May 30, 2023

What does Pentecost mean for you?

 What does Pentecost mean for us? And how does it impact our lives, or is it just another weird day on the Christian Calendar that doesn’t have any way of being turned into a Walmart greeting card?  I was listening to some wise people who said that if we call Pentecost the birthday of the church, that’s all very nice and good, but it makes Pentecost a one-time event in the past that we can remember and celebrate, but it doesn’t really impact us here today.  Which is a sad thing.

Pentecost is more than a time to remember, it’s also a time where the church might allow itself to be open and vulnerable to God’s musings, God’s direction, and God’s call to change.  It’s a time when we celebrate the coming of the most uncomfortable part of the Holy that we call God.  We are a trinitarian faith, which doesn’t mean that we worship three Gods, but we worship three experiences of the Holy.  We mostly focus on Jesus stories, and Jesus as fully human is someone we can relate to and learn from.  Jesus is a great teacher and a wonderful roll model.  He inspires us and challenges us even today.  Jesus the human Rabbi is easy to relate to.  The Easter resurrection is a more uncomfortable Jesus, dipping into woo-woo and weird touchy-feely stuff.  Is he a ghost? A myth?  A story gone wild?  Or something infinite that we can’t put into a simple box?  And that’s nothing compared to the Spirit!

Our Pentecost readings today focus on the many gifts that we have, the breath that we get from an encounter with the divine ‘woo woo’ that should have us squirming a bit.  Whether it is as a rushing wind, tongues of fire or a test to see if Jesus had brushed his teeth that morning, the Spirit is supposed to stir us in new ways.  Pentecost is supposed to continue to happen with and among us.

It's like a balloon.  They aren’t much fun when they come out of a package, because they don’t have any air in them.  And if we blow them up without tying them off to keep the air in them, the balloons can trigger a certain amount of chaos, can’t they?  Let go of a balloon full of air and watch out!  Some people are afraid of the chaos that can result, and certainly, it can cause some problems.  Too often we humans decide that we either want nothing but the chaos, or we don’t want any chaos.  And churches can often err on the side of caution, which isn’t much fun, is it?  But who wants a flat balloon?  It’s not much fun, is it? 

What if we add a cone to the balloon, helping it lower the resistance to the air, streamlining the balloon?  It will go farther, and we could even aim it.  The cone is like God, sometimes known as Good Orderly Direction, which is aiming at the big picture.  Then let’s add the arms of Jesus to it, what happens now?  It would look like an airplane! Instead of a wibbly, wobbly trajectory, our balloon has a much more stable flight path.  It goes places, it has the oomph to make a journey and take a straighter route to where it wants to go.  Purpose, stability and energy.  All three are needed.  And all three can keep things from being a chaotic mess.  Spirit without God, God without Jesus, Jesus without Spirit, all can keep us from moving and being the enthusiastic people we were created to be.  Pentecost is the time to open ourselves up to new possibilities, new ideas, new adventures.  With the wisdom of God, the courageous compassion of Christ, and the enthusiastic energy of the Spirit, we can become people who make a real difference in our world!

May 23, 2023

Motivation In Challenging Times

What a delight it was to wander downtown this week near a couple of the stores on main street.  I was astonished to see chalk drawings for quite a stretch of sidewalk.  Some of the art looked like it was done by preschoolers, but some of it looked impressive.  And it was very positive and uplifting, a bright moment in an otherwise uneventful week.  

Uneventful other than a smoke advisory almost daily and lots of news about politics.  There is so much that divides us, party platforms, vaccines, chem trails, drug interventions, you name it.  

Such polarization can lead to isolation and apathy.  When we feel alone, we can lose enthusiasm for life.  When we feel unheard, or like our concerns are being ignored, we can feel helpless.  When we have lost a loved one, or a home or a job or a livelihood or even our health, we may wonder what the meaning and purpose of existence is?

The disciples in the story of Acts 1 want to know when the world will become perfect.  When will justice reign? When will peace be universal? When will warring and bullying cease?  When will Christ return?  And Jesus gave his disciples the very unsatisfactory answer that it was in God’s time not theirs.  It was almost like saying, “it’s none of your business when perfection comes, your job is to let people know that we don’t need to wait for perfection to in order to find hope and courage in the face of injustice.”

