Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, November 24, 2013: Reign of Christ

Texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6  +  Psalm 46  +  Colossians 1:11-20  +  Luke 23:33-43

Tara arriving in the United States.

Tara arriving in the United States.

My sister was six years old when my family adopted her from Thailand. For six years she’d eaten Thai food, watched Thai television, played with Thai children, and — most importantly — spoken Thai. Imagine yourself at age six: how much you’d already grown, and learned, about who you were and what could be expected from the world around you. Now imagine all of that changing essentially overnight.

My folks and I flew to Bangkok, Thailand and spent about a week getting to know Tara before bringing her home with us. First, a visit to the adoption agency where we spent a few hours together. Then, a sight-seeing day-trip, supervised by her social worker. Finally, an overnight at the guest house where we were staying. Then she was on a plane with us, heading to the United States, where everything was different. The food, the weather, the big house with a private bedroom she didn’t have to share with anyone else, and Jesus.

Tara learned her English in bits and pieces. Names of foods and people and places came first. Simple verbs in the present tense. Our early conversations were very basic, no abstract concepts. “I want pancakes,” or “We go church.” So, when Tara burst forth with her first theological question, it was memorable.

We were sitting around the dinner table preparing to eat with the same prayer I’d been saying every night since I could remember: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blest. Amen.” Suddenly, Tara asked, “Where Jesus? We eat, we say Jesus. We sleep, we say Jesus. I no see Jesus. Where he? He hiding?”

When the apostle Paul writes, “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son…” (Col. 1:13) it reminds me of my sister’s experience of coming to the United States — not  in the sense that Thailand was somehow a place of darkness, or the United States an outpost of the reign of Christ. Just that, I have a memory of how hard that transfer was for Tara, every day being surrounded by sights and signs and symbols for things she’d always known and done, but being forced to see them and speak about them in a new way. Even her name was new in this new place.

The same is true for we who bear the name of Christ. We live and move and have our being in a world filled with foods, and rituals and relationships, but we are asked, over and over, to see them and speak about them in a new way. The man who shuffles slowly down the sidewalk, talking to himself, we call brother. The woman whose work is paid under the table, and not well enough to support her family, we call sister. The child whose swagger and swearing is intended to push us away we invite in, and call friend. The water that welcomes us into this house changes our names. The food we eat at this table goes by the name Jesus.

“Where Jesus? We eat, we say Jesus. We sleep, we say Jesus. I no see Jesus. Where he? He hiding?”

Paul goes on to say, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:15-17)

There’s something ironic to me about the fact that it is Paul, and not Peter or one of the other apostles who had accompanied Jesus during his earthly ministry, who says, “he is the image of the invisible God.” Paul, who had never laid eyes on Jesus, who was blinded as he traveled the road to Damascus, who heard the voice of Jesus asking him, “why do you persecute me?” This Paul is the one who says, “he is the image of the invisible God.”

Paul knew in his own flesh what it meant to be rescued from the power of darkness and transferred into the reign of God. He, who had been a violent opponent of the Jesus movement, who was present at the stoning of the apostle Stephen and approved of his murder, who entered home after home of the church in Jerusalem, and threw its men and women into prison, he was the one God chose to carry the message of reconciliation out from Jerusalem to the far corners of the known world. Someone who had never laid eyes on Jesus.

The reign of God is not like anything we have been taught to expect in this world. The gospel of Luke, which we have been reading throughout this past year, and which we will soon set down as we prepare to begin a new year in the life of the church next week as Advent leads us into the gospel of Matthew, has presented us with parable after parable about the foreignness of God’s reign of forgiveness.  The reign of God is like a father who forgives his son for wasting the family fortune, and welcomes him home with open arms. The reign of God is like a shepherd who foolishly leaves ninety-nine sheep alone to go after the one who is lost. The reign of God is like a wealthy man who throws a party, and invites the poor, the blind and the weak to enter his house. Images of the reign of God.

Jesus’ own life has read like one of his parables. After being baptized at the Jordan, and being named God’s Son, the Beloved, Jesus wanders in the wilderness where he is tempted, three times, to use that mantle, that power to distance himself from God’s people. Those three temptations are mirrored again at the end, in the final passage we will hear from Luke’s gospel this year.  Now Jesus is on the cross, and three times he is mocked by those who are killing him, “save yourself!”

They have fundamentally misunderstood him, Jesus, the one whose name means “God saves.” Because he did not come to save himself. He came to save a world full of common criminals. As common as you and me. Even on the cross, in the hour of his death, Jesus looks with mercy on a man who confesses that he is getting exactly what he deserves for his crimes, and says, “today you will be with me in paradise.”

But this is the kind of God we have come to know in Jesus. The kind of God who looks at a criminal with compassion, sealing his record so that his sins might be forgiven and he might enter with joy into the paradise of communion with God.

Maybe Paul, who never saw Jesus, but laid eyes on so many who followed him, heard that story, the one about Jesus forgiving the criminal on the cross. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but somehow he went from being the kind of man who persecuted Christians to the kind of man who voluntarily stayed in his prison cell to spare the life of his jailor and to witness to the power of God to heal and transform every place on earth, even the ones we imagine to be God-forsaken — like our prisons, and their execution chambers.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians is one to people he also had never seen, only heard of through the testimony of the rest of the church as it spread across the Mediterranean. He writes to them to encourage them in their faith, to exhort them to exercise judgment in separating the ways of the world from the ways of Christ Jesus, and to call them to love.  The verses we’ve heard this morning sound an awful lot like a creed, in that they are a series of propositions about who Christ is — the head of the body, the church; the beginning, the firstborn from the dead in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through whom God is reconciling all things, making peace through the cross (Col. 1:18-19).

Language is learned through repetition. We didn’t have a way to answer Tara’s questions, “where Jesus? He hiding?” given the vocabulary she had at the time. All we could do was to keep bringing her to church. Here she began to pick up fragments of songs, phrases that she could remember: “worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, whose blood set us free to be people of God” and “Lord God, lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world. Have mercy on us.”

Soon she began to understand who Jesus was, where he was, even though she hadn’t seen him. Like Paul hadn’t seen him. Because she saw the cross, and later she spent some time on it, like you and I have. And, oh, what mercy God has shown to each of us in those moments when we have found ourselves in the worst of our suffering — even suffering we can admit, like the criminal who hung next to Jesus, is sometimes the just punishment for our misdeeds. Because God did not send Jesus to save himself, but to save us. To rescue us from solitude and restore us to community. To reconcile us to God and to one another. To bring vision to our downcast eyes by lifting them to the glories of a paradise where all are welcome, regardless of their past or their present. To follow us and to find us and to finally bring us home.

This is Jesus, who is not hiding, but is with us. Now and forever. Thanks be to God!

Amen.

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Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, June 23, 2013: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: 1 Kings 19:1-15a  +  Psalms 42 & 43  +  Galatians 3:23-29  +  Luke 8:26-39

amos-mlkThroughout the summer we’ve been enrolled in what I’ve been calling “A School for Prophets,” following the stories from Hebrew scripture of the prophets of Israel.  Within this series, for the last few weeks, we’ve been focusing specifically on the prophet Elijah, who was called to speak out against the idolatry of Israel’s king, Ahab, and his wife, Jezebel.  We’ve remembered the story of the widow of Zarephath, who fed Elijah out of her meager pantry.  We’ve witnessed as Elijah called down fire on the prophets of Baal.  We heard with horror how Jezebel engineered a plot to steal Naboth’s birthright. Throughout, we’ve been challenged to understand that prophesy is less a form of fortune-telling, and more a vocation of truth-telling, a vocation that is not confined to the past, but is called for in every age.

If this summer School for Prophets had a textbook, something other than the bible, something more like those heavy hardbound chapter books we got back in high school and lugged around in backpacks, then today’s lesson would be laid out in a single page, followed by two case studies or examples.  The chapter would be titled something like, “The Freedom of a Prophet.”

The lesson, in its simplest form, comes not from Hebrew scripture, but from Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  He is writing to a community of people who have begun to turn away from his teaching, who have begun to impose a kind of legalism onto the faith they’d received, making their religion into an exercise in following the right rules rather than cultivating and maintaining relationships.

