Musings Sermon Starter

Be Barefoot with Moses, Paul, and Jesus

Image: crowd of protestors carrying signs for Black Lives Matter and anti-racism

Anyone remember the story of Moses and the burning bush? It isn’t really the cute children’s story we might have learned in Sunday School. And it isn’t one of those stories that had meaning then and is unclear for today. With the shooting of Jacob Blake last week and the Uprisings in Minneapolis last night, we need to revisit that story that has become too familiar to us. There’s a message in there that we need right now.

As you may remember, Moses was minding Jethro’s sheep one day when a voice called to him out of a bush that was burning but not being consumed by the fire. Moses was not looking to disrupt his complacent, ordinary life. For all we know, he liked tending his father-in-law’s sheep. God had other plans for him, though. He had to take his shoes off because the ground under his feet was holy (and it’s harder to run away when you are barefoot). God proceeded to tell Moses that it was time for him to go to Pharaoh and tell him to set the people of God free.

Note Moses’ response here. He basically said, “Why me? I’m nobody. Shouldn’t somebody else go?” Like most of us in the world today, if we happen to hear God’s voice calling us, nudging us, to go confront the Pharaoh or his agents, Moses begged off. We know that the story ends with Moses going to confront Pharaoh and eventually freeing the Israelites. What if it hadn’t? What if Moses walked on by? What if he just said, “Nope, not me”? and lived his life as a shepherd of sheep rather than a leader of people? Would God have called someone else? Did God try others before Moses agreed?

Back to today. What if every moment of discomfort we white folx experience when we read or hear the news of police shooting another black man or police responding to protestors with violence or police pepper spraying media is actually God reminding us that the ground under our feet is holy? What if, instead of turning away while wishing this unrest would all go away, we actually took off our shoes and stayed a while, listening to what God might be calling us to do? You know, starting with the judgement about “those people” who are Uprising? If you’re like me, meaning white, then you really don’t know what it is like to live under systemic oppression (white supremacy) for four hundred years. We really have no idea what it feels like to be treated as “less than” from one generation to the next. If we did, we might be tempted to unleash some rage as well when police act out of their racism and harm or kill people who have the same color skin we do.

Then once we’ve stopped judging and started to empathize, at least a little, then we can also stop defending the police. There is no excuse for shooting black people… in their cars… on the sidewalks… in front of their families… No excuse for kneeling on their necks…. doing nothing while they cannot breathe… God is asking us to free God’s people from Pharaoh’s ways. God is asking you and me to go to Pharaoh now. No excuses. We are needed because the police officers aren’t going to be taking their shoes off any time soon. Pharaoh has them trained too well.

Still not convinced this is a reasonable interpretation of the burning bush story? Okay. How do you feel about Paul and what he had to say in Romans? Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Paul is pretty clear in how we should act and how we should treat one another. Loving all our neighbors is Christian mandate. Hating evil means hating white supremacy and all the racist systems it sustains. Hating evil does not mean hating people who are not white. Wouldn’t it be more in keeping with God’s laws if we tried to outdo one another in showing honor? These days, showing honor looks an awful lot like the abolition of police and voting for change come November. There are too many people dying because Pharaoh and those in his service fear change – change that means equity and justice for all of humanity.

If you still aren’t convinced that God does not endorse systemic racism and is heartbroken by the white nationalist conflation of white supremacy and Christianity, how about that time Jesus called Peter Satan? Peter just wanted Jesus to turn away from Jerusalem where his fight with Empire would surely end in his death. Peter wanted Jesus to follow an easier path. Jesus was tempted. Why else would he call Peter “Satan” while telling him to get away? Yes, if we commit to fighting the Empire and it’s oppression, then we will be tempted by easier paths. It’s best if we take our shoes off so we cannot run away.

With our feet bare and our hearts open, may we burn with the passion for justice, burn but not be consumed so that we may actively seek to set ALL God’s people free.

If you are looking for sermon help, try here.

RCL – Year A – Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 30, 2020
Exodus 3:1-15 with Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c or
Jeremiah 15:15-21 with Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Photo: CC0image by

Musings Sermon Starter

Out of the Pit

The story of Joseph being thrown into a pit by his brothers is a horrifying one. Reuben seems to be the only caring one in the bunch. He advocated for throwing Joseph in the pit and not murdering him so that later Reuben could return Joseph to their father. That isn’t what happened, though. After the brothers had thrown Joseph in the pit, some traders came by (Ishmaelites or Midianites) and Judah had the brilliant idea of selling Joseph and telling their father that Joseph had died. It’s an ugly story. One that eventually comes right but ugly nonetheless.

