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little Lazaruses~

Preached at Bushwick Abbey,

September 29, 2013

Proper 21


There is something familiar about this parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.
As we read through the gospel of Luke some of this should start to sound an echo.

This parable hits the same notes that are in the Magnificat, that are in the Beatitudes,
it is a melodic theme of this gospel:

the way the world looks to us and the way the world looks to God are not the same thing.

This is what we hear from the lips of Mary,
when she begins to glimpse where this encounter with an incarnate God will lead,
she sings out:

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.

This parable is like a big expanded beatitude,
earlier we hear Jesus say:

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.

 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.

but here he puts meat on the story.

This is so much of the gospel of Luke:

The rich are not safe and the poor are not lost.

This beggar is beyond repulsive and beyond unclean.
He is lying there in the filth; he has sores,
which the book of Deuteronomy goes on forever about.

If you have sores you are not ok.
You need to get them checked out by the priest
and only once the priest says you are clean and good to go
are you welcomed back into community.

This is not just a painful physical condition,
this an isolating and lonely experience.

I don’t think Deuteronomy even gets into dogs licking your wounds,
I’m sure that makes you so far unclean that you might never be welcomed back.

So this guy is about as far outside the ok as you can get.
And he is welcomed into the arms of Abraham.

We don’t hear that he has done anything to deserve it.

So this story is not about about the goodness of Lazarus,

It is about thirst

And longing-
The rich man longs for nothing in life, and perhaps that is his curse.
The agonizing thirst of the rich man after death is the gift too late.
Had he been blessed with thirst in life he might have looked beyond himself
and seen larger thirsts than his.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst.

His need for connection and compassion,
his need for community and help comes after he has left the realm of helping and being helped.

But we still have the chance for our longings to bear fruit.
Our Longings can give shape to out lives,
our thirsts if well listened to can bring us to doorways
where the scraps of the table might feed us forever.

our hungers and our thirsts are turned toward justice.

If we feel the heartbreak of the world in our bones,

If we see all of humanity as just as beautiful and broken as ourselves,
then our thirst is not a curse but a gift.

I think what Abraham is trying to tell the rich man is that
the Miraculous will do us no good if we cannot be compassionate and generous.

It is of no use to send a poor man back from the dead
if we cannot believe that it is urgent to take care of the poor.

In the story the rich man finally gets it and asks for Lazarus to go tell his brothers what he now understands.

But Abraham says if they do not believe the law and the prophets,
which weigh so heavily on taking care of the oppressed,
the orphan the widow and the beggar,
then what can a man raised form the dead possibly tell them?

If you do not have a sense of justice and compassion;
if you do not treat the poor with dignity;
if you not care for the less pleasant members of society,

really what good will a miracle do you? asks Abraham.

But I don’t think this is a parable about miracles.
It is about longing.

And we are all beggars longing for something.

It is Jesus who says we get to go to his fathers house,
It is Jesus who says that we are inheritors of the life Eternal with and in him.

In Jesus we can know the kind of Joy that no one has ever deserved

The only catch is that we have to die to get it.

To follow Jesus is to die.

We die to ourselves, and the world, we die to separation from the love of God,
we die to the lie that we are only as as good as we act or look or earn.

We die.

But in this version of the story we go back.

We become little Lazaruses,
out in the world preaching the kind of good news
that those who have thirsted for compassion and tasted death know,
all of us who are brave enough to come to this story
and risk becoming like one who died and rose again.

Then we head back out those doors to tell all the brothers of the rich man
that thirst is the beginning,
longing is the key,
and we go to find our fellow beggars on the doorsteps
and feed them much more than scraps.

Sing to the lord a new song

Preached at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd at General Theological Seminary
November 27, 2012
The Baptism of baby Amelia.

this is the last week of the year, we are in the liturgical eschaton,
and tonight we welcome a new member into the body of Christ.
On Sunday we will turn again and face into the Advent mystery of God breaking into God’s beloved world.
but before we get to the beginning there is the end.
it seems right, that here at the end of time,
we invite a new voice to sing with us.
on the last day whenever that final day does come, we could do worse than to be baptizing a baby.

