RSS Feed

Author Archives: megancastellan

What we talk about when we talk about sin

I had entirely forgotten, but I apparently dove right into Lent and preached on original sin. Whoo boy.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

March 1, 2020

Lent 1, Year A

Matthew, Romans

As it is Lent, and as I appear to have fallen prey to some sort of Lent-induced psychosis, let’s just dive into Paul’s letter to the Romans today, and talk about sin!

The lectionary this Sunday is sin coming and going.  Or-rather, it hits the points that we are used to hearing associated with sin.  There’s the story of the garden, there’s Paul talking about justification through Christ, and then there’s Jesus resisting the devil’s temptations in Matthew. Trouble is, sin is one of those words that has been tossed around so much in our world that sometimes we don’t always know what we mean by it.

So, today: sin!  

First off, a quick stop over in Genesis, and a reminder that this story isn’t literal.  I know that you know that, but when we get to this particular story, occasionally theologians suddenly get more literal than they would otherwise.  The story of Adam and Eve in the garden is really fascinating in that they are such little kids.  They’re told “Look, there’s ONE THING you can’t do.  Please don’t do this one thing” so of course, they promptly do that one thing.  They can’t resist.  We aren’t told why Eve thinks this would be good, she just does. And Adam promptly follows suit.

There are a lot of things that I love about this story, but we don’t have time to dwell today.  Suffice it to say that this story is less about How Humans Became Evil, and more about How Choices Have Consequences.  Adam and Eve make a choice and disobey God, and then can’t control the consequences of that choice.  But—their relationship with God is not severed, even when they immediately assume that it is.  God immediately seeks them out, and again constructs a way to be in relationship. Their initial disobedience causes fear, and distrust of God, whom they had never been scared of before, which in turn causes more fear, and more disobedience, and more fear, and so on and so forth.  But even as the humans will continue to act in fear and confusion—precisely because they’re human—God continues to seek them out over time.  Time and time again. 

So this brings us to Romans.  Paul’s letter to Romans is basically Paul’s attempt to explain his understanding of how faith in Jesus works, in a cosmic, logical sense.  Paul, remember, is a smart guy—he was a trained Pharisee, so he knew all the Jewish law backwards and forwards.  He was a Roman citizen, and he was pretty well connected.  He’s writing here to some Christians in Rome, and trying to explain how Jesus fits within their worldview of Greek philosophy, and as people distantly acquainted with Jewish thought.

In other words, he’s trying to explain why Jesus matters, using Greek philosophy and Jewish faith.  And we need to bear that in mind when we read Romans, because his context is different than ours.  Paul, for example, as a faithful Jew didn’t see the Genesis story as establishing original sin, the way Augustine, or horrors—John Calvin, does later.  

So when Paul talks about righteousness, he’s not talking about moral purity, or about obsessively correct behavior.  Righteousness was understood in a Jewish context to be when you have done everything required of you by the law, so that you were in correct relationship with everyone.  You didn’t owe your workers, you didn’t withhold from your parents, you didn’t cheat your spouse.  You were righteous.  It wasn’t an inner state at all—it was a social state. 

To be justified was to be made righteous.  It was when someone else came in and settled all debts you had outstanding.  Like, if your older brother stepped in and paid your workers for you and made sure your kids were provided for.  Then your older brother had justified you.  Again, it’s not an interior state of purity.  It’s a really concrete social idea that can be demonstrated.

Here’s where it gets complicated!

Paul is arguing a logic train here.  Look, he says: like we good religious folk who know our Hebrew Scriptures know that Adam’s disobedience caused unforeseen consequences and the entry of death into the world.  This is a story we have.  Sin—this wacky human proclivity to make dumb choices—has always been here, he points out.  And we know this.  It’s why God gave us the law, to restrain our dumb choices.

If that sort of cascading effect happened once, then couldn’t it happen again?  Why couldn’t Jesus who in his life and presence brings us closer to God, have a similar effect?

Jesus makes us all righteous, Paul argues.  Not because he satisfies an angry God who desires a blood sacrifice, but because Jesus was able to live a correct human life of total obedience to God, even when it was most difficult.  In Jesus’s life, we are no longer separated from God by the effects of disobedience, by our fear and distrust.  We are brought near, and we are enfolded into the Divine life.  We don’t have to be afraid anymore.

Jesus’ entire life undoes the effects of our human proclivity to make bad choices, because it brings us near again to God, and shows us what is possible when we live in communion with God.

I realize talking about sin is not super popular, and original sin is less so.  But original sin, at its heart, is not the idea that babies are intrinsically evil.  It is more the idea that bad decisions, and their consequences, build on themselves.  The decisions my ancestors made—the effects of many of them were individual.  But the effects of a lot of them continue to affect me.   And then those make it harder to make good decisions.

Jesus, in his life, and his radical obedience to God, and not to the powers of the world, made it clear that another way is possible for us.  We may not get there now, but God is bringing it about slowly and surely.  The sin that follows us so closely since the days of Adam, trapping us in fear and panic, won’t always dog our steps.  God has given us a way out in Jesus.  

So every time we act on our faith, and not on our fear, every time we follow Jesus instead of the way the world always works, we are turning away from sin and towards the God who loves us.  We are coming one step closer to the day that the web sin built won’t entangle this world anymore.  And in the meantime, we do our best that we can and ask for forgiveness for the times we don’t get there.  But we try, bit by bit.  Because sin or no sin, God loves us dearly, and is with us regardless, and has sent Jesus to undo the mess we humans get ourselves in.

Amen.

The Lentiest Lent that ever did Lent

Well, hello there.

I did not consciously give up the blog for Lent, inasmuch as Lent coincided with the global Covid-19 pandemic. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, church was shut down, the economy basically collapsed, lots of people were sick and the president is telling folks to drink bleach.

So, rather than updating my sermons on the blog, I’ve been moving the whole church enterprise online since the start of March. (Come hang out with us on Facebook! Or YouTube! My brother wants me to get a Twitch channel also but so far I am resisting!)

I will try to go back and update my sermons, however, since I have found that for some, reading the sermons just works better than watching them (or hearing them–we also have a podcast.)*** I just can’t promise that it will be super-timely. And from time to time, as always, it will be interspersed with my Thoughts and Opinions on the times in which we find ourselves.

For starters: I tell you what, come Advent 2020, I better not hear a single preacher complain about the apocalyptic texts. At least, not if they do not care to hear a long rant from me about how “our world ends all the time” and “when our way of life comes crashing down, that reveals in a real way truths that often we would rather not face”, complete with a slideshow about these last 6 weeks.

***Really, I am straying frighteningly close to becoming a media mogul. For a person who decided she never wanted to be an actress on screen, because it would mean having to listen to the sound of her own recorded voice, this has been a particularly neurotic making turn of events.

Anyway.

Here’s what I said on Ash Wednesday. Roughly 950 years ago.

There’s a lot that’s fascinating about Ash Wednesday.  Even here in the year 2020, Ash Wednesday has become a strange sort of evangelism tool—of all things!  Clergy venture forth into the streets and crowded city squares to smear ashes on the foreheads of passing strangers, and declare that you are dust, and to dust shall you return.  Of all the parts of Christian life to select in order to bring to others, the part where we proclaim that we’re all going to die is kinda strange.

Yet, the strangeness is what is compelling about this day.  We gather together in church, and fess up to all the things that we spend our lives pretending aren’t true.  We are going to die.  We are pretty imperfect.  We are fairly messed up and the world itself is really messed up, and in fact, we are not sure how to fix any of it.  Today is when we come together and tell a lot of truth.

In the gospel reading for today, Jesus asks his disciples not to parade their piety before others.  Don’t be hypocrites, he tells them.  Don’t say one thing and do something else.  The word he uses throughout the gospels for hypocrite is a specific term for actor.  He’s asking his followers not to pretend in their devotion.  Don’t act out a part in order to impress others. God knows the truth; you’re not helping anyone.  Your faith should be between you and God—not a show for the benefit of others.

After all, it is the world that asks such pretending from us.  The world demands that we have it all together.  The world puts a premium on perfection in all things, while it quietly promises that if we do have secret failings, well, there’s something we can buy for that.  And as we continue with such posing, we begin to isolate ourselves from each other and from God.  

God, however, wants no such pretending from us.  God seeks after the truth of our lives, because the truth is what God already knows.  And the more we find ourselves able to authentically be present to ourselves, with all our imperfections, the easier we find it is to connect with God.  Acknowledging our brokenness doesn’t make us unworthy; it makes us truthful.  And it opens the door for us to meet Christ. 

