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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Easter 3C John 21 What Jesus does with failure

That night of arrest started out well for Peter. He cut off the guard's ear in defense of Jesus and then followed at a distance even after the others went away. But when he got to the courtyard where the soldiers were abusing his friend, he lost his nerve. When questioned about his association with this alleged criminal, in the heat of the moment, he chose the answers that would save his skin. According to the Gospel of John, this story is the 3rd appearance Jesus had to his disciples. Peter has seen Jesus. Yet obviously Jesus thinks Peter needs some reassurance that he is forgiven. So Jesus comes to meet Peter where he had first met him. On the shore of the lake.

Seven of the disciples have traveled the 2 day journey back home…back to Galilee, back to familiar faces and familiar smells of the sea. Peter says, "Let's go fishing." I don't know if any of you have ever been criticized for going fishing, but poor Peter and six have been torn apart for that fishing trip for 2000 years. Poor guys. Probably they just wanted the familiar…after the worst week of their life, why should they not do something to keep busy? But many, many people have said this is a sign those 7 gave up after Jesus died. He told them to fish for people but instead they go back to the fish. But really, I think it is ok, Peter, it's ok that you wanted to go fishing. Don't grief counselors advise that we return to our comforting routines after loss? It's ok. Go fishing. Even if they were trying to run from their assignment to do Jesus' work, guess what? Jesus found them where they were.

When we return to the familiar after living so long at the forefront of life…Jesus will find us there.

When are you going to stop looking at your failures and look at me instead? When are you going to feed my sheep?

When are you going to stop looking around at what the others are doing and do what I ask you, Peter?

So what did Peter do?
1. Preached message at Pentecost
2. Went to jail for healing a crippled man and was flogged
3. Arrested again and rescued by an angel
4. Baptized the first non-Jewish believers.
5. Led the council at Jerusalem where it was decided that we didn't need to be Jewish to be Christian.
6. Wrote 2 New Testament books
7. Is credited with being the "rock" of the church.

Jesus sits across the table from you. You have failed. Whether it was simply a test or a serious sin or betrayal, his response will always e the same as that of the one he gave Peter. Feed my sheep. Get back to work. It's not over. You are not going back to what you did before. I have called you. I have given you a purpose greater than you ever dreamed possible. You are valued, skilled, and you are just what I need for this task. You will put aside your insecurities and go forward, doing my work and you will be remembered as one who did not let their failure stop them.

When I was a senior, I encountered my most difficult class to date. Church History Raise your hand if you have taken that class. I studied until my eyes were about to drop out of my head for the crazy tests and would make a barely passing D. After making A's and B's in all of my classes until I reached this one, my self esteem began to suffer and I began to question whether I was cut out for this thing we call college. Yet one day one of my other professors said, "We don't hold it personally against you when you make low grades." I had realized I was ashamed of my low grades…and I was trying…but I kept going and even though I never brought that grade up as high as I wanted it, I kept going.

Jesus wants us to give people the same chances he gives to them. We don't want to do this, usually, until we experience failure ourselves and want forgiveness.

I used to judge people who claimed depression and their reason for not working. A friend of mine lost his job and became seriously depressed to the point he would spend days doing nothing. In my counseling with him, I encouraged him to keep trying and to feel better….but in my heart of hearts I judge saying, why don't you get off your backside and go find another job?

Until one day depression struck me. I found myself on the floor in a fetal position unable to work. I had managed to get 2 college degrees by the age of 23, become ordained at 24, married, had 2 children, and was pastoring a church. I was superwoman. Yet I could not work. I felt I had failed. I hated myself and what I had become. I tried a long time to simply hide it. I only broke down when alone. And I remembered judging someone else for the same thing and I did not want to be judged. I sat in front of my therapist and told her the same. She said you are in school to learn how to respond to people who feel the same way you do.

And as I walked along the shore of Galilee with Jesus after eating that fish and bread in the cool morning fog, I heard him say, do you love me?
"Feed my sheep."
But I have failed you, Jesus.
I am not worthy of feeding your sheep or anyone else's.

Do you love me?Yes, of course.
Feed my sheep.

I have failed.
Do you love Jesus?Only you know the answer to the question.
If your heart is crying out right now YES
Then he is asking you to move forward. Keep going. Finish the semester. Finish the year. Finish the course. Keep the faith. Leave behind the failure. Think of it only as a bump in the road that drew you closer to him. Get to work.

On April 21, 2004, Jennifer Hudson stood before the judges and world on American Idol. She saw the score and realized she was voted off the show, finishing seventh out of twelve. I don't know how she felt but I can only imagine how her heart sank all the way to her shoes and she may have wondered if she would ever face success.

But most of you know but to Jennifer Hudson that was a small bump in the road. In December 2005 she landed the role of Effie White the smash hit movie Dreamgirls and recorded the famous song "And I'm telling you I'm not going, which hit the top 20." She received 29 awards for that role including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

I can hear Peter singing to the disciples after that conversation with Jesus.
"And I'm telling you I'm not going."
But Peter let's go fishing
"And I'm telling you I’m not going"
But Peter let's forget about this discipleship stuff. It may get us killed.
"And I'm telling you I'm not going."
I'm staying in this faith. I'm staying as a disciple
. I'm staying in relationship with this Jesus I betrayed.

He could only say this to that group that knew what he had done in the courtyard when faced with the question did he know Jesus?
Only because of what Jesus had said to him that day at dawn by the Sea of Galilee and what he says to us.

Tear down the mountains,Yell, scream and shout.You can say what you want,I'm not
walkin' out.Stop all the rivers,Push, strike, and kill.I'm not gonna leave
you,There's no way I will.

(From And I'm telling you I'm not going Written by Tom Eyen and Music by Henry Krieger)

And I'm telling you
Jesus will never give up on you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ordinary 28C Episcopal Reading Ruth 1:1-18 For the love of a Mother-in-Law

Naomi & Her husband Ed moved to Austin, TX, from Norman, OK, in the 1980s because of the oil bust. They bought a house near Austin but they never lost their ties to Oklahoma. Especially Oklahoma Sooners football. Every year they cheered for Oklahoma. They wore red and white when everyone around them wore an ugly color of orange. They were saddened when their two sons, Mark & Charles decided to attend University of Texas instead of University of Oklahoma, but they could do nothing about it. What hurt them more was when their sons married Longhorns. Mark married a University of Texas cheerleader. Ruth did not even own anything red and white. Her car was orange, her shoes were orange, even her apartment was painted orange.

Time passed and Ed had a heart attack and died. Mark & Charles took good care of their mother, along with their wives Orpah and Ruth. One awful day Mark & Charles were driving home from a Red River Shootout game and were hit by a drunk driver. Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth were devastated. Naomi decide she would return to Norman, OK. She managed to sell her home in TX and buy her old family farm outside of Norman. She offered a home to Orpah and Ruth. They are packing the U-Haul when Naomi turns to them both and says, Orpah, dear, Ruth, darling, you don’t have to come with me. Go back to UT get your master’s degrees or maybe meet another man and remarry. Orpah gets in her orange pickup and drives away. Ruth says to Naomi,

"I will go with you to Norman. I will buy a Sooner T shirt. I will learn to listen to Boomer Sooner without choking. I will wave an OU flag. I will paint my car red. I will leave behind my loyalties to Texas and embrace Oklahoma because I love you and want to take care of you."

Ruth. Identity. Who is she now that her husband is dead and she is a foreigner? Will those labels haunt her? Foreign poor widow woman? Yet she loves Naomi. Is love enough to give us identity? Last fall I experienced one of the longest illnesses I have ever had (next to depression anyway). I was diagnosed with mono. Yes, I’ve heard all the jokes, and the only people I kiss were not sick (my husband & 2 daughters) and they never caught it.

