Saturday, November 26, 2016

1 Advent Yr A Nov 27 2016



1 Advent Yr A Nov 27 2016 Audio

Life is short, stay awake, is the Caribou coffee tag line, and it applies to our readings this morning as well. From Romans we read, you know what time it is, it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. And from Matthew, keep awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. Advent is derived from a Latin word for “coming.” Advent is a time of preparation, expectation, anticipation, and waiting. It is not Christmas. Just want to make that clear. Christmas begins on December 25th. It seems waiting and anticipation are foreign concepts to many today. We wait in a line at the store and we get irritated. We wait at the stoplight and we wish there was not so much traffic. We wait for life to be born, and we wait for death. We, for the most part, are very bad at waiting. No wonder we jump right over Advent to Christmas, why wait when we can have it all today.

And yet, there is an urgency in our waiting. On this first day of the new year, this first Sunday of Advent, are some readings that ask us to stay awake and to wait in urgency for something that is new. We wait for the birth of the baby, we wait for the coming of the end, we wait for the coming of the cosmic Christ, we wait in expectation and anticipation of all that we believe fulfills humanity. Our waiting is urgent waiting, it is not wasted waiting. It is waiting for the reality that we already know, and the reality of the Kingdom that comes. It is waiting that does not negate the joy and happiness in which we live, it does not negate the sorrow and pain that we feel, but it is waiting that calls us to something new. And it is waiting that calls us to stay awake.

The cultural Christmas season has already begun, as we well know. There is this seduction to be busy, not that being busy is bad, but busyness tends to divert our attention from waiting for the gift that is being prepared for us. There are wonderful things to do at this time of year, but we cannot be seduced into believing that is all there is. That seduction pulls us away from staying awake, staying alert to the amazing gift of God’s love that we receive at Christmas.

What would we do differently if we knew exactly when Jesus would come? This is the way we need to live in Advent, because the truth is that Jesus comes and is coming, for all times and all places, into our lives and into our hearts, and we must be prepared. The only way to prepare is to stay awake and see the signs around us. Romans actually gives us some instructions about how to do that. We are to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

I think putting on the armor of light is about paying attention to the love that God gives us, and paying attention to the relationships in our lives. I think laying aside the works of darkness is to let go of all that draws us away from God’s love at this time of the year. There is so much that draws us away from God’s love, sale after sale after sale, these things are not bad, but we can’t let them be all there is. The real event is taking place in a hidden, yet powerful way. Lives are changed every day because of Jesus, people are healed from sin and death, eyes are opened to new realities, and we seldom hear about them because often we’re too distracted by the other stuff.

What meaning can Advent waiting have for us today? The best illustration I can think of is pregnancy. Nine months of waiting, or in my case 91/2 months of waiting, nothing can make it go faster, there is no way you want it to be over early, and nothing can change the absolute change that pregnancy brings to lives. A new life, being knit together in the darkness of the womb, a new life being created, absolutely and completely out of your control. But this kind of waiting is a profoundly creative act. It is in no way passive; indeed it is quite active as this new life grows. This is the waiting of Advent. It is to be joyfully and fully present to new growth. Advent becomes a way of being.

Advent is a time to put away the distractions. So maybe this is the time to put away our iPhone’s and mobile devices for an hour or a day. Maybe it’s time to turn off for a while. This is a time to find some solitude. In fact, insist on it. This is a season to draw apart for a little while, to read scripture, to take ten minutes and breathe slowly, letting the promise of God fill your lungs with fresh air. This is a time for staying awake to what really matters and letting go of some things that don’t. Advent offers some alternatives to all that doesn’t matter: an Advent wreath on the table, and its increasing shine as a new candle is lit each week; an Advent calendar to mark the days of waiting; a brief passage from scripture with the evening meal. These are anti-stress times when people’s souls get restored among those they love. Those who live alone can sit in front of a lighted candle and remember loved ones and friends who have surrounded them in the candlelight. Most of all, we can recall a God who loves us so much that we are offered a time to prepare, a time to wait, a time to remember that underneath all that seems to be crumbling is a firm foundation, and the One who is to come.

During Advent we will be singing the Canticle of the turning. It is based on Mary's song, the Magnificat, at the beginning of Luke. This is a time in our civic lives that are full of talk about change. The world is about to turn. Turn toward Christ, walk toward those who need love, and mercy and compassion.

Stay awake to the love that brings light into the dark. Stay awake to the love that forgives and heals. Stay awake to the love that brings us together, the love that feeds us. Stay awake to the love that brings us peace. Stay awake to the love that prepares us for new birth. Stay awake to the love that anticipates our homecoming.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Christ the King Yr C Nov 20 2016



Christ the King Yr C Audio

Christ the King Sunday, the ultimate paradox. Christ the King, whose throne is the cross. What we see is not what we get. This particular paradox is difficult for me. Kingship as we have learned through out history has been much more about tyranny
than about justice and mercy and charity.

You may have gathered that my favorite reading material is science fiction and fantasy, with some historical fiction thrown in. There are two books in which I have learned most about the kingship of the cross. In The Horse and His Boy, book 5 in the Chronicles of Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis, King Lune says to his son Prince Cor, “For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there's hunger in the land to laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”

And the other book is a trilogy of stories called collectively The Song of Albion, by Stephen R Lawhead. This is an epic story about a young man who enters into an alternate world, a world of kings and queens, of quests and wars, an alternate world that is quite related to our own world, what happens in one affects the other. Our main character enters this alternate world through one of the thin places of Celtic mythology. Upon entering, he begins to live a new life with new hopes and dreams. Eventually it becomes clear that he is to be the king of this land. He becomes a king who understands his kingship as constituted by the people, he is only king as much as they are his people.
He leads his army into the battles, he gives up his coat, his food, for those of his land that need it. Eventually he comes to the time when he must ultimately sacrifice his life for his people, it brings him great sadness, but he does so out of mercy and compassion.

Is there a king that is recorded in the history books like these kings? Most often, history books are about the winners, not the kings who gave their lives for their people. Those kings would be regarded as weak, noneffective, and are quickly forgotten.

Christ the King, whose throne is the cross. Jesus, the shepherd through whom we know God. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in Jesus all things in heaven and on earth were created. In Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Jesus God was pleased to reconcile all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the the cross.

One of the criminals who was hanged there with Jesus said to him “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” And it is as if Jesus thought to himself, “I am King of the Jews, but I can’t save myself because I am saving you.” Here is the paradox. This is kingship as presented by God through Jesus. It runs absolutely counter to Messiah as it had been conceived in those times, Messiah as those who waited were prepared for.

Jesus, born in a barn, proclaimed as a King, as Mary’s song proclaims, he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts, he has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

We use Kingly language, like sovereign Lord; we use Kingly images, like Christ who sits on a throne, and yet we also tell the story of the baby born in a stable, to parents who had nothing, who grew to be a man who was thrown out of the temple and whose throne is a cross.

Jesus announced the kingdom of God was drawing near. But Jesus upended and undermined the whole concept of kingship. The world’s kingdoms are about power and prestige; Jesus is about mercy and compassion. The rulers of this world may be about coercion and violence; Jesus’ life was characterized by peace and reconciliation.

I think this paradox of Jesus as King, and Jesus as the one who eats with tax collectors and women, whose closest friends were of bunch of smelly fishermen, is the most difficult image for me to reconcile. I am much more comfortable with the Jesus who wears Birkenstocks and jeans and a tee shirt, than Jesus who wears a crown and a robe. Kings spent all of their time building up riches of gold, silver, and jewels, but Jesus owned nothing at all. Kings surround themselves with servants; Jesus chose to be a servant. But, today, we are asked to hold both images in tension, Christ the king, whose throne is a cross, and in so doing we see a fuller picture.

