Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Rules" for School

There is a blog floating around talking about a seemingly college age female who is giving some high school freshmen a list of rules (suggestions) for life in high school based on her experience.  I really struggle with it, in large part because the parent writing the blog refers to them as rules, and in part because much of it feels like the church rules we put in place because we want to protect "ours" from "that" culture.  So instead here are my suggestions ("Rules") for students (in the school of life):

  1. Surround yourself with people who you can trust and who want the best for you.
  2. Think before you act, every actions has consequences
  3. Don't let anyone make you feel damaged, you are in the image of God
  4. Set boundaries you are comfortable with, and make others stick to them no matter what.
  5. Always have a person who you can tell EVERYTHING to
  6. Be careful how you let someone into your life, but make sure to risk yourself when you feel it could be worth it.
  7. If you think someone may be putting you at risk in any way, step away from them.
  8. If someone hurts another person, go out of your way to take care of them and show them love
  9. Communicate with God, do this via words, art, music, whatever.  And listen for responses in the world.
  10. Take time away from all of the distractions of the world, it will help you hear truth.
  11. Be nice to those who seem concerned about you. Listen to them, and sometimes trust them even when you disagree.
  12. If you find yourself lying to those in #1 or #11, you may be in a place you really don't want to be.  Step away.
  13. Say No when in doubt. If your Yes can't be enthusiastic, take time to think about what's really going on before moving forward.
  14. Don't stop just because you feel like you failed or are stuck, keep swimming, stuff happens, figure out what you're going to do next and do it.
  15. Write.  Tell you story and put it down in words or art regularly. We are not just in a moment, we are our stories.
  16. Find community.  Not just like minded people, not just people your age, gender, race, orientation, politics, etc.  Find diverse people you can trust and who will push you to change.
  17. If it doesn't build up others, don't do it.
  18. Don't think you have all the answers or the right way to do something. When you feel this way you can devalue and judge others, and make it easier for others to do that too.
  19. Wait, think, dialogue before forming opinions. Your immediate reaction may be right, but the emotions involved in that moment may cause more problems
  20. Think before you post.  Nothing is private, all we do is shared, see #2.  Also not everyone may understand context they are distant from.
As I wrote these, I realized how defensive the initial list seemed to me.  Some of these are still a bit more defensive than I'd like them to be, but I hope they read more proactive and connected to the wholeness of who we are as humans created in the image of Love.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Bohemia's Six Word Story of Faith

So a friend of mine posted to the #SixWordStoryOfFaith thread happening on Twitter a variation on the first two line of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody and it made me think of the great testimonies in the song.  I can think of at least one person in my life that could use almost all of these lines (except a couple as noted) to describe their faith. So here it is:

Is this real of just fantasy?
Caught in landslide no escaping reality
Open eyes, look to the skies
A poor boy, needing no sympathy
Because I'm Easy come, Easy go,
Little high, low, anyway wind blows
It doesn't Really matter to me

Killed a man, with a gun
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead
(okay admittedly those last 2 lines have little to no way I can make them connect alone)

Life just begun, now thrown away

Didn't mean to make you cry
If I'm not back by tomorrow
Carry on as if nothing matters

My time has come, sending shivers
Body aches, good bye, good bye.
Got to leave you, face truth

I do not want to die
I've never been born at all
See a silhouette of the man
Buffoons, will you do your dance (Scaramouche will you do the Fandango)
Thunder and lightning are very frightening
Falsely accused just like Galileo, magnificent... (Context of Galileo Galileo)

Just a poor boy, nobody loves me
A poor boy from a poor family
Spare my life from this monstrosity

Easy Come Easy Go . . . Let Go
It will not let me go
Let me go, No don't go
A devil's set aside for me
You think you can stone me?
Think you can spit on me?
Love then leave me to die
You can't do this to me
Gotta get out of here now

Nothing really matters, anyone can see
Nothing matters anyway the wind blows

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Good Friday Sermon Unpreached

Today I am posting various artwork to create an online stations of the cross for my church.  There are many interesting images that I found as I googled the various stations, great images pointing to racism, sexism, discrimination, but done in ways that so often offered chances at redemption, showing a God whose humanity was bigger than any way we can divide ourselves.  Yet, there was one that stood out and hit me hard.  

