Friday, December 2, 2011

RevGalBlogPal Friday Five: Delinquent Edition

The background of the situation is that a few years ago, Songbird reminded me that I had the Friday Five. I told her - quite adamantly - that I was one she would never have to worry about. I keep close track of such things.

As we were driving from having a beautiful breakfast with my sister, brother-in-law, nephew and brand new niece this morning you can imagine my dismay as Songbird said, "I hope whoever had the Friday Five today remembered to do it."

D'oh.

So for today, if you are still there, the Friday Five is this:
It's a busy season and our minds get caught up in lots of different things (a shiny new baby, in my case). We all know that especially during this time of year we have to be intentional about the things that are important or we can lose them. What are five things you try to be intentional about, whether it be for this season specifically or in general?

1) Sermon writing time -
I've been trying to do a better job of setting a specific time for sermon work earlier in the week. It is frustrating how easily something that is SO important gets pushed out of the way for the trivial and mundane.

2) Time off in December - I forget where I picked up this tip, but I take the Friday before Christmas off of work. Totally. Truth be told our Christmas bulletins and most events are done by then and even if a Christmas Eve meditation is not done - it will be. This means that I can get those last second stuffers and post office runs done and my son and I can have an afternoon together before I turn into the Reverend Christmas Zombie.

3) Communication with special people - Facebook is not enough. It took me way too long to figure this out. I am not great at it, but I am trying to do better about intentionally reaching out to my friends with cards and phone calls and yes, even email.

4) Cookie baking - At some point during the season The Boy and I bake cookies.

5) The Ornament - Every year I take The Boy to pick out a Christmas ornament. He can pick whichever one he wants. This year he picked the most expensive one. So next year I will INTENTIONALLY set a price limit.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

In the Big Inning

June 19, 2011
Summer Sermon Series: Baseball
Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day and although I of all people realize that it is important to be wary of stereotypes – not all men like sports, not all women like to cook – I did think when the request came in for a sermon topic of baseball that today would be a fun day to do it.

If you are looking for depth in this morning’s message I am not sure you will find it here, although there is a message. If you are a Trinity Sunday fan and are disappointed that we will not be focusing on the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer on this day set aside for that purpose, I apologize, but encourage you to keep listening… for like Tinkers to Evers to Chance (considered to be the best double play combination of all time) – the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit will be present and will hopefully hold up the middle.

As many of you I am sure have surmised, the sermon title this morning comes from the old joke asking what was the first sport in the Bible. The answer is of course, baseball: In the ‘big inning’ Eve stole first, Adam stole second, Cain struck out Abel and the Prodigal Son was called safe at home.

Obviously baseball is not actually in the Bible, but it is certainly engrained in our culture.
Whether you like the game or not you have probably heard or spoken a phrase that finds its roots in baseball.

Let me give you a ballpark figure on how may baseball phrases are used in our everyday speech. If I don’t knock it out of the park hopefully I will at least cover all the bases. We’re playing hardball now. This is no bush league sermon, I’ve got to step up to the plate and swing for the fences because our heavy hitter is on deck. So far I’m batting a thousand but it’s still hit or miss how well I will do, after all it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

Those of us who are into sports – and you know who we are – have issues. We have issues because we will talk ad nauseam about our team and their chances and where we are headed next Sunday afternoon, but we will not talk about where we go on Sunday morning. This sermon is not about lifting sports up onto a pedestal that I know already needs to be lowered. This sermon is about having a little fun and making some analogies…and being reminded of the grace of God.

Trust Your Team

There are some individual aspects to baseball – numbers are a big deal in this game – and a lot of the records that we get excited about are individual records.
Most consecutive games – Cal Ripken Jr. – 2, 632.
Most games in a row with at least one hit – Joe Dimaggio – 56.
Most home runs in a season – the record books will say it’s Barry Bonds, but real baseball fans know that it is Roger Maris – 61.

The individual records are fun, but the teamwork is what makes the game great. If there are men on base then the batter tries to hit the ball to the right side of the field in order to move them over. If a ball gets hit into the outfield, the outfielder throws the ball in to the cut-off man who is then told by the catcher where to throw it next. When run perfectly, the cut off throw is one of the most beautiful plays in baseball.

In baseball even the puniest utility player can have a role that is crucial to the team. In the 2004 American League Championship series the New York Yankees had only three outs between them and yet another World Series appearance. Their opponents were the Boston Red Sox who had famously not won the World Series since 1918. Up by only one run in the ninth the Yankees brought in their Hall of Fame bound closer, Mariano Rivera. When Rivera walked the first batter he faced it was surprising, but no one on the Yankees was really worried. Rivera has one pitch – the cutter – named because it cuts in on the batters’ hands and causes them to hit weak p
op-ups and ground balls often while breaking their bats. The entire goal of the Yankees team is to have the lead in the ninth and then hand the game to Mariano Rivera.


But on this night the Red Sox decided to pinch run for the man who walked to first and they put in Dave Roberts. Now Roberts was a major leaguer, so he had talent. His main gift was speed. He could get to anything in the outfield, but his arm was below average so players could take extra bases on him. He spent one year on the Red Sox team and when he came in to pinch run that night, he had not played in the last ten games. Basically, he was the last guy on the bench.

But on that night… he stole second base making it in ahead of the tag by mere inches. And when the next batter hit a single he was able to score and tie up the game sending the game into extra innings where the Red Sox won it after David Ortiz hit a two run home run. The Red Sox came back in that game, they came back in that series and they won the World Series after 86 years of futility. David Ortiz won the American League Championship Series MVP award, but if it we
ren’t for the speedy pinch runner, he would have never had his chance.

