Categories
Story

The Considerations of Chloe the Camel

Image of Rachael Keefe with two small camels in the foreground, a Christmas tree in the background, and a star in the upper right.

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Musings Sermon Starter

Joy, Always Joy

Image of a gnome (or a Tompte) with a red hat cross country skiing

Here we are at the third Sunday of Advent. Traditionally, this is the Sunday of Joy. On this day we shift from penitential waiting to joyful anticipation. The tone of Advent shifts from somber to joyful. We know that God is drawing near. We celebrate the Christ who was, who is, and who shall be. We may not spend much time contemplating the Second Coming. However, we might envision a world in which people more fully embraced life in Christ. This would be a world filled with joy for sure.

In the meantime, though, in the midst of pandemic, where is joy? How do we rejoice in the Lord always when we are surrounded by sickness, grief, and isolation? Is it possible to be joyful in this particular Advent season? I believe it is. It is possible because joy is deeper, more steady, than happiness. Our happiness is in question, and should be given the state of the world. However, our joy need not be absent.

I think of joy as being rooted in the very center of our beings. It grows from those times and places in which we are aware of the human spirit and the Holy Spirit touching, even in a fleeting way. Joy comes from knowing that God is present, that we are God’s beloved, no matter what is happening on our lives or in the wider world. We would do well to take time to be still and find that place within us and anchor there. The ways to find this place within are as varied as humans are. Find your way. Perhaps it is prayer or meditation… or maybe hiking through the woods, the prairie, the desert… or maybe in the flow of a river, the sounds of the ocean… through music or art… through worship or scripture… find your way to remembering and knowing God’s presence and God’s love for you particularly. And then the work begins. Or, maybe, begin the work and let the joy follow.

Either way, Isaiah gives some clear instructions on how to live out and share the joy of life in the Spirit:

  • bring good news to the oppressed
  • bind up the brokenhearted
  • proclaim liberty to the captives
  • bring release to the prisoners
  • comfort all who mourn

These kinds of activities will allow others to join in God’s love of justice and continue the spread of joy by:           

  • building up the ancient ruins
  • raising up the former devastations
  • repairing the ruined cities

I don’t think the prophet was speaking in metaphors. I believe he was telling us how to live as God’s people, instructing us on how to prepare the way for God and save lives. If we were to update this language perhaps we would say that in order to prepare the way of the Lord or embody Christ in the world today, we can:

  • call out oppression in all its forms and create systems built on equality rather than racism, misogyny, transphobia, ablism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc
  • care for the vulnerable among us by providing food, clothing, shelter, mental health care, healthcare, etc.
  • free people from ICE detention centers and cages at the border
  • eliminate for profit prisons and free POC imprisoned by racists systems
  • support those who are mourning, especially in these pandemic times

If we are able to do this work, joy would truly blossom in the lives of many people. Trusting that loving-kindness is the way God desires us to live, creates hope and makes room for joy even in the midst of pandemic. The ancient ruins we are meant to be building up are, perhaps, the ruins of the way in which God desires us to live in peace with all our neighbors. The former devastations are, perhaps, all that has been destroyed by racism and other fear based or power based systems. What would the world look like if all who claim to follow Christ sought to repair the breach between what is and what God desires for us?

Joy is not the simple pleasure in having something good or doing something good. Joy is deeper. It comes from being in relationship with God and being in community with God’s people. Joy can sustain us when all else seems lost. Joy grows when we follow God’s commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. We need joy now in this 2020 Advent season. If you have joy, please share it. If you do not have joy, hold on. This candle we light symbolizes the Light that no hardship, no despair, can truly extinguish and we light it for you until you can experience it for yourself.

Rejoice in the Lord always and let us pray without ceasing as we prepare and embody the way of the Lord.

RCL: Year B Third Sunday of Advent December 13, 2020 Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126 or Luke 1:46b-55
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Photo: CC0image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto

Categories
liturgy

Advent Calendar for 2020

An Advent Calendar with suggested activities for each day. The activities emphasize bring hope, peace, joy, or love through caring for self and/or neighbors.
download 2020 Advent Calendar for Care of Self and Neighbor

Download here!

You can download my Advent Calendar for Care of Self and Neighbor from archive.org as a full-page PDF file here.

