Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Teach us to pray (a sermon about kissing, baptism and the things we long for)



Last Sunday we celebrated Leo and Mia’s baptisms. As a part of their baptism, we also prayed for them. Each time we come together at church, we pray. We pray for a lot of different things around here. 

For the pain in the world, 
for stuff we’re worried about, 
for things on our minds, 
things we care about, 
for help, 
for healing,
for guidance.  

Some of us aren’t really into words when we pray, and we’re more of the “quiet your mind or stare at a leaf” kind of pray-ers. Hike it out. Others of us are really into the words.  Our Lutheran tradition is really into the words, which is good and fine and one of the many ways to pray. 

I have a friend who’s favorite moment of church is this presence and connection to God that she feels when she sits in the pew at the start of the service and watches as the candles are lit.  

Learning how to pray isn’t like learning how to read or how to drive a car. There’s not a checklist to work through or an instruction manual.  Someone once told me that learning how to pray is more like learning how to kiss.  We watch other people do it. We think twice about who we allow to teach us (hopefully we think twice!) We make some mistakes. And then, somewhere deep down, you always kind of wonder if you’re actually doing it right. 

When Jesus’ disciples come up to him and said “Lord, teach us how to pray,” I’m guessing they weren’t trying to get him to explain the technique of praying. 

You know, “Hey Lord, I’m a little concerned about those times I’m going to have to pray in public, could you just give me some pointers so I sound good? 

Or, “so, Lord, we were wondering if you could give us some best practices or even key phrases for praying that will enact some real change around here. Ignite some lightening bolts and stuff.” 

Or, “Lord could you just give us a little prayer that we can recite together in unison for the next couple thousand years—something short and snappy and catchy that we’ll remember?” 

Nah, these disciples were devout Jews.  They had grown up praying in the synagogues with all the right words and all that.  So, what were they after when they came up to Jesus that day and said, Lord, teach us how to pray?

What are any of us after when we reach for God?  Some peace and calm. Some help? (Jesus knows, we need a lot, of help around here.) Help for ourselves? For all these messes in the world right now?

What are we after? The disciples most certainly could see Jesus’ great love for God and intense desire for God’s kingdom to come.  Did they want to know more about it? Teach us to pray…

All these things that we long for—like those deep soul things that we long for, point us to a different world which Jesus often talks about as the kingdom of God.  Thy kingdom come. Were the disciples wondering “how do we get there?”   

If we only come to God for a formula or a rulebook or a driver’s manual or a checklist, we’re missing out on something.  If God is just a vending machine that we punch some numbers into and out comes exactly what we want, then we’re missing something.  God is very much in the business of transforming us exactly while She transforms the world around us.  But we have to be in some kind of conversation in order for the dialogue to bring us somewhere new.

Think, for a moment, about someone you have a real relationship with. A good friend, a co-worker.  Maybe a roommate. Maybe even a roommate you’re married to.  Or a niece or nephew or grandchild.  Spending time with this person—for better or worse—has an impact on you. They change you. They shape you.  When we pray day after day for understanding, our minds will open.  When we ask God over and over for compassion, our hearts will soften. Relationship with God in prayer will change us.  

A couple of weeks ago, Anne Lamott wrote an essay where she explained why she prays. “Prayer,” she says, “connects us umbilically to a spirit both outside and within us, who hears and answers… I pray a prayer, she says, some sober people told me to pray 36 years ago…because when all else fails, follow instructions. It helps me not to fixate on who I am but whose. I am God’s adorable, aging, self-centered, spaced-out beloved."

"One man in early sobriety told me that he had come into recovery as a hotshot but that other sober men helped him work his way up to servant…I pray to be a good servant because I’ve learned that this is the path of happiness…

"It is miserable to be a hater. I pray to be more like Jesus with his crazy compassion and reckless love. Some days go better than others,” she says reflecting that it blows her mind to remember how God loves certain members of congress equally as much as God loves her grandson because God loves, period.  “I will have horrible thoughts about others, she says…and I say to God, ‘look – I think we can both see what we have on our hands here. Help me not to be such a pill…’…I can’t turn politics around, or war, or the climate, but in listening, by opening my heart to someone in trouble, I create with them more love, less of a grippy clench in our little corner of the universe.” Her whole essay is great.

The truth is that God teaches us to pray through each other.  Our prayers articulate what it is we think about God and what we know about God. Jesus tells the disciples and us of his certainties about God in today’s reading.  He tells us, as theologian Matt Skinner says, “God hears. God provides. God forgives. God protects. God expects us to be generous to each other.” 

You as congregation, as friends, family, and community will teach Leo and Mia to pray. Through hearing about the things you long for, God will teach them to hope for a new word. Through your stories, they will learn of the heartaches in life and how they will live through them. There is no manual for faith or instruction book on how to pray or live this life God calls us to.  There is only you who enflesh God’s story and bring God’s word to life.

When we gather shortly around the baptismal fount, we will renounce the powers of this world that would try to divide and demean us.  We will renounce powers that justify mass shootings and ideologies of supremacy and inferiority based on race. We will commit to living in a such a way that brings about this radical kingdom of God even when it feels like the world is on fire around us. We will promise to teach our youngest ones to pray (and our oldest) and to let God form and mold them through the practice of relationship. We’ll promise to take care of the earth and each other (the little Each Other in our community and the wide Each Other in our society and world). And through it all, we will remind one another of our belovedness to God.

Luke 11:9-11 from our scripture today is famous: “Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” 

The first Nations version indigenous translation of the new testament reads differently and I share it with you as we close. It reads: 

“So, keep dancing your prayers, and the way will open before you. Search for the ancient pathways, and you will find them. Keep sending up your prayers, and they will be heard. Answers will come to the ones who ask, good things will be found by the ones who search for them, and the way will open before the ones who keep dancing their prayers.”

God bless you, Leo and Mia on this occasion of your baptism.



Monday, June 20, 2022

The Cost of Healing

 Luke 8:26-39

This last week, I took a class for religious leaders at Northwestern downtown.  It was a great week. We were mostly pastors and rabbis with a few denominational leaders, chaplains and school principals in a room talking about our faith and our ministry.  A word that kept coming up over the course of the week was the word “transformation.” It’s not surprising. Yes, it’s a word that comes up all the time in our ancient scriptures and, clearly, it’s a word that describes things that are happening all over the place right now.  

Our churches and synagogues are in seasons of transformation. Our schools are. Our society is in so many ways.  Those of us gathered at this event last week talked about what it was like to look at change in the face and listen for what it is calling us towards. But, as we pastors and rabbis all discussed various times over the course of the week, transformation of all kinds--whether it’s in our own hearts or in our wider society--doesn’t come easily. 

Transformation asks us to take risks. It asks us to be courageous. It admits: something’s not right here, something needs to be changed. Transformation shines a light on things we’ve tried to hide.

While we like change and new directions, the piece that we sort of conveniently put to the side is that transformation comes with exposure to something we need to change.  It brings something out into the open for everyone to see. 

For example: “Here’s this family secret that we’ve been keeping quiet that’s pushing the everyone to the brink.” Or, “here’s this personal detail I’ve been keeping in the shadow that I need to work through.” When we bring that out into the light, the future before us shifts. if it’s a mind-bender for us to individually do this, it’s just as much of a mind-bender, and even a trip, when society does it.

In the story we heard of today, there’s a man who is possessed, naked, out of control, living with the dead; 

And then, by the healing power of Jesus, he is saved, clothed, sitting at Jesus’ feet and in his right mind. This. Is. Great. News. This tormented man is healed and free…and yet, he (and Jesus) are the only ones celebrating. Did you catch that?  The bible says that the community doesn’t find any joy in this story.  In fact, they are counting the cost associated with this healing and they are finding it to be just a little too high. 

Jesus heals for free. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t costs.

So. The costs.

1. At face value, there is the cost of loss.  While this healing was good news for the man, it wasn’t for the pigs. The pigs were lost when the mob of demons entered into them. They ran off a cliff. There is a deep economic loss for the owners of the herd, especially if they make a living selling the animals.  

When you consider the cost of change in society or in your self, what is the economic cost to you? 

2. For the man who’s healed, there is the cost of a new vocation in life.  Any of you who have ever changed jobs know what I’m talking about. What do you lose when you leave an old job or even vocation?  Maybe you’re the parent of a newly graduated child and your vocation as a parent is shifting. There’s some loss. Maybe you’ve changed careers and, either your salary changed, or your responsibilities. For this man, the change is obviously dramatic.  He is turned into a disciple. Jesus calls him to activism and tells him to go and proclaim what God has done. He is freed and sent to share the good news.  In your case, what would be the economic cost of healing to you? What would answering a call to activism cost you? 

3. And finally, there is the cost of uncertainty. There is the cost of change. Remember, this guy is changed but no one wants that change but him and Jesus. Everyone else seems to resent it or they’re completely terrified by the way his transformation messes with this neat little system they have in place. We try to control the things and people that scare us.  Out of sight out of mind.  And when they couldn’t keep him locked away up out there in the cemetery, when everything is brought into the light in this story, 

This cost is steep. 

Too steep, in fact. Did you catch the way The Message version of the bible translates the verses that describe the people’s reaction to what happened? “too much change too fast.” 

Scripture actually says that the people were fine in the storm.  They were fine with of having this man chained up outside of town. Yes, perhaps they acknowledged his awkward presence up there, but now, they’re afraid of the calm.  They had a deal worked out. They had a system worked out: They had some kind of logic that was twisted into “we chain him up and it keeps him safe and us safe. It keeps the peace (even if it’s uneasy peace).” Now, they feel this change and this dis-ease and they can’t handle it.  And they ask Jesus to leave.

There is a cost of transformation. 

In this story, there’s a lot that is brought out into the open.  This man isn’t well. He’s tormented. He’s naked. Being naked all kinds of vulnerable. It is all kinds of fear. What will people see? What will people think? What if we admit that our family is a little messed up right now? Or that we have something really tough that we’re working through? Or what if I bring out into the open the truth of some kind of systemic thing that I’m grappling with? Or something that I need to grapple with but don’t really want to? Do we take a chance? Or do we say, “there’s not really anything I can do. This is too big. Too much. Out of sight out of mind.” 

What do we need to see in order to be healed?
What is it in our lives in the life that needs healing?
What is it in our society that needs healing? 
Where am I practicing control because I am freaked out by the cost of what calm would bring?


In 2018, Kendrick Lamar released an album called “Damn.” Kendrick Lamar, is rapper, a songwriter and record producer. He’s the kind of artist that, when I listen to his album, makes me stop. And ask: “what?” and skip back in the song to see if I heard he right.  This album, “Damn.,” was the first non-classical, non-jazz album that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music. And in it, his poetry is about storm. “Where,”
he asks through the poetry of his lyrics, “can one find a sense of peace, a sense of safety, a sense of trust?” He is exploring a sense of humanity in these tracks. 

In his song “FEEL.,” he’s showing how this storm beats on the walls:

I feel like friends been overrated
I feel like the family been faking
I feel like the feelings are changing
Feel like my daughter compromised and jaded
Feel like you wanna scrutinize how I made it


He created this album before the pandemic but it puts words to the storms: the racial deaths, the war deaths,  the shootings. African American professor, Luke Powery says: the great resignation, the “great hater-a-tion,” pandemic—pandemonium. The storm. 

What do you need healing from?
What do we need healing from?

Because Jesus shows us: the calm is possible.

This isn’t a bible story that happened a long time ago and now, because of the resurrection, it’s all fixed and we don’t live like this any more.  We are right here between these words.  We see the things and the ones that we chain up. We need the healer’s presence in our midst. We still need liberation. 

But there is a cost to the calm.  Please leave, the people say to Jesus. The calm was too much to bear.  The chaos was familiar. The healer’s presence healed too deep.

Today is Juneteenth.    On June 19th, we celebrate the truth that the last enslaved African Americans learned they were freed in 1865. This is a day to celebrate freedom and African American achievement, art and education. It is a day to celebrate liberation in all of its’ beauty.  

It is a day to ask the dangerous question of what needs to be healed? To shine a light on the things we’ve tried to hide to consider the cost of freeing our hearts of freeing our world from the things that bind us. And to move forward despite the cost because our liberation depends on it. 

Transformation, growth, and an opening of our hearts are central to our faith.  So we’ve got to ask the difficult questions.

What needs to be healed that only the presence of Jesus can heal? 
Where are we as a society called to change? 
Where are you?



