Sunday, May 29, 2011

Easter 6A - Some thoughts

Today is Youth Sunday at St. MM and the youth will present an offering during the usual homily.  Here are some thoughts on the Gospel for the day.

 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  

Jesus taught much about love.  A love that is often hard to understand.  The kind of love that calls us to follow his commandments not because we earn heavenly brownie points, but one that urges us to love more like Jesus does.  

A love that is relational and spiritual.  A love that Jesus lives and died for, and calls us to. A love that led him to the cross.  A love that continues in spite of failure and disappointment.  A love that allows us to stay in relationship even when we disagree.  A love that does not depend on how we look, how we vote, where we live, or who our friends are.

A love that is not possible on our own.  A love we come closer to as we deepen our relationship with the triune God.  As this relationship continues to grow, these commands become not a chore, but rather a desire.  

We need the transformation that happens in our hearts as we let God have more and more of it.  That continuing conversion in our lives.   Each time we love, each time we give sacrificially of our time and talents, each time we turn the other cheek, we come closer to following the commandments in the way Jesus meant for us to.

We are reminded that the Holy Spirit is our helper, our advocate, our comforter.  Yet for some of us understanding the Holy Spirit is difficult.  We want to push this part of the Trinity away, to somehow place the Holy Spirit in a box.  To make the Holy Spirit some ethereal being apart from the Trinity or to make it some sparkly, quirky, forgetful female portion of the Trinity.

In the 60’s and 70’s saw the charismatic movement sweep through the Episcopal Church.  It was an exciting and frightening time in the life of the church.  In some places there was incredible growth both spiritually and numerically.  In other places there was deep pain as the “traditional” way of doing things was thrown out for the “new” way of doing things.  The movement shook the church up in unexpected ways.

Yet today we rarely talk about the charismatic movement, speaking in tongues, or about being spirit led.  Stories are no longer told of informal services of prayer and worship.  It is almost as if the movement never happened.  It makes me wonder what about it was so important to some and so frightening to others and why we don’t talk about it anymore.  

Could it be about being in control?  Imagine being in a room like the disciples were on the day of Pentecost.  The unexpected happens and what should scare you to death fills you with peace.  Others see it, don’t understand it, and rather than accept the working of the Holy Spirit, look for worldly reasons to make sense of God at work.  

How would our churches, our lives, our very world be changed if we waited on the movement of the Spirit?  What would it feel like to surrender complete control?  To give the reins to the Holy Spirit and say, “here you do it.”  To lay down our own will and say, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

It is much easier to hold on to the idea of the Holy Spirit as kind of a teddy bear we take out when we need comforting.  Or a quilt we are wrapped in when we are frightened by the stuff of life. 
This powerful, life changing part of the Trinity is frightening.  Yet Jesus reminds us, the Holy Spirit is with us forever. 

This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. Yet we know him, because he abides with us, and he will be in us.

While we may not understand that conceptually, that seems better than a teddy bear any day.

God, there is so much about you that is unknown to us. Through the Spirit of truth, teach us. Instruct us on keeping the commandments. When we fail to understand, inspire us to continue to abide in you. In the name of the risen Christ we pray. Amen.  Prayer by David von Schlichten

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Tears fall
Like rain
The news brings even more pain
I imagine you weep with me
As we view all the misery
The husband whose wife is snatched from his loving arms
The child no longer resting in her bed
The friend whose phone rings endlessly
Lord I wonder why
So many are left to cry
Trite answers go unheard
Predictions of tribulation
Gate keepers keeping track
Of all that I lack
I know you are here
But somehow your voice reaches not my ear
Lord draw me near
That I may hear
You whisper to my heart
And every other part
That all shall be well
And all shall be well
And all manner of thing shall be well
Because right now all I see is hell

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post Rapture - The Sermon I Didn't Preach

I am on vacation today, but if I were in the pulpit this is what I would have preached.

Jesus says, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.”

This does not sound much like what Harold Camping was saying recently.  Sadly people really believed that the end was coming.  People quit jobs, sold homes, did some pretty radical things in response to Camping’s predictions.

