Monday, October 23, 2017

Kaepernick, #MeToo and Paper Towels- What Do We See?; Exodus 33:12-23

Rev. George Miller
Oct 22, 2017
Exodus 33:12-23


To see/to be seen.

To hear/to be heard.

To know/to be known.

To believe/to be believed.

To see…

When Colin Kaepernick kneels during the National Anthem, what do you see?

A brown-skinned American man peacefully bringing national attention to the fact that 180 black men have been killed by cops in this year alone?

Or an overpaid athlete disrespecting the flag and our military?

When women post on Facebook #MeToo do you see the courageous act of individuals bringing to national attention the fact that at least 1 in 4 of our mothers/sisters, wives/friends have been sexually assaulted?

Or do you see an overly sensitive movement of political correctness in which you’re sure many of the women are lying or making more out of it then what’s really there?

When you saw Trump throwing paper towels into a crowd of people in Puerto Rico did you see a man who was acting presidential and compassionate towards citizens of the USA?

Or did you see a world leader out of touch and insensitive to the needs of his nation’s citizens?

What do you see?

What do your eyes tell you?

What do you hear?

What do you know?

What do you believe?

What does your heart say?

Today’s reading, based on the NRSV version of the Bible, is all about sight and the ability or inability to see.

Took a look at today’s scripture and the words “sight” and “see” each appear 5 times.

Clearly, the narrator wants to bring the ability to see to the forefront of the story.

See- this is a glimpse into the intimate relationship that God and Moses shared. We are given a chance to witness the kind of relationship they had, in which Moses and God talked as if they were old, dear friends.

God has set the Israelites free- an act of spiritual, physical, and political liberation. And now they are about to leave Mt. Sinai to wander through the wilderness, towards the Promised Land.

At first God was going to leave them on their own, but Moses says “Umm-hmmm God, we ain’t going nowhere without you. See- we want the whole world to know what a mighty God we serve.”

So God acquiesces with one caveat- “I will let all my goodness pass before you, but you cannot see my face.”


Why can’t the face of God be seen? People have pondered this question for centuries, and people will have to ponder it for many centuries to come.

Because today we’re not going to talk about the “why?” That’s a mystery best left for you to walk around with.

Today we are going to talk about the “what?” As in “What do you see?”

See- as Christians we make a rather radical claim. A claim that although God is transcendent and invisible, we can actually catch a glimpse of God in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.

The faithful have believed that if you want to know who God is- look to Jesus. If you want to know the extent of God’s grace and mercy- look to Jesus.

If you want to see what the love of God looks like- look to Jesus and what he did, how he interacted with others, and even how he died.

Emmanuel- meaning God with Us.

Look to Jesus, and what do we see?

We saw a time in which the disciples were in a boat, facing a horrible storm, and they were terribly afraid.

What did we see Jesus do?

He came down from the mountain, walked across the water, spoke words of comfort, got into the boat, and took them to the other side.

Look to Jesus, and what do we see?

A time when he met a foreign woman with a daughter in need, and although he was a bit slow to help, he engaged the woman in dialogue, hearing her out.

As a result, Jesus learned something from her, and he offered wholeness and healing to both mother and daughter.

Look to Jesus, and what do we see?

A brown-skinned middle-eastern man who was falsely arrested, brought before the courts on trumped up charges, and unfairly executed in a public manner in which some spectators ridiculed him, some ignored his pain, and others said he only had himself to blame.

Look to Jesus, and what do you see?

If Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Emmanuel, what do we see in him that allows you to better see, hear, and know the Most Holy of Holies???


To see/to be seen.

To hear/to be heard.

To know/to be known.

To believe/to be believed.

To see…

If Jesus was here today and you saw him kneeling during the National Anthem would you try to understand why or would you condemn his actions?

If Jesus was on Facebook today and posted #MeToo would you believe him or disregard his testimony?

If Jesus was in Puerto Rico, do you think you would see him throw paper towels into the masses or could you see him doing something else?

