Monday, May 30, 2016

On Behalf of Worthiness

Readings for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

To listen to the sermon click the picture

You’ll notice on the back of our bulletin that the altar flowers are given to the glory of God in memory of Arthur Machen and Peter Machen by Rose Machen.  Most of you know who these people are – Arthur was a long time and active member of this church and our Diocese.  Probably most well-known around here for his book “A Big Little Church on a Hill” – a history of Good Shepherd.

It’s most fitting that their eldest son Peter is remembered today.  He died in 1970 of wounds suffered in combat in Vietnam.  (And also fitting for Memorial Day weekend – you may want to take moment after church to look into the baptistery.  It was dedicated in 1945 in thanksgiving for the safe return of service men after WWII.  And on the wall there is a plaque with the names of 92 parishioners who served in that war.)

So as I said – the bulletin reads – the altar flowers are given to the glory of God by Rose Machen.  You see, Rose died two weeks ago on the 17th.  So when we were proofing bulletins this week – that wording gave us pause.  Rose is no longer with us – so today, literally, the flowers can’t be given by her.  And while it may seem a small thing – we wondered – should we change it.

But we didn’t – as it’s a theological acknowledgment of God’s time.  And in some ways gives even more significance to the dedication.  We don’t know when we will join those remembered on our behalf in the fullness of God’s glory.

Almost everything in a church building and grounds – is given by someone in memory of – or in celebration or thanksgiving for – a person.  Loved ones and family – or people who give in a unique and extra-ordinary way to the church’s mission.  A memorial “by” someone – “on behalf of” someone helps us tell the world, express the value – which of course is immeasurable – of a person.   It is literally a sign – this person mattered – this person was worth something to us.

If I asked each of you – “are you worth flowers on a Sunday, or a bronze plaque” - I’m pretty sure – no one would say yes.  No matter what we may think inside – we don’t usually go around declaring our worth to other people, either.  We would think it selfish, narcissistic, and grandiose.  For the most part other people whose lives we’ve touched tell of our worth on our behalf.

This morning, we hear King Solomon daringly bring a petition before God, in the temple, in front of the chosen of Israel.   It’s daring because he is praying on behalf of foreigners, immigrants who have entered his country.  And by taking that risk, asking God to protect those who the chosen want out, Solomon on their behalf declares that the immigrants are as worthy of God, as those sitting in front of the altar.

Then fast forward hundreds of years, and we hear Jewish elders bringing prayers to Jesus on behalf of a centurion.  A soldier of the Roman occupation, the empire that would inevitable kill Jesus.  Jewish elders and centurions were not friends.  You may remember that when John the Baptist is standing at the banks of the Jordan and the soldiers ask what they should do in expectation of the coming Messiah – John replies don’t extort money and be satisfied with your wages.  Centurions took bribes from the temples.

But, because of what the Jewish elders do and say on behalf of the centurion, we assume this one was different.  Even though he isn’t one of the faithful they explain – he is worthy of his prayer being answered because he loves our people.  He showed us that love in using his wages to help build their house of worship.

And then there is the centurion.  On behalf of a slave, a boy most likely, who would definitely have no worth, the centurion asks the Jewish elders to help him.  To bring his prayer before Jesus.  Because the centurion does not consider himself worthy enough to do so.

When have you been one of the people in these stories?

When have you on behalf of someone you loved or cared for – reached out to God, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit for help– because whether that person believed it or not – you know how valuable they are?

When have you prayed on behalf of people you didn’t know – maybe even people you don’t like – that they would know and receive God’s love and protection?  Because you believe – all of God’s children are worthy.

And when have you been in the hardest position of all – which to me is the centurion – maybe in desperation – maybe filled with hating yourself because the situation you found yourself in – was one of your own making.  (Maybe the slave’s illness is somehow the soldier’s fault – we don’t know).  When have you felt unworthy and undeserving – but reached out to others for help, for support anyway?

That is a hard and isolating place to be – not believing our own worthiness.

Our gospel opened this morning with a curious phrase – After Jesus had finished all these sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.  What sayings?  Familiar sayings to us – do unto others as you would have them do to you.  Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.

And then in Capernaum Jesus encounters an example of this happening before his eyes – perhaps that is why he is so amazed.  Centurions and slaves – Jewish elders and centurions – taking risks and reaching out on behalf of each other.  And on seeing that Jesus points and says – see that, see what these people from different backgrounds and beliefs are doing for each other?  That is what faith looks like, Jesus declares.

Telling or showing someone their value to us can be risky. It can be just as scary to say – I love you – to someone who is close – as it is to risk loving actions towards people we don’t know.  Yes, the characters in this story know each other – what’s amazing is how they come together.  It would be expected that they know each other in isolation – not associating with one another.

It is that place of isolation – the belief there is no one who would take action, speak up, reach out on your behalf – that Jesus praises in this story calls us to imitate. Where are the places – who are the people in your life –who need you to reach out on their behalf?  What keeps us from doing so?  We all know there are isolated communities around us.  But what about people in your world – friends, family, acquaintances.  Is there someone who needs to see their worth through your eyes?

It makes sense that Luke’s gospel is the only one that tells the story in this way – with all these people relying on one another.  There is a recurring theme in Luke/Acts (same author, two books) of people breaking taboos to reach out on behalf of another – like the Good Samaritan – letting go of their own bias and the worry of what people will think.

It’s great that the boy is in good health back at the house.  It’s nice when there are happy endings. But I really don’t think it’s a quid pro quo reward happening here – there isn’t any eternal good news in that.

The centurion and the elders have already been transformed – they are already living their faith – because they are doing faith - that is the reward and what Jesus sees so plainly.

And I have a feeling – if the boy hadn’t lived – the elders would have mourned with the centurion – supported him with worship in their temple – and they would have continued to work together – on behalf of one another – and in so doing, declaring each other’s worthiness for all the world to see.  Amen.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Three Dimensional Relationships

Readings for Trinity Sunday

Click image below to listen to the sermon

The Rev. Canon Scott Slater
Canon to the Ordinary, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland
May 22, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Acts of Good Shepherd Apostles

Readings for the Feast of Pentecost

Friday and Saturday of this weekend, Ed MacVaugh, Mary Snead and I joined about 150 other people at Turf Valley in Ellicott City for our annual diocesan Convention.  And the preacher for the opening Eucharist was Bishop Chilton Knudsen – our assistant bishop since September.   And our opening lesson was this well-known passage from Acts describing what happened on Penetecost.

She told a story of her high school youth group of St. Anne’s in Annapolis making a field trip to a synagogue in Washington DC.  And she shared, and this was important for us to know, that as a teenager she suffered from a severe condition that almost all of us go through – and some of us never overcome – called – the “Know it All” syndrome.  You know – that belief that there is nothing new under the sun.  Period.

So on this trip as their group gathered to learn about the Hebrew faith and worship –the rabbi invited them to come back and join them in their celebration of Pentecost.  At this Bishop Chilton eagerly raised her hand (in that way, I sadly know all too well) and said – You celebrate Pentecost?  That’s so great – that must be like when we do a Seder.  How cool that you take a Christian feast and replicate it in your synagogue – like we do at Passover.

On the convention floor – that sparked one of those collective – oooooh.  Because we all knew what she would say next – smiling, the rabbi graciously explained that Pentecost is a Jewish Feast.  Fifty days after Passover the faithful made their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Shavuot or Weeks, giving thanks for the harvest.

And Bishop Chilton did learn something new that day –  one - that she didn’t know everything there was to know – and two – that before it was as Pentecost – it was Shavuot.  Just as before we said Peace – Jesus said – Shalom.

Gathered in that upper room – a few weeks after Jesus told them – do not be afraid when I’m gone – those disciples were terrified.  When we call Pentecost – the birthday of the church – I think we trivialize what took place.  Birthdays tend to be joyful occasions – a big party.  In that upper room it was anything but.  To be clear those disciples – were hiding out.  

And it’s not like there was this ecstatic sweeping through of the Holy Spirit – and then all of a sudden the church – as we know it – was born.  Those disciples experienced what Jesus meant when he said – my peace I give you, but I don’t give you peace as the world gives.  It’s peace of another kind entirely – it’s the peace of Shalom – of restoration – of wholeness – and it always includes people being stirred up – and some people sneering, judging the validity, the value of God at work.

It’s the courageous peace that surpasses understanding – that moves people past fear to participate in the restoration – the Shalom – of the world.

That’s what is most interesting to me about Pentecost.  Something happened.  I don’t know if it happened exactly the way the author of Acts describes it – but if you look at the disciples before Pentecost – and after Pentecost – they are transformed.

Philip stands with Jesus before Pentecost as says – ok, we’ll believe if you show us God.  Peter stands with Jesus before Pentecost and says – I can’t do what you ask me to do – I can’t heal – I can’t trust – I can’t even tell someone I know you because I’m so terrified of being found guilty by association.  Thomas says before Pentecost – how can we follow you Jesus when we do not know the way?

And Jesus, consistently, responds to all their insecurities and demands by saying – you do have faith – you can follow me – do not be afraid.  And then he dies –   appears to them, eats with them after the resurrection – and guess what, they are still afraid.

Until this happens.  That experience completely changes Peter!  Gone is the denying disciple – and in his place is a person unafraid to stand up in front of those who are sneering at him.  Risking more than just ridicule – Peter is risking the same fate as Jesus – in claiming that God indeed has now reversed the curse of Babel – and fulfilled the promise to all God’s people – having poured out the Spirit upon all flesh.

After Pentecost – Peter and those disciples - don’t set out to build a church – they simply set out to do what they saw Jesus doing all along.  For the Book of Acts – as we’ve been studying in a weekly bible study – is simply a book of the disciples imitating Jesus.

Meeting people who are different – meeting people who disagree.  Listening to their story – and then sharing their own.  Sitting down to eat with people – accepting hospitality from strangers.  And again and again choosing to cultivate relationships of mutual transformation.
Out of that are born households of God – where people come together to pray that the Spirit will continue to be present and empower them to do the work God has given them to do.

Today is our Annual Meeting – when we come together to hear about the work God has given us to do.  The work we have done – and the work that is ongoing.  We work to create this household of God – to raise money – to craft a budget – to put on worship – to design programs – to care for our building and our grounds.  

We work to go into the world and bring in Shalom.  Through relationships with other faith communities like St. Luke’s, Carey Street or resource centers like Paul’s Place.   Through Habitat for Humanity in Sandtown and Govins.  Through Neighbor-to-Neighbor and ACTC in our county.  Through micro-lending and macro-dreaming – we work to overcome fear and anxiety – of people and places.

It is holy work – and it is hard work.  And the hardest part of all of it – what we do here – and what we do out there – is being in relationship.  Mutually transforming relationships.  Where we speak from the heart – and listen from the heart – open to the truth that the Spirit of God really has been poured out among all people.

Recently I listened to an story told by Rachel Naomi Remen.  She doctor who promotes integrative medicine and a best-selling author. In her book, My Grandfather’s Blessing she shares a story from the Jewish tradition that explains one of the highest Jewish moral commandments – known as tikkun olam which translates – “the repairing of the world.”  For this is God’s intention for all God’s people.

"In the beginning, there was only the holy darkness…the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand, thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then…there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke.

And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand, thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

According to her grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world."

Our annual report is quite literally the Acts of this group of Apostles. Apostles means – ones who are sent.  And our report shares the ways we have been sent to restore the innate wholeness of the world.  However – I have a feeling our reports maybe aren’t quite as – dare I say – honest – as the stories in the book of Acts.  We don’t include the conflicts in committees, because of course they happen – we don’t include our fear of going into the city, because it is a place very different from where we live.  We don’t include the way we sneer – and yes, sometimes all of us do – at the puzzling, anxiety-provoking ways God stirs up the spirit in our community and in our own lives.

And just like with those first apostles – those can be stumbling blocks.  But they, that work, can also be an invitation of God.  All of us are called to continuously ask – how am I bringing my light into the world in the name of Christ?  What are the reasons – what are the fears I have about being in relationship with people I know – and with people I don’t.  Am I living into what we pray together every Sunday – going now into the world in peace, with strength and courage to love and serve God with gladness and singleness of heart?

Relationships with each other – and with those we have yet to meet – take strength and courage - and are the ways we grow in our relationship with God.  It is only through each other that we can be made whole.  It is only through each other – as agents of reconciliation in Paul’s words – that we bring restoration into our world.

Our community is incredibly blessed – through the people, gifts and relationships we share.  With what we have we are capable of doing so much more than we could ever ask or imagine.

May God continue to pour out the Holy Spirit in our lives so that with the courage of those first apostles we can see our visions and dream our dreams for the wholeness God intends for all of us.  Amen.

Monday, May 9, 2016

God's Family

Readings for the Seventh Sunday in Easter

The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22-24)

To listen to the sermon click the image below

So that I will be in you and you will be in me and you and I will be one so that they may be one in you and you and me…and on and on it seems to go!  When I first started reading the gospels – like really reading them – I fell in love with John’s gospel.  So mellifluous – so poetic – this way in which Jesus speaks.  I’m not sure when it changed for me – maybe when I had to write sermons – I read this chapter and my head starts to spin.  

I want Jesus to speak plainly – without going on for so long about what sounds like the same thing.  But the more I wrestle with it – I think I begin to see why the author of John’s gospel has Jesus speak this way.  He is trying to put words around sometime indescribable – something that isn’t doctrine or dogma.  But something that is relational – and experiential. 

Interbeing.  That word – from another tradition – Buddhism – explains what I think Jesus is talking about here.  Interbeing was coined by Thich Nhat Hanh – monk and author – to name our interconnectedness.  Imagine the ocean he writes. You look at the ocean and you see the wave.  You see the froth.  You see ripples within the water.  You know there is salt and minerals and oxygen all within that water as well. 

Not one of those elements, which in tandem constitute a ‘thing’ into which you can submerge or float, can be extracted and retain their intact relationship to the water.  You cannot disconnect the wave, or the froth, or the salt, or the oxygen and have it continue to be distinct in its own right while maintaining its being as water.  [i]

That visual is a helpful metaphor for me. It’s how I hear Jesus describe how we are connected to God and God to us.  I think that’s why in John’s gospel, so often, Jesus says – abide.  Abide in me as I abide in you (Jn 15). Not as if God is the home where we will eventually go – but encouraging us see we are at home in God, now, right now – because God is already within us.   Those who abide in me, Jesus says, and I in them bear much fruit, for apart from God we can do nothing. (15:5)  

If we “think” our way into that truth – if it’s purely an intellectual ascent – then, ok – but Jesus is asking us to live that way.  To trust our interbeing with God and with each other, as Jesus does.

We are – again this Easter season – at the Last Supper – the night before Jesus dies.  So we can excuse the long-windedness because this is the final soliloquy, the last time Jesus will really speak to his disciples before his crucifixion.  Now it would seem more than appropriate if Jesus were to conclude his time with them in teaching – spending this meal delegating responsibilities – describing next steps – and instructing them in all they would now be responsible for.  But instead – Jesus prays. 

This is helpful model for us.  Since it can be hard at times to know when to let go of control – and accept the future is not in our hands.  When Jesus gets to that point - he prays.  Not for himself – and what he is about to endure – but for them.  For the followers gathered around the table – and for the followers who do not yet know God – and for the followers who will come to know God.  In other words – Jesus prays for everybody – the whole human family.  And he prays that all may come to know God through love.
In early April I listened to a story about a young woman who had been born in China.  Her name is Jenna Cook and she had been abandoned on a street in Wuhan in 1992 as a baby.  Adopted by Americans and raised in Massachusetts, she decided in college at age 20 to go back to Wuhan to see if she could find her birth mother.

She said, laughing, that she was na├»ve – thinking that with a poster and her face, her body as some sort of evidence – as in a family member recognizing her – she’d be able to find someone – or to be found.  But tens of thousands of Chinese children were brought the U.S in recent decades.  And Wuhan was a place where leaving infants for a variety of reasons – well, it happened a lot.

Where she was left – it was sort of a visitor’s bureau – next to a bus station.  She went there with her poster – to see it – and thinking perhaps someone would be there who worked there then.  There was.  But when Jenna asked the worker if she remembered finding a baby in March 1992 – the woman sighed, saying “back in the day” they found abandoned babies all the time – so much that authorities stopped recording them.

A friend of a friend got Jenna in touch with a newspaper and her story took off, went viral.  When the day came for her to meet with possible birth parents – over 50 families showed up.  Thinking there would be only mothers – she was surprised to see how many fathers came by themselves – surprised to see that some families brought the extended family with them – grandparents, siblings, grandkids even.

All of these families had left children in that same place.  All of them wanted to know – was their child ok?  Had they done well?  Had they survived?  One woman brought a frayed and tattered piece of cloth.  She had intentionally sewed a baby suit – for the day she and her daughter would part.  Hoping that one day – when she could reunite with her daughter who would have the baby suit – and she would have the fabric – and as with a lock and key, or second half of a locket – the mother and daughter would know without a doubt.

But Jenna didn’t have that baby suit – she said while the mother was standing before her – sobbing with this thin piece of cloth in her hand – she was distraught she couldn’t be that woman’s daughter.  She wanted to have the suit – just to ease the woman’s suffering.  Jenna shared that was what happened most that day – mothers and fathers – siblings and grandparents – crying and holding – and sharing in the grief they all knew.  Jenna said – more than finding her mother - she so wanted to be everybody’s daughter that day.[ii]

That longing is what I hear Jesus praying for. Praying that we share our love of God through deep compassion for each other – living as though we are part of God’s family.  In two other gospels – a much more straight-to-the-point-Jesus – Jesus says – Who is my mother – and who is my brother? Those who hear the word of God and do it. (Matt 12:4850; Lk 8:21).  We all know that Jesus spent his ministry constantly breaking down the “clubs” the families – the groups – the nationalities – the religions – that people invoked as reasons other people needed to be kept out.  For Jesus those claims are barriers to God.  To abide in God, to seek to love as God.  A love that desires to uplift and uphold the human family – God’s family – from which we all come from. 

I don’t know about all of you – but sometimes, I’ll confess – I’ll take God’s family over my own.  Sometimes the ones you are closest too can be the hardest to feel closest too.  Yet it’s dawning on me, slowly through experience – and it is a surprise – that as I struggle to practice Jesus’ family values with the human family – there is more forgiveness, more compassion, more awareness of all our frailty, within my own. 

When asked if she was still continuing her search for her mother – Jenna Cook said – well yes, but not actively.  She was letting go and letting God (leaving it up to fate, her words).  For she felt she had in some ways met her mother.  She had a better understanding of why she had been let go.  And she believed that she had given something to all those families she had met with.  She wasn’t their daughter – but for an afternoon, in a way, she was.  She represented hope and possibility.  And – she bore witness – she let those families hold her, share their story, and weep. 

Besides the genetic stuff – it’s the shared story of our lives that makes family, isn’t it.  Opening ourselves to other people’s stories is risky – it’s hard – but it’s what moves us from “them” to “us.”  This morning we hear Jesus praying for us - all of us.  That we will bring the story of God into our lives in ways that reveal whose family we belong to most of all. 

[i] Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

Monday, May 2, 2016

Stand up, Take Your Mat and Walk

Readings for the Sixth Sunday in Easter

To listen to the sermon click the picture below

Thank you to your Rector for the invitation to worship with you and for the opportunity to share the good news of God in Christ with you this morning. My name is The Rev. Glenna Huber have been a priest in Dio of Md. for the past 7yrs. Before that I was in the Dio. Of Atl.    Most recently I served as the Vicar at Church of the Holy Nativity.

Over the past year I have done congregational development in a ecumenical context serving urban congregations. Over the past year there has been some urgency around the need for church’s to be responses to the needs of the city.  As you are aware, the month of April last year saw the death of Freddie Grey while in police custody and the response from some in the community resulted in unrest which gained national attention. Over the past 3 weeks I have had a variety of interviews from around the US and inevitably that ask – is there any hope for Baltimore City?  – Well, you're asking a Christian and a believer in a God who says I will redeem all things, Of Course there is hope for Baltimore city. But, the injustices that the city has endured will need to be named and the people will need to own the desire to be healed before any substantial transformation can take place. (I think). It is from this urban perspective that I want to explore the Gospel with you this morning.

Jesus has gone up from Cana of Galilee to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the great religious feasts. It’s interesting that he enters the city through the Sheep Gate, the entrance to the city through which the sheep for temple sacrifices were brought. Once inside the city, he comes to the pool of Bethesda,“house of mercy.” Lying all around the pool are sick and paralyzed people. They are there because there is a legend that an angel would on occasion come and stir up the waters of the pool, and the first one to enter the pool after the angel stirred the water would be healed. For many this there was the last hope for healing. It not unlike what is still found in many parts of the world today. Lourdes, in southern France, has a spa which many believe has healing capacities. The shrine of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, is another such place were thousands have gone hoping for a healing. For so many these places of reported healing offer a type of last hope.

Jesus moves into the midst of such a group but Jesus does not indiscriminately heal everyone at that the pool that day he moves among the blind and the lame, and is drawn to one particular man, a man who had been ill for 38 years.

Jesus approaches him but doesn't ask his name or condition instead he says simply” Do you want to be healed?”  Umm, Do I want to be healed, I’ve been sitting by this pool for 38 years, I can't move, nobody will help me - do I want to be healed, does the city want to be healed, being are dying in the streets on a daily basis, the schools are falling apart, seniors are afraid to even sit on their porch for fear of getting shot.

I think many of us have had an experience not unlike this man or like the Baltimore city. For years sitting yearning for some help. Sitting in hope for some type of cure. Maybe you were in desperate need of a word of encouragement, a renewed sense of peace, you needed healing in your body, your marriage, your family, a friendship, or on the job, or you just needed someone to come around you and lift you up either figurative or physically. And maybe the healing just didn’t come. And you waited and prayed and waited and prayed, things didn’t change or maybe they got worse and at some point maybe you just gave up, hope came crashing to the ground. It wasn't necessarily intentional, you didn't say to yourself I'll stop trying, it just happened, became routine.   Sometimes many just get comfortable with the dysfunction. It becomes easier to live in a dysfunctional system then to take the necessary steps to make healthy healing choices. One reporter called me a few weeks ago and said she had been interviewing people for her story Freddie Grey a year later. She said people have been so negative, so hopeless. I'm calling you because I would like to add something positive, something that offers hope, can you say something hopeful?

Well, yes in fact I can. Over the past year we have been able to secure 375 local jobs for residents in low income zip codes, we have secured jobs for returning citizens and youth looking for year long employment. We have worked with over 26 employers who have agreed to set up their own accountability around local hiring. We are putting people back to work. This is slow, hard work.
The present dysfunction in the city, in our own experiences, is the result of generations of neglect or divestment or just poor choices. All of this will take time to transform and its going to take some work.  There comes a point where there is no benefit in pointing out how every one else is to blame for our problems. There comes a point where there is no longer any gain from being the victim of circumstance.

Do you want to be healed, Yes! Well then get up and walk.

I hear this as Jesus saying fine – you can no longer blame others for not taking care of you. You can no longer afford the luxury of waiting for someone to take pity on you and come and fix it for you. You can't wait for the water to bubble up. You must do something that you haven’t done before, you must take a risk, and in the midst of that risk trust that God will work it out for you, and sometimes that risk involves stepping outside of what everyone else has put their faith in, stepping outside of the trusted system and having faith. "Stand up, take your mat and walk."

“At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” Before the man ever took his first step Jesus had already healed him. You know the man could have just sat there and said these legs have nothing left I’m not taking a chance on standing up and falling on my face. I have fallen on my face to many times in the past when I tried and I’m not making a fool of myself again. But that isn’t what he did. he believed he was healed or maybe he took a risk knowing he had nothing left to lose, either way he took action having faith that Christ might be the real deal, he had faith that maybe he had been healed. We are made well by taking action rooted in faith. It’s risky, it requires that we step out of those comfort zones, especially the dysfunctional comfort zones. The 1st steps may even be a bit tricky or painful, but We are Easter people. We know the whole story, we know God redeems all things, even the darkest scariest things that we can image, can can and will redeem - the psalm 30 expresses this sentiment by stating pain or weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

How do we “ stand up, and walk, how does a city so mired in depression and defeat shout with authority Baltimore is rising, how do we as people who have  become comfortable in our own dysfunction stand up and walk, how do we individually and collective say and show the world that we are Easter people?

Early in my ordination years I had a therapist who was really tough. We were, I thought, working through some things and one day he said Glenna, do you want things to be different? Really, I come every 2 weeks and pay you to reflect and analyze so that things are different. Right,meh calmly responded but you keep doing the same things, your re enacting the same behaviors in different situations, you need to make some changes.

Portia Nelson
“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

So that's it. Do you want to be healed, Yes? Then live differently, walk down a different street, take a risk and trust that God will redeem.

The good news is that Jesus comes to us with mercy and grace and does not see as we are, but what we could be. We are all holding on to past hurts, grievances, holding onto pain that prevents us from being wholly who God has created us to be. The good news is that the divine approaches us and does not see us as we are but as we could be.

On this 6th Sunday after the resurrection of Christ, May we the accept the healing invitation that is again offered to us, may we as Gods Easter people be made perfect in every good work to do Gods will, may our efforts rooted in faith be pleasing in Gods sight,  may we accept that we have already been healed and be empowered to stand up, take our mat and walk.

The Rev. Glenna Huber
Church of the Good Shepherd