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Archive for March, 2010

1.  Way In

In 8th grade science class we learned to use a slide rule

should say “we were instructed in how to use a slide rule”

to say that I learned how to use it is definitely a stretch

I went through the motions

but used the calculator to get real answers

That’s the last HS science class I remember paying attention in

which is probably why I found myself 30-something years old …

taking a course commonly known as “Football Physics”

to satisfy the science requirement for a college BA in History

after I got serious about finishing my degree

Football Physics was supposed to be easy enough for the jocks to pass

I passed it, too

but I worked my tail off for that class

never had much interest or aptitude for science

I do remember studying about the speed of light

back to Mr. Walker’s 7th or 8th grade science

where we used the slide rule

he also made us use carbon paper to copy our class notes – talk about “old school”

he kept a copy

so he could show our parents how well we paid attention in class when they inquired about low grades

Had to go back and look it up

670 million miles per hour

186 thousand miles per second

I’m no scientist, just ask Mr. Walker

but I know THAT’S FAST

“The Speed of Light,” 186,000 miles per second

But look again at the sermon title, “Speed of the light

talking about “The Light,” not just light

not “what light through yonder window breaks” Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

The Light

“the life was the light of all people” (John 1:4)

“the true light which enlightens everyone” (1:9)

Jesus, who said “I am the light of the world” (8:12)

And the speed of THE LIGHT is about 2 miles per hour

according to my friend and mentor, Ed Loring of the Open Door Community in Atlanta, GA

Ed’s calculations come from the ground speed of the common donkey

which travels at about 2 miles per hour

which he therefore estimates as the top travelling speed of Jesus, “the way, the truth, and the life,” since he usually walked

So the top travelling speed of THE LIGHT/JESUS/The TRUTH

is 2 m.p.h.

or as we shall call it, The Speed of Truth

Now lies … they travel fast.  Lies are instant.  They travel at about the speed of light, and they are believed even faster

saw a flier at the bank about e-mail scams

Did you win a foreign lottery which you did not enter?

Does a prince or heir to a fortune want to wire you a portion of their fortune, all they need is your bank information?

these lies travel from around the earth in a manner of seconds

ever seen a person before a congressional committee, one who everybody knows is lying

see from their expression how fast the wheels are turning to keep the story up

those lies require fast thinking and fast talking to keep them afloat

Truth, on the other hand

travels slowly, even meekly sometimes

truth moves ahead steadily

like the stout, compact donkey Jesus rode – up to Jerusalem

about 2 m.p.h.

2.  Tell the Story

Jesus sent two disciples ahead

to go get a donkey

Matthew adds a colt, others just have the donkey

“if anybody stops you, tell them the Lord needs it”

Jesus does all of this to fulfill the prophecy

that the Messiah, the king would come

humble and mounted on a donkey

the disciples did like he said

put their cloaks on the donkey’s back for him to ride on

they were met in Jerusalem by a “very large crowd”

spread their cloaks in the road, and limbs from nearby trees

making the way for Jesus

they sang, “Hosanna”

a Hebrew word meaning, “save us, we pray,” or a word of praise

yet here, they say “Hosanna to the Son of David”

which means “Praise to you, Son of David.”

they continue, “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”

The rest of the people

… the ones not in the crowd – which had become like a parade bringing Jesus in

were asking “Who is this?”

“This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

3.  So What?

This is Jesus, the king’s, triumphal entry into Jerusalem

“Triumphal”

that’s what the paragraph heading says in my Bible at home

is that what your Bible says?  Triumphal?

even if it doesn’t, that’s what you remember, right?

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Does this seem like the triumph of a king to you?

