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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.

Behold, the vegan Lamb of God

So, since we last spoke, o Blog, I have had minor surgery and went to the Holy Land for two weeks. January was wonderful, but did not involve tons of preaching.

Therefore, I am playing a bit of catch-up. First up is a sermon that I am personally fairly proud of because I managed to get one of the better-known mythical creatures in there.

Rev. Megan L. Castellan 

January 19, 2020

Epiphany 2, Year A

John 2

Lambs are intrinsically confusing.

This may not sound right to you. You may be thinking “Lambs are straight forward: it’s a baby sheep, right?” 

And yet, you might be surprised to know that during the Middle Ages, it was accepted as scientific fact that there was such a thing as a ‘vegetable lamb’—called a borometz—that grew in southeast Asia.  This was a plant, it was maintained, that came up out of the ground like any other, but produced a gourd, out of which emerged a living sheep.  On the end of a green stalk.  The lamb then after it emerged from the gourd (!) would eat the leaves and the surrounding foliage until it eventually ran out of food and starved.  OR—or, you could get the lamb off its stalk, harvest its wool and produce….cotton.  This is how Europeans thought cotton grew.

Right up until the 19th century, when trade really picked up between Europe and the far East, and people also figured out how sheep worked, and how a sheep can’t survive underground, what kind of nonsense is that.

Anyway.  Lambs are apparently quite confusing.  But they have been a feature of religious ritual for as long as they have been domesticated, which is to say, as long as there has been human civilization.  Or—rams have.  Ancient religious gods loved to show their power and might through taking the form of a ram—it showed up all over the place.  IT was powerful!  IT was the head of the flock!  You blew on a ram’s horn to begin religious observances!  

And in today’s gospel, John the Baptist makes a reappearance, and has this odd sort of encounter with Jesus.

A few things are happening here at once.  John sees Jesus coming towards him, and calls out “Look, here’s the Lamb of God!” (this happens twice, which might lead one to suspect that John has blanked on Jesus’s actual name.)  The first time, John then describes what it was like at Jesus’ baptism—the heavens parted, the Spirit descended, it was great.

So, the second time John encounters Jesus, and he names him Lamb of God, two of John’s disciples decide to switch allegiance and to follow Jesus.  And then one of those guys is so entranced by what they discover, that he invites his brother to come along.  And so, Jesus gains his first disciples.

Part of what’s happening here is an actual pastoral concern with the disciples of John the Baptist.  Because John the Baptist did, and does, have disciples of his own.  They’re called the Mandeans, and they still live in Iraq, Iran, Syria…and now, many live in New Jersey.  But in the early days of Christianity, there was a particular concern to both honor John the Baptist as Jesus clearly did, and to make it clear that Jesus was the one that we should be paying attention to.  So the gospels have stories like this one—which try to walk that delicate tightrope.

But that does not entirely answer the question of why John the Baptist starts calling Jesus the Lamb of God, seemingly out of nowhere.  And why that would inspire his disciples to switch teams at the drop of a hat.

Rams, after all, and not lambs, were the focus of most religious-based sheep involvement.  Lambs were weak.  Lambs needed constant attention from their mother sheep.  Lambs were only featured as the Passover sacrifice in Judaism, and that wasn’t an offering for sin. Lambs, it would seem, as a symbol speaks mostly of weakness, and vulnerability and powerlessness.  Hardly commanding.

Yet—in Isaiah (yes, Isaiah strikes again) there’s a similar sort of thing happening.  The prophet announces that everyone should listen!  That God is about to do A Thing!  It will be GREAT. Then….kinda peters out.

Apparently it’s not going well.  No one is listening, the prophet’s health is faltering, people are rebelling, being obstanite.  So the prophet complains to God about how this is a bad plan and will never work.

In response, God says something along the lines of “You know what?  You’re right.  It was a bad plan.  It was too small.  It is too light a thing that you should be sent only to my people Israel, but I shall give you as a light to the nations.  The whole earth shall learn of me through you.”

This is a typical God-move right here.  Isaiah complains that the job is too hard, he can’t do it, and God is like, exactly!  So let’s do a HARDER ONE.

God, it would seem, is not interested in human displays of perfection or might.  God doesn’t seem interested in rams—those mighty leaders of the pack.  Because, what need do rams have for God?  What need for God do we have in the places where we are perfect, in the moments when we have it all figured out, after all?  

Instead, God sends lambs to accomplish the work of the kingdom.  God sends the confused, the imperfect, the anxious to do God’s work.  God sends those of us who panic, and then point out to God that this is an impossibly bad idea and it is going badly.  God sends those of us who have no choice but to rely on God rather than our own knowledge, confidence, wisdom or grace.  

Andrew and John follow Jesus because they see in Jesus not a conquering hero, but someone who understands their own doubts, fears and insecurities.  So much so that they run to tell Peter, who discovers the same thing.  And we know that Peter was basically a bundle of bad-ideas-said-out-loud.  But Christ calls this motley collection of lambs to follow him not because they were the best or the brightest, or the most talented, but because they could rely the most on God’s love and wisdom.  

God doesn’t demand from us perfection.  God doesn’t demand from us unthinking, unquestioning compliance.  God asks from us only the willingness to be vulnerable and faithful.  God asks from us only the willingness to try, to step out in faith, leaning on God’s might, and see what happens.  God sends us out as lambs—confusing confused lambs, in a world that knows mostly how to deal with rams, with powerful animals, but God promises us that it is through the Lamb of God that sin is washed away.  It is through the Lamb of God that the barriers between God’s reign and the kingdoms of this world are broken down.  It is through our weakness and our very humanity that God’s power is made the most clear.

So don’t fret over what you cannot do.  Don’t worry over what seems impossible or too hard.  Where we fall short, that’s where God steps in.  Where we stumble, that’s where God shows up.  Where we lambs hesitate, that’s where God comes in, and saves the world. 

Amen