Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, August 27, 2017: Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Isaiah 51:1-6  +  Psalm 138  +  Romans 12:1-8  +  Matthew 16:13-20

IMG_1067When we were together last weekend, I shared with you the news that I’d spent last Saturday evening at the hospital with Dea Checchin and her family, gathered around her hospital bed, sharing stories and surrounding her with prayer in the final hours of her life. She died later that night, though I didn’t find that out until after we’d finished worship last Sunday. A couple days later, this past Tuesday morning, my grandmother died. She’d led a long, full life, but the final weeks and days were hard as she labored to deliver herself unto death.

Both of these women taught me volumes about faith. On many occasions I shared with Dea my awe at her profound trust that God was with her and had provided enough. Two years ago, as we were moving from the old church building into this new space, she was moving out of her home and into assisted living. On her very first night there, her husband, Lino, passed away. A week later her son-in-law Gary died as well. Yet, when I visited with Dea after these traumas, she was always ready to tell me how fortunate she felt, how God had blessed her with a loving family and had taught her over the course of a lifetime about grace and forgiveness. It was one of the things I loved most about Dea — that, as quick as she was to speak (and often pretty bluntly), she was even quicker to forgive, herself and others. She knew God as the love that redeems, and she was always happiest in worship when we sang the old hymns that proclaimed the mystery of Jesus’ sacrifice for people like her, like us.

My grandma Blanche became my grandma about halfway through my internship year at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Toms River, New Jersey. Up until then she’d just been a member of my internship committee, who took her responsibilities seriously and made a point of taking me out to lunch once a month to ask how my internship was going and to hear me reflect on what I was learning. About halfway through that year my life got really hard. My great-grand-aunt died, then my maternal grandmother, and then my sister went missing for a month and a half. I felt like the survivor of a great shipwreck, drifting out in the middle of the ocean, alone in a life raft waiting for someone to come looking for survivors. Into that lonely devastation came Blanche who told me that she would be my grandmother. It seemed like a kind thing to say, a gesture of sympathy, but that’s not what it was at all. IMG_0631For the next fifteen years, Blanche went out of her way to introduce herself to my family and friends. She made a trip in her mid-80s to Des Moines to get to know my parents. At the age of 93 she travelled to Chicago for my and Kerry’s wedding. She taught me a lesson I’ve learned over and over in my life: that all family is chosen family, and that the power of God working through each one of us is the power to create families wherever we are, whenever it’s needed. She knew Jesus as the love that claims us, even when our own flesh and blood may struggle to do so. She also left me with a file folder full of hymns and suggestions for her funeral, which will be a great help when it comes time to plan her memorial service next month.

But, however much I loved, respected, adored these women, their faith cannot take the place of my own faith. I cannot know God simply by living in close proximity to people who know God, by singing their songs and praying their words. I’m not saying it doesn’t help. In fact, it’s basically how each of us begins our faith journey, by adopting the words and gestures and customs and rituals of our parents and grandparents, or the friends who brought us to worship, or even the strangers who sit next to us in the pews (which I still feel obligated to say, even though we now sit in stacking chairs — as if all seating, when used for religious purposes, becomes a pew). But, at some point, I have to have my own answer to the question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Map-of-Upper-GalileeWhen Jesus asks his followers this question, they have just arrived in Caesarea Philippi. That was the new name for an ancient Roman city far to the north of the Sea of Galilee in the region of the modern nation of Israel called the Golan Heights. “Caesarea” marked it as part of the Roman Empire, “Philippi” referred to Herod Philip II, the son of King Herod who was king at the time of Jesus’ birth and had called for the slaughter of the holy innocents. Philip was also brother to Herod Antipas, the one who had called for the death of John the Baptist.

All of which is to say that, when Jesus asks those who follow him who they say he is, they are all very aware that they are living in a moment when violent rulers have taken over, rebranding everything around them to serve as a reflection of their own glory, erasing the past and moving against anyone who questioned their authority — including, most recently, John the Baptist. It is in that setting, in a city named for the family that had murdered the man who’d baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, that Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?”

His previous question had been easier, when he’d asked what others were saying about him. They simply report what’s being said. “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus sharpens the question, requiring the disciples to step off the sidelines and speak for themselves.

Who do I say Jesus is? I know what my father and mother showed me. I know what I learned in confirmation, and then in seminary. I got a pretty good idea who Jesus was to Dea, and to Blanche. “Some say” a lot of things about who Jesus is, but the question is — who do I say that Jesus is?

