Saturday, May 25, 2019

6 Easter Yr C May 26 2019

Audio  6 Easter Yr C May 26 2019 Acts 16:9-15, Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5, John 5:1-9, Psalm 67

I love the long, warm days of summer. But those days are preceded by these days, we’ve just had, rainy and chilly. And yet, we're always so very thankful for the moisture, that turns the grass green and puts the trees into a flowering frenzy. All of this rain gives life to our world, but as we know, all that moisture is life-taking as well. Flooding and storms and tornados are always difficult to watch especially when we are just so thankful for the moisture. 

These rains and the water that brings forth new life, remind me of my baptism. And you have come to know me well, so making that connection should not surprise you! I am reminded that I have been joined with Jesus in the life and death of the baptismal waters. I am reminded that we are in a constant process of life, death and resurrection. I am reminded that God is never finished with me, that there is always another layer to be shed, another washing, another opportunity. There is forgiveness and healing, and that always leads to new growth and new life. And, the baby ducks are always born in flocks and travel together. 

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit of each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

The book of Revelation was born out of a time when people who followed Jesus had to live under cover. Worship of the many different gods was proscribed and licensed by the Roman Empire. Following Jesus was not an official form of worship, therefore many were thrown in prison or put to death. The book of Revelation gave hope in that context, and describes the community that Jesus has set up on earth that is an alternative to empire. These were people who would gather and sing songs to God and to the lamb, to share stories and to break bread in remembrance of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They came together around a radical and transforming vision of the joyful reign of God.

In this letter from John this community heard a call to faithfulness, a call to renew their love for one another. They heard the promise that they would be victorious, provided that they resist the seductions of the empire. I reminded you last week that the signs and portents of revelation worked to wake up the people to change, to wake them up so that they could resist the seductions of the empire. 

The vision of Revelation gathers the community together beside God’s riverside, to drink of its water of life, to find shelter beside God’s majestic tree of life with its healing leaves. As you read these verses in Revelation chapters 21-22, imagine yourself walking into this city through its open gates, exploring the landscape that the angel unfolds before you. You are safe at last. You are beloved.

I began today with my story of being reminded of my baptism and being reminded of new life and resurrection because those experiences bring me to a place where I can imagine this reality that John describes for us. However, I know that the truth of our lives here and now is that the seductions are powerful. The seduction of greed, of exclusion, and of self-importance is powerful indeed. Chapter 21 in Revelation speaks specifically to the healing of all nations through the leaves of the tree of life. There is much in Revelation that some have used to dominate others and to create a culture of fear. The concept that some know as the rapture is clearly a misinterpretation of the message of Revelation. The call to transformation and to reconciliation and healing is clear in Revelation. The call to turn away from violence, to turn away from greed, to turn away from exclusion, to turn toward peace, to turn toward generosity, to turn toward inclusion is mighty powerful. God’s holy city provides enough food for all, in God’s holy city all hunger is satisfied. 

Given this interpretation of Revelation, that revelation offers hope and freedom, nourishment and sustenance in a culture of greed, violence, and narcissism, I ask you this question. How does this speak to your deepest hunger? How does this speak to the deepest hunger of our world? I think we spend our lives yearning and searching for nourishment, for something that resembles the holy city that is described in Revelation. Our search takes us by way of false nourishment. We look for satisfaction in places that can only offer us momentary delight. But when we look away from God to satisfy our hunger, we continue to go away hungry.

How can you go home, and to work and to school this week, remembering that you are swimming in the water of God’s love, that you are fed with the love that sustains you? And how can you share this amazing hope in which people of every tribe are included? I think we do that by being compassionate. With our families, with our friends, with our neighbors.

Gathered at the riverside, God’s people, you and I, have tasted life-giving water and manna from heaven. We have glimpsed God’s beloved city. Because of that, everything is different now. Everything and everyone is precious. The challenge is to live our lives according to the story of God’s beloved city, to live in terms of its blessing. We live in freedom, not enslaved by the need to please and perform, but fully and absolutely and abundantly loved by the God who created us, who came into our world to live, suffer, and die as one of us, who rose from the dead, and lives among us, and who will come again to reign here in the company of the creation. 

We live our lives connected to one another. Barbara Rossing reminds us near the end of her book, The Rapture Exposed, that Revelation’s story is about seeing the Lamb beside you in every moment of your life, in the car, at the shopping mall, at work and at school. We might call that Lamb, the Love that wins. Revelation is about looking more deeply into God’s picture and seeing how the Lamb, the Love that wins, is leading you even now into a world of joy and healing. 

And next time you are washed in the rain, next time you witness new birth, remember who you are, God's beloved, equipped and sent to love others. 
Thanks be to God. Amen, Alleluia.

Friday, May 17, 2019

5 Easter Yr C May 19 2019

Audio  5 Easter Yr C May 19 2019 Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35, Psalm 148

“The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to one. He advanced toward it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape. ‘Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,’ said Scrooge, ‘answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be only?’ Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood. ‘Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,’ said Scrooge. ‘But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.’ The Spirit was immovable as ever. Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE. ‘Am I that man who lay upon the bed?’ he cried, upon his knees. The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again. ‘No Spirit! Oh no, no!’ The finger still was there. ‘Spirit!’ he cried, tight clutching at its robe, ‘hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?’ For the first time the hand appeared to shake. ‘Good Spirit,’ he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: ‘your nature intercedes for me, and pities. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life.’” As you may know, from the story, A Christmas Carol.

Barbara Rossing, author of The Rapture Exposed, describes the book of Revelation by comparing it to A Christmas Carol. She said that the visions in Revelation are like the visions Scrooge has. The ghost of the past, present, and future warn Scrooge that if he doesn’t wake up and change his ways, these visions are the way it will be. The book of Revelation serves to show us the very same thing. If we don’t wake up and change our ways, if we don’t reconcile our relationships with one another and with this earth, our island home, the consequences will be dire. 

And then we come to chapter 21 that we hear today. This chapter is the chapter of hope. In this part of the story we hear Good News, we hear that what could be is that the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with us as our God and we will be God’s people. God will be with us and will wipe every tear from our eyes, death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. See, I am making all things new.

This is hope. This is where all our visions and dreams come into focus. The whole message of the bible is that God loves the world so much that God comes to earth to dwell with us. Revelation proclaims this message. God’s home is not somewhere else, but here in our midst, in the flesh right here on earth. This is a message that is not just about the future; it is a message that is operative right here, right now. “See, I am making all things new.” New life is about now; new life is available to each and every one of us right now. We don’t live our lives for the reward at the end. We live our lives because we have this chance of new life, of a different way of being, right here, right now.

And what is this new thing, what is the gift we’ve been given? Why does any of this make any sense at all? It is the gift of God with us, the gift of Jesus Christ who lived this life, just like you and me. Jesus who suffered and cried, Jesus who loved his friends, even Peter who denied him, and Judas who betrayed him, Jesus, who would not give into the cultural pressures of his time. Jesus who was God who is God and who will be God forever, whose work in his life in his suffering in his death and in the resurrection gives us something new, gives us the truth of a transformed life, calls us into a life that is about hope and growth and love and forgiveness, it calls us away from a life of self-centered and self-serving narcissism. Hope is what revelation is about. 

When we embark on the journey of transformation, we enter the land of hope. When we enter the land of hope, we are in fact transformed, we are made new, we occupy a new space, we are given the gifts for living this life fully alive, where out of death comes new life, out of sadness comes hew hope, out of crying and pain come new love. 

The vision of revelation is meant to be God’s vision by which we live our lives right now, as followers of the Lamb in our world. According to Barbara Rossing, “The Lamb is leading us on an exodus out of the heart of empire, out of the heart of addiction to violence, greed, fear, and unjust lifestyle or whatever holds each of us most captive. It is an exodus we can experience each day. Tenderly, gently, the Lamb is guiding us to pastures of life and healing beside God’s river.” 

