July 7, 2019: And then…by Rev. Beth Hayward (Selected passages from New Testament letters)

It’s possible that I’m the last generation who counts amongst her treasures the hand written letters from aunts and uncles and grandmas. I have a cousin who writes a letter a week to a different member of her extended family. I’ve managed to get myself on her roster and received my first installment a couple months ago. I relished in tales of knitting projects half, books on bedside tables, bike rides through snow covered Lethbridge streets. I have a stash of letters from over the years and I treasure each one. I love everything about letters; the way you can tell who it’s from just by the penmanship, the way the stamp is placed just so on the upper right hand corner, because obviously letter writing people are precise kinds of people. I love the wonder of knowing you are holding in your hands the paper that has been touched by the hands of the writer.  And then there’s the paper and oh fountain pens!  I’m sure if I had one of those I would become a letter writer! 

Did you know that twenty-two of the New Testament’s twenty-seven books are not books at all, they’re letters. There are no other religious traditions in which letters have become part of their sacred text. I don’t expect that their authors, most notably Paul, ever intended them to become part of scripture but there they are, sacred, holy words about ordinary things. Like the writer of 2 Timothy saying: “bring my scrolls especially the parchments.” I wonder what’s on those parchments? How could he have forgotten them? Are they really that important? And the cloak, did he forget it? or had he loaned it to Carpus? Did Carpus think it was a gift? Will he be surprised that the letter writer wants it back?

And in the letter to the church in Corinth Paul says, “I don’t remember who else I baptized.” Goodness, that sounds like me when I get behind in keeping my official church record books. But seriously, if you don’t remember who else you baptized you’ve gotta think it has something to do with the fact that you’ve baptized more people than you can count. Letters can reveal an awful lot when you take the time to read between the lines.

The best letters are like the best stories, they leave us wanting more, they draw us in and touch the hunger in our bellies. Letters are really stories, or fragments of stories, little bits of the story deemed important enough to write down by the letter writer. Yes the best letters are the ones so compelling that you are left with a half dozen stories to which you are saying “and then what happened?” only to have to wait weeks for the possibility of a continuing story.

When my girls were little, and teeth had been brushed and storybooks had put away, lights turned out save the nightlight in the corner, I’d sit on the floor between the two beds, precisely in the middle to avoid debate. Sometimes I’d sing to them but more often they’d want one last story, the kind where they got to participate through giving me the details: the name of the protagonist, a mode of transportation, a kind of food, a colour. And then I’d take their bits and weave them into a story, a bit like improv except I really had thought nothing about where this story would go. Sometimes I’d pause, for dramatic effect but more often I’d pause as I searched my mind for the requested species of reptile or mode of transportation. Inevitably when I paused one girl or other would pipe up – and then what happened? And then what happened?

I’ve recently learned that the Hebrew writers of the Old Testament had a knack for the art of and then, in story telling. I’ve learned it from a book I’m reading by Rachel Held Evans called Inspired. Hebrew biblical writers would add the conjunction, and, to a line, they’d give it a little extra vocalization… double the initial consonant of the word to which the and was attached and voila: the Biblical Hebrew ‘and then.’[1] “There was light and then God saw that the light was good and then there was evening and then there was morning and then and then and then before you know it you are standing with Moses on Mount Nebo at the end of Deuteronomy light years from when God first peered over the abyss.”

Held Evans said that as Christians we believe we live in the and then, after Jesus resurrection and before his return. We live inside an unfinished story, a story that always has an, and then to offer us, to call us forward. Resurrection people are never The End people we are always and then people.

I wonder if we can really believe that? Seems to me more often these days we think we know how the story ends, we know this story because we’ve either lived it before or the conclusion is so obvious everyone knows how it ends. I wonder if we settle sometimes for being The End people rather than and then people? Are stories in our lives for which imagining an and then is just too big of a stretch? I suppose I ask it in particular in relation to the author of the very book I’m speaking of. Rachel Held Evans she died in April. She was thirty-seven, died from an allergic reaction to a drug she took to help her with an every day infection. I think of her grieving husband and her children ages four and one. I think of those of you in this place who are walking through your own personal hell moments and I do pause and wonder are there some stories that are too painful for an and then? Are there some stories for which we really must resign our selves to the truth that this is THE END?

When it comes to the story of the climate crisis, there are many days I lean towards a story with The End rather than a story that poses the curiosity of a child and then… It’s really hard work to be and then people.

But if, as Evans says, our story is unfinished, we are part of a bigger story. And this means that we share our story with the spirit that hovered over creation, with prophets living and dead, with ordinary people with ordinary struggles and joys. She insisted that: “the stories we tell with our life, aren’t meaningless absurdities, tragic in their brevity, but rather subplots of a grander narrative, every moment charged with significance, as we contribute our own riffs. Soliloquies, and plot twists, to the larger epic.”[2]  She names it as the Holy Spirit coaxing us always with and then and then and then.

If our faith is to be a living faith it needs to be an and then sort of faith. And we come here in part to immerse ourselves in the story of Jesus’ life death and resurrection, a story that insists beyond all reason, beyond the odds that the story ‘aint over yet and that the Holy Spirit isn’t done with you.

One of the stories people tell about this place is the way tears come, especially and particularly from those who have shown up in your early days here. You may have found your way here after researching the right church to fit your particular need or align with your values. But really you come with that ache in your belly for more, that longing in your heart for connection, deep real connection, the wondering in your mind about whether it really is possible to reconcile your hopes and dreams with your grief and regrets.

When the tears flow, I wonder if it is a sign that the heart has been softened just enough for that thin place to open? Are the tears an indication that the Holy Spirit is in fact descending on you, flowing through you?  

These songs you’ve requested today, or maybe you missed the call out but you know what your songs are. Songs touch our souls and enliven our hearts. Maybe it takes you back through the melody or lyrics to the first time that song entered your soul and your heart had let down it’s defenses, either because grief left you stripped of all defenses, or because a life transition left you poised on the edge of what was and what was to be, tipping decidedly toward what was to be. Or maybe the words entered your soul just gently, gradually, over time like a warm blanket on an August night.

We need to tell our story, we need to ingest it and belt it out in song. We need it to feed our souls because there is a lot going down right now and there are a lot of stories being told. There are stories of bad people who need to be kept back with walls and guns, stories of hopelessness, stories of this is as good as it gets, stories of you get what you deserve, stories about how the strongest and richest and most cunning will always win.                  

