Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Short Liturgy for Families and Faith Communities after the Non-Trial Verdict in Ferguson, MO.

Adapted from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.

A pastoral explanation of lament may be made, and each one present may be invited to light a candle and place it near the altar as a symbol-action of intention, to be present with God to suffering - our own and that of our neighbors. 


Let us pray.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Psalms 142 and 143, followed by a time of silence in which personal expressions of lament, grief, and pain may me made, either in silence or in the hearing of all.



142 Voce mea ad Dominum
  1. 1  I cry to the Lord with my voice; *
    to the Lord I make loud supplication.
  2. 2  I pour out my complaint before him *
    and tell him all my trouble.
  3. 3  When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path; * 
  4. in the way wherein I walk they have hidden a trap for me.
  5. 4  I look to my right hand and find no one who knows me; * 
  6. I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for me.
  7. 5  I cry out to you, O Lord; * 
  8. I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
  9. 6  Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low; * 
  10. save me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
  11. 7  Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your Name; 
  12. when you have dealt bountifully with me, the righteous will gather around me. 
143 Domine, exaudi
  1. 1  Lord, hear my prayer, and in your faithfulness heed my supplications; *
    answer me in your righteousness.
  2. 2  Enter not into judgment with your servant, *
    for in your sight shall no one living be justified.
    3  For my enemy has sought my life; he has crushed me to the ground; *
    he has made me live in dark places like those who are long dead.
    4  My spirit faints within me; *
    my heart within me is desolate.
    5  I remember the time past;
    I muse upon all your deeds; *
    I consider the works of your hands.
    6  I spread out my hands to you; *
    my soul gasps to you like a thirsty land.
    7  O Lord, make haste to answer me; my spirit fails me; * 
  3. do not hide your face from me or I shall be like those who go down to the Pit.
    8  Let me hear of your loving-kindness in the morning, for I put my trust in you; *
    show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to you.
    9  Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord, * 
  4. for I flee to you for refuge.
    10  Teach me to do what pleases you, for you are my God; * 
  5. let your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
    11  Revive me, O Lord, for your Name’s sake; *
    for your righteousness’ sake, bring me out of trouble.
    12  Of your goodness, destroy my enemies and bring all my foes to naught, *
    for truly I am your servant. 
An extended time of silence is observed.

Psalm 51 is read together. 
51 Miserere mei, Deus
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *
  in your great compassion blot out my offenses.
Wash me through and through from my wickedness * 
  and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, * 
  and my sin is ever before me.
Against you only have I sinned *
  and done what is evil in your sight.

And so you are justified when you speak * 
  and upright in your judgment.
Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, * 
  a sinner from my mother’s womb.
For behold, you look for truth deep within me, * 
  and will make me understand wisdom secretly.
Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *   
  wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.
Make me hear of joy and gladness, *
  that the body you have broken may rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins * 
  and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, * 
  and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence * 
  and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again * 
  and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
I shall teach your ways to the wicked, * 
  and sinners shall return to you.
Deliver me from death, O God, *
  and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness, O God of my salvation.
Open my lips, O Lord, *
  and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice, * 
  but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.
The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *
  a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 
The Officiant and People together, all kneeling
Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.


The Officiant continues

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.


We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us. We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.


We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.


Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.


Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.


Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.


Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.


Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.


For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.


For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.


Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.


Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.


By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.


The Officiant then says

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live, has given power and commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all those who truly repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel. Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The following may be sung.



The Officiant then says

The Peace of the Lord be always with you.

People And also with you.

Signs of peace are exchanged.


Let us go in peace, to Love and serve the Lord.
People Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Knitting, Woodworking, and Other Subversive Signs that the Kingdom is Near
(Reflecting on Material Consumption and the Creative Possibilities of Christian Community)


Knitting, Woodworking, and Other Subversive Signs 
that the Kingdom is Near 

(An outline from a class I was asked to lead at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church, drawing primarily from the work of Jean Vanier and William Cavenaugh.)