Jesus doesn’t conquer the city

or take over the government

he doesn’t come riding a mighty white stallion

with armor

and soldiers

and chariots

In fact, it seems just the opposite

He comes riding a common donkey

slow, stout, and stubborn

he doesn’t “conquer” anything

in fact he is soon arrested

denied by his own followers

“tried” before the courts

beaten half to death

then allowed to live so he can be executed by the state

hardly a triumph by our standards

Yet the events of this week some 2,000 years ago resound to us this day

here we learn of God’s ultimate love and truth

sacrificing his own son to conquer the powers of sin and death

Jesus’ triumph is not over the city’s laws or even what they would call justice

This is a triumph over the power of sin and death in the world

This victory is not won by the might of an army, nor the force of weapons

not by a blitz of charging steeds and thundering troops

but by the steady, struggling, gait of a donkey

moving ahead

or even stubbornly standing still when the work becomes too complex

but going…ahead…at the top speed of 2 m.p.h.

We know the rest of the story

we know how this same crowd quickly turned

how their shouts of acclamation and praise for Jesus …

quickly turned to calls for his execution

as far as we know, this was the same crowd

look how quickly the lies traveled

Yet Jesus continued his steady journey towards his death

moving slowly ahead, never wavering from the destination at Golgotha – the place of the skull

So this was an entry of triumph

but not as a western history might notice

no people were conquered or government overthrown

this was the triumph of truth

speaking truth to power

Jesus had a long “rap sheet”

healing on the Sabbath

consorting with unsavory characters

reconciling them for their own good

he claimed to be not subject to the emperor, but to God

and challenged the authority of the religious officials

And as jesus travels “up to Jerusalem” – let us not forget our place in the crowd

the same crowd that welcomed Messiah with shouts and greetings

yet a few days later, the same crowd called for his cricufuxion

and we are there

just as willing and as quick to reject and deny him

even as Peter denied him

and even as Judas betrayed him

maybe our denials and rejections aren’t as public

maybe not as dramatic as Peter and Judas

yet we are just as “denying”

when our behavior, attitude does not reflect Jesus

when we fail to see Jesus in others

when we withhold forgiveness or cling tightly to anger

when we judge too soon and forgive too late

Jesus lived and died that we may …

know the truth, and see the difference between good and evil

live by the power of forgiving love as we have been forgiven

And he was resurrected that we may know the power of God’s love

the length and breadth of his steadfast love

power of forgiveness and reconciliation

which is sure and steady – like Jesus, travelling at a top speed of 2 mph

Palm Sunday is an important day in the life of Jesus, and the life of the church

We travel “Up to Jerusalem with Jesus and the disciples”

we are part of the crowd, welcoming him to the City

Yet me must not move too quickly to next Sunday

to the glory of Jesus’ resurrection

if we do, we miss the real and powerful suffering of our Lord

attend, if you are able

Bible Study, Tuesday at 2pm

Maundy Thursday, 7pm, joint with WPC-Piqua

if not, read again, on your own, the gospel lesson

today’s reading, through Luke 22-24

Let us not move too quickly to the glory of the resurrection

but let us linger for a while

in the truth of the struggle and passion of Jesus Christ

which is for our sake

until we meet him again…

so let it be with us.  Amen

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Ephesians 4:12

 

1.  Way In

a photo I appreciate from the 1960s

march organized by Rev. Dr. martin Luther King, Jr.

black people and white people

walking together

in the front row, linked arm-in-arm

Dr. King, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

a man carrying a Torah scroll, and a man carrying a cross

we can talk a long time about everything that separates this scene

race, theology

but for the cause on that day, Civil Rights

the image for me is “Unity”

there were many things these folks were able to set aside that day

and take a stand for justice

although we think of justice in legal terms, with respect to the American constitution

this is an image for me of commitment to biblical justice, in the Judeo-Christian tradition

jPvm

right relationships among all things in the created order of things

Bridge

this reading, then, comes from the Apostle Paul,

a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of the Gentiles

the very one, the Pharisee

who spent a career violently persecuting followers of Jesus

He said himself, “I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison (Acts 22:4)

the very one who was bound by every law and commandment to reject the Messiah

until he saw the light of Christ – and it changed his life

now he writes to the church at Ephesus, asking for their prayers

“to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains” (6:19-20)

