Homecoming Joy Print E-mail
Written by Skip Jackson   
Sunday, 11 December 2016
A Sermon by Sydney V. (Skip) Jackson — December 11, 2016
Indianola Presbyterian Church, Columbus, Ohio
Texts:  Isaiah 40:1-11;  Psalm 85 — Advent 3

Lift up your voice, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear, say “Here is your God!” — Isaiah 40:9

God the Lord… will speak peace to his people… Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; [justice] and peace will kiss each other. — Ps 85:8, 10

Advent is a season for displaced persons—be they exiles or refugees or simply people longing in their hearts for a true sense of home.  The two scriptures we just heard are deeply rooted in just such experience.  In the city of Babylon, Isaiah the prophet rises to offer a poem to an exiled people, who have lived for two generations far from their homeland.  Listen with them!  For Isaiah the poet means to let us eavesdrop on what’s happening in the heavenly council, what’s being said around the very throne of God.    [Pew bible p. 627.]

Hush now, for the Lord God is about to speak.  Turning to the angels, God says, ‘Comfort.’  It is a one-word command to all the angels of heaven.  And God repeats,  “‘O comfort my people,’ says your God.”  Amazing and unbelievable that God should give such an order… and speak of “my people”!  For the people are unworthy, and such good news is totally unexpected when heard so far from home.  And God goes on, saying, “Speak tenderly to them, for enough is enough.  Let my people know that their struggles have ended.  Reassure them.

Then a second voice calls out, the voice of an angelic messenger, crying, “Prepare the way!  Build a highway in the people’s wilderness!  Fill in the valleys of loneliness and smooth out the peaks of despair.  For the Lord is headed home, home to Mt. Zion, and will be picking up his captive people on the way.”  Just as in the Exodus, God will be on the move, traveling in triumphal procession with God’s people, journeying home along a way that stretching from exile to a glorious homecoming.  Such stupendous good news simply must be shared!  So yet another angelic voice is raised, commanding, “Cry out!
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 18 January 2017 )
God Only Knows Print E-mail
Written by Skip Jackson   
Sunday, 27 November 2016
A Sermon by Sydney V. (Skip) Jackson — November 27, 2016
Indianola Presbyterian Church, Columbus, Ohio
Texts:  Daniel 7:9-14  &  Matthew 24:26-44 — Advent 1

But the exact day and hour?  No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son.  Only the Father knows. — Matthew 24:36 (The Message)

Do you remember when the world ended?  Or I should say, when it was supposed to come to an end?  I distinctly recall all the buildup to Y2K in 1999, when all the computers were supposed to crash at the stroke of midnight Dec. 31, bringing massive, worldwide catastrophes and the downfall of society.  And the jokes… I remember some of the Y2K jokes… like the intern who told his boss he’d finished all the Y2K conversions for the office.  Unfortunately that meant the complimentary calendars they were sending out for 2000 all read, “Sundak, Mondak, Tuesdak,” etc.  He’d changed every Y to K.  And do you remember Harold Camping, who used his Family Radio network to predict the Rapture would occur May 21, 2011.  When that didn’t happen, he revised the date to October 21.  But that wasn’t Camping’s “first rodeo.”  He’d made the same predictions in 1994—first for Sept. 6, then Sept. 29, then Oct. 2, and finally March 31, 1995.  There's a man who couldn't learn from experience.  A Wikipedia entry lists nearly 200 “dates predicted for apocalyptic events,” two thirds of them since 1900, and most of them related to the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

The turn of the millennium in 2000 sparked a lot of end-time predictions, 2000 years after the birth of Jesus.  But since most scholars agree that Jesus was born in 4 B.C., the year 2000 would have been four years too late.  Today is the first day of Advent, the first day of a new church year, so maybe today’s the day.  But then, it’s already the second day of Advent in Australia.

We just heard in both Daniel and Matthew two very similar visions of the future—fantastic visions of the end of history, the end of the world.  But these visions are not meant to be literal, God-given guidebooks or triple-A road maps.  And they don’t include any kind of timetable.  The trouble is people take such visions from long ago—poetic expressions that served a real purpose in their own times—and move them willy-nilly into a very different present-day context.  And they wield these visions as threats, like in the comics of a shaggy-haired man with a sign board warning, “Repent! The end is near!”  But the end-of-the-world visions in Daniel and Matthew weren’t originally about doom and gloom.  They weren’t meant to scare people into going from naughty to nice.  They were meant to inspire hope—namely, hope that God’s justice still held sway no matter how bad things looked.
Doing, Loving and Walking with the King Print E-mail
Written by Skip Jackson   
Sunday, 20 November 2016
A Sermon by Sydney V. (Skip) Jackson — November 20, 2016
Indianola Presbyterian Church, Columbus, Ohio
Texts: John 18:33-39;  Micah 6:1-8  —  Christ the King

Then Pilate said, “So, are you a king or not?”  Jesus answered, “You tell me.” — John 18:37 [The Message]

