Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 28, 2013, "What Meets the Eye"

Genesis 50.14-26; Mark 9.2-8

When finally the brothers realize that the powerful ruler of Egypt is none other than the brother they sold into slavery years earlier … the brother they hated … the brother mourned by their father, Jacob … now their lives are held in his hand.

They’re scared out of their wits … and who wouldn’t be?

But Joseph remembers his faith … and when the truth comes out, Joseph says to his brothers, What you intended for evil, God intended for good.

When was Genesis written?

Written during the Exile … a terrible time, a time of dislocation and upheaval … Judah’s dreams dashed on the rocks of defeat … the Babylonians tore down the gates and demolished the Holy City … thousands of Judah’s citizens hauled off to Captivity.

The Genesis stories are an attempt to understand …

Why are we here?

What went wrong?

What do we do about it?

Can we learn anything from this?

To understand what Joseph says, it’s helpful to read Psalm 137 … please open your Bibles …

1      By the rivers of Babylon—
      there we sat down and there we wept
      when we remembered Zion.
2      On the willows there
      we hung up our harps.
3      For there our captors
      asked us for songs,
      and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
      “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4      How could we sing the LORD’S song
      in a foreign land?
5      If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
      let my right hand wither!
6      Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
      if I do not remember you,
      if I do not set Jerusalem
      above my highest joy.
7      Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
      the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
      how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
      Down to its foundations!”
8      O daughter Babylon, you devastator! 
      Happy shall they be who pay you back
      what you have done to us!
9      Happy shall they be who take your little ones
      and dash them against the rock!

The psalmist is consumed with hatred … 

The psalmist dreams of Babylon getting it … that some conqueror will come along and beat the snot out of Babylon.

Many years ago, when living in Pittsburg, we went to the zoo, and had a lovely time, and when we returned to our car, it had been broken into … all of my camera equipment stolen.

I remember laying awake at night planning revenge … thinking the darkest thoughts about “getting even,” “getting back” at the creep who had done this.

Ever been there?

Psalm 137 is full of darkness … “getting even,” hoping that Babylon will feel the pain that Judah feels … more than happy to see Babylon’s children brutally killed.

I’m always grateful for Psalm 137 - it’s about as honest as one can get about about vengeance … the dark stuff of our soul … hatred and bitterness.

Psalm 137 is one option for Judah … 

But the writers of Genesis realize what we all know to be true - live in the darkness, and the darkness only grows darker … give in to the feelings and thoughts of vengeance, bitterness, hatred - poisons in the soul … they eat us alive … and soon, and very soon, we lose our humanity, we lose our soul, we become our own darkness.

If you will, the writers of Genesis choose to live on the sunny side of the street … while telling the truth about how hard it is.

The Joseph stories make one thing very clear - life can be terribly hard, sometimes impossible … when hope disappears, life collapses …

The story of Joseph is the story of Judah … and a reminder: Don’t give up on God … 

Things may be terrible …
But God is at work in all things for good.

What others intend for evil.
God will use for good.

Not even God can stop the evil workings of sin.
Terrible things happen.
Evil has its ways.
Sorrow and suffering.
Tears all day long.

But don’t give up on God.
Choose a better way of living.
Trust God.
Trust God in the morning and trust God in the night.
Trust God in all the in-between places.
What others intend as evil.
God uses for good.

The writers of Genesis appeal to Judah’s better instincts.

Trust God in all things.

What meets the eye may be terrible and sad.

But there’s more to this life than what meets the eye.

Faith reaches above and beyond what we see.

Paul says it well, 2 Corinthians 4:

16So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

The eternal hand of God is at work …

What meets the eye is only part of the story … faith reaches beyond what can be seen to the unseen work of God … the majesty of God’s love … the height and breadth and width and depth of God’s mighty love … that whatever comes our way, there is nothing that can separate us from God’s great love in Christ.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.

Isaiah (40) says it so beautifully to his people in Exile … in the worst of times, in the worst of places, Isaiah says:

28      Have you not known? Have you not heard?
      The LORD is the everlasting God,
      the Creator of the ends of the earth.
      He does not faint or grow weary;
      his understanding is unsearchable.
29      He gives power to the faint,
      and strengthens the powerless.
30      Even youths will faint and be weary,
      and the young will fall exhausted;
31      but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
      they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
      they shall run and not be weary,
      they shall walk and not faint. 

