I found myself carrying my phone around and checking it for the time (isn’t that a statement of our times!?)… I found myself curious about where we were in time, how much longer.
And yes, that was on All Saints’ Sunday.
As people of faith, we mark time.
We live in a liturgical year. Seasons are marked by liturgical events. Some correspond with Calendar dates, some correspond with the Lunar Calendar (Ah, Easter/Passover). Biblically time is marked by 40’s (days for Jesus in the wilderness and Noah on the ark, and 40 years in the wilderness for Moses). We can think of the 7 days of creation and even the number 12. We mark the three days after Good Friday, the 50 days after Easter, the four weeks of advent, the 12 days of Christmas.
We are constantly marking time. Last week in particular my time was marked as a bible study that started the first week we closed the church completed a 31 chapter book. One week at a time, we marked our weeks with a small gathering to talk about the message of hope even in trying times.
We are marking time differently in these pandemic days, perhaps no one other than Dr Fauci knew we were going to be counting time like this for so long.
With hope and lament we realize the differences from now and March.
We recognize with sadness that we cannot do everything that we might want to do and when we might want to do it.
Reflecting back in our bible study, we realized we have had some rough times. We have lost members of our community and we have also had new beginnings, births, weddings, baptisms. New little Joys that we savor and treasure.
We know that we are never alone.
As we enter the month of November we journey towards an American holiday of Thanksgiving and our culture emphasizes gratitude.
We are also living in an election season. A time of waiting and process and potential dispute.
The Days are shorter and the nights longer here in the Northern hemisphere, it’s easy to only see the darkness.
In the christian faith tradition, we light candles as we prepare for Christmas. Our Jewish brothers and sisters light candles for Chanukah, celebrating triumph in trying times. In the season of Advent we hear a lot about light shining in the darkness, reminding us we are never alone we are never without help.
In this season, remember to reach out. You are never alone. We are here for each day each other.
Update on my watch: My watch needed to be turned off and rebooted and re-sync-ed with my phone. I had to manually shut it down and then wait while it reacquainted itself with my Phone. It took time, patience and letting go- the re-syncing takes time to do it right.
Where can you see the seasons right now?
Where can you see the need for light in our anxiety?
Where can you re-sync yourself? Re-Boot? Re-connect?
You are not alone, you are enough, you are connected. Remember to take time to let that “sync” in.
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Thy Kingdom Come.
Each week we say those words in the Lord’s Prayer. If we are not careful, we can say them quickly and miss spending time reflecting on them.
What do we mean by thy Kingdom here on earth as it is on heaven?
What on earth is a kingdom and I mean that literally- here on earth we have kingdoms, the closest geographically of which is England. Kingdoms are ruled by a monarch, a king or queen. Queen Elizabeth, at age 95, has ruled now for 69 years (70 in February!)- her reign has evolved over the years as she has aged, as the country has changed, as England has gone from wartime to more peaceful times. She, as queen, is head of both Church and State. The defender of the faith and also has a “focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognizes success and excellence; and supports the ideal of voluntary service.”
Queen Elizabeth is an example of a faithful, enduring leader- who has had her own challenges in leadership through the years and yet endured. She is queen due to the family she was born into, though it’s her actions that have earned the respect of her country.
Today is Christ the King Sunday. This Sunday is the final Sunday of the Church year. Next week we begin the church’s new year with the season of Advent. As we conclude this year’s cycle of readings we conclude with a reminder of who Jesus is. Jesus is human and divine, he is the Christ, the King. As we turn the corner and prepare for the birth of Jesus, we pause to reflect on what that birth means for the kingdom of God.
In scripture, we have heard of Kings well before Jesus. There are two whole books in the Old Testament to tell us their stories. The people of Israel had prophets and they wanted a king. They wanted an earthly king. Their craving was for something more than heavenly God as king. The people wanted a king on earth, the kingdom of God brought near. God is and was their King and they wanted more, they wanted an earthly king. Despite God’s warnings about Kings, and the limitations of their reign, God gave the people Saul, David and Solomon.
Kings continued to rule over the Jews, some faithfully, some less faithfully. We come to Jesus, and we all know about the king at the time of his birth King Herod, the King of the Jews. We know that King Herod’s rule had less to do with the safety and well-being of the Jews and more to do with exploitation of wealth and preservation of power.
Today we hear about Jesus’ audience in front of Pilate.
Jesus, on earth, is accused of being King.
Jesus, as King.
He is not the warrior king like David- leading the people into physical battle.
Jesus is not poet and lavish king that Solomon was creating the temple.
Jesus bore witness to being king in being present and seeing others for who they are.
He redirected people from abstract questions to kingdom living in the here and now.
So then, how does one live in God’s kingdom?
All you have to do is look at Jesus’ life.
Jesus saw each person he encountered.
Jesus stopped and listened.
Jesus equipped people with knowledge and skills and sent the disciples out.
Jesus listened, taught, explained, AND repeated this pattern over and over again.
Jesus loved with his whole heart, you saw his tears when his friend Lazarus died, his joy in each person’s life whose life was amended.
Jesus redirected those who thought they were completed with their work here on earth and focused them on the heavenly kingdom.
Because, really in the word Kingdom, the emphasis is not only on KING but on KIN.
Jesus, here on earth, reminded us that we are all children of God.
Each person worthy of respect, dignity and mercy.
God came near in the person of Jesus to show us the way, to show us how to love, care, have compassion and what kinship looks like.
Christ, as King, has created a rule of relationship and invitation.
Collaboration and community rather than competition.
Empowerment rather than entitlement by birth.
Seeking to have each person and be faithful to the end.
Jesus lives that example for us, his entire life bearing witness to such love and compassion that even standing before Pilate he is calm and centered. Jesus lets his life bear witness to what a king should look like.
Kingship, for God, is willing to suffer for the greater good.
Jesus shows his might through his humble birth and death, glorifying God to the end.
Kinship means that we each recognize the citizenship that we have, is as children of God. Every one of us.
In praying thy kingdom come, we recognize that we are all striving towards God’s kingdom of justice and compassion.
Kinship means that Jesus as God came near to us, to be with us, to show us the way to love and to care for one another and to give us the ultimate example of how a king should lead.
Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven focuses our eyes on the eternal and not the temporary struggles. We learn to not lose hope with injustice but to keep striving for change.
God brought heaven to earth through the life, death and resurrection of his son.
God came near to us, embraced us and continues to reach out to us in this world of earthly kingships, entitlement and exploitation of power and wealth.
Here at St. John’s we just concluded our St. John’s Market and talk about kingdom of God here on earth. So many people, so many treasures, so many voices, talents, joy. So much work and also energy. Your faces, laughter, and conversation along with those we have never met before, those who came to seek, discover and felt welcomed through the doors.
