Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Year B Epiphany 4 WED Points of Deliverance

Year B Epiphany 4 WEDNESDAY, 31 January 2018
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Points of Deliverance”

Genesis 22:1-18
Hebrews 11: 23-31
John 6:52-59

This morning we have three very different tales, all surrounding a central theme. As I was going through the lectionary readings, I was struck at how pivotal these moments were.

The Genesis passage is a turning point of the Hebrew Scriptures. Often called the Binding of Isaac, because that is as far as it got, thanks be to God. Abraham felt led to sacrifice his son. And scholars may debate if this was a call from God or from the cultural expectations of the surrounding Canaanite culture. For a man who had waited so long for a son and heir, these acts seem unthinkable, and that is just one of a thousand reasons this is unthinkable. Yet, here they are, trudging up the mount to give sacrifice, and Isaac asks "Where is the sacrifice?", and Abraham must stay quiet.

Archaeologists help us know the defining nature of this act by the mosaics often found in unearthed synagogues. In ancient worship spaces, they still had the niche, the ark for the Torah scroll, central just like it is today in synagogues. But in many, they have found mosaics in tile of this story. Isaac bound on the wood and stones, Abraham with knife raised, and then a ram with horns caught in the bush there, too.

This was a test, if you read it as given, and Abraham passed. Jehovah Jireh, God [the LORD] will provide. We cannot miss, from a Christian vantage point, Isaac carrying the wood and the knife just as Christ did. According to tradition, this hilltop, Mount Moriah is the same hill that the Temple of Solomon was built on. Makes one think…

The Hebrews passage summarizes the story of Moses birth, and the whole salvation history of the Exodus. All of these again, point to Jehovah Jireh, “The LORD will provide.” Over and over again, God intervenes for the salvation history of God’s people. I loved one phrase here, “He [Moses] considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt.” By Faith he was led to that choice, just like Abraham was led to Moriah with Isaac.

And then we come to John’s passage, with Jesus teaching in Capernaum. It is this language which so many outside the Church find so confusing, gruesome and gory, this teachers of love and peace starts babbling on about blood and flesh. But we who have ears to hear, get past the metaphor, as gruesome and gory as it may be, and it is like Isaac asking, “Where is the lamb?” Yet here, Jesus is both characters in the story, Abraham the one called and Isaac the sacrifice all in one.

The first two readings for today are about deliverance. The third reading is about OUR deliverance. The original manna, bread in the desert, was just food for the people, and those people died. Jesus gives us the true manna, the manna from heaven, as we come to his table, invited by him, the willing sacrifice for the whole world. The point of deliverance is for us. And the offer still stands. Jesus gave himself for you, because he loves you so much he would do anything for you. And he did.

Jesus is not the victim of a killing. Jesus is the Victor over Death itself, and he invites us still to follow him. Amen.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Year B Epiphany 4 Veggie Burger For All Our Sake

Year B Epiphany 4, January 28, 2018  
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“The Veggie Burger For All Our Sake” 

Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Deuteronomy 18:19-20 & Mark 1: 21-28 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him. Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall. 

In our readings today, we look at a singular theme: Authority. Deuteronomy looked at its right and proper use. Jesus astounded the people by his moral authority in his teaching, but the proof was in the pudding when he drove out the unclean spirit in our Mark passage.  

Authority is a hard thing. Often when we have it, we are hesitant to use it. And often when we want it, we complain and gripe about someone’s misuse of it. Authority is like a scalpel, it can be a weapon or a tool. It all depends on the hands of the one using it. 
When I was first priested, I had a woman come into my office seeking advice. She said, “Tell me what I should do, and I will do it.” My first use of the authority she was giving me was, “Do not ever say that to anyone.” We all are responsible for the actions we take, and the decisions we have to make. I did help her talk through her situation, alternative ways to see it, and helped her look at the options she had. It took a while for everything to play out, and it mostly worked out well. But I did learn an important lesson on the use of my authority that I had been given in my ordination to Holy Orders. It is not something I took, or take, lightly. And I renew my vows every year so that I never lose sight of God’s Call in my life, and the responsibility I have been given. 

As beings made in the image of God, the imago Dei, we all have authority of our Free Will and our ability to respond to the choices we have been given. As Children of God in our Baptism, we are also given responsibility of being at work in this world on God’s behalf. Teresa of Avila instructs us this way: 
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” 
You may hear me say that before the blessing in the 10 o’clock service from time to time. It is one of my favorite invocations over fellow believers. And this is what Paul is getting at in our strange passage from I Corinthians.  