Anyway, for a few days I did nothing but sleep. I got up to take my kids to school and pick them up, grab a bite to eat from the fridge, and fell back in bed. I missed so many weekends with my daughters as their daddy took them to the state fair, etc, while I lay at home on the couch with swollen glands, sore throat, and extreme fatigue. Walking from the car to the house wore me out. Walking for 20 minutes put me in bed for 2 hours for months afterward. At one point I look at the ceiling and asked God if I would ever recover. He answered what if you don’t? Then I ask what good am I to my family if all I can do is lay here? A question I’m sure many of the ill ask. God told me all I had to do was love. Loving my husband and daughters was enough. Yes, I did recover. A year later I can finally walk 3 miles at a time without having to sleep for days. I can do aerobics again and stay awake all day (most of the time)…but I find myself much more sensitive to the ill.

Ruth loves Naomi. She lets that define her. The cruel labels of poor foreign widow do not.

We glimpse the Kingdom of God and we find out God’s world is just the opposite of ours. The women have power and baby boys become king.

“What you see around you are people unable to love each other.”Ruth teaches us to love. She left everything to love an old mother-in-law. That is the true loves story here. It is not a young attractive woman finds young attractive man, fall in love, get married & have a baby. It is a cursed foreigner (here I ask you to insert whatever slang term you have heard for foreigners in our land. I won’t say them aloud) the only home she knew and the only god she knew for the love of an old woman and her mother-in-law to boot. God took that and turned it into this story about the ancestor of King David.

An old woman and a cursed foreigner took a huge risk and called a powerful man to use his power to save them. They risked everything. If Boaz would have called upon his servants to kill her, no one in power would have ever missed a foreigner. If Boaz would have refused to listen to her and simply assumed she was there why most women came to the threshing floor, to take advantage of the men’s drunken state in hope of making a few bucks. If he had even called the men’s attention to her by speaking loudly…her reputation would have been ruined forever.

They called up on him to follow the law of God and save them. Reminds me of a group of people that called upon a president to sign a certain bill. JFK signing the civil rights bill. Reminds me of a group of religious leaders who rose up to protest their gov’t’s doubling the gas prices and oppress the people. Reminds me of a group who asked congress to call a mass killing of a certain race what it is: genocide

Many times this asking of people in power to change doesn’t turn out so well. For Ruth it did, but it doesn’t for everyone. Some people--including one of her descendents--end up on the cross when they challenge the powers that be.

The Sounds of Silence, a sixties hit by Simon and Garfunkel, describes people as afraid to love and afraid to hope because of their disconnect with each other. When I preached this sermon on Oct. 14, 2007, I ended with a video of Simon & Garfunkel singing this song...let their words inspire us to love each other in order to change the world: as Ruth did. Click the link to watch.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ordinary 15C Luke 10: 25-37 Small Town Social Justice

Monday, Sept. 24, my 2 daughters & I took a road trip to a state park. After we swam for a while, we drove to a small SW OK town where I went to high school. I only lived there 2 years, but graduated from HS there....had not been back for over 10 years and neither one of my children had ever been there. It is a town of less than 2000, so there is not much site-seeing to be done...

After a brief hike cut short by the sound of a rattler in the grass, we got in the car and drove the 10 miles to M------. If you have never driven in SW Oklahoma or West Texas you cannot imagine what it is like to drive where the land is flat, flat, flat, and you see so much sky you wonder why God made hills. We are about to M----- with the music cranked as high as it will go and my 7-year-old says, "Mommy, I just heard a pop." I said, "So." She said, "Mommy the car is shaking." I still didn't notice anything...then I heard this awful sound...and well, turned off the radio. Blowout. We are in the middle of NOWHERE. M---- is about 2 miles I drove at 25 with blinkers on until we got to town. Pulled off in a parking lot and got out to look at my shredded tire. I started digging in the back of the station wagon for the jack and spare. A loud, old 68 Ford pickup with 2 guys in the truckbed rattles by. I see them turn around. The 2 guys in back jump out before the truck stops. They almost have the tire off the car before the hit the ground.

"Need some help?"

"Sure. But my jack is sorely lacking."
"Don't worry. We can lift the car if we can't get the jack to work. We ain't afraid of work."
The two guys bent over the tire are 20-somethings...wiry, tall, heads shaved, wearing nothing but boots and jeans. Tattoos cover their heads, faces, backs, chests, arms, hands....Their dad and older brother stood back and watched If this had been the city I might have been scared, but I figure if I started talking we'd figure out we went to high school together.
"I'm Kelly."

"We're the _______." They say in unison. I vaguely remember the family name. I ask them if the remember my brother.
The guy behind the truck. "Yeah I remember him."
They have the tire changed by now, and tell me where I can get a decent used tire for a fair price. They jump back in the pickup and tell me to follow them to the tire shop. So I do. Tattoed arms waving, they point to a tiny auto shop.

I don't know how you remember high school, but there are certain families that are labeled in small towns as losers. I don't know how it started with this family, but they had a certain label. It may have been something their great-grandpa did...but teachers and kids at school have a certain idea of a kid with a certain last name. Sometimes the kid chooses to live up to it, sometimes they try hard to overcome it.

Here I am in a tiny farming town in southwest Oklahoma living inside the parable of the Good Samaritan. Believe me, no one would have guessed the dust covered 90 Ford Taurus I drive is the car of a college professor. At the moment I looked like an Okie (I do say it proud, Vince Gill, but I did look like one). My station wagon is loaded down with junk cause we have been on a day trip at the lake. My 2 kids & I have just been swimming and digging clay. I had my hatch up and junk spread around on the gravel, just trying to dig for the spare tire. Did cars drive by and see my distress? Oh yes. Who was it that stopped? The guys that got beat up in school because their family was labeled. I have never seen myself in the parable as the one on the side of the road....

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ordinary 24C Luke 15:1-10 Welcoming Sinners

"This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."

I recall a scene from the movie The Man in Black. Johnny Cash has just been through detox hell. He has had a "come to Jesus" crisis with the aid of June Carter and her parents. He goes to his record company and says he wants to do a concert in Folsom Prison.

Record Company Executive says, "Your fans are church folk, Johnny. Christians.
They don't want to hear you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists...
trying to cheer them up."
Johnny Cash replies, "Well, they're not Christians, then."
Record Company Executive: "I'm fine with you doing a live record. Just not at a prison. That's my compromise."
Johnny: "January 13th, I'll be at Folsom Prison with June and the boys. You listen to the tapes. You don't like 'em... you can toss 'em."

I can't tell you how many times I have heard complaints of the same thing. Growing up in the parsonage I heard good "Christian" people's constant complaints about "those kind" not being wanted in church. Apparently many think church is a club for people just like me.

I don't like it either. Why do I want God to rejoice over one sinner rather than the ninety-nine righteous people? It seems we spend most of our time as pastors taking care of the righteous, right? Perhaps we are looking at it all wrong.

Brennan Manning has shaped a lot of my thoughts along this line...after reading his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. He is a monk/alchoholic. Yes, both. He goes sober for a while and then hits the bottle again. He speaks of his journey in the book.. Evangelicals have a hard time accepting that a man can be a Christian and an alcoholic???? Can God use a ragged ol' monk who can't stay sober? So when does one of the fold become one of the sought after lost? Will Jesus leave the fold and go and seek an ol' preacher who gives into addictions over and over? Does he ever give up? Does he ever write us off and give us over to the evil one? These parables he tells us remind us that he can't let go.

Most of us don't like having sinners invade the church because they remind us of our own sin. Shutting out people who "shack up" make us feel better when we indulge in any type of sexual sin.

