Monday, February 18, 2013

"I am about to do a new thing..." A Lent on the Mountaintop at Christ Church Cathedral

We are ready for a vision of the Promised Land that will show us where God is leading us and what we are on our way to becoming.

We’re ready to hear the words God spoke to the prophet Isaiah, words we will be building toward through these 40 days of Lent. Words we will hear on that last Sunday before we join Jesus on his journey into Jerusalem:

I am about to do a new thing.

Yesterday, I preached about us doing something different this Lent. Instead of a Lent of anguish and guilt, we are getting "out of the desert and up on the mountaintop" where we can glimpse the Promised Land God has in store for us.

Christ Church Cathedral lives God's mission of "restoring to unity all people with God and each other in Christ" through embracing our five core values -- Spirituality & Faith, Diversity, Communication, Growth and Service. It is through these that God is doing a new thing through us -- right here, right now.

And so we say with Isaiah: "Now it springs forth."

And so we ask with Isaiah: "Do you not perceive it?"

For the next six weeks, we will be searching and dreaming together for what that new thing might  be. We'll be doing it together as a Cathedral community and individually in our lives. We'll be asking the questions:

What is the new thing God is trying to do in our life?
What is the new thing God is trying to do in my life?

What will that look like?

For starters, throughout Lent, our preaching at 10 am on Sunday will be on this theme "I am about to do a new thing." Our preachers -- the Rev. Canon Amy Cortright, the Rev. Kathleen Wilder and me -- will guide us through the Old Testament readings for the season and look at different aspects of what God's "new thing" might look like.

*We'll have a series of wonderful guests who will help us reflect on God's new thing in their life and ours:

Sunday, Feb. 24, 11:30 am - Grammy Award winning musician/composer Terence Blanchard is our Black History Month potluck speaker and will talk about his creating new works out of the stories of our past.

Sunday, March 3, 9 am – former Alderwoman Kacie Starr Triplett will join us to talk about how God moved in her life through Anna Brown’s death to lead her to give up her seat and dedicate herself to improving health care for the homeless.

Sunday, March 10, 9 & 10 am – The Rev. Kathleen Wilder of Centenary UMC and The Bridge will lead our forum about her journey to give up a life in corporate America and dedicate her life to ministry and ending homelessness. She will also preach at 10.

Sunday, March 10, 11:30 am – Susan Marino, Head of School for Lafayette Preparatory Academy, will talk about our new partnership with LPA in a Cathedral community forum.

Sunday, March 17, 11:30 am – Representatives from Bridge Bread and HomeFirstSTL will be at coffee hour and available for conversation about these possibilities for deepening our partnership with The Bridge’s efforts to end homelessness.

*We have 10 youth who are going through confirmation class and deciding whether to commit to being a part of God's new thing in their lives by taking an adult profession of the Christian faith.

*On Good Friday evening, we are doing a new thing by hosting the inaugural "Good Friday Blues" -- a partnership with the National Blues Museum and Magdalene St. Louis ... amazing blues music at the foot of the cross that will draw new people into Christ Church Cathedral and hear the "deep love meets deep pain" message of Good Friday in a new way.

We also want to hear your stories. What "new thing" do you find God luring you into? What "new thing" do you see God doing in your midst?  Leave it in a comment here or on our Facebook event page for Lent at CCC -

What is the new thing God is doing through us? Through you?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

First things first: Today's Bible Challenge readings

I don't know about you, but I've been having to try really hard to resist the temptation to skim over the Exodus readings recently as we do The Bible Challenge together. This morning, as I was reading the chapters about the building of the lampstand and the making of the vestments, something hit me.

This is insane.

These people are in the desert. They need food and water. They need protection from wild animals. And, the last thing they need is to be tied down with a bunch of carefully crafted non-portable things like the tabernacle and the court if someone should attack. Is this how they should be spending their time and resources?

From a "practical" standpoint, what the people of Israel are doing in the desert is absolutely crazy. But what they are really doing is putting first things first.

No matter what our situation, the first thing we always do is praise God. We do that trusting that if we take care of that, God will take care of the rest.

Praising God takes many forms. It is, as we say in the liturgy "with our lips and in our lives." We praise God with words and songs of praise, with glorious art and music. We also praise God as Jesus did ... healing the sick and spending time with the most broken and vulnerable.

We praise God first and don't worry about the more "practical" considerations. We trust that God will provide.

But there is one other thing. Part of praising God -- a huge part -- is giving deeply to that work. Moses had what might be the first capital campaign to raise the materials to build all this stuff ... and the people gave so generously that he had to say: "OK, stop! We have enough."

There's a church in Washington, D.C. that you've heard me mention ... Church of the Savior. More than any church I've ever encountered, it takes seriously Jesus' "Enter by the narrow gate" command. I was there this past October listening to one of their leaders talk about how they do stewardship. It's pretty simple.

Everyone tithes. Period. End of story.

Well what if someone has expenses that crop up --- a car wreck, medical bills, can't pay their rent? That's OK. The community will pay those expenses if necessary ... because that's how they love each other ... but they still pay the tithe.

First things first.

What if Christ Church Cathedral were like that?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Famous last words. Today's Bible Challenge reading -- The Great Commission

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ - Matthew 28:16-20

Those of us who are doing The Bible Challenge (reading the whole Bible in a year), finished the Gospel of Matthew today. There's kind of a breathless nature to this reading ... we finish Matthew today and dive right into Mark tomorrow ... but today's finale deserves at least a little pause to reflect. As I've sat with it this morning, three thoughts jumped out at me.

The disciples went to Galilee -- Even though Jesus sends them to "make disciples of all nations," where he told them to meet him first was in Galilee. Why is that important? Because Galilee was their home. We meet Jesus where we are. Our commission to follow Jesus starts at home, right where we are. Not coincidentally, that's often the toughest place to do it ... the place where the relationships matter the most to us and where we have the most to lose. It's easier to go from strange town to strange town and kick the dust off your feet if they start throwing cabbage at you ... but sitting at the family dinner table? That's hard work. And yet Jesus, like Paul McCartney sings, "Get back to where you once belonged."

Some doubted - If this isn't one of the coolest little asides in all of scripture, I don't know what is. The resurrected Jesus is standing right in front of them on a mountain ... and still some doubted. Perfect faith is not about never doubting. Doubting is to be expected. It's a sign of a real, engaged and true faith. Doubting is why we always follow Jesus in community. So that when we doubt, we have the faith of the community to carry us. The ability to own our doubts and still listen for Jesus and walk together with Jesus is the hallmark of Christian community. Some doubted? Damn straight!

Always - There is one promise of Christ ... and that is the promise of presence. We are not promised prosperity or health or respect or anything like it. We are not promised that our lives will not completely fall apart or that we won't be hit by a bus or that our best friends and spouses won't betray us. But we are promised that through it all, God will be with us. And if we are to follow Jesus together, that is what we promise to embody for each other. When the worst life has to offer happens to us, we can't promise to have the magic words to say to make it all better (those don't exist), we can't promise to fix each other, we can't promise even to make sense of it all. But we can look at one another as sisters and brothers in Christ and say "I am with you always, to the end." That is the greatest witness we can have of the Gospel of Christ to the nations of the earth ... we will love you and walk with you to the end. Do we really need anything else?

What do you think when you read the Great Commission? What jumps out at you?