Lisa’s Sermon: Intimacy

Lent 5, Year B, RCL
18 March 2018

Every year when my Community, the Rivendell Community, gets together for our annual meeting, we always make sure to carve out time in the agenda for telling stories. In part, we want to tell the stories of our twenty years of life together for the benefit of our new postulants who don’t yet know them. But also we want to tell the stories for our own benefit, not just to reaffirm our memories, but to reinterpret them. And not just to reinterpret them, but to let them reinterpret what is going on right here and right now. Because of that, the stories of our life together are as vastly important as any other business on the agenda — our lives are knitted together by these stories.

There’s something similar going on in today’s readings: there are at least three backstories going on in this passage from John’s Gospel, stories that knit together our understanding of what’s going on and interpret and reinterpret one another, past interpreting future and future interpreting past. Continue reading “Lisa’s Sermon: Intimacy”

Sermon offered at Trinity Church Central West End, Saint Louis, 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

by Barbi Click

A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak at the Awaken Shabbat service at Central Reform Congregation to talk about the work we do in the Food Ministry. The service is about tikkun Olam – the work of repairing the world.

As I read the texts for this day, I was reminded of that beautiful service, so closely in tune with the needs of the world.

I have been rereading Walter Brueggemann’s Journey to the Common Good. Rarely have I liked the term, Common Good. Too often it has been used for good of one group to the detriment or death of another. However, in this context, it is for that idea of tikkun olam. Appropriate to today’s political climate, Brueggeman writes about liberation from the political regime of Pharaoh and its reliance upon the idea of promoting fear and scarcity.

In Pharaoh’s regime, there is never enough—not money, nor food, land, nor power – there is always a demand that more is needed. Even in the story of Joseph as Pharaoh’s overseer, the people of God were enslaved by an economic system that demanded more – first their money, then their livestock and land, and finally, their bodies. The people became enslaved and a necessary part of the incessant groan of the production system. In exchange, they were given what they needed to survive so that they might continue work for the benefit of that system.

In any economy based on the exploitation of humans and rooted in fear and scarcity, eventually a limit of human suffering is reached. In this instance, the cries of the Israelites rose up to God and God heard these and sent a deliverer to lead them out of their enslavement in Egypt.

Moses lead the people of God out of slavery into the wilderness and God made certain they had all they need but still they function within the limitations of the myth of scarcity. They cannot see into the abundance. They try to save up, wanting more, just in case God doesn’t provide on the next day. They long for the old regime where they knew Pharaoh would always feed them, and they knew what the morning would bring. They forgot the suffering that came along with that security. They wanted the security of knowing … they bemoaned their loss.

In the Exodus scriptures for today, God speaks to the people, setting it all out for them to understand. It is obvious that they cannot do this on their own, even with Moses leading them. They need Laws.

But Brueggemann writes that the Decalogue is not just a set of rules or laws. These are a pathway for a different way of living, a transformational life of abundance through faith, in fact, Liberation.

I am the Lord your God – I brought you out of slavery; Do not worship other gods.

Do not make any thing into an idol – nothing – not money, not work, not material things, not power – nothing. Because God is a jealous God.

More than a threat, this is a promise. God is promising a regime change. Forget about Pharaoh and his system of constant craving. Worship the One who liberated you from this system of scarcity. There is no room for God within a production system. We do not have to constantly produce. God is enough.

Do not profane God’s name. Rather than about cursing – I believe this is about using the name of God to justify our own thoughts and actions. Such as stating that it is a God given right that we can own weapons of mass destruction, or that we can take what we want because it is God’s will. It seems to me that the idea of Manifest Destiny was about profaning God’s name. Do not justify your right to take that which is not yours, especially by declaring it a God-given right.

Keep the sabbath day holy – Take time to rest from the aggressive anxiety. It is an intentional pause in our week that allows a mind and a body to let go of the fear, to let go of the need to accomplish, let go of things that do not really matter. How many of us live in a state of aggressive anxiety? Always worried about one thing or another.

Commandments 5-9 are about predatory practices – neighbors are not prey – they are to be respected and not exploited. The boundaries are set: honor your elders, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie – not little lies or big ones. Don’t take away respect, or a life, or a spouse, or a possession, or the truth.

