Sermon for Oct. 4, 2015 – St. Francis Sunday

Ot. 4Everybody just loves Francis. And I’m not even talking about the current pope.  

  I’m talking about the guy he named himself after. Francis of Assisi. You don’t have to be Roman Catholic to think this guys was a saint. St. Francis is all about sun, moon, stars, animals. What’s not to love about. So Julie, I just want to thank you today, for this liturgy, because otherwise I’d have had to do something with the scripture readings assigned for today. And let me tell you, I’ve heard just about enough of bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh, God making them male and female, man leaving his father and mother to cleave to a woman, God making them Adam and Eve–not Adam and Steve.
I am so glad I don’t have to preach/sermonize on these words, on marriage, on the sanctity of marriage, one man-one woman, and divorce and all that.
It’s so nice to just talk about our wonderful animals (whether stuffed or the critters we have at home). it so nice to talk about how they are our friends, our companions, how they care for us, and we care for them, how they keep us from being alone and lonely.
You know, there actually is a difference between being alone and lonely. I can be by myself and feel totally ok, feel loved, accepted, part of something bigger. And then I can be in a crowded room and feel completely isolated, lost, and adrift. And that’s what God does not want us to be–lonely. That’s why God gave this world such a beautiful and astounding diversity of animals. Isn’t that really what we can read in those words from Genesis? But, oh yeah, but I don’t have to go there today. 
Because we don’t really want to. I mean, those words from Genesis have been so often used as weapons against LGBTQ people. Especially on a day like today we can just focus on Francis and ignore all this other stuff.  
That’s all I wanted to do when I was young, and even though I was thinking about being a pastor. I was just interested in religion and spirituality–being one the with the divine. That was until I went to college and I feel in love–fell in love 3 times.  
Some of you know and saw my husband Brad last week. We met in college, that’s where we dated and then got married in 1992 in Weaver Chapel at Wittenberg University. But he wasn’t my first love.
The Bible, weird as it sounds, became my first love in college. Let me explain. Before college, the Bible and I well, we didn’t have the best of relationships. I had read the Bible, I had read Genesis, I had read Revelation, and I had read some of the in-between stuff. And you know what, it really seemed to me to be a bunch of stuff–laws that judged people, stories of this person or people killing those people, it seemed to me to be, let’s see how I put it–the superstitions of primitive people. Not very open there, kind of dismissive right, not very accepting and loving.  
That is until I took, Dr. Barbara Kaiser’s class Manhood and Womanhood in the Bible, and then just about every other class I could get with her–and I fell in love–fell in love with the Bible. Sure there is stuff in there I don’t like–but we can’t through the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Just like in most relationships we can’t just ignore them and hope they disappear and go away.  
So getting back to falling in love. See my eyes were opened that the first two chapters of Genesis is not one cohesive, one authoritative explanation/description of creation. There are in those two chapters not one but two really different stories of creation. It’s a two-fer. That blew my mind. The Bible is not a history, it is not a text book. So, the passage we have for today is from the second story, and this gives us a real earthy picture of God, a real relational picture. This isn’t the God of chapter one who is floating out there somewhere outside of time and space and commanding in that booming male voice–let there be light. No this is a picture of God who gets down in the dirt to create, who gets bloody to make sure that we are not alone. This God is so super relational. This God wants us to not be lonely, isolated, adrift, and lost. So for those folks who think these verses are all about marriage. I’d be a little worried, because God’s first thought was hey, how about a camel, kitty, or some other creeping critter. God wants us to love and be loved and well there’s all sorts of love–even more than those three Greek (agape, philia, eros).
There’s all sorts of things we fall in love with. Like me in college I have mentioned 2 loves thus far, Brad, the Bible, and sorry this one doesn’t start with a “b” — I fell in love with smoking cigarettes.
That might be a surprise to some of you who know I’m running. But running came much later. First there was freshman year and all the freedom that brings including cigarettes and other things. Now I was never a pack-a-day girl, but I sure liked to have a smoke after dinner, between classes, at a party or two. And yes, a part of me fell in love with that–so much that to this day, I still (under the just the right circumstances) would just love to light up. But I know that’s no good, not good for me or anybody. Smoking bad!
That’s another thing about love. Sometimes the things we fall in love with, just aren’t good for us. Ok, maybe they are good at a certain time or place, but sometimes they aren’t and those relationships turn bad, turn sour, they break, and they must come to an end. Often the relationship that was meant to keep us from loneliness is broken way before the divorce papers are ever drawn up.
Wait I thought we weren’t going to talk about that, and just focus on the good stuff, the fuzzy stuffed animal stuff. But God’s more than a big teddy bear in the sky. Life isn’t all warm and cozy. Real life is hard, like the words we heard Jesus saying this morning. There is no way around it, Jesus explicitly says (unlike being gay of which he says nothing), divorce and then remarriage equals adultery.  
Now it it true that Jesus lived in a completely different world. Divorced women were shamed, divorced women were vulnerable, they were lost, isolated, adrift– not just emotionally but often physically, financially–they had no money, no family, no protection or security. And that is not what Jesus wants for us, for any of us. So in that context, Jesus words do make sense.
And–and this is a big and. These these aren’t the only words Jesus says, and just as it’s not good to focus only on the cute and cuddly, it’s not good to focus only on one liners. The thing I really fell in love with in the bible is that God, especially Jesus as God’s love isn’t just for the good, the upright, the families with one man (one father), one mother (one woman), and 2.5 well behaved perfect successful and obedient and above-average children. As if that entity ever existed. The God who we meet in Jesus, in the bible is the one who loves us, all of us, not despite our divorce, not despite our scratchy glassy personality, not despite our addictions. Jesus says you are forgiven, it is not good for you to be lonely. God is merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and all that means is: Simply as God chooses over and over again to fall in love. To fall in love with creation, to fall in love with children and animals, to fall in love with us, to fall in love with you. Amen.

