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+ 

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“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.

An Easter Message

You cleft the earth
and streams broke forth….
You went forth to redeem your people,
to rescue your anointed one.
You tore the roof from the house of the wicked
and laid bare their foundation.   [Habakuk 3:9,13]

Dear Friends,

In the middle of the night the Word arose and signs occurred which became the message of unlikely prophets and the testimony of transformed witnesses.

The biblical story is a twice told tale – two testaments that say two principle things – that Christ is Lord and that God raised him from he dead. Every word has been passed on, so that it will be passed on by living witnesses, for the sole purpose that we will in turn bear its testimony through our lives. Many words, many stories, but one message in stereo, turning what we believe into the obedience of our daily lives.

Indeed, every Sunday we proclaim in the Nicene Creed that:

For our sake [Jesus] was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the scriptures.

That all these things happened “according to the scriptures” is worth pondering. It has long been noted that Jesus death and resurrection do not take place in response to some straightforward prophecy or simple reading of the Old Testament plot line.  It is true that the early Christians noticed many striking verses of scripture that illumined the manner and meaning of Jesus’ death.  The passion story is filled with these allusions.  But it is also true that these references do not paint by numbers what we see on Easter morning or predict, as in hindsight, what we see. 

Our earliest brothers and sisters had made a discovery. They starting telling others what happened and inviting them to come and see. They started to tell the story “one more time with a difference” — and a sense of fulfillment and confirmation overtook them. 

Jesus settled the contest between the Exodus and the Exile for possession of Israel’s soul, the perennial plight of Israel’s bondage and struggle for freedom.  Where is God? Is God with us?

Every child of Abraham was aware that Israel had failed in fulfilling its destiny. After all this time, after year after year celebrating a Passover liberation – even after returning and rebuilding the temple – they were not free. Are we condemned to ever sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? Jesus rode into Jerusalem and forced the question between his body and God’s house. Where will God make his home? How?

Jesus, himself, would seem to be broken by the twice told tale of attempted liberation, being left for humiliated and crushed. The stubborn mystery this side of the grave? As long as death reigns, so will sin, and everything that divides us one from another.  If forgiveness is real, and follows us into eternity, then would we not truly be free?  

It would be Jesus who would say that all important third time:  Shalom.  You are forgiven.  Let my people go! The new Israel began to realize that Jesus has not just mindlessly walked in the footsteps of the prophets and sages of old, but that he has understood Israel’s story in a way no one else had.  Moreover, he has forgiven them and set them free.  

The prophet Habakuk glimpsed a vision of a new Moses. Even more, he looked for someone who would lay bare the foundation. He longed for someone who would write the law on their hearts and truly lead them to the Promised Land.

In the parting of the waters, in the darkest moment at the end of a Holy Week, long after the cruel tale of the victim’s passion has been sung, when the vigil has run its course, after we have gone over the stories one more time — it is precisely here we see what God was aiming at all along.

Not surprisingly, the final Return from final Exile (O Death!) would be the root pattern of the early church’s experience, enshrined in its liturgies — in the ancient baptismal service in particular — that Christ’s death and resurrection is the Golden thread connecting with the elements of how God has always been trying to tell this story. 

Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us! Righteousness and Peace kiss. Exodus and Exile meet. Israel lives! We live!

What a discovery indeed. May you and yours hear this twice told tale one more time — with a difference.  May you come to a living faith, a wider love, and a greater praise of God’s eternal purposes.  May you know real forgiveness and a lasting freedom.  May you know that you belong to Jesus’ people and thus to God.  And may it be no small thing that you understand that all this is done “in accordance with the scriptures.”  That, after all, means that God has made you an everlasting part of that story as well…

Therefore, let us keep the Feast!

Happy Easter!
Andy+

What you can expect – Worship @ 9:30

When you enter St. John’s you know you are in a sacred place. It is the oldest continuous structure of worship in Montgomery County, founded with the town in 1813. Still, it was changed in many wonderful ways over the years.

These days, right in the back of the church, we have set up tables to welcome visitors.

If you come at 8:45 AM you can sit at those tables with a cup of coffee and ask your questions about faith and bible, especially about the bible readings you are going to hear that day.

Just before 9:30, the beautiful space is filled with music, and you are invited to put everything else aside and come into God’s presence. That reality shows up in so many different ways. Certainly a high point is Communion. After we reflect on Scripture, pray our prayers, confess our sins, we are invited to remember what Jesus did for us in those last days of his life. Remembering his death and resurrection, we are invited to participate in new and abundant life today.

Because we are celebrating the power of this love every Sunday, all baptized Christians are invited to receive at the Lord’s table, regardless of denomination or creed. Because we are trying to live into the power of that love, we invite everyone to come and see for themselves, and receive a blessing.