Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sermon Mark 1

Sermon Mark 1:1-8

Today we have our favorite Wildman emerging from the dessert proclaiming the coming of Christ and offering baptism for the forgiveness of sins. According to the new world encyclopedia;

“John was a Nazirite/Nazarite from his birth (Luke 1:15)—refraining from wine and other strong drink—and the synoptics agree that he spent his early years in the mountainous tract of Judea, in the wilderness between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea (Matt. 3:1-12). The Gospels add that he led a simple life, clothed only with camel's hair and a leather girdle around his loins, and eating little more than just locusts and wild honey (Matt. 3:4). The early church fathers John Chrysostom (347-407 C.E.) and Saint Jerome (c. 347-120 C.E.) believed that John had been brought up from his infancy in this manner, as Matthew 11:18 describes.” [1]

The leather strap was practical and basically saying he was dressed for hard labor and or work of some kind. The image at the start was of how to gird your loins in case you ever find the need. This says to me that there is work to be done and it is not light or easy.

I think what cries out to me today in this voice crying out in the desert. Saying “prepare the way” or “Make ready the way” or even more relevant “clear a straight path.” Make yourself easy access for the Lord who is to come into your life. Do not set up obstacles. Do not make the road turn sharply and unexpected, keep your path free of stones and rubble that may make it difficult to traverse. This season is a gentle reminder of why we choose to live a Christian life and how we are to go about doing it every day not just for the holiday season.

John is an interesting character and one who is spoken off fondly. Fred Craddock, a teacher and preacher of the utmost magnitude. , he was actually named by Newsweek as one of America’s top preachers, is a Bandy Distinguished Professor of Preaching and new testament Emeritus at Candler School of Theology. He has written several books including Preaching which was a textbook in my homiletics class. This is what he says about this John;

There was something persuasive about him. Persuasive I think in his character; the rough grain of his character shown through clearly. And being in his presence made a radical difference. Luke says that huge crowds came and asked John. “Well, what are we to do in the view of the coming of God’s Christ?” and he said, “If you have two of anything, share one with

Someone who is poorer than you are. If you have two coats, you don’t need two coats. Give one of them to a person who is Cold and poor.”

Soldiers came, Roman soldiers came to hear him preach and at the end of his sermons, the soldiers gathered around and said, “Well, what are we to do?” And john said, “Don’t be violent. Don’t intimidate citizens. Don’t throw your weight around to subsidize your salary; be content with your wages.”

Tax Collectors came, surprising a lot of people. They lingered when the crowd began to move away and they asked John, “What are we to do?” And he said, “Do not collect any more tax than is your due. Don’t add on anything; keep yourself free of graft and corruption.” John talked to them real straight and apparently they wanted to hear it because they kept coming. [2]

Of course this is only part of a full length sermon on John but I believe Fred’s point is clear. Johns preaching and teaching were dangerous. He is asking people to prepare themselves inside and out for who is about to come. Get ready, do not cheat your neighbor; do not bully a friend nor a stranger. Do your job and do it well but, do it honestly and do not seek to raise yourself up by immoral means. Get ready for something is coming, someone is coming great than I. “One whom I am not worthy to stoop down and untie his sandals.” Here John is stating that though he is a voice of God calling out, next to Christ, he is less than a slave for it is the slave’s job to untie the masters’ shoes.

But I wonder what voices are crying out today as the voice of John. Where are the cries to make our path less cluttered and easy to travel so that when the Christ comes we are easy to find? Might it be the voice of the ecumenical aids association who applauds a new agreement that will allow access to generic formulations of LPV/r in countries accounting for 98.9% of children living with HIV?

Maybe it is the voices of the Immigrant worker or their children who have lived in this country for years in fear of deportation taking jobs that pay less than minimum, accepting less than standard living situations in just the hope they may become American citizens.

I wonder if it is the voice of the democratic movement in Hong Kong who fear Chinas communist regime and the loss of freedom that they have known all their lives.

It may be the voice of children right here in our neighborhood who the only Christmas they may know is the one being thrown by the North Hollywood recreations center. It may be those at triangle square who have no family and the only gift and acknowledgement they will receive for the Holidays is a scarf made by one of our hookers. (It is always good when we mention Hookers in a sermon).

The voice in the desert is the voice of those living at Las Memorias who can’t go home because of stigmatization and fear. The voice calling out is the voice of the marginalized, the hungry, the disabled, and the lonely.

If one just takes the time to listen one can still hear that voice crying out …crying out see I have sent you a messenger and it is right here. Right now! This is the voice of many crying out asking us to feed the hungry, visit the lonely, and to seek justice alongside those who are seeking it for themselves.

Yes we often hear this message as a personal one but it is also a global message. The messages of the voice crying out has been coming down through the years. Every day, every generation, every century, the voice in the desert has continued to cry out.

Here is a quote for you;

“Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed -- chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. ... It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods -- trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries ... God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools -- only Uncle Sam can do that.” [3]

Now who was this voice literally crying out in the wilderness? Anyone? John Muir literally a voice crying out in the contemporary wilderness and yet no one paid much attention till recently when days became dyer.

John the Baptists voice has been embodied in others as well. In the voice of Saint Francis;

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, harmony;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. [4]

A simple beautiful prayer and yet it can be disturbing. How you may wonder. This prayer is seeking to be the opposite, to break in and disrupt the norm. Where Hatred and Anger are the rule bless me lord that I may be the voice of Love and understanding when, perhaps, at that moment, none is desired.

The prayer says Lord when everything is in chaos and seems to be going wrong bless me that I may be the bringer of Truth and Light. Yet in those moments of Chaos and pain and darkness how often is it that the voice of reason is drowned out, beaten up or even Killed. Nelson Mandela who stood as a voice crying out was imprisoned for 27 years for speaking the truth.

There is always a voice crying out and when there isn’t sometimes we are called. Sometimes we are called to stand with people in need of Justice; “ Hands up don’t shoot”, “I can’t breathe” or the old standard “out of your homes and into the streets!” These are cries for Justice, cries for equality and we can all respond. We can respond by peacefully marching. We can respond by lighting candles and we can respond with prayer.

