Saturday, August 22, 2015

13th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 16 Yr B August 23 2015

I'm telling my best Vikings Packers joke, because after today, I don't think I'll be able to tell it again.

The Vikings and the Packers had an ice fishing tournament. The first day the Vikings caught 100 fish and the Packers didn't catch any. The second day the Vikings caught 200 fish and the Packers didn't catch any. The third day the Packers were getting worried so they dressed Aaron Rogers up like a Viking and sent him with the Vikes to see why they were catching so many fish and the Packers couldn't catch any. That day the Vikes caught 300 fish and the Packers caught none. They said what's the deal Aaron, are they cheating or what's going on? Aaron said you bet they are, they are drilling holes in the ice!

You have heard me say over and over again, I place all of my faith in the truth of resurrection. I place all my faith in the reality in which we live, the reality that God's creation is death and resurrection. This community of faith has experienced it's share of death and resurrection. We all know that, and we walk that road together. So today, I want to talk about baptism, and ministry, and resurrection.

My baptism, Salah's baptism, your baptism, is what empowers each of us for ministry. Baptism reminds us that we are God's beloved creation, and in baptism we are claimed and marked as God's own forever. Baptism matters. Water is a powerful force that can kill as easily as give life. In it we join with Jesus in death, and in new life. Baptism reminds us that it is in the letting go, letting things die, that we are free to be the amazing creation God intends for us. 

So we are baptized for ministry, what does that mean? And what does that look like? We show up. We are people of incarnation, we don't just attend church, we are the church, and the church shows up. The church shows up to care for one another, to advocate for those with no voice, to feed each other and those who are hungry, to love those whom society will not.

We listen, to one another. We listen to those with whom we most vehemently disagree. We listen to those who are most different from ourselves. We listen to stories of lives, when they are much like our own and when they are so very different from our own. We listen without needing to inflict our own opinion, judgement, or morality. We listen, as if it Jesus is in our midst. And indeed, it is, because we also know the reality of incarnation, Jesus in our midst. 

We tell the truth, the truth that love wins, the truth that death does not have victory, but that the work that Jesus does on the cross is the victory. The truth that we miss the mark, we often slog through the muck and the mess,
and God loves us, and we love one another, anyway. The truth that perfection is an illusion, brokenness is the reality, and healing possible because God shows up for us and we show up for each other, bearing light and love into all the dark places. Truth is that prosperity and success are not what God's heart's desire is for us, but God's dream for creation is love, and relationship and connection. The truth that this life is not really even about any one of us, but about all of us together and God's love in the midst of us.  

And we let go. We let go. This may be the very hardest part. We cannot control God's love, or even who God loves. We cannot control what dies and how new life arises out of that death. When we don't let go, we get into all sorts of trouble. 

So, you, you individually, you St. Andrew's, you, have shown up as church, and shown me what that looks like. We have prayed with each other in this space, and in the parish hall and the garden and the park and the hospital. You have shown me what communion and community look like. We gather here, at this table, shoulder to shoulder, standing and kneeling, holding hands and holding each other, to be created as the body of christ, to offer our brokenness to be healed, to be filled with the healing bread and wine. You have shown forth communion and community in your homes, around your tables. You have fed one another and you have fed me, and Rick, and our children, as family. You know what being a minister is, you live that out day by day.

You show up for the Cornerstone meal, you show up for Love INC, you show up at United Campus Ministry. You are church for so many.

You show forth God's kingdom, you are part of God's love for all of creation. Our work, our call is to bring God's love, God's healing and wholeness into the world, into our workplaces and our playplaces. Don't ever be discouraged by numbers, always be encouraged that you get God's mission in the world, and you get on board with God's love in the world. 

Always know that new things are hard, and you can do hard things. Always know that God's dream for you is that you love and welcome everyone into this sacred space. Always know that you have shown me, and us, love and compassion and mercy, and that love always wins.
Thanks be to God. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

12 Sunday after Pentecost Yr B Proper 15 Aug 16 2015





12 Sunday after Pentecost Yr B Proper 15 Aug 16 2015 Audio

When my mom died, we spent some time going through her things of course, and I went through her recipe box. I looked at and read many of her recipes, some I remembered with fondness, others where forgettable. I took pictures of some, the ones in her handwriting, places where she had taken notes about changes. I have her pie crust recipe, with the corners and the edges of the paper all folded and ripped. It's a little like talking to her about it. Kathy, if the air is dry you need a little more flour, or for the lefse recipe, if the potatoes are a little moist, just throw in a little extra flour. A recipe is not just a recipe, it's a story, a story of how it used to be, or a story of scarcity that proves to be abundance. Isn’t that the way it usually happens, you go looking for a good recipe, and in return you get wisdom, maybe it also happens the other way around too, you share a good recipe, and you share a bit of wisdom as well. 

