Saturday, August 26, 2017

12 Pentecost Proper 16 Yr A Aug 27 2017


Two weeks ago we heard Jesus’ followers exclaim, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Last week we heard the Canaanite woman call Jesus into an expansive and inclusive ministry. Today we hear Jesus ask, “who do you say I am. And Simon Peter announces on behalf of the band of disciples, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Who do you say I am, Jesus asks each one of us. Who do you say Jesus is? We come here, every Sunday morning, and who do we say Jesus is? Who do we say Jesus is when we arrive at work on Monday morning? Who do we say Jesus is when we arrive at school each day? Who do we say Jesus is when we are sitting in traffic, or deciding how to spend our hard earned money, or wondering about what government services should be cut, or when considering the violent events in our country and our world?

Who do you say I am? Like Peter, I announce Jesus is the son of the living God. But I also think those are just words, unless they are backed up by what I do with my time, my talent, and my treasure, how I make my decisions and how I treat people. You and I aren't the kind of people who have a ready answer to the question, who do you say I am? The words don't come easily, but I guarantee the words don't really matter if our lives don't speak of mercy and compassion. 

Jesus is teaching disciples in these stories. Jesus is trying to impart all he knows and all he is as he prepares for his last days in Jerusalem. Jesus is developing followers, you and I are followers of Jesus, our work is to live the answer to the question, who do you say I am, with our words and with our lives. 

What you do this week will change the world. In the Exodus story, a single act of resistance saved an entire people. The King had commanded that all male babies be killed. The baby in our story, Moses, was hidden from that awful fate, by the midwives who caught him, until the daughter of Pharoah found him and raised him as her own. Moses went on to lead his people out of Egypt into a new land and a new life, Moses led his people from slavery into freedom. Like Shiphrah and Puah, what you do this week will change the world. We just don't know how what we do will effect that change, but it will, and it does. Who do you say I am? How your life answers that, makes a difference. 

Last week I said to you that our words matter. This week I say to you that what we do matters. Jesus’ teaching is to love your enemies, to come before God in prayer and in worship, and to forgive one another. And that Jesus’ life will be given for ours. This is the kingship in which the God who created the heavens and the earth inaugurates a new creation. And even the ancient story of Moses shows us that what we do matters to God and matters to the world.

Who do you say that Jesus is? This question presupposes that what we believe about Jesus matters. What we believe about Jesus matters to you and to me, it matters to our church, and most importantly it matters to the world. 

It also assumes a relationship; there is no way to begin to say who Jesus is without the relationship. And in this relationship with Jesus, we learn who we really are. In response to Peter’s naming Jesus, Jesus tells Peter who he really is. You are Peter, a rock. In this relationship, Jesus knows who we really are, we are named and marked as Christ’s own forever, you are my beloved, the delight of God’s life. 

I think this is the most important part of this story. It is not so much about the right answer to the question who do you say that Jesus is, but it is very much about the relationship the question presupposes, you are the delight of God’s life. We might not be very good answering the question with words, but we can begin to show the world that Jesus matters, that this relationship with Jesus matters. 

That brings us to the image that is presented in Romans, we, who are many, are one body in Christ. This is an amazingly counter cultural image, one body, with different graceful gifts. This new creation that God inaugurates in Jesus is all about a completely new way to live on this earth. We live not for ourselves, but for the greater good of God’s creation. Do not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the amazing and abundant love that God has for you. 

How do we live in the world as the body of Christ? How do we live in the world as the delight of God’s life? How do we live in the world as people to whom Jesus matters? How do we live in the world as agents of new creation? How do we live in the world as a people transformed by God’s love? I think we do that by showing forth love not only for those it is easy to love, but for those we count as enemies as well. I think we do that by showing mercy and compassion. I think we do that by caring for God’s creation. I think we do that by showing up in our lives with intention, with love, with mercy, and with compassion.

So now we come back to the question, who do you say that Jesus is? This is not just a rhetorical question. We must answer it. I want you to know your answer to it. Our answer to it matters, because what we do matters, what we say matters, and that can change the world. And our world needs changing. Who do we say Jesus is?

Jesus is God in our midst. Jesus is the love that wins. Jesus is the way. Jesus is the truth. Jesus is the Light. Theses are words, words that matter. And this is a life that matters. When we say these words, with Peter and the disciples, as followers of Jesus, and as part of the body of Christ, we stand for love, we stand for truth, we stand for light. We speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, we love when hate seems pervasive. We include when others call for exclusion. We must stand against powers and principalities that would condone and cause violence against any group of people.

Like the midwives who caught Moses as he was born, and chose life over death, today, we must be midwives. We must choose life, we must choose love. Our lives will tell the world who Jesus is.

