Musings Sermon Starter

In Search of God’s Good Pleasure

Image: a field crowded with sunflowers in full bloom

Anger. Outrage. Despair. These feelings coursed through my body, and linger even now. At first I heard that none of the officers involved in Breonna Taylor’s murder were indicted. Then I saw that one officer was charged with “wanton endangerment.” Not because Breonna Taylor died. Rather, because the other bullets endangered Breonna’s white neighbors. It is no wonder that uprisings are happening in Louisville and other cities. If I were not high risk for COVID-19, I would be out on the streets protesting police brutality, state sanctioned murder. It is hard for me to stay at home and do nothing other than pray and write.

How much more blood has to fill our streets before we recognize that our militarized policing system, which grew out of slave catching, has no place in civilized society. And the criminal legal system is no better. The officer was indicted for the bullets that threatened white neighbors, not for the bullets that ended Breonna’s life. There is no justice to be had here. Police need to be held accountable for the lives they have stolen from POC.

Yes, as white people we are conditioned to call police when we feel we are in danger. There is so much wrong with this. What constitutes danger? Surely, it has to be more than the presence of someone whose skin is not white. And police cannot continue to justify their murdersome ways by claiming that they fear for their lives. This is ridiculous. This white supremacist nonsense is lethal to too many of our neighbors. It must stop. How do we not remember that Jesus had brown skin and would be targeted by police in this country if he were alive and speaking truth to power today?

In Philippians, Paul calls us to account: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus… (2:3-5) Notice there are no qualifiers here. If we have true humility, we regard others is if they were better than we are – all others not just white others. Moreover, their interests are to be attended to before our own. Those police officers and D.A.s who call themselves Christians seem to forget this when they “fear for their lives.” And the mind that was in Christ, the mind that ought to be in the church as the Body of Christ, is a mind of Love. This Love views all human beings as beloved. Shouldn’t we?

Elections are weeks away. While I’m sure most people have decided for whom they will vote, there is yet time to prayerfully consider which candidate will better serve the interests of all who call the U.S. home. Which candidate is more inclined to advocate for those who are different from himself? Which candidate is more likely to recognize the rights of every citizen, and those seeking to become citizens? Which candidate is willing to learn what he doesn’t know and change his behavior if he learns his ways are causing someone(s) harm? Is there humility to be found in either candidate? When you are still, and listen to God, which candidate is likely to do the greatest good, or at minimum, the least harm?

Friends, there are days when COVID-19 seems the least of our worries, and it is very worrisome. However, the loss of lives because we refuse to change systems of policing and the criminal legal system and remain bound by systems that were built on and thrive on white supremacy, seems to me to be at least as concerning, if not more so. More so because there is no vaccine being developed for racism and white supremacy. The example and teachings of Jesus should be enough of a vaccine against hatred, though it seems not to be the case.

Later in the second chapter of Philippians Paul writes, “…with fear and trembling work out your own salvation, for God is the One working in you to both will and work according to God’s good pleasure” (2:12b-13, my own translation). May we all take an honest inventory of our lives and figure out where we have more work to do on our own hearts and minds. If we can open ourselves more to God’s work within us, then maybe more of us will be transformed from ways of hatred and death to ways of Love and life, not just for ourselves, for the whole of Creation. Because we need to be more focused on “God’s good pleasure,” I leave you with this prayer attributed to Marthe Robins who relied heavily on a similar prayer by Ignatius Loyola:

May God take my memory and all it remembers,
Take my heart and all its affections,
Take my intelligence and all its powers;
May they only serve your greatest glory.
Take my will completely,
for always I empty it out in yours.
No longer what I want, O my sweetest Jesus,
but always what you want!
Take me … receive me … direct me.
Guide me! I surrender and abandon myself to you!
I surrender myself to you as a small sacrifice of
Love, of praise and Gratitude, for the Glory of your Holy Name,
for the enjoyment of your Love, the triumph of your Sacred Heart,
and for the perfect fulfillment of your Designs in me and around me.

RCL – Year A – Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 27, 2020
Exodus 17:1-7 with Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16 or
Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 with Psalm 25:1-9
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

Photo: CC0image by Inactive account – ID 9301

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

No Room For Love… Maybe Soon?

