July 29, 2018

Posted by on Aug 7, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 10  July 29, 2018   (Psalm 145, 1 Samuel 7:18-29, Ephesians 3:14-21) John 6:1-15          Loaves and fishes ************************************************************* Jesus and his disciples head out of town, out into the countryside, trying to get away from the ever-present crowds for awhile. But the crowds see them going and follow. Because, we’re told, they’ve seen the signs Jesus does for the sick. Signs is the word John the gospel writer uses, always, instead of saying miracle or miraculous. And using sign as the word-of-choice is a sign – as a sign points us to something bigger than itself. So in one sense, almost everything Jesus does or says is a sign – pointing to God’s purpose – pointing to what God is doing – pointing to God’s love at work… Even Jesus asking Philip – a home-boy from the nearby town of Bethsaida – “so where can we go to buy food around here for all these people?” – is a sign of sorts – a sign Jesus has a sense of humor – as he knows full well five thousand people, minimum, are coming for dinner… (In Matthew, Mark and Luke’s versions of this story, we’re told it’s 5000 men, with Matthew adding ‘plus women and children.’) In other words, we are expecting quite a bit more company than any restaurant around here (here on this planet) is going to be able to serve… on short order… But we’re also told – Jesus is testing Philip. Jesus already knows what he’s going to do. But he’s testing to see if Philip (or any of the disciples) has been paying attention – noticing what Jesus has already done – and connecting the dots… (They haven’t connected much yet, as it turns out. But – ) Maybe we need a brief station identification break, here, just to note that following our ecumenical lectionary, we have just moved today out from Mark’s gospel, where we’ve been camping all year up to now, over into the gospel of John, chapter six. Here we are, on a mountain, away from the towns and villages. The time is almost Passover – Israel’s high holy day celebration of liberation from slavery. So with Jesus and disciples on a mountain, we’re remembering Moses on the mountain – remembering Israel’s sacred tradition of celebrating freedom from slavery every year with the eating of unleavened bread – remembering also God feeding our ancestors with manna, the bread of heaven, given free-of-charge, every morning for forty years, by God in the wilderness exodus. Now we’re back in Galilee after several trips to Jerusalem. We’ve already seen Jesus work three major signs – turning water into wine, doing a long-distance healing, and getting a lame man on his feet and walking. Now we’re into sign four of the seven major signs described in John. (John tells us elsewhere Jesus did many other signs besides these – but seven is the biblical number of completion, as in the seven days of creation – so the seven signs narrated are a sketch of the wider, deeper, broader spectrum of signs that Jesus does…) But before we go deeper with the details, let’s ponder today’s sign on the most basic level: We all need to eat. And Jesus feeds us all… *** And all is...

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July 22, 2018

Posted by on Jul 27, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 9   July 22, 2018 Ephesians 2:17-22, 2 Samuel 7:1-17 *********************************************************** King David decides to build a house for God. David doesn’t exactly spell out his plans – all he says to his pastor, Nathan the prophet, is “Here I am living in a house of cedar – while the ark of God stays in a tent.” Nathan knows exactly where David’s going – and says “Go, do all you have in mind – God is with you.” Perhaps King David is feeling discomforting twinges of conscience about living in a palace while God lives in a tent out at the Camp Ground. Or –  maybe it has just taken a while to get to a place where David can rest a little from all the battles he’s been waging… And actually have both the time and the means to undertake the major building project he has in mind… David’s been kept busy a long time… defeating neighbor nations in a long series of wars and battles. Along the way, he’s conquered Jerusalem, a city built on hills, surrounded by high walls, said to be impossible to defeat. But David has conquered – and now begun a radical make-over, turning Jerusalem into his new capital city, the city of David. David’s only recently been installed as king over the nation, which had been divided between it’s Southern and Northern provinces. Now the neighboring king of Tyre has built David a splendid palace of cedar, the finest construction material of the day, in hopes of maintaining good relations. A wise move, in light of David’s remarkable successes in battle. Now David hopes to escalate the make-over of Jerusalem – as last week we heard loud celebration with singing, dancing and feasting, as David brings the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem. (The same ark that loaned it’s name to Raiders of the Lost Ark – where archeologist Harrison Ford knows enough about the power of the ark to look away, while Nazis, who don’t know, go up in smoke trying to open it.) And by bringing the ark of the covenant, which holds the tablets of the Law of Moses and other holy artifacts from Israel’s past into Jerusalem – David also relocates Israel’s central place of worship from Shiloh to Jerusalem. *** When we first met David he was just a small town shepherd boy. But God called him to be shepherd king for Israel. He’s slain the legendary Philistine warrior Goliath, and become Israel’s best known military hero. He’s led armies against the Philistines winning battle after battle. People say “Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed his ten thousands.” Which makes King Saul, David’s father-in-law, homicidally jealous. David flees into the wilderness, where for years he leads a ragtag band of guerilla fighters… Till King Saul and his son Jonathan die in battle and David is named king. With backing now from all the elders of Israel, David decides its time to build God a temple. David knows Israel’s mode of worship looks pretty humble compared with the temples of our neighbors. Israel’s corporate worship has been focused wherever the tent and tabernacle from the time of Exodus reside. Lately that’s been Shiloh to the North, but up to now the ark of God has...

