Thursday, April 28, 2016

Beautiful, Loved, and Blessed; Psalm 67 Sermon

Rev. George Miller
May 1, 2016
Psalm 67

Can money buy happiness?

Back in 2010, Princeton did a study in which they discovered the answer amounted to both a yes and a no.

Based on data gathered from a massive survey, a psychologist and economist concluded that people with higher incomes did indeed enjoy a sunnier mood.

They discovered that $75,000 is what they call “the happiness tipping point.”

When a household brings in $75,000 a year, people are able to relax, knowing that they have enough to pay their mortgage, care for their car, stay current on their bills, their student loans, to buy groceries, put some money away for savings, and enjoy a perk or two, such as eating out, going to the movies, or taking a vacation.

When those who made $75,000 a year were asked to recall their emotions the previous day, they were more likely to remember feeling happy and smiling.

When those who made less-than $75,000 were asked to recall their emotions the day before, many reported feeling worried and stressed out; exhibiting anxiety over living paycheck to paycheck.

But here’s something interesting that came up in this study- the researchers discovered that once people crossed over the $75,000 benchmark, extra pay didn't improve their sense of happiness at all.

Those who made double or triple that amount did not exhibit any greater sense of joy or contentment.

In other words, those who made $75,000, $175,000, and $175 million all had the same level of happiness.

So on one hand- money can buy happiness; on the other hand, after a certain point, it cannot.

Maybe happiness is not even the right word. Maybe we should say contentment, peace of mind, or the feeling that one has “enough.”

“Enough” is a theme that’s been running through our worship services for the past 3 years.

That sense of “enough” also permeates today’s reading.

Psalm 67 is a joyful song to God sung by a community of folk who realize they are at a perfect place in time, in their own little corner of their world, in which everything has been going well.

The singers of today’s Psalm are not bogged down by worries, or stress, or chaos. They are not at war. They are not hungry. They are not under any perceivable threat.

And they are happy; they are content.

But more than that- they are aware of why they are happy. They remember why they are feeling so grand.

They realize that it’s all good because it is all God.

They push aside any sense of pride and hubris, and they give all credit where credit is due- God has blessed them.

God has made sure their crops have grown, their produce is abundant. Because of God they have enough to eat, enough to sell, enough to survive, and enough to thrive.

And they are so thankful; they are so happy that all they can do is sang.

In the words of a song by Prince, they know they are “Beautiful, loved, and blessed.”

They didn’t need no lemons to make lemonade; God blessed them with the right amount of sunshine, rainfall, and sweet sweet goodness.

Anyone here ever feel beautiful, loved and blessed?

Anyone here feel as if it is all good, and you just know, you know, it is all God?

That’s how these folks feel.

But here is the really cool thing about today’s reading- the people are so happy, they feel so beautiful, loved and blessed that they want all the people in all of the world to feel the same way.

“Let all the nations praise you, O God,” they sing, “Let all the peoples praise you.”

These worshippers are so full of joy that they want to spread it around. The want the whole world to know how good and pleasant it is when you know you’ve been blessed.

So the people make this request to God-

“Continue to bless us, continue to smile upon us so that everywhere we go, everyone we meet wants to know why we are so happy.”

The people sing out to God and say “Bless us so that all the world knows about you; bless us so that all the world is blessed.”

This sentiment sounds so simple, but it is actually so radical.

What is really going on is this- the people are making the claim that God’s love is so abundant, God’s love is limitless, that is will not run out, and there is enough for every person in the world to experience.

This song makes the revolutionary claim that God is able to bless every woman and every man, every widow and every orphan, every CEO and every counter-clerk, every foreigner and every national-born citizen, every Tabitha and every Peter.

This song is the ultimate embodiment of no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are not only welcome, but you are beautiful, loved, and blessed.

Now why this so radical, why is Psalm 67 so revolutionary?

Because it states that there is enough for all, and there is enough for everyone to be happy.

It states that in God everyone can be a winner.

Think how radical this is.

How often are we taught that in order for someone to win, someone else has to lose?

Think of all the debates we hear about raising the minimum wage and people who are afraid that we’ll run out of money and the economy will tank.

Think of all the people who are so afraid that you getting yours may mean I can no longer get mine.

If you ever want a perfect example of this fear at work, go to the Hibachi Buffet on 27.

It’s All-U-Can-Eat with over 70 different entrees. Enough for everyone to go home stuffed and satiated.

But go there on seafood night and watch what happens when the crab legs are put out.

