Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Entering Relationship

The Second Sunday in Lent
Luke 13:31-35
Entering Relationship
“How often have I desired to gather your children together.......and you were not willing.”
So, I'm going to kind of throw out two moments to you, two kind of stories from my life in the past couple of weeks, and for me they relate to today's Gospel, but just hang in there with me and hopefully I'll be able to show you why. Last time I preached two weeks ago, I spoke to you all about a new friend of mine who is dying of cancer, and unfortunately, the days that have followed up until now have continued to be heavy. When it rains, it pours, as they say, but that does not mean that within that heaviness, within those dark or hard times, that God is not present or that somehow we are unable to see His light. Last Monday evening, a classmate of mine, Ashley, a 30 year old mother of two and beloved wife to a great man, died after a 3 year battle with breast cancer. While, even though she was more than an acquaintance but not really a close friend, what I believe stood out and was apparent to anyone grieving her death besides the fact that it just hit way too close to home for many of us, was the extreme closeness and beauty of her faith in her relationship with God. One only need to read over just a few of her caring bridge entries, a kind of public journal on the internet, or see the incredible things said about her on facebook as an inspiration to many, to witness and realize truly how strong, how positive, how unafraid, how sure in our Lord, even in the face of death, this incredible young woman was. A shining example of a heart reoriented towards, and completely submitted to Christ.
Another special moment, certainly not as a comparison to the previous one, but rather as an intimate glimpse and important learning. A young girl, just starting out, with so much talent and possibility before her, finds herself at rock bottom, grasping for any hint of light, wondering if it is still there, questioning whether she's worthy of it. A combination of several factors, family depression, family addiction, along with the perfect mix of new found freedom and little past experience with young experimentation, I find her in detox from a deep addiction to narcotics. Lost, afraid, alone, and yet not quite completely without hope. I found myself moved, honored, privileged to rediscover with her the reality that it isn't that God is actually absent at rock bottom, but rather that at times we each are so embarrassed and sorry for finding ourselves there, for allowing ourselves to get there, that it becomes extremely difficult to accept the continual offer of His eternal embrace. After all, how can we accept such an immense and profound love, if we've even forgotten to love ourselves? So, the work of reforming, of reorienting, the work of reestablishing that most important relationship in trust and vulnerability begins anew.
This morning's Gospel message is an interesting passage for many reasons. In the first half of this text, which only appears in Luke, we have an uncharacteristic description of a group of Pharisees painted in a slightly positive light, warning Jesus away from Herod, and yet paradoxically and unknowingly pushing Him on to Jerusalem and to the Crucifixion. We hear Jesus use terms we aren't used to hearing like fox and hen, one an insult and the other a way of revealing a truly compassionate and some might say maternal side of God. This passage is also interesting in that, even though this story also occurs almost verbatim in Matthew, the place where the author of Luke chooses to insert this Scripture in a way almost forces us to become aware of the presence of symbol and double meaning in Jesus' words. It is almost impossible to miss the timelessness of Jesus' message.
So, whereas when Jesus laments over Jerusalem in Matthew His words seem to be a clear reference to Jerusalem's past history with prophets as well as an expression of Jesus' desire to change that history during the few days He recently spent there, in Luke, Jesus had not yet been to Jerusalem and therefore His words take on a whole new level of meaning. The important thing for us to realize today though, as we engage these words looking for our own guidance and message from God, is that when Jesus expresses this lament, this desire, this cry about Jerusalem, God's people, He is not only pointing to the past and to the history of what had happened to the prophets and messengers which God sent to Jerusalem, nor is He only pointing to the Jerusalem of His time and what God's people will do to Him shortly, but in His words at the time, as well as here today, now, Jesus is pointing to US. In Jesus' lament over Jerusalem, over the story of God's chosen people, over the entire history of God's relationship with humanity, Jesus points to US and our own relationship with God. You see, for me, that is what today's Gospel is all about. It's about our relationship with God.
Today's Gospel is about our realizing that Israel's story, Jerusalem's story, the story God's relationship with the human race, is really OUR story as well. We are Jerusalem. We have the same story as Israel. We struggle to live into right relationship with God just as all of humanity has from the very beginning. Though it may sound rough or exaggerated, when you think about it, Jesus' lament over Jerusalem and Israel's rejection and killing of the Prophets, might as well be a lament over our own internal struggle with or our own rejection of God's messengers or messages too.
You see, just as we see God doing throughout the entirety of Scripture, God is constantly reaching out to us as well in our daily lives, desiring a true and full relationship, desiring to care for us as Jesus illustrates today. But the reality is, that more often than not, just like the faithful followers before us, we end up rejecting God's offer as well in order to choose something deceivingly more desirous. The reality is that more often than not, we end up choosing to place ourselves first over God and over each other, violating the trust and respect required for any healthy relationship. While, as followers of Christ Jesus, we live with the assurance that our ultimate and eternal relationship with God is in good standing (though we do have a group here at Ascension which meets weekly on Tuesdays that would be happy to debate that belief with you), an honest look at our daily and living relationship with God our Father and Creator ends up leaving something to be desired.
So, my friends, as I thought about this Gospel lesson, about Jesus waiting with open arms to gather us in, and as I thought about our living into this season of Lent, this season of reflection and introspection, it occurred to me that this just might be the perfect time for us reevaluate that most important of relationships as well. Now just might be the perfect time for each of us to intentionally set time apart to work on strengthening our relationship with Christ. Now just might be the perfect time to redirect ourselves, to reorient our souls, towards that ever open and loving embrace of Jesus. Today, I want to encourage each of us to leave here after our service with that as our charge, and to actually commit ourselves to truly look for ways which we can foster a healthier relationship with Christ (and if you find that you need help doing that, just let us know. That's what we're here for.) Because, the truth is that just as I, and I hope each of you, were able to see in my two friends this morning, though we all might proclaim “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” the true status of our present relationship with God, and therefore our happiness, our purpose, our completeness, actually depends on our own willingness to be vulnerable with and our own ability to finally allow ourselves to fully accept His eternal loving embrace.
Our quality of life directly depends on our willingness to live into a true and working relationship with God with all its ups and downs. For some of us, maybe that just means continuing to find and refine ways of communicating with God and seeking His will in our lives. For some us, maybe that means completely relearning, or actually learning for the first time to allow God to love us. For most of us though, depending on the day, or the time, or the moment, I suspect that its probably a little bit of both, and its probably about learning to finally give as much importance, if not more, to the true gift we have in the ability to engage in a real relationship with God, as we do with that of our own family and friends. The point, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, is that you are loved. Truly, you are forgiven. So now, let us accept that gift, that fact. Let us live into the love of God which makes us who we are, and let us allow ourselves to truly be willing to enter into an actual relationship with Christ, so that not only our own lives might be transformed, but the entire world as we know it as well.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Hope in Failure

