Sunday, December 23, 2012

Artists of the Impossible -- A Sermon for Advent 4

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Tuesday night, a couple hundred of us gathered here for a time of remembrance and prayer, and then we processed from this place over to the steps of Central Library. And we stood in silence with candles in our hands as the big bell of this Cathedral tolled and, one by one, names were read. Names of children murdered in Connecticut just days before. Names of men, women and, yes, children killed with guns in our own city in the past year.

The names went on … and on … and on. It seemed like they would never stop. And when they did, there was this pause, a few moments where all those names just hung in the air around us. A pause where, if we had stopped there, we would have left that place being overwhelmed by the enormity of the tragedy and believing we were powerless to do anything about it. A pause that, if we had stopped there, might have left us believing that fear and death actually did get the last word.

But it was only a pause. Because we did not stop there. There was one thing left to say. And so Mayor Slay stepped to the microphone, and he read these words from Marianne Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.

We read those words because our job as the church is to call the world back to its deepest identity. To remind the world that we are all children of God and that God dreams for us to be God’s glory in the world and become fully alive. To remind the world that we were not created to cower before darkness and death but that light and life always get the last word.

We’ve had quite a journey together this Advent. On the first Sunday of Advent, we named the world we live in. We named all those things that aren't OK. We said, "God, you want to know how it's going? Well THIS is how it's going!" And we put those things on the altar, and we left the next move to God.

Then on the second Sunday of Advent, we heard God’s move. We heard the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Saying that where God wants to be is right in the middle of all that stuff. That God wants to be in that middle seat right in between the face we present to the world and the backstage reality of our life.

Then last Sunday, we lit the rose colored candle and remembered that we are people of a song, and that song is Hallelujah. And that we sing Hallelujah because we know Christ is right here, singing with us. We sing Hallelujah by giving in the face of scarcity and loving in the face of fear.

And so this Sunday, the last Sunday before Christmas, just before this place is transformed with greenery and filled with carols, this fourth Sunday of Advent, we are reminded that our song of Hallelujah, our testament of hope is not meant for our own comfort but for the transforming of the world.

The lectionary this year skips over the annunciation story, and it seems like a curious choice. It’s hard to imagine Advent without Gabriel appearing to Mary. Without her incredulous “How can this be?” Without the angel’s stunning declaration that “nothing will be impossible with God.”

But instead, we get this story of Mary and Elizabeth. Of Mary, having said yes to the gloriously impossible possibility of bearing the Christ, not staying safe in her home but going out into the world. And listen to Elizabeth’s reaction when she just hears Mary’s greeting:

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

That’s what happens when God comes near to us. When God comes near, I mean when we really know that God has come near, something in us stirs. Something in us leaps for joy. Something in us, something deep in us, says YES … that’s the stuff. THAT is what it means to be truly, fully alive.

I am the child of two scientists – two astronomers – so the whole idea of science being incompatible with faith has never made sense to me. What we can learn about creation from those things we can see and measure is amazing and needs to be taken seriously because it gives us a window into the beauty and power of God the creator.

But something has happened to the world as we have begun to trust only those things we can see and measure. As logic and practicality become the only altars at which we worship.

As that happens, we forget that the deepest truths, the most glorious possibilities, the most profound hopes are beyond logic and practicality. We forget that when we allow ourselves to be bound by the limits of only what we can see and measure, by the limits of what seems logical and practical, we lose the deepest part of our humanity created in the image of God.

And that is where we as Christians come in. We who stand at the grave and sing, “Hallelujah!” We who trust that we are children of God born to do nothing less than make manifest the glory of God that is within us, not just in some of us but in every one. We who, with Mary, by our very presence, announce to the world that God has come near. That’s where we come in.

You’ve probably heard people in Washington and elsewhere quote that “politics is the art of the possible.” And that may be so. But as Christians, the possible is not our craft. Announcing that God has come near is. Calling people beyond the limits of what seems logical and practical is.

Faith is our craft. And faith is the art of the impossible. And we stand on the shoulders of a long line of artists who have refused to be bound by the world’s ideas of what is practical and logical and possible, and in so doing have changed the world.

We are artists of the impossible of the line of David, who stood unafraid before Goliath because he knew that you measured a giant not by the size of his stature but by the size of our God.

We are artists of the impossible of the line of Mary, who believed it when Gabriel said that nothing would be impossible with God … and who didn’t just keep that belief to herself but awakened it with leaps of the joy in the hearts of others.

We are artists of the impossible in the line of the prophets and martyrs of the civil rights movement in this country … who believed that the forces of Jim Crow and racial hatred could not stand against the awakened conscience of a nation.

We are artists of the impossible in the line of Becca Stevens and the women of Magdalene, Nashville and soon here in St. Louis, who show us that there is no depth of abuse and brokenness from which one cannot be rescued by a greater depth of love.

And so this fourth Sunday of Advent, we remember that we are artists of the impossible. And that like last Tuesday night, we gather here to be sent out there.

To stand in the midst of that pause where the world is tempted to believe that fear and death get the last word.

To stand in the midst of that pause where we are tempted to shrink back and play small lest someone think we are impractical or even crazy.

To stand in the midst of that pause where the world is tempted to be resigned to the inevitability of the way things are and to awaken in others what we claim for ourselves … that God has come near. That we are all children of God and there is no darkness so deep, no brokenness so profound, no evil so intractable that it cannot be touched and transformed and brought to wholeness by the surpassing love of God in Jesus Christ.

You know, I often wonder if Advent doesn’t just really annoy God. I wonder if God doesn’t roll the divine eyes just a little bit every year as we bring out the candles and the wreath and talk about waiting for the coming of Christ. That’s because I wonder if Advent isn’t so much the time of our patient waiting but God’s.

Because that’s what’s really happening, isn’t it?\ We’re not waiting for Christ. Christ is here. Christ has been here all along.

What’s really happening is Christ is waiting for us. Waiting for us this year more than the last to stop fearing the light that is in us. Waiting for us this year more than the last to pull out all the stops and make manifest the glory of God that is within us. Waiting for us this year more than the last to sing out loud that Hallelujah that reminds the world that fear and death doesn’t get the last word, that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not and will never overcome it.

We’ve spent four Sundays waiting for the coming of Christ. And it turns out it was the other way around the whole time. It’s Christ who has been waiting for us. Waiting for us to embrace the work of Christmas. To take what we have found in here and birth it out there. To by our very presence cause babes to leap in wombs and people to sing praises to God. To show the world that God has come near … and to embrace our destiny as artists of the impossible. AMEN.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Hallelujah" -- A sermon for Advent III

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, December 16, 2012

Opened playing the first three verses of Jeff Buckley's cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah (click to hear)

I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this -- The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah.

(all sing)
Hallelujah. Hallelujah
Hallelujah. Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

(all sing)
Hallelujah. Hallelujah
Hallelujah. Hallelujah

Baby I’ve been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
But Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.

(all sing)
Hallelujah. Hallelujah
Hallelujah. Hallelujah

We Christians are a peculiar people.

We love our enemies, and we pray for those who persecute us.

When someone strikes us on one cheek, we turn the other one.

We pledge our lives to a refugee child born in a barn, and we stare down great empires armed with nothing but love.

But perhaps there is nothing more peculiar about us than our song.

And our song is this: Hallelujah.

Now, lots of people sing Hallelujah. Everyone sings it at a birth. Everyone sings it at a wedding. Or a party. Or a reunion of long separated friends and lovers. Hallelujah. Halleljuah. Hallelujah.

What’s peculiar about us is when we sing it. We sing it always.

We sing Hallelujah in life's highest peaks and deepest valleys. We sing Hallelujah on our brightest days and in the middle of our darkest nights. We sing Hallelujah when we've got it all figured out, and we sing Hallelujah when nothing makes sense.

And at the end of life, when we go down to the dust, even at the grave we make our song:

Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

The first Sunday of Advent, we named the world we live in. We named all those things that aren't OK. We said, "God, you want to know how it's going? Well THIS is how it's going!" And we put those things on the altar, and we left the next move to God.

Then last Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, we heard God’s move. We heard the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Saying that where God wants to be is right in the middle of all that stuff. That God wants to be in that middle seat right in between the face we present to the world and the backstage reality of our life. We named the hope -- the coming of Jesus -- that allows us to be not of this world even while we are in it.

Today is the third Sunday of Advent. It's called Rose Sunday. This Sunday we light the rose colored candle. In the midst of the quiet, even somber preparations of Advent, this Sunday is a spark of celebration, a reminder that even in the night of expectation, the joy of Christ cannot be contained. A reminder that we are people of a song, and that song is Hallelujah.

How do we prepare for the coming of Christ? We sing. We sing our song. We sing the song of a people who know that Christ is coming and is already here. We sing Hallelujah.

One of my heroes of the faith is Louie Crew. Louie grew up in Alabama in the 1940s and 50s, which wasn’t the easiest place to grow up if you’re realizing you’re gay. He came out while at grad school at Auburn and in 1973, met Ernest and they fell in love. Louie was white, Ernest was black. Gay and interracial in Alabama in the 1970s. Not exactly Dale Carnegie's recipe for how to win friends and influence people!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gary Johnson's "Postcard from Sudan" - Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Here's the latest posting from CCC's Gary Johnson, on pilgrimage with a team from the DIocese of Missouri to Lui, Sudan. Please keep Gary and the rest of the mission team in your prayers and check back here and at

We are waiting for the car to drive us to the airport which is a combination of dirt and crushed granite. We are flying out on a Cessna 9 seater.

I can't wait o get home and see Linda and our pack. But I'm also sad because of the people I'm leaving behind. The people of South Sudan and incredibly friendly and happy. I have to remind myself that the war has only been over for about 5 years. There is so much need no matter where you look. It can be overwhelming but I remind myself of the saying " How do you eat an elephant......One bite at a time. This is how you have to approach problems in South Sudan. Part of our team this will be their second or third visit and they are amazed at the progress since their last visit.

We will not arrive in St. Louis until the late afternoon onWednesday the 13th.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gary Johnson's "Postcard from Sudan" - Monday, December 10, 2012

Here's the latest posting from CCC's Gary Johnson, on pilgrimage with a team from the DIocese of Missouri to Lui, Sudan. Please keep Gary and the rest of the mission team in your prayers and check back here and at

Today has been a great day we are finished with our classes and this is down time for us. Went up to the Mothers Union to see if any machines need repaired. Ran into Jeannie and Pauline who were on there way to see Lillibeth's home.

I was invited o go along. Lillibeth is being sponsored by Jeannie who's a teacher from England and part of our team. Lillibeth will go to a teachers school her tuition is being paid by Jeannie and other teachers back in England. We arrived in Lillibeth's compound all of which are Tukals the mud huts with thatched roofs. We met with her father and stepmother and oldest brother. The father and her oldest brother grilled us for about 20 mins. At which point he looked at me and said this is good. I felt really good about the fact we were grilled by both of them. Lillibeth will be a great student and will graduate in 4 years. The oldest son is also going to school and during our coversation asked Jeannie to send the school info to his brother and gave her his brothers email address. I often feel like I'm in parallel universe when in Lui. Here we are sitting outside of several mud huts and trading email address. Most email is done through email account on their cell phones. To show their gratitude we were given a ten pound bag of peanuts and 4 fresh eggs. The peanuts are dried but not roasted and have a great flavor.

I love their toothbrushes here they take a certain type of stick and chew on it until it's frayed. Then it is used as their toothbrush. They seem to do a great job and just the action of chewing on the stick cleans their teeth.

Will be leaving tomorrow for home but will not be back in St.Louis until the 13th. Will be nice to get home and actually hold and kiss Linda my wife. But a part of my heart will be left in Lui.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Gary Johnson's "Postcard from Sudan" - Friday, December 7, 2012

Here's the latest posting from CCC's Gary Johnson, on pilgrimage with a team from the DIocese of Missouri to Lui, Sudan. Please keep Gary and the rest of the mission team in your prayers and check back here and at

Last night around 10:00pm drums started and the wailing began. This is the start of mourning for a women who had died in the hospital. I awoke around 2:30am and it was going stronger than earlier but the wailing only goes on during the very beginning. The hospital is only about a 1/2 mile away. The drums finally stopped at about 11:30am today. If we didn't have people to tell us differently you would think it was a huge party.

We have been without solar power since Monday the third. Which out solar power we have no internet service. I went to the Market yesterday and they are out of phone-cards which are needed to make cell phone calls.

Had our Graduation of the Carpentry Class and also the Mothers Union Sewing Class. Two of our team members Jeanie & Pauline from England made hand made certificates for each person graduating. I then put each person name on the certificate. The Bishop put his seal on them and we had a ceremony in front of the church under the LARO tree. Think of a town square and this is what the LARO tree is to them. The same exact tree was used to sell slaves, it's huge and very old and very important to the people of Lui.

Sudan Observations;

No running water outside of the larger cities and then very limited.
No trash-cans or trash service anywhere
No stop signs or traffic signals anywhere
No street signs or any address on homes
No electric poles or telephone poles ( Generator power only)
No white noise during the day or night
No light pollution at night, there are literally thousands of stars you can see at night. I can set outside just looking up at the stars for hours.
No diapers of any type
Paved roads in the cities none once you leave the cities
No children's toys in the local markets, a ball is the best you can find
Getting use to seeing men walking down the road with automatic weapons
Seeing men who are missing a hand from being cut off during the war
Seeing a women cooking on a very primitive charcoal stove but talking on a cell phone
There are probably more termites in Africa than stars in the sky, a huge problem for anything built with wood.

The Dean of the Cathedral just sent a messenger with a formal letter requesting a meeting for today at 4:30pm. We are having conversations on ways to bring our Cathedral and Fraser Cathedral closer together. We met his afternoon and the meeting was very productive.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gary Johnson's "Postcard from Sudan" - Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Here's the latest posting from CCC's Gary Johnson, on pilgrimage with a team from the DIocese of Missouri to Lui, Sudan. Please keep Gary and the rest of the mission team in your prayers and check back here and at

We finished the ten chairs that the carpentry students have been working on. Bishop Stephan loved the chairs. He asked that we could put them on a concrete pad that was once the floor of his Tukul which collapsed after the last rainy season. The thatch gets water logged and the weight causes the walls to collapse. The concrete pad is near his new Tukul.

The Bishop invited us for dinner which by Lui standards was a true feast. The food was excellent there was thirteen of us sitting around a table that the Carpentry Class had built and dined by candle light (Candle light because of no electricity). With very limited resources Bishop Stephan and Lillian had set a wonderful table. Apparently the Bishop has never invited a group of this size to dinner. I personally think he was so excited to have a table to be able to seat his guest is why we were all invited. Before dinner and after we all sat outside in the chairs the carpentry class had built and drank tea and coffee.

Sitting on the patio after dinner it dawned on me that I was sitting in a country that was only 18 months old. There is need everywhere you look and you are starting from the beginning at almost all levels. None of the homes has address or street names, so there is no postal services. Trashcans are almost non existent or trash pick up, there is very little trash generated that isn't reused in some form or another. Most people have a pile in their compound that's burnt once a week. To travel to Juba which is 110 miles away takes 6 to 8 hours due to the road conditions.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gary Johnson's "Postcard from Sudan" -- Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Here's the latest posting from CCC's Gary Johnson, on pilgrimage with a team from the DIocese of Missouri to Lui, Sudan. Please keep Gary and the rest of the mission team in your prayers and check back here and at

Had a great breeze last night so I slept well.

The solar power that supplies electric to the Diocesan Office went down on Monday morning. Which caused us to have no internet. They called in an Engineer who works at the hospital just up the road. The engineer came out around 10:00am and diagnosed the problems this morning. Our batteries had gotten to low and we had three trees blocking the panels as the sun moved across the sky. We cleared the three trees and should have electric back on by 2:00pm today. But this is South Sudan discovered that the batteries were so low that they wouldn't hold a charge. We may have electric for the internet in two days or two weeks. The machete used on a 12" diameter tree brought it down in about 15 mins. If you haven't heard from any of us this would be the cause.

The guys in the Carpentry class are doing great they are finishing up their second projects today. We will then be moving onto building simple trusses and other forms of roof supports. I'm impressed with their ability to be shown something once and pick it up. I've stood back on this project to watch them use their own problem solving skills. They might choose a different path on solving a problem but end up with the correct answer. We are both learning a lot.

Couple of the things I forgot to add about Sunday and going to church was that out in front of the Cathedral there were two men with drums and a small fire. The drumheads were covered in animal skin, they would place the head of the drum near the fire bring it back up and play it. This went on several times until I figured out that they were tuning the drums for the hymns selected for that Sunday by heating the skin. I also noticed several men who have one hand cut off from the war. They'll cut off the right hand of a right handed person or the left hand of a left handed person it's part of Sharia Law. To make someone eat with the same hand as they wipe with is considered the ultimate insult on many levels not only in South Sudan but across Africa.

The food continues to be good, but it should be considering all the meat we eat is Organic, hormone free and without a doubt free range.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gary Johnson's "Postcard from Sudan" -- Sunday, December 2, 2012

Here's the latest posting from CCC's Gary Johnson, on pilgrimage with a team from the DIocese of Missouri to Lui, Sudan. Please keep Gary and the rest of the mission team in your prayers and check back here and at

Didn't sleep well last night, it was the hottest since I've been here. Finally found a position with no skin to skin contact that allowed me to go to sleep. Which is important when you have high humidly. The heat was the main topic of conversation around the breakfast table.

