Thursday, September 24, 2015

Remember- Once We Were Slaves; Sermon for Sept 27, 2015; Luke 6:20-28

Rev. George Miller
Luke 6:20-26
Sept 27, 2015

“Once we were slaves in Egypt.”

This simple statement is the very basis of Judaism and the truth that thrusts forward the Biblical narrative.

“Once we were slaves in Egypt.”

This quote begins the celebration of Passover, in which people gather around a table and remember what God has done.

“Once we were slaves…”

For the Jewish community, what binds them together is this shared memory, this claim that each and every one of them had come from a place of bondage and struggle.

“Once we were…”

The redemption from their past means they are now free to serve God instead of Pharaoh ; they are free to live as if heaven is at hand as opposed to the ways of the world.


The Jews are a people of memory. This memory is what all else is based around.

Genesis is the prequel that lets us know how this came to be. Exodus tells us what God Almighty did about it. The rest of the Old Testament tells what happened afterwards.

This collective memory, this statement that “Once we were slaves” is not meant to hold the people down. It’s not meant to keep them in victim mentality. It’s not meant to makes excuses for their behavior.

This shared narrative is to remind them of the humble beginnings from which they came; to ground them when they got too big for their britches and to encourage them when their britches are taken away.

This simple 6-word statement reminds everyone who claims to be a child of God that once they were foreigners, once they were used, abused and taken advantage of, and once they seemed to be forsaken.

The testimony that Exodus tells us is that when God went about selecting the “Chosen People” it was not the monarchy in their palaces, it was not the judicial system sitting behind benches, nor it was the CEOs of the Fortune 500, but it was the lowest ones on the ladder, making less than minimum wage, doing the grunt work…

…Not that there is any shame to being an important leader or government official.

Not that there is any shame in being part of law enforcement and public safety, or being financially successful and running your own company.

It’s all in how you act, how you behave, how well you remember, and hold onto to that memory:

That once you were enslaved; once you had nothing, once you struggled; once you were despised.

What do you do with those memories of who you, your people, and your ancestors were?

Do you use those memories to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with the Lord?

Or do you convincingly forget? Distance yourself? Burn bridges or kick down the ladder so no one else can climb up?

Do you erase any trace of your memories, therefore having no reason to show concern for the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated, excluded, and the defamed?

“Once we were slaves in Egypt” is the foundation that Judaism is based upon, and today we just heard a sermon given by Jesus, a Jewish man who was a rabbi.

We know him as the Messiah, come to set all people free.

Jesus was also a prophet, speaking judgment to those who had grown too big for their britches, and hope for those who can barely afford britches to outgrow.

According to the way Luke tells the story, Jesus is preaching to a large, diverse crowd, made up of folk who’ve come from all four directions; from religious leaders to the newly called disciples, from those with lots of cash to those who can’t afford their daily bread.

At this part of Luke’s narrative, Jesus is personable and realistic. He doesn’t address the crowd in 3rd person, but as “you.”

Jesus is smart and well spoken, and clearly he knows he’s speaking to a crowd in which there are rich and poor folk, those who are happy and those who are sad, those who are oppressed and those who are the oppressor.

It’s a speech that if Jesus was running for President, he’d immediately get supporters and immediately get detractors.

Folk would either love him or they’d want his named stripped from the ballet.

“Blessed are you who are poor/Woe to you who are rich.”

“Blessed are you who use the Shepherd’s Pantry/Woe to you who pig out at Homer’s.”

“Blessed are you who are dissed for being different/Woe to you who are part of the popular crowd.”

Based on these talking points, would Jesus get your vote or not?

So what do we do with this sermon of Jesus? Truth be told, none of us here are what any one in a 3rd World Country would call poor.

But put us next to a Wolf on Wall Street and we may not see ourselves as being rich either.

But the truth is this:
-if you woke up today
-if you had a choice to eat breakfast or not
-if you had a closet full of clothes to choose from
-if you came to church in a car and not by foot or by bus
-if you’re physically well enough to sit through an entire service
-if you have at least $1 to put in the offering plate

You are already better off than about 1/3 of the world. Which means that yes, we are fortunate.

But does that mean we should feel shame because we can eat, because we can laugh, because we are welcome here?

Does that mean each and every one of us should be prepared for the woes that are soon to happen, according to the words of Luke 6?

I cannot give an answer, nor is it my place to judge. What I can do is to share.