Lent opens a space in the church where we can be really pretty imperfect.  We don’t have to be happy, we don’t have to be confident, we don’t have to have perfect lives—Lent in fact assures us that God knows we do not have these things.  Lent gives us space to come to church, lay our questions and doubts and struggles down at the altar and say, “I have very little idea what I’m doing in this world and everything seems overwhelming and awful.”  And when we do that, we discover not just that it is worth it, but that there’s a freedom in that, and in our vulnerability, we meet find God.

God, recall, comes to us in the person of Jesus—who was fully human so that divinity might understand what it was to be a confused ash-creature like us.  Jesus was confounded, and frustrated, and overwhelmed by a broken world, too.  Jesus faced mortality, and grief, and suffering.  And in Jesus, God comes to us—ashes and all!  And guides us through.

Amen

Incremental Faith

I very much want to either force the entirety of my parish to watch all of The Good Place immediately, or else to speed up time so I can reasonably preach on the series finale without spoiling it.

However, the likelihood of either of these things happening is small. This is too bad, because The Good Place offers rich metaphors for our understanding of Scripture. (Peter is the Jason Mendoza of the disciples. I will brook no disagreement.)

I was pondering the finale (which is masterful) when I wrote this sermon but I haven’t spoiled anything. So if you haven’t seen this show yet, go directly to Netflix and fix your life.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

February 23, 2020

Last Sunday before Lent, Year A

Matthew 17

—where do stories end?

—we want the work to be accomplished all at once, with a stunning climax.  Boom! 

—Usually, work of faith is slower, harder. We get moments of transfiguration, and then have to go back to the valley, and walk awkwardly to Jerusalem and die.

—Work of faith is in the day to day living.  In the minute decisions.  It’s a practice, not an accomplishment.

Welcome to the Last Sunday in Epiphany—a strange beast in several ways.  It’s the last day we can say Alleluia for a while.  It’s the last time we will break out the green hangings until the summer!  

And it is when we always read the story of the Transfiguration, even though we have a feast of that, and it is in August, not today.  

This Sunday is ever so slightly odd, and yet here it is.  In many ways, this Sunday appears to want to be the climax of the Jesus story—rather than a mid point.  

If this all were being scripted by Disney, if this were one of those movies where a ragtag gang of munchkins learn a sport and triumph at the last moment thanks to pluck and a great speech from the coach, then this would be the final scene.  Jesus has assembled a motley group of disciples from all over—tax collectors, rebels, disaffected layabouts, fishermen—and taught them for 3 years.  They have now started going out on their own, preaching and teaching, and they are finally figuring out who Jesus is maybe.

And now, Jesus goes up the mountain in Galilee, and is transfigured into the image of his glory in front of his disciples.  Their faith and hard work has paid off—now they can see that he is who they believed.  Miracle!  Wonderful!  You can hear the heavenly chorus singing in the background as the LITERAL heavenly chorus appears to chat with Jesus.

But then it’s over.  Then it disappears again.   The transfigured reality that the disciples saw for a moment isn’t the culmination of their work—it’s just a moment on the way,  It’s an interlude on the path to the cross, and resurrection.

You can sort of see the disciples’ disappointment at that.  They would like Transfigured Jesus to be permanent—to be the sort of conquering superhero that their world needs right now.  Perhaps that’s why Peter exclaims—“Oh great! We’ll build some booths so you guys can stick around!” Peter thinks this heralds the kingdom of God—that all the teaching and preaching up unit now was prelude, and here is God’s kingdom and it will be bright and shiny with dead guys floating in the sky!  Peter is HERE FOR IT.  This is it!  This is what they’ve been waiting for!

But then—  Moses and Elijah disappear.  Jesus is back to normal.  And they have to go back down the mountain.  The momentary flash of divine inspiration didn’t solve everything after all.  Jesus is still talking about dying in Jerusalem, the world is still a messy place.  The disciples aren’t getting a Disney ending.

Many of the narratives we tell ourselves about the world revolve around these Disney endings, or silver bullets.  If we could just figure out the right answer, everything would fall into place in a snap. If we could just say the right thing to the person we’re struggling with, everything would be all right.  If we could just do the right thing in this instance, then our issues would be permanently solved!

