31 March 2013

Happy Easter

Here's the best I have to offer this year for Easter.

Judson Sermon 20130331 "Rolling, Rolling, Rolling" from Jacqueline Thureson on Vimeo.

print version.  in the fashion that I read it.  not a complete text, but pretty close to it.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling
text: “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” (Luke 24:2)
Easter Sunday – 31.March.2013
Judson Memorial Baptist Church
Minneapolis, MN
The Rev’d G. Travis Norvell

Jesus gave his life to a cause worth dying for, the non-violent transformation of humanity, centered on the ancient teaching of the prophets & poets of ancient Israel. 

He sought to bring to life
  the beloved community
    the flowering of liberation,
            & to proclaim  -  through his life  -  jubilee. 
He died on Good Friday
and mocked. 

On Saturday the world waited and rested.

And on Easter morn the women with Jesus who had come from Galilee,
under the shadow of dawn,
stole away,
to give him a proper burial. 
When they arrived at the tomb the body was absent and they discovered, or actually they were discovered,
by two holy messengers in dazzling white clothes. 

Instantly the illuminated tomb was transformed,
it became a liminal place where the separation between heaven and earth is membrane thin,
where righteousness and peace kiss. 

         We have exaggerated up Hallmark images of harps, lullabies, frolicking, and such but those aint biblical images.  To inhabit a liminal moment is to inhabit holy ground, all expectant bets are off.  Rather than soothing, calming, caressing, or tranquil words, the women encountered two messengers with sharp tongues.

         Why seek ye the living among the dead?

The provocative question stirred the souls of the women enough for the messengers to deliver one imperative: Remember. 
Remember the words,
the healings,
  the feedings,
    the embraces,
      the teachings,
        the moments of grace,
          the power of forgiveness,
            the experience of life,
              the elation of truth,
remember, remember, remember. 
The holy messengers asked the women to remember.  Remember their memories, experiences, and encounters with Jesus. 

They remembered. 

Even thought this morning we are separated by 2,000 years, at least six languages and cultures, yet…even still we can feel the release of fear in this moment when they fully remembered. 

They were instantly transformed - ready then, more than ever, to live. 
When God invades our heart, unexpectedly, we find our selfsame existence ceases. 

Instantly the great fears of the early community vanished when the women remembered and began to tell their idle tale.  When they left the tomb they were prepared to live lives that Jesus called them to live. 

         Last week we celebrated Palm Sunday and the baptism of Ben and Seneca.  It was also the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.  Father John Dear tells Romero story this way, After his friend Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande was brutally killed for speaking out against injustice on March 12, 1977, Romero (who was a safe, conservative pick for Archbishop) was transformed overnight into one of the world’s great champions for the poor and oppressed. At the local mass the next day, Romero preached a sermon that stunned El Salvador. Romero defended the work of Grande, demanded justice for the poor, and called everyone to take up Grande’s prophetic stand for justice.

         Two weeks before Romero was executed he told a reporter, “I have often been threatened with death.  If they kill me, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. If the threats come to be fulfilled, from this moment I offer my blood to God for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. Let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality.”

For the early church, the memory of Jesus was symbolized in the image of the cross and their propelling vision was the resurrection. 
It was the symbol not of death but of life, a way of life worth living. 
The cross has been largely translated as Jesus dying for our sins,
Jesus did not die for our sins, Jesus lived for our hearts. 
The resurrection has been largely translated solely as an event in the afterlife. 
Easter would be much easier for you and for me if it were just about the afterlife.  
It isn’t about the afterlife, it is about this life, here and now. 

 Taken together
  the cross
             the resurrection
were the generative symbol and vision for the way of God in this world,
a prophetic call to non-violence as the way to transform the world. 
Jesus sought to create a way,
based on the ancient teaching of the poets and prophets of Israel,
to stop the spiral of violence in the first century. 

To offer a way towards peace through love,     
      the rebuilding of communities,
        embracing of the Other,
          the outcasts,
            the expendables,  
              those with their backs against their walls,
through radical hospitality,
through letting the spirit of God permeate every inch of his body,   marrow deep.

On Easter morn God honored Jesus’ life, work, words, embraces, healings, spreading of an infectious truth, and expansive love. 
God resurrected Jesus, an act akin to the Old Testament portrayal of God with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm rescuing Israel. 
A resurrection of the body, not just of spirit or of soul but of body, wounds and all. 
God honored Jesus with a resurrection of Jesus’ entire body of work. 

