Sunday, August 24, 2014

If we take Jesus seriously...

Proper 16A 2014 - Ferguson - Matthew 16:13-20  
Sermon preached at Christ Church, Quincy
                   
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Listen again to the words of the collect for this Sunday:  “Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your name.” Now there is a timely prayer. We could use a lot more gathering together in unity right now.

Just before we prayed this collect this morning, we sang a hymn of praise that I’d never heard before.
Not sure of the original source of this hymn, but the words are by Delores Dufner, OSB.
I don’t know how often you sing this, but it certainly fits both the readings and prayer for today and the situations we are facing in the world.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that recent news has not been comfortable or comforting. You know that in our baptismal service we promise to “respect the dignity of every human being” – and this summer we’ve been seeing a lot of examples of how NOT to live this out. How NOT to live as the Body of Christ, gathered in unity.

In this morning’s gospel reading, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” After a variety of responses, he continues, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Now that is no small claim.  Simply claiming he was a true prophet would have already been making a stand. Prophets deserve respect and consideration, though that’s rarely what they get at the moment they’re speaking. But if Jesus is the Son of the living God, the stakes are suddenly much higher.

If we stake our faith on Jesus Christ in any way, shape, or form, it will have an impact on our lives. Christians may agree on very little these days, but all of us claim to be followers of Christ even when we live it out differently.[1]  What we believe makes a difference because it will impact the way we live and the choices we make.  Someone who believes Jesus is a great moral teacher will consult his words on ethics. Those of us who believe he is the Son of the Living God may suddenly realize that he’s not just someone to be consulted; he’s the one who calls us to follow him in giving our whole life to God. And that can mean we end up going in some unexpected directions. The path we’re following can take us to some unfamiliar places, into situations that make us uneasy, alongside people who make us uncomfortable. If we take Jesus seriously, we’re in for quite a ride.



A writer friend of mine recently put up a blog post after reading Jen Hatmaker’s newest book, Interrupted: An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith. She writes,
 I realized lately that I'm on the way to becoming an activist, and I can't tell you how much I hate that. It's a lot more comfortable on my farm, with my animals, thinking happy thoughts. I can even think nice religious thoughts, thanking God for the many blessings in my life. Except there's a flip side to both religion and happiness. There's a point where you start remembering the Bible verses on poverty or social justice, and you start getting pushed out of your comfortable little shell. It's not fun. But it's good. And while I pretty much hate all politicians--I'm a fiscal conservative with liberal social leanings and a woman with a brain in my head, which pretty much rules out liking any of them--I suddenly seem to care about social issues. I want a bigger minimum wage. Civil rights for LGBTQs. Racial justice. A global economy where my affluence didn't rest on the backs of developing-world laborers that make less than a dollar a day…
Jen's prayer, "Raise up in me a holy Passion," is honestly a bit hot for me. I'd like "raise up in me a moderate enthusiasm," perhaps, or, "Raise up in me the chance to do a bit of good and feel smug while returning to my comfortable life." I don't know, though. I'm afraid, especially after last week, that I might be stuck.[2]
Let’s not kid ourselves. Scripture is dangerous. The more you read it, lots of it, the more you get the larger picture of what God is up to, the more you realize that something has to change – and that you have to be part of it. I can’t speak for others, but I’m a cradle Episcopalian. A Midwesterner. My father is a priest and my mother a teacher. It’s a perfect storm in terms of confusing NICE with HOLY and POLITE with JUST.  When controversial topics arise, one should murmur something noncommittal.

That’s very nice.  

It’s not what God calls us to. 

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been in impassioned discussions about Ferguson with family and friends back in Indiana. Never thought I’d see the day. What a blessing. But not easy.  But how many more unarmed black men will die because we’ve been taught to fear each other? Something has to change. All of us need to do more. Those of us who are white need both to speak up where there is silence or indifference, and to be quiet and listen when there is someone of color sharing the story of what it’s really like in this country. I guarantee you it won’t be comfortable. And some days change doesn’t seem possible. But remember South Africa? No one thought anything could ever change there, and it did, in large part because of the sharing of terrible stories in their Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Desmond Tutu said, “True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking, but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”[3]  When we don’t know what else to do, we can always start by seeking out the stories of others and listening. In this way we begin to build that unity we pray for as we build relationships, real relationships built on the rock of truth rather than the sand of polite avoidance.


