Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's been a while ...

My summer internship (an amazing experience for which I will ever be grateful to Fr. Chuck Woehler and the people of St. Thomas) ended in a rush of touring small parishes in the coastal bend and then camp followed by two weeks in which I really wanted to do as little as possible but also wanted to visit with family and needed to prepare for the new – and last – school year.  So, I did some resting, some visiting, some knitting, some organizing and prep for school, and some packing, and through it all felt myself settling into a funky mood that I couldn’t quite get my finger on.   The previous two years I was excited and anxious about getting to school and would pack and repack and go over check lists and to-do lists that I’d already completed.  

This year, I seemed to dread the preparation.  And, then one morning, as I stood in my room staring at my not-yet-packed suitcase, that evasive thought that was coloring all I was avoiding doing showed its mournful face clearly … “I’m going back to school to say good-bye”.  It’s my last year and everything that I do will be “for the last time” – all of the traditions (yes, we are Anglican, doing anything twice makes it a tradition) and routines and fun times that I’ve come to love doing with people who have become so very dear to me will be “for the last time”. 

One of the things my summer internship did was to affirm for me that I’m doing what God and the church have called me to do.  It’s important and I have every intention of finishing what I’ve started and completing my degree and (God willing and the people consenting) getting ordained into the priesthood of the Episcopal Church.  The greatest compliment I’ve received was when a parishioner told me I looked “normal” assisting in the Eucharist – putting on this new vocation fits me. 

The close friends I’ve made at Wycliffe will remain my dear friends for the rest of my life – the bonds we’ve formed go far beyond physical proximity.  The formation that has taken place in the rhythm of Morning and Evening Prayer will forever shape who I am and who I am becoming.  The classroom and papers and exams have instilled habits that will be a lifetime of continuous learning.  These things I will carry with me forever because they are part of me.  (Not to mention, the amount of pictures I’ve taken will keep me scrapbooking for at least a decade.)

I know it’s going to be a fast year with lots of wonderful memories just as the last two have been.  I’m excited about my classes and writing my thesis and serving as Senior Sacristan.  So, here I am, in what has been “my room” for the previous two school years and will be for the “last one” … orientation and the first week of classes have come and gone and I still haven’t completely shaken off the “funky mood”.   It’s going to be a mixed bag, I think.  I’ll keep you posted on how things go …

Summer Sermon #4 - Being Fed

I should have posted this one a long time ago ...

July 31, 2011
Proper 13
St. Thomas Episcopal Church

Isaiah 55:1-5
Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:13-21

Being Fed

The feeding of the five thousand – perhaps the best known of Jesus' miracles, next to the water to wine thing, of course.  I'm sure you know the story well. But for those of you who have been in my bible study this summer, you know I'm all about looking at these familiar stories fresh and new to see “what else” we can get from them.  And, I'm always amazed that when I do look at a familiar story, trying to put aside what I think I know about it, God almost always gives me something new in it.  This story was no exception. 

This is the only miracle that is presented in all four of the gospels.  I think that makes it pretty significant.  And, although the telling of the story in each gospel is slightly different, there are certain facts that are unchanged – there are 5000 men plus women and children, there are five loaves and two fishes, and there are 12 baskets full left over.  I think we can confidently say this miracle really did happen.

But what really did happen?  And I don't mean, how did Jesus do it, how did he make so much food appear?  That isn't the important question to ask.  It's not what we are to get from the story.  I think it's good for us to acknowledge there is mystery in miracles.  It helps us remember that God is God and we are not.  Let's  revisit afresh what the story tells us.  First of all, Matthew sets the context of this story immediately following Jesus finding out that John the Baptist has been gruesomely killed, at the whim of King Herod's wife who didn't like his teachings.  Jesus wanted to get away to spend time in his grief, to go to a 'deserted place by himself'.  The reference to a deserted place would not have been lost on the first readers of Matthew's gospel – it's a place of human wandering and uncertainty, of doubt and insecurity and yet mysteriously, miraculously it is a place where God works deep within.  The Israelites wandered in the desert as God prepared them to receive the abundance of the Promised Land; John the Baptist preached in the desert to prepare his listeners for the abundance of the Kingdom that was coming in Jesus; Jesus himself spent time in the desert to prepare for his ministry that would bring the abundance of new life to all.  The desert is a place of isolation and suffering but it is also the place God uses to prepare us for the abundance to come. 

The crowds, however, had a different plan for Jesus.  They hungered to hear his word and receive his healing touch, so much so, they didn't think about their basic physical needs.  They followed him, without hesitation, without preparation, without packing a lunch.  And when Jesus saw them, he wasn't annoyed, he didn't try to avoid them, he didn't scold them … even in the midst of his own grief Matthew tells us he had compassion for them and healed their sick.  The account in Mark says Jesus has compassion because they are like sheep without a shepherd.  Jesus was moved to compassion and instinctively he takes care of their physical needs – he heals them.  Webster defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it”.  Without the desire to do something, it's just pity or feeling sorry.  Compassion moves us to want to do something even if we don't know what that something is. 

A lot of people when they read what the disciples say next accuse them of not having the same compassion that Jesus does and I've thought that, too.  But this time through I saw it differently.  I think they did have compassion.  They knew the people must be hungry, the disciples themselves were probably quite hungry, so they ask Jesus to remind the crowd that they need to eat.  They're pretty sure they don't have the resources to feed them so they come up with the best plan they can – send them away to get food.  Can you see it that way?  Can you relate to their wanting to care for the world's   needs but feeling unable to do anything?  They are thinking with earthly things and their own power and ability.

Jesus knows differently.  He knows that the disciples can do more; he knows that with God's help they are capable of partnering with God in the care of His creation and he's going to show them how.  He tells them “you feed them”.  When they voice their inability to do anything, it's not because they don't want to, but because they don't know what they can do.  Jesus walks them through the solution.  He first tells them to gather what they have.  In their time of doubt, he begins to prepare them for the abundance to come. 

When they bring him the five loaves and two fishes, he takes what they have and looking to heaven, prays over it – actions we mimic every week when we partake in the Eucharist.  We bring forward what we have – the bread and the wine and give it to God at His table, we give thanks and ask Him to bless it.  What follows is always abundance.  He miraculously transforms it so that it not only feeds us physically but spiritually.  In loving abundance God gives us what He knows we need. 

Jesus didn't give the food directly to the crowds, he gave it back to the disciples and asked them to distribute it.  The disciples partnered with God as co-creators.  And like the disciples we are called to partner with God in sharing His loving abundance with others.  In coming together to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, we receive that which nourishes us so that we can go out into the world to love and serve – to be moved to compassion by the needs of the world.  We are called to be the hands and feet through which God does His work is done in this world. 

It's easy to become overwhelmed with the great needs of the world and to say “What can I do?”  When the disciples thought there was barely enough to feed the 12 of them, Jesus gave them the means to do more, much more, and each of them had a basketful left over.  We are not meant to do it alone.  The disciples worked together with each other, no one disciple is singled out by name, they are a unified group, looking to Jesus who points them to heaven for direction and the power to reveal God's love to the world through concrete acts of compassion. 

Together, as followers of Jesus' Way, we can, with God's help, miraculously and mysteriously, make His abundant love a concrete reality to the world around us if we don't limit ourselves to our own power and means.  Jesus shows us how we can be God's hands and feet, moved to compassion, by looking to heaven and giving thanks for the power and ability only God can provide. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I like to write fiction – creating characters and situations that come to life in the words and sentences I link together. One of my favorite parts about writing is when I realize that what I had originally planned to happen just doesn't fit with the characters I've created and the story begins to write itself. I like to talk about the fiction I write – if you've known me for long you know this (really, she's talking about that again?). I don't like for anyone to actually read my fiction. It scares me – for two reasons: One you might not like it and not wanting to hurt my feelings you just wouldn't say anything and then I'd have to ask what you thought and then you'd dance around what you really thought and it'd just be awkward for both of us … and two, you might like it and tell me how good it is and then I'd have to say thank you and I'm not always good at taking compliments because I don't want to feed my ego too much and and so I'd get embarrassed then it would just get awkward …

