Sunday, April 28, 2019

Easter 2: Stories of doubt, fear, and faith

Reflections on John 20:19-31, moderated by Trina Trotter Nussbaum

Vi Dutcher
Vernon Jantzi
Sarah Sensamaust (via recording)
Caleb Schrock-Hurst (via recording) 
Christopher Clymer Kurtz
Holly King

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

Phil Kniss: The Easter Nativity

Easter Sunday: “Christ is risen, indeed!”
Isaiah 65:17-25

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In this world, there is just too much suffering—
in the larger world,
in our communities,
in our own families and personal lives.
Just too much pain and suffering.

As people who follow the suffering servant Jesus,
we want to engage the suffering of our world in meaningful ways,
we want to alleviate suffering,
we want to be agents of healing and reconciliation.
But how, in the world, do we do it,
without becoming buried in the darkness of it all?

it’s too much to stay informed about, attuned with, up to date on.
We have to take it in measured doses, to keep our sanity.
One of my Lenten disciplines this year was to minimize
the amount of news I got on a screen—computer, TV, phone—
and to read more print journalism.
It was an attempt to measure it out, in doses I can handle.

Why does every TV news anchor, every evening,
start their broadcast with a breathless, “Breaking news!”?
Meaning, “This is so important for you to know now,
that I’m telling you about it as it happens,
even before I know much about it.”

An attack on our country, or incoming meteor, I understand.
But must we be informed about everything while it’s happening?
before the information is in?
before anyone takes time to reflect on the event,
put it in perspective,
check and re-check sources,
and think in measured ways about it?
How does instant half-baked information enrich our lives?
Does it make us more thoughtfully responsive to the needs of others?
Does it make us more, or less, likely to take meaningful action
to make the world a better place?
Does it enhance, or diminish, a life of joy?
Does it ground us and center us,
or leave us unsettled and unhinged?

And bringing it closer home,
how do we meaningfully engage suffering in our own communities?
How do we avoid the ditch on both sides of the road,
either getting overwhelmed and paralyzed,
or . . . hiding it from view and pretending it’s not there?
Local infrastructures are organized to separate us.
If we live in a middle-class neighborhood,
it takes no effort not to see our suffering neighbors.
About the only place we people of means,
are forced to face a destitute person,
is on a sidewalk or highway median,
where they try to get through to us with a cardboard sign,
and we try not to make eye contact and humanize them,
and thus have to deal with our discomfort.

And even closer home,
how can we, as people of faith,
walk with each other in our times of deepest suffering and disconsolation.

Our hearts and minds and spirits this morning are heavy with sorrow,
as we all share the grief of the Brubaker family,
at the death of their beloved 10-year-old Norah on Friday evening.

We hardly know what to feel and what to do,
other than simply to sit with each other in our shared sorrow.
Sometimes, that is enough.
Just to share sorrow, and express it to one another.
When we experience a devastating loss,
knowing we are not alone in it is the first and crucial step.

Together, we lament the brokenness of it all.
It is right to acknowledge the raw suffering of those close to us,
to name it, and to sit with it in protest.
And, it is right to name the reality
that this is not the way the world is supposed to be.
This kind of suffering is not in alignment with
the good world that God created.
In other words, this is not God’s will.
And it’s okay to be angry about what happened.
Because, I think . . . God is, too.

I love the passage from the Wisdom of Solomon, from the Apocrypha;
it rings true.
“God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.
God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world.”

Death is not now, nor has it ever been, God’s doing.
God takes no pleasure in death.

So we dare not sugar-coat a tragedy like this.
God did not “call another angel home.”
This was a rank offense against God’s shalom.
No, it was nobody’s “fault.”
But life unfolded in a manner that did not align with
God’s vision of wholeness and shalom.
It is out of sorts . . . with the world God once created,
and that God is even now working to re-create.

These violations of shalom happen too often.
All the time, in fact.
As I said, there is too much suffering in this world.

That, dear friends in Christ,
is why we do Holy Week.
This is why we preachers always warn our churches,
“Don’t jump straight from Palm Sunday to Easter!
Live through, and recall the passion, the suffering, the darkness.”

You may not realize that it was while this church
was gathered together on Friday night,
listening to the choir singing by faith,
“Do not fear . . .
when you pass through the waters, I will be with you,
you are precious in my sight, and I love you, you are mine,”
and singing,
“Surely, surely,
he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,”
and while we were listening again to the story
of Jesus’ unjust arrest and torturous suffering . . .
it was precisely then that Norah Brubaker took her last breath,
and that the Brubaker family were surrounding her bed,
living the agony
that we were singing about and listening to at that moment.

This is the real and raw stuff of a life of faith—
faith in a God who loves us so much,
as to be with us in our suffering.
Not to manipulate or coerce humanity or creation
to bend toward God’s will,
because that would violate love.
No, but to be with us in the midst of the pain and suffering,
and then to say,
“Do not be afraid. I am with you.
And I am giving birth to something new.”

After Good Friday is over,
after we have held vigil in the darkness,
we find there is more to the story—
more to be said, and more to do.

Friends in Christ,
today is Resurrection Sunday.
Easter does not erase Good Friday.
Resurrection does not un-do death.
It does not un-do Norah’s death, or ours, or that of Jesus.
Good Friday still happened.
The agony in Room 7132 at UVA on Friday still happened.
Death is still a reality that is with us.
A reality some of you are even now facing.
A reality some of your loved ones have suffered recently;
Cal Redekop’s 20-something granddaughter, last Sunday.
But because of Resurrection,
death does not have the last word.
God is doing something altogether new.

That’s when it occurred to me,
Easter has something in common with Christmas.
Easter is God’s second Nativity.
We celebrate Jesus’ Nativity at Christmas,
remembering his arrival among us as a human being,
Immanuel, God with us.
And at Easter,
God ushers in a newly-birthed reality—
a world dominated by life instead of death.
On Easter, God’s labor pains over the brokenness of Creation,
are resulting in, as it were, in Christ’s second Nativity.

As the hymn writer Brian Wren put it,
Christ is alive and goes before us
to show and share what love can do.
This is a day of new beginnings;
our God is making all things new.

We read Isaiah 65 this morning.
“For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating.”

Isaiah is not speaking the language of repair.
This is not the language of taking something that is broken,
and restoring it to what it used to be.
No, this is new creation language.
This is bringing to birth something we have not yet seen,
or even imagined.

I don’t know what was going through your minds this morning,
if you were thinking about Norah,
when you heard these words of Isaiah, and I quote,
“No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime . . .
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity . . . and it goes on.”

That does not describe the world we live in, of course.
But it is the world that God is giving birth to.
It is the world of the Easter Nativity.

God is giving birth to something new.
It’s not yet here in its fullness or maturity.
But it’s happening.

And we are God’s midwives.
We are here to accompany and support and be present
as God does the work of recreation.
The resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate today
is the assurance of where this is all heading.
It is heading to new creation,
to a new heavens and new earth.
And we get to be present in the birthing room.

The way to navigate a life where there is too much suffering,
is to hold on, in faith,
to our shared hope that God is creating a new heaven and earth,
and God is doing it with us.
It is even now starting to take shape,
in the midst of painful present realities.
And no, God will not coerce creation to bend to God’s will,
because love requires freedom.
But love also goes the distance to be with us.
Of that we can be certain.
We are not alone.
God says to you,
“I love you and you are mine.”

This is what we are going to celebrate
as we come to the table this morning to receive communion.
This is a meal that calls to mind suffering and death—
the brokenness of body,
the shedding of life-blood.
But because of resurrection,
this is also a meal of hope, of presence, of sustaining grace.
Whatever you bring to the table today—
your grief, your hope, your doubts, your fears,
your joy, your wonder, your gratitude,
these tangible symbols of bread and wine can hold them,
and you can be nourished.

May it be so.

—Phil Kniss, April 21, 2019

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Paula Stoltzfus: A subversive choice

Palm Sunday: “God’s steadfast love endures forever”

Zechariah 9:9-10
Luke 19:28-40
Philippians 2:5-11

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A Subversive choice

It is a common experience to relive the events of a loved one’s life in anticipation of an anniversary of their death.  Whether our loved one was sick or died suddenly, our minds and sometimes our bodies relive the events leading up to their death.

And so, Palm Sunday is that for the Christian tradition, a remembering, a reliving of the events that led up to Jesus’ death.  We join in the procession as we wave our branches and proclaim our praise of Jesus.  It is quite easy to skip to next Sunday and just take in Easter, because the story in between is uncomfortable.  Suffering and death is uncomfortable.