Licensing

This Advent Calendar, shared in image and pdf formats, is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License. What does this mean? You are free to share it, print it, put it in your newsletter, link to it, post it on social media, download and then email it to people, re-use it as you wish, at no cost to you, for non-commercial use, with attribution, and without changing anything.

Categories
liturgy Prayer Uncategorized

A Plumb Line Prayer

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Amazing and merciful God, how easy it is for us to forget that we are your delight. You we rejoice when we follow your holy ways and envision a future of goodness and grace for all your people. We blame you for divisions and strife. We justify our wars by saying that you are on our side. We rationalize the abuse of our enemies by telling ourselves that they are not your people, that their sinfulness exceeds your tolerance. In truth, you have told us that we are to love our neighbors indiscriminately. Moreover, we are to love those with the greatest need more fiercely and more immediately. Shower us with your mercy, O God, until we live by the plumb line you have repeatedly dropped in our midst.

Patient and steadfast God, you continuously call us to live in peace, leaving none behind. We hear your call. We know that your love endures forever. What you ask of us is not beyond our reach; it is not higher than the heavens or on the outer edges of the sea. For all of Creation to live in justice is not an impossibility you hold up to tease us with what we cannot have. If we trust you, it is possible for us to turn aside from our human ways. It is possible for us to love with your love. Enter our lives anew, Holy One, silence our fears and smother our distrust that we may live in harmony with all.

God of wonder and mystery, you love us still. You love us when we are filled with fear. You love us when we are filled with hate. You love us when we are filled with judgment. You love us when we think we are better than our neighbors. You love us when we think are neighbors are better than us. You love us when we blame others for creating the chaos that flows through the world. You love us when we abdicate responsibility for engaging in justice work. You love us through all our foolishness. However, you delight in us when we act with love and seek to bring your realm into the here and now. Flood every corner of our being with the strength of your Spirit that we may have the courage to love with your love, always.

God of near and far places, how foolish we are when we think you are limited to one people, one language, one religion, one way of life. All people are stamped with your image. Every language has many names for you and words of praise for all that you are. At core, each religious tradition seeks to teach your holy ways and encourage us to follow them. You are the giver of all life. If we claim to follow in Christ’s way there is no room for hatred of peoples from other countries, those who speak other languages, those who call you by different names, and those whose culture is not our own. If we belong to Christ, then racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other labels that thrive on our fear have no place in us. Heal our brokenness. May we live as one body with many parts.

Living, loving God, we are grateful for your patient love. Over and over again you call us by name, claim us as your beloved, and fill us with your Spirit. Hear our gratitude for your presence among us, your arms that hold us, your vision that sees our wholeness. May we trust in your love, your grace, your forgiveness as we seek to embody Christ more fully. May the praises we sing and the words of gratitude we whisper transform our fear into hope, our hatred into joy, our judgment into grace, and our ambivalence and apathy into action. We are your people. Your Spirit lives and moves in us. Let us trust in you enough to recognize you in ourselves and in all whom we meet.

Amen.

RCL – Year C – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – July 14, 2019
Amos 7:7-17 with Psalm 82 or
Deuteronomy 30:9-14 with Psalm 25:1-10
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

Photo: CC0 image by lumix

Categories
Bidding Prayer liturgy Prayer

Bidding Prayer for Advent Love

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With hopes that we, like Mary, may find favor with God, let us join together in praying for all who share the sacred journey to Bethlehem.
People may quietly or silently voice their prayers
God who leads through example, be with all who seek the Christ-child who waits for us. Remind us that road is long and wide enough for all who endeavor to see you. As we prepare to offer our gifts to the newborn king, open our hearts. Open our hearts to make room for the extravagance of your love for us and for the whole of creation. May the love we celebrate this day, flow through us into the world.
Restore us, O God;
Let your face shine that we might be saved.

As we move through these last Advent days, let us pray for those who are in need of shelter, sanctuary, or safety.
People may quietly or silently voice their prayers
Holy One whose light proclaims the way of love for the whole of Creation, guide us to the day when hatred, fear, and oppression have no place in our lives. Mary and Joseph found safe harbor in a stable and Christ was born into these humble surroundings. You tell us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. May our love for our neighbors be demonstrated in our actions – building homes, welcoming refugees, and protecting children who dream of a life of safety and possibilities.
Restore us, O God;
Let your face shine that we might be saved.

