Monday, July 18, 2005

Sermon A11, July 17. I think I actually got ahead a week with the lectionary, but oh well

IN today’s scriptures, Paul continues to widen our concept of life in the spirit. Before, we are told that life in the Spirit of Life resides in us, and therefor we are no longer subject to Sin and Death. Paul’s concept of Sin is more about a dominating power in the world, not bad behavior. Paul speaking of life “in the flesh” is a metaphor for a life that is ignorant of our true life within God’s Kingdom, working to make that Kingdom more apparent to the world. This is life “in the Spirit.”
When we see a tree struggling to survive, leaning toward the sun, gnarled and weathered, it is possible for the eyes of faith to see nature leaning toward its redemption.
It is true of our present experience, that we can easily be overwhelmed by the frustrations of this imperfect moment. Struggling with indwelling sin and the sense of our separation from Christ, is part of a disciple's lot as we yearn for the dawning of the new age, for peace and joy. It may help us in our frustration, if we realize that the whole of the created order, the whole of the cosmos, is caught up in the devastation wrought by human rebellion and so groans, as we groan, for release, for freedom.
For the present, we hope for the dawning of eternity and we taste it in the gentle renewal of our beings through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Yet, in this present moment we are bound by the imperfection of this age. Perseverance must be our rule. It is God's will that we be "conformed to the likeness of his Son," and through his indwelling Spirit interacting with the troubles of life, be daily transformed into the image of Christ. We must be patient as we are daily shaped, never losing sight of the glory to come. We must fix our eyes upon it, such that the "now" is transformed by the "not yet."
Likewise in the parable, Jesus asks us to see beyond the small, insignificant seed to what it contains. The mustard seed—the smallest of seeds, contains something quite great. When I lived in California, one of my favorite places Lara and I visited was Sequoia National Park. When I was last there, I was walking in the midst of these gigantic trees, gawking at their sheer size and age. In the “Giant Forest” at 6000 feet in the southern range of the Sierra Nevadas, I was walking amidst trees that towered 250 feet over my head, that were as big around as half of this sanctuary. I can remember standing in the middle of a cluster of three of these glorious trees and looking up. The cinnamon red of the bark extending into the sky, seemingly holding up the sky—and then I looked down. At my feet was a tiny cone, closed tight to protect the seeds. There being no other species of trees around, I was left to ponder the seemingly ridiculous thought—does this massive tree come out of this tiny cone? I looked around and noticed the forest floor littered with the same cones. Is this possible? This cone was smaller than the pinecones you’d find in the Ouachitas being produced by much smaller trees. Yet it was true! The “now” was thoroughly transformed in that moment by the “not yet!”
Another “personal parable” given me by this natural sanctuary that seems to connect with today’s epistle lesson. These tiny cones that are closed so tightly---do you know what is required for them to burst open and release their seed? Fire! The existing tree’s foliage is so high that the flames rarely reach to ignite them, and the bark of the Sequoia is so thick that fire cannot pierce them. So that which we would assume detrimental to the forest is actually life giving. It is necessary! Paul writes that “the difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs!” Though it may be tempting for us to focus on the fire, though we may get caught up in the trials and tribulations of life—we are called to see beyond. To wait with joyful anticipation.
I can tell you that I’m glad I’ve never had to experience the excruciating pangs of labor. Though I sense that it is a very deepening experience, I don’t know that I’d be cut out for that sort of thing if I were a woman! For the life of me, I do not know how and why the concept that men are “tougher” than women ever made its way into the collective conscious of humanity. After watching my wife give birth back in March, it is a mystery to me! Perhaps we men have for ages told ourselves that we’re tougher to assuage the real fear and dread that we would ever be subject to such a throttling pain that we see women go through in birth! Paul does not discount the hardships of our present state—but he re-aligns the way we think about the difficulties of life and death and pain and suffering by pointing us beyond. The pain and heartache of today does not compare to the joy and glory of what’s to come! If we can only project