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take the bread

Preached at Grace and St. Paul’s in NYC for Transmission on Wednesday of Holy Week.

Jesus says, “ the one I will feed this bread to is the one who will betray me.”
and Judas takes that bread.
would you?

I don’t like to think about Judas. I tend to read the  passion narrative through the eyes of the palm Sunday liturgy where we all cry out together

“crucify Him!”
It was the powers
it was the principalities
it was the government
it was the empire
it was the darkness of the whole world that couldn’t bear the light.

right?

it feels cheap to hang it all on one guy and then hang that guy
I don’t want to focus the world’s rejection of Jesus on one man and then let Satan take the blame for him.
where does that leave us?
if it hadn’t been for Judas would Jesus have lived to ripe old age? Is that what this story is saying?
would he just have gone on teaching about love and light and and the kingdom of God? until one late night night he slipped away into a peaceful death?

If someone could have stopped Judas would this story end differently?
Every year we tell ourselves the story of Jesus’ death  in slow motion.
we go over the details day by day.
palms
Jerusalem
washing feet
staying awake  / falling asleep

and the end is always the cross
but the cross is not the end.

but we don’t get to talk about the end yet.
we are called to stay in the story.

this hard nasty week where love weeps tears.

so what if
what if this one man
this really human man had the power to decide the fate of God?
that’s what Judas asks us in this story.
if we dare to believe in the betrayal of Judas then we believe in our own power to kill love.
we believe in our own power to hand over the light to the darkness.

do you believe that?

when it comes to hard questions, there is always an abundance of answers.
Complicated theological answers.
I am in seminary right now, and I know that we can grind these stories down until there is nothing left but grit in our teeth.

but,

what I want to know is
in that moment when Jesus dips a piece of bread in the cup and places it tenderly in the mouth of Judas,

could the whole story have changed?
was Jesus holding out, along with that piece of bread, hope that he was wrong?

I have heard that there is no communion story in the Gospel of John, but what is this if not communion?

The one I feed this bread to will betray me.
what if these were the words of institution, week after week?
could you come to this table?

would you be able, like Judas to take bread from the hand of the one who refuses in the face of death to condemn you?

because that what Judas does,
he looks love in the eye
he eats out of the hand of mercy
turns his back
and walks out the door.

but what about you?
what if you do have the choice, week after week?
what if every time that bread is offered the world could change?
what if we have the power to change the story?

take a risk
take the bread.