As we remember the joyful meeting between Mary and Elizabeth, let us pray for all who gather in worship this day, near and far.
People may quietly or silently voice their prayers
God who broke into the world to draw us closer to you, unite us in our love for you. While we rush from one holiday activity to another, pass judgement on the celebrations of others, and forget the beauty and wonder of your love, remind us. Remind us that you are more Mystery than we can possibly know. All our traditions may lead us to you, but they separate us from one another. Let us see the gifts others bring and may our hearts leap with joy in recognizing you in everyone we meet.
Restore us, O God;
Let your face shine that we might be saved.

Remembering the promises of old, promises of the One who would bring peace. Let us pray for all who work to bring peace into the world
People may quietly or silently voice their prayers
God of steadfast love, you love us even when we forget to love you, our neighbors, ourselves, or creation. We have heard your call to love and we find it so much harder than it ought to be. We justify our wars, our violent ways, our fear of change, our racism, and all the ways we perpetuate systems built on oppression. You wait for us to remember your holy ways of love and justice. As we enter Bethelem this year, shine your love into our broken fearful places, those in ourselves and our churches, and those in our country and our world. Call us once again into wholeness, peace and love. And may we have the courage to respond.
Restore us, O God;
Let your face shine that we might be saved.

Anticipating, once again, the gift of the Christ-child, let us give thanks for all the blessings we have been given.
People may quietly or silently voice their prayers
God who loves without limits or conditions, we praise you for true gift of your love for us. A Child born so long ago leads us in your holy ways. In our gratitude, may we have the courage to embody your love with joy and faithfulness so that Child may never be forgotten. Hear our prayers of gratitude and praise for all the ways in which you fill our lives with hope, peace, joy, and love.
Restore us, O God;
Let your face shine that we might be saved. Amen.

RCL Year C – Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 23, 2018
Micah 5:2-5a
Luke 1:46b-55 or Psalm 80:1-7
Hebrews 10:5-10
Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]word

Photo: CC0 image by Gerd Altmann

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

Seemingly Impossible Joy

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Rejoice in the Lord always. Always and everywhere. Was Paul kidding? The world is too challenging a place to be full of joy always, isn’t it? I mean look at what is happening around the world – war, hunger, sickness, climate change – and in this country – murder, incarceration, tear gas, hatred, fear – and in my neighborhood – isolation, anxiety, desperation. Who can find joy in all of this? Funny thing, Paul’s world wasn’t all the different. He was imprisoned, not for the first time when he wrote to the Philippians. He was no stranger to oppression, war, violence, hatred, fear, and other such soul-destroying things. Yet, he found joy in the Lord.

And we are supposed to do the same no matter what is going on around us or in our own lives. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. However, joy is not the same thing as happiness. Joy is a more mature, deeper, transforming emotion than happiness. Happiness is dependent on one’s circumstances. Lots of things can make us happy. Joy is built on the connection between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit. Joy does not end when the moment has passed. This is how Paul could rejoice even when circumstances were not in his favor.

Where is the joy for today’s Christian? To be perfectly honest, I spent a good portion of my younger years feeling anything but joy. It was so hard to see through the pain of the past and the precarious balance of the present to any kind of lasting joy. It’s also hard to feel joy if one does not experience love. Only when I began to see myself as someone worthy of love, someone whom God loved deeply, did I notice joy blossoming in the depths of my being.

Zephaniah’s and Isaiah’s call to sing God’s praises even while still captive and filled with shame, make much more sense when considered in the context of God’s steadfast love. I don’t know why or how, but God continues to love humanity no matter what we do. When we engage in war and violence, God’s love remains. When we are filled with fear and hatred for our neighbors, God’s love holds fast. When we are lost to anxiety and despair, God’s love abides. Nothing we can do to ourselves, each other, or creation can change the fact that we were created in Love for love. For reasons beyond my capacity to fathom, God still loves all of humanity and waits for us to grasp hold of this truth.

When we understand ourselves to be God’s beloved, then joy becomes possible. The shame gives way to hope and the fear gives way to peace. Suddenly the world holds more beauty than violence and all our neighbors are God’s beloved. No, I don’t think it’s possible that any of us live in this truth 100% of the time. We are still subject to the emotions coursing through our bodies and the pressures of living in this chaotic world. The difference comes into play when we sit still long enough to sink into the very center of ourselves. When we allow ourselves to become conscious of the truth that resides in the depths of our being – we belong to God and nothing can change that. When we embrace this truth, then joy grows and becomes something that nothing can remove. Yes, joy can grow dim in the face of hardship. It can be masked by depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness. It can fade in the face of grief. Yet, it remains, always. A light in depths that cannot be extinguished.

