Saturday, June 21, 2014

2nd Sunday after Pentecost Yr A June 22 2014

Audio 6.22.2014

Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. We have heard this proclaimed in many times and places. Do not be afraid. When the angel announces to Mary that she is pregnant, when the shepherds hear the proclamation of the birth of Jesus, when the spirit enters the room in which the disciples gathered after the resurrection. Each time, do not be afraid is followed by Good News. So why does the proclaimer precede the Good News with do not be afraid? I think because that same Good News is not the same old news. That Good News harkens to a profound change in the way things have been. That Good News may sometimes not even look or sound like Good News.

Let's take a look first at the reading from Genesis. This is the story of Hagar, Sarah's maid-servant. Sarah is married to Abraham. They are very important people in Hebrew scripture. Abraham is the father of the Hebrew people, the progenitor, from whom all of us come. But Sarah has not gotten pregnant and now she is very very old, beyond the days in which she could get pregnant. Sarah knows how important it is to have a child, God has promised that the entire Hebrew people will come from Abraham, and yet, no baby. The pressure's on. Sarah tells her husband Abraham to lie with her handmaiden Hagar, so that at least Abraham can conceive a child.

I tend to think that part of the reason Sarah wasn't getting pregnant all those years is that she was so stressed out and afraid about being the mother of the Hebrew people that it just wasn't happening. That's one of the things the doctors tell us, isn't it, just relax, don't be so worried about it, you'll get pregnant. What do they know? So Hagar, Sarah's handmaiden gets pregnant by Abraham, and that child is named Ishmael. So now the pressure's off, and Sarah indeed gets pregnant, and Sarah and Abraham's child is Isaac. 

Now, Sarah becomes jealous and envious and afraid. So she sends Hagar and her son Ishmael off to wander in the wilderness and find their own way. Like it or not, that's the story. Sarah is really not much different than any one of us, is she? Which one of us has not gotten jealous, or envious, or even afraid, with the people and circumstances in our lives? That's the power in these stories, you and I fit right in. And Hagar, the one cast out with her child. We can close our eyes and our ears to it, but the truth is whether literally or figuratively, there are those we cast off for fear of who they are. Who do you identify with in this story? Is it Sarah? or Hagar? or Abraham?

And then we have this passage in Matthew that talks a lot about fear. Jesus has commissioned his twelve disciples and is about to send them out on a mission of their own, a mission during which they both exercise great authority and need to demonstrate profound trust. For while they will have the power to cast out demons and heal the sick, they are to take no money or extra provisions but rather depend upon the grace of God as shown in the hospitality of others. Do not be afraid disciples, your world will be turned upside down and inside out, but do not be afraid. Your assumptions about blood relationship and social relationship will be completely demolished, but do not be afraid.

Yeah, right. Fear dominates our lives -- fear for our loved ones, fear about an uncertain future, fear of continued war abroad and economic downturn at home, fear of where our next meal or rent payment will come from, fear of being accepted in this next stage of life, going to high school or college, moving from your house to a retirement community, and the list goes on.

There is nothing about this Good News that is easy. And yet we believe with every fiber of our being, that we are God's beloved. We believe with every breath we take in that it is God's love that wins. We believe with every breath we breathe out that God's spirit moves among us. And in those moments, and hours, and days of doubt and fear, we say the prayers, we gather together, we love and support one another, we break and eat the bread, and again we glimpse the hope of God's way, God's love, God's healing, God's reconciliation, God's kingdom.

We create a new world with God, each time fear of the other is turned into compassion for the one who is different. We create a new world with God, each time fear of the unknown is becomes a bold embracing of the new. We create a new world with God, each time fear of losing our job or our income, becomes the birth of a new idea. We create a new world with God, each time fear of losing our children or our family becomes the opportunity to say I Love you. We create a new world with God, each time acting out of prejudice becomes forgiveness and new relationship. We create a new world with God, each time our words bind and heal, and our actions invite and feed. 

Be fearless for God. Be bold, be courageous. 
Do not be afraid. You are God's beloved. Amen.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Trinity June 15 2014

Audio 6.15.2014

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. These words are 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, this community, 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, which God does intend for creation. In God’s own image God created humankind, God’s own image includes amazing 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 through and among the created order. Trinity is the real world in which we live, 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, is in the flesh, 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 bringing God's love into the world.

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, the body of christ cannot live without the participation of each of the parts. Diversity presupposes inclusion, and inclusion is the acceptance of others. We join together, while honoring the diversity among the many, in a unity that does not seek uniformity.

But, Trinity is not a thing to be studied, it is a reality to be lived. 
Like resurrection, trinity bears itself out in a sort of natural circle; Caterpillar - cocoon - butterfly; 
Mother - daughter - wife; 
wheel - spoke - hub; 
Doctor Who - TARDIS - ?
composer - musician - music;
Three in one and one in three.

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. What would the world look like if we really claimed the authority of the Trinity?

NT Wright, the author of a book called, 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, a Trinity of mission.