On Christmas Day an old hotel burned to the ground in Minneapolis, MN. It was a building with a lengthy history and it was the residence of those on shelter waiting lists. The hotel had not been well-maintained and wasn’t a particularly safe place to live. Yet, it was what was available to those who would have been homeless otherwise. Then the fire. Two-hundred and forty people spent Christmas day on city buses, one hundred of which were children. (By the end of the day, temporary shelter had been found for all of them.)

I am sure this is not a unique story. I am sure other disasters struck other places where the displaced live. It’s all too frequent an occurrence for those who already have so little. They are placed in situations where many of us would not go for any reason. Substandard housing with roaches, rats, faulty electricity, and inadequate heat. Maybe these hotels and shelters are better than what people trying to enter this country on our southern border experience. Maybe these harsh surroundings are better than refugee camps or ICE detention centers offer.

To my knowledge no one died in the fire on Christmas Day. That’s a miracle in itself. And because it was Christmas, the outpouring of people bringing needed items – diapers, mittens, blankets, and more – was something to see. Yet, knowing there were children on buses with no homes and their meager Christmas burned away in a fire, made it hard for me to go back to my warm house with its full refrigerator and empty guest rooms.

We make a lot of our preparations for Christmas in both secular and spiritual ways. Many are moved to acts of generosity during the holiday season. However, we tend to participate in the packing up of Christmas on December 26th as if the story ends with a babe in a manger. We did our part, we bought gifts and we made the spiritual journey to Bethlehem (or not). Now we put it all away and ask what’s next.

The story doesn’t end at the manger, though. The innkeeper’s statement of “no room” echoed around Bethlehem and down through the centuries. Herod ordered the slaughter of all male children under the age of two. Whether it happened or not matters less than the fact that Herod wanted it done so he could protect his position of power and wealth by ensuring that no king would rise up from the people and challenge his ways of keeping everyone under control. As a result, scripture tells us that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to Egypt for a time. What would have happened if the Holy Family was met with the kind of fear and hatred that happens at many of our borders today? Why do we keep insisting that there is no room for Love?

None of us particularly like the story we call “the slaughter of the innocents.” Many preachers will choose other passages or other activities for this Sunday in Christmastide. We don’t want to think about all the ways in which we continue to slaughter innocence. Why else would it be okay to have homeless families living in substandard conditions? Why else would it be okay to separate children from their families at the border? Why else would it be okay to have an entirely inadequate foster care system? Why else would it be okay to have hungry children anywhere in the world? At least Herod was honest with himself and his people. He was a man who loved power and wealth; he didn’t care about the poor people around him. If they were not serving him, they could be sacrificed.

This is the world Jesus was born into. This is the world we live in. Jesus sought to change humanity’s willingness to slaughter innocence when those in power demanded it. Today, I can’t help but ask where the Body of Christ is now. Friends, we need to work harder to bring Divine Love into the world. Herod may not have succeeded in killing all those children in ancient Israel. Yet, we are still killing them. We sacrifice them daily to those who rule through fear, hatred, violence, and oppression.

Jesus came to show us another way. May we seek the way of Love in 2020. May we put an end to the slaughter of innocents and innocence that continues to this day. May we find a way to see God in every human face and respond to all with the loving-kindness Jesus so clearly demonstrated.

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

RCL – Year A – First Sunday after Christmas – December 29, 2019
Isaiah 63:7-9
Psalm 148
Hebrews 2:10-18
Matthew 2:13-23

Photo: CC0image by Szabolcs Molnar

Musings Sermon Starter

From Death to Life


Those little purple faces poking up next to the sidewalk on my way out of church on Sunday were nearly my undoing. Not exactly the color purple in a field, but I noticed. I saw them innocently reaching for the sun, the first of spring flowers I’ve seen this year. And, yes, I thanked God for them even as tears flooded my eyes. My grief, my heartbreak, has me desperately searching for new life, signs that God has not yet given up on humanity.