Last week I talked about an experience in which it felt like time had collapsed, and my past, present and future were all existing at once.

That’s a bit of how I view this difficult passage.

Currently, I continue the process of purchasing my first home. That would indicate I have some form of wealth.

But I still remember: that once I lived in a studio apartment with no working shower and I had to heat bath water on the stove.

Once I was on Food Stamps and went weekly to the food pantry.

Once I dealt with flea infested rats that ate through the walls of where I lived.

So I had my share of woes and I’m ready for my blessings, yet this whole home buying process is nothing but a series of blessings and woes at the same time.

I’m blessed that I’m qualified to buy; I’m woed that there’s repairs that need to be done.

I’m blessed that my mortgage will be about half of what I pay in rent. I’m woed that I’ve already had to lay out $760 for inspections, appraisals and service calls and I haven’t even moved in yet.

I’m blessed that my home will be walking distance to the Theater, library and Circle and closer to Emmanuel. I’m woed that I’ll no longer have a porch or a view of the lake.

I feel great woe that my Dad is not alive to help me. I’m blessed to see just how many people I’ve been able to call upon to assist.

Blessings and woes, all at the same time.

What would Jesus say to me, where I am, at this point of my life? Would he speak a word of blessing; would he speak a word of woe?

What would Jesus say to you? Would he speak words of hope or words of judgment?

I think that Jesus is talking in extremes to get a response and to have us think. He’s talking in a way so that anyone could identify with half of what he’s saying at any time.

Jesus is speaking in open-ended examples that allow each of us to think for ourselves: that is me today; that was me yesterday; that’s where I may be tomorrow.

I also think Jesus is going back to his roots, to his very Jewishness, which is rooted in the reminder “Once we were slaves in Egypt.”

I believe that Jesus is calling each of us to remember that whatever we were tied to, whatever was holding us back, God has set us free.

And if we’re not free yet, God can do it.

I believe Jesus is using his provocative sermon to help people think about where they are in life.

If things are not so good, to know that the Kingdom of God is real, and one is truly not forsaken nor alone.

If things are good, to recall where one has come from and that in one’s happiness we are free to do our part to make the Kingdom of God a bit more real.

Is it possible that we can be rich, we can be full, we can laugh, we can be liked, and we can empower the poor, we can feed the hungry, we can console the weeping, and we can advocate for the hated and despised?

I believe the answer is “yes”, as long as we realize and remember all that God has done, all God is doing and all that God will do.

If we find our own way to do these things, we will have honored the two greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

If our actions, our words, our faith shows that we remember, that we recall, that we believe, we will have indeed done justice, loved kindness and walked humbly with the Lord.

After all –isn’t that just what God wants and has always wanted from us?

Amen and amen.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Seurat, Sondheim, Dr. Who; Sept 20, 2015 sermon on Luke 5:33-39

Rev. George Miller
Luke 5:33-39
Sept 20, 2015

If you get the Sunday paper, you’d know that last week’s Parade magazine had Neil Patrick Harris on the cover stating “Act Like a Kid: Get Happier, Healthier and Smarter.”

Inside was an article about how to keep our brains active and content. One suggestion was to do puzzles and games, such as “Toe-Tac-Tic” in which the idea is to not get 3 Xs or Os in a row.

Or this exercise: what do the words parrot, pigeon, robin and sparrow have in common?

…they are composed of two shorter words in a row. Par. Rot. /Pig. Eon./ Rob. In./ Spar. Row.

I can find these mind games frustrating, but I also know their benefits. They help keep the synapses popping, stave off the threat of Alzheimer’s and they keep things fresh.

Like water, our brains become stagnant if they don’t keep moving. Stagnant brains become stale.

Water and brains aren’t the only things that can become stagnant and stale, so can our lives, so can our faith, so can the way we worship and experience God.

Apparently these issues are nothing new; apparently they were issues even in Jesus’ day.

Jesus is hanging with his homeboys, having a lively time. Casting out demons, healing the sick, teaching in the sanctuary, upending the people’s perception of what a Messiah is supposed to do.

Thankfully, Jesus is not all about work and being sooo serious. Jesus likes to take some time to relax, to pray, to be off on his own. He also likes to eat, and drink, and be where the people are at.

So Jesus isn’t just at the synagogue or Florida Hospital or visiting folk in hospice- he’s drinking a cold beer with the guys at the driving range, he’s at Veteran’s Beach enjoying a barbeque, he’s at the Caddy Shack enjoying steak and a glass of Merlot.

