August 31, 2010

a realization

SHW and I are relatively new to the tithe thing. While I was in college, I subscribed to the 100% rule; as the plate came around, I gave 100% of the cash in my wallet (unless of course there was too much in there - which was rare - or if I maybe needed a couple of bucks to buy milk on the way home). Once we were married, and I was in discernment, we didn't have a home church and we didn't have much money, so we gave very little of it away. In seminary, we worked hard to convince ourselves that my $1100 a month tuition payment was our giving, but we did give some on top of that to St. James' where I served my field education. But once I was ordained, and, to be quite honest, once my livelihood depended on the giving of others, we made the jump to full 10% giving without much question. Now, three years later, it is just what we do; giving 6.6% to St. Paul's and 3.4% to other Christian groups of our choosing (most often it is to and the school our friend Adam started near Nairobi - check it out).

Some time last year, as we drove through our neighborhood on trash day, SHW and I noticed something. Even in our rather modest neighborhood of $130k houses, people seemed to have a lot of disposable income. 46" flat panel TV boxes, recycle bins overflowing with the cans of beers I only drink at an open bar, new cars, updated exterior fixtures, landscaping. These people had money to spend and they were doing it. But why didn't we? Sure SHW was not working so she was able to stay home with FBC, but I'm making decent money. But then we realized it, our "disposable" income was in the offering plate. And all of a sudden the sacrifice of the tithe made sense. We had never realized just how much we were giving away because it came straight off the top, we never really had it. Until we counted the opportunities lost, and then it all added up.

Jesus said, "none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions." And we like to soften that up as much as possible. We reference his encounter with the rich young ruler later on in Luke and say "Oh, but Jesus meant that just for him, not for everyone." But here, Jesus clearly means it for everyone in the "now large crowd that was following him." And, OK, I'll soften it up a little bit. I don't think Jesus is affirming communal living. I don't think he meant sell it all and give it to the poor so that you too will be poor. But I do think he meant to hand over all your possessions (and possible possessions to him), by giving God that which is due him, everything, and by really taking notice of the sacrifice you've made. When it is just what you do, it is hard to learn from it. But when it is an intentional sacrifice, God can teach all sorts of lessons about patience, giving, care, love, sharing, etc. Oh, and when you save and scrimp and finally get that thing you've been waiting for, it is all the more sweet.

August 30, 2010

All Star Week

There are some weeks when I honestly consider preaching a piece of the liturgy (the Collect, the Lord's Prayer, what-have-you) because the lessons are so abstract or difficult that I don't really want to bother with them. This week, however, (I'm not preaching, of course) every text is a great one; yep even the Psalms.

Jeremiah 18 - the great potter/clay analogy - how awesome would it be to have a potter throw a pot on a wheel to show this in real time and real life?

Psalm 139 (selected verses) - "Lord, you have searched me and known me" - how good does it feel to know that God really knows you.

Deuteronomy 30 - two words "Choose Life"

Pslam 1 - just so good

Philemon - a 25 verse book (my kind of book) that we read 21 verses of (???) that is rich with lessons of relationships.

Luke 14 - the true cost of discipleship. I'd invite a contractor to show a blueprint and list all the various costs (s)he has to think of when estimating a project.

I'm looking forward to hearing TKT's sermon once it gets posted online.

August 26, 2010


OK, so we have to talk about it. What does Jesus mean when he says, "But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you"?

Much of the struggle that is the Christian life is that of motivations. Do I act in order to be saved or because I am saved? Do I share out of generosity or expecting riches poured back in return? And here, do I take the lowest place out of humility or so that in the end everyone can see how great I am?

Oh, and how guilty am I supposed to feel when my motivation moves from the "acceptable" category to "you've got to be kidding me!"

It almost makes you wish Jesus wouldn't have made any promises, rather he just laid down moral standards and been done with it. But he didn't, and so we have to deal with the promises and how they change our motivations.

As Keith said in our lectionary group this week, as soon as the blessing becomes your motivation, you've lost humility. He is right. The promise of blessing comes only after one makes the decision to take the lowest seat, and that choice, when pure and holy, comes only from a place of humility. Not because somebody better than me might arrive. Not so that I can get moved up and look great in front of everybody. But because the poor, sick, lame, widowed, and orphaned deserve that spot at the head of the table. Because Jesus is all about turning the painfully upside-down social structure right-side up.