Speaking of movies, I want to give you another quote, I know I am using a lot of quotes today but I feel they are relevant, so here it is; “ ‘ There are some upon this earth of yours,’ returned the spirit, ‘who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, Pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.’ [5]

There are many things on this Earth done in the name of Christ or Christianity, or in the name of the Prophet Mohammed (May peace be upon him), or Yahweh or Buddha….you name it and humanity has committed atrocities in the name of the religion that have nothing to do with religion. In the case of the previous quote we hear the Ghost of Christmas present stating that places being closed on Sundays, mainly those that feed the poor, have nothing to do with the spirit of Christmas nor care for the poor.

John the Baptists voice is still ringing out in the desert, Prepare ye the way. But how will you prepare the way. This month has been hard. Bad news in the headlines, Teachers stabbed, bombs planted, children shot. Yet and Yet Johns cries are being answered. Every day through charity, compassion and yes even justice.

A classmate of mine, Rev. David Miller, who serves the UU fellowship of San Dieguito said this in his Facebook post yesterday;

Today I worked hard to digest the incredible dichotomy coming through social media and the news. This included the deep pain being felt by so many overwhelmed with the need for reflection and action in a torn and hurting country/world and the intense desire to offset that with some sort of joy, connection and community. It mirrors what is happening in my own soul and I am feeling the tug of war that pulls me in one direction or another. How can we live balanced lives when so much is happening to throw our balance off, how can we address all the imbalance while trying to maintain our equilibrium?

I have always seen the holiday season as a time to bring us together in shared ritual and reminders of what can be best in us all and this holiday season we do that in the context of Ferguson, New York and countless other tears in our communal fabric. I will read what so many others are writing, I will do what I can to act where I can, and I will and I must not lose sight of that which is joyful, that which connects me, and that which must continue to breathe hope into a tired and at times overwhelmed soul. [6]

I believe David sums up some of the overwhelming emotions that arise when one seems to be bombarded with bad news everywhere and all the time. If you are feeling overwhelmed get out! Go to a movie. Read a book. Sit, be still, light a candle and put on some Christmas music.

If you just take the time to breathe into the season. Go downtown or walk around your neighborhood take in the lights. Greet your neighbor or a person on the street with happy holiday. Just offering a bit of the love that is this season, and it will come back to you, is all one truly needs to do to answer the voice in the desert.

In the news this week there was a story of the boy with cerebral Palsey who had is custom made wheel chair stolen, but thanks to a Good Samaritan and a good company they are replacing the chair in two days. In skid row anywhere between 5 and 8000 people are served every day with medical needs, food, shelter and clothing. We are collecting toys for the kids in North Hollywood who may not have a Christmas except for the celebration at the Recreation center. The socks for the homeless. The hats and the scarves we made to go out. All of this is answering that cry in the desert.

So Let us prepare the way for the Lord in your Heart, Mind and in your actions this year. Do not let the world get you down but choose to respond with care and compassion and through it all care for yourself physically and spiritually.

[1] New world encyclopedia, John the Baptist, (accessed December 3, 2014).

[2] Fred B. Craddock, The Collected Sermons of Fred B. Craddock (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 112.

[3] John Muir, Our National Parks (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1901).

[4] St Francis, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace (Ann Arbor, MI: Word of God, 1975), 229.

[5] Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Writings (London: Penguin Classics, 2003), 78.

[6] David Miller, “Facebook,” entry posted 12/4/2014, http://

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Two Commandments…I can do that! Mathew 22:34-46

There was an entertainer in the ‘80’s in Detroit that I truly enjoyed.  She had this song that went I’m so happy I could blank…The car blew up.  The dog ran away the bills are piling up and there’s just no way to pay but I’m so happy….

As I reflect on today’s Gospel I first cannot help but think upon what it is in response too.  The Sadducees have just tried to trip Jesus up on the law asking about marriage in heaven and the resurrection. (Mathew 22: 23-33)  So The Pharisees figured they would have their turn, remember they are seeking an excuse to have Jesus shut down.
So the Pharisees have a lawyer ask him a question on the greatest of the law.  When we think of lawyers they may have a better profile then they had in the past, or not.  We often think of TV lawyers such as Perry Mason, or maybe even the current Annalise Keating in how to get away with murder.  Or perhaps with current events our thoughts go to Ted Olsen and Davis Boies our Marriage equality super lawyers.
Here the term lawyer has a specific context.  This Pharisee who is also a lawyer is only a lawyer for Jewish and temple law.  His concern is not about Roman law nor is he concerned with anyone who is not of the Jewish faith. “Pharisees claimed Mosaic authority for their interpretation of Jewish Laws, while Sadducees represented the authority of the priestly privileges.”[1] Forgive my Wikipedia reference, but it is true the Sadducees represented the rich and the elite or the politically influential.  Whereas the Pharisees represent the common people.  The reason I point this out is so you can see the two groups who are often in opposition to each other are working towards the same goal…eliminate Jesus and his movement!
Now when the Pharisee asks “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  He is really hoping to trip Jesus up in a big way for you see in modern times when we think of the law we think of the Ten Commandments but when a Pharisee reflects upon the law he is looking at Probably 613 commandments.[2]  These commandments come from Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Kings.  These commandments refer to the worship of Yahweh, The temple and the Priests, Sacrifices, Vows, Ritual Purity, Tithes and offerings in the sanctuary and about 20 other categories.
Dan Clendenin clarifies this even further he states;
The "holiness code" in Leviticus specifies in minute detail clean and unclean foods, purity rituals after childbirth or a menstrual cycle, regulations for skin infections and contaminated clothing or furniture, prohibitions against contact with a human corpse or dead animal, instructions about nocturnal emissions, laws regarding bodily discharges, guidelines about planting seeds and mating animals, keeping the Sabbath, forsaking idols, tattoos, and extensive decrees about sex. Leviticus 18 codifies about twenty types of (un)lawful sexual relations.