Even for me to join Peter in proclaiming that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” isn’t enough, since Peter’s declaration of faith is yet one more instance of received tradition, a formulaic response to a question that is, at its heart, all about relationship. “Who do you say that I am?” How am I the messiah, the long-awaited redeemer of Israel? In what way am I a “Son”? What does it mean to be a child of the “living” God?

Here’s what I believe.

I believe that Jesus was and is the messiah, a word that derives from the Hebrew verb for anointing and was used not only in anticipation of a future ruler, but by various kings, high priests, and prophets throughout Israel’s history. For me it is important to proclaim Jesus the messiah, in part because it means that we are no longer waiting for God to send a savior to create and lead the world I want to live in. In the shadow of Rome, in a city named for a tyrant, Peter declares Jesus to be God’s messiah, and I’m with Peter. I am not waiting for God to send someone else to get us out of this mess. Jesus was baptized by John, and I was baptized into Jesus, and that’s all the authority I need in this life.

I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, which I most often render as “God’s own Beloved,” since that is what the voice from heaven called Jesus, “my Son, the Beloved.” (Matt. 3:17) What’s important about remembering and reclaiming the title of Son, with all its gendered baggage, is that Roman emperors were also called Son of God — not “beloved,” not “child,” but “son,” as a way of making clear the connection between empire and patriarchy: from God to emperor to nation. But I proclaim Jesus, the messiah, as the Beloved heir of God because I believe it is an act of rebellion to say that power does not flow from God to kings, but from God to the oppressed; to colonized people in every land and time, to movements of people that leave what they were taught to do behind and follow the sound of the genuine in themselves and one another until they arrive at that moment when they are called upon to testify to what they have seen and heard.

Which is why it is important to say that Jesus, the messiah, is the beloved heir of the living God, because it makes clear that God did not finish reforming the world with the prophet Elijah, or Jeremiah, or John the Baptist. God did not finish reforming the church with Martin Luther or Martin Luther King, Jr.  God did not finish calling people to leave their nets and follow with Peter and the disciples, and God did not finish with me or with us with Dea and Blanche.

God is calling out to you right now to see yourselves as God sees you, as beloved children of the living God, anointed in your own baptisms and called to witness at a moment like this — when once again violent powers seek to erase the history of our land and remake it in their image. In this moment, we are not waiting for anyone who has not already been sent. You and I, baptized into the death and resurrection of the only messiah we need, are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Does that sound like an invitation to fear, timidity, weakness? By no means! “Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.”

And why do you suppose that was?

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Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, August 17, 2014: Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Genesis 45:1-15  +  Psalm 133  +  Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32  +  Matthew 15:10-28

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A protester in the middle of a smoke bomb in Ferguson. Credit David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, via Associated Press

Well, to begin, let me just say that there is so much going on in the passages we’ve just heard that there is no way to do justice to all of the many themes and theologies at work here. That’s true every Sunday, and it’s especially true this Sunday due to the fact that in addition to a story of reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers, in addition to a meditation on God’s faithfulness to God’s promises in Paul’s letter to the Romans, in addition to Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman seeking healing for her daughter, we are also dealing with the texts that come to us from the front lines of history. Depending on how you use technology, this may be literally true for you as it is for me, since I get text messages from the New York Times whenever they push a breaking story alert. So I woke up this morning with texts telling me that while I was sleeping, law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri used a combination of smoke and tear gas to disperse demonstrators whose protests over the killing of teenager Michael Brown last weekend broke the newly imposed curfew.

Given that we’ve been intentionally following the stories from Genesis all summer long, and that we’re midway through a cycle of stories centered on Joseph, the dreamer, I’d thought there might be a way to frame what is happening in the world around us through the lens of Joseph’s estrangement from his family, who sold him into slavery but ended up at his mercy when famine struck and their own food stores were depleted.  Listening to Joseph’s reunion with his brothers, I was moved by the depth of emotion that Genesis conveys. “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, ‘Send everyone away from me.’ So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it…” (Gen. 45:1-2)

Don’t you just feel like weeping?  

The image of a family divided by its own violent past, of brothers brought to the brink of ruin by their mistrust of one another, of the desire to be reunited almost perfectly balanced with the desire to be right, and vindicated. Joseph and his brothers — will they ever get over their tragic past, or will it define them for the rest of their lives?

_76259254_76257635Where to even begin? Is it Israelis and Palestinians struggling the share the same land, suffering the deadly effects of generations of violence that have made it almost impossible to maintain a ceasefire for a mere 72 hours?  Is it ISIS forces driving tens of thousands of Yazidis into the mountains of northern Iraq? Is it children and parents sitting in detention facilities in Texas and all along the border, awaiting deportation to places suffering famines of opportunity and failures at peace? Is it yet another young black man shot down in the streets, this time Ferguson, Missouri; last time in Sanford, Florida; and before that Queens, New York; Oakland, California; Staten Island, and the list goes on.