Some will respond to this story saying that it was God’s will for the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery because God needed Joseph in Egypt for when Pharaoh needed an advisor. However, attributing things to God’s will to justify the inexplicable is nonsense. It would be like saying the Holocaust was God’s will because it paved the way for reestablishing the state of Israel. Nonsense. In the case of Joseph, his brothers’ jealousy and hatred led them to do a horrible thing. Their hatred and jealousy of Joseph made them forget that Joseph was their brother. Their actions of throwing Joseph into the pit and then selling him into slavery had nothing to do with God. Later, when Joseph was useful to Pharaoh, that was God’s doing. God was in the redemption, not the sin. We need to stop blaming tragedy on the will of God and start looking at human behavior.

When we read this story of Joseph and his brothers, many of us are inclined to identify with Joseph or, maybe Reuben with his plan to rescue his baby brother. However, it seems to me that we as church, particularly white church, behave much more like the other brothers. We have allowed our fear to grow into hatred of too many of our siblings. The fear that feeds our systems of white supremacy and racism has us, at the very least, keeping our siblings in pits. Some of us are actively throwing our BIPOC siblings into pits and doing everything possible to keep them enslaved. Some of us are like Reuben and plan to save our siblings with little action to follow up on the plan. God may be trying to redeem our sins. However, there is so much resistance to liberating society from white supremacy, that God’s drive toward love and justice rarely comes through.

I’ve witnessed a trend on social media in recent weeks that underscores my point. When a person who is not white, cis gender, heterosexual, and, usually male, posts about an experience of “othering” by a white, cis gender, heterosexual, usually male, jumps in with a “well, I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation” for the hurtful behavior. This excuses the perpetrator of the harmful act and blames the victim. It also fortifies the systems that allow for othering. And another sibling is thrown into the pit and sold to protect the fragile feelings of those with the most privilege and power. This must stop. Isn’t it time we reached into the pit to give our siblings a hand up?

Hate, active or passive, is never God’s will. Acts of violence, public or private, are never God’s will. We are all children of God and, therefore, siblings. Every. Single. One of us. As Christians we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and to care for the vulnerable among us. It’s time to stop selling out or siblings and tossing them into pits dug with irrational fear and hatred fueled by broken social systems. What would it take for all of us to take responsibility for the ways we have contributed to sustaining systems of white supremacy? Let’s stop attributing acts of fearful, hateful, violence to the will of God.

God has been trying to break through to us with the voices and actions of prophets for generations. 2020 has been a trying year for all of us. COVID-19 is not from God to test our faith. However, pandemic has revealed truths about our society in ways that cannot and should not be denied. Pandemic acts as a magnifier of our vulnerabilities, as individuals, as the church, as a society. Rather than abdicating responsibility by saying that this is all God’s will, let us make 2020 the year we elevate our siblings who have lived in pits of despair that we have dug and been enslaved by white supremacy for generations. Let us elevate the dreamers and visionaries, the prophets and teachers, the unseen, the forgotten, the unwanted, the devalued and the dismissed. By so doing we participate in God’s redeeming acts of love and grace – for all our siblings and for ourselves. Let’s make 2020 a year of lasting redemptive change.

RCL – Year A – Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 9, 2020
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 with Psalm 105: 1-6, 16-22, 45b or
1 Kings 19:9-18 with Psalm 85:8-13
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

Photo: CC0image by free-photos


A Confessional Prayer

image of four wild horse running with a rainbow in the background

Holy One, you are like no other god—a lesson you have tried to teach us again and again. Though Abraham expected you to need the sacrifice of Isaac, you did not. You ask us to unbind ourselves from the pain-filled destructive ways of old. You ask us to rid ourselves of our ties to racism and white supremacy, to xenophobia, and to fears that prevent us from seeing you in ourselves and in our neighbors. Forgive us for the ways we cling to outdated understandings and traditions that no longer hold meaning. Forgive us and call us into your presence once more.

Ever-patient God, you hear our cries of “How long, O Lord, how long?” and you wait for us to change our ways. You are present with us in joy and in sorrow, in peace and in war. Yet, we mistake your presence for your blessing. Moreover, we want you to fix what we have broken. Instead, you provide us with all that we need for healing, for peace, for abundant life—not just for ourselves but for all. Have mercy on us when we fail to take responsibility for our sins of destruction, dehumanization, and divisions. Have mercy on us and awaken us to the possibilities of life in your Spirit.

