Sea Glass and (Un)Certainty

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I’m not an optimist by nature. I tend not to believe anything unless I see it for myself. This isn’t the typical statement made by a pastor, but in my case it’s true. I know that life is hard, people aren’t always honest, and weird things happen. So when I’m told about things that people have seen or heard or experienced, I’m very skeptical. If I were among the early disciples, I’d have been like Thomas. No way was I going to believe in the Risen Christ unless I could see and touch him myself.

I’ve been thinking about this while on vacation this week, and today especially. I spent quite a bit of time on the beach today. I can’t walk a beach anywhere without searching for sea glass. I thought I’d have good luck today because of all the storms that New England has had this season. I found a few pieces here and there, small and mostly brown. Just before leaving the beach, I was picking through piles of small rocks and shells left behind by the receding tide. And I was rewarded for my searching with a large piece of nearly glowing glass. Years ago, it might have been part of a Coke bottle – thick and slightly green. I knew that if I kept looking, I’d find a prized piece. I just had that feeling.

Faith is like that for me. There are days when I’d say with Thomas, “Nope. I don’t believe unless I can put my hands in the wounds.” Then there are other days when I’m absolutely certain that if I keep waiting, keep searching, keep listening, keep watching, the Holy Spirit is going to show up and do her thing. I don’t know what makes the difference exactly, but I suspect it’s me and not God.

Having grown up on Cape Cod and having spent hours on the beach, I know what storms can do to a beach. My belief that I’d find an excellent piece of sea glass was based on previous experience. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my wavering between faith and disbelief. Previous experience says that I always find God when I am searching, waiting, or seeking. However, there are times when I am certain that God is no where to be found and isn’t going to show up.

God knows me better than I know the ocean, though. God shows up all the time and has the patience to wait for me to notice. And, trust me, sometimes I can keep God waiting for quite some time. Those disciples who witnessed Jesus without Thomas were pretty lucky. If Thomas hadn’t been so adamant that he needed to see Jesus the same way that the others did, he might not have had to wait a week. It’s possible that Jesus was hanging around, waiting for Thomas to recognize his presence. Maybe Jesus waited a week and then decided to give Thomas what Thomas thought he needed.

Just a week ago we were singing Alleluia and believing in the power and presence of the Risen Christ. How long did it take before we all forgot that Christ is with us all the time – in friends and neighbors, family and strangers? We keep thinking that Jesus needs to show up in a certain way and insist on only recognizing Jesus in the way that has been described by others. What if Jesus has been with us all along, waiting for us to recognize him?

I had no trouble persisting in my search for the perfect piece of beach glass. I thought I was looking for red or blue, or even a sizable green. What I found was clear with a hint of green. We might all be looking for the Risen Christ to show up with nail marks and proof that he is who we think he is. What if Christ shows up in the most vulnerable among us and our response is the only proof needed?

RCL – Year B – Second Sunday of Easter – April 8, 2018

Photos CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe

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Anticipating Easter

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Sitting in my office with the remnants of Lent services and studies scattered amidst the props and pieces of Holy Week services yet to come, I’m finding it hard to believe that Easter is just days away. Usually Lent feels a bit pressured and overly long; there’s a lot to do out in the wilderness to prepare the way for Resurrection. This year has been different from the beginning. Lent has gone quickly and without a lot of fanfare. I’m not quite ready to leave the sanctity of the wild places just yet.

This year I am envisioning the length of the path that led the women to the tomb in the early morning gloaming. The path is cold and dark and the spices are heavy in their hands, nearly as heavy as the grief in their hearts. The hours between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning have never been so long, so lonely, so full of grief. Yet, those women trudge through the moments that hang between night and day so they can anoint Jesus properly. What they find at the tomb is not at all what they expected.

Instead of the body of their beloved rabbi, they are met with an unfamiliar young man dressed in white robes. This stranger tells them to not be afraid (which they were, of course) and tells them that Jesus is no longer among the dead because he has risen. In days to come, this might be considered good news. But in that moment, it was terrifying. And it should be. Who walks out of tomb after being crucified? That’s scary stuff!

In Mark’s account, the women are told by the young stranger to go and tell Peter and the others that Jesus has risen from the dead. Mark goes on to tell us, the readers, that the women didn’t say anything to anyone because they were terrified and amazed. This is where the written story ends and the lived story begins.