Celebrated our first Sunday in the South Sudan, it was very interesting. We went to the Cathedral for the English Service at 9:00. We were treated as Honored Guest and as such we sat on the Alter. They are using the prayerbook from 1662 which made following the service interesting. Half of the hymns were sung in English and the other half in what's known as Juba Arabic. The offertory is done by one person standing in front of the congregation with a velveteen bag and each person goes up and puts in their money. There is a 11:00 service at the Cathedral done in Moro which is the native tongue of this area. There are many different dialects/Languages in this part of South Sudan, but the predominant languages are Moro and Juba Arabic. The Dean processed out of the Cathedral at the end of the service along with the congregation and we were greeted by each as we left including shaking hands.

I did make three dehydration trays today out of bamboo. They basically have very little skills when it comes to drying or preserving food. We have a couple of people who on our team who are working on setting up basic canning and dehydrating food. I was asked to build trays with screen on them as models for them to build their own dehydration trays. When making or doing anything in Sudan you have to factor in..... Is this sustainable. Screening can be purchased at the Market, however lumber is expensive so we took bamboo and split it done the middle and the screening will be sewed around the bamboo frame.

It's been a great day.

Gary Johnson's "Postcard from Sudan" - Monday, December 3, 2012

Here's the latest posting from CCC's Gary Johnson, on pilgrimage with a team from the DIocese of Missouri to Lui, Sudan. Please keep Gary and the rest of the mission team in your prayers and check back here and at

A few of us were at the market today and ran into Bishop Stephen who invited us to go look at a wood burning stove at Ismael's tukul which is a mud hut with a thatched roof which 99% of the people in Lui live in. So after a 2 mile walk we were at Ismael's home.

The stove is vented and is inside of their tukul and vented to the outside. Crude by are standards but a huge leap for them since it's wood burning, vented and does not use their form of charcoal. The wood is also cheaper than charcoal.

What was most striking about being in the rural areas was the level of poverty. Walking through the market about 85% of the people will have sandals of some type on. Just the opposite is true in the rural areas. The children if they had clothing on it was torn, old and dirty. Most compounds will include the mothers, fathers, and grandmothers.

Sitting here I'm trying to put in words but until you walk it, smell it, touch it, it's hard to explain. Walking pass a family who's living in a mud hut and only owns one pot, one plate and a two cups for six people, they take turns eating. Walking pass a women who's taking a bath behind her hut which also happens to be be next to the path we were on. Seeing several children chewing on 2' piece of rope that's is their pacifier, and only toy. Seeing 5 year old girls carrying their 6 month old sister. I could go on but it's like trying to explain the Ocean to someone who has never seen it. You can talk or write about it for hours but until that person stands in it they won't truly understand it.

But for all of the sadness I saw groups of children who were happy, playing and having fun. Parents who were smiling and eager to invite us into their home. Richness can be measured in many ways and as I left each home the Bishop took us to, I felt that in many ways we will never know the riches they enjoy.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

"How's it going? You REALLY want to know how it's going?" -- A sermon for Advent I

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among the nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Let me ask you a question.

How’s it going?

Seriously, I’m asking you … how’s it going?

OK, so how many of you when you answered that question said some version of good, great or fine.

Yeah, that’s what I heard, too.

Now if you were to ask me the same question … and some of you have asked me the same question today, I’m going to give you the same answer. How’s it going, Mike? GREAT.OUTSTANDING. Good.

Except, do you know what we did just there?

We just lied. Well, maybe not lied. Lied is probably too strong. But we certainly weren’t completely honest with each other and maybe even with ourselves. If we were to be completely honest, our answer to that question would be way more than one or two words.

Because, really, “how it is going” and “how we are doing” is never simple.

Yes, there are pieces of our life that are good, great, fine … even outstanding. But there are also pieces … big pieces … pieces of our individual lives, of our family life, of our work or school life, of our civic life, of our national life that are nowhere close to outstanding, great or even good. There are pieces of our life that are painful, confusing, agonizing, terrifying and depressing. There are pieces of our lives that just plain suck.

And yet every time we get asked that question. How’s it going? We say.

Good. Great. Or even at worst “OK”

Now, I know what you’re thinking right now, and you are absolutely right. If someone were to ask me “how’s it going?” and I were to give a real, honest answer, the one thing I could guarantee is they would never ask me that question again … and they probably would never talk to me again!

Because “how’s it going?” or “how are you?” is a greeting, it’s a nicety. Most of the time when we ask it, we really don’t want to know how it’s going. What we want to do is express care about someone – and invite them to express care about us – on a level that essentially says “I care about you. You care about me. But, don’t worry, there’s no obligation to really get into it.”

That’s why the unspoken contract of etiquette we have with each other is that when someone asks us “how’s it going?” 99% of the time we’re going to say “good” or “fine” or “great.” And that’s just how we function as a society. It’s one of our rituals.

But there is a cost to this ritual as we perform it over and over and over again. The “how’s it going? … Great.” ritual.

First, it makes us believe that the answer really should be simple. That everyone else really is just fine. That everyone else’s lives are great. Outstanding. That when we have these pieces of our lives that aren’t great, that are hard and painful and depressing … that maybe we’re the exception rather than the rule. That maybe we’re different or defective somehow.

Second, it can make us stop believing that other people truly do care about how we’re doing. And so now in addition to feeling weirdly different that our lives aren’t just fine and great and outstanding, we feel even more isolated in that weirdness.

So more and more we inhabit a world where we’re encouraged to suffer in silence and isolation. Where we pretend that things are just great because it feels like they are for everyone else, and we don’t want to add to our worries somehow feeling like we’re a burden to others or feeling more different from others than we already feel.

And maybe the greatest irony is that there is no time during the year that we do this more than leading up to Christmas. Because we are told from every side that this is the hap-happiest time of the year, and if and when we don’t happen to feel that way, the temptation is to feel even stranger and bury it even deeper.

Now let me pause right now and say to you that I am not a member of the Advent police. I do not believe that the baby Jesus cries if we put up a tree or sing a carol or wish someone a Merry Christmas before December 25th. But I do believe that Advent is really important. That Christmas invites us to have Christ touch us and be with us and transform our lives in new ways, and that in Advent we spend some time getting ready for that.

And if we look at the four weeks of Advent and the Gospel readings we have for them, each week offers us a different step in that process of preparing. Each one of these steps is counter-cultural and jarring. Each one of those steps invites us to live together in Christian community in ways that are challenging and incredibly different than the ways we’re told to live out there.

And it starts today with what we hear from Jesus. It starts with Jesus saying:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among the nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

It starts with us answering the question “how’s it going?” not with “Good.” “Great.” “Outstanding.” or even “Fine.” But with a real answer. With naming the stuff that’s not great. That’s not outstanding or fine or even OK. With saying, “You want to know how it’s going? OK. Here is how it’s going. Distress among the nations. Fear and foreboding. The powers of the heavens themselves shaking.”

Now I’m not arguing that we should start spilling our guts to everyone who walks up to us and says “How’s it going?” But I am saying that in here, in this place, in this community, we get to be real with each other. In here, in this place, in this community, we get to tell the truth about where things are tough. We get to share the pieces of our lives that feel like they are falling apart or spinning out of control. In here, in this place, in this community, we get to NOT pretend that everything is OK. To acknowledge that it’s not. To acknowledge that even though there are some pretty great things about our lives, that there is some pretty rotten stuff, too. And that we can be honest with each other and with God about it.

So that’s what we’re going to do today. In your service leaflet is a 3x5 card. There are ushers with pencils if you need them and I’ve got them, too. And I want you to just name, just write down one thing in your life that isn’t fine. That isn’t OK. One thing that is scary or hurts or depressing. One piece of your life that is you’re not mentioning when someone asks how it’s going and you say “Great.”

It can be anything. It can be something that’s really personal about you like “I can’t find a job” or “I need a place to live” or “I don’t know how to talk to my dad” or “I have cancer” or “I’m worried my partner doesn’t love me anymore.” to something that is more about the world around us like how deeply divided we are by race and class or how the rich seem to keep getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Whatever is real for you about life that isn’t OK. Put it down. I’m not asking you to sign your name. I am asking you to write it down and then we’re going to collect them … and I promise we won’t do any handwriting analysis to see who wrote what!

People wrote on the cards and then they were collected in the baskets.

OK, what are we going to do with all these? Well let’s look at what Jesus says. Jesus says

“Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Here are some of the things we have named:

II hurt because my children pay very little attention to me and I have no one with whom to share these feelings -- except God.

I'm in debt!

I can't quit smoking

Concern for a family member struggling with substance abuse and close to losing custody of her children.