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Pentecost 8 July 15, 2018

Posted by on Jul 19, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 8 July 15, 2018 (Ps 24, 1Samuel 6:1-5, Ephesians 3:1-14) Mark 6:1-13 ************************************************************** Jesus sends us out two-by-two taking nothing for the journey… Taking me way back to youthful days when I hitchhiked almost everywhere. I didn’t know Jesus yet – but I came pretty close sometimes to taking Jesus literally. Hitch-hiking up to the motorcycle races in Laconia, New Hampshire… or down to the Outer Cape leaving from metro-Boston – taking no bag, no extra clothes, and very little money (a dollar at two at most, at times…) Thumbing a ride to wherever and back. Singing along with marvelous Marvin Gaye – (Going to St Louis, and my next stop might be LA)… Got no money in my pocket, so I’m gonna have to hitchhike all the way… Those hitchhiking trips (though I had no idea of this at the time) were probably as close as I’ve come to traveling light according to Jesus literally. Meaning not very close – since – even back  in those youthful days – if I knew I was going to be gone more than two days – I’d pack a sleeping bag and extra clothes – and on my longest hitch-hiking trip, a few months out of high school, my friend John and I hitchhiked across country – California back to Massachusetts –  we were packing a duffel bag, suitcases, even a portable record player and a couple dozen record albums…In other words, my traveling light phase did not last very long… or go very deep… Though while it lasted, even with all that extra baggage, I did begin to learn something Jesus teaches today (that is): we really can depend on others for our needs – once we learn how to ask. All the way across country, total strangers not only stopped and gave us rides (even with our huge loads of excess baggage) – they also bought us meals and offered to put us up overnight in their homes. We must have looked so needy and comical, toting all that gear, that people would slow down, look and laugh… end up stopping to help…. It’s been a long time since I’ve hitchhiked anywhere. Now our family drives most of the time and we take a plane when we go across country. So it’s like entering a time warp to hear Jesus say – take nothing for the journey – no bag, no purse, no extra clothes, no change of shoes. I’m sure hygiene must still count – my wife assures me of this – though I can’t help pointing out to her that I don’t actually hear Jesus say to bring soap or even a toothbrush.  (And I don’t need Jesus to remind me – I don’t need a comb any more.) But getting the drift of what Jesus does say – I’m not going to even ask about bringing a fishing rod… Though probably I should be asking Jesus often – who should I be walking with today? Since he does make a point of sending us out in pairs – two by two, together. Which often does make it easier to make the good news of Jesus come alive. As Ecclesiastes (4:9-10) says “Two are better than one… For if they fall, one will lift up the...