Sermon for Sept. 20, 2015 – Mark 9.30-37

This is the basic sermon, but I added to it as I preached it

Mortified–ok I probably wouldn’t have used that word in Jr. High, how about embarrassed. That’s how I felt when a grown man, Mr. Labenberg the health teacher, who was also my confirmation teacher at St. John’s Lutheran church, when he asked me to come to the front of the human development class at Emmaus Jr., High and then proceeded to hold my hand in front of, as we would say, God and everybody. Embarrassed, mortified, nervous with everybody’s eyes on me, the center of attention.

Perhaps that’s how the child, the boy or girl (not the “it”) as our bible translation states, perhaps that’s how the girl felt. Singled out from the crowd by the strange man who has been talking and everybody’s been talking about. This girl or boy is taken by the hand to the center of the room, surrounded by men and women he may or may not know, and then is held. We can imagine Jesus holding him or her this in his arms. In fact, the Greek word that has been translated “welcomes”, that word is “dexomai” actually means to take by the hand and hold.

So perhaps another translation could be “Whoever holds a child in my name, holds me, and whoever holds me holds the one who sent me”.

Holding our children–oh it’s so nice. When they are little and they are cute, and alive. If you are like me your heart broke at the picture the body of little 3yr old Aylan as the Turkish officer holds his lifeless, drowned body on a beach in Turkey. We don’t have to look thousands of miles away. In Kenosha the mother who drugged and then held her children as she suffocated her two young children Javier and Alicia, two more children lost.

These images and stories the names, hold our attention but only for so long. It’s not just our competitiveness that is childlike. We as a culture, we adults suffer from our own form of ADD–attention deficit disorder. Ours is that we hold onto an issue just long enough for the next picture, story, to come along let go and grab on to the next thing, over and over again and again. We’ve moved on to Packers, to no raising of interest rates, to bad hair, and other bad behavior. Not really holding on to anything long enough to do any real good. Not long enough to really change anything.

But you know the thing about kids, the thing I learned as a parent, is that kids also know how to get our attention. They know what buttons to push, what words to say, how loud to be, how to nag (I mean be persistent). Years and years ago, on a Sunday much like this one of my boys came up, after worship and as adult after adult shook my hand, he came up took my hand and in his little voice said, “Pastor Donna I’m thirsty”

It wasn’t “Mother”, or “mom” or “mommy”.

He had learned and learned quickly who tended to hold my attention. That in that place with the room full of adults, I held my attention on them–the big people, not the little ones.

Just as Jesus did that day with his disciples, mock or shock them it doesn’t matter Jesus get their attention by bringing that little one front and center. By wrapping his arms around that little one,Jesus calls his disciples, his followers, calls us to relinquish to let go the ways of the world–the looks only to the powerful, the wealthy, the strongest–the brightest, the biggest, the best, and instead to hold onto the most vulnerable, the most in need–that is where Jesus sees himself, that is where we see him–the vulnerable, the disenfranchised, the ignored Jesus places them front and center, not just as a sermon illustration, but holds them and calls us to hold them front in center of our hearts, our minds, our ministry.

