To Breath Again | Para Respirar de Nuevo

Traducción en español abajo

“I can’t breath….” George Floyd

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:21-23

Dear Friends,

As we prepare to celebrate Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we acknowledge that our world is passing through fiery trial. For us here in the United States of America, it has been a very bad week indeed. We are observing the terrible milestone of over 100,000 deaths due to the COVID-19 virus. A new Cold War with China is on the horizon. There continues to be a lack of strong Presidential leadership that is sapping energies and focused response to many challenges, not to mention distrust as callous lies and divisive conspiracy theories pour forth from the White House. 

And finally, while we contemplate gradually opening up from our notional quarantine, America is burning literally in protest and smoldering with an anger crying out for change. Not just because we have witness a decades old story of racist brutality and state incompetence, but because the entire experience of the pandemic has ripped away the veil to the many injustices and corruptions at the heart of our shredded social contract as Americans. Our sense of what we agree we owe each other, our sacred principles and the so called rule of law, is now so befuddled and compromised by the myopia of privilege and broken promises, that we don’t really know where to begin to call each other to account.

As I look back on those last paragraphs I marvel that as a priest of Christ’s Church I consider it a principle of pastoral leadership not to “get political.” I know better than most that I am no prophet. But right now, at the end of this surreal and horrendous week, not to mention these past three months, I am just trying to describe the small corner of reality I see. I want to describe it not just to justify my feelings, but in order to mark out a path for the people I care for, a path for prayer and action.

A white police officer, a sworn agent of the state, callously left his knee on a black man’s neck for three minutes, ignoring his pleas for help, his prayers to his family, as his deed was live-streamed to the whole world. It took only eight minutes for George Floyd to be detained and then murdered. We should take eight minutes sometime today and remember him, along with Ahmaud Arbery, Brionna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and countless others who have been had their lives ended or shortened by systems based on racial discrimination and exploitative economic theories. We should take eight minutes every day to ask how we can begin to breath again.

What other meditation is there than the meeting of George Floyd’s lost breath and the promise of Jesus’ new breath? What could be a more important meeting place for our prayer and action than the ground on which George Floyd lost his breath, and the sky above that revealed tongues of flame at Pentecost. The breath of the Risen Lord is a deep nasal intake filling us from head to toe, animating us at the core, to witness only to the wondrous true deeds of God, and nothing else.  Since Adam and Eve left the garden so many have had their breath taken from them. Jesus’ breath is the breath that gives us our lives back.

Every time we breath in the days ahead, remember those on the ventilators, remember those who have been sucker punched by not having a living wage, remember those who have their breath stolen by toxic environments and relationships. Given who we are and serve in our community, let us remember those who are here among us “unofficially,” invited, yet undocumented, productive members of our society, looking for a way to be recognized for their contributions and their dreams.  Let us give thanks for a police department that helps distribute food, for a county and state government that has modeled restraint and openness in the face of dissent.

Remember that Jesus’ breath is the first gift he brings back from the dead. Remember, as we see in that wise Orthodox icon of Pentecost, that his breath always brings gifts, the gifts that bring to life the church, that revive God’s people. Remember that to pray for this breath is to pray for inventions, vaccines, effective policies derived from reasoned debate, not to mention patience, compassion, the willingness to learn from mistakes, and repentance from sin. The first gift of God is the responsibility of being instruments of forgiveness and true peace.

On June 8, from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Bishop Gutierrez is asking us to come together as a Diocese to pray the Great Litany, to pray for the soul of this land, for the soul of the church. Watch this space for more information on this livestream event.

To pray “Come Holy Spirit” is to pray for Christ’s breath to animate every corner of the life we share. 

Come Holy Spirit. Let us breath deeply together again.

Andy+

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“No puedo respirar …” George Floyd

Jesús les dijo nuevamente: “La paz sea con ustedes. Como el Padre me ha enviado, yo también te envío a ti. Cuando hubo dicho esto, sopló sobre ellos y les dijo: “Recibid el Espíritu Santo”. Juan 20: 21-23

Queridos amigos,

Mientras nos preparamos para celebrar Pentecostés y el don del Espíritu Santo, reconocemos que nuestro mundo está pasando por una prueba ardiente. Para nosotros aquí en los Estados Unidos de América, ha sido una semana muy mala. Estamos observando el terrible hito de más de 100,000 muertes debido al virus COVID-19. Una nueva Guerra Fría con China está en el horizonte. Sigue habiendo una falta de un fuerte liderazgo presidencial que está agotando las energías y la respuesta enfocada a muchos desafíos, sin mencionar la desconfianza como mentiras insensibles y teorías de conspiración divisivas que brotan de la Casa Blanca.

Y finalmente, mientras contemplamos la apertura gradual de nuestra cuarentena teórica, Estados Unidos arde literalmente en protesta y arde con una ira que clama por un cambio. No solo porque hemos sido testigos de una historia de décadas de brutalidad racista e incompetencia estatal, sino porque toda la experiencia de la pandemia ha arrancado el velo de las muchas injusticias y corrupciones en el corazón de nuestro triturado contrato social como estadounidenses. Nuestro sentido de lo que acordamos que nos debemos unos a otros, nuestros principios sagrados y el llamado estado de derecho, ahora está tan confundido y comprometido por la miopía del privilegio y las promesas incumplidas, que realmente no sabemos dónde comenzar a llamar a cada uno. otro a cuenta.

Cuando miro hacia atrás en esos últimos párrafos, me maravilla que, como sacerdote de la Iglesia de Cristo, considero que es un principio de liderazgo pastoral no “volverse político”. Sé mejor que la mayoría que no soy profeta. Pero en este momento, al final de esta semana surrealista y horrenda, sin mencionar estos últimos tres meses, solo estoy tratando de describir el pequeño rincón de la realidad que veo. Quiero describirlo no solo para justificar mis sentimientos, sino para marcar un camino para las personas que me importan, un camino para la oración y la acción.

Un oficial de policía blanco, un agente jurado del estado, dejó cruelmente su rodilla en el cuello de un hombre negro durante tres minutos, ignorando sus súplicas de ayuda, sus oraciones a su familia, ya que su acción se transmitió en vivo a todo el mundo. George Floyd tardó solo ocho minutos en ser detenido y luego asesinado. Deberíamos tomarnos ocho minutos en algún momento hoy y recordarlo, junto con Ahmaud Arbery, Brionna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown e innumerables otros a quienes sus sistemas se basaron en discriminación racial y teorías económicas explotadoras. Deberíamos tomar ocho minutos todos los días para preguntar cómo podemos comenzar a respirar nuevamente.

¿Qué otra meditación hay que la reunión del aliento perdido de George Floyd y la promesa del nuevo aliento de Jesús? Lo que podría ser un lugar de reunión más importante para nuestra oración y acción que el terreno en el que George Floyd perdió el aliento, y el cielo que revelaba lenguas de fuego en Pentecostés. El aliento del Señor resucitado es una ingesta nasal profunda que nos llena de pies a cabeza, animándonos en el centro, para ser testigos solo de los maravillosos hechos verdaderos de Dios, y nada más. Desde que Adán y Eva dejaron el jardín, a muchos se les ha quitado el aliento. El aliento de Jesús es el aliento que nos devuelve la vida.

Cada vez que respiramos en los días venideros, recuerda a los que están en los ventiladores, recuerda a los que han sido golpeados por no tener un salario digno, recuerda a aquellos a quienes les roban el aliento por ambientes y relaciones tóxicas. Teniendo en cuenta quiénes somos y servimos en nuestra comunidad, recordemos a aquellos que están aquí entre nosotros “extraoficialmente”, invitados, pero indocumentados, miembros productivos de nuestra sociedad, buscando una forma de ser reconocidos por sus contribuciones y sus sueños. Demos gracias por un departamento de policía que ayuda a distribuir alimentos, por un gobierno del condado y del estado que ha modelado la moderación y la apertura ante la disidencia.

Recuerda que el aliento de Jesús es el primer regalo que trae de la muerte. Recuerde, como vemos en ese sabio icono ortodoxo de Pentecostés, que su aliento siempre trae regalos, los regalos que dan vida a la iglesia, que reviven al pueblo de Dios. Recuerde que rezar por este aliento es rezar por inventos, vacunas, políticas efectivas derivadas del debate razonado, sin mencionar la paciencia, la compasión, la disposición a aprender de los errores y el arrepentimiento del pecado. El primer don de Dios es la responsabilidad de ser instrumentos de perdón y verdadera paz.

El 8 de junio, de 10:00 a.m. a 1:00 p.m., el obispo Gutiérrez nos pide que nos unamos como diócesis para rezar la Gran Letanía, rezar por el alma de esta tierra, por el alma de la iglesia. Mire este espacio para obtener más información sobre este evento de transmisión en vivo.

Orar “Ven Espíritu Santo” es orar por el aliento de Cristo para animar cada rincón de la vida que compartimos.

Ven, espíritu santo. Respiremos profundamente juntos de nuevo.

Andy +

Praying for each other | Rezando el uno por el otro

Traduccion en español abajo

“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:15-23

Dear Friends,

Happy Ascension Day!

