Ash Wednesday 2023

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

[Jesus said:] 1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your God in heaven.

2 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Very truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and God who sees in secret will reward you.

5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Very truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to God who is in secret; and God who sees in secret will reward you.

16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Very truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by God who is in secret; and God who sees in secret will reward you.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”




Please pray with me this evening, church.

Holy One,

As we embark on our Lenten pilgrimage,

our hearts hunger to hear something true.

Something true about us.

Something true about who we are to you.

Remind us that we are dust, God.

Remind us that we are loved.

Remind us that we are yours.





What a way to step back into the pulpit, huh…?


Ash Wednesday seems like an odd way to start back from my time of parental leave (Thank you, church, by the way…I’ve indeed missed you and it’s good to be back…so let’s talk about death, huh!?) An odd way to start back…and yet…I suppose Ash Wednesday is a beginning of sorts… We mark the beginning of our entry into the season of Lent, our starting point as we embark upon this 40 day journey.

Welcome to the beginning.

A beginning when we talk about the ending.

“Remember that you are only dust…and to dust you will return…”

Having recently borne witness to new life being brought into the world…perhaps due to my pastoral sensibilities or something, I’m not sure, but I couldn’t help but be reminded that in just the next building over, there was someone or several someones fighting for their life. And that at the very moment, our brand new son cried out for the first time, someone else took their last breath.

Death is just as much a part of our lives as birth, yet I think we tend to overemphasize one in our consciousness and downplay the other. Perhaps because from the moment we’re born, we begin the methodical and inevitable march toward our ending. Maybe it’s the billions spent on death avoidance and reversing this trek toward inevitability. Whatever the reason, it is true that death may be a more constant reminder for some than for others.

But today, everyone…from newborns to the eldest among us will hear the same words: “Remember, o mortal one, that you are dust…and to dust you will return.”

Something true about us. But also a promise.

This season of Lent, we’re going to be exploring the idea of hunger. Less of a physical or material hunger, and more of a spiritual hunger, although we will talk some about physical hunger. Fasting, of course, being one of the traditional Lenten practices. Throughout the next 40 days, we’ll talk about our hunger to be known, and our hunger to be loved, among others.

Tonight I thought we’d zero in on our hunger to be told something true about ourselves.

There’s a terrifying moment that happens in the hospital room about 24 hours or so after one has welcomed a new child into the world. All the while you’ve been collecting stacks and packets of papers and information, and all of a sudden a nurse comes in and hands you a new packet and tells you this is the information that will go in a database somewhere and is for the new baby’s birth certificate. And there’s a moment of terror when you—you, in your no-longer-a-young-person-but-not-quite-middle-aged self—are given the gargantuan burden of naming something. Like, permanently.

Maybe you and your partner talked it over months ago. Maybe you waited for inspiration to strike before making such a decision. But at any rate, now it’s time. You have to write something down and that is, at least for now, what this brand-new wonderful child will be called.

This is who you are.

It’s a profound responsibility.

I also want to note how much has changed in the three and a half years since we did this the first time. Three and a half years ago, these were paper forms and so my fear was magnified by worrying if some poor clerk behind a desk would be able to read my chicken scratches. Now it’s all online, so my fears were magnified by the worry that I’d fat-finger something on my phone and they wouldn’t release us with the kid because the last names don’t match.

But in the midst of all the worry and fear and anxiety, there’s something beautiful happening…speaking something into existence. This is who you are.

What is your name, child of God?

How do you call yourself?

What are the words that you say about yourself? Are they kind? Or are they more harsh?

What do you imagine God says about you?

We do have a hunger to be told something true about ourselves.

Remember, o mortal one, that you are dust…and to dust you will return.

In a moment, I’m going to invite you into our shared journey of Lent with Confession and a word of promise. I’m going to say the words, “I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent.”

The discipline of Lent. The practice of Lent.

Church, I encourage you to practice Lent this year. Use this set-aside time as an opportunity to set aside time to practice something new or different for you. The traditional Lenten practices are prayer, and fasting, works of charity, and the giving of alms to the poor. How will you practice Lent this year?

Maybe you’ll set aside 10 minutes each morning to pray. Maybe you’ll try out a new devotional and read and reflect and pray over your lunch break. Maybe you’ll commit to 1 or 2 or 3 hours a week at a new volunteer opportunity for you. Maybe the East Fort Bend Human Needs Ministry Resale Shop or Food Pantry is looking just for you to help them out a time or two each week. Maybe you’d like to try packing fresh fruits and veggies for students and their families at Armstrong Elementary through their Brighter Bites program every Wednesday morning. Maybe you’ll fast from harsh rhetoric of yourself. Or harsh rhetoric of your neighbor who doesn’t think like you or believe all the same things as you…maybe you’ll fast from those disparaging comments, either online or face-to-face or behind their back, but instead interpret everything your neighbor does or says in the best possible light.

Lent is that opportunity, church.

To practice living into who you are. And who God says you are.

You are beloved. You are beautiful.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

You are redeemed. You are saved.

You are dust.

Dust that God scoops up from the ground, forms, molds, and creates, and breathes life into.

You are dust.

First Sunday of Christmas 2023

Matthew 2:13-23

13 Now after the magi had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the magi. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,

  wailing and loud lamentation,

 Rachel weeping for her children;

  she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when Joseph heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of the Galilee. 23 There Joseph made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”




Please pray with me this morning, church:

God of new beginnings,

As we begin a new year,

Nurture in us that which is good

And pleasing to you.

Seeds of compassion. Of understanding.

Of love.





Merry Christmas…and Happy New Year, church!

How are those resolutions coming? Anyone joined me in breaking some of your resolutions already? Don’t worry, it’s still early…


I wonder what your resolutions look like for you this year?


It’s not often that we get to start the year, right off the bat, with worship and praise.

Feels pretty good…


In addition to all the big feast and festival days that you all know well in the Church calendar, there are also other feast days, other festival days, other saint days, other commemorations, throughout the year that are less well known in the church, broadly. And the Church calendar has a series of 3 feast days that immediately follow the Nativity of our Lord, or Christmas, on December 25. They are the Feast of St. Stephen on December 26, the Feast of St. John on December 27, and the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents on December 28.


These three feast days, these days following Christmas are collectively known as the Comites Christi, which is Latin for the “Companions of Christ.” They are the ones whose lives and stories stand closest to Christ and are given special places of honor closest to Christ’s birth.


St. Stephen was a deacon in the early church and the first martyr of the faith, died within a year or two after the death of Jesus, stoned for speaking out against the religious authorities and professing Jesus as Lord and Savior. St. John was the only apostle said to have lived a full life and died of old age, commonly thought to be the “disciple whom Jesus loved” and the attributed author of the fourth gospel account.

A life cut drastically short. And a life lived in all its fullness.

And the Holy Innocents are the young children we hear about today in our Gospel reading. Lives taken before they’re even allowed to begin.


Tradition says that the Holy Innocents were the children of Bethlehem who were slaughtered by order of King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus – the one who it was said was born to be “King of the Judeans.” And the reason Herod the Great ordered the massacre of the children of Bethlehem was because Herod was the one put in the position of power by the Roman Empire as king of Judea. So when the wise persons who we’ll talk about next week came talking about a star and this child who was said to be born “King of the Judeans”…Herod goes full-on paranoid. Because once you’re made king, being king is not a position of power that’s often willingly given up.


So this feast day, remembers the ones that died because of Jesus’ birth—some numbers suggest as many as fourteen thousand.

There is no record of this event outside of the Gospel of Matthew, but given what we do know about the character of Herod the Great, it is certainly within the realm of possibilities. Herod drowned his sixteen-year-old brother-in-law, who was the high priest; he killed his uncle, his aunt, and his mother-in-law, along with several members of his brother-in-law’s family; he murdered his own two sons, and some three hundred other officials he accused of siding with his sons. Herod was maniacal, absolutely paranoid about losing power.


Herod did not care whose life would be taken. He did not care what would happen to the other lives of those caught up in this madness. Herod would sacrifice anyone’s life to make a political point. Herod was playing political games, and no price was too high to stay in power.


These Holy Children—these Innocents—were killed for the sake of Christ, and in one sense, in place of Christ.

The Comites Christi are a stark reminder for the church that it is into such a world as this that Jesus Christ is born.


Once again…these feast days, these saints, these holy ones—the Comites Christi—are a stark and painful reminder that it is into such a world as this that Jesus Christ is born.


As the author of John would write in that account: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world would be saved through him.” It is because our world is as it is, that Christ is born…in order to save us, in order to save the world. Most especially from ourselves.


Because the world is still in need of saving…


I’m thinking of our siblings in Ukraine, who are caught up in a war they neither asked for nor invited, celebrating the holidays amidst air raid sirens and missile strikes, all because powerful people are playing political games with the lives of the powerless.

I’m thinking of the dozens who lost their lives last week, mostly in the northeast, amidst some of the fiercest cold we’ve experienced in decades, all because as a society we can’t be bothered to actually commit to doing anything substantive about our housing insecure neighbors, many of whom are veterans or experience mental unwellness. We don’t lack in ability or resources, we lack in will.

I’m thinking of the 139 people, mostly families and young children, from Nicaragua and Peru and Ecuador and Colombia, who were dropped in the middle of a freezing night in Washington D.C. on Christmas Eve, most without a jacket or even long pants, all because our legislators can’t be bothered to actually talk to one another and come up with solutions to a convoluted problem, so powerful people play political games with the lives of the powerless. Even the Holy Family fled from Judea, immigrated and became refugees in Egypt, and remained there until the tyrannical and maniacal reign of Herod the Great was finally over. Surely we can muster compassion for those whose story is a mirror to that of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Again, we don’t lack in ability or resources, we lack in will and a spirit of compassion.


We are still very much a world in need of saving.

Come, again, Immanuel. Save us.


But on this new year and Sunday of complicated readings, I’m also reminded of our Intergenerational Faith Formation time a few weeks ago, when we made Christmas cards and letters for those in immigration detention facilities, and we learned a little bit about immigration and our partners at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and the holy and necessary work they do. I’m reminded of 7-year old Jimena, who didn’t look up from the picture she was coloring while the video was playing, but instead softly remarked, “They’re speaking Spanish…I speak Spanish… They’re talking about Venezuela…I know Venezuela…”


As we set out on this adventure of a new year, and many of us resolve to do things differently than maybe we have before, I urge you, church, to nurture and cultivate that spirit of compassion within you. Resist getting caught up in the demonizing of folks who view and experience the world differently than you. Resist getting pulled into the political games the powerful play with the lives of the powerless. Instead, nurture that seed of compassion. Ask how you can help, rather than further driving wedges between people.


Beginning next week and continuing throughout the season of Epiphany, we’ll be guided by our theme Heaven on Earth. What does heaven look like? What would that look like here in our place?

We’ll spend time together working this out, but today, I’d suggest it has something to do with compassion. Something to do with alleviating the suffering of our siblings.

And it’s always something to do with love.


Merry Christmas…and Happy New Year, church,


Fourth Sunday of Advent 2022

Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, Mary was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to break off the engagement quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, Yeshua, which means “God saves.”, for the child will save God’s people from their sin.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 “Look, the young woman shall conceive and bear a son,

  and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took Mary home as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.




Please pray with me this morning, church:

God, our Joy,

There are a great many things that frighten us.

A great many things that unsettle us.

You promise to be with us in the midst of our fear.

As we await the arrival of Christ,

Continue to be with us, God.





There are more than a few moments in my childhood that I think back on, laugh at myself, and shake my head. “What the heck was I thinking?!” I never met a tree that didn’t look like it could be good for climbing. We would stack bricks up and put a piece of plywood down and try and ramp our bikes and catch some air. More than a few times did I think about climbing onto our roof and jumping down onto our trampoline to see how high I could bounce. Rollercoasters, I was all in.


These days I watch our 3-and-a-half year old jump on beds and climb all over couches and fling himself at me while we’re playing in the floor…and I haven’t the faintest idea of where he gets it.


Fear wasn’t a word that seemed to be part of my vocabulary for the majority of my growing up years.

And then at some point…I developed that knot you get in your stomach.


You know the one I’m talking about?

Rollercoasters seem less fun. Keeping the bike tires on the ground seems like a great idea. “But what if my 30-something year old body won’t let me climb trees or do the thing I think I should be able to?”

And then, I think, somewhere in there we start projecting that fear onto others. Don’t jump on that. Don’t climb there. Don’t do this. Probably don’t do that.

Maybe, like me, your list of things that there are to be fearful of has only grown in recent years. Viruses and germs and unstable situations and tensions between nations and political leaders whose idea of machismo is a measuring contest of the size of their nuclear arsenal…plus whatever the talking heads get paid to tell you is the next thing to be afraid of.


It’s as if fear has come to rule our lives.


There are some very good things to be afraid of. I’m not denying that. Snakes come to mind. And some others. But I’m wondering if we’ve given fear too much control over the steering wheel, and the map, and the Spotify playlist in the car. Are we giving fear more power than it deserves?


“Do not be afraid” or “Do not fear” is one of the most often repeated phrases throughout all of Scripture. Have you noticed every time an angel shows up in the Bible, the very first words the angel says are “Do not be afraid?” Now, to be fair, just kind of look at some the descriptions of angels in Bible to figure out why, right? Ezekiel’s got these figures that are like 4 wheels covered all over in eyes that are all spinning around each other like a gyroscope. Isaiah and Ezekiel both describe a figure that has 6 wings that cover their feet and faces and fly around holding burning fire and live coals. There are 4-headed figures, eyes of fire, figures that shine brighter than sunlight. I mean, I think fear is a totally valid reaction to something that looks like this.


And yet…into the midst of this very real, very valid, very rational fear, comes a word of peace: “Don’t be afraid.” Don’t give fear more power than it deserves.


Joseph had every valid reason to be fearful, the appearance of aforementioned angelic figure notwithstanding. Consider everything the angel had told him: “Turns out your fiancé’s pregnant, and I know it’s not yours, but don’t worry, it’s God’s child, conceived in her by a spirit. And it’s going to be a boy. And don’t worry about racking your brain trying to come up with a name, I’ve saved you the trouble. His name will be Jesus…Yeshua…Joshua…which means ‘God saves’ because your child will save God’s people from their sins.”

“Ok…cool…yeah…sounds good… Yep…no problem…” Right? Of course not. I don’t imagine that Joseph was just all of a sudden totally cool with all this. I don’t imagine Joseph just accepted everything the angel told him at face value. I’m certain Joseph had a few questions, wanted some clarification. I’m certain Joseph was fearful.

And yet…”Don’t be afraid.”


The Gospel according to St. Matthew is the only one that records this interaction with Joseph. Mary gets most of the airtime in Christmas pageants because Luke does such a good job writing the story and the Magnificat makes for really good drama. “Let it be with me according to your will”…lifting up the lowly and casting down the mighty…all that stuff. It’s really pageant material.

But I think many of us are more like Joseph than we are like Mary, if we’re honest.


Joseph doesn’t say anything in these verses from Matthew, we’re not given an insight into what Joseph is thinking, but Joseph’s actions say a lot. In the midst of exciting, yet honestly, terrifying news, in the midst of an encounter in which Joseph would have very valid reasons to be fearful, Joseph displays extraordinary resolve. Against everything his Hebrew tradition told him was the way to deal with these things, Joseph was faithful to what he heard from God. Joseph is obedient, in spite of his religious tradition.

In the midst of great fear, Joseph shows tremendous faith.


That’s one of the things we’ve heard a lot over the past couple of years, right? Faith over fear.

I want to reframe that a little bit this morning. I don’t think it’s so much faith over fear…sometimes there are very valid reasons to be fearful. But how can we be faithful in the midst of fear? How can we be honest about our fears, the things that terrify us, the things that keep us up at night…how can be honest about the very real and valid fears we experience, while at the same time listening for God’s voice, doing our best to discern where God is calling us, and trying as best we can to be faithful to that call?

How can we be faithful in the midst of our fears?


Joseph doesn’t have any line of dialogue in this narrative. Joseph is emblematic of a kind of quiet steadfastness. Joseph is obedient, but Joseph listens. Joseph, in many ways, is any and all of us who have ever quietly done a job, not made too much of a fuss, gotten our work done, and not sought out recognition or accolades. I think of Joseph as most of us who have ever volunteered at church. It’s nice to be noticed and thanked, but mostly, all of us just kind of lean into our ministry areas and our passions and we do the work because there’s work to be done.


I think of what our life together will be like in January, when Danny’s away on J-term at seminary and I’m on parental leave, the week in and week out of this congregation will take all of you, joining together and getting done what needs to get done because there’s work to do. And it’s not work for the sake of busy-ness, I see it as a model of faithfulness. And obedience. And a consistency and commitment to doing what’s necessary for New Hope to thrive.


It’s a faithfulness that trusts that God will continue to walk alongside you despite who’s in the office or not. A faithfulness that trusts in the spirit of this community who, almost 50 years ago, did the work of the church together because there wasn’t anyone else to do it.

This is what I mean when I say that you are the ones who are called, church. You are the ones God is calling in this time and place to tend this particular garden.


And more than anything, this faithfulness trusts that God will keep working to bring forth signs of life, that springs will continue flowing forth in the desert, that fragrant and beautiful flowers will continue blossoming out in the wilderness, and shoots will continue sprouting up from stumps. Joyous baptisms, wonderful First Communions, the marvelous sounds of young voices and older voices singing together in our choirs. This is the kind of vibrant life God is bringing into your midst. This is what God has promised. God keeps God’s promises, and God has promised life and life abundant.

God has promised a Savior, a Messiah…not the powerful warrior-king that we’re expecting, but a vulnerable and naked baby whose cries ring out from a makeshift crib among farmers and their livestock and echo through the quiet night.


God with us.

In the most unexpected of ways.

In the most human of experiences…that of a newborn.


As we make space for Jesus this Advent and Christmas, our expectation starts to take on a more persistent posture. Beginning yesterday, and for the week leading up to Christmas, the church has used 7 names for God in their vespers and prayers, known as the ‘O Antiphons’, to mirror this persistent posture in pleading for God to finally make God’s self known among us. Titles such as O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O King of the nations, O Emmanuel.

Pleading for God to finally break into our world…to stand in the midst of all our fears…those things that trouble us, the things that unsettle our hearts, the things that keep us up at night…that God would come stand among them…not to fix them…but to be with us in them. That you would know, dear child, that God does not abandon you. That in the midst of fear, even when your own faith is tattered and wearing thin, that God is faithful.


That God is with you.

God with us.

Come, Emmanuel.


Ash Wednesday 2022

Matthew 6:1-6, 12-21

[Jesus said:] 1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your God in heaven.

2 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Very truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and God who sees in secret will reward you.

5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Very truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your God who is in secret; and your God who sees in secret will reward you.

16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Very truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by God who is in secret; and God who sees in secret will reward you.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”




Please pray with me this evening, church:

Holy and immortal God,

You have formed us from the dust of the earth,

and at the end of all things, we will return to that same dust.

Draw near to us as we wrestle with these truths.

Breathe life into this dust once again.





It’s certainly no Johnson Space Center…but Chicago has a pretty neat Planetarium, the Adler, and back when I lived and was serving my Internship in Chicago, the Adler hosted a Clergy Day, an entire day dedicated to the conversations between science and religion. Sidenote: I’m not sure why it ends up this way, but I took a look back at my sermons over the years, and it turns out I talk about this experience at the Adler Planetarium like every couple of years or so and it’s always on Ash Wednesday…not sure why that is, but there you go… Anyway, so at the Planetarium and one exhibit in particular captured my attention that day—this one describing what scientists know and are learning about the origins of the universe…the Big Bang. There were pictures from as far back as we could see in the universe, pictures and descriptions of some of the oldest materials found on earth…it was all really cool.

But this idea that stuck out to me was one of interconnectedness…relationship…that everything that is, everything that ever has been, and everything that ever will be has a single point of origin.


Every single one of us, every single living thing—people, plants, animals, bacteria, viruses—everything comes from a single something.


For me, it’s the clearest description I can think of to illustrate that we all are, in fact, interconnected…interwoven…”an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together in a single garment of destiny,” as the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. would say.


Last week, our own Dr. Sandra Moore, a literal rocket scientist, shared a picture on her social media of Earth as viewed through the rings of Saturn…she works at NASA so she gets all the coolest pictures, but still… That “tiny, pale blue dot”… That singular point and place on which we all live together, on which everything that has ever lived has lived on together, and on which everything that ever will live will live on together.


There is so much contained on that tiny speck. It’s completely unfathomable and so wildly beyond our ability to grasp and comprehend…everything that ever was, that is, or ever will be…all contained within that dot.

And you are not the center of it.


I guess I figure as long as we’re hearing difficult truths about our mortality on Ash Wednesday, we might as well just dispense with all the difficult truths in our lives…but it’s true…you are not the center of the universe. You aren’t called to be the center of your own universe.

But child, you are the center of God’s universe.


Lent is a season of adjusting our focus.

We tend to start off our calendar year with talk of resolutions and all of our self-improvement projects, and while I am certainly not saying that working on yourself and taking care of yourself aren’t good things—they absolutely are—Lent is a corrective lens over a hyper-focus on ourselves.

You are not the center of your own universe.


Lent refocuses our attention to God—the source of our life, the object of our worship and praise, the author of our tomorrows, and co-traveler with us throughout our life’s journey.

“Return to the Lord your God…God is gracious. And merciful. Slow—not quick—to anger. And abounding in unfailing love that you can cling to.”


One of the ways of adjusting our focus is through spiritual practices. There’s a fairly long history of faithful disciples “giving something up” for Lent. In recent years there have been movements to “take something on” or “add something to” your current habits. Whatever your personal piety and preference is, my hope is that it is something that adds something to your faith and to your life. In the litany of practices laid out by Jesus in our gospel from Matthew, Jesus’ point is not that the practices in and of themselves are bad, but rather, Jesus is encouraging you to examine your motivations, examine why you’re doing what you’re doing. When you give alms, do so without show. When you pray, keep that between you and God. When you fast, let your outward appearance reflect your inward devotion.

Spiritual practices focus our attention outside of ourselves. Use the practices of Lent as means to draw yourself deeper, not just in your own relationship with God, but in your relationship with others.

You are not the center of your own universe.


Our theme for this season of Lent is Unburden. We’re talking about the heaviness we carry around with us and how for so many in recent years it feels like we’ve drifted further and further apart from one another. It feels like we’re shouting at one another across canyons of difference and we view our neighbors as arguments to be won rather than as beloved children and siblings. We approach our relationships with clenched fists, some of us even carrying stones to be hurled at one another across these chasms.

My invitation to you the Lent is to unburden yourself, dear church.


Set down the heaviness, the weight, the stones you’re carrying around. Let your Lenten discipline draw you closer to the heart of God, and there find that the heart of God is near to your neighbor, the stranger, the dispossessed, the poor, and the marginalized.

When we return to God, we focus ourselves and place ourselves in proximity to God, and therefore in proximity to those for whom God has particular concern.


You are not the center of your own universe — in a moment we’ll confess that deep, yet difficult, truth.


But you are the center of God’s universe, dear child — let us also hear, once again, the healing balm of those beautifully truthful words, as well.


You are dust, dear mortal one, and to dust you will return.

But do not forget what God can do with dust.


Epiphany Sunday 2021

Matthew 2:1-12

1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
  are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
 for from you shall come a ruler
  who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
  7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.




Please pray with me this morning, church:

Brilliant God,

Your glory breaks into our weary world

And fills the places in our hearts

That feel distant from you.

Help us to share the gift that we’ve been given,

The immeasurable gift of your care, your love

And your grace in our world.



I’m not really a very spectacular gift giver.

