A prayer for creativity

O God,
You have created the universe,
amazing and astonishing in its infinite size and diverse composition
You have created us in your image,
that we may serve you and do great things in your name.
I offer myself to you to do as you will.
Aid me in my struggles,
Remind me that you have made me for wonderful things,
Fill my heart with your Spirit that I may pour out your glory with my voice and hands,
Encourage me when I feel I have nothing,
Help me believe that it is not too late,
and that I am neither too small or too broken
to be healed.
Help me to love myself and others,
to nurture my heart and gifts and others lives,
to give myself comfort,
and uplift my fellow travelers,
That we may enrich your universe.
Help me create in your name that I may glorify you and all of creation.
Amen.

Nameless Gulch

In April of 1860, two cousins left their family home in the tiny town of Fields, Alabama on account of the Gold Rush in California. They traveled together over land and river, through the Rockies to arrive in Carson City, where they stocked up on prospecting supplies and food rations. Ulysses Yates, 19 years old, had argued for making an investment in a map there in Carson City, but Pete Campbell, who was 21, said there was no need to spend the money, he’d already looked at enough maps and had the route in his head of where they needed to go.  As the older cousin, Pete always won out, so the two set out southwest, into the Sierra Nevada, with nothing to go on except Pete’s instincts, a dream of becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams, and a peculiar and highly specific vision.

Way back in Fields, Pete had looked at a map of the west out of a magazine, and saw something strange.  On the map, right there in California, just to the left and down of where it cut an angle on the border of Utah Territory, there was a sparkle shining up. It was bright and clear as day and Pete studied it and memorized its exact position on the map.  So when he saw maps in Carson City, there was nothing where the pinlight had been just space between some mountain lumps.   

And so, unbeknownst to Ulysses, the pair was following something out of Pete’s dreams, and they traveled for 10 days to the mountainous region. But as they hiked around trails and over ranges Ulysses steadily grew more agitated that they might not have been going anywhere at all.

But Pete reassured him that they were heading in the right direction, that he “sensed” the gold, despite not always seeming certain when choices needed to be made. Eventually, they found themselves walking along a perilous perch on a cliff, up to a plateau, across it and then down an equally perilous natural pathway that led to a canyon floor, an area well covered in douglas fir.  Pete looked at his cousin and told him that they’d reach their destination.  They set up camp while there was still daylight, dim as it was, because the sun had already traveled well beyond the top of the western canyon wall.

When daylight came, they explored around the canyon floor. Almost at the very moment the sun appeared over the eastern wall, they came upon a rock face that suddenly glimmered in the sunlight, a thin crack of speckles and glints shining at them like a smile. Ulysses was struck dumb, giggling at the fortune, and ran toward the natural wall, his fingers feeling around for a shiny pebble he could simply pull off. Pete had been utterly convinced of his message, and having now been vindicated of its veracity, walked over the Ulysses, patted him on the back and suggested they get started.

Over the summer months, Pete and Ulysses would mine the vein, and every time it seemed like it was coming to an end, it would fan out again. They’d only had pickaxes, and no way of getting better equipment, so the going had been slow.  Pete assured Ulysses in the Fall they’d head back to Carson City and get more supplies, but for the summer they would work at mining it with their simple tools. 

When the Fall came, the cousins continued to work, but one morning at the end of September, the arrival of a freak early snowfall set Ulysses to panic. He urged his brother to depart for Carson City with haste, telling him that they’d collected more than enough, but Pete assured Ulysses that it was unusual: it would melt and they’d have plenty of time after. Ulysses agreed, and they persisted and the snow was gone in a couple of days.

But three days later, while they were in their tent in the small morning hours, the ground started shaking heavily and continued for nearly a minute. They woke up to the sound of loud cracks as high branches fell to the ground. Ulysses was once again convinced now that it was time to leave. Pete agreed this time, and the two brothers packed up, including a handful of gold rocks, and dug a hole for the remainder.

But they’d never leave the canyon.  With Ulysses in front, Pete behind, they had been traversing the route up the canyon wall, when the ground gave way and both brothers fell to the canyon floor, cracking Ulysses’s skull and breaking Pete’s legs. Ulysses died within hours, while Pete suffered in agony for days, managing to crawl back to camp but unable to allow his legs to heal or properly protect himself from the elements.  He froze to death a week later, lying atop of the stashed gold.