Ask friends who have known me since high school and they will tell you I pointed fingers and judged all the time. I preached at people constantly. It was a serious bout with temptation in my early 20s that taught me a lesson. We are all capable of sin. When we can confess that in honesty and say we are all just trying to seek God in the best way we know how we forget to judge people.

A youth pastor intern I had once started bringing in all kinds of kids to church. One of the older ladies whispered to me as I joyfully watched a huge group of kids playing basketball in the church yard, "That kid does dope." I looked at her and said, "Praise God he's here."

Perhaps we can all learn a lesson from the Man in Black.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ordinary 19 C Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 What is a hero?

My perspective on heroes changed as I lay flat on my back once again looking at the ceiling of an ambulance. One hero inserted an IV into my left hand as the other hero attached the heart monitor. The first hero kept assuring me I was stable now and to try to relax as I shook with horrific shock. I knew I must be stable when I did not hear the sirens as we drove down the country road at 70 miles an hour. Yes, they were speeding, but I must be ok. I'm breathing, my heart is beating, I must be OK.

Earlier that evening as I worked at church camp on the Oklahoma/Texas border I had made the stupid mistake of wearing flip-flops in the grass. I KNEW I was allergic to fire ant stings since I had another ambulance ride 3 years previous due to a tiny sting. Why had I done something so idiotic???

As I felt my heart race and my face swell, my daughter saying, "Mommy, use your shot!" (EpiPen), she & I ran to the camp nurse instead. Let's just say there was a horrible mistake and the EpiPen did not go into my leg. I fell on the floor and told Lisa (a close friend) to call 911. Someone ran to get my husband.

Everything is foggy from then on until I got in the ambulance. For 10 minutes I faded in and out...never quite losing consciousness but "zoning" and not able to speak or move. Lisa and her husband, Doug, took control and found an inhaler and a nebulizer to try to keep me breathing.

Lisa and Doug are heroes. Dwight, the camp director and a long time friend, is a hero. I heard his voice through the haze...and he drove my husband to the hospital and drove us both back to camp...I heard the prayers of the camp director through the haze as 200 campers were in chapel and knew what was going on in the back of the room....Yes, a little ant can cause such a fiasco.

Hebrews 11 is about heroes of the faith. When Abraham set out on his journey he was simply obeying God and not planning to be a hero. When Sarah gave birth to Isaac she simply did what mothers their sons. None of these biblical heroes set out to be famous. They did the task in front--sometimes with protests (Moses)...yet finally obeying God...and the community of faith remembers the journey they took.

Lisa, Doug, Dwight, Chris, Shane, you are heroes.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Trinity Sunday John 15:26-16:15 Review of "Into Great Silence"

Yesterday I sat with 5 friends in the downtown OKC Art Museum theater and watched a breathtaking film, "Into Great Silence," a documentary on the life
of Carthusian monks of the Grande Chartreuse, way up in a remote area of the French Alps (Chartreuse Mountains). When I say "watched" I mean it in every sense of the word since "listening" only happened occasionally. 2 hours and 40 minutes of near silence with occasional French words with English subtitles. When there was natural sound we heard it...rain falling, chairs scraping, steps in the crisp snow...the monks live in silence except for a few hours on Sunday. I did not realize it until 20 minutes into the movie when I finally heard a sound and breathed a sigh of relief that sound is comfort in a noisy world.

Today is Trinity Sunday. Like most theologians, I have attempted to wax eloquent on the Trinity in the past. I've read the books and written the papers. Yet I do not understand. The monks do understand. Trinity is about unity; togetherness; community. It is about staying together no matter what. It is about living and breathing the air of the other. It is about a vow to live communally not taken lightly.

The 30something monk rubbing ointment on the shriveled back of a skeletal octogenarian brought flashbacks of another 30something washing feet.

Could I live this way? I could live without technology. For a few weeks. I could live without shopping. For a few days. But it would take a major duck taping on the mouth to keep me from talking for a week at a time.

You can read more about the film here or the official website at The official website is a little hard to navigate, esp. if you pull up the German version. If you are looking for a brief description, go to the wikipedia link.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Pentecost Acts 2:42-47

Acts 2:42-47

The early church was devoted to the Apostles' Teaching.
What is this? That Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose again. The Apostles had lived as part of Jesus’ story and by being devoted to the teaching the people were becoming a part of the story too. How do we do this? Preaching, yes, but there has to be more. That is why we have Sunday school. To share the story of why we are here. If you don’t come to Sunday school you don’t have a grasp on why we are here, then it becomes much easier to not be here( in the church).
"We shall have to break our habit of having church in such a way that people think they can be Christians and remain strangers."
Ordinary Christians living ordinary Christian life before people
EVERYONE WANTED TO BE TOGETHER! Sure they were different. Sure there were fishermen and shopkeepers and widows and children and so many differences! But they cared more about what they had in common—belief in this story Jesus crucified and raised. Why? Because it gave them more hope than hanging out in the streets. And. . . ……..
Breaking of bread—worship. Jesus commanded his disciples to share communion every time they met for worship. They did it EVERYDAY and it didn’t get old!! Boy I sure need it more than once a month that’s for sure. They were not coming together to sit on pews and have someone preach at them or see a spectacular show on the big screen…they were coming together to worship GOD.
Praying TALKING to this JESUS CHRIST They preached about.
Unified ONE PURPOSE>>>>IT'S ALL THAT MATTERED! Sure tomorrow they could be crucified the same leaders still walked the same streets….sure tomorrow they could be thrown in prison ( and were) sure tomorrow they could die of starvation but TODAY WE WILL BE TOGETHER
Generous and honest
The church gave all and lived communally. Now This would be extremely difficult with the size of the church now but we still have a taste of it with our belief in tithing. Malachi 3:8 We also have a taste of it with our offerings for missions…we still owe $1200 for our World Evangelism fund.
The Holy spirit doesn’t like it when people lie. Peter could have thought, this is just over a piece of real estate. Who cares if they lie?
Tithing is 10%. God says in the Bible that we are robbing him if we don’t pay it.
This church would have no financial problems if everyone who attended regularly gave 10% of their income. That’s just the way God wants it to work. Now you may say that you’re not very blessed financially. Ends may not be meeting at all for you. I’ve been there too. I read in my diary which I have kept since I was nine this week a few pages when my family was experiencing financial hardship. I was 14 and praying for some new shoes. I was thanking God for sending me a babysitting job where we had earned $5 so I could go and look for shoes on the clearance rack of Wal-mart. But I know that I gave 50c of that $5 to my church. How could I not? God had sent me the money so I would give him his portion or be ungrateful.

None of the nice-smelling formelyhyde at funerals—it was a stinking dead body buried that day or else. Children died often…

God did the adding! They went about being the church. Doing the things that Jesus commanded them to do, being GOD”S PEOPLE. And when they DID THIS

The church is the only organization that exists for those who are not members.
What does that mean?
Do we have a purpose? Does God have a purpose in mind for this church? If he does, do we believe in it wholeheartedly? Enough to pour time, energy, money and talent into it?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Easter 7C John 17:20-26

Unity. This week I went on a field trip with my daughter's class to Little River Zoo in Norman, Oklahoma. I have never learned so much about animal life in one day. I did learn that very few animals like to live alone. Even different species are fenced together for companionship. If you look closely you can see a turkey and a goat standing side by side. Neither seems to notice the other is different. The geese live with the ducks...the wolf lives with a dog...and both pace with saliva dripping as the chickens walk by their cage.
In John 17, Jesus prays for our unity...people. It seems we have something to learn from animals. We all need each other. Let's try to get along.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Mother's Day

Ok, so I break from the lectionary once in a while. I'm a mother. It's mothers' day. Sorry lectionary lovers.

