Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you." -- a sermon for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, October 25, 2015

Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.

Say that with me. Will you?

Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.


Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.

Again. Louder.

Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.

Now turn to someone near you and say it.

Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.


Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.

Once more.

Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.

If there are ever words we needed to hear, it is these.

If there are ever words we needed to say, it is these.

And the good news is, we get to hear them.

The better news is, we get to say them.

And the best news is, they are some of the truest words ever spoken.

We can take heart.

We can get up.

Jesus is calling us.

In this morning’s Gospel. In one story. In fewer than 10 sentences. Jesus gives us a model for our entire lives.

Jesus and his disciples are leaving Jericho. And as they are leaving, they pass Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, sitting by the side of the road. And when Bartimaeus hears that it was Jesus passing by, he takes an incredible risk. Hoping beyond hope that this might be someone who could help him, he cries out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

And what does he get for crying out? Nothing … and worse.

Some ignore him, either not hearing or pretending they didn’t hear.

Others turn to him and tell him to just shut up.

If there was ever any doubt in his mind that his life didn’t matter. If there was ever any doubt in his mind that his place was on the outside looking in, there it was.

Even Jesus doesn’t have any time for him.

Jesus has more important places to go and more important people to see.

Jesus is not about him.

Except Bartimaeus will not be denied.

He cries out all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And the scripture says three words:

Jesus stood still.

Jesus stops dead in his tracks. Stops everything that he was doing. Stops the entire crowd that is following him. Stops the entire movement that is headed toward Jerusalem. Why?

Because of the call of one blind beggar.

Jesus stood still.

And then he says, “Call him here.”

And then the disciples say those words:

Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.

These are no ordinary words. This is not “ahh … it’s alright, come on over.”

Take heart. Take heart is the Greek tharsei. It means “Be bold.” It means “Have courage.”

It is the Greek version of the word Moses spoke to the people of Israel when they were pinned between the advancing Egyptian army and the seemingly uncrossable Red Sea. “Have courage. Stand firm and see the salvation of your God!”

“Take heart” is a clarion call of courage in a time of incredible crisis. It is a word of hope when all hope seems lost.

It is life where there seems no future but death.

And then “Get up.”

This isn’t just “on your feet.”

This is “Awaken!”

This is “Get woke and stay woke!”

This is the translation of the word Jesus spoke earlier in Mark’s Gospel to the little girl who had died. The one to whom he said “talitha cumi” which means, “little girl, get up.”
Get up.

Get woke and stay woke.

Literally it means come back to life.

“Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.” Means you who are in the deepest despair. You for whom all seems lost. You who have been left to die. Wake up. Get woke and stay woke. Come back to life. Find life where you were sure there only was death.


Because Jesus is calling you.

Could there be a more glorious message?

Could there be a more glorious message to hear?

Could there be a more glorious message to shout?

And yet all of it would mean nothing if Jesus didn’t make good on the promise. And that’s why the best news of all. Better than hearing it. Better than saying it. The best news of all is what happens next.

Bartimaeus throws off his cloak. He throws off his cloak because Jesus has called him and he is no longer a beggar. He will no longer be identified and categorized and commodified by that label. He is Bartimaeus, which literally means “son of honor” … and having had courage and been awoken, he comes before Jesus and Jesus sees him for who he truly is – not blind, not a beggar, not an outcast, but a child of honor, created in the image of God, beautiful and sacred and powerful … yes, powerful.

And Jesus shows just how powerful. Because Jesus places Bartimaeus in the center of the community and says “What do you want me to do for you?”

If that question sounds familiar, it’s because we just heard it. We just heard it on the lips of James and John last week when they were not crying “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” but “Jesus, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Only Bartimaeus is not looking for power and privilege and glory. Bartimaeus is not looking to be exalted over others, to sit on Jesus right or his left. Bartimaeus is looking for equity and justice. Bartimaeus is looking for that which has for a lifetime segregated him from a life of dignity finally to be healed.

And so Bartimaeus says, “My teacher, let me see again.” And not only does Bartimaeus see, the scripture says “he follows him on the way.” No longer an outsider and an outcast. No longer a “them” to the disciples’ “us,” Bartimaeus, child of honor, follows Jesus on the way to Jerusalem. On the way to the heart of power. On the way to the cross.

For the past two months, Jesus has been giving us this same message.

We have heard him say “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Then the next week, we heard: “The Son of man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” Then we heard: “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off… and if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off … And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out.”

And then the next week, Jesus moved from preaching to meddling because he started talking about money and said: “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

And then last week, Jesus said: “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”

And now this morning, just before he enters Jerusalem, just in case we have – in the best tradition of the disciples – absolutely not understood a single thing he had been saying. Just in case we still think this Jerusalem trip will end on a throne at the palace instead of hanging on a cross, in fewer than 10 sentences Jesus’ Gospel gives us the very model for our lives as his disciples in the story of Bartimaeus.

Our job is not to cultivate wealth.
Our job is not to cultivate power.
Our job is not to cultivate respectability or goodwill or anything else this world values.

Our job – except no, it’s not out job. Our JOY is to seek out those among us who have been most cast aside, who are right now crying out for basic human dignity, equity and justice.

Our JOY is to hear those cries.

Our JOY is to hear those cries and stop what we are doing and to be the voice of hope that says you are not alone, that you are not shouting into an empty wind. That although the odds are stacked against you and the Egyptian army is at your back and all that lies in front of you is a seemingly uncrossable sea, that there is more than hope, there is the sure and certain hope of the resurrected Christ that even death on the cross could not stop.

Our JOY is to stop what we are doing and turn to those beautiful children of honor among us crying on the side of the road and say again and again:

Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.
Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.
Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.

And then our further joy is that we get to be the community that puts their needs at the center. That takes those who are most ignored and oppressed and says: “YOU get to set the agenda.” And then we get to listen deeply to the needs and concerns of those who have been listened to the least. And then our joy, our great joy is to use everything that Christ has given us to make that healing, make that equity, make that justice happen so that these beautiful children of honor can take their rightful place not as second- third- or fourth-class citizens but as fellow one-class travelers on the road we travel together.

And because this is what we get to care about. Because we get to care about being faithful to Jesus’ model of bringing the outcast into the center. Because we get to trust that we are all children of honor and that we already have the only thing that really matters and can never be taken away – the love of God given us in creation and confirmed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of this, we are freed from caring about anything else but being faithful to that Jesus, being faithful to that call.

And that means, we get to not worry. We get to not worry so much about our own survival. And we get to worry not so much about our $300,000 deficit and how we are going to maintain these buildings and all those other things that might cause us to shrink back in self-focus and in fear. And we get to worry not so much about what’s in it for us because in the love of God in Christ we already have what we need the most.

Because when we hear and when we say “Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.” All we have to be concerned about in that moment is hearing and bringing the healing, life-giving, bold, courageous, get woke and stay woke best news ever of justice and equity and life of Jesus Christ to life in the world and then being a part of making it happen.

This is who we are called to be as Christ Church Cathedral, and this is the road we are on together. We are on it with the work of the cross-class conversations ministry and the Cathedral housing partnership. We are on this road with the work of the pursuing racial justice ministry and opening this space up to and becoming a part of the movement for black lives.We are on this road with our support of the women of Magdalene St. Louis and with our longtime celebration of those among us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender as beautiful children of honor in this place and in this world.

We are on this road by keeping this space open every day for anyone to enter and get some rest and pray and worship God in the beauty of holiness. We are on this road together whenever we sit with each other and become a safe place to share an experience of rejection and to shed a suffering tear.

We are on this road together simply by continuing to show up together and love one another as we struggle with what in the world does it mean to follow this remarkable and difficult and extraordinary call of Jesus when so many among us are lying by the side of the road crying out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

Next week, we will bring the pledges of our financial gifts to this Cathedral for the coming year and we will place them on this table. Our challenge is that what we give will not be motivated by what we get out of Christ Church Cathedral or a fear of what might happen to Christ Church Cathedral or even in gratitude for what God has done in our lives personally.

Our challenge is that in our prayers and in our conversations with those with whom we make decisions about money we will ask this question:

As we seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ, are we as Christ Church Cathedral faithfully following the call of Jesus Christ? Are we following the call of Jesus Christ who bids us hear a world crying out for mercy by the side of the road and tell those who are most outcast among us: “Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you!”

That is the criteria by which we as Christ Church Cathedral are worthy of support.

That is the criteria by which we as Christ Church Cathedral are worthy of survival.

“Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.”

You who are in the deepest despair.

You for whom all seems lost.

You who have been left to die.

Wake up.

Get woke and stay woke.

Come back to life.

Find life where you were sure there only was death.


Because Jesus is calling you.

Could there be a more glorious message to hear?

Could there be a more glorious message to shout?

Could there be a more glorious life to live?

People of God. Children of honor. Let this be the song on our lips.

