Monday, January 27, 2014

Sermon for Year A Epiphany 3


We are at the Sea of Galilee.
Andrew and his brother Simon Peter are hard at work.
Casting their nets into the sea.
It’s what they do every day.
They are fishermen.

But in the middle of the morning,
they stop.
What is that they hear?

(Sound of the Andy Griffith show theme song--FISHING HOLE--being whistled from the back of the church by Chris & Tim Rhodes)

You see Jesus is out and about.
Fishing for some disciples.
His must have been a powerful invitation,
because Andrew and Simon Peter drop their nets and follow him--
immediately, says the gospel.

Follow me
and I will make you fish for people.

And then Jesus passes two other brothers,
James and John.
They are with their father Zebedee,
not fishing at the moment,
but in the boat mending their nets.

When Jesus calls,
they jump out of the boat,
leaving the boat and their father,
and off they go.
Immediately says the gospel.

Follow me.

Last week in the gospel we had slow Jesus.
Rather kicked back, chilling out Jesus.
Getting to know you Jesus.

But this week.
Jesus has put the pedal to the metal
and he and his disciples are getting down to business.

Going throughout Galilee.
Teaching in the synagogues,
proclaiming God’s good news,
healing the sick.

This week Jesus and the disciples
are AMONG the people.

AMONG the people.

Matthew’s gospel  strives to prove to the people of Israel
that this man, Jesus, really is the Messiah
for whom they were waiting.

Isaiah says the Messiah will begin his ministry in Galilee.
And where is Jesus today?

Galilee was an interesting spot to begin a ministry.
Galilee is Gentile territory.
Jesus was a brave and inclusive sort.

Today we live in world concerned with resumes
and job experience
and references.
This was obviously not the approach Jesus takes.

Why on earth would Jesus have thought these fishermen
would be good disciples?
Great disciples, in fact.

From what we will hear in the gospels and beyond,
these disciples listened and they followed.
But we have no clue as to their qualifications--
if indeed they had any.

in fact, we learn in later chapters of the gospels,
that these disciples had some faults.
Quick tempers, falling asleep on the job,
urging Jesus to ignore children and women.

But there must have been something.
There must have been some reason
that Jesus calls them.

Just as there must be some mysterious reason
that Jesus calls us.

We aren’t called to ministry because we are perfect.
We aren’t called to ministry because we will never make another mistake.
Perhaps the only reason we are called
is because we are crazy enough to say YES!
Okay! I will give it a try.

We will give this trying to love God
and love one another--no exceptions--a try.
We will cast our nets and throw our line
into this fishing hole of the world around us
because we think,
we think,
there just might be some hungry fish out there.
We remember our own hunger for God,
our own longing for the holy.

The collect today says GIVE US GRACE TO ANSWER THE CALL.
This collect is for all of us.

Ponder what calls you.
What have you heard?  What are you hearing?
What would make you jump out of the boat of your everyday life
and head off into the unknown?

This is not about being foolish or fool-hearty.
It is about careful listening.
it is about being open to receiving God’s grace
so that we can HEAR when God calls us.
Or at least do our very best to hear.

Today’s gospel resonates deeply with me right now.
I am about to jump out of a boat
that has fed me, kept me safe,
and taking me on quite a few journeys,
some wonderful and some challenging.
A boat I have loved being in for 6-1/2 years.
I am about to jump out of this boat
and follow Jesus to Vermont.

Really, Jesus?
Won’t the water up there be too frozen to set sail?

But what I hear is this:
Don't worry about the obstacles,
all the reasons to say no.

What I hear is this:
Follow me.
Follow me.

James and John did not leave their father Zebedee
because there was trouble at home;
they left because they were called
and they could not say no.
They loved their father,
just as I love you, good and faithful people of St. John’s.
But they knew it was time to jump out of the boat
and follow a new call.

God has given me the grace to say yes to this call.
Just as God gave me the grace to leave St. Mary of the Hills
6-1/2 years ago
and say yes to a call to come to St. John’s.

St. John’s.
What a fine boat this is!
I have no doubts that this is a boat,
a ship that will keep sailing well.
I have no doubts
that you are people who know how to fish
and that your nets will be full,
abundantly full.

That theme song from Andy Griffith
that Chris and Tim whistled at the beginning of this sermon?
The title of that whistled tune isTHE FISHING HOLE.

I wonder.
Maybe Jesus really was whistling that day
when he walked by the Sea of Galilee.

