Monday, January 23, 2012

Report of the Pastor, Mark 1:14-20


Report of the Pastor
Mark 1:14-20
1/22/12

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes. Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Moments so dear. Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes. How Do You Measure - Measure A Year? In Daylights - In Sunsets, In Midnights - In Cups of Coffee, In Inches - In Miles, In Laughter - In Strife, In - Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes. How Do You Measure a Year In The Life? How About Love? How About Love? How About Love? Measure In Love. Seasons of Love.
You might recognize these lyrics from the song Seasons of Love from the musical Rent. The words ask us how we can assess the value of a year in our life. Is it just seconds and minutes, or more than that? Is it expressions of love? I have been wondering the same thing about our year here at First United. How do we measure it? Like the song suggests, I hope what all of our actions add up to are expressions of love for God and one another. You may remember my January newsletter article for the Contact, where I talked about the concept of a Year in Review. At the end of 2011, you could find a lot of Best of 2011 lists – the top 10 movies or books or albums. A review of important people and events. And I wondered what that would look like for our church. How would we characterize the life of our church in 2011? What was our year together like? And where do we see ourselves going in 2012?
One of the many blessings we have here is that Cee Cee Andrew and some occasional helpers provide us with beautiful photographs of church events. You can find these on our church facebook page, or on the digital picture frame after services, or in the scrapbook Connie McEvers put together, or on the monitor before worship begins. I spent some time this month looking through the pictures to remind me of all the places we've been this year.
Here is just a snippet: Our youth completed a challenge course, something they will do again soon, and played laser tag with youth from Fayetteville and Manlius. From our church alone we are seeing 15-20 youth at some of these events, with youth inviting other youth. They also threw Valentine, Halloween, and Christmas parties for our children. We celebrated Camp Sunday, and sent our young people to camps, retreats, and events. We were serious about mission and connecting to people we serve. We followed up on a commitment to the people of Haiti – we had a special breakfast, donated money, collected items, and became participants in Dress Our People – sewing clothing for the children of Haiti. We are seeing our physical church space transformed bit by bit, under the leadership of self-proclaimed non-leader Cee Cee Andrew. We've seen our nursery go from dull to bursting with color, classrooms redecorated, walls painted, bathroom cleaned and refreshed, curtains hung, kitchen drawers cleaned and repaired, office supplies and coffee hour supplies and kitchen supplies restocked through gifts and hours of service. We welcomed new members and celebrated baptisms, just as we entrusted some of our family into God's care. We added new bricks to our beautiful Memorial Garden. We put on a Mother's Day breakfast. We CROP walked. We put on a fantastic carnival for the second year in a row, when I really thought we couldn’t outdo our first attempt, and found our yard filled with so many happy smiling faces of children. We celebrated Laity Sunday. Our children read the scriptures throughout Advent. We gave out more food baskets than usual because we had received so much. We collected more shoeboxes than usual for Operation Christmas child. We actually ended the year, through a number of surprising happenings, with a small surplus. We filled up our giving tree with items to help us in our ministry. We had an exceptionally successful cookie walk. We touched people who really needed it while Christmas Caroling. We had mission moments from community agencies with whom we partner, and during Lent we heard from folks here who service in mission beyond the local church. We have about twenty people stepping into new roles this year, serving in new ways, in new areas. We had too many volunteers show up at once for the Rescue Mission, so they barely knew what to do with us. That is a year in our life, and it is just, as I said, a small piece of our life together.
This year we had four goals for our life together: increasing our emphasis in hands-on mission and justice experience, working to invite people to First United and better welcome visitors, understanding how our stewardship relates to our relationship with God, and experiencing enriching worship. All of these are meant to help us consider and explore ways to deepen the role and relevancy of the church and faith in their lives. Now, there are some ways we can numerically measure some of these items. I can tell you how many visitors we had and how many new members we have, and how many folks increased their pledges, and how many people participated in mission for how many hours, and how many people attended worship services or studies or our Lenten or Advent groups. But what I have found most compelling are the stories behind some of the numbers. For example, this year when we were serving at the Rescue Mission, the head cook complimented Nikole Metz as a really hard worker. And the head cook is not known to hand out compliments very easily. But Nikole, and her brothers, and the rest of the volunteers put their all into serving with a smile. That is just one story, but to me, they are the heart of the second and minutes and hours of our year together.  
This week at Parish Council, we had a lot of issues to deal with, a lot of conversation that we will continue at our annual meeting after worship. I was talking about making sure that we know how to answer the question: Why do we want to continue to be here as a church? Why does it matter to us that we, First United, are here? And Paul Spero, in response, mentioned Jesus calling the disciples to fish for people. What Paul probably didn’t realize is that that passage is today's gospel lesson – when things like that happen, I consider that God at work.
Today, our gospel lesson is full of a sense of immediacy and urgency. Our lesson opens still in the first chapter of Mark. John the Baptist has just been arrested – aside from his unwelcome words to the religious leaders about repentance and them being a brood of vipers, John had also managed to upset King Herod by calling him out publicly on his immoral actions. So John wound up in prison. The time was ripe for Jesus to step in and continue and expand the work John had begun. He arrives in Galilee and beings to proclaim the good news. As he is passing by the Sea of Galilee, he sees Simon and Andrew, fishermen, casting their nets. Jesus greets them with provocative words: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” And, we read, “immediately” they left their nets and followed Jesus. Farther down the shore, Jesus sees James and John, the sons of Zebedee. And “immediately” he calls them, and they leave their father and the other workers, and follow him.
So what’s all the rush about? What’s the significance of the repeated “immediately” in these texts? I think our answer has two parts. An immediate message and an immediate response. Remember, our passage begins with Jesus talking about the good news. And what is the good news? We read that Jesus began teaching and preaching right after John’s arrest, and here was his message, which Mark calls the good news of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Jesus’ message of good news is that God is immediately present in our lives. Instead of coming at a later time, instead of something we have to wait for, the time is already fulfilled – God is here, God is present – God’s reign, God’s will, is right here and right now. An immediate message.
Likewise, because of Jesus’ immediate message, there is a need for an immediate response. “Repent, and believe the news,” Jesus insists. Repent – change the direction of your life. And when? Now. Right now. And so when Jesus calls the disciples, he doesn’t tell them to think it over. He doesn’t ask them to meet him later. He doesn’t ask for applications which he’ll review. He doesn’t negotiate terms with them, or revise his message to something they’re more willing to support. He says, “follow me.” And they do – immediately. An immediate message and an immediate response.
A few weeks ago, I shared with you an excerpt from Richard Rohr's book, Falling Upward. He wrote, ʺMerely to survive and preserve our life is a low-level instinct that we share with [animals], but it is not heroism in any classic sense. We were meant to thrive and not just survive. We are glad when someone survives, and that surely took some courage and effort. But what are you going to do with your now resurrected life? That is the heroic question.ʺ It is so tempting to focus on our survival. Our world is changing, and people place being part of a faith community in a different place than they once did. And in the midst of uncertainty about our role, it is tempting to bunker down and do everything we can to hold on to our little piece. But the good news of Jesus Christ isn’t about a life where we are just surviving. Jesus said he came to bring us abundant life. And God offers us that life right now. We may have to make changes, significant ones, to do the ministry that Jesus calls us to. We may have to think anew about what it means to do ministry, to serve, to be in mission, to worship, to be a church. But some things don’t change: God calls us and offers us life, and is waiting for us to respond.  
Over the next several weeks, I will share more with you about where and how I think God is calling us. And I want to hear from you – what would it mean for this community not to survive, but to thrive? What does that look like? What does that look like in your life? Or for us, here? Immediately Jesus called them, and immediately they left their nets and followed him. What will we do? Amen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sermon for Second Sunday after Epiphany, All Things New: Samuel, 1 Samuel 3:1-10


Sermon 1/15/12
1 Samuel 3:1-10, Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18


All Things New: Samuel


You might remember me mentioning during Advent that Mary's song in the gospel of Luke, the Magnificat, is extremely similar to Hannah's song in the Old Testament, when she gives thanks to God for the life of her child, after years where she was not able to give birth. Hannah is so thankful, and had prayed so fervently for a child that she promised God she would dedicate that child to God's service – and so she did. She gave Samuel to service in the temple, and that is just where we find him today – in the temple, serving under the guidance of the priest Eli. Our passage opens with the narrator noting that “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” This kind of comment is not unusual in the Old Testament. When we read about leaders and judges and kings, we often hear a quick description of whether they followed God or did what was evil in God's sight. So, here we read that when Samuel was a boy, people seemed to be far from God, not attending to God's words or experiencing visions of what God had planned.
            Eli is laying down at night, and Samuel was resting in the presence of the ark, which carried the law of God. God calls Samuel: “Samuel, Samuel.” He think the voice is Eli, so he runs to him and says, “Here I am!” Eli says he did not call the boy, so he goes back to bed. This exchange repeats two more times, and Eli realizes God is calling the child. Eli directs Samuel to answer God next time Samuel is called. So God calls again, and Samuel responds, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” So begins Samuel’s life as a prophet to Israel and an eventual mentor to the first Kings of Israel, Saul and David.
            But the weird twist to this story is in what God first says to Samuel. What God first tells Samuel is that Samuel has to tell Eli about the end of his household. You see, Eli's two sons, also serving in the temple, were corrupt and abusing their positions. Eli had already been told by God that his own family line would not continue. And yet, Eli still has this role to play, acting as an interpreter of sorts to Samuel, helping him understand who is calling, and how to respond to God. When Samuel finally tells Eli what God revealed to Samuel, Eli says: It is the Lord; let [God] do what seems good to God. Even though Eli faces pain and suffering, he keeps Samuel on the right path. Eli and Samuel's stories are bound together, and Eli plays a critical role in Samuel becoming who God is calling him to be.
As you have heard me mention a few times now, this Friday is our ecumenical dinner, an opportunity to be together with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the community. The timing of the meal is not accidental – we celebrate now because from the 18th to the 25th, we celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, actually in its 100th Anniversary this year. The emphasis on Christian Unity is meant to remind us that our common life in Christ, our identification as members of the body of Christ, is much more important than the things that separate or differentiate us. And this isn’t meant to be some fluffy notion – it isn’t just about holding hands and being together and ignoring differences for a week of the year. No, it is about recognizing that we have a common purpose, meaning, and calling – we are in it together, and we are meant to help each other work life out together.
It is also no accident that the Week of Prayer falls so close to Martin Luther King Day. Dr. King wrote frequently about his disappointment with white churches during the Civil Rights Movement. White church leaders kept urging him to take things slowly and not push for so much radical change, even if they thought it was right. King couldn’t understand how those who were united with him in Christ could fail to act for the cause of truth and justice. In 1965, King gave the commencement address at Oberlin College, a speech called, "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution."  King spoke about his travels in India where he went to learn about nonviolent resistance to oppression. Reflecting on the extreme hunger and poverty he witnessed there he wrote, “As I noticed these conditions, something within me cried out, "Can we in America stand idly by and not be concerned?" And an answer came, "Oh no! because the destiny of the United States is tied up with the destiny of India and every other nation." I started thinking about the fact that we spend millions of dollars a day in our country to store surplus food, and I said to myself, "I know where we can store food free of charge - in the wrinkled stomachs of the millions of God's children in Asia and Africa, in South America, and in our own nation who go to bed hungry at night."
All I'm saying is simply this: that all [humankind] is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be - this is the interrelated structure of reality. John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: No [one] is an Island, entire of itself; every [one] is a piece of the continent, a part of the main... And then [Donne] goes on toward the end to say: any [one]'s death diminishes me, because I am involved in [humankind]; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. And by believing this, by living out this fact, we will be able to remain awake through a great revolution.
“For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” To me, that is what Christian unity is about, indeed, what our human journey together is about – I can’t be what I should be unless I am involved in your being what you ought to be. That means if you are suffering, it doesn’t just matter to me, it impacts me. If you are sick, it impacts me. If you are doing what is wrong, it impacts me. If you are full of joy, it impacts me. Within this congregation, we can only fulfill our purpose in God as far as we are also part of making sure each person here is finding their purpose. We can only be what we are meant to be if we are involved in wholeness and justice for all people because injustice for some means our life is not as full as God means it to be.
“For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.” Last week, I shared with you from one of my texts for the DMin class I completed this last week, where the author said that we are too often trying to define ourselves externally – I shop, therefore I am – remember? Another of our texts, a collection of writings by South African Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, speaks about the African concept of ubuntu, essentially – “I am because we are.” Or “a person is a person through other people.” I am because we are. Tutu says this is “how my humanity is caught up and bound up inextricably with yours (21-22).” For Jesus, this meant love of neighbor was always tied to love of self and to love of God. You have heard me say this before: my least favorite phrase is “that’s between me and God.” No! What is between us and God is our neighbor. We cannot truly grow closer to God unless we grow closer to one another. Because I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. As long as we are convinced that we can be complete and be holy and connected with God while leaving others behind for any reason, we will never be what we can be, who we ought to be, who we are called to be.
As you think of people of faith who inspire you, who have shaped the world, I think you will find people whose lives were formed by the helping hands of others, and who, in turn, focused their life work on serving others. We love God by loving one another. I am because we are. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. So, as we celebrate the work of Dr. King, and as we celebrate our Christian unity, let us commit to following God together. Speak to us God, for your servants are listening. Amen.
           




Monday, January 09, 2012

Sermon for Baptism of the Lord, All Things New: Baptism, Mark 1:4-11


Sermon 1/8/12
Mark 1:4:-11
All Things New: Baptism


Last month my friend Heather was expressing her frustration with the process of trying to get her sixteen year old daughter a learning permit to drive. Somewhere along the way, they had misplaced her Social Security card, which they needed to get her permit. Well, in order to get a new Social Security card, you need your birth certificate, which proves your citizenship, but you also need proof of identity – like a driver's license – which obviously she didn’t have. Of course, it turns out that you can also use a photo student ID card or a photo credit card or something like that, but proving your identity isn’t so easy.
Not too long ago I also read an article about people who had accidentally been declared dead in paperwork even though they were quite alive. Somehow names and information got mixed up, and these folks had ended up with bank accounts frozen, unable to get loans or credit, had stopped receiving things like social security checks, and had real financial difficulties as a result of the mix-up. And, as crazy as it sounds, some people have had an extremely difficult time proving their identity, proving that they were really alive and who they claimed to be, once this mistake had been made.
How would you prove your identity? This week ahead I have another week of Doctor of Ministry classes – this time I am studying spirituality and change. In one of the texts for the class, the author John Reader, talks about how we keep trying to form our identity in different ways in contemporary culture. Sometimes we try self as commodity – we are sort of a product that can be branded and molded in a certain way. Sometimes we try self as consumer – “I shop therefore I am.” We try to take what we have, what we possess, and make it into who we are. Sometimes we try self as project, he says, constantly trying to put together a good enough self by making sure we have the right trainings and qualifications and skills to be what we want and what is expected of us. Identity formation is an important process. We all go through a time or times in our life when we need to ask ourselves critically: Who am I? What do I believe? What is my life all about? But whenever we start building our identities from all these external sources, we are probably heading in a bad direction, never knowing our true selves.
So who are you, really? What is your identity? Today, in our gospel lesson from Mark, we find Jesus at his baptism. Hopefully this text sounds a bit familiar – we just read most of it during Advent, the first section about John the Baptist. Mark is very brief in all things in his gospel, and so the actual baptism gets only three verses. John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, is in the wilderness, preaching baptizing people, a symbol of repentance and forgiveness of sins. He speaks about one who is coming who is more powerful than he, who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. And then, indeed, Jesus arrives, and is baptized by John. The other gospels have a bit of dialogue between Jesus and John where John wonders why Jesus needs to be baptized by John, but that is of no importance to Mark. He only says that Jesus comes to be baptized, and that when he was, as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens were torn apart and the Spirit seemed to descend on him like a dove, and a voice spoke, saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Other gospels have these words from God directed to the crowd – This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased. But in Mark, this message is right from God to Jesus – You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.
This event marks the beginning of Jesus' ministry – from here he goes into the wilderness himself for a period, where he is tested and tried, and then he begins showing up in synagogues, preaching, teaching, and healing. But it begins, in a way, with this baptism. Why does Jesus need to be baptized? I think hearing God's voice so clearly at the start of what would be an intense three years of his life, to say the least, gave strength and encouragement to Jesus. He knew, from the start, who he was and what he was about.
I think sometimes we need to be reminded of who we are. John Reader was right: if we look in the wrong places, we can find a million voices that will gladly tell us who we are and who we should be. But these voices don’t know us. God, who created us, knows us. Our identity is being shaped from the day we are born and before and onward. We might, the day we are born, have had our feet dipped in ink to make prints that would identify us. We have names that we were given that set us apart. But even our names aren’t who we are. When we celebrate a baptism in the church, we are celebrating the fact that we all know someone's identity. We are celebrating that the person is a child of God, made in God's image, and part of the body of Christ. That is our identity, our true self. It is something we all share in, but something that is made manifest in each one of us in a completely unique way.
Sometimes people get worried about baptisms when they have newborns. A lot of traditions and practices built up over time are hard to erase, and I still find it hard, sometimes, to get people to believe that nothing bad happens to you if you aren’t baptized on a certain timetable. Baptism is a sacrament – and outward sign of an inward grace. And the inward grace is from God – God's unconditional love for us. Baptism, then, is a sign, a reminder to us of God's love. It is the thing we do to celebrate what is true no matter what. God made us. We are made in God's image. God loves us. Baptism is the reminder, the party, the celebration of that amazing fact.
Isn't it nice to be reminded of who we are? Figuring out our identities in this world of competing voices can be exhausting. We can get off track. Lost. Mixed-up. Isn't it good to remember? Who are you? What is the true self buried under all those expectations placed upon you? What is your true self, when you strip away all those layers you’ve built up to fit in, to get ahead, to be good enough? Who are you?
As I said last week, this month is all about all things new. And so, we have an opportunity to renew our baptismal vows, to remember the celebration that marked our true identity, so that we, too, might have strength for the journey that lies ahead. Do you need a reminder of who you are? Are you a disciple? Are you a follower of Jesus? Come, let God remind you. In whose image are you created? Who calls you by name? Come, let God remind you. You are loved without condition, part of God's own family. Come, beloved, let God remind you. Amen.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Sermon for Epiphany Sunday: All Things New - Square One


Sermon 1/1/12
Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-6


All Things New: Square One
We have many directions we could possibly go in today. We are still in the season of Christmas – today can be called the First Sunday after Christmas Day on the liturgical calendar, the church-year calendar. There are a set of lectionary readings that we don’t often get to hear, where Jesus is presented in the temple, according to Jewish tradition, and Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus meet Anna and Simeon. If you don’t know the story, I encourage you to read the rest of Luke 2, the part that happens after the nativity story. That could have been our focus today. But today we will hear the scriptures for Epiphany. Epiphany technically takes place on January 6th, after the twelve days of Christmas. It is the day when we celebrate the Magi coming to see Jesus and bringing him gifts, significant because it represents that Jesus is light to the whole world, not just a chosen few. But since we usually don’t have special Epiphany Day services on the 6th, we usually celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday closest to the 6th without going past the 6th. That would be today. But of course, even though it is not a church holy day, we can’t deny that at the forefront of most of our minds is the fact that today is New Year's Day. January 1st, 2012. It is hard to believe, isn’t it? Another year is here. Today begins a new year. And we have so many feelings, worries, and hopes wrapped up in the potential of a new year that it would be hard for us to ignore.
            So, appropriately, this month we will be focusing on the theme All Things New, based on the verse in Revelation where God proclaims, as a new heaven and earth are unfurled in John's vision: Behold, I make all things new. We are at the start of a new calendar year, of course. It is 2012! We have a new baby in our midst – the Christ Child – today is just the 8th day of the 12 day of Christmas, after all. We are about to start a new year in our church-cycle – our annual meeting is just a few weeks away. Next Sunday, we celebrate Baptism of the Lord, and with it, a chance to renew our own baptismal vows and renew our covenant with God. And when we have our annual meeting, I will give my report during worship, and set out the goals I have and would like you to share for the coming year. New starts seem all around us, just as God promises.
            In Christ we are new creations. That’s what God promises. The trouble is this, though: Do we want all things to be new? In November, at our District Day, I had the opportunity to preach to my clergy colleagues as part of an Advent Preaching Day. Here is a little of what I said to them:
When it comes to changing directions, we are pretty good, clergy, at offering up alternate routes, or at least commentary that we are going the wrong way to get where we want to be going. As a church, as local churches, as an Annual Conference, as a denomination and beyond, we are pretty desperate to find a new vision, a new hope. You have probably participated in any number of conversations in any number of settings brainstorming how we will do a new thing. And, I suspect, you’ve probably felt cynical, or jaded, or at least politely skeptical that anything will change as a result of these conversations. And then, true enough, things seem to stay the same, don’t they? Why is that exactly? If everybody agrees that things need to change, and we all plan ways to do a new thing together, and things still stay the same, what's happening? I can only conclude that we all must be benefitting from things staying exactly as they are. Do you want to see change in the church? In the world? Tell me how you have changed. How have you repented, and changed the direction of your mind, your life? … How do we benefit from things staying just as they are?
Do we want all things new? We are a people of contradictions. Yes and no. Yes, we want better lives. No, we are not ready to let go of what we have in order to get there. Nothing is worse than the unknown, is it? And God is always seeming to offer us this new life, but asking us to go into uncharted territory to get there. We want change, sure, but unless we know what God is changing us into, we aren’t really ready to commit.
So, about these poor Magi – about Epiphany – can they have some mention here? Where do they come into all things new? We really know very very little about these wise men. They appear only in this passage from Matthew. He describes them as men from the East, which may have meant they were astrologers from Persia, interpreters of stars and dreams. The idea that they were kings comes from a verse of a Psalm that talks about kings bringing gifts to the Messiah. The number three was just layered onto tradition over time, perhaps because three gifts are named, along with traditional names for each of three wise men. But again, these ideas are not mentioned in the Bible. What we do know from the Bible is that these wise men came to the palace of King Herod looking for a newborn king, since they had seen a star that was significant to them. Why did they come to the palace? Well, where else would you look for a king? But when Herod gave them information about where to find the child Jesus, they changed course, and visited the home of Mary and Joseph. When they found Jesus, Matthew says they were overwhelmed with joy. They paid him homage, and gave him the gifts they had prepared, and satisfied with their journey, they returned home.
I am struck that the Magi started a long journey with an expectation of what they would see – a king in a palace. They brought costly gifts. And nothing went like they planned. Jesus wasn’t at the palace. And when they did find him, he was in a normal home, in a small town, the child of a carpenter and his wife, totally normal by every visible clue. They could have decided they had gotten it all wrong and taken their gifts and gone back home. But Matthew says they were overwhelmed with joy. Nothing went as planned, but they simply changed their course as a new plan was laid out for them. They went where they were led. They were thrilled with where they were led. They didn’t judge Mary and Joseph and Jesus by their outer wrappings. They recognized the Holy in the child they saw. Could we be so ready to have our plans upset? Ready to follow wherever God was leading us? Could we be so joyful even when what God brings us isn’t in anyway what we are expecting? Can we lay all our gifts at the feet of Jesus, who is to be found always in the low places, and not in palaces of gold?
I have another set of Doctor of Ministry classes coming up next week. One of the texts for class is called Falling Upward by Richard Rohr. In his first chapter he writes, ʺMerely to survive and preserve our life is a low-level instinct that we share with [animals], but it is not heroism in any classic sense. We were meant to thrive and not just survive. We are glad when someone survives, and that surely took some courage and effort. But what are you going to do with your now resurrected life? That is the heroic question.ʺ (21)
This idea – do we survive or thrive – is one I plan to return to later this month. But for today, I want us to focus on Rohr’s question – what do we do with our resurrected lives? God offers us new life, again and again – Jesus is born to us, God-with-us, as we are reminded each year, and each year we celebrate the gift of life that conquers death forever. New life is ours. We say we accept it. What will you do with your resurrected life?
An epiphany is a light bulb moment. The A-ha moment. I pray that this Epiphany, this New Year's Day, is the your light bulb moment, when even though there is no palace, no gold crown, no throne, you see can still see the gift that is Jesus, and be overwhelmed by joy. I pray that together we can commit to following wherever Christ leads us, right into the unknown new life God offers. Happy New Year! Amen.