And quite honestly, when you take the lowest seat, you will be blessed whether or not you get moved up. It is just how it works. When we live withing the boundaries of the Kingdom, blessings pour out.

August 24, 2010

Sermon for Proper 16, Year C

Several years ago, I think it was on my second trip to Indianapolis, I had the chance to visit with a guy named Bart Campolo during a rain delay at the Indy 500. Bart is the son of one of my favorite authors and speakers of all time, Tony Campolo, and at the time he was helping run his Daddy's outreach ministry called Mission Year. His job took him all over the country to speak at churches, conferences, and denominational gatherings recruiting young adults to spend a year serving God in inner city ministry. Over the course of these trips he had come to realize how many people just couldn't do church on Sunday mornings; for work reasons, family reasons, or just because they didn't see the need in going. At one point, he said to me, a second or third year seminarian looking at a forty-year career in Sunday morning worship, “Why the Church continues to insist on meeting on Sunday morning is beyond me.” He actually said those words. I remember it like it was yesterday. I also remember not having a decent answer to his question, “Why?”
Why do you come to Church on Sundays? I know some of you are excited for Saturday to be an option again, but honestly, most of you make the pretty regular decision to get up, make yourself presentable, and drive to Church. For some of you this is probably the only day you could choose to sleep in as work takes up Monday through Friday and Saturday is filled with soccer, basketball, football, art shows, and recitals. For many of you, Sunday defines your week; “six Saturdays and a Sunday” is your weekly routine. But why? What possesses you to come to Church on Sunday morning?
No doubt, many of you will base your answer in the Ten Commandments, but how many of you recall that a) the Ten Commandments are repeated twice in Scripture and b) the only significant difference between the two lists is the reasoning behind “remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy.” The first list, famously depicted by Charlton Heston's Moses carrying the law etched in stone and brought down from Sinai, comes from Exodus Twenty and bases the sabbath in God's rest after the six days of Creation. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” I n the first list, we rest because God rested.
The second list is less well known, written during King Josiah's attempt at resiving the great tradition of Israel and bases the sabbath not in rest, but in freedom, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” In this interpretation the call to observe sabbath is based in God's deliverance of Israel. In Egypt they were not allowed sabbath as they worked seven days a week, but in freedom they will be made whole by joining with their God in a weekly day of rest. Here then sabbath is about freedom, release and restoration.
So why do you come to Church on Sunday? For rest? For restoration? Or are there other reasons? I can't imagine the woman that Jesus encounters in today's Gospel lesson heading out to the Synagogue on the sabbath for rest or restoration. Think about it. For eighteen years she had been so crippled up, so bent over, that her worldview was, most likely, the area directly between and in front of her own two feet. Getting to and from the Synagogue had to have been a serious chore for this woman. It may very well have been the only day that she actually left her house. There was no rest for her on the Sabbath Day, she had to work hard to make it to the Synagogue. And, it seems, there was no hope of restoration for her either. For eighteen years she had faithfully shown up, all bent over and obviously hurting, emotionally if not physically, and for eighteen years she left the Temple feeling just as bad or maybe worse than before. Jesus is quick to notice that her condition is not a physical one alone. It isn't arthritis or scoliosis that had her bent in two, but rather as Luke puts it, “a spirit of weakness.” You can hear in those words a story. Eighteen years ago, maybe she stood with just a little bend in her back, but you know how people talk. Ten years ago, her range of motion had diminished significantly, and no one and everyone knew why. And now, the weight of so many years of heartache, abuse, gossip, and rejection weighed her shoulders so heavily that she couldn't straighten up at all. She was bound by Satan all right, but the community had done little, if anything to help her find freedom, in fact, as the story goes, they probably had done more harm then good.
So if she didn't observe the Sabbath for rest and she didn't keep it holy for restoration, why did she go through the rigamarole every Friday evening for eighteen years? Maybe the music program was excellent. Maybe the preacher was dynamic and enlightening. Maybe the children's program warmed her heart. Maybe she felt like she had to, or felt guilty if she didn't, or felt fearful of what else might happen to her if she quit going.
A mother called up to her son one Sunday morning to get him out of bed and get ready for church and he replied, “I’m not going.” His mother said, “Yes, you are going, so get out of bed.” He shouted back, “Give me one good reason why I should go.” And she said, “I’ll give you three good reasons why you should go. Number one, I’m your mother, so I say you’re going. Number two, you’re forty years old so you’re old enough to know better. And number three, you’re their pastor.” I sometimes joke that I come to Church on Sunday because that's what I get paid to do. I mean, I only work an hour a week, right? But do you really want to know why I come to church even when it feels like work and not rest, even when it is a hardship rather than restorative? I come to church because of the hope of rest and restoration. I come to church because of the possibility of running into Jesus, feeling his hands upon my head, and hearing him say, “you have been set free.”
I think the hope of rest and restoration is why the woman went through the great effort to go to the Synagogue each week. Not out of expectation, mind you, but out of hope. She mustered the strength to shuffle to the Temple and the courage to show her face, or more accurately, the top of her head, to all those who saw her as cursed because she hoped that one day God would show up and touch her directly. And one day, God did.
And that is precisely the issue between Jesus and the leader of the Synagogue. He was indignant at Jesus' healing of this woman not because Jesus showed him up, but because he realized for the first time in at least eighteen years that his motivations had been all wrong. For him it had been all about having the right words to say and the right songs to sing and the right programs to offer and he had lost sight of the hope of rest and restoration that God promises in his commandment to observe the sabbath and keep it holy.
So I'll ask you again, why do you come to church on Sunday? Is it, as the cynics say, to be entertained, to have your card punched, or to look pious in the community? Is it, as it was for the synagogue leader, to sing good songs and hear a good sermon and feel good when you leave? Or is it, as it was for the women, bent over by a spirit of weakness, because of the hope you have that one day God himself will touch you deeply, relieve you of your ailments, and set you free from all infirmities? If it is the latter, and O how I hope it is, then I invite you not just on Sundays, but on everyday and in everything you do to follow the example of our nameless friend and stand up straight and praise God.
So before we head into the Creed, let's stand up and praise God. When I say, “God is good!” You say, “All the time!” Then I'll say, “All the time!” and you respond “God is good.”
God is good! All the Time!
All the time! God is good!


"Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews was writing in a time very different from ours. Hospitality was a matter of life and death. Whether you thought about it or not, you opened your doors to a stranger because someday, you'd be on the road and most likely in need of an open door yourself.

That isn't the case these days. For the vast majority of us our travels come with the luxuries of roadside comfort stations, hotels, airport shopping malls, and food courts. But hospitality to the stranger doesn't go out the window with ease of travel. These days that hospitality looks like real relationship. It looks like really listening when you ask the cashier, "how are you?" It looks like really caring about the elderly neighbor who shouldn't be mowing in the heat. It looks like reaching out to those who live in a different world (Haiti) or culture (Pakistan) when they are hurting. And, it might even mean giving allowances for others with whom we vehemently disagree in the name of freedom and hospitality.

It means being real, authentic, caring, loving, and empowering. It isn't easy, but it may mean that you'll entertain angels unawares.

August 23, 2010

a place of humility

We'll get to Jesus' strange motivation tactics later this week, but his morning I want to focus on what it means, generally, to be in a place of humility. I plan on doing this, ironically enough, by telling you how good I am at it.

That's not entirely true, mostly I'm telling you how good God is (with the help of my wife) at keeping me humble because it is the curse of most every clergy person that they should begin to believe the hype. "Great sermon." "Good service." "You are the greatest priest on the face of the earth." (I've not heard the latter, but I'm guessing some of you have.)

I spent most of Saturday on my place of humility, my Dad's 17' Sea Pro Center Console. I enjoy the water. I love take folks tubing. I really like the whole lifestyle of having a boat, but there is no place that I feel dumber and more humbled than in and around that boat. Backing the trailer to the launch, getting it in the water cleanly, getting it started, tying up at dock, getting it out of the water cleanly having again backed the trailer up. It is all new and foreign to me, and a great way to remember what Jesus means by "sit at the lowest place."