Maybe that is what caused Andrew and Simon Peter and James and John
to look up, to listen,
and to know their lives
were being set to a different tune,
that they were to follow this man named Jesus.
No matter the cost.

I don’t care how immediately they followed,
it still had to be terrifying in so many ways,
to leave everything and everyone they knew.
They knew how to catch fish
but they had not a clue
how to do what Jesus was asking them to do.
But they still said yes.

That is really all God asks of us.

When you hear God calling,
and you are pretty certain it is God
and not your ego or self-created agenda,
say YES.

Say yes to bring a package of disposable diapers.
Say yes to bringing cans of food.
Say yes to sharing your dreams.
Say yes to fixing a broken faucet or hosting coffee hour.
Say  yes to building a house for habitat or balancing the budget
or setting the altar or gathering for worship and prayer.
Say yes to healing or serving the chalice
or singing in the choir.
Say yes to the million and one ways we can show our love for God
and for one another.

The amazing thing about ministry
is that the more we give,
the more we offer,
the more we share,
it seems like the more we whistle a happy tune.

Follow me, says Jesus.
Follow me.
Come on down to the fishing hole
and I will make you fish for people.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sermon for Year A Epiphany 2


You know there is a whole movement around SLOW.
That’s right--slow.
The opposite of fast.

There is the slow food movement.
It means you cook things from scratch,
shop at the farmer’s market or grow a garden,
you take your time,
you savor your food.

There is the slow medicine movement.
It means you don’t rush into what might be unnecessary treatments
or interventions.
You explore all the options.
You take your time to make thoughtful, non-rushed decisions,
especially as the end of life approaches.

Many of our social justice movements,
both past and present
especially those that have embraced non-violent resistance,
realize that slow and steady and persistently
is often the best hope for success.

I think what we are hearing in the gospel this morning
is about slow Jesus.
Jesus is not in a hurry.
Jesus is slowing things down a bit.

Last week we heard from the gospel of Matthew
about the baptism of Jesus.
This week we hear about the baptism again--
this time from John’s gospel.

This baptism was an important event.
Everybody seems to want to be certain that it is recorded,
that the story is told.

But he story in John’s gospel today
takes us beyond the event of Jesus’ baptism.
It is the day after the baptism
and when Jesus walks by,
John the Baptizer says to two of his disciples, 
“Look, here is the lamb of God.”

This is a powerful moment
for so many reasons.
First of all, the disciples standing there with John
are not disciples of Jesus.
They are John’s disciples.

How amazing,
how without any ego or turf protection,
John says,
You need to be following him,
not me.

I don’t know many leaders in the church or in the world
that would say something like that.

John knows he is NOT the Messiah.
John recognizes the One who is the lamb of God.

Lamb of God.
Lamb because if you have ever seen a little lamb
you know they are adorable.
They look so cuddly.

Even though the lamb may not be too wild about the idea,
you really do want to just pick them up
and hold them. Protect them.

Jesus is the beloved.
God’s little lamb.

But a lamb is more than that.
Remember, in those days,
lambs were part of the culture of sacrifice.
To honor God
you sacrificed a lamb on the altar.

So John’s words, his prophetic words,
also foreshadow what is to come.
Jesus, God’s beloved, will be sacrificed on the cross.

But that is not yet.

In today’s gospel reading we have this wonderful question from Jesus,
to the disciples,

What are you looking for?
That is a question we always need to be asking ourselves--
not in the sense of what do we desire in material possessions
 or fame or fortune.
Not what we want to acquire but what are our hopes and our dreams.

Listen to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech during the March on Washington,
his “I have a dream” speech.
That speech could have easily been King’s response
to this question that Jesus asks:
What are you looking for, Martin?
Oh, Jesus, I have a dream….

What are you really looking for in your life
in the deepest parts of your being?
What are your hopes and dreams of how your world
and the wider world might be a better place,
a place much more like the kingdom of God.

How interesting that the next thing that Jesus says
to the disciples is

Come and see.

The disciples follow Jesus and spend time with him.
They check out his house.
They hang out together with Jesus.
All day.
At least until 4 pm.
They slow down.

Jesus does not take them right into feeding the hungry
or healing the sick
or even kneeling to pray in the wilderness.

I think the church is one of the few places in the world
that encourages us to slow down.
That does not mean we lack work to do,
in the church and in the world, in our own lives--
but we are given the invitation,
most especially in time set aside for worship,
to come and see.
Slow down.
Take it all in.