When looking for something for Station 9: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, I googled images based on the words Jesus do not weep for me and found something striking: a number of pictures of Miley Cyrus on the first page. What does this have to do with Jesus and the women of Jerusalem?  

Luke 23 includes the text for this station:
A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

I can't say exactly why Miley Cyrus ended up connected to this or even if the connection is direct. It could as easily just be someone who is upset by what they think she has become as some connection to the scripture.  Either way though the idea of Jesus weeping for or because of Miley Cyrus seems a bit off.

Yet, this is often the stuff we weep over, things that happen within the culture where we assume we have the answers for another.  We claim we weep for the future, for our children who are growing up in a land of lawlessness and sexualization, yet we don't trust God to be in control, we want to make the decisions on what Jesus should cry over. 

"Jesus, do not weep for me, but for those who see something good in this celebrity..."
"Jesus, do not weep for me, but for those who follow this type of politics..."
"Jesus, do not weep for me, but for those who hear your voice saying something I don't..."
"Jesus, do not weep for me, but for those who live differently..."

Yet, when we do this we become those who decide for Jesus, and thus for others, who they are, what they should be, and how they should live.  Jesus chooses to continue his journey to death in this story.  He does not ask for mourning, instead warning us that if those close to Jesus could not see what God was all about, how could those who do not have Jesus as a reference to God living in the world.  

Those who could not see who Jesus was were afraid of him, afraid that his choices would damage their place in the world.  They believed that a world without Jesus was one they could control, but we have seen time and again that God is the one in control.  We cannot choose who Jesus weeps for, because Jesus weeps for all whom God loves that are not with Jesus and for those who will not discern what God is doing in their own lives and in the world. Jesus doesn't weep because he's worried about others, but because of pain in his heart.

We cannot know the heart of another, just  those women could not understand why Jesus was at peace with the path he was walking.  We so often want Jesus to weep over the choices of another so that we can feel that Jesus is patting us on the back for not being like them.  Yet, we see time and again that God's way is one of surprising love and grace for those who society, even religious society (often especially religious society), outcasts and despises.  Not just those weak due to station in life, but also those weak due to their own choices, those who seem far from God are often closer than we'd like to think.

So let us go forth this Good Friday, not seeing ourselves as those who are right, or with the answers, but as those who do not live as Jesus did.  Those who weep due to worry, not do to pain.  Those who want control, and in wanting control have let the wood become dry, falling short of being the church that gave all, short of the God who gave all, short of the call we received upon creation.  May we weep for ourselves, but then may we remember that this weeping is not forever, for we are the ones called to join Jesus in bringing about this new world.  A world of love, a world of diverse ways coming together as God brings us together in Christ's image, not as we make others into our image.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Youth Sunday Service

The following is the service they youth I work with created and led this week.  It began with the theme of "God is There, Listening" and I think was a very moving and powerful service worth sharing:

(iPod Plays Below My Feet, pitchers brought forward and poured into aquariums)

I put all my hope in the Lord
    He leaned down to me;
    he listened to my cry for help.
He lifted me out of the pit of death,
    out of the mud and filth,
    and set my feet on solid rock.
        He steadied my legs.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise for our God.
Many people will learn of this and be amazed;
    they will trust the Lord.
Those who put their trust in the Lord
    who pay no attention to the proud
    or to those who follow lies,
    are truly happy!
You, Lord my God!
    You’ve done so many things—
    your wonderful deeds and your plans for us—
        no one can compare with you!
    If I were to proclaim and talk about all of them,
        they would be too numerous to count!
You don’t relish sacrifices or offerings;
    you don’t require entirely burned offerings or compensation offerings—
    but you have given me ears!

Leader: O praise the Lord with me,
People: Let us exalt God’s name together.

Right Hand of Fellowship
As we begin our worship this morning, let us take a moment to great one another sharing the peace of Christ.
Leader: The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
All: And also with you

Call to Worship
Leader: Eternal God, we say good morning to you.
People: Hallowed be your name
Leader: Early in the morning, before we begin our days,
People: We praise your glory.
Leader: Renew our bodies as fresh as morning flowers,
People: Open our eyes, as the sun casts new light on the darkness
Leader: Deliver us from all captivity
People: Give us wings of freedom like the birds in the sky to begin a new journey.
Leader: Restore justice and freedom, as a mighty stream running continuously as day follows day
All: We thank you for the gift of this morning, a another new day to work with you. 

