Saturday, April 30, 2011


This has long been a favorite hymn of mine.

Of course I'm sure you all heard it played at the Royal Wedding live on Friday because you woke up at 4am to watch it (didn't you? it wasn't Just me). I woke up my kids and made them be quiet and watch it too. But I'm an Anglophile, unapologetically.

Anyway, I want it sung at my funeral along with this

and this

and this

and Of Course this

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Conversations of the Day

Matt: Its sad that tomorrow all the flood coverage on the news is going to go away.

Me: What's more important?! There will be another flood before you know it. But Prince William is only going to get married once! Well, maybe twice. Certainly not three times.

Elphine: I'm going to get married and have ten children and live next door to Nonni so that she can take care of them.

Gladys: I got married before but now I'm going to eat my chocolate.

Alouicious: I'm going to live next door to Mimi and travel and stuff. Do you think she and Nonni will live that long?

Elphine: People die all the time.

Alouicious: I know! There's tons of dead people around here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sermon from the Vigil

I preached at the Easter Vigil as I usually do. Well, 'preach' is kind of stretching it. I meandered around in a reflective sort of way. What was that term? A Preach Moment, maybe, even Homily is kind of generous. A sermonette for a Christianette. Anyway, here it is. Today we are going to try and have a proper celebration of Easter at home. Totally discouraged myself by Saturday reading blogs of what other people were planning to do. In the past we've tried to come home from a church and cook lamb and bake a pie or whatever. But reality, six kids later, has finally set in. We just can't go the distance of Holy Week and Easter and then come home and do anything else but sit around in a stupor. Maybe when the kids are older and can help cook. But maybe not. This year Elphine and Alouicious each took a turn to carry the incense boat, and Good Friday turned out to be a family affair--Matt led the stations, I carried the cross and they both carried candles. I have long looked forward to this moment when they can be up on the altar (and want to). They then volunteered for the funeral yesterday and ended up being paid modestly for their trouble. Really puts the 'fun' back in a funeral to be paid, AND there's always lunch afterwards. Yesterday's desert table was positively groaning.

Preach Moment for the Great vigil of Easter
The night before my grandmother died I had an interesting and troubling dream. I don't generally put much stock in dreams. I certainly have never had a prophetic dream—where I dreamed something and then it happened. But a few times in my life I've had a richly vivid dream that colored and shaped not only the light of day I woke up to, but many days and times after it. This dream was one of those kind. I was living in Oregon at the time and in the dream I was driving along the rocky and seemingly precarious curves of the agonizingly gorgeous gray rainy coastline. I was in a convertible car and I had a basket with me with, among other things, my mother's Bible. Of course, in the dream, the car silently and slowly swung itself off the road into the ocean which turned out not to be gray and choppy but to be clear and blue, like I was suddenly in the Caribbean. I floated along under the waves, looking up at the sunlight and sky and then realized with horror that everything was falling out of my basket! My Bible was floating along in front of me, and my keys and an apple and several other items. I tried in vain to gather them and put them back. The effort, though great, was not enough. I woke up startled saying, almost aloud, my basket is empty! My basket is empty!

Mid morning word came that my grandmother had died very unexpectedly, playing the piano at a nursing home for the elderly. She played the opening cord of the hymn, laid her head on the piano, and was gone, suddenly, like Bilbo running out of his house without a pocket handkerchief for the adventure of a lifetime. Most everyone here tonight, I expect, has experienced some kind of loss, some very deep. The kind of loss that leaves you thoroughly and completely empty. I expect Ezekiel, looking out over the Valley of Bones, must have been overwhelmed by the emptiness, the loss.

Certainly the women, on the way to the tomb, were empty and lost. They had gathered together what they could—spices, linen, oil—but nothing that would be enough, that would fill up the great hole that was the loss of Jesus.

I am frequently startled by how very great losses and small mingle themselves together to overwhelm me in grief. If I am very troubled by something, grieved and needy and unhappy, it will be the rice jar being empty, or finding I am on my last egg, or that I neglected to buy flour and butter, that we have no sugar cereal in the house or milk, that brings me to tears.
Come, buy and eat, says the Lord.
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Your basket is empty. You are starving to death. You are dying. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

This is the original question, isn't it? The very moment Eve plucked the fruit, the moment her eyes saw it and that it 'seemed good' that somehow she would be satisfied with something other than what God had provided. Eat from all the other trees, he said, but not that one. So it must be that that one has something better, something more satisfying. That was the original sin, and that is what we do every day. We give everything we've got to chase after what can't give us what we need. We eat and eat and eat and are never satisfied. We strive and work and end exhausted with our baskets still empty. The crown of this sin was the arguing of the disciples On the Night Before he died, about who was greatest. The Lord of Heaven and Earth, the Word made flesh is sitting with them, and its not enough. There must be something more!
But the more only turns out to be a dry ruined valley full of corpses, the ultimate end of all that work—death.

