Monday, August 1, 2016

Listening Isn't "Normal"

I got to preach at Eucharist Church again recently but it's summer so there's no podcast...and some people have asked sooooooo here's where I posted this thing. Old blog! ha.

Sermon for July 24th. Luke 11:1-13

“Martha, Martha. You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Yup---that’s from last week’s text. But seriously! What did Mary choose that was better and wouldn’t be taken away from her?
--Sitting at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. OK I know this is last week’s passage not this week’s, and Kevin did such a fantastic job with this last Sunday we do not need to revisit it. But I think we need to start here still.

I missed church last Sunday so I did some FB sleuthing before Kevin posted his sermon, to see if there was any online responses to last week’s text. Anthony’s Facebook reflection was my favourite. He said, “I always think Jesus was a little unfair to Martha.” I also always thought Jesus treated Martha a little harshly. Kevin’s reflection last week softened the experience in my mind, but I still feel for her. Mostly maybe because for years I myself have been struggling so hard to learn from Mary. To take seriously what it means to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to what he says. I’ve taken courses, read books, went to seminary, been a Martha about the whole thing, and still I have constantly found myself worried and upset about many things instead of just straight up saying “Lord, teach me to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Sitting at the Lord’s feet listening to what he says, ignoring what she had previously been taught by religious authorities and cultural assumptions.

So let’s look at today’s passage. One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. Not sure if this is one day after he left Mary and Martha’s place, or if it was one day weeks later, but it follows Mary and Martha’s story on the page so Luke, the author of this particular Gospel account, was using his words to teach us something specific about Jesus.

Jesus chose what was better---he had a habit of getting away from the crowds to go and pray. All over the Gospels. Makes sense to go and pray in places with fewer distractions right Martha? Either way Jesus’ disciples see him going away to pray and then he’s refreshed and he comes back to them to pick up where he left off. Maybe his disciples are jealous of his self-care habits, of his ability to conquer FOMO. I know I am jealous! And so one of his disciples asks him, “Lord, teach us to pray” and we perk up our ears because if they need to learn it even after walking alongside him it’s probably something we all need to learn about over and over and over again. I assume I’m not alone in this?
And because we all need to learn about this over and over and over again, Jesus’ response echoes throughout all the years of Christian history. We recite it every week these days, when we do Prayers of the People together. Kinda funny--I remember one of my neighbours growing up experienced the Lord’s Prayer for the first time at a funeral where everyone around her recited it together without the handy projector screen. She was in highschool at the time, a really nice interesting person with no church experience... and she said it was really creepy! If you don’t know it’s coming or what it means, I can imagine it would be so weird to suddenly be surrounded by people flawlessly reciting in unison words that are thousands of years in existence…

But before we take a brief look at this particular prayer (in ten minutes right Kev?) here’s a tangent I think worth pursuing. What comes first, the chicken or the egg!? Here’s the thing. WHAT IS PRAYER. Let’s backtrack a little so I can lay out some framework for a perspective that has helped me so much this week. In the beginning, God created the world. Genesis tells us that God spoke words and out of those words and that speech, creation exists. Whether you believe in evolution, or 6 day Creation, either way we can give God credit for speaking the world into existence because that’s how the story of creation begins, with creative words.

And God created man---male and female, in his image he created them. With the words he spoke. He spoke our purpose and our calling, spoke blessings over us. After the Fall he spoke the consequences with which we are ALL too familiar today. --This is all in the first three chapters of the Bible. The rest of the Bible tells us how, despite the Fall, we are still the image of God--and even more so since Jesus walked among us. In his life and death, Jesus showed us the clearest image ever of who God is, inviting us to follow in his image. Jesus spoke words with which he painted vast pictures of how we can relate to God and how God relates to us.