This move from death to life is not an easy transition. We might be okay with the amazement. Then again, when is the last time you were completely, speechlessly amazed by God? Wherever we are with amazement, we don’t tend to welcome terror, not this kind of terror that has us running away from the unfathomable. The good news is that neither terror nor amazement keeps hold of us forever.

At some point the women told of their early morning angelic encounter. Soon word spread that the tomb couldn’t hold Jesus, and a whole new religious way unfolded. We have centuries of knowing the story. We also have centuries of distortion and mistellings and confusion and diffusion of power. This odd story has become so familiar that we hardly notice the message. We have a tendancy to dismiss the terror and the amazement and jump right to the Alleluias.

I don’t know about you, but this year I need to feel the power that has been leached out of this story. I want to feel the terror in my gut and the amazement in my knees. This Lent has been a bewildering journey through the wilderness. It was marked by school shootings, police shooting unarmed black men, illnesses and losses, people asking why these things happen, and people crying out for justice. It hasn’t been quiet in the wilderness this year; I’ve had a lot of company. Yet, I am still reluctant to leave.

In this moment I am grieving the loss of a mentor and friend, a grief I share with many others. We are connected in our wandering in this season of seeking and searching. Tears flow freely as I contemplate the path ahead. I can almost smell the spices those women carried. The despair and heaviness that made their footsteps slow weighs on me as well. I’m just not sure I’m ready to find that tomb empty. Not because I don’t believe the story, but because I do.

You see, Mark leaves the ending in our hands. Or, rather, Mark leaves the continuation in our hands. We are the story that began with the empty tomb. We are now the ones who embody that movement from death to life. We are the ones called to speak Love in a world filled with fear and hatred. We are the ones invited into life in a world that loves death and destruction.

There is much in the world that can fill us with terror, the immobilizing kind of terror. And there is a lot to amaze us as well. But is there anything other than the power of God to speed our feet away from the place where death dwells and into life where Love lives on?

Yes, I am weary and grieving. Yes, I am reluctant to move forward. Yes, I am hesitant to claim the Alleluia that is growing closer. However, my feet are on this path, in this gloaming between death and life. The world pulls one way and the Risen Christ leads the other. The story was written long ago and it waits to live on in me and you and all who are willing to brave the wilderness in search of new life.

Christ is risen!

(If you are looking for sermon help, try here.)

RCL – Year B – Easter – April 1, 2018
Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

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Palm Sunday: Time to Choose (Again)

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What did Jesus see when he went into the Temple on that day he returned to Jerusalem? He’d just been welcomed into the city with shouts of “Hosanna!” and waving of branches. It wasn’t a spectacular parade as parades go, but it was an enthusiastic welcome to be sure. From the excitement of the small crowd he goes to the Temple. Mark tells us he goes in and looks at everything. Then he goes to Bethany to spend the night, presumably with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Maybe I’m still caught up in last week’s image from John’s Gospel of Jesus and his troubled soul. I imagine Jesus looking into the future and seeing the bleak reality of what he faced. He knew that Roman officials and Temple authorities alike wanted him dead. He probably hoped that God would provide another way for him, for the people of God. After that slow donkey ride with people shouting, “Help me!” or “Save me!” They believe him to be sent by God to claim the throne of David. Jesus rode a donkey, not a big white horse, and the people still thought this humble man would free them from Roman oppression.

Did Jesus go into the Temple to look for God’s presence? Did he go looking for an affirmation that there was something worth saving? Did he hope to find sanctuary in that sacred space? Who knows? He walked in, looked around, and left. Was his heart heavier or lighter when he went back to his donkey? If he was looking for sanctuary, he didn’t find it. Did he what he saw confirm that he was doing the right thing by risking his life?

So many unanswerable questions! I wonder if it would be any different today. Would Jesus find what he was looking for in any of our churches? Would he find friends embracing him with Love? Would he find hallowed ground, protected at all costs from humble people like him? Would he see the fullness of life or empty, outdated spaces holding echoes of the glory days of the past? Would he find holy space for a quiet prayer and silent affirmation of his call? Would he see evidence of a faithful people, a people worth risking his life for?