“Listen diligently to me,” says the Lord,
“and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear and come to me; hear that your soul may live”
Lean in, listen, attend.
How can He even say this?
How can God, even as Adam and Eve's fingers are yet stained with the fruit of their sin, say this! How can he offer anything to us? Why does he want to? I confess to being often baffled by this question. I don't know why God wants to redeem and save us! Even when God wants to tell us, we still don't know, don't want to know. Somehow So Often, daily, moment by moment, broken sinful rebellious need is better and safer than looking into the face of God, looking really at Jesus and listening to his real voice and hearing what he really says. We run away, argue, distract ourselves, grow busy and strive after anything that we can other than face the voice and face of God. Whether we are a long way a way in the pig pen in a far country, or whether we are close by in the upper room, or on the way to the tomb filled with broken empty grief. This is not only the problem of the wretched unrepentant sinner. It is everyone's problem. We don't see and hear, we don't want to. We don't find because we don't actually seek. We don't seek because we don't want what we know we will find.

I always wonder about Adam and Eve's relationship with God after the garden. Sure, it was hard work, and painful, but probably they felt safer in their broken emptiness, not always having to talk to God, to see him and hear him. Maybe he left them alone and they felt more comfortable. So comfortable that when God speaks to Abraham, no one has heard of him. It is a totally new thing. The trace and memory of his voice and presence has been unreluctantly forgotten. And so on, through the Old Testament, line by line, fall by fall, rebellion by rebellion, the desperate history of a people trying to Get Away from God.

And yet the Lord says, Come.
Come buy at eat. Delight yourselves in rich food. Seek the Lord while he wills to be found. Though you, fully rejected and sinned against would say that's it, I've had enough,
I'm done. The Lord still wills be found. His thoughts are not your thoughts, your ways are not his ways. The heavens are higher than the earth. His ways are higher than your ways.
Rain and Snow fall from the heaven and obey him, watering the earth, bringing forth growth, bread for the eater.
All of creation is obedient to the voice of God, the Word of God. So is the Word that goes forth from his mouth
obedient. Perfectly obedient. The broken and empty body of our Lord, willing in perfect obedience to go to the very end of emptiness, brokenness, sin, and grief, going farther than any of us could ever go, carrying a burden beyond measuring or numbering. Not one small valley of death and destruction but the weight of every small rebellion, every great and terrifying sin, my constant and innumerable selfishnesses, the mass murdering of every horrible thug—all of it accounted for in the broken empty body in the tomb.

The women hurrying forward in the darkness with their hands full of emptiness. But the cavernous rock hewn out of the hill is so full of the glory of God. Death is gone. Destroyed. There is only life. There is only joy.

Do you think your way is higher than his way? Do you think you can go on with your life coping as you want to as if your basket, your jar, your life is still empty?

You Cannot.
The Lord is Risen. The whole earth is full of his glory.
He has succeeded in his purpose.
What is his purpose? To Raise the dead.
To raise you to life.
To chase after you and bring you to himself.
To provide for you with his own body and blood.
To give you everything you need.
To gather you and love you and raise you.
He can because he is alive. Its only up to you to come, join the feast be satisfied with your Lord.
Alleluia. He is Risen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Easter

We have a funeral this morning and a completely filthy house plus a huge pile of laundry. So, um, well, I thought I would spend the week blogging but its looking more like I'll be cleaning and folding laundry.
He is Risen!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy Week

That's what it is. Holy Week.
I have got to arise and quickly get the children moving so that I won't be late for New Baby's two month well baby at which time I expect to be told that she weighs a gagillion pounds. Nobody (at least amongst my children) ever wants to hold her because of the immediate back ache. Poor child. She is the first of my babies to definitely and completely have her hair rub off the back of her head from sitting so much.

And then I've got to run around and get ready for school.

And make some phone calls to fill those last slots of readers and one more acolyte. The vigil is well in hand, and Maundy Thursday. Thought that Tennebrae was fine until Matt said yesterday (Yesterday! mind you) "wouldn't it be great if I didn't do all the readings".

Well, yes, that's a sensible and fine idea but that means a bunch more phone calls.

