Monday, July 16, 2018

A Greater Belonging In Jesus


Brad Sullivan
Proper 10, Year B
July 15, 2018
Emmanuel, Houston
Mark 6:14-29

A Greater Belonging In Jesus

John the Baptist was killed because of a hastily-made promise given by a man who was overly aroused by his step daughter’s dancing.  With little thought as to possible consequence, Herod spoke his promise to give her whatever she wanted.  He was acting out of emotion, feeling more than thinking, and so in his lust and over excitement, he got a man killed.

I’d like to say that as disciples of Jesus, we don’t fall into that trap anymore, the trap of speaking and acting out of our emotions and letting our rash words cause harm to others.  I’d like to say that we don’t cause harm with our rash words, but of course we all still do.  As researcher and author BrenĂ© Brown points out, we like to think of ourselves as thinking people who also have emotions, but really, we are emotional people who also think sometimes.  We are often driven by our emotions and even our rational decisions are often clouded by our emotions. 

We may not often get people killed with a hastily made promise like Herod did, but remember that even before Herod had John killed, he had him imprisoned.  This was probably another hastily made decision, probably based largely on emotion.  Herod was the named Jewish king.  He was a puppet king of Rome, but even so, his assigned duty was to lead well the nation of Israel, so when he decided to marry his brother’s wife, John pointed out that doing so was against Jewish law.  Now usually, Herod liked listening to John.  He was perplexed by his teachings, but something about John’s teaching about God and about the ways of the people of Israel seems to have connected with Herod.  Then John called into question Herod’s unlawful marriage, and in what was likely a tantrumy fit of emotion, Herod decided that there was no longer room enough in Israel for both John and him, so he had John imprisoned. 

“I don’t like what you have to say, so you’ll have to go.”  That was Herod’s basic operating model with John.  We don’t often get people killed with our rash words and emotionally clouded decisions, but “I don’t like what you have to say, so you’ll have to go,” is something I hear with increasing frequency.

In our nation, with much of the vitriolic, emotional language surrounding any issue, people tend to be painted in absolute, binary terms.  On one side of what we hear, if you agree with anything President Trump does or says, then you are described or thought of as a hateful racist (which is completely false).  On the other side of what we hear, if you don’t agree with something President Trump does or says, then you are described or thought of as an anti-American nincompoop (also totally false).  Put another way, much of what we hear is, “I don’t like what you have to say, so you’ll have to go.”  That’s Herod’s way.

This way of thinking with our emotions, lives not only in our political thoughts and civil discourse.  The putting away of and rejection of the other ends up living in our church and our faith as well.   My guess is that most of us don’t believe in overly emotional labels of the other.   Most of us, when our emotions are down, don’t really believe in the “I don’t like what you have to say, so you’ll have to go” mentality.  Most of us would not want to kick out of the church those who have different beliefs about our faith or different beliefs about various laws in America.  We may disagree, but I’m guess that most of us would not want to declare those with whom we disagree no longer welcome in the Episcopal Church or no longer a part of the Body of Christ, and yet people continue to feel like that is exactly what they are being told.  “Because of what you believe, you no longer belong.”

I had a question recently from a friend in the Episcopal church, wondering about the Episcopal Church’s stance on a variety of current hot button issues.  Ultimately, he was wondering if he still belongs in the Episcopal Church.  He has more conservative views on most of the hot button issues of the day and he was wondering if because of his conservative views, he was going to be seen as a bigot in his church.  Hearing what some in his church have said, hearing what some leaders in the church have said, he was guessing that he wasn’t welcome.  Now, none of those leaders said he wasn’t welcome, but we hear it so much, that we hear “you aren’t welcome,” even when it is not being said or thought.  Based on conversations and observations of others in his church, he was afraid.  He felt that if he were to say that he agrees with some of President Trumps policies, that he would be labeled a hateful racist and be shunned. 

I assured him that as far as any official stance within the Episcopal Church goes, of course he is a part of the Episcopal Church, and of course his views are welcome in the Episcopal Church, and he is not viewed as a bigot for having conservative beliefs.  Nor is anyone viewed as a nincompoop for having liberal beliefs.  There are bishops, priest, and laity throughout the Episcopal Church on the far right, on the far left, everywhere in between, and all of those beliefs are welcome.  It’s not as comfortable as it is to say, “I disagree; you don’t belong.”  That’s a lot easier, but that is not the way of the Episcopal Church.   One of the longtime hallmarks of the Anglican/Episcopal church is that we are united in Jesus, and our unity in Jesus overcomes any other divisions we have. 

Sadly, much of how we talk about our differences leaves us feeling like there is only room for some of us.  I’ve been guilty of this in how I’ve talked and written.  I’m guessing many of us have, when we talk emotionally about an issue and end up saying things in such a way that those with opposing views end up hearing very clearly, “I don’t like what you have to say, so you’ll have to go.”

A one sided church is not, however, the way of the Anglican/Episcopal Church.  The Anglican Church started off with bloodshed.  When a catholic monarch was in charge, they killed the protestants, and when a protestant monarch was in charge, they killed the Catholics.  Finally, Elizabeth basically said,
We’re not doing this anymore.  This isn’t the church of  Catholicism; this isn’t the church of Protestantism.  This is the church of England.  Furthermore, this is the church of Jesus, and we are going to be united around Jesus and be united around prayer.  So all of you Catholics who are so upset that there are Protestants here, terribly sorry, we’re keeping them.  All of you protestants who are so upset that there are Catholics here, terribly sorry, we’re keeping them too, and we’re going to unite and come together in that tricky, messy middle place where we remain as one, united in Jesus. 

We continue to this day to seek a middle way between opposing views.  We continue to believe that our unity comes from Jesus and that there is room enough for all of us, even with our opposing views. 

In Herod’s kingdom, there was room enough only for what pleased Herod.  If someone challenged him or made him uncomfortable, then there was no longer room for that person.  In Jesus’ kingdom there is room for all of us.  We are all the Body of Christ and individually members of it.  Not only is there room for all of us, but there is need for all of us. 

One of the issues my friend asked about was immigration.  While he isn’t a fan of detaining children, he also believes that enforcing our immigration laws is a good thing.  He is aware of the human tracking that happens everywhere in the world, including along our southern border, and as much as he wanted children to be reunited with their parents, he was also aware of the possibility that some of those children were likely being trafficked by people who weren’t their parents. 

As it turns out, on the issue of separating families on our southern border, both sides have truths that we need.  We need to be compassionate in how we treat and speak about immigrants, and we need to enforce our laws with compassion and dignity, and we need to enforce our laws in order to keep people safe.  Both sides are needed for America to be the nation we were founded to be, and both sides are needed for us to truly live as the Body of Christ.  We need each other, and there is plenty of room in Jesus for all of us.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians that basically there is no room in Jesus’ kingdom for enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, etc.  There is room, however, for being wrong.  There is room for disagreeing.  There is room for striving for what is right and good, and coming up with different solutions for doing what is right and good.  There is room within Jesus, within the Body of Christ for what Paul calls the fruits of the Spirit:  love for each other, joy in creation and our faith, peace in our hearts, patience and kindness as we live with others, assuming each others’ goodness, faithfulness to Jesus, gentleness and self-control as we live with our differences.  These fruits are how we live with one another in Jesus because these fruits are part of the character and nature of who Jesus is.

Unlike in Herod’s kingdom of his way only, of rash words and decisions based on raw emotion and arousal, we belong to Jesus’ kingdom.  No political or social belief unites us or divides us, and no rash words spoken by any of us in the heat of emotion get to declare that someone else doesn’t belong.  We all belong in Jesus. 



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

At the Time of the Evening Breeze...


Brad Sullivan
Proper 5, Year B
June 10, 2018
Emmanuel, Houston
Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13 - 5:1
Mark 3:20-35

At the Time of the Evening Breeze…

At the time of the evening breeze, God was walking through the Garden, and the man and the woman were afraid of God’s judgment, so they immediately started demonizing the other.  Rather than just take responsibility for their own actions, they each blame someone else.  Eve blames the serpent.  Adam basically blames God.  “You gave me the woman, and she gave me the fruit, so really, it’s kinda your fault.”  We’re still pretty good at blaming the other at the time of the evening breeze when God walks through our lives.  What if we’re not good enough?  What if God is upset about something I’m doing or something they’re doin…“Demon!”  “Burn the witch!”  We shout.  “Ooh, something new or different which seems to threaten my understanding of the world.  Kill it!  Burn it with fire!”

That’s our standard knee jerk reaction to what we don’t understand or what seems to threaten us.  Demonize the other.   In Jesus’ case, he was not working within the standard ways and means of the religious system of first century Judaism, and so the keepers of that system felt threatened by Jesus.  They felt threatened by Jesus for a variety of reasons, and they feared that at any moment, God might come walking at the time of the evening breeze, and so they had the knee jerk response of , “Kill it!  Burn it with fire.”

In the story we heard today, the scribes saw Jesus casting out a demon, and they called it the work of Satan.  In order to demonize Jesus, they said that Satan, the Adversary, was doing work of healing, unity, and wholeness.  Healing, unity, and wholeness is the work of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.  So Jesus responded.  “As really religious people you feel threatened by something quasi new happening within your religion, and so you’re saying that healing, unity, and wholeness is being done by Satan, the Adversary?  Really guys?”

Adversarial Rule, the rule of Satan, causes division, keeps us down, keeps us fighting with each other seeking victory over peace, seeking to be right rather than to be in good relationships with each other.  Adversarial Rule has us demonize the other, has us attack anything we disagree with, has us take our hurt and our fear and lash out at our perceived enemy to try to gain back some perceived mastery over the world.  We act in this way when our world seems threatened, when groups of people whom we think are wrong are called blessed; when we think we know a better, faster solution to a problem than those working to fix the problem; when our fear and pain has us lash out at a perceived enemy, trying to control our world, rather than to give over to God our profound lack of control.

Division, anger, hurt?  These are the marks of the rule of Satan, the Adversary.  Healing, unity, and wholeness?  Not so much, and yet, as in our Gospel story today, we often see people in our world ascribing healing, unity, and wholeness to the work of the Adversary.  We see peace, healing, and wholeness happening to those deemed unworthy or sinful, and so that peace, healing, and wholeness is often ascribed to the Adversary, while at the same time, division, anger, and hatred are ascribed to the work of the Holy Spirit, ascribed to the goodness of doing what is right.

I’m not sure if this is the unforgiveable or eternal sin of which Jesus spoke, but it is certainly not what Jesus has in mind for us. 

This part of the Gospel where Jesus says there is an eternal, unforgiveable sin, blaspheming the Holy Spirit, has always been a tough passage for me.  I’m sure it’s y’all’s favorite, but we have probably all wondered, “How exactly does that eternal, unforgiveable sin work?”  I don’t know, and I’m not going to try to explain away the judgment piece, nor am I going to try to define it.  If I label the eternal sin as something we can no longer do (which I’ve seen in some commentaries), then I am just helping us ignore Jesus’ teaching for the sake of our comfort and convenience.  If, on the other hand, I declare and label something to be that eternal sin, then I’ve just scapegoated someone or something (probably something like the opposite of us), and have put myself in God’s seat of judgment.

So, instead, I’m going to say this.  Jesus certainly took extremely seriously our propensity for condemning something good simply because we feel threatened by it.  Seeing the work of the Holy Spirit and calling it the work of Satan is an extremely serious offense in Jesus’ book, and I think our history bears out the damage caused by such actions.

Look, there is work of healing and unity happening in the case of two people who love each other and want to be married.  One has really dark colored skin, and the other has really light colored skin.  “Kill it!  Burn it with fire!”  Look, there is healing and unity happening in the lives of two people who love each other and want to commit to sharing their lives together, but we think some parts of our religion say it’s wrong.  “Kill it!  Burn it with fire!”  Look, “how good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity,” but some of those people are the wrong religion or group, and we feel threatened by that.  “Kill it!  Burn it with fire!”  We fear, and so we blame and shame and demonize.

I can imagine a good amount of other blaming fear on the part of the scribes when they saw Jesus and the following he was gathering.  They knew the scriptures, they knew what happened to Israel when people started worshipping something other than God.  They were exiled or conquered.  So, the Scribes saw folks following Jesus, and he didn’t follow the religion the way they thought he should, so out of their fear for their nation and their people, they had the knee jerk “kill it, burn it with fire” response. 

As I said earlier, we still have this response today.  We really always have, and boy is it obvious and pronounced today.  One side feels the nation is threatened by the other side’s beliefs, and so we have that response:  “Kill it!  Burn it with fire!”  We see or hear something different happening within our religion, and we’re afraid of what is to come, and so we have that response:  “Kill it!  Burn it with fire!”

Into these situations, Jesus says, “Dude, you gotta chill.  Following every aspect of your religion perfectly?  Yeah, Dad’s not into that all that much.  Seeing work of healing and unity, bringing exiled or banished people back into the fold, and calling that the work of Satan?  Dad’s especially against that.  You may be trying to save your nation or your religion by condemning those you see as outliers and calling the work of Satan any who would declare them clean, but really, you’re just condemning yourself…that goes for Republican and Democrat, Progressive and Conservative, by the way.”

Amidst our fears of doing the wrong thing and angering God, Jesus reminds us that God is not really concerned with us doing our religion correctly.  If something is bringing healing, unity, and wholeness, it’s a good bet God is for it.  God is not interested in our demonizing of the other.  God is not interested in us trying to look good in his eyes by seeing healing, unity, and wholeness and being afraid of it.  God wants to walk with us at the time of the evening breeze and be glad that he is there, not to hide or to fall in to fear.  As God walks with us at the time of the evening breeze, God wants us to join in healing, unity, and wholeness, and to fall together into his love and mercy.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Sabbath, Jesus: Gifts of Freedom from All that Enslaves us

Brad Sullivan
Proper 4, Year B
June 3, 2018
Emmanuel, Houston
Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Psalm 81:1-10
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23 - 3:6

Sabbath, Jesus:  Gifts of Freedom from All that Enslaves us

Rules are made to be broken.  That’s one of my favorite oft quoted sayings of supposed wisdom which is actually totally and completely bogus.  Rules aren’t made to be broken.  That’s just something people say when they don’t feel like following a rule, which happens pretty much of the time.  Rules weren’t made to be broken.  Then again, rules aren’t generally made to be followed either.  Don’t get me wrong, those who make rules want them to be followed, but following some arbitrary rule is not the point of making the rule.  Rules aren’t made to be followed.  Rules are made to be helpful.

The Pharisees missed that in their understanding of the rule about not working on the Sabbath.  Thinking that the rule was made to be followed, rather than to be helpful, the Pharisees had become enslaved to the rule which is particularly ironic since one of the reasons for the commandment not to work on the Sabbath is to free us from slavery.

Biblical scholar Vanessa Lovelace points this out in looking at the Sabbath commandment in Deuteronomy which we heard this morning.  See, in the Exodus telling of the commandments, keeping the Sabbath is tied to creation, for in six days God created the world, and on the seventh day God rested.  In Exodus, a day of rest is tied into the very fabric of creation.

In Deuteronomy, however, observing the Sabbath is tied to God freeing the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt.  “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.”

God freed you from slavery, therefore you should keep the sabbath.  Rather than an arbitrary rule made to be followed, the sabbath commandment was given in part to help maintain freedom.  Not only are “you” not supposed to do any work, but neither are your children, nor anyone who works for you.  Everyone is supposed to rest so they do not become enslaved to the tyranny of work.  Enjoy creation.  Enjoy one another.  Our work has to be done, and there is always more work to be done.  The taskmaster of our work will be happy to keep us at it forever, expanding more work to fill as much time as we’re willing to give.  God knows we can become enslaved to work, so he commands us to remove the chains of our work and take time to rest.

The Sabbath commandment was not made simply to be followed, and it wasn’t made to be broken either.  The Sabbath commandment was given as a gift so that we would take time to rest, to pray, and to remember God our creator and liberator.  The Sabbath commandment was given as a gift so that we would take time to be with each other, enjoy the beauty of one another, enjoy the beauty of creation all around us, and enjoy time spend playing.

Then the well-meaning Pharisees come along.  Rather than being liberated by the Sabbath, they had become enslaved to the Sabbath.  They treated the Sabbath like a rule that must be followed, totally forgetting the freedom and play that is intended in the rest.

Have you ever seen children fighting over a toy, not because one wants what the other has, but because one of the kids is playing with the toy incorrectly?  One kid will be playing with a toy in a way other than how the toy was intended to be used, and having a marvelous time.  Then another kid will see the offending child having fun in a way which is inconsistent with the way the child thinks the toy should be played with, and that kid will be all up in arms.  “No.  You’re supposed to do it this way!”  To be fair to children, there are plenty of times when adults do the same thing to children, seeing them play with a toy in a manner inconsistent with the manufacturer’s prescribed use, again, having a marvelous time, and the adult will also stop the offending child at their joyful play.  Ok, so a quick public service announcement to kids and any adults who are with children in play:  toys are meant to bring joy and fun to their users; toys are not meant to be taskmasters which keep us following a particular way of performing an activity.

The Pharisees needed a similar PSA.  The Sabbath was intended to honor God, to give rest to creation and to us, and free us from the tyranny of work.

Jesus’ disciples plucked some grain as they walked through the grainfields.  They weren’t harvesting the grain.  They saw some food, and they were hungry and so they decided to eat it.  Then there were the Pharisees, following Jesus and his disciples around like some ancient internet troll just waiting for a chance to say “gotcha!”  My gosh did they miss the point.  “Don’t enjoy creation!  Don’t eat if you’re hungry.  It’s the Sabbath, and we’re going to make sure you observe it the way we want you to.  Freedom and joy with God be damned.”

Then, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath.  Talk about freedom.  Jesus freed this man from his disability, his useless, withered hand, and all the Pharisees could say was, “You should have waited until nightfall.”  They got so incensed by the whole, “people enjoying life and being freed on the Sabbath” thing, that they decided the best course of action would be conspiracy to commit murder.  “You didn’t play with our toy the right way.  You’ll have to go.”

Ok, to be fair to the Pharisees, we too don’t like it when things we know and love are changed.  Thankfully we’ve never done anything like that in the church, well, except for during the reformation…and those other times.  Hey, but at least we didn’t kill anyone in the church because they were doing some churchy practice wrong.  Well, except for important things like in ancient church divisions where you could be killed for crossing yourself in the wrong way.  Or during the start of the Anglican church where you could be killed for being too Anglican…or too Catholic…or too Anglican…or too Catholic.

Then there were the times when folks were killed for reading the scriptures in languages other than Latin, times when people in the church were killed by other Christians for things like believing the wrong things about Jesus, being black, being homosexual.  We haven’t always killed each other over our differences, sometimes we’ve just quit churches, split churches, held grudges for years, and grown hatred and contempt in our hearts.  Wine vs. grape juice, bread vs. wafers, putting the wrong flowers in the wrong place or singing the wrong music at worship.  People left the Episcopal church back in 1979 when the prayer book was changed and we started having Eucharist every Sunday instead of once a month.  “No, not Jesus!  Keep him away.”  We were doing it wrong.

Contra all of our divisions and incitement sometimes even to violence because we’re chained by our way of doing things or held captive by our ways of understanding things, God doesn’t want us enslaved to anything.  When we become enslaved to desires for comfort and convenience, forsaking God’s dream for us to join in bringing about his Shalom on earth, God continues to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to set us free.

Millennia ago, God gave the Sabbath to set us free.  God lived and died as one of us to set us free.  God has given us these gifts, the gifts of Sabbath, the gift of Jesus to set us free from all of the chains that bind us.  The gift of Sabbath so that we can take time to rest, to pray, to remember God our creator and liberator, and so that we can take time to be with each other, enjoy the beauty of one another, enjoy the beauty of creation all around us, and enjoy time spent playing.  The gift of Jesus to set us free from all that binds us.

Enjoy these gifts God has given and be set free.  Enjoy the gift of Jesus and freedom he gives us all.  Freedom from anything that binds us:  our past, our resentments, our addictions, our need to follow the rules of our religion so tightly that we forget the joy and freedom that our religion is intended to give us in the first place.  Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.  Keep this faith and these rules that God has given, not because rules are made to be broken or followed, but in order that we might be set free.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Trinityish Type Stuff: a.k.a. Restoring God's Shalom

Brad Sullivan
Trinity Sunday, Year B
May 27, 2018
Emmanuel, Houston
Isaiah 6:1-8
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

Trinityish Type Stuff:  a.k.a. Restoring God's Shalom

Without doubt and without fear,
May you find some comfort here,
May there be hope to help you cope
When what you need Is nowhere near

Make your mark unto these years,
Shape your world with salt and tears,
Carry on when your will has gone,
Be it joy or sorrow

Given time, given faith,
Given courage to embrace
Changes as they each take place,
Be it joy or sorrow
-          Terri Hendrix, Joy or Sorrow

That’s from a song called Joy or Sorrow by Texas singer/songwriter, Terri Hendrix.  That song made me think of the life of Jesus, following the wind of the Holy Spirit.  In good times and in bad, in joy or sorrow, Jesus had a profoundly beautiful life, being led by the wind, the Spirit of God.  Jesus was fully connected to God and to creation around him with hope, with faith, embracing life as it came, be it joy or sorrow

Now because of Jesus and because of the church’s dawning realization that he was God, living as an actual human being among us, the church, began over the centuries to develop an understanding of God as being one God who was also three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We developed this understanding of God because Jesus spoke to God, his father, who spoke back to him, and Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit of God.  The three worked and moved together as one, even though they were each distinct. 

How’s that work and fit together, three persons who are one God and yet still three distinct persons while still being one God?  I don’t know.  After years of pondering and wondering, I simply think of I think of the Trinity in terms of relationship.  Three persons bound together so perfectly in love for each other that they are one.  From that image of God, we gain an understanding of the image of God in which we were made.  We were intended to love others and be loved by others, to join with others so that we are one with them.  That was Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, if you’ll remember from John 17:11, that they would be one as he and the Father are one.  In good times and bad, in joy or sorrow, we were made to be like God, bound to one another in love, our loving unity creating shalom, the peace and wholeness of God.

I’ve been reading Learning Change by Jim Herrington & Trisha Taylor, and they begin the book with idea of God’s dreams for us, that we would each bring about the peace and wholeness of God.  “We were designed,” they write, “to dream of the epic life God created us for - the abundant, fully human, and fully alive life that Jesus lived.  Along the way, we exchange that dream for a seriously compromised version, characterized by the pursuit of comfort and convenience...” 
“God [has chosen] us to partner with him in recreating and restoring shalom in our own families, our communities, and ultimately in the world.”

Reading this book has reminded me of the dream I had as a youth of following the wind of God and having a purpose in my life to restore shalom.  I lost some of that along the way, coming into adulthood and seeking comfort and security for my life.  I lost that dream of partnering with God in restoring shalom, and since reading this book, Jesus has been calling me to make some changes, even if only in attitude and outlook, so that I can reclaim that dream of a life of partnering with God in restoring peace and wholeness.

Restoring Shalom, the peace and wholeness of God, was Jesus’ life through and through, and partnering with God in restoring Shalom is the life Jesus was talking about when he told Nicodeums about being born from above.  When we’re born from above, we follow the epic dream God has for us, partnering with him in restoring shalom in the world and following the wind of God. 

“Wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes,” Jesus said.  Thinking of the wind blowing where it chooses in terms of the Trinity, I have this great image of the Father and the Son talking together and suddenly a mighty wind starts blowing, and the Son says, “Hey Dad, where do you think she’s going now?”
“Are you kidding, Son, I never have any idea where she’s going, but it’s always on the grandest adventure.”
…and together they follow the Spirit, the three bound perfectly together in love, their loving unity creating shalom, the peace and wholeness of God.

Being born of the Spirit of God, following the wind, which blows where it chooses, we don’t know where it comes from or where it goes, and yet we find something beautiful in the life of that wind, and so we follow where the wind blows.  Jesus calls us to surrender ourselves to follow God’s epic dream for us of abundant, fully human life.  In that surrender, we let go some of  some false security, comfort, and convenience, and we follow the wind of God, partnering with him in restoring shalom.

Be it joy or sorrow, our lives were made for so much more than for securing our own comfort and security.  We were made to be fully alive which does not mean that we’ll be perfectly
happy with no tears ever.  Both Joy and sorrow will still happen as they did for Jesus.  We know that risking joy and sorrow is part of what it means to be fully alive, fully human.  So is following the wind of God on whatever grand adventure she has in mind for us. 

We had two examples in our scripture readings today of people following the wind of God on a new grand adventure:  Isaiah and Nicodemus.  For Isaiah, he had this grand vision of God in his divine court with angels all around him, leaving little doubt that the grand adventure on which he was about to embark was the wind of God, in his case, a gale force wind.  He had no idea what he was getting into, but as soon as God asked, “Who will go for us?”, Isaiah piped, “Sounds good, let’s go!  What are we doing again?”  There was joy and sorrow in his following the wind of God, but come what may, Isaiah was all in.  Some folks have such experiences of a strong sense of God calling them to follow the wind on a grand adventure, and they can’t wait to begin.

Others are more like Nicodemus.  He was a little more subdued in his response.  For one thing, the invitation that he received to follow the wind of God was less gale force and more gentle breeze, and he wasn’t at all certain that he wanted to follow.  Having seen and heard Jesus, he saw something beautiful, and he felt the wind of God on his face gently beckoning him onward, but he thought, “This seems potentially great, but also very confusing and rather distressing; can I talk about this with you in private, Jesus?”. 

I love both of these examples of how we can say yes to the wind of God beckoning us to follow in the life of the Trinity.  God lets us follow the wind as we can, as we learn to trust him and catch the beauty of the dream of God’s life for us. 

Where’s the wind of God blowing?  I don’t know.  Just ask yourself this:  Who’s the next person you’re going to talk with or even look at while you’re here?  That’s where you get to live the life of the Trinity and help restore the shalom of God in creation.  Where’s the next place you’re going from here?  That’s the next place the Spirit is inviting you to help restore the shalom of God in creation, and on and on.  In your home.  With you family and friends.  At work.  In your neighborhood.  That’s where you get to follow the wind of God, to live the life of the Trinity, to help restore the shalom of God in creation.

She calls:

Without doubt and without fear,
May you find some comfort here,
May there be hope to help you cope
When what you need Is nowhere near

Make your mark unto these years,
Shape your world with salt and tears,
Carry on when your will has gone,
Be it joy or sorrow

Given time, given faith,
Given courage to embrace
Changes as they each take place,
Be it joy or sorrow
-          Terri Hendrix, Joy or Sorrow