Amen.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

11 Pentecost Proper 15 Yr A Aug 20 2017




It's been a hard year. It’s been a hard week. There is violence in our streets, there is fear of aggression by countries long seen as the enemy. People are behaving badly all over the place. We've been stretched to breaking with the demands on our patience and on compassion. We have experienced so very closely the broken world in which we live. There is also goodness all around us, in so many places and in so many people, but it is a broken world, and we have seen much of the brokenness in these days. 

And we have before us a hard lesson from Matthew and this continuing story in Genesis of Joseph and his brothers, brothers who sold him into slavery because they didn't like that he was a dreamer. What are we to make of it all? What are we to make of the readings and what are we to make of the reality? 

In the verses from Matthew we have before us today, Jesus really seems mad. He's been spending all of his time teaching the disciples and other followers, parable after parable, story after story, trying to impart everything he can about humanity's relationship with God, and God's relationship with God's people. Jesus experienced the tragic death of his relative, John. Jesus has fed thousands of people, and all he wants is to get away by himself for a little R and R. He's got to walk on the water out to the boat to save those hapless disciples, and after all that, the Pharisees come all the way from Jerusalem to entrap him. I imagine that the telling of this story has quite of bit of censoring and editing, I imagine Jesus' language may have been much more harsh than we hear today. 

Jesus says that what comes out of our mouths and from our hearts can be disastrous when we don't speak with love and truth. Jesus says, our words matter. Our words have the power to create a compassionate reality, and our words can challenge the darkness, our words can even be the light in the darkness. Our words and our actions even have the power to dispel the darkness. One of my favorite books by my favorite author is A Wrinkle in Time, it is a story that is all about using our gifts, following in the footsteps of the saints who came before us, about daring to be different, it's about foolishness, faith and free will, and the greatest call and commandment, loving one another. That story shows us, like scripture tells us today, what we say to one another matters, our words matter. 

The words that dispel the darkness are words that come from a heart that is filled with mercy and compassion, a heart filled with love for each and every gift of God's creation. Even in the midst of sadness, even in the midst of tragedy, we are called to speak words of mercy and compassion, words of God's love for all of God's creation. We are called to speak words of mercy and compassion into every darkness. If we don't do it, if we don't speak words of love, words of mercy and compassion, the darkness will not be dispelled. That is what Jesus is trying to show us in this gospel today, and that is the truth of what God in Jesus has done and continues to do. Darkness does not win. Love wins. Our words can create a compassionate reality. And we are desperate for a compassionate reality. 

The second half of the story from Matthew paints a picture of Jesus that may be even harder for us to understand. He is angry, and mean, and in this particular story, Jesus claims an exclusive mission. He says he is sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. What is amazing in this story is that the Canaanite woman challenges Jesus, and her challenge creates a new compassionate reality. She challenges Jesus to include not just the lost sheep of Israel, but everyone in the known world. 

In this story, the Canaanite woman is absolutely and completely the other, the foreigner, she doesn't look like us or talk like us. But she's also a mother. Jesus is speaking to a mother whose daughter's life is at risk. Many of you know that when your child's life is at stake, you will do most anything, go to any lengths, you'll stay by their bedside, you'll take them to the hospital in the middle of the night, you'll pray and ask everyone you know to pray, you'll even bargain with God. This is that mother. She's not an insider, she's not an Israelite, she is a foreigner, she looks differently and she speaks differently than Jesus. And even Jesus, this Jesus who I have always believed includes everyone, initially says no. Maybe he's just too tired, maybe he's had a hard day, maybe he's fed so many people he's just spent. I've felt that way. 

But then, when you don't think you can do one more thing, help one more person, listen to one more story, something happens. Something shows forth the light, the love, the healing, the hope. Lord, help me she prays. And he does. Something breaks through. And the break through expands the love, she challenges Jesus, and the result is not just her baby being healed, but it is healing for everyone, for all of us. The light shows forth, mercy and compassion are possible. 

We are desperate for this compassionate reality. Our words matter. Love wins. What we do and what we say in the midst of violence is capable of healing. This is that day. Remember, what Jesus does on the cross is to take evil out of the world with him. He does not look for revenge, and surely he is the one who would have the right to. Instead he loves. Instead he forgives. Instead he heals.

It is our job to bear Jesus' love, forgiveness and healing into the world, it is our job to speak words of compassion into the world. It is our job to stand up for those who would be torn down. This is our mission: To build bridges of love and compassion, to build bridges of healing and hope. Martin Niemoller, a German theologian and Lutheran Pastor, who was imprisoned in concentration camps from 1938 to 1945, said, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

We may not be any of these things, but we are followers of Jesus and we must stand for Love. Amen.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Transfiguration Yr A Aug 6 2017


The Transfiguration Yr A Aug 6 2017 Audio

When I read the story from Exodus, it’s hard to keep the image of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments out of my head. When I read the story from Luke of Jesus turning dazzling white with Elijah and Moses appearing at his sides speaking with him, it’s hard to keep the image from Star Wars out of my mind, when at the end Obi Wan Kenobi, the transformed Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, and Yoda all appear in some sort of dazzling array of wisdom. There is some dazzling display in this story called the transfiguration, but if that’s all there is, we miss the point. There is glory indeed, but there’s a whole lot more going on as well.

