Saturday, March 25, 2017

4 Lent Yr A March 26 2017


(A note about this photo. This is Meg Murry, in the 2018 A Wrinkle in TIme. Meg must learn about her own blindness to save her father and her family. Check out the book.)
Imagine yourself as one of the disciples, walking down the street and into the marketplace with Jesus. It’s a noisy, hot and busy place, everyone gathers, does business, sits in the shade drinking the original chai, that is tea, black and strong. Actually, that’s everyone with status and power. But the marketplace is also the place where the poor, the crippled, the blind, go to beg. Jesus saw a blind man, and stops. Rather than giving thanks for the miracle of sight, the first thing out of the mouth of the disciple who asked is, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? And Jesus’ answer is that this man’s blindness is not due to his parents’ sin or his own sin. In fact, to Jesus, this is not about sin at all. Many people of Jesus’ time thought that a physical ailment was do to you sinning or inheriting your parents’ sin. But for Jesus it’s not about sin at all; it’s about sight and seeing.

Jesus heals a blind man. Here is a man who has just had his sight restored, truly a miracle, and all the disciples can talk about is whether this man is the man who used to sit and beg. They really can’t quite place him, even after he says who he is, even after all the years they’ve probably walked by him in the marketplace. They want to take him to his parents’ house so that his parents can identify him, and then his parents don’t seem to be overjoyed at the miracle either, it seems they don’t want much to do with their son. 

Eventually the conversation turns to who the man is who healed the blind man, and the blind man says, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes.” It is an astonishing thing that they don’t know who Jesus is; and, that Jesus healed this man who they all know was blind. They just don’t believe him. 

I think this is a story about who is really blind; it is a story about seeing and not seeing. Jesus saw a man blind from birth. The disciples looked right through the blind man, they had seen him sitting in the same place for years, but had never seen him. When Jesus healed the blind man, the blind man saw Jesus for who he really is, the One who is from God. The Pharisees could neither see the blind man, nor could they see that the one who healed the blind man is the One who is from God. The blind man is the one who sees, the disciples and the Pharisees are the ones who are blind.

What is it we are blinded by? What is it that is right in front of us that we don’t see? All of us are born blind in one way or another. Some of us have blindness of body: a crippling disease, cancer, diabetes, or bad bones. Some of us have blindness of heart, and that is a terrible blindness. The blind of heart can’t love another beyond a superficial level and usually can’t even love themselves. The blind of heart often live lives corroded with addictions to material things, possessions, and work, to cover up the empty hole. And worst of all is blindness of the soul, which wraps all the rest of life in gloomy darkness.

We have our screens in front of our faces much of the time. Our phones, our tablets, our laptops. Are we blind to the people in our lives? Do we ever say to ourselves, “I just can’t see my way through this.”

Or maybe we are blind to our own self-indulgence. The messages we constantly get are messages of possession and consumption. Competition for our dollars spurs networks to charge millions of dollars for seconds of advertising time, advertising that forms us into people who believe that the aim of our life is to acquire more, to have bigger, better, newer.

Or maybe we are blind to our own pessimism. This culture of fear we live in has a tendency to take our hope away. Sometimes it is difficult to see who we really are, people who are claimed and marked by God, delight of God’s life. Perhaps we are blind to the pain of a neighbor’s sorrow, or the loneliness of a child, or the needs of a spouse. Perhaps we are blind to the other who is different, whose life seems so foreign to our own, that we just don’t understand. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in making a living, pursuing the good life, or running from our fears that we just don’t see. 

What kind of blindness lives inside you?

Jesus notices our blindness. Jesus sees. Jesus invites us to see. Jesus invites us to see with our very blind eyes, with our wounds and brokenness. Jesus uses our weaknesses as grace. 

On our Lenten journey we are called to be healed of our own blindness, and we prepare for celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in the bread broken for us, and we celebrate that through Jesus we come to see others, all creation, and ourselves as wonderful gifts. This is the Good News that shines brightly through our blindness. The Good News that Love wins. Jesus has offered us a new view of life, death and resurrection. We have been called and claimed, but not because of distinctions, achievements, family lineage, or personal attractiveness, not because God sees us as any more beautiful or deserving as anyone else. God’s love is blind to such plastic categories. 

