Sunday, August 13

Dont' doubt but believe: Sermon for the 10th Sunday After Pentecost

*Before you read this a note of warning: If you imagine these stories as White stories, if you picture Elijah, Peter, the Disciples, the Psalmist, Saint Paul the Apostle or Jesus Christ as white folk you will not hear the word of God in this sermon nor in the Scriptures upon which this message is drawn. I wish this note of warning was unnecessary. I wish that my Christian European forbearers hadn’t worshiped at the altar of White Supremacy, but it is clear (and has been clear for a long while) that we have yet to escape this distortion and misappropriation.
 For Elijah, and the disciples and Peter, the manifestations of the divine come to them unexpectedly and in times of distress.  They are low moments of faith. We may find ourselves in a similar moment of fear and despair, as we’ve watched white supremacists march with torches shouting, “You will not replace us” and the Nazi slogan “Blood and soil.” surrounding a black church and unleash violence against counter protestors and a car ramming into counter protestors killing one. What is happening in Charlottesville, Virginia isn’t isolated from the police killing of black folk and the electoral victory of Trump and the various policies of the Trump administration and the chaos we’ve seen. Gathered here today we may feel a bit like Elijah We may be angry like Elijah that all this is even possible and happening, and we have our own litany of complaint before God. We may be wondering with Elijah and the disciples on the boat where God is in all this and if God is out there in the storm and the overwhelming waves. Yet, our Scriptures point out that Elijah and the disciples and Peter are examples of asking the wrong question. The question isn’t where is God when evil threatens to overwhelm, because no storm, no chaos the enemy can throw at the world chases God away. Nothing a Nation state is will bring the reign of God, nor truly accomplish God’s shalom in the world, and nothing White supremacy does can negate what God did in Jesus Christ upon the cross. The people of God have seen this before and before the Shalom of God comes and is manifest we the people of God will see it again. Yet we who may be surprised and angered and fearful must confess that this form of Empire and Babylon that we call White Supremacy was embraced and nurtured both by the nation state called the United States of America and by its European Christian Citizens, calling themselves White. For centuries members of Christ have themselves chased after these other gods of patriotism, nation state and white supremacy. This is not new and the Nation State and government of the U.S.A., can’t eradicate this power because the U.S.A has worshiped at the altar of White supremacy from its founding. So yes, there is reason to feel the despair of Elijah.  Things are dire. But our scriptures aren’t only stories of despair., They begin there and end in hope. So, amid the chaos, white supremacy, and the failure of human attempts to suppress and eradicate this evil we once embraced, we seek God. Hope isn’t found out there in the world, nor in some isolated fearful retreat. Hope is found in an unexpected but obvious place.
The faith that produces righteousness, doesn’t ask the very human question, why is this happening and where is God in this Chaos, or the evil? Paul says that true faith doesn’t ask Who can go to heaven, …or who can go to hades.” Faith that leads to justice, affirms with the psalmists that the word of God is near us in our hearts and upon our lips. This doesn’t mean that we people of faith won’t find ourselves sitting with Elijah despairing in the cave or with the disciples buffeted by waves threatening to overwhelm our boat. But, No matter, God always comes near. Whether our experience is like Elijah Or we may have moments like the disciples when we have a profound sense the divinity of Jesus Christ, we should not cling to those experiences. Whatever our experience, Paul’s word tells us these experiences of God at our low points, aren’t central to the life of faith.
These are moments of grace but not moments of faith. Theophany’s and epiphanies aren’t what the life of faith is about. The life of faith is trusting something we perhaps don’t quite have the capacity to perceive. The word of God the second person of the trinity become human and dying and descending to the dead isn’t what brought God to us.  God was always there, in the world amid our chaos, on our lips and in our hearts. The problem has never been with God not showing up. What Jesus fixes is our faith, our ability to see and recognize God. The problem is in us as human beings not in God! God in Jesus Christ fills out our faith when it is weak, but what we need is always and has always been accessible. Through, Christ we are awakened to what is truly at the depth of our being.
The exercise of faith is to trust this fundamental reality, even when we are overwhelmed by our fears. The exercise of faith is to trust even when we are threatened by other people’s sins, when we wonder how will we overcome white supremacy once and for all. To continue trustin in the nearness of God even in the face of evil and chaos. In trusting in Christ, we can affirm that the Word of God is in our hearts and upon our lips. We need go nowhere, nor do something to find God. God is here, wherever you are, God is in your heart and upon your lips, you can see it if you trust and have the faith of Christ.