I tend to be more utilitarian in the types of gifts I give. When considering which gifts to buy, I tend to ask myself the question “What does this person need?” rather than “What would this person want?” And even then, I’ve found that I’m usually a pretty poor judge of what my friend needs. And I imagine I’d be an even worse judge of what my friend wants.

So all in all, I’d say I’m not a very good gift giver.

I feel a lot like the magi in our gospel this morning. Seriously, what use does a toddler have for gold, incense, and a burial spice?

But, as you’ve heard me say before, the gifts in this story are less about their utility and more about what the gifts represent. Gold indicated riches fit for a king. Frankincense was an incense representing wisdom. And myrrh was a spice representing long life and healing, but it was also a burial spice, some say as a way of foreshadowing just how Jesus was to rule in his kingdom…by dying himself, and calling us to a sacrificial way of living, to die to our selves also.

Not necessarily gifts a child wants, but maybe the gifts this child needs.

One of my favorite Epiphany traditions that we’ve kept here at New Hope for a few years now is the house blessing of our spiritual home and the chalking above the doors of our Sanctuary. It’s a reminder for me every time I walk through those doors that this place is surrounded by blessing. We prayed for our church, and with our voices, we collectively asked for God’s blessing on this house.

But what a strange year it’s been since we did that… Less than 3 months after we prayed for God’s blessing and marked the occasion in chalk last year, we were forced from our spiritual house by an invisible virus whose most effective course of treatment is to maintain distance and keep physically separate from one another, rather than be drawn together, which is so much of many of our own experiences with church. It’s particularly insidious that the absolute best way to beat COVID-19 is to keep physically apart from one another, especially when so much of our identity and who we are as a people of faith is as a people of connection…and when so much of that connection is fostered through physical interaction.

I’ve been lamenting this pretty much throughout this pandemic, but most especially throughout the month of December, and even more so as we got closer to Christmas. Christmas is such a special time in the life of the church, similar to Easter or really any of the feast days, but then we got to Christmas Eve… We got to Christmas Eve, and after the staff spending all month trying to figure out how to approximate some version of “being” together…we got to Christmas Eve and we had these 3 opportunities to gather together virtually. And we saw each others’ faces, and we greeted each other, and we shared some laughs, and we prayed together, and we sang together, and we lit candles together, and we wished each other Merry Christmas and best wishes for a new year…and I was powerfully reminded that even though it’s not very safe for us to be all together under the same roof right now…church has never been canceled…

The building might be closed right now…but the church is still very much alive…

We may not be able to gather at this house right now…but our spiritual home has never been shut down…

I’m reminded of the invitation we extend to y’all every year—to grab a piece of chalk and a copy of the traditional Epiphany house blessing and to bless your own homes each year. To pray for God’s blessing as a family and mark the occasion over the door. If you did that in 2020, I wonder if you felt a deeper connection between the building here at 1424 FM 1092 and the Sanctuary of your address. In such a time as this, aren’t our homes in fact an extension of our church building? With faith formation and worship and serving your neighbors happening primarily in your homes right now, isn’t it simply that the church has been scattered and deployed?

Which, turns out, is even more true in this age of streaming worship. Church, do you know that we have folks joining us from all over the US? Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington, Nebraska…even former members are able to re-connect, even from what I’ve started calling New Hope West, out in the Hill Country of Texas… The church is scattered and deployed.

And quite honestly, I think that’s where we do some of our best work anyway…sent out, deployed into the world…to do the work God calls you to…in, with, and among the world God so loves.

Arise! Shine! Your light has come!

Go, therefore, and be that light. Be the healing brightness in a weighed-down and weary world.

As I’ve called folks and checked in with you and talked with you over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the thought that although I don’t consider myself a very good gift-giver…I do have presence to offer…p-r-e-s-e-n—c—e… The gift I’m really good at giving is…my self…my time, my energy, my attention. Even mediated through the phone or a text or an email or a Zoom call, there’s still a deep connection.

I wonder what connections you might foster this new year. I wonder if you would re-up your commitment to check in with your friends and neighbors and family. We still need connection, church…deeply. Even after we get through the worst parts of this pandemic, that will still be true. We’re created for connection and we can use the tools we have at our disposal to foster that connection in profoundly meaningful ways.

Your presence can be a blessing.

Your presence is a blessing.

And you don’t have to be physically present to be a presence of blessing.

Happy New Year, church.

Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost 2020

Matthew 21:33-46

[Jesus said:] 33 “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34 When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 “Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to Jesus, “The owner will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
  42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
 ‘The stone that the builders rejected
  has become the cornerstone;
 this was the Lord’s doing,
  and it is amazing in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I tell you, the dominion of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of it. 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
  45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds because the people regarded him as a prophet.


Please pray with me this morning, church:

God of Love,

Open our hearts this morning.

Break them open and begin to heal us.

Make us instruments of your peace.

Instruments of your love.

Instruments of your justice.

Make us bold to begin helping

To heal and repair our fractured world.



I know we have a good number of folks not on Facebook…and quite honestly, good for you…I’m…close to being done with it…I think…but it’s one way that we as a faith community connect, so I hang around…

Anyway, I know a number of you aren’t on Facebook, so if you’ll just indulge me for a minute. Facebook does this thing, where they show you a digest of every status you posted and, like, your interactions with folks each day, going back, like, however long you’ve been on Facebook. It’s a really interesting snapshot into who you are…the type of person you were…it’s interesting to be able to visibly trace your progression from who you used to be to who you are now…

Anyway, this past week I was reminded that it was 4 years ago that I began my call here at New Hope.


4 years…


In some ways, it feels like it was barely 4 weeks ago…

In a lot of other ways, it feels 14…or 40 years…

We’ve been through a lot in 4 years…as a church, as a people, as a country, as a city… Just to remind you, as if you could forget…elections, wildfires, hurricanes, World Series championships (although as a Rangers fan, can I just offer my own little asterisk on that so-called “Championship”)…a global pandemic, economic and racial inequality, struggles and fights for justice…

It’s been a lot…

When I talk with my friends and mentors who are older than me, who have been serving in the parish for longer than I have, and a number of whom are retired…the refrain always comes up, “Man…it’s a tough time to be a pastor. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a more difficult time to be the pastor of a congregation.” Most of the retired pastors say something like, “Well, I’m just glad I’m retired… I wouldn’t want to be a pastor in a time like this…”

And what they mean is that, between everything I just mentioned, amid everything that’s going on, somehow we’ve drifted farther apart from one another, rather than being drawn in closer together. Even in the moments that naturally serve to unite us and draw us together—sports victories, disasters, and crises, opportunities to help—even those, seem to be more fleeting than usual. And it isn’t long before we’ve gone back to our various camps. Shouting at one another from across a canyon that we can’t even see the other side of.

Somehow it’s become more preferable for us to cut one another out from relationships, rather than seeking to engage in meaningful dialogue over our disagreements.

Somehow it’s become more preferable to us to shout down, beat up, and kill the ones who are sent to us, even the vineyard owner’s own son, rather than tend the vineyard God has given us to take care of…rather than do the difficult work needed.

Back to Isaiah: God expected justice, but saw bloodshed. God expected righteousness, but heard a cry.

Today, October 4, is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi.

And we’re commemorating this in a few different ways this morning.

Francis was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone to wealthy parents. And he lived a very wealthy lifestyle. Francis wanted for nothing. His parents lavished love and gifts on him and his siblings. Francis’ life was charmed. But Francis grew disillusioned with this lifestyle and with wealthy people in general, including his parents. He started doing odd things like giving poor beggars every bit of gold in his pockets, begging for alms to give to the sick, selling all of his father’s cloth to give the proceeds to churches in need of repair.

Francis eventually renounced his father and his family and his inheritance, and became a penitent, living the life of a beggar, giving whatever money he was given to the sick, to the lepers, and to the restoration of churches.

It’s said that one of Francis’ conversions came in a small chapel in San Damiano where he heard the crucified Christ plead with him, “Francis…go and repair my house.”