What does it mean to be a Christian?

What does it mean to say we follow Christ?

What do you think we see in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, God With Us, Emmanuel?

What do we hear?
What do we know?
What do we believe?
What do we see???

Amen & amen.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Letter to the Editor- President's Actions Show Us Who He Is

When someone shows you who they are, believe them. What have we seen in President Trump?

He was slow to respond to Hurricane Harvey, late in visiting the folks of Texas and quick to make a joke at their expense. When Irma hit Florida, he spent his time on the coast but never ventured inland to places like Highlands County where honest working, blue-collar folk dealt with the loss of cattle, citrus, and uninsured homes.

When Maria hit Puerto Rico, he was slow in responding but quick to publicly shame the mayor of San Juan and to throw towels into a crowd of brown-skinned American citizens. When primarily Caucasian, country-music loving folk faced a brutal assault in cash-fueled Las Vegas, he was there as fast as he could be with a sense of dignity and remorse.

While California, a predominately Democratic state, is besieged with wildfires, he has yet to visit them, make any plans to visit, or show any sign that he legitimately cares.

President Trump- your actions speak loudly. We see who you really are. Half of America is not surprised because we knew this was truly you all along. The other half of America is either enjoying your disregard for humanity or they are doing their best to fool themselves into thinking you are an OK guy.

But you are not. What we have witnessed in our Republican President is someone who is callous, uncaring and non-compassionate. It is time for the other half of our beloved country to open up their eyes and to truly see who our President is.

Rev. George Miller

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Advice to Far-Away Friends When Disaster Strikes

“Advice to Far-Away Friends When Disaster Strikes”
By Rev. George Miller
Emmanuel UCC, Sebring, FL

Having recently experienced the destructive actions of Hurricane Irma, I also experienced the compassionate care of family and friends who lived far away. What I learned was that natural disasters cause many people to feel helpless.

There are those who go through the disaster, and then there are those who watch it from afar, wanting to help, but knowing there is nothing they can do but to call, text, and pray. Though everything my family and friends did was well-intentioned, there are four bits of information I’d like to share.

Do not stay-shame. The days leading up to Irma I got FB posts telling me to leave, get out, go. That my house would not hold up, prayers do not work, and my life was more important than things. These comments were written as signs of love and concern, but they felt like daggers of shame.

There are reasons why people choose to stay. For some, like me, they are care-givers and community leaders. As a church pastor I was not going to drive away and leave my congregation and community behind. My calling to ministry made it very clear that I was there to stay and be present before, during and after the storm.

Many people I knew are caregivers- nurses, social workers, home help aides, non-profit administrators, first responders. If we all left, who would be there for the community immediately after Irma?

Many of us had pets and most shelters do not accept pets. So out of love for our animals, and because they love us, we chose to stay instead of leaving them alone.

There is also the importance of HOME. For those who chose to stay it wasn’t about things, or items that can be replaced. I made peace that everything I had could be lost, and I was Ok with that. But I was not Ok leaving my HOME, where my roots were. There are those who will understand this, and there are those who will not, but I was willing to die within my home. That sense of bravery gave me peace and purpose.

Also, there comes a point in which even if someone decides to leave it may no longer be wise. For example, right before Irma hit, traffic out of state slowed down to an 11-mile-an-hour crawl. It took 8 hours to go what should have only taken 90 minutes. People ran out of gas; cars were stranded on the side of the road.

What’s safer- to be in your own home during a hurricane, or to be caught in traffic with cars full of fearful, angry people?

So please, don’t try to shame your friends or family into leaving their home or a community during a storm or disaster; simply say “I support you and will be here for you.”

Keep communication during the storm short. Cell phones have changed the way we live. Contacting people via text, FB, messenger and phone is instant and real time. It was comforting to see how many people cared about me and was contacting me during the storm.

However, many people wanted to engage in long conversations via text and messenger. This was difficult to do while riding out the storm. It also left me in a quandary- do I ignore their numerous text messages and appear rude or give the impression something bad just happened or do I respond?

This sounds frivolous but the fear and worry from family/friends during the storm was palpable and I felt like I was doing as much work to calm their nerves as I was calming mine.

At one point I was sitting on a chair against my front door trying to keep the wind from blowing it open, while individuals kept trying to engage me in a text conversations while the eye of the storm was overhead.

Keep communication after the storm simple. Cell phones work differently after disaster. There is no rhyme or reason, they just don’t function. Memes, attachments, links, voice mails, and long texts do not go through. Folks up north still wanted to communicate but did not fully understand that my cell phone was not always functional, nor did I always have the emotional energy to respond or to reassure them that I was OK, or repeatedly detail what the experience as like.

Not only was I in survival mode (living without electricity, stinky and sweaty, working on little sleep, worrying about if my car would run out of gas or my tires go flat, barely hungry yet always thirsty), but our cell phones were wonky.

I could text, but not receive instant messages on FB. I could receive calls, but not call out. My cell didn’t work at all at church, but did work in my home. Sometimes I’d have to step out into the middle of the street to send a text. Other times I’d cross a road and all of a sudden, the cell phone would blow up with message alerts spanning a few days.

What I most appreciated were folks who left a brief text saying they loved me and were glad that I was OK. The long, drawn out texts in which a loved one tried to engage me in back and forth conversation as if everything was fine…. did not feel fine, and added emotional exhaustion on top of the physical and spiritual exhaustion.

Don’t forget us when we need you most. Ok- the storm passes. A month goes by. But we have what’s called “hurricane brain.” We’ve become forgetful. We’ve lost a month of our life. Everywhere we look there is still damage and debris from Irma. Depression is setting in; folk are getting sick. And some other storm or disaster or political event has taken center stage and we are no longer “sexy” and everybody has moved on.

NOW is the time when what you do can make the biggest difference.
NOW is when you can offer hope, show your love, and share your resources.

And it is so simple- send them a card that features words of hope. Send them a letter that celebrates who they are and what that person means to you. Better yet, get a little gift card to a store or place or website they like- be it CVS, Panera, Olive Garden, i-Tunes, and say “Treat yourself to something you like.”

A month into surviving a disaster is when folk seem to lose hope and wonder if things will ever be the same again. This is a time in which they don’t need utilitarian things, but fun things that make life a bit better, a bit easier, a bit more enjoyable.

Trust me- you send a note with a gift card to a friend a month after they experienced a disaster- you will make a difference in their day and their life that they will not forget.

In conclusion, next time you have a dear family member of friend facing a disaster, and you feel incredibly helpless and wish there was something you can do, keep in mind these things
1) Don’t stay-shame, but support their decision to remain at home.
2) Keep communication short with your loved one during the storm.
3) Keep communication simple after the storm- don’t send memes, attachments, long messages/texts that require full responses
4) A month after the storm surprise your loved one with a card and a little gift.

Trust me, these four things will make a huge difference and truly say “I care about you, and I am here.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

Seeds of Hope; Pollinators of Peace- Philippians 4:4-9

Rev. George Miller
Oct 15, 2017
Philippians 4:4-9

Pollinators of peace:
Truth; honor; justice.
Purity; nobility; excellence.

There is story from this week that is worthy to be told.

We have a child on our prayer-list named Gunner, a young boy living with severe disabilities. Twice this year he nearly died. After the hurricane he required a working generator to keep cool air on him so he would not have a seizure.

His mom, an amazing woman named Tonya, rode back and forth from Sebring to Fort Pierce twice a week to ensure they had enough gas to run their generator.

Tonya did not just get gas for her own son, but for the parents of other special needs children, as well as for a local UCC pastor you may know.

She also brought back cases of water, coolers with ice packs, and let others know about our Shepherd’s Pantry.

