Saturday, May 28, 2016

2 Pentecost Yr C Proper 4 May 29 2016

2 Pentecost Yr C Proper 4 May 29 2016 Audio

I'm still pretty new to this great state of Wisconsin, Rick and I have spent some time wandering around, discovering what's here. I'm sure there's a place like the one in our story today. Try to imagine this place, in the middle of nowhere, on a lake. A very remote place, but the people there have always lived there, and still love being there. The breeze is cool, the water blue, and you are stretched out on your beach chair, ready to take it easy, and not be bothered by anyone.

That's the place where our story takes place. In Capernaum, a tiny fishing village at the edge of a lake. Jesus is there, taking it easy, hoping no one recognizes him. Now, I just made that part up, but it could be true. The Centurion is a Roman official who has money and power and status. This Centurion has a slave who is sick and dying. There really is no equivalent to this relationship of the Centurion and his slave in any modern scenario, the Centurion owns the slave, and clearly the slave is very important to the Centurion.

The Centurion is in charge of building a Jewish synagogue, and the Jewish elders seem to like and respect him which is quite odd and unusual, Roman centurions were not held in any esteem by the Jewish people. From the Jewish elders, the centurion finds out that this rabbi Jesus is there, in his little town. The Centurion has been told that Jesus is a healer.

That is the stage on which this story is set. Is this just some chance meeting in some small town on the beach? This is a rather surprising and, perhaps amazing turn of events. The centurion is doing such a good thing in building this synagogue for the Jewish people and this community, and they love and respect him so much that they are willing to go to Jesus on his behalf. And the Jewish elders represented this rabbi so audaciously that the centurion decided he didn't really even need to go see Jesus, Jesus could heal his slave from where he was. Jesus was so amazed by this, that he came to meet the centurion anyway. What is so surprising about this story is that when Jesus encounters someone so utterly different from him, and yet who displays faith, Jesus does not ask him to convert or change or follow, he simply heals and commends.

What I believe is happening here is that compassion meets compassion. This is Jesus' compassion meeting the compassion in this centurion, who, in this particular culture, didn't have to have any of that. This is a man whose position in life allowed that he didn't have to show any compassion or concern for any one if he was so inclined.

So what I think this is really about is breaking open the walls that separate people, like belief, or piety, or ritual. This is about breaking up the walls that separate, like cultural, moral, and legal, boundaries. All of these boundary walls are breached, for a time, by the love a crusty old soldier feels for his slave. Jesus is not concerned about whether this centurion is Jewish or even his own follower. What Jesus encounters, and is surprised by, and what moves him to heal, is the compassion the centurion shows.

I think this is a very challenging passage. Jesus shows us that in our time, following is not about believing the right way or doing the right things. It is about showing up. It is about being fully and completely present in the midst of the muck and the mess of life. Jesus showed up for this man. Jesus, in the flesh shows up for us, in all times and in all places, no matter what. This is incarnation, this is where mystery and reality meet. This is the point of all of this.

So what does that mean for us? How do we acknowledge incarnation, the reality that Jesus shows up? How do we show up in all times and all places, not just some times and some places? What does compassion look like in our particular time and place?

Sometimes, those who have power in our culture, try to build walls and social boundaries in an effort to promulgate division and to quash compassion. Sometimes, those who have power in our culture try to raise the fear level in order to fan the flames of discrimination. Over and over in our scriptures we hear, do not be afraid. And in this particular passage from Luke, cross the the boundary, show up for the one who is unlike you, show up for the one who needs to be healed.

So much in our lives and in our community is broken, we see and experience the fragments of lives broken apart all around us, we see it in the behaviors that take the place of peace and wholeness, violence to others and to self. Misogyny and injustice, discrimination and mistreatment are all the results of brokenness. The creator of all that is seen and unseen, the God of the universe, is the greatest integrating force in the world, and we see that integration in the reality of Jesus, in the flesh, who shows up and puts us back together, Jesus, in the flesh, who shows up and fills the fissures in our hearts with love, Jesus, in the flesh, who shows up and suffers with us, with all of creation, with the centurion, that is compassion.

You know this is true. Because you have been there, you may even be there. In that place of brokenness, when you thought you could go no further, someone suffered with you, someone showed up, someone extended their hand and said, you are fine, let me sit here with you, let me love you back into wholeness.

You know this is true. Because you have been the person who extends compassion, you are the one who when the lady at the gas station cut you off, rather than getting mad, you acknowledged her pain, you knew that it must have been a difficult morning for her, and you held her compassionately, you let love win.

Jesus shows up, Jesus puts us back together, that is love, and that love wins. Amen.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Trinity Yr C May 22 2016

Trinity Yr C May 22 2016 Audio

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. Today is the day that we celebrate Trinity, as if Trinity is contained in one day. Today is the day many pastors have their associates preach. Oh well, on we go.