Don’t you just feel like weeping?

Joseph sends everyone away so that he can reveal himself to his brothers and they can be reconciled, but for all the tears and all the falling into one another’s arms, the reason I can’t stay with this story from Genesis on this morning has to do with the words that follow.  Joseph says,

“I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life … God send me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, to keep you alive for many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God…” (Gen. 45:4b-5,7-8a)

The author of this story in Genesis is sharing a story from the past with an audience caught in the grip of yet another period of captivity, not in Egypt but in Babylon. To those people, suffering a humiliating defeat by a foreign power, the voice of God speaks through scripture to reassure them that God is still present, even where the suffering of God’s people is most intense, and that God can still bring life and healing and reconciliation to the most desperate of circumstances.

That’s a message we need to hear and to remember, but I just can’t lift this story up as a template for understanding the moment in which we’re living.  Joseph may be able to say, “do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here…” but we do not get to let ourselves off the hook quite so easily.

In the gospel story from Matthew Jesus speaks with a candor that seems perfectly suited to our situation.  He says,

Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles … Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. (Matt. 15:10b-11,17-18)

What Jesus says angers the Pharisees and confuses the disciples, because what he’s saying is that we’re not made clean or kept clean by keeping the laws set up to separate us from what is regarded as filthy in this world.  He’s speaking narrowly about dietary restrictions here, since food laws were an important part of the religious customs of the community, but it quickly becomes apparent that this conversation about purity is about people as well.

Jesus leaves that place and heads to Tyre and Sidon, a district filled with people regarded as unclean because of their ethnic background, because of their proximity to Gentiles, because of their worship practices and a variety of other reasons. There were lots of reasons why these people weren’t well regarded, but a lot of it boils down to the fact that they were different. Jesus’ presence draws a woman whose daughter is oppressed by evil forces, and this woman begs for Jesus to help her.

At first Jesus keeps silent. Then his disciples ask him to get rid of her. Finally Jesus responds, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus implies that this new world, the reign of God of which he has been speaking, God’s in breaking reality, is only for some people, only for God’s elect, only for a few.

But this mother is not easily deterred. She kneels before Jesus just as the leper who sought healing knelt before him after he preached his sermon on the mountain, just as a ruler had come kneeling before Jesus pleading for his daughter.  She kneels as a sign that she recognizes God’s authority at work in him, but she persists in pleading for her child.

Next Jesus says something so ugly we can barely recognize him.  He says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” (Matt. 15:26)  There are so many explanations that have been offered that try to make sense of Jesus’ harsh words to a woman so clearly in need, and no one interpretation can say everything.  I’ll tell you what I think.  I think the writer of Matthew’s gospel is intentionally trying to shock us with a visceral dramatization of the principle Jesus has just presented in his teaching about what defiles.  

Under the law, under the cultural norms and expectations of his time, Jesus is perfectly justified in narrowing the focus of his concern to his own people, who he calls the “lost sheep of Israel.”  It’s like those who say we have to attend to our own house before we go messing around in other people’s affairs.  The problem with this kind of thinking is that it reinforces false distinctions between “us” and “them.” Those false distinctions lead to jealousy, violence, enmity and war. They lead to slurs and racial stereotypes. They lead to religious crusades and ethnic cleansing. They lead to abuses of power and violence in our streets.  They lead to Joseph and his brothers weeping over the great distance between them and the tragedies of their past.

It’s a short walk from “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” to “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” which is why Jesus has just taught, “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.”

Then comes the miracle.  In fact, I would say that there is not one miracle in this story, but two.  The first miracle is less visible, but perhaps more significant.  In the face of rejection and humiliation, this Canaanite woman finds the strength to stay engaged in the struggle for healing and liberation.  She does not accept the label she is given, instead she uses it to redirect the conversation toward an even deeper reality.  She says, “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” And we’re reminded that after feeding the five thousand, there were still leftovers.

This Canaanite woman, who has called Jesus “Lord” and “Son of David” knows that in God’s economy there is always enough for everyone, but she also knows that religious folk and people with power sometimes need to be reminded to practice what they preach. So she persists in the face of discrimination, and I think that is the first miracle.