Worldly kingship implies power; power over others, authority over people. But Jesus did not exercise this sort of power and authority. Jesus’ power and authority are shared, not possessed. Jesus’ power is not over people, but with and through people. Kingdom is the inbreaking of a new order, an order that doesn’t just drive out the old order, but that reorders all relationships. The criminal hanging on the cross next to Jesus recognized this power and authority, the power and authority to love absolutely, the power and authority to forgive. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Jesus, the one who comes to show us the way to God, Jesus, the one who is King of all creation, is at the very same time the one who lived life just like you and me, who loved his friends and family, who suffered and died, just like you and me. For what good is a God who sits back and watches, what good is a God who rules from afar, what good is a God that holds power over people. Jesus is the one who loves, the criminal who hangs next to him, the mother who cries below him, the friends who betray him.

Kingship for Jesus is giving himself totally and absolutely for the love of his people. It is this love that you and I must respond to. It is this love that is transforming love. It is this love that reconciles and redeems. It is this love that causes us to love ourselves, it is this love that causes us to love one another, it is this love that gives us hope. Jesus’ love changes us.

We are changed through the realization that each one of us is loved completely and absolutely, just like that person on the cross next to Jesus, not for what we’ve done or not done, but for who we are. What kind of change happens in us for us to declare, Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom? It is the kind of change that causes each one of us to know that none of us is in this life alone, and none of us gets out of this life alive. It’s the kind of change that causes us to know that perfection is not the way, but love and forgiveness are. It is the kind of change that causes us to serve, like Jesus serves, the person next to us. Whether that person is next to us in our pew here in church, or that person is next to us in line at the grocery store, or that person is the one with whom you disagree most vehemently.

We are changed through the realization that when we fall short of the kind of love Jesus demonstrates for us, and we will fall short, that is part of being human, we are forgiven. Forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. Forgiveness not just once, but time and time again. Not even just until we get it right, because it’s not about getting it right. It’s about responding to Jesus love with love, and when we don’t, we ask for forgiveness. It’s about responding with love to the encounters along our paths, and when we don’t, we ask for forgiveness.

We begin our Advent journey next week. We begin our preparations for the coming of Christ into our hearts, and into our lives, for all time and all places. We begin our waiting in hope at this place of the cross, and this place of paradox, at this place where kingdom comes, and where love and forgiveness prevail. We begin at the place of remembering, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. We begin at the place of forgiveness, today you will be with me in Paradise. We begin at the place of grace, for you are absolutely and abundantly loved. Thanks be to God.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

26 Pentecost Yr C Proper 28 Nov 13 2016



26 Pentecost Yr C Proper 28 Nov 13 2016 Audio

You all know what a beautiful church Trinity is, it's beauty helps us to connect to the ancient and to the future. Here we see, and hear, and feel all that has come before us. We are present to what is right before us, and we can celebrate what is to become.

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? What does it mean to not have a place in which to worship God? The destruction of the temple was life changing for the Jews, but in this story Jesus 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.

So we find ourselves today, after a very tumultuous week, half of us are feeling the exultation of a win, and half of us are feeling like the stones just came a tumbling down, like our world has ended, and it's hard to find the hope in our future together. All of us together must imagine a new way. We must imagine the ways we can be God's word of mercy, compassion, charity, and justice in our world. God's word matters, our words matter. It is unacceptable that in our country today, people are afraid of their neighbors, it is unacceptable that horrible and hurtful words are hurled as weapons of destruction. It is unacceptable that children are afraid they will be sent away.

Just in case you hear me advocating a particular political position, I must disabuse you of that. I am advocating the Good News. I am advocating for the Jesus Movement. I am saying, we are followers of Jesus. Love someone who doesn't deserve it. Take the right action, have courage, be bold. You and I have all we need, stand up for those who don't. We are the church, not this building. Give your love, your forgiveness, your mercy, your compassion. Use your words wisely. Speak love into the world, speak forgiveness into the world. Speak on the behalf of those whose voices are silenced through fear and intimidation and violence. And don't go it alone, we are the church. We are all on this rock together, and none of us get off of it alive.

God is at work with us. God is already about healing and reconciliation that changes the world. 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 5, 2016

All Saints Yr C Nov 6 2016



All Saints and Baptism Yr C Nov 6 2016 Audio

Today, as we began our worship, we named those who have walked this path before us, and when we baptize Emma and Eddy 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.

