Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How We Come Home May Be As Important as That We Come Home

This week's scriptures are Jeremiah 31:7-14 and Ephesians 1:3-14, 2:4-10.

In the latest edition of the Christian Century magazine is a vigorous discussion about the right of Israel to the land in Palestine. The various writers range from those who believe that the right of Israel is based in a promise from God which over rules everything else; to some very thoughtful discussion of God's call to treat its neighbors as though they too were Israel.

This argument might be simply academic if it weren't for the fact that a great deal of American policy toward Israel has been affected by the theological stance of both Zionists and conservative Christians. And it becomes an even more important discussion in light of the current military retaliation by Israel in its attempt to destroy Hammas.

The problems of Israel and Palestine are incredibly complex. And I am not wise enough to have a solution to this centuries old problem. But I would suggest that any viewpoint about the current situation that ignores the radical disparity in military capacity between Israel and the areas being attacked (i.e. the age and quality of the weapons); as well as the practice of the Israeli army in bulldozing Palestinian homes in south Gaza and their impact on the political situation in the region is both politically and theologically naive.

The rhythm and flow of Israel movement in and out of exile is part of the scriptural basis for the discussions noted above. It is also the context for our Jeremiah passage which is a promise of homecoming and restoration. The Ephesians passages are similarly Paul's claim that the believers had been chosen by God to be raised up as an example of God's great mercy. The pattern to the discourse is similar: once we were seperated/exile; now we are brought home from the places (geographically/spiritually/emotionally) to which we have been scattered. This is God's action in the historical moment.

The danger for all of us is that we can come to view and interprete these passages as a kind of triumphalism....a sign of opposed to expressions of God's mercy that call us to a quality of life with our they Palestinians or folks who live around the corner on Cape St. Claire.

Let me push this a little further. During the holidays many of us are reminded of where we came from. We go home to see family, we recieve Christmas cards, we make phone calls. Some of those memories warm our hearts. Some of them are not pleasant at all. Some of our memories have to do with how far the pains of our past may have taken us into destructive or harmful behaviors...and how long it took us to come back to health and spirituality and relationship.

I'm going to maintain that the quality of our homecoming...whether it is Israel's desire for a homeland or your and my connection/re-connection to our family of origin....has a great deal to do with how we treat the 'neighbor' we find there.

We can come home as though it's something we're entitled to and bring all our bitterness and rage and desire for revenge with us; and we'll sour the very moments that we once prayed for. We'll bomb villages, snip at relatives, and make ourselves miserable in the way that only a good resentment can. Or, we can follow the guidance of scripture. We can see all our neighbors as like ourselves. Loved by God....searching for healing....on their journey home too.

Family systems theory talks about how intergenerationally a family can be trying to heal an old wound over and over and over again. The patterns repeat from one generation to another. Just as Israel went out into exile again and again, these families repeat the patterns of illness and addiction and pain.

Maybe the trick, internationally as well as interpersonally and intrapersonally, is to see our 'home' as gift. To respond in gratitude. To live, not out of entitlement but out of blessing. Just like the Israelites were told when they brought in their crops to "leave something for the sojourner, for you were once sojourners in Egypt"...maybe we are told 'respond with compassion to those who move you to resentment; for once you were resented, yet God came to you in compassion.'

What would this new year be like if our lives were marked by that kind of biblical obedience?

Hope to see you Sunday.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Waiting Expectantly

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 52:1-13 and Luke 2:22-40.

UCC minister Ozzie Smith, in a sermon on this Lukan passage tells the story that Harriette Tubman was know to wait in railroad stations without a schedule or knowing when the trains would be running. When asked about this, she is said to have replied that she knew the train would be coming. She trusted that the tracks had been laid and the station built for a reason.

Simeon and Anna trusted. They waited. And because they waited they saw what they had been promised.

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve service. It was a worship service about a promise. The promise that this baby was the Messiah; that his coming was going to be the thing that brought in the Kingdom of God.

Now this is an interesting promise because it's both a "here now" and an "it's coming" promise. We're promised some things in 'end times' language: God will speak the last word and that last word will be rooted in God's love for God's and me included. It's also "here and now" language. We're told that "the kingdom of God is within you" and that this kingdom is here, now among us.

Both of these promises require a particular kind of faith. It is the faith of Simeon and Anna. It is the faith of Harriette Tubman. The faith to look and see that the track has been the train that the track was built to run on will come. The promise made to Simeon and Anna will be kept; and they will see God's glory revealed.

Sometimes it's hard to have the eyes to see the track though. We have difficulty believing that this isn't some mirage...what Marx referred to as "the opiate of the people." A figment of our imagination meant to pull our attention away from the difficulties that surround us. But what we find is that when we trust, when we have faith that the train really is running, we also find that we move toward, not away, from the pain and the trouble. Not because we are some kind of spiritual masochist, but because we trust that in moving, in trust, toward the places of need and pain in the world and in our lives, we are moving toward the healing that has been promised.

The tinsel may fade. The lights may seem to have dimmed. But the promise...the promise is as fresh today as when it was made to Isaiah...was made flesh in the birth of Jesus...and breaks into our world on a daily basis.

Simeon believed. Anna believed. You and I are called to believe. Like Tubman waiting for a train we trust and live and wait for the glory of God to break through.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Subversive Scriptures and Banned Bible Verses

This week's scriptures are Luke 1:26-38 and Luke 1:46-55.

I was intrigued as I began reading and preparing for this coming Sunday's sermon to find that in the 1980's the government of Guatemala prohibited the public reading of the Magnificat, or the Song of Mary.

Listen to the word and you will not find it particularly difficult to understand why:

He has scattered the proud in the
thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from
their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good
and sent the rich away empty
. (Luke 1:51-53)

I found myself remembering the little cards that we would get at Vacation Bible School. They had five to ten bible verses on them and we would get a gold star next to the ones we memorized. Some of you may remember them as well. The were filled with verses like "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" and "the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" and other verses that spoke to the need for salvation and a personal relationship with Jesus. Now I believe that a deep and personal relationship with Jesus is what we are invited to; but I also believe that this relationship calls us, among other things, to acts of justice and mercy. This is part of living as God's people in imitation of our Savior.

I don't remember any verses on those cards that said, "He has brought down the powerful from their thones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty" or "I take no pleasure in your sacred cermonies...Spare me the sound of your songs, I shall not listen to the strumming of your lutes. Instead let justice roll down like water and rightousness like an everflowing stream." (Amos 5:21 and 23-24).

I deeply appreciated Jeremy and Susan's singing of Rebel Jesus on this past Sunday. They reminded us that it is too easy to let this wild, subversive, 'turn the world on it's head' Gospel be co-opted as a tool for the status quo, the oppressor, the systemic blindness to the cry of those around us who suffer.

Mary knew in the depth of her being that what was growing in her was a new world. The baby she welcomed as "the handmaiden of the Lord" would bring about a radical change in creation.

Next time you hear the Magnificat...listen to the words. Enjoy the music; it is truly beautiful. But listen to the words of this marvelous young woman who knows in every fiber of her being that something new is about to happen.

And so the questions come to us this season: Are you and I that open, that willing for God to use us? Do we see something new and radical and powerful about to happen in our world because of how we have said "yes" to God's invitation to give birth to some new part of God's work of redemption?

God broke in at Christmas in a unique and marvelous way...becoming flesh-one of us. But God also continues to break in to our world; birthing freedom, and redemption, and healing whenever and wherever we raise our voices like Mary and say, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

See you Sunday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Living Toward the Dream and the Promise

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 61 and John 1:6-8, 19-28.

So far this Advent season, we've talked about how important it is to speak our cry out honestly about what is not right in our world and in our lives; and to be willing to live in the tensions about what we believe we know about what God is doing, and what we don't understand.

This week, scripture helps us move to the next step: that is to live toward the promise and the dream.

Now I have to be honest and say that I believe that until we've done the first two, truly doing the third with integrity is difficult-and often impossible. It is, in fact the facing of the realities of life and the mystery beyond us that opens the door for imagination and Mystery to meet in dreams of what God's promises might look like.

John when he is approached and questioned sounds a bit like Joe Biden going "I'm not the guy" when reporters were asking if he was Obama's pick for VP. But John points beyond himself to the One who was coming. John was a 'get ready' voice "crying in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord." He was picking up on the promises made in Isaiah; he stood in a long line of those who trusted in the dream and the promise.

Isaiah gives shape to the dream. He fleshes out the promise. And I think it's important for us to notice what part of Isaiah's vision that Jesus is going to pick up on when He begins His ministry. It isn't the nationalistic vision of verses 5-7 where 'aliens' and 'foreigners' work for the once disposessed Israel. It is the binding up of the brokenhearted, good news for the afflicted, freedom for the prisoner.

Jesus embodied God's love and fleshed out the promise. You and I are called to continue living into that dream. Lest we get the idea that this is an easy task, let me make it clear; living into this dream and into God's promise is hard work...and we may not see much of what we live into come to fruition in our life time.