Our exercise of this faith, awakens this same faith and awareness in others. Faith and salvation aren’t individual affairs. The individual American protestant evangelical interpretation of this passage focusing on the individual fails to recognize the communal and interdependent nature of Paul’s message. Faith turned in upon itself either obsessed with experiences of God’s presence or with some sense of assurance that because one has confessed with one’s mouth and believed in one’s heart one can be sure of one’s own individual salvation, is a dead end, and completely misunderstand the Apostle Paul. Rather f the faith that trusts that God’s word is near, in our hearts and upon our lips, confesses this faith so that others may be awakened to that same faith that leads to justice.
Even so sometimes we think we are responding to the chaos in faith, but really, we are seeking proof of God’s presence. Peter in an attempt to show Jesus his great faith, falters in that faith. Thankfully Jesus Christ, doesn’t let Peter be overcome, but gently points out, Peter’s lack of faith. But really the lack of faith began with Peter’s compulsion to prove his faith and step out from the boat. Jesus never asks this of Peter. Jesus doesn’t say Peter show me you aren’t afraid and how great your faith is by coming and walking on water with me. No, Peter asks for proof that it’s Jesus and tells Jesus to tell him to come out on the water. Jesus being kind and loving acquiesces (knowing he has Peter no matter what) and invites him out on the water.
God, in both the story of Elijah in the cave and Peter walking on water, comes in gentleness, grace and in the full otherness and awe inspiring frightening presence. Jesus attempts to calm the disciples and lovingly does as Peter asks, telling Peter to come on the water.  Jesus gently encourages Peter to not doubt but believe. God meets a frightened and discouraged Elijah and asks Elijah a simple question. A question that is to call Elijah back to himself.  God announces God’s presence with the familiar manifestations of Mount Sinai, but doesn’t attach the presence with any of those. Elijah only encounters God in Holy Silence. When in Silence God’s presence is known, Elijah can truly hear the word of God in his heart and upon his lips. God meets us where we are at and will even do what we ask, but doesn’t allow us to stay in the place of little faith. God is patient with us, but also pushes us along, to that place of faith.
What is this place of justifying faith? What is this faith that is accounted to us as righteousness? The place is our being illumined by Christ, God with us, where we remember who we are. To have faith is to no longer see ourselves as distanced from God, but trust that we are close to God and that God is close to us, no matter that our human institutions and attempts to bring about goodness and righteousness and justice continually fail. No matter that we have misplaced our hope and trust in the very things that bring about the chaos. No matter our collective or individual failures, God is always near in our heart and upon our lips, if we can step back and not doubt but believe.
Paul says that they very Word of God is on our lips and in our hearts, when in Christ we trust and believe in the nearness of God in our hearts and trust that our words can confess this truth. We then become those blessed as bearer of good news, and we can awaken this faith and justice in those who hear our confession. It is by this faith, not through the Powers and Nations that the world is transformed and righteousness and justice flourish.
I hope we can find that place of the Holy Silence where we can like Elijah hear God’s voice and call. But maybe your still with Peter on the boat buffeted by the waves of the chaos of our moment, and you want God to call to you.  God will acquiesce to your request, and will tell you come. But your desire to do something, if motivated from a need to prove that God is in the chaos, isn’t God asking you to step into the chaos. Even so, God will invite you into it if you ask God to do so. But if you falter, know God has you and God didn’t ask you to come, you asked God to invite you. However, Jesus’ word to Peter to come is very different form Elijah’s word from God after the Silence. I encourage us to wait before we act. I encourage us to look for the deep silence out of which God can speak. It is form that silence that we can hear God’s word for us not what we think we want to hear from God, as proof of God’s presence but a solid word for us is that God is near and unassailable.
We like Elijah, we of little faith, shaky on our feet, depressed and uncertain in our ways, wondering how this all can be real, we, if we trust and believe in our hearts and confess with our lips the nearness of God, Jesus Christ the Word, we are restored to that relationship with God that humanity had in the Garden of Eden. Through faith, we bring others back into this restored state in Jesus Christ, the Word. It is in this moment of both knowing for ourselves and that we are for others that we can hear God’s word to us that is for others, and then know how we will be sent into the world.
However, the grace of God accepts us where we are, even if we have more doubt than faith, even if we want God to tell us to step out into this chaos. But the way of surer footing is to wait, to be still, to wait to hear from God in your deepest being out of the holy silence. Out of that silence God’s word is near to us. From this silence, we will know how we each are called to be for others. The word of God is near in our hearts and it will be upon our lips. First, we must be silent, then in faith we will be able to proclaim and bring God’s justice and truth. From this faith that God is near in our hearts and upon our lips, the world is renewed. . Amen.