The Kingdom of God come together for a greater purpose, beyond just self, welcoming people in…… exhausting and yet exhilarating.
So much gratitude. It’s been 2 years since we have been able to gather in this way and the gift of being able to resume such an endeavor of the community.
What I love about St. John’s Market is that not only can you find the perfect gift for your unique uncle, you can also be fed with cakes and great conversation. The market not only raises money for great causes, it also donates to the International Rescue Committee for those refugees resettling in our community who are in need of simple household items as they begin anew right here in Tallahassee.
Our friends from Temple Israel join us every year right as we are closing down to help reset Alfriend Hall for parish ministry. (look for the sign ups to assist with the Jewish Food Festival in the spring!) Coming together from all different directions, assisting one another and building up the kingdom.
We are going into Thanksgiving week. We will see family, some for the first time in 2 years. The table we will gather around will be different because we all are different from the last time we gathered for Thanksgiving. Take a moment and realize that together.
These past 18 months have been hard. We have endured a pandemic, an election during a pandemic, a country that is in need of racial healing from years of systemic injustice, and uncertainty still abounds.
And yet as we conclude this church liturgical year, we are reminded of the example of kingly leadership that continues to invite each person to the table, love through the difficult conversations, and continue to be the ultimate example of gratitude and thanksgiving. We are reminded of Christ the King’s love that endures more than 70 years, more than 70×70 years, a love that embodied through Jesus gives us common ground to stand upon and be family together.
This week, pause and see the kingdom, the KINdom of God come near and the blessings that are in our midst as we strive to follow the example of Christ our King, one day at a time, one prayer at a time, one loving action at a time.
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith, whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lath, be there at our labors and give us we pray, your strength in our hearts, Lord at the noon of the day.
Think of your favorite Super Hero.
Who comes to mind?
A loved one?
Someone who was strong, courageous, convicted, weathered all time?
Someone who loved you and sheltered you or others?
Many of you might already know that I love Super Hero movies. I was not a comic book fan, but I am a sucker for a big action movie on the big screen (Covid has been hard!)- I love the retelling of the iconic super heroes and learning about new heroes that those who love comic books have always known about.
Recently we had Wonder Woman reinvented and re-visioned. (Though, Linda Carter, you stole our hearts in the 70’s) In this new legend story, Wonder woman struggled with her own identity and claiming her own powers. She also struggles to understand mere mortals and she had to be convinced that even while there is much brokenness in this world, hope wins out.
In the final battle of the 2017 Wonder woman movie, with Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman triumphs in the end because of her deep hope for humanity and this transformation gives her the strength the push the super evil villian back. She has a moment when she comes to the brink and is almost consumed by despair but in a surge of strength she realizes that even one little ounce of hope is bigger and more powerful than all of the evil in the world. It’s quite a movie ending which, in turn, is a new beginning for humanity.
Perhaps our desire and glamorization of super heroes is that they embody hope when we can only see despair, they show us the way, the light, the path when everyone else is saying “it’s too much, just give up.”
Instead, those superheroes are all in for those who are the weakest, those who aren’t even their people. Super heroes are ALL in emptying themselves out for saving the world.
Today’s Old Testament reading speaks about some of my favorite super heroes of the bible. Yes, we hear of David and his slingshot defying Goliath,
Yes we hear of Moses and dividing the red sea…. But ya’ll……
Remember Shiphrah and Puah? These midwives kept delivering the Israelites babies when the Pharoah said to kill them all.
Remember Esther, who risked her life for the protection of the lives her people?
Today we hear Hannah’s song, but before that passage in 1 Samuel, we hear of her prayerfulness, her devotion to God. In her pain and isolation of not being able to have a child, rather than growing distanced from God, Hannah grew closer to God. (She is a bit like Job in his trials.)
Hannah, like Job, refuses to abandon her hope in who God is and neither does she desert God in her own pain. The message here is not that if you pray hard enough your loneliness, isolation, barrenness will depart. The message from Hannah’s life is that in your prayers, your pain is heard, your hope is renewed , God will not abandon you and you will bear fruit.
Hannah’s hope wins out, her hope in a God who always draws near, who always leans into the pain with us, is there with her.
Emptying herself out in prayer and faithfulness gave her the song we receive today.
Hannah’s expression of hope is the one that ripples through scripture, of a God who sees triumph and victory in wholeheartedness, in drawing close and transforming each of us to see that the very now is not the forever after.
This sort of hope continues through Scripture- when you hear of Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke. Elizabeth’s story is similar to Hannah’s and so is her song.
Then of course, with Mary, the mother of Jesus, we hear of one more song. A song filled with her own sense of hope and God’s faithfulness, god’s nearness and god’s power to change the world of brokenness through the unexpected.
As we follow Mary, we find ourselves walking with Jesus. We walk the roads of Galilee, the highways to Jericho and Jerusalem, we sit for a while under the trees and see healings, we hear new teachings that refresh and change our understanding of the old laws of the Old Testament and we hear Jesus giving hope in the world of the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire, of the culture wars between Samaritans and Jews, of the inclusion of all women and men who have ears to hear.
Here we find ourselves with today’s Gospel- words that taken out of context sound NOT very hopeful. “when you hear of wars, of nations rising against nations, of kingdoms against kingdoms, of earthquakes and famines- this is just the beginning of the birth pangs”
When these things are occurring, Jesus says, birthing pains are occurring.
Birth Pangs, commonly known these days as contractions, signal that new life is coming, not ending.
If you have ever seen a child being born or merely watched Call the Midwife – that birthing pain means things are about to change drastically- a new beginning is on the way- there is hope.
No kingdom, famine, war, earthquake can destroy that hope you see in a new child. No, at the moment of birth, you see pure love, hope, and joy. This love can bring your through the challenges.
Jesus was speaking to the disciples to remind those around him and US, that even in our darkest moments, God is doing something new. Drawing near and new beginnings are occurring.
The civil rights lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson says, “Hope is our superpower”- it truly is. We do not need a fancy uniform or a spider to bite us to give us some crazy superhuman power.
Think back to your super heroes and why they stand out to you. It comes back to a crazy, unquenchable, hope, doesn’t it?
This past week we remembered our Veterans on November 11th, we remembered them not to glorify war and celebrate victories, rather we remember those whom we sent on our behalf to fight- who were young, who were trusting, who can often not speak of their experience. These same people whose isolation and despair at actions often haunt(ed) them the rest of their lives.
We remember our veterans because we offer to God all of their experiences and our hope is to live in a world where such wars and death will never have to happen again.
Hope is our super power.
Hope is what Jesus is reminding the disciples of in this passage, that Jesus would draw close and offer his whole self for the world, emptying himself out on behalf of others, FOR others- all in.
We too, should be all in.
We will have moments where the earthquakes in our life will shake our faith, the isolation, despair and division will seem to be winning….and yet we have hope.
