Saturday, June 24, 2017

Thank you for it all

Not alone. Marty's last moments.

Homily for Marty Christensen
June 24, 2017
Rev. Kara Root
Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church

Marty would say “You can never have too many friends.” And I imagine his life like a high school cafeteria – each table a different group. His church friends, his bar friends, his Hutch friends, his Astrology friends, His Gunflint Trail friends, his OLD friends.  And Marty, with his lunch tray, effortlessly flowing between them, a full part of each group. 
It was like his superpower in this life was friendship.

And now here we all are, sitting at one big table – in a room together with people whose paths might never have any other reason to cross, except that in some way we all belonged to Marty, and he to us.  I find that utterly enchanting. 

And I believe that Marty has returned to his source, to love, to the force that made him and gave him his insatiable love for people, his boundless passion for the outdoors, his drive to get as much as he could out of life, and give as much as he could to life. There is nothing hidden in him that isn’t revealed, nothing broken-hearted in him that isn’t healed, no pain that he carried or caused in this life that is not released, nothing holding him back in any way from full and complete love.  Marty now rests his whole being in the being that called his being into being. And that is comforting for me to envision.

Alone and afraid. Those were the two words Marty used when he learned his cancer wasn’t responding to treatment and it would likely take him.  It’s the part he dreaded, the part that scared him the most: He felt alone and he felt afraid. 
But those are also the two words I heard used in reference to the day he left this earth, “When Marty died, he wasn’t alone and he wasn’t afraid.” 
And while I believe God answered his prayer, I have to hand it to Marty for making God’s job easy on that front, because Marty let us in. He let us share it with him. He let us be there for him. 
We believe around here that that in Jesus, God came to take on everything inside us, between us, and thrust upon us by the world that makes us feel alone and afraid. That the cross means God bears all suffering alongside, with, and for us.  And because of that, when we are alongside, with, and for each other, bearing one another’s suffering, we meet God.  Marty let us do that alongside, with and for him.  And Marty did not hesitate to be alongside, with and for others. This is a holy, human, sacred thing. It’s where God is.  And when we do this we are not alone, and we are not afraid.

I loved being Marty’s pastor. I learned so much from him these past 18 months.  He would come to me anxious and ask, Do people really want to hear how bad it’s getting? I don’t want to be a burden. And I would remind him that he promised to share it all with us. I would tell him that if he made it look too easy, he was false advertising for the rest of us.  And I would say again what a blessing his honesty – in the whole struggle of it all -  was to us.  And it was true. He changed this community – he showed us to be open and real even in the things you don’t choose and are not glad about.  He gave us a chance to live out with him another of his life mottos – we are here to take care of each other. 
And I would sit with him in a kind of wonder as he would share about a lunch with friends, his face open with delight and joy, eyes sparkling and smile wide. And then a wave of grief would come and he would sob with the deep, heartwrenching sorrow at having to leave this life. And after a few minutes the tears would subside, his shoulders would lift, and a new story would come, one of gratitude, or hope, or wondering what dying would be like, and what would happen to him beyond. And sometimes fear would surface, and he’d talk through the flashes of terror or apprehension until that departed and the next emotion arose. 
And in these times I felt like for Marty the layers we all live with, that insulate us from the raw reality of living had been stripped away, and he was awake for it all. Noticing so deeply, appreciating so profoundly, grieving so honestly, celebrating so freely. In these conversations he would let anger, sadness, joy, gratitude, hope, move through him without resisting, hiding, or censoring. He was done with games. He just wanted to live every moment of his one precious life to its fullest. And he did.

We’ve heard a lot today about what a great guy Marty was and how much dignity he died with. And that was all true. And there might be the feeling that somehow to do him honor we shouldn’t feel sad. We should celebrate his life.  We should be glad he’s no longer suffering. We should avoid the small anger pressing at the base of the scull, the sorrow that claws up the back of the throat. Swallow it down and just try to be thankful for the beauty of his life and the peacefulness of his death.

I am going to tell you not to do that. I am going to tell you that the anger is a gift and the sorrow and grief are a treasure. Because they point to the deeper longing for things that are wrong to be right. They point to how beloved he was, and how much he loved living. They bring us to that place where God is alongside, with and for us. And I will not downplay any of that. It’s too important to skip over.

