Post Ordination Glow, and Thoughts of Life moving forward

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Tradition! And Tough Love

Grace and Peace to you

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ

As we hold fast to the traditions which bring us comfort

Let us not be separated

Because of those traditions

From the Living Word

Which not only defines us

But claims us, marks us

As Children of God

Bonded through Christ our Savior

Amen

 (pause)

 Jesus,

In our Gospel text this morning

Is once more admonishing our friends the Pharisees

“You abandon the commandment of God

And hold to human tradition”

(pause)

As people of faith,

We find ourselves chuckling

Oh those Pharisees

Always in the hot seat

The blinders of the Law

Was seared, clinging to their skin

Holiness and faithfulness passed down through

Tradition

(pause)

Tradition of their elders

They rejected removing the masks

And fully breathing the pure sweet air

Of God’s Grace

That was poured out throughout the atmosphere

Especially where Jesus Christ was present

(pause)

This new teaching

This new way of thinking

This new tradition of forgiveness

Regardless of who we are

Or what we hold deeply

Jesus brought into our midst this crazy idea

Of living into the beauty of God’s Mercy

For ourselves

For others

For the times we stumble and fail the beloved community

Jesus commanded and proclaimed to the people

To instead follow a more perfect Law

To love one another as God showered us with God’s Love

This law that shattered the misconceptions that only a chosen few

Had access to the kingdom of God

(pause)

We read these Scriptures and laugh

Oh these Pharisees

We question and wonder,

This constant interrogation of Jesus

How ignorant to throw human made traditions in His face

As if there was more importance

How phenomenal to be in Jesus’s presence!

But I wonder how our laughter would fade

If the mirror was turned toward us

And we recognized the faces of the Pharisees

In our own

(pause)

Tradition!

What if Jesus came among us and questioned our traditions?

What if Jesus pointed out that our traditions

Blocked the way of living into God’s mission?

(pause)

But traditions must be upheld, right?

They keep the balance for our lives

They point to the way things should be

And what God expects of us,

Or so prophesizes one of my favorite characters

Teveh from the Fiddler on the Roof

As this musical opens up the journey

Peering into the lives of a faithful people

Struggling through hardships

And more importantly, change

Teveh from the very beginning

Points out the need for tradition

“It tells us what we should eat,

How to sleep

Even what to wear!” he boasts

He shares an example of the prayer shawl he wears

As a sacred tradition

To remind the wearer of their constant devotion to God

“You may ask how this tradition got started,” he quips

But how interesting after a pause

Teveh’s face grows perplexed as he adds,

“I don’t know”.

(pause)

“You abandon the commandment of God,

And hold to human tradition”

What is Jesus objecting

In our Gospel text this morning?

(pause)

We’ve all heard the mantra

That Cleanliness

Is next to Godliness, right?

This ritual of hand washing

Goes back to the time of Moses

Goes back to instructions God gave to Moses

That can be found in Exodus

That before they could be in the presence of holy things

Before they could touch anything of the altar deemed holy

Before entering the Temple

They must wash their hands and feet

“..so that they may not die:

it shall be a perpetual ordinance for them,

…throughout their generations.”

(pause)

The rabbis and teachers continued to instruct the people,

After the Temple was destroyed

To continue this ritual into daily life

But these rituals and practices soon took on a different meaning

A way to discern

Those considered a part of the beloved people of God

And those who were considered,

By human beings

To be outsiders

Those to be avoided,

Because they were not pure or holy

(pause)

Traditions sometimes

Hinder not only our connectedness

And relationship with the Creator God

But even more so,

With one another

(pause)

Traditions,

Here at Redeemer, as I understand it

We celebrate Santa Lucia

With candlelights and singing

At Prince of Peace,

We celebrated that

And also the Festival Days of the Saints

With incense and with chanting

These are moments for prayers and fellowship

In sacred spaces

(pause)

In the African Descent tradition

We always begin worship with drumming

And by acknowledging our Ancestors

Those who came before us,

Those who taught us

Those who gave of themselves

Connecting us to their memory

And the sacredness of that moment

Of inviting them to be present

As we lift up libations

Pouring water

As an example of how God’s Love flows, healing all

(pause)

But sharing of this tradition sadly

Did not mesh with many in this Synod

A number of years ago,

The African Descent Pastors were invited to offer up this worship

At a Synod Assembly

Days later

People would express outage

Grumbling

Infuriated

Incensed

How could they have allowed something to go against the grain?

