Saturday, April 4, 2020

A Sudden Turn - Palm/Passion Sunday, Year A

Last week, we talked about how hard it is sometimes to engage in all of the fullness of worship in this strange way we're living right now, and so we offered ourselves as a light to the world. Before I share this morning's message, I want to do that.

I want us to take just a moment too remember that part of what we do when we gather to worship is to leave our gifts on the altar.

This week I'm really grateful for the generosity of the Faith community - for the ways that you have helped to feed people, the ways that you are helping to shelter people in this season, the ways that you're using your time and your talent to take care of one another in this season.

These are the gifts that we can leave at the altar. These are the gifts we leave for God today.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts in this space together be holy and acceptable to you, God, for you are our Rock and our Redeemer.
Amen.

I want to start this morning by offering a word from Philippians 2: 5 – 11 (NRSV)
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave. Being born in human likeness and being formed in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We celebrate an amazing Prophet and King, an amazing healer and teacher, an amazing person on whom the material hopes of an entire people hung.

But we celebrate Palm Sunday alongside Passion Sunday in the church in this day and age because so many people can't gather for worship to hear the rest of the story throughout Holy Week.

…because the rest of the story is hard and different.

How is it how is it that a group of people went from heralding this man as Messiah, went from a place of watching what he was teaching and doing, watching what his disciples were learning and leading toward?  And then they turned?  How is it they became part of the crowd - part of the crowd that pushed Herod forward, part of the crowd that pushed Pilate to make a decision, part of the crowd that needed blood.

…Needed blood to solve their problem.

These are strange times, and when I think about the unsettled nature of life right now, when I think about how we are mixed up and discombobulated and disoriented, I think I'm better able to understand how people so quickly turned from shouts of Hosanna to shouts of Crucify…
…how quickly we can go from being fine and normal and good and knowing what direction we're headed to not knowing who we are what day it is, what time of the day it is, and how we actually find toilet paper or groceries.

We go from a place of thinking we know how the world works to a place where we're not sure that we know how anything works.

It is our human nature. In our most human moments, I think we fail to keep our eyes on God. In our most human moments, we think we have the solution -  that somehow if we do this the most perfect way
- if we do quarantine the perfect way
- or if we do self distancing the perfect way
- if we do each meal at our home in the perfect way…
Then somehow we can be in control

But when we realized that's not really true, our fear causes us to do other things.

I think about those gathered in Jerusalem and their hope in Jesus, but also their fear of Rome.

Their fear of not having power
- of not being having their voices heard
- of not being able to conduct their daily business
- their fear of losing what they knew and understood
and how that must have overwhelmed their hope. They saw this man that they believed was the Messiah.

And yet so quickly so quickly they turned from shouts of Hosanna to shouts of Crucify Him! Shouts of proclamation and affirmation to shouts of judgment and shouts of accusation.

We are so very human…especially when we're afraid.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Breath Came and They Lived


This Sunday, the fifth Sunday in Lent, features two of my favorite stories in scripture.  The first is from Ezekiel…the valley of dry bones.  The second is from John…the emotional account of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. 

Throughout this season of Lent, we’ve been watching for further revelations about who Jesus is, why his life mattered, and how he is the Christ – the awaited Messiah – the promise of eternal life.

And on the fifth Sunday of Lent, we are rapidly moving toward Holy Week.  We are moving closer and closer to Jesus’s trial and crucifixion.  We are moving closer to resurrection.

So here we have two stories of new life. These are stories that prepare us to understand that the death of a body is not all there is.  They are stories that remind us that what makes us human is the limitation of a body.

I encourage you this week to sit with the story of Lazarus found in John’s gospel (John 11: 1 – 45). It is an important story.  Ask yourself what Jesus is doing here.  Think about how some might be threatened by Jesus’s miracle of bringing the dead to life.  Think about the things we grieve.  It is a stunning story and can give rise to good soul work as we prepare for Easter at home.

But this week the Holy Spirit has walked with me and steeped me in the story that is the more ancient story about a prophet and some bones and flesh and some breath. 