Today we celebrate being in the presence of the disciples as Christ ascended bodily out of their sight forty days after his resurrection. As in most languages, we use the word heaven to speak of the sky beyond the visible sky. And so we affirm in the creeds that Christ finished his incarnate work on earth by ascending into heaven to be at God’s right hand. And just as we who have now seen our earthy home from deep in space need not be too concerned about the precise location of where Jesus is, we learn to cherish the image of Jesus at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, sending us the graces and gifts we need to take our part in his great prayer that God’s will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” 

The trick is to remember that the Ascension is not a real estate riddle, about location location location. It is rather a final clue to a great mystery, to how Christ’s story unravels the illusions of our space-time continuum, and opens our eyes to how completely Christ assumed our human nature and redeemed it. As Robert Farrar Capon once famously said, we only need to see Jesus’ feet disappear in the first layer of clouds, after that we must learn to look for him everywhere. Jesus takes his place at the right hand of God, that is his rightful position as Son. By so doing, the Son through whom all things were made, and through whom all things are being redeemed, is now effectively present everywhere to the opened eyes of faith. 

As one of the “Seven Principle Feasts” of our church, it has the misfortune of falling every year on Thursday, and so we often do not pay it the attention it deserves. Yet, it should capture our imaginations with its transforming power. Especially in this time of pandemic, where much of the world has stopped, and all of the world has taken on a different rhythm, and most of us are finally spending more time saying our prayers. Above all the Ascension should ignite our imaginations and spark us to renewed worship of our unfathomable eternal merciful loving transforming God.

To that end, I invite you to spend some time with this remarkable icon of the Ascension from the famous Church of the Reconciliation at Taizé, France. Here, more powerfully than words can convey, we see Christ in his exalted position of power filling the world with his light. Yet he is also transformed as well. A figure meant to convey a redeemed humanity, no longer male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free. A figure of overwhelming glory yet still hiding the source of his/her light. Interceding for us all. Filling all in all. Ever active, especially now, on the world’s behalf.

Above all, we should take a moment today to join our prayers to Christ’s in the throne room of heaven. We should pray for each of our loved ones by name, for the members of our church family by name, for the church and the world as it goes through the suffering and transformational this time. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart to how he is working in all things. Ask God how you can specifically participate to bear the burdens and share the joys of the divine presence in your corner of the world. 

With the apostle Paul, let us pray for one another that we may be given a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know him, so that, with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which he has called us, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

And finally, the collect for today: Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Today, let us set aside a slice of eternity and pray for one another, each by name.

Andy+

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“Por esto, como sé que ustedes tienen fe en el Señor Jesús y amor para con todo el pueblo santo, no dejo de dar gracias a Dios por ustedes, recordándolos en mis oraciones. Pido al Dios de nuestro Señor Jesucristo, al glorioso Padre, que les conceda el don espiritual de la sabiduría y se manifieste a ustedes, para que puedan conocerlo verdaderamente. Pido que Dios les ilumine la mente, para que sepan cuál es la esperanza a la que han sido llamados, cuán gloriosa y rica es la herencia que Dios da al pueblo santo, y cuán grande y sin límites es su poder, el cual actúa en nosotros los creyentes. Este poder es el mismo que Dios mostró con tanta fuerza y potencia cuando resucitó a Cristo y lo hizo sentar a su derecha en el cielo, poniéndolo por encima de todo poder, autoridad, dominio y señorío, y por encima de todo lo que existe, tanto en este tiempo como en el venidero. Sometió todas las cosas bajo los pies de Cristo, y a Cristo mismo lo dio a la iglesia como cabeza de todo. Pues la iglesia es el cuerpo de Cristo, de quien ella recibe su plenitud, ya que Cristo es quien lleva todas las cosas a su plenitud.”  Efesios 1: 15-23

Queridos amigos,

¡Feliz día de la Ascensión!

Hoy celebramos estar en presencia de los discípulos cuando Cristo ascendió corporalmente fuera de su vista cuarenta días después de su resurrección. Como en la mayoría de los idiomas, usamos la palabra cielo para hablar del cielo más allá del cielo visible. Y así afirmamos en los credos que Cristo terminó su obra encarnada en la tierra al ascender al cielo para estar a la diestra de Dios. Y así como nosotros, que ahora hemos visto nuestro hogar terrenal desde las profundidades del espacio, no debemos preocuparnos demasiado por la ubicación precisa de dónde está Jesús, aprendemos a apreciar la imagen de Jesús a la diestra del Padre intercediendo por nosotros, enviándonos las gracias y los dones que necesitamos para participar en su gran oración para que la voluntad de Dios se haga “en la tierra como en el cielo”.

El truco es recordar que la Ascensión no es un enigma inmobiliario, sino de ubicación, ubicación, ubicación. Es más bien una pista final de un gran misterio, de cómo la historia de Cristo desentraña las ilusiones de nuestro continuo espacio-tiempo, y abre nuestros ojos a cuán completamente Cristo asumió nuestra naturaleza humana y la redimió. Como dijo Robert Farrar Capon una vez, solo necesitamos ver desaparecer los pies de Jesús en la primera capa de nubes, después de eso debemos aprender a buscarlo en todas partes. Jesús toma su lugar a la diestra de Dios, esa es su posición legítima como Hijo. Al hacerlo, el Hijo a través del cual se hicieron todas las cosas, y a través del cual todas las cosas están siendo redimidas, ahora está efectivamente presente en todas partes a los ojos abiertos de la fe.

Como una de las “Fiestas de los Siete Principios” de nuestra iglesia, tiene la desgracia de caer todos los años el jueves, por lo que a menudo no le prestamos la atención que merece. Sin embargo, debe capturar nuestra imaginación con su poder transformador. Especialmente en este tiempo de pandemia, donde gran parte del mundo se ha detenido, y todo el mundo ha tomado un ritmo diferente, y la mayoría de nosotros finalmente estamos pasando más tiempo rezando nuestras oraciones. Por encima de todo, la Ascensión debe encender nuestra imaginación y despertarnos en la adoración renovada de nuestro insondable eterno, misericordioso, amoroso y transformador Dios.

Con ese fin, los invito a pasar un tiempo con este notable ícono de la Ascensión de la famosa Iglesia de la Reconciliación en Taizé, Francia. Aquí, más poderosamente de lo que las palabras pueden transmitir, vemos a Cristo en su posición exaltada de poder llenando el mundo con su luz. Sin embargo, él también se transforma. Una figura destinada a transmitir una humanidad redimida, ya no hombre o mujer, judío o griego, esclavo o libre. Una figura de gloria abrumadora que aún oculta la fuente de su luz. Intercediendo por todos nosotros. Llenando todo en todos. Siempre activo, especialmente ahora, en nombre del mundo.

Sobre todo, deberíamos tomarnos un momento hoy para unir nuestras oraciones a Cristo en la sala del trono del cielo. Debemos orar por cada uno de nuestros seres queridos por su nombre, por los miembros de nuestra familia de la iglesia por su nombre, por la iglesia y el mundo a medida que atraviesa el sufrimiento y la transformación esta vez. Pídale a Dios que abra los ojos de su corazón sobre cómo está trabajando en todas las cosas. Pregúntale a Dios cómo puedes participar específicamente para soportar las cargas y compartir las alegrías de la presencia divina en tu rincón del mundo.

Con el apóstol Pablo, recemos los unos por los otros para que se nos dé un espíritu de sabiduría y revelación a medida que lo conocemos, para que, con los ojos de nuestros corazones iluminados, podamos saber cuál es la esperanza a la que él nos ha llamado, cuáles son las riquezas de su gloriosa herencia entre los santos, y cuál es la grandeza inconmensurable de su poder para los que creemos, de acuerdo con el funcionamiento de su gran poder.

Y finalmente, la colecta para hoy:
Dios todopoderoso, cuyo bendito Hijo nuestro Señor Jesucristo ascendió por encima de todos los cielos para llenarlo todo: Danos fe, por tu misericordia, para percibir que, según su promesa, habita con su Iglesia en la tierra, hasta el final de los tiempos; por Jesucristo nuestro Señor, que vive y reina contigo y el Espíritu Santo, un solo Dios, en gloria eterna.  Amén.

Hoy, dejemos a un lado una porción de eternidad y recemos los unos por los otros, cada uno por su nombre.

Andy +

Changing Minds | Mentes Cambientes

Traducción al español abajo

“Seeing ourselves as we really are is a greater miracle than raising the dead.”    St. Isaac the Syrian

“Mistakes have been made (but not by me)….”
Title of book that explores research into why we do not often change our minds

“Always be prepared to give an account for the hope that is within you.”     1 Peter 3:16

Dear Friends,

The first disciples declared, “we have seen the Lord!” Amazing news always, but even more interesting news a month or so later. What now? Will he appear again? Where exactly is he? In the in-between time before Jesus’ Ascension, they had not yet said good bye to him, nor said hello to how they would be with him in the future. They had seen him. But had he “seen” them. Had he communicated to them what they needed?

I suppose some of them thought: Jesus will show up from time to time, and like, walk into our local food line, touch the one needing healing, and demonstrate once again that he is the heart of God’s compassion towards us. Cool. Newsworthy. But, if you think about it, anti-climactic. Jesus had a bigger agenda.

Jesus was so full of life – is so full of life – that he ascended to the place where life began, and filled all things with an answering love. In the story of Jesus’ Ascension, in Jesus’ final embodied acts on earth, he absents his earthly body so that a new body can take shape. And a group of them gathered around the apostle John remembered that he had spent his last hours with them preparing them. Jesus at his departure, risen, now ascending to the Father, sums it up in one commandment: Love one another. Love one another with the abiding love the Father and I share. Love one another as I have loved you.

On the day of Pentecost, that body took new shape, took a thousand new shapes to be precise. One such new form of the Body of Christ took was in the witness of the Apostle Paul. Not too many weeks after he was present approving of the stoning of deacon Stephen, the church’s first official martyr, he was knocked off his horse and found himself completely changing his mind. And some years later he would find himself in a lecture hall in Athens, among the philosophers, giving a pretty good TED Talk, but finding it slow going. There would not be enough converts to count on one hand.

