Saturday, December 29, 2018

1st Sunday of Christmas Yr C Dec 30 2018




Audio 1st Sunday of Christmas Yr C Dec 30 2018 John 1:1-18
John begins at the beginning; in the beginning was the Word. John, very intentionally, places us at the beginning, the first words of the first book of the Holy Scripture that John had on his heart, in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. And John very intentionally introduces us to one of the themes that for him shape all of faith, the light that is in the world.

In John 1 from The Message we hear, “The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!—came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.”

Genesis 1 from the Message we hear “God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark. God named the light Day, he named the dark Night. It was evening, it was morning—Day One.”

How do we imagine this wondrous thing that God does? Creation, incarnation, resurrection. Try this. Imagine you are swimming, maybe snorkeling or even SCUBA diving in a beautiful, sun filled ocean. You dive. You dive deep. You dive to the depths of the ocean. It is cold, and dark, and beautiful. You see fish you’ve never seen before, and vegetation, but it is through the darkness of that ocean water. You see only what is in front of your face. Your breath is shallow, not deep and complete. There are fish that look like monsters. You return to the surface and the sun and warmth and light, but very slowly, because you must having dived so deep. At your return, you see more clearly, breath more deeply, love completely; in ways you could never have imagined before, feeling the warmth of the sunshine all over your body.

This is what incarnation is like, this is what resurrection is like, this is what life is like, I think. God dives down deep into our lives, our lives as we live them in the depths of the ocean. This is Jesus, and Jesus swims around and enlightens our underwater vision so we can see and care for all of the teeming creation. And Jesus picks us up off the bottom of the ocean and carries us into that sunshine, into that new life that we inhabit.

Incarnation, resurrection, birthed out of the waters of creation, the waters of baptism, the waters of new life. Bathed in the light that dispels the darkness. For John, there is hope that the smallest source of light might create the possibility of belief. The darkness represents the lack of relationship.

God speaks the Word into this world, Jesus dives into our lives for light, for love, for relationship. John calls us to turn around and face the Light, to fall on our knees and be forgiven. And today John calls us to be partners with him in showing the way to the Light.

We are yet in the season of incarnation, God in the flesh meeting us in the flesh. God came to be with us in the flesh not to relieve us of the mess and the muck of this life, but in the flesh God stands by our side, takes our hand, sometimes even carries us, and loves us. And that kind of love changes us, we can't help but be changed. God in the flesh reminds us in our flesh that we don't need to be perfect because we are perfectly loved. We don't need to consume and acquire to possess worth, we are enough just the way we are created. God in the flesh reminds us in our flesh that we don't need to gain attention to earn God's love, God has already loved us into ourselves. 

Incarnation is a mystery, and yet it is not so hard. Incarnation, God in the flesh, is about love in a very real sense, it is about God’s commitment to you and to me to walk this journey with us, or maybe to swim this journey with us, and it is about our commitment to love. Christmas is not about the presents; it is about God’s presence with us, and your presence with those whose path you cross.

Incarnation is about showing up, and showing forth the light that covers all darkness, and the love that wins. I’ve watched you do these things. You contributed toys and food so families would have some holiday. You’ve helped Wendi and her family clean out her home and move. You’ve helped serve a meal on Christmas day, and you prepared and served a meal yesterday. You’ve practiced music and lifted this congregation in singing God’s praises. You’ve made this space beautiful for all of us, and many more, to come and experience the light that is growing stronger. You’ve hosted your own families and friends, and given gifts. It’s been both joyful and difficult for many of you.

Love is born into human flesh. We are at the beginning, and we are at the end. But here in the middle, is where love turns us around, turns our world around. Here is our commitment to love as we have been loved.

I leave you with a poem today. Because Madeleine L’engle can always say it better than me.

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.
He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.
He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Madeleine L’Engle, First Coming, from A Cry Like a Bell

Amen.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas 2018



Audio Christmas 2018

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness - on them light has shined. Here in front of us is this story, this story that not only tells us but shows us that the light shines in the darkness. The prophet Isaiah not only spoke to the people of thousands of years ago, but speaks to us today. You and me and all of humanity yearn for, long for, the goodness and light to call us out of our darkness. What is true is that you and me and all of humanity yearn to know the God who loves us so completely, that God breaks into our present with the presence that swaddles us in the love that heals, the love that sustains, the love that forgives, the love that wins.