So of course, there’s some folk who question him with their concerns. “Jesus- you seem to be having fun; shouldn’t you be fasting and acting all serious and sullen-like?”

To which his response is basically “Life is a banquet, enjoy now ‘cause there’ll be times to hunger and cry.”

He then reminds them of a simple truth-you don’t destroy something new to mend the old; you don’t put fresh wine into a container that leaves no room for expansion.

Now- I want to be honest: I’ve been uncomfortable with today’s reading. Why? Because on the surface it sounds like this:

Old- BAD.

And I’m not a fool; I know that at my age I’m slipping more and more into the “old” category. I also know how scary change can be.

I know how important tradition is. I also know the generational make-up of our congregation.

But- I also know, and have known, that Emmanuel UCC is composed of some of the most youthful, forward-thinking folk you will find anywhere, otherwise ministers like Rev. Louks and myself would’ve never been called here.

So, how does one preach on this scripture without saying:

The answer came Thursday while driving to Sarasota for the UCC Clergy gathering. I was listening to the cast album of Sunday in the Park with George.

It’s a musical from 1984 that takes place in France during the building of the Eifel Tower.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to the CD. In my bedroom in Long Island, in my studio apartment in Minneapolis, on my porch in Florida.

Now, as I drove through the bucolic setting of 64, with cow pastures on my right and orange groves on my left, I had a moment in which time seemed to utterly collapse.

Perhaps you know what I mean- I felt like my 15 year old self, my 25 year old self and my 45 year old self were all in the car at the same time and everything that was and will be had come together.

Meaning the old, the new, the past and present had converged to create the emerging moments that are soon-to-be.

Very Doctor Who-like.

Anyone else have an experience like that? Perhaps when you’ve looked through a photo-album, attended a high-school reunion, or held a newborn in your arms?

After that experience, the next song on the CD to be played was “Beautiful.” The main character, an artist, is talking with his mom.

She’s lamenting how everything’s changing, disappearing, and how the construction of the Eiffel Tower is ruining the view.

The artist states that beauty exists everywhere; that change is inevitable but the eye and the mind have the ability to find all things beautiful.

As the song progresses the mother mourns what seems to fade; the son celebrates the ability for the world to be revised.

The challenge becomes “How does she allow the past to segue into the future?”

And “How does he allow the present to honor and recall the past?”

At the end of the song, she discovers that her solace comes in her son and his painting.

Thus a theme of the musical is this- that the past, present and future can be saved, shared and celebrated via children and art.

For us, as members of the Christian faith, I believe that our past, present and future can be saved, shared and celebrated through our ministries and stories (Scriptures).

The truth is that things are always changing. We can’t stop it; we shouldn’t want to stop it.

Ever since the beginning of Creation, when God’s Spirit moved over the formless void and said “Let there be light”, change has always been a reality and a constant.

The freeing of the Hebrew slaves is the change that brought about Judaism.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the change that brought about Christianity.

The breaking away from Catholicism is the change that created the Protestant movement.

The merging of the Reformed Church with the Evangelical, and the Christian Church with the Congregationalists is the change that brought about the UCC.

Our denomination has always been one of change and newness. Ordaining the 1st black man. Ordaining the 1st woman. Ordaining the 1st openly gay person. Publishing the 1st gender-inclusive hymnal.

All of these were the new clothe, fresh wine and the Eiffel Towers of their day.

Other faiths and denominations seem content with torn garments, unyielding wineskins and the original view. They have yet to embrace the things we’ve grown used to.

Could any of us imagine a woman not being a pastor? Could any of us imagine not having the freedom to read the Bible on your own? Does anyone recall a time when the Eiffel Tower did not exist?

Yet, there was a time when all these events seemed new, were viewed as threatening or unsightly.

Things are always changing. We can’t stop it. We shouldn’t want to stop it, because if we did, we’d be dead, and none of us are ready for that.

However, in the experience of Jesus Christ, in the ministry we do, the stories that we tell, we come to realize that there are things that we can depend on:

-That God loves us
-That God is filled with compassion
-That God wants us to care for one another, and ourselves as well.

And that yes, there will be time for weeping and hunger, but there will also times for celebration and feasting.

In Christ, there is always going to be new garments to put on, in Christ there will always be fresh juice to drink.

How do we welcome that which is new?

How do we continue to keep our bodies, minds and souls fresh and free to have fun?

