Sermon for Confirmation/Trinity Sunday

Trinity/Confirmation  This sermon was co-written by the confirmand (Nathan) and his mother (Pastor Donna).
PD: So, Nathan and I have been doing kind of an independent study confirmation, and I know it’s last minute and all, but today is Holy Trinity Sunday, and Nathan, I just want to let you know that it’s ok, if you don’t “get” the Trinity.
Nathan: But I do. I understand it.
PD: Wait, you get the mystery of doctrine of the Holy Trinity? Tell me about it.
Nathan: It’s simple. It’s the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
PD: Yes, or the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. So we have three gods?
Nathan: No, you know it’s only one God.
PD: You’re right. I was just testing you.
Nathan: I dislike tests. I get enough tests at school.
PD: Did you notice that I didn’t give you a final exam for your confirmation?
Nathan: Unless this is it.
PD: No, we believe that with God there is no pass or fail. Faith doesn’t come with a “final exam”.  
Nathan: because faith is a never-ending journey you take your whole life.
PD: Exactly. Confirmation (affirmation of baptism) is just one step. I hate to break it to you, but you do not know everything. Instead, you as a young person—a “young adult” are now saying that you are going to take more responsibility for your faith journey.
Nathan: but I don’t want to do this alone.
PD: You are not. In a sense Nathan, this day isn’t just about you. This is way bigger than you. It is also our day. You are part of God’s church here at Village
Tom: That’s why I’m giving you your envelopes. Giving is an important part of the journey of faith.
Nathan: Now you want my money?
PD: not just your money but your time.
Diane: (interrupting) and your talent playing the bells and the piano.
Bob: and your soul. It’s time to sign the paperwork, make the pledge you are one of us now.
Choir: (creepy chant) One of Us

          One of Us, One of Us.
Brad: Wait a minute. I know Village is kind of a different congregation, but that’s just not right. I’m starting to worry, here.
PD: For once Brad your right.  
Bob: oh yeah we were just joking. Kind of just testing you again.
PD: I think we’ve had enough tests. Nathan, you know that life isn’t easy but t’s not that God is always testing us. I like how Paul put it in his letter to the church in Rome. “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Today is yet another day that the Holy Spirit is pouring God’s love into you and into all of us. God doesn’t test us, and God doesn’t just magically take away pain, or questions. What God is doing is seeking always to pour into, to fill us, to surround us, to immerse us in love and forgiveness (mercy). That’s what baptism is all about, that’s what today is about, that’s what every day is about, remembering, living into, sharing, and showing the person God desires you to be. So, don’t listen to anyone who says that you are worthless or not good enough. God’s divine and boundless love and mercy. Together we remind ourselves that we are all God’s children, that we are as the psalmist says, you are little less than divine, crowned with glory and honor—and together we practice the life of peace, forgiveness and mercy. So, we are truly happy rejoice with you Nathan, that today with all God’s church, with family, friends, we together claim the good news of God—the God is creating, the God who is saving, and the God who is in-spiriting. Amen.  

St. Peter, the Pearly gates and the Prodigal Father – sermon for Lent 4 c

March 6, 2016  – disclaimer – a sermon is an oral event, not a book report
The Senator and St Peter: 

One day a Senator came to the pearly gates.

“Welcome to heaven,” says St.. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”

”No problem, just let me in,” says the Senator.

”Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from the higher ups. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.
Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They played a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and the finest champagne. Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who is having a good time dancing and telling jokes. 

They are all having such a good time that before the Senator realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises.The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens in heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him, “Now it’s time to visit heaven…”;

So, 24 hours passed with the Senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

”Well, then, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.”

The Senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: “Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.”

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell…

Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls to the ground. The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulders.

”I don’t understand,” stammers the Senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time.