God of life and love, do you ever grow tired of waiting for us to turn to you? How many times must you set us free from ourselves? How many times do you need to put your Love on full display before we see how precious we are, before we recognize you in all peoples? You have demonstrated the saving power of your Love again and again. You tell us that we are free from sin and ask us to serve righteousness. And still we persist in causing harm, often in your name. Call us once more to live as you taught—loving our neighbors as ourselves. Call us and awaken us to the power of Love.

Steadfast God, we are tangled up in so much that is not good for us. The knots of fear tighten when those who should lead speak only to divide. The ropes of self-righteousness wrap ever-tightly every time we fail to consider what our actions might mean for our neighbors. We say we want to be disentangled, even while reaching for new cords to bind ourselves to some other false prophet or punitive god of our own making. So many people around us are in need of water, of hope, of renewal, of release, of reparation, and we tend to think that your Living Water is meant only for us. Fill us with your grace that we may free ourselves of all that binds us to brokenness. Fill us and empower us to be agents of healing, hope, and Love.


If you are in need of sermon help, try here.

RCL – Year A – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – June 28, 2020
Genesis 22:1-14 with Psalm 13 or
Jeremiah 28:5-9 with Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Photo: CC0image by Skeeze

Musings Sermon Starter

No More Worthless Things

Someone left a message on one of my blog posts this week asking me to contact him to “discuss the role of women in church.” Not likely. You want to take the Bible literally when it’s convenient. You want to say that women can’t be clergy, that marriage is “between a man and a woman,” that God uses storms to punish sinners, that prosperity is a sign of God’s blessing, and a few other things. However, you let the call for repentance from the prophets and from Jesus go unheeded. You ignore Jesus’ call to care for the vulnerable. You would rather spend time arguing about what the bible does or does not say than actually trying to embody Christ in service to your neighbor. No, I’m not going to discuss the role of women in church with you.

Of course, our more conservative siblings don’t have the corner of the market on biblical literalism. It’s the default setting here in the U.S. Yet, we are also only literal when it is convenient for us or when we want to reject the God described by biblical writers. It’s easier to engage in discussion about what is or isn’t in the Bible than it is to discern what God may be asking of us. It is easier to say we are “not that kind of a Christian” than it is to proclaim what kind of a Christian we are. It’s easier to cling to our traditions while complaining about the many who no longer seek a faith community than it is to transform church into something that meets the needs of people around us. What might it take for us to leave behind the tedious and petty things that divide us and focus on building the realm of God?

Jeremiah lamented the foolish ways of God’s people. He pointed out how far from God the people had strayed, not for the first time. It seems we human beings have a startling capacity to choose “worthless things” and become rather worthless ourselves. We have a tendency to blame God for the hard times, the times of scarcity and suffering, and credit ourselves with times of abundance, the times of success and happiness. How long will we worship the false gods of our own making rather than seek the God whose steadfast love outlasts our foolishness?

While we keep digging our cracked cisterns, God keeps whispering of Living Waters that quench thirst and nourish parched souls. Today’s gods have more names than Baal and they are not always made of gold, but they are just as false. These gods will lead us to pursue our own personal pleasures or our individual successes. They will keep us divided from our neighbors and enamored with our own sense of power. They will not lead us to wholeness. They will not lead to justice. They will not set anyone free. Yet, they are demanding and will consume us if we don’t leave them behind.

In Luke’s Gospel Jesus tells the parable about the wedding banquet. He saw how people entered a banquet room and took their seats as honored guests. He cautioned them about assuming how important they were compared to other guests. Jesus also had something to say about who should be invited to such a feast. The guest list shouldn’t be confined to those for whom feasting was normative. No. Those we wouldn’t dream of inviting should be called in to sit at the table and eat their fill. (Where’s biblical literalism when it might do some good?)

Isn’t it time we stopped hiding behind our fears and started to live as the people of God in more than just name? If we call ourselves Christians how can we be silent when children are in cages? When the government seeks to take away women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights? When ICE is given the freedom to pursue everyone whose skin is not white or whose religion is not Christian? When the poor are blamed for being poor? When racism is held up as the national standard? When people in the U.S. (and elsewhere in the world) are dying because they do not have access to food, healthcare, or shelter?

If we are Christians, where is the proof that we are members of the Body of Christ? Where is the repentance? Where is the service? Where is the love of neighbor and self? What will it take for us to love one another as God loves us? If you and I don’t do something to change what is, then who will? We never know when angels might be hanging around.

God is still waiting for us to give up these worthless things that we so value and drink deeply of the Living Water. It’s not too late…

If you are looking for more sermon help, try here.