What do you imagine? (a message about queer politics, outrageous biblical characters and things we don't know)


For many, many decades, even lifetimes, things had been predictable.  Maybe not perfect, but predictable. Folks had these familiar ways of interacting with each other. Everyone knew their place. Everyone was on the same page about what was okay in society and what was not okay, maybe even forbidden.  Religion was anchored by these age-old, steady principals that weren’t really questioned.  (Of course, this was the way God functioned in the world!). But then, things turned upside down. There were cataclysmic events that made folks question their religious anchors.  The people had to leave home and with it, leave all the old patterns and beliefs, …when they came back to life as they knew it, nothing was quite the same.  

The government was dissolving—(that was the monarchy in their case). Some of the infrastructure was changing or disappearing.   The old symbolism was eroding.  Those pillar truths that supported religion were being shaken.

It used to be predictable who held power in society (it was the elites: the king, the temple, the priesthood) and now, that was being challenged.  There was extraordinary social and even theological upheaval.  There was nostalgia for the way things had been back before it seemed like the world exploded (you know, nostalgia for the courts and the wise sages, the temple being the center of religion).  It had been a nation that knew what it was and that was clear and confident in who God was. And now? What a mess.

**********

There is something frightening about an open future where we can’t quite imagine how things will shake out. Like when a few too many support beams have been kicked out from under the house. Social philosopher, Judith Butler, wrote about this almost 2 decades ago in her book, Undoing Gender:  All these questions! All this change! All this uncertainty about how things are. And then, let’s not even get started on imagining what will be when everything feels a little out of control around us.

If this level of uncertainty doesn’t freak society out, it will at the very least, make it feel threatened. 

She really hit the nail on the head with how ancient Israel was grappling with change and instability around the time when the book of Proverbs came together.   The Israelites had been exiled in Babylon for 70 years. Now they were returning to Jerusalem, and things were different: their temple in Jerusalem which had been the center of religious life had been destroyed, there were all these working class Jews who had stayed behind who were now, different. Who was God? Where did they find God? Where were they headed? There weren’t clear or easy answers. 

Judith Butler wrote about how when we ask questions or poke holes in ideas that are tried and true, it stresses folks out because it makes the future feel unstable or cloudy.  People, she says, do one of several things when the future feels that unsteady. 

1. They can become frozen and they don’t want to rethink anything. It’s like they say: This is too much! I can’t process this! I will be here freaking out in the corner if you need me.

2. They become really nostalgic for the way things were:  Oh <<reflects wistfully>> remember when we were young how safe and predictable everything was?

3. Sometimes, she wrote, that regardless of our politics, we become so nostalgic that we even kick into a sort of cultural reverse-gear that uses moralism to pull us back to the way things were. We actively work to stop the change: "Reverse the currents! Stop the change! Back to tradition!"

Or, you could say, when everything around you is unraveling and you find yourself in a big open space full of piles of yarn, do you shout: fix grandpa’s sweater! Knit it back the way it was! Or Hmm, could we knit something new? Or could we throw away the knitting needles and weave a hammock instead? 

There is a fourth option when everything around us unraveling: Theologian, Elizabeth Stewart writes that it’s the job of queer politics to resist that tendency we have to run back to the tried and true when we’re stressed. 

And when I say politics, I don’t mean partisan, but politics in the sense of what do we want the world around us and the life we share to look like.” 

Just when we think something is concrete reality, queer politics pokes holes in it.  

It pokes holes in the ideas like: this is how women are supposed to behave. 
Or: This is how men are supposed to dress
Or: these are the two genders that exist. Period.
Or, this is the way we’ve always done it in the church.
This is who holds the power in society.
This is the way you _______ (fill in the blank)

Just when we think things are concrete, queer politics call us to the edge to think again. (To the edge of the dance floor? Or to the edge of the canvas? And then perhaps, while handing us a paintbrush, it asks us “what do you imagine?”)

The fourth option is stepping into that uncertain, scary space and courageously asking what can we be?

*************

In the case of the book of proverbs, Woman Wisdom bursts into the scene and it is undeniably different from anything we’ve seen. ever. in Hebrew scriptures up until this point.  

Women have nothing like this kind of role in the Torah like you see here in proverbs.  Biblical mothers like Rachel, Rebecca, Leah, Jocabed, and Sarah get this teeny, tiny amount of air time as supportive actors. Not until this time period in ancient Israel’s history do you start getting people like woman wisdom or even Queens Vashti and Esther breaking into scripture like this and taking up chapters and chapters in the story.   

In today’s reading, Woman Wisdom breaks into the street. She is loud and shouting! Confident and even flashy! Eloquent and poetic! stamping her feet in the public square, clapping her hands, look at me!  

Again, this is exactly the time when Judaism is starting to pull away from practicing religion in the temple (remember, the temple had been destroyed) and instead it’s settling into local synagogues and even the home which had traditionally been women’s domain. 

Biblical scholar, Elizabeth Stewart, whites this whole thing about how we can actually see this tension between what Judiasm was and what it’s becoming getting worked out here in scripture.  

The whole book of Proverbs toggles between these different people who are working it out.  In one chapter you have the obedient son or student who’s looking for clear instruction or guidance.  There is no mystery there. There’s just a common sense patriarchal, family, living by the rules. In the next chapter we find one of a whole cast of interesting women characters called Woman Wisdom who is  non-conventional and shouting in the streets. 

If we preform our gender, (I learn and preform what it means to be a woman) and if we preform our humanity, (I learn and preform what it means to be human), Elizabeth Stewart says that lady wisdom is “performing [her] humanity subversively.” She is pushing the envelope as a woman character. On purpose.  Whether or not it was the intention, she is making us think again about something.  She’s undoing us. Unraveling us. 

And it sounds like this when we digest this scripture: 

“Wait. Wait a second. Is Lady Wisdom, …God? Or God’s wife? Or some previous iteration of the word made flesh?” What exactly going on here? Why is this woman behaving like this?”

And we start asking dangerous questions. 

Truth is, social transformation always depends on some brave people who are willing to risk kicking a leg out from under tradition. And that doesn’t happen unless we go right up to the edge of what we know.  

Change, growth and transformation in ancient Israel would depend on a daringness to risk, a willingness to imagine, and the courage to talk about or even live out what seemed like it was impossible.  

We get a window into that with the book of proverbs.

*****

In the gospel of John, not the piece we read today, a different piece, there’s this story about a Samaritan woman who goes to a well.  Jesus unexpectedly finds her there.  Because of her life story, this woman, you could say, lives on the edge and, as she talks, Jesus goes to the edge there with her.  (Hanging out on the edge with people is kind of one of Jesus’ signature moves).