The devil smiles at him and says, “Yesterday we were campaigning. Now, you voted..
Good ol St. Peter jokes, with their golden walls, pearly gates, book of lives, and questions. These jokes are good for a giggle or even a laugh. But that’s about it, contrary to what some people believe, they don’t give us a particularly good or accurate picture of heaven or even of God. They are not theologically correct, at least according to the parable, the story that Jesus gives us this morning.
But before we go there, you might have noticed that our gospel for this morning is missing some verses. The committee that designed our pericope cut out vs. 3 – 10. What we have lost is Jesus’ words about the shepherd who leaves 99 sheep in the wilderness to look for that one little lost lamb and then the woman who had 10 coins, stays up all night sweeping and cleaning up to find that one single solitary silver coin. In both stories/parables the shepherd and the woman look for and then find their lost and then invite neighbors, family and friends over for a party to celebrate. Sound familiar? Kind of like the father in the gospel story we just heard.  
Jesus responds to this criticism by some religious leaders that the “wrong” people were coming to Jesus—that tax collectors, sinners, outcasts. And so Jesus uses these three illustrations to gives us a picture of what heaven is like, what God is like. It’s almost like Jesus knows how good and upright pious people can get—you know a bit judgmental, a bit stuck in their ways, maybe a bit resentful. So Jesus gives us a different picture of heaven than that of pearly gates, gold walls, and some spiritual testing.
A picture of God— as a shepherd searching for his lost and rejoicing for his found sheep, God as a woman searching for her lost and rejoicing over her found coin, quite different than the one we get from the St. Peter jokes. The first big difference is where is God in those pearly gate jokes?
Usually nowhere to be found—somewhere safe and secure, hidden from our eyes in the heavenly halls.
But that’s not the God we see today. Today we have a God who leaves the heavenly throne and becomes the prodigal father. You heard me right, the prodigal father. Now you may be a bit confused because we’re used to associating the prodigal with the younger son. Prodigal being defined as wasteful, lavish, extravagant. And this younger son, the one who treats his father so badly, the one who says, “You know old man, you are as good as dead to me; I want my inheritance, and I want it now. I don’t want to have to wait till you kick the bucket. He’s not prodigal yet, but the father, for some reason, perhaps out of crazy love, actually gives it to him. So the kid takes off to some unknown place where he does squander and waste the money as our translation says in “dissolute living”. He is wasteful.
But you know that trait must run in the family, first of all the father gave him the inheritance—that was a waste. But also when the son finally comes to his senses, runs out of money, gets so desperate and he returns, what does his father do? This father who has been basically disowned and disrespected by this dissolute son of his—throws a party for all in the family, household, the neighborhood, the town.  
The father is lavish in his love, in his forgiveness, in his joy and in fact his other son, the elder one thinks it’s quite a waste of time and energy—wasting on this other brother. But according to Jesus though God’s love is never wasted. It might be, ok it is lavish, it is extravagant, it is the complete opposite of a properly pious, dare I say staid and stingy faith. God throws open the gates of heaven to come down to our level, and God doesn’t wait till we make it, get ourselves through the walls. God doesn’t wait for St. Peter to give the a-ok. God gathers up his heavenly robes to sprint out the door in joy over, joy for the lost—now that’s not a waste. God’s love is never wasted. Alleluia!
Oh, I forgot, I wasn’t supposed to say that. I guess I got a bit carried away. Afterall, It’s Lent, and in our churches we aren’t saying that—Word. We’re saving it for Easter. But you know that rule wasn’t written in stone or in heaven, even if it were I bet we’d be saying it an awful lot more, because you know what? Jesus throws out the window our rules of holy decorum to give us a heaven that is a righteous raucous party place. All because, well you are here. Because you for whatever reason didn’t stay in bed, you didn’t linger over coffee and the Sunday paper. You could have been at a myriad of other places doing so many other things but today you are found right here. You who get lost in the struggles of this world, you who have waste money, time, resources on wine, cigarettes, the internet or lord knows what else. You who get lost in self-doubt, shame and pain. Even you who may feel that love is sometimes a waste. Heaven is ringing with shouts of alleluia, the floors and walls are shaking with heavenly happy dances. Why?
Why because you are here and because God is here. Perhaps St. Peter’s hanging out at some pearly gate, but God isn’t. God is right here. God is smiling in our smiles, God is flowing with our tears, God is laughing with our joy. God is here saying, “Get lost sin, come on in. Get up out of your seat, have some heavenly food to eat. Lift up your voice, it’s time to rejoice. Alleluia. I shouldn’t be the only one to say it. Join me. Alleluia, alleluia, say it like you mean it. Alleluia, say it like you might when you find your keys, your wallet, Alleluia. Say it like you feel it when you hold that person you love with all your heart. Alleluia. Say it like you’ve been lost and now are found. Alleluia. Alleluia. Amen.

