Friday, April 20, 2012

Practice Resurrection

Sermon preached April 15, 2012

Texts: Acts 4:32-35; I John 1:5-10; John 20:19-23

I am going to begin this morning with a poem and will show it by Power Point as well. The poem is entitled “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” and the poet is Wendell Berry.

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go lie with your love in the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Perhaps this poem startles you a bit, or puzzles you a bit. What’s wrong with vacation with pay? Why praise ignorance? Lose your mind?
Berry wants to startle and puzzle us. He wants us to think, and to laugh. The poem should be read both humorously and seriously. There is humor in his seriousness and seriousness in his humor. “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”
The final line may be most startling of all. “Practice resurrection.” Whatever we make of Berry’s critique of the contemporary world or of his humorous suggestions for how to live differently I hope we take seriously his encouragement to practice resurrection, because resurrection is something to be practiced. We are Easter people, and it is meant to show in our lives. And sometimes practicing resurrection will mean that we are counter-cultural, that we will question the easy assumptions of the world around us, that we will be different.
Reading the Scriptures for this first Sunday after Easter, we are confronted with texts which tell us something about what it means to practice resurrection. Some of the ways they encourage us to practice resurrection run counter to the ways of the world around us. From each of the three Scriptures we read I want to pick one way we are encouraged to “practice resurrection,” to live as God’s Easter people.
In the reading from the Gospel of John, following the resurrection Jesus finds his way into a locked room where the disciples had gathered. They met behind locked doors because of their fear. Two of the things Jesus says to them: “Peace be with you…. Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Practicing resurrection, being God’s Easter people, means welcoming God’s Spirit and nurturing the spirit in our lives. In one of my sermons during Lent I quoted a young woman who had posted a blog about 15 reasons why she left the church. Here were a couple of her reasons. I left the church because my questions were seen as liabilities. I left the church because I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that humans share a common ancestor with apes, which I was told was incompatible with my faith. I left the church because sometimes I doubt, and church can be the worst place to doubt. (Rachel Held Evans)
In response to her blog, many wrote encouraging her to find a mainline church. “But we’re avoiding all of those pitfalls. We’re inclusive. We’re not judgmental. We care for the community.” Rachel Held Evans responds: Well when was the last time you talked about why you are inclusive, why you embrace science, why you care for the poor? When was the last time you engaged in a serious, church-wide Bible study or launched a series on the spiritual disciplines? Evangelicals are used to being intensely engaged in their faith. If they don’t sense that your church offers them a safe place to wrestle and grow, they won’t come at all. I speak from my own experience, because, while there is much I love and appreciate about mainline denominations, when I visit, I always leave feeling like something’s missing. I miss that evangelical fire-in-the-belly that makes people talk about their faith with passion and conviction. I miss the familiarity with scripture and the intensive Bible studies. I miss the emphasis on cultivating a personal spirituality.
I share that not because we should cultivate our spirituality in response to one woman’s criticisms of mainline churches. I share that because I believe practicing resurrection means we will tend to our inner spiritual life. We will pray. We will engage Scriptures – with our head and our heart. We will explore spiritual disciplines. We will cultivate some fire in the belly, some passion for our faith. We strive for a faith that is passionate, compassionate and thoughtful. That’s counter-cultural. That’s practicing resurrection.
Practicing resurrection also has something to do with forgiveness. In the gospel reading, Jesus speaks of forgiveness. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” I John speaks both of our need to walk in the light, and of our need for forgiveness.
Over the years as a pastor, I have been asked frequently about forgiveness. It is a challenging topic. I am asked about forgiveness, in part, because people have experienced a lot of hurt in their lives, some of it very deep. People have been wounded, sometimes badly. People have been abused, if not physically or sexually, then perhaps psychologically. Then they hear things like, “Christians have to forgive.” Perhaps a Scripture is quoted, such as Colossians 3:13: Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. The directive seems clear, the feelings and experiences less so.
