Saturday, January 26, 2019

3 Epiphany Yr C Jan 27 2019

Audio  3 Epiphany Yr C Jan 27 2019 
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Luke 4:14-21, Psalm 19

We begin the celebrations! Looking back, looking forward, celebrating 175 years of Trinity Church’s mission and ministry in Janesville. We are the inheritors of this amazing place. I am thankful for those who came before us and wanted to have this Episcopal Church presence in Janesville. Southeastern Wisconsin is a mighty Roman Catholic region, and those who planted this Episcopal Church must have valued the via media, the middle way of the Episcopal Church. Our heritage runs deep in the western territories, which was at one time the mission field. These people in front of me, James DeKoven, James Breck, and Jackson Kemper, represent those who brought the gospel to the frontier.

During this 175th year we will learn and be reminded of those who came before us. And, we will look forward with hope. The mission has not changed. We are to be God’s reconciling and healing presence in the world, in our community. We are to bring the light into all the dark places in which we find ourselves. We are to Love God, Love others, and Show It!

The ministry has taken on different faces. Trinity has a robust history of social justice in Janesville. In the Atwood parking lot stood a house, with Nearly New, a thrift store run by the people of Trinity. Trinity housed the beginnings of what is now ECHO (Everyone Cooperating to Help Others) in the lower level of Ortmayer Hall. And then, it was people at Trinity who envisioned the homeless men’s ministry that was housed in the lower level of Ortmayer Hall, which became GIFTS (God is Faithful Temporary Shelter) and found it’s own home on Washington. Lazarus House, a related ministry of the Diocese of Milwaukee, is housed in the former Bostwick House on the backside of our property, and is a ministry with men in recovery transitioning back into the community.

The question for us today is what is God calling us to now? The work God calls us to takes us outside our walls and calls us to use our buildings for the building up of the community in which we live. How does God call us outside of our walls to be the light in the world? I wonder what community activity/outreach Ortmayer Hall may be used for? How do we offer Ortmayer Hall for the good of the community? Church is not our buildings, church is us. We have been transformed by God’s love. We have been transformed by the reality of God with us, Jesus. We are followers of Jesus.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we hear this amazing description of what we look like. This awesome and mystical body of Christ. Where no one part is more important than another, where no one part is better or worse than another, where every part is necessary to the proper functioning of the body. We are a community belonging to Christ.

And Paul writes that we, if in the south that would be all y’all, a very useful turn of phrase meaning the collection, the community, the church, are the body, and each one of us is a part of the body of Christ, we become a Christ informed community. And we cannot do it all by ourselves. We are all in this awesome and mystical body of Christ together.

And then we have Luke. I think the most profound thing I hear in this reading is Jesus saying “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus claims this proclamation, Jesus claims to be the one to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and the year of the Lord's favor." And I think what is most profound about this is that this is Jesus’ inaugural sermon. It’s the first time Jesus stands us and proclaims the good news. And I think this sermon of Jesus is ours make sure keeps on happening.

You see, everything Jesus is and taught is not stuck in the past. It is not history. It is a living, breathing, body. And you and I are a part of it. We pick up the gift of the past, the gift of the people who sat in these pews over all these years. We pick up the faith they carried, the good news they proclaimed, and we make sure it keeps on happening. Proclaiming God’s love in Jesus never gets old, never gets stuck in the past. That’s what we must do. Bringing good news to the poor, the poor in spirit, the poor in resources, never gets old. Proclaiming release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, these are things that are urgent in our world today.

We live in a culture not at all different than the one in which Jesus first spoke. Then as now people were held hostage to the illusion of wealth, or happiness, or safety. So many of our neighbors remain captive to fear. Jesus first sermon reminds us that it is only in God’s love that we are free. And Paul’s picture of the body of Christ presents to us the reality that we are not in this life alone. Jesus makes us into a body in which our gifts are valued. And when we are not present, we are missed, the body just doesn’t work right.

And we acknowledge the church of the past does not look like the church of the present, and we who are here today do not look anything like the church of the future. We come here and we pray, heal us, put us back together again as your body Jesus, send us out into the world to do the work you call us to do. Let us rejoice in the ministry we are given, to love God, to love others, and to show it. We celebrate those who came before us, we are grateful for those who are around us, and we look forward with hope.

In the body of Christ, we give thanks for the saints that came before us and gave this beautiful building into our care. We give thanks for the saints that are here today, braving this snow and cold, that we continue to bear Jesus’ words of love, of hope, of healing into our work and our school and all the places we find ourselves. And we pray for the saints that will hear Jesus’ words of love, of hope, of healing after we are long gone. Amen.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

2nd Sunday after the Epiphany Yr C Jan 20 2019

Audio  2nd Sunday after the Epiphany Yr C Jan 20 2019

When we listened to the first verses of John just a couple weeks back, we were reminded that the gospel writer very explicitly patterned the beginning of his story after the very beginning of the story in Genesis. The first verses of John are "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." And the first words of Genesis are "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good."