It’s not about protection – Sermon for Lent 2C

Walls and laws, passwords and police, 

To get to you they’d have to get past us—guns and bombs

Civil, human, water rights, 

schools, jobs, vaccines, and now chicken wings.  
Protection—we want it, we need it. We pay for and we pray for it. Protection.
1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom then | shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2When evildoers close in against me to devour my flesh,

they, my foes and my enemies, will stumble and fall.

3Though an army encamp against me, my heart will not fear.

Though war rise up against me, my trust will not be shaken.

5For in the day of trouble God will | give me shelter,

hide me in the hidden places of the sanctuary, and raise me high upon a rock.

6Even now my head is lifted up above my enemies who surround me. 
That’s from the psalm assigned for this morning—a plea, a prayer, praise for God’s protection
Protection. It’s what our gospel seems to be offering us morning. It begins with some pharisees who might be trying to protect Jesus, warn him about Herod, that this king is going to try to kill Jesus. Then Jesus, seeming to fit right into our current climate of “straight shooting”, speaking from the heart, telling it like it is—Jesus like Trump calls Herod a name—a fox. Tell that fox, he says, that I’m not done yet. Jesus is not done healing, Jesus is not done teaching. Tell that fox who pretends to be a king who likes to raid, hunt, and attack and kill people like John the Baptist, tell that fox that he, that Jesus is not done proclaiming and bringing in the real kingdom. Herod you’re a fox, Jesus says. And I’m a—a mother hen—a chicken.
Now there’s an image of Jesus we don’t usually get to see. We don’t hear prayers in the church to chicken Jesus. The woman in me, the progressive Christian at your pulpit loves the feminine imagery. However, here’s where, at least to me this whole protection thing starts to fall apart. Even though I live in the city, and only infrequently visit a farm—even I know that a chicken wing is not a good defense, doesn’t offer much protection against the claws, jaws, and sharp teeth of a fox. Of course, we could try to rescue Jesus here by saying that these are two different parts of the story, and Jesus didn’t actually say the fox and chicken thing together. But that’s the way we read it this morning.
So perhaps the Spirit of God wants us to keep the fox and chicken together, because maybe there’s something going on here that’s about more than protection.  
Eventhough, that’s what we want—protection from our enemies, from threats all around. But honestly, the greatest harms and threats we face don’t just from invading Romans or other modern day armies. Our threats are closer to home—internal. Whether it’s as individuals or collectively as a country, yes we are greatly threatened from within—from depression, addiction, shame, and anger and fear. The answer may not be protection from, perhaps Jesus shows and gives us another way.
A way that finally allows me to understand my husband. You see Brad and I have had a long standing disagreement—25 year long disagreement—about Thelma & Louise. That’s right the movie staring Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, and introducing to the big screen Brad Pitt. If you saw it and remember the movie, how does it end? With Thelma & Louise in canyon country out west driving their convertible over cliff. I have hated it, but my husband loves it—that those two women are free, free themselves from patriarchy. And I would insist but they are dead. Why do they have to die to be free? This image of Jesus gathering us under her wings reminded me of one tiny detail—do you remember it? How they go over the cliff? They are holding hands; they are holding one another. For them death is not the worst thing that can happen. They do not need to protect themselves from the other. They do not live or die alone. I still though, don’t like that they drive off the cliff, but they are together.
Jesus also does not run away from suffering, from death. Death is not the worst thing that can happen to us. We are not offered protection from pain and death, but still he is our savior, he saves us. Saves us from our isolation whether its imposed by the powers that be, or salvation from our selves our internal isolations spiritual, or addictions, or physical, political, emotional. Jesus opens his arms to us; we don’t have to hide depression, our anxiety, we don’t have to hide ourselves behind our digital and emotional, our physical walls for protection. 

Compassion, passion and mercy and peace,

To get to one they get to all of us—we do not stand alone

Open vulnerability, humility and growth.

loving, healing, being, together in the arms of Jesus. Amen 

You don’t Have to do it on Your Own – sermon for Lent 1, 2016

“I think we’re off the trail.” Those were the worried words of a member of my hiking DSC01337group last year when we spent a week hiking around and in the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico. We explored desert hills, arroyos, and canyons around Abiquiu, drove up into the mountains to spend hours in forests and meadows, and even climbed to a seldom visited ancient pueblo perched on the top of a mesa. For this city girl, this was quite a wilderness adventure. I have hundreds of pictures of the sometimes literally breathtaking scenery. But as I have reflected on that time, what I found especially fascinating is that I was not the one declaring anxiously declaring, “I think we’re off the trail.”

