220508 – That Changes Everything – Arising

Yr C ~ Easter 4 ~ Acts 9:36-43

We’re in a sermon series called “That Changes Everything”. Last week we met a wonderfully faithful fellow named Ananias who was called to the unlikely ministry of praying with the worst person imaginable, and helping to change that person’s life by introducing them to The Way of Jesus, and helping to nurture and form them in Christian community. That ‘worst person ever’ had a personal awakening, but it was thanks to the faithfulness of Ananias that that awakening was able to grow and flourish. So, was it the awakening that changed everything, or the prayerful nurturing? Yes! Both!

Today we get to meet another wonderful disciple of Jesus whose faithful living and loving changed everything for many people. Her name is Tabitha, or Dorcas (I’ll explain in a minute). If you’re starting to think that maybe the thing that changes everything isn’t a mysterious spiritual miracle, but the faithfulness of followers of Jesus – well, spoiler alert – you’re right! Maybe the best miracles aren’t inexplicable supernatural occurrences but rather profound movements of the Spirit that inspire regular folks, like you and me, to live out the courage of our convictions, to ‘live out loud’ the love of God. Miracles like that really can ‘change everything’! So let’s meet another one of God’s miracles, and see how she might inspire us.

As I said, she is named Tabitha, and Dorcas. Why the two names? It’s probably because of where she lived, and it actually speaks volumes. She lived in a place called Joppa, which is known now as Tel-Aviv. It’s a port town – which means it’s a place where many people, and many cultures, intersect. Tabitha is her Hebrew name, and Dorcas is her Greek name. Referring to her by both, interchangeably, suggests she was known in and by both communities. That’s quite remarkable, especially for a woman in their time to be named as such.

What might be even more remarkable, however, is that she’s also referred to as a disciple of The Way of Jesus. In fact, she is the only female person in the entire New Testament who explicitly gets that label. Many women are associated with Jesus, or the Way, and many, many were no doubt practicing disciples in every sense of the word. Absolutely! But for some reason Tabitha is the only one called a mathetria, the feminine form of mathetai which is the male version of ‘disciple’ which is used extensively. The writer of Luke and Acts has done a pretty extraordinary thing here. In a profoundly patriarchal world they’ve championed feminism. Women were critically important to the Jesus movement. It’s shameful that the early church lost that focus. (Well, they more likely buried it, you know, because patriarchy.)

In their respective languages ‘Tabitha’ and ‘Dorcas’ both mean the same thing: gazelle, or more descriptively, an animal with large bright eyes! What a beautiful description of a disciple of Jesus – a person with large bright eyes – a person who can perceive the Kingdom of God, and love it out. She is also described as a disciple who was ‘continually’ ministering to people. She was a seamstress, which suggests she was self-sufficient (employed, perhaps somewhat wealthy) – and as someone who shares her resources she must’ve had some resources to share! She was clearly an extraordinary and beloved woman. There is no mention of a husband or family in the text, so it’s fair to assume Tabitha/Dorcas was a widow – and this helps to explain much of the passage. By the way, we’re still in the first verse of the story! We get all that context from one verse!

As I prepared for this sermon I started to refer to this passage as one of missed opportunities – not in the action of the story, but in the translation. As the story goes, Tabitha dies and was washed and laid out for honouring in a “room upstairs” – but that is the exact same as saying “an upper room”! Room upstairs doesn’t mean much – but “an upper room” has all sorts of energy for us. The translators missed an opportunity to honour her by connecting her to Jesus. Luke didn’t – Luke used the same word – the translators blew it.

Being a woman who was held in such high regard, upon her death some other disciples from the church at Joppa were sent to find the apostle Peter who was in a nearby town. They implore Peter to come to see her. Why do you think that was? What did they hope to accomplish? read on

Noticings – May 4, 2022

NOTICINGS…

May 4, 2022

The place was just buzzing. I arrived at the church on Tuesday morning and it was a hive of activity. A group of men were working in the back part of the property and attending to some repairs. A group of quilters were practicing their art in the Sun Room. A group of folks were receiving food donations for this month’s food drive. And a group of gardeners were gathering to resurrect our front gardens and bring beauty back to the front of the property. I met with a few people and waved at others as they walked by my study. Now, to be fair, if I arrived on another day at the same time there wouldn’t be nearly as much going on. Tuesdays have become a gathering day outside, especially in the nicer weather.

I can’t express how wonderful it felt to feel the energy that was swirling at the church that morning. There was something about walking from my car to my study and taking in all the various kinds of activity that moved me very deeply. It felt for a moment like all was right in the world. It felt like Faith United ‘used to’ feel in the before times, when these pockets of activity were not unusual at all.

But what I want to point out here isn’t that there was a lot of activity going on – it’s that there was a lot of ministry going on! Care of creation via working on our backyard area is ministry. Quilting projects that benefit various people or groups in the church is ministry. Food drives are ministry. Gardening groups beautifying the church and supporting pollinators and critters and habitats is ministry. And probably the most important aspect of ministry that was transpiring was in the supportive relationships that were being nurtured and strengthened as these ministries happened. Deep conversations between folks while planting, or sawing, or stitching, or receiving food are the rocket fuel that powers churches.

Worship time is great in that we all focus together and collectively pause to ponder and be inspired (hopefully). But the real work of the church happens when the church gets to work! That’s when faith goes from being a personal balm to a shared blessing. Oh, I know that those blessings – that overflowing love – is shared in countless ways beyond Tuesdays at the church. It’s just that this Tuesday I got to witness it in action – and, to quote Genesis 1 – I saw that it was very good!

Tuesday mornings at the church are a vivid example of what I’m always going on about at ‘offering time’ during Sunday worship. It’s the outflow of the love of God that fills us and needs modes of expression in the world. Well, everywhere I looked on Tuesday I saw love flowing! And what makes me feel even more wonderful is knowing that there is so much more love flowing through your lives and actions that I never get to see, but I know is flowing. How is God’s love flowing through you today? What ministry are you engaging in? I bet it’s beautiful!