Paul started well, reminding his audience of a shared belief in the one true creator God: “The one in whom we live, and move, and have our being.” But then he mentioned that that God had sent a messenger who he raised from the dead to implant that same originating life into – and bring judgment. That caused jeers all around. 

One could almost hear Robert Heinlein from the exiting crowd: “Man is not a rational animal. He is a rationalizing animal.” Christian faith has many connections with all the great religions and philosophies of the world because the pursuit of wisdom, salvation, or enlightenment is based in a common language and biology of experience. However,  Christianity does rise or fall on one stubborn little claim about resurrection. 

To many, including those in Athens that day, resurrection may not be logical. But Christians believe what they believe not because they are irrational or rationalizing. They believe what they believe because they think logically about resurrection. And when one meditates long enough on the Father that begets and sends a Son, and raises and transforms all things through him, the only conclusion is that the world and its destiny is in the hands of a God who is love itself, who has come to redeem and fill all things, with the capacity to love in return.

Why Resurrection? Love that wins lost things back. Why Ascension? Love that expands to touch every longing and loneliness and see it restored. Why the promise of Pentecost? The transfigured and transformed is transmitted to all. The Spirit is the love itself, apprehended and given again, taking the form of Advocate, Comforter and arbiter of the Truth? Love is infinite! God is Love. 

We know from centuries of Christian witness, both good and bad, that we have a long way to go to keep Jesus’ command and respond to our high calling. We have failed him and each other all to often. We have at times failed so miserably that even the name of Jesus has been mocked and discredited. We have mixed our religion just enough times with violence, greed, and tribal hatred, that Jesus has not been able to walk among us, draw near to us, and reveal himself to us. We are impatient of being led into the Truth. We are too eager to be enticed by flattering lips and lustful eyes.

What we Christians need now more than ever is the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t show up and can’t let loose unless we love one another.  And because we know we need more of the Holy Spirit to rise to this occasion, to serve one another in this challenging time, we know we need to love each other even more.

In John 14, the Holy Spirit is described as the “spirit of truth”. Take comfort today in the thought that as you listen to the news, or the explanation of people’s behavior in these stressful times, the ring of truth, of personal testimony open to cross examination, will be important. Take comfort in the thought that God absolutely does not want us spending a minute on tearing down or confusing our neighbor. 

God wants us to speak about what we know, and not what we think is going on in another’s heart and mind. We must speak sparingly and act clearly, not buying into the latest fear mongering or gaslighting of others, not denying science or clear conversation about the trade offs and challenges we face. 

As Jesus was preparing his disciples for the age of the Spirit to come, he promised he would “show himself to us.” So we test the spirits and discern the Spirit’s activity among us. When the Spirit is not God’s very breath within us, bringing us to life, the Spirit is working to defend us, to comfort us, and to demand the truth from us. 

Just so, Christians wake up daily trusting that in baptism they are united with Jesus, instruments of God’s very compassion. Christians around the world, pray for those who are hungry, suffering and dying, give and serve in a million places throughout the world, lifting a light to vanquish some darkness. Because Jesus decided to give us a job description, we Christians wake up to ask how we can change to love one another today.

Just so, Christians face the conspiracy and distraction in our culture today, with absolute honesty, redoubling efforts to serve anonymously, gently finding common ground, and continually asking not how others can change to suit us, but how we can change to release the Spirit of truth and love in our midst.

Stay transparent. Stay open to the truth. Stay safe. Don’t be afraid to change your mind and activate your heart.

Andy+

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“Vernos a nosotros mismos como realmente somos es un milagro mayor que resucitar a los muertos”. San Isaac el sirio

“Se han cometido errores (pero no por mí) …”
Título del libro que explora la investigación de por qué a menudo no cambiamos de opinión

“Siempre esté preparado para dar cuenta de la esperanza que hay dentro de usted”.   1 Pedro 3:16

Queridos amigos,

Los primeros discípulos declararon: “¡Hemos visto al Señor!” Noticias sorprendentes siempre, pero noticias aún más interesantes un mes más tarde. ¿Ahora que? ¿Aparecerá de nuevo? ¿Dónde está exactamente él? En el tiempo intermedio antes de la Ascensión de Jesús, aún no le habían dicho adiós, ni saludaron cómo estarían con él en el futuro. Lo habían visto. Pero los había “visto”. ¿Les había comunicado lo que necesitaban?

Supongo que algunos de ellos pensaron: Jesús aparecerá de vez en cuando y, al igual, entrará a nuestra línea local de alimentos, tocará al que necesita curación y demostrará una vez más que él es el corazón de la compasión de Dios hacia nosotros. Frio. De interés periodístico. Pero, si lo piensas, anticlímax. Jesús tenía una agenda más grande.

Jesús estaba tan lleno de vida, está tan lleno de vida, que ascendió al lugar donde comenzó la vida, y llenó todas las cosas con un amor de respuesta. En la historia de la Ascensión de Jesús, en los actos encarnados finales de Jesús en la tierra, él ausenta su cuerpo terrenal para que un nuevo cuerpo pueda tomar forma. Y un grupo de ellos reunidos alrededor del apóstol Juan recordó que había pasado sus últimas horas con ellos preparándolos. Jesús a su partida, resucitado, ahora ascendiendo al Padre, lo resume en un mandamiento: amarse unos a otros. Amaos los unos a los otros con el amor constante que el Padre y yo compartimos. Amaos los unos a los otros como te he amado a ti

En el día de Pentecostés, ese cuerpo tomó una nueva forma, tomó mil nuevas formas para ser precisos. Una de esas nuevas formas del Cuerpo de Cristo fue en el testimonio del apóstol Pablo. No muchas semanas después de que estuvo presente aprobando la lapidación del diácono Stephen, el primer mártir oficial de la iglesia, fue derribado de su caballo y se encontró cambiando de opinión por completo. Y algunos años más tarde se encontraría en una sala de conferencias en Atenas, entre los filósofos, dando una muy buena charla TED, pero encontrando que avanza lentamente. No habría suficientes conversos para contar con una mano.

Paul comenzó bien, recordando a su audiencia de una creencia compartida en el único Dios creador verdadero: “Aquel en quien vivimos, nos movemos y tenemos nuestro ser”. Pero luego mencionó que Dios había enviado un mensajero a quien resucitó de entre los muertos para implantar esa misma vida de origen, y traer juicio. Eso causó burlas por todos lados.

Casi se podía escuchar a Robert Heinlein de la multitud: “El hombre no es un animal racional. Es un animal racionalizador. La fe cristiana tiene muchas conexiones con todas las grandes religiones y filosofías del mundo porque la búsqueda de la sabiduría, la salvación o la iluminación se basa en un lenguaje común y una biología de la experiencia. Sin embargo, el cristianismo se levanta o cae en un pequeño y testarudo reclamo sobre la resurrección.

Para muchos, incluidos aquellos en Atenas ese día, la resurrección puede no ser lógica. Pero los cristianos creen lo que creen no porque son irracionales o racionalizadores. Creen lo que creen porque piensan lógicamente sobre la resurrección. Y cuando uno medita lo suficiente sobre el Padre que engendra y envía un Hijo, y levanta y transforma todas las cosas a través de él, la única conclusión es que el mundo y su destino está en manos de un Dios que es el amor mismo, que ha venido para redimir y llenar todas las cosas, con la capacidad de amar a cambio.

¿Por qué la resurrección? El amor que gana vuelve a perder las cosas. ¿Por qué la ascensión? Amor que se expande para tocar cada anhelo y soledad y verlo restaurado. ¿Por qué la promesa de Pentecostés? Lo transfigurado y transformado se transmite a todos. ¿El Espíritu es el amor mismo, aprehendido y dado de nuevo, tomando la forma de Abogado, Consolador y árbitro de la Verdad? ¡El amor es infinito! Dios es amor.

Sabemos por siglos de testimonio cristiano, tanto bueno como malo, que tenemos un largo camino por recorrer para mantener el mandato de Jesús y responder a nuestro alto llamado. Le hemos fallado a él y a los demás a menudo. A veces hemos fallado tan miserablemente que incluso el nombre de Jesús ha sido burlado y desacreditado. Hemos mezclado nuestra religión las veces suficientes con violencia, avaricia y odio tribal, para que Jesús no haya podido caminar entre nosotros, acercarse a nosotros y revelarse a nosotros. Estamos impacientes de ser guiados hacia la Verdad. Estamos demasiado ansiosos por ser seducidos por labios halagadores y ojos lujuriosos.

Lo que los cristianos necesitamos ahora más que nunca es el Espíritu Santo. Pero el Espíritu Santo no aparece y no puede soltarse a menos que nos amemos unos a otros. Y como sabemos que necesitamos más del Espíritu Santo para estar a la altura de esta ocasión, para servirnos unos a otros en este momento difícil, sabemos que debemos amarnos aún más.

En Juan 14, el Espíritu Santo se describe como el “espíritu de verdad”. Consuélese hoy pensando que mientras escucha las noticias, o la explicación del comportamiento de las personas en estos tiempos estresantes, el anillo de la verdad, del testimonio personal abierto al interrogatorio, será importante. Consuélese pensando que Dios no quiere que pasemos un minuto destruyendo o confundiendo a nuestro prójimo.