This strange passage can be confusing without context, so let’s see what is going on in Corinth. In a Southern phrase, it could be summed up at “Don’t get too big for your britches,” as my grandma would have put it. To go with our lectionary theme though, “Do not abuse your Authority.” might be a better way to put it in a sermon. 

The Roman world was filled with temples to all the gods of all the peoples in the all the countries they conquered. Instead of “converting” people, they would just add their uniqueness to their collective wealth. One thing, just sacrifice once a year to Caesar and say “Caesar is Lord,” and you can do anything you want the other 364 days, worshiping any way you please. Most people were fine with this. Do your Civic Religion duty and get it over with and worship whomever however you please the rest of the time. Except the Jews could not, and would not, do that. They were not allowed to have graven images, like the bust or statue of Caesar. They could not take the coins into the Temple in Jerusalem, because it had his head on it, which helps explain part of why Jesus went off on the money changers. All these graven images were anathema to them and after much struggle the Jewish people were given the one exception in the Roman Empire. This is the milieu in which Christ came. This fine balance with the Romans was precarious, and Jesus threatened to upset all of that. 

And Paul is getting to how people who are believers in Jesus as the Christ, the ones who say “Jesus is Lord” instead of “Caesar is Lord” were to live in this multi-cultural world. He talks about how “ ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” And here he gives some Authority to the less informed, the superstitious amongst the band of believers, and ask for those in greater knowledge and authority to let their pride in being right go for the sake of their fellow believers. 

Animal sacrifice was a big part of the ancient world. Every temple, for the most part, had animals which were killed as offerings to curry the favor or the forgiveness of the gods. And did people sacrifice the puny or the sick animals? Of course not. One gives one’s best, so the best animals available were the ones which were sacrificed. And one could purchase said “best meat” from these temples, so that one had the very best. Paul knew this, and said he knew it was okay to do this. These idols were nothing more than hunks of metal with no power or Authority. But then says, despite what you know, DO NOT BUY THE FOOD OFFERED TO THEM, all for the sake of our weaker, superstitious brothers and sisters. If they see you eating that meat, they will be confused, or misled, or think that the leaders are hypocrites and quit the faith. Their naivete was the problem, and for their sake, Paul said be vegetarian. He would rather forego any meat than mislead a brother or sister in the faith. They mean that much to him. “All of us possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” 

He would rather have us build up the Body of Christ than have a fine steak dinner of the best cuts of Grade A Prime. It is just not worth it. Let me quote Paul here so that it is clear. 
So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.” 
We all have Authority, and how we use it is important. We have to decide what is it we hold most important. What holds the greatest Authority in our lives? 
This last week I had a rough interaction with an old friend on line. He called for someone in the political realm to be tried for treason and executed. It broke my heart as a fellow believer, and I called him out on it. I stated that I had a hard time when a believer calls for the killing of anyone, especially when it comes from a political disagreement, and I rebuked him. Then I was rebuked for judging him. And we could go back and forth on what is wrong with each other.  

Paul could have argued that he was right because idols were nothing, but he chose a better route. Rather than trying to be Right, he chose to be in Right Relationship with his brothers and sisters so they could be in right relationship with Christ. That is what he held most dear. And that is what I reminded my brother in Christ about, or tried anyway, calling him to put Christ first and his politics second. Pray for me and him as we continue to interact and hopefully bring glory to Christ in even in our disagreement.  
This week, watch what you say, and how you say it. Watch what you do, and how you do it. We all better watch ourselves, because the world is watching us already. So this week, ponder this: Does what I am about to do or say bring glory to Christ and help build up his body the Church? Amen. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Year B Epiphany 3 2018 Wholesale Change