           Some of these ancient commands seem self-evident. We gladly follow them today and neglect them at our peril. Honor your parents. Take special care of the poor, the blind, the deaf, and the alien. Don't steal or lie. Don't have sex with your parent, your child, or an animal. Don't cheat your employee or your customers.
           But side by side with these timeless truths are other commands that are lost to a different time and place, and we feel no compunction in ignoring them today — don't mate different kinds of animals, plant your field with two kinds of seeds, cut the hair at the sides of your head, or wear garments made of two kinds of materials. Similarly, we rightly ignore some of the punishments for breaking these "laws," like the death penalty for cursing your parents or adultery.
Scholars debate how much or how little ordinary first-century Jews concerned themselves with maintaining "ritual purity" by obeying the holiness code in Leviticus, but the Pharisees about whom we read so much in the Gospels certainly did. And so in the Gospel for this week a Pharisee who is described as an "expert" in the law "tested Jesus with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'" (Matthew 22:36).
Dan Clendenin Goes on to ponder;
           Maybe this was a trick question designed to trap Jesus. If he privileged a single commandment, didn't that mean he neglected others? How dare he imply that we can wink at some of God's laws! Or if he suggested that all the commandments were equally weighty, didn't that contradict common sense? Surely a tattoo (Leviticus 19:28) isn't as morally weighty as child sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21)! Or maybe the expert was posing an honest inquiry: "Lord, so many commands! How should we understand them all? Are some more important than others?"
           Buried deep in that holiness code was one, single command, Leviticus 19:18, that Jesus said was more important than the 611 other commands. Jesus responded that the most important commandment is this: "'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength' [Deuteronomy 6:4]. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself' [Leviticus 19:18]. There is no commandment greater than these." The questioner liked Jesus's answer and affirmed that these two commands were "more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."[3]

So here is Jesus, who they believe they will trip up because there are so many laws and yet Jesus answers promptly with Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love your God with all your Heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  Quick and easy answer…right???
How easy is it to love God with all your heart, soul and might? I am sure you have heard me say, and I said it often when I worked with hospice, it is okay to be angry with God.  It is also okay to struggle with what God has placed on your heart.  The problem is sometimes we allow the anger to consume us instead of allowing us to reach an understanding or forgiveness.  Sometimes we allow the struggle to become the thing, the reality, instead of allowing ourselves to learn and grow.
So Jesus is not only answering the question legally but I believe in his ministry of words and deeds he is challenging us through this scripture here and now. One of my favorite scenes in Jesus Christ superstar is the agony in the garden.  We have a Christ portrayed as very human asking …then shouting at God tell me why I must die! I have heard so many people say “God will not give you more than you can handle”  I am sorry to say it, but I must ask, with freedom of choice how much of our own suffering has God given us, or is it just the way the world works and God is with us through it all?
I tend to believe the latter.  In other words…I am not saying all that befalls us good or evil as it may be perceived is brought on by ourselves, yet I do not believe that God is a mighty puppeteer controlling all that does happen.  Therefore when we get angry with God because the car blew up and the Dog ran away etc. It’s okay to get angry with God…Heck I would even venture to say it is okay to get angry with God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might.
 The trick is to move through that and come to the other side.  The trick is to know there are things we have no control over. And after we are angry, and after we have struggled, then we can turn and say I can’t do this!  I can’t get rid of this anger. I can make no sense of this!  God into your hands I place this.  God made us to be fully human and fully alive and part of that fullness is there are moments when we do not Love God or worse yet there are moments when we feel we are not loved by God.  In both of these the assurance and the understanding come through our faith and the lessons that Christ has taught us.
Speaking of lessons Christ has taught us brings me to the second part of today’s Gospel that I want to focus upon.  Jesus says the second greatest law is this “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Leviticus 19:18.  Yep taken right out of those 600 and some commandments.  Again Jesus is making it clear and easy how to follow God.  I’ll just love you as I love and care for myself.  You see, this is easy, easy because I love you all, and I know how to love and care for myself perfectly all the time.  The pastor stated very sarcastically!
Okay who here can honestly say they love themselves all the time.  How many times have I gotten up and looked in the mirror and said to myself I could have done better, I should be better, and God help me I am no better!  Can I say it again….we are Human… we are made human and being human we are flawed and we do not care for ourselves the way we should, therefore by deduction, I definitely do not always care for my neighbor the way I should.
Actually how should I care for my neighbor and who is my neighbor? Now there is a question often asked.  In Bread for the Journey Henri Nouwen reflects upon the Good Samaritan and states;
“Love your neighbor as yourself” the Gospel says (Matthew 22:38). But who is my neighbor? We often respond to that question by saying: “My neighbors are all the people I am living with on this earth, especially the sick, the hungry, the dying, and all who are in need.” But this is not what Jesus says. When Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29-37) to answer the question “Who is my neighbor?” he ends by asking: “Which, … do you think, proved himself a neighbor to the man who fell into the bandits’ hands?” The neighbor, Jesus makes clear, is not the poor man laying on the side of the street, stripped, beaten, and half dead, but the Samaritan who crossed the road, “bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, … lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him.” My neighbor is the one who crosses the road for me![4]

