Breath of God

ERH Sermon photo 04 28 2019

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter; John 20:19-31

In springtime, PBS’s Masterpiece Theater hosts its annual season of Call the Midwife. It’s been going the last few weeks, and if you don’t know the show, it’s about a company of midwives and Anglican nuns in a poor part of London in the 1950s and ‘60s, in every single episode, there’s a moment when a mother has just delivered her baby, and the midwives and momma are waiting for a baby’s first cry. There’s the anxious eye-darting, the building tension.

Perhaps you’ve even had your own “Call the Midwife” moment, waiting for your own baby’s cry. Or in the reverse, perhaps you’ve been sitting at the bedside of a dying loved one, wondering if that heave of breath you just heard would be the last one.

I was sitting next to his bed the morning my grandpa Chuck died; I’d gotten to the hospice house early, as the sun was rising, and we sat alone in his room, him lying quietly on the bed, me to one side, with a view out the window over his his body. His breath was irregular by then, with long pauses between exhale and inhale. More than once, I thought I’d witnessed his last breath. I remember musing how much like a baby he looked, bald head, smooth skin stretched over his back-tilted face, eyelashes resting gently on his cheeks.

I’d never met my great-grandmother Marian, his momma, but I felt a kinship with her in that moment, as she must have spent time, too, watching him sleep, listening eagerly for each breath. Continue reading

On the Other Side of the Grave

ERH Sermon photo 05 05 2019

A sermon on John 21; Third Sunday of Easter

Haven’t we been here before? Is it just me who has some deja-vu? There’s a fire, there’re lots of questions aimed at Peter, he seems to be getting defensive as the line of conversation continues — this just happened, didn’t it?

Yes, there are significant similarities with the scene outside the courts the night before Jesus’s crucifixion, it’s a generally-accepted interpretation that these parallel narratives have a relationship to each other, and that’s what I’m curious about this morning. What does it mean to link these two events, what do we learn about how God works — what do we learn about his character — through this scene on the beach in early morning?

If,perchance, you weren’t at a Good Friday service a few weeks back, just like I missed them, here’s the story we’re working with. In chapter 18 of John (vs. 15-18; 25-27), as night wears on, Peter stands with servants and officers gathered outside by — you guessed it — a charcoal fire. He’s asked three times, once by each of three different people, “you’re one of that man’s disciples, aren’t you?” “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Each of the three times, Peter quickly and easily says, “oh no, that wasn’t me.” Now Jesus had told him that this would happen, that Peter would deny Jesus, and that it would happen before dawn came, “before the rooster crowed” (John 13:38). Understandably, Peter wrankled at this prophecy when Jesus gave it at the Last Supper table, just a few hours before these events unfolded.

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What does pro-life look like?

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Churches, let alone businesses, that actually support families are so, so rare. No wonder birth rates are dropping in the US, and no wonder women feel they have no alternatives. When taking a shower or keeping a child alive seems like a mutually-exclusive decision, those of us with babies truly look insane. I wonder if it’s not our own insanity so much as it is the insanity and disregard that our society hath wrought. It took this situation in my own life today to open my eyes to the struggle of (most often) mommas and families in our society (in a very, very small way):

Husband has been gone for the better part of two weeks, toddler is not real happy about that reality (let alone Momma), and six-months’-gestated baby brother couldn’t care less about the whole thing, he just wants to dance, and pump nauseating hormones around his momma’s veins all day and all night. 

Said Momma has developed tension headaches from storing the stress of these weeks in her shoulders and neck. Our bodies hold on to stress and to emotion in all kinds of ways, and recognizing how it happens to you can be a key to “surviving well” (a phrase I trademarked with my therapist yesterday, because that is exactly what being a working mom with a toddler and gestating child is about).

Rather than suffering in headaches for the rest of the month during Husband’s absence, she took action: called up to get a massage post-haste. The only available slot was 7:15pm the next day — cue texting possible sitters. Telling the masseuse that I’d have to find a sitter before I could commit to the slot — tire screech — she said, “Bring him along if you want, I can set up the room with toys to keep him busy.” 

This business will not only work out my tight tight tight muscles, but will let me *bring my child with me* while she does so.

My child exists (!) and (currently, as a two-year-old) needs constant supervision; this doesn’t mean that I must hide him away or pay someone to entertain him if I want to care for this swollen, achey body. My child’s care and my own health are not mutually exclusive. Reader, this was a revelation.

Caring for my family and caring for my body are not necessarily at odds. 

All it requires — which, granted, is totally counter-cultural and requires a sea-change for society — is thinking of, considering, and committing to not just a Momma paying someone to work out tense shoulders, but committing to her whole family, in a way, committing to the health, safety, and thriving of the whole community, of which the business, the Momma, the traveling Husband, the clingy toddler, and even the gestating son, are all constituent parts.

Off to consider how to make my own spheres of influence, my church and my hoped-for yoga classes, to be truly welcoming to families, especially to little children (and their hard-working caregivers).  Any ideas? Share below.

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