Thank God for violets. And thank God for good friends who call to check in after seeing the sorrow, sadness, and anger on social media. A young man, so full of promise and love, murdered by another young man with an AK-47 for reasons yet unknown, maybe never to be known. My friend, sister in Spirit, crying out for her beloved son who is no longer here. I’m at a loss for words, grasping for hope, knowing this grief will be hers to carry forever; mine to share just a fragment, maybe not even enough to ease the burden.

Then my friend who called to check in. We’ve been friends for decades, and we’ve been through so much together, bearing one another’s burdens as only long-time friends can. After checking in, offering condolences, he said it. He didn’t know how pastors do what we do in times like these. Louisiana churches set on fire. Notre Dame burning. Churches bombed on Easter. Another Synagogue shooting. Rachel Held Evans dying. Oceans choking on plastic. Hunger and thirst killing people. AK-47s in the hands of the young, angry, and hopeless. Where is God? Where is hope? Humanity is lost and does not want to be found.


And, yet… I often say that as long as there is breath there is hope. We can repent and seek God’s holy ways. It is not too late for those of us who live and breathe to turn toward Love. We can stop giving in to the lies of the Empire that feed the fear that divides us and dehumanizes our neighbors. We can continue to live in the deceitful myth that feeds our egos and tells us that we don’t need anything but willpower and determination. We can continue to tell ourselves that any success we have is because of our own hard work and not because others helped us along the way. We can uphold the pretense that our worship is the only right and true worship and that the lip service we spew out pleases God. We can continue as we are and call it life, life that contributes to rising suicide rates, the opioid crisis, and a decline in life-expectancy. There’s no immediate risk in preserving the status quo of fear, anger, hatred, and hopelessness, right?

We are destroying God’s creation because we’d rather let politicians and lobbyists get rich and believe their lies that tell us we can’t change anything because it costs too much. Our children are dying on the streets because white supremacy says black lives don’t matter and we accept it as fact. More and more people are engaging in suicidal behavior because we remain silent and judgmental when it comes to mental illness and keep the source of hope a secret meant only for the righteous. We have created, actively or passively, a world that accepts violence, thrives on fear, and feeds the vulnerable a steady diet of despair.

Enough. Peter walked into a death room and prayed for life. You know what happened? New life filled Tabitha. I wish I had that ability to breathe life into a dead body. I don’t. But we do have the power to breathe life into a dying church. Our thoughts and our actions are our true prayers. Rachel Held Evans was a voice of hope for the more evangelical, conservative church; her untimely death is a tragedy for her family, friends, and the church. I am confident her light will shine on as others continue her work. For the moderate to progressive church who claims to understand inclusion and welcome, who will shake us up? Who will come like Peter into the death room and call us to new life? Who will speak to us powerfully enough that the Spirit fills our lungs? Who will ask us to step away from our traditional sanctuaries and carefully scripted worship? Who will call us away from the safety of our practices and into the unpredictable flow of the Spirit?

We know how to heal Creation, where hope lies, and how to stop the bleeding. We do. We know the truth. Yet, we do not believe it, and it is killing us. The message of God’s love, lived out in Jesus, is the Truth we need. It is still the balm that can heal a sin-sick world. We are called to Love God, our neighbors, ourselves, and the whole of Creation. Jesus showed us the way from death to life, from human ways to holy ways. It’s love – with thought and action. Love that leaves no one behind. Love that speaks truth to fear, to anger, to violence, to hopelessness, to death.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot remain in this death room any longer. Pray with me. Come, Holy Spirit, come. Come now and lead us into life. Life that values everyone, that does not cower in fear, and will not let anyone slide into hopelessness. Let your church be as early spring violets. Undo us with the power of your Love right now.

If not now, then when? If not you and me, then who?

