Friday, August 29, 2014

I Want To Take You Higher, Part I

Sermon preached August 24, 2014

Texts: Romans 12:1-8

            Sly and the Family Stone, “I Want To Take You Higher”
            Like the style of that song or not, there is something very biblical, very Christian about it.  “I Want to Take You Higher.”  That’s what Jesus is about.  That’s what’s at the heart of the Christian faith.  Theologian and biblical scholar Marcus Borg, in his book The Heart of Christianity, writes, “the Christian life… is about ‘being born again’ and the ‘kingdom of God” (126).  These are “two transformations at the heart of the Christian life: the individual-spiritual-personal and the communal-social-political” (103).
            Jesus wants to take you higher.  God’s Spirit wants to transform your life.  Every Bible ought to come with a warning label – “If God’s Spirit speaks to you through these words, you will be changed.”  Every worship service ought to come with a cautionary note, “God’s Spirit transforms lives – watch out!”
            Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds (Romans 12:2a).  We have already encountered some other renderings of this passage.  Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within (Phillips).  Do not become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out (The Message).
            So what’s so wrong with the world that we need to be taken higher, transformed?   The thing I really appreciate about the alternative renderings of Romans 12:2a is that they don’t assume that the world and the culture are without value.  But they do assume that there are some concerns, that fitting in without thinking is a problem, that being squeezed into the mold of the surround culture squeezes something important out of us.
            During our vacation, I came across these words, written by Lin Yutang (1875-1976), a Chinese writer, inventor and translator.  They were written in the mid-Twentieth Century.  The three great American vices seem to be efficiency, punctuality, and the desire for achievement and success.  They are the things that make Americans so unhappy and so nervous.
            Seriously?!  Our vices are efficiency, punctuality and the desire for achievement or success?  I want to do well.  I don’t really like waiting.  If things can be done more efficiently, why not?  It saves time and money.  But step back a bit.  Do you remember a time when you pulled into a gas station and someone actually came out to fill your gas tank, and wash your windows?  Now I can fill up my car and not even talk to anybody, but what happened to those jobs?  We can go to the grocery store, and never have a cashier check us out.  It can be efficient, but what will it do for employment?  Do we even stop and wonder if there can be something to consider other than efficiency?  Do our lives ever become too governed by the clock?  Have you ever encountered someone who was a success by most standards, but wished they had been less of a success and a better parent or spouse or friend?
            Being different from the world does not mean rejecting the beauty and goodness we see in our culture, but it asks us to see the darker sides as well.  It asks us to look at the ways we remain caught in issues we would just as soon be over.  Ferguson, Missouri reminds us again that there remains deep fissures in our society based on our history of race relations.  I have a pretty high trust level in police officers.  They are there to enforce the laws, and they are often put in difficult situations to do just that.  Might my feelings toward law enforcement be different if in the not too distant past the laws that were being enforced were laws that systematically discriminated against members of my family, laws that made me drink at separate fountains, sit in separate places, attend different schools.  It takes time to heal deep wounds, but we Americans are not really that fond of history – get over it, man up, move on.  Working with our difficult history – personally and socially, can take time and be more complex.  That work is not always “efficient.”
            The Spirit of God wants to take us higher, to be different.  Don’t be squeezed into the mold of the world.  Don’t fit into the surrounding culture without even thinking about it.  The entire chapter 12 in Romans explores some of these significant transformations, and we will be looking at this chapter this week and next.
            Jesus wants to take us higher.  We are invited to be different, but let’s be honest about the difficulty of that.  Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “People wish to be settled; only so far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them” (in Anne Lamott, Stitches, 56).
            So let me, in the last few minutes of this sermon, look at one way we are invited to be different, to be transformed.  I want to again hear from that significant theologian, Sly Stone.   Sly and the Family Stone, “Everybody is a Star” 
            Everybody is a star.  “We have gifts differing according to the grace given to us” (Romans 12:6a).  You are gifted.  Now that may not seem very counter cultural, but I think it is.  We often refer to those who are gifted as persons with very special talents.  That’s o.k., but not all of us necessarily have those kinds of extraordinary talents that others would call “gifted.”  We are almost encouraged to envy those who are so gifted, ignoring the ways each of us is gifted.  Someone writing about Romans 12 penned these wise words.  Our society is desperately searching for people with a sense of adventure and Hilarity, those who feel good about themselves and delight in their own capabilities and visions and gifts (Truly the Community, 69-70).
            Is that us?  Do we really believe this about ourselves, that we are gifted?  Earlier this week I came across these word of Joan Chittister in a devotional.  We are full of the riches of a life-time – the experiences we’ve had and the wisdom that has come from them; the dreams we’ve had and the things that obstructed them; the hurts we’ve had and the things that cured them. (Living Well, 105)  No one else has had your experiences, and the wisdom you’ve derived from them.  No one else has dreamed your dreams, and worked with them.  No one else has suffered your hurts, and dealt with them.  You are gifted.  You have gifts.  If you want to explore one way to look at those gifts, I would invite you to take a spiritual gifts inventory ( and I will put a link on our Facebook page for that, and it will be in this sermon when it gets posted on our web site later this week.
            Do we believe we are gifted, that we have gifts?  Maybe the best we can do is believe it sometimes, but that in itself, is a gift.
            But here’s another part of this whole idea of gifts that is different from what we often encounter in the world around us.  We have gifts, but they are different gifts, and because we do not have the same gifts, we need each other in some fundamental way.  Paul uses the image of the body.  Each part of the body needs the other parts.  We need each other.  Part of our transformation happens when we are together in community.
            And here is yet another part of this whole idea of gifts that is also different from what we often encounter in the world around us.  We are to develop and use our gifts in such a way that we contribute to a larger good.  Our gifts are less about self-aggrandizement than about enriching the world, helping transform the world just as we are being transformed by God’s Spirit and the love of Jesus.
            I want to wrap up this morning with a quote and two brief stories that speak to me about the kind of transformation God is working in our lives.  In all honesty, I think I have shared these before, but they are some of my favorites.
            I used a longer version of this last week, but this line is a good reminder to us of our gifts and the right use of our gifts.  The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet (Frederich Buechner, Wishful Thinking)  Your deep gladness is a clue to your giftedness, and those gifts are to be used to meet some of the deep hungers of the world.
            Rabbi Zusya said, “In the world to come, they will not ask me “Why were you not Moses?’  They will ask me, ‘Why were you not Zusya?” (The Spirituality of Imperfection, 2)
            A brother asked one of the elders, “What good thing shall I do, and have life thereby?”  The old man said, “God alone knows what is good: Yet I have heard that one of the Fathers questioned the great abbot Nistero, who was a friend of Anthony, saying, ‘What good work shall I do?’ and Nistero replied, ‘All works are not the same.  The Scriptures say that Abraham was hospitable, and God was with him.  And Elijah loved quiet, and God was with him.  And David was humble, and God was with him.  What therefore you find your soul drawn to and desiring in following God, do it, and keep your heart and know peace therein.’” (The Desert Fathers, 5; The Desert Fathers, (Waddell) 68; Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert, 25-26)
            Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.  Jesus wants to take you higher.
Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within (Phillips).  Jesus wants to take you higher. 
Do not become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.  Instead fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out (The Message).  Jesus wants to take you higher.
You are gifted. You are a star.  Don’t let the world tell you differently.
You have gifts that can help heal a broken world.  Don’t live in the world without out remembering that.
We need the gifts each other offer here.  Don’t let the world squeeze that truth out of you.

