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A Growing Tenderness

Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19, Matthew 3:1-12 “Get a job.” I wonder if that was a comment yelled at John the Baptist as he wandered the wilderness in camel hair clothing, eating honey and locust.  As a desert wanderer, John the Baptist likely smelled pretty dirty and looked kinda grungy.  I wondered, if while he shouted, “Prepare the way of our God, make straight the paths of God,” if people side-eyed him and muttered, “that guy should get a job.” I wonder this because we, as human beings, seem to have this tendency to dismiss people, Divine messages and even God when it does not look how we expect. “Get a job.” These are the words that Amanda Palmer heard when she went to work as a street artist in the form of  a self-employed living statue. Now a full-time musician, Amanda had worked for five years as a living statue.  She would paint herself up and go out into the streets, stand on a box and put a hat at her feet.  Wherever people put money in, she would give them a flower and some intense eye contact.  Amanda reports that this led to some profound encounters with people, especially lonely people who looked like they hadn’t talked to anyone for weeks.  Amanda and these people would get this beautiful moment of prolonged eye contact being allowed in the city streets and they’d feel this connection.  Amanda’s eyes would […]

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A Psalm for Peace

Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122 How I rejoiced when they said to me: “Let us go to the house of God!” When I heard it was time to go, I leapt up with joy like a young kid on Christmas! I could not wait to set forth! “Let us go to God’s place,” we shouted, for we hungered for it with all our being, for we knew what it was to be heart-broken, to bear witness to the world’s violence, to watch that which we love topple to the ground. And now, after journeying, our feet are standing within your gates, Jerusalem. Jerusalem restored! The city one united whole! Jerusalem, who represents God’s presence here on earth, has been restored, it has been re-built stone by stone, with rocks that will last, rocks of dignity, equality and justice. Here the tribes ascend, the tribes of God. They come to praise God’s Name, as God commanded Israel – Here, where the tribunals of justice are, the judgment seats of David’s house. The judgment seats are not what you expect. God’s judgment comes in form of mishpat, the Hebrew word for when the neediest, the marginalized, and those who no one cared for, are cared for. In Jerusalem restored, in God’s holy presence, the least of these are lifted up as bright, brilliant, beloved children of God who are beautiful to behold. In Jerusalem restored, those who dwelt in the darkness are seen, […]

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God’s Kin-dom

Isaiah 65:17-25, Thessalonians 3:6-13 “I can’t finish the song,” these were the words of late poet and song writer Leonard Cohen as he banged his head on the floor in frustration as he struggled to write the now-famous song, “Hallelujah.” For over five years, he worked on this song, he wrote eighty verses, including one that said, “Now maybe there’s a God above but all I ever learned from love is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you. And it’s no complaint you hear tonight, and it’s not some pilgrim who’s seen the light— it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah!” Cohen’s words remind us that God comes to us not only in beautiful, victorious moments, but also in broken-hearted ones. For years, Cohen wrestled with how he would end the song “Hallelujah” and as he struggled, he despaired and said, “I can’t finish this song.” It didn’t seem possible.  Have you ever felt like?  Like you lacked the endurance to keep going?  Like you didn’t know the way forward?  Like you were enveloped in despair? “I can’t finish the song.” That is exact how the early Jesus followers felt in the Greek town of Thessaloniki.  At the point that Paul is writing to them, they are a religious minority in an Empire ruled by a foreign power.  They are supposed to be patriotic citizens that hail Ceasar as Lord but instead they hail Jesus.  As a result, […]

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The God of the Bathroom Floor

Haggai 1:15b-2:9 I have heard many names for God, but I heard one name recently that was new to me: our God, the God of the bathroom floor. Have you come to know the God of the bathroom floor, the God who comes to meet us in crises situations, when we are desperate and alone? I came to learn of this name for God through the story of Glennon Doyle Melton. In her memoir Love Warrior, she writes about addiction, parenthood, marriage struggles and finding herself.  She starts off writing about her happy childhood as the daughter of a two-parent home, yet as she grows into an adult she becomes more and more aware of societal expectations of her and how she does not fit them.  To cope with this disconnect, she develops various addictions to food, alcohol and drugs.  Then one day, when Glennon is in her mid-twenties, she finds herself sitting on the bathroom floor with a positive pregnancy test.  Glennon tells of sitting on that bathroom floor, with her hands shaking and her pants dirty.  She says, of the moment, “So many things are true at once: I am empty, alone, addicted – and still invited.” Invited to change her entire way of being.  Invited to say yes to God.  Invited to experience life made new. How would she respond? Glennon’s story reminds us that in our most surprising moment God shows up, God is present with […]