But how many times do our words create other gods, either in our own heads or in our communities. We are made in God’s image, and part of what that imaging means is that the words we speak can also create realities, in a way. And so the words we speak about God introduce our neighbours to the God we speak of and like Kevin said last week-----if we’re not carefully listening like Mary, then we risk pointing in the wrong direction. We’re always pointing in a direction. The world knows this, and manipulates the meanings of words like “success”, “belonging”, “need/want”, etc (SO MANY MORE WORDS). so that our world looks nothing like God intended and we get a little (a lot) worried and upset and distracted by it.
Maybe you missed some of what was happening in politics south of the border this week but it’s a great real-time illustration. I dunno how much detail to get into here but: a certain Pastor, from the great state of SOUTH CAROLINA!, prayed at the Republican Convention which seemed to be a big Trump celebration...and the words he used lead his listeners to believe some things that straightup contradict what is taught in Scripture. Again--Kev wrote a really great response to this on his FB wall the other day so if you’re curious what those contradictions look like, I will point you there rather than unpack it all here. But I listened to that prayer and thought, it’s scary how easy it is for so many people--Christians--to believe in a God whose enemy is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

For years I learned and thought and spoke about God in ways that made him seem distant, unpersonable, like speaking of him as a friend is actually disrespectful and dangerous. For years I felt uncomfortable if anyone referred to God as a Mother, or spoke of him as if he would just pop in here and there to point out the next person who needed an inspired hug. I never learned to listen to his actual voice in things like my imagination or the wind in the trees---it might be too charismatic or “kooky”, we can’t trust something that John Calvin or other reformers didn’t explain ---and I’ll be working on retraining my ears for a long while yet.

I realized this week that the image of God I grew up with, and my discomfort with anything that felt ‘religiously kooky’, was spoken and taught this way by a certain narrow worldview. The community who knows this version of God is beautiful and strong and desires to follow God’s direction and so many people I love call it home, but it is still struggling together to understand how God views women and our role in the church. (Can women vote on congregational matters? God probably doesn’t want women to vote. Never mind preach. I didn’t share too publically that I’m preaching today because there are people I see regularly who would be upset at me for standing here today…) It’s scary how easy it is for so many people--Christians--to believe in a God who thinks women should just do all the cooking and cleaning and childcare stuff.

OK this isn’t the tangent I wanted to spend time on. But actually it’s somewhere I need to stay for a while I think, personally, because sometimes how I have traditionally related to God is how I also end up relating to other people around me, and vice versa. I think often when I preach at Eucharist I’m actually preaching to myself. Thanks guys for being this stepping-stone in my own walk, and for asking me to take the space to sit with these thoughts.

I feel like that’s also how this sermon came about---technically I should have been looking at the roots of all the key words in the passage and looked up the original Greek in my big thrifted Strong’s concordance to see how Jesus’ Aramaic was translated there, and what his first listeners would have heard and what that means for us today. But for the past two weeks as I’ve thought about this passage, I’ve just received a couple words here and there, or a concept or two, like just this creating God in our image thing, and I’ve been piecing them together for today and it’s felt a little bit weird but it’s been lovely.

That’s a lie, it hasn’t all been lovely. I started out a couple weeks ago thinking skeptically about writing a sermon between my long exhausting workdays, and to be completely honest I was really really pissed for like a week---I was worried and upset with myself that I’d thought I should say yes to preaching again despite how every long day I’m “too tired to read the Bible”, or too busy have anything to talk about up here, let alone make dinner. Worried and upset with God that I get excited about theology things (and so many other things!) but that I’m spending all my time and energy at my landscaping job so please don’t anyone--especially God--expect me to spend my precious few free hours, especially my vacation week, writing a dang sermon at the beach.

And then I find myself worried and upset that I say I believe God calls women to do more than just cooking and cleaning and childcare stuff, because secretly I actually wouldn’t mind doing that instead of feeling called to cut grass right now because I’m TIRED of being tired from cutting grass.

