Saturday, January 31, 2015

BBQ and Unclean Spirits!

The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark the 1st Chapter
They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Just about a million years ago now, I was a volunteer firefighter.  One night we went to a fire out in the country snow on the ground, middle of the night, no moon and it was DARK!  The front yard of this place was filled with old washing machines and cars and who knows what, all overgrown with weeds and bushes and covered with snow we'll just call it lawn art.  I’m sure their art was nice too, but it did make pulling hose across their yard a bit of a challenge.  We tripped on it, the hose got snagged on it and even though I’m sure they didn’t INTEND to make putting “the wet stuff on the red stuff” hard for us, their “lawn art” did get in the way.  

Both the letter to the Corinthians and this Gospel are about the things that can and do, get in the way of people being able to hear the Good News about Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.  In the Gospel, Jesus was teaching.  We don’t know exactly what, but we know it was some really good stuff because the people were ASTOUNDED!  It was probably the same kind of stuff that he talked about in the rest of Mark’s Gospel that the Kingdom of God had come near, that God was doing a new thing and that God’s love would change the world into the world God intended it to be AND that we were being called to be a part of that transformation.   In the middle of Jesus’ teaching he got interrupted by a man with an unclean spirit.  That unclean spirit was just like a broken down washing machine between a fire truck and a burning house.  It was in the way.  So it had to be moved.  

In the second lesson Paul was dealing with a different kind of junk in a different kind of front yard, but in the end it too was simply stuff getting in the way of people being able to hear and believe in the same Good News.  Paul, you need to remember, believed he was under a serious time crunch.  He just KNEW every day he woke up that tomorrow... literally TOMORROW... Jesus would be back, and so that meant doing whatever needed to be done today to get that message to as many people as possible.  In this story, the Christians were eating meat that had been used in sacrifices to idols.  For the Christians and for Paul, it didn’t make any difference.  They knew the idols weren’t real, so to them, the meat wasn’t magical, it was just barbecue.  

The trouble though, was that people OUTSIDE the church saw these Christians eating that meat and got confused.  They were thinking that these Christians were BOTH worshiping God AND these idols.  Paul, feeling pressed for time, stepped in and told the Christians that even though YOU know and I know this is just barbecue and not idol worship, for the sake of the Message, for the sake of making things clear to the others who have yet to know God's love for them, the Christians needed to be the ones to bend they needed to get rid of any junk that might get in the way of people being able to hear the Good News.  Paul wasn't worried about his comfort or about the comfort of the church members who were already followers, it was all about doing whatever was necessary so that NEW people could hear how much God loved them.  Paul didn't think he had time to work on equality and justice issues and nuance Jesus, he believed would be here TOMORROW, so nothing else was as important or as urgent as getting the Message out TODAY at any cost!

Meat sacrificed to idols wasn’t the only thing that got in Paul's way of delivering that urgent message.  In some places he went, women's head coverings got in the way.  For others it was the idea that men had to become Jewish first (if you know what I mean) before they could become Christian.  For some, women in leadership got in the way and there were many other things as well.   In each case Paul knew the junk people obsessed about didn’t REALLY matter... after all he wrote to the Galatians that, “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ.”  So Paul KNEW God didn’t care what you wore on your head BUT, for Paul, if putting on a hat would allow one more person to stop obsessing about hats for a second and focus on the Message... then get a hat!  Because in Paul's mind there just wasn't enough time to have a long discussion about hats first!  If buying your brisket at Hannaford market instead of the idol market allowed one more person to hear about God’s love then shop at Hannaford!  For Paul, it was all about doing whatever needed to be done TODAY because today was all the time they had!

Paul had the right idea we, inside the Church, need to be the ones to bend for the sake of the Gospel… but he was off a bit when it comes to the timing of Jesus's return.  Because he had the timing a bit wrong, we now know that we can take a little extra time today to confront cultural inequalities instead of giving into them in the fear of running out of time.  We also know today that the specific things that got in the way of the Message in Paul's time aren't the same things that get in the way of people hearing that message today. Where we buy our barbecue will not help or hinder the message for anyone in Augusta today.  Nobody in Augusta today will hear or not hear the Good News based on our choice to wear a hat or not.  Those things aren’t what gets in the way anymore.  Today, though, there are other things that DO get in the way of people being able to hear the message of the abundant life God created us to live.  

Our job as Christians today, isn’t to worry about the specific pieces of junk Paul worried about in his time and in his culture.  Our job as Christians today is to take a REAL, HONEST look at what it might be in OUR time and in OUR culture that right now might be getting in the way of the people of our area really hearing they are loved unconditionally by God.  What junk do our neighbors today trip on... what structures, practices, customs or attitudes make it hard for people out there to hear that they too are included in God's infinite love and God's eternal and abundant life?  What’s the unclean spirit we have that keeps Jesus’ message from being heard out there by all the people we know very well are spiritually hungry?  

You and I have heard Jesus’s teaching with authority.  You and I have been assured in the waters of Baptism of God’s endless love already, so now, like the Corinthians, we are being called to bend so that others might have a chance to hear as well. What can we do? What do we need to stop doing?  How do we need to bend so that someone else can, for the very first time, hear the Good News and KNOW they are loved and accepted by God and by us here in this place?  Amen.

Friday, January 30, 2015

You Have To Be Carefully Taught

I've come across this blog post, "What makes Worship Lutheran?" from my Lutheran friends and this blog post, "11 Things I Love About the Episcopal Church," from my Episcopal friends, both making the rounds on Facebook lately.  Living now as half Lutheran Transitional Pastor and half Episcopal Priest in Charge, I realized that in both articles I could swap the words Lutheran and Episcopalian and no one would ever know!  What both of these authors seem to ascribe to a particular denomination, I've found to not be at all exclusive to either denomination.  To be fair, I would bet that neither author even thought about their article as being exclusive, but that is exactly what made me start wondering.    

One of the most interesting and unexpected things I've had to do as I work to bring the people of an Episcopal Church and a Lutheran Church together for worship and ministry, is to work to overcome what I'll call, denominationalism.  I don't even know if that's really a word, but it's certainly shown itself to be a real thing.  It appears to me like the same sort of tribal loyalty found in the fans of football teams or by countries during the World Cup or the Olympics.  In some instances, it comes across in subtle joking about a love of coffee or pot lucks (both assumed by both groups to be their exclusive inside joke) while in others it is a clear, more distrusting rivalry that shows up in strongly believed stereotypes and prejudices.    

I was really surprised how some of the stereotypes were so deeply held.  Some of the Lutherans were convinced that the Episcopalians had no regard for congregational singing, lay involvement or music.  Worship, they worried, was done exclusively by the "professionals" and the congregation would be left to simply watch the show.  Some of the Episcopalians were equally convinced that Lutheran worship would be like a tent revival, with no discernible liturgy whatsoever.  So deeply held are some of these feelings that even after we began worshiping together one parishioner said, "I find all these hymns (assumed to be from the other church's hymnal) too different," when the reality was that all the hymns that day, with one exception, could be found in their hymnal!  

In our situation, it is clear that the stereotypes and denominationalism people have expressed is simply an easy place for the anxiety of beginning to do something very new and different to leak out into the system.  That I understand. What I wonder is if continuing to reinforce our denominational, tribal or team-type loyalties learned over the last five hundred years is the best way to proclaim the Gospel in the very different world in which we all now live?  I wonder if we even consciously know we're doing it and I wonder if the vast majority of our neighbors, who aren't a part of any church, see our gentle jokes and funny stereotypes as we most often intend… as good natured ribbing or do they see them as something else?  Are our "team" loyalties being seen by them simply as a healthy, humorous, thanksgiving for finding a church comfortable enough to call home, or are our "team" loyalties viewed by those on the outside as an arrogance that says, "we're #1" and, well, everyone else isn't?     

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Maggie's Choice White Bean Chicken Chili

This is the recipe I've adapted from several online
versions that has since become a favorite of our daughter Maggie.  You can blend more or less beans to create a thicker or thinner version as you prefer and adjust the heat you like with the chile you chose and how much you add to the mix.  We top our bowls with grated cheddar cheese and sour cream.  