Unauthentic

Disrespectful

(pause)

Why do we allow our anger and spite and ugliness

Get in the way of building relationships

Building new ways of bonding ourselves

With one another?

Isn’t it more important,

That we are celebrating, worshiping together

As people of God, as beloved community?

I think the Creator is more delighted

When we go off script sometimes

Because it is there, in our hearts,

Open to the Holy Spirit

Opening our whole being

Washing away the toxicity that this world cakes on us

Weighing so heavily, invading those sacred places within

“For it is from within, from the human heart,

That heartless intentions come forth

That cloud our minds and our fragile spirits

Until we are confused and mistake

Tradition for righteousness

(pause)

The Pharisees saw this new way of being,

Of living free forgetting and abandoning the Laws

Of their Elders

As a stumbling block they could not push past

To be Free as God called them to be!

(pause)

This unauthorized behavior

Of moving as the Spirit challenges

And calls both them,

And us, beloved

The Spirit calling us to be active

In the lives of those around us

In the lives of those who have been forgotten

It is because of the traditions of our Elders

It is because of the Spirit of our Ancestors

Because of this faith they lovingly passed on to us

We continue to live out what God has called us all to

Even if it means doing things a little differently

Because what God wants for God’s people

Is for us to be always connected

Here at the Table

In the Meal

Through the Passing of the Peace

Through sharing the Love that the risen Christ poured out

For ALL OF US

And through this tradition,

Of coming together at this Meal

We share the Good News of Jesus Christ

That even as this world bombards us with hatred and malice

Bombards us with messages to turn away from

Being unified under the Cross

Cajoles us from turning away from

This troublemaker, Jesus Christ

Whose presence turns this world upside down!

The Good News is that God Loves

And we always have access to God’s Love, Mercy and Grace

Right here, always!

What if God was One of Us?

So let’s have this honest conversation about our faith

And about God

And about Jesus Christ

Can we talk?

(pause)

Can we address the elephant which perches over our shoulders,

Follows us in our cars

Camps out in our bedrooms

Pokes at us in those moments of silence and slumber

This elephant in the form of

When will God come to save us?

And

Is this all we will ever have of Jesus-

This Bread and Wine?

What is this supposed to do for us, right now?

(pause)

We find ourselves lost in thought and

Among moments or situations

where life routine can grow ugly

We exhale our worries and fears

And wonder, is our faithful labor in vain?

Is there a God?

(pause)

Is that shocking to say out loud?

Not a day goes by, right

When we pray for the kingdom of God to be revealed

To this shattered world

And this world will finally wake up

More importantly, we as God’s faithful people will be validated!

And our journeys will not be for naught.

And people can stop insulting us

For believing in something we can’t see

Or touch

Or hear

Raise your hands if you have wrestled with this

(pause for the showing of hands)

See, if you ever thought you were alone

Thinking about the existence of God

You aren’t.

(pause)

Perhaps that’s why those unnamed disciples

Walked away from Jesus

In our Gospel text this morning.

“Those who eat my flesh

And drink my blood abide in me

And I in them.”

We surely can see the perplexing thoughts in their faces.

(pause)

These disciples had been following Jesus

Just as we do today, beloved

Waiting

For miracles

Watching-

For Transformation of peoples everywhere

Worrying

About when their livelihoods would finally be restored

(pause)

This Jesus who dared to question the status quo

The occupying empire

The self righteous teachers and law makers

Can we sense this tension,

As these disciples hung onto every word?

Maybe just like us, beloved they wanted to see some action!

When was Jesus going to cease with all this peaceful talk

And put these doubters

These unbelievers

in their place.

Or was this going to be it?

 “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”

(pause)

Picture ourselves in these disciples’ footsteps

Who were trying to understand

What this ministry of Jesus’s was going to accomplish

And if they had wasted their lives following Him

(Share with them that as I had spoken about last week, the more I traveled down this path of seminary journey into this Call, the more I saw the ugliness of society’s treatment of one another but also the more I was aware that there were people who did not believe in the Creator God. Strangely enough as I have slipped on this pastoral identity, I have been made aware of clergy who are practicing but do not believe in the existence of God. Share briefly about the article about an example of a clergy woman in the United Church in Canada who is an atheist)

“No one can know what God is like”

God “exists” as only a human ideal

God is the sum total of our hopes and dreams

God is an important concept-

But to talk about God’s existence,

is nonsense!

(pause)

We volunteer and work in the community of faith

As footstep followers of Jesus Christ

But we sound like broken records

Because we struggle

And are weary

(pause)

When we preach the Good News

Proclaim the Gospel

Testify and share our faith stories

We find ourselves mocked by others

“Jesus? What has Jesus ever done now!?”

Criticized

“The Church does nothing, just blows a lot of feel good air”

Crucified over the actions of those who identify the same

“You Christians won’t help anyone unless we say

we believe in Jesus.

Well I don’t!”

(pause)

We find ourselves sagging in our spirits

Because our labors seem to all be in vain

We slowly stop coming on Sunday morning

We question about where our tithes are going to

We grumble about why we always have to be the ones

Giving and caring for others

We fail to see

The Gift present before us

For us

At the Table

“This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”

And yet, we are ashamed

When others seemingly stand firm in their faith journey

They unabashedly cling to the Cross

Because what else can this world offer?

“Lord, to whom can we go?

You have the words of eternal life”

(pause)

But even Peter’s faith and belief would fail, right?

We have heard the stories

And seen the examples

Where the disciples were just as bumbling and fearful

As we are, beloved

About putting all of our hopes and dreams

Relying on our faith in God

(pause)

“Lord, to whom can we go?

Who else would open their doors

And offer us a seat at the Table

Feeding US

Feeding our spirit

Who else can bring us a Word

Which destroys all unhappiness

Removing obstructions

Instead strengthening the bond

That we have

Through this Jesus the Christ

To God, Our Redeemer

(pause)

Who else has the POWER

TO PUSH BACK THE ABYSS of NOTHINGNESS

That would separate us from God, Our Creator

That commands DEATH to release its grip on our souls

That demands from the evil that seeks to invade

“You have the words of eternal life”

Because OF this-

This, beloved

The Bread and Wine

We are reminded that in this simple Meal

That there is NOTHING on this Earth

That can keep us

From the Love of God!

That is the Good News!

Through this Meal,

Through Jesus’s sacrifice

We know who God has sent

Jesus Christ

The only Son of God!

(pause)

The Good News is,

Even when we stumble

Turn our back

Run away

Deny and betray God-

The Good News is,

The doors are always open to us

The Table is Always Set

For Us.

God’s Unchanging, Unfailing Grace and Mercy

Is for ALL OF US

(pause)

And the Good News is,

God really doesn’t mind our questions

About God

God knows and understands

Remember God has walked among us

Been one of us

And God still loves

All of us

Thanks Be to God.

A Letter In Solidarity With the Sandra Bland Vigil Participants in Waller County

Words and Actions as the Creator calls us to speak for justice!

Bishop Michael Rinehart

DSC_0841Throughout history threats and acts of intimidation have been used to oppose those who call for justice in the lives of people who are marginalized, imprisoned, oppressed, or losing their lives. As people of faith, we gather at the foot of the cross of Jesus to resist this oppression. We join our voices to the voices of all who seek a fair and transparent investigation of the death of Sandra Bland. We say, with them, “Black Lives Matter.”

Recently, people of every faith, and those with no faith, have gathered in front of the Waller County Jail in Hempstead, Texas to proclaim that “Sandra Bland’s life mattered. It still matters. Sandy still speaks.” Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner, a United Methodist pastor, has been a faithful, prayerful, steady presence in front of the jail, along with the other conscientious participants.

On Sunday, August 9, the crowd was larger than the…

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Bread Again?

Grace and Peace to you

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Remind us that this bread and wine are gifts from you

Transforming us within those places

that we cannot physically reach

But only through your Word and through Your Son, Jesus Christ

We are healed, to heal others

In this life

Amen.

(pause)

 

Bread again?

It’s not just the title of my sermon but

Bread again?

Something so simple

It immerses us into this mystery

Where we are bonded to the Creator

Who always showers us with expressions of love and care

Through gifts offered up by Creation itself

(pause)

Bread again?

Bread is a staple

A precious commodity

(that we find it in farmer’s markets sold by nuns and religious orders  and the Amish usually next to the cheese vendor which even prompts us to buy more bread; that it is so common but more often than not is pushed into an artisanal spotlight beyond the old boring white and wheat variety of our youth, when making a PBJ brought a song to our hearts; that we now argue about which brand is healthier for us to consume and that it won’t put any more additional weight/carbs to our diet but how nothing smells better than freshly baked bread and share how I drive my husband crazy because I am the one in grocery stores seeing if the bread has been recently baked and if it’s still warm. That I probably have driven the worship folks nuts this morning because I brought in bread again, surprise!)

(pause)

So unpretentious and yet so scarce

That the sight of bread brings comfort

To those who are starving

For just more than food

I’d like to share a story

That one of my colleagues has shared

On this entire subject of bread

That unfolded during WWII

(pause)

During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care.

But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them.

Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace.

All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”

(pause)

None of us can look at bread the same way again, right?

(pause)

Bread, again?

Our Gospel text these past couple of weeks

Focuses Jesus Himself,

Feeding Himself

giving of Himself to thousands of people

Feeding 5,000 people;

Feeding those who heard His Voice,

Who questioned who He was,

Whose faith maybe perhaps in those early days not even formed

Who struggled to believed

Who recoiled at eating flesh-

I’ve had friends of mine joke that Christians are nothing more

Than sacred zombies

But consuming the wrong things into oneself,

Throws our very being into turmoil

And we find ourselves nothing more

than hollowed out and rotten

(pause)

Jesus sounds like a broken record

But we as children of God

Constantly have to be reminded

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.

 Whoever eats of this bread will live forever;

and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

(pause)

So when it comes to sharing the bread and wine,

the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ

What does this Eucharist mean for us as people of faith?

Is it something that we have to remind ourselves we have to take

Just like our medications and our vitamins

Otherwise something horrible will happen

Or we will be inconvenienced?

We receive the bread into our hands and consume it

Sometimes complaining about the taste, right?

(pause)

Are we drawn to the Table because we are broken

That we are starving for the grace and mercy

That only comes from God?

Do we receive the bread and wine

the body and blood of Jesus Christ

And then return to our seats

Thinking “Okay I am covered for another week”

“I can check that off of my to do list for today”

And then go out into the wider world

And see those who are ravenous

Those who are sometimes beyond help

Those who are struggling to crawl out of the ditches

Those who are misunderstood

And pass them by?

(pause)

What does the Eucharist mean to us then, anyway?

Luther states in the Large Catechism

“Therefore it is given for a daily pasture and sustenance,

that faith may refresh and strengthen itself

so as not to fall back in such a battle,

but become ever stronger and stronger.”

(pause)

Stronger and stronger for what purpose?

What was their focus as they heard Jesus’s words

In our Gospel text this morning?

“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life

 and I will raise them up on the last day”

Is our focus hearing these words

Me. I must survive

Because this world already deprives us of the essentials for living

We are frantic in that we need to be ready, filled up

So that we can staved off the evil that seems to overcome us

In this world

(pause)

But what about seeing the Eucharist

for transforming who we are

as people of faith?

Wouldn’t you want to consume something

That restores ourselves

Our energy,

But also renews our lives

That has the power to alter those deep recesses

Within who we are

that prevents us from going out,

speaking out,

living out the Call

that the Creator God has planted within every one of us

Would you see the Bread differently if it called you to

“Depart from evil, and do good;

    seek peace, and pursue it.”

(pause)

When we come to this Table-

What are we expecting?

What are we hoping?

What are we longing for?

Do we come one by one?

Or do we come surrounding this Table

Knowing that we come as a beloved community of Faith

Sharing together this sacred moment

Of Forgiveness and transformation?

“Just as the living Father sent me,

and I live because of the Father,

so whoever eats me will live because of me”

DO WE UNDERSTAND that this GIFT is NEVER for us

 As human beings

To DENY ANYONE?

I may sound like a broken record but this is the

Bread and Wine

The Body and Blood

Of JESUS CHRIST

The Forgiveness of our SINS

And the Restoration of our LIVES

Because GOD LOVES US?

Isn’t that the Good News, beloved?

(pause)

What does this Meal Hold for you?

(ask the congregation to share briefly about what Eucharist means for them, and then close by saying, Thanks Be to God).

Good News, Even in the Wilderness

Grace and Peace to you

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Finding our very beings weakened because of the toxic in this world

We cry out O Lord Hear My Prayer

And the Good News is

That God reaches out and feeds our starving spirit

With the Bread and Wine,

The Body and Blood

Of Jesus Christ

Amen.

(pause)

What nourishes us

As we travel along this sacred journey-

And who are the angels in our lives

That call us back from those places of distress

Telling us to “Get Up and eat!”

(pause)

I would like to share a story

Every Christmas season

There was this sense of excitement that ruminated within me

Because beyond the presents or the snow or the no school

The Christmas season held for me a sense of belonging

Our entire family, my Mother’s tribe

Would gather over my Grandmother’s house

And that meant that my Granny Hazel would fix gumbo

And I mean the authentic stuff

Flavorful rue,

Celery, onions, garlic,

Andouille sausage and shrimp

These ancestral roots buried deep in Louisiana and Mississippi

Spilled out all over that pot of Gumbo,

(pause)

Being in my Grandmother’s presence

And having a bowl or two or three of Gumbo filled me

Energized me

Hearing her voice,

Watching her in the kitchen

Inhaling all of her wisdom and love-

She was my angel

In the midst of an unforgiving wilderness

(pause)

Whenever any of our lives were particularly hectic or chaotic

We, her grandchildren would find ourselves over her house

She’d know when something was wrong in our lives

Especially since rooted in her stature as Elder

This world was completely upside down

She was in tune to it all

So for me,

Being in her presence

Filled my Soul

Temporarily soothing this hunger

This hunger for comfort, of a needing to belong

That we all carry with us

(pause)

Even when she could not physically cook or bake anymore

Her witness,

Her living testimony of how God had moved in her life

Called me back from those places of doubt and of sorrow

Her voice

Those voices

Are encompassed in the echoes

That reach out across the ages

Across these sacred words

In the voice of the Angel to Elijah

“Get Up and Eat!”

“Don’t let nothing get you down.

Always Pray!”

(pause)

I am sure many of us have those stories

Of those in our lives

Whose cooking and care, whose love through baking

Through teaching, shining their light

Revitalizes us

Gives us Hope

Tells us to never give up

Because of who they are,

It’s enough

A light snack, if you will

To get us through that tough day

Until we are once again before The Table

To be fed whole

(pause)

I confess that this particular week writing sermons

Has been one of struggles

Not because these texts are difficult or swathed in parables

But what else is there to say

Jesus is the Bread of Life

We are reminded yet again in our Gospel texts this week

Who can compare?

Only Jesus can fill those places within our very being

Where our souls cry out

O Lord Hear My Prayer

When I call

Answer me

Come and listen…to me!

(pause)

Could we stand up in this place and be that exposed

And sing that song,

O Lord hear my Prayer?

Could we confess that we are broken

Because this world is broken

Unbecoming

Unpleasant

When we unashamedly sing about God’s Love

That the Kingdom of God is right here

That Jesus is the Way, the Truth, The Light

The I AM

This broken word recoils and reacts almost violently

Against God’s Truth

(pause)

Elijah’s words are frightening to us

Because of the vulnerability of this prophet who was human,

Who was also a child of God

Who in this moment felt besides himself

Despondent

 “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.

He pleaded for death,

Why?

He knew of God’s mighty power

He’d answered the call

He’d faithfully, obediently

lived out the mission that God had given him

Or did the ugliness of this world

bleed right through the film cast over his eyes?

What happens to us, my sisters and brothers in Christ?

What happens when we answer the Call

To be a part of the community of faith,

To use our hands, to facilitate healing

To use our voices, to facilitate healing

To use our bodies to be a physical manifestation of God’s Grace

And suddenly this world revolts against people of faith?

(pause)

When I answered this Call, this path that God had set before me

It seemed that the more I wandered in this wilderness

The more I was aware of the unpleasantness of this world

And how Creation struggled

I watched and observed

that people would rather cling to false prophets

Chain themselves to idolatry

Reject the presence of Jesus Christ

Especially when Jesus calls them and us

To be in relationship with one another

Regardless of our faults, our disabilities

Our aging, our low status

Our skin color, our languages

Our visible suffering

(pause)

And the more my eyes were opened to the hostility in this world

The disobedience of this world

The refusal to acknowledge Who God was

The denial that yes, we could actually live into the Peace of Christ

As a beloved community

The more I was angry

Does that too, make you angry, beloved?

It is okay to say we are angry, because those that we love

Those that are dear to us,

those that we are bonded to

through the Holy Spirit, through the blood of Jesus

May never know any peace

(pause)

There is so much betrayal between us as humanity

As people of faith

So my anger evolves into a state of inconsolable sadness

When the Charleston Nine were murdered

I had the ability to flee into a wilderness

I had the ability to immerse myself on the lower prairie

Of my camp

And cry out loud

O Lord Hear Our Prayer!

We are hurting!

“It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life,

for I am no better than my ancestors.”

(pause)

So what nourishes us along our spiritual journey,

And who are the Angels among us?

What nourished me in those moments of being in that wilderness

Was the opportunity of doing Bible Study

With high school youth, counselors-in-training

What nourishes us, my sisters and brothers in Christ

When we find our voice, and speak for transformative change

And God’s righteousness

Even enduring ridicule, jeers, and hatred

This is when our Angels, those next to us in the pews

Or across the fence

Or in the coffee shop, grocery store

Who stop and share the peace

Invite us over for a meal

Bless us with their prayers and their love

(pause)

What nourishes all of us beloved

Is the Good News of Jesus Christ

Jesus stands there, beyond the Cross

In our aisles, in the streets, in our homes

Right where we are

Handing out Life Giving Bread

Jesus says

 “This is the bread that comes down from heaven,

 so that one may eat of it and not die.

(Share with the congregation that now, even as the world continues to battle between  peace and being the beloved community, and grumbling about who Jesus is and questioning whether or not Jesus called and commanded us to take care of the poor, there are moments when I find myself frustrated, angry and sadden with this world. It is in those moments when sometimes I don’t feel like even eating, that I clearly hear my Granny Hazel’s voice, now an Ancestor telling me “Get Up and Eat.”)

Thanks be to God

Love will keep us together

 “There is one body and one Spirit,

 one Lord, one faith, one baptism

One God and Father

Of All”

I think, beloved, we as the collective people of faith

Have forgotten the power of the Good News.

There is One

One Body, broken for Us

Given to Us

(pause)

Humanity is guilty of adopting and practicing

A theology of exclusion

Sometimes assuming the position of gatekeeper

Turning away those

Who are Hungry for what is being served at the Table

Jesus Says “I am the Bread of Life.”

Sadly many of us have experienced this

Being excluded

Being denied

Of relieving of our hunger and thirst

At the Table

(pause)

(Shared the story with the congregation about when the children attended a catholic elementary school and I had to remind them that they could not take Communion; how Izzy question and was puzzled by this simply because we were one denomination and this school another)

This made no sense to her-

“We all worship the same God, right?”

We should all be united as one, right?

(pause)

People of faith, misunderstanding God’s Word

Unfortunately use doctrines

Judging their fellow sisters and brothers in Christ

Measuring their worthiness

How many of us have stood there

Begging for an end to their hunger

Because something that we have heard in the Gospel,

Something that strikes us at the heart of our lamenting

Woven deeply in the Psalms

Something moving us by the power of the Holy Spirit

Causes us to reach out our hands and bow our heads

That.Should. Be. Enough!

