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

That’s Awkward

5789448082_d16f83f1b2_zWe’re in a strange moment of the Christian year; this 10 days before Pentecost. Tradition has it that Jesus ascended 40 days after the resurrection, which was last Thursday, and now, we’re in a sort of waiting period before the traditional celebration of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, coming to dwell among humanity and in human hearts, which happens on Pentecost.

Part of this wonky moment has to do with the theological assertion that joy and light and life and God overcomes, swallows up, and more than cancels out evil, and death, and darkness. Lent, that time leading up to Easter, when we have a moment to dwell and slow down in our somberness, to feel and reflect and repent of selfish, destructive habits, is 40 days long. So in answer to that, the season of Easter, celebrating God’s victory over sin, death, and the devil, is fittingly 50 days long.

But the point here is not about math or dates or even about traditions and holy days. I want to stay for a few minutes in the awkward, transitional space that we’re invited to experience in this in between time after Jesus has ascended and before the Holy Spirit comes. Have you ever been in an awkward, transitional place in your life? Maybe you’re even in one right now, whether you realize it or not. We often resist change because it’s uncomfortable and unpredictable and unknown, but change happens to us anyway, whether we want it, or admit it, or try to close the door on it. Continue reading

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.

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Who Will Roll Away the Stone for Us?

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These women got up before daybreak, they gathered together the spices and salts they could find in order to tend the body of their beloved teacher, unjustly killed three days before. They did not deny the harsh reality that faced them; their lives looked very different without their Jesus at the helm, and yet in spite of their grief, perhaps because of their grief, they kept putting one foot in front of the other. They did not quit, or refuse to move, they plodded along, they lugged the heavy baskets of spices with them to do for Jesus’ body the same thing they’d done for their parents and friends, their neighbors and relatives, when they had each breathed their last.

Their actions were ordinary, everyday rituals. Theirs was a world full of death, where illnesses and accidents abound, the frailty of human life obvious at every turn. Their beloved teacher’s death was a tragic one, and all the more infuriating for its injustice, for he had done nothing wrong. Their response to this harrowing ordeal was to enact the same ritual they’d done countless times before, the same habit that their mothers had taught them; they came to tend the body.

Women, even today, are given special authority over the bodies of loved ones. Moms feed families and friends with produce from the fridge and stove — maybe even produce from the backyard or an urban chicken coop. Daughters are more often the children at parents’ deathbeds; mothers grow and birth children from their very own bodies, nourish them with water made milk from their own bodies; nurses are more often women, and in medicine, nurses are the front line of ailing bodies. The women who love Jesus show their devotion in the tending of his body, even after death, even in numbing grief, even in grave injustice. Continue reading