Monthly Archives: April 2013

Sermon on Resurrection Life: In the wake of fear, live hope!

This is the third in a series of sermons on Audacious Faith: Living the Resurrection.

Psalm 82

            God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgement: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?  Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.  Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”  They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.  I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.”  Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!

John 10:31-42

            The Jews took up stones again to stone him.  Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father.  For which of these are you going to stone me?”  The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”  Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?  If those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?  If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

            He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there.  Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.”  And many believed in him there.

Acts 9:32-42

Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralyzed. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!” And immediately he got up. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

This is, for me a set of power packed texts.  The Book of Acts itself is alarming.  Its alarming because of just how much good news is packed into it… overwhelming good news.  Peter making the lame walk, the dead rise?  What are we to do with that?  This reeks of magic and miracles and mystery that is far beyond us. 

We don’t live in an age of miracles do we?  Miracles, it seems, are a thing of the past if they ever were.  I mean few of us would want to say it that bluntly but I doubt any of us believe we could do today – even through the tremendous power of prayer – what Peter just did in this text.  So when we read these texts about miracles – what do we do with them?  What do we do with Peter who said to a man just get up, and this man unable to walk for eight years did just that?

How many of us have walked into the home or hospital room of someone who had just died and feeling the hurt and hearing the weeping, and beholding the treasured memories of this departed loved one, how many of us in that place have wished we could just take away all the pain bring this treasure life back to life – Tabitha get up.  And she opens her eyes and she is well and all is well with the world. 

Don’t we wish we could do that???

Don’t we wish we still lived in an age of miracles?

We had a rough week here in the United States.   We are not a people truly accustomed to rough weeks.  We live fairly safe lives compared to so many other places in the world.  We imagine ourselves to be reasonably safe when we go out our doors, every time we go out our doors.

Two blasts rang out at the Boston marathon.  Two blasts filled not only with harmful shrapnel that would take lives and limbs… but also filled with hate and fear and terror.  A city went into lockdown, an entire country was gripped by grief and fear and confusion…

And yet… and yet in the midst of that people kept recalling a phrase from Mr. Rogers – he of the sweaters and the changed shoes for indoors and outdoors.  He of the invitation to be his neighbor to the children, and of imaginative flights of fancy into a whole different world with his trolley.  Mr. Rogers is often quoted at such time from a story that his mother used to tell him, that when fear and terror raise its head, we should look to the helpers.  This message kept ringing out this week because in photo after photo in a moment of terror people began to notice something. The people in those photos were not running away from danger, they were running into the danger to help.  The photos were people holding, cradling, walking with those whose very life blood was spilling out from them, those who were dazed and confused, and those who were lost.

An entire nation stopped to grieve with them, and hope for them, and seek to help them.  And in the midst of this the message I heard ringing out was not fear.  I saw more messages about trying to prevent the response of fear and hate than anyone actually expressing hate or fear or terror.  Yes there were some comments of hate for the people who would do this but as a general rule I saw far more care and love than hate and fear.

Hope. 

Hope was strong with week.  Did you feel that?  Did you hear that?  Do you sense that?  Coming out of the week I did not hear a people who were frightened and would no longer run marathons or watch them.  I’m sure there are lingering tendrils of fear, but the overwhelming message seemed to be one of resilience and care and hope.  We still run.

Isn’t that a miracle?  Isn’t that a message of resurrection that walked into our lives and said that it doesn’t matter that in this moment you should be afraid and feel the cold grip of death – there is life here, there is hope here, and there is good news here: look to the helpers. Look to the small yet strong tendrils of life that are breaking up through the rubble to testify to hope and the human spirit that resiliently seeks life and good news in the midst of the shadowed valley of death. 

That is a miracle.  That is resurrection!

I get struck by something when we think about the resurrection.  I think that as a general rule we turn the resurrection into far too small a thing.  We think that the resurrection is about Jesus coming back to life.  That’s fine, it’s nice.  But if that is all that the resurrection is about – if the resurrection is only about Jesus than it’s a pretty small thing.  God was already alive.  God did not need to die and rise again to affirm that God was alive.  God’s people did not doubt that God was alive.  That wasn’t the problematic that needed to be addressed.  If resurrection is just about Jesus, just about God – than resurrection is a pretty small blip on the radar screen of the life of the world.