This Caananite woman could be anyone.  She could be the mother in Gaza or in Israel calling for an end to violence and a lasting peace so that her child can be released from the torment of growing up with one eye always toward the sky.  She could be the mother waiting with her children to be sent back to a life of violence and hunger when just beyond the walls of her detention center there are tables overflowing with food, and plenty of scraps and more to be shared. 9720539-largeShe could be the mother marching in the streets, scrubbing blood off the sidewalk, weeping for her son.  She could be your neighbor here in Logan Square, fighting for an affordable apartment in a zip code where condos sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, wondering if there isn’t still a crumb to be shared with her family as well.

Whoever she is, whoever he is, whoever they are, they’re pushing back against the conventional wisdom that says “me first” or “take care of your own” or “blood before water” or “to each their own” or “I got mine, you get yours” or “not in my backyard” or “not my problem.” They’re pushing back against easy religion that says that all you have to do is eat the right food, or wear the right clothes, or pray the right prayers, and they’re demanding that someone do something to create a future different from our past. To free our children from the demons that torment them.

In the face of a miracle of resistance, Jesus says “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”  Then comes the second miracle, and her child is finally healed.

Sisters and brothers, we have been estranged from our own families for far too long — for some of you, like Joseph, it is literally members of your immediate family with whom you can no longer speak, but for all of us it is estrangement from members of the human family into which we were born, invisible bonds made clearer by our baptisms that tie us not only to those who share our faith, but to those who challenge it.

As we come forward this morning with prayers for healing, I encourage you to be bold. Pray for a miracle, that you and the whole world around you might find the strength to persist in the face of silence and complacency.  With faith in the God who made us, and is always making us whole. Amen.

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Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, August 10, 2014: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts:  Genesis 37:1-4,12-28  +  Psalm 105:1-6,16-22,45b  +  Romans 10:5-15  +  Matthew 14:22-33

JohnOliver_LWT_KeyArt_FinalBritish comedian John Oliver has a new show on HBO that airs on Sunday nights called “Last Week Tonight.” Following in the style of John Stewart or Steven Colbert, Oliver doesn’t claim to be a newscaster, but his comedic take on the events of the previous week often feels more honest than the 24 hour coverage that comes through channels like CNN or FOX or MSNBC, or even the three broadcast networks. He doesn’t claim to be objective, he just reviews and comments on national and global events that have taken place since the last broadcast. Perhaps that’s why I feel a certain affinity for his show, produced and presented on a weekly basis to help people reflect on the state of the world around them.

Sometime in the last few weeks he opened his show by saying, “Last week was [bloody] awful!” and went on to talk about the humanitarian crisis on our southern border, the rising death toll in Gaza, the scandal of our poorly maintained nuclear arsenal, and at some point I couldn’t even take it in anymore. Even with the aid of his humor, I was drowning in a sea of bad news.

This is the challenge of the moment we are living in. The news from the front lines is relentlessly bad. This week we’ve been horrified by an outbreak of Ebola that continues to cross national borders and has claimed the lives of almost a thousand people. This week we’ve been told that we are once again committing to open-ended military action in Iraq. This week has been bloody awful!

So perhaps we can relate to the disciples who, after being part of a miracle of abundance with the feeding of the five thousand, are startled to find themselves in the middle of a storm with Jesus nowhere in sight.

Reading through the gospel of Matthew, this transition feels incredibly abrupt. At the beginning of chapter 14 we get the news that King Herod has killed John the Baptist, in response to which Jesus goes looking for solitude so he can be alone. But the crowds continue to press in on him, and Jesus responds to their need even in the middle of his own grief, refusing to send them away when their hunger appears to outstrip their resources. Having witnessed God’s power to provide first-hand, the disciples and the crowds are sent away so that Jesus can get back to his prayer. That very night, however, the disciples get caught in a storm out on the sea, and they are afraid that they will drown. The pace of the story is relentless.

I guess that’s what I’m responding to the most right now, the relentlessness of it all.  One minute we’re celebrating the birth of a child, the next minute we’re saying goodbye to a dear friend. One day we’re overjoyed at a decision to be married, the next day we’re navigating the choppy waters of fear and prejudice. One month we’ve welcomed a dozen members into the church, the next month we’re looking at our finances and realizing our current ministry plan is unsustainable and that big changes will need to be made or we will sink. One year we’re celebrating a decline in the rate of HIV transmissions across sub-Saharan Africa, the next we’re bemoaning an outbreak of Ebola.  One generation we think we’ve tossed off the shackles of racism and gender oppression, the next generation we find ourselves with the highest incarceration rate of any nation on the globe and women’s reproductive health care under attack.

We are sinking! Lord, save us!

This morning we also enter into the final cycle of stories in our summer long study of the book of Genesis.  The stories of Joseph and his brothers and their sojourn to Egypt will shape our worship for three weeks, during which time we will hear how a dreamer saved his people from a pattern of envy and violence that had been passed from generation to generation.

