Sunday, August 7, 2022

August 7, 2022 - The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost - Baptism of Sofia Corban, Toni and Rick's Godspeed, and the Blessed Life

The Creator congregation and our community gathered and celebrated this Sunday, Today we  remembered our past, renewed some relationships, and committed ourselves to our future. We felt the presence of our whole community at worship when Sofia was baptized. 

Creator also said our farewells to Toni and Rick as they move to Minnesota to be with family. Quilts from the Creator Piecemakers, Creator's Quilting Group, were given to both the Corbans and the Hartungs to remember the day.

When we talk about God's presence in today's world, at least in my circle of friends, there will likely trigger an uncomfortable suspicion. I mentioned it recently at a meeting and asked if anyone else was feeling God's presence and the response was "Do you mean if God has talked to me recently?" No, that was not what I was talking about. I meant the odd-or-God coincidences or the meaningful moments that don't come with easy explanations of what they meant. 

We don't live in a time and place where someone hears the God's voice like a prophet and can become God's mouthpiece. When I feel God's presence, in fact, I can barely acknowledge the moment, much less interpret what it means or how I should respond. How can we recognize how God often operates in our lives?

This fits in with today's Gospel which says "be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet so that they may open the door for him as soon as comes an knocks.". There is a potential inversion of roles when Jesus assures us to make purses that does not wear out where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Later the Gospel states, "if the owner of the house had know what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into." This suggests that God is the thief in the story. This, in turn, changes our perspective of how the house being broken into changes the owner.

Besides the inversion there is an interesting contrasting story to the Parable of The Ten Bridesmaids where the bridesmaid are waiting for the groom to arrive. Oddly this parable has been coming up in one of my odd-or-God experiences.

Let me give you an example of an odd-or-God experience that happened to me last night. I watched the film Splendor in the Grass. Directed by Elia Kazan I had not seen it before, The title comes from this Wordsworth's quote from the poem Ode: Intimations of Immortality:

That though the radiance  / which was once so bright / be now forever taken from my sight. / Though nothing can bring back the hour / of splendor in the grass, / glory in the flower. / We will grieve not, rather find / strength in what remains behind.

This may appear to contain a strange perspective to reflect on this morning's events. It works for me and deepens my understanding of the film, poem and what I felt today. There is a past radiance Wordsworth writes about that nothing can bring back. This is also alluded to in the phrase that Thomas Wolfe named his novel You Can't Go Home Again

The question, however, is not what will, or can, be brought back. The question is about how will we prepare for the future return of the master? Perhaps we long for a restoration of the past when we might set our sights on those opportunities to transform our present into what will be our future. What does that kind of waiting look like? A transformational waiting we have not experienced, or prepared for, before.

Promises and Godspeeds can be parts of what fills what Pastor Christian called "the blessed life" in his sermon last week. They happened today. 🙏

Saturday, August 6, 2022

July 31, 2022 - The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost - The Blessed Life

Pastor Christian Jennert presided over this Sunday's service and preached on John's Gospel text of the Parable of the Rich Farmer. 

Christian's  love for the Creator congregation and the congregation's reciprocal love was evident. He delivered a powerful, yet vulnerable sermon. Where many pastor's would explore, analyze and condemn all the ways we are like the rich farmer with the possessions so many of us have, Pastor Christian loves how Jesus refuses to play the role he is asked to play as judge. He examines the farmer's reasoning "I need bigger barns.", not "I need less stuff".

Also the farmer will discover, as they say in Texas, why you never see a hearse hauling a U-haul. The parable teaches us how we ought to live and what we need to ponder. What truly matters in our life? What gives us joy and meaning? What or who carries us?

He pointed out who we substitute an abundant life for what we consider a good life when we could be seeking a blessed life. He quoted St Augustine who wrote "God is always trying to give good things to us but our hands are always so full, they are too full to receive them"

The vulnerability came when he shared that he has left the ministry for four years. He had left, angry at God, feeling something was lacking, and wondering what he should do in his life. When he was asked to do pulpit supply he accepted and suddenly it came to him what the blessed life was for him. He saw the goodness God was providing him in sharing worship with others.

I wonder how often many of us are blinded, at times, to what God is providing in our blessed lives.

Monday, July 25, 2022

July 24, 2022 - The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost - The "Our Father" Prayer and Preparing for Persistent Prayer

Jesus prays in a certain place, when his friends asked him to teach them to pray. (Luke 11:1) I always focused on the words of the Our Father that follow. But today it was that certain place that stopped me in my mental tracks. Was the first teaching on prayer, for the disciples and for me, to become aware of the place you pray.

I thought about last week's Gospel that took place in a certain village. In both there is an awareness drawn to a place without being specific.

There is, at least, an implication here that Jesus had a special place for prayer. Yet he does not tell the disciples "Start by going to a special place that promotes your pray." or "Ground yourself." which many of us find helpful. Should we be asking ourselves, "What kind of place was it?, "Was it carefully chosen or found at the spur of the moment?" Where did Jesus choose to pray before teaching the Our Father?

Pastor Glenn, when he began to preach, prepared and centered all of us for prayer. He taught us the American Sign Language sign for relationship. When we pray we are in relationship with God, ourselves and each other. Jesus is checking in with God, then himself and is then ready to engage with the disciples. We are a relationship with God in prayer that startes with acknowledging that we set God apart and special (with the word "hallowed". We are set apart, through relationship with God, as well by recognizing that relationship.

The sermon then moved to centering prayer, which Pastor Glenn posed as a way to be in relationship with the God within ourselves. This kind of prayer turns out to be somewhat controversial in some circles which argues that Christian meditation focuses on scripture, whereas the Centering Prayer focuses on silence. In Christian meditation, the mind is devoted to the studying and reflection of scriptures and the Lord. Engaging in the Centering Prayer, the mind is allowed to wander.

Should we be concerned about how we pray? I take heart in what Jesus says to reassure the disciples. He talks about persistence being an important component and trust that God response will not be harmful. I have learned more about the power of prayer this year. Persistence is important because it allows us to become more cognizant of what God's response is and what precisely you are praying for. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

July 17, 2022 - The Sixth Sunday After Pentecost - A "Mary" Identity Crisis

Today's Gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary, a book of readings shared widely by churches across the world. This text comes from Luke 10, versus 38 through 42. "Now, as they went on their way, he entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying, but Martha was distracted by her many tasks. So she came to him and asked, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.'"

Pastor Sara preached on this familiar story about Jesus and his visit with two sisters: busy Martha and contemplative Mary. The anxious Martha Jesus observing in Mary what he calls, "the better part." Mary is sitting at Jesus' feet, contemplating, listening, receiving the teachings of Jesus. Pastor Sara spoke against the either/or choice being made between these two women's faith.

What Pastor Sara preached on this passage dovetailed with what Diana Butler Bass preached this year at Wild Goose, a 4-day Spirit, Justice, Music and Arts Festival, on the same passage. I both Sara and Diana's sermons were illuminating. 

There are many Marys in the Bible. When we hear the story about busy Martha and contemplative Mary, a question that we might not think to ask but one that we should ask is, "Which Mary is this? You might think you know. This Mary and Martha story is related to another story. A story in John 11, a story about Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus who live in a place called Bethany. Many commentaries on the Luke 10 passage, on the Mary and Martha story direct us to John by writing "This is a story of Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha of Bethany."

But "in Bethany" is never mentioned in Luke’s text. Indeed, looking at a map, Bethany is actually a town, a village in the opposite direction of which Jesus was traveling in this section of the Gospel of Luke. All Luke says is that Mary and Martha were of a “certain village.” Then there’s an interesting identification of Martha where it says, "Martha welcomed Jesus to her home." Pastor Sara observed what is fascinating about just that little phrase, Mary and Martha are sisters in a patriarchal society. If they had a brother living with them, that line would say, "And Martha welcomed Jesus to her brother's home," because Martha wouldn't own the house. The only way it's Martha's home is if Martha has no husband, no father, and no brother living there.

If it was the same family in Luke and John, Luke 10 is confused. The village is in the wrong place and it's not called by the right name. What we actually have here is two stories that our imaginations have run together, which our tradition has run together, which even commentators have run together. These are actually two different stories about two different families. 

It becomes a problem when you get the cast of characters wrong. The question becomes: who is this Mary? Instead of spending a lot of time talking about Mary of the four short verses in Luke, There is confusion in John 11 beyond the tradition that is running two stories together. John 11 opens with a very simple sentence. "Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany." Bethany, not a certain village, is clearly defined. "The village of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister, Martha." That's the opening sentence of John 11. You might think to yourself, what's important about that?

Diana Butler Bass introduced me to a story about this Gospel and Elizabeth Schrader, who is a PhD student at Duke University working on a doctorate in New Testament studies.

Years ago, Elizabeth (her nickname is Libbie) was a singer-songwriter. She loves praying with and to the saints. One day Libbie walked into a church garden in New York City  seeking refuge from the city, and sat down to pray. As she prayed, she heard a voice and the voice said, "Follow Mary Magdalene."

This startled her. At first she wrote a song called “Magdalene.” But then something deeper started nagging at Libbie. She thought, "Well, I don't think I was just called to write a song. I need to learn more." She is an Episcopalian living in New York City, and she thought, "Where can I learn more about the Bible?" She found General Theological Seminary in the city, and asked, "I need to learn more about Mary Magdalene. How do I do that?"

She learned she could come to General and earn a degree in the New Testament if she liked. She felt called to do that and signed up for the New Testament program where she studied she was taught Greek and Coptic and Aramaic, and learned how to translate the New Testament. She still couldn't get Mary Magdalene off of her mind. When it came to writing her final paper for her master's degree, she asked the professor if she could write it on John 11 and Mary Magdalene. The professor responded, "Absolutely. Do you know that these texts have lately become available digitized? If you want to study Mary Magdalene, I want you to look at the earliest possible New Testament texts and try to say something new about them." 

Libbie looked at Papyrus 66, which is the oldest and most complete text available of the Gospel of John. It's dated around the year 200. When Libbie was sitting in a library in New York City and Papyrus 66 came to her there was an historic moment in New Testament studies. She looked at the text and she saw this first sentence. written in Greek, of course. "Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and his sister Mary." And Libbie's English Bible translated this as, "Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister, Martha." But the Greek text, the oldest Greek text read that there were two Mary references in this verse. 

Libbie dug into the text, trying to see what she could in the digitized version on the internet and noticed something that no New Testament scholar had ever noticed. Where Papyrus 66 had those two Marys, the village of Mary and his sister, Mary, and her sister, Mary, the text had actually been changed. In Greek, the word Mary, the name Mary, is basically spelled like Maria in English, M-A-R-I-A. And the I, the Greek letter I, is the letter Iota. And it looks basically like an English I. Libbie saw by doing this textual analysis that the Iota had been changed to the letter TH in Greek, Theta. 

Somebody, at some point in time, had gone in over the original handwriting and actually changed the second Mary to Martha. Not only had that person changed the second Mary to Martha, but that person had also changed the way it comes out in English. It says, "The village of Mary," that would've stayed the same, "and her sister, Martha." Someone had also changed that “his” to "her"; that "her" was originally a "his", but they had changed it to a "her".

Admittedly, the original text is a confused and not very good sentence. "Now, a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, at the village of Mary and his sister, Mary," it's almost like they're heightening the fact that Lazarus has this sister, Mary. They lived in this village together, and Mary is Lazarus' sister. Someone had changed it to read, "Mary and her sister, Martha."

Libbie sat in the library with all of this, and realizing that sometime in the fourth century, someone had altered the oldest text of the Gospel of John and split the character Mary into two. Mary became Mary and Martha.

She went through the whole manuscript of John 11 and John 12, and confirmed that editor had gone in at every single place and changed every reference to Martha in English, where originally said, "Mary." The editor changed it all. The story then becomes a charming story about Lazarus and the resurrection and his two lovely sisters, Mary and Martha. Haven’t we seen them before in Luke 10.

Yet these sisters are not in Luke. This is some editor's idea of harmonizing the text a couple hundred years ago. Somebody in the fourth century decided that John was confusing and this John fellow had bad Greek. The editor fixed it so well that we have told this story wrong ever since.

Every pronoun is changed. Every singular "sister” is changed to the plural "sisters". And Libbie has conclusively proven that in Papyrus 66 this fiddling around with the text did indeed occur. Libbie wrote her master's thesis on it. It was so interesting as a master's thesis as she proved this textual manipulation that Harvard Divinity School found out about it and asked her to turn it into an article. So her master's thesis was published as an article by the Harvard Theological Divinity

From there, many scholars noticed her article -- including the German organization Nestle-Aland Translation Committee of the Greek New Testament, The organization is the guardian of the Greek New Testament. They asked Libbie to come to Germany to present her research to them. And over the course of a couple days, they listen to her and they look at all the evidence that she's compiled. In the end, after her presentation, they concluded, "Well, we might need to change something here."

Now there is a debate going on in the highest circles of New Testament studies as to whether or not Libbie's research should turn into a very long footnote in the next edition of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible in English. They are also considering a change to John 11 and John 12 and take Martha out. Of course, in order to take Martha out they wanted more evidence. But this is not about today's Gospel text which is a different story of a different family. Martha will stay forever in Luke 10. She's lovely. She’s important. Jesus loved her. She stays there. But she shouldn't necessarily be in John 11 and 12.

People have begun to do other research pursuing and extending Libbie's work since, including other New Testament scholars and church historians.

Tertullian, one of the most misogynistic of all of the ancient church fathers, actually wrote a bit of a commentary on this passage in John chapter 11. He writes circa 200. Commenting on this chapter, he says, "Mary, confessing him, Jesus, to be the Son of God."

Yet in our Bible today, it says Martha confessed that. It says a little later on that Jesus was talking to Martha. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had not been here, my brother would have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." And Jesus said to Martha, "Your brother will rise again." And Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." And Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life." One of the most important lines in the whole of the Gospel of John. "Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" Jesus asked this woman. And in  our English Bible, Jesus says that to Martha, "Do you believe this, Martha?" And she said to him, "Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Messiah. The one who's come into the world."

Tertullian said that was Mary. There was no Martha in that passage according to Tertullian. Did Tertullian’s copy of John have only Mary?

And what about how that passage begins with a story about how Martha runs out to meet Jesus, but Mary is so upset that poor Mary stays home because she can't possibly face Jesus? Egeria, a fourth century Pilgrim to the Holy Land, writes in her diary about her pilgrimage group getting to the church in the place where Mary, the sister of Lazarus, ran out to meet the Lord. Tertullian doesn't mention Martha. In Egeria’s diary, there is no mention of Martha. Indeed, in these ancient sources, the story is a story of Mary.

John 11
is about Lazarus and one woman, one sister, Mary. The next provocative question is why did this editor split Mary into two women? Perhaps the editor  was a guy with literary sense and he just didn't like John's Greek and so he fixed it in a way that made sense to him. Or he could have been a person who was just a little worried about how this story fit with Luke’s story? Maybe it makes more sense if it's a story about Mary and Martha and not just a story about Mary. So that person could have had benign motives. Or not...

That little text from John 11 is one of two Christological confessions in the Gospel. Another of those Christological confessions happens in the synoptic Gospels. It happens in Mark. It happens in Luke. And it happens in Matthew. Who utters the Christological confession in those three gospels?  Peter and Jesus have a conversation. And Jesus turns to Peter and says, "Who am I?" And Peter says, "You are the Messiah, the son of the living God." And Jesus turns around and says to him, "You are Peter, upon this rock I will build my church."

The other Christological confession is in the Gospel of John. And until this point, it has belonged to a minor character named Martha and we didn't even know who she was. Jesus raises her brother from the dead and they have this conversation. And then finally this woman says, "Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Messiah, the son of God, the one who is coming into the world." Pretty much exactly the same words that Peter has uttered in the synoptic Gospels. And then Martha disappears from history. Unimportant, unremembered, who is this?

But if it is Mary, the Mary who shows up in John 11 is not an unremembered Mary. Not just one of a plethora of Marys in the Bibe. This Mary has long been suspected of being the other Mary, Mary Magdalene. Is it really true that the other Christological confession of the New Testament comes from of the voice of Mary Magdalene? That the Gospel of John gives the most important statement in the entirety of the New Testament, not to a man, but to a woman, and to a really important woman who will show up later as the first witness to the resurrection.

You see how these two stories work together. In John 11, Lazarus is raised from the dead, and who is there but Mary Magdalene? And at that resurrection, she confesses that Jesus is indeed the son of God. And then you go just 10 chapters later and who is the person at the grave? She mistakes him, at first, thinks he's the gardener. She turns around and he says, "Mary," and she goes, "Lord." It's Mary Magdalene. It is Mary Magdalene.

Now was she from Magdala and not Bethany. What is this Bethany place?

There is an important debate going on right now about where Mary Magdalene is from. A lot of people, who have visited the Holy Land might have gone to the little village that's right on the sea of Galilee. where there's a church there, the church of Mary Magdalene. Keep in mind, however, that village wasn't known as Magdala in the first century. Nobody is sure where that village would be if there was a village called Magdala. Instead of Mary being from this nice fishing village, there is good evidence to suggest that she was from somewhere else. And this text begins to suggest that she is from Bethany.

Magdala, when we call her Magdalene, Mary Magdalene, is not Mary from Magdala. Instead, it's a title.

The word magdala in Aramaic means tower. And so now a fuller picture is revealed. In the Synoptics, Jesus and Peter have a discussion. In that discussion, Peter utters the Christological confession. As a result of the Christological confession, Jesus says, "You are Peter the Rock." In the gospel of John, Mary and Jesus have a conversation, and Mary utters the same Christological confession. And she comes to be known as Mary the Tower.

Between these two confessions, are we looking at an argument in the early church? Peter the Rock or Mary the Tower?

But the John account was changed. The John story has been hidden from our view. All those years ago, Mary uttered those words, "Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the son of God, the one who is coming into the world."

Mary becomes the tower of faith. That our faith is the faith of that woman who would become the first person to announce the resurrection. Mary the Witness, Mary the Tower, Mary the Great, and she has been obscured from us. She has been hidden from us and she been taken away from us for nearly 2,000 years. This is not a Dan Brown novel. This is the Nestle-Aland Translation Committee of the Greek New Testament. This is the Harvard Theological Review. This is some of the best, most cutting edge historical research in the world. And we are living in the moment of most radical transformation in the understanding of the Gospel accounts, of who Jesus Christ is, and who holds authority.

The Feast day of Mary Magdalene just happens to be the Friday I write this entry (July 22). This is a celebration of Mary Magdalene with abandon. Celebrate this story, celebrate all the Marys. Keep these stories clear. The lectionary text about Mary and Martha is a beautiful text, and a charming story. For women or the men who have identified with Martha over the years, nobody's taking away your Martha story. It is still a meaningful story about activism and contemplation. Take this Gospel, hold it in your heart, and listen to the scripture speak. Take rests and contemplate what you are doing when working towards the kindom of God.

And think about love in action when you contemplate the words of Jesus.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

July 10, 2022 - The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost - Parable of the Good Iranian or Keeping in Mind Travel Can Be Dangerous

Pastor Donna started her sermon with a warning "Traveling can be dangerous."

She backed this up with the story of Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan who, in July of 2018, were killed in an act of violence as they biked with other travelers along the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan. 

They were cycling and blogging about their many experiences with the people they were meeting in other countries and their life-affirming human interactions. They lived their lives without fear of the other and, in doing so, they left behind a legacy of love, kindness, exploration, and adventure.

Centered in that story Pastor Donna  led me on a surprising take on this parable that had started when I read this Gospel text earlier in the week. I found new wisdom in a familiar story.. I have learned that in the time of Jesus, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notorious for its danger and difficulty, and was known as the "Way of Blood". Earlier I had searched for our modern equivalent to what the Samaritan people meant to Jesus' audience.

For this Sunday, to delve deeper into this wisdom, I will call this the Parable of the Good Iranian. Temporarily re-titling the parable opens me to new ways of incorporating the takeaways of this story into my life. For instance I am less likely to set my mind on becoming a "good Iranian", and I believe that is for the best. The specific actions of mercy detailed in Luke can distract from a true definition of being a neighbor to this man between cities.

Pastor Donna observed that the questioning lawyer seeks to understand who Jesus believes that scripture considers as a neighbor in order to better follow the law. Jesus asks "Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The lawyer answers "The one who showed him mercy". Jesus said "Go and do likewise".

What Pastor Donna emphasized in her sermon is that we are all likely to fall short of the standard of mercy set by the Samaritan in the parable. We are all capable of being more merciful in what we do as we follow what our beliefs. Does that mean, however, that we are not neighbors to the man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho unless we act like the Samaritan? The priest and the Levite are bound by a certain understanding prevalent in their world. At that moment they were unable to help the man yet I don't think Jesus would have thought they were not the man's neighbors as a result.

By letting the lawyer answer who he thinks the neighbor is - Jesus can show a deeper level of compassion than those who cannot show their deepest levels of mercy at a particular moment. Jesus asks "Which of these three were the neighbor to the man?' Yet there are more than three characters in his parable. 

There are the thieves. Does robbing the man mean there may no longer be a way for robbers to ever show mercy to this man again and become a neighbor? May they be thought of as, at least, potential neighbors? There is also the innkeeper. Since the Samaritan paid the innkeeper, does that mean that the innkeeper is not showing mercy to a man he is caring for? Is the innkeeper's care only transactional because he was paid?

Jesus tells this parable to answer the lawyer's question. Considering the lawyer's answer Jesus poses the question so the lawyer's transactional perspective is satisfied but the parable does not limit the idea or possibility of being a neighbor to that perspective only. 

'I could die doing what I love, but I could also die never having really lived.  To me, that would have been a far greater tragedy.'  

 Jay Austin

Danger encountered and, perhaps, averted or better understood.   

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

May 8, 2022 - Fourth Sunday of Easter - Mother's Day, Good Shepherd Sunday, Building Our Community and Our Christian Responses Today

Creator's Congregational Call  for May, 2022 - Dear Loving God,

Thank you for your compassion and mercy.  Thank you for our Creator congregation, our Oregon synod, and for our Bishop.

We pray Lord for your guidance as we evaluate what ministry means for our church, and we ask you to help all of us open our hearts to participate in the call to ministry.  We pray that our wants are your wants, that your vision of the church becomes our vision of the church.

God please hear our prayers for our brother and sister congregations, those who are in transition and searching for guidance as we are.  We ask your spirit to move among all people who are seeking to be in the church.  Help us to to be an impact for what you want the church to be, and please show us how to share your message of love, compassion, and grace.

We trust you Lord that you are continuing to prepare the heart of our future shepherd.  Please continue to bless our congregation, our synod, and our bishop as we all move forward in uncovering the dream that you have for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
 
Pastor Glenn Chase was our supply pastor today. He preached about Mother's Day by quoting a touching tribute he wrote in a letter to his Mother. The he talked about how hard it was to preach this Sunday and transitioned to how difficult it was for him to preach on Good Shepard Sunday since he had little experience with sheep. The Gospel lesson was John 10:22-30 "my sheep hear my voice" Actually this was an amazing verse for the Sunday, after the leak of the Supreme Court's draft decision striking down Roe V. Wade.

"My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they will follow me." For some, Justice Alito's arguments in the draft decision may echo in their hearts as the voice of Jesus or God. They do not for me. The teachings of Jesus consistently move us along a journey to becoming more human. For some this leaked draft does just that, just as it does not for me.  It is the word of God that says the truth shall make us free. Relying on what 13th century common law defines as quickening, does not buttress what I feel in my heart today, but I will concede this is the voice of Jesus that others may hear speaking in their hearts.

I am curious and want to be in conversation to learn how to converse, build consensus, community, and a common response to the decisions that America will soon be making from here as a nation.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

May 1, 2022 - Third Sunday after Easter - The Breakfast Invitation at the Beach

Today's Gospel is the "take heart" story about the disciples returning to fishing after they followed the pre-Easter Jesus and their large catch after Jesus appears to them. How can this familiar fish story become fresh? Should we want it to be?

Pastor Mary Peterson, Creator's supply pastor today, gave a gentle, beautiful sermon that followed the story as it is traditionally handed down. Obviously this starts out with the disciples not knowing what to do. The something happens. As Pastor Mary gave her sermon there was something in Mary's voice and her words that reflected a compassion in Jesus and the disciples as they eat on the beach.

Beyond what Pastor Mary embodies in herself as far as the message, the perspective she conveyed is perhaps best captured in the following poem:

INSPIRATION

It’s those familiar scenes
beyond the hollowed tomb—
the sudden surprise meeting
with the gardener who knows my name—
that sunset sabbath journey,
approaching stranger, wayside inn,
the evening meal, the certain way
the bread was broken—
the breakfast on the shore at daybreak,
gentle invitation, driftwood fire,
crisp, fragrant fish on glowing coals,
the walk along the sand, those questions.
I can see myself among them
as they shared a meal, a word, a presence,
maybe even laughed together
as the future opened wide, first daylight
dancing full across the waters.

 
— J. Barrie Shepherd

Mary focused attention on the taste of the fish and friendship, which she imagined would compare to the bluegill sunfish she ate with friends in Minnesota that they called "sunnies". And yes, she conjured up the aroma and taste of eating fresh fish in our minds.

Now, leaving for a moment Mary's sermon, there is a detail in this account about Peter that always seems out of place. That is when Jesus is recognized, Peter puts on his clothes because he is fishing naked and this is pointed out about him only. 

Now, we may interpret why this is important.  For instance, he is not only without his clothes. He has also been without the physical presence of Jesus as he knew him in life. Peter may have previously relied on Jesus' physical presence to sustain him. After the fish are caught and hearing  "It is the Lord!", Peter puts on his own clothes and jumps into the sea. He is no longer afraid of leaving the boat and is not relying on the physical Jesus he knew that held him when he tried to walk on water in faith. But, as we are told, they are not that far from the shore. 

Then Jesus says to Peter, "Follow me." This may describe Peter's post-resurrection way of following his God. Peter, in this account, begins to recognize that Jesus is beyond a physical body in terms of his presence on earth. However, to insure this is some sort of command that focuses on homage or blind obedience to him as leader, Jesus asks, "Do you love me?" and when Peter responds"Yes." replies with "Feed my sheep". 

There are unexpected details throughout this passage. This is taking place at a place named the Sea of Tiberius, which is normally called the Sea of Galilee. Not only is Simon Peter naked, John also records there were exactly 153 large fish caught and that the net was not torn?  

Why, when the disciples did not know that it was Jesus, they caught nothing but when he said, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." they were not able to haul the net in because there were so many fish. Nets don't normally work that way when fishing. Jesus miracles normally spring from the routines in our lives, This is a miracle, yes, but...

The Sea of Galilee here being named the Sea of Tiberius suggests there is a tie between this story and the Roman emperor (see Diana Butler Bass' sermon link below)  I have heard in previous sermons that there were 153 nations known to the Greek/Romans at that time. Given that meaning, this appearance / miracle foreshadows Peter's dream of unclean food as recorded in Acts where Peter was taught by this vision that God has removed the barriers that separate God's people from the surrounding nations. The gospel was meant for all people. And, of course, this emphasized even more that this passage can be about something more than the disciples' night fishing work.

Diana Butler Bass preached on this passage at Wild Goose in 2019 with some compelling insights. Click here for that perspective.

Yes, there are unexpected details and layered meanings locked in this passage but the invitation to come and have breakfast truly reveals the true, universal, and invitational nature of Jesus and his loving relationship to the world.

August 7, 2022 - The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost - Baptism of Sofia Corban, Toni and Rick's Godspeed, and the Blessed Life

The Creator congregation and our community gathered and celebrated this Sunday, Today we  remembered our past, renewed some relationships, a...