The theme of exodus runs through the entire book of revelation, and it is the theme that guides us through our Christian lives. Each of us, and all of us together wander through the wilderness of all that which enslaves us, all that which hurts us and causes us to protect our hurts and fears at all costs. That is what the scary stuff of revelation is. It is the powers that enslave us. The powers of empire that demand worship and adoration at all cost. The powers of possession that cause us to fool ourselves into believing that people and things are ours to possess. The powers of self doubt that fool us into believing that we are not worthy to be loved by God. But it is also the theme of exodus that assures us that God is God and we are God’s people, and we can do nothing to cause God to break that covenant. That is the liberation, that is the freedom.

The vision of Revelation also is a vision of God’s dream right here right now, as well as that which is yet to come. We live in the tension of this vision always. You and I have been claimed by God at our baptism. We participate in God’s dream by sharing the love of God in Christ. They truly know we are Christians by our love. This 21st chapter of Revelation has been paired with the gospel of John chapter 13, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should also love one another. By this everyone will know that you have love for one another. We know that according to John, being a follower of Jesus is to love one another. Nothing more, nothing less.

You and I participate in God’s dream when we love one another. You and I change one life at a time when we love one another. You and I change people around us when we love one another. You and I can change the world when we love one another, because it is Love that wins. You and I can participate in the new creation described in Revelation when we welcome God in our midst, when we treat each and every person as if that person is created in God’s image, because they are. You and I can be an incarnational community, a community of love, of hope, of resurrection and of transformation right now, we don’t have to wait until some time in the future. 

Welcoming God among mortals, expecting Jesus with us, this is our call, this is the Christian life we are to be about. 

Thanks be to God, Amen. Alleluia.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

4 Easter Yr C May 12 2019

Audio  4 Easter Yr C May 12 2019 Acts 9:36-43, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30, Psalm 23

"Kathy, John, Mary, Joe, time to come and eat!" My mom would yell out the back door and we would come running from the schoolyard, or the neighbors yard, knowing there was a wonderful dinner waiting for us. "Kathleen Ann Monson" was not such a pleasant way to be called, if that was what my mom was yelling I knew I was in trouble. "I Rick, take you Kathy to be my wife" brought tears to my eyes. "Therefore, Father, through Jesus Christ your Son, give your Holy Spirit to Kathleen, fill her with grace and power, and make her a priest in your Church," are the words of ordination. 

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," are the words that William Shakespeare put in Juliet's mouth as she tells Romeo that she loves him, regardless of his family. In a little novel called "The Little Prince," knowing ones name connects or ties one to another, and in a novel by my favorite author Madeleine L'engle, called A Wind in the Door, naming is that which calls a person into existence, unnaming, or xing, allows a person to just vanish, to be annihilated, negated, extinguished, xed. In that story, Meg, the hero, is trying to save the life of her brother, Charles Wallace. Meg meets some very bad characters, called the echthroi, who take life out of the world by unaming them. And anytime we look over or around or through a person, anytime we disregard their name, the word by which they are known, we devalue and dishonor that particular creation of God.

"My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish," this story in John tells us. Let that just wash over you. Jesus knows you. Jesus loves you. Jesus knows your name.

We step off the path this week. For the weeks since Easter, we have been reading stories about Jesus after the resurrection. Our lectionary returns us today to the time before the events of Holy Week and Passion, to the festival of Dedication. John tells this detail, because then we will know that there are many people gathered in Jerusalem, many people around who may hear from Jesus. Today we know that festival as Hanukkah.

It is winter, Jesus was in the portico of Solomon, and there were many gathered around him, maybe listening to his stories. Though they seem impatient, maybe even bored after being there all winter, they want Jesus to spill the beans to them, they want Jesus to give them the breaking news, they want Jesus to tell them if he is the one they have awaited since time began. Is Jesus the Messiah they have been waiting for? Is Jesus the leader, the one appointed by God, the descendant of David, the one who will free them from the tyranny of empire? 

And, the piece of the story we are attending to today, is part of a much larger story in which Jesus tells those who are listening that he is the Good Shepherd. They ask him if he’s the Messiah, and Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice." They weren’t asking Jesus anything about sheepherding. They were asking him about what Jesus would do for them. But Jesus would not be put on the pedestal of power, instead he told them that being a child of God is to hear our name spoken by the God who creates, the God who loves, the God who empowers.