…and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? — Micah 6:8

This is the final Sunday of the church year, and on this day we celebrate a festival for subversives.  “Christ the King Sunday” doesn’t sound very subversive, does it?  Conventional language with masculine royal imagery—it sounds pretty orthodox and traditional.  But Pope Pius XI established it in 1925 in direct response to the rise of fascism with Hitler and Mussolini.  In that year Hitler published Mein Kampf and formed the Nazi party with 30,000 members.  Groundwork was being laid for the Hitler Youth so children might learn to hate Jews, communists, homosexuals, gypsies, the disabled, anyone who didn’t fit the white, Aryan ideal.  Pope Pius XI, had lived through WWI with its 10 million dead and 20 million wounded.  Even early on when most people were discounting Hitler’s rhetoric, the pope saw the threats inherent in Hitler’s rise, and he watched as Mussolini’s supporters marched past the Vatican.  So he declared a feast day to Christ the King to honor a servant leader, as opposed to those leaders who sought domination and control by spreading hate—one who instead desired what was best for all people and whose power was the power of love.  But the subversive intentions of this celebration have themselves been subverted.

Sometimes the world acts directly.  Pilate may not have recognized Jesus as a conventional kind of king, but he knew Jesus was trouble, so he got rid of him.   At other times, meaning and purpose slowly leak away.  So “Christ the King” no longer seems subversive, but instead sounds triumphalist in a “king of the mountain” kind of way.  Our king is more powerful than your king!  Our king can beat the stuffing out of your king!  In too much of Christianity, Christ becomes but another powerful male, authority figure supporting nationalistic aims.  The world’s way of seeing and being eventually infiltrates and subverts the best of intentions.  Consider the following story/parable:
Conversational Gospel Print E-mail
Written by Skip Jackson   
Sunday, 13 November 2016
A Sermon by Sydney V. (Skip) Jackson — November 13, 2016
Indianola Presbyterian Church, Columbus, Ohio
Texts:  Isaiah 65:17-25;  Luke 21:5-19

I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. — Luke 21:15

Have you heard about the mama cat out walking with her three small kittens?  They’re heading peaceably along the sidewalk when mama cat spots a huge, ferocious dog coming at them.  She quickly leads the three small kittens to a safe place under a nearby porch.  Then she returns to the sidewalk and goes nose to nose with the dog.  The dog growls.  And mama cat looks straight into the dog’s eyes and goes, “Ruff, ruff, ruff!!!”  That dog turns tail and runs off.  Mama cat returns to the kittens’ hideout, looks them all in the eyes, and says, “Now, I’m going to explain to you why I insist you learn a second language.”

How many of you learned (or are learning) a second language?  For me, there was Jr. and Sr. High French.  In grad school I learned several computer languages.  Then in my early 40s I went to seminary and had to take both Hebrew and Greek.  Learning a second language is hard, for it introduces brand-new, different ways of thinking.  It changes the way you look at the world.  And this altered way of thinking and seeing can stay with you even after vocabulary lists and rules for verb conjugation are long gone from your memory.

I love words, especially how words in other languages grant new insights into how we are human.  In the native language of Tierra del Fuego, there’s a single word, mamihlapinatapai, which literally means, “staring at each other hoping the other person will volunteer to do something which both people would like but which no one is willing to do.”  (The perfect word for a Session meeting.)  In Zimbabwe when the Shona and Tonga meet each other, the greeting “Good day; how are you?” is answered by “I am well if you are well,” which in turn leads to “I am well, so we are well.”  This exchange suggests a deeper way of seeing ourselves in relationship with one another.
Last Updated ( Friday, 18 November 2016 )
Remembering or Not Print E-mail
Written by Skip Jackson   
Sunday, 06 November 2016
A Sermon by Sydney V. (Skip) Jackson — November 6, 2016
Indianola Presbyterian Church, Columbus, Ohio
Texts:  Psalm 103:6-14;  Luke 19:1-10

All who saw… began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” — Luke 19:7

There are few verses where God’s radical grace is more apparent than Psalm 103:12—“As far as east is from west, so far God removes our transgressions from us.”  It’s one of my favorites.  It reminds me of Jeremiah 31:31, another favorite verse, where God promises to forgive and to “remember [our] sin no more.”  How astonishingly wonderful that God will not remember our sin, remove our transgressions from us as far as east is from west!  As far as God is concerned, they’re out of the picture, zero, zip, nada!  Not remembering our sin defines this God that Psalm 103 says is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love”—a steadfast love that endures forever.

In our human life, to remember something is to call it to mind, to keep it present, to make it a part of our life, to include it in our choices and decisions.  What we remember—people, events, stories—and what we don’t remember all contribute mightily to who we are and how we live our lives.  But do we really remember… or not?

Take the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus?  There’s a song about Zacchaeus?  “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he.  He climbed up in a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see.”  I suspect a lot of us here remember Zacchaeus as a “wee little man” from that kid’s song.  Here’s how the story begins in Luke 19:  [reading] Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it.  A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.  He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short of stature.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.  Yep, just like the song says, a “wee little man.”
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