At the time, Francis interpreted this to mean the chapel in which he was standing, but as his life would bear out, Francis was being called to a deeper kind of reparation…a more holistic and encompassing view of the repairs needed. As the prophet Isaiah calls it, “A repairer of the breach.”

A bridge across a canyon.

If you haven’t been to my office, you wouldn’t know this, but across the room from my desk, on the opposite wall, I have a bunch of icons hanging. They’re arranged around a cross and they’re a helpful focal point for me in my workspace. There are a couple of icons of Christ, one of the Trinity, one of Wisdom and her daughters, Mary and Child…and one of the icons on my wall is of St. Francis. It was given to me by a very good friend and mentor at my ordination. He said it seemed like the icon fit me.

The icon shows St. Francis, with a dilapidated fresco of Christ in the background, with the words, “Francis…go and repair my house.”

I love this icon.

I don’t consider myself to be Francis. By any stretch.

But in my best ideas about myself…I do hear echoes of Christ’s call to Francis…as my own—“Repair my house.”

Repair my church.

Repair what has been ripped down.

Build up what has been torn asunder.

Repair the breach.

Heal what has been tattered.

Build bridges amidst these canyons.

It’s what I try and do. Every day.

Every moment.

Every bit of my ministry.

We’ve never been more divided. It’s an incredibly big ask.

And yet, this is our call, church.

This is what following Jesus means. This is what it is to call oneself a Christian.

To reject divisiveness. To condemn ideologies that drive us apart. To speak out against all the evil, the demonic, and the anti-Christ messages and rhetoric that drive us even further apart.

It’s not to bury our heads in the sand and pretend as if these things don’t exist. They do exist, and it is our call as disciples of Jesus Christ to do everything we can to work to overcome them.

We typically honor St. Francis in our churches with pet blessings and things like that because Francis has come to be associated with his care for nature and the natural world. But in his life, Francis was much more demonstrative in his work with the poor. The outcast, the sick, those with leprosy, the ones who couldn’t put food on the table…the ostracized and the marginalized.

I suppose those folks don’t make for very cute Sunday School lessons……but what if they did…?

What if, like, Francis, we gathered around us the poor, the hurting, the food and housing insecure, the ones who have been told there isn’t a place for them in church because of who they are or who they love? What if we sought to bind up the broken, bring together those who have been cast aside, and the ones who the world doesn’t think very much of?

Might we just start to build those bridges across these canyons?

I think…I think, we just might find…that as we do the work of drawing those together…that we might also be drawn together ourselves.

We know how to do this. Actually, here at New Hope, there are times where we can be really good at it. Our week to host Family Promise starts today. A sign up went out earlier this week to sign up to bring hot meals to the Day Center. It was full in less than 4 hours.

We heard that Armstrong Elementary needed headphones for their students who were learning on campus. In one afternoon, we had a plan together for how we were going to supply the headphones they needed and ask you to help us offset the cost.

We didn’t do these things. The staff didn’t do them.

You did, church. You did.

You know what to do.

This past Wednesday, in Confirmation, we started talking about Lutheran history and we started in on the Reformation. And we talked about things we saw that needed changing or fixing, like Luther saw with the church. And friends, if you think our young people aren’t seeing what’s going on…if you think our young ones don’t see and hear the division and vitriol and ugliness…you’re dead wrong.

They do.

We talked about what needs to be fixed and reformed. And we talked about their ideas about how to do that. And I think they’re pretty spot on.

“How would you go about solving this problem of deep divisions?” I asked.

*awkward silence*

“No really…if it were you, what would you tell people as you tried to solve this problem?”

“Like…just be nice,” someone said.

“Actually act like Jesus tells us,” said another.

“Don’t be an idiot,” someone else said.

Don’t be an idiot, church.

Live like Jesus is calling you to live.

Reject these ways of division.

Don’t lean into them…actively work against them.

Bridge these canyons.

Repair God’s world.

I want to leave you with a traditional Franciscan Benediction. We’ve actually used this Benediction before in worship, but…

Receive this Benediction:

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers,

half-truths, and superficial relationships

so that you may seek truth and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice,

oppression, and exploitation of people,

so that you may tirelessly hope and work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with enough foolishness

to believe that you can make a difference in this world,

so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 21:23-32

23 When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And chief priests and elders argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
  28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 The son answered, ‘I will not’; but later changed his mind and went. 30 The father went to the second and said the same; and the second son answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the dominion of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”


Please pray with me this morning, church:

Holy One,

In a world rife with dichotomies,

We beg you,

Heal our divisions.

Make us one.

As you are one.



I’m someone who always strives to do what I say I’m going to do.

I like to think that I’m a person of my word.

Especially when I’m asked to do something, and I say I’m going to do it, I aim to be the type of person who does the thing I said I was going to do.

Now…we can get into the particulars about when I do the thing I said I was going to do…but it’s still true that I try to always be someone who does what they said they would do. Tiffany would certainly point to the timing aspect of this scenario. “Sure, you say you’re going to do it, but it’d be a heck of a lot nicer if you would do the thing, like, you know, when I ask you.”

It’s an often-repeated phrase at our house: “I said I’d do it!” after she’s already doing the thing she asked me to do that I said I would do.

I suppose my inadequate defense in these matters is that I tend to operate on a more divine timeline…

Whatever, but we ain’t waiting until Jesus comes again for you to do the dishes.

Fair enough.

You’re right. I’m often wrong in these cases. I’m sorry.

See, there it is for posterity.

Being a person of your word is important.

Doing the thing you said you said you were going to do is important.

It’s about you being a person of integrity.

Aligning your words and your actions.

I want very much to try and make this Gospel reading about aligning one’s words and one’s actions because I feel strongly that that’s a convicting and powerful word for our time—that what you do and what you say…matter…deeply.

And aligning what you do and what you say…matters…deeply.

And doing what you say you’re going to do…matters…deeply.

But I’m just not sure that’s this Gospel reading.

I do think Jesus does have something to say about that alignment elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus says, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be ‘No’. Anything else besides comes from the devil.”—but I just don’t think that’s exactly what Jesus is saying here.

A father had 2 sons and asked the first to go out and work in the vineyard. Initially, the son refused but later went out to work. The father asked the second son the same, to go out and work in the vineyard. The second son said that he would go out and work but did not. Which one of these did the will of his father?

I think Jesus is talking about words and actions here, but it seems to be more like, “Both words and actions are important, but if you’re going to fault in one, better for your actions to align with the kingdom of God, rather than just your words but not your actions.” In other words, don’t just talk about God’s justice and righteousness…don’t just talk about building up God’s kingdom where all are treated as beloved…actually do the work of building up and bringing about the kingdom.

“Well, ok, Pastor Chris…I can get on board with that. But what does this kingdom of God look like?”

That’s a great question, church, and I’m glad you asked.

If you flip with me in your Bibles forward just a few chapters to Matthew 25, verses 31-46, but really beginning with verse 35…the dominion of God looks like the hungry being given food, the thirsty given something to drink, the stranger and foreigner being welcomed, the naked being clothed, the sick being cared for, the imprisoned visited…

Or if Luke is more your speed, flip forward a little more to Luke 4, verses16-30, where Jesus says “The Spirit of Lord is upon me and the Spirit has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and imprisoned, recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

In other words, the reign of God doesn’t look much like what we’ve got going on down here right now save for some small examples happening intermittently. We catch glimpses and brief moments of this vision, but I think you’d agree, on a large scale, we’re really quite far off the mark.

But the good news, church, is that we don’t have to stay there. You and I are not limited to our present realities. We can participate, we can join our work and our voice to the work already being done to make our world look more like God’s dream. We have the option to help bring God’s justice and God’s righteousness more to bear on our present. That’s work we can do. That’s work we can help with.

But it does take some resetting of our values. It does take some realignment on our part. We have to get to a place where we believe that those things Jesus talks about, those conditions and indicators of God’s kingdom, can actually be made real and tangible right here and right now in our midst. We have to believe that those things are possible. And not be resigned to these present realities.

I’m talking about aligning our values with Gospel values.

Rather than trying to make the Gospel fit our worldview…why don’t we shape our world to look more like the Gospel?

God’s vision of justice and peace is often at odds with the way things are in our world. That’s just true.

We’ve just spent the past month hearing about God’s forgiveness, and God’s abundance, and God’s extravagant generosity…words like “the first will be last and the last will be first”…hearing how God’s ways are not our ways…and how it sometimes feels like God’s ways are an inverse of our ways…and “It’s not fair!” we protest, like the Israelites to Ezekiel…

No……it’s not fair.

The kingdom of God is not fair.

The kingdom of God is just.

The kingdom of God is righteous.

“Very truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

Very truly I tell you, the swindlers and the sex workers are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Do you see how offensive this is?

Very truly I tell you, the beat down and the cast aside are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Very truly I tell you, the marginalized and the oppressed are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Very truly I tell you, the conservatives and the pro-lifers are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Very truly I tell you, the liberals and the socialists are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Very truly I tell you, the Boomers and the elders are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Very truly I tell you, the Millennials and the Gen Z-ers are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.

Those that listened…and repented…and changed their ways…they’re entering into God’s dominion before you.

Do you see…how offensive this is?

The kingdom of God is not fair.

The kingdom of God is just.

The kingdom of God is righteous.

The good news, however, church, is that just because they’re going into God’s kingdom ahead of you, doesn’t mean they’re taking your place. They’re just ahead of you in line.

This is the great scandal that I think we sometimes fail to grasp. We take Jesus at his word when it benefits us or confirms our opinions and beliefs, but we set it aside or dismiss it when it doesn’t serve our interests.

Like the religious leaders in the gospel, we question where Jesus is coming from. “By what authority are you doing these things?” Where do you get off telling me what to do?

Jesus is confronted and challenged by the religious establishment. And you and I have our own beliefs and opinions confronted day in and day out. And usually, where we come down when we’re confronted depends on whether or not the message confirms or denies our beliefs and opinions.

Does this person or authority confirm my belief or opinion? Great, I’ll accept their views as confirmation that I’m right. Does this person or authority challenge or pose a perspective different from or countervailing to my own beliefs and opinions? Pfftttt……write ‘em off…fake news…


You and I struggle with hearing perspectives that are different than the ones we’ve already formed. In general, you and I are not good at changing our thoughts or beliefs, or changing our mind or our habits…which is what John the baptizer was calling out for people to do when he was out in the wilderness. Remember? “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Repent—metanoia—literally “change your mind”, move from the direction you were headed over here into a new direction, follow a new way.

Repentance isn’t about words. Repentance is about your actions.

But when challenged with our beliefs and opinions, you and I likely sound much more like the religious establishment in this story, “By what authority…by whose authority…do you get to tell me how to think and how to act?” With all the false piety and bloated righteous indignation we can muster, “Who made you the boss of me?! Where do you get off telling me what to do?”

Another great question I’m glad you asked, Church. Because I think Jesus has something to say here, too. I think Jesus cares very much about our thoughts and our beliefs and our words and our actions.

It’s why I chose to also bring in Paul’s word to the community at Philippi to our readings this morning. The great Christ Hymn from Philippians 2:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.

Look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Again, let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
 who, although being in the form of God,
  did not regard equality with God
  as something to be exploited,
 but relinquished it all,
  taking the form of a slave,
  being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
  Christ humbled himself
  and became obedient to the point of death—
  even death on a cross.

 Therefore God also highly exalted Christ
  and gave Christ the name
  that is above every name…

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.

Regard others…as better…than yourselves.

Don’t look to your own interests…look to the interests of others.

Be humble.


Be obedient to God’s will.

Die to those selfish ways that draw you away from your neighbor and from God.

And therefore also be highly exalted.

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost 2020

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to Peter, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
  23 “For this reason, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 When the king began the reckoning, one slave who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25 and, as the slave could not pay, the lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26 So the slave fell on his knees before the king, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.

28 But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, said, ‘Pay me what you owe.’ 29 Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 But the slave refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31 When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned the slave and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35 So God will also do to every one of you if you do not forgive your sibling from your heart.”


Please pray with me this morning, church:

Loving God,

Though undeserved,

We live in awe of your love and mercy.

We thank you for your

Inexhaustible well of forgiveness.

Make us bold,

To show that same forgiveness, mercy, and love

To our neighbors, and to a hurting world.



13 months into this whole child-raising thing, and we’re finding there are a lot more rules in our house than previously. And they’re things that, like, we wouldn’t have necessarily thought we needed a rule for 13 months ago, but now here we are. Things like, “Don’t eat the cat food.” We didn’t know we needed that rule, we just thought it was, like, an understood thing. The cat eats the cat food. Cat food is not for humans. But now we have a rule for it.

And the following of all these new rules is……*hmmm*…inconsistent, to say the least… Ok, so like, the new rules aren’t really followed and usually, our house is filled with a lot of: “No…” “Don’t do that…” “Don’t put that in your mouth…” “Seriously, don’t put that in your mouth…” “Get that out of your mouth!”

We’re still working on what the word “No” means.

But there’s a particular rule that’s been around for about 10 years now. It’s one of our oldest family rules…

The rule is No Scoreboarding.

And just to be upfront about it…I’m not very good at this rule.

And it’s my rule.

And it’s one of the big things I talk about when I do pre-marital counseling with folks.

And I still do it.

I still break this rule.

All the time.

The concept is simple. Scoreboarding is when you mentally try and keep track of who does what so you can figure out who does more work around the house. I washed the dishes, so you do the laundry. I mowed the lawn, so you clean the shower. Stuff like that.

Scoreboarding is one of the least helpful things for relationships because no matter how earnestly you try to keep score and keep track of who does what and for how long, you will always come up short. Guaranteed. Without fail.

Your partner will always have done more that you didn’t see and you’ll have been holding onto this grudge and you will have let it nag at you and eat at you, and it will have literally rotted you out from within and it will externalize itself in this really nasty encounter where you argue about who does what and everyone will get mad and it’s really unhealthy for relationships…

I told you…I break this rule all the time.

The thing about scoreboarding and why it’s so unhealthy is because you can’t do it. You can’t keep track of everything and who does what and for how long. Scoreboarding becomes the thing you obsess over, and you’re so worried about trying to take note of who’s doing what that you’ll miss all the opportunities to be a loving and caring partner because you won’t be looking for those opportunities.

It’s literally one of the biggest things I tell couples in our pre-marital counseling sessions…and I still do it…

It reminds me of Peter’s question in our gospel this morning: “How many times should I forgive someone, Lord?” Peter’s looking for something quantifiable here. Peter wants to know what the limits are on forgiveness.

“What if someone’s wronged me and I forgive them 7 times? Is that enough, Jesus? Surely by the 7th chance, I should be out of chances to give, right?”

“Not 7 times, Peter…but 70 times 7…” Or 77 times. The Greek is a little fuzzy.

The point is, it’s a lot. You wouldn’t be able to keep track.

You’d lose count.

You and I do this too, though, right?

You and I want to know the limits on things.

How much do I have to love my neighbor? What are the boundaries of God’s justice? How many chances do I give someone? How far does God’s grace extend? Is everyone really welcome? How many times do I have to be confronted with hearing about injustice?

You and I want to know the limits.

You and I want to be able to keep score so we know when we can start withholding from others.

You and I don’t want to recognize or acknowledge the grace, mercy, and love that we’ve been shown by God and by others so that we can fool ourselves into thinking that there are those who should be required to live outside of God’s grace, and mercy, and love…outside of the grace, and mercy, and love that should be shown by us…that God requires of us.

You and I want to fool ourselves into believing that God is just as vindictive and just as revenge-seeking as we are!

You and I want to know the score.

Or more accurately, you and I want to know the other person’s score…while failing to look at our own…

“Physician, cure thyself!” Jesus would say in Luke.

Or maybe more pointedly, from earlier in the Gospel of Matthew, “Why are you obsessed with a speck of dust in your sibling’s eye, without considering the plank in your own eye?”