I think Biblical forgiveness is an ideal toward which we strive and a process in which we are engaged. It is not very helpful to think of it simply as a command or a directive. The language in John is interesting. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” I don’t think this makes forgiveness an optional resurrection practice. I think it provides some important complexity to those who simply say “you must forgive.” As Easter people we need to grapple with and be engaged with forgiveness, in all its messiness and complexity.
Here are some important things to remember along the way. Forgiveness does not mean we continue to put ourselves in positions where one who has hurt us can continue to hurt us. Forgiveness does not mean that we act like nothing ever happened. Forgiveness is as significant for our own well-being as for whatever relationship we want to have with the person we forgive. I deeply appreciate the words of Jack Kornfield on forgiveness. Forgiveness is a letting go of past suffering and betrayal, a release of the burden of the past and hate that we carry. Forgiveness honors the heart’s greatest dignity…. Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past. (The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace, 20, 25)
For Christians, forgiveness is not simply something which we seek to enact, it is also something we receive. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not is us. If we confess our sins, the One who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Maybe not language we use every day, but the idea is that we, too, fall short. We, too, need forgiveness. When we recognize that we need forgiveness sometimes, our own ability to forgive increases.
Practicing resurrection, being God’s Easter people, means welcoming God’s Spirit and nurturing the spirit in our lives. Practicing resurrection, being God’s Easter people means grappling with forgiveness. Practicing resurrection, being God’s Easter people also means tending the common good.
Here is a mouthful. The nexus of relationships that forms our existence is… given. We do not create these relationships; we experience them, being given with existence. And from this matrix come resources of grace that can carry us beyond the meanings of our own making, and alert us to goodness that is not of our own willing or defining. (Bernard Meland, Fallible Forms and Symbols, 151). This is a long way of saying that we come into a world in a web of relationships that we did not create, but from which we benefit. Over time, we contribute to that commons, that web of relationships, as well as benefit from it. This is the gift and reality of community, of the common good.
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common…. Great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them. Is practicing resurrection counter to private property? I don’t think so, but this vision of the early Christian community should grab our attention. As a church we are not simply a collection of isolated individuals. Yes, we are individuals and the church should be helping us along our journey with Jesus. We are also together creating community, something from which we want many to benefit. In community we ask not only, “What’s in it for me?” we also ask, “What’s good for the community?”
This resurrection practice should affect our understanding of politics as well. There is a common good from which we benefit and too which we contribute and we need to think about what is good for the broader human community, the planetary community. Practicing resurrection is counter to a politics of hyper-individualism.
Christ is risen. Practice resurrection. A story.
When our daughter Beth was in India, she was traveling by train and there met a woman from Paris, a woman around age 50. They began talking and the woman was explaining that she was in India to visit friends, and that she had been there before and gave Beth some tips on traveling in India. Anyway, they had a nice conversation, and a more extended conversation than they might have had otherwise because the train was late. Arriving at their destination, the woman became concerned. She had not been able to get a hold of her friends, who were not sure just when she was coming. It was now late, and the woman was not sure where she was going to stay. Beth told the woman that she had a nice hotel room and would be glad to put her up for the night. She could share the large bed. The woman was deeply grateful and told Beth if ever she was in Paris to look her up.
Beth had told us this story, and Beth, Sarah and Julie discussed it again as they traveled to the Twin Cities to take Beth to her flight to Uganda. Julie said she was both proud of Beth, but concerned for that kind of behavior. Beth said, “You know, Mom, I was raised by you and Dad, raised in the church, and I often ask what would Jesus do, and I think Jesus would have invited that woman to spend the night and share the bed.” Then they all laughed because, well, there is sort of a funny side to that. But Jesus makes a difference. That’s the point.
Christ is risen. Practice resurrection. Amen.