We see, through our own heroes, examples of faithfulness through adversity.
We are reminded of our biblical and earthly mothers and fathers who endured, drew close and fanned the faith of hope grounded on the love of a God who drew close to us and gave us all that God had.
Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
What must I do to get eternal life?
Can you arrange it so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory?
I want to see
The past three weeks’ gospels have centered around individuals asking Jesus questions.
Asking questions is what you would do with a Rabbi. Ask so that you might learn.
The first man, unnamed, comes up to Jesus in the street.
The second question comes from James and John as the disciples are walking along with Jesus.
The third question comes today, from Bartimaeus, the man who is blind, sitting on the side of the road and surviving only by the generosity of others.
The first questions seeks the life to come and what must I do to possess such a thing.
The second also seeks eternal life and prestige alongside of that desire.
The third asks for the now, the immediate, the nearness of God in his life.
All three reflect our curiosity, our own desire, our hearts.
All three reflect Jesus’ love for each person who encounters him and in each case Jesus looks at the individual(s) who ask the question of him and loves them, right where they are.
All three questions are answered directly, truthfully, honestly, with transforming love.
The young man goes home saddened and at the same time understanding that he too must be engaged in the work. Life as a disciple is much more than rule following, life as a follower of Jesus is following with the heart, mind and soul.
James and John are perplexed misunderstanding relationship status and mistaking status with the ease of suffering. They misunderstand the connection of following Jesus. Rather than letting you skate through and be relieved of suffering, following Jesus, the cup that he shares with you WILL give you strength and courage FOR the suffering and adversity that will occur.
Following means that you will never be alone in this life.
Bartimaeus, reaches towards Jesus and engages with Jesus. His question leaves his life transformed with Jesus. His question declares Jesus is the messiah publicly and unabashedly. He drops his cloak and runs to engage Jesus.
While Bartimaeus asks something of Jesus, his question is different than the disciples and the young man two stories before because Bartimaeus leaves everything behind to engage with Jesus. Bartimaeus’ joy is in encountering Jesus and he has an openness to receive right there, right then.
He leaves his cloak behind.
Unlike the young man who arrives with a multitude of possessions, Bartimaeus has only a cloak on which he would have both kept warm at night and also collected alms from those who passed by. He left this sole possession behind in his haste and desire to encounter Jesus.
I love to think about where else has clothing been important or cast off?
Remember Adam and Eve? They took on clothing to cover themselves from the God who created them and their innermost parts.
Rahab is known for her red clothing and gives shelter to Joshua’s spies, her red cord in the window saves her household.
Remember all the well-dressed Pharisees in fine robes whom Jesus talks so disparagingly about?
Remember John the Baptist and his lack of décor, his wild hair and sporting hair shirts of camel’s hair.
We will hear, later in the gospel, of the disciple who runs into the night from the Garden of Gethsemane leaving his clothing behind, leaving all behind in his fear.
Of the soldiers casting lots for the final garment that Jesus will wear on the cross
And remember the linens in the tomb, cast aside. Left behind.
Clothing has covered our shame and, also when left behind, sets us free.
Now, I am not advocating a nudist colony.
I am left wondering what we hold close that covers our fears, our shame, our hidden insecurities.
What things we too might need to jump up from and leave behind unabashedly.
Like the young man, is it the things we own?
Like James and John, are we clinging to what is beyond us rather than living in the now?
How can we live with trust and respond to nvitation like Bartimaeus.
What are the things that should jump up from and let go of?
What do we leave behind as we are transformed by the call and discipleship that Jesus invites us into.
How in your own life have you seen things creep back in as the world has picked up pace?
Is your plate overflowing again? How are you making space to leave the cloak of anxiety, stress and angst behind and spend time with God?
Where might you be able to hear God meeting you right where you are and loving you right there?
What might you need to let go of?
This interim time at St. John’s is not just a waiting time for the next rector, this time is time for us as a parish to breath in deeply and keep growing, giving, being the faithful disciples who respond to God and say “Jesus, you are the Messiah”- we, too, should ask the questions of fear and also with curiosity in each ministry that we are actively participating.
What should we leave behind and what should we choose to clothe ourselves in?
In the book of Colossians there is a passage (one of my favorites for weddings) “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” What does it look like if our actions show these attributes, how does that form us to care for each other and our relationship with God?
And then there is Paul’s writing about the armor of God in Ephesians. Paul spoke strongly about the baptismal identity of being a follower of Jesus. We are to be in community together and keep connecting, stand firm in the knowledge that each is loved for who they are.
And each day we put on our clothes, one sock and shoe at a time.
It should be the same with our prayers, one moment at a time.
And with our actions, each with love and compassion at a time.
We should always be stretching towards God and growing towards being with each other and acknowledging God in our midst.
Bartimaeus’s restoration of sight is the last story before Jesus arrives in Jerusalem.
Mark’s gospel continues with Jesus’s arriving on a donkey and processing to the cheers of Hosanna, the story of Bartimaeus invites us to summarize all of the beginning of Mark’s gospel – and to see clearly that Jesus’ life was lived to call us into relationship with him. Restored fully to wholeness and to the community.
How do we hear and respond to the call of Jesus?
What do we leave behind, how do we engage, and how, too, will we be transformed?
Bartimeaus responds without hesitation and his life is transformed.
What cloak are you willing to leave behind in your own faith journey?
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Do you remember the song “let’s give them something to talk about?!”
It was Bonnie Raitt’s hit in 1991. While Bonnie Raitt was performing since the 70’s, this song made her a household name.
The chorus is quite catchy, “let’s give them something to talk about,….. And what is it they are to talk about?
The song is all about small time gossip and, well, by the end the singer resolves, why don’t we give them something to talk about! Have them talk about Love.
Let’s give them something to talk about.
By chapter 10 of the gospel of Mark, people have been talking about Jesus.
Talking about how he has been healing people, about how he has been teaching, about how he has been speaking, about WHO he has been calling to be disciples.
The small time gossips are working over time about all the things he has been doing and here come the Pharisees today.
Let’s give them something to talk about.
The Pharisees come to test Jesus. They ask, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce a man’s wife?” They are not there because one of them is in need of marital advice. They are not there because their family is struggling in a marriage.
The Pharisees are asking the question this day to have something to talk about.
To talk about how this rabbi from Galilee might speak about King Herod. Remember, King Herod is married to his brother’s wife. His brother who divorced his wife and that same wife has married the King. Remember John the Baptist spoke against this and was jailed and eventually beheaded for speaking in opposition to this marriage. The Pharisees come ready to find out from Jesus where exactly he stands in his political relationship with the King.
And Jesus says to the Pharisees, who knew their law, “What did Moses command you?
And the Pharisees do not reply with what Moses commanded but what Moses allowed.
They quote Deuteronomy.
And Jesus reminds them of Genesis.
