Monday, August 26, 2013

Descending into the Heart of God


Sermon for Year C, Proper 14  (On Isaiah 58:9b-14 & Luke 13:10-17)                               

Today’s Old Testament and Gospel readings both share a theme of Sabbath—the practice of intentionality, rest, and reflection, that we, as Christians, inherit from our Jewish forbearers. But they seemingly take two conflicting views. The passage from Isaiah tells us that if we refrain from trampling on the Sabbath, from pursuing our own interests on God’s holy day, then we will learn to take delight in the Lord and our lives will be like a watered garden, whose springs never fail. But in the Gospel passage, Jesus’ actions cause us to wonder whether or not he supports keeping Sabbath laws.

Unsurprisingly, today’s Christians seem collectively stumped by the confusion surrounding this gift we’ve inherited. And as such, we’ve allowed it to fall into disrepair. Like weeds in an overgrown garden, pressures for productivity and busyness have crept in, leaving our lives overcrowded and unmanageable. Today, we will look at these seemingly conflicting perspectives to try and understand just what it is that Jesus is communicating to us today. But first, I think it’d be helpful if we took a deeper look at the discipline of Sabbath.   
Not long ago I heard the story of a woman named Sylvia Earle. Now 78 years old, Sylvia spent most of her career working as an oceanographer, studying the mysteries that lie hidden beneath the veil we call sea level. During a time when much attention was turned skywards for the Moon landing, Sylvia plumbed the depths of inner-space to discover a jungle of life right beneath our noses.

Slyvia’s peers know her as “Her Deepness,” a title she earned by leading the first team of women aquanauts on a dive to over 1,200 feet below sea level. There, with the aid of a small submarine trailing behind her and a now antiquated diving suit, she walked with her own two feet on the ocean floor. Her exploration lasted for over two and a half hours—about the same amount of time that Buzz Aldren spent on the Moon—but few noticed.


In that vast subterranean wilderness, Sylvia found herself surrounded by tall plants in the dark currents that shimmered with bio-lumenesant light. There were crabs and fish of all shapes, colors, and sizes. She saw creatures barely describable as creatures and patches of sand that glowed when touched. After some time, she ordered the submarine to turn off its lights, so she could be fully immersed in the wonders that surrounded her.

In many ways Sabbath can be likened to her journey, for it teaches us the importance of exploring those hidden, rarely visited corners of life—of listening for the still, small Voice. With all the noise of today’s continuous stimulation (from radios, TVs, bills, and trying to stay on top of email), rare is the person who feels they can take time away for renewal. But our spiritual… and even physical health… demands this. And like Sylvia turning off the submarine lights, taking such time gives us a chance to pause and bask in God’s goodness—a time to grow still, love those we cherish, and nurture a quiet awareness of God’s presence.


When Sylvia reflects back on her life, she’s quick to point out how much has changed. Creatures never before fathomed have been brought to light. The earth’s resources have been used in new and exciting ways, transforming life as we know it. But what began with perhaps limitless optimism, has given way to a myriad of unanticipated problems.  

Now, when people ask Sylvia where she would go diving, if she could go anywhere in the world, she answers, “Oh… just about any place… 50 years ago.” She says this because of all the damage that’s recently happened to underwater ecosystems. Many species of ocean creatures have been reduced to five or ten percent of what they once were… and some have been fully eradicated. Apparently, for instance, Galveston used to have Monk Seals, a species that once stretched from here to Florida. But the last Gulf Coast Seal was seen in 1952.


This highlights another facet of Sabbath—the need to exercise restraint. Failure to set limits, by allowing time for rest and replenishment, reliably precedes burnout. God modeled rest for us on the seventh day of creation and Israel received the Sabbath as a gift, after being freed from slavery—hard things to argue against.

So why then does Jesus wind up squaring off with the synagogue leader today? Was Jesus really opposed to Sabbath? Well, if we revisit the story, we notice that the woman who was bent over didn't come to Jesus. She didn’t interrupt his teaching. She lurked quietly within the crowd and had Jesus not called out to her, she would have left unnoticed. But that’s not what happens—because Jesus had a point to make.