We are all going to die, so what are we going to do with our lives to make the world a better place? 
How are we going to live our lives with the time we are granted on this earth to heal,
to love,
  make peace,
    to reconcile,
      to establish equality,
      to make the beloved community a reality. 

How are we going to use our time to offer a body of work that God honors? 

Recently Andrew Young, now 81,  was interviewed on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.  He said, I was really upset that I didn’t get shot, too. I was more afraid of living without him and his leadership than I was afraid of dying.

Death is no problem. We’re all going to die. It’s the one thing we have in common.
(The late civil rights leader) Hosea Williams once told Martin Luther King III: “Your father helped me become a man. He helped me conquer the love of wealth and the fear of death. And when I conquered them, I could become a real man.”

For me, it was the same thing. You have to start living for something that’s worth dying for.”

Young went on to tell the rarely told story of King’s scar.  On September 20, 1958 Martin Luther King, Jr. was in New York City on a book signing tour, Stride Toward Freedom, his account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott had just been published. 

During the signing a woman approached him and stabbed him in the ribs. 

The knife went in at such an angle that the doctors had to open his chest with both a horizontal and vertical cuts. 

Upon the healing of his chest King had a cross scar on his chest.  He said every morning when I brush my teeth I’m reminded that today could be my last.  How am I going to live today to make the world a better place? 

As a congregation we are going to throw all of our love energies at making sure there are full rights and privileges for our LGBT brothers and sisters,

at the helping to change the way we view the environment – it is God’s gift to us that God has entrusted to us,

by offering alternatives to violence as the only way to solve conflict resolution,

helping the friends of God to experience human flourishing through art, prayer, and forgiveness, and doing all we can to live our lives as ambassadors of reconciliation. 

I invite you to join with us in our sojourn as we seek to counter the spiral of violence,
the powers of death,
the three great evils of racism, poverty, & war,
& the ubiquitous temptations of meaninglessness, and apathy. 
They are not the ways of God. 
The ways of God in this world are threaded together through the cross and the resurrection
 spelled out as
    the beloved community,
      social equality,
          and passion. 

I invite us to claim
the cross of Jesus
and his resurrection
as the generative symbols
and metaphors
for our lives as Christians. 

On Friday night we read the names and some of the stories of the 54 homicides of 2012 in Hennepin County, they were old and young, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, rich and poor.  They were largely domestic disputes, they were people caught in the crossfire of gang turf war, they were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time.  It isn’t enough to tell their stories and mourn their deaths;  we can no longer sit idly by. 

Their names and stories were all reminders that what the world needs most is a few people,
a practicing beloved community,
a cross-centered
resurrection-full community
dedicated to ways of non-violence,
      and forgiveness. 

The resurrection of Jesus of is the clarion call for us to live with our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls open to this world. 

Let us put aside the time we have wasted and live lives full of resurrection. 

Brothers and Sisters may this be the day you greet resurrection with open hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. 

May this day and your life be full of Resurrection. 

Amen & Amen.

19 March 2013

New Blog

If you are interested...I have started a new blog to keep track of baseball players who are my age and older.  It is called Milhous baseball, tracking all major league baseball players who were born before or during Nixon presidency.

18 March 2013

Christians in Process Sermon for The Fifth Sunday in Lent

If you just read it, you wont get to hear me butcher Chichester.  
  20130317102315 from Jacqueline Thureson on Vimeo.

Christians in Process
Fifth Sunday in Lent 17.March.2013
Passion Sunday and St.Patrick’s Day
Isaiah 43:16-21 & Luke 12:49-53
text: “…until it is completed” (Luke 12:50)
Judson Memorial Baptist Church
Minneapolis, MN
The Rev’d G. Travis Norvell

            I know some of you scratch your head and wonder where in the world do I get these hymns we sing sometimes on Sunday mornings.  Some are hymns I grew up singing, others are ones I’ve learned along the way, and some are ones I hear on the BBC Choral Evensong program online.  Each week a different cathedral choir is featured.  I’ve never traveled overseas so I enjoy researching the cathedrals, Chichester (one of two cathedrals still visible at sea), Durham Cathedral described as the best cathedral on earth and the site for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, or Truro Cathedral where each year the Queen distributes Maundy Money on Maundy Thursday.  But even more fascinating is to read about the cathedrals architectural history, they are hardly ever finished and the ones that are finished are constantly in need of repair and restoration.  However firm and final we imagine a cathedral they are constantly in flux and in process.  And so are the pilgrims who worship in them, constantly in flux, constantly changing, evolving, unfolding, and in process. 

            Let us pray,
Living God,
as we pause
for sustenance and succor
for strength and solace
for comfort and challenge
for care and courage
be with us as we seek to fill the brokenness of our hearts with Thy light and love.  Amen.

                        We know that there are roughly 18 lost years of Jesus’ life.  We have no idea what he did from the time he was 12 to his appearance in the wilderness to be baptized by John.  We all have ideas but they are only conjectures.  Aint it amazing, 18 lost years…  On the one hand this saddens me but on the other hand this uplifts me in two ways.  For on a playful level maybe the lost years were extremely boring and uninteresting.  And on an exhaling level it shows that even Jesus was in process, evolving into the person we discover in the gospels, a picture which reveals a continual unfolding of how he discerned God’s passion for creation. 

            At first glance the passage about familial division seems harsh, overbearing and yes, extreme.  But that is only if you read it with the grain.  As with most gospel passages I find a truer sensation emerges once we read against the grain. 
            When I read the gospels and perhaps you sense it too, the buildup of frustration in Jesus’ voice.  He knows more than anyone how to live the best life, but his words have a heck of a time taking root in the lives of those who hear them.  In our passage this morning Jesus is past being frustrated he has blown a gasket.  Which crescendos with his rhetorical and sarcastic question:

Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? 
No, I tell you, but rather division! 

            Edward Gibbon in the late 18th century painted in our minds the ultimate picture in our minds for the rule of Rome when he described the period of the first century as the Pax Romana, the Peace of Rome. Perhaps it was “peaceful” if you were a ruling elite with a villa on the banks of the Tiber, but if you were a peasant in first century Palestine life was anything but peaceful. Pax Romana it was not; Infernos Romae, the Hell of Rome, it was.

            When Rome invaded, occupied, and governed Palestine all of traditional life was turned upside down and largely erased.  Every day was a struggle and fight for existence and integrity.  Howard Thurman in his 1949 seminal work Jesus and the Disinherited, described the experience of people on the backside of the Pax Romana as people who lived with their backs against the wall. 

            Jesus had enough of the Pax Romana, the world was ready for something new.  The Peace of God, Pax Dei.  And the only way that kind of peace will inhabit this earth is with fire & water & division. 

            Since the beginning of time, humanity has employed the narrative of cleansing violence as the only way forward, a reset of creation.  Think Noah and the flood.  We do not have to stretch our minds very far to see that idea at work in this text – humanity is so corrupt the only way they could reform the first century was by creating divisions, with a kindled fire and a baptism. 

            This idea has been at work in thought of great people ever since.  Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inauguration took approximately seven minutes to deliver.  In the next to last paragraph he laid out the mission ahead for the nation in grand, some would say biblical terms.  He interpreted the Civil War as God’s way of using violence as punishment for our national sin of slavery.  Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

But is this line of thinking in line with Jesus?  Is redemption through violence the passion and pathos of God? 

Jesus offered his first century audience a choice: you want “peace”, you want the Pax Romana then have it?  For the truth of the matter there was already division, father against son, son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother.  When we read the stories that Jesus told we can sense the pick up on the division already at hand, the story of the Prodigal son, which was retold and beautifully offered last week by Pam Joern, the dishonest manager, the great banquet, the rich man and Lazarus and so on.  They all reveal a society torn asunder by the “peace of Rome.” 

Jesus knew full well that the peasants of Palestine could not match up to Rome man & woman to man.  Rome would easily crush any kind of military revolt, which they did in the year 70 CE.  Instead he offered a new thing in their midst and many did not perceive it.  But to those who did, life was never the same…

Years ago the fifth Sunday of Lent marked the time when Lent kind of ended.  Although technically it was still Lent the following two weeks were called Passiontide, culminating with Good Friday.  When we think of God’s passion in Jesus we automatically assume or imagine it means Jesus’ suffering and death.  Although I do think it partly means that, what about the rest of Jesus’ life?  Could it be that God’s passion was represented more in Jesus’ life than in his death?