When Jesus was in the temple with his friends they we all amazed at the temple.
they are practically licking the walls. Admiring these stones are precious and dedicated to God.
Jesus tries again to tell them that the life they are embarking on is even more precious.
this temple,
these stones he said will fall and crumble.
it will not last,
and that whatever you hear,
do not be terrified.

So Welcome Amelia. to a family crazy enough not to be terrified of wars and insurrections,
welcome to a family that knows somewhere in our hearts that the stones of every temple we worship will come down.
Today you are going to join this chorus of madmen and saints that is the Church.
we are here tonight to welcome you to sing your song into the life of these feeble and failing citizens of the kingdom of God,
who are all longing to hear you sing your song, we are calling for your truth to join the Chorus of our hearts.

We who are the church will be watching to help when we can,
to cheer and gasp as you walk the rocky road of faith in a world that has been falling to pieces for too long.
we promise today to help to the best of our abilities to show you how to love strong and bravely in a world torn to shreds with greed,
and wracked with sadness.
some of us do better than others,
but no one in this earthy chorus can sing the song of hope and praise without our voices cracking or going off pitch now and then.

But there are some things we know, we who have walked our feet to shreds on this journey-
-this is all impossible. we ask and promise what cannot be done. and we will do it over and over again.
-This story ends beautifully, we just don’t see how. we know in the marrow of our faith that this story ends in peace and justice and reconciliation and those stories are some of our craziest.
– we get to the beautiful impossible end by eating and drinking the very body and blood of the one who broke this precious song into being before time was time.

so when we hear a story about the winepress of God’s wrath. We can ask what makes God wrathful, but injustice, and greed and selfish vanity. so that when God presses the harvest of the whole world, all that is ripe and juicy, what flows out is blood, as high as a horse’s bridle.
and if that’s ok for anyone it has to be ok for us.
because we turn water into wine, and wine into blood all the time.
we have known blood that can bring life, we have known blood has saved us. we know that blood can make all things new.
We drink it over and over again
SO who knows, maybe at the end of time when we are all harvested and pressed in the holy winery of the Lord
we may become a Eucharistic feast for the whole world.
and at the end of the story the whole earth becomes a holy eucharistic feast,
the grapes of the earth are harvested and the in this winepress of of Gods pure burning righteous anger,
turns holy wine to holy blood, and the earth is washed in it.

we don’t know when that’s gonna happen, Jesus tells us we don’t get to know,
maybe it already has. but what we do know, little bit, is that we get to practice for that end here and now.
we get to love on each other here and now.
we get to keep on singing even when the night is long and dark,
even when the lonely cold robs the feeling from our fingertips,
we keep on singing.
and when the end whatever it ends being comes we will know the song of faith so well that we will sing it boldly in face of whatever end awaits us, with voices and hearts strong with practice we will sing that new song together.
Having built this ragged crucified body of Christ, this body of believers,
into a resurrection temple and we will be the church we long for singing to the lord a new song.
in a minute we will all be asked to promise the impossible.
and like all impossible questions we will give an impossible answer.
we claim that we will do pretty much anything the prayer book asks with God’s help,
but of course nothing has ever been done with less
we promise to do it with God’s help, as if we could do it without. ;
we say I will with God’s help.
But of course
It is God who will. full stop that is the story. that is all our stories
that is the only story we know.
from the soft, warm breath of God whispering over the prehuman depths of Chaos.
and the waters of chaos ripple and sigh to the breath of love. and creation sings.
the first day
God will.
that is the story when God peels back the waters that keep her people from knowing the depth of who they are.
when the people who hold God’s I AM-ness in their hearts believe the lie that they are owned and they are only worth what they produce,
God peels back the waters of lies and ushers them and all of us into a painfully clear understanding of who we can be in the blinding truth of freedom.
God will. In the muddy Jordan’s shallows,
in the presence of a shaggy preacher with locust legs in his beard and honey on his lips,
love himself is dipped into the water and the heavens break open with the Glory of a God who cannot contain her love for this beautiful child.
this is the kind of love that split time in two,
this is the kind of love where once we taste it,
reasonableness holds no promise of sweetness.
we come up here* over and over again and kneel, with hands outstretched to taste again the mystery of love poured out,
we are willing to be mad. and that too will be ok.
Losing the respect of this world, Amelia, is you will find, no price at all for holding forgiveness between your tongue and the roof of your mouth.