He asks her dangerous questions. He blows her mind. He knocks down walls. They work something out in their conversation that’s recorded in the bible. She is undone by him. It’s like he says to her: “Imagine, what we will become!” 

She is transformed, runs back to her community and all these Samaritan people in her town start believing in the extraordinary expression of God in Jesus.  

*****

Can you think of someone who has blown your mind? 
So much so that some pillar in you has been undone? 


Or a time when God has said to you: “hey. here’s a nugget of scripture. Put this in conversation with your daily life and see what you get.”

You know, we look at our Christian tradition sometimes as if it weren’t this living thing but stagnant.  Like God revealed themselves to us thousands of years ago and now, well, we just have to learn those ancient lessons.  Nope. We Christians confess that, yes, God created the world, and then came to dwell in it, and then, as we celebrated it last week with Pentecost, continues to be alive in it right here, right now by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The life of faith is never about staying in one place.  The Holy Spirit is always coaxing us forward. The life of faith is always about growing.  

And this unsteady, uncertain place? This place that feels a little scary or even threatening? That is where the growth and the transformation happen. 

And you, queer family, are there, often at the edge of comfort, dancing with risk and ready to lend us your telescope so we can see what is out there that’s calling us forward.  

Last week, there was an interview with Aiyana Elizabeth Johnson that aired. She’s a marine biologist and climate activist.  She’s amazing for a million different reasons

You know climate change is tough to talk about and to think about right now.  She posed this question in her interview: "Instead of how bad will it be," she asks, "what if we get this right?"  What will the world look like in 50 years, 100 years, 500 years?

For example, The healed lung of our great forests grown back to health? Oceans that provide enough for coastal communities to live? Clean and healthy air for all of us to breathe? It’s mighty easy to critique, but to build something? that takes effort.  

So today, let’s let ourselves be drawn out into this creative space I ask you, what if we get it right? What will this world look like?  What do you see when you take a hold of that telescope and look out there?  

In this time of uncertainty, what do you see from your spot there on the edge? Do you see each one of us living as our beautifully created selves without fear of violence?  Do you an end to gun violence? A world without Parkinson's?  A magnificent redwood forest? What do you see? What do you imagine?

During a song later on in the service, we’ll sing a song that Jesse Lava wrote a few years ago about the Samaritan Woman who met Jesus at the well out on the edge. 

During that song or maybe another point in the service like communion, I’ll invite you to answer this question: In this time of cultural upheaval and change that we’re living through, in this time that feels so uncertain,“what if we get it right?”  (write that down) what will the world look like? When you're ready with your answer, come up and fasten your idea up here.

****

Out there on the edge is this creative space.  God bless you, queer ones for “making cultural trouble” (as Elizabeth Stewart wrote decades ago—John Lewis said a few years ago). God bless you for cracking open these creative spaces where change happens.  Where would we be without the ways that you draw us out and bless us?  We love you.


Monday, June 6, 2022

Defiant Hope (a sermon about a world gone mad, mother eagles, and planting trees)

 Acts 2:1-21

A few weeks ago, my dad was over and helping us in our yard. He planted a whole row of pink Easter begonias in the front and then he and I went to work planting and weeding and mulching. At one point, he asked me about a pathetic little pine twig that I had half planted in a flowerpot.  

“Is this a plant?” he asked me.

Like many Chicago houses, our neighbor’s house is maybe 10-12 feet away from ours and between us we have a cement gangway. In the crack where the sidewalk meets their house, a little pine tree had sprouted. We don’t have any pine trees in our tiny yard, nor do our neighbors and my only guess is that it sprouted from our Christmas tree which I threw out the side door onto the patio in December. It is possible that the dead tree lay in the patio for an embarrassing number of weeks before I hauled it to the back alley.  I think, while it was there, it may have left a seed.  When I pulled on that little sprout, the entire root came out. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it in that moment, so I stuffed it into a flower pot. Later that afternoon, my dad commented to me that he had re-planted the little seeding in a pot.  

“Maybe it will grow into something,” he said.  

That little pot with the tiny sapling has been sitting next to my door in the gangway for several weeks now and I look at it all the time. It has new green needles sprouting at the tips of it’s tiny two branches.

There is something that is hopeful about planting a tree.  I have no doubt that the years before us will bring both heartache and joy and I don’t know what that balance of the two will look like; but, I know that when we plant a tree, it is an act of hope for the future.

I’ve had to dig deep to find hope these last couple of weeks.  Not only are my family and I heartsick at the unexpected death of my mother-in-law, Mercedes, a week and a half ago, I am heartsick at what has unfolded these last weeks in Buffalo, Uvalde, Tulsa, and more places. I’ve volleyed between rage and numbness, between fear and disbelief.

On the surface of things, our lives appear normal in my family: the kids go to school, we make dinner, we walk the dog, wash the clothes, pay the bills. We go to graduation parties and birthday parties. We make plans. And yet, beneath that there is a river rushing that all is not right in this shattered world for so many reasons. Open the newspaper for five minutes and you see our broken humanity spilling out all over itself.  How do we hang onto hope when the heartbreak is this deep?  

I’m pretty sure this is not only part of my call as a person of faith to hold on to hope, but it’s part of my call as a pastor to you all. And I have shook my head all week looking for an answer to that question. I’m not sure if I found the right answer, but, God found me. 

*****

Most worship services here at LMC, we celebrate communion. Sometimes, communion is called “The Last Supper.” Have you ever noticed that? However, It’s actually not the last supper.  Jesus shows up many times after that meal after he has been resurrected: He has fish on the beach over a charcoal campfire with his disciples, he shows up for dinner in the town of Emmaus. In those 40 days after God raised Jesus, he shows up all over the place, eating and teaching and hanging out. He, in fact, eats many more meals after that so called Last Supper. The very worst, the unimaginable has happened—Jesus was crucified—but there he is with scars in his hands reminding folks to take heart to have courage.  

This, Pastor Mary Luti writes, “is the story of our lives, the story of the church: The worst things imaginable happen. Yet, somehow, by grace and grit, we’re still here, weary and scarred, but breathing, more or less upright,” she says. Instead of the “last supper of death and dread,” she wonders if we could call it a “new supper of relief and resilience”?  

After Jesus eats all those meals in towns and villages and in upper rooms and on beaches, he ascends, like a balloon, to be with God; and then, God’s mighty and Holy Spirit rushes into this world which is where our bible story from Acts picks up today.