The Pharisees remind Jesus of the ten commandments.
Jesus reminds them of the Garden of Eden and God’s perfect creation.
Jesus meets them exactly where they are and invites them to reach toward the divine while being perfectly imperfect humans.
Jesus’ answer to the inquiring Pharisees is to talk about love.
Jesus speaks of the love that we should always be striving for. In creation God created us to be in relationship. We are to be in relationship with God, with creation, with one another.
We fall short.
And Jesus gives them something to talk about in continuing, reaching out and reconciling rather than dismissing and diminishing.
Love to Jesus is much more than Gossip, it is relationship that believes in transformation, in new beginnings, in opportunity to begin again.
The Pharisees were not talking about love and not even marriage and divorce.
They tested Jesus to see which side of the political divide he would take.
And Jesus says to them “let’s talk about love.”
This love that Jesus speaks of invites the adulterer into the circle of the community.
Invites the woman at the well, married 5 times, to become an evangelist in her community to talk about living water and love that is more than humanity can even grasp.
Jesus in his love for humanity invites Matthew, the tax collector to be a part of the twelve closest friends with Jesus.
The love Jesus lives and breathes invites, initiates and sees opportunity where humanity sees the terminus of a journey. And each of us is invited to join in. Jesus says, let’s give them something to talk about. “See this child- this is what it looks like to enter the kingdom of God” Love is embodied in each person, the smallest, the weakest, love is in each individual with eyes and arms and hearts wide open.
Let’s give them something to talk about- Talk about Love.
Love that stopped in his tracts to talk those who asked a question
Love that met the person who needed healing or sought healing on behalf of another.
Love that wept at the loss of a friend.
Love that prayed, cried, ate, and was with the people for 33 years.
Love that ultimately opened its arms for us on the cross, willing to embrace us all and let go of own self for our own selves.
This past week I was able to attend the Alumni Lectures for the school of theology, up at my alma mater, Sewanee. We heard from Bishop Jennifer Baskerville Burrows, Bishop Phoebe Roaf, and Bishop Eugene Sutton (the bishops of Indianapolis, West Tennessee, and Maryland)- each spoke to those gathered about what love looks like in the work of Racial Reconciliation in the Episcopal Church. How each of their dioceses have leaned into love to listen to each other, to be in relationship with each other, to be curious, and interrogate reality.
I found myself talking to my classmates about the things going on here from our work with Capital Area Justice Ministry which has commited to these three principles of listening/curiosity/and interrogation to sharing the weekly offerings that we have Sundays through Saturdays. From the Faith at 5:30 service, the delicious meals of the lively café, the offerings of the new “Front Porch” to our pastoral care shepherds.
There is plenty to talk about here at St. John’s and it all begins and ends with Love.
Today we will commission our rector search committee, who have already been hard at work, as you know. Continue to keep them in your prayers. Their job is to tell the story of St. John’s and the love of Jesus that resides within and outside of our walls as we search for a New Rector.
And we have so much to talk about and to do.
Talk about love, love, love.
At a wedding service, we begin with the words, “Dearly Beloved we are gathered here together today”- Each time we do this, I am reminded that we are gathered because we are loved and because we love the ones who are gathered together. We commit to praying for all those gathered there, much like we do each time we gathered here.
And we are reminded in each service that we are to be listening and (talking) responding in love, just as Jesus set the example for us in his life and death here among us.
We are humans, perfectly imperfect.
We are to always be striving for the divine, even as we fall short.
Because, as Jesus says today- God has created us for relationship with one another- grounded in love, always grounded in love, and always ready to be transformed by love.
O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
An anniversary is a time where we pause and reflect.
And each anniversary is different.
With Wedding anniversaries, we celebrate the day, the marriage, the children and the legacy. Some anniversaries are harder. When marriages end in divorce these anniversaries are transformed.
When we remember a loved one who has died, these anniversaries are full of our hearts heavy with emotions.
This past week and weekend, as we remembered the 20th anniversary of September 11th, the news was full of stories of families, loved ones, those who have died, those who have survived that day. There is joy for those who survived and there is deep heart wrenching pain for those lives that were lost.
On the September 12th of 2001, St. Paul’s Chapel transformed from a historic little chapel used for services as an annex for Trinity Wall Street to the main space of sanctuary for those who were doing the rescue work in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Remarked as the “Little Chapel that stood” this little space had no structural damage despite the proximity to the World Trade Center. The only change visible was a fine layer of dust covering the pews because a window had been left cracked the night before.
And on 9/12 the chapel opened as a space for compassion and hope. The sanctuary became a space for those who needed rest, prayer, nourishment of mind, body and soul. Letters streamed in from all over the globe and you have seen the photos of firefighters sleeping in the pews, sleeping in the pews because they lived so far from the site that they could not get home and return in time for the next shift- St. Paul’s Chapel gave the tired, the weary, the exhausted a space to rest. The Volunteers serving in the chapel lived each day into the true meaning of compassion, to hold the suffering and fatigue of those doing recovery work and be present with them.
If 9/11 was destruction, 9/12 was a crossroads.
What would we do, as a nation, as a city, as a family, as the church.
St. Paul’s Chapel chose to fling wide the doors and meet people exactly where they were. Opening to each person for 24hours a day for prayer, meals, rest, and care. The focus was less upon who was whom and instead focused upon the brokenness that needed repair. Words of Comfort, Words unspoken through hugs, compassion needed and received. All gathered there were walking towards the pain so that healing could begin.
In today’s gospel we are at again at a crossroad. Jesus and his disciples have gone as far north as Jesus will go in the gospel of Mark. We are very much outside of cozy hometown Galilee, we are in Gentile country. Here, in Caesarea Philippi (named for the King who claimed he was the son of God) is where Jesus asks that question. The question that all three synoptics ask. Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do they say that I am.”
It’s a survey question- what are people saying about me?
What’s the feedback? Tell me.
And they do, they answer the survey question with the things their friends and family are saying- you are a prophet, you are John the Baptist, you are Elijah….. so many wonderful things. Each of these references speak to Jesus’ actions calling for realignment with God, his healings, his teachings. These actions are similar to the prophets, to Elijah, to John the Baptist who had gone before him.
And then Jesus gets personal. He asks directly- Who do you say that I am?
And I can imagine the silence.
The silence of thinking.
Perhaps the disciples needed to journal a bit and think about it.
Perhaps they were afraid of being wrong
Perhaps they agreed with what others were saying and weren’t sure of another answer.
Peter valiantly says, “YOU are the messiah”- the anointed one.
The one we have heard all about…….
Great job peter……. Gold Star!
And then Jesus points out the cross road…..
They will literally begin their turning point here in the gospel. The group will turn back towards the south and the rest of the Gospel will be facing and journeying towards Jerusalem. We know what happens in Jerusalem, the disciples, remember do not fully understand.