I heard an interview with one of the Tuskegee Airmen this morning. Obama has sent special invitations to those still living to be present at his inauguration. Mr. Wheeler (the former airman) stated that he didn't believe that without the service of black soldiers, an African-American could ever have been elected president. These were men living into the dream about what could be. They were living toward the promise of America as a place for all people. Now, mind you, I don't believe that we're there yet by any stretch of the imagination (just look at Prop 8). But we're definitely further along because of the service and sacrifice of men and women like the Tuskegee Airmen.

I recently had an email conversation with a member of our congregation about our dreams regarding Broadneck's place as an inclusive and welcoming congregation. Our personal visions of how this dream may get lived out are a little different...and that's absolutely okay...but what we were both asking was, 'given what we're called to as God's people, in this particular time and place how do we live into this dream of how God's promise will be expressed here, now, at Broadneck?'

Do you remember what Jesus said at His first sermon after He read the passage from Isaiah? It's in Luke 4. He said, "today this scripture has been fullfilled in your sight." Are we also called to "fullfill this scripture" in the sight of the world around us? To live out the promise by giving flesh to the Word in our time and place as representatives of God's love in Christ? I think we are.

Advent reminds us to listen to the cries of our own lives and those of the world around us for God to act in the difficult and painful situation. It calls us to be willing to live in the tension of not always knowing. And it invites us to live toward a dream of what God's promise might look like for this moment as God's people at Broadneck Baptist.

Do we have a dream? Do we have a vision? Do we believe the Promise is part of our call as a community of faith?

Come on Sunday and let's talk about it.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Double for All Our Sins???

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8.

I have to confess that I find this week's passage disturbing.

Oh, there are a lot of really good things about it. Isaiah 40:1 is a magical passage: "Comfort my people says your God; speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her htat her warfare (or time of bondage) is ended." The gentle care of this verse invokes warm and marvelous images of soothing mothers tending the hurts of their children....but listen to the rest of the verse, "for she has recieved at the Lord's hand double measure for all her sins."


I'm not sure about you, but if someone came to me offering comfort, and said, "by the way, things were twice as bad as they should have been---and I did it," my response might be less than cordial.

Unless we want to just pick and chose what makes us feel good in scripture, we need to look at this phrase and ask ourselves "what's going on here?" "what is this all about?" Because the prophet here isn't saying, 'tell them they really got a rough deal, the Babylonians were roughter on you than I wanted them to be; and this exile thing was a bit over the top."

No, the prophet, is reporting a conversation taking place in the Heavenly Court. And God is telling the subjects of that Court to comfort God's people and tell them that their time of warfare/bondage/exile is ended...and that the Lord had given them twice the punishment they deserved!

Does this bother you? Make you a little queasy? It does me. So what do we do now?
If we take scripture seriously, how will we address this passage?

And if you really want me to throw you a curve ball, remember that last week's Isaiah passage (64:1-9) was a response to that warfare/bondage/exile ending...and the kind of ending they got not being what they expected. In other words...the great homecoming wasn't all it was cracked up to be!

You have to admire the honesty of the writer(s) of Isaiah. They didn't pull their punches; they didn't mince their words. Should we?

Advent is a time of expectation. It is also a time of examining the pain that our personal and corporate wounds and sins (things done to us as well as things we've done) have caused us, those around us, and all creation. We cannot honestly look forward in expectation of embracing the new unless we can also look solidly at the past and at our feelings about it. And, we need to acknowledge that Advent, when it comes, may not be anything like what we expect. Just as Job cried out for an answer; when God answered, it was nothing like Job expected.

So what are we going to do with this passage? Well, I'm going t make you a deal (in the back of my mind I hear some 60's comedian saying, "such a deal I have for you").
I'm going to study this passage up and down before Sunday and try to get a handle on what is happening here. So are you. You're going to read it, pray over it, goggle it, look at a commentary if you have one. And on Sunday we're going to meet and look at it together.

Sunday's sermon will be what is often referred to as a Dialogue Sermon. This means I won't do all the talking. I'll share what I've come up with and then invite you all to join me in a prayerful conversation about the passage.

I hope to see you on Sunday as we practice the Priesthood of All Believers in this particular way.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tear The Heavens Apart: Why We Need Advent

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 64:1-9 and Psalms 80:1-7, 17-19.

This week's passages are cries from the deepest part of the human heart. Look at what happens when we 'forget' we're reading scripture (which often makes us miss things cause we wrap our 'religious stuff' around it) and listen to the words like our next door neighbor was telling them to us:

'God has made sorrow all I have to eat and I drink the tears of this overwhelming grief. My neighbors watch me being crushed and my enemies make fun of me as much as they want to. Why doesn't God tear the heavens apart to come down. In the past, when I wasn't looking for God to do anything, God came and the mountains shuddered and it felt like the world would burst into flames. No other God has ever been seen taking up for those who waited for God, but doesn't seem that God will respond, no matter what I do. Everything I cherish is ruined. How long God before you stop beating on me?'

This is a paraphrase of the combined scriptures; but it cuts close to the truth of their meaning. Take a look at them now in your Bible, starting with the Psalm and you'll see what I mean.

This is why you and I need an Advent. We need a place where we can cry out. We need to know that God will listen. I will sometimes ask people that I counsel with, either as a pastor or a therapist (when the person is using their faith in the process of therapy) whether they have prayed about the "aweful secret" or the "horrible problem" that they've just told me about. Often the answer is a kind of suprised look and then, "well no, I haven't" though we somehow had to protect God from the bad stuff in our life; or that God is so angry at us for being or doing something that God wouldn't listen to our struggle. Consequently, we can feel alone and deserted in our trouble.

But that's not what scriptures says, and it's not the Gospel.

We NEED an Advent. We need to rediscover and reclaim a God who listens and cares and answers. We need a place and time where we can risk grabbing on to these promises about who and what God is and holding on for dear life.

This Tuesday I sat in court and watched a man I know being lead away in handcuffs. His victim was also in court; as were friends and family of both. Most of the people in this courtroom...including the man going to jail.....were people of faith! Were christians struggling with what all this means in their lives, and their futures, and their trust, and their faith in God. The pain in the court room was palpable. Think of them for a moment and re-read the paraphrase above.

Where can they go to cry out? Where do victims go to cry out the anguish of long term impact of victimization? Where do offenders go to cry out for healing as well? Where do the families of offenders cry out, to worship, to have community?

This is the issue that I'm closest to. If it doesn't speak to you, pick one that does. Where is the place you know, in your own life or close to you, where a cry needs to go up?


I hope you'll join us Sunday. Let's come together and cry out. God will listen. God will come.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Passion and Process in Marriage and God

This week's scriptures are Song of Songs 2:8-17 and Revelation 21:1-4.

We're going to have the pleasure on Sunday of being part of Barbara and Jim Jordan renewing their wedding vows as part of our worship service. I hope we'll all turn out to celebrate with them.

It also gives us the opportunity to look a the ways in which scripture has used courtship and marriage as images and metaphors for the relationship of God to God's people.

From Hosea to the Song of Songs to the book of Revelation we are presented with pictures that bring the ups and downs, the passionate longing, and the daily challenges of the marriage relationship into focus as a way of looking at God's desire for us. It's a little embarrassing to look at how often God's people are referred to as an unfaithful wife and God equated to the injured husband.

All that being said, I think there are two particular places where we can take the marriage metaphor and see something important about our relationship to God; the first is explicit in scripture and the second is implicit. And I'm going to maintain that while at it's worst, marriage can mar our understanding of God's love; at it's best, our relationship with our spouse can be a vehicle that God uses to teach us incredible things about God's self.

The first place where the marriage image has something to say to us is in the area of passion. The Song of Songs is about the longing ache of two lovers for one another. They seek each other through the streets at night. They sing songs about the beauty of the other's body. They openly proclaim their lusty desire for one another. This is how God feels about us. God desires a relationship with you and me with a longing so strong that its closest expression is in the longing of one lover for the body of another. It is this powerful longing that takes Jesus to the cross; a longing so great that God would endure death to see that longing fullfilled. But the second part of this is equally important: we were created with an equal longing for God. St. Augustine's famous "our hearts are restless til they find their rest in Thee" is a pale expression of the desire that I believe we are born with for a passionate, earthshaking relationship with our Lover/Creator/God.

The problem is that while God's passionate desire for us does not change; ours often does. The wounds and pains of this life often bend and warp our desires. Fear can make us apprehensive about believing that anyone-especially God-could possibly love us in all our naked frailty and flaws. But the longing never goes away. One of the things I devotely believe is that at the heart of every bent, warped, addictive (chose your phrase) desire is the true desire for relationship with God. This is why the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote to Bill W. (founder of A.A.) that he would not ever get sober without a "spiritual awakening." The Good News in all this is that God never stops desiring us; and we are always reaching (even in wounded ways) for God.

This brings us to the second part of the marriage image...and that is process. Those of us who have been married for a while...and I'm sure that Barbara and Jim would agree...know that being married is a process. We go through changes that we never imagined. We 'fall' in and out of love...and back in again...with our spouse over and over and over. The relationship opens us up to places in ourselves that we didn't even know were there. We wound and are wounded. We heal and are healed. And as time goes on we find that where we once needed something to do, somewhere to go, something to entertain us; now, more and more it is the sound of their voice, the awareness of their presence that gives us the greatest comfort and the deepest joy. Give us enough time together and many of us (I'm told) start to look alike.