Year B Epiphany 3, 21 January 2018 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“Wholesale Change…”  
Collect: Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  Mark 1:14-20 After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.  
Immediately. It says immediately. Immediately they left their nets. Immediately he called them, and they left their father… Many are caught up in the timing, but for me it is the why of it all. Not the when.   
In this season after Epiphany, we look at the ever-expanding radius of the light of Christ. Last week, we looked at how the God speaks to us, each in our own way. The How of the Call of God. This week we look not at the When, the timing of it, so much as the Why, what was Jesus coming to do anyway.   
Change is a hard thing. We have to want what we do not have more than the discomfort of leaving the known. James Hillman, prominent (Jungian) psychologist, puts it this way, “Anytime you want to grow, you’re gonna lose something. You’re losing what you are hanging onto to keep safe. You’re losing habits that you’re comfortable with, you’re losing familiarity.” To gain the desired outcome we have to let go of the known. What was it that was so amazing and so attractive for these deeply committed men to break the cultural norms and the familial bonds to drop their nets and follow him?  
Even our language messes us up here. We change our minds, we change our clothes. Change can be flippant and instantaneous, when it comes to things that do not matter. “I am sorry, Mr. Waiter, could I have the balsamic vinaigrette instead of the ranch?” Changing our minds, being particular and singular, is something that we have made commonplace in our lives.  
I remember once I was in East Germany, when there was an East Germany, and was taken to a nice meal, as nice as they had in East Berlin. Before the meal we were offered drinks. One of the options was Saft, juice, and I asked “What kind of juice?” After too much back and forth on such a simple question, to me anyway, our host finally said in exasperation, “A little apple, a little grape, a little orange, a lot of water and some sugar.” That was their juice. In my Western privilege I was shocked, and humbled. Our options are unlimited and a burden themselves. Try going to Starbuck’s or Chipotle. Too much choice is the world we live in. For Jesus, the choice was “Follow me.” Or not.  
We get hung up on the disciples dropping of their nets, their yes or no binary chocie, because we miss what Jesus says at the beginning of his ministry.   
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come nearrepent, and believe in the good news.”   
And even here, the words of translation get in the way.  
The Time is fulfilled, is not saying the alarm has gone off and the time is up. The word time here is not Chronos which we still use in chronological and chronometer, that constant ticking. The Time here is Kairos, the stacking up of all the cosmic dominos. The patient and detailed work is over and the time has come for what we have all been waiting for. The overarching theme is ready to transition. That is Kairos, that is what is fulfilled. “The old has passed away, the new has come.”   
And that begs the question for What? The Kingdom of God has come near. Once again, our literal reading, and that is what it says, misses the point. “Is At Hand” might be a better way to say it. In these sense, “has come near” means joining one thing to another. The old has passed away and the new has come.   
If the time is fulfilled, and God’s Kingdom has arrived, what do I do with this? 
REPENT! Once again, our words get in the way. We have let repent be reduced to a course correction, or worse, saying to God, “Sorry, I’m bad.” The word used here is metanoia. Transmutation. Wholesale change. Reprogramming ourselves. While literally meaning Change Your Mind (meta- = change & -noia = gnosis, i.e. knowledge) Metanoia is “thinking entirely differently after this.” This is not how we mean Change Our Mind. It is not like preferring one dressing over another. It is Transformation. An indecisive person changes their mind, a caterpillar transforms. We may take a new job, but a tadpole fully commits.   
One of the great detriments in the Church since Constantine, is that Church is something we do. Before the Roman Empire jumped on the Christian bandwagon, someone who chose to become a Christian was committing to a total commitment to a new identity. In our day, faith is something we try on, mostly on Sundays, and it does not seep in and change who we are. Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider and transforms into SpiderMan. He cannot go back, he is wholly new. Rarely in our culture do we have those type of milestone moments. In earlier days, tribes would have huge coming of age rituals that had everyone KNOW, without a doubt, that what was before had passed away, and a new life had started. All would recognize and acknowledge it. In many parts of the world where missionaries go, it is fine for a person to “believe” but trouble happens when the baptism occurs. That is the transformative moment that leads to disowning or even stoning by their birth families.  
Once we ride a bike, we can always ride a bike. That muscle memory of the balance is something we “get.” Once we “see” many an optical illusion, we have trained our brains to “see” it, and so can no longer go back to not seeing it. I personally am going through that transformative shaping of my mind. I am shifting from traditional lenses to progressive. I am tired of doing this [put glasses on head]. Or preaching staring at my text. Slowly, 10 minutes, then 20, then 30 and so on, I am shaping how my mind and my eyes interact. I am transforming my mind and shaping how I see the world. Hopefully to the better for us all.  
So what was Jesus saying, “Waiting is Over, God’s Kingdom is at hand, be Transformed, and… 
“Believe in the Good News.” The Euangelion. Literally Good News. Good Message. And what might that be?  
I live in Cary Town. It has a lot of funky, quirky shops. Once I saw a button that said, “Jesus is Coming. Look busy.” Funny. But so tragic. That is the exact opposite of Good. There is no News there. Fear is neither Good nor New. That is as Bad and Old Hat as can be.  
The Good News is this:  
1. Our Waiting is Over.  
2. God’s Rule is Here Now. 
3. We can Transform.  
Now wait. Isn’t that what we just said.    
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, (This is it from the Gospel directly again): “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come nearrepent, and believe in the good news.” In fact, in the way I see it, this is Jesus’ Mission Statement. Succinct, clear, actionable. Mark puts it as the first words out of his mouth. John speaks of him as being greater, and at the Baptism, God declares him the Beloved. But in Mark, the first words of Jesus are This. We mess it up with caveats and nuances, and as we do, it ceases being Good and New, and it is bogged down and myeah.  
We live in a culture that says it embraces the self-made individual. Horatio Alger and his smyths of these self-made men we gave a title, the American Dream. But rarely do we allow people to change, rarely do we allow people to truly transform. As much as we say we expect and want this, so much is stacked against people and families who really want it different and better in their lives. 12-Step groups are successful because they take people whose lives are chaos and terrifying, and enable and encourage them to sanity and wholeness. How are we fulfilling this, if Jesus’ Mission was this?  
If the Time is HERE & NOW: 
  • How do we preach, teach, and live out God’s Rule in Ashland and Greater Richmond?  
  • How do we transform, wholesale and real? One can be kinda Christian in the exact opposite way that one can be sorta pregnant. One cannot. You are or you are not. Too often we try to follow Jesus and stay at our Nets. We cannot have it both ways.  “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” -Rosa Luxemburg (Polish revolutionary) When Jesus came along, inviting and hoping, the fishermen look down and see their nets, and then they look up and envision what Jesus is inviting them to become. And there is no choice. The Hope offered is so much greater than the discomfort of leaving, that the Immediately is moot. When we truly see what Jesus is offering to them, to us, we cannot but drop what is to Repent. To Metanoia. To Change Our Way of Being. 
  • How do we believe the Good News? Deep down, down in our bones? Letting go of what is hard. Our muscles have become used to holding on tight. Flexibility must be regained, and those stagnant muscles must be stretched and used once again. It will taking stretching, cracking the knuckles, and reaching out for what we really want.  
A Chinese proverb puts it this way: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” One part of the Good News is that the Kingdom of God was at hand on that day, and it still is. The Time is not passed. The Time is Now. Repent, and believe in the Good News. 