The Spirit is taking us higher.  Amen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

From the Heart

Sermon preached August 17, 2014

Texts: Matthew 15:10-28

            So which would you rather be?  Would you rather be the person who “always does the right thing” but often with little joy, without having her or his heart in it, or a person who “follows their own bliss,” but often leaves behind a mess, particularly relationship wreckage?  Neither seems very appealing does it?
            If forced to choose, I would hope most of us would choose to be that person who does the right thing, does their duty.  The world is just a little better place when we all seek to do what is good and right.  As a Boy Scout, I was encouraged to do a good turn daily.  Acting on our intentions to do good matters.
            Here is where things can get a little muddy, though.  Good intentions don’t always lead to actions that produce good results, even though the good is intended.  On our vacation we visited the home of President Rutherford B. Hayes in the small town of Fremont, Ohio.  Hayes’ home is a museum, and on the grounds is the first presidential library established in the United States.  Hayes was a one-term president, elected in 1876.  His was the only presidential election in our countries history decided in the House of Representatives.  Hayes had lost the popular vote.  By all accounts, Hayes was a good and decent person who sought to do his best for his country.  “He serves his party best who serves his country best.”  Yet it was under Hayes that the United States ended reconstruction, which resulted in a deep backsliding of civil rights for Black Americans, particularly in the South.  And it was Hayes’ policies toward Native Americans which led to the establishment of Indian Schools, places where Native children were taken too and where they were forbidden to speak their languages – “kill the Indian, save the child.”
            And if acting out of a sense of duty and good intentions does not always produce good results, we also need to admit that a sense of duty can become narrow, pinched – and that is not so good either.
            Many of you know that my family and I vacationed in New York.  We visited our older daughter in Rochester, NY and then spent some time in New York City.  What you may not know is how we ended up in New York City.  Our original plan was to travel into New Hampshire and Vermont, maybe even Maine, after we left our daughter’s.  What happened?
            The musical Les Miserable played in Duluth in July.  Julie had mentioned to me earlier in the summer that she would like to see it, but the dates were not ideal.  That week was Ruby’s Pantry on Thursday.  I was scheduled to officiate at a wedding on Friday.  Obviously these were part of doing the right thing for me.  Saturday of that week, the Islamic Community of the Twin Ports, as part of an initiative of the Minnesota Council of Churches, invited community members to a Ramadan dinner.  I thought it important to go, and I forgot about the possibility of Les Miserable.  I have a pretty strong sense of trying to do the right thing.  Julie was kind enough to offer to go with me to the dinner, though I had disappointed her about Les Mis.  What made matters worse, though, was that there was some confusion about the time for the dinner, so when we arrived at the Islamic Community at the time specified, 7:00, the only people there were the half dozen community members who had come to dinner.  No one from the Islamic Community was there.  A few phone calls were made, and we discovered that they were not planning on arriving until 8:30.  The meal happens following sunset.  Out of my “sense of duty,” Julie missed her opportunity to see Les Miserable.  So I proposed we go to New York City on our vacation to see a Broadway show.
            This morning’s Scripture reading offers a different vision of life from either the vision of the rather joyless, duty-bound person or the person just doing their own thing regardless of the consequences to others.  Jesus teaches about the human heart.  Rules about what we eat miss the point, because “whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer.”  The heart is what matters, and the heart expresses itself in what comes out in speech and in life.