The process of our relationship to God is a lot like this as well. It is a growing thing. We fail, we re-connect, we grow, we discover new things about ourself and about God. Til, hopefully, we find a measure of peace and comfort in the experience of God's presence, and a deep joy in the daily living in that Presence.

And maybe....just time goes on, we start to 'look' alike.

Hope to see you Sunday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Don't Give Up Before the Miracle Happens

This week's scriptures are Matthew 25: 1-13 and 14-30.

This title: "Don't Give Up Before the Miracle Happens" may seem sort of a strange one for a blog on two of Jesus' judgement parables. It will sound even stranger if you happen to know that one of the Lectionary passages that we're not reading (though it will probably show up in the sermon) is Zephaniah 1: 7, 12-18.

Now Zephaniah is a prophet whose first words to Judah are "I shall utterly destroy everything from the face of the earth, says the Lord." Zephaniah is focused on "The Day of the Lord" which he describes as "a day of wrath, a day of anguish and torment, a day of destruction and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of cloud and dense fog..." Add this to the first parable in which the Bridegroom says to the bridesmaids who had gone to buy oil, "Truly I say to you, I do not know you" and the master who says, "as for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth".....and it's hard to imagine a miracle at all.

Many of us grew up in churches that stopped the story right there. It's a comfortable place to stop the story-as long as you see yourself as one of those bridesmaids who got in the door, or one of the servants who handled the money he was given well. It becomes a platform for all kinds of sanctimonious snobbery and religious long as I can be one of the "good guys" in the story.

The truth is, though, that none of us is one of the "good guys"...."all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." It's only when we've encountered our own "Day of the Lord" whatever way it comes to us....that we realize that. The problem is that if we, like the servant who buried his money in the ground, have a view of God that stops at the passages above from Zephaniah, then there is no hope. There's no hope because (if this is our view) we serve a God who is going to judge us harshly no matter what; who puts us in double binds that would make a therapist cringe (the lecture he gives the fearful servant about 'why didn't you at least loan my money out?' violated Jewish laws against usury-so the servant was clearly in a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation); if this is what God is truly like, we might as well roll over and quit. We throw ourselves into the "outer darkness."

But this isn't the end of the story; not even in Zephaniah. On Sunday I'm going to tell you the story of Saralee Perel. She's a remarkable woman who Carole and I think is a real hero; her name is Saralee Perel, and I want to share her story with you.

But for right now, I want to tell you where I first saw the words that are the title of this blog. I was sitting in a room full of people who had encountered their "Day of the Lord." For many of the folks in that room, marriages had been lost, jobs had been sacrificed, and legal problems abounded. Many of them felt like they were at the end....that they lived, and would continue to live, in the 'outer darkness.' But in that room, right next to a poster that said "The 12 Steps" was one that read "Don't Quit Before the Miracle Happens."

I don't think we are judged for our behaviors...I believe our behaviors judge us. That judgement can make us paralyzed, fearful, despairing. Our "Day of the Lord" can rip through our lives like a tornado, taking out everything in its path....except....except.....except the promise that God's love will have the final say. Remember Zephaniah? That dark, horror prophesying word he spoke? Listen to his final words:

I shall take away your cries of woe
and you will no longer endure reproach.
When that time comes;
I shall deal with all who oppress you;
I shall rescue the lost and gather the dispersed.
I shall win fo rmy people praise and renown throught the whole world.
When that thiime comes I shalll gather you and bring yo uhome.
I shall win you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes.
It is the Lord who speaks. (Zephaniah 3:18-20)

I don't know what your "Day of the Lord" looks like. It may be an illness you can't find healing for; it may be an addiction you struggle may be hitting bottom in it; it may be a tragedy in your life that feels as though you're drowning in your sorrow and pain. Jesus doesn't promise us that these things don't happen; in fact, as Zehaniah shows us scripture is graphic in its descriptions of what they are like when they come. BUT Jesus promises that the final word is different than anything we could imagine.

Jesus' judgement stories don't pull any punches. But, and this is the most important thing about them, they don't write us off either. Jesus always holds out hope, and forgiveness, and healing, and an invitation to the Great Party of God's Love.

So whatever it is in your life that these stories remind you of.....Don't Give Up Before the Miracle Happens.

I hope to see you Sunday.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Servant Leadership

This week's scriptures are Psalm 1 and Matthew 23:1-12.

This Tuesday evening I watched the person I supported defeat a person I admire for the presidency of the United States. What draws me to both of these men is the times when I hear them-at their best-speak in language which is often associated with what, years ago, was referred to as "Servant Leadership."

Robert Greenleaf wrote a book by this title some 25 or so years ago. Building on his writing Max Depree wrote Leadership is an Art (a book that made a tremendous impact on me), and other books on the meaning of leadership in this 'Servant Tradition'.

A look at Wikipedia indicates that Kautila, a famous strategic thinker from ancient India, was writing about it in the 4th century B.C. in around 6000 B.C. Lao Tzu wrote that the "greatest leader forgets himself and attends to the development of others." Larry Spears identified ten characteristics is a servant leader: "listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others, and building community." Greenleaf said that the best test of leadership was, "do those served grow as persons, do they grow while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?" (italics mine)

Finally, Wikipedia quotes Mark's version of this week's Matthew passage, "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." (Mark 10:43-44)

Aside from a very real hope that our country may be turning a bit toward the concept of Servant Leadership as a possibility; and my prayer that this will be the model that President Obama brings into office; why do I raise this subject here?

As we as a congregation move into the new church year with both our fall programs and Advent; as we look to new congregational leaders; and as we seek our next can we apply this model to our work and ministry. Can we see the "Hospitality" that we've spent the last few weeks talking about as a variety of "Servanthood"? Can we hold up as governing questions to our work as a congregation together and our individual lives as Christians seeking to live out Jesus' message in our daily encounter with others the questions: Am I listening empathically? Is this person I am encountering (be they my child, my spouse, or the cashier at the store) a little 'healthier, wiser, freer' because we've encountered one another? and are they more likely themselves to become servants because we've met/encountered?

As I look back on our scriptures for the past few weeks and see the passages from the parables that say, 'he sent his servants to tell them that the party was ready'; I ask myself, does my/our servanthood help folk get to the party of the Kingdom of God? Does it aid them to see the great invitation that they've been given? Does it demonstrate to them that the party is already going on if they'll just step in the door?

It isn't just persons in great and visible positions like John McCain and Barack Obama who are called to moments of great leadership and great servanthood. You and I are called as well.

Hope to see you Sunday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Faith and Works

This week's scriptures are Matthew 22:34-46 and James 2:14-26.

Among many christians the tension between "faith" and "works" creates significant problems.

On the one hand, we believe that faith is what saves us; faith being the trust that God is going to do what God has promised. That promise is captured in what has become my favorite benediction (those of you who are at church on Sundays will spot it immediately) "go in the knowledge that in the goodness of God we were born, by the watchfulness of God we are kept all the day long, and in the love and mercy of God we are all being redeemed and made whole." God is about the process of drawing us all into the Great Celebration, the party to which we are all invited and all are welcome.

On the other hand, we hear calls to justice, care for the poor, and the equating of our response to those who are 'hungy, naked, homeless, sick and in prison' as being a response to Christ Himself.

I want to do something that I don't usually do: I want to throw a really big word out here. It's a word that I don't use, but it's the only one that I can find that helps with the issue at hand. The word is "antinomy." According to Webster's it is an 'apparent contradiction between to valid principles or conclusions that seem equally necessary and reasonable.' This 'apparent contradiction' has many christians who believe in "faith alone" struggling with the role of works; and others wrestling with how their view of behavior and free will knocks heads with their faith in salvation as an act of God's Grace.

Do I have an answer? No, not if you mean, by an answer some absolute final word on this tension. I, personally, live in that tension on a daily basis. I believe in salvation as the result of God's Grace which we accept through faith. I also encounter behaviors which are truly acts of horror. Not to mention my own sins which, to quote David, "are ever before me."

But I do have a response to this 'antinomy' that lets me sleep at night and do the work that I do as a pastor and a therapist.

I believe, first of all that God is 'sovereign.' By that I mean that 1) God will have the final word; 2) that God understands the twists and turns of our lives...knows the places that pain and fear take us.

Which leads to my belief that God is compassionate. This understanding, loving God is at work (Revelation tells us) from the foundation of the world to redeem all of creation. And since God is sovereign, I have to believe that God is-finally, in the end-going to bring all of creation home.

In the meantime, (and I frankly don't know how long "meantime" is) I believe that I can refuse to participate in all, or part of, the Great Celebration that God began at the foundation of the world, made manifest in the incarnation of God's Self in Christ Jesus, and calls us to on a daily basis. I can refuse to come to the party because I don't like the other people there....and God's not going to re-write God's party list just to suit me. I can block myself from parts of the Celebration by cutting myself off from the tasks that living as a 'family member' in this New World calls me to. It's hard for me to "inherit the kingdom" as Paul puts it...enjoy all the benefits of being in God's family....if I'm treating my brothers and sisters like garbage. Because it is in these very relationships that Christ comes to us in the here-and-now.

