I am not customarily a “fad” person.  They come and go with the wind and the nudgings of marketing/advertising moguls. Lots of money invested and spent in fly-by-night endeavors.

However, what has caught my attention is the “safety pin” fad. I had seen others wear random safety pins on their shirts and lapels, but didn’t pay much mind to them initially. Until a friend of mine wore one and then I had to investigate what was behind them.

Initially, this practice began in Great Britain in the wake of Brexit as a sign of solidarity with those who are refugees and immigrants, indicating that said wearer was “a safe” person for them to be with. It has been adopted in the United States by those who are opposed to the election of Donald Trump, and for those who are purportedly targeted by the administration.

I intend to wear a safety pin. Why? Because I DO want to be seen as a “safe person” for someone who is oppressed or marginalized. I may not agree with Donald Trump’s approach. However, I do agree with the call of Christ to love our neighbor. I do agree with the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, and the message of Jesus that “if you do this to the least of these you have done so to me.” If those of us who profess to be Christians cannot be about love and safety, then that is a pretty sad commentary! This is truly a time in the history of this nation to promote love, care and concern for the marginalized. But not only for the marginalized, but for all people. We do have to convey that love trumps hatred. (It just so happens that Mr. Trumps name lends itself to that phrase. I like the phrase, not the slam.)

One last thing, I had a personal contact me regarding how we were conducting the prayers of the people…. If we were going to be praying for Mr. Trump. I acknowledged that we would be. Then I was accused of praying for the success of his administration. It is our privilege to pray for all politicians and policy makers in this country; for their wisdom and our good. Not to do so is beyond my ability to comprehend. If anyone needs our prayers, it is this country, on so many levels.  I hope we all end up with callouses on our knees. Keep safe! Be safe…. And be safety for another!

 

Psalm 40: 1-11

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.


By virtue of my calling in life, I am a liturgy/worship geek. So I spend a “more than average” part of my week thinking about what we do and how we do it. You all just come and expect things to be in worshipping order…. The music, the liturgy, the readings, and even the homily.

In light of going through the Recasting exercises and the fact that, at this point in going through the process, we are to be “brain storming”, I have found the need to get rid of extraneous things, which weigh down my mind, and have cut to the chase of the “basics.”

We are in the season of Epiphany; the season of light and enlightenment where we still bask in the birth of the Light of the World! The season when we talk about the fact that “Wise People Still Seek Him”…. And hear jokes like… “Why couldn’t Jesus be born in Washington, DC? … Because they could not find three wise men!”  You can determine for yourself if that is or is not accurate!

So, this week, I cut out all the manmade rubrics, looking simply at what we have been commissioned to do as Christian people.

We call ourselves Christians. We profess to follow Jesus… looking to the example he set in the living of his life and taking to heart and soul, the message that he gave. Ok…. So just how great a job do we, the church, do?

Jesus was born where?… In a manger or cave. Pretty stark. No frills… some thrills as Mary went into labor without the comfort of a midwife or familiar settings…. No state of the art birthing center. Even during the time of our history when home births were “the thing to do if you were hip and all natural”, we are simply clueless as to what this experience was for Mary. (And for Joseph as well… we can’t forget him!) If Jesus was born in the most harsh of circumstances, should we as followers not have a heart for those who suffer from not having state of the art accommodations – translate that to the homeless, those who are compromised in securing the basics necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing, meaningful employment…)

Oh… and then…. Herod, the narcissistic, egomaniac decides that he REFUSES to have some “new born king” be in competition with him!! So what does Herod do?… He orders the killing of every first born son in the vicinity!! Who here is a first born son? Raise your hand? If YOU had lived under Herod’s reign, you wouldn’t be here! Ever think about that? Probably not…. as that point in history in not our own. And for those of us who are women- we hit the lottery. They didn’t count us as anything of worth, so our necks were saved of sorts!

What of our darling Jamie? What of sweet Bryce? What of Mary and Joseph with their precious Jesus having to flee into Egypt? What fear…. What a nightmare! Who here would like to be a fugitive? NO ONE wants to be a fugitive! No one wants to live under tyranny or persecution! We are a spoiled, entitled lot! We have it easy! If it isn’t happening to us directly, we dismiss it! No matter who you are or where you are from! If the one who we follow was a refugee, should we not have a heart for those today who are refugees?

The psalmist reminds us today that –Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.

Of course, that is Old Testament in origin. Yet, what did Jesus commission his followers to do? (1) Live out the Great Commandment, which is “Love God, neighbor and self” upon which hangs ALL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS. (2) The Great Commission- “make disciples of ALL nations.” (3) Go out two by two, taking nothing with you…. (4) Do this in remembrance of me. (5) The Son of Man has no place to lay his head? (6) If you did this to the least of these, you did it for me! (Matthew 25:31-46 needs to be revisited by us DAILY!!)

Did Jesus tell us to go out and build churches/sanctuaries? Did Jesus tell us to arm ourselves with accouterments? Did Jesus ordain choirs and pews and stained glass windows? How did we get light years away from that which Jesus told us to do specifically?! Liturgies and churches have become the idol. They have become the god. They have taken our sight and mission away from what we are doing, have channeled our energy, desires and design towards their maintenance, AT THE EXPENSE OF MISSION AND MINISTRY.

We ARE directed to pray in the words our Savior taught us, which asks us to request from a benevolent God the fulfillment of our simplistic daily needs, while acknowledging our praise of God’s sovereignty and the need for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus tells us to preach the Good News.  Jesus says nothing about fraction anthems, sursum corda, sanctus, and the like…Where did all that come from?

If we are not to take extra out into the world…. No extra cloaks… how did we get ornate vestments? If we pour left over consecrated wine into a pacina, which empties into the earth… why do we have to have precious metal chalices… some of which are gem incrusted. Where did all that come from? Should we have the heart for simplicity as our Savior did?

What I am getting at is that we are all messed up as to where our hearts are. Where our treasure is that is where our heart is. (Matthew 6:21) If our hearts are stuck in a building or form of liturgy or a specific church activity that does not do mission or reach out to those Jesus felt were important to reach out to, we are really screwed up! How can God bless us if we are working to support something with all our might that which Jesus never intended us to do or to be?!

If there is blame to be had, I will place it over against hundreds of years of men who established traditions that set the tone for us today. The fact that we have “always done it this way” is most certainly ingrained in our spiritual formation. However, if we are spiritually mature Christians, we are now at a point that we have to step back and realize that these practices have resulted in the mess the church(es) are in today.

Our homework this week is to do some deep spiritual introspection. Where lies your treasure? What is your spiritual maturity? What are your priorities? If God does not want burnt offerings, then should we be focusing on something relevant to God and God’s beloved creation? Does the way we do church need to extract us out of the muck and mire centuries of practices have immersed us in to the detriment of our doing mission and ministry?

I can’t answer that for you… I can only answer that for myself. But the answer I come up with will most certainly be driving my ministry in the coming year. Your answer will inform your relationship with God, the church, and if ministry works in your equation. I pray we are people of Epiphany Wisdom.

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. Amen.

When I was a kid back in the dark ages, I was raised to respect those in authority. Elders, the police, teachers, pastors, you name it. If they had a title that commanded respect, hands down, I did without question. Then I grew up and my idealistic, rose colored glasses got stepped on by life. I soon realized that yes, I needed to be respectful of others…. ALL OTHERS. But not everyone merited my unchallenged respect. Respect is not an entitlement, it is earned. I will respect the basic humanity of all individuals, which is a part of living out the Great Commandment. Yet, today, I am truly struggling!

There are two jobs I would never aspire to, even if they were the last jobs in the world. One is to be bishop and the other is to be President of the United States. (Not that either of those positions would be in my purview.) Both positions are terribly stressful and thankless jobs. Neither can please everyone, in all ways and all cases. Yeah… no. Not for me.

My heart is heavy today. Really, really heavy! I feel like someone needs to help me believe again. And I simply cannot. I have absolutely no use for bigotry, disrespect for women, the LGBTQ community refugees, as well as racism. I also find that I am terribly distressed by the division in this country, with the ugly rioting in Washington today…. The carnage of property, burning of cars. All such unholy activity! Yes, there is most certainly going to be change. But I have to say, I am truly afraid for us all. The term “America First”…. Is this the same pejorative attitude of decades ago? If so… I can’t go with that either.

My position is to pray and pray without ceasing. To love and be loving and compassionate. I hope a miracle may be had and I can write again saying that I was totally wrong and absolutely off the mark. Oh please God! I love this country. I do believe that together, we can make this a better nation. However, we have to become united. How can a nation divided stand. Yet, this is now in God’s hands…. God knows the needs of us all. In is in God I trust.

Matthew 4:12-23

Come follow me, and I will make you fish for people.

Interestingly, I have started this homily and deleted it four times since Monday. What a roller coaster ride of thoughts and feelings this week.  So hopefully, what I am writing right now will be delivered. In all honesty, I am getting weary of rehashing thoughts. However, I guess it goes to show that sometimes we have to wrestle with Scripture. One would think this passage would be a “no brainer.” What is so hard about the message of “come follow me, and I will make you fish for people?” I mean, it is pretty straight forward; cut, dried, and to the point.  In previous years, I had no issue with this periscope. This time around preaching it I do.

Today we hear the same phrase twice… once in Isaiah and then repeated in Matthew. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light!”  I wonder about the darkness we could sit in as individuals and as a community. We all do at some level. A colleague of mine who is going through an especially hard time said that she felt like a pot with many cracks in it. However, it is through those cracks and crevasses that the light can shine through into our darkest spaces!

So we have Jesus strolling along the sea of Galilee and comes upon fishermen doing their thing. Jesus’ ministry is coming together. He needs a core group of individuals (men) to teach and send forth. He invites some to “come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” And it seems that the light switched on for those fellas, because they dropped everything and followed him!

Who here has known professional fishermen? Hard working individuals…. A bit rough and tumble around the edges. Their livelihoods hinge on what the lake or the sea will provide for them. They have to savvy about weather and currents and time of day and such. The fishermen know their demographics and the climate.

Fishing is no small undertaking. It is an art form if you really sit and think about it. It is smelly, messy work.  It can be hit or miss. And those who work at this vocation have to have grit, stamina, and fortitude to go on from day to day. It is not an easy life.

Have you ever heard of Jumping Asian Carp? Those are the flying fish, which jump into boats, accosting fishermen. They are the exception to the rule. Most often a smart fishermen knows where the fish are found. And they GO where the fish ARE!  In fact, some get so technical in their search that they have radar on their boats to find them!

What about Jesus was/is so compelling that those dedicated fishermen dropped everything and followed him? Because they did so BEFORE anything much was going on with Jesus… before a great deal of his teaching, the miracles, the established friendships!

What was/is so charismatic about Jesus that a group of 12 relatively simple individuals fished so very well that 2000 years later we sit in this church to hear about it? What I have struggled with is the question, what has happened that 2000 years later Jesus, God, the church, is no longer that compelling or charismatic?

In essence, I think we have, over the years, depended upon the Jumping Asian Carp. I think WE ARE the Jumping Asian Carp! We have missed the proverbial boat in not going out to where the fish are. We have cut bait and been too busy mending the nets! What a huge, huge whale of a mistake we have made. We have become a bunch of cracked pots.

One of my favorite theologians, Richard Rohr, OF (Franciscan priest) wrote “When you see people going to church and becoming smaller instead of larger, you have every reason to question whether the practices or sermons or sacraments or liturgies are opening them to an authentic experience of God.”

So the question I wrestle with is dealing with the knowledge that INDEED, we are smaller. Smaller in number of course. But I am more concerned, more troubled that we are smaller in the shining of light in our spirituality. That our priorities have shifted from the fish to the nets! We may require nets, but the mandate is to FISH. If we are not fishing, we don’t need nets!

We need to check out our fishing equipment. Of course, there are many who do not relish fishing. They don’t like to bait the hooks, don’t know how to cast, not like to take the fish off the hook, scaling and cleaning are messy and smelly. OK…. I get that. Then we better pack up the gear and give it to folks who are seriously committed to fishing and call it a day. In our case, if we fish… we don’t have to worry about cleaning the fish, God does that for us!

Do we put up a sign on the church door which reads “GOIN FISHIN!!” or put up a sign which says closed? Fish or cut bait!

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people! Amen!

 

Sitting with the Gospel of Matthew for this Sunday, dealing with the issue of being “blessed”, I have done a great deal of pondering.  Actually, my mind has been churning.

“Blessed are those…..” What does it mean to be blessed?  If you consult your Funk and Wagnall, it means that something/someone is consecrated. It also means to be happy and content where you are in life.  Place that over against what the Beatitudes state constitute being blessed, it would give us pause to think about what Jesus is trying to convey.

I have also placed being blessed over against who I am. I am blessed for certain, hands down. This past week has awakened a sleeping giant, so to speak. One of my favorite quotes comes from Eleanor Roosevelt, which states, “A woman is like a tea bag. You have no idea about her strength until she is put in hot water.” As a woman of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s,  I feel that I am currently treading in scalding water. However, I am joyous in that women have come to the front, yet again. This whole “Nasty Woman” theme is not so much about the current administration as it is about women and social justice.  I believe women united will do more for social justice and the oppressed than any other movement to date. (BTW…. I consider myself a Mother-Grandmother-Nurse-Priest-Nasty Woman…. Just sayin’!)

It truly goes back to the thought that if “one is diminished, we all are diminished.” Diminishment has a domino effect. Perhaps subtle or incomprehensible for those at the “top”, diminishment for those at the other end of the spectrum is devastation.  We all need to be empowered, no matter who we are, where we are from, gender we possess, or the color of our skin! PLEASE DO NOT READ THAT AS BEING ENABLED!! I don’t believe in enabling! Also, please don’t read entitlement. Don’t believe in that either!

When I saw a sign that read “Enough is Enough”, I thought “heck yes!!” I have seen enough, heard enough, experienced enough to realize that this nonsense has got to stop.

But not just for women…. I want everyone to be blessed! To be treated with respect and honor and compassion. We are ALL fashioned in the image and likeness of our Creator- Genesis 1:27- and God said it was GOOD NOT NASTY!! There are no exceptions! We are all fearfully and wonderfully made- Psalm 139:14!! There are no qualifiers We are not created nasty! We are created with beauty and wonder and are to be marveled at with awe, appreciation and profound gratitude!!!

That is not the message conveyed to women, people of color, the poor, the aged, immigrants, LGTBQ sisters and brothers, you name the category! If Jesus states that those who are blessed are poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness (justice), merciful, pure, peacemakers, and persecuted- these folks are looked upon as failures if contemplated through the lens of society today.  They would be classified as “less than” same as nasty women.

Personally, I humbly stand with those who are marginalized, demoralized, used and abused, demeaned, and disrespected. It would behoove those of us who call ourselves Christians to embrace being blessed and nasty, extending that empowerment to all others! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Matthew 5: 1-12

Blessed are…  In the name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sacred Wisdom. Amen


So often, I sign off a correspondence with the word “blessings” truly meaning that I desire the recipient to be blessed with every quality that word embraces. The Good News from Matthew this week invited me to sit with what the word means over against what it means for us as Christian people.

Seminary teaches us to go back to the original Hebrew/Greek to investigate words/phrases in their settings of origin. In Hebrew, the word blessing is a “feminine noun” and it is not nasty! Berakhah is considered a form of benediction, a drawing down of spiritual energy. It is the responsibility of every Jew to bring down a hundred berakhahs a day. It is the way of being aligned with God- acknowledging that God is the source of all our blessings!

Transliteration: Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu, “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe. How very beautiful a prayer…. How wonderful a thought to keep in the forefront of our activities of daily living. What would happen in our world today if we approached all things and actions blessings God, and to be blessings to others as we go about our business!?

Also, we cannot ignore the Greek form of the word Makarios.

Originally used in reference to the gods; over time, it morphed into meaning having a sense of happiness or contentment. This is the way the word is used in reference to “blessed” in the Beatitudes. Many years ago I heard the “beatitudes” referred to as the “attitudes of being”, finding that to be a wonderfully applicable approach to this wisdom.

Most of us are not masochistic. We like our comfort. We expect our basic needs to be met and addressed if not. So how do we reconcile the Beatitudes over against our being human, over against our being Christians? It all doesn’t necessarily jive! Or does it?

If one considers Christianity today as counter cultural, which indeed it is in the post-Christian Era of present, then what we do, say, and believe is going to rub against the grain of the mainstream. (Christianity can be, and is, abrasive to many.) Scripture written eons ago, more specifically Romans 12:2, highly suggests that we not conform to the ways of the world. (They were in a pre-Christian era, so I would have to surmise that eras play a part in this. Nah… it all has to do with human behavior and the 7 Deadly Sins, but that is fodder for another homily!)

Looking at what Jesus tells us, who are the blessed? The poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and persecuted. Oh yeah? How’s that for blessed! However, let’s dissect this out a bit….

A whole lot of people are hooked on the “prosperity Gospel”… God wants to bless us with all things good and amazing wealth and riches, health… yada, yada, yada, if you think the right thoughts, say the right words and donate! That whole scenario makes me nauseous! (Sorry Joel Osteen fans!! My hair could never be that perfect or my teeth so white!)

Anyway.. I digress. Poor in spirit is realizing that when it comes to our lives and the living thereof, we are dependent upon a Higher Power to get us through. We cannot depend upon ourselves, because in actuality, unless you live in a bubble, life is not one big giant glop of prosperity! We do mourn because we have many losses in life… and it is not a thrill a minute. Yet, it is just the way it is! John Wooden (American basketball player and coach) said, “Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.” I believe there is a great deal of truth in that. Nevertheless, when things work out and we find ourselves hanging on by a thread, someone greater than we are has to throw us a rope.

Meek does not mean being a Casper milquetoast, a wimp or wuss, spineless or such. Meekness is an approach of quietness and gentleness, not desiring confrontation.  It implies humility, which seems to be in short supply these days!

Righteousness is not self-aggrandizement!  It connotes right and moral behavior in a community. It has ethical bearings. We may want to be referred to as righteous dudes and dudettes. However, it must be done for the right reasons. If we hunger and thirst for righteousness, two of the most rudimentary yet compelling reasons to have basic needs met, think of the change we could effect in society today it we were so driven? We would be ambitiously motivated to seek social justice for marginalized others rather than twiddling our thumbs wondering what we should be doing! How refreshing would that be?

Peacemakers…. Another quality of character at a premium these days….is self explanatory. Same applies for mercy and pureness. All attributes high in demand and low in supply. If we as Christian people don’t extend these to others, then we may as well not call ourselves Christians. Stay home on Sunday and read the paper and have another cuppa Joe! But don’t be hypocrites and sit in the pews and go to the rail. That is a real turn off!

Ahhh…. last but not least, the persecuted. The persecuted; who are those folks? Can you name a few? And if we do not stand up for the persecuted, as those in Germany during WWII did not stand up for the Jews…. Who then would/will stand up for us? For our rights? For our needs? One bit of homework I wish to offer to you is to Google Aleppo. Google its history. Google its people. Google what it WAS and what it ISN’T anymore. You wanna see a modern day holocaust? (Of course not, but humor me here, please!) Read the lives of those persecuted people. It is unconscionable to think that has occurred yet again. It is evident that we have NOT learned from history. Or perhaps, since it didn’t happen to us and ours, we don’t care.

Chances are, torture will be reinstated. Just keep in mind, we are approaching Lent. Remember how Jesus was tortured…. By professionals who got off by seeing just how horrendous they could apply their art. Is this what we want to do to others? I mean, we could behead folks on camera like ISIS does. That is torture…. But then, they are barbaric and we most certainly are not.

Those are the beatitudes. We are assured that theirs is the kingdom of heaven; they will be filled; they will find mercy; they will see God; they will be called children of God. Sweet! Their reward will be great in heaven… Take note, God did not say here.

Be blessed and most of all, be a blessing. It is the attitude of being.

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people! Amen.

Well, well, well…. President Trump has stated at the National Prayer Breakfast that he will repeal the Johnson Amendment, allowing faith representatives to speak freely without jeopardizing tax exempt status. Hummmmm……

On another note, U.C. Berkley snubs Milo Yiannopoulos and the President wants to yank their federal funds. Hummmmm……..

I am a firm believer of freedom of speech and expression. Believe me, I am not going to be a pulpit bully for two reasons…. I don’t believe that is the venue for politics. And I am not sure how trustworthy things are in the long haul. As long as people research their political views, everyone is entitled to their opinion. That is the beauty of our Constitutional rights.

With that being said, I am a huge fan of James (as in the Letter of, although James Taylor is pretty cool too!) James is a wealth of practical information and life coaching. Regrettably, we don’t read or preach from James often enough. Personally, I believe that this brief letter should be read by believers EVERY DAY! Yep… that’s what I wrote… every day. Because for whatever reason, we have short term memory loss regarding how we should conduct ourselves on a daily basis. James 1: 19 reminds us to “be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Yeah… how’s that workin’ for us?

But wait!! There’s more!! James 3 examines the strongest muscle of our body…. The tongue!! Ah yes…. James 3:7 “Humans beings can tame  and have tamed all other creatures— wild animals and birds, reptiles and fish. But no one has ever been able to tame the tongue…. We use it to give thanks to our Lord… and also to curse other people who are created in the likeness of God.”

Freedom of speech is important. So is the delivery of words. So is the purpose behind the message given. It is our right. It is also a privilege. In addition, factor in wisdom and common sense (whatever that is anymore!!) Do our words help or harm? Do they build up or tear down? Do they unify or divide?

We have the right to exercise any muscle we want. Sticks and stones may break our bones, yet never, ever underestimate the harm that words can effect. Their scars are often invisible, but the wounds can be incredibly deep and lethal. Freedom does not endorse the right to abuse. Freedom mandates responsibility.  It does not support entitlement or glib, cavalier carelessness or ugliness. Yep… freedom of speech is of paramount importance and accountability.

Matthew 5: 13- 20

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

In the name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sacred Spirit. Amen


Most all of you know that I love to cook…. And I still cook for an army. However, my motto has become…. “we can freeze it!”  I feel that I learned to cook from the best Nana in the entire universe! We measured nothing, and teaching my daughters to cook was challenging. Throw a handful of that in, a pinch this, a shake or two of another…. I was taught to taste dishes and add whatever I felt was missing in whatever quantity I thought best. Sometimes that worked really well…. And others times we won’t speak about!

When I came home from nursing school, I looked forward to comfort food that Nana made. Especially after having lived off Campbell soup and hot dogs week after week. However, one weekend when I was home, we sat down to supper on Saturday evening. I took a bite of casserole, and WHAM!! It tasted like cardboard! It was SOOOOO bland it would make the color white look psychedelic! (And yes, I am a child of the 60’s and ‘70’s!)

Now mind you, I was raised in the “good ole daze” when you ate  what was put in front of you, you were appreciative, and complaints were not voiced. Later, I took Mom aside and asked her what was up with Nana’s usual scrumptious fare! (I was fearful that my 80 yo grandmother was slipping!) Oh no…. It was DELIBERATE! Could there be some sort of conspiracy going on here?

Well, that was long before conspiracy theories were in vogue. The switch-a-roo was because it seemed that my grandpa had some blood pressure issues and she was no longer using salt. It was not that Nana used mountains of salt when she cooked. However, going from salt to salt-less was rather a shock to the ole taste buds, to put it blandly.

Yet, over time, we all adjusted to salt-less-ness. Regular foods became too salty. Then I got married…. To a man who salted everything before he even tasted it. (Most likely a good thing initially in our marriage or he would have turned me back in for a different model!)

Today, we try to eat clean… and I use seasonings from Flavor Gods! (Just amazing stuff to add to dishes- you can get things on-line.) And I use garlic salt in most everything I make.

In considering these readings this week, I think that is what is the matter with most of us. Over the years, we have gotten accustomed to being flavorless, our salt has petered out, and in essence, is not good for anything. We are used to being flat… and when encountering movements which look like the church’s version of Flavor Gods, we have no clue what to do with them, or think they will make things seem weird, funny, or too exotic…. Because we have never used stuff like that before. (And because God forbid we as Episcopalians EVER be deemed too exotic! Get the vapors!!)

So I read the Episcopal Journal this week. What captured my eye was an article about the rebuilding of the Cathedral in New Zealand, which suffered considerable structural damage in an earthquake back in 2011. There is great argument about tearing down vs reconstructing…. To the tune of 105 million dollars over 7 years.  And then, my thoughts turned to the reading from Isaiah this week.

 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. (Seems like we always have to bicker about something or we aren’t happy!)

Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? (AKA navel gazing!)

Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?(AKA- your neighbor!)

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. (Then and ONLY then will God make God’s presence known!)

We are always given instructions on Sundays regarding the living of life in the church and in the world. If we are busy doing all these other things but we are not paying attention to the direction God provides for us, then we do all this stuff for nothing! It is like the movie Groundhog day…. We keep doing the same thing over and over and the same results are had over and over. And ONLY… and I TRULY BELIEVE, ONLY when we have set our sights in the right direction, DOING WHAT GOD CALLS US TO DO, that God will answer our prayers and give us the solutions when we cry for help and we will know that HERE GOD IS!

And until we do…. We can’t season a thing nor shine light to save our lives. We need to stop wasting time and energy by not making a decision. We either listen to God and follow the directives, or we don’t. I saw something funny this week. It read, “Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road of life is paved by way too many flat squirrels!”

Anglican Priest- John R. W. Stott wrote,

These are the standards, the values and the priorities of the kingdom of God. Too often the church has turned away from this challenge and sunk into a bourgeois, conformist respectability. At such times it is almost indistinguishable from the world, it has lost its saltness, its light is extinguished and it repels all idealists. For it gives to evidence that it is God’s new society which is tasting already the joys and powers of the age to come. Only when the Christian community lives by Christ’s manifesto will the world be attracted and God be glorified. So when Jesus calls us to himself, it is to this that he calls us. For he is the Lord of the counter-culture.”

We are counter-cultural. We have discussed that before. So it would behoove us to get out and shake the salt of Christ’s manifesto. That is what will attract the world… not the bickering, not the fasting…. Not by sitting in the pew….or navel gazing!

Another of my favorite Priests- Henri Nouwen wrote-

We no longer have to ask ourselves if we are approaching a state of emergency. (No joke!) We are in the midst of it, right here and now, and we expect the future to mirror the past….(Because we have always done it that way!) It is in the midst of this dark world that we are invited to live and radiate hope. Is it possible? Can we become light, salt, and leaven to our brothers and sisters in the human family? Can we offer hope, courage, and confidence to the people of this era? Do we dare break through our paralyzing fear? Will people be able to say of us, ‘See how they love each other, how they serve their neighbor, and how they pray to their Lord?’ Or do we have to confess that at this juncture of history we just do not have the needed strength or the generosity? How can we live in hope so as to give hope? And how do we find true joy?

We ARE to be salt and light, through loving, serving and praying.  Period…. No qualifiers, no exceptions, no excuses!! The only thing holding us back is ourselves, our issues, our fears, our lack of listening to God within us and through the world around us.

Do we have fire in our belly or are our bellies empty?  Let’s get cookin’ and turn up the fire….I would hope that we will turn on (the light) and shake the world up, one square inch at a time. Do we have the strength and generosity? Or are we so tasteless and bland that we must be thrown out? There are points to ponder, personally and communally.

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. Amen.

Matthew 5:21-37

You have heard that it was said…. You have heard that it was said….Again, you have heard that it was said.

In the name of God: Divine Author, Divine Savior, Divine Wisdom. Amen


Hey everyone… do you know what Tuesday is? It is Valentine’s Day! Please remember, all you who are in relationships, as I don’t want to have to do any more relationship counseling than I have to!

Did you know that it’s estimated that 150 million Valentine cards will be distributed? Now, if they factor in all the Valentines that the grade school kids give, that figure could be skewed! However…. Why do we partake in this ritual?!

We have heard it said over the years this celebration began in remembrance of a Catholic priest who, in third century Roman, officiated at marriages of soldiers because he felt it was an unfair practice for soldiers to be unmarried, very single men. (Emperor Claudius II believed that married soldiers were too easily distracted in battle.) [Interesting that a priest would consider that…. Yet I digress] He was looked upon as a saint for his noble assistance to soldiers in their desire to be in relationship with a spouse; thus his death is commemorated at this time of year.

Alas, it is interesting that this celebration is smack dab in the middle of February, which coincides with the pagan feast of Lupercalia, in honor of fertility gods. (Who could have predicted that?!) Pagan priests would sacrifice a goat for fertility and a dog for purity. All the maidens in a village would go through the ritual, then put their names in a jug. A bachelor would pick a name and

they were paired for the year to come, often culminating in marriage. This was outlawed when the church got in the works, stating that indeed, it was too pagan. (I imagine goats and dogs today breath a sigh of relief!)

Again, we have heard it said that a prisoner named Valentine saw a young maiden from his jail cell and sent her a love letter signing it “Your Valentine.” However, it was not until the middle ages that Valentine’s Day was associated with love and other sundry things- cupids, hearts, bows and arrows, flowers and chocolate…..

So take whichever murky myth you wish to embrace and on the 14th tell someone you love them. I read in Dear Abby the other day that a reader has given kiddie Valentines randomly for 20 years to strangers, just to brighten their day. What a lovely random act of kindness. (Time to drag out your pinking scissors, construction paper, heart-shaped doilies, glue, GLITTER, and pens! Next week we will work on scrapbooking!)

We hear much being said…. Every day, over and over, 365/24/7….Via very form of media available!! Why? Because the more one hears something, the more it is ingrained in their psyche. (Nothing news worthy in that method!)

By virtue of the fact that this pericope from Matthew states this phrase repeatedly, that is an indication that we are supposed to sit up and take notice and INGRAIN IT IN OUR PSYCHE as well as our SOUL!

This is not a warm and fuzzy Valentine’s Day gospel from Matthew. It addresses a lot of character flaws and defects with which we humans seem to struggle. It speaks of murder and anger and coming to make an offering knowing you hold this malice in your heart.

So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him…

This is what we today have heard it said! What do we do with that? You tell me! What are the qualifiers in this verse? What are the exemptions? Who is entitled to ignore this? If ever a pericope was spot on in the history of the world, it is today, right now….

It talks about adultery and divorce, and those things in our lives that cause us to sin and fall short of loving others. As a nursing student, there was some sort of church in Cincinnati, back in the day, which used these verses as a springboard for their theological system of belief. We saw a rash of people coming in ER having self-amputated or self-put out eyes, and fingers and other appendages, taking these verses literally. (And we wonder why people don’t want to become believers!)

Yet, week after week, we have heard it said over and over again, in every which way it can be said, sliced, diced, spread, julienned and pureed….. we weekly are given instructions to live life in such a way that when we come to the altar, we have not murdered anyone (emotionally, physically, spiritually), our anger is dissipated (and we are not bullying, judging, hating!) , and IF we have a vehicle by which we spew hatred, maliciousness, ugly, hurtful, harmful, murderous stuff….then we are told clearly to CUT IT OFF/OUT!!! STOP IT!!! KNOCK IT OFF!!!! CEASE AND DESIST!

We hear many things said today. Things which are highly disturbing to many people in this nation. In all my 63 years, I have never seen anything like this. However, I work very hard at trying to see God at work in the world, and in situations, even those with

which I deeply, deeply disagree. What I am hoping to be the redemptive part of where we are in the nation today is just about what Matthew speaks.

Where do we as individuals commit transgressions towards others in our daily lives that we can and MUST rectify? What change can we effect in our own environment to foster life rather than death. Joy rather than sorrow. Peace rather than turmoil and pain. How can we live our lives today and always in a way in which another’s life is improved and not denigrated or destroyed or marginalized or disavowed, disrespected, dishonored? How can we do that? What are we willing to cut off in our lives, in our own souls and bodies, in order to accomplish this?

What have we heard it said will happen if we do not?! Plain and simple, we shall be punished. I am not certain that our whole body will go to hell…. Fire and brimstone and such. I believe it will be much worse…. It will be what we despise most here on earth, magnified exponentially, laced with knowing that we will not be in the presence of the Divine Lover of our souls. I can’t imagine a worse hell than that.