Ezekiel was called as a prophet while in exile in Babylon. He was among the first wave of Jewish leaders driven out of Jerusalem by the Babylonian armies.  In short order, a second wave was pushed out, and the city of Jerusalem was flattened. With the Temple destroyed, all the “normalcy” known to the Jews had disappeared.  As God’s chosen people who had been led from slavery into a promised land, suddenly all they possessed had been whisked away.  The house where God dwelled in their tradition was gone. 

It had to have been a disorienting time. 
A time when nothing was as it had been.
 A time when all the normal patterns were gone.  
A time when work lives had been upended, when financial lives had been upended, when spiritual lives had been upended. 

One thing I want to remind you of – Jewish culture did not separate “religion” from all the other things – the economy, societal norms, food culture.  To be Jewish was all-encompassing.  When life was radically interrupted, eyes turned to God…and folks despaired that God had left the building.

So into this season of exile, God calls a prophet. Prophets were called upon to speak truth into the times, to see things in a different way.

Ezekiel is called in a season when the Jews really need to remember that they are God’s people no matter where they find themselves.

God shows Ezekiel a stark scene. A valley of dry bones. The Lord tells the prophet to speak life into the bones.

“suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them;”

But with sinew and flesh there was no breath.

And God commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath….

"Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.”

Call on the breath.
The Hebrew word is found throughout the Hebrew scriptures – ruah…
Call on the ruah…

The very breath that was breathed into humankind at creation.

Call on the ruah.
Because a body is just a body without the breath of God.
A body is just a body without spirit. Breathe spirit into these bodies…


Of course I sat with this text this week.
We are surrounded by news of a virus that literally steals breath. 
News that takes our breath away.


In the wide scope of Hebrew Scripture, this can be read as a story of national identity – a story about the people who are Israel. It is a cheerleader story for the Jews – God is with you even when you are not where you expected to be. 

Sometimes stories of national identity are dangerous.  They can be misused. They can be read as imparting favor.  And they can distract us from the bigger story.

Let’s remember some of the bigger story…
Early in Lent we remembered how Abram and Sarai received a promise that, “in you, all the families of earth shall be blessed.”

In recent weeks, Jesus met a Samaritan woman at the well and offered her abundant life. Springing forward and looking toward Pentecost, we know that the Holy Spirit rushed in on the wind and people of all languages understood one another.
The breath that enlivens us goes beyond national identity. The breath that enlivens us encompasses all of creation.

That is powerful right now. 

Have you looked at the COVID 19 map that Johns Hopkins maintains? It tracks confirmed cases all over the globe.  It is updated regularly.  You can look at how the red dots grow and spread out.  If you look closely, you can see how people move from place to place spreading that tiny virus as they go.

Looking at that map had depressed me at times. It is easy to be overwhelmed by how a tiny virus spreads. 

But also…I see that we really are not that distant, not that separated, not even that unique.  We are all human. We are one in our humanness.

And in our shared human condition we are both vulnerable and powerful.  How might we watch that virus map and imagine how goodness might be spread as well?

In this strange season of social distancing and global pandemic, I cling to the idea that the God who loves me and loves you also loves all of God’s creation. In all parts of the world.

It changes things when we remember this.

God weeps for those who have no clean water.
God weeps for those who do not have access to good health care.
God weeps for those who cannot find toilet paper or milk because someone has a closet full.
God weeps when we insist our agenda is more important than our neighbor’s health and safety.

My encouragement to all of us in these strange times is to see our work in line with Ezekiel’s.  To prophesy not just to the bones but also to call on the breath.  The very ruah…the breath of God that enlivens all of us in the same way.  To see the common thread that connects us, and to honor and praise it.  To do all in our power to offer life.  In fact to speak life into that which seems dead.

Right now that means staying home.
It means using the phone and the internet and the mail to share love and encouragement.
It means sharing from our privilege where we are able.
Maybe it means sending a check to a local non-profit that houses the homeless or feeds the hungry.
Maybe it means creating whatever beauty we can.
A poem.
A picture.
A flower arrangement.
A tasty meal.
Maybe it means quieting ourselves and making space for others to breathe.
To receive the breath.
And in doing these things, we share life.