The disciples know a Messiah was to come to be militant and fight, rebuild the temple, battle for the poor, attack the oppressors.
Jesus tells the disciples and Peter, as the messiah his fight for the poor will be through compassion. Literally suffering on their behalf, the anointed one will fight in a way that will bind up the brokenness with a love that demands justice and transforms the world with a love that is self-sacrificing and unconquerable.
And at this cross road, Peter chooses to boldy caution Jesus. I can imagine that Peter figured he did so well with that first answer he might have some more wisdom within him. Peter is trying to fit Jesus into his own definition and Jesus meets him where he is and continues to transform his path.
Jesus is clear. SO clear.
Get Behind me Satan, OUCH.
Jesus says the messiah is willing to walk towards the suffering, not seeking it, but walking towards it to transform the world and the modern understanding of how to move forward, how to bring about community, how to create healing in a world that is so full of pain.
Jesus says to come and eat, seek and ye shall find, sit a while here with me and lean on me. Listen to me, I will give you rest, I will give you living water, I will give you what you need for transformation.
Jesus never claims that the path is easy.
In fact, he speaks over and over again about the suffering and challenges a life of following will look like.
He also leads us through the path together.
To see a third way, a new way.
We are in the midst of crossroads in our lives.
As we remember anniversaries.
How will we react in our pain, our loss, our brokenness? How are we transformed?
As we are in the midst of change,
How will we see open doors and new beginnings at the same time of closing chapters?
How will we walk towards suffering with compassion, knowing that this is what Jesus has shown us as he turned his face towards Jerusalem and transformed what a Messiah would look like?
We are at a crossroad each day that we are given.
It is a time to meditate, reflect and then ACT.
And at that crossroad we are invited to lean in and follow the path for justice and healing.
Mary Oliver in her poem, “What I have learned so far” put it like this: “The gospel of
Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of host, to me!
My thirsty soul desires and longs within thy courts to be
My very heart and flesh cry out, O living God, for thee.
Do you remember the children’s book “My nest is best”- where Mr. and Mrs. Bird argue about where home should be. Mr. Bird begins in their bird house with “this nest is best” BUT Mrs. bird disagrees and so, dutifully Mr. Bird flies with Mrs. Bird on the search for a new nest. After several attempts, Mrs. Bird ends up back in their original nest and says, “she has changed her mind- this nest is best” and they settle into their original nest where they hatch a new baby bird.
You might be wondering why on earth I am sharing this children’s story now and not during the children’s homily and the reason is this: Let’s be honest, We are all on a search for home aren’t we?
As a people of faith we are searching for a place to belong, a place to “center down” and be still and know that God is here, a place where we can in turn go out and serve from and then continue to grow as children, young adults, or adults- whatever stage you are.
I think this story resonated with me because growing up in the military our “nest” kept changing every 2-3 years. Our house would look different, our friends would change, and so would our context. We learned about how to pick apples in apple season when we lived in Washington State and we learned all about how NOT to touch Cactus in Arizona. I learned German in Berlin, Germany and a southern accent in Georgia.
And while we never lived in the same house twice, we realized that we had a nest as a family, beginning fresh in each space, learning and growing in each new location and finding where we belonged. The physical structures would change but God’s presence with us never did.
The people of God in the bible are always searching for their home. To be honest, ever since the garden of Eden, humanity has been seeking how to belong. The Israelites are not at home in Egypt nor are they at home in the wilderness either and yet God is there present with them.
God’s people are a people on the move and God is there present with them. The Ark of the Covenant is created to carry the 10 commandments WITH the Israelites. A container to hold the holiest of holies and allow these words to travel with the people as they continued their journey. King Solomon built the Temple to house these tablets but the presence of God cannot be contained by a building, the presence of God is right there within you, always.
We are reminded in today’s gospel reading that the disciples leave their homes to follow Jesus and continue in this sort of itinerate ministry following Jesus’ command to “Go forth and make disciples of all nations”- home is where the heart is and the heart of Jesus calls us not to be sedentary but to go out into the neighborhood, the messiness of life. To be on the move, just like Jesus.
When we participate in the Eucharist, eating the body and blood of Jesus, we abide in Christ. We are connected with God and are at home with God. Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus says we are to abide in him, be at home with God through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The disciples say to Jesus today “This teaching is hard.”
And Jesus says, “It is hard AND it is the truth.” And Jesus believed they could do hard things.
God believes we can all do hard things.
And boy, is our world full of hard things right now.
We have seen the photos and videos of the desperation of people in Afghanistan.
We have seen the thousands who have died and those without homes because of the earthquake in Haiti.
Our sisters and brothers in Cuba do not have access to vaccines, medicines, and even food is scarce in their small villages.
And we are seeing numbers of COVID cases and deaths rise in our community.
And yet, like the wandering Israelites, like the disciples who complained to Jesus, God is constant to us and here with us, even in these difficult times.
While homes may change, still abiding in our hearts is the courage and the wisdom of a God who does not abandon us. A god who calls us to care for our brothers and sisters here in Tallahassee and beyond. A god who compels us to speak hard truth and advocate for those who need care.
Jesus asks the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away” referring to those who stopped following him, and Peter replies, “Where else would we go!?”
As disciples, they have left everything and at the same time they have gained everything too. In leaving behind their old lives, they have opened their hearts to a deeper path, a path that was one day at a time and one teaching at a time. Peter knows that he belonged in the twelve, in the group following Jesus and it was there he wanted to learn more, to grow in this knowledge of who God is through Jesus.
Even if ministry was hard,
even if this life redefined home.
You have the words of eternal life, Peter says.
I want to know more.
I want to follow you.
We know that Peter gets it right and gets it wrong, too. We know Peter, like the Israelites questions what is best. And Jesus teaches again what it means to be a follower.
A life of discipleships means compassion, suffering with those we love.
A life of discipleship means learning more and continuing to grow in the knowledge and love of God.
A life of discipleship means acknowledging that we are in this together, walking one step at a time on a pilgrimage of faith.
Psalm 84 and our Sequence hymn sing: “How lovely is your dwelling place.”
Remember, Jesus was born in a stable, lived in a tiny town his whole childhood, traveled to people’s homes and stayed there a while as an adult- no house of his own. It doesn’t matter the “where” that dwelling place is- Peter says, “what matters is the who is with you.”
Our thirsty souls and flesh cry out for the living God. And will only be satiated when we realize that, as Jesus in the gospel of John says, “Abide in me and I will abide in you.”
We carry our home with us, because there in our heart God already resides, ever present, ever ready to give us the courage and wisdom to battle our fears and compel us into the messiness of life.
Wherever you are on your spiritual journey- you are already home because God dwells in you before you even realize it.
