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Faithful and Angry

i supplied, today, way out south at a suburban Kansas City parish.

I decided to preach on Ferguson anyway, because to my mind, to proclaim belief in the Incarnation, yet not address suffering or injustice, when it is in front of us, just does not make sense.

For the most part, it went over well.  A few parishioners at the early service commented that “It was a very relevant sermon.”

But in the later service, I was surprised to hear a few spontaneous ‘Amen!’s from the congregation.  Episcopalians (especially in the Midwest) don’t do that.

And afterwards, a woman approached me.  She commented that she’d been bothered all week by events in Ferguson, and that she’d written off Michael Brown as ‘a thug’, especially after the robbery video.***

She added, “But your sermon has made me think.  And no one deserves to die like that.  No matter what.  No one deserves that.”

High five, Holy Spirit.  You win again.

***I made a lot of “Mmmm!” sounds.  Jesus intervened and kept my face unemotional, and prevented the “OhmyGod,Iamgoingtopunchsomethingrightthisveryminute” expression that I felt was about to appear.

Here’s what I said.

August 17, 2014

Ordinary Time, Proper 15

Matthew 15: 21-28

I’m going to say what is probably obvious right now—it has not been a good week for Missouri.

It has not been a real good month for people of faith overall who believe in justice, and peace, and loving one another, as we’ve watching war again spread its fingers across the Middle East, and disease spread across Africa, and fighting march into Russia and the Ukraine.

And now, this week.  We have all watched in horror as the violence we’re now used to seeing on our TV screens, came near to us, just across the state.  Michael Brown, under circumstances that are still not very clear, was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson a week ago.  What we do know from witnesses is that his hands were up, in a sign of surrender.  We know he was far away, he was running.  And we know it was tragic.

And what we have seen since is protests, every night, on the street, and tear gas, and tanks filled with decked-out cops on city streets that look a lot like ours.  We have seen curfews and states of emergency. The sort of thing you’d never think to see in America, in a quiet little midwestern town, yet here we are.


It’s the world gone mad.  It’s scary and it’s shocking, and it’s heartbreaking and it’s overwhelming. It’s enough to make you swear off the news, grab your kids, and hide under your bed, and vow to not come out until humanity learns to do better.

But that’s not an option. It’s not an option for adults, and it’s certainly not an option for Christians.

So what do we do, as people of faith?  What are we called to do as Jesus’ people when the world seems so off-kilter and the light is so hard to find? 

We do what we always have done when times like this occur.  We gather, and we pray, just like we’re doing today.  At the behest of our Presiding Bishop, today especially, Episcopalians around the world are praying for our sisters and brothers in Iraq who are facing an uncertain future.

And we turn to the Scripture to listen for how the people of God have faced these struggles before.  What did they do?  How did God lead them through?  In the Bible, where does God show up when everything is going sideways?

Like in the gospel, in this strange little interlude Jesus has with the woman. 

Jesus has been preaching and teaching for a while now, he’s just admonished the religious leaders.

And then he meets the Syro-Phonecian woman.   She’s not given a name, for starters, in the gospel, which means either one of two things:  either she’s so well known to Matthew’s community that he’s writing to or the writer of Matthew doesn’t think she rates a name. 

Anyway, she shows up, and she sort of accosts Jesus, to the great annoyance of the disciples, who were not great fans of hers.  (Leading me to suspect that the reason she doesn’t get a name is that the author of Matthew doesn’t like her either.)

They don’t like her because she keeps yelling at them to heal her daughter already!  Give her justice!  Help her!

And also, this pesky problem that she’s Syro-Phonecian.  Which means she’s the wrong ethnicity to be pestering the nice, upstanding Jewish disciples.  She comes from across the tracks.  [She comes from across the hafrada wall.  She comes from across the county/city line.] 

And Jesus?  Jesus does this strange thing..  He tells her that he’s only here for the lost sheep of Israel, but she still doesn’t give up, so he tells her that it’s not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

Now, that’s not ok.  Scholars do all sorts of things to explain why this isn’t really as bad as it sounds.  Jesus was really talking to the disciples!  Jesus was acting out of character in hopes of being stopped and condemned by the disciples!  He was using her as an example!

