Saturday, December 8, 2018

2 Advent Yr C Dec 9 2018

Audio  2 Advent Yr C December 9 2018 Malachi 3:1-4, Philippians 1:3-11, Luke 3:1-6, Canticle 9 First Song of Isaiah

Nine months Zechariah was quiet, nine months he could not speak, nine months Elizabeth didn't hear him complain, nine months he had to think about what his first words would be. And those first words out of Zechariah's mouth were "Blessed be The Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them." Zechariah was a priest in the temple. What did he do for those nine months of silence, those nine months of preparation for this child who could not be, this child to be born to his barren wife Elizabeth, this child who was an impossibility, this child who would prepare the way for the one to come after him. Zechariah waited in silence. Silence in the face of mystery, silence in the presence of new life, silence, as the world is about to turn.

John the Baptist, son of Zechariah, the priest of the temple and his wife Elizabeth, was as different from his father as locusts are different from lobster. John, son of Zechariah, lived in the wilderness, not in the temple confines like his father and mother. John, an itinerant preacher, son of Zechariah, priest of the temple, proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Not temple sacrifice, not temple piety, but repentance. John, son of Zechariah, preparing the way for the one who is to come. The one who changes everything.

The world is about to turn. The coming of Christ into the world changes everything. Blessed be the Lord God. 

You see, what is happening here has far reaching effects. This story of John, and the story of Jesus, is set squarely in the political context of it's day. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. It is at this time and this place that God is doing something new, that the world is turning, that change is happening. We are being pointed toward this absolutely new thing that God is doing in the world, we are to prepare for it, we are to stay awake, keep alert, be ready. The birth of two baby boys, first John and then Jesus, has everything to do with everything, Luke is saying. These seemingly insignificant baby boys change the world, Luke knows that and is telling us that. 

Luke has John say these words from Isaiah. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

In Isaiah these words are about God leading God's people out of exile, back to their land. God will make straight paths through the wilderness, a smooth and easy return -- in essence a new "exodus" -- bringing the people of Israel out of bondage and back to the Promised Land. The path is for the people; God-made, God-led. And in Luke, John points directly at Jesus, who comes to empower and finish the re-turn of God's people to their God. John points to Jesus who shows all humanity that Love wins.

These two bundles of promise, John, born to Elizabeth and Zechariah, and Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph, bring God's love into time and space. These two bundles of hope, show us that the world is about to change. These two bundles of peace, speak truth to power. These two bundles of joy, bear such grief to their mothers. These two bundles show the world that love wins. 

John, who is the unlikely bearer of good news, the one who from the wilderness, not the seats of power, announces the coming of the kingdom. Prepare, the world is about to change. You are about to change. That is the repentance that John calls us to. You see, waiting is not doing nothing. Waiting is about preparing for the surprise, waiting is about turning around and paying attention, waiting is about participating in the reality of God's kingdom, waiting is about the not yet that already is. Waiting is about being who God calls you to be, whether or not you know who that is yet. The repentance that John calls us to is a change of direction in mind and action. It is not about feeling bad or good or shameful. Repentance is being who God calls you to be, and who God calls us to be. And being who God calls us to be is what we do in the waiting, it is what we do in the preparing. And who God calls us to be may be surprising, indeed, if it is not surprising, it may not be God doing the calling.

So in this Advent waiting that is not doing nothing, we may hear God's voice surprising us. God's voice that says you are already loved, you can do nothing more or less to earn my love. Let go, give up control. Put up your tent, make camp right here. Enjoy what this is, right here, right now. The one next to you is also already loved, just as much as you are. Give her a smile, buy his coffee, make their day. 

So in this Advent waiting that is not doing nothing, we may hear God's voice surprising us. Take time to pray, to listen, to wonder, to invite God into this day, this circumstance, this ordinary stable in which we live. Give up the busyness, the worry, the noise, the stress. Be filled with the Love that is born in the mess of the stable, the Love that is born in your heart, the Love that is born here each time the one who is looking for something more finds their way to this table. Be filled with the Love that wins your time and attention, your pocketbook, your heart and your mind and your soul. 

