So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Live In Love: Ephesians 4:25-5:2
When I was in seminary, I learned a song that went something like this, “I know I’ve been changed. I... I know I’ve been changed. I... I know I’ve changed. The angels in heaven gonna sign my name.” It’s an old gospel song. You may have heard Aaron Neville or Tom Waits or the Staple Singles cover it on some of their albums. It is a song written from the perspective of someone who has had a religious conversion. They have become a Christian and feel the Holy Spirit working on them. Something has changed and they are ready to testify to that change in word and deed. They go on to sing, “I know I been converted./Lord knows I been redeemed./ You can wake me up in the midnight’s hour/And I’ll tell you just what I seen.” One of my favorite things about this song is that it asserts that religious belief isn’t just something you talk about or an extraneous part of your life. This song demonstrates an understanding of faith as a force- it changes you- and also a tool- with it, you help change the world. It is a great song, and it is a song that reminds me of today’s reading.
This part of Ephesians is about how to actually live a life shaped by the Gospel. It is about concrete practices for living out a faith that changes you. This is a faith that can completely overturn your life. It is a faith that makes you rethink cultural divisions that you once thought were unchangeable. It is a faith that demands both confession and forgiveness. It is a faith that asks you to give up power to be a servant. You will be changed if you are actually committed to it. But the change doesn’t happen all at once. It keeps happening. There are even some ways you can live in community that help you continue to be changed by the Spirit present in others. Today’s reading is about helping Christians continue to be changed by and changed for one another. It’s pretty powerful.
In our current cultural context, and frankly, during any times of anxiety, it can be easier to be short or contemptuous or ungenerous with people with whom we disagree, even at church, where love is to be our guide. This author believes that there are seven practices that can help us live into the change Christ is making in us. Here’s how they spell them out:
1) There is to be no falsehood in the church. Lies or hateful speech that are only intended to cause harm has no place in religious community. That doesn’t mean telling the truth is always easy. It’s not. But it should be done without malice, manipulation, or intent to slander.
2) It’s ok to be angry. But don’t let the anger make you forget your commitment to God and one another. Anger is often justified and is an appropriate response to injustice. But, don’t let your anger be corrosive or fester.
3) Don’t steal stuff. Allow people who have stolen things the option to make amends. Practice grace by allowing former thieves the opportunity to return to honest labor and service of neighbor.
4) Let no evil come out of your mouth. I read once that this phrase is better translated as “let no putrid talk come out of your mouth.” Don’t say malicious words that infect the entire community. Putrefaction is a sign of death. This a community of life where Christ is a fragrant offering.
5) Do not lament these changes that are being asked of you. Yes, itt is hard to change. It is hard to learn to live life differently. This guidance is a gift, even when living different is a struggle. The changes brought on by the struggle to live life anew are signs of the Holy Spirit. These holy struggles are what redemption looks like.
6) Put aside bitterness, wrath, and manipulation. It does not further the cause of Christ.
7) Be kind. Forgive others as you have been forgiven. Confession and forgiveness are central to who we are.
These seven pieces of guidance, not rules, exactly, but practices to guide our life together, they are not simple. But, they are good. They are worth trying. The person who wrote Ephesians (we’re not sure if it was Paul or a student of Paul’s) said to follow this guidance is no small feat. He said it was, in fact, like imitating God. You see, God is rooted in truth and resists malice. God offers forgiveness in place of bitterness. God allows second chances. When we do these things, we are living a life changed by the God whom we imitate... we are reflecting God’s light through the prism of our own experience, back out into the world.
This is a world that too often needs a reminder of God’s spirit of love and forgiveness. This weekend is the anniversary of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one woman, Heather Heyer, who was imitating God’s call to truth-telling, was run over by a white supremacist attending the rally. Today, white supremacists are rallying in Washington, D.C. to call for the creation of a version of this country that runs completely counter to the values outlined in today’s scripture. These events, both a year ago and today, are marked by bitterness, malice, manipulation, and fear. Thank God the church can be a counter example of such hatefulness. Thank God that Jesus showed us how to live differently in this world. Thank God that Gaby, Alice, and Penny are being baptized today, reminding us of what it means to commit to God and to a community of faith. We have already been made more generous, more lively, and more kind by their presence in this church. Their choice to partake in this sacrament is a gift to us, reminding us of the power of faith to change ourselves and our world for the better.
I know I’ve been changed. I know they’ve been changed. I know we’ve been changed and we can be instruments through which God works to change this world. We will imitate God today, welcoming them, again, into this church. They will imitate God today, by standing with us and celebrating. May we all be ready to imitate God in this world. It is so much better to live in love than in hate. Indeed, that’s how we know we’ve been changed. When we seek that kind of love instead of malice. Let us practice this love together and out in the world beyond our doors.
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following sources while writing her sermon:
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’
(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:1-16- Growing in Every Way
In a recent conversation with my colleague Rabbi Erica Asch, she said that she thinks when certain ideas are repeated in the Bible, it doesn’t just mean they are important, it also means that they were hard for people to learn. God, and our ancient teachers, have to keep repeating themselves because we keep forgetting the lesson. Our reading from Ephesians carries with it a lesson that might seem familiar to people who have heard different parts of the Bible. You may have heard something like it when the disciples were arguing amongst themselves in the Gospel of Mark. Or maybe you heard something similar in the letters to the Corinthians when the people argue about, well, everything. I imagine that this reading may feel familiar if you’ve ever been a part of a group of people that has struggled to have one single identity when members of the group feel like they are really different from each other. Being a church, a group of loving but fallible humans, has never been easy. It wasn’t during the earliest days of this movement and it’s not now. But, it is possible to have rich, gracious Christian community shared among all kinds of people. We just keep needing to be reminded of that fact. This portion of Ephesians shows how one particular group of Christians kept learning how to be church together.
Scholars tell us that Ephesus was an important and diverse city in ancient Rome. It is not surprising that the church reflected the community in which it developed. Some of these Christians were Jewish. Some were Gentile. The early Christian movement became well known for including people of lots of different ethnicities, as well as different social classes. Slaves, wealthy widow women, everyday tradespeople, fishermen, and farmers all came together in many ancient churches. While it was great to live in such a diverse community, it could also be difficult to build relationships class and ethnic boundaries. This is certainly true of the diverse church of Ephesus.
They were complaining about each other, specifically about who got to have the most authority and privilege in their community. According to the scholar Grace Ji-Sun Kim, it appears that these Christians wanted to draw lines of privilege based on both ethnic background and type of service to which one was called, types of service that I imagine may be connected to levels of education and training that people had attained. Thankfully, the author of this letter knew that Christ calls us to a community that is guided not by old social divisions, but new love in Christ.
Some people thought that the Jewish followers of Jesus, who had been Jewish himself, should have greater authority than people who came to Christ from other religious and ethnic groups. This author had to explain to them that Christ had broken down the divisions between Jew and Gentile, and that they were to no longer be bound by this particular cultural divisions. In chapter 2 of Ephesians, this author explains it this way: “For [Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us... he came and proclaimed peace to those who were far off and peace to those who were near.” Jesus himself gives people a special revelation of God that is not bound to their ethnic group.
There is a second, also important conflict in this community. That is the main point of this part of chapter 4. Not only are they having trouble navigating the old division between Jew and Gentile, they are also arguing about what kind of spiritual gifts are most important. Apparently, rather than celebrating having members who have a diversity of talents and gifts from God, they were arguing over who's gifts were most important. It would be like our Sunday School teachers, choir, trustees, and deacons all fighting over whose job was more important to the church. They apparently spent at least part of their precious time together jockeying for position, trying to assert that prophets were more important than pastors or teachers more important that apostles.
This author had to explain that such arguments were a waste of time and took away from the unity that they were seeking in the Gospel. He had to explain that all people received grace through Christ, and that just because the gifts may be different, that doesn't mean that one set of gifts is better than the other. These folks needed to be reminded that it takes all kinds to build the church, and it does the Gospel no good to pit people in the church against each other based on what they have gifts for doing at church. As scholar Susan Hylen put it, Christ does not require uniformity to create unity in the church. Grace abounds in many different forms and the church is richer for it.