Folk swarm like seagulls on the beach.

They claim their spot, they shift anxiously from foot to foot waiting their turn, and they fill their plates to the spilling-over point.


Because they are afraid that there will not be enough for them, even though they’re at a buffet.

I think many people live their lives this way.

They have a buffet of options in front of them, but they fear there won’t be enough.

So they hoard. They hold on. They don’t share. They live in fear that one day everything will go away.

They lose sight that in God they are beautiful, loved, and blessed.

But scripture tells us different. The Bible reminds us just how much God loves us, how much God cares.

The Bible calls us to remember that when there was nothing, God created everything and said “Look at what I made, come and share with me.”

The Bible calls us to remember that when Elijah visited the widow and asked to be fed, her jars of oil and flour never ran out.

The Bible calls us to remember that when Jesus had but 2 loaves and 5 fish, people were fed to satisfaction.

The Bible calls us to remember that in Christ, there are Marthas who are glad to open their home to visitors.

There are Marys who are willing to anoint with expensive perfume.

There are Tabithas who are willing to use their resources to care for and clothe the most vulnerable of society.

There are Corneliuses who are willing to place a banquet before us of hamhocks, camarones, and deep-fried catfish.

The Bible calls us to remember that in God there is enough.

The Bible calls us to remember that when we are fortunate to experience those moments in time when life is good, when we have abundance, when we know we are blessed, that instead of hoarding it all, we should wish it upon everyone we know.

Happiness is not always easy to come by in this world. There are events that happen and there are people who will try to take it away.

But in God we are able to find true joy. In God we should feel the desire to share that joy with everyone.

In God we should want to share our blessings not just within our own little corner of the world, but throughout the face of the earth.

Amen and amen.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Go On Ahead & Eat That Gas-Station Catfish! Sermon on Act 9:36-43

Rev. George Miller
April 24, 2016
Acts 9:36-43

Recently there was an article in the New-Sun Times that gave an eye-opening statistic. It stated that the percentage of people who remain in Highlands County after the Snowbird Season comes to an end is 80%.

According to this article, the population of our county only goes down 20% during the summer and fall season.

80% of the population stays right here. It makes sense.

Think about it: why would Ashley Furniture be coming in, and Publix expanding unless if Sebring is growing and becoming a more permanent place of residence?

For those who live in Snowbird-specific places like Gulf Hammock, your streets may be emptying out, but for folk like me who live downtown, it stays virtually the same.

With this news that 80% of the population stays comes the reality that perhaps the ways things have been done need to be revisited.

With news that 80% of the population stays means new paradigms will have to be created for a business to be successful, for social services to be effective, and for churches to be relevant.

For example we can look at our latest directory and see that of the 158 people who attend here during the course of a year, 89 live here all year round.

This news means a new paradigm.

Like- what months do the choir sing? What events do we have? When do we do them?

What will the electric bill be? How much toilet paper do we need?

How do we define ourselves? As a Snowbird Church or a Year-Long Congregation?

What ways of thinking and doing do we embrace?

What ways of thinking, doing do we let go?

We see this with today’s reading as we witness a religious community in transition.

People have had the awesome experience of being introduced to Christ. Either they met Jesus when he was alive, or experienced Christ after he was resurrected.

Or they have heard and experienced the wonders of this new movement in which men, women, rich, poor, widowed, and married were having life-changing experiences in Christ’s name.

But this is all too new, and the religious leaders are confused. To properly follow Christ, does one first need to be Jewish?

Must one be circumcised, follow the Law given to Moses, and eat kosher?

Or can someone of any faith or no faith background at all follow Jesus, and not worry about having an extra piece of skin or what they consume?

In other words- the future of the Christian movement rests upon the questions- are you circumcised, and do you eat pork, shrimp and cheeseburgers?

It may not seem like a big deal to us today, but it really is. Judaism was very clear on what you can and cannot consume.

And it is nearly impossible to have a religious function or to visit potential new members if you’re limited by what you can eat.

Food is a powerful thing. I can say that because clearly I’ve been around food all my life and clearly devoured my share.

I’ve also lived in enough places and dined with enough people to see the different ways we eat.

For example, New Yorkers have a clear understanding about pizza. It’s served as a slice, which you fold in half, and you never, ever eat pizza with a knife & fork.

Coffee comes with 2 creams and 2 sugars. Chili is served over rice.

But the good folks of Minnesota? They drink their coffee black- best of luck finding cream and sugar at a church function.