Any of these could be true, although I think they’re a bit of a stretch.  And what we’re left with is a situation in which Jesus is calling a poor, hurting, marginalized woman a dog to explain why he won’t help her.


But then something happens.  Rather than take the good rabbi at his word, she gets snarky, and snaps back that even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table.

She gets mad.  She gets angry. 

And instead of being offended, or getting defensive, or striking her down where she stands, Jesus applauds her.  Woman, great is your faith.  Your daughter is healed.

She gets mad.  She gets angry.

We should note here that calling someone a dog is a pretty universal slur.  And at the time, it was also specific.  It was what you called foreigners, and specifically foreign women.  This woman had been called a dog all her life.  She knew what that was, only this time, she wasn’t going to accept that.

Because somewhere in her, she had faith. 

Somewhere in her, she had a deep, unshakeable faith that she was not, in fact, a dog, that she was not all those bad things people called her, that she was not the sum of their unjust treatment of her, that she was worthy, and she was loved, somehow, in spite of all that.

Somewhere in her, she held on, with both hands, to that faith that God loved her, that she was valuable, and that the world could and should be different.    

And her relentless, unshakable faith made her angry.  And her angry faith caught Jesus’ attention, her furious insistence that THIS HAD TO CHANGE got healing for her daughter. 

Beloved in Christ, there are times we need to be angry.  There are things in this world that should make us mad, should make us furious, should absolutely put fire in our blood.  Now, I know, this is the Midwest, we don’t do angry real well, but sometimes, anger is what’s called for.

We should be angry when peaceful protesters are teargassed. We should be angry when they’re shot at.  We should be angry when there’s so little accountability for those who wield so much power.

And most of all, we should be angry when children are being killed.  Black children, white children, Arab children, Iraqi children, the refugee children at our borders, anyone’s children at risk should fill us with that faithful anger.

Because we know, as people of faith, that all people everywhere are children of God.  And to harm anyone, anywhere, whether its on a mountaintop in Iraq, a beach in Gaza, or the streets of Ferguson is to harm the very image of God. 

And we insist, we know that is wrong.  and that God wants the world to be different.  God created this world in goodness, and God created us to be different.  God created us to be better, more loving, more caring, and until we live into that—we aren’t done yet.

So, let us take all this heartbreak, this faithful fury of the past week, and may it propel us to build a more just where we are.  One that better reflects the truth that we know. One that reflects the image of God everywhere we look, and protects every. Single. child of God. 

Amen.

Episcopal Haiku!

It’s been a very relaxing summer.  I’ve watched the World Cup all around the city. I’ve not had to be at work at 7am in the morning (the main perk of summer.)

And I’ve finally understood why Midwesterners go ON and  ON about patios.  When it’s blasted cold 6 months out of the year, you get unreasonably excited when you can finally venture outside, even if you’re just sitting on a slab of concrete, to sip a beer.

To celebrate the waning days of summer, then, Acts 8 Moment is holding another BLOGFORCE! event, wherein we’re soliciting haikus about church.

Here’s mine:

Regarding church, I
Still like Jesus (who cooked fish)
much as I love Christ
To read everyone else’s haiku (s?)  go to acts8moment.org and/or!  participate in our Tweetchat on Monday evening, August 11, 9pm/8pm ET/Central.

Contra Gnostics

I haven’t published my sermons in a while (long while), mainly because I’ve been forgetting.
But I’m on vacation at the moment, so here’s the sermon from Sunday.

I should pause to note that summer is MUCH calmer than the school year, at St. Paul’s. I’ve been spending my time working to get things planned in advance for the coming year.

And watching the World Cup, which, if you follow me on Twitter, you already know. And for which I apologize. I’ve been tweeting about soccer A LOT.

(I’m probably going to add to it–I’m working on a post about the theological implications of soccer.)

Until then, however, here’s what I said on Sunday. I went old school, and preached against Gnosticism, using Paul’s letters. It’s possible I’ve been taken over by a pod person.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan
July 12-13, 2014
Ordinary Time, Proper 10
Romans 8:1-11

Sit back, everyone. It’s raining and it’s my birthday, so I’m going to explain some heresy.

