Don’t Have it Your Way

I have bad news: the Kingdom of God is not like Burger King.

Really, this is Good News, we might even say it’s the Good News, but just like the questioners in John’s Gospel this morning, I wonder if we often expect that the Kingdom of God, that the way of Jesus, that the call of the Cross, will be somewhat more familiar than it is, that the habits we’re called to take up would fit a bit more seamlessly into our lives as is, that the modes of thinking and talking and relating that God often inhabits himself would be a bit more accessible, comfortable, more common sensical to our current proclivities and desires.

“Tell us plainly,” they say, “are you the Christ?” Remember, these are not strangers off the street, they are not pagans who have never heard a word of Scripture in their lives, they are not even worshippers of some other religion, used to sacred words but not familiar with the proclamations of the God Yahweh. These are people who have heard the words of the God of the burning bush and of the great prophets since they could understand language, and probably even before that; the voice of God ought to be one of the most familiar to their ears, one of the most identifiable to their minds and hearts, and yet as they are faced with the very Son of God, the man who proclaims, “the Father and I are one,” they eye him suspiciously — even more than that, the verse after our Gospel lesson ends today, their response to his saying that he’s one with God, is to pick stones up to kill him. No joke. Continue reading

Better than New

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Easter Sermon; John 20:1-18

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

The God Made Known in Jesus Christ

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Imagine this: you should have gone to bed hours ago. Either you missed that sleepy window, or some worry keeps you up, or you went to sleep, only to wake again. In the dark of your home, or in the humdrum of a hospital room, you flick on the television, and its glow fills the air around you. At 3am, there aren’t too many options for viewing, there are the reruns of a popular show from yesteryear, the syndicated reality series, or someone trying to sell something with their bright eyes and energized flailing of arms. They’re testifying to a life changed by the exercise equipment, they’re giving their witness to the saved produce in their fridge with this one special contraption, they’re lauding the time regained with the meditation books-on-tape.

False gods are like infomercials. They want to make an easy path out of your problems, but first they want your money and your belief and perhaps even your firstborn. Basically what any god except the one made known in Jesus Christ says is this: “if you give me this, that, and the other thing, then I will provide for you whatever it is that you think you want most.” Continue reading

A Vision of Light

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Growing up, we used Fiestaware plates at home every day. Growing up, I had a daybed in my bedroom, the kind that went along the wall long-ways and had three sides, with a trundle bed underneath it. Growing up, we had a hammock in the backyard, and Saturday was always bathroom-cleaning day. Growing up, my mom drove a Volvo station wagon.

If you’ve been to the vicarage, as Jordan likes to call it, or to the Hylden Haus, as I refer to it, you will have seen that we, too, use those sturdy, colorful Fiestaware plates. If you took a look in our garage, you would see that we have a daybed frame, though it doesn’t fit in our house right now; last summer, before some kids helpfully demonstrated its insufficient anchoring, we had a hammock in our backyard, and when I manage it, I still clean the toilets on Saturdays. Any of you can look outside and see right now, that I drive a Volvo station wagon. You may think you’re becoming your mother or your father, but I’ll give you a run for your money. Continue reading

Recycling Stones

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We’re marching through Ephesians these six weeks in the summer, reading the letter as if it is addressed to us, just like they would have done in the house church in Ephesus back in the first century. Indeed, as part of Scripture, this letter is addressed to us, and reveals in practical and in sometimes-heady terms the vision that God has for his people on earth.

Two weeks ago, in chapter 1, Fr. Jordan preached about Jesus Christ as the foundation of the church. The uniqueness of Jesus as the revelation of God is why we start every Sunday service with “Blessed be God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” — at the very beginning of our time together in worship, we all agree by saying out loud, “Okay, y’all, this is who we’re all here for, right? Jesus is what we’re all about.” Jesus Christ the foundation upon which all else in our lives, in the church, in discipline, in mission, in knowledge, and in love, is built.

Last week, I preached on Ephesians 2, highlighting the counter-cultural grace that defines people and communities who follow this God made known in Jesus. Wherever God’s people are found, there is a community of grace, of forgiveness, and of reconciliation. God’s grace makes room for mistakes and accounts for evil, knowing that each person succumbs to temptation. With this acceptance that humanity is incapable of being perfect, either there is permanent isolation and rejection of others, when someone is inevitably wronged, or, as we hear in the Gospel and see practiced in Jesus’s life and the lives of Jesus followers throughout time, there is grace. Allowing people to own their darkness and giving people a chance to renounce it, that is grace. That is seeing a whole person for who she is, and loving her despite her faults. Part of that love is helping and supporting her to admit her faults and seek to do right in the future. Continue reading