Dios quiere que hablemos sobre lo que sabemos, y no sobre lo que pensamos que está sucediendo en el corazón y la mente de los demás. Debemos hablar con moderación y actuar con claridad, sin aceptar los últimos alarmas de miedo o luchas de gas de otros, sin negar la ciencia o una conversación clara sobre las compensaciones y los desafíos que enfrentamos.

Mientras Jesús preparaba a sus discípulos para la era del Espíritu que vendría, prometió que se “mostraría a nosotros”. Así que probamos los espíritus y discernimos la actividad del Espíritu entre nosotros. Cuando el Espíritu no es el aliento de Dios dentro de nosotros, dándonos vida, el Espíritu está trabajando para defendernos, consolarnos y exigirnos la verdad.

Así, los cristianos se despiertan diariamente confiando en que en el bautismo están unidos con Jesús, instrumentos de la misericordia de Dios. Cristianos de todo el mundo, oren por aquellos que están hambrientos, sufriendo y muriendo, den y sirvan en un millón de lugares en todo el mundo, levantando una luz para vencer la oscuridad. Debido a que Jesús decidió darnos una descripción del trabajo, los cristianos nos despertamos para preguntarnos cómo podemos cambiar para amarnos unos a otros hoy.

De la misma manera, los cristianos se enfrentan a la conspiración y la distracción en nuestra cultura actual, con absoluta honestidad, redoblando los esfuerzos para servir de forma anónima, encontrando suavemente puntos en común y continuamente preguntando cómo otros pueden cambiar para adaptarse a nosotros, sino cómo podemos cambiar para liberar el Espíritu. de verdad y amor en medio de nosotros.

Mantente transparente Mantente abierto a la verdad. Mantenerse a salvo. No tengas miedo de cambiar de opinión y activar tu corazón.
         Andy +

Ask For Something! | ¡Pide algo!

     Traducción al español abajo 

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” 
     Winston Churchill

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God. Believe also in me.”
     John 14:1-2

Dear Friends,

I’m thinking of those times when you rouse yourself from sleep, but you haven’t quite re-entered back to where you left – this old world. It doesn’t particularly matter where you have been, in body, mind or spirit. This present span of time on the descending slope of our lockdown, is just this. A tick of a clock, the flick of a finger, when you are equally poised between past and future….

There is no going back, and no going forward. “Now” is something else again. “Now” is not exactly “now.” A new normal?

So here we are. A few more days, a few more weeks, a few more months, to go. Waiting for red to turn to yellow, to green. We are all pretty much done with it – but we’re not.

Such a moment was that last night Jesus spent with his disciples. Depending upon where you sat, things had been set in motion, or things had hardly begun. At this precise moment Jesus spoke these words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me.” 

There was a great deal to be troubled about. Jesus had just washed his disciples feet.  He mentioned out loud that some would betray him, another deny him. He broke bread with his betrayer. He answered many anxious questions. So many around him were clueless. More confusion, more dishonesty, more fear would feed the betrayal, denial, corruption, violence, and death that were to come. What is often missed is that, Jesus, right then and there, asked his disciples to ask him, well, just about anything.

At this moment…. Jesus settled in to explain to them that there was more, so much more, than they could see or feel in front of them. The next few days were going to change everything. The next few days would form the pattern of how they would make sense of the rest of their lives. He would lay down his life, and take it up again. They would do the same, wherever their lives were taking shape.

Jesus said: ”I am going away. If I go away to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself.” Just so, Jesus has returned to them. We return to this moment as they must have during the forty days after his resurrection. As he breaths into them and gives them a new job proclaiming forgiveness and reconciliation, his every gesture reminds them, as it reminds us, of the words of that last night, that moment that is the crucible of everything else. 

And ultimately, the bottom line, what he wanted to tell them is that he will always be with us. In every place, in every time, in every name, in every movement toward or away from what we think we know of God and the way things work, he will be there. 

He is here. “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

But remember. He gives us his presence not just for its own sake. He bestows, gifts, unlocks, shares and breaths the Holy Spirit into us so that we will participate in what he is doing. 

“Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I will do and, in fact, will do greater works than these…. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.” In my name means, “in my Presence.”

Friends, in this sacred moment of the world’s suffering and passion, as we walk together through this pandemic, consider how your life bears the image of Christ, how you will lay it down, and let God raise it up again in his Presence. 

Consider also how you not only bear his image, but express it. Consider that this gift that is in you by Baptism, is waiting to be called forth in prayer and service. 

Consider how, on the one hand, he has positioned and gifted you to share, heal, teach, wait, suffer patiently; and, on the other hand, how he moves you to show up, resist, stand up to, encourage, and gather together what is being diminished or torn apart. Consider how God wants you to do it, not in your own power, but by unlocking the creating and recreating energies of the Holy Spirit. 

So here we are. At this very moment we are inevitably waking up to a new reality. I pray you realize that whichever way you turn the Risen One is calling you to look within. There you have been given everything you need to begin. Consider what will be happen today and tomorrow – now – because of God’s grace in you. 

Homework: Consider what you will ask of the Father in Jesus’ name.

Every blessing,

Andy+ 

*******************************************************

“Si usted está pasando por un infierno, sigue adelante.”
Winston Churchill

” No deje que se angustien.
Creer en Dios. Cree también en mí.
Juan 14: 1-2

Queridos amigos,

Estoy pensando en esos momentos en los que te levantas del sueño, pero no has vuelto a entrar donde volviste: este viejo mundo. No importa particularmente dónde has estado, en cuerpo, mente o espíritu. Este lapso de tiempo presente en la pendiente descendente de nuestro bloqueo, es solo esto. Un tictac de reloj, el movimiento de un dedo, cuando estás igualmente equilibrado entre el pasado y el futuro …

No hay marcha atrás ni marcha adelante. “Ahora” es otra cosa otra vez. “Ahora” no es exactamente “ahora”. ¿Una nueva normalidad?

Aqui estamos. Unos días más, unas pocas semanas más, unos meses más por delante. Esperando que el rojo se convierta en amarillo, en verde. Ya casi hemos terminado con eso, pero no lo hemos hecho.

Tal momento fue esa última noche que Jesús pasó con sus discípulos. Dependiendo de dónde te sentaras, las cosas se habían puesto en movimiento, o las cosas apenas habían comenzado. En este preciso momento, Jesús pronunció estas palabras: “No se turbe vuestro corazón. Creer en Dios. Cree también en mí.

Había mucho por lo que preocuparse. Jesús acababa de lavar los pies de sus discípulos. Mencionó en voz alta que algunos lo traicionarían, otros lo negarían. Partió el pan con su traidor. Respondió muchas preguntas ansiosas. Muchos a su alrededor no tenían idea. Más confusión, más deshonestidad, más miedo alimentarían la traición, la negación, la corrupción, la violencia y la muerte que vendrían. Lo que a menudo se pasa por alto es que Jesús, en ese mismo momento, les pidió a sus discípulos que le preguntaran, bueno, casi cualquier cosa.

En este momento … Jesús se acomodó para explicarles que había más, mucho más, de lo que podían ver o sentir delante de ellos. Los siguientes días iban a cambiar todo. Los próximos días formarían el patrón de cómo darían sentido al resto de sus vidas. Daría su vida y la reanudaría. Harían lo mismo, donde sea que sus vidas estuvieran tomando forma.

Jesús dijo: “Me voy. Si me voy a preparar un lugar para ti, volveré otra vez y te llevaré a mí mismo. Solo así, Jesús ha regresado a ellos. Volvemos a este momento como deben haberlo hecho durante los cuarenta días posteriores a su resurrección. Mientras respira y les da un nuevo trabajo proclamando perdón y reconciliación, cada gesto les recuerda, como nos recuerda a nosotros, las palabras de esa última noche, ese momento que es el crisol de todo lo demás.

Y, en última instancia, en resumen, lo que quería decirles es que siempre estará con nosotros. En cada lugar, en cada momento, en cada nombre, en cada movimiento hacia o lejos de lo que creemos que sabemos de Dios y la forma en que funcionan las cosas, él estará allí.

Él está aquí. “Créeme que estoy en el Padre y que el Padre está en mí; pero si no lo haces, créeme por las obras mismas. De verdad, te digo, el que cree en mí también hará las obras que yo hago y, de hecho, hará obras más grandes que estas, porque voy al Padre “.

Pero recuerda. Nos da su presencia no solo por su propio bien. Él nos otorga, regala, desbloquea, comparte y respira el Espíritu Santo en nosotros para que participemos en lo que está haciendo.

“De verdad, te digo, el que cree en mí también hará los trabajos que haré y, de hecho, hará trabajos más grandes que estos … Haré lo que me pidas en mi nombre, para que El Padre puede ser glorificado en el Hijo. Si en mi nombre me pides algo, lo haré “. En mi nombre significa “en mi presencia”.

Amigos, en este momento sagrado del sufrimiento y la pasión del mundo, mientras caminamos juntos a través de esta pandemia, consideren cómo su vida lleva la imagen de Cristo, cómo la pondrán y dejarán que Dios la levante nuevamente en su Presencia.

Considere también cómo no solo lleva su imagen, sino que la expresa. Tenga en cuenta que este regalo que recibe del bautismo está esperando que lo invoquen en oración y servicio.

Considere cómo, por un lado, lo ha posicionado y dotado para compartir, sanar, enseñar, esperar y sufrir pacientemente; y, por otro lado, cómo te mueve a mostrarte, resistir, resistir, alentar y reunir lo que se está disminuyendo o desgarrando. Considere cómo Dios quiere que lo haga, no en su propio poder, sino al desbloquear la creación y recreación de las energías del Espíritu Santo.