I remember when I first started giving sermons and people would come up to me afterward and tell me I did a good job I felt so wrong saying thank you, but I did my best to be polite and not be too self deprecating. I've talked to several priest friends about it and I've come to understand that it's okay to accept their compliments and comments as long as I approach the whole thing from the right frame of mind. I don't write my sermons thinking “how am I going to wow them this time” but by asking God to use my words to speak to those listening. And, knowing from experience that there isn't a lot in Church Land more painful than a badly prepared or given sermon, I try to do my best at both the preparation and the delivery. Proclaiming God's Word deserves my best and nothing less. I've discovered I really enjoy preparing and giving sermons almost as much as I enjoy writing a short story. 

In my studies of Benedictine Spirituality, I've read a lot about humility. Understanding humility is the foundation of Benedictine Spirituality. In his Rule, St. Benedict talks about humility more than any other virtue, he devotes a whole chapter to it that is far longer than any other chapter in the Rule including the chapter on Obedience. Benedict defines 12 steps of humility – a program for overcoming our addiction to putting ourselves above God. Humility is not self deprecating but simply accepting our proper place in the Universe – admitting that God is God. The freedom found in this is that we can stop pretending to be perfect and acknowledge that we have limitations. The other side of this coin is that in acknowledging God as God is to accept that we are His creation, His children whom He loves and wants the best for and we owe Him our best – the best of our skills and talents and abilities that He gave us.

Sister Joan Chittister in her commentary on The Rule says “The Irony of humility is that if we have it, we know we are made for greatness, we are made for God.”

So, I have talents and abilities everyone sees and hears and those which I keep private.  Either way I will always strive give it my best because God deserves nothing less.

God's peace be with you,

Internship Summer Sermon #3: Paradoxes

Sunday, July 3, 2011
Proper 9, Year A

Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-15
Romans 7:15-25
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

I love a good paradox. And, this week’s lessons are full of them: Humble triumph, peaceful commands, easy yokes and light burdens … prisoners of hope. In Zechariah we hear the Messianic prophecy that is referenced in each of the four Gospels as they tell of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on what we now celebrate as Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. The Jews in Jerusalem that day would have remembered what the prophet Zechariah foretold as they witnessed Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on a donkey. And yet, therein lies the biggest paradox of all. They would have understood the meaning behind Jesus arriving in Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey and yet for many, he was not the Messiah they expected. The Messiah was God’s promised redemption for them and yet they wanted a Messiah, a savior, of their own design, one not coming humbly to rule in peace but one who came with chariots and war horses, the exact opposite of the prophecy they knew so well.

For us, sitting here in San Antonio, Texas a few thousand years later, what do we hear in this passage? We might hear things that resound with us as we celebrate our country’s birthday – national pride, triumph and victory, dominion from sea to shining sea (yeah, I know shining isn’t in Zechariah, but it is in Katharine Lea Bates’ lyrics – don’t tell me your mind didn’t put it in there when you read it). We might hear of a time we anticipate when there is no war and no suffering in our world. Just like the Jews in Jerusalem, we might hear a description of the Messiah that is very different from our own expectations or we might hear of a hope that we live with, the hope that holds us bound to God.

Long before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey’s colt, he knew his ministry and time would be full of paradoxes and contradictions. He did come, after all, to offer a Way of Life that is different from the world – we are to be in it but not of it. These people struggle with aligning their own wants with what they were told to expect. In Matthew, Jesus points this out. They are like children who want to dictate the rules of the game and then get mad when they can’t control what others do. They condemn John for not eating and Jesus for eating. They are experts in the religious Law but have forgotten the basics of mercy and grace, the very purposes of God’s law. They know God’s Law but not God. They have become prisoners of their own ill-fitting yokes whose burden was more than most could bear. They are not prisoners of hope but prisoners of their own struggle to save themselves by being good enough.