A final thought. These acts of relationship: love, mercy, care, openness, understanding, patience, etc. They are responses of love and joy to the gift that I recognize in my own invitation to the own salvation. They are demands of love, not of law.

My salvation does not (nor does yours) depend on my behavior. I am not so powerful that I can finally shut down the power of God's love and longing for me. Neither are you. But I can make right now a living hell by my refusal to join the party, or participate in the celebration. And my refusal has consequences in the lives of others as well.

A lot of my counseling work, both as a pastor and a psychotherapist, is helping people remove the barriers to coming to the party. Sometimes those barriers are extreme guilt that blocks faith that God could really want them at the party. Sometimes it is pain so deep that the heart's ability to trust has been crushed. And sometimes it is behaviors which, by their very nature, erect a wall between the individual and God in their cruelty and victimization of Christ as He comes to them in other human beings.

I take sin very seriously. But I take God's Grace even more seriously.

This is not a "final answer." It is, for me, an "answer in process." Maybe it will trigger some thoughts for you. Maybe it will give you some comfort. Maybe you will totally disagree with me.

Maybe on Sunday you'll let me know what you think. I hope to see you then.


Monday, October 13, 2008

The God of History and the Nit-pickers

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 45:1-13 and Matthew 22:15-33.

In our passage from Matthew those who disagree with Jesus and are offended by the parable he uses to describe their refusal to come to the party try an different tack. If they cannot argue with his stance about God and God's open free invitation to the Eternal Party, they will catch him up in legal nit-picking about the Law. And they make a valiant effort. Laws about taxes, laws about marriage, laws about resurrection (this question came, by the way, from the Sadducees who didn't believe in the resurrection and who threw their favorite riddle about it at him).

Jesus isn't going to play. He swats away their arguments like Ali picking off a jab in his prime.

This response of the Pharisees and Sadducees is, of course, a response to Jesus' insistance that God loves ALL of God's children with a love that reaches past status and wealth and state of goodness. When you've spent your life chasing goodness like a hampster on an exercise wheel, this kind of preaching is bound to upset you. And if you've used your 'goodness' (read that as, for instance, "I have money and don't have to work at a job that makes me 'unclean' so I'm better than you") as a theo-political weapon to ensure your economic and social status; then the idea of all these hookers and cheats dancing into the Kingdom of God ahead of you is going to really upset you.

But before we get down on them too much, we need to admit that they sound a lot like us. You know the commercial that says "There's a little Captain Morgan in everyone"? Well, there's a little Pharisee/Sadducee in each of us. And it's not a pretty picture. Why do we do this? Because being out of control is a terrible feeling. And Jesus and all of scripture reminds us that when it comes to our salvation...we are soooooo not in control. It's all God, all the time. And God won't have it any other way. Our goodness cannot save us; and our badness cannot damn us. It's Grace all the way.

Isaiah has God saying, in fact, "you have no right to question me about my children or to tell me what I ought to do!" (Good News Bible). To prove it, God will use in Isaiah's time a king named Cyrus of Persia whose conquest of much of the known world will free Israel from their captivity. And what's more Cyrus won't know anything about how he's being used. He'll be off doing his conquering thing and there's God smiling as it sets God's people free; as God 'breaks down bronze gates and smashes their iron bars' (Isaiah 45:2) and claims the title "God of History."

I think this is one of the reasons that Jesus says to the Sadducees, "you're not reading scripture right." They'd gotten so caught up in the 'small stuff' that they were missing the sweeping brush of God in history that was transforming all of life.

In a time like ours; when financial systems falter (okay..they drop like hot rocks) and strong dividing lines are drawn on the basis of race, or social class, or money, (not to mention some of church people's favorite fights over the ordination of women and the marriage of gays) it is easy for us to get caught up in our version of the same nit-picking avoidance of the Eternal Party.

The door is open. The table is set. The food is really, really good; and the band is fantastic (and even I can dance there). All we have to do is trust. Faith. The great "Yes...oh Yes."

We'll be throwing a little bitty part of the party on Saturday at 10:00. Pumpkin Pancakes and Bible Study. I won't say that Jeremy and my cooking matches the food we're gonna have at Brunch in the Kingdom....but the door is open and everyone is invited. Hope we'll see you there.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Tale of Two Parables

This week's scriptures are Psalm 23 and Matthew 22:1-14.

The first thing that you will notice is that the passage from Matthew is a retelling of the parable we used from Luke 14:15-24 about the folks who refused to come to the banquet. Only this time, those who don't come are wiped out and their cities burned. In addition, even when the party is going on one of the guests in thrown out "into the dark, the place of wailing and grinding of teeth." WHEW!

Now the commentators are mixed in their view of what is going on here. Is this a parable that Jesus told that Luke tells one way and Matthew another, based on what they were trying to say to a particular audience? (In that case, as you'll see below, I have some issues with Matthew). Or, did Jesus tell a similar parable in two different ways in a different setting for different needs? (In which case I have to struggle with the question of what was Jesus trying to get across in the Matthew parable).

What I find interesting about this parable though as I write this blog is the way that my personal history affects the way I read scripture.

I grew up in a very conservative, Southern Baptist church where strong ideas of judgement, condemnation, and the need for salvation from hell were evident. I also grew up in a violent household where one of my parents often used God as an excuse for the violence directed at my siblings and myself. In light of that, this parable has always been terrifying.

What it says (to that part of me still influenced by that history) is you'd better not turn down God's loving invitation to salvation or God will kill you and burn your life down; AND NOT ONLY THAT but even if you accept the invitation, there's a good chance you won't be good enough and will get tossed into the 'outer darkness' anyway.

When viewed this way, this parable becomes truly terrifying. For read this way, there is no safety, there is no peace, there is no celebration. The party in the kingdom when the parable is read this way is like those old films from WWII of the citizens of Poland waving flags and cheering for the Nazi troops as they marched by while their true emotions showed in the tears streaming down their face.

As you can tell, I struggle with the message about God's intention that was given to me in early life. Though my beliefs are different now, every now and then this view of God as just waiting for the opportunity to snatch us up, smack us around, and throw us into hell rears its ugly head.

Then what do we do with this passage? How can we understand what Matthew was trying to do (you'll notice here the choice I made about the difference between the parables)? And how does this passage have anything to say to us today?

Now we're gonna talk more about this on Sunday...and I hope that you're gonna be there for the conversation....but here is what I think:

I think that the poor guy who got tossed is a lot like you and me. We come to the party....but we really can't celebrate (symbolized by the absence of the proper attire). We come still wearing our "I've got to earn it for myself" suit; or our "nobody could ever really love me" dress; or our "if they ever truly knew me and all that I've done/thought/fantasized, not even God could love and redeem me" ensemble outfit. And so, in the here-and-now (notice that I'm not talking about eternity...God's got that covered), we put our own selves outside the party. We're unable to enjoy the celebration that God wants to throw for us right now.

And there we stand...speechless, like the party guest; or like the Elder Brother in the story of the Prodigal Sons, standing outside the party trying to decide what to do.

Now let me tell you what I think we need to do....knowing what I know about God's love and desire for us. Imagine this:

We walk up to the door. We knock. The Host answers and we say, "I need your help. I don't have a party outfit...I never really thought I'd be invited...what's more, I can't seem to get this one off, no matter how hard I try. I don't think I can do this by myself...but I really, really want to come to Your party....and You're right, this outfit I'm wearing really stinks."

And the Host looks down at us, and smiles. Partying Love wraps huge warm arms around us, draws us back into the room and the Host says, "I thought you'd never ask."

Hope to see you Sunday.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sermons I Hate to Preach

This week's scriptures are Isaiah 5:1-16 and Matthew 21:33-46.

I hate preaching sermons which come out of what I call "judgement passages." These are the ones in which the prophets (such as Isaiah) or Jesus are holding up the ways in which God's people (meaning you and I) have failed to live up to what we have been called to be.

The reason I hate preaching about them is simple. Like David in the Psalms, "my sin is ever before me." I know enough about my own sins and shortcomings to know that these passages all too often speak directly to my own frailty and sin. There is no way.....EVER....for me to stand before a congregation and scold them for their shortcomings. Any time I preach about God's word judging us, the emphasis is on the "US" and I stand beneath that judgement with you. And, frankly, that's not a very comfortable place to be.

But there is good news. The good news is that God never speaks to us in judgement without the opportunity for repentence...a word which means to turn, to change, to move in a different direction.

As a wayfor to begin this examination of God's word of judgement to us, I would offer the words of G.K. Chesterton's hymn which we will be using Sunday. Think about it with me as we move through the week in prayer. The words ring as true today ans they did when he wrote it in 1906:

O God of earth and altar
bow down and hear our cry.
Our earthly rulers falter
our people drift and die.
The walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide.
Take not our thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men;
from sale and profination
of honor and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation
deliver us good Lord

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall.
Bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all.
In ire and exaltation,
aflame with faith and free;
lift up a living nation
a single sword to Thee.

