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.

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!

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.

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?

Matthew 17: 1-9

Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  

In the name of God: Creator, Risen Savior, Sacred Wisdom. Amen.


When I say to you, “Solve the equation for ‘x’”, what happens to your gut? For some, butterflies of excitement are set off. Others of us want to throw up. It is all in how you look at it, what you “get”, which informs our view on mathematics.

On the way home from the high school this week, my grandson asked me “What do you know about trigonometry?” For fear I would diminish his vision of me as knowing everything, I answered, “It had been a very long time since I took trig.” I did not lie! However, I was viscerally feeling rather ill. Sine, cosine, tangents and all that stuff never made an iota worth of sense to me.

I had a chemistry partner who literally could not decipher an equation to save his life. I loved chemistry for some reason…. That made sense to me. He would get all nervous and sweaty when we did an experiment or had a test. Math class for him was pure hell. He simply did not see it.

It is funny what time does for being able to see things. At a high school class reunion, we bumped into each other. I asked him what he was doing for a living and he told me… wait for it….. he was a math teacher in a high school working on his master’s degree in mathematics. I began wondering if I had the wrong person… this conversion just could not be. He laughed and told me that he got that reaction a lot from all his peers who knew him early on. However, the summer between high school and college, he took a college math prep refresher course. During those 8 weeks, he literally felt as if the switch had been turned on for him. It all began to make sense. One of the last things he said to me was, “If you think about it, we solve for “x” every day of our lives.” (The weird things a clergy person remembers in the midst of praying over lectionary readings for the week.)

The apostles and disciples have been moving and shaking with Jesus for a while now. This is chapter 17 out of 28. What they have witnessed to date is a considerable amount of information as well as having interesting experiences. Jesus preaches, teaches and heals. He has divulged tremendous information through the Sermon on the Mount. They have heard the salt and light metaphor, and many other parables. Jesus told them he was there not to abolish the law but to make the law come true. He has taught them about anger, divorce, making vows, issues of revenge, loving our enemies. Teaching about charity and prayer from whence came the Lord’s Prayer. On and on and on…. Many and varied topics about how to have faith, how to conduct yourself. Healing people right and left and casting out demons. Calming storms.

During this time, he sets in motion the mission of the 12. Whom should they fear? How do they behave when they go out and make disciples and what to do if they are rejected. There was a tremendous amount of information. And over and over again, they heard the question asked, “Who is He? Who are You?” From John the Baptist to the other authorities, from people who clamored for his attention and ability to make things right. Who are you? Or to ask the question in a slightly different way, “Solve the equation for Jesus.”

In the story of the Transfiguration, this is what happens. The favored three, Peter, James and John, were taken to the mountain and who shows up? These are more factors added to this equation, factors that could have been identified earlier if they apostles got it…. But we know that they did not.( And even though we know the story after the fact, we don’t get it easily either.)

Moses and Elijah show…. The factors of all the laws plus all the prophets equal Jesus. M+E= J.

This experience has given the apostles factors to work with. And what do they do? They want to fix things up! Pitch tents. Get things to eat. Whatever busy work they can do. When all they had to do was pay attention to Jesus and what was happening in their midst. Jesus provided the answer to the equation. They were afraid of what they saw, they did not immediately understand it, but they were given the answer.

Now, in the grand scheme of life, what happens when a person has to take a test that has been previously given to others? The ones who have take the test are told to do what? “Don’t tell the answers!” Same thing with the three… they have received this great revelation and information, having it at their disposal, but they have to keep it on the QT. Keep the lips zipped until the Son of Man is raised from the dead. (He even gives them a factor in solving his crucifixion and death when he delivered this command!)

How does this apply to us today? Well, we solve life’s problems every day. Sometimes, it takes great effort. Sometimes it happens so subtly and automatically, we don’t even pay attention to it. Yet when it comes to difficult tasks to solve, we have to work with the factors we are given to solve for the “x”. In our personal lives, in the life of our congregation. We have to understand that people will look at the equations and see the answers. Others will never get it no matter what they plug in. However, I do believe that we are given the solutions to the problems of life if we listen to the directives of Jesus as given to his apostles. And to us as disciples. If M+E=J…. we have the solution to x, and it does not have to take death to make it known.

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

 

2 Corinthians 5:20 – 6:10

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

In the name of God; Creator, Beloved Son, and Sacred Spirit. Amen


In a few minutes I will invite you to make the journey of a Holy Lent.  We can accept it, or choose not to. It is all up to us. However, Paul reminds us…. URGES US not to accept the grace of God in vain.  NOW is the acceptable time, NOW is the day of salvation.

NOW… not later, not yesterday but NOW. This present time, this present moment. It is an intentional time. How do you feel now? What are you thinking now? How do these urgings inform your life and actions?

I want to share a poem with you that truly spoke to my heart in preparing for Lent this year…. Ted Loder, retired Methodist Minister, social activist and prolific author-

 

Catch Me In My Scurrying, by Ted Loder

Catch me in my anxious scurrying, Lord,

and hold me in this Lenten season:

hold my feet to the fire of your grace

and make me attentive to my mortality

that I may begin to die now

to those things that keep me

from living with you

and my neighbors on this Earth;

to grudges and indifference,

to certainties that smother possibilities,

to my fascination with false securities,

to my addiction to sweatless dreams

to my arrogant insistence on how it has to be;

to my corrosive fear of dying someday

which eats away the wonder of living this day,

and the adventure of losing my life

in order to find it in you.

 

Catch me in my aimless scurrying, Lord,

and hold me in this Lenten season:

hold my heart to the beat of your grace

and create in me a resting place,

a kneeling place,

a tip-toe place

where I can recover from the dis-ease of my grandiosities

which fill my mind and calendar with busy self-importance,

that I may become vulnerable enough

to dare intimacy with the familiar,

to listen cup-eared for your summons,

and to watch squint-eyed for your crooked finger

in the crying child,

in the hunger of the street people

in the fear of the contagion of terrorism in all people,

in the rage of those oppressed because of sex or race,

in the smoldering resentments of exploited third world nations,

in the sullen apathy of the poor and ghetto-strangled people,

in my lonely doubt and limping ambivalence;

and somehow,

during this season of sacrifice,

enable me to sacrifice time

and possessions

and securities,

to do something…

something about what I see,

something to turn the water of my words

into the wine of will and risk,

into the bread of blood and blisters,

into the blessedness of deed,

of a cross picked up,

a savior followed.

 

Catch me in my mindless scurrying, Lord,

and hold me in this Lenten season:

hold my spirit to the beacon of your grace

and grant me light enough to walk boldly,

to feel passionately,

to love aggressively;

grant me peace enough to want more,

to work for more

and to submit to nothing less,

and to fear only you…

only you!

Bequeath me not becalmed seas,

slack sails and premature benedictions,

but breathe into me a torment,

storm enough to make within myself

and from myself,

something

something new,

something saving,

something true,

a gladness of heart,

a pitch for a song in the storm,

a word of praise lived,

a gratitude shared,

a cross dared,

a joy received.

 

That was a lot to take in. And this will be posted on our website so that you can go back and read and re-read this during Lent. Perhaps it can be your daily prayer… daily reminder in the midst of mindless and aimless scurrying.

In Joel today, we hear… “return to the Lord…. Rend your hearts and not your garments.” May our journey of Lent find us scurrying less and becoming something more in the process.

Matthew 4: 1-11

If you are….

In the name of God: Creator, Lamb of God, Divine Wisdom. Amen


I have been doing some rearranging of pictures at home. The other day I was feeling rather ambitious and thought I would hang a picture in the stairway.( Not an easy task with steps and angled wall heights.) Yet, I was determined.

So I get the picture hanging thingy…. With the hook and nail gidgy-wopper….Measured and centered and hammered away. When I went to hang the picture, the nail came out and I nearly dropped the whole shebang! (Thank God for good reflexes.) Back to the drawing board, I get a larger hanging thingy with a longer nail, and the rest is history! It was that longer, stronger nail driven into the wall that saved that adventure from being a disaster.

Years ago, I considered this story of Jesus from Matthew bleak and unfair- to both Jesus and us. In fact, I have to confess that every time I heard it, it was like listening to the typical super hero account of facing evil, knowing full well who wins in the end- the villain in black vs. the hero in white.  Isn’t that how we relate to Scripture more often than not?  We know the end of the story and then tend to dismiss the whole event.

Sermons I’ve heard delivered by other preachers in the past simply played from the premise of Jesus temptations- material things- food, power and super human feats set up by Satan. Jesus says all the right stuff, responding in all the correct ways and therefore, when we are tempted we should do the same. “Good enough for Jesus, good enough for us.” Drop the mike!

However, in my own soul searching and life events, I have had to sit with this lection for a while on multiple occasions. Because I have been tempted and the “good enough for Jesus” position really didn’t cut it for me.

In looking at this message the words IF and DRIVEN strike me like a sledge hammer.

Driven…. What does it mean to be driven?

  • Vehicles are driven… not what we are talking about here…
  • People are driven
    • Obsessed
    • Passionately motivated to achieve goals (like hanging that picture come heck or high water!)
  • And many times people are driven to events, behaviors, and places by outside power and force placed upon them. (Sometimes through no volition of their own.) We all know people who drive us to distraction!
  • Nails are driven into materials by force- various sizes, at various angles, to secure something in place.

We hear today that it was no mistake that Jesus arrived in the wilderness. The Spirit… the Divine Wisdom of God … drove him there….Not in a gentle ruah or breath- but drove him!  With force and intent. (Some versions state that Jesus was led, but the majority use “driven”.)

When he was weak and exhausted and at the end of his endurance, in sachets ole Satan with the nail of IF. What happens when you are tired and weary? For some of us, our defenses are down and we are vulnerable. We have trouble making decisions. We are often directionless. And one of the biggest obstacles to forward movement becomes self-doubt. The BIG IF! IF—- I had done such and so. IF—- I had been a better person. IF—– was strong enough, good enough, “whatever” enough. What IF? And sometimes that is the nail that pins us to a place in our lives where temptations take over.

So Satan’s approach was IF…. IF you are the Son of God… IF you are the Son of God…. IF you are the Son of God—- Repeatedly attempting to wear Jesus down at a time when he would be susceptible to caving in. Nail after nail being driven into his psyche.

This is what struck me this time around. When Satan tempted Jesus by suggesting he turn stones to bread so he could eat…. Jesus declines to do the “unnatural” and in essence, aligns himself forever with all those who are hungry. When you see the famished and give them something to allay it, you do it to me!

Satan takes him OUT OF THE DESERT… we often miss this fact. Takes him to the pinnacle of all places… the temple. He encourages him to jump off. And Jesus declines to do the “unnatural”, and in essence, makes the statement that his path to life will be fraught with obstacles, nearly unsurpassable pinnacles in life, and aligns with all those forever who will face the same in the living of life.

And for his third trick, Satan takes Jesus to a high mountain and displays all the kingdoms and wealth and splendor of the world- a very pretty nail indeed! And Jesus declines to do the “unnatural” and forever aligns himself forever with those who are the poor, oppressed, downtrodden, everyday ordinary folk.

Jesus forever aligns himself to and with us, as we face the long and short nails of the world.  IF we are the sons and daughters of God, AND WE ARE, we know through all those unwanted new nailed norms we have to face in life, we have a God who knows and identifies with our temptations and our strife. A God who is aligned with our weaknesses and weariness. A God who eventually loves us and forgives us and extends great mercy and grace, sending angels to minister to us along the way.

A God who goes on to be nailed to a cross with longer, stronger nails that prevent the whole of our eternity from being a disaster, so that we might have salvation. That is the hope in our greatest trial to be aligned with!

Let us pray… Catch Me In My Anxious Scurrying- Ted Loder (Part 1)

Catch me in my anxious scurrying, Lord,

and hold me in this Lenten season:

hold my feet to the fire of your grace

and make me attentive to my mortality

that I may begin to die now

to those things that keep me

from living with you

and my neighbors on this Earth;

to grudges and indifference,

to certainties that smother possibilities,

to my fascination with false securities,

to my addiction to sweatless dreams

to my arrogant insistence on how it has to be;

to my corrosive fear of dying someday

which eats away the wonder of living this day,

and the adventure of losing my life

in order to find it in you.

 

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

 

And that applies to us as well as sons and daughters of God.

John 4:5-42

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

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


Jean Vanier- Canadian Catholic Philosopher and Theologian stated: “The meeting of Jesus and this Samaritan woman at the well is a meeting of love. Jesus, the divine Bridegroom, came to reveal his love to all who are seeking to draw water from the well of love.”

 The woman at the well encountering Jesus is a meeting of love. How many times have I sat with this pericope, coming at it from a purely prophetic stance of Jesus revealing himself to a foreigner who, of all things, was a WOMAN! (Talk about a social taboo sandwich! Layer after layer of behaviors, which are not the customary- totally out of line with the social mores!)

A man talking to a woman who was not his kin- faux pas! A foreign woman engaging in conversation with a foreign man? Faux pas on steroids! Top that off with the fact that we have a true Jew kibitzing with a marginal Jew…. Geez Louise! (And no… the Samaritan woman’s name was NOT Louise!) The entire scenario is out of kilter! The other edge to this is that this is not your ordinary, run of the mill housewife. She has been around the block a few times. Yet, despite or in spite of what she has been through in life, who she is and what she represents at that era of history, he chooses to engage with her and love her.

Jesus takes the time out of his day to interface with someone who is way out of line from the parameters set for him. He gives her the gift of relationship. The gift of acknowledging her as someone with whom it is worthy to communicate. Someone he cares enough to talk with in terms other than those that are polite and superficial niceties. Jesus digs into the subterranean recesses of her history. This goes far deeper that the “Hi, Hello, How-are-ya” we superfluously spew out when we see people we don’t know, IF we even do that much.

What is Jesus doing here? He is going outside the norm. He is doing something, which is socially unacceptable by the “proper” folk and authorities of the time. He is edgy and daring and bold. He is giving her a gift of love that she desperately needs! HE IS MODELING MINISTRY FOR ALL THOSE WHO FOLLOW HIM! (Not just then, but today, right here, right now…. US!!)

What does this do to her? I can almost sense her initially  thinking, “Oh man, if I talk to him, am I going to be in TROUBLE!!!”  She is simply minding her own business getting water. Crud! She has places to be, things to do, people to see.

And then, by the simple request for refreshing water, her life is turned upside down and inside out. A simple request! Nothing profound. Nothing extravagant. Didn’t cost an arm and a leg. A simple request for refreshment! That was it.  Simple, healing words and relationship!

Jesus goes on to remind us…..

The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

 He has set the precedence…. The harvest is out there! Reapers are already at work, but there is much more to be done. The initial sowing/planting has been done by others… now we need to take over their labor. Sowers and reapers alike so that they may rejoice together! Who do we think we are not to be doing God’s business?

Jean Vanier goes on to say about this meeting:

Jesus is revealing that if we drink from the fountain of the love and compassion of God, we become a fountain of love and compassion. If we receive the Spirit of God, we will give the Spirit of God. The life we receive is the life we give.

 Who has not drunk from the fountain of God’s love and compassion?  Who has not received the Spirit/Breath/Counselor of God? Then IF WE HAVE…. Should we not be movers and shakers…. Flow-ers of love and blow-ers of the breath of God in the world today? Should we not engage with those others who are dying from parched compassion? Should we not breathe the breath of fresh air in an era of shortness of love?

Homework this week is to consider how it is flowing and going for you…. This seeking out the Samaritan in your neck of the woods. Who is that person? (And they are everywhere…. We just don’t always want to acknowledge their presence, let alone acknowledge them!) Whose life can we turn upside down and inside out just by talking to them? We have all been a Samaritan. Now can we be a Good Samaritan?

Let us pray:  (Part II of Catch Me in My Scurrying by Ted Loder

Catch me in my aimless scurrying, Lord,

and hold me in this Lenten season:

hold my heart to the beat of your grace

and create in me a resting place,

a kneeling place,

a tip-toe place

where I can recover from the dis-ease of my grandiosities

which fill my mind and calendar with busy self-importance,

that I may become vulnerable enough

to dare intimacy with the familiar,

to listen cup-eared for your summons,

and to watch squint-eyed for your crooked finger

in the crying child,

in the hunger of the street people

in the fear of the contagion of terrorism in all people,

in the rage of those oppressed because of sex or race,

in the smoldering resentments of exploited third world nations,

in the sullen apathy of the poor and ghetto-strangled people,

in my lonely doubt and limping ambivalence;

and somehow,

during this season of sacrifice,

enable me to sacrifice time

and possessions

and securities,

to do something…

something about what I see,

something to turn the water of my words

into the wine of will and risk,

into the bread of blood and blisters,

into the blessedness of deed,

of a cross picked up,

a savior followed.

 

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