Territorial

This little birdy has been hanging out on the window looking into the chancel for the past few days. He’s just about the prettiest shade of blue I’ve ever seen. (Those in the know identified him as an indigo bunting.) He made his presence known on Sunday by pecking and flapping against the window all through the service. I’d like to think he was drawn to us by some spark of recognition in his tiny avian heart that all of Creation is one in giving God glory, and all God’s creatures are welcome here. But friends who know birds say it’s more likely he sees his own reflection in the glass and is “fighting” to guard his territory. I guess they’re a lot like us in more ways than one.

A Father’s Day prayer

I spent a few hours yesterday watching my 19-month-old granddaughter play on the floor with her dad while we adults talked: laughing giddily when he bounced her on his legs, commanding him to kiss the tiny imaginary “baby” she rocked in her arms, playing a surprisingly physical game that involved sliding an ice cube up and down the grooves in a metal coffee table, and occasionally throwing her harms around his neck and chanting, “hug, hug, hug!”

Of course I was charmed. One of the most beautiful kids in the world, and one of the best dads. Blessings upon blessings this Father’s Day.

It made the sadness I felt for all those fathers and children who are apart from each other this day all the more poignant. Of course the kids at the border, who did nothing to deserve the terrible thing that is happening to them. But also dads and kids serving their country in far-away places, and those who have lost their lives in service to others. Those whose lives were taken by gun violence closer to home. Those separated by the plague of addiction. Those whose fathers have been unable, for whatever reason, to provide the love and stability they needed. Those remembering fathers who lived long and happy lives, for whom Father’s Day will always be a reminder of both love and loss.

Thank you, God, for all who show a father’s love in our world … for those who are special to us … be close to those who are sad today.

Preach it!

On vacation in Philly, I asked our Lyft driver if she liked the work, and she asked what kind of work Chris and I do. After a while, she took a big breath, said she understood I was “off duty” – are we ever? – but wondered if she could ask me for some advice. Sure, I said, wondering what was coming next.
She told me she’d been a Christian for 25 years, and she still believes in Jesus, but lately she’s been having a lot of trouble with Christianity because of the way it’s being used to justify things that don’t seem Christian to her, and she named some examples. I won’t repeat the entire conversation, but we did think a little about what Jesus would say if he were standing at the border today.
She said she prayed every morning for God to fix this sorry world, and then she prayed for God to tell her what she could do about it. I told her I thought she was asking the right questions, and the only “advice” I had was to keep praying and stay true to her faith in Jesus.
Later, I thought about how much courage it would take to start a conversation like that with a stranger, especially when that stranger just admitted to being a Christian preacher.
And later still, I wondered which one of us was actually doing the preaching.
She does like the work, by the way. Because, she said, I have conversations like this.
Me, too.

A sermon for the third Sunday after Pentecost

If any of you have ever had that feeling that your family, your own family, doesn’t really understand you, you’re going to sympathize with Jesus in today’s Gospel. His family thinks he’s gone crazy. He’s been out preaching and curing people and driving out demons, and everywhere he goes, he’s attracting these huge crowds of people, and his family is worried about him. They basically plan an intervention, and when they hear that he’s come home again, they go looking for him. Their plan is to restrain him, to take him away and make him stop what he’s been doing.

But when they get to the house, the crowds are so thick, the family can’t get to Jesus, so they send in a message: “We’re here!” They want him to come out so they can take him away. And he’s not exactly glad to hear that they’re there. In fact, his response is quite insulting. He asks the question, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” and then he points to the ragtag bunch that he’s got sitting around him and says, “These are my mother and my brothers. This is my family.” He turns his back on his own biological family.

Oh, family.

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Do you see what I see?

Carrying the camera day after day through familiar territory is just a way to practice looking. Sometimes you find yourself taking the same picture over and over again, like the rise, just to see if you can get it better. And sometimes you come across something you’ve never seen before, and you know you better be ready, because there won’t be a second chance.

A sermon for the second Sunday after Pentecost

So here we are in this morning’s gospel at the very beginning of third chapter of Mark, so it’s still early in the story, and already Jesus is a marked man. The Pharisees and the Herodians are conspiring to destroy him.

And what has he done to make them so angry? Well, first of all, he watched his disciples pluck some grain as they walked through the fields. Presumably they were hungry, and they ate what they picked. People get hungry on the Sabbath, just like any other day. But picking the grain was considered harvesting, and that was considered work, and in the eyes of the Pharisees that was a violation of the Sabbath.

And the Pharisees were there in the synagogue watching when Jesus healed the man with the withered hand. And they thought of that work as healing, too, another Sabbath violation, so now the Pharisees and the Herodians are conspiring to destroy him.

I think maybe for us, it’s just weirdto think that either of these things would be enough to make anyone want to conspire to destroy Jesus. We’re not part of that culture, we don’t get it. Sometimes religious passion can take people in unholy directions, even when they’re basically good people and they mean well.

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