To do this we can’t just talk about it. Just talking about things rarely changes anything. We need to do, to practice, to train ourselves over and over again. It’s really like something our kids do a lot of–learn. We all need to learn and relearn for the faith of Jesus to take hold. So this morning I’m going to ask the children, the youth to come up front and center once again this time for a blessing and I am inviting anyone who would like to to come forward and to place a hand on the head, shoulder, arm–to hold our children, the youth in a good and safe way for a blessing. If you can’t come forward you can reach out your hand to hold someone around you, for aren’t we all children.

O God whose love knows no beginning, no ending, whose love is for young and old. We call upon your Spirit for blessing, blessing for these young people who we hold. We pray that you would help us to continue to hold them in our thoughts, in our hearts, as they stand central in this spot today, may we keep them central in our work. Through them may we learn to see Jesus, may we learn to hold on to Jesus, may we learn that Jesus holds each and everyone of us, just as Jesus held that child that day so very long ago. We know your love enfolds us and emboldens us to hold the vulnerable at the center of our attention. Finally, bless all your children–children young in years and children long in years. We pray all this remembering that your love never begins, never ends. It just is. Amen.

Knock, knock … who’s there?   Jesus. Jesus who?

Knock, knockwho’s there?


Jesus who?
That’s the question isn’t it. Who is Jesus? or as Mark put it, 

Who do people say Jesus is?
The disciples go for the standards: John the Baptist, the prophet Elijah, or some other prophet–all dead guys. As if Jesus were just a remake–a sequel.
But, who really is this guy Jesus?
Are you all up for a bit of exercise this morning? I want to go through a list of names/titles/descriptions. If it’s one you like, or use, or means something to you, you like it stand up as you are able, if popping up and down isn’t your thing, you can raise your hand. I am going to go through this list pretty quickly, so you might be doing a bit of up and down.
Knock, knock

who’s there?


Jesus who?

savior Jesus
Knock, knock

who’s there?


Jesus who?

healer Jesus
knock, knock

who’s there?


Jesus who?

Judge Jesus

Knock knock

who’s there?


Jesus who?

friend Jesus
knock, knock

who’s there?


Jesus who?

King Jesus
knock, knock

who’s there?


Jesus who

teacher Jesus
knock, knock

who’s there?


Jesus who

victim Jesus
That’s a hard one isn’t it. (go ahead and take your seats if you haven’t) Who wants a victim Jesus? Victim, it’s like it’s a bad word. Victims are weak and wounded. Peter didn’t want a victim Jesus. Peter wanted a Messiah–an anointed savior. To be fair, he’s like any modern day American, he’d rather follow a hero than a victim. We are uncomfortable with that. But that’s what he heard when Jesus starts talking about rejection, suffering, and death. Powerless that’s what a victim Jesus is. And who wants that?
How many of us or

Don’t we want that guardian angel Jesus to intervene and save us from accidents and tragedies?

Don’t we want that miracle worker Jesus to cure our illnesses?

Don’t we want that liberator Jesus to overturn the government, the economic, political systems, racism, homophobia, to right the wrongs, to bring justice, peace, and love?
I do. I would stand–I would follow that Jesus any day.
But that’s not who we get today. Today we get the cross bearing Jesus. Today we get the Jesus who invites, no actually I think it’s stronger than that, demands–if any of you or me, want to become followers, let us deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow.
This is the— we must lose our lives to live with Jesus stuff, and this doesn’t sit well with me. You see I’ve been the victim. I’ve been told, not just once, but over and over again to give in, do as I’m told, to not tell anyone, that no one would believe me, and that my life is somehow not really worth that much, that I have no real power in this world and in this life.
So Knock, knock

Who’s there


nobody who?