But this is not how the world works, Jesus reminds us.  Jesus appearing to the disciples in glory does not fix anything.  It’s almost a misdirect, because his real moment of glory is the resurrection after the ultimate shame and humiliation of the cross.  The disciples, in this moment, get what they were expecting—the triumphant king coming in glory, consulting with ancient sages and prophets, but discover that it does not, actually, accomplish what they thought it would.

Faith, after all, is not in single moments.  Faith is not worked out in a single moment of decision or in accomplishment where all becomes clear; faith is a daily practice of growing with God, on a moment by moment basis.  We do not participate in the work of God in one decisive action that sets right creation—we participate in the work of God through our daily efforts….and failures, and repentence, and then renewed efforts.  We participate through the mundane details of our lives, as Christ accompanies us in our living—not just in the moments out of time that transform us.  

Despite all our desire for the one big fix, the one deus ex machina moment that solves everything, and makes us perfect, life with Christ is incremental.  The disciples don’t get airlifted out of Galilee from that mountaintop—they have to go back down the hillside, in awkward silence, and face the events to come, and still make their hard choices.  Our baptismal faith is practiced one step at a time.  We figure one thing out only to be faced by another issue.  We work hard and solve one problem only to discover that it was covering up several more.  Victories, when they come, are often more transient than we would like, and try as we might, we do not seem to be able to pull everything together, even for a little while. 

But there is deep hope in having a faith predicated in a journey, over a magical mountaintop triumph.  Peter, James and John sort of whiffed their mountaintop response.  And the other disciples were left out.  But as the journey continues, they get more chances to respond to God’s presence.  To participate in what God is doing before their eyes.  And they manage to.

As Christians of the incremental journey, we need never fear that it’s too late for us, that we missed our mountaintop, or that we made the wrong decision and it’s all over for us now.  God is with us on this journey, offering us so many chances to participate, to try again, to recognize what’s before us.  Our walk with Christ doesn’t limit us to a single opportunity to do good, or join with God to find salvation—our walk with Christ offers us infinite opportunities to do that.  Over and over again.  

We can never fear that we have wandered too far astray or wasted too much time—God always walks beside us, and since that is true, we will always be on the path to redemption, we just have to realize it.  Christ always walks beside us, down the mountain, asking us to take this moment, and then, maybe this one.  But always, always, there’s another moment to come.  

Amen  

Signs and Laws and whatnot

There’s a sort-of joke among clergy, that once you run out of preaching material that starts “When I was in seminary”, then you have to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and then that should carry you through til retirement.

I have been to Israel/Palestine four times now, and I rarely talk about it from the pulpit. I can count the number of times I’ve done so on both hands. It’s not because the experience hasn’t been transformative; it’s the reverse. For me, being there and spending time with Palestinian Christians has so shaped my understanding of Christianity and what Christ calls us to be that I have trouble distilling that into short images that go into sermons. It’s a worldview, and not so much an anecdote.

However, as I am just back again, I took this opportunity to talk about some of the things I saw and possibly how they reflect our reality on this side of the pond.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

February 16, 2020

Epiphany 6, Year A

Matthew

Each time I return to the Holy Land, there are more laws.  Sometimes the laws make sense (“No drones in churches!”), some times they make cultural sense (“No shorts in churches!”), and some times, they just don’t make any sense at all. 
On this trip, as on my last trip, when you pass into Bethlehem, you see enormous red signs, by the roadside, written in Hebrew, Arabic, and English.  The signs proclaim ominously that if you take this turn-off, you are entered Area A—controlled by the Palestinian Authority.  “This is a danger to life, and illegal for citizens of Israel.”  the sign says. 

Despite the sign’s tone, Bethlehem is hardly a threat to life.  In fact, the best falafel ever is to be found there, as well as any number of delightful, friendly and hospitable people.  But—the sign is the sign, and I am aware that for many other people, that sign and the law behind it represent a very real fear and trauma.  Even if, to the majority of the world, Area A seems perfectly safe.  

So, it would seem there are laws and there are laws.  Laws trying to urge the good and forbid the bad, laws trying to protect public safety, laws designed for their own circuitous ends, and laws designed to harm others.  As humans are a complicated bunch, so too, it would seem, are laws.

This gospel is a continuation of the gospel from last week.  So much so that I’m irritated at the lectionary for chopping it in two.  If you remember, Jesus is giving the Sermon on the Mount at this point.  He’s talking about how those called to follow him are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world—and then he says—“Do not think I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill…For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and scribes, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”

THAT’s the prologue to this week’s lecture on….adultery, divorce, and debtor’s prison?  That sounds INCREDIBLY harsh and impossible to live up to.  And if we take it in isolation, it sounds like Jesus has taken an unfortunately legalistic turn.  