Dealing with the fallout from taking care of a dying loved one for several weeks.

My relationship with my father.

Now Jesus doesn’t tell us to wallow in this stuff. But Jesus also tells us not to be afraid of this stuff. Jesus invites us to name these things … to look them dead in the face, and then stand up and fearlessly raise our heads and believe that our redemption is coming near.

So that’s what we’re going to do. We are going to take all these things, all these pieces of our lives and our life that aren’t great and good or even OK. We’re going to look them square in the eye and not be afraid to name them. Not be afraid to say, yeah, all of this is part of our life, too. This is reality.

And then we’re going to take them and put them right here. (the baskets are taken to the altar and dumped out onto it) We’re going to put them right here on this table. As we begin Advent, this season where we remember that God loves us so much that God couldn’t bear to be separated from us, we’re going to offer all of this stuff right here on this table and do what we do when we put our lives on this table … say God, you want to know us, well this is part of us.

My son's health ...  God, this is how it’s going.

I'm becoming an old man and don't like it. Everything is starting to sag.... God, this is how it’s going.

Work products I owe are not done! Worry about it means they don't get done and I lose even more time with my family... God, this is how it’s going.

I worry that I am slipping into complete aloneness .. God, this is how it’s going.

When we lay these things on this table, we are standing up and lifting up our heads and saying, “God, this is how it’s going. This is what is real for us. And God, we are giving all of this to you for you to enter into it and transform it and create something new.”

What does that transformation look like? How will that new creation happen? Well, we’re not going to worry about that now. Come back next week, and we’ll hear a voice crying in the wilderness and we’ll tell the next step in the story.

But for now, for this week, for today we are just going to let ourselves be in this moment of holy, fearless honesty with God. Where we will literally lay all our cards on the table. Where we stand up and lift up our heads and say, “God, this is how it’s going.”

And in this moment of holy, fearless honesty together we will trust that we do not stand alone. Together we will trust that we stand with one another.

In this moment of holy, fearless honesty together we will trust that God really does want to know how it’s going.

And that God is listening.

And that God loves us.

And that God is right here.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gary Johnson's "Postcard from Sudan" -- Saturday, December 1, 2012

Here's the latest posting from CCC's Gary Johnson, on pilgrimage with a team from the DIocese of Missouri to Lui, Sudan. Please keep Gary and the rest of the mission team in your prayers and check back here and at

Woke up early (5:00am) again this morning and listened to Africa waking up. I have also learned that the Raptors also start very early. I counted three eagles this morning both looked like our Golden's but each had different wing configurations and body size. You can count three to five different birds of prey in 20 minutes. The larger eagles have a 5' wing span.

Today the Carpentry group only worked a half of a day but we have finished the first project. Material is hard to come by unless you drive to Juba which is 110 miles away but takes 6 hours due to the road conditions. Lots of potholes some caused by the rains and others are where the UN has cleared mines. Potholes can be 4' deep. We were starting to run low on lumber but was able to buy some in Lui. that will take us through next weeks projects.

Did my first laundry today which was interesting but easier than I expected. The women will do our shirts and pants but we do our undergarments. Getting use to having the goats and chickens running around like we would have dogs or cats except outdoors only. With the exception that the chicken or goat you see this morning will probably be dinner. With no refrigeration everything is prepared that day.

The weather here is wonderful highs in the nineties and lows in the eighties but a very dry heat most days, but when it's humid its really humid. We have had a great breeze all day very comfortable sitting in the shade. I'm here during their dry season, we have yet to have any rain.

Lots of UN vehicles moving past the compound headed to pick up more refugees near the Uganda border.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gary Johnson's "Postcard" from Sudan - November 30, 2012

Here's the latest posting from CCC's Gary Johnson, on pilgrimage with a team from the DIocese of Missouri to Lui, Sudan. Please keep Gary and the rest of the mission team in your prayers and check back here and at

I woke up early and decided to stay up. So at 5:15am I walked outside and made my water bottle coffee which I've become very fond of due to the heat. Taster's Choice in little packets dumped into a water bottle, I put the lid back on shake and my coffee is ready.

I was the only one awake in the compound and got to hear Africa wake up. It was just turning light, the sunrise seems especially slow here don't know if has something to do with being so close to the equator. But the only noise I could hear were the crickets, around 5:30 a few rooster started but from a distance. We have four roosters in the compound but they were silent. The different sounds I could hear mesmerized me, sounds I had never heard before seemed to chime in as if each knew his or her turn to join in the morning chorus. Sounds I had never heard before were beautiful and it's so quiet I love waking up to Africa.

We had a great dish for supper last night it's spaghetti noodles that they boil and when just about done they drain off the water and sprinkle powered milk and cane sugar on them. We also had chicken. Breakfast this morning consisted of greens, our dough-balls and tomato and onions and left over noodles from last night which was still good.

The ten guys in our carpentry class have almost finished their first project. They're very quick leaners. We normally stop around 3:30 but they wanted to keep working we worked until 5:45. Love working with them. They were so proud of their accomplishments today and to actually hold onto something that they had built with their own hands. Each one signed his name to the bottom of the table.

Love being here and the people are incredibly friendly.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gary Johnson's "Postcard" from Sudan - November 29, 2012

Here's the latest posting from CCC's Gary Johnson, on pilgrimage with a team from the DIocese of Missouri to Lui, Sudan. Please keep Gary and the rest of the mission team in your prayers and check back here and at

We get very limited WiFI time so here is a letter that I sent to Linda today . We are 9 hours ahead of you o right now it's the 29th. 8:51pm. Lui South Sudan

The morning starts around 6:00am, my room is near where the meals are prepared. Every morning the women start out by sweeping the compound with homemade brooms. Which when your windows are open you start counting their sweep patterns, 1-2-3 pause 1-2-3- pause It's dirt around the rooms with a little grass here and there, very dusty. What grass they have is maintained by cutting it with a L shape machete.

Breakfast is normally homemade biscuits from the night before along with fried dough-balls. I dip them in my coffee then into pure cane sugar. Manedazeti is what they call the dough-balls it has help my sweet tooth since the market doesn't carry any candy bars. The coffee packs are a big hit. I started taking my bottled water and pouring in the instant coffee, put the lid back on and shake. Actually is pretty good when you add a little of their pure cane sugar that they make.

Today we had the best lunch of any meal since I've been here. We had lambbuger crumbled up. Think hamburger helper but with Lamb over biscuits along with a great sauce and fried potato slices. Supper is almost always rice with chicken, beef, or beans with greens that are very close to our spinach.

Dan still hasn't gotten back with our supplies but should be in tonight. Went ahead with our first class today and had ten men. Very limited carpentry skills when it comes to working with wood. Most live in mud huts with thatched roofs. One of the reasons we're teaching carpentry skills is in the last monsoon that lasted several days they lost hundreds of huts. Mostly due to the thatch becoming water logged that the walls cant support the weight causing the walls to collapse. They're going to metal roofs which handle the water, but need the carpentry skills to do the trusses/rafters to support the weight of the new roofs.

The guys are very eager to learn and are quick learners. Started cutting pieces for our first project having them measure and do their own cutting. We borrowed a saw and hammer from a neighbor who makes custom furniture, bed, benches, desk etc. they took turns using the saw. It tuned out to be a very good day. The guy who makes the furniture charges $40.00 USD. for a solid Mahogany bench that is very well built using mortise and tenoned joints. A Mahogany bed hand carved with a footboard & Headboard will run $100.00 USD.

Have a great day, you are loved and missed. I Think about you every-time I see something I wish I could share with you. You would have loved all the kids at the school. They walk right by the compound in the mornings and evenings singing songs.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The joy of being known overcoming the fear of being known

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, November 18, 2012

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.

God is here.

Last month, John Kilgore and I hosted six different lunchtime tours and creative conversations here at Christ Church Cathedral for downtown and civic leaders. And each time, we started out by taking people up into the bell tower to that first level where the ropes are and giving them a chance to ring the bells.

We've got three bells in that bell tower. After the service, anybody who wants, I’ll take you up there and you can ring them, too. One of them is the largest bell in the state of Missouri, it weighs nearly three tons and its a replica of a bell that was cast for the 1904 World's Fair. The coolest thing is watching the children of our Cathedral family ring it because the rope literally lifts them up into the air. Does it to some of the adults, too.

We started with the bells because it was fun but also because a Cathedral's bells are one of its most distinctive features. For as long as there have been these beautiful Gothic buildings, the bells have rung out. Often they were the sound that carried the furthest of any other sound, reaching people for miles around.

When members of this congregation climb those steps and ring those bells, we are continuing a tradition that has gone on for hundreds and hundreds of years. It is a tradition of announcing to the world a presence. Of announcing that in the middle of all the activity, in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. In the middle of the tragedy and triumph. In the middle of silent suffering and wild jubilation. In the middle of labor and leisure, loving and fighting. In the middle of all these things and so much more ... that God is here.

