The Cosmic Understanding of Jesus

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Hope begins in the darkness

And we, beloved

Are that hope,

Because of our identity in the One

Who devastated the concept of death,

As the end,

And opened to us

Eternal Life,

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord.

Amen.

 

This particular scripture,

In Colossians

Has enlightened me,

Intrigued me

And challenged me,

As a follower of Jesus Christ.

Because my personal relationship

And understanding of Christ,

Is that Jesus is everywhere

And immersed in everything;

He came,

He Lives!

He breathed

And

He died for all

That,

Is the Radical Hospitality,

Compassion

And Good News

That needs to be professed,

Every waking minute

Along this life’s journey.

(pause)

Because Jesus Christ,

Is the Great I AM

We have the freedom

To follow Him

To sit at His Feet

To allow His Glory

His Love

To Heal us

(pause)

Because of that Freedom,

We are no longer bound

By restrictive regulations

That in order to receive salvation

And God’s Graces

We must follow A+B which will equal C

We no longer are required

To go through strict rituals

To please God

Or set out an elaborate meal

To satisfy God

Martha was in the midst of that

In our Gospel this morning,

And complained about lazy Mary

Who was being still.

And Jesus tells Martha,

She is worried about the wrong things,

Because all that Jesus wants

All God our Creator desires

Is relationship with us

Is a simple meal with us,

Breaking bread.

And this is what God wants for us,

The relationship to have with our neighbors,

Because the only thing that matters

Is our identity in and with Christ.

But sometimes this is the effect,

When you have been conditioned

Living in the shadow

Of the empire.

(pause)

(Tell the congregation about the theological battle that I found myself immersed in during my Seminary academic journey which centered around this particular text of Colossians. I was taking a course called ironically Prophetic Preaching, with two professors one of which happens to be the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III who is the pastor of Trinity UCC. This was a course taught by SCUPE, which is an small, urban seminary dedicated to theological education focused on the urban environment, especially for People of Color. The course was set over a couple of weekends and I had heard rave reviews from many of my classmates before me who had taken the course. The first weekend, and that first hour, one of the other professors started class out with devotions before we delved into the academic-and he picked this particular text. )

 

“For in Him all things were created

Things in heaven and on earth

Visible and invisible

Whether thrones or powers or rules or authorities

ALL THINGS have been created through Him

He is before all things

And in Him all things hold together

And through Him to reconcile to Himself

All things

Whether things on earth

Or things in heaven…”

Through the Cross

(pause)

Jesus comes from the Creator God

For us all.

To understand the implications of this,

Was radical

Because the professor pointed out,

What the text didn’t say

It doesn’t say that

Jesus only came for the Tribe of Israel

Or for everyone who had signed up to follow Jesus

This,

This is the cosmic understanding

Of who Jesus Christ is!

Remember throughout this sacred text,

Jesus healed everyone

Who was broken

Who was in need

He didn’t ask about their allegiance

Or how many times they had been to temple

Or whether they had followed the purity laws

Or what their bloodline was

HE JUST DID WHATEVER WAS NEEDED

Because THAT IS WHAT GOD WANTED

God wanted,

Wants

God’s Beloved Children

To be as ONE.

And that because of Jesus,

The Gospel is proclaimed

And all of Creation hears that Goof News

Creation itself is in tune with the Creator,

We as humanity,

Sometimes fail

Seeing this clearly before our faces.

(pause)

This,

This is radical Good News

And something we as people of Faith

Might struggle with

For in HIM

ALL THINGS

Were Created,

Not Christians

Not just Lutherans

BUT ALL-

And that can shake up one’s faith

“What is the point then,

Of all this

Of this work we do

What we profess

If God’s Grace

Is not exclusive?”

(pause)

(Continue stating that this is where I found myself in the midst of this theological argument between many of us who had heard about God’s radical grace, and many of us who had a different and limited understanding, who had not heard about God’s Grace but only knew of God as a strict, unforgiving ruler. Suddenly our collective identity that we had walked into that classroom, as beloved sisters and brothers in Christ was broken, broken by accusations that some of us in the room, our denominations were teaching us falsehoods, simply because we clung to Grace, and that God’s Grace was freely for all; that forgiveness was overflowing and that we were not perfect but both saint and sinners)

(pause)

 

But this,

This text,

Is GOOD NEWS both then,

And now.

Our favorite brother in Christ

Paul,

Was trying to unite everyone

In this cosmic understanding

Because of this message of Jesus Christ,

That God Loves US

Regardless,

And in turn,

We should love our neighbors

Known

And

Unknown

That these ancient people in Colossae

Should be identified

By

And Because

Of their Bond

And Baptism

And Brokenness

And Renewal

In Jesus Christ

And should Live out this Call

To Love!

That identity

Took precedence

Over what had been forced upon,

And demeaned by,

The Roman Empire

Rome,

As occupier

As ruler

Attempted to subjugate these people

Who clung to the One,

Who had the power

Who has the power

To Free ALL

By labeling them,

Based on their socio-economic

Political

Military

Status.

The emperor stated he was god

As if life came

Was created

Ebbed and flowed from his,

Human

Fragile

Hands.

(pause)

It should not be surprising to us,

That Paul had the audacity

To offer words of righteousness

And of Sedition

Because Paul was going against the Empire

Hope

Begins

In the

Darkness

In that shadow of the empire

Paul declares that Jesus Christ,

Not Caesar

Is the image

Of God

That not this mighty

And very human

Empire

Had power

But that Jesus Christ alone,

Came before anything,

That Jesus was first

Before any thrones

Or rulers

Or earthly powers

(pause)

Paul is not afraid to say,

That because of Jesus Christ,

The Son of the Living God

All things were created

That we,

As humanity,

As God’s beloved people

We,

Belong

To

God

We

Are

Not Slaves

Of any human kingdom

We

Know

And

Confess

That Redemption

That Resurrection

Is

For

All!

(pause)

In the face

Of cruelty

In the face

Of chaos

In the face

Of destruction

Despair

Disorder

That separates us

In the face

Of the empire of this world

That tries to divide us

Because of the beauty

And Uniqueness

That the Creator has given to each of us

The Good News is,

We must see one another

As the reflection of Christ

We must recognize one another

Immersed in our identity in Christ

We must love one another

Regardless of who we are

Because Christ, Our Savior

Commands us

Teaches us

And

Loves

US!

Thanks Be to God.

 

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What’s in a Name? #decolonizeGod’sName

An article that was just shared on the ELCA Facebook page, highlighted a shocking event where the PCUSA dared to participate in a prayer to God….simply because they spoke the name of God as..

Allah

When did we have copyright on what God’s Name should be?

I’m not understanding why we get all worked up when we use all of the expressions for God

I am a part of this movement to #decolonizeAllTheThings, specifically around religion and especially as..

#decolonizeLutheranism

Ase,

Ameen

Peace Be Upon You

Blessed Be.

 

And now for something completely different: #decolonizeallthethings

Do ya’ll realize who I am?

Did you forget?

Are you that blind?

Me

Raw

Woman

Colored

Creole

Fierce

Called

Possessed by the Holy Spirit

Lutheran

Christ centered

Ancestor driven

My question is

Why is my Church

Scared of Me?

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Scared of How I dance with the Creator

Demanding that I strip painfully

Who I am

And put on an ill fitting spirit

Identity

Labeled Assimilation

Call yourself Christians

When you refuse to follow Christ

Into the ugliness

The Abyss

The Darkness

Where you dumped the beloved community

Where you pushed us into oblivion

Out of the light

That you thought

You deserved

Instead of me

Child of God

Loved

Sacred

My body Sacred

My body a reflection of Christ

Not a reflection of dogmas

Doctrine

Which we cling to

Instead of our Faith

Instead of the FIRE

As the Holy Spirit Burns

Burns away everything

That keeps us from

Creator

Burns through classrooms

Burns through the hatred

Violence

That we heap on

Oppress through

In classrooms?

Nothing is safe

Nowhere is safe?

Why does my Church

Expect me

To forget ME?

photo (4)

Original poem

My poetry may not be understood fully but this is how the anger pours from my soul. I have chosen, and the Creator chose me to be here in this moment, serving, preaching and proclaiming the healing power of the Gospel and doing what the Risen Christ has commanded. Loving one another goes beyond people’s comfort zones and it means that we have to be intentional about how we live out our faith, publicily; it mean marching into the places of privilege and flipping that table, disrupting the norm and not evermore being silent about the pain of those whose faces reflect the Risen Christ.

This is what we hear in our Seminary Chapel services, when the Gospel is proclaimed so I am amazed when suddenly congregations get angry that the Gospel IS being proclaimed and infuses within who we are as seminarians and suddenly we can’t shut up and we can’t stop pushing the boundaries and demanding change, and we are public witnesses. We demand that worship reflects the entire community, and that our theologians we study and discuss come from every walk of life and that the Seminary, as it professes that it is Lutheran, actually leap off of that cliff, following the Holy Spirit and DO.

That is what it means for me to #decolonizetheSeminary.

We are not all

Straight

White

Rural

Suburban

Swedish

German

Norwegian

Danish

Upper Class

Minnesotan

To decolonize the Seminary means:

That my Seminary, LSTC finally had to address the white privilege and the racism that had affected so many people of Color over the years, making their experiences a living hell in this place that was supposed to be this beautiful bubble-but dripped poison all over them as it bursts.

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In my Graduating class, I was the only Woman of Color.

Period.

People are excited by my presence and how I will continue to evolve into my Pastoral Leadership.

But are they? Really?

I refuse to be quiet or silent.

That is what #decolonizeLutheranism means

Acknowledge our presence as beloved children of the Creator

Acknowledge that this world is %(%^(^ UP

That Christianity has been used as a weapon to oppress and dominate

That Lutherans refused to do anything in the annihilation of bodies

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Of Brown, Black, of Native, of Aboriginal, of Ancient

Of Hurting, of Imperfection

And now,

Because the Holy Spirit has smashed the perfect glass around you

And you are standing bleeding

You are feeling for the first time

And you take those first steps

Towards Justice

Towards Love

Towards Righteousness

Towards Peace.

 Featured Image -- 260

Ase

And

Ase…

 

 

 

 

Curtains Drawn, the Mirror still reflecting and Beyond

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My  very being seemingly feels as if this is a moment of waiting

So very thankful to be in this moment, however, as the horizon raises up to meet me

even as my heart still refuses to vacate from the Cradle of the Creator’s hands

The morning of my Approval Meeting

my very being wept

I know the Creator walks with me, surrounds me but how fearful was I

and how I called out for strength

and how I called out for My Granny

and how the reverberating memory of her thoughtful gaze

and the reverberating power of life eternal

echoed as I heard her call me, beyond….

And so what journey God had brought and laid out before me came to fruition

and so now I wait…

Shiny, new, Approved for Ordination

What else does the Creator have in store for me?

My daughter inquired where I would like to serve-

Wouldn’t I wish to go elsewhere?

I am just thankful that there are those who recognize and welcome the gifts the Creator gives me

I go, where God sends

I go, where the Holy Spirit leads

I go, where Christ calls

I go, and my Ancestors dance, encouraging, loving, guiding me

Because God’s word, more so now than at any time needs to be heard

Because My People are crying out for justice

Because we are-beloved of God…

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At the Crossroads

Twilight within my heart

There is a chanting within my blood

There are voices raised

but you are not privy

There is a presence

but you are not aware

Aware of the heaviness that weighs

of the beauty

connected with the ancestors

in sacred spaces

All I want to do is dance

All I want is for these people to disperse

All I wanted to do

was remain on the floor

and hold her hand

All I’ve wanted

was to return to a time

when I was small

and she was full of life

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full of life that is equal

Equal to how we fluidly came

into sacred spaces

Spaces that shift, move and breathe

Can’t you see the dew

Can’t you feel the wind

Can’t you hear the Creator’s calling

I guess that’s why we are here, right?10404448_10154861562655532_8486268226180457325_n

All we’ve ever wanted

is to be seen as full of ruach

of the essence of the Creator

in sacred spaces

Sacred in this room filled

Sacred outside on sidewalks

filled with people

People who raised their voices

People who perhaps don’t see me as different

Different because my skin is a memory of ancestry

Ancestry steeped in the rhythm

Rhythm of drums that still cause me to rise

Raise my head proudly

Proud because that is the crown of hope I carry

Carrying the stories of the divine imprint

fingerprint we all share

Sharing one body, one blood

is frightening to some

Because that means when they raise their fist

those weapons

Trying to erase their sins

looped over and again throughout the ages

The scars show up on different facesimagesferguson

But the pain is still ugly

ugliness in the fact of the demands to assimilate

Assmilate

eradicate

Forget

Forgive

Forgiving roots us in our

connection to the Divine

Divine Creator

Comforter of our Souls

Souls which are Black

because that is how the Creator painted us

From Blackness was Birthed

The Essence

The Life

Look, the Heavens are Cradled in Blacknesseca5f51f2aafc202c7d5f61bcd9e51ca

with reminders of the power of the Holy Spirit

Spirit sparkling as stars

Stars each illuminating

The Love that God has

This Blackness that God cradles us

We, too, God’s Creation

Creating,

Manifesting,

Living

Breathing

Magnifying who we are in each step

Steps of joy, of wonder

Steps running through fields

Steps running away from fear

Steps running to someone arms

Steps running into the veil

Because of GOD

They made a mistake

Because this life sometimes makes

folks run blindly

Blinded because they are blinded

Not seeing this child, that boy

that woman, this man

As their sisters and brothers

bonded by the BloodCivil rights protestors are attacked with a water cannon.

We are different from our journeys

Journeys that are winding

Breathing

Failing

Falling

Struggling

Reaching

Reaching up from the floor

where we sat

holding her hand

as she lay dying

weeping, remembering

watching the dancing

of the saints and ancestors

surrounding the crossroads

where my Savior stood

who welcomes us home

who welcomes our presence

to stand at the crossroads

in the shadow

of the foolishness

of God

And now, a word from our Sponsor and a week of not Sermonizing: Sabbath

Hear me out

Seminary has been my Sabbath all of these years

It’s strange to even think it in that vein

But

The Creator calls upon us to keep the Sabbath Holy

Meaning

Cradling close our connect with creation

Communing with the Divine

Keeping the Sabbath Holy

Means

Respecting the stillness of life

Treasuring the moments

That we are present

Living our who we are, counter culturally

So

If there is the call to keep this time of discernment

Of climbing into the arms of the green goddesses

of running up that hill

And making a deal with God…

Then Seminary has been my Sabbath

Diverting from the normalcy of this routine journey

Finding my steps along and off the beaten pathway

Listening to the whispers of the winds

Running up that hill

With no problems…

Sabbath is being engaged, revived

And so

Seminary has removed me from the chaos of this world

It has transformed the stresses into stardust

That lifts along with the incense that flitters up

Along with my prayers

Beyond the horizon

Even through my tears

The risen Christ awaits and remains

Waiting for me to run up that hill

Even as this pathway, this vocation, this gift of life

Causes my feet to crumble sometimes

I still run up that hill

No deals need to be made

Because the Creator welcomes me

With no problem.

 

In Search Of

Grace and Peace to you as we people of faith, continue in this season of Resurrection and Hope, thankful for the Gift from God, Jesus Christ Our Risen Savior and Lord, Amen.

 What is God to you? What brings you closer to the Divine Creator?

(Pause and then wait for a response. If none, jokingly tease out an answer from the congregation by saying, No seriously this is participation here. Repeat question and see what kind of answers are given)

Here’s another thought:

Does God remain unknown to you?

(Pause, for responses)

That perhaps is a question that can’t be answered in this moment, because maybe as people of faith we are still struggling

To answer this honestly

If you were here a month or so ago,

these pews were almost filled with many people

who were able to answer that

Because for them, God is unknown

Or perhaps the question they would offer is

Where is God

And because of knowing that their hearts were heavy

And fragile

Like Paul among these Athenians

We as people of faith are called to extend hospitality

Because we have the understanding

That we are rooted and created from God

That we live and move and have our being

Grounded in God

And we also empathize

Because in moments of vulnerability

We too, felt abandoned by God

Especially along this journey called life.

Perhaps more people would feel at ease

If in our bulletins there was a disclaimer

That stated this:

 “This sermon offered information based in part on the theological

And well, guesswork

The preacher purpose is to attempt to suggest something

Because quite frankly they too, are searching for answers

To the mysteries of God that we as a body of Christ, will examine

(pause)

A friend of mine however, has a very limited, different view

Of Humanity’s questing for God.

In a Facebook post this week she made a condemning statement

That anyone who questioned the existence or doubts God

Or wandered off onto the beaten path for God

Was foolish!

Perhaps she missed the point of Paul’s mini homily

In our Acts text this morning.

Perhaps in her Pentecostal upbringing

She has not had the opportunity to read Luther who says

In the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed

“ I believe that I cannot by my own reason

or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord,

 or come to Him”

More foolishness, right?

Perhaps it would be shocking for her to know

That we as sisters and brothers in Christ

Are just as confused

As we strive for an end of the separation from the Divine

For all of our collective, global intelligence and philosophical wisdom..

Humanity’s soul still struggles for fulfillment and an end to an aching hunger

Even while God’s Word is clearly carved out in Creation

As John 14:18 says that “I will not leave you orphaned.”

But foolishly, childishly we still continue to dig our hands

into the sands

Going In Search Of….

God

(pause)

Surprisingly Paul exudes the example of hospitality here in Athens

As he teaches the Athenians gathered before him, curious, hungry

Of this “unknown God’s” open door policy

Because as God, Our Creator cast us out

God’s Door remains wide open

“So that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him

But God, that’s a cruel game of hide and go seek!

No wonder the Athenians filled every nook and cranny with representations

Of Who God was for them

There were idols created for gaining desire, and shunning away strife

Objects dedicated for connection in Dreams and attracting Affection

Objects worshipped to drive out Deceit and Death

Deities uplifted representing the Moon and the Heavens, the Seas and the Earth

For Prosperity and for the Home

What idols do we see in our own lives today?

What seems to cling to our souls?

When we too, as a part of this global community

Run to when we are confused, sacred or seeking comfort?

There are those within humanity

That are huddled closely to forts that boast

Mighty weapons of war and weapons of protection

There are those within humanity

Who cannot bear to tear themselves away

And finding them immersed in the mesmerizing, bluish glow

Of the shrine of 24/7 technology

There are fragments of humanity who continually

Find streaming in and out of the temples

Where they are able to consume to their hearts delight

Filling their coffers and their closets

Yet,

In the stillness when we are besides ourselves

There hangs above the abyss a longing

Continually overflowing

An barrenness that seemingly will never be blessed

(pause)

So our lips continue to be parched

Our throats persist with dryness

Our bodies weary with the journey

But we miss the obscure little sign along the side of the road

Leading to a small place of rest and respite

Where “they would search for God

And perhaps grope for him-

Though indeed He is not far from each of us”

And just as perhaps that isolated, dusty altar

That took up space somewhere in an undescriptive building in Athens

“To an unknown God,”

So too, do our sacred places of community worship

Our churches become ghost towns

(pause)

“I see how extremely religious you are in every way”,

Paul recognized being in the midst of the Athenians

That their hearts were exposed

That etched into every statue, temple, and object

Everything engaged in their daily lives

Was the yearning to be whole

By the power of God

These words from this Scripture too

Pinpoints in us today

Because of the reminders of the emptiness that this world can only offer

That leaves us aching through our own pain,

Our sorrow

Our longing to be made whole

By the Grace and Mercy of God

For clinging to the physical nature of guns,

There is a desire for security and safety in the arms of the Creator

For obsessing to be connected 24/7

There is the need to be intertwined closely to the being of God

For wanting to be surrounded and have access to anything and everything

There is a necessity to absorb the very essence of God Our Creator

Within ourselves

So that we find peace.

We as people of God sometimes feel abandoned in this world

We need to know that when we cannot find our voices

When we reach out

Needing comfort, security, fulfillment and love

That it will freely pour down upon our very being

What God appear as, or what God’s voice sounds like

May always be unknown to us as people of faith

But God’s Love is not

God’s Word is not

God’s Promises are not

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate

To be with You Forever.”

What Good News!

God created us to live and move and have being

We are from God

And so is our risen Savior and Lord

Jesus Christ

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that although Christ is not physically standing in our aisles

Or sitting in our pews

Or hanging out with us in our homes

He is here

We find Him at the Table

In the Bread and Wine

In the Body and Blood

And the Good News is that the risen Christ

Sends among us and within us

Filling those places which are empty

The Holy Spirit

has called us through the Gospel, enlightened me by Her gifts, and sanctified and preserved us in the true faith.”

 

That no matter how much we foolishly question

Or blindly search

Jesus Christ will meet us along the way, at the crossroads

No matter whether our faith is rock solid

Or whether we are still wondering and wandering

“I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you.”

Thanks Be To God

 

The Gospel of Truth

Grace and peace to you as we people of faith, continue to journey celebrating the resurrection, witnessing of the gift from God Our Creator, Jesus Christ, Our Risen Savior and Lord. Amen

Have you ever wondered how powerful words are-

That formed in the shape of a poem

A story

A Scripture

Reduces us to shameless weeping?

I must confess that there was some difficulty writing this sermon

Not because you could find me wearily hunched over my desk

Or holed up in my room

With commentaries and Greek Lexicons

And text study ala Skype

But because these words from Jesus Christ

Rattled the depth of my soul

Because of the questions that have been stirred

Because of my faith that has been shaken time and again

From the outside looking inward

We as children of the Creator

Appear to the rest of the world and to each other sometimes,

Rooted and grounded,

Confident and unshaken in our Faith

Proclaiming the power of God’s Mercy and Grace.

But we, my sisters and brothers in Christ

Confess in secret sacred spaces

That sometimes we are troubled in our hearts

That we are fearful of uncertainty

Because of the world mercilessly launching stone after stone

Landing where we stand

Bruising our very being

Wounding our very belief

And so we find ourselves curled into a ball

Trying to protecting ourselves from the very thing that threatens to pierce our faith

My brothers and sisters in Christ, there are so many things

That we could name

That reside in our hearts and in our minds

That can tear at the very fabric of whom God has created us to be

And yet there seems to be one common element

For us as humanity

Our collective fear is the finality of death

For us as people of faith

Our greatest question is the finality of death

And so this John 14 text is shared in those moments of loss and mourning

And as we continue to struggle along our faith journey

Those in the world who are lost in their own disarray and disorder

Bombard us from either side with painful words

Chiding us for our child-like faith

In belief of life ever lasting

But somewhere along our journey we hear these words from our Gospel of John text this morning,

“In My Father’s House…”

These words stood as an affirmation to the disciples hearing the teachings of Jesus Christ

And shakes us to our core

That what He has proclaimed

And what God, Our Creator has assured

That we will be welcomed home.

That in God’s House, where God’s dwells

God’s Love is endless!

God’s Arms to Hold Us, are endless!

The peace which passes all understanding, is endless!

Jesus shared with His Disciples

“And if I go and prepare a place for you

I will come again

And TAKE YOU MYSELF!”

What Good News!

What we would not give to have the opportunity

Of being in the presence of Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord in that moment

Even as His disciples gathered before Him

must have recognized the validity and the finality of His Words

And knowingly struggled between confusion and sorrow.

Just as with Dr. Martin Luther King’s Mountaintop Sermon

Before he was assassinated

This was Jesus’s final discourse.

And even as they had been witnesses to God’s Work

To Christ’s miracles

They were human.

They were filled with anxiety

The disciples were doubtful, not seeing the pathway that Jesus Christ had already formed for them

The disciples were blinded, not seeing the reflection of the Creator God before them in Jesus Christ

And so Jesus Christ declared to them

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

God’s Word hovers and travels out through the cosmos

Reflected back at us in the illumination of the night

Remains there as a reminder

That Because of Jesus Christ and of His sacrifice

That Death is NOT THE END

That in this LIFE, right now We Have HOPE

In this LIFE, WE Have PURPOSE

In this LIFE WE are called to LIVE not just for ourselves

But as an EXAMPLE of God’s Unfailing LOVE

Because Jesus CHRIST IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE

That who Jesus Christ is, is Good News for our troubled hearts!

We beloved, are in good company

Because we are just as anxiety-filled as the disciples were in that moment

Because the complexity of God’s Word is cast out

And so therefore it lands at our feet

And gathering it close in our hands

The weight of what God’s word means

And the heaviness of the reality weights in our palms

and we cannot fathom how to translate God’s Word for God’s World

We are called children of God, called just as Jesus’s disciples were called

To share God’s Word

Yet we are at a loss of proclaiming Christ Crucified for all of God’s Creation

Because we stumble over the Scriptures

No one comes to the Father, except through Me.”

Wait, Jesus…we have questions.

We can’t profess that to our neighbor who is Jewish

To our co-worker who is Muslim

To our spouse who is Buddhist

To a stranger, who because of Christianity doctrines, rules; these laws which have been mangled in humanity’s hands

has left them in pain, wrung out empty!

(pause)

To our friend who shouts at the top of their lungs

“A-HA! See? What kind of merciful God are you worshipping?

Who only offers salvation if you are a card carrying member?”

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

There are no restrictions, no limitations on who the risen Christ stands for

That is Good News

There are Scriptures who seemingly breathe new life because of what we as children of God are reminded:

All things came into being through him..What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”

Jesus gave of His Life so that through Him was created the beloved community here and now

So that we as people of faith raise our voices for those who are hurting in our community

and those ostracized outside of our community by the world

Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life

So that we, as people of God a time are empowered through the Holy Spirit to courageously speak truth when our neighbors are facing dire situations in this chaotic world

We as people of God have the strength because of who Christ is

To stand with the stranger who hides in our doorways, crumbled and  pleading for help;

Because we are of the beloved community, because of the power of God’s Word for all of Creation

We as children of God are called upon to stand firm and close the wounds of injustice torn apart by those who are misguided by greed

And yes, Jesus gave of His Life so that Jesus creates an everlasting, eternal place for us-

Not for some, not for those of a certain Christian denomination,

Not for the chosen people

BUT FOR ALL OF US

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that God knows,

God understands

God walks with us in our struggles

Sometimes God’s Word comes to us, in those times when we need to hear it clearly

When we have wrestled, doubted and worried

God’s Word surrounds and fills us up

When we have been disappointed and abandoned by those in this life

And the reality of God’s Grace rattles our souls

Remaining with us, reducing us to joyous weeping

Because In My Father’s House

There is Peace, There is Love, Forevermore.

Thanks Be To God.

What Fills Us Up, When Life Drains Us Dry?

Grace and peace to you as we, people of faith, journey throughout this season of Lent, towards the one whom God, Our Creator has sent, Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

 What fills you up when the reality of this life drains you empty?

 (Pause, then step from the pulpit down to where the baptismal bowl/font is and reveal the bare bowl with only the stones placed in the bottom. Begin introduction about talking how wandering in green spaces has always recharged me and most often I could only get filled up at my camp in Oregon, IL.  Point out about Austin’s well known secret: the ability to visit all of the green spaces especially the nature preserves, nature wildlife refuges and other areas that are great for hiking and exploring. Point out that along our walks that we have observed many, many dry creek beds which have saddened our hearts because without the life flowing waters, Creation is interrupted.  Also point out that without water, feeding the foundation of the Earth-plants can not thrive, flowers of every fragile beauty fail to bloom, and creatures big and small can not come to refresh themselves, refilling those places within which cry out for thirst. In other words Creation itself is stifled. Pause, returning back to the pulpit but pause on the stairs and then ask the question again).

What fills us up when the reality of this life drains us empty?

 It’s impossible to answer that when we find ourselves waiting for relief as our loved ones lay in a hospital bed, hoping that this final surgery, that this new procedure, that this new medical drug will break the dam of sickness and illness, flooding over everyone healing.

It’s impossible to answer that when we find ourselves pacing slick tile or ceramic floors outside of a foreboding courtroom hoping that a childhood friend who was so important in our lives or that well known neighbor who lived down the street will find  a waterfall of grace inside those doors or that justice will roll down as pristine waters for those whose wounds are hurting.

It’s impossible to answer that when we find ourselves holding the hands of a good friend or fellow peers, colleagues whose own riverbed is starkly absent of anything resembling water because the prospects of a new position or job or employment has been reduced to a landscape of drought.

It is impossible to answer that especially if with each passing morning there is no relief from the thirst or the heat of worry that beats down upon those family members endlessly floundering in a hotel room, enduring the pain of not knowing where their loved ones are or if the vast, mysterious ocean will ever give up its secrets.

And so is it any wonder, that we as people of faith hear our own voice echoed in the Samaritan woman’s as she pleads in our Gospel text this morning “Sir give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

 Have we answered the question of what fills us up when the reality of life drains us dry? As people of faith, perhaps we believe that the answer is easily found within church walls, nestled in church community, right? Isn’t this where the living water is supposed to flow nestled securely in the baptismal font? But what happens when the wells run dry, when life in the church comes to a complete standstill because people of faith cause climate chaos; when our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ unknowingly divert what the true meaning of the Good News of Jesus Christ can mean in the lives of someone who particularly needs to hear it today:

Someone who is marginalized for who they are or what they represent:

Whether that is as a woman

A person of color

A person with physical ailments

A person with social difficulties

A person whose differences rile up the uncomfortableness within who we are

A person who is unrecognizable, unnoticeable or forgettable because they are perceived not to have anything to offer.

And this is where we find our sister, our neighbor and this familiar story of the Woman at the Well.

This Samaritan woman who has been trivialized and demoralized and accused of ruminating in polluted waters-

Is whom Jesus chooses to reveal this living, healing water.

This Samaritan woman who is nameless, nondescript, a nobody

Is whom Jesus begins to pour out this living water because of what dwells within her

Her Faith

I find myself almost jealous at the child-like abandonment of this Samaritan woman because it is not because of some earth shattering, fire blazing conversion or some fantastic revelations or even whispers of who this Son of God carried on fine mists if dew that seemingly clings to everything and what He has the power to do, through the Holy Spirit that brings this Samaritan woman to the well and into His presence.

But it is because of what already resides within her spirit

The seeds of her Faith that already are budding, struggling to stretch and meet the healing power of the sun, burrowed within her soul, the richness of the soil that the Creator has created this woman of Faith. Do we find ourselves astounded that she, then unfettered by convention of who she is and questionable status and appearance to the rest of the judging, outside world, immediately runs back to her community sharing this Good News!

“Come and see a man who has told me everything I have ever done!”

(pause)

Why would that be good news?

What would possess to want to expose the “imperfect, hidden” us and how rocky our journey has not flowed so fluidly or traveled in crystal clear, pure waters perhaps as we may have claimed?

That teeming within our waters are the microscopic germs of our suspicions and dread, of practically every situation and those whose streams we must cross.

How that these pools simmering within our very being, under scrutiny are questionable and tainted as our experiences throughout this life unfortunately renders it grainy and murky.

That the formation of who we are as distinct rivers and how we thrived and survived are slowly drained because of what we allow to access and hungrily devours of the essential part of what was lovingly poured into us, this precious living water from God Our Creator.

“Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever done!”

Listen to this Samaritan woman proclaim Good News!

Come and see this man, this Son of God who knows of our beginnings, who has seen the paths we have traveled, who knows everything we have ever done…

And Loves Us Anyway

 That is Good News.

The Good News is that Jesus Christ, Our Savior is only concerned with the fact that the water of this world which overflows and floods in abundance cannot heal any barren places that are reside within who we are and so Jesus proclaims “those who drink of the water that I give them will never be thirsty.”

 Have you noticed that Jesus Christ NEVER mentions the Samaritan Woman’s sins, her shortcomings, her faults?

How has it been all of this time that her story seems to be surrounding these so called sins?

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that because as God Our Healer travels and journeys throughout Creation, walking pathways where it is painfully obvious of what this world and its destructive power has done to who we are as God’s Children; that God sees each one of us as gentle, rushing streams and sometimes as  riverbeds devoid of life affirming, life fulfilling, life giving eternal water…

and so God sends His Son, Jesus Christ who poured out of Himself upon the Cross as a sacrifice to revive, renew, replenish and restore all of God’s Creation, all of us as sisters and brothers in Christ and in Faith; to cause our hearts to overflow in those dry places with the Living Water that is Jesus Christ.

Because God has the power to cleanse and renew the stagnant places within our lives and along our journey, this Living Water rushes and seeps, connecting eternal life to our lives.

Jesus Christ is this Living Water that flows freely into who we are, not because we are perfect

Not because we have knowledge

Or Wisdom

But because WE HAVE FAITH

Even if that Faith is as small as a mustard seed

Or as fragile as a rain drop.

(Pause, go back to the baptismal font and slowly pour it with water from the pitcher)

Here is the answer to our question: Here is where we come to be reminded and fulfilled and refreshed when this life overwhelms us, stinging our eyes and filling our mouths with choking, debilitating dust.

Is there someone who if you asked the question, what fills you up when this life seemingly drains you dry? Is there a Samaritan woman in your own life who freely proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ, who testifies “Come and see a man who has told me everything I have ever done?

(Pause then tell story of the Samaritan woman in my own life, the example of my Mother who bore many stigmas of not only who she was as a woman of color, but being a single mother and raising three daughters through difficulties and bearing the burden of battling breast cancer that sometimes left her void of anything but a husk and a shell of a person. But throughout this journey she remained deep in her faith, and found the strength and the call to share this Good News with others, that God is indeed never absent from our lives but present and because God sees that we endure many twists and turns, that we suffer through hardships and sorrow, that through this life giving water there is hope and sometimes we even as those tiny, smooth stones can too be refreshed through the power of Jesus Christ, the Living Water.)

Thanks Be To God.

 

 

Ashes to Ashes…

Grace and Peace to you from God Our Creator, and from His Son Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord. Amen

 

It’s not about how you do it, or where you do it but rather whether or not your heart is in it.

( I shared the stories with the congregation about growing up and Sundays being sacred in my Mother’s house and therefore always going and experiencing worship service. Sometimes the worship services would be at a local non-denominational church and sometimes we would go back to our family church, which was a Baptist church on the Southwest side of Chicago where my grandfather served actively as Deacon and Elder. I Recalled how, sitting small in the pews I would observe quietly and with confusion at people in the congregation throughout various points in the service and especially during the sermon who would shout out, who would stand up and wave their hands, who would get up in the middle of the aisle and flail themselves about, who would weep and cry, kneeling and praying outwardly to God, who would faint and have to be fanned and carried out by women in starch white dresses and hats. Also recall how the tithing was taken, as the Pastor would publicly shame everyone to come down the aisle with their pledges while the choir sang some old Gospel tune that nothing belonged to you and everything belonged to the Lord, and I watched as people brought up their checks and dollar bills. Talked about the conversation that I would have with Mother then, and how she would laugh when I asked about people “falling out” in church and add about my daughter’s own firsthand experience when she spend the weekend with her best friend and attended her church).

How very strange this experience is to me still, as people of faith unashamedly fall upon their knees in the aisles, to publically confess their sins and shortcomings, to testify before the community of faith and cry out to God, Our Healer

“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity”

“Purge me with hyssop”

“Create in me a clean heart”

“Have mercy on me, O God”

How utterly raw it seems to expose ourselves to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ….

How peculiar it would be for someone in our church to unashamedly stand up and sway

And weep

And beg God for forgiveness

Yet, how peculiar then, we  allow these ashes upon our foreheads marking and proclaiming our bondage to Christ openly…

And yet, Jesus seems to be cautioning against these public acts of piety this Ash Wednesday evening in our Gospel text.

Or is He?

Jesus remains on the mountain continuing to pour His wisdom, His teachings and God’s Love into all who have gathered to listen, to learn, to simply be in the presence of this Son of God.

 

Beware of practicing your piety, your righteousness before others in order to be seen by them….”

 

These ancient people of God have had the experiences of being a very comfortable and content people, to being ragged, run down and subservient to the oppressors who darkened their doorways and overcast their rugged streets. In these times, these ancient men and women clung to their faith and to one another; worshiping and celebrating the Creator God was the one (word?). In these times, coming together as a community meant caring for one another because God had commanded their ancestors so many generations before…

Random acts of kindness…

Sharing a meal…

Sharing of blankets and coverings…

Sharing Sacred space….

Sharing a hearth and home…

Sharing of their own small treasures…

If not their own, then who?

…..because certainly the occupiers, these oppressors were not motivated or concerned to do so, even though in the center of Roman life you could find them lavishing in sacred temples to their gods and goddesses, flinging coins to the poor in the streets proudly, or bragging openly about how much time and money and devotion they had paid for favor of wealth, of status, of longevity, of perfection from their particular patron god.

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites who pray in the streets so that they may be seen by others.”

Prayer allowed these ancient children of God, poor in status, stamped as the impoverished, pushed to the edges of nothingness…

…..to be acknowledged, affirmed and accepted by God, Our Redeemer.

Prayer was the only place these people of God could stand in the Light of the Creator…

…..and every wound, every pain, every fault, every sin……

Be forgiven.

Their lives were already exposed and scrutinized so they had nothing to lose from living and praying publically..

Because they believed in their Faith

Lived out their Faith

 Emptied out their Faith for others to see and to share….

Martin Luther definitely had no qualms of sharing his testimony

Luther prayed defiantly

He bore the burdens of his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ openly

Luther acted fearlessly

Because of his Faith

He had nothing to lose!

But as people of Faith, as this season of Lent approaches…

…why do we enter it as if we have lost everything?

We as a people of faith sometimes equate Lent void of anything joyful…

We drag our scarred feet over the roughness of a dry wilderness,

We wrap ourselves in scraps of hastily sewn cloth

We abandon our community and move down hidden roads away from their healing light

We weep and mourn about what we have failed to do and throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus

We hastily run ourselves ragged trying to make up…all on our own……

We whisper in far off dark corners our fears, our flaws, our sins, our pain…

….so that no one knows of our imperfections….

And that no one has the ability to reach out their hands….

……and holding us close to them….

….bearing our burdens….

…raising their own voices in prayer……

This journey of Lent is not about hiding who we are!

This journey of Lent is revealing who has claimed us

          This journey of Lent allows us to freely live out our FAITH

Through Faith we have the ability to do for others, pray as a public witness for others, give to others

……because of the presence of Jesus Christ whose Love fuels our FAITH

And that is Good News!

The Good News is that we do not have to wander endlessly through desolation

Because in those secret places God has heard our pleas

“Do not cast me away from your presence”

In those moments when we are removed from the community

Hunched over, withered away

God sees our broken spirit…

Because God has not forgotten about God’s People….

He has sent His Son, Jesus Christ

Who has already walked that treacherous path!

And At the end of that journey, when we are heavy with sufferings too deep for words…

Jesus Christ stands there waiting to welcome us…

Renewed, reborn, washed clean…whiter than snow..

The Good News is that God, Our Deliverer cleanses our souls

And so when we pray publically

When we shout joyously

When we share freely what God has given to us, for others

We are faithfully showing the world what the healing power of the Good News of Jesus Christ means and can be for all of God’s Creation

Through our Faith fueled through God’s Love, Mercy and Grace.

Because we know that death has no hold on Jesus Christ

And neither on us.

Lent, as our Music Director Bryan reminded me the other day “is not about a six week funeral for the baby Jesus”

But there is some truth in that, right?

Lent is not being ashamed of our Faith

So allow your ashes upon your forehead to be that public witness of Faith.

A reminder of what the Good News of Jesus Christ means in our lives.

Thanks Be to God.