What meets the eye is one thing … but faith reaches beyond what the eye can see …

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen … (Hebrews 11.1)

The Transfiguration of Jesus … shining light … Moses and Elijah … a stunning moment for the disciples … they don’t know what to do … stammering and stuttering … Peter wants to build little huts on the mountain and stay there … 

In that shining moment of light, they see beyond what the eye can see … 

Six days before the Transfiguration ... Jesus said to the disciples, It will end badly for me … I’m going to Jerusalem, and there I will suffer many things … they will kill me, bury me, be done with me … and I will rise from the dead on the third day.

Peter objects - he can’t hear the good news; all he can hear is the bad … No, no, no, it won’t end badly; I’ll not let it end this way … 

But Jesus has no time for Peter … Get behind me Peter; you sound like the Devil. You haven’t a clue what’s important, what matters. You can only think of yourself.

True enough … when times are tough, it’s hard to think beyond ourselves … 

Which is why Jesus gives the disciples six days to think about it … six days to feel the pain and sorrow of what Jesus said, that it will end badly … this is no fairytale life we live … this is not some adventure in the woods … the stakes are high … and sometimes things end badly.

Six days Jesus lets the disciples stew on this … 

And when the time is right, up the mountain they go … it only lasts a little while in the glory of the light … it doesn’t take long at all … nor could they stay there … no, they had to walk back down the mountain to the same old stuff, the same old world, and the fate awaiting Jesus.

But in that moment, they saw something …  

Choose the light!

Choose faith, hope and love.

Choose grace, mercy and peace.

What meets the eye is one thing, what meets the eye of faith is another.

Amen and Amen!

April 21, 2013, "Jacob Wrestles with God"

Genesis 32.22-32; Mark 7.24-30

Great things almost always require great work … lots of things, of course, can be done hurriedly … and sometimes life requires hurry … we can’t dawdle and delay at every turn of the road … 

Fire fighters and police officers can’t sit around and twiddle their thumbs when a call comes in … no time to sit and ponder life’s weightier matters … when the call comes, they jump and run to wherever the need might be … they have to hurry!

But behind all of that hurry is great work … they hurry because they’ve trained their instincts and honed their skills … as much as anyone can know in an emergency, they know it … as much as anyone can prepare for the unexpected, first-responders are well-prepared … months and years of training.

Great things almost always require great work …

A pianist in concert at Disney Hall … a renown poet reciting her work at the Kennedy Center … a surgeon working on a child’s brain to remove a malignant growth … 

Years of work and training … lots of disappointment along the way … setbacks and closed doors … frustration at all the work, the long lonely hours, the books to read and classes to attend, and practice, practice, and practice …  and the nagging fear that it won’t work out … that dreams won’t come true … that all the ambition in the world won’t win the day, and the labors of life will end without reward.

Great things almost always require great work …

I came across a delightful poem this week, called Leisure, by W.H. Davies … first published in 1911 … 

We don’t often connect leisure and hard work … but Davies does in his poem:

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
It takes time to learn how to look at life and see everything … never let a moment pass us by without some effort to see the people walking by on the street … folks in their cars … drinking coffee and texting - LORD have mercy! - to see children playing in a park - listen to them, their laughter and their complaints … watch their faces, and the proud faces of their parents …

Take time to smell the roses, we sometimes say … 

When my children were off to some new place in their travels, I always said to them, Pay attention … use all of your senses - smell the food, taste the food; listen to the music, watch the people and see what they wear, and how they laugh … pay attention, record all of it in your brain, so you’ll remember it later in your life, and in your memories, you can always go back for a visit. 

I guess there are times when it’s good to do nothing … to put the brain into neutral and veg-out … 

But life is precious …

Use all of our God-given senses to touch the deeps and wonders of life … life’s goodness and delight … and it’s sorrow, too … to live is to laugh; to live is to cry … 

Which is why Paul the Apostle says, Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice … life is all of that, and then some.

Whatever it is that we do, to pay attention … to be mindful … use our abilities … bear patiently the hard times of life; love the simple things that bring us cheer; pay attention to children; forgive at the drop of a hat; let go of dark things and bad memories; live on the sunny side of the street; be of good cheer … look for the positive, and make the best of things … and if we can’t say something good and decent to someone, then choose the glory of silence … seal the lips … be quiet … why add to the hurt of world with thoughtless words?

It does take work, doesn’t it?