Justice is the first aspect of NT Wright's trinity of mission. It 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. I think being created in God’s image means 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, that Love wins 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. 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.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pentecost June 8 2014

Audio 6.8.2014

We tell each other stories all the time. We tell stories that are funny and that are sad, we tell stories to entertain and to inform. Some of our stories are great and some are pathetic. By telling our stories we come to understand ourselves better, and we come to know each other better. 
And although some can tell a mighty fine story, none of our stories are as good as the one we share together. That is the story that Love wins. 

And that story goes like this. God, who is love, who is creator of all that is seen and unseen, who promised to be in relationship with creation, who became human, who lived and loved and suffered and died, who rose from the dead and gives you and me the gift of new life and the spirit, that God, loves us absolutely and abundantly. And God's heart's desire is that we love God back by loving each other, by loving ourselves even when we believe we are unlovable, and by loving those who seem outside the possibility of our love. 

This story of God's love is a story that is in process. It is a story that began with the dawning of time and will continue until the fulfillment of all time. It is a story that lives deep within our hearts and our minds. It is the story that gives you and me our identity, it tells us who we are and to whom we are related. Your story, my story, our story, belong within the story that Love wins. It is a story in which we are brought out of fear, out of bondage, into freedom. It is a story that brings us from old creation to new creation. We move from a self-centered story to a God-centered story. It is the story that transforms us. It is indeed the greatest story ever told.

The Day of Pentecost is an important event in this story. The setting of the story is The Festival of Weeks, a joyous celebration of the spring harvest. Jewish people from all over Israel and many foreign lands came to Jerusalem. Peter and the rest of the disciples were at the Temple bright and early. The air was probably very still and hot, I understand Jerusalem summers are not windy. The huge crowd that was gathering  at the Temple expected nothing unusual. But . . . suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting! You've felt that wind, sometimes it blows so persistently we think it may drive us crazy. And then this amazing thing happened, and all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in languages they didn't even know, as the Spirit gave them ability. As the story is told, this event happened on the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus, therefore we have Pentecost, meaning the fiftieth day.

The Holy Spirit is God's gift of presence, God's presence in and among and through us, and that gift happened then, but is also happening now, and will continue to happen. The Holy Spirit is God's gift of assurance,  that God is with us and always will be with us. The Holy Spirit is God's gift of wisdom, of knowledge, of faith, of healing, of discernment, God's gift of the Holy Spirit is wide and broad and diverse. As the story is told, the Holy Spirit can be seen and heard.

It is said that Pentecost is the birth of the church. It is a new chapter in this sacred story of which we are a part. Today we observe Pentecost as all of that, we observe Pentecost as we give thanks for God's gift of spirit, in and through and among us, we give thanks for God's gift of the church, which is one way we express our relationship with God, and God expresses relationship with us. 
I think the challenge of Pentecost is to not let it get caught in a one day observance and to not make it about individual gifts. The Holy Spirit is clearly about the story we share together. 

The challenge of Pentecost is to let it, along with incarnation, resurrection, and ascension, narrate our life, change our life, transform our life. The challenge is to find ourselves in the story of God's abundant and amazing love for all people at all times and in all places. 

How does God's love, God's life, God's spirit include each and every one of us? If indeed Love wins, and I believe with all my heart, my soul, and my life, that it does, how does that transform my story, and your story? What it would be like if we, all of us here at St. Andrew's would tell our stories about how we have experienced God's love in our lives. I think we would be transformed, I think we are being transformed. What is your story that brings you here today, to this place of spirit, of love, of bread and wine, of communion, of brokenness and of healing and forgiveness? 

What is your story that brings you to faith and to doubt? Your story is part of the story that Love wins, your story is part of the story of Pentecost, your story is part of the story of the church, in all it's glory and with all it's warts. What is your story? It is part of God's story.

You see, all of it is about God's story that has the power to change our lives, and is changing our lives. God's story of Love, and life and suffering and pain and joy, and wandering in the wilderness erecting idols, tearing down those idols and loving one another and loving God back in the midst of our very imperfect lives, that is all happening here now, through the power of the spirit.

And now I am going to tell some of your stories, even though they are not my stories to tell.

You are a young married couple, this chapter of your life is just beginning to be told, you know God's love in your lives, and you want to be able to express that with each other and especially with the new lives you have brought into this world. You come to this place, because you see joy on the faces of those who love God back, and you want to be a part of that. 

You are in the middle of your life, your story is already well into the middle chapters, you have raised your children, sent them out into the world loved and cared for, and you are excited and anxious to discover what all of that means for you. You come here, because here you know that there are people who love God back.

You find yourself single in the middle of your life, your story too is in the middle chapters, but nothing like the way you thought it would go when you were in the early chapters. You continue to search for meaning, you continue to find your way among the missteps and mistakes you have made. You know that you must return to others the kind of help you received along the way. You come to this place, searching for something, and what you find here is people who love God back.