6 Cups            Chicken Stock
2 Cups            Cooked Roughly Chopped Chicken
5 15oz. Cans   White Great Northern Beans
1 15oz. Can     White Corn
1 15oz. Can     Italian Stewed Tomatoes
1 4.5oz. Can    Chopped Green Chiles 
2                     Medium Onions Chopped
1 T                  Minced Garlic 
2 T                  Chili Powder
1 T                  Oregano
2 t                   Cumin


Place 1-2 cans of drained, rinsed beans into a blender with enough broth to cover.  Blend until chunky.  Chop onions and garlic and sautee.  Cut or tear chicken into bite sized pieces (We often use leftover chicken or a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store).  Add these, salt to taste and remaining ingredients to a slow cooker and cook on low until dinner.  Top with grated cheese and sour cream.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

It's a Miracle!

The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark, the 1st Chapter
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” 
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

People don’t normally read this story as a miracle story but I think this may actually be Jesus’ biggest!  Calming storms and healing sick people is impressive... raising the dead is also pretty amazing... but getting fishermen to give up fishing!?  THAT would take a serious, all-out, no-holds-barred miracle from God and yet, THAT is exactly what Jesus does!

People who fish are passionate.  People who come from fishing families have a passion that has been cultivated in them for generations.  Pa Karas, my great grandfather came from Bohemia, in what is now the Czech Republic and settled in the upper peninsula of Michigan.  He fished the Escanaba River.  My grandfather, after coming back from World War II built a camp that became their retirement home on that river.  My father grew up fishing that river and I learned to fish in that river.  In the summers, we would sit out on the deck, watch the water and wait for the trout to rise.  Once they were feeding, we would make our way down to the river, slowly wading out to make the perfect cast.  I tell you that, because years later, after my grandparents had died, the property was divided among my dad, and his brother and sister.  My uncle owned the piece with Camp and the deck and then, when he was dying from cancer, he decided to sell his portion to a non-profit river conservation group.  His decision was logical.  No one in the family had the funds to fix the well, septic system, the roof or to do what was needed to deal with the bats at Camp.  It was logical.  It made complete sense and I hated what he did with all my being.  

After that, we couldn’t stay at Camp any more and we couldn’t sit on that deck.  My dad and my aunt still had the rest of the property so it was decided to build a new deck, but the new deck was 400 yards down stream.  It wasn’t right.  It was only 400 yards down stream on the same stretch of river but it felt like it was in another world.  And the old deck... the right deck... was still there... but now it was forever, out of reach.  We fishermen don’t like to leave our special spots!  We don’t like to give up what we know what we're comfortable with what's been in our blood for generations.  On the old deck I knew where the fish would be.  I knew how the currents went.  I knew how to fish for fish THERE.  Those 400 yards of change were for me, about 400 yards too many!  

Jesus was asking Simon and Andrew, James and John to do nothing less than leave all that they knew, all that was familiar, the place and the profession that gave them and their families life and had for generations!  Getting them to leave THAT must have taken a miracle!  But wait! There's a second, even more amazing miracle at work in this story.  We miss this second miracle even more than we miss the first one.  We believe that Jesus is calling the disciples and us to something wonderful... eternal life, salvation, a mansion in a city paved with gold... and we believe that we too are asked to sweep up in a net, all the people of the world we can, so they too can enjoy this wonderful vision of heaven.  The trouble with that notion is that isn’t what Jesus said or what Jesus meant.  Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled; the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the Good News” and then he said he would make them “fish for people.” 

The Kingdom of God coming near isn’t a net lowered from heaven to scoop the faithful up to heaven.  The Kingdom of God is THIS world... OUR world, drown to the way it currently works and raised to once again work the way God created it to work in the beginning.  It’s Mary’s Magnificat God's vision of the world that Mary proclaimed... becoming a reality in our world.  It’s the proud scattered in their plans, the powerful brought down from their thrones, the lowly lifted up, the hungry filled with good things and the rich sent away empty.  

Jesus was calling the disciples to follow a path that would seek to change the way the world worked which sounds nice, but it was a path that had already landed John the Baptist in jail.  He was calling them to follow The Way, which sounds good, but The Way leads to the cross.  He was calling them to “fish for people” which sounds nice, but wasn’t ever about “saving souls” but was actually a reference to the passages in Jeremiah, Amos and Ezekiel where “hooking fish” is code for bringing judgement against the rich and powerful.  Jesus wasn’t asking them to help guide a few people to escape this world and “get to heaven,” Jesus was asking them to join him in God's revolution!   

