A Cross-shaped Life: a sermon on Matthew 16:21-28

Sometimes when I’m leading a new Bible study I’ll start with some variation on a game I like to call “Shakespeare or Scripture?” Let’s play a little bit of it now.

shakespeare-bible

You can find an on-line quiz with these examples and more at Oxford Dictionaries

  • “Tell truth, and shame the devil” – King Henry IV
  • “Every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge” – Jeremiah 31:30
  • “Condemn the fault, and not the actor of it?” – Measure for Measure
  • “Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.” – Proverbs 23:2
  • “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die” – Isaiah 22:13

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She Keeps Shouting – A sermon on Matthew 15:10-28

Last week as we began worship, I took a few minutes to speak to the horrors of the white 36371223632_d7c043678e_bsupremacist rally and counter-demonstrations that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia that weekend.  The news and the shock many people were feeling was still so very raw. I promised that while our worship was not changing in light of the events that had been taking place over the last 36 hours or so, we would be revisiting it in the weeks and months to come. We are this morning, and we have to continue to as we move forward.

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Who’s on your tour?

Hey ladies, I’m wondering — Who is on your tour?

I’m sitting on a train heading back out to the ‘burbs from downtown Chicago where I just saw an amazing concert – Four Voices. Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, have joined artistic forces for this 11 city tour. As soon as I saw it advertised I knew I couldn’t miss it for anything. The women did not disappoint. 

Early in the show they noted that among the four of them they represented more than 170 years of music-making. They first met 25 years ago when Baez invited the Indigo Girls to participate in a fundraiser concert. Saliers and Ray agreed to participate and brought Carpenter into the event, too. Their friendship was born and has included mutual support and admiration ever since. 

The women on stage tonight represented two or three generations of American music, at least three different genres, and several discographies worth of life experiences. Some might try to describe them as competitors, but I don’t think they’d stand for it. At one point tonight, Baez said, “I love these women and I love the work we do together.”

As much as I loved the music, and I loved the music, I think I loved this witness even more – women supporting women across generations as they move through their careers and callings. Women across generations supporting each other, learning each other’s songs, singing together sometimes and at other times letting each one shine on her own. 

Which brings me to my question, a question that doesn’t have to be exclusively for women, but one that I think is particularly important for women in a culture that still leans heavily toward patriarchy — Who is on your tour? Who are the people on stage with you – sometimes singing along with one of your songs, sometimes sitting behind you in the dark, sometimes letting you add your voice to their art? Who is in your multi-generational support team? Who reached out a hand to help lead you along and to whom have you offered a hand as well? 

One of the women on my tour, the Rev. Carol McDonald, was with me tonight, and I couldn’t have been happier than I was sharing the evening with her. She invited me on her tour a while back and has been a friend and mentor ever since. She prayed me through difficult times and pointed me in new directions when the time was right and I didn’t even know it. She has introduced me to women of all ages who are smart and faithful and hard-working, many of whom I consider part of the tour, too. Best of all, I know she isn’t just doing this for me. There are so many of us who have been blessed to join this particular tour.

Do you have people you’re on tour with? Do you a group of friends and colleagues who help you navigate your career and calling? Pastors and preachers, musicians and artists, doctors and teachers, mothers and executives — we all can benefit from supportive colleagues and friends as we go about our work of changing the world. 

The God Box – a sermon on Matthew 17:1-9 for Transfiguration Sunday

Exodus 24:12-18
Matthew 17:1-9Alexandr_Ivanov_015

“It is good…” Peter says when he sees the face of Jesus change before his very eyes. It shone like the sun; his clothes began to dazzle, bright white. People appear out of thin air and start talking to Jesus, and Peter says, “It is good.” I’m not so sure I would have gone to “good” first, personally. I think I would have jumped straight to the fear the disciples moved to when the voice of God spoke on the mountaintop, but Peter knew it was good. Continue reading

Perfect Love – a sermon on Matthew 5:38-48

Matthew 5:38-48

I am going to break the rule of one of the most influential people in my life. Maria von Trapp, at least as played by Julie Andrews, sings, “Let’s start at the very beginning,” but the-sound-of-music-poster-julie-andrewstoday I am not. In fact, I’m going to start at the very end, because if you’re anything like me, when I heard the end, I couldn’t even go back to the beginning to think about what it said. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Perfect. Riiiiiight. Perfection is impossible. Or at least perfection achieved by human beings is certainly impossible. If we know anything to be true, it is this, that we are imperfect creatures. From the very beginning of creation, in our relationships with God and with others, even in our relationships with ourselves, we experience on a daily basis our complete imperfection. So why does Jesus say this? Is he challenging us so that we’ll achieve some level of goodness, even if it’s not perfection? Or is he just setting us up for failure? Continue reading

Choose Life – a sermon on Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

This weekend marks the sixth anniversary of the revolution in Egypt that ended the presidency of Hosni Mubarak. I was reminded of this revolution as I pondered our text from Deuteronomy – another story of people who were freed from an oppressive ruler in Egypt. I remember watching the revolution unfold on social media. Sites like Facebook and Twitter were the major modes of communication and organization for those who were 11th_of_February_evening_-_Freedom_has_come!_(Females)trying to make their voices heard. From my own home I could read in real time the passion that was driving people to what turned out to be an unstoppable revolution.

Once the people of Egypt were free from an oppressive ruler they stood on the cusp, on the edge of a new day, a new life. After a few days of expressive celebrations the time came to move forward and begin the rocky process of building what would come next. One reporter for NPR related how the people she had interviewed were wondering now, not so much with fear, but with eager anticipation, just where this revolution had really taken them. Continue reading

The Next Level – A sermon on Micah 6:1-8 and Matthew 5:1-12

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Matthew 5:1-12
Micah 6:1-8
If you, like me, have some friends who are not church-goers and who lovingly push back on your spiritual lives and beliefs, or if, also like me, you sometimes ask yourself questions about your own faith and devotion, “Why do we read this old book today? How could it ever be relevant?” I hope today’s readings help answer those questions. A call to do justice, the counter-cultural declaration that God is with the poor in spirit, the one who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, these are the words that the church and the faithful have been given by God to speak into a nation where the president signed an executive order that “suspended entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees indefinitely, and blocked entry into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.” (from the New York Times, “Judge Blocks Trump Order on Refugees Amid Chaos and Outcry Worldwide,” By MICHAEL D. SHEAR, NICHOLAS KULISH and ALAN FEUER, JAN. 28, 2017) Continue reading