The Backstory
  1. The story of Joe the Marine.
  2. The 3 roles we live: simultaneously producers, consumers, and product.
  3. Some Christians in our tradition’s history have experienced fasting as a helpful spiritual discipline, drawing people into deeper relationship with God and each other.
  4. Fasting oftentimes is defined as not eating for a period of time. Eating is consumption of material. 
  5. Shopping is also consumption of material.
  6. Could fasting from shopping/purchasing be a helpful spiritual discipline, drawing people into deeper relationship with God and each other? 
3 quick thoughts on arranging a fast from purchasing:
  1. Think it through. If you’re fasting on day B, make sure on day A that you have enough gas in the car. 
  2. Because you will have to buy gas on day A, arranging a fast on day B may feel like semantics, but this is not more than you already do when you work a little longer on day A in order to take day B off. 
  3. There is something important about the arrangement of consecutive hours free from a practice - whether the practice is work, consumption, or something else - something that is transformative. We know this, or we would never take vacations. 
What would a purchase-less day/week/month require of you? What might it look like?

The next step: more than negation.
  1. If you were to abstain from purchasing long enough, you would eventually need to make some of the things you used to buy. If you did not buy your clothing, for example, you might need to sew or knit your clothing instead.
  2. Making things, becoming involved in their material processes, can be a creative way to grow a deeper appreciation and healthier respect for the material world. 
  3. After all, purchasing doesn’t make us materialists. In practice, it makes us gnostics. We become increasing detached from production, producers, and even the products we buy.
  4. Advertisers know all of this, which is why they sell abstract intangibles attached to products; a car means freedom, and so on. 
  5. Oftentimes, the pleasure is not in having, but in wanting - in identifying some aspect of our self to construct through the purchase. We are constantly promised renewal through created things; the chance to start over.
  6. What could/do you grow, make, produce, create?
Creativity in Community
  1. We often think of spiritual practices like fasting in individual terms. But communities can fast together; they can also engage creative processes together.
  2. “Community is built through the sharing of gifts.” Jean Vanier, l’Arche.
  3. Only when we share gifts can we fully experience the acceptance of a community of belonging, because only then have we risked our true selves to be accepted.
  4. How much do you trust this faith community’s ability to accept you as you are, in all your giftedness and brokenness?
  5. How can your creative/productive resources be given for the life of this community and others?
Hebrews 10

24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
  1. There is a significant difference between not neglecting to meet because you will be missed in your pew and not neglecting to meet because you are baking the bread. Christian community is about choosing, as a community, to rely on the gifts of each member for the sake of the Body; this is the community of belonging.
  2. All of this understanding is already present in the Eucharist, with the reminder that as we risk our gifts in community, Christ blesses and is present to even those parts of ourselves we believe are inadequate for sharing. 
  3. For it is God’s love, shown to us in Christ, that makes the community of belonging possible.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Interstellar, Crying At Movies, & My Man-Crush On Matthew McConaughey


To write a review (it seems to me) is to imply that the reviewer believes herself capable of rational and objective - if not detached and insightful - thought about the subject she's reviewing. Let me acknowledge and dispel this belief at the outset with respect to two of the most important facets of the film Interstellar:

Firstly, Matthew McConaughey. Seriously. I'm in. I could watch his "Osiris" commercial for Lincoln on loop all day without complaint. Give me a Shiner, a plate of hot buttered tortillas, a side of guacamole, and I'll lack for nothing else. I would try to defend this, but this is the irrational bias section of the review, so, Matthew. 

While we're here, how many beer drinking scenes do you think they wrote into the script after McConaughey's agent calls and says, yes, he'll take the part? I mean, is there a person on earth who looks more cool, in-command, and like his true self drinking a beer? The man was made to drink Lonestars on porches with aviator shades and a glazed and faded semblance as he mumbles cosmic truths. Who knows, maybe the beers weren't there in the script at all - maybe Matthew insisted on drinking a beer in every front porch farmer/philosopher scene. Maybe he *always* has a cold one in tow. Maybe he's *that* cool and in-command, sidling up to a scene with a brew in his hand and everybody forgets the scene had ever been imagined any other way.

