Saturday, November 18, 2017

24 Pentecost Proper 28 Yr A Nov 19 2017

24 Pentecost Proper 28 Yr A Nov 19 2017 Audio

Here we have another terribly troubling parable from Matthew. This parable is the second of three in this section of Matthew, last week we heard the parable of the ten bridesmaids, and lastly is the parable of the sheep and goats. Usually, when placed like this, the stories have something to do with each other. The first parable taught us the importance of being ready, this one shows us what readiness looks like.

The kingdom of God is like a man who was leaving on a journey. Upon leaving, he handed everything over to his servants according to their ability. After the man left, the servants did as they pleased with what they were given. The first two took what was given them, immediately went to work with it, and when the man returned, gave an accounting. Each of them had increased the original capital. The third man was a different sort of man. In contrast to the other two, he hid the money that had been entrusted to him. Now, this was a common way of hiding things. With no bank, no secure place to leave valuable things when going away, burying it was an accepted way to keep it secure. So the important thing for this man was that the money was safe and secure and that he could produce it when the time came. Keeping it in this way meant that there was no possibility of loss, but is also meant there was no possibility of gain.

Matthew makes a point to let us know that this master was a very rich man, and these amounts are huge, each talent may be worth about twenty years wages. And Matthew points us to a master who encourages his servants to use whatever they have been given for good, and to use it faithfully. The third servant was afraid, and did not use what he had been given for any purpose at all. The result of this fear was being consigned to the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So let's imagine today that in this parable the master is God who loves creation, who loves humanity. This  is God in our midst, God who loves creation so very much that God is willing and wanting and yearning to be in relationship with God's people. God whose love is so deep and so wide and so broad. God who walks through this life with us, each one of us and all of us. In this kingdom God is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He handed everything over to his servants according to their ability, and then he left on his journey. It sounds to me like this is a relationship of trust and of grace. The man entrusts all he has to his servants. No instructions, no lists of what to do and what not to do, nothing. And yet this abundance doesn't belong to the servants. This abundance was not assigned to the servants based on who deserved what and how much. This abundance is not even dependent on my ability today, tomorrow, or any other day to do exactly the right thing with it.

It seems to me that the kingdom of God is this way. God leaves us with and trusts us with the entirety of creation. So much more than we can even see and experience. God entrusts us with the sea and the sky, with the animals and the vegetables. God entrusts us with all that is valuable, and God entrusts us with one another. And God lets go of the outcome, God does not control what we do with any of it. We can do with it what we want. That is what is at the very center of this relationship. God creates us and all of what is seen and unseen, God declares it good, and God loves us. God trusts us, what are we to do? 

Imagine a God who loves us so very much that this God is willing to live and die as one of us to show us the way. Imagine a God who is the creator of all that is seen and unseen, and to whom each and every one of us matters. Imagine a God whose hearts desire is to be in relationship with us. Imagine a God to whom justice matters, the kind of justice that includes everyone having enough to eat, everyone staying warm when it is cold, everyone being able to feed their families. 

We are to respond to this abundant and amazing grace with all of our heart and our soul and our strength. It's not about our trustworthiness, it's about God's trust and love and grace. It's not about our ability or inability to use the gift properly, it's about God's trust and love and grace. It's not about what we deserve or don't deserve, it's about God's trust and love and grace. It's not about our fearfulness, but it is about fearlessly being about God's business of love, and healing.

Our readiness in the kingdom is not about being safe and secure. It is to not be afraid. You see, when it comes to serving Christ, when it comes to following Jesus, we should be bold and not be afraid of risks. Not so much concerned about securing our own lives, but getting on with lives of self-abandon and witness, knowing that the grace of God in Jesus will more than compensate for any mistakes we may make.

We can choose in small ways and in large ways how God's amazing gift is made available by our lives and by our love. Choose love. Choose to be a steward of all of God's gift. Choose not only to care for creation and all you have been given, but do something great with it. Don't bury it out of fear, but share it knowing that is was never yours in the first place. Choose to be a part of relationships that do what Jesus asks us to do, feed those who are hungry, love your neighbor. Share your hearts and your lives and your treasure, not because of what you will get, but because of what you have been given. Love. Amen. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

23 Pentecost Proper 27 Yr A Nov 12 2017, Annual meeting

What Matthew presents to us today, as he has throughout his gospel, is terribly troubling. This is a nightmare parable about what happens if you don’t take this life seriously in being formed as a follower of Jesus. It is based on Matthew’s understanding that Jesus, through death, resurrection, and ascension, is always with us, therefore, be ready, Jesus will return when all things are fulfilled. And it is a story about what happens if you fritter your life away.

The problem is not that five fell asleep and five stayed awake, everybody falls asleep, that’s not the issue. And this parable is not about believing the wrong things. Remember, that Matthew has no patience, no empathy for people who don’t get this stuff the first time. This is a story about five people who are not ready because they are clueless, and five people who are ready because they get it. Maybe if we put a line on a picture to make a meme, it would say, “Don’t be clueless like these people, just be ready like these people.” And, this is a story about the end of all things, and the beginning of the new, with the coming of Christ. And it is about how we live in the world, the place God has given for human habitation.