And we recognize Jesus as Jesus calls to us, as Jesus breathes us into being, as Jesus says our name, as Jesus gives us life. In the gospel of John, eternal life has a specific meaning. Being known by God is eternal life. Eternal life is realized in the present, it is that which God gives through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus calls each one of us by name and we are known. In our baptism, we are marked and claimed as God's own.

But the question many continue to ask is the same one those who surrounded Jesus ask. Who are you Jesus, what can you do for us, Jesus? And what we hear is: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff --- they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of The Lord my whole life long. 

So it’s not about what Jesus can do for us, it’s about being in a relationship with Jesus. A relationship in which we are called by name. Why bother in this relationship with Jesus? Why bother with this ancient story? Because it's true. It's not true like 2 plus 2 equals 4 is true, but it's true like caterpillars turn into butterflies, and seeds turn into flowers, and wheat turns into bread. You know it's true because you have walked with your family, friends and neighbors through pain and sickness, and you know that there is new life on that path. 

You know it's true because you have known loss, after your spouse has died, when you didn't think you could ever live life again someone calls your name, and picks you up and takes you out to dinner. You know it's true because you have not felt protected or safe, and someone gave you hope, someone gave you sanctuary. You know it's true because people run toward the gunshots to guard their classmates from the bullets. You know it's true because someone calls your name, tenderly, lovingly, courageously, encouraging you to be fully and completely human, fully and completely loved. You know it's true, because you have that indelible mark on your forehead, and you have been named beloved daughter, beloved son.  

Following Jesus is to listen to the voice of hope, the voice of mercy, the voice of compassion, the voice of healing, the voice that knows who you are. Following Jesus transforms how we occupy our space in this world. You are not alone in this endeavor. You are called and known by the one who knows what joy and pain and suffering feel like. You are connected to the others around you by virtue of your humanity. We really are all in sheepfold together. And when you go missing, when you are lost, when you feel like there is no one anywhere who really knows you, this shepherd, this one who loves you, this one who knows you from all the others, this one who knows your name, comes to find you and carry you back to safety.

Beloved daughter, beloved son, I am your shepherd, follow my voice, follow me. To listen to Jesus' voice, to follow Jesus, is to be a disciple. And remember, in the gospel of John, love is the definition of discipleship. Following Jesus is all about loving one another. Following Jesus is about pointing people toward hope. Following Jesus is about being the one who calls another's name, following Jesus is about providing a way out of the lostness -- by providing again or for the first time a chance to be invited into a relationship with God. You are called by name, you are absolutely and abundantly loved. You are perfectly forgiven. You are nourished and fed by the bread and the wine. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

3 Easter Yr C May 5 2019

Audio  3 Easter Yr C May 5 2019
Acts 9:1-20, Revelation 5:11-14, John 21:1-19, Psalm 30

What if this story that we have heard in Acts so many times, this story that we’ve always heard called “The Conversion of Paul”, this story of change, this story about seeing new, is really a story about how God continues to surprise and disrupt us as we adopt new outlooks on what’s possible?

I have heard it said the only constant in life is change. Change is really hard for me. I really like routine, I really like knowing what to expect. Surprises are fun, but not too often. And I’m a planner, any of you who saw my Holy Week Grid can attest to that. And I am an Episcopalian, that in and of itself shows that I like things in good order. There’s a bit of a stereotype of Episcopalians that suggests it’s hard for us to step out of our comfort zone, we are often accused of doing things the way they’ve always been done. I’m not sure that’s completely true. I think we here at Trinity are much more brave and courageous than we give ourselves credit for. God continues to surprise and disrupt us as we adopt new outlooks on what’s possible when we follow the way of Love.

But what about Paul, in this story we heard today. Luke, who we believe is the author of the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul, knew each other, and did some traveling together. Luke tells this story about some of the people who followed Jesus. And this story we read today about Paul and Ananias, is at the very least a story about change, maybe even a story about how God continues to surprise and disrupt the followers of Jesus.

