Be Still My Soul

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Be Still

And Know

That the Creator Loves

And Gives Us

Transformative

Restorative

Joy

Through the tenderness of a babe

Jesus Christ

Amen.

(Pause)

Betsy phoned me the other day saying,

“When it rains it pours, right?

I’d wish it stop raining.”

I have to be honest,

Its hard in this moment to view the world

With eyes focused

Filtered

Filled with the promises of Advent

Because we have been witnessed to the brokenness

When those who are far from our community,

Make their transition beyond the veil

Leaving behind the remnants of division and disrepair

For their loved ones to argue over-

Realizing that perhaps, the discord

And falling away from God’s loving and healing arms

Was always there-

So how do we walk with them,

To lift up their heads

To see the glory of God

And that their redemption is drawing near?

(pause)

We have been a witness to the brokenness

And confusion

That illness has, robbing us of our loved one

And the only way we are able to take that first breath

Of this new reality of emptiness

Is through weaving and sharing stories

Stories filled with laughter,

Of delight

Of memories that stir within us

The happiness causing us to raise our heads towards God’s promise

Living through and in the growing moment,

That the kingdom of God is near!

(pause)

We as the collective community of Christ

Are watching and observing the damage of this world

Upon us, beloved

When fear tossed onto our path

When anger, diverting us from the path

When apathy, litters the path

Chokes and strangles the bonds that we have,

With the Creator God!

Blocking us from the renewing peaceful presence

Of the gift from God,

Blossoming in the birth of a babe

Whose cries echo

the coming of reestablishing righteousness for God’s people

Dissipating disillusion that there can be jubilation in our living,

Giving us hope!

(pause)

“Now when these things begin to take place,

 stand up and raise your heads,

because your redemption is drawing near.”

(pause)

These words,

And this concept about

End times

Linger in our consciousness

Jesus is teaching both us

And the disciples

Here in the Gospel of Luke,

Paralleling the conversations

That He had a couple of weeks prior

In the Gospel of Mark.

Jesus does not concentrate on the specific signs of destruction

Rather,

Jesus says,

 “Look at the fig tree and all the trees;

  as soon as they sprout leaves

you can see for yourselves

and know that summer is already near”

That we should be watchful, mindful

That in that moment of awakening and turning,

The kingdom of God is near.

That the disciples,

And those gathered

Hearing Jesus,

Also needed to be reminded

That they should not only be watchful-

But also

Not so encapsulated in the troubles of this world-

But that is troubling in itself,

Because if we are to live out what God has called us to

To love and care and journey with one another

Doesn’t that mean we too are swept up in the hopelessness

Sadness,

Fragile state of this world and our lives?

How would this passage reflect and impact,

“Be on guard

 so that your hearts are not weighed down”

when we can’t help it,

When our faith is tested

because we are human,

so we call out,

saying to God,

committing to God

it is in GOD,

we put our lives,

our hopes,

our trust

(pause)

“Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side;

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.

Leave to your God to order and provide;

In every change He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly Friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”

This hymn,

These words,

Remind me

That as difficult as it is,

We must keep watch,

For we know-

From these words,

The Son of Man will come

Jesus Christ has not abandoned this world,

Or us, beloved

Because the Good News is that-

Because of the unending love that God has for God’s People,

God sent Jesus Christ,

Into this world,

In an unexpected way

And began to bring LIFE into our hearts

And Joy

And HOPE

And MERCY

And GRACE!

Because of Jesus’s birth-

We cannot be fearful to LIVE

We cannot cling to fear

We must stand and lift our heads,

Because we are the beloved people of God!

Because when the kingdom of God comes,

We are redeemed

Made whole,

Washed through clear, healing waters

We must not worry so about “When, Jesus, When”

But,

“How will we drive out the darkness, in those sacred spaces?”

“What places shall we carry the Good News?”

“Where can we be a presence, for and of faith?”

“Who needs to be comforted,

And brought into the body of Christ,

Into the community of love?”