Songs  of Praise
Days of Elijah 
Firm Foundation

Prayer of Confession
Leader: When we feel we cannot go any farther, he picks us up and tells us he knows.  
People: When I feel I cannot sink any lower, he pulls me out and tells me he sees.
Leader: When we feel that the pain can't get any worse, he takes it away and shows us he cares
People: When I feel that I cannot open my heart, he reaches in and and show me he can.
Leader: When we think our lives cannot get any harder
All: I turn to him. He's always there.

Prayer of Illumination
God, Give us seeing eyes, hearing ears, and understanding hearts.  May your word be like fire, and a hammer that breaks the hardest rock into pieces. May we experience it's world changing power. AMEN

Genesis 21 verses 8-21
The boy grew and stopped nursing. On the day he stopped nursing, Abraham prepared a huge banquet. Sarah saw Hagar’s son laughing, the one Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham.  So she said to Abraham, “Send this servant away with her son! This servant’s son won’t share the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
 This upset Abraham terribly because the boy was his son. God said to Abraham, “Don’t be upset about the boy and your servant. Do everything Sarah tells you to do because your descendants will be traced through Isaac.  But I will make of your servant’s son a great nation too, because he is also your descendant.”  Abraham got up early in the morning, took some bread and a flask of water, and gave it to Hagar. He put the boy in her shoulder sling and sent her away.
She left and wandered through the desert near Beer-sheba. Finally the water in the flask ran out, and she put the boy down under one of the desert shrubs. She walked away from him about as far as a bow shot and sat down, telling herself, I can’t bear to see the boy die. She sat at a distance, cried out in grief, and wept.
 God heard the boy’s cries, and God’s messenger called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “Hagar! What’s wrong? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy’s cries over there.  Get up, pick up the boy, and take him by the hand because I will make of him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went over, filled the water flask, and gave the boy a drink. God remained with the boy; he grew up, lived in the desert, and became an expert archer. He lived in the Paran desert, and his mother found him an Egyptian wife.

Leader: The Word of The Lord
All: Thanks be to God.

"Who Am I"

Mark 4 verses 35-41
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” 

Leader: The Gospel of God.
All: We Praise You, Lord Jesus

Children’s Message
Read Mark text from Spark Story Bible. Acted out. Congregation behind kids make storm sounds as led along with story.

God who knows when we're afraid,
You are always with us.
Help us to always remember 
the hope we have in you.

Romans 8 verses 22-27
We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now.  And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free.  We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see?  But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.
In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will.

Leader: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.
All: And a light unto my path

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

“God In Our Storms”
(There will be a progressive storm created in the aquarium on the chancel as the sermon occurs)
Everyone faces struggles in their lives. As life continues storms show up. It either comes out of nowhere or gradually builds until everything blows up. Storms are different for everyone. Whether they are illness that creep up and then affect a family or a failure that comes out of nowhere, every storm brings its problems but there is always a light at the end of the storm, something to continue your faith. Each of the scriptures talked about today, shows how the peoples faith was tested and the storms came but God and Jesus brought the light and the end of the storms.(Make clouds with shaving cream)

One can generally tell when a storm is coming. The skies start to darken and the wind starts to pick up and you know that something is coming. You can tell the storm is coming in the first scripture because Sara again is upset with Ismael and Hagar. This shows one-way a storm comes up on someone, giving you time to prepare. It allows them to prepare for the upcoming issue that may impact your life. I can relate to this because as we get closer to the end of the year, finals and the impending doom of a month full of exams are right around the corner. The storm is approaching but because I know it is coming I have time to prepare and study for them. 

But life does not always give you a warning before the storm pops up. This is evident in the second scripture, when the storm pops up while the disciples are in the boat and Jesus is asleep. There is no warning for the storm and their faith is tested. They are scared and have to call on Jesus to help them. This is very much like when someone suddenly gets diagnosed with an illness. It takes you by surprise and can change your life and those lives around you. Storms affect us all in one way or another but faith and hope found in God help us get through, and keep us from being defeated.

Everyone goes through a time in their life, wether it is a day, a week, a month, or even longer where it seems as though everything in your life is awful. This is when the storm hits. (Make rain with food coloring) When the rain is pouring so hard, that you cant see three feet a head of you when driving. This is when you have to pull over and let the storm pass.  However, when dealing with intangible things, that you cant actually put in a box and lock away, this is not always so easy. 

