Peace in the midst of the storm

October 4, 2017 at 3:04 pm.

“This morning when I went out to the patio of my home I looked at an old familiar oak tree. I had never seen him so bare of leaves and branches. The winds of the hurricane left him like this. Before the hurricane, it was always green and its flowers were beautiful. When I was about to start crying, this nightingale came and stood on one of its branches, he sang to me as always, his song did not change in spite of the storm. He did not deny his singing and posed for a long time. Before the hurricane, I could only hear him singing hidden among the branches.  Today I could see it as it is. I remembered Job 42:5 “I heard you more by ear now my eyes see you.”

-Rev. Justino Pérez, Villa Las Lomas, San Juan (CCDCPR).

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Promise

“And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis‬ ‭9:12-13‬)

“It is still raining … The story is not over yet, but those of us who have heard it before have a distinct advantage over those who have not, because we know something about how it turns out in the end. In our own time, the ark does not so much look like a barn floating on a choppy sea. It looks more like a blue-green ball bobbing on the dark ocean of space … There are children in the Sudan eating hibiscus blossoms because there is nothing else left to eat and there are war-wrecked men and women who never leave their post at the small window of the ark, wondering when, please God when, will the dove return with the olive leaf in her beak.” -Barbara Brown Taylor #Promise

A day after the largest mass shooting on U.S. soil.

Gospel Medicine

We are walking around with Luke Sunday; it’ll be a last time until we do it again. Luke is like an old friend we haven’t seen in a while, but who always seems like he’s always there. I think of my friend Carl in that way, who lives in Happy Island, AK, with whom I talk every two weeks about books, and stuff. Happy Island, AK: I’ve never been there, but I’m envious.

Carl called me through all this last month. It’s been a month, don’t you think? Unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Carl called me every Monday morning at 9:30 and left me a message basically saying: Hey Pal, I’m going to just call you this time every week. You don’t have to answer. Just my way of saying you’re in my thoughts. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. I don’t deserve such a friend.

Luke is just that kind of friend to us through his story of Jesus. He shares Gospel Medicine.

Luke is uniquely positioned to talk about Jesus, because he’s a physician. He’s a physician, but Barbara Brown Taylor speculates that if Luke were to fill out one of those forms today and came to the box where you put your occupation, that Luke would write “disciple”. Luke helps us find the healing that all seek in the deepest places of our hearts.

Luke puts this on full display for us Sunday. He preserves his most personal story for last: Two friends on the road to Emmaus. I’m thinking he was one.

Read Luke 24:13-35

Gospel Medicine

Let me tell you what Gospel Medicine sounds like: If you want to find real freedom and deep joy in your life, don’t focus on yourself as the end and balance of it all. Focus on others, whoever they are. For, as Luke reminds us in the Story of Jesus,

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)

We will discover that we will then be called to live a life of trusting Jesus that all we need and more will be provided.

That’s what Jesus meant when he said, Do not worry about your life … what you will eat and drink and where you will sleep. All that will be provided. It was the Apostle Paul who said in Ephesians 3, when he broke out in a glorious, spontaneous benediction in the middle of that circulated letter:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (3:20)

That’s the Good News that is Gospel Medicine. That’s the Gospel Medicine that we need.

Gospel medicine is on the way

Hopefully, you have a sense of what is coming that will frame our weekly gathering time. We begin a new conversation around a series of sermons called Gospel Medicine.

It’s been hard to focus on anything but Hurricane Harvey. We have a long, long way of recovery to go. So the times of coming together weekly will be more important than ever. We will need this spiritual practice to sustain us in the long run, to give us a place and community to process all that swirls around us.

For our time, I want to do what Barbara Brown Taylor does in her book called, “Gospel Medicine.” She sees stuff; and I like what she describes about what she sees. I want to show you some of the stuff she’s shown me, because I think you’ll like what you see, too.

Which won’t necessarily be just what I see.

Our times together on Sundays is wholly important. Gospel medicine is about being and becoming whole. We worship and in that context we begin a conversation. I grant you that I do most of the talking; however, I do see myself as laying out before us something that begins a larger conversation. The conversation takes place in a lot of different locations: It takes place in our heads and hearts among ourselves first. Then in our homes, hopefully. Then in every other place we find ourselves, among our neighbors, friends and co-workers, wherever authentic conversations can really happen. My guess is that given the devastation of Harvey those conversations will happen more frequently.

There is healing in the words we speak, in the Story we tell, in the midst of what we experience and see. What good news should frame our conversations? Luke helps us find the healing that all seek in the deepest places of our hearts: finding purpose, bringing clarity, and setting ourselves and the world on fire.

A prayer

Jesus, the Risen Christ our Lord, as we think of days to come in Houston and all over the world where catastrophes are occurring, lead us your disciples to places of service and sacrifice that light the path to God who is one, and that brings wholeness to a fragmented world, where all are welcome at the table just as you have welcomed us. Amen.

-prayed one night during the storm and catastrophic floods related to hurricane Harvey in August 2017

Inquiring rather than praying

There is a story, well-known to some, about Isaac and Rebekah, and their two sons Jacob and Esau. You can read about it in Genesis chapter 25.

Soon after Isaac and Rebekah are married, the ancient inspired story-teller said that Isaac prayed for Rebekah. He prayed for his wife because she was barren. Rebekah becomes pregnant with her first child, only she finds out that she’s going to have twins! Now, how did she know that she was going to have twins? I imagine that many mothers in the ancient world who had twins perhaps found out when the babies were born. I suspect though, if you are attentive and know your body during a pregnancy, you can probably feel what you come to realize are two heads. From the story, it seems pretty clear that Rebekah knew she was going to have twins because the text in Genesis says that in the womb Jacob and Esau were struggling and wrestling and fighting. She could feel their fighting inside of her, their instinctive jockeying to be first-born, with all the rights and privileges that go along with that in the ancient world. So much so that Rebekah in exasperation says, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” (I imagine that she said that not as a question, but as a demand for an answer, with a few four letters words thrown in that an uptight redactor politely scrolled out of the story.)

And so Rebekah goes and inquires of the Lord. Now, don’t miss that little detail. It’s important. It doesn’t say that Rebekah went and prayed to the Lord. Isaac prayed to the Lord, but Rebekah went to inquire of the Lord. Anyone ever inquired of the Lord? I have. Anyone ever go to the Lord and say, I need you to answer some %$#^& questions. What the H-E Double hockey sticks is going on inside of me? What does this mean? I’m tired of this. I need something to hang some hope on to, or I’m going to tear these alien beings out of me!

Anyone here ever went to “inquire” of the Lord. That may mean that something amazing’s about to happen. That may be one way that begins to clue you in that God’s newness is being born. That’s one way of practicing being open, open to the newness of God in us and the newness of God happening also in others.