Sunday, July 30

Blessed Assurance of God's Love: Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost


In our Romans passage we have some of sayings from Paul, that are often misused and misunderstood, because they are taken out of context and thus removed from Paul’s logic and purpose: Paul wishes to assure us that God loves us and has us no matter what, and not that we will always be “victorious” or have total understanding of the meaning (if any) of a moment of suffering.
The first saying is  “all things work together for good.” Note, not all things are good, but work together for good, but what is usually missed in the quotation of this verse is the good to which Paul is referring.  The good here is our place in Christ, our being brought back into relationship with God.. The good is the restoration of our humanity in Christ and through the Spirit.
This is what we continually find as we look at these passages so often quoted but so often disconnected from Paul’s preaching of the Cross and Resurrection.  The point resting in the assurance of the means of the restoration of our humanity, so that we can be who we were created to be, in relationship with God and in that relationship image God.
This is our predestination. What we are predestined into is the same as we were created to be in the Garden of Eden -, to know and to image God. It is in Jesus Christ that our humanity is restored, and through whom we can know and image God.
Thus, when Paul rhetorically asks, “If God is for us, who Can be against us?” This is about our restored humanity, not some statement about how God will bless anything we put our hands too (Though, with the Psalmists we can and should pray that God bless the work of our hands, but that’s not Paul’s point or focus in Romans). Paul says that the Gospel shows us that through incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Christ God is for our full and true humanity. No matter who or what seeks to rob us of our deepest and truest selves, God is there without reserve and without qualification, saying “I’ve done and am doing everything needed to be in relationship with you and to free you to image me.” This is our victory in Christ, it is living into our created, predestined and restored humanity in Christ, that we are more than conquerors.
This should make a difference in our daily lives as we are buffeted by our own temptations to sin and our own sins, or the cruelty, oppression and indifference of other human beings, or just the suffering that comes from death and illness. But the difference isn’t that God has planned every detail and everything that happens is caused by God.  And it also isn’t that God simply because of one’s faith in Christ, causes everything we put our minds to, to be successful. But we can be assured that whatever life circumstance come our way, success or failure, health or sickness, freedom or oppression, that this doesn’t alter our humanity nor our purpose in God, nor that we are images of God made to be in relationship with God.
This is so much deeper and has so much more breadth and depth than, that God ensures that those with faith in Christ will succeed, and that we can be assured that God is working some temporal and fleeting good from everything in our lives good or ill. Our victory is the restoration of our humanity which God accomplished in the incarnation, which was sealed in the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
In Jesus Christ, God demonstrated that there is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God, and thus there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from our truest selves, our full humanity: to know and be known by God and to be God’s image.
Paul in this passage is basking in the Glory of God’s work in Jesus Christ, and seeking to assure us that once we enter into and embrace that reality, there’s nothing more, there’s no addition to this, no other work to be done.  Thus, we can have no fear, in Christ we know who we are, and we know God’s love. A love that was there from all eternity, that was hid from us by our sin, by the devil and by death. God in Christ shows us our true humanity, and overcomes sin, death, and the devil.
There is now no one to judge us, no one to tell us we are unworthy, there is only God’s witness to God’s intentions and love, in the person of Jesus Christ. Nothing can or will change that, nor ever could. God has always loved us, God has always wanted to be known by us and for us to be known at the depths of our being. 
Yes, we are more than conquerors! Yes, God works out this Good in and through all things, even death on a cross! Yes, we have been predestined for this relationship with God! Yes, nothing can ever separate us form God’s love! No matter what any life circumstance might bring, no matter who accuses you, no matter your own temptations or sin! God has shown us God’s love in Christ, and accomplished in Christ all that needs to be done for us to have this restored relationship.
Now you know the way, simply walk in it! Walk in the light of God’s love. Walk in the world as an image of God. Walk as one who knows and is known by God. Do this, no matter what may come!