We learn the love of God in the arms of our mother. In my earliest memories I am always crawling out of bed (so I've always been a night owl) and walking up to my mom who sat on the couch in a t-shirt & jeans watching Mary Hartman or Johnny Carson with a bowl of popcorn & a glass of iced tea with lemon..."Mommy, I can't sleep. There are monsters in the closet." Or "Mommy, there are needles in my hand (my hand was asleep)." Or "Mommy, baby brother won't quit crying." Now, I don't know what you moms say but I usually say "Go back to bed."

My mom usually got around to that, but first there was a hug...a solution (God won't let monsters in your closet)...

More later....I think my kids are up.

Back...they weren't up. It was the cats. What I'm trying to mom is always ready to listen to my problems...from monsters in the closet and now to questions about how to handle my own children. I find such metaphors in motherhood about God's love...Whatever I bring to God, God listens. More later. Mom & Dad are at the door. The kids & cats are going crazy cause they brought Uncle Xander (the Dachsund). Maybe I'll finish this post before Mothers Day. Maybe.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Easter 5C John 13:1-5

When my family and I came to our current church in about four years ago, I had just resigned from the pastorate of a church, completely devastated emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I sat in SS class and in worship services and sobbed for 2 months. I had 2 degrees in theology and 8 years of full time ministry, pastoring was all I had ever planned to do. Yet in July of 2000 I experienced severe post partum depression after the birth of my second daughter. After two years of attempting to pastor in spite of the black clouds of depression, I had to leave the stress of the ministry to heal.
In the beginning, I was so broken all I could do was cry. I couldn’t sing. I could barely participate in Sunday School. All of my adult life, I had done nothing but lead, teach, and preach and here I was simply occupying a pew, absorbing God’s presence. Yet God knew that is exactly what I needed. No one asked me to be any different. No one insisted I stand and praise when all I could do was sit and cry. Anytime Pastor gave an altar call, you could find me kneeling. When I needed someone to pray with me, I looked up and there was someone. When I couldn’t look up into anyone’s face, I still felt the pressure of a pastor’s hand on my back, letting me know that I was not alone.
I was given space to find where I best fit into this community. My husband and I were welcomed into a wonderful Sunday School class that three years later—we now teach.
The first year I served as a sponsor in the senior high group. I didn’t do much but attend one fall retreat and lead a discussion group on wed. night. I felt so guilty thinking here I am educated, ordained, and experienced and this is all I’m doing in church. But no one belittled me for that. The teens befriended me, ministering more to me than I ever did to them.
I found grace in the nursery. My daughter was welcomed with open arms. In the children’s department, my older daughter the same welcome from the children's pastor.
I was graciously asked to join in Women’s Bible study. When I needed advice, the leader invited me to her home where we prayed and I received God’s grace.
When we moved to another house a few months later I called the church to ask the adminstrative assistant if she knew of anyone who could help us load a truck. She offered to help us and she and her husband came to load and unload our truck.
When I tried to teach children’s church and discovered I was still too wounded to handle it, the children's pastor wiped my tears, hugged me and said let me know when you’re ready to serve. This year that time came.
I had to learn to allow others to not only wipe my tears, but wash my feet.
I learned this
1. By participating in a worshipping community of faith
2. By allowing the pastors to minister to me.
3. By listening to Pastor preaching about the grace of God that has no limits. God would go to any lengths to rescue me…. God continues to rescue me from the depths of my own depression and despair.
I have seen God reaching out through Christ to embrace me through this church. I experience this transforming grace in this community of faith. I continue to heal in order that I might praise God and anticipate eternal celebration with God and redeemed creation.
John 20:1 says, “Early on the first day of the week while it was still dark Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away.” I know this is true because I have experienced resurrection hope in this community of faith.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Easter 4C Psalm 23

I remember very clearly the last time I preached this passage before a congregation. My life, along with the other pastors of our little town, had been threatened. There is something about preaching God leading me beside quiet waters and green pastures when everything inside of me screams chaos and fear.

I have never raised sheep. I have never been close to a sheep other than a petting zoo. Yet I preached this message in a farming community where everyone knew more about farm animals than I did. Sometimes the preacher learns more from the congregation than the congregation learns from the preacher.

What does it mean to have complete confidence in the shepherd? Does it mean I am never afraid of death? Does it mean I know the shepherd will take care of me even if I die? Does it mean the shepherd will care for those I leave behind? Do the green pastures and quiet waters last beyond the grave?

An excellent book about Psalm 23 is A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller.

Easter 3C John 21:1-19

I have preached this passage: the reinstatement of Peter since the first year I began preaching. I travelled with a ministry group in college and all my friends in the group heard me preach this passage more times than they ever wished! Why do I love it so?

I have felt so often like a failure. I have felt like I failed Jesus. No, I did not deny I knew him while he endured abuse at the hands of the soldiers. Yet I know I have let him down.

Perhaps this passage showed me a glimpse of grace that I needed to see. Jesus asked him,"Do you love me?" once for every time Peter denied him. Would Jesus do the same for me? Better yet, would I do the same for others?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Good Friday in Easter Season Oklahoma City Bombing, Virginia Tech

I remember very clearly April 19, 1995. I live in Oklahoma City. The sound of the bomb exploding...the constant jumping at any new reports of friends being found dead, alive, or injured. I was 8 miles away from the Murrah Federal Building.

Yesterday another trajedy struck our nation. How much more can we endure? April 19 was the day after Easter. April 16 was the day after the second Sunday of Easter. I remember my pastor saying that we experienced Good Friday after Easter in 1995. In 2007 we have yet again experienced Good Friday after Easter.

My prayers go out to you experiencing the loss from Virginia Tech directly.

A helpful website for those trying to speak to congregations concerning this event click here

Monday, April 9, 2007

Easter 2C John 20:19-31 Resurrection

Good ol' doubting Thomas. Wouldn't you hate to be remembered for your doubts? To doubt is to wonder if something is true. It does not mean you are convinced it is not true. We all doubt.

The other disciples huddled together in the upper room, but Thomas had crawled into a hole to lick his own winds after viewing the crucifixion. Off in his solitary confinement, he had missed the appearance of the resurrected Christ.

Yet when he finally sought the company of the community given faith by the resurrected Christ, his own wounds healed when he touched the wounds of Christ.

Jesus appeared in front of me a few weeks ago. Walking along an urban street on the way to a church conference, a homeless man approached me. He asked if I could spare some change so he could eat. As I pressed a few wadded bills into his hand, I felt a nail print.

As a young pastor, I entered 90-year-old Sadie's house as I heard her "Come in!" I finally found her in the bedroom, her shriveled body bent over thick, yellowed toenails. Arthritic hands could not fold around the clippers or apply enough pressure to get through the nails. My body in advanced pregnancy could not kneel, but I could sit. What a pair Sadie & I were, laughing at ourselves as I sawed on her toenails. As I clipped and sawed, I felt a hole that another type of nail had left.

As for his side, every time I hold a hurting person I feel that wound.

Like Thomas, I have had my doubts. Resurrection is a crazy, wild, unprecedented event that has never been repeated. I can't find evidence that it has happened when I try. When I forget about trying find proof and focus on the needs in my world that I have power through Christ to meet--then my belief resurfaces.