In today’s gospel reading, Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Make no mistake: that’s ALL of us. High time we started asking ourselves what exactly we’re binding up and what exactly we are loosing. What barriers do we not even see that need to be knocked down so that the kingdom of heaven might be a little more present on earth? What do we need to do so that we might truly gather in unity to praise God? Jesus came to set the oppressed free and to break every yoke… We’re supposed to be part of this work, too. Look at your hands. YOUR HANDS are the hands that are to be building the kingdom. YOUR HANDS are the hands that hold the power of God to set others free, to make life a little better for everyone. YOUR HANDS are the hands that hold the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Sisters and brothers, unlock that gate, open it wide, and let the light shine in. Amen.



[1] Acts8 Moment “The Collect Call” Episode 21 for Proper 16 (podcast for this week) http://www.acts8moment.org/
[3] Desmond Tutu, “Truth and Reconciliation” http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/truth_and_reconciliation

Friday, August 22, 2014

Guns In Walmart?

John Crawford Killed By Police Officer For Holding Toy Gun In Walmart | Global Grind



He was holding an air gun in the toy aisle. From the store's stock. And someone got worried and called the police, who shot him while he was explaining that it was a toy. Apparently he didn't put it down fast enough.

But get this - apparently Ohio, where this happened, is an open carry state. Which is to say that apparently it would have been perfectly legal for him to be carrying a real gun, openly, in that toy aisle. But someone called the police. 

Look at the picture below.  If they weren't white, I bet someone would have called the police.

These are real guns.  In the store. And you tell me there is no such thing as white privilege? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

an invitation to our votive mass for peace Saturday morning

In person or in spirit, please join us in praying for peace - peace from Ferguson to Iraq, in so many corners of the world and in our own heart.



Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.


- Prayer of St. Francis 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eagle Marsh

Eagle Marsh, Fort Wayne, IN

My mom has been doing so much better that I invited her to come with me to Eagle Marsh yesterday. Some of you may remember her car accident last summer and all those long months in the hospital. Well, now she can walk short distances, and it's high time she started getting outside. And I don't mean between the house and the car.

Eagle Marsh

Eagle Marsh is a conservation area in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  It might have been there when I lived there as a child, but I certainly never heard of it.  I just did a search on the internet for such a thing, and voila, there it was. http://www.lrwp.org/page/eagle-marsh

barn swallows

No sooner had we parked the car and opened the doors than we heard the birds. Lots of birds. Barn swallows swooping around, along with goldfinches.

I love goldfinches.

I was a little dismayed that there were so few trees and no benches - Mom can't stand all that long - but it was beautiful nonetheless. I gather that wooded area at the far end is part of the conservation area, but she couldn't make it that far. 

Mom walking!

The next thing we saw once actually out there was a leopard frog.  Quite a few, in fact.  However, we wouldn't have seen them at all if they hadn't jumped. Even when I knew exactly where one had landed, it was quite difficult to find it again until I crouched down a bit.  Really outstanding camouflage.

leopard frog

OK, maybe not this one below.

froggie has some learning to do about successful camouflage...

I have to say that I've always liked frogs and have lots of personal associations and stories with them, but I found these to be cuter than most.

You don't see me. 

Lovely wildflowers along the  path...


We saw a bird I'm still trying to identify - think it might be a dark morph red tailed hawk, which I haven't seen before. I have lots of photos, but they soar so high up that I couldn't get a close enough photo to be sure. 

waaaay up, but still beautiful to watch


We finally reached the water - not far for most of us, but quite a hike for Mom, who said that was as far as she was going.  Next year?  I went a little further, as I could see gulls, a heron, and an egret in the distance. 

opinionated gulls

There were at least two kinds of gulls and a great variety in personality among them.

The Odd Couple

I didn't actually see the duck until I edited my photos a few minutes ago. 

gull arriving, carrying dinner

Everyone was looking for an afternoon snack, or maybe an early dinner.

Great Blue Heron with gulls

found something...

Great Blue Heron, Great Egret

I could have stayed there for hours. Too bad they didn't have a bench for Mom and Tammy.

time to head back... Mom and Tammy, her home health aide


still watching swallows swoop around

Meanwhile, up on the tower...

Starlings, maybe? Anyone, anyone?

They just kept coming...


We may have been leaving, but it looked as though the party were just getting started.

It's a convention!

So thankful for this bit of peace outdoors.  In the midst of all that's going on in the world, we can all use some time in God's creation, remembering he created it good - that means us, too. 

Tiny creatures can be beautiful, too.

Until next summer...


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday in Manistee

Enjoying a weekend in Manistee, Michigan, with my two sisters.

Our day began with the Eucharist at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.  It was going to begin with breakfast out at a coffee shop first as our Sunday treat, but, well, let's just say getting up as early as intended didn't happen on anyone's part.


Note to church geeks: the fascinating set of manual acts at the Eucharist today included almost no orans at all (mostly hands down), but did include elevation with sanctus bells x3 at the words of institution. Ponder that combination. 


These two lovely birds above and below greeted us on our exit following coffee hour. Maybe they knew my sister had won a plate of cookies at a raffle just minutes before.  In which case they were sadly disappointed, as we did not share even though the subject of the sermon was generosity. We'll work on it.


We made our coffee shop stop following church.


Coffee shop lunch: coffee (of course), half sandwich, and smoothie (that's my fruit and vegetable, right?)

I love the interesting buildings downtown.

Scenic drive through town on the way back, during which I tried unsuccessfully to take more pictures of hawks overhead. They haven't discovered that they can come visit me right at my sisters' cottage and be warmly welcomed by their own personal paparazzi.


Manistee loves books, too.  

Happy Owl: doesn't the name itself make you want to go in and stay a long time? Add coffee and a B&B, and I'd probably move in. It's right on the river, too. Hmmm.... Mission house?

More books!

a whole row of these little pavilions, each with its own picnic table and grill
Manistee, I love you.



The little ones at the beach looked as though they were enjoying themselves. Finally got home from church, changed, and went to the beach near the cottage. Ahhhh... 

For this particular beach, this is a crowd.
  
Really, could you ask for Lake Michigan to be more beautiful? I think not.

Early afternoon was perfect for being in the water. Then when the clouds came in, it was the perfect time, place, and weather for finishing a novel I started on the plane here.



It thundered on and off, but the rain stayed to the north while we watched the sun break through the clouds.



And then it got gorgeous again.


Wandered home at supper time, walking slowly in case any interesting critters showed up. You never know...

I think it's a baby... look at the spots on its breast!

Finished off our vacation day with style.  We began our supper with ice cream, eaten as we walked along the river.  The heavens opened, and we scooted to a bench under a tree with dense foliage and finished up, watching the birds and enjoying it down to the last drip. Poor sparrows... Once again, we forgot to share. 




Pleeeeeeeeeeze?

We had planned to roast hotdogs on an outdoor fire, but given that our plans were dampened, we settled for take out pizza* and had a cozy evening inside. 

*ice cream followed by cheese... good for the bones, right? We're just thinking of our health. No, really. 

Tomorrow afternoon we leave for Indiana; I'm hoping we miss the thunderstorms. On the other hand, that always makes it easier to leave.  I remember how we used to beg Mom and Dad for one last swim at the lake on the way out the door - at least once they actually let us do that. We must have ridden all the way back home in our sandy swimsuits. 


Tuesday we move my sister Rebekah to a new city and into a new apartment. She'll begin a new job Thursday.  Pray for her as she settles in.

I'm so glad to have this time with my sisters. God is so good.