As I wrestle with hopelessness and grief this week, I learned something about that mighty wind that rushed into the house that original day of Pentecost.  The wind is connected by an unusual word back to two other bible stories with rushing winds. First: the story of creation where God’s spirit hovers, rushes and abides over the waters of the deep right before the creation of the universe.  It’s the same uniquely rushing wind according to scripture (1).   Second: It’s also the same word for wind used in a story in Deuteronomy (2) where a mother eagle is powerfully hovering over the nest of her chicks. Just like you might fan or blow on the hot coals of a campfire to get them to spark, the mother eagle is fanning her strong wings protectively and energetically over her nest.  She is hovering over her chicks and taking up any possible room that could be used to endanger them. 

These stories tell me two things. 1.  I’m comforted by the image of God protectively spreading her wings out over us and refreshing us with this rushing, fanning air. 2. that wind that billows over the face of the deep in creation rushes in right before something is about to happen. Same goes for those those strong protective wings of the mother eagle, fanning the nest. She hovers there ready and waiting. In the story from Genesis, creation is born, (“let there be light!”). In the story from Deuteronomy, the Eagle, after hovering in flight, suddenly grabs her chicks and shoots straight up into the sky.  When that wind rushes into the house on the ancient day of Pentecost, it marked a moment full of potential. It infused the air with God’s electric presence. It fanned oxygen onto the coals, it lifted and refreshed that stagnant heavy air in the house, for something was about to happen. God’s Spirit, while it comforts us and protects us, is always drawing us towards more than we can imagine.

*** 

African American scholar Imani Perry wrote last week that we must do more than cower in the face of ugliness of the world.  We must, she said, [raise our kids,] even into adulthood, to believe in the possibility of a loving and just world and that they have a responsibility to work for it.”   (3)

We are not done yet.  We have not eaten the last supper.  We are not done blessing one another, giving thanks, singing and shouting out.  There are feet to be washed, there’s justice to be righted, jails to be emptied, bellies to be filled.   There is rest to be taken, tears to be shared, laughter to be gifted, hands to be held. There are hearts to be consoled, dreams to be dreamed, visions to be seen.  There are trees to be planted.

In 1968, Wendell Berry, a poet and Kentucky farmer wrote a poem titled “February 2, 1968.” That time of the late 60s was a time of political and cultural rifts, even scorn, a time of bitter division, questioning of authority, mistrust, social turmoil.  Into that moment, he wrote:

In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter, 
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,
I walk the rocky hillside sowing clover.

It’s “an earnest hope,” Kathryn Schifferdecker writes, “in a world gone mad…a defiant hope…In a world filled with so many reasons to despair.” Don’t I know it.

Wendell Berry plants clover.

In a cramped house, the early church breaks into a multitude of languages. 

In our own tattered world, we hope defiantly—even while heartbroken—for love is stronger than death.




1.  The word, merahefet from Genesis 1:2 means to hover or to move over.  An ancient translator translated this Hebrew word into Greek in an Ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures called the Septuagint. The translator used the same Greek work for Merahefet as they used to describe e rushing wind when they wrote the book of Acts
2.   Deut 32:11 
3.  “Unsettled Territory: How we must raise our children now,” for The Atlantic.  June 1, 2022



Monday, May 23, 2022

A baptism message about action packed justice, feeling worn out and the importance of waterbeds


Years ago, on a visit home to see my parents, my mom borrowed my car and when she saw me later she told me that that my steering wasn’t aligned. 

“Can’t you feel how the car wants to drift to the right?” She asked me.

I had noticed that the car had a tendency to want to veer to the side as I was driving it. I had to make an effort to pull the wheel back to the center in order to drive straight on the road. It was probably dangerous although I don’t remember that occurring to me at the time. It was something I needed to get fixed.

The book of Acts, which we’ve been hearing from the last few weeks tells us the story of the apostles and their travel around the Eastern Mediterranean sea.  In today’s bible story, the Holy Spirit has a clear course that she has set for Paul and the team.  The road is paved right there in front of them. But, the group wants to pull off course head up into Western Asia.  

The Spirit of Jesus, as the Holy Spirit is called in the book of Acts, apparently has other plans. The apostles listen and go to a city called Philippi.  Philippi sat on a 700 mile major Roman highway that ran along the Aegean sea called the Egnatian Way. It was a massive feat of engineering build of huge stone blocks. The city was in a great location and surrounded by excellent farmland.  It was a jeweled city for Rome. 

But, I can see why the apostles might not have been excited to go there. The city was very strategic. Rome worked hard to make everything in it as culturally Roman (and not as culturally Jewish) as possible.  While it wasn’t as snazzy as Rome, there was glitter and glamour. (All hail to the Holy Roman Emperor).

When Paul arrived in the city with his entourage, he found the place steeped in roman powers and values. And that’s when the showdown begins. 

You’ll hear next week the story of the enslaved girl that tells fortunes and makes a lot of money for her owners. Paul liberates her and then he’s thrown in jail for it. That is, until God thunders in and releases Paul and Silas from jail with a mighty earthquake.  

The story line will continually ask us: Who has more power? The mighty forces of Rome or the Holy Spirit of Jesus? 

Back and forth they go in the next few stories in Acts, throwing Paul and Silas in jail, freeing them, empowering leaders and infuriating them, challenging systems and shaking the solid Roman values that people stood on, upending plans and laying new track.  There’s arguing, there are riots, people are arrested, people are emboldened. There are shipwrecks and stormy seas. Trials and jail cells. The story actually says a little further on from today’s reading that they were “turning the world upside down.” 
While Acts records the exciting travel log, other books in our New Testament are letters that Paul wrote while the plot was unfolding. And in these letters, to the Philippians, the Galatians, the Romans and others Paul implores folks to radically love one another, to welcome one another, empty oneself in service to each other. 

The life of faith is challenging.  Perhaps it’s a not a wonder that Paul and his traveling companions attempted to veer off the course the Spirit had laid out before them. The life of faith then was challenging and it’s challenging today.  

The life of faith today asks us to hold a mirror up to ourselves and reflect on where we’re cracked and where we’re being called to level up and serve more graciously, forgive more deeply, love more fiercely, struggle for justice and open our hearts.  All across this world, There are people crucified by our current world order. Some people are valued more than others.  There were heart wrenching shootings last weekend, there is a senseless war grinding in the Ukraine, there are broken medical care systems around the world. Two years ago when covid descended on us we all rallied around this cry of “we’re all in this together” which has splintered into civil conflict and contempt for each other. We’re quick to anger, quick to judge and running low on steadfast love.  The holy spirit calls us to carry the light of Christ into this storm.  We’re not called to follow what is convenient, to veer off course, change the channel, or turn away. We’re called to follow Jesus, just like Paul and the apostles did. And this isn’t always easy.