Almost ironically,
this slowness can give us energy,
revitalize us.

We need to relish being slow church
and to invite others to slow down,
and to come and see.

There should never be any pressure
to become a Christian overnight
or an Episcopalian on demand.
There should only be an invitation.

Come and see
how we sing and pray,
how we share this holy bread and holy wine
and if you can catch even a glimpse of God,
come back again.
Keep coming back.

It takes time.

Transforming people’s hearts and lives
is God’s work.
All we can do is say,
come and see.
Come and see what has made a difference in my life.
Come and see what gives me strength for the journey.

Slow Jesus invites us
and we are called to invite others.
That’s what disciples do.

Our faithful work is to offer that invitation of COME AND SEE
and to open our arms as widely as possible.

When we first moved to Memphis,
our son Jody was about 13 years old.
We were walking downtown
and were aggressively approached by a man,
who got right in our son’s face and said,
“Son, have you found Jesus?”

Now we had just moved from Charlottesville, Virginia
and people in Charlottesville did not ask those kind of questions.

Our son very quickly replied,
“Have I found Jesus? (pause)
I didn’t even know he was lost.”

The man just walked away from us, shaking his head.

We don’t have to find Jesus.
We just have to come and see.
We have to hang out,
we have to stay for awhile.
Jesus will find us.

The disciple Andrew comes and sees
and then he knows.
We have found the Messiah!
He rushes to tell his brother.
But his brother Simon Peter still has to come and see for himself.

No one can find the Messiah for you.
You find the Messiah by opening your heart and your mind,
by coming and seeing for yourself,
by hanging out
with a bunch of other crazy Christians
(as Bishop Michael Curry likes to call us)
by paying  attention to the love that lives under this roof,
in this church,
at St. John’s.

The immense and mysterious and unconditional love
which longs to dwell in all our houses,
in all our hearts.

Spread the Word.
Slow Jesus invites, COME AND SEE.
God is waiting.
Always waiting for us to show up.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sermon for Year A Epiphany 1

Matthew 3: 13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

Travel Lightly

You know how it is.
You are packed and ready to go.
You hurry to the airport.
Wind your way through the security maze.
Find your way to your gate.
And then...
you wait.
You wait.
No plane.
No plane.
No plane.

The gate sits empty.
Delays are posted.
Then re=posted.
It seems the plane coming to Charlotte can’t leave Iowa
because of the weather there.

And then finally they bring out the teeny tiniest plane
you have ever seen and you board and take off
and breathe a deep sigh
that you got a seat.
And off you go.
You’re on your way!
Mid-way in the flight,
you see the flight attendant.
There is only one.
Did I mention how small this plane is?
She pulls out her little beverage cart and loads it up
and starts down the aisle.
You are in Seat 5C--very near the front of the plane--
 so you know you will soon be served.
You are so thirsty.

She serves one person in the first row
and then the phone rings
and the flight attendant returns to answer the phone.
It has to be the captain in the cockpit calling, right?
She listens.
She doesn’t say a word but slams down the phone receiver.
She goes to the beverage cart and jerks it back into the galley kitchen.
She unloads all that she had just loaded
and she sits down in her chair
(which--did I mention how small this plane is--
is right in the center so you can see ever twitch of her face).

She picks up the phone,
presses a button,
and broadcasts,
“You will NOT be getting any beverage service.”

Now I am braced for the announcement that will come--
it is no doubt going to be about the severe turbulence
we are going to experience---
but that is NOT what is revealed.

What she says is this,
“ You are not getting any beverages
and that is the best news you are going to hear tonight.”
“Because we are returning to the airport
where we just left.
We can’t land.
There is a problem.”

(What she said next, cannot be repeated in church!!)

And back we go.
Once more to begin again.
The next day.

Journeys do not always turn out as we expect.
The magi did not find a royal king in Jerusalem.
They had to travel on to Bethlehem
and there they found find a baby-- in a manger.

John the Baptizer did not expect to baptize Jesus.
He thought his journey was to be baptized BY Jesus.
Not what John expected.

God is full of surprises.
Some we like; some, not so much.

When Jesus comes up out of the water
after his baptism,
the heavens light up
and he is revealed as God’s beloved son.
I imagine that John and perhaps even Jesus,
thought this revelation was such good news--
we would agree.
But they may have also thought that this meant
that Jesus' life was going to be smooth sailing.
Not true.