Secondly, movie plot lines with daughters. I don't watch many movies. One a month, in theaters. But the last three movies I've seen have been these: Calvary, The Skeleton Twins, and Interstellar. Among other things, and in completely different ways, they all feature daughters as heroines. As a parent whose life changed forever the day my daughter was born, I can't tell you how gratifying it is to see movies that tell compelling stories of remarkable, strong, complex, and captivating women. And, in each of these films, women as daughters - uniquely - shape a significant part of each plot.

That women - and especially women as daughters - have found a new and long-coming place as compelling lead characters in today's movie industry is a welcome reality. It is also the reality that, on account of these characters - and my own role as a dad - I cry a lot in these films. 

The scenes can (and, in the case of Interstellar, oftentimes *did*) feel clunky and thin, but it's "Murph" - some parent's daughter - and in the blink of an eye he's missed a decade of her life...

Bawling.

Parenthetically, with all the theory of relativity / space-time-continuum stuff elevating the viewer's awareness of the cost of every passing minute, the length of the film seemed a touch ironic. At least not very self-aware. But then the music with the tic-toc rhythm would take over a scene and you realize, "Wow! They are aware! They just think this thing's that good!" And, for large chunks, it was. Even when the film sunk to self-indulgence, it never stopped being fun.

So, to recap so far, I cried a lot. I love my daughter. Also, Matthew McConaughey.

My other thoughts are less focused. 
  • As the film opened and we were first introduced to a futuristic world in which concepts like agriculture and food supplies are nearing extinction, I confess I began fearing that the film might veer into ecological preachiness. This fear is itself a strange one, since I am a preacher who cares deeply for the environment. Still. It was my day off. Alas, I need not have feared! Once we'd landed in the credits, I found myself perplexed at how a film that had first inspired this fear seemed environmentally tone-deaf by the end. Many of the relationships depicted in Interstellar could have been deepened significantly, but none more - by way of backstory and lament - than the people's relationship to the land they were leaving.
  • The exception to the above complaint is the documentary footage we see of aged survivors of the future. This is the most evocative intermingling of futuristic and historical thematic elements I've ever seen in film. Sadly, though - again, with the lone exception of the table setting scene - the documentary scenes are thin on content, the director seemingly satisfied to have located the innovative medium.