With apologies to the Apostle Paul:
Indeed, the team does not consist of one member but of many. If the catcher were to say, ‘Because I am not a Shortstop, I do not belong to the team’, that would not make it any less a part of the team. And if the leftfielder were to say, ‘Because I am not a pitcher, I do not belong to the team’, that would not make it any less a part of the team. If the entire team were a leftfielder, where would the curveball be? If the whole body were pitching, where would the runs come from?... As it is, there are many members, yet one team. The shortstop cannot say to the catcher, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the power hitter to the pinch runner, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the team members that seem to be weaker are indispensable… if one team member loses, the entire team loses with them; if the team wins, all rejoice together.


The word of baseball… thanks be to Babe Ruth.

If God is keeping score, then Jesus is the closer. Grace.
A good friend of mine from seminary told me about the computer baseball game he had as a kid. Now compared to today’s standards, the game looked like cave drawings but one of
the cool things you could do was name your team and the players on it. Matt, being the cool preacher’s kid that he was, named his team: The God Squad.

His batting line-up began with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. His pitching staff consisted of the Apostle Paul - a crafty veteran who could no longer rely on his blazing fastball due to all the traveling he did in the minor leagues - and a couple of journeyman prophets as his set-up men. The ace of his staff was none other than Jesus himself. His closer: God.

And that is where our argument began because he claimed that God was the closer because no one could possibly get a hit off of God. Fair enough, but I still think his closer should be Jesus. Why? Jesus saves!

When you look at the game of baseball through the lens of our Christian theology it is - at its core - a game about law and grace. The law is the rules of the game, the grace is in how the game is played.

I know everyone here has heard of Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in the major leagues. Jackie wore number 42 – a number now retired in all ballparks – and played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 until 1957. How many of you have heard of Jackie Robinson? Now how many of you have heard of Larry Doby?

Larry followed Jackie Robinson and was the first African American player in the American League. Doby came up with the Cleveland Indians about 3 months after Jackie first broke the color barrier. In his very first at bat Larry Doby looked terrible. He struck out on three straight pitches that were way outside of the plate. He walked back to the dugout with his head down, sat at the end of the bench all by himself and put his head in his hands.

The next Cleveland batter was Joe ‘Flash’ Gordon, one of the best second baseman of all time. Joe was in the prime of his career and the pitcher Joe was facing was one that he always hit well. But during his turn at bat, right after Larry Doby, he swung and missed three straight times at pitches way outside of the strike zone.

Gordon returned to the dugout, went to the end of the bench, sat right next to Larry Doby and likewise, put his head in his hands. From that moment on and for as long as they played together, every time Larry Doby ran out to his position, he first picked up Joe Gordon’s glove and tossed it to him. Larry Doby went on to become one of baseball’s best home run hitters.

There is grace in this game, just as there is grace for us in this life.

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Final score:
Satan loses.
Love wins.
And Jesus gets the save!

Game over.

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Beloved Children of God


A sermon for Easter 7a, June 5, 2011

This is our third week sitting around the table of the Lord’s Supper, no wonder my back is a little stiff. The disciples and Jesus are in Jerusalem and the atmosphere is thick with anticipation. The resurrection of Lazarus has already occurred and the religious authorities have placed a price on his head. But the one they really want is the one who brought him back to life, Jesus. The authorities are trying to keep a revolution from happening and in the meantime those who have followed Jesus are anticipating that the time for one has finally come.

Jesus and a small gathering of his closest followers gather in a room to eat together and Jesus surprises them all by washing and drying their feet.
He washes the feet of Peter, who will deny him.
He washes the feet of Judas, who will betray him.

It is the eve of history’s most tragic hour, the last chance that Jesus has before his death to explain the reason for everything and the purpose for the disciples going forward and he focuses not on revenge, not on judgment and not on repentence. Instead his focus is love. A few excerpts:
  • Do not let your hearts be troubled, Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
  • I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you… because I live, you also will live.
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world give. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
  • As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
  • This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Last week I took the liberty of breaking down three chapters of a repetitive monologue into 3 clichés:
  • Cliché #3 - Do not be afraid, we (the Father, the Son and the Spirit) are still with you.
  • Cliché #2 - Remember my commandment to love.
  • Cliché #1 - Your Father in heaven and I love you and support you no matter what you do.

And now immediately preceeding their departure to a garden where they will be met by Judas and a detachment of soldiers (John 18:1ff), Jesus closes their time together in prayer:

John 17:1-11
….(Jesus) looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
The Word of the Lord…

‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

It’s an interesting word, ‘glory’.

I think of politicians who win their election. On that night they are surrounded by those who support them, streamers and confetti flying, music blaring and hundreds or thousands of supporters shouting their name and flashing signs with their name on them. Power! Glory!

I think of CEO’s who present the shareholders with increased earnings. At that meeting they are surrounded by those who benefitted from their decisions. Hugs are shared and backs are slapped and hundreds or thousands of supporters are willing to do anything they are asked. Power! Glory!

I think of the athletes who win their city a championship. On the day of the parade they are surrounded by those who support them, streamers and confetti flying, music blaring and thousands or hundreds of thousands of supporters shouting their name and flashing jerseys with their name on them. Power! Glory!

The thing about glory is we cannot retain it. It’s not ours to keep. And when we try the fall from it is not far behind.
We’ve seen it.
We’ve seen politicians fall from grace when their quest for power undermined their morals.
We’ve seen CEO’s fall from grace when their quest for wealth undermined their values.
We’ve seen athletes fall from grace when their quest for winning undermined the rules of fair play.

