Living from the Heart

A sermon preached at Altadena Community Church on August 13, 2017,

Romans 10:5-10
I have to say that it is difficult to breathe today let alone preach. While the KKK is marching openly in the streets. After they attacked a prayer meeting Friday night in Charlottesville, VA.

The text we heard this morning are the right words for today.

I want to tell you three short stories. If like me, you need a break from the headlines

Let these be today’s headlines of Good News.

Last week a chaplain colleague shared a podcast at a meeting of chaplains, social workers, and music therapists. The podcast was called The Hidden Brain, and the episode was called Dream Jobs. This episode, had a researcher was discussing her work looking at how people approached their jobs and job satisfaction. She interviewed people who cleaned hospitals and she found a profound differences between them. Some, when asked what they did, provided the list of duties in their job descriptions.

Then there were others who shared that while they cleaned, they would notice which patients had visitors and which didn’t and when they finished clean they would go back and visit the lonely. One janitor shared about the work she did in a unit where all the patients were comatose.

The staff expected these patients to awake. They provided all the medical interventions for this. In describing her work, on this unit, the janitor shared how she would periodically take down the art in the paitents rooms and rearrange it. No one asked her to do this, She simply felt any change might help the patients The janitors who did a bit extra in the shared one thing in common–they extra bit they did were things most of us would do for a loved one. They behaved like human beings, imagine that today. And these people, rather than describe their role as janitorial, were more likely to describe themselves as part of healing team.

As our group of chaplains, music therapists, and social workers discussed the podcast and the approach the janitors took to their work, one of our leaders, Yelana, coined the term “positive insubordination”. The janitors had gone beyond the written requirements of their jobs and worked for and towards others with their hearts.

The second story I must warn you is more difficult. In downtown San Diego, and elsewhere, the police do sweeps of homeless encampments.In San Diego, there is a group that films these and posts them on FB. While watching one of the videos, I found myself near tears. A homeless person had left the homeless encampment for a bit and was not there at the time of the sweep.

Not only did the police put all of this person’s belongings in the trash  but the homeless individual had left their dog tied up in their tent. So the police called animal control who took the dog to the pound. In the video the dogs appeared well cared for. 

I can not imagine being that homeless person who returns to find their home and their pet gone. Most homeless persons can not afford to retrieve a pet from the pound. To find a home and loved one–perhaps your only companion–gone is nothing short of a disaster. And then I look at the video again. There are human doings this to other human beings. Yes it is the law, that the streets need to be cleaned up, and for good reasons. And yes, laws are on place protect animals from harm. But how might such situations be different if we, as society, empowered law enforcement to be “positively insubordinate”? Empowered them to act from the heart as well as from a strict interpretation of law?

Lastly, I want to tell you the story of a man who delivered produce. He worked for a produce warehouse that delivered all types of produce to high end restaurants and farm to table establishments. In his work, he found fulfillment knowing that what he did keep people fed.

After sometime, he noticed the amount of food waste generated in restaurant kitchens. He also saw the amount of vegetable and dairy waste  generated by the warehouse in which he worked. Now those of you have worked in food production, or even the food pantry, will know there are laws about giving food away. But as this man drove around town he also passed the homeless.

Soon this man quietly began to take action at work; he was “positively insubordinate”. If he saw leftover bread bagged for the trash or give aways in a kitchen e would offer to take it away for the kitchen. He would pick up a bag of baguettes, day old–but edible and often such bread would find a homeless person before the end of the of the driver’s route.

His warehouse, would often discard dairy days before its sell by date because no kitchen wanted to buy it with so little time to use it. The driver was able to take these discards and distribute them to people who were hungry… all unofficially. The warehouse also prepared various vegetables to be use by kitchens. One day this driver frantically called his wife; it seemed 150 pounds of peeled carrots were going to be trashed as they were a few days old.  Would she please call local agencies to find someone to take them. He dropped the carrots off on the way to one of his paid deliveries. Eventually, the warehouse started diverting some its waste to Feeding America. But before the institutional shift could be made the delivery driver had a choice to make he could follow the laws strictly, protect his job and not become involved with what he saw or he could live from his heart and respond creatively to issues that stared him in the face.

So those are my stories today.

And what about our text for this morning?

I tell you these stories because they are in many ways illustrations of what the apostle Paul was writing about.

Paul was teaching the people of his time how to follow Christ….

Paul’s time was one in which people believed  that following the law exactly would lead to salvation. Paul’s task was to teach Jews and Gentiles alike  that following the law alone was not what God required. The good news according to Paul, was that the teachings of Jesus were to be lived out in daily life and that these teachings superseded the older law.  

Paul was trying to convey that the role of Christians was to exceed the law and that the heart would need to be involved in their decisions of daily living.

At its heart, the text from Paul we heard today is a call to ethics. How do we go about in the world? Are we bringing God’s love and mercy into the world for all people, or are we shutting it out and pitting people against one another with walls and tiki torches?

In verse eight of our text for today Paul rhetorically asks those who would follow Christ, saying

“The word is near you, / on your lips and in your heart”

This is the essence of the law  that followers of Christ are to live each day. It is a reminder that not only what we say but what we do shows the world what we believe. And how we live our faith teaches the world about God.

As followers of Christ, what are we teaching about God? Do we even know when the Holy Spirit may be calling us to be “positively insubordinate?”

For early the church, proclaiming that “Jesus is Lord” as this text says was not only about about personal salvation it was a pre-creedal idea that required the one who proclaimed it to first live it.