RCL – Year C – Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 12, 2019
Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

Photos CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe

Musings Sermon Starter

Leaving Jerusalem


Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid in the deepest night where terror has free reign. Do not be afraid when rulers threaten death and destruction. Do not be afraid when you are lost and alone. Do not be afraid when there is no way through the wilderness. Do not be afraid when the prophets cry out for repentance and reformation and repairs to the breach. Do not follow the fearful and pick up stones to build walls or terminate the cries for justice. Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

We are not meant to live in fear is clearly a consistent message throughout scripture. Why are we to live without fear? Because God loves us and chooses humanity again and again – through prophets and saints, and ordinary sinners like you and me. We are called to live in trust more than fear. Yet, we don’t. Over and over again we give into the fear-based messaging of those with power. It’s what keeps them in power because fear keeps the rest of us divided. This isn’t news.

I’m tired of the fear, though, aren’t you? I’m tired of the voice that whispers of my inadequacy when night wraps around me. I’m tired of the anxiety that comes when the leaders of this world announce plans to build walls, drop bombs, keep food from hungry children, and prevent those without resources from having their basic needs met. I’m exhausted when confronted with story after story of those who wander in the wilderness with no place to call home. When the cries of the prophets are loud enough to break through the fear, the outcry against them swallows hope. Violence always threatens any who seek justice, liberation, and peace. How can we not be afraid given the state of the world?

Jerusalem, Jerusalem… All the world has become Jerusalem. We have been poor followers of Christ. We have not heeded Jesus invitation to follow him from death to life. We have allowed ourselves to be caught up with fear. We do not trust God’s love. We do not trust God’s claim on us. We do not believe that we can bring Divine Love into the world. Abundant life continues to lie just beyond our grasp. We live as if there is never enough of anything for anyone. Why is that?

Today I went in search of a shop vac and a squeegee because, like many folks, I woke up to a couple inches of water in my basement. At first I was angry because, you know, houses aren’t supposed to leak and I had a busy day ahead of me. Then as I set about removing the water and wondering how much damage was done to the things in my basement (wall boards and flooring yet to be installed upstairs), I realized my mistake. I should be responding with gratitude rather than anger. Not gratitude for the flooding, exactly. More like gratitude for a home that is safe and mostly waterproof. Gratitude for having the resources to deal with the flooded basement. Just gratitude for my life. In the grand scheme of things, a flooded basement isn’t a big deal. It’s a nuisance and it’s time consuming. Nothing more. Why waste my energy on being angry?

And that’s really it. Why do we waste our energy on being angry, hateful, and/or afraid? It’s not that anger and fear don’t have their place; they do. Anger can protect us from deep pain until we are ready to face it and it can motivate us to change. Fear can keep us safe and alive. But when the anger and fear bring hate along, nothing good can come of it.

Imagine how different our faith history would be if Abram gave into the “deep and terrifying darkness”? Or if Jesus succumbed to the fear that the temple authorities and Roman authorities had it in for him? What if the person most integral to your faith formation or mine gave into the fear, anger, and hatred all around them? How different would life be if no one taught us that we are loved, even in those moments when we give into fear?

As we continue on this Lenten journey, let’s be intentional about choosing Love first, putting our energy into bringing goodness into the world. Let’s see what happens when we choose trust in God’s promises first.

God is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
God is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

RCL – Year C – Second Sunday in Lent – March 17, 2019
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17–4:1
Luke 13:31-35

Photo: CC0 image by Madsolution

Musings Sermon Starter

Life on the Edge


I am afraid of heights even though I don’t want to be. If I am up high and get the feeling like I could fall, vertigo hits in a big way. I get dizzy and hear buzzing in my ears which increases the feeling that I could fall. It doesn’t matter how safe I am, it happens and I cannot rationalize it away. Truthfully, though, I don’t avoid heights. If need be, I will climb the ladder or the mountain, walk along the bluffs, and peer over the edge. The vertigo will hit and the dizziness will come with its buzzing in my ears and I will wait for it to pass. And it does. Everytime.

I read the passage about the people of Nazareth pushing Jesus to the edge of a cliff because they were angry at him. They were angry that he spoke truth in their midst and challenged the status quo. They were just going to push him over the edge of a cliff so they could resume their life as usual. I would like to think that I wouldn’t have joined in with that crowd that day. I would like to think I was among those who helped Jesus slip through the fear and anger and go on to another town. However, I’m not so sure that would be the case.