Amen.

Saturday, July 29

Sermon on the Parable of the Tares (or Weeds or Thistles)



This is a difficult sermon for me to write. My initial instinct was to talk about either how parables aren’t meant to have a pat explanation despite the pat explanation the Gospel gives us, or to use the sparing of the weeds to talk about God’s mercy. But honestly either of those approaches began to seem to me like ignoring the elephant in the living room which is the final judgement and what I believe to be the common but false interpretation of the furnace of fire.

The furnace of fire is not Hell, or certainly not the Hell that’s commonly understood. I don’t believe Christ ever actually talked about a place where souls would be tortured for all time. He did, however, talk about a fire that would destroy the soul permanently.

Part of the struggle for me in writing this sermon is that my denomination is Universalist in its theology. We proclaim that everyone is saved. And there are passages in Paul’s letters that can be interpreted that way. And while, if I just follow my heart, Universalism rings true. Yet I have had to come to the conclusion that if true, it must be a later revelation. The more I read the Gospels I’m left with the certainty that Jesus definitely said that not everyone is spared the fire.

And so in my sermon tonight, I’m not going to make the argument for my denomination’s theology, but rather speak the Gospel message of Jesus as I best understand it. I’m a bit conflicted about this, because in a one on one pastoral situation, I’d go with my heart’s sense of truth. In a sermon though, I feel the call to speak to what I believe Jesus’ actually said.

In order to understand what Jesus meant by the furnace of fire in his explanation of this parable, we need to read this in the context of what he said elsewhere. For example, Matthew 10:28 [F]ear the One who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Gehenna being the word that is commonly translated into Hell. In the Hebrew Bible, Gehenna was where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire. It was thought to be cursed. Jewish Rabbinic literature as well as Islamic scripture name Gehenna as a destination of the wicked. Jesus, in Mark 9:48 describes Gehenna as a place where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

Now I want to point out the significance of Matthew 10:28, which, when I studied it, was the first passage to start me thinking along the lines of Annihilationism. Annihilationism a the name for those who interpret scripture as saying that after the final judgment some will be totally destroyed or that their consciousness will cease to exist, rather than being punished for ever. Both body and soul will be consumed by the fire, Jesus tells us.

And it only makes sense that Jesus would not contrast the promise of eternal life with hell, if hell was eternal life as well. In most cases where Jesus promises eternal life, he does not qualify it as eternal life in a good place as opposed to a bad place, but offers it in and of itself. For example in Matthew 19:29 Jesus promises that his followers shall inherit eternal life. 

Now in speaking of Annihilationism I’ve gotten two immediate objections from others. The first being the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. But unless you believe that Heaven is literally resting in the bosom of Abraham, I won’t entertain any argument that this is meant to be an accurate depiction of the afterlife. 

The other objection is the last judgement in Matthew 25. This is the only instance in the entire New Testament where Jesus uses the word eternal to describe punishment. The Annihilationist camp has an argument for this that I find convincing. It has to do with grammar. Without getting to deep into it, essentially in the case of eternal punishment, eternal is an adverb. In the case of eternal life, eternal is an adjective. So the argument is that in the case of punishment, the word eternal means permanent rather than everlasting.

To back up this argument, Annihilationists illustrate the use of eternal as meaning permanent in the letter to the Hebrews, which speaks of “Eternal Redemption” “Eternal Salvation” and “Eternal Inheritance.” None of these refer to something happening over and over again for all time. We aren’t redeemed over and over again, we don’t inherit over and over again, it was all done once and for all on the cross.

It is my sincere belief that Jesus offers eternal life in contrast with permanent death. Our options after the final judgment are to be with God or to face oblivion. Oblivion is certainly a better option than everlasting torment. And so while I believe Hell does not exist, and that has its comforts, it’s not quite universalism. And while universalism rings true for me, I don’t believe we get there from the words of Jesus alone.