And we don’t need to construct the entirety of a new story, in fact Jesus already did that for us, already wrote a new story with his life where we see and know that every time we come to a closed door or a dead end story, it is not the full picture just a thread. And we need to keep looking for the threads, for the fragments of letters no matter how ordinary they seem that point us to a different story an and then story.

Whether the songs today are your songs or not, perhaps allow them to take you to your songs, or better yet see if there is a phrase that draws you down, deep into the heart of the Holy Spirit that you might be surprised at what is to come. We’ll never walk on water if we’re not prepared to drown. Spirit will take you into places that you’ve never been before, and that’s okay!

When we follow the thread of and then we find ourselves in places we’ve never been before, opening doors to worlds outside the lines. And we see and we know that life is about a resurrection life and it will never declare like a good fairy tale – THE END no a resurrection life will always come to the end of the story and say and then… and then… and then.

We don’t need to wait until we have fountain pens, or just the right paper, we don’t need wait until we’ve formed our thoughts just so, before adding our bit to the writing of the Holy Spirit. You have something to offer to the unfolding, not over yet story of your life AND the story of this hurting world. Don’t wait for it to be perfectly formed. Come to this place and when a word or a melody takes hold in your heart, breaks open a portal from which the tears begin to flow, maybe see it as an invitation to add your line to the song, to practice living into and then, to listen for all the stories that insist this is the end and to add another perspective,

And then, step into the next chapter without a clue as to how this will all turn out, unsure if it could be okay and just know that the bigger story has your back, is holding you, sustaining you, like a pile of treasured letters in a box under your bed. And you just might remember the times that wounds have been turned to blessing and water to wine, and that may be enough to remind you to live like you believe it’s true. Amen


[1] Rachel Held Evans, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water and Loving the Bible Again. Nelson Books, California, 2018. 216 This paragraph comes from Hel Evans book where she is drawing on the research of Gregory Mobley.

[2] ibid

June 23, 2019: Justified by Rev. Beth Hayward (Galatians 3: 23-29)

A couple years ago a well-meaning friend said to me – I wonder when your children will stop coming to church? They’re both here today, so not yet, I guess. Look around this place and well… you’ve got to admit it’s a justifiable question. Where are the teens? Is it something we said? Or maybe something we didn’t do? Is it just to be expected in the developmental process, that teens will rebel? Maybe my kids are still here because of some failure on my part? Maybe my kids are developmentally “off” because they come to church every week without persuasion, guilt, bribe or threat. I don’t know why they’re here but just promise me, you won’t ask, I don’t want to mess with a good thing.

Why are any of us here, what makes us stay, why does this Jesus following continue to thrive all these years later? I mean I suppose my kids are here for much the same reason I never stopped going to church, it’s a place first and foremost where I have always felt I belonged. But we can belong to lots of people and places. Some of you belong to the tennis club or the yoga studio, or your book club or knitting group. Surely church is different in some way.

People will talk about church being the place where they have felt held or welcomed when other places weren’t so much that way. But it can’t just be that we feel we belong here, there has to be more. And besides, let’s face it, church can be a place where people let you down. When no one ever thinks to ask you to read scripture, or you’re never thanked for coming in on a Wednesday to clean the kitchen, without even being asked, or every time you speak up in a small group it’s like no one’s listening to you, or the ramp is blocked and you can’t participate. Here’s a motto for you: Church, the place where you are fully welcomed and included except when you aren’t.

We’re receiving five new members in this church today. All five were baptized at some point in their lives and now they’ll stand before you saying I really mean it, I really want to be identified as a Christian, I really want to live my life in the way of Jesus. Hopefully none of them are here because they think they’ve found a perfect, loving community that will never let them down. Shhh, don’t share that secret!

 I want to propose today that this sort of action, being baptized, reaffirming your baptism and becoming a member of a church is intrinsically different from paying your dues at a club. To be a Christian is for this identity to actually lay claim on your life. I’m open to being challenged but it seems to me that being a Christian has to be more or deeper than showing up on Sunday morning, like it lays claim on your life and you can’t shake it. It actually changes you. Not just when the water hits your forehead but all through your life, it calls you back to something deeper, something different than you can find elsewhere.

I want to tell you about Paul, one of the first Christians, someone whose life was changed forever the day he was baptized. I’ll admit, I rarely preach from Paul, his words often sound too preachy, if you will. I like stories better than letters, feels like you have more creative liberty. With Paul I often stumble into some rabbit hole or other. I get caught up in his implicit First Century bigotries or patriarchal tendencies and it’s like I start wrestling him to the ground. It’s difficult with Paul to push aside the manure to find the marvellous seed of truth in what he’s trying to say.

But Paul has a story, just like you have a story and I have a story. If ever you’re reading a letter of Paul’s and you find your pulling your hair out, turn for a moment to Acts 9 and read his story again. Before we get to Paul’s story, just take a moment to consider the part of your story that led you here, either to this particular church or to curiosity or faith in the first place. Like the words in Amazing Grace “how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed?

Paul’s life changed, he became justified by faith one day on the way to Damascus when the risen Lord appeared to him a light so bright he was left blind for three days. Until that day Paul was a ruthless persecutor of Christians. He was doing everything he could to uphold the place of his Jewish faith as he squashed these followers of Jesus. And do you know what happened, when the risen Jesus appeared? He was told “I want you.”

This is how the powerful storyteller Frederick Buechner describes it:

It was about noon when he was knocked flat by a blaze of light that made the sun look like a forty-watt bulb, and out of the light came a voice that called him by his Hebrew name twice. “Saul,” it said, and then again “Saul. Why are you out to get me?” and when he pulled himself together enough to ask who it was he had the honor of addressing, what he heard to his horror was, “I’m Jesus of Nazareth, the one you’re out to get.” We’re not told how long he lay there in the dust then, but it must have seemed at least six months. If Jesus of Nazareth had what it took to burst out of the grave like a guided missile, he thought, then he could polish off one bowlegged Christian-baiter without even noticing it, and Paul waited for the ax to fall. Only it wasn’t an ax that fell. “Those boys in Damascus,” Jesus said. “Don’t fight them. Join them. I want you on my side,” and Paul never in his life forgot the sheer lunatic joy and astonishment of that moment. He was blind as a bat for three days afterward, but he made it to Damascus anyway and was baptized on the spot. He was never the same again, and neither, in a way, was the world (Acts 9:1-6; 22:4-16; 26:9-18).[1]

So Paul dedicates his life to spreading the good news of Jesus the Christ. And he travels everywhere and in each town he stops he plants a church and then when he’s sitting in jail or when he comes up for air between all of this church planting he writes letters. Letters like you used to receive from your grandma or your great uncle. Ink to paper letters that those floundering followers all over Palestine could hold in their hands.