With nobody alive to know the location of the canyon or the mine, nobody sought it out.  And even if they had, they’d find it inaccessible, the path up the mountain and down the canyon wall that Pete had so easily navigated was destroyed. So the canyon and the mine had been left in its condition for year after year, decade after decade, with no witness other than the wildlife: deer, mountain lions, bears.

For survey crews, because of its accessibility, nobody even knew a canyon was there at all for at least a century.  All of California had now been mapped, but where the canyon ought to have been was an empty blank space.  

Time marches on, however, and it would not stay hidden forever. While the canyon was hidden from ground view, it appeared on satellite images. And those images were used to improve maps. In 1985 a cartographer with a sense of humor who had been updating geological survey maps of the region, decided to label it, “Nameless Gulch,” which was how it would be called for the next fifty years. 

It was a tiny little canyon in the middle of some average summits, not notable. And oddly, nobody took interest in it. No government agencies, no corporations looking to tap its resources. It was a footnote, an afterthought, too costly to explore for what, a few acres of green land? Mostly, nobody was interested in it.

But technology would advance.  In 2032, a patent was issued, on a Long Range Precious Metals Detector. Which led to the Gold Rush of 2033, the following year.  Helicopters began to criss-cross the state, with these sensors.

In June, a team of field geologists working for PanCorp were on a helicopter over the area when their sensor went off, a large untapped vein of gold was in the chasm nearby. Dr. Jessup, the leader of the team, declared with excitement, “Our work has finally paid off, folks! Record the coordinates and let’s fly back to figure out how we’re going to access it.”

Organize me now!

I have to get organized. In fact, it’s crucial that I get organized, and it is something that I honestly believe I am capable of doing.  Because not believing in my ability to get organized would sink me into a spiral of depression from which I fear I might not recover.

Why get organized now?

But why, you may wonder, is there such doom and gloom associated with my failure to organize myself? After all, for 55 years, my ADHD has allowed me to fly by the seat of my pants, relying on my brain power to fill in the gaps of appointments I need to make, groceries I need to pick up, bills I need to pay, promises I need to fulfill.  For those executive functions I have lacked, I’ve made up for by putting more work on the functions that I possess well.

The truth is, however, that my brain is aging along with the rest of me. Sometimes my cognitive abilities feel like they’re in decline.  I get distracted…a lot, these days.  It’s as if my ADHD is in overdrive now. Which, may be causing my memory to suffer as well. The internal alarms don’t go off like they once did to warn me about doctor’s appointments (one of which I missed last week), pill taking and bill paying.

Two of my lifelong enemies are the demons know as To-Do List and Daily Schedule. I probably still have in one of my boxes, packed away, a Day Runner organizer, a leather bound, thick, but small notebook, which had all sorts of features, tabs and pockets to make people’s lives easier.  I had some success with using it but eventually I gave up on it because I couldn’t discipline myself enough to open it first thing in the morning, take it everywhere with me and write down ideas, phone numbers, or details from appointments. 

Since life moved more toward my computer, I’ve used many apps and programs, perhaps none more than Microsoft products such as Outlook and Notes, with varying degrees of success.  Outlook manages tasks and to-do lists separately, and there seems no intuitive way to integrate either of those items with the calendar feature to schedule myself. Notes is good for taking notes at meetings, in classes, or studying, but I haven’t figured out how it integrates with the aforementioned calendars, tasks or to-do list. Perhaps the biggest benefit to putting something on one of these lists has been that it solidifies in my brain allowing me to retrieve the information at the appointed time, a process that no longer seems to be working. 

But unlike my mental acuity, which, may or may not be declining, my self-discipline is these days on the rise. I’ve developed a few daily practices which are becoming consistent habits and the kinds of things I do to better myself. So I believe I am ready to add something else to those practices, something which could, in fact, change the quality of my life for the better. That is, firstly, creating a list of tasks which are a mix of things I must do (pay bills, go to appointments), things I should do (call friends more often, clean the kitchen floor), things I need to do (go to the gym regularly, plan healthy meals) and things I’d like to do (write fiction and essays, paint, yoga). And secondly, ranking those tasks by difficulty and planning them into a daily schedule around the rest of my life. 

