‘Infinite War or Excelsior!?’ a sermon on Isaiah 36

To paraphrase one of our great musician-philosophers, “Infinite war, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”

But in the whole of human history, what has been more constant than war? Further, many of us were taught history, both of our country and of the world, through a series of wars. War seems to define us.

On the other hand, to paraphrase one of our great warrior-philosophers, “My faith’s in people, I guess…And I’m happy to say that, for the most part, they haven’t let me down. Which is why I can’t let them down either.” Maybe war doesn’t have to define us.

Can Stan Lee and a bunch of his Marvel creations help us understand the battle of words happening in Isaiah 36 & 37? Yes! Of course I’m biased toward the power of comics, so your milage may vary. 

The Narrative Lectionary was weird this week: parts of Isaiah chapters 36 & 37 (36:1-3, 13-20; 37:1-7, which is what we read) and then Isaiah 2:1-4

Here’s the photo of my comic book collection that I showed:

Highlighting the Siege story line seemed appropriate, given the Isaiah text

Here’s the sermon audio: 

If you need some help with those Marvel characters I reference:

Black Panther

Thanos

Ebony Maw

Some of the quotes I used:

[Marvel’s] stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender or color of their skin,” he said. “The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance and bigotry. — Stan Lee

I’m going to make an effort to chose the battles that matter. Battles against injustice, against cynicism, against intolerance. — Captain America

Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them—to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are…Although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race—to despise an entire nation—to vilify an entire religion…We must fill out hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that [humanity] was created in the image of God–a God who calls us ALL—His [sic] children. — Stan Lee

Let’s live the way of Excelsior! 

Photo by Matteo Kutufa on Unsplash

Wise Words?: a sermon on 1Kings 3

Yesterday, a white supremacist, neo-Nazi walked into Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered 11 people as they worshipped. This terrible, tragic, heart-breaking, hateful, and hate-filled act must be renounced — especially by Christians. Our faith has for too long and too often been used to justify violent anti-Semitism. I hope resistance to such horrible ideas comes through in this sermon.

A few resources to help bring the message to life:

The Narrative Lectionary text for today is 1 Kings chapter 3. I used The Message version today in honor of the late Eugene Peterson.

The video by The Bible Project on the book of Kings (we showed the first 4 minutes)

Quotes from Professor Cameron B. R. Howard’s commentary.

My intended thesis: True wisdom is always rooted in love. What theme did you hear?

Likely the best part of the sermon (though such a designation is ultimately up to you, dear reader/listener) :

Prof. Howard again: “This story  is a startling reminder of the depths of human despair and our continual yearning for God’s presence among us.”

We don’t lack for stories of human despair, nor do we feel so satiated by God’s presence that we no longer yearn for more.

We need wise words rooted in love because hateful, violent words foment hateful, violent actions. 11 people are dead in Pittsburgh because the shooter lived into the “wisdom” of white supremacy, white nationalism, neo-Nazis. We must ask ourselves: What role does a distorted, hateful version of Christianity play in this? Let’s be like the author of Kings and be honest about our violent past. For centuries, from the beginning really, some Christians have read the gospels as if God hates Jews. That hateful, violent language fomented many tragic hateful violent actions against Jews.

Together, let’s tell better, wiser stories. Stories rooted in love for all people.

Sermon audio:  

Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash