Friday, February 28, 2014

Crazy Love

February 23, 2014

Texts: Matthew 5:38-48

            Patsy Cline, “Crazy”
            Van Morrison, “Crazy Love”
            Poco, “Crazy Love”
            There is something about “crazy” and “love” which seem to go together in popular culture from the golden country of Patsy Cline singing the Willie Nelson penned song “Crazy,” to the unmistakable Irish rock of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” to the gentle country rock of Poco’s “Crazy Love.”
            But how is this for crazy love?  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven….  If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Wow.  Now that’s crazy love in the words of Jesus.
            What might it mean to love our enemies?  If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.  What kind of craziness is this?  Are we simply invited to be doormats of love as followers of Jesus?
            Actually, the craziness of love is wisely and wildly crazy here.  Jesus is not encouraging abject submission to oppressive enemies, but inviting us to actions that offer the enemy the possibility to change.  To offer someone the possibility to change for the better is love.  New Testament scholar Walter Wink writes about this passage, “Jesus is not telling us to submit to evil, but to refuse to oppose it on its own terms”  (The Powers That Be, 100).  The backhanded slap is the only possibility for striking the right cheek for a right-handed person, and the backhanded slap was an act of insult and humiliation from a social superior to a social inferior.  Turning the other cheek requires hitting with the right fist, but this is the way equals fought.  Turning the other cheek you remind the enemy of fundamental human dignity.
            Jesus lived in a two garment society.  Imagine what it would be like to be in court and ordered to give up one of those garments.  How humiliating and degrading.  Jesus counsels to give up your other garment too.  Here is Walter Wink’s description.  By stripping, the debtor has brought shame on the creditor.  Imagine the guffaws this saying must have evoked.  There stands the creditor, covered with shame, the poor debtor’s outer garment in the one hand, his undergarment in the other.  The tables have suddenly been turned on the creditor….  The poor man has transcended this attempt to humiliate him. (The Powers That Be, 104)
            In Jesus’s time, Roman soldiers could conscript people to carry their gear for one mile, but only one mile.  To go further would have been a violation of the military code.  Suddenly a soldier is no longer in charge.  The conscripted person has carried the gear for a longer period of time, and the soldier may be subject to punishment himself.  Jesus, here, in the words of Walter Wink, is “formulating a worldly spirituality in which the people at the bottom of society or under the thumb of imperial power learn to recover their humanity” (108).  I would also say that the enemy is given a chance to change.  That’s crazy love of the enemy.
            And if this is not enough craziness, hear again the words at the end of this reading.  “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Talk about crazy, but there it is.  Be perfect as God is perfect.  If we are not feeling just a little uneasy, maybe we haven’t been listening intently enough.  I began in the middle of this reading, love your enemies.  What might that mean in Jesus’s time?  Turn the other cheek, give your second garment, walk the second mile.  What kind of love is this?  God kind of love.  Be perfect as God is perfect.  Love like God loves.
            The word “perfect” here connotes wholeness, maturity, not some state frozen in time, or some goal reached for ever.  Love with God’s kind of love, not a love that simply loves those who love us, but a love that reaches out even when loving is difficult and the world is harsh and cruel.
            John Wesley captures something of this idea of love as being perfect as God is perfect.  Wesley wrote in 1767: By perfection I mean the humble, gentle, patient love of God and our neighbor, ruling our habits, attitudes, words, and actions.
            Be perfect as God is perfect.  Love like God loves.
            What might this mean in our day and time when we have more than two garments, and thank God for that this winter, when laws protect us from being struck, when soldiers cannot simply conscript us into service?  Here are a few testimonies.
            Anne Lamott is a writer, a person of faith, and she leans to the left politically.  In one of her essays she writes about loving the president, when the president was George W. Bush.  For others, her reflections might be more helpful now that the president is Barack Obama.  I know the world is loved by God, as are all of its people, but it is much easier to believe that God hates or disapproves of or punishes the same people I do, because these thoughts are what is going on inside me much of the time.  (Plan B, 220-221)…  I’ve known for years that resentments don’t hurt the person we resent, but that they do hurt and even sometimes kill us.  I’d been asking myself, Am I willing to try to give up a bit of this hatred?   I wondered whether I could try to love my president as Jesus or Dr. King would. (220)  Lamott attends church where the passage about loving your enemies is the focus of the sermon.  Driving home, I tried to hold on to what I’d heard that day: that loving your enemies was nonnegotiable.  It meant trying to respect them, it meant identifying with their humanity and weaknesses.  It didn’t mean unconditional acceptance of their crazy behavior.  They were still accountable for the atrocities they’d perpetrated, as you were accountable for yours.  But you worked at doing better, at loving them, for the profoundest spiritual reason: You were trying not to make things worse.  Day 1 went pretty well.  All things considered….  I have to admit it, though: Day 2 was a bit of a disappointment. (225, 226)
            Desmond Tutu is an Anglican Bishop in South Africa and worked long and hard against apartheid when it was the law of the land there.  Following the end of apartheid, Tutu was deeply involved in the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and in other reconciliation work.  The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa had provided the theological rationale for the racial segregation of apartheid, and after the changes in South Africa, the church issued a confession acknowledging their responsibility for apartheid policies and the suffering they produced.  Archbishop Tutu accepted the confession, and was criticized by some for doing so.  He responded.  I have been with men like Walter Sisulu and others who have been in jail for twenty-five, twenty-seven years for having the audacity to say they are human.  They come out of that experience and they have an incredible capacity to love.  They have no bitterness, no longing for revenge, but a deep commitment to renew South Africa.  I am humbled as I stand in front of such people; and so, dear friends, I think I am convicted by the Holy Spirit of God and by the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in offering forgiveness.  (God is Not a Christian, 31)
            Theologian and author Frederick Buechner reflected on what it might mean to love one’s enemies, and thought that perhaps it begins with seeing our enemies clearly.  You see the lines in their faces and the way they walk when they’re tired.  You see who their husbands and wives are maybe.  You see where they’re vulnerable.  You see where they’re scared.  Seeing what is hateful about them, you may catch a glimpse also of where the hatefulness comes from.  Seeing the hurt they cause you, you may also see the hurt they cause themselves.  You’re light years away from loving them, to be sure, but at least you see how they are human even as you are human, and that is at least a step in the right direction.  It’s possible that you may even get to where you can pray for them a little, if only that God forgive them because you yourself can’t, but any prayer for them at all is a major breakthrough. (Whistling in the Dark, 47)
            Love.  Crazy love.  Love even for enemies.  Loving as God loves.  Be perfect, be mature, as God is perfect.  Crazy.
            And isn’t it the height of craziness to think that this is possible among mere mortals like us?  Is Jesus a little crazy even to ask this of us?
            Perhaps, but then God does love us with a crazy love.  See, if perfect love is described here in these words of Jesus, then this is also God’s love for us, for the world.  God loves us with a love that goes the extra mile.  God loves us with a love that gives itself away.  One way to understand the story of Jesus is to see it as God taking off some of the garments of “being God” and coming to share life with us.  God loves us with a love that persists even when we push God away.
            When we know this crazy love of God for us deep in our hearts, deep in our minds, deep in our souls, deep in our bones, then maybe we, too can love a little more perfectly, maturely.

            Crazy.  Amen.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Don't Even Think About It

Sermon preached February 16, 2014

Texts: Matthew 5:21-37

            White Tail Chapel invites all worshippers to come as they are, exactly as God made them.  The church, located on the grounds of the White Tail resort (“a Family Nudist Community”) focuses on casting off material concerns, including clothes….  Pastor Allen Parker told a local television news station that many of Jesus’ most important moments happened when he was naked.
            How many of you are familiar with the author and speaker Richard Rohr?  Richard Rohr is a best-selling author and speaker.  He is a Francisan monk.  One of his book is entitled The Naked Now.  I don’t think White Tail Chapel is what he had in mind. You just cannot make up stuff like this.
            One of my undergraduate majors was psychology.  I will never forget a date I had in college.  That I can remember them so well says something kind of sad about their frequency.  Anyway, this young woman and I went to a movie.  She knew what I was studying and after the movie she confessed to me that she was nervous the whole time, wondering if I was analyzing her reactions.  The relationship did not last long.
            So here we are this morning with some texts that often make us as uncomfortable as if we were attending a clothing-optional worship service.  We have words of Jesus about anger, about lust, about divorce, about truthfulness.  And it is not just because I was a psychology major that I think this, but I think these texts are about digging deeper, about inner work, about laying bare the heart and soul if you will.
            Jesus begins with elements of his religious tradition.  You shall not commit murder.  But he uses this to offer words about anger and angry words.  “If you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”
            You shall not commit adultery.  Jesus uses this, as if it may not be uncomfortable enough, to move in a different direction.  “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  And if that is not difficult enough he goes on.  “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.”
            Divorce was permitted in the Jewish tradition of Jesus time.  It was always solely a male prerogative.  Divorced women had few opportunities to make a living economically. Capricious divorce left women destitute. Jesus wants to speak against this.  but how he does this!  “Whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
            Jesus also has some words to say about deep truthfulness, but perhaps we already have enough to grapple with.
            You must admit, this is pretty powerful stuff.  These are some pretty powerful words.  Anger – don’t even think about it.  Lust – don’t even think about it.  That’s not easy in our sex-saturated society.  Divorce – don’t even think about it.  I’m not sure that “don’t even think about it” thing is a very accurate understanding to these passages, but it seems closer to what we have done with them over the years.
            An acquaintance of mine, someone who was working on her Ph.D. at SMU at the same time I was, and is now teaching theology at a seminary, posted a link to an interesting piece on her Facebook page this week -  “The Most Pernicious and Pervasive Heresy (within American Christianity).”  You want to know what it is?  The writer of the essay called it “respectablism.”  Here are elements of what he means by respectablism.  Many local churches tend to become instruments for achieving middle class interests, whether or not these interests can be defended in New Testament terms….  Most American “church people” look for a church that will entertain and comfort them.  As soon as it challenges their most basic values and lifestyles, they either protest or leave.
            I am not sure my theologian friend agreed completely with this essay, but she thought it might have something to say.  I have problems with the way this person characterizes some issues, but there is a truth here for us and we see it in how we have dealt with Jesus’ words in Matthew 5.
            We have taken Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 and understood them to mean, “don’t even think about it” and made that “don’t even think about it” mentality our standard of respectability.  What does it mean to be a Christian?  It means to be respectable.  We don’t get angry.  We don’t really deal with the fact that we are sexual beings – don’t even think about that.  Marital problems, don’t even think about it.  For many years the church harmed a lot of people with its head-in-the sand, don’t-even-think-about-it attitude toward divorce.
            Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not against being respectable.  Nor do I think we should think about anger, and lust and divorce cavalierly.  But I think Jesus is after something more than respectability.  What I think Jesus is after here is a certain kind of naked honesty, though not the kind at White Tail Chapel, more the kind in Richard Rohr’s The Naked Now.  These words of Jesus invite us to dig deeper into our lives.  These words of Jesus invite us to serious inner work.  These words of Jesus invite us to dramatic transformation.  But dramatic transformation begins with willingness to honestly look at who we are, look at all the tangled roots of anger and sexuality and relationality that are inside of us.
            Jesus says in Matthew 5: “If you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.”  Paul writes in Ephesians (4:26): “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  So is anger ever appropriate? I believe it can be, but only when it arises in the face of injustice and hurt in the world. Even then, anger is in danger of being captured by self-righteousness. We always need to be aware of our anger. We must always ask tough questions of our anger, whether or not it is really rooted in concern for others. We must not let anger turn into self-righteousness. If anger is ever to be creative and constructive, it must be thoroughly woven together with love. In the face of anger we should either be weaving it together with love or learning how to let it go. Failing to do that, we tend to nurture a negative attitude toward those with whom we stay angry. We would like to see them eliminated in one way or another. Sounds a little like murder, doesn’t it.  This is not about “don’t even think about it,” it is about digging deeper.
            Jesus says in Matthew 5: “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  I remember when President Jimmy Carter was a presidential candidate, and admitted that he probably had not been pure when it came to lust.  Some people were shocked, as if this was the most horrific thing he could say.  We fool ourselves if we don’t think sexuality is powerful, and we fool ourselves when we deny that we are sexual beings, to some extent or another.  I appreciate how author Sharon Salzberg puts the matter of the appropriate use of our sexual energy. “All too often, people will sacrifice love, family life, career, or friendship to satisfy sexual craving. Abiding happiness is given up for temporary pleasure, and a great deal of suffering ensues when we are willing to cause pain to satisfy our desires…. Sexuality is a very powerful force. A mature spirituality demands that we, without self-righteousness, commit to not harming ourselves or others through our sexual energy” (Lovingkindness). When we look at people only through the lenses of our own desires, we begin to see them as merely the sum of their parts, not as whole persons, and Jesus wants us to see others as whole persons.  This is not about “don’t even think about it,” it is about digging deeper.
            Divorce.  I have already said something about the social context for this passage, how women in the time of Jesus were often made destitute by divorce, and it remains true that women tend to be made poorer by divorce today, too.  Jesus is concerned about that. Beyond that, Jesus takes life-long covenantal relationships seriously and so should we. While divorce may be a regrettable but necessary alternative when there has been deep unfaithfulness in a relationship (this is not just sexual unfaithfulness), it should never be seen as an easy option.  How do we grapple with all that is inside of us that longs for deep connection with another, but also fears such connection.  This is not about “don’t even think about it,” it is about digging deeper.
            These difficult words in Matthew 5 are not about superficial respectability.  They are about deep transformation.  They are about the adventure of inner work.  They are about following Jesus even into our own hearts and souls with a certain naked honesty.
            In his book, The Naked Now, Richard Rohr captures something of this inner work.  It is living in the naked now, the “sacrament of the present moment,” that will teach us how to actually experience our experiences, whether good, bad, or ugly, and how to let them transform us” (12)  We are invited to be awake, which Rohr describes, in part, as “I drop to a level deeper that the passing show” (135).  We want to keep “moving deeper into faith” (166).
            An elderly gentleman ran an antique shop in a large city.  A tourist once stepped in and got to talking with the old man about all the many things he had stacked around his shop.  Said the tourist, “What would you say is the strangest, the most mysterious thing you have here?”  The old man looked around, surveying all that he had in his shop, then turning to the tourist, said,  “The strangest, most mysterious thing in this shop is unquestionably myself.” (Anthony DeMillo, Taking Flight, 131)

            We are strange and mysterious and wonderful, with capacities for beauty, but also for harm.  The invitation here is to do the inner work needed to let God’s grace and love touch all that we are, transform all that we are, so that God can love the world through us.  It’s not about “don’t even think about it,” it is about digging deeper.   Amen.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Both And

Sermon preached February 9, 2014

Texts: Isaiah 58:3-8; Matthew 5:13-21

            According to Rabbi Bunim of P'shiskha, everyone should have two pockets, each containing a slip of paper. On one should be written: I am but dust and ashes, and on the other: The world was created for me.  I’ve liked that story since I first heard it many years ago.  It helps keep life in perspective, reminding me of my potential, of my responsibility, and of my limitations.  It is a both/and story.
            I was thinking, though, that the story could be revised using the images from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5.  Now I want to be careful.  Somehow I don’t think having in one pocket “you are the light of the world” and in the other pocket “you are a dim bulb” works.
            How about this?  In one pocket: “You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.”  In the other pocket: “Salt can lose its flavor.  Light can be hidden.”  We need the two pockets to remind us of important both/ands in life.
            You are the salt of the earth, but you can also be flavorless salt.  You are the light of the world, but you can also hide your light.  You are a firework, to use last week’s image, but you can also be full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
            I appreciate how Eugene Peterson renders these verses in Matthew in his paraphrase/translation of the Bible, The MessageLet me tell you why you are here.  You’re here to be the salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.  If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?  You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.  Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.  God is not a secret to be kept.  We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.  If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you?  I’m putting you on a light stand.  Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand – shine!
            That’s who we are in Jesus.  That’s why we are here – to bring out the God-flavors in the world, to bring out the God-colors in the world.  But we can lose our way.  Our saltiness can go flat.  Our light can burn dimly or be hidden.
            So how do we stay salty?  How do we keep lighted?
            Often in the church here is where we talk about individual spiritual practices.  A few years ago, a United Methodist bishop, Rueben Job penned a brief book entitled Three
Simple Rules: a Wesleyan way of living
.  The final rule was “stay in love with God.”  Surely staying in love with God has a lot to do with staying salty and keeping our light burning brightly.  What does Bishop Job suggest for staying in love with God?  Spiritual disciplines such as corporate worship, sharing in communion, prayer – both individual and small group, Bible study.  Spiritual disciplines teach us to live our lives in harmony with something larger than ourselves and larger than that which the world values as ultimate (54).
            These are important practices to keep ourselves salty and well-lighted.  Each of us needs to find ways to keep these practices fresh and alive and that will differ.  Not everyone is an early morning prayer.  That’s o.k.  Pray as you can pray, don’t try and be someone else at prayer.  Our schedules and the weather can make weekly worship a challenge, but never give up doing the best you can to share this time with others and opening yourself to God.  Never give up trying to crack open the Bible for some new insights, as difficult a book as it is.  Practice self-reflection.  All these matter.
            But here is another both/and.  Individual spiritual practices are vitally important.  So, too, is engaging the world.  The passage from Isaiah 58 is powerful.  It is set up as a conversation between the Israelites and God.  They are complaining that they are engaging in these spiritual disciplines but that God is not paying attention.  Why do we fast, but you do not see?  Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?  God responds.  Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
            Then comes this added word.  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.
            To stay salty, to stay well-lighted is both to engage in those practices that keep us in love with God, and to engage with the world toward love and justice.  We want the God we love to love the world through us.
            Reading Isaiah 58 is a little like reading the newspaper.  In January, Oxfam released information about wealth distribution in the world.  The world’s 85 richest people control the same amount of wealth as half the world’s population.  What that means is that the poorest 3.55 billion people on the planet must live on what the richest 85 possess.  In the United States the share of income going to the richest 1% rose from less than 10% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008-2012.
            Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
            Now I don’t want to simplify a complex issue.  It is easier to point to the problem than to figure out a solution.  It is important to note that the problem is not that there are people who are wealthy nor that there is economic inequality itself.  The issue is that the results of our economic arrangements are to bring more and more to those who have, while leaving behind so many others.  Engaging with the world means taking this issue seriously.
            I think it also means taking seriously caring for the earth.  Again, it is easier to identify issues of concern than find solutions.  How do we appropriately weigh environmental concerns against economic development?  Unfortunately most of our economic models are short-term while environmental damage can be long-lasting.  What about climate change?  Can we move the discussion of possible human impact on the climate out of the divisive political discourse?  What measures can we take to minimize the human impact on the climate?  That impact may disproportionately affect the poorest on the planet.
            Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
            Staying salty, keeping our light well-lighted is a both/and proposition.  There is the inner work of tending to our relationship with God, staying in love with God.  There is the outer work of engagement with the world, seeking to move the world toward God’s dream for it – a dream of justice, peace, reconciliation, kindness, care.  The inner and outer flow from each other.  What we do affects who we are, and who we are flows out into what we do.  It is like the Mobius strip.  You want to stay salty?  Tend to your inner life.  Practice spiritual disciplines.  Seek justice.  Do kindness.  Let your faith seek to change the world.  You want to stay well-lighted.  Tend to your inner life.  Practice spiritual disciplines.  Seek justice.  Do kindness.  Let your faith seek to change the world.
            You are the salt of the earth.  Stay salty.
            You are the light of the world.  Stay well-lighted.
            You are a firework.  Stay awesome.