“Now before faith came,” he writes, “we were imprisoned and guarded under the law.”  In the narrowest sense, the law Paul is referring to is not Roman law, but Jewish law.  It seems that the people who have come around since he left Galatia have been teaching a different gospel.  Paul had taught that we are all justified, or made right with God, through faith — which is to say, through a living, loving, trusting, dynamic relationship.  Those who came after Paul were teaching that in order to be right with God, to be justified, the people needed to follow a set of rules and practices connected with Jewish faith and life.

Remember that Paul was speaking as a Jew to and among other Jews.  So, in his context, he was experiencing a reformation of religious identity.  He was talking and teaching others about what it meant to be freed from slavish religious legalism, and to experience relationship with God as a source of liberation, not regulation.  If we wanted to draw parallels to our own day and time, rather than contrasting our religious experience with people from other religions, it would be more appropriate for us to look for examples within our own tradition, or even our own lives, where we have come to experience faith in God as a living, loving, trusting, dynamic relationship.

But, just as we think we’re beginning to understand what Paul is talking about.  Just when we’re beginning to think this religious liberation sounds pretty good, Paul continues,

“for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.  As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:27-28)

You and me, we live in an age of growing comfort with and acceptance of religious pluralism and multiculturalism.  So, to us, this passage may just sound like the preamble to a song from “Free to be You and Me.”  But try to hear these words with other ears, ears tuned to the dynamics of power, violence and abuse.

Instead of “there is no longer Jew or Greek,” try on “there is no longer American or Afghan;” or “there is no longer White or Black or Latino or Native or Asian or Arab.”  Even for those of us who embrace diversity and strive for something better than mere tolerance of difference, Paul’s words feel dangerous.  We don’t want our differences to be demolished.  We aren’t looking for one identity into which we can all be dropped, erasing all that makes each of us distinct.

Instead of “there is no longer slave or free,” try on “there is no longer undocumented or born-and-bred,” or “there is no longer hungry or well-fed,” or “there is no longer rich and poor.”  Now Paul’s rhetoric sounds not only foolish, but feeble.  What can he have meant?  In his day there quite clearly were citizens and there were slaves.  In our day there are quite clearly citizens and undocumented, people with papers and people without.  People with wealth, people with food, and people without.

Finally, he says, “there is no longer male and female.”  Here the pattern has been broken.  Paul has said Jew or Greek, slave or free; but now he says male and female.  This is an echo of the language we first heard in Genesis, when God sets out to create humanity saying,

“let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness… So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God did God create them; male and female God created them.” (Gen. 1:26-27)

Men and women are created in the image and likeness of God, but in Paul’s day and to this day, men and women both here in the United States and around the globe are not treated equally.  Whether we look at women’s pay, women’s education, women’s access to health, or rates of violence against women, it is clear that the world has not set its societies up to affirm what our scriptures tell us is true, that both men and women are created in the image and likeness of God.

Far from being some kind of proto-hippie love anthem on how we should all just be free, and get along, and enjoy our diversity, Paul has rejected a rules-based religion in favor of a relationship-centered faith in which we are called to live and act as though all the people with whom we are in very complicated relationships of power and privilege are integral to our own life, are a part of our own body.

This kind of living is a prophetic challenge to everything we’ve been taught about what it means to be free, because it means our freedom is not from other people, it is for other people.

So now, if we were reading our “School of Prophets” textbooks, we would come to the case studies, one from the gospel of Luke, the other from First Kings.  Both of these stories are incredibly rich, and deserving of a slow reading in a solid bible study, or a full sermon of their own.  I’m not going to be able to do either, so I’ll just make a plug here for another way you can delve into these texts.

Beginning next week, and running through the rest of the summer, there’s going to be a Sunday morning adult bible study on the prophets we’re covering in worship from 9am – 10am.  These bible studies are being led by Ray Pickett, Greg Singleton and Erika Dornfeld, each of whom brings a deep understanding of scripture and a unique perspective on how the vocation of the prophets is shared by each of us who, by baptism, has “put on Christ,” who himself inherited the mantle of the prophets.  I am looking forward to learning from all three of these teachers, and I hope you’ll make an effort to join me for at least a couple of these two week units on each of the prophets.