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July 8, 2018

Posted by on Jul 10, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 7 July 8, 2018  2 Corinthians 12:2-10, Mark 5:21-43 Wounded healers ******************************************************* Last week Jesus and disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee, where soon as they hit land on the Gentile side of the lake, a man possessed by demons came rushing to Jesus and fell down before him, begging. (A story we don’t have time to re-tell, except to remember we heard that story as a parable about personal and community addiction.) Now we’ve crossed the Sea of Galilee again. We’re back on the Jewish side of the lake in Jesus’ home territory – and now a leader of the local synagogue falls at the feet of Jesus, begging for healing for his young daughter who is dying. The gospel tells the stories back-to-back to give us a view of Jesus healing a Gentile on one side of the lake, Jews on the other. And the closer we look the more we realize it’s all one story of the whole world’s universal need for Jesus… As Jesus goes walking with Jairus the synagogue leader to his house to heal his daughter, with a large crowd walking with them… And a woman who’s been suffering from bleeding for twelve years that doctors can’t heal, who, like Jairus, has heard Jesus heals – reaches out in the crowd to touch him. Jewish Torah law prohibits anyone with a bodily discharge not only from touching others, but even from being among others in public. But as she ignores the letter of the Levitical law and touches Jesus’ garment, immediately she is healed. Even though she’s cutting-in-line to be healed – even though she’s interrupting Jesus on his way to heal a dying child of a religious leader – she is healed. Knowing she’s breaking the religious code, this woman probably has been hoping to be healed anonymously by being in the crowd. But Jesus, immediately feeling power go out from him – stops in his tracks – asks “who touched me?” She falls at his feet, describes her ailment, confesses in fear and trembling what she’s done; perhaps expecting rebuke for breaking the law. But instead, Jesus blesses her for her faith – and pronounces her cleansed of ritual impurity – thus able to re-enter village life. Blessed to be healed. Blessed to be welcomed back into community. Doubly blessed. Which must seem like a wondrous dream-come-true for her… But which likely seems more like a nightmare for poor Jairus, the synagogue leader. Who’s been left watching, waiting, wondering… how long this interruption must go on…  before Jesus gets done talking with this woman who has cut in line before him… How long? Before Jesus comes back… to healing my dying daughter… But too late – (sounds like) – as the word comes “Your daughter has died… Why bother the teacher any longer?” Still Jesus keeps walking – insisting the girl is not dead, only sleeping. Sleep, a metaphor for death everyone knows – but Jesus turns the metaphor inside out – as he treats her death as if it’s just a nap. He sends everyone away except the girl’s parents and three disciples – takes her by the hand – says “Little girl, get up!”  And she does.  And we see – Two women, two healings – so tightly...

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July 1, 2018

Posted by on Jul 5, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 6   July 1, 2018   Mark 5:1-20     Legion *************************************************************** Jesus drives unclean spirits out of a man so heavily infested that he’s been banished by the community – sent off to live alone in a grave yard. They’ve tried binding him with shackles and chains of iron – implicitly to keep him away from them – and to keep him from injuring himself or others. But he tears shackles apart and breaks his chains. Nothing they attempt works to hold or restrain him, as he howls and bruises himself with stones. The demonic forces that have taken over his life have that much power over him… Which sounds like stories we hear of people and communities struggling with addiction. Much of the stigma of addiction, thankfully, is beginning to lift. But there’s still enough shame and complications that come with addiction – that people suffering from it are often still sent away to jails or out-of-sight rehab centers – where all the conventional shackles and bars intended to restrain addictive behaviors and heal addictions – so often fail to be effective. Stepping out of the boat, here comes Jesus. The demons immediately recognize him, and know their existence is threatened. They tell Jesus “we are legion” – and beg to be allowed to go into the herd of swine grazing on the nearby hillside. Jesus agrees. Two thousand pigs rush down the hillside into the sea and drown… Probably the most dramatic exorcism of demons in the bible. An episode that challenges us to consider – what is demonic. **** Last week we traveled with Jesus and disciples by boat across the Sea of Galilee,  where we were caught up with them in a raging storm at night – till Jesus commands wind and sea – using the same words of rebuke he uses to cast out demons. And wind and sea obey. Now as soon as we hit land on the Gentile (non-Jewish) side of the lake – here comes a wild man afflicted with demons – rushing straight toward Jesus – and in a blur of contrasting imagery, he falls at Jesus feet, in obedience – while shouting, hollering, begging at the same time Jesus not to banish his demons from the land… The man speaks in what’s left of his own voice, one moment – then speaks in the plural voice of demons – who are, as they say, legion – meaning many. Notice – Legion also means a Roman military force of 6000 men – and we are in Roman-occupied-territory. The Roman Empire ruled Palestine and all the Mediterranean world around…. And the double metaphor of personal and political demons is no accident. As Jesus gives his word of command, and demonic forces leave the man with a shriek – and enter into the herd of pigs – who run into the sea and drown and are no more. (Early Late Show dark humor for Jewish disciples of Jesus, forbidden to eat ritually unclean pork. Not so funny for those who raise pigs for a living.) The swineherds run and tell what’s happened. A large crowd gathers to gawk at the infamous demoniac – now properly clothed and restored to his right mind – looking like an all-new-person, reclaimed from the tombs of darkness. Alleluia!...