Tonya is a mother and community leader who is always on the go go go, caring for her son and others in need.

Earlier this week, she and Gunner were at a gas station. Gunner’s IV pole was in the van and his feeds were running, and as Tonya was pumping gas, she noticed her son had fallen over.

So, she went to the side of the van, opened it up, adjusted him and gave Gunner a kiss like she always does.

A few minutes later a man with a truck pulling a jet ski approached her. He said “I’ve been watching you and it looks like life is probably pretty tough for you.”

He took out money from his pocket and placed a folded $100 bill into the hand she was pumping gas with.

Tonya didn’t know how to respond so she said “No, no, no.” But he more than insisted.

This immediately made her think of her own mother who had died, and that perhaps this was a way she was reaching out to help and to give hope.

As Tonya shared on her Facebook page “I don’t know who this man is but a small gesture as it seemed to him…was impacting and large on my side. No real words will suffice.”

Tonya’s testimony of hope, complete with photos of the man, has been viewed by over 200 people, but no one knows who he is.

We don’t know his name. Where he’s from; where he’s going, the sins he may have committed, or the other lives he may have helped

What we do know is that he acted honorable and just, pure and noble, bringing a sense of wholeness to a family.

Making the Kingdom of God near…

Today we revisit Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. It is a letter composed during a time of imprisonment.

Paul was arrested for preaching the Good News. His freedom has been taken away. He is shackled in chains, far from the people of Philippi.

It would appear to be a hopeless situation, an experience that could challenge the fragility of faith and make anyone wonder where God is.

In his letter, Paul admits to the Philippian church that he has experienced a period of despondency. His physical pain has been so great he wonders if it would be better to die.

But something happens…a care package arrives from this congregation; a gift; a sweet-smelling offering.

We don’t know for sure what the gift is, but we do know that of all the churches Paul has been associated with, this is the only one that has reached out to him.

And out of thanksgiving, he tells the congregation that he is fully satisfied.

Clearly, their gift to Paul was more than just a gift; just like the $100 Tonya received was more than just money.

Their gift was not just an item; not just a thing.

It was hope. It was friendship. It was the gift of tomorrow’s promise.

Paul responds in kind by creating a letter to them that says “Rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord!”

Reading through this letter it is clear that Paul is not expressing false hope. This is not hope based on denial. This is not hope that magically melts his chains away.

This is the kind of hope that gives one a reprieve from their current situation.

This is the kind of hope that helps pollinate the possibilities of days to come.

This is empowering hope that propels Paul to meditate on what he knows about a life lived in Christ.

This is the kind of hope that soothes the soul.

Hope that is rooted in the reality that the Lord is near. Hope that even in the darkest valley, there is comfort.

Hope that says we can find peace in the Lord. Not peace that is absent of conflict, or peace that means a perfect life.

But peace in knowing that God has a way to work through things; that God is greater than a jail cell; that God’s ability to restore is more powerful than any storm’s ability to demolish.

With the peace provided by the Philippians’ unexpected gift, Paul is able to hold onto hope, and though he is incarcerated, he finds his own way to inspire.

“Imagine,” he says. “Think about these things- think about what is truly true. Think of what is honorable. Think of what is just and what is right.”

“Think of what’s pure and untainted. Think of what is excellent. Think of anything worthy of being praised- and God will be with you.”

Though his body is shackled, Paul encourages them to free their mind as he states “Think thoughts of thanksgiving and the wholeness of the Lord will bloom and be within you…”

Paul is offering a vision of heavenly living in which one does not have to die to experience the glory of God…one just has to be willing to live in truth and justice, honor and thanksgiving.

How wonderful would the world be if we lived with this as our definition of a faithful life?

What hope Paul was giving to himself, what hope he was giving to the Philippian church, and what hope he is giving to us today.

While thinking of the testimony that Tonya shared about the man with the $100 bill, I have thoughts of another testimony taking place.