Ouch!  Gosh, Jesus, it’s not easy being a disciple!  Especially not in the midst of forest fires and election campaigns.  It’s not easy to challenge the stories we tell ourselves of what the world is like.  It’s not easy looking for hope and love and courage in these times.  It’s not easy to be drawing pretty pictures on sidewalks when they are going to be stepped on, ignored or washed away moments later.  It is easy to tell ourselves stories of scarcity and helplessness against all that we face.  But are these stories actually real?  

I am watching one of my family members who is remembering who they really are.  They have told themselves the basic story that they are stupid and have no friends and no talents.  But one of their friends have asked them to preside over their wedding!  And instead of retreating to their basic story, they are asking me for help in planning the wedding service.  They are also remembering the many good times they did drama, sang in a choir, took a role in a high school musical that surprised everyone including themselves. They are remembering the accomplishments they succeeded at, and they are remembering that they have the intelligence and experience to tackle something as daunting as a wedding service!  It is wonderful and beautiful to see them coming to the realization that they have more skills than they thought they did and remembering their accomplishments more than their failures.  

We think in such black and white terms about ourselves and our neighbors, we expect and demand so much perfection.  Someone recently said to me, “Well, the Ukrainians did terrible things too, before Russia invaded.”  Like the Ukrainians were supposed to be 100% perfect in order to be blameless of the invasion?  A much smaller and weaker country is expected to be perfect before we can be outraged on their behalf?  Like if they are not 100% blameless, it’s their fault and the bully is justified in its action?  It’s similar to when I say things like “I love my hybrid car and I hope my next one is an electric”, I hear comments like, “the province isn’t perfectly set up for electric cars so don’t bother.” Or “the technology isn’t perfectly innocent of environmental impacts itself, so you’re not saving anything.” Again, a basic story that says unless the progress is perfect, don’t try to make any changes.  Go back to being a passive victim and don’t think you can make a difference.”

Walter Brueggemann, a world-renowned bible scholar and justice speaker once said that evangelism is the invitation to challenge those stories of hopeless helplessness.  He said that the dominant story of our lives is one of therapeutic, technological, militaristic consumerism.  Where buying the right kind of gadgets, which if you live in Texas, would be a semi-automatic assault rifle, is the only shopping therapy that really makes us feel good about ourselves.  This kind of quick-fix basic story doesn’t require us to do anything except go shopping.  It assumes that happiness is found in a credit card.  If we think our credit cards will solve loneliness or war or division, we are sadly mistaken.  We can’t buy or earn love, we can’t buy or earn perfection.

We can change our basic stories.  Jesus wanted us to become a community centred in love and hope and trust and compassion and justice.  He didn’t pray that we be perfect.  He didn’t pray that we be identical to each other.  He didn’t even pray that we would vote for the perfect party, heck, democracy wasn’t even possible in his time and place.  He did pray that we may become one, become united in the principles of fair play, community and hospitality.  He prayed not that we buy every shade of chalk that can be found on Amazon, but that we take our chalk and draw pictures of hope and courage and inspiration for all to see.  The chalk drawings were a reminder that people do care about how we are being divided by fear and anxiety.  They were a sign that someone wanted to do something to add beauty to our town.  The artists were like disciples sharing a new story of inclusion and kindness.  Whether we chalk it up to inspiration or a careful plan, we can challenge our world to see the hope and beauty that happens when we come together.  Let us do like the chalk artists and Jesus’ disciples, do small acts of beauty to make our world more kind and just and loving for all.

May 16, 2023

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire!


How are your lungs doing this week?  Our air quality has been so bad last Tuesday and Wednesday that I wore a mask to cut down on the amount of smoke I was breathing.

It was unnerving to hear of evacuations in Athabasca while I was in Camrose last weekend. Ironically, my Facebook popped up a picture of Rev. Donalee and myself in this very church seven years ago.  It also felt ironic that we who have lots of experience in hosting evacuees might end up being evacuated ourselves. It was a relief to hear that it was contained, and people were allowed back home after three days.  Some folks in Drayton Valley are still not back home from their trip to Camrose.  And of course, people from Fort McMurray and Slave Lake who were at our meeting remembered how hard this is on the townsfolk who are still waiting for the ‘all clear.’

