#BeChristinChristmas-4th Sunday of Advent

The end of the year,

Usually is a culmination of Holy festivals

Throughout our global neighborhood

Some which we are familiar

Hanukkah

And

Kwanzaa

And some which perhaps,

We are not familiar

Winter Solstice

And

Bodhi Day,

(pause)

As followers of Christ,

Celebrating both Advent

And

Christmas,

We are called to remember what is important

In this Holy season,

We are called to keep the meaning of Christ’s Holy

And mysterious Birth

In everything that we are immersed in

(pause)

But some of our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ,

Think this only amounts to,

Complaining and protesting viciously,

About the fact that Starbucks didn’t put

“Merry Christmas”

On their red holiday cups

Or griping when many retail workers,

Say “Happy Holidays”

And that we are not more demanding,

That everyone should say

“Merry Christmas”

Regardless of who they are

(pause)

What does it mean, truly

To Keep the Christ

In Christmas?

(pause)

Perhaps

The definition needs to be confessed

And proclaimed

Is that the only way to keep Christ in Christmas,

Is by keeping CHRIST

IN US.

(pause)

Keeping Christ

In Christmas

Means,

Showing someone kindness

Through random acts,

With no reward received back.

(Tell the story, simple about how Arif and a number of his friends had piled into the doorway after school on Friday, with plans to see Rogue One. Now, the young boy, my neighbor’s son had gotten permission to go from his mother but as she was at work at 3pm in the afternoon, he didn’t know how he would be able to pay for his ticket. This is where motherhood becomes universal, as I told Jared that I would make sure, he could get a ticket to join his friends for an afternoon of fun).

What story can you relate in your journey,

Where someone showed you kindness,

Especially in this holiday season,

Where stress is always a factor

Or maybe

It was YOU

Who brought joy and hope to someone’s life

That reminder

They were not alone.

(pause)

Showing someone kindness means too,

Opening up our sacred spaces

Where we live,

Where we worship

To those who have nothing,

Especially when others in power

Immersed in greed

Decide that those on the outskirts,

The outcasts

That their humanity

Means nothing.

Are we willing

To exude Christ’s grace?

(pause)

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Means,

Embracing those on the margins-

The undocumented

The refugee

Those who are fleeing a life of terror

Of Emptiness

Of certain Death

Simply so that they can take a full breath

Simply so that they can experience laughter

And freedom

And its funny,

We, as a people in this nation

Are so enraged about the issue of the undocumented,

Right?

We see them as a threat!

They come into our communities

Crowding our space

Coming from unknown places,

That unknown factor

We don’t know anything about them

Their families

Their lineage

Their history

(pause)

Interesting,

Sounds like Joseph and Mary

(pause)

Jesus’s parents,

And we are so quick to forget this,

Jesus’s parents

Were UNDOCUMENTED

Were fleeing Herod and his wrath,

His unjust laws

His persecution of their people!

We are so quick to lift up and adore and admire

Joseph and Mary,

We set out nativity scenes

And yet,

We turn our backs upon those refugees

Which by the way,

Come from the same peoples

We persecute today,

Fleeing oppressive regimes

Fleeing situations

That they themselves cannot be responsible for

Facing soldiers

Weaponry

Bent on oppressive destruction

Intrusion in those people’s homes,

Where they are vulnerable

Fragile.

We turn our backs upon them,

And the stress

The tragedy

The burdens that they carry,

Both physically

And emotionally

(pause)

Joseph was carrying such a burden.

Besides being born into

And shouldering poverty,

And making do,

Joseph, a righteous man,

Had to deal with the fact

That his bride to be,

Was ALREADY PREGNANT!

How would he keep up appearances?

Should he adhere to the law?

Which offered no grace

No reprieve

No forgiveness

Should he remain with her,

To be shamed possibly

By his community?

(pause)

We are so quick,

To lift up Mary and Joseph,

These devoted parents

Of the One,

Whose Birth

Has the power

To

TRANSFORM

Our

Reality,

Bringing in

Ushering in

A new horizon,

A new Kingdom

A new HOPE

(pause)

But we forget,

That Mary and Joseph

Were

TEENAGERS,

And yet,

We as humanity,

As people of faith even, sometimes

We condemn our young teenage mothers

And fathers

Labeling them only with their sin,

Forgetting we are all imperfect,

Instead of embracing them with our wisdom,

Our knowledge

And being present to guide

Mentor

Advise

Advocate

So that these children that they bear,

Grow up to be healthy,

Safe

Loved.

Just as Jesus Christ’s life was sacred,

So should every child’s life be as such,

Regardless to their beginnings.

(pause)

We forget,

That when we turn away

The undocumented,

Who are fleeing violence

The refugees

Who are fleeing war

The unexperienced

Who yes, make immature choices

We are in essence,

Turning away Joseph and Mary,

Rejecting God

Because see,

Because of this Birth,

Jesus Christ was born,

So that ALL would be deemed EQUAL

Because ALL were already LOVED

By the Creator God

(pause)

Keeping the Christ in Christmas,

Means

Sharing Good News

To a weary people.

Jesus’s name means

God Saves!

The angel who came before Joseph,

Shared with him Good News

In a time where he needed to hear it

In a moment when he was uncertain

But the angel proclaimed

that Mary,

“Shall bear a son,

And you are to name Him Jesus,

For He will save His people

From their sins.”

Emmanuel,

God is with US!

(pause)

Creator God,

Did not breathe sacred and holy LIFE

Within us

For us

To Disregard,

Disavow

One another.

Just as Joseph,

Claimed something precious

That was not his own,

We should claim

Adopt

Embrace

One another

Even if we are not the same

The same Blood

Culture

Tribe

Language

It is because of Jesus Christ,

The One whose Birth we await

The One to come

(pause)

Being Christ in Christmas

Means BREATHING LIFE

Into something once thought dead

Discarded

Useless

Worthless

A ministry,

An idea

A project

A neighbor

A relationship

A FIGHT

Towards

Righteousness

Truth

And

Justice

Thanks Be to God

 

 

 

 

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Morning Poetry: #decolonizeGodsName

Wars launched
Lives extinguished
at the sound of God’s Name
People destroyed
Tribes torn
All invoked in God’s name
Damage done
Souls wrenched
We are not living into
God’s name
Conquered lives
Conquered bodies
Because of the use of God’s name
#NODAPL
#BlackLivesMatter
And you can’t hear God’s name
Hostile takeover
Hostile deportation
All in God’s name
And yet,
We ignore
We ridicule
The power
of Transformation
and
Healing
in
God’s name
While God weeps
God waits
for the restoration
of
God’s

Name.

 

O Lord, How Long? Lament from the Prophets

Grace and Peace to you, beloved

If we follow the One,

Who shatters death

Who picks us up from the gate

Who transforms this world,

Then we cannot afford to be

The stumbling blocks

In each other’s lives

Instead our faith should be scattered

Like a mustard seed

So that it grows in the wilderness

Spreading Love, Mercy

And Forgiveness

Amen.

 Luke 3:4 proclaims

A voice of one calling in the wilderness

That voice cries out their testimony

Shares their witness

Striving to live out their faith.

(pause)

But what happens,

When no one hears,

People turning their whole selves away

Our own voices registering to their hearing as strained and muffled

Refusing to acknowledge and experience

The transforming power of the Good News

(pause)

Left vacant

The wilderness seemingly overwhelms us

And we are helpless to do nothing,

But emit a primal scream.

Collectively,

For my fellow sisters and brothers in Seminary,

The journey towards a deeper theological and spiritual understanding

Grew to be exasperating at times

Not only because of the normal burdens

Of paperwork for Candidacy

Or papers never ending

Or projects mounting

But because suddenly we were alone

Isolated

From the same communities which had sent us off

To this journey of Seminary

We were shocked!

The reality of their immunity to our dancing,

Singing,

Praising

About how the Gospel broke down walls,

And filled our hearts.

(pause)

They did not want to hear,

The restoring promises of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

They did not want to be faced with the truths

Of Liberation

Of Freedom

Because that would mean,

They would be forced

To wrench themselves away

From their comfortable places

At those golden altars they had been building

In reverence to doctrines

And Dogmas

(pause)

Our voices adrift

In an unforgiving,

Unfamiliar

Atmosphere

To where

God

Could not hear

The cries

Of God’s people

Even now

My soul is overcome

By this new religion

And theology

Of VIOLENCE!

(pause)

Violence against the innocent-

Especially those blinded by their own demons,

That lash out against love as their loved ones try to hold on

Trapped by their shackles of mental anguish

Pointing to a system,

Which disregards the stewardship of life,

The accountability

That the Creator God commanded us to have

For one another

(pause)

Violence against those in the community-

Especially those tolling hard on the front lines,

Those working towards restorative justice

And yet violence invades these sacred spaces

Blinded by a system

That refuses to acknowledge its culpability

In the destruction of the people, and their life.

(pause)

Violence against those who serve,

Those who work without thanks,

Without praise

Trying to build a bridge

Trying to be ambassadors

Because the system failed,

And abandoned them,

Leaving them to bear the brunt

And navigating a broken people,

On their own

(pause)

Violence against Black and Brown and Red bodies

Simply because they swallowed the propaganda

Created by a corrupt and devious system

Spoon feeding them to the idea

That these sacred bodies,

With the reflection of the ONE

Who was also a Sacred body,

That these sisters and brothers in Christ

Are somehow less than

(pause)

Violence against the very gift,

We take granted

Day after day,

Of Creation itself!

Thinking it will automatically replenish

Forgetting our misuse this land

Or hoard minerals,

Blocking off water rights,

Robbing Creation selfishly of its resources

Because somehow the system

Declares us the dominant force

(pause)

On most days, it feels as if

All I want to do

Is to go out into Creation

And scream myself

WHY

WHY

“How long, Lord, must I call for help,

    but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, “Violence!”

    but you do not save?”

(pause)

God,

Seems to be absent

Neglectful

And we,

Just as the prophet in Habakkuk (Hab-bu-kuck)

Felt forsaken,

Rejected

(pause)

The unnamed prophet,

Is rightfully angry

Complaining

Questioning God

Her prayers are not answered

Her cries are unheeded

In this prophets time,

Of 7th Century BCE

The Israelites are under the rule

Of the occupiers

The Babylonians,

The Israelites perhaps experienced a state of confusion,

And desertion

The Babylonians forced upon them,

Assimilation.

Assimilating both culturally and spiritually

Demanding that they deny themselves,

Violating their sacred bodies,

Through economic and physical oppression

Does this sound familiar?

We as humanity sometimes do not learn the lessons,

From the mistakes of the past

(pause)

And yet,

The people of God

Created that chiasm,

Separating themselves

From the presence of the Creator God

Because

Of their selfishness,

Their actions,

Their neglect

Of those outside the gate

Clinging to laws,

That had nothing to do with Faith.

(pause)

Doesn’t it appear as

Our own actions

Mirror those

Of these ancestors?

We have failed in being

Good stewards

Of one another

And so the abyss

Grows

Deeper still

We forget whose we are

And we allow ourselves to slip

Into a coma like state

(pause)

“Therefore the law is paralyzed,

    and justice never prevails.

The wicked hem in the righteous,

    so that justice is perverted.”

The prophet in Habakkuk, (Hab-bu-kuck)

Besides herself,

That the collective community,

Disrupted the opening and the rushing in,

Of the Holy Spirit

That instead of fighting a common enemy,

They seemed to be fighting themselves

“It would be better for you

if a millstone were hung around your neck

and you were thrown into the sea

than for you to cause one of these

little ones to stumble”

These verses which are here in Luke 17,

But not included in our Gospel this morning,

Echo the frustrations perhaps,

Of the prophet in Habakkuk, (Hab-bu-kuck)

And are magnified as a warning,

From Jesus Christ

Sometimes,

We

Are

The

Stumbling

Block.

The wicked

Sometimes

Look

Like

Us.

(pause)

It’s not just as simple

That because we have lack of faith,

Or our hands are empty of faith,

Or even we do not practice what we preach,

But this unwillingness

To Forgive!

And we know as people of faith,

This is HARD

TO

FORGIVE!

And we’re not talking something as easy

For sins committed

But that our smugness

Self-assured in our righteousness

In orthodoxy

That somehow know

God

So therefore,

Forgiving,

Welcoming

Being in community with those,

Whose beliefs,

Lifestyle

Or how they connect with God

Just because it differs from us,

Somehow

We don’t have to accept them!

We can be dismissive

We use the doctrine of justification to alienate ourselves

To practice prejudice

And bigotry

(pause)

We cling to dogma

As Truth

Instead of the Gospel,

The Good News,

Which proclaims

An uncomfortable TRUTH

That because of Jesus Christ,

Our Savior and Lord

ALL

Were created

ALL are forgiven

(pause)

And yet

This is why

We,

Beloved,

Children of the Creator God

Cling to Jesus Christ,

The One who gathers us in His Hands,

And breathes NEW LIFE,

EVEN into

Dry seeds,

EVEN when we are discarded by others,

Because the perception is,

Nothing good could come from us

(pause)

We cling to Jesus

And cry out in that wilderness

“Increase our FAITH!”

Jesus,

We are trying!

Jesus,

What else can we do?

Jesus

Do not forget us

Jesus,

We are willing

(pause)

And this increasing of our faith,

Goes beyond having this faith,

Like a mustard seed

We must be open,

Remembering our baptism

And why we are called to a PURPOSE!

Our faith does not have to be huge,

BUT IT DOES HAVE TO GROW

Our work,

Our goals,

Our commitment to God,

Our FAITH will BLOSSOM!

But we have to TRUST GOD

Allowing GOD to nurture,

Direct us,

Even when we are in the midst of transforming

Watching our faith develop

Into something beautiful

And we go “God, its supposed to look like that? Okay!”

(pause)

The Good News is beloved,

When we,

As children of God,

As precious seeds

Have been left out in the wilderness,

Because we have been stamped worthless,

And food for scavengers

The Good News of Jesus Christ,

Is that GOD sends the healing Waters of Rain,

Washing us,

Fueling us

Giving US LIFE

Watch us GROW!

Thanks Be to God.

The Invisible Becomes Visible-Wisdom from the Ancestors

Turn to your neighbor

And say

“Because of Jesus Christ

I am

Responsible

For

You.”

(pause, wait for the laughter)

Now what does that mean, really?

(pause)

We hear in our Scriptures

That we will always have the poor

But,

I don’t think that Jesus,

Nor our Creator God

Wanted poverty to become

Tangled and obtrusive

Into the fabric

Of our collective lives

(pause)

Life,

Its algorithms,

Which are supposed to follow some mysterious formula

To make our living easier

Is out of sync

(pause)

This country boasts of its coffers

That are overflowing with wealth, riches and resources

Yet,

Beyond the glitter of the spotlights

Lie destitute, famished bodies overflowing

At the gates

(pause)

My children have, on our routine errands to the grocery store,

For example

Question and wonder about what happens to all of the produce,

If they can’t sell it all,

Even if its still good.

Well, not sure you are aware of this

But after seven to ten days

If the bananas you have been seeing each time you pop into the store

If they have not been touched or bought

They are forced to throw them out,

So they can get a fresh shipment,

From their warehouse

(pause)

When humanity refused to peer out beyond the border,

Past the walls,

Too sedated and comfortable awash in a sea of purple

Those who had not been invited through,

This is when those who had little status,

Seeing the heartbreak, acted

In the 1970’s, for example in San Francisco

Organizations such as Food Not Bombs were formed

Rescuing good, unspoiled and healthy food from dumpsters

Cooking and providing a meal,

To the homeless and forgotten

And the response of the authorities?

Many of these volunteers were arrested

(pause)

This trend continues even now

People, who have answered the call,

“Jesus, when did we see you hungry,

And feed you?”

Embolden because of the Holy Spirit pushing, encouraging, empowering them

To walk beyond the gates,

And DO SOMETHING!

Instead of immersing themselves in apathy

And the excuses of the principalities and powers

Blaming the poor,

For

They share of themselves,

From their Table

Bringing meals, and comfort to those out in the streets, or parks

Or even, into the safety and the sacredness of their own spaces

(pause)

One Woman of Color,

Owning her own small diner

Did just this

She invited,

She welcomed the homeless midweek,

From 6-9am,

To eat and relax and just be recognized just as another customer

Freely!

Instead of businesses around her, applauding,

Opening dialogue for discussion

Pushing back the gate to begin

Many complained,

They didn’t want to see the poor

SO CLOSE TO THEM

Inside the gate

These

Vagrants,

Pungent

Unkempt

Scaring away paying customers

So because of the complaints to the powerful

She was forced,

To stop

For fear of her business being shut down,

Because of rules and regulations

(pause)

And it does not have to stop at just food justice issues,

Regardless,

Whenever we as people of faith see a need,

When we understand the responsibility of stewardship

We have for one another,

Whether we are feeding from our own coffers

Or immersed in viable solutions about housing the homeless

Building tiny homes,

Which in fact, has been proven

To save local governments monetary resources,

Instead of scattered temporary solutions that treat the poor as an infections problem,

To be eradicated.

Or encouraging children, who don’t understand why the adults in charge

Are so thoughtless and heartless

To treat another person,

With

When we create unique and even yes, unorthodox ways,

To create new communities, and care for one another

The rich, wealthy, powerful intrudes

As if suddenly,

Doing for others,

As God has done for us

Is taboo

(pause)

There is no way,

You can not see

The poor

And just not those without money

The poor also means those,

Who have nothing,

No access to employment, to housing, to citizenship, to freedom

The ex-felon,

Who it is pressed upon,

That they must have a job,

A position

That society is NOT going to care for them,

That they must work extra hard to return back to society

Win back trust,

And maybe be welcomed just on the margins

Of the inner circle

(pause)

But, see

What we do not see,

And sometimes not made aware

That their fate and success of transformation

Lies in human hands,

In the hands of companies,

Who have the power,

Of whom to hire

And more often than not

The word ex-felon guarantees

Their resume will wind up in the trash

And so the powerful

Avert their eyes

At the gate

As the poor are begging for that second chance,

(pause)

Or,

The Migrant worker

Who is doing jobs that,

Let’s be honest

Many of us would refuse

Feel it beneath us

Wouldn’t be caught doing

Because we know our rights

What our citizenship entitles us to

And so instead,

These corporations

Only see them,

As a commodity to be exploited

While their gaze is fixated

On their profit margins,

And stock portfolios swelling

And so they refuse to hear the poor begging

Outside the gates

For fair wages

Just so they can live!

(pause)

Or,

The outcast,

The outcast that has so much heaped upon them

On their shoulders

Because maybe

They have accumulated this massive debit

That society refuses to forgive

Because their status is not enough

Because they are not willing to work to with them

To wipe out this huge deficit

That their bodies are saddled with.

The poor are the transgendered and disabled

Or single parents on the brink of a breakdown

Or even

The poor are those trapped in the inner cities

Added that they are identified by the tinge of color

Lovingly painted on their skin,

By the One,

Who many seem to forget,

Was also an immigrant,

Of Color.

(pause)

These poor are perceived to be a threat to the well ordered society

Even though

Quiet as kept

Neither the authorities

Nor the politicians

Have faithfully lived out their pledge

To work for the people

As they were elected by the people

To protect the people

So that the people

REGARDLESS

Can live a life of freedom

Liberty

And

Peace.

So instead,

Sheltered by their wealth

They step over the bodies outside of the gate

Broken.

Who are begging to be seen

As an essential part of humanity

(pause)

Meanwhile,

We, the rest of humanity

On the other side of the gate

Ignore the teachings in our sacred texts

Ignore the stories of our Elders

Ignore the WORD

Cherry picking

To what is acceptable,

And will not stir us out of our comfort zone

Instead of adhering

“The first shall be the last,

And the last shall be the first”

Clearly calling for us

To be responsible for

ONE ANOTHER

ESPECIALLY

We fall,

We suffer

We are cast out

And we are dying at the gate!

(pause)

And because the Creator truly cares,

God continues to send endless Prophets

To tell us

TEACH US

And we in turn

Refuse to listen

Until it is,

Too late

(pause)

Very curious that we do not know

The name of this rich man

In our Gospel this morning,

(pause)

He has the assumption

That because he had the privilege of living the good life,

Access to resources of wealth

To a fault believing that Lazarus

Is still in a position of slavery

The rich man is shocked

That he is left

In darkness

Abandoned

Beyond the gate,

The abyss

Removed from the light and love of God

And the security of being in the presence of the Ancestors

(pause)

As our Gospel text was being discussed in various places on Facebook,

Someone debated that even as the rich man was in this chaism,

That the chaism was not big enough

That God could not traverse it

That God would close the gap

As if salvation would still be warrated

For this rich man

Who still was not understanding this lesson

(pause)

And yes,

Our God

Beloved Creator

Has the POWER TO CLOSE ANY GAP

That would keep us away from God

But when we are the ones

Who CREATE THAT CHAISM

That GAP

When we cling to selfishness

Greed

Humanity made wealth

Because we refused to HEAR the Good News

We refused to SEE JESUS

Hungry,

Tired

Broken

Poor

(pause)

And yet,

We forget

When we were hungry

Tired

Broken

Cast aside by the very society we cling to

To keep our status,

Jesus Christ DID NOT IGNORE US

Regardless of our faith,

Our status

Our lack of resources

Or wealth.

(pause)

Jesus Christ did not step over us at the gate

Jesus Christ,

Offered His Hands

Of Healing

Offered His Words

Of Forgiveness

OFFERED HIS LIFE

SO THAT WE CAN LIVE!!

(pause)

Money Makes the World Go Round?

Not sure about where you sit,

But for me,

This week’s Gospel

Is like a complicated riddle

Or a trick question

That Jesus just throws out there,

And no matter how much we study

Or contemplate

We would fail, miserably

(pause)

And I questioned,

Just as perhaps you are

Of where the Good News is in our text this morning?

There are contradictions

What is Jesus signing onto?

What is Jesus approving?

This could be fodder for the prosperity gospel crowd

Then again,

People hear what they want to hear.

(pause)

This Gospel does not lift up,

Any examples of repentance

Or Forgiveness

Just it seems,

Money.

Wealth

Mammon, in the Greek

In one of my favorite musicals,

Cabaret

Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey sing about

Money

Money makes the world go around.

Money, as the lyrics go,

Is the answer to all of the rejection

We experience in this life.

Hilariously, Liza sings this line-

“When you go to get a word of advice,

From the fat little pastor

He will tell you to love evermore

But when hunger comes rapping at the window,

See how love flies out the door”

The answer then,

Is that Money makes the world go around

Money also stifles

Chokes

Stresses the world out,

(pause)

I wonder then,

If Jesus shared this parable with the disciples

Not for their benefit

But for others.

Perhaps Jesus was planting seeds of freedom

To break the roots of the oppressive society

That had embedded itself into the hearts of those,

Who were controlled by money.

What is left out of this Gospel reading,

Is verse 14

“The Pharisees,

Who loved money,

Heard all of this…”

Knowing that,

Because of who He is,

And knowing He was under scrutiny

By those who were shaken,

Disturbed

Challenged

By Jesus Christ

The only way to get to hard headed people, sometimes

Is pushing them into that uncomfortable zone

Where who they are

And what they cling to

Would be tested.

(pause)

This parable

Smacks of self interest

Of getting what you think you deserve

Of survival

Of shrewdness

And yet,

Not even this manager in our Gospel text

Has that privilege,

Even as he was as shrewd,

As his employer,

No wonder then

Tax and debit collectors were on the same low level

As other sinners

Eschewed in moral decay

Remember that from last week,

The same Pharisees were grumbling about Jesus

Eating with tax collectors?

(pause)

In this era of a Roman occupied Galilee,

The only ones who could actually get away,

With manipulating the system

Were the wealthy

They had the power, and unfortunately the law behind them

To charge exorbitant interests rates

So that they could acquire more land,

Regardless of whom it would end up displacing.

Sort of reminds us,

Even now

Of the struggle going on

At Standing Rock

In North Dakota.

Sacred lands were purchased,

Rather illegally

Hundreds of years ago

Pushing off Native peoples

Displacing,

Invading

And Damaging Creation,

In the name of progress

(pause)

There are those who would argue

That in Genesis it states,

God created man-listen to the language

God created man,

To have lord and dominion

(pause)

Over everything,

That man

Deemed

Insignificant,

And even

Weak

Ignoring what the Creator God clearly expressed

About stewardship,

Just as those who claimed they upheld Biblical convent law

Dismissing those commandments that call us to be in relationship

To care for the vulnerable,

The orphan

The immigrant

As if they were blood-related

(pause)

Exodus 22 states

“If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy,

do not treat it like a business deal;

charge no interest”

Charging interest on loans,

Was forbidden

Interesting.

We pray,

Forgive us our debts,

As we forgive our debtors

But,

Humanity misses the mark,

We don’t live this commandment out

Money,

Wealth,

Mammon

Rules society

Both then

And now

Money,

Makes the world go round

And causes headaches

We are told the only way to establish ourselves

Is through monetary means

Establishing credit,

Meaning applying for credit cards

With high interest rates

Thereby granting us access to be approved

For a mortgage home loan

Securing a safe place to live

Access to resources,

As I alluded to last week

For ourselves,

And our families

Access so that our children could go to the best schools,

Which sometimes means taking out high interest loans

And when we are over our heads,

Applying for predatory pay day loans,

Just so we can get through the week,

Because the powers that be,

Do not understand what it means

To live within our means.

(pause)

And that is what is facing this steward,

In our Gospel text this morning.

He’s been living beyond his mean

Through the hard work of the working poor

He’s been fattening his own wallet,

Even as his employer,

Has been overcharging

Exploiting

These fellow people of faith,

Denied an ample living wage

Struggling to thrive

To get a foothold in this society

Wanting to remain authentic

But every day,

Drawing closer to that golden altar dedicated to the idol

Mammon.

(pause)

And I think this is what Jesus is stressing here-

That clinging to such an idol

Or converting to this economic “religion”

Where the theology is based on greed debt, in many forms

Individualism and selfishness

Having financial resources to live and breathe,

Is not what Jesus is against,

But as Jesus states later on in verse 15

“You are the ones,

Who justify yourselves

In the eyes of others,

But God knows your hearts.

What people value highly,

Is detestable in God’s sight.”

(pause)

Again,

Jesus

What are you saying?

What people value highly,

Is detestable in God’s sight.”

Yes,

Valuing things

Money

Status

Greed

HIGHER THAN THE SACRED LIFE

And LOVE

That the Creator breathed into each one of us

Is detestable

Because these things separate us

From the presence of the Creator God

It keeps us trapped

In front of that golden, humanity made altar.

(pause)

He raises the poor from the dust,

and lifts the needy from the ash heap,

 to make them sit with princes,

 with the princes of his people.

He gives the barren woman a home,

making her the joyous mother of children.

Praise the Lord!

Hear the joyous words of the Psalmst!

Hear the Good News this morning!

Greed disguised under the mask of wealth and status

Demanding of us our very soul,

And giving us nothing in return,

This is not what God wants for us.

God gives us, pours into us

Everything we could ever need!

(end with giving a visual example about what greed would look like as a person and use the Grinch in the Christmas story-what if greed came and removed everything we held dear, so that we would have to come crawling back to that golden altar, living our lives for simply amassing more wealth, no matter whom It hurt. And what if greed was hovering , waiting to hear our cries that next morning, and instead-in the midst of the dawn, Jesus stood in our midst, and all we could do is SING, and DANCE and PRAISE THE LORD-for the ultimate DEBIT HE PAID so that we would never be alone, never want, never question, never feel unloved. And that, is something, that NOTHING HUMAN MADE CAN EVER, EVER REPLACE.)

Thanks Be to God.

 

Jesus Rocking and Disrupting…

 

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

We sacrifice for the world,

Better positions,

Better status

But in the end,

Those always fail us.

The only sacrifice,

Which sets us free,

Which gives us life,

Is the One who took up the Cross,

And Liberated all,

Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord

Amen.

(pause)

(talk about how Facebook’s algorithm for remembering our memories, and our posts for the past couple of years, sometimes has a funny way of reminding us, why we are called and what we are called to. Last year, this time, the world seemed to be riveted, shamed and shocked at the plight of a Syrian family, and the little boy that washed up on the sandy shores, where he should have been playing in the sand, instead of laying there, lifeless. Suddenly, regardless of what you thought about Syria, its people, its politics, its perceived threat-this should have been a reminder that this child represented not the principalities and powers, but the people locked unfortunately in the ugliness of war and greed, held hostage by those who were more concerned with self-interests, instead of the foolishness of living not for oneself, but for all. So many innocent people, whose only concern is the self-sacrifice they do on a constant basis, such as you and I, to provide a safe space for their families to live and grow and work to sustain them, so many people, wasted, should have finally been this collective wake up call for people of faith, to demand, to question, to pressure to do something for these, our neighbors. And churches did begin to pledge to open up their doors and homes, whole communities and even cities here began to say, “we have room!” and yet there were people, who wear the banner of Christianity but their actions are a far cry and reflection of who Jesus Christ was is, and calls us to be. Compassion, yes was and is, a part of Christ, but many of us lack it because of the broad brush we have been conditioned and trained to paint people. We assume that the reason they are in the situation they are thrust is because of some sin they have committed that is unforgivable. The Palestine people because of their heritage; the Syrians because of their culture, Muslims because how they connect and what name they call God-which is the same Creator we serve, by the way; People of Mexican descent because of home grown chaos, the undocumented, because they are attempting to be sneaky and get over the government by not paying their dues, all the while, there are yet, powerful others who continue to pilfer resources that never reach the people who (word/line). Empathy, beloved and I said this before, is lacking among the faithful and the questioning.)

So,

What chain that is would around your feet,

Trips and keeps you

From following Jesus completely?

(pause)

That’s a tough question,

And our answers do not flow as easily,

And we hesitate to identify

Our burden

(pause)

I’ve experienced an exercise,

Most often in seminary settings,

Where the large crowd of participants,

(….were asked to line up and the questions were read, anything from if we had attended private school, if our parents had been able to afford to give us a car, to whether we had ever been followed in a grocery/department store based on our age, race, gender status and the list went on. At the end, when we looked around the room, there was a great divide-many who had great privilege were way in the front, and many who had none in the back. What made this exercise different, were we were asked to hold hands, and as each question was asked, if we experienced anything negative, we had to step back and anything positive step forward. As we went through the exercise, we tried to hold onto each other’s hands, but soon lost one another, leaving folks behind. That part shook people, and left some fatigued-because although some of us had privilege, we were still left behind. There was almost this-silence at who was far ahead and who was left behind. One participant stated that he experienced the guilty pleasure, of having had access to all of these things, and at the same time mindful that many people he would consider friends did not. But also he was honest that he was afraid to give up the access he had.)

So,

What are we willing to give up

Knowing that the Creator,

Regardless of how life falls,

Will still cradles us?

(pause)

Sacrificing anything,

Any perk that we have access to,

Is one of the hardest things we experience as humanity,

This is what we are told we must do in order to survive!

It’s no wonder when I am walking in downtown Chicago,

And I pass by the faces of native Chicagoans

That sometimes there is the suffering creased solidly there

That they have made some choices they did not want to,

But had to,

So that they could have access to a safe environment to live in

For themselves

For their children

In turn have access to resources both educational and environmental

So that they could be counted as essential and vital and important,

So they would not be faced with isolation and prejudice

Life is harsh enough!

But what do we sacrifice when we assimilate?

When we bend to the will of the Empire,

And in turn, the mechanisms of the Empire,

Fails and exploits humanity

(talk about during my senior year of seminary, and my participation in the Moral Monday movement. The concentration that year was on economic plight of those that Jesus bids us to invite to the table-those unemployed, those who are under housed, those who are fighting for a paltry existence and the budget issues affecting the state, to where social services were being all but cut. And so, the wedding banquet, the feast should not be cut off, and we gathered together as people of faith, and people of justice marched as one voice and one body. This particular time, participating in an act of civil disobedience both through his word and his physical presence, Bishop Miller would march with us, and pay the cost of discipleship, by being arrested. I am sure, that as the days and weeks passed, news of his arrest filtered out, there were those who would disagree with him, and who would be angry with him with what they thought was him, wasting his time.)

Are we simply satisfied,

With abstract thinking

And believing

What it means to be a good disciple?

Or are we willing

To allow the things that fester within us,

Die,

 “Whoever comes to me

and does not hate father and mother,

wife and children,

 brothers and sisters,

 yes,

and even life itself,

cannot be my disciple. 

Whoever does not carry the cross

and follow me

cannot be my disciple”

(pause)

Jesus, what?

Hate?

What about all of those commands,

Calling us to open up the Table,

To the least of these,

To those who cannot repay?

And now Jesus,

Hate?

But we must understand,

What Jesus means by this hyperbole language.

Think about when Jesus calls to others,

To follow Him,

And one man tells Jesus he will,

But first he must go and bid farewell to his family,

When Jesus calls us,

As Bonhoeffer says,

“Christ bids us come

And die.”

(pause)

Dying is frightening,

Dying means letting go,

Dying also means a new chapter,

Into the unknown

So when we let those things that have chained us,

Kept us glued to the (word/line) of this world

Experiencing FREEDOM,

Freedom to love regardless of how ridiculous it looks

Or how counter cultural it appears

Freedom to act,

Act towards justice,

Even when there is tension,

Even when you are labeled a troublemaker

Freedom to speak,

Speaking truth,

Of the accountability we should have towards one another

Of the forgiveness we should practice with one another

Freedom to stand,

Freedom to stand firmly for justice

And against (word/line)

Stand out from the shadow of the TRANSFORMED CROSS

YES

Even the CROSS WAS TRANSFORMED

THE MOMENT CHRIST GAVE UP HIS LIFE

The theology of the cross,

RADICAL REVELATION OF GOD,

That the Creator God stands with US, beloved

Through our suffering,

Our despair

Because of the abandonment of the Empire

And the brokenness of this world

As Dr. Cone states,

“God encounters US

In the human condition

As LIBERATOR

Of the poor,

The weak,”

The forgotten,

EMPOWERING THEM TO FIGHT

There’s nothing wrong with that!

We, as followers of Christ, should FIGHT

Fight because everyone should still be holding hands,

Be equal

REGARDLESS

Because of what Christ gave up,

SO COSTLY

And a price we will never pay,

NO MATTER WHAT we do in this life!

That is Good News.

So should we then,

Shed everything that keeps us from doing justice,

Practicing mercy and grace?

Shed everything that would keep us divided

Excluded

From one another,

Regardless?

(pause)

Following Christ, as His disciple

Means that we are called upon to act,

Differently,

Counter cultural

Weirdly

But

Lovingly,

Because of the Creator,

Who indeed forgives us.

(pause)

Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa of the Poor,

Offers this prayer, that could shed some light

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. 

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.

Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.

Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.

Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 

Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. 

It was never between you and them anyway.

Thanks Be to God.

Transforming our broken world, doesn’t get a Sabbath

Grace and Peace to you,

My sisters and brothers in Christ

Walking in the Living Light

Of the One who has conquered death

Is never ending

Never ceasing

Because there is always need for the Gospel

To be Proclaimed

As we pray without ceasing

And move and act and live out our call

Because we follow His footsteps,

Jesus Christ,

Our Savior and Lord

Amen.

(pause)

What would it look like,

If our Sabbath time

And Serving moments

Were one in the same?

Because transforming the brokenness of this world

And our collective journeys through this life,

Seemingly does not get a moment of rest, or pause.

(share with the congregation that God’s Work Our Hands once more is coming up this year, and it falls on a day where we collectively as a nation remember the horrors of September 11th. We as Redeemer have already gotten ahead of the game by partnering with LSSI and doing our own GWOH-providing much needed supplies and backpacks for children who need to be equipped and prepared for their first day, week, months of school! How awesomely thrilled was LSSI that congregations like us participated! And as I thought to September, there was still this drive to do something for GWOH because being involved in ministry, doing for others is awesome. So your Pastor has a crazy idea-what if, what if we took pancakes over to our First Responders at the Fire/Police station here in town? Just hold that thought because, yes-we will have a pancake breakfast going on, and Rally Day, right? And we’ve already done the GWOH for this year, right?)

 

But perhaps it could be framed this way,

That carrying over a meal to those

Who put their lives on the line for those they are called to serve

Is not only own mission,

But a way to share the Good News,

That this place,

Regardless of the day or time,

That we are also here for them as well,

That we open our doors

Inviting them in

Even if all they have time to do,

Is to hear the sermon,

Pass the peace

Getting fed from the Table,

Because of the One,

Who was constantly doing for all of God’s Creation,

Jesus,

Even in the midst of Sabbath.

(pause)

Sabbath,

Can be seen as this moment of release

Release from the overwhelming and demanding presence

Of this broken world

Sabbath is a day of celebration,

Whether you are saint or sinner

Whether you are comfortable

Or you are struggling

Whether you are among the faithful

Or perhaps, lost and yearning for that faith.

Sabbath is a time to come together,

Sabbath can even be a teaching moment,

When it is both a time for rest,

And a time for actively living out the Gospel

(pause)

But there seems to be some disagreement among those gathered

In our Gospel this morning.

Have you noticed that Jesus goes against the laws quite frequently?

The status quo

Because see, there’s no Sabbath

From suffering,

From a painful

Even shameful existence.

I wonder how visible this nameless woman was

To those who kept the Sabbath

Or rather,

How important was her existence

To the community who she should have been a part of,

Instead of being kept apart,

Because somehow,

It was shameful.

(pause)

Shame, unfortunately

Has been used as a weapon

By institutions of religion

As a vehicle for control and suppression

So when this woman,

“with a spirit,

That had crippled her for 18 years”

Dares to make herself visible,

In the presence of Jesus

Jesus stops His teaching

And HEALS HER

REGARDLESS of her status,

Position

Belief!

And this moment of release from whatever gripped her,

Instead of joining in her praising God,

The leader points fingers,

Shaming her,

Shaming Jesus!

(pause)

It seems,

It was more important

That the Sabbath,

As required by the law,

Remain holy,

Free perhaps,

From the daily reminders

Of how screw up this world

And how horrible we can be to one another,

The cause and effect resting squarely on our shoulders

We have gotten away from what Sabbath means,

Because we have fallen away

From loving one another

From being in relationship with the Creator

This woman,

In our Gospel

Serves as a reminder

That there still is hopelessness

And pain,

That affects us, beloved

That affects our sisters and brothers in Christ

That she,

Like so many others

Are ignored

Because,

We just want a break

From seeing this heartache,

Can we get one day, Lord?

Especially when its insurmountable

And we have no idea how to handle it,

Or cure it.

We miss what it says,

“A woman with a spirit”

(pause)

How many times have we come across someone homeless?

Who is struggling with mental illness?

The commentaries elude to the fact,

That this woman’s ailments were due to a demonic possession-

We scoff at that now, right?

Easily modern medical science could attribute this to any muscular disease

Or osteoporosis

Bone cancer

And that she was probably suffering from dementia,

Or worse.

But this spirit?

Even now we still do not have a grasp on mental illness

And even today,

We whisper,

And blame the sufferer

With our own misconceptions of why

We avoid those who are unfortunately burdened with mental illness

Even though our society has refused to advance mental health,

That affects especially those who have served in our armed forces

Or who have swam through seas of domestic violence and abuse,

Or even,

Because life has been harsh,

And they are lost,

They have enveloped themselves into the darkness

With the help of drugs

We avoid those on the street corners,

Because we are afraid,

Because they will be begging for food

Rambling, wanting someone to hear and see them as a human being

Pleading, for release from the endless cycle of agony

And for a beginning towards healing

For someone to invite them into sacred and safe spaces

Crying, because they have no hope

They too,

Are possessed by a spirit

A spirit of emptiness

That has weighed so heavily upon their person,

That they too are gnarled,

Bent over

That whispers to them,

“No one wants you

You are not worthy

See, they shun you.”

Do we, beloved

Also hear those empty spirits,

When we are burdened by sins that we continue to carry

Until we too,

Are bent over.

(pause)

Evil,

Is not a concept

Evil,

Is a true opposition

And rebellion

Against the Creator God’s will

And purpose for us

For our lives

Evil preys upon us,

Dividing us from one another

Throwing caustic acid upon our souls,

Until we are blinded from seeing

God, Our Creator

Our Parent

That LOVE and Light in one another.

But the Good News is,

Jesus Christ,

Spoke to this woman’s shame,

And said simply

WITH A WORD

“You are set FREE

From your ailment”

Jesus,

Overcame this evil spirit within her

Pushing back the darkness

Telling this evil,

The demonic

That it has no claim upon US

PROCLAIMING

WE, BELOVED

WE,

Are set FREE

From our sins,

Our faults,

And suddenly

Just as this woman,

We can’t help it!

Every day is a day of thanksgiving!

Every day is an opportunity for service

That’s how I see it,

Because for me, beloved

This is what God has given me.

When I was on the brink of walking away

Because how shameful Christianity had been spoon fed into me

By those who did not come with a loving spirit

Who used the laws, twisting them

So that people would conform to their standards,

That people would be ashamed of who they were

Or shamed that they did not have enough faith

God whispered to them,

God whispered to me

God whispers to us,

“YOU, beloved

US, beloved

We are FREE

From our sins!”

The darkness is absolved

Every day is a new day in God’s eyes,

And so,

We can’t help ourselves, right?

I can’t!

But, as Pastor

I cannot do this important work,

Without YOU

As people of Faith,

We are called to do this ministry together!

(pause)

So,

Whose coming with me

To take breakfast of 9/11

As we do God’s Work,

With our Hands?

(pause)

Let’s share a little Sabbath joy,

With our sisters and brothers in Christ.

Thanks Be to God.

You Can’t Take It With You

Grace and Peace to you,

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ

All that we could ever treasure

Seek to obtain

Desire

IS HERE

At the Table

Standing out from the Cross

Because of the One,

Who gave up what was most precious to Him

His Life,

Jesus Christ, Our Risen Savior and Lord

Amen.

(pause)

(Start out by asking the question again about what is the congregation’s most treasured possession, something that they display on their person or in their homes. Share that what I always have treasured is when I receive a gift from and especially from an Elder and give examples like the sweaters that I got for birthdays and Christmas from my Grandmother, to even the Barbie House I got for my 8th birthday, and my Uncle came over to put it together. More recently, the women who have become my Mother’s rock, lovingly referred to as the Steel Magnolias, have not only encouraged me but gifted me as my seminary, and now my pastoral journey has commenced.  Hold up the shawl, scarf that Jerry Brown obtained for me and tell the story about how she acquired it, and it was unique and interested. However, one Thursday afternoon as my husband was in my office, he held it up and noticed these two verses (read one), which sort of threw me into a quandary because clearly this could point to the argument for prosperity gospel. But what kind of wealth is being spoken of here?)

And then I read the previous verse,

“Do not say to yourself,

My power and the might of my own hand

Have gotten me this wealth.”

I think we as people of faith,

In this pursuit of holiness and righteousness

Meshed in with this complex existence in this life,

This individualized society,

Built on this concept of prosperity

This theology of glory,

Which just like the weeds,

Invasive species in many of our gardens,

And have taken over,

Wound tightly over our bushes,

And flowers

Like a vine,

Has invaded our collective journey here,

And attempts to choke the life out of the Good News,

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

(pause).

It’s no secret,

That I loathe prosperity gospel

I will not ascribe to it

I do not agree to it

I will not preach it.

Theologian Dr. Justo Gonzalez,

Identifies this prosperity gospel,

As preached by many ministers and preachers,

As a way to manipulate God.

“The purpose of Biblical religion

Is not to have God do what we desire,

But for us rather,

To be accountable to God.”

Womanist theologian.

Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas

Defines this as Plationized Christianity,

A Christianity twisting God,

God’s promises

The Gospel,

Into the image of humankind

And therefore calling that which is evil,

Good,

And what is good,

Evil.

(pause)

Luther defines this as a theology of glory,

Where selfishness is rewarded

Individualism celebrated

Excusing the sins of greed

As a necessary evil,

To exist in this life

Ignoring Jesus’s command,

His teachings

“One’s life does not consist

In the abundance of possessions”

Or even still,

Ignoring Jesus altogether

His Sacrifice

On the Cross

I was horrified to see,

A quote from a megachurch pastor,

Who when the question posed to him

don’t you want a candidate

who embodies the teaching of Jesus

 and would govern this country

according to the principles

 found in the Sermon on the Mount?’”

His answer?

“I would run from that candidate as far as possible,

because the Sermon on the Mount

was not given as a governing principle for this nation.”

(pause)

This idea that Jesus Christ,

His Life

His Ministry

His Teachings

Somehow ceased to exist

Upon Christ’s resurrection

And because of that,

We have this “saint” status

And therefore God is relying on us

To rely on ourselves,

Our own strength

Might

And Power

Because the only way we will get that expensive house

In the right neighborhood

Or that luxury car with all the bells and whistles

Is if we pray a certain way,

IF we pray hard enough,

Our bank accounts, our coffiers will increase

Or go to a certain church

And ascribe to certain rules,

And formulas.

And when God sees us doing right,

God will grant us our every wish!

So then we should not be so surprised

That many of these megachurches

Who preach this theology of glory,

This prosperity gospel

From the pulpit

That God wants them to be prosperous

Wealthy,

Are brimming to the top with members.

(pause)

Maybe this farmer,

Found that this same formula worked for him

In our Gospel this morning.

But we could argue,

What should be his next directive?

Clearly he has an abundance of crops

Clearly in these ancient times,

Having success with crops or livestock

Should be celebrated!

And any good farmer

Would have done what we all would have,

Right?

Building storehouses so that these crops,

His harvest would not spoil

Or go to waste.

But notice

Where the focus is.

I won’t have to starve!

I’ll be okay!

Famine and hunger will come,

And I will be set!

Wow, I’ve done good for myself!

I cannot wait to celebrate.

I’ll sit in my house and look at what I have built and say,

Self, look at this good thing you have done!”

See?

(pause)

Or what about even,

The person,

Who has a secure job,

With solid income

Who leans on their own self,

And pats themselves on the back,

Because they have invested wisely

And can sit back and nod at the computer screen

Which shows all of their bank accounts

And investments

And can brag to themselves,

Self!

Look at all that wealth you have obtained!

You are doing good!

You will be alright while everyone else is suffering

You will be on top!

And then,

They balk

They are angered

When perhaps their children

Coming to them out of love,

Pursuing their own dreams,

Asking for a miniscule share of resources

Maybe perhaps to get a car,

So they can get to that dream job they were offered

Or caring for their mother,

Who needs palliative care

Whose house is crumbling

And they shut the door in their faces

“Why should I help anyone?

What return on my investment will I get?”

(pause)

What if,

Jesus had been that selfish?

For all the power and might the Creator God gave to Him

Shared with Him

What if He decided,

That we were not worthy enough

That our sins were too great

That we could never repay the cost He would have to pay?

(pause)

But the Good News is that

Jesus Christ

Gave up His Life,

Upon the Cross,

And because of this Sacrifice

The Cross stands,

As the reaffirmation

As compassion

That God LOVES US

And we are made NEW

REBORN

RESURRECTED WITH CHRIST!

And More Good News!

Neither the Creator nor Jesus demands any repayment!

Because there is nothing we can do,

Nothing!

God does this out of a Love we may never understand,

This is the richness

The Fullness

The reward that keeps on giving!

And because there is nothing we can do,

Nor any way we can repay

The Creator God calls us,

Jesus Christ commands of us

To do for others,

As God does for us,

Without end!

(pause)

So that is why we,

As People of Faith,

Give

Share the Resources with others

Whether we know them

Or not.

Thanks Be to God.

 

 

 

 

God And Prayer Are Action Verbs, not just Nouns

O God We Call

O God We Call

From Deep Inside,

We Yearn

From Deep Inside

We Yearn

From Deep Inside

We Yearn,

For You

(pause)

(Share with the congregation about that moment during Ordination, when I was kneeling before the cross, vulnerable in this sacred moment and surrounded by a community of faith, both known and unknown, as they would witness their fellow sister in Christ, giving of her life into this journey of pastoral service. I knelt and waiting for those fellow sisters and brothers in Christ, who would be my colleagues, both known and unknown to share and to pray over me. There were prayers of joyous humor; there were prayers filled with wisdom and knowledge; there were prayers bathed in tears, especially as my best friend, herself a Presbyterian Pastor knelt and prayed over me.)

(pause)

How humbling it is,

For someone to pray over us, right beloved?

Praying over

And for one another

Is the deepest gift

We can give

The mere act of someone praying for us,

Whether we realize it or not

Strengthens that bond,

Of the Beloved community.

How good it feels,

That someone is sharing that burden

That struggle in our lives.

I barely remember all of the numerous prayers

Prayed over me that day.

Do you remember when someone prayed over you?

The words?

Maybe,

It was just

The Lord’s Prayer.

And maybe that is why,

The Lord’s Prayer may mean so much more,

In your life.

Gail shared with me one afternoon,

Some wisdom

“Pastor, would you mind taking a pause,

Before you go into the Lord’s Prayer?

I know you are in the midst of ritual,

But for many of us in the congregation

The Lord’s Prayer means so much.”

And I had to pause and think,

Of course!

Why wouldn’t this well known Prayer

Speak volumes?

Because this is one of the first prayers,

We learn as children, right?

This sacred Prayer

Is embedded in our Worship

Gail’s right,

It is that moment,

We collectively are spilling out

Our concerns

Our worries

Our needs

To the One,

Who IS ALL THINGS

CREATED all things

Because of the deep, unending Love

The Creator God has,

For God’s People.

(pause)

But praying publicly sometimes,

Can be nerve wracking,

Right?

We become so nervous

Wrapped up

In that our words

Must be carefully crafted

With all the right catch phrases

And added quotes

From Scripture

Praying publicly

Has the tendency

To throw us

Into spasm

Because everyone is listening

And secretly judging, right?

Perhaps,

This is what probably led the disciples

Asking Jesus

In our Gospel this morning,

To teach them how to pray

As John,

Taught his own followers.

(pause)

What was that prayer?

Interestingly,

There is no record

Of what John shared with those

Who were following him.

Was it a prayer of repentance,

That was so significant in John’s ministry?

Or perhaps it mirrored

The words of the Psalm

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness

in your abundant compassion

blot out my offense.

Wash away all my guilt;

from my sin cleanse me

(pause)

The act of prayer,

Is one of comfort

Especially in times

When we feel ostracized

Alienated

Removed

From community

Abandoned

By those who professed empty promises

From their mouths

(pause)

Being before the Creator,

Is a time

When we are reminded

We are loved

And this Prayer that Jesus would teach His disciples

Is one,

That encompasses

Reassures us

Of our (word/line)

And everything

In this prayer

Is not to remain in the abstract

These are not suggestions,

But that this Prayer,

Is ALIVE

God’s Name is kept Hallowed

Holy,

When we speak this

We are inviting,

Asking

Pleading God

To ACT

To be PRESENT

To come into our lives,

To impact this world,

It is not just praise!

(pause)

Jesus,

Teaches both His disciples

And us,

To give thanks

For the bread,

Sustenance of food

A reminder that this comes,

From the Creator

Jesus teaches

That we must be thankful

For the relationships

That we are submerged in daily,

And because of those relationships

And our humanity,

And because we will fail to see the Christ in one another,

We must repeatedly ask for forgiveness

We must be reminded that

In order not to break the bonds of Love and Mercy,

We must work to forgive,

As the Creator freely forgives us

(pause)

Jesus shows us,

In the words of this prayer,

Whether our heads are bowed

Or hands joined

We come as One

Into this space

Stripped away of everything that either breaks us

Or completes us

And we are just God’s children

And as God’s children

We can freely

Unashamedly

Be open

About our needs

(pause)

Mother Teresa

Said about the subject of prayer

“Prayer is not asking

Prayer is putting oneself

In the hands of God

At God’s disposition

And listening to God’s voice

In the depth of our hearts”

(pause)

We have to,

As people of faith,

Put ourselves

In God’s Hands.

And that beloved,

Is so difficult,

Right?

Because how can we put ourselves

Into the hands

Entrusting our lives

To the cosmos?

To something we can not see

Or touch?

And what happens

When those prayers,

Clinging to the Lord’s Prayer

Are never answered?

(pause)

What about the young woman,

Who has prayed the Lord’s Prayer

At the bedside of her mother,

Hoping that God will heal her,

That she will be new again,

That she’ll be able to do all the things

She once was able-

And what happens when that prayer is never answered?

(pause)

Or what happens,

About a child,

Who repeatedly night after night prays the Lord’s Prayer

Asking God to get his family out of a situation

Embroiled in violence and darkness

Wanting to escape to safety

So that he can just be a child again-

And what happens when that prayer is seemingly ignored

(pause)

Or even,

Our collective prayers

Of the ending to the brutality

And the division

That is tearing this world APART

WHAT HAPPENS

WHEN WE GET ANGRY

BECAUSE GOD IS NOT HEARING OUR PRAYER?

(pause)

What happens,

When the solution we hear,

Is we should just pray

And not get involved

“Jesus will fix it!”

“God is in control”

(pause)

But see,

Jesus did pray

And then Jesus

MOVED

ACTED

LIVED out what He was called to do.

Can we pray like Jesus?

It’s a bit complicated

Jesus calls us to not just pray,

This prayer,

But to actually live out this prayer

Because of this Prayer,

We are aware of what Creation gives to us

Through sustenance

And what we should give back in return

And of the complex,

Intertwined

Relationships

That we must nurture

And we hope to be nurtured

Through Love,

Through Grace

Through Mercy

And

Through Forgiveness.

And that we know,

We cannot do this on our own

We can only do the work

That the Creator God calls

And

Commands us

To do

Because of the presence of the Creator God

And always invoking

Asking

Inviting God into whatever space we are

So that we are able,

To be a part

Of the beloved community

Of the Kingdom of God.

(pause)

Prayer,

Yes

It is a spiritual discipline

But prayer too,

Is an act,

Because through the power of the Holy Spirit

This prayer,

Any prayer

Moves

Encourages

Empowers

Reminds US

How much we are Loved

How much we are valued

How much we are,

That hope

In the darkness,

Because the powers of our prayers

SHATTERS

Any evil

That is Good News.

Thanks Be to God.

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.