Sunday, July 31, 2016

Return; Sermon on Hosea 11:1-11

Rev. George Miller
Hosea 11:1-11
July 31, 2016

I grew up in a home with a bird-feeder. A bird-feeder that was lovingly built by my Father. A bird-feeder that was lovingly stocked with seeds by my Mother.

A bird-feeder with bricks neatly lined up underneath that was begrudgingly swept up each and every day by my siblings and I.

A bird-feeder that was always busy with squirrels, cardinals, blue-jays and even migrating ducks.

So I’ve always had a love for birds, even if I don’t know their names or behaviors. So when a documentary about birds came out called “Winged Migration”, I went to see it.

The narrator says “The story of migrating birds is the story of a promise; the promise to return…to survive.”

The film features stunning images of birds from all seven continents, during all four seasons, as they make their way across the globe to mate, give birth and return.

The film captures snow capped mountains and lush green fields. It captures the reality of eggs falling from their nest, snagged birds left behind, and predators of both the animal and human kind.

“Winged Migration” is about survival and promise; it’s about the journey that birds make; how they face odds, obstacles, and great distances to flourish season after season.

Recently we came to an end of one of our seasons: Vacation Bible School. It was another success.

The week was based around Psalm 104 in which the kids learned how God cares for all of Creation.

The children celebrated that everyone is different, and that’s OK. They learned the importance of respect. They learned the importance of following instructions that were designed to keep all of them safe.

They planted a tree, made crafts, learned about gopher tortoises. They sung vibrant songs.

The children ate delicious hand crafted meals. There was more than enough and no kid went to bed hungry.

The children of our VBS were not only “Grounded In God” but they were well fed, well taught, well protected, and well cared for.

They were safe.

As always, the last day of VBS had a mix of emotions. Good to see it over, sad to say goodbye.

There is always a sense of melancholy when saying goodbye to a group of children.

You wonder:
-will they recall the lessons they learned?
-will they remember to show respect?
-Is there someone in their lives to help do their homework; to tell them they are smart?
-will they have a place that is safe when the rest of the world is in chaos?

How do those who are parents and grandparents do it?

You create life; bring a child into the world
-teach them to walk
-pick them up when they fall
-kiss their boo-boos when they are hurt
-try your best to show kindness and love
-feed them with food that’ll help them grow.

And rarely during this time of nurturing are you thanked. More than likely you are taken for granted: it is assumed that’s what you’re supposed to do.

You’re damned when you discipline; barely noticed when you show an ounce of grace.

And then….you have to let go:
-the 1st day of school as they get on the bus
-their 1st field trip
-their 1st overnight sleep over
-1st date
-their 1st romantic heartbreak
-1st time driving alone in a car

Seasons come, seasons go, a child’s time of migration arrives and, if you are a good parent, a strong parent, you let go…

You trust.

You know they will fail and fall down. You hope they will succeed and soar.

You pray that when they come back it will be by their own accord and not with too many ruffled feathers or a broken wing.

If you have children, if you’ve ever worked with children, if you’ve dealt with the raising up of children, you understand all too well what today’s scripture is all about.

Today’s reading is about God as parent. Not mother, not father, but parent.

Hosea 11 gives another unique look at God; it’s a tender, loving and heart breaking image.

God who gives so much and blesses us every day- but instead we turn to worship things, Baals, thinking they made us who we are.

God, who calls us, carries and leads us, but still we want to do things our way, follow our own ego, our own decisions rather then try to discern what God is still speaking.

God takes a step closer, but we migrate away.

God grants us freedom, but we’d rather be slaves.

God’s desire is for us to flourish, but we’d rather forsake the gifts before us and try to survive doing it our way.

We see this happen again and again throughout scripture:
-the freed slaves in the wilderness wishing to go back to Egypt
-the Israelites in the land of milk and honey who stop doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with their Lord
-thinking that Jesus’ place belonged upon the cross and not at the table beside sinners

For millennia people have been migrating from God not aware that it was the Lord who called them, lifted them up, and bent down to feed them.

Thankfully, God is not a human, God understands. God is patient.

God operates on a different time line then we do; an eternal time frame in which no amount of seasons is too long to be away.

Nor any distance too great to journey back from.

We all, at one time or another, in some shape or form, wander away from God.

God waits.

When the seasons change, when we get to the place in which we are tired, when we are weak, when we are worn, we can return.

When we’ve lost all that matters, when we find ourselves surrounded by pigsties and craving something more, so much more, we can return.

