Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sermon for December 13, Advent 3

Light Against Darkness: Three Advent Reflections
Luke 2:8-15

Note: this is a sermon in three parts, included in a worship service that was based on the practice of lectio divina. -- Matt

— One —
Ok, here is a brain twister for your physicists out there. What is the opposite of light? Were you going to say darkness? Don’t be too quick to answer this one. We now know that particles have anti-particles. Since light is made up of particles called photons, then the opposite of light is anti-photons or anti-light. But wait! It turns out that the anti-particle for the photon is the photon. Which means that the opposite of light is . . . light.

As it turns out, the universe is composed of light. What we call darkness is simply the absence of light. Even in the farthest corners of the universe, light still exists. It may be an small quantity of light immeasurable by existing technology, but the light is still there. The experience of darkness just means that we cannot see the light.

Think about the darkest times in your own life … suffering a great disappointment … the loss of someone you love…the breaking off of a relationship … moving far away from family and friends … hearing the awful news of an illness … or perhaps financial distress. What did this dark hour of the soul feel like to you? Did you want to give up all hope? Was there something or someone who pulled you through? Did you try to pray? Were you too hurt to do anything?

The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow experienced a dark hour in his own life. On Christmas Day 1863, Longfellow received the horrible news that his dearly loved son had been critically wounded in battle during the Civil War. Longfellow’s wife had died in a tragic accident two years before. Now his faith was tested again by the war. His son returned home and Longfellow tended to his son’s crippling wounds. He saw other wounded soldiers on the streets of his city. He visited with families who lost sons in battle and he asked, “Where is the peace?” Then, picking up pen a paper, he tried to answer his own question by writing a poem:
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day, Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
The last verse is especially moving to me.
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men!’”
It seems like we are surrounded by darkness. Or . . . maybe we just can’t see the light yet. It’s not mistake that Christmas comes at the darkest time of year. Jesus is born in the middle of the night of the longest night of the year in the deep darkness of the winter solstice. When the earth is the most desolate, we sing our joy. When the darkest part of the year comes, we think about peace, love, and hope. Light shines in the darkness.

Imagine the scene of shepherds, sleeping on a cold hillside, in the night, in the darkness. The skies fill abruptly with light. Angels announce that darkness is just an illusion. A child will be born, a light to the nations, the savior who is Christ the Lord. As Scriptures says, Jesus is the true light that enlightens everyone, the light of the world. The light shines in the darkness (John 1:9). Or, to put it another way, we finally see the light that we couldn’t see before. Darkness is an illusion.

— Two —
Peace would come through the birth of a child. It was foretold long ago. Travelers to the ancient city of Priene in modern-day Turkey might have seen an inscription in a temple. It read, “The good news about the birthday of a divine child who will save the world from destruction by establishing permanent peace.” Who was this child? Who would bring peace and good will to all?

Caesar! The inscription is written about Caesar Augustus. By 9 BCE, it was accepted that Augustus was the savior who would put an end to war and order peace. His birth brought to the world good tidings. Roman theology regularly spoke of the emperor as “Lord,” “Son of God,” and “Savior.” Julius Caesar, along with his grandnephew and adopted son Augustus belonged to the Julian tribal family. They claimed a 1000-year-old decent from the goddess Venus and her son Aeneas. In the Forum of Rome, is a relief of Aeneas. In his right hand, Aeneas holds his son named Julus. On his lap he carries their household gods. The scene swept across the Roman Empire in the first century. You can find it on a tombstone in Italy, a relief in Turkey, an altar in Tunisia.

Caesar Augustus, it was claimed, was the son of Apollo, the god of light, and a virgin named Atia. Caesar Augustus was the son of a god who was coming to light up the world.

What happens if you want to replace on son of God with another? You need to counter the imperial theology. According to Luke, Jesus is the light in the darkness. It turns out that the peace of Rome did not end war. The peace of the Empire was based on oppression and violence.

On the first Christmas night, the angels proclaim a different kind of peace -- Jesus, a different Savior, Messiah, and Lord. The first ones to hear this message are shepherds -- a marginalized peasant class who experienced the oppression and exploitation of the Empire. The good news comes to the poor and despised.

