Saturday, November 23, 2013

Christ the King/St. Andrew (transferred) Nov 24 2013

It is our patronal feast celebration, which makes it a big day for us. It is like our birthday. Jesus said to Andrew and his brother and some other fisher people, follow me, and they did. What was that about? What in that moment and in that time caused Andrew to say goodbye to fishing, and leave everyone and everything behind to follow Jesus. It may well have been that the fishing was bad, but more likely it was that the vision was better. 

This Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent, is designated as Christ the King. The Feast of St. Andrew actually falls on November 30th, but we decided it was time to celebrate that all together on Sunday morning. And what Andrew must have seen in Jesus must have had something to do with who Jesus was and is. Over the centuries one of the ways we have come to know Jesus is through this image of king. Andrew gave up everything to follow this man. Did he see a king? Did he see a leader? Did he see a savior? Who did he see, who did he follow? And, did Andrew have any interior struggle in coming to the place where he could leave his life behind to follow Jesus? 

Jesus, King and carpenter. Jesus, King and fisher of people. The designation King came much much later than this story. Come, follow me, and I promise you a life of hardship and joy, I promise you a life of heartache and compassion, I promise you a life that will end in death, don't they all, but I promise you a life worth living. I promise a kingdom of imperfect people, made perfect in God's love. I promise a kingdom of people who miss the mark, a kingdom of sinners, forgiven and free. I promise a kingdom of truth tellers, even when the truth is hard to tell and hard to hear. I promise a kingdom in which love wins. I promise a kingdom where you are included, no matter what, just the way you are. And I promise to show you the way. 

And that kingdom will change you. It will transform you. In that kingdom you will become a servant, you will become one who looks to the best interest of the other. You will become a lover for whom the beloved is most important. You will become a friend who is merciful and compassionate. You will become a listener. You will become a truth teller. You begin to see that we are in the same boat. By recognizing how similar your failure to love is to your enemy’s failure to love, we may not be capable of warm fuzzies toward our enemy, but we can at least begin to respect his or her dignity as a human being. We can at least begin to see that we are probably more alike than we would want to think.

Makes sticking with fishing look darn attractive.

You see this kingship of Jesus is not like what we have come to understand about kingship. It's not about power at the top of the food chain. That's all backwards and turned around and upside down. That kind of power does not understand, or make room for, the grace, the mercy, the compassion of brokenness. Because the goal of that kind of power is to make sure that no one sees your weakness. And the effect of that kind of power is to exclude, abuse, and exploit. Jesus' kingship is about the one whose very life heals. Jesus' kingship is about the one whose very body creates bonds of love. Jesus' kingship is about the one whose very blood seeps into our skin and makes us whole. Jesus' kingship is about the one whose very body is a gift for you.

That's why lowly fisherpeople follow Jesus. Somehow Andrew and his brother Simon get a glimpse that the world is not about who's got the most fish or the biggest boat. Or at least the world they would like to be a part of creating is not about who's got the most fish or the biggest boat. The world they would like to be a part of creating, by following Jesus, and bringing their friends with them, is a world in which those who are on the margins are brought to the center. That world is about the love that is unconditional and available no matter what. That world is about the life that really gets started when we're at the end of our own strength, and God's grace and love make their appearance. That world is about all of us being in the same boat. 

Come, follow me, says the one who shows us the way. Come, follow me, and your life will be filled with heartache and happiness. Come, follow me, and you will loose your life, and gain a body that will carry you when you are broken, support you when disease visits you, love you when the world will not, celebrate when you come home after loosing everything. 

Come follow me and you will never go hungry. Your emptiness will be filled. Come follow me and you will find great power and strength as the bread and wine seep into the fragments and fissures of your heart and soul and make you whole. Come follow me and you may listen to the truth of broken hearts, broken lives, and offer the love that wins. 

Jesus, who we call King, Jesus who we call friend, Jesus who we call communion, Jesus, who we call Love, Jesus calls us to follow, and to bring our sisters and brothers. Jesus calls us to a new way, a way of love, healing, hope, wholeness. Amen 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

26 Sunday after Pentecost Yr C Proper 28 Nov 17 2013

I've given many tours to people who come to St. Andrew's. I'm proud of our building, so I show people around. Folks come for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they come looking for a church home, sometimes they are just curious, sometimes I'm just unabashedly Episcopalian, so I'll take a visitor by the hand and make them follow me around. People have one of two observations. Either they also think we have a warm and beautiful sanctuary and they tell me so, or they keep quiet and I know they prefer a more traditional structure.

But you all know as well as I do that church is not about the building. We may be unabashedly proud of our building, but we know at the same time that church is something else. Church is God's work in the world, church is people who profess God's love for them and for all, church is body and bread, blood and wine, church is forgiveness and reconciliation, church is people who agree and disagree with each other, church is messy and beautiful. Church is all of the above. 