When the shadows of night appear, when darkness seems to last longer and longer, we can return.

When we are done with false gods and hungry hearts and ruined lives, we can return.

When we can’t stop the collective silence and chose instead to speak, we can return.

Like beautiful, noisy, trembling birds we can return.

We migrate back to God.

Like a mighty lion, God will roar loud and sure so the direction is clear.

Our feathers might be a bit ruffled, a wing may be broken, but no matter what has happened, we will be forgiven; the grace of God never fails.

We will be forgiven, because no matter how many seasons come, no matter how many seasons go, God is awaiting our return.

We will be forgiven; because the heart of God becomes our home.

The place where we are washed in the water, the place where we taste the grain of the field and fruit of the vine.

To fly towards the Son, to be lifted on high by the Holy Spirit and to know that no matter who, no matter what, God is awaiting our return.

That is God’s promise to us.

Amen and amen.

Monday, July 18, 2016

God's Love Story

Rev. George Miller
July 17, 2016
Amos 8:1-12

Last month the congregation was invited to go on a journey- a one year journey through the Bible in which we read about three chapters a day.

I don’t know how people are on that journey, how many are behind a few days, how many are ahead a few days, and how many simply said “Eh- who cares about that journey.”

As you read through the Bible you’ll come across as many themes as there are stars in the sky. One theme I personally adore is the notion that reading the Bible is akin to reading a love story.

It’s a love story in which God and all of creation are the main characters.

Like any love story, such as “The Way We Were”, or “When Harry Met Sally” or “50 Shades of Grey” there are plenty of moments of heartbreak, frustration, and “I never want to see your face again.”

I see the Bible as a love story that’s about God wanting to love a world that doesn’t want to be loved, or doesn’t realize just how loveable it is.

This Biblical love story begins with God saying “I gave you a garden so we could walk together in it during the cool afternoon breeze. All I ask is that you don’t eat the fruit.”

…“Dude- you ate the fruit!”

The Biblical love story continues with God saying “I am giving you this good land flowing with milk and honey. Just make sure you care for the alien, the orphaned, and the widowed.”

…“Dude- you totally neglected to care for the alien, orphaned, and widowed!”

The Biblical love story continues with “I am sending you my Son to remind you of how to love your neighbor.”

…“Dude and Dudette- not only did you totally not care for your neighbor but you killed my Son.”

If you are participating in our daily Bible readings, then you know today’s readings are Numbers 11-13.

Personally, I find Numbers 13 to be one of the most heartbreaking chapters of the Biblical love story.

The freed Israelite slaves are right on the edge of the Promised Land. It’s the beginning of grape season when the fruit is delicious and juicy.

God has Moses send men in to check out the land. “Be bold,” they are told, “Check everything out to make sure it’s all good.”

The men see the land- it’s filled with cows, grass, flowers, bees, grapes, pomegranates, figs. So much good stuff.

But instead of being bold, the men become cowards and they become liars.

They claim the land is no good and the people who live there are stronger than them and that they won’t be able to do what God said they could do.

The leadership doubts the very God who is poised to bring them into the Promised Land, even though they saw how good it was with their own eyes.

This breaks God’s heart, and makes God so angry that God wants to end the relationship permanently.

But Moses intercedes, and instead God says “Because they failed to be bold and to believe, it will take them 40 years to achieve what they could have done today.”

It’s like taking your fiancé out to a luxurious dinner to propose to them, and all they do is complain about the service and how the fish wasn’t cooked enough.

As stated earlier, the Bible can be seen as an epic love story filled with highs and lows, break-ups and reconciliations.

Today’s scripture reading is another one of those love-story lows.

The people are living in the Promised Land. They have the Temple in which they worship God. And things seems to be going extremely well…for some.

There is financial prosperity…for some.

There are plenty of business owners who are making money hand over fist. They’re doing great.

They also appear to be religious pillars of society. They follow the Laws, or the ones people can see.

They keep the Sabbath, closing their shops Friday night and not opening up until Sabbath is over.

On the outside they appear model citizens. Going to worship. Doing what they can to get by.

But during the whole time they’re closed, all they’re thinking of is how they can make more money. All they’re thinking of is how they can next cheat their customers.

Once Sabbath is over, these unjust business leaders find ways to throw off the scales so they can give the customer less. They find ways to jack up prices so they can charge their customer more.

They are not above sweeping wheat up off the floor and selling it as “an organic gluten-free whole food.”