God is here.

Not removed somewhere in the heavens watching us from a safe distance but right here, right here with us. God is here, with us, in the flesh. Immanuel.

The idea that God is present in the midst of the community didn't start with Jesus. In fact, in this morning's Gospel reading, the disciples are talking about it. They're looking at the great temple in Jerusalem. And really what the temple is is the building where they believe God lives. In the center of it, in the Holy of Holies is literally where God's presence in the Ark of the Covenant resides. The story our Jewish ancestors told is that Temple, that Ark was the presence of God, so much so that when the Temple was destroyed and the Ark was carried off they believed that God had actually departed from them.

And when you believe that, when you believe that God can be taken away, that God has been taken away before, it's hard not to live in fear that it might happen again.

So Jesus' words to his disciples ... when he said "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." that must have been terrifing. After all, they loved that temple. As much as we love and treasure this Cathedral building, they loved that Temple as much and even more. But more than that, if the Temple was gone, that meant God was gone, too.

But Jesus wasn't saying it to scare them. He was saying it to reassure them. This Immanuel, this God-made-flesh in Jesus, is living, walking, talking, eating, breathing proof that things aren't going to be the way they were. That things are going to be different. And different can be scary, but it's going to be great. It's going to be new.

And God will be present.

For their whole existence, the disciples and their ancestors had thought of God being tied to a place. And that made God’s presence with them conditional. Because places come and go.Anything that can be built by human hands can be torn down by the same, and at some point usually is.

But if God is not in the temple, then where is God? Where is God present.

Look at the person next to you. I mean it, look them in the eyes. Now look at another person around you. In front or in back of you. Look them in the eyes. Now look all around you in this room. Look at all the different shapes and colors and ages and genders and orientations and theologies and political views and heights and weights and smells and facial expressions that are in this room.

That's where God is.

In Jesus, God is telling us something new. God is telling us to be very, very careful in investing in the monuments we build or the structures that can pass away – because where stones are put on stone they will be cast down. But instead God is inviting us to give ourselves to the presence of the living God that lives in this community. And a God who lives in community can never go away as long as we are committed to staying together and growing together as a community. As long as we are committed to being the Body of Christ.

Be what you see, receive who you are.

God’s dream isn’t for us to “go to church” ... to come to some grand monument where God resides. No, God’s dream is for us to come together in wonderful places like this to be the church, to feel God's presence in this place and to be God's presence in this place and out of this place … together.

We've been listening deeply as we’ve had our conversations about our shared, core values and as we’ve done stewardship differently this year. And as we’ve listened, some common themes have emerged in these conversations. And it is all about this being the church. It is all about us as a community.

So if this community is where God is present, what do we notice about this community? Well, we're noticing a whole bunch of different things over the past couple years.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Interrupting the Silence"

A sermon preached by the Rev. Traci Blackmon at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, October 28, 2012 

Is poverty what it used to be?

Or has poverty grown so shameful that we dare not speak its name?

The widow we encounter in Mark 12:38-44 provides a case study in poverty and oppression. Yet, unable to confront poverty, we have turned her into something safer – an example of generosity.

The story of the widow's mite is generally idealized as an example of Christian behavior for those who are poor.

Those who are poor are expected, if they wish to be considered faithful… to give to the church – even if it means they go without.

Those of us who cling to our middle-class status are more likely to go to church than are the truly poor… so we allow ourselves to imagine poor people as being somehow different from ourselves…or we dress in the garb of the widow and feign generosity.

To read the Bible from a position of power and privilege runs the risk of romanticizing the plight of the poor, even to the point of making the condition of those oppressed… models for the victims of racism, classism and sexism.

As a result… we need help recognizing poverty’s presence.

The election has just passed. And regardless of who you and I voted for…one factor we can all celebrate… is that it is over – OVER! (smile)

Thank God for that.

Regardless of which candidate we chose to support, it should be disturbing to us…as thinking people of faith … that in spite of poverty figures which show that more than one in seven Americans – 46.2 million people – live in poverty… more than 16 million children… neither presidential candidate could work up the courage to address poverty as a serious issue, at least not directly.

And neither seemed in the least bit apologetic that the presidential election of 2012 cost a reported $2.5 billion … perhaps the costliest in our history!

The topic of money – who has it, who doesn’t, and what people do to acquire it – is central to Jesus’ thinking in this morning’s text.

When we read this story from economic privilege, we ignore how the normative interpretation maintains societal power relationships detrimental to the poor.

But missing from this interpretation is how the widow's self-sacrifice is related to the self-indulgence of the religious leaders who profit from her religious commitment.

Mark’s Gospel goes out of its way to make clear that she is just as much a victim as a hero.

I do not wish to dismiss either interpretation or application of this text, but I do want to offer a different starting point which will move in a vastly different direction.

Reading the story of the widow's mite from the perspective of the poor… we discover that in Mark's account… the story of the widow's offering is immediately preceded by Jesus' outrage toward the religious leaders who devour the possessions of widows.

The key to this text is to keep it as a whole, instead of separating out verses 41-44 from 38-40. The widow’s contribution is contextualized – she is participating in a system that routinely oppresses her and does so alongside of the guise of piety (v.40).

In a profound way, she is acting with nobility and self-sacrifice and she is contributing toward an unjust system.

She is giving all that she has and she is abetting a system that will take away all that she has.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

God's justice, American Apartheid and an open invitation to a dancing, beloved community.

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at the closing worship for the Beloved Community Conference at St. John's United Church of Christ on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ. I bring you greetings on behalf of the people of Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis. Like you we are a people of the city. We are a people committed to making this city one that makes glad God’s heart. Like you we are trying to hear the cries of our children and look forward to working more closely together to ease those cries and together to turn them to shouts of praise to our God.

“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-rolling stream.”

Y’all know that one? Right?

You bet we know it. That’s the prophet Amos. And we know when we hear that what is going to come next is something good. We know when we hear a preacher quote that scripture, someone’s gonna open a can of something on someone. And it’s going to be good.

A few years ago, I was at a conference and the keynote speaker was Dr. Esther Mombo. Now Dr. Mombo is a formidable woman. She is a scholar and a leader. She was the first female president of a theological college in her native Kenya. She was a tireless worker for justice and equality not just in Kenya but in all of Eastern Africa.

And so when Dr. Esther Mombo began her talk by pulling out Amos. When Dr. Esther Mombo began her talk by saying “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-rolling stream.” Man, I was ready to roll. I was settling in thinking, this is going to be good. She’s gonna open a can of something on someone.

And then she paused. And then this is what she said.

“If I could eliminate one word from human language it would be the word ‘justice.’”


If she were a TV set, I would be going like this to make sure I got the reception right.

And she must have seen that look in our eyes because she said it again.

“If I could eliminate one word from human language it would be the word ‘justice,’ because when we say the word ‘justice,’ our necks stiffen and our ears close.”

Now … she had my attention.

“when we say the word ‘justice,’ our necks stiffen and our ears close.”

And then she explained that the problem with the word justice is we too easily confuse two things: God’s justice and our justice.

Our justice is the justice of “I don’t just want to win, I want you to lose.”

Our justice is the justice of “I have defeated you.”

God’s justice is all God’s children are brought into the light of God’s love.

God’s justice is all God’s children are brought into the faith of God.
God’s justice is all God’s children are saved by the blood of Christ.

Our justice is retribution.
God’s justice is restoration.

Our justice makes us feel powerful.
God’s justice makes us rejoice in God’s power.

Our justice is about believing we know best.
God’s justice is knowing God knows best.

God’s justice is following the words of Micah “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”

God’s justice is remembering what God said to Isaiah, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”

God’s justice is remembering the words of Paul to the Corinthians, “I have made you ambassadors of Christ and given you the ministry of what? Of conquest? No. Of humilitation? No. Of demonization? No. The ministry of reconciliation.”

Now when your fine pastor the Rev. Starsky Wilson honored me and Christ Church Cathedral with the invitation to be the preacher this morning and sent me the information about this Beloved Community Conference and showed me the guiding scripture was Psalm 33:12, I turned to it in my Bible and I have to say I had the same experience I had when I heard Esther read that passage from Amos.

I read, “Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.”

Yeah. I like the sound of that.

It makes me feel special.

It makes me feel that I am, that we are maybe more special than others.

It makes me feel that I am, that we are smiled on by God more than others.

It makes me feel like God maybe is on my side, and God stands against those I might see as not on my side.

I read that verse from Psalm 33 and I started feeling my neck stiffen and my ears close.

But then God did something.

God whispered in my ear. You know how when you want to get someone’s attention sometimes you don’t shout. When someone is shouting at us, it’s easy to tune them out. But when you really want to get someone’s attention, you whisper. That’s why God talks in that “still, small voice.”