That’s why Jesus says, Take up your cross if you wanna follow me. It won’t be easy … folks didn’t like me, and if you say what I say and do what I do, guess what? They won’t like you either. Be prepared for hard times when it comes to faith, hope and love. I’m with you always, but I never promised you a rose garden.

Great things almost always require great work …

I love our two stories this morning …

Poor old Jacob … he was his own worst enemy … and things got so bad between Jacob and his brother, Esau, Jacob left home for faraway places … but finally God says, You have to go back; you can’t stay here with Uncle Laban; time to go home.

Jacob is scared witless … he fears what his brother, Esau, will do … Jacob gets as ready as he can, and having sent his family to a safe place, Jacob is all alone with his thoughts … and in the night of his fear, a stranger appears, and for whatever reason, they wrestle with one another … all night long … it becomes clear to Jacob, this is no ordinary man - this is something divine, something of a larger order - an angel of the LORD, God in all of God’s glory … wrestling with Jacob …

As dawn nears, the stranger makes to break away, but Jacob holds on … won’t let go until he’s got something out of the deal … all of this wrestling, all night long - it has to mean something … something here that I have to find … so Jacob holds on …

Even when the stranger hits Jacob in the hip, Jacob won’t let go … injured or not, Jacob won’t let go until he’s found the mystery, the hope, the goodness - until he’s found God.

The stranger, the angel, blesses him, gives him a new name … Israel, one who wrestles with God … and for awhile Jacob limps … it isn’t easy being touched by an angel.

The other story - the mother who pleads with Jesus for her daughter’s healing … but she’s a Greek, a foreigner, a Gentile … she’s doesn’t belong … and Jesus says to her, The food belongs to the children.

Now we have to be mindful here … Jesus isn’t being cruel … he says to her what she expected … she knows that Jesus is Jew, and that Jews are forbidden to associate with Gentiles, and a Jewish Rabbi is forbidden to talk with a woman … she knows that she has no standing with him … she has no rights … she means nothing to him … he’s a child of God; she’s a child of the devil … he belongs and she doesn’t.

She’s knows all that … but she comes to him anyhow … 

When he tells her, The children have to be fed first, I’m believe that Jesus winked at her … he said the commonplace … what she expected, and perhaps what the disciples expected.

So he winks at her … to encourage her … he knows her heart; he knows a mother’s love for a child.

So she says right back at him - Sure, I know, it’s true, but even dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall from the table.

And with that, I see Jesus with a sly smile on his face - Well done … you didn’t back down … you stood firm for your child … and you didn’t accept the standard religious hoo ha of the day … how religious folk love to divide the world into who’s in and who’s out, who’s been naughty and who’s been nice … who prays right and who prays wrong … who goes to the right church, the wrong church, or no church at all … those who know the truth, and those who don’t … the children and the dogs … 

She didn’t buy any of it, because she was clear that Jesus didn’t buy any of it, either. Did his reputation proceed him? I think so. She knew that she might have chance with him.

A Rabbi with a difference … and she got what she needed … she didn’t give up, and she didn’t walk away …

Great things almost always require great work …

Today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our life … life … roses to smell, people to love, a wrestling match from time-to-time, all night long, with God … and the love we have for our children, and to God we go - Help us, please help us!

Big things require big work.

Jacob got the blessing at the end of the night … 

The Syrophoenician woman prevailed for the sake of her daughter … 

Jacob didn’t give up … nor did the woman in Tyre.

In the end, they got what they needed.

The blessing was granted … the healing was given.

Great things almost always require great work …

Amen and Amen!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 14, 2013, "Pharaoh Teaches Abram"

Genesis 12.10-20; Mark 8.14-21

Who was the first President of the United States?

Ya’ got that right … George Washington … a great he was ... the right one at the right time for the moment of decision … who knows what might have happened had the mantle of leadership fallen on shoulders other than Washington’s … but this we know - the mantle fell on his shoulders, and he wore the mantle well … winning the gratitude of his nation and deserving of our admiration.

George Washington died in 1799, and one year later, a book was published, entitled, The Life of Washington, written by Mason Locke Weems, an Anglican priest, who took pride in having lived in Dumfries, Virginia, nearby to a church where George Washington had worshipped in pre-Revolutionary days … Mr. Weems capitalized on this slight connection and claimed knowledge that was more fiction than fact … oh well ...

In this little book about Washington, Weems creates a story that now everyone now knows to be fanciful … about the young George Washington … anyone wanna guess what that story might be?

Right! … the Cherry Tree Incident … as Mr. Weems wrote it, young George experimented with a hatchet, and chopped down his daddy’s favorite cherry tree.