(Click here for a video version of Noticings)

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

220501 – That Changes Everything – Awakening

Yr C ~ Easter 3 ~ Acts 9:1-20

Picture it. It’s 36 CE (or thereabouts) roughly 3 years after the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection. A man named Saul is on the warpath. He is a zealous man, intent on wiping out the upstart movement that had become known as ‘The Way’. In Saul’s mind this movement was heretical, blasphemous even. They followed a person Saul thought to be a false Messiah – a rabble-rouser named Jesus of Nazareth, who his followers believed had died on a cross and then was mysteriously raised up. Saul had obtained warrants allowing him to arrest any man or woman he found that was a follower of The Way of Jesus. He was travelling north from Jerusalem toward Damascus when our story for today picks up.

I’m going to circle back to the start of this later and do some poking at it, but for now I want to treat the story as a broad archetype. By that I mean to see it as a pattern, or a pathway from ‘not’ being a person of the Way of Jesus to being one.

Acts 9:3 says – Now as Saul was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.

Saul was on a certain path, and then in the midst of that he had an experience that changed everything. The story speaks of a light flashing. Perhaps it was an actual visual thing like a bolt of lightning, but it doesn’t have to be. Perhaps it’s nothing more (and nothing less) than the dazzling brightness of a new thought dawning on you. When awareness comes it can feel like the whole world exploding in your brain and shattering some of the things you used to think were real and true. I suspect for most people that sense of awareness creeps up on you and emerges stealthily over time rather than being a lightning bolt – but I ain’t saying lightning doesn’t strike!

Something happened to Saul on that road trip from Jerusalem to Damascus. Something that made him stop in his tracks and re-examine his life. Earlier than Luke’s writing (Luke wrote both Luke/Acts), in the book of Galatians, Paul (Saul’s new name) writes about this Damascus Road experience himself, but it’s much more vague. Luke, as always, likes to give lots of details in his storytelling.

In Luke’s telling Saul has a conversation with the Spirit of the Risen Jesus. He doesn’t see Jesus – he just hears his voice – and Jesus is disappointed. Acts 9:4 “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Notice that the voice doesn’t say, “Why do you persecute my followers?” Jesus makes it personal. Paul replies with a “who are you?” And the answer came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

Saul’s fellow travellers apparently heard the voice, but saw no one. And, as we all know this story so well, Saul got up and even though his eyes were open he couldn’t see – which, frankly, describes a lot of people! And then we get the key line – Acts 9:9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Gee, I wonder what that’s supposed to make us think of?
Three days in the dark and not eating or drinking. And then he awakens and emerges into a new life.
Obviously this is an Easter reference! Saul has to die to what was so he can be reborn into what will be – into God’s loving Way.

Then the story shifts to one of my favourite biblical characters – Ananias. Ananias was a disciple of The Way in Damascus. Out of nowhere he experiences a vision of Jesus who tells him he must go and find Saul, and pray with him, and lay hands on Saul so that he might regain his sight. First of all, Ananias is a very faithful man, and his first response was “Here I am, Lord.” That is until he heard who he was supposed to go and pray with. Saul wasn’t just some guy. He was well known to the people of the Way. Saul was public enemy number one in their minds. Imagine the worst person you can – Hitler, Putin, the list goes on – now imagine that Jesus tells you you’re supposed to go and make nice with them and pray with them. So Ananias says, “Say what now? Him? Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. He’s the worst!” But in this vision Jesus persists and explains that Saul will actually become a great leader and preacher championing The Way.

I really feel for Ananias. I can only imagine how conflicted he must have been. But, being a faithful man, off he goes to pray with Saul.
Acts 9:17-18 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored.

Let’s pause here and think about Saul’s journey. He had a stop-in-your-tracks enlightening experience, he endured a symbolic dying and was ‘in the tomb’ for 3 days, and now, upon receiving prayer, and the laying on of hands, he becomes filled with the Holy Spirit. Can you see the pattern? An awakening of some sort stopped his former path, he died to that former path and spent some time in the darkness of unknowing (maybe it was like a wilderness time), and then he receives prayer and healing through the faithfulness of a mature person of faith, and it brings him out of his tomb and into the light of Christ.

After such a blessing, after such a gift of renewed life, his very first response, his first action, is to be baptized. Baptism is an act of surrender, an act of trust (especially if you’re doing the immersion kind), and an act of initiation, of becoming one of the People of the Way of Jesus. Saul’s second response was to spend several days with the disciples in Damascus, eating, regaining his strength, learning from them, experiencing their vibe, discovering what this renewed life kinda looked like. I think this time of Saul’s being among the disciples is severely overlooked. He’s often written as kind of a loner – going off on missionary journeys and doing his own thing. So it’s really important to see that before he did that he was nurtured and formed in Christian community! (Just like us!)

And then his last action in this reading is that he begins his public ministry as a preacher, going out and sharing the story of Jesus in synagogues. Can you imagine what kind of reception he may have gotten in some of those places? Maybe that’s why he needed to go and minister among Gentiles – because it may have been hard for people who knew of him before to accept the ‘new Saul’.

So that pattern again – an awakening,
a time of unknowing,
dying to what was,
receiving blessing through persons of faith,
emerging into a renewed life, symbolized by baptism,
being formed and nurtured in Christian community,
and then living out your calling by sharing the love of God in the world.

I’m not sure at what moment we might say that Saul was truly changed – but through this process, this pattern, it’s clear he was. Imagine going from being public enemy number one to being part of the group you were persecuting! Encountering the light of Christ, well, that changes everything, if you’re ready to receive it.

And that leads me back to the start of this story. I have a confession to make. read on

Noticings – April 27, 2022

NOTICINGS…

April 27, 2022

The internet can be so maddening. I love the internet. Can these seemingly opposite statements both be true at the same time? Yes, they can. In the way I do my work, and the way I live my life, the internet is an indispensable thing for me. Oh, I suppose I could find a way to get along without it, but life feels better when I’m plugged in. I’ve grown to count on my online connection just being there whenever I turn on one of my devices. I can’t imagine how these last two-plus years of pandemic would have gone if we collectively didn’t have the ability to use our technology to livestream worship, to have zoom meetings, to share things via our social media pages, and even to share things like this Noticings which comes to you via the internet. Not to mention the research I do online for things like The Porch and my sermons, and how email threads and weekly zoom coffee chats with colleagues have kept me afloat through the pandemic. So yes, it’s fair to say that I love the internet.

