Saturday, May 31, 2008

3 Pentecost Yr A

My dad would come home from work covered in mud and smelling of sweat. He was a block layer, when I was little I called him a cement man. When he came home, he’d leave his boots by the back door, and head straight to the shower. But that smell of mud never left him. For fun on Saturdays, he’d put me and one or two of my siblings in the truck, and we’d drive out to the job site. He’d just want to check it out, make sure everything was fine over the weekend. There was a big hole, with cement blocks and wheelbarrows, and machines to mix the mud, as my dad always called the cement. I remember being in awe of that job site, like something that really mattered happened there. My dad was setting the foundation for all those new homes being built, what he did mattered for many many people.

As you know, I lived most of my life in Minnesota, and whenever there was a tornado warning, it’s those sturdy basements we would head for. I knew that basement was the safest place to be, I’d seen them being built, and I knew who built them. When we moved to Austin, Texas, I wondered where you would go during a tornado, there were no basements, it seemed to me that a house would just get blown away.

Today we live in a world where the foundation under us is moving, and the sky above us twists and blows, no well built basement can stand up to that. Tornados in Colorado, Iowa, and Missouri. Cyclone in Burma, earthquake in China.

And yet Jesus says, “everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” When the earth quakes, the winds and rain come in a deluge and destroy people’s homes, then what does Jesus mean? What is that rock? What is that foundation? What is really stable in a world that swirls and quakes?

There may be some clues in the preceding text itself. This passage we hear today follows what we know as the sermon on the mount which includes the beatitudes, a story about being salt and light, a self disclosure about being the fulfillment of the law, and lessons on forgiveness and fidelity, covenant, love, humility, prayer, worship. I’m thinking each of these things is like one of those big substantial blocks my dad would set in the wall of the basement he built, and all together they would form that firm foundation on which to build the house. Sadly, even with substantial blocks like that, that house can still be blown away.

But, I think we can turn to the prayer that Jesus taught us that is contained in this cotext which is “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” This is where I believe the stability is located, this is the place that cannot be blown away or blown up or blown over. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

I think the stability is found in this new creation, God’s kingdom come, that God inaugurates in the resurrection of Jesus. The rest is incredibly important, important like the things that we would hope to take with us when we hide in our basement when the winds come. Love, humility, prayer, worship, forgiveness, fidelity, covenant, are all substantial, they are like the photos that I would want to take with me into the basement. The photos that tell the story of our families, but they are not the substance of our family. They are like the books that I love so very much that I would like to take with me into the basement, the books that remind me of who I am, but they are not the substance of who I am. If I lost all my photos, all my books, everything that identified me as Kathy Monson Lutes in the winds and the quakes, what would there be left? And of course, the question that must be asked, when life is lost in the winds and the quakes, when my life is ended in the winds and the quakes, or just ended, what does it mean?

“Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The bedrock on which faith is built is this. God has begun the new creation in the resurrection of Jesus. Again, God has begun the new creation in the resurrection of Jesus. God’s new creation is begun; the renewing of the earth is begun. You and I are participants in God’s new creation; this is the bedrock on which our faith is built. It is this absolutely new thing that God has done, is doing, and will continue to do until the project is complete at the fulfillment of the ages.

The new creation that God inaugurates with the resurrection of Jesus reaches back into the beginning of Jesus' ministry, at Jesus’ baptism with the words, “This is my son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” The bedrock on which faith is built is God’s new creation begun in the resurrection of Jesus, and predicated by the words, “you are chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” You see, dust we are, and to dust we shall return, but God can do new things with dust. All else can be blown away, blown up, or blown over, God’s new creation cannot be shaken.