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  And we are seeing not just literal fire in our province, but hints of fiery tempers and anger around us.  Take Back Alberta had a meeting in Athabasca this week.  Another police officer was gunned down in Canada, and two others injured.  Protestors of all kinds of political stripes are protesting angrily at other people’s rallies.  Conspiracy theories abound even about the fires. We need more than the Federal Government sending in troupes of soldiers to deal with these kinds of fires. 

The fires of intolerance, the fires of anger, the fires of judgment, the fires of isolation, the fires of fear.  Especially the fires of fear.  Fear of change, fear of government secret agendas, fear of societal collapse, fear of financial destabilization, fear of loss, fear of grief, fear of death, fear of bullying.

Fear. It’s almost as thick as the smoke on Tuesday.  Neighbors afraid to put up political signs on their lawns because they worry about repercussions.  Kids afraid to speak up about the bullying they are facing in school or at home.  Community members afraid of what a homeless shelter might mean to the town, shop owners afraid of the homeless people and the vandalism they might do, and politicians afraid of public debate.

Not that much different from the Early church community.  “Do not be afraid” is in our scriptures 169 times!  John and Peter were both preaching to communities of faith who were struggling to find ways to be courageous.  The new Christians had been shunned by their families and friends in the synagogues, and also in the Greek and Roman temples.  They were used to praying to Zeus and Jupiter, Athena and Aphrodite and now were praying to Yahweh together.  And as their congregations learned how to be a community, the outside world became less and less tolerant of them.  The Roman government declared that they were atheists because they didn’t worship the Roman Caesar as a God.  Romans had passed laws where all people were forced to declare “Caesar is Lord” and this upstart little movement was declaring “Jesus is Lord”.  Saying that was treasonous! The persecutions this new group faced were real and their lives were at stake.  When they declared “Peace be With You”, they were entrusting their lives to each other for they didn’t who the informants and spies were.  And people were killed for their faith.  The word “martyr” originally meant “Witness”, but the persecutions were so bad that it became twisted into “person willing to die for their faith” and many did.  Peter certainly did.

Hear his words again: “Who is going to harm you if your goal is to do what is right? But even if you do suffer for what is right, count it a blessing. Don't fear what they fear. Don't be afraid, and don't worry. In your hearts, set Jesus apart as holy and sovereign.”

And John’s testimony: “Don't let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith in me as well. In God's house there are many dwelling places; otherwise, how could I have told you that I was going to prepare a place for you? I am indeed going to prepare a place for you… I won't leave you orphaned; I will come back to you.”

It is not easy to be bold in such fearful times.  And yet it is what we are called to be.  I was so proud of our Northern Spirit Region last week.  We spent three days considering what Deep Spirituality, Bold Discipleship and Daring Justice would look like and voted overwhelmingly to become an official Affirming Region.  It means that we will consider the needs of people for things like non-gendered bathrooms, safe spaces and inclusive language at every regional gathering and make space for diverse voices on all committees and executive.  It was exciting to see Rachel, a new regional rep, get involved, and I happily stepped down from the Affirming Task Group that had worked so hard for this goal.  It is in good hands as people boldly stepped forward to take it to the next level.

On this Mother’s Day, we also are called to be as bold as regional reps, or even as firefighters, remembering that the waters of our baptisms quench the fires of fear.   We are called to remember the many martyrs that spoke against bullying cultures and changed the world through their witness.  Anna Jarvis stood up in a Methodist Church in 1905, asking for Mother’s Day to be a day of peace where mothers would stop sending their husbands and sons off to be killed in wars. She witnessed against systemic violence and oppression.  Whether it is in the home or in the community or in the public sphere, let us join in public witness that while there may be fires of fear, we will remember to be bold disciples that witness to our faith that in life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us, we are not alone! Thanks be to God.

May 02, 2023

Feed my Sheep!

 Jesus keeps popping up in the most unlikely places in Easter resurrection stories.  The locked room, the road to Emmaus, the empty tomb, the gathering a week later with our good friend, Doubting Thomas.  Every time, it is unexpected, and it is life changing. 

“Feed my sheep”, Jesus asked Peter, again and again.  Poor Peter felt nagged and pestered.  And no wonder.  He just wanted to spend time with this illusive, here one moment and gone the next Jesus who popped up when Peter least expected him, then would disappear for days and weeks.  Who knew where he would show up next?  Or when or why or how?