They give loans with super high interest rates, and when people don’t pay them back, they sell them off as slaves, even if all they owed was the money for a pair of Payless sandals.

And God is like “Dudes and Dudettes, I just can’t handle this anymore.”

“I can’t…I can’t…I just can’t.”

God is so fed up with their fake show of faith and their acts of economic injustice that God says “My heart is so broken and I am so angry that I want nothing to do with you ever again. Ever ever ever!”

If Amos was to hold a Town Hall Meeting in which God spoke up about the pain that was inflicted upon one another and upon God…our ears and our hearts couldn’t handle what we heard.

No hash tag would be great enough. No excuse would suffice.

God is clearly hurting from the pain the people have caused, and the pain the people have allowed to take place…

…But here is our Good News for today:

If we were to hold a Town Hall Meeting today for us, as members of Emmanuel United Church of Christ, what do you think God would say to us?

Looking at the events of the past 8 days, and of the past month, what do you think God would say to us, as a church?

Would God ask us “Why are you here?” Or would God proudly say “YOU are here!”

If Emmanuel United Church of Christ is in the midst of our own love story with God, what part of the story would we be in?

The getting to know you faze? The infatuation stage? The honeymoon stage? The rocky stage? The “we got a household to run & a family to raise” stage? The comfortable stage? The “falling in love all over again” stage? The goodbye stage?

What stage of our love relationship with God are we currently in?

And what would God say?

If I can be so bold, I think these are some of the things God would say:

-Thank you for hosting a vigil and being a light in the darkness and a voice in the silence.

-Thank you for using the sanctuary as a place for all the community to gather to hear from the oppressed, the fearful, the scared, the confused, and those longing for something better.

If I can be so bold, I think God would say:

-Thank you for providing space to feed the elderly, the widowed, the tired and the disabled 3 days a week.

-Thank you for welcoming in the children so they can learn about me, learn about the environment, and be fed spiritually and physically.

I think after this week, God would say:

-Thank you for having the kids plant a tree, grow flowers, sing songs, and know what it’s like to be in a safe place with safe adults.

-Thank you for ensuring the Shepherd’s Pantry is fully stocked through your donations, time spent, and partnerships.

I think tomorrow God is going to say:

-Thank you for welcoming the poor and hungry in so they could be treated as neighbor, share a meal and receive food to carry them throughout the week.

-Thank you for continuing to offer a place that is busy 6 days of the week in which people can worship, learn, get healthy, gather, fellowship, be still.

-Thank you for being a congregation that I can love.

…do you think that is what God would say to us at this point in our relationship?

…26 years ago, Emmanuel United Church of Christ was established. Someone created a parament which read “Committing Today for Tomorrow's Dream.”

It was a prophetic statement about the reason why we are here.

Do we, as members and friends of Emmanuel, feel that we are doing our part to make those dreams real?

Are we, as a church, living as though we believe the Kingdom of God is present, and we have been granted the fullness of eternal life?

Are we like summer fruit, gathered at season’s end, about to spoil?

Or are we like grapes in the beginning of season, rich and plump and filled with goodness?

Are we at the part of our love story in which God is broken hearted and ready to pass us by?

Or are we walking with God in the cool breezes of the afternoon, enjoying our time together?

Are we willing to continue being beautiful, brave and bold for the Lord?

Amen and amen.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Jesus Works My Nerve; July 10, 2016 sermon on Luke 10:25-37

Rev. George Miller
July 10, 2016
Luke 10:25-37

Jesus irks me. Jesus works my nerve. Let me tell you why: he has this whole shtick.

This shtick of
-“Give to everyone who begs from you.”
-“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
-“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

That’s all well and good, but can we break things down for a moment? Can we keep things 100?

Jesus was a 30 year bachelor.

No real job that we know of.
No wife.
No kids.
No house.
No mortgage payments
No need for a children’s college fund.

Jesus spent his days hanging out with the guys, and had women who followed him around, cooking his meals.

And he brought his momma as his date to a wedding.

Yet Jesus wants to tell us how to act and how to live our lives?

It was easy for Jesus to tell folk to give to beggars, because he had nothing to give, and in some ways he was a beggar.

Of course he wanted people to do unto others- how else is a homeless, jobless guy gonna get free housing, free meals and a steady supply of free wine?

Of course Jesus could say to love your neighbor as yourself because he was a non-homeowner who had no idea how annoying our neighbors can really be.

Jesus irks me. Jesus works my nerve.