In Genesis, after Hagar is kicked out of her house with her child, she eventually reaches a point where she breaks down and leaves her child, knowing she cant do anything else. However, God hears her cries without her even directing them to him. He sends someone to help her and save her child, to continue her life. God understood what she needed, even when she did not know how to express her fears.

 Romans also shows that even when we do not share our worries with god willingly he hears our groaning and is there for us to lean on and for him to help. When we think we are so deep down in a hole that no one can hear us, God can and will always listen for us. 

Sometimes, as in Mark, when the disciples begin to even blame God and wonder if he cares that they are all about to drown, we begin to feel as if he will not be there to hear us. Maybe that he has others to take care of and who need him more. We may be in a rain storm, but somewhere else there are those who are dealing with a hurricane. But as soon as the disciples called Jesus’s name, he awoke and came to help them. He was listening the whole time, even though they didn’t realize.

 There are times, when the storm that is happening all around us, that we can barley hear ourselves! Personally, my storm hit two weeks ago. Now I am playing lacrosse with games and practices everyday on a team that I am wholeheartedly committed to, I am also acting in Fort Johnson’s show Hello Dolly, as my fourteenth show, and trying to finish out my senior year at Academic Magnet strong. Two weeks ago, lacrosse and play started to come together and on top of that I had a lot of drama with the people in my life that I love and the schoolwork began to pile up. Then I got to take the SAT on saturday for the third time trying for a scholarship, because a five hour test is the simplest way to de-stress after a long week right? During this time I remember thinking I wish I could just open the bible and hear God speak to me about how to move past the pain, the hurt, and the tiredness that was surrounding me, but I didn’t know where to look. But I don’t have to just look to the bible, I can look to him and pray to him to help me through the storm. In this case it was both literal and figurative because it poured rain all that week, however when the sun finally came out on saturday, after taking the SAT it was gorgeous and I knew that I had made it through (Turn on light behind aquarium) and I had faith that everything would work out the way it was supposed. 

Sometimes it is hard to find that rock to stand on, when out of no where it has been swept out from under us. God will be there though, standing with you and holding you steady through your storm, making sure you make it out and holding your faith and hope with you. 

Kaos is enevitable. Pain is enevitable. Loneliness is—well I have gone to church here my entire  life, ive listened to many a sermon and we all know how it is the messages start to blend together but bits and peices stick out, one piece that will always stick out to me is the day Philip said he was never lonley because god was always with him. Well , I thought, what god is he talking to because I have certianly felt lonley before. I only wish someone would have told me sooner that god is always there he is always listening and that loneliness could be a myth if we let it become one. 

There is a poem by Dana Gioia that goes like this, “The world does not need words. It articulates itslef in sunlight, leaves and shadows. The sunlight needs no praise peircing the rainclouds, painting the rocks and leaves with light, then dissolving each lucent droplet back into the clouds that engendered it.  The daylight needs no praise and so we praise it always greater than ourselves and all the airy words we summon.”  Once adrian asked us to go around and each tell him in our own words what we thought the holy spirit was. I had never even thought about this before but managed to stammer out— The holy spirit is like a glowstick that is inside of everyone all the time and all we have to do is shake our glowstick to feel gods love a love so thick that words cannot bind it. A love we carry with us through our lives to give us hope to give us the courage to face any storm that comes our way. 

God has a plan for each and everyone one of us, we may not know what that is but god stands by us leading us to figure out the path he has laid for us. Through his son Jesus Christ or a well, or maybe even the rainbow that appears after a storm God’s light is inside of our hearts beyond our sins beyond our storms and beyond our words. 

Prayers of the People
We invite each of you to now take a moment and use the markers and thin translucent materials found on the ends of your pews to write down a word or two that describes a storm in your life or the life of someone you love.  For our prayers of the people we ask you to bring them forward and place them in the water that was brought in to start our worship found in front of each rows of pews.  The paper will melt away and the words slowly fade.  This is us giving our storms to God, knowing the hope promised by our God who listens to our every prayer.