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 all whom God would send to dance with us in this thing we call church. 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;
composer - musician - music
Doctor Who - TARDIS - Dr. Who's companion;

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 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 in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. What would the world look like if we really claimed the authority of the Trinity, if we bound ourselves to 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. It's why it is so important that an education included arts and music. 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, May 14, 2016

Pentecost Yr C May 14 2016

Pentecost Yr C May 15 2016 Audio

When I was much younger, I was a synchronized swimmer. We spent a huge amount of time holding our breath, during practice and during the swimming of a routine at a meet. All that hard work without breath. Fast forward quite a few years, and I am doing yoga. What do I learn? I'm stronger when I breathe. I can balance better when I breathe. My muscles stretch more freely when I breathe. An old practice being replace by a practice that is much better for me at this time in my life.

Breathe in, breathe our. Strength, balance, flexibility. I invite you to close your eyes and breathe with me. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in God's joy, God's spirit, God's Word. Breathe out God's joy, God's spirit, God's Word. The Spirit is here, in this room, Ruach, God's breath, soft and sweet, or the rush of a violent wind and flame.

"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability." What if the miracle of Pentecost was the gift of speaking God's language, and the companion gift of hearing God's word? What if the miracle of Pentecost today is the gift of speaking God's language, words of grace, healing, and reconciliation? What if the companion gift is actually hearing the truth of grace, healing, and reconciliation? Oh, what a miracle it would be. I can just imagine filling the room, this air and this space, so that it spills out into the street, and the neighborhood, and the community, with words of God's love, with words of God's grace, with words of God's healing and reconciliation. I can just imagine all of us going out into the world breathing out God's words of love, of grace, of healing and reconciliation. I can just imagine those words falling out into the air, and being breathed in by those who so desperately need to hear God's words of love, of grace, of healing and reconciliation.

It is harder for me to imagine the companion gift, the gift of hearing. That I think is the harder part. So many people have so little experience receiving words of love, of grace, of healing and reconciliation. They are suspicious, or frightened. Maybe paranoid, or perplexed. But I do think that is part of the miracle of Pentecost, the gift of hearing God's word, Love wins. I choose to live in a world of Spirit, a world in which God's word surrounds us, and is in us, a world in which peace and reconciliation is in the wind and in the breath, and falls on each and every one of us.

And this Spirit transforms us. We are transformed together into a community that calls others into relationship, that calls for turning around and changing our ways. We hear in Acts, that your sons and your daughters shall prophesy(i). Remember a couple weeks ago I talked about the idea that the book of Revelation, and prophesy in general, is not about foretelling the future. But it is so much better than that. It is about having the power to change the narrative. No longer must our story be one of destruction, we can give up our destructive ways and instead with God's help, build and create a new way of being. No longer must our story be one of power and greed, we can give up our greedy ways and instead with God's help, build and create a generous way of being. No longer must our story be of isolation and alienation, we can give up our isolating ways and be in relationship with God and with others. As we walk into this new story, this story of healing and reconciliation, this story of wholeness, we leave love in our wake, we deposit words of grace, and our world is changed.

The Spirit transforms us individually as well. The Spirit not only blows into our lives, but seizes us and claims us as children. You are in this family because you have been claimed and named as one of God's beloved, and we cry "Abba! Father! That is your identity. You are God's beloved, you have been filled with Spirit, washed in water, marked with oil, claimed as God's own child, and that changes you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.

And the Spirit transforms us, blows in and through us, both in our community of faith and in our individual lives, for the purpose of loving one another. God's mission of healing and reconciliation is to love one another. The Christian life is to show forth God's love in the world, and to love one another.

We Episcopalians are a little timid about telling our stories of transformation, a little shy about talking about the Spirit's work in our lives, a little embarrassed to tell others of our call to ministry by virtue of our baptism.
But, these are important stories, tell them. Your story tells of God's forgiveness, your story tells of the Spirit's movement, your story tells of Jesus' healing.

Just the other night I heard an Episcopalian tell a story of transformation. I heard about heartache and healing. I heard about death and resurrection. I heard the Good News that God creates a new heart and a new spirit. I heard that even when we fall so far that there seems to be no more hope, God raises us up, Love wins, forgiveness happens, healing begins. God changes the narratives of our lives, we tell a new story about our identity as God's beloved. Listen for these stories, tell your stories. Tell your story of God's amazing and abundant love in your life. Tell your story of feeling abandoned by God. Tell your story of feeling not good enough and yet being loved completely and absolutely. It is by the Spirit we speak God's language, God's words, God's actions.

