First Sunday of Advent, Nov 27 2022

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These are the notes of my sermon for the First Sunday of Advent at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.


Good morning, St. Timothy’s family, friends and everyone gathered for worship. As we embark on the Advent Season once again, and delve into our scriptures, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Today is the first Sunday of four in the Advent Season, a journey we undertake each year of waiting and preparing for the arrival of Jesus. Of course, that happened already, according to the witness of our scriptures, he arrived about two thousand years ago. But each year in our cyclical liturgical calendar we retell and relive the stories. The First Sunday of Advent is a new year’s day of sorts when our calendars begin again with the period of waiting and preparing for Christ’s birth.

In the Sundays of Advent, year after year, we find opportunities to talk about many different themes: waiting and preparing, welcoming, arrival, incarnation and more. We’ll go over the story of when Christ was born, and we usually hear about the main characters of that story: Mary and Joseph, John the Baptizer and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and more. You may or may not know that our readings rotate in a three year cycle, and this Advent begins Year A, rolling back to the beginning of our cycle. I mention it only because this year’s Gospel readings for Advent spend a lot of time with Jesus and his cousin John, and the ideas of waiting and preparing.

This week we hear from Jesus much later in his ministry addressing questions he is often asked about the future. Our Gospel reading for today is Matthew 24:36-44. The idea of gaining an advantage by a timely heads up is nothing new… the disciples of Jesus had questions about the future and would ask how to know when things were about to get crazy for them, or momentous changes might happen.  The answer Jesus gives is rather simple: 1) you can’t know when things are going to happen, and 2) you should act like they’re happening. ~ It’s a very active way of waiting.

Truly, “waiting” in the way Jesus teaches his friends to wait, is not a passive sitting back and watching things unfold. Instead it’s an active way of living life in view of what we believe or hope for, whether we’re seeing it unfold in the moment or not. I was laughing to myself this week because I couldn’t help but think of the way we speak today in some circles saying “Yeah, sorry, not sorry.” If you’ve heard that before, it’s a facetious way of saying sorry without meaning it… Jesus is sort of saying, “Yeah wait, but don’t wait.”

He is going to go on in Matthew’s Gospel to tell parables about how to wait… and it’s all about being prepared, staying awake and watching. It’s almost as though he hears the question, “When will something happen?” as the question, “When do I need to start paying attention to life?” And the answer is now. Don’t close your eyes, don’t drift off to sleep, don’t think you can ignore life and what matters most and somehow jump up and make everything meaningful and right later on, it may be too late… live your life now, in view of God’s future fulfilled promises.

We just mentioned that Jesus told parables about being prepared, active waiting…

  • He tells the parable of faithful and unfaithful servants, contrasting the faithful way and unfaithful ways they cared for the household when left in charge.
  • He tells the parable of the bridal party, contrasting those who made themselves ready for the wait stockpiling lots of lamp oil, with those who didn’t prepare.
  • He tells the parable of three servants given three amounts of money and the various ways they were faithful or fearful in caring for and investing the money.
  • And finally he tells that very familiar story of the final judgment when God blesses those whose faith was active, feeding the hungry, satisfying the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and the imprisoned.

Jesus says “keep awake” and tells four stories about trusting in God to handle the timing while we get busy with our faith now. Jesus is calling us to lives of action and faith in this day, here and now. No need to wait while we wait. No need to be inactive while we wait for promises made.

We say it in some of our Eucharistic prayers, proclaiming the mystery of our faith… say it with me “Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.” We can trust God with the timing of all that, for nowhere is our faithful watching and staying awake going to be misplaced. We can live lives now in view of when God fulfills what may remain to be seen and done.

That’s the beauty of a liturgical calendar that cycles year after year. We have this reminder coming to us again and again in the hustle and bustle of life, keeping us pointed in the right direction. Changing from green to purple on the altar is not the reason for the season of Advent… it’s just part of the reminder that we shouldn’t be asleep. We don’t have to wait while we’re waiting.

So, how will we answer the call to stay awake and keep our faith alive and active? How will we live now in view of what God will do in fulfilled promises? How do we stay awake? Really, how do you? Caffeine! Go for walk! Turn on the light! How do we make ourselves ready and keep ourselves ready, for whatever comes our way and whatever God’s timing looks like for our lives?

How do we stockpile our oil like the bridesmaids who were prepared for a long night waiting?  The easy answers are a bit like the proverbial low hanging fruit… we dig deeper into our prayer, into our study and into our service. But what concrete steps lay ahead for us?

  • The Advent study beginning this week could be a great place to start. The link and the book it’s based on will be in the newsletter.
  • Perhaps it’s a community of support and faithful partnership like the Brother of St. Andrew, Daughters of the King, or even something like my Anglican Dominicans.
  • Maybe it’s reinvesting in communities of ministry here at St. Timothy’s like ECW, MoST or even service on the vestry.

