Praise and Thanksgiving

Each Sunday we sing together and say together that we offer God praise and thanksgiving. As celebrant one of us prays it out loud, too, on behalf of everybody gathered. I want to sit awhile this morning with the ideas of praise and thanksgiving, and you’ve probably noticed over the last almost two years that I’ve been with you all that I don’t say  “thanks-GIVING” — like the holiday — but I always say “THANKS-giving,” which sounds a little awkward to our ears, but it emphasizes what we’re offering, what we’re “giving,” rather than the action of “giving” itself. We are giving “thanks” — we are offering praise, we are stating our gratitude out loud, lifting up our voices in compliments and truth-telling words of honor.

Sometimes this feels like another thing to check off the list, another sticker to put in the Religious Righteousness Achievement Booklet that we all keep at home in our desk drawers — or at least the list that we might imagine is in some cosmic storehouse in the sky. Offer our praise — check. Give our thanks — check. Wear our Sunday best and make it into the pew on time — check, check.

Continue reading

Can Love Conquer All?

33206141733_66dcfe4527_z (1)

I am addicted to love stories. I have been known to throw aside novels and to quit tv series if I find out that the ending does not include a happy union of the protagonists. Much to Jordan’s dismay, I will read the synopses of shows online to make sure the ending meets with my approval. Once I know the outcome, then I can fully enjoy the story. He thinks this is a betrayal of the art form, learning more than the creator intends for the audience to know. I think it’s just common sense — why waste your time on a story with a sad end? Continue reading

The Easy Waffle – Sermon

Whenever I start writing a sermon, I ask myself, “What is God revealing about himself in this passage? Who is God teaching us that he is?” Today, I want to ask that question of a larger section of Scripture, I want to ask, “What is God revealing about himself?” in the whole of the Gospels. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is this God revealing himself to be? Travel with me a moment, if you would, imagining the whole of Jesus’s life before us; we’ll start from the end and move back to the beginning. Continue reading

The Kingdom of Heaven

Last week, I saw the Kingdom of Heaven on Rosemont Avenue.

That’s the name of the street where I live up in North Oak Cliff, and I want to offer a witness here this morning. The Kingdom of Heaven broke into the 600 block of North Rosemont Avenue, for a moment I glimpsed heaven there. Sure, it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling, I smiled, and I nodded at how light and joyful a place the world could be. But it just as easily couldn’t have happened. It was just as possible, and maybe even easier, for nothing exceptional to have happened at all, for the Kingdom of Heaven to stay hidden and quiet and unseen, but there were two things that happened to enable this witness I’m giving you this morning.

First, somebody invited the Kingdom of Heaven to be part of their own daily life, and then second, somebody else saw and talked about what happened.

I heard the story from that witness, and now I share it with you. This neighbor had just gotten home from a long trip last Sunday night, and she found a note on her front door when she arrived: Continue reading

Pool Party; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Notre Dame Baptismal FontOver the winter, Grey Wilkes learned to swim.

Having recently moved to a house with a pool, her parents wanted to make sure she could navigate the waters as soon as possible, safety fence notwithstanding. Instead of floundering in the waters, Grey has learned, should she fall in, to float on her back and then to kick her way to the edge. I wonder if our encountering the mystery of the Trinity might be a little bit like Grey learning a new response to being dropped into water; rather than reacting with fear and seeking to control the water around her, to become master of it, she now calmly floats, allowing the water to be what it is, finding her place in it, and then using her newly acquired habit to relate to those waters.

I have a tendency to come to things like the doctrine of the Trinity and to splash about, all throat-clearing and weight-shifting and brow-furrowing. “Well you see, there’re three. And there are, I mean, there is, one. God. Three. God. One.” Generally, my mind and mouth become a tangled mess, and my spirit just leaves the building completely, shaking her head and rolling her eyes as I splish and splash and in not too much time, end up drowning in words and phrases and analogies and nonsense. So I wonder if maybe we’re meant to learn a new response to mystery. Continue reading