Hope to see you Sunday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who's Invited to the Feast of the Kingdom

This week's scriptures are Luke 14:7-14 and Luke 14:15-24.

In response to last week's blog, Kara wrote:

I think the next question is - are we 'letting them come' by way of acceptance or forgiveness?

Conditions are accepted. Sins are forgiven. And there still a lot of debate in the church about which is which. If I were a homosexual, or an addict, or a single-mother or a victim, or a person with a disability - I wouldn't take much comfort in a welcome that was based on forgiveness; I'd want acceptance.

The fact that many churches are divided on what's a condition and what's a sin leads to the question so many are asking: does letting them come, also mean letting them lead?

I think it should, but until we can distinguish between sins and conditions some people will keep fighting it and others will keep feeling unwelcome.

This week's scriptures offer a partial response to her questions....and I'd like to enlarge on it a bit with an answer of my own.

Jesus, in this Lukan passage and in others, refers to the Kingdom of God (which we as Church are called to imitate and try to bring in) as a banquet....a feast of celebration. We're told to deal with the fact that we've been invited with humility. Verses 8-11 are, in part, about coming into the feast with what folks in 12 Step programs refer to as and "attitude of gratitude."

This is important because our attitude about why we're at the feast will affect the way we respond to who else is there. Am I here because I'm 'good' and 'deserve' to be here? Am I here because the host 'owes me something'? Or am I here because I know the ways in which I am also like "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind" that Jesus tells the host in verse 13 to invite.

And, when, in verses 15-24 Jesus goes on to expound on the Feast of the Kingdom, he points out that many folks miss their need and don't come to the banquet. Then we're told that the servants were instructed to go out into 'streets and alleys, highways and hedges' to bring people in.

[As an aside....I wonder if our "church growth" and "evangelism" isn't too often aimed at the 'worried well' those who figure that they're just fine and can take the community of faith or leave it. What does this passage say to us about who we need to be reaching out to?]

But back to issues that Kara raised. Many people with "conditions"-things in their lives over which they have little or no control-feel the church viewing their 'condition' as "sin." They feel judged on the basis of their sexuality, their victimization, their disability. We are commanded by Jesus to accept all persons. As someone said to Jesus "only God can forgive sins." Jesus' answer was to not argue with him, but to go right on forgiving sins....a bold statement about who Jesus saw himself to be.

We are called to offer forgiveness to those who have harmed us (Jesus' teaching about forgiving 70 times 7). But we are also commanded not to judge others.

But what, then, about "conditions" that lead to sins? What about, for example, the victim of child sexual abuse who now, as an adult, cannot commit to a trusting monogamous relationship, and engages in compulsive one night stands? What should our response be to them?

Perhaps we need to remember that the wounds ("conditions") in our lives, when left unhealed, can often lead us places where we harm both others and ourselves. Maybe this is why so often Jesus' healings also included the statement "your sins are forgiven."

There is a story that a sign above the entrance to the Green Beret training grounds with their motto which says "Kill them all...let God sort them out." I'm going to maintain that what you and I are called to is just the opposite. Our commandment is to LOVE THEM ALL AND LET GOD SORT THEM OUT. Whatever judging needs to be done, God will do. And God's judgement will be merciful. Because God knows the "conditions" that no one else sees. God knows the loneliness of childhood and how it made us fearful. God knows the anxiety that makes us afraid to leave the house. God knows the pain of life trying to live like a 'straight' and knowing that you're not....and all the place that this can take you....places that fill you with shame and self loathing. God knows the poverty of your youth that makes you fearful and greedy now. God's mercy seeks to help you, and all of us, heal. God wants us to heal so that we can be what we were created to be: companions for God and for one another.

Which brings us full circle to the issue of humility that started our blog. When I am humble about my own "conditions" and my own "sins" own needs for both healing and forgiveness; I am more compassionate about those same needs in those around me. I walk tenderly and carefully around their wounds; and I pray for them and offer my support as they struggle with what it means to accept God's forgiveness for their sins. I remember that I'm one of those invited to the feast from the 'highways and the hedges' the 'streets and the alleys.' I remember my own blindness and all the things I bumped into...bruising myself and others.

When I live like this, I am able to do what Jesus asks and throw open the door to the Feast of the Kingdom as it takes place in the here and now. Maybe this needs to be the Church's motto:


Hope to see you Sunday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Does He Know?...And Does That Stop Me?

This week's scriptures are Luke 7:36-50 and Acts 8:26-39.

Both of these stories are about people who would,under their cultural context, be cut off from worship and relationship with God. One is a woman with a shady reputation; the other is a eunuch.

In the story from Luke, the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner sees this woman crying over Jesus feet and drying them with her hair as says to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him-that she is a sinner." He uses this incident to judge not only the woman, but Jesus as well.

The Ethiopian Eunuch is on his way back from Jerusalem where he had gone to worship. Think about is a man who is a convert to the Jewish faith, who has come to Jerusalem to worship KNOWING that because of his physical condition (having been castrated) that there are limits to where he will be allowed to worship. There are places in the temple where he cannot go. Yet he still comes to Jerusalem.

Both of these people come to faith with questions about whether they will still be outcasts. Can you hear the trembling question in the eunuch's voice when he says to Philip, ":look there is water! Is there anything that will prevent me from being baptized?" A paraphrase of that question might be, "Does Jesus hold my condition against me too?"

I think many of us still ask that question. In the deep part of our hearts we want to know if the things we know about ourselves, the secrets that we clutch so tightly will keep us from Jesus love.

And there are those outside the church who look at us and ask the same questions. This is AIDS Awareness Week. On Thursday I'll be at the AIDS Awareness Luncheon with Joann and others who are deeply committed to this issue. We need to ask ourselves, "What do persons with HIV/AIDS hear from us about their welcome into the fellowship of those who seek to follow Jesus?" We can ask the same question in regard to those with mental illnesses, addictions, questionable sexual behaviors, and disabilities. What is our answer when they look at us and say, "Does Jesus hold my condition against me?" "Is there anything that will prevent me from being baptized (welcomed completely into the fellowship)?"

While 'litmus tests' may be okay for political parties; they are off limits when it comes to who we welcome into the Body of Christ. Jesus said, "Who so ever will...let them come." That's pretty clear. He didn't say, "Let them come after they clean up their act, after they've been in recovery for a year or two, after they're on their medication" no, He said, "Let them come."

I love the old Hymn, "Love Lifted Me." I especially love the bass line in the chorus where the response to "love lifted me" is "even me." And the final line, "when nothing else could lifted me." When nothing else could help, when nothing at all could save me from my shame and my alienation and my fear of rejection.....Love lifted me.

The doors are always open into the Kingdom....God's arms are always reaching out. Thanks be to God.

See you Sunday.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hospitality as Noticing

This week's scriptures are Luke 13:10-17 and Luke 14:1-6.

There are a lot of things that can be said about the story found in Luke 13:10-17; and we're going to talk about some of them on Sunday. But I'd like, for just a moment to focus on one thing in particular...that is that Jesus noticed this woman.

Unlike many of the people whom Jesus healed, she didn't come to him asking for healing. She wasn't part of throng that cried out to him or gathered when he was surrounded by the sick and the lame. She was at church...she was worshipping in the synagogue...bent and in pain....and Jesus noticed her.

Probably everyone in the synagogue knew this woman. They passed her on the street, at the well, in the market. They had come-perhaps-to be so accustomed to her bent shape that they took for granted that this was how she was. Even those women who had grown up with her as children, who remembered her as a playmate, had shifted out of their awareness their memory of her as someone whose back was once straight and strong. She was just the bend woman of the village....until Jesus noticed.

He could have done nothing. He could have gone and finished his teaching message and gone about his regular pattern when he was in the synagogue and it wouldn't have been in any way remarkable. But Jesus noticed and out of that noticing, he acted to free this woman from her pain.

It makes me wonder if hospitality doesn't begin with our eyes. With what we notice. Does 'making a place' for people begin with noticing that they need a place?

Does it begin with paying attention to the people we pass each day who are 'bent' in some ways by how the years have affected them. Does having the 'eyes of Jesus' mean looking at our world in a way that notices what needs to change, who needs help, rather than sliding by thinking like the song from the musical "that's the way it goes; everybody knows. That's the way it's always been and how it's gotta be."

"Noticing." It is such a small thing. But it's interesting that Jesus follows up this incident...perhaps talking about small things. Listen to verses 18-21

And he said therefore, "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard sed that someone took and swed in the garden: it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches." And again, he said, "To what shaould I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."

A small thing, noticing, may be the very thing that opens the door of God's hospitality....the hospitality that Jesus called The Kingdom of God.

See you Sunday.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hospitality and Justice

This week's scriptures are Deuteronomy 24:10-22 and James 2: 1-13.

We're spending a few weeks talking about various aspects of hospitality as a Christian discipline or practice. This week's scriptures are about hospitality as an element of justice for the powerless (in Deuteronomy it is the alien and the poor, in James the focus is on the poor).

The Deuteronomy passage is very blunt. It speaks to the impact of behavior on people's ability to eat and to stay warm. Verses 19-22 in particular talk about not taking everything that you can from your field or vineyard or olive trees....about leaving something for the poor, the widow, the alien to gather so that they can survive.