To return to the texts, I want to draw our attention to a feature that each text has in common: their endings.

In the gospel of Luke we hear the story of the Gerasene demoniac who has been chained up in a graveyard, possessed by demons who say their name is “Legion,” whom Jesus exorcises into a herd of swine that then run off a cliff and into the sea.  As I said, this story deserves a good long bible study.

But as the story comes to its conclusion, the Gerasenes, the people who had chained this demon-possessed man up in their graveyard have asked Jesus to leave them.  Jesus, by casting out their demons, has disrupted their social order.  They’d had a system for handling their demons, namely by scapegoating a man they kept chained up like a slave.  Now that he’d been set free, they were afraid.  Jesus does what they ask, and leaves them there on the far side of the sea, and the man he has healed begs to come with him.

But Jesus sends him away, saying, “return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you. So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:38-39)

Jesus may have freed this man of his demons, but he will not liberate him from his people.  Even though he will still be an outcast among the Gerasenes, though now for a different reason, Jesus does not invite this man to leave his community and withdraw to some better place among better people somewhere else.  Instead, liberated from death, he is sent back to proclaim a new world order.  Set free for, not from.

In the story we hear from First Kings, Elijah — like the Gersasene demoniac — is enduring a kind of living death.  He’s not chained up in a graveyard, but he is hiding in a cave from Queen Jezebel who has promised to see him dead within a day.

As Elijah is hiding out, away from the people God sent him to serve and to save, the word of the Lord comes to him, saying, “what are you doing here, Elijah?”  Elijah offers his complaint, essentially saying, “this prophetic work is hard work, it has not made me any friends, and I’m worried that I will lose my life.”  God tells Elijah to go stand on the mountaintop, the place where God had traditionally met God’s people, and then we hear all the ways that God had traditionally been manifest among the people — winds, earthquakes and fires.  But God was not present to Elijah in those ways.  Instead God was present in silence.

Again, God asks what Elijah is doing hiding out in a cave; and again, Elijah complains that this work is hard, and it has not made him many friends, and he is worried that he will lose his life.  But, does God carry him away from this danger and hardship to be with better people in some better place somewhere else.  No, instead God says, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus.”

Here, in the School for Prophets, I think we learn one of a prophet’s hardest lessons.  The prophet is called to live with, to love, to lead in a world that, frankly, didn’t ask for the word the prophets have been sent to deliver.  Paul’s radical relationships sounded a lot harder than rule-based religion, and people weren’t sure they wanted to stick with it.  The Gerasenes had figured out how to manage their demon problem, and keeping one guy chained up in a graveyard seemed like an acceptable price to pay for their relative freedom.

The prophetic word wasn’t welcome in Israel under Ahab and Jezebel, and it’s not really all that welcome here, in Logan Square and Humboldt Park, in Chicago, in the United States, among the nations.  Because the prophetic word is this: there is no escaping each other.  There is no freedom from each other.  There is no neighborhood you can live in that exempts you from the violence done in other communities.  There is no wall you can build that keeps one nation separated from another.  There is no trade agreement you can sign that can differentiate the humanity of one worker from another.  There is no getting away from each other.  We are all in this together.

Even in our churches, we sometimes come, huddling, like Elijah in his cave, stinging from the hurts of so much hard work out there in the world.  Hoping God will maybe show up this Sunday to say, “well, yes, that’s enough.  You can be done now.”  But God doesn’t do that, because somewhere there is still a widow in Zarephath running out of food, and somewhere there is still a man chained up in a graveyard, longing to be free.

So, instead of giving us a way out, God gives us each other, a company of prophets.  Freed, not from the world, but for the world.

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Sermons

Sermon: Sunday, May 5, 2013: Sixth Sunday in Easter

Texts: Acts 16:9-15  +  Psalm 67  +  Revelation 21:10,22 — 22:5  +  John 14:23-29

Apostles act, and it’s generally not in the temple, but out in the world.

You know I’m not one of those preachers who begins every sermon with a joke, but I’ve got one for you this morning that some of you have heard me tell before.

Door Knockers

What do you get when you cross a Lutheran with a Jehovah’s Witness?