While Jesus is looking around inside the Temple for whatever his troubled soul needs, the crowds outside disperse. The ragtag group that followed Jesus wandered off toward their own homes, celebratory branches dragging on the ground. Meanwhile, on the other side of town, the remnants of the Roman parade linger. Speeches about safety and the power that Rome has to rule with authority and quell any revolution people might be whispering about, reach desperate ears. It isn’t likely that people shouted, “Hosanna!” as the Roman contingent entered Jerusalem in numbers. However, they likely hoped that mighty Rome would save them from despair, poverty, and violence. I suspect too many people were there that day, witnessing the wrong parade with misguided longings.

Perhaps today as well. With all the people enamored with the glamorous promises of “Rome” do enough of us shout “Hosanna!” for us to be heard? Is it possible that over the years our churches might be too much like that Temple was on that first Palm Sunday. What do we need to do, or be, or change, so that Jesus might be less troubled? Are we, as church, the embodiment of Christ? Would Jesus see in us an affirmation of all that he taught, lived for, and died for?

Maybe our hosannas will ring truer this year. Maybe this year Jesus will hear us genuinely asking for help, asking to be saved from our own human frailty. Maybe this is the year that we will finally see that Jesus is the One who comes in the name of God to free us all from oppression, not with a sword like that first crowd thought, but with Love…

RCL – Year B – Palm Sunday – March 25, 2018
Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Photo: CC0 image by Stefan Schweihofer

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Show and Tell: The Sacred Version

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When I read about Stephen Hawking’s death, tears came to my eyes. In that moment, I felt an acute sense of loss. It’s not that I had ever met him or had any deep understanding of his work. But there is something about a person who continues to speak and work and change the world even as their body is ravished by disease. He gave me hope. His way of being in the world reminded me that there are no limits to what I or anyone else can accomplish when we focus our gifts and use them well. Stephen Hawking made me believe that I could do whatever it is I’ve been created to do even when my body imposes limits on my energy and movement. When I listened to his words or read his books, I believed “more” was possible. When he died, I felt like the world had a little less hope in it now that this vibrant person is gone.

On the other hand, I know that folks with Stephen Hawking’s tenacity have been around as long as human beings have. The Prophet Jeremiah was likely one such person. I cannot imagine having to deliver his message to the people of God in his time and place. On the other hand, there is such power and promise in his message that I want people here and now to receive it. God is forever expanding and reshaping the covenant God has made and will make again with the people of God. Rainbows weren’t enough. A personal invitation didn’t hold the people to God. Stone tablets were broken even before the people even grasped them. All through the wilderness and through the years, the people of God wandered away from God’s covenant with them. Then along comes Jeremiah to say that God is going to make a new covenant that will be unbreakable because it will be within them, on their hearts in God’s own handwriting.

Jeremiah’s words weren’t heard very well. We still don’t quite get it. There’s only one word God would ever want to write on our hearts and we struggle with it so much. God would write LOVE on our hearts – love of God, love of self, love of neighbor, love of creation. It’s a word that is engraved within each of us as surely as we are created in God’s image. Yet, humanity on the whole is pretty awful at loving the way God calls us to love. Imagine what the world would be like if our children didn’t have to advocate for gun control… Or women didn’t have to take to the streets to bring attention to sexual harassment and abuse… Or People of Color didn’t have to plead for their lives… What would the world be like if we all went in search of this indestructible covenant that is our birthright?

Years after Jeremiah tried to describe this amazing gift God places within each human being, Jesus embodied this covenant of love. Simply to show us how it can be done. Even then, people didn’t understand what he was about. Even in moments of Show and Tell, or, more accurately, Tell and Show, people still didn’t get what Jesus was about. In John’s Gospel we have this curious interchange right after Jesus as entered Jerusalem, triumphantly I might add. Palm branches have just been strewn at his feet and the “Hosannas!” still echo through the air. Yet, the momentum stopped right there.

Jesus spoke about letting go of life in this world to be one of his followers, bear fruit, and honor God. I’m sure he received a lot of blank stares as he spoke. Maybe even a few shouted, “I don’t get it” before Jesus gave a very real example. He just finished telling people to let go of all the things they valued to make room for the love of God, when he demonstrated exactly how it’s done. He told God that he was anxious about the events unfolding round him. He didn’t want to do it, even though he knew that this demonstration of God’s love for the world was exactly why he had been born. God affirms this, and people continue to do what people do. The reminder buried in the example is that God’s love is for all people.