RCL – Year C – Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost – September 1, 2019
Jeremiah 2:4-13 with Psalm 81:1, 10-16 or
Sirach 10:12-18 with Psalm 112 and
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 and 
Luke 14:1, 7-14

Photo: CC0 image by michael gaida

Musings Sermon Starter

Sodom and Gomorrah Revisited


The time has come to look at Sodom and Gomorrah from a different perspective. Changes are pretty good that whatever you learned in Sunday School or picked up along the way is not useful. A literal or legalistic reading of this story gets us nowhere good and has done more than enough damage to queer folx. If we can agree that the people who told this story and those who wrote it down had a very different worldview than most of us now have, then we need to apply what we know to this text.

Most of us know that God isn’t sitting somewhere in heaven waiting to shower do-gooders with blessings or reign down punishment on sinners. This way of thinking is a holdover from days when all things were explained by divine actions. If we understand that much of the suffering in this world can be explained through science and/or recognized as a result of human behaviors, then what was perceived as divine punishment can be understood as the consequences of a certain set of parameters. For example, the increasing intensity of storms can be explained scientifically and is, at least in part, due to the ways in which human beings have damaged the planet. This is a more reasonable explanation for these storms than to say that the inhabitants of a particular place are being punished by God for their sins. Similarly, most illness and diseases can be explained through genetics, germs, or toxic environments. Again, this is a far more reasonable explanation than to say that a person with an illness or disease is being punished for their or their parents’ sins.

Now we can conclude that it is far more likely that the biblical punishments, afflictions, and smitings attributed to God were natural consequences resulting from whatever circumstances preceded them. In other words, not God’s doing. In a similar way, people like Moses and Abraham probably didn’t literally hear God talking to them anymore than faithful people do today. Maybe they had fewer obstructions in their prayer life and received responses with a bit more clarity, but they probably didn’t sit down and have an actual chat with God.

With this in mind, let us revisit Sodom and Gomorrah. We learn about these cities from the angels/men who informed Abraham and Sarah that Sarah would soon be pregnant in spite of her advanced years. The visitors had enjoyed Abraham’s generous hospitality and were heading on their way. They debated telling Abraham about their next stop before deciding to share the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. They don’t tell Abraham anything other than that here has been significant outcry against these cities. They stress that they are telling Abraham because his offspring will grown into a great nation and that they will be responsible for keeping “the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen 18:20).

After hearing this, Abraham takes his concerns to God, whom he knows to be just and good. He prays. He asks God to spare the cities for the sake of the righteous who live there. God assures Abraham that the cities will be safe if there 50, 45, 40, 35, 20, and as few as 10 people living righteously. Abraham trusts God’s justice. He also receives a message that even a few people faithfully living out God’s holy ways can save many from destruction. This is the power of faith, power often overlooked in the reading of this story.

From Abraham’s conversation with God, we move back to the angels who had just left Abraham. They find hospitality in Lot’s house and, therefore, advise Lot to get his family out of the cities. Lot’s family think he’s joking about the impending destruction and choose to remain in the cities. Of course, some of Lot’s actions don’t make much sense to modern readers and cause us to wonder at Lot’s righteousness. However, Lot cannot be faulted for the hospitality he offered to the visitors, even if we are appalled by his parenting choices and how little he seemed to value his daughters. Of course, they make questionable choices of their own a bit later. And that business of Lot’s wife turning to a pillar of salt is a bit odd and seemingly unfair. Let’s just say that she turned into a very precious commodity and discuss the women in this story at a later date.

I also don’t want to skip over the part that historically been used as proof that God disapproves of queer people. The men of Sodom wanted Lot’s guests for sexual purposes. The problem here isn’t sexual activity. The problem is how little they valued people who were foreign, alien to their cities. They saw them as less than human, to be treated in any way the residents of the city felt like treating them. In this case, they wanted to use them for sex. On another day, maybe they would have chosen to enslave them or hold them captive for another purpose. All these things were against the ways of God. The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was their startling lack of hospitality toward the stranger among them.

This lack of hospitality is in direct contrast to Abrahams’s generosity and Lot’s welcome. There was nothing righteous or just in the doings of the people who lived in Sodom or Gomorrah. We know that when one group of people stops recognizing the humanity of another group, the results are often violent, ugly, and fatal. Sodom and Gomorrah annihilated themselves with their own selfish greed. It’s just a more cautionary tale if God smites them. And making queer folx the scapegoat is a convenient way to avoid looking closely at the real issues.