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June 24, 2108

Posted by on Jun 26, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 5   June 24, 2108 Psalm 9, 1 Samuel 16:14-23, 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:2, Mark 4:35-41      Stormy weather ************************************************************** There’s a strangely dreamlike quality in our readings… As we see King Saul – who never asked to be king – and who actually tries to run and hide and not be king – but now, soon as he’s made king (in God’s response to the people’s demanding a king) – he starts acting like the king God warned us about. Here’s once upon a time humble King Saul acting like a character straight out of Shakespeare – King Lear or Macbeth – with royal dark stormy moods. His advisors counsel him to search and find yourself a good musician. Music has charms to soothe the savage beast… (It can work pretty well also for kings – and for me too…) And since the hand of God is directing our story – the young musician hired to play for Saul turns out to be none other than David – the shepherd lad we saw anointed to be future king last week (in a semi-private ceremony conducted by Samuel the prophet). Now David’s hired on to serve as chief musical therapist and one-man-band in the royal household – strumming guitar, singing his first early psalms. Calming raging storms in the troubled soul of King Saul… ***** Storms in the bible not accidental… For the most part they come from God. In the beginning of creation, in the bible’s first chapter, darkness is over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God (also translated as the Wind of God) is hovering over the waters, calming and transforming primal chaos… (In the folk-lore of the ancient Mid-east the world begins in storms, with wild winds and raging seas of chaos subdued only in prolonged stormy battle by the gods of nature. The bible subtly comments on neighbor’s mythologies – allowing perhaps the world emerges in storms of wind and water – while setting the record straight – as to there being just the One God Almighty – who creates all things…) And now in today’s scene from the drama of new creation in Christ, we see Jesus and disciples out on the sea of Galilee in a small boat in the dark of night – when a violent storm strikes suddenly – and immediately the boat is taking on water, threatening to sink. Terrified disciples wake Jesus – who has been napping calmly in the stern. Jesus  awakes – rebukes the wind and commands the waves – saying, literally Be quiet! Shut up! (Our NRSV translation makes the command sound more polite than it is.) The sea is suddenly completely calm. And Jesus – whether in the same tone of voice – or perhaps more gently – depending (perhaps again) on how we’re hearing him –  rebukes disciples, saying – “Why are you still afraid? Haven’t you got any faith yet?” Now the disciples’ terror as the boat is about to sink gives way to a different kind of fear and awe… As disciples see the power of God at work in Jesus… And begin… Just begin… to consider… the possibilities… Asking – “Who is this? Who commands wind and sea – and they obey?” *** The disciples have seen Jesus casting...

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June 3, 2018

Posted by on Jun 5, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 2  June 3, 2018 (Mark 2:23-3:6, 2 Corinthians 4:5-10) Psalm 139:1-18 ***************************************************************** Perhaps it was seeing so many rabbits, Friday evening, as I walked the bike path in West Falmouth that got me thinking of the children’s book, The Runaway Bunny. There was a time when I could tell the whole story from memory – we read it so many times when Rohi was younger. Yesterday she and I had to search hard to find our copy, buried down deep on a book-shelf full of old Rohi books. I’m glad we kept looking till we found it – because Runaway Bunny turns out to be a profound young person’s parable version of our Psalm 139… A young bunny tells his mother he’s going to run away – and his mother replies “If you run away I will run after you. For you are my little bunny.” “If you run after me I will become a fish in a stream and swim away,” the bunny says. “Then I’ll be a fisherman, and fish for you,” his mother says. “Then I’ll be a bird, and fly away…” “Then I’ll be the tree that you come to rest in.” The dialogue continues, back-and-forth like this, through many more run-away threats and maternal responses. And Runaway Bunny turns out to be a fine all-ages commentary on Psalm 139 – As the psalmist, like a little rabbit, speaks to God, saying – Lord, you have searched me and known me… You know my every thought… My every breath… From before my birth till after death… You’re with me in the darkest night… With me in the morning light… You formed me in my mother’s womb – You’ll raise me up out of the tomb… You’re with me in the raging storm… You’re with me in the spring-time-warm… And the implied runaway theme – comes on stage, as we say with the psalmist – Lord, where can I go – that you are not already there? If I grow wings like an angel and fly up to the farthest heavens – you are there… If I dive down to the deepest depths of the ocean, and swim with the bottom fish – you are there… Even if I go down to Sheol – the Hebrew word for the first-stop-after-death – where other scriptures imply God won’t go – still our psalm assures us –  even if I go down to Sheol you are there… There’s nowhere in heaven or earth – in the afterlife – or anywhere – I can ever go – where You, Lord are not there, already, before me…. God’s gracious promise of God’s gracious presence. So why is it sometimes hard for me to hear this… as good news? Well, maybe it’s partly because I’m not spending enough time with the psalms… The psalms can be scary. Some psalms can still shake me up, no matter how often I’ve read them. The psalms can hot-wire us into virtually every emotion – which can be unsettling – when psalms speak of suffering – loss – lament – then jump into wondrous recollection of our best of times with family, friends, community rejoicing together… Then a psalm or two later – jealousy – anger – dismay –  remembrance of some our worst...