And this particular letter to the Galatians it is arguably his harshest ever. He’d planted that church, taught them about God’s gracious gift of love revealed through Jesus of Nazareth and left them to it. And then, after he moved on to the next town he got word that things were falling apart. You see this Jesus movement began as a sect within the Jewish faith but there Paul was in Galatia, a non-Jewish, Gentile region and he baptized them into the faith. And no sooner had he left town than some group of thugs show up and say, you can’t follow Jesus unless you follow Jewish law, in particular the law of circumcision.

Let me pause and say this is Pauline rabbit hole. He is not being anti semitic.

This is about Christian identity. This is not about Jewish identity. To use this as a scripture to dismiss the validity of those in the Jewish tradition is to misuse this text.

So Paul writes and says, much more harshly than I’ll say here: you have it all completely wrong! Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. (Galatians 3:24-26)

What in the world does it mean to be justified by faith? Paul says we are justified by faith, not the law. But what in the world does it mean to be justified by faith? Justified is one of those church words that we could really reclaim. Justified. Our most common use is in defence of some action or stance. What does it mean to be justified by faith. It’s not really language we use much. I’m justified by faith. Think of that word, justified, we are so much more likely to use it as justified in my opinion. I was justified in telling your secret. I can justify my point of view with the facts

Or like this week the Federal government might have said we were justified in giving the permission for a pipeline to be built, for the sake of the economy. Likewise they might say we were justified in declaring a climate emergency because of science. Or Donald trump may say I’d be justified in bombing Iran as retaliation, or I’m justified in acting illegally for the greater good. We can justify almost anything.

Our continued attempts to categorize and label one another in the church, and to diminish one another on the basis of those categories and labels, are signs of our spiritual immaturity. Paul reminds us that since Christ has come, we are no longer enslaved to those old divisions. All are justified solely by what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Through baptism into Christ, we belong to him and to one another. All share fully and equally in the inheritance of God’s promises and in the mission to which God has called us.

I suppose the best thing about religion, about being part of a community like this is honestly, the humanity of it all. I rather love the idea that people were making a mess of what it meant to follow Jesus pretty much within hours of the resurrection. We are in very good human company. We are in a long tradition of people who make a royal mess of it all! Might this perspective help us deal with contentious issues, which often have to do with interpretation of the law? Paul reminds us that the law is provisional and can never justify or save us. In fact, it can only imprison us. It is Christ who frees us from the curse of the law and makes us children and heirs of God. But justified in this bible sort of way is about God’s grace it’s about how the division we use to sort people out and keep them in their place don’t fit anymore.

This is not some glazed over utopia; no it’s more elemental than that. It’s not that we are to dismiss law or follow it. It’s a call to faith, a call to live every moment as if you have a faith that you are part of Christ’s body, you are Christ’s body. And so it’s not a call to stop noticing difference, to stop calling our injustice, it’s a call to stop forcing the world to fit into your categories or follow rules before Christ. It’s rather like letting go of all security and leaning into the trust that being Christ’s body is all you can trust. Not something you cling onto but something you live into. It’s a whole lot more difficult than learning the rules, following them and sitting in your smugness knowing with all certainty that you are justified, justified in your rigidity, in your persecution of those more conservative than you or more liberal.

A life justified by faith is a life where you every action is guided by love, by deep curiosity, by a willingness to be thrown off course for the sake of love, a deep awareness that if you are beloved so is your neighbour, even the neighbour you’d never be caught dead working alongside.

Rachel Held Evans died not many weeks ago at the age of 37, she’d fallen into a life’s path of challenging the rules of the churches of her fundamentalist upbringing. She never hated the conservative church that shaped her and raised her. She never spoke of them disparagingly. She just kept coming back to the story of her justification by faith and it drew her toward a faith that was active and alive and deeply rooted in love. She once said:  “Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe, but no one is comfortable. Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create sanctuary.”[2]

I don’t know when my kids will stop coming to church, nor when you might stop coming, I don’t know why these five people will stand up before you today and say yes I affirm the faith of my baptism, I accept that I am justified by faith. I accept that I am a beloved child of God and I dare to allow that truth to lay claim to my life. When you make that sort of commitment, it can turn your life upside down, it can mean that you keep finding all of your rigidness challenged and you keep seeing the light of Christ in your neighbour and it can really mess with your life. True faith doesn’t need justification because it is in itself justified, it is a saving power, not to make your life easy or all better but it justifies your life by laying claim to your soul and drawing you into Christ’s body.


[1] http://www.frederickbuechner.com/quote-of-the-day/2018/9/9/paul?rq=Galatians

[2] https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/42042272-searching-for-sunday-loving-leaving-and-finding-the-church

June 2, 2019: Oh The Places You’ll Go by Alecia Greenfield (John 17: 20-26 New Revised Standard Version)

“I ask not only on behalf of these,

but also on behalf of those

who will believe in me through their word, 

that they may all be one.

As you, Father, are in me

and I am in you,

may they also be in us, 

so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

 The glory that you have given me

I have given them,

so that they may be one,

as we are one, 

I in them

and you in me,

that they may become completely one,

so that the world may know that you have sent me

and have loved them

even as you have loved me. 

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me,

may be with me where I am, to see my glory,

which you have given me

because you loved me

before the foundation of the world.

“Righteous Father, the world does not know you,

but I know you;

and these know that you have sent me. 

I made your name known to them,

and I will make it known,

so that the love with which you have loved me

may be in them, and I in them.”

Hello. It is a pleasure to be here today. I’m Alecia, and as we get going there are a couple things that might be helpful to know. First, I worship in the Anglican tradition, and those Anglican’s we’re big into the liturgical year, the church’s calendar, just a heads up. Also, I am a recent VST graduate and like every student totally into all that classroom learning right now. Today, it may be useful for you to know (or remember) that the Greek word John uses in his Gospel for the Holy Spirit is Paraclete. It is also translated as comforter or advocate. And equally important I am a classmate and friend of Frances Kitson who has been talking about you (this community) and how fabulous you are for years and so it is a such a delight to be here and finally meet you.

And now that we know we are all friends and disciples in Christ together, I can admit how I first read our Gospel reading today. You know how you can read the words but they don’t stick. It is my practice to read a passage three times, then reflect. So I read and then walked away and I realized I had retained nothing.

Which is disturbing. Because I believe the church has chosen a passage has something to say here in this specific (liturgical) time.

Today we have a passage for dangerous times. These are the words Jesus leaves the disciples with when he is on his way to arrest and death. And we hear them in the liturgical year in an in between time. This past Thursday was the feast of Ascension when the resurrected Jesus leaves the disciples. Jesus rises to glory. The disciples, they go to Jerusalem and wait.  Because Pentecost is coming, when the Holy Spirit comes and fills the disciples. But Pentecost is not yet; it’s next week.

And these were dangerous times, the empire gathers on the other side of the door. Just outside. In biblical times that looked a little Roman, like the random violence of oppression. It looked like crucifixion for gathering too many people who believed that their faith was more important than life or death.

But there are other ways to look at danger. Empire might also look like a corporation. Identity of profit that expands into our imagination and defines what normal, reasonable, appropriate might look like. I drove into Kelowna a couple weeks ago to visit Frances and couldn’t see the water, couldn’t see the hills for the billboards plastered on the roadside dictating my attention to the importance of new car tires and more gas. The corporate empire fills up my sight, dangerously.

On the other side of the Kelowna hills are stands of dead, burnt wood. Wildfire ravaged the region, the climate is changing, but through that change billboards blot out the burn site.

And into the waiting of change, the church gives us, gifts us, this reading. This is a prayer. This is what Jesus prays as he prepares to leave his disciples. This is a moment before faith and empire collide.  The chronicle of events is that Jesus prays these words, then goes out to get arrested, and Simon Peter cuts off someone’s ear with a sword. The disciples are preparing for danger – they are carrying weapons and they get- – –  this prayer.

*****

And I come back to hard to read. This is NOT one of those famous passages that we can recite off by heart. This is not what people read to rally the troupes for expeditions or to bless special occasions.

It’s not a story, it’s not a list, ten commandments to a life of righteousness, it’s not so beautiful that these words catch in our heart… And after spending all week waddling about in these words what catches my attention first is how much these words just slip through my attention. This is a hard passage to hold

I find, when I cannot easily understand or hold a passage – I turn to the community to help me read it.

“I ask not only on behalf of these,

but also on behalf of those

In the pattern of this passage I hear     

Dr Seuss.

What happens when we stop looking at the scripture with our most serious and most earnest faces and look instead for beauty? What happens when, inspired by Dr Seuss, we recognize both the danger and still look with a sense of adventure and fun? It’s partly in the rhythm, and partly in the imagination. But all of a sudden this scripture strikes a picture – we can ascend higher, we can fight the empire.

Lets look at it together. Remembering that when Jesus says disciples – in John, he means all disciples, including us.  So listen up! In the Greek it is even clearer –in this passage, when Jesus says they he is talking about us.

Jesus says:

that they may all be one.

As you, Father, are in me

and I am in you,

may they also be in us, 

Jesus prays for us to be one with God. Just as he is one with God.

That’s huge claim. When was the last time you walked into a room thinking – yup, here goes me and God, together, one. It’s so alarming that it is too scary to think let alone say- —- and still Jesus prays, for us, his disciples.

Next week in Pentecost we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples. They are filled with the Holy Spirit. Anglicans officially believe at baptism that we are filled with the Holy Spirit. I am filled with the Holy Spirit.     The trinity is IN me.    and I am in God. The trinity is IN us. And we are IN God. Take that closer. Jesus prays for you, the disciple. May you be one with the Creator.

And if I take that too seriously I lose all the mysteriously, I might behave all imperiously. But what if we step into this truth, poetically, playfully.

 Imagine, this is true. God is in you, right now. The Holy Spirit a flame, a wave, a dove, that wiggles and jiggles and tickles your insides. I don’t know why, but when we keep our eyelids up, we see it all, in the Gospel.

Except, when we think poetically, we can sentimentalize, we penalize the Gospel for our inability to imagine both earnestly, and playfully. Teachers like Dr Seuss sensitize our ears and hearts, to hear truth when we are frightened. Frightened by alarming claims, or frightened by dangerous times. Dr Seuss wrote about nuclear arms race, about Nazis and about environmental emergency.  And we can hear truth when we smile at the name of Yertle the Turtle and then remember that the turtle on top relies on the turtle on the bottom. Or read on despite despair guided by the rhyme of The Lorax.

And we too read on in our scripture, because this packed passage is in fact not done. We tracked one meaning but there’s more. Jesus prays for love,

Jesus says:

so that the love with which you have loved me

may be in them, and I in them.

In this one passage Jesus uses the word love five times. A poetic clue that this is important glue. Love and being one in God are connected.

So what about that? Have you ever walked into a room and announced you are one with God and that God loves you like God loves Jesus? What about walking into a room just knowing it? Tucked into your heart and showing in your posture, you actions, you are in God, and God is in you and Jesus prays that the Father might love you the way the Father loves Jesus. I guess, it’s a little easier to listen when there is no division, from love.  When our vision fills up with, with poetic prayer.

****

And then, remember, this passage isn’t talking about the easy times.  These are the queasy times, when we have choices that are about more than our life and death. These are the times when it feels like Jesus has gone to glory, and we are surrounded by stands of dead burn sites and billboards.

And Jesus prays:

 The glory that you have given me

I have given them,

so that they may be one,

as we are one, 

In dangerous times, do you walk into the street, feeling all filled with up, complete with Paraclete? It’s no conceit. It’s Gospel.

As you, Father, are in me

and I am in you,

may they also be in us, 

so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

Gathering all these themes, a hard to hold passage, the guidance of quirky Dr Seuss, prayer in dangerous time. I add one more consideration. When our hearts fill with gloom. There seems like no room. Where our little action feels without traction. When we choose to do nothing because a little seems to small, that is the time to remember this passage. Jesus says we are one. Us and the Holy Spirit. One.

So let us get whimsical, lyrical, and a whole lot biblical. Let’s go into a dangerous time as poets.

Therefore I pray,

Creator, as we step into our dangerous times, when change is hard and scary and we want to stop and be all cautionary, help us to remember that disciples go about. This is not time to hideout.  Remind us we are never without Jesus’ prayer.

God be with us, God be in us. Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, wiggle and jiggle, and tickle our insides to shift us and shape us towards your love. Gather all our little actions, be one with you and your justice.