So there was, around about the time the gospels were written, a theology that arose in the still-forming Christian community that went like this. In the beginning, there was God—perfect, all powerful, and all knowing. But then, God created lots of lower sorts of gods, which were not as perfect, because they were a step or two removed from God’s perfection. One of these lower gods created this whole material world—everything we hear, touch, taste and smell, and these mortal bodies we live in.

Us being confused humans, we couldn’t figure out the difference between the lower god who created our world, and the God of perfection. That’s where Jesus came in. Jesus came and gave us the secret knowledge—the gnosis!— that we were really descended from the one true God, and not the lower god like we thought, and who had imprisoned us in this world of material suffering. And through this revelation, we could escape this material world, and rejoin the true God. Hooray.

This is Gnosticism, in a really small and brief nutshell—though, granted, there were lots of variations on this theme. And once the Christian community got itself a bit organized, at the first ecumenical council, everyone took a vote, and decided that definitely, Gnosticism was heresy. Way back in the 4th century. So that was that.

But here is the funny thing about heresies—old heresies never die; they just reappear like zombies.

And, If you’ve been following the debates over women bishops in the Church of England, then you know that the donatist heresy—this idea that if you disagree with the person who administers the sacrament, then the sacrament itself is invalid– is alive and well, despite supposedly being settled in the 6th century.

These zombie ideas come back, in different guises, and so does this Gnostic one. Because parts of this sound familiar, right? Some of the language is still how we speak.

(And here’s the other bit with heresies—heresy, like orthodoxy, is a way of marking boundaries of a playing field. Basically, it’s an indication that you’ve taken a fine idea, and gone too far in one direction with it.)

But this is our language–There’s your soul, and there’s the rest of you. There’s your everlasting soul, that bit of God within you, and then there’s the icky stuff, which breaks down and decays and really can’t be trusted. (And I’m oversimplifying, but bear with me.)
Material world = bad. Spirit world= good.
It’s pretty black and white.

And here it is in Paul’s letter to the Romans:
The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, he says, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Through this whole passage, it sounds a whole lot like Paul would really like nothing more than to consign his mortal body to the depths.

But then, there’s that last line. That pesky last line. In our mortal bodies, will we be resurrected.
Oh, yes, Paul’s not Greek. Paul, for his many failings when it comes to understandable grammar, decipherable sentence structure, and coherent theology, doesn’t trade in dualisms.

Paul isn’t angry with matter. For Paul, talking about ‘flesh’ isn’t a condemnation, it’s just a description of the material world. He’s describing creation as it is, in its pre-resurrected state. God hasn’t abandoned it—God’s just not done with it yet.
The ‘flesh’ as Paul sees it, isn’t inherently evil; it is just wrapped up in human rebellion and our fallibility and our propensity to wreck creation and to use it selfishly.

And for this reason, God comes to us in our very flesh. In our very materiality.
God saves us/resurrects us in our very flesh. Because our mortalness, our sin, our brokenness still needs help, the flesh needs help.  And that’s what we get through Christ.  

The idea is that Christ has come in the flesh, to root out and destroy the sin that lives there (it’s taken on therefore redeemed) and so we face no more condemnation, even though we remain conscious that we fall short of where we should be.  

And so what Paul is actually describing here isn’t the gnostic dualism scheme at all. He’s not sorting the universe into matter=bad! spirit=good!.

Instead, he sees all of it as intensely valuable, all creation as inescapably precious. So precious that God comes into this material world–this broken fleshly material world–to save it, save every part of it. To make it whole.

See, the problem with Gnosticism, and zombie Gnosticism, when it shows up in our day, is not that some council voted it down in the 4th century, put a stamp on it that declared it heretical, and that was that.

The problem with Gnosticism is that it’s a tricky thing to start to carve up creation like that. It’s a tricky thing, because it can lead to some dangerous places.

If the material world is bad. And God just want to get us to be spiritually free so we can get into heaven when we die, maybe climate change isn’t Such a big deal after all.
And the 152 Palestinians*** who have died in the bombing of Gaza over the last two days, that’s sad–but irrelevant.
the Gnostic gospel has nothing to say about that. No challenge to make. That’s the material world. The gnostic gospel doesn’t concern itself.