But a couple things to remember here:

For starters, here again is your regular reminder that We Like The Pharisees.  The Pharisees were Good Guys, and in fact, this is one place where Jesus explicitly says so!

The Pharisees, besides being inventors of modern Judaism, got their start by being a democratizing force within the Judaism of Jesus’ day.  They saw keeping the law as something that put God within reach of everyone—not just the wealthy, not just those who could go to the Temple in Jerusalem, and not just those smart enough to read Torah, but everyone.  The reason they were so obsessed with the law was because they saw it as a mechanism to achieving God’s reign of justice and peace on earth, and a way to make that available to everyone.  And that’s a good thing. 

So when Jesus starts listing off these things about debt, and adultery, and divorce—he’s not quite giving edicts, as much as he’s giving examples of how one’s righteousness should surpass the Pharisees.  There’s a bit of hyperbole in here, which was a common rabbinic rhetorical device.  But mostly, he’s trying to get this point across.

So, for example, this thing about murder.  The law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy prohibits murder, of course, but Jesus takes it one step further, pointing out that it is hypocritical to try to worship God while you are in a broken relationship with your fellow human.  So, you should take care to make sure that both relationships are in order.

Similarly, when we get into the sticky subjects of adultery and marriage, the same dynamics are in play.  Under Jewish law, divorce was allowed, but only the man was allowed to ask for a divorce.  The consequences for the woman were often dire, as she was left estranged from her family of origin and without economic support.  Women were not permitted to procure a divorce for themselves.

So here we see Jesus do the usual one-step-further thing, but what is interesting here is that Jesus reinterprets the law to give women more security.  The way he puts it, the onus is on MEN not to gaze lustfully at women.  MEN also have to avoid divorcing their wives for flimsy reasons, because it will end badly for them.  Women just get to hang out.  

(As a sidenote—this is not the way these verses are generally interpreted, in evangelical culture at least. But it’s worth noting that when Jesus is talking about lusting in your heart, he’s speaking to men about their ability to control themselves—he’s not placing a burden on women.)

Repeatedly, in these examples, we see Jesus reaching to retrieve the vision of justice that the law was meant to enshrine, and holding it up.  If you want to follow me, he says, then you need to not only follow the law, but commit yourself to the spirit of it.

In each example, Jesus is concerned not just with following the law for the law’s sake, but with honoring the concerns of each person involved, with making sure every person is able to flourish within the community.  And so should our concern be.  It is not enough to be concerned only with doing the “right thing” for the sake of “the right thing”.  Our concern needs to be the wholeness of each member of our community.  The wholeness of each person we encounter—whether their needs and concerns are explicitly enshrined in laws that apply to us or not.  

As Christians, we can never say to each other that we are unaffected by what happens to each other.  The way we live together matters.  The way we treat one another matters.  God gave us the law in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, not to trap us into messing up, but in order to enable us to live together and flourish in a society.  God cares very much about how we live together—which is why Jesus is giving a long talk about things like debts, marriage, and divorce.

As we gaze with immense approbation towards what will surely be another tense election year, I want to remind you that God cares very much how we live together.  And so, it is the concern of the church how we treat one another, and how we structure our common life.  We cannot, as Christians, separate our lives into “Jesus affected stuff” and “Non-Jesus affected stuff”, because it all is. The sort of low-level politics of how we live together, how we care for one another, how we protect one another, and how we ensure all God’s children can be treated as the treasures they are—that is the concern of the church, and if we turn away from it, then we are abandoning part of our mission.

Now, I feel pretty confident in saying that God doesn’t care overmuch about whose candidate is shiniest, whose political party is better, who has more fundraisers, or even who is a better American.  That teeth-grinding partisan horse race stuff isn’t helpful, and it’s not our concern as Christians.

It all passes away, anyway.  Our ultimate concern is to do as Jesus did. To listen to our Messiah on the hillside, as he encourages us to love one another, even more than we are required to.  To care for one another, even more than we are required to.  To find justice for one another, even more than we are required to.  

When we focus on caring for one another, when we focus on making sure everyone can be who God has called them to be, and can flourish as God intended, then we are keeping our focus on God’s reign, and Christ’s mission for us.

Then we can weather any campaign season, or any storm, while doing the work of Christ.

Amen.

In which the lectionary and I have beef

I know it’s very hip right now to complain about the RCL, but SERIOUSLY. Why must we read the same story of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew from John, and then Matthew in sequential weeks? Is the RCL just trolling preachers now?!

This, then, is part 2 of my apparent series on Jesus Calls Him Some Disciples. I later repurposed a lot of this for a talk I gave on the boat we rode on the Sea of Galilee. My pilgrim group was riding with a group from Texas, and another group from Brazil. Everyone was kind, and no one threw anything at me, but some of those folks were definitely confused as to why I was preaching at them.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan

January 26, 2020

Epiphany 3, Year A

Matthew 3

Murder mysteries!  There’s a formula.  Highly quirky individual, with a specialized set of skills, but that enables them to SOLVE MURDER.  Monk has OCD, House is a misanthrope, Sherlock has a crazy memory thing, Jessica Fletcher writes mysteries, and the UK has all number of quirky detective folks.  Miss Marple’s thing Is that she’s an old lady!  But all that comes together to help them magically solve all the mysteries.  

In today’s gospel, we start out with bad news.  John the Baptist has been arrested, and so Jesus retreats out of Nazareth, fearing that Herod will also come after him.  He ends up in Capernaum.  

This is a little bit strange—Capernaum isn’t a big city.  And there were major cities around, like Tiberius and Sepphoris.  But Jesus didn’t go to one of them.  Capernaum wasn’t known for being a major trading destination—it was known for having nearby warm springs, where the fish would congregate during the winter.  So the fishermen who worked the Sea of Galilee would winter there, to make their job easier.  That’s Capernaum’s deal—winter fish.

So, this may explain why Jesus keeps tripping over Simon and Andrew, then James and John, as he’s out walking.  Capernaum is the hangout of fisherfolk.  And, it’s night time , or close to it, when he comes across them.  Fishermen only worked at night because the fish couldn’t see well enough to avoid the nets in the darkness.  

All of which is to say, the sort of casual “Jesus was taking a nice afternoon stroll, accidentally gained some disciples” tone of the story is somewhat misleading.  There are a series of really intentional choices happening here that Jesus is making.  He goes to Capernaum for his new home; he goes out walking at an odd time when fishermen are at work.  And lo, he comes upon some fishermen, whom he asks to follow him.

There are times when we sense a call from God, and our first response is “Well, this makes no sense at all.” We assume that we are ill-equipped, unprepared, and do not have the skills to do what God is calling us to. 

This is not helped by the stories of saints in the past, where oftentimes we talk of them as if they gave up all they had to follow God—making a clean break with one life in order to start entirely afresh. That they gave up their personalities to conform to some ideal of cookie-cutter goodness.  But the truth is, God’s calls to us are as varied as we are.  And in God’s economy, nothing is ever lost.  The talents and gifts God gives to us in one time of our lives generally are called upon as we continue to seek after the path Christ leads us down.  

Had Jesus wanted learned scholars for disciples, he could have found them.  Had he wanted skilled politicians, great communicators, or excellent networkers, he could have found those.  He intentionally went and found basic fishermen because he wanted fishermen.  And in turn, over the course of the gospels, we see Peter, Andrew, James and John grow into exactly what Christ calls them to be.  

It is easy to wish to be other than what we are; to worry that we aren’t enough to carry out the mission Christ has given to us.  That we don’t have enough people, enough talent, enough resources, or enough know-how to be able to do the job.  But that is forgetting that Christ knows exactly who and what we are.  Jesus isn’t dumb.  Christ knows exactly what we have, and what we can do when he calls us.  And so we needn’t be afraid to follow that call when it comes. 

Christ comes to meet us exactly where and how we are, to call us into service—not so we will stay there, but so we can be called into the walk of faith.  But Christ calls each of us, knowing exactly who we are when he does.  Jesus knew Peter was a hothead.  Jesus even knew Paul had a tendency to make passive-aggressive asides in his speeches.  But through the grace of God, each of us has a role to fill in the reign of God, and so Jesus calls each of us to bring our full selves to that task, even as we are fully known and cherished. 

It is as we bring our full selves that we can follow God’s call–the parts we are proud of and the parts we aren’t so proud of. Because our full selves are what God needs to patch up our world.

Amen.