Monday, August 26, 2019


The 7thCentury BC was a nervous time for Jews.
The sinister Assyrian Empire had devoured 
         10 of the 12 tribes
and was eyeing the last two like a ripe Palisade peach.
If Judea had been Colorado, 
         Jerusalem  would have been Denver,
          and the City of Anathoth would have been Broomfield.
Jeremiah lived in Anathoth, the Broomfield of his day.
That’s where the word of the Lord came to him
         making him a prophet.

But Jeremiah said, Sorry, God,I’m not up to that.
         I’m just a youngster.
         Public speaking isn’t my gift or talent.
God sighed. He’d had the same talk with Moses, 
         then with Isaiah.
So, God, said to Jeremiah, 
          as he’d said to Moses and Isaiah before him,
         You can do this, and I’ll tell you why.
         I’ve got your back and I am God. 

Jeremiah was understandably daunted by the task.
It proved at least as hard as he’d imagined.
But with God’s help he did it 
and we are blessed by his life and witness even today.

Life can be daunting for most of us in various ways.
When we are kids we have parents and peers to deal with.
When we are parents we have kids 
            and each other to deal with.
Then come the arduous challenges of old age.
As the folk song goes, Life is a hard road to travel, I believe.

Sometimes we may be afraid we don’t have what it takes
         to do what needs doing.
But God has given each of us a life to live
         and what God said to Jeremiah, God says to us:
You can do this, and I’ll tell you why.
         I’ve got your back and I am God.

Maybe you’re thinking,
          But Jeremiah had a word of God to share.
         No wonder God was with him.
         I don’t have a word of God.

But, you do. God as my witness, you do.
You are the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
One of the greatest 20thCentury Catholic theologians, 
          Karl Rahner, said,
         Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable word of God.

You are an expression of God.
Your life is a story God wants told and only you can tell it.
You have a gospel in you – same as Jeremiah.

As individuals and as a congregation,
         you are a unique, irreplaceable word
         that God wants spoken.
So are you up to it? Have you got it in you?
Sermon thesis right here: Whatever God calls us to do,
         God gives us what it takes to do it. //

Like Jeremiah’s era, this is a scary time for the world outside.
As William Butler Yeats said of his day:
         Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. . . .
         The blood dimmed tide is loosed. . . .
         The best lack all conviction
                  while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Today, as in Jeremiah’s time,
the world needs people with the chutzpah 
to speak for God.
The world needs the Church to be the Church,
         to speak a word of grace and mercy right out loud
         without apology or equivocation. 

Flash forward from Jeremiah 6 centuries. It’s 30 A.D. --
another nervous time. 
The Roman boot was on Judea’s neck.
Rebels plotted insurrection that could only lead 
       to bloody repression.
Jesus was in the synagogue teaching.
Outside the doorway he saw a woman.
She was outside because women were not allowed inside.
Their social norms told women every day in every way
         they were disempowered, subservient, less than.
You could see it in this woman’s body.
She was bent over like an upside down L 
              by a spirit of infirmity.
New Testament scholar Walter Wink translated it, 
              a spirit of weakness.

Jesus saw her standing where she belonged – outside –
         in the posture suited to her status – bent over –
         and he summoned her to come in to him.
He called her into the place she was not allowed to be.
Then he said,
         Woman, you are set free. Stand up straight.
She stood up straight and, in the middle of the synagogue,
         she lifted her hands and praised God.
She performed a religious act permitted to men alone. 

The men there were not pleased.
They grumbled that Jesus was breaking the rules.
But that woman never bent over again. 
She walked upright with dignity all the days of her life.

God made us to stand up straight, 
         to speak the truth in our hearts,      
         bearing his radiant image into the world’s darkness.
For the good of all creation,
God needs each of us to live our lives 
calmly, confidently, with all gentleness, 
integrity, and strength.

Some mornings, looming challenges 
may make it hard to get out of bed.
But God needs you to show up for your life,
to be your true self, faithfully and persistently.

Just so, God needs this congregation to be itself, 
         the Body of Christ,
         to speak God’s word in Broomfield 
          as Jeremiah did in Anathoth.
God didn’t just give Jeremiah a nice, 
           consoling spiritual experience. 
God made him a prophet to the nations.
That means the outsiders.
Just so, God has blessed Holy Comforter with a mission
         to people outside your walls,
         a mission you have already undertaken 
          faithfully in love.

The world out there needs this congregation 
         to be Holy Comforter
         just as the world needs each of you to be yourself
 and the child we baptize today to be herself.
The world today needs the Church to stand up straight,
         to go places society says we are not allowed to go,  
         to say what the world would not allow us to say,
         and to praise God right out loud
                  in the midst of all the cynicism and despair,     
                  all the fear and loathing and mutual contempt
                  that are au courant in the secular world. 

Does that sound like a lot?
Do you wonder if you’re up to it?
It is a lot. It is a supersized lot. But God says,
You can do this, and I’ll tell you why:
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.
Or to say it straight out:
         I’ve got your back and I am God.

