Father Snort

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Father Snort

Bradley J. Sullivan


    • Oct 31, 2021 LATEST EPISODE
    • every other week NEW EPISODES
    • 10m AVG DURATION
    • 646 EPISODES


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    Latest episodes from Father Snort

    Remove Our Fear, and Love Can Flourish - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 31, 2021 10:27

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church October 24, 2021 Proper 25, B Mark 10:46-52 Remove our fear and our love can flourish So, Jesus met a man on the outskirts of Jericho who was blind and lived his life begging on the streets. Who was this guy? Did he have any family? If so, why wouldn’t they care for him? He wasn’t crazy. Had no demon. He wasn’t dangerous. He was, however, obviously a pretty terrible sinner, otherwise he wouldn’t have been blind. That was often the thinking. Rich? Successful? God had blessed you because you were so deserving. Poor and downtrodden? Well, I don’t know what you did to anger, God, but maybe stay over there because I don’t want any part of it. Never mind that God clearly states in the Book of Job that prosperity and adversity don’t come to people because God has chosen to bless them or curse them. Unlike us, God doesn’t play favorites. Unlike us, God doesn’t share with those he likes and shun the ones he doesn’t. The man’s blindness was not due to divine retribution for anything, and yet people of Jericho probably saw the blind man as cursed by God. That tended to be the thinking. Perhaps that’s why no one would take him in. Thinking he was cursed, people let him beg on the street. They even shushed him when he tried to talk to Jesus to ask to be healed. “Oh be quiet, he shouldn’t heal the likes of you.” Or maybe, “We don’t want him to know you’re here; he’ll think badly of us.” In any case, Jesus heard the man crying out to him, and Jesus cared about the man, calling him to come to him. What Jesus didn’t do was ask for any sign of repentance. He didn’t ask the man to stop sinning. He didn’t tell him to forgo his wicked ways, he just asked him what he wanted. “I’d really like to see,” the guy said. “Cool, I can take care of that;” Jesus replied, “your faith has made you well.” With that, Jesus healed him, and the man followed Jesus as a disciple. By Jesus’ response to the man, we know that his blindness was not any sort of divine punishment. No repentance required. The fear and disdain which the people of Jericho had for this blind man was not necessary. God hadn’t cursed him, and God wasn’t going to curse them if they were near to him or kind to him. Perhaps then, in healing the blind man, Jesus healed not only him, but also the people of Jericho. Consider the message given to the people of Jericho by the fact of Jesus healing this man. “You needn’t be so fearful, isolating and shunning those who are downtrodden. You needn’t be so afraid of God that you shun those you think are being punished by God. That’s not how God works. See, you have great love inside of you; that’s how God works, and if you remove your fear, your love can flourish. You can love and care for the downtrodden. You needn’t shun them. You can love them.” There are people who often get shunned nowadays by a good number of Christians. Those who get shunned include our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer siblings, shunned because they are seen as sinners, quite possibly cursed by God. They aren’t, of course, and there is no reason for them to be shunned. We see more and more of our LGBTQ+ siblings coming to meet Jesus in the Episcopal Church because by and large, they aren’t shunned here, and like the blind man, they follow Jesus as disciples and apostles. Of course there are other groups of people who get shunned by various Christian groups. Those who welcome our LGBTQ+ siblings often end up shunning those who had shunned our LGBTQ+ siblings. The shunner becomes the shunned. Fear, hurt, even compassion for a group of people are all reasons why we end up shunning others, but having compassion on one group of people doesn’t mean we have to shun another group of people. We have great love inside of us; that’s how God works, and if we remove our fear, our love can flourish. We needn’t fear giving compassion to fearful, angry people. Folks get angry because they are fearful. I daresay we all know what that feels like. Right now, we’ve got folks who are afraid of COVID and so they are taking precautions against it. We’ve also got folks who are afraid of losing their jobs due to the precautions against COVID harming the economy. We can have compassion on both groups. Even as we get terribly afraid and the other group causes us even greater fear, we can still have compassion for fearful people. Jesus’ healing of the blind man shows us that. People are afraid, and we don’t need to be against one group of frightened people in order to be for another group of frightened people. God was not cursing the blind man, and Jesus’ compassion on him showed that compassion on one another is God’s desire for us. God doesn’t desire our contempt for those we fear. Of course, we’re going to feel contempt for those we fear, and that’s what we get to give to God, rather than to them. God can handle our contempt of others, as we give it over to God and ask his healing to remove our fear and contempt so that love can flourish. That’s how God works, through the great love inside of us. We never need fear showing compassion. We needn’t fear showing compassion and love for the wrong sorts of people. The blind man was seen as the wrong sort of person by the people of Jericho. We’ve got lots of wrong sorts of people in our world. Vaxers, anti-vaxers. Maskers, anti-maskers. Believers in climate change and climate change deniers. Those sinful groups of people whose morals and views of the world are utterly at odds with God’s ways, and those pointing out those sinful groups of people who believe that their own morals and views of the world are in step with God’s ways. All of these groups of people are doing their best in the world to do the right thing. All of these groups of people have great fear and end up behaving out of that fear. All of these groups of people get to have compassion shown to them. All of them, and all of us have great love inside; that’s how God works, and if we remove our fear, our love can flourish.

    Be a Friendly, Neighborhood Spider-Man - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 19, 2021 9:07

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church October 17, 2021 Proper 24, B Mark 10:35-45 Be a Friendly, Neighborhood Spider-Man In the movie Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man, aka Peter Parker, desperately wants to be an Avenger. The Avengers, such as Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow, are Earth’s mightiest superheroes. Their base of operations is Avengers Tower, they are known throughout the world, and they are the ones you call when the really big bad stuff happens. Spider-Man has superpowers, and at the same time, he’s a teenager, Peter Parker, still in high school. His quest to be an Avenger keeps being denied, and he is discouraged because he has lofty ambitions, and wants to do more than just help the people of his neighborhood, Queens, New York. He wants to be saving the world. He wants a spot at Avengers Tower. Well, through all the twists and turns of the movie, eventually, he is offered a place among the Avengers, but by that time, he’s come to see the value not only of “saving the world,” but also the value of being there for the people around him. He turns down the offer to be an Avenger, saying, “Well, I mean, I'd rather just stay on the ground for a little while[, be a] friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Somebody's got to look out for the little guy, right?” He didn’t need glory. He didn’t need fame. Look out for the little guy, and be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. When James and John, the sons of Zebedee asked Jesus to sit next to Jesus when he came into his glory, they were basically wanting to be Avengers. They thought Jesus was going to rule over Israel as king, and so they wanted to sit on either side of his throne. Of course this first meant fighting a war against Rome with Jesus at the helm, and after destroying the Romans and avenging Israel, they would rule over Israel with Jesus. They misunderstood of course one thing, that Jesus wasn’t going to be fighting any war against Rome. They also misunderstood their role, their importance, and their need for a throne in order to be effective as disciples of Jesus. Notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke them for their request. The other disciples did, they were pretty hacked off about it, but Jesus saw that James and John were actually thinking too little of themselves, as if they didn’t matter without some throne, as if they couldn’t really make a difference without a throne. So, Jesus calmed his disciples, called them to him, and taught them a lesson about who they were and what their ministry really was. “You know that among the Gentiles,” Jesus said, “those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you…” He didn’t say “it should not be so among you;” that you shouldn’t be tyrants over each other. Jesus said, “it is not so among you.” “You are not tyrants over each other.” Rather than rebuke James and John, Jesus looked into their hearts and saw not a desire for tyranny or greatness for their own sake. Jesus saw a desire for good, and in his response, Jesus is basically saying, Y’all are asking for greatness, and knowing your hearts, I can see that you aren’t asking to be tyrants over others. Your hearts are in the right place. What you are asking for is a serving role, but you don’t need a throne to do that. You already serve, even in seeming lowliness. The service you are doing is just as important and often more important than that of lords of rulers. Keep your feet on the ground for a while. Be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. That’s where we find the most effective and Christ-like ministry has been throughout the church. The church as Empire is not what grew disciples of Jesus and healed peoples’ lives. The church as mighty and ruling over others has actually ended up causing a lot of harm in the name of Jesus. No, the real ministry of Jesus through the people of his church happened in the people of the church serving with each other and serving with those in their neighborhoods, looking out for the little guys. The same is true in our world today. Now, this is not to say that there is not good ministry being done by the church on an institutional, organizational level. There is much good ministry being done through the organizations and institutions of the church engaging with other organizations and institutions, even globally. There has just been formed an Episcopal Church delegation to the United Nations for an upcoming UN conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Ellen Singer, from our diocese, will be part of that Episcopal Church delegation to the United Nations. That’s pretty cool. That’s global-level influence of the Episcopal Church. Now, when I first heard of that UN Delegation, my reaction was about like Spider-Man wanting to be an Avenger or James and John wanting to be next to Jesus in his glory. I thought, “I want to go to the United Nations,” but then I quickly realized, “Yeah, actually I really don’t.” I’m glad for those who do. There is great ministry that is done within large bodies, organizations, institutions, and that’s a good thing for the church to be able to offer counsel for those making decisions that affect many, or most, or all. Not to be in charge as Lords over people, but to counsel those who are. Even so, the majority of Jesus’ ministry through the people of his church happens in the neighborhood. The majority of Jesus’ ministry through the people of his church happens in the relationships we have and the relationships we continue to cultivate and form. We don’t need titles, or thrones, or global-level influence to do important ministry as disciples of Jesus. Helping the kids and teachers at Rhoads Elementary is important ministry, looking out for the little guy. Ministering to people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia through The Gathering Place is important ministry, looking out for the little guy. Calling your friend or neighbor who is having a rough time and having some coffee or lunch together to connect and go through that time with that person is important ministry, looking out for the little guy. No one needs to be an Avenger to be a disciple of Jesus. We just need to look out for the little guy, keep our feet on the ground, and be a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

    “F%&k You Jobu, I’ll Do It Myself.” - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 19, 2021 16:04

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church October 10, 2021 Proper 23, B Mark 10:17-31 “F%&k You Jobu, I’ll Do It Myself.” In the 1989 movie, Major League, star slugger, Pedro Cerano, could hit the ball clear out of the park as often and with a swing almost as beautiful as Yordan Alvarez’. Unfortunately, in the movie Major League, Pedro Cerano, superstar slugger, could not hit a curve ball, nor could he presumably lay off of them? So, he routinely stuck out as other teams realized that the curve ball was his Kryptonite. The best solution might have been to work with a hitting coach, but alas, Pedro’s solution came in the form of a tiny, crazy-haired statue of a wild-eyed man he called Jobu. Pedro offered Jobu rum and cigars, and once even a whole chicken (KFC) in order to help him hit the curve ball. Jobu was a straight up idol which Pedro was using to try to make his life easier. When it kept not working, Pedro finally said, “[To heck with] you, Jobu, I’ll do it myself,” at which point he of course hit a curve ball out of the park. I bring this up, one because I’m a little excited about the Astros and the postseason, and two, because Pedro’s use of Jobu is a pretty good example of an idol being used to try to make life easier. Ancient idols, carved or sculpted, set in homes and prayed to were meant to keep bad things away, to make life easier. Idols were thought to grant your requests if you prayed to them just right, if you gave them rum and cigars and whole chickens. Now, many of us don’t have small statue idols like Jobu that we use to try to make life easier, but idols can come in many forms. For the man who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, his idol was his wealth. His wealth, his riches, his stuff made life easier, and he seems to have believed that he could’t be happy unless life was easy, that he couldn’t be happy unless life wasn’t hard. See, unlike Jobu, the rich man’s idol seems to have been working for him in making his life less hard. So, when Jesus told him to set aside his money, the idol that made life easier, he thought that he couldn’t be ok without it. He believed that he couldn’t be ok if life was hard, so he walled himself off from life in God’s kingdom. Here’s a secret, life is always going to be hard, at least hard at times, and no amount of rum offered to Jobu is going to change that. “How hard it will be,” Jesus said, “for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of heaven.” How hard it will be to enter the kingdom of heaven for those who fear life being hard and aren’t willing to risk life being hard. That was the challenge for the rich man whose idol was his money. Well, here’s another secret, you don’t gotta be rich to have idols get in the way of risking for the kingdom of God. Will I be ok? Will I have enough? Will I be enough? Do I have enough money, time, experience, expertise? How will I possibly be ok if I give up much of anything that I have? These are fears that I dare say all of us face, and I dare say most of us have some kind of Jobu to which we offer rum. Sometimes that idol is simply walling ourselves off from risk. Into all of that fear and unknowing, Jesus is teaching us to trust God in the unknowing, accepting the fact that yes, things may fall apart, and to trust that we are enough (and there are others with us). Jesus is teaching that we can never offer Jobu enough rum to safeguard against life being hard, so be ok with taking risks and giving things up for the sake of God’s kingdom. “We gave stuff up!” Peter said in his very very Peter way. “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and you are going to receive much more, people around you to support you so that you will be ok even without as much money, time, or rum and cigars to offer to Jobu.” Jesus’ disciples gave up the protection of life as they knew it in order to live life in God’s kingdom with new people, new situations. Often we protect ourselves by walling ourselves off from new situations. We keep ourselves from entering new relationships and new situations for which we feel we are not enough. Our walls feel like they make life easier, but remember what God did to make life easier in Genesis 2? God made a human companion. Humans were made to be helpers and supports for each other. We find wholeness in new relationships and risk because we were meant to be there for each other. That’s life in God’s kingdom. So, for a way that we can be there for each other and for others, to risk new relationships, I’m going to turn things over to Kathryn Johnson, Counselor at Rhodes Elementary school. We have begun a partnership with Rhodes Elementary to serve and minister there, and Mrs. Johnson is going to talk with us about the school and how we can serve and minister there. … … Jesus is calling us in this time and in this place, in our new home, to risk for the sake of relationship, connection, and service in God’s kingdom. Serving and ministering at Rhodes is one of the ways Jesus is calling us, and the usual questions probably arise. Will I have enough time? Do I have enough expertise? What do I know about serving with kids? I’m too old to relate, or I’m too inexperienced to know what I’m doing. With our questions, doubts and uncertainties, realize there will never be enough protection, there will never be enough rum for Jobu to make us ready or enough. Like the man with great wealth, Jesus is calling us to life in his kingdom, even though it may be hard. He’s also assuring us that what we’ll find in serving others is the peace that we’re looking for. What we find in giving up our various Jobus, in risking new relationships in new situations, is that we actually are enough; we actually can hit that curve ball. We actually don’t need all of our protection to make life less hard. We have each other, and we have a wonderful new opportunity to serve and live the life of God’s kingdom.