My other place of humility, and probably more along the lines of what Jesus had in mind, is when I begin to think about how amazing it is that Cassie and I ended up here in Foley, Alabama. It is all god. There is no logical reason that we are here, and that is truly awe inspiring and humbling. That God would choose to use a guy like me to do anything, let alone minister with a great mentor to a community of believers open to God's great dream is beyond comprehension. When we first started talking about coming down here, it kind of felt like the lowest seat (certainly geographically and by elevation) but it most certainly has become the place of honor.

So, dear reader, do you have a place of humility? If so, where is it?

August 19, 2010

whose glory?

The more I think about my sermon for Sunday the more I'm thinking that the linchpin to the whole thing is the throw away line in the Collect for the week, "to the glory of [God's] name."

God is calling Jeremiah to speak God's word to the glory of God's name.

The Psalmist sings the praises of God to the glory of God's name.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews recalls God's great power to the glory of God's name.

Jesus heals the crippled woman and she sings praises to the glory of God's name.

It is impossible to live for self when one's motivation is the glory of God's name. Our expectation (said and unsaid) go out the window when my glory goes away and God's glory comes into focus. This seemingly insignificant phrase of transition in the Collect of the Day is, in my opinion, the key to understanding the whole theme of Sunday's lessons; God's unending glory.

August 18, 2010

30 is tough

The lesson from Jeremiah has my blood pressure up, and not in a good way. It is all about me and my unhealthy expectations and that lingering desire to crush fingers on the corporate ladder.

Judeo-Christian history is filled with men and women who have found their way to high ranking positions at a young age. David, Samuel, Jeremiah, and Timothy to name some Biblical characters. William Wilberforce, Jonathan Myrick Daniels, and Sean Rowe to name some others.

For me, turning thirty was hard not because I was another year older, but because I felt like I hadn't accomplished a whole lot. Didn't have much to hang my hat on. Hadn't broken any fingers as of yet.

These are all terrible reasons to feel sorry for oneself, and are, quite frankly, not of God. I know this, and everyday, by grace, it gets a little easier to not listen to the voices of pride and competition that shout so loudly in my head.

I try then to take comfort in the words of God to Jeremiah, "Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you..." I know that God has called me here and has spoken his word through me, and for that I am humbled and forever grateful. I know that God has dreams for St. Paul's that TKT and I can't even imagine. I know that I make excuses, "I'm only 30" or in my case "I'm already 30, that's 1/3 dead!" But God reminds Jeremiah and in turn reminds me that his plans are bigger than our fears and our pride. His goals are longterm and perfect. He doesn't call the equipped, the equips the called.

30 is tough for me because of my sin, but 30 is hopeful for me because of the strength of my God.

August 17, 2010

it is my issue

I'm not sure why I've missed this list for the last 14 years, but in my newsfeed this morning came the Beloit College Mindset List. It is the compilation of two senior faculty members at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin and it attempts to help professors see the generation gap between them and the incoming freshman class.

Some of the notes on the list are funny. Some make me feel old. Some, however are quite helpful for we in the Church as we continue to evaluate where we are in relation to new and powerful generations.

10. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…
40. There have always been HIV positive athletes in the Olympics.
43. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.
45. They have always had a chance to do community service with local and federal programs to earn money for college.
52. There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church.
75. Honda has always been a major competitor on Memorial Day at Indianapolis.

Jesus healed on the sabbath, the church is an avenue for community service hours, the world is flat, and the things that were the scariest in the past two generations (Russia for the boomers, AIDS for the Xers) are now moot, and the defining issue of the administration at VTS when I studied there is unimaginable to college freshmen (even in England where they still use a prayer book dated 1662!). The only constant in life is change.

I think what this list teaches us is not how to sound hip and culturally relevant (because when we try, we sound old and like we are trying too hard), what it teaches us is that our issues don't last forever, and when we insist on forcing to be the issue of another generation they fall on deaf ears and mostly make them feel uncomfortable. The whole healing on the sabbath thing is long gone and nobody is running around saying, "it was so hard back when we couldn't heal on Sundays." So why then are we still trying to define the world by our fear of Russia or AIDS or immigrants or the struggles of Japanese, African, or female-Americans?

Maybe what we learn from Jesus in the healing story for Sunday is that God is bigger than our issues. When we hold on to our issues and ram them down the throats of those we are given to teach and lead, we start worshiping the issue and not God. Probably a lesson worth learning.