On this day, when we welcome two people into Christian community through baptism, it is helpful to read this reminder that all of us have gifts that strengthen the church. We are a whole body, knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped. These two, Autumn and Charlotte, bring with them gifts and abilities that make us stronger and more ready to follow Jesus. This reading and their presence reminds us that each part of Christ’s body has been given gifts that allow us to serve our neighbor. We are called to use all these gifts for equipping the saints so they can better follow the Gospel. There isn’t a hierarchy of gifts. Being the body of Christ means that we are working together enriched by our differences, not divided by them.
While I think this author may underestimate the gift of childlike grace, I do think they were on to something when they talked about “growing in every way” so that we become more like Christ who is leading us. It’s like we are all puzzle pieces, holding a small spark of God, that can only be clearly seen when we join together. Without each of our gifts, we miss something of the Divine. When we all aren’t present, we don’t have all the ligaments that help us move. Even though we are spending our day celebrating Autumn and Charlotte’s baptism, and we typically aren’t arguing about prestige and authority, I think it’s good to be reminded just how necessary we each are to the whole. It is our calling to equip the saints in our lives and to recognize the gifts they bring to the church. The gifts don't have to all be the same. The people don’t have to be all the same either. We just have to be ready to use what we have to serve God and neighbor. God has never needed us to be all the same. God has just needed us to be ready. Are you ready to grow in every way?
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following resources while writing this sermon:
Karoline Lewis: http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=5203
Brian Peterson: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3749
Sarah Henrich: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2599
Susan Hylen: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=373
Grace Ji-Sun Kim, "Proper 13 ," Preaching God's Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year B Featuring 22 New Holy Days for Justice, eds Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Ronald J. Allen, And Dale P. Andrews (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011)
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songsand lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.
It was told King David, ‘The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.’ So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lordhad gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
They brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt-offerings and offerings of well-being before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt-offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people went back to their homes.
To Dance with God: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
What exactly is this ark that has gotten David so excited that he is dancing down the street? This does not seem like typical king behavior. Given that we don’t talk about the ark of the covenant every week, it's probably a good idea to take some time to remind ourselves just what it is. I mean, some of us might have some idea because we've seen that one Indiana Jones movie where a bunch of Nazis are looking for it and end up with their faces melted off. I must warn you, there is much less face-melting in 2nd Samuel. There are a few plagues and a whole bunch of dancing, but no face-melting. What is all this dancing about anyway? Who is it for?
The scholar Samuel Giere wrote a summary that I found helpful, especially since the ark is in two other books before it pops back up here in this book. Here's the short version of the ark's history. Way back during the Exodus, God told Moses to have someone craft an ark, which is kind of a container, that will hold the tablets of the first ten commandments. An artisan named Bezalel created it. Moses put the tablets inside and then put the whole thing into the newly constructed tabernacle. When they left Mount Sinai, they carried the ark with them. Later, in the book of Joshua, the ark was at the front of their procession across the Jordan River. And, later still, in the terrible massacre of Jericho, the soldiers march the ark around the city walls before the walls come tumbling down.
Then, we really don't hear about the ark again until the time of Samuel, the last judge to rule the Israelites before the monarchy began. Samuel slept in the room with the ark when he was a boy. In this book of the Bible, the people called the Philistines are the greatest enemies of the Israelites. Early in 1st Samuel, they steal the ark. While nobody's face melts off, a bunch of other really bad stuff happens to them, like tumors and town-wide panics. Scripture tells us they were happy to give the ark back, and even threw in a little extra gold for the Israelites trouble. The ark got left in a town called Baale- Judah. David, our dancing king, decided to bring it from there to Jerusalem.
To catch us up on what has been going on in 2nd Samuel, David had been consolidating his power and had defeated the Philistines, winning the city of Jerusalem. As one who, since a very young age, has felt God at work in his life, David wanted to bring the ark, the symbol of the covenant and the very presence of God, into the city that would come to be central to Israelite worship. Remember, this ark isn't simply a keepsake box to hold special trinkets. That is one thing the Indiana Jones movie got right. It was very special. Somewhere between its creation and the march into the Promised Land, this ark became known the central site for God's presence with God's people. It's like when you hold a magnifying glass in the sun, condensing all the sun's powers into one hot, burning point: The ark was the hot, burning point of God. The ark is God's throne. The ark is also a speaker through which God makes Godself known. In parts of Numbers and Exodus, it says that Moses would hear God from between the two Cherubin on the ark. In retrospect, it makes sense that David would want this tangible presence of God to be in the midst of his people in their new capital.
I imagine that many of us understand the celebration part of this story. A battle has been won and God is being brought into the city. Of course, David would dance. Of course, the people would play instruments and sing with great joy. Of course, they would build a brand-new cart in which to transport the ark. God was returning to the midst of the people. This is a reason to celebrate. So, bring on the lyres, harps, tambourines, and cymbals! But this story isn’t all celebration.
I don't know if you were paying attention to this whole passage, but did you notice that the story goes from verses 1-6 to verses 12-19. There's a story in the middle that’s left out of today’s reading. It is not a joyful one. It’s one that reminds us that God's power as resides in the ark is not a neutral force. For all the joy that can come from restoration with the Divine, the God of David was dangerous, too. When the ark was not handled with a specific kind of care, people could die, and, not just people who were identified as enemies like the Philistines. In the story that is left out of today's reading, an Israelite man named Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark to keep it from tipping out of the fancy new cart. God got mad. God killed Uzzah because he touched the ark without permission. It doesn't seem to matter that Uzzah was trying to keep the ark from falling. He still died.
David, who had moments earlier been dancing his heart out, erupted in fear and anger against God. He did not anticipate a seemingly innocent man's death in the middle of his victorious parade. David then began to doubt that he could be a good steward of the ark. After such a terrible incident, he said, "How can the ark of the Lord come into my care?" He took it to the home of a man named Obed-edom and left it there for three months. He could not see a way forward after such a terrible and terrifying act. I read a scholar this week named David Garber, Jr. who said this part of the story, the story of the death of Uzzah, is hard for a lot of Christians to know what to do with. We often think of God as approachable, like as Jesus who welcomes children or a God who is like a gentle, powerful parent. This God in this story is the opposite of approachable. Garber says this God is shaped by a sense of dangerous otherness. We end up doing what David did. Put that terrifying mystery somewhere else. We don’t tell that story at church. We avoid the dangerous other until we can figure out what to do with it. Let’s skip that part of the story and get back to the dancing.
We do eventually get back to the dancing. Having the ark, while dangerous, was also a blessing to Obed-edom. His household prospered. Three months after the first disastrous attempt to bring the ark into Jerusalem, David tried again. He danced again, though it seems with more intention and maybe a touch of solemnity. David danced before God giving all he could, with only trumpets to guide the rhythm. He does something other interesting stuff, too, stuff that priests only usually did. He wore a small piece of clothing called an ephod (and little else). He performed a sacrifice. He constructed a tent in which to house the ark. He even blessed and fed his people. His wife Michal saw all this leaping and dancing in not nearly enough clothes and though David had debased himself instead of shorn up his reign as king. But, David was satisfied with his procession. The people seemed satisfied, too. God quietly sat among the people, not too disturbed to strike anyone down and seemingly prepared to offer blessing over punishment once again.
This is a complex text, isn't it? I mean, the most straightforward reading, the one facilitated by chopping up the story to emphasize the two dancing parades while also pairing it with today’s other reading, the joyful Psalm 24 that discusses God's power and enthronement over the world... that reading is a pretty joyful one. Our church and our world could probably use some more joyful dancing. But, a comedian named Hannah Gadsby recently pointed out, our stories are shaped as much by what we don't tell as what we do tell. Uzzah died, punished by a mysterious God. Michal was not impressed by her husband's pageantry. This story, while bracketed by raucous dancing, is not wholly joyful. The God in this story, pleased with dance and song, but angered by an errant touch, is not wholly approachable or even really fully comprehensible.