But our gospel argues differently. Our gospel talks about this world. It talks about the hungry being fed, the homeless finding houses, refugees finding a welcome. Our gospel insists that Christ came into this world because the suffering and the joys of this world–everything that we face here and now were important–that it mattered to God. That God came into this world of flesh to redeem our struggles and hopes and to take them on personally–not to give us an escape hatch. It matters to God, so it matters to us.

Matter, as it turns out. Matters.

Amen.

***NB: This is what my manuscript said, and it was correct as of Saturday night. However, I checked Sunday morning, and the death toll in Gaza had increased prior to the 8am Service to 158, then 162 before 10:30.

I’m so sorry for your loss, Emily Dickinson

Aka, Hope is a thing with feathers, but this one seems to have passed on

One April, a few years ago, I was a calm, collected college chaplain, and I was shepherding my college students to a conference in Davis, California.  

This didn’t go according to plan.  

Despite leaving plenty early for our flight out of Phoenix, our caravan got caught in an epic traffic jam in the Arizona desert.  (Long story short, there was an accident involving live cows on the highway, and it had to be closed for over 18 hours.) 

We missed our flight.  We missed it by a couple of hours. 

 After an energetic game of Whose Phone will Work In A Canyon?, the lady at US Air first informed me that she could get us on the next flight for the tidy sum of $7,500– change fees plus the increase in ticket price.  (The Spirit intervened, and that call dropped.)   
The next lady I spoke to was quiet for a moment, and said, “I’m not telling you this, you know.  But if you just didn’t show up for your flight, they’d have to put you on the next one for free.  But I can’t tell you that.” Click. 
  We finally arrived at the airport in time for the second flight to Davis, and I talked our way onto the plane–turns out that second lady I never spoke to was correct!– and made it to California.  

So the time we arrived at the hotel that night at around 11:30pm, I was a bundle of nerves.  I hadn’t really eaten, I was exhausted, and all I wanted was to sit down, eat a sandwich, drink a glass of wine, and cry.  

No sooner had I released the students, and sat down in the hotel bar with the other chaplains, then I felt someone looking at me.  I looked up, and sure enough, there stood my students, all in a row, staring at me, unblinking.  “Y’all look like cats, waiting to be fed,” I said. “What’s up?” 

It came out all at once. “Megan, there’s this bird….” “Megan, we found this bird, he’s dead” “His name is Davy.” “He died, and it was horrible and can you do a funeral?” “Can you do a funeral for a bird?” “Can you do a funeral for Davy?” 

To be entirely honest, this was not a thrilling prospect for me at that particular moment.  I did not want to go back out at midnight, in the cold, in the dark, in the wet, to find and bury a dead bird.  And yet, the words I heard coming out of my mouth were “Sure, ok, let me go get my stole.” 

So off we went, off into the night.  We found Davy, and the students told me what had happened. He had gotten attacked and killed by a bigger bird (in front of the students) and thus had met his end.  So knowing this, one of the other chaplains and I improvised some prayers: giving thanks for Davy’s life, and for all the creatures of God, who rest in God’s love and show forth endless creativity of creation.  The birds of the air and the lilies of the field, and even, though I am loathe to admit it, the cows.  

The funeral of Davy the Bird was a Spirit-filled moment for me.  In that mysterious way ritual has, prayering together spoke louder into everyone’s collective exhaustion and fear than anything else could have.  I was lucky to have buried Davy.  In a perfect way, that was precisely what I needed to be doing just then.  It was what we all needed, and the Spirit knew it.  

Rest in peace, Davy.


This post is a participating post in the Acts8 BLOGFORCE on "When have you felt the Holy Spirit in the Episcopal Church?"

Other BLOGFORCE member posts on this topic (Link active on the Friday following this post)

The Acts8 Moment is a missionary society whose purpose is to "Proclaim resurrection in the Episcopal Church."

Timing

This past Palm Sunday, I preached the sermon below.  It wasn’t based on anything, really, in particular–just  my distaste of most atonement theories, reading Susannah Heschel, listening to Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, and talking on Twitter about the annual rise in casual anti-Semitic preaching due to Holy Week.