“The question is not to prepare but to live in a state of ongoing preparedness so that when someone who is drowning in the world comes to your world, you are ready to reach out and help." Henri Nouwen

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Easter Sunday Evening Revealed at the Table Luke 24:14-33

Revealed at the Table

Luke 24:14-33

They had seen it. They had seen the crucifixion of Jesus, prefaced by the crowds crying Crucify Him. They had heard Peter’s account of the resurrected Christ. All the events together swirled in confusion. They wanted to rejoice that Jesus was alive, but they had seen him die. So they talked, trying to make sense of everything. Meanwhile someone came up behind them. They did not recognize him.
“What are you discussing with each other as you walk along?” They just stood there, sadness showing on their faces.
Cleopas said, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
He asked, “What things?”
“The things about Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. And how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” But we had hoped…
Haven’t we hoped? Haven’t we all hoped to find meaning deeper than what we see everyday? There must be something deeper, better than the everyday drudgery.
All of our hopes and dreams were tied up in this man called Jesus. But he died! He died! And you can’t imagine our despair. But some say he is alive.
This evening most of us can identify with the idea of broken dreams. All of us have had our worlds come crashing down around us. Whether it was someone we loved and hoped to spend our lives with dumping us or the death of a family member, or a job we had hoped and prayed and worked to get that was denied us. Or maybe our despair is tied up in church. We attend hoping to see something change in our lives and leave disappointed that we were bored stiff. We hope to find meaning in such rituals as communion and singing together (like today) but we admit sometimes instead we feel despair.
THERE’S A REASON WE FEEL DESPAIR. Many communion services we have to admit, remind us of a funeral. Why? Because we stop at the remembrance of the death of Christ! We must not stop there. This do in remembrance of me connects to more than just his death. It connects to his resurrection. Why? Because the world has an earth shattering change between Luke chapters 22 and 24. He dies. Yet he rises again. The whole universe rests on that “yet.”
Jesus shares the supper with two believers AFTER he dies! He sits and celebrates all that has been fulfilled. He shows by this event that every time we come together to share the supper, to feast at his table HE COMES TO US! But like Cleopas and his companion, we must invite him.
When we invite him to come among us, he will reveal his resurrected presence to us.
And if you say, “But I can’t see him,” Remember what he said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who don’t see and yet believe.”
Let’s not give Jesus an opportunity to say this to us, “You’re foolish! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”
May our times together at his Table be party time! Jesus has introduced us to HIS KINGDOM by his resurrection. He has shown us another way to live, an alternate reality. We may try to escape from the nightmares of our own lives by drowning in alcohol, drugs, lust. We may try to forget our own reality by losing ourselves in a movie or TV show or comic book. But the best way to change your reality is to live in the kingdom by responding to this resurrected Christ.
Ask him in. Invite him to come to the table of your life: to sit with you, to walk with you, to eat with you. Invite his preaching of peace and compassion to fill your life so full of love that you have no more room to hate. No room to hate your parents, your boss, or anyone who has betrayed you. Come live a life that celebrates the Table of his love for you. Come, every week as we sing and rejoice that Jesus Christ has broken into history.
What will you say to those who ask you tomorrow “How was church yesterday?” You will say, “Well, you kind of had to be there.” There is no way to describe this! You have to experience it! Why don’t you come and see next week?
He interpreted to them everything about himself in the Scriptures.
He needed an invitation to stay. They wanted him to stay, for they had FOUND THEMSELVES IN THE STORY. “Please tell us more”
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. He vanished.

And they sought his resurrected presence continually.


Were not our hearts burning within us? I invite you to join me in the party of the burning heart. Do you know what it means to have a burning heart? Do you know what it means to have news so exciting you have to share it with someone? Do you remember what it is like to fall in love? You can’t hide it! You may try, but someone is going to see it written all over your face. You think about your love all the time, their face creeps into every conversation. You can’t wait to see them, to touch them, to hang on their every word. Your heart burns.
I invite you to fall in love with Jesus. Invite him to your table. You will see him. And love for him will fill your soul to an extent that you will overflow. Everyone who sees you will wonder. You will tell them that you are in love. You’re in love with Jesus Christ.

That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. Running all the way, found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying:

They told what had happened
Again Jesus came and stood among them.
He came in the midst of telling the story.

Why, you ask, must we tell the story of Jesus over and over? Must we hear every week that he lived, died and rose again? Why must we take the bread and the wine over and over? Isn’t once enough?

The early Christians met daily! You thought weekly was enough? They met daily, praising God, praying, eating the feast, and listening to the apostles’ teaching. Why?

Because the world they lived in was so awful they had to! They had to meet together to be reminded that this present evil age had come to an end. A new day had dawned. The Kingdom of God had come. When the present evil crept into their homes and lives they ran to the Table to remember Jesus. He appeared to them and assured them his presence had shattered the evil. They clung to his feet and begged to stay in his presence. Yet he reminded them he was with them, always, that his spirit had come and set them on fire. Their hearts burned within them and they ran back out into the streets to let his love overflow once more. But the next day, they had to sit at the table with Jesus again.
Come; let us tell His story together. Let us be reminded once again that the evil has been shattered by the presence of the one and only Son of God.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Easter Sunday HE IS RISEN JUST AS HE SAID John 20:1-18

Woman, why are you weeping?

John 20:1-18

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him”

“He is Risen! He is Risen Just as He said!”
“I have seen the Lord!”
“I’ve seen him! I’ve seen him! He said my name!”

After you, John, and you, Peter, left the tomb, I stayed. I couldn’t leave. I stood outside in the garden weeping. I bent over, and I looked into the tomb. I saw two men inside. But now I think they must have been angels. They said to me, “Woman, why are you weeping?” I wanted to scream, to shout, to throw something at them. How could they not know? I said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” After I finished speaking, I turned around. I saw a man standing there. He seemed to have come from nowhere, but I thought he must be the gardener. He asked me the same thing the others asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
I wondered why everyone kept asking me this. I said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Then he said, “Mary.” He might as well have said, “SURPRISE! It’s me!” It was him! I said “Teacher!” His face shone like the sun. He looked the same, yet different. I didn’t recognize him because I wasn’t looking for him. But when he said my name, I knew him. My heart knew him. Oh, my brothers, you shouldn’t have left the tomb so fast. I think you would have seen him too.
Oh, I’ve got to go tell some others. Can you believe it? Jesus is alive!
Oh, hello. Did you know Jesus is risen from the dead? You don’t know me? It’s more important that you know Jesus, but I will tell you how I know him. I will tell you what he did for me.
I’m from Magdala. Magdala means tower. It is found on the western shore of the sea of Galilee. It’s on a main highway, and like most towns on main highways, it’s a place where lots of evil happens. I lived there all of my life. I was like most citizens of Magdala, I guess. We’re not known for our morals. I lived a life that I’m quite ashamed of now. By the time I met Jesus, I had seven demons tormenting me. They controlled my life, and I was quite sick both in mind and body. HE IS RISEN
I remember when I first heard of Jesus. Someone came running into town one day and claimed they had met the Messiah. The Messiah! We had hoped for the Messiah so long we had almost given up on him. The man said he had seen Jesus cast demons out of people. I couldn’t quite comprehend why, but I knew I had to find this man Jesus.
I left everything then. I went searching for him. He wasn’t too hard to find at that time. Openly he healed and preached and everyone in the countryside knew of him. Even the scribes, sadduccess, and pharisees. But they didn’t like him.
I remember the day I first saw him. He taught in the midst of a circle of men I knew later to be his twelve disciples. I walked right up to the group, but when I got close enough for them to see me, I couldn’t say anything. I had been taught all of my life that women don’t speak to men in public, esp. important teachers. I just hung my head and tears fell from my face to the ground to mingle with the dust.
He read my mind. I heard him speak to the demons within me. After a struggle all seven of them left me. They had no power to resist this man of God. I fell on the ground. The next thing I remember, I was close to a flickering fire. The firelight shone in his eyes as I looked into them. I had never seen such love. Certainly no man I had ever been near had ever looked at me with love. I knew I could never leave him. I had to find out where that kind of love came from. HE IS RISEN
So I joined the group of women who traveled with Jesus and his disciples. We worked, sewing, weaving, washing for others. We used the money we earned to provide for Jesus.
Soon after I joined Jesus, the Pharisees accused Jesus of having a demon. I wanted to scratch their eyes out. How could this man have a demon? Obviously they didn’t know demons as I did. Jesus stood up to them. He always did. I had never trusted anyone until I met him. I trusted him completely.
Once Jesus mother and brothers came to see him. They could not get to him. I had met his mother before. She came to see him often. But this time Jesus said “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word and do it.” I knew then that I had finally found the family I had never had. James, John, even Peter they now talked to me, following the example of Jesus. Those who didn’t know us often showed the shock on their faces as they heard these men have conversations with us women. Jesus broke down barriers we had never thought to touch. He showed me that I am a valued person, someone worthy of love and care. HE IS RISEN
Jesus treated everyone with the same love and respect. He touched lepers as if they were his close friends or family. He talked to tax collectors as if they hadn’t even tried to rob him. He healed women without a thought that he might be considered unclean. He taught with authority. Everyone had to listen. They just had to. I never even considered going back to Magdala once joining his followers.
After a while, Jesus began to talk of death. His own death. We didn’t listen. We couldn’t understand how the Messiah could be killed. He had too much power. Hadn’t we seen with our own eyes what he could do? Sometimes after he had gone away to pray he would come back with tears and such a sad face. I wanted to comfort him, but I knew I couldn’t. Nothing could. HE IS RISEN
Now that I’ve seen what happened I understand his anguish. I was there as they brought him to trial, as the crowds cried crucify him. I heard the whips lash his precious back. Each time I felt the pain as if it were hitting me. As he stumbled under the heavy beam, I tried to get close to him, to touch him, to let him know I hadn’t left him. The soldiers threw me to the ground. I stood in the crowd as they pounded the nails into his hands and feet. Mary, the wife of Clopas, and I tried to shield his mother, Mary, from the scene. She wailed and couldn’t be comforted.
I don’t know how to describe to you the anguish we felt. We followed Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus to the tomb, to prepare his body with spices. But we didn’t have much time since it was the Sabbath. That Sabbath was the longest day of our lives. We stayed together, the disciples keeping a low profile in fear they too would be crucified. I didn’t care. I would have taken his place. But I stayed near my friends. We didn’t have many words of comfort to say to each other. Mostly we just cried. HE IS RISEN!
We never slept. When finally the first day dawned, the Sabbath over, I could stay in hiding no longer. I went back to the tomb. Maybe just being near his body would bring comfort, and we had to wrap the body better and add the burial spices. Darkness still filled the air. I could barely see. The sun had just barely reached the horizon when I reached the tomb. The stone had been removed. I knew someone had taken his body so I ran to tell the others. Peter and John ran back with me. They ran into the tomb and saw the grave clothes lying there. They didn’t say much, but ran home. I couldn’t leave. Maybe they would bring his body back.
But as I already told you, I found Jesus there that day, or rather he found me.