And in this Advent waiting that is not doing nothing, in this in between time that is the now and not yet, remember Zechariah’s silence, remember Elizabeth’s surprise. In this Advent waiting that is not doing nothing, in this in between time that is the now and not yet, remember John’s call to turn around, listen, pay attention, prepare a place for Love to be born.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

1 Advent Yr C Dec 2 2018

Audio 1 Advent Yr C Dec 2 2018 Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36, Psalm 25:1-9

Happy New Year! You all know that, right? Today is the first day of the new year. We begin again on this day, the first day of Advent. We count time differently in the church. Time in the church looks much more like a circle than a line. Our beginnings look like endings, and our endings look like beginnings. Our church year looks much more like a circle than like a line so that we would always remember that for every ending there is a beginning, and for every beginning there is an ending. This time is the time for getting ready, this time is the time for preparing, this time is the time for waiting. What is it we wait for? We wait for the great mystery of Christmas, the inconceivable incarnation, the baby born in a barn, Jesus born in our hearts, the Cosmic Christ that turns the world. 

What are you waiting for? Some of us are waiting for presents. Some of us are waiting to see our families and our relatives. Some are waiting for great destruction and end times. Some of us are waiting to die, some of us are waiting to be born again. Some of us are waiting for the economy to collapse, some are waiting for the president to fail. Some of us are waiting for the president to succeed. Some of us are waiting for the world to change, some of us are waiting to change the world. 

Advent is a time of waiting, and waiting in and of itself is valuable. In this culture where most everything is immediate, waiting is important. We want our news and entertainment immediately. We get mighty impatient when we wait in line for a coffee. And yet, we are willing to camp out all night to get the best deal, or the tickets to the concert. But Advent waiting is so much more important than all of that.

I think Advent may be about creating some room in our very loud and busy lives to wait for the surprise. The surprise that Christmas is. The surprise of Love born anew, Love born again, Love born. 

I do think it is much like the waiting for a baby to be born. There is nothing you can do to make it go any faster or any easier. The baby just grows. And once that baby starts growing, it will change your life forever. Nothing will ever be the same. You, will never be the same. And, no matter how much we think we know about that new life growing inside, the birth itself is surprising, the baby itself is surprising, and we can never be fully ready for the changes to our lives the baby will bring. At every moment, we are changed by that new life. At every moment we are surprised by that new life. At every moment the possibilities will change us.

Advent comes to us every year. In that way it is a gift. We need Advent. We need to pull away for a time, from the cacophony of the cultural Christmas, and be quiet, and wait. We need to be in a space where God can find us and surprise us with new life and new birth. We need to hear the wonder of new birth, we need to hear the mystery of God with us, we need to hear the thunder and the roaring sea. We need to taste the fig from the tree. We need to ponder the mystery of Jesus, of God with us, and God who will fulfill all time. 

We are in this middle place, a time between time. We live in the time when God is bringing all of creation, all of humanity, to Godself. God’s reign on earth is what we anticipate, the birth of God into the world more than 2000 years ago and the raising of Jesus from the dead, inaugurated God’s reign. We live in the time between the beginning and the end, and advent is the time we are given to wonder about and to anticipate God’s reign. 

What are we waiting for? We wait for birth, and then we can’t wait for a child to grow out of being two, or six, or thirteen. We can’t wait to finish college and get a real job, we can’t wait for our children to finally make it on their own. We wait for a parent or loved one to die. 

Part of waiting is in anticipation of what life will be like when the waiting is over. As we wait, we may have the opportunity to reflect on life as it is and possibly to come to appreciate the glimpses of the wonder and beauty of life as it is. Maybe, we begin to see life differently, more clearly. Maybe, all the things we thought were important aren’t so important anymore. Maybe, the falseness is being stripped away, and what is left is a truer person, a person who wants to plunge into every moment of life, no matter what, instead of sleepwalk through it. Maybe there is actually transformation in the waiting. At its deepest, Advent waiting transforms us. We are shown a glimpse of “what if.” What if we approach our Advent waiting as a radical time of transformation? 

