Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An even more wonderful world...

Just came across this today--a very different version of A WONDERFUL WORD in honor of David Attenborough. Take a moment and take a look. Blessings!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

MY SOUL IS TROUBLED....Sermon for Year B Lent 5


This afternoon a thunderstorm crossed the
valley. One moment the ground was dry, and the next there were
torrents, running down the hillsides...

A quarter mile off
I could see the downpour bouncing off the sage and the fine clay
soil. I could see the rain approach, and then it hit, drenching me,
and moved on.

Ten minutes later I was dry. The rain comes from
heaven, and we are cleansed by it.
Suddenly the meaning of baptism
is clear to me: you can begin again, and we are saved every day.

Those words are from a poem by Gary Young.

The late afternoon.
That is where we stand in today’s scripture
and at this time during the season of Lent.

We are hurtling towards Holy Week,
fast-forwarding to what seems like the end of the story.

Only Jesus reminds us,
just as Gary Young’s poem does,
...the rain comes from heaven and we are cleansed by it...
you can begin again, and we are saved every day.

You can begin again.

That seems very true--even for God.
If we listen to the words of the prophet Jeremiah,
we hear that God is changing, making a new covenant with the people.
Even though the people made a mess of the old covenant,
God forgives and God creates a new relationship.
You can begin again.

That is very good news.
Forgiveness and a fresh start should make all of feel relieved.
Yet, as much as I like those words, that theological concept--
sometimes it just doesn’t seem true.

For young Trayvon Martin, seventeen years old, shot to death,
walking home with a bottle of Arizona Iced Tea
and a package of Skittles for his little brother--
how does he begin again?
How does his family begin again?

For Sargeant Robert Bales, recently charged with the murder
of 17 people in a shooting rampage in Afghanistan--
how does he begin again?
How does anyone who has seen the horrors of war
feel saved every day?

It is difficult to understand how God works
to give us a new beginning.
And yet,
and yet,
we hear it over and over and over
in scripture.
Jeremiah tells us that God wants to write it on our hearts.

What is the “it” God wants to write?
The “it” is not the laws--
even God discovered
that the law was never going to motivate people.

The “it” is not even justice--
the “it” is love and compassion.

That is the only way
we have a hope of making it through
the “swift and varied changes of the world”
as our collect says this morning.

Jesus is trying to tell his disciples.
Life stinks sometimes.
Things go terribly wrong.
People get hurt, people suffer, people die.

At this point in the gospel story, Jesus knows what is coming.
He is trying to prepare his disciples
because he wants them to react with love
and not with bitterness,
not even with disappointment.
He wants them to live lives of love
not lives of revenge.

Jesus wants them--and us--to understand
that we cannot JUST look at the hereafter--
the great beyond.
We are alive right now--we are alive--
we need to see that
as a blessing and a gift beyond value.
Never think for a moment
that life is guaranteed.

We can take comfort in our beliefs of what lies after death
but we cannot stop living.
In the gospel, Jesus says..
..those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
In other words if you hate today
tomorrow is not going to be any better.

Our challenge is to love today.
Our challenge is to love one another.
That is not only our challenge
that is our hope and our joy.

God wants us to see the good and the beauty and the marvel
and the love of and in this world.
Only then can we understand the value and the promise of life.
Only then can love be written on our hearts.

If life doesn’t look so good or so marvelous or so beautiful
Jesus says, “Get to work.”
Do something about it.
Love more.
Care more.
Pray more.
Reach out to one another more.
Be kinder. Be more generous. Be more thankful.
Any of us--all of us--
can love, can care, can pray.
Any of us can complain and criticize and judge less--
and love and be kind and say thank you more.

There is much to trouble our souls in this world, in this life.
But there is also much to celebrate.

Even trouble and sorrow can be a doorway
to learning how to love more deeply,
care more broadly, reach out more widely.

It’s the 5th Sunday of Lent.
My last chance for one more song.
What song to I pick for today?

I have to pick two.
These two need to be held in tandem, in tension,in balance
with one another.

The first is very familiar--we have sung it throughout Lent--
Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord have mercy upon us.

When we don’t know which way to turn,
it is never a wrong turn to ask for mercy.

