Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Palm Sunday Sermon

Matthew 21:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11

Please pray with me,
May the words of my  mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.  

There are moments that the words don’t reach,
There is suffering too terrible to name.
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable.
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable…

These are the opening lyrics to the song It's Quiet Uptown from the musical Hamilton. 

In this song, we hear the voices of Alexander Hamilton and his wife Eliza as they recoil in grief at the death of their son who has just died in a duel.  While they struggle to move forward, they are also repairing a broken marriage after Alexander’s affair became public. 

The entire life situation for the Hamilton family is unimaginable. 

A situation no family would want to find themselves in….and so they push away the unimaginable. 

Throughout this Lenten season, we have been guided by the theme: Unimaginable: I am a beloved child of God.  We have leaned on the word unimaginable.  We have heard this word as a good thing.  That what is unimaginable is the amazing love and grace of God.  Yet, the unimaginable things we face each day, are maybe not so good.  And those things we tend to push away.  Pastor Bill touched upon this on Wednesday night. 

Because the unimaginable is too often bad news like death, illness, broken relationships, lost jobs, and violence in our world, and we would rather just push it away…we struggle to live with the unimaginable.

Our gut reaction is to not want to hear bad news, or think about how broken the world is around us.  We push away the unimaginable. 

Yet the unimaginable we need to cling to…comes into our sanctuary week after week.   And this week, this unimaginable love comes in with pomp and palms and shouts of Hosanna!  We are crying out for a savior, just as the people of Jesus’ time did. 

Save us!  Hosanna! 

Yet this savior knows what will happen next and enters in pomp to shouts of acclamation…but still walks a road that is unimaginable. 

There is nothing about Jesus -- his entry into the city, his confrontation with authority, his brutal and lonely death -- that would inspire anyone to devotion.  Think even about his mode of transportation, he’s not riding a stallion…or a camel for that matter…but a donkey.  He comes not in power but in weakness, not in might but vulnerability, not in judgment but in mercy, not in vengeance but in love. Nothing about him conforms to the expectations of a world that has come to believe above all things that might makes right or, at the very least, that might wins.

Yet he rides in…like a king…just not the kind of king they were expecting.
Those of us who shout hosanna today know the end of the story.  We know Jesus is not the king the people were expecting.  We know the passion story that unfolds from this day, one that had been hinted about throughout Jesus’ life and ministry.  We know about the last supper, the death on the cross and being placed in the tomb and how that is not the end of the story. 

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that we, too, lift our palms and shout as they did for Jesus’ entry?

Perhaps one of the reasons we do, is because we, too, still seek a king.  As sinful beings, we still cry out for help, healing, wholeness, for justice and peace in our community, nation and world today.  We want someone here and now to flip this world upside down and change it for us….to meet our needs and desires here and now. 

We want our lives to be all resurrection and no cross.  (Jung)

Because that would push away the unimaginable. 

We want that superhero savior…to swoop in and take away the hurting, the pain, the suffering, the unjust and scary violence in our communities, the struggles we have in our relationships, life threatening illnesses….take it all away.  Please, save us! 

And we have a God who does save us…but in a way that is unimaginable

God doesn’t swoop in and pull us out of the trials and tribulations of this life, but joins right alongside of us for the journey.  Sitting next to us as we mourn, sitting with us as we cry, being present for the hugs of joy and the laughter that we share. 

Let's not miss God’s presence in these unexpected places….

As we shout Hosanna, wave our palm branches in the air and join with the crowd as they gathered around Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, let us see God in all of this.

Let us see that this is just the beginning, that by joining in today, we are a part of a larger passion play. 

We know that next comes remembering the last supper that Jesus celebrated with his disciples.

We know that that night will be followed by Jesus’ death on a cross…

And we know, ultimately, that this week…this Holy Week, will end in the joy and wonder at an empty tomb.  And while it’s so tempting to jump from the hosannas of today to the alleluias next week, today is an invitation to journey through this week together: to remember the events of Jesus’ last week. 

It may sound like I’m trying to get you to come to church more this week, or should I say inviting you to come to church more this week. 

No matter how you say it, that is what I’m doing, inviting you to come back to church this week again, and again. 

Because within this community of faith, we are all facing struggles and hardships, joys and celebrations….and how the heck could we get through all of that without God’s love and grace in our lives seen in this place and embodied through the people of this faith community?   

Are you with me?  We live in a world where we fear the diagnosis of cancer, where violence in our world seems to be in the news every week, where we are more and more busy every day that face to face communication is less and less….the list could (and does) go on and on. 

So, I’m dead serious….how could we get through all of that *stuff* without God’s love and grace in our lives that we see in this place and embodied through the people of this faith community?

What happens in this place, week after week is an expression of hope for change….just like Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem: an expression of hope for change. 

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable….

Forgiveness.  Can you imagine?
Forgiveness.  Can you imagine? 

The unimaginable that comes into the Hamilton family is the grace and forgiveness that Eliza extends to Alexander, as she reaches out to hold his hand as they walk through the unimaginable together. 

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name. 

That grace is unimaginable. 
It embraces us, transforms our hearts and our souls to see beyond ourselves, to see how God is at work in our lives and in the life of this community and world. 

Let that grace and love and forgiveness into your hearts and lives and homes. 
Let that grace and love and forgiveness be shared with those around you through words of forgiveness, and signs of love and grace with those in need. 

And may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

160 (no foolin')

Thinking about my word for the year...'focus' and I can't believe we're already into April.  

Where did the first 3 months of the year go?  

As I posted a few days ago, I will be focusing this month on rest and recovery.  

I am excited that looking at the last month and my weigh-ins using My Fitness Pal.  I lost 4 pounds in March.  I'm pumped! I have more weight to lose, but I am happy that the numbers are going down.  

I will say that since this month has the focus of rest and recovery I wonder how numbers will look on the scale week after week.  Yesterday I went to the gym and did upper body strength training.  
I will hit the gym twice next week for two days of more upper body work.  

Friday will be day 10 of active resting for me.  
I know, active resting sounds funny...but I am purposely not doing cardio for 10 days and taking it as easy as I can during the day.  

Here I am at the end of day 4 of 10.  I've had some aches each day, but none as bad as Tuesday.  I've been icing in the evenings and taking ibuprofen when I feel my shin ache.  At this point the pain has not gotten worse (a good sign) but also hasn't completely gone away.  

As the days of rest and recovery continue I'm looking forward to a month with reading, some coloring and maybe some sit down projects.  Today I tackled my sock drawer and with some sorting and some tossing...the drawer closes again!  Hooray!  

Oh...and I've also been getting 8+ hours a sleep a night and I think that has made the most difference.  

I think this month will be good, not just for my body, but my mind and soul as well.  

Until the next post.