He has no notion of what it’s like when young fools drive by blasting music, throwing beer bottles out their car window, and try to rip your mailbox off its hinges.

He has no idea what it’s like to have a neighbor who waits until you go to work before massacring the big beautiful bush you both share; a neighbor who’s had to be reminded more than once where your property line begins as he goes about tearing out trees.

And if we’re being honest, if we’re keeping things 100, let’s be clear- I’m not the best neighbor either.

I don’t like to have my woods, my trees, my flower bed looking perfectly manicured- I actually prefer my yard to have organized chaos and look a little bit on the wild side.

I like to be left alone. When I come home, from anywhere, I want to be left alone. I don’t want to chat; I don’t want to spend too much time in small-talk. I want to go inside, take off my shoes and rest on the couch.

A few weeks ago I came back from a long day at Ft. Pierce and my neighbor was down the road. I waved just to be nice, but then I quickly turned and tried to haul everything out of my car thinking “Please don’t let them come over, please don’t let them come over.”

And I only know two of my neighbors’ names, and that’s about all I want to know.

Jesus irks me. Jesus works my nerve…

…but thank God, because through him there’s still the chance I can be a better neighbor, and I can love my neighbors just a bit more…

I happen to be of the mindset that Jesus, as a teacher, is an exaggerator.

I believe Jesus uses a teaching style that is all about extremes.

Jesus talks in extremes. He gives exuberant examples. He goes overboard in instructions that are almost impossible to do.

-Love your enemies
-Bless those who curse you
-If anyone strikes you on the cheek offer the other
-Anyone who takes your coat give them also your shirt

It’s too much…

…but that’s the point.

As sinful, as evil, as dangerous as humans can be, I do believe that by nature most of us tend to be good.

When not in survival mode or under threat or consumed by narcissistic greed, we tend to do what’s right and what’s needed to live in community.

What Jesus does is he raises the bar a lot higher. What Jesus does is give exaggerated examples of how to act so we can actually do better.

Jesus, in his teachings, goes to extremes so that by being inspired we may do something as opposed to doing nothing.

That maybe by setting the bar high, we can grow as individuals to meet that bar. And as we meet that bar, its set a little higher so we can continue to grow some more.

Take as an example today’s story, featuring the actions of a Samaritan who sees, who is moved with mercy, and who acts.

Today’s story explores the notion of Kingdom living. Meaning- what would it look like if we were to live as if we have eternal life?

What would it look like if we were to live as though we indeed loved the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind?

What would it look like if we were to live as if we had a rightly ordered life, touched by God?

What would it look like?

Would we be like the ones who saw the half-dead man and passed by on the other side?

Would we be like the one who came near, who saw, who was moved with pity, who went to, who bandaged, who poured oil, who brought to the inn, who took care of, who gave 2 denari, who instructed the innkeeper?

Did you note how many verbs were actually associated with the Samaritan?

Two men saw and passed. But the Samaritan did 12 different actions.

12 actions in just 3 verses, and he promised to the innkeeper that when he came back he’d do 2 more things.

That’s a total of at least 14 different acts of mercy attributed to the Samaritan.

14 verbs that indicated an embracing of eternal life.

Is Jesus saying we have to be exactly like the Samaritan and do them all?

Is Jesus saying we have to do all 14 actions to be a good neighbor or we are no neighbor at all?

Or- is this a story that gives us a glimpse into what are some of the things we can do?

Maybe this story gives us 14 examples in the hopes that we’ll do 7, or 3, or even just 1.

And maybe if this story motivates us to do 1, maybe next time we have an opportunity to be a better neighbor, we’ll do 3, maybe we’ll work our way up to 7.

Yes, Jesus irks me. Jesus works my nerve.

Because although he had no real job, he had no home, he had no mortgage, he expects me, he expects you, he expects us to act as if we have nothing to lose.

Jesus expects us to act as if we have everything to give, as if we have all the time in the world to stop what we’re doing, and to help others.

Jesus expects us to freely show acts of mercy, and to act as if we actually care for others…

…and of course we can. Perhaps not all-out as the Samarian does.

But if we are truly followers of Christ, if we do indeed believe we are justified by faith, if we do celebrate amazing grace-

It means we are free to help, free to show mercy, and free to care for.

Not because we must but because we can.

Because we believe our lives have been touched by God.

Because we do love our neighbors, even if they may break bottles, go over property lines, and exist in chaos.

It is better that we strive for that kind of Kingdom Reality then to stew in a reality in which we are each left to fend for ourselves, beaten and abused on the side of Life’s Highway.