We have been called and claimed despite our tendency to blindness. We have been called and claimed even though we trip over those we cannot see. We have been called and claimed despite looking directly at someone, and not seeing who they are, their pain and suffering, or their joy. 

But, in this new view of life, we recognize that life, death and resurrection means that we must look at people in the eye, and that we take a new look at ourselves. It takes time to see clearly, and we must be patient in our recovery.

When we see with the healed eyes that Jesus gives us, we will recognize that each and every one of us is a wonderful creation of God. When we look into the eyes of our neighbor, we may see a person who is hurting and lonely just like us; and we may see a person who is blessed and joyful, just like us. When we look into the eyes of the one who we think is wrong, we may recognize a person who has come to their convictions by way of hurt and sorrow, just like us. When we look into the eyes of the one we hate, we will recognize someone who God loves, just like us. 

And when someone looks into your eyes, do they recognize who you truly are, a new creation, a person healed and transformed through love by God? Can they see your life, can they see your struggle, can they see your sadness, can they see your joy, can they see your integrity, do they recognize you, washed in the waters of baptism, clean and pure, a reflection of the creator God. 

Do they see one whose life, right now, attests to Jesus, the light of the world? Do they see that you love Jesus? Do they see that you follow Jesus? When someone looks into your eyes, do they recognize mercy, compassion, justice, forgiveness, healing?

In what ways, during the rest of this Lent, can you open your eyes to Jesus? In what ways, during the rest of this Lent, may you be healed of your blindness?
Lord God, heal our vision, so that we may see you more clearly, right here, right now. Amen. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

3 Lent Yr A March 19 2017


This story from the gospel of John is amazing. I think it is one of the most important stories of the entire collection of stories we have about Jesus. Just imagine the setting. Noon. In the desert. Absolutely the hottest time of the day. The sun blazes, the ground is dry and baked solid, any bodies outside are parched. Nobody would go out at that time, everyone would stay in their cool stone homes and siesta until the day grew cooler. And yet, here we are, at the center of the village, a lone women, and Jesus. Neither of them belonged there. Neither of them should have been speaking to the other.

Jesus, a good Jew sits at the well, he is terribly thirsty, his throat is dry and scratchy; he has just arrived at this well after walking miles in the desert, in a foreign land, to get there. He sits at the well, but does not have a bucket or dipper to get any water. 

She arrives, bucket on her head, dipper in her hand, a Samaritan woman. She may have spent her morning cooking over an outdoor fire, and washing clothes in her bucket of water. This Jewish man asks this Samaritan woman for a drink of water. 

This is a scandalous encounter. Two circumstances make it scandalous. First, it is scandalous because they are a man and a woman, at a chance meeting at a well, and he speaks to her. She has a reputation, otherwise she would not be at the well in the heat of the day. The women would go to the well in the cool of the morning and evening. She was there in the heat of the middle of the day so she did not have to encounter the jeers and catcalls of the others in the village. The story says that she has had five husbands and she is living with a man who is not a husband. This status does not necessarily make her promiscuous, but what is true is that the only way for a woman to be protected in this society was to be attached to a man. To be unattached is certain abuse and maybe even death. And yet, a man could discard a woman by just saying so. We just don't know and should not make assumptions. But what we do know is that men and women just did not talk to one another in public. This is in violation of the Law they both lived by. 

Secondly, he is a Jew, and she, a Samaritan. The enmity between Jews and Samaritans is notorious. They traced their lineage similarly through Rachel and Jacob, Sarah and Abraham, and Miriam and Moses, but a split had caused them to worship in two different places, the Jews in Jerusalem, the Samaritans at Mt. Gerizim. Each tribe devoted to its own place of worship, and completely intolerant of the other. Intolerance is an understatement here. These tribes fought and killed each other over the proper place to worship. 