believe you are beloved

   preached at St. Michael and All Angels, Portland, OR- January 15, 2012
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God you know us, call us, and more amazingly love us. And wherever we go, you are with us. Help us to live like we believe it.         Amen
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So what does it mean to live like we believe we are beloved?
This morning we have a couple of grace-filled beautiful stories about being wrong. Samuel and Nathaniel are both wrong about who God is and how God will appear to them.  In order to move forward and become the people they are called to be they have to give up being right, they have to give up knowing God and accept instead being known BY God— when you can admit that you are wrong, that’s an epiphany.
Here we in the second week of the season of Epiphany, thie sweet short season that bridges the miracle of the incarnation to the beginning of the road to Jerusalem . A season where we celebrate Light coming into the world.
Epiphany time celebrates those moments that change your life forever. We hear the story of Samuels and Nathanial’s epiphanies today and pray for our own epiphanies.
Last week we stood on the banks of the Jordan and watched as John baptized Jesus in the soft muddy water, and the Holy Spirit proclaimed him the beloved child of God.  Now we have five and half more weeks until Ash Wednesday. This week and next we will call the disciples together, then Jesus will cast out demons heal a mother in law and some lepers before he is transfigured on the mountain.
 Then we will put ashes on foreheads and start walking into Lent with this beloved incarnate child of God to the cross.
          Jesus is gathering his community around him and each call story is unique.
*
Phillip is a great evangelist here.
He is called by Jesus, accepts, and immediately goes to find his friend Nathaniel, who we assume has already had previous conversation with Phillip about the Messiah, because Phillip comes in with, “it’s Him!” , but Nathaniel is skeptical. He knows enough of his own expectation s of the messiah to know that the Savior he is expecting is to come from somewhere cooler than Nazareth . But Patient Philip does not argue with him, but just says, come see for yourself. And to Nathaniel’s credit he does. He may be suspicious but he is still willing to “go and see” When he gets to Jesus he hears the cryptic welcome. “ Here is someone without deceit”
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“Do you know me?” Nathaniel asks.
Oh I saw you under the fig tree says Jesus.
And for some reason this totally undoes Nathaniel.
.
Jesus has touched on an experience the dramatically shifts Nathaniel’s perspective on the ever important question of who Jesus is.
“You are the Lord the Messiah, the Son of God.”
All this just because I saw you under the Fig Tree? Now Jesus has to know that this “seeing him under the fig tree was a big deal, but he says oh Honey, there are things coming for you in this journey that will even make being seen and known pale in comparison. You will see the messengers of God break though from earth to heaven and back again.
What was Nathaniel doing under the fig tree? Why is he so surprised that Jesus saw him there? was he praying to God for a sign? Was he seeking direction in his life was he at a crossroads? was he weeping and mourning ? Was he depressed and pouring his heart out? Was he singing a joyful song?
Was he mad at the world, resentful and bitter? Was he demanding that God DO something, that God step up and put this broken world right.
Whatever it was, when Jesus tells him I saw you there, sitting under that fig tree, when he realized that Jesus shared that experience with him that God in Jesus was truly present in that fig tree moment, he becomes convinced of the identity of Jesus.  Nathaniel’s whole perspective shifts. His view goes from,
“can anything good come out of Nazareth ” to
“truly you are the son of God. You are the one I have been waiting for.”
Nathaniel has to loose his certainty about the value of place and learn that he is beloved.
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So what does it mean to live like we believe we are beloved?
When we hear good news- tell a friend
If our friend is skeptical- let them see for themselves
If we see the evidence of love living in the world- believe it
If our beliefs are too rigid to make room for God- be willing to change them.
*
The story of Samuel opens with the intriguing phrase- the word of the lord was rare in those days and visions were not widespread. I don’t know if this is to give Samuel a better excuse for not catching on right away that it is God speaking to him,
 So of course the story goes that Samuel keeps hearing his name called and goes to Eli the old priest who has taken him in. Eli tells him it was not him calling, and it is finally Eli who catches on and realizes God must be calling the boy, and tells him to answer the next time “Speak Lord for your servant listens.”
what Samuel hears from God is hard words and dire consequences for Eli’s own sons, but Eli tells him to listen anyway.
Samuel has to change what he believes about the voice of God, and believe that he is beloved.
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So what does it mean for us to live like we believe we are beloved?
When people think we are the voice of God- Point them back to God
When people have hard things to tell us- listen
When someone tells you listen to God- & listen
When God speaks- be still
If God gives you something hard to say –say it
*
Both Samuel and Nathaniel  were wrong about God and have to shift their expectations of how God appears and who God is, in order to encounter the God that is already there with them.
There are times we don’t want to be seen and known by God
There are times in our lives where we act like we do not believe that Jesus is present with us and we are surrounded by love that knows no bounds. There are times where we allow the cruel words of people who don’t know us  very well rip away our sense of safety and security.
There are times where we act for all intents and purposes like the world we can look at and touch is all there is and our success or failure in this realm is the measure of our worth.
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We can sit in the dark refusing to believe we are illuminated by the love that created the world, refusing to believe that the voice of God is calling us.
Once we are secure in our identity as beloved we can toss aside all of our earthly crutches to join in the ongoing epiphany-work of celebrating the light that has come into the world. We can tell other people to come and see, We can encourage the prophets among us like Eli did, we can tell people who come to us as if we were the authority they seek, to go back into the silence, make themselves still, and listen again for the voice of God. Even if that message will speak against our own house of privilege.
We can stop being anxious about holding onto what we already know, about what others are saying and be freed up to repeat the Good news that we are known and loved. If we can know that we have nothing to lose, Once we accept that we are known we will see angels ascending and descending, breaking through with a message of Gods inconceivable love.
*
~We are known and loved as we lie in our beds in the dark of the night, unsure of whether the voice that disrupts our sleep is the voice of God.
~We are known and loved as we sit under fig trees, praying and wrestling with our meaning, purpose, and place in life.
~We are known and loved when we come through these doors,  whatever it is we think we are looking for.
~We are known and loved as we come to this table and kneel in humility holding out our hands to taste the truth that God can continually surprise us.
~We are known and loved as we step back out these doors living like known and loved people.