And it is these things that we hear about in Luke and in Isaiah today. Luke writes, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down." And from Isaiah, "For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth, the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind." Church without a building. Who are we then?

We need to remember that this good news was told after the events of Jesus' life and death. The events are already known to the author, they tell of what happened, not of what will happen. The temple in Jerusalem which was the place where God lived, was destroyed. Not one stone was left upon another. So in the story, the people are asking Jesus, what does this mean? What does it mean to not have a place for God to live and a place in which to worship God? The destruction of the temple was life changing for the Jews, but Jesus in this story, is reassuring them that all will be well, do not be afraid. As it is written in Isaiah, which Jesus knows well, something new is happening, and it is happening in the person of Jesus.

We live in that place as well. Here is our church building, and we love it and take care of it and it is beautiful. Humans do this over and over. We erect a beautiful building, and eventually it is the building that becomes important, and we become afraid of losing it. And our focus shifts from doing the work of reconciliation and healing that God calls us to, to keeping the institution alive, we become afraid of dieing.

But God calls us to live, God calls us to love, God calls us as agents of resurrection. The new heavens and the new earth are being created right now, and we are agents of that new creation. We have a part to play. Our job is to bring the love that wins to the world so that the world will know God's love and be transformed. As we do that, the world turns, the world turns toward love and away from hate, the world turns toward wholeness and away from fracture and fragment.

It's messy though, it's not this or that, one or the other, black or white, good or bad. Just like it's not only about heaven or hell at the end of time. It's about living fully and completely as God's new creation right here, today. And that is not clear or certain. God reveals Godself on the path we are on, and it is our job to pay attention, and to help the one who is walking next to us, to give them our coat if they need it, to share our food. We will fall down, every one of us. Whether it's because we turn our ankle, wear ourselves out, or goof around too much, we will fall down. It is those who accompany us on the journey, our church, who help raise us up again, and show us the way forward. How we are with one another on the road matters. How we respond to the challenge and joy of the journey matters. That we share the challenge and joy of the journey matters. 

God is at work with us. God is already about healing and reconciliation that changes the world. We respond to that work by giving of ourselves. We give our love, our forgiveness, our mercy and our compassion. When we are members of a church, we give of our treasure as well, because that is what we must do, not because of what we get out of it. Giving because of what we get out of it makes it a transaction, not a relationship. Our relationship with God, with one another, and with this church is not about the exchange of a commodity, it is not transactional. Giving, being a steward of God's creation and all of God's abundance, is who we are and what we do. Giving our love, our care, and some or even all of what we have is what we must do in response to God's amazing and abundant love for us. We don't give because we have to pay the heat, paying for the heat is good but it is not the reason. The reason is love, God's love for us and our love for others. 

Yesterday, Amber, David, Curtis, and I, helped by Tim, Kaitlyn and Kiara, with food provided by the Donhisers, and a financial donation from another wonderful family, had a group of eleven children at Sonshine Saturday. We listened to the story of Noah's Ark, and God's dream for us, we did some great crafts that helped us remember those stories, we worshipped God and had communion together, we sang songs and we even got to play the bells under Curtis' instruction, and we had lunch. Together, we did the work that God calls us to do, and we are changed in the doing.

We are living the reality of the new heavens and the new earth. We are living the reality that God loves us and all of creation so much, God walks with us in this life making us new, transforming our sadness into joy, our pain into hope, our death into life. Amen.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

25 Sunday after Pentecost Yr C Proper 27 Nov 10 2013

Oh Luke, what were you hoping to accomplish by including this passage in your gospel? Confusion? Heartache? Polygamy? Just what is it? Since I have been asking this question all along our journey with Luke, we'll keep asking it. What does this show us about God and God's relationship with God's people? Because scripture is really a divine love story about God and God's relationship with us. 

How do we even begin with this? The Sadducees pose this question to Jesus, in the resurrection, whose wife is this woman, who has married seven brothers and remained childless. And yet they say there is no resurrection, so what are they doing posing this question in the first place? From the get go we know the Sadducees are really just trying to trip Jesus up, they have no intention of listening to any good news Jesus may have for them. It's not about this woman at all, it's not about marriage at all, it's about something else entirely. 

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God who created the heavens and the earth, the God who is seen and unseen, the God of the Universe, the God who is here in the flesh, is the God not of the dead, but of the living. That is the Good News, the rest is description. The rest gives us glimpses into the reality that God is the God of the living. The rest shows us what it is to live. NT Wright, theologian, writer, and former Bishop of Durham, writes in his book Surprised by Hope, that Resurrection is life after life after death. The work that God does in Jesus is to defeat death, not by resisting it, but by absorbing it and redeeming it. Resurrection is living that truth today. Resurrection is life after life after death. Resurrection is living presently without fear of death, because God has transformed death and therefore life. Resurrection is the promise of a future self animated by God's breath of new life. Resurrection is both at the same time. All history is equally present in the moment, this is the way God sees things.