I wish I could explain to you the excitement, the joy. But you have all lost people you love. Remember Lazarus? How Jesus raised him? Imagine that, but 100 times better! Jesus took our dashed hopes of all that we had believed and made them anew. Renewed. His death devastated us, but his resurrection restores us. I just saw the risen Lord this morning. Now I’m ready to face anything the world has to throw at me. Nothing else matters. Just that he’s alive. HE IS RISEN!

What difference does the resurrection make in your life? It took Jesus saying my name for me to believe that he had risen. And he had told me about it hundreds of times. What will it take for you to believe today? John said he’s going to write all this down so no one forgets. He said he would write everything down so that others will believe in Jesus. I believe. Do you? HE IS RISEN!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Palm Sunday Year C Luke 19:29-47

(photo courtesy of

Finding Ourselves in the Crowd

Luke 18:31-34 And taking the twelve, he said to them, "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentile sand will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and the third day he will rise. But they understood none of these things; this saying was hid from them, and the did not grasp what he said."

Four chapters later, James and John request that they could sit on his right hand and his left.

Did you even hear what he said, James and John? The son of man must die! He's going to die and all you're concerned about his who gets to be first in line. Does anybody understand who he really is? Why must you put your anticipations upon him? Why can't you let him be himself? Why are your only concerns selfish when your master is about to suffer and die? Is it because you really can't believe anything will ever happen to this powerful man? Is it because all you can think of is that your dreams of a Messiah overthrowing the Romans has blinded your vision and made you deaf? And you James and John, might dare to dream you are able to drink the cup he is about to drink? Surely, you think, surely, if it leads to glory we can do anything...

The rest of the disciples become angry with James and John. Is it only because they didn't think of making the request first? And how does Jesus handle this dispute among his friends? "Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader, as the one who serves."

And they could not understand...they didn't know how quickly Jesus would show them exactly what he meant by that statement...

"Son of David have mercy on me!" Cries blind Bartimaeus as Jesus enters Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. Jesus heals him. His impending week of sorrows does not keep him from having compassion on those who cry out to him.

He prepares to enter Jerusalem, knowing what will happen if he does. They come to Bethany, near the Mount of Olives. Jesus tells his disciples to go into the city to get a colt for him to ride upon. The people are curious; the disciples tell them what Jesus had said...the Lord has need of this colt. It seems perhaps then the curious followed the disciples to Jesus. The people begin to gather. They throw their cloaks on the colt, they spread leafy branches...

This is the man who had heals the blind. Who had fed the five thousand. How many in that crowd had been fed? This is only one with any kind of power. The Zealots had not been able to free them, with their system of vigilante justice, attacking Roman soldiers and officials. Their own religious leaders were so corrupt the common people found no direction from them. Where is God? Surely he must be found in this man acting just like the Messiah prophesied in Scripture. Not all these thoughts crossed everyone's mind, of course, but it is so easy to get caught up in a moment, to get caught up in what the mob is doing

"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

He had said when John's disciples asked him in if he was the Messiah that the lame walk the blind see the hungry are fed...hadn't he said himself that he was the one they were all waiting for? Waving and shouting they followed him into Jerusalem

But the nagging question in the back of their minds continued to pound...why is he riding on a colt, and not a stallion? Echoes of Zechariah 9:9-10 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cutoff, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth." But how many people remembered this passage? How many people instead, remember stories of the mighty military power of David, and cry out, "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!" Hosanna means Save us! For even in their praises they were asking him to deliver them from what they thought was the worst oppression. They didn't know their true oppression lay in the evil of their own they would show later that week.

He is deliberately showing he is the Messiah, but a Messiah without arms, without weapons, riding down the road of the Suffering Servant.

The people crowded and pushed each other, each trying to get a glimpse of the Son of David atop the colt. Shouting joyfully they stepped on each other's toes, no one minding because their minds were on one last, at last God has fulfilled his promise to us. Nothing else matters because the Messiah has come. Tomorrow Rome will see who is boss. Pilate will be run out of town, his fancy chariots breaking down under the immense speed as the Lion of Judah pursues destroy him. And on to Rome!!! We'll show them. The center of the world will be the holy timeless city of Jerusalem, not the pagan city of Rome. Tomorrow he won't be sitting on a colt, but a white stallion. He will be clad in robes of scarlet...

The gods of Rome will be overthrown by the Son of God, the Messiah. The only true God will show the world who rules...

This is the one who healed you in the past as you lay dying from a serious illness. This is the one who brought you out of poverty and led you to a decent job. This is the one who transformed your life so completely your old comrades don't recognize you...but today, today you say, he let you down. A huge crisis came and went and things didn't go the way you prayed for them to go. Not everything you expected has happened. Yesterday you were waving palm branches, lifting your hands and praying, praising him. Today you cursed him, wondering where he is in all this grief and sorrow. Today you cried crucify him because he didn't live up to your expectations.

But tomorrow has come and all he's doing is throwing out moneychangers from the Temple. He is angry...showing power and the people hope he his beginning his takeover. But instead of heading to Herod's palace he returns to Bethany and the home of his friends.

The week progresses and nothing the people expected happens. And then he is arrested...

Philippians 2:5-11 "who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness...."

Today we want to celebrate...but we must realize in shadow of the palms lies a whip, a crown of thorns, three nails, and two beams. And if you found yourself in the procession crying Hosanna, you might not believe it now, but you will inevitably find yourself in the mob crying crucify him--in only five days!

Lent 5C John 12:1-11

John 12:1-11
Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with 12,000 dollars worth of perfume. Where did she get that money? My first response is a feminist one. It is the woman who understands who Jesus is and the man who condemns her. Did she know he would soon die? Is that why she anointed him? Why did she not save it for his burial? Did she not believe what was about to happen. Those in power sought to kill both Jesus and her brother, Lazarus. Some of you reading this may be facing similar persecution. I have no right to say anything to you about such things. Why are there always powers out there ready to condemn anything generous? One of my favorite movies is Pay it Forward….a movie that illustrates what happens when a person decides to live a life of selfless giving. Somehow the world cannot stand that.
This looks forward to Jesus’ washing the feet of the disciples. Did he get his idea from Mary?

Both "prepare" Jesus for burial -- she by the "anointing" and he by the betrayal.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Lent 4C Luke 15:1-32

Lent 4C Luke 15:1-32

Please note this is not a complete sermon as the others were. I’m simply posting some thoughts and notes before I complete the sermon.

Luke 15:1-7
I have never understood the parable of the lost sheep until I heard a preacher preach it a couple of years ago. His name is Tim Green & he teaches at Trevecca Nazarene University. He illustrated the lost sheep this way:What does it mean to leave the ninety-nine and go search for the lost sheep?If you were the security guard for a high dollar car lot, and you noticed that one car was missing from your one hundred…and you left the lot unguarded in the most crime-infested part of town to look for it…then you would understand the search for the lost sheep.
Luke 15:8-10
A woman loses a coin…she has ten silver coins…now this I can understand. I remember losing a 20 dollar bill once. I think it went down the seat in the car. Never found it. Whoever bought the car must have been happy…I also lost a cell phone down the panel of my van once. See, I understand losing stuff!!!
Luke 15:11-32
The crown jewel of Luke 15 must be the prodigal son story. I know there are tons of messages in this little passage, but what I keep coming back to is the older brother.
I grew up in the church and worked hard on my righteousness…and to understand God’s grace, I must understand that God loves all of us the same…nothing I can do will make him love me more or less…yet God rejoices when one that has left returns…
Lord, I want to rejoice…and remove my jealousy…for I have been the older sibling.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lent 3C Luke 13:1-9

Luke 13:1-9
Isaiah 55:1-13

Am I being punished for my sins? At some time or the other we all ask this question. When tragedy strikes: we search high and low for a REASON.
Photo courtesty of
Someone tells Jesus, Pilate, the Roman governor, murdered some people from Galilee while they were sacrificing in the Temple. The question, “Were they worse sinners than we are? Is that why they were killed?”

If only Jesus had answered, “Yes.” We would be happy to know that, “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Life would be neat and clean. Only bad people would reap bad consequences. The good would get good, the bad would get bad.

Jesus did not answer yes.

Instead he says, “not at all. Unless you repent you’ll all perish.” Sounds heartless and cruel. You’re all going to end up like them if you don’t get your act straight.

He goes on to site another tragedy “18 men died in the tragedy of Siloam by a tower falling on them. Unless you repent you’ll end up just like them.”


“Tragedies occur, whether intentionally by oppressive governors such as Pilate or accidentally by imperfections in the kind of world we live in. In neither case must one conclude that tragedies are necessarily an indication of divine judgment against sinners. Rather, in view of the uncertainty of life and the unpredictability of the future one must be warned to examine one’s own life and repent.” (Jirair Tashjian

We don’t have reasons for most tragedies. We would like to say, “those sinners in ________ pay for it by their earthquakes, mudslides, and floods.” We like to pat ourselves on the back and say they are worse sinners than we are, therefore those things don’t happen to us. We read the Bible. We go to church. Then terrible twisters tear up our state we wonder if our sins will wipe us out too.

Many times when we hear of or even experience tragedy we examine our own lives and say, “What if that were to happen to me? Would I be ready to die?” This is the right way to respond! That is what Jesus is saying, “Yes, yes, bad things do happen. We don’t know why. But when they happen let’s see if there is anything in our lives that needs changing.”

When we hear of a child dying because she found a gun in her father’s drawer, we all go home and check the safeties on our guns and buy gun cabinets with locks.
When we hear of a child overdosing on Tylenol from the medicine cabinet we go home and lock ours up even tighter.
When we hear of a dog getting rabies and biting someone we make vet appointments and take our animals in for shots.

Often it takes a tragedy to wake us up, to make us live responsibly, to examine our inner selves.
When we hear of someone dying we wonder, “When will it be my turn?” Until we face a death of someone our own age we think death is all for someone else.

What does a fig tree have to do with a tragedy?
Will the fig tree produce fruit next year? God longs for it to happen.

In other words, let’s give them one more chance. Jesus tells us its time to repent. Repent means to open your eyes, realize you’re heading the wrong way, and turn around and go the other way. If you turn on the wrong side of the exit ramp heading to the interstate you open your eyes right away to the problem and get out of there! You see the consequences in front of you in the form of an oncoming tractor trailer rig that make you into roadkill. It doesn’t take long to turn around when you’re scared.

Repentance means you open your eyes to the consequences of your behavior, and you turn around as fast you as you can to get away from it.

In the first part of the passage Jesus judges, “REPENT OR YOU WILL PERISH.”In the second part, “GIVE THEM ONE MORE CHANCE”two sides of the same God Judgment and grace

Oh how he longs for you to bear fruit

"Is anyone thirsty come and drink even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!" Isaiah 55:1-2 NRSV

Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near Let the people run from their wicked deeds. Let them banish form their minds the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Come and eat at God’s table.
And when you do the the trees of the field will clap their hands because God’s salvation has broken into the history in the person of Jesus Christ.

Lent 2C Luke 13:31-35

The Fox and the Hen

Luke 13:31-35

Luke 13:31-35 Jesus, having been warned that Herod, a Jewish king given power by the Romans, wanted to kill him, smartly remarked, “Go and tell that fox…”
Now calling someone a fox in this respect is NOT a compliment. This is not the Fonz talking about a girl he met! This is an insult, and the rumor that Jesus had insulted him was enough to send Herod into a rage and order Jesus to be executed.What does a fox do? My only concept of foxes comes from cartoons. The fox runs after the chickens. Many have seen the Fox and the Hound, a story about a hound dog and a fox becoming friends as cubs but having to part ways because of their differences. Foxes are generally seen as cunning, sneaky.Sometimes they kill all the hens in one roost. It is a man like this that Jesus tells, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside Jerusalem”

And then he calls himself a hen as he mourns Jerusalem. “I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.”

“Jerusalem, oh Jerusalem.…” Jerusalem was a symbol for the entire nation of Israel, the holy city, the place where prophets are killed. How Jesus longed to comfort his people and to show them He LOVED them! But they are not willing!
If you ever loved someone who resisted your protection, then you understand the pain of Jesus’ lament. All you can do is open your arms. You cannot make anyone come into your embrace. Meanwhile, you find yourself in the most vulnerable posture in the world –arms (wings) spread, breast exposed. If you really want to protect, then you find yourself in a vulnerable position.
Even chicks know to stay close to their mother. And human mothers know the sound of their baby’s cry…the baby who doesn’t want to be separated from the place where love, food, and care comes from.
It is the fox who chases the hen…Herod, the king, chasing Jesus. Who is going to win when the fox enters the henhouse? But the story plays out a different way then expected.