And then, after church,  in a break from routine, a group of young adults from St. Paul’s and I decided that we’d like to try this great Mexican place for brunch, so let’s brave the suburbs, and head to Overland Park.

So we sat there, eating tacos, and talking, and the food was fantastic.  We tried to convince the waitress that they really needed to open a branch closer to the heart of town.

I swung by Target, and as I stood in line to check out, I pulled out my phone, and checked Twitter out of habit.

Only to discover that half an hour earlier, a man had opened fire in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, then driven a few blocks to the Village Shalom retirement community, and opened fire there, before being caught by police.  Three people were dead.  He shouted Nazi slogans as he was loaded into the police car.

I drove home, mind racing.  Parishioners, faculty, staff, students at St. Paul’s–fortunately all were safe, but the Kansas City community is a close-knit one.  Everyone knows someone who knows someone.

It’s hard to say anything profound about hate crimes.  What can you say about hatred so blind and all-consuming that it would lead you to shoot into a crowd of people?

Just this:  hate, hate isn’t insanity.  It’s a sickness, but it’s different.  And so, to stop this from happening again, we can’t just pass this guy off as one bad actor.

We have to take seriously our role as leaders in how what we say and preach is taken.  Words have power.  How we tell stories have power.  We need to use our power for love.

Oh, and here’s that sermon.

April 13, 2014
Palm Sunday, Year A
Matthew 26:14-27:66

Palm Sunday is a day on which we tell a story.

A true story, and an old story.

This is an old, and this is a familiar story.

There’s the friend who gets disillusioned, panicks and goes to the powerful to save
himself. There’s the trial, for show. There are the buzzword accusations that are so
vague as to be meaningless.

There’s the mob that cries for vengeance, the politicians who insist there’s only one way
to restore security to society, the powerful who can’t see anything beyond the risk to their
own status.

All of it adding up to the death of Jesus, murdered publicly and shamefully on a cross.
In that time and place, crucifixion wasn’t unique and it wasn’t special. It was how the
Roman government dealt with political criminals—people it wanted to make an example
of. If you dared threaten the power and control of the empire, then you were hung on a
cross, along with your entire family, as a warning to anyone else who would think of
rising against the might of Rome.

And so, in our story, it happened to Jesus. Jesus, who threatened the Roman Empire quite
a lot, actually, what with his becoming popular, drawing a crowd, and claiming titles
reserved for Caesar Augustus like “Son of God”, and messing with the temple hierarchy
which supported Rome financially with their taxes. Oh yes, Jesus bothered Rome quite a
bit.

Pilate’s nonchalance is a bit of an act here. This guy was known in his time for
ordering the most crucifixions of any other Roman governor to date. He was notorious,
he wasn’t known for being nice, and his sole job was to preserve the security of the
empire. So while the The Temple authorities didn’t like Jesus, but you can bet Rome and
Pilate hated him too.

Really, the surprise is not that he died, not that he was killed, but that he lasted as long as
he did.

And that’s the way this story goes, this familiar story.

And it’s not just familiar, Not just because we hear it every year,

but because we see it repeated all the time. All.

The. Time.  We see it repeated all around us.
We see it all the time, the dynamic that reveals itself here.

The powerful are threatened,
the power structure is threatened, society starts to feel insecure, and so to save itself,
society searches for a scapegoat, and convinces itself that all of its problems, all its
insecurity must stem from this! Let’s blame this person, let’s blame this group of people.
All of this must be their fault, because we, of course, are blameless! And so, the
scapegoat must die. One man must die for the people.

We see this everywhere.
In the pages of history books. We see it in the images of genocides throughout history.
From our own past, we see it reflected in the faces of those who were lynched in this
country.

We see it today, as leaders casually attribute all sorts of problems we face to different
minorities without blinking an eye. Remember, famously, Jerry Falwell claiming that
9/11 had been caused by the confluence of gay rights, feminists, and the availability of
abortion. And whichever politician it was, I forget now, who blamed one of the school
shootings on single mothers.

We see it all the time, all around us.