I prefer the word “planning” over “scheduling” because It just sounds easier to me. Throughout my life I’ve fought with trying to schedule myself so just changing the word gives me less of a desire to escape from it.  Plan. It has a nice ring to it.

So needed an app that would take a to-do list and put items on a schedule seamlessly. And one that is open source. And geared toward personal use. This has turned out to be quite the challenge. 

But I have found a few things that are moving me toward what I want to be doing. This is not a review, clearly, as I’ve been going on and on about my executive function disabilities for 900 words before even getting to the first one of these I tried out. And I didn’t delve deeply into how-tos or the instructions, so perhaps something that isn’t intuitive already is in there.

TaskUnifier

After using some appropriate search terms in Bing, like “open source task scheduler,” I found something called TaskUnifier. It appealed to me because it had a calendar, and I had hoped that it would be everything I wanted.

It was not everything I wanted. 

TaskUnifier window
TaskUnifier browser app

TaskUnifier does, in fact, allow you to set a date for tasks, but I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to set a time to do tasks. There is no item for start time in the task form. The calendar day view does provide a calendar measured out by hours, but there is no determinable way to set an activity on the calendar at any time.  All of the items may be found as “all day” on the agenda view. 

So while you can set an alarm for the item at a specific time. I was saddened by this lack of usability, because I was hoping it would be able to do what I was asking, that is, incorporate tasks into my schedule.

TaskUnifier seems good at creating task lists but not good at planning a day, which is what I was looking for.

Freeplane

I did another search, this time in Google, on the phrase “I need an open source software that takes to-do lists and allows me to schedule items.” This led me to a series of search results.

Freeplane desktop app

I found the program Freeplane.  It was not exactly what I was looking for but the material on the program intrigued me. It’s a software that creates mind mappings, something I’ve heard about but never looked at very strongly.  I downloaded the app on my PC, and looked at it. There are ways to use this to tie together ideas and tasks, plus you can set alarms and look at your alarm list. But ultimately, it still doesn’t do exactly what I currently need for my task/scheduling.

However, I’m going to play with Freeplane some more and see if I can use its mind-mapping capabilities to work on ideas, and maybe help organize my thoughts in other ways.  

Tried and true

When I went back to review the search results for this essay, I found a website whose name I had been trying to remember, because I’d used it before with some other online users: Trello.  It’s quite a powerful project manager, easy for groups to use and available for free.  Sadly, however, the feature I wanted, the ability to schedule tasks, is only available on the Premium version.

I gave up and went back to Microsoft Outlook. I have a fully licensed 2016 edition which I’ve used for email for a long time and which I have integrated with my iPhone calendar. In looking at the “View” menu item in my Calendar, I discovered a “Daily Task List” icon.  I could in fact show my tasks while I was looking at my calendar, in fact, those tasks that are listed as “to be done today” or with no date are under the schedule in the Day and Week view.  And I can drag a task to the schedule to create a new item

It’s not what I would call full integration but it’s more than I’ve had so far, and I’ve already got the software to do it. Maybe the perfect software exists for me, maybe it doesn’t, but I am not going to expend any more of my time in searching for it. 

I have to use the task list and scheduler and I have to then do the tasks on the task list and their appointed times.

And the first thing I am going to check off of it is finishing this essay.

Late Night on the BART Platform

Shari ran up the escalator to the platform, only to find the doors closing on the next BART train into the city. Frustrated, she let out an audible breath between her clenched teeth as she watched the train gliding forward, out of the station. The train’s distinctive whirr increased in pitch, and then decreased in volume while it sailed into the distance, vanishing in the darkness.

It had been the last direct train of the night, and now she’d have to wait another fifteen minutes—actually, twenty according to the marquee—for the next Berryessa-bound train, from which she’d have to transfer at Macarthur station to get onto a train taking her home.  She was indignant. She didn’t want to be stuck out here in the East Bay, much less El Cerrito, any longer. 