Though there is still tons of debris lining Lakeview, and so much of our soil is beyond saturation, there has been solace coming from the earth.

I look out upon my own yard. A plumbago bush by the driveway that a month ago seemed worse for the wear has bloomed beautifully with blue flowers that have quadrupled after the storm.

Hundreds of purple flowers now fill the wooded area of my back yard, filling out the spots that Irma leveled and dressing a cactus with a royal robe of amethyst that even King Solomon would be jealous of.

A long wished-for wildflower garden that was started in August is now alive with the colors of maroon, mimosa, mandarin, and lavender. Each plant growing taller; dancing in the breeze.

Perhaps best of all, there are now yellow moths, bees and butterflies visiting my home, flitting about, sipping nectar, adding life amidst the fallen fences and browning leaves.

There is comfort in knowing that all these things that have come about post- Irma are playing a part in a new creation.

There is also the hope that as the moths, bees and butterflies go from bloom to bloom to bloom that they are doing their part to pollinate the area and possibly create sweet, sweet honey.

In conclusion, Paul received such unexpected sweetness from the Philippian church, and he could not help but to be sweet in return, and nearly 2,000 years later his message of hope continues to-

Pollinate our hearts.
Sow seeds of salvation.
Remind us that the Lord is near.
Not far away; not absent.
But near.

And with that, we have hope beyond understanding; we have hope that allows us to praise the Lord from the wholeness of our hearts.

For that, we can say Amen and amen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

2 Days Off for Jesus; John 4:39-45

Rev. George Miller
Oct 8, 2017
John 4:39-45

2 Different Worlds.

When anyone moves to a place like Florida they will become aware that they are living in at least 2 different worlds.

South and north. Conservative and progressive. Coastal and inland. Retired and working. Transplants and 4, 5, 6 generation.

If you are lucky and willing to move from world to world, you become enriched and learn how others live.

For example, I think of a house party I went to hosted by a family from the Caribbean.

You learn that a 4 pm invite does not mean you arrive at 4, but means “We’re gonna start thinking about getting ready around 4 but we won’t actually start cooking until 5 so don’t come until 6.”

Then the world of the hunters, in which trucks, chewing tobacco, blue jeans, plaid shirts, country music, polarized sunglasses and guns take the forefront.

And if a hunter tells you to be ready at 6 am, they are parked in front of your home at 6 am.

I’ve been to a few gatherings hosted by a couple from Puerto Rico in which the main event was dominoes.

Not dominoes as in old men sitting in the park or young kids at Vacation Bible School, but dominoes as a sport, in which each man brings his own custom-made domino table complete with a picture of the Puerto Rican flag.

You learn there’s a whole way of talking when playing dominoes- talking big and saying smack is an art form, and no one just places their pieces gently on the table, but presents them with passion, as bones are slammed down and counted up.

I love all these worlds and am thankful for every one I’ve been welcome to.

My own world was shook when last week our planning committee met and worked over slices of pizza.

There, in front of my eyes, Sam Darley ate her pizza with a fork.

The horror! Pizza is to be folded and honored, not cruelly cutlery-ized!

2 different worlds.

That’s what we witness in today’s readings. Jesus a Jew, hanging out with Gentiles.

Jesus, a good ol’ boy from the southern kingdom hanging out with a bunch of Samaritans in the north.

Shocking. Scandalous. Something that simply was not done.

Back in the day Jews and Samaritans were mortal enemies, total opposites:

Crips and Bloods. Jets and Sharks. ISIS and the US. Fox News and CNN.

That’s how people saw Jews and Samaritans.

So to have a story in which Rabbi Jesus is not only in Samaria, but socializing with the Samaritans is not only controversial it is boundary-breaking revolutionary.

The fact that the Samaritans come to Jesus and invite him to spend 2 days with them is mind-blowing, and the fact that he said “yes” and stayed in their homes, ate their meals, and entered into a relationship with them is beyond comprehension.