And today, you and I are agents of new creation. You and I, chosen and marked by God’s love, delight of God’s life, are participants in this new creation that we pray for each time we say the Lord’s Prayer. We are being transformed by God’s amazing and abundant love into agents of new creation. We are being transformed into people who do what the Lord requires of us, to act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. We are being transformed into people who continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in the prayers; who persevere in resisting evil, repent and return to the lord; who proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; who seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves; and who strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

We get glimpses of new creation all the time. We get glimpses of ourselves being agents of new creation. But we never see it clearly, not until the fulfillment of all time. But the glimpses we get have everything to do with acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God. The glimpses have everything to do with the living out of our baptismal promises. When we are in the world living as agents of new creation, we get glimpses. When we order our lives here at St. Andrew’s so that people can have time and space to be healed, we get glimpses. I have heard people say that St. Andrew’s is a place where they can come when they are broken, that St. Andrew’s is a place where you can bring before God and your brothers and sisters the truth of who you are, and you will be accepted, and in that accepting, you will be healed. Healing is transformation. If you can’t bring your tears and your pain to the altar before God, well then, what good is any of it. These are glimpses of new creation. Glimpses of God’s renewing of our lives, and our world.

This is the bedrock of our faith. It is what will never be blown away, blown up, or blown over. The substantial blocks of our foundation are substantial and important, they are what keeps the building up. Even the touchstones of our faith are important, the Book of Common Prayer, the Hymnal, the altar, the candles; these are all things that identify us as to who we are. But as to the bedrock of our faith, that which will never be blown away, blown up or blown over, it is new creation, it is resurrection.

Alleluia. The Spirit of the Lord renews the face of the earth:
Come let us adore him. Alleluia.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Deacon Marty Garwood, Proper 3 Yr A

What does it mean when we are told not to worry?

If you are anything like me, sometimes just being told not to worry causes me to worry even more. After all, if someone thinks they need to reassure me, there must be a reason why.

We are told in this morning’s Gospel not to worry. We are told that not once – but three times! It is enough to make me worry. I worried about being able to understand the message in these words that Matthew’s Gospel recorded for us. I worried about how I was going to write a sermon telling all of you not to worry.

So I did what I usually do when something causes me to worry – I procrastinated. I do procrastinate better than I worry. But eventually yesterday, I could put it off no longer. And when I did sit down and start to sort out all my thoughts, I realized that in many ways, I had been thinking about this subject all week while I procrastinated.

I thought about it when I stopped at the gas station on Wednesday to put fuel in my car. The cost of gasoline is nearly $4.00 per gallon. The rising price of oil has caused prices to rise not only at the gas pump but also in the grocery store. It seems as though the price of nearly everything is increasing by leaps and bounds. But our wages are not increasing at any where near the same rate – especially for those members of our society who are on fixed incomes.

I thought about the topic of worry as people I know and love were traveling this week - either by airplane or driving long distances. Things can happen in a heartbeat. Whether due to a mechanical failure or a split second of inattention – accidents happen so suddenly and lives are altered forever.

We have been in a drought for a number of years and have longed for rain. In the past few days, we received a significant amount of precipitation. Questions run through our minds. will the roof leak – will there be water in the basement again – will the hard rain either wash out the newly planted crops or make it too muddy to even get into the fields to plant? We wonder if the standing water will become a breeding place for mosquitoes and if there will be an increase of West Nile Virus. For those of us who lived in the Rapid City area in 1974, our worries are also mixed with memories – memories of how the landscape looked before it was changed by the power of rampaging water on a dark night and memories of family and friends who died on that night.

Whenever I picked up a newspaper, turned on the news, or checked the Internet headlines this week I was reminded that there are many things to worry about. This country is in the middle of a war in Iraq with no end in sight. There will be an election in November – our lives will be affected by the decisions that we make concerning all the issues and persons on the ballot. Education opportunities are being cut because funding is not available. I’m reminded that children and the elderly are often victimized – and that it is not only strangers who hurt them but also far to often the very people they should be able to trust. I’m reminded that the environment is being damaged in irreparable ways by the greed and carelessness of a culture that values immediate gratification over responsible stewardship.

Are we really meant to not worry over such things? Are we really as carefree as the birds of the air and the flowers of the field?

Worry comes as a natural response to the ability to care deeply. Being able to love is a part of who we are. We have been created by a God who loves us deeply – we have been created in the very image of that loving God. The ability to love is a part of our genetic make up – a part of our God-like DNA if you will.