And my goodness, he was disruptive when he showed up.  Jesus didn’t let the disciples slip back into the old patterns of behaviors.  Peter and the Zebedee brothers were fishermen before they met Jesus, and went back to their familiar ways.  They went back to what they knew best.  They went back to the life that they had been only too excited to leave.  It can’t have been much of a job and they couldn’t have had much of a passion for it if they were so quick to abandon it the first time.  Jesus didn’t let them stay stuck though, oh no.  Jesus had better things in mind for them all.

I think it’s very natural to go back to comfortable habits when we are stressed.  Teachers and parents often talk about regression of children when they experience challenges.  When a three-year-old gets a baby brother or sister, they will often forget what they have learned and might start sucking their thumbs more or have more temper tantrums.  Older children may cling more to their parents.  At a wedding I did last summer, teachers were telling me that the children were two to three years behind in their maturity levels and social skills because of trauma.  It happens.  During Covid, I found myself turning into a computer game zombie when I wasn’t at work.  I slipped into old habits again, bad ones.  I had to reclaim the positive habits and become very intentional about substituting the good habits for the bad.  It takes a lot of effort and time to get out of our ruts.

Sometimes going back is the only way to go forward.  I remember when my children were going into junior high school, and we needed me to be working.  The idea of going back to work gave me panic attacks because I thought that the only job I would get was flipping burgers at MacDonald's.  It scared me to think about brushing off my old resume.  My stomach was in knots and I didn’t know what to do.  I went to Naramata Centre that summer and took all my fear into it’s labyrinth.  As I walked that big twisty path, I found my shoulders loosened, my thoughts slowed down and I relaxed for the first time in months.  As I reached the centre of the labyrinth, I had a sudden picture in my mind of being in a rollercoaster, at the very top of a tall hill, ready to go down in a steep dive.  And a voice saying, “buckle up, you’re in for a wild ride!”  Not actually a comfortable message as I hate rollercoasters with a passion!  8 months later I was working at City Hall, 2 years after that I was working in a religious bookstore, a year later, I was studying in Halifax to become a minister, and that led me to Athabasca where I still am today.  It has indeed been a wild ride.  Would I have gotten that same sense of calm without walking a labyrinth?  Probably, but labyrinths have been my fishing boat, my ‘go to’ when I’m stuck.

It's like the scene in a favorite movie of mine, the Princess Bride.  Inigo Montoya, the Spanish swordfighter, is separated from Fezzik, the giant strong man, and remembers that if they got separated, they were to go back to where they started.  Inigo returns to the village, is reunited with Fezzik, and they lived happily ever after.

What is your beginning?  What is your labyrinth or fishing boat?  Where did you first have a sense of something greater than yourself, where you found peace or hope?  What sorts of things help you look beyond the addictions we use to fix the stresses of our lives?

In the end, the only question that really matters is the one Jesus asked Peter.  In the Good Friday stories, Peter lied three times.  Jesus questioned him on the shore three times “Do you love me?” and this time Peter told the truth.

Do we love Jesus?  Do we love the healing we have found, the courage we have felt along the path of faith, do we love those moments where the stories of Jesus help us get unstuck?  Do we love working and playing together in this community that is striving to follow Jesus’ footsteps?  Do we hear the call to feed the hungry sheep of our world who are looking for help to break out of their own ruts?  Do we remember making a difference through socks for the homeless, prayer shawls for the heartbroken, coins to heal places like Ukraine, meals to feed the hungry in this town, and building safe spaces where all will feel welcome?  Are we willing to love Jesus and experiment with living out his teachings?  And will we feed his sheep as he has fed us with wine and bread and hope and love?  We can do all this, when we remember that together, we can do and be more than we can as individuals.  When we seek Jesus, when we dare to dream and hope and throw our nets in new directions, we will find Jesus at the lakeshore and be fed by his love and compassion.  May it be so for us all!

April 27, 2023

Inexpressible Joy

How many of you have ever gone to a live music concert?

July 21, 2012.  Halifax Nova Scotia.  Tall Ships Festival.  Parades, boats, sailors and to top it all off, a once-in-a lifetime event down at the waterfront overlooking the Halifax Harbor!

I was in my fourth year of studying to become a minister and we had an opportunity to go hear a live concert as part of that festival.  $35 for a ticket to the event featuring a host of local musicians.  CBC was the MC and the last performance was the local orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture.  Wow!