It’s scary how easy it’s been for me to believe that because I’m working a pretty physically demanding job right now, I don’t get to think deep theological thoughts or just to sit and listen or even be home from work in time to eat dinner with friends, and that this means something for how successful I feel in life. If you know me at all you know I love cutting grass and I also hate it and it’s become for me a constant, years long battle in redefining my idea of what a successful life looks like and maybe I’m a walking illustration of this whole thing and that’s fine and you can ask me about that someday if you want to buy me a beer and listen some more.

The point, from my own experience with this passage, is that now I will pray the Lord’s Prayer with these questions in mind. How have I created God in my image? With a dictionary written by the general culture of patriarchy and scarcity and reactionary thinking and capitalism and dutch work ethic and whatever else has been shaping my worldview for the past 31 years.

When we speak the Lord’s Prayer, these words are Jesus’ words, they’re the things he said and is saying to us, and through us, and we create new realities by saying them and listening to each other say them. When we say these words, God’s Kingdom breaks in. Both in our hearts and in our communities as we speak them together, and as we continue reading Scripture together to explore what following Jesus successfully looks like.

We speak the truth until we can identify the lies we’ve been living. We boldly challenge social and cultural norms because the God we serve exists outside those norms and so the image we reflect is also outside those norms. Which I think is what Jesus means in his story in verses 5 through 8 of our text with the midnight traveling buddy, and the guy who breaks those social and cultural norms by asking his already-sleeping neighbour for help feeding midnight traveling buddy. It would have been completely acceptable---and very tempting----for sleepyhead neighbour to roll over and go back to sleep, except that this dude has boldly pulled the father-in-heaven-hospitality trump card,  and invited his sleepy friend to join him in offering a bite to eat to his traveling buddy. (like trump in euchre, not in US politics). Let us not be tempted by the social and cultural norms that let us get away with rolling over and going back to sleep.

All of Scripture is thousands of years of God giving us glimpses of who he is--both in the immediate context on the page and in the years of exegesis which follow. As in the opening words of this prayer, God has revealed himself to us using the generally universal image of a Father, so that in a patriarchal society where the father is the provider and protector and the source of life, these are some of the things we understand God to be for us. Of course there are so many layers that affect how we understand what a Father is and does, but Jesus’ purpose in comparing earthly fathers with our perfectly hospitable Father in heaven is that since it makes sense that our fathers bless us, generally, it makes MORE sense that God our Father blesses us even more.

Does that make sense? If “God the Creator” is the line drawing in the first words of Genesis, then “God the Father who provides better than our earthly fathers do” is the charcoal shading giving depth to the crinkles around the eyes. Jesse’s care for Dot adds some of the quirky eye-brow scruff, and Scott’s love for Morgan and Annika is God’s solid footsteps alongside us. Susan’s constant celebration of her boy Sid’s imagination and creativity adds blurriness to our collective image of God because he’s been clapping and dancing along with us as we rediscover life to the fullest.

And so. When our words can create new realities because we are made in God’s image, when with our words God’s Kingdom is breaking into our world, and when God the Father is SO MUCH MORE than just our Father and we can let him out of that box for once and for all, we can read Jesus’ teaching with crinkly eyes wider than the horizons we’ve known.

With Jesus we pray and we align our hearts and minds with his to see what he sees in these words, despite how kooky and countercultural it may have seemed at the time. In my case it meant just asking God to reveal his word for today and then actually trusting that he means what he says when he says Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. Let’s remind each other of this every day, and learn to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen together.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

plantain song

Yesterday I read this article.
And today I saw these little guys all over the place.

I trimmed them down of course, or pulled them out--it's my job to do so. But every time, a small part of me wanted to let the weed stay. nature seeks to regenerate the soil... 

Even weeds, which are 'undesirable' and 'invasive' in most outdoor spaces, are working against the system in order to heal the earth's face. Which we messed up in our insatiable desire to make the earth what we think is a better place. This is somehow a piece of Genesis 3: thorns and thistles will grow and make gardening difficult, hampering our insatiable desire for food. Plaintain will move in where the ground has been rearranged to better suit the empire's needs, because the earth doesn't really want empire to prosper. I love the restorative and redemptive justice of it all. Sneaky. I love how the smallest little thing like this weed has subversion built into its DNA. I wonder if that is also a piece of God's response after the fall. Sorry Adam--you're gonna want to build everything you ever dreamed of and keep it built but this earth turns and returns and will regenerate itself because in its regenerating it is constantly moving in praise. Also watch out for that thistle, it's pretty but it's real sharp--but then, you can use plantain to get the prickles out.

Maybe someone can sponsor me to write a theology of gardening? A theology of weeds?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Haven't blogged in a while. There are actually quite a few drafts piling up on this blog's dashboard which will never see the light of your computer screen, but that is ok. They're tucked away much like these beads are. Easily accessible but we'll just not talk about the creativity and determination necessary for such activities.

The theme of the day, and of the year kind of, has been addressed a few times over today and here is one of its manifestations copied from today's episode of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young: "I am leading you, step by step, through your life. Hold My hand in trusting dependence, letting Me guide you through this day. Your future looks uncertain and feels flimsy--even precarious. That is how it should be. Secret things belong to the Lord, and future things are secret things. When you try to figure out the future, you are grasping at things that are Mine. This, like all forms of worry, is an act of rebellion: doubting My promises to care for you. Whenever you find yourself worrying about the future, repent and return to Me. I will show you the next step forward, and the one after that, and the one after that. Relax and enjoy the journey in My presence, trusting Me to open up the way before you as you go." (and Deut 29:29, and Psalm 32:8...)

As I left the Cannon today I observed that I didn't know where I was going next, and Zak kindly and hilariously pointed out that this could be referring to the next event in my day or to the next years of my life plan.

I think I am just now coming to the realization that since I've never even had a drive to make a 10 year plan, or even a 5 year plan (beyond graduating from university a couple times), maybe I'm actually ok to be focusing more on the 5 month plan or even the 5 day plan.

If how we spend our days is how we spend our lives (Annie Dillard) then I am happy with spending my life open to the next conversation, to the next immediate adventure, to the next coffee. Even to shovelling the next snowstorm. Need to learn how to be thrifty and still plan ahead for things like cooking from scratch and such (appearing grownup and capable), while also open to the next ridiculous unplanned adventure.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

love to know

So I was chatting with someone on Sunday evening and pulling my usual whiny 'I don't know what I wanna be when I grow up' spiel. Suddenly I found myself thinking about the way that my previous post/sermon might change how I phrase this sentence:

I don't know what I wanna be when I grow up

I don't love what I wanna be when I grow up

How does this change things? Does it? I don't know (haha).

I sure would like to know what I want to be when I grow up. Or, who.
But I'm learning (slowly) that love is more effective than know. 

Monday, September 9, 2013


A few weeks ago I was standing in front of my church, preaching. WEIRD.

Here's the sermon. It changed a little bit as I spoke it. But here is the text. And I post it here because I want to remember the things I learned while prepping for this thing, and the things I'm learning as a result. I post it because it's a moraine, condensing a lot of good stuff that needs to trickle into the rest of life, slowly.  (if I remember that geography lesson properly...also the thoughts are slow like glacier speed so the analogy can continue...) And because it's collecting other good stuff as I continue to reflect, and in a week or two---whenever I get around to it again---I'd like to take this space to work through the next layer of thought. Thinking is a slow and painful process right now so yeah.

Anyway, here:

Grains in a Loaf, Stars in a Universe, One in a Million.
Eucharist Preaching Guild Aug 11 2013, Justine Lodder

Invocation: Philippians 2:1-5

I wonder if anyone else here has as much trouble as I do with trying to nail down how to stand out and really be yourself. You’re a firework. Come on, show em what you’re worth. Make them go oh, oh, oh! As you shoot across the sky----that doesn’t rhyme? Annnd, shooting across the sky means you’re standing kind of away from the others (you are a firework—you’re going to burn people if they get too close) but it probably also means you’re about to burn out and crash, doesn’t it?

I had to look up the lyrics to Katy Perry’s song, and there’s actually a lot of good stuff in there! If you’re having a bad day or an identity crisis, sometimes you do feel like a plastic bag drifting in the wind, like all the doors are closed—and these words can encourage for sure. But I think there may be danger in the firework image. If we’re believers, if we are citizens of God’s Kingdom we also have to consider our individual roles as a grain in a loaf, a star in the universe, a brick in the wall, the tiniest dot of sand on the beach among our brothers and sisters. We are individuals, each of us is a separate person, and yet we are not islands----and, come to think of it, if we were islands we would simply be the above-water pieces of one very large, very pimply piece of land which lay just below the surface of the water, so we LOOK like we’re alone but really we’re all cut from the same cloth.

Can you be you without your environment?

With all the talk this summer about identity and value and how you see yourself and how people see you and how God sees you and who you really are... I don’t know how to deal with it all. I really don’t.

Do you know? When someone asks you who you are, to say a few things about yourself, how do you decide on what kind of answers you can or want to give them? (let’s hear?)

… I tend to reply based on who I’m talking to and if I think I can be honest with them or can joke around with them…based on my mood, based on how I’ve been feeling about myself lately, etc…

I’m gonna be straight up with you—I had a really shitty week recently. Tired of life, tired of being a grouch, tired of being tired. And then I set up a profile on, maybe I thought that would help. I had such an interesting time trying to answer ChristianMingle’s personality-testing type questions. It asked me if I’m a trendy person (uuhh define trendy), if I have any money-saving tips I’m dying to share. (on a dating website?), the classic ‘where do I see myself in 5 years’. They’re silly questions, and it feels silly to answer a computer program in hopes that it will help find me a soulmate. (in the immortal words of my little brother: SupesAwks. That is short for: super awkward.)
But really. It also felt silly just because I was beginning to realize—and this is part of the supesawksness—I don’t even know how to answer those questions! I’m 28! How did I get here? How can I be true to myself if I’m not even sure how well I know that self? How can I begin to entertain thoughts of my future, any career options and all that jazz? How can I interact with strangers, with family, with potential employers, with you—we read some of Philippians 2 as an invocation a few minutes ago; how can I follow Paul’s directions there for treating all the other stars in this universe if I am too busy having trouble answering ChristianMingle’s silly little questions about little old me?

We’ve looked this summer already at how we’re fed an image of value and success to which we somehow need to aspire in order to have the right kind of identity in this world (you know, a firework. The identity that identifies with the celebrities, or with the Joneses, or with Supermom across the street, or with the Beamer-driving executive, or with the thriftiest of fashionistas perusing Art Crawl). We work so hard to have it all together, to stay young and relevant, to have the most interesting Facebook profile (or, ChristianMingle profile). We get all caught up and burnt out chasing the things we think should make us happy because other people are happy pursuing those things…and we wear our identity like crowns of jewels and thorns. Or we get all upset about being too tired to locate pieces of our disappointed selves all over the place, too tired or distracted or misled to actually know who we are in a frantic pursuit of happiness and success.

So after some reflection, I think we may need to step back a little bit. Or maybe just I do, and I get to take you with me because I’m currently up here speaking… heh.  I hope I’m not the only one here who really just needs to begin with a definition of identity?

Also, disclaimer: I’ve got nothing specifically Psych related in my education. Art School and Seminary, both of these realms may have brushed shoulders with psych-related questions, but I really don’t feel qualified—or like I have enough brainpower these days—to speak in depth about identity. I’m fascinated by all the intricacies of how our selves are comprised or how we comprise ourselves and how those comprised selves comprise a crowd.