2.  Tell the Story – in chapter 3 of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes

I, a prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, with

humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love

making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

There is one body and one Spirit

one Lord, one faith, one baptism

one God and Father of all – above al, through all, and in all

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift

some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and some teachers

to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ

3.  So What?

Lead a life worthy of your calling to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ

a worthy life is lived with

humility, gentleness, patience, and love

to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

a worthy life is lived, by grace, with the gifts of Christ

some as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers

a worthy life is lived, with the gifts of Christ for the work of ministry

preaching the good news

as Jesus preached in his hometown of Nazareth

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because 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 let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4:18-19)

work of ministry

reconciliation, forgiveness, justice for the sake of the saving love of Jesus Christ

feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the imprisoned

works of ministry

it’s not our works that save us

rather our works are our grateful response to the one who saves us

because whenever we do unto the least of our brothers and sisters – we do it for our Lord Jesus Christ

our salvation is not a thing we wear on our sleeve to show how special we are

rather it is a calling to profess his saving love to the world

as Francis of Assisi said, to preach the gospel every day, and even use words when you have to

it’s not so much who we are on the inside,

but who we are as we live out our calling

and we do all of this, not to build up ourselves, or our individual churches but to build up the Body of Christ

That brings me back to unity

the unity of the Spirit that is characterized by:

humility, gentleness, patience, and love

let me take a little survey

raise your hand:

Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, United Methodist, Church of God, Church of Christ, Assembly of God, Episcopal, Full Gospel, Wesleyan, Christian Church-Disciples of Christ, Pentecostal, Church of the Brethren, Presbyterian, Praise Ministries, Nazarene, non-denominational (not bound by a particular denomination), anybody else?

praise the Lord, we really cover the map

we could spend a whole lot of time discussing where we differ

doctrine, practice, sacraments, worship style, liturgy, music

we could be raising hands for this or that all night long

now let me ask you this:

raise your hand if you love Jesus

… if he’s the Lord of your life, who saves you and sets you free

… if you trust him, and call on his name

keep your hands up if he’s always there for you

… if he knows your name

… and promises never to leave you nor forsake you

… if he was born for you

if he died for you

if he rose again for you

… if he saves you from the power of sin and death

keep those hands up

now look around

friends/saints, this is the body of Christ

we may come from different places, but we are all the body

worship may look different from one house to the other on Sunday

but we are all the Body of Christ

and this is where we find our unity – what we hold together

and this is where we can make a difference

for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ – in our community

Now take your seats and let us pray

Lord God we thank you for calling us together

we thank you for each one here tonight

we thank you for saving us and calling our name

Now we ask you to lead us

in our community, show us how to be your people

there are people around us, your children

who don’t have enough to eat

who can’t find jobs, and afford decent housing

who suffer and try to heal themselves

and there are too many times this leads to addictions

and separation

Lord Jesus, we are regular people

but we are your people

and your Word teaches us how to be a community of faith

we appreciate the traditions in which we worship you

here we find meaning to our lives

we worship your name

and learn to love you more

But Lord we want to do better

we want to show the world, for your sake,

that there is unity in the Body of Christ

so anoint each of us with the spirit of unity/togetherness

and show us ways to come together

so the world can see that you have called us as one Body

there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave nor free, male nor female

but one in your name

Remind us that you have not saved us to put us in the trophy case

but you have called us to ministry

just like you always call your people

we want to be your vessels

and we want you to fill us with

humility, gentleness, patience, and love

to equip all the saints

to build up the Body of Christ

for your sake

so let it be.  Amen

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Lent 5

John 12:1-8

 

1.  Way In

Do you ever think that you have somebody all figured out?

Got a ticket when I lived in NY for talking on cell phone while driving

went to Town Hall to pay ticket

stood waiting at the counter while a clerk made out my bill

overheard a phone call behind a cubicle

obviously a troubling call …

person receiving the call was crying

others overheard and cried, too

said to the woman making my bill ($150) …

“I’m a minister, and slid her my card”

“If there’s anything I can do to be of help or comfort, please let me know.”