Another scholar I read this week, Cláudio Carvalhaes, suggested asking a couple questions of a text to help capture the breadth of possible interpretations and maybe even identify what interpretation is most needed today. Let's think about the most local version of “community” first. What does each text have to do with us and our community of Winthrop? On your bulletin, write down these questions: What is God telling us to consider? What is God telling us to do in Winthrop? To Change? To Move? To Engage? To transform, right here, today with guidance from this complicated story? We are in a curious season of the church year, between the firey beginnings of Pentecost and the expectant and hopeful beginnings of Advent. This is a time when we are guided by the Holy Spirit, through the texts we've inherited. What is the Spirit telling you about these texts today? Let's be quiet together for just a moment, then we'll sing a little and pray. After that, I‘ll invite you to share what the text and the Spirit are saying to you today.
* If you are reading this sermon after I preached it, I invite you to write in the comment section of this post what about this story is inspiring you today.
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following sources while writing this sermon:
Samuel Giere: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3683
Cláudio Carvalhaes, "Proper 10(15)," Preaching God's Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year B Featuring 22 New Holy Days for Justice, eds Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Ronald J. Allen, And Dale P. Andrews (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011)
David G. Garber, Jr.: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2526
He left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Maryand brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
What You Carry With You
I went back this week and looked at the first sermon I preached here as your pastor. Not the one with the plates... that was my candidating sermon (if you weren't here for the sermon about the plates, ask me about it after church)… but the first one I preached after I officially began my time here as your pastor. I remember feeling a lot of pressure that Sunday... pressure to do well, pressure to be interesting and insightful, pressure to do right by the scripture I was preaching. And, boi, was it a doozy. It was so complicated. It was a part of Matthew 11 that was half annoyed Jesus and half compassionate Jesus. It's not that irritation and compassion don't go together. How many of us have found ourselves both irritated and compassionate over the last couple weeks? That's what Jesus was feeling in that reading. Frustrated with religious leaders in his community and trying to lead with compassion in his life. It was a heavy story from the middle of Jesus' ministry that was about being in the middle, as in, in the midst of ministry. At the beginning of our ministry together, I had been hoping for something a little perkier to start off our time together.
I think I was looking for an optimistic setting-off-on-an-adventure story. Kind of like a "once upon a time" but without the fairytale mess that can follow. But, since I often preach from a preset reading schedule precisely so I will be pushed to preach difficult texts, I went with the text suggested for the day. Four years later, I've been trying to figure out if I would have been more confident then preaching on our Gospel text for today. This story from Mark isn't from the middle of ministry. It's fairly near the beginning. Jesus has been baptized. He has been doing some preaching and healing. He's even gotten some disciples. He has been traveling around the area a bit and has decided to return to his hometown. We're not exactly sure why he came back, but it seems like he's beginning something, and his hometown is as good a place to start as any. On my first Sunday as your pastor, maybe I would have liked to preach about something starting. Or, maybe not. It turns out that this was not the most auspicious of beginnings.
Did you hear what happened in this story? Jesus was back home preaching at the synagogue and everybody wondered who they heck he was. I mean, they knew who he was. He was a carpenter. They knew his brothers James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. They saw his sisters crowded around. They knew his mama. Most of all, they knew that skilled in wood-working though he may be, there was no way he should have had the confidence to preach the way he did. How could a boy from this neighborhood grow up to be a man who could work such miracles? There was no way he could. They had changed his diapers. They knew all the stories of his teenage indiscretions. There was no way they could take him seriously. So, scripture tells us, they didn't.
Their inability to take Jesus seriously ends up having real consequences. Did you notice the part where Jesus is unable to heal anyone there? It said, "he could do no deeds of power except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them." A scholar I read this week said we need to pay particular attention to this part. In the first five chapters of Mark, Jesus is able to do all kinds of things that demonstrate his power. Just last week we heard about the woman who was healed after touching his cloak and another girl he healed. In the first five chapters, he was powerful enough that just touching his clothes could heal someone. He was powerful enough that even death could not stop him. Why, all the sudden, wouldn't Jesus be able to live out such power? The scholar I read this week, Bonnie Bowman Thurston, says it has everything to do with what the people believe.
Let’s look back at some of the other works of power Jesus performed. In Mark 2:5, a man is brought to Jesus to be healed. His friends actually lower him through a hole in the roof of building in order to get to Jesus. Jesus saw the faith of this man, and the friends who lowered him through the hole, and said his sins were forgiven and he told him to pick up his mat and walk. And, the man did. When the woman touched Jesus in 5:34, he said that her faith is what really made her well. Even after this encounter in chapter 6, in chapter 7, when a Syrophoenician woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter, it is her stalwart faith and stubborn hope that convinced Jesus to do so. Let us also not forget that when a father brought his son to Jesus to be healed in chapter 9, Jesus told the man that all things can be done for the one who believes. Immediately, the man cried out, "I believe; help my unbelief." Jesus healed that man’s son, too.
Did you hear the key element in all of those stories? Belief. In Mark, healing only comes with believing. Power isn't something Jesus inflicts on you without your consent. Every time he speaks, it is an invitation to believe. Those who cannot hear him... who choose not to listen... they miss out on the transformation. When Jesus went home, only a couple people were able to be healed. They believed. Everyone else, they thought they knew Jesus too well for that. How could the carpenter heal anyone? How could Mary's boy preach like that? They were too distracted by what they thought they knew to be able to receive something that would give them new life. How could Jesus start something new with them if they wouldn't believe? The power was always in the belief.
Interestingly, even with the setbacks in his home town, Jesus doesn't stop teaching, though he doesn't stay in town, either. He begins to travel to other villages in the community. It’s like if Winthrop was his home, but he went to Wayne and Monmouth and Readfield, maybe even as far as Fayette and Mount Vernon. Interestingly, he only taught these other towns. He did not do the signs of wonder and healings. It’s like the experience in his hometown taught him that these were his people. They knew him too well to believe. But, he also didn't want to leave them without the possibility of transformation. You see, even if they couldn't believe him, they might believe others. So, he sent out the twelve.
Because divine power in most fully made manifest in relationship, Jesus sent his followers out in sets of two and asked that they be fully reliant on other people's hospitality while they did the work of the Gospel. They could only take a walking stick, the clothes on their back, and the shoes on their feet. This was an urgent calling. They didn't have time to gather provisions. God would provide for them through other people. They were to take the hospitality offered to them, not travel around to see who had the cushiest house for them to stay in. He also gave them another direction. He said, “Don't try to make them let you stay if they can't hear you. Leave. Shake the dust of their homes off your feet. Do not even carry their unbelief with you on to the next, possibly holy ground.” Jesus then gave them the power to heal and drive out unclean spirits, work that only he had been doing up until this point. Off they went, and they healed people and drove away demons. They did the work that others would not have let Jesus do by himself. Their own faith in Jesus helped them carry his message in a way the people could finally hear it.
I began today's sermon remembering my first sermon as your pastor. In that sermon, I talked about how Christ's call to compassion may look heavy and unwieldy, like the yoke we'd find on oxen. Today, four years into our ministry together, I think it's worth noting that sometimes we may have an idea about how we might start a ministry, like Jesus did in his hometown, and sometimes, the first idea doesn't actually work all that well. Sometimes what we're preaching isn't connecting because the people can't hear us. They have too many preconceived notions about who we are and what we could possibly know about healing and wholeness. If the people aren't hearing us, we may have to be like Jesus and find another way to do the Gospel. Jesus sent out the twelve and asked that they fully rely on God and other people. What is our next strategy for sharing Christ's message of healing and wholeness? Are we the ones being sent out, two by two, or are we training up the ones who will be sent?
Jesus' message is worth sharing, even if initially others may not be able to hear us. They didn't always hear Jesus. But, he made sure that everyone got the chance to hear and believe. He found a way to get more people to hear. We can, too. Who are the people who need to hear God's word of love and justice in this place? How can we make sure they hear it from people who they can trust and believe? Who are you able to go to with just a walking stick and sandles, and invite to believe?