            The vision here is one of heart and life flowing together.  It is a vision of speaking from the heart, living from the heart.  In the past I have used the Mobius strip to speak about the kind of interconnection that we want to see in our lives – where the inner person, the heart, gets expressed in how we live, but also where how we live affects the inner person the heart.  Do you know that the French word for “heart” (Coeur) is related to the English word for “core”?  The life we are invited to by Jesus is a life where there is some congruence between our heart, our core, and what we say and do.  It is not simply a vision of following our bliss, doing what comes naturally, because what we do also affects that core.  The vision is of a good life flowing from a good heart, of an alignment between heart and life where one flows into the other, transforming the other.  It is a vision of the active and on-going transformation of the heart and of life.
            One of the ways I have appreciated thinking about this relationship between heart and life is in Frederick Buechner’s discussion of vocation.  Reflecting on the idea of what God calls people to, Buechner writes: The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done.  If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing cigarette ads, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b).  On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably me requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either….  The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. (Wishful Thinking, 118-119)
            Heart and life aligned.  Joy and goodness embracing.  Core and surface woven together.  This is God’s hope and dream and calling for our lives.  This is the direction of the Spirit’s movement in our lives.
            What makes this morning’s Scripture reading utterly fascinating is the ironic twist that occurs.  Jesus says, “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.”  Then there is the story of the Canaanite woman who approaches Jesus asking for help.  “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”  What comes out of Jesus’ mouth?  “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”  That’s cold.  What comes from the mouth proceeds from the heart?  Yikes.
            The tenacious and courageous woman does not give up.  “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  It is a transformative moment in the story.  Something catches Jesus, surprises him, it seems.  There is a change.  “Woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.”  A change of heart and a new response leads to healing.  Jesus idea of doing good gets enlarged, where it may have been a little bit pinched before.
            With the saying and the story together it seems we have a vision of the kind of life God desires for us - heart and life aligned; joy and goodness embracing; core and surface woven together.  We also have a way for letting our hearts be transformed – be open to the pain and courage in the world, let your heart be broken and touched and opened, be willing to be surprised, be open to growth and change, even changing our idea of what the good asks of us.  This summer, a new definition of humility has come to me.  At least I have never heard it put this way before.  To be humble is to be open to being surprised, particularly surprised by God.
The kind of life God desires for us is a life where our hearts and lives are aligned, where joy and goodness embrace, where the core and the surface flow together and are woven together.  That’s the kind of life God desires, and part of the journey to that life and in that life is a journey of openness to pain, to beauty, to being surprised.
Doing the right thing still matters, matters tremendously.  We need to find the right things to do when we still suffer the kind of heartache we are suffering in Ferguson, Missouri.  We can do better.  We need to find the right things to do when we are reminded again of the amount of silent pain and suffering that can be part of even the most successful lives.  Robins Williams suicide reminded us of that.
What we yearn for, what we long for, is doing the right thing with joy.  What we yearn for and long for are hearts, are cores, that are deeply wise and compassionate and passionate for a better world.  This is what God wants for us, too.  We get there, in part, by being open to the hurt, pain, beauty, and brutality (“beautality” someone has called it), the wisdom, and courage we find around us.  We get there by cultivating humble hearts.