In here and out there.

For us and from us.

Today. Tomorrow. Always.

Take heart. Get up. Jesus is calling you.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"The Challenge of Being Large and in Charge."

"The Challenge of Being Large and in Charge."

Preached by the Rev. Chester Hines at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, October 18, 2015

Our Father in Heaven, help us to be mindful that you call us to serve others. Amen.

Today’s gospel reminds me of two historic incidents in our country’s history.  The first occurred during the inaugural speech of President John F. Kennedy.  During that speech, he celebrated the freedom of America and he challenged all Americans, especially the youth of the country with these words: “And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.  These few words are a challenge as much today as they were fifty four years ago.  They inspired and moved a nation to step up and take on leadership roles; to become involved in the fabric of the community in which they lived.

I contrast that challenge of President Kennedy with another more tragic incident in our country’s history which is the shooting of President Ronald Reagan.  Our capitol and nation were shocked and stunned.  Vice President George Bush was not immediately available.  The White House was not clear on what was happening.  General Alexander Haig, who was at the White House, stepped in and confidently asserted to the press--"I’m in charge here!"  He thought he was providing crisis leadership.  What the country saw was a man hungry for power.

These two contrasts can help us to see how Christ worked and operated during His time.  He never stated that he was large and in charge.  He was never boastful or prideful with his leadership; as a matter of fact he moved to put others in positions of leadership and power.  Christ never characterized himself as a leader and didn’t have to because there was something about Jesus that made people know he was a leader.  

Jesus had just finished telling disciples that He is going to Jerusalem, to be betrayed, rejected and killed, v. 33-34.  But it appears, James and John, the sons of Zebedee are more concerned about moving up in the organization.  All they can see is their position on the totem pole.  They want more, they want to be higher than the others.  Jesus is about to die for sin and they are playing “who’s on first?” They had not grasped the idea that their leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, was headed to the cross. All they could see was the crown (and not the crown of thorns). They wanted the crown without the cross. They wanted the glory without the pain. They wanted the reward without having to pay the price.

The problem with the disciples is the same problem that many of us have today.  We want to finish first.  We want power, position and prestige.  We are filled with pride.  Our community, our city, our country is at great risk because of our pride.  We are at the first stages of the long political process of electing the country’s next president.  Listen to what the candidates are saying, it’s all about the “I”; I will do this, I will do that.  Very rarely do you hear from any candidate about the “we”; the concept of working together for and with one another what can be accomplished.  What would our nation look like if we served each other rather than taking from the masses to support the few?

Jesus knows and understands what his disciples are asking but he also understands they do not realize what they are requesting.  In his own way he asks them if they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice; are you willing to take this cup from me?  In today’s vernacular I can hear Christ saying, oh, you want to be me; okay are you willing and ready to be punished and die on the cross for the sins of your fellow being?  Are you ready to take on this leadership role and all that comes with being a leader?   I can image Christ continuing on and telling James and John that God did not send me to be served but for me to serve others.  And coming forward to our life and times, God sent Jesus to teach us through our Christian faith that we are to serve others and follow his mandate in leading the people to God.  A true leader is not concerned about position and title for they are aware they can lead from any chair, any position, any place.  A true leader in the church serves God through Jesus Christ by doing, and saying and acting in the ways that Jesus Christ commanded.  A true leader moves and walks in the direction where they know they will be challenged by the community and societal and environmental forces.  They do this because they know that this is where you will find the greatest need and call for Christ’s intervention.  A true leader does not does not desire the chair next to Christ for they are working with all their heart, for Christ and not for human masters.  

There was a person who called a preacher and indicated he wanted to be a member of the church.  But, he had parameters regarding membership.  The person indicated they did not want to commit to coming to worship every week.  They would only study the Bible when they wanted or time permitted.  They did not want to visit the sick and shut-in; and they didn’t want to serve as a teacher of on any committees and certainly did not want to serve in any leadership positions.  The minister commended the person for their desire to become a member of the church but indicated that the type of church the person was looking for was located in another part of town.  The minister gave the address of the church to the aspiring church member and the person wrote it down and hung up. When the person arrived at that address, they came face to face with the result of their own attitude of not wanting to be involved. There stood an abandoned church.