August 16, 2010


Last week, TKT and I spent 2.5 solid days planning, dreaming, and looking toward the fall/winter. It was good good. The Spirit moved, we listened, we talked, the Spirit listened, and in the end, I am very excited about what is in store for the near future at St. Paul's.

As any of you St. Paul's readers know, however, this excitement means something is going to change. It is the nature of our community. Children grow older. Ministries run through the course of the useful life. People move. Change happens.

The lessons from Jeremiah and Luke are helpful reminders for us as we look at change because how we react to change is all about our expectations.

Jeremiah has expectations of himself as "just a boy", but God blows them out of the water. Do not say, 'I am only a boy'; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD." Don't worry about the expectations of your age, Jeremiah, God is with you.

The Synagogue ruler has his expectations of what Sabbath means and how it should look. Prim, proper, somber, and certainly without a renegade Rabbi healing a women who for 18 years he didn't see, touch, help, or care for. Jesus blows those expectations out of the water with a word and a touch.

What are your expectations? Which ones do you think Jesus is in the process of changing? Which ones are non-negotiable?

It is another (or maybe a continuous?) season of change in which God calls us to check our expectations at the door for his honor and glory. Enjoy the ride.

August 10, 2010

ummm... an example?

There is a problem in our current liturgical system.

Well, there are many problems, but this week there is one glaring issue.

The problem is that there is only one set of Collects (prayers) for Sundays in the Church. This means that for Proper 15 in Years A, B, and C we use the same prayer.

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

In Year A, the prayer is matched with Jesus comparing a Caananite women to a dog. Ummmm?

In Year B, the prayer is matched with Jesus claiming his status as the living bread. OK.

In this year, Year C, the prayer is matched with Jesus telling his disciples that he didn't come to bring peace, but a sword. Example?

How did this prayer get matched with these three Gospel lessons? I have no idea, but somebody wasn't thinking. Like at all. Seems to me if we are going to pray that we might "follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life" that we might find lessons showing us such holiness rather than calling on preachers to explain the whole dog thing or as TKT ponders, "why do we pray for peace, when Jesus said he wasn't bringing it?"

Still, this Sunday we will stand for the reading of the Gospel and recognize the presence of Jesus, sword and all, in our midst. And we will pray for the grace to follow the example of his godly life. It is awkward and tension filled, but it is holy and good. I guess that's what Church is.