Who is our neighbor, and if we can’t do all 14 things the Samaritan does, can we find a way to do just 1?

Jesus is calling; Jesus is raising the bar.

Amen and amen.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Pastoral Response to the Police Killings

I am the son of a NYPD officer, proudly so. But the news of the past 24 hours has rankled me.

2 different black men, in 2 different cities shot dead by officers of the Law. Their names are Cameron Sterling and Philando Castile. I don't know the full story or the circumstances, or the facts.

But I am crying. The events at PULSE have woken me and I can no longer stay safely numb.

I am crying because the reality is something I've known for awhile but I fooled myself into not thinking about:

That Cameron or Philando could have been one of my own people.

Now I have to worry about my friend Travis- what if he's in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or Josh from the theatre. I have to worry about my friend's husband, Sitting Bull. I have to worry about my classmate, Nelson . I have to worry about my clergy peer, Don. I have to worry about aspiring politician Allen.

I have to worry about my Little Brother Cornelius.

He is only 12 years old. But every time I see him, he's grown taller, his voice has become deeper, he's looking more and more like a teenage boy. By 16-18 Cornelius will look like a man, therefor making him a possible target for the police if he's ever in the wrong place at the wrong time, or simply just seen as a threat for being a black man.

This scares me. This worries me. This hurts. I wish he could stay 12 forever so he does not run the risk or being arrested, imprisoned, or shot for doing something like selling cigarettes, selling cds or driving with a broken taillight.

I don't how to respond to the events of the last 24 hours, or how to act. For now, my tears over the fear that one day Cornelius could be a statistic is all I have.

The police force is broke. Our way of dealing with guns is broke. The way we treat black boys/teens/men is broke. And we need to be honest about it, stop making excuses, and listen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

How Much Does God Do?/How Much Does God Not Do? July 3, 2016 sermon

Rev. George Miller
2 Kings 5:1-14
July 3, 2016

Today’s message is dedicated to a very dear person who is experiencing personal suffering, and they are asking “Why? Why is God doing this?” and “Why is God allowing this?”

Our scripture is a story we heard Jesus talk about just a few months before.

It’s the story of a Gentile named Naaman, a mighty warrior for the enemy army who is living with a disease. A young Jewish slave girl tells his wife that there is a prophet who can cure him.

Through a series of events, the mighty warrior meets kings and messengers; he is reprimanded by his employees and bathes in the Jordan waters.

Through a series of events in which he is healed outwardly, Naaman comes to know the God of his enemies, and he leaves for home, changed in more ways than one.

This is a story in which we can spend a full week on each and every character, but today we will talk about God.

2 Kings 5 is a scripture that breaks open the very pre-conceived notions we may have about God.

Who does God care about?

What is God able to do?

Where does God act, move, dwell?

When does God do what God does?


How much does God really do?

Over the last 7 years I’ve personally come to embrace the freedom of God- the notion that God is free, beyond our control, and can’t be placed in a box or limited by our human constructs.

This notion gives me a great sense of peace although it leaves very little room for concrete answers.

Over the past 7 years I’ve come to the place in which I believe that God does way less than we give God credit for, AND God does way more than we give God credit for.

I believe there are things we attribute to God that God had no part in whatsoever, and there are things in which God’s fingerprint is all over and we fail to notice.

Each of us have our own spiritual development which we go through and no one ever, ever has the full grasp of the who, what, where, when, why and how of God.

There are those who think that God is in control of everything, and everybody, and all events. That everything that happens is a direct result of God.

This is all well and wonderful when good things happen. A sunny day! The right amount of rain! The winning lottery ticket!

Give God praise!

But when something bad or evil happens?

Then the torment begins.

If God controls everything then why did this horrible thing happen?

We want so desperately to believe that God controls all things, knows all things, does all things, because then at least we can imagine there is a sense of order and meaning to the bad and evil events in our lives.

When something unpleasant happens, a person may think “Is God trying to punish me?”

Or they may think “Is God using this to teach me something?”

Or “Maybe God is trying to humble me.”

Or “God must have made this happen for the greater good.”

Try telling any of those things to someone who’s been diagnosed with AIDS, or was in a car accident, or a child in chemo, or the people at the Turkish airport, or the Bangladesh café.

And see how good God is then.

And if any of these things are truly true, then what about grace? What about forgiveness? What about Jesus dying on the cross and Christ’s resurrection?