May it be so.
Amen.


Breathe on me, breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
till I am wholly thine,
till all this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.


Sources: Working Preacher, Commentary on Ezekiel 37: 1 – 14 by Rolf Jacobsen, March 9, 2008, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=39

Breathe on Me, Breath of God, United Methodist Hymnal #420, words by Edwin Hatch (1878) and music by Robert Jackson (1888).
           

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Listen to Me: Commit (Or...what if you make time and space and desire to see differently?)



In case you haven’t figured me out yet, I tend to prefer to take the long view of scripture.  That is…no story stands completely on its own, and as we walk through life, if we’re working to really connect what scripture has to say to us in this time and place, we have to understand its broader context.

Since Epiphany, our gospel texts have shed light on how Jesus was a source of focus, refocus and redirection.  His voice is reinterpreting ancient understandings of who God is, how people relate to God and how people behave as a result of that relationship.

Sometimes, Christians read stories about Jesus as a correction of Judaism. Or a superior replacement to Judaism.  And I want us to be very careful about that. Such thinking can fuel anti-semitism. We can create false divisions if we are not careful.

As we continue to walk into Lent, a season when the scripture passages we read MIGHT draw us into an “us and them” blame game about who crucified Jesus, I want us to be aware of that trap.  And to seek good understanding.  And to repent of those places where perhaps we have been misguided in our reading over time.

And that work, that commitment is actually a great foundation for the ongoing work of understanding what Jesus is doing through his ministry. He’s shifting the lens and expanding the message…moving us a few feet in this direction or the other or adding a level of magnification in order to help us to see the world just a little bit differently.

Let us not forget that Jesus was Jewish.  He IS Jewish.  He did not come to replace the law. He comes to live the law.

Two weeks ago, we heard God’s voice as Jesus was transfigured before Peter, John and James on a mountain top.  This is my Son, the beloved.  Listen to him.

And that is where I am focusing preaching energy in this season.  In these passages through Lent, how is it that we are listening, deeply, for what Jesus is saying and how it speaks to us today?

With that as backdrop and foundation, let’s tackle today’s texts.

Our first text, from Genesis is foundational to the story of Abram and Sarai, who have not yet received their new names, Abraham and Sarah. God promises to bless this couple…and through them, to bless ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH.  All of them.

God’s promise to this family is a promise to all of creation.  You have been blessed to be a blessing.  Sometimes we forget the broad claim on this bloodline. And in doing so, we forget the broad reach.

In the text from John that we’ve just read, Nicodemus, a leader in the Jewish community, comes to Jesus by cover of night, on the surface to affirm Jesus for the signs and wonders he is performing. 

But I also assume he’s coming to kick the tires if you will…to gain a little insight. To see if this Jesus is really “all that…”  It seems like leading with an affirmation might actually be his way of pushing for some more proof. More things he can see, touch, experience.

And Jesus, who seems to be leaning into Nicodemus’s searching affirmation, shares with him the requirement for attaining the kingdom of God. You have to be born of again.

Nicodemus is aghast…you mean a fully grown adult has to return to their mother’s womb…that seems kind of impossible.

Jesus basically says…you are taking this too literally.

Do you hear that…YOU are not to take it all so literally.

Yep.  Not everything is what it seems. Sometimes we actually have to see differently. 

Nicodemus shows up wanting something he can touch.  He wants earthly proof.  He wants more miracles. 

But it is also possible that he wants to side-step what is hard about a more metaphorically reading.

I mean, how often do we want to feel like we are moving backward in life? Because that is what Jesus’s challenge includes – you might have to shed who you are and become someone new.

In this ancient culture, age and experience was a badge of honor and a mark of wisdom. It garnered respect.  In places where you were lucky to reach age 45, to be a fully mature adult really meant you’d achieved a place in the social order.

So even pushing Nicodemus past the literal understanding has the power to make him mightily uncomfortable. 