That is interesting…what do you think about that?  Actually let me break that down further for you.  Your neighbor is the one you believe hates you, despises you, has nothing in common with you, and someone you would never talk to; yet….they would cross the road to help you.  Your neighbor is the one you least suspect and out of those least suspects, your neighbor is the one who would cross the road to help you no matter who you are.  So how do you know who that is?  How do you know who your neighbor may be? Simple answer is you don’t. Therefore, since you don’t know who your neighbor might be…to be on the safe side…we must treat all as our neighbor.  We must become the man who no matter what will cross the road to bandage and care for the stranger because we must assume they would do that for us.  If we are willing to do that for someone who we don’t know and perhaps even fear how much more should we be willing to do that for each other?
The other side of that is being the good neighbor when the Samaritan does come along.  When someone offers help, a kind word, or a smile…how do we respond?  When the stranger, the one who challenges our well taught prejudices and fears offers a kind gesture do we respond with kindness or suspicion? To make it a little broader when we hear of pain or trouble on the other side of the world do we judge by categories or do we take to heart the pain and suffering of all involved and pray for peace and understanding?  When we here people speaking in fear and anger of marriage equality do we pray that their hearts may soften to the loving word of God or do we condemn them as bigots and hate mongers?
Jesus gave a clear and concise answers to today’s challenges right?  I say no! Jesus knew that these commandments though they may sum up all of God’s law are anything but clear and concise.  Every day we are challenged by what it means to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul and with all your might or mind depending on which translation you read.  We, as humans, do not know what is best for us, let alone how to love and care for ourselves. So how, in all of God’s names, are we to love our neighbor as ourselves?  Honestly? I wouldn’t want to be cared for by another if it depended upon how well I cared for myself.
So where do the answers to all these questions and challenges rest.  Where can I learn to care for myself in such a way that is pleasing to God?  In such a way that I wouldn’t terrorize a stranger? How do I become accepting and caring of the one I most fear? I can’t, not alone, I must engage in prayer.  I must develop spiritual practice, a daily seeking of a life closer to God.
Thomas Merton Said; “In order to find God in ourselves, we must stop looking at ourselves, stop checking and verifying ourselves in the mirror of our own futility, and be content to be in Him and to do whatever He wills, according to our limitations, judging our acts not in the light of our own illusions, but in the light of His reality which is all around us in the things and people we live with.” - From “No Man is an Island”[5]
 It is through a life lived with compassion in action.  It is through a life lived with a spiritual practice that you are comfortable with, that draws you closer to God.  Your Knitting on the loom can become a simple spiritual practice by saying a short prayer with every loop.  Jesus come closer.  A morning walk can be a spiritual practice by repeating the same simple prayer with every step.
Some need a quiet time to center themselves to connect to God others may need a big noisy crowd.  Each of you need to find your own way to connect to God every day.  The thing that we often forget is like the fish in the water asking; what is the ocean?  We are literally swimming in God all we have to do is take time to pay attention.
The more attention we pay to God around us and through us, the better equipped we will be to recognize God.  We will be equipped to recognize God when we are challenged by who is my neighbor.  We will be equipped to recognize God so that we can Love God with our whole hearts, soul and mind even in the most challenging time.  We will be equipped to follow two simple commandments.

[1] wikipedia, Pharisees, (accessed October 20, 2014).
[2] Gospel Outreach Ministries online, The Law: All 613 Commandments, (accessed October 20, 2014).
[3] Dan Clendenin, Humanizing Holiness:Are Some Commandments More Important Than Others, (accessed October 20, 2014).
[4] J.M. Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 1997), sec. July 20.
[5] Qoutes from Thomas Merton, (accessed October 20, 2014).

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Seasons of Creation :Water - (Reading embedded within a sermon)

The theme for today in this the 4th Sunday in the season of creation is River Sunday. In the Lectionary for this Sunday we are given readings with themes that are supposed to match this theme and or carry this theme throughout. So if we had multiple readings you would hear;

Old Testament: Genesis 8:20–22; 9:12–17 ‘God’s promise to Earth’
After the flood God promises that Earth and all of life on Earth will be preserved by God,
in spite of the sins of human beings.

Psalm: Psalm 104:27–33 ‘God’s sustenance of Earth’
The psalm writer celebrates how God sustains all life on Earth through the Spirit and
calls on God to rejoice in God’s own creation. 

Epistle: Revelation 22:1–5 ‘God’s healing for Earth’
When creation is restored, a river will flow directly from God with trees of life growing
on either side to bring healing to all nations on Earth 

Gospel: Matthew 28:1–10 ‘God’s celebration with Earth’ 
The resurrection of Christ is also celebrated by creation. An earthquake accompanies the advent of the angel and the rolling away of the stone.[1]

Since the choices were kind of minimal and not, for me, relevant to water except for the Noah story I choose the story of creation form one Gros ventris tribe. There are stories of the flood from most civilizations from Babylonia the epic of Gilgamesh, to the Irish, from African tribes to American Indian tribes much like the story we share today.

The story I will share is a traditional oral story that all would know and participate in so when you hear and he sang three times i want you to sing Ah Ahh AHHH. when you here he shouted three times i want to hear ou ou youh! and when you hear he stamped his foot stamp your foot!

The Creation of the World

This creation story, of the Gros Ventres Indians, is similar to the origin story of at least two other Algonquin tribes (the Arapahos and the Crees). It is also similar to stories handed down among the Huron and Iroquois tribes of eastern North America and to one related in 1953 by the oldest Chehalis Natives near the Washington coast.

The people before the present people were wild and did not know how to do anything. Because the Creator did not like the way they lived, he thought, "I will make a new world." He had the chief pipe. He went outdoors, hung the pipe on three sticks, and picked up four buffalo chips. He put one under each of the three sticks supporting the pipe, and took the fourth chip for his own seat.

The Creator said to himself, "I will sing three times and shout three times. Then I will kick the earth. There will be heavy rain, and soon, water will cover the earth." So, he sang three times, he shouted three times, and he kicked the earth. The earth cracked and water came out. Then it rained many days and many nights until water was deep over the earth. Because of the buffalo chips, he and the pipe floated. Then the rain stopped. For days he drifted, floating where the wind and water took him. All the animals and birds had drowned except Crow.
Above the Creator, Crow flew around, crying. When it became tired, it cried, "My father, I am tired and I want to rest."Three times Crow said these words. After the third time, the Creator replied, "Alight yourself on the pipe and rest."

At last the Creator became tired from sitting in one position and he cried. For a long time he did not know what to do. 

Then he remembered to unwrap the pipe. It contained all the animals. He took out all those that have a long breath and, thus, are able to dive through water. Large Loon, which he selected first, was not alive, but its body was wrapped up in the pipe. The Creator sang to it and then commanded it to dive and try to bring up some mud. Not half way down, Large Loon lost its breath and turned back. Almost drowned, it reached the place where the Creator sat.

Then the Creator took Small Loon's body from the pipe, unwrapped it, sang, and commanded it to dive for mud. Small Loon nearly reached the bottom before it lost its breath and turned back. It was almost dead when it came back to the surface. 

Then the Creator took Turtle from the pipe, sang until it became alive, and sent it down after some mud.
Meanwhile, Crow flew about, crying for rest. The Creator paid no attention. After a long time, Turtle came up from the water, nearly dead. "Did you reach the mud?" asked the Creator."Yes," answered Turtle. "I had much of it in my feet and along my sides, but it was washed away before I reached you.""Come to me." The Creator looked in the cracks along its sides and in its feet. There he found a little earth, which he scraped into his hand. Then he began to sing. Three times he sang, and three times he shouted.