You see, the twin miracles of this story are that FIRST, Jesus was able to get fishermen to follow him along The Way.  Fishermen... people who are only slightly less stubborn and set in their ways than Lutherans and Episcopalians!  Jesus was able to get THEM to follow him... THAT was the first miracle!  The second miracle though, is that Jesus got them to follow him, not to something easy, shiny, comfortable or familiar, but that Jesus got them to follow him on The Way... The Way to join in God’s revolution... The Way to change the social and political reality of the world... The Way which led Jesus to the Cross. 

Jesus doesn’t invite us to follow so that we might “get saved”... Jesus is calling you and me to follow The Way and The Way is a path that calls us to die... like John the Baptist, like Jesus, like Simon, Andrew, James and John.  It is the path that we celebrate in the waters of Baptism, where our former lives... our lives that lean on power, wealth, privilege and power are drown and remain there at the bottom of the font while our new lives are raised to live in a new way a way of peace, justice, compassion and generosity right here in THIS world.  It is a path that calls us to die to ourselves and our personal wants, desires, privileges and preferences and then rise to be a part of bringing in the Kingdom of God... our world made over into the world God intended it to be in Creation.  

In this story, Jesus has asked us to leave what we know and love and all that we find familiar and comfortable.  THEN he asks us to follow him on a path, not to a comfortable escape, but to revolution... to daily die to the ways of the world and rise... rise and live as if the Kingdom of God was fully here... while all around us it is all too clear that it still has a long way to come.  What Jesus is asking us is going to take not just one miracle... but two!  The Good News is that Jesus has already worked those miracles in each and every one of us, right there in the waters of Baptism… now our calling is, together, to put one foot in front of the other along that Way, in that Truth and toward that Life!  Amen.    

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Follow Me!

The Holy Gospel According to St. John the 1st Chapter

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” 

(You may also want to reference the other readings for today, 1 Samuel 3:1-20 and 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, since I use them all in this sermon.)

These lessons are all about God calling us and all the “stuff” that can, and does get in the way of us being able to hear.  The first lesson starts with the story of a priest whose sight is growing dim.  In the Bible, going blind is never ONLY a physical thing.  Going or being blind is always a reference to a person’s faith as well.  Eli was loosing his faith.  It had been a long time since Eli had heard God.  Things were quiet... comfortable... predictable... which I’ll be the first to admit is really nice... EXCEPT that it was slowly draining away his ability to hear God.  His faithful attention span was draining away... so slowly though, that he didn’t even realize what was happening.

We all like “comfortable”.  I’ve got my favorite comfortable spot on the couch at home.  We all like church to be comfortable too and it’s more comfortable when things are predictable.  It’s more comfortable when some joker isn’t monkeying around with the seats!  That was Eli.  He didn’t mean to ignore God’s call.  He had just grown comfortable.  Things had become predictable.  He had developed a passive resistance to hearing that God was trying to do a new thing and he didn’t even realize it.  He didn’t shut out the light of his faith in some once-and-for-all dramatic move... the light of his faith just grew dim, just a tiny bit more every day... just like the light in the Temple.  His faith was fading like his eyesight was fading. 

The second lesson is always great for some shock value because it talks about fornication and prostitutes.  Paul, of course, isn’t talking about LITERAL fornication or LITERAL prostitution.  He’s using some VERY graphic images to shock the church in Corinth, which was a church in deep conflict, into actually paying attention for a change!  The “Body” Paul’s talking about is the Body of Christ, their church, their congregation in the city of Corinth.  Paul is telling the members of that congregation that when they attack one another, spread hate, tell lies, plot, scheme and manipulate other members to get what they want, it is a sin against their body... the Body of Christ... their Church... their congregation... and it’s as unpleasant to God as what happens in a dark alley with someone picked up off the street.  Subtlety was not one of Paul’s gifts.  