    Glorious Train Wrecks and Glorious Symphonies - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 27, 2021 11:05

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church September 26, 2021 Proper 121, B Mark 7:24-37 Glorious Train Wrecks and Glorious Symphonies Have you ever had a terrible empathy fail? You’re overcome with emotion, exhausted, and totally stressed out by all that is going on, and you feel completely not good enough for all that is going on. So, you talk to a friend about it. The friend responds with, “Oh, that’s ok, it was so much worse for me last year.” You end up feeling even worse, like you’re still not good enough, but now you’re also unimportant. I’ve been in a workshop for the last couple days called, “Dare to Lead,” made by and based on the work of Brene Brown. She is a researcher and author of “Dare to Lead,” “The Daring Way,” and other books about shame, how destructive shame is for us, and how empathy is the antidote for shame. Different from guilt which says, “I messed up or did something bad,” shame says, “I am messed up, and I am bad.” Shame is the feeling of being totally unworthy of love and belonging. Alone. Scared. Not good enough. Not worth people’s time. One of the major antidotes for shame is empathy. Empathy helps us feel connected to others. Empathy doesn’t dismiss our pain, our fears, or the things we’ve done. Empathy looks at us as we are, warts and all, and says says, “I’m here with you; I get it; you aren’t alone; and you are totally worthy of love and belonging.” Sadly, a lot of Christian theology says the opposite. We’re sinners, totally unworthy, and destined for torment forever. That’s what we deserve…unless we believe in Jesus. Then, we’re still unworthy, but God loves us anyway. That’s a pretty abusive theology. Shame is at its root. You’re terrible, unworthy, you don’t belong; you’re no good; you should be punished. Shame, being unworthy of love and belonging. Then, according to these theologies, Jesus comes along and says, believe in me, and God won’t punish you forever…because God loves you. That’s what abusers do to their victims. Tear them down, make them feel worthless, and then say, “I love you, and I alone can make you well, not worthy of love…but I alone will love you even though you are totally unworthy.” That’s about control, not empathy or love. It’s bad theology which turns God into an abuser, rather than a loving God. See the truth of our nature is that we are made beautiful, wonderful, and totally worthy of love and belonging. We’re not born with some stain of original sin. We’re born, and we are hurt over time. We fear. We act out. We hurt others our of our own hurt. God is of course not happy with all of the hurt and harm we do, but God does not see us a terrible and totally unworthy of love. God loves us and hates to see us hurting ourselves and hurting each other. So, to help heal us, God became human, showing us empathy and love. God, Jesus, knows exactly what it’s like to be human. Life is hard; being human is hard. It’s beautiful, and messy, and painful; a glorious train-wreck, and a glorious symphony all at once. By joining with us in being human, God says, “I’m here with you; I get it; you aren’t alone; and you are totally worthy of love and belonging.” So then, believing that theology, that we are worthy of love and belonging, believing that God is not just trying to control us with fear and shame, what is Jesus saying with this dismemberment/mutilation lesson? Well, obviously, Jesus is not literally telling us to cut off our hands or else he’ll punish us forever. I know it sounds that way. “It is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands…and to be thrown into hell.” “If you mess up too much, I’m going to hurt you…forever.” That’s not love. That’s shame, control, fear and abuse. Remember, Jesus loves us and we are worthy of God’s love and belonging. This dismemberment/mutilation lesson, then, cannot be saying, cut off your hand or I’ll punish you forever. The lesson cannot be about shaming us and forcing control over us with coercion. Hear the lesson instead in the light of empathy and love, and you’ll see that this lesson is about taking seriously the harm we can cause, showing us just how bad that harm can be, and so encouraging us to take big steps to choose instead a way of healing and restoration. “Golly, cutting off my hand sounds terrible, and Jesus is saying that the harm I can cause to myself and others with my hand can be even worse than that. I can harm other people in ways that are worse than removing my hand; I can in fact harm people in ways that become like Hell on Earth. I can’t bring about Hell on Earth. I really don’t want to do that; I don’t want to cause harm like that. I mean, I’m often hurt and angry, but gee whiz, I don’t want to bring about Hell on Earth. Maybe I oughta seek another way?” See, this cast into hell part of Jesus’ lesson is not really unknown to us. Planes flown into buildings. Being so angry and feeling so alone that it seems like me against the world. Choosing numbing behaviors so much that people never address the problems in their lives, but just keep growing more isolated and resentful. Politicians wanting to win so badly and being so assured of their righteousness that they denigrate the other side as being evil, bringing about such division and strife that we can’t even countenance the thought that there may be some good coming from the other side, that freedom and public health become enemies of each other. We get being cast into hell. We do it to ourselves all the time. Not casting ourselves into Hell on Earth can take drastic change, drastic giving up of something we hold dear and can’t imagine being without. Giving up the need to be right in a religious belief and for others to share in that belief. Letting go of resentments and accepting one’s own faults so that it is no longer me agains the world. Letting go of numbing so that we actually have to work together on life’s challenges. Giving up dehumanizing anger and entrenched wrangling over ideological differences so that we don’t make things even worse than our fears of what might happen if the other side won. Giving up these things can feel like cutting off one’s own hand, or foot, or eye. Jesus is then hold up that pain next to the pain of the hells that we often make and cast each other into. Jesus is showing empathy and love, saying, “I know the healing work is hard, and I know, as we all know, how much harder life is without that healing work. Even though it can feel like cutting off your own hand, doing that healing work is so much better than living through Hell on Earth.” God loves us, not in spite of us being unworthy of God’s love. God loves us as God’s children, and we are totally worthy of God’s love and belonging. God also teaches us hard lessons because God knows life can be even harder without them. “I’m here with you; I get it,” God says. “You aren’t alone; and you are totally worthy of love and belonging.”

    Casting Down Our Idols (selves) - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 5, 2021 10:40

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church September 5, 2021 Proper 18, B Mark 7:24-37 Casting Down Our sIeDlOvLeSs There have often been times when I’ve been in a large group of people and found that I had a great fondness for a good many of the people there, and at the same time, I’ve found a great antipathy for another large part of the group. I’m referring to times when I’ve been to a sporting event like an Astros game. Folks wearing the Astros shirts and hats, well they’re my people. There is this connection, this bond, this belonging we feel for each other. We don’t know anything at all about each other, but we’re wearing the same color t-shirt. We belong together for that night in the tribe of the Astros. Now the fans in the Yankees shirts, for example, well we just don’t belong together. I may have much more in common with them, may like them immensely more outside of that stadium and in different t-shirts, but for that night, at the game, we are two different groups who do not belong together. I’m overstating things a bit of course, but forming exclusive groups is something we humans tend to be pretty good at doing. “No girls allowed.” “No boys allowed.” Little kids making their own often temporary exclusive groups. It seems innocent enough; it usually is, and children’s “No Boys Allowed” and “No Girls Allowed” clubs also show us how, even early in our lives, we tend toward forming like groups that exclude those who are not alike. This forming of like groups makes some sense. Sometimes people want to be with folks who are most obviously like them. Sadly, these like groups or exclusive groups can end up hurting those who are excluded. Even kids’ “boys only” or “girls only” clubs can unintentionally hurt those who are excluded. Some kids grow up not quite sure where they fit, not sure where they belong: with the girls or with the boys. I think of Steve, as I knew her years ago, now Beth, who had this experience growing up. There was no intention of excluding her, and yet there wasn’t really a place for her on the playground when the gym teacher said, “Boys over here, girls over there.” Oftentimes we don’t mean to exclude, we’re just trying to have a group gathered around a particular similarity. Other times, we very much mean to exclude, to exclude those who are deemed as unworthy, undesirable, or not belonging. “Whites only.” “No Jews.” “No Irish.” “Women need not apply.” There are countless ways our society and all societies have excluded others, and the Church, much as it tries to love, has often been a willing part of such exclusion. In the past, our churches have been intentionally racially segregated. We have kept women out of ministry even though Jesus and the early Church did not. We’ve allowed members of the LGBTQ+ community to be a part of the church, so long as they were quiet about and hid who they were. That’s just a partial list of how the institution itself has excluded groups from the church. Even more are the ways individuals have removed people they felt were undesirable. They disapproving look given, the audible whispers of disdain, the snubbing of some, and the outright statement that “you would be happier somewhere else” to others. Excluding others in the church has a long history, probably as long as the church has been around. Even the earliest members of the church were human and full of the same challenges that we all have, wanting to feel comfortable, wanting to belong, and sometimes excluding others to make sure we felt comfortable in our own belonging. Even in Jesus’ day, before he had established his church, Jesus was a part of this human tendency toward exclusion. When a woman who was a Gentile begged Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter, he initially refused. He called her a dog. He saw her as unworthy, as undesirable, as not belonging. Jesus was acting as he had been taught. We don’t associate with those Gentile dogs. Then, the woman didn’t fight Jesus or refute his claim of her beastliness. “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs,” she said. Supporting Jesus’ claim, she revealed it for what it was: cruelty and exclusion. It seems that she brought Jesus up short. It seems that his eyes were opened in that moment, that what he had been taught about Gentiles as less than human dogs wasn’t really the case. Here was not an unworthy dog, but a woman and a child. These also were beloved children of God, and Jesus healed the daughter immediately. Jesus, who was God, yes, but also fully human with human limitations and frailties had been taught one thing about humanity, that there were undesirable less than humans, and then when he saw one of these undesirable less thans up close, he realized that he had been given a false teaching. This woman, and by extension these Gentiles, were not less than humans, but full humans, beloved of God, who were deserving of love and belonging. Now, you could say when we exclude others that we’re only human, also following what we’ve been taught. That’s true enough. Even so, when we exclude others from the church, we don’t do so by acting as humans. When we exclude others from the church, we become idolaters, acting as though we were God. It’s God’s church, not ours, so when we start to proclaim who can be a part of God’s church and who cannot, we are moving God out of our way so that we can make God’s church what we want it to be. Putting ourself in God’s place, we end up becoming our own idols, ultimately worshipping ourselves, rather than God. Who is in, and who is out? Who is worthy, and who is unworthy? By the teaching of various days, the out and unworthy were black people, women, homosexual people, children who made noise or moved, folks without enough money, or folks with the wrong clothes. All of these people have been excluded from the church at various times and places, following accepted norms of the majority at the time, only to have those norms cast out, those idols thrown down, and the people seen no longer as dogs, but as beloved children of God. What norms, against what people, do we still hold, putting them down as dogs and raising ourselves as idols in God’s place? Who would make any of us personally uncomfortable sitting next to us, or preaching to us, or celebrating at this table? Realizing who those people are, remember that they are not dogs, but God’s beloved children, and we are not God to exclude them or anyone from God’s church. No longer in charge as gatekeeper, we simply get to enjoy the rich diversity of who God’s children are. Astros and Yankees fans. Rich and poor. LGBTQ+. Cis-gender. Heterosexual. Any and all races and skin colors. American. Immigrant. Children. Adults. Felons. Men and women and all those in between. There is such a rich and beautiful diversity of God’s children, and God’s intention for God’s church and God’s kingdom is for us to enjoy all of each other. We are each others’ family, God’s family. No one of us welcomes another, but we meet each other together, for we all belong here, in God’s church as God’s family.

    Spiritual Meals: Jesus, IT, and Other Tasty Treats - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 24, 2021 10:32


    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church August 22, 2021 Proper 16, B Ephesians 6:10-20 John 6:56-69 Spiritual Meals: Jesus, IT, and Other Tasty Treats I’ve been re-reading IT, a novel by Stephen King about a group of friends from Derry Maine who band together as children and then again as adults to defeat a shapeshifting demon-clown monster thing, called “IT.” IT feeds off of fear and violence, most of which IT perpetrates, though IT also feeds off and seems to help cause greater violence and hatred in the people of the town. IT is most famous for taking the appearance of a clown, and if you haven’t read the book, you may have seen or heard of the miniseries back in the 80s or the recent two part movie series. Pennywise the dancing clown, IT, is a terrifying villain in this terrifying horror story. IT scared me as an 11 year old, and IT still scares me as a 43 year old. To this day, I quicken my pace walking when past storm drains due to the opening scene in the book.   Even more disturbing than the monster itself, however, is the response of the people of the town to IT. When things get bad, the people generally do what they should: hold curfews, encourage adults to walk children to school, and increase police presence. At the same time, however, there is a general apathy within the town about the presence of IT. None are really aware of IT, and yet all seem to accept the fact of a high rate of murder and violent crime, and they seem largely to take in stride as well the large number of children who are victims.   The town prospers, and the people go about their lives accepting IT as simply the way things are. On the one hand, what else are they supposed to do, not really knowing what is going on? On the other hand, how can they just accept IT as the way things are? See, the people of the town despise IT, and they also feed off of IT in a spiritual kind of way. IT has become so intertwined with the town and the people that IT feeds off of them, and they unknowingly feed off of IT. IT has become their spiritual food.  Like the people in this novel, we too seem to feed in spiritual ways off of the suffering of others. This is not intentional. It’s not what we strive for. It’s simply the inescapable result of a world full of brokenness and conflict. Consider how companies and people profit off of war: weapons manufacturers and others. I’m not saying the military or weapons makers are bad. At its heart, the military’s goal is to protect the weak and the innocent. Weapons manufacturers help make that possible. At the same time, we can’t escape the fact that part of our wealth comes from the destruction and killing of others. That’s just part of the way things are, and that destruction and killing becomes part of our spiritual food. Think about how many products we wear or use that are made with overseas, underpaid, and oppressed workers? That becomes not only part of our wardrobe, but part of our spiritual food. How much of our economy depends on the same? How much value is derived off of impoverished and crime ridden areas remaining impoverished and crime ridden so that other areas can have premium pricing as a safer alternative? How many of us get angry and stay angry at any number of world or community problems that we probably can’t change, but that we can at least get righteously angry about and feel a resulting strength and moral superiority? Anger and contempt, fighting over who is right. Brainless liberal. Heartless conservative. Masks or no masks. The righteous indignation and moral superiority, the anger and contempt are all part of our spiritual food. In all of these and countless other ways, we are feeding off of the brokenness and conflict in our world. That brokenness and conflict has always been with us and will always be with us. Whether we want it to be or not, the darkness, violence, brokenness, and conflict of our world will always be part of our spiritual food. In this rather problematic spiritual diet then, Jesus says, “Eat my flesh, and drink my blood.” Eat and drink me as your spiritual food, Jesus says. Feed your spirit off of my spirit. Change your diet. So, how do we feed less off of brokenness and conflict, anger and contempt, and make our meals of Jesus instead? Well, if we really want the diet to stick and last, then one thing we likely can’t do is make a sudden, drastic, and huge dietary change. If we try to divorce ourselves from everything that is of violence, oppression, and conflict, we are going to find just how interconnected violence, oppression, and conflict is in all we do. We’re not going to make the world perfect, and we’re certainly not going to increase our consumption of Jesus by angrily and contemptuously decrying anything we feel is not of Jesus. So how do we feed off of Jesus? How do we eat his body and drink his blood? Well, there are countless, infinite ways, including sharing communion here, the spiritual communion, embodied in the meal we share. Other ways to eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood are to take note of each other. Pay attention to each other. Help each other out in fun times together and in rough times together. Stand up for each other. Love each other. Such is the spiritual food of Jesus’ body and blood. Take time for yourself. Rest. Rely on the Lord and the strength of his power, knowing you can’t get it all done. Have faith and trust in God. Trust in God and in God’s goodness. Trust in your own goodness, being made good and beautiful in the image of God. Trust in God’s love of you and guidance of you. Such is the spiritual food of Jesus’ body and blood. Strive for justice and peace in how you interact with others, in how you vote. Strive for justice and peace in how you shop, in the things you consume. Seek truth and live in righteousness, meaning live a life seeking good for others and for yourself. Such is the spiritual food of Jesus’ body and blood. Enjoy the sun, the sky, the grass, the trees, the air. Enjoy the ride. Breath. Breath in the beauty of the moment, even during anxiety, depression, sadness, and fear. Trust in God enough to let go and not have to control everything all the time. Pray. Pray a lot. Make it weird. Such is the spiritual food of the body and blood of Jesus. We can’t purify ourselves by completely ridding our spiritual diet of any and all darkness, conflict, violence, and oppression. Such things are intertwined within our lives and this world, and there is no ridding ourselves of them. Also, Jesus didn’t say remove from your spiritual diet all things that are objectionable. He knew that wasn’t possible. Instead, Jesus said, “eat my flesh and drink my blood.” “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.” (Ephesians 6:10) Make your spiritual meals of Jesus. Eat Jesus’ spiritual flesh and drink his spiritual blood that you may abide in him, and he in you.