The gospel writer is very intentionally setting the stage to say something about God, and the story we have before us today does just that. God, who is creator of all that is, seen and unseen, and who calls the creation good, God, who calls the Word into being, is the God of abundance, the God of grace.

Jesus, and his mother, and many of their relatives and friends, are at a wedding in the neighboring town of Cana. The wine ran out. This is problematic. Weddings were not really romantic affairs; they were much more an agreement between families to join forces. So the party they put on not only seals the deal, but also shows everyone what they’re made, and running out of wine threatens a serious loss of honor.

Jesus' mother was called into that shameful problem. We’ll never know why she was involved in the lack of wine, but it was probably the wedding of a relative or a close friend and she was helping out with the arrangements. We do know that, family and communities came to the aid of the host of wedding, or any other party or gathering there might be. Hospitality was an imperative, an essential priority. I don’t know that we can come close to understanding how important this is, it’s about offering a cold cup of water and a piece of bread, and it is about so much more.

Mary believes that Jesus can do something about that. Standing right there were six stone jars that held the water for washing feet, and other ceremonial washings, and for drinking water. Jesus had them filled to the brim. Now, a single family would have just one of these jars in their home. The relatives may have brought their family’s stone jar so there would be plenty of water for all these people. Each of those stone jars probably held between 20 and 30 gallons of water, for a total of about 150 gallons. That's enough water to fill a very large bathtub and the trough that will water your horses for a few days; it's a lot of water.

When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, he was astonished that the bridegroom and his family had saved the good wine until so late in the celebration. He is amazed at the hospitality that wine represents. This is the first sign in John’s gospel that show’s God’s abundance upon abundance. God’s grace upon grace.

John presents us with story after story that show forth God in our midst and God’s abundant love and grace. In each story we see and feel Jesus’ presence in creation, Jesus’ presence in the people who populate the story. Each story shows us God’s abundant presence and God’s abundant love. Jesus in the living water for the woman at the well, Jesus who heals the man who was ill for 38 years, and Jesus who heals the man blind from birth. And Jesus whose abundant love feeds five thousand, and last but not least, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. John shows God’s abundance, God’s glory, in each of these signs.

And this story, this story about this party shows us Jesus providing hospitality, turning an abundance of water into an abundance of wine, so that these families hosting this party, can continue their hospitality to others.  It’s not just about showing off, or some sort of magic trick, Jesus prevents these families from being shamed. The families of the bride and bridegroom retain their status, their honor. This is important because if they ran out, if they failed to show hospitality to all these guests, they would become outcast, they would be outsiders, they would be marginalized.

Now, I want to caution us from applying our own 21st century sensibilities to this story. My first reaction is well fine, no one needs that much wine anyway. And secondly, well, what’s the big deal about running out, no one’s going to judge them. But it was a big deal, hospitality was the biggest deal, and in this story, Jesus kept them from being cast out of the community. And this isn’t the only biblical story about how important hospitality is.

But the good news in this story is that as Jesus provides the best wine, in abundance. The good news is that God lavishes all of creation with abundant love and grace, that there are no outsiders in Jesus’ circle.

Too often we spend our time counting what we don’t have. Counting opportunities lost. We don’t have enough money or food or security or power or privilege. But that’s not what God’s love, and God’s grace looks like.

So today, I wonder if we can’t be more like Jesus. How might we surprise those around us with an abundance of blessing. What is it that you have a ton of and other people need? Is it smiles? What about hugs or hospitality? Who could we invite into our church, and our homes. Or what about space? How much more generous might we be? The possibilities, really, are endless. Another sign of God’s abundance, God’s grace, God’s love. God’s abundant love flows freely to all. There are no barriers, there are no walls, except those that we erect, that keep God’s love, and freedom, from any of God’s beloveds, including you.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Feast of the Epiphany Yr C Jan 6 2019

Audio  Feast of the Epiphany Yr C Jan 6 2019 Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12, Psalm 72:1-7,10-14

Every good fairy tale begins with once upon a time. As the tale progresses we hear of princesses, princes, witches, fairy god-mothers, good and evil, and happily ever afters. But sometimes people mistake God's story for a fairy tale. For them God is a magician who will swoop down and rescue them from bad decisions. Or God is someone with whom a bargain can be made. God, if you get me out of this mess, then I will go to church every Sunday. This would be the transactional God. And there's the God of certainty, just like in the fairy tale, good and evil are very clear, you can tell them apart by the color they wear. And, as long as the rules are followed, as long as the other remains the other, as long as good and evil are kept separate, we will live happily ever after and all our wishes will come true.

But that’s not really the way our lives take shape. We discover that our journey is not necessarily one of happily ever after, but of joy and pain and suffering. Our stories are stories of showing up, of love, and second chances; they are fraught with tragedy and deception, broken promises and wishes come true, good that looks like evil and evil that looks like good.