"I will throw this little dust in my hand into the water," he said. "Little by little, let there be enough to make a strip of land large enough for me."He began to drop it, little by little, opening and closing his hand carefully. When he had finished, there was a small strip of land, big enough for him to sit on. Then the Creator said to Crow, "Come down and rest. I have made a piece of land for myself and for you."

Crow came down and rested, and then flew up again. The Creator took from his pipe two long wing feathers, held one in each hand, and began to sing. Three times he sang, and three times he shouted, "Youh, hou, hou!" Then he spread out his arms, closed his eyes, and said to himself, "Let there be land as far as my eyes can see around me."When he opened his eyes, the water was hone and there was land as far as he could see. He walked over the earth with his pipe and with Crow. When he became thirsty, he did not know what to do to get water. Then he thought, "I will cry." So, he closed his eyes and cried until his tears, dropping on the ground, formed a large spring in front of him. Soon, a stream ran from out of the spring. When the Creator stopped crying, a large river was flowing. In this way he made all the streams.

When he became tired of being alone with Crow and his pipe, he decided to make persons and animals. First, he took earth and made it into the shape of a man. Then he took another piece of earth and made it into the shape of a woman. He molded more figures out of earth until he had created many men and women.

When the Creator thought he had enough people, he made animals of all kinds, in pairs. Then he gave names to the tribes of people and names to all kinds of animals. He sang three times, shouted three times, and kicked the earth. When he had finished, many pairs of living creatures stood before him, persons and animals.
He called the world "Turtle" because Turtle had helped him create it. Then he made bows and arrows, and he taught men how to use them. The pipe, he gave to a tribe called Haa-ninin(Gros Ventres).
He said to the people, "If you are good, there will be no more water and no more fire. Long before the flood came, the world had been burned. Now this is the third life."

Then he showed people the rainbow and said, "This rainbow is the sign that the earth will not be covered with water again. Whenever you have had rain, you will see the rainbow. It will mean that the rain has gone. There will be another world after this one."He told the people to go off in pairs and to find homes for themselves. That is why human beings are scattered.[2]

It is so easy to underestimate the power of water. As a child I loved the water. I learned to swim at an early age. It was at my grandparent’s house, they had a pool in the back yard. Later we had a pool at our home as well. Eventually we moved to a lake. I’ll never forget that feeling of panic when for the first time I wasn’t sure where the bottom was. I couldn’t see it and or reach it suddenly the water that I loved had become threatening and dangerous.

We see stories all the time about how someone who is out surfing, a good, almost professional swimmer, disappears or becomes exhausted due to rip tides. Or the other side of the coin is someone camping in the desert there is a storm in the mountains and suddenly they are swept away by a flash flood.

Then there is the mundane side of the dangers of water. After my trip to the world aids conference I came home to an empty house, bob was at some meeting or event, any way I can hear water running. I checked and double checked everything then finally I shut off the air and the little waterfall we have and I can still hear water running that’s when I notice that the marble tiles are warm near the bathroom. Anyway, hundreds of dollars and a jack hammer later and it was all caused by a hole in a pipe that was no bigger than the size of an eyelet of a shoe.

Of course, there is the practical side of water. Water fills our pools and hot tubs and provides recreation in ponds, lakes and oceans all over. To me, there is nothing as fun to watch than a child playing in a sprinkler or one of those fountains over at universal studios. You know the kind where the water seems to pop out of the cement randomly.

Water provides a thirst quenching and a life giving force. Water is needed for our harvests to be successful and to feed the planet. Water teams with life in our streams and ponds and oceans. According to a blog on NPR: “It turns out, a brand new baby is 75 percent water. We’re born as wet as a fresh potato. Tomatoes are wetter (93.5 percent water). Apples, too, but only slightly (80 percent).”[3] So if I look around this room I can literally see “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”[4]

In Psalm 104 which I read as part of centering prayer Benjamin Stewart reflects upon the water; “What is flowing down from the mountains and skies with such powerful blessings? What is giving life to the diverse creatures named in the Psalms? Is it water? Is it God? The beautiful answer is, of course, Both, Simultaneously.”[5] In water we find both the awesome power of God and the blessing and life giving spirit of God active in this world today.

Just as the flood story is found in many different cultures throughout history so is the sacredness and the ritual of water found throughout many different religions. Really as people the one thing that truly connects us to this planet, to each other, and every living creature is water.

In national Geographic on line I found this short but wonderful extortation to water from Cathy Newman;

“If I were called in / To construct a religion / I should make use of water, wrote the English poet Philip Larkin in 1954—and most religions do.

Waters, religious historian Mircea Eliade explained in the 1950s, are “spring and origin, the reservoir of all the possibilities of existence; they precede every form and support every creation.” So it has been since human history began and, by legend, before. The world, Genesis says, was brought to life by a God who created a “firmament in the midst of the waters.” Babylonians believed in a world made from a commingling of fresh and salt water. Pima Indians have said Mother Earth was impregnated by a drop of water. The cataclysmic flood that destroys a civilization is also an aqueous archetype and part of Hebrew, Greek, and Aztec cultures.

The body thirsts. So does the spirit. “I must live near a lake,” wrote Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who waded into the depths of the psyche and equated water with the unconscious. “Without water, I thought, nobody could live at all.”

From our worldly entrance in a burst of amniotic fluid to the ritual washing of the dead (taharah in Judaism; ghusl al-mayyit in Islam), water flows through our lives, scribing a line between sacred and profane, life and death. We are doused, dunked, dipped, sprinkled—and blessings flow, deep and wide as the River Jordan of Scripture, wondrous as the spring at Lourdes, cathartic as tears.”[6]

We here in southern California can be fickle about our relationship with water. We are highly aware of the drought we have been in and all the ramifications that can mean and so we have become very savvy about water conservation. Yet if it rains more than twice a week, or if it rains so hard it floods then the complaints start. Though I suspect after all these years of drought we won’t be so quick to complain.

Based on a special edition of National Geographic back in 2010 I would like to share a few photos that show many of the ways water is used as celebration and ritual around the world.

All the Photographs are by John Stanemeyer and used in national geographic April 2010 the

Mayans believed natural wells led to the underworld.

in Laos so much water is used in a new years celebration, as it is believed to chase away evil spirits, that the water pressure drops to a trickle.

and of course baptism, as seen here in the Greek Orthodox Church, which can be done from a river to just a sprinkling depending upon the denomination and its traditions.

I would suggest that instead of seeing these flood stories as about an angry God. We should see the renewal and the blessing the water brings. Through water we become a covenanted people, a people renewed in covenant through water and rainbows. People blessed by waterfalls and tear drops. Water is physically a source of life and physically a source of spirit. 

Where I grew up we were never more than a mile away from water in any direction. In the same way we are never far from God in any direction. Whenever and wherever you experience water it is an opportunity to stop and recall how precious it is both physically and spiritually. There is an opportunity to recall Gods covenant to us “And God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.’”[7]

I think that’s the key. God does not make a promise to the people but it is a covenant between each of us and the earth. If we are covenant with God and God is in covenant to the earth should we not be covenanted to the earth as well? Are we called to care for all as much as God cares for us?

Today let us continue to live the covenant to be a people of creation. Witnesses to the Glory of it all and caretakers of Gods sacred covenant to each other and of all here on earth. Amen.

[1] Norman Habel, Season of creation, (accessed September 4, 2014).

[2] YRDSB Document, The creation of the World, (accessed September 8, 2014).

[3] Robert Krulwich, Born wet, (accessed September 4, 2014).

[4] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in Seven Parts (Philadelphia: H. Altemus, 1889).

[5] Benjamin M. Stewart, A Watered Garden (Minneapolis,MN: augsburg Fortress, 2011).

[6] Cathy Newman, Sacred Waters, (accessed September 8, 2014).

[7] Holy Bible and NIV, God's Covenant with Noah, (accessed September 16, 2014).

Monday, August 4, 2014

Crossing Boundaries ...a path to a stigma free society Luke 8:40-56 (August 3 2014)

OK you all know I was in Melbourne last week for two conferences.  The first Conference was “Stepping up in faith!” This was put on by the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance which is “an international network of churches and Church related organizations committed to helping member organizations and partners strengthen their capacity and engagement to help us all be more effective in speaking out and acting for Justice and Peace”[1]  This was a gathering of religious leaders from all over the world.  Most of us living with or affected by HIV.
The common topic of not just this pre-conference but throughout the WORLDAIDS2014 conference was the end of stigmatization and discrimination. This is why I choose this passage for our reading today.
This Gospel holds, in contrast, two stories that are riddled with the concept of stigma. When you hear the word stigma what thoughts does it bring about? According to the Oxford dictionaries synonyms for the word in the US are “shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, and humiliation”[2] Simply put it is “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or Person.”[3]  People are being judged, ostracized, and discriminated against due to something they have no control over.  Yet in these stories those boundaries are crossed again and again.
In the opening we hear of this man named Jairus an official of the synagogue. This was the man who picked the readers and teachers and he made sure all things were done in accordance to the laws.  So what is this saying when a man, in charge of keeping all traditions runs up and kneels before Jesus? In Luke’s Gospel at this point we already know that people are plotting against Jesus.  We know that Jesus is bastard born so he is not one to be seen socializing with.  As matter of fact we have heard in other stories that one from the temple usually sneaks at night to speak with Jesus.
Jairus is willing to cross all boundaries, maybe even break a few laws to save his only daughter. This is a direct contrast to a story in chapter 7 where a widow lost her only son and therefore her only means of support. For a man to lose his only daughter usually was not that important.  This is not a healing of necessity but of love, of compassion. But as Jesus is making his way to Jairus’ house there is an interruption.
A woman who has been hemorrhaging for 12 years reaches out in faith and touches Jesus.  He is walking with the official of the synagogue when a woman, who has been considered permanently unclean for 12 years now, is brave enough to walk through a tight crowd and touch Jesus. According to Leviticus rules this would make Jesus unclean.  He doesn’t seem concerned about that but he does want to know who touched him.  Peter points out that there are so many people pressing up against them that it could be anyone. Yet Jesus says I felt power leave me.
This woman, an unclean woman, a woman who could not go to temple to pray or make offering, had enough faith that she drew power from Jesus.  Her need to be whole allowed her to receive what she needed without even asking…the first universal healthcare program if you have a need you shall receive care!  Technically this touch, as I said, made Jesus ritually unclean.  Yet this did not concern him.  Jesus proclaims to the woman that her faith has healed her.
He not only announced that her faith had healed her but he took this moment to continue to speak to her and maybe teach and preach. I assume this because the passage says “while he was still speaking someone came from the leader’s house to say “Your daughter is dead: do not trouble the teacher any longer.” (Luke 8:49) 
So Jesus doesn’t just heal and run but minsters to the woman.  During that time of getting to know the unclean woman for scripture says that even after the bleeding ceases there is a period of 7 days until one can return to the temple and make a sacrifice.  Jesus continues to cross those prescribed boundaries.
Jairus’ servant refers to Jesus as teacher. Again this says to me that Jairus must have had a huge amount of respect for Jesus for even those of his household referred to him as the teacher in spite of the rules and stigma of Jesus’ heritage. Then Jesus walks into the Leaders house still ritually unclean and takes the hand of the dead girl. Now Numbers 19:11 says “whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days.” So again he ignores ritual laws and crosses the boundary of that stigma and he is laughed at.  Not for crossing a boundary for simply stating that what all believe to be true is not true.  Once her spirit has returned to her he orders them to give her something to eat. 
“Give her something to eat.”  A simple enough command and it makes sense since she had been sick for a while so she probably had nothing to eat for a while.  But this simple phrase marks the end of the events.  Everyone is in awe and he orders them to tell no one but the finality of all the boundaries and laws that were crossed, crossed again, violated and ignored for the sake of compassion and faith, ends with a meal.
Here at this table as we gather for our sacred symbolic meal, which we understand means something different for each person as they come forward, yet each and every one is welcome to come freely.  No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here.  Yet as we know from just watching the news there are so many places where this is not true yet.
Yet we ourselves probably hold certain groups of people as less than.  Not because we think we are better but because it has been so ingrained in our society that certain people and their choices which place them at risk for HIV/AIDS are less than.
Can you think of any group who we here in the US still criminalize?  Who we, as a society, consider to be okay to marginalize.  I met sex workers, IV drug users, Transgender men who have sex with men.  All who live on the margins of society?  All because of who they are have limited if no access to literature, counseling, or medical care.
There are places in this world where it is punishable by death to be gay.  There are 81 countries that have anti-homosexuality laws still on the books and that includes the United States.  As of May 16th we knew of 102 people who were in prison for being gay and 75 more awaiting trial.
There are faith based organizations who infiltrate countries pretending to promote God’s love and yet fuel hate.  They teach abstinence, faithfulness and, maybe, condom if one can’t be faithful this method called ABC has proven to be a complete failure... The belief if you have AIDS it is Gods punishment even if you are born with it is still being taught in some places.  Children denied access to medication and/or school for the belief that it was their mothers own fault that they contracted HIV.
I have become part of an organization known as INERELA+.  This “is an international network of religious leaders - lay and ordained, women and men – living with, or personally affected by HIV.”[4]  They have an education tool kit on their website that uses a more empowering program.  The acronym is S.A.V.E. which means Safer Practices, access to treatment, voluntary and confidential and regular testing, and empowerment.[5]
At this moment I wrote this activists were fighting Uganda’s anti-gay laws in the constitutional court.  They have won on a technicality. The man who promoted such a law, Scott Lively, has been brought up on human rights violations by a Ugandan civil rights group and is awaiting trial in a Massachusetts court. In Ibiza Spain the sex workers have formed a union which allows them “to obtain work permits, pay taxes, reap the benefits of Healthcare, pension and get their first credit cards.”[6]   This allows them access to testing not just for HIV but all STD’s as well as hep c and TB.
I heard stories of how IV drug users who were in recovery due to a wonderful program had gone back to work and were supporting their families in Crimea but when Russia came in all the programs stopped. You see due to ignorance, stigma and fear, Russia outlaws the very drugs that help addicts to recover and move away from addiction.  According to Bloomberg report; “Among the top 20 global economies, only India, with a population almost nine times bigger than Russia’s 143 million, has more people living with HIV.”[7]  All because of Ignorance and stigmatization.
The future of HIV reduction and a better world is if we can teach everyone that there are no need for boundaries.  If the world could only say no matter who you are or where you are on life’s Journey you are welcome here.  Then to look into our neighbors eyes, the most marginalized, the most scared and frail and say what can I do to help you make your life better. For these lessons, these lessons of love and acceptance can only come from within their own culture and their own community otherwise it is just the west imposing their liberal beliefs upon them.
 So From her all we can do is continue to cross the boundaries we can.  Reach out to the homeless, the less fortunate and offer care and compassion.  Offer our resources to empower a place to improve its facility so that it can make better use of its resources.  Become involved in any one of the many ministry opportunities throughout the UCC.  Whenever you get a chance in the Name of Christ…Break a boundary.  Amen.