Now, the voice opposing Jesus was correct in saying that he could have waited until the next day to heal the woman. After all, she’d already been waiting for eighteen years. But, by moving to heal her anyway, Jesus makes a theological point about Sabbath’s purpose. In the Message translation, Jesus responds, “You frauds. Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall. You lead it out for water and think nothing of it. Why then would it be wrong for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has kept her bound?”


You see, Sabbath is about more than rest and renewal… it’s also about freedom from bondage—about grace and healing. Its rules and commandments ought to be subordinate to the greater purpose they serve—that of freeing us to walk in a fuller awareness of God’s presence and provision. Or as Jesus says in Mark, “Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.”

So God’s chief concern, made known by Jesus today, is the full and unhindered flourishing of all life. But, as Sylvia and others point out, the need for Sabbath extends beyond humanity to the whole of God’s creation. Soil needs rest for the replenishment of nutrients. Groundwater needs time to recover. And when resources are overtaxed, they wither and dry up. But we do likewise.


And, in this way, we mirror today’s ecological predicament. Today’s endless chase for outward economic gain comes at a cost. We find ourselves held captive by a society that expects ever longer working hours—where families are strained and relationships sacrificed. A contagious hunger to prosper or have the greatest, most respected credentials has left us scattered and depleted. Even our self-images have fallen prey, for we never feel free to simply rest. There’s always more that can be done.  

In seminary, I had the opportunity to take a class on Judaism from a local rabbi. I was surprised to learn of all the forethought it takes to keep Sabbath—to live intentionally with no work for one day. Consider eating, for example, when no cooking is allowed and neither is shopping for groceries or commerce of any kind. Such rest requires planning.

What would happen if we approached our lives with that same intentionality? If Sabbath is meant for our blessing, or as Isaiah puts it, “to make us ride upon the heights of the earth,” then surely we clear some space to listen for that still, small Voice.


Let us then cherish the gifts we’ve been given and, like Sylvia’s dazzling walk at the bottom of the sea, allow Sabbath to open up new horizons of wonderment. But we must be willing to dive deep—to clear space with intentionality. Because like tithing and loving our enemies, Sabbath requires discipline. But as Jesus reminds us, our reward can be walking in the perfect freedom God wills for us, with an ever-increasing awareness of God’s presence in all things!  

When was the last time you paused to reflect on your deepest longings? Remember, God gave your heart its passions, so whatever emerges, it’s sure to bring God glory! For Sylvia, she’s turned much of her attention to raising awareness about the environment, thus joining her work to God’s desire for a thriving creation. But, this calling will look different for each of us.
For some it may mean more time with family. For others it may be turning off the radio on the way to work. And for those in intractably busy seasons of life, it may mean cultivating a sense of God’s presence, throughout the busy workday. How is God calling you to listen more closely?  

Jesus promises that God’s grace and care are waiting to heal and set things right, if only we will step forward when called.
 
Let us not be like those, during the landing of the Moon, who were so ready to focus outwards, that they neglected the mesmerizing world within…  

 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Communion, Not Competition


Epiphany 4, Year C – 1 Corinthians 13

A sermon by Jeremiah Griffin




Have you ever noticed how violent animal documentary shows are? Not the silly kind popular these days, with people wrestling giant catfish or chasing sasquatch… But the ones like on PBS, where one minute you’re watching a gazelle grazing peacefully on the plains and in the next scene it’s being snatched up and devoured. Or maybe a school of salmon come swimming along in a stream, only to be ripped from the water suddenly by a grizzly bear?