We have been told. We have been shown. God has written LOVE on our hearts. When will we live it? When will we embody Love without question or hesitation? When will humanity reach the point where hope and life will shine brilliantly through all people, not just a few of the extraordinary ones? Jesus changed the world to show us that it’s possible. As Lent draws to its end, what will you do to follow Jesus with more than words?

RCL – Year B – Fifth Sunday in Lent – March 18, 2017
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

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Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny

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Biology was not my favorite subject in high school. The workings of a microscope frustrated me because I couldn’t close one eye and keep the other open. Dissecting worms and frogs wasn’t particularly enjoyable, either. I don’t honestly remember much, but the phrase, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” has stuck with me. It was first used by Ernst Hackel, though I don’t remember that being clarified in class. However, it simply means that embryonic development reflects the development of the species. I’ve recently realized the same general idea can be applied to faith development in the people of God.

Think about it. Back in the days of the early Israelites, they believed that God was the cause of all things. If life was good, it was because they were pleasing God and God was rewarding them. If life was difficult, they were displeasing God and God was punishing them. We see this kind of theology in the passage from Numbers which recounts the encounter with the deadly serpents. The Israelites were complaining against God because of the challenges they faced in the wilderness. They were not happy to be hungry and thirsty and they longed for the fleshpots of Egypt. They believed God was affronted by their distress and doubt, and God punished their sins with venomous vipers that killed with one bite. Moses played intermediary as he often did, and God gave the people a way to survive the serpents.

Children often display a similar kind of faith. A very simple faith that says if I am good, God will give me what I want. If God isn’t pleased with me, then God will give me things I don’t want. Many of us get stuck in this way of thinking about God for a very long time. But we don’t have to. Jesus expanded this view of God quite dramatically.

God so loves the whole of the cosmos that God sent God’s own Beloved so that all who believe might have eternal life. God’s love was and is for the whole of creation. Jesus was meant as a display of God’s love, a path to bringing the Realm of God into the here and now. Jesus’ life, ministry, and resurrection were a radical departure from the tribal God whose wrath flowed freely in response to human behavior. Jesus invites us all to live in a world where Love has ultimate authority, not sin or death.

If we are able to move beyond the perceptions of the ancient Israelites, and even those who lived in First Century Palestine, our understanding of God shifts. We can literally leave behind a rather punitive, reactionary God and move toward a God who is Agape, unconditional, unlimited love. The hints of this are recorded throughout scripture. “God’s steadfast love endures forever” is repeated in numerous verses. There is no place we can go where God’s love is not – depths or heights (Psalm 139). Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39). Even the Creation stories of Genesis point toward a God who lovingly creates; God deems Creation “good.” If we can move beyond a literal reading of the scriptures, we might be able to see, hear, feel, and experience a glimpse of God’s unimaginably vast love for Creation in general, and humanity in particular.

We have a better understanding of how the world works in 2018 than folks did in Moses’ day or even in Jesus’ day. We know that when times are good, we think of what God wants less than when times are challenging. It would be easy to conclude that prosperity is from God and when hard times come, God is punishing us for failing to remember God’s ways. However, there are natural consequences for abandoning God’s ways in favor of human ways. When we humans start thinking that all we have accomplished and all we can do is a result of our own efforts, we tend to become rather self-absorbed. We tend to stop paying attention to the “greater good” and the needs of our neighbors. Then someone with more power comes along and reminds us that we are not God. Then we remember to seek out the Holy and care for our neighbors as ourselves. We can see evidence of this throughout history. Nations don’t fall because God punishes them for their arrogance. Nations fall because they begin to think of themselves as infallible which creates weakness that stronger nations take advantage of. Israel wasn’t conquered again and again because God was punishing them. They fell to their enemies because they forgot to care for the whole nation, not just the wealthy and powerful.

Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Let’s take another look at the Numbers passage from the understanding of God as Agape. The Israelites escaped from Egypt and were in the wilderness. They were hungry, thirsty, and frightened. There were things that happened in the wilderness that caused destruction and death. When the people remembered their liberating God, they were able to find a path through the painful desert. They were not alone – every person for themselves. No. They were a holy nation and could help one another through the pain and grief of seeking new life. God, Agape, was with them, leading them, shaping them into a new people.