The light of Jesus is political. The stories of the birth of Jesus are meant to give an intentional contrast the stories of Caesar. Christ is light, and the Empire is darkness; Christ gives liberation while the rulers of the world bring bondage. The justice of Christ speaks to the injustice around him. The true prince of peace is born in a land of violence. Jesus is the Lord of life. Caesar is the Lord of Death.

Christmas is a time of new beginnings. It is time to destabilize our old habits with something new. It is a time to remember that the old order of things is slipping away. A new order has begun. It is a time to do something new: a time to forgive and forget; a time to throw away prejudices and hatreds; a time to fill your heart and your house with sunshine. There is a new kid in town. His name is Savior, Son of God, Lord. He comes to challenge our assumptions. He comes to show that we need more light in our lives. He comes to make us new.

— Three —
We don’t always want people to be who they really are. We have a code phrase for this: “Don’t Ask. Don’t tell.” In other words, you must suppress and compromise an essential part of who you are. As a husband, I’ve learned there are times in life when “Don’t ask. Don’t tell” seems appropriate. I have learned never to ask certain questions:

"What color is this?" I read about a study that examined the color identification and vocabulary skills of male and female college students. Guess what? The women identified significantly more elaborate colors than did the men. Apparently there is a difference between blue and periwinkle.

There are some other questions I don’t ask anymore, like: “Does this match?” And . . .
“You’re just like your mother.” OK, technically, this is not a question. This is a death wish.

My bride has learned there are some things she should never ask me:
“Do I look fat in this outfit?” and the related question, “Do you like my new haircut?”
“What are you thinking?”
“Would you remarry after I die?”

These are not questions. They are ambushes. Here is what can happen if you pursue these questions. A woman asked her husband, “Would you remarry if I died?”
“No, of course not, dear,” said the husband after a long pause.
“Why, don’t you like being married?” said the wife.
“Of course I do,” he said.
“Then why wouldn’t you remarry?”
“Alright,” said the husband, “I’d remarry.”
“You would?” said the wife, looking hurt.
“Yes” said the husband.
“I see,” said the wife crossly. “And would you let her wear my old clothes?”
“I suppose. If she wanted to,” said the husband.
“Really,” said the wife icily. “And would you take down the pictures of me and replace them with pictures of her?”
“Yes. I think that would be the proper thing to do.”
“Is that so?” said the wife, leaping to her feet. “And I suppose you’d let her play with my golf clubs too.”
“Of course not, dear,” said the husband. “She’s left-handed.”

Some topics are better left alone. However, when it comes to an essential part of who you are, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a recipe for mediocrity. You were made for so much more than mediocrity. Your life purpose is to be more fully who you are. You were made for the light. So let your light shine.

When you are boldly and confidently yourself, you are offering your highest good to the world. Who are you to question the greatness that is the image of God’s light in you? In the words of Marianne Williamson,
“Who are you not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world . . . You are meant to shine, as children do. You were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within you. It’s not just in some; it’s in everyone. And as you let your own light shine, you unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As you are liberated from your own fear, your presence automatically liberates others.” (Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles)

As we think about light, think about how each of us is made to shine. Think about our connections and interconnections. And think about making some commitments.
• Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to destroy the life or spirit of others.
• Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to take what is not given.
• Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to engage in abusive relationships.
• Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to speak falsely or deceptively.
• Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to harm self or others through poisonous thoughts, deeds, or substances.
• Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to dwell on past errors.
• Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to speak of self separate from others.
• Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to possess any form of life selfishly.
• Knowing how deeply our lives intertwine, I vow not to harbor ill-will toward any human being.
When we can work on these things, we will begin to understand the true power of Christ, love’s pure light, at work in us, around us, and through us this season.

Borg and Crossan, The First Christmas, 172-197
Ace Collins, Stories Behind the Vest Loved Songs and Carols of Christmas (Grand rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 81-85.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sermon for Sunday, December 3, 2009 - -Advent 1

Genealogy and Destiny
Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38

Do you have any weirdos in your family? Don’t answer that. Of course you do. Don’t even try to deny it. Maybe you’re the weird one in your family. I think the word family assumes the inclusion of oddballs: the lecherous uncle, the sister speaks Klingon fluently, the cousin no one can figure out.

