Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Re-imagining 9 o'clock worship -- Update!

This summer we’ve taken on the exciting task of re-imagining how we worship God in the 9 o’clock hour at Christ Church Cathedral. The most important work has been done. We have had two excellent, well-attended conversations, had great discussions, prayed together and gathered lots of data. During the second of those meetings, we affirmed five principles as the core of what about the life of Christ at the Cathedral we wanted this liturgy to communicate:

Unifying – make us one congregation

Inclusive – accessible and engaging for all ages

– not a passive experience

Traditional, not traditionalistic
-- “tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living” (Jaroslav Pelikan) We want the deep roots of our tradition to feed the growth of something new.

– “invite-able” … an experience of God in community we’re excited about sharing.

Put another way, this is who we believe Christ to be/this is the Christ we seek to encounter and help others encounter:

Christ the reconciler - Christ draws us together to the table, unites us, heals our divisions
Christ the barrier-breaker - Christ tears down the barriers that separate us, speaking the Gospel to each of us in our own language, inviting all to follow him

Christ the challenger and engager - Christ who doesn't let us sit back and let others do the heavy lifting. Christ who knows that as we give, so we receive. Christ who says "you give them something to eat," "follow me," "take, eat, remember," and "go and make disciples of all nations."

Christ the fulfillment of the Law - Christ who stands in the long tradition of the Church but is always meeting us and remaking us in new ways and bringing new Truth out of the truth we have learned and known.

Christ the irresistible, Christ the joyful, Christ the Way, the Truth and the Life - Christ whose power cannot be contained, that is magnetic in its joy and entices us to draw others in.

So now we have our task ... how do we construct an Episcopal liturgy that communicates that this Christ is alive here and that draws all into deeper relationship with him? For that next step, a small group has been called to continue to listen to the congregation and construct the liturgy itself. Provost Kinman, Canons Fenner and Partridge, Lorraine Kee, Dave Malek, Bob Lewis, and Debbie Nelson Linck have agreed to serve on this design team … and many others have signed up to offer their gifts as part of this ongoing process.

That group is already praying and talking about how to communicate this in worship. On Sunday, August 16 at 9 am, the design team will lead the congregation through the next stage of honing the liturgy. It’s possible the weeks between then and Celebration Sunday will give us a chance to “test drive” possible pieces of this service to see how they work.

Please keep this work in your prayers. And if you have gifts you would like to offer to this worship service, please contact Canon Fenner at

Monday, July 20, 2009

Let us be the Good Shepherds

7-19-2009 Season of Pentecost Proper 11 - A sermon by Deacon Mark Sluss at Christ Church Cathedral