In our community, in our city, in our nation, all around us people are trying to make a name for themselves.  In one way or another, we are all involved in this process.  There is the continuing jockeying for position and power.  If they could just meet this or that person of power and resource; if they could just make a presentation to this group of people; if they could just be invited to that organizational meeting.  If these things would happen then all the doors would open and everything they are attempting to accomplish would fall into place. But God tells us that everyone who exalts themselves will be brought low and everyone who humbles themselves with be raised up.  God blesses the person who serves where they are and who allows God to determine the course of their lives.

When parents have children, they learn what giving and service are all about. When that child is born you give and you give and you give. When that child grows, you give and you give and you give. Often, even after they reach adulthood, you continue to give and you give and you give, often receiving nothing in return.  The Lord wants us to know that the path to the top leads through the bottom. If you really want to reach the top, you must start out at the bottom. If you really want to be a leader, you must first learn how to serve.  

The idea is this: if we seek true recognition, if we want to be recognized and respected, we must give our life over to Christ and become selfless human beings. We must live our days serving others.  It means being willing to get none of the glory. It means being willing to do the most servile and menial of tasks with no thought of receiving recognition or thanks. If we want to come out on top, we must first start by humbling ourselves before Christ.  In all that we do, it should be for the glory of God.  

I leave you this morning with the parable of the pencil by Dennis Selfridge of the Mission Wesleyan Church.  The Pencil Maker took the pencil aside, just before putting him into the box. "There are five things you need to know," he told the pencil, "Before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be." "One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand." "Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil." "Three: I have made you so that I will be able to correct mistakes you might make." "Four: The most important part of you will always be what’s inside." "Five: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write."

The pencil understood and promised to remember, and went into the box with purpose in its heart. Now remember the pencil is like you. Always remember it and never forget, and you will become the best person you can be. One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in God’s hand. And allow other human beings to access you for the many gifts you possess. Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, by going through various problems, but you’ll need it to become a stronger person. Three: God will be able to forgive mistakes you might make for God is a forgiving God and calls us to be a forgiving people.  Four: The most important part of you will always be what’s on the inside.  And Five: On every surface you walk through, you work to honor and glorify God.  In doing so, you may or may not leave a mark.   No matter what the situation, you must continue to let go of self and let God be the focus of every endeavor.

Let us proceed with our life on this earth having a meaningful purpose in our heart.  Christ in the world always seemed to be moving to greater and greater challenges.  And this is the path we have been given as Christians to be able to move to greater and greater challenge and continuously seek ways to serve others.  There are many places right here at Christ Church Cathedral for you to serve, are you serving in them? There are people all around us who need to know about Jesus, are you telling them? There are needs on every hand, are you seeking to meet them? Are you being a servant of God by selflessly serving others? If the Lord has touched your heart about your service, today would be a good day to start. Amen.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

"Is it Lawful? Rules and the holy, hot mess of relationships."

Preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral at 8 am on Sunday, October 4, 2015

Is it lawful?

The Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

Is it lawful?

Does this count?

What about this?

I have a lot of sympathy for the Pharisees this morning. Sure, they are trying to trap Jesus, and that’s not very nice, but mostly they’re just looking for an out. They’re looking for a loophole. They’re looking for a way to get out of a terrible mess. That’s what happens when we are talking about divorce. That’s what happens when we ask “is it lawful?”

“Is it lawful?” is the question we ask when we want to know the rules. And the rules are there to give our lives structure. So we can know if we are in the right or in the wrong. So we can know who is good and who is bad. And we want to be in the right. And we want to be good. We want to be able to sleep at night and not be wracked with guilt. We want to know that it’s OK, that we’re OK … or alternately to know that there’s nothing we can do and we’re pretty much stuck.

“Is it lawful?” is the question we ask when we are looking for some order to come out of chaos – when we are praying for a situation in life that is impossibly messy to somehow become neat and tidy.

The Pharisees ask “Is it lawful?” and I feel them, I really do. Because I know so much of my life isn’t neat and tidy. So much of my life involves relationships that are complicated and messy – and that I am complicated and messy, too. And I want to be in the right. And I want to be good. And I don’t always know what that looks like. And so I ask:

Is it lawful?

Does this count?

What about this?

And I want Jesus just to tell me. Just tell me what to do so I can do it then I can either be happy or unhappy but at least I’ll be clear. At least I will know and then I can make my choice. Tell me, Jesus – is it lawful?

And what drives me crazy about Jesus is he is incapable of giving a straight answer. He can’t give the Pharisees what they want. He can’t give me what I want in this moment.

But what he gives is actually so much better.

The Pharisees, ask Jesus “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” and Jesus turns the question back around on them. He asks them, the teachers of the law, what did Moses, the law-bearer say. Well Moses said yes. Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.