There are a lot of those on the Braddock side of the family. My father is one of 16 siblings, so there are bound to be a few nonconformists in the extended family. The Braddocks don’t get together much. Funerals are the best occasions for family reunions. And whenever there’s a funeral, I’m usually called in to officiate. On one sad occasion, the youngest of the Braddock 16 passed away. The funeral was held at the funeral home, and the place was packed. Try to picture it. The family is seated. They are all uncomfortable being in this place. They are uneasy at religious gatherings. I’m about to do my thing, when a cousin, a little older than me, starts taking pictures. After all, it is a family reunion. The problem is that the viewfinder on her 35mm camera is cracked. She can’t see through the broken plastic. So she stands up, walks up to me, and asks me to fix her camera. I look at the camera and tell her that she just needs to pry out the broken plastic and she’ll be good to go. And I ask, “Do you have anything in your purse that we can use?” She opens her purse and pulls out a carbon coated steel knife with a 6-inch folding blade and a serrated edge. I make it a habit not to ask about the contents of women’s purses, but I have to make an exception this time. “What are you planning to do with that, gut a fish?” I ask. Without answering, she expertly pries out the plastic, folds the knife, puts it back in her purse, and starts snapping pictures again. As I found out later, my cousin was a Vegas dancer who was on the run from some bad guys. Taking refuge in Connecticut, she kept the knife handy for protection. And camera repair.

Whenever someone says to me, “I have a strange family,” I say, “You mean you have a
family, no need to repeat yourself.” And really we’re all a little weird. And if you don’t think you’re a little weird, that’s a little weird. We might be a little easier on each other if we just admitted it.

Speaking of weird families, I printed out Jesus’ family tree for you to look at. Jesus had a lot of strange folks in his family, too. It’s a little weird, these family trees. Normally we just skip over these genealogies and get right to the Christmas stories. Nothing to look at here, right? Today, as part of our Advent preparation, I want us to look at this family tree and see how weird it is. Let’s savor the oddness. First, the list from Matthew includes the names of five women. First century Palestine was a patriarchal culture. People traced lineage through the male. Luke version of the family tree has no women listed. It just wasn’t done. SO, why did Matthew mention these women? Do you see the names? We see Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah, otherwise known as Bathsheba. Finally, Mary the mother of Jesus. That’s two prostitutes, one adulteress, a seductress, and a pregnant, unmarried teenager. That’s an odd collection.

Tamar appears in the book of Genesis. Tamar had a husband named Er. Er died, leaving Tamar without any children. No children, so security. In Hebrew culture, if a woman is going to be left childless, the next son in that family is supposed to marry her. So Er’s brother Onan married Tamar. He also died without leaving her any children. The father of these men was named Judah. Judah had one son left, and he decided not to give him in marriage to Tamar. The odds were not good with this woman. Insulted, Tamar took matters into her own hands. Disguised as a prostitute, she seduced Judah and became pregnant with twin sons. What’s Tamar doing in Jesus’ genealogy?

How about Rahab? She was a Canaanite prostitute who lived in the city of Jericho. Israel sent spies into the city to prepare for a military invasion. Rahab hid the Jewish spies in her home. Even though she was a woman of ill repute, she became a woman of high repute because she knew who the true God was. She helped those spies and also made sure that her family was safe in the invasion. Why mention her in the family tree?

And what about Ruth? There’s a whole book about her in the Bible. She follows her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi, to a foreign land when all of their husbands die. Ruth exemplifies loyalty and dedication. But after following her mother-in-law, Ruth seduces an old rich man named Boaz so that she can secure her resources. She’s an interesting character.

Bathsheba was the adulteress. Actually, she was more of a victim. King David saw her bathing on her rooftop, and he glowed with lust for her. David ordered his generals to put her husband on the front lines of the army. The husband is killed in battle and David then he sleeps with Bathsheba. She becomes pregnant and gives birth to a child named Solomon. Bathsheba takes a stand and ensures that Solomon will become the next king of Israel.