Now, we could have gone and heard it for free on the waterfront like many people did, but my buddy, a great music aficionado, had never been to a live performance of an orchestra.  He grew up and lived in rural New Brunswick all his life.  He loved classical music but had never heard more than local musicians playing folk or jazz or rock.  He had an impressive collection of cds and knew the difference between a Brandenburg concerto and the Wagner Ring Cycle.

Sitting beside my friend as he listened to his first live symphony was very special.  It wasn’t just the instruments on the stage.  The downtown Halifax churches rang their bells at just the right spot.  Not only that, but the cannons that had been brought down from the Citadel to the waterfront were fired to synchronize perfectly with the bells and the orchestra.  And that triggered the fireworks overhead, also synchronized to the live music.  Wow! 

We were sitting in the front row right in front of the speakers.  When the cannons went off, and they were broadcast through those speakers, I felt my chest compress and release, like an elephant was playing trampoline on my chest!  I turned to my friend to ask him what he thought, only to see tears running down his face!  The real thing was so much more powerful in person than it was on a record or on TV.  I found myself tearing up too and we were one of the last to leave that tent to watch the last of the fireworks that night.

The real thing, a real live experience, that’s what Thomas wanted.  He wanted to be like everyone else, to have that heart-thumping, life-changing tear-jerking, earth-shattering moment that the other disciples had, that brought such clarity and passion and enthusiasm back into their lives.  And maybe he was a wee bit exasperated with them.  After all, the Jewish faith expects mourners to spend a ritual seven days in mourning, a practice called Shivah, where family gather and grieve and read scriptures.  Thomas would have been scandalized and outraged at the behaviors of the other disciples.  He would have seen it as disrespectful at best and delusions at worst.  No wonder he wanted to see Jesus as they had seen Jesus. 

We too want to see Jesus.  We want to put our hands in his hands, we want to have that concrete, tangible and measurable experience of the Resurrection.  All too often we have a logical response or an emotional response and wonder if it’s enough to sustain our faith in difficult times.  I remember having an emotional experience when I was ten after a week of vacation bible school where my teachers talked about how important it was to accept Jesus as my personal savior into my heart.  I told them I wanted to do it, and the teacher pulled me into a room for a private prayer and I was released back into the group to proudly proclaim I was saved.  My parents were not impressed, and the feeling of pleasing my teacher faded very quickly.  I’m much more like the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, who claimed that he found his heart strangely warmed by a religious gathering one day.  I can relate to a strangely warmed heart.  I never had the earthquake emotional experience of a live performance of Tchaikovsky the way my friend did.  I grew up listening to the 1812 Overture; every couple of years my parents took us to a live performance in Edmonton’s Jubilee Auditorium.  In fact my most vivid memory when I was 5 was falling asleep in the middle of Swan Lake and having the pretty ballerinas dancing into my dreams that evening.  So while the cannons blasting and the bells ringing were glorious, they didn’t give me the same experience that my friend had.

Whether we have a dramatic encounter with the living Christ or a milder strange warming of our hearts, we are called to be a part of God’s community of faithful followers.  A community that Jesus saw as blessed no matter what kind of experience we’ve had.  Why blessed?  Because while we may ‘suffer the distress of many trials” as Peter put it, we have a community of faith to support us.  Thomas did not have an experience of Christ when he was by himself, it was when he was with the other disciples that Christ appeared.  So for some of us, Jesus appears when we are gathered together to strengthen our faith.  I know that there are times when the weight of the world’s events weigh me down, especially when the flags are at half-mast at the RCMP detachment, or the budget looms over of my head.  But when I gather with you, it strengthens my faith too.  Our faith is more precious than gold.  And while we may still be growing that faith, even though we may have never put our hands in the nail marks of crucifixion, let us rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory, that however we have had our hearts strangely warmed, we know that we are blessed and we are in the presence of Jesus, whom we claim as Christ, our judge and our hope.  In life, in suffering, in death, God is with us, we are not alone.  Thanks be to God!

April 11, 2023

We’re Still Standing!

Did you know that the most frequently written about event in the Bible is not crossing the Red Sea or getting the 10 Commandments or the Christmas story?  We only have two stories of Christmas, and they are different from each other in many ways.  But guess how many resurrection accounts there are in the New Testament?