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May 27, 2018

Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost 1  May 27, 2018    Psalm 29, Isaiah 61:1-4, Acts 2:14a, 22-28, 36-47 Pentecost, continued… *************************************************************** Disciples of Jesus are all together in one place on the day of Pentecost as the Holy Spirit fills the room, and all speak languages they didn’t know they knew – as we pick up where we left off last week in the book of Acts – our earliest account of the growth and spread of the faith – as we go from 120 disciples huddled together in an upper room – into a movement spreading to the far ends of the earth in what feels like just a few minutes… (though several decades actually pass by the time Acts ends… as if in the middle of a sentence…To be continued…) Now, still on the day of Pentecost where we left off, the apostle Peter continues the teaching sermon we began last week… And the same Spirit that entered the room as a roaring-rushing-wind blows and breathes now through Peter – who, like a jazz musician takes the old melody of Psalm 16 and weaves it into a new song of Jesus, whose death and resurrection fulfills the psalm and all the scriptures of Israel – fulfilling especially the biblical year of Jubilee, in which all debts are forgiven, all slaves released, workers and the land alike get rest, and all creation gets a new start in the Jubilee, which, fulfilled now in Christ, is no longer time-bound, but for all who come to Jesus, anytime – as Peter with the Spirit’s guidance, preaches Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah of Israel to the city that executed Jesus just 50 days ago. The first appearance of the Spirit here in Acts is equal parts awesome – scary – mysterious – and – wow… As Peter, who famously denied three times in one night that he even knew Jesus, now not only proclaims Jesus boldly, but also lays responsibility for his death at the feet of all the Jerusalemites gathered around him. (Talk about born-again holy chutzpah.) Preaching an indictment that could get him killed on the spot – but under the Spirit’s power, with the Spirit’s influence, his preaching instead brings thousands into the arms of Jesus. When we paused last week, Peter was quoting the prophet Joel, ending with the phrase –  “then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved…” Now Peter sketches how to get there, saying – “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins” – then –  “you will receive the Holy Spirit” – then ‘salvation and new life in Christ is for you and your children – and for all whom God is calling.’ (Jesus says ‘when I’m lifted up I will draw all people to myself’ in John’s gospel, and the letter to the Romans tells us ‘God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that God may show mercy to all.’ God’s all means all. God calls all of us everywhere without exception to Jesus and salvation…) *** Some members of the global church celebrate today formally as Trinity Sunday. We too are  celebrating the Blessed Trinity… just a little less formally. Noticing God in three persons, blessed Trinity is still a...

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Pentecost Sunday May 20, 2018