I have always lived with the assumption that sheep were pretty dumb animals. And that is probably more due to legend than any actual experience I have with sheep. Growing up in Arnold, Missouri we did not have any Sheep ranches around. My first interaction with sheep was in Nebraska. I was working for a large company in Omaha, and my boss, this crazy Norwegian guy, lived in a small town west of Omaha, called Elkhorn, and on my first trip out to see him for a department teambuilding barbecue, I got turned around and ended up on some different country road. This was before GPS Systems so I had no idea where I was. In the course of getting out of my car with a folding Map of the entire state of Nebraska, I noticed a most offensive acrid smell. It was then that I heard the bleating. And I realized that here on the edge of Nebraska Corn and Cattle country was a sheep ranch. And the smell was terrible. Wet dirty sheep whose matted wool looked more like ropes than fine fluffy wool, most foul of all the pile of sheep manure the rancher had piled close to the road. That was my experience, so my perception of all sheep was not the some fluffy white cute sheep, but of smelly and stupid animals. When I read the readings from this week, with the abundant images of sheep and shepherds and the vivid pasture themes, it was difficult not to have my vivid memory come back to that smell. You see my memory is triggered by smell. Cherry pipe tobacco always reminds me of my grandfather, Cool Water cologne reminds me of my dad. Sugar cookies baking remind me of many Christmases as a child with my brothers and I decorating those familiar cookie cutter shapes, in colored frostings and multicolored jimmies. When I read the scriptures for this week, I really did not want my mind to be drawn constantly to the memory of sheep droppings. So I did a little reading up on sheep and their behaviors and attributes. Richard Cobb of the University of Illinois wrote in 1999 a brief “Introduction to Sheep Behavior” for the Illinois Farm Bureau, in order to encourage youth agricultural projects utilizing herds of sheep. In his brief paper Cobb, makes sure to expel the myth that sheep are stupid. He says that sheep are very intelligent, somewhere between the pig and cow, in the barnyard hierarchy of intelligence. Aside from their intelligence, sheep see in color, they have poor depth perception and an almost unlimited peripheral vision, they also have excellent hearing.
In Jeremiah, we see that God, is comparing Israel to a sheep fold with God as owner rancher and the shepherds as the authorities raised up to protect and guide the sheep. God warns that there are false shepherds those who lead the sheep astray, scatter them, drive them away and kill them. God has plans to return god’s sheep to his fold. You see sheep while very intelligent also have some rather instinctive behavior; sheep will run from what frightens them, loud noises will cause sheep to flee. This natural flight response to danger is one way that sheep protect themselves. They run away. Sheep are gregarious, meaning that they group together, a sheep will always move towards another sheep. This is another defense mechanism, sheep will group together to increase their numbers for greater protection. Sheep will follow each other. This is because of their desire for protection and their gregarious nature. Sheep will always move towards another sheep or friend, and a friend is usually the shepherd who feeds them. It sort of gives a new perspective then to Jesus’ request for Peter to “Feed my sheep”. Jeremiah’s writing is a warning to those in authority, those who would scatter those whom god has chosen for his sheep fold. The problem is that this scripture from the prophet can be used by persons in various opinions (orthodox and inclusive, liberal and conservative), for it is subjective by how you define who is one of the bad shepherds? How do we identify those who would be leading the flock astray? Into exile, scattered? It’s all a frame of reference, for GLBT persons in this church for long we have associated ourselves, with the sheep who have been driven into exile, those who have been excluded from the church and church leadership. We cannot help but associate the recent actions of General Convention to be the work of God as referenced in the second part of the Jeremiah reading that which restores those sheep scattered into the fold. Yet I think we must always be aware that there are those who would see those actions to be that our current shepherds our bishops are the ones referenced in the first part, that they are those who scatter the flock into exile out of our Anglican Communion. How do we discern the true interpretation of this?