This reading is about radical hospitality in which the Hatfields have invited a McCoy over for a weekend retreat, and the McCoy has graciously accepted.

Jesus, the Son of God, is invited to spend 2 days in Samaria, and he says “Yes.”

And you know what- I am so grateful that he did.

This scripture gives us a brief glimpse into Jesus, the man.

Part of me is sad that the Gospel Writer didn’t think it was important enough to tell us what Jesus’ 2 days off were like.

We’re told of his baptism, his teachings, his healing, his miracles, the people who didn’t like him and the threats he endured.

But we’re not told what these 2 days off were like, almost as if what Jesus did doesn’t matter unless if he’s giving giving giving to others.

Another part of me is thankful we’re not told what the 2 days off were like because it gives Jesus some much deserved privacy.

It also allows our imagination to have some fun.

What do you think it was like for Jesus to be away from Judea and all the work waiting to be done there, and for Jesus to just be…Jesus…one of us.

What do you think Jesus did during those 2 days off?

What do you wish he got to do?

I like to think that Jesus had his own Jimmy Buffet, How Stella Got Her Groove Back experience.

I like to think that he was given the most welcoming guest room with 1,000 thread count bed-sheets and a big comfortable quilt.

I like to think that Jesus got a chance to catch up on his ZZZ’s; that his hosts allowed him to sleep in that morning.

I imagine Jesus waking up late the next day to the aroma of freshly made coffee and the sounds of someone singing in the kitchen as eggs are frying on the stove.

Imagine Jesus sitting down to a breakfast of fresh buttermilk biscuits with all kinds of jams and jellies and a big bowl of fresh fruit at his side.

Imagine Jesus eating his fill, not having to turn water into wine or loaves and fishes into a banquet.

Picture Jesus going for a long, uninterrupted, peaceful walk along the shore, his skin getting tan from the sun, his toes in the water, exhaling and breathing in the air.

Imagine that during the 2 days off, the women of Samaria take him to the local beauty shop where he gets a deep scalp massage, a hot oil treatment for his hair, and a soothing manicure/pedicure.

Imagine the kids of the community coming to play hop scotch, or double-dutch, or duck duck goose.

Imagine at night the men of the town take him out to the local tavern where Jesus is able to throw back a few beers, play some pool, talk sports and brag about the biggest fish he ever caught.

Do we ever think of Jesus this way?

Could you see him at a cook-out, or grilling a steak, or playing Spades and blackjack?

Do we ever allow Jesus just to be…not as someone who has to teach, or heal, or fix, or save, or die for our behalf?

You know what I hope Jesus got to do?

I hope he had a weekend romance.

Wouldn’t it be nice to think that there was a time in Jesus’ life in which he had a special girl (or a special guy) in which he was able to share secrets, hold hands, and sit beside while watching the sun set…

…Jesus lived during such a complicated time filled with natural disasters, political unrest and religious warring.

It would be nice to know that for 2 days he got away and was welcomed into a different world in which Jesus could just be Jesus.

In conclusion, I’d like to invite us, for this week, to reevaluate our relationship with and our view of Jesus.

Is he someone who is only of use to us when we cry out for help, when we seek healing, and we need hope, or is Jesus someone we can welcome into our lives to simply be there, as a friend, a companion, a guest?

Do we love Jesus only because of what he can do for us, or do we love Jesus because he is loveable, likeable and willing to walk beside us?

Does Jesus always have to be about results, sacrifice and salvation, or can Jesus also be about relationships, celebration and simple joys?

In the midst of a chaotic world, Jesus was given the chance to take 2 days off and just….be.

And sometimes just being is the loveliest thing one can achieve.

For that, we can say amen and amen.

Monday, October 2, 2017

God Cares for Even the Smallest of Seeds; Leviticus 19:13-19

Rev. George Miller
Oct 1, 2017
Leviticus 19:13-19

To All the Saints in Christ Jesus, grace to you and peace from God our Parent.