You are seeing the fulfillment of your life, the end chapters are being written. You look back to the early chapters with love and longing, you look to the middle chapters with nostalgia, you live in the loneliness of life without your partner, you wonder where the time went. You give of your time and your talent as a volunteer at the hospital, or building houses, or through the schools. You come to this place for comfort, belonging, stability, and what you find here is people who love God back. 

This is Pentecost, this is church, 
this is Holy Spirit, people who love God back.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ascension or 7 Easter June 1 2014, guest preacher The Rev Portia Hurney

May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord my strength and my redeemer.
There’s something important about Mountains. Reaching up into the clouds—A holy place, A transforming place.
We read today, in the Acts of the Apostles, About clouds and mountains. Jesus—Climbing up a mountain. Ascending into the clouds. Just as Moses did years before. Just as Jesus did as he was transfigured and transformed on the mountaintop.
It’s a weird story. Jesus has died. Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Jesus hung out with his friends.And then he goes up into a cloud. And suddenly—“two men in white robes stood by the disciples.” It’s weird! It’s nuts! But there’s something important about Mountains…
Up on this mountain: Up in this cloud: Jesus doesn’t perform any miracles. Up on this mountain, Jesus BECOMES a miracle. Ascending to the Father—
And all of the disciples once again see him: Truly as he really is--The messiah, The Son of God, God’s beloved.
Jesus is visibly transformed and changed—On the top of a mountain—He becomes the miraculous bridge between the human and the divine.
Up on this mountain, Jesus’ friends understand his true identity. The Mountain is the place where human nature is transformed, Where human nature meets and connects to God’s nature.
Now as the missioner for youth and young adults. I have to tell you today about some young people on a mountain.
Young people across this diocese report on their own mountaintop experiences—When they come to camp at our very own Thunderhead Episcopal center. Also known as TEC.
And here’s the thing: There’s something important about mountains. Because Jesus, Moses, and the disciples are not the only ones who are transformed on the mountaintop. They are not the only ones who bridge the human and divine.

Because at Camp, our young people are transformed. And this is a big deal. This is big news. This is good news. Gospel news.
At the end of every camp session, We hike up to “The Cliffs” An outdoor chapel at the top of a high mountain—Overlooking the dark green pines, and the overwhelming beauty of God’s creation.
Most campers will tell you that this hike—With a church service on the top of the mountain Is one of their favorite things about camp.
Because there’s something important about mountains. Something amazing about looking down. Something that makes us feel a little bit different—A little bit transformed—And a bit closer to God.
But the mountaintop experience is also about identity. All of the bible stories about mountains tell us about Who Jesus is. Who God is. And who we really are.
And our young people who go to camp know this. And they know it deeply.

One camper reported: “At camp, I learned about peace, God, and that people can be your family without actually being related to you.” This is who we are. A family. Related to each other through Christ.
Transformed into a family through Christ. Made whole through Christ.
And deeply, deeply beloved people of God.
The young people who go to Camp know this. Because when they come to camp, they are loved. Loved for exactly who they are. Just as they are.
And that love transforms and transfigures them into people who love one another.
One of my favorite quotes from a camper, is one who said: “At camp, I learned that God is everything.  Love is powerful.”
That’s transfiguration. That’s transformation. That’s God’s love doing real work in the world.
A Counselor at TEC said:" Over my time at TEC, I have witnessed and taken part in something I like to refer to as, The TEC Transformation. It's this amazing thing that happens to people who visit TEC where peoples doubt and worry and insecurity become transformed into confidence, comfort, and serenity. TEC is place, yes, but more so, TEC is an experience."
It’s pretty clear that God is doing something amazing—Up in the Mountains at TEC. Transforming young people into a people whose insecurities become confidence. Who see and feel that they have been transformed into God’s beloved.
But now that I’ve talked up the Mountaintop so much. I’m going to tell you that it’s not really about the mountain. It’s not really about Camp. It’s about the amazing things that God does in our world.
The AMAZING spectacular things that God does everywhere. And I want to be clear that out on the prairie, along the sea, In the desert—In all places and at all times—God is doing something amazing. Inviting us to be transformed. It’s not exclusive to mountaintops. 
But there’s something about the mountaintop that describes a journey. Because unless you’re Jesus: When you go up a mountain, You’ve gotta come back down sometime.
The image of the mountaintop is about movement—Not complacency. Continuing. Not static.
The image of going up to the top of a mountain. Is an image about making a choice. Saying yes: To transformation. Saying yes: to God’s love. Choosing to continue the journey.
The amazing thing about camp is not the mountains—Although the Black Hills are beautiful, peaceful, and serene. The amazing thing about camp is that young people choose to go. The choose to make themselves vulnerable as they meet new people—to share a part of themselves and their stories.
They Choose to learn about God’s amazing love. And choose to say yes to the possibility of transformation.
This is what Jesus offers—To all of us. Young and old alike. To take part in his identity as the beloved of God. Offering a spiritual change for each and every one of us to be transformed in Christ.
Inviting us to say yes to the journey to the mountaintop.
Amen.