We have the same pairing in our readings today, wisdom and good food; maybe there is not one without the other. Wisdom in scripture is not just about being wise, as opposed to being foolish; God has built wisdom into the fabric of the cosmos. And we learn from wisdom that there are certain ways of living in which people thrive, and other ways of living which lead people to death. Ordering your life to wisdom is what we read about in these scripture passages today. We've been reading through the story of David, from shepherd to king, from young boy to powerful and maybe foolish man. The story is continued today in Kings. King David’s son Solomon is now on the throne, at the ripe old age of 12. You and I know that Solomon is famous for being wise, and it is already evidenced at this young age in his prayer to God, give your servant an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil. In Ephesians we hear about wisdom as right living, be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise. Do not be foolish, but understand what the will, which also may be translated desire, understand what the desire of the Lord is. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, giving thanks to God the father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

One of the marks of following Jesus is intentionality and spiritual practice. A mistake is made when people, Christians and others, think morality is the marker. It is not. I believe that intentionality, spiritual practice and our prayer together, or common prayer, forms us into the people who God desires us to be, who God dreams we can be. Not a perfect people, but a wise people, a people who can love one another. Paul’s words for the Ephesians are about wisdom as right living, and that God’s desire for us, God’s people, is to live wisely. 

In John’s gospel, the wisdom tradition is applied to Jesus; Jesus now is the embodiment of wisdom. We continue to hear about the living bread, the bread that is Jesus. John is making a claim about the radical presence of God in Jesus, essentially John is saying that in Jesus, God provides everything; God’s abundance is made real in Jesus. We are invited to be present in God’s bounty. We are invited to feast on wisdom; we are invited to eternal life, all contained in this loaf of bread. 

What does it mean for us that God has built wisdom into the fabric of the cosmos, that ordering our lives to wisdom brings abundant and bountiful life, that Jesus is the embodiment of wisdom, and that we feast on wisdom? I think it means that even like the ordinary bread, our ordinary lives are made extraordinary by God’s abundant love. 

I am reminded of the movie Chocolat. The story is about a young mother who with her young daughter blow into a rural French village on the first Sunday of Lent. She opens a Chocolate shop, and prepares amazing confections that seem to transform those who eat them. She has opposition however by those in the town who live by a certain set of rules, a morality, that doesn’t allow for the ordinary pleasure of chocolate, most especially during Lent. 

Our main character in the movie dispenses wisdom along with chocolate and other confections. Entering her chocolate shop through the ordinary front door results in extraordinary nourishment. And yet, there remain those who will not cross the threshold for fear of what may happen and how they may be changed. 

We are changed by the ordinary bread, into an extraordinary community. We are changed by the wisdom feast into the body of Christ teeming with extraordinary life. Wise or foolish, that is the reality. And that reality is scary to some, some will not cross the threshold into love because it changes them. 

The call to follow Jesus is a call to a foolish life of love. To follow Jesus is to believe ordinary bread that is made extraordinary, can fill you up and heal your heart. To follow Jesus is to practice the intentionality of love, even when you don't feel like it. To follow Jesus is to buck the conventional wisdom that the first will be first and the last will be last, it is to be fools for Christ and witness that the first will be last, and the last will be first. To follow Jesus is to let the truth that loves wins, take hold of your heart and your mind.

Following Jesus takes practice, it takes foolishness and wisdom, it takes brokenness and healing, it takes listening to our mistakes, like King David had to listen to Nathan, and forgiveness. Following Jesus is hard in this world where money and power seem to matter more than wisdom and love. Following Jesus means walking the road together, and sharing some bread along the way, oh, and some chocolate too. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

11th Sunday after Pentecost Yr B Proper 14 Aug 9 2015



11th Sunday after Pentecost Proper 14 Aug 9 2015 Audio

The people of the world have been planting the seed, growing the grain, harvesting the grain, grinding the grain, making the flour, adding the yeast, letting the dough rise, punching it down to rise again, forming the loaves, laying the fire, and baking the bread, for as long as stories have been told around those fires.