[1]. Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, about, (accessed July 30, 2014).
[2]. Oxford dictionary, US synonyms, (accessed July 30, 2014).
[3]. Oxford dictionary, Stigma, (accessed July 30, 2014).
[4]. Inerela+, INEREALA+ Positive Faith in action, (accessed July 3, 2014).
[5]. Inerela+, SAVE Toolkit, (accessed July 3, 2014).
[6]. Nadja Sayej, Ibiza's sex workers have formed Spain's First Prostitution union, -union (accessed July 30, 2014).
[7]. Simon Bennett and Stephen Kravchenko, HIV Epidemic Plagues Russia, www.russia-hiv-surge-shows-sochi (accessed July 30, 2014).

Monday, June 30, 2014

You Are a Treat Matthew 10:40-42

In Mathew today we are hearing a call into service.  Jesus is explaining to the disciples how the whole ministry thing works.  That whoever welcomes one they are welcoming Christ and through Christ welcoming Abba God.  Wow that’s a lot.  Jesus is saying through you one meets Christ, through Christ one meets God…therefore through you one meets God.
That may be a bit much to wrap ones head around but simply put through our actions and reactions and non –action others will see God.  You see this is some of what JJ was addressing last week.  It is through our actions that the Gospel is preached and that Christ is made manifest in this world.
Now one reaction to that may be; “Not me!, you can’t place such a burden on me.  There is no way that I am or ever will be the face of Christ in this world!  I am too flawed, broken, I am mean sometimes, or just had not enough coffee to be the face of anything this morning.”  Those are very legitimate reactions But Christ put a caveat on this face of God thing….
It is when you simply offer hospitality, a gift of cool water to the smallest of these little ones. This could say offer a smile to a stranger on the street.  That smile or a “Good day” may be all it takes or it may be worth nothing.  But here is an interesting thing in these verses it also speaks of the receiver.
It says those that receive a prophet for being a prophet shall be rewarded those that welcome holy people for just being holy people will be rewarded.  You see the reception of the face of Christ, thus the reception of God through you is the other parties reward.
It is through our presence as the Christian it is through our action as Christians that we are promised rewards.  If through that practice we have happened to welcome a prophet, if through that action we have happened to welcome a Holy person…great, all the more reward in Heaven and I should point out, we will not know who we have welcomed until then. Also there is no talk about right living brings rewards right now. Life is what we make of it and good and bad things happen to everyone.
But we know when we have given a glass of water; we know when we have been welcoming.  It is the joy of being Christian that allows us, sometimes without intention, to be the face of Christ in this world.
A lot of this sounds like simple hospitality.  The united church of Christ has a saying No matter who you are or where you are on life’s Journey you are welcome here.
That reminded me to just look at some of things we proclaim as the body of Christ covenanted to each other and to the church in Christian living.  Here is what the united Church of Christ says about our beliefs; (This is taken directly from the website.