Friday, April 13, 2012

More Than a Feeling

Sermon preached Easter Sunday April 6, 2012

Texts: I Corinthians 15:3-11; Mark 16:1-8

So a week or so ago I went to check our church web site and received a warning – “the web site might be infected.” Thinking that this might be some kind of mistake I tried another internet browser whose warning was starker – big red circle with a subtraction sign inside. Just to really check it out, I tried to get to our site on my home computer, and my anti-virus would not even let me go there. WARNING - Yikes. Just before Easter and a web site issue. Thankfully, we were able to get the site cleaned out, though some problems still may need work.
Warnings. Here are a few for you (Power Point slide show - see photos below).
Warning. Maybe Easter should come with a warning sign. WARNING: You may never be the same again. WARNING: The same power that raised Jesus wants to work in you. WARNING: God wants to mess with your life.
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” Ordinary events – grieving after a death, the sun rising, concern about heavy lifting. The women wished to perfume Jesus perhaps like we perfume our sanctuary on Easter morning with lilies. And what happens? The stone is rolled away and a young man in a white robe is sitting there. “And they were alarmed.” The young man speaks: “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” So they fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone.
WARNING: With God around, an ordinary morning can be filled with alarm, amazement, maybe even terror. God wants to mess with your life. But there is a bit of wry humor in Mark’s gospel. “They said nothing to anyone.” Yet here is their story. You know what - somebody told! These women had their lives changed that morning, and they could not keep it a secret forever. Those listening to Mark’s Gospel, probably Gentile Christians who knew of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans and who may have been experiencing some of the persecution of Nero themselves, those first hearers of Mark’s gospel had had their lives changed because the story continued to be told.
One of the most popular movies in current release is The Hunger Games. It is a futuristic story about a nation called Panem. There are echoes of imperial Rome in the story. Annually in Panem, each of the outlying 12 districts must send a young man and a young woman to compete in a contest called “The Hunger Game” – a contest to the death with only one survivor/winner. Reflecting with the producer of the games, Panem’s president says: Why do we have a winner? Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine, as long as it is contained.
WARNING: Easter is about hope, a lot of hope, hope that is more than a feeling. Hope as a feeling is important and it matters. Feeling a little hopeful makes the day a little brighter. Feeling a little hopeful means we may try something a bit new – a new restaurant, a new book, a new music group, a new hobby. “I hope I like this.” Sometimes we are disappointed, but there are other foods, books, movies, music, hobbies. The Twins season opened on Friday, and one of the announcers said that opening day is the most hopeful day of the baseball season. I hope the Twins have a better year this year, but if it isn’t so good, well it won’t devastate me.
Easter hope is something different, something more, more than a feeling – and those of you hoping to hear the Boston song this morning will be disappointed. Easter hope is hope as a wild energy that changes our lives, a wind that blows in our lives and carries us to new places and in new directions, a fire that burns hot and bright, illuminating the world in new ways and burning away the dross. Easter hope can take an ordinary morning and leave us amazed and astonished and maybe even momentarily speechless. Just when we think we have Jesus all nicely wrapped up and perfumed, we find that he is not exactly where we thought, exactly what we thought, exactly who we thought.
Paul experienced a living Jesus, a risen Christ in his life. He believes his experience of this risen, living Jesus was just like that of the first disciples. This experience changed him profoundly. “By the grace of God I am what I am, and God’s grace has not been in vain.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wanted in his life to follow the risen Christ. It moved him from teacher and theologian in a state Church in Germany, to working in opposition to the Hitler government. For his opposition, Bonhoeffer was arrested and eventually executed by the Nazis. In his book Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote about following Jesus, and living with the wild energy of hope. Where will the call of discipleship lead those who follow it? What decisions and painful separations will it entail? We must take this question to him who alone knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows where the path will lead. But we know that it will be a path of mercy beyond measure. Discipleship is joy. (40)
Christ is risen. Christ is alive. The wild energy of hope has been unleashed. The winds of the Spirit are blowing. The fires of the Spirit have been ignited. WARNING – this could change your life. This we also know – the way of Easter, the way of Jesus, the way of the wild energy of hope, is a way of joy.
Writer Anne Lamott has been changed by the risen Christ, by the energy of hope that is Easter. Easter is profound, she writes. Easter says that love is more powerful than death; bigger than the dark…. Darkness is our context, and Easter’s context: without it, you couldn’t see the light. Hope is not about proving. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak [stuff] anyone can throw at us. (Plan B, 268, 275)
Easter is about hope that is more than a feeling. It is about hope that trusts that love is strong and beautiful. It is about a hope that produces joy. It is about hope that is a wild energy, a wild ride, trying to follow Jesus and the way of Jesus, knowing that when we get too perfumey about him, he has gone someplace else and invites us to follow in astonishment and amazement.
Knowing this, maybe you should have stayed away. Unless…
Unless there is an ache in your heart for something more, a yearning to be something more.
Unless, unless there is a pain, a wound, a grief in your life that needs penetrating healing.
Unless, unless you feel discouraged, weary down to your bones, weary down to your soul.
Unless, unless you feel all alone, with no direction home, like a complete unknown.
Unless, unless you seek forgiveness and have found it hard to come by.
Unless, unless there are patterns in your life that need breaking so that you can be free to love and grow and flourish.
Unless, unless you’ve been tempted to give up searching for a better world and give in to cynicism.
Unless, unless you’re puzzled by the human condition, capable of such beauty and tenderness and kindness and such horror and cruelty and brutality.
Unless, that is, you need a hope that is more than a feeling, a hope that is a wild energy, a whirlwind, a blazing fire, a hope that says that love is stronger than any grim, bleak stuff anyone can throw at us, a hope rooted in a God who long ago surprised, amazed, astonished three women going to check on their dead friends grave. He has been raised; he is not here. They were speechless, but only for a while.
I love serendipity, coincidences that are sheer grace. Early this week I was listening to some music. A group of musicians have set some Woody Guthrie lyrics to music and released a CD entitled “New Multitudes.” The first song contained these lyrics. Don’t let any earthly calamity knock your dreamer and hoping machine out of order. That’s Easter, a hope that is more than a feeling, a hope that changes everything, even if over time, a hope that keeps on even if calamity strikes, a hope that keeps your dreamer and hoping machine in order. Let that hope into your soul and you can never be sure exactly where its wild energy may take you. You’ve been warned, but let hope and the God of hope in anyway. Christ is risen. Amen.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Going Mobile