Every ethnicity has a bread that arose from its particular place, the particular grain grown in its region, baked in the fire. From Mexico there are corn and flour tortillas, from the Middle East there is pita, from Ethiopia there is injera,  from Italy there is foccacia, from Scandinavia there is flatbread and lefse, and our native american sisters make fry bread. In all of these places people gather and break bread together. Breaking bread together is a powerful symbol of our commonality, our humanity, our unity and our brokenness and vulnerability.

Breaking bread together is one way we experience the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst. We gather here at this table and share a loaf of bread; we share a cup of wine. We gather around our tables at home and in our friend's homes, and something in us changes. We are transformed into the new creation that Jesus promises for us by eating this bread and drinking this wine, we are transformed into the beloved community. I think in this particular case, you are what you eat.

My earliest memory of communion was my first communion, probably when I was around six. I remember kneeling at the altar rail in my white dress and my white veil. I was a little scared, and I remembered that the nuns (this time, n-u-n-s) had told me to look straight ahead, it wasn’t polite to look around, and that I must not chew the host, that would be like crunching on Jesus bones.

As I got older, I attended the mass that was held in the church basement, it was the guitar mass of the liturgical emergence of the sixties and the seventies. It was there that I began to really experience community, I worshipped with those people every Sunday morning, I sang and played my flute in the music group. Our surroundings were part gymnasium, part cafeteria, by no means beautiful, and it is there where I knew I was part of the body of Christ. It was there where I learned that you know we are Christians by our love, it is there that mystical body of Christ became real to me in the breaking of the bread. I knew those people who gathered together, and they knew me. They knew the family I belonged to; they knew my brothers and sisters.

I have spoken about my years as a volunteer on the staff of the Minneapolis Catholic youth center. Whenever we gathered together for retreats, for trainings, for community time as we called it, we celebrated Holy Communion together. We sat on the floor around the altar, we sang together, we stood around the altar and held hands during the Lord’s Prayer, and we fed one another around our circle. We prayed for one another’s concerns, for the families that we were growing up in and leaving to make life on our own. We were nourished to go out and do the work we were called to do.

When Rick and I were married, nearly 31 years ago, we began our life together with communion. Our families and our friends gathered together in the rectory, we sat together in the living room in front of the fire, and we read the sacred stories and prayed together, and by then it was actual bread that a friend of ours made for us, that we broke together. In that bread and in that place, in the power of the life that bread gives, we pledged to live our lives together for all time, no matter what. So far….. so good.

In our home church, St. Luke’s in Minneapolis, we had Tom and Willie, they were baptized in the midst of the community of faith that nurtured us, that held us up, and to which we contributed our time and talent as Sunday school teachers, Rick as a vestry member, and me as the Christian Education coordinator. The bread and the wine were central to what we did together. Our loaf of bread was delicious, it came from Great Harvest Bakery, just as we do now at St. Andrew's, there were always leftovers, and the children clamored to get the leftovers from the deacon after we were sent out to do the work we were called to do. It was there that we really experienced what Jesus’ companions on the road to Emmaus said, “Risen lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread.”

The bread and the wine that we share together are bread and wine and so much more. We gather together here in this place, we look each other in the eyes, especially in this wonderful sanctuary where we can really see one another, and Christ is made real to us. Christ is in us and through us around us and over us. We sing together the beautiful hymns of our tradition, and we sing together songs that are new to us, and Christ is made real. We pray the beautiful words of our tradition, and we pray the words that are on our heart alone, and Christ is made real. We share one bread, one cup, and Christ is made real. We are sent out into the world to do the work that God gives us to do, and Christ is made real.

You satisfy the hungry heart, with gift of finest wheat. Come, give to us O saving Lord, the bread of life to eat.

In John’s gospel, we continue to hear about the living bread, the bread that is Jesus. John is making a claim about the radical presence of God in Jesus, essentially John is saying that in Jesus, God provides everything; God’s abundance is made real in Jesus. We are invited to be present in God’s bounty. We are invited to eternal life, all contained in this loaf of bread.

We are changed by the ordinary bread, into an extraordinary community. Through the practice of Eucharist, through the practice of Thanksgiving, through the practice of eating together around the table, we become the community God desires for us to be, the community that God dreams we can be, filled with the Spirit, singing and making melody to the Lord and giving thanks at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus.