She replied …

“Oh no …  you’ll have to talk to the judge”

“I can’t do anything for you about this ticket.”

you’re going to have to pay it

I was mortified

“that’s not what I mean”

“I’m not trying to get out of my ticket”

I was already making out the check

“I was just saying, that if I can help here…it sounds like somebody got some bad news.”

clerk, “Oh…sure.”

there’s a Town employee that thinks I was trying to “church” my way out of a traffic ticket

I guess you really can’t blame her

probably heard all kinds of excuses

she’s probably heard all kinds of pleas to …

cut somebody some slack

“just this time, can’t you …?”

“you know, the officer really didn’t explain exactly what I did…”

I bet she’s heard them all

and when she saw me slide my card across the counter

then say something about being a minister

she was probably thinking…

“Yep, here comes another one…”

This is what I think if when I think I have somebody all figured out

… already figured out somebody’s motivation

thinking I know what somebody else is thinking

thinking I already know how “this whole thing’s” going to work out

do you ever find yourself willing to believe that somebody has the worst intentions

and maybe even creating a whole scenario in your mind

Then do you ever have the humbling experience of realizing that you were completely wrong?

I mean, sometimes you may be right

 but if you’re like me

you’re not very good at reading minds or predicting the future

Bridge

Makes me think about reading this familiar story

similar story in all 4 gospels

everybody’s watching Judas as we read it

what were you thinking when I read about Judas?

uh, huh…yep. that’s him

that sorry dog

John even said he was a thief

stealing out of their funds

look at him….

he doesn’t care anything about the poor people

he’s just trying to impress Jesus

we all know where he’s going to be in a couple of weeks

he’ll be bringing the soldiers to Jesus

Well, it turns out we’re right

Judas does all of that

he’s sure no hero

But if we look too hard at what a sorry dog we think Judas is

we miss the dramatic lesson of what happened this evening

2.  Tell The Story

Jesus went to this dinner in Bethany

He knew what the coming days held for him

the days were coming that he had been preparing the Disc. for

yet he faced the days with dignity

stayed right around Jerusalem

not running away

Not just any dinner

in the home of Lazarus “whom he had raised from the dead”

don’t pass over this line too easily

John tells it like Jesus gave Lazarus a ride home from the ball game

“in the home of Lazarus whom he raised from the dead”

So here he sat at the supper table with Lazarus, being formerly dead

incidentally, Lazarus was considered unclean

anyone who came into contact with a corpse was ritually unclean

so Laz. would have been constantly ritually unclean – having always been in contact with himself

while Martha served the meal, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet

precious, extravagant,  and intimate

used costly perfume

and wiped his feet with her hair

not a towel or a rag

but her own hair

Then Judas pipes in

criticizing Mary for wasting such money

remember a denarius was about a day’s wage

Mary’s perfume cost about a year’s  wage for a laborer

extolling his interest in care for the poor

“oh, think of the poor people we could have fed with the money we could have gotten from selling that perfume”

we could have sold this perfume

for now, let’s get over Judas

for now, don’t be sidetracked by his false piety

or get caught up in his mysterious and grim story

Center yourself in the story John’s gospel tells

sit at the supper table with Jesus

“and Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead”

breathe in the fragrant smell of extravagant perfume

surely you can smell it, John said the fragrance filled the whole house

Look beyond the surface of the story that may be familiar into the holy depths – seeking the eternal among the familiar

Lazarus

a gracious host, and living evidence of the promised resurrection

 Judas

outside: a pious sycophant

but within lurks the treachery and deceit that any human heart can contain

Mary & Martha

sisters and gracious hosts

Martha serving and Mary worshipping

the sisterhood (or connection) of the Christian attitudes of service and worship

Mary, seen here as a prophet

Jesus says she bought the perfume for the day of his burial – she was preparing for that day

something he had told the Disc.’s over and over

just wasn’t kicking in with them

Jesus

not merely sharing a meal with friends

on this night he is the Passover lamb, a fragrant offering, prepared by worshippers with the best they had to offer