August 9, 2010

Sermon for Proper 14, Year C

I was never a Boy Scout. I'm not sure why, just never was. So the whole “Be Prepared” thing has been slow to grow in me. But, over the years and with thanks to my very type-A personality, I've come to adopt the motto “failure to plan is planning to fail” as a sort-of mantra for my life. Conveniently for me, Jesus seems to affirm this way of living in our Gospel lesson for today. “Be dressed and ready for action,” he tells his disciples. Be prepared, the master could return at any moment.
When it comes down to it, we all understand that planning is important for success in our lives. This week, my friend and colleague, Ben from Saint Paul's in Mobile and I spent the four days at Camp Beckwith serving as Deans for the last session of the season, 4th and 5th grade camp. Having accepted the call to serve for the week, Ben and I began planning in late February. Neither one of us had much experience with fourth graders, so we began by asking for advice from a friend of mine who teaches fourth graders at Spanish Fort Elementary. We met for lunch. We emailed. We Google Waved. We Facebooked. We talked on the phone. By the time we arrived at Beckwith on Monday morning, we felt well prepared for two services of Holy Eucharist and three Dean's programs, and yet we had almost nothing written down. Five months on planning meant we were ready to talk about our topic, we knew the points, we knew the questions, we had the activities in our pocket. And so, on Thursday afternoon, when the campers, Assistant Counselors, and even the Senior Staff were all nearing zero on the energy meter and not at all interested in talking about the great “unless” of Dr. Seuss' the Lorax, we were able to realize that plan A had failed and it was time to quickly turn to plan B.
And isn't that what planning is really all about, the contingencies? Planning means preparing for those bumps in the road that we can realistically foresee. Of course we can't all leave or work an hour early in case we get a flat tire on the way, that wouldn't be realistic. But we should probably anticipate the fact that traffic backs up at the Wallace Tunnel and maybe an extra ten minutes isn't such a bad idea.
Jesus wants his disciples, and for that matter, all of us to be prepared for any contingency for his return. This is especially important to Luke and his community because they are beginning to realize that maybe Jesus isn't coming back in their lifetime. They are starting to develop ways to live long-term as followers of the Risen Christ. This new way of living is based on the possibilities laid out by Jesus, who himself had said, “the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
In his metaphor, Jesus seems to set up three possibilities for his return. The first, what early Christians thought was the plan all along, was that he was coming back soon, like maybe even tomorrow. “Be dressed and ready for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.” What are we called to do if Jesus is coming back tomorrow? This is perhaps the hardest situation to understand. If Jesus is coming back tomorrow, then why bother doing anything? Why not sit back, have a great meal, drink the finest wines and bask in his triumphant glory? Well, mostly, because Jesus said to “be dressed and ready for action.” In other words, be doing the work you've been called to do. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Tend to the widows and orphans. Visit the imprisoned. Lift up the lowly. Even if Jesus is coming back tomorrow, the work of restoration and redemption must be ongoing; the work of sharing the Good News that the Kingdom of God is at hand must continue. So be ready because Jesus might just be here tomorrow.
The second possibility for Jesus' return is described in the story of the master's return as “the middle of the night.” I read this as, “What if Jesus is NOT coming tomorrow?” If Jesus is NOT coming tomorrow should we spend our time pining and wondering when he WILL return? No. If Jesus is NOT coming tomorrow should we sit, scared senseless, at the prospect of his eventual return? No. If Jesus is NOT coming tomorrow should we continue doing with work that we've been called to do? Feed the hungry? Clothe the naked? Tend to the widows and orphans? Visit the imprisoned? Lift up the lowly? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And Yes. As the evidence that Jesus' return would not be as imminent as originally thought grew, the early Church began to develop ways to live as long-term, long-distance disciples of the risen Christ. It included the things that we've come to expect, the stuff of Acts Two, “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Even if Jesus is NOT coming back tomorrow, the work of restoration and redemption must be ongoing; the work of sharing the Good News that the Kingdom of God is at hand must continue. So be ready because Jesus might NOT be here tomorrow.
The final possibility for Jesus' return is described as the master returning from the wedding banquet “near dawn” which I read as “What if Jesus is not coming in OUR LIFETIME?” If he's not coming tomorrow and he's not coming next year and maybe he's not returning for thousands of years; well then what do we do? The trap here, as I see it, is similar to the “he's coming tomorrow” problem. If he's not coming for tens, hundreds, even thousands of years, then why bother doing anything at all? Sure, I'll make sure my card is punched for life everlasting, but God has plenty of time to work out the issues of injustice, poverty, hunger, racism, sexism, classism, domestic violence, and so on that are so prevalent in society. Why should I even care about that stuff? Well, Jesus says, blessed are the slaves who the master finds ready even at the break of dawn. Even if Jesus is not coming back IN OUR LIFETIME, the work of restoration and redemption must be ongoing; the work of sharing the Good News that the Kingdom of God is at hand must continue. So be ready because Jesus might not be here IN OUR LIFETIME.
Jesus might return tomorrow. But then again, he might not. He might return next month. But then again, he might not. He might return in your lifetime. But then again, he might not. Whenever his triumphant return happens; at supper, the middle of the night or near dawn, the call is the same, be prepared by living the life he has called you to. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Tend to the widows and orphans. Visit the imprisoned. Lift up the lowly. Whatever you do, Jesus says, don't be afraid. Despite all the high budget special-effects in Hollywood and, for that matter, Christian films about the end times, Jesus' assurance is that his return will bring the ultimate fullness of the dream of God, which the the prophet Amos described as “justice rolling down like mighty waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” It will be a time when everyone lives into what the prophet Micah says the Lord requires of us, “to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.”
What we do between now and whenever Jesus returns matters. It matters not for our salvation – we can do nothing to make God love us any more or any less. Instead, it matters because God's dream is unfolding right now. Every second of every day we get a little bit closer to the return of the Master and as such we should be living that way, not out of fear but in thanksgiving for the mercy God has shown us, for his love which never ends, for the fact that it is his good pleasure to give us the kingdom.
Failure to plan is planning to fail. Jesus lays out three possibilities for his return; now, midnight, or dawn. Whenever it comes, his hope is that he finds us working to better the old world preparing the way for the new heaven and the new earth. May we be found awake, alert, with our lamps light, ready for the return of the Son of Man. Amen.

the long road

I wonder if Luke made Jesus' journey to Jerusalem so long so that his community (and we) might feel a little bit of what Jesus felt.