This is a familiar story.

But what God does with this story, on Palm Sunday is not familiar, because what God
does with this story is enter into it in a new way. God flips it, God changes it.

In the person of Jesus, God enters into this familiar narrative, and God tells us to stop.

God tells us that this way of coping with the world does not work. We can scapegoat all
we want, we can kill each other all we want–that won’t solve the problems of this world.
The only thing that will is everything that Jesus spent his life teaching– living a life of
justice and peace, and building the world to reflect that. In the person of Jesus, God enters this story, to get us to stop once and for all. But not as
the powerful, not as the one in charge, but as the one who is cast out, as the one who
suffers, and dies.

And yet, God raises him up. Because God’s love is not defeated by our injustice. God’s
love is not defeated by our violence, or our blindness, or our need to blame someone.

God’s love for us is not defeated by anything. Not by our sin, not even by death.

So remember that, as we enter the darkness of this coming week. Remember that, when
you contemplate the violence of this world, We have a God who experienced this all for
love of us.

And that divine love triumphs in the end.
Amen.

Hope in a handful of ashes

Just as I returned from my SCCC meeting in Baltimore, I fell prey to a lingering sinus infection.

Every teacher at the school had warned me that the first year around small children is a recipe for ongoing illness, but I thought I had been doing pretty well, between Airborne, Zicam, and preemptively spraying down the toddlers with Purell.  But the adorable little germ machines outwitted me.

Services were cancelled here on Sunday, due to what we all thought was an impending Snowpocalyptic-type event., which helped somewhat, but when I couldn’t get out of bed on Monday, I figured this was a sign to give in, and go see a doctor.

Which meant that the day prior to Ash Wednesday saw me home sick, on antibiotics, trying to write a coherent sermon.

I think most Episcopal clergy enjoy Ash Wednesday, as I do.  Both for visceral reasons (I get to play with dirt!) and more profound reasons (It’s about death!)  Though, it’s somewhat discordant tonally to stand in the pulpit and exult that “THIS IS THE COOLEST LITURGY EVER!!” while jumping up and down.

It is supposed to be a fairly somber occasion, after all.  Memento mori, and all that.

Here’s what I ended up saying.

Ash Wednesday 2014

I had to take the GREs to go to seminary. Multiple choice math and verbal sections went  fine.  I filled in my little Scantron bubbles with gusto.  Then I got to the essay section.
The essay question had to do with whether the proliferation of multiple sources of news online had
been a positive or negative in our society. I thought about it, then wrote a lengthy essay saying that the
decentralization of authority in the postmodern era was a nuanced issue that had many effects,
including polarization, and greater access to information and possibly even an increase in democratization around the globe, but you really couldn’t say if these were net positives or negatives, because really, it had been a little of both. (Please forgive me, I was in undergrad at the time.)

I failed that section.

When I got the essay back, the reader had written that my assignment had been to pick yes or no and give reasons–not to deal with nuance.

Luckily, seminary is pretty forgiving on GRE scores, and it didn’t much matter.

But it would appear we like things to have answers. Shiny, bright, filled in answers. The same
impulse that leads us to do that thing I always do, and to flip to the end of mystery books.
We need this resolved.

It is an illusion of the modern world that everything can be fixed, everything can have one
perfect answer, that every problem has a solution. If we just try hard enough, if we just work
long enough, we can fix any problem, solve any mystery. As that Cadillac commercial that is on
right now suggests, this is America, and if we work through enough vacations, then we can
achieve anything! Even a shiny new Cadillac.
And yet, despite this relentless cheeriness, the world keeps on presenting us with intractable
problems that don’t go away.
The illnesses that don’t get better.
The poverty that doesn’t let up.
The inbred hatreds that fester and emerge, and never seem to die out completely.
Relationships that never seem to get better.
And behind all of these, that one problem we never can solve or escape—the reality that no
matter what we do, we’re all going to die (just like Olympia Dukakis pronounces so finally in
Moonstruck)
No matter what, we come back to mortality, to ashes.
No matter who we are, no matter how many problems we can solve, or how many answers we
know, there’s one that still confronts us all, Cadillacs or not.

Lent presents to us no answers at all. Lent actually does something very different. It offers us
the graphic, physical reminder on this day that we are not required to have the answers, all the
solutions, starting with the One Great Unfixable Human Problem that is Mortality,
and Lent offers us the space to offer to God all those things that press on us that we cannot fix
at all.
Lent lets us name those things, all those places where we struggle and we fall short, and we
don’t know what to do, and Lent lets us declare them Unsolvable, and Lent allows us the grace
to offer them to God.
Because this is the season of grace. This is the season where we can sit with these intractable
problems that the world shies away from, that the world declares hopeless, and we can offer
them wholeheartedly to God .

We can take these wounded places in our lives, in the world, and turn them over to God, and let
God live there with us in them. We can take them, not as signs of failures, but as marks of
hope.

Because we know that God can bring new life even out of the worst of our mistakes, and our
dead ends. God can bring resurrection from the worst of these un fixable problems. And on
Easter, God comes into our very ashes, and brings resurrection and hope.

So this Lent, consider these ashy places in your life.  Consider those problems you can’t fix, the
questions without answers, and ask God to come dwell there with you.
And then wait together for what Easter may bring.

Amen.

 

PS:  One more thing:  It was suggested to me by wise people (::cough:: Meredith Gould ::cough::) that putting out a podcast of my sermons would be a valuable addition to this here blog.  What do you think?  I’m considering taking that on as my “Megan tries something new” Lenten discipline.  Do you listen to sermon podcasts?

Sitting on the floor of the airport

Several of my Acts 8 compatriots have written about the Church and what that means in the past few days, so I thought I’d throw in my two cents.

At present, I am sitting on the floor of the Cleveland airport.

This is not a euphemism for anything. My flight back to Kansas City is delayed and the shoeshine stand guy won’t let me sit in in his empty booth and I need to charge up my iDevice, and so, here I sit, on the floor, underneath the laptop work station, returning from a meeting where I rewrote the disciplinary canons of the Episcopal Church.

So, naturally, my thoughts turn to the status of the Body of Christ in a post-Christendom age. (I imagine this happens to all of us when our flights get delayed, right?)

And in this sense, writing this from the airport floor seems like a rather good posture.
(NOW it’s a metaphor.)

At one point, the Episcopal Church rated shoeshines, and seats at the bar, and free drinks in the first class lounge. And probably, at one point in our living memory, we can even remember when we had plentiful chairs to sit in.

Those were heady days.

But we aren’t there anymore. Right now, there’s a feeling in the church that we are firmly planted on the airport floor. With lots of closing churches, a rapidly aging population, and none of the social caché we used to command.

None of that feels great. The floor is not a fun place to be if you’re used to sitting in a comfy chair at a plush bar.

But here’s the interesting thing:

For all of our nostalgia about the good old days, as I look around this airport–
—there’s no one at the shoe shine stand
—there’s no one in the lounge

During this delay, everyone has ended down here on the floor with me, charging their devices. Or clustered around wall outlets, with their phones plugged in.

We may long for the olden days, but that’s not where anyone else is. Even if we could go back, there’s no ministry to be done there.

So while we’re down here, what if we stopped longing after the things that aren’t coming back, and started figuring out what we can do with where we are?

What if we gave up on our safe places where we had become comfortable, and moved out to where we saw the greatest need?
What if we started doing ministry, not just where we thought we could make lots of Episcopalians, but in any place where people needed food, clothing, justice, empowerment and encouragement?

What if we put ourselves out there, to spread tangible signs of the reign of God (all of us–everyone who got sprinkled at baptism) and went out to be salt, light, yeast in the world–little oases in the desert where people can experience Christ?

What if we saw our job as the church as to get down on the floor with people, so we could be where the Spirit is, instead of up where the privilege is?

Becoming a missionary society church will require many things, but mostly, it will require us to embrace where we are.

The new world down here on the floor.


This post is a participating post in the Acts8 BLOGFORCE on “What does it mean to be a 21st century Missionary Society?”

Other BLOGFORCE member posts on this topic

The Acts8 Moment is a missionary society whose purpose is to “Proclaim resurrection in the Episcopal Church.”

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