In this morning’s introductory tale we find that Jacob, having finally been reconciled with his brother Esau, has settled in Canaan. After all the pain that came from his jealousy at his own father’s favoritism, we might hope that Jacob would turn out to be fairer in his affection for his children. But it isn’t so. Jacob, who has been given the name Israel, loves Joseph more than any of his other children. Joseph is the firstborn son of Rachel, the favorite of the four mothers of Israel’s children. So Israel’s three other wives and eleven other children are left feeling neglected and unloved, and from that division comes all kinds of evil.

But there’s more to the story found in the verses that were left out of our reading, but hinted at when Joseph approaches his brothers at Dothan and they respond to the sight of his arrival, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him…” (Gen. 37:9)  In the missing verses, Joseph shares two dreams with his brothers.

He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.

He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.  (Gen. 37:5-11)

The irony, of course, is that these dreams do turn out to be true, but only because Israel’s other sons sell their brother into slavery.  As we will observe in the weeks to come, it is that act of jealousy and violence that sets Joseph on a course that will eventually create a path for his family to move from famine to abundance. At this first juncture of the story however, Joseph’s dreams only get him thrown into a pit where, like drowning Peter, he waits to be saved.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, also calls to mind the image of the pit when he writes,

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend from heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom. 10:5-9)

Paul is contrasting two ways of thinking about our relationship to God. The first he calls “the righteousness that comes from the law” and he says that those who try to structure their life with God in this way will live as though it is their own actions, their own choices, their own power can save them. For this type of person, God is understood primarily as a set of rules or laws that must be obeyed in order for a relationship to exist. But Paul doesn’t equate this kind of legalistic religion with faith. Instead he says, “the righteousness that comes from faith” understands that we can’t climb into heaven any more than we can climb out of hell.  That salvation is a work of God’s not a work of our own.

It’s not hard to understand why this perspective is so challenging that even Christians have trouble embracing it.  “The righteousness that comes faith” flies in the face of everything we’ve been taught about how the world works, and how to get ahead in it. From the moment we are able discern difference and can see that some people are living lives of plenty and others are living lives of lack, we wonder why the world is as it is. The world has so many answers to give us. It tells us that some people are more deserving, more intelligent, more industrious. It tells us that God has favorites, families or nations or religions that hold a special place in God’s own heart.  It tells us that “God helps those who help themselves.”

Then we find ourselves in a pit our own family threw us into. Then we find ourselves drowning in a storm. Then we find ourselves in the middle of a divorce, or grieving the loss of a family member, or laid off with no work in sight, or going into foreclosure, or having to sell the house, or struck with an illness we’ve never heard of, or receiving the news that treatment isn’t working. At a time like that, what does “the righteousness that comes from the law” have to offer us? Not much. At times like that our hand thrusts up through the waters that threaten to drown us, groping for whatever help may be found, and we cry out “Lord, save me!”

At a moment like that, a moment in the pit, Paul says, “the word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.”  What good is a word to a drowning person? What world is Paul living in where a word has the power to make a difference in the face of envy, violence, war, or death? What kind of delusion, what kind of fantasy, what kind of dream is he living?

He’s living a dream called the gospel, which is good news to all who are drowning in sorrow, which is freedom from all who are trapped in a pit.  He is choosing to use the force of his words and the witness of his life to testify to the subversive, world-making power of dreams to become reality.

How can you think that Gaza will never be free when you have seen apartheid fall in South Africa?

How can you think Ebola will choke the life out of Africa when you have seen the world come together to end polio, to fight AIDS?

How can you think a crumbling sanctuary or a shifting foundation will bring an end to our story, when you have seen God use our networks of relationships to feed hundreds of hearts and souls and bellies with leftovers to spare.

How did each of these triumphs of God begin? With a dream. With a vision that the world as it is could not resist the world as God intends it to be. With faith that the God who called us into ventures whose endings could not be imagined did not bring us this far to let us drown, or die, but that our God faces the chaos of our lives and all their storms and draws us close, catching us, saving us.

Like Joseph, we have inherited many things from the generations that went before us.  We have inherited a story, we have inherited a promise, we have inherited a church and a people to call our own. Most of all, however, we are inheritors of a dream. We have been blessed with eyes that can see something that is not yet here. At a time like this, when the world seems lost in the storm, God calls dreamers like you and me to announce that something new, something better than we’ve yet known, something that can’t be stopped by fear, or envy, or violence is coming.

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom. 10:14-15)

Amen.

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