Aqui estamos. En este mismo momento inevitablemente estamos despertando a una nueva realidad. Rezo para que te des cuenta de que, sea cual sea la forma en que vuelvas, el Resucitado te está llamando a mirar hacia adentro. Allí se le ha dado todo lo que necesita para comenzar. Considera lo que sucederá hoy y mañana, ahora, por la gracia de Dios en ti.

Tarea: Considere lo que le pedirá al Padre en el nombre de Jesús.

Toda bendición,
Andy +

 

The Gate (Line up please!)

“Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep…I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and come in and go out and find pasture… I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:7ff

“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 2:44-45

Dear Friends,

The image I have in mind as I write these words are the many lines I have seen outside our church and in our community, on foot and in cars. Sadly, no one is lining up to go in and be with each other, sharing things in common. But people are lining up to receive what others have been able to give through other means. I have been blessed to be a part of this exchange at the Cecil and Grace Bean Soup Kitchen at St Johns and the Comida para la Comunidad at La Sensación inspired by the calling of Mother’s Mission. Many have been blessed, even awed, by these ministries, as they have both given and received.

The abundant life offered in John comes as a multilayered conclusion to a much larger story in John’s gospel that begins in chapter 9. Jesus has just healed a man born blind from birth. In the sprawling story, the man is healed, but can’t see that Jesus does it. The blind man is then blamed by religious leaders for having Jesus heal him on the Sabbath, then is rejected and ostracized by the community. Jesus then goes and finds the blind man, who through his voice is able to recognize that Jesus is the one who healed him. The blind man then confesses faith in him as Messiah and worships him. Jesus then proceeds to explain how this healing and revelation is meant not just to change what we believe, but to what we owe our allegiance to and to whom we belong. 

The story of healing of the man born blind from birth is not over. It has consequences. Jesus then proceeds to tell him, and all within earshot, how we should relate to him. He will choose a rich international, inexhaustible, language of leadership used for thousands of years and still used today. He will tell us about how leaders are like shepherds and followers are like sheep. He will take apart every aspect of that metaphor, break it down and reconstitute it around the trajectory of his own life. He will tell us that to believe in him, is to belong to him. In a grand crescendo, he will declare, ”I am the good shepherd, because the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

But before he tells them that he is the good shepherd, he starts with a more fluid image. He is the door, or the gate, to the whole business of what shepherds are about. There is an inside game and an outside game to shepherding. There is both a protecting and a provisioning work that needs constant attention. There are thieves and bandits and wolves and other dangers both inside and outside the enclosures of our lives. The shepherd, who is also the gate – the leader, working in and through a community – what after all are the gatekeepers in the metaphor? – who is clearly able to identify when and where to go out and stay in, is the key to navigating all of it.

Leadership is a complicated business. Leadership is at least four things. 1) to Articulate Reality, 2) to Protect, 3) To Provide, 4) To Empower access and opportunity. A single man born blind has been healed. But it stands as a challenge for the leaders of his day. They have not been able to protect him, provide for him, or empower him. He is on the outside looking in. The same voice that healed him is telling him there is a gate where he can enter in and find protection, provision, and empowerment. 

The way forward is his voice again. “I am the Gate.” A Gate is at the same time a Door, a Border, a Line, a Frontier. A place fo defense and protection.

A Gate is also a Threshold, a Passageway from Inside to Outside. Where we see lines going in both directions. Queues. People lining up for things. A place of exchange and provision.

Consider the leadership we have been seeing in these unprecedented times. It has not necessarily come from where we expected it. But leaders have shown up and we have heard their voices. They have more clearly outlined the boundaries of the sheepfold, and what is life on the outside and on the inside. They have more carefully detailed the true dangers about us and the provisions that we can expect. We have appreciated transparency, reality, truth. We are appreciating people who take responsibility, who give clear understanding of what they know and what they don’t know. We look for real signs of empowerment.

Here’s what it looked like in the early church: “Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”  Acts 2: 42-46

The gate of hospitality. worship, respect, and generosity are wide open in this picture. This picture of the early church is so attractive, so focused, it seems as if we have been trying to get back to it as a church for 2000 years. If we have lost our way, we must return to the gate. If we think we are safe and comfortable inside, we must return to the gate. As we serve in our lines, or wait in our lines to be served, I thank God for the gate. We must resolve to lead people back and forth, in and out, to find pasture. Thank you Jesus for being the Gate.

For today, I invite you to meditate on the fact that this pandemic is redefining the boundaries of the sheepfold, the enclosure where we draw the lines that define and protects community. The church will look very different going forward. Still, it will be recognizable if we go to Gate and describe to him honestly what we see. We are looking to set aside false views of life, and embrace the abundant life we have been promised.

Inside or outside, it is always right THERE.

Faithfully,
Andy+

Bread Breaking

Breaking Bread

“He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Luke 24:35

“Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with the old bread of malice, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
I Corinthians 5:8

To break bread is not to eat. Breaking bread is to share. (If I get carried away with some details below, just remember that.)

As we continue to await the data-driven moment when we will be able to gather again, face to face, as a congregation, we communicate and commune with one another in a new virtual way. 

Virtual is such a fascinating word. It is related to both virtue and value, how “strong” and “close” a thing is to another thing that we think we know well. At the very least it is a relative claim that a thing has value. At its strongest meaning for us as Christians, it signals an experience of being present to God and to one another, usually in prayer, in “spiritual communion.”

Spiritual Communion also specifically means: the act of participating in the Holy Eucharist without taking the bread and/or the wine that the priest handles and offers. Spiritual Communion means that the physical nature of the sacrament is received at a distance, in a spiritual way, because it is not offered or cannot be shared. 

In the earliest testimony to how the Christian community was gathered around the Eucharist, Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread, and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes again.” We can imagine that in the early church, they made this witness in very many different ways. 

We don’t know the ingredients and the shape of that first bread that Jesus took. Many are surprised when they read that most scholars do not think that Jesus’ last supper with the disciples was a Passover meal, or at least, it was not like any Passover meal we are familiar with today. Bottom line, we get no description of how that was taken, blessed and broken, nor are our first witnesses all that interested in the details.

Until recently I never thought that the most interesting word in the verse is the littlest. Everything depends upon what is signified by that one little word “this.” 

What bread is “this bread?”

It is of course, on the most basic level, the bread of remembrance, signified by these words: “On the night before he died for us, he took bread.” Every Sunday as I prepare myself for the sacrament, I like to think of the bread that Jesus touched and the cup of wine he held, in the company of his friends. Whenever we take “this bread” we place ourselves immediately in that room. As that time and place becomes present to us again, we hope to see, bless, break and share that same presence. 

For Jesus and the rabbis of that day, bread referred to all the ways God had sustained his people throughout his covenant with them, as manna in the wilderness, and as the lamb prepared in haste for their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. As we focus on Jesus touching bread and being just there, we enter into his presence, or rather, he steps forward to us. 

We also should think of everything we are bringing to the table. We bring the issues, the needs, the longings, the stuff of our lives and set it on the altar. We invite him to draw close. And we can see Jesus take it and hold it up in his hands. And like that the bread that Jesus shared at a house in Emmaus. Indeed, “He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”  

The other day I found myself talking with a client of our soup kitchen about all the cooking shows he was watching. We wondered aloud if the audiences at those shows get to taste the food. Maybe because they come for the celebrity, they don’t care. But we who understand the importance of Holy Communion certainly do care. Jesus’ words ring in my ears: “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you shall not have life within you.”

And then I got to thinking about the various people and communities that do not share in our communion meals. Even when we have been present when the bread is blessed and broken, sometimes we have not been invited, or choose not, to participate. Now, more than ever, as we are separated from one another, we know we need it. 

It is a good thing that Spiritual Communion is the communion of desire. The more we long for it, the more we yearn for it, the greater are the blessings it contains, being virtually what we need. The more we realize we need it, the more the blessing is there for us. Just one things, though. We cannot share it.

Or is that the final word. Jesus came to two disciples on the road. They thought all was lost. But because of their hospitality and their teachable imaginations, “He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Because they were open to spiritual communion, Jesus showed up. 

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste. I hope we are all being taught anew to see the Eucharist in larger terms, and intuitively understand it as a celebration of God’s undying provision for us, always. Even when we can’t share it, for whatever reason, we immediately make a move to do the next closest, virtual thing.

This desire for God should be directly connected to seeing that our neighbor has enough food. We are blessed to be able to support with donations, and in some cases, volunteer at one of our church’s food ministries. We see God’s provision through the Cecil and Grace Bean Soup Kitchen or Comida Para La Comunidad. We can support the work of Mother’s Mission in Chester, Kensington, and even Guatemala, or on the long list of food pantries on the Diocesan website. Especially in our isolation, we see that this is what is most needed now.

As we move forward, need to imagine more ways to share God’s love. We need to prepare for when we will be together again. We cannot forget that we have things to offer each other, even now.

As a sign that you are turning you attention to really breaking bread, really sharing, I invite you to bring some gift with you our services.

Perhaps it will be that application for a job, or a loan, or other support. Or a phone number of someone you need to call, a credit card you can use to donate to your local food bank, a candle that will be lit morning noon and evening as you remember to pray. Or the name of a lonely one in need of the knowledge of God’s presence.  Or our car keys that we want to remind us to only go out for essentials, to be ready to help wisely any one of our neighbors who may need us. Perhaps it will be the sweet bread and coffee that you will drink after the service in our Zoom Coffee hour. 