our minds through the present moment to expose the utterly mind blowing liberation that we are leaning on! That doesn’t numb us to what is going on in the here and now—Paul’s intention is not to drug us up with some pie in the sky hope for the sweet hereafter. It instead give us a crystal clear vision of where we are now so that we can perceive the “not yet” within the now! It is as if we are Sequoia cones laying on the forest floor enduring the scorching heat of the fire. And instead of just laying there concentrating on what we are going through, God’s gift to us as little Sequoia cones is to have the ability to look up and see the towering canopies of our potential! We still burn and explode, but we do so with God’s vision for us planted deeply in our little Sequoia cone hearts!
Perhaps it is a comfort for us to know that we are not some suffering strangers in a cold, lifeless world. Paul tells us that all of creation groans for redemption. We are in the same boat with the entire created order. God plants in us a unique vision for the world, and creates in us as humans the unique ability to do something creative and intelligent about our predicament. And yet, we squander that ability when we use our power to destroy instead of create. Instead of inspiring others with God’s vision for the future—which we find in the Gospel—we are content to let the world groan. Instead of pointing beyond the birth pangs to the joyful expectancy of new birth, we keep silent, and thereby add to the lamentation. Why? It is easier to join in the chorus than it is to cut through the noise with a new song. It is easier to fall into line and bite our tongue when we see the oppressed, when we see war and injustice, when we see tears and sorrow. Getting involved in the labor is a messy ordeal.
Paul’s words of comfort are that our resurrection life is a life of joyful anticipation. Our resurrection life is the kind of life in which we see the mystery of the Divine as clearly and lovingly as we see a caring father. In the text, Paul refers to God as Jesus did throughout his ministry—as Abba. Not “Heavenly Father” or some other language to remove us from God, but instead the word is translated best as “Daddy, or Pappa.” When we live with such joyful anticipation as Paul was leading us toward, when we look at a Sequoia cone and can see the largest tree in the world, when we attune our ears to the groaning of creation for redemption, and are willing to live as children of God, that is when the veil between the Kingdom to come and the Kingdom in our midst is as thin as sheer lace.
To return to the Sequoia Forest analogy once more, one other amazing thing about the Sequoia trees is this. Not only do they spring from a tiny cone like this. Not only do they derive life from something we would assume would endanger it. Sequoia trees are also a model for the Kingdom of God because they work cooperatively to achieve their height and size. The Sequoias grow at about 6000 feet in the Sierra Nevadas, where the soil is a shallow 7 or 8 feet deep. Now if you took this Oak outside our church here, If you could yank it out of the ground without damaging the roots, you’d see that the roots go about as deep into the ground as the tree is tall. But the Sequoias live another way. Because the soil is not deep enough for the trees to sink roots deep enough to keep the tree standing, they instead send their roots out to the side and grasp the roots of other Sequoia trees. By the interlocking of roots, the forest begins to act as one large organism, and the trees are of mutual benefit to one another! Likewise, in the Kingdom life, we as aspects of God’s creation will begin to comprehend our interdependence with one another, and with all other aspects of God’s creation. In the Resurrection Life, in the Kingdom Life, there will be no fooling ourselves with lines of boundary between “us and them.” We will open our hearts and mind to the other just as we would to our friends and family. There will be no dichotomy between human creation and non-human creation, because we will see the entire Web of Creation as an interconnected, interdependent organism. No longer will we trample the roots that bind us together and keep us all standing tall and proud. Instead we will acknowledge these connections and nurture them. In doing so, we will magnify God’s name. As the Holy Spirit, the Holy Wind of God gives voice to the forest, as Isaiah writes “the trees clapping their hands” we, like a Sequoia forest whistling in the wind, will break out in a song completely guided by the Holy Breath of God. This is the New Song, borne of the groaning of Creation for redemption. This is the Song of the Gospel, and Christ is teaching us the tune.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Hawaiin (is that how you spell that?) twins on my first father's day Posted by Picasa