And the second, it’s partner, is the song A WONDERFUL WORLD:

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom, for me and for you
And I think to myself
what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world....

That wonderful world created by God surrounds us--
even in times when our souls are troubled.

The rain comes from heaven, and we are cleansed by it.
Suddenly the meaning of baptism
is clear to me: you can being again, and we are saved every day.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Root, root, root for the home team... Sermon for Year B Lent 4


We have been traveling through Lent with a different song
each week which reflects our scripture readings.
Lent 1 was THE RAINBOW CONNECTION (Noah and the rainbow in the sky).
Lent 2 we had “Get behind me, Satan” and the song was BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEWILDERED.
Last week it was a bit of a struggle to find the right song for Lent 3.
But finally I saw clearly
and, because the disciples understood what Jesus was saying
after he died,
I picked Johnny Nash’s I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW.

But this week was a snap.
I knew immediately what the song would be when I read the gospel reading the very first time.
You might have already guessed it.
Here’s a hint..
[Reach in bag and pull out a baseball cap and put it on.]
How about this?
[Hold up sign that says JOHN 3:16]


That song came to mind because at a baseball game (other sports too sometimes)
there is almost always at least one person in the stands
holding up a sign
that simply says: JOHN 3:16.

I wonder if people who don’t know that verse actually go home
and take the time to look it up in the Bible.
And even if they don’t have a BIble, they can find it on their computer.
In today’s world you can google JOHN 3:16 and find the verse:


A beautiful verse.
Some people say that John 3:16 is the New Testament in a nutshell.

But you may be shaking your head and thinking,
JEANNE, JEANNE, that’s very interesting
but there are a lot more interesting things going on in these readings today.
DId you see the parts about snakes?

DId you see that GOD not only sends his son in John’s gospel
but God sends snakes in the Old Testament reading
from the book of Numbers--
God sends snakes and it says right here in black and white
..and the snakes bit the people..and people died!!!????

What’s going on here?

Is this the same God?
A God who sends poisonous snakes
and then a God who sends his son?
A God who sends snakes to bite and kill people
and a God who sends his Son to love and save people?

And we wonder why people sometimes shy away from the Old Testament!

I mean, after all, the Israelites are ONLY complaining, whining--
they don’t like the food, they’re tired,
they wish they hadn’t come on this journey at all.
Should people be killed for complaining?!!!
(Many of us hope not!)

But you see the Israelites have forgotten.
They have forgotten that this journey is not some wild ride
across the desert that Moses initiated and mapped out.
This journey is God’s idea.

This journey is the journey that will save them--
save them from the Egyptians,
from slavery,
from misery.
This journey will lead them to full being as God’s people.
But they have forgotten why they needed to leave Egypt in the first place.
They thought that as soon as they left
everything would be perfect. Easy street.

Sometimes we, too, think that way--
if we just find the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect car,
the perfect person-
everything will be easy,
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks
I don’t care if I ever come back...

You see, the snakes are just a reminder.
Complaining and grumbling is what bites us.
If we lose hope, if we think we are running the show instead of God,
if we can’t see beyond the darkness and despair,
then, in so many ways, we are already dead.

The Israelites have forgotten.
They have forgotten that they are on their way home.
They have forgotten the purpose of this journey.
They aren’t happy with the way things are working out
and they forget--or stop believing--
what God has promised.
They are on a journey that will lead them to the Promised Land,
literally and physically
and spiritually.

The Promised Land is not just about heaven;
the promised land is about growing to become the people--the person--
God created us to be.
All growth does not occur in bright sunlight.
There are times of darkness, there are soaking rains--
there are even those occasional snakes.
Not an easy journey.

It is easy to lose hope.
It is easy to despair.
It is certainly easy to complain.
Because the truth is life is hard.
Sometimes very hard.

Life can be a treacherous journey.
We have to step very carefully through the desert of our anxieties and fears or we too will likely be bit.
We too can easily forget the light and love that surround us.
We can stumble and allow darkness to swallow us--
or we can pick ourselves up, skinned knees and all,
and go on.

God wants us to live.
God wants us to look up.
God wants us to know what true love really is.

For God so loved the world---
that is true love.
God loved us and all creation into being.