Everyday I hear about someone pushing Jesus off a cliff and sometimes it’s me who gives the last push. You know what I mean. When someone claims to be a follower of Jesus and refuses to act with love and compassion. When someone says they are Christian and pretends not to see the person sitting out in the cold asking for help. When someone professes Christ and then engages in politics of hatred. When Christians remain silent while racism governs too much of what passes for justice. When Christians hide behind the law and blame victims for the violence they experience. When Christians think that Jesus was white and endorsed the same supremacist views they hold now. All these things push Jesus to the edge of the cliff. Then my own collusion in the racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and zenophobia push him right off the edge.

The irony here is unmistakable. Those Nazarenes wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff because he challenged them to see beyond the limits of their comfort. He wanted them to see God-in-their-midst, standing right in front of them. He wanted them to take a stance against their oppressors. He wanted them to break free of the status quo and claim their power in love, love of themselves and love of their neighbors. He wanted them to live life without the limits of fear and hatred. He wanted them to claim their place by his side as siblings, neighbors, friends, as God’s beloved. He wanted them to claim their place and leave no one out.

They couldn’t do it. They couldn’t hear what he had to say. They couldn’t see who he was. Their fear and complacency was way too powerful. They believed the lies of their oppressors. They believed they were powerless to change the norms of their day. They chose security and predictability over the unpredictable safety of loving those around them with unconditional love that comes from seeking the Divine in everyone, even the Romans and those in Rome’s employ. They chose the security of the Empire over the intensity of living in God’s love. And they tried to push Jesus off a cliff.

Isn’t it time for us to line up along the edge of that cliff and prevent anyone from throwing Jesus over? It’s scary, I know. When you step close to the edge, there’s nothing at your back. Vertigo might hit hard. Your ears might fill with a buzzing sound. Your knees might grow week. But take a breath and take the hand of the person standing next to you. Life on the edge doesn’t mean life alone. All the people who have been dismissed and dehumanized are right there, too. They’ve been waiting to be seen and heard while trying not to fall over the edge into the abyss.

Maybe we should all take a look around and ask ourselves where we are in terms of that cliff. Are we in the heart of the Empire trying to keep ourselves secure? Have we sentenced others to walk the cliff edge so we can keep our privilege? How many times have we pushed Jesus off the cliff so we can keep ignoring the needs of our neighbors? It’s time we address our fears. Our fear of heights and our fear of Love. It’s not too late. Just reach out a hand and see God-in-our-midst in the eyes of your neighbor. The Empire has no power if we unite with everyone on the margins and refuse to send anyone over the cliff.

RCL – Year C – Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – February 3, 2019
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30

Photo: CC0 image by Sasin Tipchai

Musings Sermon Starter

The Way of Peace


I genuinely like this time of year. The Christmas lights and the menorah candles shine out as a reminder that there is more to the world than we usually allow ourselves to see. I laugh out loud at the lawns crammed full of over-sized holy family members side-by-side with inflated snowmen and moving reindeer. I’m filled with awe at strings of simple white lights over a doorway, or single candles in the windows, or the visible menorah with it’s flickering candle light. These brave attempts to keep the despair of the world at bay and remind us that no night lasts forever give me glimpses of hope that maybe someday we will truly prepare the way for the One who is, who was, and who is to come.

We need to celebrate and light up the nights in the coldness of this season. We need to find hope and peace enough to want to get through another day. Last week a Minneapolis police precinct put up a Christmas tree adorned in racism. A rabbi friend received hateful threats against her and the Jewish community in her New Hampshire town. The majority of people (87% according to one poll) don’t hear or don’t care about the overtones of rape and misogyny in a popular holiday song. These are just three examples of hate and apathy that have touched my life in the last week. I don’t doubt that more could be added to this list.

When did we become so willfully oblivious to our neighbor’s pain? There is nothing in “Prepare the way of the Lord” that says to do so by trampling over others. Making paths straight doesn’t mean ignoring racism and just moving along. We are not supposed to be filling the valleys with hatred or lowering the hills with fear. Nor do we make smooth the rough places by ignoring the cries of those who have been victimized. Justifying oppression, hate, and violence and maintaining the status quo do not prepare us in anyway for the coming of Christ.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. What if we prepare the way for Christ by straightening out some of the mess we have created? What if we make it easier for people to have safe, affordable housing, healthy food, reasonable wages, and accessible healthcare? Wouldn’t that straighten out a few paths? How about if we fill the valleys of fear that systemic oppression has created? What if we reach out to our neighbors and see them, hear them, welcome them as God’s beloved and stop feeding our xenophobic fears? How about leveling the mountains and hills made by fear-mongering, self-centered, power-hungry politicians that do not care who they hurt? We could begin by enabling every person who lives in this country to live in safety and be sure that refugees and immigrants have what they need to seek citizenship and be full members of society. While we’re at it, maybe we can straighten out the kinks in theology that legalism and archaic understandings have created? Maybe we could achieve some unity in Christ if we stopped judging who was right or wrong and sought more actively to follow Jesus command to love one another. Let’s start listening to voices not our own so that those rough places  created by the pain of being dismissed, devalued, and discarded can begin to heal.

One candle can’t do much to hold back the night with its cold, despair, and isolating darkness. However, if we bring our candles together, we create warmth and light. Together we can bring peace and truly prepare the way for the coming of the Holy One. Isn’t it time we validate those who cry out in response to racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and all the other isms and phobias that keep us from seeing the humanity and the sacred in all our neighbors?

May God guide our feet in the way of peace.

RCL – Year C – Second Sunday of Advent – December 9, 2018
Malachi 3:1-4 or Baruch 5:1-9
Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

Photo: CC0 image by Hans Braxmeier

Musings Sermon Starter

Cleaning up God’s House


When I was very young I thought God was the “man in the moon.” I had heard people talking about the moon having a face and referring to it as the “man in the moon.” I don’t think I’ve ever been able to make out the face that is supposedly visible in profile on the quarter moon, but I was an imaginative child. I had a whole story about how God lived in the moon. When there was no moon, God had either gone to bed early or was out visiting friends. When the moon was full, God was having a party with Mother Nature. I liked to sit at my window and talk to this faraway, but friendly, God.

As I got older and started attending church, I realized that God couldn’t possibly live in the moon. God was closer to people than the moon would allow. As I learned more words to describe this all-powerful, ever-present, somewhat scary being that was God, I started to think that God was much more likely to be the ocean than the man in the moon.

My nine-year-old brain was very active in sorting this out. God was always there, always powerful, always a little different with each encounter, always moving between life and death. Growing up on Cape Cod with ocean all around, I thought these words all described the ocean with all it’s mystery and moodiness. It sustained life and swallowed life. If God was too huge to be the man in the moon, then maybe God was the ocean. This thinking was the beginning of the beach becoming sacred space for me.

These memories surfaced as I read through account of David bringing the Ark of the Covenant up to the Temple and, essentially, inviting God to dwell there. This story has me remembering my childhood beliefs and wondering where people think God lives today. The psalmist tells us that God’s dwelling place is “lovely” and that a day there is better than a thousand years anywhere else. I know God doesn’t live in the moon and God is not the ocean, nor did God live only on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. I’m not sure we spend enough time thinking about just where God lives today.

Jesus, of course, spoke about abiding in God and God abiding in him, and in his disciples. I’m not sure how seriously we take this. We seem to forget far too easily that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that together we make up the body of Christ. When the writer of Ephesians tells us to be put on the “whole armor of God,” it seems all we can hear is the militant metaphor and say, “No, thanks!” far too quickly. If God abides in us such that we are temples of the Holy Spirit individually and the body of Christ collectively, don’t we need some protective armor?armor-1709127_1280.jpg

With the evil generally afoot and wreaking havoc, and atrocities committed by world leaders daily, and the human rights violations near and far, and everything else that contributes to our apathy, our fear, our sense of powerlessness, and the spread of hopelessness… With all of this, don’t we need some protective spiritual armor, the kind of armor that will hold us up and enable us to withstand the horrors? That belt of truth doesn’t sound so bad in the era of fake news, does it? That breastplate of righteousness might come in handy when confronted with heartbreaking news of more violence and we are tempted to give into that sense of powerlessness that lurks in every corner. That footgear that readies us to spread the gospel of peace sounds pretty enticing when we remember how much war and destruction truly exists right now. How about the shield of faith? I could do with one of those for those moments when the plight of refugees makes my knees weak and my stomach sour. And the helmet of salvation might be useful for all those times when we are told just who is going to hell for some “biblical” reason. I’m not sure about the sword of the Spirit, but I might like to have it nearby just in case it’s needed to cut through the gaslighting nonsense.