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O bread of life from heaven, O food to pilgrims given, O manna from above: feed with the blessed sweetness of your divine completeness the souls that want and need your love.- J.S. Bach
Do you remember 18 months ago when there was a shortage of flour on the grocery store shelves?
People were buying flour because they were at home. More activities were at home which allowed people time to bake. And specifically we saw the rise of the Sourdough starter. The perfect marriage of science project and nutrition for those of you who eat gluten.
Bread is an interesting creation.
Simple ordinary ingredients: Flour, water, yeast and the perhaps butter or milk combined.
Just putting the ingredients together is not sufficient though, you have to force the ingredients to combine- they call the process kneading…. And it’s hard work.
The experts take the dough and on a floured surface roll the dough over and over and over again, transforming the sticky mess into a soft pliable dough.
The dough is then stretched to the form desired and let to rest.
Literally you have to walk away and let go.
On returning you see the gift of letting the dough “do it’s thing” and rise.
Depending on the end product you may have to knead it again, punch it down and let it rise one more time.
And then when it is ready you place it in the oven to cook.
Once baked, it is ready to be consumed.
A loaf of Bread is a labor of love, each loaf unpredictable, yet through the process bread is a unique creation for nourishment.
Bread for the journey.
The bread making process is time consuming,
patience and vision towards the end product.
Secretly, I always rejoice a bit when that first rise happens- proving that I did not accidentally kill the yeast with water that was too hot…. I wait impatiently, I wait expectantly.
When we hear the word “bread” in the church we cannot help but think of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, the breaking of the bread. Together, sharing the table with his beloved friends remembering the exodus from Egypt when God told the people of Israel to eat so quickly that the bread did not have time to rise for the journey towards freedom from oppression.
We remember also the manna God granted the Israelites during their time in the wilderness, no kneading involved with this quick bread, it appeared every morning ready to eat (first MRE?) just enough for the day. The Israelites worked with what they had for that part of their life, I am sure they dreamed of the promised land of milk and honey to add to their bread.
Remember also Abraham and Sarah when the angels visited them, Abraham invites the visitors to sit at the table and share a meal, bread and conversation- nourishment for the stranger.
Remember Elijah and the widow who had just enough for one and God multiplied it for their survival.
We have the miracle of the loaves and fishes feeding more than they possibly should and we are reminded that the disciples are sent out with just enough bread for the journey no more or no less.
And we can’t help but remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They shared a meal with that stranger who, in the breaking of the bread, they realize they are eating with Jesus himself.
Jesus takes the ordinary and reimagines and expands our understanding of what we need to be nourished and to thrive with what we are provided.
The past 18 months have taken the ordinary and reimagined it for us.
We may have felt the process of being made into bread over and over again.
The kneading process punching us down again over and over again.
And yet there have been moments of rising, of flourishing, or new beginnings, awarenesses.
New connections and prayer buddies.
While we have experienced changes that we didn’t expect, we continue to find the manna for each day, knowing the bread of everlasting life is present to us also.
The NZ book of Common prayer begins their evening prayer with this phrase:
“It is but lost labour that we haste to rise up early, and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety. For those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.”
Reflect on your week, where have you seen the bread of anxiety feed your actions?
Did you hold your breath during some of the Olympic events?
Are you anxious about work, about school, about your health, your loved one’s health, your ___ fill in the blank.
Breathe in, breath out.
In each and every instance of scarcity, God has provided.
“Those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.”
I am not saying throw caution to the wind.
I do believe wearing a mask and getting vaccinated (as you are able) are important and vital ways to protect our community.
As a community we can support each other, take steps to give hope to each other.
We are beginning a new school year, we are in the midst of a new search process for a rector with a newly appointed Search Committee.
These are new beginnings that look different than before and St Paul in our reading from Ephesians tells us the ingredients for our community that are essential for us to rise up together as one.
First, Speak truth to our neighbors
This also means listening to each other, we are each the neighbor and the speaker!
Second, Do not let the sun go down on your anger
Do not act in anger but talk to those with whom you have a challenge, grow in relationship with each other learning from wounds.
Third, Speak only that which builds up the community
Consider your words, does judging someone else’s actions help to build up the community? Or how can each person be brought into the conversation together- it takes time and patience.
Fourth, Be Kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another
Listen with the ears of your heart. What are the other person’s words really saying- are they afraid, alone, deeply glad?
Finally, Be imitators of God as beloved Children
We are given the perfect example of love
As Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a sacrifice to God.
Knead it all together.
We need to be all together not just for today but for tomorrow.
When we kneel at the rail we receive the Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. We have a foretaste of what the communion of saints come together is like in its most human and divine form.
We too join that body, united and given strength and courage to go back out into the world to build up community to seek not just the temporary but the long- lasting hope for tomorrow.
Jesus is the bread of life given for the world, for us, Come and eat of this bread and be fed.
Give me neither poverty, nor riches Lord: but bread for today and hope for tomorrow.
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Love goes beyond language
Love interrupt thoughts
And is boundless in her might.
Let love meet you in your hiding place.
Let love meet you in the mystery.
Right here where you are
Not just your tomorrow self.
Oh no, you are loved today.
(Morgan Harper Nichols, “How Far You Have Come” page 107)
Do you remember the tune, “One is the Loneliest number that you’ll ever know?”
A catchy tune that Harry Nielson penned the song: was made famous by the band: Three Dog Night. Believe it or not, Harry Nielson wrote the song inspired by the beep beep beep of the busy signal that Harry listened to while dialing a friend. Reaching out for connection, Harry’s desire was denied by the fact that the other person was talking to someone else (1968 was very much PRE-call waiting OR voicemail). Harry penned the song to the rhythm of the tone. As he sat and listened to the fact that no one was going to respond to him.
It’s simple song with a chorus of “One is the loneliest number that’ll you’ll ever know”— in the late 60’s this chorus struck a chord with many. Feeling alone, isolated, separated. The song was so popular that it topped the charts for three weeks, at number (wait for the comedy here)— #2!
If we are being honest, this song still resonates deeply within us.
One can be the loneliest number.
When you have been separated from those you love, when you find yourself alienated by peers or family, when illness restricts your ability to be present with others.
One can be the loneliest number.
And yet love meets us there and can transform that loneliness.
St Paul this week is writing to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus the booming town with flourishing trade and lots of conversation. Like any place of commerce there was wealth, comfort, AND disparity and division. Paul is writing to the Ephesians to remind them that the true definition of being one is to be no longer lonely, no longer solitary,
Rather, “being one” is defined by coming together to be one as community.
To become one to eliminate division and isolation.
In our reading today St. Paul uses the word ONE 4 times in his reading!
First, be one to bring groups together, breaking down walls.
Second, be one and recreate one humanity, through the God incarnate, in the flesh with us in human form.
Third, Be one and reconcile into one through Jesus’ death on the cross, and expressing his love so expansively for all
Finally, we are one restored daily through the one spirit, when we feel discouraged, alone, left out.