We’ve seen it whether it be in the national headlines or closer to home. It’s easy to get confused and hung up on earthly and material glory. Our culture reminds us every chance it gets in every piece of 30 second interval it can find that we deserve the glory and the power and once we get it, we need to protect it and grow it at all costs.

As if it were ours to begin with. The belief that the glory lies in us is the first mistake.

To God be the glory. From God be the glory.

I think of Jesus when so many thought he was going to be their idea of a savior. He came into Jerusalem surrounded by those who had hope in him, palm branches and hosannas flying, hundreds of people lining the way, shouting his name, “King of Israel!” Those in authority said to one another: You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him! (John 12:19)
Power! Glory!

But Jesus both fully human and fully divine, knew that it was not his glory.
To God be the glory. From God be the glory.

In Chapter 2 of the Gospel of John, the first miracle at the wedding at Cana and Mary the mother of Jesus says to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ (2:4)
And what are the first words of this prayer? Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people…

Authority over all people. Power! Glory!
Jesus has the chance to cling to the power!
The stage is set for him to take the glory!

In the garden when they come to arrest him there are torches and lanterns and weapons. One of his own strikes first – but that is where it stops. God’s glory is not proven in a final act of power and might. God’s glory is revealed in the ultimate act of mercy, grace and love.

It is in this choice of the cross that an invitation is extended to us to participate in the glory of God; not by clinging to power, but by letting it go. Not by hoarding glory for ourselves, but in reflecting God’s glory back into the world,
To God be the glory. From God be the glory.

At the end of the 14th century, mystic Julian of Norwich wrote:
Would you like to know your Lord's meaning?
Okay, then know it well. The Lord's meaning is love. Love is God's only meaning.
Who shows this to you? Love.
What did God show you? Love.
And why did God show it to you? For love.
Stay in God's love, then, and you'll learn more about its unconditional, unending, joyful nature. And you'll see for yourself, all manner of things will be well.

Do not let your hearts be troubled…

Listen to the final petition in this prayer from Jesus on our behalf:
‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them’ (17:25-26).


To God be the glory. From God be the glory.

Power? Glory?

They are nothing without love.

In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit - Amen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: Summer Rerun Edition

From Songbird over at the revgals....
It's that time of year when the only new things on television are music/dance competitions (the 21st century answer to variety shows?). Yes, it's the season of reruns.

This week the clock turned back to last fall and the Glee kids went back to school and still got "slushied," and Michael hired his nephew on The Office, which was not something even he would be likely to repeat.

In honor of this annual Time Warp, please share five things worth a repeat. These could be books, movies, CDs, recipes, vacations, or even TV shows
.

5) I remember as a kid reading Trumpet of the Swan a LOT.
4) I watched FRIENDS so much that my friend and I actually taped the repeats. We had taped them pausing on the commercials (pre-kids, can you tell?) so when we sat down to watch a tape, 8 HOURS later we could still be found sitting on the couch, very much having to pee but there were NO commercial breaks to do it in.
3) I have a few songs that remind me of certain people or certain moments and I like to listen to those.
2) Christmas is filled with re-run recipes.
1) We are hoping the beach will be a vacation trip we repeat every summer.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Advocate (Cliché #1)


A sermon for Easter 6a, May 29, 2011

For a guy who grew up the son of immigrants in Brooklyn, didn’t learn how to drive until he joined the Navy and worked blue collar jobs including being a truck driver for a good portion of his life, my Dad was a softie when it came to his daughters. If not effusive, he was protective, and Mom would work around his obsessive desire to keep us from getting hurt by doing things like telling him we were on the youth ski trip after he looked around and noticed we weren’t there.

As he got older, his verbal skills caught up with what was in his heart and he gained a reputation for sitcom-esque monologues about the ways he loved and was proud of his daughters. When we would come back to visit after we moved out of the house, he would especially and I will admit, embarrassingly, go on and on about his 'two beautiful daughters - one the singer, one the preacher’ - blah, blah, blah until Mom or (my sister) or I would say, "Okay Dad, okay..."

"What? What-did-I-do? I can't tell my two daughters that I love them and support them?"

To which Mom or (my sister) or I would respond, "No."

Once he even tried to encapsulate all of these things onto a cake that he picked up at the grocery story. Now, the man was still frugal so he had found the smallest ice cream cake possible and then watched as they attempted to fit it all in on the cake: To life, love and prosperity.

He meant well, but it finally got to the point where we assigned numbers to his most repetive phrases. Cliché #1 is this: “Your mother and I love you and support you no matter what you do.”

(My sister) and I know we are two of the lucky ones who never had to wonder if our Dad loved and supported us – we get that. But the man sure did know how to drive home a point.

I didn't want to preach on love again. I just didn’t want to do it. How many different ways can the Gospel of John say it? And how much do we really need to hear it? Like a teenager shrugging off a parent's hug - we get it, right? Jesus. God. The Holy Spirit. They love us... now just drop us off at the mall by the far entrance and let us go on with our lives, ok?

I think my Dad may have learned how to belabor a point from Jesus in the Gospel of John.
Do we need to assign Jesus his own cliché numbers?

Cliché #3 - Do not be afraid, we are still with you.

Who’s we?
Well, it’s the Father, it’s the Son and it’s the Advocate – the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, counselor, comforter, helper, mediator and ‘broker’. Parakletos is the Greek word and directly translated it means Advocate, like an advocate to a judge.