* S P O I L E R   A L E R T * 

  • The Matt Damon hour of the film felt like a film in itself and was hugely entertaining. Anne Hathaway's Dr. Brandt gives us the set up when she tells McConaughey that, while the adventure is dangerous, there's no evil in space - any evil would have to come from the human species. Minutes later, it's Matt Damon playing his best Javier Bardem-esque sociopath. 
  • In addition to being a great and unexpected villain, Damon's character confirms the message the crew had received from McConaughey's daughter a few minutes before, namely that the mission's 'Plan A' was not viable from the start. The crew members had been duped because, says, Damon, the evolutionary instinct of each one of us makes it easier to say "yes" to missions like these when we believe that, by engaging them, we can save our own children. By so clearly exposing the self-interests of the film's heroes-in-making, Damon's character attempts to establish an atmosphere of moral ambivalence. Indeed, Damon initially makes the claim that NASA's deception and cover-up is morally justifiable before confessing to McConaughey that he gave false information about the planet on which he landed because, having landed on an uninhabitable planet, he could not imagine being left for dead.
  • Damon's character is entertaining, if not convincing, as one seeking to cloud the clear waters of McConaughey's own sense of right and wrong. What Damon accomplishes, however, is that he reestablishes the film's credibility as an exploration, itself, with no predetermined end. Where before, the viewer might have been tempted to read the film's direction as "pro-NASA," after Damon, we are left with the clear understanding that nothing is clear. Maybe the moon landing was propaganda after all! Maybe we should all be farmers. Now it is clear that nothing is being endorsed. Nothing is safe. Nothing is promised. This is Christopher Nolan at his Dark Knight existential best.
  • I watched the movie at Madison's Sundance theater with my buddy Justin. He and I both laughed unreasonably loudly at the movie's best intentional comedy moment, when a robot tells a won't-be-stopped McConaughey, "That's not possible!" to which McConaughey fires back, "No - it's necessary!" It's a ridiculousness scene - abstracted from its immediate context, the scene is a caricature of white, male privilege - and the beginning of the end, ultimately, for Interstellar as an agnostic thrill-ride of nothing-is-promised exploration. When McConaughey speaks these words of defiance, we know that he will not die, which is too bad, because such certainty undercuts the movie's haunting and compelling premise. If McConaughey's character had died at any number of key parts - especially before physical resolution with his daughter, Murphy - the film would have stayed with me in an unsatisfying, profound, and deeply disturbing way for months. Instead, by the end, we have come to think of McConaughey as all-powerful and immortal, in his own mind, a stand-in for human ingenuity and the human spirit, watching his daughter die before he slips a ship and carries on - the unencumbered, embodied spirit of progress and exploration. 
  • The near-end scene in which McConaughey's character cries out to his past self not to leave his daughter for this mission is heart-wrenchingly pure. Of course, it complicates a simple workaholic/absent dad narrative to note that he believed his work was saving the world. But, of course, imbalance of the workaholic kind often involves believing our work will save the world. The courage of Interstellar was in naming the deception such belief often involves, even if in this case, McConaughey ends up saving the world after all. How did this sound like a good ending to anyone who was involved in the film's first two and a half hours? But even the unsatisfying ending is brilliant in its own way - for, finally convinced that nothing is certain, the audience is surprised when certainty makes a last appearance at the end - overcoming our new found faith in uncertainty and disappointing us with the happy ending for which we'd long stopped hoping. Of course, when it happens, we realize we were foolish to have given up hope. 
After all, this is Matthew McConaughey.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Live the Mercy You've Received
(a sermon for Oscar's installation)


I was honored to preach last night at my good friend Oscar Rozo's installation as Chaplain to the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry at UW-Whitewater and Priest-in-Charge at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. It was a wonderful evening and a joyful celebration. Here is the sermon I preached.

The Lessons
Psalms 133 and 134

In the Name of the living God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friends! Bishop Miller, Bishop Froiland, my sister and brother clergy, my dear friend and brother, Oscar: grace and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.

So, it's late. Later than we're usually assembled like this. Nearing bedtime, maybe, for some of you. I know, me too. But are you happy to be here? Yes? Turn and tell a neighbor, "I'm happy to be here!" I am happy to be here, too, with dear friends and for this celebration. As I was driving the winding roads to get here tonight, with the anticipation of the evening and the time change thrown in, making it overly dark, it felt almost like preparing for the Easter Vigil. What a gift to be gathered now, as then, called together by the Spirit of God.

Bishop Froiland, you and I were in the same room a couple of weeks ago, at the retirement party for my good friend and colleague, Pastor Brent Christiansen, at UW-Madison; he was celebrating the end - 21 remarkable years of ministry spent there with students. You and I didn’t meet that night, but it is wonderful and appropriate to be sharing another room with you just now, this time to mark a beginning, as another minister of the Gospel takes up the mantle of ministry among students and as priest-in-charge at St. Luke’s.

In fact. Presumably. Just now. Word is. We are among students. Students, where are you? 

I bring the love and prayers of the Episcopal community at UW-Madison for you tonight. We are cheering you on with our whole hearts as you continue the good work God’s begun in you, lovingly calling you to grow as a community of belonging and blessing for others. To the people of St. Luke’s and you students, it is a real joy to be with you.