June 9, 2019: The Problem with the Holy Spirit by Rev. Beth Hayward (Pentecost Acts 2: 1-21)

I remember this news headline from several years ago in the satirical online publication The Onion. It read “God Quietly Phasing Holy Ghost out of the Trinity.” The Holy Ghost, the article said, will be given fewer and fewer responsibilities leading up to its formal resignation following Easter services. The rational included the usual over staffed and over budget but my favourite reason for the layoff was the “unclear nature of the Holy Ghost’s duties.[1]

I remember this news headline from several years ago in the satirical online publication The Onion. It read “God Quietly Phasing Holy Ghost out of the Trinity.” The Holy Ghost, the article said, will be given fewer and fewer responsibilities leading up to its formal resignation following Easter services. The rational included the usual over staffed and over budget but my favourite reason for the layoff was the “unclear nature of the Holy Ghost’s duties.[1]

There’s some truth to it, right? The church will tell you that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. But really, what does that mean? I’ve taken an entire course on the Trinity and the Holy Spirit still eludes me. The other two persons of the Trinity are marginally easier to comprehend. Jesus was the Galilean who lived and died and was resurrected. There’s something tangible about him. God, well we could spend a lifetime debating the nature of God. At least we share God with the world’s great religions; worth hanging onto for that reason alone. What exactly is the Holy Spirit? Is it useful to us even if we can’t quite grasp it?  

If you were here two weeks ago you’ll remember that Tama, our Minister of Children Youth and Families, stood here and told you that the most important thing in the Christian faith is story, not doctrine or practice! The biggest problem with the Holy Spirit may well be the fact that the church, in her wisdom, has boxed the Spirit into the doctrine of the Trinity. In trying to make sense of this presence that shows up in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and is described as everything from a dove to breath to tongues of fire, well it’s possible that we’ve sucked the life out of the Holy Spirit. Maybe, the Spirit was never meant to be tamed.

And then we make it more complicated. You can be spiritual but not religious at the same time. Spiritual things are different from material things. I mean Spirit is about those lofty things we aspire to through quieting our minds, leaving behind the physical for a while and touching instead, well, the spiritual.

But what if Spirit stirs us up to pay attention to what’s happening right here right now? What if the Holy Spirit is the persuasive, persistent, presence of God that won’t let you go, until you pay attention to this life, your real physical life? What if Spirit has everything to do with our actual physical lives, inextricable from the food we eat and the company we keep and the seemingly innocuous decisions we make day in and day out? What if the Spirit is that which lures us back to the truth of the oneness of all creation? What if the Spirit is actually here, right now?

That first Pentecost day there they were 120 members of the newly formed Christian community and several thousand others out for an enjoyable long weekend afternoon. Those 120 had been waiting and wondering for ten days, since Jesus was unceremoniously swept into the skies: when would the promised Spirit arrive? He had told them that Spirit would come and that they would be empowered to be his body in the world. You have to wonder if they thought Spirit would come in this way, barging in, interrupting a perfectly fine celebration:  no visions in dreams, no doves gliding by, instead: tongues of fire resting on everyone: not just those who had been patiently and prayerfully waiting but on everyone, as if not even discerning who might be worthy of such a gracing. In the aftermath of Pentecost I expect the most lasting impact, the thing that none of those effected could shake was the fact that the Spirit was so undiscerning, every last person there was impacted in some way, invited to a complete and utter transformation.

When Spirit showed up on Pentecost people didn’t fall to their knees and pray, they didn’t pack their bags for an eight-day silent retreat, nah they turned to one another and said “what is going on here?” They were confused and surprised all at the same time. Their initial responses were as varied as ours would be. Some of them tried immediately to contain the Spirit and box it up in their usual answers. They tried to dismiss this transformative, life giving moment by saying “those people are just drunk on cheap wine.”And some of them stayed in that question long enough to be brought to their knees but others went to their usual excuses, or to put it more gently their usual efforts to box up and explain and package the power of the Spirit. But some of them caught a glimpse how the walls that divide, the walls we build, the languages that keep us safe and secure are a lie, or at least an inadequate story.

And when the Holy Spirit shows up well we know it’s happening because old worn out stories start to crumble and the walls we build up between us and them are revealed for what they truly are, permeable barriers. The Spirit can’t be kept out. Maybe the Spirit is not the presence that helps us escape the troubles of this life but the nuisance that keeps drawing our attention back to this life.

No matter how much the church has tried to contain the Spirit in doctrine, it is truly all about story. I wonder what stories we are telling, without even realizing it? I wonder if we know, I mean really know, that the Spirit is right here in our midst inviting us to dream bigger, to turn some stories on their heads?

Scholar and activist Joanna Macy wrote a book a few years back entitled Active Hope.[2] She is rooted in the Buddhist tradition but her work translates and I don’t suppose she’d be offended to hear me interpret her work through the lens of the Holy Spirit. She talks about how we can respond to any moment and specifically this moment we are in globally, this moment where fear is seeping in and we are living the story of climate change. She suggests that there are three ways to tell the story of the times in which we are living: Business as usual, The Great Unraveling and the Great Turning.

Business as usual is just as it sounds. It is carrying on with life saying all is well, without a questioning perspective. Business as usual says economic growth is essential for prosperity, it says consumption is good, getting ahead is right, it says nature is a commodity to be used by humans. The measure of success in Business as Usual is around how much more we have than we used to or how much farther and faster we can go. It’s a bit difficult when living in the midst of it to see that you could actually ask questions of the business as usual model. 

            The second story is The Great Unraveling, Or put more crassly we’re going to hell in a hand basket. The great unraveling is when you look around at the list of things that are going wrong and you throw your hands in the air not because you don’t care but because you feel powerless. Climate change, the growing gap between rich and poor the world over, mass migration, political upheaval, nuclear threat, mass species extinction. I dare say there are moments in our own small lives mirror this reality and we are sure that there is no way out of the mess we are living of grief or brokenness, or loss. Some of us find ourselves moving back and forth between these two realities many times in the span of a day, in fact most of us do.

Macy proposes a third way. She calls it the Great Turning but for our intents and purposes today I’m going to call it the way of the Holy Spirit. The third way as three dimensions: action, and I like to call it the way of The Holy Spirit.