what we worship

After a lovely ritual with Transmission tonight we talked some about the Occupy Wall Street protest.  Then I came to look at the Lectionary Readings for the week.

Guess what the old testament reading for Sunday is?

that’s right.

the golden calf.

and I quote:

So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” — exodus 32:2-4just to refresh your memory if you have forgotten the story, God and Moses are not at all happy with this and bicker like a pair of exhausted parents:

God says those are “Your people who YOU brought up out of Egypt.”  and tells Moses to stand aside.

But Moses says oh no honey, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?

thankfully Moses wins this argument, but the major issues at stake don’t seem to have changed for 4000 years.

What we worship matters.
when we worship what we build with our own gold, we forget about the love of God who frees us from all kinds of slavery. We look to wealth and security as real things, but they have no more power to liberate us than a golden idol.

*note I posted this same thing on the transmission blog.

Viva la Revolution

So any dear ones who are still checking this after my almost unforgivably long hiatus, I am getting my sea legs and will do my best to start posting faithfully again.

Yesterday I preached at Revolution NYC. It was very different from any place I have ever preached before and I’m afraid I wasn’t at my best, but getting my pride tweaked should be a good thing right.

School is going well for me and Adin. and I am working with a fantastic community here called Transmission.

Today is Adin’s half birthday and we are going to try making a lemon lime pie without a recipe.   We will see I suppose.

Peace

Kerlin

bring it-

I usually put these on my other blog, but I thought I’d do a little double posting today.

preached at St Ann’s Nashville July 31, 2011

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 17: 1-7, 16
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:13-21

God give us the courage to bring you what we have so that you can bless it and break it and share it with the world
Amen

The last time Jacob was alone in the desert he encountered the holy and witnessed the kingdom of God breaking through to earth. He had a dream of a ladder with Angels ascending and descending. That time he was running for his life, a stolen a blessing tucked in his back pocket. He had gone to his old blind father disguised as his brother and lied about who he was to get his fathers blessing, then ran away. That time he saw messengers of love constantly on the move.

This time he is on his way back, understandably nervous about how the brother he lied to and cheated and ran from will react to his homecoming. He splits up his family and sends them across a river to keep them safe.

And spends the night alone.

This time his encounter with the holy is not as sweet. Not as pretty. This time his encounter with the nature of God is more intense. This time a man wrestles with him until daybreak. This is not a God simply to be believed in, but grappled with, this is not an intellectual proposition or dusty set set of doctrines to be debated, but an all consuming struggle. This is a face of God that can be held onto, that can be clung to, that can fight back. And somehow he holds on. Its what he has always done. His very name means grasper. He held his brother’s heel on their way into the world and has been grabbing ever since. He even manages to hold onto this man or angel or God all night long. Even after his hip is knocked out of joint. He holds on. He holds on and he asks for a blessing. And then the angel asks his name.

Why?

I mean surely this big wrestling angel knows who he has been struggling with all night, right? Does this angel go out every night into the desert and pick fights with lonely men?
Will he need to fill out paper work when he gets back to heaven?
Or is he giving Jacob a chance to repair the lie that severed him from his family and himself?

We are rewinding and rewriting the first story

See, when his father, Issac, was giving Jacob the blessing he knew something was up. “are you really my son Easu?” he asked. And Jacob lied right to his blind fathers face and said “I am”
So when the angel asks Jacob who he is it is a loaded question.
But this time he answers, “Jacob”
he can admit who he is. A grasper, a supplanter, a striver, an underminer, devious and desperate.