I trust, though, that there really are no coincidences at all involved in Preaching Guild’s having landed here in identity and value for the summer, and my own identity figuring over the past few months. Some of the questions we’ve already aired in this Ordinary Season series have been extraordinarily timely for me personally (probably you too, I bet!), so while thinking about and sitting down to write this sermon has been ridiculously difficult, it’s also been an amazing journey and I’m excited to see what comes of it.

If we were to look up the word identity, we’d find things that say,
1.     The state of having unique characteristics held by no other person or thing,
2.     The individual characteristics by which a person or thing is recognized. Synonyms are things like sameness or oneness.
Identity is a compilation of characteristics specific to one person or thing. Your identity is made up of your personality, which is characterized by things you do or say (and think and feel and assume and …) which probably follow a recognizable pattern and can be grouped with others who have similar characteristics. According to the Spectator, people at Eucharist seem to be all cool and hip and young, so if you’re those things at heart you might identity with this crowd. That makes sense, right? Do I sound a little crazy for thinking about this so much?

So I was actually stuck here for quite a bit.
I’ve been slowly working through a book I’d picked up called Learning to Dream Again—Rediscovering the Heart of God. (maybe getting into this book was the more positive or proactive decision that came out of my shitty week…not that signing up for ChristianMingle isn’t positive or proactive, it’s just maybe I’m more proud of this move) It’s by a theologian and ethicist named Samuel Wells. For a while he was Dean of the Chapel at Duke Divinity College as well as Research Professor of Christian Ethics there. I really appreciate his work because he talks about the interactions between Christians as if they’re a big deal (uh they are) but he takes a pastoral approach, gently leading the reader through Scripture to explain the heavy responsibility involved in all of our interactions with God and with each other.

I had just read a chunk in there about Psalm 139, which when you read it is all about how much God knows the psalmist, David. Like, KNOWS. David can’t get away from him. Every corner of the earth and the sky and all over time.

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely O Lord.” –Guys, I don’t even know half the words that are on my tongue before they’re out! Flip. God KNOWS them COMPLETELY. He KNOWS!

In the Hebrew language, the word used here is Yada, which is ‘to know by experience’, ‘to perceive and see, find out and discern’, in the depth of its meaning it is a more intimate knowledge than just your average ‘ya know’. Like the difference between a candlelit dinner date, and scrolling through a Facebook newsfeed. You can sit on a couch by yourself and be comfortable and not spend time with people but sort of know facts about them via FB, but you can really get to know someone over time spent well in shared adventures. Yada is used a lot over the course of Psalm 139, 5 or 6 times I believe, and every time what God knows so intimately is expounded upon. God is everywhere; we can’t escape his love, and we can’t escape his knowing us.
Wells talks about how the speaker in this psalm discovers the difference between our knowing and God’s knowing—David has gone on and on about how God knows so profoundly and amazingly, and then suddenly in verses 19-22 he does a 180 and starts ranting about how much he hates those who hate (or don’t know!) God. Just as an aside—I did a little research to see if these people really did hate as much as this psalm says. And David’s language is as strong as it sounds. If you’re not for God, then I guess you’re against him. But I don’t think that David is setting an example for us here in terms of what it means to love God in the presence of those who don’t—this is the point where David recognizes how little even he knows his God. He cuts off his rant with anther 180, inviting God to search his heart yet again and to lead him in the way everlasting, to better know and love the Lord.
Wells goes on to say "With us [humans], knowing and loving are separate, and there’s always the fear that if others really knew us, they’d have a power over us that they could use to hurt us, or that they’d see through us and cease to love us, or treat us like enemies (the way David had thought he should be doing). But God’s knowing is different. God’s knowing and loving are indistinguishable. There’s never a moment when God knows but doesn’t love, or loves but doesn’t know. That is the gospel we can hardly begin to imagine. God wholly knows because God wholly loves; and God wholly loves even though God wholly knows."

So I was wrestling with this for a bit, and then on Tuesday this week, I was ridering a place called Kennedy Commons, at the 401 and Kennedy Rd out in Scarborough. You can usually find my crew there on Mondays until about 2:30 or so in the summer...if you wanted to show up with ice cream or something for us…just kidding it’s really far away. And we were there on Tuesday this week because Monday was a holiday and I’d spent it sitting on the Patio at Johnny’s Coffee, reading Samuel Wells!
Anyways. I’m ridering along on a really steep slope, wondering what’s the next step in this sermon, praying about it, seriously I’ve ridered this place a million times so can multitask like this…when I realized! Seriously---such a rush! –that maybe we can draw this knowing vs loving dichotomy thing all the way back to the fall. Walk with me!

In the story of creation back in Genesis, there’s this tree. It’s called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. PS the word for knowledge comes from the root word for know, which we talked about earlier. Someone who knows has knowledge. In the story we read that after he had created them, God told Adam and Eve they could eat from whatever tree they wanted except this one tree. So of course guess what happens—there’s only one rule to break and break it they do. Eve takes the fruit after the devil convinces her that she (and Adam) can be like God, knowing good and evil.
Who has power? God has power. Eve wants to be like God in the power department, and thinks she can get there by eating this particular fruit, so she can know stuff and have power, as if God is being a jerk by keeping knowing stuff and having power away from humans by knowing things we don’t, and like that power is up for grabs. Little is she aware apparently that she and Adam can already be like God because they’re created in his image—are already imaging him, reflecting him in perfect relationship with their fellow human(s) and with God—and with the potential at that point for more perfect relationship. Nothing to do with power, except that God’s love IS his power and they had that too. But instead, Eve wants to be like God with the power that knowledge brings.

So from this perspective there are two ways to be like God—can follow his direction, trust him and love him and be in a relationship with him and get to know him this way, or we can try to gain knowledge and control and power over God. Silly. I think maybe, just as the English understanding of ‘to know’ is nowhere near as deep as the classic Hebrew understanding is, so Adam and Eve’s understanding of knowing captures only pieces of what knowing means for God.

We were made to live in love, in relationship that mimics the perfect One-ness of God who is three persons but is actually so perfectly related in one. But instead of choosing to trust and obey, to be ourselves in relation to God the way God had intended, we choose to know stuff in relation to God, according to what we think knowledge gets us. We’re on a constant quest to know ourselves now. This has been a huge push in the world of psychology, to know and understand Self…and if you feel like you don’t know yourself, you might know a sense of lostness maybe, like you’re drifting around like a plastic bag on the wind. Unidentity crisis.

But what if we’re not even called to KNOW, though!? We’re called, in the ten commandments, to what? (sing it?) LOVE the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Sure we need to know him, but first we need to love him. And we need to love our neighbor as ourselves. Does it matter how much you know of your neighbor before you love? No, you gotta love him. Or her. Does it matter how well you know yourself? No. Well, sure, it’s important to know ourselves (and ya you should maybe know your neighbour’s name or something at least). But knowing who we are is not the most important thing. God didn’t say KNOW the Lord your God with all your heart… or KNOW your neighbor as yourself. Successful people in the world today may have striven to know themselves well, but I’m convinced we are all missing the point and are SO unsuccessful if we do not first understand how to love who we are. In that loving and caring for, you will come to know how to love yourself better, and good old classic Hebrew knowing will follow. Not as a power over, but as a fond familiarity. Your identity is as loved by God and able to love in return.
I dunno, I just found this so incredibly freeing. Such a flipping relief. Knowing who you are is not prerequisite to loving who you are. We need to know and love that he has put us in our particular places, and given us particular roles, and particular neighbours to love as well.

Originally I thought I was going to preach on Philippians 2:15ish, where the phrase ‘shine like stars in the universe’ comes from. I thought I was going to talk about the ethics involved in having a large group of individuals doing life together with common or not-so-common goals, with undivided hearts. (actually those were just the first words that hit me in the face and started this preaching journey for me this summer, and I liked that because I wrote about this sort of thing at the end of my masters with regards to ethics of worship music and crowds and individuals. Also why I was looking up Samuel Wells again.) But I think this conversation still does fit in the field of ethics, because how we understand our identities both individually and corporately—which in this conversation simply means as one large body—also informs how we treat each other. But how we live among each other informs how we understand our identities—both individually and corporately.

The other day at Preaching Guild Steve pointed out something really interesting about the word identity. It comes from the Latin word ‘idem’ which would have been used in counting…so if you’re counting and inventorying groups of distinct, separate items, you’d say idem, idem idem. But the thing is, each individual item is only complete in its place in the larger group, which is only complete when each item is in its place. So even the history of the word identity, which seems so personal, is so deeply related to how we understand the crowd we’re in.

I love how cyclical that is, and it brings us back to an earlier question—can you be you without your environment? Can you be you without your community? Can you be you without the universe you shine in? Can you be you without Jesus?

I can’t help but think about Ichabod at this point. From Alex’s story last week. How much happier with himself would Ichabod have been had he known just how pleased his Father was to give him that name?

And so—this is from Philippians—“whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Then…I (Paul) will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel…    If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, to build up your own identity, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!

In this, he gave up his body as a loaf of bread to be broken for us, that we might be broken with him and united as many grains are in one loaf.  And this wine is his blood, poured out for the salvation of the world.

Therefore God, the Father, exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

So I can invite you to the table! Know that you are loved. Know that we are loved, and because of this, we can share in this meal and can extend the gift of Jesus’ life to each other.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

new chapter: GOHOP

end of august! already.

how did that happen.

i have a lot of half-finished thoughts in my head. thoughts which won't get finished for months at the rate i'm thinking. it's one of the more frustrating things about the landscaping season i'm in. existence is relegated to survival and to grouching about the things which hinder that. not a lot of celebrating because there's not a lot of room for things to celebrate. i'll celebrate when my stupid credit card no longer carries a balance. when i'm sitting down for longer than half an hour, when i can complete a thought and share it and follow it to some interesting conclusions. when this home has art hanging on the walls and overflowing bookshelves and good furniture for sitting and reading. i'll celebrate when i'm no longer focusing on surviving, when i'm able to thrive a little more freely.

that's not good enough for me. i want to celebrate life everyday, because i'm living life everyday. every new day again. i need to celebrate life everyday, because i'm finding celebration is like a muscle. like faith is. gotta work em out, everyday. train them up into strength which can withstand some knocking about or heavy winds of doubt. without that regular workout, of both faith and celebration, i'm a crusty shell of my normal self. go too long and i forget what (who?) fills that shell.

i shared with fellow GOHOP (greater ontario house of prayer) interns earlier this evening that i'm doing this internship because i'm not really sure what else to do. that's all i said. i guess this is more of that unfinished thought from earlier. i super hope and pray that the LORD will take the next ten intensive months with GOHOP and transform every thought into something that celebrates him and the life he has designed. that he would fill up this crusty shell with who he loves me to be.

Friday, June 7, 2013

...and just two weeks later:

somehow i am drawn almost inevitably back into the whirlwind world of grass clippings. juniper burn. picking up other people's trash. permadirt/sandpaper fingers. you know the drill. this afternoon i have been indecisive---SO blessed and thankful to have such a world to land in. one that will catch me in a soft bed of topsoil, hopefully free of rosa ru-gross-a thorns. one that will fill up my bank account and allow me the freedom to share an overflowing budget. and yet i am SO afraid to get sucked into the darkness of the whirlwind. you weren't in the fire, Lord. or the earthquake, or the thunder. you're in the still small voice. and i way too easily let your still small voice get drowned out by the bellowing of my summer-sore feet, and the little bits of thistle stuck under my skin. i too easily let your still small voice get strangled along with my imagination, trampled under marathon hours of trimming route. i'm praying for the wherewithal to stop and sit when i need to. to stop and hear that still small voice, to pay attention when i am really too tired and 5:45am will show up too soon.

just another socktan summer.