The platform was quiet. At this hour there would be very few people heading southbound—most of the commuters were coming from San Francisco or Oakland or Berkeley and heading home.  In fact, other than the hunched figure seated far up the platform maybe the length of four or five cars away, Shari was alone in her wait. Biting her lip, she looked up at the marquee again.  Sixteen minutes.

She looked up the platform again, and seeing the hunched figure, frozen in place and still a safe distance away, she pulled out her iPhone. Unlocking it with her thumb, she opened her messages. Her eyes alighted on the top one, seeing again the first few words of the false promise that brought her so far from the city, she shook her head, then she swiped up until Pace’s name appeared in the message list. 

“Can u meet at Mission and 16th in about 45 min?” she typed and sent. The tiny word “Delivered” appeared immediately. She briefly wondered if she’d given them enough time to meet her, considered following up with another message, then decided against it. If she was late she would follow up with a text. She stared at the message with intent, silently willing it to change to “Read”.

When the screen went dim she was shaken from the spell, and she put the phone away. Pace was probably in the kitchen, and didn’t have hands for the phone at that moment. Or in the laundry room. Because they usually responded to Shari right away, and something must be occupying them at that moment.  Shari would hear a ping from their message soon enough.

The marquee read eleven minutes.  The hunched figure had still not moved.  The computer voice of the intercom system, which she’d relegated to background noise until then, declared, “Richmond train, now approaching, platform B.” On the opposite track, a train slid into the station, the whirring sound as it approached forming the opposite tones as the earlier departing train. Its doors opened and through its windows Shari watched it empty the lion’s share of its commuters onto the opposite platform. As it pulled away from the platform, she watched the people funneling on to the escalator or pouring down the stairs until the last commuter on the platform slipped into the elevator and disappeared. 

She looked up at the marquee again.  Eight minutes.  She pulled her phone out and checked the message.  Still “Delivered”.  She looked down the platform and found that the hunched figure had vanished. Her eyes darted to every shadow, every hiding place on the platform as she felt a wave of dread wash over her. Where had they gone?

Conversation on a Dream

Lucien and Pascal are at lunch at a crowded outdoor café. The occasional sounds of traffic nearby and the murmur of other patrons’ conversations are part of the tableau of their reunion.

LUCIEN: “Every few days the dream comes.  Maybe twice, maybe three times a week.  I am staring out into a pristine, snowy landscape. Flat at first, but as I try to move forward, the landscape slopes up, the snow a rippling white as in a bowl of marshmallow cream. I cannot see the peak of this slope, and I know I will not achieve the summit, so I search for another way out.”

PASCAL: “So you are feeling trapped?”

LUCIEN: “Ehhh, perhaps, but not in a panicking way. But as I examine the scene in front of me, I notice a path across the slope, ditched into the snow, parallel to where I am, going upwards from left to right.  The start and the end are beyond my field of view, and I have no way to approach it, for between myself and the path is a deep valley. Still, I have not yet lost hope.”

PASCAL: “I see. You are disconnected from a path that begins from and leads to nowhere.”

LUCIEN: “Not for long.  I suddenly realize that two figures are slowly trudging their way up the path.  I believe they are on skis, although the distance makes perception as to how they are traveling difficult. They are so far away that nothing is distinguishable about their features, their style of clothes, nothing.  As I stare at them, and become aware of them, I feel myself moving across the landscape toward them, over the deep valley, moving fast.  As I approach, I am drawn to the second figure whose face is now clear to me.  It is me!”

PASCAL: “A predictable twist.”

LUCIEN: (scoffing) “As soon as I realize that, I now am the second figure.  I find I am not wearing skis at all, but hiking boots. My poles are simply walking sticks.  However, I have no idea who the person ahead of me is, who is also dressed the same way. I want to know.  I have been trying to catch up to them. I need to talk to them. But no matter how fast or hard I try, they remain ahead of me.  I call out, ‘Hello!  Wait!’ to no avail. I push myself harder, I now understand that they have the means to help me escape from this frozen land. I move faster, crying ‘Stop!’ They turn around, their face is masked but their eyes are burning with malice.  They rush toward me and push me. I lose my footing and now I am falling over the side, into the valley.  That’s when I wake up.”

PASCAL: “The second figure, can you tell what they are wearing?”