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following sources while writing this sermon:
Cláudio Carvalhaes: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3729
Karoline Lewis: http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=5186
Bonnie Bowman Thurston, Preaching Mark (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002)
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ He looked all round to see who had done it.But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’
While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
To Be Touched: Mark 5:21-43
Have you heard about good trouble? That a phrase that civil rights activist and congressman John Lewis uses sometimes to talk about the most important works of his life. Like on May 4th, 2016, he tweeted a picture of a bunch of people who were waiting to get on a bus. He described the picture this way: "55 years ago today, I was one of 13 original Freedom Riders who set out to integrate America's buses. #goodtrouble." Another time, when talking about why he once again began to use the protest tactic of the sit-in, he said, "Sometimes you have to get in the way. You have to make some noise by speaking up and speaking out against injustice & inaction #goodtrouble." That's what he means by the words "good trouble." A disruption of injustice. A willingness to put yourself on the line in order to do what is right. You may be getting in trouble, but it's the good kind of trouble. It's the kind of trouble that makes a difference.
This ethic of "good trouble" rose from his own experience as a black man raised in the Jim Crow South. Growing up in such a hateful political system, black people had to be very careful so as try to avoid the violence that white people were allowed to direct towards them. In the graphic novel about his life, March, Rep. Lewis talks about warnings his parents gave him growing up. "Stay out of trouble. Don't get in white people's way." This was not a heedless fear on their part. From 1882 to 1968, 3,446 African Americans were lynched in the United States, with 73% of those lynchings in the South. When Mr. Lewis was in high school in Alabama, just one state over in Mississippi, another teenage boy named Emmett Till was murdered by white adults who claimed he called a white woman "baby." Keeping your head down.... Not drawing attention... Choosing not to correct people when they were rude or cruel... Not getting in trouble... that is what kept you alive. It's what kept your kid alive.
Representative Lewis learned something though: Sometimes you need to get in trouble to force a change. Sometimes the rules of the society or even of one small community are contrary to what is good and hopeful in the world. Representative Lewis learned this. So, he started getting in good trouble, first as a college student integrating lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. Then, as a freedom rider. Continuing through his activities with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the marches across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, into his work as a public servant, he found power and transformation in getting into "good trouble." And, he helped change the world.
I'm going to suggest that you keep this idea of "good trouble" in mind as you hear these two stories, one of a father advocating for his daughter and another of a woman advocating for herself. These are people who are willing to get in good trouble. Now, they aren't joining in national protests. They are most advocating for themselves and their families. But, in approaching Jesus, they both are willing to look at the social conventions of their time, decide that they were not conducive to life and wholeness, and risk getting in trouble to demonstrate their faith and find healing. This is a story about two people getting into good trouble and about Jesus seeing the wisdom and care in their trouble-making. They show us a way to be brave and follow Jesus. They show us the power of good trouble.
At first glance, with the gift of hindsight, a whole pile of cultural differences, and 2,000 years of Christian tradition, neither of the two people's actions seem all that brave or unsurprising. Those of us who have read Gospel stories for years, who have come to maturity knowing that Jesus can do amazing things, we're not surprised to read the story of two strangers approaching Jesus. I mean, that's what you do when you see Jesus. You ask him for help. How could you not? Well, there were some pretty big reasons why they wouldn't that we miss because our cultures are so different. But, if we don't know about these differences, we miss some of the power of their stories. We miss the good trouble. So, let's take some time to see why they might have had a hard time approaching Jesus in a way that we wouldn't. It might help us figure out how to approach Jesus, too.
First, the woman who touched his cloak: She is a woman alone in public who slides through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus' clothes. According to the research I have read, in the era in which they lived, it was common to believe charismatic teachers and speakers had the power to heal. This comes up in other parts of New Testament, like in Acts 5 and 19. Their clothes were an extension of their body, therefore, an extension of their powers. Knowing this part, we shouldn't be surprised that she would be content to touch his clothes. For someone with faith, they would have believed that this would have been enough to heal them. The clothes thing, it turns out that that's not the surprising part. It's the fact that she thought she could touch him at all that we should pay attention to. You see, her particular physical ailments, likely gynecological in nature, would have deeply affected are ability to engage with other people in her community.
She had been bleeding excessively for many years. Because of her particular ailment, she would have been labeled ritually unclean. People in her community, including a husband if she had one, would have hesitated to have physical contact with her because of her ritual status. While she had once had money, she had used up most of it on doctors who could not help. Her poverty, a product of going bankrupt to pay medical bills, would have also isolated her from the community. To reach out and touch a man, a teacher, who was not a member of her family, someone whom she would then make unclean... these actions put her at even greater risks for ostracism. But she has heard of Jesus' power and his compassion. She knew he could heal her. Her faith pushed her to risk trouble to gain healing. The risk ended up being worth it. He felt her touch. When she admitted what she had done, rather than run away, he praised her, calling her daughter, and sent her on her way in health and peace. She no longer bled. And, she was restored in relationship. And other people learned from her bravery. That is some good trouble.
Jairus is another one who risked trouble in going to Jesus. Jairus is the administrator of the local synagogue. He would have been close with Pharisees. They were the ones who ran the synagogues. Remember, Jesus and the Pharisees were often at odds over their interpretations of the law. I am not certain that it would have looked right for a synagogue administrator to go to a traveling teacher for healing. And, to go to such lengths for a daughter, that might have appeared unseemly... undignified, especially as the man fell at Jesus' feet. It was a risk to go to Jesus. He put his good relationship with local leaders in jeopardy. He put his public reputation in jeopardy. There were other, more appropriate ways to seek help, but he didn't. He believed Jesus could help. He calculated the risk (conflict with his community), and the reward (the restoration of his daughter's health), and decided to push the bounds of what would be deemed appropriate. He pushed his way through the crowd and found Jesus.
Jesus ended up doing something pretty risky, too. Shortly after healing the woman, people came up to him and Jairus and said that Jairus' daughter was dead. There is no need to come heal her anymore. That could be the end of the story. If the reason Jesus was going was to heal her and she was already dead, why go? Why risk ritual contamination by being near a dead body? Dead bodies, like bleeding women, were unclean. But, death did not stop Jesus. He looked at Jairus and said, "Do not fear, only believe." Then, bringing along Peter, James, and John, Jesus went to the girl's bedside. The professional mourners were already present. Jesus said, this girl is not dead but sleeping. With her mother and father by his side, Jesus said to her, "Get up." And, she did. And, he said to feed her something. And, they did.
And, he said to tell no one what had happened. I'm not sure why he did that. Maybe he knew the story would be too incredible and strange to be believed. Maybe he wanted to make space for people to meet him on their own terms, without having heard of him before. Maybe he wanted them to have a miracle story that stayed their own. Whatever Jesus' reason, none of it would have happened had Jairus not been willing to get in some good trouble. His daughter was alive because he was willing to ignore convention and seek help in unexpected places from a man with a dubious reputation. Like with the woman in the crowd, the risk, the trouble changed things. And his family was better for it.
Are you being called to good trouble? What conventions and preoccupations are keeping you from seeking healing in this world? Good trouble is not easy and will not be smooth. Ask John Lewis about his good trouble. But, it is remarkably worthwhile. If the woman and Jairus could talk, I bet they'd agree. I hope you can find your good trouble. And, I hope you know that Jesus is in the good trouble with you. So, do not fear. Only believe. And, be ready to reach out.
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following sources while preparing this sermon:
On Rocks and Boats
Can I tell you one of my favorite stories that I read this week? This couple named Charlotte and Dave Willner had been paying attention to the news about the new family separation immigration policy that began in May. They are parents themselves and were particularly moved by the images of one little girl whose mother was being patted down by a border patrol officer. Ms. Willner recognized her own daughter in that child’s image. She said, “This is the exact face she makes when she's terrified.” Now, lots of people might be moved by such a picture and try to figure out how to help. The Willners definitely were. They had both once worked for the social media company Facebook, and they currently work for other technology companies. They know how much good social media can do when used well. They also knew that Facebook has a new feature where you can set up a fundraiser and share it with your friends. And, they knew that they were pretty good at researching things. They had all these really helpful tools at their disposal.
Working with another friend, they tried to figure out what would be a good way that they could help people coming across the US border with Mexico. They eventually learned about the work of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services. It’s called RAICES for short. This is a legal non-profit organization in Texas that works with new immigrants and people who are refugees. RAICES has a really good reputation and does good work. I’ve seen multiple posts and articles commending them. What caught the Willners' eye was one particular part of their work, their family reunification and bond fund.