And I find it maddening. Sometimes it’s the content. Sometimes it’s the coarseness of human interaction online which too often dispenses with any sense of care or decorum and devolves into ugliness. Sometimes it’s the news of people standing for, advocating for, and doing things that I find abhorrent, but I can’t escape seeing it because it keeps intruding in my online places.

What’s most maddening though is when I can’t get connected! It’s so frustrating that one moment everything is flowing beautifully and the next moment you’re offline for some reason. You know that all your usual connections are functioning because you were all lit up a few minutes ago, but suddenly nothing seems to be working like it should. So you go through the list and follow the greatest technological wisdom ever shared: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” (it’s remarkable how often that works!). And if it doesn’t work on your devices then ultimately you go directly to the source (your modem) and turn it off and on. That’s called rebooting the system.

I bet you can see where this is headed. Our spiritual life is like the internet. Mysterious. Unseen. Yet powerful. It’s filled with wonderful connections, and marred by some maddening frustrations. When it’s all going well life feels fantastic – God’s Presence is everywhere and love abounds overflowingly. And then there are those times when nothing feels right. God was right here a minute ago, but now is nowhere to be found. And some of God’s people, well, they can be pretty maddening too. And I love them. Both can be true.

So if your Spirit-connection goes on the fritz intermittently I guess you need to figure out how to reboot your system. Like most things, it’s amazing how ‘turning yourself off and on again’ can work wonders. Maybe that’s a week of holidays (worked for me last week!). Maybe it’s a hot bath. Maybe it’s a walk in nature. Maybe it’s a hug. Maybe it’s a warm conversation. Maybe it’s immersing in art. Maybe it’s a quiet time of prayerfulness. It’s curious that the same things don’t always work. That’s mystery for you. But we need to try, because life feels better when we’re connected.

By the way, I wrote this Wednesday morning while my internet was out. If you don’t get it until Thursday, you’ll know what kind of maddening day I had. But I suspect after a few minutes all will be well. Right now I need to go and reboot the system.

(Click here for an online version of Noticings)

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

220417 – And the Rest (Easter)

Yr C ~ Easter Sunday ~ Luke 24:1-12 (MSG)

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale – a tale of a fateful trip. It started from a tropic port aboard a tiny ship. (begin singing) The mate was a mighty sailing man, the skipper brave and sure, 5 passengers set sail that day, for a 3 hour tour. A 3 hour tour!
The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert aisle – with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the Millionaire and his Wife, the Movie Star, and the rest – here on Gilligan’s Isle

Bet ‘ya never heard an Easter sermon start like that before! Y’all are like Peter after he saw the empty tomb – walking away puzzled, shaking your heads! How many of you sang different words than me just now? With Gilligan, the Skipper too, the Millionaire and his Wife, the Movie Star, and the rest! That’s how the words went in the first season of the show. How would you like it if you were on a TV show that only had 7 characters and you were thought to be so insignificant that they named 5 of them in the intro and lumped you into and the rest? In the second season what did they change to? And the rest became the Professor and Mary Anne. Rightly, that tremendous injustice was redressed and they were thereafter immortalized in the theme song. Compared to the ‘brave’ crew, movie stars, and millionaires I guess a girl next door and a teacher seem pretty ho-hum. History often ignores seemingly insignificant characters who actually do amazing things – but without them the ‘bigger story’ just doesn’t happen.

Luke 24 At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb…The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship… Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James – aha! Finally, we get some names and they are lifted from anonymity, and these women are given the respect they deserve! – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women with them – well, that didn’t last long! – kept telling (about the empty tomb) to the apostles, but the apostles didn’t believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up.

To whom was the revelation of the risen Christ first given? Women. Women who were part of ‘the rest’. Not to the so-called stars of the show – and certainly not to ones considered ‘important’ in that society. It wasn’t the chief priests, it wasn’t a king, it wasn’t an emperor, and it wasn’t even one of the twelve named disciples. Resurrection was first revealed to ordinary, mostly unnamed, faithful followers of Jesus. And what was their first instinct? What was the first thing they did upon receiving such a profoundly world-changing revelation? They went and shared it!!!

Luke 24:9 They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest.

The named disciples had been reduced from twelve to eleven because of Judas’ betrayal. But surely you just noticed that it wasn’t only the Eleven who were there. It was the Eleven and the rest! All through the gospel stories of Jesus and the disciples there are references to other disciples beyond the twelve – to the rest. Last week we noticed that at the gates of Jerusalem during the parade there was a ‘multitude’ of disciples. Only 12 get named. But don’t ever think ‘the rest’ aren’t critically important to the story!

The named disciples, and the rest, all hear the testimony and witness of the women – but they don’t believe it. Something is missing. If I have something amazing, and extraordinary, and hard to fathom happen to me, and I get really excited about it, and I come and find you and tell you all about it, at best you might think, “How nice for him.” But something’s missing. It’s second hand. You can experience my enthusiasm for it, but you have to experience it for yourself to really ‘get it’.

Here’s my big point – the telling is not what does it. The telling does not ‘win someone for Christ’ – the telling does not ‘convert’ people. The women did some passionate telling – and the disciples, and the rest, didn’t believe it based on the telling. What did they do? They had to go and see for themselves!

Peter goes racing out to the tomb, and stares into its emptiness, and he is still not assured. What he is, is perplexed! Yup. The guy who ate, and drank, and travelled, and learned at Jesus’ side for 3 solid years, day in and day out, still didn’t get it. That’s not because he’s a duh-sciple (as I so often teasingly call them). It’s because he hadn’t experienced the Spirit of the Risen Christ for himself. He hadn’t learned to perceive the world in a new way yet.

So, did ‘the women’ fail because no one believed them? Absolutely not! The women did amazingly well – because their telling made ‘the rest’ wonder – and opened them to a possibility that they hadn’t considered before – and primed the pump for them to have their own, personal experience of the holy.

Easter dawns, and the world is not all that different. Because we have the benefit of knowing much more of the story we tend to fill in all the blanks. But today’s scripture reading detailing that first Easter morning is filled with ambiguity. Peter walked away puzzled, shaking his head – intrigued, but not understanding. And then, in the coming hours, and days, Peter, and the named disciples, and the rest, began to have personal experiences of the transformed and resurrected Christ, and ‘the church’ began to be set in motion.

From those first followers and down through the centuries the story continued to be told, but apart from a few famous theologians (like Augustine, and Luther, and Calvin, and Wesley), and a few famous mystics (like Saint Francis, and Saint Teresa, and Julian of Norwich, and Brother Lawrence), and a few contemporary heroes (like Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa, and Desmond Tutu, and Thomas Merton) – apart from these folks who made history for one reason or another, the vast, vast majority of people who kept the faith, and shared their faith, and expanded the reach of Jesus’ message of love, love, love were anonymous to us. There’s the ‘big names’ in church-land…and the rest.

From a group of disheartened and defeated disciples sprang a movement so great, and so powerful, that we’re standing here this morning, half a world away, two millennia away, sharing in the wonder of it. How did we get from there to here? How is it that Faith United Church is even a thing? Well, it’s part of the United Church of Canada. Where’d that come from? Well, it was a merger of Methodists, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians a hundred years ago. Oh, where did they come from? And on, and on, and on it goes. Where did we come from? How are we here? There’s only one answer: it’s because person after person after person had a spiritual experience and then shared their story, and it opened the next person to their own experience. Those famous theologians, and mystics, and heroes helped tremendously along the way, but we’re not here because of them: we’re here because of the rest.

You’re here because someone in your circle of connection experienced the sacred, and shared it, and that opened someone else enough to drop their guard and seek to experience it themselves. And so on, and so on, and so on. It may not have been a lightning bolt experience for us – most tend not to be. Lots of us were just kind of born into it as we followed along with our family traditions and beliefs. I’ve always thought slow burns were deeper and had more staying power than lightning bolts anyway. But the deciding factor for us to become practicing church folk probably wasn’t a persuasive argument or a finely honed theological discourse. It was your heart strangely warmed. It was (and is) your own, personal spiritual experience that drew you here and keeps you here. And if you just kinda fell into it because your family always did church, then they were actually softly telling you the story all along. Telling the story is key.

And so, each year we continue to rehearse this wondrous story – steeped in mystery and inspiration – a beautiful blend of history and mystery – inviting it to once again stir our stressed-out deadness to new life – knowing that as we hear it and are moved by it, we are once again transformed by the new life that comes as we embrace this way of dying and rising into God’s loving fullness. That’s why we’re together today. We have heard, and in our own ways believed – and we’ve received the blessing of having hearts and minds opened again and again to perceive the presence of God and the reality of God’s Kingdom. Hallelujah!

Now comes the ‘now what?’
Now what?
This celebration of Easter is wonderful – and it’s all for us, for our strengthening, for our remembering, for our inspiration, for our assurance, for our groundedness, for our empowerment, for our conviction. Easter is a beautiful blessing for us.

And the rest? What about the people who either haven’t heard the story, or have heard and for whatever reason weren’t moved? Do we shrug our shoulders and hope they’ll catch on eventually? No, we must tell the story! Our story, of joyful transformation from how we used to live and love to how we now live and love, Jesus’ Way! Our story of dying to what was and being renewed and reborn into what will be. Our resurrection story. But remember, it’s not the persuasiveness of our telling that’s going to convince anyone of anything. It’s our sharing of our heart – our vulnerability to dare to show someone that Spirit moves us, and transforms us, and helps us live more justly, and more fully, and more lovingly. It’s our lived story of renewed, resurrected life that has the potential to resonate with someone’s deep need. And if I can help move someone to wonder, and to question, and seek out an experience of their own, well, I don’t care if I stay anonymous forever.

It was first Jesus’ story, but it’s not really about Jesus – it’s about me.
It’s now my story, but it’s not really about me – it’s about who I love by sharing this old, new story.

We have gathered this morning at the empty tomb to witness something inexplicably wondrous, and then, like ‘the women’, share it and how it moves you, with ‘the rest’.
Your task as a witness of faith is not to win anyone for the kingdom.
Your calling is to inspire the Peters you encounter to go running!
And the rest…is up to God.

Amen.

220415 – Good Friday Reflection

War of the Worlds – Casualties

And just like that, it was over. All that hope. All that talk of justice, and peace. All that focusing on care, and compassion, and serving. All that immersion in love – gone. Snuffed out like a poor brief candle. Yes, we know there’s more to the story, and that this is not the end. But we mustn’t hurry past this moment. If we don’t linger we will lessen the impact of Sunday. If we don’t pause and ponder the cross, we cheapen it, like it’s no big deal and we can just get on with celebrating. Well, you just heard the story of Jesus’ last days with all the gory details. Did it sound like ‘no big deal’ to him?

By the same token, he wouldn’t want us to get stuck here – constantly bemoaning the suffering, and wallowing in guilt, or shame, or whatever else stirs in us amid such agonies. Just as Peter, James, and John couldn’t set up shop on the mountaintop of the transfiguration, neither should we set up shop at the foot of the cross. But we must stay long enough to learn from it.

Why did Jesus feel the need to endure this torment? And make no mistake, crucifixion is purposely designed to be like torture. Why didn’t Jesus just deftly come up with a brilliant turn of phrase and sidestep it all? Some say it’s because God needed to be appeased. Well, I’m sorry, but that makes no sense to me. Tough love may rightly be needed by times, but tough love doesn’t kill the one it loves. Sure, you could say Jesus’ love held him on the cross – but that’s his choice – his commitment – his calling. If it’s his obligation and he’s powerless then it utterly undermines his message.

His message was that the Kingdom of God, the realm in which love and one-anothering are the core values, is a way of living that is worth standing up for, no matter what. It wasn’t God that nailed Jesus to that tree – it was the ‘ways of the world’ that drove the nails in. It was the kingdom of ‘me, me, me’. It was the self-obsession of the powers and principalities of the world that interpreted radical inclusion and infinite loving-kindness as a threat. It was so much of a threat to the powers that be that they went to war against God’s Kingdom by implementing the polar opposite of it. Tragically, there are some hard truths about war – and one of them is that it creates casualties.

