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Do Your Ears Itch?

(8)

Sermon shared by Austin Mansfield

October 2007
Summary: It seems like so many people have been revamping God’s Word lately, to make it less offensive, or more inclusive, or less intrusive into our personal behavior. Many of these people are clergy, which is even more disheartening.
Denomination: Episcopal/Anglican
Audience: General adults
Sermon:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)

Do your ears itch?

It seems like so many people have been revamping the Word of God lately, to make it less offensive, or more inclusive, or less intrusive into our personal behavior. Many of the people doing this have been clergy, which is even more disheartening.

Recently, 60 Minutes had a two-hour episode — that alone should be a stark indication of where we’ve come as a society, that a program called “60 Minutes” can run for two hours without anyone noticing the disparity — anyway, they did a story about a popular Christian preacher whose basic message is that God’s going to make you rich; your best days are ahead of you.

In fact, his latest book talks a lot about becoming a better you. He includes seven steps we need to follow, such as be positive toward yourself, embrace the place where you are, and develop your inner life, all ending with a series of action points forming concrete steps to improve your life.
But, as the 60 Minutes interviewer pointed out, there is no mention of Jesus in the book. There is little difference between this Christian pastor and Dr. Phil when it comes to preaching God’s Word.

Some theologians have tried to reintroduce heretical teachings from the second and third centuries as newly-found Gospels. They claim writings like the “Gospel of Thomas” are authentic teachings of Jesus and his disciples.

I’m reminded of the time President Abraham Lincoln met with General McClennan of the Union Army to discuss strategy. He asked the general, “How many legs does a horse have if you call the tail a leg?” McClennan said, “Five.”
Lincoln replied, “Wrong. It’s four. Merely calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

We face the same effect today regarding scripture. Merely calling something a Gospel doesn’t make it one. And twisting the teachings of Christ into some sort of tolerant, multi-religion, get-out-of-hell free card and claiming that it’s God’s Word doesn’t make it so.

Popular Christian, or really pseudo-Christian, theology today claims that Jesus did not rise from the dead physically, he didn’t heal anyone miraculously, and all those prophesies he fulfilled were made up by the Gospel writers who inserted various fictitious events throughout the text to convince people that Jesus actually fulfilled them.

Paul mentions in our reading today from his letter to Timothy that the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, and will turn away from truth to hear what their itching ears want to hear instead.

Do your ears itch?

When I was in the Navy, Sailors told each other all sorts of stories about what happened on various deployments or on liberty. They were called sea stories, and were often far from being true. In fact we used say that the difference between a fairy tale and a sea story was that a fairy tale begins with “Once upon a time…” while a sea story begins with “This is a true story, no kidding…”

Those of us who had been in the Navy for a while knew when we were hearing a sea story. But new recruits who knew almost nothing about life at sea, used to believe every word of those incredible tales.

So when Paul tells Timothy to “continue in what you
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