They eat something called a “hot dish” in which the main ingredient is cream of mushroom soup and things like tater tots or Doritos are placed on top.

In Chicago people have deep-dish pizza which is served in thick slices and consumed with knife & fork. Hot-dogs come on poppy-seed buns with celery salt and diced tomatoes.

In Ohio people love their Skyline Chili, which they proudly serve over spaghetti.

In St. Louis people eat toasted ravioli and they’ll take grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and dump them in a pot of BBQ to let them soak up the flavor.

Citizens of Canada put gravy on their french fries. At fairs, folks in Florida eat gator bites.

Anywhere you travel in the south you can get deep fried catfish, livers & gizzards at a gas station.

Food tells us a lot about people. Where they are from. What their socio-economic background may be.

Are they an adventurous people who like lots of spice, or on the cautious side careful with their seasonings?

The food we eat, and are willing to try can unite us.

The food we don’t eat, and refuse to try can keep us apart.

That’s what is going on in today’s story. It is not as simple as drinking your coffee black or with sugar and cream.

It’s not as simple as do you serve your chili over spaghetti or rice.

It’s not as simple as do you fold your slice of pizza or do you eat it with a knife & fork.

It comes down to this- if Peter, or any of the disciples, are to spread the Good News about Christ, can they go into the home of someone who is serving something they have been forbidden to eat for centuries?

How can Peter or any of the disciples really get to know other people when most social interaction takes place around the table, and they may be serving popcorn shrimp and pulled pork?

And what if these new believers come to worship at one of the new home churches, and bring catfish nuggets to the fellowship hour to share, or bacon dipped in chocolate?

Who would be willing to have their place of worship desecrated by a food that’s considered unholy and profane?

This is a major dilemma for everyone involved because for over a millennia they have been told that to be faithful followers of God the men must be circumcised and no unclean food is to touch their lips.

But how could a church grow if:
1) You can’t share with the local community because they are considered to be unclean?

2) You expect grown men to give up a piece of skin they’ve grown attached to, and told them no more gas-station catfish for you!

No way would this work; no way they would grow and be able to deliver the message of the Resurrected Christ.

Fortunately, they do not have to solve the problem. God does it for them.

One day, while Peter is waiting for his meal, he goes to spend some alone-time with God. Peter has an other-worldy vision-

Something akin to a picnic blanket comes down filled with all kinds of critters. A voice says “Get up and eat.”

Peter protests, but the voice assures him “God has made all food clean; no longer call any of it profane.”

So as to make sure that Peter gets the point, this happens 3 times.

3 times Peter is assured that all food is clean, and he can eat whatever is placed before him without worrying that he is disrespecting God or being unholy.

The voice says “If you want to eat gator bites, eat gator bites. If you’re served bacon wrapped shrimp, eat bacon wrapped shrimp.”

“If you enter someone’s home and they serve you chitlins, ham hocks and cornbread dipped in clabber, you eat those chitlins, ham hocks, and corn bread and you be a gracious guest.”

What this vision does, what God does, what the movement of the Holy Spirit does, is to break open the possibilities for more people to come to Christ.

This vision breaks open the notion of who can join and be an active part of this worshipping community.

This vision makes the number of people who can hear, experience, and share the Good News become limitless.

A new paradigm is established, a new way of being. A new way of acting.

A new way to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with the Lord.

A new way to care for the orphan, the widow, the alien.

A new way to be neighbor to people who were once seen as different, unclean, and unholy.

Now you can go to that Block Party where they are serving hot dogs. Now you can go to that church conference in New Orleans and eat crayfish etouffee. Now you can go with your friends to the Circle and have a bacon cheeseburger.

Now you can be a bigger, better part of the community, therefore you can do a bigger, better ministry of showing folk what a life lived in Christ is really about…

…We are a denomination that boldly believes “God is Still Speaking.” We believe God is still acting, God is still moving. God is still making all things new and newer.

What that means is that in Christ there will always be new paradigms, there will always be new things to discover, new things to figure out.

As the paradigms change, we change too. We do so with those who are like Peter, and those who are like Tabitha.

In Christ, a new community is formed.

A community in which fishermen preach to the Temple authorities.

A community in which a woman is not dependant on marriage or a man to make her mark.

A community in which one can see, one can stand, and one can rise again, even when facing defeat.

A community in which no one is defined by or turned away by what they eat, but everyone can sit, enjoy and be present at the Table.