Isn’t it possible that we who follow Christ need to pay more attention to our own offers of hospitality? What groups of people have we dehumanized? Where have we failed to in doing righteousness and justice? These are the more useful questions that come from Sodom and Gomorrah. Perhaps we can avoid future destruction if we pay more attention to keeping God’s ways and offering generous hospitality to the stranger, foreigner, and aliens in our cities. After all, doom can be avoided if as few as ten seek to live in holy ways.

For more sermon help, try here.

RCL – Year C – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 28, 2019
Hosea 1:2-10 with Psalm 85 or
Genesis 18:20-32 with Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

Photo: CC0 image by Ryan McGuire

Musings Sermon Starter

Covenant Without End


I’m guilty of romanticizing fall. When Labor Day rolls around I’m flooded with nostalgia and a sense of excitement. I have an urge to go out and buy new clothes and new shoes. My Facebook feed is flooded with first-day-of-school photos. And my mind creates false images of joy and happiness from my youth. While it’s true that I liked school, I hated shopping and having to try on clothes and shoes and never getting quite what I wanted. School was also a mixed bag. I liked the routine and the structure, my friends, and classes. On the other hand, I was often teased and bullied and felt left out and different from my peers.

Yet, here it is after Labor Day once again and I have the same sense of excited anticipation that I’ve had since Kindergarten. These days my feelings center on church rather than school, but they are much the same. What will this new program year bring? What will the joys and challenges be? However, my familiar sense of anticipation is tempered by recent and on-going events. The superstorms of last week have given way to bigger superstorms this week. Wildfires continue to burn throughout Montana. The President has called for an end to DACA. The wider world is filled with chaos, some predictable and some not at all. I’m also coming to grips with a health diagnosis that is as much a relief as it is a concern.

Enter Moses. I wonder if Moses had any sense of excited anticipation as he prepared to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. In the midst of plagues and Pharaoh’s anger, God informs Moses that it’s going to get messy. Yet, through the messiness and misery the people of Israel will learn a new song and experience new life. God will keep God’s covenant (yes, there was a covenant before Sinai) with the people. Will the people keep their covenant with God?

Through the blood of lambs, the people will be marked and spared. God will save Israel again and the nation will be restored, eventually. Yet, God alone won’t save the people; they will have a ton of work to do. Not the work of Pharaoh’s slaves, but the long, slow, intense work of transformation. First, they will have to slaughter a lamb (goat or sheep doesn’t matter) and they may have to share with smaller households. Then they will mark their doorways. And they will eat, eat quickly and be ready to move. After that, the hard journey will begin, should they be willing to leave behind everything they have known and follow Moses into the wilderness.

It’s no wonder that the Last Supper took the shape it did with this story of Passover fresh in Jesus’ mind. Eat this bread that is broken for you, a body given for your wholeness (remember those lambs shared between households). Drink this cup poured out for you, blood shed for your forgiveness (remember that God has saved you). Do this to remember my love for you and my commandment that you love one another. Moses led the people of God out of slavery in Egypt into a journey that would take a couple of generations to complete. Jesus led the people of God out of Roman captivity into a journey that has yet to be finished.

The story of Passover is one that is hard for us to understand with our Twenty-first Century ears. We want to shy away from the blood or the possibility that God would murder all Egyptian firstborns. When we get trapped by our desire to read the story literally, we fail to hear its deeper meaning. Living in covenant with God is messy and scary and cannot be done alone. Households may have to come together and share resources to make sure all have enough. God is also very likely to ask us to leave behind the predictable routines of living in captivity and live for a time with discomfort. We might even be asked to ignore the raging of Pharaoh and the plagues of our day and step into an unexpected, perhaps unwanted, position of leading people where they are reluctant to go.

For many of us September is an exciting time of new programs, new initiatives, and renewed hope. This year such excitement might be tempered by the climate – both literally and politically. Is this not how the ancient story goes? This is not the first time the people of God have lived with storms and oppression. This is not the first time that chaos threatens to pull apart the comfortable lives we live. As in the days of old, God hears our cries. God knows our hearts. God feels our yearning for liberation. God has shown us the way of covenant.

Will we share with households that may have less? Will we love our neighbors as ourselves? Will we remember with more than nostalgic warm-fuzzies the fullness of our communion story? God, as always, honors God’s covenant with God’s people. How do we live into our covenant with God?