To be a prisoner of something is to be under the control of that thing and most often we think of it in negative terms such as a physical prison, an addiction, or an abusive and oppressive situation. Sometimes though we can use the term prisoner in a positive way like when we say “I’m a prisoner of love” meaning we don’t want to be without it. We choose to let our love of another and their love for us to determine our behavior; we give ourselves over to it. Zechariah knew this to be the case with hope as well. Zechariah offered this prophecy up as encouragement to the Jews who had returned to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon and were in the midst of rebuilding their temple Their hope carried them forward through their struggles, trusting that God would send a Messiah to reverse the powers of the world and deliver and restore his people. He is telling them to let this hope take hold of them and become prisoners of it.

So, how do we, here and now, translate this ancient prophecy, this encouragement to become prisoners of hope? How do we let ourselves become prisoners of hope in the paradox of living in the now and not yet? The Messiah has come and yet we still live in struggle in this world. In the darkest nights of our souls, hope is that faint glimmer that urges us on even when we don’t want to, seeking to know God and trusting Him with our next breath, step, day, future.

But, wait, how can we seek God when Jesus tells us that no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom he chooses to reveal the Father. It sounds exclusionary but it isn’t. Jesus chooses to reveal the Father to everyone who willingly comes to him for rest and relief not power or riches. The rest that Jesus offers is not the absence of work but re-creation, renewal, and the restoring the proper authority of God in our lives. He offers rest to those who find hope in the paradox that God, our life source is the goodness out of which we are to grow into fullness of life and that life is a struggle, from birth to death. Hope is our response to that struggle.

Hope is that which allows us to turn unwanted change into willing conversion; to reclaim powerlessness as willing surrender; to surrender ourselves to the apparent contradiction of peaceful victory and humble triumph without chariots, war horses, or battle bows. We let go of our ideals of what we want a savior to be and accept the one God sent as he is – a humble, peaceful, servant who brings victory and triumph not as the world defines it but victory over a world that presents a false hope that we can save ourselves.

As prisoners of hope we have the freedom to admit our limitations and weaknesses, to admit that God is God and He created us to live in relationship with Him and with each other. We aren’t meant to struggle through life alone but in community so that in those times when we have strength and endurance that others do not have we can help them and vice versa. It is as prisoners of Hope that when we can’t see God we can ask others to point us in His direction because we know he is there; when we don’t have the words to pray, we ask others to pray for us; when we can’t think of a single thing to be thankful for, we can still offer up a prayer of praise and thanksgiving trusting that God is God.

Christian Hope is not the idea that if we believe the right things we will be without struggle in this world. Hope is born out of the struggles of this world and it is through struggle that we develop and grow. Christian Hope is that which enables us to keep our eyes turned in the direction of God even if we feel we can’t see Him, knowing that in the fullness of time we and all of creation will be gathered unto him, free from the struggles through which we have come to know Him.

Jesus taught in parables and paradoxes. His sermons and words often require us to struggle with the meaning. He didn’t do this to keep the meaning from us but to inspire us to delve deeper into our knowledge of God, to teach us how to seek with hope. Sister Joan Chittister defines struggle as “the process of evolution from spiritual emptiness to spiritual wisdom.” It is the invitation to live from deeper within our souls. Struggle is the foundation of hope.

My prayer for all of us is that we stay bound to the Hope which makes us truly free.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Reading

For the first time in a few years I have the time and the mental/emotional capacity to read whatever I want to read … I’d almost forgotten the joys of pleasure reading.  So, I thought I’d share what I’ve read so far in case you are looking for some suggestions.  Yes, some of them are theology related but they are still books I chose for my own interest, not because it was an assignment or research for a paper.  It makes a difference, really! 

Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
This one has been around a while, published in 1995, the first of a line of their Pendergast Mysteries.  A well written mystery and since it is a mystery, I don’t want to give away any of the details but if you like mysteries I do recommend it and I plan on reading the others in the series.  It’s an excellent book for sitting on the back porch with your favorite beverage.  The plot line and characters hold your interest and there are enough surprises along the way to keep it from being predictable. 

Angry Conversations with God by Susan Isaacs
This is a laugh out loud book (I had to stop reading it in a coffee shop because I kept laughing and people would shoot me not-so-nice looks).  Yes, it is theology related but with a twist.  The subtitle for the book is “A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir”.  Susan, in a time when she was feeling abandoned by God has a friend tell her that our relationship with God is like a marriage.  Susan’s response is that if that is the case, she and God need marriage counseling.  What follows is a witty, touching, and very real dialogue between Susan, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and their counselor.  EXCELLENT! 