******

In the spirit of modeling a certain level of real talk and honesty with you, I’m going to share that I have been feeling a little run down lately. It’s for a variety of reasons.  I read our sacred stories week after week and I think about what I’m going to share with you, and this week, I read and reread this story of Paul and the apostles who changed course and headed into the storm, and I marveled at their tenacity.

There are weeks and even seasons when I write my legislators. There are seasons where I dig into books that challenge me to grow. There are days when I seek out and check in on someone who I find disagreeable, or don’t particularly like, or I search for what feels like superhuman patience to confront a challenge in front of me. There are weeks when I make picket signs or meals for people, or when I am the world’s most thoughtful and patient sister or aunt or spouse. These are weeks and seasons when I feel unstoppable. And right now, I’m feeling a little worn out and like I can’t quite get my arms around everything.  

Several days ago, I mentioned this in a group of preacher friends.  I told them that I was annoyed with this action packed reading from acts and specifically, I told them, that I instead just wanted to float on one of those awesome waterbeds from the 80s, to feel weightless and just rest. 

One of my pastor friends--after saying some nice, pastory and encouraging things to me--told me to read the second half of today’s the bible story It’s the part of the story, she said, where Paul and his crew were tired and they found rest and respite with a friend named Lydia next to a river outside of the city. 

Turns out that while the Holy Spirit certainly sends Paul and Silas into difficult ministry situations that require deep love, patience and compassion, the road also leads them to rest and find respite while they prepare for continued ministry.  And this is the life of faith too.

In the book of Acts, people aren’t called “Christians” or “the church.” They’re called “People of the Way.” We, as “People of the way” all have a part to play in this story of God’s activity in the church.  And our part changes from time to time.  

1. Some of us are like Paul when he is pushing into these broken, human systems that need fixing.  Some of us are hard at work patiently loving the difficult people in our midst. Some among us are walking the truth like Mary of Nazareth proclaimed, that the mighty will be brought down and the lowly will be brought up. Hopefully we all find ourselves pushing into this challenging territory from time to time.  

2. Then, some of us are like Lydia.  She was a wealthy, independent woman who provides food, rest and welcome to the justice warriors. There’s a tradition of wealthy, independent women supporting prophets in the bible like the women who supported Jesus or the Widow from Zarephath who, though she was struggling with a famine, managed a household like Lydia and fed the prophet Elijah some loaves of bread. 

3. Some of us are like the apostles who need to rest by the river under the cool shade trees and recharge for the task before them. “Come to me,” Jesus says, all of you who are weary and burdened down and I will give you rest. 

Where do you find yourself right now?  Are you trailblazing like Paul? Are you persistently working for change? Or mending frayed edges?

Or, Like Lydia, are you the hopeful, strong presence actively supporting someone who needs you? Who are you encouraging, supporting or lifting up?  How are you using your resources to take care of folks in need? 

Or, like the apostles, are you pausing for rest? (or thinking about it) Where are your green pastures and still waters? Who is there to welcome you?

What is certain about all of these roles is that wherever we are in the mix, we are all quietly and persistently building a new world together. What is asked of us in each of these roles, as people of the way, whether we are resting or rioting, is not to check out and not to let ourselves veer mindlessly off course. We all toggle back and forth between these places as individuals and as a church. And together, we are whole.

Today, we will baptize Emilia Anne Dengle into the life of faith. In those baptismal promises, Emilia’s parents, Alex and Jennifer and her sponsors will promise to teach her about this life of faith which both calls us to fight for a new world and to rest. The waters of baptism and the love of Christ are both hard work and the buoyancy of a water bed in the midst of challenge.

When we gather in a while around the baptismal fount, we will renounce the powers of this world that would try to divide and demean us.  We will renounce powers that justify mass shootings and ideologies of supremacy and inferiority based on race. We will commit to living in a such a way that brings about this radical kingdom of God even when it feels like the world is on fire around us.

All of us in this congregation around little Mia today will remember these baptismal promises to share Jesus through the way we live and the things we say. These promises commit to working for justice and peace. And they commit us to taking care of the earth and taking care of each other. And through it all, they will remind us, as they did for those ancient people of the way who sat in the cool shade by the river, that we are each beloved to God. 



Friday, May 6, 2022

"Let me talk you into it" (A sermon about story slams, cherry pies and reluctant actors)


You may have heard of poetry slams or story slams.  These are live events where folks share a poem or a great story.  I tell stories for a living. I’m into story slams. 

Several years ago, the Moth hosted story slam and Auburn Sandstrom got up to share a story.  She talked about that night when she hit bottom.  She had grown up with a comfortable life: undergrad was paid for, she had music lessons, now had a masters degree. But through a series of events, she had become addicted; and that night, she lay on the floor, flooded with anxiety, folding and unfolding a small piece of paper with a telephone number on it that her mother had given her.  “This is the number for a Christian counselor,” her mother had told her.  

Auburn hadn’t been hanging with any particular religion at that point, but she was desperate, and she punched in the numbers. When the man answered, she said, “Hi, I got this number from my mother do you think you could maybe talk to me?”  She heard him shuffling to sit up in bed and he replied, “yes, yes, yes. What going on?” Amber began to pour her heart out to him: the truth about her troubled marriage, her addiction, her fears with her son. She told him everything.  For hours, he sat and patiently listened—and remarked, “tell me more…oh, that must hurt, oh.” 

Auburn made the call at 2 in the morning and he stayed up on the phone listening to her all night until the sun rose and her panic began to subside.  She said she didn’t care what his religion was, but as she began to get a hold of herself, she told him how much she appreciated him. Her mother had mentioned that he was a Christian counselor.  Did he want her to go read some bible verses or something? 

“Auburn,” he said, “please don’t hang up, I’ve been trying not to bring this up.” 

“What?” she asked him. 

“The number you called?” He said. “…wrong number.”

She didn’t hang up on him. 

But, she said, the next day, she experienced what she has heard called “the peace that passes all understanding.” It was this sense, as she put it, that there was random love in the universe, some of it was unconditional and some of it was for her. 