    “These Are the Pale Deaths Which Men Miscall Their Lives” - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 11, 2021 12:11

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church August 8, 2021 Proper 14, B Ephesians 4:25 - 5:2 John 6:35, 41-51 “These Are the Pale Deaths Which Men Miscall Their Lives” We aren’t wretched, you know? Paul writes in Ephesians about ways which we want to give up: lying, anger, bitterness, wrath, slander, evil talk, malice, stealing, all of these and more. These ways of being live inside of us. They are a part of us, or maybe they have become a part of us. Perhaps they weren’t there initially and only came to dwell within us as we were hurt and broken throughout our lives. In any case, we have lying, anger, bitterness, wrath, and all of these ways dwelling inside of us. We are, however, not wretched and terrible. Our truest selves, are kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, loving. We are made in God’s image, and so the beauty of love, forgiveness, tenderheartedness, and kindness is intrinsic to who we are. Those ways of life are our truest selves. We are not wretched. We are beautiful. Now again, the other ways, bitterness, anger, all of those, are part of us. We may call them our inner demons, and we’ll likely never be rid of them. As much as we may strive for love, forgiveness, and beauty, these darker parts will always come back, rearing their heads. We can fight them, but that’s like fighting fire with fire. We can pretend they aren’t there, but they’ll just gradually take over. Rather than fighting them or denying them, I suggest (as a friend of mine suggested) that we dance with them. Maybe have them over for a meal. Offer them some coffee or tea. Just don’t feed off of them, for they are the things that bring death. One of my favorite bands, Metallica, has a song called, To Live Is to Die. The short and poignant lyric of this song is, “When a man lies, he murders some part of the world. These are the pale deaths which men miscall their lives. All this I cannot bear to witness any longer. Cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home?” I’m fairly certain I’ve used that quote before in a sermon, though what I didn’t know previously is that the first part of that quote comes from 17th century German, Lutheran theologian and minister Paul Gerhardt. The second half of the lyric comes from Metallica’s former bassist, Cliff Burton. That is a beautiful blending of sacred and secular by my favorite heavy metal band, and it shows this need that we all have for healing and salvation, from all the pale deaths that we miscall our lives. Taking these quotes from a Lutheran theologian and a heavy metal bassist, we can apply this lyric to Paul’s writing from Ephesians that we heard today. “When a man [is bitter, angry, wrathful, and all of those other ways of death] he murders some part of the world. These are the pale deaths which men miscall their lives. All this I cannot bear to witness any longer. Cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home?” These ways Paul writes about truly are the ways of death, and when we feed off of them, we are feeding off the bread of the pale deaths which we miscall our lives. When we live these ways, we murder parts of the world. Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death…” What was the first sin that we hear of in scripture? Garden of Eden, eating the fruit of the tree which God said not to eat. So what was that first sin? Disobedience? Mistrust? Desire for power rather than a good relationship? Bitterness at being told “no”? Stealing what wasn’t theirs to take? Believing and living the serpents’ lie? Which of those was the first sin? Id’ just say “yes,” all of them. Adam and Eve wanted something good, maybe greater power, maybe to sate their curiosity, maybe just a tasty piece of fruit. In any case, God had said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” Well, they didn’t exactly die, at least not physically. Their relationship with God, however, took a drastic cardiac arrest kind of turn. Their relationship with each other was deeply harmed. When they ate of the bread of bitterness, mistrust, desire of power over relationship, living a lie, they fed off of the pales deaths which we miscall our lives, and they murdered some part of the world. “The wages of sin is death,” Paul writes. Now remember, sin does not mean we’re wretched and terrible. Sin is missing the mark: seeking something good, but missing the good we seek and hitting something less good or something harmful instead. These harmful things end up hurting us and others - our relationships are broken. We find these things to bring pale deaths rather than life. Now again, these harmful ways are a part of us, but they aren’t parts that we need to hate. When these parts of ourselves start speaking up, we dance with them, or have some tea with them. They may have something important to say about ourselves or about the world. When I’m angry about something in the world, there may be something I could do to help make it better. When I’m bitter towards someone, there may be something going on in me that I need to address, or maybe a broken relationship that I need to tend to and work to heal. So we can listen to our anger, and bitterness, etc., over a cup of tea, and we learn what they can teach us about ourselves and the world, but we don’ feed off of them. Jesus teaches us not to feed off of these pale deaths. Rather, Jesus teaches to eat the bread of life. “I am the living bread that came down from heaven,” Jesus says. “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever…” “I am,” Jesus says. “I am.” “God is.” Remember that “I am” is the unspeakable name of God. “I am the bread of life.” God is the bread of life. God dwells within all of us, and we are made in God’s image. The bread of life is within us all. Kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness, love: these are all aspects of God, aspects of Jesus, the bread of life which dwells within us all. To eat the bread of life is to feed off our truest selves. When Jesus gave his life, his body, his flesh as the bread of life, we recognize Jesus as someone other than us, a human who lived a couple thousand years ago, a human who is also God. Jesus is that particular God-incarnate man, and he is the particular bread of life. Jesus is also something, someone who is not external to us, not other than us. Jesus is that particular God incarnate man, and Jesus is also our truest selves. We are all one with God, made in God’s image, and Jesus lives within us all, not as something external, but as who we are. The bread of life is shared and eaten as we reach out to Jesus who is wholly other than us, and the bread is shared and eaten when we feed off of the kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness, and love which is our truest selves. The bread of life is part of us. The bread of life dwells within us, and the bread of life dwells among us, in community, in the communion we share. Rather than feed off the pale deaths which we miscall our lives: bitterness, wrath, anger, lies, murdering some part of the world, and rather than fighting against those things, we dance with them, we invite them for tea. We learn what we can, and we let them go. We aren’t wretched. We aren’t terrible. We are kind. We are tenderhearted. We are forgiving. We are loving. Those are our truest selves, beautiful and wonderful. When we live those truest parts of ourselves, when we feed off of that bread, we’re feeding off the bread of life which is Jesus, and when we feed off that bread, we bring life to the world.

    Is Anyone Else Tired? - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 20, 2021 11:45


    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church July 18, 2021 Proper 11, B Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 “Rest, and Let Me Take Care of This for a While” Is anyone else tired? One thing people have been finding coming out of the pandemic is that they are exhausted. Part of this is that people are tired from the pandemic itself and all of the stress and extra work that has meant for so many. Another piece of this exhaustion, however, is that many folks have found that the time they spend in in rest and time they spend with family and friends is far too precious to be squandered by the endless demands of our jobs. Folks are realizing that their exhaustion has been there since before the pandemic. Some folks are finding jobs better suited to them, jobs which are more fulfilling. Some are quitting their jobs without yet having another because they are tired of doing the work that used to be done by three people without getting a corresponding raise in pay. Some jobs just aren’t being filled because at the wages being offered, the jobs aren’t worth people’s time to do. I had an uncle-ish type guy, not family, but close friend, who was arguing that minimum wage shouldn’t go up. He said he’d hired people who weren’t worth minimum wage. What I didn’t say at the time was, “That may be true, but those same people might be worth three times minimum wage,” because minimum wage isn’t worth many people’s time. People working tirelessly, still struggling to make ends meet. People working tirelessly with more than enough for ends to meet, but with little or no time for the people and things that matter in life. There is so much going on, and there is always more coming. That is the situation in which Jesus and the apostles found themselves in our Gospel story today. Jesus had been working tirelessly, and then he appointed the twelve disciples to be apostles. He sent them out to do the teaching and healing work he had been doing. I like to think Jesus took a break during that time. Then, they came back to tell Jesus about all that had done and taught, and there was so much still to do, so many people still hungry for their teaching and healing, that the couldn’t even eat, much less spend some time together resting and enjoying each other’s company. So, going away on a little vacation, they had some time off on their little boat ride, car trip, airplane flight journey, and once they landed, they found work had followed them there. Zoom calls, cell phones, meetings with leaders, questions from the team back home, fires to put out, the boss calling to say, “I need you to come back in.” The only real time off they had was the boat ride, and the people were all there waiting for more teaching and healing. One thing I noticed, however, is that once they arrived, the apostles weren’t recorded as having done much of anything at all. In the portion of the story that was cut out of our reading today, Jesus was teaching the crowds, and later, the apostles realized the huge crowd of people was hungry, and they told Jesus they didn’t have much food. Then Jesus turned their meager fare into a lot of food for over 5000 people. The apostles kinda got to sit back while Jesus did all the work. Then they went on another boat ride, a nice little nighttime pleasure cruise, and Jesus walked across the water to them. When they arrived on shore again, there were even more people coming for teaching and healing. At this point, with all of this new additional work to be done, we heard about Jesus doing a lot of healing, with the apostles doing…we don’t know what. Something? Anything? Nothing? Whatever the case for the apostles, the people just kept on coming. The needs were far too great. There was no end to the work to be done, and amidst this endless amount of work, we saw that Jesus had taken a break before our story started, asking his apostles to go and do the work he had been doing. Then, when they returned, he had his apostles take a break, one which seems to have continued even as the huge crowd was all around them. “Rest, and let me take care of this for a while,” Jesus said. Nowadays, whether people are working for a wage that isn’t really worth their time, working for a darn good salary but doing the work of three people for the salary of one, or working for a job that isn’t terrible but is relentless and rather soul crushing, many people can’t quit their jobs. Many can’t take time off, and most certainly can’t say, “I’m gonna take a couple weeks off or even a couple days off, but don’t worry, boss, Jesus’ll take care of this for a while.” Even so, we see in our story today Jesus teaching us to rest. We hear Jesus say to us, “Rest, and let me take care of this for a while.” How are we to do that in our present situation of endless work, endless need? How are we to rest and let Jesus take care of this for a while when even taking time off a job may put at risk that mighty powerful need we have to eat? Well, first off, something that won’t be particularly helpful, and that is resenting those with immeasurably more than they need. I’ve seen and heard a good amount of uproar over the head of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson, taking a flight into space in his new low orbit space plane, when, as people have been saying, he has the money to end poverty. It is true that he and many others have immeasurably more than they need. It is true that with his and their wealth, they could probably be doing more than they are doing to alleviate need in the world. It is also true, however, that they are employing folks, creating jobs, and it is true that focusing on those others and shaming people with wealth and resenting those who have far more than they need isn’t going to bring about the rest that people need. How often have any of us resented someone who has more wealth or more time for rest and then felt more rested afterwards? I’m guessing never. There are societal changes that would be helpful, and striving for those is a good thing. Resenting those who can rest, however, is not going to give rest to anyone. Jesus didn’t resent the crowds who followed them. Rather, he had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. So, rather than resentment and focusing on what others have or what anyone doesn’t have, Jesus shows us to take time to rest in ways that really give rest. He shared the load with others. He let his apostles work while he rested, and he let them rest while he worked. Are we connected enough with our friends and neighbors to let them share our loads and for us to share their loads as well? Jesus took time for quiet and prayer. He spent time outside, enjoying creation. Do we seek and keep practices of quiet, prayer, and time outside to give rest to our minds, our souls, and our bodies? For many of us, these times of rest will have to be short and often, and for those of us in Houston during the summer, times outside need to be particularly short, and these are still times we can take. Especially if we can let go of resentments, we can rest more fully even in the short times we have and let Jesus say, “Rest, and let me take care of this for a while.” Bothered and harassed by so many worries about problems throughout the world, we can let go of those worries and let Jesus say, “Rest, and let me take care of this for a while.” Seeking and keeping practices of quiet, prayer, and even time outside, we can give rest to our minds, our souls, and our bodies while Jesus says, “Rest, and let me take care of this for a while.”


    Filling the Hollows of Our Lives - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 14, 2021 10:39

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church July 11, 2021 Proper 10, B Mark 6:14-29 Filling the Hollows of Our Lives Paul wrote in Ephesians that we have an inheritance in Christ as God’s children, God’s beloved people. That inheritance is living God’s kingdom of love, united to God and to one another in this life and in the life to come. Paul went on to write, that we could squander our inheritance, removing ourselves as God’s children. “Entirely out of place”, Paul wrote, “is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Ephesians 5:4-5) That’s what we saw with Herod when he had John the Baptist killed. Herod was king of Israel, a puppet king propped up by Rome, but still king of Israel. He had power and authority to build up the kingdom of God within Israel. He could have led the people to live in love, to care for one another, to “put away…all bitterness and wrath…slander and malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another…” (Ephesians 4:31-32) That would have been living the inheritance of the kingdom of God. Instead of living the kingdom of God and guiding the people of Israel into the same, however, Herod used his power and authority, to enrich and glorify himself. He had John imprisoned for speaking the truth to him about his actions, and at the same time, he was drawn to John. He was drawn to the kingdom of God which John preached and taught people to live, but he would’t then follow John and live the kingdom of God himself. For him, with much potentially to lose, the sacrifice was too great. If he didn’t continue to enrich himself, would those with wealth look at him as less powerful, less important than they? If he chose to do the right thing, at John’s urging, would he look weak in the eyes of his courtiers and officers? If he broke his oath after his silly and vulgar talk to his step-daughter, would he appear foolish and lose some of his credibility? Money, power, influence: these were all Herod’s to lose, and wanting to keep those things, he executed an innocent man, a man whom he admired, a man who was leading him to the Kingdom of God. Herod had the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Love, right there to be received and to be grown and spread to others, leading others to the same Kingdom of Love, and instead, he squandered God’s kingdom, squandered his inheritance in money, power, and influence. Squandering his inheritance, Herod reminds me of a man in a parable Jesus taught, the parable of the prodigal son. In the parable, a son demands his inheritance from his father, receives his inheritance, and then squanders it all in raucous and extravagant living. Once the money is all gone, he finds himself starving and alone, feeding pigs on someone else’s land, wishing he could eat even the slop he is feeding the pigs. Herod is like that prodigal son, having received his inheritance and then squandering it completely. Herod had wealth, power, and influence, but the Kingdom of God was nowhere to be seen in his life. As far as joining with God in a life of love, grace, and mercy, using what he had to bring about justice and peace among the people, Herod was as poor and alone as the prodigal son, starving and penniless, wishing he could eat even the pig slop. Of course, the story of the prodigal son does not end there. The son eventually wakes up, realizing he is starving and miserable, and he returns to his father ready to work as a hired servant, knowing that at least he will have food and shelter. Then, while he is still a ways off, his father sees him coming home and he runs out to greet him, restoring his as his beloved son, overjoyed that he is back, alive and well. That’s God’s way. When we squander our inheritance and live selfish lives, unconcerned with others, leaving hurt and harm in our wake, we may eventually realize that we are starving for a life of love, grace, and mercy. When we realize that we are starving, and we begin to return to God’s kingdom of love, God runs out to us with open arms, strengthening us and guiding us back into our inheritance, living the Kingdom of love. The challenge for Herod was he never realized he was starving. He had his wealth, his power, his influence. He had his courtiers and officials all suckling up to him, and so he was able to remain blind to the damage left in his wake. He thought he had arrived, thought he had it all, but he was hollow on the inside, a puppet, not just of Rome, but also a puppet to all of his cravings, led by his desires for money, power, and influence. As a puppet mastered by his cravings, Herod lived outside of the Kingdom of God, squandering his inheritance. Of course, living the Kingdom of God is rarely as simple as you either are or you aren’t. Most of us are living our inheritance in God’s kingdom of love except when we’re not. So, my question today is, what is keeping us from living more fully into God’s kingdom of love? What fills the hollows of our lives, controlling us as puppets? For some, like Herod, it may be money, power, and influence that we are afraid to risk losing. I don’t mean to imply that any of us have people beheaded over it, but for some, money, power, and influence may master us, keeping us from decisions, actions, or beliefs which would risk our money, power, and influence for the sake of others’ well being. For some of us, our past hurts may be mastering us, keeping us from living more fully into God’s kingdom of love. All of us are hurting in some way and we end up building walls and defenses just trying to be ok. Sometimes those very defenses end up taking over, harming us and others, and we miss out on God’s kingdom of love. There are many things which can end up mastering us, taking over the hollows of our lives and controlling us as puppets. God’s response is to help wake us up to realize the ways we are being mastered, like Herod. God’s response is to help us become aware of the ways we are starving, squandering our inheritance like the prodigal son. God’s response is then to guide us back to our inheritance, to let go our fears, and to let God guide us into his Kingdom of love. God’s way is to offer to fill the hollows of our lives so that we are not puppets led by our fears and desires, but are instead walking together with God and one another. That is life in God’s kingdom, as Paul writes to, “put away…all bitterness and wrath…slander and malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven [us].” Even when we squander our inheritance through fear and desire leaving ourselves hollow and hungry, in God’s kingdom, there is inheritance still waiting for us when we wake up and return and strive again to live in the way of love.

    A Mystery Beyond My Comprehension, and That's Enough For Me - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 22, 2021 10:43

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church June 20, 2021 Proper 7, B Job 38:1-11 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 Mark 4:35-41 A Mystery Beyond My Comprehension, and That’s Enough For Me I don’t remember the first time I heard the story of Jesus sleeping through a terrible wind storm at sea and then silencing the storm with a word, but I imagine it went something like this. I heard the story and then went, “Wow, how’d he do that?” “Well,” I was told, “Jesus is God.” “Oh, ok.” See I was never all that amazed by Jesus’ miracles. Not that his miracles weren’t amazing, but starting from a place of believing Jesus is God, it seemed totally natural that Jesus could control the weather, heal people, multiply food. Jesus, being God made all of this, everything, “laid the foundation of the earth…when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy,” so of course he could do anything at all. So, going from that belief about Jesus and then hearing that Jesus could control the weather with a word, I figured, “Well yeah, of course he can.” For the disciples, on the other hand, Jesus’ controlling the weather was rather mind blowing. “Who then is this,” they asked, “that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Rather than starting from a place of believing Jesus to be God, they were gradually coming to know who Jesus was, and they had barely scratched the surface. Like Job, when God said of him, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”, the disciples, though they knew Jesus well, were also realizing the enormous depths they had not even begun to plumb. We’re like this with everyone we know. My brother, Kevin, and I are identical twins. We share the same DNA, and we grew up together, so we are very close and know each other very well. Still, if we plumb the depths long enough, we get to places I don’t know and he doesn’t know. We begin darkening counsel by words without wisdom. We can know people our entire lives and still be surprised by them. There are always greater depths we can plumb, new awareness and understandings of each other to discover. Being that that is the case for our knowledge of other human beings, we have to admit our knowledge and understanding of God is greatly limited. God is known and has been revealed to us, and God is a mystery. Whenever we try to define God too much, we end up with God’s response to Job, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” We think we know God. We sometimes construct rather tight models of God and have rules around how and who and what God is, and then something happens that we can’t fit into our God understanding box, and our tightly constructed models of God come crashing down. Far from a disaster, what that means is we get to plumb the depths of God even more fully. When our understandings of God prove insufficient, we get to be the disciples in the boat with Jesus, wondering, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” As I said at the beginning, as a child simply hearing, “Jesus is God,” was enough for me to say, “Oh, ok,” to the question of how Jesus could control the weather with a word. Of course he could, he was God. Through further decades of study and plumbing the depths, I’ve barely scratched the surface of much anything more, though I have brought about a lot of helpful questioning and come to a greater heart knowledge of who Jesus is. God is still a vast mystery and yet I have come to experience God as goodness and love, healing and freedom. I believe we are called to accept and embrace the mystery of God, and to be content with what we can say we know. God is love. Sounds simple enough, but what force or action on earth has greater depth and mystery than love? God is good. We don’t always know what that means, but we can trust in God’s goodness and give up some of our need for and illusion of control at all times. Here’s what I know personally: when I spend time in prayer and meditation, seeking God’s will, and setting aside my efforts at control, I find peace and unity with people and within myself that I don’t otherwise find. Who is this that brings such peace and unity to life and relationships? God, whom I don’t fully know, and that’s enough for me. Accepting some knowledge of God as well as great mystery of God, I get to see God all around, in the beauty of creation: in the earth, the skies, the trees, the wind, the water. Seeing God everywhere in the earth brings greater awe for all that is around me, greater respect, and a desire to honor the earth in how I live. Seeing God in others helps me to see each person’s beauty and to want to give them respect and to honor them in how I live. We see in Jesus’ teachings and actions, that such is his desire for us. I don’t understand how all of that works, but I accept it as true because it is beautiful and because the fruits of that belief are greater peace, love, and honor towards others and to the earth. Accepting some of these mysteries of God brings the very love, healing, and freedom which I believe God to be. Looking at another mystery of God, how can Jesus be fully human and fully God? How is it that Jesus could calm a storm with a word? Well, on the one hand, what can’t God do? On the other hand, how exactly does that work, God being everywhere and also that one person? I don’t know. I don’t need to fully understand it. I don’t need to understand how God was specifically there in the human being, Jesus, while also being fully present as the Holy Trinity in the heavenly places, while also being in and through all creation in the known universe and beyond. I don’t need to fully understand how we are both here living finite, mortal lives on this earth and we are at the same time alive with God in the heavenly places fully united to one another in Christ. Paul writes about that in his letter to the Ephesians, and I don’t know how that works. On this Father’s Day, however, I think about my dad who died six years ago. I still miss him, and I also have joy because I believe that like Paul wrote, I’m not only waiting here on earth to be with my Dad again; I’m already with him in the heavenly places. Now that’s a mystery of God beyond my comprehension, but I don’t have to understand it. I believe it, and that’s enough for me. How does connecting with God through prayer and meditation, connecting with God through people, connecting with God through nature, how does any of that bring love, healing, and freedom? How are we both here and with God in the heavenly places all at the same time? How does all that work? How does God make all that happen? Well, I’ve got the same answer as my parents had for me when I was a kid asking, “How did Jesus calm a storm?” He’s God. Then I can figure, “Oh, ok. Goodness, love, healing, freedom, of course God can do all that.”

    "You Can't Fight In Here. This Is the War Room." - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 9, 2021 9:42

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church June 6, 2021 Proper 5, B Genesis 3:8-15 Mark 3:20-35 “You Can’t Fight in Here. This Is the War Room.” Strange as it may sound, today’s Gospel reading made me think of a scene from the movie Dr. Strangelove, where The U.S. President, and a Russian Ambassador, and the top U.S. General are all trying to avert nuclear armageddon when the general and the Russian ambassador start fighting, and the President shouts at them, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the war room!” That reminds me of our Gospel story today as I hear the scribes saying to Jesus with similar irony, “Jesus please, you can’t heal people here, we’re doing God’s work!” How could they think healing people was bad? How could they think casting out demons was bad? Well, healing and casting out demons wasn’t necessarily bad in and of itself, of course, but what if Jesus was turning people to trust in him, rather than in the religious system? What if, even worse, Jesus was teaching something different about God than they were, and was therefore, of course, teaching something terribly, terribly wrong about God? That, we understand. Think of a new pastor at a new growing congregation. It’s not a church like the established churches are used to, and even some of those established church’s members are going to that new church. They are on fire, they are serving within the community in ways the established churches haven’t been doing for decades, and the established churches are all threatened by this new congregation. They don’t like the pastor. He’s doing things wrong, the church services are weird, and they feel threatened by them doing really well and doing things differently than what they know to be the right way. “Oh sure, they’re doing good work there, but “Yeah, you’re right…they still pray weird.” We get that. We understand the scribes feeling threatened by Jesus, thinking he was leading the people down a wrong path, in spite of his healing and casting out demons. So what did they do? They demonized Jesus, saying he was doing demonic work casting out demons. It didn’t make much sense then either. Jesus was fighting a spiritual battle against demons and cosmic powers, against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (I grabbed that from Ephesians). To be fair, it wasn’t much of a fight against the demons. Jesus was like One Punch Man, but still, seeing this, the scribes chose to fight with him about it, who was right and who was wrong, and Jesus’ response was basically, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the war room.” Jesus was saying, “I’m fighting a war against demons,” (which was again pretty easy for him “Get out of there, demon!” “Ok.”) and the scribes were fighting with him about that? That was the difficult battle, people working against healing and love because they don’t agree with the person who is doing it or the methods they use. That is still the difficulty we have today. We understand how crazy it is for the scribes to fight against Jesus when he was casting out demons and healing people. We understand how crazy it is for our church or any church to rally against another church when we see them doing good, healing ministry with the community…even if they pray weird, but when that church is ministering with the wrong kinds of people, or letting the wrong kinds of people be ministers, what then? They’re still doing great works within the community, still healing and working with people to transform their lives, but it’s just the wrong kind of people doing the ministry? What if it’s staunch conservatives doing the ministry? What if it’s flaming liberals doing the ministry? What if the ministers are people whose beliefs and ideologies not only go against my beliefs and ideologies, but go against who I am as a person? I don’t have a clear cut answer on this one, however, I will say this about our beliefs and ideologies. The scribes had beliefs and ideologies which led them to discount some people as unworthy of being a full part of their community, of their world. The scribes were concerned with purity and people being religiously correct enough to be acceptable for God. Jesus, not so much. Jesus was concerned with people causing actual harm to one another. Are you being clean and pure? Jesus didn’t seem to ask that. Are you causing actual harm to someone else? That’s what Jesus seemed interested in. Are you excluding people you deem unworthy or impure? Are you keeping for yourself far more than you need while others struggle just to have enough? Are you so certain of your own righteousness that you tear others down, condemning them, rather than choosing to love them and take the risk of being wrong as you see God working in their lives too? That seems the way of Jesus in his spiritual battles, in his war room. Yes, there is a war room, even for Jesus, but as Paul wrote in Ephesians 6, “…our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  (Ephesians 6:10-12). Jesus was certainly against these spiritual forces of darkness, against these spiritual forces of darkness as they manifest in people. We don’t read too much, however, of Jesus being against people themselves. He wasn’t out there stirring up hatred and division, shouting about the folks people should be against. He warned his disciples privately against the teachings against some of those rather less than helpful leaders, but his focus was not to turn people against each other. Jesus’ focus was on healing people, bringing people together, showing love, offering grace, living forgiveness. That was Jesus’ way. Healing, communion, love, grace, forgiveness, that was Jesus way, even when fighting spiritual battles for and along side folks whom others felt were the wrong sorts of folks. Healing, communion, love, grace, forgiveness, that was how Jesus fought spiritual battles in his war room, and strange as it may sound, there’s no fighting in the war room. At least there’s no fighting in Jesus’ war room. There’s striving against spiritual forces of darkness, and those battles are fought with healing and communion, with grace, and love, and forgiveness.

    Unity In the Midst the Gods - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later May 25, 2021 12:22

    Paul wrote of Jesus as sitting at the right hand of God in the heavenly places (where these other gods dwelt), and Paul wrote the church as the body of Christ, dwelling as Christ’s body with God in the heavenly places right now, so that we are both here on earth living out our mortal lives and at the same time we are in the heavenly places joined together as Jesus’ body. Paul went on to say that we are joined together with Jesus as part of God’s revelation, that we are in the heavenly places revealing even to the gods or heavenly beings, the the unity that God has in mind for all of humanity. No more tribalism and no more tribal gods. One people living in unity.

    A Serpent to Kill the Lizard Brain - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 23, 2021 12:46

    When Israel was complaining in the desert that they were going to die of hunger in the desert because they didn't like the food God daily provided for them, God sent serpents among them. Then God had Moses set up a bronze serpent for the people to look upon when they were bitten, and be healed. Now, this bronze serpent was not like Medusa in reverse. It wasn’t magic, as though if it happened to cross into someone’s line of sight, suddenly they were all better. It wasn’t an idol or a god to bring healing. The bronze serpent worked as people looked upon it and realized, “That’s what I’ve become. I’ve become as the father of lies, trusting my own anxiety and Lizard Brain rather that trusting in God who has freed us and kept us safe.” They would look upon the bronze serpent with true repentance, let Lizard Brain quiet down for a few moments, and the serpent would kill the lizard. That’s a big part of religion and religious practices, to help us silence Lizard Brain and return to trust in God and peace in our hearts. See when we’re fully freaked out, thinking, “We don’t like this food; we’re going to die,” and Lizard Brain is in control, our thoughts and beliefs aren’t usually enough to bring us back to trust and peace because the thinking parts of our brains are shut down when Lizard Brain is in control. We need more than thoughts and belief when Lizard Brain takes over, we need actions, we need habits, we need a bronze serpent, so to speak, to kill the lizard. Thus we have habits and practices of prayer and meditation, of scripture reading, of silence and breathing, of daily turning our lives and wills over to God, and daily taking stock to see how we did and where we might need to seek correction or reconciliation.

    A Serpent to Kill the Lizard Brain - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 23, 2021 12:46

    When Israel was complaining in the desert that they were going to die of hunger in the desert because they didn't like the food God daily provided for them, God sent serpents among them. Then God had Moses set up a bronze serpent for the people to look upon when they were bitten, and be healed. Now, this bronze serpent was not like Medusa in reverse. It wasn’t magic, as though if it happened to cross into someone’s line of sight, suddenly they were all better. It wasn’t an idol or a god to bring healing. The bronze serpent worked as people looked upon it and realized, “That’s what I’ve become. I’ve become as the father of lies, trusting my own anxiety and Lizard Brain rather that trusting in God who has freed us and kept us safe.” They would look upon the bronze serpent with true repentance, let Lizard Brain quiet down for a few moments, and the serpent would kill the lizard. That’s a big part of religion and religious practices, to help us silence Lizard Brain and return to trust in God and peace in our hearts. See when we’re fully freaked out, thinking, “We don’t like this food; we’re going to die,” and Lizard Brain is in control, our thoughts and beliefs aren’t usually enough to bring us back to trust and peace because the thinking parts of our brains are shut down when Lizard Brain is in control. We need more than thoughts and belief when Lizard Brain takes over, we need actions, we need habits, we need a bronze serpent, so to speak, to kill the lizard. Thus we have habits and practices of prayer and meditation, of scripture reading, of silence and breathing, of daily turning our lives and wills over to God, and daily taking stock to see how we did and where we might need to seek correction or reconciliation.

    Freedom and the Prisons We Carry With Us - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 21, 2021 10:22

    So as we have this season of joy to seek further release from our various prisons, in what prison do you find yourself? Fear? Anger? Scarcity? Jealousy? Feelings of discontent and raging against aspect of society that you just can’t abide? All of these and more are the prisons we find ourselves in, and with Jesus’ help, we can be freed from all of them. Turning to Jesus every morning in prayer, specifically asking Jesus to free us from our particular prisons. Spending time each day in meditation to calm our minds and bodies and to give those things which imprison us over to God. Spending time talking with others, trusted friends or small groups within our church about our prisons and the release we need and the release we have experienced. Spending time each day with scripture, trusting and getting to know Jesus ever more fully as the one who frees us from our prisons, the one who proclaimed that the kingdom of God has come near. Remember then also that Jesus’ message of freedom and release from prison is not only an individual message. In what prisons do we find ourselves in our society? Prisons of injustice, the wealthy and seemingly important given passes for crimes while many of the poor and marginalized are given heavy sentences. Prisons of poverty which trap people who work full time for low wages in order to live in poverty. Prisons of political discourse so heated and polemical that people are losing their minds. People are becoming so enraged with political discourse that they will fight, with words, with fists, with guns, even to the death in order to stop those on the other side of the political discourse.

    Freedom and the Prisons We Carry With Us - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 21, 2021 10:22

    So as we have this season of joy to seek further release from our various prisons, in what prison do you find yourself? Fear? Anger? Scarcity? Jealousy? Feelings of discontent and raging against aspect of society that you just can’t abide? All of these and more are the prisons we find ourselves in, and with Jesus’ help, we can be freed from all of them. Turning to Jesus every morning in prayer, specifically asking Jesus to free us from our particular prisons. Spending time each day in meditation to calm our minds and bodies and to give those things which imprison us over to God. Spending time talking with others, trusted friends or small groups within our church about our prisons and the release we need and the release we have experienced. Spending time each day with scripture, trusting and getting to know Jesus ever more fully as the one who frees us from our prisons, the one who proclaimed that the kingdom of God has come near. Remember then also that Jesus’ message of freedom and release from prison is not only an individual message. In what prisons do we find ourselves in our society? Prisons of injustice, the wealthy and seemingly important given passes for crimes while many of the poor and marginalized are given heavy sentences. Prisons of poverty which trap people who work full time for low wages in order to live in poverty. Prisons of political discourse so heated and polemical that people are losing their minds. People are becoming so enraged with political discourse that they will fight, with words, with fists, with guns, even to the death in order to stop those on the other side of the political discourse.

    If It Is of Healing, It Is of Jesus - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 7, 2021 10:01

    Our faith in God, our life with God was embodied in Jesus, and any faith or belief in Jesus that does not deeply and richly involve our bodies in this life is a heretical faith and belief in Jesus. After healing people all night, Jesus got up early the next morning to go pray, and when his disciples found him, he said, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” The message he proclaimed in their synagogues included healing people and casting out demons. If we want to evangelize, if we want to proclaim our faith, then our ministry will include and even be defined by a ministry of healing. Jesus’ ministry is a ministry of physical healing. Jesus’ ministry is societal healing. Jesus’ ministry is working for justice. Jesus’ ministry is “dealing with the issues that hurt the poor, the brokenhearted, the sick, the left out, the least of these, the stranger, and all of those who are made to feel unacceptable,” for if it is of healing, it is of Jesus.

    If It Is of Healing, It Is of Jesus - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 7, 2021 10:01

    Our faith in God, our life with God was embodied in Jesus, and any faith or belief in Jesus that does not deeply and richly involve our bodies in this life is a heretical faith and belief in Jesus. After healing people all night, Jesus got up early the next morning to go pray, and when his disciples found him, he said, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” The message he proclaimed in their synagogues included healing people and casting out demons. If we want to evangelize, if we want to proclaim our faith, then our ministry will include and even be defined by a ministry of healing. Jesus’ ministry is a ministry of physical healing. Jesus’ ministry is societal healing. Jesus’ ministry is working for justice. Jesus’ ministry is “dealing with the issues that hurt the poor, the brokenhearted, the sick, the left out, the least of these, the stranger, and all of those who are made to feel unacceptable,” for if it is of healing, it is of Jesus.

    "See the Light. Be the Light." - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 24, 2021 7:54

    Jesus’ words were a call to see the holy ground all around, to see every common bush afire with heaven. Jesus’ words were a call to see every person around as a beloved child of God. Sinners, saints, outcasts, and rulers, all beloved children of God. Those who were willing to see had their lives changed by Jesus’ invitation to live God’s kingdom, already present, into existence. I caught the end of Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem, and I was struck by the invitation she gave. It was for me an invitation to live God’s kingdom. She said: When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid The new dawn blooms as we free it For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it If only we're brave enough to be it Powerful words of hope and good news. See the light. Be the light. It is near. Now make it so. Jesus’ words were powerful words that the kingdom of God has come near. Then he and his friends made it so. Jesus’ words of hope and good news are here for us too, to hear, believe, and to let that belief be real enough to change our lives. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;” “if only we're brave enough to see it If only we're brave enough to be it.”

    "See the Light. Be the Light." - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 24, 2021 7:54

    Jesus’ words were a call to see the holy ground all around, to see every common bush afire with heaven. Jesus’ words were a call to see every person around as a beloved child of God. Sinners, saints, outcasts, and rulers, all beloved children of God. Those who were willing to see had their lives changed by Jesus’ invitation to live God’s kingdom, already present, into existence. I caught the end of Amanda Gorman’s inauguration poem, and I was struck by the invitation she gave. It was for me an invitation to live God’s kingdom. She said: When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid The new dawn blooms as we free it For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it If only we're brave enough to be it Powerful words of hope and good news. See the light. Be the light. It is near. Now make it so. Jesus’ words were powerful words that the kingdom of God has come near. Then he and his friends made it so. Jesus’ words of hope and good news are here for us too, to hear, believe, and to let that belief be real enough to change our lives. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;” “if only we're brave enough to see it If only we're brave enough to be it.”

    So, That Was Tuesday - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 8, 2021 11:18

    A couple thousand years ago, Jesus was born to set us free. The Creator of the Universe became a human being in human flesh and walked among us. Even with that great coming of Jesus, the light of God living with us in the world, we still lose our way and get trapped by the darkness, and so into that darkness, God continues to give little epiphanies, to show us the light once again and to set us free.

    So, That Was Tuesday - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 8, 2021 11:18

    A couple thousand years ago, Jesus was born to set us free. The Creator of the Universe became a human being in human flesh and walked among us. Even with that great coming of Jesus, the light of God living with us in the world, we still lose our way and get trapped by the darkness, and so into that darkness, God continues to give little epiphanies, to show us the light once again and to set us free.

    Faded Away as Grass Into Mother Earth: Where New Life and New Possibility Await - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 7, 2020 10:49

    Repentance means that with that hope and mercy, we then get to reckon with those worst parts of ourselves. We have to reckon with the worst of ourselves because we can’t be free of those things, free of the worst parts of ourselves, if we don’t bring them with us when we come seeking mercy and redemption. When we do bring those worst parts of ourselves with us on our journey of repentance, then we find God saying, those worst parts of you are grass. “The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it.”

    Faded Away as Grass Into Mother Earth: Where New Life and New Possibility Await - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 7, 2020 10:49

    Repentance means that with that hope and mercy, we then get to reckon with those worst parts of ourselves. We have to reckon with the worst of ourselves because we can’t be free of those things, free of the worst parts of ourselves, if we don’t bring them with us when we come seeking mercy and redemption. When we do bring those worst parts of ourselves with us on our journey of repentance, then we find God saying, those worst parts of you are grass. “The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it.”

    The Path of the Righteous Man… - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 22, 2020 7:51

    As our king, Jesus wants us to see the importance of people all around us and seek to walk to the path of the righteous one, shepherding one another, caring for each other, and lifting each other up. That’s life in God’s kingdom. Not with God as an angry hitman, and not with God as a king who, quite apart from all of us, tells us we better be pure enough, or good enough, or religious enough for his liking. In Jesus’ kingdom, when we don’t treat each other as we want to be treated, that’s when we are blaspheming God.

    The Path of the Righteous Man… - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 22, 2020 7:51

    As our king, Jesus wants us to see the importance of people all around us and seek to walk to the path of the righteous one, shepherding one another, caring for each other, and lifting each other up. That’s life in God’s kingdom. Not with God as an angry hitman, and not with God as a king who, quite apart from all of us, tells us we better be pure enough, or good enough, or religious enough for his liking. In Jesus’ kingdom, when we don’t treat each other as we want to be treated, that’s when we are blaspheming God.

    The Oil of Courage, Faith, Hope, and Love - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 13, 2020 12:51

    The Oil of Courage, Faith, Hope, and Love - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 13, 2020 12:51

    Bath Bombs and Cookies: A Loving Response - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 2, 2020 10:47

    A mother gave her daughter a soothing bath when she came home from school angry, frustrated, shouting, and in tears. Now that was a loving response. She saw her daughter hurting. Past the tears, anger, and probable shouting and disrespect, this mother saw her daughter in desperate need of some soothing, some love, and some being cared for. Past some possible misdeeds, this mother saw a cry of hurt and brokenness, a loving response. This particular loving response, however, is not some a new law. We’re not just going to start drawing baths for each other anytime someone is upset, rude, or disrespectful. For one thing, not all of us are going to have fresh baked cookies and bath bombs on hand, every time we see someone stressed out and in need of some soothing, and for another thing there are a whole lot of us for whom the bubble Frank Sinatra cookie bath would not be a pleasant, soothing treat. The bath was given because this mother saw a cry of hurt and brokenness, a loving response, not a law.

    Bath Bombs and Cookies: A Loving Response - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 2, 2020 10:47

    A mother gave her daughter a soothing bath when she came home from school angry, frustrated, shouting, and in tears. Now that was a loving response. She saw her daughter hurting. Past the tears, anger, and probable shouting and disrespect, this mother saw her daughter in desperate need of some soothing, some love, and some being cared for. Past some possible misdeeds, this mother saw a cry of hurt and brokenness, a loving response. This particular loving response, however, is not some a new law. We’re not just going to start drawing baths for each other anytime someone is upset, rude, or disrespectful. For one thing, not all of us are going to have fresh baked cookies and bath bombs on hand, every time we see someone stressed out and in need of some soothing, and for another thing there are a whole lot of us for whom the bubble Frank Sinatra cookie bath would not be a pleasant, soothing treat. The bath was given because this mother saw a cry of hurt and brokenness, a loving response, not a law.

    What Do We Give to God? Everything. - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 18, 2020 11:48

    What do we give to God? Everything. I don’t mean that we should give God everything or we aught to give God everything. I mean, whether intended or not, we give God everything. The kindnesses we give to the people we know and love, and the kindnesses we give to the people we hardly know are given to God. Similarly, the hurt, contempt, and indifference we give to the people we know and love are given to God, and the hurt, contempt, and indifference we give to the people we hardly know are given to God. Our votes even are given to God, and I daresay most of us are doing are darnedest to vote in a way that honors God’s kingdom, even when we vote differently from each other. So, don’t let anyone tell you that vote goes against God’s kingdom or God’s way just because you vote differently than they do. Do contemplate seriously how your vote does or does not follow the ways of God’s kingdom; realize also that by “God’s Kingdom,” I don’t mean particular religion or religious practice. By God’s kingdom, I mean the beauty, light, and love of everything that is. Everything we do is giving to God’s kingdom.

    What Do We Give to God? Everything. - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 18, 2020 11:48

    What do we give to God? Everything. I don’t mean that we should give God everything or we aught to give God everything. I mean, whether intended or not, we give God everything. The kindnesses we give to the people we know and love, and the kindnesses we give to the people we hardly know are given to God. Similarly, the hurt, contempt, and indifference we give to the people we know and love are given to God, and the hurt, contempt, and indifference we give to the people we hardly know are given to God. Our votes even are given to God, and I daresay most of us are doing are darnedest to vote in a way that honors God’s kingdom, even when we vote differently from each other. So, don’t let anyone tell you that vote goes against God’s kingdom or God’s way just because you vote differently than they do. Do contemplate seriously how your vote does or does not follow the ways of God’s kingdom; realize also that by “God’s Kingdom,” I don’t mean particular religion or religious practice. By God’s kingdom, I mean the beauty, light, and love of everything that is. Everything we do is giving to God’s kingdom.

    The Deeper Music - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 27, 2020 10:17

    This story is not about an either/or, in-group/out-group, one side over another conflict in which we get to declare “Jesus good" and “chief priest and elders bad.” Both sides in this conflict brought some to follow more closely the will of God. The deeper music was not whose religious practices were best. The deeper music was the seeking of God, the seeking of justice, peace, and love that pervaded both religious practices. The deeper music of justice, peace, and love is made by all of us together, every voice important: yours, mine, those we love, those we struggle to love. The deeper music is God’s presence, God’s way, and God’s will of justice, peace, and love which runs through all of us, every person a part of each others’ song.

    The Deeper Music - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 27, 2020 10:17

    This story is not about an either/or, in-group/out-group, one side over another conflict in which we get to declare “Jesus good" and “chief priest and elders bad.” Both sides in this conflict brought some to follow more closely the will of God. The deeper music was not whose religious practices were best. The deeper music was the seeking of God, the seeking of justice, peace, and love that pervaded both religious practices. The deeper music of justice, peace, and love is made by all of us together, every voice important: yours, mine, those we love, those we struggle to love. The deeper music is God’s presence, God’s way, and God’s will of justice, peace, and love which runs through all of us, every person a part of each others’ song.

    The Cloak of Forgiveness, Healing, and Love - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 18, 2020 9:29

    As much vengeance as there is in the world, that is how much we are to forgive. In doing so, we unburden ourselves. The cloak of anger and resentment loosens its grip, until we can eventually let that heavy cloak fall to the ground and be clothed instead with the cloak of light, the cloak forgiveness, healing, and love.

    The Cloak of Forgiveness, Healing, and Love - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 18, 2020 9:29

    As much vengeance as there is in the world, that is how much we are to forgive. In doing so, we unburden ourselves. The cloak of anger and resentment loosens its grip, until we can eventually let that heavy cloak fall to the ground and be clothed instead with the cloak of light, the cloak forgiveness, healing, and love.

    When We Serve Others, They Are the Messiah to Us - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 23, 2020 9:39

    Who do we say Jesus is? Is Jesus the one who makes us perfect so that we can be around other perfect people? Nah. That’s not who Jesus is, and that’s not what the church is. The church is the broken, the beaten, the blessed, and the damned, people who need healing, gathering together for strength and support. The church is people who are imperfectly following Jesus and receiving his love and grace, to be healed and blessed in order to bless others.

    When We Serve Others, They Are the Messiah to Us - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 23, 2020 9:39

    Who do we say Jesus is? Is Jesus the one who makes us perfect so that we can be around other perfect people? Nah. That’s not who Jesus is, and that’s not what the church is. The church is the broken, the beaten, the blessed, and the damned, people who need healing, gathering together for strength and support. The church is people who are imperfectly following Jesus and receiving his love and grace, to be healed and blessed in order to bless others.

    Love Is Our Religion - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 19, 2020 10:21

    Let the weeds grow along with the wheat, Jesus said, so that we don’t all get damaged by pulling the weeds out. Imagine if everyone who wanted to pull the weeds out of society or out of the church was able to do so. There wouldn’t be any wheat left. Everyone would be pulled up and cast out because everyone is a weed in someone’s eyes. So, Jesus said to let them grow together, and leave the weeding to God at the end of the age. We’re God’s garden after all, and rather than leave the weeding to us who are tossed about by our emotions and our brokenness, we leave the weeding to God who is not only loving, but who is love itself. I can trust love to do the weeding. There are parts in me that need to be weeded out. There are parts in all of us that need weeding. There are certainly parts of society that need weeding, so we leave the weeding to God who is love, and we follow in the way of Love, focusing on loving and blessing, rather than constantly fighting against others. We’ve all got weeds within us. We are also all wheat. God, who is loving and who is love itself will sort that all out. We are not weed pullers; that is not our religion. As disciples of Jesus, (and quoting Ziggy Marley), “love is [our] religion.” Our place is to love one another, both the weeds and the wheat, and to grow together in the Way of Jesus, the Way of Love.

    Love Is Our Religion - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 19, 2020 10:21

    Let the weeds grow along with the wheat, Jesus said, so that we don’t all get damaged by pulling the weeds out. Imagine if everyone who wanted to pull the weeds out of society or out of the church was able to do so. There wouldn’t be any wheat left. Everyone would be pulled up and cast out because everyone is a weed in someone’s eyes. So, Jesus said to let them grow together, and leave the weeding to God at the end of the age. We’re God’s garden after all, and rather than leave the weeding to us who are tossed about by our emotions and our brokenness, we leave the weeding to God who is not only loving, but who is love itself. I can trust love to do the weeding. There are parts in me that need to be weeded out. There are parts in all of us that need weeding. There are certainly parts of society that need weeding, so we leave the weeding to God who is love, and we follow in the way of Love, focusing on loving and blessing, rather than constantly fighting against others. We’ve all got weeds within us. We are also all wheat. God, who is loving and who is love itself will sort that all out. We are not weed pullers; that is not our religion. As disciples of Jesus, (and quoting Ziggy Marley), “love is [our] religion.” Our place is to love one another, both the weeds and the wheat, and to grow together in the Way of Jesus, the Way of Love.

    Grace, Love, and Compassion: the way of the Trinity in conflicted times (and joyous times) - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 8, 2020 10:08

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church June 7, 2020 Trinity Sunday, A Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20 Some of you have heard before a story I told of a former youth, now a young woman, who told me that all I do is talk for a living. She was joking around, at least kind of joking, and during times like this past week, I kind of feel like that is all I do, is talk for a living. When I see people being killed; see the violence in our streets; see hundreds of years of racism, of overt and covert oppression, and of mistrust throughout our society because of it, I want to do more than just talk. I want to make some kind of lasting change and difference in the lives of people directly affected by the racism, violence, and mistrust, and I want to make that change quickly and right now, but I can’t. Not alone, not immediately. So, being that I can’t make some enormous, immediate change for the good, I figure I will go ahead and spend a few minutes talking, and I am going to talk about grace, love, and communion with the hope that these words will also address the racism, violence, and mistrust that we have all been witness to over the last week, months, years, and lifetimes. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. That is how Paul ended his second letter to the Corinthian church. With all else he had written them, addressing the good, the bad, the joys, and the strife, he left them with grace, love, and communion. Grace: Compassion and understanding, true forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation, and the new life and beginning that comes with that healing. Love: Choosing to see others as beloved, to act accordingly, to give up one’s own will and way in order to be of service to others out of true caring for them. Communion - Sharing that love and grace together; living and striving together through joy and sorrow, beauty and pain. Grace, love, and communion is the way of relationship, the very image of God in whose image we were made. We call God, “Trinity,” the three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bound up together so completely in love that they are one. Now today, on Trinity Sunday, we could go on and on, round and round about definitions of the Trinity, but I find overly defining God to be rather tedious and kinda boring. Like reading about a definition of a guitar rather than playing a guitar, I’d rather play with the Trinity a little bit instead of just define it. Three persons bound together in love, God being relationship itself, I imagine conversations between the persons of the Trinity, conversations among God, each person of the Trinity contributing to the wisdom of the one whole God. I wonder, then if God might have limited each person of Godself so that the three persons of God had to be in communion with one another to have all knowledge and wisdom. God choosing that among Godself in order to fulfill relationship. I like that idea as I imagine some of the conversations God might have had as I see changes in God’s desires and actions throughout scripture. Looking at ancient Israel and God’s command for animal sacrifice, we see that very command change throughout scripture. I imagine a conversation beginning with God the Father. “Well, we need some sort of animal sacrifice to keep the people focused on us.” “Dad, no we don’t. True worship is doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with us.” “Boys, would you two stop arguing? Animal sacrifice is kinda how the humans do things. We can have them use it to focus on us for a while, and we’ll teach them justice, mercy, love, and humility as they go.” Three persons united as one God, striving together for the sake of creation and for the sake of Godself. Wrestling together, dancing together with grace, love, and communion. That is the way of God as Trinity in whose image we are made. As much as I want to just go and fix stuff immediately by myself, that doesn’t even seem to be how God chooses to work. Even if I could, I would just be imposing my will on others, denying them grace, denying them love, and certainly denying any communion between us. If we’re going to fix anything in our lives and in the world, we need to do it together, striving together with grace, love, and communion. That means striving together with those whose views we find awful and crazy and striving together with those whom we believe see us as awful and crazy. Each one of us is limited in our knowledge, experience, and understanding. We need one another to find ways forward that don’t just impose one group’s or person’s will on others. That’s how we get riots and police brutality. Striving together with grace, love, and communion means listening deeply to the differing sides, listening especially to ways we are called up short. After all, we cannot remove the speck in another’s eye without first removing the log from our own eye. Part of my personal log removal is reading, Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad. The understandings of white privilege and systemic racism which for yeas I refused to believe in, I am finally coming to understand and accept by listening to and learning from a black muslim woman. I need her wisdom and experience because I am limited in my understanding and experience. Listening to her and coming to accept the ideas of white privilege doesn’t mean suddenly believing that I am the bad guy, and that’s not what she’s saying. Choosing to accept the ideas of white privilege and systemic racism and choosing to accept that I have a part in that does mean that I am choosing love, grace, and communion with those whose beliefs I found threatening. Doing so isn’t particularly comfortable, and there is pain in the wrestling and striving, but I have also found divinity there. Striving for justice and mercy, walking humbly with God and one another requires more than just talking. It requires listening, and it requires work. It requires striving together with grace, love, and communion in order to work together for change, for justice. That’s the way of God in the world, walking with us in grace, love, and communion, and as God walks with us in the world, God looks around and says, “This place is beautiful, fantastic!” God also says, “This place is also terrible and tragic.” Then, God also says, “Yes, and even now, we’re redeeming this place.”

    Grace, Love, and Compassion: the way of the Trinity in conflicted times (and joyous times) - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 8, 2020 10:08

    The Rev. Brad Sullivan Emmanuel Episcopal Church June 7, 2020 Trinity Sunday, A Genesis 1:1 - 2:4a 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20 Some of you have heard before a story I told of a former youth, now a young woman, who told me that all I do is talk for a living. She was joking around, at least kind of joking, and during times like this past week, I kind of feel like that is all I do, is talk for a living. When I see people being killed; see the violence in our streets; see hundreds of years of racism, of overt and covert oppression, and of mistrust throughout our society because of it, I want to do more than just talk. I want to make some kind of lasting change and difference in the lives of people directly affected by the racism, violence, and mistrust, and I want to make that change quickly and right now, but I can’t. Not alone, not immediately. So, being that I can’t make some enormous, immediate change for the good, I figure I will go ahead and spend a few minutes talking, and I am going to talk about grace, love, and communion with the hope that these words will also address the racism, violence, and mistrust that we have all been witness to over the last week, months, years, and lifetimes. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. That is how Paul ended his second letter to the Corinthian church. With all else he had written them, addressing the good, the bad, the joys, and the strife, he left them with grace, love, and communion. Grace: Compassion and understanding, true forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation, and the new life and beginning that comes with that healing. Love: Choosing to see others as beloved, to act accordingly, to give up one’s own will and way in order to be of service to others out of true caring for them. Communion - Sharing that love and grace together; living and striving together through joy and sorrow, beauty and pain. Grace, love, and communion is the way of relationship, the very image of God in whose image we were made. We call God, “Trinity,” the three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bound up together so completely in love that they are one. Now today, on Trinity Sunday, we could go on and on, round and round about definitions of the Trinity, but I find overly defining God to be rather tedious and kinda boring. Like reading about a definition of a guitar rather than playing a guitar, I’d rather play with the Trinity a little bit instead of just define it. Three persons bound together in love, God being relationship itself, I imagine conversations between the persons of the Trinity, conversations among God, each person of the Trinity contributing to the wisdom of the one whole God. I wonder, then if God might have limited each person of Godself so that the three persons of God had to be in communion with one another to have all knowledge and wisdom. God choosing that among Godself in order to fulfill relationship. I like that idea as I imagine some of the conversations God might have had as I see changes in God’s desires and actions throughout scripture. Looking at ancient Israel and God’s command for animal sacrifice, we see that very command change throughout scripture. I imagine a conversation beginning with God the Father. “Well, we need some sort of animal sacrifice to keep the people focused on us.” “Dad, no we don’t. True worship is doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with us.” “Boys, would you two stop arguing? Animal sacrifice is kinda how the humans do things. We can have them use it to focus on us for a while, and we’ll teach them justice, mercy, love, and humility as they go.” Three persons united as one God, striving together for the sake of creation and for the sake of Godself. Wrestling together, dancing together with grace, love, and communion. That is the way of God as Trinity in whose image we are made. As much as I want to just go and fix stuff immediately by myself, that doesn’t even seem to be how God chooses to work. Even if I could, I would just be imposing my will on others, denying them grace, denying them love, and certainly denying any communion between us. If we’re going to fix anything in our lives and in the world, we need to do it together, striving together with grace, love, and communion. That means striving together with those whose views we find awful and crazy and striving together with those whom we believe see us as awful and crazy. Each one of us is limited in our knowledge, experience, and understanding. We need one another to find ways forward that don’t just impose one group’s or person’s will on others. That’s how we get riots and police brutality. Striving together with grace, love, and communion means listening deeply to the differing sides, listening especially to ways we are called up short. After all, we cannot remove the speck in another’s eye without first removing the log from our own eye. Part of my personal log removal is reading, Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad. The understandings of white privilege and systemic racism which for yeas I refused to believe in, I am finally coming to understand and accept by listening to and learning from a black muslim woman. I need her wisdom and experience because I am limited in my understanding and experience. Listening to her and coming to accept the ideas of white privilege doesn’t mean suddenly believing that I am the bad guy, and that’s not what she’s saying. Choosing to accept the ideas of white privilege and systemic racism and choosing to accept that I have a part in that does mean that I am choosing love, grace, and communion with those whose beliefs I found threatening. Doing so isn’t particularly comfortable, and there is pain in the wrestling and striving, but I have also found divinity there. Striving for justice and mercy, walking humbly with God and one another requires more than just talking. It requires listening, and it requires work. It requires striving together with grace, love, and communion in order to work together for change, for justice. That’s the way of God in the world, walking with us in grace, love, and communion, and as God walks with us in the world, God looks around and says, “This place is beautiful, fantastic!” God also says, “This place is also terrible and tragic.” Then, God also says, “Yes, and even now, we’re redeeming this place.”

    Baptized In the Name of Conservative? Liberal? Any Particular Ideology or Political Belief? - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 26, 2020 10:23

    We’re united, one in God, one in Jesus, one in love. We are all one in our need to be set free from burdens that oppress us, and we are all one in finding salvation, finding freedom from those burdens through Jesus, casting our burdens upon him and turning our wills and our lives over to him. No other issue or belief is greater than that. The freedom that Jesus gives, freedom from whatever binds us? No other belief or issue should cause us to be divided into camps or factions, not when we all get to be ministers of Jesus’ freedom from bondage. We’re a diverse bunch of folks, with all sorts of political beliefs and backgrounds, cultures, and ideologies, and that’s just within Emmanuel. Worldwide, we’re an extremely varied group of people, but we’re not baptized into any of those political beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, or ideologies. We’re baptized into Jesus, into the freedom from bondage that he gives, and we are all ministers of that freedom, all ministers of Jesus.

    Baptized In the Name of Conservative? Liberal? Any Particular Ideology or Political Belief? - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 26, 2020 10:23

    We’re united, one in God, one in Jesus, one in love. We are all one in our need to be set free from burdens that oppress us, and we are all one in finding salvation, finding freedom from those burdens through Jesus, casting our burdens upon him and turning our wills and our lives over to him. No other issue or belief is greater than that. The freedom that Jesus gives, freedom from whatever binds us? No other belief or issue should cause us to be divided into camps or factions, not when we all get to be ministers of Jesus’ freedom from bondage. We’re a diverse bunch of folks, with all sorts of political beliefs and backgrounds, cultures, and ideologies, and that’s just within Emmanuel. Worldwide, we’re an extremely varied group of people, but we’re not baptized into any of those political beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, or ideologies. We’re baptized into Jesus, into the freedom from bondage that he gives, and we are all ministers of that freedom, all ministers of Jesus.

    Dance With the Demons - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 12, 2019 9:43


    Brad Sullivan Proper 14, Year C August 11, 2019 Emmanuel, Houston Luke 12:32-40 Dance With the Demons “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We live with quite a lot of fear, don’t we? Fears of all kinds and varieties. Economic insecurity, health issues. Fear of loss. We have fears of violence, fears of natural disasters destroying what we have. We have fears of the other political party gaining power (whichever political party that is for each of us). We also have fears of not being good enough, worthy enough. Fears that someone might find out the truth about us. We have fears of what the world will be like for our children and grandchildren. These fears keep us striving against each other, trying to overcome each other, trying to make sure that if the world is not going to be ok, at least those I love and I will be ok. In the midst of these fears, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It seems that our fears are nothing new, but they are the same fears which have been with humanity forever, and Jesus repeats what God has said throughout scripture, “Do not be afraid.” Rather than overcome each other, let go of your fears and live in love toward each other. “Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Live in love with each other, and trust each other. For economic security, trust not only in yourself but also in those your love, your community and neighbors. Give to others in their time of need, trusting that they will give to you in your time of need. Rather than overcoming each other, we live for and with each other. That is life in the kingdom of God, and it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. Lutheran Pastor David Lose writes: I think the call – or at least one of the primary calls – of the church today is to become a place where people are so rooted in the promise of God’s good pleasure, reminded of their identity as God’s beloved children, and affirmed in their inherent self-worth and dignity, that they can, indeed, see all those around them as similarly beloved and deserving of self-worth, dignity, and God’s good pleasure. The question for a Christian..[is] discovering that as we give ourselves away in relationship and service we find a deeper sense of self than we’d imagined possible. We are born for community and find a sense of self and meaning and purpose as we trust God’s promises and give ourselves away in love.” Give ourselves away in love. That’s not an easy thing to do when we’re afraid of ourselves and those around us. Our inner demons often keep us from giving ourselves away in love. A friend of mine, Steve White, recently wrote, “Perhaps it isn’t actually about overcoming all your inner demons. Maybe it’s about learning how to dance with them.” That speaks to me not only of the fears we have about ourselves, but also the fears we have about each other. What if we don’t need to fight against and overcome our inner demons, but rather learn to dance with them, to accept them as a part of who we are. What if we also don’t need to fight against and overcome each other, but rather learn to dance with each other, to give ourselves away in love, to offer ourselves daily to God and join with each other in God’s divine dance, turning even our scars into something beautiful. That’s life in God’s kingdom, and it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. Fearing each other, we end up scattered and fragmented, continually knowing that we don’t belong. We have folks who have felt like they can’t or don’t belong to the church because of their political beliefs. I know I’ve made people feel this way at times, as have other church leaders, church members, and congregations. The thing about our political views is, most people I know, on both sides of the political spectrum want the same thing: a just society which brings about the best way of life for the most number of people. Their difference is simply the ways and the roles they believe the government should have in bringing about a just society. They both have their religious beliefs tied up into that, and folks on both sides of the aisle believe in Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God. Here’s the secret: The government has little or nothing to do with bringing about God’s kingdom, even though it is the tool some would use to try. God’s kingdom is given through God in partnership with us, with our living into God’s kingdom, and there is room in God’s kingdom for all of us. All of us belong in God’s kingdom, and so we need not overcome each other, but learn to dance with each other, to give ourselves away in love. Rather than fearing that the other side may win, can we at least realize the while the other side may be wrong, it is still striving for the best system for the good of the most people? Can we accept the consequences if it turns out our fears were right? Can we trust in each other, rather than feeling threatened by each other? Cane felt threatened by Abel, and so he killed him. We hear of folks and have experience feeling threatened by each other and each others’ beliefs, so we attack each other verbally, sometimes physically, deriding each other, feeling that they want to destroy all that is good in our society, our country, and our world. "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit,” Jesus taught, so that he will find you not asleep, but alert and ready. Our fears and the ways we seek to overcome each other, feeling threatened by each other, are ways that we fall asleep. We fall asleep to God’s kingdom and are alert only to our fears, to our inner demons. We all have inner demons. Our families have inner demons. The church has inner demons. Our cities, our state, and our nation have inner demons. Keeping alert, staying awake and being alert is about not overcoming and striving against our inner demons and each other, but rather learning to dance together. If we learn to dance together, we may find that we are not asleep when the master of the house or the thief comes. Whenever Jesus shows up in our lives (and it happens all the time), how wonderful if he finds us not trying to overcome each other, but instead learning to dance with each other, giving ourselves away in love. Over time, we learn how each other moves and thinks. We still step on each others’ toes, but we laugh about it. Living into God’s kingdom, us giving of our abundance when folks are in need, receiving from others’ abundance when we are in need; living in that kingdom, we can live without fear of the other. We can offer ourselves in love, and learn to dance together. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”