Have you ever thought about the message we send ourselves, by choosing to zero in on these moments of violent struggle, rather than showing the probably years of playful mornings, restful mid-days, and peaceful afternoons preceding these brutal turns? I wonder what our tendency to focus on these moments says about us, as a society… and our view of the world. There are many ways to tell a story…

Now, not to read too much into this, but I see evidence of this competitive framing of things extending far beyond our vision of the animal kingdom. Nightly newscasts are rife with words like “opponent” and “adversary,” or even “predatory lending” or “vulture capitalism.” Or think of the whole “Fiscal Cliff” fiasco, with all its standoffs and posturing. Or even of today’s debate on gun violence.

It’s as if somewhere along the way we fell, irretrievably, into a pit of dog-eat-dog thinking. But in the wake of all the recent violence… and given today’s divisive tone, our need for change is perhaps clearer than ever. And as Christians, our faith gives us hope of escaping this hole we find ourselves in.   

This worldview of self-concerned competition was also used by the Church at Corinth… and in today’s Epistle we hear Paul’s familiar, if not poetic response. Although often read as a hymn singing the virtues of “love,” Paul’s intentions, here, are to rebuke Corinth for a mindset he sees as contrary to the Gospel.

But this is easy to miss, when read in fragments.  The context of Paul’s words come in a reply to an ongoing argument over whether the spiritual gifts of some were more important than those of others. Some in this community had conveniently begun to see themselves and their giftings as more worthy of honor—their agendas as more deserving of priority. Paul’s words smack down these self-inflated ideas, but not solely for their arrogance… He’s more concerned by their self-serving mindset—their rather tenuous grasp on what it means to be a part of God’s Family.  

Remember, Paul sees the Church as Christ’s body, with each member possessing unique and needed gifts. As we heard last week, some serve, some teach, some heal, and some prophesy… and this list isn’t exhaustive! We all embody essential facets of Christ’s identity.

In the first part of today’s reading, Paul compares those who enjoy spilling over with words of insight to the clanging of cymbals if done without love. He goes on to say that all wisdom and generosity amount to nothing if done without love. He makes plain God’s priorities. In other words, any aim we have to grow in wisdom or goodness, is worthless if not channeled towards serving others. Really, Paul’s words here just echo Jesus’ two greatest commands—to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves.

I recently heard a podcast with two priests discussing the parable of the Good Samaritan. They likened the Samaritan to anyone they deemed as different from themselves to make a point about how Christians should engage the world. One of them relayed an embarrassing story about a time during seminary when he was running late and rushing to his internship at a local parish (which I know nothing about!). Over the night there had been a heavy snowfall (something I truly know nothing about!). The snow delayed him further, forcing him to shovel his driveway before leaving. And just as he finished, his neighbor, an elderly woman, whom he knew was not Christian, called out to him. She was stranded and needed help shoveling her driveway. But, in a mindless hurry, he shouted over his shoulder while pulling away, “Sorry, I can’t. I have to get to church!”

His story stuck with me because I could so easily see myself doing that. Not the snow part, obviously, but a Texas equivalent… like clearing tumbleweed. But while our day-to-day actions are surely important, I have a feeling Paul intends to take us deeper…

In the second part of today’s passage, after establishing love and its communal dimensions as God’s priority, Paul brings things home by getting specific. The Message translation of his words reads like this:

“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first,” Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, and keeps going to the end.”                          

Each time I hear these words (most often at weddings), I’m left feeling both inspired to try harder, but also discouraged by my failures. I begin to wonder, as maybe all of us do, if we are even capable of these aims. A quick glance at any newspaper suggests the answer is “no,” but Paul seems hopeful.

In the last part of today’s reading, he tells us that our hope lies not within our efforts, but in our common future, united with Christ. Christ… who is love eternal. We are reminded that, from here—this earthly vantage—we see only through a glass darkly. But in Christ, as members of His mystical body, we become caught up in something greater. Like stones in a river, God’s presence pours over us… and reshapes us. And one day, Paul tells us, we will know this Love fully, as if face to face. 

But for this to occur and our world be transformed, we must be in the river, we must be in Christ! We must steep ourselves in His scriptures, swirl in the eddies of His community, and cast off in the current of His Will… At every turn, we must embrace God’s vision for us, while working to release our fears, delusions of scarcity, and the instinct to arm ourselves with evermore power, money, or control.  