The Rev. Robert P. Travis
1st Sunday Lent Sermon - Episcopal Church of the Ascension 8 and 10:30am
Scripture Text: Luke 4:1-13

Sermon Text:
The exercise of fasting, in my experience
has been an exercise in failure.
That stands in special contrast for me today,
with the fast that we read about Jesus doing
in the wilderness.
What Jesus accomplished is certainly unusual,
some would even say supernatural.
To fast completely from food for forty days
is extraordinary,
and even more amazing is that he did it successfully.
Whenever I try to give up something for Lent,
or even take on a fast,
what I mostly remember is how often I fail at it.
And so I repent, say I'm sorry,
accept God's free forgiveness and return to trying.
But I'm never fully successful at it,
so that's how it's an exercise in failure.
And I've come to understand that,
exercises in failure may be a good thing,
and certainly go against what the world tempts us to do.

Some of you might be aware,
that Jackie and I just celebrated our 10th anniversary.
As I was lying in bed thinking about this passage,
the other night,
I was drawn back to that time 10 years ago,
when at this very moment we were on our honeymoon.
At first I didn't see a connection,
and was going to berate myself for daydreaming,
but then I realized there really is something there.
You see, we went for the first, and only time
to one of those all-inclusive resorts.
I had saved up quite a bit to do it,
and my parents chipped in as well,
and so I was proud that I could take my new bride,
to a spa resort in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico.
From the moment we got there,
Jackie and I were struck by how strange,
and unreal this place was.
Of course, it was attractive,
we had thought it would be nice to be pampered,
and they lavish it on at those kind of places.
It's kind of the opposite of fasting.
If you've never been to one,
I'll save you the expense, by telling you about it.
They have all these restaurants,
and you can order as much as you want,
because you've paid for it all in advance.
There are bars everywhere,
even a fully stocked bar in the room,
so you can drink all you want.
Rather than encourage people to be comfortable
I find that it encourages over-indulgence.
I felt like I needed to get my money's worth,
so much like an all-you-can eat buffet,
I over did it at every meal, and in between.
I think I gained 5 pounds that week.
Jackie was amused that whenever we turned on the TV,
there was this resort channel,
that talked about all the amenities one could use.
Every sentence began with “You!”
“You deserve pampering,”
“You should feel great while you're here.”
“You must take advantage of what we're offering You.”
“You, you, you, you, you, you, you!”
It all left us with a sort of empty,
and even nagging feeling in our spirits,
that what we were doing really wasn't good for us,
in spite of all the attention to our own needs.
The thing that really took the cake for me,
was when I found out that they had a labyrinth,
I found out about this on that tv channel of course,
the resort was trying to appeal to that trendy
sense of spirituality without religion
that is so common in wealthy countries these days.
“You should find spiritual wholeness,
you need to seek peace.
You'll find peace in your soul if you walk our beautiful garden labyrinth.”
Well, I already knew that labyrinth walking was
a good spiritual practice,
as I had experienced it before,
and I insisted to Jackie that we try it.
I thought, “maybe that will make me feel better.”
So we went together to this lovely garden
in between the buildings,
and found the entrance to the labyrinth.
From the start I thought it sort of looked odd.
If you've ever been up to our labyrinth
on the hill over the parking lot,
you'll see what is typical,
that most of them are rather circular,
and while the path turns different ways,
one is guided into the center of a circle,
unlike a maze there are no false turns or dead ends,
and the idea is that one prepares one's heart
on the way in,
finds God and peace in the center,
and then walks back out by the same way,
carrying that peace into the world.
This labyrinth at the resort
was long and narrow,
and at first I did not realize what was wrong with it.
We walked from beginning to end,
and while there were no false turns or dead ends,
we went in one side and out the other.
I realized about half way through,
that there was no center.
The designer had taken a traditional labyrinth form,
and cut it in half,
placing one side next to the other,
so there was no center.
A light bulb sort of went off at that point in my head.
“There's no center!” I thought,
“When it's all about you, you, you, you, you, you, you,
there's no center, and we can't find God,
we end up empty and soulless,
prone to over-indulgence and waste.
I'm not sure if I'll ever go back to such a resort,
but even with that learning experience,
I have to admit, it's tempting sometimes.

Notice what the devil does in the story,
of Jesus in the wilderness.
“If you are the son of God,
command this stone to become a loaf of bread. . .
To you I will give their glory and all this authority. . .
If you then will worship me,
it will all be yours. . .
If you are the son of God,
throw yourself down from here,
for it is written 'He will command his angels
concerning you, to protect you,' and
'on their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

You, you, you, you, you, you, you!

The enemy used the same way to tempt Jesus,
that is still used to tempt us today.
And look how Jesus responded,
successfully I might add,
One does not live by bread alone. . .
Worship the Lord and serve only him. . .
do not put the Lord to the test.”

Jesus turns the temptation away from himself,
and puts the focus in the right place.
Temptation is all about serving ourselves,
or letting others serve us.
the way to live and find life,
is about serving the Lord,
and others,
and taking the attention away from ourselves.

It's a simple lesson,
but so hard for us to learn,
and Lent is a season of practicing it.
And practice, means accepting that failure will come.
In a way, failure and persistence,
are the greatest lessons in Lent.
Because if we pick some discipline to do,
whether fasting,
or giving something up,
or helping someone out and doing something positive.
If we pick something for Lent
at which we know we can succeed,
Then we have a deeper failure,
a failure to learn and to grow into deeper dependance on God.
A failure to depend on God,
who is the one we are to serve,
and not ourselves.
If we succeed all the time,
as our society encourages us to do,
then we will gradually become more and more isolated,
especially from the one
who desires the deepest relationship with us,
from God.

I have this card on my desk to remind me of this truth,
it says “God calls us not to be successful,
but faithful.”
This season calls us to self-examination
and repentance.
That is hard to do, and is sometimes sad,
but 2 Corinthians 7 tells us:
“Godly sorry brings repentance,
that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.”
Our society invites us to try to be happy
and self-indulgent all the time.
When we fail at pleasing ourselves,
which we will inevitably do as well,
the consequences are much more dire,
that same verse in 2 Corinthians finishes by saying,
“but worldly sorrow brings death.”

