Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sermon for Year C Lent 2

Gathering the brood

There is a fable about a mouse.
(A country mouse—not a church mouse!)
The mouse watches through a crack in the wall
as the farmer and his wife unwrap a package.
Hmmm.. thinks the mouse.
I hope it is something yummy and delicious.
Mr. Mouse is dreaming of a few spilled crumbs.

But as he watches
his little eyes grow wide with horror.
What the farmer and his wife unwrap,
is not food—
instead, it is a mousetrap.
He is devastated!

He runs out to the farmyard
and exclaims in horror, almost unable to breate—
There’s a mouse trap in the house!

The chicken clucks and scratchs and finally lifts up her head and says,
Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is of grave concern to you,
but it is of no consequence to me.
I just cannot be bothered by it.

The mouse turns to the pig and says,
There’s a mouse trap in the house!

The pig sympathizes but says,
I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse,
But there is really nothing I can do about it but pray.
Be assured—you are in my prayers.

The mouse then turns to the cow and says,
There’s a mouse trap in the house!

The cow says,
Mr. Mouse, I’m sorry for you
but it’s no skin off my nose.

So the mouse, rejected, hurt returns to the house.
His head hangs low.
He will have to face the mousetrap alone.

That very night, a sound is heard throughout the house.
The sound of a mousetrap
catching its prey.

The farmer’s wife rushes in to see what has been caught.
In the darkness, she does not see
that it is a poisonous snake whose tail has been snagged
by the mousetrap.

When she reaches out, trying to find her way in the dark,
the snake bites her on her hand.
The farmer rushes his wife to the hospital.
After two days, she is released and sent home--
still very ill, still running a dangerously high fever.

Everyone knows that you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup,
so the farmer takes his hatchet to the farmyard
to get the main ingredient for the soup.

But his wife still does not get better.
Friends and neighbors come to sit with her around the clock.

In order to feed all these people,
the farmer butchers the pig.

Alas! The farmer’s wife does not get well;
in fact, she dies.

So many people come to her funeral,
the farmer has the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat
to feed everyone after the service.

Mr. Mouse looks upon it all
from his crack in the wall
with great sadness.

Sometimes we are clueless about how deeply interconnected we are.

Herod the fox is out to kill Jesus.
It’s all just fine,
as long as Herod isn’t after us.

Jesus comes to bring a message of good news
but Jerusalem turns her back.
Jesus’ way of following God requires loving others
as much—or more-- as we love ourselves.

Jesus wants to gather us all—every one of us—
under his wings
just as a mother hen gathers her brood of chicks.

Too often we don’t even know
how in need we are of God’s love and protection.

We are often too much like the animals in the farmyard.

Sorry you are hungry.
but I work hard to fill my pantry
and I just don’t think I have enough to share.
Hope you find a job soon.

Sorry you feel so sick and can’t afford to go to the doctor—
oh you don't have health insurance--oh my!
you’ll be in my prayers.

Sorry you are feeling so alone and afraid,
but I’m doing pretty good myself--
and I just don’t have time to talk to you right now.

Pastor Martin Niemoller wrote in 1946
about his experience in Nazi Germany:

First they came for the communists,
and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me—[and other Protestant Christians]
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Today, tomorrow and the next day
we are called by God to find our voice and use our voice
and raise our voice
to speak out for those
who are persecuted, oppressed
and ignored.
For those who have no voice.

There are still demons in our world,
demons that need casting out—
and those demons of greed and hatred
and ignorance and self-centeredness
and apathy.

Jesus stands up to the most powerful ruler in Jerusalem—Herod.
Jesus is not afraid to call a fox a fox.
Or even if he is afraid, he does it anyway.

Jesus does not run away.
He stays because there are people who need him.
Among those needy people
are you and I.

There are people who need us, too.
The word Christian means ‘little Christ”
As much as it might terrify us—
we are called to follow Jesus,
not just in words and theology but in actions.
We are here to be God’s hands and hearts
and voices in this world.
This is our purpose.
…to persevere in resisting evil
…to seek and serve Christ in all persons
…to strive for justice and peace among all people
…to respect the dignity of every human being
This is the covenant we make with God at our baptism.

It is the covenant we have promised to live by. Our promise to God.
Not just for one hour of worship.
But 24/7.
Today, tomorrow and the next day.

+ + +

The fable is adapted from one I read in this week's SYNTHESIS.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sermon for Year C Lent 1

It’s a throw down

Here is a story I read this week:

“Son,” ordered a father, “don’t swim in that canal.”

“OK, Dad,” he answered.
But that evening the boy came home carrying a wet bathing suit.

“Where have you been?” asked the father.

“Swimming in the canal,” answered the boy.

“Didn’t I tell you NOT to swim there?” asked the father.

“Yes, sir,” answered the boy.

“Why did you?” the father asked.

“Well, Dad,” he explained,
“ I had my bathing suit with me and I couldn’t resist the temptation.”

“Why did you take your bathing suit with you?” the father questioned.

“So I’d be prepared to swim,
in case I was tempted,” replied his son.

It’s all about temptation today, this first Sunday in the season of Lent.
Jesus and the devil are having a throw down.

Change these stones into bread, Jesus.
Come on—impress us!

Do it now--

Look at these kingdoms, Jesus!
Don’t you want to be the boss?
Power and control are so sweet, Jesus!
All you have to do is worship me. The devil.
I’m oh so much nicer than God!
Worship me and then you can have it all.

You know what they’re all saying about you, Jesus?
Son of God!
Impressive. Except they don’t believe you.
Why don’t you just hush up the nay-sayers?
Jump off from the top of this Temple.
God will send angels to catch you, Son of God!
You’re special. You’re different.
Jump, Jesus, jump!

Of course, Jesus resists.
After all—Jesus is Jesus.

The devil keeps throwing out the hook but Jesus does not bite.

Jesus says, “One does not live by bread alone.”
Jesus says, “Worship only God, serve only God.”
Jesus says, “ Do not put God to the test.”

Jesus wins the throw down.

Jesus knows that nothing else equals God’s grace—
not success, not power, not prestige—
not even being right.
Jesus knows that nothing on earth can fill us in the same way
that the God’s love fills us.


It is hard.
Living each day with our priorities straight is just plain difficult.
That “swimsuit” burns a hole in our pocket most days.
Resisting all the temptations around us every day is anything but easy.

It is one of the reasons we have the season of Lent.
It’s like strength training.
We take on a task or let go of a little piece of our addictive nature,
to prove to ourselves—not to anyone else—but to ourselves,
that we can do it—with God’s help.

Lent is a great practice run—
for all those much bigger temptations
that wait for that opportune time.

Lent is also a reminder of how strong an opponent temptation really is.

It is interesting though that Jesus did not attack or even belittle the devil.
The devil pushes
but Jesus does not push back.
The devil throws out the hook and line,
ever ready to reel Jesus in—
but Jesus doesn’t bite—
Jesus doesn’t bite the hook or the devil.

Jesus hands over all the temptations to God.

Jesus says, “One does not live by bread alone.”
Jesus says, “Worship only God, serve only God.”
Jesus says, “ Do not put God to the test.”

Jesus doesn’t feel the need to prove anything to the devil,
to the Pharisees,
or to us.

Jesus doesn’t really “win” this throw down with the devil--
because Jesus doesn’t have the need to win or even to play.

We have numerous stories in the gospels about miracles Jesus performs—
but he never performs a miracle
as a “trick” or to impress any one
or to win the “Biggest Miracle” challenge.

When Jesus is faced with someone in need,
with someone who knows that God is the only one
who loves them enough to possibly heal them,
Jesus is there.
God’s love is there
and God’s presence is made known.

Temptation is about making choices.
God gives us that freedom to make choices.
Sometimes we make very bad choices—
sometimes those choices threaten our lives,
threaten our souls.
Sometimes those choices threaten the lives of others.
We even have the freedom to turn our back on God.

We are absolutely free to make those choices.
Love does not force itself upon you.
God does not challenge us to a throw down.
God’s love is broad and wide and deep
and more immense than we can ask or imagine—
and God’s love is here.
right here in this world.

We can choose to be part of that love, that life—
or not.

The last line in our gospel this morning—
that line about the devil departing from Jesus until an opportune time.
I hate that line.
Because it means that even when we make a good choice,
even when we resist temptation,
temptation will return again…
and again…
and again.
Be ready for that.

Lent gives us 40 days to practice our resistance to temptation.
Whatever we choose to give up—chocolate, our cell phones, gossip, —

Or whatever we take on—
daily Bible study, going to the gym every day,
taking better care of the environment,
forgiving someone who has hurt us.

Whatever we willingly choose,
I can guarantee it will not be as difficult
as when the “devil”—temptation-- shows up in full dress.

Lenten disciplines are like small pebbles
marking the path that God makes
to lead us out of the wilderness.

The season of Lent is not a season of harsh self-discipline—
It is a season to remind us—in little ways--
to love ourselves,
to love one another
and to love God.

To walk in love as God loves us.

+ + +
The story at the beginning of this sermon is from SYNTHESIS.

Ash Wednesday Sermon 2010

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk…

Portia Nelson has a poem
titled Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
I think this poem holds the heart of this day,
Ash Wednesday.

Listen to this poem.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.


I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…I am helpless. It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place,
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

That is the most we can hope from Ash Wednesday.
That this day will help us honestly open our eyes,
help us see our own faults
and pray that we might learn to walk around
all the deep holes in our sidewalks.
And, with God’s help,
find our way to journey down a new street.

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent.
Christians all over the world will find their way to church today
just as you and I have.

We come to church to receive a cross,
made on our forehead by a thumb dipped in ashes,
and to hear the words,
Remember that you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.

A reminder of how little time we really have here in this world.
A reminder that—regardless of our age—it is already late—
But NOT too late.

A reminder of how much God wants us to really live,
to really live as our true selves,
as the people, the person, God created each one of us to be,
to become.

Ash Wednesday calls out to us saying, “What are you waiting for?”
Ash Wednesday calls out to us saying,
“Why do you keep falling in the same deep hole in the sidewalk?”

We all have deep holes in our sidewalks.
Where you fall is not where I fall.
where I fall is not where you fall.

For some those holes in the sidewalk are addictions,
for some they are short tempers and anger,
for some they are gossip or lying,
for some they are always having to be right,
or always needing to be the center of attention.

Ash Wednesday and this holy season of Lent
call us to look closely
at why we keep winding up on the bottom
of the same deep hole.

To have any hope for life,
we must learn to say, “It is my fault.”
We must learn to say, “I am sorry” and really mean it.

God knows the truth about us
and loves us still.
But God doesn’t want us spending this oh so short life
sitting at the bottom of the hole in our sidewalk.

Remember that you are dust
And to dust you shall return.

Monday, February 1, 2010

where oh where has the sermon gone?

There is no sermon posted for this week as we had a snow/ice storm and had to cancel services and our celebration of St. John the Evangelist. The vestry and clergy head out on Friday for a weekend clergy retreat so breathe, say your prayers and I'll be back with a sermon to post on the first Sunday of Lent.