I don’t know what you students make of being a Christian on campus in 2014, what it’s about. Whatever else it means, you probably assume it means doing service projects or something similarly impressive, in order to be vaguely useful to those around you. But I hope you know the blessing you are already, by virtue of your having risked the vulnerability required to gather as this community of belonging. Your growing imagination for life together, knowing and being known, seeking Christ in one another and others, is a beautiful gift for which the outside world deeply longs. True fact.

Enough flattery. Let’s get to the gospel. Someone’s given us the Great Commission to talk about tonight, so there’s no point putting it off. I mean, I’m clearly putting it off. Eh. It’s not that I don’t like the Great Commission. God knows, I’m for it. Bishops, I’m for it! The Great Commission, for Christians, is the top of the list. The best. It’s just that, well. An African Bible scholar one time said, “You white, Western Christians and your infatuation with the Great Commission - it must be nice,” he said. (I’m paraphrasing.) “To have the luxury of assuming the power necessary to exercise these words of Jesus in the peculiar ways you do… Who else on this planet is in a position to take for granted, as a given of the Gospel, the freedom, the wherewithal, to go out and conquer to the ends of the earth, the power to make, to shape, to mold the social order as you deem best, even if you don’t know best? You assume the role of baptizer, teacher, leader to those you may or may not take the good time to know first. And, then,” he said, “if you have taken for yourself the role of the colonizer in all that comes before it, of course it makes sense to remember that Christ is with you to the end of the age; that God has legitimated your efforts to be salvation for others.” What the bishop didn't say is that such a vision depends on a presumption to power  which even the while Western church may no longer find itself comfortable assuming.

“But,” he said, cheering up some, “did you know that the original Bible did not come with tidy bold headlines at the top of every section? That is, there’s nothing to stop us from finding another commission in the scriptures and calling it the great one instead. I would suggest, for example,” he said, “the interaction between the risen Christ and Peter around that charcoal fire on the beach in those early morning hours. Jesus, re-meeting the friend who denied him. ‘Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?’ Three times he asks him. Peter, engulfed by humiliation and grief, crying out from the depths, ‘Yes, Lord! You know that I love you.’ Jesus’ commission to Peter: ‘Feed my sheep.’”

I share this African scholar’s observation not only because his suggested great commission closely resembles the mission statement painted on your parish hall wall - We feed people! - and far less to question the Great Commission itself. Let’s be clear about that. What I want us to question is not the Great Commission but the way we have, says this scholar, sometimes read and militarized the Great Commission in ways that forget that the one who gave it in the first place had holes in his hands when he said it, and that the ones to whom he gave it were the ones he had to first forgive.

When we remember that the one who is with us is the crucified and risen Jesus; when we remember that the one who is with us came back to those who left him because he loved them; when we remember that the one who is with us calls the merciful blessed and the peacemakers children of God; when we remember that the one who is with us put a tax collector and a zealot in the same room together in his posse of friends and called that the Kingdom of God; then, and only then, can the action verbs of Matthew’s gospel reclaim their true selves again. For, read in this context, we cannot imagine going to others apart from an ocean-deep longing to seek and serve Christ in them, joyfully anticipating God’s meeting us in realms beyond ourselves; read in this context, we cannot imagine making disciples apart from reconciliation, which may involve our own confession of sin - sometimes “mission” means saying, “I’m sorry” for the ways we’ve put our own conditions on the unity of the Gospel; read in this context, we cannot imagine baptizing as anything other than delight in the sheer grace of God, not a power of ourselves; read in this context, we cannot imagine teaching, for example, forgiveness, apart from living lives of public gratitude and trusting that we ourselves have been forgiven. And read in this context, we cannot imagine remembering the ongoing presence of Christ as validation for what we’ve done so much as the truth about who we are and who we will become. The truth about who you are is deeply loved by God. The truth about who you will become is reconciled to God and all things, all things, reconciled to God in Christ. Go, make, baptize, teach, remember. Live the mercy you’ve, in Christ, received. Live a trust with God and all God’s friends.