“If you don’t believe me when I tell you about earthy things, how can I expect you to understand when I tell you about things of the spirit…” ...when I tell you about things from above, from a higher conscience?

Jesus is letting Nicodemus know that there is so much more than his current perspective has understood. 

There is life and aliveness beyond what can be seen and touched.  Jesus is once again in his teaching reorienting those around him to SEE DIFFERENTLY. To EXPERIENCE something differently. To actually look more deeply.

And it the process, he’s making the call to discipleship even harder, more complicated, deeper.

What is born of the flesh is of the flesh. 

But how is it with our souls? Have we been born of Spirit?

So often we want to see something plain as day.  We want our bank accounts full. We want our fever to break.  We want some tangible proof that all is right with the world.  We want to rest on our worldly accomplishments. 

We want… I want to think that one more degree somehow makes me more. More smart, more capable, more leaderful, more lovable. One more book on my shelf will surely impart the exact knowledge I need for wholeness.

But what if it is SO MUCH more complicated than that. Or what if it is more elusive than that.

Or more internal than that. Or more spiritual than that. More eternal than that.

What if we have to be willing to give ourselves over to things that aren’t quite so clear and easily understood?  What if we have to let go of things that we think we know in order to SEE differently what God is doing in the world?

What if we have to give ourselves over to things we have to feel in our deepest places?

Are you willing to commit to something whose form is fuzzy? Something that doesn’t quite jive with all of your rational senses?

Are you ready to receive proof of God’s love for you in the depths of your being? When you do, how will you respond?

This past two weeks, a group of about 12 of us have been diving into a study of who we are as United Methodists.  And on that path, some discovered anew that part of what we believe and value as Methodists is that there is a lived experience of the Holy Spirit that shapes our understanding of God.

Now…maybe you think that sounds pretty charismatic.

Or maybe you’ve actually experienced your heart strangely warmed. Or a felt presence of God with you. Or a baptism of the Spirit. 

Maybe you have a very profound and specific experience of what Jesus and Nicodemus discuss – this idea of being born again.

Or maybe you don’t.

Or maybe you haven’t recognized it.  Maybe it is buried under rational thought. Or busy lives.  Or misunderstanding. Or doubt.

"Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

That is hard, complicated stuff.

We need to spend a moment tackling what comes next -- the text most cited at professional sporting events, on license plates, and tattoos.  Because that helps us tie back to our Genesis text, and perhaps gives us something to chew on as we ponder why we might need to move backward in our development in order to gain a richer understanding of what God is doing in the world. 

John 3:16 is deeply rooted in American Christianity.  I still have a VBS ear worm that lodges in my head in maddening ways…

“John 3:16 says that God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will never die but have eternal life.

He is the way,
he is the truth,
he is the light,
so put your faith in Jesus Christ
and your soul will never die….”

You get the idea, right.  And we have very many times STOPPED reading at verse 16…but verse 17 is so very important.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

God sent Jesus into the world not to condemn, but that the world might be saved.  Not my particular brand of Christianity.  Not my kind of people.  The world.

And that really points back to the promise made to Abram and Sarai. “In you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

I don’t know about your early Christian upbringing, but I’ve had to let go of some things to fully embrace and receive that promise.  And to look for redemption and salvation as God’s promise to humanity.

How many times have we heard John 3:16 used as a line drawn in the sand? A line that expects people to believe in a very specific way in order to be fully embraced and included in God’s kingdom?

I mean, for centuries churches have fueled missions that sought to “convert,” to “bring Jesus to the heathen.”  Rather than exploring alongside people to see where Jesus is already there.

Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

This isn’t a Sunday for tying up scripture with a tidy bow. And while I struggle with that today, I also think it is exactly what Jesus was pointing to with Nicodemus. It isn’t easy. It isn’t black and white. It’s not literal. 

Jesus, Why are you asking me to think again?
Do I really have to climb back into my mother’s womb to be born again?
No…but, you might have to unlearn and unbecome.
And unbecoming might be really hard.
We might have to forget some of what we thought we knew.
We might have to feel things.
We might have to listen, learn and seek anew.
We might have to really expect God to show up in tangible ways.
We might be surprised by what happens when God does.