...that he gave his only Son...
whatever your theology,
whatever your status as a parent or non-parent,
we know this gift, this love
is immense and unconditional.

What this gospel tells us is that God gives us everything.
Absolutely everything.
Nothing is held back.

We need to look up and see that.
We need to stop whining and grumbling about all that we do not have.
We need to worry less about the snakes and the snake bites
and celebrate more what we are given as our daily bread.
And some days,
that is all we will get: just one day’s bread.

God is not an almighty umpire
wanting to call three strikes and throw us out of the game.

God is not a cheerleader either--that is our work to do.
We are here on this planet to be cheerleaders for one another.
To encourage each other, to care for each other.
You know,’s root, root, root for the home team...

God is more like the coach at home plate.
Calling us to come home--
home to God’s deep love for the world and us.
God’s deepest desire
is for all of us to make it home.
Every one of us.

For God so loves the world.
For God so loves you and me.
For God so loves.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

AFTER..... Sermon for Year B Lent 3


I tried to find a song for Lent 3.
After all, we had THE RAINBOW CONNECTION for Lent 1

But I couldn’t find a song about overturning tables or making a whip of cords.
I thought about WHO LET THE DOGS OUT
or Bruce Springsteen’s THE WRECKING BALL.
I didn’t find THE perfect song
until after I realized that this gospel is not so much
about the table overturning
as it is about what happens AFTER the table turning over.
So my song for Lent 3 has to be Johnny Nash’s
More about that in a few minutes.

Back to the Temple.

This is no meek and mild Jesus.
Jesus is angry.
He didn’t just send an email saying could you not do these things--
using the temple for making a profit--
he didn’t calmly show up and enter into negotiations.
Jesus shows up mad!
He is furious.
He uses a whip to drive people out!!
This is some serious Jesus!

This story appears in all four of the Gospels--
which indicates that this really happened.
That this story is not just metaphor.

But what has happened here?

When Jesus enters the temple
he finds men selling cattle and sheep and doves.
They are selling these to those
who have made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Pilgrims were obligated to make a sacrifice.

They needed to exchange their Roman currency into Jewish money
in order to pay the temple tax---also mandatory.

Those who sold the animals and those who changed the money
were not honest business men.
Far from it.
They traded at an exorbitant profit.

It’s a little bit like buying a bottle of water at the airport.
You could buy it for 59 cents at Ingles,
but because of security regulations,
you can’t bring any liquids in (I understand that!)--
but he shops inside airport security,
will gladly sell you this 12 oz. bottle of water
for only $ 2.99.

Nothing one can do about it--if you want a bottle of water.
Or if you need some Roman currency
or an animal for sacrifice,
you pay the price.

But that doesn’t make it right.

Jesus is angry because of the exploitation and greed.
Jesus, as usual, is on the side of the ones who have little--
little in resources and little choice about the matter.

When asked to justify his actions with a sign to the authorities,
Jesus does not perform a sign.
He is not there to perform or to please.
Jesus talks about the temple being destroyed
and rebuilt in three days.

This must have been confusing--even to his disciples--
the building of the temple had begun over 50 years earlier--
and was not completed yet.
In fact it would not be finished for at least 20 more years.
But then there is a twist to the story:
gospel is very specific and says---
He [Jesus] was speaking of the temple of his body.

As we move farther into Lent,
closer and closer to Holy Week,
the gospel text becomes more and more prophetic about what is ahead.

Often when I read a passage of scripture
I try to listen for a word or a phrase that is “illuminated.”
The word or phrase that really strikes me, that stands out,
causes me to think.

This week it is the final verse of our gospel. Verse 22:

After he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this;
and they believed the scripture
and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The illuminated word for me in this verse is the word AFTER.

How often do we figure things out, understand things,
realize the value of something or someone
AFTER the fact?

Listen to this wisdom story by Anthony DeMello:

Once upon a time, a miser hid his gold at the foot of a tree in his garden.

Every week he would dig it up and look at it for hours.
Only one day, a thief dug up the gold
and made off with it.

When the miser next came to gaze upon his treasure,
all he found was an empty hole.

The man began to howl and wail with grief,
so his neighbors came running to find out what the trouble was.

When they found out, one of them asked,
“Did you ever use any of the gold?”

“No,” said the miser. “I only looked at it every week.”