As you tell your story, and as you listen for your neighbor's stories, you may hear a call to stand with one another in the work that God calls us to. You may hear a call to love one another. You may hear a call to action in places and with people that make you a bit uncomfortable. Listen, the Spirit is moving in this place.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in God's joy, God's spirit, God's Word. Breathe out God's joy, God's spirit, God's Word. The Spirit is here.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

7 Easter Yr C May 8 2016

7 Easter Yr C Audio

7 Easter Yr C May 8 2016

Time, we never have enough, it goes too fast, it drags, it can be our enemy and sometimes our friend. I begin today with a quotation from my favorite author, Madeleine L’engle. She writes, “We need to remember that the house of God is not limited to a building that we usually visit for only a few hours on Sunday. The house of God is not a safe place. It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are—or should be – challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently. Where, even with the light streaming in rainbow colors through the windows, we can listen to the stars.” Many of Madeleine’s stories deal with time, a wrinkle in time, an acceptable time, the irrational season, and yet she never sets out to tell stories about time. We are, or at least I am, fascinated by stories about time. I used to like to watch The Time Tunnel, and I was fascinated by the story, The Time Traveler’s Wife. John’s Revelation is also all about time, although he never sets out to tell us a story about time.

So let’s hear again from Revelation. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star. The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let everyone who is thirsty come. The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

What John is doing here is proclaiming the one who is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last, the beginning and end. In other words, he proclaims faith in a God who spans all time, who lovingly embraces all time. This faith in God has been the foundation of his message to people of God who are suffering. To people who wonder why God has allowed time to be invested with pain and suffering. John's answer to them is to show them the one who sits on the throne of heaven, the one who is the beginning and end of all things, and so is the one who can promise an ending to the pain, a time when God will wipe away our tears and all suffering will come to an end. John proclaims to us a God who stands outside of time and who comes into time, into the midst of humanity and all it’s suffering along with all its joy, and embraces all time with divine love.

There is much mystery here. Time in Revelation is not the straight line of our lives, or the straight line of history, with a beginning and an end. Time in Revelation is much more like the wrinkle that Madeleine L’engle imagines in A Wrinkle in Time, like when you take a piece of fabric and fold it. (show this) Or as it is imagined as a cross where time and eternity meet. Getting out of the way of thinking about time in a linear fashion opens John’s Revelation to be what it really is, not an end times predictor, but an invitation to live fully and completely in this present that God creates and redeems.

The Good News here is that the Creator God, the God of the universe, the God that we worship, not only creates time, but also comes into time and walks with us in the midst of our joy and our suffering. This is Good News indeed. John shows us this mysterious reality.

As if the eternal nature of God isn't hard enough to understand, this God is one who also enters time. As eternal, God is outside of time but through Jesus steps into time to redeem it...and us. How so? This is what can be difficult for us to understand. For, if you or I were making the decisions, we would redeem the world by ridding it of evil, by simply wiping out all those people and all those things that give us pain, who give us a hard time, who we don’t like and disagree with. Wouldn't we? But God doesn't choose to do that. Thankfully, God is God, and we are not. I'm not sure if it's because God is perfect love and we aren't, but God chooses differently. God chooses instead to suffer with those who suffer in time, with a promise that some day, some time, it will be different.

So there is an invitation before us, the spirit and the bride say come, let everyone who hears say come, let everyone who is thirsty, come. This is an invitation to live the full and abundant life that God intends for us right now, at this intersection of time and space, at this intersection of earth and heaven, at this intersection of cross and empty tomb, right now. The invitation to us is to welcome the One who comes into our limitedness, our humanness, who comes into time as we know it; the invitation is to be fully present to that abundant love and grace. The invitation is to not be ruled by the past and the future, but to live in God’s presence.

If we accept the invitation to live in God’s presence, God’s time, at this intersection of cross and empty tomb, what does it matter? We have also learned from Revelation that this present time is God’s realm. So if we accept the invitation to come, if we accept the invitation to live fully in God’s presence, we stand, or sit, or kneel, in resistance to the world’s insistence that we must always be in a hurry, or that we must always have our way, or that we must always meet violence with vengeance. We stand, or sit, or kneel, in resistance to the world’s insistence that you must live only for yourself, or that you must amass riches and wealth. We stand, or sit, or kneel in God’s presence in witness to the love that includes, the love that makes whole again what is broken, the love that unites and does not divide.

When we accept the invitation to live on God’s time, we live more vulnerably, more interdependently. When we accept the invitation to live on God’s time, we stop living to acquire and we give away and give over. When we accept the invitation to live on God’s time, we stop living in scarcity and are assured of enough. When we accept the invitation to live on God’s time, we stop living in fear, and we live in hope and in Love.

The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

9 Pentecost Yr B Proper 11 July 22 2018

Jesus said, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” And so they went. I had the great...