nobody, who really matters
That’s the intention, that’s the purpose of the cross–to strip, to shame, to wound, to victimize. That’s cross talk. That’s the cross.
The thing is, that’s Jesus. He is the one who was stripped and whipped. Jesus knows the fear of all that. He knows it because he experiences it. It’s not just theoretical. He feels what it is to be the victim of forces way beyond our control. He feels what it is to have your job, your dream taken away, to be emptied of power, to be a nameless nobody, one of way too many left by our world at the side of the road. This is real death and evil stuff. And that is the Jesus of the cross.
So all of our victim stuff, all our pains, our wounds, you know what it means for all that stuff, it means we don’t have to ignore it and hope it will go away. W e don’t have to disown and cover that stuff up–It’s who I am; it’s who we are. What we do with it now that’s our choice. Jesus says follow him, take up all that stuff and instead of getting even, instead of getting back, instead of keeping quiet, instead of letting it keep you down, own it and rise again.
To rise again with Jesus is not eternal and perpetual victimization but to resurrection. This isn’t some self/help self/actualization stuff. To rise again with Jesus is so completely different this world doesn’t even know what to do with it, with us. New life that is lived full of power, full of potential, full of love for others, speaking and acting love and justice–that is what it is to rise again with Jesus.  
To rise again is what Jackie does every day. Jackie’s life is like too many, she was abused as a child, kicked out of her home when as a young teen she got pregnant. On her own, she was desperate and found “love” with a man, a man who used her, who gave her drugs, who beat her and sold her. A victim, after being stuffed beaten, bloodied, almost naked, stuffed in the trunk of a car–that night something just switched, and she remembered Jesus. She felt Jesus with her. She knew Jesus. But Jackie couldn’t save herself, she asked for help. She is still asking for help each day, and now helps others. As she tells other women and men her story, she speaks about Jesus being with her, helping her each day as she struggles to out of one life to a new one, as she rises up. 
So — knock, knock

Who’s there?


Jesus who?

Rise up, follow, and you’ll see. Amen.

Jesus, Throw me a Bone – Sermon for Sept. 6, 2015

Cave Canem

Two words, just 10 characters, and I have given you a glimpse of who I am, your new pastor. Cave Canem. Anyone know what those two words mean? Anyone been brushing up on your Latin lately.

Cave Canem means Beware of Dog.

I saw those words and the picture of the dog in a mosaic in Pompeii–the town both destroyed and preserved by the volcano Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 AD. My husband Brad and I backpacked around Europe something in the year something like 2001 BC -that is BC– before children. We love to travel and learn, and we were able to walk around the streets of Pompeii, to look into the homes of families, to see paintings on the walls and the tiles on the floor, the picture of a dog, and read the words CAVE CANEM.

And I mean read those words, because in high school in addition to learning German, I had studied Latin. I love languages, learning new words. So,I took classical Greek in college, in seminary I enjoyed the 10 week class of Hebrew. I have dabbled in Spanish and at St. Paul’s, I picked up a few words and phrases in Lao. Words are wonderful to explore, learn, use and play with. The etymology, their origins fascinate me. And some words just sound fun–like facetious– mean funny. I like how words sound together and then there are those words that don’t go together–that disrupt, are dissonant, or discombobulate us–words that don’t belong, don’t fit, and shock us.

Like in today’s gospel reading, when Jesus calls the woman a name, calls her a dog. That’s just not right. I mean I love animals and all, and I really love dogs, I’ve hardly ever lived without one, but even I don’t want to be called a dog.

But that’s what Jesus does, he calls a woman, a mother who has come bent over and begging for a healing miracle for her little girl who is suffering at home sick and tormented, and Jesus calls this woman–this distressed and despairing mother and her suffering daughter little dogs. And just so we don’t try to sweeten it up. This little dog isn’t the cute little pet puppies we may have at home, who wear little sweaters, and appear in facebook videos. No we’re talking more like cur or mongrel. Dogs that hung around people, constantly prowling around digging into the garbage, counter surfing, scavenging and even stealing food–these were dogs to be wary of — Cave Canem – beware of dog.

Of course some people would like to make excuses for Jesus calling this woman a mongrel. Mark tells us that Jesus didn’t want people to find him. Jesus was stressed and tired, he needed a break. And of course, there’s always the issue that this woman being a Syro-phoenecian was a foreigner to him. And we know how easy it is to treat outsiders, foreigners, refugees, immigrants, minorities, people who are poor, or sick, or mentally ill–how easy it is to ignore them, how easy it is to disregard them, and well call them names.

But Jesus, I have two words for you — Cave Canem- beware of dog. See, this woman doesn’t turn, slink away. She takes his words, bites into them and holds on. Jesus, even the dogs under the table get the crumbs and eat. She is so determined to save her daughter, she is so tenacious to the hope of healing for her little girl. Even if Jesus can’t see it in that moment, she can almost taste and smell God’s promise of life for her daughter–like a dog with a bone–she will not be denied, she is fierce and she will not let go. And Jesus’ eyes are opened, he pays attention, and by the time the mother makes it home, her daughter is healed–recovering and resting on her little bed, because her mother had faith in, trusted God, wouldn’t let go of God.