Someone who goes door to door but doesn’t know what to say.

I don’t remember where I heard that one, but I’m sure I know the reason it stuck.  Kerry, my partner who most of you know, was for many years a Jehovah’s Witness who went door to door.  And he knew what to say.  Generally speaking, he’s not at a loss for words.  But when we started dating and he came here to St. Luke’s it was a bit of culture shock, because we Lutherans often don’t know what to say, or how to say it.  Instead we talk about being proud of our worship, our distinct theological voice, our strong network of charities and advocacy organizations.  Basically, we think that if you can find your way to us, you’ll like what you find.

Not so with the Witnesses.  They do a wonderful job of equipping their community with a vision of this world and the next, and sending them out to share their vision with people they’ve never met.  And while I can’t say that I agree with a lot of how they understand scripture, in particular how they understand passages like the one we read this morning from the book of Revelation with its vision of the new Jerusalem, I have tremendous respect for the faithful discipline its members show in reaching out to connect with those they’ve never met.  It takes courage, it takes practice, it takes commitment.  It requires them to have something to say about their faith and to be willing to say it, and we could use a whole lot more of that in the Lutheran church today.

All that said, I think this morning’s story from Acts — which is the story we’ve been following most closely during these fifty days of Easter — has something to teach us about the unpredictability of ministry outside the walls of the church, and might even give us some clues about what to expect when our ministry follows the acts of the Apostles, who left Jerusalem and spread out to share their story with people far from home.

You can tell that our passage begins in the middle of a longer story.  “During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’”  Paul was on the western coast of what we now call Turkey, in Troas.  He’d worked his way north from Jerusalem and met up with his companion Timothy in Lystra, in south central Turkey.  As they went from town to town they would meet with the Jews in those places to share with them the story of what had happened in Jerusalem.  That Jesus, the messiah, had entered human history and that the world was changing; that the end of what had been had begun, and that the whole world was being drawn into the transformation. So the churches throughout that region were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily (Acts 16:5).

And it all seems to be going so well for Paul and Timothy.  They’re being well received outside of Jerusalem.  So they make plans to expand their ministry.  They head north, through Phrygia and Galatia in central Turkey, because the scriptures say they’d “been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6b).  I think that’s a really interesting idea.  It suggests to me that Paul and Timothy actually wanted to head east, toward the parts of the world we now call Armenia and Azerbaijan, but that something turned them north toward the Black Sea instead.

I wonder what kind of strategic planning process these apostles had that made room for the Holy Spirit to let them know that the plans they were making just weren’t going to work out.  Do we suppose they were praying together and just felt strongly that their hopes to head east weren’t God’s hopes?  Do we think that they started heading down that road, but hit one roadblock after another and took that as a sign that they should make a new plan?  We don’t know.  We only know that something in the way Paul and Timothy made their plans allowed for the spirit of God to be a part of their decision-making.

So they turn north and begin heading for what we now call Istanbul (not Constantinople, for you They Might be Giants fans), but again it says that “Spirit of Jesus” wouldn’t allow them to go any farther in the direction they wanted to go.

We don’t focus on this part of the story, opting instead to get right to the sweet story of Paul and Timothy encountering Lydia in Philippi, which is a wonderful story that we’ll get to in just a minute, but I think that story is all the sweeter when we understand the awkward attempts at collaboration with God that Paul and Timothy, not to mention you and I, go through when we set out to follow God’s call to get out of the Temple and into the world.

Our interns, who are ending their time as interns with us this morning, know something about what I’m saying.  Sarah, along with all the other 2nd year students at LSTC, were waiting for months to hear where they’d be placed on internship this coming year.  They filled out forms indicating their preferences.  They interviewed in person and by phone with prospective internship supervisors.  Then, one day not too long ago, they were handed an envelope with the name of a congregation somewhere far away and told to get ready to pack their bags.  They were being sent out.  Sarah is headed to Florida, near Tampa.  Tina, our Administrative Assistant who is also a 2nd year student at the seminary, is headed to St. Louis later this summer.  They’d imagined, perhaps, other futures and other paths, but they are being led by the Spirit of Jesus to these places instead where they will have to find words and actions to share their faith with people who are like them, and not like them, in a variety of ways.