Marty was taken too soon. That’s just a fact. Most of us are, and we can deal with each of those stories when our own turn comes, but I want to talk for a minute about what makes me angry about Marty’s death. 
Marty should have had a chance to enjoy his retirement. He was SO looking forward to it – oh the plans he had! Marty should have had a chance to turn more of us into OLD friends, and make more new ones to add to his collection. He should have gone to England, he should have traveled and experienced more of this earth he so loved. He should have taken on new hobbies and interests, he so loved diving into something new and exploring it completely. He should have married Nancy and been a grandpa.  He should have grown old along with someone – he told me he always wanted that.  Marty had dreams and longings and hopes that never got to be fulfilled.  
And that makes me angry. It makes me sad. I wanted those things for him too.  I wanted to be there alongside, with and for him in those things, and see him be alongside, with and for others here in the things we all have ahead of us – Helen’s little sister or brother arriving, this generation of kids he’s watched start to grow up graduating from school and heading out into the world.  All the joyous and heartbreaking things that are coming in all the lives of those gathered in this room that Marty would have celebrated and grieved alongside, with and for each of us.  I will wail for the loss of that.  When the feelings come, I will let them come.

And only then, only once those feelings pass through and space is made for the next ones, will I turn to the gratitude.
Oh! What an incomparable honor to have known and been a part of Marty’s life!
To have walked on this earth alongside his soul, to have shared this breathtakingly beautiful planet, filled with a never-ending diversity of interesting people, spectacular views, new challenges, old stories, winding trails and pounding waterfalls and crisp forest air, and lapping lakes at sunset.  To be in this life, every single day - to be alive! 
This is a blessing beyond compare!
And to share it with others!  What purpose!  What privilege! 

We are told that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  And that all that separates us from love and wholeness, makes us feel alone or afraid, or keeps us from what should have been, is borne into the very heart of God.  None of it is forgotten, overlooked, moved on past. It is treasured, precious and sacred, the sorrow and the loss, held with tender care by the Love that will not end.  And one day all wrongs will be made right.
And Marty’s being rests in that love now, and all that he just poked a finger into, just dipped a toe in, just scratched the surface of, he now knows and feels fully and completely, just as he is fully and completely known.
Marty is part of our cloud of witnesses, those who’ve gone before whose lives have been tangled up in ours, and, just by being human beings next to us, point us now and then to what’s really real.

Marty loved rituals that opened us to God and connected us to timelessness and the cosmos and each other, so here is how we’re going to finish this service and honor Marty together.  First alongside, with, and for each other now, in both our gratitude and our loss, we are going to recite a poem written by another person who believed “life is meant to be lived outdoors,” a few thousand years ago, a shepherd turned king, Psalm 23. We will say the words shared by people in all circumstances for millennia, words that were also read by a few of us with Marty on his last couple of evenings before he went and left all these scattered groups of friends to gather here as one. 
And after that, we are going to sing Marty’s favorite song, a song that expressed how Marty chose to live his life, What a Wonderful World, and we will let it witness to us, like his life did, a giant Thank you. Thank you for it all.


What a Wonderful World, by Louis Armstrong
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Our Pentecost Practice Run

Pentecost has been called the birthday of the Church, because it is when the church first formed, but first and foremost, this is the Holy Spirit’s day.

The Holy Spirit is ruah in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek: breath, wind, life force. The Spirit is the outflowing of the dynamic connection between Father and Son  - the verb of the Trinity’s relationship, love in action, the energy of life that binds us to God and each other. The Spirit comforts, leads, inspires, and animates. 
The Spirit of God is has always been here, behind the scenes, under the surface – hovering over the waters at creation, filling the lungs of the Adam, the first earth creature, inspiring of the Psalms of David, quickening the womb of Mary, descending like a dove to claim Jesus as Beloved in the river of  John’s baptism. 
But on Pentecost the Spirit comes out from behind the scenes; the stage manager takes center stage.

Jesus told the disciples to wait, that the Spirit was coming – and they waited, unsure what was coming, wondering how they would become the so-called Witnesses Jesus had told them they were. 
They waited in that liminal space between the end of their following and the beginning of their sent-ness, in the place where their witness-hood began to take shape. 

Jesus had embodied in himself complete unity with God and humanity, he was the person in whom divine and human came together and spilled out as love verbed in the world, and they had followed in his shadow and soaked in its rays.  Then he died, and rose, breaking the barrier between heaven and earth, life and death.  And when the Spirit came at Pentecost, the power of that verbed love was released onto the disciples, and they were suddenly drawn into the dynamic relationship Jesus had with the Father, and into the life and mission of God.  The energy of the Trinity now draws us into God, and fuels us out with the breath, life force, creativity and activity of God. 

These disciples now become the very Body of Christ in the world. They are no longer followers of Jesus on earth, as students to a teacher. Now they embody the relationship and mission of God in their own bodies:  Their words, their own quirks and accents, their struggles and delights, their very hands and feet and voice!
And God’s Spirit that moves through them is also in that space between them – that is, this body they become when they come together with all their different needs and gifts and fears and hopes, and they trust together that God is God and the world is claimed in God’s love.  They’ve become Church.  
But they don’t know yet what they are.
They’re just experiencing things and sharing about them. They are witnessing.

And notice that when the crowd gathers as they speak, all who listen hear in their own language – no matter how distant their homeland is from that place or how few of them are in that crowd – each one hears exactly what they need to hear from God, through the words and actions of these surprised disciples, caught up in God’s love. The Spirit reaches out and draws each of these listeners into the inner dynamic of God’s love, where life originates and abounds forever, where Jesus brought death to die.

Today is the Holy Spirit’s day. 
Today is the day the Church was born.

Remember, last time I said the disciples and the early church throughout the book of Acts were bouncing back and forth between beautiful encounters of supernatural healing and transcendent hope, and the ordinary struggles about housekeeping and money, how to share, and how to listen to each other without fighting?  And they sought to do all of it as Christ’s Body – the place on earth where divine and human come together and spill out as love verbed in the world.
That meant not separating out the holy from the mundane, but recognizing all of it as God’s ministry, and learning to see themselves as stewards of the mysteries of God, as sharers in the life of God for the world. 
They were figuring it out as they went along – listening to the Spirit, seeking direction, using their intellect and their cooperation, and watching God work through all of it.  They were figuring out how to be the people who are with and for each other just as Christ is with and for us, because that is where the Spirit of God is found.  This is what Church means.

This little congregation gathered here today all these centuries later is part of that, a legacy of that group, an embodiment of that same continuing mission.  
And I love this community for the fervent and truthful way we try to be with and for each other and the world.  For the way we try to recognize God’s presence in both the obviously holy and the so-called mundane.  
I love how we believe we meet Jesus when we share each other’s suffering and bear each other’s joy.   And how we seek to honor each person as a minister, tiny or full-grown, with their needs, gifts, fears and hopes, and how our ministry changes with each new person who comes to share in this life together with all their quirks and accents, struggles and delights. 
And I love we learn from our mistakes, and we take risks, and we seek the Spirit’s guidance in the midst of each new hurdle and opportunity that comes our way. And through it all, we try to trust together that God is God and the world is claimed in God’s love.

One of the ways we live out this trust every month is that we give 10% of our income to other expressions of God’s love in the world - other organizations or congregations or ministries where we see people sharing life together, breaking down walls between people, reaching out in hope.  The list of those we’ve given to in the last two years is inspiring:
This congregation has shared with folks who offer people Sabbath rest and retreat, those who resettle refugees, and those who empower conversations and build community across barriers. We’ve shared with people who help communities heal after violence, those who help neighborhoods rebuild after tragedy, those who provide support and care for people who can no longer care for themselves as they used to, and those who provide housing and food for people without.  I’ve hung a complete list on the back wall, and put a few copies in the Gathering Room, so that you can see the amazing things we’ve been part of these past two years. The ministry God does in us spreads far beyond us; we are connected to God’s work in the world in lots of ways.

But as session reflected on Pentecost, and this moment when the mission went from centralized in the person of Jesus, to embodied by all these people who make up the Body of Christ, we decided to do something different with the tithe money for a month. 
What must it have been like to suddenly have the mission in your hands?
To pray to the Spirit for guidance and trust the Spirit to use you to bless someone else?
To learn to let God work through you?

We talk all the time here about noticing God, seeking to join in what God is doing, and coming alongside others in suffering and joy, and that is what we are called to do. To give and receive the ministry of God.  But that can feel abstract. We wanted to make it concrete.
So May’s tithe is right here – 17 envelopes with $100 each inside them. 
This month the tithe is not to be given to an organization, but is meant for personal connections with people.
We trust that in Jesus Christ, we all belong to God and we all belong to each other.  This is a chance to live that out in a creative way. Seventeen of us today will leave here with an envelope in our pocket and the job of praying and asking the Holy Spirit to show us who it might be meant for.