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From Another Vantage Point

Luke 19:1-10 There is a story told about God, who was walking the streets, looking for a place for God’s son to stay.  The storyteller of this story recounts, “God knocked on my door.”  The storyteller continues, sayin “I thought, ‘Well, I suppose I could let the son rent the little spare bedroom.’  God read my thoughts. ‘I was looking to buy,’ God said. ‘Oh, I don’t think I really want to sell,’ I replied. ‘I need the place for myself, you see. But you could use the back room. The rent’s quite low. Why don’t you come in and have a look?’ So God came in, and God looked around. ‘I like it,’ God said. ‘I’ll take it on your own terms.’ Once the son was settled in, I began to wonder whether I’d been a bit mean. There they were, cooped up in that little spare bedroom. God must have been having similar thoughts, because God was there again at my door. ‘Would you have any more space now, do you think?’ God asked gently. ‘Well, I’ve been thinking, and I could offer your son an extra room to rent now.’ ‘Thank you,’ said God. ‘I’ll take the extra room. Maybe you’ll decide to give my son more room later on. Meanwhile, I like what I see.’ Time went on. I was still feeling a bit uneasy about this transaction. ‘I’d like to give you some more room,’ […]

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All Saints Communion Liturgy

One: To come to this table is to affirm abundant life – to acknowledge the reality of our lives and encourage one another as the children of God, as the saints of the Church. Many: Gathered together in all our diversity, we make real the Body of Christ for the world. One: Together we re-member that last night when Jesus supped at table with that motley crew of friends gathered ‘round. Many: There Jesus offered a ritual that transcended difference, knitting together all those at the table into one community, into one ministry, into one new life. One: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and shared it, saying, “This is my body given for you.” Many: In all times, we may be sure that the Bread of Life will sustain us. One: In the same way, we remember that Jesus took the cup, saying, “This is the cup of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many.” Many: The cup that we pour symbolizes our communion with one another and with the saints in every time and beyond time. One: Eternal God we stand in sacred community with the faithful and before these gifts of your love. Joining together as the priesthood of all believers, we bless these elements, praying: All: Come Holy Spirit, come and pour out your Spirit upon us and on these gifts of bread and fruit of the vine. […]

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Dreaming Dreams

Joel 2:23-32 Six years ago, I began attending a church that worshiped on the streets of Newburg, NY, a city known for its violence, unemployment and drug use.  The church was called Ecclesia and we met on a sidewalk, with sawhorses and a wooden board as a Communion table.  People came from down the street and from outside of town and together we gathered, sang, broke bread and wrestled with the meaning of the Scriptures. At the end of the first service, while I was still a stranger, Pastor Steve walked over to me and gave me a cross necklace, just like he gives every new person, and said, “You are called by God.”  Just like that.  I looked down at the cross, which said “ecclesia”, the Greek word for church, which literally means called out. It was a bitterly cold January day and yet the circle around the sawhorses was full – there was a woman from the suburbs who showed up because she was spiritual hungry.  There were people who were homeless who showed up because they were physically hungry.  There was an inspirational man who had been sober for years and there was Ruth, Steve’s spouse, who played the flute for us even though it was cold and we were outside. There we were, all of us, called out by God, anointed by the Spirit. In the book of Joel, God says, “I will pour out my […]

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Seed-Sized Faith

Luke 17:5-10 The small chapel was packed.  People sat shoulder-to-shoulder on floors, stood by walls and filled the chairs.  Brothers John and Emile, two middle-aged, unassuming men, had flown all the way from a monastery in Taize, France to pray with those of us who had managed to travel to Boston, MA last Sunday.  As an attendee of this gathering, I found myself sitting on the floor on a brown cushion, gazing at this low marble platform before me, covered in candles.  The service began and, like smoke rising to the heavens, the room reverberated with voices as the people sang about love, longing, and life. “Let all who are thirsty, come,” they sang from their hearts, “Let all who wish, receive the water of life freely.” It struck me that just moments before the brothers – in soft-spoken voices – had invited us to attend a Taize retreat in St. Louis, Missouri, located close to the town of Ferguson. “We understand the divides in this area are very deep,” Brother John said, “When we first arrived in St. Louis, people were like, ‘Who are these French guys?’  But as we talked, they realized that we don’t have answers, we are coming in to create spaces of prayer and trust.  We understand that trusting God and others requires us to take risks, to step outside our comfort zones.” Brother Emile added, “It’s like an event one of the Taize brothers […]

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Softening Hearts

Luke 16:19-31 The vacant lot has potential.  Every time the woman passes it on her way to work she thinks: “I could plant something here, I could take this lot, with its spare bits of trash and I could make it beautiful.”  In her mind’s eye, she could picture an extravagant garden that would cover the debris filled yellow sunflowers, […]

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