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
I love books that can take an obscure verse from the Bible and create a story around it!  This one uses Genesis 6:4 – the nephilim, the race created when angels and human women bore children.  Again, it’s a mystery and I don’t want to give away the details.  It seemed to have a slow start but really picked up after the first couple of chapters and became a real page turner!  There is enough historical stuff mixed in that you really begin to wonder if this could all be true.  Nicely developed characters and interesting twists … and the ending … OH, the ending!  You really should read this one.  You’ll be glad you did. 

Love Wins by Rob Bell
Everyone needs to read this book – whether you are a Christian or not, whether you listen to the book reviews that said Bell is a heretic or not.  Bell doesn’t give anything new – a fact he admits in the introduction.  I saw C.S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, and N.T. Wright in this book (thoughts confirmed when I got to the end and looked over his “Further Reading” recommendations).  He doesn’t say there is no Hell; he believes Hell to be very real.  He doesn’t say that everyone, no matter what, will go to Heaven; there will be people who no matter how many chances they are given cannot accept or face the enormity of God’s love.  What he does say is that God’s love is what the Gospel is all about.  Read the book – you won’t regret for a second that you did.  In fact, it may change your life. 

If you do read any of these I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!  Thanks for letting me share the joy I find in reading with you.

God’s peace,

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Language of God

Sermon #2: 

Day of Pentecost
June 12, 2011
St. Thomas Episcopal Church

Numbers 11:24-30
Acts 2:1-21
John 20:19-23
Psalm 104:25-35, 37

I’ve always been fascinated with people who can speak multiple languages.  I cannot.  I’ve tried Spanish, French, and Bosnian and each time it is a great struggle for me.  I never got much beyond counting, basic greetings and courtesy phrases, and a few nouns, food mostly.  But I love to listen to other people speak foreign languages, to listen and watch for any clue as to what is being said by tone, facial expression, and gestures and I get quite excited when I catch the occasional recognizable word. 

There is a Greek Orthodox Church in Toronto that I’ve been to a few times – it’s a beautiful place.  The interior is completely covered with icons telling Bible stories and depicting various Church Fathers and Saints.  Looking up into the dome you see the most wonderful icon of Jesus on his throne, larger than life yet at the same time not anywhere near big enough.  The priest, Father Stavros, is fluent in English, Greek, and Iconography.  He gave me and some of my classmates a “tour” one day of the icons, interpreting their language to us, teaching us how to understand the message of faith and belief that they convey without any words – every detail has meaning, the posture and hand position of the person represented, the items they are holding, the placement of objects and people in the scenes, the intentional distortion of certain human features.  One of my classmates and I attended a service there during Lent.  It was of course, in Greek.  But the flow of the service was familiar enough to what we know as Anglicans that for the most part we knew what was going on even if we couldn’t understand all of the words.  As we were listening to the clergy, the cantor, and the congregation speaking, singing and responding to each other, I could have sworn that all of the sudden I heard one sentence spoken by the priest in English and as he uttered it I remember wondering, wow, have I been listening so intently that I can now understand Greek?  A few minutes later, I thought I heard English again, just a single sentence and then back to Greek.  And then a third time.  I thought: “this must be what Pentecost was like!”  When the service was over and we were walking home, I asked my friend, somewhat hesitantly “did you hear any part of the service in English?”  He admitted he did too and we concluded that for whatever reason, the priest had spoken a few sentences in English and that we hadn’t really understood the Greek, but it didn’t stop us from feeling like we’d been given a glimpse of what the disciples must have felt that day in Jerusalem as they received through the Holy Spirit what they needed to speak the Language of God to all people. 

But, what is the language of God?  Dr. Francis Collins, head of the human genome project said he felt he could glimpse the Language of God in the coding of human DNA; some people believe that we can hear God’s voice in all of his creation; Some believe that can happen only in a church; St. Benedict would say that God can be heard in even the most mundane of tasks.  God’s word is creational, He spoke creation into being; He spoke and Sarah conceived Isaac; He spoke and rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt; He gave his word to Moses and the prophets of Israel; He sent his Word, His son Jesus into the human race to teach us his language so that we can not only speak it to the world around us but so that we can hear it all around us.  

