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Showing posts from April, 2012

What God has Cleansed (Earth Day Sermon)

Acts 11: 1-18             Care of creation as a part of our Christian life seems a little obvious. Does it feel that way to you? We believe that God’s hand was active in establishing the universe. We understand that there are natural processes that are mysterious to us. We grasp the fact that we are not alone on the earth and that many millions of plants, non-human animals, fish, and lots of other people can be affected by our choices and our actions.             So we understand, basically, why it’s important. We get it. But do we change what we’re doing based on what we know to be true? I had a lot of heartburn about having a service on Earth Day, oriented toward creation, with a 12-page bulletin. That’s a lot of paper. But we have people who can’t hear and need to be able to follow the service. We have a worship book that turns out not to be very visitor-friendly in its orientation (lots of flipping back and forth). So we sacrificed trees for the sake of hospitalit

Book Review: Still (Lauren Winner)

Still is the most Southern thing I've read in a long time. I do not mean that it is about the South or about Southern issues or even has a Southern voice. It has a Southern speed.  The book reads like a long day with a friend you know so well that you don't rehash details. Lauren Winner reflects on the middle of her faith journey- what comes between the fiery beginning and the slow burn of the end. The book feels like a conversation she has with you, over a day or a weekend.  Over eggs and grits with me, she confesses, "The enthusiasms of my conversion have worn off. For whole stretches since the dream, since the baptism, my belief has faltered, my sense of God's closeness has grown strained, my efforts at living in accord with what I take to be the call of the gospel have come undone." (p. xiii) In my mind, I walk with Winner to pick peas in the garden, after breakfast, and she shares about her struggle to sit with her loneliness, "I tell

My Hour with Thomas

On the second Sunday in Easter, our church observed Bright Sunday (or Holy Humor Sunday)- extending our resurrection celebration. In addition to kazoos, jokes, and laughter, we had an interview with the apostle, Thomas. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining me today on Theology in the Morning with…Pastor Julia! We’ll have a special food giveaway later this hour, but right now let’s meet our special guest. You may know him as the Eeyore of the disciples or the famous doubter, but let’s welcome… Thomas the Apostle! Thank you so much for coming today. How do I address you? None of you apostles seemed to come with a last name. Thomas is fine. Thank you for that. Well, let’s get to it. I think the first question we’d all like an answer to is: Where were you when Jesus showed up that first time? You know, Pastor Julia. If I’m willing to do the time and space travel it takes to come here and answer questions for you and these other fine folks tod

A Moveable Feast (Second Easter Service)

Mark 16:1-8             Do you know why the date of Easter changes? It has to do with the cycle of the moon and the church calendar. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. For the most part that means Easter falls somewhere between March 22 and April 25. Of course, and this is one of the best parts, the churches that use this date for Easter have what’s known as an “ecclesiastical calendar”, meaning the church occasionally has slightly different lunar dates than the astronomical calendar, kept by, well, astronomers. But for the most part, the formula has held true since 325 A.D. (for churches using the Gregorian calendar).             Easter has earned a special name, since it does not have a fixed date. It is referred to as a moveable feast. Moveable feast. And all the dates that are coordinated with Easter’s date are also moveable feasts: Transfiguration, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Ascension, Pentecost, and Holy Trinity Sunday.

Ready or Not, Resurrection (Early Easter Service)

Mark 16:1-8             What happens when you’re not in the mood for Easter? What if the smells are too strong, the colors too bright, the alleluias too loud? We are all a little used to people talking about not feeling the Christmas spirit, but who doesn’t want new life… who doesn’t thrill at the sound of the trumpet… who isn’t ready for resurrection?             Sometimes our own Lent goes on beyond forty days. Sometimes, in our own lives, our own passion story, our own feeling of crucifixion… exposure and abandonment… is not over in a week or three days. Sometimes resurrection comes, but we are not ready to get up. We are not ready to tell the story.             The women heading toward the tomb for that first sunrise service, a service of laying on of hands and prayer… those women were not prepared for resurrection. They may have spent the whole day before, the Sabbath day, longing to be at the tomb. Maybe it was too far too walk for the Sabbath or perhaps the work wa

Mary Magdalene: Witness to the Crucifixion

 Our Lutheran Community Good Friday service for this year was themed: "Witness to the Crucifixion". As the story was read, we heard from Judas, Pilate's wife, Barrabas, Mary (Jesus' mother), the Roman centurion, and Mary Magdalene. It was unbelievably powerful stuff to hear the words of the characters pour forth with emotion: anger, grief, glee, resentment, curiosity, expectation, loss.  I spoke as Mary Magdalene and I was the last witness, lingering at the tomb. It's been an emotional week, but in those moments when I was thinking as the Magdalen- I thought of having such deep love for Jesus and knowing nothing of resurrection, of believing all on which I had built my hopes was gone. I was devastated and the following words are what I spoke, through tears and some sobs. At one point, I tore my wrap- rending my garments- until I laid down in the dried palms from Palm Sunday- slain in grief. Ah, Mary Magdalene- a hero to me on Good Friday and in the d

Jesus Will Not Be Pimped

In March 2012, I attended a conference at which Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver II was the keynote speaker. For the record, Congressman Cleaver can P.R.E.A.C.H. He spoke about the current budget crisis in our government, the changes in how congressional leaders relate to and communicate with one another, and the responsibility of all citizens to care about how our money is used. At one point in the sermon keynote address, Cleaver spoke vociferously against people who loosely talk about "God on their side" or who choose to ignore the plight of struggling people, but speak of Jesus' approval and how Jesus has brought them success. While ignoring Jesus' teaching, they give him credit for their success and expect him to continue to deliver. However, said Cleaver, "Jesus will not be pimped." Jesus will not be pimped. Can I hear an amen? Preach it, Brother Cleaver. We cannot ignore Jesus' plain teaching about loving our neighbor, about dropping our throwin

Hosanna! Save Us! (Sermon, Palm Sunday)

The premise of this sermon begins with the fact that the service was "backwards" for April Fools Day. We began with a benediction, flowed to communion, back through the service, concluding with confession.  Mark 11:1-10             How do I give a sermon backwards or upside down? Do I begin with the point I would close with and close with a pointed story? I’m not sure. On the best days, the Spirit works through the sermon to give us the food for thought and the faith that brings us to the table to receive, and commune with, the presence of Christ. Since we communed first today, I’m trusting that the communion that is in us and among us… is also opening us up to a new way of looking at this holy Sunday… Palm Sunday.             Today’s gospel lesson is usually called the “Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem”. What makes it triumphant? -        The people greeting Jesus? -        Like a parade? -        Treating him like a king? The crowd is sho