(People come forward to U2s '40' Live Version)

Lord, we bring all of this and even more things we cannot even bare to share to you.  We give it all over to you, asking those things that you taught your disciples to pray saying: 

Our Father who art in heaven, 
hallowed be Thy name. 
Thy kingdom come, 
Thy will be done, 
on earth as it is in heaven. 
Give us this day our daily bread; 
and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; 
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom 
and the power 
and the glory, forever. 

Profession of Faith
Apostles Creed

"From This Valley"

Prayer of Thanksgiving
Giver of all gifts, attender to all prayers, help us to live as we pray. Through these gifts and our rededication to your purpose, may our lives be answers to prayer to those seeking some sign of your presence in this world.  Make us a blessing, that through our acts of love, generosity, courage, and service your Spirit blesses the world.  Amen.

Sending Song
"Our God"

Go and know that the Lord goes with you: Let God lead you each day into the quiet place of your heart where he will speak to you.  Know that God loves you and watches over you, listening to you with gentle understanding and is with you always, wherever you are and however you feel, may the blessings of God – Father, Son, and Spirit – be yours forever.  Amen

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I asked people to give me some scriptures to translate this early morning and I was given Ecclesiastes 3 and the Song of Simeon, so here are my versions of those texts (or parts of them):

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is an intended desire for every moment under the sky and an appointed time for all things
A moment to pluck what has been planted, and a moment to plant
A moment to die, and a moment when we come forth
A moment to fortify, and a moment to break through
A moment to restore, and a moment to destroy
A moment to frolic with excitement, and a moment to wail out a dirge
A moment to make joyful sounds and a moment to cry bitter tears
A moment to break free and a moment to hold tight
A moment to gather things and a moment throw things away
A moment to throw away and a moment to preserve
A moment to be lost and a moment to seek and secure
A moment to speak out and a moment to be still
A moment to sew together and a moment to split apart
A moment to come together and a moment to battle
A moment to be foes and a moment to have affection for others

Luke 2:21-35
And then when 8 days were complete at the time of his circumcising,  he was called Jesus according to his character, just as the messenger had so called him in the time prior to when he came to be in the womb. And then when the days of purification were complete as commanded by the law and custom of Moses, they led him up to Jerusalem to stand before the Lord for it is expressed by the Lord's law that every male who opens a womb is to be summoned and set apart to the Lord. And then they gave as the law of the Lord commands, an offering of a pair of turtle-doves or two nestling doves. And then a man in Jerusalem who was called Simeon who took hold of what was good and just, awaiting encouragement for Israel with a holy spirit upon him. And then the holy spirit made agreement with him to not experience death before he looked upon the Lord Christ. And then he went via the Spirit to the temple as they introduced the parents of the infant Jesus who were doing that which was customary for him. And then he welcomed him into his cradled arms and conferred himself to God saying: “Now I, your servant, can let go in good peace, just as you spoke. For I have experienced your salvation with my own eyes, that which you ordained completely before all people, an unveiled light to the world, the glory of your people, Israel.” And then his father and mother were awestruck at the ramblings about him. And then Simeon blessed them, saying to Mary his mother: “I perceive he is appointed for the falling and re-raising of the many of Israel and as a sign of opposition, which will bring piercing grief through your deepest parts, as the deep selfish of many will be revealed.” 

Saturday, December 28, 2013


Happy New Year!  It is time for a new start.  Of course that start is built on everything that has happened before and as much as we'd like a reset button, there just isn't one on life.  So we start anew mentally, but in reality we're continuing on a path that has been moving forward since well before we ever were part of this physical existence.  

Yet, all things are becoming new.  That is where the path takes us, towards something new, something God intends that we have yet to fully be able to understand.  So we peak at the things we see that may speak to what God is up to.  We look at a world that is changing rapidly around us and we remember that our God tells us time and again "Do not fear" even as we wonder what all these new things mean for us.  We are told this because God does have a plan, which will happen regardless of our willingness to go with it.

Yet we're reminded that faith(fulness) is all about discerning and acting along with the ways of God.  So that means placing others before ourselves, looking out for all in need, and pursuing justice in God's name.  It means being part of our community, not just the community of faith, but part of the world that is God's community of faith, God's world made up of all of these different people, all of whom are as much in God's image as you or me.