There are the four accounts in each of the four Gospels, and another three sermons in Acts, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Peter.  There are over 50 other references sprinkled throughout the Gospels and the letters.  Something very significant happened to folks that first Easter morning.

So significant that it felt like an earthquake that shook them up like nothing before.  It turned their understanding of the world on its head.  They found the courage and the enthusiasm to go out into the same world that had killed their leader and preach exactly the same message that got him killed in the first place!

Now folks like Richard Dawkins think they conspired to lie or else they were stupid idiots.  But the lie theory doesn’t hold water to me.  To put it in a modern context, while I might promote the lies of someone whom I look up to, especially if he is a rich billionaire and ex-president of a democratic country, I won’t promote it if it means risking myself getting involved in a lawsuit.  And Jesus was neither a rich billionaire nor a former president.  Jesus was a peasant rabbi, a faithful Jew.  Who on earth would want to die for such a poor homeless person?  The lying theory doesn’t hold water for me.

What about the ‘stupid idiots’ theory?  That Jesus came up with an elaborate scam that made David Copperfield or Chriss Angel look like amateurs, and pulled the wool over his followers?  But Peter and the rest sound like down to earth, no-nonsense people.  The one truth they all agreed on was that Jesus taught them to build a community based on sayings like “The Truth will Set you Free”, and “Don’t be like the lying hypocrites”.  That is not a conspiracy scam.  These were rough and ready, cynical men who were more interested in fame and power than humbleness.  Yet, after Easter they left their homes and families, gave up fame and fortune, and turned from self-serving students to passionate witnesses willing to risk their lives.  Wow!

The earthquake that was the death of their beloved teacher should have dropped them in their tracks.  They should have, as Matthew colorfully put it, “fell down as though they were dead.”  That’s exactly what the Roman officials expected.  They were old hands at disrupting political opponents.  They knew the best way to diffuse rebellions was to take the leader out.  It worked like a charm repeatedly over and over.  Lop off the head and the followers slink off into oblivion. It was one of the main reasons why the Roman empire lasted for 300 years.  Public executions kept the local peasants afraid and obedient.  Until one day it didn’t.

That one day was Easter.  Three days after his friends and family had experienced the devastating and humiliating execution of their beloved teacher, suddenly they experienced the message to not be afraid in a courageous new way.  Suddenly the earthquakes of life had no power over them.  Suddenly they had strength and endurance and passion for the boldest message they had ever heard.  Love is unstoppable.  Bullies will not win.  Power has no power.  Empire is no God.  Death is not the end.

We are living in earthquake times.  We have endured our world being turned upside down.  We have seen the deliberate preaching of intolerance.  We are seeing the fragility of banks, world peace, and our environment.  We hear of more gun violence, the rise of mental illness, the undermining of democracy and good governance.  We feel the challenge of inflation, and rising crime rates. These earthquakes are real.

Or are they?  While on one hand we have lots of bad news stories, we also are called as Christians to look for God working in the world in unexpected ways.  Look at the statistics of crime from our government: 

The violent crime index went up because of domestic violence during Covid lockdowns, but everything else is dropping!  Our local RCMP are cracking down on drugs and guns, with lots of stories in the paper about their latest seizures. Solar panel businesses are on the rise as are solar panels on Canadian rooftops.  EV car sales are increasing too.  Hybrid heat pumps that use less natural gas are being sold faster than expected.  All good news for the environment.  The number of people hospitalized for Covid in Alberta is down to 450 now, and that is also good news.

God’s good news has been working for centuries.  Don’t be afraid!  Jesus is still with you!  Death is not the final answer, the final defeat.  This good news destroyed the corrupt Roman Empire and stopped the large-scale slaughter of innocent people.  This good news led to ordinary followers like you and me establishing schools for all children, and hospitals for anyone in need.  This good news led folks like us building hospices a thousand years ago for Muslim, Jew, Christian and pagan alike so they could die in dignity.  This good news continues to end the power of elites to do whatever they want and avoid justice.  Even now, research done by reputable universities are finding that being involved in a healthy faith community can improve our happiness, our health, our longevity and our emotional resilience!  Gathering together on Sunday mornings, doing crazy things like collecting coins and supplies for Ukraine or socks for the homeless, combats loneliness and meaninglessness.  It gives us the strength and courage to withstand the earthquakes in our lives and helps us boldly proclaim that in life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us, we are not alone, Thanks be to God, halleluiah!