This Lent, as we wander through our own wildernesses and deserts, let us remember that we do not go alone. Let us also remember that our God is not hiding around the next bend, waiting for us to screw up so God can punish us accordingly. Let us remember that God is Agape, Love beyond our capacity to imagine. This God whose ways liberate us from oppressive sins and lead us to new life, this is the God who accompanies us on the journey. Not only is God journeying with us, but God is waiting for us to leave old, constricting ways behind and embrace ways of being that lift the whole of Creation to new life.

We, as people of God, are no longer infants. Isn’t it time we embody the fullness of Christ’s love for our neighbors and ourselves?

RCL – Year B – Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 11, 2018
Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

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The Wisdom of a Covenanting God

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When I contemplate my little life, I marvel at God’s extraordinary patience. With me, yes, and also with the rest of humanity. How is it that God has remained steadfast in God’s love for us? I mean, how many times does God have to spell out what we need to do to live in peace before we grasp it? I can’t even get through a day without losing patience with someone or something (usually some electronic device that I can’t make work). How has God made it through millennia without smiting the entire planet and starting over?

Winter weariness has definitely contributed to my thought pattern, but my thinking is more a result of contemplating covenant. God has covenanted with humanity for longer than we can remember. I think about Noah and the covenant that stated a truth not understood then or now – God does not destroy. To participate in this covenant, human beings should also refrain from destruction of one another and the planet. Look how well we’ve done that! Then there was Abraham. God promised Abraham a multitude of descendants who would become great nations. Abraham got his descendants but God is still waiting for the great nations to emerge. We haven’t even begun to try to walk blamelessly before God with any consistency.

With the echos of “do not destroy” and “walk blamelessly,” we come to the covenant God made with Israel at Sinai. The Ten Commandments. So, if we want to refrain from harm to one another and Creation and we want to be blameless before God, all we need to do is follow these Ten Commandments. Simple enough. God must have thought so. Moses must have thought so. Yet, we human beings can’t make it through a day without breaking at least one commandment. Then we have the audacity to blame God or someone else for our inability to live in Love. All I can do is shake my head and marvel at God’s tenacity. God hasn’t given up on us yet.

Paul reminds us that God’s foolishness is beyond human wisdom. Good thing, too, or we’d all be dust by now. God foolishly loves the whole of Creation. So much so that God continued to expand on the covenants of old. God keeps making them bigger, bolder, more dramatic to see if we will ever catch on. Instead of paying attention, we point and say that even Jesus got angry and flipped over some tables. Right. Jesus got angry and did something to restore justice. He didn’t just post on social media that the situation was horrible. He went to the money changers and kicked them out of the Temple courtyard. Jesus didn’t do this because he was having a bad day. He did this because people had failed to live in Love and were profiting off of the poor. Jesus tried to show us how to live in Love, a Love that does not abuse its privilege but ensures that all are valued, particularly in God’s house.

In case you can’t tell, I’m in need of some soul reviving. Perhaps you are as well. The world is an exhausting place and trying to live into the Covenant writ large in Jesus takes a fair amount of energy. I wonder what it would take for us to trust in the perfection of God’s ways enough to experience the sweet life that would flow into us. Wouldn’t it be something if we could live without destruction, be blameless before God, honor and strengthen the community around us, and take action to ensure justice for all of God’s beloved? I know these things are easier said than done. We have a few millennia of practice behind us and we have yet to succeed.

The good news here is that God’s steadfast love truly does endure forever. While I feel like humanity might just be running out of time, I’m not sure God would agree with that assessment. As we journey through the wilderness, barrenness, chaos of this Lenten season, perhaps we can search out the places where God’s love breaks through all our foolishness. Perhaps we can look around us and see the signs of God’s continuing covenant with us and be thankful. Perhaps we can join with others to create communities of faith committed to embodying Love, the very opposite of our tendencies toward destruction, self-focus, and individual needs. Maybe this will be the Lent in which we give up our human foolishness (that insists we don’t need God) and embrace God’s foolishness (that insists on Love)…

For further sermon ideas, try here.

RCL – Year B – Third Sunday of Lent – March 4, 2018
Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

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Can We Be Blameless and Unashamed?

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Have human beings always been so egocentric, so self-focused, often to the point of narcissism? Last week 17 people died in a school at the hands of one gunman. This week some schools are auctioning off guns as fundraiser, one of which is an AR-15 – the gun used in the school shooting in Florida. The worst of this, the school calls itself Christian. How is it that God would want anything to do with raffling/auctioning guns to raise money for schools? How is it that anyone following Christ could think this is a good idea?