Of course, this joy might require we do some odd things. We might have to write letters of hope and promise to churches from a prison cell. We might have to proclaim the power and presence of God to a people lost in shame and fear. We might need to preach release, salvation, to captives. We might have to sing while those around us weep, sing of God’s promise of hope, peace, joy, and love.

So, yes, let us rejoice always, trusting that peace that truly passes all understanding to keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. It might just get a little easier to stand with John the Baptist in the wilderness and prepare the way…

RCL – Year C – Third Sunday of Advent – December 16, 2018
Zephaniah 3:14-20
Isaiah 12:2-6
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

Photo: CC0 image by Gerd Altmann

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

Sharing Jesus

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Many years ago while I was in my first call, I had the privilege of teaching the Sunday School children what communion meant. About 100 children from the age three or four through age fifteen or so gathered in the social hall while the adults worshiped in the sanctuary. I went through each part of the worship service and carefully explained what it was and why it was included in worship. The anticipation and excitement built as we neared the time for communion.

It was all fairly routine until I said the Words of Institution and the Prayer of Consecration. At this point the youngest children were on their feet jumping up and down because they were going to be able to participate in communion. They could not contain their enthusiastic excitement. It was a joy to watch them take pieces of bread and then the tiny cups of juice with such innocence and reverence.

When the service ended and the parents came to collect their children, the little ones couldn’t wait to share what they had done. There were many shouts of “Mommy! Mommy! Guess what? I got communion! Bread and juice!” These children literally could not contain their excitement and passion about being included in the sacrament. And, on some level, they understood what they had done. I overheard more than one child explain a little impatiently to a parent who had asked what it all meant. The children all said something like, “I got to be like the grownups and share Jesus.”

From where I stood, these kids were not like the grownups at all. The newness of participation in the sacrament awakened something in them that radiated outward. To this day, I’ve never seen an adult as excited by the prospect of “sharing Jesus” the way those children were. For most of us, the sacrament of communion has become routine and mundane. We have lost touch with the excitement, the passion, and the power of sharing bread and cup.

I can’t help but think that Jesus would have welcomed some enthusiasm for eating and drinking, for “sharing Jesus” when he tried to teach the crowd that they needed to have a faith so active that they lived in him and he in them. There was no jumping up and down in anticipation that day. Most seem to have been perplexed by Jesus’ invitation to eat his flesh and drink his blood. What they wanted was actual bread in their bellies, never mind the Bread of Life stuff that confused them to no end.

We’re confused, too. While we agree that Jesus isn’t inviting cannibalism, we aren’t really sure what was talking about. Many folks want to make it all about the sacrament of communion and use it to underscore their particular theological beliefs and practices. Other’s want to say that Jesus is talking about Incarnation and how we can participate in it. Most of us read through the passage in a hurry to move on to something more concrete. Yet, we might benefit from lingering in discomfort for a bit.

If you have made your way to a communion table and you’ve eaten the bread and drank from the cup, is there any evidence in your life that you have done this? Is your faith active and alive enough that others can tell that Christ lives in you and you live in Christ? I know these are weird, discomforting questions. Yet, this is what Jesus was inviting that ancient crowd to do – intentionally make room for the indwelling Holy Spirit. Eat the Bread of Life, drink the Cup of Blessing so that you are transformed by them. You are not just you, but you are also Christ alive in you. We need to be grownups and share Jesus, internally and externally in the world. We don’t need to do this to save anyone’s soul, but because there are lives out there that need saving.

We are the Body of Christ. Together we are the Bread of Life and the Cup of Blessing and we should be jumping up and down with excitement and enthusiasm because we get to share Jesus in ways that can transform the world.

RCL – Year B – Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 19, 2018
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 with Psalm 111 or
Proverbs 9:1-6 with Psalm 34:9-14
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

Photo: CC0 image by manseok Kim

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

(Un)Packing for the Journey

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Take nothing for the journey, except a sturdy walking stick. Seriously? But I’ve got this whole pack of stuff. I have dietary restrictions and I’m not sure if even the most radical hospitality can cover them. I have books full of wisdom and advice that I’m sure I’ll need. And walking shoes and blister kits and medicines and… and… and… Oh, and let’s not forget all the other stuff I tend to carry along, too. You know, the self-doubt, the guilt, that chorus of critical voices that always makes me rethink my choices, and the burden of past trauma, and all the other junk that I can’t seem to let go of. And, please, can I bring my cell phone for GPS purposes only, I swear.