            In 1956 H. Richard Niebuhr wrote The Purpose of the Church and Its Ministry.  He concluded that the ultimate purpose of God, or God’s passion, through the church was the increase among men (and women) the love God and the love of neighbor. 

With this ultimate passion and love supreme in our minds, rather than redemptive or cleansing violence we can hear Jesus’ words anew.  If the first century audiences of Jesus were to break the cycle of violence they would have to start anew but not with more violence instead with a return to the ancient ways of life. 

When we take up, live this life and open ourselves to the continual unfolding of God’s passion our lives will be rearranged and there may even be some division at first as we reorient ourselves away from violence to love.  We have entire networks of relationship built on violence that need reoriented and redeemed. 

 Perhaps the greatest religious sham ever offered is the promise of instantaneous redemption.  I wish it were true.  That today, if you follow the ways of Jesus you will be instantly cured of your violent ways, that if you pray this prayer instantly your heart will be healed and expanded.  But we all know full well that change, reorientation takes precious time.  Most of the time we have no idea how are lives are centered around violence.  We are not finished Christians, we are Christians in process constantly learning, constantly failing (not my sister, not my brother but it’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer).  We are Christians in process still learning the ways of Jesus.

Jesus didn’t die for our sins. 
He lived for our hearts. 
He lived to reveal the divine pathos. 

Today is the festival of the Saint Patrick, and although it is the grand day of the Irish, I view it more as a pan-Celtic holiday.  One of the things I love about Celtic Christianity is the incorporation of their pre-Christian rituals, practices and symbols.  One of those is the circle.  Which was eventually incorporated onto the cross. 

Now I have no desire, as I am sure most of you do not either, to end my life as Jesus did, as a martyr.  But I hold onto the image of the cross and circle as the symbols for God’s pathos for us.  The cross is not a symbol of Jesus’ death it is a symbol of his life and passion. 
Rome crucified him for his life,
his teachings,
his challenge to their authority.
The life Rome ended continues in an unending circle as the continual unfolding of God’s pathos for creation, for our brothers and sisters, and for ourselves. 

We are not looking for Jesus’ death, we are looking for Jesus’ life, for God’s passion and pathos for humanity and creation.  Let us live as Jesus did, with a passion for life,
a life on fire
for justice,
and love. 

Let God complete the passionate work started in you. 
Amen and Amen. 

14 March 2013

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

[a repost from last year]

I love this time of year.  Spring is in the air, Ireland's finest exports are poured for everyone, the world's greatest music is played, and people seem to appreciate my knack for finding four leaf clovers.  (I've even contemplated putting this skill down onto my resume).

I love this time of year primarily because of the visits by that mischievous leprechaun that sneaks into our house and causes mass confusion on the morning of St. Patrick's Day! We started this tradition about while in RI on a whim.  Now it is a full blown affair at our house.  The kids love, and...Mom and Dad love it.

I'm not sure what mayhem the little dude will gift us this year but I am sure it will be good.  If you have not planned your visit from the leprechaun do not worry there is still time.

Emergency kit details: green dye (put a few drops in your milk and a few drops in the toilet).  Rearrange the furniture in a haphazard fashion, sprinkle gold dust (glitter) here and there and if you have a pint that you do not mind opening go ahead and do that as well.  And remember, you must have window or door slightly ajar for the leprechaun to escape (make sure you put some glitter there as well).  One year we put a teddy bear in the high chair, and hung clothes from the ceiling fan, turned the chairs around you get the picture - the more tom foolery the better!

If your kids are little this may scare them - but once the initial fright passes over they will get a little fired up and will find mischievous acts that you didn't even know the leprechaun did.  And more important they will be determined to catch the little rascal next year!

This year one of #3's homework assignments was to build a leprechaun trap.  He made a fine rendition of the old box and stick trap.  He wrote on the sides "Do not worry, nothing will happen" and "All Leprechauns Welcomed."  He put a gold nugget by the stick - oh yeah, the leprechaun that visits our house always leaves a golden nugget or two - spray paint a rock gold, then dab glue here and there on it then sprinkle gold glitter on it - taped the nugget to the stick so when the leprechaun tries to take back his golden nugget he will be trapped!

I couldn't help but get into the fun of this assignment.  I too made my own trap, but #3 was not allowed to take it to school.

I think Raymond would have loved this.