We have to look at the behavior of the shepherd and the sheep; does the shepherd just drive the sheep out and scatter them, with no care for them? Or are they good shepherds, who feed them, and care for them, and provide for them as Psalm 23 references? Does the leader point the flock towards Christ? Or is the shepherd leading the flock towards their own gratification and promotion? Christ had such compassion for his followers. It’s evident; Christ fed his people, healed them, and wept at their deaths. Christ was the good shepherd, gathering to him the fringe of society, those who were cast out of the community, the tax collectors, and the unclean of Israel. In the gospel reading we see Christ acting as a shepherd, as the apostles return from being sent out, and rejoicing in their accomplishments, the come back and Jesus says “lets go on retreat” and they get in the boat and travel across the lake to Genassaret, where the people were like sheep without a shepherd, and Jesus had compassion for them, the people recognized him and rushed to him. Remember sheep will move towards a friend a shepherd who cares for them. Jesus recognized the tragedy of that community, they had no good shepherd. For too long many in the LGBT community have been like the people in this gospel, like scattered sheep. We have been driven out either by explicit or implied comments of unwelcome. And we like sheep have gathered together in groups, like Integrity or Oasis for protection. We have found places of rest with good caring shepherds, like our Oasis congregations. Sadly those places of rest, and renewal with caring shepherds are few and far between. Our Episcopal church changed that this week. During our General Convention, if you have been following the online blogs and twitters like I have, you would have heard that we have explicitly stated that the discernment and ordination processes within our church are open to ALL the baptized, and by reading the conversations and debates at the time of the voting, I believe it really means ALL the baptized. We also made a statement regarding blessings of same sex unions, especially for those bishops in geographic areas where civil unions and marriage for same sex persons are now legal. Our church has made some very bold statements about who we are, and what type of church we are at this time. Some look at this as a rejection of the Windsor report and of the Anglican Communion, and I imagine we won’t hear the end of the rhetoric on the part of those who disagree with us. But I have to continue to look at what good is coming from this. We are gathering together those whom the world has scattered, those who have been told they are not worthy, that they are dirty. We have now told them that their baptisms are not second rate, because of who they love. But their baptisms are just as valid and empowering for whatever ministry they partake, in whatever order they are called, either Lay, Bishop, priest or deacon. I am excited about what this will mean for us. As a congregation in renewal I am excited, of what these statements will do for us. We have to now even more be explicit in our welcome and language towards the GLBT community. In our gospel today Jesus urges his disciples to come away to a supportive community and rest awhile. We need to create in our walls that place of rest to claim the gifts of spiritual disciplines of retreat and prayer, by doing so, we can empower us to be about the work of healing. Healing our own wounds and those of the community around us, for the Gay person who has been so wounded by ostracism, to the homeless who has been wounded by the callousness of systems that perpetuate their status, to the lonely student, reaching out for any connection, we live in a broken and battered world. Our Cathedral should be a hospital for those broken people in our community. We should in cooperation with Centenary Cares, and our own Saturday Breakfast feed Jesus’ sheep in our community.
Then we will be the good shepherds, we will be the ones, who the scattered and injured sheep of our community rush to.
And we will know that we are about doing the work of God.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

“Let all who have breath praise Him!”" - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Preached by the Rev Canon Renee Fenner at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, July 12, 2009. Text: 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19.

As long as I can remember there have been some constants in my life especially in the world of the arts: music, art, and dance. Music- I love just about any kind; jazz, rhythm and blues, church music (the hymns and especially Gospel), opera, and show tunes. I can’t play a note save being able to hold a few steady rhythms on my bass conga drum and my voice; well, I think I can at least hold a note. Art-growing up I spent so many hours drawing, painting, sketching and then during my discernment period, three years of teaching it in the St. Louis Public School system. Then there is DANCE! Give me a good beat and I am reading to soar (at least in my mind’s eye these days)! A little tap, a little ballet, a little modern, but most of all Dunham Technique. I didn’t begin to dance until my college years when I became enthralled by the movement and expression taught in the extra curricular courses at Webster of this technique born from the vision of world renowned Katherine Dunham. Some time in the first semester of being moved by the beat of conga drums and the sway of a unique mixture of jazz, ballet and American, Caribbean, South American, and African movements I was indeed hooked. Dance was my thing six days a week, several hours of the day. Those were long and sometimes grueling hours at SIU-East St. Louis under the watchful of Dunham instructors and even Miss Dunham herself on many occasions. I went from student to instructor over a span of several years until the realization that I needed a REAL job kicked in.

It is just my humble opinion that just about anyone can be artistic. You can at least appreciate music if you can’t hold a tune. You really don’t have to be able to draw a straight line to create art. And anyone and everyone can dance! Some of us may not know a je`te from a plie` or how to tap or even do the moonwalk but all of us in this room are capable of some form of movement from the swaying of one’s body or to a steady nodding of the head or to the tapping of one’s toes.

In today’s first reading from the 2nd Book of Samuel we heard of David’s expression of joy and praise to God. His dance was a form of religious rejoicing as David had triumphed over the Philistines and he was now bringing the Ark to the city of Jerusalem. We are told that “David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might”, with songs and with instruments. They indeed, brought a joyful noise unto the Lord! David was able let go of himself, this king before his people, with great abandon in praise for what God had done. There in the Psalms, attributed to David, are songs of praise songs that speak of letting go and giving God the praise due in God’s name. Psalm 149 verses 1-3 read:

“Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord a new song; sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his Name in the dance; let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.”

According to Strong’s Concise Concordance of the Bible, dance or the act of dancing can be found in both the Old and the New Testaments. Dance can also be found in Christian art. For instance, there is fresco painting by Fra Angelico, an early Italian Renaissance painter and Franciscan friar, of saints and angels doing a round dance. If you look on the website of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco you can find a wonderful glimpse of “The Dancing Saints” by iconographer Mark Dukes. This 3,000 square foot painting wraps the entire Church rotunda and features 90 larger-than- life saints and a 12 foot dancing Christ together dancing in the space above the congregation. King David, Teresa of Avila, Thurgood Marshall, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Becket, Francis of Assisi, Anne Frank and Sojourner Truth are just a few who are among the very diverse people of various faiths and backgrounds beautifully illustrated and they are linked hand in hand in an amazing celestial dance joining with the congregation who are also moving below without abandon in that sacred space.

To experience dance in worship is not a foreign thing for me. I have to admit at this point that I was reminded of my first experience of dance in a House of Worship during my college days. We were preparing for a production of James Baldwin’s “Amen Corner”. The director thought it would be a good idea for members of the cast to experience a bonafide, Bible-thumping, ‘get caught up in the Spirit’ church service in the city. Well, the preacher got to preaching and the choir began to sway to and fro and before too long two or three of them had danced themselves until they fell out. I said to myself “What in the world is this?????” And after I saw a child let out a hoop and fall into the arms of someone I thought was her mother, THIS child was ready to go! That experience may have helped me in my role but I really did not understand what it was that I had seen. It was a long, long time afterward that I understood that something really SACRED had happened. It wasn’t until I had been missioned to St. Alphonsus Rock that what I had experienced many years before and was experiencing at the Rock that people, people who looked like me, were bringing all that they were to the worshipping experience. Like some of our Native American brothers and sisters, some African American congregations and I truly suspect there are others; we bring all that we are into our worship experience-our songs, our stories, our joys, our frustrations, our tears, our shouts, our thankfulness, our AMENS and especially our dance to our Creator. Each Sunday at the Rock, the processions are led by someone bearing a bowl of incense. The incense blesses the space while the entire processional party dances down the aisle. And when the choir sings a great song (and there were many), the whole room is engaged-visitors as well as members, clapping and swaying and sometimes a dance or two-I imagine just like David did. Those kinds of services only remind me of the joy of knowing, really knowing and remembering what God can and will do; of worship that is truly communal, joyful, Spirit-led and very REAL!

Now, before some of you get a little nervous, I am not saying that I am expecting to introduce liturgical dance here at the Cathedral in the very near future. And for the record- my heart, like your hearts perhaps, gets glad in a different sort of way these days. The point is that today’s lesson, David’s dance of joy before God, causes us to ponder our own “dance” with the Divine.

The truth be told, we do indeed, “dance” every Sunday in our worship time together. In our liturgies there is movement that is all at once sacred, emotional, physical and intellectual. The moment we step into this space we are engaged with one another in movement. Our processions with voices raised high gathers us as one into this place to give God glory and our processions take us out into the world to act as God’s hands and feet in the world. The Book of Gospels takes center stage, if you will, for the hearing of God’s word in our midst. We partner as we clasp hands or embrace one another as we share a sign of God’s peace. Our offerings, our gifts are brought to God’s Table where they are blessed, broken, and shared. As David and his people shared a meal of cake, meat and raisins, we share in a different type of meal, a meal that sustains us within, as we come forward to receive the precious Body and Blood of Christ. And as we leave this place, our dance is meant to continue in witness “to the praise of (God’s) glorious grace that (God) freely bestows on us in the Beloved” as Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians.

From time to time there are occasions when our “choreography” steps out of the box for us Episcopalians. I am mindful of a Eucharist during this past Holy Week when toward the end of our liturgy we were invited to join in a round dance, just the twelve of us-some of us a bit nervous and shy and some of us who relished in the very notion of linking ourselves one to the other in a rare but precious moment of religious rejoicing, in this very room. I think of ‘Mass in the Grass’ in Tower Grove Park a couple of Sundays ago when roughly three hundred of us swayed beneath those trees with arms uplifted singing “Here I Am, Lord” and “We Shall Overcome.” In fact, I do remember the last time we sang “We Shall Overcome” in this space- a cappella, and the dance was divinely organic as it began in somewhere within these rowed chairs. I just know God was smiling on that day!