That gift of love is often expressed in terms or actions of concern. And out of concern comes worry. A certain degree of worry is a part of our human nature. We find it nearly impossible to adopt a carefree whatever will be will be attitude towards people we care about or even about our own lives.

It seems to me that by the very nature of our Baptism vows, there is an inherent amount of worry. If there is not concern as well as an ever-present awareness, then why or how should we work at being a part of a faith community? Why or how should we work at resisting evil and why should we long to return to the Lord when we have fallen away? Why or how are we concerned about living out the example of the Good News of God in Christ? Why or how should we seek Christ in others and love them as ourselves? Why and how should we care about striving for justice and peace or even respecting the dignity of every human being? We don’t attempt these things solely because they are written in the Book of Common Prayer. We attempt them – with God’s help – because we know that it is what we are called to do as participants in God’s love.

St. Makarios of Egypt was astonishingly realistic about the concept of worry. This 5th century desert monastic wrote, “I am convinced that not even the apostles, although filled with the Holy Spirit, were therefore ever completely free from anxiety.” He continued with this statement; “contrary to the stupid view expressed by some, the advent of grace does not mean the immediate deliverance from anxiety.”

It is when our normal fears and anxieties become so all consuming that we have no time or energy left for anything else that we are cautioned about our behavior. As with anything else in our lives that separate us from a relationship with God, we are called to stop the behavior and turn back – again and again and again – to our source of life.

As Christians we do not belong solely to ourselves. We have been called by name as beloved daughters and sons by a God who takes delight in us. In and through the waters of our Baptism we are marked, as God’s own forever. We have been called to a different set of expectations and priorities.

In a culture that extols the benefits of living life to the extreme – we often lose sight of that perspective. When we begin to rely more on those worldly excesses than on the grace we are freely given through our relationship with God, then we separate ourselves from the value of life lived in the Kingdom of God. We forget who we are and whose we are.

Part of the weather phenomenon we experienced this weekend was dense fog. I had to drive in that fog on Friday evening. It was an alarming experience – and yes – I was worried. I was driving a section of highway that I know very well. It is a section of road that I thought I could probably drive blindfolded or on automatic pilot. Being wrapped in an excess of thick moist air was like being blindfolded and my automatic pilot was not working. I had absolutely no clear idea of where I was. I could barely see a few feet in any direction. I felt disoriented and disassociated from my normal world. I had no focus and it felt like no destination.

If we allow the worries of our lives to become all-consuming then we become lost in the fog. We become disoriented and disassociated from the very Light and Love that is meant to guide our paths.

We must constantly be on the alert to not divide our loyalties. We simply can not belong to the world and ourselves at the same time we belong to God. We can however live our lives in the world as children of God. There is a difference.

In the Kingdom of God, in which we are called to live, there is an abundance to be shared. There is enough to go around. We are called on to share out of our time, talents, and treasures. It is our responsibility as well as our privilege to be good stewards and share the bounty of our lives.

The world, however, teaches a psychology of scarcity. There is a sense that there is not enough to go around and that it every person for themselves. Grab what you can when you can and don’t even think about the needs of others.

Comedian George Carlin has made this observation: “We spend more, but have less. We buy more, but enjoy less. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years.”

A novel was recently recommended to me by a Lutheran pastor. William Young’s book entitled “The Shack” is the fictional story about a man who was invited to spend the weekend with God. I found both the premise and the story itself to be intriguing. Mack, the main character in the story, had been through a rough patch in his life and he was now unsure of many things. Mack asked God why it was so hard for him to not be afraid. God responded by asking where Mack spent most of his time in his mind: in the present, in the past, or in the future? Mack thought for a moment and answered that he spent little time thinking about the present, and although he spent a big piece in the past, it was in the future that he spent most of his time worrying about – in trying to figure out the future. God responded that in dwelling with us, God does so in the present. Not in the past, although much can be remembered and learned by looking back. And God does not dwell in the future that we usually visualize or imagine because we spend so much time wrapped in our fears and trying to gain control or power over a future that isn’t yet real and may never be real, that we allow no room for God. Mack was left with much to think about when God said, “The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love.”