Here are four unlikely women. Three are involved in some form of sexual immorality. Two are involved in prostitution. One is an adulteress. All four are in the line that leads to Jesus Christ!

The women have something in common. They all had, shall we say, irregular relationships – including Mary. Every one of them has some sort of a tragic background. But it is precisely through these unconventional women that God controlled the family tree of the Messiah.

Another thing makes these women a little weird. Except for Mary, they are all Gentiles. This is no accident. Matthew is trying to tell us a story: The Messiah is not merely King of the Jews. His ancestry points to a connection with all people everywhere. Jesus is for all people. Jesus is for you and me.

There are plenty of other weirdos and oddballs in Jesus’ family tree. The lists are filled with liars, murderers, thieves, crooked politicians, and outcasts: Adam, the first sinner; Noah, the savior of humanity who dies as a disappointed failure; David the adulterer; Solomon with his hundreds of wives; Manasseh the wicked king who reinstated pagan worship in the Jewish Temple and built altars to foreign gods. Not a pretty picture. Not a “clean” family tree. Jesus was born into a long line of sinners. His family is cluttered with real human beings. It makes this story so painfully and lovingly real. Throughout centuries of weird family, Jesus emerges in the most extraordinary way.

These lists of names let us know that Jesus had a background a lot like yours and mine. He called himself “the friend of sinners.” He said he didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He said, “The Son of man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.” Jesus came for insiders as well as outsiders. Anyone can be included in Jesus’ family tree. It does not matter where we come from, what we’ve done, or what we’ve failed to do.

It’s almost Christmastime, and many of us will be traveling home to spend time with our families. Maybe they are coming to your house this year. Some of you don’t feel good about that. You may have family members who embarrass you. You may have family members who have hurt you deeply in the past. Some of them you’ll be glad to see. Some of them you’d rather not see again. Some of them are sleazy. Some are cheaters. Some are liars. Some are filled with anger and bitterness. Some are just plain bizarre. And you wish you didn’t have to do what you’ve got to do—face those family members at Christmastime.

I like to think that Jesus understands how we feel. He has his own family problems. He knows what it is like to have relatives who embarrass you. He knows all about a dysfunctional family situation. Good news! Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Good news, no matter what we do, no matter who we are, no matter where we come from, no matter what weirdos hide in the branches of our family trees, we are all beloved daughters and sons of God. Good news! The worse you are, the better candidate you are for the grace of God. Jesus comes to do what we can never do for ourselves. He comes to reconnect us with the abundant love of God. Look around you. Yes, there’s a lot of dysfunction. There’s a lot of brokenness and a lot of pain. There are a lot of weird people. Good news! These are the one’s Jesus comes to save: Them, and you, and all the members of God’s family.

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, The First Christmas, 82-98.
Ray Pritchard, “The Forgotten Chapter of the Christmas Story & the Women in Jesus’ Family Tree” http://www.crosswalk.com/who-is-jesus/11561294/
David A. Renwick, “Jesus’ Genealogy: Your Family Tree”
Jim Keck, The Jesus Genealogy, http://firstply.ipower.com/sermons/08_sermons/12-14-08.pdf

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Trumbull Thanksgiving Interfaith Service