So anyway, I’m feeling really happy about this psalm, feeling really happy about myself, about ourselves, … feeling my neck start to stiffen and my ears start to close. And then God says … very quietly.

Excuse me.
I wasn’t finished yet.

Oh, OK. So then I read on in psalm 33.

Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage. … but then the psalm continues…

The Lord looks down from heaven and sees all humankind.

From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth—

He who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes their deeds.

A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.

The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save.

Hmmmm… OK. I’m starting to feel a little differently now.

Maybe God wants something different.

Maybe God wants to not just save my soul but to use me to save others’ souls.

Maybe God wants me not to get so confident in my own intellect, in the rightness of my cause, in the strength of my argument in my great army or my war horse.

Maybe God wants me to turn my life over to Jesus Christ, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

Maybe God wants me to be an ambassador of Christ, an ambassador of reconciliation, an agent of conversion, even as I am still being converted.

In the winter of 1964, Nelson Mandela arrived on Robben Island in South Africa where he would spend 18 of his 27 prison years. Confined to a small cell, the floor his bed, a bucket for a toilet, he was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He was allowed one visitor a year for 30 minutes. He could write and receive one letter every six months.

But he got together with his fellow prisoners and started a school. A school without books or pens or paper. A school where each taught the others everything they knew about anything. One day one of the guards asked if he could join in. And even though his fellow inmates objected, Mandela stood his ground and said they absolutely had to let him become a part of their community. Because the road to salvation for South Africa was not treating one another as the enemies they were, but looking forward to the day when they would be friends … and treating each other that way now in anticipation of that day.

It is because of that conviction. That conviction that we have no enemies but just future friends, that Nelson Mandela was able to lead a nearly bloodless revolution that no one in the world thought possible. It was that conviction that led to the scene on his inauguration as president of South Africa where his prison guards were led, not away in chains as defeated prisoners, but to seats of honor as friends on the platform next to him.

Now what Nelson Mandela was about wasn’t some weak, “can’t we all just get along.” And neither are we.

This is join us at the foot of the cross.

Join us as we fashion a world where there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Join us not in a world of tolerance. Our God is not a God of tolerance. You know what tolerance is? Tolerance is you stay over there and I’ll stay over here and we will “tolerate” each other … not bug each other. A God who loved us so much that God had to become human in Jesus Christ to live among us is not a God of tolerance and did not die on the cross to bring into being a kingdom of tolerance. Jesus is about join us in a world of the beloved community that reaches to the end of the earth. A beloved community where our salvation is intimately wrapped up in each other not just in here. And not just out in the streets of St. Louis. But in Clayton and Ladue. Webster Groves and Kirkwood. Creve Couer and Chesterfield. Urban, suburban and rural. Red states and blue states.

What Nelson Mandela was about and what we are about is not weak capitulation but bold action. But it is bold action motivated by love, not by hate.

It is bold action. But it is action motivated by a deep desire to have God change the
hearts of our sisters and brothers even as our own hearts are being changed by God and even by them.

It is bold action, but it is action that seeks not to defeat the enemies of God’s justice, but to appeal to the conscience of those who worship at the altar of self instead of the altar of God.

It is bold action, but it is action that means we must all take the logs out of our own eyes before we point out the speck in our sisters’ and brothers’ eyes. Bold action that calls us with Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King and Gandhi and Desmond Tutu and Jesus Christ to be disciplined soldiers of nonviolence.

And so we must invite God boldly to act on our hearts, to purify them.

We must boldly challenge the idolatry of this culture, our worship of capitalism and consumption, and allow our own participation in it to be challenged.

Now in South Africa, the context where the questions of God’s justice were asked was Apartheid. So what is the context here? In 2013? In America? In St. Louis?

Well, my sisters and brothers, I believe it is still Apartheid. Because Apartheid is saying that you take the abundance that the land provides, and that this many people (tiny) gets’ this much of it (big) and that this many people (big) gets this much of it (tiny).

The context of our American society is Apartheid.

It’s Apartheid when the unemployment rate for White America is 7.2% and the unemployment rates for Black America is 14.1%

It’s Apartheid when Black America is just 12 percent of our nation’s population but makes up 44 percent of our prison population

It’s Apartheid when the child poverty rate for White America is 12 percent, but for black America it is 39 percent.

It’s Apartheid when the life expectancy for Black America is nearly five years shorter than the life expectancy for White America

So the context we are in is American Apartheid.

It is an America of gated communities and section 8 housing.

It is an America of St. Louis City and St. Louis County

It is an America of north of Delmar and South of Delmar

Now this conference is called “Justice and Jesus.” So do we think Jesus has something to say about this? Do we think Jesus has something to say about justice? Do we think Jesus had something to say about Apartheid in South Africa? Do we think Jesus has something to say about Apartheid in St. Louis?

He has a lot to say.

He has more to say about it than just about anything else.

He has something to say about a land like ours that produces abundantly.

In fact, he has a story to tell. It’s a story he tells in the 12th chapter of Luke.

Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ->->->->

But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’

Hmmmm … Does that sound familiar?

Building bigger houses to store our stuff and then saying, “I got mine!”

You see any barns around us today?

I do.

We have barns full of income.
We have barns full of health care.
We have barns full of public safety
We have barns full of education
We have barns full of civil rights.

And what does Jesus say to the builders of those barns?

He says “This very night your soul is being demanded of you.”

Following Jesus means we don’t build up those barns, we tear them down.

We tear them down because income, health care, education, public safety, civil rights are not meant to be hoarded by the few, but are meant to be enjoyed by all of God’s children.

But we tear down those barns not just for the good of the masses, but out of love for the ones who built them. Because it is their very soul that is at stake. It is their very soul that is at stake. These barns are prisons that keep people from giving their lives to Christ, which is the greatest joy there is.

And before we start feeling too good about “us” being the ones tearing down the barns and “them” being the ones who build them up. Before our necks stiffen and ears close too much. Let’s remember Psalm 33 again. God looks at all humanity. And when God looks at all humanity, God sees 2 billion people that live on less than $2 a day.

When we talk about the 1% and the 99% and start pointing that finger, we need to remember that God looks down on all humanity and from that God’s eye view, we are the 1% and the rest of the world is the 99.

But that’s OK. That’s nothing to fear. Because this isn’t about human justice. It’s about God’s justice. This isn’t about us fearing God’s wrath, it’s about all of us needing God’s grace.

It ‘s about the whole world as the beloved community. No exceptions.

It’s about the whole world together tearing down barns and gathering at the foot of the cross.

It’s about us not believing in our own agendas but saying “come Holy Spirit and blow and burn and shape this world into your image … starting with us … starting with me.”

It’s about claiming that we are a people not gathered in fear in some upper room with Jesus, but profoundly changed by Jesus and sent into the world.

And we are a people sent, right? You know that we’re a people sent, right?
You know the Great Commission, right? Matthew 28. You’ve heard that before.

The resurrected Christ is with the 11 on the mountain in Galilee. The wind is whipping around. When the disciples saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. And then a hush fell over them as they waited for Jesus to speak, And Jesus said :

“Some authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. If you feel like it, go to some places where you are comfortable and share some things about me that nobody will find too offensive, baptizing them in a life that is pretty much like what they are in right now, and telling them to obey some of what I have commanded. And remember, I will check back in on you from time to time.”

That’s the Great Commission, right?

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I get that wrong?

If you look at the church today, you’d think that’s what he said.

Did he say something different? Let me check my Bible.

Well what do you know, that’s not what Jesus said. Here is what Jesus said.

He said ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

We are commissioned with the power and authority of Christ and sent to change hearts even as we are walking humbly with our God asking God to change ours.

We are commissioned with the power and authority of Christ to go and make disciples of Jesus together to grow this beloved community to the ends of the earth.

We are commissioned with the power and authority of Christ to tear down barns, knowing some of them have been built by our own hands.

We are commissioned with the power and authority of no one less than the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords not to be agents of our own justice but missionaries of God’s justice and love.

The justice of a God who yes loves Barack Obama but also loves Mitt Romney.

Who loves Claire McCaskill but also loves Todd Akin.

Who loves Angela Davis and Al Sharpton but also loves Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity.

Who loves all of them and all of us so much that God dreams nothing less than a banquet where we are all seated together and there is enough food for all. And if it seems like a long way from that as we sit in the middle of our American Apartheid, just remember how far we as humanity have come before.

In the darkest days of South Africa’s Apartheid, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was scheduled to be a part of a political rally at St. George’s Cathedral in Capetown. The rally had been canceled by the government, so Archbishop Tutu said, "Okay, we’re just going to have church then." And church he had.