But instead of the Advocate going to God on your behalf, she is instead coming to you to plead God’s case: I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

Some of you may remember from last week that these words were spoken as the disciples shared their last meal with their friend and teacher, Jesus. Judas had already left the room called out for being the one who will betray. Following that Peter was told that he would deny Jesus three times before the cock crows. The very next words from Jesus are, Do not let your hearts be troubled

Our Scripture today continues that speech where Jesus is trying to assuage their fears. He knows they will feel left behind like orphans. He knows that it will be all the harder for them as they spread the Good News to those who did not see Jesus with their own eyes.

But he also knows that death will not have the final word. And that the love that will abide in them is not about the memory of a historical event, but is about a very present God who they will know through the Spirit. The Spirit, the Advocate, shows God’s love to us and in us.

Cliché #3 – Do not be afraid, we are still with you.

Cliché #2 - Remember my commandments.

What is it about these that we refuse to understand? The commandments are not in our lection passage for today but they are found earlier in this same speech: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (13:34-35).
That’s it.
That's the list.

Even if you look to the Synoptic Gospels and add: You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength it's still so simple you could fit it on a small cake with just 4 letters: l.o.v.e.

I know it’s crazy and ridiculous – but think for a moment what the world would be like if all of humanity erred on the side of love? Just go there with me for just a little bit – there would be no borders, no greed, no abuse, no hoarding, no gluttony or arrogance or shame. There would be no more thirsting, hungering, imprisoning.

I know, I know, it’s not reality so let’s bring it way down.
What would this community be like if everyone erred on the side of love?
What would this congregation be like?

What would your family be like if everyone erred on the side of love?

Immediate or extended - what would change if a commitment was made by all to err on the side of love. And what about you?
What would change about you if you chose to err on the side of love

Impossible? Or can we do all things through Christ who strengthens us?

Cliché #2 – Remember my commandments.

Cliché #1 - Your Father in heaven and I love you and support you no matter what you do.

It is the eve of history’s most tragic hour and the one who speaks these phrases knows his betrayal, abandonment, torture and death are merely hours away and this is what he says…
  • Do not let your hearts be troubled, Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
  • I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you… because I live, you also will live.
  • Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world give. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
  • As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
  • This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
If you are a person who prefers actions over words, this entire speech comes after he washes the disciples feet.
He washes the feet of Peter who will deny him.
He washes the feet of Judas who will betray him.

Cliché #1 – Your Father in heaven and I love you and support you no matter what you do.

Why is this so hard for us? Why the push back so hard against a commandment to give and receive love? What are we waiting for?

After my father had been sick for so very long the hard decision was made by him and my Mom that he would no longer be shuttled from the nursing home to the hospital, back to the nursing home, back to the hospital… he wasn’t going to get better. By then (my sister) was in town and we handled it the way each of us handles these things – she went into his room weeping, immediately emotionally available in the moment – something I have long envied.

I tend to be the more practical, stoic one and when I went in I spoke very clearly to him and asked him if he wanted to stop going to the hospital. Yes – he nodded.
“Dad, do you know what this means?”
Again he nodded yes.
I made myself say the words, “It means you’re going to die, do you understand me?”
And I was surprised to hear his voice, “It’s ok.”

He looked up to heaven and pointed and then he looked back at me and lowering his finger he said, “Cliché #1.”

How much more is our heavenly Father's love for us?

Cliché #1.

Amen.

John 14:1, 18, 27, 15:9, 12.
John 13:1-11

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Left Behind

A sermon for Easter 5a, May 22, 2011

On the eve of his betrayal the disciples and Jesus have dinner together. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus pours water into a basin and washes the disciples' feet and dries them. It is after this ritual that Jesus begins to outline to his disciples what is to happen next and why it is happening. Bible interpreters call it the farewell discourse where Jesus is equipping the disciples with knowledge that will help them understand what has happened in the hopes they can remember it after his crucifixion and resurrection. He is helping to assuage their fears about being... left behind.

After he washes their feet he tells them he is to be betrayed. They all wonder by who and in the Gospel of John, Jesus takes a piece of bread and hands it to Judas saying, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread..." (13:26).

Judas takes the bread and immediately leaves.
Jesus continues to speak, Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.' (remember that) I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (13:33-34).

Peter becomes incredulous that he cannot follow Jesus to wherever he is going and swears that he will lay down his life for Jesus to which he responds: Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

I wonder how long the shocked silence lingered until Jesus spoke the words in today's Scripture reading, John 14:1-14:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going."

(To which) Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do NOT know where you are going. How can we know the way?"

Jesus said to him
, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’
Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
The past few days the internet, television, the newspapers (even yesterday’s t-ball fields and scouting event) have been swirling with chatter about the rapture. I wish the plight of those in Vicksburg or Japan or Syria could get nearly as much attention and money.

It would be easier to ridicule if we didn’t have the same heritage – I flinched every time the word “Christian” was used to describe the group and the fear. But there it is and therefore crazy Uncle Harold Camping is considered part of our extended family.

As frustrated as I am by that, I found myself praying last night for those who had made life decisions based on their understanding that at 6:00pm they would no longer be here; their families and friends… left behind.

The cynics, realists, mainstreamers – whatever you want to call them – mocked them mercilessly.
Can’t think of a good rapture joke? Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world.
Even pastors who should know better couldn’t resist the siren song of our church sign on the busy corner and named their sermon, “Left Behind”.

My own conviction is that even if the rapture calculations were Biblical (which they are not), the message surrounding it was all wrong. Words like repent and judgment are meant to stir up fear and panic. But based on the words of Jesus at the end of the Gospel of John, this is not what God has in mind.

Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid… in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…

These are words of peace and calm,
grace and mercy,
hospitality and love.

What are the priorities of ones who trumpet doom and judgment and miss out on mercy and love? Even cnn.com lifted up the concern:
If you thought you had less than three perfectly healthy months to live, what would you do? Would you travel? Spend time with loved ones? Appreciate the joy life has given you?
Or would you ditch your kids and grandkids, join strangers in a caravan of RVs and travel the country warning people about the end of the world?
Recognize instead, that on the eve of history’s most tragic hour, Jesus gathers in a room with those he trusts the most with his message. This is his moment, his time to impress upon them what the world HAS to know about… judgment? No.
Fear? No.

He tells them to trust. He tells them to love.
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust me. Love one another. You know me. You know who I am. Trust me.

“Jesus is about to be betrayed, abandoned, handed over, tried, insulted, beaten, and then crucified, nailed to a cross and hung there to die.” And yet his message is not one of punishment that we deserve, nor is he appeasing the anger of a just God nor is he showcasing what real faith looks like. “Jesus goes to the cross for one reason and one reason only: to show us God, to show us God's grace and mercy, to show just how much God loves us and how far God will go to communicate that love to us that we might believe and, believing, have life in his name.” (link)

Do not let your hearts be troubled…
Trust. Love.

A colleague wrote: “You could remove every evidence of Christianity from the world— destroy the churches, burn the Bibles, and silence the ministers; but the event that took place outside the walls of Jerusalem nineteen hundred years ago will abide forever as the sure testimony of God's work of love on man's behalf. It is a clarion call, loud and clear, announcing the vast mercies of God's matchless grace.”*

In I Peter we read:
“…taste that the Lord is good…”
“…like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house…”
“…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Those who have received mercy, are thereby charged to show mercy.
Those who have received God’s grace, are charged to show grace.
Those who have received God’s love, are charged to show love.

Do not let your hearts be troubled…
Trust God.
Love your neighbor.

Look to Jesus, “the one who preached God's mercy and taught God's love, the one who healed the sick, opened the
eyes of the blind, made the lame to walk, and then conquered death so that even the grave can no longer claim us. Because what (we) see in Jesus..., this is what God looks like, this is who and what God is: love, perfect love, for you, for them, for all of us and the whole world.” (link)


Love is what Jesus left behind.

* Ensley, Eugene C. "Eternity is now : a sermon on John 14:1-11." Interpretation 19.3 (1965): 295-298.ATLASerials, Religion Collection. EBSCO. Web. 21 May 2011. P. 297

Saturday, May 21, 2011

John 14:1-14 (kzjv)

John 14:1-14 - kzj version (with apologies to actual scholars)

"Chill.... calm down. Trust God. Trust me. The Eternal Kingdom is HUGE! There's no rush - plenty of room. I'm heading up there in order to assure you will come too. And I'll make sure you can join me. You know where, right?"

Thomas said, "Uh... no! How are we supposed to know that?"

Jesus said, "I'm it. I've got this. You know me, right? So you're in. Your guesses as to who I am are true."

Philip said, "Whatever... prove it. I want to see God."

Jesus responded, "Philip, you know me. You've seen what I've done, you've heard what I've said - you want to see God? You're looking at Him! You want proof? Think about the things you've seen me do. And if you trust me you will do them too - actually you'll do even more because I. am. outta here!"

"Trust me. I've got this. I'm here for you."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Follow the Leader


A sermon for Easter 4a, May 15, 2011, John 10:1-10; Acts 2:42-47
Occasion: Confirmation Class, Celebration of 50 year and 70 year members, Amendment 10-a

Sheepfold. Gate. Thief and bandit.
Shepherd. Gatekeeper. Sheep.

I’m confused. Is Jesus the shepherd or the gate?
Did the thieves and bandits climb over the fence or just shout?
Is the shepherd ahead of the sheep or with the thieves and the bandits?
Where’s Little Bo Peep?

We in the 21st century like answers not analogies and so we tend to arrive at pasages like this as if we’re part of CSI – Criminal Shepherd Investigators (duh).

How do we avoid the thieves and the bandits?
If even Jesus cannot decide if he is the voice, the shepherd or the gate, what chance do we have?
What are we supposed to hear?

One of my friend’s parishioners told her that she grew up on a farm and they had a pet lamb called “Baa baa”. This is what happens when you allow your 3 year old to name your pet lamb.
Another reason to not allow your 3 year old to name your lamb is because you no longer have the heart to make it dinner and instead it becomes a pet.

They soon moved from the farm and had to leave the sheep with a sheep farmer. When the little girl and her father would go to visit they would be looking out at hundreds of sheep, but her father would calmly call, “Baa, baa” and that one sheep came running to him. Over all of the chaos going on around her, the sheep knew the shepherd’s voice.

This week a rarity in our denomination ocurred in that in addition to all of the other voices clamoring to get our attention the secular media joined in, calling attention to our denomination by name. Was The New York Times trumpeting our disaster assistance teams already in place throughout Tennesse, Louisiana, and other areas hit by massive flooding? No.

Was the Wall Street Journal touting the precentage of expendable income that members of the PCUSA give to non-profits? No.

The Associated Press was reporting on one of today’s hot button issues, namely that the PCUSA has voted to remove the ordination standard that was used to keep those who are in committed, same gender relationships from serving in the ordained positions of deacon, elder and Minister of the Word and Sacrament.

