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SALT Shaker!

The gospel is an excerpt from Jesus’ infamous ‘Sermon on the Mount’.

Jesus speaks of being a light, which is the emphasized imagery of this Time after the Epiphany that perhaps you have grown weary of hearing…
Well, pause and take a deep breath.

I am not talking about the light, instead the SALT.

Jesus tells the gathered crowd to be the salt of the earth,
but what does that mean?

I am intrigued at times about how language changes throughout the decades, not to mention the centuries and the millennia. For example:

If someone is ‘salty’, they are upset of bitter about something minor.
But, does Jesus want us to be bitter about insignificant things?
I don’t think so.

Or reflecting on my Western States Youth Gathering adventure with a friend from church, I can not help but recall ‘salt’. We noted youth, sorry ladies but primarily female youth, who were sweet as sugar when chaperone eyes were watching but behaving inappropriately and vindictively when those eyes were not. We nicknamed them ‘salt’, because although appearing to be sugar, they were something different. We might say they wore a mask, were two-faced, or the popular and often deserved criticism of Christians as being hypocrites.
But, does Jesus want us to be two-faced, hypocrites? I doubt it. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Jesus: Rebellious, Refining Light

It has been 40 days since Christmas.
It has been 40 days since the birth of Jesus the Christ.

It has been 40 days since the light of hope, peace, joy, and love bursted into our existence in the darkness of hopelessness, conflict, despair and anguish, and hatred and fear.

And yet, our ordinary daily routines have resumed.

The Advent preparations of our hearts and lives are a distant memory.

Those 12 days of Christmas have been celebrated and packed away.

This Time after the Epiphany, its lightbulb moments are dimming while flickering but once a week.

I imagine that it was similar for the newly formed Holy Family:
Joseph, Mary, and of course the infant Jesus.

According to the Catholic tradition, Joseph was a widower with children born of his previous union.

But as we know, Mary was a first-time parent. Perhaps within these 40 days, Mary was miraculously able to establish a routine and is a natural at the ‘parenting’ thing but I am confident that she is mentally, emotionally, and physically drained beyond exhaustion.

Yet, Jesus was circumcised and named on the 8th day after his birth, per Jewish custom.

And now, Jesus is presented in the temple on the 40th day after his birth, per Jewish custom. The presentation was essentially a return of the first-born son to God, who had claimed the first-born sons of Israel (current and future) during the original Passover in Egypt. The parents offered to God a prescribed sacrifice, due to the limited resources of the Holy Family their sacrifice was two turtle-doves or young pigeons.

The mysterious and awe-inspiring divine experience of Advent and Christmas are a memory. Our ordinary routines have resumed. Yes, even for the Holy Family.

But, within their Jewish custom, divine revelation would once again amaze Joseph and Mary. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2020 in Sermons

 

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The Darkness & The Light

Our Isaiah scripture is well-known and inter-connected with its paired scriptures, while embodying this ‘Time after Epiphany’ as the manifestation of God and the imagery of light.

Isaiah writes of those in darkness, which is directly echoed in our Matthew scripture. This darkness, however, is not historically ‘sin’. This darkness is the reality of their community as oppressed persons, who existed in injustice, hopelessness, conflict, despair and anguish, and hatred and fear. This was their darkness.

Yet, Isaiah reminds these people that the empire, and thus the oppressing forces, are temporary for they will see a great light.

This contrast of the dark and the light connects to a basic shared human experience that is not confided by the imaginary divisions of culture and language, race and ethnicity, nationality, socio-economic status, religious or non-religious adherence, generation and age, sexuality or gender identity, political affiliations, or etc. It is the anxious and fearful energy of being in the dark, for it is disorderly chaos of the unknown due to our lack of sight. However, when a source of light is introduced and we regain our sight, the anxious fear is relieved, the disorderly chaos becomes orderly stability, and the unknown becomes known.

This light is the light of our Advent candles: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2020 in Sermons

 

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What are You Seeking?

The Gospel according to John differs from those of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

John begins with creation, which is brought into being through the WORD that is Christ.

John, similar to Mark, does not include a birth narrative.

John does include Jesus’ baptism, but it is through the witness of John the Baptist to his disciples instead of Jesus. This is where we enter into the gospel this morning.