Here we are-3rd Sunday post Irma. We are not perfect, but we are strong, adapting to our New Normal as Jesus continues taking us to the other side.

Though the threat of Irma is over, we are still reminded on a daily basis what we have survived- destroyed docks, debris lined streets, damaged drains.

And like the stages of grief, we are going through the expected phases.

There’s denial, in which one pretends Irma did not happen, or wasn’t as bad as it seems.

There’s bargaining. The whole shouda-couda-wouda stage in which one wishes they could go back in time.

I shouda had a home generator. We couda have had a better disaster plan. Things wouda been better if our officials had known Irma’s eye would come here.

There’s the anger stage. Why did you do a,b,c and not x,y,z? How did they mess it up? Why aren’t Comcast, Duke, FEMA, FL Conference doing anything?

There is the depression stage. The inability to get out of bed or off the couch and the increase of headaches, backaches, sickness and sinuses.

These stages come in and out as people wait for insurance adjusters, or receive checks that barely cover their claim.

Such stages of grief are enough to challenge one’s faith, their church, and if they’re to be honest, God.

It’s not unusual during a disaster for some people to stop attending their place of worship, to question what they believe, or to have a crisis of identity.

Eventually, there comes some sense of acceptance. The realization that things did happen, a person did the best they could have done at that time, and the lessons learned for the next real or metaphoric storm.

Most of us in Highlands County are dealing with denial, anger, depression, and the shouda- couda-woudas.

And that’s OK- because we are survivors; we may not be perfect, but in Christ Jesus, we are strong.

This also ties into today’s reading.

If you recall from last week, we made the claim that this big, beautiful book we call the Bible is a book written by survivors that is all about surviving.

Through one way of thought, Leviticus can be seen as a generator or a power line of how to live after a storm.

First, some history- progressive scholars will say that no one is 1000% certain who wrote Leviticus and when.

There is the traditional belief that these are the laws God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai and Moses wrote them down.

Some believe these laws were created centuries later by the monarchy as a way to unify Israel and redirect them back to their religious roots.

Then there are those that believe these
were created by religious leaders post-Exile as a way for survivors to live and honor God during their New Normal.

What is the Exile?

It was a time when the Babylonians came in and attacked Judah. They decimated the land and destroyed the Temple, where God was worshipped.

They took the best of the best of Judah’s citizens away to live in Babylon for 50 years. They left the undesirables behind to fend for themselves amongst the wreckage.

After 50 years, the exiles were allowed to return to their native land, and it took 100 years for the Temple to be rebuilt.

This created all sorts of denial, anger, and depression for the people of God.

How do you worship God if there is no longer a place to worship?

How do you maintain your identity if your entire identity is wrapped in your religious beliefs and practices?

Possible answers became rituals you could do any place, and any time, and the ethical ways in which one lived.

And what better way to give validation to these rituals and practices than to claim that they were given to Moses by God a long, long time ago?

Here in chapter 19 we have the theological foundation of Leviticus, as vs. 2 states “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am Holy.”

Holy means separate. Holy means beyond and greater than the greatest thing you can imagine.

To say God is holy means that God is more powerful than the mightiest of mighties; more mysterious than the greatest mysteries.

The Lord, our God, is Holy.

Which means God is indestructible, untouchable, and unstoppable. There is no place in which God is not; no event in which God cannot act, and no boat in which the Lord cannot step into.

And because our eternal Father/Mother is holy, there are ways we can live that welcome that holiness in, remind us of whose we are, and make us holy too.

Leviticus conveys this.

And yes, some of these laws seem to make no sense, and yes- some of them seem to go out of their way to keep others in their place, but if we see them as a reflection of their time and their culture, we discover a way in which Leviticus says “God is still speaking, so you can keep living the best way possible.”

So, let’s apply this one way of viewing Leviticus into real life scenarios.

We know there are laws about food; what you can eat and what you cannot. It may not make total sense to us today.

