Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Sermon, March 31, 2013; Luke 24:1-12

Rev. George Miller
Luke 24:1-12
Easter; March 31, 2013

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Written by William Shakespeare, spoken by Macbeth, these are cold words of dark hopelessness, in which life is equated to nothing more then an actor who leaves the stage or a candle that is snuffed out.

They are the words of one who has confused political power and desire for domination with the light of day and the joy of “enough” that simply comes from being in love.

Pointlessness pervades; it is the same sense of pointlessness that existed on Friday when Jesus died upon the cross, feeling forsaken by God. A pointlessness which consumed Saturday as the disciples hid in fear and the women waited to anoint a dead body.

Jesus’ life may have looked like a great play, but his curtain call took place on the cross as he commended his spirit to God.

Jesus’ candle may have burned bright, but it has been put out by Pilate and the people.

Logic of the world says that when a candle is put out, its light ceases to exist…

…Today, well today we have gathered to say “Alleluia” and to give thanks that God is not limited by the world’s logic.

That in God’s kingdom, on God’s heavenly stage, even when a light is put out, its flame can still continue to burn, its light can still illuminate the world.

Especially when that light is called Jesus; Emmanuel!

Because friends, visitors, seekers and members of the community, in God the light of life is stronger then the darkness of death!

And that is what we celebrate this morning.

Since December we have spent most of our time following the birth and life of Jesus as told to us in the Gospel of Luke.

Luke tells us that after Jesus was wrongfully crucified, the women, seeing where his body was laid, went home to prepare the spices. Following Jewish tradition, they waited until Sunday, when the Sabbath was over. Then, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb to anoint Jesus; Mary Magdalene, Johanna, Mary his mother, and others.

But the stone is rolled away; they are perplexed. Two men stand beside them. “He is not here, but has risen. Remember, how he told you…that…on the third day he would rise again.”

The women remembered Jesus’ words, so they go and tell the disciples and the rest.

There is a sense in reading this that Luke wants to bring attention to the act of memory. It’s as if he’s saying that part of faith is based on the ability to remember.

Not blind trust, not saying a few choice words to be redeemed, but to remember, to recall, to reflect upon.

But sometimes remembering is not the easiest thing. When we experience great trauma, it’s hard to remember, especially the good times.

When we encounter duress, it is not so easy to remember. People find it difficult to recall the successes they’ve had and the miracles they’ve encountered.

As we age and grapple and quest to survive, it is not so easy to remember.

It’s not even the big things, but the little things. Who can recall what they ate for lunch yesterday? Who can recall what they read on Wednesday?

Who can recall what was even preached last week?

Yet, at the tomb the women remember and once they do, they find the courage to go on.

For me, this year, this is the Easter miracle.

Not that God raised Jesus from the grave. Our God is an awesome God. Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?

But for me, the miracle is that the people remembered. Plain, ordinary, every day folk not that much different from you and I.

In the midst of everything, the chaos, the loss, the confusing reality, they remembered, and in the act of remembering, the Resurrection made sense.

It’s by remembering that everything which had come before became even clearer and now they understand what Jesus meant; that what Jesus had tried to teach them was true and truly mattered.


Remember that when Zechariah and Elizabeth were old and childless, God made a promise to give them a son, and God followed through.


Remember that even though Mary was young and poor, God was able to work through her to do a marvelous thing.


Remember that even though there was no place for them in the inn, a manger and visiting shepherds were enough to welcome the birth of our Lord.


Remember that when Jesus, famished and alone, was offered the world by Satan he still said “No!” because in God he already had enough. (Luke 4:1-13)


Remember, that according to Luke, Jesus’ 1st public words of ministry was that he would bring good news to the poor, proclaim release of the captives, and let the oppressed go free. (Luke 4:16-30)


Remember that Jesus told a story about a father whose love was so great that he ran to his son and welcomed him with kisses even though the young man had squandered everything away. (Luke 15:11-32)


Remember how Jesus had a lowly donkey untied and used him so as to fulfill a prophecy of peaceful action. (Luke 19:29-40)

Remember the good: the teachings, the ministry, the meals shared, the healings, the lives touched, the people transformed.

The Resurrection allowed the women and the disciples to remember, and by remembering they acted.

They ate meals together. They ministered. They shared. They did what Jesus had called them to do.

In doing so, the light of Christ continues and the flame from his candle remains lit and burns brightly even 2 millennia later.

Is it a miracle that God raised Jesus from the grave? Yes! Is it also a miracle that the people remembered? Yes!!

In conclusion, we as a community of Christ have made it through the darkened days of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

We have witnessed the evil that men and women do; we have worried if indeed God has forsaken us.

But today, today we have come to the tomb, we have found the stone rolled away, we have heard the Good News, and we have remembered.

And in the act of remembering we are reminded that we are not poor players, merely shadows on a stage.

We now know that no matter how dark the night may seem, no matter how long the weekend may last, in Christ the flame still shines.

In Christ each season has a meaning. Our yesterdays all matter, and our to-morrows carry dreams yet to be imagined.

In the Resurrected Christ our sound and fury is replaced by music and light, signifying everything; to the last recorded syllable of time.

Alleluia and amen!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sermon for March 24, 2013; Luke 19:29-40

Rev. George Miller
Luke 19:29-40
“Possibilities Untied”
March 24, 2013

I have said before, and I will say many times again that most preachers have about three sermons in them that they give again and again.

I will also admit that at any given season we probably only have three themes as well. Food, no doubt, has been a constant theme; so have Disney and Broadway.

This has not been by accident.

Since I was a young colt of a kid, they were two of the things my father seemed to love. So I grew up believing that a dream is a wish your heart makes and that we all have the ability to fly.

I also grew up listening to the wit and wisdom, passion and plights of Professor Henry Higgins and Pippin, Eliza Doolittle and Evita, Guinevere and Don Quixote.

To dream the impossible dream…

Sadly, when my father died in 1995 I took those loves, those sources of life and light and tied them to a stake outside of my heart.

Too painful to see on a day to day basis, both Disney and Broadway were much easier left where I could visit from time to time, but not to have to always see them.

Then something unexpected happened when I came down here. Both reentered my life. Who would’ve thought that in a small, rural town, I would find a way to reenter a parade I had removed myself from for over 15 years?

These two loves of my father are once again two loves of mine, but now through different eyes.

Not the eyes of a child who naively believes second stars to the right and chasing windmills will make a better world, but through the eyes of an adult who understands that the world would be a much different, darker place if we didn’t hold in our heart the possibility that those things can indeed come true.

To put a spin on a popular poetic line, it is better to have dreamt and to lost then to never have dreamt at all…

One of Broadway’s beloved roles is the title character from “Hello Dolly.”

There is a scene from that play that is sure to make anyone tear up. Dolly has a “conversation” with her dearly departed husband Ephraim.

She confides in him that every night since he’s died, she locks her door, lets the cat out and says a prayer thanking God that she is independent.

But then she realizes she has become like the oak leaf she’s kept in her Bible: perfectly good but without color and life.

“For years,” Dolly says, “I have not shed one tear or been filled with the hope that something or other will turn out well.”

“I have decided to rejoin the human race.”

With those words, Dolly goes into a rousing number about getting her life back, moving with the rest and best of them, before the parade passes her by.

I speak of these things, because that’s what I see in today’s scripture. We have come to the day in the life of the church which we affectionately call Palm Sunday.

With it, we shout “Hosanna!” and we wave our palm branches. We shout “Hosanna!” and we lay down our cloaks.

We shout “Hosanna!” and we welcome the Lord. We shout “Hosanna!” because we believe in the dream of a better world.

But there is something that must take place before “Hosanna” can be shouted and palm branches can be waved.

What is it?

In order for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem, a colt, a humble donkey, has to be untied.

I wonder how many people have thought about this simple, little creature before. So often we focus on Jesus and the disciples, on the crowds and cloaks and palms and shouts.

But what about this lowly colt, this donkey?

Poor little fella, kept outside, tied to a pole, unable to move around, unable to go left or go right, move ahead, to frolic or to run.

Not used to its best advantage. Going nowhere…

…Until Jesus comes along…

There is a lot of theology going on in this scripture.

We could discuss the symbolism of what these events mean. We could talk about the political ramifications of calling Jesus “king.” We could talk about the prophecies being fulfilled.

We could spend the entire time dissecting who is saying what and how, and why Luke’s account is different then Mark’s.

But not today. Today we are simply just going to focus on the donkey, the colt.

Why? Because I feel of all the characters in today’s reading I can most relate to him. And if I feel that way, perhaps others do too.

I wonder how many here today have ever felt like they’ve been left on the outside?

How many have ever felt like they’ve been constrained, tied up or kept in place?

I wonder how many have ever felt like the parade has passed you by and due to life’s circumstances you were unable to participate?

How many have ever felt like there was something bigger, better, more in life then just standing in place, waiting?

Unsure what it was or what you were supposed to be doing, but knowing, just knowing, there was…more?

(To quote a line from another famous play, “Please sir, can I have some more?”)

Haven’t we all been like this donkey? Yes. More then once or twice in our lives? Yes and yes.

But here, in this story, that something more comes to pass. And it’s not fame or fortune, power or success. But it’s being used as an instrument for the Lord.

For when the donkey is untied and finally given freedom, it’s not for the ways of the world, but for the ways of the Lord.

It’s not for the betterment of the king, but for the continued revealing of God’s kingdom.

The donkey is loosed, untied, set free to be a participant in a parade of heavenly peace and glory.

And we can be too.

All of us here are full of possibilities, ripe with righteous gifts that we can give and we can share, we can do and we can be.

Each of us have the life and light inside of us that were present when we were born and will stay with us until we die.

Some have already discovered their gifts, others have yet to fully realize them, some have taken a peek but unsure of how to follow through.

Others are in need of faithful disciples who will come by and say “Why are you tied down, you are being called by Christ to be so much more!”

Each of us has gathered here today, we have come to worship God, and to praise God’s name.

And each of us are pregnant with possibilities ready to make God’s dreams come true and to be participants in the heavenly parade of peace and of light.

Today, may those possibilities by untied, today may we march along with Jesus, shouting “Hosanna!”, looking at the crowd up ahead and moving back in front.

God is calling all of us, in Christ we are all being untied, by the Holy Spirit we are being filled with color and light.

Amen and amen!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sermon for March 17, 2013; Luke 16:1-13

Rev. George Miller
Luke 16:1-13
“What Do We Owe?”
March 17, 2013

A few months ago I shared a prayer written by Judy Vekasy. It goes like this:

Loving, gentle, holy one
Dreamer of dreams
Who dreamed me into being
Help me to realize the dream
You have dreamed me to be

I recently came across this prayer and it got me thinking: the thing about dreams, not the inspirational kind, but the ones we have while asleep, is that they don’t make sense. Ever notice how our dreams have no real beginning and no clear resolution?

They seem to always start in the middle, featuring an array of people and physical locations that don’t always make sense.

Our sleepy-time dreams are usually murky and ambiguous. Yes, they can be filled with symbols and ways in which our unconscious is trying to work things out, but the more you try to explain your dreams or figure them out the more convoluted they become.

There are the dreams we have that linger with us long after we awake. They give us something to mull over, to think about.

What do they mean? What were we supposed to learn from them? What are we to do?

Today’s reading is very much like a dream. It feels fragmented, non-sensical, and unexpected.

Who are these folk? What’s really going on? Where is this exactly taking place?

Add to the fact that since quotation marks were not used during the time this was written, no one really knows what Jesus said, what the gospel writer wrote as an aside, if all these things were said at the same time or are they bits and pieces from others sermons, kind of like a greatest-hits compilation.

But if we let go of all those things, if we are comfortable cherishing ambiguity, then we can step into this reading for today and experience it like a memorable dream.

Today’s scripture can stay with you, linger, give you something to mull over, to think about.

What does it mean? What were we supposed to learn from it? What, if anything, are we to do?...

…Over the course of 3 weeks we have touched upon 3 topics:
-turning weapons of death into music of life
-dying so we can be born into new life
-not judging people by one season alone

I believe those themes can also be found in today’s reading.

We have the rich man who holds the fate of both the manager and the debtors in the palm of his hand. They are either his employee or they owe him much, either way he can do with them whatever he pleases.

He does not have to worry about Fair Labor Laws or anyone filing Chapter 7 or 13. So he can jail them, torment them, take their property, make them homeless.

He can use his position to be a weapon of death or an instrument of life.

Then we have the manager. He has squandered his opportunity. He had a job that didn’t require physical labor or making minimum wage. He may not have been rich but he was not poor.

He can continue to squander his life away or he can step into a kind of new life in which he can do something, anything, to help out another and himself.

Then there are the debtors. Each of them clearly is in a particular season- a season of not having enough. One owes 100 jugs of oil. Another owes 100 containers of wheat.

Who knows why they aren’t able to produce what they promised. Are they stupid? Lazy? Not willing to pull their own weight?

Did it not rain enough that year, or perhaps it rained too much? Maybe they had a loved one who was ill and all their resources went to caring for them, or perhaps they were sick themselves.

Either way, are they to be ultimately judged for the particular season they are in?

So in some ways, today’s reading is a bit like a dream. We step into it, unsure of just what we are actually being told and shown.

But because this is a story supposedly being told by Jesus, there has to be some Good News; there surely is an easy-to-distinguish moral to be told, right?

Maybe the debtors will hit upon a stroke of luck- a leprechaun, a magic bean, a fairy god-mother, and in the end they will come through it and they will all be saved and live happily ever after!

Or, maybe the manager will see the light of his squandering ways and he’ll hold a town-hall meeting in which he gives a moving, motivational speech which encourages everyone to work together and pool their resources so their town will be saved and Opie and Andy Griffith will come whistling along to have a Mayberry-ific time!

Or maybe, just maybe the rich man will be visited by three ghosts while he sleeps- the ghosts of past, present and future and he will awaken the next day forgiving everyone of their debts and buying Christmas geese for all!

But guess what? None of that happens in this story. In fact, I’m not really sure what does happen.

It seems like the manager comes up with a plan to cook the books, the towns-people are all too happy to go along, and the rich man gets a kick up of all their gumption…

…And by telling the story, Jesus seems to be telling us that it is all O.K…

So what is the Good News? There has got to be Good News.

In the past three weeks we celebrated how weapons can be turned into music, death can lead way to new life and God sees all our seasons of existence.

What is something, anything we can glean from this dream of a tale?

Maybe it’s my theology coming through, maybe it’s the building excitement of the kitchen remodeling, but one thing I see here is the notion of relationships. How people in this story interact with one another.

How the rich man calls forward the manager and asks for an accounting. How at the end, he commends the man for acting shrewdly.

How the manager goes to each debtor and works out with them a plan to satisfy everyone he can.

Did you notice why the manager does what he does? He knows he’s squandered his opportunity and is about to be fired.

But he works out a deal with each person so when he’s in his season of dissolution he will still be welcomed into their homes!

Here is that notion of hospitality and fellowship raising its dreamy head again.

Hebrews 6:35 says “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers. For by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

The manager may not be a stranger, and he certainly is no angel in the literal sense, but you know what? Neither is anyone else in this story.

The manager is not perfect and the people may not be completely debt-free, but somehow, someway, they live another day to fellowship together: to dine together, to welcome another in, and to break bread.

In other words, through the shrewdness of the manager he gets to maintain some type of relationship with the people around him.

And who knows how those relationships will unfold, what music would emerge, what new life experiences will come to be, what seasons will arrive.

Will the manager have to eventually dig ditches? Will he get a better job? Will he perhaps be offered his old one back?

Who knows? The dream ends there, with the possibility of relationships being…real.

In conclusion, our God dreams dreams.

God’s dreams aren’t always clear to us and they may not always make sense.

Who? What? Where? When? Why?

But I do believe that some of God’s dreams involve:
-turning weapons of destruction into instruments of life
-leaving behind that which is killing us to be born into new life
-not judging people according to the season they are currently in.

I believe God’s dreams involve us finding ways to work together, live together, dine together, and not in a fairy-tale, Mayberry, Christmas-Carol kind of way,

but a way that allows for imagination, diversity and the cherishing of ambiguity.

A way for all of God’s dreamers to lead the way.

Amen and amen.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sermon for March 10, 2013; Luke 15:1-2, 11-32

Rev. George Miller
Luke 15:1-2, 11-32
“Seasons of Love”
March 10, 2013

Once upon a time (according to a variation of a story given to me by Newt and Mary Dickie), there was a woman with four daughters.

She wanted her daughters to learn about grace and to not be so quick to judge others, so she sent them on a quest.

Each, it turn, was sent to look at a pear tree a great distance away. The first went in summer, the third in fall, the third in winter, and the fourth in spring.

When they had all returned, she gathered them together to share what they had seen.

The first, who journeyed in the season of summer, described the tree as laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful.

The second daughter disagreed; she had been there is fall when the tree was ripe and rich with fruit, so much so that the branches were drooping to the ground.

The third daughter could not understand how this was so. She was there in the winter and called the tree ugly and bent, twisted and of no worth.

The fourth daughter disagreed with them all. She had gone in the spring and said the pear tree was covered with green buds and full of promise and potential.

The mother, knowing her lesson had worked well, smiled at her daughters. She explained to them that they were all right, and they were all wrong, because they had each only seen a season of the tree’s existence.

She told them that one can not judge a tree by just one season. Nor can one judge a person by just one time in their life. That the essence of who they are, the joy, the love, and the pleasure that comes from that life, can only be measured at the end, when all the seasons are accounted for.

And even then, it is not for us to judge, but for grace to abound…

Today, we, no matter who we are, no matter where we are on life’s journey, continue on the Lenten Path with Jesus.

And as we continue on the Lenten Path, it is best if we never forget, for a moment, that what Jesus said, did, taught, and the stories he told, all led him to the cross.

What we may think of as nice, or sweet, or spiritual or common sense, all led to Jesus’ death.

Even today, the very things Jesus said, did, taught and the stories he told are likely to cause controversy and debate.

Today’s story is no exception. The religious leaders are grumbling that Jesus welcomes and eat with sinners.

The scribes and Pharisees chose to see people, judge people and fellowship with people only according to the season of life they are in at that moment.

If they perceived you as being full of sweet smelling righteousness, bearing the appropriate fruit, you were worthy to dine with. But if you were spiritually and socially gnarled, bent or twisted, you were excluded from their table.

But not Jesus. No matter if someone was in the season of saint or the season of sinner, regardless is they were in the season of lost, or the season of found, Jesus ate with them.

Jesus ate with folk; all kinds of folk. He broke bread. He sat at the same table. He listened to their stories.

Some biblical scholars will even tell you that Jesus died because of who he ate with.

So when Jesus hears the grumbling over his eating habits, Jesus tells three stories. The first is about lost sheep. The second is about a lost coin. But the third story? Well, it’s the one people seem to remember most.

“There was a man who had two sons,” Jesus says to grumblers.

The story unfolds; a story so rich with simplistic detail that to retell it would be like trying to explain a joke.

So I encourage you to reread this story on your own; to seek and find the richness of what Jesus is trying to tell us.

Today, what I feel called to focus on is the concept of seasons. In reading this, I came to the conclusion that each son had their own share of seasons to go through.

The younger son went through a season of leaving home. Of high living and seemingly good times. Of squandering all he had and making choices that left him in a pig pen.

I wonder how many people here today know what those seasons are like? To be young and foolish; to be lonely and lost?

How many here today have ever spent a season or two, or three or four defined by bad choices, pangs of hunger for something more and a desire for things to go back to the way they once were?

How many know what it’s like to spend a season in a pen fit for pigs?

Would you want to be judged for that season alone? Would you want the story of your life to be summed up by one season of stink and famine, bad choices and unfortunate events?

Fortunately, for that younger son, that season came to an end as he makes the decision to return to his father, to admit his mistakes, to seek comfort where compassion exists.

In doing so, he enters into a season of new beginnings and grace, a season of welcome and joy.

His father, who sees him while still far away, runs up to him with kisses and kind words. Instead of punishing, he celebrates…

…Then there is the older son with his own season. Upon discovering his baby brother’s return, he responds with anger and judgement. He questions his father’s amazing grace and refuses to join in the celebration.

He would rather be alone than to feast and dance, to welcome and to embrace.

How many here today have ever spent a season or two, or three or four filled with anger at somebody, feeling choices that they made were not fair?

Feeling pangs of hunger over things you wish you had received; a need for someone to be seen as the bad guy so you could be seen as the good one?

How many know what it’s like to purposely exclude yourself from something fun just because you thought it was more important to make a point?

Would you want to be judged for that season alone? Would you want the story of your life to be summed up by that one time of anger and complaint, jealously and pettiness?

But notice the father and the season he shows his two sons. Though the younger son abandoned the family, though the older one abandons the party, the father abandons neither one.

When both sons stood on the outside, the father came to them. When both sons had words to say, the father listened.

In this story Jesus tells, we discover that when it comes to grace there does not have to be a loser for there to be a winner.

In this story Jesus tells, the embrace of one child does not mean rejection of the other.

What we see is an abundance of grace that goes beyond whatever season each son is in. What we see is how grace allows relationships to be restored…

Now, we are not told, but I’d be willing to bet that this story Jesus shared about the man with two sons did not make the grumblers stop grumbling. In fact, there’s a good chance it made them angrier.

Just as this story can make people angry even today.

There are those who will reread this story and be mad at the younger son for squandering his father’s inheritance.

There are those who will be mad at the older son for being judgmental.

There are those who will be mad at the father for not picking one over the other, or for not condemning one or both for their deeds.

There are those who may even be mad that the father had the audacity to show love to both.

It seems to be in our human nature to feel like there have to be losers in order for there to be winners. It seems to be in our human nature to want there to be those who are rewarded just so others can be condemned.

Some need to see one tree gnarled and twisted so they can say the other tree is beautiful and sweet.

But I believe that God sees us much differently. I believe that God sees us for more then just one season.

I believe God sees us in view of all our seasons. God sees and knows the soil in which we were planted. The nutrients we received. God knows the amount of sun and rain, wind and frost that were in our lives.

God sees those seasons where we received “enough” and the seasons in which we encountered draught; those seasons in which we were surrounded by darkness and the seasons we were basked in the light, and God judges us accordingly and loves us so.

I also believe God is aware of the seasons that stand before us. The possibilities, the choices, the people, the storms which we will weather. The successes we will have.

I believe that God does not judge us as others would. God is well aware of the seasons we are lost and the seasons in which we are found; our struggles, our pains; our talents and our joys.

I believe that God is with us in every season, through every season, and that in it all, God is like that father, waiting and watching, running and embracing, forgiving and restoring.

In conclusion, as human beings we will go through and we have all gone through our own series of seasons.

For many there is a season to squander and a time to regain.

A season to be angry and a time to forgive. A season to be alone and time to join the party.

A season to run away and a time to come home.

But in God, experienced through the life, ministry and meals of Jesus Christ, we discover that in every season, every journey, every fall from grace, every reunion, there is indeed a Season of Love, and with it another opportunity of joy.

For that we can all say amen and amen.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sermon for March 3, 2013; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Rev. George Miller
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
March 3, 2013

In conclusion: how do we, with God, get to rewrite the stories of our lives; the seasons of our spiritual existence?

There is a time to be inwardly-focused and a time to be community-centric.

A time to be enslaved to the ways of the world and a time to be set free.

A time to run away and a time to accept our calling.

A time to face the cross and a time to rise above and again.

A time to die; and a time to be born.

Amen and amen.

…You’re probably wondering what just happened. Did we hit a time and space worm hole which jumped ahead 15 minutes to the last page of the sermon?

The answer is no. I’m just having some fun in the spirit of the message.

Today is the day we are passing out our Stewardship Cards as we encourage you to think about what it means to give to the church and to the work we have been called to do within the community.

The scripture selected for the Stewardship Season is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, one of the most well known readings in the Bible.

It’s so well known, I wasn’t quite sure what to say that hasn’t already been said; in some ways the scripture speaks for itself.

Then, for some reason, the movie Memento popped into my head. Memento is a gritty film-noir from 2001, directed by Christopher Nolan. What made Memento unique was that the story was told backward. The last scene of the movie was shown first; the first scene was shown last.

In the course of the backward storytelling, characters that appeared to be friends were revealed to be foes, what really transpired was totally different then what you thought.

With this in my mind, I took it upon myself to read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 backwards.

“A time for peace, a time for war; a time to hate, a time to love.” No big difference.

“A time to build up, a time to break down; a time to heal, a time to kill.” A little less gentle and a bit more violent sounding.

“A time to pluck up what is planted, a time to plant; a time to die and a time to be born.”


“A time to die and a time to be born…”

That sounds impossible; it sounds unrealistic. One can not be born after they have died. Death is death.

…but; but…

Is there the possibility of life, new life, after death occurs?

That got me thinking. A few weeks ago I stepped onto the stage of Highlands Little Theater and balled my eyes out when I saw that the set for “Auntie Mame” had been completely taken down and broken apart.

Then this week I marveled when I saw what had been built in its place: a spacious set made to look like a bed-and-breakfast with pink walls, hallways and working doors.

One set died so another could be born.

Then there was the story we shared last week- the one about the Mexican artist who has found a way to take confiscated guns and transformed them into a musical instrument; a concrete symbol of death into new life.

The Bible itself is full of such examples. In Genesis we have Joseph, a young, fairly cocky kind of guy who is full of dreams and in possession of a really big mouth.

His brothers get so angry at him they plan to kill him and toss him into a pit before selling him into slavery. Then Joseph is placed in jail where he is kept for years. Pits, slavery and jail are all symbols of death.

But the story does not end there. God’s steadfast love is present with Joseph in such a way that he is eventually taken from the deadly confines of jail and his gifts of speech and dreams are used for the good of the people and his own family, and to assist them in times of scarcity.

That’s one biblical example of dying in order to be born. Another is the Israelites in Egypt. They are living as slaves, being treated like no-counts. Due to the actions of God and Moses, they are released by the Pharaoh, but then chased by his army.

As the story in Exodus goes, the Israelites wander in the wilderness until they come up to the Red Sea. Then they discover Pharaoh’s army is charging towards them.

Wilderness, sea, army. Literally, death is on all sides. “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die (here)” they cry to Moses.

But what happens? The Lord drives back the sea creating a path of dry ground for the Israelites to travel through. Once they get to the side, they are literally slaves no more.

Symbolically, by walking through the Red Sea, the Israelites identity as no-count slaves dies so they can be born into a new life of freedom and into a new identity: Children of God.

Then there is Jonah. He is called by God to preach a word to the Ninevites. He says “No!” and flees as far as he possibly can go, across the water to Tarshish.

But as we all know, Jonah finds himself in the belly of a giant fish for 3 days. You can not find a more obvious symbol of death then this one.

After those three days, Jonah is spat up onto dry land where he eventually goes and does what God had originally called him to do.

In other words, Jonah dies to living a life of running away and thinking he knew best into being born into a new life of prophecy and doing God’s work.

Joseph, the Israelites, and Jonah are just 3 biblical examples of the spiritual phenomena of having to experience some kind of death in order to experience new life.

…For everything there is a season…

…Of course, for us, we are not just in the season of Stewardship, but we are also in the season of Lent.

A reflective, soul-searching time in which we are journeying with Jesus to Jerusalem. A time, which we know all too well, will lead us to the cross.

If slavery, seas, prisons and the belly of a giant fish do not make you think about death, a cross certainly will.

Like the guns confiscated in Mexico, a cross is a sign of death and terror. No new life could ever possibly come from it.

And yet in just a few weeks, that is the story we’ll be celebrating. Come Easter morning we’ll be proclaiming to the world that “Jesus is alive!” and it’s God who raised him.

In just a few weeks we will gather to announce that indeed there is a time to die and there is a time to be born.

Born into a new life.

The Israelites died to slavery to be born into freedom; Joseph and Jonah died to ways of the self into ways of the people.

Again and again, the narrative of God’s people is that the ways of the world: the temptations, the sins, the false-expectations; they all have the chance to die and as they die, we get to step into a new life and experience a kind of rebirth.

As Christians we proclaim that in Christ we too get to experience the season of death and the season of new life.

Fears die to become expectations.

Prejudice dies to become acceptance.

Sense of lack dies to become sense of enough.

Selfishness dies to become justice.

Darkness dies to become light.

Much the same way in Mexico that murder weapons died to become an instrument of music and life.

The Stewardship Season becomes an opportunity for us to play a role in helping to make those things happen.

The giving of our talents, our time and our finances allows us to play a part in bringing that new life in.

The prison doors open, the Red Sea parts, the running away ends and the tomb is found empty all so new life can commence.

In conclusion: how do we, with God, get to rewrite the stories of our lives; the seasons of our spiritual existence?

There is a time to be inwardly-focused and a time to be community-centric.

A time to be enslaved to the ways of the world and a time to be set free.

A time to run away and a time to accept our calling.

A time to face the cross and a time to rise above and again.

A time to die; and a time to be born.

Amen and amen.