God invites us to life, abundant life,
but that abundant life is found in Him,
not in ourselves.
Jesus successfully defeated the enemy
by reminding him we are
to “worship the Lord our God
and serve only Him.”

This lenten season is a time to try,
and fail at that,
so that as we do,
we ultimately can throw ourselves,
into the mercy of a God who loves us
and wants us to depend on Him.

Try failing at something good this Lent,
we may not like it much,
but I'm sure it's worth it.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ash Wednesday

 The Rev. Amy Hodges Morehous
Ash Wednesday
Feb. 13, 2013

On this Ash Wednesday evening, we gather together to affirm that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.

I don’t know if you’ve seen our Bishop’s message for this Lent this year. If you haven’t, I would encourage you click the link, and listen. The link to the video is also posted on the church’s Facebook page. (Of course, if you’ve given up Facebook for Lent, I suppose you’re out of luck til Easter.)

In the video, the Bishop reminds us that Christ is tempted for 40 days, and that he is tempted because he is human, and temptation is part of being human. We are all tempted, daily, sometimes hourly, because we are human. We are dust, we are mortal. Our Bishop quotes someone as saying that our most basic human temptation - the time we are most dusty - is when we forsake our deepest values, and embrace those things that are counterfeit. Forsake our deepest values....

We frequently respond to our temptations by giving things up in Lent. It’s a question we ask each other. “What are you giving up?” If you don’t have an answer for that, you feel pretty inadequate. I’ve given up many things in my 40 years. I’ve given up chocolate, soda, television, fried food, meat, caffeine. Not all in one year, obviously - it would be unfair to make those around me completely miserable. One year, I even gave up self-criticism, which was terribly difficult, even more difficult than the year I gave up criticizing others. Of course, once Lent was over, I picked most of those right back up.

And what did I learn from my various small sacrifices? In some cases, I learned that I was far too dependent on something than I would like. The year I gave up chocolate I learned that I could be tremendously resentful for a short period of time. And I frequently was reminded each time that I am all too human in many respects. But I’m not sure any of those small sacrifices substantially changed my relationship with God, or others, or even with myself.

Our Bishop suggests that is what the season of Lent is really about - change. It is the gift of time - 40 days - to reorient ourselves. Forty days - a tithe of time for the year - to grow toward being the person God would have us be. I’m not sure God has a particular interest in our relationship with chocolate, or soda, or whatever thing we’ve chosen to give up this year. But I do think God is profoundly interested in our relationship with him, and our relationship with each other. Bishop George suggests that now is the time to reorient ourselves toward our deepest values, toward those things we hold most true in our hearts, and move away from what is counterfeit. Move away from what is false, and toward what is real.

For instance, what if we really took 40 days and lived into this Lent as if we believed that God's love and mercy and forgiveness were profoundly real?

What if, instead of chocolate, we gave up judging ourselves and each other harshly? The world around us would have us believe that we are deeply inadequate - never enough, never quite right, never dressed well enough, never young enough, or beautiful enough, or rich enough. Did you look in the mirror this morning and see a beloved child of God, or did you see someone else? Someone less than whole? Someone the world outside has conditioned you to see? What if you spent 40 days seeing yourself as you really are, a beloved child of God?

When it's hard for us to see that we are loved, just as we are, that makes it even harder to see others with the same eyes of love. What if we looked at our neighbor, and instead of seeing someone who is different, we saw someone who was just like us? What if you looked at the person in the next car as you’re driving to work, the one who's driving you nuts in traffic, and said to yourself, "They're on the same road I am, and we're all just trying to get home the best way we know how." What if we spent 40 days suspending judgement, and giving our fellow human beings a break? What if we went even further, and committed to doing something daily to help others see that they, too, are beloved children of God? What kind of world would we create?

What if we lived into Lent as if we really believed that we belonged to God, that we are loved more than we can possibly understand? What if we woke up every morning during Lent and reminded ourselves that we and everyone in the world comes from and belongs to God? What would we choose to do differently?

Once we have seen who we are, seen who God would have us be, we can see, clearly, those things that separate us from God, and from each other. Those things are called ‘sins’. We don’t much care for it, this talk of sin and repentance, but we need it. When my daughter was 4, she asked me what a sin was. At a loss for how best to answer her in a way she would understand, I finally said, “Sin is something that makes God’s heart sad.”