He was trying to shock them into remembering that their church really isn’t “their church” at all!  It is God’s church... a temple of the Holy Spirit and he was trying to get them to start acting like it!  Unlike Eli, who was unknowingly and passively resisting God’s call, the church in Corinth was actively rebelling against God’s call.  This was Paul’s graphic wake up call to that congregation in Corinth and every church there ever was or ever will be.  He was telling them, when you do those hateful things, you aren’t just attacking a person you think is wrong (which is bad enough) but you're also desecrating the Temple of the Holy Spirit, you are violating the Body of Christ; didn’t you know that?

Finally, there’s Philip and Nathaniel and the Gospel lesson for today.  On the positive side these two do recognize Jesus!  On the negative side though, they simply couldn’t see that Jesus was infinitely more than what they expected the Messiah to be.  Philip insists that Jesus fit the mold that he had always expected the Messiah to fit.  He calls Jesus “The One Moses and the prophets talked about” which is true, but he also calls Jesus the son of Joseph and tells Nathaniel that Jesus is from Nazareth which shows he’s only able to see the tip of the iceberg.  The whole truth is that Jesus isn’t just a would-be secular king, but Jesus is really God’s Son!  Jesus is the Light who created all things.  Jesus is the One who became flesh and dwelt among us.  Jesus isn’t just some guy who will do the expected Messiah job of forming an army, kicking the Romans out and becoming the King... Jesus is 'God with us' in a whole new way!  Philip didn’t get that.  Philip couldn’t get that.  His sight was blurred by his own expectations.  Nathaniel had preconceived expectations too.  He expected the Messiah to be a miracle worker and Jesus was that for sure.  After all, Jesus saw Nathaniel under the fig tree.  Not with his eyes but in a vision and that totally fit Nathaniel’s ideas about what the Messiah would be like.  But Nathaniel couldn’t see that Jesus was so very much more than what he expected.  Neither of them could see that.

Eli had trouble hearing God’s call because he had become comfortable and stuck; so stuck he couldn’t tell when God wanted him to move.  The Corinthians actively rebelled against God’s call, fighting among themselves; fighting for control, fighting for power, plotting, scheming, calling names and spreading hate.  Nathaniel and Philip couldn’t see that God was literally standing there with them because their minds had already limited what God could or would do among them.  In all three of these lessons, folks were having trouble for one reason or another in really... REALLY hearing what God was trying to tell them.  But these lessons aren’t all doom and gloom... there’s some Good News!

The Good News is that God used them anyway.  Every last complacent, unmoving, power hungry, rumor mongering, short sighted one of them.  God kept calling and eventually Eli got up and did something new.  The church in Corinth never got better and eventually fell apart, but Paul’s letters to them continue to speak to other churches and many of them HAVE listened and changed and thrived.  And, in spite of the fact that neither Philip nor Nathaniel completely understood who Jesus really was or what Jesus was all about, and in spite of their preconceived notions that constantly got in the way, Jesus called them to be his disciples anyway.  

Every one of them was called by God, just like us.  Every one of them were flawed and broken, just like us.  Every one of them had trouble seeing and hearing, for one reason or another, the new thing God was trying to do among them, just like us.  All of them were lost and yet found.  Broken yet still called.  Blind but led forward.  May we learn from them.  May we open our ears and our eyes beyond what is comfortable or expected.  May we open our hearts and our minds and our souls to God speaking a new Word to us.  May we gladly receive the gifts of infinite love, unlimited grace, courage and strength which God has given us there in those Baptismal waters so that we might better follow God’s call for us together as the Body of Christ and invite others to “Come and See”.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

An Oasis on The Way!

The Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew, the 2nd Chapter
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to
Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
(This sermon is for the first joint worship of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church and St. Mark's Episcopal Church.  The people of St. Mark's have moved in with the people of Prince of Peace to begin to be Church in a new way together.)
This story from Matthew’s Gospel tells about the ARRIVAL of the Magi.  ARRIVING is one thing, but what in the WORLD made them choose to BEGIN that journey in the first place?  They weren’t Jewish.  They didn’t believe in the Jewish God, they didn’t go to Temple or read the Scriptures.  They weren’t even looking for a Messiah.  So, what was it that made the ancient equivalent of a group of celebrity astrologers decide to leave everything they knew... the place they were comfortable... the place they were trusted and respected and known and head out across the desert to who knows what at who knows where?  What inspired them to leave their observatories and just... GO?