And the reasoning behind this is striking: "Keep in mind that you were slaves in Egypt; that is why I command you to do this." (vs.22) The people of Israel are commanded to look after those who are different, who are poverty stricken, who are voiceless because they were once slaves who were voiceless and poor. The call to a hospitality is rooted in what God had done for them when they were among the aliens.

It is this 'Hospitality as Justice' that can help rescue our idea of hospitality from being a 'softy and fuzzy' kind of niceness. True hospitality is gentle...but it is also strong. It understands the need of the stranger because it has experienced being the stranger.

God's hospitality, Jesus' hospitality will open us up to involvement in issues of justice and care in ways we cannot even imagine. One way to begin letting it do this is to take either one of these scriptures and ask ourselves as we look at Deuteronomy, "what is our time's equivilent of 'holding back the wages of a man who is poor' or 'returning his cloak to him at sunset'?" What ways do we face the issue of the kind of impartiality that James talks about in that passage?

We'll be having a pancake brunch and Bible study on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Jeremy has kindly offered to help me flip pancakes. And we'll be looking at this theme of hospitality more closely. I hope you can join us; and I hope to see you on Sunday.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

From Charity to Hospitality

This week's scriptures are Matthew 9:10-17 and Revelation 3:14-22.

One of the most scathing indictments brought against Jesus and his ministry was that he would eat with anybody. To share a table with persons who were notorious sinners, who were sick, who were ritually unclean...with all the meaning that Jesus' culture attached to 'table fellowship' was a scandal. As icing on the cake of their accusations, these same persons referred to Jesus as a "glutton and a drunk." That way they could write off the challenge to their ideas of holiness that Jesus' behavior presented....after all, he was just partying with these folks for the food and the booze...probably too bombed to realize the kind of people who were hanging out around him. In fact, in a story we'll be looking at in a few weeks, the people watching Jesus said (my loose translation), "if he was really God's guy, he'd know what kind of woman this is fawning all over him." alms to the poor...that was one thing. You can look down at someone you're giving charity to-in fact that's one of the great temptations about charitable giving. But to do the things (particularly eating with them) that symbolized relationship and equality-that's a whole 'nother ball game.

Some years ago, while living in another city, I passed a man in an alley pulling food from the garbage can. I watched for a moment as he pawed through the scrapes and pulled up a large piece of discarded pizza. At that point I called out to him and motioned him to follow me into the resturant whose garbage can he was rummaging through. I gave the clerk some money and told him to give him whatever food he wanted-but no alcohol-and that the rest was his tip. When the street person looked at me and asked why he couldn't have the change, I said, "do you want to eat or not."

I walked out feeling very, very good about myself. I had feed the hungry. I hadn't contributed to the man's (I thought obvious) addiction. And I'd left a nice tip for the resturant waiter. What a truly fine person I was.

I look back on this incident now with some shame. This wasn't was charity...and an arrogant, contemptous charity at that. I didn't welcome this man into my circle. I related to him as a thing-a homeless addict. I judged his life based on his poverty and the level of need to which he had fallen. I did not-would not/could not-see that in a country where most of us live 3-4 morgage or rent payments (or less) away from homelessness, that this man and I had much more in common than we had different. And to top it off, I just naturally assumed that his condition was the result of an had to be his fault. I have often thought it strange that when you or I or one of our friends comes home from a really rough day and pours a's "taking the edge off a bad day." But when a homeless person drowns their pain with Mogan David 20/20 they put themselves in the catagory of the "undeserving poor."

So I ask myself the famous question, "What would Jesus do?" And I'm not totally sure of the answer...or at least the whole answer. But here's what I believe would have happened in part:

Jesus would have walked up and said, as he stuck out his hand, "hey, I'm Jesus. How about having lunch with me."
And, when he got that 'what do you want in return' look (cause if you've always got to be working an angle to survive, you figure everybody else is too), he'd have just laughed and gone, "just'll be good company...come on."

They'd have walked into the resturant and Jesus would have sat down with this man. They'd have both ordered. Maybe they'd both have a beer-who knows. And Jesus would listen. Maybe the man would tell his story. Maybe he'd want to talk about the Red Sox. Jesus would share the table...his time....himself. No judgement. No distance. Just Jesus.

Now that's hospitality. But you know Jesus....he'll eat with anybody....even you and me.

See you Sunday.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thoughts on Last Sunday

I'm heading out later today on another week's vacation before the Fall sets in with all its demands. But I had some thought about Sunday's meditative service to share before I go.

It seems to me (and I admit that I have a lot of theological bias in this direction anyway) that the things said in our sharing about where we think God is leading us have a lot to do with the ministry and discipline of 'Christian Hospitality,' Over the next few weeks we'll be exploring what that means (you saw that coming didn't you?) and how we might live that out.

The first thing that needs to be said is that this hospitality begins with God. It is God's hospitality toward us that is the model for our hospitality to the world.

I heard two kinds of hospitality mentioned Sunday. The first is a hospitality in which our church becomes (continues to become) a place where people can discover and grow in their gifts, skills, and talents; a place of nurture for what God has planted in each of us. The second is a hospitality that reaches out and welcomes the outsider, the different, the lonely.

Both of these are present in our congregation now. Both are reflective of the hospitality we as individuals and as a congregation have recieved from God. As we move forward together may we nurture this gift and be stretched and challenged as we work to create space for Jesus' great banquet of love to happen over and over here.

See you in two weeks.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Having the Mind of a Servant Jesus

This week's scriptures are Matthew 12:15-21, Romans 12:1-8, and Philippians 2:5-11.

'Be a sacrifice,' 'have the mind of Christ'....all of these are high sounding, noble phrases. So much so that we can lose track of what they are calling us to in some lofty expectation of "perfection" that we know we cannot reach. Then we either give up (often in despair) or-what is perhaps worse-become spiritually arrogant about how good we are.

These scriptures come at the end of a brief sermon series meant to help our congregation explore what our ministry should be in the larger community around us. What are we called to do and be. We started with the story of the Good Samaritan and began asking ourselves to look for the "neighbor beside the road" and to try looking at our community through Christ's eyes.

This Sunday, in a medition and pray type service we will share with each other what we feel God is leading us toward.

In preparation for that I would like to focus on two particular images we find in these scriptures: gentle mercy and servanthood.

The Matthew passage uses a quote from the prophet Isaiah that "the bruised reed he will not break and the smouldering wick he will not snuff out." There are a lot of ways that interpreters have played with these two images, but all of them come down to the idea that Jesus does not do violence to our fragile state. He does not beat us up spiritually or otherwise when we are vulnerable in our shame or our weakness. He sees us as worthy of mercy. If we are to be "transformed by the renewing of our minds" so that we have the "mind of Christ" I believe that it calls for us to be acutely aware of the fragile state of many of the folks we encounter. They don't look fragile at first. They look angry, or violent, or distant and aloof. Jesus looks at them and sees the painful wounds they're trying to protect. Can we learn to do the same?

The next image comes from Philippians. This passage was, most likely, taken from the words of a hymn in the early church. It's theme is the 'servanthood' of Jesus. Now 'servanthood' was a word that got tossed around a lot a few years back (though not so much these days). I sometimes think that two of the reasons it lost popularity was 1) that it got identified with a kind of sickly sweet pious humility (not a pretty picture); and-maybe more important-we (myself included) discovered how difficult a model for living this is!

See it's one thing for me to see myself as a 'servant' to you if you're a clean, upstanding, middleclass person like myself. When 'servanthood' means that I offer you a ride when your car breaks down (that is if I know you and you're not too far out of my way) or some similar 'sacrifice' on my part. I can feel good about engaging in that kind of servanthood.

But what if you're a different ethnic group? An abusive mother? A drunk? A mentally ill person? Or maybe you're just an obnoxious jerk who doesn't think like I do...what then? How am I supposed to be the servant to a wife beating, drug addicted person with PTSD? This is where it gets sticky. Let me make it worse...the best translation of that greek word "doulos" isn't "servant." It's "slave."

Jesus did not pick and chose his servanthood in regard to who he would serve. What I believe he did do was to make himself the servant, the slave, of the Image of God in them. He served what they were created to be. I don't know that trying to follow this example is any easier, but it does give me a way to understand what the goal is without colluding with the worst of behavior. With a drug addict, I can make myself the servant of his/her 'recovering self' and not to his/her addiction.

Nancy told a wonderful story at the Bible study last night that I hope she'll share on Sunday about the difference between 'service' that is what we want to do and being in the service of what the person we're helping has as their goal.

Living out this idea of ministry as a church here in Annapolis won't be easy. It's going to call us to examine our gifts; the needs of the community; and our openness to being led by the Spirit into new and challenging places. Frankly, I'm a little scared...I don't know where it will take us, or how it will change me. But I'm also excited. I hope you are too.

Hope you'll join us Sunday.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Naming-And Claiming-My 'Pigs'

This week's scripture is Mark 5: 1-20.

Well, we're back from vacation. Apparently there were small wagers as to whether I would show up on Sunday (I guess folks thought I'd sleep in), but I fooled them all and actually managed to get there.