A community in which we welcome those who see visions, we welcome those who dream dreams.

We adjust, we change, we grow, we thrive.

We remember all that has come before; we anticipate all that will come after.

We listen for the Still Speaking voice of God, and we are willing to go wherever Christ may lead.

Amen and amen.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Heroes, Heroes Everywhere; Acts 9:36-43 sermon

Rev. George Miller
April 17, 2016
Acts 9:36-43

About a month ago on TV was a modern-day musical of the “The Passion” featuring songs from the last 40 years.

One of the big surprises of the show was the use of Tina Turner’s tune “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, sung by Pontius Pilate.

A few weeks ago teenage boys of all ages, as well as comic books fans, nerds, and people of all backgrounds made “Batman vs. Superman” one of the biggest super-hero films of all time.

Last week we heard that if the Resurrection was filmed today perhaps there’d be expensive special effects and a scene of Wonder Woman helping God raise Jesus from the grave with Lois Lane by her side.

Heroes, heroes everywhere, from TV to the multiplex to the pulpit. Which got me wondering- who is the hero of today’s reading?

We just heard Acts 9:36-43, and it is one of those scriptures that has been misunderstood, underutilized, or seen as a really “nice”, simple tale.

But as we discovered during Tuesday’s Lectionary Bible Study, this story is way more than just nice or simple.

It is complex and full of details that can be so easily missed.

So this morning we’re going to first go through the scripture, and then we’re going to return to the question “Who is the hero of today’s reading?”

We are introduced to a woman named Tabitha, which is Greek for Dorcas.

This is an indicator that something special is being told. Back when this was written, women were rarely mentioned by name. They were referred to by their situation, or their physical placement, or who they were married to and the child they had.

Think of the woman who had been hemorrhaging, the woman at the well, the wife of Cleopas, or Mary the mother of James.

To name a woman was an indication that she was important; she was well known. To name her twice means even more so.

Tabitha is not just so nice they named her twice, she is referred to as a disciple. Not just a follower of Jesus, not a believer, not a fan.

But a disciple, the same title given to men like Peter, and John. A title, which indicates she is their equal.

So within the first verse we realize how important this doubled- named disciple is. So our ears should perk up.

We should also notice something else. There is no mention of a husband, or of a son. Was she married? Was she a mother? Was she a widow? Was she single? A life-long spinster? A friend of Sappho?

No one knows, but it is so clear that Tabitha was a woman of independent means. She didn’t need a man to define her.

Tabitha has devoted herself to doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with the Lord. She gives her time, her talents, and her money.

This indicates to us that Tabitha was a woman of social status, she was a person of wealth, someone who had “enough”.

In the name of Christ, she was willing to share. But Tabitha was not the kind of person who simply signed a check and placed it in the offering plate.

She is someone who physically acts. She has found her calling by ministering to the widows of her community. She makes them clothes, she makes them coats to keep them warm, and she spends time with them.

This is important, why? Because back then widows were basically a social-class of their own. On life’s ladder, they would be on the bottom rung, more often than not poor, destitute, and perhaps even homeless.

Widows were virtually on their own in the world, with no one to represent them, or to protect them.

But Tabitha did. Tabitha cared for them. She clothed them. She loved them.

So when she dies, it creates a huge crisis for the community- they now have no one to speak up for and watch over them.

Not such a “nice” or simple tale, is it?

The love the widows have for Tabitha is enormous, as they wash her body, and lay her in a room upstairs.

Picture, for a moment, what this may have looked like.

A group of widows, vulnerable, most likely old, penniless, hunched over, a life-time of wrinkles across their faces, caring for her body.

Going to the well to get the water that was needed. The deliberate, careful steps to carry that water so as not to spill too much.

The tender taking off of Tabitha’s garments. The washing of her face, her arms, her hands, her feet.

The low hushed humming the widows might do, like what you’d hear at an AME Church.

The stories they’d share or the songs they’d sing as they cleansed her hair, combed out the knots and braided her locks of love.

The oil they’d use to anoint her flesh. The perfume to make her smell sweet. Perhaps white linens to dress her in.

The sweeping up and cleaning of the upstairs room. Going outside to pick flowers to place around her. The carrying of her body up the steps.

The disciples send two men to Peter saying “Come to us without delay.”

Tabitha was so special she not only had two names, but had two men rushing to fetch Peter. Their urgency further indicates how important she is, because no one rushes for a nobody.

Peter arrives on the scene with the widows weeping.