But this runs contrary to worldly wisdom. Its ethos, as we glimpse in the themes underpinning those animal documentaries or in the arguments of partisan pundits, pit us against our neighbors. Like Corinth, we too wrestle with cravings for position… and the sense security that we think comes with control………………….
But Jesus offers us another way. 

In this season of Epiphany, we celebrate the in-breaking of a new story. Christ calls us together and teaches us that we cannot go it alone. And this is truly good news for such a cut-throat, me-first world. Paul’s love hymn gives us glimpses of that which we are becoming—agents of God’s redemptive love. And we are to carry this healing outwards into places where competition and self-preservation reign with unquestioned tenure—into our neighbor’s driveways, our business dealings, and an infinite number of other places, unique to each one of us. A worthwhile exercise would be meditating on this passage, even committing it to memory, and letting it function for us as a guiding compass, that points us ever closer towards oneness with Christ.

Along the way, and even now, we are being transformed… for in Christ, we discover One willing to step down from power, who enters into our struggle, and saves us from having to fend solely for ourselves… In Christ, the world gains a new vision for how things can be. Our calling then, as Christ’s own, is to join with Him, by welcoming others into this new way—this new story—so that all our stories might become joined to His! And it’s fromthis place—this new vantage—that we, and the whole of creation, will come to see that another world is possible…  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Between Scarcity and Revolution


Sermon on Widow’s Mite – Proper 27, Year B                

When the Church preaches about giving over our whole selves to Christ… all that the rest of the world hears is “we want your money.” But really, it’s about so much more.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard today’s passage about the widow’s mite presented in ways praising her for her selfless generosity. The moral is always that we need to be more like her, offering our whole selves to God. But when we try to figure out what this means, things get confusing.  

To make sense of this and what we are called to, we should first revisit the circumstances of this story. It comes at the end of Jesus’ public ministry, after he had spent much time caring for the poor and ostracized. He arrives in the Temple, only days before Passover. 

I imagine his eyes narrowed as they caught sight of the money changers and those selling pigeons. Maybe he saw some laughing as they bantered back and forth, while a long line of ragged, threadbare people stretched out before them. Then, in an instant, before they could realize or resist, their tables had been whipped over and a burst of pigeons flooded the sky.

The moneychangers? Sure. They charged interest which was forbidden by Jewish law. But why the pigeons? Because they were the sacrifice offered by the poor—those who barely enough to feed themselves. People like today’s widow…    

Next, Jesus confronts the Scribes and Pharisees, right there, on their turf. He rails against their conceit and corruption. And then, just before predicting the destruction of the entire Temple system, he says what we heard in today’s reading. He points out the hypocrisy of some scribes, accusing them of “devouring widows’ homes.”

We’re offered no explanation, but some historians believe scribes were the ones who decided what amounts pilgrims paid to worship. Next, Jesus calls our attention to this widow’s gift, saying her two coins far exceeded the value of the many larger contributions being made.

We are told she had nothing else to live off of—no other money to feed herself. So Jesus lifts her up as yet another example of the Temple’s excess. Like those who could hardly afford pigeons, he commends her sacrificial giving, yes, but also he condemns the wrongness of her plight… Remember, Hebrew scripture carries a strong tradition of urging care for the poor and vulnerable…

But, if the Temple was corrupt, who was to blame? Surely, we can’t peg everything on the Scribes. After all, they too were seeking God in the only system they’d even known—the one they inherited. Earlier in Mark we find Jesus having earnest, heartfelt exchanges with some of them, so we know Jesus isn’t making a blanket or two-dimensional indictment. Things aren’t black or white, good or bad. Like all of us, the scribes and this widow had virtues and flaws.