To understand why they need that kind of fund, it is helpful to have some background about changes in immigration policy enforcement. I learned about some helpful information about the new family separation policy from a non-profit, non-partisan news organization called the Marshall Project. Before May 7th of this year, if you were caught crossing the border between official border checkpoints without proper documentation, you would face immigration charges in a special immigration court. Families who were caught, or who had presented themselves to immigration authorities to request asylum, were usually detained together in family detention centers. There's one in Texas and one in Pennsylvania. Since 2015, families with kids couldn't be held in that kind of facility for longer than three weeks. A judge said that it was harmful to the children to keep them there longer than that, and that families should be released together so the kids could be with their parents. For the last three years, upon initial arrest, families might be detained for a little while, but, barring suspicion of serious illegal behavior, like child trafficking or drug dealing, they were usually released all together to await their immigration court dates.
Starting this past May, the government began a new policy. People who cross between official check points are no longer allowed to ask for asylum when they meet a border patrol officer in the field (people used to turn themselves in so they could do just that). Things changed once they get arrested, too. Now, rather than send the adults to immigration court, they have to go to federal court to be tried for a federal misdemeanor of cross the border without permission. Remember that all used to be done in immigration court. Only some cases actually went to federal court. Now, everybody goes to federal court. There's one other big change. That's the change that has gotten most of our attention: the family separations. Instead of taking previous court rulings into account that recommended keeping families together during this process, any children who cross with their parents have been taken and funneled into an entirely different agency federal agency than their parent. Remember: The parents aren't even convicted of crimes at this point.
While the parents are being held in federal pre-trial detention, the children are being classified as unaccompanied minors (though they were initially accompanied) and detained by the Department of Health and Human services, often in privately contracted facilities, where they go to wait for their own immigration hearings. The parents often aren't told where their kids are and the kids are often moved to facilities very far from their parents. The parents may be in Texas while the kids are in Florida or New York state. The parents and their lawyers, when they actually have lawyers, are having a very hard time finding the kids once they have been taken. Some parents have been deported without getting their kids back.
Looking at their resources and the enormity of the problem at hand, the Willners decided the thing they could do was to help pay the bond of one parent so at least one person could get out of pre-trial detention and begin the difficult process of finding their kid and being reunited. Every adult's bond will be at least $1500. Much of the time, the bond is between $5,000 and $10,000 dollars, even if the person is an asylum-seeker and has no criminal history. It is hard for them to get bail, in part because bail bond companies don't usually help people in immigration bond proceedings unless they impose very strict requirements on them. RAICES had already been raising money for bonds well before last week and had staff at work to help the parents. Sometimes if you want to help, you help people who've been doing the work longer. Charlotte and Dave Willner started a Facebook fundraiser, hoping to get $1500 together to donate to RAICES that they could help one parent with a low bond get out and get their kid. Just $1500. That seemed like a reasonable donation that they could manage and still feel like they were doing something worthwhile for one family.
They ended up helping way more than one family. I don't know if you've heard about this. As of this morning, Sunday, June 24th, 2018, the little fundraiser that hoped to get $1500 has reached $19,982,160. To put that in perspective, RAICES' own fundraising for all the work they do, not just the bond work, was about $7 million last year. The Willners' fundraiser has been passed around so much that they have raised 2.5 times the nonprofit's yearly needs. RAICES has been raising money on their own, too. They have raised over $5 million dollars on their website. Gobs of other people are giving in other ways, too. Jenny Hixon, the nonprofit's development director, said that they have also received phone calls from literally thousands of people who want to volunteer. People are even offering to come to Texas to help.
What started as a modest goal from one family to help one other family has become millions of dollars that will help thousands of families. RAICES will be channeling the money into two of their programs, the bond fund as well as a fund that provides legal representation to kids who are actually unaccompanied minors. They also are going to share the money with other nonprofits. They know that there are plenty of other groups are doing good work and now is the time for all-hands-on-deck. They will be able to have more lawyers for the parents. They are hiring more people to do the work of finding the kids and getting the parents back in contact with them. And, they will be launching a nationwide network of people who will provide legal support to those who have been detained. They are even working on setting up a network of therapists and psychologists to help families address the likely PTSD and toxic stress of separation. All of this, from a nonprofit that was going to have to stop some of their programming next year. You see, last month, the government stopped funding a grant program that helped some unaccompanied minors get lawyers. That program paid a lot of their bills. RAICES wasn't going to be able to take on any more cases for kids in that situation. But, now they can and they will be able to do so much more. All because one small family used the tools they had to give all the help that they could.
Underdog stories catch people's attention. So do stories of regular people doing extraordinary things. I suspect that's why NPR and the Washington Post and several other news outlets paid attention to the story of the Willner family. The Willners aren't exactly shepherd boys facing down giant warriors, but they are regular people who looked at a monstrously large problem- thousands of children taken from their families- and looked at their resources- social media, the ability to read and research, some money to start off donations- and figured out how to put their resources to work. In that way, they are like David in today's reading.
David could have looked at the challenge before him, a trained and armored warrior, an adult, a confident army... he could have looked at all that was before him and given up before he even started. But he didn't. Armed with five smooth stones, a shepherd's bravery, and the confidence of one who knew he would one day be king, David faced the Philistine's challenge and won, changing the course of not only his life, but the history of his country. The Willners, and all the other people who joined with them to raise literally millions of dollars, they are changing things, too. They will definitely change the lives of all the people RAICES and other nonprofits will help. They helped me feel more hopeful this week, too.
Now, young David and the Willners aren't the only ones who can make a difference. Every single one of us has some divine tool for serving our neighbor at our disposal. David was just a shepherd with slingshot. The Willners are just an upper middle-class family with a computer and a Facebook account. What smooth stones are in your pocket? What gifts to you have that you can use for the public good? The challenge is great. But our God is greater. Like, stop the sea with a word greater. Let's put all these tools to God's use.
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following sources to write this sermon:
Here are a couple articles about the fundraiser
Divided: Psalm 138 and Mark 3:20-35
As you may know, most weeks, I decide my sermon title, which helps guide my sermon research, some time on Tuesday. It usually has something to do with what catches my attention in the scripture or seems timely. After hearing our reading from Mark, where Jesus butts heads with scribes, is at odds with his birth family, is accused of being a demon, and redefines family, I bet you can understand why the image of the "house divided against itself" caught my attention. Have you heard a scripture that is a more apt description of the angst that many Americans are feeling right now? Powerful people saying one guy is possessed, not just wrong, but possessed by a demon, mostly because he has the gall to disagree with them. The same guy's family is really worried about him and comes to take him home. When they come to see him, he completely blows them off. Not only that, he said that their claim on him as birth family wasn't really all that important. He looked at his siblings, his mama... the woman who risked her life to give him birth... and he said that his real family was someone else. This guy, Jesus, an upstart preacher from a nowhere town, decided to upturn and reorganize two of the most important institutions in his culture, religion and family, and he was causing a lot of trouble while doing it. On Tuesday, with the divisions in our current culture on my mind, this seemed like a scripture worth preaching on.
And, then, sometime Thursday afternoon, while I was working on the class I'm taking right now, I came upon this list of practical things to do when you feel overwhelmed. We are almost at the end of the first eight weeks of the coursework. Most of what we've been talking about is doing the stuff Jesus was doing in this part of Mark: reorganizing and reorienting our important institutions to better reflect Christ's priorities. We've been talking alot about how we can be coworkers with God to address the most critical issues of our time. That's what Jesus did in his time. It's the work we continue in ours. Brian McLaren, our teacher for this part of the course, argues that the most pressing issues of the day center around three major areas of concern: environmental stewardship, ridding the world of poverty, and fostering peace on national and international level. The fourth area of concern guides our response to the first three: how do we cultivate religious communities that, as the author of Mark might put it, "do the will of God" in caring for the earth and our neighbors.