Many of you heard me talk about the "new" paradigm.  This is a place where God's relational relevance needs to be at the forefront of who we are.  We are to be people who are making all things new.  Who are moving forward in the ways of God.  We don't know exactly what the end looks like and we cannot assume to be able to understand that end, but we can act as we are able in the here and now trusting that God knows what "New" really looks like.

May we make the New Year not a beginning or an end, but a commitment to doing things that make the world and ourselves new everyday. We're all in this together.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

12/15 sermon base.

The actual sermon took more twists and turns but this is the basic outline.

Isaiah 61:1-3
Matthew 9:35-10:11, 40-42

Today there are a few “different words” that I will use in this sermon: Paradigm, Apostle, and Advent.  So let's define them a bit before we really get started.

  • Advent – A time of waiting on what an expected coming.
  • Apostle – One sent out 
  • Paradigm - “the norm” of how/why things work in a particular time/place.

We are currently in Advent, during a new paradigm, and we're called to be apostles.  That is what we hear in scripture and what we're going to talk about today.

I have a real passion when it comes to the long view of things.  Some of you may have noticed the time-line that had been on the bulletin board in the main hallway throughout the fall.  One of the main things I loved about it was how it made it visually clear how things we feel are ancient history aren't really all that long ago.  For example the birth-date of a 75 year old is closer in time to the date of Abraham Lincoln's death than it is to today.  Paradigms are interesting to me because they look at norms that continue for even longer periods of time than that, things that change (not all at once mind you) every 500 years or so.  This is important because many of those who study these things feel that we have reached a point where the previous paradigm and the transitional period (known currently as Modernity and the Post-Modern transition) have given way to this new paradigm that has taken shape around us.  So that's where we are in the big picture.  Phillis Tickle when discussing churches during changing paradigms refers to them as rummage sales, times that churches end up having to put everything out and let go of all that's not utterly important, just holding on to the parts that are essential to the new norms of the time and place.  This often comes across as Rodger Nikiosia says in forms that are full of fear of loss and death, but each time throughout history that it has happened, the church comes out stronger.  We see this fear on social media regularly when what people post is created in such a way to cause defensive, fearful reactions from those who disagree or are on another side.  This divides us and we give up control to outside sources instead of trusting a God who has always been working through the long view of things.  So instead of being afraid, or worried, or beaten down and discouraged, what should we be doing?  Well I think if we take these texts we read today (as well as many others that I didn't include today because I didn't want to make worship last for hours on end)  and look at them in the context of the pillars of the new paradigm, I think we'll find a handful of things that are essential to being church (and doing it well) as we go forward.