Center yourself in the scene

see the story unfold

observe the drama of each of the players

the wonder in Lazarus’ eyes

like he’s still adjusting to life after being in the tomb for 4 days

the grateful service of his sister Martha and the extravagant worship shown in his sister Mary

the bluster of Judas’ comment

and the lesson Jesus teaches from this moment

many of our Bibles today carry the footnote, but then every good Jew would have known that Jesus was quoting from the scrolls of Deuteronomy when he said, “The poor will always be with you…”

they all knew the rest of Deut. 15:11

“I therefore command you, Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”

Judas was right when he quoted from the scriptures

always remember never to forget the poor among you, and to open your hand in generosity

we honor God when we honor his people

Mary was right to recognize the evening as a holy time

and not miss the opportunity to worship the Lord with the best she had to offer

3.  So What?

Once, during the months leading up to my grandmother’s death I went to see her in the hospital.  My mother and one of my sisters were there, and Me Maw was talking about how proud she was of us.  She was also talking about people from back home in Vicksburg who had come that morning to visit.

 

We all knew that she had had no visitors from Vicksburg, especially not the ones she named from Bovina.  They had been dead for years.  And we all knew that, for Me Maw, death was near.

 

We were drawn together that afternoon into a holy space.  It looked like an ordinary hospital room with a patient in the bed surrounding by the love and concern of her daughter and grandchildren.

 

I stepped out of the room for a moment and went to the nurse’s station and found a pack of 2 saltine crackers, a small container of grape juice, and 4 cups.  Although I was still a seminary student, and had never even been ordained as an elder in the church, Me Maw ordained me to serve communion on that day.

 

I broke the cracker and poured the juice, and said the words I heard the preacher say, which were the same words Me Maw heard her father, Rev. Harris say.  The communion that the four of us shared remembered the words of Jesus – “Do this and remember me.”  In our hospital room Eucharist, we gave thanks and remembered our Lord Jesus Christ, broken and poured out for us.  And we remembered that every time we break the bread (or cracker) and drink the cup we proclaim the saving love of Jesus Christ until he comes again,  and come again he will.

 

Me Maw ordained me to serve communion that after, transforming a hospital room into a chapel.  A place to connect with the holy and celebrate the presence of the Lord.

 

Mary transformed her formerly dead brothers’ house in Bethany into a holy place where a sacred meal was served, and the house was filled with the fragrance and signs of deep and grateful worship.

 

When we think we have it all figured out …

“Oh, we’ve tried this before…”

“This will never work”

“Don’t waste any time with that one, they’re just no good”

May we always remember to recognize the holiness of every day …

get ourselves out of the way of the spirit of God

who is making something new…something holy

even when we think we have it all figured out

            or saying, “we tried that already – it doesn’t work”

Just stop for a minute, remember God who calls us by name

take an attitude of gratitude, service, and love

and notice Christ among us

then worship him and serve him with the best we have

So may it be with us.  Amen

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Luke 13:1-9

What Will Grow?

 

1.  Way In

Jesus taught people by reaching them where they were

the people knew about planting and fishing

so he taught using examples they were familiar with

in today’s gospel lesson, he deals with sin and repentance in familiar terms

the people had  theological and ontological concerns about sin and punishment

Jesus taught them in terms of care – and careful living

Bridge

a short lesson today

from the gospels

I want to be sure we have time

for small group sessions

talking about loving our neighbors

2.  Tell the Story

Setting

today’s lesson we find Jesus speaking to the people

came to Jesus with questions about ones who died recently

Pilate – brutal Roman Governor

had some Galilean pilgrims to Jerusalem slaughtered

don’t know why – he didn’t need much of a reason

collapse of tower at Siloam

recent accident at Siloam

spring in Jerusalem

people came for fresh water and healing

large stone tower fell over and killed 18

These two recent disasters

had people talking

like we do now

one an act of terror or brutality, the other a disastrous accident

both had people talking

thinking “I could be next”

Jesus said, “No.”

these people were not killed to for any transgression

one was a ruthless act of brutality

the other an accident

Jesus said, “But.”

but if you don’t repent

turn from ways of sin that separate you from God

you will end up just as dead as these

(and lose hope of the new life in Christ)

Jesus said, “Think about it this way.”

a man had a fig tree that bore no fruit

he called his gardener

told him to cut it down

“I have come looking for fruit for 3 years and there is nothing!”