    Dance With the Demons - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 12, 2019 9:43


    Brad Sullivan Proper 14, Year C August 11, 2019 Emmanuel, Houston Luke 12:32-40 Dance With the Demons “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We live with quite a lot of fear, don’t we? Fears of all kinds and varieties. Economic insecurity, health issues. Fear of loss. We have fears of violence, fears of natural disasters destroying what we have. We have fears of the other political party gaining power (whichever political party that is for each of us). We also have fears of not being good enough, worthy enough. Fears that someone might find out the truth about us. We have fears of what the world will be like for our children and grandchildren. These fears keep us striving against each other, trying to overcome each other, trying to make sure that if the world is not going to be ok, at least those I love and I will be ok. In the midst of these fears, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It seems that our fears are nothing new, but they are the same fears which have been with humanity forever, and Jesus repeats what God has said throughout scripture, “Do not be afraid.” Rather than overcome each other, let go of your fears and live in love toward each other. “Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Live in love with each other, and trust each other. For economic security, trust not only in yourself but also in those your love, your community and neighbors. Give to others in their time of need, trusting that they will give to you in your time of need. Rather than overcoming each other, we live for and with each other. That is life in the kingdom of God, and it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. Lutheran Pastor David Lose writes: I think the call – or at least one of the primary calls – of the church today is to become a place where people are so rooted in the promise of God’s good pleasure, reminded of their identity as God’s beloved children, and affirmed in their inherent self-worth and dignity, that they can, indeed, see all those around them as similarly beloved and deserving of self-worth, dignity, and God’s good pleasure. The question for a Christian..[is] discovering that as we give ourselves away in relationship and service we find a deeper sense of self than we’d imagined possible. We are born for community and find a sense of self and meaning and purpose as we trust God’s promises and give ourselves away in love.” Give ourselves away in love. That’s not an easy thing to do when we’re afraid of ourselves and those around us. Our inner demons often keep us from giving ourselves away in love. A friend of mine, Steve White, recently wrote, “Perhaps it isn’t actually about overcoming all your inner demons. Maybe it’s about learning how to dance with them.” That speaks to me not only of the fears we have about ourselves, but also the fears we have about each other. What if we don’t need to fight against and overcome our inner demons, but rather learn to dance with them, to accept them as a part of who we are. What if we also don’t need to fight against and overcome each other, but rather learn to dance with each other, to give ourselves away in love, to offer ourselves daily to God and join with each other in God’s divine dance, turning even our scars into something beautiful. That’s life in God’s kingdom, and it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. Fearing each other, we end up scattered and fragmented, continually knowing that we don’t belong. We have folks who have felt like they can’t or don’t belong to the church because of their political beliefs. I know I’ve made people feel this way at times, as have other church leaders, church members, and congregations. The thing about our political views is, most people I know, on both sides of the political spectrum want the same thing: a just society which brings about the best way of life for the most number of people. Their difference is simply the ways and the roles they believe the government should have in bringing about a just society. They both have their religious beliefs tied up into that, and folks on both sides of the aisle believe in Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God. Here’s the secret: The government has little or nothing to do with bringing about God’s kingdom, even though it is the tool some would use to try. God’s kingdom is given through God in partnership with us, with our living into God’s kingdom, and there is room in God’s kingdom for all of us. All of us belong in God’s kingdom, and so we need not overcome each other, but learn to dance with each other, to give ourselves away in love. Rather than fearing that the other side may win, can we at least realize the while the other side may be wrong, it is still striving for the best system for the good of the most people? Can we accept the consequences if it turns out our fears were right? Can we trust in each other, rather than feeling threatened by each other? Cane felt threatened by Abel, and so he killed him. We hear of folks and have experience feeling threatened by each other and each others’ beliefs, so we attack each other verbally, sometimes physically, deriding each other, feeling that they want to destroy all that is good in our society, our country, and our world. "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit,” Jesus taught, so that he will find you not asleep, but alert and ready. Our fears and the ways we seek to overcome each other, feeling threatened by each other, are ways that we fall asleep. We fall asleep to God’s kingdom and are alert only to our fears, to our inner demons. We all have inner demons. Our families have inner demons. The church has inner demons. Our cities, our state, and our nation have inner demons. Keeping alert, staying awake and being alert is about not overcoming and striving against our inner demons and each other, but rather learning to dance together. If we learn to dance together, we may find that we are not asleep when the master of the house or the thief comes. Whenever Jesus shows up in our lives (and it happens all the time), how wonderful if he finds us not trying to overcome each other, but instead learning to dance with each other, giving ourselves away in love. Over time, we learn how each other moves and thinks. We still step on each others’ toes, but we laugh about it. Living into God’s kingdom, us giving of our abundance when folks are in need, receiving from others’ abundance when we are in need; living in that kingdom, we can live without fear of the other. We can offer ourselves in love, and learn to dance together. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”


    Flawed Dreams & Unexpected Love - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 9, 2019 13:48


    Brad Sullivan The Epiphany, Year C January 6, 2019 Emmanuel, Houston Isaiah 60:1-6 Matthew 2:1-12 Flawed Dreams and Unexpected Love Happy Epiphany y’all. Christmas ended yesterday, and the joy of Christmas now continues on in the Epiphany, the revelation of Jesus, of the God-baby to the nations through the Magi, and if I’m being honest, I feel the joy of Christmas continued on into Epiphany, and at the same time, I’m having a hard time feeling the joy right now. Over the first five to six days of Christmas, I really got to feel the joy of Christmas and let everything else fade into the background. I was at Camp Allen with my family on a clergy family retreat the weekend after Christmas, and other clergy were concerned about Emmanuel after Andy’s death, and they kept asking me, “How are you?”, not just to say “hi” but actually wondering how I was, with the knowing expression in their voices, expecting a sad response. My answer shocked several folks because I said, “I’m doing great.” One friend seemed a little confused by my answer and said, “I’m sorry, I thought you were working with Andy at Emmanuel.” “No,” I told him, “I was, I am. It’s just that for right now, I’m enjoying time with my family. For right now, it’s a great Christmas and I get to just be with my family through New Year’s. For right now,” I told him, “Andy hasn’t died. When I get back, he’ll have died again, and I’ll begin mourning again.” He got that. So now, it’s like the regular post-Christmas blues, but magnified, and I want to acknowledge that because I’m guessing I might not be alone in that grief and struggle with joy right now. That’s ok. For those who are joyful, we get to be joyful. For those struggling with joy, we get to struggle with joy. The reality of the post-Christmas blues is, I believe, in the realization that the dream of Christmas has not fully been realized. We celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, and then we find that as before, there isn’t yet peace on Earth. I heard an interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross a few days ago with Israeli author and peace activist Amos Oz. He had just died and they were rebroadcasting previous interviews, and in the one I heard, he was talking about one of his books, Black Box, and he said it was ultimately “a novel about great dreams, about great expectations, about bigger-than-life visions and, indeed, about the morning after and the sad realization that every dream come true is bound to be flawed by coming true.” He went on to talk about the modern nation of Israel, about Israel itself being a flawed dream come true. There was such hope, such Messianic hope, in the re-creation of the nation of Israel, that it would be an idyllic, egalitarian country, that nations would flock to it and they would be a light to bring peace on Earth. With all of the good that Israel is, the reality has of course fallen short of that dream. The same could be said of the United States, of the city on a hill and light to the nations that we strive to be, and the reality that falls short of that dream, and the same can be said of the Church and every other dream we have. That’s life. “Every dream come true is bound to be flawed by coming true.” That struck a chord with me regarding Christmas and the Epiphany. The dream of the Messiah and of peace on Earth. Did the Magi, after seeing Jesus, feel “the sad realization that every dream come true is bound to be flawed by coming true?” Who were these guys and maybe galls, these Magi from the east? Ultimately, we don’t exactly know, but from the text, we know they weren’t kings. They were more like astrologer, pagan, mystic, tarot card-type folks who were decidedly not Jewish. So, star guiding them or not, why were they looking for or expecting some Jewish king or messiah? Israel had a king, and they went to Israel’s king to ask about this newborn king/messiah guy, so this obviously wasn’t a geopolitical greeting and first summit around a new world leader. So what was going on? Again, we don’t exactly know, but my guess is this. These magi had heard stories from Jewish people they had lived with or encountered. My guess is further that the stories they heard included stories from the prophets about a messianic figure, about the restoration of Israel, and about the peace on Earth of God’s kingdom fully realized that such a Messiah was thought to bring about. Perhaps they’d heard stories from Isaiah 2 about nations streaming to Israel and people beating “their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; [when] nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Maybe they had also heard stories from Isaiah 60 about the light of God coming upon Israel, of the good fortune for all through that promise, culminating with “they shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” Maybe the Magi had heard that verse and therefore brought gold and frankincense to proclaim the praise of the Lord…except for poor dumb Steve who thought Myrrh would be a good idea. Poor Steve the Magi. We don’t know how the non-Jewish, pagan Magi came to know about a baby king born in Israel and spoken of in the prophets, but my guess is that they had heard these stories of Messiah and had heard the hopes Jewish people whom they had encountered that the Messiah would be born and bring peace on Earth. So, were the Magi then disappointed with “the morning after and the sad realization that every dream come true is bound to be flawed by coming true.” Were the Magi the first to experience what we call the post-Christmas blues because, of course, there was not peace on earth after the birth of this Jewish Messiah. Not even when God became human, even Messiah, the Christ, came into the world was there peace on Earth. There was not perfect peace on Earth, because God still left the earth in our care. Of course life is still going to be imperfect and flawed even with Messiah, even with the Christ. Perfection was never the point of the Christ. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, came; God became human to show us how to be human, and to join with us fully in our broken and flawed humanity. There is love. Love is the Epiphany. Not perfection. Love, with its life, its beauty, and its pain is the Epiphany that the Magi saw. These pagan, astrologer, tarot card reading type folks who were the antithesis of Jewish devotion to God were the ones to whom God gave this Epiphany of love. They were pagan, gentile, totally other than the people of Israel. In the eyes of the religious elite, they would have been totally unworthy of any kind of blessing or love from God, and yet the Epiphany of God’s love was given to them. Pagan, Gentile, they were loved by God. They may have had some disappointment after seeing Jesus that the messianic hopes and fervor of peace on Earth had not been realized, but I’m guessing the Epiphany of love stuck with them. During the post Christmas blues, God’s Epiphany is love. No matter who you are. No matter your religious devotion or non-devotion. No matter where you are from or what you have done. You are loved. You are so loved. That is the Epiphany of Jesus. That is how Christ heals us, how Christ helps us to become fully human, that we know, in our hearts, that we are loved. That is God’s Epiphany of love. You are loved. You are so loved.


    Flawed Dreams & Unexpected Love - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Jan 9, 2019 13:48


    Brad Sullivan The Epiphany, Year C January 6, 2019 Emmanuel, Houston Isaiah 60:1-6 Matthew 2:1-12 Flawed Dreams and Unexpected Love Happy Epiphany y’all. Christmas ended yesterday, and the joy of Christmas now continues on in the Epiphany, the revelation of Jesus, of the God-baby to the nations through the Magi, and if I’m being honest, I feel the joy of Christmas continued on into Epiphany, and at the same time, I’m having a hard time feeling the joy right now. Over the first five to six days of Christmas, I really got to feel the joy of Christmas and let everything else fade into the background. I was at Camp Allen with my family on a clergy family retreat the weekend after Christmas, and other clergy were concerned about Emmanuel after Andy’s death, and they kept asking me, “How are you?”, not just to say “hi” but actually wondering how I was, with the knowing expression in their voices, expecting a sad response. My answer shocked several folks because I said, “I’m doing great.” One friend seemed a little confused by my answer and said, “I’m sorry, I thought you were working with Andy at Emmanuel.” “No,” I told him, “I was, I am. It’s just that for right now, I’m enjoying time with my family. For right now, it’s a great Christmas and I get to just be with my family through New Year’s. For right now,” I told him, “Andy hasn’t died. When I get back, he’ll have died again, and I’ll begin mourning again.” He got that. So now, it’s like the regular post-Christmas blues, but magnified, and I want to acknowledge that because I’m guessing I might not be alone in that grief and struggle with joy right now. That’s ok. For those who are joyful, we get to be joyful. For those struggling with joy, we get to struggle with joy. The reality of the post-Christmas blues is, I believe, in the realization that the dream of Christmas has not fully been realized. We celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, and then we find that as before, there isn’t yet peace on Earth. I heard an interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross a few days ago with Israeli author and peace activist Amos Oz. He had just died and they were rebroadcasting previous interviews, and in the one I heard, he was talking about one of his books, Black Box, and he said it was ultimately “a novel about great dreams, about great expectations, about bigger-than-life visions and, indeed, about the morning after and the sad realization that every dream come true is bound to be flawed by coming true.” He went on to talk about the modern nation of Israel, about Israel itself being a flawed dream come true. There was such hope, such Messianic hope, in the re-creation of the nation of Israel, that it would be an idyllic, egalitarian country, that nations would flock to it and they would be a light to bring peace on Earth. With all of the good that Israel is, the reality has of course fallen short of that dream. The same could be said of the United States, of the city on a hill and light to the nations that we strive to be, and the reality that falls short of that dream, and the same can be said of the Church and every other dream we have. That’s life. “Every dream come true is bound to be flawed by coming true.” That struck a chord with me regarding Christmas and the Epiphany. The dream of the Messiah and of peace on Earth. Did the Magi, after seeing Jesus, feel “the sad realization that every dream come true is bound to be flawed by coming true?” Who were these guys and maybe galls, these Magi from the east? Ultimately, we don’t exactly know, but from the text, we know they weren’t kings. They were more like astrologer, pagan, mystic, tarot card-type folks who were decidedly not Jewish. So, star guiding them or not, why were they looking for or expecting some Jewish king or messiah? Israel had a king, and they went to Israel’s king to ask about this newborn king/messiah guy, so this obviously wasn’t a geopolitical greeting and first summit around a new world leader. So what was going on? Again, we don’t exactly know, but my guess is this. These magi had heard stories from Jewish people they had lived with or encountered. My guess is further that the stories they heard included stories from the prophets about a messianic figure, about the restoration of Israel, and about the peace on Earth of God’s kingdom fully realized that such a Messiah was thought to bring about. Perhaps they’d heard stories from Isaiah 2 about nations streaming to Israel and people beating “their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; [when] nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Maybe they had also heard stories from Isaiah 60 about the light of God coming upon Israel, of the good fortune for all through that promise, culminating with “they shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” Maybe the Magi had heard that verse and therefore brought gold and frankincense to proclaim the praise of the Lord…except for poor dumb Steve who thought Myrrh would be a good idea. Poor Steve the Magi. We don’t know how the non-Jewish, pagan Magi came to know about a baby king born in Israel and spoken of in the prophets, but my guess is that they had heard these stories of Messiah and had heard the hopes Jewish people whom they had encountered that the Messiah would be born and bring peace on Earth. So, were the Magi then disappointed with “the morning after and the sad realization that every dream come true is bound to be flawed by coming true.” Were the Magi the first to experience what we call the post-Christmas blues because, of course, there was not peace on earth after the birth of this Jewish Messiah. Not even when God became human, even Messiah, the Christ, came into the world was there peace on Earth. There was not perfect peace on Earth, because God still left the earth in our care. Of course life is still going to be imperfect and flawed even with Messiah, even with the Christ. Perfection was never the point of the Christ. Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, came; God became human to show us how to be human, and to join with us fully in our broken and flawed humanity. There is love. Love is the Epiphany. Not perfection. Love, with its life, its beauty, and its pain is the Epiphany that the Magi saw. These pagan, astrologer, tarot card reading type folks who were the antithesis of Jewish devotion to God were the ones to whom God gave this Epiphany of love. They were pagan, gentile, totally other than the people of Israel. In the eyes of the religious elite, they would have been totally unworthy of any kind of blessing or love from God, and yet the Epiphany of God’s love was given to them. Pagan, Gentile, they were loved by God. They may have had some disappointment after seeing Jesus that the messianic hopes and fervor of peace on Earth had not been realized, but I’m guessing the Epiphany of love stuck with them. During the post Christmas blues, God’s Epiphany is love. No matter who you are. No matter your religious devotion or non-devotion. No matter where you are from or what you have done. You are loved. You are so loved. That is the Epiphany of Jesus. That is how Christ heals us, how Christ helps us to become fully human, that we know, in our hearts, that we are loved. That is God’s Epiphany of love. You are loved. You are so loved.