We celebrate the Day of Pentecost every year to remind us that it is through the gift of the Holy Spirit that we are both enabled to hear the language of God and to speak it.  The Spirit entered the room where the disciples waited as a wind that filled not only the room, it filled each of the disciples as well.  In his gospel, John describes Jesus breathing on the disciples as the Spirit filled them.  The Greek word John uses is the same word that is used in the Greek translation of Genesis 2 when God forms the first man from the dust of the earth and breathes life into him.  The language of God, through the breath of the Spirit, re-created, transformed the disciples to the enfleshed Word of God.  God’s language creates and transforms all who hear it.  His Word requires some sort of response from everyone.  God’s language is word and action as the same time. 

For most of us, it is in Church that we first learn to hear the language of God, through Bible study and through participation in worship.  Just as every detail of the iconography of the Greek Orthodox church has meaning, so does every detail of the Eucharist service that we participate in.  When we open ourselves to recognizing God’s language in more than just words, we hear him not only in the reading and proclamation of His Holy Word but also in the passing of the peace, in the actions of the Eucharist, and in the faces of everyone we encounter both in this place and outside those doors. 

Jesus didn’t just fill the room with the Spirit, he filled the disciples.  He didn’t tell them they could only experience the Spirit in the upper room.  He told them “as the Father sent me, so I send you.”  The Spirit filled the disciples; it fills US, so that it is as much a part of us as our very breath, so that we carry it with us, so that with every breath we can be aware that we share the Spirit of God not only in our words but in who we are.  We don’t have to think about breathing, for most of us it just happens.  When we intentionally think of our breathing, we also become aware bit by bit of what is going on with the rest of our being as well.  That is why meditation and centering prayer begin with breathing. 

So what would happen if we intentionally tried to think to ourselves “how am I experiencing the Spirit of God in this time and this place?  Am I intentionally listening for the Language of God in myself and others?”

How many of you noticed the mints in the pews when you came in?  What did you think when you saw them?  Did you think perhaps the VBS kids left a mess?  Did you wonder who left them?  Did you think of Bill Traylor?  Did you think of them as a gift?  Or did you just move them out of the way?  I always considered these mints to be part of the Language of God that our friend Bill was so fluent in, little symbols of the way he cared for each human he encountered as if they were Christ himself.  And, yes, they are red, and yes, when you put one in your mouth, you feel a fire in your breath.  What better illustration for Pentecost and the fire and breath of the Holy Spirit?

God speaks through wind and fire and in stillness and quiet.  He speaks within these walls and in the world outside.  He speaks in joyous times and painful times.  God speaks and the world IS, we ARE.  Our task, yours and mine, is to intentionally listen so that we are transformed by His language so that our very lives interpret who He is to the world. 


Troubled Hearts

My first sermon for this summer:  

May 22, 2011
St. Thomas Episcopal Church, San Antonio
Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  These are words that ring true to all of us.  It is something everyone knows about.  We live in a world of troubled hearts – economic troubles, natural disasters, political corruption, family issues, job issues, relationship problems … the list could go on and on.  The world has a troubled heart and there are many, many solutions given to settle our hearts.  If we own the right house, or the right clothes, drive the right car, get that better job, buy the right beauty products, drink the right coffee, if we can destroy those groups who make us feel threatened or if we could change, by force if necessary, those who don’t meet our standards.  If we satisfy our every longing or do away with those things that cause trouble in the world then our hearts would not be troubled.  The solution to the trouble in the world is somewhere in the world, isn’t it?