Now, I love a good fairy tale, a science fiction story even better; stories that may teach us truths, and show us the precariousness of life, but the Jesus story is not a fairy tale, it is not science fiction, it is the truth. It is the Divine Love Story, in which the God of all creation shows up in human history, Emmanuel, God is with us. We are in the midst of incarnation, the baby born in a barn, born to change the world, born to bring new life, new light, new hope. The world is about to turn. And today we are invited to travel with the magi, we are invited to this journey with Jesus, with all it's twists and turns, with all it's chaos and messiness, in danger and in light.

These magi, who show up for this birth, are present so that we may see the significance of this baby, this birth. These magi show us that there will be some time when political tyrants will be overthrown. These magi show us that brutal power exercised to control the weak and the vulnerable will be toppled. And these magi show us that those in power need be afraid, because the one who is to overthrow them is here.

The story we have before us today, this story of the wise ones from the east who follow the Light to the child born in a barn, helps us to see the cosmic importance of this birth. This birth happened in a particular place at a particular time in the context of a particular tribe, but the arrival of these wise ones from the east shows us that it wasn't just for a particular people at a particular time in a particular tribe. Matthew's intent in telling this story is to show us that this birth changes the world, the wise ones from the east know that, and they know the importance of keeping the birth from Herod, so they go home by another way.

God seems to do whatever it takes to reach out to and embrace all people. God announces the birth of the Messiah to shepherds through angels on Christmas, to Magi via a star on Epiphany, and to the political and religious authorities of God’s own people through visitors from the East. From a manger, where a child lies wrapped in bands of cloth, God’s reach, God’s embrace in Jesus, gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Jesus eats with outcasts and sinners. Jesus touches people who are sick and people who live with pain and suffering. Jesus even calls the dead back to life. Ultimately, Jesus draws all people to himself as he is lifted up on the cross. In Jesus, no one is beyond God’s embrace.

And, maybe these magi are like characters in a fairy tale, or a science fiction story. Maybe they are like the tin man, the scarecrow, and the lion. Maybe all of them show us that incarnation, God showing up in our lives, calls us to respond to life's circumstances, the sadness and tragedy that we encounter, with the same kind of love that God has for us, God's beloved. Incarnation, God showing up, calls us to show up for others, not because we have something they do not, like power and prestige, or all the right answers, but because we are just like them, broken and flawed, hungry and tired. God, born in a barn, vulnerable and cold, calls us to show up for others because we are all alike, in need of the assurance of the absolute and abundant love that is only God's. With the magi, we carry that love into the world, not because of who we are or what we possess, but because we are loved.

Perhaps our journey is not so different from that of the magi, with their turns sometimes into safety, sometimes into precarious territory. Sometimes we may be needing to ask for directions, sometimes divine guidance may be so obvious that we could not miss our destination. Sometimes we may be looking for those with whom to travel, those who are like us, broken and lost, needing family and friends to help us find the way.

If ever in our lives our long journeys do lead us precisely to the place we have been seeking, to the place where we see Jesus, may we like them also rejoice, becoming overwhelmed with our joy.  But always on the way, may we show forth the love that wins, may we give freely in response to that love. May we follow Jesus and show up to feed one another, to love on another.

Sometimes we go into the world and are overwhelmed by the fear, and the dark. Sometimes we read our newspapers and become overwhelmed by the brutality of our neighbors, the fear of our nations. Sometimes we get overwhelmed and exasperated by the huge need of so many in in our community, our city, our nation, our world. And in those dark places we wish it were different. But wishing only works in fairy tales. As we respond, as we with the magi go home by the way of love, and compassion, and mercy, we with God are capable of changing the world. That's what incarnation is. Showing up, walking the way, and bringing with us all that we are, all that we have, not because we have more or better, but because we are loved. Love changes us; together, we change the world.

I want to finish with a story told by a young man who is working driving people from one medical facility to another. One day he had a patient who was being transported to a mental illness lockup. The young man recognized that this patient had served his country, and listened to his patient’s story about the caseworkers who didn’t help him, the troubles he had getting treatment at the VA, about the ways his mind played tricks on him and made him not be able to trust people. The patient said that he’s tried to kill himself so many times, in so many ways and it hasn’t worked and he didn’t know why.

This young man has a tattoo of a semicolon. As they talked the young man told him that he got it for him. Because he didn’t want this veteran to be a statistic of veteran suicide. The patient took one look at it and told the young man that he loves a semicolon because there was some song about how there's always more to see after a semicolon and people's lives are like that; that every time you encounter someone, there's always going to be something more to see. This patient said that every time you look for that something more that you come away changed.

When they dropped their patient off at the destination hospital, they shook hands. The young man told him to take care of himself. To keep pushing and get to the place where he needs to be. The patient thanked the young man, and said that after the ambulance ride, he was feeling some real hope again. He told that young man that we both were going away changed that night.

This is incarnation, this is what showing up looks like. Christ shows up as the least, the last, and the lost. And we are changed by these encounters of incarnation. Our call is to respond to the God who shows up in our lives and in our community of faith with dignity, respect, and love.

Where do you meet Jesus? How do you respond? How are you changed?

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...