May it be so.
Amen.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Listen to Him: Sin and Separation



The lectionary focuses each year on Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness on the first Sunday of Lent.

I suppose that reminds us that Jesus resisted temptations, and that we are seeking to do so too in these 40 days that prepare us for his death and resurrection. We might tend to see it as an example, or a level of solidarity with Jesus.

But I think sometimes when we look to Jesus as an example, we oversimplify who Jesus was and what Jesus did and how it relates to who we are and what we are capable of.

Today, I want to look at both the Genesis text and the Matthew text to help us perhaps understand sin a little more clearly. Maybe the purpose of understanding sin a little more clearly is that we spend less time trying to name it and point to it in others and so that we spend more time passionately pursuing the alternative.

We have been swimming around in Jesus’s sermon on the mount for a full month now, and what Jesus is doing, time and again, is shifting focus away from the tendency to seek righteousness – or law abiding-ness – that is something like a transaction where you are clearly right or clearly wrong and there is clear benefit and clear risk to your choice. 

I mean, wouldn’t it be best to have a list that outlines quite clearly – this is right. And this over here, this is wrong.

And in shifting away from something transactional, Jesus keeps pointing to a more complicated form of righteousness. Last week we had him expanding on the definitions of adultery and expanding on how sinful anger could be. 

There is something else at the root of determining righteous behavior.

There’s something about our orientation to understanding right and wrong that matters deeply in Jesus’s teaching.  I’m going to suggest over and over again that it has to do with the vital importance of orienting our lives toward a relationship to God and not to other things. 

Here in the season of Lent, we have a few weeks to “think on these things” and try to figure out how we might choose righteousness more.

Let’s begin by backing up to some details in the Genesis text that were not read today.  Prior to the creation of Adam’s partner, at Genesis 2:9, scripture says:  “Out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

There are two trees “in the midst” of the garden. 

When Eve and the serpent are discussing the finer points of what God has and has not said about what to eat, Eve describes the prohibition this way: 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'"

In Eve’s mind, in her worldview, the forbidden fruit is at the center. 

But that’s NOT exactly how it is described earlier.  Earlier, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil are both “in the midst of the garden.” 

This makes me wonder…. what do we put at the center of our attention?

What is at the center of our garden?

How many times have you tucked away a treat that you should not consume – a stash of chocolate, a slice of cheesecake, whatever – and then it is ALL you can think about?  And you keep finding yourself back in the fridge, or back to that drawer where you’ve stashed the goods?  Or sworn off social media or looking at your phone ONLY to look at it twice as often once it is forbidden? 

Let’s hold on to that for a moment and visit our gospel text.

In Matthew’s gospel, “the tempter” troubles Jesus’s spirit with specific temptations. 

The first, on the heels of 40 days of fasting, is the challenge to take care of Jesus’s own hunger by turning stone to bread.  Essentially, the tempter is inviting him to take care of himself rather than relying on God.  Essentially, if you can handle this yourself, why wouldn’t you?  Why would you wait on God’s help? 

But Jesus is firm.  There are things more important that this basic human need.  God’s got this.

The second temptation is for Jesus to cast himself off the pinnacle of the Temple…so that he can be saved by Angels. If you know God’s got this, why not just show me what God will do to save you?

And Jesus’s reply essentially is that with faith there is nothing to prove. God doesn’t need to be tested to be proven real and true. 

And finally, the tempter offers power – the opportunity to be in control of much, in exchange for shifted loyalty. If you worship me, he says, you will have all the power that you can imagine. 

And of course, Jesus responds with the first commandment – worship the Lord your God only.  Jesus rejects anyone being at the center of his world other than Godself.

So in response to temptation, Jesus focuses his “why,” turning again and again to a right relationship with God.

God is at the center of Jesus’s response. All three times.
Take care of yourself.
Prove to me that God is real.
All this can be yours if only you will turn to another source…

Lent can be a lot of things, but I’d like to suggest it is pretty simple.

Lent is a time to focus on putting God back at the center of our world. 