As you can imagine, between the news that I read, the interactions I participate in, and the information presented in my class, I can get overwhelmed by the scope of the problems that I am navigating as a person of faith. I have a hunch that I am not the only one who has had this feeling. I think Brian knows this happens, too. That's why he had a whole lecture lined up for us about it. He knows the weight of the information he's sharing. He's a pastor and a Christian. This is stuff he has to deal with, too. I figured, knowing how conscientious and hospitality-minded this congregation is, for as much as you appreciate a call to work with Christ and become part of Christ's family, you might also appreciate a practical list of some things you can do when you feel overwhelmed, so you don't get too bogged down to work with Christ for the world.
The first thing Brian said was that it can be helpful to reframe the overwhelm. To think about it as a sign that you are paying attention to both your neighbor's and the earth's needs. It means that you have the opportunity to, in the words of Quaker writer Parker Palmer, let your heart be broken open to opportunities for healing instead of broken apart in despair. You may have heard a Sihk activist and lawyer named Valerie Kaur talk about it this way: When you feel lost in darkness, you can think of it as a tomb or as a womb, preparing you to be born again. Your feeling of being overwhelmed can be a sign that you are preparing to be born again. Now that you know you are in the midst of such fertile darkness, ready to be broken open to serve, what can you do to nurture the impulses that help you to be family to Christ?
First, if you are overwhelmed, admit it to yourself. You can say it out loud or just think it real hard. This is a real feeling in response to real things in the world. But, a feeling doesn't have to stay forever. They ebb and flow naturally. This feeling of overwhelm is here now but does not have to be here always. Next, know that you don't have to hold that feeling on your own. You can ask someone to hold it with you. Tell a friend, a colleague, a counselor, your pastor: "I'm feeling overwhelmed." Brian suggests practicing finding a metaphor to describe your own overwhelm. Tell your person, "I feel like... I'm running a race and can't catch up, or... I'm on a boat that's filling with water and I can't bail fast enough" or whatever captures your feeling best. Tell your person. Practice beforehand if you need to.
Brian suggests to tell God, too. Some might tell God first. That's fine. This isn't a checklist or a set of steps that must be performed in a specific way. Do the parts in the ways that help the most. But, tell God. If you have a hard time starting with your own words, maybe use Mary's words from a time when she was overwhelmed, "Here am I, servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Brian also said don't be afraid to tell everybody else, too. It's ok to share aloud, maybe during prayers at church or conversation over dinner or on walks with your neighbors, "I often feel overwhelmed, but I’m not giving up." He said you can take this time to affirm that you've decided to trust in God's promise of justice and grace, even in the face of very hard odds. Then, go back and tell all of these people, yourself, your confidants, your neighbors, your God, not just about what overwhelms you, but also what you are grateful for, and why you are grateful. Brian said, "Gratitude helps heal broken hearts." So, go tell everyone thank you.
Once you've done the telling part of this exercise, you can shift to the asking part. Ask yourself two questions. What kind of person would I wish to be in an overwhelming situation? What qualities would I wish to demonstrate in a hopeless crisis? Practice naming how you want to act in the world. That makes it easier to actually act that way later. You can remind yourself what you are aspiring, too. You can work towards those aspirations little by little. And, lastly, Brian invites us to pay attention to what recharges us. Jesus ate dinner with friends and spent time in the wilderness in prayer. What do you need to fill up your resources so you can go back out to work with God? A hike? A party with friends? Art? Kickboxing? Do the things that recharge you and fill you with joy. In a world that can get you down, Brian says joy can be a revolutionary act.
If you are looking for a place to start this process of sharing your overwhelm, can I recommend our reading from Psalm 138? It is a beautiful Psalm of Thanksgiving: "I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart... I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness... though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies. You stretch out your hand and your right hand delivers me." Reading and reciting this prayer is a way to practice gratitude and practice talking with God. It even describes aspirational behavior- graciousness, perseverance, faith- in the midst of crisis. I don't think Brian was writing about the Psalm when he pulled together the lesson this week, but it's awful close, isn't it?
Our story from Mark is intense. Jesus, wild enough to concern his family, fierce enough to concern the scribes, knew what it was to be divided. He used the metaphor to explain his power of healing. No evil thing to could cast out more evil. Dividing a house against itself does not make it stronger. Dividing our feelings from our actions doesn't make us stronger, either. It is necessary to go to our moral center rather than break our hearts into pieces. Our walk with Christ, like his words about family, will be a scandal and a challenge. But, there is no need to be lost eternally in the enormity of the work before us. The Lord will fulfill a purpose in us. God's steadfast Love endures forever. God will not forsake the work of God's hands. We can be broken open instead of broken apart. We can be knit together again in the womb of God's love. And, we can emerge, when we are able, ready to once more with Christ. Are you ready to be a part of Jesus' family?
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following sources while writing this sermon:
On Shouting and Harvesting: Psalm 81:1-10 and Mark 2:23-3:6
Do you remember all those covenants we learned about during Lent? All those great promises between God and humanity and the potential for goodness they hold? These covenants that promise freedom, relationship, sanctuary, and healing are the roots to God's relationship with the people of Israel. When the people lose their way, the prophets and sometimes kings... sometimes God Godself... calls the people back to their covenantal roots. People remind God of the covenant, too, sometimes. Abraham was quick to remind God of grace and compassion when it was necessary. All these covenants and the miraculous salvation stories of shelter in the wilderness, food that suddenly appeared in the morning and evening, and voices that thundered from high places, those stories should be on our mind when we read Psalm 81. It is a Psalm to remind the people of their relationship with God. It is a Psalm to remind them of their part of the promise.
This Psalm is a prayer of thanksgiving and exhortation that was written not during the time of Exodus, but during the time of exile. So much of the Hebrew Scriptures, which before the exile had been stories and prayers around campfires and in holy, wild places, were finally written down after the devastation at the hands of the Babylonians. With the leadership of their community in Babylon and the common people spread across what was left of their once-promised land, they needed shared stories to help their culture survive. This Psalm, which describes a religious festival and retells part of the salvation story of the Exodus, teaches people, again and again, how God saved them and what God asks of them.
Think of every good thing that you credit to God. The relationships that bring you joy and wholeness. The support when you've needed it most. The challenge to serve your neighbors. Mash together all of those feelings of joy and gratitude and imagine them erupting from you in song. That's the feeling the beginning of this Psalm is intended to invoke. Sing aloud to God our strength! Shout for joy to the God of Jacob! What are you so thankful for that it would make you take up a tambourine or blow a trumpet? For this Psalmist, it's the memory of the way God cared for them when they were deeply oppressed. It's the memory of God's commitment to liberation.
When we remember all that God did for Israel, the rescue from slavery and the time in the wilderness, the stories we usually call the Exodus... these are some of the most influential stories in the Hebrew Bible. In this act, the people were shown repeatedly that God wants liberation, not constraint, for God's people. And, they were invited to act as agents of God's liberation into the future. If you've had any chance to spend time with our neighbors at Temple Beth El, you may have witnessed their commitment to welcoming new immigrants. They, like many Jewish people, root their welcome to the Exodus story, a story that reminds them that they were once strangers in a strange land and were sorely mistreated. In honor of their liberation, they will welcome others. They aren't the only ones who have been inspired by the Exodus story. In US history, it is the Exodus stories that helped many African Americans survive slavery and fight for their own freedom. They heard the truth of God's liberation, even when so many Christian church's supported bondage. This truth helped them shape a more just future. It is still pointing us to a more just future.
There is this interesting turn in the Psalm after the party of the first five verses. All the sudden we shift from a leader reminding the people to give thanks to the voice of God reminding the people of their side of the covenant. Remember what we read today: God says, I'm still your only God. Remember that I brought you out of Egypt. Remember that I made sure you had food to survive in the wilderness. All those commandments the people began to receive during the Exodus... the second part of the Psalm is to remind them of the promises they made in response to liberation. The whole gist of the promises wasn't to make life more complicated for the people. Because I know that you all have memorized all of my sermons, I know that you will remember that commandments are really to help people reshape their lives so that they better reflect God's promises and God's priorities. The laws weren't just to be religious hoops to jump through. They were to be guides to shape your life into a reflection of God.