Being one is no longer lonely rather it is unifying and strengthening.
Being one together acknowledges the beloved individuality of each person and brings them together on the common ground of Love.
Community that was divided is brought together, walls broken down, and as one, the community stronger.
And this is hard work- it was for the Ephesians and is for us.
This was the reason baptism was only for adults in the early church, in baptism you are committing to promises of behavior to transform your daily life. We promise to strive to building community and growing in relationship with God and one another.
Building Community is messy, hard, and challenging work.
Building Community is listening deeply to the person with a different opinion or perspective rather than dismissing them.
Becoming One means letting go of our way being the only way and coming together.
Here’s the thing.
God has a knack for transforming our lives in every step and stage.
When being one could be lonely and terrifying, God can make us one: strengthened and unified.
In our Gospel reading you hear Jesus departing for a time away to rest and upon arriving sees that the crowds on the other shore are lost, as though without a shepherd.
Jesus does not run the other way, instead he runs towards them and transforms their space.
In their loneliness, their wanderings, Jesus gave them compassion and teaching, healing, and presence. The crowd became one flock drinking deeply the still waters of peace that Jesus restored to them. He met them where they were and was WITH them.
Yesterday we gathered for the Lynching Memorial Marker Dedication Ceremony and Interfaith Service of Remembrance just a half mile from here at Cascades park. WITH over 200 people, we remembered Piece Taylor, Mick Morris, Richard Hawkins, and Ernest Ponder all murdered without ever having a day in court between the years of 1888-1937. And they are just four of the members of our community who died in this way.
45 different faith communities came together in the form of the Community Remembrance Project to strive to collaborate to looking honestly at our past in this community and how we can move forward to strive for justice for all of God’s children and respecting the dignity of every human being. The work of this collaborative group is to come together not just to mark the past but also to create a better future. Their work does not conclude with the marker dedication, it continues with continued education and work towards seeking building up community.
Similarly, St. John’s continues to work with Capital Area Justice Ministry. This ministry is a collaboration of multi faith, multi-economic, multi-race congregations seeking to build up community for the restoration of humanity, the recreating of community and as Paul says, a dwelling place for God. Ever since Cain was jealous of Abel, we have had work to do to be in community with each other and with God.
In the church, we are constantly coming together as one body.
ON Sundays, like now, together in one space (physically and virtually)
We return to church in those thin spaces of our lives, when we gather for marriage, baptisms, and at funerals.
We gather as one when we need healing, strength and courage.
And we are sent out as one into the world.
Our work is to help convert the “one is the loneliest number” chorus into “We are one in the spirit, we are one in the Lord”- accompanying those who feel weak and grow in the knowledge of the love of God.
Let God meet you right where you are, in whatever that makes you feel like one is the loneliness number and know that we are one right here with you, one with you as a shepherd giving you healing, strength and courage to be loved today and to make a difference today.
To close with the words of Bono from the Band U2, we are:
One love, one blood One life, you got to do what you should One life, with each other Sisters, brothers
One life but we’re not the same We get to carry each other, carry each other One One
O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We give thanks to you, who are the source of Love; whose light shines forth throughout the universe! Come awaken our hearts that we might do your work; For, without you, we can do nothing; ‘tis your Love that loves through us.
(Psalm 107:1-3 from Psalms for Praying by Nan C. Merrill)
Happy Birthday America!
Did ya’ll know that the statue of Liberty arrived in 1885? One of our favorite landmarks actually arrived near our 110th birthday. This year on June 17th She celebrated her 135th birthday, standing tall in New York City’s harbor. With her torch and tablet, she is a beacon on the shoreline. Lady Liberty right there on her pedestal so that she is the first thing you see as you enter the harbor, a beacon of hope and freedom. The gift of this statue actually began on the 100th birthday of this nation. While she stands tall now, did you know that this isn’t the only place that she has stood?
She was fully sculpted and assembled in Paris before she was sent to America.
This meant that in 1885 she was disassembled and – 350 pieces of copper and iron in 214 wooden crates arrived in the New York Harbor AND thankfully they came with a “handy instruction manual.”
Talk about putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. With hammers and nails, soldering irons and a whole lot of dusty workspaces and women men, the task was accomplished by fall of 1886.
This amazing structure was in pieces and sent with love and assembled for an entirely different country to re-assemble and for all to be reminded of the hope and light of change that it was to those across the ocean.
To be reassembled, to be pieced back together.
To be made whole, to be stronger together.
Awaken our hearts that God’s light can be shown through us.
Our country is in a space where there are so many pieces.
So many pieces that have jagged edges and pointing harsh edges.
Beautiful pieces each with their own part of making the larger structure strong and full of hope.
We are in need of some beautiful coming together moving forward to be light for one another and the larger community.
Where are our handy instruction manuals? Some days it seems like a wardrobe from IKEA would be easier to bring together.
Well with King David, God was always the instruction manual.
While God kept telling God’s people you don’t need a king, you have me as king over you, God relented and gave them a King (first Saul and then David)- and David was. HUMAN.
David was full of broken flaws, but God never left David. Sweat tears, mistakes from King David and yet faithfulness continued from God. The northern and southern kingdoms of Israel were united under King David. It took time, some challenges, some failures, but with God’s direction, David was the leader that the people needed.
In our Gospel today, we see division amongst those who knew Jesus as a boy, they had seen him in those in between years where we know so little about and they listened to Jesus and are divided.
The people of his hometown can’t believe that Jesus is claiming such authority. They KNEW him, they changed his diapers, they saw him when he got his first tooth and when he lost his first tooth. They had been WITH him all of his life. Where was this authority coming from? They chose to stay apart rather than come together and follow Jesus.
And Jesus says to his disciples after this experience, “go out into the world and share what you know about me” YOU ARE the equipment, you don’t need much else, YOU are the manual for how others can believe. And if there is rejection, do as I did in Nazareth:
Go to the next town.
Don’t make a big deal just keep doing the work with those who will listen.
And in our gospel you hear these words, “Shake the dust off your feet.”
Now dust is mentioned a lot in the bible J….
Remember God created the heavens and the earths and the dry lands
Remember Adam was created out of the dust.
Remember it’s the dusty dry bones of Ezekiel where God breathes in new life.
Remember it is in the dust of the desert the Jesus is tempted and has angels wait upon him
Remember we are dust and to dust we shall return, we say on Ash Wednesday.
Remember Jesus washed the dust from his disciples feet at the last Supper as the example of the leadership they too were to have.
When Jesus is talking about dust, he says to give those who do not accept you to God.
Do not fear the dust of failure
Do not fear the dust of rejection
And also do not become indifferent, do not become numb, or lose hope.
Remember only the God who breathes new life into old bones and dust itself can also bring resurrection, give new life.