Lent is traditionally a time to take note of our sins, to own up to our sinful nature, and to offer those up to God with a repentant heart. During Lent we are called to honest and loving self-examination, called to take stock of what it is that we do to grieve the very heart of the God that loves us. We are not called to subject ourselves to abject misery, not to make ourselves or others suffer. Not to list and recall our sins so that we may hoard them, so that we may hang on to them and beat ourselves over the head with them for years. God is not interested in furthering our misery and suffering - we do that pretty well all on our own. During Lent, we are gifted with time to offer our sins and shortcomings up to God so that they do not fester within us, so they they do not turn into self-loathing and hatred.

Because we are human, because we are dust, because we forget that we are loved, we have a profoundly hard time forgiving ourselves. That makes it even harder to believe that God can forgive us. But what if, and this is a big if, we lived for 40 days as if we really believed that God forgives us? That God’s mercy is deep enough and wide enough to forgive the things in ourselves that we find unforgivable? Do you really believe tonight that you are forgiven? Do you believe that God's mercy is large enough not only for you, but for your neighbor, too?

This Lent, as we look at how we see ourselves, I would ask each of us to give ourselves permission to let go of our past sins, and give them over to God. Many of us need help with that. If it seems like too large a task to do alone, I would urge you to seek out one of the clergy, and ask about reconciliation. (If you are curious about it, you can find it as Reconciliation of a Penitent, page 447 in the Book of Common Prayer.) If you are weighed down tonight by past or current sins, you must know that God does not desire us to grieve our sins forever. We are not required to sit with the clergy and confess our sins so that we can get into heaven. Instead, we are invited by a loving God to confess them so they do not drag us down, so they do not disrupt our relationship with God and our neighbor, pushing us further and further away. Hoarded sin and anger and hurt turns into more sin, and anger, and resentment and self-loathing, which drives us further away from a God who loves us deeply, a God who yearns to be a loving presence in our lives. It is a vicious cycle that the more we fall into sin, the more profoundly unworthy and unloved we feel. We are called this Lent to reconcile ourselves with God not because we are worthless sinners, but because we are sinners of infinite worth. We are worth so much, you and I, that God sent His only son to walk among us, to speak to us, to die and rise from the dead for us.

This Lent, you have a gift. Forty days to embrace God’s merciful love and forgiveness. Forty days to see ourselves as God sees us, forty days to turn and reorient ourselves toward those things that are most real. Forty days to let go of the weight of sin that can drag us down.