The word for today, for us, and for the world, the word from this story is Cave Canem – beware, attend, pay attention to this un-named woman. She is our model for faith, because unlike county clerk Kim Davis who’s been in the news, who some see as an example of Christian fortitude–the woman in our gospel really gets it. She has to hold on to God’s love and promises and that they are not just for a few good folks, are not just for some, but for all (especially) for those who are hurting.

So world – Cave Canem – beware of those you would demean and denigrate. Beware of those you would discount. Because that’s not God’s way. The down and out are first. Church our job is to hold onto to this, to hold onto this story, to hold onto this scrappy woman, and hold onto the promise of life that God has for all of us. When it takes a drowned toddler washed up on the shore–we open our mouths and speak When there is someone sick and struggling we sit with them. We can no longer be timid or quiet. We can not shrink in fear. Let us be as fierce as this stranger foreign woman,let the world know that we hold onto God’s way. Cave Canem. Amen.

Gird Up Your Loins – Sermon for June 21, 2015 on Job 38.1-11

SMH and OMG. Those letters stand for “shaking my head” and “Oh My God”. Even before this week, I’d wished I’d never see them again. You see there are some words, some phrases that just irk me and get on my nerves. My list includes, but is not limited too: job creators, takers, out of the box, totally, and last but not least, “man up”.  
“Man up”. Ugh, really? Those two little words are used by politicians and pundits to prompt people act in a “manly way”–meaning what? Courageous, bold, taking responsibility, strong–doing what needs to get done.
Now of course, I am not saying that men do not do those things. No lots of men are brave and strong, and responsible. No doubt there are those of us who take this day, Father’s Day as a celebration of the men in our lives who have, who are – brave, responsible, honest, and compassionate and a call to fathers and all men to be brave, responsible, honest, and compassionate.
But it is not true that only men can be courageous, as if only a man can do what needs to get done, as if it takes a man to act, speak, be brave. “As if” that’s what “man up” implies and that the opposite characteristics are traits of the opposite sex.
The ancient Biblical near and middle eastern equivalent to “man up” is something we heard this morning in our first lesson, “Gird up your loins”. It occurs 5 times in the Bible, two of which are in the book of Job.
God says–Job, “gird up your loins like a man” which doesn’t make sense for us today, but in that world where men and women both wore dresses–ok robes and like tunic…….. But that type of clothing is not terribly conducive to strenuous activity like –physical labor or battle. So sometimes it would be necessary to fix their clothes so that they could do what needs to get done. There is a slide that shows at least one interpretation of what “girding up your loins” might look like. Granted, we do not think God is actually telling Job how to dress and what to wear. Instead, God is saying — Job–man up. If Job is going to have the . . . “chutzpah” to question God, Job better be prepared and ready for God to respond. God is going to question and contend with Job now, God is putting Job on the spot. But, God does not actually answer Job’s question. Instead God says: hey buddy were you there when I created the heavens and the earth? Job were you there when I calmed chaos of the waters of the seas and skies, set up the day, toss thunderbolts better than Thor?
Man up, Job. Gird up. God’s response to Job’s searching, questioning, and struggle is basically that God Job is not the center of the universe, God is God, and basically stuff happens. What you can’t get over you gotta get through. Do what you gotta do. Man up, woman up. However you want to say it. Gird up. Face life, face reality, do what’s gotta get done.
Whether we like it or not, this week, today we hear the same call for us. You may not be in the same boat as Job or the disciples. You may not personally be feeling and reeling from storm after storm–financial, sickness, despair, depression. You may not be there right now, but if you haven’t you will. We all have to gird up, because storms aren’t on the horizon. They are here and now. That’s one piece of what Pope Francis says in his ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’ ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME. We are all in the same boat, we are all interconnected the rich, the poor, man, women, animals, creation. Science and faith are connected. Science is telling us that we are accelerating change on our planet, that we are harming it, ourselves, and the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people through our consumption of more and more, our economic systems built upon using. Faith tells us that this is not God’s will. Of course the Pope is directing his words to Roman Catholics, but his message is something we as people of faith need to hear as well for we too need (not just perhaps if it’s convenient, if we feel like it) we need to gird up, take responsibility, speak, and act to change our ways to change our policies. Gird up your loins, O church, because some will not like what we have to say, some will point fingers and say we are being political. Some will say we should just focus on saving souls. Gird up your loins, O church, because our God is the one who set this earth on its foundation, set the seas and the stars. God loves this earth and we are abusing it, and that is sin. Gird up, people, take responsibility and take action.
Gird up your loins, o church because the storms are all around us, and we are all in the same boat. We are in the same boat as Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, which had it’s pastor and 8 others of the/our church murdered in a vicious act of violent hate and racism. With immense sadness, we too can cry out like Job, “how long, O Lord?”, We can even ask, “why?” O God. We can pray our prayers, but we better be ready and prepared to hear God’s answer. Gird up o church, because the answer is sin. It is violence; it is racism. It is our silence. Gird up, o church because there are those who will say and try to downplay racism. But that is a storm that has been raging and brewing in our country for way too long. Gird up, O church, and be strong, be vocal to say it like it is.
This week our presiding Bishop Rev. Elizabeth Eaton sent out a pastoral letter. We need to hear our Bishop’s words:

It has been a long season of disquiet in our country. From Ferguson to Baltimore, simmering racial tensions have boiled over into violence. But this … the fatal shooting of nine African Americans in a church is a stark, raw manifestation of the sin that is racism. The church was desecrated. The people of that congregation were desecrated. The aspiration voiced in the Pledge of Allegiance that we are “one nation under God” was desecrated.
Mother Emanuel AME’s pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, as was the Rev. Daniel Simmons, associate pastor at Mother Emanuel. The suspected shooter is a member of an ELCA congregation. All of a sudden and for all of us, this is an intensely personal tragedy. One of our own is alleged to have shot and killed two who adopted us as their own.
We might say that this was an isolated act by a deeply disturbed man. But we know that is not the whole truth. It is not an isolated event. And even if the shooter was unstable, the framework upon which he built his vision of race is not. Racism is a fact in American culture. Denial and avoidance of this fact are deadly. The Rev. Mr. Pinckney leaves a wife and children. The other eight victims leave grieving families. The family of the suspected killer and two congregations are broken. When will this end?
The nine dead in Charleston are not the first innocent victims killed by violence. Our only hope rests in the innocent One, who was violently executed on Good Friday. Emmanuel, God with us, carried our grief and sorrow – the grief and sorrow of Mother Emanuel AME church – and he was wounded for our transgressions – the deadly sin of racism.
I urge all of us to spend a day in repentance and mourning. And then we need to get to work. Each of us and all of us need to examine ourselves, our church and our communities. We need to be honest about the reality of racism within us and around us. We need to talk and we need to listen, but we also need to act. No stereotype or racial slur is justified. Speak out against inequity. Look with newly opened eyes at the many subtle and overt ways that we and our communities see people of color as being of less worth. Above all pray – for insight, for forgiveness, for courage.
Kyrie Eleison.  The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Gird up your loins, o church racism is real, violence we witnessed this week at Emanuel church doesn’t just come out of nowhere. it boils over from the vitriol, the comments, the micro-aggressions, the constant stereotyping, and suspicion, the falsity that only some of us, those with paler pigment are right, know what’s best, are the truer, better Americans. When we do not listen when a man says he can not breathe, when a gun an officer sits on a girl and draws a gun on unarmed boys. When we paler pigmented people can define what is normative, what is good quality. When money is taken from education to fund tax breaks for companies. Gird up your loins O church, because this sin is ours and the work is ours. We can not pretend that the boat we are in is not rocking, we can not pretend as our sisters and brothers are dying. There can not be peace and stillness for some while others are drowning and perishing.
The gospel Good News is that this isn’t the way its supposed to be. Jesus cared that day in the boat on the sea. He cares to this day too. The good news is that God wants us to do something about it; the Good news is that forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, justice is real. It is the work that Jesus came to do, that Jesus died for, it is the work that we are a part of, and it the love of God that gives us the strength to grace to pray, to speak, to act–to man up. Because of the God who made this world and us, because of Jesus who came to save it and us, because the Spirit is still at work in it and us–church gird up your loins. Church today is the day, the time is now. Church it is up to us, so man up, woman up, however you want to say it, gird up O church — Amen.

“Weird, weird, weird, da, da bada da. Weird, weird, weird.”