The trouble is that it is so unbelievable, unreasonable, inconceivable. We have heard this story over and over for years. An angel comes to Mary and says, “Fear not here comes God.” When I close my eyes and try to imagine this scene, I see Mary. In my imagination, Mary is a very young girl, and yet very excited to be a woman, and ready to be married to Joseph. Mary is a Jewish girl; she knows well the stories of God’s activity in the life of her people. She has lived her whole life in this community of faith. Mary has lived her whole life in the community of people who believe there is a special relationship between God and them. They believe that their story, the story of this community, day in and day out, through slavery, wilderness, kingdoms, and exile, is the story of God’s working through them to accomplish the divine purposes on earth. God is trusting God’s people to have raised Mary in the right way, to have taught her the story of faith, taught her to recognize God’s hand at work in her life. Gabriel has made the proposition. The great archangel has announced God’s purpose, the heavenly messenger has posed the question, and Mary says yes. And her betrothed, Joseph, says yes.

Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth; we heard that story just yesterday. When Mary and Elizabeth meet, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps and Mary is filled with such joy and hope that she sings and dances. Mary and Elizabeth lived in a dark time under Herod the Great, whose casual brutality was backed up with the threat of Rome. And yet Mary’s song is a song of freedom, a song of liberation for her people, it is subversive and it is revolutionary. It is joyful and it is hopeful.

And then this. Mary is ready to give birth to this child, this bundle of flesh, this vulnerable baby. And the government tells them they have to travel to another town to be there for the census, with hundreds, if not thousands of others, marching across the border from Galilee to Bethlehem, to be counted. So many people, and no place to stay. So out back, with the animals, Mary lays down, and has her baby. They wrapped that baby up tight, and waited for the next thing to happen.

And the next thing that happens is that people start coming from all over the place. Shepherds, angels and eventually rich people from the east. It’s almost like a gawker slowdown on the interstate. Something has happened, and we all slow down to take a look.

But the good news is that there is connection between this particular baby, and God’s promise to their people. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The good news is that God breaks into our present with the presence that swaddles us in the love that heals, the love that sustains, the love that forgives, the love that wins.

This unbelievable, unreasonable, inconceivable truth, that God is in our midst, is no longer unbelievable, unreasonable, or inconceivable. Because the grace is all around us. We have been singing throughout Advent, “My soul cries out with a joyful shout that the God of my heart is great, and my spirit sings of the wondrous things that you bring to the ones who wait.”

This story that we tell as each Christmas comes and goes, the story of the baby born in the manger, the angels singing and the shepherds coming to see him, the wise men who read the stars and recognize this world changing event. This story is not about comfort, or nostalgia or romance. It is about God who loves us absolutely and abundantly, and who wants us and all of creation to know that Love wins. It is about God who loves us absolutely and abundantly, and who wants to meet us flesh to flesh. It is about God who loves us absolutely and abundantly, and who wants us to join with Mary as she says yes to the difficulty and pain and joy of new life and new birth.

We continue to experience much tragedy far away and near, we wonder about how to make peace in our homes, our communities, our countries. This Christmas event, this wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace, shows us the way. This Christmas event, this Galilean carpenter, shows us the way. This Christmas event, these angels and shepherds and prophets, show us the way. This Christmas event, this baby born in a barn, shows us the way.

Christmas is about God showing us the way to love. Christmas is about God showing us the way to peace. Christmas is about God showing us the way to hope. God shows us through this birth, this new life, this new beginning, this powerless baby and these powerless parents in this ordinary stable. God came to dwell with humanity to show us about love. God comes to dwell with us in the flesh so that in the flesh we live life fully and completely. Emmanuel, God with us in the flesh. God came to be with us in the flesh not to relieve us of the mess and the muck of this life, the suffering and the pain of this life, but in the flesh God stands by our side, takes our hand, sometimes even carries us, and loves us.