David’s dance of celebration is OUR dance for God continues to do marvelous things for us and through us. There may be times when we feel like there is nothing to celebrate. We may feel lost or afraid or very much removed for what ever reason. But God always invites us to “leave ourselves, to leave our pain behind for a moment and to share in the divine dance of love, which is the true liturgy in which we know God.”*

“Shall we dance?” God asks of all of us. Dance with me! Not SOME of us but ALL of us. Everyone is invited to participate-from Oslo to Ottawa, from Cape Town to Cape Cod, from Assam to Anaheim! No matter what race, class, gender or barrier someone decides to throw up- we are all linked one to another in God’s amazing celestial dance of life!

May we never be afraid to offer our voices, our bodies, our very lives for the glory of God. And let all who have breath praise Him! Amen!

*taken from a sermon by the Rev. Abel Lopez, All Saints Church, CA

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Only Way Forward Is Together

"The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God."

Yesterday, our presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, opened our church's General Convention in Anaheim, CA, with these words about the environmental, financial and other crises facing our Church and world.

If you are looking for a connection between what will happen at that convention and our life here at Christ Church Cathedral, you can find it in those words.

The crises they are struggling with there are the ones we struggle with here. And the way forward in both places lies in offering our lives to Christ -- together.

Yesterday, the Program, Budget and Finance Committee heard pleas to put the 0.7% line item for the Millennium Development Goals back in the church budget ... to put care for the poorest in the world first. But where is the money to come from?

We struggle with the same thing. I dream of a Cathedral where 50% of our budget is spent on outreach -- where we give as much away as we keep for ourselves. But where is the money to come from? How do we get from here to there?

There is no silver bullet or easy answer. But scripture and our experience tells us that the road from here to there is one we must travel together. That it is together on that road that we will encounter Christ, and that like the disciples on the road to Emmaus we will have a clue when we do because we will be and feel different -- our hearts will burn inside us.

We are taking those first steps on this new phase of our journey down that road right now. Through the new summer Sunday schedule and the conversations about the new 9 am worship and the "Coffee & Conversations" and even this e-newsletter, we are meeting each other -- in some cases for the first time -- not just as fellow parishioners but as friends and travel partners.

Even now, I can see our first response to conflict shifting from writing a reactive email or seeking out someone we know will agree with us in the parking lot to saying "we need to talk" ... and putting the conflict on the table where we can search for Christ's wisdom together.

In concluding her remarks yesterday, the Presiding Bishop said:

"This crisis is a decision point, one which may involve suffering, but it is our opportunity to choose which direction we’ll go and what we will build. We will fail if we choose business as usual. There will be cross-shaped decisions in our work, but if we look faithfully, there will be resurrection as well."

What is true in Anaheim is true in St. Louis. We can't choose business as usual. The ways of being the Cathedral that worked in decades past -- decades of which we have wonderful memories -- won't work anymore. We need to be bold and try new ways to engage the world with the Gospel and engage ourselves with it more deeply as well.

And we can do it.

We can be bold and fearless. We can be honest about our struggles with the claim our faith puts on our own lives and loving in calling each other to be our best selves. We can reach out to the world around us with a height of compassion matched only by the height of praise we give to God in our worship.

We can do all these things. And we will, with God's help.

IF ...we do them together.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost - A sermon by the Rev. Canon John Kilgore

Preached by the Rev Canon John Kilgore at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, July 5, 2009.

“Prophets are not without honor except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”

[Given as a dramatic reading, not from the pulpit but meandering among the congregation with a yellow parchment scroll as if the disciple John were reviewing the manuscript of his memoirs, with parenthetical comments in that vein interjected.]