I think Jesus understood this. That's why he got in the two arguments that we heard in our reading from Mark. If we can turn to that story for a moment, we can see a difference between living a life shaped by liberation and concern for the needy, that is a life shaped by the law, and living a life that is more concerned with the letter of the law than its spirit. Jesus and his disciples were traveling. Instead of finding somewhere to stay and pre-preparing food for the Sabbath, they began to pluck heads of grain to eat as they walked. For the Pharisees, who were deeply concerned with following the law, these actions... the traveling and the harvesting... went against even the most basic ways of keeping the Sabbath. And, keeping the Sabbath was very important.
Jesus didn't think he could or should ignore the law. What he did think, like other Jewish teachers before and since him, was that sometimes some parts of the law take precedence over others. In this case, he reminded the Pharisees that the Sabbath was set aside for rest and prayer after the era of slavery, when people rarely had time for either. It is a time intended to remind people of God's generosity in liberation. He said, like Jewish teachers before and after him, Sabbath was made for humankind and not the other way around. So, if people are hungry on the Sabbath, you feed them, even if it means doing a kind of work that is usually forbidden. Jesus also pointed to King David's own life story. When he was on the run with few resources, he ate bread that was unlawful for him to eat. David needed to eat to survive to go on to fulfill his calling as king. The call to feed the hungry took precedence over the call to serve the priests in a particular way.
The second story is similar. There was already a practice of understanding that saving a life is a kind of work that was ok to do on the Sabbath. If you could work and save someone, you were not disregarding the gift of the Sabbath. But, this man whom Jesus' heals does not appear to be dying. I mean, his hand isn't working well, but he wasn't in immediate danger. His healing was the kind of healing that could have probably waited a day. Jesus' followers probably could have skipped a meal, too. But, he didn't ask any of these people to wait. Instead, he placed a value on doing the most good as quickly as possible as a sign of his dedication to the law. And, as one scholar I read this week pointed out, on what better day than the Sabbath, a day set aside for restoration, could Jesus restore a person's body to wholeness. With this healing, not only did the man's hand work correctly, but it also allowed him to work more easily, thereby better providing for himself and his family. With this action, Jesus showed that God's liberation doesn't need to wait. It can happen right now.
As followers of Jesus, we consider ourselves inheritors of this tradition of liberation. We would do well to follow Jesus in making both thanksgiving and reconnection with covenant, the two key elements of Psalm 81, part of our lives as well. So, we find ways to celebrate, I mean really celebrate what God has done for us, just as our ancient forbears remembered what God did for them. But, we also remember to shape our lives according to the greatest of God's priorities: liberation and compassion. Where are the places where you are willing to stand up to authorities to restore someone else to wholeness? Maybe you've heard about our government's practice of removing children from parents who are crossing our borders without proper documentation. Maybe these are the people who need wholeness right now. Maybe you've heard of someone else who needs liberation in another way. Where are you being led to work with God towards future liberation? What songs will you shout to guide your way?
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following sources while writing this sermon:
Robert Hoch: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3689
Diane G. Chen, "Proper 4 ," Preaching God's Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year B Featuring 22 New Holy Days for Justice, eds Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Ronald J. Allen, And Dale P. Andrews (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011)
Matt Skinner: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3667
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Moved by the Spirit
I am about four weeks into a continuing education course called the Convergence Leadership Project. It's for pastors and church members who are interested in cultivating a joyful and generous Christianity that is a force for good in the world. Right now we are in a session that is talking about how we can rouse up the passion and perseverance of Christ's Church to tackle the most pressing needs of our day. It is in the midst of these conversations that I encountered the work of Jessica Jackley.
Ms. Jackley grew up as a middle-class, white, American kid who went to church. She did what we hope all kids do at church, listened to and tried to follow the guidance of Jesus. It was at church that she said she started hearing stories about "the poor." She said she never really heard anyone call themselves poor and never really heard poor people talk about their own lives. She just learned that to be poor was to not have something you needed... like clothes or food or shelter. And, she learned that people who followed Jesus were supposed to help people who were poor. "What you do for the least of these, you do for me." She said, "I was very eager to be useful in the world -- I think we all have that feeling. And also, it was kind of interesting that God needed help. That was news to me, and it felt like it was a very important thing to get to participate in." So, she started trying to help poor people in order to follow Jesus.
Around this time, though, she heard another part of the Bible that talked about poor people. She heard that Jesus once said, "The poor will always be with us." She must have been a very good student, because this second story confused her. She said, "I felt like I had been just given a homework assignment that I had to do, and I was excited to do, but no matter what I would do, I would fail." As she got older, it got harder to remain excited about this work God had called her to help in. She never experienced poverty herself. She only heard about it from other people and from books and the news. Poverty seemed unrelenting, all wrapped up in disease, war, and devastation.
In the face of poverty that seemed insurmountable, she began to feel bad when she heard about the lives of poor people. She said she felt guilty, too, because she lived a life of relative privilege. She said that she even began to feel shame. She couldn't help everyone enough. She had such a good life, but she didn't have the skills she needed to disentangle her shame from her sense of calling. So, she said she started to distance herself from the stories that overwhelmed her. She still gave money to charities and to individuals who were going good work. But, what had once felt like a mission from God had become a transaction to relieve guilt. She had enough money to insulate herself from the pain around her, relieving her guilt in the process, but never really being the force for good that she had once wanted to be.
In today's Pentecost story from Acts, we are told that the people knew a miracle was happening because they heard people speaking their own language, telling them something new about God. Ms. Jackley had a Pentecost moment, too, but it wasn't a room full of people all speaking different languages. No, it was one man, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, speaking and telling her something new about humanity that would help her fulfill that old calling from God. He spoke a language she needed to hear and she was moved by it. He talked about a financial lending process called microfinance and about all the amazing, poor entrepreneurs he had met in his work. Attending this talk changed Ms. Jackley's life.
When she learned about the power of small loans to change people's lives and learned the real stories of creating a life in poverty from the poor people themselves, she finally saw a way to serve her neighbors that moved beyond the transactional into the relational. And, she began to really understand people who were poor as whole people who could tell her something about the kind of help they needed. She was so moved by hearing Dr. Yunus speak that, just a few weeks later, she quit her job. She then spent three months in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania interviewing people who had received loans of $100 to start or grow a business. In that time, "the poor" stopped being strangers with terrible lives, and they started being humans with joys, ambitions, and intelligence. And, she stopped using emotional distance to protect herself from their stories.
The more conversations she had, the more she learned. She said one of the most important things she learned was about her own limits for fixing other people's problems. She said, "It was really humbling to see for the first time, to really understand, that even if I could have taken a magic wand and fixed everything, I probably would have gotten a lot wrong. Because the best way for people to change their lives is for them to have control and to do that in a way that they believe is best for them." She also noticed that in three months, she was never asked for donation. But, a couple times, people did ask for loans. She had seen enough that she knew $100 could do a lot of good. So, she tried to figure out how to get some small loans into people's hands where it would do the most good.
Working with old friends and family back in the States and new friends in Uganda, she helped found the program Kiva. Kiva connects lenders to people who need money but don't have access to major lines of credit. You can start with a loan of $25, a manageable sum for many people, and know it will be put to good use. Since they began building relationships between lenders and borrowers in 2005, the program has loaned $1.15 Billion dollars (mostly in small amounts). They have a 97% repayment rate. And, when you loan through Kiva, you get to hear the story of the people in whom you've invested. And, the people who are helped are empowered to make decisions based not on what a wealthier person believes, but what they know will help them build a thriving life. Now, programs like Kiva don't do some things. It doesn't replace the food pantries or free clinics of the world. But, they do shift financial systems so that poor people have access to life-changing money. And, it is helping people with money to share stop using money to isolate themselves from the world. Instead, their money becomes a tool for connection.
Jessica Jackley has gone on to work with a other projects and no longer works with Kiva. But, she carries the lessons she learned with her. One of the most important was this: she said,
"When you lend [people] money, and they slowly pay you back over time, you have this excuse to have an ongoing dialogue. This continued attention -- this ongoing attention -- is a really big deal to build different kinds of relationships among us… from what I've heard from the entrepreneurs I've gotten to know, when all else is equal, given the option to have just money to do what you need to do, or money plus the support and encouragement of a global community, people choose the community plus the money."
There are so many ways to understand the miracle of Pentecost... the miracle that we say birthed the church after the Resurrection. Perhaps our lesson for today is to be pay attention to the ones who are speaking a language that is, all the sudden, telling you something that changes how you understand the world. That new word you're hearing is the Holy Spirit. That new word is helping you to understand humanity better. That new word can help you work with other people to make a difference in the world. What is the church if not a group of people, hearing one another stories, and investing in one another's lives for the better.
We can hear the stories and see the images of devastation, and we can hide away for our own self-protection. But, Jesus never asked his followers to hideaway in dark closets and behind locked doors. He calls us out, to connect, to learn, and to build. The Spirit will give us the ability. We just need to use it. “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy." May we all dream and may we all prophesy.
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following resources while writing this sermon:
Kathryn Matthews: http://www.ucc.org/worship_samuel_sermon_seeds_may_20_2018
Caroline Lewis: http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=4641
Greg Carey: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3665
Caroline Lewis: http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=5154
To hear and read Jessica Jackley's talk about Kiva, please go to https://www.ted.com/talks/jessica_jackley_poverty_money_and_love/transcript
To learn more about Kiva, go to https://www.kiva.org/about/impact/success-stories
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: "Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/pierre_teilhard_de_chardi_114239
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Friends of Jesus- John 15:9-17
I'd like to tell you one of my favorite stories of the late Rev. Dr. Fred Craddock. It is a story that took place on Easter and we are now in the final weeks of the Easter Season. It seems appropriate to share it as a reminder that Resurrection didn't happen just once. It happens all the time. So, hear this story about baptism and love and Christian community. In the year before he married, Dr. Craddock served a small church in East Tennessee in a small town on Watts Barr Lake. That's not more than a couple hours from where I grew up. Dr. Craddock was ordained in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, a sister denomination of our own United Church of Christ. If you were to worship in a Disciples church, it would seem very similar to our worship services with a few interesting exceptions. One difference is that their lay people pray over and serve communion. In our tradition, someone must be ordained to bless the elements. They also usually have communion every week, which is less common in the UCC. Another difference is with baptism. While people of all ages are baptized in the UCC, many people are baptized as infants or very young children. In Disciples churches, most people are baptized when they are old enough to make their own statement of faith. They are fully immersed in water, either in large baptismal fonts their congregations or in the lakes and rivers near their congregations. This story that Dr. Craddock told took place following several baptisms in the lake near their church.
The church gathered with those who had felt moved to be baptized along the shores of the lake on Easter Sunday evening at sundown. One of the oldest practices in Christianity is to accept new members into the faith on Easter. His church followed this tradition. You know that this story takes place in the South because the lake wasn't still frozen over at Easter. It was probably still at least a little bit chilly though, but, warm enough to be baptized in. He and the candidates would wade out together. One by one, he would baptize the newest members of Christ's body. As they finished, still dripping, they would go back to shore where the rest of the church had gathered. The church would have already built a small fire. They would be singing and cooking some supper to share. The newly baptized would then go and change into dry clothes in little booths that the congregation had constructed with great care for just this purpose. Dr. Craddock changed his clothes, too, and everybody went and stood by the fire.
Up to this point, the story seems very familiar to me. Plenty of churches across time have practiced baptism this way. While the lakeside fire-cooked supper may be a nice addition, I imagine that many Christians would recognize their own church practices in these baptisms. It is the next part of the story that I think makes this little church stand out. They added their own ritual to this ancient one. Dr. Craddock said it always started the same way. Glen Hickey, a long- time member, would introduce the new members. Glenn did this every time. He would say their name, where they lived, and what they did for a living. The new folks would also gather closest to the fire, which was fair since they'd just been in the lake and were undoubtedly chilly. The rest of the church would create a circle around them.
Once all the new folks had been introduced, the older members would begin to go around the circle and introduce themselves in a unique way. They would first say their name and then, they would offer a service. For example, I might say, "My name is Chrissy and if you ever need somebody to come and feed your cats, please call me." Then, the next person would offer their name and how they could help. This would continue all around the circle, with everyone in the church taking a turn. "My name is Earl. If you every need anybody to chop wood, please ask." "My name is Bernice... if you ever need a ride into town, I'm happy to help." "My name is Beverly and if you ever need somebody to sit with someone who is sick, call me." "My name is Jonathan and if you ever need somebody to watch the kids, they can come to our place." One by one by one. A name and a way to serve. All the way around.
Then, they would do the most church-y of activities: they would eat. Food cooked on the fire. Food brought from home. Food from the little deli on the corner. They'd eat all of it. Then, as if that weren't enough, they'd have a square dance. Right there by the side of Watts Bar Lake. They'd dance long into Easter Sunday night. Then, as Dr. Craddock told it, when it was the right time, a man named Percy Miller would stand up and say, "Time to go." They would clean up the food and pack up the dishes. They'd take down the changing booths and carry coolers and camp chairs and guitars to the car. And, they all head home. Percy would be the last person to leave, making sure everything got cleaned up and the fire got put out. Dr. Craddock shared that he was pretty overwhelmed the first time he experienced all this. You see, these practices predated his ministry at the church. He had to learn them just like the newly baptized people did. As he stood with Percy, watching him kick sand on the fire, he couldn't really move. All he could do was stand still and try to take it all in. Percy looked at him and said, "Craddock, folks don't ever get any closer than this." I think Dr. Craddock believed him.
If I ever heard a story that sounded like church, it would be this one. People gathered together to celebrate rituals that were long central to Christianity as a whole and to their own small church in particular. People sharing sincere offers of care and kindness to new comers to their community. Food and song and dance, all in celebration of the Body of Christ growing just a bit bigger on that night. Having people who knew how to lead and knew when to make sure everybody got home. This is what intimacy in religious community can look like when people take seriously this call to be friends of Christ. And, while this story doesn't talk about it, I am certain that this generous spirit was not limited to only the people in the congregation. I do not for a minute believe that it would be easy to be this gracious in religious community without that graciousness leaking out into your relationship beyond church. No, this is the kind of intimacy that give you a space to practice mutuality and service to others so you then extend this loving-kindness beyond the walls of the church.
Part of what is groundbreaking in our reading from John and also so inspiring in this story from Fred Craddock, is the power found in equitable relationship. The graciousness of post-baptism practice at the church is so striking, in part, because every single person participates. Every single person offers care and every single person is a possible recipient of care. No one is understood to be without a gift. Everyone has the capacity to help. Everyone is understood to likely need help at some time. In the Scripture from John, it is incredible that Jesus invites his disciples to be more than servants, to be friends. At that moment, he upends so many social expectations between teachers and students, as well as any sense of how the Messiah might be some mighty military leader. Instead, he posits that an interdependent relationship should really be the divine standard. You become his friend when you follow his commandments. And, he commands us to love one another. The people dancing on that lakeshore in Tennessee loved one another. We can love one another, too.
I've recently started a continuing education class for pastors. In a class earlier this week, our teacher invited us to try praying in a different way to more clearly connect our calls from Scripture to our experiences during the week. Remember how the church introduced themselves to the new people: My name is.... and if you need.... I'm going to invite you to reimagine that practice with the last week in mind. You can write it down on your bulletin. First, imagine what you would tell a newcomer that you could help them with. Second, think about one time in the last week that someone has shown you Christ's loving friendship. Make a promise to pray a prayer of thanksgiving for that person. When we pray together in just a few minutes, if you feel so led, you are welcome to share what you can help with or how you were shown love this week, along with anything else you'd like us to pray for. This is how Christ's joy lives in us, when we act as friends of Jesus. How has your joy been completed this week? And, how will you carry that joy forward in love?
Pastor Chrissy consulted the following sources while writing this sermon:
Osvaldo Vena: http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3649
Choi He An, "Sixth Sunday of Easter," Preaching God's Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year B Featuring 22 New Holy Days for Justice, eds Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, Ronald J. Allen, And Dale P. Andrews (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011)
Fred Craddock, Craddock Stories, eds. Mike Graves and Richard F. Ward, Chalice Press, 2001
Pastor Chrissy is a native of East Tennessee. She and her wife moved to Maine from Illinois. She is a graduate of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University and Chicago Theological Seminary.