Jesus says, “Let those who do not accept you, -this message, this hope, this joy, this love- leave that rejection to God. God is in charge of giving new life, of changing lives, yours may not be the voice with which God’s love might be heard but this should not silence your voice.”
Continue to strive to speak hope and love and strive even more so to listen.
Remember, Jesus did a lot of walking and talking.
He did not stay in one place.
People who met with him, who walked with him- literally got covered in dust.
Perhaps we should focus less on the dusting off our feet and instead getting so close to Jesus that we are covered in his dust. (Imagery shared with me from a leader from Happening in North Carolina. WOW, right?)
All of the work that we do is covered in God’s thumbprint of the dust of hope, joy, love, freedom from earthly burdens.
Perhaps the handy manual we have for putting our world back together again has been within our hands all along through pausing, listening, recognizing and acting in love for loving our neighbor and ourselves.
This calling is hot and dusty and exactly the work Jesus did for each of us.
We are the instruments, we are the equipment, you don’t need much to do this work but a heart full of love, a willingness to learn and be transformed, and being intentional with all that you do.
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
May your hope be as bright as a flaming light held high long the unknown shores of night
May you never lose the vision of what the years to come could be,
And no matter how dark the sea may look,
You have the courage within to dream (Morgan Harper Nichols How Far You Have Come)
That beautiful prayer is written by Morgan Harper Nichols, which is found within her book “How Far You Have Come”- a beautiful artistic book telling both her journey but also her poetry and words of encouragement. The book narrates her family’s car trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles the summer of 1996.
The journey begins with leaving Atlanta, just as the Olympic torch was arriving to begin the games, the family heads westward.
Car trips never go expected. Her family’s first hiccup was getting out of Atlanta.
Traffic came to a standstill as they were departing…..
in their rush, they were late, leaving later than they had hoped and frustrated and anxious…..
everything came to a full stop on the 75/85 connector…..
to literally watch that tiny flame of the Olympic torch cross over the highway.
While this tiny runner with a small flame delayed their departure, it also gave her family pause to join everyone else around them and gaze wondering together about the hope and the excitement of the Olympic games….
An unexpected pause on their journey. A chance to gaze together at hope, at endurance, at community striving together. To dream.
Do you not care?
Why are you afraid?
Who is this among us?
These three questions meet us head on in our Gospel reading today. In the midst of their perfect planned boat trip at the end of the day, a storm brews up on the disciples.
While storms were common on the sea of Galilee, they were also commonly life threatening. The family of the disciples got in the boat ready to get to their destination. As a storm brewed, all hands were on deck to keep the boat upright, to keep things going and not capsizing, the disciples were focused on not losing nets, people, the material things that are essential.
And Jesus, where is Jesus? Well, he is redefining the term “deep sleeper.”
I can hear the disciples’ exasperation after a long day of keeping up with Jesus’ that can’t he help out with this????
Jesus, Don’t you care about us?
(your inaction make us think you don’t)
Jesus, don’t you care enough to be awake with us until all the work is done?
(If you cared, you would help!)
And Jesus awakes and responds to the heart of the matter, to hear what they were asking, he responds with “Why are you afraid?”
Perhaps it’s the fear of the storm
Perhaps it’s the fear of not getting to the other side of being stuck in the middle
Perhaps it’s the fear of not being included and knowing the rest of the plan for the rest of the journey.
Jesus does care about our deep fears.
Because Jesus Cares Jesus says to the waters, “Peace be still”
The creator says to the created “be calm.”
To us, to creation.
The God we believe in, is among us.
The God we believe in IS in the boat with us.
God the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit is with us in the midst of the storm AND the stillness.
Many of you have started your car trips of the summer, getting those long-awaited vacations in now that the school year has finished.
Now that many are vaccinated, covid restrictions are loosening we are taking adventures YET even in those carefully planned adventures, we find ourselves involuntarily in the midst of storms.
The unpredictable, the change of plans, the delay of plans.
We might set out in our vessels thinking we have all that we materially need safely secured tightly around us and yet we can’t control the weather nor the traffic! (YOU TRY driving through Atlanta at any time!)….
We are awaiting the unknown of the next chapter of middle school, high school, athletics, college life or new jobs.
We are awaiting medical diagnoses, next steps, and treatment.
We have had a loved one die recently and can’t even imagine what comes next.
We see inequality of treatment of our brothers and sister in Christ and struggle with our own call to work in the community.
And Jesus says to us, Peace be still.
And immediately the waters are calmed.
Remember the same waters that were in the beginning of creation parted for life to be created. Remember the waters of the Red Sea parted for giving new life to the Hebrews escaping the Egyptians.
Remember the waters at Jesus’ baptism declaring the beginning of his ministry and calling us into our own.
In the midst of the stormy waters, God is right there with you in the boat, right there stilling the seas and present through the challenging waters of our life.
In our epistle reading today, St Paul is giving a truth filled pep talk to the Corinthians. I love Paul’s words in The Message translation today:
“Companions as we are in this work with you, .. don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.
“I heard your call in the nick of time, the day you needed me, I was there to help.” (This reminds me of the disciples today!)
Paul also is imploring the people to open their hearts to God who is right there with them in the long days, the short days, the days where you don’t get lunch because you were caring for someone else, the days where you were judged and mocked for doing the right thing. God is right there with you.
To continue on the journey, as Paul says “enter this wide open spacious life.” “Open up your lives and hearts and live openly and expansively.”- God’s peace is there to be found and steady us in our boats.
God’s Peace is there to awe us and give us courage and to bring us back around to the journey with purpose and calling and sends us forth.
Today is Father’s Day, yesterday was Juneteenth, this past week we hosted Youth BEAT and Summer Choir Camp, we gathered and scattered and prayed as a community in so many ways.
Youth and children coming together to learn about music, Youth coming to learn more about God’s call for them to live out their faith in action on their faith journey, parents accompanying them on their adventures.
On June 19th we recognize the day that those who were enslaved in our country were given their freedom on paper, we rejoice in that freedom and we simultaneously acknowledge that same proclamation did not change a system overnight and we still have work to do, pain to recognize and work to do to rebuild the beloved community of God as a nation.
Today is Father’s Day- a day where the only perfect example of Fatherhood is the one we know through God’s sacrificial love for this world through creation and his son, Jesus.
And today we will commission Caroline and John Allen to go forth, sent by St. John’s to continue to be the hands and feet and heart of Christ in a new location! in Ecuador.
Paul today says, Today is the acceptable day, NOW is the acceptable time, to listen, to act, to be who we are called to be.
Water and Storms, Cars and Boats, Stillness and Calling.
Be Stlll and Know.
Know that God does care deeply about you.
Know that God knows your deepest fears and is there with you
Know that God is the God of all creation,
God is present and beside you in all that happens as you respond to the call of being a beloved Child of God.