This time He is admitting to God and to himself who he is.
And in that wonderful moment the angel says says “not anymore”
“You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel. Which means God has kicked your butt and you held on. Really, it means God strives. It means you are now defined by your relationship with God and no longer by the worst parts of yourself.

Then showing just how much he hasn’t changed Jacob asks “so, whats your name?”
and the Angel says “why is it that you ask my name?”
Have I ever lied about who I am?
Have I ever been deceitful?

“You wouldn’t get it” he is saying to Jacob (and to Israel) “there is nothing I could tell you in this moment that would make who I am any clearer to you. Know this: I have wrestled you, I have held onto you, I have surprised you, I have injured you, I have known you, I have renamed you and now I will bless you. That is who I am.”

We are no better than Jacob. We struggle with God and we want to know the details. We want God to be simple and self revelatory.
We want to understand God enough to get around the difficult requests.

You tell me who you are and then I can safely decide what our relationship will be.

Who Jesus is, who God is IN Jesus, becomes one of the overarching questions not only for the Gospel writers but also the gospel readers. For us.

This morning Jesus is reeling from the news that John the Baptist has been killed. He tries to get away but the crowds follow him. And he has compassion on them, and heals their sick. He serves them. He is moved by mercy. And spends the whole day with them, as he is mourning the loss of his friend, his cousin in faith, his baptizer.

In the evening the disciples come and tell him that the people he has been loving in the deserted place are hungry. This is the first we hear of the disciples in this story. did they just get there. Or have they been working alongside Jesus all day? Are they trying to take care of Jesus? Are they worried about Jesus and want to get hm some of the rest they probably are wanting for themselves?

They say the crowd should be sent away to get something to eat. You think he didn’t know the hunger of these people that he interrupted his grief for, that he was healing, the people who broke his heart in their woundedness? do we really think he somehow missed their hunger?

Jesus says “don’t send them away. you give them something to eat.” The disciples try to explain to him how little they have. Maybe enough for themselves, but barely, and Jesus wants them to try and feed all these people with their own dinner?

Yep.

Bring it to me he says. What ever little bit you were saving for yourself, bring it to me. Whatever you thought was barely adequate to get you through the day, bring it to me.
And they do.
Which I think may be the real miracle in this story.

Then he orders the crowd to sit down and he looks up to heaven blesses and breaks the bread and has his disciples feed the people. Now this should sound really familiar to any of you who have ever been to church before.
This is the Eucharist.
This is the miracle.

You see a miracle is not experienced standing on the sidelines with a disdainful attitude, and a clipboard. A miracle is experienced in the body from the point of view of the person being fed. From the point of view of the person doing the feeding. We are not changed or transformed or healed if we sit out here and try to figure out if “a miracle really happened” what will change us is if we let ourselves be fed, if we let Gods grace and generosity feed hungers in us that it will take miracles to satisfy. What will change us is if we take what little that we have and let Jesus bless it and see how far it will go.

This is the Eucharist and we preform this miracle ourselves week after week, we take the nothing that we have share it with each other and have basketfuls to take out into the world.

If you are bothered by all the starving places of the world, don’t tell Jesus you have run out of love to offer, don’t tell Jesus you have run out of patience and compassion, don’t tell him you have nothing to give!
Jesus never worries about how little we bring to the table,
I’m sorry Jesus but I cannot forgive this person, I cannot face that person, Its just not ME, I cannot open myself up to this pain, I have nothing to offer here. That’s ok, says Jesus , seemingly missing our well thought out arguments, bring it to me.

And we will feed them anyway.

We say: I am not that sort of person,
And he says: that’s ok you are someone new.
We say: I don’t have enough,
He says: bring it to me
he says to us: “I don’t care what gifts you think you do or don’t have, that is so deeply irrelevant to what I am up to.”
We say: all I have is this one little life, small and selfish, and hard.
He says:
that’s ok I can bless you, and break you, and share you.