A Jewish man, a Samaritan woman, and he asks her for a drink of water. She states the obvious. "Sir, you have no bucket, how did you expect to get that living water?" He responds by describing the spring of water that gushes up to eternal life, and that will quench the thirst eternally. There is no turning back from this scandalous encounter. She places her tentative trust in him, "Sir," she says, "give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty again." She already has a glimpse of that eternal life which is now, that new life that gives us glimpses of the kingdom. And instead of judgment from Jesus, Jesus knows who she is and shows her she has value, and she remembers the truth of whom she is, God's beloved, marked and claimed by God. This living water and living word, transform her. Jesus gives her freedom, and gives her community freedom to know who Jesus is, to remember who she is, and to remember whom they are. She goes away with such excitement she forgets her water jug. She says to the people who have been deriding her “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves. 

Who does she think she is? The world has convinced her of the lie that she is worthless, that she is a throw away, that she is unlovable. In the living water of this well, Jesus reminds her who she really is. She is God's beloved, marked and claimed as God's own forever. And that changes her life. This encounter, Jesus' words and the life-giving water have literally restored her to new life. She was dead, dead to her community, dead to her family, dead to herself. Until in the water, Jesus reminded her and she remembered she was God's beloved, marked and claimed as God's own forever.

It happens to us too, all the time. We begin to believe the lies of the world, the lies about who we are. You are worthless, you can't do anything right. Your happiness is dependent on how much money you make. You will be successful when you have a good job, you will be successful when you command a big staff. You will be happy when you feel good, so go ahead, take the purple pill, change the way you look, drink the whole bottle. 

We forget so quickly that we are God's beloved, marked and claimed as God's own forever. But the living water is here to remind us that we don't have to be perfect, because we are perfectly loved. And when we miss the mark, we fall on our knees, ask for forgiveness, are reminded that we are human, and do it differently the next time.

And that changes our lives, just as it changed the life of the woman at the well. We are freed from the constant need to be perfect, or to be something that we are not, we are freed to be loved completely and absolutely. We are put back together, made whole, healed. 

She leaves her bucket at the well, goes into the city and tells everyone about the man she met at the well, and that this man who said such amazing things, was the One sent from God. 

Each time we come here, to this place, we encounter Jesus. Each time we confess all that we have done, and all that we have left undone, we encounter Jesus. Each time we come to this table to eat and to drink we encounter Jesus. Each time we put our hand in that water, and splash it on our face and hands, each time we baptize another child, we remember who we are, God's beloved, marked and claimed.

The woman at this well encountered Jesus, she received grace and love, and remembered that in her brokenness, she was perfectly loved. She received grace and love, and living water, and went to tell all that would listen that she met the One sent from God. May we be like the woman at the well and go out and tell everyone of the Good News of Jesus, the One who is from God.  Amen. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

2 Lent Yr A March 12 2017



2 Lent Yr A March 12 2017 Audio

What is this being Christian really about? Why do we bother, every Sunday, every Wednesday, coming here, to this place to worship a God we cannot see. It would be so much easier to be out with the others, drinking good coffee at our favorite coffee place, reading our newspaper, eating a wonderful confection for breakfast. Or sleeping in late on a Sunday morning, what’s that about? Or reading a good book, or hanging out with kids and partner after a long and grueling week. And yet we are here. I don’t think it’s because I compel you to be here, I have thought about preaching hell and damnation if you don’t come, hoping to increase our numbers, but I don’t, I can’t. I can’t honestly do that, because I don’t think it’s right or true. Coming here on Sunday mornings, being together, participating in good music, prayers, bread and wine, body and blood, is not about hell and damnation, it’s not about life after death, it’s all about life in the here and now. It is about the eternal life that Jesus talks about with Nicodemus in our story this morning.