Jesus knew the end of the story.
We know the end of the story.

And quite frankly, it'd be nice to just get it over with.

"I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!"

Our journey with Jesus is a long and slogging trip through discipleship and tales of the end times. It isn't easy, it would a a whole lot easier to just get to the narrative and listen to the story. Instead, we trudge through the hard stuff of Jesus' call to action, to self-sacrifice, to love and "what stress we are under until it is completed."

But Jesus took the long and hard road, and so shall we, by faith and with thanksgiving.

The seemingly never ending trip through ordinary time continues with Jesus bringing division and calling us to read the signs, and the Good News is that he is right here with us. Keep going my friends, all the way to the cross.

August 8, 2010

Where I've been

It has been two weeks since I've posted here, and honestly, I've missed it. But these two weeks have been holy and busy and totally worth it. The first was spent with seven of my EYC (Episcopal Youth Club - fancy way of saying youth group) at Mission on the Bay in Bay St. Louis, MS. We were one of the last groups to go through MOB as they are closing in less than a month. We've been three times, and have seen the Mississippi Gulf Coast make amazing strides in that time, but there is still much to do. Pics can be seen here.

This past week I've been at our Diocesan Camp and Conference Center, Camp Beckwith ( working with my friend and colleague Ben on the 4th and 5th grade camp session. The topic we chose was based on Adam's job description - to work in and take care of God's Creation. We used the Dr. Suess classic made-for-TV movie, The Lorax, as our jumping off point. It was great. The kids got into it, especially the song writing activity on day one.

The Kiwis – to the tune of “I Wanna Be a Billionaire”
We want to save the world so freakin' bad
All those trees and flowers that we had.
We love all the animals, sharks and monkeys
Swinging from the branches in the trees.

Every time I close my eyes
I see a better world inside
Star gazing every niiiiiight
I swear
The world should start to care
for the trees that give us air.

Wocka Wocka – to the tune of “The Adam's Family”
We thank you Lord for giving
this air we need for breathing
The grass, the animals, and flowers
that keep us company

Cookie Monster – to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”
Family, fishes, birds above
These are all things that we love

We are thankful for these things
They're the reason why we sing.

Nature, animals, clouds above
These are all things that we love.

Piggly Wigglies – to the tune of “We will Rock You!”
Playin' in the sun, having lots of fun
Stayin' in the trees, felling that breeze
We got a smile on our face, loving God's grace
Swimmin' in the bay, till the end of the day
We Love
We Love
God's Creation!

Aargh! We Wanna go to Chick-Fil-A – to the tune of “Spongebob Squarepants”
Who makes cool stuff for all to see?
He's good and holy and makes things for me
If nature and beauty be something you wish
Then look at the Pandas and Calypticus

– to the tune of “I Love Rock 'n Roll”
I love trees and grass
Looking at the stars
and petting giraffes

I love dogs and cats
Walking down the beach
and flying with the bats

I love fish and leaves
Playing with snakes
and buzzing with the bees

I love God and Christ
For giving us the world
both day and night

The A-Team Group – to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger”
All across the world
God's creation exists
But above all else we have caves
Inside the cave you can find bats and bears
Caves are really wet, dark and scaaaaary
We love caves what can we say
That's all we ever think about

Team Extreme Group – to the tune of “Row, Row, Row your boat”
We love God's creation
Yes, yes, yes we do!
Fishing and swimming and sailing and climbing
That is what we do.

But we can't do any of these things
if we abuse the earth
so don't use too much of God's creation
now this song is done.

I was also invited back to preach and celebrate the summer staff's closing Eucharist, which was a holy time and a blessing for me. It made me realize just how thin Beckwith Chapel is and wonder out loud (via facebook) why there isn't a regular worshiping community there.

So, I'm back, and eager to jump back into scripture whilst I continue to dream about what God has in store. Thanks for the break, and welcome back.