“Well then,” said the neighbor,
“for all the good the gold did you,
you might as well come every week and gaze upon the hole.”

[Source: Anthony de Mello, S.J.;]

Sometimes we only understand the value
AFTER something or someone we love is gone,
AFTER we are left gazing at the empty hole that remains in our life.

How difficult it is to really understand, to be present
to the people, to the events, to the meaning behind the words
when we are in the midst of them.

This has always bothered me.
I want to be fully present to the moment.
I want to be alert and aware right now.
Somehow there is a sense of failure
to not get it-- until later.

Only this week,
as I studied this gospel,
I made friends with that word “AFTER.”
I thought,
You know, AFTER is okay.

God is not the White Rabbit of Alice in Wonderland fame,
pulling out a pocket watch
and chiding, You’re late! You’re late! You’re late!

God is not a journalist--
God is not trying to get down the who-what-when-where-how or why
of the story as it is happening.
God is always waiting for us in the AFTER.

God doesn’t care WHEN we get the meaning of the message--
God is incredibly patient.
It seems God has more of a “better late than never” mindset

God is so patient.
God waits patiently and faithfully
until we make our way to understanding.

AFTER is an interesting word,
but REMEMBER is a beautiful word.

When we remember something,
we put the event, the person, the actions
back together again.
We re-member.

We take all the parts and pieces
and put them together and make them whole.
We take all our parts and pieces
and realize that we too have been made whole in the process
of re-membering.

Remembering is an enormous part
of whom we are as Christians.

We began Lent on Ash Wednesday with remembering---
Remember that you are dust....

We celebrate the Eucharist each week--
We remember his death....
Do this for the remembrance of me.

The disciples were only transformed AFTER they remembered.
Then they understood.
Then they got it and knew what Jesus meant
and what he was calling them to do.

God gives us this gift-- of re-membering.
We re-build what once was.
We rebuild the temple.

And sometimes we have to tear down,
to empty out the old
to make room for the new and all that is holy.

God never considers us overdue or past tense or expired.
The time is never too late.

Because amazing things can happen AFTER...
I can see clearly now...finally...AFTER...

AFTER he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this;
and they believed the scripture
and the word that Jesus had spoken.

I can see clearly now.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered..... Sermon for Year B Lent 2

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Last week, Lent 1, was The Rainbow Connection.
This week, if I had to pick a song for Lent 2--
don’t worry--I promise I’m not going to sing this week--
my song choice would be
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Get behind me, Satan.
There’s the bewitching. Satan.

Well, first of all, Peter is bothered by Jesus saying
that the Messiah is going to suffer and be rejected
and be killed and die.
And then, Jesus is bothered by Peter,
because Peter wants Jesus to tell a different story.
to be a different Messiah than Jesus knows he is.

Poor Peter!
Jesus just called him Satan.
And Peter can’t believe Jesus would say such a thing to him.

Get behind me, Satan!

We don’t often talk about Satan in the Episcopal Church,
and yes, we certainly can hear that word
with a touch of Saturday Night Live humor--
remember Dana Carvey’s portrayal of the Church Lady?

We can laugh at the stereotypical images of Satan or the Devil--
but we must admit,
temptation is very, very real.
Very real for all of us.

Peter could not bear hearing Jesus talk about his own suffering and death.
No. That’s just wrong, Jesus.
You are the Messiah!

The Messiah.
Everyone knew the Messiah was going to come--one day--
and settle the score.
The Messiah was going to charge in and right all the wrongs.
The Messiah was going to bring justice.
Everyone would rejoice
once they knew that the Messiah had arrived.

Imagine how happy Peter was
when he realized that Jesus was the Messiah.
Thanks be to God! Finally!
The Messiah is here!

But now, Jesus begins talking about suffering and persecution and dying.

Peter could not listen.

The gospel says that Peter took Jesus aside and REBUKED Jesus.
Sounds like a bold move!
Pretty strong language:

But Jesus replies quickly and strongly and rebukes right back:
Get behind me, Satan.
Those are his words to his dear friend Peter.

Because you see,
how easy, how tempting --even for Jesus--
to be the Messiah
that everyone has dreamed him to be.
How easy, how tempting
to just be and act and say
what others expect of us.

But Jesus knows that image of him is a lie.

Sometimes people are not who we think they are
and it is their fault.
` They have tricked us, deceived us.

But sometimes people are not who we think they are
and it is NOT their fault.
In our own minds, in our own hearts,
we have tried to make that person be
he person WE want them to be.
We have deceived ourselves.
We stand right beside Peter.

Jesus knows the truth.
Jesus knows who he really is
and what he has come to do--
and he knows it will not be popular.

Because people may say they want to be saved,
people may say they want justice,
people may say they want change

But we really only want these things
if it doesn’t intrude on our own plans and desires,
our own comforts and conveniences.

Some of you may know about Dorothy Day.
She was a social activist and devout Christian.
She was very clear about her love for God and for other people,
especially those on the margins.
Yet she was also very realistic
about what she called “the dirty rotten system”
and how we are all, in truth,
part of this unjust system
because we enjoy the benefits of the system.

Most of us do not think of ourselves as oppressors
or as people who would take advantage of others.
And yet...

Where were our shirts and our underwear made?
How about our shoes?
Our cell phone?
Who picks the tea leaves and the coffee beans we enjoy?
How much fuel do we consume driving alone in our cars or trucks,
when we could take a bus, carpool or even walk?

All these things are made affordable for us,
often because of the suffering of someone else
who is far less privileged.
Someone who could never afford the very items they make or mine or assemble.

Those who sacrifice because of our desires,
are usually faceless and nameless to us--
which of course makes it bearable,
makes it feel like we are not responsible or accountable.

But the truth is--
we buy, we use, we lust after these products.
We want our comforts even at the expense of others.

Temptation is everywhere.

In this country we are barraged with the temptation
to care more about stuff than human beings.

Power and possessions, consumption and competition
can throw us in the deep end of a "never-ending game"
(to borrow a phrase that Richard Rohr used in a recent email meditation)--
a loop that is self-maintaining, self-perpetuating
and self-congratulating.

That's the dirty, rotten little system
that DOrothy Day referred to.

I wish I could say this was not true in the church.
I wish I could say this is not true in my own life.
But sadly, Satan is still alive and well--
and I am part of a system that allows it to happen.

Jesus came to put a face on those who are faceless and nameless.
Jesus came to put a face on injustice.
Jesus came to tell the truth.
Jesus came to encourage us to be truth tellers--
even about the hard stuff in our own lives

We fool ourselves if we think following Jesus is in any way
intended to be an easy journey.

A worthwhile journey? Absolutely.
Easy? I think not.

Lent is a time to take at least a few steps
toward letting go of that which bewitches us--
the false Messiahs in our lives.

Living into Lent means confessing ourselves as Peter --
confessing that we too have longed for our church,
our Jesus, our families,
our own lives
to look and be a certain idealized,sanitized way--
when often nothing in our lives
or in the world is that way at all.

The truth should never be a discouragement.
Lent is a time for hope,
the hope that we can make a difference.

In the words of Brazilian Archbishop Helder Camara:

Be careful of the way you live.
It is the only gospel that most people will ever read.

I want to say that one more time--

Be careful of the way you live.
It is the only gospel that most people will ever read.

Jesus wasn’t popular or rich or powerful.
Jesus knew that what he was saying and doing
was not going to be embraced--
neither by the Roman government nor by he religious authorities.
Not in the first century, not in the twenty-first century.

I live in constant amazement
at the selfish spin that is so often put
on what it means to be a Christian.
Following Jesus is about giving
not about receiving.
Following Jesus is about rejecting the very systems
that make us comfortable, even acclaimed.

We, too, are called to sacrifice.

Jesus refused to claim
being the Messiah the world had envisioned.
Jesus knew the world already had what it needed to end injustice.

Jesus looks to US--
to right the wrongs,
to feed the hungry, to heal the sick,
to comfort the suffering,
to bring justice to God’s world.

Yes, we do all these things with God’s help
but Jesus is quite clear
that we are the ones to do these things.

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered?
Jesus says,
Get over it.
Get behind me, Satan.

Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and follow.

For those who want to save their life will lose it,
and those who lose their life for my sake,
and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
For what will it profit us to gain the whole world
and forfeit our life?