So let’s now get to the words of Jesus from tonight’s Gospel. In the explanation of the parable, Jesus doesn’t explain the line: “In gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.”  The Greek word for weeds here is zizania a word which is thought to mean darnel, a ryegrass which looks a lot like wheat when it’s young growth. In other words, it’s difficult early on to tell which is wheat and which is weed. It seems to me that this aspect of the parable is in line with Jesus telling us that we aren’t to judge, rather that judgement is reserved for God (or God’s messengers in this story.) So ultimately, whether you agree with my argument tonight about the final fate of the wicked, it’s not up to us to decide who is deserving of which fate.

Monday, June 19

The Lord's Prayer and the Great Commission: Parallels of Spirituality and Action



It struck me as I was preparing for this sermon that Jesus’ commission to the twelve parallels the Lord’s prayer. Christ tells us to pray for a thing in the Lord’s prayer and then commissions us to act on it in tonight’s Gospel.

Pray for God’s kingdom come, Jesus says, and I commission you to proclaim that it has become near.

Recent translations have used the reign of God rather than kingdom since the word kingdom has lost that meaning since the Bible was written. Kingdom in the Bible often refers to the time in which a particular ruler was in power, rather than the land or people who are ruled over.

The Israelites rejected God as their King, asking for a human one. Through Samuel, God warned them how a human king would be: He will send your children to war, make them build his weapons, make them work for him, take your best possessions and give it to his servants, he will take portions of your harvest, and you will become his slaves.

Jesus makes it clear to his disciples that they are not to be rulers. You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.

Jesus, who is now our king, the person of God who has taken on our humanity, who still bears our wounds, tells us over and over that wealth, power and status do not belong in the kingdom of God.

Jesus tells us again and again is that God cares about our suffering. Jesus in fact identifies with the suffering. What you have done for the least you have done for Jesus. Which leads us to…

Pray for God’s will to be done, I commission you to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.

God’s will is for us to ease suffering. Theodicy is a whole branch of theology that deals with why an all-powerful all-good God would allow evil and suffering. But I’m not going to get into that, because suffering is here, like it or not, whether it makes theological sense or not. There is suffering and we are called upon to ease it.

And if we are to live like Christ, then we shouldn’t consider if someone deserves suffering or if they brought it on themselves. As Paul reminds us in Romans, “For a good person someone might actually dare to die. God proves God’s love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” 

Pray for God to forgive us our sins, as we also have forgiven. You received without payment; give without payment, I commission you to respond to rejection of peace you’ve given, by letting your peace return to you. Shake it off.

Actually to shake the dust from your feet is a rejection back, but I believe letting your peace return to you isn’t. Even as you shake the dust off your sandals, do it with a peaceful heart. Does that sound contradictory? Perhaps but not any more than “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

That reminds me of a story about a traveling sage who comes across a village terrorized by a great serpent. The sage convinces the serpent of the value of peace, and to stop harming the villagers. The sage on his return journey comes across the serpent who has been attacked and wounded by the villagers seeking revenge. The sage tells her, “I said not to harm them; I didn’t say not to hiss at them.” The way of peace is not a way without conflict. It is a way that includes acknowledging you’re capable of doing harm. We are not commissioned to be doormats.

And not all the places you visit will reject you, laborers deserve their food. Pray for God to give us our daily bread, yet like mana from heaven, only what we need today. I commission you to take nothing with you, depend on the hospitality of others. 

I’ve often run into what seems to me a very odd (and I think very American) definition of self-sufficient. Somehow it’s thought that receiving money from employers or clients is somehow self-sufficient, while receiving money from family, the government, or charitable organizations is not. To my mind, all of the above reflects dependence on others. The labor we deem legitimate still puts us in a position of dependence on employers or clients. 

And of course, we’re all dependent on God for our very lives. The air that we breathe, in fact all that sustains us comes from God. I even believe our very strength to endure the trials of this world is strength we receive from God.

Pray for God to not bring us to the time of trial, yet I commission you to be sheep among wolves. This all starts with Jesus having compassion for the harassed and helpless, who are like sheep without a shepherd. The commission is to remind the sheep that the Lord is their shepherd.  But there are wolves. The wolves want sheep to remain helpless and harassed. Suffering benefits the wolves. The wolves will in fact do everything in their power to stop you from tending to them, easing their suffering and reminding them of their Lord.