Sermon preached March 25, 2012

Texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 12:20-33

Here is a song about the Christian spiritual life – “Going Mobile” The Who.
Going Mobile

Here is a story about the Christian spiritual life – “The Carpenter and the Unbuilder.” (story)

Once upon a time there was a man living in a certain kingdom who received an invitation from his king to come to dinner. Something inside him was excited as never before by the invitation. Something was afraid as well. Would he have the right clothes to wear? Would his manners be good enough for his lord's table? What would they talk about when they were not eating? Above all, the man was frightened by the long journey to the king's castle.

So what did the man do? Well, he spent one month deciding what to wear and buying the clothes he did not already have. He spent two months learning the rules of etiquette and practicing them as he ate. He spent three months reading up on all the latest issues faced by the kingdom so he would have something to say.

Finally he faced the journey itself. By trade the man was a carpenter. He built small houses and extra outhouses and garages better than anyone else. After he had packed the clothing and food he thought he would need for the journey, he had room for only a little more. So he decided to pack a few tools, enough to permit him to build adequate overnight shelter on the journey. Then he started out.

The first day he traveled through the morning and early afternoon, stopping only to eat some lunch. Then he set about constructing a rough shelter to spend the night in. After a few hours labor he had a small, safe, dry place to sleep. The next morning as he was about to start out again, he looked at the shelter he had built. He began to notice places where it could be improved. So instead of resuming the journey right away, he began to make improvements on his little dwelling. Well, one thing led to another, garage to kitchen to indoor plumbing, and so on. Soon, he had pretty much forgotten about the invitation and the journey.

Meanwhile the king was beginning to wonder about the man. And so, as kings are able to do, he arranged for another person who was also traveling to the dinner to stop by and see how the man was coming along.

When the king's friend found him, the carpenter was living in his second house. He had sold the first one to someone, remembered the invitation, and moved on for a day or so. However, he had soon settled in and built an even bigger and better house on the profits he had made from the sale of his first one. The carpenter was only too happy to invite the visitor in for lunch; but while he was content to accept the offer of food, the visitor said he preferred to eat out in the yard under a tree.

"Is there a reason you don't want to come inside?" asked the carpenter, immediately wondering if his house wasn't quite right in some way.

"Why yes," replied the visitor. "You see, I am on a journey to have dinner with the king of our land. It is important for me to stay on the journey. Perhaps after lunch you would like to come with me?"

"What you say sounds familiar to me," said the carpenter. "I think I too received an invitation to have dinner with the king, but I have been a little bit uncertain of the way."

"I know," responded the stranger. "I was once uncertain as well. As a matter of fact, once I was a carpenter just like you. I too wanted to build safe places along the way to stay in. One day, another person on the journey helped me learn how to unbuild instead of to build. He helped me leave the house I was living in and trust the journey itself. I was worried about following the right path. He told me that there were a number of paths that would lead to the dinner. The king had set it up that way, and the king had also set up warnings along the wrong paths. The important thing was simply to put one foot in front of the other with love and trust. I was also worried about what I had left behind. To this he said that the king had seen to it that everything worth saving would be at the castle waiting for me."

"What you say is certainly of comfort. It helps to know that you have been just like me," said the carpenter.

"Well then, why don't we let go of this house and get on with the journey?"

"I don't know. Maybe. Can I sleep on it?"

"I suppose."

"May I fix a bed for you?"

"No," countered the visitor. "I will just stay out here under the tree. It is easier to notice the wonderful things the king has put along the way when you aren't looking out from inside something you have put up to protect yourself."

The unbuilder waited outside all night. The next morning the carpenter indeed had decided to resume the journey. Together they prepared to set out.

"Well," asked the carpenter. "Which way shall we go?"

"Which way seems right to you?" replied the unbuilder.

"I'm not sure."

"I'll tell you what. Let's just sit here a few minutes and think hard about the king. Remember the stories you have been told about him. Remember how much you love him. Remember how much he loves you. When you have remembered as clearly as you think you can, consider the paths that lie before you and see which one seems to satisfy your longing for, and remembrance of, the king. Let your desire to be with the king become more powerful in you than your uncertainty and fear about choosing the right or wrong path."