So who or what was at fault? Maybe it was “the System,” right? It’s always “the System!” Or maybe… Jesus is pointing towards an inescapable tension that we as humans inevitably face.  That pull between the need to take care of ourselves and our desire to help others...That line between the duties of our chosen profession and our ethical convictions—between our desire for stability and safety… and our wish to grow in the likeness of God’s generous nature……

These are tensions we all face. They surface when we try to balance our home and work life, but also when we are approached on the street by someone in need… Things get even more complicated when we consider money. Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” but do we consider how Jesus is made manifest by our spending habits? Are you willing to spend extra money (or abstain from buying things!) to only purchase ethically produced goods… And how is your answer linked to your faith? And what we do here…?

Those aren’t easy questions, but I believe that Jesus provides us with a way forward. Following today’s passage, we see Jesus and his disciples leaving the Temple. One of them marvels aloud at the splendor of its grandiose stonework, to which Jesus replies, “Not one stone will be left atop another. Soon, they will all be thrown to the ground.” Later, when Jesus surrenders and is being interrogated he says he will destroy the Temple and raise up a new one not made by hands. In effect, he is pronouncing the end of an atonement system that had become a conveyor for materialistic gain… but not without opening a new way…  

As Christians, we hold that Christ’s sacrifice was once and for all sufficient—freeing us from our dependence on the Temple. Maybe you’re thinking, “Great, but how is that related to the tension between preserving our security and living generously?” Well, maybe you, like me, sometimes feel like the scribe, trapped in a system that broken and corrupt… Or maybe, like the widow, you feel compelled to give all you have to a broken, messed up world, doubting it will ever matter, but truly wanting to help… 

If that’s you, be of good cheer. . . because as followers of Christ, we are blessed with many ways of dancing with these tensions. In baptism, we are made members of the true and living body of Christ. And every week, as we gather together to commune, over God’s word and sacraments, we are reminded of a different reality where our lives are seen as gifts from God. 

We hear this in the words of the liturgy when we proclaim God to be “maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.” In fact, think about the very name of this gathering we’re taking part in—Holy Eucharist. Which means “thanksgiving!” In other words, we’re combating the myth of scarcity right now, by giving thanks for God’s abundant provision…

This… is a protest of the world’s lies—that we must compete and struggle against each other. We do this by remembering that all good things flow from God… and therefore belong to Him. “It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” This is what we pray… and this is how our faith teaches us to us to see the world through new eyes.

I know it’s early for a Christmas story, but think back to Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. Remember how, before that night with the three ghosts, he lived a miserly and lonesome life? He saw relationships, even with family members, as potential threats and drains on his control and security.
But after being shown his life through others’ eyes and glimpsing the hellish future towards which he was processing, Scrooge does a 180. He comes to see his need for others. He realizes what a gift life is and that the only joy in having, comes from gratitude and sharing. But such a shift can take time, which is why we ground our lives in the rhythm of Eucharist. What does Eucharist mean, again? Thanksgiving!

I’ll leave you with this… A while back I read about a Christian couple who were unable to have children. They happened to meet a woman who was six months pregnant and homeless, so they invited her into their home. It proved to be such a beautiful experience that they decided to continue living together to help raise the new baby girl while the mother pursued her dream of going back to nursing school. 

Years later, they are now like a family, the baby is a teenager and the mother a nurse. A heart-wrenching twist in this story is that the wife of the married couple became very ill with multiple sclerosis, but now she has a nurse living in her home who could care for her, just as she had cared for the nurse.

This is the divine gift of mystical providence made possible by living radically generous lives. But, this must spring forth from a place of deep gratitude… and not all of us can expect such immediate returns. So, is freedom from the scribe’s chains, wedding him to the system, or from the widow’s destitute plight possible? Yes! But tasting such glory requires giving our whole selves over to Christ! So… shall we?  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

All Saints Day on Austin's Greenbelt--Thursday, November 1st at 6:30pm

Come gather in the woods of Austin's Greenbelt at nightfall for a solemn, yet celebratory remembrance of saints past and present. There will be Holy Eucharist, Poetry, and Music by Local Artists.