And when the priest takes up the bread at church, when the presider says “take this” and calls to mind that the Holy Spirit fills it through and through, what you have brought will be joined to it. And you will receive the knowledge of your spiritual communion. Together we will proclaim that Christ is really present in and amongst us in the sacrament of his Body and Blood. 

From the priests hand to what you long for in your open empty hands. This is his Body. “Take THIS in remembrance that Christ died for you. Feed on him in your heart, by faith, with thanksgiving.” 

Let’s meditate on “this.” Let it contain all the actions that we can do at this difficult time that sustains our neighbor, that offers salvation, that points to what it means for us to present ourselves as an offering to God, to make our sacrifice at this time. And to prepare for the way forward together.

Blessings indeed!

Andy+

What day is it?! Sunday! • Que día es? ¡Domingo! — (Happy Easter! • ¡Feliz Pascua!)

There, in peace, we shall see that it is he who is God…
we who were unfaithful to this God, who would have made us gods
if ingratitude had not banished us from communion with him…
Created anew in him and made perfect in a more plentiful grace,
we shall see in that eternal rest that it is he who is God, 
he with whom we shall be filled, because he will be all in all…
that day will be our Sabbath and it will have no evening,
but it will end in an eternal Sunday. 
That Sunday will be the revelation of the resurrection of Christ, 
who offers to all of us perpetual fullness, not only of the soul but of the body. 
There we shall be in peace and we shall see. 
We shall see and we shall love. 
We shall love and we shall worship.

Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, XXII, 30, 4

Dear Friends,

How can we receive afresh the words of the Risen Christ, who appeared to his fearful disciples, locked and quarantined, when he said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19)? The 24 hour news cycle makes it hard to anything we hear. No, we need to feel a message it in our bones, be startled by its possibility as a person who walks out into a windy spring morning. We need the messenger to step out of our screens, walk right up to us, and breath right into us. 

Well then. Happy Easter! In these times of waiting, it does seem like we have nothing to lose. We might experiment with the thought that love is stronger than death. And then believe it. And see for ourselves what it might be like to live no longer for our selves. And when things look particularly bleak, be reminded of the promise of God that all things work together for the good, for those who love the Lord and strive to walk in his promises.

As Dame Julian of Norwich witnessed, “All shall be well.” She just sat up on her death bed and said it.  Julian was infected with the Bubonic plague in May 1373 at the age of thirty-one. Last rites were administered on the fourth day of her illness, and on the seventh day her mother mercifully closed her daughter’s eyelids. Yet it was in this moment that Julian felt a surge of life within her plague-wracked body. In this state she received her visions of Christ, and woke to deliver her powerful message of patience, compassion, and love. From that pandemic fevered place came the most poetic words of assurance imaginable.  “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Today, in this Easter light, we know that is true, because we have the promise that this story is not over, and the one we will live will never end. There it is, two ways to know that things are going to be OK. We know what is coming next, and how it is coming. Love stronger than death, because love is beating death. And this love in us keeps growing stronger and stronger. Until we can trace the word “All”. We can put our arms around “All”. We can feel the abundance and fullness of “All manner of thing. Will. Be. Well.

So we get up this morning, and stand up (resurrection!), and shout “Alleluia!” God’s got this. There is no better day than today. Jesus lives. All shall be well.

Peace,
Andy+

*******************************************************

Allí, en paz, veremos que es él quien es Dios …
los que le fuimos infieles a este Dios, que nos habría hecho dioses si la ingratitud no nos hubiera desterrado de la comunión con él …
Creado de nuevo en él y perfeccionado en una gracia más abundante,
veremos en ese descanso eterno que es él quien es Dios,
aquel con quien seremos llenos, porque él será todo en todo …
ese día será nuestro día de reposo y no habrá tarde,
pero terminará en un domingo eterno.
Ese domingo será la revelación de la resurrección de Cristo,
quien nos ofrece a todos nosotros la plenitud perpetua, no solo del alma sino del cuerpo.
Allí estaremos en paz y veremos.
Ya veremos y amaremos.
Amaremos y adoraremos.

Agustín de Hipopótamo, La Ciudad de Dios, XXII, 30, 4

Queridos amigos,

¿Cómo podemos recibir de nuevo las palabras de Cristo resucitado, que se apareció a sus temibles discípulos, encerrados y en cuarentena, cuando dijo: “La paz sea con ustedes” (Juan 20:19)? El ciclo de noticias de 24 horas hace que sea difícil escuchar algo. No, tendremos que sentirlo en nuestros huesos, sorprendernos por su posibilidad como una persona que sale a una ventosa mañana de primavera. Lo necesitaremos para caminar hacia nosotros y respirar directamente hacia nosotros.

Bien entonces. ¡Felices Pascuas! En estos tiempos de espera, parece que no tenemos nada que perder. Podríamos experimentar con la idea de que el amor es más fuerte que la muerte. Y luego créelo. Y veamos por nosotros mismos cómo sería vivir sin nosotros mismos. Y cuando las cosas se vean particularmente sombrías, recuerde la promesa de Dios de que todas las cosas funcionan juntas para el bien, para aquellos que aman al Señor y se esfuerzan por cumplir sus promesas.

Como atestiguó la Dama Julián de Norwich, “Todo estará bien”. Ella simplemente se sentó en su lecho de muerte y lo dijo. Julian fue infectado con la peste bubónica en mayo de 1373 a la edad de treinta y un años. Los últimos ritos se administraron el cuarto día de su enfermedad, y el séptimo día su madre cerró misericordiosamente los párpados de su hija. Sin embargo, fue en este momento que Julian sintió una oleada de vida dentro de su cuerpo asolado por la peste. En este estado, recibió sus visiones de Cristo y se despertó para transmitir su poderoso mensaje de paciencia, compasión y amor. De ese lugar febril pandémico surgieron las palabras de seguridad más poéticas imaginables. “Todo estará bien, y todo estará bien, y todo tipo de cosas estará bien”.

Hoy, a la luz de Pascua, sabemos que eso es cierto, porque tenemos la promesa de que esta historia no ha terminado, y la que viviremos nunca terminará. Ahí está, dos formas de saber que las cosas van a estar bien. Sabemos lo que vendrá después y cómo vendrá. Amor más fuerte que la muerte, porque el amor es golpear a la muerte. Y este amor en nosotros sigue creciendo más y más fuerte. Hasta que podamos rastrear la palabra “Todos”. Podemos poner nuestros brazos alrededor de “Todos”. Podemos sentir la abundancia y plenitud de “Todo tipo de cosas. Estará. Bueno.

Así que nos levantamos esta mañana, nos ponemos de pie (¡resurrección!) Y gritamos “¡Aleluya!” Dios tiene esto. No hay mejor día que hoy. Jesús vive. Todo estará bien.

God With Him | God With Us

God With Him | God With Us
Sermon preached at St. John’s Diocesan Center
Palm Sunday | Passion Sunday | April 5, 2020

The Rev. Andrew F. Kline

Isaiah 50:4-9a | Psalm 31:9-16 | Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:14–27:66 

“Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee…. Finally, when it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus.”

Standing at distance…. some women…. A little later, drawing a little closer, a man…. These women, at a distance had been with him since the beginning (how interesting that Matthew refers to Jesus’ mother in this remote, almost impersonal way!). That man? Most likely, scholars say, he was member of the high priest’s family. No doubt he had just signed up and was keeping it a secret.

It is so apt that the story grinds to a halt just here, pointing to a question: Were you there?

And if you were there, how close did you get?

What were you up to?

Did you rise to your feet, threatening to violently resist? Were you slinking off to the side? Checking out? Falling away? Betraying? Denying? Did your instincts leverage the power of religion and state to stand up for the old truths, stamp out rebellion and blasphemy, and make Israel great again? Or did you use the power of the religion and state to quash the truth, scapegoat the innocent, and make sure the machinery of the status quo would keep collecting its taxes and rent?

Were you there? Come as close as you dare. We are taught to keep our distance from things contagious. Like sin? Like passions? Like the darkness that befalls not just the itinerant teacher from Galilee? Like chaos itself! Like the earthquake that is our lives at just this moment. In the beginning of the story, the truth is hidden. In the end revealed. Here, finally, in the stillness after the sacrifice, is it possible to stumble upon the question we need to ask today?

Were you there? We never actually ask that question innocently. Because usually we weren’t there! What we mean is: Where were you there when…. JFK was shot? Where were you when we invaded Iraq? Where were you when the planes crashed on 9/11. When did you realize you had to be somewhere – like staying at home! – in March of 2020 when the “outbreak” came to consciousness, and you realized you were fight “contagion” itself.

“Were you there” really means “What do you make of it?” What do you think it means?” “How did it affect you?” “Did it have an impact on you?” “Did it change you?”

What is our question today?

What’s going on here? Who’s in charge?

God? Are you there? Are you in charge? Where is God in this?

Or…. Will we make it through? Whose got my back? Can I make it through?

After this, the world is going to be different. But how? What is on the other side of this?

I invite you to come as close as you can. Keep that proper social distance, befitting your personal and spiritual condition, and discover what your questions are. Then see how this haunting suffering servant from Galilee gives answer, responding from an unlikely, dangerous and difficult place, not known for giving up its answers.

Do you see that this whole week beings with something like a practical joke? Stage left, over here at the East gate: King Herod’s annual parade, his pompous entry into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, replete with dressed troops, resplendent marching bands, paid up crowds.

Stage right, over at the West Gate! – King Jesus’ carnival. The itinerant preacher from the North waltzes wildly into the great city on a donkey, adored by hundreds, maybe thousands — of nobodies! Shouting Hail! Hail! Heil! Heil! Hosanna! Hosanna! Heal us! Save us!