Although I would to love say and I may even come across as bold and courageous, I am on the contrary, ever vigilant to any possible danger, and if it isn’t real, I can conjure up countless tragic scenarios—getting lost, dying of exposure, being mauled by a bear, falling off a cliff. However, this trip was different, and I think it was because we had a guide. He was a retired forester who had been living, hiking, and leading groups–well for probably longer than I’ve been alive. He could recall the days when painter Georgia O’Keefe lived there in her house at Ghost Ranch. He even has a quarry named after him where he and a group of hikers discovered ancient dinosaur fossils. So even when we had left the trail behind, I wasn’t riddled with anxiety. For that time in the wilderness, I had a guide—a guide I actually trusted.

Now of course, some people might look down, might dismiss that week of hiking as not a real or true wilderness experience. As if to be in the wilderness you must go out on your own, with just your wits and maybe a water bottle. But isn’t that just another symptom of our cult of the individual. What do we value—people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. We idolize heroes. Even if it’s a team thing like football—who’s the most important player, who does everyone talk about Manning, Newton, Rodgers. Winning and losing—it’s all on their shoulders. We idolize individuality.

But you know, Jesus didn’t even do it all on his own. Even being tempted out in the desert wilderness, Jesus was not alone. Now that might be a shock to you, becuase I always pictured Jesus and so much artwork telling this story shows Jesus all by himself. In fact, the translation we us says that Jesus “was led” in the wilderness. As if the Holy Spirit drove him to the edge of the desert dropped him off, and said “see you in 40”. When in fact, the Greek more accurately is translated as “was leading” him in the wilderness. It’s a mere difference—for all you grammar geeks between the imperfect and the aorist. “Was led” implies a once and done event, and “was leading” implies more of an ongoing past experience. A mere difference in verb tenses may not seem like such a big deal, but it could be.

In one of reading it—Jesus was led in the wilderness—we can imagine him out in the desert all alone facing his hunger, his questions, his boredom, his doubts, his temptations all by himself—as if God had simply tossed him out to the spiritual wolves so to speak to see what he is made of. Temptation as a test—to see if he would pass or fail. That’s one way of reading this story, and for some it works. Jesus all by himself faces down that dirty old devil and returns a hero. As I said, that’s one way.

There’s another way, a way that I think Fred has well guided us to today with his liturgy, and that is even in the wilderness of the desert hungry, cold, questioning, maybe even feeling lost and physically weak, Jesus still had the Holy Spirit with him, he had a guide, he was not abandoned and alone. So, with the Holy Spirit Jesus could refuse the temptation to a much needed meal, inspired by the Spirit Jesus knew the emptiness of power and privilege. And because he trusted God as his guide, there was no need to test it by jumping from a cliff. Jesus could counter all the temptations the devil could conjure up because the Spirit never left him.

For the gospel writer Luke, the Holy Spirit doesn’t just come and go, she isn’t an occasional character to move the plot along. No, the Spirit is inspiring—inspiriting creation, the world, the people us and those around us. Maybe if we look for the Spirit, look to see signs of the spirit, we can feel like we are not in this on our own, we can begin to look to the Spirit as a guide to trust.

To tell you the truth, I kinda like this way of hearing the gospel story this week. Because, as you might have picked up from the beginning of the story—I am not the most trusting, not the most content of souls. And if I don’t pay attention to the guides around me, these weeks of Lent can turn into a wilderness of weakness, of giving into the biggest temptation of all—beating myself up for not sticking to this or that discipline and giving in or giving up.

Of course I don’t know what all the guides of the Spirit could possibly be, but . Sometimes it’s words from the bible, and as we heard in our gospel story, but remember sometimes those bible words can get twisted. A spirit guide can be person, but remember no one is perfect—I think we can look for someone who is authentic, shows wisdom (most of the time), a person who doesn’t just talk about love, but tries to stick to that walk that trail regularly. Just as I don’t know what temptations you face and I don’t know what wilderness looks like for you, I can’t even begin to imagine how the Holy Spirit could be leading you.

So, I guess, if hero Jesus facing down the devils temptations works for you, great. But my prayer is that if in some strange way, some way what I have said today has guided you, inspired you to feel, to believe, to imagine that even in temptation, even in wilderness, even suffering, when you hunger, when your faith is questioned and in doubt, when you are tempted and feel like you are out in the wilderness, if you remember, “hey I’m not alone.” If the spirit was leading Jesus, the Spirit can be, is with me, guides are all around—well—those are inspired words, and we are inspirited people. Amen.

Puppy, monkey, baby and sin, death, and ashes.  Sermon for Ash Wednesday

Again this is an oral event, the text mostly matches the preaching. I had created a large cross in the front of the sanctuary using blackboard paper.

Ash Wed 2016
Just awful. Puppy, monkey, baby. Puppy, monkey, baby. That was just about the most awful freaky commercial I’ve ever seen. Of course, it’s freakishness has also made it the
most watched Super Bowl commercial on Youtube. It’s made the news, and now even a sermon—awful but perhaps very effective advertising. Now, If you have somehow been lucky to miss this commercial, the idea behind it is that a new Mountain Dew drink, which is a combination of Dew, juice, and I guess more caffeine is like this creature this baby, monkey, puppy creature in the commercial is three awesome things combined.
Kind of like tonight, Ash Wednesday–a conglomeration of ashes (dirt), sin, and death. Now wait you might be thinking. Those are not three awesome things-ashes, sin, and death. And you’d be right. Truthfully, we would much rather avoid and ignore ashes, sin, and death—these things of Ash Wednesday. Is it any wonder there aren’t millions of people talking about, posting, tweeting, or even doing Ash Wednesday. For most people ashes, sin and death are awful in their own way.
We don’t want to do these things, talk about these things, admit these things. Until we’re forced to.

That is what artist Candy Chang admits in a TED. After the sudden death of someone she loved dearly, she created a community art experience in her neighborhood in New Orleans. She turned the side of an abandoned house into a giant chalkboard and stenciled these words on it, “Before I die I want to _______________. People filled that wall their thoughts, their hopes and dreams. Like: Before I die I want to hug a sloth. Before I die I want to be someone’s cavalry. Before I die FullSizeRenderFullSizeRenderI want to hold her one more time. During her TED Talk, Ms Chang states, “that two of the most valuable things we have are time and our relationships with people”. She challenges us to continually remember that life is brief and tender. Preparing for death, she says, is the most empowering thing we can do, thinking about death clarifies life.

That got me thinking. You see my relationship to death has changed after my mother died. Even though she had become ill with diabetes and congestive heart failure, I just never thought about her dying. But my mother had expressed at least several times that she looked forward to to outliving her husband, my father. She had plans and dreams and wanted to do all sorts of things. I don’t even know what they all were, but I knew she was waiting. As it happens sometimes though, death didn’t abide by her plans and she died before he did. Of course, for me she died way too young at age 63. Nathan was only 1, and she never met her other grandson Micah.
The gift of Ash Wednesday of tonight is that we talk about, we get to be honest about ashes, sin and death. There is no “if” in death—only when. Now some might see this as being a Debbie Downer. But like Ms. Chang, my faith tells me that this is actually pretty cool. Our faith does not allow us to be oblivious to the precious, tender, and importance of life—of all of our lives.
As Christians, as followers of Christ, I believe we are doubly blessed–in the sense that not only do we admit the finality, but it is doubly precious to us. Belief in the God of the cross moves the time we have from being just another opportunity to experience stuff, to the opportunity to be part of God’s beating heart for this world. We get to say “Before I die, God wants me to ___________ . So, tonight we admit that death is real, but as people of faith, people of cross and resurrection, we also live in the hope that death is not the end.
That, actually, it is ok that we will not accomplish all of our plans; it is ok that we will forget sometimes, that we will become distracted—that we sin. It is ok because we do not go through this alone. It is not all up to us, we are part of the life of God that is combining of all of us together throughout all time and place, and even beyond. That God throw’s her life in with ours. And, I don’t know about you, but this night is actually pretty cool. You see, instead of being awful. Ash Wednesday is the awe filled combination of sin and forgiveness, ashes and hope, of death and life. Amen.