Thinking of this man and the role he played in Auburn’s life remind me that we never know exactly how the Holy Spirit will draw us into Jesus’ mission of love.  

In our story from Acts today we hear of the Holy Spirit drawing Saul into the work of the church.  Saul--also known as Paul depending on if he’s in a Greek-speaking city like Tarsus or an Aramaic speaking community in Jerusalem--had been terrible to early Christians: Vile and violent and it all comes to a head, when he stones Steven to death. It’s terrible. And then, on that Road to Damascus, the Holy Spirit knocks him off his feet and he falls to the ground.  

“Saul, Saul, what are you doing! Why are you persecuting people!” The voice of Jesus calls out.  

Saul loses his bearings there on the road and they have to carry him to someone’s house in town. It’s not until the church leader, Ananias, comes to Saul and reluctantly lays his hands on him that his sight is restored, his perspective is shifted, and he is transformed. Saul becomes not only an apostle of the Lord but a person who wrote all of these important parts of our New Testament and had a very central role in shaping what has today become Christianity.  It was unexpected! for Saul and for the people of the early church.

Most of us don’t get a random midnight call from a person in dire need of support.  Most of us don’t hit the ground in awe at the sound of Jesus’ voice crying out to us.  Many of us do, however, underestimate our own potential as people who have a part to play in the mission of Jesus.  

You know how, when I give announcements at the end of the service, you sometimes think that they’re for anyone else but you?  If I announce that I need 5 of you to bring a cherry pie to church next week, the majority of you are probably going to tell yourself, “well, that’s not for me…someone else will do that.” 

Some of you have heard me say this before but when I worked in Latin America, a Honduran pastor once mentioned to me: “Lindsay, the difference is that in your country, religion is a plaything that people can take or leave. Here, in Latin America it is the heart of what we have.” In one sense, I see where he is coming from.  We have so much control over our lives, we have so much comfort so much agency that it doesn’t always seem to matter if we participate. On occasion, when we lose that sense of control, it bring us to our knees, but often, we’re left asking: does it matter if I show up? Does it matter how I live my life? How I spend my money? How I treat people?

While I appreciate the truth of the fact that Jesus has no hands but ours, and no feet but ours, in the stories about the early church, like this one with Saul from the book of Acts, it is Jesus, himself, who is working along side of the people. Jesus is doing his own recruiting here in this story.  And Jesus is doing his own recruiting now, here today. For what it’s worth, it is really a mighty strange choice for Jesus to recruit Saul—don’t ask me why does Jesus choose this guy, of all people, to pull into a leadership role. 

All I can say is that involving the least likely candidates to build this kingdom of God is one of God’s signature moves. It’s a through line in our bible: we see it in the stories like the one of Jacob and Esau, or in God choosing to be born into a really unlikely family in Bethlehem, or even in the use of the Roman cross of crucifixion—a most unlikely  instrument--which God somehow turns into a tree of life.

Look at today’s story from the gospel: In this one, Jesus is putting a shepherd’s staff into the hands of Peter who is flustered and ashamed and telling him to take care of the sheep. This is the same Peter who denied Jesus three times near the foot of the cross and is doubting if he is qualified or capable of doing anything in this movement let alone lead the church.

It takes courage to work through that. Courage to participate in what Jesus is calling us to do. It takes courage to participate when you doubt if all of this actually matters, when you feel like you’re not good enough, or when we’re faced with our own shortcomings like Peter, who really doubted if he was qualified. It takes strength of soul to participate in this movement when you feel like your workspace is toxic and all consuming, or when you’re burdened down with a clenching grief.  It takes courage to participate when you’re eclipsed by the possibility of failure—and here, I will say that 15 months ago, I was terrified that I would fail at my role as a parent or a pastor.  Do you know how long it took me to upload sermons to youtube? …Hours! Do you know how bored I was personally attending preschool on line? to tears! And yet, it took courage to press on and do it. 

We’ve been practicing a certain kind of courage for 2 years at home. Two years ago, we didn’t know what this would all bring. There was a point in early of May of 2020 when it took courage to go into a pharmacy and buy Tylenol for my kid.   I needed courage to continue loving my husband who I adore but kind of wanted to kill when we were all locked in together.  I needed courage to reinvent my job.  And you?  You needed courage to do the same.  And courage when your loved ones were not okay.  And courage to keep going when you worried that the world would never get back to normal. 

Even in this last year, it has taken courage to claim the kind of life we desire for our families: to send our kids to school, to come back to church, to apply for new jobs, to reach out when we we’re lonely.  We have drawn on courage like never before these last 2 years. We know what courage is. 

And…we are a little out of practice employing it with people outside of our household or outside of our immediate circles. We are out of practice with engaging with a Spirit that can and will knock us to the ground.   When Jesus says to Peter, “tend my sheep,” Peter could have drifted back to his old, safe life in Galilee.  He could have retreated and returned to what he knew. It was a risk when Jesus looked him in the eye and held out that shepherd staff: “feed my sheep.” But there was power there on the beach in the promise of new life in the risen Jesus.  Dear ones, there is power today in the promise of new life in the risen Jesus today. 

We come here to church and we are fueled for the courageous life that Jesus calls us to. Here in this space of worship we practice how to live in the world. We confess our sin and work at forgiving each other.  We share the peace with each other. We eat at the table together with people who might think differently from us. And then we go from this space and we put it into practice. That practice and way we live our lives as people of th Way strengthens the fabric of this Kingdom of God around us.  It makes our world stronger, it strengthens the chords of love, justice, mercy and joy that run as deep undertones to who we are. It changes us ever so subtly and slowly into who God calls us to be.

Who, dear ones, is God calling you to towards? Where is God calling you to take a step forward?

When Auburn Sandstrom finished her story slam, she said that in the deepest night of despair and anxiety, it only took a pinhole of light for grace to flood in.

We, dear ones, have a part to play in the mission of Jesus.  You may feel unqualified or apathetic, you may wonder if it all actually matters. Sometimes, it calls for us to do things we have never imagined, and sometimes, it calls for us to make a simple pinhole of light for all of grace to come rushing in and the kingdom of God to flood the space around us. 



Sunday, April 17, 2022

Easter Sunday: An expansive life


Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Blessed Easter to you! I hope you have consumed enough guilt free chocolate this morning to get you through to next Halloween, and if you need more sweets, I’m sure you can find some around here after the service today.  

Today is the last stop of our Lenten journey where we have been exploring how God’s expansive grace fills us to the brim. Knowing how much God loves us, we are free to grow.  The question is: Will we step into that expansive grace?

