What Your Soul Sings to You

Grace and Peace to you

My sisters and brothers in Christ

How can we keep ourselves from singing?

How can we contain the joy,

Of celebrating the Birth of One

Whose coming has been shared in story and song-

Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord,

Amen.

(pause)

It’s perplexing how,

Sacredness creeps into the secular,

The ordinary

Songs are poetry

And as dedicated musicians are to crafting something beautiful

And as we believe that our gifts,

Our talents

Come from the Creator-

We then, shouldn’t be too surprised

That embedded in those lyrics

There exposed,

Our Spirituality

How our soul is attached to God.

(pause)

I routinely listen to music as I am writing,

Struggling

Working on my sermons

And my music tastes run rampant

As shown throughout my Spotify playlists

How could anything put out by folks like Massive Attack

Actually relate to anything here in our Gospels?

“What Does your Soul, Sing to You”

Is actually the title of one of their songs,

In which the lyrics pose this question

That we, the listener

Should not be ashamed

To open up our hearts and pray-

That we should be open to what we can’t see

Which surrounds us

That it vibrates as an annoying touch on our hands

Or whispers in our ears

That it surrounds us with love

It’s your most precious king

If only you could hear”

What questions, what puzzlement

(pause)

So how do our souls sing

Witness

To us

To a point where we are so full

Overjoyed

Bursting with a sense of being Loved, and Sharing Love

That the only way we can sometimes express the Good News

Is through lifting up of our voices

What song, what hymn grips your own heart-

Serving as your testimony

That universally brings those who are struggling with their faith,

Or their place in this life

Closer, to being here among the Beloved Community?

As my Seminary journey began,

Throughout my discernment

My questioning

Still not believing,

Whether or not I was to continue down this road-

I found comfort in songs which moved me

To Weep

And to hear God speaking.

I heard God speaking in lyrics Jars of Clay

A play on Psalm 27 one of my favorite Psalms

“All my failures won’t condemn me

Or leave me paralyzed and bound

And when I’m at my worst

Your love, it finds me first”

That even in those moments of darkness, blindly wandering

Because of God and God’s Love

We are able to exist and breathe

(pause)

I heard God speaking in lyrics by Mercy Me

“And I can feel your presence here with me

Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty

Caught up in the wonder of your touch

Here in this moment I surrender to your love”

That’s almost self-explanatory, right?

The shattering almost frightening moment when God makes

God’s presence known,

And suddenly our trials don’t see so devastating!

And I heard God speaking in lyrics by Shekihah Glory Ministries

“Will your heart and soul say yes

Will your Spirit still say yes

 There is more that I require of thee

Will your heart and soul say yes”

(pause)

Hear the question-

Will we,

Say YES

To what God is calling us to?

Do we understand what it means to submit?

To the Will of God?

How powerful would have been

If Mary had sung this,

To those who would gather that night

That sacred, beautiful night

Of Jesus’s birth?

And there has been this question tongue in cheek about the hymn

Mary did you know?

And clearly hearing Mary’s song in the Magnificant

Here in the Gospel of Luke

She knew!

“for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.

    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

    and holy is his name.”

Mary sings of the Goodness of God-

Even as others may have seen her,

Ridiculed

Frowned upon her

Whispered about her situation

Mary did you know,

That bearing the Son of Man

Was going to be difficult

That you would be rejected by your own people

That you are seen as nothing more than a despised, poor refugee

By the occupying, oppressive Roman Empire

Mary did you know,

That there was more God would require of you-

That as much as you would bear Jesus’s birth

And revel in this gift that God bestowed upon you,

That you would have to let go,

Let go of your beloved Son

And watch Him give His Life

For all of Creation?

(pause)

So what is our own soul,

Bonded

Blessed

Cradled by the Creator God

Saying,

Singing

To us

This Advent season?

When we see, and hear, and experience

Pain

Our own aching,

Our neighbors’ hurt

Our sisters and brothers who are refugees, and their agony

Are we silent?

Or do we proclaim the Gospel singing

“Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved”

Will we sing of God’s praises,

Bringing God’s people into the brilliance

Of this Advent light

“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

 and lifted up the lowly;

he has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty”

Isn’t that Good News?

And because of God’s promises to us

Through Jesus Christ

We can be bold as

Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John

Martin, Malcolm, Freedom fighters

Black Youth Project, Fight for 15, Dr. Larycia Hawkins,

And sing,

Jesus is my Savior,

I shall not be moved”

(pause)

Allow your story, your witness, your testimony

Come out from deep within

Because who God is

And what Jesus means

Is what our souls are singing to us

And we must share with the world

Thanks Be to God

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Wade in the Water

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

As we are immersed in this sacred practice of waiting

Anticipating of the mystery that will transform our hearts

How then, will we live out our baptismal identity

How, as people of faith

Will we translate the Good News from the abstract

To action

For the world?

Through Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

 (pause)

The article that caught my attention from Huffington Post

a couple of years ago,

Had this headline-

‘Big Rich Texas’ Leslie

Offers tips on a Stylish adult baptism!’

Now-

I have no idea who Leslie is,

Or the show,

Because apparently it was floating out there in the sewage of cable reality TV land-

But our friend Leslie here states-

That its cool to have baptisms in your pool at home,

Because to her “It’s much more controlled,

And cleaner”

(pause)

In this clip on youtube

our good friend Leslie begins by telling us,

“I’m going to show you how to make an adult baptism stylish!”

Complete with a runway showing

of baptismal fashions that are classy,

she remarks

Because a baptism is not the time to be boobalicious(flaunty)

(pause, wait for laughter)

Not surprisingly this episode’s video in its entirety

was removed off the internet

Not surprisingly the remarks by people of faith was one of well,

Speechless

Not surprisingly could we not see our friend,

Our brother John

Yelling at the top of his lungs

“You brood of vipers!”

This verse always makes me laugh,

Because John pulls no punches

And calls people on the carpet

This verse leaves us no doubt scratching our heads,

Wondering about John being rude

But,

When people of this world

Take something as sacred as this Rite of Baptism

And turn it into

A festive celebration turned inward onto themselves

And not outward

Towards the community which surrounds them with joy,

Towards the One who cradles us in that moment of birth

Towards the One who breathes sacred breath into who we are,

Why are we surprised that John’s very being is on fire,

Calling those who gathered that day,

And us now

Into question?

(pause)

The people who were coming to gather,

In our Gospel text this morning,

Seem to be eager to be baptized

But John ignored the boundaries of proper society

And shook them into the FIRE,

Waking them UP

That just being baptized

WAS NOT ENOUGH

Shocking right?

Controversial, right?

Jesus commands in the Gospel of Matthew

To go and baptize all nations

What else is there, right?

But our ministry and witness and responsibility to one another

Should not,

Does not

Stop there

Baptism is not fire insurance,

Clearly to be baptized

in John’s time

means you would be counted

Welcomed

Marked as a member of the community,

A part of a community where you had a voice,

Where no one would have to worried about your soul

When you closed your eyes to this world

But,

John wanted the people,

this crowd of the faithful

And even perhaps the unfaithful

To not lean on just the fact

That they were descendants of Abraham

But that there was MORE

MORE than how they and we identify,

As Lutherans

Or Methodists

Or Catholics

Yes MORE!

More than just checking this off of one’s to do list-,

Martin Luther states in the Large Catechism,

“Therefore let all Christians regard their baptism,

As a daily garment they are to wear all the time.”

Luther adds because of baptism,

If we want to claim Christianity

We must practice the work that makes us so.

(pause)

And that is what John is saying here in the Gospel text-

Honesty,

Kindness

Hospitality,

Actively living out their faith!

This is how the Kingdom of God comes in

Not through flashiness,

Or fanfare,

But the simple act of sharing what we have with one another,

Sharing of bread and wine at the Table,

Sharing the gift of Jesus Christ

Sharing space and the peace,

As we all-regardless of who we are,

Kneel in the presence of an ordinary babe

A babe who has an extraordinary power, gift, LIFE

Healing,

Revolutionary

Unexpected

Earth shattering

ALL encapsulated

In His Birth

(pause)

Good News for us today, right?

Remember, we are ordinary people

And so through remembering the promises given

John proclaims “I baptize you with water,

But one who is more powerful than I will come,

He, Jesus Christ,

Will drown our old selves,

Our fears and sorrows

Our pain which has festered upon our very being,

Because of this world

Jesus Christ will cover us with LIFE

Renewing who we are,

As God’s Children

Through the Holy Spirit-

And because of this New identity

As followers of Jesus-

We then are called to go out

Taking the Good News with us

Caring for those who are alone or abandoned by family

Taking fellowship and love and peace with us,

especially to our Muslim sisters and brothers

Working alongside others as the Gospel calls us to

Especially those who have been homeless

THIS is what being Baptized is about

Not only welcomed as a child of God,

But FREE

FREE to explore this sacred space we call Redeemer

FREE to seek out and be immersed in ministry

FREE to be countercultural

To push boundaries

In a world which seemingly rewards impatience

Immaturity

Selfishness

FREE to witness, to testify,

FREE to actively live out

The Good News!

So come with me know,

We are FREE To wash this new sister in Christ over in water,

Welcoming her to our community of faith

Wading in the Healing Waters!

Thanks Be to God

Who Me, God?

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

God’s Word is proclaimed

God uses the ordinary,

Because it is only through our witnessing

To one another

We have the power to proclaim

Healing and Hope

And of the coming salvation

Of the Kingdom of God

Of Jesus Christ

Amen.

What audacity people have these days,

Taking it upon themselves

Bringing God outside of that box

We sometimes place God in

(Step out from the pulpit and tell the congregation that you’d like to share from the Lutheran magazine from February of this year, a Letter to the Editor; someone who was irate that a bunch of seminarians had the audacity to do something out of the box, and be present and public with those who were beyond the least of these, but those who caring for these sisters and brothers in Christ was unheard of, almost taboo. Read the piece, and then share how December 1st of 2014-these same seminarians from Chicago Theological Seminary and McCormick Presbyterian and yes, LSTC decided to be reckless-to depart from the normal routine, to gather as people of faith, leaving exams and papers and meetings behind-

And take the Gospel to the streets.

How we had the audacity to disrupt the normal quiet of the chill of winter,

And raised our voices in righteous anger

Marching down Woodlawn Avenue toward’s Obama’s residence

Protesting a system,

Protesting laws

Which leave our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ

Embedded in brokenness

Instead, having the audacity to break chains

Working towards restoration

Restoring life to people,

Even when, yes

We acknowledge those same lives are twisted away sometimes

From Light and Life

From Faith

From Peace.

We, as committed children of God

Decided that the tranquil silence of Advent

Needed to be shattered

Reminding people that just because our streets

Trees

Houses

Are dripping in holiday glamour

That was not reason to attempt

To mask

Cover up

The real pain that exists no matter what the season

Suffering knows no boundaries

Neither does it care

We simply understood we had to prepare the way

(pause)

Preparing the way for a shift in our atmosphere,

Being bold, unashamed,

Just like thousands of people who were turning over tables in the streets

Blocking doors

Proclaiming and breathing out the power of the Gospel

That they too, were preparing the way

Having the audacity and the courage

To disrupt the normalcy of Black Friday

Speaking the truth about the righteousness of God,

For even yes, the thieves, and the beggars

Not afraid of baring their faith naked,

To a world who just wanted for them to shut up

Cover up

And get with the program

Of masking the pain we all carry

Just like Tamar Messenah, a sister

A friend

Following her call to be Rabbi

Unrelenting in her audacity to invade people’s lives

With her kindness

Invading spaces which only those who are filled with the Holy Spirit

Can walk,

Can exist

In an ugly wilderness

She continues to keep vigil on Chicago’s streets

Long after the powers that be have dismissed ideas

That will not wrap them in glittery green

Long after unhealthy solutions that are unfit

For a multicultural way of uplifting a community

Have staggered growth, progress and reconciliation

She has her nerve

To bring her nosiness

Her fierceness

Her selflessness

Her friends and community

Into the midst

Witnessing

Disrupting the status quo of violence

Boldly extending her hands

Her heart

Her faith

Who she is

And the peace that she brings

From God

Preparing the way

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord”

What was God thinking about?

Here God

Giving life to all Creation

Gave life to leaders of this world

Leaders who had prominence

Titles

Wealth

Stature

Anyone of these were worthy of herding

Announcing

The Messiah

This King of Kings!

And instead God had the audacity

To fill this wild eyed prophet

This ordinary man

With clothes in disrepair

Homeless

Wandering in the wilderness

With a Spirit

With a Fire

This man called John

To declare that we, as people of God

Need suffer no more

Need rely on this world, no more

Need not cower, and weep no more

That the Son of Man was coming

This, this man called John

Was whom the Creator entrusted for this mission and ministry

That ALL

Not a chosen few

Or a chosen Tribe

Or a sector of the Roman Empire

Or a privileged class

But ALL would see

Feel

Be immersed in the salvation

The FREEDOM

Of the Creator God

John wanders through the wilderness

The wilderness of empty temples devoid of people who were welcomed

Empty churches devoid of the Holy Spirit

Empty streets devoid of a sense of faithfulness

Empty hearts devoid of any hope

John declares in our Gospel this morning,

The same message that has been proclaimed throughout time

“PREPARE”

Prepare for change to rush in,

Overflowing

Overpowering

Dragging away in its waves

Any fear,

Any despair

Any despondency

Change that erupts and stretches out

As only the Holy Spirit can

Prepare for the coming of the One,

Whose presence

Whose touch

Whose WORD

IS INTENSE AND DRIVES OUT

EVERYTHING

That keeps US

From being connected

To the Creator GOD

Isn’t it strange

And wonderful

That something so ridiculously minuscule

As a mustard seed

Something that perhaps is that tiny,

Our faith

Has the ability to BLOSSOM

FLOURISH

Crowding out helplessness

And ushers us into a crowded, ordinary space

Where we experience Love

God’s Love for us!

Isn’t it Good News,

That God, Our Redeemer loved us so much,

That God prepared the way for our salvation

Through something as small,

And ordinary

As a babe

Jesus Christ.

(pause)

So,

How will you prepare the way

For the coming of the Kingdom of God,

For the coming of the Lord?

Yes, you

We are ordinary people,

What can we do, right?

But WE DO have that POWER

We have the audacity to SPEAK TRUTH,

SPEAK LIFE

Go out and share the GOOD NEWS

Because through ordinary people

Through orphans, widows, unwed teenage mothers,

Unemployed adults, forgotten elders

We see God transforming this place

And US, beloved

That is how God Loves US

God picking US, ordinary

To proclaim that GOD is here,

Forever!

Thanks Be to God

Closing Eyes to this world, Emerging into Life Everlasting-A Funeral Sermon

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Although death is a part of life’s journey

Death is not the end,

For we dive into the waters,

Emerging New,

Into the Arms of the One who Comes to Transform this World,

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord

Amen.

 (pause)

There are no words.

This past week was supposed to be

A time of giving thanks,

Of celebrating new beginnings

As our Church Year once more turns,

And we turn our hearts towards

Waiting

Hoping

Witnessing to the miracle of new life!

But instead it seems time has stopped

Stalled

And we are stuck here in this sorrowful time

Sorrows that suddenly shower down upon our very being

Like a bitter rain

As we sit drifting out in the cradle of a boat

On what we thought would be the perfect afternoon,

Waiting for that perfect catch

Frustrated when it slips through our hands

Feeling empty when we have no control

On how the nets will fall

Confused

Angered

Because we have followed all the directions

The steps

The motions

We have been faithful in our witness

Our serving

On being present with a community of faith

And in the midst of the storm

Something so precious to us

Someone we were able to hold onto

To Love

To proudly travel alongside in the journey

Claiming as our own

Slips through our fingers

Back into those healing, baptismal waters

Free to swim, to explore life everlasting

Without us.

(pause)

Jesus,

In our Gospel text this morning

Patiently endures our floundering

Through Agape,

Through a Love that passes all understanding

Teaching the disciples and us

That we cannot remain rooted to one fragment

One section

One portion of this world,

This journey

And think that somehow think that we will receive

Experience

Perfection

Instead of allowing ourselves to breath into the mystery

Of the Holy Spirit

Drowning our old selves from the fear,

Freeing our very being

To follow in the waves and the wake

In the direction that the Holy Spirit opens up to us

Carrying,

Bringing with us our vulnerability

Our willingness

And suddenly the Creator pours into our nets

Even more!

More joyfulness

More happiness

More ways that we are able to give and serve others,

In the beloved community

More ways that along our life’s pathways

We are able to stand and raise our heads

Because we know we are beloved children of God

An unique example

Of how the community of faith should live out our lives,

As sisters and brothers in Christ.

It was that unique community and understanding

Of how we are connected

through bonds that are unbreakable

Because of the Cross which is etched upon us,

Because of the Table which feeds us

Because of the call to discipleship within us-

That was Gail’s and Dick’s reality

Gail’s kindness was infectious, right?

She just did for people

Because she understood Christ’s call-

Later on in this passage,

Jesus charges Peter to tend to His sheep,

And feed His lambs

And Gail did that

She cared for children who were not her own

She wanted to open up the beauty of Creation,

So that people could experience it themselves,

Through travel, right?

She was generous with who she was

To those who were fortunate to have known her.

(pause)

This is supposed to be a time of celebration,

Because we are joyously waiting the coming

Of the Christ child

And yet,

We are in the midst of pain.

Pain because an empty chair,

An empty space in the pew

And its just unfair.

We’re broken and irate at death,

But in these moments when the harshness of the cold rain

Threatens to cloud and dampen our very being,

“He will swallow up death forever,

God Our Creator will wipe away the tears

From all faces”

Every time death encroaches where it is not wanted,

Jesus Christ,

Stands at the Tomb

Stands at the crossroads

Calls to US, saying

COME OUT

LIVE

Know that this-

This is not the end!

The Good News is that Jesus does not abandon us

Jesus stretches out His hands

Hands full of MERCY AND GRACE

The power TO HEAL US

Bringing US TO EVERLASTING LIFE

(pause)

For now,

We must open our hands,

Allow those that we love so dearly

Those who have heard the Creator’s Voice

Calling them home,

We must allow their gentleness to drift from our hands

As they gracefully turn, enfolded in the healing waters below

To swim free,

Free from pain, from suffering

To emerge whole,

Healed,

Into the joyous life everlasting

While we carry on their legacy of love,

And of Peace.

Knowing that they are

Beyond the Veil

Watching, Waiting,

And Loving US.

Thanks Be to God.