Can a God full of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and eternal love also be a God who gives children cancer, the elderly pain, and terrorists an opportunity to kill?

Or is there the chance that bad, evil things…just happen?

That the simple randomness of biology allows for cells to mutate? That wild animals kept in cages or in a lake will attack? That skies rain and floods occur?

That angry people mishandle guns? That politicians make poor choices? That by their very nature, mechanical objects fail and fall apart?

Does any of this have to indicate that God was the cause behind it? Or that someone was so sinful they deserved it?

Or is it possible that God is able to work through bad and evil events, and that God is able to take even the bleakest of moments and make it transformable?

Is it possible that God does not inflict physical pain on a person, but God will find a way to reach out to them?

Is it possible that God does not give cancer to a child, but that God can work through doctors, nurses, and researchers to find cures and bring healing?

Is it possible that God does not give a madman a gun to shoot up a gay nightclub, an airport, or a café, but God can cause communities across the country to come together in acts of unity and to raise their voice?

Isn’t that some of what we encounter in today’s reading?

How God worked through a Jewish slave girl who was captured during war, she who would’ve been considered the lowest of the low.

How God worked through a Syrian king to continue the process of Naaman’s healing.

How God worked through a prophet. How God worked through messengers. How God worked through servants. How God worked through water.

Note that in this story, at any time, any of the characters could have acted differently, and if they had, Naaman’s blessing would not have occurred.

And that at no point do we see God going it alone or controlling people like puppets.

So let me ask you- how much do you think God controls what goes on in this world? How much do you think God controls your life?

How much credit do you give God when things go good? How much blame do you bestow upon God when things go bad?

How much do we allow for magic and mystery?

How much do we place on the freedom of God, and on our freedom of choice?

How much do we place the cause of events on things like biology, society, science, and ourselves?

I also wonder- at what point do we start accepting the fact that we are imperfect mortals living in an imperfect mortal world?

And when do we, as society, as a church, start actually talking about and accepting certain realties?

We place so much responsibility, credit, and blame on God.

And we love to ask the question “Why, God why?”

We ask “why?” because we have yet to accept the fact that we are all designed to grow older and to age.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to accept the fact that everyone will die.

We ask “why, God why?” because we have yet to hold the discussion that 1 in every 4 girls, and 1 in every 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, and the long-lasting affect this has on individuals, families, and society.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to openly say that 1 in 4 people are living with or affected by mental illness.

We ask “why?” because we have failed to accept the fact that racism still exists in this country and that slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation has left a lasting mark on the American psyche.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to accept the fact that homophobia is real and that almost all members of the LGBT community experience discrimination and hate.

We ask “why?” because we somehow have accepted the fact that women are paid 21% less than men and we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking this is OK.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to acknowledge that radical, militant Christians are capable of doing, and have done, just as much harm as radical, militant Islamists.

We ask “why, God why?” because we won’t admit that we as a nation have problems with violence and guns. And neither side of the issue will accept that there is a middle ground that neither takes away gun owner rights nor easily allows a 4 year-old or 49 people to be shot.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to be real with one another that we each have our own imperfections, shameful secrets, and hidden agendas.

We ask “why?” because we have yet to raise real questions, like “Isn’t there a better, more humane way to care for our elderly Americans?”

We ask “why God, why?” when we should ALL be wondering if there isn’t a way to ensure that when our time comes to be in assisted living or a nursing home,

that we will be guaranteed an end-of-life that is much better than being parked in front of a TV, or in a hallway, and eating flavorless food.

We ask “why, God, why?” because it’s easier to ask God then to march, or protest, or write a letter, or contact our congressman, or to show up at the polling booth.

We ask “why?” because it can be easier and more comforting to say God is all powerful, all knowing, all controlling, then to wrestle with the mystery and the reality that…

…sometimes things just happen, that everyone gets sick, that bad things occur, and that life can be really, really hard…

…but life can also be really, really beautiful, and really, really wonderful…



Why do bad things happen? Why do evil things take place?

When it comes to God, we can ask as much who, what, where, when, why and how that we want.

And we’ll never, ever get all the answers we so desperately hunger for.

God is free. God is mystery. God moves through you, God moves through me.

Do we move as well? Do we listen? Do we act? Do we accept? Do we come together as community, do we pull apart?

How much does God really do that we give God credit for? How much does God do that we don’t give God credit for?

Can we sit with the mystery and accept the unknown, trusting that in Christ we are not alone?

To know that in Jesus, God is always right where we are, mystery and all?

Amen and amen.