Eternal life is not about heaven. We live in chronological time, we are conceived, we are born in to the world, we grow, we age, and we die. The story we hear from the gospel of John today seems to, and all the other stories as well seem to show a time that is not chronological, or chronos. The stories in the bible speak about God’s time, they show us kairos, not chronos. The word eternal in today’s gospel doesn’t mean forever. It isn’t a uniform measurement of time like days and years marching endlessly into some unknown or even known future. That’s a category or concept that we really don’t even find in the bible. Eternal, as in whoever believes in him may have eternal life, doesn’t mean the literal passing of time, it means transcending time, or kairos, it means belonging to another realm or reign altogether. It means belonging to God’s realm. That is where heaven comes in. When Jesus talked about heaven, he was talking about our present, eternal, intense, real experiences of joy, peace, and love in this life, this side of death and in whatever is to come. Heaven for Jesus wasn’t just someday; it was and is a present reality. Jesus blurs our lines, inviting Nicodemus, and us, into the merging of heaven and earth, the future and the present, here and now.


That is how you can be born again, because eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life lived now in relationship with God. Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now. It’s not about a life that begins at death; it’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and even survive death.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Why do we come here each Sunday morning to sing songs of praise, to worship, to encounter God’s word, to be with each other, to be fed by God’s body and blood? Because new life in Christ demands it. Because the response to God’s amazing creation, God’s amazing love and grace is to give thanks, because the response to God’s amazing gift of life and love is to raise up in prayer and song, and to fall on our knees in awe. And because it’s not about any one of us individually, it’s about us together.

Some Christians have co-opted this language of being born again and have made it into a one time and exclusive deal. If you say a particular set of words you have access to some sort of life after death that means you will spend eternity in heaven, as opposed to hell. However, that really doesn’t seem to be what Jesus talks about or is concerned about. Jesus seems to be much more interested in the here and now, and the new life that is available to everyone, but especially people who are suffering, in pain, and on the margins. Jesus gave his life for this new life; Jesus walked a road of pain and suffering, for what? So that some people could have comfort in an afterlife, and so that most people who don’t have access will spend life after death in a place called hell? I don’t think so.

God’s amazing and abundant love is available to all, that’s what Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection makes real. There is no exclusivity to it; all of scripture shows us that. That’s why I come here, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Not because it’s an exclusive club, but because together we give thanks for this amazing gift, because together we recognize our need for forgiveness so that we can realize fully the love that God has for us, and because together we are fed and nourished so that we may feed and nourish others.

We are born again. In the midst of the pain and tragedy of this life, Jesus walks with us. In the midst of the pain and suffering of our lives, Jesus walks with us. Jesus doesn’t take that pain and suffering away, often we wish he would, Jesus carries the burden with us. The work that Jesus does in life and death, and resurrection, is to absorb all that pain and suffering, violence and hatred, and defeat it with the power of God’s amazing and abundant love.

You and I have access to that new life, to that amazing love, right here and right now. We are born again and again and again. It’s not about a one-time deal; it’s not one moment in time. It’s a process that begins in our baptism, when we are claimed and marked as Christ’s own, and it keeps happening, with cycles of acceptance and resistance, epiphany and doubt. We keep coming to church and we keep being fed and nourished because this journey is messy and unclear. We glimpse the new life that is right in front of us at one moment, and then we miss it, again we miss the mark, we loose the trail, we wander in the wilderness, and we come back to be fed and nourished and find our way again.

And as we are fed and nourished, we go out and feed and nourish others. And in the end, and in the beginning, and in the middle, that is what following Jesus is about, that is what this journey is about. It is about responding to the amazing love that God has for each and every one of us and for all of us, it is about the new life, the eternal life, the life of here and now, that is available to all of us. In the messiness of our lives, in the good and bad choices we make, in the pain and tragedy of human action and inaction, and in the pain and tragedy of natural disaster, God’s amazing and abundant love is available to Abraham who lived in a land that worshiped gods who were not the One God, it is available to Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, it is available to the Samaritan woman at the well, it is available to the man born blind, it is available to Lazarus and Martha and Mary, all outsiders, all people on the margins, and all who never said the words, I accept Jesus as my personal lord and savior. And this same amazing and abundant love is available to you, and to me and to all of us.