Grandmothers and Grandfathers, ancestors and forebears, the entire cloud of witnesses, stand here beside us.
On this day of all saints, we call upon all of those who have taken this journey before us, to stand here with us as we are witnesses today to the love of our creator God, to the life and love and work of Jesus, and the enlivening presence of the Spirit.
Stand here beside us, as we struggle to follow Jesus.
Stand here beside us, as we grieve for our mothers and fathers and our loved ones who have died.
Stand here beside us, as we endeavor to find our identity as the ones who are marked as God's own forever.
Stand here beside us, as we continue to hope and find encouragement in the face of loss and discouragement.
Stand here beside us, as we courageously invite those we love into a relationship with one another and with Jesus.
Stand here beside us, as we strive to be a blessing in the lives of all we encounter.
Stand here beside us, as we wonder about what blessing is even all about.
Grandmothers and Grandfathers, ancestors and forebears,
stand here beside us, we remember your fidelity, your strength, your courage, as we ask our creator God for the same.

On this day of all saints, we will reaffirm our baptismal promises. We remember who and whose we are, we recall our identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. We vow to live our lives from that center, from that identity. On this day of all saints, we remember, we reaffirm, and we renew our courage and bravery to be witnesses to God's amazing and abundant love.

We remember our grief and our losses, whatever they may be. We remember the people we love and see no more. We remember the grief and loss of slowly losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s or dementia. We acknowledge the struggles with illness of body and mind. We remember the loss of employment or dignity. We remember the disappointment at home or work or school, of dreams deferred or hopes dashed. Loss comes at us from so many sources.

In Ephesians we hear words of encouragement, God's power at work in Christ, power that brings life from death. These words are so full of hop and comfort to us today, as they were to the followers in Jesus time, followers who were struggling with enormous loss of identity and the threat of losing their independence and even their lives. Saints are not only those who are robed in white or gathered into the church triumphant but also each of us, as we too have come, or perhaps are still coming, through ordeals great and small. To all of us who are struggling to find hope or healing, we can hope for a future, not defined by our past.

We reaffirm our identity as God's beloved, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ's own forever. God continually claims us as children and Jesus speaks of blessings. Jesus blesses all kinds of people but especially the kinds of people who aren’t normally blessed – the poor, the those who are hungry, those who weep. The world typically gives these folk little regard, just as few notice many of our silent losses and grief, and yet Jesus calls them blessed. Jesus doesn’t say, “one day you will be blessed,” but  “blessed are…,” even now, even here. Why? Because blessing isn’t like the flu shot. Blessing doesn’t immunize you from pain or loss, and it’s not a guarantee of safe passage through this life unscathed. Rather, it’s a sense of fullness, of contentment, of joy that is like, but also transcends, ordinary happiness. It is not something you have and others are lacking. And like love and hope and so many other things, it can’t simply be mustered into existence but rather is responsive, springing forth in response to the love and promises of another, and of God.

As we reaffirm our identity as God's beloved, we are renewed for the journey. This community of faithful saints, along with the cloud of witnesses, the saints who have gone before us, we are renewed by hope and blessing for the journey we take together. We call upon each other and God to stand here beside us as we follow Jesus into the world to do the work that we are called to do, and that work is to be agents of God's healing and reconciliation.

We are already, bearers of Jesus' light and love, Jesus' blessing. And it is our own pain and loss, our own grief and sadness, our own joy and blessing, our own forgiveness and healing that enables and equips us for this work. You have been broken by loss and life, you have been filled by bread and wine, body and blood, you have been loved by God and by this community of faith. You are renewed for this brave and courageous work
of being God's beloved. You are renewed for this radical endeavor of following Jesus into the world to feed, and clothe, and love.

We will stand together, with the saints who have gone before us, and the saints who are here with us, our newest saints, Eddy and Emma, and the saints who will carry on after us, to receive Eddy and Emma into Christ's love, and to renew your baptismal vows.

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 Emma and Eddy into this community of saints, this cloud of witnesses, this collection of people who will love them and raise them up as the children of God that they are. Today, Emma and Eddy are marked as God's own. Amen.