They gathered together in that Cathedral just like we are gathered this morning. Only in that Cathedral, the police were massing by the hundreds on the outside and they were there to intimidate, to threaten, to try and frighten all the worshipers.

You could feel the tension in that place. The police were so bold and arrogant they even came into that Cathedral and stood along the walls. They were writing down and tape recording every thing that Archbishop Tutu said. But he stood there to preach.

And he stood up, a little man with long, flowing robes, and he said, "This system of apartheid cannot endure because it is evil." That’s a wonderful thing to say, but very few people on the planet believed that statement at that point in time. But that didn't matter because he believed it. And the people in that church believed it. Then he pointed his finger at those police standing along the walls of his sanctuary and said, "You are powerful. You are very powerful, but you are not gods and I serve a God who cannot be mocked."

Then he flashed that wonderful Desmond Tutu smile and said, "So, since you’ve already lost, since you’ve already lost, I invite you today to come and join the winning side"

And at that the congregation erupted. They began dancing in the church. They danced out into the streets and the police moved back because they didn’t expect dancing worshipers.”

When the people of God start to dance, there is no power on heaven or earth that can stop us.

So we are here to say with Dr. King, with Nelson Mandela, with Mahatma Gandhi, with Desmond Tutu and in the name of Jesus Christ that "this system of American Apartheid cannot endure because it is evil."

We are here to say to the people who benefit from it, who would defend it, who would even beat us down to protect it that “You are powerful. You are very powerful, but you are not gods and we serve a God who cannot be mocked."

But mostly, we are here to issue an invitation. We are here to go out into the streets, onto the internet, onto every place where people try to defend and protect and uphold this American Apartheid and say “"So, since you’ve already lost, since you’ve already lost, we invite you today to come and join the winning side"

So let us go. Go forth from this place. Go out into the streets.

Not with stiff necks and closed ears but with a humble heart and a passionate soul.

Go not to defeat and enemy but to love and convert a brother or sister.

Go not to start a war but to invite people into a dance.

Go to be and create the beloved community. A community that begins in our hearts and takes root in the streets. A beloved community not of our justice but God’s justice. A beloved community where Apartheid is a distant memory. A beloved community where all have enough and the music and dancing never, ever stops. AMEN.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

"Show me where it hurts" -- a sermon for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, October 28, 2012 

Show me … where it hurts.

If there is ever an invitation we both long to hear and fear to hear, it is: “Show me where it hurts.”

We long to hear it because it is the voice of care and compassion. It’s the loving parent kneeling down to meet the gaze of that tearful child that lives inside each one of us. That lives inside you and that lives inside me.

Show me where it hurts.

We long to hear it because it tells us that maybe someone not only cares but can actually understand. That someone will meet us where it hurts. Hold us where it hurts. Kiss us where it hurts. And somehow make it better.

At the same time … we fear it. We fear it because it is an invitation to be vulnerable. To let someone see something in us that they might think is wrong or weak or bad. Maybe they will think less of us? Maybe they will say, “Pffft. That’s nothing.” … even though to us it feels like everything.

Maybe when we show them, they won’t be able to see it or they won’t believe us at all?

Show me where it hurts.

But we also fear it for some of the same reasons we long for it.

As strange as it sounds, we fear “show me where it hurts” because someone might actually meet us where it hurts. Someone might actually hold us where it hurts. Someone might actually kiss us where it hurts and somehow make it better. We fear it because sometimes where it hurts has become such a big part of us that we aren’t sure who we would be without it. We aren’t sure how to be without it. We don’t know if there can be an us without it.

One of Robin Williams’ first movies about 30 years ago was called Moscow on the Hudson. He plays a Russian saxophone player visiting New York City with a touring group. And just before the group is about to go to the airport and back to the Soviet Union, he realizes he can no longer live the life he has had to live behind the iron curtain … and so he defects … right in the middle of Bloomingdale’s.

His new life in America is hard. Even though there is so much that is better, so much freedom he has that he didn’t have before, so much that is what he dreamed for, it is all so different. He doesn’t know who he is in this strange country. The life he had before was awful, but at least he knew who he was. Now he is having to find out who he was all over again in this strange place. And that is really, really scary.

At one point, he is crying with a friend, trying to help him understand why part of him still wants to be in Russia, as bad as things were. And this is what he says:

“When I was in Russia, I did not love my life, but I loved my misery. You know why?

Because it was my misery.

I could hold it.

I could caress it.”

As strange as it sounds, “Show me where it hurts” is scary because someone might actually kiss us where it hurts and somehow make it better. Because even though we might not love our lives, sometimes we do get pretty attached to our misery. Because it’s our misery. We can hold it. We can caress it. We know who we are with it and maybe we aren’t sure how to be without it. Maybe we aren’t sure if there can even be an us without it.

And yet, “Show me where it hurts” is exactly what Jesus asks us. He asks it so he can meet us where it hurts. So he can hold us where it hurts. So he can kiss us where it hurts and make it better. And then walk with us and help us walk with one another as we learn how to be and who we are without it.

If … we let him.

Bartimaeus is an outcast, and he knows it. His identity is rooted in what he lacks – sight and money. He is a blind beggar. He is his pain. He is his misery.

But this blind man has a vision. A vision that maybe things don’t need to be this way. That maybe there is a life beyond the misery. And that maybe this Jesus is the one who can make it happen. So screwing up all the courage he has, as Jesus walks by, he shouts “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The disciples and others tell him to just… shut… up! After all, all they see is this man of misery. A blind beggar. What use could he be? But for some reason, Bartimaeus won’t be denied. He cries out all the more “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

And Jesus stops in his tracks and says:

“Bring. Him. Here.”

And so here is Bartimaeus, face to face with Jesus. Now he’s blind, so he can’t see Jesus, but he knows he is right there. And all he hears is this voice in the darkness. And the voice says:

Show me where it hurts.

It is the moment of truth for Bartimaeus. These are the words he has longed to hear from the one from whom he has longed to hear it. But his answer means everything. Because in front of him is the one who has the power not just to see where it hurts but to heal where it hurts. And then his pain, his misery will be gone.

But who will he be without it?

We tend to think of Bartimaeus’ voice was full of relief and joy when he answers , but I have to believe it was also full or fear and trepidation. I have to believe that maybe a cold sweat broke out on Bartimaeus’ brow when he heard Jesus say, “Show me where it hurts” … because sure, life before he gave his answer was miserable, but it was familiar.

Life after that answer … who knows?

I have to believe it took even more courage for Bartimaeus to answer “My teacher, let me see again” than it did to keep shouting Jesus’ name even when the crowd was telling him to be quiet. Because in Jesus’ question was an invitation not just to name his pain but to let go of his pain forever … and to join him in a new and utterly unfamiliar life on the other side of that pain … a life that he could only guess at.

When we come to Jesus, he asks us just three things:

Show me where it hurts.
Let me heal where it hurts.
Follow me to a new life.

That’s it. Just three things:

Show me where it hurts.
Let me heal where it hurts.
Follow me to a new life.

What Jesus is asking us to do is pretty scary. Jesus is not just asking us to be able to name our pain – and that can be challenging enough sometimes -- but to take that pain, that pain that is ours. That pain that we can hold. That pain that we can caress. To take that pain and let … it … go. Let it go so we can follow him to a new life. A life where we are not known by our pain. A life where we are known by who we really are … beloved children created in the image of a infinitely loving God.

I think it was Abigail van Buren who said, “Churches are hospitals for sinners, not museums for saing.” I think she’s right, churches are hospitals for sinners. But I would put it slightly differently:

“Churches are hospitals for sinners, not hospices for sinners.”

We aren’t here because we are perfect. We are here because part of us is just like Bartimaeus. Because Jesus calls us here in all our pain and imperfection and weakness and says “show me where it hurts” so we can lay it down and let it go.

Jesus calls us together at this time and place not so we can die holy deaths from our wounds but so together we can be healed from them and follow him into new life. A new life of loving extravagantly out there because we know Jesus love for us in here (the church) and in here (our hearts). A new life where we know we are neither blind nor beggars but beloved children of a loving, living God.

A new life where we are the ones going out into a world that is just as longing and just as terrified as we once were and maybe we are now. Going out into the world and asking them:

Show me where it hurts.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

And Jesus said, "One thing you lack: Wax on, Wax off."

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, October 14, 2012

And Jesus said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

Are you bracing yourselves yet?

Man, I know if I were sitting where you are and I just heard me quote that verse, I’d be bracing myself.

Here it comes. And conveniently placed in stewardship season, too. The Gospel reading about Jesus telling the rich man to give away all his money.

Here it comes. The holy putting on of the squeeze. The gunning for the green. The sacred shakedown.

Vito, would you please help this nice parishioner find his pockets?

Give. Give more. Give it all.

But why? That’s the question isn’t it? Why should we give?

