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.
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
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.
I’ve been conducting interviews for our new position, the Director of Operations and Administration. We have conducted 9 interviews and our prayer to begin each one has been:
Dear Lord, open us to your Holy Spirit, which is always here, wherever we are. Amen.
For the second interviews taking place with 4 people, which begins today, we’ll be praying this prayer for each one:
Dear Risen Lord, we continue acknowledging that you are present with us, always, wherever we are. We seek your guidance, and invite you to show us the Way. Amen.
I think every church building should be constructed in the shape of a cross. The old Medieval cathedrals got it correct. When the Church – which is its people – gather we are reminded that we are one body on a cross, the first century’s most fearful instrument of torture and execution, served up in this case by the Empire that was in Rome. (Make no mistake: Every age has its empire.)
I’m careful here not to use the word punishment. We are one body on a cross, not because of anything belonging to guilt or shame or because we’ve done so much wrong that we deserve to be punished. We are one body on the cross because we bear the sufferings of loving the world in precisely the way Jesus did. That’s what they mean, I now realize, when they call the crucifixion the Great Humility. We serve the world as one body and like Jesus we serve ultimately in ways for which we will be executed, in most cases for us here in the US not literally, but certainly in just about every other way.
An Easter question: What is the Lord doing in your life these days? What words would you put to describe that, if someone asked?
Get more people longer to look into a clear night sky, gaze upon the stars, the world would be a better place, and we who live in it too. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed.