This week on the Strangely Warmed podcast I speak with Carsten Bryant about the readings for the 2nd Sunday of Lent [B] (Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16, Psalm 22.23-31, Romans 4.13-25, Mark 8.31-38). Carsten serves as the Director of the Youth Collective of the Orange Cooperative Parish in Hillsboro, NC. Our conversation covers a range of topics including Dogmatics in Outline, covenants, proper fear, Taize worship, the coming generations, hoping against hope, flipping expectations, and Robert Farrar Capon. If you would like to listen to the episode or subscribe to the podcast you can do so here: The Grammar of Christian Faith
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
We were sitting inside a nearly empty McDonalds for breakfast.
He was a pastor a few weeks away from retirement with decades of experience.
I was a seminary student with no real idea of what I was getting myself in to.
We exchanged small talk over Egg McMuffins and stale coffee wondering aloud about the weather for the rest of the day when I asked the question that all pastors ask one another at some point.
“So, how did God call you to all of this?”
It’s a good inquiry, for the expectation is that all of us, that is pastors, have an answer.
And I’ve heard them all.
Pastors who felt the call of God on their lives in the middle of an AA meeting, or while standing on the top of a mountain, or after dropping off their last child at college.
Pastors who felt the call of God on their lives inside a slow moving elevator, or after their daughter died in a car accident, or while suffering through a terrible sermon in their home church.
I was therefore prepared for whatever story might come from the nearly retired pastor’s lips.
Or, at least I thought I was.
Because he didn’t answer my question.
Instead he replied, “How about I tell you the story of how I almost left the church?”
“Back when our kids were young,” he began, “I was serving a mid-size church and doing my best to keep everything going the way it was supposed to go. We had the same problems that all other churches had, and I started working longer hours and making more visits. When one day I came home to the parsonage, and I could hear the kids playing upstairs, but my wife was gone. I looked and looked until I found a note addressed to me on the kitchen counter. My wife had, apparently, fallen in love with one of the ushers at the church, a man with his own family, and they had decided to run off together leaving their spouses and children behind.”
“In the weeks that followed, I had to adjust to the new normal of solo-parenting while leading a church. And within the first month a meeting was called by the leaders. I was grateful expecting that the church would start cooking meals, or helping to find childcare, or any other number of things. But that’s not what the meeting was for.”
“It took place in our sanctuary and the congregation met and decided that I was no longer fit to serve as the pastor. They believed had I been a better pastor, my wife wouldn’t have left me and my kids, and that it was time for them to find new pastor.”
“Within a few months I lost my wife, lost my job, and just about lost my calling.”
Unsure of how to respond, I sat there in silence waiting for him to continue.
He said, “The strangest thing happened though. I felt abandoned by my wife, and my vocation, but I never felt abandoned by God. I kept praying, I kept preaching (albeit in a different church). And no matter what occurred I experienced grace. Sometimes it was through a family who unexpectedly offered to watch my kids, at other times it was through the still small silence in the morning when I was the only one awake in the house, and sometimes it happened when I escaped to the strange new world of the Bible to prepare for a Sunday school lesson.”
“And that’s the thing I’ve come to discover about a life of faith – people can be real fickle, and even terrible. But God? God remains steadfast even when we don’t.”
“The church has become so fully identified with the ‘American Project’ that our writers have had little cause to heed any unique and distinctively Christians witness in the churches.”
So wrote Stanley Hauerwas in response to his perceived lack of a (decent) Christian corpus of fiction. And, frankly, I agree with him. Take a look at the “Christian” section in a bookstore and you’re likely to find a various assortment of pseudo-romance-theological novellas, a selection of “How To Get Closer To God” self-help books, and a handful of leftover seminary textbooks.
All of which don’t tell us much about faith, let alone the object of our faith: God.
An exception to this rule is/was Flannery O’Connor.
O’Connor’s fictive tales are some of the most “Christian” pieces of fiction I’ve ever read because they don’t hold any punches. They are, to put it in theological terms, decisively Pauline in that they affirm the depravity of humanity while also pointing to the unrelenting grace of God.
Hauerwas puts it this way: “Just as baptism resembles nothing so much as drowning and eucharist appears as a kind of cannibalism – while both events are the very means of life temporal and everlasting – so will Christian fiction be characterized by a necessary alterity, since the central Christian premise is that the world made and redeemed by God is constantly interrupted and transfigured by revelation.”
The team from Crackers & Grape Juice got together (online) last week to talk through some of these things and if you would like to listen to the episode, or subscribe to the podcast, you can do so here: A Christian Reading of American Literature
This week on the Strangely Warmed podcast I speak with Sara Keeling about the readings for the 1st Sunday of Lent [A] (Genesis 2.15-17, 3.1-7, Psalm 32, Romans 5.12-19, Matthew 4.1-11). Sara is a United Methodist pastor serving Good Shepherd UMC in Dale City, VA. Our conversation covers a range of topics including lenten practices, the frustration of Facebook, dismantling the patriarchy, obedience, cosmic plans, one man to ruin them all, death’s dominion, funeral feelings, and the futility of resistance. If you would like to listen to the episode or subscribe to the podcast you can do so here: Eve Was Framed!
This week on the Strangely Warmed podcast I speak with Teer Hardy about the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter [C] (Acts 5.27-32, Psalm 118.14-29, Revelation 1.4-8, John 20.19-31). Teer serves at Mt. Olivet UMC in Arlington, VA. Our conversation covers a range of topics including life on the other side of the resurrection, the best kind of hangover, The Sorting Hat, subversive obedience, gimmicky teasers, the most important psalm, proper agency, death breath, and doubt. If you would like to listen to the episode or subscribe to the podcast you can do so here: Holy Week Hangover
What happens when a group of researchers discover a forgotten prayer tool from the middle-ages? Is it still relevant in the hustle and bustle of the world today? What does the past have to teach us about the future?
I was fortunate a few weeks ago to record a conversation with 2/3 of the authors (Patton Dodd and Jana Riess) of The Prayer Wheel, a book dedicated to the discovery of the spiritual practice and thoughts about how to implement it today. Our conversation covered a range of other topics including medieval spirituality, the prophet Jeremiah, reverse engineering ancient practices, cherry picking prayers, and embracing imagination and creativity in community. If you would like to listen to the episode, or subscribe to the podcast, you can do so here: A New, Old Way To Pray
This week on the Strangely Warmed podcast I speak with Anita Ford about the readings for the 3rd Sunday of Advent [Year B] (Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11, Psalm 126, 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24, John 1.6-8, 19-28). Anita is (as she puts it) a bonafide lectionary nerdling and serves at her local church as the lay leader. Additionally, Anita is a big fan of the Strangely Warmed podcast and has contributed to Voices in the Wilderness from Pupit Fiction in the past. Our conversation covers a range of topics including how jubilee is not a time on the calendar, the beauty of purple paraments, currents events matching up with the lectionary texts, Barth bombs, the Wizard of Oz, and ugly Christmas trees. If you would like to listen to the episode or subscribe to the podcast you can do so here: The Appearance Of Perfection
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
When was the last time you felt really joyful in church? When, in this space, were you so overcome with a feeling of delight and celebration that you could barely contain it? When was the last time you left church feeling like you were walking on a cloud rather than struggling under the weight of the world?
Years ago I went to a church service on a Sunday morning and claimed my normal pew about midway up on the right hand side. There were a handful of us in our mid-twenties that attended the services every week, and because everyone loves seeing young adults in church, most people ignored us for fear of driving us away.
Anyway, I arrived at church and prepared for worship. About halfway through the first hymn a young man, maybe slightly younger than myself, jogged down the aisle and sat down right next to me. Because the service had already started we couldn’t say anything to one another, and we continued to face forward throughout worship. During the sermon I, a seminarian at the time, was hanging on every word coming from the pulpit, but the young man next to me was doing everything in his power to stay awake.
I could feel his head bobbing up and down with every sharp word from the sermon, he kept readjusting himself as if that would keep him awake, and at one point he even slapped himself in the face.
I tried my best to be a good Christian and ignore the young man next to me, but at some point his leaning back and forth became so exaggerated that I was worried he would pass out mid movement and smash his face on the pew in front of us. So, at a particularly pensive and quiet moment in the sermon, I leaned over and said, “Hey buddy, if you put your hands like this (in the form of prayer), rest them on the pews in front of you, and then lean your head down, no one will know that you’re sleeping.”
The young man didn’t even glorify my option with a word of gratitude, but he quickly leaned into his hands and promptly began snoring just loud enough for the rest of the people in the pew to hear.
When did the church lose its sense of joy?
I have some wonderful memories from the churches of my past and the kinds of experiences that filled me with the Spirit. But, if I’m honest, when I think back over the totality of my church experience, those Sundays were the exception to the rule of people falling asleep in worship.
When did Easter Sunday become the only day that the resurrection made a difference in our lives? When did the weight of the world grow heavier and more determinative than the joy of knowing the Lord? When did dozing off in church become normative?
Maybe we lost our joy when we also lost touch with what it means to pray.
Throughout the month we have been spending time each Sunday addressing one thing we do as Christians. We started by talking about why we worship the way we do, and last week we talked about why we study the bible. And today is one of the hardest to talk about: why do we pray?
One answer, of course, is that we want God to do something for us. We cry out to God in the midst of suffering for healing, when we are lost we call out for direction, and when we are afraid we desire peace. When we need something, we ask God to provide through prayer.
Another reason we pray is to commune with God. These prayers are not based on receiving something in particular, but setting time apart to listen for the ways that God is speaking in the world. Instead of listing all of our needs and wants, we wait and tune into God’s frequency.
Yet, the majority of prayers come in the form of an acute need. More often than not our prayers are sadly alast resort when we can no longer bring order out of the chaos of life and we rely on a higher power to straighten out our mess.
And where’s the joy in that?
Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi from a jail cell. And the church in Philippi was going through its own problems. And yet Paul had the gall to speak of joy.
Joy, for the apostle, comes not when we master a particular discipline, or when God drops that little bit of manna from heaven that we need. Instead joy comes when we experience God’s action and presence even when life is difficult and full of pain.
Prayer, for Paul, is intimately connected with joy. Prayer is about being with God, and not a technique. When we let go of the desire to be the savior of our own lives, when we realize that God alone is the author of our salvation, we find the joy that comes with prayer, or better yet, we find the prayer that comes with joy.
Paul commanded the church of Philippi to rejoice always, and he does this in the plural. Prayer and joyfulness in the Christian life is not something we seek out on our own for our own good. Joy, in the fullest sense, is incomplete unless it is shared.
But the church had its problems. Co-leaders Euodia and Syntyche were apparently at odds with one another, and Paul commands them to “be of the same mind in the Lord.”
What a word for the church today…
While we are denominationally fighting over the church’s stance over everything under the sun, while churches are putting together budgets and arguing about priorities, while we sit in pews next to people who sometimes drive us crazy, Paul speaks through the centuries a difficult and important word: “be of the same mind in the Lord.”
How in the world can we be of the same mind in the Lord? It’s hard enough to get people to agree on what restaurant to go to after church let alone being of the same mind.
Perhaps the only way to be of the same mind in the Lord is through prayer.
Paul wrote to the church, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayers and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In this world and in this life, all of the anythings and everythings can become sources of endless worry, or they can become the stuff of prayer.
That’s not to say that we need to deny the reality of suffering, or ignore it as much as possible, but maybe in recognizing that we cannot handle this life on our own, that we need one another and the Lord, we can be a people of prayer and of joy.
It should come as no surprise that people tend to flock to the church not when things are perfect, but when things are falling apart. My office phone rings not with news of success and of joy, but with sadness and fear.
That’s why the missing demographic from church is the so-called millennial generation, my generation. People my age are largely absent from church because we have yet to experience the kind of sorrow and fear that leaves us feeling anchorless. It doesn’t have much to do with judgments about the relevancy of the church, but more to do with the fact that when someone feels like life is perfect, they don’t see how the church can make a difference.
But that’s the thing: The church doesn’t exist to make a difference. The church exists to praise the living God who fills our lives with the kind of joy that sustains us through both the mountains and valleys we experience. Church isn’t about us. It’s about God.
And, to bring it full circle, all of us are in need of the prayer that leads to joy and the joy that leads to prayer, because all of us have something weighing us down. Even some of the most suffering people in the world can put on a mask for an hour a week in worship. But from where I stand, I see a people who are troubled by the weight of the world, a people who are afraid about what might happen next considering what we saw on the news any night of the week, a people who need the joy that comes from God more than just about anything else this life has to offer.
And, rest assured beloveds, God answers our prayers. God knows what we need before we can even bring the words to our mouths, and God answers our prayers in ways we can scarcely imagine. And, perhaps most mysterious of all, God’s time is not our time.
I love asking people if God’s has answered their prayers; but the real kind of prayers. Not the “please help me with my algebra test” prayer; but the deep and almost unmentionable hope for an experience better than what we currently have.
I love asking people if God has answered their prayers because the answer is almost always, “Yes.” But, most of the time, we can only see how God has answered our prayers while looking backward. We can only see how God has responded to our prayers through the profound reflection on the time we’ve had with a community that has sustained us in joy until we have eyes to see what God has done.
In each of your bulletins you will find an envelope with a blank piece of paper inside. In a few moments I will invite each of you to take out that paper and write down a true prayer to God. Where in your life do you need to experience more joy? What major decision do you need help discerning? What is the “everything” you need to make known to God?
So, we will take time to pray to God in written form, and then we will place the prayer inside of the envelope and seal it. Then I would like each of you to write down your names and addresses on the front of the envelope and place it in the offering plate later in the service. No one will see this prayer but you and God.
We will hold on to the envelopes for a number of months, and we will pray over them as a church while hoping that you will continue to make your prayers known to God. And, after time, we will mail them back to you.
Prayer changes things and sometimes the thing prayer changes, is us.
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm in the Lord. I urge all of you who are currently quarreling with one another to be of the same mind in the Lord. And to the rest of you, help those who are in need, because this is important work that we are doing as God’s church. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice. Let your joy be known among one another so that we might feel how the Lord is near. Do not worry about sufferings of your life, but bring everything to God in prayer, and the peace of the Lord, which is perfect joy, will be with you in Christ Jesus. Amen.
I listen to a lot of music. Between running at the gym, sermon preparation, and a host of other activities, I am constantly sifting through new albums throughout the year. Below is my list of the top 10 albums that were released in 2016.
10. Wilco – Schmilco
Wilco’s tenth studio album is filled with the stuff that makes Wilco Wilco. Tweedy’s twangy vocals, smooth harmonies, and poetic verses easily solidified this as one of my most listened to albums throughout the year.
9. White Denim – Stiff
I started listening to White Denim during my freshman year of college and I have looked forward to each of their releases ever since. Though not as enthralling as their earlier albums “Exposition” and “Fits”, “Stiff” moves and grooves from beginning to end. Part of what keeps bringing me back to White Denim is their relentless desire to blend genres into solid music.
8. Hiss Golden Messenger – Heart Like a Levee
Hailing from Durham, North Carolina, Hiss Golden Messenger’s “Heart Like a Levee” is like listening to Megafaun’s best songs on one album. The use of blues and folk rhythms allow the record to come through warm and inviting while also staying true to the form with melancholy when necessary.
7. Big Thief – Masterpiece
Adrianne Lenker’s voice haunts me. From the fragility of the song Paul to the emphatic harmonies on Masterpiece she has clearly found her calling.
6. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Will Toledo has recorded A LOT of music (some from the backseat of his car; hence the name). With the release of “Teens of Denial” Toledo has started to receive critical acclaim and he deserves it. This albums contains a lot of honesty which is ironic considering 2016 is being called the year of “post-truth”.
5. Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN
Olsen’s 2014 “Burn Your Fire for No Witnesses” is easily one of my favorite albums of the decade, and she followed it with a solid collection of songs on “MY WOMAN”. Though not as haunting as the simple strumming and singing from her previous album, her songwriting has matured and kicks with force. Her vibrato still lingers between my ears whenever I hear the songs Sister and Woman.
4. Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness
Without a doubt, I listened to “The Wilderness” while writing sermons more than any other album this year. The musical project of a bunch of friends from Austin, Texas, Explosions in the Sky is one of the most contemplative and moving post-rock bands I’ve ever heard.
3. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing
Greta Kline’s sweet voice rings through on each song of “Next Thing” and was one of the biggest surprises (for me) of 2016. I bought the album on a whim after hearing about it on All Songs Considered and I kept coming back to it throughout the year.
2. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
The most needed album of 2016.
1. Andrew Bird – Are You Serious
Maybe it’s because I became a father this year, and Andrew Bird’s recent step in fatherhood shaped the album, but “Are You Serious” was my favorite album of the year. From beginning to end every song drips with the flavor that has comes to define Bird’s music: haunting harmonies, moving melodies, winsome whistling, etc.
Kyle Morton – What Will Destroy You
Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – The Rarity of Experience
Ray LaMontagne – Ouroboros
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth in joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
On Wednesday morning, my little sister went to the elementary school where she is fulfilling a student teaching requirement. Like every other day, she gathered with the young children in their classrooms, explained and demonstrated their projects, and then went around the room to help individuals as needed. One particular young girl was clearly distracted from her work, and when my sister asked if everything okay, she looked up with terror in her eyes and asked, “Am I going to get deported?”
On Wednesday morning, thousands of angry citizens gathered in California to protest the results of the election. Though initially peaceful, the protest quickly turned violent and the crowd began attacking the police and lighting dumpsters on fire. As tear gas was fired into the crowd to break up the demonstration, the people only shouted their chants even louder, “Kill Trump, Kill Trump, Kill Trump.”
On Wednesday morning, a woman walked into a Wal-Mart somewhere in the Midwest while wearing her hijab. She went down the aisles picking out her items when another woman walked up, grabbed her by the shoulder while pointing at her hijab, and said, “That would look better around your neck. This is our country now.”
On Wednesday morning, countless Trump voters woke up to the news they prayed for, only to receive hateful and violent comments from friends and relatives alike. They received emails and notes saying things like: “If you voted for Trump, you’re the reason America has fallen apart. If you voted for Trump, you are a bigoted racist sexist monster.”
On Wednesday morning, white students at a Junior High School in Michigan formed a human wall to block minority students from entering the building. There were shouts of “go back to your country,” and “we’re making America great again.”
On Wednesday morning, a man was driving through a suburb of Chicago when a crowd of young men surrounded his car, pulled him from the vehicle, and dragged him through the streets. They attacked him because he had a Trump sticker on the bumper, and videos show the crowd screaming, “You voted for Trump, and now you’re going to pay for it.”
Throughout scripture, if the Israelites are told to do one thing more than any other, it is to remember. Remember the covenant God made with Noah and Abraham, remember the acts of God which liberated you from slavery in Egypt, remember the care God provided to you in the wilderness through water and manna, remember the mighty deeds of God delivering you to the Promised Land, remember the story and teach it to you children, and your children’s children.
It is easy to remember God’s salvific work in the world when things are going our way. When we rest contently in the communion of our friends and family, when we check the bank account and see our savings increase, when we sleep comfortably in our beds with the heat pumping through the vents. It is easy to sing a song to the Lord when we feel like everything in our life is part of God’s great victory.
We can grab the hymnal and belt out the great songs of our faith. We can be reconnected with the great tradition of the church, and the story of scripture, which helps to root us in our discipleship. We can sing because we feel God’s marvelous work.
However, it is hard to remember and be thankful for all of God’s deeds when it feels like our lives are falling apart. When we wake up and see that our candidate lost the election, or when we wake up and are belligerently berated for voting for the candidate that won, when we are terrified about how we will pay all the bills by the end of the month, when we throw dirt onto the coffin of someone we love, when we shiver in the loneliness of life wondering if anyone even cares about us. It is hard to sing a song to the Lord when we feel like everything in our life is crumbling under the weight of suffering.
We struggle to lift up the hymnal and sing the songs of faith because they feel so disconnected. How can we sing the Lord’s songs when life feels so miserable? How can we sing when people on both sides of the political aisle are filled with anger, fear, and resentment? We fail to praise the Lord through song because we feel like there’s nothing worth praising.
And yet the psalmist calls for us to sing a new song. We might be sitting by the rivers of Babylon and still we must sing. We might’ve voted for Hillary Clinton and can’t believe she lost, and still we must sing. We might’ve voted for Donald Trump and our being attacked for our political opinions, and still we must sing.
We sing a new song because God is doing a new thing. God is working in and through the people of this church to bring about the kingdom of God on earth. Whether through a bible study, a prayer, or a simple smile from a pew on Sunday morning, God is doing a new thing here through the establishment of a community based on God’s love and not our own political opinions. God is doing a new thing here by giving us the strength and the courage to pray for, and love, the people who don’t agree with us.
We sing a new song because in singing we proclaim God’s victory. And to be abundantly clear, God’s victory is not in a new president being elected to the White House; we do not praise the Lord for a victory of one political candidate over another.
God’s victory is altogether different.
In singing of God’s victory, in praising the Lord for God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, we break free from the tyranny of things, and the bondage of our own modern Babylon. With one voice, let me say that again, with one voice we reject the messiness and despair of our world and look for God’s mercy and grace.
Over the last week, and throughout the entire election, we witnessed greed, and anger, and derision in one another and ourselves. Our communities are no longer neighborhoods of neighbors, but are instead isolated walls of division that prevent us from encountering God in the “other.” Instead of joining together in worship on Sunday mornings, or gathering together for celebratory block parties, we are consumed by computers and phones that promise “true” communities through social networks of people who look like us, think like us, and behave like us.
And yet God offers a new thing to this new community we call the church. God offers us himself in Jesus Christ, the one for whom we sing. Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be the new thing God is doing in this world. The life, death, and resurrection of the Son of Man shows how God can make a way out of no way, how God defeated death, and how God frees us for true and perfect freedom.
So we sing a new song, because in singing we proclaim that God lives and reigns. We sing because the world is about to change – God is changing it. We sing not because we are happy, and not because we are sad, but because we have a song to sing, a song about our God who loves, cares, and remains steadfast.
For we know that those on the margins of society, the ones who are afraid in the wake of the recent election, the children who are afraid of being deported, are the very people God calls us to love and care for. Through the songs of the past and the stories of scripture we experience the importance of ministering toward the sojourners for we, like them, are strangers in a strange land.
We know that that violent protests calling for the murder of Donald Trump are an abomination to the Lord. God implores us to remember the sanctity of all life from a young girl in an art classroom to the new president-elect of the United States of America. Through God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ we know there is goodness in all people, and we are the ones often tasked with looking for it while others turn blind eyes.
We know that threatening people of other faiths is in fundamental dissonance with God’s willingness to elect us gentiles into the great covenant of the Israelite people. For a long time, we were the strangers from the outside looking in. We were the ones viewed with suspicion and unease. And that to do that to others now, is to forget and be ignorant of God’s love made manifest in the one who died on a cross for the world.
We know that denigrating and berating people for their vote is the equivalent of the judgment God commands us to abstain from.
We know that making a human wall to prevent minorities from entering a school is in sharp contrast to the one who invites all to the table and to the feast.
We know that violently attacking someone for a bumper sticker, for their political identity, is the beginning of a slippery slope back toward a world in which 6 million Jews were murdered, blacks were segregated from the rest of society, and Christians were stoned and beaten for believing that Jesus is Lord.
And we know all of this because we know Jesus Christ, and him crucified. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we receive the story of our own lives that transcends all other identities, including our political opinions. Jesus Christ is the one who transformed, and continues to transform the world. We sing our songs in praise of the Lord because Jesus Christ makes a way where there is no way.
Not a way of ignorance and lazy unity, but a way of unrelenting commitment to the poor, the marginalized, and the vulnerable.
Not a way of isolation and fear, but a way of courage in our convictions about who we are and whose we are.
Not a way of violence and death, but a way that brings forth new life and new opportunities for all to discover the beauty of the infinite.
So we sing a new song to the Lord, for God has broken the chains of our slavery to political isolation and frees us to love one another without fear. We sing a new song of God’s unending love and amazing grace in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We sing a new song in response to God’s mercy that reigns like a flood. We sing a new song because the Lord is doing a new thing. Amen.