The official language that will be placed in the Book of Order is this:
Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G‐1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G‐ 14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W‐4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

Just hearing those words, it may seem hard to understand what all the noise is about. A lot of it sounds good:
Submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ,
Examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation and suitabilty for the responsibilities,
Guided by Scripture and the confessions.

But it is controversial, not for what it says but because of what it doesn’t say. Not included in this new amendment are some very particular words that were approved by the General Assembly in 1996 and then ratified by 55% of the presbyteries, “Those who are called to office in the church are… to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness.”

“It made explicit what had been implicit for many years before, that being gay and ordained was not okay1.” There have been a lot of voices heard over it and this cacaphony of grassroots movements for and against has been going on since 1978 – almost my entire lifetime.

That’s a lot of yelling.

If only we could be more like the early church – the one in Acts:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Sounds nice and calm and peaceful and… quiet, right?

Except that this is the glossy brochure version of the early church. It’s the picture with the sound turned down because as the Adult Sunday School class knows you don’t have to go too much farther in Acts to see the VH1 Behind the Music version of the early church.

Two of their members, a husband and wife team, Ananias and Sapphira sold property and then lied about how much money they made (5:1-11). That didn’t go well for them. Then food was being distributed unfairly and the office of deacon was created to make sure that didn’t happen again (6:1-7). And the big question that nearly divided the early church was over circumcision as Gentiles wanted to be baptized as Christians but did not want to be circumcised first (10). (You’d better believe the men let their voices be heard on that one!)

So you see, not only is disagreement nothing new, it is downright Biblical.

One of the symbols of the office of Moderator of the PCUSA is a cross. It’s uniqueness is noticeable right away as you realize it is actually three celtic crosses riveted together. The crosses were bought in Iona in 1949 and then given to the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A and the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in North America. These three branches represented a split over slavery and other issues. The schism those divided voices created took 145 years to heal when in 1983 the three crosses were handed over as one to the 1st Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

I vaguely remember the celebrations over the reunification of the Presbyterian Church. What I really remember is that it never, ever ocurred to me that I could not be a Minister of the Word and Sacrament. I grew up with numerous associate pastors who were women, some who were men, a youth director who was a woman… the thought that some may have an issue with women in ministry never even entered my head.

But today we celebrate our 50 and 70 year members and they probably remember. They witnessed the angry voices surrounding the 1956 decision to ordain the first woman in the Presbyterian Church as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament; that moment came 124 years from the time an amendment was passed forbidding the leadership of women.

So actually we are a lot like the early church. There’s just more of us, covering a larger span and with over 30,000 Christian denominations we have gotten louder and even more divisive.

So why even try to find what unites us. Why bother?

Listen to the voice of the Shepherd: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). There are no disclaimers there. There are no conflicting voices. There are no divisive categories. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Gay and straight.
Strong and weak.
Sad and joyful.
Faithful and sinful.
Graced and searching.
Young and old.
Married, single, divorced and widowed…

The Voice calls us to what unites us and points us to what will strengthen us if we stop with the yelling… and listen.

My friend and lectionary group colleague Michael Kirby wrote earlier this week:
“A brighter morning dawns on a new day in our little part of the church...and the hungry still need to be fed, the refugees still long for a home, the flood victims are still undone by loss and shock, the lonely and wandering still need to experience love and hospitality, and the oppressed and addicted still long for freedom. So back to it…”

It is our faith in Him that unites us,
work in His kingdom that strengthens us,
and hope in His peace that sustains us.

Listen….

50 year members, 70 year members, confirmation class and members of the congregation:
Who is your Lord and Savior?
Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world?
I do.

Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Lord and Savior, trusting in his grace and love?
I do.

Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple obeying his Word and showing his love?
I will.

It is our faith in Him that unites us,
work in His kingdom that strengthens us,
and hope in His peace that sustains us.

These questions embody the voice of The Shepherd.
These answers embody the unity of the church.


The peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.

Amen.

1. Anna Pinckney Straight. The Church of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. A sermon preached for University Presbyterian Church, Chapel Hill, NC. May 15, 2011.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: Birthday Edition

Jan over at RevGalBlogPals gave us the following gift: What do you think of birthdays? 1. What are your feelings about celebrating birthdays, especially your own? You know... I'm pretty ambiguous about this. As an adult, I think celebrating my birthday is... well... stupid. I will admit this could be a control issue as I don't like to be the center of attention if I am not controlling it. There, I said it. I have also found them to be overall disappointing, so why bother. I have NO problem celebrating other people's birthdays. In fact, one of my favorite people is having a BIG birthday and I've been enjoying planning some thing for her to enjoy. 2. Do you have any family traditions about birthdays? No. My Mom grew up with an airline pilot for a Dad so that left out any scheduling traditions and has probably led to our own family's 'take-it-or-leave-it' approach to birthdays. 3. Is it easy to remember friends' and family members' birthdays? If so, how do you do it? No. It's not. In fact I have a very small people that I make sure I remember (Mom, sister, son...). If you are an adult, you know it's your birthday. A message from me isn't going to save the day. 4. What was one of your favorite birthdays? (or your unhappiest?) My sophomore year - yep, 16 - I was invited to prom on that same day but wasn't allowed to go (too young?) and then my parents forgot my birthday. And Matthew Schoeffling did not show up to salvage it either. 5. Post anything else you want to share about birthdays, including favorite foods, songs, and/or pictures. I think I've been depressing enough for one post. :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More than Those Who Watch for the Morning


I don't know what I was thinking.