Let’s remember a little about Paul, who in this story was still Saul. Saul was an aggressive young fanatic; today we would describe him as an extremist. He would be wearing a red MAGA hat, but instead of make America great again, it would be make Yahweh great again. Saul was all about defending the purity of the ancient faith. As we encounter Saul, he is still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. This encounter occurs not too long after Stephen is killed by stoning, and Saul approved of the people killing him.

Saul is going about his business. Taking care of the mundane tasks of his day. Making sure he is keeping the law. Much of his day would have been spent studying the Torah, either at Gamaliel’s feet or with others in a Yeshiva, a school. A flash of lightening comes directly at him out of the sky. And he hears the voice, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you?” Saul asks. And Saul could no longer see. This is Saul’s story, probably reported to Luke as they traveled together.  Luke remembers it this way to tell it to those who will hear. What a story, what an event. What a surprise, what a disruption.

And then in a vision Ananias hears a voice, “here I am,” he says. “Go and find Saul, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.” Ananias, probably minding his own business, a disciple, a follower, who is surprised by this voice and whose life is disrupted by this ask to go and find Saul, the one who has done much evil to the followers of Jesus.

It is Ananias who listened and responded. It is Ananias who goes to Saul, and laid his hands on him. It is because of Ananias that something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes. It is because of Ananias that Saul, after three days, could see again. Ananias was surprised by God. Ananias’ life was disrupted. And a whole new world was made possible. Had Ananias not listened and responded, would Saul have ever been healed, followed Jesus, and spread the good news throughout the Mediterranean. Maybe it is Ananias who is the hero here.

And maybe it is you and I who are surprised by God, maybe it is you and I whose ordered, predicable lives are disrupted by the one who creates the possibilities, the one who calls us to follow on the way of Love. Just imagine it, being the ones who in our ordered, busy lives, respond “here we are,” being the ones who carry the light, being the ones who point the way. Just imagine us, the ones who, like Ananias, are there when God needs us to love those who would hate. Just imagine us, the ones who, like Ananias, are there when God needs us to be compassionate when we are fearful of the one who is not like us. Just imagine us, the ones who, like Ananias, are there when God needs us to be merciful and kind.

Just what does that look like? How do we show up for God and love people in the places we find ourselves? This amazing story about Saul seeing the light from heaven flashing around him, and hearing Jesus’ voice, and Ananias’ vision and response may lead us to believe that we are not included in the story. Not many of us hear Jesus’ voice, see the light from heaven flashing around us, or have visions, at least no one has told me about this kind of excitement.

But we are surprised and disrupted by experiences that cause us to say, that was the Holy Spirit. And it is in these ways we tell the story of God’s call to us, of God’s activity in our lives, and of our response to God’s love. When we show up in our lives bearing God’s love, when we show up in our lives bearing God’s light, when we show up in our lives bearing God’s words, we participate in transformation like Ananias did. And we, like Ananias, carry the story forward.

These are the things I hear about.
A few weeks back, after the awful shooting at Christchurch New Zealand, in our community a number of us showed up and prayed and walked with our Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters. We had the opportunity to learn about prayer in ways that are very different from our own, we had the opportunity to pray with people not so very different from ourselves, we had the opportunity to be a part of spreading compassion and love with our neighbors. It seems to me that we showed up in the way we know how, offering love, and compassion, and presence. We listened to God’s voice and responded in ways that may cause healing, that may cause blindness to be replaced by sight.

I heard a story from three of you, all separately, about finding yourself in the same store at the same time. Each of you coming to that place carrying some sort of a burden, and each of you leaving that store having been lifted up, encouraged, by one another. Now that may seem like a small thing, and a serendipitous coincidence, but I believe what happened is that you showed up in your life, you responded to the healing that you have been offered in your relationship with Jesus, and you let that light shine.

You see, it is because each one of us has been broken and healed, it is because each one of us has been loved back into life, it is because Jesus stands in our place, and the fragments of our lives put back together again, that we can say “here I am Lord, I will carry your love, I will show up and show forth the truth of your love.” This is what changes the world. Love is what changes the world.

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 12 July 26 2020

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 12 July 26 2020 Genesis 29:15-28, Psalm 105:1-11, 45b, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33,44-...