Once a firefighter came upon an eagle’s nest after a forest fire had raged across the landscape. The eagle, stiff, charged, dead—the firefighter kicked the bird away. All of a sudden peeping filled the air. The chicks had survived because the mother had given her life to save them.
Jesus did this for us.

Yet even when Jerusalem kills prophet after prophet, God keeps sending more. This gracious God is the mother hen who makes repeated attempts to gather her chicks, but the chicks refuse and go their own way. God coaxes, he pleads, but he does not force.

God allows us to go our own way when we choose, and then we suffer the consequences of being outside of his spread of wings.
Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions (the outer part of a birds wing, the part that enables flight), and under his wings you will find refuge.”

When we insist on going our own way God opens up his arms to us. When you sit with arms crossed, aloof, you are giving the sign you want to protect yourself. But when you open your arms to anyone you not only risk rejection, you expose your heart to the world. You make yourself completely vulnerable.
The hen spreads her wings to protect the chicks and they are nailed to a cross.
And the hen sees the fox coming and when he slithers up to her she sounds an alarm and the chicks scatter. But the fox kills the hen.

She told the fox she would rather die than let him have her chicks.

And she does.

(A special thanks to Richard Fairchild at for inspiring and influencing this sermon)

Lent 1C Luke 4:1-13

First Sunday of Lent, Year C
Luke 4:1-11

“Just this once”

When I was in college, I had a few friends who influenced me to skip class. The conversation usually started like this, “Did you study?”
“No. Did you?”
“Do you really want to go to class?”
"Let’s go to the bookstores!” That was our temptation (When I preached this on Sunday, Feb. 25, a room full of college students/grads yelled this at me, NERD!)
So James & I got in his little Honda Civic & drove to pick up David who as usual was late for class. We threw David in the backseat as he knew where all the best bookstores were. We drove away to David’s wife screaming, “David, don’t you spend all the grocery money!”

I gave in to temptation this morning. A quilt magazine advertising… (for my blog on quilts see my likes to the right of this post) it’s like they knew me…quilts, shortcuts to making quilts, lots of bright colors, glossy pictures and oooh stickers! So I stuck the stickers on the little cute card & popped it in the mail counting the days to getting my first magazine & oooh free book! Forget the 24.95 plus 5.97 shipping. That’s way off in the future.
Last night I was walking through Wal-Mart and just tried to step back and see what temptation had to do with walking down action alley the center aisle…Everything screamed "buy me buy me" and with a credit card that is not maxed in my purse, well, that is temptation. There is a blanket softer than mine there is a new DVD I don’t have in my collection and oooh look at that new sweater than would just match my eyes…. You know most people call this advertising but the Bible calls it temptation.
We get a wrong picture of this scene with Jesus if we think he is out in the wilderness & an ugly devil in a red suit with a face like an Orc and a voice like Vader. That is not how temptation works. In the book of proverbs temptation is a sexy woman seeking to devour. As much as I hate to refer to this because it makes women look bad, I can’t get away from what Proverbs really says.
How is Jesus tempted? First it is about feeding his own hunger. Turn these stones into bread. Anything wrong with this? How about using your power for selfish gain just this once. Just this once. It’s like one drink won’t hurt you or one indulgence in porn or just one affair one little lunch
Jesus resists because he knows human nature even his own human nature….and there is no such thing as just one lay potato chip or krispy kreme…whatever you gave up for lent in the blank…just one just one.
The next temptation is about bowing down to the authority of the world. Just this once the devil says play the game and step on the other on the way to the top. Google your homework subject and turn in someone else’s paper as your own. Just this once it won’t matter.
Annie had been married a year when she meets the man she thinks was meant for her. Now this is what she thought of her current husband before she married him and found him not quite as romantic as he was when they were dating. He squeezed the toothpaste in the middle and he always hogged the remote and he was too busy to pay attention to any kind of romance. They both got busy with their jobs and then Annie met Gary. Gary was attentive when George, her husband was distracted. Gary was poetic when George was matter of fact. Gary complimented her when George didn’t see a new outfit…and George never meant any harm and neither did Gary. But suddenly she found herself seeking Gary’s attention more than George’s and wishing she had waited one more year to get married…if only she had waited then she would have met Gary first and her life would not be miserable. Gary was single and perhaps na├»ve and perhaps he didn’t know what his attention was doing to Annie or maybe he did. She did not know. But one night when George was out of town and Annie and Gary had a late night business meeting she found herself walking out of her office building with him. He was being gallant and offered to walk her to her car and when she got there she realized she was shaking. If only he wouldn’t leave. Suddenly she remembered feeling this way about George. She remembered all the times they had shared together and thought of their dreams and wondered what would happen to them if she just asked Gary to get in the car with her. And then she knew. She could not do this. She could end her marriage for one night with Gary. She could not destroy the future of her community with just one night. She said good-bye to Gary and got in the car and drove home to an empty house. Maybe she could catch George on the phone before he went to sleep.
Sadly many stories similar to this do not end this way. Soaps and movies tell us that we are unable to resist temptation because we are just made this way. For some reason people begin to think that there is “nothing wrong with love” and destroy homes with just one time. But what would have happened if Jesus had bowed to the authority of Satan? I can’t imagine it.
Then we have the final temptation of falling off the pinnacle of the temple. Letting angels catch him fame fame fame everyone would know his power and there would be no doubts about who he was. Kingdom come and kingship and overthrowing Caesar would be nothing. Lightning bolts flashing he could ride into Rome on the back of a white stallion with the whole Jewish nation behind him….
I was trying to picture a temptation scene & this is what came to mind (I showed a clip of the movie Cars where Lightning McQueen is imagining what fame will be like) perhaps because it is watched over and over at my house. What is the temptation here and why is it similar to Jesus’ temptation? Fame. Glory. No road to the cross and no Pharisees harassing him because they could not deny his power if they saw it, right?
Later when Jesus performs miracles even in front of the Pharisees, a leading religions group, they still deny who he is. They see him heal with their own eyes and THEY STILL DON’T believe. Have you ever met someone in complete denial of their own problems? Nothing you can do will change their minds.
What is the end of fame? Usually a lonely death of a drug overdose, plane crash, or huge scandal that the media sets up for you. We may even think Jesus would have been better off doing it this way…but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the famous usually end up last weeks’s news when something bigger and better comes along.
So what does Jesus do? He refuses the devil’s offers now matter how attractive. He knows charging up a load of stuff at Wal-Mart on the credit cards will eventually land you a huge bill in the mail, turning in a copied paper will get you a poor academic record and you cheat yourself out of your own education, breaking a home in the name of love will only get you broken pieces after a huge adrenaline rush and fame will get you perhaps a reality TV show where you share a house or an island with a bunch of other stinky has beens wishing for a way to climb to the top—usually by voting you off the island.
So why do we give in when Jesus didn’t? He is supposed to be our example, right? Most say well of course he did not give in he was God. Orthodox Christianity affirms that Jesus is fully human. Temptation means nothing if isn’t possible for us to give in…or for Jesus to give in for that matter.
Someone said to me yesterday that evil people don’t bother him and good people don’t bother him but someone who is both good and evil do bother him. I think that is because we don’t want to admit that we are fully capable of evil.

But those capable of evil are fully capable of accepting the grace offered to us. The grace offered to us by the one who could have given in but did not and who stands with open arms waiting for us at the table…because we need this strength if we are going to resist the voices screaming at us when we walk out of this room…to give in to the things our bodies are craving but that will bring chaos and pain to the community if we give in. So join me here at the table as we together beg the one who resisted evil to give us the strength to unite and to resist as well.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Scriptural Influence

The story of God has influenced me. I will be sharing some thoughts and prayers on Scripture while following the Revised Common Lectionary.