The thing that I find truly amazing is NOT that they ARRIVED, but that they actually set out on that crazy journey in the first place!   Imagine the courage... the drive... the curiosity to decide to set out and begin a journey no one had imagined ever before.  Imagine, starting on a journey where there is NO POSSIBLE WAY of knowing where that journey will end... without knowing what it was going to look like or how long it might take to get there or even what you might find when you did finally arrive.  Imagine that!

The funny thing about US having THIS lesson for TODAY is that imagining the beginning an unbelievable journey to an unknown destination that will take an indeterminate amount of time, across an untravelled path... isn’t actually too difficult for us to imagine now, is it?  We actually don’t have to imagine it at all!  We’re living it!  So, perhaps, the Magi, when they set out on their journey were feeling some of the same sorts of things we're feeling today.  Maybe they too felt excited... or scared... or sad at leaving the place they loved.  Maybe they felt shocked, embarrassed or disappointed that the star appeared where it did, when their whole careers they had been expecting it to rise somewhere else.  Maybe that star gave them hope.  Maybe it gave them dread.  Maybe they felt nervous, disoriented or were having second thoughts about whether this journey was something they should have even started to begin with.  Maybe they were worried about what they would find in the desert.  Maybe they were worried about what in the desert, might find them!

We will never really know what the Magi were feeling, but we do know that WE are feeling all of those emotions and many more as well, and in every possible emotional combination as we set out on our journey.  Whatever the Magi were feeling though, they had the benefit of a long camel ride across the desert to talk to one another about all their hopes and their fears and their dreams.  We don’t have a physical desert to ride camels across to inspire us to get to know one another and share our hopes and fears and dreams, but we still need to take the time to do that, even without a desert or camels.

This thing that we have begun is a GIGANTIC undertaking.  The star, for us is moving and we won’t know we’ve arrived until it comes to a rest in the place God wants us to be.  Because this journey is so huge, we DO need to take the time to tell each other our stories the ones we're proud of and the ones we wished had happened a different way.  We need to share our gifts and experiences, hopes and fears and begin to see how God has been and IS at work in one another’s lives.  We need to share with each other how we’re feeling, not just once, but all throughout our journey together.  We need to do that because we're going to need to lean on one another in the days ahead.

Both people from St. Mark’s and people from Prince of Peace expected their stars to rise in a COMPLETELY different place than it has.  Prince of Peace expected their star to rise over here... they expected to be close to finishing their call process for a full time pastor... but it rose way over here instead!  And a year ago, the people of St. Mark’s may have expected their star to rise in a few different places, but I don’t think anyone expected it to rise over here!

It’s all a bit mind-spinning.  I know it is for me.  Because of that we’re all going to need to care for each other along the way.  There are no feelings that should be hidden or stuffed in all this.  There are no "wrong" feelings to have.  All our feelings need to come out in heathy ways or they’ll come out in ugly ways.  We’ll all also need to rely more on God in prayer and worship so we can be constantly reminded that even though NONE of us expected that star to be rise where it did, God intends only the best for us and calls us always OUT of places of pain and death... and always INTO places of ABUNDANT LIFE.

One nice thing we learn from this lesson is that people who set out on these improbable sorts of journeys, searching for the Christ Child are remembered by history as being “WISE.”  But this journey will take work and patience and a deep and lasting commitment from all of us WISE ONES who have been inspired by the Holy Spirit to begin this improbable adventure.  

So WISE ONES... Today we are taking the next step on our journey.  We are no longer where we started and we are far from where we will one day arrive.  But truly, isn't that right where people of 'The Way' like us are supposed to be?  Our faith, after all, isn't a destination.  Our faith is a journey where together we take one hesitant, excited, fearful, faithful step at a time across an unfamiliar desert to discover the new thing which God has prepared for us to see.

Let us tell one another our stories and our hopes and fears and dreams and let us help one another remember, that while we walk through this unfamiliar desert… right there... right in the middle of all that we do... right there in the waters of Baptism, God has provided us with an oasis of life giving water!  May this font, here in the center of all we do, continue to remind us that as we journey, we do not go alone.  As we take these next hesitant, excited, fearful and faithful steps, we have each other our brothers and sisters in Christ AND… God is with us!  Amen.