And lastly, — do not covet – this sets a limit of greed and hoarding. don’t worry about what you do not have; don’t worry about what your neighbor does have. Do not store up treasures, whatever your treasure may be. Constantly storing up more because what we have may not last, may not be enough, may be taken from us? Storing up money, storing up clothes, storing up things, just in case. Even in the case of the food pantry, we run into this problem. Storing up food just in case we need it tomorrow. Just in case there is not enough. As ifwe do not trust that God will provide. As if we are not as important as the birds in the sky or the lilies in the field. Yet God always provides.

Just as with the liberation from the regime of scarcity for the abundance that is God, so is today’s gospel representative of a release of an old idea.

The old system is replaced with the new reality of Jesus’ presence. The idea of the temple with its sacrifices of grains and animals to God is replaced with Jesus himself as the principal means of access to God.

That does not mean that the temple is no longer a holy place; Jesus rids it of all the sacrilege, namely, cleansing it of the ordinary happenings of the market place. He disorders the business of those who profit economically from the worship there. Jesus disrupts the whole idea of buying sacrifices and gifts to give to God. Just as Jesus is set in that place of sacrifice and offering to God, what God wants from each of us is that we give of ourselves. Stop storing up for later and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God alone.

God wants us. God wants us to let go of our fear and sense of scarcity. God wants us to see the abundance that is available if we love God with all our heart and all our mind and all our soul.

I remember when I struggled with the idea of loving God more than any one else. How could I love God more than my precious child or my beloved spouse or my parents? I loved them more than anything. But then, one day as I struggled in prayer with this idea, I knew the words – If you love me most, you will love them more. And I understood what it meant to love God fully.

God wants us to love one another in that same way. We are to care for one another, tend the sick, care for the dying, visit those in prison, feed those who are hungry and offer drink to those who are thirsty. We are our brother’s/sister’s keeper. We are not here to judge whether someone is worthy of our love. We are to know that they are. We are to act justly and love mercy and above all, love God. We are to persevere in resisting evil; strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of all people.

Persevere, proclaim, seek, serve, strive, respect – all action words and all promises we make. Intentionally we are to act out our lives as followers of Christ. We are in a covenant with God by our baptismal vows.

Our times are not much different from those days of Pharaoh. We continue to be enslaved by an economic system that hurts the least of us most. We are imprisoned by a system that rewards few and demands much of others.

God wants the “faithful well-being” of the whole community – not just some.

Brueggemann writes that wisdom, might, and wealth are a triad of death because these violate neighborliness. I would use the words privilege, power, and wealth as violations of neighborliness. Violence is added to these things that separate us. These are counter to all things that come of God. This cross we are supposed to take up has no privilege, no power, no wealth. The Christus Rex cross with the risen Christ stands in direct opposition to the violence used to place the body upon it.

It is not enough to simply subvert the empire. Jesus told Peter in last week’s Gospel that he was setting his mind on human things rather than divine things. Jesus came to change the world – not through power and privilege but through love born in a ghetto manger, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, giving the dead new life, then forgiving those who were killing his body. No power. No privilege. Simply love. Divine love.

Steadfast love, justice, righteousness – these are the things that define God’s intention for all of creation. There is no middle ground. There is no either/or. There is only this:

God loves steadfast covenant.

God loves justice that serves the weak.

God loves righteousness as intervention for social well-being.

Our participation in this full idea of community, of neighborliness is the way to break out of the economic system that enslaves us – all of us; those with much and those with little.

Trust God. Do not be anxious. Let go of the scarcity. Trust God, live into the abundance. Trust God, care for the kingdom, which is the neighborhood – the community – the Other.

All will be well with Steadfast love. Justice. Righteousness. Will it be difficult? Of course, it will. That is why we answer each vow of our covenant with the words, “I will … with God’s help.” We cannot do it alone.

Love God. Love one another. The sum of the ten commandments. And the only way to repair the world.



Lisa’s Sermon: Surprise, Arizona

Lent 3, Year B, RCL
4 March 2018

About a week or so ago, I happened to look at my phone and saw a little baseball icon in the notifications ribbon. When I tapped it, I discovered that the Royals had won a Spring Training game against the LA Dodgers in Surprise, Arizona. I said, “It can’t be Spring Training already! It’s February!”

Well, it may have been February, but Spring Training has definitely arrived. Along with other signs of the change in season: a ponderous lift of the temperature, an appearance of the sun like a magnificent athlete yawning his way luxuriously out into the open morning…and, of course, for us in the church — Lent.

Every year when Lent arrives it catches me with an oh-wait-I-wasn’t-ready sort of feeling. Picking reading material, planning special disciplines — when it comes to the point I often have to hurry to get my Lenten game on, even if I’d given it some thought. And because there are infinite ways to approach the specific disciplines of Lent, it’s easy to get bewildered and lose sight of why we undertake prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for forty days before Easter. So, let’s talk about those three disciplines in the context of today’s readings. Continue reading “Lisa’s Sermon: Surprise, Arizona”

Lisa’s Sermon: Allegiance

Proper 29, Year A, RCL (Christ the King)
26 November 2017

Every so often, when I feel like I need a shot of energy for my day, I look up a good action movie scene on Youtube — like the parkour scene from Casino Royale, for example. Daniel Craig as James Bond is chasing this bomber guy through a construction site, jumping off cranes, plowing through drywall, swinging down scaffolding, spreading havoc in their wake. Can you imagine trying to work with James Bond in the vicinity? But explosions and chaos and flying bullets is James Bond’s job. My job, fortunately, does not involve any parkour or car chases or hails of bullets; but it is nice to live vicariously for about seven minutes while I’m answering emails.

It’s nice because, despite being so perilous and chaotic, an action chase scene seems simple, almost lighthearted. There’s a massive disruption of business as usual, but that disruption is for the greater good, and it doesn’t upset the ultimate balance of the world around. Indeed, disruptions like this are often meant to restore that balance in some way. Somebody is going to save the day. Continue reading “Lisa’s Sermon: Allegiance”

Sermon: The Instruments of Peace

Feast of Francis of Assisi
1 Oct 2017

So it turns out that Francis of Assisi didn’t actually write the “Prayer of Saint Francis.”

The prayer that begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…” did not appear anywhere until shortly before World War I. At one point it was circulated on a prayer card with St. Francis on the front of it, and so it quickly grew to be associated with the saint. There’s a saying very similar to this prayer, collected from one of Francis’s close companions, Giles of Assisi:

Blessed is he who loves and does not therefore desire to be loved;
Blessed is he who fears and does not therefore desire to be feared;
Blessed is he who serves and does not therefore desire to be served;
Blessed is he who behaves well toward others and does not desire that others behave well toward him;
And because these are great things, the foolish do not rise to them.

(I checked Twitter to see if that would fit in 140 characters…alas, it doesn’t. But if you happen to be one of those whom Twitter has given the new experimental double-character limit, you’re in luck. It’s 233 characters and you can even fit in the author’s name. I’m just saying, if you happen to have this privilege, here’s an opportunity to use it for good.)

(As our Presiding Bishop likes to say, Oh, I’m gonna get in trouble now.) Continue reading “Sermon: The Instruments of Peace”

Sermon: The Quarry of Love

The Quarry of Love

27 August 2017

Proper 16, Year A, RCL

Not far from where I live is the Thomas Hart Benton house, which is now a curated state monument, his studio preserved exactly as he left it so that people may observe the last snapshot of a great artist at work. But although the neighborhood is full of signs pointing to the location, it’s hard to pick the house out from its surroundings, because its natural state is so similar to the nature of many other houses around it. “Built of native limestone,” the tour blurbs say, which, when you look at other houses in the neighborhood, seems like ironic understatement: you wonder if there’s any native material but limestone in Kansas City. Some houses are made of stones so undressed that they look as if they had been dug straight out of the ground and plastered into place; some even have retaining walls in front with stones studded along the top like crenellations. “Welp, we’ve got all these rocks, might as well make a front gate out of ‘em too,” you can imagine the masons saying.

These houses look sturdier than their brick neighbors, like extensions of the earth on which the whole city is planted; as if nothing could shake them. They look immovable, cemented permanently into place. Continue reading “Sermon: The Quarry of Love”

Sermon: Save the People

Save the People

20 August 2017

Proper 15, Year A, RCL

There’s a scene that opens the movie version of Godspell that, the first time I saw it, smacked me with a shock of longing. It’s New York City in the early 1970s. The sun is beating down on the streets, winking off the surfaces of moving vehicles, lying like a visible pelt on the deep crowds of pedestrians as they walk to the daily round of their destinations. It’s business as usual. Continue reading “Sermon: Save the People”