I am sorry Amelia, but we are bringing you into a family of fools.
we are the ones who are willing to be crushed, in the winepress of God’s passion
we are willing to be poured out, until we reach a horse’s bridle somewhere in New Jersey.
we are willing to go recklessly into a world that believes in counting the cost, hedging its bets, saving its skin, and being terrified.
We are going out that door into a world that does not leap into the arms of death.
but Amelia, that is exactly what we will do.
not just today.
but over and over and over and over again.
every time we come to this table. we come to die.
we come to live.
and it is because of these dark and dangerous waters of baptism that we know with every pulse of hearts that those are the same thing.

we will all say I will with God’s help because
without God’s help the forces of chaos swirl around us,
without God’s help we are drowned and crushed on the banks of the red sea,
without God’s help we die parched and longing in the desert _
and the rock Moses beats on with his staff remains dry rock,
without God’s help the well we trudge to in the noonday sun contains nothing but the same old water we have always drawn,
without God’s help this font will only get you wet,
-this wine is just grape juice
-this bread is just wheat.
and we are pathetic fools singing songs to ourselves in the dark.

but here, Amelia, is where I claim this madness for myself and I can only preach what I have known,
I can only share the light that I have seen,
I can only sing the song I have heard, and that is that with God’s help
all of this is holy
all of this is beautiful;

that we come to this table and encounter
love that cannot die,
life that cannot do anything but love, and
healing that breaks through every wound
and leaves scars more blessed than wholeness.

hear our stories,
die with us,
live with us.
taste and see and sing with us.

welcome to the family.

promises promises

Preached July 15 at St. Matthews Rapid City, SD

Mark 6:14-29








Herod had a choice.
He could have broken his promise.
He could have gone back on his word.
But he seems to act in this story like someone backed into a corner, with no way out.

“but I promised”
he says to his screaming conscience.
“what will my friends think of me if I change my mind?”

John the Baptist gets beheaded because Herod regarded his oath and his guests more than he regarded the life of John,
more than he regarded the voice of truth.

Herod wanted to keep John the Baptist alive.
He wanted to keep listening to this fierce and wild prophet who kept telling him all the awful stuff he had done.

But then he is at a party.
And gets wowed by a beautiful woman dancing.
Now maybe that’s not your weakness or mine,
but please, let’s not think for a moment that we don’t have plenty of weaknesses of our own.
In response to his weakness he compromises his own love of truth.
He makes a promise to his weakness.
He vows fidelity to the very very thing that compromises his integrity.

And he is left with an awful dilemma.
When we pledge ourselves to the wrong things is it a virtue to keep our promise?

This story shows up in the middle of Mark’s Gospel,
in part to help illustrate the sort of dangerous world in which Jesus is speaking truth;
life is fragile and vulnerable,
and truth telling can lead to death.

But I think this story is more than simple foreshadowing of what people in positions of authority will do to Jesus.
It is an invitation to to explore our own relationship to power, to promise and to truth.

what do we consider to be the unquestionable powers that we must obey?
to whom and to what have we pledged ourselves?

nazi soldiers were only following orders.
the american soldiers under Custer were keeping their own oaths.

So, in part we need to be really really careful who and what we promise our loyalty to,
and maybe we have to be willing to break a promise now and then,
maybe we have to be willing to change our minds,
to look foolish before those we would like to impress.

I just got back on Wednesday from the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church,
and while I was there I saw some beautiful truth telling.
However, since coming back I have been reading blogs, and articles online.
I’m not sure if that is a wise thing to do. The disembodied voices “out there” have very few kind and wise truths to tell.
There are people out there who seem to feel that they have made a promise to a certain way of reading the scripture that is now in danger of decapitating the truth.

There are those who are insisting that we keep an oath we perhaps never should have made in the first place.

If our reading of the gospel leaves others on the outside dammed, and us on the inside feeling good about our own righteousness then maybe we need to be willing to hear the voices of the prophets and consider that an oath made to someone who demands blood is worth reconsidering.

