Your People

Your People

YOUR PEOPLE
Moses and God.
God and Moses.
They argued. A lot. Like an old married couple.
They argue about us, their children.
To whom do we belong?
“Look what your people are doing!” they each said pointing at each other.
Your people! No, your people!
We revel before the idol, the golden calf, forged out of fear because we felt abandoned by God and Moses, who were busy disagreeing with each other.
Moses intercedes, God spares the people, and the hard work of being disentangled from the idol begins.
Idols are sticky things, hard to pull away from.
Idolatry is a major concern in scripture, if you follow the daily readings lately they have been all about idolatry. Idolatry seems to be all over the media and news feeds lately as well.
We always seem to forget to whom we belong.
And we don’t like being reminded.
To whom do we bow and worship? Who is our Lord?
What are the graven and molten images that we set up before us? They are surprisingly hard to find, except in hindsight.
They own us, they enslave, they twist.
We pull away from one and get stuck to another, like walking through curtains made of fly paper, a tangled web.
When they disappoint, when they are challenged, everything flies apart in rage and despair.
Being a child of God in a land tangled in idolatry has its challenges.
What owns us?
To whom do we belong?
Have we forgotten about leaving Pharaoh, about being God’s child?
What idols do we revel before?
Moses and God.
God and Moses.
There is something important about the way they would argue, about being real and true to each other, always being there for each other, interceding for each other.
A relationship not about agreeing with each other, but about being there for each other, like an old married couple.
Sticky clinging idols or the God who brought us out of Egypt, out of bondage, out of the house of slavery? The God to argue and to be in love with forever and ever amen.
Those seem to be the choices.
The crazy parable of the wedding banquet that we hear from Jesus today can be boiled down to, show up and be dressed for the occasion, or be really disappointed.
It is a very anxious parable. It reads like a bad dream, an anxiety dream.
Like when you get invitations that you don’t know what to do with them so they sit there until it is too late. The kingdom of heaven is like that. An anxious invitation with consequences.
Not a peaceful thing, it challenges our idols, it cuts us loose with a freedom to which we are unaccustomed. Freedom in a world that is full of wonderful and terrible things.
The revel of idols or the revel of the wedding banquet, turning on each other or showing up for each other?
Show up, don’t be owned by idols, be thankful for the gift of being freed from slavery from that which turns us against each other.
The ministry of being God’s children is about inviting others to show up for each other as we are disentangled from the idols that rule this world, offering something else, the ministry of reconciliation, of thanksgiving, of showing up for each other.
Our pledge drive for 2018 has begun.
It is about so much more than fundraising. It is about setting the captives free, being disentangled from sticky idols.
Show up for each other.
Like Moses showed up for God.
Like God showed up for Moses.
Like how they both showed up for their people, arguing, like an old married couple all the way.

Words I Won’t Be Preaching

Words I Won’t Be Preaching

When the world falls apart what do we do?
What are the words that need to be heard?
What can be said to make things better?
What can be spoken to bring holiness to desecration?
The liturgy that brings restoration of things profaned?
This is a sermon I won’t be preaching, the Bishop has his visitation so I won’t be preaching. It is a wonderful gift, he will be at the early liturgy as well, I just found out, so I get to just “go to Church” for a change and to participate but not to lead. A rare Sunday for me.
This is also that rare Sunday when we hear the reading from Exodus with the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, the Ten Words.
The Word is spoken, the word is speaking creation back together when it is falling apart.
God speaks and creation begins again over and over.
Ten words that bring creation back together again.
I used to treat them like ten rules, that if I get them right then God will like me.
I don’t think that now.
I think they reveal God, the God who brings life back when death has taken over.
Ten words that bring life back, that restore what was profaned.
Ten words that reveal God, that fill the world with holiness.
What do we do when things fall apart?
I see that word speaking, a community giving blood, carrying the wounded to safety, honoring the dead, putting things back together, not like before, never like before, more deliberate now about the gift of living and honoring one another as gifts from God.
The Ten Words are alive. Can you see them? Can you hear them? They are speaking creation out of the nothingness that always seeks to devour us.
“The word of God came to so and such”, one of the prophets, scripture says that over and over again. God speaks and life happens. The word has come to us. Be that life that happens when things fall apart.
This is a sermon that I won’t be preaching, it isn’t finished. Finish it for me.

Where’s the Water?

Where’s the Water?

Have you ever noticed that the Bible has this thing about water?
The Spirit brooded over the waters at the creation.
The flood of Noah.
The Nile turned to blood.
The parting of the Red Sea.
The crossing of the Jordan River.
Jonah being cast into the sea.
Jesus baptism in the Jordan.
Jesus’ command to give water to the thirsty.
The water turned into wine.
The calming of the storm.
Walking on Water.
The water and blood pouring from Jesus pierced side.
Paul being shipwrecked.
The waters of life in the book of Revelation.
It just goes on and on.
Water.
The elemental force that brings life, mercy, cleansing, and judgment.
“Where’s the water, Moses?”
The whole congregation of the Israelites had taken the leap of faith, they left Pharaoh, Egypt, and slavery behind. Now they were in the middle of nowhere, and they were thirsty and there was no water. They were in trouble.
“Is the Lord among us or not?”
Faith starts to become hard, dangerous even.
Where is God now that God is really needed? We followed faithfully. Will God provide faithfully?
“Is the Lord among us or not?”
Being in deep need drives us to God. Being in deep need also forces a certain honesty, clarity, and candor with God, it causes us to say, “God are you there? Do you care?”
Is God there? Does God care?
Those are the hard questions that we ask in the dark times.
Where is the water?
In the story of the people of Israel, the answer is that Moses struck the rock and the water flowed, providing water in the dry place, in the dark time. Is the Lord among us or not? And the answer is water.
Christians have always ascribed symbolic power to this rock being cleft by Moses and providing the answer to our fears and questions about God being present and God caring.
For Christians Jesus has been understood as the Rock cleft for us, answering the questions, providing life in the dry and dark times, the Rock of Ages hymn, one of the great Anglican hymns of the 18th century echoes this understanding of Jesus death and resurrection being the answer to the question of, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Is God there? Does God care?
Jesus is the answer we are given. Jesus is the yes. Jesus is the water in the dry and dark times.
It all comes back to water.
It all comes back to Baptism and finding water there.

You’re Hired!

You’re Hired!

You know those old cars. Not the antique ones that are all prettied up, but the old ones that you can hear coming. They have their own particular rattle and rumble that you learn to recognize.
Here comes that old pick up with a faded pizza sign stuck on the roof, rattle, rattle, rumble, rumble. You can hear it coming from a mile away.
God’s old truck, driving around, all day long, finding people and giving them a job. Some people run up when they hear the rattle, rattle, rumble, rumble, others run and hide!
“You’re hired!” Jesus yells out over the busted muffler, “Come on then!”
God’s old truck, full up with people, like one of those clown cars where the clowns just keep climbing out. How many can it hold as it rumbles and rattles with splayed out tires down the road? “Come on then, you’re hired.” all day long. Everyone has a job. Everyone has work to do.
The kingdom of heaven is like that old truck. Always out there hiring everyone he can find.
The pay scale is kind of weird though.
It doesn’t matter how long or short your day, all are paid the same.
God’s kingdom is funny like that. It finds us and surprises us, a grace that has nothing to do with merit, and everything to do with gift.
The pay scale is all backward. Those who are left out the longest are paid the most for the least amount of work.
That is what the kingdom of heaven is like. It’s not fair. It is about something else entirely.
A Kingdom not of merit, but of gift and grace and searching people out.
The Kingdom is a surprise. It is like suddenly driving up to a whole city that you didn’t even know was there that has its own very different rules. It is no longer about things like scarcity, supply and demand it is now about searching out and gifting.
It is like waking up and finding out that life has never really been about producing and consuming, or cheating- all those things we try so hard to benefit from.
The kingdom of heaven is like waking up and finding that life is something else entirely, something much bigger.
It is like waking up to an immense new world where it’s not about who can get the most but who can give the most, where it is not about who can be the most resentful but rather the most thankful.
Where the greatest thing in the world is to see the gifts that God gives to others and to appreciate and encourage those blessings.
It’s quite a road trip from here to there.
The Kingdom of heaven is like a long journey in the wilderness slowly leaving slavery behind slowly learning to be free.
The journey from resentment to thanksgiving.
The conversion from grasping to giving.
A road trip to meet God. Come on then!
The kingdom of heaven is like a rude awakening, discovering that you had it all wrong.
It’s like waking up to the same old car rattling and rumbling by in the dark hours every morning.
You can hear it coming from a mile away.
That old pick up with a faded pizza sign on the roof, rattle, rattle, rumble, rumble, here it comes.
You wake up to it, wondering where it is going and why does it have to wake you up so early every day.
Waking us up, yelling out, “You’re hired! Come on then.” God is like that.

Into the Sea

Into the Sea

Credit cards. They can be tricky. You know how those credit limits just keep going up.
Ran mine way up, lost track of it. I ran it up to oh..about…5 or 6 billion dollars.
Needless to say I couldn’t pay it, the credit collection agencies got kind of bloodthirsty, then there was this big surprise, I was forgiven the debt.
It was a miracle! I was so relieved.
But then this strange thing happened, I couldn’t control myself, a friend owed me $12,000.00. Instead of forgiving the debt I set a debt collecting agency after him. I couldn’t control myself.
Forgiveness is a fine thing, but you still have to pay your bills!
Why would I pass the miracle along?
What’s mine is mine! Right?
The crazy things we get caught up in!
Miracles are a hard thing to accept, they are an even harder thing to pass along.
Jesus. His parables cut to the heart of just how foolish we can be and how irresponsibly merciful God is. Grace beyond imagining and counting, a generosity that is just foolish.
Foolish people, foolish parables, foolish God.
So this parable about forgiving 10,000.00 talents, how much is it? It means 150,000 years of wages. Billions and billions of dollars. A foolish debt. A foolish mercy. A foolish unwillingness to pass that mercy along.
A parable of extremes to catch our attention.
The kingdom of heaven is like this extreme parable of extreme debt, extreme forgiveness, and extreme petty hypocrisy.
Miracles are a hard thing to accept, they are an even harder thing to pass along.
The ocean opens and collapses.
The victory of God and the destruction of Pharaoh and his chariots and chariot drivers.
A story of extreme deliverance.
The life of faith can be described as the gift of freedom, the cost of freedom and the life of sharing freedom.
We keep trying to measure that ocean with teaspoons, to dig our way across, counting each drip. But the Grace of God is beyond measure, only extreme parables and stories of extreme deliverance give us a glimpse of the mercy that we are invited to live in and to share.
Which is harder? Facing the level of debt we are in? Or sharing that mercy? Of passing it along? Which is harder?
The life of faith-it is full of conversion experiences. Imagine living with that experience of relief and of sharing it gladly? How to have hearts that are that big? As big as God. As foolish as God. As extreme, as free as God.
I know a man who waited for a heart transplant.
He waited and waited, he finally prayed when time was running out.
And a heart became available and he had the transplant.
The suddenness of the gift and the relief that came with it was devastating for him. He was not a very pious or devout man. Plenty of others were probably more deserving. But he was given that new heart.
A gift so big he didn’t know what to do with it.
A devastating grace that strips away all our merit and we start over with nothing but mercy.
A life of mercy. A life of freedom. A life of sharing that grace.
How do we get there from here?
We are baptized into that journey of growing big enough to hold the resurrection of Jesus and to bring that life to all the dead places in the world. It is a long way from here to there.
The Baptismal prayer follows creation and God’s people through this journey of the Spirit. You’ve heard it many times.
“We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Over it, the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through it, you led the children of Israel out of their bondage
in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus
received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy
Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death
and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it, we are
buried with Christ in his death. By it, we share in his
resurrection. Through it, we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his
fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in
the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of your
Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and
born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus
Christ our Savior.”
Grace Church has that heart that has been stretched by the extreme, foolish Grace of Baptism. More water than we know what to do with.
It is a mercy that is so extreme that it is just plain foolish and devastating.
Miracles are a hard thing to accept, they are an even harder thing to pass along.

Holy Ground

Holy Ground

We all know someone like him.
Who has everything. Who is gifted. Who has all the advantages. Everything is going for him. A bright future full of promise but who despite it all throws it away.
Moses. Moses was a murderer. A life of privilege and miraculous rescue, yet he committed murder. It was an Egyptian man abusing a fellow Hebrew. Moses turns the abuse around intervening for the victim. He goes too far.
Moses hides the body in the sand. He thinks he gets away with it. But he doesn’t. Moses is scorned by the Hebrews and Pharaoh is out to kill him.
Moses ran away. He went to the middle of nowhere and just kept on going starting a new life.
Thou shalt do no murder. That commandment had not yet been given, had not yet been written in stone.
But it had been spoken, to Noah, at the new beginning when the world started over. Human blood is not to be shed. To do so is to disfigure the image of God. It is sacrilege. It is desecration. Vandalism of the holy of the holies, the very living image of God present in the world, broken like cheap pottery.
That is what Moses did. He hides the shattered image of God in the sand.
That is where we meet him. At night, in the wilderness, alone with the sheep. That is where it happens. Holiness finds him. Holy ground finds him. Holy flame. The Angel of the Lord and the voice of God. Moses goes barefoot and walks on the hallowed earth. Moses had driven the holy away and the holy pursued him and found him.
Strange how God chooses the most flawed and broken.
The ones who are best at hiding and running are the ones who stumble back onto Holy Ground, God surrounds them, there is no way out. God is relentless.
Moses is told to go back to the place of his shame, to face those who scorned him, who wished to kill him, returning to the scene of the crime, exhuming what he had left behind.
The long story and journey of salvation for the people of Israel is also the long journey of the salvation of the soul of Moses.
The holiness of God works that way.
Go home Moses, be set free, set your people free.
Peter and Jesus were quite the pair.
Thick headed, rocky Peter and the Messiah who didn’t measure up.
The Messiah who will suffer horribly and die without honor or respect.
Imperfect Peter and imperfect Messiah.
Quite the pair.
Strange how God chooses the most flawed and the most broken.
The suffering Messiah, God’s blood is spilled. The divine image is defaced.
Like Peter, we don’t want that kind of Messiah. We want a messiah who looks like Pharaoh. Powerful, successful, impressive.
Yet it is the broken Messiah who is the burning bush that calls to us in the night.
Imperfection and brokenness surround us. They are the holy ground that we walk upon.
They are where holiness finds us, they are where we begin the long journey that saves our souls.
We all know someone like Moses because we are all like Moses, we mar the image of God and we hide it in the sand.
Will our brokenness and shame become the means of setting others free?
Will we take off our shoes and walk on that hallowed ground?
It is a long journey from here to there.
Holiness pursues. Holiness surrounds.