LUCIEN: “A ski jacket and pants, no doubt. I’m sure I would notice if they were wearing something different.  Black, I think. Is that important?”

PASCAL: “Perhaps the fact that you can’t remember that detail is what’s important.”

LUCIEN: “Why? What do you think it means?”

PASCAL: “I will tell you what I think. But you won’t like it.”

Happy Endings – Sermon on Matthew 25:1-13

Parables are parables, not prophecy. Guides and warning to living a good life. Listen carefully.
This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The sermon notes which are included for convenience.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley.

November 9 – Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

“Happy Endings”.  Text is from  Matthew 25:1-13

Sermon audio follows:

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of Go

Heavy Burdens – Sermon on Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

When Jesus says his yoke is easy, the yoke he’s talking about is a very burdensome object, designed for a large, heavy beast. But it becomes easy when Jesus is leading the way.
This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The sermon notes which are included for convenience.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley.

July 9 – Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

“Heavy Burdens”.  Text is from  Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Sermon audio follows:

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God.

(This portion of the sermon was unscripted)

Jesus starts off this conversation about how the children of Israel rejected both John and then Jesus in a seemingly contradictory terms; saying that John had a demon for being an a person who intentionally starved himself and that Jesus was a drunkard and glutton for eating with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus is uplifting the hypocritical nature of his critics, primarily at this time the Pharasees, in that it doesn’t matter how the person is living, as long as they say things contradictory to the way these followers of the old way practiced their faith, then they were subject to whatever creative invective was being hurled at them. All just names and words: Demon-possessed, drunkard and glutton. In a logical debate, these are called ad hominems, where one attacks the messenger rather than the message.

Evil OxenAnd I know it becomes easy to put ourselves in Jesus’ shoes, because we’ve all probably experienced at some time that someone who disagreed with us decided to look for some character trait we had, something someone might perceive as a flaw, and use it to try to derail the conversation. But it might be more difficult to see ourselves in the role of those that Jesus was criticizing. People whose world was being turned upside down, people already suffering under a tyrannical empire and now someone has come and is challenging their old ways of thinking about God?

But think about this point in Jesus ministry, we have to remember that the context of what Jesus is saying, which is more evident in Matthew’s gospel than any of the others, are such that they he says them after he has done some pretty unsettling and remarkable feats.

Earlier in the Gospel, Jesus has healed a leper.  But in doing so he has put his hands on the unclean person before he is healed.  Jesus, a holy man, has made himself ritually unclean while at the same time healing him.  He then went and brought the servant of a centurion back from the brink of death. An incredible miracle, but done on behalf of not only a gentile but a member of the harsh Roman ruling class.

And then Jesus eats in the company of sinners, further angering those who would wish for a messiah of their own choosing, one who is Jewish through and through, who follows Jewish custom and law to the “T”. This Jesus of Nazareth, who is showing so much potential, is nevertheless not falling in line with their ideals. He is turning the world upside down.

So when the very people Jesus has come to save become embroiled in the politics of the day, making the decision to follow the prevailing thought rather than the obvious messiah there before them.

And yet Jesus loves all of those people anyway. That those things that should be revealed were hidden from the wise.  Even as he criticizes us, he invites us to him. Even as we struggle, those of us who have rejected the help that we may be given, he tells us flat out,

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

And Jesus, who suffered more than anyone could suffer, who had the greatest burden of all, tells us in no uncertain terms, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.” What is a yoke? He is not talking about the yellow part of an egg here. What Jesus means is the harness that goes around the neck of oxen in order to pull a plow. How can a yoke even be easy?

But this passage here, these wonderful verses at the end of Matthew, have been considered by some theologians and scholars to be the heart of the gospel message. When Jesus says to take up our cross and follow him, earlier in Matthew, it seems like it is a great struggle but in truth, given the great struggles life has to throw at us, taking up one’s cross is, in fact, the easy decision.

Being a friend to people behind bars is not the easiest thing in the world. I relish my freedom, my sisters and brothers, as I’m sure do you. But also, being a person in recovery, I can tell you that when you are in the grip of dependency on chemicals, you can find yourself justifying the most ridiculous behaviors, and many of the decisions that some people make are so absurd and contrary to what society would expect from us. I can also assure you that when I put a chemical in my body, the conscious contact I feel with God becomes dulled and my ability to rely on God for good decision making becomes diminished if not completely quashed altogether.