In Indianapolis I watched as the church listened to voice speaking truth, I watched as faithful people did the hard work of not assuming that they already knew the truth.

And now in the aftermath I am watching as the commentators, the hecklers, the opinionated onlookers criticise and pick at a body that is doing its very best to honor the promises it has made while refusing to cut off the heads of it’s prophets.

Our deepest loyalty should not be to the institution for its own sake,
but to that voice of truth that can be magnified when spoken together
Our loyalty should not be to the pieces of scripture that prove us right,
but to the light of the world that those scriptures bear witness to.

And whenever we find ourselves confronted with the choice between honoring a promise to the bloodthirsty and narrow demands of this world
or losing the respect of those would sacrifice truth on a platter,
I pray that we would all choose to undo the sin of Herod
and break the promise.

all in the same boat

Dear Jesus,
help us trust that you are in the same boat with us, and help us trust that your words of peace can calm even the worst storms

Who is this?
Up until now the disciples have not really understood who Jesus is. Sure he was baptized by John, and has told some great parables but the deeper truth about who this man is that they have begun to follow hasn’t sunk in yet.

I am not sure that we understand any better who Jesus is, but we get to watch the disciples work on it from maybe too safe a distance.
what kind of miracle would it take for us to understand the nature of God’s presence in the world in the person of Jesus?

what would it take for us to “get it?”
Job sure doesn’t.
God has to have it out with Job about who God is and who Job is.
Because it helps if we understand our own limitations when we ponder the nature of God.

for the disciples their answer is in their question.
“who is this that can even speak and the wind and the sea obey him?”

In the Bible water is chaos.
water is everything we can’t control.
water can whip up into a frenzy and kill us,
water brings life and death
water is the path to freedom and the medium for judgment,
water is the wild deep that threatens all of humanity,
and God is in control of the water-
God is what is bigger than chaos.
God is what calms and controls the dark and dangerous chaos of this world.
Job isn’t.
the disciples aren’t
we are not.

Our inability to speak peace, be calm, to the deep wild chaos of the world is just one of the things that can help us figure out the difference between us and God.

When we ask “who are you?” it is a question for a lifetime. but one of the scary things is that when we ask that question of God, we open up the space for God to ask us the same question.

we ask “what kind of God are you that you allow such suffering and injustice in the world?”
we ask “don’t you even care that we are all about to drown?”
we can ask “who is this?”

and God can say to us “tell me again about how you made the heavens and the earth, and held the wild seas like a newborn child and clothed them in clouds and darkness?
God can ask us : why are you afraid?”
God ask us “tell me child, who are YOU?”

Jesus doesn’t wake up in a panic and say “OH MY GOD!! WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!”
why didn’t you wake me sooner???!!!!

in fact I can’t think of a single time in the bible where Jesus totally panics.
but this would be a good one.
because of course he cares.
He is in the same boat as the disciples.
he is in the same boat with all of us.
but instead of adding to the chaos and the fear and the anxiety he says
Be calm

he is talking to the wind and the waves
he is talking to the disciples
and I’m pretty sure he is talking to us.

and the wind and the waves and the disciples all calm down.
and I am not sure which is the most miraculous.
because in this story we see clearly that Jesus is God.
and God has been calming the waters down since the second day of creation, but this
this is a new thing, what Jesus is doing.
this time God is getting with us into a tippy little boat and setting off across the dark sea.
this time God says peace and be still from inside the boat.

and he asks the disciples, still shaking, hearts racing
“do you have so little faith in me?”

it has to be hard being Jesus,
He loves these guys.
he really does.
but we can make it so hard.

we can take something like peace and love from a God who is the same boat with us, and make a systematic theology out of it.
we can take the words of peace from the mouth of love and look for loopholes.

sometimes we are so scared that we are going to drown that we don’t even ask for help, sometimes it seems when we are feeling tried like Job, or out at sea in the midst of terrible storms, it can feel like the most logical response to say that either God is being unfair, or doesn’t care what happens to us.

of course the way things look to the world is not always the truth
Paul says to the Corinthians:
that those whom the world has seen as poor obscure, dying sorrowful imposters, who possess nothing are actually well known, beloved by God, precious, rejoicing survivors who have made many rich and possess everything.