Jesus walked this journey to show us the truth of God’s love for us. We walk this journey so that we may live this truth of God’s love for all. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Showing up for one another, Funeral homily for Camilla "Mickey" Owen, March 6, 2017

It doesn't matter if we are fully prepared for the death of our loved one, or we've spent hours and days at their bedside keeping vigil, it's still hard, probably the hardest thing we do. But sacred, probably the most important thing we do. Camilla, Katherine, Courtney, and Paul, and Scott, you have done what you were called to do, with love and care. And it is enough.

So, being here, in the church, is a good place to be. You see, here we believe that Love wins. We believe that God loves us abundantly and absolutely. We believe that in the muck and the mess of this life, in the midst of our brokenness, our strength, our fragility and fortitude, God is. We believe that God is in our midst, Jesus. And we believe that everyone matters, because every one of us is created in God's image, no matter what.

So when we say these words of the burial of the dead, and when we read these stories, we believe that all of our grief, and all of our love, and all of our hope, and all of our sadness, is held, and honored, and healed. What that means is that each and every one of us is God's beloved. We know that because we experience the reality of life and all that it brings to us. We experience the joy and the suffering, we experience the happiness and the pain, we experience our own giftedness and shortcomings. We miss the mark, we are not perfect, but we are perfectly loved. And when we miss the mark we ask forgiveness. Life is messy, but we know that we are loved, and when we cannot remember that, and we do often forget, we gather together.

We know the story of Jesus' life, suffering, death and resurrection is true because it is the reality of our lives.

We experience our own suffering, and deaths all the time. Loss and grief are prevalent in our lives, but so is resurrection. So is the new life that always arises out of our losses and our sadness. And that is where we put our hope today.

God came into this world, into our midst, to show us that death does not have dominion, that the material demise of our bodies is not the end of the story and that there is a place prepared for us where there is no more pain and suffering. The ultimate story is the story of resurrection and new life.

We chose this passage from Revelation, “See, the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them; they will be God's people, and God will be with them; God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. And the one who was seated on the throne said,
“See, I am making all things new.”

God loves God's creation so very much, God loves us so very much, that God dwells with us, God makes God's home with us. God shows up for us, so that we can show up for others. That’s what you are all doing today, showing up for one another, showing up because showing up matters.

So today we celebrate this life well lived, we are sad, and in the midst of the sadness, the good news remains. God prepares a place for us, God brings new life to us, and our hope rests in this new creation, this resurrection. Our hope rests in the story that the work Jesus does on the cross matters. And what Jesus does on the cross is to collect all of the pain and suffering of this world, and Jesus takes it and holds it in love.

Jesus doesn’t take away pain and sorrow.
Jesus embraces our pain and sorrow,

And Jesus is the reason we rejoice today. It is this truth of what God in Jesus does in life, and on the cross, and in the resurrection that we celebrate Mickey's life today. It is the truth that God lived and died as one of us, that connects us to each other, and gives us the strength and courage to love one another in our sadness and in our joy. God comes to be with us, so that we may be new creations. God comes to be with us, so that our pain and suffering, may rise out of the ashes and are made absolutely new. God comes to be with us to show us that Love heals, and that Love wins.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

1 Lent Yr A March 5 2017


We enter the season of Lent with this story of temptation that takes place just after Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan, and just before Jesus calls his disciples and begins teaching on the hillside. We talk about what happens in this story as temptation. Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. But I think this story is much more about seduction than it is temptation, and I’ll tell you why.

I’m reminded of Edmund, in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, one of the books in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Edmund is the third child in a family of four children. He is overshadowed by his older brother Peter, and Edmund suffers from a lack of confidence that contributes to a rather unfortunate series of decisions. When the children enter the land of Narnia through the wardrobe, they encounter eternal winter, brought on by the despicable Queen. The Queen approaches Edmund and tempts him with the sugary concoction, Turkish delight, and some warm and wonderful hot cocoa as well. Thus begins Edmund’s turn toward the despicable Queen, and away from the Lion Aslan, his brother and sisters, and all that represents. 