Tonight we affirm that we are dust, yes, even sinful dust, but we are also loved dust, we are forgiven dust, we are dust that will be someday loved and transformed into God's own likeness. Dust we are, and to dust we shall return.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Epiphany 4, Year C, February 3, 2013 The Episcopal Church of the Ascension
Revelation, Vocation, and Hesitation The Reverend Dr. Howard J. Hess
I. Introduction. One of my most treasured discoveries in seminary is the vitality of the Hebrew Scriptures. Like many of you, through the years I had tired of the stories of war and killing in parts of the Old Testament and was drawn to the beauty and power of the New Testament Gospel message. But what I learned at Yale Divinity School was the timelessness of the story of God’s people, beginning in the Garden and ending in the captivity of Assyria or Babylon. By timeless, I mean the repetitive human cycle of experiencing God’s love and blessings, beginning then to believe that our blessings reflect our own worthiness, buying into the delusion of self-sufficiency, turning away from God, facing calamity, and crying out to God for help. This story would repeat itself time and time again. And right in the middle of all the narratives came the prophets. What a gift the prophets have been, including Jeremiah, the major prophet we hear from today.
II. Jeremiah was called by God in 626 BCE to speak truth to power in the southern kingdom of Judah. Israel had already been obliterated by Assyria, which scattered the ten “lost tribes” throughout its empire. Now the two southern tribes were under attack by Babylon, and God handpicked Jeremiah to preach a powerful message of repentance over a forty-year period. Jeremiah was not enthusiastic about his calling. He was unheeded by those to whom he prophesied, and built his message upon God’s insistence rather than on successful outcomes.
This morning I’d like to focus upon a very particular part of Jeremiah’s life – God’s call to the prophet as described in our first reading. There is a genre in the Bible, a literary form, titled “the call statement.” These statements are threaded throughout scripture; Abraham had one, as did Moses, Isaiah, and the Apostle Paul. Typically, when God calls an individual, the call is to a particular task at a particular point in time. Calls have several elements. First, the commissioning: “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’” This commissioning occurred in an epiphany in which God spoke directly to Jeremiah, just as he did to Moses through the burning bush.
God’s commissioning of Jeremiah was electric. He told Jeremiah, “I knew you before you were formed in the womb.” When I first encountered that phrase, meditated upon it, and prayed with it, I was deeply moved. What became clear to me was that God was not only talking to Jeremiah, God was speaking to each of us. God has known us before we were even formed in our mother’s womb. God has known us before we were known by anyone else and before we even began to know ourselves. The Hebrew word for formed in the original text is “yasar.” It is used to refer to the shaping of pottery. God is portrayed as a potter who shaped and formed Jeremiah just as God does each one of us. The Hebrew word for “I knew you” is “yada.” This verb means more than cognitive knowing. It means action of the will and senses. Lastly, the word for “I dedicated you” is “gadas.” This word incorporates God’s intention to consecrate and sanctify Jeremiah. The original Hebrew is much richer and more revealing than the English translation we rely upon. Summing up, the deeper meaning we see in the Hebrew text is that God was not only aware of Jeremiah, but actively shaped and created in Jeremiah an aspect of God’s own being and then blessed that being with the sacred gift of life.
We see next that Jeremiah resisted, claimed to be too young and too inadequate. God reassured him and God emphatically told him not to be afraid. Then God reached out his hand, touched Jeremiah’s mouth and said: “Now I have put my words in your mouth.”
III. This morning I’d like to assert that Jeremiah’s story is our story; his narrative is our narrative. God has called each one of us, just as God called Jeremiah. Throughout the years, at times the church has mistakenly emphasized the call of clergy to ordained ministry and failed to stress that God also calls people to lay ministry. I believe historically this has had more to do with power and institutional kingdom building than it did with the words of God’s Spirit. The early church understood the “priesthood of all believers” and built its life focusing upon close, personal relationships and ministry to the world. Scripture is filled with the affirmation that each and every follower of Jesus Christ has a call and that our individual call reflects our deepest identity and our particular gifts. Our gifts – such as our ability to teach, to administer, to invent, to love, and to create beauty – reflect the particular way God the Father has shaped us and built his own nature into us. You see, we are the children of God, so why shouldn’t we look like God, think like God, and act like God? Of course, often we are afraid to step out in pursuit of God’s call, just like we were afraid when we took various developmental steps. Do you remember when the training wheels were first removed from your bicycle? Do you remember when you asked or were asked for that first dance in middle school (when most boys’ heads came up to their partners’ necks)? Do you remember the day you left home? Do you remember your very first day at your first paid job? Or, if you have children, do you remember when your first child was born? We have fears, but we do our best to step forward into and through those fears, relying upon the presence of God in that space with us.
IV. Respond to the call. My purpose here this morning is a very simple one: to encourage each one of us to listen to God’s call and to step out into that call with as much courage as we can muster; to step into the life of this community wherever our energy is stirred; to reach for support for others to help us remain strong and focused or to become strong. You might ask, “How will I know what my call is?” Some will hear very directly from God and encounter a sign, like the burning bush, but perhaps it won’t be that clear. Here is a good guiding principle: Look for that place where your passions meet the needs of the world. It might not be logical either to you or to others, it might not be the career path you have envisioned for yourself, and you may find yourself thinking, “I could never do that,” but at that place is your call. God created you with that passion.
In preparing this sermon I reflected upon the calls I have received in my life. Sometimes I have said yes, other times I have said no, and still other times, I have said “Maybe, try me later.” But there are several things I am very grateful about. First, God is so much more patient with us than we are with ourselves. God waits, God reiterates, and God uses many different avenues to communicate with us. Second, we often receive our calls progressively in life. My renewed call to ordained ministry came after a call to work with HIV+ persons and persons with AIDS. I was afraid when I begin that work because facing death had been a very tough issue in my family. God knew that about me. So God placed me in a situation where I walked with many, many wonderful people through their deaths as part of a community. Then some years later, I was driving to a hospital in Connecticut where I was completing my Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE. I prayed as I drove, “God I am ready to learn more about how to be helpful to others at the time of death.” Ten minutes, just ten minutes after my arrival at the hospital, I had the opportunity to do just that in the ER. And God gave me the words that a bereaved family needed to hear. “Do not be afraid,” God says to each of us, “now I have put my words in your mouth.” Amen.