And that kind of love changes us, we can't help but be changed. God in the flesh reminds us in our flesh that we don't need to be perfect because we are perfectly loved. We don't need to consume and acquire to possess worth, we are enough just the way we are created. God in the flesh reminds us in our flesh that we don't need to gain attention to earn God's love, God has already loved us into ourselves.

Transformation happens in our lives as we take seriously the love that God shows us in the flesh. Our hearts expand, our hearts break, we give, we receive, we grow, we die. We do not despair, or lose hope, we do not harm, we work for the good of the others with which we share this rock, because we know that love wins. Transformation happens in our lives as we take seriously the love that God shows us in the flesh. We come here on this night/morning seeking God in the flesh, and we receive God in the flesh, Jesus, in the bread and the wine around this table, at these steps, and we are made into that flesh which God is. We are made into God's body in the world.

We go home, and share our own meals, we gather around our own tables, we spend time together, we give and receive presents. And we go out into the world bearing God's love, bearing the light that grows and grows and grows. We go out into the world as God's transformed body, God's flesh in our flesh, making a difference in every dark corner, in the places that need healing and wholeness and love. We go out into the world as God's body, God's flesh in our flesh, and we show the world that love wins.

This birth more than 2000 years ago matters as much to us today as it did then because there continues to be those who don*t understand the nature of God*s love for all of God*s creation. There are people who continue to think that hate can defeat love, there are those who continue to think that violence is a solution when we disagree, but we know differently.

We know that the God who created all that is seen and unseen, the God of love, dreams for us a world in which all people are treated with dignity and respect and compassion. The God of love, who comes to us as a baby born in a barn, who comes to us as the child who must flee it*s home, who comes to us as the one whose arms of love embrace the hardwood of the cross, dreams for us a world in which we keep Christ in Christmas, by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, forgiving the unforgivable, welcoming the stranger and the unwanted, caring for the sick, loving our enemies.

We are to be the surprise, we are to do the unexpected. We are to say yes with Mary to this inconceivable incarnation. We are to say yes to God made really present in you. We are the light bearers, we are the peace bearers, we are the love bearers. Amen.   


Saturday, December 22, 2018

4 Advent Yr C Dec 23 2018




Audo  4 Advent Yr C Dec 23 2018 Micah 5:2-5, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-55, Psalm 80

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. Elizabeth, barren and too old to conceive, Mary, unmarried and too young to have a baby, both of these child-bearings are inconceivable. Our response to this inconceivable conception calls forth some Holy Imagination. I turn to one of my favorite writers, Madeleine L’Engle, when I ponder these things. She writes in a book called Bright Evening Star, “It is not that in believing the story of Jesus we skip reason, but that sometimes we have to go beyond it, take leaps with our imagination, push our brains further than the normally used parts of them are used to going.” She goes on to write “I had to let go all my prejudices and demands for proof and open myself to the wonder of love. Faith is not reasonable because it wasn’t for reason, but for love that Jesus came.” 

It is for love that Jesus came, and we need to respond like Mary, like Elizabeth. We need to respond with shouts of joy, with dances of gladness. This Good News changes us forever; it changes our world forever. It is as inconceivable and unreasonable that each of us is a God-bearer as it is that Mary is a Christ-bearer. It is inconceivable that God has burst into our world. And yet, all of Advent we wait in active anticipation of the moment that God bursts into our world as a baby, and that God bursts into our world to bring our history; our lives, to fulfillment. We cannot continue to respond to this Good News with business as usual. We cannot respond to the sacredness of each other the same as always. Just saying Merry Christmas is not enough. The Good News is Our King and Savior now draws near: Come let us adore him! 

This inconceivable conception that God bursts into our lives must change us. It changed Mary, it changed Elizabeth, it changed Zechariah, it left him speechless, it changed Joseph, he had to defy the law in order to love and support Mary, it changed a community, it changed an entire people. Mary responds to this inconceivable conception first when the angel Gabriel comes to tell her, and it is reported that Mary says “let it be to me according to your word.” My hunch is that maybe it took her a little while to come to this kind of brave acceptance, initially she probably said something a little more like “no way, I can’t have a baby, I’m too young, I’m not married.” By the time we catch up with her in the story we read today, Mary is singing “my soul magnifies the Lord.” Mary’s response to this inconceivable conception progresses from brave acceptance to joyful praise. I wonder if Mary needed some time to get used to the idea that she is the Christ-bearer so that she could move from brave acceptance to joyful praise. I wonder if Mary didn’t have a little advent waiting of her own. 

When Mary and Elizabeth meet, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps and Mary is filled with such joy and hope that she sings and dances. Mary and Elizabeth lived in a dark time under Herod the Great, whose casual brutality was backed up with the threat of Rome. And yet Mary’s song is a song of freedom, a song of liberation for her people, it is subversive and it is revolutionary. It is joyful and it is hopeful. Advent waiting calls us into this paradox, the paradox that Mary embodies, that finding involves losing; that hiding involves revealing; that birth involves death. 

While our culture has been celebrating Christmas since Halloween, we continue to wait. This fourth Sunday of Advent is oh so difficult, we just want to be there, we just want to have it now, and it is so hard to resist the pressure to just say Merry Christmas. But Advent waiting as Mary shows us, forms us and shapes us, so that the inconceivable conception can take hold of us, and can give birth to the Holy Imagination that bears God into this world. 

Mary spent most of her life waiting; from the moment the angel Gabriel comes to her and announces do not be afraid, through the final moments as she waited for her son’s death on the cross, and the hours up to the inconceivable resurrection. Mary waits. I think Mary’s waiting can teach us that Advent is a time that summons us to embrace waiting as a way of life. Advent summons us to practice waiting, and by doing so to put down the foundations of a life shaped by waiting, so that when those times come when we have no idea what to do, those times of sadness, times of joy, times of difficulty, times of division, we fall back on that deep, still waiting in the present moment that opens up a space for God’s interruption in our midst. 

We wait in this present moment with Mary, with Elizabeth. We wait with quiet and confident expectation for this inconceivable conception to come to fruition and fulfillment. In the waiting we may be changed. We may be filled with hope, hope that God indeed is turning the world around. But we also know that waiting is not doing nothing, so we must act with justice and mercy, knowing that indeed with Mary we are bearing God to this world. In this present moment God turns each of us around. 

It is no coincidence that the way that God interrupts our world is to be born into our world, it is no coincidence that God interrupts our world to live and love, and suffer and die just like each and every one of us. Being human means being born to die, and only a God who is willing to share that can actually help us face our own mortality and that of those we love, and to help us live every present moment fully alive. It is in the waiting for the births and the deaths, and in the moments in between, that God breaks in and surrounds us and lifts us with love. 

I am reminded of my own pregnancies during Advent waiting. I am reminded of the joy and hope and dreams of bringing a baby into the world. I am reminded of the fear and trepidation of bringing a baby into the world. I am reminded of the blissful ignorance of what the future would hold. As I look backward to that time I am filled with nostalgia at its wonder, I am forever changed and cannot respond to the world with anything less than compassion and hope. And I look with hope to the possibility of what the lives of our sons will bear. But it is the present moment that is pregnant with possibility, the present moment that bears God in their lives, in my life, in our lives. 

Do not be afraid; listen for God to be born in this present moment. Do not be afraid; act with justice and peace and kindness. Do not be afraid; find the people who need your works and actions of assurance that they are loved as you are loved. The world is about to turn. Our King and Savior now draws near: Come let us adore him.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

3 Advent Yr C Dec 16 2018




Audio 3 Advent Yr C Dec 16 2018 Zephaniah 3:14-20, Canticle 9, Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18

John, who is the unlikely bearer of good news, is the one who from the wilderness, not the seats of power, announces the coming of the kingdom. Prepare, the world is about to change. You are about to change. Remember, the repentance that John calls us to is not about feeling bad or good or even shame, repentance is a change of direction in mind and action. Remember, waiting is not doing nothing. Waiting is about preparing for the surprise, waiting is about participating in the reality of God's kingdom, waiting is about the not yet that already is. Waiting is about being who God calls you to be.

John addresses the question that the crowds, the tax collectors, and the soldiers ask; what should we do? And John’s answer is do something. Do what you know is right, share your warm clothing and your food. Make sure you take only what you need, no more. And know what is enough. This is the good news that John proclaimed to the people. This is about being who God calls you to be.

As you know, there's always a lot of chatter about wishing folks a Merry Christmas at this time of the year. One of the problems with that conversation is that it misses the point. The point being that we are not at Christmas yet. I prefer to wish people a Blessed Advent. We are not at Christmas. And then, when it finally is Christmas, and it's time to wish one another Merry Christmas, many are already tired of the whole thing, and their Christmas trees and Christmas wrappings are in the trash.

So why bother with the whole thing? Why not just give into the cultural Christmas? Why bother with the waiting, the preparation, the anticipation? We are not really "merry" at this time anyway. We are hopeful, expectant, and joyful, but not really "merry." Diana Butler Bass, a well known contemporary writer on the church in society, wrote in the Huffington Post, "Christians recollect God's ancient promise to Israel for a kingdom where lion and lamb will lie down together. The ministers preach from stark biblical texts about the poor and oppressed being lifted up while the rich and powerful are cast down, about society being leveled and oppression ceasing. Christians remember the Hebrew prophets and long for a Jewish Messiah to be born. The Sunday readings extol social and economic justice, and sermons are preached about the cruelty of ancient Rome and political repression. Hymns anticipate world peace and universal harmony." Not really very "merry" at all.

We bother with Advent because we human beings need to spend time waiting and preparing for this event that turns the world, this event that brings light into the darkness, this event that makes the first last and the last first. We can't just jump into it. We can't just jump from Halloween to Christmas without some time to be immersed in the mystery of incarnation; this mystery that we struggle so to understand, this mystery that seems unreasonable, this mystery that takes leaps with our imaginations. In Advent, we get glimpses of it, but it takes time for that mystery to grow in our hearts, and in our souls, and in our lives. It takes space for God who is with us, to sit down next to us and teach us that Love wins. It takes quiet to hear the voice of the one crying in the wilderness, and to hear the voice that calls us to transformation.

And it is not easy. We want desperately to make it easy, and romantic, and nostalgic. We want it to be about feeling good. Some of that is part of what Christmas is, but that is not what this story is about. John calls us to a change of direction in mind and action. John calls us to Advent transformation. John calls us to be ready for the one who is coming, the one who has come, the one who turns the world. God in our midst, Emmanuel, the baby born in a barn, the one who shows us that Love wins, calls us to deepen our commitment to loving one another, calls us to deepen our commitment to compassion and to mercy.

These winter days are dark. They are short, the light is with us for only a few hours. These winter days are dark, there is much violence and sadness that may lead us to believe that the light really has gone out of the world. But Advent reminds us that the Light is never extinguished. Advent reminds us that even if it seems dark, the Light is there, and the Light will brighten even the darkest corners of our lives. Advent reminds us that God walks with us, God does not take away our sadness and our pain, but God walks with us through the sadness and the pain.

We live in this in-between time, in this time of the already but not yet. We live in this time where we tell the story of Jesus birth, we await Jesus birth, and we imagine the end, God's fulfillment of all time. There is where our hope is. It is in the already but not yet. We know what God has done in creation, we await what God will do in creation, and we live our lives in God's grace. There's no guarantee of happiness, there's no guarantee that pain and sadness will not visit us, there's no guarantee of prosperity. But there is love, there is hope, there is joy.

So what do we do in this dark time, what do we do as we wait for the Light to fill the room? What do we do as all around us we hear hate filled speech? What do we do when we hear calls to exclude and mark the ones who are not like us? What do we do when those who seek power rile us up by spewing fear? We don't do nothing. Waiting is not doing nothing. We love one another as God has loved us. We speak out, and we live out, against exclusion and hate. We speak out and we live out, our belief that God loves all of God’s creation, heck, God loves us, it’s certain that God loves all the others as well.  We stand up with and for our neighbors, the neighbors who live next door and the neighbors who live across the world.  

We hold one another, we listen to each other, we bring light into each other's lives, we do not wait alone. We are God's household, you, and me, and all of us. We bear God's light and love into every corner of our lives. We bring healing and wholeness to those whose lives are torn apart. We bear the Good News that Love wins. 

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 9 July 5 2020

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 9 July 5 2020 Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67, Psalm 45: 11-18, Romans 7:15-25a, Matthew 11:1...