Archive | May 2017

Totally, absolutely, absurd

One of the hardest things for me to believe in the Bible is the story about Jesus ascending into heaven. I can grasp the birth, death and even the resurrection but the picture of Jesus being lifted to the clouds was a stumbling block. Until I read the story more carefully and I found the disciples at the heart of it. Wherever the disciples are, I am. What I stumble over they do too. Sometimes in that stumbling I get a wake up call.

The disciples asked Jesus; Give us a little more information. Is this when you are going to restore the kingdom to Israel? Always the disciples are stuck in their time and their expectations. They expect Israel is going to come back into power. They don’t get that the kingdom of God is not limited to one nation, no matter how powerful. Like me trying to grasp what is clearly over my head, they want to know “Will it be today, tomorrow, next year? When?”

Talking was clearly not working so Jesus showed them a whole other zone of time and space by surrendering his place on the planet and giving in to being lifted up. He showed them what it means to have God call the shots.

Here is where the shocked friends helped me take a great leap of faith. They stood there, gawking, staring up to the skies. pexels-photo-31004

If there was one of those little bubbles over their heads that tell you what people are thinking, I am sure that the words would be “This is absurd! People don’t fly. Birds do!”

If the first and most intimate friends of Jesus could be baffled by this absurd ascension I can be too. Absurd means wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate and that totally describes what happened. But absurd does not mean untrue – just unreasonable, illogical, and inappropriate.

What has even been appropriate about Jesus? Born in a stable to an unwed mother, teaching heretical things like “the first shall be last” then dying on a cross and resurrecting three days later – none of this is what anyone would call appropriate. All of it, from start to finish, if there is a finish, is the heart and soul of Jesus.

Off they went – walking back to Jerusalem to the room where they locked themselves in, men and women, for a 10 day prayer fest. We might call it a silent retreat. They did not say “Forget it, I quit.” They said “Lord, what now? You who prayed out loud for us so that we could feel how you and God and the Spirit are one with us…even when we are scratching our heads…now what?”

Nothing about Jesus is understandable. Knowing the One God Jesus Spirit means sitting and holding the space and waiting. Waiting on God – a good enough definition of worship – is what we are left with. And that my friends is how I have made my peace with the whole story. Eternal life with or without an ascension is not about death or rebirth or coming back home. It is knowing and being in love with God and each other. No matter what happens or doesn’t happen. Thanks be to God.

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In love’s service.


Thorton Wilder said “In love’s service only wounded soldiers can serve.”

In his first letter to the struggling early Christian communities the Apostle and letter writer Peter tried to bolster their strength by telling them that suffering in itself is worthless so do not take it on. “Who can harm you if you are eager to do what is good?” But suffering that is laced with love and speaks of hope can save lives. And that is a blessing indeed.

Last Sunday I trekked to Greenfield for the Cathedral in the Light street worship service after already leading two worship services at my own church. I had already broken bread and passed the cup. I had sung hymns and loved up the little children in our family service. But I was not ready to call it a day. Last Sunday I needed more help, more consolation, and more truth to make it through another week. I understood on Sunday why during Lent my father walked all of his children to church every morning before school. He knew we needed to develop a hunger for the bread of life so we would know when we needed bread as adults.

In the on and off again rain the piano player called us to worship. I saw weather beaten expectant faces and eager hands. We prayed – God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  We sang and prayed and huddled under the flimsy shelter.

Then came the offering. What do the wounded and the hungry, the hopeful and the wondering have to offer? At Cathedral in the Light money is in short supply and love spills over. Because “in love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve” when it is time to take the offering we pass a basket and everyone gets to take out, not put in, but take out, a token that represents something of who we are. A stone that says “love” or “peace” or “hope.” A shell that is broken. A piece of drift wood. Our choice. And then we get, in our own timing, to put the item on the cross.

cathedral pic

In his lifetime Peter had seen Jesus suffer, die and rise again. Peter knew first hand what it meant to love and betray and be forgiven. And so he said with the certainty of one who was there “Jesus Christ made alive in spirit made a proclamation to the spirits in prison.”

Jesus proclaims to you and to me, to all the wounded, the sick, the sorrowful, and the broken. If you love me you will do my commands. In love’s service the wounded soldiers serve. And we did. We served bread and juice on the street and we thanked God for all the help we got. We were hungry for justice and bread and we were fed the Spirit of Truth, the courage and the love that knows no bounds. Thanks be to God.

 

Signs of the times.

water-sign-arrow-directionChristians are known for looking for the “signs of our times.” Whether the three Magi searching the sky, the followers of Jesus searching for signs that the Messiah has come or is about to come, or the skeptics asking for clear and indisputable signs and miracles, we are a people who think about where we are in time and space and who look for direction for “our times.” We hearken back to our religious ancestor Esther, hiding her identity as she hid out in the Persian harem, and her uncle Mordecai who called her out of the palace to face her destiny. “Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for such a time as this.” And who, Christian or not, does not relate to the call to respond and push back that echoes in the folk song “Signs, signs, everywhere are signs.”

I enjoy looking at the signs coming up lately in my local community as we all, in our own different ways, struggle to make meaning of the signs of our times. The signs of our times are all mixed up with political and cultural messages, screaming hate speech and a daily read of fear mongering. So what signs am I seeing that give me hope in such a time as this? What do I see?

I see signs on the churches that go farther than the bland “All are welcome” and instead say more specifically “Immigrants and refugees are welcome here.” Or the ones that bravely put out a rainbow flag (talk about a sign of promise and hope in itself) and say with humor and directness “Everybody welcome. Seriously, everybody!” And how about the signs like “Respect your Mother” that popped up everywhere this Earth Day when Mother Earth is melting at a rapid rate. Or the one that I saw carried by a protestor at the Science March in New Haven Connecticut “Feeling crabby? Take action!” Signs of the times give clarity to the times and to our responsibility to those signs.

Sure you can point to a whole bunch of other signs of the time that speak to a whole different view of the world. Signs, signs everywhere are signs. What the signs of our times means to me is that what we show and stand for, to some real extent, does create the climate of our times. For such a time as this we have been called to come out of the closet of silence and say what we see and what we trust and what we are willing to stand for. God said “You are my witness.” What we see and what we speak makes a difference about our time and our place and the future. What are you a sign for?