Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dear Leah: A God on Broadway Sermon (Wicked)

The Text from Broadway: “I'm Not That Girl” from the Broadway musical Wicked.

There's a girl I know, he loves her so....I'm not that girl...

The Text from Scripture:  Genesis 29

So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah...
Audio Recording of Scripture & Sermon can be found here.

Dear Leah, 

Because our stories are all alike, and a little bit different, I wonder:  

Growing up, did you and Rachel argue over what beauty means?  Did she wield her good looks like a weapon?  Did she taunt you for your bad eyes?   What did you think, when your cousin Jacob came to town?  When he noticed your sister – like everyone did – and you remained unseen?

All those seven years as Jacob worked – did you know what your father had up his sleeve?  Did you try to talk him out of it?  Or did you embrace it as an escape, your last, best, chance for finding a partner, for leaving a difficult home?  

At the altar, how did you feel?  Were you sick inside?  Were you silently grateful?  And on your wedding night, in the darkness of the tent, knowing that your husband imagined he was touching someone else?   Were you able to weep then, or did you hold off until the morning, when a portion of the truth was revealed?   Over the days of the honeymoon, did you hope you could come to terms with one another?   For the next seven years, how did you hold the pieces of your broken heart together, seeing him work day after day for the love of another?

If we could sit down over a cup of tea, I would ask you these things, and seek to learn from your strength.  And then, when you were done saying the things that needed to be said, I would share what I have with you…

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Whatever You Want: A God on Broadway Sermon (Chicago)

The Text from Broadway: “When You’re Good to Mama” from the Broadway musical Chicago.

There's a lot of favors I'm prepared to do - You do one for Mama, she'll do one for you!

The Text from Scripture:  Mark 6:14-29

Herod’s daughter came in and danced, thrilling Herod and his dinner guests. The king said to the young woman, “Ask me whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” Then he swore to her, “Whatever you ask I will give to you, even as much as half of my kingdom.”

Our soloist and I had a little chat when she was in to rehearse the other day, “Are you ok with me vamping it up a little bit?”  It happens all the time with this Broadway series – a singer will come and say “are you sure you’re ok with…..”  Ab-so-lutely.  Nobody could ever honestly slap a G rating on the Bible.   If we were to just focus on the nice wholesome bits on a Sunday, there would be a whole range of human experience that would not be reflected in our common worship.   Life is not G-rated.  So we bring it all to God –  heart, soul, mind, strength… hands, feet, and head (whether it’s connected or not).

Let me give you a little window into King Herod’s court:  the royal family tree has enough scandal embedded in it to parallel the most sordid reality television.    Let me recap just the current generations:  Woman marries her uncle.  Woman dumps her uncle and marries her other uncle.  Great-niece dances for great-uncle and a room full of party guests in a way that’s worth half a kingdom…or the head of a prophet.  

Just what kind of a Gospel are we running here?  Perhaps it would be best not to invoke Biblical family values too hastily. Herod’s birthday banquet offers an unsettling vision of what it’s like when self-interest is the name of the game, when everybody’s a free agent waiting to be bought off, and every decision is high stakes.

A fabulous birthday party thrown by Herod, for Herod.   It’s a great day in Herod’s world– he knows his own tastes, and he’s in charge.  Nobody’s going order the anchovy pizza or give him a clunker of a gift.  Nothing but the best for Herod.  Nobody he doesn’t want there, either.  Everybody invited for a reason – someone to impress, someone to intimidate, someone to manipulate.   He knows how to throw a razzle-dazzle kind of party.