The season of Epiphany is about journeys and things being revealed.
Often unexpected revelations.

We are very good at packing a suitcase full of our expectations.
We lug that suitcase around with us everywhere we go.
It is filled to the brim, to the bulging zipper
with our expectations, our worries, our plans,
our burdens.

But what God often does is pick that suitcase up
and toss that suitcase far, far away from us.
What God does
is surprise us and tell us we have packed all wrong for the journey.

What God tells us really
is that we didn’t need to pack a single thing.
God calls us to leave our expectations behind
and just be present.
Be present to the moment that is before us.
Trust in God.
Trust in God's goodness.

Tom and I took what we thought would be just a short little 3 day trip
but it turned in to 5.
At first we couldn’t get there and then we wondered if we would get home.

On New Year's Day,
the day when many of us make our yearly resolutions--
(My favorite resolution was made by our 3 year old granddaughter Penelope--
"I am going to eat more cake in 2014!")--
but for my intention for 2014
I typed into the NOTES app on my iPhone--
That is my intention, my resolution for this year--
to make myself more mindful
that God is here
no matter what the situation or circumstance.

Because I know I need to be reminded of that constantly.
God is here.

One of the reasons I love baptisms is because it is so obvious
that God is here.
God is here in the water
and in the words
and in the oil that marks the cross on our forehead.
You are marked as Christ’s own forever.

I sat in the airport waiting 
and looked around and thought,
Really? God is here?!!??
Yes, God is here.
God is here in all these weary travelers.
God is here in that baby who has obviously just learned to walk
and is having the time of her life toddling about this crowded terminal.
God is here in the couple just back from a blissful cruise in the Bahamas--
only to discover they can't fly in to snowy Boston.
They have been trying to get home for two days!
But they are still smiling and laughing.
God is here in the waiting.
God is here telling me I need to travel more lightly,
hold everything more lightly,
more gently, more kindly.

There is that wonderful baptism scene in the film
where the three escaped convicts hear singing
and watch as people dressed all in white move through the woods,
down to the river
to be baptized.

The convicts follow
and then two of them rush into the water.
When one of them emerges he loudly exclaims
that he has been washed of all his sins.
“Even when I stole that pig” he shouts!

“Hey! You said you were innocent of that!” says his friend.
“I lied!” he says.”But that’s been washed away too!!”

When we let go of our lies and our sins
and our expectations and our plans,
we are free.
We are free to see clearly
how much God loves us.
Each one of us.
No exceptions.

Baptism helps us remember who we are.
Who we really are.
Without our false selves, our pretenses,
our past history, our future plans.
Just simply who we really are.
How wonderful we really are in God’s eyes.

Just as at his baptism,
Jesus was marked as God’s beloved forever.

Baptism reveals us, too, as God’s beloved children.
We are marked as Christ’s own FOREVER.

It is no accident that our baptismal font
is placed just inside the doors into the church.
The font is the very first thing you see
when you enter the church.

There it is.
The font is there at the entrance
 to say WELCOME, children of God.
The font is there to say REMEMBER your baptism.
The font is there to say
dip your fingers into my holy water
and trace the sign of the cross
that was marked on your forehead
on the day of your baptism.
The font is there to say,
What? You haven't been baptized?
Oh it is never too later.
Come on in. The water is great!

The font is there to also say LISTEN.
Listen and you too will hear
You are my beloved
with whom I am well pleased.

That’s right.
And me.
All of us.
Every single one of us.

We are God's beloved
with whom God is well pleased.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

O beautiful star

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

+   +   +

Patty Loveless sings it.
Emmylou Harris sings it.
The Judds even sang it at the White House--
O beautiful star of Bethlehem...

O beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shining far through shadows dim
Giving the light for those who long have gone
Guiding the wise men on their way
Unto the place where Jesus lay
O beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shine on

Once upon a time
there was  a star.
A beautiful star.
This was not a fairy tale star
but a real star up in the sky.

The Greek word used in the biblical text is aster
(as in the word ASTERoid--
or if you think of the star shape of the flower named aster).
This word choice in the text
tells us that this was a real star,
a star in the heavens.

Aster is  used 24 times in the New Testament
always referring to real stars.
This was not a metaphorical light
nor was it a bright shining angel--
this was a real star.

A brilliantly beautiful star.