In this way, you and I are much more like the unforgiving slave than we are the king in Jesus’ parable. We’ll gladly take God’s forgiveness and love freely given to us, but we expect others to earn it, don’t we? Like our Confession from the beginning of the service says, “We keep your gift of salvation for ourselves.”

We expect others to earn it.

Truly a double standard.

In response to Peter’s scoreboarding, Jesus tells the disciples a parable that begins, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…” And ends with another example of why I’m so vehement that the gospel writers would have kept their own opinions out of Jesus’ words, but nonetheless, ends with, “So the king handed the servant over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So God will also do to every one of you if you do not forgive your sibling from your heart.” Which sounds nothing like the character of God we’ve come to know.

Because the truth is, if you’ve ever experienced the radical forgiveness of God…and all of you should be raising your hands now…if you’ve ever experienced the radical forgiveness of God, you’ll know that the weight of the debt is nothing compared to freedom felt by being forgiven of that debt.

Which is why we’re the ones then charged with extending that same mercy and forgiveness and love to a hurting world. “God’s work. Our hands.” As we celebrate today. We’re the ones through whom God does God’s work in the world. We’re the ones freed in Christ to love and serve our neighbor and to work for justice on their behalf.

Because you have been shown. You have been freed.

You have been shown mercy and love and forgiveness.

The truth is, you know that there always seems to be enough of God’s forgiveness to cover your mess-ups.

And thank God…because if it were only 7 times, Peter would have used almost half just a few short months later in the courtyard of the temple. “I told you…I’ve never met the guy…” 3 times.

To which, suddenly a rooster crows and instantly Peter remembers and maybe recalls this very conversation. Peter…whose response to this realization is to run out of the courtyard and weep bitterly.

Sometimes the forgiveness we truly need is the permission to forgive ourselves.

For all those times we keep messing up.
For all those times we hold others do a different standard than ourselves.

For all those times we want to place a limit on whom God’s love and grace and mercy is for.

Thank God we can’t keep track.

Thank God the number would be too high.

I think it would break the scoreboard.

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost 2020

Matthew 18:15-20

[Jesus said:] 15 “When another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 And if the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 “Very truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 Again, very truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by God in heaven. 20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”


Please pray with me this morning, church:

Holy God,

Repairer. Bridge-builder.

Help us in the midst of heightened passions,

Of enflamed tensions, and difficult conversations.

Draw us together. Bind us up.

In your love, bind us to one another.



I am not the most graceful individual.

In fact, I’m straight up clumsy.

I run into things, I step on toes, I trip over my own feet…

And it was in one of those less graceful moments that I broke my first bone. It was in undergrad and we were playing sand volleyball. Fun, minimal contact, not a lot of opportunity for injury, you might think…and generally, you’d be right…but this is me we’re talking about…

I got started backpedaling for a ball that was headed over my head, got my feet tangled up, started to fall, and **crack**…

Painful. Searing pain in my foot.

I had a friend drive me over to our med center, got x-rays, saw the doctor.

“So…what happened?” she asked.

“Well, I was backpedaling for a ball that was going over my head. I guess my feet got tangled up, and I jammed my left heel into my right toes.”

“Yep…that would do it,” she said. “I’m sorry to tell you that you have a not very macho injury. The good news is, it’s not broken. The bad news is, it’s fractured. The worse news is that there’s not a whole lot you can do about it except to let it heal.”

“You’ve fractured your right pinky toe. And the only thing you can really do for it is to tape your pinky toe to your ring toe, and over time, it’ll heal back together.”

I told you…not at all grisly or even a tough and cool story. It’s like, the lamest injury ever.

A fractured pinky toe…

So they did what’s called buddy taping, and taped my pinky toe to my ring toe, and I just had to endure through that discomfort for a couple of months. Which kinda sucks when you’re in marching band and having to march games every Saturday with a fractured pinky toe and two toes taped together.

In this case, the best treatment for this injury is to join the two digits together…even forcefully…and let time and persistence heal the injured digit by being joined to a healthy and strong digit.

Enter our Gospel. These verses from Matthew 18 often get lumped together and characterized as Guidelines for Church Discipline. They’re actually in our congregational and the ELCA Model Constitution under that heading: Church Discipline. Essentially saying that these are the steps that should be taken in the event of disagreement in the church, or when, as verse 15 says, when one member of the body of Christ sins against another member of the body of Christ.

Which, as we all know, never happens…right…?

Of course not. The community of faith is no different than our other communities and social spheres in that way. The community of faith is made up of people, the church is the people, and any time you have people involved, there are going to be disagreements, there are going to be strong feelings, and there will be some uncharitable thoughts…and some of those thoughts are certainly within the realm of what we would consider to be sinning against one another, right?

These verses occur in the midst of a whole section of teaching focused on forgiveness. Jesus knows that any time there are people involved there will be disagreements, and strong feelings and emotions, and differing and opposing perspectives, and certainly some uncharitable thoughts. Jesus says, “When this occurs…go to that person 1-on-1. If they won’t listen to you, take another person with you. If they still won’t hear your grievance, take it to the church as a whole.” Run it up the flagpole, essentially.

But notice here that the point is not to expel that person or write them off or cut them out of your life. “If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.” And even if they won’t listen to the whole church, let them be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector…which sounds a lot like cutting them out of your life…until you remember how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors…

The goal, friends, is retention.

The goal is to live together in unity. Community. Amidst the divisions.

In this way, these verses aren’t about disciplining members of the body of Christ, but rather, what reconciliation looks like in the body of Christ. These verses aren’t a model for reproving one another, but rather how do we retain our relationships with one another amidst our disagreements and differing perspectives, and uncharitable thoughts.

Which is a really important thing in these times we’re in, church.

In the midst of a pandemic. In the midst of an election season. In the midst of so much stress and anxiety and pain…

Friends, you need to know…this is only going to get worse over the next 2 months. This division you’re feeling…that I’m feeling…it’s only going to ramp up. And become stronger. And more divisive.

And so we need to talk about reconciliation. About living together…well…amidst our differences.

Facebook introduced a new feature a few months ago. It’s called the snooze button. You can snooze anyone on your timeline for 30 days, and you don’t see their posts. You can also unfollow someone and you won’t see any of their posts ever. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve used this feature on some of my friends. It’s just good for my mental health. We can have our disagreements, but we need to be able to hold them well. We need to be able to talk about them.

My hope is still for a reconciled relationship, which really only comes through addressing the issues and having difficult conversations, but I’m just not so sure Facebook is the best venue for those. The church, on the other hand…a place where we all agree about a few central tenets…namely, God’s love for all of God’s creation, God’s grace given freely to you and me who are undeserving, and lastly, I firmly believe, we agree about our love for each other. At church, I don’t distrust your motivations or your feelings about me. I hope and I trust that you care for me and you love me and you want what’s best for me…just as I hope you trust those same things for yourself from me.

I believe that church is where we can have these difficult conversations because we trust that our relationships are built on love and care for one another.

We may not agree, but we can still live reconciled to one another amidst our divisions.

And especially in these times, we must always be reminding ourselves that God’s hope and God’s vision is for a reconciled world.

Which does not mean that everyone thinks the same way. But it does mean that God’s justice reigns and our love for one another remains the thing that draws us together amidst our differences.

And I think that’s really important to hear and to learn: The aim of the community of faith is reconciliation amidst differences.

And this is fundamentally different than what we experience in our world. And this makes what happens at church almost entirely opposed to our experiences elsewhere in the world. In every other aspect of our lives we experience division and vitriol and hatred…but the church—the community of faith—seeks to live well together amidst our differences.

The church doesn’t gloss over our differences…we aren’t the same. But the church should seek to find understanding within the myriad issues we’re confronted with.

That said, in some cases, agreeing to disagree is not the answer either. The community of faith is called to find understanding and find common ground. And as much as reconciliation is the goal, agreeing to disagree isn’t what we’re after. We’re seeking understanding.

There are times, particularly instances of injustice, where the church is called, and I believe where the church should, have an opinion and take a stance.