We have been offered life with a capital L. We have a choice. If we allow ourselves to be seduced into a life of constant and unfettered worry and anxiety we will lose our way. When we accept the radical love freely offered to us by God, we are given a freedom from that burden of anxiety. Within that radical love we are newly created with the same loving care as the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. We are fed and nourished in love and we are clothed in the aura of beauty that God intends for us.

Lest you are beginning to worry that this homily is going to go on for ever, I leave you with these words spoken to Julian of Norwich in a vision from God. “I can make all things well; I will make all things well; I shall make all things well, and thou canst see for thyself that all manner of things shall be well.”

Amen.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

2 Pentecost Yr A (Trinity)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer; Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver. These are all ways for us to imagine Trinity. This rune is attributed to St. Patrick, who in the face of the forces of darkness bound himself to the trinity. “I bind unto myself the Name, the strong name of the trinity; by invocation of the same, the three in one, and one in three, of whom all nature hath creation; eternal father, spirit, word; praise to the lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.” We may struggle to understand the doctrine of the trinity, but there is no struggle in the experience of the relationship of God, Jesus and spirit.

It is this relationship that our images try to convey and our words try to describe. The story of creation sets the stage. Humanity is created by God, and created in God’s image, the reflection of love and wholeness, that which does God intend for creation. In God’s own image God created humankind, God’s own image includes diversity. Human beings are the expression of God’s fullness, of God’s love, of God’s wholeness. And God’s creation is about the interrelatedness of all the created order. Every living creature, all of the animals, the waters and the land, the stars in the sky, the planets in their courses.

Trinity is about this relationship in and among the created order. Trinity is the real world, the real world of God’s love for humanity, for God’s deepest desire to not be alone and outside of creation, but to be in among and through creation. The reality of God’s deepest desire to love humanity is incarnated in Jesus. Jesus, who lived, loved, suffered and died. Jesus, in whom God began the new creation on that first Easter morning. Jesus who was raised from the dead and who ascended to take his place with God. And who is present with creation, with us, as Holy Spirit, present in the water, the flame and the oil of baptism, present in the bread and the wine, present in the coming together at this table in this place and present in the sending out into the world to do justice, to appreciate beauty, and to be about the mission of kingdom building.

Trinity is about a reality of community over against individualism. Trinity encourages participation and welcomes diversity. Community, participation, and diversity look a lot like the church we strive to be. Each person is interdependent with the others, there is no room for any one to be self-aggrandizing and in the system each person empties oneself to be filled by the others, just as Jesus emptied himself to the love of humanity. Participation by all is essential to the matrix; the entity cannot live without the participation of each of the parts. Diversity presupposes inclusion, and inclusion refers to the acceptance of others, joining them with oneself while honoring the diversity among the many, in a unity that does not seek uniformity.

Trinity is not a thing to be studied, but a reality to be lived. Like resurrection, trinity bears itself out in a sort of natural circle; we all say to one another that events happen in threes.

Jesus had taught the disciples to pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven, and at the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus claims the authority that has been given to him, to send the disciples to go and make that happen; to work as agents of that authority that has been granted as a result of the resurrection and in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. Claiming the authority of the trinity to baptize, the disciples, and that includes you and me, are to make disciples of all nations. I think that begs the question, what would the world look like if we took Jesus seriously?

NT Wright, the author of the book I’ve been reading, Surprised by Hope, describes the world that takes Jesus’ resurrection seriously and that baptizes in the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit as a world of justice, beauty, and evangelism, another trinity.

Justice, according to NT Wright, is God’s intention, as expressed from Genesis to Revelation, to set the whole world right. A plan gloriously fulfilled in Jesus Christ, supremely in Jesus’ resurrection, and now to be implemented in the world. What this means is that since Jesus has already begun the new creation in the resurrection, that you and I are part of the solution, we are part of the web that can speak about and make real what Jesus pointed us to, that the lowly are to be lifted up, the mighty brought down, that all are to included at the table.