Peter, and James and John go up the mountain with Jesus, and witness a dazzling display that causes Peter to want to capture it in time, and erect some tents and keep it tamely on that mountaintop. Not a bad idea, but also not in the nature of who Jesus is. This story of transfiguration reveals the glory of the Lord, to Peter James and John, and to us. But if we leave this revelation on the mountaintop, if we try to tame it, we loose, or maybe never even gain, the ability to engage in life expecting to see God’s glory in dazzling ways and in ordinary ways. I think this is really a story about what we see, or don’t see, and what we expect to see, and how that changes us.

We can walk through life never seeing God’s glory revealed, or, we can walk through life expecting to see God’s glory revealed.

What happened on this mount of transfiguration is that God shows Godself in no uncertain terms in and through Jesus. If Peter, James and John, or you or me, had any doubts about who Jesus is, doubt no longer. Not only is Jesus’ visage changed, Jesus is also clearly accompanied by Moses and Elijah, the two pre-eminent Jewish prophets. This all calls to mind the other story we read today. Moses comes off the mountaintop and the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. The story of the transfiguration intentionally calls that story to mind, to show us that Jesus is in the line of these prophets, and to tell us that this is God’s son, we are to listen.

This story of transfiguration is bookended by Incarnation in the beginning of the gospel, and by the last supper, later in the gospel. These stories show us what God’s inbreaking kingdom looks like. Luke makes sure we know the glorious event of Jesus’ birth. The angels, and the shepherds announce Jesus’ arrival. The star in the sky even points the way for the wise people. Jesus, God’s son, is now present, pay attention. The transfiguration may be extraordinary, but shepherds, and barn animals, and a messy manger, are really just ordinary things.

And then, the disciples and all who were gathered on that last night before Jesus’ death, witnessed Jesus present in the bread and in the wine, the body and the blood. Truly, the kingdom of God is near. The transfiguration may be extraordinary, but bread and wine, broken and spilled, are really just ordinary things.

I think this is really a story about what we see, or don’t see, and what we expect to see, and how that changes us.

Remember, Peter. Peter wanted to put up the tents and keep Jesus, Elijah, and Moses on that mountaintop, and stay with them. Peter wanted to capture and tame this extraordinary event for all time, and I’m pretty sure Peter would like to have replicated it over and over again if he could. We’re really just like Peter. When we have a mountaintop experience, religious or otherwise, we want to stay with it, stay in it, repeat it. But the reality of life is that we can’t, and not being able to is disappointing. We grow nostalgic for that experience, and soon, everything we do is evaluated in comparison to that mountaintop experience, and everything else pales. And we begin to miss God’s presence in the ordinary, we begin to miss the sacred moments.

Some of you have been to Cursillo, for me it was TEC, Teens Encounter Christ. Remember what that felt like. You were flying so high nothing could bring you down. Until you went back to work or school on Monday morning. That let down was so astounding, that we even spent time at the last part of the retreat weekend talking about it, preparing for it, what it would be like to be with our friends who hadn’t had this experience. And we try to capture it even now. We say things like, remember Cursillo, that was the best of times. Even wonderful worship is that way. I love the services of Holy Week, they are deep and meaningful, and culminate in the Great Vigil. That week exhausts me, and when you come and participate in each of those services you are exhausted too. It’s a good kind of exhaustion, but we can’t do that all the time. We have to come down, and encounter Jesus in the everyday, the ordinary.

You see, if we stay there, and we yearn to be there, we miss God now. God reveals Godself in this transfiguration, and Jesus finds us in the ordinary. The ordinary stable, the ordinary bread, the ordinary wine. Pay attention, or you’ll miss it. Expect God in the ordinary, expect Jesus in the people you meet, expect Holy Spirit in the wind and the rain. Expect the still small voice. Each day we are transfigured. Change is a constant presence in our everyday life.

And all of those experiences, the extraordinary and the ordinary, inspire us to respond to the needs of God’s beloved people with renewed energy, confidence, and determination. God’s glory, Jesus’ presence really begins to matter when we pay attention to the times and people where we can really make a difference. Instead of erecting tents on the mountaintop, we can carry that glory of Jesus into the neighborhood, and make a difference in ordinary lives, with ordinary things, food, water, shelter.

We have been changed, we are God’s beloved. Jesus’ cross and resurrection reveals just how much God loves us and that this Love wins. We are called, commissioned, and equipped to make a difference in the lives of those around us. Maybe even our church is transfigured by the love of God.


See the glory in the ordinary all around you. Expect to be changed, to be transformed. Be filled with Jesus’ very presence in this place, carry that glory into the world, doing the work that God has given you to do.