The Good News is that Advent transformation isn’t born out of fear, fear of the end of the world, fear of war and destruction, fear of those who are different than us. Advent transformation comes from joy because the promise has already been given. Advent transformation comes from the hope that Love wins. For those with the eyes of faith, “what if” has already happened. God is already with us. The reign of God is at hand. Heaven is already here. And nothing will break God’s promise.

Our Advent waiting may then be about making the world look more like the heaven that we already see by faith. We do this by focusing on the essentials—the basic things every human needs in order to reflect the divine. The poor have to be cared for, the hungry have to be fed, the homeless have to be sheltered, the refugee has to be welcomed, and the sick need to be healed. Forgiveness has to be offered, those at war must stop, and peace must be our legacy.

It’s almost as if Advent calls us to faith in the Real Absence of Christ—to believe in Emmanuel even in our darkness, in God-With-Us even when we hear no answer, and in the Incarnation even when we feel nothing at all. And so during Advent waiting, we may abstain from the flurry of Christmas not as a penitential punishment, but as a way to train our eyes to see God even without the angels and trees, crèches and stars. We focus instead on the basics of light in the darkness, silence in the chaos, and stillness in the turmoil. Advent waiting is waiting for Love to be born, again.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Christ the King Yr C November 25 2018

Audio Christ the King Yr C November 25 2018 Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 Psalm 93, Revelation 1:4-8, John 18:33-37

The Feast of Christ the King is a great paradox. Christ, whom we claim as King, who never claimed that for himself. Christ the King. Just listen to it, Christ the King. Jesus, the baby born in a barn to parents of no status or honor, who spent his life with no roof over his head, always on the road, foraging for his next meal. Whose message is consistently, love one another. Jesus, whose friends were never quite sure of him, and whose reputation was suspect as far as those who had power were concerned, the scribes and Pharisees and others who ranked high at the temple. Jesus, whose life ended, hung on a Roman cross, the most degrading, torturous death imaginable. Jesus, the King.

For me a helpful image to illustrate this paradox is in a movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. That's the one where Indiana Jones goes to seek the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus drank from. Remember, Indy and his dad and the bad guys found the ancient knight guarding the cup, Indy had to find his way through the maze that could kill him. When he got there, there were many choices, gold cups, platinum, silver, terra cotta and wood. The old knight who has guarded the cups for ages says, "You must choose, but choose wisely, for as the real grail brings eternal life, the false grail brings death". The bad guy comes in and chooses a glittering golden cup. "Truly the cup of a king", he says, and drinks from it. Shortly later, with several horrific transformations, he deteriorates and turns to dust. The knight looks at them and simply says, "He chose poorly". Indy then selects a wooden cup "The cup of a Galilean carpenter" he says, and with much fear, having seen the results before, drinks from it. "You choose wisely,” says the knight.

The cup of a King, or the cup of a Galilean carpenter. There is the rub; there is the paradox, Christ the King, servant to all. As the parables in scripture show us, all is not as it seems. History shows us Kingship, and Kingship throughout history has had its megalomaniacs. Many of the kings that make our history books are Kings that have grabbed power. Kings that have subdued the people. Jesus shows us an entirely different kind of Kingship. Jesus shows us a Kingship that doesn't take power, but that empowers. Jesus shows us a Kingship that doesn't take life, but gives new life. Jesus shows us a Kingship that is not about being first in battle, but about being first in Love. Jesus shows us a Kingship where laying down his life creates life for all. Jesus shows us a Kingship where might does not win, but where Love wins.

The cup of a King, or the cup of a Galilean carpenter. Throughout history we've wanted so desperately to make Jesus into a cultural King. Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king." And then Jesus continues, "for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." We want Jesus to sit on a throne and judge. Often, we want Jesus to sit on a throne and judge others deemed not worthy of life in Jesus' kingdom. Especially those who we think do not deserve the kind of Love Jesus offers us. Love, unconditionally, no matter what, unless, of course you disagree with me, or are different from me. Unless of course you've done something dastardly. Unless of course you love someone of the same gender. Unless of course you believe in a different God I believe in, or don't believe in God at all.