That’s the refrain from a song I heard in my childhood, entitled “I Get Weird”. It wasn’t any chart topper. Written by John Christensen, it made it’s way to fame as the winner of the 1982 new song competition on the Dr. Demento show. Unlike,”Everything is Awesome”,  (used in children’s sermon) “I Get Weird” is just oddball enough that I thought better of playing it here during worship. You can look it up on youtube when you get home, and you’ll hear how weird it really is.
Weird isn’t just a word used in that 1980’s oddball song. Shakespeare used it in his play MacBeth. He named the three Women Fates, the Weird Sisters, because that word “weird” at that time didn’t just mean odd or strange. It was used to describe speak of supernatural things. Other worldly things.
Things that are not quite of this world. Or as Jesus says in his prayer for his disciples, that we in one sense overheard this morning. Or when we remember that we are his followers, his disciples, we hear his words (his prayer) for us. And in this prayer–Jesus describes his followers as those who were given to him “from the world”, “in the world”, “not belonging to the world”, “not taken out of the world, do not belong to the world”, “sent into the world”. Theologians have described us as the church as “in but not of” the world. While we are in the world, we are also otherworldly. We, you and me, my dear brothers and sisters of the church. We are weird
We are part of creation. We participate in the natural processes of life. Laws of nature, law of gravity, law of senecense (meaning we get old), space time continuum. These all apply to us. Last time I checked I couldn’t run at the speed of light, the speed of a cheetah, or even the speed of a healthy young teen or 20 something. So we are part of this world, dependent upon this world for life. So, while we’re here, we are in the world.
But it really seems like Jesus is trying to make sure that the church isn’t the same thing as the world. We are otherworldly. Ok, we are weird. We are so weird. That we just don’t quite fit the world around us.  
Now to be sure that we are doing this whole weird thing right. I did what any 60 or younger, white, middle class person would do. I went to the internet, specifically I went to wiki, not pedia–but it’s evil helpful twin– wiki how which attempts to answer all of our “how” querries and questions. And there it was a 6 step, 4 part answer on “how to be weird”.   
Let’s go through this shall we! –  This is where it gets “interactive”

Invent your own places, and customs. Invent a holiday, give it a weird name, and then when the day comes around, get decked out. What do you think folks? Holiday’s or holy days. We right between two: Ascension and Pentecost. Of course, the world has been trying to steal and co-opt our main holidays – Christmas and easter – Christmas isn’t about shopping and parties. Easter isn’t about bunny’s and chocolate. Reformation Day, Epiphany, Lent. Just a few holidays.   
2. Talk to random people in the streets and say ridiculous things. Has anybody ever done this? God bless you (not just an automatic thoughtless, but really mean it). I’ll pray for you. You are forgiven. God loves you. God is great!

3. Make up new words. Or as I have observed, if not terribly creative just keep use old odd words – Anybody have any ideas? Narthex, liturgy, hymns, eucharist, offering, creed, kyrie, stole, alb, parament, nave, chancel, sacristy, 

4. Have strange taste in food. – Communion – meal sip or wine and this is bread, that’s not even the weirdest — we call it the body and blood of Jesus – how weird is that?

5. Choose a strange hobby. – What could we call our hobby, or more accurately our mission, what we do? Worship. Love. But this isn’t the same love that the world teaches, shows, offers. We have weird love, because who do we love? Love and work for everyone to fully be part of the church, fully live and men and women, rich and poor, young and old, no matter their ethnicity, gay, straight, trans, abled or disabled. Weird right

   This week sadly again with violence of all types around us, and Boston marathon bomber – tzarnaev sentenced to die for placing the bomb in the crowd of men women and children-we have to remember that our love is so weird it’s not just for those we like, we agree with, but even for those who would hurt and kill us. Remember that love your enemy, I didn’t make that crazy up. Jesus said it. Out of this world, and really really crazy hard to do.
Weird, weird, weird. A lot of our friends, family, even our heart may say we are wrong, weird, not right. But that is what it is to be one with Jesus. Jesus doesn’t pray for us to go with the flow, to fit in, to do even what is common sense or the will of the majority. God’s love calls for justice, to stand up to racist systems, to speak for creation so that we do not ignore, pretend or lie about the science of climate change, to work to ensure that peace is not just spoken but practiced, that the poor are fed not just some calories but with dignity and respect. That we worship together, pray for, speak, listen, and act with one another. Let us own this otherworld we believe in and pray for. Let us not just whisper it in our hearts and in our homes. Let us be weird, let us speak weird, let us act weird, let us love and live weird, because that’s what Jesus asks God for us. It is his prayer. Church, let’s get weird, weird, weird. Amen.


Dirty Hands


He got his hands dirty.  Jesus did. 


That first Easter day that we heard about in our Gospel for today, I do believe that the men and women in that room, saw the dirt.  To prove to them that it really was him back in the flesh, Jesus tells them to look at my hands and feet, touch the flesh and bones.