In tending to the suffering, you will have to endure suffering yourself. Jesus certainly didn’t avoid it. And God can and will give you the strength to endure. And like Jesus, you will be vindicated. And it will be Jesus whose suffering you ease. Whatever you do for the least of these… The mourning will be comforted, the hungry will be filled, and the pure in heart will see God. And there are emotional rewards. Think of those whose suffering you relieve. Many will bubble over with Joy like Sarah did. "God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me." 




Sunday, June 4

The Varieties of Prophesy by the Same Spirit


Jubi and I proclaim, each time we meet, the Gospel. We prophesy. We, hopefully, speak God’s word addressed to you who are a gathering of God’s people. The passages we read today on Pentecost, though say that it isn’t only certain people with certain roles and who are ordained that can or should prophesy- speak the word of God to others, share the Gospel.  This has been something of what our Easter series has been seeking to explore: How might we all access and be freed up to prophesy, to speak by the power of the Spirit, to share with those around us and with each other the living water of our life with God.

Jesus in our short Gospel passage says .we both drink of Christ and we become streams of living water, from which others will drink. That water from which we drink and which pours out from us the  Spirit of God.

A few things about this proclamation of the Gospel and prophesying: It isn’t necessarily something thought out. To prophesy by the Spirit isn’t a choice. One doesn’t choose to be empowered by the Spirit. The Spirit comes upon us, and flows through us and from us.  We are conduits. We make ourselves available like those who gathered in Jerusalem in the upper room, waiting. At the same time, there are times when this proclamation and speaking with the Spirit, prophesying, is thought out and choice. There are moments, like Jubi’s and my sermon in which we not only wait, but in waiting actively participate with the Spirit in prophesying, speaking the word of God to a specific group of people.

We see both kinds of proclamation in the story of that first Day of Pentecost when the Spirit descended and a band of followers of Jesus Christ were transformed into the Church, Christ’s body. The Spirit descends with a sound of rushing wind and the sign of tongues of fire and without willing it the gathered disciples male and female along with the apostles begin to speak in languages unknown to them and proclaim God’s word and the Gospel of God’s great works in Jesus Christ.  

Those who spoke in tongues and were heard by those of various native languages from all over the globe, spoke by inspiration and not choice, the words flowed from them in a way that they couldn’t choose or plan. But Peter stands up and speaks by the same inspiration of the Spirit in a language, he knows and while extemporaneous, he chooses his words, and we can say from the evidence of Luke’s account he chose them carefully, in a well thought out manner, with a chosen line of argument and chosen supporting evidence of that argument.  Both are under the direction and inspiration of the Spirit one with less agency the other with more, but all prophesy by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Peter’s proclamation and prophesy is more akin to what Jubi and I do each Sunday we gather, and in fact our ordination puts us in a line of decent from St Peter and the Apostles, those chosen to stand as official representatives of the Gospel and the visible Church. It is one of the great tragedies that has repeated itself in the church that the Spirit filled proclamation of St Peter and the Apostles has been pitted against the prophesy of the gathered people of God, the disciples who speak in various and sundry tongues by the inspiration of that same Spirit.

Jubi and my prophesying as Peter can’t and shouldn’t stand apart from the speaking in tongues of the gathered people of God, who speak prophesy empowered and inspired by the same Spirit. But the lay proclamation of the disciples the gathered people of God, needs the proclamation of St. Peter. And St Peter’s proclamation is without effect without the proclamation of the gathered disciples. They aren’t in competition, one shouldn’t and doesn’t diminish the other each is supported and supportive of the other. They both are expressions of the same Spirit. So, Moses’ authority and Spirit empowerment wasn’t diminished or threatened by other’s who received the same Spirit as God distributed the Spirit as God chose.

What I hope, is that what Jubi and I proclaim and prophesy when we gather may awaken in each of us the same Spirit so that each of us is opened to the Spirit that each of you may proclaim in our contexts in languages we may not all understand, not only here in this worship service but more importantly outside this upper room, among the crowds.