“Give it one more year,” said the gardener

let me tend to it

care for the spoil, add “natural fertilizer” (manure)

see if it bears fruit next year

yes?  good

no?   you can cut it down

3.  So What?

It’s not a lost cause

just needs some tender loving care (TLC)

you know how it goes when you plant something

plant it like the man did

do nothing but come around looking for fruit

no water in the meantime

no fertilizing, no weeding … nothing

just show up and look for fruit

what do you expect will happen?

you haven’t’ done anything to it

but if you tend to the plant

water it, care for the soil, nurture it

then, yes.  fruit will come, flowers will come, life will come

What you tend will grow – bear fruit

even weeds will grow if cared for

if you choose to nurture the dandelions and crabgrass in your yard

they will grow, too

but if you care for the plants you want, or the grass you want

that’s what will grow

if you nurture that part

remove the weeds, and treat the soil so more don’t come

then the grass will grow

what you tend will grow

Imagine a garden – beautiful flowers, also grass and weeds

Q: what will grow there?

A: what you nurture will grow

there is another parable – told by a Buddhist teacher (Thich Nhat Hanh)

“Consciousness is said to be a field; a plot of land in which every kind of seed has been planted – seeds of suffering, happiness, joy, sorrow, fear, anger, and hope. The quality of our life depends on which of these seeds we water. The practice of mindfulness is to recognize each seed as it sprouts, and to water the most wholesome seeds whenever possible.”  (Peace is Every Step)

what you tend will  grow

if we tend happiness, joy, and hope, they we grow

if we tend suffering, sorrow, fear, and anger, they will grow

what we tend will grow

do we focus on the negative?  that’s what will grow

do we focus on what’s right?  that’s what will grow

do we keep old resentments?

hold on to anger?

carry a grudge on a brother or sister?

carry an old fight from the past …

or do we look to the future

what new things are possible despite who we were in the past

do we notice others and care for them

do we try to understand, empathize with their situation?

do we look for ways to be the solution, or keep being part of the problem

What we tend will grow

flowers or weeds

it’s really up to us

let us always choose to tend what builds up the body of Christ

so let it be with us.  Amen

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Genesis 15:1-6

 

1.  Way In

The Dome of the Rock

built on the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, atop Mt. Moriah

his precious son – the one God promised

Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac

to answer God’s call

as he had done before

when God called him to leave all he had

and go to the land God would show him

History

Solomon’s Temple (1st Temple) – 960 B.C.

destroyed by Babylonians – 586 B.C.

2nd Temple – 516 B.C.

expanded by Herod the Great – 19 B.C.

destroyed by Rome – 70 B.C.

Present building

built 691 – Muslim shrine

dome covered in solid gold – 1920

the prominent structure is the first thing you notice in the skyline of the Old City of Jerusalem

controversy

significant religious site to Jews and Moslems

source of significant controversy

Jewish tradition – Abraham and Isaac

Muslim tradition – point where Muhammad ascended to heaven

mostly under Muslim control since the Sultan, Saladin won control over Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187

non-Muslims banned from access until mid-19th century

since the Six Day War in 1967

access to non-Muslims has fluctuated

still under Muslim control

for a time Jews permitted, but not their prayer books

other pilgrims have told me of screening visitors for Bibles

or of women being denied access

when I visited, non-Muslims were not allowed in the shrine

Power of place

even though I was not permitted to go inside to see the site …

… the place on Mt Moriah where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son

there was an indescribable sense of standing in that place

in fact I was standing in the plaza outside the shrine

in Jesus’ day:

was the plaza outside the temple

where he cleared the moneychangers out

there is power in that place – power of memory

Jews gather at the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall

the remains of the Temple walls

closest to where the Temple was

as close as they can get

this is the place of prayer – the place of memory

a place for studying the scriptures

…for Bar Mitzvah

as I prayed I felt the power of the memory

then as I sat at the Western Wall one afternoon

I saw Bar Mitzvum celebrated

I saw emotional prayers

Bridge

Covenant between God and the people is the hope of Israel

the name of the people is the name of Abraham’s grandson

Isaac’s son, Jacob – renamed Israel

the very name is a miracle

the grandson of Abram and Sara

a childless couple: Abram 99, Sara 90

of whom God promised to make a great nation

this is why we say that God can make a way out of no way

a path through the sea

a great nation from a band of slaves

parents and grandparents out of barren nonagenarians

and the savior of the world – born in a manger

2.  Tell the Story

The beginning of our reading tells us there is a back-story, “After these things…”

this follows God’s initial call to Abram, when A. was 75-years-old

“Go from your country and your kindred…to the land that I will show you.”

“I will make of you a great nation”

“In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”

Abram settled in Canaan, by the oaks of Mamre, at Hebron

about 20 miles south of Mt Moriah

same place where Jerusalem would be later

there were battles and controversy before …

Today’s reading

the Lord came to Abram in a vision

Do not be afraid Abram, I am your shield

your reward shall be very great

But Abram was worried about the future

what good is any gift you give me?

I have no heir, I have no children of my own

the heir of my house is my servant, Eliezer

God’s promise

Eliezer will not be your heir

your own child will be your heir

come outside and look at the sky

look toward heaven and try to count the stars

this shall be the number of your descendants

Abram believed the Lord

“the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness”

3.  So What?

To understand Abraham’s sacrifice it is critical to understand that Abram believed

in faith, he followed God’s command to leave his home in Ur

in faith he settled in a new and foreign land, where he was an alien

in faith he believed God’s continued promise of offspring

even as numerous as the stars

we know how God kept covenant

about the birth of a child to Abraham and Sarah

Isaac – their precious son

and we know how, in faith, Abraham followed God’s command

to offer his most precious son as a sacrifice

and God was pleased that Abraham would not withhold even his son

God provided a ram on the mountain for Abraham to sacrifice

and Abraham named the place, “The Lord will provide”

This mountaintop is the place where the Dome of the Rock was built

reminds us of

promises kept

commitment sealed

hope in God – A Way Out of No Way

Power of memory – Power of Promise

Yad Vashem

Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem

“a memorial and a name (yad vashem) that shall not be cut off”  Isa. 56:5

A memorial to a people

honoring 6 million Jews exterminated in the Holocaust

yet in this place of unimaginable loss, unspeakable horror

there is hope

even in the Children’s Memorial

where the names of 1.5 million children, their ages, and home town are read over and over

as you walk through he dark hall, hear the names, and the somber music that plays behind

there is light

reflected all above you and around you

as you walk through the dark

reflected in thousands of mirrors

from 5 memorial candles

the lights are all you can see

I wish I had a picture to show you

I couldn’t take one

not that it would have turned out, anyway

it just didn’t seem proper

I found a few photos on line

but they weren’t clear

but this picture of the heavens

is kind of what the hall looks like

and that’s the idea

If Israel’s hope is in God – God of Abraham – God of Covenant

can our hope be any less?

we all have our measure of sadness, disappointment

and that’s real

as real as the memories at Yad Vashem

and those are not to be discounted

given a memorial and a name – Yad Vashem

yet our sorrows and disappointment are not the final words

even yet there is light

lights as many as the stars in heaven

same lights Abraham saw

promise in number

what are our sorrows and disappointments?

about our family, neighborhood, even our church?

these are real, not to be discounted

we give them a memorial and a name

our hope and promise is in God

through faithful service, commitment, struggle for the poor and forgotten

the light of God will always shine

and will never be extinguished

as long as people honor

the power of memory and the power of promise

this will be our strength and shield

it is the love of God that is the foundation of our faith

and that love and trust has been behind an underneath

God’s people for generations

and it is no less strong for us

so we can persevere

even in the face of sadness or disappointment

because that has never stopped God before

and it never will

look at the sky tonight and try to count the starts

that is the breadth and depth of God’s promise

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