Last Sunday's Biblical story was about a gentile woman who came to Jesus asking for help for her daughter. As we 'unwrapped' the story we found that it was also a story about the disciples being confronted with a concrete expression of the wide gulf between their racial/religious bigotries and the love that Jesus was attempting to teach them is a cornerstone of the Kingdom of God.

This week's story from Jesus' life also takes place with a gentile. It goes a step further and occurs in a gentile territory. Jesus gets out of the boat after crossing the lake and is immediately confronted by a man with a serious mental illness. Early Hebrew material listed four characteristics of the mentally ill: walking around at night, tearing one's clothes, giving back things given to you, and hanging out in graveyards. So whether you're working out of an ancient model that say the illness is caused by 'demons', or a modern one that says there is a 'chemical imbalance', there is no argument about the resulting illness. (We'll talk some more about demons on Sunday).

What I'd like to focus on here is the fact that the 'demons' were told they could go into the herd of pigs that was nearby. In The Journeying Self Diarmuid McGann asks us what happens if we look at these pigs as a metyphor for all the things about ourselves that we project onto others. The 'demons' from this man's life are sent/projected into the pigs. That action is so destructive that the herd is destroyed.

Let me explain what I mean. I hate arrogant people. I mean I really, really hate them. They set my teeth on edge. Being in the room with one makes me want to grab them by the collar and punch them. (Some of you who know me can probably see where this is going). The problem is that the arrogance I hate in them is often my projecting my distaste/hatred of my own arrogance onto someone else. The truth is, if I've got that strong a reaction to someone....I probably need to look at what in me is pushing the intensity of this reaction. And in the case of arrogance, I am really put off by the fact that when I am feeling insecure, or scared I use my arrogance as a shield to protect me from those feelings....and from letting you see those feelings in me.

These kinds of projections are truly 'demonic' in that they are life destroying-both our lives and those of the ones we project onto. They seperate us from those we're called by Christ to love and embrace as brothers and sisters. And they block us from looking at the places in our life where we need to examine, change, and grow.

Obviously the man Jesus healed was not in a place to do that kind of self examination as long as he was roaming around the tombs and cutting himself. He needed another kind of healing first. But you and I? Maybe one of the things (not the only thing, but one of them) that this scripture is calling us to do is to 'name and claim' our 'pigs.' Where are the places that I'm blaming others, hating others, judging others that represent things in my life that I need to be exploring in prayer and meditation and bringing to Jesus for healing?

We'll be looking at some other parts of this story on Sunday. I hope you'll be able to join us. If you're away, or live somewhere else, please remember that we're posting the sermons here on our webpage (thanks to Jeremy for all that work) and you can listen to them there. Your responses are always welcome...either here in the comments section; or if you want to email me personally through the link on the home page.

Again, hope to see you Sunday.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Further Down The Samaritan's Road

This week's scripture is Luke 10:25-37.

You'll notice that once again this week's New Testament scripture is the parable of the Good Samaritan that Jesus told in answer to the question, "Who is my neighbor?"

All week long our Music and Arts Camp has been exploring just that question. The kids have been looking at areas around the world: Zimbabwe, El Salvador, and China; and learning something about each culture.

This Sunday they will be leading our worship and sharing music and drama with us. Watching this unfold as Eloise, Jolly, Jeremy, Joann and Susan pulled all of this together with music and crafts, drama and food has been a real treat. Sunday you'll also meet some older kids who came to help the younger ones have a good that's what I call 'growing your program.'

I hope that you'll take the opportunity to join them as they share what's been going on. And I also hope that the ongoing question of "who is bleeding beside our road?" has been moving you toward some thought about how we as a congregation can reach out in new ways in the community around the church.

Carole and I will be on vacation this Sunday and all of next week. I'll be back on August 3rd for worship. I'm looking forward to some kayaking on Cape Cod and the chance to spend time with some old friends. But I look forward to seeing you again when I get back.

Take care.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Neighbor By Side Of The Road

This week's scriptures are Deuteronomy 10:12-22 and Luke 10:25-37.

A couple of things before I start to blog about this week's scriptures.

First, I've been invited/challenged to preach a series of sermons that will help us sharpen our vision of who we are at Broadneck Baptist in terms of our life and mission moving forward into this next phase of our life together. This coming Sunday will be the first sermon in that series.

The scripture that we're using this Sunday is the Good Samaritan parable that Jesus told in answer to the question "who is my neighbor?" And, throughout the following week at Music and Arts Camp, the kids will be using this same story to frame their work and play around international neighbors. I think this is an interesting way to explore the passage. At the beginning of the work the kids will be doing we as grown ups will be doing some grown up 'theological reflection' on the passage. My hope is that our reflection will trickle down in some ways in the work done with the kids; that the things we discover about our identity on Sunday will be reflected as the Church's (as in universal Church) identity is expressed to kids.

In Mark 12:28-31 Jesus is asked, "what is the greatest commandment?" In his answer, Jesus doesn't settle for one commandment. He responds, "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" but he doesn't stop there. Jesus isn't content with leaving the most important thing about our lives being our attitude toward God; he goes on to say, "and the second is 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself' there is no more important commandment than these two." Matthew has Jesus follow up by saying that all the Law of Moses rests on these two commandments. Luke, on the other hand, has Jesus telling the parable that we call the Good Samaritan.

There are a number of lessons that can be learned from this parable. There's the judgement lesson about letting 'religious' laws and rules interfere with compassion-it shines a light on the Priest and the Levite. There's the 'anti-discrimination' lesson about recognizing and valuing couragous compassion where ever it comes from-it shines the light on the Samaritan. But in terms of our exploration of our ministry as Broadneck Baptist Church, I'd like to point us in a different direction. I'd like to shine a light on the man on the side of the road.

We don't know much about this man. Though it is often assumed that he is Jewish, we don't know for sure. Many people traveled the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. He could be any one of them. We know nothing about his economic or social status. He'd been stripped of all his clothes. All we know is that he had been robbed, beaten, and lay bleeding by the side of the road. Jesus defines him only by his need. There is no discussion about "the deserving poor" or about his history or family or his religion-or lack thereof. There's not even much discussion about the kind of need he has (is he brain injured, or just cut up?)Nor (as Jeremy pointed out in our Bible study on Monday night) is there any discussion about the wounded man's response to the Samaritan's kindness. He's there; he's wounded and needy.....what will the passers by do? It is in this response that their "identity" for future generations is defined.

For Jesus...and he makes this point in a multitude of ways and places in scripture...there is no seperating our love of God from our love of neighbor. He goes so far as to say "if you did it to the least of these (the most pitiful, the most powerless, the most despised) you did it to me." If we want to wake up every morning and see Jesus; if we want to encounter God every day; we're told to open our eyes and look at our neighbor.

For us as a congregation in the midst of exploring, examining, struggling with what our ministry to the Cape and surrounding area should look like this is an important lesson. Let's put it in stark terms: Who is bleeding on the side of our road? Where is the need? How do we equip ourselves to respond to it? Maybe we've already got some gifts and tools (the Samaritan had oil and wine), but not having the tools isn't an excuse for inaction. Our action has to be determined by the need.

You might ask, "well what if we don't know a lot about this issue/need?" My answer is that we educate ourselves. We've just been given a tremendous gift by 20+ years of giving at Broadneck...our morgage is paid off. That frees us financially, should we need to, to put money into education ourselves about the need, to develop an intelligent response, to live out our call.

But let's be blunt. We're not talking about "issues" or "needs"....we're talking about people. Who's bleeding by the side of our road? Or better yet...where by the side of our road do we see Jesus wounded, bleeding, in need of help?

That's where we need to start.

Hope to see you Sunday.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Trusting the Process of God's Grace

This week's scriptures are Genesis 25: 1-18 and Matthew 13: 24-30.

In this section of Matthew, Jesus tells three parables back to back that he prefaces with the phrase "the Kingdom of heaven is like..." They are about tiny seeds that grow into large plants; yeast in bread dough; and weeds in the wheat field.

These parables are, in part, about the paradox of the Kingdom of God. About the fact that small things make great differences and that it is in the tinest of moments or actions that great things are held.

But the lead off to this is this pecular parable about the weeds and the wheat. Now most of you who garden weed on a regular basis. I hear folks talking about tending their flowers nearly every Sunday. So it seems a bit strange that the farmer in the story tells his workers NOT to weed for fear they will pull up some wheat by mistake. The farmer would rather risk the weeds (for now) than lose the wheat. Though the story ends with the idea that the weeds will finally be culled out, this is a story of patience and grace and trust. Of a desire to let the process of growth and life do their work and make sure that we can tell the difference between weeds and wheat before we go to yanking things out of the earth.

When followed by the two stories of small things...mustard seeds and yeast...I can't help but wonder if part of what Jesus was getting at was that little things can turn the tide; the power of the smallest act-"the cup of cold water" that we talked about a couple of weeks ago-to transform not only the moment, but the larger picture as well.

How many times in your own experience, or in your knowledge of history, has someone been written off as a "weed" only to be transformed by the process of life and grace-or by some "cup of cold water" into a life of "wheat"?

Have you ever felt written off yourself as a "weed" only to find renewal and hope in someone's "cup of cold water" held out to you?