You know, I remember that incident. We, the Twelve, were with Jesus, in his hometown of Nazareth. We were in the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus’ sisters were there, Mary and Joseph were away. Jesus was teaching really profound stuff; he was very wise. But he just wasn’t getting any traction. People were saying, ‘Oh, local boy thinks he knows so much…’ ‘He is just one of us…’ ‘He puts his tunic on just like I do…’ ‘Who does he think he is?’ ‘He is a carpenter for heaven’s sake!’

It was really a pretty uncomfortable encounter. Jesus got quite upset, as he was able to do from time to time.

Oh yeah, this tunic, the second one. In my old age I wear it for warmth, so often forgetting Jesus’ lessons about frugality. Anyway, as I was saying… allow me to give you my perspective please. I’m kind of working on my memoirs here… But you may not recognize me.

I’m John, son of Zebedee. I’m now in my eighties retired and living in Ephesus, reflecting on a long and amazing life, pretty feeble these days but my mind is sharp. It was about sixty years ago that my brother James and I were mending our fishing nets on the Sea of Galilee. Our father Zebedee had his workers in the boat with him and we were just about to go out on another fishing expedition, that is as soon as James and I got the nets mended my father told us. When along came this bearded guy with two friends named Simon and Andrew, they were fishermen and brothers also. The three of them came along, it turns out they had just met, only a few hours before. And this guy Jesus, who said he was from Nazareth, talked us into joining him and his new friends, ‘fishing for people…’ he said. I had no idea what I was in for and had a job to do going fishing to support the family. But Jesus was amazingly convincing, had a charisma like you wouldn’t believe. James and I up and left our dad in the boat with the workers. I felt pretty bad about that. It took dad a long time to get over it. He ultimately understood, after he got to know Jesus, forgave us, and became a follower of Jesus himself, as did my mother. Ultimately my brother James and I together baptized our parents with the Holy Spirit, it was very was cool.

Anyway, from there we went on to Capernaum where Jesus began to teach in the synagogue. It was there that we first we came to know what an amazing rabbi he was. He taught with such authority, not like the scribes we were used to hearing in the synagogue. All you had to do was sit and listen to him. And then see the miracles and healings he performed… The first one we saw was a man in the synagogue in Capernaum with an unclean spirit. Watching him cast that spirit out was astounding. Then we went to the house of Simon and Andrew and Simon’s mother-in-law was sick – he healed her right then and there; then she got up and served us lunch. We stayed a few days in Capernaum, during which time he cast out many spirits and healed many sick people. From there we went on a preaching tour in Galilee, we saw him cleanse a leper (one of the untouchables, but Jesus didn’t care), heal a paralytic, restore a withered hand. We almost got in a little trouble when we had dinner at that tax collector Levi’s house. There were some pretty unsavory characters there and the Pharisees (you know, the religious party so conservative, the ones who interpret the law quite literally and want nothing to change) got quite upset asking why he ate with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus took care of it with one of his great one liners: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have come not to call the righteous but sinners.’

One of the most phenomenal days was when we were back along the Sea of Galilee, these huge crowds just followed us wherever we went. It was really difficult to get away to pray, we had to work at it but He always insisted that it was so important. He taught us over and over that the time serving others must be interspersed with time away, quietly, to pray, to know the Father. We worked hard at getting those times. Anyway, we were quietly tucked away praying and recharging until ‘He’ was recognized and people started gathering. Before long there were five thousand, and it was late. He charged us with feeding them: ‘Give them something to eat.’ We had five loaves and two fish… After he prayed, blessed and broke the loaves, we fed everyone, all five thousand, with twelve baskets left over! Astounding.