Death can feel like a dark and lonely path.  When we remember a death of a loved one, we can be fraught with questions, did I, we, they make the right decisions?  Would it have turned out differently if they would have made a different choice?  These are natural and normal questions and thoughts to experience in remembrance.  What we need to remind ourselves is that we make the best decisions with God’s help.

Would Jesus have done it the same way had he known of all the events that would occur by the week’s end? It is very likely he did know that the situation was ripe for clashing and that there would be a threat to his life soon.  

Jesus was led all throughout his life by God’s spirit to act and speak into the political and religious reality of the day, and to embody a fuller reality of God’s love and peace.  And for that, I don’t think he would have done anything differently.

What we see in today’s passage is Jesus doing what Jesus did.  He made intentional decision of how he was going to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover feast, an annual ritual to remember God’s deliverance of the Israelites from captivity in Egypt. 

Growing up, Jesus was accustomed to making this pilgrimage with his family annually.  This was the pilgrimage indicated earlier in Luke when Jesus, at the age of 12, was lost and found by his parents listening to the priests in the Temple.  He would have become accustomed to the sights, sounds, and smells a festival like this brought.  

Jesus would have also noted the cultural and religious changes that would occur year after year.  

John’s maternal great-grandparents acquired a property in the 1950s in the little community of Pinecraft in Sarasota, FL.   Our family, the 4th generation, has made this a beloved vacation spot.  Pinecraft is known most by being a popular vacation destination for the Amish, drawing from various communities from the East and Midwest regions. 

A couple of weeks ago our family returned from another visit.  This being my 8th time there, I am noticing the things that seem to be preserved by time, like the local ice cream shop, the adult tricycles that are the main mode of transportation, some of the old cottages, and the shuffleboard courts that fill with players in the afternoons. 

I also am noticing the changes that are occurring, like when an old home is torn down and replaced by new construction, or more electric adult tricycles that zip around the streets.

Now I clearly understand this is not the same kind of pilgrimage Jesus was making.  For perhaps the few religious things about Pinecraft are the Amish Meetinghouse, the Tourist Mennonite Church, and the regularity in which people make the trip. However, the point I want to make is that changes are noticeable.  If you’ve ever returned to your hometown, a repeat vacation, or retreat destination, you notice how things change.

I imagine it was the same for Jesus.  Jerusalem wasn’t the same.  

Theologian Marcus Borg notes contextually, that the Feast of the Passover at this time had an increasing militarized Roman presence in the city and around the Temple.  Passover had become a time when riots or demonstrations would occur against the Roman rule.  Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, would make a point to enter Jerusalem with a cavalry of horses, soldiers, decked with armor and weapons, to be a visible presence and enforce order.

Jesus would have been aware of this practice that had been intensifying over the years.  Having known the Hebrew scriptures well, Jesus chose to enact Zechariah’s prophecy.  He made plans to ride into Jerusalem on a young colt sending a different message, with a mass of fellow pilgrims.  

So the same day Pilate rode into the city from the west, Jesus rode in on a colt from the east.  Two different rulers.  Two different directions.  Two different messages.

Jesus was surrounded by his followers who took their cloaks and laid them before him, naming with their actions that this was a royal procession.  People gathered branches available to them and waved them, declaring Jesus as king.  

These followers were those he healed, saw him heal, and experienced transformation in his teaching.  They were making the pilgrimage together, celebrating God’s act of deliverance for their people.  

Their pronouncement was coming from their depths of healed anguish and pain.  Their cries were coming from Jesus’ forgiveness and love, giving them a place to belong instead of the marginalized status that some of them would have had in their society.  Jesus gave them hope, worth, and empowered them to raise their voices.

Jesus’ action was being noticed and it was calling the attention of all those around.

I can be hard and downright judgmental of the Pharisees. However, in this instance I have some empathy towards them.  They were trying to navigate some tough social and religious realities.  They were trying to provide religious guidance and communicate to government on their religious community’s behalf.  They worked hard at striking deals or at the least negotiating with the authorities in order to maintain the rights the Jews had at the time. They were trying to keep things from getting worse, like, “no new taxes,” ever increasing oppressive restrictions, and infringement on land rights.   As long as there weren’t major demonstrations or disruptions, then status quo would be easier to maintain.

So Jesus wasn’t making things easy.  The shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”  called attention and disturbance.  

Pharisees asked for Jesus’ help.  “Just try to keep them quiet,” they requested.

Jesus wouldn’t have it.  “If they don’t cry out, the stones will.”  Creation itself will cry out!  Reminds me of Romans 8 where Paul writes of the whole creation groaning as it waits for redemption. Jesus names that the created order will itself communicate, if humanity won’t. In a time of religious and political injustice, Jesus was lead to demonstrate for many to see, God’s different reign and exhibition of power. 

Jesus chose this time for this subversive act, one of humble boldness, to once again juxtapose ways of living out power; 

one of peace to that of force; 

one of persuasion to that of coercion; 

one of service to that of oppression.

I return to Pinecraft. An adjacent park has 8 meticulously maintained shuffleboard courts. Daily, people from the community gather to play.  When I watched the various matches that were played, I was struck by how many patterns of dress, head coverings, bonnets, trousers, suspenders, haircut, and style of beard were represented.  I could tell there were a number of Amish communities represented.  They may have had separate worshiping communities from which they came, but the courts became a place where friends were made regardless of the differences. 

Our family jokes about what happens in Pinecraft stays in Pinecraft.  Maybe it is a safe place where it was acceptable to establish relationships across boundaries.  They were humanizing the other.

I believe any place we are willing to engage in relationships with people different from ourselves we are making a choice to humanize the other, which can be seen as a subversive choice in our divisive climate. 

A few months ago, our congregation was involved in a collaborative effort to send a team of people to the US/Mexico border.  In their reporting and sharing with us we have heard initiatives locally that are involved in supporting the immigrant population in our community.  This is a subversive choice in the face of demonization and fear.

Faith in Action, an organization in this community with people of faith speaking and highlighting injustices.  This year the focus is on the injustices within our system of incarceration.  This group is making a subversive choice to speak into the oppressive power, humanizing the inmates and their families.

Simply gathering as a faith community to nurture our relationship with God and with one another is a subversive act in our individualistically focused society.

I realize using the word subversive is quite strong.  And yet, Jesus’ message is not of this world.  The messages we send when we act out of our faith filled passions, often bucks the system, stirs things up, or at the very minimum speaks a different message.

My examples of how this community is involved in subversive acts are by no means an exhaustive list.  Nor am I advocating you to go out and make waves simply to call attention to yourself or an issue.  I am rather inviting us into a week of contemplation.  

As we remember Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem, may we consider how Jesus’ subversive choice speaks to us today?  

Where are we invited to be a presence of peace in the face of power and dominance?

Where are we invited into conversation with those with whom we have differences?

Where are we invited in our places of influence to act out of a place of servanthood?

We join in the procession crying out, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”  In so doing, be grounded in God’s love and bold in faith as we relive the coming days. 

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Sunday, April 7, 2019

Phil Kniss: Yeah, that makes sense

Lent 5: “God makes a way through mighty waters”
John 12:1-8; Isaiah 43:1-5; Philippians 3:4b-14; Isaiah 43:16-21

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“Yeah, that makes sense” is my sermon title today.
You can hear that phrase in two different ways.
And I mean it both ways.

“Yeah, that makes sense,” as in what I might say
when my friend who is deathly afraid of heights
and dreads climbing a ladder to clean his gutters,
tells me he just watched the movie “Free Solo”
and decided to take up rock climbing.
And I reply,
“Yeah . . . that makes sense.”
Meaning, it makes no sense whatsoever.
It’s called sarcasm.

But I also want us to hear this phrase as a statement of realism,
after having carefully considered something,
and finally gotten our head around it, and we say, in all seriousness,
“Yeah . . . that makes sense.”

In fact, throughout most of today’s scripture readings,
we could interject that phrase in multiple places.

In our voice, it would come out in the nonsense sense,
in the sarcastic, “No . . . what? . . . yeah, that makes sense.”
But simultaneously it could be God saying, in calm reassurance,
“Yes. That makes sense.”
In my economy, in my time, this is the way things work.

In the four scriptures we’re reading this morning—
Isaiah, Psalms, Philippians, and John—
there are surprising twists in the plot,
things no one could see coming.

