Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sermon for Easter 5 2011

John 14:1-14

Saying goodbye to people you love and have shared an important journey with can be a hard thing to do. That is what Jesus is doing with his disciples in the piece of his farewell discourse from John’s Gospel that we just heard.

Yes, his farewell discourse. Because even though for us it is the fifth Sunday after Easter, in this reading it is still the night before the crucifixion, and we are at supper with Jesus and the disciples. Jesus knows the end is coming with his beloved ones. And loving them…he loves them to the end. He knows that Judas will betray him, Peter will deny him, not once but three times, and yet he loves them still. He knows that even though they have been with him daily, living with him, listening to him, watching him, there are parts of this life and mission of his they still do not get. And he knows that this is the end. Time has run out. He must now leave this earthly incarnation.

This night begins as he washes their feet offering the lesson of loving servant leadership once more. And then he begins to speak to them. Offering them the great summary, the last lesson, to try to help them remember what they have come to know by being with him these three years.

The section we hear this morning begins with reassurance…” Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and in me.” He knows that the things that are about to come will try them and will test their faith. Not only are they about to lose their leader, but they will see him tried and mocked, scourged and hung. And they will see themselves fail as well, will find their own trust to be lacking, their own fear overcoming them as they run, as they hide. Jesus offers them, “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going." Of course Thomas, who we know from later events is the kind of person who needs things spelled out very clearly for him is struggling with this, so Jesus patiently offers more to him. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."

Life in God’s kingdom is bigger and greater and wider and deeper and more than you think and you can be part of it, he says. You can live this way because you know me and I have shown you how to live like this, or as one theologian1 says, Jesus is the "the authentic vision of our existence.”

Jesus says “If you have seen what I am like you really have seen God, known God, and you can be like that, really you can.” We know from Old Testament readings that humans have been struggling for a long time with the desire to see God. And that the belief has been that no one could see God and live. And now we hear Jesus saying that, yes, really you can in a sense see God because you see me. I am what God is like. And even more than that, Jesus in the Incarnation is the great both/and…both a view of who God is, and our vision of who we, at our most Godlike, can become.

This of course confounds Phillip, and Jesus runs through it again for him and says, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” And then he makes this rather amazing promise, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."

Yes, saying goodbye to people you love and have shared an important journey with can be a hard thing to do. That is why it is a good thing that we have liturgy and prayers and scripture and community to surround and support us as we do these things.

I don’t know about all of you but change tends to make me anxious. There was a particular aptness for me in this Gospel as I felt Jesus might be speaking to me just a little bit here in this “final discourse” and to all of us here at St. James in this time of change.

As Jesus reminded the disciples, and us the place for our trust is in God. I have a tendency to forget that sometimes, and when I do, I get worked up and worried about how things are going to come out. But as our Psalm this morning reminds us, our times are in God’s hands. The God who loves us beyond anything we can imagine. The God who graces us and delights in us and has a dream for us.

And the God who has given us Jesus, our path, the way, and the truth, and the life.” Or again, that theologian’s definition, "the authentic vision of our existence.” If we take that vision and run with it, if we really believe that this is who we are created to be, someone who offers welcome and care to the least and the lowest, someone who loves authentically, forgives and turns the other cheek, reaches out to those whom others would ignore or scorn…if we really believe that we are part of God, and they are part of God…and that every moment is a chance for a miracle, how then would we live?

It has been a wonderful almost nine years being part of this community. You welcomed this stranger and allowed me to become part of you, embracing me into a role of leadership, flowing gracefully with me through life changes, welcoming Rick into our midst and celebrating our marriage. I will keep you in my heart and my prayers. My hope for you is that you will continue to take seriously those baptismal promises to seek and serve Christ in all people wherever you might encounter them. Amen.

1John Dominic Crossan quoted by John Pilch in The Cultural World of Jesus Year A cited by Kate Huey on Textweek

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Five: Words

Jan says, "Since January our Sunday Spiritual Formation hour (or Sunday School) has been devoted each week to the presenter's description of a word that describes passion/love or something. No one knows who will be presenting or what the topic will be ahead of time! Each session has been invigorating in a different way. Last week's speaker talked about "words" and finished our time by asking each one of us what "word" we wanted to share--a favorite one." So my suggestion for today's Friday Five is to write about 5 words you really like. Please explain why you have chosen each word, in such ways as, it is a: description or attribute of yourself, activity you enjoy,word that is spelled or pronounced in an interesting way,passion of yours, word that brings you hope, peace, or comfort, word you like to repeat or sing."

This was fun and thought-provoking....Here's my top five word list:
Hope Hope is a word I build a lot of my life around.  I preach about hope. I use hope in my therapy practice as I believe that one of my main jobs is to try to offer/provide/instill/hold hope when often there is little or none present when people present themselves to me.  I often tell people that part of my job is to be the "hope-holder."  To keep hope for them when they have none for themselves until they do or can.

Alleluia This is a word I love to sing (and to say, too.)  We were just saying at church last week how glad we were to have our Alleluias back in the service and how we missed them in Lent.  There is an Anthem we sometimes sing around Easter that has pretty much no other words than that...alleluia. And then of course there is Handel. He has other words, but the one that grabs us right from the get go is that one (with an H for good measure!)

Context A word I use a lot because I think it is very important not to overlook. Things and people must be considered in/not taken out of it.  Bits and pieces out of context are random and easily misinterpreted and misleading I also like it because it has a relationship to the word texture which makes things interesting, as does context.

Perseverate A word I learned way back in counseling school that means to keep repeating something over and over. Since I often do this very thing it's nice to have a fifty-cent word to be able to tell people what I am doing as in "Yes, I have been perseverating on the Easter 5 sermon for several days now."

Geocaching This one meets a couple categories.  It's a fun word to say, and something I enjoy doing! My Geocaching name is RevKatKacher and my hubby and I love going looking for caches both here at home and when travelling.  I've also gone caching while on RevGal adventures and got my first international cache this year on the BE4.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Random Ramblings of a Wednesday Evening

Oh. My. Goodness. So I am just off the road for the second time in six days and simultaneously trying to come to terms with the fact that three weeks from today we take possession of our new digs and I start my new job. To say that this feels a little bit like the train is coming on fast would be an understatement. I am feeling every possible emotion that I think a human being could be feeling right now as I try to purge and pack our house, say goodbye to clients and settle them in with their new therapists at work, prepare for my last two services at church, get my credentials in order so I can start producing revenue in my new practice location, get insurance, think about all the transferring stuff that goes with a move, gas, electrical, cable and such, having some conversations about what I might do church-wise in the new place, say goodbye to friends, and just generally fret about the whole darn transition! Oh, yeah, and interview for CPE, which also happened today, and BTW....I was accepted for the extended program for Fall. Whew! Excited about that...another validation that this is what is supposed to be going on here and now, part of something bigger (sometimes at the three a.m. panic I have doubts).

Clergy conference was awesome.  So good, in fact, that I was able to pretty much forget all this junk and focus. We had Bill Brosend from the Episcopal Preaching Foundation accompanied by Lauren Winner and Debbie Blue.  All had good and helpful things to say about the art of preaching. Lauren talked about the intersection of preaching and spirituality and I had a little aha moment about how important that rhythm really is/was to me, even though it was spread over a month. Now that I don't know that I will for sure have that, I'm feeling a little untethered.  I have had some conversations with people who have made some offers of supply that could possibly be "semi-regular" and my Bishop assures me he is still thinking on things as well, so I need to just be patient and wait for the dust to settle. Be not anxious. That thing I am so good at!

Our earlier trip was pretty great also. My daughter by marriage (who I am proud to say claims me as her step-mom) graduated summa cum laude on Friday! She's so awesome and we are waaaayyyy proud of her.  We moved her into her first place on Saturday and that was....aerobic, and also fun in its own way.  This whole having a kid is a pretty big thing for me at this stage of the game, (even though I sort of feel like I'm cheating as her dad really did the raising and I get to simply enjoy the benefits) it's still such a gift as this was something I had pretty much let go of ever having in my life.

It really is good to be home.  I will be happy to be sleeping in my own bed tonight, to settle in for these last days and focus on having a "good end" in this place. While I have not exactly skulked away in the night I have been guilty of doing some abrupt and premature unplugging in the past to protect my heart.  I really want to not do that but to remain present and open in each moment and to allow myself to remain here as long as I am here, going only as I really do leave. With God's grace, it could happen.