It has been a Holy Week to remember. A couple of days ago on Good Friday, the power unexpectedly went out after the first reading. Clearly, someone out there thought we hadn’t been on our toes enough the last couple of years and decided to keep it exciting. We tried a few things—fuse box? Nope. Flipped some switches? Nope. Then someone poked their head outside to look around and, turns out the power was out on the whole block was out. So be it. There was nothing to do but sit in it here in this sanctuary and continue, telling the story. 

When the lights first went out, it surprised us but after our eyes adjusted, it wasn’t that big of a deal.  Outside, the sun was setting and there was still enough light coming in the windows to help us get our bearings, but as the night fell outside, and the colors faded from the windows, it became harder and harder to see in here.  We fumbled with a flashlight for the readers, we struggled to speak loudly without a microphone.  As the sun set and we slowly extinguished candle after candle on the altar, the sanctuary sank into darkness.  

I can’t think of many times when I’ve sat with fifty people in a dark room. Willingly.  For an hour. As I sat there in my pew listening to the stories, I wondered, what we would do if the power didn’t come back on for the Easter Vigil.  The Saturday Easter Vigil service begins in the dark, but then the point of the service is that the light dawns.  Given that we weren’t actually planning on staying at church until dawn, that was going to be hard to simulate with no electricity. 

In the farming town where my mom is from, folks get up before the sun has risen and head to church. Then, during the service, the sun rises.  In Latin America, some churches hold an all night traditional Easter Vigil to wait for the sun to rise.  Here in Chicago, many churches celebrate the resurrection that night of the Easter Vigil and, interestingly, when that vigil finishes, it is still dark outside. 

Something about this is fitting today, because, for all the glorious music and bright flowers, and banners waving, for all the bounce houses and beautiful easter clothes, the truth is that, like those women who stood in front of the tomb that early, shadowy easter morning, we are all grappling with truth that the new life begins with death. 

This morning, the old, old story from the gospel of Luke tells us that Mary Magdalene, Joana, Mary the mother of James, and the other women go to the tomb before dawn.  But they don’t find Jesus. They don’t find his body, dead or alive. All they discover that shadowy morning is a dark and empty tomb.  It’s not what they expected.  As if the whole thing weren’t unsettling enough, two men in dazzling clothes suddenly show up next to them and ask them “why are you looking for the living among the dead? Lest I roll my eyes at the angels, it makes me want to cut into the story in defense of the women and remind the angel: "I’ll tell you why they are looking among the dead.  Because their beloved Jesus has been tortured and interrogated and killed and they had witnessed it from the foot of the cross.  They are looking among the dead because they took great care to make sure his body was buried after he died. They are looking among the dead because they didn’t sleep well last night and they’re tired and worried and upset. Their hearts are still wandering through the shadows."

MonseƱor Oscar Romero,  the El Salvadorian bishop who was martyred in the 80s, once said “Hay muchas cosas que solo se pueden ver a traves de los ojos que han llorado.” “There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.” The profound grace of the Easter story is that God meets us in the shadows and in the dark nights of the soul and offers us new life.

Our reading today began with a small little word: ButBut, on the first day of the week, they (still) went to where Jesus body had been laid. But…the story says again, when they should have found Jesus’ body, they discovered the empty tomb. But…when they were terrified and hid their faces, their angels asked them, why are you still locked into this mindset of death? Remember, the angels said, how Jesus told you he would rise again? 

And there, with the light dawning in the garden, Their hope was nudged. Was it still dark when they ran to tell the apostles the good news?

But…scripture says, the men didn’t believe them, they though the women’s good news was an “idle tale.” But…Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself.

With each “but,” God pokes holes in the darkness and pinpricks of light start shining in. In the other gospels, there are moments where people come face to face with Jesus there at the tomb and they instantly believe. In this story from the gospel of Luke, that’s not the case.  It takes people time to wrap their heads around it. It takes time for the news to sink in, but slowly it does. 

In our bible, there is an old story about Pharaoh who tells the Hebrew midwives, Puah and Shiprah, to kill all the Hebrew baby boys. On the surface of things, These two midwives pretend to follow Pharaoh’s instructions—but behind the curtain, they show up in the dark, in the labor room and help bring those baby boys into the world.  One of those babies is Moses. And his mother, afraid he will be killed or taken from her, shows up later, in the dark with her baby and makes him a basket and floats him down the river where the Egyptian princess finds him.

Again and again, there are stories of people in our scriptures who show up in the dark and set something new in motion.  People who create space for something new.  Midwives who show up to the birth, parents who weave a basket, women who show up at the tomb and create space for something new in the dark.  Can we, likewise, create this space for new life?

All over the place, people stumble in the dark: Couples hit bottom in their marriages,  folks hit bottom with their addiction, people who are worn down by injustice. Can we show up in the dark and set something new in motion? 

Hope over hope against cancer and depression and the constant fast pace of life. Hope that leads us to look for joy after divorce or look for a new job that gives us life. The spark in the people who show up to the protest, who say, I am going to set something new in motion, this cloud of darkness cannot stand.  Those threads of resurrection that ran through our forebears’ lives and the ancestors’ of our faith’s lives run through our lives too.  We all have a resurrection story to tell.

And just as the women and the apostles began to tell the story, more people began to share the news of Jesus’ resurrection, so we too tell one another the story. We bear witness to the truth of God’s presence and aliveness around us.  We stare down the shadows together because Jesus our hope of the world is alive. 
We welcome this expansive new life that God offers us. For death is real, but death is not the end.

Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Do we have the courage to see through the tears and welcome this expansive life that God offers us?

As luck would have it, the electricity did come back on last Friday night.  Suddenly. But that isn’t always the case and the light doesn’t always flood back into our lives suddenly. Sometimes, the circumstances in our lives lead us to linger in the dark. And if that is you today, take heart.  “New life,” Barbara brown Taylor writes, “starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”

The profound grace of the Easter story is that God reaches for us in the shadows and in the dark nights of the soul and offers us new life.

It’s no accident that Easter is tied to Spring, that season of new life. It’s no accident that Easter is celebrated around the same time of Passover, that great journey to liberation. Or that today is Sunday, the first day of the week. The trumpets sound today, and the choir sings out, not because it is the end of something, not because the journey is done but because, there in the shadow, the journey has just begun. Our joy today announces the dawn, for Christ is risen, he is risen indeed, Alleluia!