I really love Holy Week for the church, but I do always come out on the other end needy for lost time with the kiddos and an actual complete conversation with Matt. I'm delighted that Elphine will be in most of the services this year, as a boat bearer and regulate acolyte. She finally decided she likes it because older girls she loves thinks its cool.

I ALREADY have Five Fat Easter Baskets filled and tucked away. I'm going to iron Easter dresses this evening. And we're going to more carefully plan all our Easter eating in such a way that we're not ruined from exhaustion. Easter day will just be something nice in the Crock Pot and then probably Tuesday of Easter Week we'll roast a large piece of paschal lamb and have lemon pie, or something.

Gratuitous Pictures
Gladys holding New Baby ("Can I hold the New Baby I'm sitting down" she says every few days.)
Alouicious a few days after turning 7. Think we lived up to his hopes and dreams but not totally sure.

Have a Blessed and Holy Remembrance of our Lord's Passion, Suffering, Death and Resurrection!
See you on the other side.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

now in the fading light of day

The boys are riding scooters down the walk and banging into the back door.
The two oldest girls are sitting on the roof of the playhouse squabbling.
The baby's been working on smiling.

Marigold is wandering around trying to remove her diaper.
Matt is vacuuming so wonderfully because I haven't been able to face it for so many days.
I'm supposed to be making supper in a short break from the Great Easter Clothes Exchange (wherein I get all the bins of clothes out and figure out who can wear what for the next season--gasp) but am really praying and fretting about the wretched and horrible conditions in Ivory Coast.

Thought this was really beautiful. (hat tip Simcha Fischer)

Earlier was complaining desperately about having nothing to wear due to being still fat from just having had a baby. "I just want to be really really thin!" I yelled.
"Why" asked Alouicious.
"Because," I said, "I just want to super rail thin."
"As thin as Daddy?" he asked, wide-eyed.
"I'm thin" said Elphine, "Am I thin?"
"Yes!" I shouted. "I don't want to talk about it any more."

So maybe after I make supper I'll do some sit ups. But probably not.
Have a blessed Sabbath!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Sermon: Colossians 3:11

I was going to take out all the line breaks but I'm too tired. Don't count this up to pretension, its just easier to see the text on the page this way. I wasn't on the schedule to preach, I was just in the right frame of mind to help out at the last minute. Enjoy!

As we've said often in many different ways 
the human condition is characterized by the desire to be God. 
Not to be with God or know God 
or understand God,
but to be God.
When the serpent slithered up to Eve
in the beauty of the Garden
and the cool of the day,
he tempted her not with riches,
or power
but with the chance to be ‘like God’ knowing good and evil.

From the Garden to the first murder to the flood was a simple matter of time.
We can tease apart the difference in every kind of sin,
every kind of falling away,
but they all find their root,
their core in Pride,
the desire to Usurp the throne and power of God and be ‘like him’.
This pride is on crude display in the account of the Tower of Babel.

1Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.2And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.3And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.4Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth."5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.6And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech."8So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

I want us to notice a couple of things from this text.

Verse One
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.
This was post flood.
Noah and his family survived alone
and were 'fruitful and multiplied’ as they had been commanded to be.
But their descendants,
instead of dispersing over the face of the earth to fill it,
decide to gather together,
to pool their resources,
to build a big tower--
probably something along the lines of a Mesopotamian Zigurat
if you want to google it to see a picture.
They want the tower to have its ‘top in the heavens’
so that they can ‘make a name for ourselves’.
They're not just interested in living in community
and fulfilling the purposes God has for them,
glorifying him and worshiping him alone.
No, they want to make a name for themselves.

The choice of the line 'make a name' isn't inconsequential.
The name of God, as the rest of Genesis will show,
is a name so holy,
so powerful,
so important that it wasn't to be spoken.
When you came to the name of God, in Holy Scripture,
you stopped and said 'The Lord' instead of pronouncing the name.
You didn't write the name with your old pen if you were copying scripture.
You stopped to make a new pen to write the name of God.
There is only One Name.
The making and acclaiming of other names is the path to idolatry.
“You shall have no other gods before me”
said the Lord God to Moses and then he said,
“Do not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain.”
They were trying to be 'like God'
having a name
being self sufficient
trusting in their own power.

So God, seeing what the people are intending to do,
is not afraid that they're going to become bigger and stronger than him.
You might think that's what it looks like in verse 6.
But that's not what's going on.
Idolatry doesn't lead to bigger and better and more beautiful things.
It paves the road for human descent into utter evil.
The 'nothing they won't be able to do'
is a foresight into the great evil the human heart can descend to.
If everyone is united
and everyone is sinful
the capacity for destruction and evil is very very great.
God's action here is one of mercy.
Lest they destroy everything, I will scatter and disperse them.