How are we, as followers of Christ, teaching our faith to the world?

This is very much a text for this day–August 13, 2017.

It calls us to ask and to answer. How we as Christians, and as members of Altadena Community Church, live out our faith…in the face of neo-fascist white supremacists hate? And while standing closer to the brink of nuclear war than we have been in decades?

How do we share our values with the world?

Church, listen to Paul; and then go forth to preach.

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Crazysauce

Another Wonderful post from Rev. Dr Sarah Lund! Gee, I wonder whom that friends she was talking with was…sources who know say it was another Woman Who Speaks In Church!

Sarah Griffith Lund

I’m listening to the audio book of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and I’m in love with the voice of Hazel, the 16 year old cancer patient. Driving down Florida’s turnpike in the torrential rain, hazard lights flashing, white knuckles gripping, I hear Hazel describing what it feels like to be young and dying and in love.

Hazel says things like awesomesauce, which according to the urban dictionary means “more awesome than awesome.” As in “that home churned Georgia peach ice cream is awesomesauce!”

Does adding the word “sauce” at the end magnify a word’s meaning?

Like annoyingsauce or stupidsauce?

When things get really crazy, are they crazysauce?

What about all the school shootings that have happened like rapid fire in the past weeks?

Is that because of some people with guns who are crazysauce?

Is it primarily mental illness that causes an otherwise normal person to violently…

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Lent Six: In the Crowd

Reflection on Matthew 21.

This year as I hear the Palm Sunday texts, I find myself wondering about the people who were there welcoming Jesus. Who were they and what were they thinking? There were likely a variety of people there as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. Many had gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. The city was full.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem, as the people prepared for the major religious festival of the year, it has been said that something else was going on as well. The Roman Governor was entering the city from the other gate (Rev. Jerry Lawritson, New Testament Scholar/preacher). If this is so, it tells us a lot about the people who laid palms at Jesus’ feet and sang Hosannas.  The people who celebrated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem were the people of little to no social standing, who would not be missed at an official welcome of the governor.

I wonder who the people who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with palm and song thought Jesus was. Did they think he was the Messiah come to meet the Roman occupier/governor? Did they think him a spiritual leader come to the temple for the holy days? It hardly matters for whichever of these the people believed,  the end result is that they recognized that a change had come, the world was about to shift. And they were brave enough to proclaim it.

The people who welcomed Jesus were a people who hoped. Who believed that occupation and oppression could not last forever and were brave enough to say so. They were people who believed that God would respond even to those whom the world did not respond to.

This holy week I think of the people who may not always be missed at the major social functions. I think of the people who live on hope. I think of the people who risk all they have to proclaim that another way is possible. I marvel at their faith.

 

 

Advent 2013, Day 1: GO

So #rethinkchurch is doing a pictorial Advent calendar…ok I’ll play along, as the Spirit moves.

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This photo is one I took on the Ecumenical Pilgrimage for Peace that was a part of the World Council of Churches General Assembly in Busan, South Korea last month; this was departing the train, in the rain, in Seoul for the busses and the next leg of the journey.

If you are like me perhaps you get wistful each time you start off on a trip. I usually do have some trepidation before leaving no matter how excited I am. The Peace Pilgrimage was no different. All I knew was what time I was being picked up at my hotel, that I would be traveling by bullet train to Seoul, South Korea and then towards the border with North Korea, and that I would not return till the following day. Talk about not having alot of information…. I along with 1499 other pilgrims got on the bus to the train. We did not know if we were headed for the DMZ or the Peace Park until we got our train tickets. We had no idea where we were staying the night until after our day’s travel and immersion visit, and dinner, and an amazing cultural show. My word for that day was “vulnerable”; as I did not know if I was staying with a group or going to a host home by myself (a woman traveling alone in a country where she did not speak the language) until it was time to depart for where I would stay the night. It was an amazing day, all worked out well, all were safe and cared for even by strangers in a land where we may not have spoken the language. It was an amazing experience and our hosts had it planned in detail before we arrived, but I did not know that at first and I only discovered that because I overcame my fears and simply went to meet my bus at the appointed time.

It is not always comfortable when God calls us. We do not always know where we are going. Sometimes we may even wonder if God is speaking out native language or showing us in ways we would expect to understand. But God does call, and has called people throughout history, to simply “go” and the funny thing is amazing and unexpected things happen when people let go of their comforts and simply go when God calls them to do so. And the call may not always be implicit, it may be an unfolding of events, we may not understand it at the time. So this Advent what is it that you would rather do than what God is calling you to do? What would it take for you to let go and go forth? …It may be just be incredible beyond your wildest imaginings, of course you won’t known unless you go. Don’t worry God is already there.

Reflection

reflection…. the biggest lesson I learned from photography is that when we see something we are not seeing the thing but the light being reflected off of it… So that when i perceive you i am seeing what you reflect…. or anything reflects… so the moon is a reflection.. this flower is a reflection.. it is all in the light between us and what is before us… so i squint a lot to try to see the real you or the real flower or the real water fall. Or the real new-born baby, or the real prisoner, or the real immigrant, or the real spider… or even the real me… What are you reflecting tonight? My goal… to reflect God in ever moment. I suppose this is getting easier with age, and wounds and experience and joys.. My evening reflection. just glad that there is light in the morning and a candle at night.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~From Michelle Mellot, M.Div. and Youth Pastor at the Church of the Beatitudes, UCC