You see, just about without an exception, temptation looks and feels delicious. It is part of our very humanity to seek out that which we believe is positive, pleasurable, and good. We always embark on the road to perdition with the belief that it is in fact a good. That is the nature of seduction. It begins with a beautiful face, it begins with a ripe red apple, it begins with mouth watering tastiness, it begins with the promise of relief, escape, pleasure, it begins in wonder and amazement, but many times it does not end well. And yet, often we are powerless to know it or to see it. 

The great seducer in our gospel today shows Jesus three wonderful and amazing things. First, stones that may become bread. It may be hard to imagine yourself as Jesus, or not, but try for a moment. You are concerned about poverty and starvation all over the known world. Your instructions to those who follow you are to feed the hungry; over and over you ask your friends and followers to feed the hungry. And here you are presented with a solution to world hunger. Command these stones to become bread. That’s it, that’s all it takes. There are enough stones in the world if they all became bread there would be no child going to bed hungry at night. Who wouldn’t say yes? Feeding people is good, isn’t it?

Second, ultimate safety. If you were unable to be hurt, you would be able to continue to relieve world hunger forever and for always? If you were unable to be hurt, you would be able to love everyone all the time? If you are unable to be hurt, you would not have to go to the cross to die? Sounds like a good, doesn’t it? 

Third, authority. Everyone and everything answering to you. With ultimate authority, everyone would follow your rules and your rules are good rules. Love your neighbor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned. The world would be perfect if you were in charge. 

What’s so wrong with this scene? Nothing at all. Nothing at all. That is the nature of seduction. It looks so good. It tastes so good. It feels so good. It must be right. We are human after all. What makes this story so powerful is that we have been there. Each and every one of us has been there; we may even be there yet today. This is about Jesus, and it is about each of us. You see, it isn’t black and white, right or wrong, it isn’t obvious or clear, and don’t let anyone seduce you into thinking that it is. This journey of life is full of choices, which is God’s gift to us, choice, and a pile of love to go with it, because we know that God's love wins. Even Jesus had the choice, the choice to follow the seducer, the choice to give in to the pain and suffering of his journey, the choice to walk away from the cross. 

So what does this journey look like? We are on a journey together, you and me and all the others. All the best heroes have their posse’s with them. Edmund had his brother and sisters and all the animals of Narnia, Luke had Han Solo, Lea, Chewbacca, and the Holy Trinity of Obi-wan, Anakin, and Yoda, Harry has Hermione and Ron and the whole Weasly family, Woody has Buzz, Mr. Potato Head, Rex and Hamm, you get the picture. We take this journey together; together we share the strength, the wisdom, the courage to make choices, good or bad, right or wrong. 

Us humans live daily, maybe even moment-by-moment in the reality of this seduction. It is being fully human after all, what is so amazing is the love that God has for us and the forgiveness that God is willing to heap upon us time, after time, after time. We miss the mark, and Jesus continues to stand with us, surrounded by our company of friends, loved ones, and supporters, and Jesus puts his arms around our shoulders, straightens us out, gives us strength and courage, and shows us how to hit the mark dead center. And, while the enemy arrow comes right at him, Jesus also says, let me step into your place and take the arrow for you. 

In our lifetimes, we don’t ever feel the absence of seduction and temptation. We are however forgiven. That is where we begin this journey of lent, in the place of examination and forgiveness. We have this opportunity to turn to God, to examine ourselves, to ask again for forgiveness, to look upon our mortality and fall on our knees and ask for the help we need, because we cannot do it on our own. We cannot walk this journey without the one who created us, the one who walks with us, the one who sustains us, and with one another. To believe we can is to succumb to the seduction of vanity, self-absorption, egotism, and selfishness. 

