty clear that fornication is not permitted, but it's not a simple "no" to the Corinthians "yes." Let me make this place sound like a tent revival by reading verses 17 through 20:

But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Notice, again, that Paul has still not simply told them that they are "bad." Paul has, instead of writing a rule book along the lines of "article 3, section 4: Fornication is to be avoided at all times", he has gone much deeper. He has reminded people of who they really are: living members of the Body of Christ on Earth; he has reminded them of the fact that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that it is a desperately sad and harmful thing for them to forget that in their actions. This is, I think, probably one of the greatest things we have to learn from this passage: how Paul reacted to the brokenness of people around him.

So what does all of this mean for mean for me a Christian living in America, and all of you? Paul's response is a far cry from the ranting and raving of my teenage years. Heck, its a whole lot different than the way in which I find sometimes myself talking about our President. It is much different than the talking heads of television, bickering with one another, it is different because it is a very strange response to suffering disagreement in this world. I am thankful for what God has done through Paul in these letters, because now, instead of trying to burn the things I disagree with, I can help the Church be a light to the world as we say to one another:

"Isn't it wonderfully weird? You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and you are not your own."


13 January 2006 

sermon prep

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,” and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.”

But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.



sermon preparation musings

These are the passages of Scripture on which I am preaching Sunday:
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

2You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.

3You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

4Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.

5You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

13For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

15My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.

17How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

18I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.