When confronted by his father, young George confessed, I cannot tell a lie, father; I did it.

It would be good, I suppose, if life played out this way … 

But life doesn’t play out like this … life’s vitalities are strange and oftentimes dark … befuddling and frightening … a mystery to us … why we behave as we do, sometimes … children sometimes chop down a tree, and when confronted, may flat out a lie about it - It wasn’t me; it was my sister.

Paul the Apostle said it well, when he wrote to the Romans … I know what I should do, but I don’t always do it. In fact, I often do just the opposite. What’s wrong with me?

The Bible never stops with just the good stuff … it tells the whole story, the good, the bad and the ugly.

From Genesis 3 on, we know that it’s going to be a bumpy ride:

Adam and Eve pluck the fruit ...

Cain kills Able … Lamech boasts of his blood-vengeance … Noah gets drunk … his son Ham laughs at him, and Noah curses him … 

As the Genesis 12 story unfolds, after God’s call to Sarai and Abram, to be the mother and father of a new nation, with blessings for the world, we’re told in stark terms: There was a famine in the land.

Abram and Sarai set out to find food; they’re refugees now, hunger gnawing away at them … and so they end up in Egypt, of all places … Egypt!

When the story tellers of Judah crafted the Genesis material, they would have laughed at this point, an ironic laugh, to be sure … Egypt, of all places - what a strange sense of humor has God.

Genesis was written 1500 years after Abram and Sarai made their journey to Egypt … a land that would finally become  the land of slavery and the house of bondage … four hundred years of slavery for the sons and daughters of Sarai and Abram.

And when Jesus is born, and Herod gets his back up, Mary and Joseph hit the road, refugees fleeing a bad political situation, and where do they go? The land of Egypt.

To fulfill, says Matthew, what the LORD had spoken: I have called my son out of Egypt.

Egypt, of all places!

Strangers in a strange land … and they’re scared.

Refugees are always scared, aren’t they?

Abram says to Sarai: You’re a fine looking woman …

Abram was already an old man - 75 years old he was … and Sarah was quite likely a bit younger … 

Tell Pharaoh you’re my sister, if he wants you … that way he’ll spare my life.

Pharaoh falls for Sarai and takes her … things go well for awhile … Abram prospers … then things go south … plagues strike the house of Pharaoh … maybe Sarai dropped a few hints … Pharaoh adds it all up … calls Abram and says to him, Why did you lie to me?

Here’s Sarai … take her … and get the heck outta here … take what I’ve given to you; you don’t need to give me anything back, but leave us, please … be gone with you!

In this little story, so many truths … 

The dreadful onset of famine ...

The power of fear …

The readiness to lie …

The woman as a pawn … 

And strangely enough … Pharaoh the teacher!

What? What’s that you say?

Pharaoh the teacher!

More laughter, for sure … that the father of the nation receives moral instruction from, of all people, Pharaoh.

Humiliating … and honest!

Abram is a good man, but not all the time … he loves God, but sometimes self-love is all that he knows … 

We don’t know what would have happened if Abram and Sarai had told the truth …

The story is not intended to promote speculation … the Bible doesn’t deal in what ifs, and what could have happened … as my son always says, “wouldas, couldas and shouldas never get us anywhere.”

So why would Judah tell such a strange story about the Mother and Father of the Nation?

Why not a story like the George Washington Cherry Tree Incident?

The Bible deals with reality … reality is where we live, and reality is where God does God’s work.

God at work in all things … 

God in love with human beings … just as we are!

The message is clear ...

If God can love and call Abram and Sarai, then God can call anyone of us, all of us, just as we are … and though we don’t always get it right, God uses us for great things … great love, great moments … to change the world … and if not the world, at least change our corner of it … or maybe just change our mind, and change our heart.

I saw the movie, “42” yesterday, the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in the major leagues, 1947, hired by Branch Ricky, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, “Dem Bums” … with hell to pay - heckling in the games, threats of violence, terrible letters written … Branch Ricky violated the code of baseball - A game only for white men … 

When Jackie asks Branch Ricky, “Why did you do this?” Mr. Ricky replies, “I could no longer ignore it.”

Earlier in the story, Mr. Ricky says of Robinson, “He’s a Methodist,” and then adds, “I’m a Methodist, and God’s a Methodist - we’ll get it worked out.”

Mr. Ricky changed his own world, and then he changed the Dodgers, and then he changed baseball … when Branch Ricky had a chance, he did good.

God calls us to greatness … and Abram and Sarai were great people … doing great things for God … but they were not morally superior.

The call of God doesn’t make us morally superior to anyone else!

To know Christ doesn’t make us any better than someone who worships Allah, someone who’s a Buddhist or a Hindu … and certainly it doesn’t make us any better than an atheist … in the world we all live in, sometimes believers are terrible people, and sometimes atheists do wonderful things.

That’s a hard lesson for believers to understand sometimes … but it’s a vital lesson, which is why the Bible makes it so clear - it’s not about perfection, moral superiority, being better than others … it’s being available, available to God … Here I am, O LORD, here I am …  and humble about it all, willing and ready to see the hand of God all over the place, and in all kinds of occasions, in every moment, and in all kinds of people.

God sees to it that goodness and morality and truth are found everywhere … 

A constant reminder to us all … even Pharaoh can teach us some lessons now and then … 

Maybe there are no enemies in this world after all, if we really think about it … who knows? … we can learn from everything and everyone, can’t we? … maybe that’s why Jesus says Love your enemy … that doesn’t mean have mushy gushy feelings - it means to give respect, pay attention, to - give to the enemy that which we would hope for from anyone else - treat others as we would hope to be treated … and, who knows, even from Pharaoh, we might have a thing or two to learn.

Teachers and learning-moments come in surprising ways … 

Amen and Amen!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

April 7, 2013 - "Leaving and Going"

Genesis 12.1-9; Mark 1.16-20

A brave man, a brave woman.
To leave behind old ideas.
Old places and solid habits.
To set the face toward other places.

‘Tis only a fool who believes that 
Yesterday holds the answers.
And a greater fool who believes
That a new day is easy to achieve.

God said to Abram and Sarai:
May I have a few moments of your time?

They should have said, No!
They should have turned around.
And run away.
Like Jonah did a few years later.

But we all know how it turned out for Jonah.
Perhaps Abram and Sarai suspected the same.
Or maybe there were just too naive.
And what’s wrong with that?

Naiveté gets us into trouble, for sure.
But it also is the grease of greatness.
Too naive to see the trouble ahead.
The naive says, Let’s do it.

The heart and soul of our faith … getting up and leaving behind that which was … and striking out for that which is not yet.

Jesus called the disciples to follow him.

Never once did they settle down.

Never once did Jesus say, Here we are … no need for anything further …

But always pushing on … and even when the stone was rolled in place, it was pushed away three days later … Jesus still has places to go and people to see.

How, then, did the church ever come to be so settled, so staid, in its ways ...

All the answers laid out like neatly folded socks in drawer.

There to be worn when needed.

And washed when dirty.

And put back into the drawer, just as they were for another day.

Neat and Tidy, neat and clean.

The church of Jesus Christ … settled and staid.

What we do today, we did yesterday.

What we did yesterday, we did the day before.

And what we’ll do tomorrow, will look pretty much like what we did today.

And so it goes.

The great church of Jesus Christ.

Settled down mostly … 

Answers to all the questions …

Liturgies carefully planned.

Sermons predictable and comforting.

Big box churches with their bands and videos … preachers in tailored jeans and pressed shirts, always out and never tucked in, thank you … telling endless stories about little children and old aunts and dogs and cats and sometimes even a story about Jesus.

Tall steeple churches with their robed choirs and stately processions … preachers well dressed in collar and gowns … folks sitting in the pew they’ve sat in for years, and everyone knows they’re place … the music is solemn, the building impressive, all is good and all is right.

Come now, says Jesus, leave your nets and your boats and follow me …

It’s the way of my Father in heaven … we don’t settle down, but we keep pushing ahead … new ideas and faithful experimentation … 

William Faulkner, the noted American novelist once observed: “No man can cause more grief than that one clinging blindly to the vice of his ancestors.”

And sometimes the greatest vice of all is the certainty of being right … that nothing more is needed … 

Come now, says Jesus, leave your nets and your boats and follow me …

Years ago, three small churches in the resort area of the Wisconsin north woods … beautiful country and sturdy people who labored hard to make a living in a land that, despite it’s beauty, didn’t yield much to either the plow or the hand … with long-day summers and long-night winters.

One of the churches I served was the First Presbyterian Church of - Winter, Wisconsin … 

One of the Elders there was a good and decent man with a curious habit of speech … every time he spoke, he said, “My Daddy used to say …”

Many a time I so wanted to say to him, “Glad to know what you Daddy used to say, but how about you? What do you say?”