My nephew and his father wanted to go on an overnight hiking trip. I had never done this before. Worse yet, they had never done this before. Sure, I'll go.

While still at home I read up as much as I could about the trail we would be on, our start and finish points, and what to pack. I practiced hiking with a heavy pack by walking around Kings Gap with my friend's infant son on my back. I read up on GORP - because what I remembered from my Girl Scout hikes was the trail mix: granola, m&m's, dried fruit and nuts.

On the night before we were going to go, I measured out enough GORP for a week-long trek through the Amazon. This was one overnight, up the Appalachian Trail, then off on a side trail and back again to our starting point.

Instead of packing 10 pound bags of GORP, I should have been doing altitude training because our hike began at the Fontana Dam, right at the edge of the North Carolina and Tennessee border and ascended quickly. In one day we climbed 2,000 brutal, exhausting feet… "Did I volunteer for this torture?"

I was out of shape, but my brother-in-law was hurting. He not only had his backpack,
overloaded with the stuff inexperienced people bring on such treks, but he also had about 50-75lbs of extra body weight he had intended to lose before our little adventure AND the pride he was carrying which was refusing to let him give me anything from his backpack to put in mine.

My nephew was an eager and able 12 year old whose energy knew no bounds nor
understanding of why he kept having to run back and check on the grown-ups. Finally, at a particularly peakid point of our journey, his father acquiesced and let the woman take some of the weight out of his backpack and put it in mine.

Of course, now as we journied on I was the one burdened with not only the added weight in my backpack and the extra pounds of body weight I had meant to lose before our adventure... but also the weight of pride. Because we all know there was NO way I was handing any of that stuff back for him to carry.

As the old phrase goes: Pride goeth before the passing out.

We did manage to make it to the top of our ascent and revelled in our victory. Nephew and I even climbed up a fire tower so we could look out over the vast expanse of mountain sides that surrounded us and all the way down 2,050 feet to Fontana Lake and Dam below.... the terror I felt at that moment will be in a sermon for another day.

As we made the turn down a side trail to make our return to the truck and civilization (read: flushies) we also started to look for the campsite we had reserved… or to be more specific, the clearing that had a painted number on a piece of wood over it.

Here is why it was so important that we find that clearing. At these campsites they had pulley systems set up between two trees so that you could hoist your backpacks into the air in order to keep them away from… the bears.

Seriously, what were we thinking?

Dusk began to descend and unfortunately so did the raindrops. We were just about to camp i the next clearing no matter whether it had a sign on it or not when finally we reached our barren campsite. We managed to grab a bite to eat, change our clothes, set up the tent on seemingly as many roots as possible and haul our edible gear into the trees on their pullies so that the bears didn't get it - just as the rain really started to come down.

We laid down in our cramped tent, my nephew in the middle, and eventually he drifted off to sleep. The two adults in the tent were left to feel every aching part of their body and hear every sound of the forest.

I learned two important things that night about an overnight hike. One, the campfire isn't just for show. It's to ease the body you just abused into a relaxed state so that you can better go to sleep. If the campfire doesn't work then that leads to the second thing I learned - bring Tylenol PM.

As I lay on the ground, feeling every piece of dirt, stone and stick that we had not seen when we put up the tent and wondering if my sleeping bag had been so heavy to carry because of the rocks that seemed to be in its lining, I realized that I was very far away from ever sleeping.

In fact, that night I never slept.

I layed there… and prayed that the rain wouldn’t come in the tent, that at the very least it would keep the bears from looking for lonely pieces of GORP, and that the morning would come so that we could be done with this adventure.

I waited.
And waited.
And waited….

At one desperate point I actually thought to myself, “What if this is the day that the sun doesn’t come up?”

“What if it’s never morning?”

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sometimes I forget...

In some ways it seems forever ago since lives were upended and hearts were broken. I have moved on both physically and emotionally and this is a good thing.

But every once in awhile something brings me right back to that place and reminds me of just how far we've come. This time it was notes from the sermon and worship service of three years ago, yes... only three years ago. In those notes from the past I found this preamble to the pastoral prayer:

I want to thank all of you for your love, care and support as P and I have walked through a valley that frankly I never though we would go through. There is no way I would have gotten through the last several months if I did not feel like the church family was behind me.

Throughout this time I have repeatedly asked P if he wanted to come home, if he wanted to work on our marriage and his response has been a consistent, 'no'. So although our bond will continue through the parenting of our son, we are no longer married.

It breaks my heart to say that, yet I can honestly look at you all amd more importantly at myself in the mirror and know there was absoltuely nothing more I could do.

You are wonderful, faithful people, and I know that you will continue to keep me and The Boy and The Boy's father in your prayers. Let us pray...


God bless that woman who had to stand up in front of that congregation Sunday after Sunday and say words like that or at the very least keep her head high and her shoulders back. And God bless each and every one of you who prayed for her to make it.

It's good to be here. And even better to be here with all of you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Just Reward

Today I sat at a Lent Prayer Breakfast, start time: 6AM.
They start that early so that people can leave afterwards and get to work, but none of them do that. They are all retired.

It was our church's turn to host so I put together the bulletin/program and gave the meditation. At first I was told by the contact person at our church that the sermon should be about 15-20 minutes. But once I reminded him that I don't preach that long on a Sunday, he relented. And really once we got started, no one was going to complain that it was too short. It ended up being 5 minutes to gather, 20 minutes to eat, 15 minutes of program and then off to conquer the day.