Jesus is the ultimate casualty of the ‘war of the worlds’. He paid the ultimate price and was subjected to the ultimate cost of standing for your principles, come what may. That’s why this day is so hard for us to understand – because in a war the good guys are supposed to win. But he didn’t. Or so it seems. Good must prevail over evil. Love must prevail over hate. ‘Us’ must prevail over ‘me’. And it surely will. But it may not be apparent in the moment.

So yes, surely Jesus is a casualty of this ‘war or the worlds’. But so too are all those on the ‘other side’ who have not yet perceived the loving presence of God.
All those who couldn’t understand what Jesus was standing up for.
All those walking around thinking there’s nothing more than our day-to-day slog.
All those who practice self-aggrandizement at the expense of others.
All those who say, “I got mine; I don’t care about you.”
All those slowly (or quickly) chipping away at their soul, when they could be experiencing the joys of knowing who and whose they are – being loved just for being themselves – being beloved by God – which they are, but tragically they don’t seem to realize it.
These are surely also casualties of the ‘war of the worlds’. But they have not yet seen or perceived that.

And maybe that’s a way to understand why Jesus died, or to say that he died ‘for’ us. Jesus was a casualty in this war because he lived God’s Way, he lived his principles, he lived out loud, he lived love – and the world couldn’t comprehend it, and couldn’t abide feeling as it did when faced with it. But in his death, in his dying for his values, our values – he brought light and awareness in the most profound and far-reaching way imaginable. Has any other death been so…noticed?

So it is right for us to lay ourselves down at the foot of the cross for a short while, and notice, and lament. Life is not a Hallmark card, or a neat and tidy TV show that gets all wrapped up with a bow within an hour. Life is messy, and sometimes ugly and horrible – especially when worlds are at war. Jesus on the cross reminds us that we aren’t just playing around with this stuff. We can’t flit in and out of church like it’s nothing. Revealing the Kingdom of God is serious business, and it brings serious consequences to those who would dare to live it loudly.

Luke gives to Jesus these final earthly words – “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” They’re the same words he lived every day. Trust, commitment, belovedness. No war could ever take that from Jesus. No cross could either. Trust, commitment, belovedness. If we can notice that, and live that, and have it take hold more deeply, more passionately, and more emphatically because of the cross, then yes – I think it’s entirely true that he died ‘for’ us. And in gratitude our response should be to weep, and pray, and rest in remembering all he said and did. And soon, in a couple of days, we’ll be ready for the next battle in this ‘war of the worlds’.
But for now, in the shadow of the cross, in the stillness, we wait…

Noticings – April 13, 2022

NOTICINGS…

April 13, 2022

We are in the midst of Holy Week, the most sacred and special week of the Christian year. Below you will find the information about the various worship opportunities we have over the next few days. I hope you’ll be able to join us! If not, I hope you’ll at least read through the stories of Holy Week so that you can enter in and prepare well for Easter Sunday! We are following the Gospel of Luke this year, and you’ll find the stories in Luke 22-24.

As a bonus I invite you to watch the Easter Message from our Moderator, the Right Rev. Dr. Richard Bott. It’s just 4 minutes long, and you can find it by clicking this link.

Have a blessed and wondrous Holy Week!

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

220410 – War of the Worlds – Shrieking Sunday

Yr C ~ Palm Sunday ~ Luke 19:28-40

To begin, did anyone notice that in Luke’s version of Palm Sunday there are a couple of things missing – like palms? If we only had Luke’s version we’d have to call this story something else. Maybe Parade Sunday, or Cloak Sunday. In Luke’s version the people laid cloaks before Jesus but didn’t wave palm branches. Maybe the detail doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s enough to acknowledge that somehow Jesus’ arrival at the city of Jerusalem for Passover that year created quite a stir.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that what Jesus and his disciples are doing as they parade into Jerusalem for Passover is political theatre. There are crowds, cheering, a passionate exchange of ideas, and the entire act itself is making a big statement.

The details vary depending on which gospel you read this story in. For Luke’s version, other than there being no palms, the really interesting thing is the crowd. I want to say two things about this crowd – one of which might shift how you read the whole story!

Verse 37 says: As [Jesus] was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen.

Did you catch that? Who is making up this crowd? It says “the whole multitude of disciples!” A multitude of disciples! Not just 12, not just a bunch, but a multitude. I think our typical view of the story is that the crowd was made up of a throng of curious onlookers who heard a commotion and came to see what the fuss was about. But Luke suggests it was a multitude of disciples accompanying Jesus – followers filled with the Spirit and being unashamedly demonstrative about it.

Does that change the way you see the story? How about this? – If you were a Roman soldier or a Pharisee and you saw a random crowd gather you might worry a bit – but if you saw a multitude of disciples descending on the city raising a ruckus I’m pretty certain your guard would be up and you’d be ready for action.

Here’s a question for you. If Jesus were to appear today and start parading toward a city to make some kind of point would you be a curious onlooker? Would you be part of the parade laying down your cloak, singing songs of praise to God, and marching toward the powers that be? I wonder.

Ok, now we get to the really juicy stuff! Listen carefully to verse 39:
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”

Did you catch that? Where does Luke suggest the Pharisees were? In the crowd! Not standing apart and looking down judgingly but in the midst of the crowd – the crowd of disciples! The suggestion here is that Jesus had some Pharisees as his disciples! Wow!

The story works perfectly well either way – whether the Pharisees were apart from the crowd or within it. What changes is the tone. If those Pharisees were disciples in the crowd then when they say “Teacher, order your disciples to stop” it isn’t an authoritative command from on high – it’s a heartfelt plea from within. The tone changes from angry judgment to friendly concern. Who better than Pharisees to understand that such a rowdy display was likely to seriously ruffle the feathers of the authorities.

However you interpret that one thing is certain. As Jesus entered Jerusalem he encountered opposition – maybe from without, maybe from within, but nonetheless, opposition. How did he respond? read on

Noticings… April 6, 2022

NOTICINGS…

April 6, 2022

I was putting my recycling and trash at the curbside this morning when it struck me that something was different. As I was walking back toward the house I figured it out. It felt like spring. The air was different. I paused for a moment, and I heard all sorts of birds noisily chirping away. I felt the breeze. It no longer had that sting of chill in it. It was soft, and gentle, and warm. I took a deep, deep breath and closed my eyes and looked up into the sun and felt it beaming down on my face as my hair tussled in the wind. I was beaming too – from ear to ear. Spring! Finally! The long range forecast shows no nights falling below zero for the next two weeks. I’m not quite ready for shorts and a beach umbrella yet – but there’s no denying it anymore. Spring has sprung. Praise God!