I will try to have faith that the one who can say peace, to a stormy sea,
can say peace to this broken world.
I will try to have faith that even when the world looks like a disaster to me, I don’t see things the same way God does.

I will try to have faith that we are all in the same boat.
and that Jesus is in the boat with us all.
Jesus entered into this story with, he climbed in this rickety little boat with all of humanity and set out with no fear of the storms of injustice and the waves of loneliness.
Jesus can handle the chaos even when we can’t

maybe we can try to have as much faith as the wind and the waves,
and listen when the voice of Jesus says

be still.”

a wild and wonderful family

preached at St. Matthew’s Rapid City. June 10, 2012 Second Sunday after Pentecost

Dear God, thank you for drawing us into this family of faith, help us to live into it well. Amen

Jesus says that we are part of God’s chosen family,
part of Jesus’ family,
and in this family we are the mothers and brothers and sisters of Jesus,
if we let him do the loving and healing that scares us.

But we Christians sometimes act more like Jesus’ biological  family  in this story.
they are worried that he is out of his mind.

Jesus is not even able to eat, because of the crowds.
So his family comes to “take charge of him”
they are probably telling themselves that they are doing this for his own good.
the poor guy can’t even eat, after all!
so they come to “take charge of him”

now this is dangerous business if you want to take charge of God.
we too want to stop Jesus from being so over the top with love.
we suspect he might be crazy.
we love him, but we don’t always trust him to behave himself or make us look good.
you know how Jesus will love on anybody!

we want Jesus to quietly come back home to church with us and stop making a scene.
we claim him for ourselves and forget that sharing him with the world is the family business.

When we are only concerned with keeping Jesus safe we have no response or comment to those who accuse Jesus of working in league with the accuser instead of realizing that he has come to liberate us from darkness, and then what kind of family are we?
in fact the only person I can think of who ever defends Jesus in the gospels is John, a cousin.
most of the other friends and followers of Jesus leave Jesus on his own to defend himself accusations of the Satanic.
Which Jesus does brilliantly of course.he points out that division makes a house weak.
that if you are truly part of a household you would not work at cross purposes.
which is something else the Church might do well to hear.He says that he is robbing Satan’s house and has tied him up.
And we are the treasure that is liberated while evil’s hands are tied.Meanwhile everybody is trying to shut Jesus up or twist his work.
When Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable
I don’t think he is threatening or making us a harsh punishment,
I think he is describing reality.

Apparently being an EMT is one of the most dangerous jobs out there.
Not only are they riding in the back of ambulances without a seatbelt,
but often the very people they are trying to help will attack them.
when people are hurting, trapped and confused they sometimes lash out at the very person who has come to help them.

I think that is closer to what Jesus is saying here.
The one thing we can’t help you out of,
the one thing you can’t do and see the kingdom,
says Jesus,  is mistake God for Satan.

If you get that wrong it is really hard to help you.

You look into the face of the one who came to rescue you and think that it is your captor,
the one who has been lying to you all your life about who you are.
If you think that that is God,
if you think that the Holy Spirit is the one who tears up and wounds this beautiful creation
then it is going to be really hard to save you.

but, whoever joins in this work of redemption and love,
whoever is willing to see the face of love with gratitude,
whoever does the will of God is part of Jesus’ family,
and gets to be Jesus’ brother and sister and mother.

A mother agrees to work with God.
She is willing to be stretched out of shape,
she is willing to bear life in her very body.
brothers and sisters can support and encourage,
they can play and bear witness.
we can be that too.

we are invited to be Jesus’s mother and brothers, and sisters.
we are invited to join a new kind of family that does not try to stifle the spirit,
or call something evil just because we don’t understand it.

In this family we are called to support the work of God when we find it.
we are Jesus’ family when we do the will of God.
we don’t get to decide when his work of love and grace is working well for us and when it is embarrassing.
we don’t get to call Jesus home,
We just love as much as we possible can

until we all get called home
by the father of this wild and wonderful family.

a little bit ordinary~

Trinity Sunday

Preached at St. Matthew’s Rapid City June 3, 2012

God cleanse the thoughts of our hearts and the words of our lips with the inspiration of your Holy Spirit. that we may burn with your truth and live in your love

Welcome to Trinity Sunday.
Welcome to ‘after Pentecost’
Welcome to a whole season of Sundays after Pentecost!
From here on out we are going to count.
We will count all the way through summer {thirteenth sunday after Pentecost}
all the way through fall {twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost}
all the way until December 2 which is the first day of Advent.
Welcome to Ordinary Time.

visions of God,
holiness so hot it can burn the sin off our lips.
a respected man sneaks around in the darkness,
talking to the light of the world, under the shadow of night.
Jesus speaks in mind-twisting metaphors,

and all the while we are expected to be thinking on the nature of God who is so beautifully and inexplicably woven together
that we cannot explain it without breaking into song and dance.

welcome to ordinary.

Last week we had tongues of fire on our heads that gave us new language to speak of God  and today we hear two responses to that same God.

This first is Isaiah, who laments because not only are his own lips unclean he comes from a people of unclean lips.

Then one of the seraphs flies to him, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.
this live coal is burning with the same holy fire that 750 years later will rest on the heads of the disciples and change them too.
The seraph touches his mouth with it and says:

“Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”
and he says “send me”

That one who stood with spirit cleansed lips, and shaking knees and said “send me”
that was Isaiah.

Then we have the story of Nicodemus who comes to Jesus at night.

It is unclear exactly what it is that Nicodemus wants from Jesus.
He tells Jesus who Jesus is, and what is possible. Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about eternal life,
but Nicodemus cannot understand what Jesus is saying.
Jesus invites him to see the world in a new way to experience a whole new reality,
but Nicodemus cannot let go of his established view of God and Nature.
Jesus invites Nicodemus to eternal life, but Nicodemus is too entrenched in the life he already has to accept a life reshaped and redefined by the love of God who so loved the world through the person of Jesus and the wild wind and fire of the spirit

the one who did not understand what Jesus was talking about, and was still invited to new life.
that was Nicodemus.

and this is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday that we celebrate the inadequacy of our images of God.





The trinity is doctrine and metaphor,
The trinity is poetry and mystery.
The trinity is our best clumsy drawing of the inexpressible majesty of God.

Today we profess belief in a God who is completely beyond us.
Isaiah understands this, Nicodemus does not.
Isaiah gets that he in relationship to a God who is wilder and bigger than he can possibly grasp.
He is reduced to trembling humbly at the hem of God’s robe,
but Nicodemus insists on telling Jesus how things are.

We must not make idols of our images of God.
We must never let our good doctrine get in the way of the Holy in front of us.

What does the doctrine of the trinity mean?
what does it mean for God to be three persons of one substance?
it probably means about the same thing as us being individual people born again into one family,
as children of a wind that blows where it will.
it means when we are born again in water and in spirit that we are no longer separate people,
we no longer get to look out for ourselves or our own families of origin and our own interests to the exclusion of others.
we are reborn into a new identity and a new context.
where the divisions are harder to find than the unity.

Jesus invites us to see, to enter the kingdom of God but we cannot even see this kingdom without changing what we look for.

eternal life is not just a human life without end,  but a life lived in the unending presence of an eternal God who is love poured out.

We have been born of water and the spirit-
We have been called to bear the holiness of God out into a very Ordinary world.
and in this Ordinary summer,  in this Ordinary town, from an Ordinary church,
in Ordinary time for Ordinary people
we can say:
Here we are
send us.

Happy Birthday!

Preached at St. Matthew’s Rapid City~ May 27, 2012 {Pentecost}

God give us the gift of your spirit, let it light on us and light us up to spread your glory in the world.

I feel so blessed to be here today. This is a wonderful gift and opportunity. My whole family is so excited to be here in South Dakota, here in Rapid City, and especially here at St. Matthew’s. I can’t imagine a wilder or more wonderful Sunday to be standing here than Pentecost.