And, when we are offered the choice, the real, all or nothing choice, will we IMMEDIATELY drop the lesser and gain it all? Amen 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Year B Epiphany 2 2018 On Pixar and the Voice of God

Year B Epiphany 2, 14 January 2018 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“On Pixar and the Voice of God” 
Based on John 1:43-51 and I Samuel 3:1-20 

“Lord, you have searched me out and known me; *  you know my sitting down and my rising up;  
you discern my thoughts from afar. You trace my journeys and my resting-places *  and are acquainted with all my ways. 
Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, *  but you, O Lord, know it altogether. You press upon me behind and before *  and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; *  it is so high that I cannot attain to it. 

For you yourself created my inmost parts; *  you knit me together in my mother's womb. I will thank you because I am marvelously made; *  your works are wonderful, and I know it well.” 

Psalm 139 puts it so well. God knows us better than we know ourselves. And one of the great goals of life is to discern our place in this great and grand world, and how we might respond to the call of God. And as we grow, we find that God is not calling us to Other, another place or another identity, but is in fact calling us to Ourselves, our truest selves, that imago Dei, that Divine Image in each and every one of us. 

One of my great joys is getting to lead the Discernment Retreats for the Diocese as people process their calling to the priesthood or diaconate. It is an honor to be in a room of people asking the same question at the same time, and to help them confront whether this Calling Voice is theirs, or their mother’s or grandmother’s, or might it truly be from God. 

I led the most recent one just before Advent with my partner, Liz Ward a spiritual director from Northern Virginia. Through about 48 hours we ask hard questions, give room to listen and share, and do our best to get out of the way. At the lunch at our closing, I had two people come up to me, separately mind you, jubilant, actually bouncing up and down as they spoke. They thanked Liz and me for the weekend, and then shared that they had a clear answer from God. “NO!” They were both ecstatic, not that they did not feel called, but that they had clearly heard, “NO! I am not calling you into the ordained ministry.” They were joyful because they sure. So thanks be to God!  

When I begin this certain retreat, I often share the three answers to prayer. And I believe there are only three.  
  • “Yes!”  
  • “No.”  
  • And, “Not now.” 
They were happy because of clarity. They were happy because in God’s No, God showed them the way for them. Thanks be to God! There are a lot of unhappy, unfulfilled ministers who followed the call of mama instead of God the Father. 

“Yes,” “No,” and “Not now.” Remember, I said those are answers, but the problem is that often we ask something of God without giving God the time to speak. Like with my daughters when there are excited or troubled and barraging me with questions, I cannot get a word in edgewise. How often do we do that with God? 

