Worship with us Sundays at 11 - Venga a adorar con nosotros los domingos a las 11
I was reading a passage from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 2, in which Jesus was walking through the town of Capernaum just off the Sea of Galilee. And as he’s walking through town, he comes across this place, and as you image this, I want you to think of a place that you would do everything you could to avoid … like it’s that part of town where the bill collector is, who comes after you randomly, wanting money and money and money – that is what places is where Jesus goes. So, imagine all the crowds were following him, walking with him. On this route, he decides to go past this place where this guy Levi, the tax collector is. And as Levi is sitting there looking at this guy, probably expecting him to completely judge him, what Jesus does instead is calls him along. The crowds must have been shocked, and if fact, we know they were, because they said, “Jesus what are you doing? He is a tax collector!” And not only did he walk with Levi and talk to him, Levi had him over for dinner with his tax collector and sinner friends. Yikes! As I read this text, I think about all the people I would be mad at Jesus for loving and welcoming. I think about how I expect Jesus to have a blocked list just like I do, for all the people who I anticipate are beyond the pale of God‘s love. But the truth is – and this turns out to be good news, folks – is that God doesn’t have a blocked list. That includes you it includes me, but it also includes our worst enemy. That’s a tough part of the good news but in fact that’s what we all need. Salvation that we didn’t earn. Amen.
So this week, everyone is talking all about the royal wedding. And I, of course, want to focus in, as we think about the great love on display, as Bishop Michael Curry put it in his fantastic homily… he said, “two people fell in love, and here we all are.” And I want to think about the love he talked about. Because what Bishop Curry did from that pulpit at Windsor Castle, is that he brought the fire. And fire might sound like it’s a bad thing, but this is Pentecost. And Pentecost within the Church’s liturgical year is the day that the Holy Spirit came and tongues like fire were alive with the Holy Spirit and the message of God, and God‘s love. And how appropriate that he brought that fire to this young couple as they embark on their love together. And as the world reflects on love, thank you, Bishop Curry, because the message of Jesus Christ is one that brings the fire of love that kindles the flames that will bring transformation of the world to all those who need it. I especially also want to thank Bishop Curry, who very subtly invoked the concept of “sanctuary.” And he said that if we truly live from love then the globe becomes a sanctuary for its people, which is both a revolutionary statement, appropriately so – since the Christian faith is always revolutionary, it always changes and transforms – but also because sanctuary is a global need. People must be safe, people must be beloved, and people must live in the house of the Lord wherever they go. So thank you to Bishop Curry. Thank you to the Royal Family for having the guts to invite him. And may we all be inspired by God‘s love. Amen.
It’s Mother’s Day week, and in churches across the country, this Sunday – sometimes for the only time in the year – pulpits open up to women who can stand and preach God‘s word. On this one day. And I always wonder about that, because Church has always had such a complicated relationship with women and our bodies, as if the only time it makes sense to hear from a woman in church – especially in reflecting on God‘s word – is when we’re thinking about motherhood. But women have way more important roles to play. And if you ever sit in Bible study with a woman, clearly, we are also hearing from God. So why can’t God‘s people hear from us? I have a challenge to churches that only allow women to preach on Mother’s Day or Women’s Day or combine the two: realize that women are more than mothers, and some women are not mothers. Realize that women know God and can talk about God. Realize that women love God just like everyone else and that God, even God our Father, even mothers us. Listen for the word of God from anyone who is ready to testify to the good news of Jesus Christ. And hear and see the world transformed. Amen.
In the book of Acts, we learn about the Ethiopian Eunuch, who is famous now for their faith. In the story, the person is sitting in their carriage reading a book. It turns out that book is the Bible. And the story that person was interested in was about the lamb led to slaughter. Like a sheep led to slaughter, like a lamb before its shearers stands silent. The Ethiopian Eunuch had a question for Philip as he jumped into their carriage, and said, “Who is this story about?” Philip’s answer essentially was that it’s about Jesus. The Ethiopian Eunuch, I think, was testing Philip. Because who would know, who would know the pain of being like a lamb led to slaughter more than someone who had been neutered by their masters so that they could become more trustworthy? We watch again and again as there are so many examples of people in power trying to neuter us – to lead us to slaughter as if we were lambs – so that we would be submissive and silent. And the big power from the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch then is that Jesus knows about this. That God has, as James Cone had said, already chosen sides in the struggles of the oppressed, that God does not intend for anyone to be a lamb, including you. But when you are, know that God stands with you. And as we tell that story, unlike the Bible does with the Ethiopian Eunuch, we’d better learn your name. Amen.
I believe that one of the biggest challenges facing us culturally and as a society is that many of us have no clue what it means to love. And the Bible knows this, it’s not a brand-new problem. Jesus addresses it as he tells people what the most important thing is to do, is to love the Lord your God with all you heart, your soul, and your mind – and your neighbor as yourself – he said that is the greatest commandment. And yet, why do we walk around 2000 years later completely confused about how to pull that off? The love commandment has to come first. If we truly, truly love God, then that means we’re putting God first, which means that we’re loving first. And we’re not being seduced by all the whimsical nature of the definitions of love that we hear in society, we hear it in love songs. Love is a feeling, it’s so seductive. In fact, it’s so seductive, that we’re chasing it, when really what we should be chasing is our love for God, which is enduring. It’s not a feeling. It’s a whole series of actions. And so, our call in this time, if we truly want to follow Jesus, is to figure out how love can be more than just passing fancy, but the actions in which we show, and prove, every day in our lives, that we love god more than anything else. Amen.
On Easter, we’re reminded of a God who’s been everywhere, will go anywhere, and will lift us up. I listen to the story of the Resurrection, when people went in great despair, expecting the very worst. And what God did was to show up for them. To show up – that is Resurrection. Resurrection means God has shown up. Got has come even from the depths of death into life. And God has shown up to show us that God will always bring life out of death. And so we celebrate this Easter with thanks for God, thanks to God, that no matter what, God will always show up. Thanks be to God. Amen.
On Good Friday, we are reminded that there are no lengths that God isn’t willing to go for us. We look at a cross that Jesus had to carry. And as we carry our own crosses, we know that, whatever we’ve gone through, whatever we experience, God has seen it too, personally. And so, I hope that as you look at the story of the Passion, of God’s passion for you and for every single created human, you will see that wherever God has gone, you might have to go, but you’ll also go with God. Wherever you will go, God has been and made it through. And wherever God is going to ask you to go, God will carry you through. God has carried the cross. God will carry you. And so, as we sit in the darkness of the shadows that came upon the land after they killed Jesus, we remember that, whatever they tried to kill, God can bring to life, and will bring to life, especially that which God has made. So, know that you, made by God, are held and cherished even through the darkest shadows. And look to Easter, look three days ahead, when the new day will come. Amen.
We begin Holy Week with a cry of a word that perhaps we need to remind ourselves of: Hosanna. Hosanna, which means, “Lord save us.” We begin Holy Week calling out for salvation. Calling out for the help of a God who promises to offer that. But as we walk into Holy Week, we’re also aware that every time we call out “Lord save us,” we come with an agenda. We think we know precisely, or at least we have a strong idea of, what that should mean. My invitation to us in this time, as we call out our hosannas to the God who promises, and has already delivered salvation, is that we leave ourselves open to what that truly means for us. What God intends for us, not what we intend for God. And when we place that orientation right, and when we are ready to let God be God, and that God is great and that God‘s imagination is broader than ours, and this salvation God offers us will be precisely what we need, far beyond what we could have ever prescribed. Thanks be to God. Amen.