Those who believed in Harold Camping’s prophecy that the world was going to end yesterday, I’m sure had troubled hearts in the weeks and days leading up to 6pm on May 21, 2011.  Their hearts were troubled by the thoughts of doubt that they were one of the chosen or by thoughts of loved ones who don’t believe in God, and I’m sure they were quite troubled by those of us who didn’t put any credit in what their teacher had convinced them of.  Their solution to ending their troubled hearts was to convince themselves and others that the troubled world was coming to an end; God had had enough as was ending it.  I’m sure that today, when it is obvious his predictions didn’t come true, their hearts are even more troubled.  They are troubled by the thought that if their teacher was wrong about what he claimed was a biblically based prophecy then how could they trust the Bible and if they can’t trust the Bible how can they trust God?  I’m sure Mr. Camping is cleaver enough to find the words to convince them he was not really wrong and so their hearts will remain troubled by his false teaching.  And nothing of this world will settle their heartache, nor ours. 

But why is Jesus telling his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled?  Let’s put the passage in context.  It is what we call the Last Supper.  The disciples, at the time, though didn’t know it was their Last supper with their beloved teacher, they thought they were having a festival meal together as a community.  But, they were troubled.  Things were not going well for Jesus and his band of followers.  A lot of the Jews who professed belief in him as the Messiah kept quiet for fear of being thrown out of the temple.  Jesus knew that the religious authorities were seeking to kill him.  So, here they find themselves, retreating to a private place during the busy and crowded Passover festival in Jerusalem to share a meal together.  But, as it turns out, this is to be no ordinary family gathering.  Jesus, their leader and teacher, washes the disciples’ feet, and after humbling himself to them, he reveals to them that one of them will be the one to hand him over to the authorities; and then he tells Peter, his right hand man, the one he said would be the rock of the church, that he will deny him not just once but three times.  The disciples have to be a bit perplexed at this moment.  And at the climax of Jesus’ discourse, he tells them “do not let your hearts be troubled”.  Can’t you just imagine them thinking “how on earth are we supposed to not be troubled after what you’ve just told us!?”  Their response reflects their apprehension. 

And then he gives them what should be a very simple set of instructions: Believe in God, believe also in me.  He knows it will be excruciatingly difficult for them to hold onto this belief over the next few days.  To reassure them, he tells them that they know the way to the presence of God.  He is the way.  They know the Father, whom they have not seen because they have lived in the presence of Jesus the Son who is one with the Father.  

And he tells them that if they can’t, if WE can’t quite grasp the concept of Jesus abiding in the Father and the Father in him, then the works of Jesus we have witnessed should convince us.  And when we believe in him we will do those things that Jesus does. 

Our first work is to believe in Jesus and then to let ourselves be transformed by that belief into being the incarnated presence of Jesus in this world just as Jesus is the incarnate presence of God.  We are to believe and trust in God as Jesus believes and trusts in the Father; to allow him to work in us to align our desires so closely with the Father’s that whatever we ask, we will be given. 

Just as Jesus revealed to the world who the Father is, so we are to reveal God to the world by how we live - living in this time and this place, being attentive every moment to God’s presence in everything and everyone around us; Abiding in God and allowing him to abide in us so that we can be his presence in the world.  And that means we live in this world, conscious of every moment and every day.  We don’t live in fear of what might happen in the future, we don’t ignore those in need around us because we are too busy thinking about the life after this one.  We do the things that Jesus did, we care for our neighbors and love our enemies. 

Our culture tells us it is okay to be wrapped up in our own needs, that if we don’t take care of ourselves, who will?  Our culture tells us that it is the things of this world that will settle our troubled hearts.  Jesus tells us it is only in a relationship with God that we can find comfort for our hearts.  It isn’t that we won’t have troubles in this world, it’s a troubled world we live in.  But through our belief and in our relationship with God, our hearts can be at ease abiding in God’s presence and knowing he abides in us.

I have no doubt that the followers of the latest rapture prediction believe in God and love him and want to serve him.  Jesus even tells us to watch and be ready for his coming again.  The fact that Jesus will come again and we will live out eternity in God’s Kingdom is the hope of our belief!  As St. Augustine tells us, we should plan our life as though he isn’t coming back for centuries but live our life each day as if he is coming back today.  Jesus tells us that we are not only to do his works but that we will do works greater than his in this world.  Jesus was the incarnate presence of God in the world because he is God, one person of the Triune God that is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We are to live in his abiding presence while he prepares a place for us in the time to come.  It is not for us to prepare that place; it is for us to be Christ to the world in this time and place.