A Distinct Dilemma


The early Christians grew to understand the meaning of Christ’s resurrection as they experienced the Risen Lord. We seek the Holy Spirit to guide us to new understandings of faith as we hear the recorded Word. Join your hearts with mine in prayer.

Resurrected God, though we have hidden ourselves in a locked room and huddled together as ones who build barriers, send your Living Word through our locked doors and into our guarded hearts that we might be witnesses of your grace and couriers of your goodness.

By the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us the trust to believe the Gospel not because we see it but because we have been seen by it and transformed through it. Amen.

THE FIRST SCRIPTURE      Acts 5:17-18, 27-32                            The Apostles Are Persecuted

Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

May the Lord bless this Holy Word to our understanding.

A TIME WITH GOD’S CHILDREN#106     (Refrain)        “Alleluia, Alleluia, give Thanks” 

SECOND SCRIPTURE READING               Revelation 1:1-8                                 A Vision of Christ

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.

John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

THE SERMON           “A Distinct Dilemma”

In 1995, I served as a chaplain at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, MD. I faced a distinct dilemma since my five colleagues all came from different traditions and so followed various regulations on what they could do as seminary students at the hospital. I served as the on-call chaplain when a young couple came into the ER. She was 8 months pregnant and suffered from preeclampsia. I spent most of the evening and into the wee hours of the morn talking with Trevor as the doctors treated Sarah. Ryan was born and immediately when to the Neo-natal Intensive Care and placed on life support.

Paula, a Lutheran from Trinity Seminary in Ohio, usually served as Chaplain for the maternity ward and NICU. In the morning, I introduced her to Trevor and Sarah. That afternoon, Paula found me in my area and told me that Sarah and Trevor wanted me to baptize Ryan before they took him off life support. I was faced with a dilemma as I was not ordained and only ordained clergy do baptism. My supervisor who was also Presbyterian, instructed me to do the baptism, essentially, telling me to disregard the Book of Order.  I sweated and fretted over what to do.

From time to time, we face a distinct dilemma. We must make a decision that requires us to weigh the pro and cons of two alternatives. The word dilemma comes from the Greek words “di” meaning two and “lemma” meaning propositions or alternatives. Sometimes the difference between the choices, don’t make a big difference like where you’re going to eat out. Other times, the decision can have dramatic and long lasting impacts on our lives and our relationships.

Soon after the resurrection, the disciples began witnessing to their experience of the Risen Christ. Caiaphas, the High Priest faced with a dilemma, allow this radical message to flourish or nip it in the bud. The Sadducees, a Jewish sect that did not believe in a resurrection, let alone the resurrection of Jesus, moved to squash this message. Caiaphas had been the one to bring Jesus to trial. So, they arrested the disciples in an attempt to silence them.

The High Priest ordered the Disciples to cease and desist. In the name of the Jewish faith, they were to disregard their experience of Jesus. In respect for the authority of the High Priest, the disciples were not to speak of Jesus’ resurrection. Because in telling of Christ resurrection, the disciples spoke of how the religious authorities worked the Roman system to crucify Jesus. For there to be a resurrection, there had to be a dead body. Neither idea sat well with the Jewish authorities.

Peter and the Disciples faced a distinct dilemma in obeying the religious authorities, who ruled in the temple and throughout the nation or to obey God. They decided to obey God and witness to their experience of God’s love and grace. They proclaimed the atonement for sins through Christ’s death on a cross and his resurrection from the dead.

Dr. Thomas I White, PhD. a professor of business ethics at Loyola Marymount University in California wrote an article about how to resolve ethical dilemmas. In Resolving an Ethical Dilemma, White outlines two basic ways to think through a problem. First, analyze the consequences and second analyze the actions. Of course, these only come after one determines that their actions are not illegal.

  • So what are the consequences of your actions, both short and long term? Who will be helped by what you do?
  • Who will be hurt?
  • What kind of benefits and harms are we talking about? After all, some "goods" in life (like health) are more valuable than others (like a new VCR). A small amount of "high quality" good can outweigh a larger amount of "lower quality" good. By the same token, a small amount of "high quality" harm (the pain you produce if you betray someone’s trust on a very important matter) can outweigh a larger amount of "lower quality" pain (the disappointment connected with waiting another few months for a promotion).


He then suggest that you forget about the consequences and evaluate your actions by your own moral compass.

  • How do they measure up against moral principles like honesty, fairness, equality, respecting the dignity of others, respecting people's rights, and recognizing the vulnerability of individuals weaker or less fortunate than others?
  • Do any of the actions that you're considering "cross the line," in terms of anything from simple decency to an important ethical principle?
  • If there' s a conflict between principles or between the rights of different people involved, is there a way to see one principle as more important than the others?

We as a congregation face a distinct dilemma. We like our church the way it is. Yet, if we stay the same, we will continue to decline and eventually cease to exist. We can keep our faith and witness to Jesus private or share the Gospel to others. John described in his Revelation the power of God to make all things new, including Christians of every time and place. John testified to the word of God in his generation. We are called to share our faith as we see Jesus in our lives in our time. Jesus who was, and is and is to come will depend on our faithful witness to obey God. TGBTG. Amen

  January 2018  
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