Do you see how the practical joke just really gets under everyone’s skin? It could be that Herod complained about it to Pilate. Certainly, the High Priests were outraged. As Jesus forces more and more to take him seriously, he causes more and more problems for those who must be in charge of things, who must keep the machinery of religion, the state and the economy running.

Do you see how all this could have been avoided, if the small group around Jesus had just hung together, had just trusted his message and mission? How familiar. When the bonds of a family, a fraternity, a group, a friendship, fracture, in just the slightest ways, given the right conditions, everything falls apart and comes to a grinding halt.

Do you see that none of this is clear cut? It is not hard to whip up a list of Jesus’ crimes and misdemeanors. He did not observe the Sabbath. He hung out with the least, the lost, the marginalized and all those unclean foreigners. He deconstructed human laws and taught people to think for themselves. At one time or another, he certainly OFFENDED almost everybody.

What Christians mean, when they say Jesus was tempted yet did not sin, actually takes this difficulty head on. It is breathtaking to remember that Jesus was the one who taught: “settle up with your accuser before they drag you in front of the judge, because if not, your freedom and your life will be taken from you?!” Is it a sin to do things to intentionally get yourself killed?

Do we really appreciate, the depth of the sorrow and pity, the failure and forsakenness, that Jesus knew at just this moment?

Now…. do you see the oddest thing of all? Do you see that the outcome of the story, its meaning depends upon your relationship to HIM. You have to decide what you think about his response.

And this is what I see. Jesus still in the midst of the storm. He takes the brunt of it, the weight of it, and simply carries it. He calmly, compassionately, mysteriously faces everything that comes at him, confronting every obstacle, yet without a complaint. He faces his reality.

If he seems to act out of self-interested, he doesn’t apologize. What drives him, his motive – is simply the will of his Heavenly Father. He always speaks the truth from that place.

The truth of this story is not clothed merely in words. As body, soul and spirit is bent and disfigured, Jesus takes on more. Shame and dishonor. Check. Suffering and Reproach. Check. Betrayal and Blame. Check. Offense and outrage and bitter revenge, paying the price for them all. Check. As they are all lifted up with him, on that cross, he redefines what is good and true and beautiful and worthy and strong and finally lasting.

Most other stories we can leave or take, take or leave. We can only get so close to this thing. Do we see that “something”, that gift, that only this man Jesus can do, can accomplish, or to use a more wonderful word, deliver?

After so many questions, also always this one. “So what?!” Reflecting some decades later, at the graceful distance, the Apostle Paul was able to put it this way:

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 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. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross. Therefore, God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Coronavirus or no Coronavirus. Jesus is Lord. God is at work in the world, reconciling us to himself, canceling all our debts, healing all our wounds, lifting us up with him, so that we can finally understand that he is here with us here – in this thing, working in it and through it to bring the world through to a new place.

*****************************************************************

I was hoping to end the sermon just there. Just right there. But as I was writing those last words, I got a text from my college roommate. So, this message has a coda. Some breaking news. A word for somebody listening right now.

My college roommate, we call him Brownie, texted me yesterday. Brownie grew up in Detroit. This newsflash is from a Dr. friend of his in Detroit, who himself has children on the front lines in New York City, Cincinnati, Ann Arbor and Baltimore. Indeed, we are going to pray in just a minute for Greg, MaryBeth, Megan in NYC, Brandon married to Christina in Cincinnati, and their youngest son Sean at John Hopkins – as we are going to pray for all those working right now on the front line, shepherding lives through this.

Here’s what happened. A man in his 50’s was just hospitalized for several months following his bone marrow transplant this past year. He was finally healthy to go home to his wife two weeks ago. One day later she gets sick (Covid-19).  She ends up hospitalized and dies.

He then gets sick with Covid-19 last week and ends up in the hospital. His respiratory status deteriorates, and he needs to go on a ventilator. He finds out how short the hospital is on ventilators and tells my colleague: “I want to be with my wife. Save the ventilator for someone who needs it to live.”  He died one hour later, peacefully. In peace.

“Let the same mind be in us.”

May we all be as courageous, and loving. Living fearlessly. Answering the question of what comes next in a life-giving way. As one husband did in communion with his wife. As another child of God will receive an answer in the gift of a ventilator.

“Let the same mind be in us.”

Jesus faced his trial. Can we face our trial? And following that, can we face what is coming at us? Every Christian’s trial is shaped by the cross, embracing the height, depth, length and width of what we will go through as individuals and a society.

“Let the same mind be in you.”

Leaving self behind, claiming the absolving and cleansing power of speaking only the truth, like Jesus, give our all. And being so delivered, share with others the knowledge of how salvation is accomplished and renewed in Jesus.

“Let the same mind be in you.”

Whether you find yourself outside the walls of Jerusalem, or inside a hospital in Detroit: Get as close as you can. Humbly present yourself. His arms are outstretched to embrace you. Call upon him. Call upon his name. Call him Lord! This is what matters now.

Lamentation Option

Lamentation Option
Sermon delivered by The Rev. Andrew F. Kline
March 29, 2020
St. John’s at Diocesan Center, Norristown, Pennsylvania

Ezekiel 37:1-14 | Psalm 130 | Romans 8:6-11 | John 11:1-45 

I would never have admitted this until now, but given that “everything has changed”, I have been watching stupid videos on YouTube and Facebook. Of special interest, of course, are the genre or meme of “How to survive a Pandemic” or “The Four Stages of Sheltering in Place” etc. Some are quite funny. And, alas, very much all the same….

  • Guy or gal walks in house loaded down – groceries, toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Out of the bags and on to the counter go a ridiculous amount of toilet paper, as well an enormous pile of of junk food: sodas, chips, candy, cereal, donuts, frozen pizza and pigs in a blanket.
  • Before putting anything away, our hero sits down, so we are told, to binge watch everything on Netflix…. Camera fades out. Camera fades in. 
  • Having watched everything on Netflix…. Our hero proceeds to break open the processed feast of added sugars and empty carbs awaiting him on the kitchen counter. Camera fades out. Camera fades in.
  • End of Day 1.  Our hero, so bored, so tired, so bewildered, looks around wondering what happens next. On the TV screen is the order to Stay Inside!!! And the voice of the well intentioned expert telling us that what we must do is make a PLAN. 
  • OK! We create a schedule. We imagine what is going to be routine and normal. Perfectly sensible. Our hero grabs a ruler, a calendar, and scrap of paper to write a list on, and starts marking up the future. Camera fades out. Camera fades. 
  • End of Day 2. Together we realize that we have no idea what our days will look like. Given what little structure we can put on them, they will be what they will be. For once, it may be starting to sink in. We are not in control of this thing. We are not in control of any thing.

What do you do when you realize you really are in a desert, where there are no signposts and no well trodden paths? My friends, we truly are in the final bewildering stages of our Lenten journey. What do you do when you realize there is not even “a new normal.” How will this time of pandemic unfold, when much of the world seems to be coming to a stop. What will we do on Day 15? What should we do on Day 30? What will get us through to Day 60?

Thankfully, God’s Word today shows us something we can do. In the outline of the dust just ahead of us we see a band of pilgrims, and yes, we also make out a sound. From some very deep place. A measured breath. In and out from the diaphragm. From there! A cry. A song.

Psalm 130 is called a Song of Ascent. Sung on pilgrimage, on the way to the great feasts in Jerusalem. It is, O my soul!, a lament.

1 Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice; *
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2 If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, *
O Lord, who could stand?

3 For there is forgiveness with you; *
therefore you shall be feared.

4 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my hope.

5 My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.

6 O Israel, wait for the Lord, *
for with the Lord there is mercy;

7 With him there is plenteous redemption, *
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

De profundis. From the depths. Cry Out. Call Out. Don’t stifle that sound within. Grieve. Grieve. Grieve. Wait. Wait. Wait. Plead. Plead. Plead. Speak from there.

Apparently, dear friends, it is time to LAMENT. As reality washes over us, it is time to pour out our soul. To acknowledge the pain, the confusion. To grieve. To say in every language of body, soul and spirit. This is not right. This sucks! And to realize that lamentation is not just a last resort. It is what God is up to as well. An ancient strategy for finding our way.

Until now, no doubt, everything about our culture has been designed to make “Lamentation” optional, unnecessary. No more. We can’t pretend anymore that we are in control of our lives. Like Ezekiel. Like Jesus. Like the Creator and Sustainer of all. Let’s learn how to lament.

Here what happens to my soul as we join Ezekiel and look out over the Valley of Dry Bones. And stand with Jesus, Martha and Mary in front of the grave of our friends Lazarus.

  • On the one hand, things are IN PIECES. Looking at the entire populace of a once great nation as hopelessly disconnected, I face and embrace a reality, that life like that Jungle Gym project splayed out in a million pieces on your lawn with no instructions, and no idea where to begin, and no way it is all getting put back together. Nothing but ‘dem’ dry bones. Lament.
  • On the other hand, the things we thought mattered don’t really matter any more. It’s funny how standing in front of this cave, this place where they have put the bodies, all kind of reflection and regret and emotion arise. But there is no where for it to land. No exit. No next step. One big fact. STOP! Time’s up. You’re done. It’s over. And no one, especially those who love you and care about you seem to be able to do a thing. Lament.
  • But then, precisely because we are mortal and this is how we are made, we discover that there is just one more thing that we do. Take the next breath. Whether in the valley or in front of the cave, in these fearful places, it’s not that we reach for the depths, we FIND something in the deep. In the depths, we catch our breath. We Breath. Well, because we have to. From the deep place you breath again. And again. Formulate a question: Mortal can these bones live? Is this sickness unto death? How is God glorified in this?! Weep. Lament.
  • And from that breath, from that enacted question, miraculously, we can make a SOUND. It doesn’t really matter what kind of sound. In the end, that sound is meant, as we gather with others who have stumbled on to its miraculous existence, to move us to action. All of this is still an imperative. Lament. Right here in front of our obstacle, our dilemma, is where we are supposed to be. With our cries, our tears, and yes, our songs. Lament!