Here is how this will work: First, we will pray over this money – setting it aside, like we do the bread and the cup at communion, asking God to make it something holy, something that God will use to bless people, a tool of the Holy Spirit in the hands of witnesses and ministers, (that’s you). 

And then, we will draw names.  Adults and kids, members and visitors, 17 of you will be representing this whole community, the gifts we’ve all contributed, and blessed, and sent out, will be in your hands in the world.

If your name is drawn, your assignment is: Watch for God. See what God is doing. Join in.  Ministry is sharing each other’s suffering, and holding each other’s joy. How might God be calling you to use this money to do that with someone? This might mean finding someone to whom you’d like to give an unexpected blessing, or someone you’d like to say, “I see you. I am here,” or someone you want to express gratitude to for the blessing they are to you or others.  It could be someone you know well, or someone you’ve never met.

Step 1: Pray about it.  Ask God who to give it to, and how.
Maybe you have someone in mind right away. Maybe you need to sit on it for a while and ask God for direction.  Trust God to show you. (This is God's money. You are God's too. So is whoever will receive it).

Step 2: Give it to that person. 
It might be uncomfortable. That’s ok. Notice the discomfort; God is in that too.
Are there words you’d like to say? Gratitude, Empathy, Love you’d like to express? Pray about that too. Maybe there is something God would like to tell that person through you.  Maybe no words are needed.  Listen with your heart; speak from your heart. 

Step 3: Share about it
Remember, we are witnesses: We encounter Christ and we share about it. Come back and tell us what it was like. Was it awkward? Uncomfortable? Thrilling? Joyful?  How did you choose who to give it to?  What happened afterwards? How did you encounter Christ through this experience? 
We will share about this in worship on Sunday, June 18. 

Those who are comfortable sharing aloud can do so, and those who would rather write a note and have Lisa or me read it, can share that way. Between now and then, the rest of us will be holding you in prayer, that God will arrange the circumstances and the Spirit will guide you.

Kids- your grown up will help you however you need as you pray about it and ask God who to give this money to. Babies, your parents will decide for you and tell you all about it when you’re older. (And Pastor Lisa wanted me to remind you not to eat it).

A word to anyone who feels absolutely paralyzed with terror, or even just extremely uncomfortable about this. If your name gets drawn, and you feel you cannot do this alone- bring in another person. Ask someone else here (or even at home or work) to do it with you, to think, and pray, and reach out to give it away, along with you. You are not in this alone. This whole practice is meant to remind us that we all belong to God and we all belong to each other. 

Finally, this is the practice run, you guys. 
With that money in your pocket you have a specific assignment, something concrete to do.  It’s the training wheels.  The harder thing is to watch and respond in the world with the gifts God has already entrusted to us that we can’t see or don’t recognize as gifts.  Our hands and voice, our words and touch. Our presence, our own needs, hopes, fears, doubts, weaknesses, and joys. God wants to use it all to draw us and others into God’s love.  And through us, the Holy Spirit can speak to each person just what they need to hear, meet them just how they need to be met.

This is our Pentecost jump-start, a reminder that we are Church –the people who watch for Jesus and join him where he is – in the midst of it all, sharing joy and suffering alongside others.  Learning to watch for God’s ministry and join in is a lifelong endeavor that we do together.
So we witness to how hard it is and we celebrate how life-giving it is. We encourage each other to seek God’s presence and share God’s ministry every day in ordinary and extraordinary ways.  And today, specifically, we welcome and celebrate the life-force of God that binds us to Christ’s love and sends us out in that love. 

Today is the Holy Spirit’s Day!  
What marvelous things will the Spirit do with us, I wonder? 
Happy Pentecost, Church!  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Learning to Listen in the Liminal

Sometimes when we don’t know what to do, when we’re face to face with mystery, or something unknown, vast, greater than ourselves, we clean.  When we’re expecting a baby, we nest, when the Titanic is going down, we rearrange the deck chairs, when that dissertation or thesis is looming, we refinish the basement. 
Turning to details, to tasks and duties gives us comfort.  
Creating societies and structures, being effective and logical, gives a kind of security and order to our worlds.

The whole book of Acts is a hilarious back and forth between wild Holy Spirit encounters of pulling people out of their security and comfort to things they’ve never done before in ways they’ve never done them, things that might involve fire and strange languages, prophecy, miracles, public speaking and touching strangers, and then tidying up, figuring out logistics and details, creating order and structure, assigning KP duty.

In fact, most of Paul’s letters throughout the rest of the New Testament are people figuring out the nitty-gritty of how to be church, with the piddly details of messy human beings seeking order, and Paul continually calling them back to this cosmic, big-picture mystery that has transformed the entire earth and claimed them individually for a life that transcends death. And also, quit fighting at dinner, you guys.

But I love this story because of that. Before anything else starts to happen, they must replace Judas to round out the 12 apostles. It only makes sense. Getting a 12th Apostle nailed down feels like the pressing job at the moment. Very imperative.
So they pick between these two people, Joseph, aka, Barsabbas, aka Justus, on the one hand, and Matthias on the other. It’s down to these two because both of them have been around from the beginning, and they want someone who can witness to the resurrection with them.
Jesus didn’t tell them to replace Judas; they came up with that one all on their own. Because what else should they do after they see dead and risen Jesus float off into heaven right after telling them to wait for some kind of “baptism of the Holy Spirit?”

There is a move coming here, Pentecost is around the corner, when they will, as biblical scholars like to say, go from being disciples to being apostles. In other words, they will are in the midst of shifting their identity from followers to sent ones.

But right now they are in the in-between.  The not yet. The liminal space. 
And oh, how God loves liminility! It’s the 9-month pregnancy of the thing!  It’s the Sabbath shift! This pocket of space in-between is so important that God likes to use it a lot.  The Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus in the wilderness, for that matter, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Ruth, Esther, Moses’ stint as a shepherd, the Apostle Paul – knocked down, his sight taken from him, at the mercy of those he came to kill while he waits to find out what God will do next…

Liminal space - on the threshold of change becomes a kind of waiting, like Advent or Lent, or being engaged or in hospice, or unemployed, widowed, or released from prison, adjusting to some new reality that is coming but you haven’t figured out what it will mean or how to live in it yet -
these times are God’s rich soil in us where something dies and something new is born, when most of what you knew before gets taken away, and what is coming has not yet come, when you are stuck in the awkward middle, trying to figure out how to stay still and move at the same time. 

In these times we are redefined, life is redefined. 
Tectonic plates are shifting, and we feel suspended – what can we expect? 
Or do, Or hope for? 
How do we just be?

And now imagine this - not since the garden, as in, the very beginning of it all, or since Noah, perhaps, has there ever been a time in all the human living and God-following throughout countless centuries, when the people did not have a flesh and blood mouthpiece for the divine – someone right there in front of them telling them what to do, what to believe, how to act.  God had a representative, a priest or prophet or judge or king. Rabbis and teachers interpreted scripture – talked to God on the people’s behalf, and to the people on God’s behalf. They made sense of things, told the people what it all meant. 

And Jesus had fit into this model for these disciples.  
When God came and walked among them in the flesh, they followed him as students to a rabbi, disciples of a beloved teacher.
But when the teacher is killed everything crumbles. 
And then it all crumbles again in an even bigger and more impossible way when he doesn’t stay dead.  Now they are disciples of a resurrected God-with-us who has thrown the definitions of life and death up in the air; now heaven and earth are kind of mixed up, and all bets are completely off. So they have about 40 days of getting used to that, except now he’s leaving again. So, now, they are followers of… what, exactly? 

So they stand, stunned and staring up into heaven after Jesus, and what are we supposed to do again?
So God gives them a gentle nudge in the form of two figures in white.
“Hey, you, men of Galilee? What do you think you’re looking at, standing there with your mouths open? Go back where you came from and wait like he told you to…”

So they do. 
Only now, there is no one between them and God. 
No rabbi to follow, no teacher to listen to, no mouthpiece or ambassador. 
Nobody is telling them how this is supposed to go, what they are supposed to do, or believe, or do.
They are on their own, but also clearly not, somehow.
They are witnesses, they remind themselves: we are witnesses now. This is the only thing they know so far – we are called to tell each other and whoever else will listen, about what we’ve experienced. And beyond that, they’ve got no idea what else is next.
So they tidy! They organize. Fix a problem; mend a structure. We’ve got to fill the empty session seat! 
But since Jesus had picked the rest of them, how would they know how to pick Judas’ replacement? 

So they do it in a really unique way. 
They don’t take resumes or ask the two to make campaign speeches. They don’t vote or argue for their favorite candidate.  There are no Roberts Rules of Order here. They figured out a way to let God choose. 

Here we see the very first, baby steps into trusting God in a new way that comes to be called Church, or Christianity:  Jesus is between us and God, breaking down that barrier and opening up that relationship, drawing us right into connection to God. We can’t see Jesus, but he’s there, somehow bringing us right up close to God. So we are going to try to listen to God. All by ourselves without someone doing it for us; we are going to ask God to lead us.

So they choose the 12th apostle by saying, Lord, you know everyone’s hearts. You know who would be best for this. Show us who it should be.
And then they draw straws. They literally cut a piece of hay or break a stick shorter than another, pray to God to guide them, and then draw straws. 
The Lord will show us, they trust, and then they go with it. 
Matthais it is, then!

Because of this story, today there are some traditions that do this when they choose leaders- for example, I’ve heard of a Mennonite practice of placing certificates in a few hymnals, shuffling them, and then those who select the hymnals with the the certificates in them are appointed to leadership.  It isn’t meant to be a game of chance, a random gamble; it is meant to take human error out of it and leave the decision up to God.  
It’s a way of listening to God.

There are lots of ways of listening to God – maybe as many as there are people in the world- and as the church became the church, and spread throughout the world, more and more ways of listening to God as Christians come to be practiced.  But right here at the beginning, in this in-between time, before the Holy Spirit has come and the preaching has started, but after Jesus has died and risen and left them, these people took their job as witnesses seriously.  They sought, even in the midst of a lot of unknown, they sought as faithfully as possible, to follow this God who was calling them, Them! Ordinary, regular old them! – to lead, to witness, to tell others what they’ve experienced of Jesus, to speak for God to the people and to the people for God. 

And they sought, as faithfully as they could figure out how, to live in this new, unknown, upside down reality they find themselves in, where God’s voice really speaks, and God’s hand really acts, and life and death and limits and boundaries do not hinder God’s plans, and you  - you! - are part of this great big thing you are just barely starting to get your mind around.

We believe we are in a liminal state right now, like, humanity is, all of us, suspended in an already, but not yet. Christ has come, Christ has died and risen; Christ will come again. 
We wait for the day when the promises of all things returned to God and life as it was meant to be – the triumph of love and life over destruction and death – when that is fully realized.  We wait in this time when we know it is coming, because Christ has broken the bonds of death, but we often stand gazing up into heaven with our mouths open, not quite sure what we’re supposed to do in the meantime.
The space between. Where life leaks in from the future, and hope is hidden but real, when the Kingdom of God has come and is here, but we miss it so much of the time because it is not all in all yet.
And in this in-between time, where we are not face to face with God, we still say God’s hand really acts and God’s voice really speaks and our lives really are part of God’s plans that cannot be stopped or hindered by life and death and limits and boundaries. So how, then, do we listen?

This summer we are going to practice some ways of listening to God.  In our worship we are going to gather and try out different ways of praying, of listening to God, of connecting to God, ways that someone thought up and tried out a long time ago and generations of Jesus-followers have been doing ever since.  And we are also going to talk about how, in our own lives, we find ways of listening to God that make sense for us – things that help us hear from God, see Jesus in the world, share in ministry with others, draw us closer to God, in the transcendent things and the practical, ordinary things.

Sometimes I think we tell ourselves we should have this down, somehow; or that church or faith should go a certain way and we are messing up if it doesn’t look that way for us.

But remember, these first witnesses began “in joy, still doubting and disbelieving.” 
They let themselves be in the awkwardness and the newness, in the bumbling and the trying. 
They told each other when they saw Jesus. 
They sat in the discomfort of waiting for God, embracing the liminal and all its mysterious promptings and newness. 
And they trusted God to lead – even in the very practical tasks and details, even more than they trusted themselves.

We aren’t supposed to do faith right or perfectly; Jesus already brings us right up close to God.  We are supposed to live right where we are, in whatever in-betweens we may find ourselves, to seek God’s direction and to listen, in whatever ways we might learn, or try out for the first time, or fall back on again and again. 

And in the midst of both the great spiritual mysteries, the life-changing encounters that draw us up and out of ourselves, and the everyday, organizing tasks, structures and details that ground us, together we get to practice trusting God, however that might look for us today, and tomorrow, this moment and the next.  
And if in doubt about how, we’ll do like they did, and try to get out of the way.

Thank you for it all

Not alone. Marty's last moments. Homily for Marty Christensen June 24, 2017 Rev. Kara Root Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church...