But what if you had lost your home, your place of worship, and lived amongst people who didn’t share the same faith, but you still wanted to honor God?

One way is what you eat and how. Everyone’s got to eat. So maybe one way to honor God is to refrain from eating things like pork and shellfish.

Folk love a good BBQ and fish fry, but what if by choosing not to consume hot dogs and shrimp, you’re finding a way to respect God and say the Lord is holy?

Maybe before a meal you make sure the floor is swept, the plates and cups are washed, and you only use certain utensils.

This can sound a bit OCD, but by doing these things, suddenly the dining room table becomes sacred, the meal becomes a time in which God is welcomed, and the family is engaging in a way of worship that does not require a building that’s been destroyed.

Think about the Sabbath. If there is one thing every human being shares, it is time.

We all live in the same hour, same minute, same second, no matter who you are.

But what if you make a conscious choice to set aside a bit of time to do nothing?

You are setting aside a piece of time that just belongs to you and God. You are creating holy space through the invisible reality of time.

Best yet- it requires no tools, no talent, no money, and no energy.

By not doing anything, that time becomes holy, which brings us closer to God.

Today’s reading talks about paying fair wages, making just decisions, and not sowing two seeds in the same spot.

Think of the mercy these statutes provide to people who have endured much and may wonder where God is.

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

Maybe you have lost your home, your place of worship, and you’re living amongst people with different beliefs, but you’re fortunate enough to own your own business.

Guess what- even if you can’t attend worship, even if you have to hide what you believe, you can worship God in the way you treat your employees and how you pay them.

Think about it- if you pay your workers in a timely manner, you are doing an act of worship; you are being holy, and therefore being brought closer to God.

If you can’t attend worship or have to hide what you believe, you can still worship God by trying your best to make fair decisions.

If you look at each situation before you as its own entity, and don’t make elitist excuses for the powerfully rich, or make enabling excuses for those you feel sorry for, you have a way to use justice as a way to worship; you are being holy, and therefore being brought closer to God.

What if you can’t do anything of these things?

What if can’t change how you eat, or take 24 hours off, or pay employees on time, or always exact justice?

Then vs. 19 says you can do something as simple as make sure that you don’t sow two seeds into the same spot.

This interesting bit of agricultural instruction is my favorite part of today’s reading.

Do not sow your field with two kinds of seed. Why?

One possible reason is this- that it is simply too unfair to make two seeds have to struggle and fight it out to see who will flourish and who will survive.

This seemingly simple direction is profoundly deep; as it indicates the all inclusiveness of God’s love.

If God knows every hair on our head, if God’s eye is on each sparrow, then it makes sense that God’s compassionate love is extended to even the smallness of seeds.

Ever wonder how deep and wide God’s love is for all of Creation? In my opinion- it is right here.

That God’s love is so grand, so mighty, so holy, that it even extends to a seed.

That God has blessed us all with so much- so much land, so much water, so much nourishment, that God says-

“There is enough for all, and no one and no thing should have to fight it out to flourish- not an employee, not a neighbor, not cattle, not even a seed of wheat, or barley, or sunflower.”

If God’s love is so rich that it even extends to seeds planted in the same soil, imagine just how great and mighty God’s love is for you, no matter what you have endured, where you are, or the things you have done or done not.

In conclusion, we are living in a New Normal, just as the people of Jerusalem did after the Exile. Like them, we are relearning, rebuilding and being resurrected.

In the process, we are reminded that the ways we live, things we do and how we treat one another is a way to worship God and a testimony to who we are and what we believe.

In doing so, we continue to grow into our identity and into our faith.

And with faith and we have hope, and with hope we have strength.

We are each in our own way holy.

We are each special seeds that have been personally planted by God, watered by the Holy Spirit, fed by the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

We each have the ability to find our way out of the dirt, to stand tall, face the Son, and praise the Lord our God.

For that, we can say amen and amen.