Dancing to Elvis  Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 10, 2005

4th Sermon, July 10

Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23 and Romans 8: 1-11

Dirt. When it comes down to it, we’re made of dirt, and we’ll return to dirt. And in the meantime, we can help God’s kingdom depending on what kind of dirt we are. God’s vision for us is like a seed. God doesn’t make us do one thing or another, God simply plants a seed in us and waits for us to help bring that seed to fruition. What is this seed? In the book of Genesis at the creation story, God took that human made out of clay and dirt and blew into its nostrils the Breath of Life. The mud human was animated then with a soul, a spirit, and became an instrument of the Living God. The Breath of Life is another name for the Holy Spirit. So in a very real way, the seed that is sown is life itself.
Now hold on a minute preacher, you may say. Jesus tells us what the sower is sowing right there in the explanation to the parable--It says right there that the seeds represent the “Word of the Kingdom.” This is true—but I’d like to lift up something a little more basic today. What is that word carried on? What does it take to annunciate the Word of the Kingdom? When we are speaking, we move our breath out of our lungs and through our voice box, and then we shape it with our tongue and lips. We create a voice with the vital, life-giving Breath. In the same way, the Word of the Kingdom is carried on the Holy Spirit, the Holy Breath or Life Breath. If you translate into Trinitarian doctrine, you wind up with the classical notion that the Creator creates with the Word and the Breath, because it takes the Breath to give the Word any life. What is the Word of the Kingdom? Well, John tells us that the Word of God is made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ; therefore, the Word of God must have something to do with what Jesus was saying. I don’t think it is one word, but it has a certain sound to it-- LIVE! LOVE! GIVE! MOVE! The Word of the Kingdom is the word of Life. It is that which makes our lives meaningful—it is a “living Word!”
We’re going to be hearing much about the Kingdom in the next few weeks as the lectionary takes us through the “Kingdom Parables” of Matthew’s gospel. In fact, if we had the church paraments, you’d see that the liturgical color right now is green. We call this season of the church calendar “Kingdomtide.” The green represents the living quality of the Church. As all around us is green and vibrant, the Church in God’s Kingdom is fresh and living.
Let me tell you something I believe about the Kingdom of God. It is not coming with signs that can be observed. No one will say, Look here it comes, or, oops there it goes. Instead, it is right here in our midst, and we must open our eyes to it! It is like a seed, and we’re like the soil. It can’t sprout without our nourishment, and we can’t sprout anything worthwhile without its presence. When the Kingdom does sprout in the rich soil of an open heart and mind, it produces quite a bumper crop!
Yes, the Spirit of Life pulls us towards life abundant. Notice the extravagance of the seed’s production in the parable. 60 fold, 30 fold, 100 fold! Our translation today simplified this to “beyond the gardener’s wildest dreams.” Can you imagine planting a tomato plant and it yielding 100 tomatoes?
This is the only part of the parable that might have upset the expectations of Jesus' original hearers, and we need to pay attention to it because the upsetting of expectations is what the parables are all about. As Jesus told them, they were not just charming little stories to illustrate a point. They were rhetorical tools he used, in the way a builder might use a wrecking ball or a bulldozer, to level his hearers' expectations and clear the ground for the new understanding he wanted to put in place.

A good example is the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector from the Gospel of Luke. When Jesus told his hearers that two men went up to the temple to pray and that one of them was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector, they knew from the beginning how the story was going to turn out. God didn't hear the prayers of sinners, they believed, which meant he definitely wasn't going to hear the prayer of this tax collector-they were no more popular then than they are now. But the tax collector prays a very unusual prayer. Unlike that of the Pharisee, his is simple and direct-a prayer in which he confesses his sins and asks forgiveness. In the end, says Jesus, it was the tax collector who went home justified and not the Pharisee.