THAT, my sisters and brothers in Christ

THAT is how we will lift up our heads,

Lifting our voice,

Because God, Our Liberator

Is always near,

And Jesus, the Savior of the World,

Is coming!

Thanks be to God

There is Room in my Father’s House-A Funeral Sermon

(Sometimes the tension and the heartache of a family oozes out in these moments of grief-and sometimes you have to push forgiveness and mercy, even when they don’t want to hear it)

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Know that whether you are rooted in your faith,

Or struggled with who God is

And whether God is present along life’s journey,

God weeps,

And God opens up everlasting peace

To us all.

Amen.

(pause)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

But the truth is our hearts are troubled this morning, right?

Because death comes and invades,

Death rudely interrupts the ordinary,

And robs us of our beloved,

And leaves on our shores,

Waves of sadness,

Grief,

Anger.

Believe in God, believe also in me.

In this moment, the Creator comes,

And holds out His hands,

And says to us

To entrust our hearts to God

Especially in these moments,

When the tangible, temporary

Empty things of this world,

Will never soothe our souls

But death challenges our faith,

We cry out to God,

That perhaps our loved one didn’t get a chance to experience this life

And why now?

We cry out to God,

That time slipped away

And there was so much that we wanted to experience with our loved one,

And why now, God?

Advent is upon us,

A time of mystery and meditation

And waiting for the transformation of this world,

Through the ordinary birth of a babe,

This time should be about the beloved community

About connecting as sisters and brothers in Faith,

and in Love

About celebrating the fact that the reflection of Christ,

And the hope of the resurrection, the CROSS

Is etched upon our features,

And in our hearts.

Yet,

Here we are.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.

If it were not so,

would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you”

That is Good News,

The Good News that just as Brian opened up his heart to dear friends

At Holland Home,

That even though he could not get out as well as perhaps you and me,

He understood God’s calling for him, to be a presence

To just share his laughter and his conversation,

His love for the Cubs,

So does the Creator God opening up sacred spaces,

Here and now,

So that we are living out God’s commandment

To LOVE ONE ANOTHER,

As God Loves us-

And that means sometimes allowing the Holy Spirit

To guide us along this life’s journey

It means allowing the Holy Spirit

To guide us when we struggle

Struggle in our friendships and relationship

Especially when this sin sick world tells us otherwise,

Of what is important,

Because nothing, nothing!

Can replace the Love that the Creator has for us

Nothing can fulfill what Jesus Christ did for all of us

(pause)

“And if I go and prepare a place for you,

I will come again and will take you to myself,

 so that where I am, there you may be also.”

There is Good News,

That Brian has joined all of the saints,

His mother Gloria, and father Nicholas,

That the Creator and Loving God opened up God’s arms to him

And now, although we are broken hearted

Brian leaves a legacy

Which we are called to

of loving simply

Living simply,

And continually walking humbly with God.

Thanks be to God.

 

A Hard Week

It’s been a hard week.

One of my beloved Elders has walked on,

Because the Ancestors, 

Because the Creator

Has called him.

And so now how I move forward

in my pastoral life

reflects some of the wisdom he imparted in all of us

Perhaps I will get my Ph.D

Because our Elders have worked so hard, 

to pave the way

for transformative and restorative change

an uplifting of our people,

and what the Ancestors are calling us to.

But for now, how God has called me, takes precedence 

and so I will remain as one of the lights of God’s Creation

being loved and cared for and by this community of faith,

being loved and cared for by my Tribe

remembering the love and care of Papa Pete

who no doubtedly is having martinis with the Creator God

Remembering Dr. Pete Pero

#TransformingChristianity

Grace and Peace to you

My sisters and brothers in Christ

If we raise our voices

And proclaim proudly

That they will know we are Christians

By our Love

Then how are we living that out,

When collectively people of faith stubbornly refuse

To follow Christ Our King,

By acting justly

To love mercy

And to walk humbly

With our God!

Amen

(pause)

Introduction: share with the congregation

That perhaps the flow of this sermon will perhaps be slightly different

That this week seems that the weight of caring the message

And the Good News,

Has been extremely difficult

With perhaps so much going on in our world

And even in the suffering and present stings

that relentlessly prods our brittle bodies

Even as those who are supposedly too, be people of faith

Their actions, their reasons

Leaves me frustrated

Saddened

And this is when, like many of you

Turn to the Good News,

The Good News that Christ’s mere presence confuses this world

And the intrusion of the Kingdom of God

to overcome the pandemonium of this world

Fills my spirit and perhaps yours with hope

Because the Creator God will never abandon us

And not even, crazier still,

Not even abandoning this broken, shattered world!

God’s Redeeming Power is for this world,

Even when it rebels

Revolts

Subverts

What God’s Word means for us ALL

(pause)

But it has been difficult

Because of the burden of grief that sometimes pastors and pastor types

Carry

Compounded

Day after day

Of the influence of violence that continues its battering

Polluting even those sacred relationships

(pause)

In the midst of all of this,

Advent is coming!

This deep and magnificent moments when we are gathered together

In the lull and gentleness of the falling night

Breathing in the mystery of how God can

and continues transforming this place

Through the delicate welcoming of a newborn babe.

How phenomenal that the Creator God takes something so normal

So ordinary

And holds humanity close-

Altering all of the sorrow and wanderings

(pause)

Even still, there are those who smirk,

And doubt

And Challenge us

That this miraculous birth couldn’t have happened

And continually challenge

The real and radical message of Jesus Christ,

Who calls us to be in a relationship with each other

In spite of,

Regardless of our differences

Loving our neighbor means coming out from behind the fence

The wall

The Border

And releasing the fear of experiencing the Holy Spirit vibrating so close

In other words the solution

That this world offers

Which seems to be a dominate force ruling over sacred bodies-

Of violence,

That this concept of violence is unacceptable to those who follow Christ

And those who are immersed in the Reign of God

(pause)

Jesus answered,

My kingdom is not from this world.

 If my kingdom were from this world,

 My followers would be fighting

to keep me from being handed over to the Jews.

But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

There’s nothing emulating the coming anticipated elation

There’s nothing even joyful

Or majestic,

Or regal,

Jesus seems powerless,

Overruled by the violence power in this world

Mocked by those in this kingdom of the world

 “Are you the King of the Jews?”

The world openly rejects Jesus,

And so therefore,

There are those who would take this verse

Using it an argument that we, as people of faith

Should only be concerned with saving souls

Forgetting about the physical

That the Creator God lovingly carved

And breathed in Holy Breath

Into who we are,

And that too is important

There are those who will use this verse as fodder

As an excuse that Christians are not called to be immersed

And involved

In this world

So why should we even advocate for the environment

Or how we need to essentially exist

And live, day to day

That we should not be intricately pushing for transformative change

In the lives of the least of these

Especially when we can not ignore

The weeping of our sisters and brothers right next to us,

Sitting besides us in the pew

Standing next to us in line at the grocery store

Walking right by us on the streets

In the midst of their sorrow,

Their hunger,

Their illness

Alone.

(pause)

It’s so interesting how this verse is lifted up,

How Christians, when the call for journeying with others in this life,

Which sometimes lays out before us fragmented

How they respond

“We are only here temporary,

This is not our home,

We are not of this world!”

Yet, all the while

Defiantly clinging to the temporary

Shiny,

Unfulfilling things of this world.

But Jesus and his followers are not abandoning the faithful

Nor is Jesus calling for us not to be present

Not to be that light,

That calming presence

That righteous voice reminding this world

That its clenching down upon on God’s Creation

Is fleeting,

Slippery

Yes, Jesus Christ is not of this world

But that is because Jesus REFUSES

to use the primary tool of oppression

Of Domination

Of Power

Violence!

Jesus will not resort to violence to control

Or make an example of

Or to force God’s People to kneel at His Feet!

The people kneeled at His Feet,

Because Jesus emits LOVE

And MERCY

The Reign of God does not invade this world

It comes unexpectedly

Joyously!

Radically!

The Kingdom of God comes into our midst

And TRANSFORMS this broken down world

Because only the CREATOR GOD has the POWER

The Power of LOVE, and of GRACE

Nothing that this world can make or manufacture,

Can ever replace it!

What Good News to hear in the midst of all of this-

This bleakness of today,

That the Creator does not want us to perish!

That God wishes for this world to thrive!

How radical that in those moments when we are unforgivable

God Still FORGIVES

How powerful that in these moments where we feel

As if we should give up

GOD IS HERE

The KINGDOM OF GOD IS RIGHT HERE!

God is never blind to our agony, our distress

The violence,

God surely weeps with each life unfulfilled

So God gives us GOD

Through Jesus Christ,

Radically transforming us,

Into beacons of hope

Into examples of footstep followers of Christ

Who are to go out into this world,

Not dismissing it,

But being all things new!

Thanks Be to God

Everything you wanted to know about the Rapture, but were afraid to ask…

Grace and Peace to you

My sisters and brothers in Christ

We ask the question

When will this be,

And what signs

Because the world is imploding on itself

And it seems to be hopeless

But we must remember of Christ’s call to servanthood and to Love

That we are called to be the light in this darkness

Just as Jesus Christ is our Light

Amen

 

“Tell us, when will this be,

and what will be the sign that all these things

are about to be accomplished?”

(pause)

As human beings we have this obsession about knowing what will happen,

Before it happens

Because of childish impatience

We flip to the end of a story to see what happens

We scroll ahead to the end of that episode we recorded

Because we just have to know

Our anxiousness drives us to ruin

Because we need to know right now,

If we got that promotion

Or if our children got into that college

Or even sitting on our hands

Because we just want to scream

“Get on with it!”

Waiting to hear the good word,

As I shared with the ELCA Church Council during my Bible Study yesterday

Of those going through entrance, endorsement and approval

In this Candidacy process

(pause)

Even people of faith,

We are obsessed to know when,

When will Jesus return?

The apocalypse, the Rapture, the End Times

It’s something that frightened me greatly as a child

And caused me to have distrust in the Creator God

It caused me to avoid reading Revelations

Especially when every church’s message of salvation

Was wrapped up in the only reason why God had created us

Was nothing more than a linear ordering of our steps

So we would not be caught in a fiery ending.

That our whole purpose and goal was to run to Calvary

To save our souls

So that we would not be left behind

Meanwhile, our sacred bodies suffered,

Forgotten

(pause)

The Left Behind series,

Movies, television

All focused on the END

And not the here and now

Remember the whole Y2K drama?

Remember 2012?

Remember the countless numbers of modern day “prophets”

who warned us of the END?

Particular dates, tied in with the Blood Moons, and other signs

“Prophets” who are anticipating the annihilation of the Palestine people

Because somewhere they have it in their heads

That the Creator God only loves those of the Jewish faith,

And that Jesus only came to save them

And not all of us

(pause)

But understandably, why wouldn’t we be begging

Pleading

Praying

For Jesus to come quickly,

And save us?

Each morning seems to give rise to destruction of bodies

Pushing out more and more hatred to the beloved community

Fixated on protection of oneself, protection of property

Seems as if our lives are as messy and chaotic

As this ancient community in the Gospel of Mark this morning

Jesus’s presence and his ministry among the faithful

and the struggling

and the Empire

Caused no doubt immense upheaval

This unknowing when the disciples and other marginalized people

Would receive their reward, would be freed

Certainly tugged at their spirits,

And so the disciples come to Jesus asking the question

“Tell us,

when will this be,

and what will be the sign

that all these things are about to be accomplished?”

Many of us who are followers of Jesus Christ cling to this question

As THE question of our faith

The disciples wanted to know

when the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple

Which occurred in 70 A.D.

We want to know too,

Flooded with predictions and prophecies and promises

Promises, hidden it seemed in the Scriptures

When will the Son of Man

Shake the heavens

And carve out for the faithful

A new beginning

A new Earth

(pause)

And Jesus once more draws the disciples, and us

Into this sacred moment

Jesus called the disciples to be observant, watchful

Because just as there are right now,

There were those who preyed upon the vulnerability

Of the children of God

Who undoubtedly were confused with sages, teachers, seekers

Who claimed to also have the same abilities as Jesus

Who preyed upon the fears of death and the unknown?

Who saw the opportunity taking advantage

Of the collective sins and shame of the community

To fill in those cracks in theirs, and ours,

Worn, frayed and fragile spirits

With tangible, temporary adhesive-

Easily offered from altars and tables full of false promises

Of prestigious status

Of wealth

That somehow all of these things,

Or aligning oneself with the “right” church

Which when you followed to the letter,

The “right” doctrine

And shunned all others

Forgot all of those other sinners

You would pass the ultimate test

You would be assured a seat in heaven

You would be taken up with all the others to heaven.

You would never be exposed or be in the midst of any wars,

Any danger

Experience any death

(pause)

And so our souls are anxious and worried,

That we aren’t doing everything right.

And we forget what comfort God’s Word is for us!

“This is the covenant that I will make with them,

I will put my laws in their hearts,

And I will write them on their minds

And I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE!”

See, this promise that has been etched permanently

Etched across our foreheads,

The sign of the Cross

Etched in our hearts

The burning of the Holy Spirit,

Etched on our feet, our hands, our voices

The promise that in our imperfection

God finds the raw material,

For creating an essential,

Powerful,

Beloved Disciple, Follower of the Creator God

Equipping us to vibrate as the Light

To stand as the Light

Because Jesus Christ is Our Light,

Casting out,

Pushing the boundaries of the darkness

Which perhaps lately seems so far reaching into those sacred corners

Causing us to worry, to be anxious, and to weep.

And causing us to feel as if the apocalypse is upon us,

Devoid of any promises of hope.

But,

There is Good News,

“For you do not give me up to Sheol,

or let your faithful one see the Pit.”

Perhaps in that moment,

As Jesus hung on the Cross

That seemed to be apocalyptic-

The world shook,

The temple broke

And the cosmos MOURNED

But if we take the Greek understanding of this word-

Of revealing, of uncovering

Through that apocalyptic moment

The Grace and Peace and MIGHT of the Creator God,

Was REVEALED

That the Cross was shattered,

Into God’s instrument of HOPE

Because CHRIST WAS RAISED from DARKNESS

INTO LIFE EVERLASTING

And that, beloved-

Is the promise that can never be washed away,

Erased,

Removed

Even when humanity is blinded to the permanent etchings

Of the face of God on our own faces.

(pause)

So I have no words,

No explanation why,

Why over 140 people were murdered in Paris

Why over 147 students were executed in Kenya

Why night after night, people lost in an apocalyptic fog

Harm and brutally hurt one another

On our own streets

Why day after day,

Students are fearful of stepping out their doors,

To learn, to live

Because of how the Creator painted them

And why day after day,

Governments of the free world

Are clinging to the old oppressive Roman Empire ways,

Suppressing their own sisters and brothers,

That they are called to serve!

It seems as if these are the End Times, right-

Seems as if the world is at its darkest,

Just like on that Friday,

As Jesus hung on the Cross

But just hold on-

Because Sunday’s on the way!

(pause)

Thanks Be to God

This is Why I Sing: Moral Mondays in Illinois

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Why do I take time away from my office where perhaps I could better use my time 

delving into theological roots 

so that knowledge pours out into my community.

Because the actions of the powerful, the Empire

impact my community as a whole

And therefore when they suffer, so do I

because it is they whom God has called me to care for

So I will never back down from this pathway of transformative justice

of Jubliee

Of restoring those who are considered the least of these

to the beauty that the Creator crafted and molded us all into

I walk, I protest, I march for my Ancestors

Because the drums still guide my heart.

Lape Bondye