Monday, August 5, 2019


St. Thomas may have been a doubter 
           because he was a bit crafty himself.
A legend, not in the Bible, shows Thomas and Jesus 
           both with a crafty side. 
The story goes that after the Resurrection, 
         Thomas staid around Jerusalem.
One day on the street, he met the Risen Lord,
            and Jesus said, 
           Thomas I’d like you to take the gospel to India.
Thomas said, No way! Those people don’t speak Aramaic.
            They don’t keep kosher. They dress funny. 
             I’m staying here. 

Next week, as Tomas was walking downtown,
            he saw Jesus across the street talking 
            with a slave trader.
The slave trader handed Jesus a wad of cash 
          and walked over to Thomas.

The slave trader said, 
             That man over there says you belong to him.
            Is that right?
I suppose I do, Thomas sighed.
Good, the slave trader said, because he just sold you to me
and you’ll be on the next boat to India.

Thomas, an architect by trade, was sold to a wealthy raja
            who wanted him to build the most glorious palace 
             in the land.
Thomas said, Ok but we’ll need construction costs.
The raja gave Thomas a huge sum of money. 
Once outside, Thomas gave all the money to the poor.

After a few months, 
        the raja asked how his palace was coming.
Thomas said there had been some delays 
and the construction funds were exhausted.
The raja gave him another substantial sum,
            which Tomas promptly gave away as charity. 

After this happened several times, the raja lost patience, 
            and shouted,
I don’t care how incomplete it may be. 
insist on seeing my palace now!
Thomas replied, Well raja, it’s like this. 
                          You can’t see it yet.
            There was nowhere on earth worthy 
             of a palace fit for you.
            So I built you a palace in heaven 
            by giving your money to the poor.
The raja looked at Thomas with a puzzled expression,
            trying to take in what he was hearing, then said, 
           Ok, thank you. 
The raja got it because his religious tradition understood             
            the illusion and futility of worldly projects 
             like palace building. 
Jews knew it too.
For all is vanity and chasing after the wind, Ecclesiastes said.
The word translated as vanity is the Hebrew hebel, 
            which literally means a mist, a vapor. 
All is vapor and chasing after the wind. 

Similarly, in our Gospel lesson, 
         the fool is bumping up against futility.
He’s just in denial about it 
        – wanting to build more silos to store up wealth
 for his security. 
He’s saving for a raining day, planning for his retirement, 
trying to secure a good life for himself.  
Jesus doesn’t call him a bad man, just a foolish one,
            because he’s building his palace 
            on a foundation of vapor.

It’s a question of where we invest our lives.
Money, career, romance, acquiring influence, 
         reputation, power  
-- there are plenty of entertaining options. 
But Ecclesiastes calls all the world’s projects the same thing
 – vanity, a mist, chasing the wind. 
St. James agreed, saying  our life Is 
            a vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. 
But we spend all our time and energy  
        trying to shore up the illusion 
that life can be made solid and dependable. 

When the fragile, transitory nature of things shows itself,
            we panic and scurry to shore up the illusion. 
As Paul Simon put it,
            And so I’ll continue to continue to pretend
            my life will never end
            and flowers never bend with the rainfall. 

But suppose the transitoriness of life,
            the futility of our striving and acquisition,
            our anxiety, frustration, and despair 
            are the gateway to God?

In The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts said that 
worldly anxiety and frustration open us to eternity. Boetheius said the same thing in the 6th Century.
They push us toward what Soren Kierkegaard saw 
         as the only way to God 
--  a seemingly absurd leap of faith.

It’s as if we watch a movie so intently we forget it’s a movie.
We think it’s real. Then the house lights come on.
We see the screen, and the screen is God.

Christian life is a spiritual discipline
of looking past the illusion and living into truth.
How do we do that?
Jesus said, Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth
            where the moth corrupts, 
             and the thief breaks in to steal.
            Store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven 
            where the moth does not corrupt, 
             and the thief does not break in to steal.
            For where your treasure is, 
            there will your heart be also.

Christian life relocates our hearts through exercise 
         in faith and generosity.
Faith is the opposite of fear – fear of scarcity,
fear we’ll run out of what we need, 
fear of not having enough.
Faith trusts that God will care for us; 
so, we don’t have to cling so tightly to our money.
When we open our fist, it opens our hearts, 
         and lets some life slip in.

We give to the Church to advance God’s Kingdom Mission 
            first because God’s Kingdom is where 
            our true joy is to be found,
            and second because the giving 
            reshapes our souls for eternity.

Two brothers from Zarephath, Nebraska 
         shared a farm 50-50.
One had seven children; the other was single.
A famine came. 
One brother thought, I have half the grain
            but my brother has seven children to feed.
So each night he slipped some of his grain 
             into his brother’s bins.

The other brother thought,I have half the grain
            but I have seven children to work and support me,
            while my brother has no one.
So each night he slipped some of his grain 
             into his brother’s bins.

Each was mystified. 
Though he was giving his grain away, it was not diminished.
One night they met on the path and discovered
            the miracle lay in each other’s generosity.

We store up  treasure in Heaven by trusting God,
        loosening our grip on our worldly  security,
and giving to support each other 
in God’s Kingdom Mission.