Now, that would have come as a shock to people who assumed the Pharisees had God all figured out. Maybe he wasn't who they said he was after all. Maybe they would have to start thinking about him in a whole new way, which is precisely the point of the story! "Why do you speak in parables?" Jesus' disciples asked. "Because these people have become a bunch of religious know-it-alls," he answers. "They think they know everything about who God is and how he works. Their minds have become so clouded by their misperception that they can't perceive what's going on right in front of them. They have shut their eyes, stopped up their ears. I'm speaking in parables in an effort to break up the hard ground of their wrong-headed expectations, to loosen the soil for the seed of the Gospel. But you," he says, looking fondly at his disciples, "you didn't have any expectations in the first place. Your eyes and ears have been wide open to see and hear the wonderful works of God." In other words, the last people you would have expected to get it are the ones who get it-- Which says something about how we ought to go about our own ministry.
What is required for us to live as good soil? Jesus talks about two things, understanding and bearing fruit. If we don’t understand the Word right now, that doesn’t mean we should put ourselves in the “rocky path” column of seed habitat—let’s not forget about how many times the disciples of Jesus misunderstood him or just plain didn’t get it. Yet how many of us would call Peter or James or John anything but “fertile soil?” Jesus didn’t go to the philosophy schools to find disciples who could “understand” the secrets of the Kingdom. He went out to the pastures, out to the fishing villages. Understanding is not about finding some code or secret meaning of the Gospel: “Understanding” simply means recognizing the relationship we are being offered by God. This understanding is what happens when we let go of our incessant need to have God “all figured out.” God loves surprises after all—this is why the seed is sown all over the place. The gardener has no expectations about what will happen.
The epistle lesson this morning is about the same relationship. We are being asked to recognize our life as more than a life of the flesh—more than just our self-concerns. Our relationship with God is a chance to live “in the Spirit” and for the “Spirit of Christ” to live in us! It is not so much a relationship between “us and God,” it is more about claiming our identity. We are in the Spirit and the Spirit is in us! AS we recognize the reality of our place in the equation, it becomes harder to ignore our mission as Kingdom makers. It is harder because we realize that it is with us that God plans to build God’s kingdom, and it is with us that Christ seeks to minister to the world.
A mystic from the 14th century, St. Theresa of Avilla, said it best I think,
God has no hands but our hands to do his work today;
God has no feet but our feet to lead others in his way;
God has no voice but our voice to tell others how he died;
and, God has no help but our help to lead them to his side."
Life in the Spirit is a radical re-envisioning of life. It is living with the Kingdom as our primary focus. Life in the flesh is an ignorance of this real purpose of our lives. God has is here among us in the Holy Spirit—and God is actively, indiscriminately pouring the Holy Spirit into all of us just like the reckless sower in the parable tosses seeds in all directions, even on the stony path where no plant could sprout. God is seeking a good place for his Kingdom to take root, and he’s throwing seed in our direction!
Today I am incorporating a special celebration into this sermon. Our church symbol for the life in the Spirit is Baptism. Many of us have been baptized and are not physically able to remember it. I myself was baptized as an infant, and cannot remember the event. Though I do not cognitively remember my Baptism, my Soul remembers that Baptism—it is still wet from the Baptism if that Baptism is alive in my life. Some of you were no doubt baptized at a later date, and have both a cognitive and a spiritual awareness of that important celebration. Some of you have not been baptized, but nonetheless are on the path of the life of the Spirit. Today I call you to remember your baptism; by splashing some of this water in your direction-- some of the drops will hit you. As those drops of water hit you, let it be a refreshing of your memory. The waters represent the actual presence of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, the Spirit is described as the “Wellsprings of Life,” as the “refreshing rain on the ground,” and at Jesus’ Baptism, we are told that the Spirit descended like a dove from the sky as the voice of God showered affection on his Son. You may envision the water drops as seeds that the Gardener is casting on your soil.
How does the Holy Spirit grow in your life? Do you feel that it has not taken deep root and instead has been scorched by the sun? Has the seed failed to grow in your life because you are overly concerned about the temporary things of your life and have these weeds choked out the flower that is God’s Word and Breath made manifest in you? We are baptized into the life of the Spirit of God! A life lived in the awareness of this relationship is fertile ground for the seed of God’s purpose for our lives. That seed is the waters of our Baptism. If you have not been baptized, then you should picture that seed as God’s grace and love that has been pouring into creation since the beginning of time. The baptism is a symbol of that.
God does in us with the Holy Spirit what we could have least expected. The fruit that we bear when we are fertile soil gives life to new seeds, new opportunities for the seed the Kingdom to take root in new places. Let us prepare our hearts to receive the Holy Spirit! Let us walk in the life of God! Let us nurture the roots of God’s kingdom in our lives!

3rd Sermon (1st Communion sunday) July 3

Matthew 11:25-30
25 At that time Jesus said, "I thank F85 you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. F86 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