(pause)

Instead, unity through love is shattered

Instead those who are waiting at the Table hear

“Because you do not conform

We deny you access to the bread and wine,

The Body and Blood

Of Jesus Christ.”

Jesus Says, “I AM the Bread of Life.

Whoever comes TO ME

Will NEVER be Hungry!”

(pause)

There is One

One Spirit that rains down on Us

Vibrates within Us

Surrounding Us

There is One

One God

Who Loves US

(pause)

But we have forgotten, beloved

We, as the collective community of faith

Are guilty of using God’s Word, of Scripture

To drive people further

Into despair

Depression

Shame

Sorrow.

There is too much PAIN in this World

This is NOT what God’s Word is Meant FOR

God’s Word does not condemn, does it beloved?

God’s Word UPLIFTS!

God’s Word has always pointed toward the promise of salvation

Everlasting Life!

But in ancient times, the reality of the Love and Mercy of God

Was hidden away in the Laws

Humanity feared God

There was little room for grace or mercy

Leaving out those who had been deemed untouchable

Shunned by their community

(pause)

But God’s Word

Transformed through Jesus Christ

Called both them, and us

To live accordingly

bearing with one another in love,

 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit

 in the bond of peace.”

Sadly there have been moments perhaps

When we did not hear the Good News

From the lips of our sisters or brothers in Christ

(pause)

(talk about the hymns that we lift up in praise, but sometimes we do not listen and hold fast to our hearts and in our spirits, the meaning. If we sing the hymn “All are Welcome”, we as a community of faith should exude this. Share with the congregation a popular gospel/sacred song heard on the radio that talks about Joy, Peace and Love in the Garden-but the next line states “Now this is only for us Christians, because WE can walk in the garden, sit in the garden, etc.”)

Our Ephesians texts warn us:

We must no longer be children,

  tossed to and fro and blown

about by every wind of doctrine”

Doctrines. Laws. Rules.

But we have a responsibility, right?

Uphold God’s Law

We have to set an example

To set us apart, to divide us from others…

 (pause)

It’s complicated

Confusing

Chaotic

We are disconnected from the Body of Christ

We are deaf to this exhortation of unity

Here, in Ephesians

Jesus came in the midst of absurdity

Of people who claimed that they followed God

But deprived their sisters and brothers in Faith

Not much has changed, right?

Our prayers that are too deep for words

Asking for Jesus to come in the midst of this absurdity

Because we as people of faith failed

We question each other

Whether or not we are true believers,

Based on the “right” version of the Bible we subscribe to

Or whether we sing the “right” hymns

Or if we baptize the “right” way

Or if we only let the “right” people in our churches

(pause)

Humanity only seems to unify

In the midst of tragedies

In the midst of death

We suddenly wake up and see one other for who we are

Fragile, Wrong, Weak

Sinners

(pause)

The church is not a religious community

Of worshippers of Christ

But it is Christ Himself who has taken form

Among the People.”

Bonhoeffer understood this Good News

He clearly saw this among the community of faith

In Harlem

Regardless of how society ostracized them

This people in exile knew that Christ was with them

That Christ encountered them, and us-as humanity

That Christ stands with those who cannot defend themselves

That Christ’s presence empowered them

Unifying them, and us

In Love!

Isn’t that Good News?

(pause)

Isn’t that why we gather, beloved?

“We must grow up in every way into him who is the head,”

Jesus Christ

“from whom the whole body, joined and knit together”

We, beloved-this is US

We are the BODY OF CHRIST UNITED AS ONE

We are ONE because God Wanted God’s People

To Live as ONE

And so God UNITES US

AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS

Defeating ANYTHING that can keep us from God

Defeating even death.

(Shared with the congregation about how much words can hurt, and that God’s Word is healing; That nothing should ever stand in their way of coming to the Table because this is where Jesus Christ stands waiting, saying I AM)

Thanks Be to God