The first action of the third was includes protests like the one happening this afternoon, but ask anyone who’s dedicated their life to social action and they’ll tell you if can suck the life out of you. The second is changing behaviours, like how this congregation took its investments a decade ago and decided profit was not the only measure we’d use to determine where to invest we wanted to invest ethically and not in the fossil fuel industry or think about the rise in farmers markets and CSA boxes, or how you bring your own bags to the grocery store and your own cup to the coffee shop.

The third aspect of the third way, is the place where the Holy Spirit is at work. Our changes in action and our behaviour cannot stand-alone. She talks about refreshing our sense of belonging in the world. In the past, changing the self and changing the world were seen as separate endeavours, in either-or terms. But in the story of the Great Turning they are mutually reinforcing and essential to one another. We need to let go of the “us” and “them” story. We are one. Sounds rather like what the Holy Spirit was up to that day.

It sounds simple, it makes good sense and yet the Third way IS IN fact a monumental shift. It is a grieving, if you will, of the both business as usual and the great unraveling, it is like what happens when the Spirit shows up and suddenly young men have visions and old men dream dreams – that’s not how it’s supposed to be!!!

We have a choice about the stories we will root ourselves in, the stories we live and the stories we will dream and vision together. But it comes down to which story will you tell, which story is worthy of your life? Which story has the power to breathe life into your very being and turn your entire life upside down.

The story the early church experienced, lived, breathed on that first Pentecost day – it was one that at its core broke down every division people had put in place to make sense of the world. First the disciples emerged from the room in which they’d taken up residence, then the crowds came running, then people understood one another, they even understood those ruddy, backwater Galileans.

Underneath the differences of nationality and language, there was a fundamental unity that was not only touched but enlivened and experienced, profoundly, by many who were there. Others scoffed and interpreted even the most amazing of events through the eyes and ears of cynicism, but those with hearts and minds that were open to the movement of the Spirit knew that a new day had come.

And perhaps that is what makes Pentecost so terribly ordinary and remarkable: perhaps that day serves as a loud reminder that Spirit is in our midst, sweeping through our very beings all the time.  That day people felt something overwhelming and it changed their lives, it was a moment of commitment of reigniting the fire in their bellies…  it was not a moment of signing up to a particular set of religious beliefs,  there was no test about whether those gathered believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or whether God is some other worldly being or whether their theological views were in total alignment with the community.  This was not a melting pot moment, this crowd gathered was not made to fit in some sort of box rather it was a moment where each one tapped into the deep wisdom within, the innate call to life that we all fiercely share. 

Was life perfect after that, heck no, most of those disciples were martyred as the story unfolded. But they caught a glimpse, or more accurately they caught a breath of the presence of the Spirit, and they knew in their hearts that there are a story to be lived where the bounds of who we have capacity to care about were broken open, their minds were blown.

Maybe the duties of the Holy Ghost aren’t so unclear after all, its role is to cause trouble, to mess with our heads, to disorient, to shake us into paying attention, to insist when no one else will that there is another way, and it’s a way where every last division we use to make sense of the world and to protect ourselves is shaken to the core. Maybe Spirit is the power that shows us we are all one.

Way back in the years following WWII astronomer Fred Hoyle said that onece a photograph of the Earth was taken from outside, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” Twenty years later when Bill Anders, the astronaut who took the first pictures of earth from the moon, commented, “We came all this way to explore the moon and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.” The earth with no political borders, from way up there in space no divisions of race or class or species, just one, great world.

What stories is Spirit calling us to live about this world and our place in it.

One of the ways we seek to touch into the power of Spirit is in this sacrament that transcends time that links us to the first followers of Jesus while at the same time draws us into future possibilities of a new story. Flow into an invitation to the communion table…


[1] https://www.theonion.com/god-quietly-phasing-holy-ghost-out-of-trinity-1819566754

[2] Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In without Going Crazy, New World Library, California, 2012.

There’s some truth to it, right? The church will tell you that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. But really, what does that mean? I’ve taken an entire course on the Trinity and the Holy Spirit still eludes me. The other two persons of the Trinity are marginally easier to comprehend. Jesus was the Galilean who lived and died and was resurrected. There’s something tangible about him. God, well we could spend a lifetime debating the nature of God. At least we share God with the world’s great religions; worth hanging onto for that reason alone. What exactly is the Holy Spirit? Is it useful to us even if we can’t quite grasp it?  

If you were here two weeks ago you’ll remember that Tama, our Minister of Children Youth and Families, stood here and told you that the most important thing in the Christian faith is story, not doctrine or practice! The biggest problem with the Holy Spirit may well be the fact that the church, in her wisdom, has boxed the Spirit into the doctrine of the Trinity. In trying to make sense of this presence that shows up in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, and is described as everything from a dove to breath to tongues of fire, well it’s possible that we’ve sucked the life out of the Holy Spirit. Maybe, the Spirit was never meant to be tamed.

And then we make it more complicated. You can be spiritual but not religious at the same time. Spiritual things are different from material things. I mean Spirit is about those lofty things we aspire to through quieting our minds, leaving behind the physical for a while and touching instead, well, the spiritual.

But what if Spirit stirs us up to pay attention to what’s happening right here right now? What if the Holy Spirit is the persuasive, persistent, presence of God that won’t let you go, until you pay attention to this life, your real physical life? What if Spirit has everything to do with our actual physical lives, inextricable from the food we eat and the company we keep and the seemingly innocuous decisions we make day in and day out? What if the Spirit is that which lures us back to the truth of the oneness of all creation? What if the Spirit is actually here, right now?

That first Pentecost day there they were 120 members of the newly formed Christian community and several thousand others out for an enjoyable long weekend afternoon. Those 120 had been waiting and wondering for ten days, since Jesus was unceremoniously swept into the skies: when would the promised Spirit arrive? He had told them that Spirit would come and that they would be empowered to be his body in the world. You have to wonder if they thought Spirit would come in this way, barging in, interrupting a perfectly fine celebration:  no visions in dreams, no doves gliding by, instead: tongues of fire resting on everyone: not just those who had been patiently and prayerfully waiting but on everyone, as if not even discerning who might be worthy of such a gracing. In the aftermath of Pentecost I expect the most lasting impact, the thing that none of those effected could shake was the fact that the Spirit was so undiscerning, every last person there was impacted in some way, invited to a complete and utter transformation.