But you have probably already heard most of these stories…and the parables. The really interesting pivotal point was right there in Nazareth, that we were just talking about a few minutes ago, when he charged the twelve of us with going out, with being his disciples. That was a stepup in terms. For most of the time he call my brother James and me by the nickname he gave us, ‘Boanerges,’ ‘Sons of thunder.’ I never understood why he chose that. Anyway, we were in his hometown and he wasn’t getting much respect, as I said earlier. That’s when he said, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown…’ By this time Jesus had already memorized the Torah in his local school in Nazareth, studied under great rabbis, and spent a lot of time in synagogues debating the interpretation of the Torah. In Jerusalem, Cana, and other villages He was already recognized as an amazing rabbi, but his hometown just couldn’t quite wrap their arms around it. What is important to remember is that a prophet is not one who looks into or predicts the future. Rather, a prophet is one who has insight into the present, which is what Jesus was so very good at doing. But like the other prophets of old, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, and others, He got significant pushback, particularly in his hometown.

I guess that’s why He decided to delegate authority to us. That and the fact that he kept telling us He would not always be around. And it looks like it was a good thing, for Jesus’ followers are still proclaiming the message sixty years after his death and those who followed John the Baptist died out quickly after his beheading by King Herod. Anyway, we were out in the villages teaching and He called us together, told us that twelve of us (some symbolism with the twelve tribes of Israel?) were especially charged with taking his message out, carrying it on, as He would not be with us always, though He really is with us always. His spirit continues among us, I feel it every day, even at my advanced age. He told us that we had to go out, without Him, in pairs, two by two. And furthermore he charged us to go with almost nothing! No bread, no bag, no money, and only one tunic even though the nights in the desert get quite cool and one almost always needs an extra wrap at night. We were to take our staff, one tunic, and our sandals. In hindsight it was really an amazing experience. I thought I needed so much, my scrolls, my personal items, a sleeping mat, a chalice to hold wine at meals. I wanted at least to pack up a shoulderbag with basic belongings. We tried to talk him out of it! But no. Only the staff, tunic, and sandals. But you know what happened, in spite of traveling with nothing we proclaimed repentance, cast out demons, anointed and cured the sick…and found we didn’t need all that ‘stuff of life.’ All those extras just get in the way of being focused on the main thing. And that is what Jesus taught us, ‘Keep the main thing the main thing!’

It was when we got together after we were sent out, that we were able to reflect and understand how He had changed our perspective. We are given so much, but there is so very little we ‘need’. And all this happened before we saw Elijah on the mountaintop, before we returned to Jerusalem, before I rested on his bosom at that Last Supper with him, experienced the agony in the garden when he sweated blood (we thought he was sick), and of course the Crucifixion.

An amazing life of experiences with Jesus. There are lots more stories. What can I distill as lessons? Jesus said again and again and in different words, “My grace is made sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Sending out with nothing. Ruling from a position of weakness. Probably from the beginning we saw Him do that in Nazareth, watched how gently he dealt with those who couldn’t accept Him as prophet. He didn’t force it upon them…just went slowly along his way doing His thing, continuing to heal and to love. Never really proclaimed himself. Lived by example. Another thing, He used simple uneducated fishermen to teach the world about God, and sent us out simply, carrying nothing. Jesus helped us a bit to see as God sees, and in God’s time. We can learn about God from every single person. Every face reflects Jesus.

Another lesson he taught us was about reliance. Illness, trauma, tragedy, grief, suffering befall us all at some point. We tend to think we are pretty much in control of our lives, usually till these tribulations land upon us. So many of the people Jesus inspired, showed a way of faith, were at low points in their lives. When our lives are turned most upside down is when we can best get to know Him. Trauma pushes us to being with one another in community and it also shifts us from being in control and relying on ourselves to relying on God. But we tend to do that when we are in greatest need. Just as a parent you want your children to call you frequently and regularly, so God wants us to be involved with Godself daily, hourly. God wants to be a part of our daily routine, our habit.

Last of all, Jesus was really pretty direct in His message: you are children of God, be good to yourselves; love your neighbors as yourselves, they too are children of God; love God. It’s that simple.

I had the opportunity to walk with him as a fellow human being for three years. Since the Resurrection you have the opportunity to walk with Him every minute. You have only heard a few of the stories here today. You really should learn more of them. He can make a difference in your life. He did in mine… After all, he’s not just a carpenter for heaven’s sake.