Like, who would expect a dry path to emerge for God’s people,
right when they find themselves trapped
between Pharaoh’s army and the sea?
“Yeah, that makes sense.”
Who would expect spring water to bubble up in the desert,
and form a river where was none?
“Yeah, that makes sense.”
Who would expect seeds sown in the middle of a drought
to produce a bumper crop?
“Yeah, that makes sense.”
Who would expect death to be a harbinger of life?
“Yeah, that makes sense.”
Who would expect the senseless spilling of priceless perfume
to be declared a reasonable act?
“Yeah, that makes sense.”

In my sermon a couple weeks ago I made the statement that
we humans have within us a sense-making reflex.
We want the world around us to make sense.
And I would add,
when we are doing theology,
we want God to make sense.
That’s what the discipline of theology is,
seeking to make sense of God.

There is a lot of talk going around these days—
actually there always has been—
about God being responsible for this or that in the world around us.

From the political arena, to the sports arena,
accomplishments are often credited to God.
Some Republican politicians, and famous pastors, have said,
and I quote, “God raised up Donald Trump.”
And, liberal Democratic leaders have also said, and I quote,
“God is on our side.”

But this has been happening for a long time.
Back in September of 1862 another politician,
midway through his first term as president, said, and I quote,
“In great contests each party claims to act
in accordance with the will of God.”
Abraham Lincoln . . . then elaborated,
“Both may be—and one must be—wrong.
God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.”

And sports figures are just as guilty.
Ever see a Major Leaguer crush a home run to the upper decks,
and crossing home plate,
he lifts his eyes to heaven,
and jabs both pointer fingers at God—“You did this!”?
I’m guessing . . . if you asked a player on the other team
what kind of spiritual force made the ball go over the fence,
he’d have pointed in a different direction.

But lets not be too hard on the superstars.
We do it ourselves, in many more subtle ways.
We think we have God’s agenda figured out.
Generally that means if things fall into line . . . in our favor . . .
it was God working out God’s plan.

I hardly need to point out the trouble we get into,
if we follow that line of thinking to its logical conclusion.

Our agenda and God’s,
our values and God’s,
our expectations and God’s,
don’t always line up, oddly enough.

So . . . are we left with nowhere to turn,
if we are trying to discern God’s will?
Is life a crap-shoot after all?

I hope not.
Because discernment is a core Christian communal practice.
It is our duty to look at the options before us,
and discern what God would have us do.

The church has believed and practiced this
from the very beginning,
ever since the disciples made their first group decision
without Jesus sitting in the circle with them.
After Jesus had gone into heaven,
they got together to discern who God was calling
to replace Judas Iscariot.
They ended up choosing by lot.
Matthias drew the short straw,
and they all accepted that as God’s doing.

And that’s the basis on which we Mennonites
used to always use the lot to choose ministers from among us.
And the more conservative and Old Order members
of our Mennonite family still do that.
It’s a heavy and holy moment when, as they deeply believe,
God moves the hand that chooses the hymn-book
with a slip of paper in it.

Is that faith-filled method any less in touch with God’s will, I wonder,
than our way of running a search process,
and praying our way to a consensus decision?

Or how about the way the Catholics choose the pope?
There the process of Christian communal discernment
gets center stage on all the cable news networks,
as the college of cardinals huddle together in the Sistine Chapel.
CNN and Fox News and everyone else, it seems,
keeps a little picture down in the corner of the screen,
with a live streaming shot of the chapel chimney.
The whole world waits for God to make a decision,
and for the smoke to turn white.
The crowds in St. Peter’s Square nearly faint with ecstacy,
at this tangible evidence that God’s will has been revealed.

So why do I say all this, on this fifth Sunday of Lent?
Because the lectionary readings for this day
are full of evidence of God leading and working,
and almost no one is ready to see it, or acknowledge it.
And it seems to me,
that if we intend to be a people who are responsive to God,
and to God’s leading,
that we need to become more adept at discerning
when God is trying to lead us somewhere.

Now some of God’s acts are just obvious.
Isaiah mentions the big one, in Israel’s history.
When God made a path through mighty waters,
the words that provided our theme this morning.
The path through mighty waters
is a reference to the Exodus event,
when God rescued them from slavery and oppression,
by a powerful act of deliverance,
parting the waters of the Red Sea.
Whatever it was that happened to the people that day by the sea,
it was so overwhelming that it has held up
in their collective memory, to this day,
as the greatest act of God in history.
And we all have a mental image of that scene.
For some, that image includes a likeness of Charlton Heston,
who played Moses in The Ten Commandments.

But in this same chapter of Isaiah 43,
the prophet gives us another image of water, easier to miss.
We’re going to read that part of the chapter
at the end of my sermon.

In fact, there the prophet calls them out
for not noticing what’s right in front of them.
The wall of water in Exodus was great, but that’s old news.
And I quote, “I am about to do a new thing.
now it springs forth, don’t you see it?”
Apparently they don’t, so God spells it out in plain—Hebrew—
“I am making a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.”

It’s one thing for God to make
a dry path through a watery sea,
and people get all excited about that.
But a watery path through a dry desert?
That needs someone to call attention to it.
God doesn’t want them to miss out on Deliverance V.2.
“There it is, don’t you see it?
Look where I’m pointing.”

It helps to understand,
that these words in the latter part of Isaiah, most scholars believe,
came from prophets in the Isaiah tradition,
but prophesying to the people
while they were in exile in Babylon.
It makes sense (really, not sarcastically)
because they’ve been in Babylon for generations,
for planting season and harvest, many times over,
they have built houses, gotten married, raised crops,
had children, added on to their houses,
exactly as prophet Jeremiah told them to, remember,
“Seek the shalom of the city where you are sent to exile,
for in its shalom, you will find your shalom.”
Well, they’ve done that. They’ve acclimated to the new normal.
Maybe to a fault.
They are now used to Babylon.
Yes, they are exiles and they know it.
They won’t call it the good life,
but it’s probably at least an okay life.
And they’ve gotten comfortable in it.

Too many years have gone by
without going to Temple,
without their national Feast Days and Fast Days,
without the regular communal practices of their faith,
practices that reinforce their identity,
practices that define and distinguish them, spiritually,
from their neighbors in Babylon.
So they are now stranded in a spiritual desert, but don’t know it.
God wants to deliver them from this desert,
but they’ll miss out if they don’t notice what’s happening.

Unlike Egypt, they will have opportunity to leave,
No army will chase them down.
Nehemiah and Ezra and others
will later work at rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple.
And the King of Persia will support resettlement,
provided they remain his subjects.

This is why God, through the prophet,
has to point out what they are missing—
that the life they are living in exile is only half a life . . . if that,
that there is deliverance waiting for them.
This is not the running-for-your-life-Exodus,
chariots and horses in pursuit,
exit route blocked by an impassable sea.
This is entirely different.

The prophet first has to convince them to want to leave exile,
then needs to call attention to the path in front of them.
At least, that’s how this poetic prophecy in Isaiah 43 sounds to me.

And sometimes I wonder if we are not in a similar state of affairs.
We are also exiles, in a manner of speaking.
But we’ve gotten so comfortable,
we no longer feel displaced.
We forget that we are sojourners.
Yes, like the Israelites,
we are called to love the world we live in,
to seek the shalom of the city where we reside, even in exile.
But if we look into the soul of 21st-century American culture,
taking note of the values and priorities of this culture
and do not feel a profound dislocation . . .
then we have gotten too comfortable in Babylon.

Not saying . . . we reject the world or turn away in disgust.
I don’t advocate isolationism, sectarianism, separatism.
No, we love the world like God does.

But that’s . . . just the point—like . . . God . . . does—
God, who wants to save and transform it, and make it new.

God invites us into full life, not a half life . . .
into deeper, more authentic life,
more abundant and joyful life
than what the dominant culture is selling us.

Creator God has a good and whole intention for us and all creation.
But look around.
Pay attention.
We have to admit, don’t we, that this isn’t it!
This is not God’s story being played out here.
But God’s story is still an option, if we are discerning.
There is a life of shalom and beauty and truth and compassion.
And God is saying to us, once again,
“There it is, can’t you see it ?”
That little spring bubbling up in the desert.
Over there.
Go for it.
Follow its flow.

Sisters and brothers, we, of all people,
should not be in despair when we look at the state of the world,
or even the state of our politics and civil society.
Oh, by all mean, let’s identity the evil,
and let’s hate the evil,
let’s openly resist the evil.
But despair?
God’s deliverance and restoration is at hand,
and already at work.
And no, it doesn’t make sense.
But there it is anyway, bubbling up . . . in this desert.
Don’t you see it?
Don’t you want to drink of that stream?
Don’t you hunger and thirst?

—Phil Kniss, April 7, 2019

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