OK.

That’s actually NOT very simple. 

But I also don’t think it has to be so complicated.

Are we finding time to let God into our hearts?
Are we finding time to absorb an understanding of how we are made in God’s image?
Are we finding ways to appreciate that those around us are also made in God’s image?

For me, in this season, the added practice is a simple one.  A daily meditation on the way God loves and the way I am called to love in light of that.

Sounds simple, until each day I’m supposed to imagine someone in front of me….lovingly sharing God’s love light with them. The instruction was to start with someone it is “easy to love.” I was sharing with Matt on Ash Wednesday the beautiful simplicity of the meditation…and that I had chosen to focus on him as someone easy to love in my first effort.

…and then I pointed out that there was a good chance that he would also be someone I focused on later as someone who challenged my ability to respond with love.

Because that is life.  A shifting set of challenges.  Day by day. Hour by hour. 

This morning, we gather at the table that God sets for a meal rooted in ancient practice.  We gather to quite literally become one with God in a moment so that we can go out and offer God to those around us.

Sharing the elements, turning our focus toward God and living into that over these 40 days has the potential to be a singularly focused, miraculous act, concretely placing God at the center of our nourishment…or lifesource…our decision-making…our shared live…our community.

Practice is just that – we aren’t perfectly skilled and so we have to try and try again.  Repeat the motions.  Over and over.  Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery. 

40 days gives us a good start.  A practice of turning toward a relationship with God. Walking away from Sin.

May it be so.
Amen.

Sources: Working Preacher Sermon Brainwave Podcast #709, https://www.workingpreacher.org/brainwave.aspx)

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Reflections on Ash Wednesday - The Masks We Wear

  • Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 
  •  

  • Psalm 51:1-17  


  • Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21


  • Do you know the origins of the word “hypocrite?”

    The word came to English usage from the Greek hypokrites, which meant an actor or stage performer.  The literal translation from roots is something like “an interpreter from underneath.”

    Which makes sense when we add historical context. Because in the first century BCE, Greek actors wore large masks and spoke from beneath those masks.

    Stop and think about that…think about how much emoting you have to do with just your voice and body if your face is covered…Think of how much you have to interpret from beneath the layers to get your point across.

    THIS is what Jesus was talking about.  Not so much the specific definition of the word we use today.

    But think about it…
    We wear a lot of masks too..l

    Maybe it is our perfect parent mask.  Or our footloose successful retiree mask. Or our serious professional mask.  Or our “I have it all together all the time” mask. Or our good Christian mask.
    And yet…
    And yet…

    Here in the gospel text from Matthew, Jesus encourages us to be without our masks.  To practice our devotion in ways that it is truly between us and God.

    Some days I don’t know what that might look like.
    Some days I know full well that it has to do with me not having to tell anyone why I have set off into the woods.  Not having to excuse a day spent in my overstuffed easy chair with prayer beads and candles.

    But see…I just told you, right?

    I just put on my mask to let you know that I do in fact have practices.
    (Sigh)

    Lent is a season for us to figure some things out.

    Maybe to figure out new ways to be connected to God.

    Maybe to figure out new ways to talk to and hear from God.

    Maybe to figure out how to climb out from whatever mask we’re wearing, guilt, shame, pride, to be able to express ourselves more freely, more plainly, to be fully present and known by the God who loves us so…and by those who reflect God’s love around us.

    Tonight we step into 40 days that invite us to take the masks off. Day after day, maybe multiple times a day. Maybe with each new interaction. 

    We step into 40 days to ask the check-in question. Do I have a mask on?

    Why?

    What does it look like to take it off right now?

    What would it mean to let God and the person across from me experience the real me, just as I have been created, beloved of God…but broken? Real…

    My prayer for each of us in these next 40 days is the pursuit of God…

    Without our masks, without seeking to please ourselves or someone else.

    Just seeking…remembering that where our treasure is – where our priorities are – there will also be our heart.

    For 40 days, may our hearts seek God’s love first.

    May it be so.
    Amen.

    Source: Working Preacher Sermon Brainwave Podcast #709