Like Sarah and Tina, who are leaving the state; like Jessica Palys, who is leaving the country this summer for two months in a Spanish language immersion program in Guatemala; Paul and Timothy set off for distant and unknown places.  They set sail from Troas to Samothrace, a small Greek island in the Mediterranean.  From there they sailed to the southern shores of Greece and made their way inland to Philippi, looking for the man who’d come to Paul in his vision, asking for help.

They’d been in Philippi for a few days before the sabbath, but still had not found the man they were looking for.  So, on the day of worship they left the city proper and gathered at the river (the beautiful, the beautiful river) with a group of women, not the man from Paul’s vision.

There was a certain woman down by the river whose name was Lydia, described as a worshipper of God.  This descriptor, “worshipper of God,” along with her name, indicate that she was not Jewish, but that she was interested in worshipping with the Jews.  She was perhaps a religious seeker, open to wisdom from many sources beyond what she’d been raised to believe.  She might even have been considering membership.  Does she sound familiar to you?  Do you know someone like Lydia?

Furthermore, Lydia is described as a dealer in purple cloth, which required a highly expensive indigo dye.  She appears to be a wealthy woman, unattached to any man, and head of a household full of people, because after she hears Paul and Timothy’s story she invites them back to baptize her entire household.  And that’s the end of the story.

Do you notice what’s missing from this story?

There’s no man.  The vision that led Paul to leave Turkey and cross the sea, the man who called to him in his dream, “come over to Macedonia and help us;” that guy never appears in this story.

Paul left Jerusalem and the temple and the community of those he’d come to know through his conversion to the faith in order to reach people who were strangers, whom he did not know.  He thought he’d head east, but he ended up going west.  He thought he’d find luck with the men gathered in their local synagogues, but instead he finds a home with an unusual woman gathered with other women outside the city by the river.

Friends, this is what happens when we get outside of ourselves and go door to door, meeting our neighbors — those close to home and those far away.  We are changed.  It’s not that we can’t or shouldn’t make plans, it’s just that we have to remain aware that all of our planning, all of our prayer and discernment and training and strategy is really intended to get us to a place where we might finally be brave enough to try something new, to open the door to a new relationship, a new experience, a new direction.  Once we allow for that possibility, we’re allowing for the fact that we will be changed in ways we could never have imagined.

This is where I think Lutherans, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and basically all of us most often get it wrong.  Whether we stay indoors with our proud traditions, or go door to door with our apocalyptic expectations, our message as people of faith has too often been “come, join us, and be changed.”  If Paul and Timothy have anything to teach us, I think it’s that we have to be ready for God, acting in us through the Holy Spirit, to be changing us.  Changing our understandings of what it means to be a church, a people of God, a community.  What it means to follow by faith.

The story of the book of Acts is the story of the early church’s rapid and massive growth across the ancient near East, a course that eventually brought Christian faith to the ends of the earth as we know it.  Lydia is first convert in what we now call Europe.  She is the first European Christian, and her unusual household is the birthplace of Christian community in Greece and the rest of the west.  She is not what Paul went looking for.  She is so much better than that.

What do you suppose God has in store for us, once we move outside our doors?  I think of our seminarian, Will, who left Iowa to pursue a career in academia, but has heard God calling him to become a preacher and a pastor.  He set out heading in one direction, but discovered God leading him a different way.  I think about Erika, who left for seminary wondering if she might be called to be a teacher at the intersection of faith and science, but has discovered so many other directions her ministry might take.  I think about my own story, how I left the church for  years but couldn’t stop worshipping God along with all the other unusual people of faith outside the city, down by the river.

And I think about us, who have been working so hard for so long to rebuild the walls of this congregation, to restore what had been knocked down.  I wonder how we are making room in our conversations with one another for the Holy Spirit to direct us, to deny us, to steer us toward people and places we’d never considered.  I wonder where the riverside is in our neighborhood, where people filled with faith but not a part of the establishment, are gathered right now.

What would it take for us to find out?  What would it look like to go door knocking, not with answers, but with questions?

Wouldn’t you like to find out?

Amen.

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