John the Baptist is excited, this is the One for whom he prepared the way.

John’s disciples were excited for the Israelites had been waiting centuries for their Messiah to come.

And Jesus’ first words, his first impression made, in the gospel of John is a question.

As one who is inquisitive, I appreciate Jesus arriving on scene with a question especially the simplistic yet complex and vastly open ended question posed…
What are you looking for? Or better yet, What are you seeking?

These disciples of John respond ‘to know if you are the long awaited Messiah’. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Affirm Baptism

While in Arizona, an uncle was asking his siblings if they recall him being baptized. It was decided that he probably had not been baptized and his face seemed concerned. He is older with health concerns and married to a Catholic women.

As Christians, Baptism is significant in our faith journey.

I often note our appropriate response to Baptism through commitment to our shared baptismal, or Christian, vocation, which is to:

  • Proclaim Christ in word and deed;
  • Seek justice;
  • Act with compassion and mercy; and
  • Love and serve all people.

But, it is often at the expense of discussing the purpose of and the Triune God’s activity in our baptisms.

Baptism, at its most basic, is an initiation rite. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Proclaim the WORD in Deed

The Gospel according to John reminds me of the letters wrote by the apostle Paul. These texts have long, switch-back styled, confusing sentences of deep philosophical and theological language. Honestly, It is easy to get lost.

Our Scripture, the Prologue in John, is perhaps the most challenging.

There was the WORD.
The WORD was with God.
The WORD was God.
The WORD created all things.
All was created through the WORD.

Who else is confused? (Raising my own hand).

I am not ashamed to admit it. It is confusing.

Again, it is has though this journey through John is switchbacks on a mountain road causing us to lose track of north and south, east and west.

And yet, this idea of the WORD is important in the church.

We, as individuals, witness the power of words in our own lives. The words we speak to ourselves, others, and into our world influences all that hear it.

Words have power, and yet, 80% of communication is non-verbal.

Again, 80% of our communication has nothing to do with selecting the correct word. This 80% includes our tone, because there is a difference between:

  • “Melinda” (regular, conversational),
  • “Melinda” (excited), and
  • “Melinda” (angry, disppointed, or questioning conduct of).

 

Trust me, I have heard that often when I was a child and a couple times this last week while in Arizona.

The tone can speak more volume than the words themselves.

THEN, there is body language or the embodiment of our words.
I talk with my hands, which some people would prefer my hands remained at my side and it drives them crazy… but, it is just how I am.

It is claimed that if the person you are speaking with is listening, interested, and engaged, their body language will mirror your own. Thus, if you are curious if one is engaged, cross your arms and wait to see if they cross their arms.

Plus, we are able to discern the difference in body language from a friendly gesture or one intended to intimidate, assert power, or is aggressive.

The idea of our words, tone, and body language is involved in the Scriptural WORD.

The WORD, within the church, has three separate expressions.  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2020 in Sermons

 

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Ordinary Holy Night

Welcome to the holiest night of the year…

and yet at first glance, it might seem ordinary.

Once upon a time, the entire world was covered in darkness that allowed hopelessness, injustice, corruption, oppression, misery and hate to flourish within its shadows.

Until our story begins with a young, pregnant, engaged but not yet married woman named Mary traveling with Joseph to Bethlehem per government census. They were Israelites, whose land was occupied by the Romans.

As the Gospel according to Matthew wrote, Joseph had reasonably questioned Mary regarding her condition and claim to not engaging in the necessary activities with him or another man. Joseph came to believe Mary after an angel appeared in his dream assuring him to take Mary as his wife and shared God’s plan for redeeming all humankind and the entire creation. But, I imagine that doubters remained who whispered to one another about Mary, Joseph, and this baby. I also imagine God did not send an angel to each doubter.

Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, the couple is not able to find a room for the night and I would imagine with a little hesitation but with gratitude accepted the offer to stay in a stable.

In the fields that surrounded Bethlehem, shepherds were watching their flocks as was normal.

I imagine that the night sky was darker than dark polka-dotted with beautiful but distant stars offering little light for them and their sheep.

But on this ordinary night, God would use these ordinary people, place, and event for a holy drama. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2019 in Sermons

 

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