From the moment of birth and through our young childhood, we are in a right relationship with God without doing a thing about it. Christ says in the 25th verse of this selection “I thank you father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.” Jesus once again flips our preconceptions about what it takes to be a follower of him.
Jesus is constantly praising the spiritual wakefulness of children. A popular image of Jesus is that of him sitting on a stone, or in the grass with children in his lap, smiling, gazing, sharing with them the secrets of God, which they seem to already grasp. Jesus commends children as the bearers of the kingdom of God. If you want to make Jesus indignant, one of the few things you can do is to keep the children at arms length, like his disciples try to do in Mark 10. He tells them, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Sometimes it seems Jesus has more in common with the children than with his “grown up” disciples. Take for instance the boy who volunteers his 5 loaves and 2 fishes to feed the thousands of people who have come to hear Jesus. I can just picture the insider’s wink Jesus shared with the boy who gave the fish and bread despite the disbelief and worry-some demeanor of Jesus’ disciples.
In Mark 10, Jesus says to his disciples when children are being brought to him to bless, “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” What is it that the children GET that grown people just don’t get? How do they know how to enter into the kingdom and we don’t? I think the answer is communicated in the same passage, which is unique to Matthew. “Come to me all that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Children understand that our burden is light—they have not yet succumbed to the heavy burdens that we put on ourselves as we grow older. We are a race of self inflicted beasts of burden. When we are children, we have not yet been yoked to our future drivers. Children are just naïve, we say to ourselves. As they grow older, they begin to care about what kind of shoes they are wearing and who gets picked first and last to play this or that game. Soon these concerns mutate into what kind of car they are driving and how “cool” their friends are. Then as we become adults, we begin to be concerned about how our salaries compare to others, and who has the largest house in the best parts of town, and how well we can “provide” for our families. In our adult years, we have heavy burdens because though it is our soul’s disposition to travel toward God, our minds and bodies are yoked to burdens which pull us in the opposite direction.
Many of us are yoked to the burdens of materialism, self-centeredness, laziness, and prejudice. What is your load? Christ’s call to us is to come to him, and he will give us rest. Christ wants us to come to him so he can show us that we are gripping the reigns and pulling these burdens purely of our own volition—of our own free will. When we turn around and examine our load—we expect to see someone at the top of our heap of troubles cracking the whip. Who is cracking the whip for your load? When we look in our own hands, we see the whip. We are prodding ourselves along imagining there is someone else driving us, someone else at fault, but it is just a figment of our poor, tired imaginations. When we have this heavy burden, our master is self-gratification. Yes, children are naïve to this master—and Jesus is naïve too. Webster defines naïve by saying that it “implies a genuine, innocent simplicity or lack of artificiality but sometimes connotes an almost foolish lack of worldly wisdom. This is what makes children and Jesus so beautiful. If “worldly wisdom” is wrapped up in “self-gratification,” I think it is safe to say that the Kingdom of God is closely affiliated with naivety.
When I envisioned Jesus speaking about this yoke and lightness of burden, I saw myself at the beach. When I have before gone to the beach, there is something I first always do. I go out into the ocean, about waist high, and I lay back on my back. I let my feet drift up until I am entirely supported by the salty water. It is if in the lapping of the waves, the ocean is speaking to me. It says, I who span the globe, support all the life in my bosom, the largest life on earth, not to mention all man-made vessels, continents, I who give and sustain life through the cycles of precipitation, evaporation, condensation,again and again and again. The Ocean says, All that begins in me ends in me, I who have been here before people, animals, plants, land, day, night, time. I who have been and who will always be, I who have the power to nourish you and cool you, I also have the power to destroy you, Yet….I have the strength to support you as well. Lay there, do not fight my support, If you do, you will sink. I am so large I can keep you and all you carry. In my domain the things you carry become lighter. They become……weightless. I believe that the ocean represents the Christ quite well. Christ wants us to experience the weightless support of his awesome power and love. I see this ocean of Christ the same way as I see Jesus wrapping his arms around children who are brought to him, as is told in the Gospels. ~Sundar Singh, an Indian itinerant preacher and holy man in the early 20th century said. “In comparison with this big world, the human heart is only a small thing. Though the world is so large, it is utterly unable to satisfy this tiny heart. The ever growing soul and its capacity can be satisfied only in the infinite God. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has not peace until it rests in God.” Though our minds may “grow up” and become accustomed to and satisfied by the ways of the world, our hearts and souls remain children. As the children long to sit in the lap of Jesus of Nazareth, our souls long to be in communion with the Christ.