And the confusion of speech is a perfectly logical and just consequence
for the rivaling of the name of God,
for purposeful and organized idolatry that is taking place on the plane of Shinar.
The people are suddenly and momentously unable to understand each other,
unable, then, to cooperate
and therefore scatter in anger and confusion.

The legacy of Babel is with us in a myriad of ways, but there are three ways in particular I want to mention.

The first is in language itself.
If you a living breathing human person
you have probably suffered the pain and difficulty
of broken and fractured human communication,
either within your own language or across cultures.
Indeed, it is more fundamental and basic than that.
How many of you have struggled within yourself
to find words to express what you are feeling
or thinking?
Language slips,
it is often imprecise,
it is easily misused.
Very often it is utterly confused.

The second is the hating and despising
that groups of people indulge in against other groups of people.
We might call this racism or ethnocentrism.
There id s brutal war going on in Ivory Coast right at this moment.
It is a conflict between north and south,
one ethnicity versus another.
One group prepared to hate another because of their geographical location and ethnicity.
Ivory Coast is by no means alone.
The world is rich with ethnic and racial conflict.
Closer to home, we still find racism in our own neighborhoods,
in the halls of schools,
in our unexamined human hearts,
sometimes even in coffee hour.
Its not our new particular problem.
Its roots are on the plane of Shinar.

The third is man made unity.
We haven't,
even with the confusion of language,
lost that first desire to gather ourselves together and be one.
This is going to lead us to the New Testament.
But first we have to be careful.
The one language and one people was given by God before Genesis 11.
And also, the dispersing and scattering of people was given by God in Genesis 11.
In other words,
the desire for unity and oneness among all people is not evil,
but the erasing and flattening of all difference is.
All that difference,
the myriad cornucopia of language,
and ethnicity
was given by God.
It was his act of mercy to save us from a great overwhelming tide of evil.
So often,
as we try to join ourselves together,
in our human sinful hearts we
One, try to make everyone like us and
Two, therefore try to make a name for ourselves.
We do this institutionally,
we do it through the subtlety of peer pressure,
gently making someone else feel bad by a swift glance
or a tossed off remark
singling out their difference in a vaguely negative way.
The church has done it sometimes in the name of spreading the kingdom of God

These three consequences of Babel,
like all human sin,
were always accounted for in God's perfect plan to rescue and save us.

so broken and confused in our humanity,
is made whole and perfect in the very Being of God himself,
the Word,
who dwelt among us that we might see the glory of the Father.
And from there, at the moment of Pentecost,
the church experienced the reversal of Babel.
Instead of confusion, the perfect Word of God was communicated in every language.

And for the effects of ethnocentrism
and man made unity,
we see God's power and glory on display in Colossians 3:11

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Verse 11 is embedded in the practical outworking of Christ's cosmic transformation of the world.
The church is THE place where the future kingdom is made present on earth,
where God's will is done, where his name is above every name,
where we become like him—
not in power and knowledge and person, but IN Christ—
having the mind of Christ,
being found in Christ,
having the love of Christ.
Now, in putting off the things of the world
anger, malice, pride, hatred
we put on Christ who gives us a new identity, a new purpose, a new name.
No longer defined by our ethnicity or race
Greek or Jew
Social Status or class
slave or free
culture and language
barbarian, Scythian,
Our identity is in Christ.
Does difference no longer matter?
By no means!
Our unity in Christ is made rich and perfect
by every difference of language, culture and race.
Our foundational unity and identity in Jesus
makes real unity possible
makes real communication guaranteed.
How else do you think this room of people could get along?
In along term sustained way?
And manage to share the good news of Jesus to this town?
Do you think we do in our own power?
That we all get up early on a weekend
and come here to hang out together
and drink coffee
and listen to a long talk
and eat a little tiny piece of cardboard bread
and have a sip of wine at 11 in the morning
and then cooperate on ways to do the normally very difficult thing
of telling other people about the person we all love most,
by whom I mean Jesus.
The local church, Sunday by Sunday,
day by day
is the visible evidence that Christ is our unity,
our name,
the Word on our lips and in our hearts.
He is all and is in all.
Give yourself to him, this morning.
Let him be your tower
Let his name be on your lips and in your hearts and in your understanding.
Let him bind you up and make you whole.
Let us pray.