Beauty is the second aspect of NT Wright’s trinity of mission. I find this refreshing and fascinating. Throughout history, some who call themselves Christian have gone on about how bad this world is, and that our whole purpose is to get out of it to someplace else, often called heaven. I am not suggesting that sin isn’t real; we know that it is, sin happens when we idolize anything that isn’t God. It is also sin to idolize creation and hold it above all else. But being created in God’s image is that we are ourselves creators, and to make sense of and celebrate a beautiful world through music and art is part of the call to be stewards of creation.

I have been thinking a lot about this recently, and being an educator first and foremost, I began to realize why I think an argument about public education that does not include arts, music, and physical education is lacking. Our lives are lessened; our lives become distorted, when we do not reflect the entirety of God’s image of beauty. The reality is that the wholeness of God’s image is in both beauty and woundedness, and when we come to terms with both we may be on our way to doing the new thing that discipleship calls us to do.

Lastly, NT Wright’s trinity of mission is evangelism. Not the frightening and bullying harangues or tactless and offensive behavior of some, or embarrassing and na├»ve presentations of the gospel. Evangelism is the powerful announcement that God is God, that Jesus is lord, that the powers of evil have been defeated, and that God’s new world has begun. What this means is that we allow our lives to be reshaped by God, knowing that it is painful at times, but that it is the way to genuine human life in the present, and a glorious resurrection in the future.

I bind unto myself this day, the strong name of the trinity, justice, beauty, and evangelism. I bind unto myself this day, the strong name of the trinity; by invocation of the same, the three in one, and one in three, of whom all nature hath creation; eternal father, spirit, word; praise to the lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Alleluia. The Spirit of the Lord renews the face of the earth:
Come let us adore him. Alleluia.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Day of Pentecost Yr A

This Feast of Pentecost that we celebrate is the occasion at which the story tells us that the Holy Spirit came from Heaven like the rush of a violent wind and tongues like fire appeared among them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and were able to speak and understand one another as the Spirit gave them ability. And then in the gospel of John, Jesus breathes on the disciples and teaches them about forgiveness.

Language and communication are essential as we imagine our lives as social beings. We can hardly even conceive of life without verbal communication. Not only do we share time and space with one another, we share ideas, concepts, we put our feelings into words. My favorite author, Madeleine L’engle says, “maintaining the richness of language is a constant concern. We think because we have words, not the other way around.” Also, hearing well and listening well is so very important for us. I am always mindful of my diction and delivery when I am speaking in public. It is very important to me that my words are heard clearly, if you can clearly hear what I say, I’m most of the way there to you understanding what I say.

Language, words and sounds crafted into ideas that may be shared between and among humans, is the way we concieve of our God, it is the way we imagine the world and the universe around us. Language is amazing; it is how we know we are human. We use the language of poetry and metaphor to try to experience reality, the language of prose to describe our reality, technical language to teach our reality to others. It is why we describe God as author; God has spoken the Word and has authored our lives and our salvation. In acknowledging the wonder of language, we must also acknowledge how woefully inadequate language is to communicate with God. We try so hard to use the proper words, we try so hard to use symbol and sign, but we fail miserably in our attempt. We are so tied to language and words, that it is hard to realize that sometimes it is not even words in which the Holy Spirit communicates, it is something much deeper.

It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible for us to communicate with God and to hear one another. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible for us to hear one another in the language of our land, in the language of our life, in the language of our heart. In the Acts passage we heard, it is evident that the people were from all sorts and kinds of places, some from Minnesota, and others from Texas, even from Alabama and Arkansas I would imagine, and yet they could understand one another. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible for us to hear one another at all, and to hear God at all.

At the first Pentecost, when each heard the other speaking in their native language, those gathered were amazed and astonished. They were amazed and astonished by the presence of the Spirit. I am amazed and astonished by the presence of the Holy Spirit today.

I believe we know the presence of the Holy Spirit and we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit when we really hear one another, when we really hear God, not just with our minds and our intellect, but when we hear with our hearts, when we hear with our spirits, and when we speak with our hearts and our spirits. I think that is frightening for many because it is so intimate, it is so real, and it is so truthful. Often, the truth is hard and scary to hear.