Perhaps this is the question for us as seasons change and our programming and ministries gear up once more. Perhaps we should let ourselves be filled with excited anticipation because we know that God always keeps God’s covenant. Perhaps God is, once more, teaching God’s people a new song so that we might hold up our end with a little less complaining and a lot more love…

RCL – Year A – Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 10, 2017
Exodus 12:1-14 with Psalm 149 or
Ezekiel 33:7-11 with Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

Photo: CC0 image by Лариса Мозговая

Musings Sermon Starter

Lessons from a Crime Scene


I never thought I’d be spending time at murder scenes. Yet, too often, this is where I find myself as a member of a Police Community Support Team. When there is a critical incident, team members receive a text. Just as I was preparing to sit down and write, I received such a text. There had been a shooting and a man was dead and support was needed at the scene. When I arrived, everything seemed quiet and almost normal. Yet, there was the yellow crime scene tape and the familiar faces of homicide detectives. Then a little further up on my right was the body of the man who had been shot.

As the detective escorted me across the scene and told me what they knew, I noticed the scattered groups of people. Some were standing in silence. Some had tears flowing while they talked on their phones. Others were openly weeping for the man who had just been killed. Others greeted new arrivals with hugs and smiles of welcome. I was a part of it and an observer. My heart ached for those gathered. Yet another shooting in a neighborhood with far too many. It was not the first time these folks had gathered at a murder scene and it won’t be the last.

“Royal blood flows through our streets,” was my thought as I introduced myself to the newly widowed woman and stepped into the process of getting her immediate needs met. Her husband was killed for no reason. He just happened to be in the wrong place when the bullets were fired. How could no one see his holiness, his chosenness while police collected evidence and mourners cried?

The words of 1 Peter have been echoing through my head all week while getting louder this afternoon. We are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” Yet, we spill the blood of our neighbors so easily. When did it come to be that young people cannot see the value in their lives or in the life of another? When did it come to be that violence is the only solution to a problem? When did it come to be that one’s value as a human being is determined on such insubstantial things as where you live, the color of your skin, your abilities, or where you happen to be standing?

God has chosen us for something other than destruction. God has chosen us for something other than violence and death. Why do we still live as if we were still “not a people” when we are God’s people?

That relationality that Jesus proclaims in John, “no one comes to the Father except through me” was not an exclusionary statement. It was a statement of great love and welcome. Jesus and the Father are the same, yet there is a relationality that is essential to life, to faith. My favorite word in seminary was “perichoresis” and it literally means “inner dance.” This is the dance of love that moves through the Godhead. It is the dance to which we are invited. We are invited, not as observers but as participants. Join in the relationality. Claim the dynamic movement of the Spirit that unites Father and Son as your own. Follow the footsteps of this holy dance and you will know Divine Love, the kind of love a parent has for a child but so much more than even that.

It’s this Love that marks us as chosen, royal, holy, and God’s very own. It’s a gift freely given. It’s a gift that comes with a cost. Once we accept the claim God has on us, we are obligated to live accordingly. We are obligated to love our neighbors with that same kind of Love. We love to save lives, to stop the blood flowing in our streets. We love without condition or expectation of reciprocation. We love hoping it will be contagious and others will join the sacred dance and pass it on.

I don’t want to go to another homicide scene. Murder happens when fail to see our neighbors as residents in God’s holy nation or because we fail to participate in the work of justice, the work required of the royal priesthood. If Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life for you, then you cannot afford to sit still while the blood flows. Invite everyone you know to join you in the sacred dance because we are all members of the same royal family. As one of my colleagues frequently says, “There’s no such thing as other people’s kids.” Let’s start living as though we really believe that we are one in Christ before it is too late.

RCL – Year A – Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 14, 2017
Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5,15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

Photo: CC0 image by Gerd Altmann


A Letter from a Tired Pastor

inthestreetDear white Christian folks and other interested parties;

I begin with this:  God loves you. Because we are joined together in Christ, I love you. I will also say that no one is more white than I am; I have the genetic tests to prove it. Up to 68% Irish and the rest is all equally pale. I have as much privilege as a white bisexual woman can have, and that’s quite a lot. That being said, it’s time to get real about what is happening in the United States right now. Black Lives Matter is a movement and a statement that ought not be countered with “All lives matter.” All lives have never mattered equally in America. Look at what white folks have done and continue to do to First Nations people. Those in power believe it is perfectly okay to run an oil pipeline through tribal lands and risk contaminating the water. There are so many things wrong with this, not the least of which is that we should not be building more oil pipelines; we should be decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels. But the real problem is that we have no right whatsoever to risk water and land pollution on tribal lands. I do believe there are treaties to prevent such. I’m not an expert and I could be wrong, but didn’t the government give those lands that we don’t particularly want anyway to the First Nations peoples? By running that pipeline we are telling them, yet again, that their lives don’t matter nearly as much as white lives do.

Still not convinced? Friends, we wear our white privilege as casually as the rich man in the parable wore his regal purple robes. We have let ourselves be fooled into believing that we deserve a certain kind of treatment because our skin is white. Every day we walk away from Lazarus as he huddles wounded, bleeding, dying of hunger, thirst, and gunshot wounds. The poverty profiteering that goes on every day in every city across the country with our passive consent, keeps poor folks poor and only directly benefits bankers and politicians. Ask yourself why the CEO of the latest bank to have been caught in a scam still has his job when any other person who steals money goes to prison, particularly if they are a Person of Color. Also, every time we decide that an unarmed black man deserved to be shot by police because he looked like a “bad dude” or “had a wide nose” or the officer “felt threatened” or any other such nonsense, we are clearly stating that Black lives do not matter as much as white lives do.

The story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus is about making good choices, choosing to serve others, and not living in our own isolated bubbles of comfort. I realize that white privilege was not a concept Jesus or his first disciples would have understood. However, it is quite clear in this parable that Jesus was not on the side of the privileged. He did not support Abraham in his assumption that he was better than Lazarus just because he had money and pretty robes.

In the wake of yet more shootings of unarmed Black men by police officers, this time in Tulsa and Charlotte, I am begging you to open your eyes to what is happening all around us. The Body of Christ is bleeding and dying and we are carrying on as if we don’t need serious medical attention. Racism and white supremacy is killing us. If you and I are not willing to side with People of Color in demanding an end to racial disparity in our police departments, schools, judicial system, work places, housing, health care, banking and everywhere else, then we deserve the same fate the rich man received in the parable.

Friends, our sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, nephews, nieces, parents, and children are crying out in hunger, thirst, and pain. When someone says, “All lives matter,” it’s taunting hungry, thirsty people with food and drink that is just out of reach. And if you believe POC are fully human, fully God’s beloved and deserve purple robes as much as white folks do, and you remain silent, then you are just as guilty as the ones spewing hatred and supporting murder.

In the parable, the rich man begged to go back and warn his “five brothers” so they would meet a different end. We white Christians are the rich man’s siblings. We’ve been warned. Break the silence. Do something. Let’s bind up the wounds and stop lining our streets with Black bodies.

The Body of Christ is bleeding out. Will you stop to help or will you walk right by, pretending that everything is fine and there are no Black bodies in our streets and the blood is not flowing? This is white privilege in that you as a white person can choose to walk by, to close the web browser, to step over the dead and dying bodies, to close your eyes and continue on your way. The choice is yours.

May the peace of Christ transform and guide us all.

RCL – Year C – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 25, 2016
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 with Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
Amos 6:1a, 4-7 with Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

Photo: CC-BY-NC image by Erika Sanborne

Poetry Prayer

Too Much

Baton Rouge
Falcon Heights
Bullets, bombs, and hatred violate the sanctity of life
every day because
people hate each other.

What can I say as I stand at a homicide scene
in today’s early morning on a Minneapolis street
bearing witness to the pain of a sister, a wife, a daughter?
A few miles away a crowd gathers in protest
another Black life stolen by a police officer
for a missing tail light.
I would be there, too.
Kyrie eleison.

Alton Sterling
Philando Castile
Say their names
don’t try to justify their deaths
with criminal records.
Selling CDs and a missing tail light are not capital offenses
I wouldn’t be shot for either thing and neither would you
if your skin is white.
And if I were a passenger in a car pulled over
I wouldn’t be handcuffed as I watched my boyfriend die
with a police bullet in his heart
and my daughter cries in the back seat.
Because my skin is white, I am safe?
This. This is the true crime –
Black bodies lining our streets with blood
for no reason other than our own ignorance
Kyrie eleison.

Jesus told a parable to explain who our neighbors are
and we have not heard it in 2000 years of telling.
That one we label as other and cross the street to avoid
is more a neighbor than the priests and holy ones
who look the other way and hurry on by
to preserve their clean hands and pious ways.
That one, a Samaritan, the outcast and rejected one,
showed mercy and claimed his neighbor
because he knew what it meant to be dismissed
and couldn’t bear to leave another human being
bleeding in the dirt.
Such mercy for his neighbor!
And look what we have done.
Kyrie eleison.