Brave and Reckless Gratitude
November 25, 2009
The Rev. Dr. Matthew Braddock

Molly Fumia is a grief expert who writes from the heart about the unique pain of miscarriage and stillborn birth. She finds that the grief associated with miscarriage is often underrated. Mothers are expected to get over their emotional and spiritual pain in a day or two. Well-intentioned family, friends — even counselors — tend to minimize the throbbing ache of grief and devalue the loss of the parents. After experiencing two miscarriages of her own, she knows that it’s an experience of deep longing and unbearable emptiness. That’s why I find her words so amazing. Listen to Molly’s words of healing:
To be joyful in the universe is a brave and reckless act. The courage for joy springs not from the certainty of human experience, but the surprise. Our astonishment at being loved, our bold willingness to love in return — these wonders promise the possibility of joyfulness, no matter how often and how harshly love seems to be lost. Therefore, despite the world’s sorrows, we give thanks for our loves, for our joys and for the continued courage to be happily surprised.
I want to be courageously joyful. But I have to tell you, it’s does not come naturally to me. I’m a glass-half-empty person. A cynic. A worrier. A pessimist. A George Will once said, pessimism is as American as apple pie-frozen apple pie with a slice of processed cheese. I hear ya’, George Will! I once read about an avid duck hunter who found a bird dog that could actually walk on water to retrieve a duck. Shocked by his find, he was sure none of his friends would ever believe him. He decided to try to break the news to a friend of his, a pessimist by nature, and invited him to hunt with him and his new dog. As they waited by the shore, a flock of ducks flew by. They fired and a duck fell. The dog responded and jumped into the water. The dog did not sink. Instead, she walked across the water to retrieve the bird, never getting more than her paws wet. This continued all day long. Each time a duck fell, the dog walked across the surface of the water to retrieve it. The pessimist watched carefully, saw everything, but did not say a single word. On the drive home, the hunter asked his friend, “Did you notice anything unusual about my new dog?” “I sure did,” responded the pessimist. “Your dog can’t swim!”

I am skeptical of the uninhibited optimism of mainstream, all-American, positive thinking. From Oprah, to scores of mega-church pastors and an endless flow of self-help best sellers, we are told that if we just believe, we will get what we want. If we passionately concentrate on our deep desires, our dreams will come true. You will be able to pay that adjustable-rate mortgage. The new car is yours for the visualizing. Send enough positive intentions into the universe and your skin will clear up, your diet will finally work, people will laugh at your jokes, you will get a raise at work, and garner instant respect from your boss.

We cannot escape from optimists. I read about a family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. One was an eternal optimist, the other a doom and gloom pessimist. Just to see what would happen, on the twins’ birthday their father loaded the pessimist’s room with every imaginable toy and game. He loaded the optimist’s room with horse manure. That night the father passed by the pessimist’s room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying. “Why are you crying?” the father asked. “Because my friends will be jealous, I’ll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I’ll constantly need batteries, and my toys will eventually get broken,” answered the pessimist twin.

Passing the optimist twin’s room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure. “What are you so happy about?” he asked. The optimistic twin replied, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Americans did not start out as unbridled optimists. Trumbull Congregational Church was founded by Puritan settlers. The fabled Pilgrims of our Thanksgiving lore eventually became part of what we now call The United Church of Christ. The original ethos of these white Protestant settlers and their descendants was a grim Calvinism that offered wealth only through hard work and savings. Even then, there were no promises. You might work hard and still starve to death. You certainly wouldn’t get anywhere by adjusting your attitude or “visualizing” success.

Calvinists thought negatively about the world. They carried a weight of guilt and apprehension that sometimes broke their spirits. In response to this harsh attitude, positive thinking arose in the 19th century — among mystics, healers and transcendentalists —with its crowd-pleasing message that God, or the universe, is really on your side, that you can actually have whatever you want, if the wanting is focused enough.

We know that consistent pessimism can be just as deluded as unbridled optimism. We need an alternative, so I’m going to make up a new phrase just for tonight: Appreciative Realism. Appreciative Realism means that we see the risks, have the courage to bear bad news, prepare ourselves for famine as well as plenty, and express gratitude for what we have.

In the Christian tradition, our Appreciative Realist is named Paul. Paul’s travels often landed him in prison. His incarceration in Rome may have been more like house arrest where he awaited trail and possible execution. Tradition actually says that Paul was convicted and beheaded several miles outside the ancient city of Rome. In hindsight, he did indeed have something to worry about. Paul is in prison. As a citizen of Rome, he could have easily changed his situation by promising the Roman authorities he would quit preaching about Jesus. Instead Paul decided it was more important to write some letters, including one to his church in the town of Philippi. He writes, “Rejoice in the Lord . . . be thankful . . . Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” What? Where’s the pessimistic introspection? Where’s the optimistic romanticism? Paul gives us a dose of Appreciative Realism: Times of ease will eventually get complicated. Crises will resolve over time. In the ebb and flow of life, be thankful.