Case closed. It’s lawful. Thank you Jesus.

But not so fast.

Because Jesus says “it is because of your hardness of heart that he wrote this commandment for you.” This law is an accommodation. This law – and in fact all law – is there because we have such a hard time living in the messiness. Because we need things neat and tidy and simple and life doesn’t work that way, so we have laws and rules to try to just help us get through the day … but don’t confuse obeying the laws, don’t confuse following all the rules and checking off all the boxes with what’s really important.

What’s really important is relationship. What’s really important is loving. And loving is really, really, really, really messy.

From the beginning of creation, Jesus says, God joins us together. Wholly. Intimately. Into one flesh.

That’s messy.

We are inextricably bound up with each other. And it is not neat and tidy. And it is confusing and it is wonderful and it is incredibly, incredibly hard. And we are so amazingly imperfect in our struggle with relationship with each other. And as much as we would love it all to fit into convenient little categories we are much too complicated for that.

And thank God, Jesus knows this.

And so Jesus says “I know it’s not that easy. It’s not about following the rules and you get to be good instead of bad. It is messy.”

Jesus knows the truth is we can’t love without pain. We can’t pledge to be in relationship with each other and not sometimes have those relationships fall apart. And a lot of times we aren’t exactly sure what being loving looks like and we just have to take our best, messiest most imperfect guess. And then a lot of times we know what being loving looks like and it’s just too hard or we’re just too tired or we’re just too hurt or it’s just too much to take anymore. And sometimes we’re just going to make mistakes and it’s going to be a great, big, awful, hot, holy mess. And that’s really, really scary.

And Jesus knows this. And so Jesus says “what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Jesus says, like it or not we are in it together. And it’s going to be really, really messy because love is really, really messy. And we can argue all we want about whether it’s lawful or not to divorce but the truth is that we are connected in ways that we do not have the power to sever. And because we are not God we are going to be imperfect, and frankly we are going to be a holy, hot mess in those relationships. And there is going to be pain. And sometimes it will be unbearable. And we will feel guilty. And we will just want Jesus to make it stop. We just want Jesus to tell us that we haven’t broken any rules, that we are good after all, that it’s OK and we can get some sleep.

We just want Jesus to tell us we can stop feeling so bad.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Maybe you’re there right now. Maybe there’s a relationship that is tearing you apart, that’s gotten out of control and that maybe doesn’t fit into neat categories anymore … or maybe you’re finding there are things going on inside you that don’t fit into neat categories anymore and it’s really, really scary and you don’t know where to go with it or what to do? Maybe? Can you maybe relate to that even just a little bit?

I know I can. I know in those moments I just want to know the rules. I just want order in the chaos and to know that I have a chance to be in the right. There’s something about our struggle in relationships that turns us into little children who just want to know the rules. And Jesus knows this. Because Jesus’ answer is not just to give us the rules and to praise or condemn us on how we do on the test, but to take us in his arms like children and lay his hands on us and bless us. To tell us that this messiness is what the kingdom of God looks like. To tell us that it’s not easy. And that it’s really, really messy. And that he is right there in the mess with us. And that he knows it’s hard. And that he loves us, oh that he loves us so much. And that we need to just keep trying. Just keep trying to love each other. Just keep trying to believe that God loves us. Just keep trying to remember that law is about perfection and that we will never, ever measure up and that’s OK because we don’t need to measure up to earn God’s love, to earn God’s blessing, to earn God’s delight in us.

All we have to do is hang in there and love the best we can, knowing that it is a great big mess. Knowing that rules and boundaries are a good thing because we need the help navigating our way through the mess, but that the rules are never an end to themselves but only a means to the true end of loving relationship – and no rule or boundary will never ever take the messiness of that away. And that, most important, whether our behavior is lawful or not … our worthiness and belovedness by God is never in question.

So what does that mean?

It means that sometimes we will divorce and sometimes we will stay together.

It means that we will shed tears and stay up night worrying.

It means sometimes we will be selfless and sometimes we will be selfish.

It means we are going to have moments of incredible glory and moments when we screw up in a epic fashion where it all flies apart so spectacularly that we can’t even conceive that it could ever be put back together again.

It means that we will absolutely not have it all together tied up neat and tidy with a bow.

It means that it will be really, really messy but that we will be in that mess together, and we will love each other through it. And we will trust that Jesus’ promise to love us through it all is the strongest thing of all.