God is not without opinion in situations of injustice.

Check me on that. Read the Scriptures.

Every time, without question.

I want to say that again, and more clearly:

God is not without opinion in situations of injustice.

God is not without opinion on the oppression of God’s people.

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God uses the prophets to tell God’s people the difficult truth. God tells Ezekiel this morning, “Your responsibility is to tell my people of their wickedness and unless they change, they will die in their sinfulness.

Imagine how Ezekiel felt. Imagine how many of the prophets felt.

“Prophets are never welcomed in their hometown…” Remember Jesus’ words? Telling the truth isn’t received well. Especially when the truth is difficult to hear.

The prophet’s words are challenging. They make you uncomfortable. You disagree with them. You shut them off and tune them out. You refuse to hear what they want to tell you.

And…as I remember and reflect on my Ordination 4 years ago this past Thursday, I remember that I was charged—as we all are in our baptism—to work and strive for God’s justice in the world. I was called to preach the Gospel and to feed God’s people with God’s word of truth and justice.

God is not without opinion in situations of injustice.

God takes sides.

In situations of injustice, God absolutely takes sides.

This is difficult to hear…I realize…but I want to suggest that following God, following Jesus, isn’t a one way or the other…right? It isn’t a left or a right. It isn’t this way against that way… I believe that following Jesus and following God is a third way…a way that stands apart from the dichotomies we’re so used to.

So often we think that those who don’t believe like us are against us… “If you’re not with me, you’re against me” right? We know that kind of “us” vs. “them” language. We know that kind of divisiveness.

But in Mark and Luke, Jesus says to the disciples, “Whoever isn’t against you is for you.” Jesus rejects this idea of “us” vs. “them” and says, “You have more in common than you seem to think.”

I think the church is a place where we can uncover that commonality.

We’ll have to dig for it…it will take tough work and difficult conversations, but I believe it will be worth it.

I believe the church is a place where our broken and fractured parts can be bound up together in love, and through persistence and difficult work, where healing can happen.

Whatever you bind upon earth is bound up in heaven.

And where 2 or 3—especially broken members—are gathered together in Christ’s name…Christ, the great healer and great physician, is there among us.

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost 2020

Matthew 16:21-28

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
  24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
  27 “For the Son of humanity is to come with his angels in the glory of God, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28 Very truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of humanity coming in God’s dominion.”


Please pray with me this morning, church:
Holy God,
We end where we began,
Grieving the unraveling,
Lamenting what’s lost,
And mourning the undone.
Open our eyes to the new life
You’re bringing forth.
Point our attention to the resurrection
Happening among and within us.


When we began our summer worship and education series Unraveled, we talked a lot about what unraveling entails.

When planning it, we thought that it’d be a good thread of conversation for our congregation, but I don’t think we realized it would feel so timely or so important to our shared life together.

The idea of plans falling apart feels much more descriptive of needing to reschedule a happy hour or a dinner date or revisit vacation plans…much more than we think to use it to describe how our lives and even our world comes unraveled. But what these scriptures and stories have broken open for me in a wildly new way this year, is just how holy unraveling can be.

Earlier in the summer, I compared the idea of unraveling to a knotted-up ball of string or yarn…or the Christmas lights you pull out every year…or the headphones I stuff into my bag… The thing is, there’s a lot in our lives and in our world that feels like it’s already come unraveled…but I think there’s so much more in our lives and in our world that is in need of being unraveled.

I wonder, how many of you find yourselves thinking about what life will be like once we get on the other side of this pandemic? How many of you imagine a return to the way things were, the way we used to do things?

I’ll be honest with you, the longer this goes on, the more I think a return to what was isn’t possible. I think COVID-19 and this pandemic have fundamentally altered our way of living and being once they’re gone. Sure, at some point we’ll get to take off our masks and we won’t be quite as paranoid about shaking hands or being in close proximity to someone else, but when I think about how much more often we facetime with our friends and family when I think about how much more I enjoy cooking and eating a meal together when I think about how much more time we spend as a family in the evenings and on the weekends…I mean, can you really imagine going back to the same breakneck speed of work that you were running before this pandemic?

We’ve had to change and adapt how we worship…we’re having to change and adapt how we do faith formation…can you really imagine going back to not using the tools we have available to us to reach more people with the good news of the love of God in Christ?

In the unraveling, something new is able to come up and flourish.

In our unlearning, something new is able to be taught and nurtured.

In the falling apart, something new is able to be built up.

I told you that I constructed our summer series in such a way that tried to pair the Unraveled readings with the Gospel lessons from the Revised Common Lectionary over these past 12 weeks. I also said that I tried to construct and convey an arc of movement for us—I wanted the series to feel like we were moving from a place of grieving and honoring what had been lost…to a place of hopefulness and looking beyond the future into what’s next.

We end our series today with a seminal story that we heard a few months ago of Thomas. Thomas…the disciple who, I think, gets a bad rap, but who really just wanted what all the other disciples got…to see Jesus.

I chose this story to end our series because it’s the only one that has an explicit connection to resurrection. The resurrected Jesus comes and stands among the disciples and pronounces peace. Do not doubt, but believe… Do not doubt…but trust…

Trust that resurrection is possible.

Trust that resurrection has happened.

Trust that resurrection is happening.

But also remember that Easter Sunday only comes by way of Good Friday. You don’t get to the empty tomb without the crucifixion. You don’t get resurrection, without first dying.

Dying to self-absorbed ways of living.

Dying to self-centered ideologies.

Dying to ways of being that center ourselves at the expense of others.

Hope and rejoicing are given space because of the lament and grief of loss.

Things have to be unraveled before they can be brought back up together again.

And none of this means that there won’t be stumbles along the way. Remember last week when I said I like Peter because Peter is us…Peter is me. Peter, the great rock upon which the Church of Christ is to be built…Peter, the great cornerstone…has become Peter, the persistent stumbling block this week. Peter is us because we won’t always get it right. Sometimes we’ll get in the way of God’s work in the world. Sometimes, like Peter, we’ll deny ever knowing Jesus, whether through our words or our actions.

But also like Peter, I hope we’re persistent. I hope we persist in trying to be that disciple that follows closely to Jesus. I hope we persist in trying to be that disciple Jesus is proud of.

And even when we fail…I hope we’re persistent in trusting in the love and forgiveness of God despite our imperfections…despite our failed attempts…and despite our proclivity for putting ourselves before others.

 I wrote and I’m preaching this sermon just as Hurricane Laura sits just off the Gulf Coast, barreling toward the Texas-Louisiana border, projected to come onshore as a strong Category 4 hurricane.

This, just 3 years and 1 day after Hurricane Harvey made landfall down near Rockport.

There is no shortage of unraveling in our world.

Jacob Blake was shot 7 times in the back in front of his 3 kids by Kenosha police officers as he was getting in his car. Those that shot and killed Breonna Taylor while serving a no-knock warrant at the wrong house in Louisville have yet to be even investigated, much less disciplined.

There’s no shortage of unraveling in our world.

But what new thing will be able to spring up?

What resurrection will be allowed to take place?

I want you to watch as Houstonians do what we do in the coming days, as hundreds of us flock to Beaumont and Port Arthur and Lake Charles to help them clean up and begin to build back.

Watch as peaceful protestors slowly yet steadily begin to bend that arc of the moral universe back toward justice.

Watch as life and goodness and justice and love are borne out of the wounded hands and sides of Christ’s very self. 

I want you to hear what I just said there… It is out of the struggle, the pain, the strife…it is out of the hurt and worry and anxiety…it is out of the wounds and scars…that life is brought forth. This is the fundamental truth of the resurrection. It is out of the scarred and wounded body of Christ that eternal love and justice and life without end is brought into the world.

There is no more comforting promise in all of Scripture—God is with you in the midst of your pain because God has endured your pain.

Notice what’s unraveled…grieve what’s come undone…lament what’s lost…but keep your eyes peeled for the coming resurrection…

Pay attention for the new thing that God is doing.

Lean into the holiness of the unraveling.

And stick around for what’s on the way.