And we see much of that vanity, self-absorption, egotism, and selfishness in our culture today. There are so many temptations in this world, so much seduction. Most of them coming not as apples hanging from a tree but rather subtle messages that seek to undermine our identity and invite us to forget whose we are. Remember on Ash Wednesday I told you that the ashes remind us who we are and whose we are.  So many commercials suggest we are inadequate. So many headlines suggest that there is not enough to go around. And so many politicians – of all parties – contend that we have a great deal to fear. In the face of these identity-obscuring messages, we have the opportunity to root our lives in the same baptismal promise that safe-guarded and empowered Jesus. This is the baptismal promise that reminds us that God says we are so totally enough, that there is plenty to go around, and that we need not live in fear.

On Ash Wednesday I invited you to think about that which you may set aside this lent. It is not about giving up something you love, but it is about abstaining from that which gets in the way of your relationship with God and with one another. What seduces you into believing that you can walk this journey on your own? What seduces you into believing that you are right and others are wrong? What seduces you into believing that you are immortal, what seduces you into believing that you are not enough, or that you are not God’s beloved? What is it that you will abstain from this lent? 

I invite you, God’s beloved, to journey together; I invite you to a holy lent. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday 2017





The ashes of this day remind us of who we are. We are God's beloved, God's delight. Every person is named and claimed, marked as Christ's own forever, by the God who created her. The ashes of this day trace the mark of our baptism, the mark of our identity as God’s beloved. There is no one or no thing that can change that. No one, no thing. The ashes of this day remind us that we are God's, God created us out of the dust, and to the dust we shall return. 

The Lenten journey is the journey with Jesus and one another to the cross of Good Friday. The Lenten journey is not a personal journey of "I am not worthy", but a journey we take together of discovery of our identity. Our identity of God's beloved, God's delight. On this journey we experience the God who weeps, the God who suffers not only for us but with us. Nowhere is the presence of God amidst suffering more salient than on the cross. This is a God who does not cause suffering, but a God who bears suffering. This is a God who does not initiate suffering, but God who transforms suffering that is ever present, ever real. 

The season of Epiphany has taught us that God, who is revealed and incarnated in Jesus, loves us and names us. God, who becomes flesh and walks among us full of grace and truth, this God loves us, and is with us so completely, that God goes all the way to the grave on our behalf. There is nothing we can say, or do, or believe, that makes God's love any less. The ashes of this day, remind us of that.

The ashes of this day remind us of who we are. The ashes of this day remind us that God's love wins. The ashes of this day remind us that God's victory over death, Jesus going to the cross and the grave, does not mean that we do not die, but that we have new life, and freedom in God's love.

God is already calling us into relationship, sometimes we need to make room. God shows up, all the time, we though are often just too busy, or too loud, to notice. 

It may take a while, it may take the whole 40 days, but you may make room for remembering who you are. You may make room for remembering that you belong to God, that you have been marked as Christ's own forever. As that reality dawns on you, as the reality of God's amazing and abundant love takes hold in you, as you remember that Love wins, you may feel compelled to respond. 

You may feel the need to ask for forgiveness, for that which you have done or left undone. You may feel the need to forgive someone in your life. You may need to lay down that which is killing you. You may feel the need to serve, or to give. You may feel the need to repent, and return.

Or you may just need a place to sit, and be quiet, a place to deposit all your questions, all your misgivings, all your feelings of emptiness. Relinquish control, let go, trust yourself to be a part of something beyond yourself. Open up the quiet space, be connected to the community of faith, and remember the words, into your hands oh Lord, I commend my spirit. 

Lent isn't just the lead up to the party at Easter. It's actually much more like life itself. We get cleaned up, all ready to go, and the next thing you know we fall back into the mud. Life is hard, it's messy, just like this dirt, just like these ashes, this smudge reminds us of who we are and whose we are, loved, imperfect, forgiven. Everyone one of us the same before God, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. There is no getting out of it.

We are invited to a Holy Lent. A time of quiet, a time of renewal, a time of examination, a time to be filled. I invite you to consider embracing the quiet. What is it you need to set aside, what is it you need to forgive, what is it you need to heal, what is it you want to do this Lent. I invite you to write that down.

We’ll take those pieces of paper, put them together, offer them up as ashes. Take a little time to be quiet, and write on your paper.