Posted by on May 25, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Pentecost Sunday May 20, 2018 (Psalm 104, Acts 1:12-15a, Romans 8:22-27) Acts 2:1-21   A conversation on Pentecost themes – Dottie Cotter, Susan Goux, Ann Marie Seitzinger, Tim Atwater ******************************************************** On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit goes into over-drive – manifesting as a rushing violently-stormy-wind – and as flaming-tongues-of-fire dancing on gathered disciples – who catch fire with the Spirit, and speak in foreign languages they didn’t know they knew, praising God – and people from all over understand what they’re saying in their own native languages. Many come to listen, drawn by the Spirit to learn what God’s doing… Others are skeptical, suggesting believers have been drinking…. Yesterday I watched a video of Presiding Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry passionately preaching biblical love at the royal wedding. Quoting Rev Martin Luther King Jr who said – when we learn to love as God loves this will be like mankind discovering fire again – as if for the first time. The royal bride and groom (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) wiped joy tears from their eyes. In spite of the formal setting, many seemed to be feeling the Spirit. Some, however, appeared bored or cynical, like those in Jerusalem who accused disciples of being drunk… But the Spirit gets the last word… as… By the end of the day of Pentecost three thousand have come to Jesus, baptized, giving lives now to serving Jesus as disciples… That first Pentecost is a tough act to follow. We have very few reports of the Spirit appearing as fire and stormy wind, and very few examples of the Spirit gifting people to speak in foreign languages in all the years since… But Holy Spirit-led communication across all kinds of cultural and linguistic barriers has continued… Usually in quieter, less obvious ways… but… Anytime we live together in love and harmony this is perhaps still certifiably miraculous. And yes, the first Pentecost is still a tough act to follow… Yet ever since – all of us who believe in Jesus have the Holy Spirit living in us, Scripture tells us. So as we look back at our Pentecost family pictures, let’s remember – as our Thought for the Week says – “When it is a question of God’s almighty power, never say, ‘I can’t.’” This morning we’re blessed to have three of our Certified Lay Servants – members who have taken at least two two-day Methodist Lay Leadership classes – speaking with us on themes arising from our Pentecost readings and traditions. Thank you very much – Susan Goux, Anne Marie Seitzinger, Dottie Cotter. And thanks God, I get to be here with you, in a helping role. Let’s welcome Susan as our first speaker. **** [concluding–] All the spiritual gifts are given through the one Holy Spirit… Under the Spirit’s guidance all the spiritual gifts work together in harmony… And the greatest – and by far most necessary – of all the gifts – is love… Whenever we love God– neighbor – and one another – the Holy Spirit is living in us and working with us…(So…) Like the early church of old – may we do as Jesus says – and continue to gather together – waiting – prayerfully, expectantly – for the Spirit’s leading… Ready to be amazed and blessed...

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May 13, 2018

Posted by on May 15, 2018 in Sermons | 0 comments

Ascension Sunday   May 13, 2018   Psalm 47, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53, Acts 1:1-11 ***************************************************************** Talk about a group facing rather long odds for survival, as it’s founding leader departs… That would be the early Christian church, according to any conventional wisdom. Our leader has been crucified and buried. We remember his teaching and deeds of power. We believe he’s risen from the dead. But we’ve watched, now, as Jesus has risen into the heavens. And we’re left without the only one who held us all together. Who could ever even possibly take over leadership after Jesus? Can we imagine anyone so impossible to follow? Can we imagine anyone other than Jesus  able to lead the movement that he began? Yes, the apostles have trained under Jesus. But their following… and witnessing for Jesus hasn’t been exactly stellar. And after three years of Jesus demonstrating God’s power at work… Still our committed core group totals only about 120 members. (We all still fit into one room together at the same time.) Without Jesus leading, what chance do we have to survive? (If faith was a horse race we’d be a thousand-to-one longshot…) Except – Jesus has been reminding us all along – he’s the fulfillment of the law and prophets of Israel. So we’re reminded of Elijah who ascended into the heavens in a chariot of fire, leaving Elisha to continue his ministry. We’re reminded of Moses, parting the Red Sea waters, leading Israel out from slavery… Moses, who dies, yet in traditional rabbinic commentaries is lifted up by God into heaven.  Through the ages God’s people have always had to maintain subversive memories of God over-riding the conventional wisdom. The early church remembers Jesus, and in remembering, believes – the Ascension of Jesus into the heavenly realms is all part of God’s plan. As, in the closing words of Luke’s gospel – Jesus lifts his hands and blesses disciples as he’s lifted up into heaven. And disciples who fled in fear as Jesus went up to the cross now worship him, as he’s lifted up into the heavenly realms… as volume one of St Luke’s gospel concludes… And now in Acts, St Luke’s volume two – we have the ascension story again, now from a different angle, as Luke tells us that his first book was about everything Jesus began to do and teach till he was taken up into heaven. (Where  Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, Ephesians tells us… and…) Jesus says it’s not for us to know God’s times and seasons… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit is sent upon you… Wait, here in Jerusalem, for the Spirit… And Jesus is lifted up in a cloud and a pair of angels appears asking “why are you looking up into heaven? Jesus who you have seen ascending will come again the same way you saw him leaving…’ Meaning… Clouded in mystery… *** Leaving us who’ve been left behind to ponder the second generation leadership model of the New Testament… Which, perhaps no surprise, is not exactly what they teach in Business School – or Church Administration class (though I think I somehow missed that class). No national talent search is conducted for qualified candidates to be next CEO of the church....

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