Stay afterwards for HOME BREWED BEER & Soul Cakes!

Look for us On the Meditation Trail at Saint Mark's Episcopal Church,
2128 Barton Hills Drive, Austin, Texas 78704

Or you can RSVP here: http://www.facebook.com/events/111764168982616/

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cleaner Emissions for Cleaner Air

This summer I am interning at Texas Interfaith Power and Light, a division of Texas Impact. The following link leads to an article I wrote supporting cleaner air standards for coal energy plants:  http://txipl.org/content/faith-process-epa-carbon-proposed-rule#_ftn1

Saturday, May 5, 2012

An Age Disenchanted

Here is a link to a post on Episcopal evangelism for rising generations. I wrote it for my buddy's new project which will be exploring creative new ministries being done by churches across the country. Enjoy!

http://www.boatswithoutoars.com/2012/05/2-chronicles-714-if-my-people-who-are.html

Jeremiah

Monday, April 23, 2012

World in His Hands -- A Sermon for Earth Day 2012

Blessed are the fearful and disheveled, for in Christ they will find true peace.
  
Blessed are the bored and disengaged, for true passion is theirs to discover. 

Blessed are the broken and confused, for they will be bound up, becoming messengers of God’s healing and grace to all.  

We live in a world filled with uncertainties, fear, and chaos… I don’t know about you, but I always approach election years with trepidation, because it’s so easy to get sucked in by all the worries pushed upon us by candidates and the media. Tuning out those anxieties can sometimes require a monk-like discipline I don’t always have. 

As you may know, today is Earth Day… and it’s the same for me with environmental concerns—it’s hard for me to not feel overwhelmed when I hear statistics about humanity’s impact on the health of our fellow creatures. I recently came across figures saying if things don’t change, one half of all living species alive today will become extinct by the year 2100—a scary thought. On this, I’m happy to share that yesterday our presiding bishop, along with many other leaders in the Episcopal Church, took part in a nationwide web-conference centered on addressing these concerns, along with their corollary links to global poverty. 

But, as pressing as these things are, at the end of the day, I’m sure most of us are more concerned by the things going on in our own lives and with that of our family and friends—things like caring for an aging parent, or worrying about our kids, or wondering whether we will ever meet that special someone. But every once in a while, something unexpected breaks in, shattering our normal day-to-day worries and upsetting our equilibrium—it’s in these moments that we are tempted to wonder who, if anyone, is in control? 

Today’s Gospel passage picks up in such a moment. We find the disciples huddled together in a room gathered in Jerusalem grieving and bewildered by the sudden loss of their master. I’m sure the fact that Jesus was executed for treason caused some of them to sweat their association with this now enemy of the state. With emotions running high and confusion mounting, reports of Jesus sightings began trickling in. First with the women at the tomb, who claimed his body had disappeared but two angels were there. Then, an appearance to Simon Peter, and finally those two who were on the road to Emmaus who claimed Jesus had walked with them! What were they all to make of these stories? Was there an imposter on the loose? Was all of this some kind of cruel joke?  

Then suddenly they turn and find Jesus standing there amongst them and the room erupts in panic. I imagine all of them back peddling over furniture and falling into one another. We are told they were afraid, thinking his presence to be a ghost. Now, with their backs against the walls and their mouths agape, the room grew still. Jesus breaks the tension with an almost irritatingly deadpan greeting, saying, “Peace be with you.” Comforting yes, but this didn’t quite seem to fit the occasion! Resurrection… hello! They stood there frozen, so, reluctantly, Jesus accommodates their shock, patiently displaying himself, offering his limbs to assure them of his flesh and bone physicality. They were still aghast. The air began to fill with the smell of a now burning, unattended fish on the fire, so Jesus again breaks the awkwardness asking, “Do you have anything to eat?”  

On the surface, this story might appear like yet another tale where Jesus says or does something surprising, making the disciples look foolish. You know, one of those moments where we as readers get to look back at their failure and scoff at their denseness. “Why didn’t they get what was happening? Jesus warned them only days before. He said, I will suffer, die, and be raised on the third day. Why all the stunned faces?!” 

But far beyond any denseness on their part, I see this moment as speaking volumes about human nature… about how tightly we cling to our own expectations… and about how our agendas shape our vision of what’s possible. Sure, they had been warned, but how often do we dismiss realities we’d rather not face? But this account isn’t just another story exposing our brokenness or need to listen for God. THIS story changes everything! Here, we, along with those present that day, are made witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection! Luke, tells us this story, complete with all their reluctance and hesitation, to drive home the significance of this happening.
As Jesus sat down to eat his broiled fish, I’m sure the disciples were reeling, trying to make sense of things. They could no longer view this man they’d been following and learning from for years as just another rabbi capable of performing miraculous deeds. 

The man who was eating fish in their midst meant that death itself had been consumed! Jesus’ resurrection proves that there is more to reality than just energy and mass. Spirit, too, has a real and final significance… Jesus’ resurrection meant that he and God were in cahoots! They didn’t know how exactly, but somewhere between the manger, the sandals, and all the donkey rides, God was working out a plan to rescue creation! 

The resurrection revealed Jesus’ divine power in a way that no other act could, unquestionably linking him to God the Father as one and the same. With this new vision of Christ’s identity, I wonder if they began to see the entire drama they had just taken part in as God’s plan being worked out for the redemption of the world? None of anything that had happened had ever been about them—it had always all only been about God… 

What now were they to make of all those dinners with widows and the poor… how Jesus went out of his way to include those whose chosen professions were seen as sinful? What does it mean to realize that God himself loves those people and welcomes them to his table? And what about all those lessons Jesus taught about not storing up treasures on earth because God will provide? Suddenly, all those stories seem worth revisiting…

I’m sure Jesus had plenty of time to go back for seconds, while they tried to wrap their minds around just who it was sitting there eating broiled fish before them. Likewise, I wonder how we wrap our minds around this event? What are we to glean from a story of a God who took on flesh and bone, stepping in to our world of dishevelment and uncertainty? 

When it seems like things are out of order and no one is in control, who holds our future? Who are we to trust?

Or maybe things are relatively serene in your life right now and rather than worrying about stormy times, you’re more concerned by how placid and monotonous things are. Perhaps you had hoped life would be more engaging—more filled with passion. Or maybe, for you, things have been so busy lately that you haven’t felt as if you have time to stop and appreciate the blessings you have—maybe you just long to share them with others. 

No matter where you find yourself, today’s Gospel asks us to try and make sense of a God who loves us so dearly that he is willing to step into our shoes—our worries, our doldrums, our frenzied schedules—to summon peace and hope. 

But in return, Jesus asks something of us… 

After calming their fears and bearing with their slowness to belief, Jesus cracks open the scriptures and then opens their minds connecting all that had been foretold of him in the books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on that wall? I mean, it basically had to be the greatest Bible study in all history, right?! Jesus modeled for them the very thing we are here together doing today, engaging the scriptures to draw meaning from them.

Luke’s story tells us of a God at work, restoring creation to wholeness, through the continued outpouring of Jesus’ life into ours. And it is through that outpouring that Jesus calls us to repentance—to turn from our own wants and desires, let go of our expectations and agendas, and be free to join in on his work of spreading peace and reconciliation. 

In light of today’s significance, with regards to the ecological health of our planet, I believe God is calling us to find ways of lessening our impact on the ability of other creatures to live and thrive. I’m proud to be a part of a Church that takes this calling seriously. The need for us to take creative and substantive action is great, but we needn’t ever act from a place of fear. 

Christ calls us to lay aside our worries and our boredom, to live into his redemptive mission. And, for me, and perhaps for you, the greatest part in all of this—the greatest comfort and hope to be found—lies in fact that God will not fail… Creation will be restored and we will be made whole. In that spirit, let us go forth bearing witness to all that Christ has done!