When Spirit showed up on Pentecost people didn’t fall to their knees and pray, they didn’t pack their bags for an eight-day silent retreat, nah they turned to one another and said “what is going on here?” They were confused and surprised all at the same time. Their initial responses were as varied as ours would be. Some of them tried immediately to contain the Spirit and box it up in their usual answers. They tried to dismiss this transformative, life giving moment by saying “those people are just drunk on cheap wine.”And some of them stayed in that question long enough to be brought to their knees but others went to their usual excuses, or to put it more gently their usual efforts to box up and explain and package the power of the Spirit. But some of them caught a glimpse how the walls that divide, the walls we build, the languages that keep us safe and secure are a lie, or at least an inadequate story.

And when the Holy Spirit shows up well we know it’s happening because old worn out stories start to crumble and the walls we build up between us and them are revealed for what they truly are, permeable barriers. The Spirit can’t be kept out. Maybe the Spirit is not the presence that helps us escape the troubles of this life but the nuisance that keeps drawing our attention back to this life.

No matter how much the church has tried to contain the Spirit in doctrine, it is truly all about story. I wonder what stories we are telling, without even realizing it? I wonder if we know, I mean really know, that the Spirit is right here in our midst inviting us to dream bigger, to turn some stories on their heads?

Scholar and activist Joanna Macy wrote a book a few years back entitled Active Hope.[2] She is rooted in the Buddhist tradition but her work translates and I don’t suppose she’d be offended to hear me interpret her work through the lens of the Holy Spirit. She talks about how we can respond to any moment and specifically this moment we are in globally, this moment where fear is seeping in and we are living the story of climate change. She suggests that there are three ways to tell the story of the times in which we are living: Business as usual, The Great Unraveling and the Great Turning.

Business as usual is just as it sounds. It is carrying on with life saying all is well, without a questioning perspective. Business as usual says economic growth is essential for prosperity, it says consumption is good, getting ahead is right, it says nature is a commodity to be used by humans. The measure of success in Business as Usual is around how much more we have than we used to or how much farther and faster we can go. It’s a bit difficult when living in the midst of it to see that you could actually ask questions of the business as usual model. 

            The second story is The Great Unraveling, Or put more crassly we’re going to hell in a hand basket. The great unraveling is when you look around at the list of things that are going wrong and you throw your hands in the air not because you don’t care but because you feel powerless. Climate change, the growing gap between rich and poor the world over, mass migration, political upheaval, nuclear threat, mass species extinction. I dare say there are moments in our own small lives mirror this reality and we are sure that there is no way out of the mess we are living of grief or brokenness, or loss. Some of us find ourselves moving back and forth between these two realities many times in the span of a day, in fact most of us do.

Macy proposes a third way. She calls it the Great Turning but for our intents and purposes today I’m going to call it the way of the Holy Spirit. The third way as three dimensions: action, and I like to call it the way of The Holy Spirit.

The first action of the third was includes protests like the one happening this afternoon, but ask anyone who’s dedicated their life to social action and they’ll tell you if can suck the life out of you. The second is changing behaviours, like how this congregation took its investments a decade ago and decided profit was not the only measure we’d use to determine where to invest we wanted to invest ethically and not in the fossil fuel industry or think about the rise in farmers markets and CSA boxes, or how you bring your own bags to the grocery store and your own cup to the coffee shop.

The third aspect of the third way, is the place where the Holy Spirit is at work. Our changes in action and our behaviour cannot stand-alone. She talks about refreshing our sense of belonging in the world. In the past, changing the self and changing the world were seen as separate endeavours, in either-or terms. But in the story of the Great Turning they are mutually reinforcing and essential to one another. We need to let go of the us and them story. We are one. Sounds rather like what the Holy Spirit was up to that day.

It sounds simple, it makes good sense and yet the Third way IS IN fact a monumental shift. It is a grieving, if you will, of the both business as usual and the great unraveling, it is like what happens when the Spirit shows up and suddenly young men have visions and old men dream dreams – that’s not how its supposed to be!!!

We have a choice about the stories we will root ourselves in, the stories we live and the stories we will dream and vision together. But it comes down to which story will you tell, which story is worthy of your life? Which story has the power to breathe life into your very being and turn your entire life upside down

The story the early church experienced, lived, breathed on that first Pentecost day – it was one that at its core broke down every division people had put in place to make sense of the world. First the disciples emerged from the room in which they’d taken up residence, then the crowds came running, then people understood one another, they even understood those ruddy, backwater Galileans.

Underneath the differences of nationality and language, there was a fundamental unity that was not only touched but enlivened and experienced, profoundly, by many who were there. Others scoffed and interpreted even the most amazing of events through the eyes and ears of cynicism, but those with hearts and minds that were open to the movement of the Spirit knew that a new day had come.

And perhaps that is what makes Pentecost so terribly ordinary and remarkable: perhaps that day serves as a loud reminder that Spirit is in our midst, sweeping through our very beings all the time.  That day people felt something overwhelming and it changed their lives, it was a moment of commitment of reigniting the fire in their bellies…  it was not a moment of signing up to a particular set of religious beliefs,  there was no test about whether those gathered believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or whether God is some other worldly being or whether their theological views were in total alignment with the community.  This was not a melting pot moment, this crowd gathered was not made to fit in some sort of box rather it was a moment where each one tapped into the deep wisdom within, the innate call to life that we all fiercely share. 

Was life perfect after that, heck no, most of those disciples were martyred as the story unfolded. But they caught a glimpse, or more accurately they caught a breath of the presence of the Spirit, and they knew in their hearts that there are a story to be lived where the bounds of who we have capacity to care about were broken open, their minds were blown.

Maybe the duties of the Holy Ghost aren’t so unclear afterall, its role is to cause trouble, to mess with our heads, to disorient, to shake us into paying attention, to insist when no one else will that there is another way, and it’s a way where every last division we use to make sense of the world and to protect ourselves is shaken to the core. Maybe Spirit is the power that shows us we are all one.

Way back in the years following WWII astronomer Fred Hoyle said that onece a photograph of the Earth was taken from outside, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” Twenty years later when Bill Anders, the astronaut who took the first pictures of earth from the moon, commented, “We came all this way to explore the moon and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.” The earth with no political borders, from way up there in space no divisions of race or class or species, just one, great world.

What stories is Spirit calling us to live about this world and our place in it.

One of the ways we seek to touch into the power of Spirit is in this sacrament that transcends time that links us to the first followers of Jesus while at the same time draws us into future possibilities of a new story. Flow into an invitation to the communion table…


[1] https://www.theonion.com/god-quietly-phasing-holy-ghost-out-of-trinity-1819566754

[2] Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In without Going Crazy, New World Library, California, 2012.