April 07, 2023

Have you seen my Son?

Have you seen my son?  I’m hearing all kinds of rumors!  Where’s my boy?  I know he’s all grown up but a mother worries.  My son.  Have you seen him?  He’s pretty ordinary.  Average height, black hair, about 30.  Not particularly handsome, I suppose, but I think he’s the most handsome boy. No one will write stories about his looks, that’s for sure, but he’s still special to me.  Have you seen him?

If you have, please tell me where he is.  You may not remember his looks, but you will remember him.  Always has something surprising to say, and my goodness he can be funny!  I’ll never forget the time he said that it’s harder for a rich man to get into heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle!  Oh we laughed as he pretended to shove a big camel through a tiny needle. Or when he told us that when we judge others it’s like we’re complaining of a speck of sawdust in their eye when we have a giant log in our own! 

Have you seen my son?  He’s a storyteller, with great tales of flowers and birds being cared for, of us being lights on a lamp stand, of lost sons and lost sheep.  He tells stories of God’s love for us in a way that makes it feel real!  When Jesus tells a story, it sticks in your head, that’s for sure.

Have you seen my son?  He’s a healer, it’s amazing the people who have found healing after meeting him. I can’t explain it, but the lepers dance, the lame jump for joy, the blind astounded, the deaf tell of good news. 

Have you seen my son?  You’d know if you’ve ever met him.  He connects people together.  Tax collectors gain friends, prostitutes too.  People who are disfigured and ill are turned into family. The homeless are fed and the people with mental illness are made welcome.  There’s always enough wine at weddings and fish catch in the lake when he’s around.  There’s always daily bread in the wilderness to feed the biggest crowd

Have you seen my boy, my loving first-born child?  He’s such a listener.  People tell him their troubles and they figure it out.  Like Zacchaeus who didn’t like his job anymore, or the unhappy rich man who didn’t know why he was unhappy.  Powerful men like Joseph of Aramathea, who had deep philosophical questions he was struggling with, and little children that he loves to listen to and to bless.

Have you seen my son?  He’s so incredibly brave.  I remember him going into a graveyard where a man was chained up to keep him from harming himself.  My son talked to the fellow, calming him down, helping him, healing him.  Other people were scared of him but not my son.  And he helped Mary Magdalene, my young friend, who was struggling with sadness and discouragement and all sorts of confusing thoughts.  Now she has purpose and enthusiasm.  My son even talks to Roman commanders and Samaritans and wanders throughout the countryside.  He doesn’t worry about bandits or soldiers either.  I’ll never forget the time he wandered into an angry crowd of men who were planning to kill a young girl because she got caught with a young man where she shouldn’t be.  Why they let the young man go is something I don’t understand.  But my son went right into the middle of the crowd, asked a few questions and then asked one more.  “Are any of you perfect? “ And that saved her life. 

Have any of you seen him?  He did make enemies.  He couldn’t stand hypocrisy, especially from priests and politicians.  He called Herod a sneaky fox.  He challenged the Pharisees to have authentic faith rather than just a show in public where all could see.  He got angry in the temple at everything being done to line the pockets of money changers who were overcharging poor people.  He stood up to authorities when they were unjust or selfish.

I’m so afraid.  I can’t find him anywhere.  I worry that the Roman soldiers have him, or the temple authorities.  My poor son.  I feel like he’s in trouble and there’s nothing I can do to help him.  He’s always been special, and he’s always been a worry for me.  Goodness like his doesn’t get treated fairly in this harsh world.  He has offended powerful people who don’t like being challenged.  The courts do not care for people who ask troubling questions.  They do not want to be questioned.  They do not want to be fair and truthful and caring.

Have you seen my son?  God, you know and see everything.  You love my son more than I do.  You would not harm a hair on his head.  The people in power are angry at him and think they can stop his message of love and freedom if they can catch him.  I know you sent him to teach us how to love each other and forgive each other.  But how can you protect him from the whole Roman army?  How can you keep him safe from politicians who hate him and priests who feel threatened by him?  God, I can’t protect him and be with him in this time of trial, but you can.  God, your ways are mysterious beyond me but I know you have seen my son.  I know you are with him, and even if he feels abandoned and lost, even if he is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with him.  Your rod and staff will protect him.  Lead him not into temptation, but deliver him from evil, for yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever, Amen.