And then I saw it. It was just leaning there, minding its own business, but its presence disturbed my peace. Here I was revelling in the joyousness of a changing season and there it was reminding me of what was. I didn’t want the reminder. I wanted to leave that season behind. But the echoes of it remain, stubbornly refusing to go quietly. There was only one thing to do. It had to go. ‘It’ was a snow shovel. It was dutifully holding it’s post outside our front door ready to spring (pardon the pun) into action and help us clear away the snow from our steps and walkway. It was a good and useful tool, in its season. But this is not that season. We were grateful for it in its time, but that time had passed. It was time to put what was to rest, and embrace the new. So into the garage it went.

If only our spiritual turnings could be so easy. It’s actually pretty easy to turn and enter into a new season, spiritually. Usually they emerge and envelop you and it all feels like a beautiful and natural flow of spirit and energy. And then, inevitably, we see some of the ‘tools’ of our former way – our habits, our attachments, our initial reactions – and they remind us of things we’d rather leave behind. They disturb our peace. If only they were as easy to put away as my shovel was. But sometimes they don’t go quietly. Sometimes, even though we’ve ‘turned’ and embraced a new season, they keep popping up like a whack-a-mole clamouring for our attention.

The only real strategy is to keep on keeping on. Keep immersing yourself in the new season and the former season will eventually fade from view. Keep intentionally opening your heart to God’s loving presence and that presence will increasingly fill you. In another month it’ll be hard to even remember the chill of winter, because we’ll be so fully ensconced in spring. But if we let ourselves dwell too much on what was we may find ourselves wintering when we could be springing. The turning part is easy – staying on the journey and living a new season, a new way, takes work. Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone. We have one another! And we have the constant presence of God, nudging us, sustaining us, and urging us to put away our shovels.

(Click here for a video version of Noticings)

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

220403 – War of the Worlds – Prodigals

Yr C ~ Lent 5 ~ Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

This is the fifth sermon in a Lenten series called War of the Worlds. We’ve been looking at the culture clash and conflict that happens when the ‘ways of the world’ – which are marked by self-indulgence, self-importance, and self-obsession – collide with the ‘way of the Kingdom of God’ – which is grounded in love of God and love of other. I’ve called it ‘me, me, me’ vs ‘us, us, us’. And we’ve looked at it from a number of angles.

Interestingly, or perhaps tragically, over the centuries as we’ve tried to articulate what this Kingdom of God is like in contrast to the ‘ways of the world’ Christians have tended to get it, well, wrong. A lot. Our problem, our challenge, is that as we begin to describe God we have to rely on our own language and experience, both of which fall terribly short of being able to really frame the staggering awesomeness of God well. How do you describe the indescribable?
So instead of words and definitions we turn to stories and parables that paint pictures. Stories have the power to help us imagine things better – and there’s probably no better known story in the bible than that of the prodigals. Notice I didn’t call it the prodigal son. Although, I might have called it the prodigal sons, plural. More about that in a few minutes.

I know I’ve preached on it here a couple of times, so some of you may have heard some of this before, but I’m hoping it’ll still surprise you, and maybe even offend you. And if it doesn’t then I’m not doing my job – because it is actually a profoundly shocking story. That’s what parables always are – if you’re reading them right! They’re thought bombs, and they’re designed to explode your brain!

It’s actually three stories – about two brothers and their parent – and they’re all pretty shocking! The younger turns away from the family, squanders the inheritance, makes bad choices, falls on hard times, becomes humble, and returns. The shocking parts are that the parent didn’t really have to give the inheritance but did, and that the kid ended up slopping pigs, which for a Jew was shameful, unclean, a tremendous indignity.
So the kid goes home fully expecting, and frankly deserving, to be treated as nothing more than a servant. At least there’d be food! The response was shocking.

“While he was still a long way off,” the parent came running out, wouldn’t even listen to the kid’s apology, and welcomed the kid home without hesitation. It’s almost like the parent had been waiting with open arms the whole time.

What does this say about the character or nature of “the parent?”

Instead of punishment, or a reduction in status, or even a period of getting back in the good books, the parent throws a lavish party for the wayward child – the prodigal. It’s shocking! I’m not sure that’s how I’d react if this was actually happening to me. How about you?

What does this say about the character or nature of “the parent?”

Enter the sulking older sibling – sees the party, learns it’s for the returned prodigal, and goes off in a huff. This is the dutiful child who stayed home and took care of things while the other one goofed off. Most of us probably relate to this older child. We’re the ones who follow the rules and do the right thing.

Are you ready for the shocking part? This child is a prodigal too!
Are you ready for another shocking part? The parent again comes running out and begs the older child to come in and share in the party.

What does this say about the character or nature of “the parent?”

Now, I’m sure we have some sympathy for the older sibling. Because we’re the dutiful ones we want to be rewarded and honoured for being good. On one level the older kid has a case. “I’ve produced like society says I’m supposed to. Where’s my reward?”

Is it any wonder we get theology wrong so often? On the surface the older sib looks like the one who’s hard done by. That’s our automatic reaction. But that’s also the way of the world. “Where’s my reward? I earned it.”

The parent though is on a whole other level.
The parent says, “But you’ve been with me all the time!”
And we go, “Huh?! That’s the reward?”
Yeah! It is!

What the parent didn’t say, and what the preacher gets to fill in is the longer, unpublished version of the parent’s speech… read on

220327 – War of the Worlds – Bad Theology

Yr C ~ Lent 3 ~ Luke 13:1-9

In the 1992 Clint Eastwood movie “Unforgiven” a young man who has just killed a man says, “Well, I reckon he had it coming.” To this the grizzled old gun slinger played by Eastwood replies, “We all got it coming, kid.”

How do you feel about that? It’s a heavy question. The technical theological term for it is theodicy. Theodicy is about the question of how to reconcile the presence of evil in the world if God is supreme, omnipotent, omniscient.

When bad things happen to good people is it a sign of God’s judgment?
When good things happen to bad people is it a sign of God dropping the ball?
Does God permit bad things to happen?
Cause them?
It’s a fundamental, core question that each of us has to answer for ourselves: what kind of god is the Holy Mystery we call God?

Jesus has a few thoughts on this! He tells us a couple of hot news stories in this passage. In one story we’re told that Pilate apparently (oh wait, it’s a news story – allegedly) killed some people while they were at worship.
Did they have it coming?
Did they die because they were worse sinners than other people?
Did God use Pilate as a tool?

Then there’s the story of an accident where a tower fell down and some people were killed.
Did they have it coming?
Or was it just terrible luck?
Is God pushing buildings over on people?
Is God standing by helplessly watching?

Jesus answers the questions plainly. He says no, God didn’t do this. That’s not the way God works. That is some bad, bad theology. Remember that next time some wild-eyed televangelist tries to blame some tragic event on sinful people.

Jesus. Says. No.

God does not will evil, permit evil, cause evil, use evil, or have anything to do with evil. God is love. Elsewhere Jesus says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. But he doesn’t stop there. This isn’t a shoulder-shrugging fatalism that glumly endures whatever happens and renders God irrelevant.

The point is not to try to figure out why some folks suffer or die in certain ways; the point Jesus makes is that we’re all going to die – some naturally, some by violence, some by accidents. But instead of fussing about that Jesus says we should spend our energy on how we live!

Twice here in this passage Jesus calls us to repent. Now, that’s a loaded word for some people. It has been understood (and preached) poorly over time.
Repent means to have a change of heart, a change of mind. Literally it means to have a new mind. There is a turning, a change of direction, an end to one path in favour of a new path in God’s love. A deep personal relationship with the Sacred is neither fire insurance nor a protective bubble – it’s about being fully alive while we’re alive. It’s about abundant life in this life.

In Luke 13:3 and again in verse 5, Jesus says something very cryptic. About those tragic news reports, and friends we’re still being inundated with tragic news reports all the time – Jesus asks whether those folks had it coming.
His answer is: No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.

We get the repent part – to have a change of heart and mind. But what about that ‘if you don’t you’ll all perish as they did’ part? read on

Noticings… March 30, 2022

NOTICINGS…

March 30, 2022

You have probably heard the news of ‘the slap’ that occurred during the Oscars on Sunday night. In case you haven’t, a Black male presenter made a joke denigrating a Black woman’s medical condition, and her husband, a Black man responded by walking onto the stage and slapping the presenter. You may wonder why I took such great pains to include the description of their race. The reason is that race is integral to the story, and to the reactions to the incident.

To begin, the people involved are all well acquainted, friends even. There has also been some history of tension among them over the years. What I’m saying is that there are layers to this story that are not immediately evident. The predominant first reaction online has been that while the presenter crossed a line and did violence (and make no mistake, words can be much more damaging than a slap) – while that’s true the reaction has been that the slapper did worse by assaulting the presenter. “Violence in any form is never the answer,” goes the response. True. It must also be noted that such reactions come primarily from White persons, but they’re usually only focused on the physical act, not the verbal one. This story is playing out much differently in the Black community.

Black commentators I’ve read have argued emphatically that non-Black persons cannot understand the constant degradation of Black women’s bodies in society, media, and the workplace, and especially sensitive is the subject of Black women’s hair, which was the subject of the ‘joke’. But it wasn’t a hairstyle choice that was being mocked – it was a medical condition called alopecia, which when compounded with the endemic degradation of Black women’s bodies provoked the husband to lash out. Both presenter and slapper have publically apologized for their part, as they well should. Interestingly, in social media circles where White voices are dominant the presenter is defended and the slapper is denounced. Where Black voices are dominant it is reversed. The slapper is heralded for standing up to a bully and defending Black women.

This is all very nuanced and complicated. The layers of race, and racism, in this are complex. I am not sure that I should have even tried to lift this up. As many voices have said online, “White people ought to sit this one out.” Had either or both the presenter or slapper been White this story would have played out very differently. It’s a strong reminder to all of us that situations have nuance and complexity, and when racial minority is involved we (the dominant White culture) all must press pause and be quicker to listen than speak.

Is this a spiritual issue? Absolutely. ‘Otherness’ takes many forms – race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, ability, education, experience, etc. Our ability to understand the depth of ‘the other’, their wholeness, their humanity, their strengths, their inconsistencies, their being, is at the core of what ‘love of neighbour’ means. And we pray that ‘the other’ will strive to see our wholeness as well.
And if you want to know what my ‘hot take’ on this is, well, I’m not going to share it. I’m going to sit this one out, and just listen, and learn, and seek to understand. Because today, that’s what neighbour-love looks like.

(Click here for a video version of Noticings)

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

220320 – War of the Worlds – Belly God

Yr C ~ Lent 3 ~ Philippians 3:17-4:1

I’m calling this Lenten sermon series the War of the Worlds – borrowing from H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi novel – a novel about what happens when a powerful, hostile ‘world’ wages war on a ‘world’ with an entirely different world-view. And really, that’s what this is about – it’s a war of the world-views. This concept is erupting with devastating consequences around our planet right now. Places like Ukraine, Myanmar, Yemen, Ethiopia-Eritrea-Sudan, on and on the violence goes. The evil of ‘power-over’ clashing with those who would resist.

Solving geo-political quagmires is far beyond us, but we can’t help but want to do something, anything to help. That’s why our recent appeal for donations of personal care items for people in Ukraine was so overwhelmingly supported. It was something we could tangibly do beyond thoughts and prayers.
And, this is important – it was a way to assert our world-view in the face of an oppressive world-view.

This is the war of the world-views that we can make a difference in. It’s the ‘ways of the world’ vs God’s Way. It’s the kingdoms of empire vs the Kingdom of God. It’s me, me, me vs us, us, us. The first Sunday in Lent we looked at Jesus in the wilderness – countering the voice of temptation that tries to entice us with taking the easy way, worshipping the wrong things, and distracting us from filling our tank with Spirit.

Last week we explored our constant struggle to turn away from self-interest, and self-indulgence, and self-importance and press on toward the ever-deepening goal of love, love, love. Today we’re picking up right where we left off in Philippians 3 and hearing Paul say more about those who worship the ways of the world, especially the self-indulgence part. We’re using The Message translation today because it’s phrasing is so personal and relatable, and I’m going to go verse-by-verse and amplify Paul’s words as I go.

v.17 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal.

Watch for people whose faith journey seems deep and grounded. Seek out mentors you can be in relationship with and learn from. They probably won’t see themselves as worthy of being a mentor. But they are. We say we follow Jesus, but really we follow one another in the ways Jesus taught. When the world gives us so many examples of unhealthy and unloving ways to walk, it’s that much more critical that we find kindred in Christ whose walk inspires us.
Because…

v.18 There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross.

Easy street is the opposite of what Jesus taught. That’s why so many people seem hostile to our faith. Maybe you’ve encountered some of that. It usually comes in the form of a vicious and dismissive eye-roll! Maybe some of that hostility comes from the fact that far too many people through church history have tried to make faith into easy street. “Say these magic sentences and you get into heaven!” That’s easy street thinking.
Faith is the opposite of that.
Faith knows it’s not what you say – it’s how you live.
It’s how you love.
It’s how you love, love, love.

Easy-streeters hate Christ’s cross because the cross symbolizes dying to the ways of the world and opening your heart to God’s way of love. Dying to me, me, me and being reborn into us, us, us. Letting go of the lure of easy street is really hard, because on the surface it seems so appealing.

v.19 But easy street is a dead-end street.

The NRSV bible says for those on that path “their end is destruction.” It doesn’t really mean annihilation, but instead means “loss of well-being” not loss of ‘being’.
Loss of well-being. A dead-end street.
If that’s so obvious to us, why is this a problem? Why is the way of the world, easy street, so alluring?

v.19 continues Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

What does it mean to make your belly your god? read on

Noticings – March 23, 2022

NOTICINGS…

March 23, 2022

Yesterday morning I stepped out on the deck and breathed deeply. It was a beautiful, sun shining morning, and where I stood it was protected from the wind so it felt (and looked) quite warm. Out on the road for the afternoon dog walk, however, it was quite chilly. In the morning I was thinking “spring has sprung!” In the afternoon I was thinking “nope, still wintery.” It occurred to me that we’re in that awkward and unpredictable time that’s in-between winter and spring.

We’re in-between in a lot of things right now. Some of them are good, and some of them are very challenging. A good one is that we’re back to in-person worship, and we’re committed to online excellence, but we’re in-between having all the tech and the know-how to make it all great. A new second camera is on the way which will open up many possibilities for us, once we learn how to use it. But for now we’re in-between what we want to be able to do and what we can do.

As pandemic safety mandates start to be relaxed we find ourselves in-between desperately wanting to tear off our masks and hug everyone we see, and being wisely cautious about going too quickly without sufficient scientific assurance that it’s safe, and dreading the idea that we might cause yet another wave of illness, or even be infected ourselves, or infect a vulnerable person.

And, of course, here in the middle of the Season of Lent we find ourselves in-between the energized newness of starting a journey and the looming angst of Holy Week and the cross. Not to mention the personal reflecting that Lent invites us into and the stuff that stirs up. When we do that inner work we see how we’re in-between in our being. Like the coming of spring we’re in that awkward and unpredictable time in-between being the person of faith we aspire to be, and falling disappointingly short of the mark. Truth be told, humans are probably always in that state of in-between-ness, but I wonder if in Lent we might notice it more.

The thing about in-between-ness is it always feels unresolved, unsettled, and often unsatisfying. The way through in-between-ness is to try to find peace in the moment, joy in the wondering, and hope in the possibilities that are on the cusp of emerging. It helps to remember that you are not alone! A season of in-between-ness is a season of becoming. It’s rich, and liminal, and transformational – but in-between-ness ain’t easy. Shalom as you squirm friends!

(Click here for a video version of Noticings)

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

Noticings… March 16, 2022

NOTICINGS…

March 16, 2022

Two Sundays ago it was 15 degrees C and it felt remarkably like spring was going to begin. It was just a tease, of course. Intellectually we all knew that – but it didn’t stop me from wanting to believe that we were all done with snow. Last Sunday was much cooler, but I thought it was going to be a nice day. I was wrong. By the time I drove home from church it was snowing hard, with white-outs on some sections of the road. Then it just kept snowing, and snowing. Sigh. I looked out at my driveway that night and went and charged up the batteries for my snow blower, expecting to have to use it the next morning.

When I woke up on Monday I saw lots and lots of snow, but this time I looked at the weather forecast and saw that the temperature was going to climb and climb all week to double digits again. So I looked at my driveway and said, “I’ll let God do it!” Sure enough, here we are on Wednesday and my driveway is completely clear. My strategy worked perfectly.

Some days I wish life could be like that. It would be great to look at the problems in the world and just be able to say, “I’ll let God do it.” Wouldn’t it? There’s an environmental crisis. We need to change our consumption habits. “I’ll let God do it.” Racism and white privilege are insidiously wreaking havoc. We need to awaken people and move their hearts and minds. “I’ll let God do it.” People need a living wage, and the housing market is unjust. “That sounds complicated, and costly. I’ll let God do it.” There are devastating wars in Ukraine, Myanmar, Yemen, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, and too many more places. “That’s above my pay grade. I’ll let God do it.”

Of course it doesn’t work that way. But rather than be discouraged and defeated, what if we turned it all around? What if instead of trying to solve the world’s problems all at once, I just worked on my own inner world first? We know the metaphor well. If a plane has an emergency we’re instructed to put on our own air mask first before trying to help others. If we rush to help before we’re steady, we may become part of the problem.
The Season of Lent helps us focus on that inner world. Like with this verse we sang recently:
          God, replace my stony heart with a heart that’s kind and tender.
          All my coldness and fear to your grace I now surrender.
          Spirit open my heart.

I really do want to live a more Christlike life, and to do my part to lean into all those terrible problems and challenges in the world. But I know I don’t have what it takes on my own. I need to allow the Spirit to open my heart and let it be renewed, and reshaped, and recharged. It’ll be hard, but I think I know how the rejuvenation of my heart might happen. Can you guess? (I’ll let God do it.)

Shalom,
Rev. Larry

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