But you don’t have to have been addicted to any substance to know that as human beings acting in a willful nature, we can do some pretty messed up things. When the consequences involve some sort of crime, we wind up having our choices taken away from us by the government. And while I have never personally experienced being locked up, I know enough people who have, and believe me, life is absolutely not easy for those people. It’s one of the main reason many people turn to God in those places, to try to seek solace and comfort where so little is to be found.

When I am fighting God and not doing what God wants me to do, I have a hard time of it. When life is causing storms and there seems to be no way out, when stress and difficulties befall me and I don’t understand what to do or how to take the next step, I do not know if I could even continue if I didn’t have God in my life.

Take my yoke upon  you and learn from me, Jesus says. And like the ox, Jesus is pulling us, guiding us where we need to go. We are the plow that Jesus pulls, we are the burden that Jesus carries. When Jesus says my yoke is easy, he means that it become easy when we yoke ourselves to him. When Jesus says my burden is light, it is us, our burden that we give him that makes it that much more light for us.

Life, my sisters and brothers is about suffering. Some of us suffer a great deal more than others. But none of us is ever alone in our suffering. Part of being the body of Christ, part of being of service to each other is being able to give up our burdens to each other.

Because this is the easier way, my sisters and brothers. And knowing the good news that God gave a son to teach us and die in our behalf, taking all of the ills of the world, our sins upon him amidst his suffering so that we may live anew, and rising again that we may live under his kind and loving r

Words – Homily on Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Words hurt when people hurl them at you, even when they hurt. But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.
Wednesday’s homily was delivered without notes, so you may listen to the sermon rather than read it.  

Homily delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley.

July 5, 2017 – Fifth Wednesday after Pentecost

“Words”.  Text is from  Matthew 11:16-19,25-30

Sermon audio follows:

 

Radically hospitable – Sermon on Matthew 10:40-42

It’s easy to understand we’re called to do radical hospitality. As Christians, though, it can be much harder to accept radical hospitality ourselves.
This sermon is quite a bit different from how it was written, therefore, please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The sermon notes which are included for convenience.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley.

July 2 – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

“Radically hospitable”.  Text is from  Matthew 10:40-42

Sermon audio follows:

Good morning to you my sisters and brothers in Christ, saints and sinners, children of God.

Every Sunday morning we read our very familiar welcome statement which leads us into worship with a sense of who it is we want to be as a community and how we want to live. And every Sunday morning with that declaration we are opening ourselves to becoming vulnerable to whomever might come in whatever condition or state of life they may be. The statement itself is often known as radical welcome, and yet having a statement alone does not define exactly how welcoming a congregation is.

Homeless people camping by Foto blog in ParisWe can hang a banner over the front door to the street that says “All Are Welcome In our Church” but if we don’t make visitors feel that indeed, we wish to have them here beside us and being a part of our family, they probably won’t want to come back. That means people of all varieties and backgrounds, creeds and colors, gender identity. It means it’s a job for the pastor and the regulars who sit in the pews as well. It means coming to Sunday worship is more than just sitting here and connecting with God on our own, it also means connecting with the outsiders and making our home, their home.

Because I think many of us have been to a new church a first time or visited one when we went to another area. And I know what it feels like to walk into a sanctuary before service and be completely ignored by the congregation members in a place that proclaims from the rafters that everyone is welcome. Radical hospitality demands a definitive action on the part of the hosts. Because signs in and of themselves only make statements and direct people, they don’t make truths.

And so make an effort to be the people we are meant to be, and we understand what it means to be wonderful hosts of others. What it means to bring people into our lives and be a part of our family, welcoming them into our homes: friends and strangers alike, welcoming them into our lives and giving them comfort and rest.

But how much does that translate into being the guests of good hosts? How are we to accept radical hospitality, particularly when it means that we have to be vulnerable to the people who are providing it?

So we are continuing from last week Jesus’s instructions to the twelve disciples as he is sending them out to proclaim the good news and to do deeds in his name, he has just warned them of the persecutions that they will face. And now he’s promising to give reward to any person who will help the disciples along the way and who will offer support to their ministry.