That makes me both sad and angry.  Sad that people will believe in predictions and turn their lives upside down.  Angry because children of God were led astray by a man calling himself a prophet.  A man many forget got it wrong in 1994.  A man basing his predictions on some math and his interpretation of the Bible.

I am reminded also that many of the scriptures he uses are apocalyptic and not meant to be taken literally.   A very wise professor once reminded my class in an urgent voice, “it is a SIN to try to figure out the second coming.  That is up to God.”  He reminded us that we are not God and therefore would likely get it very, very wrong just as Mr. Camping got it wrong.

It saddens me that people forget that the Kingdom of Heaven is about love not dire predictions of annihilation and gatekeepers.   And that Jesus reminds us he came to save the world, not to condemn it.

I know there has been much talk in the media in the recent past about Hell and end times.  I am reminded that we are to be always ready, to live as a believer isn’t about things, it is about the heart.  It is about living a life that continues to seek after God, to spend time growing and yearning to be less like me and more like Christ.

I am not a great theologian and while I have a Masters of Divinity, I also have a child like faith.  That faith has led me to believe that God is so much bigger than my understanding, no matter how learned I am.  That child like faith has left me with the belief that this immensely powerful, loving, risk taking God will go to the extreme to save others.  I mean look what he did with me!

So when I get to heaven if I see people who did bad things on earth, I won’t be surprised.  I will be reminded that I am so glad God is God and I am not.  I could never love as big as God can.

Much like Thomas in today’s gospel we just don’t get it.  Thomas asks Jesus, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" I can imagine Jesus chuckling under his breath. “Poor Thomas, you still don’t understand me do you?”

Jesus responds with one of his “I am” statements. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Jesus is reminding the disciples of their need to trust in him and in God. This was a confused bunch. Though they spent time with Jesus and listened to him teach they really don’t understand what is to come.  I imagine they may have been a little upset that their friend was talking of leaving them. None of us like to be left. So with these words Jesus tries to reassure them of his love and his future presence with them.

These words have often been misconstrued as words speaking about the physicality of heaven. They are not; they are not words about a permanent house or dwelling place in heaven. They are words about relationship and a promise for the future. They are words of transition from a journey to a way of life. They are not words of destination but of revelation of Jesus.  They are not a prediction of what happens when we leave this earth.

These words tell us of the unbounded love of God as revealed in Jesus. Listen to them again, “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.” Not, “there is only so much room, so you must follow all the rules and just maybe, perhaps, you can be with me.” There are many dwelling places. There is room for all of us. ALL OF US.

That is one of the things that is so hard to understand about God’s love. It isn’t like a pie with only so much to go around. There is more than enough for each of us. We don’t miss our slice because we have sinned. There is enough for each of us. Right where we are. God’s love is boundless. There is room for ALL OF US.

That is so hard for us to understand isn’t it? There is room for all of us. Right where we are. We do not have to do anything to earn God’s love. It is ours for the taking. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. It is ours. Unearned. Undeserved. Ours. Endlessly.

And yet we try to limit it, don’t we? We must be good enough, smart enough, or what ever enough. But the good news is, no we don’t. We are loved beyond measure by a God whose love knows no limits. Always. Forever. Without condition. We are loved. Fully, completely, forever. And nothing, nothing we can do will end that love. And that really is the scary part, isn’t it? We do not know how to handle this God that loves us so fully. In our futile attempts to understand it, we put conditions on it. Try to make rules to earn it. Rather than accept the gift and embrace it, we push it away and in trying to understand it, decide we need to find ways to earn it.

Or like Mr. Camping we let go of faith and try to use human means to predict what God will do.  Yet we are told, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

That is it.

My prediction for today?

God loves you!  Forever.  Always.  Without condition.

That you can take to the bank my friends.

May you open your arms to the love of God that knows no limits.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tongue in Cheek

Wanted to share this video from VTS. 

Episcopal Girl

My favorite is that all young girls want to wear pink!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Yet still connected
You nourish
That I may flourish
 Bearing fruit
In due season
Your sustenance the reason
Tattered and torn
You prune them when worn
May my feeble limbs
Be the branches
That reach where you desire
That new life may be born