The journey continues, together, with each other, with Jesus.  Amen.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Don't Mean a Thing

Sermon July 27, 2014 (I have been on vacation for a couple of weeks)

Texts: Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

            “It Don’t Mean a Thing”  Ellington:
            Ella and Ellington:
            “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing – do wah, do wah, do wah, do wah, do wah.”
            What does “the kingdom of God” mean?  Why might we care?  We care because “the whole message of Jesus focuses on the kingdom of God” (Norman Perrin, Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom, 1).  This idea was important to Jesus and as followers of Jesus, we need to pay attention to it.  We want to pay attention to it.  And if you are wondering, Matthew’s use of the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” is just another way of talking about “the kingdom of God.”  The terms are interchangeable.
            So what does the kingdom of God mean?  It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got what? 
            The kingdom of God is not the name of a place, but it is a symbol that wants to point to a reality, a symbol that invites us to think, dream, and imagine a little differently so that we might also live a little differently.  I like to talk about the kingdom of God as “God’s dream for the world.”  In my rendering of the Jesus Prayer, we use the phrase, “may your kingdom come, your dream arrive, your purposes prevail.”
            The kingdom of God is a symbol for God’s dream and purposes becoming a reality.  It might be said to be a horizon symbol, something always out ahead of us, luring us on into the future, asking us to work to build a different future.  It is a future, though, that can break into the present.  The symbol of the kingdom of God is also an inviting symbol.  We are invited by it to think, dream, imagine and live differently.
            That’s where things may get a little more uncomfortable for some.  The kingdom of God is not just God’s doing, but we are invited to participate.  John Dominic Crossan: God’s kingdom is here, but only insofar as you accept it, enter it, live it, and thereby establish it (The Power of Parable, 127).  Another way to put this is the way South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu did, quoting St. Augustine: St. Augustine says, “God without us will not, as we, without God cannot (in Crossan, 135).  When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, God’s dream to arrive, God’s purposes to prevail we should do this knowing that we will be involved in that happening.
            So we are getting just a little bit of the swing of the kingdom of God - do wah do wah do wah do wah do wah.  But there are more notes to play.  What does it look like, feel like, taste like when indeed, God’s dream arrives right now, when God’s purposes prevail in our historicality?  This is really what these parable of Jesus in Matthew 13 are trying to get at.  What’s it like when God’s dream breaks in and becomes real?  As a poet, Jesus is maybe at his best in describing the feeling you get when you glimpse the Thing itself (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking)
            With parables, Jesus is trying to help us experience and anticipate the experience of God’s kingdom, God’s dream touching our lives and the world.  What does it look like, feel like, taste like?  But he uses the language of symbol, metaphor, parable, poetry.  Jesus parable-riddles generate ambiguity at a variety of levels but never fully resolve that ambiguity (Tom Thatcher, Jesus the Riddler, 81).  We want to know how the kingdom of God swings, what it tastes like, feels like, looks like and what we get is the language of symbol, poetry, metaphor, parable which gives us hints, suggestions, whispers, impressionistic images.  It is a little like grabbing jello, but that is part of the adventure of following Jesus.  This engages us heart, mind and soul.  We participate in dreaming the kingdom as well as in making the dream a reality.  What we know is the overall direction – love, but defining love is also a little like squeezing jello.  It is also like jazz, where what the musicians play depends, in part, on what the other musicians are playing.  It is also like dance where, if you are going to do it well, you need to pay attention to the music and to your partner. 
            One other general comment.  Another reason that symbols, parables, metaphors, poetic language is so appropriate with its ambiguity, hints, suggestions is not only to invite us in, to invite our participation, but also because God’s dream, when it arrives is often shrouded in ambiguity and irony.  I have long appreciated the thoughts of Patrick Henry on this.  I trust God’s grace but I hesitate to identify it in particular cases.  It often blindsides me, regularly catching me off guard, seldom hits me square in the face.  When I know the grace of God, it’s nearly always after the fact, usually long afterward….  Over and over again, grace has come as irony: an off-balance deflating of my pride, sometimes as funny as vaudeville slapstick; a gentle dismantling of my despair (when I’m really hopeless nothing is scarier that hope, so grace has to be indirect, sneaky); clarity when I’m too confused and confusion when I’m too clear. (The Ironic Christian’s Companion, 2, 6)
            Having said all that, we can still ask what does it look like, feel like, taste like when God’s kingdom comes, God’s dream arrives, God’s purposes prevail? 
            Often there is a touch of the miraculous – like a mustard seed becoming a tree, or alike a woman baking with sixty pounds of flour (three measures) - and I am using that word both intentionally and carefully.  We often use the term miraculous to refer to only those things we cannot otherwise explain.  That’s o.k., but sometimes the miraculous has to do with the element of surprise, of seeing hidden dimensions of experience we had not seen before.  I love Walt Whitman’s meditation on the miraculous (“Miracles,” Leaves of Grass:
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart by sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky…

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with
   the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same