But what if resurrection is about how WE are to live.  What if it is about the story we wish to preach with our lives.   What if it isn’t just about a Jesus’ life rising from death but the life of world rising from death?   What if the real miracle here is the human life awakened to reality that life is stronger than death and we can live our lives as a testimony to hope in the midst of fear and darkness.  What if the real message of the resurrection has is that care and good news are a more captivating story than death and mayhem.

What a story to get involved in, not that we watch as Jesus comes to save us, that he died, and he rose so we have a better place to go to in the end of the story.  And it’s all done and we are safe and saved and we know the end of the story and it’s all good – the rest of the horrible junk along the way will eventually pass away so just don’t worry about it because in all work out okay in the end.  Again – if that is what resurrection means than this whole God thing really is just an opiate of the people. A thing we use to deaden our senses to the hurt and pain in the pursuit that something outside ourselves will remove us from it all in the end. 

But if the story is one of ascendant love and care in the midst of death – hope as the response and not hate… if resurrection is a way of living in the world that testifies to good news, care, and love in the midst of the pain and the terror, the death and the fear, in the midst of the bombs bursting in air – If that is what resurrection is about than it’s a radical and awesome way of transforming our lives in this world right now!  It’s a miracle we participate in every day – Aeneas get up, Tabith get up.

How many times do we say something akin to “but I’m only human.”  It’s right there in the text of John 10 too, “because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”  But to that accusation what does Jesus say?  Jesus says our own scripture names us all gods from the mouth of God.  Psalm 8 with which we opened worship said that we really should be nothing… I’m only human, but instead we are little less with God charged with being care takers of all of the wonderful works of the Most High.  Jesus says, ye are gods, there isn’t really anything I’m claiming about myself that is more than what I claim for you.

And Peter and all those apostles are living that message in the Book of Acts.  Acts scares us because it imagines that Jesus truly meant that we are to live as agents of the resurrection.  We are meant to live as a testimony to hope and good news in the mists of terror.  It means that we do not allow that my only-human, little less than God spirit will cower in fear but will boldly live care and love in the face of death. 

In the midst of the worst the world offers I will be the best the world offers in response.  That is good news.  That is a miracle. 

Two people choose to strike out, and they took lives and it’s a tragedy, and it is tragic.  But only 2 people chose hate and confusion, and a whole country chose to testify to life, and hope, and courage, and love of our neighbor at the risk of our own lives.  And friends, that is a miracle to me on par with anything the Book of Acts has to offer!

No we cannot bring those 3 lives back today – still wish I could do that… God I wish we could do that.  But we can do all that we can – and that isn’t just a little insignificant act – to limit the reach of fear in the wake of death.  We do not deaden the pain of our loss; we do not mask the hurt.  But we also choose to not let the pain and hurt dictate our response.  We can choose to respond not with hate but with love, and in love care for the world.  Look to the helpers!

What is the resurrection, what does it mean to be people who participate in resurrection in the world?

I think it means to recognize that we are gods.  Yes you heard that right, your pastor is up here saying we are gods and that is blasphemy.  But I’m here because they are Jesus’ words.  And if charged with blasphemy then I’m in good company.  Jesus isn’t worried about blasphemy.  If you don’t believe me than believe my works, he says.  Let us not get caught up in names and categories, whether I’m God or Son of God or Son of Man… let us not get caught up in ways of salvation, and creedal assertions, and magic words or beliefs… let us not get caught up in the laws and the rules and the approved ways and means… let us just be the helpers.  Let us live in such a way that people look at us and feel that the world isn’t so dark after all.  That is what my life is all about.  Let us be the helpers.  And whatever you want to call that… that is living resurrection life – and it is good news.  

It is a miracle of the only-human, little less than God spirit we have been created to be for the sake of the world.

 Thanks be to God, Amen.

Advertisements

Nostalgia: the Art of Half-Remembering

I’m sure you have seen half a hundred or so posts on Facebook, or conversations with friends that start something like, “I grew up when you could…”  or “Do you remember how great it was when…”  or any version of such thoughts.  I don’t mean the “I walked to school uphill both ways” variety (though even those are of the same ilk) but the kind that end up letting you know that there was  a time when people were nicer, the world was safer, life was simple, and generally all was better than it is now.

To that I say… that’s nice.

It is.  It’s a nice memory.  It lifts up some wonderful aspects of life we once knew.  But there is the rub.  It lifts up “some” aspects.  The joy of such memories is that we are very selective about what we choose to remember. We would not wax so nostalgic about a time without women’s suffrage, with unchecked apartheid, and polio epidemics. 

This is true even personally.  I may say it was easy when I was a child and my major concern was whether I would get home from school before the neighborhood backyard whiffle ball game started.   But I say this forgetting the angst of being a child who didn’t always fit in, a student often overlooked for being quiet, or an athlete who was never quite good enough to compete at the level I wished to no matter how hard I tried. 

Nostalgia for a time that once was is usually actually a wish to have a dream that never existed.  They are edited memories, half-remembered with most of the negatives forgotten or repressed.

(Are you ready for a little amateur psychology now?)  I remember the first time I learned about object relations theory.  A really basic simplistic version might go like this.  As an infant with a primitive mind we create an internal “object” in our mind for everything we relate to in the world.  When we get hungry we cry out and mom comes to feed us.  Internally we create an object that is mom.  This mom object is good.  She feeds us, changes us, rocks us to sleep.  Mom makes the world better.  In the primitive state we can only imagine mom being good.  At some point the real world will prove different.  Mom will not hear us crying some day because she is in the shower, doing laundry, trying to keep her job she does on top of the job of raising me (imagine that!  I’m not my mom’s whole world?  Actually the infant can’t imagine that.)  The infant then creates a different internal object… bad mom.  Bad mom and good mom are two totally different people.  This is how the primitive mind works.  In our healthy and mature moments later on as a adults we are able to merge these two different internal objects into the one object they really are.  But there are times they still split (its called… wait for it… splitting).  We split people back into the two different internal objects we have created to represent them. 

When do we see this happen?  Well lots of times, but mostly you will see it when a family member dies and the family basically only remembers the good stuff.  Essentially the bad internal object of that person died, and the good version lives on in memory.  I’m sure you have heard that eulogy when someone is waxing poetic about how great someone was (sometimes they do this to protect people, but sometimes they are truly convinced this is how it was… we are talking about the later) and you are thinking… whose funeral are we at again???

I name this now because we tend to do this with the past all the time.  We remember what we liked about it and we forget the rest.  We idealize the world that was.  We also have a tendency to focus a lot of our energy of the present on the negative side.  We focus on what is horrible (that which contrasts with our idealized past) and forget to mention all the great good that has emerged as well.   We do this with society, we do this with our families, and we even do this with the church (or any institution/community).

Let’s face it.  We are all a lot more internally primitive in our thinking and relating than we like to admit.  We could all use with a dose of perspective about much of our lives (hardships AND blessings) both in the past and the present.  Nothing is quite so bad, or probably quite as good as we make it out to be.  We are all a mix of everything. 

Now you might ask yourself this, so what?  What’s wrong with that Andrew? 

I will answer that by borrowing a concept from an ethics professor, Marcia Riggs.  She used to talk about raising moral awareness.  I love that phrase. No, really – I LOVE that phrase.  It might just describe my life’s work.  And raising moral awareness is about learning perspective, remembering fully, being aware of issues of which we usually prefer to be ignorant, and recognizing our own responsibility and culpability. 

None of this work is aided by waxing nostalgic for a world that never really existed.  And even if that world did exist, it doesn’t now, and escapist fantasy won’t make the world we live in now heal, blossom, and grow.  Working to remember fully is healthy, working to see clearly both what is before, but also what is around us is essential.  Learning the consequences (good AND bad) of our lives is desirable (at the very least).  So let us all seek not to edit what was, or even what is, but look fully at all what we are both good and bad (without so much judgment even because we begin to realize that we ALL are both good and bad).  And maybe let us not seek refuge in the past that never was instead of seeking to make the tomorrow that is not-yet more palatable than the today we lament. 

Though I would love to play a pickup game of whiffle ball in the backyard right about now, who’s in?

Ananias: To heal or not to heal?

The following sermon was the second in a series on living the resurrection focusing on lectionary stories from the Acts of the Apostles.  This sermon was a bit different as it is done as a first person monologue from the perspective of Ananias – Bishop of Damascus and the disciple asked by Jesus to heal Saul’s blindness.  For the record the choice to have him as one of the seventy sent out by Jesus in Luke 10 is according to early church traditions.  Just about every list of those seventy includes him.  As for aspects of his character.. well that’s all just in my head.  Its a scary place my head. 🙂

Resurrection People: Forgiving

By Andrew Kukla

Romans 12:9-21

9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

Acts 9:1-20
Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 
2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.9For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 

 

Grace and Peace to you.  My name is Ananais.  You probably haven’t heard of me… I’m not a center stage person.  Oh I have taken on leadership positions in the past and hold one currently, but I’m more of a “say yes when asked” kind of person. 

I remember the first time when I began to get caught up the teacher… Jesus is from Nazareth up in Galilee – a back row kind of place.  Encountering his preaching was amazing.  He had such passion, and when you listened to him there was this palpable sense that what he spoke was right.  It wasn’t easy.. never easy stuff.  But He lived what he preached… you know what I mean – it wasn’t just words in his mouth.  You could tell that when he spoke, this was also the way he lived his life.  That is rare to find, rare to find someone who really wrestles with what it means to believe what he believes and then live accordingly…. Except with him it’s like backward from that –it’s almost like he lives it and only afterwards does he preach it… once he is preaching something its only because he’s already been doing it. 

He questions everything… its why I liked being the back row; the twelve could answer his questions and get the notice.  I didn’t need to be up there stumbling over answers.  But I involved from early on, I was one of those seventy he sent out…  He sent us out healing and preaching and teaching… amazing things happened on that trip – I did amazing things, but it wasn’t really me doing it.  Have you ever had one of those moments when amazing things are happening because of you, but you know that you couldn’t’ have done all that and its not really you doing it… and yet it is your hands, they are looking at you.  They were thanking me… and I feel like an imposter when they thank me because it wasn’t me – thank God, thank Jesus.  I didn’t do it…. But… well it was done through me.

Amazing things happened on that trip but understand me in this – it wasn’t easy.  I was as conflicted at the beginning of that trip as I am now.  He told us we couldn’t take money, or spare clothes. Nothing extra.. extra, it wasn’t even just about extras… he wouldn’t even let us take much of the basics.  How would I survive?  His words are challenging words, and I’m still wondering if I believe it and now I’m supposed to be teaching and preaching it, actually healing people! 

Jesus’ teachings?  They get in your head… and they don’t let you go.  You begin thinking weird thoughts, thoughts you aren’t even sure will work.  But I’ve seen it work.  Challenging myself and others to not worry about tomorrow, but trusting that God will provide for tomorrow tomorrow, so today I can give all that I am and all that I have freely, knowing I won’t need it tomorrow… new blessings will abound for me then. 

That’s crazy talk right?  But I’ve done it… I lived it… I’m proof that such a way of life can actually work.  And when you get to thinking about it Jesus teaching wasn’t new.  That is what mana was all about during Moses time.  I mean I read that story a thousand times before and yet it wasn’t until Jesus that I thought maybe I was supposed to live that way.  Not store up food or resources for tomorrow but trust that God will provide and live for today.  Jesus is so consistent with what I have always been taught but no one before really expected me to live that way… and he does. 

I’ve been on board for all of it.  What he is asking now though is just too much.  But Saul???   Jesus wants me to forgive Saul?  To heal him; to love him??  He’s asked me to go heal our enemy for God’s sake!!  Does Jesus really think I can do that?  Saul has made a name for himself in hunting down all of us who follow Jesus.  They say he has no mercy in his eyes when he looks at you like you aren’t even human.  A fire burns there… and people flee here from his wrath.  And now Saul is up here with papers from the chief priests to get me!  ME!  But not just me, I could handle that…. I could handle risking my life.  But he wants to gather up the whole church and haul us down for trial in Jerusalem.  I’m not worried about my own life, this isn’t just about me. I live in Damascus and I’m the leader of the church here in Damascus.  Sure we are a small bunch but I’m responsible for people’s lives.  I have to look out for them, protect them, feed them. 

I get the tomorrow will take care of tomorrow but it’s their lives I’m messing with.  That is hard.  To make decisions about other people’s lives, and other people’s safety.  Sure God knows that is too much to ask…. Sure…ly… but he sent me out that way didn’t he.  I mean I was Jesus responsibility when he sent me out like a lamb to the wolves – those were his very words!  I send you out like a lamb among wolves.  And he did… so he isn’t really asking anything of me as a leader that he didn’t do as a leader… AGGGH – this is why life with Jesus is so hard.  How do you wiggle out of a loophole with a guy who never looks for loopholes, and wouldn’t wiggle out of it even if he did?

Saul has been struck blind?  Isn’t that a gift from God?  A great opportunity for us to be safe?  He can’t find us now, he can’t hunt us down.  We’re actually safe for the moment… and God wants me to give that up?  I don’t know if I can put my people at risk to heal Saul.  After this anything he does will be on my head. I will put us all at risk and any harm he brings to us will be my fault! My fault…. Does God really want that? 

It was enough when it was about money, and stuff, and houses and all of that.  It was enough when I was trusting God to provide tomorrow, but my own life – and the lives of all these people who trust me?   Surely some things I can care about and protect at all costs?  Surely….  … I know it’s there behind me.  You don’t have to remind me.  That cross.  What it’s reminding me of.  I like to think, I want to think, it would be comfortable to think Jesus wouldn’t ask this of me.  But you can’t look at the cross and imagine that Jesus would ask anything else.

Do I have it in me to forgive Saul?

Let’s for a moment assume I’m going to do this thing.  I’ve never said no before.  And saying no to Jesus is really a hard proposition. So presuming I’m going to do this… can I?  Will I be able to do it when I’m there, standing over him?  Will I be able to forgive him?  Heal him?  Love him, him who has hated me? When Saul’s life is in my hands… will I have the strength to actually forgive and heal?

When Jesus sent me out, one of the seventy.  These hands healed many… but it wasn’t really me, I remember that.  I didn’t heal them.  Never thought I could, and I still know that I can’t but God did heal them through me.  So maybe God can love through me too.  Maybe when I can’t do it God will do it through me… not so much me forgiving and healing, but Jesus – who I know would do it…. I’m just making way for Jesus right?

I am going to do it… I don’t say no to Jesus.  I just can’t believe it.  Saul.  Jesus always said love your enemies and it was much easier when it was “enemies” that I was supposed to love.   It’s harder when an actual enemy is there before you ready to be loved.   I do wonder what God has in store for him.  Probably would be nicer to Saul if I just let him go… Jesus sure does mess with your head.  Saul may regret this mercy some day when Jesus has him in his grip, just like I am. 

I guess if I was Saul, I would want to imagine a world where God doesn’t give up on me.  Its great news isn’t it?  It’s wonderful to imagine that God is out there working among the people I have wronged asking them to forgive me, love me, work healing in me…

Thank you.

I can do this… we can do this.  Amen.

Being Good News

Last Sunday we talked about our role in proclaiming the resurrection… not through words but by living as good news in the world.  We even practiced!  We stopped and talked to each, during the sermon, sharing something that was clearly good and exciting in our life but also something challenging or causing worry and concern.  Being good news sometimes is simply the practice of naming blessing when we see them – claim the Spirit at work around us!  Being good news in more intentional ways for our neighbors and friends also requires knowin what is bad news in their life.  We surely cannot begin to think we have something to offer them if we do not even know what they are struggling with… we have to stop and listen before anything else – and often enough simply the act of stopping and listening is all the good news they needed!

So in the interest of claiming some good news I want to share this quick story.  I have two sisters who struggle daily with life-long debilitating illness. One of those sisters also has two children who struggle with the same illness (it’s genetic) and so many days just getting through the day is a struggle (I’ve preach on my sister’s story here: https://akukla.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/god-with-us/).  But today I’m not so much telling her story as a story of something that happened to her. 

She is down visiting my parents in the St. Petersburg, FL area.   My dad learned of a group that has found a unique way to be good news in the lives of people who are struggling.  The group is called Soothe Our Souls.  (Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/SOS.Sailing)  Once a month they go out sailing and give a free ride to people who struggling with illness and the support system around them.  They took my entire family out for two hours on Tampa Bay for fresh air and good times.  Free.  My niece and nephew go to “drive” the boat, they all got to kick back and look for dolphins.  They simply enjoyed themselves and the moment.  Such moments are worth their weight in gold. 

Soothe Our Souls isn’t a big operations.  In fact, it’s really small.  It doesn’t impact many people, but when it does it’s a wonderful blessing – they are doing great work in the area of being good news!  But it began with simply hearing what it means to struggle every day… these words come from their Facebook description:

Captain Dan, of Dolphin Landings Charter Boat Center, founded SOS in 2012 following the passing of a dear friend and fellow sailor of 40 years. In the weeks before his passing, on Sunday mornings, Dan would take his friend and family, along with some of their friends on sailing trips. The time together was precious and therapeutic. It didn’t take long to see that the peaceful setting further improved the mental and emotional well being of all involved. It was from those wonderful experiences, and in honor of Dan’s friend, that SOS was created.

It’s a very simple thing… it’s a wonderful way to live good news, resurrection good news, in the life of the world.  We all have something to share; it doesn’t have to be big and glorious.  Just some way of a providing a moment that testifies to life.  Thanks to Sooth Our Souls and Captain Dan… thanks to all people who are willing to pause in their lives long enough to hear the pain in another, and then respond with a gift of joy – even for only a moment.  This is the work of the resurrection – ascendant life and hope – being proclaimed (LIVED) every day around us. 

Resurrection People

Last week was the beginning of Easter… that’s right.  The beginning.  Easter isn’t meant to be a day in the year of the church calendar.  It is a whole season.  Eastertide is marked as 40 days (sound familiar?) from the rising of Jesus until his ascension.

I have a tendency to spend Eastertide in Acts of the Apostles. I know that by the story Acts actually is what comes after Christ’s ascension.  But we get very little of what happens in those forty days in the Gospel accounts…a story or two.  And more than that I actually like Acts… yes I find a fair amount of it troubling, but how is that new?

So why move to Acts so quickly?  Partly because of its very name.  Acts.  Resurrection isn’t a thinking thing… it’s an action.  Faith isn’t, to my mind, meant to be a belief system.  It’s a way of living, a lived reality if you will.  In Acts, while we do become named Christians, the primary way of reference for these new actors is “followers of the way.”  We are people who lives are being lived in the way of Jesus Christ.  We look like… act like… resemble Jesus.  At least by intention, we fall short of course, but the intention is there. 

When Phillip and James, Peter and Paul, act boldly (amazingly bold even) in the name of Jesus they don’t do so because it will let Jesus down.  It’s not that God is some great task master that has to be pleased with lots of acts.  It’s that the good news that has claimed their life HAS to be lived.  It isn’t just a thought we can come back, a part of our lives dedicated to Sunday but separate from our larger whole – our every choice reflects the larger story that has claimed our life.   All of who we are is claimed by resurrection, by the way of Jesus Christ.

In such a mode of thinking, as resurrection people, our life either demonstrates abundant life or… it doesn’t.  When I make choices to live in ways that lift people up, that show forgiveness and trust, ways that orient me to others in hope, I am claiming the resurrection.  When I make choices that are about my good, scarcity and hoarding, building walls and pushing others down so that I can stand on their backs… then I begin to suck life in, I deny resurrection and resemble the tomb more than the risen Lord. 

I like to think of it this way.  We are a drop in the water that causes ripples… what kind of ripples does your life make?  As people of the resurrection, apostles sent out to be bearers of abundant life, our ripples are meant to be affirming, nurturing, life-giving… resurrection ripples.   

This Eastertide we will spend time thinking through what it means to be such resurrection people, to reflect on our lives and ask ourselves: what kind of ripples do we make? 

The Non-Controversy of Cesar Chavez

Just for the record… I don’t care what the Google doodle is.  They are clever and they celebrate creativity and occasionally people and seasons.  I like them but I won’t ever be offended by what the subject of them is (or is not).  

But we live in a world rife for controversy and we will always try to rub two sticks together to make fire.  So just a few thoughts about this non-controversy over Cesar Chavez being celebrated on Easter Sunday instead of well… Easter Sunday.

Celebrating civil rights is celebrating the work of resurrection – so whatever people actually got upset about Easter love for Cesar Chavez need to get a bigger idea WHY Jesus rose.  Cesar Chavez wasn’t perfect – he made some missteps – but generally he did a lot more to make resurrection real than I ever have and that is something to be named and claimed – it is a celebration of life fully commensurate with a day to proclaim life ascendant!

Having read way too many comments by offended Christians… I think we need to stop getting offended – it does not become us. We aren’t marginalized (though being so might just be a good thing) and living a way of love, grace, and forgiveness is not achieved by getting snarly over every companies decisions not to preach a Christian sermon with their marketing campaigns.  

Lastly I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with the fact that if Google doodle had put two painted Easter eggs for the o’s than everyone would have been happy even though Easter eggs have very little (if anything) to do with Jesus and Resurrection.  So we’d be happy with pagan celebrations of fertility and spring… but unhappy actually lifting up a Christian who worked tirelessly in advocacy of poor, marginalized workers seeking to make a better life for them through solidarity… a person whose life was lived in service to Good News?

I pray we can get our priorities straight… celebrate life wherever we find it, lift up the oppressed wherever they are, proclaim Good News in whatever package we find it.  Jesus is the least of these and when Google celebrated Cesar Chavez they DID celebrate Christ and Resurrection.