The magi knew about the stars.
One of their wisdom gifts was in astronomy.
They paid attention to the heavens,
to the night skies.

People still argue about this star.
People can’t figure out how a star--fixed in place in the heavens--
could have guided the Magi to the very house in Bethlehem
where the Christ child was staying.

But why then, if this was not some amazing star,
why would the Magi,
also known as WISE men,
why would they have undertaken such a long and treacherous journey?

The truth is Matthew’s gospel never says that the star “led” them at all.
The gospel just says they saw the star
and they knew that the time had come for their journey.
They new the new king had been born.

The Magi did not go directly to Bethlehem.
They went to Jerusalem.
After all, where else would one go to find a king in those days?
It was the chief priests and the scribes in Herod’s court
that named Bethlehem as the place to go.
It was the crafty King Herod himself
that sent the wise men on their way to Bethlehem.

O beautiful star the hope of life
Guiding the pilgrims through the night
Over the mountains 'til the break of dawn
Into the land of perfect day
It will give out a lovely ray
O beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shine on...

Some have said that the star wasn’t a star at all,
but a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus and the star Regulus.
But the Magi were versed in astronomy
and surely they would know the difference
between a planetary convergence and a single bright star.

Many scientists and theologians
believe that the star
was a real star--
probably a nova or supernova.
Novas and supernovas are unpredictable explosions of existing stars.
They are quite rare
but they are real stars.

Supernovas may shine for months and months,
maybe even longer;
they shine brilliantly and brightly
and then they fade from sight.

The Magi were devout holy men.
They believed in a God of creation,
a God of possibilities
a God who could do anything--
including set a star in the sky as a sign
that the Messiah had been born.

We know what happens in the story.
They find Jesus and Mary
and they are overwhelmed with awe and wonder and joy.
They kneel down and offer the best they have to offer--
gold and frankincense and myrhh.

They also know to pay attention to their dreams
and they go home by another way
to protect this holy family.
At least for awhile.

Why do we care about stars and magi?
Because we, too, need to pay attention
for the light that has been set in the sky to guide us.
It may not be an actual star
but God the creator is still creating in our lives,
still setting signs before us,
still breaking through the darkness with a ray of light.

O beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shine upon us until the glory dawns
Give us a lamp to light the way
Unto the land of perfect day
O beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shine on.

There is an interesting story behind this song
It wasn’t written by Emmylou Harris or the Judds or Patty Loveless.

It was written by a man named Fisher Boyce
over in middle Tennessee.
Boyce was born in 1887 in Link, Tennessee.
In 1910 he would marry Cora Carlton
and they would have 11 children.
Of those 11, only 5 would live to be adults.
Only one daughter, Willie Ruth Eads is still alive.

Willie Ruth remembers how important music was to her family,
to her growing up years.
“The neighbors would come in,
and we'd all gather around our family piano," Boyce's daughter said.
"My sister Nanny Lou (Taylor) would play,
and we would sing way into the night."

One of his sons remembered his father sharing
how he came to write the song.

"I got up one Sunday morning to write down this song
because the words and melody got on my mind
till I could hardly sleep at night.

But there was so much commotion in the house,
with children running in and out and all around,
that I headed out to the barn
where it was quiet.”

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem was written in a barn.
There was a baby who was also born in a barn.

Fisher Boyce nor his family has ever received any royalties from the song.
In those days it was the publishing company that made all the profits.
It never seemed to bother him though
because he always felt the song was--just like that star--
just like the baby Jesus--
was a gift from God.

“After all”, said Mr. Boyce,
“how could I, a simple, country man ever write a song
about such a glorious event?”

O beautiful star the hope of grace
For the redeemed, the good and the blessed
Yonder in glory when the crown is won
Jesus is now the star divine
Brighter and brighter He will shine
O beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shine on

O beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shine upon us until the glory dawns
Give us a lamp to light the way
Unto the land of perfect day
O beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shine on.

O beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shine on.

+   +   +

When I preached this sermon at St. John's on Sunday, January 5th, I was very blessed to have Chris Rhodes(guitar), Tim Rhodes (guitar) and Tyler Rhodes (banjo) play and sing the verses of the song at the appropriate time in the sermon. They really made the words come to life.  Thanks so much, guys!

I would also like to say that I do not think it is right for songwriters to not receive royalties. Yes, I know this is how it once was but I think it is important to acknowledge that some things (many things?) that once were were and are just plain wrong. We need to honor the gifts of imagination and creativity and part of the way our culture honors people is to pay them for their work. This helps them make a living and have the freedom to continue to create. Here's to songwriters, poets, and all artists!

The information about Fisher Boyce is from this website:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sermon for Year A Christmas I

God saw that the light was good

Friday was the feast day for St. John, Apostle and Evangelist,
the patron saint of our parish.
And today, this first Sunday after Christmas Day,
we have our gospel reading from John’s gospel.

In the beginning...
Those words from John’s gospel echo the words of Genesis.
In the beginning...

In the beginning when God created heaven and earth
the earth was a formless void
and darkness covered the face of the deep
when a wind from God
swept over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light.
And God saw that the light was good...

Over the holidays Tom and I watched a clip of a broadcast
from December 24, 1968, 
in which the crew of Apollo 8 read  from the book of Genesis
as they orbited the moon. 
Bill Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman 
read the first 10 verses of Genesis, Chapter 1,
as they looked upon this fragile earth, our island home,
from space.

Even with the incredible and now familiar photographs
of the earth seen from space,
I don’t think any of us can really comprehend 
the power and the beauty and the holiness
of that view of God’s creation
Genesis, a word which means origin,
is the story of how out of chaos God created the world.

And then John’s gospel--

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the word was God.
All things came into being through him
and without him not one thing came into being.
In him was life and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.

Pure poetry.
Into the darkness, God once again, brings light.

John’s gospel is so different from Matthew and Mark and Luke.
Those three gospels are known as the synoptic gospels
which essentially means they have a lot of similarities with one another.
They are also all three narrative gospels
which mean they tell us a story.

But John’s gospel is different.
John’s gospel was written long after the other three.
Around the year 100 we think.
And you can imagine that people,
over the course of that century since Jesus’ birth,
 had a lot of time to try to think, to ponder, to try to understand.
Who was this Jesus?
I mean, really, who was he?
Fully human, fully divine?
What does that mean?

John’s gospel is a theological gospel--
a writing trying to make sense of who Jesus was and who God is
and how they relate to one another.
And then there is the Holy Spirit, too.
Don’t forget the Holy Spirit.
John’s gospel is an attempt to answer some of the questions.

Over the holidays I heard a story on NPR
about a musician named Josh Garrels.
He is a thirty year old former "skate punk"
(those are NPR’s words, not mine)
who now lives in Portland, Oregon
with his wife and three children.

He is a musician.
A very different kind of musician.
Some say he is a Christian musician
but he has resisted that classification.

Not because he denies being a Christian
but because he fears that would somehow indicate to an audience
that he has all the answers.

The truth is, 
he says, he has a lot more questions than answers.
But he doesn’t feel that makes him any less a Christian.
In fact, in many ways,
it may make him more of a Christian.

One reviewer in Christianity Today wrote 
that Josh Garrels offers us
“faith and doubt and that mystery in between.”
Josh Garrels is comfortable living in the mystery in between.

I think this is true of John’s gospel as well.
Faith and doubt and that mystery in between.

One thing I love about the Episcopal Church is 
that we believe it is okay to have questions,
to have doubts.

We also think it is okay to have faith
and to live in the beautiful mystery of God.

Josh Garrels writes songs about how he is in awe of God
and how he tries to see where God is 
in the midst of his everyday life,
his everyday world.
He sings:

So give it just a little time
share some bread and wine
weave your heart into mine

All the gospels call us to weave our hearts into the heart of God.

Just as God saw the light and proclaimed that the light was good
musicians and artists and poets and gospel writers,
encourage us to look for the good light in our everyday lives,
to give faith a little time,
to not be so anxious to slam the door because we don’t have the answers
and to understand that others don’t have the answers either.

Share some bread and wine.
Show up for worship.
Be kind. Be generous.
Love one another.
Simple acts that let the light come in,
if only through the tiny cracks.

Do not be afraid, say all the angels.
Do not be afraid of not having all the answers.
Do not be afraid if you have doubts.

Trust that good is stronger than evil,
love is stronger than hate,
light will overcome the darkness.
This light that was in the beginning
is still now.
This light is so strong, so beautiful, so powerful,
that it can never be overcome by darkness.

Not the darkness of the world,
not the darkness of our own doubts,
not the darkness that covered the deep.

Share some bread,
and wine,
weave your hearts
into mine.

The light still shines.
Brightly, brightly, brightly.
For ever
and ever
and ever.