April 28, 2019: How does Jesus Save our Bodies? by Frances Kitson (John 20: 19-31)

Christianity has somehow made salvation about our souls, and often we’ve taught that being saved means going to heaven instead of hell. But what about today? What about here and now? How are we saved in this life, in these bodies? That is the question that intrigues me this morning with this passage.

Jesus shows up as a body: a body that breathes, a body with wounds. This is not a ghost, this is not a spirit; neither is it a shiny, intact body, restored to what it was before his death. Jesus shows up in a body.

Christianity has a shameful history of degrading, belittling, and denigrating the body. We have taught that it comes second to the spirit; that it is something to be denied and punished; that any physical pleasure is morally suspect.

We have punished the bodies of women: we have taught that the pain and risk of childbirth is the price women are meant to pay as a result of Eve’s actions; we have taught that women are called to be virginal and without any physical desire; we have taught that women are responsible for the behaviour of men and that any assault they suffer is their fault.

We have punished the bodies of non-white people, lending theological credence to lynchings, enslavement, and racist laws.

We continue to punish the bodies of our queer siblings: rejecting those who don’t fit gender binaries or love the people we insist they are supposed to love.

There is much of which we are called to repent.

And the problem with all of the above is that is actually goes against one of the most fundamental pieces of Christian doctrine: Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ was both fully human and fully divine.

The Athanasian Creed of the 4th century has this to say: “He is God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; / and he is Man, of the Substance of his Mother, born in the world”. Every one of the statements of doctrine in the United Church manual make reference to Jesus as God incarnate.

The human body is not only created by God; it has been assumed by God. Christianity teaches that God has inhabited the human body and walked in it on earth. The human body is loved by God. It is not something to be despised; it is created by God and God has called it good.

The Jewish heritage of Jesus did not preach ascetism, or denial of the body, as a means of faithfulness. There were ideas about purity and impurity, but impurity wasn’t a bad thing. It was just a fact of life, and it was the place where people lived our everyday lives.

Jesus doesn’t preach punishment of the body either. There might be demands placed upon the body in order to focus it to prepare for the urgency of the coming of the kingdom of God, but Jesus was called a glutton and a drunkard by his peers, because he seemed to always be feasting and merrymaking with his friends.

Jesus used everyday situations to illustrate his points. He talked about sheep, and a woman sweeping her house, and mustard seeds. He talked about a physical, tangible life that is lived in the body. Jesus healed the physical suffering of people who came to him. Jesus celebrated at wedding feasts. Jesus lived a physical life in his physical body.

Jesus died a physical death in his physical body.

And Jesus rose from his physical death in a physical body.

The factual veracity or biological likelihood of any of this is not the question at issue. This story is handed down to us from our forebears in faith as a story of good news, a story of salvation, and our job is to listen for how God is speaking to us today, here and now, through this story. My question, then, in interrogating this story would be this: from what do our physical bodies need saving here and now?

In the world in which we live, we are offered stories that are both life-denying and life-affirming. One of the most life-denying, dangerous stories the world offers, and it’s a story that gets some people killed, is that some bodies matter more than others. The bodies that matter are the young, white, straight, cisgender, slim, muscular, polished, well-dressed, male, masculine bodies that never suffer illness.

Which leaves a whole lot of us out.

It leaves out trans bodies, queer bodies, old bodies, female bodies, soft bodies, round bodies, black bodies, south Asian bodies, Indigenous bodies.

It leaves out the body that uses a walker, a wheelchair, or a crutch.

It leaves out the body with wrinkles, rolls, age spots, and white hair.

It leaves out the body with pain, whether it’s the pain of knees wearing out or endometriosis.

It leaves out the body that doesn’t fit into categories: the body that doesn’t express its gender in either pink or blue; the body that isn’t skilled at the activities its gender is supposed to be good at, whether wearing makeup or wielding a chainsaw; the body that wears the clothes it isn’t supposed to.

And when a body doesn’t matter, then it’s dispensable.

It can get shot by police.

It can have its assault belittled by the justice system.

It can be a target for the rage of good guys who have just had a little too much to drink.

The story that some bodies don’t matter will get some of us killed. The story that some bodies don’t matter will make its wounds upon all our hearts. And one of the wounds is that we will at some point be complicit in that story.

Jesus says “no” to that story.

Jesus said “no” in his life, in his ministry, and in his resurrection.

The risen Jesus has gone on saying “no” to that story for the last two thousand years.

Jesus rises from what should have killed him – in fact, did kill him. None of this spiritualizing or sanitizing his death: Jesus of Nazareth died a horrible death, and it most emphatically killed him, but that was not the point. The suffering and the death are not the point of the crucifixion; the resurrection is the point.

Jesus has suffered as we suffer. In the person of Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate entered agony, humiliation, betrayal, rejection, and death. God knows our pain because God has lived it. Jesus was most definitely a body that didn’t matter.

In his resurrection, Jesus rises in a body that bears the wounds of the cross but is very much alive. Jesus lives a physical resurrection from a physical death, and in so doing, lives out divine love of the human body.

Your body.

My body.

Our bodies.

Our bodies that, for whatever reason, society deems unworthy of love. Our bodies that don’t count. Our bodies that aren’t good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, white enough, normal enough, straight enough, cis enough, young enough, disciplined enough, hot enough.

The resurrected Jesus rose as a human body, warm and breathing, living a life that by all known rules of the universe should have been impossible, and that is the story Jesus offers us. That is the good news this story offers us.

The wounded, discarded, rejected body is loved by God and invited into new, impossible, joyous life. A life with scars, yes. A life that will not be the same as the life we had, or the life thought we should have, or the life we thought we wanted. We might not live a life that will get us on a magazine cover. We might not live the shiny, pretty life that is supposed to be the life that matters. We definitely will not live a life without pain.

But my friends, we are going to live a life in God. In our bodies.

Your body.

My body.

Our bodies.

These beloved bodies are who we are, and they are beloved by God. We are the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is full of life and possibility. And as such, let’s take the risk of faith this morning.

Let’s dare to say “yes” to God.

Let’s dare to live faith and resurrection and impossible life in these beautiful, broken, scarred bodies of ours.

Let’s dare to hear God’s call to rise from our graves, put away our burial cloths, and come out of the tomb into a life in God, in Christ, in the Spirit. For truly, I tell you: it is calling us.

Thanks be to God.