Silently they sat through the morning in the carpenter's front yard. Slowly it began to seem as though they were already on the journey. As that feeling grew and grew, it suddenly didn't seem like any decision needed to be made; it just happened. With a deep sense of freedom they were off.

Many of the days went just like that, new steps out of silent beginnings and pure desires. They simply waited until the sense of journeying wrapped itself around even their waiting, and then they were off without worrying whether they were on the "right" path or not. In the stillness of their hearts they made room for the path and the path seemed to come to them.

Of course the carpenter still felt the need to build a home from time to time. The unbuilder made sure he understood what he was doing and then let him do it if he really wanted to. While the carpenter labored, the unbuilder, his guide and friend, would continue the silent waiting in the yard under a tree, and soon they would unbuild yet another house and begin the journey again.

In the meantime the king kept the food warm, which he was very good at doing.

The Christian spiritual life is a journey – going mobile. The journey of faith, the journey with Jesus, the walk with God is on-going, continuous and it is a process of building, unbuilding and rebuilding.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,” Jesus says. A journey, a process.
“This is the covenant that I will make… after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts,” these word from Jeremiah. The journey is about a new heart, always a new heart.
In thinking about this journey of faith I think about the words of Gandalf the wizard: “My dear Bilbo… You are not the hobbit that you were.”
In thinking about this journey of faith I think about the wise doctor, Dr. Seuss. Congratulations! Today is your day. Your off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes…. Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you. And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too. OH! THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!
Moving back to Duluth six and a half years ago has been fascinating. I grew up here as many of you know. Oh, the places you’ll go – well, in some ways I’ve not gone very far. But things are different, and I don’t mean just in the usual ways. Yes, I am older than when I last lived here in 1982. And I have children – adult children. The junior high I attended (where Dick Wallin was the principal) is now the high school I attended (where Irv St. John and Joe Berini were on staff). The grocery store where I worked while in high school and college is now a fitness center. Things are different.
But the biggest differences are inside. That’s where the journey has really gone places. I am not the same hobbit I was. With God’s Spirit working on me and in me and with me I am sometimes happening too. Oh, the places I’ve gone. I think I’ve learned some things along the way.
The journey of faith, the journey with Jesus is a journey about passions, about the heart. The new heart that God creates in us is a heart that is soft, supple and can be broken. As a teenager, I knew what it was to have a broken heart, but the kind of heartbreak God continues to create is a heart that breaks for others, that is passionate about the well-being of others – the lonely, the left out, the hungry, the suffering, the poor, the grieving. My heart particularly breaks for those who have been hurt by religion, church words that have wounded. I want to help them find a way back to God, to Jesus, to community. The journey of faith is about a new heart, always a new heart, a heart that can break, but a heart that breaks open, a heart passionate about God and the good.
The journey of faith, the journey with Jesus is a journey about compassion – about being with, about feeling with, about seeing with. When I first became a pastor, I was often uncomfortable in really difficult situations. What would I say, what could I say to be of help? I’ve learned that what matters most is hanging in there with people, even when it is hard – trying to feel with them, see what they see, even when we may disagree. The compassionate heart is often also the courageous heart.
The journey of faith, the journey with Jesus is about being open to questions. I was saddened the other day when I read a blog post that a friend and colleague linked on Facebook. In the blog a young woman shared 15 reasons why she left the church. Here are a couple of her reasons. I left the church because my questions were seen as liabilities. I left the church because I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that humans share a common ancestor with apes, which I was told was incompatible with my faith. I left the church because sometimes I doubt, and church can be the worst place to doubt. (Rachel Held Evans) Questions are an important part of the journey.
The journey of faith, the journey with Jesus is about taking the next step. We are on a way. The earliest followers of Jesus were called “the Way.” Congratulations! Today is your day. Your off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes - - - brains and feet and hearts and minds and souls that need to take the next step. Sometimes the next step is to build a resting place for a time. Sometimes the next step is to unbuild and move on – unbuild our usual ways of thinking or doing Christian faith. We are going mobile.
Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. This is the way of faith, the journey with Jesus – dying and rising – build, unbuild, rebuild - - - going mobile.
This is the covenant that I will make… I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. This is the way of faith, the journey with Jesus – a new heart, always a new heart - - - going mobile.
But oh the places you’ll go, many of them inside, deep inside. When we have gone places inside the familiar places outside are never the same. I think of the words of T. S. Eliot (Four Quartets, 58, 59).

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And to know the place for the first time.

“My dear Bilbo… You are not the hobbit that you were.” On the journey with Jesus, none of us ever is. Amen.