Let’s take a moment to consider Abraham. No, Abraham did not own any guns since he walked the earth long before guns were invented. However, Abraham’s story tells us something about what it means to follow God, to live in covenant with the One who created all that is. God called Abram when he was 99 years old. Surely, an old man would have better things to do with his time and energy than pack up all he owned and follow God out in the wilderness. Abram chose to do as God asked, though. Abram changed his name and grabbed hold of the promise God offered. God would give him and Sarah a child, a child who would be the first of many nations, of many kings. To an old man without children, this probably sounded pretty good.

There was a catch, though. Abraham had to agree to walk blameless before God. This is tricky business. Abraham had to avoid sin. He had to think about God, neighbor, Creation, and self, taking care not to bruise, break, or otherwise damage, his relationship with any of them. This was Abrahams part in the covenant. Yes, God would give Abraham and Sarah offspring more numerous than the stars, but Abraham had to agree to walk before God with the intention of honoring God, neighbor, Creation, and self. That’s a significant commitment!

We like to hide under the covenant that God has made with us, like it’s a security blanket keeping us separate from the evils of the world. Jesus is the New Covenant which somehow makes it stronger and better, right? Yes and not exactly. If Abraham had to keep up his end of the covenant, then we, too must keep up our end of the New Covenant. The new one does not negate the old one.

If God covenanted with Noah (and all living flesh) not to destroy the world, then Noah (and all living flesh) were meant to hold up their end of the bargain and not be forces of destruction in Creation, either. This covenant didn’t end with subsequent covenants; each is built on the last. If Abraham had to walk blameless before God to keep his end of the covenant, to ensure that his heirs would give rise to nations and kings, then Abraham’s heirs were meant to do the same. Because we humans are terrible at holding onto and living into God’s covenants, God keeps renewing and reshaping them, but, at no point does the new one negate the previous one.

So, we come to the New Covenant made in Jesus. This is a covenant made in Love, to show us how to Love one another, and to remind us that death and destruction does not have the last word. What’s our end of this? What must we do to participate in this covenantal promise? We must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. Not all that unlike walking blameless or avoiding destruction… We just don’t particularly like that bit. We want to think about how God loves us no matter what. While this true, shouldn’t we be more active in our participating in the Covenant? Why do we expect God’s steadfast love to continue to endure when we aren’t even willing to try a little self-denial?

You know, like realizing that sometimes what is needed for the good of all is more important that what I might want in the moment. I’m not anti-gun. However, not everyone who wants a gun should be able to have one. Not everyone who wants one needs one. Not everyone who owns a gun for sport needs a semi-automatic rifle. And a school, a Christian school at that, who wants to raise money ought to think twice about raffling off AR-15 in this moment (or ever, really). We tend to think that denying ourselves is a bad thing. In many cases, a little self-denial is a good thing, maybe even a life-saving thing.

Self-denial in the age of self-care is not denying who we are and it’s not denying our status as God’s beloved. It simply says that we think about the greater good and make sacrifices accordingly. You know, lack of gun control is a problem in this country. Are you willing to deny yourself the right to have a gun like an AR-15 if that means keeping children in schools safer? Another example, the use of plastic water bottles and drinking straws is a problem globally. Are you willing to deny yourself this convenience and use reusable bottles and straws? You get the idea. Self-denial and carrying one’s cross is the Christian version of walking blameless before God, you know, living where all the world can see without shame and mindful of one’s relationships with God, neighbors, Creation, and self.

Isn’t it time we start putting the needs of the many, particularly the vulnerable among us, ahead of the needs of the few? Denying myself some of the things I want sounds a whole lot better than children dying or contributing even more to the destruction of the planet. I’ll try to be more intentional about carrying the cross of my self-focused tendency if that means I take a couple of blameless steps before God. How ‘bout you? Crosses don’t weigh much when you think about the cost of not picking it up… Death and destruction aren’t supposed to have the last world. Isn’t it time we tip the odds in favor of Love?

RCL – Year B – Second Sunday in Lent – February 25, 2018
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:23-31
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38 or Mark 9:2-9

Photo: CC0 image by Kanenori

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