Do you look at your own life and see lots of "weeds" and little "wheat"?

These parables tell us that our lives, and in fact, the universe, turn on small things. And that God is patient with the process. God is not so quick to go 'weeding', but rather seeks to 'draw straight with our crooked lines' by the use of the small things...the pebble that turns the stream.

Please don't mistake my faith for naivety. We make mistakes...huge mistakes. We sin. And there is evil in the world. Huge clouds of evil in which violence is done, humans are trafficed, and innocents tortured and killed. I know this and we have responsibilities to face and respond to it.

But we respond in faith. Faith that God will have the last word. That the final act does not belong to evil and that the small actions you and I take today can turn the stream, raise the loaf, or grow into a place where others may find shelter.

We'll explore some of this on Sunday in relation to Isaac and Ishmael and the Issac's and Ishmael's in our lives.

For now, I'm off to go camping. Car is packed; the dog is ready; and Carole is waiting.

Hope to see you Sunday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Incredible Love

This week's scriptures are Song of Solomon 2:8-13 and Matthew 11:16-30.

God loves us. Now when I say that, most of you sort of go..."yeah, we know that"-right?

But I mean God LOVES us.

I think that sometimes we lose track of what that means; of the incredible depth and passion that is involved here. It may be because so many of us grow up singing "Jesus loves me this I know" that we think of that love as somehow childish. Or we hear John 3:16 "For God so loved the world..." so often that it quites having a real impact.

Then we look at stories like Hosea. Hosea who loves his wife so much that he goes and buys her back after she's sold herself into sexual slavery...and then tells us that this is what God's love is like. Hosea who, on God's behalf, describes God's love as like a mother remembering nursing her new-born and the time that she taught her toddler to walk.

And then, we have the pictures painted for us in the Song of Solomon (or the Song of Songs if you prefer). This is really hot, sweaty stuff. Much of it is graphic sexual love poetry. It is steamy account of two young lovers and their desire for one another. They can't keep their hands off each other and everything they see reminds them of their lover's body. So much so that the girl in the poetry goes wandering the streets at night in search of her lover.

We're told by the rabbis and other commentators that this book is included in the scripture because it's also description of the kind of love that God has for us. Think about it! There's God, like a young adolescent male, hanging outside his girlfriend's house....peeking through the windows to catch a glimpse of her, waiting for her to wave back at him...gazing through the latticework into the back yard.

What we're being told in no uncertain terms is that God has the hots for humanity. Think about the most powerful erotic loving feelings you've ever had for another person...they don't even begin to touch the passion God feels for you!

Roll together all the images that scripture gives us: Father, Mother, Brother...and now Erotic Lover-even in combination they only begin to scratch the surface of the quality of depth and passion coming to us from God. This is the Love that the hymn says will not let us go; this is the Love that Paul says nothing can seperate us from; this is the Love that not even death could conquer.

I find it a little bit scary, frankly.....but it's a good kind of scary. Think about falling in love. God's in love with you. Can we fall in love with God?

Hope to see you Sunday.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How Do We See God?

This week's scriptures are Genesis 22: 1-14 and Matthew 10: 34-42.

The Genesis passage for this week, often referred to as "The Binding of Isaac" is one of the more disturbing passages in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Matthew passage with its "who ever does not hate mother and father" and "I have come to bring not peace, but a sword" may not be quiet as disturbing as Abraham getting ready to make a sacrifice out of Isaac...but it's close.

As I'm living with these two passages this week there are a couple of thoughts that keep coming back to me...and before I share them I want to offer a big THANK YOU to Jeremy for his conversation with me about them-it really helped my processing of these passages.

Part of the problem is that we tend, way too often, to look at God through the lens of our culture and/or our family. We get caught up in what C.S. Lewis referred to as "Christianity and..." This is a view of our faith that defines our belief in terms of things which have nothing to do with Christianity, and, finally, these things take over and become part of our understanding of what it means to be Christian.

Abraham, lived in a culture in which the sacrifice of children was, if not normal, not unusual either. What WAS unusual in this story is that God relinquished any claim to human sacrifice here. In fact-with one exception-there is no occurance of human sacrifice in the Hebrew faith from this point on. One way to look at this story is that it is the account of the Hebrew faith breaking with the cultural expectation of human sacrifice.

This all sounds really good til we get to the Matthew passage. We don't have any trouble believing that faith should not demand human sacrifice. But when Jesus says, "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and who does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me".....that's harsh.

Can we challenge ourselves to look at our faith and seperate out all that isn't Jesus? Can we put Jesus first? Can we be willing to go against those who would make culture or family or politics a god?

These are the thoughts that are moving me toward Sunday. I hope you'll join us as we continue to explore these passages and what they mean for us and our faith today.

Hope to see you Sunday.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Dark Story of Crooked Lines

This week's scriptures (a whole bunch of them): Genesis 16: 1-16, 21: 8-21;
Psalm 69: 1-3 and 16-18, 86: 1-10; Matthew 10: 26-39.

Whew! I don't think I've ever posted this many scriptures for a Sunday before. And to be prefectly honest with you, as I read them I'm not totally sure where we're going to wind up on Sunday when it comes time to preach.

What I do know is that the story of Sara and Hagar is a dark story of jealousy and rage; of using people to get our goals met; of God's hearing the cry of the mistreated and the throw-away; and of God (to use the words of an old Portugese proverb) "drawing straight with crooked lines."

It is faith in God's action in the face of our pain and despair....that gives the Psalmist the strength to call out. To say, 'I'm drowning here,' and to give voice to the anguish of the moment.

And it is this understanding of His Father's concern for us-not just as a piece of history or part of some ongoing Will-but as individuals, as persons, that causes Jesus to remind us that not even a sparrow (often used by the poor for their sacrifice or as food) falls without God's knowledge.

The idea that the same God who is the God of history-who has a hope, a dream for what creation will be....cares about you and me in all our tiny, small, petty, cruel, heroic, is truly an Awe-ful thing.

That God heard the cries of Hagar and Ishmael does not diminish or excuse Sara's cruelty or Abram's cowardliness in sending them into the wilderness. But if I have to live in a world where cowardliness and cruelty are often in the driver's seat, I'm grateful that God hears the cry of those who are driven out.

A final word. One of the things that I love about scripture...even when it makes me that it does not blink in the face of the truth about the people whom God called to be God's friends. It does not soft-soap their shortcomings or their sins. The Hebrew Scriptures are especially noted for their brutal honesty about the human condition and its potential for being less that what we are called to be. It gives me hope that if these persons, with their issues, found a place in God's friendship, perhaps there is room for me as well with all of my sins.

See you Sunday.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Like Sheep Without A Shepherd

This week's scriptures are Matthew 9: 35-38 and 10: 16-25.

Matthew 9:36 tells us that as Jesus went about in the cities and villages and saw the crowds "he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

Now, as a prelude to understanding this verse it might be helpful to notice what Matthew records Jesus has having been up to before this verse and his sending out of his disciples: he's cleansed a leper, healed a centurion's servant, healed Peter's mother-in-law (and those who came to the house when they heard about it), stilled a storm, healed a paralytic, been ranted at by the Pharisees for hanging out with sinners, raised a dead girl, healed a woman who was hemorraging, given two blind men their sight, and given a mute man back his voice....and that's just in the space between this verse and 8:1! No wonder, being faced with this overwhelming expression of human suffering, that Jesus would look at his disciples and say 'the harvest is plentiful...ask God to send help.'

Jesus looked around him and was acutely conscious of the state of 'harasssed helplessness' of those who came to him. What do harassed sheep do? The become nervous. They may run in circles. They flock closer together. Except if they're seperated. Then a sheep will become paralyzed and lay down. This is why we see pictures of the 'Good Shepherd' carrying the sheep. The creature has frozen and cannot even respond to the voice of the shepherd (which it will do under other conditions). I'm reminded of experiments done on traumatized mice. They were shocked without any ability to escape their cage...then they were put in a cage with the door open...having been exposed to this inescapable trauma, they would go to the corner of the open cage, huddle down, and not move to escape further shock---even though there was now a door open for them.

How many of us know people like that? How many of us, if we're honest, have places in our lives where we are like that?

Frightened, frozen, unable to see the doorway(s) to freedom. We ask ourselves, perhaps, "can't they hear God saying that they are loved? Can't they hear the shepherd's voice?" But the honest answer is "no, they can't." In my work as a therapist, I often see traumatized clients who's entire early life had been a case of "inescapable shock." You know them too. The battered spouse, the grown up abused child, the abandoned one.

This is the 'harvest' that Jesus was talking about. It wasn't about 'saving souls' when a few verses later Jesus sent out his disciples. He sent them out saying, "proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons" (10:7-8)-these, by the way, were the things Jesus had just been doing. The coming of the kingdom meant that human needs were being met. Illness was cured, alienation releaved, voices long silences were being heard.

As we look at our world; as Broadneck explores the new opening phase of its life; can we hear Jesus saying, 'Look! there's work to be done...ask God to send help' and can we realize that, just like the disciples...that help is us.

Hope to see you on the water Sunday for our outing.