We might all benefit from these protections, if not as individuals then as the body of Christ. If God dwells in us, then some spiritual armor to protect the fragile, fickle human parts would be very helpful. If we aren’t able to put on the whole armor of God as the body of Christ (not to do harm to others but to protect and uphold the vulnerable among us), then we might as well turn away from Jesus like so many did on that long-ago day Jesus proclaimed himself to be the Bread of Life.

Where does God dwell? Not in the moon or in the ocean or in anything made by human hands. God dwells within and among human beings. It’s time for some house keeping and maybe time to dig out that old armor because it isn’t as useless and outdated as we thought it was. We should polish it up and try it on to see how it fits so that we can withstand the evils of our day. Maybe if we pay enough attention to God’s dwelling place(s), one day we won’t need any armor, the real kind or the spiritual kind. Might be worth a try…

RCL – Year B – Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 26, 2018
1 Kings 8:(1, 6, 10-11), 22-30, 41-43 with Psalm 84 or
Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 with Psalm 34:15-22
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

Top Photo: CC0 image by Patricia Alexandre

Bottom Photo: CC0 image by Alina Kuptsova

liturgy Prayer

A Prayer of Confession as Lent Begins


One:  Holy One, we gather at the edge of the wilderness, reluctant to go forward. We do not want to give up favorite foods, time on social media, set aside our phones, or make any other sacrifices that would lead us closer to you. We are comfortable in our routine and our ambivalence. Seeking you might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Left:  God of all nations, we stumble when we encounter someone who is “other.” We forget that all people are created in your image and your covenant of love is for the whole of Creation. We want to believe that your love is for us, and those just like us. We want to stay where we are and not move to where your love in our hands could do the most good. Going where you call might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Right: Peaceful and loving God, we sit back in silence while gunshots echo through our schools, our streets, our houses of worship. We tell ourselves that violence won’t touch our lives and that there is nothing we can do to prevent innocent deaths. We offer our thoughts and prayers to the victims of violence and wait for you to fix what we have broken. Responding with Christian love might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Left: God of Creation and Covenant, we do not trust in your steadfast love. We do not trust that all your paths are steadfast love and faithfulness. We insist on having our own way. Satin does not have to chase us out into the wilderness, our own fear and foolishness will have us worshiping at the Tempter’s feet more often than we want to admit. Listening to you, believing we are Beloved, might mean we have to change.

All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

Right: Merciful and patient God, we have failed to listen to you. We have let fear take hold of our lives more often than not. We have listened to those who would tell us that your love and your covenant with all Creation has limits. We have dismissed the needs of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. We have denied the power of white supremacy and racism. We have turned away those who are hungry or homeless. We have devalued LGBTQ+ people. We have mistreated people with disabilities. We have ignored people with mental health challenges. We have not served our neighbors nor loved them as we love ourselves. Opening our lives to you might mean we have to change.
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake.

One: God of the mountain tops and ocean depths, we need you as we make this journey to Jerusalem. We are powerless over the gods of our making. We are easily fooled into believing that human ways are better than holy ways. We do not want to give in to all that tempts us. We yearn to trust you and believe that your love for us has no limits of quantity, quality or duration. We as that you would meet us once again as we endeavor to confront the Tempter and try again to live into your great love for us. We know we need you. Give us the courage to seek you in wilderness places in our lives. Teach us to know your ways even as…
All:  We confess our reluctance to change our lives, even for your sake. Amen.

RCL – Year B – First Sunday in Lent – February 18, 2018
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

Photo: CC0 image by Hans Braxmeier

Musings Sermon Starter

Joy Awaits


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Isaiah and John the Baptist have a lot of company in the wilderness. Have you heard any of these voices crying out:  Tarana Burke, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, Malala Yousafzai, Krystal Two Bulls, William Barber, and countless other? We have not paid much heed to the prophets of yesterday. Will we listen to the voices of today’s prophets? The cry is ever the same.

Isaiah told us everything we need to know about responding to the cries in the wilderness. If we are to make way for God, create a holy highway for all God’s people to travel, the process is unmistakable. Bring good news to the oppressed. Not just words, words cost nothing and achieve very little. What do oppressed people want? Justice. It shouldn’t be that hard. Doug Jones shouldn’t have barely one the Senate seat in Alabama; he should have won by an overwhelming majority. But there is something in U.S. culture that resists listening to those wilderness voices and whatever it is has permeated our churches as well. If we are God’s people, then we are supposed to be creators of justice. We must be the good news oppressed people seek.

Bind up the broken-hearted. There really is no binding for a broken heart. We cannot undo death. However, we can stop killing people. We can stop allowing police officers to get away with murder. We can change our healthcare and mental health care systems so that illness does not result in death for those who live in poverty. We can admit to racism and white supremacy that permeates every system and institution in the U.S. If we are God’s people, then we are to be agents of healing. We must be the binding for the broken-hearted.

Proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners. Again, proclamation without action is meaningless. Until Congress passes a clean Dream Act, too many young people are at risk for deportation. The path to citizenship is ridiculously complicated and divides families. People risk their lives to enter this country without documentation, not because they are seeking something for free; they want a better life. Why is the U.S. response so often arrest, imprisonment, and deportation without regard for the well-being of individuals or families? Xenophobia flows through our streets and causes us to turn away immigrants and refugees, forgetting that most of our families were once one or the other. Forgetting that Jesus and his family were once refugees. If we are God’s people, then we are to be advocates for liberation and release. We must be the way to liberation and freedom for all God’s people.

Proclaim God’s favor and comfort all who mourn. Imagine a just world for all. This vision is the comfort for those who mourn now. For everyone who is dismissed and devalued by those with power, there is hope for a different future. In this future, all those marginalize voices will be re-membered, re-joined to communities of love and grace. Moreover, these will be our leaders, our strength. Only then will the breach be repaired. If we are God’s people, then we are to be creators of a new future. We must be the hope for those who mourn.

Isaiah goes on to describe the day when God’s people are liberated and filled with praise. Isn’t this what we, as church, want? We have fooled ourselves into thinking that faith is all about the individual. We want to know that we are “doing it right” and feel comfortable in our sense of righteousness. However, the prophets, old and new, aren’t speaking to individuals. Isaiah spoke to the nation of Israel while it was divided and held captive by Babylon. The words about good news and liberty were not empty. They were followed by action.

Today’s prophets speak to a nation divided and held captive by a Babylon we created. Our liberation and re-membering will only happen when we stop thinking only about ourselves and start thinking about our neighbors. You may not be affected by the current tax bill, but is your neighbor? You may have access to excellent education, does your neighbor? You may be able to choose your doctor and get the best healthcare, can your neighbor do the same? There may be enough food in your pantry, how about your neighbor’s?


Sunday is the third Sunday in Advent. The Sunday of Joy, the Sunday when we turn from active waiting to joyful anticipation of Christ’s arrival. The joy faith seeks holds hands with justice. It will remain fleeting in our lives as long as we think faith is personal and private. (Ask Mary about what it means to live a public faith and realize that faith leads us to serve others and how joy fits into that.) When we risk living our faith out in the world, we draw closer to the joy of life in the Spirit. When we pause to listen to the prophets, hear their cries to prepare the way of the Lord, joy might begin to take up residence in our communities once again.

Christ is waiting to enter into all the broken places in our lives, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our churches, in our nation, and in our world. The prophets are crying out, telling us what is needed to prepare the way. Isn’t it time we move toward Joy?

RCL – Year B – Third Sunday in Advent – December 17, 2017
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126 or Luke 1:46-55
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Photos CC-BY-NC image by Rachael Keefe