Do you hear God’s Word today. People of faith, it is not enough just to take the next breath. Step in front of your obstacle and address it. Prophesy to the breath! Speak. With intention. With whatever sight you have. Hope against against hope. Speak. And take another breath. In front of your darkest place. Clear your throat. Open the eyes of your heart. Look into the future. Call it forth into sunlight. Declare it “Unbound.” Yes. Sound its melody. A song of Ascent. A single note. Lament.

This will require, from time to time, getting offline, turning off the TV, just truly being with ourselves. But it will not require us to forget that there are others, so many others, just six feet away, just on the other end of this special kind of prayer, this corporate grief we share. Let us all together now…. Give up our plans. Give up the pretense of a certain kind of knowledge. Of where we will go. What we shall do. Let us all together now…. Prophesy to the breath. Breath! And sing a new song that is the best doorway to our future.

Our lamentations of course are a form of inquiry. They form questions, that help us form answers. Can God set a table in the wilderness? Can God make from these lifeless stones, these dry dry bones, children for Abraham? Will God show up this time, right on time, and weep with us. Do we not realize that we lament, precisely because this is what God must do with and for us. Jesus wept. And then he called forth his friend Lazarus.

The process of Lamentation, from things going from “being in pieces” to “it’s all over” to engaging body, soul and spirit in our deepest longing, is all here in the Gospel lesson.

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha is trying to put the pieces together. Martha looks at him in bewilderment. Sure. A numb, textbook reply. Let me go find my sister.

Mary knew how to activate this process in Jesus. That was how close they were. “She knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” 

Only from there – in front of your obstacle, your terror, do you find your breath, your most honest voice, your most troubled soul – is your life renewed. 

Martha can put it together intellectually. Mary can move things forward. Mary gathers herself, prostrates herself, fills her lungs with air, and calls forth the creative Spirit of God.

Today is a day we can claim what Jesus said to Martha, with the intention of Mary. With whatever we have at our disposal, we not only give up control or fighting the inevitable, we join with the one who is drawing near to us, and see the tears on his face. 

De Profundis. From the depths. Lament.

In every gesture of complaint, grief, despair and honest bewilderment, we can yet throw ourselves down and cry mercy. Because we know our God joins us in this. From there he breaths with us. He says the words that raise us up. Lazarus, will die again, but today he will be lifted! Raised up to live another day. 

Prophesy to the breath! Call forth from your deepest place the Lord of Life. And discover that he laments with you.

Come! Lord of Life. Come Holy Spirit. Sound us out. Call us out. Unbind us. Though dying we live. So living and believing – that this is not ever the end of the story! 

Amen.

Look! Faith!

Look! Faith!
Sermon preached at St. John’s at Diocesan Center
by The Rev. Andrew F. Kline
March 22, 2020

Consider the predicament of the man born blind – through no fault of his own – the man who is healed by Jesus, but in such an interesting way that he does not know how it all went down. 

And who after a wild ride with his relatives and the authorities, finds himself stranded by the side of the road on the way out of town, stigmatized and ostracized by his community. Familiar, isn’t it. Our predicament.

I immediately think of some glib expressions of saber-rattling faith I’ve heard in recent days. Not to mention the hand- wringing and blaming that is inevitable during this unprecedented time of crisis because of the Coronavirus. Distractions one and all. Let’s not lose sight of him, this man. While everyone is panicking, and arguing, and completely forgetting about what started it all, and what is the point, we will go looking for him, and God willing, find him again, just as Jesus did.

But first! What words we have of absolute comfort in the Psalm, the hymn of praise to the Lord!
1) The Lord is my shepherd.
2) I shall not want
3) Even though…. What? Fill in the blank. Anxiety. Stress. Sickness. Death. YOU are with me.
4) A Table in the Wilderness. Nourishment. Oil. Wine. Healing. Sustenance.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me – always and everywhere. And I will find home.

The summary of our faith in the 23rd Psalm? God provides. God guides. God protects. I shall lack nothing good. I am not alone. The Lord is my Shepherd. In answer to the eternal question, God does indeed set a table in the wilderness. We can expect more than just water from a rock, even manna from heaven!

The Lord is my Shepherd. We desperately need this picture, don’t we? As people of faith, this is what we would like to see. Something is about to break upon us like a terrible wave, and if we are honest, we are wondering whether we can keep our eyes fixed on the horizon. 

And then, there’s how we feel. Even though our officials can helpfully tell us it’s Ok not to be OK, we Christians need to take stock, and prepare. What does this moment before the storm feel like? We look out on our streets and into screens that reveal upset, displacement, sickness, and suffering in the face of the unknown, an enemy we cannot see and do not fully understand. 

Good thing for us we have this promise, which contains a prescription. The Lord is our Shepherd. And the Shepherd is on the move. Do you notice the miracle of the movement in the psalm? The Shepherd knows we might be stuck, we might be standing there looking up into the hills wondering where our help is coming from…. 

He raises his rod, his staff, he gestures…  Just take a step back… or a step to the side, or yes, even, a step forward. Follow me.

“Jesus was walking along.” He saw a man born blind from birth. Maybe he even was holding a walking stick at that moment, a shepherd crook. Why not. He gets things rolling. He stooped down for some clay. He spit, he daubed, he gave a command. After taking this risk, perhaps thinking of us today, he practiced a little social distancing. He walked on. He stepped away. He practically vanished.

The apostle Paul was very much thinking of Jesus’ presence in his absence when he told us, almost as an afterthought: “We walk by faith, not by sight.” With Jesus, whether in the body or out of the body, there is always a way forward.

We know what it is like when we are not engaging our faith. Looking at the rising numbers of sick and dying. Perhaps an emptying bank account. The uncertainty of the life and livelihood that does or does not await us after all this is over. Stuck. Or moving without a lot of energy or direction. 

How do we get unstuck? Simple images and rules of thumb are the most help. Visualize the space around you. Stand with your arm outstretched. Right across is your partner, your child, your neighbor, with their arm outstretched. We can come only so close. Keep our distance. Can we do this with a new body language? A grace that declares: you are not my enemy. Yet for now, we will keep a loving distance.

As hard as it is. It’s not about you. Move it. Move on. Walk away. Go inside. Shut the door. As much as possible, act as you are the problem, the one who could endanger the ones you love. A terrible truth. But the first move of authentic faith – at least for a few more weeks!

Walking faith is in constant dialogue and struggle with what we can see, standing where we are, what we can presently understand. Ultimately, faith is not opposed to sight, but supports and enlarges it. Take a few creative steps, trusting in the promises of God’s Word, and you see things in a new light.  

I don’t know about you, but in these early days, I am seeing much more of my neighbors. Walking along. Outside outside in the fresh air. Waving at me. Family and old friends getting in touch. People going to extraordinary lengths to figure out what is essential, and keeping those essential services going. 

Again, we are having to lean in, think a little deeper, get creative. As I am inevitably more and more online, we are getting pretty creative with their virtual hugs. I’m learning more than I ever thought I would know about infectious diseases. Did you know that certain heroes now stepping forward have been calling for years for us to pay attention, and to invest in a new the Manhattan project dedicated to discovering a universal vaccine for respiratory illnesses.

People of faith, the remedy is to take whatever step is in front of us. A movement of faith. The faith move. If we dare, now is the time to see the world differently. After this, everything will not only look different, it will be different.

Certainly, we will walk back into our homes and close the door. But that “walking faith” says, the door opens again. Peak your head out and see what is going on. Keep looking. Don’t look away. Reframe. Don’t forget the most vulnerable. Respect the supply chain. Pray for, support and cooperate with the first responders, the healers, the shepherds, the ones keeping the peace. For us here especially, I pray we will keep feeding our neighbors.

One last little reality check, given the need for faith when our sight only goes so far, our Scriptures remind us this morning that, alas, it is will always be the most difficult to see our ourselves. The man born blind is healed, but stranded by the side of the road, going nowhere until he sees the one sees him. It is interesting how John’s long tale of mistaken meanings and mistaken identity winds down with one final warning: Those who claim to see, but don’t believe, are the ones who are truly blind. Our sin and ignorance remains. Ouch. 

Do yourself a favor. Don’t forget this story. Do not fear if Jesus seems distant. Stay humble. The Shepherd is out there getting us unstuck. 

He sees each one of us. Jesus is walks by, we don’t even know he has healed us, and even as we don’t know what’s hit us – and there he is. Right there, spreading his table in front of us, anointing us with oil, and pouring us a drink.

He’s here. Today. Jesus is walking along. Jesus is at work. Tomorrow, especially when he seems to be nowhere to be found, he will circle back around. We are in this together, through famine, pestilence and plague. The faithful will continue to testify. Jesus will continue to show up. 

You can bet on it. Go ahead. Make that your first step. Put your money, put your life, on the one who promises to lead in front, guide from behind, sustain on every side. 

This move is the only thing that matters. 

The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. We will not lack any good thing. With him, we can beat this thing, we can see it though, and, however long it takes, we will see anew.