“All together in one place” — but we’re not all together. George Floyd isn’t here. Breonna Taylor isn’t here. Ahmaud Arbery isn’t here. Elnora’s Momma isn’t here — she’s died and gone to heaven, my friend Mike Boone isn’t here — he died in his sleep this past week at 35. And plenty more of our own stay at home to stay alive.
The mystery of this passage. Will we all be together in one place again?
A sermon for the fifth Sunday in Lent. Isaiah 43:16-21
When I get thirsty, I walk over to the cabinet and grab a glass from my line of clean dishes, I meander to the closest of several sinks in my house or in the office, I flick the knob with my wrist, and “ahh,” my thirst is quenched.
Even a hundred years ago, on my great-grandmother’s farmstead in Minnesota, the very most she’d need to do — even in April — was pull on boots and coat, grab a bucket, and trudge across the yard to the water pump, work the handle a few times with vigor, and then enjoy fresh water from the depths of the earth.
The ingenuity of our forebears, the clever and brilliant inventors of our past, have brought unimaginable convenience and immediacy to our lives. Even in our dry season, hoses still spout water for home gardeners, we don’t get concerned that our rivers might leave us without a way to feed our plants, let alone to quench our own thirst. And so, this word from Isaiah, beautiful and evocative though it may be, suffers the risk of remaining in our ears and in our minds, not moving all the way into our hearts and our bodies, because with roads spanning our massive country — even our ponderous state — there’s no real need for a “way in the wilderness,” or for “rivers in the desert.” Except for fleeting, dramatic circumstances (perhaps!), most of us has never needed “water in the wilderness,” or been dependent on some divine being to be given drink to quench our thirst. Continue reading →
There’s a joke you’ve probably heard: a group of Episcopalians get together and decide to study the Bible. They approach their vicar and say, “Vicar! We want to study the Bible! What should we study? Where do we start?” The vicar, astonished and delighted at his apparent brilliance in shepherding this flock, says, “Ah, yes. How about the psalms? Read them for a few weeks, and come and tell me what you have learned, bring me your questions.” So they go off and crack open their Bibles in the very middle, finding the psalms, and they read them. A few weeks later, they come back to the vicar and say, “Vicar! This is a scandal! The Bible has copied the Book of Common Prayer!”
That’s not something that would happen in this congregation, coming as many of us do from traditions that started us off on the milk of Scripture, and grew us up into the prayers of this book (…of Common Prayer). Even if you’ve been Episcopalian your whole life, I’ve always found that this congregation takes Scripture with particular seriousness, for which I’m so grateful — I learn so much sitting around Bible study tables with you.
And so, it won’t have been lost on you that Jesus’ quotation this morning isn’t only a reference to those beloved psalms, number 118 to be precise (though I had to look up which number it was), but also part of the liturgy that we recite every single time we pray together for God to send his Holy Spirit to fill up the bread and wine with his very presence, that when we put it in our bodies, his presence would be strengthened in us, giving us energy, courage, discernment, and kindness to live as vessels of his love in the world. Continue reading →
“The same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.”
I will never forget the week that I realized I was living under the thumb of depression. I can’t remember what possessed me to pick up the book, “Darkness is my Only Companion,” by a fellow Episcopal priest, Kathryn Greene-McCreight, but I remember where I was the week I read it, and how it felt to realize that the heaviness I carried wasn’t unique or undiagnosable or foreign. Continue reading →
Charles, my two-year-old son, has just learned a new phrase: “Good as new!”
It comes from a cartoon he watches where the medic, a penguin, will declare the various sea creatures that he treats to be, “good as new!” as soon as the penguin affixes a bandage or ointment to the affected spot. Charles, in true toddler form, applies this maxim liberally: Goldfish crackers on the floor? Just sweep them up — good as new! (Then he’ll swipe one out of the dustpan and pop it in his mouth for good measure!) Crayon marks on the wall? Surely a wipe will make them: good as new! Tender herbs ripped out of pots, with dirt all around? Let’s just stuff them back in — good as new!
While my Midwestern heart deeply resonates with this sentiment, that just a bit of glue or elbow grease can erase any defect, a piece of me wonders how to teach my child — as I myself am still trying to learn and accept! — that the biggest, most important things in life aren’t ever “good as new” again in the same way, but that when something else rises in its place, it can be different and new in its own way, and deeper, though perhaps heavier, for it. Continue reading →