The language of music, sometimes sacred, sometimes secular, helps me make the deep connection of spirit and truth. Corporate prayer helps me make the deep connection of spirit and truth. Sometimes that is in the beautiful language of our prayer book, sometimes that is in the spontaneous language of people gathered lifting to God all that blesses us and all that concerns us.

We also know the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Wind. We are quite familiar with the wind here in South Dakota, the harshness of the wind. The wind is always transforming, it blows and blows and leaves nothing the way it was originally. Even the rocks eventually change shape; you and I are shaped by the Wind of the Spirit. We are formed and shaped by that transforming Wind that is relentless in it’s work to shape us into the image of our creator, the image of God.

In Acts we hear the presence of the Holy Spirit in the breath that gives forgiveness. Then Jesus took a deep breath and breathed into them. "Receive the Holy Spirit," he said. "If you forgive someone's sins, they're gone for good. If you don't forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?" In addition to the deeper language that the Holy Spirit gives, and the forming and shaping the Holy Spirit gives, the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to forgive one another. It is in forgiving one another that we truly find peace and healing.

Lastly, we know the presence of the Holy Spirit in the sending. I do think that this is the most powerful part of this passage. We are sent, transformed by Spirit, with instructions to forgive one another, out into the world, into the public square, into the marketplace, with this power. It isn’t enough to sit in our beautiful sanctuary, listen to wonderful music, and greet our friends. We are sent into the places where God’s Good News must be proclaimed by word and example. We are sent to forgive, as we have been forgiven.

It seems to me there’s a lot of forgiveness that is needed out in the public square. I think as a culture we look to reward and revenge as goods to be exchanged. But the Spirit sends us to forgive. Forgiveness leads to reconciliation, to right relationship.

Our prayer book teaches that we recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit when we confess Jesus Christ as Lord and are brought into love and harmony with God, with ourselves, with our neighbors, and with all creation. It is this that we are sent out to do, to take God’s love out into the world and bring that love and harmony, which are the fruits of forgiveness, to our neighbors, and all of creation.

Listen and hear, the words, the wind, and the breath of the Spirit, and bring forgiveness into the world,

Alleluia. The Spirit of the Lord renews the face of the earth: Come let us adore him. Alleluia.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

7 Easter Yr A

You all know I come from good Norwegian stock. One of the things that constitute us as a people is that we must eat, not necessarily like, but at least eat, lutefisk and lefse. Well, one of the other popular family reunion foods, a bit lesser know is glorified rice. I don’t know why rice has to be glorified, I like rice just the way it is, just as I prefer my torsk grilled rather than in soaked in lye, but who am I to question tradition?

I bring up this little conversation about Norwegian food, which is all white by the way, because glorified rice just really isn’t. At it’s basic it really is just white rice, with cream and sugar added to make it something other than rice. So calling it glorified really just confuses me, but the glory we read about in today’s readings needs not to be so confusing. Making glorified rice is making rice into something it really isn’t; the father glorifying the Son so that the Son may glorify you, is creating or calling something into what it really is meant to be.

Thursday was the feast of the Ascension. The church marks this biblical story in which Jesus leaves this earthly existence. That’s always been somewhat confusing to me as well, but I’ve been reading this book by NT Wright, bishop of Durham, called Surprised by Hope, and his writings actually have helped me be less confused, for now at least. NT Wright explains that in the Resurrection, Jesus was raised from the dead, and there was some time between that event and the event of the Ascension. During that in between time, Jesus looked different than he had when he had been rabbi, teacher. We know this because all the stories describe the disciples and others not recognizing Jesus until he said something to them, like “Peace be with you.”