Some have called this the birthday of the church, because this is the day we celebrate the ragtag group of jesus followers becoming the church. Bless them there they are, confused and wondering : where do we go from here? And many of us are wondering the same thing. We have walked along with them on this journey since Epiphany.
We have sat with the disciples at the feet of Jesus
we have walked with him to Jerusalem
we stood by helpless as he was crucified
we mourned his death
we proclaimed his resurrection
we witnessed his ascention
now what?

there they sit in an upper room looking at one another. saying

“i don’t know what do you want to do?”

and then comes the rushing wind-


this is same wind that no one had ears to hear when it rushed across the face of the deep at the beginning of the world,
this is the same wind that filled Adam’s lungs when the thumbprints of God were still fresh on his newly formed body,
this is the same wind that brought the dry bones backs to life,
this is the breath of God,
this is the holy spirit.
and it has come.                to them.

can you imagine?

it filled the entire house where they were sitting and then, THEN!  tongues of divided flame came and rested on each of them. and they began to speak in other languages.

Now these disciples have been through quite a lot.

They have seen some wild stuff.

They have seen demons fleeing, storms calmed, bread multiplied, diseases healed and the dead raised, but this!?
this is on them.


this wildness is personal, and it changes even the languages that come from their own lips.

can you imagine?  you open your mouth to speak English and Russian comes out? You think you will say something in Lakota, and yet you are speaking Chinese.

but this story does not “undo” the tower of Babel as some have said. it does not collapse all of the languages of the world back into one, it celebrates the uniqueness of the gathered crowd.

speaking a new language gives you not only new words for old ideas but whole new ways of thinking.

but the story as many stories do, tucks in the corners of logic and won’t let us out so easily. this is not new languages for party tricks and easier travelling. this is the proclaimed word of God. the people all hear in their own language, God is able through these messed up scared sweet disciples who loved Jesus, to speak to a whole world in the tongue that their mothers whispered as they tucked them into bed. God is telling God’s story in the voice that each person’s grandfather used to tell them the stories that wove their view of the world.

this is a story about being freed to see the world in a new way.

being given new life, being spirit filled people who can speak the truth that this world is not the final world so that we can live together into the real truth of joy and love.


what about us here in this room today?
what about us as we sit and tell this story year after year to each other.
what if all of a sudden that spirit came rushing through this place?
what if each one of us had a tongue of fire resting on us inspiring and strengthening us, giving us the power, the capability, and the will to go out there and speak the truth that a new world is here among us?
of course, we do.

because this is the story of the birth of our church and that is why we tell this story.

I don’t know exactly where we go from here.
I don’t know what we should do.


I don’t have the right words.
I don’t speak the right Languages – and yet God has brought me here, to learn from you, to sit with you and walk with you.
because  you are the church

—happy Birthday

Jesus promises in the gospel today that something or someone is coming to help us when he is gone. this something will speak the truth in us and through us.
this —- whatever it is that Jesus is sending, gets translated a bunch of different ways Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Counselor, the Spirit of Truth.  the Greek word is Paraclete,  but however you translate it this does not sound like what you send to someone who has everything together, or to someone you expect to have an easy time of things.

this is not a gift basket, enjoy your birthday, take it easy now kids, you’ve earned it kind of promise.
we, along with the disciples might ask Jesus  “um, what is it we are getting ourselves into that we will need to be comforted, counselled, advocated for, and uplifted?  we might begin to suspect that this will be hard work.

it is like in the post Eucharistic Prayer when we pray for strength and courage to love and serve the Lord.
we don’t usually pray for strength and courage for easy things.
I don’t say, Lord, give me strength and courage to take a nap this afternoon.
Send me a helper and an advocate as I lie on the couch and read.

to love God
to love our neighbors
to love our enemies
to not worry about tomorrow
to proclaim that a new reign of peace and freedom is already here in the midst of suffering and sadness
to be meek, to be poor, to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

this will take all we have and then some.

The good news today is that what we bring to God does not limit what we accomplish. It is what God can bring to us that will make the difference.

this whole liturgical year, this liturgical cycle is so precious because it disrupts linear version of time. when you live through the same stories year after year it dismantles the whole notion that just because something happened 2000 years ago it is not happening today.

2000 years ago the spirit rushed into a room full of people who didn’t know what was coming next.

we don’t know what is coming next.

2000 years ago the holy spirit gave voice to the longing of God to speak in words that would most readily touch the hearts of those that heard them.

God is longing to speak to us now.

2000 years ago the church born in the midst of fear and disappointment and longing.

the church is being born here and now.



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