In the middle of those long hard wrestling nights, it takes everything we’ve got to hold onto some piece of God. When we experience unspeakable loss, when loneliness crushes the air from our lungs, when traumatic regret threatens to pull us under, hold on. Don’t let go. We are not promised protection. These nights leave scars. These nights leave us limping. And the losses do not disappear when the sun rises.

But,

if we can just hold on, after wrestling all night, in the morning the angel will ask
who Are you?
Are you someone who will join in with this foolish work that will take everything you have and will take everything you do not have?

God isn’t overly concerned with who we think we are or what we think we have to offer. We are simply being invited to share in the in-breaking of heaven on earth.
We are invited to bring whatever we have to the table, and let it be blessed and broken, and fed to the world. And there will be basketfuls left over.

Amen

black is the new pink

For  four and half years I have been that girl with pink hair, and there are people I have met only because I have been easy to find.

At the wild goose festival as we getting ready to leave a man I had never seen before came up to me and said ” you must be Kerlin.” he introduced himself as the editor Geez, one of my favorite magazines ever. A mutual acquaintance had told him we should meet since we were both editors.  If it weren’t for my bright plumage I probably would have left the festival with out meeting him.

There are other people who use me a spotting devise, at the Pints of Theology we would host back in Portland, people could tell which group was us pretty easily.

but I just died my hair black.

It feels like this should mean something “big.”  I feel like I should have some really great reason.

Maybe I don’t want to talk to strangers.  maybe I don’t want to be so obvious right now. maybe I’m in mourning for cool nights and trees as tall as the sky.

however, the more boring reason is that pink is a pretty high maintenance color. I cant go swimming in chlorinated water, I need to even limit how often it gets wet, because every time I wash it it looses a bunch of color and chlorine takes me to a pale orangey pink almost  immediately. And then I will stain any towel I come into contact with.

The big problem is that being in Nashville now,  I want to swim in the pool, I really need to take showers. Lots of showers.

So in the midst of all of my other big changes I am laying my pink hair at the feet of transition. I still have my bottles of pink. One I’m in New York, and have my own dark grey towels back, I will probably go back to pink.

But for a little while I will be going incognito, who knows, I might not even recognize myself.

you don’t need authority

While we were at the Wild Goose Festival, Adin pretty much took off on his own and had a great time. He caught a couple of frogs and hundreds of lightning bugs.

We got in on Wednesday afternoon and by Thursday morning the volunteers, staff and I had the necessary conversations about Adin’s independence. He proceeded to make friends with what seemed like about 1200 people in a day and a half. By Friday morning I could walk around the site and ask almost anyone if they had seen Adin, and they could tell me the last time he had been spotted. The only real confusion came from the fact that he had packed his “long tank top” which is a pink striped dress. But still, updates on my daughter were just as helpful as updates on my son. There was a wonderful kids tent with fun activities that Adin refused to stay in because you couldn’t come and go as you pleased.

Both Nadia Boltz-Weber and Phyllis Tickle addressed the question of where is authority in the church now. I caught Nadia’s talk but missed Phyllis’, I was probably looking for Adin at the time.

It is hard to know how to balance your child’s need for freedom, with a mother’s need for safety. I probably checked up on him about ten times more than he knew. While no one said anything to me directly, I’m sure plenty of people were wondering where my authority was as a mother.

Adin enjoyed more freedom there than I am usually comfortable with. With no bedtime or cars, and tons of friends he was able to make choices for himself that I usually make for him. One day I gave him ten bucks and told him he could choose his own food, but I did recommend protein before sugar. The giant lemonade was hopefully worth it to him.

One of the joys for me was seeing him through the eyes of so many new people. The wonderfully sweet man running the ostrich burger stand complemented my daughter on her grasp of electricity. Adin had stood with him as he was fixing the wiring for his cart, and talked about things electrical. People from all over the festival told me funny and flattering things about my boy, which are all honey to a mama’s heart. But my favorite was a volunteer who was working on something when he tried to talk her into giving him a ride on one of the golf carts. She told him she didn’t have the authority to use the carts.

“Oh”, said Adin “You don’t need authority. You just flip the switch and it completes the circuit.”

She gave him a ride.

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