Elie Wiesel understood how hard life is. He survived a German death camp with a renewed sense of gratitude. He wrote, “No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night.” It’s not just because of the relief of survival. It’s the realization that darkness cannot overwhelm an inner light which knows that nothing lasts forever. A story is told about a group of students who came to their Rebbe. “Rebbe, we are puzzled. It says in the Talmud that we must thank God as much for the bad days as for the good. How can that be? What would our gratitude mean, if we gave it equally for the good and the bad?” The Rebbe replied, “Go to Anapol. Reb Zusya will have an answer for you.” The students went on the journey. In Anapol, they asked for Reb Zusya. At last, they came to the poorest street of the city. There, crowded between two small houses, they found a tiny shack, sagging with age. When they entered, they saw Reb Zusya sitting at a bare table, reading a volume by the light of the only small window. “Welcome, strangers!” he said. “Please pardon me for not getting up; I have hurt my leg. Would you like food? I have some bread. And there is water!”

“No. We have come only to ask you a question. Our Rebbe told us you might help us understand: Why do our sages tell us to thank God as much for the bad days as for the good?” Reb Zusya laughed. “Me? I have no idea why the Rebbe sent you to me.” He shook his head in puzzlement. “You see, I have never had a bad day. Every day God has given to me has been filled with miracles.” This is Appreciative Realism: Being grateful for the surprise that is life.

Appreciative Realism also means that we remember that life connects us all. There is a beautiful story from the Zen tradition. Behind a temple there was a field where there were many squashes growing on a vine. One day a fight broke out among them, and the squashes split up into two groups and made a big racket shouting at one another. The Zen master heard the uproar and, going out to see what was going on, found the squashes quarreling. In his booming voice the he scolded them. “Hey squashes! What are you doing out there fighting? Everyone do zazen [sit in meditation].” While the squashes were sitting zazen their anger subsided and they settled down. Then the teacher quietly said, “Everyone put your hand on top of your head.” When the squashes felt the top of their heads, they found some weird thing attached there. It turned out to be a vine that connected them all together. “This is really strange. Here we’ve been arguing when actually we’re all tied together and living just one life. What a mistake!” After that, the squashes all got along with each other quite well.

I know, squashes don’t have hands. Maybe zen squahes do. Like them, can you be thankful for your complete dependence on relationships for survival? When you can, you will flow naturally into an ethic of gratitude that demands that you nurture the same world that nurtures you in return.

My fellow pessimists, optimists, realists: I think there is probably a lot of unnamed and underrated grief here tonight. We live in a fearful and anxious time. We grieve over the loss of jobs, the loss of money, and maybe even the loss of our sense of worth that was connected with these things. We are forced to face our weaknesses and our insecurities. We face difficult marriages and separations, loneliness, anxiety over our children and grandchildren. We hear bad news about health. We deal with the fresh pain of death and the reliable aches from timeworn grief. The reality is that life is filled with happiness and life is filled with pain. Give thanks. Give thanks boldly. Give thanks recklessly. To be joyful in the universe is a brave and reckless act. The courage for joy springs not from the certainty of human experience, but the surprise.

Here is a bold and grateful prayer of an appreciative realist: a prayer from the African country of Ghana, as quoted by Desmond Tutu in An African Prayer Book:
Lord, my joy mounts as do the birds, heavenward. The night has taken wings and I rejoice in the light. What a day, Lord! What a day! Your sun has burned away the dew from the grass and from our hearts. What erupts from us, what encircles us is thanksgiving. Lord, we thank you for all and for everything. Lord, I thank you for what I am, for my body tall and broad, despite meager meals at school, and although Father has no world. This body grows and grows, even with malaria in my blood . . . Lord, I am happy. Birds and angels sing and I am exultant. The universe and our hearts are open to your grace. I feel my body and give thanks. The sun burns my skin, and I thank you. The breakers are rolling towards the seashore, the sea foam splashes our house. I give thanks. Lord, I rejoice in your creation, and the you are behind it, and before and next to it, and above — and within us.
Happy Thanksgiving. No matter what life brings, may we find a way to give thanks. We give thanks for our loves, for our joys and for the continued courage to be happily surprised.

Sermon for January 21, 2018

How Far Would You Go? 1 Samuel 17 I had a sermon all ready to go today. It was a NICE sermon. You would have felt really good about i...