God speaks, all the time. God may be using a megaphone trying to wake up a world that has put its head in the sand. Or more often, God may be waiting for us to get still and quiet, so that we know for sure it is from God. That is what happened at the Discernment Retreat, and it is what happened with Samuel and God’s Calling of him. Like with Elijah in the cave, Samuel heard that still small voice in the deep of the night, that rumble in the soul that won’t let us go. The subwoofer of the Divine, it rattles and hums till we get in sync with its rhythms and nuances.  

We tell this story still because we know it so well. God finds a way to get our attention. We may try to run like Jonah, and God finds a way, or a whale rather. We may run to it like Philip when Jesus said, “Come, follow me,” this morning. 

Or more likely we are like Nathanael, jaded by the world and busied by the task at hand. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Fill in that last bit and it could come out of any of our mouths. “Can anything good come out of the Democrats? Or, the Republicans? Or, out of Richmond? Or, out of West Virginia? Or whatever country we dislike. [I am avoiding any reference to recent derogatory statements to other countries because it was too easy to do.] 

Our petty prejudices and closing of the mind keeps us from hearing (from God) as well as loving our neighbor as much as ourselves. We never know how or when God will speak, how God will break through the get our attention. 

I once met a woman who was telling me about a troubling situation. She honestly sought God’s will, and was praying about it while she was washing the dishes. It was her thinking space every day. While she was praying, the sun was setting, and in the sky were two jet contrails. As she was watching, the two intersected, and formed the shape of the cross. She told me how that was the answer to her prayer. She knew then what she had to do, the thing she was afraid of doing. My first thought was that she was joking. She wasn’t. She was dead serious. I will admit there was judgment that day on my part. I kept a pastoral poker face, but inside I was thinking, “Wow, really? That’s how you hear God?” Jet contrails? 

That was many years ago. Since then I have thought back to that story. Maybe God was speaking to her through the jet contrails. Now do not start judging me. Let me finish. Maybe God was speaking to her through jet contrails because that is what she would have heard. God does not speak to me in jet contrails because I do not hear in jet contrails. God speaks to me in other ways, ways that I will hear, and I will get to that in a second. Moses had his burning bush [Exodus 3 & 4]. Abraham had his smoking fire pot and torch. [Genesis 15, one of the least told and one of my favorite stories in the Bible] How does God get your attention? 

God broke through with me the other day. And when God breaks out the 2” by 4” (2x4) to get our attention, we best pay attention.  

Like I shared a few weeks ago, one of my favorite things in the world to do is snuggle on the couch with my family, PJs on, blanket across our laps, and watching a fun movie. Over the last snow days, we put in a movie we had gotten at Christmas and had not watched yet. Cars 3 by Pixar/Disney. Now, I really liked it, and it closed off the trilogy in a great way. SOOOO much better than Cars 2. But that is not where the 2x4 broke in. It was almost bedtime, but the Short Feature Pixar often includes just before the movie we had not watched yet. It was called LOU, and no offense Mr. Flanagan, I had no expectations from a movie called LOU. But in those six minutes I saw the Gospel story come to life. It was joyful, redemptive, and transformative. A modern miracle happens in the life of a boy who once was lost, but by the end is found. It showed Grace in its highest and best form. It showed the Gospel. 

Pixar does this again and again, because they know how to tell stories, and the story of Western literature is the searching for, or the embracing of, or the rejection of Grace. We are fixated by this, and this old, old story snuck into the pixels of Pixar, and God spoke to me. God knows what I need to hear and when I need to hear it. There have been times in my life when my dreams redirected my path, a compliment from a stranger made me rethink how I saw things, or a beloved mentor entrusted me with something precious and I heard a call to deeper service. 

Now God may not speak to you in burning bushes or digital images, but God is speaking in a way that you will hear. Let all of us who have ears, listen. 

We have to be ready when we hear God’s call. We have to pack light in this sojourn on earth. We have to love first, and be willing to be hurt. We have to take up our cross, and when called upon to have it used. Near impossible, unless God is in the equation. Like Nathanael was surprised by anything good out of Nazareth, I was blindsided by a cartoon that without words showed me the Pearl of Great Price, and how to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” [Philippians 2:12] 

How does God speak to you? When was it you last heard the voice of God?Maybe it was a verse that jumped off the page. Maybe it was in an earnest and honest prayer and you got an answer to a question you had been asking for years. God knows, and my prayer for you is that you will, too! 

God is still speaking. [Thanks UCC friends.] And it is our job to hear, and respond to those words, “Come, follow me.” If we abide in God and God in us, then we are always at Home with God. You see, God will never call us to place where God has not gone before us and prepared the way. Because of that, no matter where God is calling us, no matter how dark the path, the destination is Home because God is already there. 

Be still and know. Amen