At the Ascension, Jesus promises not to leave humanity bereft, but to leave humanity with the advocate, or the spirit, we are not left alone. The church celebrates that at the feast of Pentecost. In the midst of all of this, the gospel writer John writes that Jesus has glorified God on earth, by finishing the work that was given to him to do. I think that this is where the message of today’s gospel lies. Glory is not about rice, it is not about making something that it is not, but glory is about you and I living exactly as we are meant to be, Glory is about being who we are created to be, just as Jesus is glorified and glorified the father by being exactly who he was meant to be, you and I are to glorify God by being exactly who we are called to be.

I’ve never been one to think or talk in terms of God’s plan for my life, or even in terms of God’s will. I’ve never really bought into a theology or staked my life on God directing the details of my life. However, I do believe that because of the resurrection of Jesus, preceded by his life and love, God has done something new, something amazing, something wonderful. It is because of this new creation of which Jesus is the first born, that you and I receive the gift of new life, we receive gift of God’s abundant love, and it is that love which calls us to be the child that God calls us to be. We are glorified beings living for the glory of God.

And in I Peter we have part of a picture of what it looks like to respond to God’s amazing and abundant love. We are to humble ourselves and God will raise us up. We are to cast all our anxiety on him, because he cares for us. We are to discipline ourselves and we are to keep alert. We are to remain steadfast in our faith, and we are to be in solidarity with the suffering of our brothers and sisters. When we respond to God’s amazing and abundant love in these ways, we too will be agents of the new creation; we too will be kingdom builders.

To be humble is a tough go in this present culture. To be humble is not the same as subservient, or meek, or a doormat. I don’t see humble modeled much in our culture. I see posturing, I see the elevation of individual achievement, I see the need to be right. I see hero worship instead of mentoring. To be humble is to admit to ourselves and to others that we may be wrong or that we may grow. It is to approach the others of God’s creation with an attitude that in the encounter, in the conversation, in the work and in the play, that we will be transformed, that we will be changed, that something amazing may happen and we will see the face of God. To be humble is to ask for and accept forgiveness. To be humble is to walk hand in hand with Jesus in our midst, Jesus in the other, Jesus in our suffering, and in our joy.
To be humble is to be who God creates us to be; to be humble is glory.

We are to cast all our anxiety on God, because God cares for us. Oh how hard this is especially when anxiety, fear, surrounds us and infiltrates our hearts and minds. Our economy makes us anxious, war makes us anxious, being unsure if we have enough makes us anxious. But we are to cast that anxiety on God because God cares for us. We are to rest assured that God’s amazing and abundant love are enough. No more is needed, nothing less will do. Not to be anxious is to be who God creates us to be; not to be anxious is glory.

We are to be disciplined and to keep alert. It is hard to keep alert when everything draws our time, attention, and loyalty away from the discipline of prayer and study, away from our worship of God. We are inundated by opportunities to slumber rather than keep alert. We are anesthetized to the real world in which we need to live, the world in which God love us abundantly, the world in which we must respond to that love with prayer and praise, with loyalty and attention. To keep alert is to be who God creates us to be, to stay awake is glory.

We are to be steadfast in our faith. Steadfast, not right, not unquestioning, but steadfast, loyal, faithful. We are to persist in asking our questions and we are to persist in pursuing God as God persists in pursuing us. We are to be steadfast, we are to be faithful, no where does God demand success from us, everywhere God’s love and faith in us calls us to be faithful, to be steadfast. To be steadfast is to be who God creates us to be, to be steadfast is glory.

We are to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering, because they, like us, are wonderfully and fearfully created children of God. We are to be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering, because when we can see that each of us is created in God’s image, we stand a chance of reconciliation, of restoration, resurrection. We are created new. To be in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering is who God creates us to be, it is God’s glory.

The power of new creation, the power of resurrection is transforming power. The power of God’s gift of new creation makes sense out of our suffering and our joy. It is this new life that God gives, and we know it is true because each one of us has lived through pain and suffering that we thought we could not bear, to see and experience something entirely new on the other side of it, when we are willing to open our ears and our eyes to the new creation.

God calls us to glory, to be who we are created to be. God calls us to respond to God’s amazing and abundant love with hope and with new life, with the possibility that we may meet God in one another.

Alleluia! Christ is risen. Come let us adore him. Alleluia!