The disciples are looking at skin, and skin–well, it get’s dirty.

Ghosts don’t get dirty.  There’s nothing there for the dust and grime of life to stick to not like real live skin.

  Jesus skin that had touched:

–the pale dust from the hay in the manger the day he was born

–the brown mud from the river Jordan the day he was baptized

–the red and yellow from the sands and rocks of the 40 days in the wilderness

–the dust of ancient scrolls held by the hands of his people for generations 

–the white sand of seashore as he called Simon, James and John

–the invisible but very real uncleanness of those he touched to heal, a man with leprosy, a woman Jesus reaches out and touches on sabbath,

–the filthy money that day he called Levi the tax collector

–not to mention the “who knows what” that was on a dead man’s bed

–the oil from the hands of a sinful woman

–the crumbs from the bread that day he fed 5000

–the crud and soil as he walked from one town and village to another on his way to Jerusalem

–the icky sticky–ness of the little children he touched and blessed

–the hairs of the colt who carried him into Jerusalem,

–the stain of blood and dirt that clung to him as he was arrested, beaten, interrogated, tortured and crucified

–the earth of the tomb they laid him in

Looking at those hands, those feet they could see this really was Jesus.  They recognized him this time not in the breaking of the bread but in the hands he gave them, the hands that picked up a bite of fish.  They saw the dirt; they saw his hands.

But that wasn’t all.  Because Jesus wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty–he felt life and death.  Now, the gospel writer Luke doesn’t mention the wounds, but we can believe they were there.  That when he showed his hands his feet, his wounds from just a few days ago were still there.

Some people might be ashamed of these wounds, for they see in them vulnerability; they see in them uncertainty, and pain and defeat. And in our culture those can be signs of weakness.  But that is not the way it has to be.  Instead we can see within these wounds, within scars a source of strength. For those wounds bear witness that Jesus did not let fear hold him back.  The wounds show what it took, the struggle, to overcome sin, evil, and death. Those are the wounds that can now have given us strength.  His wounds, his hands, his feet. For some of us, when imagine them, we see ourselves.  We see the wounds we bear and the dirt that’s stuck to us, either what’s on the outside for all the world to see, or in the inside, almost invisible.  We can look at his feet, and we can find strength because we feel that Jesus knows us, Jesus loves us, and Jesus wants us, even needs us.  

Yes, needs us, needs our hands, our voices, our creativity, our hearts, our minds opened and directed by God’s Word,  Because the struggle is not over.  In the resurrection, Jesus overcame evil and sin, and death.  The problem is a lot of us don’t, can’t, or won’t see it.

Because just take a look at the world around us, murders in our city, the man shot in the back by the police officer, this week is the 2nd anniversary of the Boston marathon bombing, the 20th anniversary of Oklahoma City bombing.  This month is sexual assault awareness month, because people continue to  use their hands to hurt one another.  

With all this pain, and so much more, the devil is waiting for us to throw up our hands in surrender and give in, give in to violence.  

But that is not the way of Jesus.  He did not overcome by building a bigger, or more lethal cross; he did not drop crosses from drones in the sky; he did not tell his followers to shoot first.  Matthew’s gospel Jesus says to us, if you live by the sword, die by the sword.  These words have been echoed by the followers of Jesus like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us that “hate begets hate, violence begets violence” … Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Jesus didn’t hold back; he wasn’t afraid to get dirty–to heal, to teach, to live and die for us. Forgiveness is spoken with his words Peace be with you; forgiveness is offered with his hands held out for us.  He reaches out to us, asks to take our hands, and to well get dirty, just like he did.  To always, again and again be open to others, reach out to others–to hold this wounded world in peace, so that those words “God’s Work, Our Hands” are not just a slogan worn on a t-shirt one day in September.  Thursday afternoon, I went outside to sit on the steps enjoy the sunshine, perhaps talk with neighbors, and I took the sidewalk chalk out with me.  Stepping out, I saw a mom and her daughter resting on the steps.  Together we wrote and colored not messages, prayers on the sidewalk along Wisconsin Ave.  By the end our hands were covered in chalk dust and a space of time and place of much needed peace had been made on our street.  It is with our hands, the ones that we dig in our wallets and pockets to spend money, hands that mark our ballots at elections, typing and texting, that drive our cars, the hands we offer to one another.  These are the hands that will get dirty answering our prayers for peace. Amen.