So what does being ready for living in the world God has given us look like? What does being ready for the fulfillment of time look like? It has everything to do with what we do today, in the present moment. And it has everything to do with the long haul of our lives. It is about staying focused on what is important today, tomorrow, and for the future.

Around here, at Trinity, we have a vision for being ready. We Love God, Love others, and we Show it. These aren’t just words, this is a way to be ready. Being ready is taking seriously our baptismal promises, those promises we reaffirmed last week on the Feast of All Saints. We will continue in the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. We will persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord. We will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ. We will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as yourself. We will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.

The world needs the church today. Not the institution of church, but the body of Christ. The people who take seriously these promises, and are ready with mercy, and compassion, justice and love.

The sadness I have about empty pews is not grief about the death of a church. It is the sadness for people not knowing God’s love, I am sad because so many people do not know about forgiveness, in the midst of brokenness, that people do not know or care about how good life can be when lived in the fullness of God’s embrace, and the embrace of people who are ready to celebrate the feast.

The church needs you today, you who are here, and those who are not yet here. I pray, each time before we gather on Sunday morning, that God continues to prepare the hearts of those who will come here to worship, and that God continues to prepare us to welcome all who are sent and called. The world needs the church, the witness to Christ in each other. And the witness to brokenness that so desperately looks for healing, healing that only happens when the fragments of our lives get put back together in the mystery of the bread and wine, the body and blood.

And the church needs world to keep us from being full of ourselves and our rightness.

I love you, and I love this church, and I am filled with hope, because that is what being ready is for me. Hope, that today all that I am, and all that I was, and all that I will be is acceptable, not just acceptable, but cherished in God’s sight. I am filled with hope, the loving God, loving others, our neighbor, will change the world. Amen.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

All Saints, transferred, Nov 5 2017

Struggling, striving, to be one too. I love this day. Why do I feel All Saints so deeply? I don’t think it’s because of sainthood, or perfection. I think it’s because I want to be among those who follow Jesus, I want to be among those who stand up for love, and compassion, and mercy, and I know I cannot do that alone. I listen to these names, names of the long dead and names of the recently dead, and I wonder, do I measure up? Do I act justly when the time comes, am I merciful in judgment, can I be compassionate when I vehemently disagree with another?

This cloud of witnesses helps me along, holds me up, keeps me accountable, makes me want to do better. Each one of these in this cloud of witnesses changed their particular piece of the world, not necessarily by doing fabulous, extravagant things, but by stepping into the space when called. By stepping up to love. By using their voice and being brave. Not heroic, but faithful.

Do you have saints in your life? Not perfect people, people perfectly loved. I posted a piece on Facebook on All Saints Day, that some of you saw. “Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. ‘Be still’ they say. ‘Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.’” Linda Hogan....indigenous writer, who is currently the Chickasaw Nation's Writer in Residence.

That empowers me, emboldens me to put one foot in front of the other, each day, and speak love into dark and lonely spaces. It feels like my voice joins all the voices before me, and together we sing a song of the saints of God. Because being a saint is not about being superhuman. It may be about having a super power though. The super power of love, the super power of the love of all those who have gone before us to show us the way, and those who will come after us to carry on.

I wonder about the saints we named today, and so many others whom we did not name. I wonder if they knew they were a saint, or if all they knew was God’s love for them and for others. I think they didn’t know they were saints. I think they were just like you and me. I think they took seriously the call to love God, and to love one another. I think they woke up in the morning, just like you and me, and asked God to help them carry Jesus’ light into all the dark places of their lives.

Who are the saints you know, and have known? Not perfect people. But people putting one foot in front of the other and stepping into the space of love, and bringing the light of Jesus with them. I think a lot about my mom who died nearly three years ago now. My mom wasn’t perfect, she was as ornery as an Irish woman comes. There was always room at my mother’s table. Even if she didn’t like you, you got fed. She prepared meals at church, and put on quite a spread for funeral luncheons. And for years she was in charge of the Loaves and Fishes meal once a month. Mom would never consider herself any more than a person that said yes to pitching in and helping. She never thought of herself as brave or courageous, or particularly compassionate. But she stepped up when she heard the call, often it was the call on the telephone… we need you to….bring a hotdish, we need you to… be in be president of the women’s club…we need you.

I think what’s really true is that the phone call, or these days the email, is much louder than God’s still, small voice. And stepping into the space of love and compassion, responding to God’s call, is much more like providing a meal than it is about saving the world.

If we are indeed the result of the love of thousands, which I believe we are, then what is the task we bear today? It’s not about heroics, but definitely super powers, love and compassion. We are the saints of God, we are the ones who give rise to the thousands who come after us. Our task today is to follow Jesus. Our call is to Love God, love others, show it. Getting up every morning, giving thanks for the day, putting one foot in front of the other, and shining the Christ light into all of the dark places, makes a difference. We are joined together, we are joined with the cloud of witnesses, and our witness matters, our actions matter. They lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still; the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea; for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too. 

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 9 July 5 2020

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