What was comfort food becomes radical presence. And we are filled with God’s soul food, rather than the fast food that only satisfies us briefly. We are filled with God’s radical presence in Jesus, and we are sent out into the world to practice God’s wisdom, we are sent into the world to show forth the Good News, we are sent into the world to live intentionally, sacramentally, as agents of resurrection and reconciliation. We are sent into the world to bear the good news that Love wins.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

10th Sunday after Pentecost Yr B Proper 13 Aug 2 2015



10th Sunday after Pentecost Yr B Proper 13 Aug 2 2015 Audion

I begin today with a story from a book we read together a couple of years ago, People of the Way, by Dwight Zscheile. The story is about Melissa, who had left the church long ago, in her early twenties. After her daughter was born, Melissa struggled with depression, during which time she also suffered a few miscarriages. At an utter loss, she sensed a leading one day to seek a Protestant church where communion was offered every week. She simply wanted to pray and receive the comfort of the Eucharist. Melissa found an Episcopal church advertising a healing Eucharist and showed up. She remembers thinking, I am defective. I don't know how to mother my child or do anything successfully. Please heal me. I haven't prayed much for the last twenty years, but please help me anyway. The lectionary readings that day happened to be all about bread: manna from heaven feeding the starving Israelites, Jesus as the bread of heaven. What she heard whispered in the liturgy was this: You aren't defective. You're hungry. Eat. (page 43)

We are not really different from Melissa. We wander around feeling not quite right, not quite whole. We wander around trying to fill up on that which cannot fill us, that which cannot sustain us, that which cannot seep into the cracks of our broken hearts. We look for something that we believe will make us happy and successful. And we come here, looking for something, just like those in our story today, not quite sure what it is. What we get is Jesus. Jesus is the food that fills us, Jesus is the blood that seeps into the cracks of our hearts and souls and makes us whole. Come and I will feed you. Come, and you will never be hungry or thirsty again. When you eat this bread and drink this wine, you will be healed, you are a new creation, your hunger will be satisfied. That is what the gospel writer John means when he refers to eternal life.

Last week I said that the feeding of the five thousand was a massive picnic in the wilderness. Today we hear Jesus say to them, I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. Not only is the bread Jesus' body, but it is manna from heaven, the bread of angels. The wine is not just Jesus' blood, but the free-flowing drink at the messianic feast, the substance of joy. It will fill you up, like nothing else can.

A loaf of bread is as practical as it is mysterious. It will fill our hunger in so many ways. And as we partake of the bread we become the body, the body of Christ. We become a new creation, we are made whole. We become a community of faith. We are healed, we are put back together, we are re-membered.

As we take the bread into our bodies, and as we are healed, we are formed as followers of Jesus. We come here, week after week, and week after week we take into our bodies the bread of life, we ingest the Word over and over again. Jesus seeps into our very being and fills the cracks and fissures. In this practice, we become the people of God, we become who God creates us to be, who God dreams we can be. Part of the mystery is that the loaf of bread teaches us who we are as well as transforms us into whom we may be. Our practice and prayer surround the loaf of bread with word and action.

As we take the bread into our bodies we become followers of Jesus, and as followers of Jesus we embody God's promise and reconciliation in the world. That is our mission. What does God call us to do? God calls us to embody healing and reconciliation in the world. We are a holy community, sanctified by the presence and Spirit of God, sharing the Lord's meal, and as a holy community, God works through us ordinary people, to do extraordinary things.

We are a witness to the world of an alternate way of living. We are followers of Jesus, we are the Jesus movement. In the world, the strongest wins, the one who has the most wins, in the Jesus movement, Love wins. In the world the powerful, the well known, the stars, get the attention, in the Jesus movement, the first will be last, and the last will be first. Our identity as followers of Jesus is found in participating in God's life and love for the world, in creating Jesus' community wherever we find ourselves. We care for our own members, and we love our neighbors the same way God loves us in Jesus. We go into the world bearing a spirit of humility, compassion, and mercy, and we bring Jesus' healing wherever we go.

We also receive Jesus' healing from others, we receive Jesus' hospitality from others, and Jesus' body is completed by others, because we don't have all the answers, we don't know it all, we don't have the right way or the only way. There is so much we have yet to learn, so many ways we can be Jesus' body that we do not know yet.

It is I, do not be afraid. You will eat and be filled, you will eat and be healed, you will eat and be sent into the world to be Jesus' hands and feet. Like Melissa, you don't need to be perfect, because you are perfectly loved. God's abundance is enough, spread it around.