So tonight in addition to receiving the ashes, we are going to have our own opportunity to think, pray, and share, to Before I die I want to _______. And also Before I die God wants me to _____________. This black cross is chalkboard paper and there is chalk here. and so, when it is time for the ashes. You will be invited to both receive ashes and write on the cross.

Trans Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016

There are things in the bible I just don’t get. That raise all sorts of questions for me. Like, what’s the big deal with Moses’  
shining face? Why did he have to wear a veil? And what kind of a veil was it anyway? Did he have to borrow his wife’s—as women in some cultures wear veils. Was Moses the Bible’s first transvestite? Or did they make something special for him like a man-purse, but a man-veil? Or did he just pull his robe over his head? How did he see where he was walking? How bright was he? It had to be more than just shimmer or afterglow? Was he like spotlight, a high-beam, as bright or brighter than the shining sun—so that when Aaron and the people looked at him, they saw those you know spots in their vision? Maybe it’s just me, but those are some of questions that swirl around in my head. Whatever it was Moses’ veil was meant to cover up that Godly afterglow Radiating from his face. His veil was meant to save the people’s mere mortal eyes from the divine dazzle.
I wish I could say the same thing about the robes I’ve worn. Like the robe I wore in college when I sang in the Wittenberg Choir. These were not the height of fashion, these floor length wide red robes with a white stole made of 100% polyester.

We wore these robes every night on during our Spring break which we spent singing our way through Lutheran churches in the midwest, the south, and even one year in Florida, and unlike our wonderful Village building here, as you well know most of those old Lutheran buildings, even I’m sad to report in the South–are definitely not air conditioned.
So as it happened on one particularly warm, no hot evening, as we were standing there with the lights on, singing one sacred song after another, one of my fellow alto’s started to feel a bit woozy. During the applause between songs I started walking her down a side aisle. She made it to the door, and down she went–fainting in the narthex and lobby. We got her to the floor, somebody started fanning her, and a helpful older member of the congregation/audience, said, “take that robe off”.
“No, no don’t.” I said quickly.
Because under her robe well there was nothin, no clothing, nothin but skin. You see, the Wittenberg choir had this curious tradition each year of having one night declared “Naked Night”, when we singers would wear nothing under our robes, and someone would put a slip of paper in Dr. Busarow’ (our director)’s music, saying something profound like, “there are 55 naked bodies in front of you.” That night was Naked Night.
So unzipping her robe would not just cool her off, but reveal–let’s just say way too much about this young woman.
Robes, albs, veils are there to cover up and conceal, save us from glimpsing, or getting too much exposure, or maybe from seeing what’s really there. And in the church, we haven’t wanted that. We haven’t wanted to be distracted from our devotions, our holy reverie.
 But then along comes Jesus and our story for today when Peter, James, John, and us (by way of the gospel writer Luke) on the mountaintop see Jesus’ appearance changed — transfigured—his face, body, clothing shinning, glowing. His disciples transfixed by the divine glory and hearing God’s command to “Listen”. It is fabulous. Finally they can see Jesus for who he is; no more guessing, no more wondering—the veil of the mundane is replaced to reveal Jesus eternal and ethereal self. We shouldn’t berate and criticize Peter for his comment about building something up there on the mountain for Moses, Elijah, and for Peter. Because now we are getting to see who Jesus really is, in his glory, and isn’t it just heavenly.
But remember what comes next?