With our identity rooted in Christ, how do we create space in which past, present and future can coexist without ripping or tearing apart?

How can we continue to do our part to make things happier, healthier and smarter, and to see all things as beautiful?

Amen and amen.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

We don't always get the Messiah we want; Luke 4:16-30; sermon for Sept 13, 2015

Rev. George Miller
Sept 13, 2015
Luke 4:16-30

(this is a character sermon)

Sometimes we don’t get the Messiah we want; we get the Messiah we need.

Let me tell you our story- 13 years ago I was working, anywhere I could: the vineyards, the olive groves, the marketplace.

Hard work, long work, honest work.

Like nearly everyone else in our small rural town, I wasn’t too happy with how things were. Over taxed, under foreign rule.

Surrounded by pig-eating, uncircumcised, non-Jews with no respect for God or God’s Laws.

6 days I work, sweating in the sun, breaking my back in the field. But when the sun goes down Friday night…

…aaah- Sabbath. Rest, play, family, a glass of wine, a delicious meal.

Saturday morning we’d go to the synagogue to get away from it all. To praise God our Creator, hear a word of hope, and be reminded that hard times don’t last always.

One of the local boys had come back from spending time in the big city- Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter, a decent, hard-working guy just like the rest of us.

Jesus has proven himself to be smart and quick, thinks on his feet and is a powerful speaker.

It’s his day to teach and he opens up the scroll and reads a passage from Isaiah. It’s a passage written hundreds of years ago. It addresses a difficult time in our history.

A time when the foreign enemy came in, attacked us, burned our homes and businesses to the ground, and kidnapped our people, taking them far, far away.

The passage Jesus read contained a promise, a promise by God that we, the Jews, would experience:

-good news to the poor
-release from whatever holds us down
-sight to the blind
-freedom to the persecuted
-a time of great favor and restoration.

It was a passage we knew all too well; a passage we all loved because it reminded us that we had not been forgotten by God, that we were still the chosen people, God’s elected ones.

Then Jesus rolled up the scroll and boldly said “Today the scripture has been fulfilled.”

We were amazed. We whooped it up. We hollered. We cheered.

We knew what Jesus was saying- that he was the one we’d been waiting for. That he was to be our Messiah.

For far too long we had been waiting for someone to come and save us. For far too long we were waiting for someone who was going to:

-vanquish our enemies
-seek vengeance for all the wrong that we have endured
-to verily crush the bodies and souls of the Gentile terrorists.

When Jesus read the words of Isaiah and said “Today the scripture has been fulfilled” we knew our time had come.

No more threats from foreigners, no more worries about non-believers forcing their beliefs upon us, no more fools breaking all of God’s rules.

In Jesus we had our Messiah!

…and then, just like that, Kapooya! Jesus turned the tables on his.

He reminded us of the time God sent Elijah to feed a starving widow in Sidon.

He reminded us of the time God sent Elisha to heal Namaan, the Syrian soldier.

These are stories we all know, but not stories we are pleased with. In fact, some folk, like me, find them offensive.

The widow in Sidon was a foreigner and a non-believer. She was not one of us, yet God offered her healing and care.

The soldier was Syrian, our sworn enemy, a terrorist. Yet God offered him healing in the waters of the Jordan.

We did not like be reminded of the audacity of God to heal and care for the stranger and the enemy.

What Jesus was implying was in essence that he had indeed come to be the Messiah and to bring the Good News.

But he was to bring the Good News not just to us, the Jews, but to all people.

Even women. Even foreigners. Even non-believers. Even to our sworn enemies.

That angered us to no end. We rose to attack him; to throw him from the highest cliff.

To kill him, to silence his voice, to shut out his light.

But he escaped. He went from town to town. He continued to provoke. He continued to rock the boat.

He continued to cast out demons. To stand up against religious authorities. To offer healing to all.

Jesus spoke not about the current kingdom, but about God’s Kingdom, brazenly challenging the Roman rule.

Eventually, and rightfully so, they finally caught him and crucified him, in the place Jesus belonged, between two criminals- an enemy of the state.

Some Messiah!

…but 3 days later, something strange began to happen. People began to report seeing him. People claimed to have meals in which they experienced his presence.

Those who had followed him continued to behave as if Jesus was still alive. They continued to share his teachings and to do as he taught.

They continued to give alms to the poor, to greet one another as brother and sister, to carry on the healing and caring of the sick, all in his name.

That wasn’t all. His followers took his example and found their own way to stand up to injustice, to question religious authority that seemed to only silence or shame others.

They challenged the way things were. They shared meals, became less materialistic, seemed less scared and became braver.

In other words, his followers were acting as if Jesus was still alive and that the Kingdom of God had indeed broken into our world.

They were made up of Jews, Gentiles, men, women, old, young, white collar, blue collar, local born and out of state.

All coming together proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah and that he was resurrected.

Funny thing is- for a group of trouble makers, they were indeed doing their part to make our part of the world a better place…

…Sometimes we don’t get the Messiah we want, we get the Messiah we need.

It has taken the Resurrection for us to understand that.

13 years has passed since Jesus spoke up so provocatively in the synagogue. He spoke of-

-good news to the poor
-release from whatever holds us down
-sight to the blind
-freedom to the persecuted
-a time of great favor and restoration.

In his message, and following the events of the Resurrection, we have indeed discovered a new freedom, a new kingdom, and a new way to be.

A way that goes beyond politics, a way that goes beyond taxes, a way that goes beyond fear and discrimination, a way that goes beyond hate and hypocrisy.

In Jesus Christ, we have discovered our new identity. In Christ, we are Christians.

Followers of Jesus, Son of God.

Followers in the way that is truly free.

Amen and amen.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What if You Talked to Your Momma the way Jesus did? Sermon for Sept 6, 2015; Luke 2:41-52

Rev. George Miller
Luke 2:41-52
Sept 6, 2015

Today for Family Sunday we explore the only story we have in the Bible featuring Jesus as a boy.

At first blush it sounds like a cute story, but as you know, we’ve been revisiting the narratives of Jesus to see what made him so provocative and why he was crucified.

It’s easy to say that since Jesus was without sin, he must have also been flawless. It’s easy to cast him in a halo’s glow in which he was practically perfect; a child unlike any other.

But what if we did an exercise of the imagination today? What if we replaced Jesus with the literary characters of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn? It would go something like this:

“Now every year Tom and Huck’s parents went to St. Louis for 4th of July. When the festival ended, they returned home, but Tom and Huck decided to stay behind in the big city, but their parents did not know this.”

If anyone knows anything about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, you’d immediately know they were up to no good and be on some off-color adventure.

What if we were to replace Jesus with Dennis the Menace? It would go like this-

“Assuming that Dennis was in the group of travelers, his parents went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him, and when they did not, they returned to the big city to find him. After three days they found Dennis the Menace in the church, listening to the teachers and asking them questions.”

Could you imagine how worried Dennis’ parents would be? What kind of wacky, annoying questions do you think Dennis would have asked the teachers?

Let’s stretch your imagination again and make it about you. It would go like this-

“When you were 12 you stayed behind in the big city and three days later when your parents found you, your Momma said “Child, why have you treated us this way? Your father and I are a nervous wreck.”

Question- if you had done this, how many of you would have received:
-a stern talking too?
-the wooden spoon?
-a belt across your booty?
-to go and get your own switch?

Final moment of imagination: imagine you are Mary; imagine you are Joseph. Your child has been missing for three days in New York City during Christmas, and when you finally find them, your child says “Why did you even bother searching for me? It’s not my fault-you should’ve known I’d be here.”

How would you feel? How would you respond? A warm glow of the heart? Exasperation? Anger and frustration?

Jesus is just a 12 year old kid, not even a teenager or a man, and already he is provoking; already he is rocking the boat.

But there is something else going on. There is something Jesus says in verse 49 that caught my attention.

Mary asks why he has treated his parents this way. Jesus says “Why were you searching for me? You should’ve known that I must be in my Father’s house.”

-I must be in my Father’s house.

I must.

Such a powerful phrase for a little boy. Such a sense of direction and purpose for one so young.

This is not the only time Jesus says he “must” do something. In 4:43 he says he must proclaim the Kingdom of God.

In 9:22 he says the Son of God must undergo great suffering. In 13:33 he sends a message that he must be on his way.

Normally, I don’t like when people say they “must” do something, because often times that can be a sign of enabling or lack of control over one’s life.

But when Jesus says he “must” do something, I sense something else- that Jesus has an acute awareness of who he is and his calling to a higher purpose in life.

I sense that when Jesus says “I must” it’s because he’s done enough contemplating, praying and meditating to understand that his purpose in life is to make the Kingdom of God more real and to fulfill certain imperatives.

When Jesus says “I must”, he is indicating that he has a unique connection with God the Father and that he is always guided by this relationship.

As one scholar wrote, this story tells us that even as a pre-teen Jesus found his identity by affirming his relationship to God. It’s a relationship rich with goals to achieve and activities to perform.

Now let’s pause here for a moment, because as a teacher I need to be forthright with you- there is really no way to know if this story is 100% true and happened exactly as written, or if it’s a story that the author made up to express a theological understanding of Jesus.

We are the UCC, so I will not tell you what to believe, but I can encourage you to wonder about the factual nature of this verse.

If it is true, woe to any young person because Jesus has set the bar way high.

Think back to when you were 12. Think back to where you were in terms of forming an identity.

I can’t speak for you, but I can speak for me. 12 was a bad year. 7th grade was the worse. Not a boy, not a man, not even a teen.

In terms of identity, I think of things in way of music. At 12 I was a fan of Stevie Nicks, a blonde female rocker who dressed like a gypsy and sang with a scratchy voice.

Then there came “1999” by Prince and “Holiday” by Madonna and my taste in music changed. Then Tina Turner asked “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and Teena Marie said she wanted to be my “Lovergirl”.

Forget rock-n-roll and Stevie Nicks; I was all about that bass and music that made you wanna dance.

Like other kids around that age, there were forays into other musical identities. The Cure? Too bleak. Susie and the Banshees? Too dark.

Then in the late 80’s Janet Jackson claimed “Control”, Jody Watley asked “Don’t You Want Me?”, Salt ‘n Peppa told us to “Push It.”

My musical identity was still rooted in r&b and things that made everybody dance now. By the 90’s the G-Funk era crept in with rap music sampling and blending into pop.

Then in my late 20’s something happened- the music I listened to became less about dance and more about romance. Luther Vandross, Keith Sweat, smooth jazz and quiet storms.

Now in my 40’s my musical identity has become a mix of showtunes, hip-hop and r&b. That’s alright with me.

Funny thing is- my Mom still identifies me as that little 12 year old boy. When there’s an article in the paper about Stevie Nicks or Prince, she cuts it out and sends it to me in the mail.

Funny thing is- the music I listened to in my 20 and 30’s, like Snoop Dogg, Ashanti and 2 Pac are now on the oldies station.

Funny thing is- as I watched last week’s MTV Awards with Demi Lavato dancing in front of a bunch of guys in neon-colored bathing suits, I wondered “Did my pastor watch the MTV Awards back when I was growing up?”

Because here I am watching them at 45 and back when I was a kid Rev. Baker seemed so old…

What is our identity and how do we form it?

I’m sure everyone here can look back to something they identify with and how it changed, evolved and informed them.

For some its sports, some it’s raising a family, some it’s working the land.

What is our identity, how do we have one, and how do we grow into it, because it’s not fun when we don’t have a semblance of self or a foundation in which to define ourselves.

That is what I believe Jesus had- a strong, clear foundation of who he was and how he was to act. As the Gospel of Luke presents it, it appears as if Jesus knew who he was even as young as age 12.

From there, Jesus was able to hold onto his identity even when encountering demons. He was able to hold onto his identity even when others disagreed. He was able to hold onto his identity even when the journey ahead was frightful.

His identity, rooted in God being his Father, gave him a reason to care about the Temple. His identity propelled him to preach the Word.

His identity, rooted in God the Father, allowed him to confront his own mortality and chronicity of life. His identity allowed him to say “I must be on my way.”

His identity, rooted in God the Father, allowed him to say “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

His identity allowed the resurrected Christ to say “Peace be with you” to some very scared disciples.

What is your identity? How are you willing to allow yourself to be indentified?

Is it by your age, your orientation, your sex? Is it by your culture, your nation, your tribe? Is it your sobriety, political party, economic bracket?

Do you identify by your family status, your job, your faith?

How do any of these indentify you?

How do they shape the way you live, the way you learn, and the way you show love for the world?

If we indentify as Christians, and Jesus referred to God as his Father, what does that mean for us, and how does it inform our own identity?

If we are indeed “Emmanuel UCC” and Emmanuel means “God is With Us” then what does that mean as we continue on our way?

What does that mean as we share the message? What does that mean as we care for and meet in our Father’s house?

How does Jesus’ sense of identify shape and inform ours?

What do we let go of and what do we embrace? What things do we develop and what things simply get in the way?

As we contemplate this, we can end by saying “amen” and “Amen.”