I fear that he was very much stuck in the past.

Come now, says Jesus, leave your nets and your boats and follow me …

Recently, we’ve noted the 45th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., while in Memphis to help sanitation workers find a better arrangement.

Dr. King knew that his life was in danger … yet as one commentator put it:

“King went to the places of greatest pain to cry out against structures and systems that create the pain.”

Come now, says Jesus, leave your nets and your boats and follow me …

The Christian Century Magazine, a notable publication for many years now, carried a series entitled, “How I Changed My Mind” … by great theologians and church leaders … all of them, at one time or the other, found that the old ideas, which worked at the time, could no longer offer what was needed.

It was time to change … change the mind … change the ideas that shape life and make it work for a time … but nothing works forever … neither car nor plane nor idea.

There was a time when Christians believed the sun revolved around the earth … and imprisoned Galileo and threatened him with death, for saying that the earth revolved around the sun … That’s not what the Bible says, said the Church. The Bible says the suns rises and passes over head, and then sets in the evening … no sir, Mr. Galileo, you and your science are wrong, and if you speak out any further on the matter, we will kill you in Jesus’ name.

Today, it all seems silly to us, but it wasn’t silly at the time, and the greatest tragedy of all - the church was tied to the past, and afraid of the future, because the future is all about change, and change is unnerving - shall I say? - for all of us.

But we all know that life is change … and we can’t stop it from changing … and rather than stopping it, it’s best if we can join the parade of time, and go with the flow … and like so many greater leaders and writers and artists, change our minds from time-to-time.

It’s not easy … 

A new photo exhibit is opening today at the Fowler Museum at UCLA … photographer Ernest Cole documented the days of Apartheid in South Africa … with one telling photo that sticks in my mind … a white lady sitting by herself on a bus bench, stenciled with the warning: “Europeans Only.”

The tragedy of South Africa, tough enough, with pain and sorrow that remains … but for me, the greatest tragedy of all: The Church mostly supported Apartheid - thought it was a good idea to sanction the privilege of white people and declare people of color to be second-class citizens.

America had its own struggle on this one … and even fought a civil war over it … but what with Jim Crow laws and a thousand other devices, racial discrimination remains in this nation … and often supported by “good christian folks who sit in their churches nodding their heads to the gospel, and singing praise to God Almighty” and despising their neighbor … 

As in a little town in Georgia when, after desegregation, stopped having a high school prom … going with private proms instead, at country clubs and other venues …

But recently, a group of four young ladies - two blacks and two whites, put their case on Facebook, and tens of thousands of people rallied to their cause, helped them raise money, for a prom, a real prom, an all-school prom, where all the students, black and white, could attend … and have a fine time … together … these girls have turned the clock ahead 50 years for their little town in Georgia.

Come now, says Jesus, leave your nets and your boats and follow me …

For me, one of the biggest mind changes occurred in the early 70s … and you might guess what issue it is… when I was ordained in 1970, I believed the Bible had a clear and concise case against homosexuality … that’s just the way it is, I thought, and that’s how I was taught.

But I read some very fine studies by scholars of great reputation, known for their faith and their scholarship, who opened my mind to what the Bible really says … and revealed to me that not every translation of the Bible into English has been honest about what Paul the Apostle wrote, and the Greek words he used … sadly, I discovered, how politics have played a role in Bible translation … and how the things we don’t like, and the people we might hate, can shade the way we translate Paul … What did Paul mean? We might ask, and maybe we’re not sure … and, yes, we’re not always sure what Paul meant in some of the details, so we’ll just fill in some of the blanks with our stuff and have Paul say what we think Paul should have said, even if he didn’t.

Yes, that’s how some of this stuff was translated, and now we know better … thank God … now we know better.

Come now, says Jesus, leave your nets and your boats and follow me …

It’s all about growing … to follow Jesus.

To leave things behind … good things, important things.

To find the greater light, the better day.

The land that God alone can show to Abram and Sarai.

The life that Christ alone can give to the disciples.

The hope that Christ alone can give to any of us … 

If we but say to the LORD, Yes, we’re ready.

We’re not always sure, but we’re ready.

We’re ready for new ideas and new ways of doing things … we’re ready to leave in order to find a new land in which a better world can be made …

Come now, says Jesus, leave your nets and your boats and follow me …

Amen and Amen!