Monthly Archives: November 2010

Beautiful and dedicated to God

[Preached by Kerlin Richter on Luke 21:5-19, November 14, 2010]

Dear Jesus
Let us be living witnesses to love, beautiful and dedicated to God, –
Amen

in the reading this morning Jesus is already in Jerusalem
in the next chapter he is breaking bread with his disciples at the last supper.
this is the very end of Luke’s telling of Jesus’ life.
and some were admiring the temple with
beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God.
but God is Right there with them
even after all this time with Jesus – after the blind have seen, the lame have walked, the bread has multiplied, the hungry have been fed:
and they are staring at the stones of the temple and we do that ALL the time. look right past God at some construct of human hands and say that is nice.
Jesus says
ALL THIS WILL BE THROWN DOWN
I love it, the question they ask-
what will be the sign?
they are a couple of days away at most from Jesus’ crucifixion, and they want to know what the signs will be?
do they want to make sure they can keep enjoying everything until its time to clear out?
why do we want to know that the end is coming?

When I was 8-9 years old I loved books about children on their own. orphans or victims of war. Making their way across entire countries with a little bag of their possessions.
so far from the bamboo grove, Anne Frank to a little princess
stories of the trail of tears and Japanese internment camps.
I wanted to know : who were you when you had lost everything and everyone?

I would wonder to myself –
if they came for us right now what would I grab?
what would I have left if one by one everything I hold onto was taken from me?
But I was different from those guys with Jesus.
I didn’t want to know, not really.
I didn’t want to see it coming.
I wanted to live my life with friends and just be a kid.

Then when I was in the third grade my elementary school became a magnet for Cambodian and Laotian refugee kids.
my best friend that year was a 13 year old named Kadek. she was smart and funny she had long black hair like silk, and a snarky mischievous sense of humor. We got along great at school and eventually arranged to get together one Saturday, it took countless notes going back and forth between our mothers, by way of the school translator. finally one day my Mom dropped me off at the Archer Street housing projects.

If you can, imagine a small Cambodian village in the middle of Nashville TN. Women hung laundry up to dry outside while older girls watched the babies and the little boys sitting in the dirt started throwing rocks at me and yelling.
Kadek chased them off. I asked if I had done something to make the little boys angry and she just looked at me in this intense and slightly confused way. as if trying to understand what the question was on the planet I was coming from.
the way I frequently imagine Jesus looking at the disciples.

Kadek and her four sisters lived with their mother in a two bedroom apartment. they dressed me up in traditional Cambodian dress and fed me a lunch of a whole fish with one milky eye staring blindly at the ceiling while we scooped out his meat out with lettuce leaves.
that afternoon we walked around her neighborhood, I asked Kadek where her father was-
She stopped and looked at me as if trying to see though a thick fog. Trying to see all the way to a life not steeped in violence.
“he was shot” she said. the soldiers came and took him into the street and shot him in the head. My brothers they just took away and we never saw them again.

The end has already come.
it has come so many times, to so many people that it is sick and wrong to ask Jesus
“how will we know”?
By the time this gospel had been written the temple in Jerusalem had already been destroyed. the followers of Jesus already dragged in front of governors and kings, some of the followers of Jesus had already been killed.
the Roman army was in the process of destroying Jerusalem when this was written.
Nation had already risen against nation, kingdom had already risen against kingdom.

so if anyone thought that this got them off the hook or somehow changed the nature of Jesus’ call to live all the way into the mystery of sacrificial love.
Too bad!
this is it.
this is the world we get to be followers in.
This is the call of Jesus:
we get to witness and proclaim the kingdom of God in a world in which a five year old girl could sit by the window in Cambodia and watch her father’s execution.
We get to follow Jesus in a world where Hurricane Tomas just hit Haiti, making the efforts to stem the Cholera outbreak even more impossible.
We get to follow Jesus in a world in which war spending goes unchecked, and people debate with straight faces whether sick children should get medical care.
There will be earthquakes, famines, and plagues.
how will we know?!
we will know because we are awake.
we will know because we have ears to hear and hearts to break
And we better walk right past those temple stones, because there is nothing we can build with our human hands that can’t be torn down by someone.
We cannot prepare our defense for the end.

we cannot prepare for the “time of trial” except by getting so full of love, that it will spill out of us when we are wounded.
We can practice looking at everyone we meet and knowing that they are Jesus.
We can practice forgiveness and compassion, and generosity now, so that should the time come we will have treasures that do not need to be buried in the yard, and riches that cannot be taken from us.

Jesus is going to build a new temple.
Jesus is already building the new temple in the new Jerusalem withour lives, and hearts.
he is the cornerstone that the builders rejected who has become the chief cornerstone and we are the beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, lined up and oriented to that beginning.

the old temple will fall and not one stone will be left on another. All will be thrown down.

but this new temple, built of living witnesses to love will not perish.
Amen

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Worship Lab FAQ (because inquiring minds want to know)

What is Worship Lab?

“Worship Lab” began as the temporary name for a series of “build your own Eucharist” services to help us schemers and dreamers with the creation of an alternative worship experience offered to the un-churched and de-churched. As often happens, we’ve gotten used to the name even though the “lab” phase has officially ended.

What happens now?

Beginning November 28, New Year’s Day for the Church, the Worship Lab will be our second Sunday service, at 11:00 every week. Because the Worship Lab strives for flexibility, portability, intimacy, and interactivity, worshipping in the Parish Hall seems to work for the time being. (This could change at any moment.)

What is a Worship Lab like?

We gather for refreshment (usually coffee), prayer, and Holy Eucharist. We always hear the gospel, but sometimes it is acted out or chanted or recited from memory. We reflect on the gospel during a quiet, creative time when we can interact with various “prayer stations,” do some writing, play with clay, light a candle, or something else. We use a Eucharistic prayer written for the day or for the season.  The Order of Service is faithful to the lectionary, the liturgical season, and the Book of Common Prayer.

Who is the Worship Lab for?

Anyone! Because we offer a traditional Rite Two service of Holy Eucharist with choir and Sunday school at 9 am every Sunday, we know that service “works” for many of us, but not for everyone. Yet our Episcopal liturgy in all its forms has something life-giving and gospel-serving to offer many people. We hope that by offering a less formal, traditional service, we may in fact make our tradition available to more people as a pathway to discipleship and grace.

I like the 9:00 service exactly the way it is—it’s the service I grew up with. But my housemate/granddaughter/son-in-law/neighbor is church-curious and doesn’t like the same kind of church that I like. Should I tell her/him about the Worship Lab?

Absolutely! That’s exactly the kind of person who might like the Worship Lab! Here’s what we say about this service:

What are you hungry for?

Join us Sundays at 11 for a three-course Jesus brunch:

  • coffee and appetizers
  • interactivist Holy Communion, sharing ancient  stories in a new ways
  • moveable feast

What do you mean by “interactivist”? And what’s the “moveable feast”?

Confession time: one of our brilliant and talented staff made up a word. We wanted to say that this service provides space and time to create, interact, and take action as part of our worship. The moveable feast is part of this, and it’s what happens afterwards. Sometimes we’ll stay at church and eat homemade soup and bread. Sometimes we’ll all go out to brunch. Sometimes we’ll take to the streets with sandwiches for people who need them. Our time together will involve food and it will take a different shape from week to week.

How can I get involved in the Worship Lab?

This being the Episcopal Church, the first answer to that question is always “Come worship with us!” But wait….there’s more! You can get involved by sharing your gifts and talents and passions. Are you a musician? Do you like to paint or draw? Do you know and love PowerPoint? Do you play an instrument? Do you like to eat? Do you like to feed hungry people? Do you work for an organization that we should reach out to in our moveable feast? Come worship. Sundays at 11, 2800 SE Harrison, Portland.

Justin Martyr: Patron Saint of Seekers

But the holy ones… shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever.”

In addition to all the other things that All Saints Sunday means for us, individually and as a community of faith, on this day we also honor the huge body in our tradition of Saints-with-a-capital-S, saints who have lived out their faith in their own time and place in such a way that their stories illuminate ways that we can live out our faith in our time. It has been my custom each year to pick a “Saint of the Year” for my sermon on this All Saints Sunday.

These past few weeks I have spent some time preparing for a class we’re offering beginning in January called “Following the Way.” This class is for people interested in deep formation: formation of their understanding of the Church, formation of their own spiritual practice, and formation of their understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. I think it’s because I’ve been doing some thinking about this class that I found myself going back to the very early roots of the Christian church. That’s where today’s Saint of the Year comes from. And so, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…..may I have the envelope please….

Our saint of the year is St. Justin!

Justin is often referred to as “Justin Martyr.” “Martyr” was not his last name, but for so long his name appeared as Justin-comma-Martyr that somewhere along the line we stopped using the comma. Justin is a saint for a whole bunch of reasons. After his conversion he was an apologist for Christ, which does not mean that he spent his time apologizing, but rather that he was wrote extensively to Jesus’ critics and skeptics about what it meant to be a follower. He was martyred in the year 167 because he would not renounce his Christian faith in a Roman court of law.

Justin was born around the year 110, near the ancient Israelite site of Shechem in Samaria. He was born into what historians describe as a “pagan family,” meaning that his family was neither Jewish nor Christian. Justin was educated in Greek philosophy, and his education left him hungry and thirsty for deeper meaning.

So why did I single out Justin this year? Two reasons: First, today is a baptismal feast and Justin was a baptismal kind of guy. He left us with one of the very earliest written sources for what baptismal preparation and baptism would’ve looked like in the second century. As a new Christian in an era where being a follower of the Way was a matter of life and death, Justin would have been through a multi-year process of preparation for baptism that involved prayer, repentance, and deep study of scripture. He would have been baptized by immersion in a big tank. Through that going down into the water and coming up again, he would have experienced a mini-death and resurrection, and so would have joined Christ in his death and resurrection.

The second reason I picked Justin for this year’s saint is that he was a seeker with a restless heart, a seeker who longed for some deeper understanding of the world and his place in it. I think it’s important for all of us to reflect, from time to time, on that experience of longing because we all have it. It’s something we need to pay attention to and honor in everyone we know.

I think of Justin as an early patron saint of seekers. His journey of faith took him through all sorts of belief systems. He began with a Stoic philosopher as a teacher. Then he found a disciple of Aristotle who he thought might help him in his search. He tried geometry and astronomy, but his restless heart didn’t have that kind of patience.

He recounts a time of walking along the beach and meeting someone who shared his own experience of being a follower of Jesus. He writes: “straightaway a flame was kindled in my soul, and a love of the prophets and those who are friends of Christ possessed me.” After a lifetime of searching, thus began the beginning of Justin’s path to baptism and to the Christian life.

Justin’s experience was one of “conversion by conversation.” How many times have we, when walking with a friend, or sitting and having coffee with someone, come to know in our seeker’s heart that that person has something we want—an experience or faith or a view of the world that speaks to us or calls to us?

Today Elsa and Jemma and Seth and Tess enter into their vocation as Christians. Part of that calling is to be the person walking along the beach with a seeker like Justin, or be the person sitting in a coffee shop with a seeker like you or me, talking about God. All of us, when we renew our baptismal promises, promise to be part of those conversations. Even as we belong to God, our process of seeking God never ends.

Justin described baptism as “the way in which we are renewed by Christ and consecrated to God.” Baptism sets us apart as God’s own. As we prepare to renew our own baptismal covenant and to witness the baptisms of Seth and Jemma and Elsa and Tess, let us with joy also experience our own renewal. Let us, with them, be consecrated once more.