I don't know these folks or their stories. I do think there were a few pastors in the bunch. One introduced himself afterwards, your jovial, over-the-top type. He set off something in my gut of nothing I can prove, but I've learned to trust. He introduced himself, talked about his own sermon that he did once and then I turned to his spouse. I extended my hand to her, introduced myself and she seemed genuinely shocked.

She said, "Oh... I'm the quiet one... umm.... I'm ----." She tentatively shook my hand and began to walk away. Her husband said, "Yes, I took out a rib and here she is!"

ugh.
I didn't even fake laugh.

God bless that woman and may her blessing at the great heavenly banquet be that for every time she has heard that joke she gets to sit 1000 places away from him.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wow.

You will not believe why they went to all this trouble...





You can find more information about it here.
And I originally saw it here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Mud in Your Eye

(A sermon for Lent 4a, April 3, 2011, John 9:1-41)

What a wonderfully rich and well presented story.

So many theological themes...

So many narrative nuances…

So many characters with so much character…

So it’s particularly sad that I just can’t seem to get over that dirt and saliva combination. When (Jesus) had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes.

I believe the theological term for that is: iwwwww…..

According to John’s narrative the blind man does not even ask for healing. Presumably this man who relies on his begging for a living is doing his thing when he hears some men talking, the sound of someone spitting and then feels granules of sticky dirt on his eyes.

He is told to go and wash his eyes – as if having a stranger’s spit and mud in his eyes didn’t already compel him to do that – and his eyesight is restored.

A little dirt, a little spit, the actions of Jesus towards this man and his transformation has begun. He has begun his movement from darkness to light.

What does Jesus have to do to get our attention?

Lent has been full of stories of coming to an understanding… of eyes being opened… movements from darkness to light.

Jesus in the wilderness – his own eyes having been opened at baptism, it is now the Tempter’s turn to recognize God incarnate.

Nicodemus in the dark – taking just about the entire time of Jesus’ ministry to walk fully into the light, from examiner to disciple.

The woman at the well – blazing, noonday sun and social mores aside she drinks in the word of truth sitting beside her and sets off to quench the thirst of others.

And now the man born in blindness… he doesn’t confront Jesus. He doesn’t ask to be healed. He is merely spotted along the roadway, living his existence as he has since the day he had been born. Potentially flinching as he once again heard the accusation against him and his family – sinners. Once healed he doesn’t exactly shout out the Good News:

“How did this happen?”

“Some guy named Jesus did it.”

“Where is he now?”

“I dunno.”

But next he calls him a prophet and finally, by the end of what must have seemed like a ridiculously long day, the truth becomes clear.

Do you believe in the Son of Man?

Lord, I believe.

What does Jesus have to do to get our attention?

I love theologian Jack Shea's poetic imagination on this passage, Listen to his retell of the story:

Another time
Jesus smeared God like mud
on the eyes of a man born blind
and pushed him toward the pool of Siloam.
The blind man splashed his eyes
and stared into the rippling reflection
of the face he had only felt.
First he did a handstand, then a cartwheel,
and rounded off his joy
with a series of somersaults.
He ran to his neighbors,
singing the news.
They said,
"You look like the blind beggar
but we cannot be sure."

The problem was never
that he was blind
and could not look out
but that they could see
and did not look in.

"I am the one, the seeing blind!"
They seized him in mid cartwheel
and dragged him to the authorities.
"What do you think
of the man who made the mud?"
But the man born blind
was staring at a green vase.
His mouth was open slightly
as if he was being fed by its color.
"He is a sinner," said the priest
who knew what pleased God's eyes.
"Can one who lights candles in the eyes of the night
not have the fire of God in his hands?"
said the man fondling the green vase.
The priests murmured
and sent for his parents
who looked their son
straight in his new eyes
and said,
"Looks like our son.
But he is old enough
to speak for himself."
Off the hook they hurried home.
"All I know," said the man
with the green vase tucked under his robe,
"is that I was blind
and now I see."
But with his new eyes
came a turbulence in his soul
as if the man who calmed one sea
turned another to storm.

So before those who locked knowledge in a small room
and kept the key on a string around their neck
he launched into a theology of sin and salvation.
It was then
that the full horror of the miracle
visited the priests.
"You, steeped in sin, lecture us!"
They tore him from the podium
and threw him into the street
where a man was rubbing mud from his hands.

"How did it go?"
"I talked back."
The man with the new eyes
took in every laughing line
on the face of the Son
who was as happy as a free man
dancing on the far side of the Red Sea.[i]

He once was blind and now can see…

What does Jesus have to do to get our attention?

Those who proclaimed they could see are shown to be more blind than he ever was.

And worse, so much worse… they think they are in the light. They think they can see.

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says:
‘Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
(Ephesians 5:8-14)

This is what happened to the blind man. He had been sleeping. He had been in darkness and slowly we watch and listen as he moves towards the shining light of the truth of Christ.

He once was blind and now can see…

What does Jesus have to do to get our attention?

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Charge: When I was in Youth Ministry and was asked to do speaking engagements I would always warn those who were organizing the event that I didn’t have The Story.

“What story?”

“You know, the story that stuns everyone and has them all thankful that God has saved a wretch like me.”

I was brought up with faith, I stayed with faith, I made faith my own, I now proclaim faith to others. If I was never lost, how can I be found? It’s a very boring story.

I never was blind, I could always see.

Some of you are nodding in agreement. “Yes, yes we have always been able to see.”

Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see and those who do see may become blind.”

What does Jesus have to do to get our attention?



[i] John Shea. Stories of Faith. Chicago, Illinois: The Thomas More Press, 1980. Pages 193-194.