Kings and thrones, judgment and justice, forgiveness, mercy and compassion. What is the truth that we hear from the voice of Jesus? Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your mind and your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. Feed my sheep, clothe those who have nothing to wear, visit the imprisoned. The Good News is that no matter what or who we want Jesus to be, Jesus loves, and Love wins. Kingship, for Jesus, is about being a king that serves, that sacrifices, and that loves radically. A king that looks the complete opposite of virtually any king any of us has ever read about. Jesus, whose example is humble, not glorified; generous, not treacherous; hospitable, not exclusionary. The cup of a king, or the cup of a Galilean carpenter?

Kingship, or something like it, was all the people knew about ruling a people. It was either a King, an Emperor or some such ruler who lorded over the people, or it was chaos and anarchy. The God the Jews knew brought order out of chaos, this Jesus who was said to be God's son, therefore was King. But the Kingdom is of mercy and compassion, the Kingdom is of peace and reconciliation, the King knows each by name.

So it is this paradox that we must somehow reconcile in our own lives. The cup of a King, or the cup of a Galilean carpenter. Choose wisely my friend. But I think the wisest choice is not one over the other, but it is the Episcopal way, the via media, it is somewhere in between. We must hold both realities in tension. Christ the King, whose throne is a cross, and when we do, we see a fuller picture. We bandy about that image, Christ the King, on a throne, the seat of judgment. But do we really have any idea what it means? Jesus indeed sets out a standard of judgment, an expectation if you will, but this King shows us the way, this King doesn't leave us alone to figure it out ourselves, and it is right here that our lives our transformed.

Because Jesus, the one who comes to show us the way to God, Jesus, the one who is King of all creation, is at the very same time the one who lived life just like you and me, who loved his friends and family, who suffered and died, just like you and me. For what good is a God who sits back and watches, what good is a God who rules from afar, what good is a God who holds power over people. Jesus is the one who loves the criminal who hangs next to him, the mother who cries below him, the friends who betray him.

In the beginning, and the middle, and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, Kingship for Jesus is giving himself totally and absolutely for the love of his people. It is this love that you and I must respond to. It is this love that is transforming love. It is this love that reconciles and redeems. It is this love that includes all, the alien and the other. It is this love that gives us hope. Jesus' love changes us, and we are to choose wisely.

We are changed through the realization that each one of us is loved completely and absolutely, that is the truth of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. We are changed through the realization that when we fall short of the kind of love Jesus demonstrates for us, and we will fall short, that is part of being human, and we are forgiven. Just like Peter, who denied Jesus three times. Forgiveness takes practice, not just once, but time and time again. Not even just until we get it right, because it's not about getting it right. Only trying to get it right just makes us into self-righteous snobs and misses the point of Jesus' kingship entirely. It's about responding to hate with love, it's about seeking reconciliation not revenge, and when we don't, because we won't, it's about asking for forgiveness, again. We are changed through the realization that Love wins, every time.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

All Saints and Baptism Yr B Nov 4 2018

All Saints and Baptism Yr B Nov 4 2018 Audio

The Feast of All Saints is a celebration of family, a household celebration, and a celebration of all our relations. It is about the cloud of witnesses, the communion of Saints. It is about Lazarus and Martha and Mary and the witnesses that stood at Lazarus' tomb and watched Lazarus come out, and those in the stories we have been reading for weeks now, the witnesses whose names we spoke aloud in this morning's litany, and the witnesses that sit right here beside us in these pews. And it is about baptism, it is about Theo’s baptism, and it is about your baptism. For in your baptism your creation as God’s beloved is realized, you are already one in the communion of Saints.

Oh Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, stand here beside us. Oh Martha and Mary whose grief was complete, stand here beside us. Oh people who stood at the tomb, stand here beside us. Stand here beside us and show us the way. Stand here beside us and witness to the freedom from bondage that Jesus offers. Stand here beside us and shout before the whole world, Love wins. O cloud of witnesses teach us what it means to be a disciple, show us how to follow the way.

Lazarus came out of the tomb bound with strips of cloth. Following Jesus is about throwing off that which binds us. Following Jesus is casting away that which is killing us. Following Jesus is being freed to live the new life Jesus' life, death, and resurrection affect for us. Oh Lazarus, stand here beside us and show us what it is that binds us. Show us what it is that is killing us.

What is it that binds you? What holds you hostage and keeps you from the new life that Jesus promises you today? Fear holds many of us hostage, and yet to act in the face of fear is courageous. We are called to be courageous in these days. We are called to seek and serve all persons in these days.

The pursuit of bigger and better, the pursuit of the big house, the fancy car, so much stuff, the fear of not having enough, gets in the way of real relationship with God and with others. Lay it down. Perfection, expecting ourselves to be perfect, expecting others to be perfect, just one of many idols that we erect between God and ourselves. Lay it down. Control, what an illusion. Lay it down. Immortality, none of us gets out of this life alive. Lay it down.

Lazarus, stand here beside us, show us the way. Martha and Mary, stand here beside us. Their brother has been dead and in the tomb for four days. The grief washes over them in waves of misery. There must be someone to blame, there has to be someone to blame. Jesus, if only you had been here earlier, none of this would have happened. Martha and Mary, stand here beside us and show us the way to faith, the kind of faith that lets Jesus in, even in misery and grief. The kind of faith that does not build walls, but instead builds relationships. The kind of faith that lays down sorrow and grief so that the new growth, new life may emerge. Martha and Mary, stand here beside us. So many of us know this grief in these days.

Oh unnamed widow, who gave every penny, stand here beside us. Stand here beside us and show us how to respond to God's amazing and abundant love with all that we are, with all that we have, even when we think we have so little. Oh unnamed widow, who gave out of her poverty, show us our poverty. Is time our poverty? We have so little time, not enough time to do all we wish to do. Not enough time to spend it with those we love. Not enough time to travel. Not enough time to volunteer. Not enough time. Is mercy and compassion our poverty? We are quick to judge. We are quick to seek revenge. We are quick to explain our rightness. Is forgiving our poverty? We are slow to forgive when we believe we have been wronged. We will not forgive when we believe we are right. Oh unnamed widow, stand here beside us, and show us our poverty. Show us that all belongs to God, all that we are, all that we have, the earth we walk upon, the sky that is above our heads. Show us how to be stewards, those who care for all that has been entrusted to us, show us how to give.

Oh blind Bartimaeus, stand here beside us. Show us what we cannot see. Show us that which blinds us. Who do you work with, whom you do not really see? Who sits at your lunch table, whom you do not really see? What words and actions of others cause you to close your eyes to seeing those with whom you disagree? 

Oh, James and John, stand here beside us. Show us how the first will be last and the last will be first. 

Oh witnesses that have gone before us, stand here beside us and show us the path. There are so many in our lives who are examples of giving. Our mothers, our daughters, our sisters. There are so many in our lives who are examples of loving no matter what. Our fathers, our sons, our brothers. There are so many in our lives who were broken and put back together by God's love, Jesus' gift. There are so many in our lives who believe in us, who teach us to believe in ourselves, and who show us God's love. Our teachers, our preachers, our coaches, our friends. There are so many in our lives who show mercy and compassion, who show us that Love wins. Oh witnesses, stand here beside us.

Household of Trinity, stand here beside us. Hold each other in our grief. Cheer for each other in our joy. Help each other when we fall. Teach each other about who we are. Encourage each other in our compassion. Pray for each other when we cannot pray ourselves. Tell the truth to each other when the truth seems hard. Be the light and the life and the love that shows that Love wins. Show the way of love, the way of mercy, the way of compassion.

All the saints of God, stand here beside us. Show us the way in front of us. Our passage from Revelation shows us the way. It gives us a glimpse of the world God dreams for us. God will dwell with God’s people, and will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. All things are made new. You see, this celebration of All Saints, this baptism of Theo, reminds us that, painful though it may be, we need not fear death. Death brings grief and sadness, absolutely. But this celebration, as well as all of our celebrations at the altar, reminds us that death does not have the last word. So even through our tears and sadness, we will make our song, 'Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia.'

All the saints of God, stand here beside us.

2 Advent Yr C Dec 9 2018

Audio   2 Advent Yr C December 9 2018 Malachi 3:1-4, Philippians 1:3-11, Luke 3:1-6, Canticle 9 First Song of Isaiah N...