The miraculous need not be big and dramatic, though it may be.  It might be small, inconspicuous, perhaps almost innocuous, until finally it grabs hold of you.  It may start out as small as a mustard seed, or as insignificant as a bit of yeast in a large quantity of flour.
            What does it look like, feel like, taste like when God’s kingdom comes, God’s dream arrives, God’s purposes prevail?  There is inclusion and wise discernment together.  When the mustard seed becomes a tree, which, by the way, they don’t – mustard plants are shrubs – except in God’s wild imagination, when the mustard seed becomes a tree, all kinds of birds flock to it.  There is beauty, welcome, song. 
Yet we are not to let “inclusion” be mistaken for sloppy thinking.  Here’s what I mean.  We believe God loves all, and we mean all you all – everyone.  God loves, God welcomes, God accepts.  That doesn’t mean there are no criteria for self-criticism.  That doesn’t mean there are no expectations as we seek to follow Jesus.  There remain things in my life, caught in the net of my life, that I need to throw away.  There remain things in our life together that we expect of each other and hold each other accountable for.  Years ago, when I served as a District Superintendent in The United Methodist Church, I had to do some difficult work with a few church persons who needed behavioral guidelines for their participation in the church.  They had engaged in some pretty destructive kinds of behavior where the congregation, with my help, needed to say, “enough.”  The kingdom of God can show up there, too.
Over the course of the history of the church, we have erred way too often on that “wisdom” side, until it has become foolishness, than we have on the side of welcoming.  Seeds of love grow amazingly, and there is room for all.
What does it look like, feel like, taste like when God’s kingdom comes, God’s dream arrives, God’s purposes prevail?  Well, we have room for the old and the new.  Talk about the need for a dance.  There are traditions in our faith worth rediscovering, and some older things that have lost their vitality. There is new music which can communicate faith, and there are some new ideas that are little more than a flash in the pan.  Finding life in some of the tried and true and being open to being surprised by the new – that’s what it feels like, looks like, tastes like when God’s dream arrives.
What does it look like, feel like, taste like when God’s kingdom comes, God’s dream arrives, God’s purposes prevail?  There is joy and there is passion.  It is like discovering buried treasure or a valuable pearl.  When God’s presence is real and powerful, well, there is a bit of a party.  “Be joyful/though you have considered all the facts” as the poet Wendell Berry encourages.
What does it look like, feel like, taste like when God’s kingdom comes, God’s dream arrives, God’s purposes prevail?  There is the miraculous in the mundane, inclusion and discernment, the old and the new, joy and passion.  And all this is often elusive, sneaky, unpredictable.  Last week I said that one of the paradoxical elements of the Christian life is that there is this deep inner peace in knowing that we are loved by God and this inner restlessness which continually reminds us that God’s redemptive work is not yet finished.  Another paradoxical element of the Christian life is that God is always present in love, always wooing us “to become the image of God we were created to be” (Marjorie Suchocki, in Rethinking Wesley’s Theology Today, 63) yet there is a certain elusiveness in that presence.  If we are too quick to say, that’s where God’s kingdom showed up, we may not be getting it right.  God’s love is always present, and often unpredictable.  Are we open to being blind-sided by God’s grace?
I have been thinking this week about my friend Teri.  Teri is currently the lead pastor at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.  About a year ago she came from Brookings, South Dakota where she had had a wonderfully successful and long-term pastoral ministry.  She will be leaving Hennepin Avenue next month.  She feels a need for a break from pastoral ministry.  I am guessing that for her, she was a bit blindsided by this new whisper of God’s Spirit.  There seems to be a mustard seed planted here, a little leaven, something new is emerging out of something old.  I hope she finds joy and passion in the midst of the unknown ahead.
This week, as well, I stumbled upon an old movie, not all that old, only 2009.  I don’t know about you, but I can get caught up in movies that I have seen and liked.  Well, I was finishing up dinner, and found “The Blind Side.”  I love that movie.  It is based on a true story about a well-off white family in Memphis, the Tuohys, who come to take an interest in an African-American street kind named Michael.  Michael develops into a very good high school football player, gets a scholarship to Mississippi, and ends up being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.  He is a left offensive tackle, whose job it is to protect the quarterback’s blind side – hence the name of the movie.  I have seen the movie a few times, but it was not until this week that it really hit me.  The real blindside in this movie is the way the Tuohy family is blindsided by their caring for Michael and how much it changes their lives.  They are blindsided by goodness.  They are blindsided by grace.  It’s like a mustard seed that gets planted and turned into a tree.  It’s like a little leaven in a whole pile of flour that still does its work.  It’s like not being so blinded by the bad in the Memphis projects that you can’t see the good when you catch it in your net.  New family is created, a more inclusive community, and there is joy.

That’s what it looks like, feels like, tastes like when God’s kingdom comes, God’s dream arrives, God’s purposes prevail.  It’s got that kind of swing.  Let’s keep finding it, and creating it, and living it together.  Amen.