In spite of my protests, Jesus was pretty clear in sending out those early disciples. He told them not to take anything along with them because nothing they could carry (literally or figuratively) would help them on their way. They had everything they needed and more. And when they forgot that they could do God’s work, they had a companion to remind them that they were not in the business of spreading the Gospel alone. Everything else would be provided by those they would encounter along the way.

I still want to launch a protest, though. I want to point out how much more complicated the world is now. I can’t just go out in the world with nothing but the clothes I wear and a friend and expect that anyone will hear the Good News. Surely Jesus would understand if I brought a few things along! He would, wouldn’t he?

Probably not. Because all those things that I think I need would get in the way of helping to make manifest the Realm of God. As I imagine loading myself up with things I think I need in order to follow Jesus and live a life of love and healing, I wouldn’t make a very good ambassador of grace. I picture a backpack weighing nearly as much as I do, full to overflowing with all my “essential items.” It weighs so heavily on me that my progress from one place to another is so slow that I might as well not move.

I’ve got all this stuff on my back so I can’t look up and see where Jesus is leading. I’m so focused on what my GPS is telling me, I haven’t noticed my neighbors on the sidelines, needing my attention. Then I’m too busy looking for a place with adequate refrigeration for my foodstuffs that I haven’t responded to those who are hungry right next to me. I’m too worried about my own comfort, covered as I am in my sun-protective gear that I’ve failed to see those who are barefoot, exposed, and thirsty all around me. My hands are full with my phone, my water bottle, my walking stick; I can’t reach out in kindness or mercy to anyone.

And if this external stuff doesn’t totally trip me up, the internal jumble I can’t quite let go of, surely will. When my thoughts are so full of my own brokenness, how will I ever speak a word of healing, or see the wholeness of God in those I meet along my way? When I am focused on what I can’t possibly do, how will I ever bring a bit of the Realm of God into the here and now? When I am caught up in regrets for all that I have not done to help others or all that I have done to hurt others, how will anyone find hope and new life in the words I offer? When I am so preoccupied with pieces of my past, how can I reach into a future filled with hope and good things and hold it out for all to see?

Jesus was right. Take nothing for this journey of love and lifesaving. Nothing I can possibly carry, in my hands or in my head, will be of any use. I need to empty myself all that I use to protect myself from the world—the material goods that reveal only a small part of who I am and the clutter in my mind that tells nothing of who I am. I need to open my head, my heart, my hands to the One who shows us how to love. Only when I let go of all that I don’t need, can I truly embody Love and receive the hospitality and joy of all my neighbors. Together, when we empty our hands, our heads, our hearts of all that is unnecessary, we can make manifest the Realm of God. We are not alone and we have all that we need …even (maybe especially) those of us who tend to live in rebellious houses.

RCL – Year B – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 8, 2018
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 with Psalm 48 or
Ezekiel 2:1-5 with Psalm 123
2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Photo: CC0 image by Simon Steinberger

Categories
Poetry Prayer

A Poem for Trinity Sunday

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Holy One,

I contemplate the sacred dance
and wonder when I will learn the steps
steps of peace, healing, hope
not just for a few
for all who yearn for freedom

You created all that is
as the Spirit hovered
and the Word spoke
and Wisdom beaconed
and the whole of You delighted in Creation

now we are tangled up in the limits of our language
trying to make You three and one
when You are always so much more
a Sacred Mystery breathing Life
and stirring visions

our lips have been burned clean
our sins have been blotted out
yet we remain outside your realm
(with guns in hand and fear holding us still)
which is close enough to reach
and too far for us to embody
because we have yet to believe
that which has always been:

Your love for us never ends
we can refuse to see it or claim it
we can deny it and avoid it
yet, we cannot separate ourselves from Love

what if the day is coming when our world is shaken
by the power of your glory
shaken so hard that we fall from doubt and disbelief
fear and hatred
apathy and ambivalence
into the truth of your delight in us?

what if we hover with the Spirit over Creation’s waters
and see only Love reflecting
an invitation to learn the steps of the dance
right now?

what if we hear the Word that sears our lips
and speak only grace, hope, and joy
echoing the song you’ve been singing from Earth’s beginning
longing for us to listen?

what if we follow Wisdom’s way
and create justice and offer mercy
until the world finds its rhythm
without violence
without destruction
without division?