It is helpful tonight to remember that the Great Commission is given by Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the one and the same Jesus who spoke the Beatitudes, because only then can we begin to make sense of a priest and pastor like Oscar. Oscar is not a colonizing presence; Oscar loves CPE! Oscar is gentle. Moreover, Oscar is gentle not in a vaguely polite, pseudo-Christian kind of way but in the way Paul talks about gentleness: as a witness to the nearness of the Lord. Oscar loves Jesus, and is committed to speaking the truth to and for all those Jesus loves and receiving the truth from the same. This does not mean that Oscar is perfect, but that Oscar knows and cherishes his need of God’s Spirit. There are few greater gifts. 

Live the mercy you’ve, in Christ, received. Live a trust with God and all God’s friends. Go, make, baptize, teach, remember. 

Oscar has told me so much about the ways you at St. Luke’s and in the LECM live this mercy already and are seeking to grow in holy friendship with those around you. Reconciliation is close to your heart. Look at you: Lutherans and Episcopalians - reconciliation; young and not so young - reconciliation; around fire pits and dinner tables - reconciliation; in countless conversations at so, so many coffee shops - reconciliation; in the newly planted dream for an interfaith chapel to be a place of welcome for all people - reconciliation; in coming efforts to organize communities of faith around dialogue and support of LGBTQ communities - reconciliation. At every turn, living the mercy you have received. Learning and living a trust with God and God’s friends. You go, make, baptize, teach, and remember every time you engage Christ’s work of reconciliation in this world, giving and generously receiving gifts in God’s Name.

But if the preacher’s word so far is to demilitarize Matthew’s Great Commission and read it less as marching orders and more as an invitation to live into the reconciling community called together by the crucified and risen Christ, we need, before we’re done, to say a word about courage.

In tonight’s Old Testament lesson, the LORD tells Joshua to “Be strong and courageous.” The context, this time, is military invasion, but the courage required of Joshua is not the traditional, stoic courage of the warrior; it is the courage of one God has promised to be with, so it is a courage not of self-sufficiency and might but of trust and surrender. It’s the same promise God gave Moses, when Moses told God that he’d rather be a slave in Egypt than free apart from the presence of God. It’s the promise God first gave Moses, in that awkward, somewhat clumsy, first-date elevator pitch beside the burning bush. Moses objects, “Who am I for an adventure like this one?” “You are,” says the LORD, “the one I am with.” From that moment on, Moses is asked to find his identity and take his courage only from the promise that he does not go alone.

Moses and Joshua remind us that courage, to be courage, doesn't require the absence of fear, but courage does require the trust of the company with which we travel. Another word for such a trust is friendship. In Christ, we have been made friends of God and one another. So the same Christ who gives the great commission sends them out in pairs, as friends. Courage, of course, involves the trust of those around you - that they will be with you and for you and tell you the truth - and also of those behind you - that they will protect you in your blind spots as you go forward beyond what you can see - and of those before you - that, in the moment of your testing, the training you've received from the communities that raised you will be sufficient for the task at hand - and of those who follow you - that the sacrifices you have made, or are about to make, will be valued and furthered, and not rendered inconsequential. 

Such trusts, of course, takes time. Oscar, be patient. With others and yourself. God has given you all the time in the world to grow in this trust. Cherish the time. For Christians, there is above all the deep trust that God will provide, beyond all imagining and asking, even God’s self. We believe this because we have seen, in Christ, how God loves us. And somewhere in that space where God invites us to a trust of this love, we likewise discover that all fear's been cast out, and there is more than enough. Do not be afraid. Be strong and courageous! Wait on the Lord. 

And, finally then, taking our cue from St. Paul - and on a night like tonight, how could we not? - Rejoice. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 


Amen.