Sunday, February 2, 2014


Sermon preached February 2, 2014

Texts: Micah 6:1-8; Matthew 5:1-12, 14

            So one of the things that tell you you are closer to 55 than 25 is when you watch the Grammy Awards you know more about the musicians who died in the past year than about the nominees.  The music world lost some significant musicians in 2013: Patty Andrews, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Donald Byrd, Richie Havens, George Jones, Ray Manzarek, Patti Page, Lou Reed; and now in 2014 we have already lost Pete Seeger.
            I admit I know more about these folks than about Maclemore and Ryan Lewis, Vampire Weekend, a seventeen year old named “Lorde,” and a group with guys who wear helmets called Daft Punk.  Tonight, at the Super Bowl half time a Grammy nominee named Bruno Mars is playing.
            But it is time to move into the twenty-first century with some of my pop culture and music references.  Are you ready for this.
Katy Perry, “Firework”
            The singer, Katy Perry, a Grammy nominee this year, has an interesting story.  She grew up in a very conservative Christian home, both her parents being Pentecostal pastors.  How conservative a home?  At her house, “deviled eggs” could not be called deviled eggs.  She has moved from an environment where pop music was not allowed to being a major force in that music.
            But I think Katy Perry, in this song is reaching into her Christian roots.  There’s a spark in you/Ignite the light/and let it shine/’Cause baby, you’re a firework.
            You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
            But what about all that has come before?  We don’t typically read the Beatitudes, all those “blessed are” as affirmation, do we?  We often read them and see how far we fall short of these conditions of blessedness, of deep happiness.  What if, however, we think of the Beatitudes in a different way?  What if we read them as a portrait of who we are becoming as we are being shaped by God’s Spirit?  But this shaping by God’s Spirit is not simply a passive experience on our parts.  We have a role to play.  We are invited by God’s Spirit to be co-creators of our hearts, souls, minds, spirits.
            Yes, the Beatitudes are an ideal.  Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who grieve and mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those persecuted for the right reasons.  Who doesn’t see where they may not have arrived yet?  But we are on the journey.  Jesus wasn’t addressing people who were utterly failing, he was reminding people that they were on the way.  This is who we are, in part, and who we are becoming as we work with the Spirit of God in our lives.
            And don’t we need such pictures of where we are headed?  At its best, the Christian tradition of acknowledging saints is intended to help us picture what we would like our lives to be like.  Part of the appeal of Pope Francis is that people are seeing in his life something of the Spirit of Jesus, something of the Beatitudes.  I am helped in my spiritual journey with Jesus to be reminded of people I aspire to imitate in certain ways – Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Jr.  This week I lost a friend, a man named Jim Perry.  I worked quite a bit with Jim over the years before he retired and moved back home to Vermont.  I admired Jim’s kind heart, and warm relationality.
            I want to be like these people – Pope Francis, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, Jr., my friend Jim.  I want to be blessed with a gentle spirit, with the ability to see all that there is to grieve and mourn in the world and to grieve and mourn with others, with gentle kindness, with a hunger and thirst for a better world and a richer relationship with God, with being merciful and forgiving, with a pure heart, with being a peacemaker, with having the courage to do what’s right even when it is difficult.  I am not there, but I am on the way.  You may not be there, but you are on the way.
            What if we read Micah not as pure imperative – “do this, do that,” but even more as invitation.  God’s way is the way of justice – you come too.  God’s way is the way of loving kindness – you come too.  God’s way is the way of relationship – you come too.  Again we are on the way.
            We are co-creating with God our lives, and moving in this direction.  And when you are co-creating with God’s Spirit in this direction, well, baby you’re a firework.  You are the light of the world.  In the words of The Message: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God colors in the world.  You are light, bringing out the God colors in the world.
            Come on let your colors burst/Make ‘em go aah, aah, aah/Your gonna leave them in awe, awe, awe… ‘Cause there’s a spark in you.  You’re a firework.

            Next week we will spend some time acknowledging that we have the capacity to hide our light and loose our saltiness, but today just celebrate that you’re a firework.  You are the light of the world, even brighter than the moon.  Amen.