The bible doesn’t give us the details, but Jesus is transfigured again, transformed back. Does all the earthy dust and dirt float back up to cover him again—onto his not so bright robe and cloak, to coat his skin his sandaled feet, his pores, his wrinkles and his beard. I wonder if Peter, James, and John, if we can ask is this normal for Jesus? Which is he truly? What is he deep down inside himself? But they don’t, they don’t say a word. They come down the mountain.
Just the very next day, after being told by the divine loudspeaker–MC to listen to him, what does Jesus say?
 let’s out these words “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?” These are not the words of a genteel, and soft spoken, meek and humble Holy man. These words display Jesus’ frustration, exasperation, exhaustion, impatience.
I don’t know about you, but if I’d been there I’d be like Jesus, just choose who are you? Which are you? We want our Jesus to be good guy of godly glory who happily heals our every woe. Who is just so spiritual, he sneezes God’s blessings—with his emotions under control and his spirit at peace—any of our mortal, human nature, tendencies, and failings well hidden, sublimated, and under control. But that’s not the Jesus we see, the Jesus we get, the real Jesus is both the one of Godly glory on the mountaintop and the guy who just mouthed off. With Jesus, we can not cover up or try to ignore the parts we don’t like. 
That’s what we like to do, we like to cover up those things that confuse us, that do not fall neatly into one category or another. That’s why some in our country have such a hard time with trans people, with strong women, with powerful black young men, with sensitive you men. Our scripture for today shows us that God’s not afraid of ambiguity. It is ok to explore who we are, to walk a journey where one day we are one way and the next another. With God there is no hiding, there is no covering up. Jesus allows us to reveal and revel in God’s presence God’s love–which isn’t always glorious, but sometimes is dark, dirty, and even bloody and terrifying and horrifying as execution on the cross. Real faith isn’t forced to choose. Today God pulls the veil away between holy and mundane, between divine and dirt, confession and forgiveness, between bread and body it’s all there mixed together for us to taste, for us to hear, for us to see. God in the flesh with all our ugliness, In all our beauty, with our sin, brokenness and death–Jesus lives a real gory and glorious life for us, for all people. God loves us where we are on our journey, no need to hide, to cover up–no exceptions, no exclusions. Amen

“There’s No Place Like Home”

Sermon for a Slightly Oz Sunday, worship on January 31, 2016

First of all, a thank you to Pastor Matt who put me on this path.

Secondly, this is an oral event; I write it as I may speak it (not even close to grammatically correct).

“There’s no place like home” (Tap shoes)Smithsonian_National_Museum_of_American_History_-_Dorothy_Ruby_Slippers_(6269207855)-2, there’s no place like home (tap shoes), there’s no place like home.

That’s how in the movie Dorothy is supposed to return home to Kansas from her travels and travails, her adventures in the land of Oz. I’ve never really understood why she would want to return home. Kansas is grey and harsh, her Aunty Em and Uncle Henry are not terribly affectionate folk. Why does she want to go to that home, after flying off to Oz with it’s colors yellow brick road, emerald city, befriending the scarecrow, tinman, and lion, exterminating two wicked witches, and freeing the little people. But she does.

Dorothy wants to go home. It is what she knows best; she feels loved; it’s where she belongs So, for some people there is no place like home. (Tap).

For others–let’s say not so much. Or put another way, There is no place, like home. For some of us our relationship to home can be problematic and troubling. Home isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be–just ask Jesus. At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus’ hometown has the distinction of being the first (but not last) first place to judge and reject him. Of course, not right away. We heard about that last week. Oh yes, they liked what he had to say—sight to the blind, good news to the poor, freedom for the oppressed. Who wouldn’t be pleased as punch to get some of that. And, of course as Jesus’ hometown, as his old neighbors and friends, his peeps so to speak they are probably raring to receive all the goodies he’s got in store. But then “there’s no place like home” and Jesus tells them. There’s no place like home for a prophet, there’s no place like home to be rejected and almost tossed off a cliff.

Because, well when it comes to God’s mercy, forgiveness, healing, love–the really is no place like home. There is no special perks, no bene’s, no special reward. God ignores our walls, the boundaries we build, the who’s in and who’s out. The good stuff that God’s got going on isn’t just for the citizen, the Christian, the tax payer, the landowner, but for the immigrant, the refugee, the foreigner, even for our enemy. All of them. Basically it’s as if Jesus strolled on in here to Village church and stood here and said God loves you, and God loves Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, and God loves Donald Trump.

There is no place like home for God’s grace. I know it’s hard hear, but it’s also good to hear.

For those of us for whom there is no place like home. Those of us who know and have felt real pain, grief, and disappointment and hurt “at home”. When our family, those who should make a home for us can not accept our sexuality, our politics, our faith, our personality, our identity. When those who should have made home a safe place, but instead build a house of lies and abuse. For too many of us, “there is no place like home”. For those who wouldn’t even dream of clicking our heals three times to go back. We don’t have to. God’s love doesn’t have to live there. We don’t even need to look somewhere over the rainbow. For us home is where the heart is, and Jesus tells us God’s heart is with us, God’s heart is for us. God’s home is with us. Amen.