And those of us doing the asking, we know we all are rational people who need and respect a well-crafted argument, so we don’t disappoint. We have honest, wonderful, sensible reasons to give.

We talk about how much money it takes to keep this place open and all the good works we do. We talk about ownership and responsibility and sometimes even about bang for your buck.

And it’s all good. It’s real. It’s true. And it makes sense. But somehow even at our best and most passionate and honest, it still all manages to sound kind of like an NPR-style begathon without the coffee mugs and tote bags.

But the question is still there, and it’s a good one. Why? Why should I give?

The answer I have for us this morning may sound simplistic. It might even seem so anti-intellectual that it offends us, which is why I think we usually try to find reasons that sound better. But I’ve finally come to realize there really is only one reason we give.

Because Jesus tells us to.

That’s it.

We give because Jesus tells us to. Because from the beginnings of the church 2,000 years ago, our foundation is not beautiful worship or good deeds but trusting that in Jesus Christ, God is saving us from lives of fear to lives of freedom. Trusting that in Jesus, God is calling us to a new life that is life at its richest and deepest and most wonderful.

And because of that, because we trust God, we give Jesus authority in and over our lives. Not just when it is convenient or makes sense but always.

Why do I give? Why should we all give?

Because Jesus tells us to

And if that doesn’t make sense or if it even seems like an infuriating abdication of our own intellect … well, no, it doesn’t, and yes, it is.

But there you have it.

Jesus used parables to teach tough concepts. So maybe this parable will help.

How many of you have seen The Karate Kid? I’m not talking about the remake, here. I’m talking about the original. The real deal. 1980s classic. Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita as Daniel Larusso and Mr. Miyagi.

It’s a great story. Daniel is an East Coast high school kid whose single mom has dragged him to Southern California for her new job … and he hates it. Life is awful. He’s alone in a new place, friendless and at the mercy of a gang of bullies who beat him up and are threatening to do worse. He’s angry and depressed and it feels like nobody cares. His world makes no sense anymore.

Daniel is the people of Israel in exile, only for him the promised land is back home in New Jersey and his wilderness is Reseda. You can almost hear him screaming “My God, my God why have you forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?” only for him Psalm 22 is him screaming at his mom, “I hate this place! I hate it! I just want to go home. Why can’t we just go home?... That’s it. I don’t understand the rules here, and I just want to go home.”

But since going home is not an option, there’s only one salvation Daniel can see: “I’ve gotta learn karate,” he says. He’s tried learning out of a book but he knows that’s not cutting it. He needs a teacher. A real teacher.

And then one day, he meets this elderly gardener from Okinawa, Mr. Miyagi. Something is different about this man. It’s more than just that he knows karate. There is something about him that feels safe. That feels like home even though he is so different. This man could teach me, Daniel thinks. Maybe if he could teach me, I wouldn’t have to be afraid. Maybe if he could teach me, life would start to make sense. Maybe if he could teach me, life might be good again.

And Mr. Miyagi agrees to teach Daniel, to be his sensei. But before he does, he looks deep into Daniel’s eyes and makes him promise something.

“We make a sacred pact,” Mr. Miyagi says. “I promise to teach karate to you. You promise to learn. I say. You do. No questions.”

And Daniel, having absolutely no idea what he is getting into, says “Sure. You teach. I learn. No problem.”

Daniel shows up the next day ready to learn karate. Mr. Miyagi hands him a sponge and points him to a lot full of antique cars. Wash all the cars in the lot. Then wax. Wax on with right hand. Wax off with left hand.

“Hey!” Daniel says, confused. “Why do I have to…”

“AH!” shouts Mr. Miyagi, “Remember deal. No questions. Wax on right hand. Wax off left hand.”

The next three days are the same way. Daniel arrives expecting to learn karate and instead is given another backbreaking and seemingly pointless chore. Sand the floor (make circular motion on ground). Paint the house (make motion side to side). Paint the fence (make motion up and down). And Daniel does it all. He doesn’t understand it, but he does it. And his confusion gradually turns to exasperation and finally to anger.

On the night of the fourth day, Mr. Miyagi comes back from a day of fishing, and Daniel is not only exhausted from painting, he is furious. And he starts screaming at Mr. Miyagi:

“I’m your karate student? I’m being your slave is what I’m being here. You’re supposed to teach, and I’m supposed to learn.”

“You learn plenty,” Miyagi responds.

“Yeah, I learned how to sand your decks, maybe. I washed your car. Paint your house. Paint your fence. I learn plenty.”

“Ah,” Miyagi says. “Not everything is as it seems.”

And then he proceeds to show him how every one of those seemingly senseless moves, repeated over and over and over again were ingraining habits in him, changing him, preparing him to use karate without thinking. In just four days, Daniel had mastered the basic moves that would save him.

From the very beginning, the basis of the church is a sacred pact. It is like the pact between Mr. Miyagi and Daniel only it is between us and Jesus: “He teaches. We learn.”

But over the centuries, the pact has gotten more and more obscured. The words are still right there in our baptismal service:

Do you turn to Jesus and accept him as your savior?

Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?

Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?

And like Daniel, having absolutely no idea what we’re getting into – how could we! - we say. I will. I will. I will. “Sure. You teach. I learn. No problem.”

And before the chrism is dry on our foreheads we start arguing with Jesus like Daniel looking at that sponge and the lot of cars. And before we know it, we have gone from “follow and obey him as our Lord” to “do those things he says that make sense to us.”

Before we know it, we are re-defining Jesus’ commands in terms of what the world has taught us is sensible. We are re-defining faithfulness as effectiveness. We are re-defining good stewardship of church finances as “being smart with our money” and “getting the most bang for the buck.” We are re-defining following Jesus as “going to church and leading a good life.”

And as we do, Christ’s individual claim on our lives becomes a distant echo, if we can hear it at all.

Jesus looks in our eyes and says, “We make a sacred pact. I promise to teach the secrets of life to you. You promise to learn. I say. You do. No questions.”

It has to be that way because from the beginning Jesus’ earliest followers knew that the things Jesus tells us to do by themselves make no sense.

Things like praying every day to a God we can’t see, hear, taste or touch.

Things like reading a 2,000 year old book every day to learn how to live our lives.

Things like giving away money that everyone else us tells us is ours and we should do what we want to with it.

Things like believing that a cross can be a throne and enemies are for loving.

These things make no sense in the eyes of the world. But we do them, because like wax on, wax off, we are changed by doing them. We become wise. We become loving. We become generous. But most of all we become like Christ. In fact, we become Christ’s. We become fearless and free. We become able to embrace life like a skydiver hurtling from a plane.

The more we pray and give our lives to Christ each day, the less anxiety has a hold on us.

The more we read the Bible and seek wisdom from it each day, the less the cacophony of this Fox News/MSNBC world tees us up and sets us off.

The more we give … not just to the church but anywhere. The more we give, the less hold money has on us and the freer we are to live and love and fully embrace this great gift of life God gives us.

The more we love, the less hate binds us. The more we lay down on the cross, the less anyone and anything else can have any power over us.

We follow the master to become like the master. Free. Fearless. And fully alive.

We’re hearing testimonies this month, so here is mine. Why do I give?

I don’t give because the church needs the money. I don’t give because I think it’s a good investment or because it makes me feel good.

I give because Jesus tells me to. And why does that matter?

Because I am Daniel Larusso – and I wonder if maybe you are, too. I live in a world that doesn’t make sense. A world where still every three seconds a child dies of preventable stupid poverty. A world where corporate criminals are lionized and single moms are spat upon. A world where friends and lovers can leave us but it's cancer that comes back. A world that makes me want to cry out like Job and the Psalmist and Daniel Larusso: “I don’t understand the rules here … and I just want to go home.”

I give because I’ve met someone named Jesus. I’ve met him in people who know him and are trying to follow him. I’ve met him in his words. I’ve met him in the stillness of my heart. I have met him in this place and in you. And something is different about this Jesus. Something about him that feels safe. That feels like home even though he is so different and he says things that are so strange. Maybe if this Jesus could teach me I wouldn’t have to be afraid. Maybe if this Jesus could teach me, I could understand. Maybe if this Jesus could teach me, I could be free and fearless and alive like him.

I give because in a world where so little makes sense, Jesus offers a promise of a love that is more powerful than any of the pain or fear or even death. So I give because I am trying to give Jesus authority in my life not just when it is convenient or makes sense to me, but all the time.  I give because I need to follow Jesus not because if I don’t I’m afraid of hell, but because it’s the only way my life makes sense.

And so, I pray because Jesus says so. I read the Bible because Jesus says so. I give because Jesus says so. And I’ve never regretted it. Not once. Because like waxing the cars or sanding the floor, every time I do, little by excruciating little, I know I’m becoming something. And I know that it is the only salvation I have. Amen.