God-in-Community,
may you remain patient with humanity
remain steadfast
until we claim your Love
share your Love
embody your Love

continue to shower us with forgiveness
until we know the truth
of your claim on us
and have the courage
to see you
in ourselves
in each other
in the whole of Creation

teach us to seek justice for all people
to love with your patience and compassion
and rely on You when we encounter the limits
of our bodies
of our minds
of our human ways

during this Pentecost season
blow through our lives
and set our holy heads on fire
that we may be the Church-Made-New
born again
born from above
born anew

Amen.

For sermon help, try here.

RCL – Year B – Trinity Sunday – May 27, 2018
Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

Photo: CC0 image by Jill Wellington

Categories
Musings Sermon Starter

Set Apart for Unity

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As the sky darkens with an approaching spring storm, I am looking around my office at the salmagundi (I love this word!) of more than 25 years of ministry. The accumulation of items on my wall cover such a span of years and memories. I have “The Child’s Creed” from my third grade Sunday school class, cards, crosses, and pictures from each place I have served, receipts waiting to be handed in, pictures of my wife, and even my CREDO covenant. If this wall could tell stories, it would tell you of people and places who have touched my life. It might even tell you about those who served here before me and what it held then. It would tell you of sadness and joy, hopes and heartbreaks. Mostly, it would speak of love and service, the core of any ministry.

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Next to the wall with all its tacks and pins, are the shelves. They hold everything from books to palms, duct tape to dolls, and an assortment of other things, like the duck nativity set collected at the last Synod. I’ve read these books and written a few of them. There’s an old picture of Jesus and the children that I have loved since it was given to me in junior high. Memories stack these shelves, too. They whisper of youthful hopes and wisdom’s dreams. Together they tell the story of where I have been, and point toward where I might be heading next. They hold onto the ideas for children’s sermons (some better than others) and leftovers from Pentecost and Christmas celebrations. These shelves hold the possibility and promise born of years of gathering and learning and trying new things, knowing the resources will be needed again.

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Behind me hangs a quilt given to me when I left my first call. The blessings and prayers written on it have faded over the years, but there is joy in it still, and company. This quilt reminds me that I am truly surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. I need that reminder. I need to be reminded that I am not alone in this calling. I need to remember all the places I have served, all the people whose lives are linked with mine. I need to hear that being set apart for sacred purpose means being united to others in love and joy. That’s what this chaotic collection of tangible memories does for me; it reminds me that I am deeply connected to the Body of Christ.

You see, I’ve spent so much of my life feeling apart, different, unwelcome that the idea of being sanctified was not a comfort. I didn’t want to spend more of my life apart from others, even if it meant a life of service. Let’s face it, ministry can be a lonely job. How many times have I told people who express feeling lonely and isolated to go to church to be connected to community? How many times have I suggested that people can find ways to volunteer or find kinship in church? I tell people all the time that church can be a place of healing and a place to claim one’s value. But for a pastor, one’s congregation can’t do these things. And for someone like me who grew up always feeling the outsider, I’ve often felt lonely in ministry.

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As I read Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, assuring them that they are sanctified, something new opened up in me. As followers of Christ we are sanctified in love for the sake of creating unity. We aren’t meant to create unity in thought or practice or creed, but unity of purpose. The purpose is, of course, to make manifest the Realm of God, to incarnate Divine Love for our neighbors. We are sanctified, set apart for sacred purpose. And that purpose is to love others with a godly kind of love. If it were as easy to do as it is to say, then I wouldn’t have this office full of ministry miscellany. We’d all just be out there doing it.

My friends, we are all sanctified in God’s eyes. We are all set apart for the purpose of loving God, loving ourselves, loving our neighbors, and loving Creation. And we are all united as we try to live into God’s vision of and for us. This is the good news of this Easter season. May we all fully claim our identity as God’s sanctified people and have the courage to live this truth out loud.

RCL – Year B – Seventh Sunday of Easter – May 13, 2018
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John 5:9-13
John 17:6-19

Photos CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe