Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sandcastles by the Sea; 2 Corinthians 4:-5:1

Rev. George Miller
May 31, 2015
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

“Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
Creeping things innumerable are there…
There go the ships,
And Leviathan that you formed to
Sport in it.”

Those are the words of Psalm 104 which we studied last week; words that talked of God’s creativity, God’s care, and how sometimes God just wants to have fun.

A fitting scripture for Memorial Day weekend, the start of summer; a time for family and friends, of bbq and beverages, blockbuster films and beach reads.

For me, no summer is complete without a trip to the ocean. It’s the place that I find familiar yet mysterious, calming yet wild, of this world and yet unlike anything we can fully grasp.

Here’s a concept to ponder: the ocean is one entity; one thing. Which means the ocean you stick your toes in is the same ocean that is miles out, thousands of feet deep.

When you dig a hole in the sand and it fills up with water, that’s just as much the ocean as the deepest, darkest, part of the sea.

The water that surrounds shipwrecks and the water used to build a sandcastle are one and the same.

Have you ever built a sandcastle, either as a kid, or with a child? Sandcastles can be simple or grand, or magnificent works of art.

Buckets can be used as a mold, packed tightly with wet sand and turned upside down. Shells become decorations. Twigs or feathers become turrets or flag poles.

In my family we used our hands to dig a moat around the sandy structure, designed to catch water and to hold off any incoming waves.

What a fun, summery thing to do, and yet every sandcastle ever built beside the water, no matter how grand, no matter how small, have all faced the very same reality- being washed away into the ocean.

The sand, shell and stone particles are dispersed, becoming a part, once again, of the ocean deep and wide, familiar and mysterious, of this word and other-worldly.

Like earthly tents, no sandcastle was ever meant to be forever. They go back to the very place from whence they came.

It’s not tragic, it’s not bad…it just is.

As Paul wrote in his letter “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Today we hear from 2 Corinthians, which is a composite of letters that Paul had written to a particular church going through some particular issues.

Paul had visited them and spent 18 months as their spiritual leader. He helped them navigate the new waters of welcoming people from other faiths and cultures.

He taught them about Jesus, he taught them about grace, and he shared with them his knowledge about the Last Supper.

Then Paul left to continue his mission and ministry in other cities, in other towns. This hurt some of the folk; they felt as if they had been abandoned.

Then when Paul said he would come back to visit them for two more visits, and failed to do so, some said he was wishy-washy.

There were others in the congregation who felt Paul boasted a little too much about himself. There were others who wondered why their congregation wasn’t growing, and felt it was Paul’s fault.

Eventually, Paul does return, but alas the visit doesn’t go well. There are some who don’t approve of his teachings; there are some who profess a different theology, and not everyone agrees on just what it means to follow Jesus.

Paul’s visit to the Corinthian church is a bust with hurt feelings all around. So he writes them a series of letters; tearful letters, emotional letters.

He tries his best to remind them, to remind himself of whom they are, of whose they are and what it means to live a faithful life.

He stays steadfast in his belief that Christ lived, Christ died and Christ was raised from the dead by God.

For Paul, this set of truths is so important.

Why? Because he believed that we lived in Christ, and that Christ dwelled within us.

Because of this, we get to experience the gifts of joy and grace. Because of this there should be a light that shines within.

Paul finds this reassuring. He finds this way of thinking empowering.

Even in the midst of affliction and feelings of forsakenness, he finds this thought to be a source of strength and perseverance.

If we are in Christ, and Christ is in us there is good news. Why? Because if we live in Christ, that means we too die in Christ.

And if we die in Christ, guess what?

That means that in Christ we too are raised up from death by our God. It means that we too get to experience the mystery of the resurrection.

Our earthly tents may be destroyed but we find an eternalness in God. Our sandcastles may be washed out to sea, but we rejoin the source of all blessings.

In vs. 16 Paul states “We do not lose heart- our outer nature is wasting away, but our inner nature is being renewed every day.”

Day by day.

Our outer nature is wasting away: here Paul is talking about the reality of being biological, chemical, organic creatures dealing with the chronicity of life.

The fact that we grow older, we wrinkle, we ache, we take a bit longer sitting down and standing up. The thorns in our side; the accidents and illnesses that occur.

Our outer nature also refers to the life we live with others; the reality of living imperfect lives with imperfect people in which we coexist with calm and crazy, in which we agree and disagree, placate and persecute.

All these things, according to Paul, are temporary. They are real, but like earthly tents and sandcastles on the beach, they eventually go away.

But our inner nature- well, that’s something else.

Paul is not necessarily talking about our soul. The inner nature Paul is referring to is more akin to a spark. It’s that sense of excitement and new life we get when we encounter and embrace the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This new life, this spark is something that does the opposite of our bodies. It is rejuvenated; it is renewed.

In the imagery of Psalm 1, our inner nature is replanted daily by streams of living water.

In the imagery of Psalm 104, our inner nature is recreated daily to play in the ocean with Leviathan and the ships that pass by.

Our inner nature is fed by the living waters of Jesus Christ so it has the ability to always grow, always flourish, and to be resilient.

To experience mini-resurrections each and every day, no matter what others may say, no matter what others may do, no matter what happens to our outer nature, our tent, our sandcastle.

This, dear ones, is Good News.

In Christ we live, in Christ we die, in Christ we are resurrected. In Christ we are renewed day after day after day after day.

What does this mean?

Our sandcastle may be made with sand that doesn’t hold; sand that falls apart.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

Our sandcastle may be made with sand too rocky, everything clumping together, and goes to pieces.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

Our sandcastle may stand strong but someone comes by and steps on top of it, crushing it to bits.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

Our sandcastle may be magnificent but someone’s dog gets loose and knocks it over.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

Our sandcastle may be tall and mighty but eventually it crumbles from all the weight and comes toppling down.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

We may start our sandcastle small and simple, learn over time how to mix the right amount of sand with water, build a moat, decorate it with shells, place a feather or two on top…and even then the wind or the rain in time will take it down.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

…until eventually the day comes when we no longer have to build because we’ll be ushered into the great eternal.

Hopefully, before that happens, we’ll realize the great truth is that the goal was never about building the most perfect or the best sandcastle, but the simple fact that we built, and who we were building with.

Earthly tents are temporary. Sandcastles are temporary. But that should not stop us from building, from being, from trying and from having fun.

Earthly tents are temporary. Sandcastles are temporary. Therefore let us live knowing that in Christ there is always another day; there’s always another chance.

To experience the resurrection as our own, to be renewed, restored, replanted, again and again, again and eternally.

Amen and amen.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Leviathan-God's Left Shark; sermon for May 24, 2015; Psalm 104:24-35

Rev. George Miller
May 24, 2015
Psalm 104:24-35

What brings happiness?

Last week, Psalm 1 talked about folk who are like trees replanted by the streams in which they bear much fruit.

What brings happiness?

Is it all work? Is it all play? The money we make; the items we buy? The experiences we have? The people we know?

What brings happiness?

In St. Paul, MN there is a Salvation Army in which three volunteers and a chef named Jeff Ansorge feed the hungry and homeless.

Jeff’s been cooking for nearly 30 years, with a degree in the culinary arts. For 12 years he was at the Capital Grille in Minneapolis, where a 24-ounce steak cost $48.

He was the executive chef with a staff of 17, making $80,000 a year. He thought he wanted it all- a big house, fancy cars, but nothing satisfied. They just caused big bills, high debts and deep depression.

So, after a time of reflection, Jeff applied to 10 different non-profit organizations and was hired by the Salvation Army as head cook of their soup kitchen.

Now instead of serving dry aged steak he’s serving salmon, ribs and stews for free.

Instead of making $80,000 he’s earning about a third.

Instead of wearing a chef’s hat and apron, he wears comfortable blue jeans and a t-shirt.

Now, Jeff finds himself happy, doing what he loves- giving back to the community. Instead of drowning in debts and things, he is thriving in freedom and opportunities.

I admire people like Jeff. People who have the ability to replant themselves, to figure out what it is that makes them happy, and to be an active participant in Creation; God’s Kingdom right here on earth.

There is something to be said about those like Jeff who are facing a spirit crushing existence and find a way to stop, evaluate where they are and to walk away, if that is indeed what is best for them to do.

Not everyone has the strength to do that; not everyone has the ability.

Who here could leave behind an $80,000 a year job to make $27,000, and be OK?

But Jeff did. The depression, the despair- he walked away.

Which got me to thinking- that is one thing we cannot say about God. We cannot say that God walks away, can we?

We can say there are times when it feels like God is distant. We can say there are times when it feels like God is out of reach.

But to say God has walked away- that is virtually inconceivable.

For example, in today’s Psalm, God is ever-present. We see God active in the art of creation- stretching out the heavens like a tent, making springs of water gush forth, having the moon mark the seasons.

Now, There are those who theologically think that once God created the world, God walked away, leaving everything and everyone to fend for themselves.

But Psalm 104 celebrates God for giving food, opening a hand filled with good things, and sending forth a spirit that creates and renews.

Ever present; never absent.

Even when things seemed hopeless and the people were enslaved in Egypt; even when they bore the harsh whip of Pharaoh, God was there, hearing their cries, knowing their tears.

Even when the people sinned, creating a golden calf out of gold and worshipping it as an idol, God did not walk away, God was there.

Even when they turned on his Son, God did not walk away. Even when they ignored the teachings of Jesus, refused to set him free, and nailed him to the cross, God did not walk away.

That’s amazing, when you think about it.

When Adam ate the apple, when Cain killed Abel, when the Israelites worshipped the golden calf, God could have walked away.

When David killed Bathsheba’s husband, when Jonah refused to go to Nineveh, when the people refused to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with the Lord, God could have walked away.

When Judas betrayed Jesus, when Peter denied him, when they sealed Jesus in the tomb, God could have walked away.

…And perhaps God should have…but God did not.

In fact God did the complete opposite of walking away- God breaks right on in, and that’s what we celebrate today during Pentecost.

With every reason imaginable for God to walk away from humanity, God breaks in- call it a crash of rushing wind, call it flames of fire, call it divided tongues-

the Holy Spirit of God breaks into the moment and falls upon the disciples, falls upon the people, falls upon the world and gets things started anew.

Pentecost is a chance for us to be reminded how God did not walk away, but God breaks into our very existence and fills us with breath, fills us with life, fills us with spirit.

Why? So we can become a bit more pious? Perhaps?

So we can become better people, giving back and watching over others? That would be great.

So we can see visions and dream dreams? Why not?

But today, I look back upon the words of Psalm 104 and see something else at play.

It’s a song about how God creates, how the spirit of God gives life to all creation.

Within the verses are elements of ecology in which birds and trees and streams are interdependent on one another and on God.

Within the verses are elements of economy in which the gifts of God allow cattle to grow, wine to be produced, bread to be made, and oil to be used as a beauty product.

But there is also something else within these verses- a sense of playfulness.

It’s no secret that Psalm 104 is my favorite psal; 26 is perhaps my favorite verse.

In it, the singer points to the sea, deep and wide, and says “Look- there go the ships, and there is Leviathan splish-splashing in the water.”

Leviathan was a mythical, enormous, colossal creature back in the day. He was their Jaws, he was their Godzilla, he was the alligator in Lake Placid.

Leviathan put fear into the heart of mighty men, the ultimate Right Shark, but here, in Psalm 104, look what he becomes- a pet, a toy, a rubber ducky for God.

He becomes Left Shark dancing with Katy Perry during the Superbowl half-time show.

Leviathan sports in the ocean, he plays in the sea, he frolics, he has fun, and according to Psalm 104, that’s his entire purpose.

Which stands to reason-does everything about God have to be so serious?

Does everything about God have to be about sin and redemption, does everything have to be about scorn and loss, does everything have to be about nail marks and crowns of thorn?

Or can we allow time for our faith and our worship to be about play? About the excitement that the Holy Spirit of God can break on in and make people jibber jabber?

Does everything have to be about well-planned worship with polite pauses, mission programs we have to raise funds for and committees to be chaired?

Or can we also embrace the thought that at times folk can be so filled with the breath of God that outsiders may think they are caffeinated with something besides coffee?

Does everything about our faith have to be about feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and healing the sick?

Or can we also allow room for the idea that sometimes all God may want to do is to take off his tie, put on a bathing suit and wade into the water to play with Levi, the wonder fish?

Today is Pentecost- a day to recall that happiness is not based solely on what we earn, or what we do.

Today is Pentecost- a day to recall that time and time again, God could have walked away but chose not to.

Today is Pentecost- a day to recall the in breaking of God via the Holy Spirit in which rhyme and reason are cast aside.

Today is Pentecost- a day to recall how the breath of God not only created this world, but renews this world.

Today is Pentecost- a day to realize that God too wants to have fun; that God also has a spirit of play.

Today in Pentecost- let us remember and let us celebrate that we are replanted in Christ, we are renewed by the winds of the Holy Spirit and we are each welcome to frolic with our God.

Amen and amen.

***Jeff’s story appeared in Tampa Tribune Dec 1, 2013, courtesy of the Associated Press***

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Singing in the Rain- Sermon for May 17, 2015; Psalm 1

Rev. George Miller
Psalm 1
May 17, 2015

Last week we talked about three iconic shows- Sex and the City, All in the Family and I Love Lucy.

Today we’ll talk about an iconic movie- Singing in the Rain. Considered by many to be the greatest movie musical of all time, Singing in the Rain has perhaps one of the top 10 scenes in film history.

Gene Kelly, after spending an eventful night of friendship, creativity and blooming love, is walking home when the skies break open and the rains begins to fall.

With nothing more than an umbrella, a streetlight and a pile of puddles, he sings and dances in such authentic exuberance that people just smile thinking about it.

“I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain; what a glorious feeling, I’m happy once again.”

How can you not smile when hearing such a song? But think about this- if he says he’s happy once again, that means he was not happy before.

If he wasn’t happy before, what was he? Sad? Scared? Mad? Experiencing indigestion?

And, if he’s happy once again, that means he was happy at least one time before.

So if he’s happy now, is there a good chance he’ll be unhappy later?

You don’t need me to teach you this, but in life there really is no happily ever after and there is no totally tragic ending.

Life is a series of happy and unhappy moments; life is a series of sun and showers; life is a series of before and afters.

In other words, life is not one or the other, black or white. Life is often both/and, with various shades of grey.

However, today’s scripture doesn’t seem to present that reality…at first. Psalm 1 seems to construct a world that is black and white, that is either/or, that is happy or sad.

In Psalm 1 it appears that there are only 2 kinds of people, there are only 2 ways of being, and there are only 2 outcomes.

You can either be the righteous or the wicked.

You can either meditate on the torah or sit on the seat of scoffers.

You can either be a tree or you can be the chaff.

You can either stand with the righteous or poof!- perish.

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the less comfortable I become with extremes.

I also think that organized religion is to blame for some of the thinking that tries to force people into seeing the world one way or the other.

Because the world is not one way or the other. Faith is not one way or the other. People are not one way or the other.

Who here can claim to be all righteous or all sinner? Who here can claim to meditate all day long or to sit and scoff? Is anyone all tree or all chaff; all righteous or all wicked?

How many here can honestly own up to the fact that they can claim to be from column A, column B and column C all depending on the time of day, the mood they are in, who is watching and who they are with?

On the surface, Psalm 1 almost seems to set people up to fail. Either you’re practically perfect or you’re not.

Abraham and Sarah wouldn’t pass the test. Moses and Miriam wouldn’t pass the test.

Peter tested the patience of Jesus and Paul tested the patience of everyone he met, so who knows if either one of them would’ve passed the test.

But Abraham and Sarah never stopped trying; they continued the journey they were on.

Moses and Miriam never stopped trying; they kept on keeping on until their time on earth came to an end.

Peter continued speaking before the people and Paul continued writing his letters.

Psalm 1 may appear to present the world as an either/or, pass or fail reality, but there is a hint of something more.

It appears in verse 3. In reference to those who are happy, the author states they are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in season.

The NRSV uses the word “planted”, which in some ways is correct, but the original word in Hebrew actually means “replanted.”

That may not sound like a big difference, but think about it. Planted has a sense of finitude sound to it. That one has been planted there from the beginning and that’s where they will always be.

But replanted- well replanted means that there was a “before”. It means that one is not now where they once were.

To be replanted means there is a back story, a history, another place you came from.

This notion of being replanted tied into what we talked about 2 weeks ago when we studied John 15.

If you recall we talked about how Jesus claimed to be the true vine and God the master gardener.

We discussed how the grapevine was the symbol of the Israelites, used to represent how they were taken out of slavery and placed into the Promised Land where they grew and thrived.

This image of a tree being replanted in Psalm 1 is similar. It continues the motif of God being the gardener who watches over and takes care of us.

It also presents God as an active participant in our lives, who doesn’t leave us where we are, but who takes us from and brings us to.

What this notion of replanting does is also soften the harsh black and white world that Psalm 1 constructs.

What it acknowledges is that not even the seemingly righteous, or moral meditators or delightful do-gooders were all that way from the beginning.

It suggests that though their roots are now planted in good soil, that at one time they too were on the wrong path or sitting amongst scoffers.

It suggests that although now their leaves are not withering, there was a time they too were like chaff in the wind.

There is something else about the use of the word “replanted.” It suggests that if one has been replanted before, one can be replanted again.

Let me repeat that- if one has been replanted before, one can be replanted again.

That, dear friends, is a truly enlightening thought.

What that means is that we do not belong to a God of 2nd chances- it means we belong to a God of 3rd, and 4th, and 5th, 50th, 500 chances and beyond.

It means that we are not replanted just once and if we make a mistake or commit a sin we are immediately dug up and thrown to the wind.

It means that when we do err, when we do sin, when we do wander down dangerous paths or sit amongst scoffers, we still have another chance to be replanted.

It means that when we do forget about the commandments, when we do forget about the stories that affirm our spiritual identity, we still have another chance to prosper.

It means that even if we have done some things that have broken some limbs, ripped off some bark or stunted our growth, we still have another chance to bear fruit and to grow leaves.

So today, if you feel like perhaps you have wandered down a wrong path, or you wonder if you’re spending time with the healthiest of friends, know that where you are is not where you’ll always have to be.

Know that in Christ there is more than enough water. Know that in the Holy Spirit there is more than enough land.

Know that in God we have a master gardener who is always willing and able to replant again and again and again.

Because of this truth we can be happy; because of this truth we are indeed blessed.

Amen and amen.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

SEX AND THE CITY's Messy Birth & Lucy's Off-Camera Delivery; how they tie into 1 John 5:1-7

Rev. George Miller
May 10, 2015
1 John 5:1-7

Two weeks ago my sister gave birth to her fourth child, a baby boy named James. Since then she’s been posting photos of him nearly every day.

There he is: asleep; there he is: being held by his big brother; there he is: as cute as can be in his blankie and baby cap.

So clean, so calm, so quiet.

Not a poopy diaper in view. No crying for hours on end. No mess during feeding.

Facebook has allowed us to create a reality we wish to present or to have. It’s as if having a newborn baby is not messy or difficult at all. But of course, it is.

Think of how childbirth has been presented on TV throughout the decades. Perhaps the most famous childbirth is that of Little Ricky in I Love Lucy.

That took place in 1953 and back then they couldn’t use the word “pregnant” and his birth took place off camera. Once done, Lucy looked put-together, with hair and make-up in place as if giving birth was the easiest, less messy thing in the world to do.

In 1975 All in the Family made sitcom history when Gloria had her baby. It was the first to show an on-camera birth, complete with real-time breathing and pushing.

From there sitcoms evolved into screaming births in which, for comic effect, the women heavily panted, developed super human strength, and cursed out their husbands.

By 2002 Sex and the City had a very messy scene in which Miranda’s water breaks onto Carrie’s designer shoes and Miranda’s shown with no make-up and realistically flushed cheeks.

The portrayal of childhood has also changed on TV, from simple to messy. Little Ricky wore perfectly ironed clothes with perfectly parted hair. In the 70’s the worst thing the Brady Bunch did was play ball in the house.

But on Modern Family we see Lily smart-mouthing her parents, Luke and Manny drinking out of a vodka bottle and Little Joe drawing on the curtains and breaking everything in sight.

Childbirth and childhood are not simple and clean; they can often be hard and messy.

The same can be said about Christianity. On the outside, our faith may appear to be polite worship, with scripture read, a 15 minute message, and a time for cookies and coffee, but in truth our faith also involves a real element of blood, sweat and tears.

Take a look at today’s reading. 1 John is written in response to a debate this particular group of believers are having in regards to the true nature of Jesus.

Some think that Jesus was a living, breathing man who was also divine. They believe that Jesus experienced the same things we do: birth, joy, pain.

Others believed Jesus was not human at all. He was purely a supernatural being who gave the illusion that he was human. That when he was on the cross, he felt no pain, he did not truly suffer.

For the first group, Jesus entered the world just as we did, with the water and blood that accompanies any human’s birth.

They saw Jesus as the Messiah who began his ministry with the water of his baptism, but who fulfilled his ministry with the spilling of his blood on the cross.

The second group found the notion of Jesus being human as offensive. They clung to a spiritual view that Jesus was completely beyond humanity; for them it was the baptism of Jesus that made him who he was.

Because crucifixion represented shame and defeat, they could not embrace the death of Jesus as a moment of divine revelation.

In other words, for this group of people, the cross was too messy. The idea of Jesus being human was too messy for them. The idea that the Messiah could truly suffer and bleed red, red blood was just too messy for them.

So instead they chose to see the water of baptism as the true moment of divine revelation.

But the writer of today’s letter does not agree with the second group; he does not buy into their theology.

If we take away the blood, if we take away the fact that Jesus could suffer and bleed, we end up with a god who cannot relate to us. We have a god who is forever distant and unable to identify with our existence.

The people who only see Jesus as being known by the water want an I Love Lucy world in which messy, painful things happen off camera and everyone looks beautiful.

But the author of 1 John says the world is more like All in the Family and Sex in the City in which water breaks, women pant and not everyone wears make-up.

For today’s writer, Jesus Christ is not just experienced in the water of the baptismal font, but also in the Communion cup.

Jesus Christ is not just experienced in the water of baptism, but also in the blood that’s spilt upon the cross.

Jesus Christ is not just experienced where there is nice and easy, but where there is also the rough and messy.

As much as we may picture Jesus wearing clean robes with perfectly quaffed hair, welcoming the little children, there’s the fact that much of Jesus’ ministry was very, very messy.

When he interacted with lepers who had skin lesions and open sores. When he healed the blind man by spitting in the mud and pressing his hand upon his eyes. When the bleeding woman touched the ends of his coat.

All messy, messy, messy.

When Lazarus rose from the tomb smelling of death and decay. When Jesus spent days on the boat with fishermen, smelling like the sea. When unclean spirits and demons were cast out.

All messy, messy, messy.

Just like birth. Just like parenting. Just like childhood. Just like puberty. Just like death.

It would be great if all those things only featured cool, refreshing water; but we know they all also involve blood, sweat and tears.

As does being a Christian, as does following Christ, as does being the church.

We may wish things were easy. We may want things to be neat and clean. We may only seek a short sermon, polite worship, and tasty cookies, but that’s not all there is to being church.

Real church is messy.

I recall one congregation with pastel carpet in their fellowship hall. They had a very clear rule- no red drinks allowed.

They were so afraid of something spilling on the carpet. They were so afraid of making a mess.

They closed their doors after 85 years…at least the carpet was stain free.

Real church is messy. And real Christians should not be so afraid of getting messy.

It’s not all just meditating and reading scripture, it’s not just prayers and bible study.

I think of those at Emmanuel who aren’t afraid to get messy. Our Willing Workers who come here every Wednesday and work up a sweat.

Sam and Dean in the tool-shed getting grease paint on them. Hardric covered from head to toe with grass. Maydean, outside getting tanner by the moment. Nancy in the garden, digging in the dirt and pulling up weeds.

That’s all a form of ministry.

I think of the Caring Committee members who go into the hospitals and hospices, nursing homes and peoples’ houses.

In those situations they’re dealing with water, blood, germs, tears, broken bodies, broken hearts, and broken spirits.

Go to Sunny Hills and when a resident stops you to say hello and shakes your hand, you have no guarantee of where that hand has been or the last time it was cleaned, but you shake anyway, because to not acknowledge them would be un-Christian.

The members of the Service Committee can tell you how messy their ministry is. The work it takes to shop for and stock the shelves, the time spent in inventory, the guests who come in from all walks of life.

When we go to Back Bay Mission in September it won’t be so we can spend our days playing in the Gulf of Mexico.

It will involve swinging hammers, working in the soup kitchen, renovating homes, and have meaningful encounters with the homeless.


Because we are Christians. We are children of God, siblings in Christ.

Therefore, we should not be afraid to get messy, we should not be afraid to do both the spiritual and physical work.

Jesus Christ didn’t come here as a specter or as a supernatural hologram. He came to us in both water and blood, flesh and breathe.

He did not have perfectly clean robes with perfectly quaffed hair; in fact Jesus probably had some of the dirtiest clothes imaginable with hands full of all types of germs.

And we can best believe that Jesus experienced all the things we experience: the joy and the pain, the loneliness and the shame that can accompany life.

Because of that we know we have a Savior we can relate to, we know we have a Savior who is real.

Because of this, it is not just the Spirit we testify to; it’s not just the cleanliness of the water we ascribe.

But it is also the blood.

Life giving, life affirming, and messy, messy, messy.

Amen and amen.