An Epistle to the Church at New York & Emerson: The Drought is Over

Beloved Friends,

To those physically present, to those listening via the internet, and to those who will read these words; grace to you and peace in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ – the author of our salvation and the perfector of our faith. To those whom God has gathered in this place, to the faithful saints who laid the cornerstone, and to the great cloud of witnesses who spirit fills this place: grace to you and peace.

I am writing to you to proclaim the word of the Lord that has come to me over these past months as I have been praying for guidance and wisdom. I am writing with the word that the Lord has given me through my prayers from you; whom I give thanks for and whom I love.

I love you. I love you all in a way that you may never understand. I know I am not the greatest pastor you have had; I know I have a multitude of failings; I know that; and yet, you continue to embrace me as your pastor. You take me in all of my brokenness and imperfections and still call me your pastor, and I am forever grateful. It is a privilege and honor to serve you.

And so, I want to lift up this gift that you – this community gathered by God – I want to lift up this gift that you have: you have the unique gift of seeing this truth in whomever walks through the doors of this building. You are able to see them for who they are and welcome them and embrace them as someone God has brought into this building. You, since my time here and longer, have a history of welcoming those other churches may reject. In doing so, you have entertained angels unaware.

You carry in your hearts the joy of the Lord, and yet of late I have come to sense a certain sadness in some. From my seat I have seen the looks of concern, I have heard the whispered conversations in the hallways asking where everyone is. You see small numbers in the sanctuary on Sunday and see the parched land laying in front of you. You see the budget with its year after year deficit. You wonder why the church is not full.

You remember the days when there were few empty pews; when the choir in the loft led the singing of the hymns; when boy scouts filled the basement. You walk through the doors of this building and see the days when there were multiple children’s Sunday school classes. You remember the days when the harvest was plentiful and the fields flourished. And now, when you walk through the doors you hear the wind blowing across a parched land.

You look as the empty space next to you and wonder where the people are. You – we – have been conditioned to value our success on visible and tangible outcomes. The more of something you have the more successful you are. The bigger the house, the larger the nest egg, the higher the test scores – our worth is directly connected to what can be measured. And when certain standards are not being met then you are considered a failure and your church dying. Drought is slowly choking away life.

As the days, weeks, months, years of aridness amble forward you begin to look for excuses; find scapegoats for the lack of rain. You start to blame others and yourselves for the warm winds blowing; or, you deny the truth that things are bad; or you throw yourselves into survival mode -rationing everything you have in order make it another day.

It the later here that I wish to focus on for a moment.

When you look at the arid plain before you, you start to see no hope on the horizon. There are no clouds in the sky and the sun bakes the land. You know that if you are to make it though you must start sacrificing. You know that if you are to survive you need to close the doors and batten down the gate. You see your survival as directly related with the people in the pews and when you don’t see them then you know your days are numbered. You become focused on survival. You turn inward. You vision gets focused on only two things – the dry land and the never ending need for nourishment.

But my friends, my friends, like I said you carry the joy of the Lord in your hearts. You continue to gather week after week; month after month; year after year even in the parched land. That says to me something much more profound than any navel gazing and why me-ing. The fact that you continue to gather – even in the drought – says to me that even though you might not be able to say it; even though you might not be able to articulate it – in your heart of hearts you know the rains are coming. Your faithful persistence is a testament to your trust in God’s plan for this place. Something deep within you said to you, I just have got to be with the people of the Lord today. Something deep within you said, even thought the land is dry and parched there are cloud gathering on the horizon and the rains are about to fall.

My beloved friends, this is the message I have for you today. The drought is over. The rains of revival are coming. You just need to look to the horizon and you will see the signs that the showers have started.

The Bible says,

For I will pour out water on the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants

Look around the corner and you will see children of God gathered in the chapel to worship together and beginning working with us. Listen in the parlor and you will hear children of God gathered together praising God in the language of their hearts. Sit near the front of the sanctuary and you will see children engaged in worship. Come to the church during the week and you will see children of God gathered to learn together. You will hear children singing and laughing. You will see that the rains of revival are beginning to pour and the drought is over.

If you look outside of the walls of this building you see that our field is full. The harvest is near. You will learn that because of the work of this church, someone who doesn’t come to worship, recommended this church to another person who is wanting to start a pre-K program, and this person didn’t call it Emerson Ave this person said, why don’t you talk to my church.

If you look outside the walls of this building you will see that the flowers are beginning to bloom when you walk though the grocery store and see one of our food pantry guests, and they say “Hey, Rev. How are things at my church.”

If you look outside the walls of this building you will see that God has been upholding Gods promise to bring the rains to those who are faithful You will see that the rains of revival are beginning to water the parched land around New York and Emerson. You will see that the drought is over and you are a part of something so much bigger than you ever imagined.

You will see how lines of connection are being drawn between this church on the corner and the lives of our neighbors. Those who are in need and those with a need to serve. You will see how because of an arts academy we have a new congregation worship here. You will see how because of a dance school, we may become the home of a pre-K program. You will see how a food pantry guest shared her story with neighbors and has helped bring revival to ICAN. The rains of revival are starting to come and soon because of this church on the corner a flood of God’s grace, God’s mercy, God’s justice, and God’s love will fill this neighborhood.

All you have to do is change your seat; shift your perspective and you will see that this church is not a parched and barren land, but an oasis of hope in the middle of the city. God has planted the seeds and the rains are coming. The harvest will be here soon, my beloved, the drought is over.

Hear again this promise from God:

People of Emerson Avenue Baptist, shout with joy
and happiness in the Eternal, your God;
The drought is over; He has sent the early autumn rain as a sign of His faithfulness.
He has poured down heavy rain, autumn and spring, as before.
The threshing floors will be covered in grain;
the vats will spill over with new wine and fresh oil.

The Eternal One Says: I will compensate you for the years
that the locusts have eaten—the swarming locusts,
The creeping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts—
My great army that I unleashed against you.

In that day, you will eat plenty of food and always have enough,
so you will praise My name,
The Eternal One, your God who is merciful to you.
Never again will My people be shamed among the nations.

Return to Me and you will know that I live among My people Emerson Ave.
and that I, the Eternal One, am your God and there is no other.
Never again will My people be shamed among the nations.

Ahhh and here’s what’s going to happen…

Then in those days I will pour My Spirit to all humanity;
your children will boldly and prophetically speak the word of God.
Your elders will dream dreams;
your young warriors will see visions.

No one will be left out. In those days I will offer My spirit
to all servants, both male and female.

My beloved friends – The drought is over. The rains of revival are coming. The day of the Lord is at hand. Let us step out in the rains together.

Grace and peace you. In the name of the Father and the Son and The Holy Spirit.


Sermon: What do you do with Good News?

What do you do with Good News?

Luke 4:21-30

Click here for audio.

This morning as we rest in God’s word, I would like us to spend a some time meditating on the theme, What do you do with Good News? We heard in the text today that there were several reactions to the Good News Jesus brought – so let is ask, What do you do with good news?

Let us pray…

Today our gospel lesson pick up right where it left off last week. Last we we met Jesus filled with the power of the Spirit coming into his home congregation – the church of his childhood. News had been spreading about what he was saying and doing around Galilee, but now, finally he had come home. 
We don’t know what all he was doing before he arrived home, but once he gets there he is invited by the preacher to say a few words. So, he reads from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he reads. “He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed. To proclaim Jubilee – the year of the Lord’s favor.” These are the first words of Jesus’ ministry as recorded by Luke. He reads from the prophet and reminds the people gathered that God’s promises are not fleeting. There will be a day when their poverty will be named; when their weakness will be made strong; when their debts will be forgiven…God is faithful. It was good news for them to hear. But, if you remember Jesus flips the script and swaps the story. He tells them, “Today…you don’t have to wait. Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus doubles down on the good news. Yes, God is faithful to God’s promises and instead of waiting for some kind of happy ending – it starts today. I am the the one of whom the prophet was speaking he implies. This is the mission statement of the ministry of Jesus the anointed one of God. This is the working definition of Messiah. He is saying – you can be apart of this Good News now, you don’t have to wait!

And this is where we pick up the story this morning. That good news was preached in the pulpit of his home church. Jesus told the people the Kingdom of God is today. And there is a buzz in the sanctuary. The men (and it was all men at that time) didn’t wait to talk about the preacher in parking lot conversations. They were talking amongst themselves right then and there. 

Some were excited with the news he proclaimed, ready to be a part of it. Others were wary. Others angry. But the thing they all held in common was the desire to keep this news for themselves. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they ask. Has he really come home to bring this good news to us? This young preacher will rebuild our church. He will bring in young families, and he will tell us how special we are. Our church, they say will be so blessed to have him. We can just sit back and watch him work – because he is ours. Our boy is here. Now people will come.

They wanted to keep the good news to themselves. They had been blessed to see the face of God in their padded pews and the knew God was present with them. They were good and faithful people, and they knew it. They wanted to keep the good news for themselves. 

And Jesus sensed their selfishness, he understood what conversation was being had. “Really, now you are going to say to me -Doctor, cure yourself. Take care of us. Do here what we have heard you have done in Capernaum. We want you to to stay home.” Having none of it Jesus replied, “Amen, folks, even if I do stay – you will like me for a minute and when things start to change you will want me gone. You like to keep the status quo. No prophet is accepted in their hometown. 

Listen now, what I am about to speak is the truth. There are many here who need help, yes, but you have each other – got that, you have each other. However, there are many outside the doors of the church who are suffering. They are in a drought. When it happened before, God sent Elijah the prophet not just to his home church – no, he was sent to a widow in Zaraphath. He wast sent into the world to be with one whom his people didn’t even know and be with her in her suffering. He was sent to see and bring good news to those outside the church. He was sent to those his church was scared of. So, too, it was with Naaman. There were many sick Elisha’s home church, but he was sent to the Syrian to care for him. He was sent to give God’s loving good news to one who didn’t even believe in his God.” 
Ooooo, weeee. They did not want to hear this. No, ma’am. They wanted to keep the Good news all to themselves. Heresy they cried out. How dare he talk like God loves the outsiders (missing the irony that they themselves were outsiders). How dare he say we can’t be the only ones to benefit. How dare he proclaim from the pulpit such strange ideas. Such new interpretations. They got up and chased Jesus to the edge of the town. To the brow of the hill. The ledge from which you could see Cana. They chased him to the ledge and were going to throw him off because they wanted to keep the good news to themselves.

Friends, God’s good news is not to be hoarded. 

When you have been made new by the Good News, it doesn’t stop with you. 

When you can sing I once was blind but now I see, God’s good news isn’t just for me.

When the chains of debt and the weight of oppression have been knocked down and dragged out, the good news should turn to a hallelujah shout.

When jubilee has erased everything you think can keep you from God’s face, the good news can’t remain in just one place.

The good news is to be shared. It is to be shouted. We are to be a pastoral people who see the needs in the world and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, sit with the sick and the prisoner, who welcome the religious minority and the outcast refugee. We are to care for them without hesitation or reservation. We don’t need to make them pray before we give them food. They are hungry they get food. They don’t need to sit through a service to get assistance, that is holding our power over them, if there is a need we meet it the best we can. We are to be a pastoral people. We are to be out in the world causing mischief and turning over the tables. 

We are to be a prophetic people who echo Jesus’ message and flip the script and swap the story. We are to be a people who don’t just sit idly by and watch the world go by shaking our heads wondering what is going on. We are to be engaged in the world. Confronting powers and principalities that feed hatred, that demean human worth, that seek to separate because of race or religion or gender identity. We are to be the embodiment of the Kingdom of God and provide an alternate reality. A reality where all of God’s children – whether they know it or not – are treated with the dignity we would treat God with. 

For some it is marching with fists held high and proclaiming at the top of our lungs that if you can’t say All lives matter if you can’t first say Black and Brown and LGBTQ Lives matter. You can’t say all lives matter if you can’t first say Poor lives matter. You can’t say all lives matter if you can’t first say Muslim lives matter, Refugee lives matter. You can’t say all lives matter if you can’t first say everyone, regardless if they believe what I believe – do what I do – act the way I want them to – if you can’t first say you are my brother and you are my sister. For some of us, this is how we proclaim the good news in the world.
For some it is meeting the needs of those around you. The sister in the pew next to you or the brother who isn’t here today. You are the relational ones who help connect the dots, but when you do -you just don’t care for them you share their stories. You encourage them to share their own stories. You help connect the dots as to why there is a need in the first place. You are a caregiver first – and in that care giving you proclaim the good news to all of those around you.

For some flipping the script and swapping the story involves being present in the times of need. You are the caregivers. You are the ones who can and do make the phone calls when a sister or brother isn’t here. You are the ones who go and visit those who are homebound or in the hospital. You are the one who take God’s good news outside of this place. You are the ones who care not only for members and friends of the church, but you live God’s good news when you are taking your neighbor to the doctor, when you are opening your couch to strangers, when you are mediating conflict between peers. You are, too, are the embodiment of God’s good news.

This is what is behind Jesus’ sermon in the synagogue. When he says, “today, scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,” it is a call to action for the people of God to bring the Good News – the good news that has so deeply touched our hearts – into the world. And it isn’t always pretty when we do. When we challenge the status quo; when we confront the king – it can be a perilous path. It can lead us to the brow of the hill with people wanting to push us off the cliff. It can leave us breathless with anxiety as we see down the steep edge. People don’t want to hear what we have to say when we refuse to hoard the Good News. It causes them discomfort. It disrupts what they want. It is a mischievous task. 

But hear this…oh hear this. Hear what happens when they push Jesus to the edge. The Bible says, “they got up and drove him out of the town, to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff…BUT…BUT Jesus passed right on through the mids of them and went on his way.” Oh, you missed it, “But Jesus passed right through the midst of them and went on his way.” Just in case, “BUT Jesus passed right through the midst of them and went on his way.” Jesus said the haters gonna hate, but I don’t have time to wait. Jesus said, take it or leave it, I am gonin’ on my way.

When they wanted to push him off the cliff, Jesus just walked on through so that he could keep sharing the good news. Because the good news doesn’t have time to stop and argue with the haters, it doesn’t sit on TV and cry about a war on Christmas or that somehow in the land of the free and the home of the brave Christians are being persecuted. No, the good news is on the move. It is something that is bigger that us and will get us from here to there. It is life giving, sister and brother loving, spirit transforming good news that will set us on our path and carry us past the haters in our way. It has a way of doing that.

When Joseph was thrown in to a hole to die, God’s good news carried him to pharaoh’s side.

When Pharaoh’s army gave chase to Moses and the refugees, God’s good news parted the sea and the went on their way.

When big stone walls protected the first town in the promised land, Joshua and the priest blew horns and shouted some good news and those walls came tumbling down.

When David came face to face with a giant philistine, some good news came and that giant fell.

When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in a fiery furnace and Daniel in a lion’s den; God’s good news gave them a shove right through the door.

When the Hebrew Children were at death’s door about to be slaughtered; Ester shouted some good news and they lived to make it home.

When you have the good news, the haters are gonna hate, but it doesn’t matter because you ain’t got time for that. You have seen the Kingdom of God and you just have to share it. You have to love your neighbor and pray for your enemy. You have to step out and cause some mischief. You have to get out of your comfort zone and change the world. Not because you will get some reward. Not because you have to earn some kind of grace. Not because someone has guilted you. You shout the good news because you know what it does. You know that it has changed your life. You know that it has transformed your spirit. You share the good news because that’s all you can do. Your life has been made new.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.

It has anointed you to bring good news to the poor

Release to the captives

Sight to the blind

liberation for the oppressed

To announce the year of God’s favor.
What are you gonna do with the Good News?

Thanks be to God.

Sermon, Uncategorized

Sermon: Breaking Through

Click here for audio. 

Breaking ThroughLuke 3:21-22

Please pray with me…
Imagine with me. You have left your home in dusty Jericho. It is not just dusty because of the sand in the area, but also because of the ash flying through the air from the open fires upon which meals are made. Everything you touch has a think layer of dust on it. And your skin clammy with the beginning of perspiration becomes an attractive vacuum for the dust. It covers you, very thinly but enough to notice and to be annoying. The dust is everywhere.

So, you have left your home in dusty Jericho and and you move through the city and out into the wilderness. You have heard about this prophet who is hanging around by the Jordan. So you head toward the rising sun, east to the river as it nears its emptying point in the Dead Sea. In the few miles you are in the desert making the walk to the waters your mind begins to think about all that dust. All of that grime that is always everywhere. It never goes away. You scrub the house and it just returns. You wash your body only to have the dust dry on you skin before you are even dressed. It is the bane of your existence.

And as you wander in the wilderness you watch as dust devils dance in silhouette on the horizon. And your mind jumps to the chaos that is your life. The insecurity you have about feeding your family. The well being of your aging mother. They tears you shed for the death of your neighbor. The constant barking of orders from the Roman overseers as you work in the fields. The beggars, always there, Blind Bartemaus, will he ever find happiness. All of it spins in your head like the dancing of the dust on the horizon.

Then as you begin the descent into the valley carved by the ancient waters, waters crossed by Jacob after facing God on the Jabbock; waters crossed by Joshua and the people of Israel as they made their way to the promised land; the waters crossed by the Elijah and Elisha; the waters that washed away the leprosy of Naaman; as you begin your descent you see him. The prophet you have heard of, standing waist deep in the water. He is proclaiming repentance for the forgiveness of sins and people are running to him to be washed in the water.

You make your way to the rivers edge. You sit and watch. You pick at the dried and cracked dust coating your hands. Will it ever go away? Will this dust ever go away? You listen to the man in the water, but you are skeptical about his claim. How can it be that one dip in the Jordan can cleanse you? If you can’t even get your house in order, you can’t get your house clean, how will something like this clean your soul, clean your spirit, clean your heart?

There is just too much dirt in there.

Imagine with me. You leave your home in Indianapolis. You leave it and you know it is disarray. You know you haven’t dusted in days, in weeks, in months. There is a layer of minuscule matter coating every surface, and you see it every time the sun shines in the window. You watch it dancing in the sunbeams, taunting you. You see it, but why bother, really, it is a Sisyphean task, it always comes back. The dust.

It lingers there like the back log of bills waiting to be knocked down. You can almost feel the weight of it as it falls on you. And it gets under your skin. Every time you get the phone call from a collector of and alert from the bank telling you you are overdrawn, the dust collects. It builds up and up until you are about to break. You lash out at those you love because everything you see is dirty. It just won’t come clean.

The dust in your aching joints and muscles tries to keep you from getting things in order. You know that as you get older it gets harder and harder to move around the house. To get the cleaning supplies from under the counter. And you feel it every time you move. And you want to scream.

It collets on the bottles of vodka that you turn to when you think no one is looking, the bottles that sometimes offer you solace, but more often than not make a mess when you fight with family. Your need for the bottle adds another layer. You want to, but it is so hard to get clean.

The dust coats your skin. It cakes on and every time you try to get it off you end up with bleeding knuckles. No matter what you do you can’t get clean.

And so you leave your house covered. You leave your house and you step in the mud. You see the violence in going on around you – four dead in 10 days. You watch as bile bellows forth from those who seek to lead our country. They dehumanize everyone who is not like them. Right, Left, Tea Party it doesn’t matter – the discourse does nothing to increase the dignity of God’s children.

Covered in dust and dirt you find your way to this place. You find yourself in a blue padded pew. You don’t know why you are here, and you almost didn’t come because you thought you were not good enough. You were too dirty. Stepping in there would make you vulnerable and you might get shamed by people who have their stuff together.

You come in these doors and into the blue padded pew and you see that the person next to you is just as dirt covered as you. You look around and everyone you see has dust covering them.
You come into these doors and into the blue padded pews and you hear words. You hear these words. These words that were witnessed by the one who left Jericho that day so long ago. That one covered covered in dust who made her way to the Jordan to see the prophet in the camel hair tunic. You hear these words that changed her life forever. You hear the words you have longed for; words of hope; of promise. You hear these words this day seated int he padded blue pews:

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Well, sisters and brothers, we are all here today covered in dust and dirt. We are all here today with sin writ large on our hearts. WE are all here today with questions and uncertainties. We are here on the shores of the Jordan. And we witness all in one place and one time God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Sprit break forth into the world. Exploding from the heavens into our present reality – into our dusty and dirt word – Exploding into your reality saying to Jesus, I love you. I love you before you have even done anything. I love you and you are here to hear it. I love you.

And I’m here to let you know that that is the power of baptism. That is the power of the promise of God. That through these water all that dust and dirt you carry; the weight of the world, the sin of the hear, the hurt and anxiety – through these waters they get washed away. You don’t need to scrub until you bleed because in these water – God’s love does all the work. Because in the waters of baptism we hear clearly God say, I love you. I love you now. You don’t have to be perfect to come to these waters. You don’t have to do everything right. You don’t have to be busy doing work. No, I love you. I have loved you since before you drew your first breath and I will love you into eternity.
Through the waters of baptism comes new life; comes new hope. Cleansed in these holy waters you come out a new person. You come out marked with the cross of Christ forever and that is something that will never be taken away.

Now you may be about to say, Pastor, it sounds like you are saying that after baptism everything will be perfect. The dust is washed off and will never come back. Well, I am sorry to say, the dust does come back. You aren’t cured of hard times. They will still be there. You aren’t promised prosperity or fortune. You will sin again. People will still act like jerks. There will still be heartache and grief. After all it is still a dirty and dusty world. But what happens when you come out of the waters of baptism you come out of them with a new perspective.

You look at them the dust and dirt and say it ain’t that bad, because I know if can get washed off. You look at stress and confusion and say, I don’t have to go through it alone because I belong to God now. I belong to the church. I belong, because God loves me.

The aches and pains don’t go away, but they are transformed form instruments of torture into a ridiculous reality. Your getting old and this is what happens, but you aren’t getting old alone. You are part of something bigger when you come out of the waters of baptism. You come out as part of the body of Christ who has other weary travelers just like you and you can lean on each other. You can encourage each other. You can cry for each other. You come out of the waters of Baptism into the body of Christ that has younger and stronger people to stand long side you to lear from you; to help you; to grown from your knowledge; and to pick you up and carry you- because God love you. God loves you for who you are.

The stain of violence and putrid political rhetoric still will sully the streets. But instead of being worn down by it and carried along in the vocal hurricane you are able to say – this is not what the Kingdom of God looks like. This is not the eternal life I just was born into. You are given courage to be bold in the face of violence. You are given the voice to name the causes of violence; guns, drugs, gangs, sin, and broken systems that perpetuate the myth of redemptive violence. You are able to look at structures in place and call them racist because the disproportionately affects persons of color. You are able to say to your your candidate you are wrong. You are able to say that their platform does not reflect the kingdom of God. You are able to offer a different realty. The reality that is love. That is God’s love for all people. Let me say that again -God’s love is for all people. You missed it – God’s love is for all people.

Love that is for white people and black people. Brown people and first nations people and asian people. Love that is for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered people. Love that is for Jewish people. Love that is for Muslim people. Love that is for Hindu and Buddhist. It doesn’t matter who you are. God loves you. God loves you. I don’t think you hear me… GOD LOVES YOU.

When you come through the waters of Baptism you are able to come out clean having been bathed in God’s love. You come out of the waters someone new. Someone who knows the dust won’t stay put.

Someone empowered into a new way of life.

Someone ready to move mountains.

Someone ready to tear down wall.

Someone ready to reach out and love the ones everyone else says hate.

Someone who is ready to sit with the suffering; weep in the weeping; dance with the joyous.

Someone with a heart full of praise, singing Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless your holy name.
Someone who can’t help but shout the Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear.

Great are you Lord and greatly to be praised.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

You come out of the water as someone who can look to the heavens and hear God say, I Love You. I Love you. I Love you.

The doors of the church are open…


Sermon: Pulling the Thread

Pulling the ThreadMark 13:1-8

Click here for audio.

Click here for video

[Intro: Sermon Title change]

Let us Pray…

There is a thread loose. Don’t how how it got loose, but there is a thread loose. It is minuscule, but it is hanging there. A speed bump on the smoothness of the material. It dances when the breeze breathes across it. Waving as the dust mites dance in the ray of the shining sun. the is a thread loose. 

This loose thread started at the first breath of creation. It is wound from the bark of the tree of life. Generation after generation adding to its story. Winding itself on the spinning wheel of the cosmos; as this piece is woven the thread is attached to the shuttle of time and passed over and under the warp of history. It weaves the fist row as the first ones walk through the garden; adding each successive row with each generation. The warp and weft of the material grows heavy as the weight of history begins to leave its mark. Frayed edges; places where neglect skipped a thread; the dinginess of the manufacturing floor; this veil is hung in the high place of the temple. This garment of history is hung between the dwelling place of God and of God’s creation. And there is a thread loose.

I am going to confess that this is not the sermon I was planning on preaching. Once again we are coming face to face with he evil that is in our world. The words of Jesus this morning can not be more appropriate for today, can they?

Every where we turn it seems all that we can see is death and destruction. We see hurting and pain. It is enough to make on sick. And I am sick. I am sick and tired of having to preach these kinds of sermons. I am tired of seeing hate on my Facebook news feed. I am tired of having to shield my daughter’s eyes from the television. I am tired of hearing people spew hatred to an entire religion because of the actions of madmen. I am tired of it. 

I want to be one of those disciples who ask Jesus to tell me when it will all be over. When will the killing end. When will the death end. When will the hatred end. I want to pin him to a wall and make him give me a straight answer. I am sick to death of all of it. Enough is enough.

And then I think about a loose thread.

And soon as that thought appears it is gone. Consumed again by rage. Jesus answers his disciples telling them that there will be many who claim to know the answer saying, “I am he.” He tells the that there will be politicians who claim to be the messiah in the bellicose blathering. They will claim to speak for him when they advocate killing and war. They say they speak for him when the ignore the plight of the refugee and immigrant – in fact they will use them as pawns in their political maneuvering.

The thread is loose.

Jesus warns of wars and rumors of wars. He speaks of terror attacks in Paris leaving hundreds dead. He speaks of bombs in Beirut that will level the cedars of Lebanon – 40 dead and 200 hundred injured. A Baghdad funeral leaves more dead. 

Jesus must be getting tickled by the loose thread because he says that these things must take place. The end is yet to come. What is the end, Jesus? When will all this end? We just wanna know.

There will be more destruction. A heroin addict overdosed 3 blocks form the Church Thursday night, and instead of concern for the person there was the mantra of – one more out of the hood. There was a man murdered by arson 8 blocks away, a man without a home and in the wrong place at the wrong time. 
Nation will rise up against nation, Jesus says. 

There will be earthquakes and famines, Jesus says. 

The thread is loose.

It all makes me want to pull the thread and let it all come falling down. I just want to rip the seam and let all of the horrible happen and just be done with it. 
The thread is loose. Then Jesus says something else. He opens his mouth again, Listening to him – what else can it be? What else is left?

“This is but but the beginning of the birth pangs.” And in 48 hours he, too, is dead. It is the end. 

I stand there looking at his outstretched arms. Nailed to wooden beams. I see him there. And waving in the breeze stuck in the crown upon his head I see a thread. Dancing in the breath of the breeze. 

I hear a scream. The rain starts to pour. I run to that place of safety the temple and there I see it. I see the thread ripping tearing its way down the veil between the Dwelling Place of God and God’s creation. I see through the rip in the veil, as the tread zig-zags its way down, I see light breaking through. Light making its way into the darkness. In that light I see the silhouette of the cross. I see Jesus calling me to lay my weary head on the foot of the cross. I see on the cross all of the tears, I hear all of the cries. At the cross I see God, Fully God – die a fully human death. I see in Jesus, God taking upon God’s self all of it. All of the death. All of the destruction. All of the hate. 

I see myself in the face of Jesus. I see you in the face of Jesus. I see all of your pain. All of your fear. I see all of the darkness that you carry on the cross. And I hear Jesus. Jesus is calling out this is the beginning of new life. This is beginning of the birth pangs of a new creation.

The thread is loose. And in the light now busting through from the dwelling place of God into the place of God’s people I see an unveiling. I see the true glory of God – there on the the cross. I see hundreds of Parisians gathering on the night of a terrorist attack with a giant sign that says “Not Afraid.” I see Baghdadi’s getting married in the face of death. I see the might cedars of Lebanon laying the foundation of a new generation. 

I see the Hebrews dancing across the Red Sea. 

I see Sarah laughing.

I see Mary holing her belly knowing that this day would come.

I see Christians facing the lions.

I see Harriet Tubman conducting the underground railroad. 

I see children holding hand not caring what color they are.

There at the cross I see Christians and Muslims protecting each other as they pray and proclaiming Terrorism Has No Religion. At the cross I hear the words of theologian Fredrich Buechner echoing the words of the angels, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

This is but the beginning of the birth pangs of a new creation. The cross happens to prove that there is nothing to fear. Nothing our God will not do for us. Our God died for us, so that when the terrors come we would know that we are not alone – for even God understands terror. 

The loose thread finally fully unfurled reveals that even in death Our God comes out on the other side. Our God declared victory over the all of the forces that seek to destroy. That doesn’t mean they go away, or that we will never encounter them – no, it means that we don’t have to live in fear of them. We don’t have to live in fear of terrorists, because we know the promise of God. We don’t have to live in fear of the wars and rumors of wars, because we know that the prince of peace will triumph. We don’t have to live in fear of those who look different from us or believe different from us, because we serve a God who died on the cross for all of us. 

The thread is no longer loose, but has been ripped out revealing God’s new and glorious creation. Giving us hope. Giving us perseverance. Giving us the reminder that God’s love for us knows no bounds. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

War can’t keep us from the love of God.

Terror can’t keep us from the love of God.

Addiction can’t keep us from the love of God.

Abuse can’t keep us from the love of God.

Death can’t even keep us from the love of God.

For in all these things we are more than conquerers. Nothing in all of creation can keep us from the love of God. This is the new creation.

Friends, Be not afraid. Trust in the love of God. Trust in that in the cross of Christ – all of the powers of death of destruction came to an end and no longer can control you. Be not afraid. Weep. Cry. Lament. Lean on the cross. But be not afraid. The thread is gone and the veil is torn. You are God’s.

Thanks be to God


Sermon: The Widow’s Might!

The Widow’s MightMark 12:38-44

Click here for audio.

Click here for video

And now a reading from the JAT Version:

As Jesus taught the disciples and those gathered round he said to them, “Beware of the preachers with their toothy grins who walk around saying you will have the best live ever. Watch out for those who always want to sit at the Dias, who hound you form money to buy new planes, those who promise prosperity. They make their livings off the pensions of widows. Yes, they put on a good show, with their upbeat music and long winded prayers. Listen, they just don’t get it. They will receive greater condemnation.”

Then, taking those with him, he sat across from the temple treasury in the court of the women. He sat like a judge watching the crowd giver their offerings. Sure enough, the rich came by and threw their money into the places making lots of noise, so that everyone knew how much they were giving. 

Behind them all comes a widow. And Jesus watches as the put two coins – which equal about a penny – into the plate. You couldn’t ever hear it touch that sides. 

Then he called to his disciples and said to them, “Listen up. Pay attention. This poor widow has put in more than all of the rest. For they all gave a bit of what they had, but she – in her poverty – gave all she had. Everything. She has nothing else to live on.”

Let us pray….
The widow’s mite – m.i.t.e – is what this story is often called. It is another of the flannel graph favorites, right? I still see the white felt back ground with the golden interior of the temple in the middle. Jesus in his white robe with the blue sash sitting off to the side with the disciples. I see the potted palm trees. And I see the woman, humbly dropping her last two coins into what looks like a treasure box. How many of you remember either seeing something similar or even using the flannel graph to tell the story when you taught Sunday School? This is one of the few that I can still see vividly. This, Moses and the Red Sea; Daniel in the Lion’s Den; Sadhrach, Meshach, and Abendigo in the fiery furnace; The Christmas story; the man being let down through the hole in the roof; and the crucifixion. But I remember this story, too.

Partly I thing this story is so memorable because it has been used to tell us, or teach us, how to give sacrificially. It has been used as a tool to make me feel guilty when I didn’t give enough in church or Sunday School; now, I am not saying it was intentional because that is how this story has been used for many years. It is the epitome of the Stewardship sermon – If she can give all she has, why can’t you? Right? How many have experienced that? 

Now, sacrificial giving is important. Giving is important, that is how our ministries survive. That is what make them grow and allows us to the That Church on the Corner. We have been blessed by people who have known this and understood that offering our gifts is part of our call as disciples of Christ. They have given endowments to us that are allowing us to get through these lean times when we are not as big as we once were. Their giving is allowing us to do ministry. Your giving is keeping us open to the neighborhood. Your gifts are what keep the lights on for our art students who come through the doors every Tuesday. Your giving is what sustains the food pantry that feeds our neighbors. Your offerings are what allow our doors to be open seven days a week and allow us to be that church on the corner – open to all who need a place to come and rest from the chaos of the world. Your giving is what lets us be a beacon of God’s Reign, God’s Justice here on the east side. Our offerings, past, present, and future are being used to further the the Reign of God. 

All of that said, though, I don’t think this story is as much about the sacrifice as it is an indictment of the corruption of Government and church and in the end, and most importantly, I understand it to be a testimony of hope.

In our Wednesday morning Bible Study we have been leaning to read the Bible as a whole and in context. We have been working to take it out of isolation, and read the stories we encounter as part of a larger story. One of the reasons the story of the Widow’s mite has become so popular is because it has been read in isolation. As as story in and of itself. When, instead, it should be read as as story with the context of the Gospel of Mark and the Bible as a whole. If we do that, then our perspective of the situation shifts.

Mark is a manifesto of Radical Discipleship. Mark’s Gospel is the story of and for those at the bottom. Jesus is always among the crowds, and not the elite crowds. No Jesus is there with the sick, the destitute, the unclean, the outcast. Jesus, in this telling, is the embodiment of Radical commitment to God and the ways of God. This telling of God’s story from the bottom is in direct contrast the ways of the Greco/Roman order of shame and honor. In this Gospel the last are the first and the first are the last. The call to become a disciple is to empty ones self of that which keeps you from God, and to trust in the ways of God. We have seen this over the last few weeks when we encountered, first the rich man who could not let go of his possessions to follow Jesus, and later in contrast the poor blind beggar Bartimaeus who left all his possessions behind just to be near the healing hand of the Son of Man. 

Understanding that Mark has a message of radical discipleship, then we can begin to hear this story again – new, with fresh ears. 

Prior to this event at the temple, Jesus has had run ins with the church council. He has staged a protest by cleansing the temple of the money changers. He declared that the place of worship is not to be a bank that lends a high profit margins, but is to be a house of prayer for ALL PEOPLE. This challenge to the status quo signed his death warrant. How dare he say that all should have access to God, how dare he upset the status quo, how dare he challenge the church council and demand that the priestly class become like the mere rabble in the court of the gentiles.

On the steps of the temple his authority has been questioned. Surely a man of God would not have such hostility toward the temple. He refused to tell the church council because they refused to see.

He confounded them because he told them that people should pay their taxes to Caesar and to give to God what is God’s. He was angry that they sought test him with this kind of stupidity. 

Jesus defined radical discipleship by telling them that the first commandment is to Love God with one’s whole being and then to love neighbor. Doing those two simple things were what was required to be near the Reign of God. He blew past all of their legalism and rules. He opened wide the access to God and did not have time for their nonsense.

Finally he is with the crowd again, today, at the temple and he has had enough. He finally breaks it all down. He tells the crowd to watch out for these clowns. They are nothing but false teachers. They claim to be righteous. They are like the candidates running for office that say they are for the common person while they are accepting donations from billion dollar corporations. They are like the ones who claim to wear their religion on their sleeves all they while they make policies that demonize the poor, that cut assistance to the needy. They write laws that turn people into statistics instead of flesh and blood. They send drones to bomb villages in the hopes of killing a terrorist; all the while leaving hospitals in ruins. These priests in the temple are making money from their defrauding the widows. Demanding that in order to receive the right kind of care in their old age they sell all of their assets and become totally reliant on the government’s…i mean the priests’ benevolence.

Jesus is standing on the capitol steps calling the leaders of the land frauds. This is the context of today’s reading. This is the world in which this widow lives. She is the lowest of the low in the greco/roman society. She is totally dependent on the goodness of others. She is very example of who the offering is to be helping.

Notice, that Jesus does not praise the widow, he does not hold her up as a paragon of sacrificial giving, rather he names how she is being exploited by the very ones charged with caring for her. She has given everything she has to live on to the temple – the very institution responsible for her wellbeing per the very same scriptures the pharisees build stumbling blocks with. They are worried more about what is going on in peoples’ bedrooms or if they are eating the wrong kind of food. They were too busy talking about building up walls to keep people out; they were too preoccupied with keeping their status with their corporate benefactors. They were engaged in dropping bombs more than they were about feeding the hungry. They were busy preaching prosperity – siphoning more money from the poor; they wanted a new fancy Jet so they said it was God’s will that the widow help pay for it. Jesus sees what is going on and names it. And he is angry.

Sitting on the steps of the temple watching this happen, Jesus is seeing what Amos saw; what Isiah saw; what Jeremiah saw. Jesus is watching as the very ones he identified with were being used as pawns by the powerful. He witnessed the command to care for widow being broken right before his eyes. As a woman she wasn’t even obligated to make an offering. As a poor woman, even less so, and yet she did probably because if she didn’t her well being would have been ignored. You get what you pay for.

Even in the midst of this even, the widow shows her might. I picture her not sheepishly dropping her penny in the offering, but instead I see her proudly, strongly making her way to the box and preciously placing her coins in the plate. I see a woman with a weather worn face, small children at her ankles. I see a woman who knows what is happening – she knows she is being exploited. I see a woman seeing Jesus in the temple. A woman who like blind Bartimaeus gets it. She understands what this man has been preaching. What this Jesus has been proclaiming. I see a widow who has stepped into radical discipleship. I see a mighty widow doing what the rich young man couldn’t. And she is doing this not out of piety or necessity. She is doing this because she has hope in the promises of God. Her story isn’t a moral lesson to be learned or a stewardship sermon to be preached. Her story is a testimony of hope. It is a witness to the promise of God that she would be cared for – that she is worth more than the world says she is. 

The widow’s might comes when she steps into the line of Rahab, the prostitute who opened her doors to the spies of Joshua’s army. Who trusted in the promise that God would liberate and free her from her life of exploitation.

The widow’s might comes when she step into the story of Naomi giving of her self so that Ruth could find security and bear the son that would become the grandfather of David. 

The widow’s might came when she trusted in the promise made by Elijah to the widow of Zarephath that God would provide for her until the new rains fell and her garden would grow again. 

The widow’s might came from hearing the story of how the widowed mother of Peter’s wife was healed from the brink of death by the touch of Jesus; how a 12 year old girl took in a breath of new life; how a bleeding woman was healed by touching the hem of his garment. Her might came from trusting in the promise of God that the way of discipleship leads to the cross, but in that death will come new life. Her might came from watching as Jesus confronted the very people who failed to protect her; from hearing how in the Reign of God the last will be first and the first will be last.

The widow’s might came from trusting that with God she will never be alone. That with God comes the power to survive; the power to fight through another day; the promise of God is that you are never far from the Reign of God.

So, let that be the good news for you this day.Let this story of the mighty widow give you the power to step out from that which is seeking to hurt you. Let her faith in the promise of God give you the faith you need to take a risk in your journey as a believe. Speak out at school when you hear someone being bullied. Make noise when you you see someone being neglected. Take the risk to meet people you might have tried to avoid. Do not be like those on TV who say that I am righteous; no live like the one who is righteous. 

And I promise you, when you do, when you step out like the mighty widow – when you take the chance and embrace the story that is the story of salvation; when you trust in the Lord you will be freed to give fully into the reign of God. You will be able to say – you will be able to live in the words of the 146th Psalm:

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will sing praise all my life long…happy are those whose hope is in the LORD their God who made heave and earth, the sea, and all that is in them;; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. 

The LORD sets the prisoners free; 

the Lord opens the eyes of the blind; 

the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down

The Lord loves the righteous

The Lord watches over the stranger; upholds the orphan and the mighty widow, and brings ruin to the wicked.

The Lord will reign forever, Your God, O Emerson Avenue Baptist Church, for all generations. Praise the Lord.

Thanks be to God


Sermon : Sacred Tears

Click here for audio.

Sacred Tears

Revelation 21:1-6a, John 11:32-44
This morning we celebrate and remember the Feast of All Saints. This is one of the oldest Feast Days in the history of the Church. In the beginning the early church remembered the lives of the martyrs on the anniversary of their earthly deaths, however during the mass persecutions under Roman rule so many were martyred – assassinated anonymously that it was decided that there would be one day in which all of the saints who have died would be remembered. Honored. And this is why today we remember those saints in our lives who have ended their earthly lives and are now living in the promise of the waters of baptism. 

As Protestants, and more specifically Baptists, often the idea of saint is a difficult one for us to wrap our heads around. When we hear the word we often think of statues of St. Francis outside of homes, icons of the Holy Mother Mary. We don’t understand why some in the larger church pray to saints. This difficulty arises because we understand anyone in Christ to be saints. Don’t we? In our tradition we don’t have to be canonized or have investigations into our lives to determine that we are saints, but rather because we are in Christ we are already a saint. So as we celebrate and remember this day those who have gone before us, let us do so in the sure and certain promise that we are among them and they with us in the great cloud of witnesses.

Let us Pray….
Jesus wept. One of the most famous of all verses in the Bible. Mostly because it is the shortest and therefore the first one many kids learn when they are having memorization competitions…at least that is what I did. I needed to remember at least one. I wonder though if it is remembered so widely because it says something so deeply profound about Jesus that consciously or subconsciously it burrows itself into our beings. This is the lord of all, weeping. The son of God, with tears pouring down his cheeks. It doesn’t’ say Jesus wiped away a tear on his face. No it says, Jesus wept. I imagine it being a huge, snot bubble, gasping for breath cry. Not the macho man trying to keep his cool, but rather the soul shattering lament of a man whose heart is broken.
These tears, these sacred tears come about when he arrives at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. We don’t know a whole lot about Lazarus, but we are told that they were close. The relationship between Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and Jesus had to have been an important one because there are two incidents recorded about their friendship in two separate Gospels. They are characters that appear in both Luke and John, something that doesn’t happen except for John the Baptist, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the disciples. It seems only those intimately associated with Jesus are named let alone mentioned in multiple Gospels. 
Jesus had received word days earlier that his friend was ill. And instead of taking the quick way to Bethany he delayed his travels and eventually Lazarus died. Only the did he make his way to the home of his friends. 
On the dirt road entering the village Jesus is greeted with the ailing of Lazarus’ sister Mary. Like the father running to meet the prodigal son, Mary breaks through the crowds of mourners, through the throngs of family to meet her friend on the road. Falling to her face in the dirt she wraps her arms around the legs of Jesus. Looking at him, her tears turing the dust on her face into mudslides, she cries out, “Lord, you could have saved him. You loved him. If you would have come he would be still living.”
Reaching down to his friend, he helps her up, his heart ripping to shreds, he says nothing for along time. His mind is not thinking, but his heart is crying out – compassion, mercy, frustration, anger, all the emotions fighting each other like a whirlwind in his chest. His throat choking up. He whispers in her hear, trying to keep it together for her sake, “Where have you laid him?”
“Lord, come and see.”
With those words the sacred tears begin flow. He can not hold it in any longer. His tears mix with hers in their embrace. Each one holding the other up. Jesus weeps. Jesus weeps so deeply that those around him grow concerned. They have never seen him like this, even when the news of his cousin, John the Baptizer, death. Jesus is weeping, a soul shattering lament.
The witnesses to this whisper to themselves, “If he was going to react like this which didn’t he save him? He healed the blind. He could have kept him from dying.”
Jesus and Mary amidst their mourning make their way to the tomb, and Jesus feels the doubts and questions of the whispering witnesses. This weeping continues, now with he added emotion of disbelief. How could these people not allow him to grieve the death of his friend? Are not his tears just as healing as making Lazarus well? Are not tears a gateway to the Divine, though which we come into the presence of God? 
Greatly disturbed, still weeping, he tells them to move the stone and open the tomb. “Lord, he’s been dead for four days. His spirit is gone. He has begun to return to dust, his flesh is rotting, and the stench will be too much,” Lazarus’ other sister Martha says to Jesus. Afraid of what might happen, she tries to stop him. She can not see through her tears and into Jesus’ sacred tears.
She is trapped in her grief. He is gone. Lazarus is dead. Her brother will never again tell the slightly naughty jokes around the dining room table. Her brother will never hold the child she may one day have. Her brother will never again wake her in the morning with the cooking of the morning bread. He is gone Her grief is all she feels. True as the grief is, sincere as it is, through her tears that is all she is able to see – unable, yet, to see the sacred tears of the man next to her.
Our tears come in those times when the pain we have can find no other expression. The constant numbness in your legs, the ache in your knees, the kink in your backs. The diagnosis that this suffering will be will you the rest of your life. The tears come when the pain is too much. They are the rising of the pain seeking escape. Like the steam pulsating is way out of a pressure cooker, waiting for the final release. Seeking a resolution they cloud our sight. Leaving us wondering, searching, despairing. They wash over you.
They wash over you when depression and anxiety wrap around us like a boa constrictor squeezing life from its prey. Gasping for air, the light around you begins to fade. Spots of appear, the disappearing of hope. You feel your pulse pounding in your neck, in your head, you feel your heart starting to let go. The grip of anxiety and depression, seeks release in your tears. But you you can’t let them go because it will mean you are weak, your try to hold them in and as you do your breath becomes tighter and tighter.
For some the tears you shed are of shame. Afraid that if you tell your family your secret, that you are in love with someone of your own gender, you are afraid they will throw you out. That they will no longer call you their child. Your tears come because you are not free to be the person your were made to be. Shame, depression, fear form the tears.
Bullies attack you at school or at work. And the long walk home is then only place you can cry. Alone by the side of the road the tears flow.
Others it is the loss of loved ones. You can’t stop the tears flowing when you remember your son, gone long before he should have been. Your unborn child, never tasting the sweet air of this life. Your parents, the rocks of your lives. All of them have left you here alone. In your grief it is like you are having an out of body experience. You don’t even know the person shedding tears.

We cry out like Martha, “Jesus, if you would have been her you could have saved him. 
And through her tears, through his tears, she hears, “Did I not tell you if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
Looking toward heave, his arms lifted high, through the gasps in his weeping. His tears breaking down the barrier between heaven and earth, falling to the ground. His tears clearing the way for the pain to escape so that new words may come. New tears may fall, tears not of pain or grief, but tears of release, tears of joy, tears of thanksgiving. Looking toward heaven, through sacred tears, Jesus utters a prayer, “Through these tears, I thank you for having heard me. You always hear me. Let them believe.”
“LAZARUS COME OUT!” Jesus cries. Falling then, to the ground his tears puddling underneath him. Watching as in that fallen salt water a bloom rises, hear hears a din from the crowd, “Look, Look.” They say. He looks up and sees his friend resuscitated and emerging from the tomb. Running to him, not caring what the purity laws say, he says to those following him, “Unbind him and let him go.”
Tears are not something to be ashamed up. Tears are the waters of baptism we carry in us. When they fall, they free us to be closer to God in a way that we can never imagine. They become sacred tears reminding us that we will see the glory of God. Because ours is a faith rooted in the sacredness of tears. Rooted in the the truth of life. Rooted in the promise that one day there will be a time of no more tears. That one day God will make his home among us. That one day all this will pass away and mourning and crying and pain will be no more. Our tears connect us to that promise because we know that Jesus wept. And through is tears he shows the glory of God. 
When the tears come through the pain in your body, your tears are sacred. They are true and they are yours. Your tears are the tears of the one who knew pain. They are the tears of the one who hungered for forty day, they are the tears of the one who felt the nails in his flesh. Your tears are sacred because they are the tears of Christ.
When the depression and anxiety are squeeing the life out of you, your tears are sacred tears. They are the tears of the one who knew loneliness, they are tears of the one who knew betrayal. They are the tears of the one who knows what it is be be abandoned by those he loves. Your tears are sacred because they are the tears of Christ.
When you are afraid. Your tears are sacred because they are the tears of the one who wanted the cup to pass him by. They are the tears of the one who wanted to deny who he way. But they are the tears of the one who was accepted by his Father. They are tears of joy that come with the embrace that says I love you as you are. They are sacred tears because they are the tears of Christ.
When the bullies attack you, you tears are the tears of the one mocked and scorned. 
When you are lost and alone because everyone has left you. Your son, your daughter, your parents, your friends. When their lives on this earth are no more you weep with the very tears that Jesus wept with. You weep with the sacred tears of Christ weeping for his friend.
When you are crying those snot filled sobs that leave no room for words, you are weeping with the one who descended to hell. You are weeping with sacred tears.
And when you weep with sacred tears something happens. Something begins to turn. Something begins to grow. Instead of our tragedy informing our theology our theology informs out tragedy. And we begin to see that our tears, painful as they are, are sacred and they are they very waters that run by the tree of life. We see that our tears, full of sorrow and grief as they are, are sacred tears and are they are waters of the Jordan. We see that our weeping will last the night but joy comes in the morning. We see that our sacred tears are the bearers of new life. The are the irrigation channels of healing and hope. They are the river rolling on and the mighty streams of justice. Our tears are sacred.
They are the tears of Abraham making his way up the mountain with Isaac bound turned to joy when the angel of the Lord stopped his knife wielding hand.
They are tears that rolled down the cheeks of the beaten and bloodied Joseph and they turned into tears of reconciliation and forgiveness as he beholds his brothers – lost but now found.
They are the sacred tears of a weeping Naomi turned into tears of love when Ruth says I will stay with you.
they are the tears of Job, sitting on the ash heap, turned into tears of understanding when God is revealed in the whirlwind.
Pouring off the face of the prophet Jeremiah, his shed his sacred tears proclaiming the justice of the living God.
Elizabeth’s tears of sorrow for never being able to conceive a child were a sacred prayer and were transformed into tears Joy at kicking of John in her belly.
Mary, hearing the news of the angel, shed sacred tears – tears that would flow the rest of her life.
They are the tears of Jesus. Jesus who knows the pain and hurting. The illness and anxiety. Jesus how feels loss and desires understanding. They are the tears of God with us.
And our faith in that God promises that there will be a time when these sacred tears will run no more. Their flow will cease. Because we will be in the presence, we will be in the very presence of God. Our faith says that while our tears on earth may flow it is only for a time. Our faith is the faith that knows this present darkness but looks forward to what will be. Looks forward to what will be because we get to touch it now. We are the body of Christ. When we shed our sacred tears we are the body of Christ – touching that space where heaven and earth meet. We are the body of Christ on Calvary ready for that great resurrection day. We are the body of Christ so loved that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Our sacred tears are that reminder. 
Our sacred tears remind us that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, nether the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither heights nor depths; nor anything in all of creation will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in our Lord Christ Jesus. Jesus who wept with sacred tears.
And this is why we celebrate this feast of All Saints. We celebrate to remember those we love. We celebrate to give thanks for lives lived. We celebrate to shed our sacred tears and be reminded that we are a part of something greater. We are the inheritors of a promise that is beyond our imagining. We celebrate because God is faithful to God’s promises. We celebrate because God’s story doesn’t end at the grave it goes on for ever and we are here and now a part of that forever. So, go from here today unafraid. Be in touch with the world. Let it touch your soul. Let it break your heart. Let us make you angry. Let us show you joy. Let it lift you up. Go unafraid to cry. Unafraid to weep. Go from this place with sacred tears and watch them reap new life where ever they fall. 

Thanks be to God.