And he is couching it in some language the disciples would have been intimately familiar with. Welcoming a prophet and receiving a prophet’s reward? Well, in our reading we have Jeremiah and Hananiah with two competing prophecies for the people of Judea: and Jeremiah being openly hopeful that Hananiah’s prophecy of peace for the people to come true, but also questioning, because he himself had the word spoken in different ways to him and had advised that the kingdom submit to the vastly stronger King of Babylon lest war and hardship take them away. What was the prophet’s reward? For the people of Israel, having heeded the prophecy of the true prophet of God, Jeremiah, it meant safety and security.

And what of the reward of the righteous? We have evidence over and over again that Jesus means this to be the kingdom of God. In our second reading from Roman Paul talks about our having been slaves to sin while living under the law, and indeed, the rewards of that life is death. But by the grace of God through Jesus Christ, we are freed from death and become slaves to righteousness. And the reward of this new state of being is that we become holy people, sanctification, with the end result being God’s kingdom and eternal life. The reward of the righteous is, in fact an abundance of life overflowing and sharing in the beloved kingdom of God.

The little ones Jesus speaks of are only children in the metaphorical sense. As he speaks of his disciples going out he speaks of them in the terms that they are his children in the world. And in the image of their being offered a drink of water to quell their thirst we are reminded of the welcome Jesus received by the woman at the well in Samaria, and living water that baptizes all the people of God and embodies the holy spirit present in the disciples as they go out and share the good news of God, the love of one another.

The lives of the early Christians were fraught with misadventure and ill. In the Acts of the Apostles we read about imprisonment and death, we read about mobs coming after Paul because of what he stood for. The Roman Catholics have documented innumerable martyrdoms of early Christians in gory detail. The gospel spread in those early years exponentially, but not without cost to those that the Holy Spirit sent out.

But within the book of Acts is also those stories of the people who welcomed the early disciples of Christ in their homes, who did the bidding of God and helped the early believers as they acted out the good that the Holy Spirit sent them out to do. Names of people like Simon the Tanner, Cornelius, Lydia, Ananias (there is a good one), Prisca and Aquila, Sergius Paulus. People who helped carry the gospel by helping the people who were carrying it. People who opened their homes, provided resources, who gave of their time and energy in order that those who carried the message would be able to get it through.

God makes a way for the good news to travel. Even as we practice a hospitality that is more than simply welcoming, it actively invitational, we must also be prepared to envision where we are made welcome to do the work of God in the world, to see those means that we are able to share the good news in the world.

Where do you feel welcome? Where do you feel at home? Where are there people opening their hearts to you and allowing you a place to be vulnerable and speak the good news of Christ? The heart of the gospel is that the kingdom of God is close and that God loves the whole world, that we are called to love one another as Christ loves us and that we offer welcome to our neighbors even as we accept their welcome in the name of Christ.

This, my sisters and brothers, is living out God’s imminent kingdom in the world that we may prepare for God’s heavenly kingdom to come. Because let me tell you, if you think earthly radical hospitality and welcome is hard to come by, we have an incredibly open and hospitable host awaiting us in God’s great hereafter. And we can but model it in our homes and in our communities, as Jesus taught us to do and with the help of God’s Holy Spirit guiding us and giving us strength, that God’s good news be declared all throughout this world of God’s beloved people.

Amen.

Justus et Peccador – Homily on Romans 6:12-23

We are all of us Saints and Sinners. And this is what it means when we’re talking about it.
Wednesday’s homily was delivered without notes, so you may listen to the sermon rather than read it.  

Homily delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley.

June 28 – Fourth Wednesday after Pentecost

“Justus et Peccador”.  Text is from  Romans 6:12-23

Sermon audio follows:

 

soap2day watchseries ssoap2day 123series 123 series putlocker moviesjoy gogoanime 123movies myflixer flixhq watch32 myflixer solarmovie soap2day movies7 hurawatch 9anime f2movies fmovies movies2watch swatchseries hdtoday 9anime 123movies fmovies putlocker myflixer losmovies primewire myflixer flixtor putlocker site bflix watchserieshd yesmovies flixtor soap2day