“What we believe
We can tell you more about the United Church of Christ with the help of seven phrases from Scripture and Tradition which express our commitments. That they may all be one. [John 17:21] This motto of the United Church of Christ reflects the spirit of unity on which it is based and points toward future efforts to heal the divisions in the body of Christ. We are a uniting church as well as a united church.
*       In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity. The unity that we seek requires neither an uncritical acceptance of any point of view, nor rigid formulation of doctrine. It does require mutual understanding and agreement as to which aspects of the Christian faith and life are essential. The unity of the church is not of its own making. It is a gift of God. But expressions of that unity are as diverse as there are individuals. The common thread that runs through all is love. Testimonies of faith rather than tests of faith. Because faith can be expressed in many different ways, the United Church of Christ has no formula that is a test of faith. Down through the centuries, however, Christians have shared their faith with one another through creeds, confessions, catechisms and other statements of faith. Historic statements such as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Evangelical Catechism, the Augsburg Confession, the Cambridge Platform and the Kansas City Statement of Faith are valued in our church as authentic testimonies of faith. [See Beliefs for the complete texts of some of these testimonies.] In 1959, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ adopted a Statement of Faith prepared especially for congregations of the United Church. Many of us use this statement as a common affirmation of faith in worship and as a basis for study. There is yet more light and truth to break forth from God's holy word. This affirmation by one of the founders of the Congregational tradition assumes the primacy of the Bible as a source for understanding the Good News and as a foundation for all statements of faith. It recognizes that the Bible, though written in specific historical times and places, still speaks to us in our present condition. It declares that the study of the scriptures is not limited by past interpretations, but it is pursued with the expectation of new insights and God's help for living today. The Priesthood of All Believers. All members of the United Church of Christ are called to minister to others and to participate as equals in the common worship of God, each with direct access to the mercies of God through personal prayer and devotion.
Recognition is given to those among us who have received special training in pastoral, priestly, educational and administrative functions, but these persons are regarded as servants—rather than as persons in authority. Their task is to guide, to instruct, to enable the ministry of all Christians rather than to do the work of ministry for us.”[1]
A priesthood of all believers, that is a huge each and every one of us is called to be a priest of Christ, a follower and an enactor of Christ on this earth.  We are not just reminded of the possibilities of the rewards for being welcoming, offering simple hospitality we are called to even more than that.
The “what we believe” section goes on to explain; “But we recognize our calling both as individuals and as the church to live in the world: To proclaim in word and action the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To work for reconciliation and the unity of the broken Body of Christ. To seek justice and liberation for all.
This is the challenge of the United Church of Christ.”[2]
This is the challenge put to us today on this gospel reading what are we to do to be hospitable in an inhospitable world?  What does that mean for us as individuals, what does that mean for us as a community?
Let me say this now before we go any further…we are doing it.  We are you are each and every one of you are Christ’s face in this world.  Each and every one of you is a minister, a priest in this world.  How you ask?
Through your gift of time and offerings we are surrounded by beautiful gardens.  Through your gifts of concern and love many have made it through difficult times.  Some, of whom, were in this church and some outside of it.  If you offered and ear, a shoulder a kind word you performed ministry.  Some are called to go to a job everyday and you do the best you can and it sometimes it seems as if it is never enough.  Yet, as long as you are living to your fullest and doing the best you can that is your ministry.I also have some really good news for you when you try and failed.  When you reached out and were turned away.  When you rethink things and wonder if you could have done it differently.  You then too are a member of the priesthood.  For you see there is discernment and learning always to be done.  God did not make us perfect and Christ did not make this Christian thing easy.  If it was easy everyone would be trying it and the world would be...Well … literally heaven.
You know this struggle of being human, seeking God, and trying to be that face of Christ isn’t always easy.  Yet it is what we have been called to, drawn to, want to know more about, and understand better each and every day.  I truly believe that and I think you do as well otherwise, why are you here?

St. Irenaeus back in the early 150’s or so wrote;
The tender flesh itself
Will be found one day
-quite surprisingly-
To be capable of receiving,
And yes, full
Capable of embracing
The searing energies of God.
Go figure, Fear not.
For even at its beginning
The humble clay received
God’s Art, whereby
One part became the eye,
Another the ear, and yet
Another this impetuous hand.
Therefore the flesh
Is not to be excluded
From the wisdom and the power
That now and ever animates
All things. His life-Giving
Agency is made perfect,
We are told, in weakness—
Made perfect in flesh.[3]
We gather as a community in the love of Christ as people have done since the first meal he shared with followers and family more than 2000 years ago. But why, why do we come together Just to hear a preacher ramble on and on?  Well we know that isn’t true for some days the preacher is on fire and inspired and other days he misses the mark and that’s okay cause what may not have fed you in the sermon may have fed someone else and another person may be fed today because you sat with them and shared presence, prayer, and community. Another is fed by the music while still another is fed in the sacred time of Eucharist and every Sunday that all changes about.
But we are here to be affirmed in who we are. We are here as the body of Christ those who come weekly or monthly the Guest and the one who has been dragged here by friends. We are here to be refreshed, renewed and to be loved so that as we leave this place we will have the energy, the where withal to be the one who offers a cool glass of water.
Not everyone can get the analogy of a cool glass of water.  We know where Jesus lived was hot and dry and water though needed to survive was rarely cool less it was freshly drawn from the well.  You have heard the stories and seen images of that time one often went out early in the morn and took water from the well to fill clay jars.  By the time the water got back to the dwelling place it was already raising in temperature. A cool glass of water is not just refreshing but it is a treat.
So we each one of us is called to be a priest of Christ.  Each one of us is called to be the face of Christ.  We know if we are welcoming we will be rewarded and yet that is not of concern for the reward is in the afterlife so we know we need not be concerned with our reward but our action.
As we have prayed many times so I will repeat the prayer of
Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)
Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.[4]

You are the refreshing cool glass of water.  Your are the face of Christ, you are a treat to encounter every day, you are a royal priesthood so as St. Francis said and as this verse we reflected upon today really says Preach the Gospel often, use words if you have too! Amen!

[1] United Church of Christ, What we believe, . (accessed June 23, 2014).
[2] United Church of Christ, What we believe, . (accessed June 23, 2014).
[3] Scott Cairns, Love's Immensity: Mystics on the Endless Life (Brewster, Mass: Paraclete Press, 2007).
[4] Daniel B. Clendenin, The Journey with Jesus poems and prayers, www.journey with (accessed June 23, 2014).