Because the widows don’t have much, they hold that which they have- the clothes, the coats that Tabitha made for each and every one of them by hand.

This wasn’t just a craft group or a thing to pass the time, what Tabitha did was to clothe and protect and to give dignity.

Peter puts everyone outside, kneels, prays, addresses her by name, not her situation, not who she is married to, or the mother of.

“Tabitha, get up.”

She opens her eyes, she sees, she sits, and taking his hand, she stands.

In Christ, Tabitha is raised. In Christ, Tabitha is able to see again. In Christ, Tabitha is once again on her own two legs.

In Christ the community is restored. In Christ, the crisis is averted.

In Christ, many more get to hear, many more get to know, and many more get to believe in the Lord.

…So to go back to the question asked in the beginning of the message- who is the hero of today’s reading?

Is the hero Tabitha, the woman who cared for the widows, devoting her life to doing justice, and loving kindness and being a disciple of the Lord?

Is the hero Peter, who speaks Tabitha into new life?

Are the heroes the 2 disciples who go to get Peter?

Could the heroes be the widows, the vulnerable members of the community, who washed her body, carried her upstairs, and stood weeping while holding the items that Tabitha had made?

Is God the hero of today’s reading? Or is it Christ?

Or could it be that the hero of today’s reading is…the community?

Not an individual. Not a deity. But a combination of everyone involved?

What if the hero of today’s reading is everyone, from Tabitha to Peter to the disciples to the widows, to Christ Jesus to God?

What if today’s reading becomes for us, an indication of just how wonderful and amazing things are when everything is based around the reality of Easter?

What if today’s reading is another reminder of how the name of Jesus Christ has life-giving powers and creates communities in which amazing things happen, people do good in their part of the world, and there are always fresh possibilities?

I like thinking that the hero of today’s reading is the entire composite of people that it took to tell this tale.

That what we witnessed here is how in Jesus Christ, good and great things are happening.

Today’s reading gives us a glimpse into a community that has been shaped by the Resurrection and the breaking in of the Holy Spirit.

A community in which normal constructs break away to show that when one encounters Christ, it is hard to stay the same.

A community in which ordinary fishermen become the ones to preach to the Temple authorities.

A community in which a woman is not dependant on a man or a marriage to make her mark.

A community in which being rich doesn’t make you reckless or rude, but responsible and able to reach out to others in need.

A community in which one can see, one can stand, and one can rise again, even when death or the end is real.

A community grounded in Christ- that’s who I believe the hero of this reading is today: this community that found a way to do what they could in their own corner of their world…

…Friends, disciples, widows, news-givers, benefactors, orphans, parents, spouses, believers- we can all be heroes as well.

We can all be people who make a difference in our own little corner of the world.

We don’t have to do it all, we don’t have to solve it all, we don’t have to know it all, but like Tabitha, we can be devoted to good works, we can do acts of charity.

In Christ we are a community, in Christ we have our calling, in Christ we too can show great care.

Amen and amen.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cats n' Dogs; Sermon on John 21:4-14

Rev. George Miller
April 10, 2016
John 21:4-14

Cats n’ dogs; dogs n’ cats.

One of them points to how hopeful and exciting the world can be; one points to the reality of how mundane things really are.

One acts like we are the greatest being to ever live; one acts like “Ehhh, I’m not that impressed.”

Want to tell the difference between cats and dogs- go away on vacation, then come back.

Upon the simple sound of your car door closing and the sight of you in the hallway, a dog’s tale will wag, they’ll jump, bark, yip, and do the hiney-wiggle-dance.

Cats- “Oh, it’s you.”

Come back from being away, for a week and a dog will greet you with slobbery kisses.

Cats- maybe they’ll walk past you to look out the screen door, maybe they’ll go to the luggage to smell where you’ve been, or they’ll just go into the other room to catch up on their sleep.

Dogs act like you’ve been raised from the dead; cats act like you raised them from their nap.

In an odd way, the reactions of dogs and cats can help us get an understanding of the Resurrection accounts that occur in the Gospel of John.

As one theologian stated, instead of having the Gospel of John end with a big climax, we get more of a little whisper.

If the Gospel of John was a modern-day movie at the multiplex, we’d expect the ending to be jammed with special effects, swelling of orchestration, and a scene that makes us jump out of our seats.

But instead of God raising Jesus from the grave with the assistance of Batman, Wonder Woman and Louis Lane by his side, we get more or less of a small series of “a-has.”