Last week we baptized Kiara Wolber, and I poured oil on her head, and marked her as Christ's own forever. Kiara smelled of that oil for some time. Her towel will smell of it for some time. The scent of heaven permeates all of life, the scent of heaven changes us today and for all time. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches again and again that the good news is about a death that leads to life. It's a pattern, a truth, a reality that comes from losing your life and finding it. Dieing the death that must be, so as to be raised, changed, transformed. 

And how do we know what that looks like? It has something to do with that scent of heaven that permeates all of life. It has something to do with love that embraces the terribly difficult life that we are so fortunate to live. Dorothy Day, an avid preacher of a social justice gospel, said "'Every time I'm tempted to give up on my messy self or a messy person or a messy group of people - I say this to myself: "Love is a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us but it is the only answer.'" And in response to this, a very favorite blogger of mine, writes, " Love is NOT fluffy or perfect or easy or pretty or common. Real love is jagged and lurching and heavy and unattractive and HARD. If it wasn't so much harder than war- more people would choose it. The good news is - You can do hard things." (Glennon Melton)

Resurrection is what this love looks like. Resurrection is this harsh and dreadful love that God has for God's people. Resurrection demands that we let go of our preoccupations, our idols, our obsessions  and our compulsions, our addictions, so that the love that gave up everything on the cross, can embrace us and make us new, and equip us to love ourselves and others. 

Each one of you knows about death. You know that your heart breaks at the death of your spouse, or your parent, or your friend. You know that your heart breaks when someone you love and care for leaves you. There are all sorts of other kinds of deaths as well. When your health dies, and you must live with disease. When your self dies a little each day with harsh words that are spoken. When your dreams die and you must live with a reality you never even imagined. When your livelihood dies, and your life is not the the same. Deaths that are out of our hands, out of our control. And sometimes, even though it breaks our heart, death is necessary, because it is only then that new life, resurrection, can begin to take hold. But it is in all of these moments where God's love seeps into us and makes us new, heals us, changes us, transforms us.

And it is this hard kind of love that God calls us to in our lives, and our families, and our neighborhoods, and our church and our world. It is this hard kind of love that speaks the truth of life, in all it's messiness and chaos. 

The Sadducees could not imagine resurrection, maybe because they could not imagine a love that would give itself away for the life of the other. But Jesus would not have it. Jesus proclaims the God of resurrection, the God of life, the God of love, the God whose scent permeates all of life.  

Love is hard, and you can do hard things. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

All Saints Sunday, Nov 3 2013

We celebrate All Saints Day each year on the Sunday closest to Nov 1.  Elizabeth Johnson, theologian, writes, "This is the day when the church recalls the great tribe out of every nation and people, proclaims the following of Jesus according to the beatitudes, and allows the subversive memory of the friends of God and prophets of all ages and the hope of our communion with them to take center stage. This is a feast of the greatest solidarity, a fundamentally joyous day that takes note of historical suffering within the overarching theme of that the last word belongs to divine love."

Today, as we began our worship, we recalled the great tribe out of every nation. We named those who have walked this path before us, and those who walk this path with us, as we look toward those who will walk this path after we have gone. All Saints is a time when all time comes together in a single moment and we may enter the mystery of Christ particularly as a communion and a community of people who hold hands across time to witness to the ministry God calls us to. 

All Saints is our day to find ourselves in the community that attests to the love that wins. It is not to find ourselves wanting because we aren't good enough or perfect enough. All Saints is our day to experience the awesomeness of those who walked this path before us, and to count ourselves as part of that great cloud of witnesses. It is an opportunity to call on this cloud of witnesses, Abraham and Aquinas, Madeleine and Marion, Perpetua and Felicity, Martin Luther King and Oscar Romero, as people who show us the way of fearless love, mercy, and compassion.

We celebrate all saints because death does not have the final word. In a culture where the greatest fear is the fear of dying, death does not win, Love wins. The work that Jesus did on the cross, and continues to do and will continue to do, wins. Rick and I saw Gravity last night. I wondered aloud about what would motivate anyone to go into space like that. But I answered my own question. No one gets out of this life alive. And the astronaut's answer was to live fully and completely without fear while you have still have life. And besides the amazing cinematography, the story is really about living without fear. 

This cloud of witnesses that stand with us this day, show us how to live without fear, and die with love. They show us how to love ourselves, and to love others. They show us that love has the final word. Today we baptize Kiara Ann Wolber into this community of saints, this cloud of witnesses, this collection of people who will love her and raise her up as the child of God that she is. Today, she is marked as God's own. Amen.