So, this act of proclamation that Jubi and I do each week, is also what is to flow from your own mouths by the power and inspiration of the Spirit. It is both the water you drink and the water you are to allow to flow form you so those around you may drink. This is our life together. This is our prophesy. That we all may be like streams of water quenching the thirst of those around us. Don’t think it enough that Jubi and I prophesy to you, in fact our speaking by the Spirit needs your own speaking by the power of the Spirit.  It begins in our times of discussion, but is to overflow this time and space flow out into the crowds of the world. And don’t worry if you think you don’t’ know enough or don’t know what to say, you have the Spirit in you, it will give you the words, even the language to say what you are called to proclaim.  You are among the Disciples, you have different call from those of us who are among the apostles. So, don’t worry, but be open to the gifting and guidance of the Spirit. Let the spirit flow through you. Trust the Spirit of God in you. Amen

Monday, May 1

Sermon for the Third Sunday in Easter



Were not our hearts burning within us?

Sad to say I know a few people, myself included, that find it much easier to get into the darker emotions of Lent and Good Friday, than to be lifted up by joy in the Easter season. But perhaps that’s because we associate joy too much with the prevalent social pressure to strive to be happy. Burning hearts to me suggests a different tone of joy. More of an eagerness, a desire.

Which is a more intimate thing that exuberance. And despite the initial volley of words- “Are you the only one who doesn’t know?” “Oh you fools” –todays Gospel story is quite intimate. Not as intimate as last week’s fingers inside a wound intimate, but in a way more remarkable in that Jesus appears to disciples rather than apostles, here. Disciples who were not even in the inner circle enough for them to know Simon by the name Peter.

Their hearts burned as they came to understand that their expectations of the messiah were in error. That victory and glory were in identifying with the victim. That freeing Israel was neither a political or military matter. Then in the breaking of the bread, which we know to be his body, they recognize him.

Then, even though the day was nearly over they went back to Jerusalem to tell the 11 and companions what they saw. They had to share this experience with those who would understand. And it is that kind of sharing - talking to people about a wonderful encounter with God – that will be our overarching topic this Eastertide.

Evangelism is usually talked about more in the spirit of Peter’s rhetorical argument - and look how many numbers came to Christ that day! Remember, though, that Peter was saying something brand new at the time.  I swear every time I get handed a Christian pamphlet on the street I think, “Do you seriously believe I’ve never been exposed to these ideas before?” I really don’t think a primer in Christianity is needed anymore. Not in Chicago anyway. Some ideas about Christianity can and should be corrected, but most folks know the basics by now. And it’s sort of insulting to suggest they don’t.

In part because of the very offensive and in your face evangelism that many people have had to endure, to even talk about evangelism at all makes me bit uncomfortable. Yet, that makes me all too often fail to tell people about what Christ has done for me, or about my relationship with God; a relationship that defines so much of my life. It’s very personal to me.

Now by personal relationship with God, I don’t mean an individual relationship to God. My relationship to God is bound up in relation to others. I rather mean personal in an intimate sense. It’s profound and deep and unique, but not solitary. I have had visions and mystical experiences of God, but they happened in the context of scripture and ritual that have been cultivated for 2000 years. And it is only through sharing with others that I came to better understand these experiences.

As I’ve shared these experiences, I’ve discovered that people who are at very similar places in their spiritual journey that I am have gotten there in different ways. This reminds me of the Hindu concept that there are different paths to God for different people. And in reading about that I was reminded of the five love languages in personal relationships.

The five love languages was developed in marriage counseling (though I think it applies to other relationships) to describe how what one person sees as an expression of love, the other person may seem differently. “Why don’t you ever say you love me?” “I do! I give you presents all the time!” “But you never say the words!”

The five languages are: gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. My love languages are physical touch and quality time. This is why mediation and the sacraments – which are physical – are so important to my connection to God. Some folks I know connect with God much more intellectually, which I equate with words of affirmation. For some of my social justice focused friends, acts of service is their Godly love language.

For God is love. Our relationship to God is a loving one, no matter how we express or cultivate it. And so I ask you, “Where and when do you speak of your earthly love relationships?” How do you talk to people about your partner, your children, your family, your beloved friends, you pets? Aren’t those conversations imitate, or an invitation to intimacy?

Would you tell those same people about your loving relationship with God? At the same times? Why or why not? These questions are what we’ll be exploring in the weeks to come.

Contemplate your love relationship to God, pay attention to your heart. What makes your heart burn? What would make you rush to others to share? What inspires you to have genuine mutual love, to love one another deeply from the heart?