    "I Love You." "I Know." - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 17, 2018 9:55

    Brad Sullivan 3 Advent, Year C December 16, 2018 Emmanuel, Houston Isaiah 40:1-11 Luke 1:26-38 “I Love You.” “I know.” There’s a scene in the movie, “The Empire Strikes Back” in which one of the heroes, Han Solo, is about to be taken away by the villainous, evil Empire, and just before he’s taken away, one of the other heroes, Princess Leia, says, “I love you.” Han replies, “I know.” They’d had this on again off again, flirtatious angry relationship, never fully admitting how they felt for each other. Then, as everything is going downhill fast, Princess Leia makes sure Han knows how she feels about him, and Han replies with the perfect answer. Rather than the expected, “I love you too,” Han sees how much Leia wants him to know that she loves him, and so he replies, “I know.” In that, “I know” is of course heard, “I love you too,” loud and clear. Now, aside from being a Star Wars nut and having been given a couple of Christmas coffee mugs yesterday with Leia on one and Han on the other that say, “I love Yule;” “I Noel,” why in the world would I bring this up? I bring this up because it actually seems to fit our Gospel reading for today. Through the angel Gabriel, God tells this young woman, Mary, that she is going to conceive a son in her womb, not by her fiancée, Joseph. No, this son is going to be conceived within her by the Holy Spirit of God, and the child will be called Son of God, and he will be holy, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever. God says to Mary, “I’m going to give you a son, conceived by me, and your son is going to be the anointed one, the Christ, the savior of humanity.” “I love you,” God says to all of humanity through Mary, and Mary responds, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.” “I know,” Mary responds on behalf of humanity, with the accompanying, “I love you as well,” heard loud and clear. “I love you,” is a familiar refrain of God to humanity throughout scripture. In Isaiah, we hear God saying “I love you,” by giving Isaiah words of comfort for Israel, and Isaiah responds with “I know,” by crying out God’s words. “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Comfort, God says, but we hear God’s cry of “I love you,” not only in his words of comfort, but also in the why, the why God’s words of comfort were spoken. She has served her term, and her penalty is paid. Israel has been punished, and even in that punishment, humanity is being told, “I love you” by God. In the punishment, God is saying to Israel, “y’all are supposed to be my people, living as a light to the nations, and here you’ve been so lax in following my ways, that the rich among have been hoarding your wealth and keeping wages low for the poor, you’ve been so lax in your prayer and worship that you’ve ceased to gain any of the strength and love and kindness that comes from begin with me, and you’ve show yourselves not to really love one another and therefore not to really love me. That’s not following in my way, and you can’t call yourselves my people when you act so contrary to my way.” Even in that, God is saying, “I love you,” chastening to teach a still better way, and Isaiah, by crying out to the people, is responding on behalf of humanity, “I know.” I understand, Isaiah says to God, that in times of judgment and in times of forgiveness, you are constantly saying, “I love you.” God is constantly saying, “I love you,” and not just to any one person or to any one people. God’s “I love you” is for all of humanity. That’s why God is our savior, why God has always been our savior. In Psalm 62:1 we hear, “For God alone my soul in silence waits, from him comes my salvation.” Salvation in all its many forms comes from God, and God is the one thing alone for which our souls are longing, the one thing alone which is our salvation. God is love, hope, truth, light. God is the way for our lives to bring about community and healing in times of division, serenity in times of strife, love and compassion in times of loneliness, sorrow and repentance in times of harm, and friendship and celebration in times of joy. God is the constant, “I love you,” to humanity, and in becoming human, that constant “I love you” becomes one with humanity. “I know,” Mary says. “Thank you, God for the love you have for us, for all of us, and so ‘Here am I the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.’” God’s constant, “I love you,” is all around us, in scripture and prayer, in kindness and compassion, even in chastening and calls for repentance, God is constantly crying out, “I love you.” So how do we respond with “I know?” With the words of the prayer of thanksgiving at the end of Morning Prayer, we respond to God, “I know,” “not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

    "I Love You." "I Know." - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 17, 2018 9:55

    Brad Sullivan 3 Advent, Year C December 16, 2018 Emmanuel, Houston Isaiah 40:1-11 Luke 1:26-38 “I Love You.” “I know.” There’s a scene in the movie, “The Empire Strikes Back” in which one of the heroes, Han Solo, is about to be taken away by the villainous, evil Empire, and just before he’s taken away, one of the other heroes, Princess Leia, says, “I love you.” Han replies, “I know.” They’d had this on again off again, flirtatious angry relationship, never fully admitting how they felt for each other. Then, as everything is going downhill fast, Princess Leia makes sure Han knows how she feels about him, and Han replies with the perfect answer. Rather than the expected, “I love you too,” Han sees how much Leia wants him to know that she loves him, and so he replies, “I know.” In that, “I know” is of course heard, “I love you too,” loud and clear. Now, aside from being a Star Wars nut and having been given a couple of Christmas coffee mugs yesterday with Leia on one and Han on the other that say, “I love Yule;” “I Noel,” why in the world would I bring this up? I bring this up because it actually seems to fit our Gospel reading for today. Through the angel Gabriel, God tells this young woman, Mary, that she is going to conceive a son in her womb, not by her fiancée, Joseph. No, this son is going to be conceived within her by the Holy Spirit of God, and the child will be called Son of God, and he will be holy, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever. God says to Mary, “I’m going to give you a son, conceived by me, and your son is going to be the anointed one, the Christ, the savior of humanity.” “I love you,” God says to all of humanity through Mary, and Mary responds, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.” “I know,” Mary responds on behalf of humanity, with the accompanying, “I love you as well,” heard loud and clear. “I love you,” is a familiar refrain of God to humanity throughout scripture. In Isaiah, we hear God saying “I love you,” by giving Isaiah words of comfort for Israel, and Isaiah responds with “I know,” by crying out God’s words. “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” Comfort, God says, but we hear God’s cry of “I love you,” not only in his words of comfort, but also in the why, the why God’s words of comfort were spoken. She has served her term, and her penalty is paid. Israel has been punished, and even in that punishment, humanity is being told, “I love you” by God. In the punishment, God is saying to Israel, “y’all are supposed to be my people, living as a light to the nations, and here you’ve been so lax in following my ways, that the rich among have been hoarding your wealth and keeping wages low for the poor, you’ve been so lax in your prayer and worship that you’ve ceased to gain any of the strength and love and kindness that comes from begin with me, and you’ve show yourselves not to really love one another and therefore not to really love me. That’s not following in my way, and you can’t call yourselves my people when you act so contrary to my way.” Even in that, God is saying, “I love you,” chastening to teach a still better way, and Isaiah, by crying out to the people, is responding on behalf of humanity, “I know.” I understand, Isaiah says to God, that in times of judgment and in times of forgiveness, you are constantly saying, “I love you.” God is constantly saying, “I love you,” and not just to any one person or to any one people. God’s “I love you” is for all of humanity. That’s why God is our savior, why God has always been our savior. In Psalm 62:1 we hear, “For God alone my soul in silence waits, from him comes my salvation.” Salvation in all its many forms comes from God, and God is the one thing alone for which our souls are longing, the one thing alone which is our salvation. God is love, hope, truth, light. God is the way for our lives to bring about community and healing in times of division, serenity in times of strife, love and compassion in times of loneliness, sorrow and repentance in times of harm, and friendship and celebration in times of joy. God is the constant, “I love you,” to humanity, and in becoming human, that constant “I love you” becomes one with humanity. “I know,” Mary says. “Thank you, God for the love you have for us, for all of us, and so ‘Here am I the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.’” God’s constant, “I love you,” is all around us, in scripture and prayer, in kindness and compassion, even in chastening and calls for repentance, God is constantly crying out, “I love you.” So how do we respond with “I know?” With the words of the prayer of thanksgiving at the end of Morning Prayer, we respond to God, “I know,” “not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

    Prisoners of Hope - Audio

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 3, 2018 11:03

    Brad Sullivan 1 Advent, Year C December 2, 2018 Emmanuel, Houston Jeremiah 33:14-16 Psalm 25:1-9 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 Luke 21:25-36 Prisoners of Hope “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly.” Happy Advent everyone. Here at the beginning of the church year, we have Jesus talking about what almost sounds like a doomsday scenario. Be on guard, guys, because it’s gonna get bad, then it’s gonna get worse, then the Son of Man is going to come, and you’ll really have to watch out. That’s not what’s going on here. “That day,” Jesus said. “Be on guard…[lest] that day catch you unexpectedly.” They day he was referring to was the day of the son of man, an allusion to Daniel chapter 7. The son of man, or one like a son of man, or a regular dude, (depending on how you interpret the words of Daniel), a regular dude is going to come with the clouds of heaven, and he is going to lead the people of Israel, and from then on, the people of Israel will be honored and praised by all the world, and all nations will look to Israel for peace and justice and the way of God throughout the earth. This was Daniel 7:13-14, after the first twelve verses of Daniel 7 described four terrible kingdoms of the earth rising up and wreaking havoc on Israel. So, four kingdoms of the earth, followed by a kingdom whose origin is from God, a divinely ordained and ordered kingdom for God’s people, Israel. That hasn’t happened yet. If we’re looking for historical cognates to the four kingdoms mentioned in Daniel, there are plenty of contenders like Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, but the point of Daniel’s vision is less about particular historical cognates, and more about God’s restoration of Israel after and even through destruction. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life,” Jesus said. Remember Daniel’s vision? Yes, dark days are coming, and God will be with us in and through those dark days, and afterwards, we will be restored. “When I am killed,” Jesus was saying, “when Rome sacks Israel, when the temple is destroyed, do not become prisoners of despair, weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life.” Don’t become prisoners of despair during the dark times. Whether it’s Rome sacking Israel, Harvey sacking Houston, the Camp Fire sacking northern California, we have no lack of dark times. We’ve got distress among the nations, roaring of the seas, fires, floods, we’ve definitely got fear and foreboding. We’ve got plenty of reasons to numb ourselves. That’ really what Jesus is talking about, being weighed down by dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life. Numbing. Numbing out so the worries of this life seem muted, or at least for a little while, we don’t have to care as much. Jesus is warning against responding to the worries of this life with dissipation and drunkenness. Don’t be prisoners of despair. Be on guard lest you numb out and spend your life in frivolous amusement, wasteful expenditures, dissolute living…basically a lot of excess and pleasure seeking in order to numb out and avoid the darkness and worries of life. Almost everyone numbs in one way or another to avoid or to get a temporary reprieve from the darkness and despair and worry of so much going on around us. We all numb out in one way or another, but don’t become prisoners of despair, Jesus taught. Instead, Jesus taught, be prisoners of hope. This idea of prisoners of hope comes from Zechariah 9:12, and I am completely stealing this idea from Rabbi Annie’s sermon last month during the Shabbat for Solidarity. Become prisoners of hope. Jesus knew he was going to die. He knew the Temple would be destroyed and his people would be scattered to the ends of the earth. He was acutely aware of the darkness and hardships around him, and he knew things were going to get worse, and yet he remained a prisoner of hope. Remember Daniel’s vision, guys. Remember that one day, God’s kingdom will be fully lived out with Israel at the helm. Remember the brightness of the future which casts out all the darkness of the present. Remember, and be prisoners of hope. Love deeply. Party with your friends, and enjoy life, that’s what Jesus did. Honor and respect yourself and those around you. Be faithful and true to who you are and who you want to be. Serve others when they are in need, and let others serve you when you are in need. Spend lots of time in prayer. Jesus was constantly reconnecting himself to God through prayer. He got overcome by the darkness of the world, just like we do, and so he spent a huge amount of time reconnecting to the light of God through prayer. As a people, we’re re-learning how to reconnect to the light of God through prayer with ancient practices like centering prayer and meditation. A group meets here at Temple Sinai on Thursdays at 5:00 for Centering Prayer. Bible Prayer groups are beginning to meet to pray though passages of scripture and to let the Spirit of God speak through the scriptures. Groups of people are meeting for prayer in online communities when work and travel and distance won’t allow them to meet together in person. Praying the hours is becoming cool again. Early in the life of the church, folks were becoming overwhelmed by the fast pace of life and the constant demands of their time and attention by second and third century society. So, monastic communities began forming as folks left the cities to devote themselves to quieter lives of prayer, and far from drudgery, lives of service and prayer gave light, life, and joy to those who had been weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life. Nowadays, we find a new interest in monasticism in which people don’t have to become monks and nuns but continue to live their regular lives and also join with monastics in lives of service and prayer. More and more folks are choosing to become prisoners of hope. Morning, noon, evening, and night, we Episcopalians pray as prisoners of hope. Even those four hours of prayer come from monastic roots, from people no longer wanting to be weighed down by numbing the worries of this life away through dissipation and drunkenness. Continual prayer and reconnecting to the light of God. Serving others in need and allowing others to serve us when we’re in need. Partying with friends and enjoying life while honoring and respecting ourselves and those around us. Love deeply. These are the ways Jesus lived as a prisoner of hope, and how Jesus taught us to be prisoners of hope. Restoration is coming from God. That is our hope. In little ways every day, God is restoring creation in and through us. One day, God will restore all of creation with Israel at the helm. So do not numb out. Do not be weighed down by dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life as prisoners of despair. Instead, love deeply as prisoners of hope.

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