So, are we going to be lovers? Or are we gonna be like Taylor Swift sings…. Relegated to “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…” Homework this week- We have to shake it off- ALL THOSE THINGS which separate us from the love of God and from loving each other. And then go out and buy some kiddie valentines (or make your own and use your pent up energy in creatively loving others…. ) Spread the love! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Again, hear it said what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. Amen.

Matthew 5:38-48

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

In the Name of God: Divine Lover, Divine Lover, and Divine Lover. Amen.


Ann Voskamp is a Christian author. She writes, “ Love is the most radically subversive activism of all, the only thing that ever changed anyone.” Love as radically subversive activism! Who’da thunk?!

To live life as a radical activist just by loving! Subversively, even!! Edgy, pushing over against society, being counter-cultural…. I am liking the sound of that. But then, my boss was/is a radical activist.

Ever hear it said, “Smile, it will make people wonder what you are up to.”  Why is that? Why can’t people be genuinely loving; genuinely smiling without pretense? I think we should all try it, and wig a few people out, just for snits and giggles! And actually, scientific studies have shown that merely by smiling, even if you are faking it, releases endorphins, reduces stress, and effects a more positive mental attitude.

The Dalai Lama stated, “ When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.”

With all that being said….Oh buggers! What do you think of this pericope from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount? So here goes… gird yourselves. YOU TELL ME what this pericope says and how it applies today…..then I will carry on and preach……

Ok…. So how is this working for ya? Do we love our enemies? Or those we think are our enemies? What are the qualifiers in this pericope? The exceptions to the rule? Those entitled to ignore this? Does it say that we only have to do this if we agree with each other? See eye to eye with each other? Yeah, no…. not so much!

To say that our nation is in a contentious time would be a gross understatement. As I have said before, the vitriol that is exhibited is chilling. I hate to turn on the news or read the newspaper, yet it is like a train wreck… I have to keep looking and reading despite the carnage. However, what disturbs me WAY MORE than this, is the contention that Christians are showing to one another. IF what Matthew says is true……  IF we believe this….(do ya believe it?!! REALLY?) why are we behaving as we are? Why are we NOT being radical activists by LOVING?!

Ever see the dress that some people identify as one color and others see the same dress as a different color? I see a blue and black dress and others in my family see the same dress as white and gold. In science it is called color constancies. Same dress, different interpretations. Who cares? It is just a dress, right? It is not dictating any policy, correct? Yet, I have to say that it really bugs people who see the dress at the same time and give two different answers, rather emphatically. We don’t always have to agree, condone, or see eye to eye. Some things are just seen through different lens with varying interpretations!

Social activist and Buddhist- Sulak Sivaraksa wrote:

I remember a Tibetan monk who had been tortured in a Chinese prison for 22 years. When he reached Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama asked him: “What were you scared of the most in prison?” He replied: “I was afraid that I might lose my compassion towards the torturers.”

(from an interview by Swati Chopra, Life Positive)  What cord does that strike in you? What do you hear? For 22 years this monk was tortured and he was worried about losing compassion?! Seriously!? What is the matter with us? That is what I am afraid we are losing as Christians sometimes! We are so quick to judge and so slow to extend love and compassion.

Tell me….Who or what is the enemy? Is it refugees? Is it LBGTQ community? Is it nasty women? Is it skinheads? White supremacists?  People of color? The poor? WHO IS THE ENEMY? The Russians? Mexico? Worse yet…. Do we view the enemy as the person sitting across from us in other pew? Last week we heard it said that if we have an issue with our neighbor, we should park our offering at the table and make amends first. Jesus speaks a very hard message, yet he is VERY CLEAR!

When the world is already a mess and a half, why would anyone in their right mind want to come and be amongst people who are supposed to love but are not? When there is so much judgment and condemnation in the world already, why would anyone with two grey cells to rub together voluntarily find themselves amongst people who are so ready to judge and condemn?

As your pastor, I have to confess that I find it incredibly disheartening when I hear or read things written by a Christian regarding another in condemnation. To make statements that if we believe one way or another, then we are not followers of Christ, should not come to the table, should not show our faces in church, or they would not receive Communion from someone’s hands because they do not agree. You receive communion from my hands…. I consecrate the elements, and I am perhaps one of the lousiest sinners alive. (Of course, I will feel rather strange if no one comes to communion today!) Yet, I would say, I’m not worried about the speck in your eye, because I have a whole forest to get out of mine!

So…. Let me make a radical suggestion. You wanna change the world? Defeat the evil in the world? Be an activist for a cause? Wanna be subversive? As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Then go out and love the hell out of others!

 

Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people. Amen!

 

What does that say to you? What do you hear from the monk’s statement? How does this play into what we learn from Matthew today?