Jesus the man carried tremendous burdens—oppression from Rome, mistrust and disbelief among his own people, homelessness, family fracturing. Jesus carried many of the same burdens we do, but there is one burden he carried that we do not carry. He carried the weight of all the sin of all humankind from beginning to end. He was yoked to humanity. There has never been a heavier burden….yet in this passage he tells us that “his yoke is easy, and his burden light” //////////What gives??????????????////
When we give up our burdens, the weighty burdens of pride, self-centeredness, materialism, and prejudice—those things that pull us away from our destination --When we go down into the water for refreshment--When we trust God’s hand to hold us up as we trust the water’s density to keep us afloat, this is when we hear our intended burden. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” Christ asks us to walk out of the water. We are to be those who help other people carry their burdens to the beach. We are to find those miles away from the beach. We are called to encourage them, to assist them, and to offer them backs to carry their labors. Better yet, we are to help them realize that the only master they are pulling for is self-gratification, and they can put down their load. When we leave the water to go back out into the world, we are indeed carrying a new burden, but this is why Jesus, with the heaviest burden of all exclaims that it is light and easy. Because when we leave the water in search for those who are weary, we are propelled by God. Now we have a purpose to our burden we carry, and this burden is weightless.
I’ve heard a Rabbinical saying, "My burden has become my song." It is not that the burden is easy to carry; but it is laid on us in love; it is meant to be carried in love; and love makes even the heaviest burden light. When we remember the love of God, when we know that our burden is to love God and to love creation, then the burden becomes a song. There is an old story which tells how a man came upon a little boy carrying a still smaller boy, who was lame, upon his back. "That's a heavy burden for you to carry," said the man. "That's no burden," came the answer. "That's my wee brother." The burden which is given in love and carried in love is always light.
Is a full heart heavy or light? /////// When we take up the yoke of the Savior, our hearts are full, and I believe this lightens the weight of what we must do in the world. I think Jesus describes his yoke as easy and his burden as light not because they are free of challenge, but because they generate justice and cultivate community. A yoke, after all, is still a yoke, and a burden, however light, is still a burden. The followers of Jesus are called to carry a load that makes life better, that heals brokenness and restores relationship. The yoke we are asked to put around our necks is a yoke of forgiveness, of grace and of mercy. Sometimes forgiving someone isn’t easy, but it does ease the weight of anger, and it does ease the pain of brokenness. The burden we are asked to carry is the burden of justice-building and peace-forging. I wouldn’t call working for peace and justice a light burden, but it does lighten the weight of oppression and violence on the backs of the marginalized and victimized.
Jesus calls us to practice disciplines of joy – to take seriously the regular discipline of generating the deep joy that comes from knowing God and from struggling along God’s side for justice. Taking up this burden is a joy for those of us who know and experience God’s love. Wearing this yoke is a joy for those of us who believe in a just God, whose main desire is for us all to live together in peaceful community. As Christians, our call is to be vigorous in our happiness, relentless in our pleasure. And to model for others, through our own unending love for each other, the love of God found in Jesus Christ. The easy yoke around our neck is joy. The light burden we carry is love. If we are like children, we will remember that these things come naturally to us. Young children don’t see rich or poor, black or white, intelligent or dull—they see people. Children have to be taught to distinguish these things. It is in this teaching that we are yoked to the burdens of the world.
I call you today to do the hardest thing in the world to do. It is the hardest thing for us to accept because we have built our identity around the worldly burden we carry. We do not see that we are our own driver. We think we are working in the grand design---((((Ironicly))))) God means for us to worry about money, how we appear to others, or whom we associate with. We convince ourselves of this despite Jesus recognizing these flaws, and telling us point blank—do not worry about what you will wear or who will feed you, look at the flowers in the field, they do not tarry with such things, and the Lord provides for them. The Christ is in perfect company with children and flowers, but he wants us to be with him too, he wants us to take his mission, to find those who need fulfillment and rest and to point them to the beach. He wants us first to do the hardest thing in our lives to do, put down our worldly yokes. We will not disappear when we stop wasting our time with such things, we will finally appear. We will finally be real, we will be empowered, as promised in the New Testament, and we will be propelled by the Holy Spirit to show others to the Grand Cosmic Ocean of God, who has enough strength to carry us all.
Today we celebrate the communion—a holy meal that gives us a tangible expression of this burden we are to carry. As you approach the chancel today to take communion, if you feel led to do so, I invite you to write a burden that you feel encumbered by on the slips of paper I have laid out on the pews. As you kneel to receive communion, leave that slip of paper on the chancel, and open your hands to take instead the burden of joy—which is symbolized by the communion elements. Take your time at the chancel—this is the central ritual of our church. Pray for God’s grace to help you put down that heavy burden in your life and instead shoulder the joyfully light burden of kingdom making. I pray that God gives you a sense of lightness in the feet as you return to your pew.