In the Gospel of John, we have the Resurrected Christ surrounded by flowers and being confused for a gardener. We have him speaking words of Peace as he exhales upon the disciples. Today he’s hanging by the seashore cooking fish for breakfast.

Not very Marvel-Universe.

We may not realize it, but subconsciously many of us may picture the Resurrection as a big Hollywood block-buster, but the Gospels presents it more as an indie-art house film.

In other words, we tend to greet the Resurrection as a dog who’s excited to see Jesus has been raised from the dead.

But the Gospels tend to greet the Resurrection more like a cat- “Oh- its Jesus.”

Today’s account takes place just one week after the original Easter Sunday, when Christ appeared to the Disciples inside a locked room.

But today, some of the disciples are back in Galilee, fishing- as if nothing ever happened.

How can this be? After all they have seen, after all they have done, after all they have experienced? How can they go back to the mundane rituals of life?

But a week is a long time, is it not? A week is enough time for a lot to happen, or for nothing to transpire.

A week before or after a big event can be a whole other world, can it not?

I think this story speaks to a universal truth- no matter what happens, good or bad, life goes on.

We learn this truth when we encounter death or things like a chronic health diagnosis.

Someone dies, or you leave the doctor’s office, you feel as though your world has forever changed, you get home, only to realize:
-you still got to empty the trash
-you still got to call the exterminator to take care of the termites
-you still got to pay the electric bill.

Or perhaps you’ve experienced something great, like won an award. Well, the dog’s still got to be walked when you get home and you’ve still got to scoop the poop. Fido don’t care that you just when an Oscar.

Or you’re in front of Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom while fireworks are illuminating the sky, but 12 hours later you’re in the office, standing in front of the Xerox Machine trying to get it to work.

Or you finally got to go on that relaxing cruise to the Bahamas in which you’ve dined on lobster, sipped mojitos, and danced to salsa all night long, but the next day you’re feeling bloated, tired, and stuck in rush-hour traffic for 3 hours trying to drive from Tampa to Sebring.

Yes- amazing moments happen: death, diagnosis, and despair; fun, frivolity, and favor, and still- there is work to do and life to attend to.

In other words, life can come at us hard like a guard-dog on steroids or lovingly like a labradoodle in a sweater, but most of our days, hours, and minutes, life can really seem like…a cat.

It is what it is, big yawn, big stretch, when’s dinner? Who’s gonna change the litter-box?

So…what does this mean for us, as Easter-people?

What does this mean for us as modern-day Americans who have worked ourselves up into a frenzy in which shopping for Christmas lasts 3 months and churches are now renting out fields to host massive Easter-Egg Hunts?

What does John 21:4-14 mean for a generation who Facebook everything, have 100-inch TVs and binge-watch everything?

It means that if we expect every encounter with the Living Lord to be like a scene from a big-budget super-hero movie, we’ll miss out on all the moments in which Christ is indeed present.

It means that when it comes to experiencing the Resurrected Christ, we may never know when he’ll appear or what he will do.

Or if the experience with the Living Lord will be with a “he” at all. Perhaps we will experience Christ through a “she”, or a “they” or an “it.”

If the Gospels give us any indication of what an experience with Christ will be like, it will be more akin to a grounding walk in the garden, or a gathering of friends, or on the shore of a beach.

If the Gospels give us any indication, an experience with the Resurrected Christ will happen during moments, in spaces, at times we cannot prepare for, we cannot plan, nor can we control.

Like Mary Magdalene in the Garden, like Peter on the boat, we may not even recognize the appearance of Christ at first.

It may simply begin by someone we don’t know calling us by name, or someone speaking words of peace, or someone inviting us to a meal.

It may simply be someone out in nature, someone indoors, or someone in the mundane reality of daily work and ho-hum living.

Today’s reading may not have the spectacle of a Hollywood movie or a well-presented Facebook post, but what it does is simply state: Jesus Christ is alive, and Christ has been resurrected by God.

Even if we don’t fully understand it, even if we can’t make sense of it all, we can be brave enough to believe, that somehow, someway, Jesus overcame and conquered the numb mindless sting of death.

To believe, and to proclaim that even as we continue life with its big bangs and “whittle” whispers, we know that the resurrected Christ is alive, about and all around us,

speaking, breathing, feeding, sharing, calling, teaching, restoring, forgiving, and grounding us in God.

The woes and the ways of the world may still be here, but God’s Kingdom is real and breaking in, and the presence of Christ is now and forever eternal.

Amen and amen.