Black lives matter.
Yes, it is that simple and if you don’t want to agree
Think on this:
You are someone’s Samaritan, and not the good kind.
Someone crosses the street to avoid seeing you even if your skin is white
Someone hates you enough to question your humanity and fail
to honor Christ in you because of some social construct,
some foolish perception based on ignorance that says you are less.
Kyriarchy is the law of the land –
even if you haven’t noticed –
it feeds the hungry systems of phobias and isms that threaten to dehumanize all
while sucking the life out of all those we “other.”
Kyrie eleison.

If we are all other to one another
can we not learn the lesson
show mercy
confess our sins
embody repentance
repair the breach
use our hands, our bodies, to stem this shameful tide of flowing blood?
Kyrie eleison.

The wails of grief echo through the streets
Protestors cry out for justice
The time for silence is long past
Apathy changes nothing while walking down the other side of the street
in the company of priests and Levites.
Who is my neighbor?
The one in need.
How am I to treat my neighbor?
Show mercy
not indifference
not empty words
not safe self-righteousness
show it
live it
do it
now before more blood flows.
Kyrie eleison.

RCL – Year C – Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
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: CC-BY-NC image by Erika Sanborne

Bidding Prayer Emerging Church liturgy

Bidding Prayer for Compassion

courage-853466_1920Come, let us pray for the Church throughout the world.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Eternal God, “Teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” Too often we complain like Job when suffering is unfair while at the same time turning from those who have greater needs. Let us hear Amos as he called for justice so long ago. May all those who call upon you band together to establish justice and embody your love for all people.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us pray for the United Church of Christ gathered here and elsewhere.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Compassionate God, “Prosper for us the work of our hands.” We can so easily become distracted by things that don’t matter, things that divide us rather than unite us. Eternal life is not a far-off, someday thing; it’s here and now. You call us to be peace-makers, hope-bearers, life-savers. Open our ears to words of mercy, grace and forgiveness so that we may be about your transforming work today. Be with all those you have called into leadership, especially the Rev. John Dorhauer, our general minister and president. May the service we offer in Christ’s name honor you.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

gate-419890_1920Come, let us pray for God’s people in every nation.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Steadfast God, you yearn for the day when all people will “Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate.” May the day soon come when all humanity grows tired of our warring ways. You created a world of beautiful, amazing diversity of people, places, words, and worship. Forgive us when our hearts fill with fear in the presence of neighbors and strangers. Too many have forgotten that people of all nations bear your image and that we are all created to live in communion with one another. Remind us that with you, all things are possible, even a world that lives in peace.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us pray for this country and all those who live within its borders.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Patient God, we “know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” You call us to live by them, to love our neighbors as ourselves. Yet, we find ourselves following the ways of money and power. We forget that we are responsible for those who are in need, those who are oppressed, those who live without justice. We are easily fooled into believing that things cannot change and politicians always want what is best for the nation. Grand wisdom to those who are elected to lead this country, especially Barak Obama. Call us out of our apathy and complacency that we may be a nation of hospitality, freedom, and justice for all who call this country home no matter where they have come from, the color of their skin, the language they speak, or the name they know you by.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us pray for all those in need.kindness-710209_1280
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Loving God, may we “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” There are cries all around us – for help, for hope, for justice, for shelter, for food, for care, for safety, for acceptance… Sometimes we are exhausted and overwhelmed by the needs of people near and far. Remind us that we have all that we need in you, that you are a source of abundant grace, mercy, love, and hope. Use our hands, our feet, our voices, our community, our resources to ease the pain of those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come let us pray for those who are experience grief and loss.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Healing God, your word is “living and active” even in the midst of despair. May those who grieve the loss of a loved one experience your light shining through the darkest hours of grief. For those who struggle with a death that has been violent and unexpected, especially murder and suicide, grant us compassion and tenderness to care for survivors. For those who have lost jobs, homes, sense of purpose, physical ability, cognitive capacity, or sense of identity, may we have the grace to be merciful companions on this journey.
Turn, O God! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!

Come, let us give thanks to God for all the blessings we have received.
(silence or a time for people to quietly give voice to their concerns)
Generous God, you tell us that when we leave “house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for [your] sake and for the sake of the good news” we will receive a hundredfold. May we trust in this promise and freely give you thanks for the abundant life you offer everyone. Turn our hearts from fearful ways that prevent us from sharing your gifts to hearts filled with gratitude that enable us to live lives of kindness, mercy, and generosity.

We give you thanks for the compassion you bestow in abundance on your servants.

RCL – Year B – Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – October 11, 1015
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

Photos from Pixabay. Used by permission.