As I sit in my laboratory, the radio plays "Green Grow the Rushes Oh" and I am swept back in an instant to the summer of 1957 when 10 of us wended our way down to the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona, where we spent eight weeks at the Southwest Research Station as part of our short-lived C-60 biology course. I can see and hear the 10 of us wheeling down the road from a late field trip, headed to the laboratory, and barreling out that song in a high-spirited, if off-key, harmony.
It is not difficult to trace the roots of Edward A. Steiner's pacifism. Born into a Jewish family in the Slovakia area of Austria, Edward "grew up in a staunchly anti-militaristic family and lost both his father and an older brother in wars of the Austro-Hungarian Empire." After receiving his doctorate from the University of Heidelberg where he nurtured convictions against both nationalism and war and now fearful that he might be conscripted into the Austrian imperial army, the twenty-year old Steiner immigrated to America in 1886.
The church and, I hasten to add, many other institutions in our society, have trouble with uppity women. This probably explains the bumper sticker, "Uppity Women Unite." Since the church has trouble with uppity women, it obviously has a great deal of trouble with the story told in Mark 7:24-30, and a slightly different version in Matthew 15:21-28. Why? Because one is perplexed, even embarrassed, by the portrayal of Jesus in that story. It's indeed shocking to contemplate that out of Jesus' mouth could come words that smack of racism and sexism.
Today is the second Sunday of Advent, the second of four Sundays when Christians are called to prepare for the advent, the coming of God, in Christ in the babe of Bethlehem. This preparatory Advent season ends on December 25, the beginning of the 12 days of Christmas celebrating the birth of Jesus.
January 29,1989 In my 30 years of preaching, I have never done a sermon on the passage just read, Jesus walking on water. (Mark 6:45-52) Why? One commentator says, "It's a story difficult for modern readers." How's that for understatement! The miracle story of Jesus walking on water is outrageous, certainly not for reasonable people like us who want a perfectly reasonable Christianity. Sure, I can understand walking on water during a typical Iowa winter when, of course, the water is frozen. But to do that in Galilee any time of the year, that's miraculous!
September 2, 1990
It is quite appropriate this first Sunday of a new school year to include the word "strange" in my sermon title, especially for new students. You have come here to a strange country or a strange state, a strange college, dorm, fellow students, classes, subjects, all somewhat strange in the dictionary sense of "not before known or heard or seen."