  1. We must focus on building authentic relationships outside the church doors.  This is pretty simple.  We've got to Engage people where they are.  We cannot be a closed door community waiting for people to come to us, or even expecting that others will find value in an invitation to join us.  We've got to go and be with people, getting our hands dirty along side of them.  This begins with those we see everyday.  The new paradigm is built on a relational life.  A life where connections and trust are built one on one in the everyday parts of life.  This echos Jesus's sending of the 12. They go to where people already are and just join in that life.
  2. Part of joining in the life of others is the sharing of stories.  We live in a world where very few spend their entire life in one place and this transient nature of life means that we all have had very different experiences that have taught us often very different things about life.  Thus it is that we must share stories of our experiences with one another while listening and validating the experiences we hear from others.  Many people, if not most of us, connect to those descriptors we read in Isiah.  We feel beaten down, we feel hurt, we feel damaged, but all of these experiences come from our very different paths and different reactions to those experiences. We need to remember that none of us have all the answers, and those with different experiences are not wrong, misguided, or lost.  We all are seeking after mystery, those things that scripture tells us that we can only see dimly through the looking glass, as we all seek, knock, and look for answers about ourselves, our world, and God.  This comes to the forefront in our new paradigm because people are more okay with not knowing all the specifics than ever before because there really is so little we really know.  To share our stories and listen to those of others help all of us see a bit more clearly what God may be up to in both our personal lives and the big picture.
  3. There is though one thing that God is always about, and it's one place the church should be always at the forefront of: Placing others before ourselves and understanding what is “ours” is really to be shared freely.  This is hard, because even with a change in paradigm, it is still very counter cultural.  Wanting to not be in need, to not hurt, to feel safe and secure and in control are very much the cultural norm.  Yet the open source movement and how it has moved toward more general acceptance in recent years is an example that the world is looking for the freedom that comes from this (very biblical) freely giving.  Open source is when someone creates something, and instead of copyrighting it, they aim to share it and allow others to use it as desired.  Things like this and the crowd sourcing of projects (when small donations are all that make up the funding for major things like movies, music, art, education, etc.) show me a world looking for a different kind of life, and in doing so I think point towards a central tenet of Jesus's life.  Jesus takes on fear, division, and control by taking the idea of sharing and giving to the extreme, giving his entire life for us.  Thus likewise we need to remember Jesus's reminder that nothing is truly ours, but everything belongs to God with the intent that it point to God's glory, to bring Good news as both Isaiah and the end of Matthew (and Micah, and Amos, and on and on)  state which is the core of what God's glory looks like.
  4. So far this seems pretty normal for most of us, and I hope this does to, but the initial statement may sound a bit shocking: Don't aim to bring them to church.  Instead go be church with them, and let the connections to the community of faith come naturally.  Also along these lines, help the leadership of the church provide the opportunities for those who you are being church for that they need.  This is apostleship at its core, not going and saying “come see Jesus” like the angels did for the shepherds, but taking Jesus, and the church out in all we do.  The disciples are now apostles in Matthew because they are sent out, going out to take the work of faith to others. And those who can do this work of faith or even talk about faith are not limited to those of us who preach, teach, or have other leadership positions here in this place, but every single person in every single pew here is a leader in faith.  I say this with confidence because we have entered a paradigm where my title doesn't make me an expert, my position doesn't make me an expert, the only thing that helps people feel I know what I'm talking about is their experiences with me. What you do speaks to others louder and more clearly to those you have relationships with about who God is than anything I can ever say.  So whatever we do, be it eat, drink, work, play, whatever, let us do it with an honest effort to doing so in a way that we each discern brings glory to God.  By doing this in our everyday life, we expand the reach of the church far beyond the programs and experiences we have here.
  5. This though has to connect to the last thing that Church in the new paradigm must be doing: We must make time together serving, sharing, making memories, and creating mementos of togetherness with one another as a community of faith.  I hear lots of rants, some from my own mouth, about how technology has divided us, how it keeps us from really interacting.  Yet, let us not forget how connected people of the past paradigm could be connected to the visual or the audible word.  Yes, things are changing.  Yes, it has been shown time and again that for many social media and smart-phones increase feelings of loneliness and increase the competitiveness and comparativeness between lives.  But no, it's not bringing an end to the physical connection or to deep communication.  Rather, history shows us that when technology increases so does the desire for the physical.  We want things that make us feel connected to one another and to those special moments in time.  High tech leads to High touch.   We long for ways to fill the prison of aloneness, and we pick all kinds of physical things to try to fill that void.  Yet the only physical that really helps fill those holes is the touch of another, be it person to person or  the physical things that bring us close to a time and place where that person to person closeness happened. I have a number of things that connect me to those I care most about, things that when I see them I reach out and I feel good about life and my place in it, I feel loved.  These are things made by those I love, or created in times where we were most connected.  This means the church should be a place focused on moments of togetherness, but also creating physical things that remind us of our connection to one another and the depth of love shared in these moments.  So we must be about creating time together where we serve, where we share, where we make memories with one another where one cannot separate the moment from the people.  

Jesus sends out the 12 to do the work that needed to be done.  In Mark this sending comes right after Jesus reads the Isiah text we also read this morning.  That promise that came to life in Jesus was central to the work Jesus sends them out to do.  Likewise it is central to the work we're called to do.  We are called to take care of those in need, and that is at the end of the day everyone.  To not do this for anything we can receive from doing so, but because it is what shows God's glory and intent for creation.  We are to connect to all who are part of our lives, and reach out to all who have need.  We are called to be apostles.  To Go Out,  To  Go Connect and Bond with those outside our faith community here,  To go hear the stories of others and share the fulness of our own stories, to go be church taking no more than what is essential, To go together and serve with those outside our walls.  The church in the world today has to be a church that Goes, even as we wait.  If we embrace this call, we are answering the call of God, and doing that which we were made to do.  For waiting is never passive, the prophets remind us of that time and again, it is always about going, going to the world right around us and being church, not for them, but being church with them, so that they may understand who this God is on which we wait.  We must Go and do what it is we were made to do.  Love and Serve the world.  AMEN.