Instead of just saying, I want to pray more, perhaps I can work to build a habit of morning prayer, or evening prayer. There are countless ways to do it and many resources available to us. I should probably start by setting an alarm on my calendar.

Instead of just saying, I want to study more, we have to open our eyes and look at our schedules to make time for it. And we need to go find the resources to fill the need.

Instead of just saying I want to serve more, we need to open our ears to needs and our eyes to opportunities all around us.

And partner up! Grab a partner, or partners, to get into some good trouble with this stuff. Grab a partner for mutual accountability and for support as you build a plan and move forward, someone who can help you stay awake and stockpile the stuff you need for the best life.

  • We wait faithfully for Christ and for God’s promises, but we don’t wait to start living faithfully in view of those promises.
  • We wait for God, but we don’t wait to open our eyes to the world around us and to get busy in life, love and living.
  • We wait for Christ, but we don’t think for a for a minute that’s it’s just nap time until things really get going.

The truth is that while we wait, God is going to be moving full steam ahead and beckoning us to join the fun! So with eyes wide open, let us wait like the wide awake! Amen, amen and amen.

Be blessed, Rev. Todd

Thanksgiving Thoughts 2022

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This is the text of my Thanksgiving letter to the church family at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. I share the same sentiments and prayers with you!


It’s Thanksgiving Day, again! I realize that some of us may not have been raised with a family or cultural tradition around the official holiday of Thanksgiving, but I know we all have people and blessings in our lives which cause us to be thankful. When next you spend some time with St. Paul’s letters to the churches, watch for how many times he expresses thankfulness or encourages it in his readers. He often begins letters with his thankfulness and adds thankfulness as an ending to important ideas, like in Colossians 3:15“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”  He mentions gratitude and thankfulness in each of the next two verses as well, wrapping up a longer discussion in the chapter about setting our minds on Christ and living lives of blessing to one another. 

Gratitude is a foundation for living joyfully, blessing others around us and for facing all the seasons of life, the best and the most trying. And gratitude is not just a decision or a feeling, but it’s also a practice. We do gratitude. It can be practiced in many ways, with a thankfulness journal, sharing our gratitude with friends and family, simply saying thank you, and it should always be part of prayers.

Speaking of prayers, let’s look at A General Thanksgiving on page 836 of The Book of Common Prayer. It has a beautiful way of leading us to explore all the areas of gratitude in our lives…

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love. We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side. 

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

I love the way this prayer takes us on a short journey through all the various seasons and landscapes of life; we have the world around us, the people around us, the work we do and the work of God in us. Seasons and landscapes may change, and days can be better or worse, but gratitude is a constant upon which we can build our lives.

How will we practice gratitude on Thanksgiving Day? How can we weave the practice into daily life? I invite you to try some different things, from listing items of gratitude (counting our blessings), to taking some quiet time to meditate on sources of joy in life. And in all things I pray that God blesses you in the day on Thursday and in all of the coming holiday season.

With peace, Rev Todd

Feast of Christ the King

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My sermon from November 20th at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on the Feast of Christ the King.


Good morning, St. Timothy’s family, friends and all who have gathered for worship, especially those online. We gather on this day of celebrating the sovereignty of Christ to be reminded of what kingship means in scripture. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, our rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Our Gospel reading for the day was Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.  And the people stood by watching, but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.”  He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The Feast of Christ the King is relatively new addition to the liturgical calendar, officially placed in 1925 by Pope Pius the 11th who sought to comfort a war torn and weary Europe with a reminder of a King and kingdom of peace and goodness with no end. It has since grown to be a very ecumenical celebration across all manner of churches, Protestant churches included. To be honest, all week long as I prepared for the day I’ve been singing, humming and listening to Third Day’s King of Glory from their 2000 album Offerings… here are the lyrics:

King of Glory

Who is this King of glory that pursues me with His love
And haunts me with each hearing of His softly spoken words
My conscience, a reminder of forgiveness that I need
Who is this King of glory who offers it to me

Who is this King of angels, O blessed Prince of Peace
Revealing things of Heaven and all it’s mysteries
My spirit’s ever longing for His grace in which to stand
Who is this King of glory, Son of God and song of man

His name is Jesus, precious Jesus
The Lord Almighty, the King of my heart
The King of glory

Who is this King of glory with strength and majesty
And wisdom beyond measure, the gracious King of kings
The Lord of Earth and Heaven, the Creator of all things
Who is this King of glory, He’s everything to me

We celebrate Christ the King today with a kinda heavy reading from the Gospels, one recalling the day of his murder. What a strange reading for the Sunday before Advent, and yet not all that completely strange! Just before we begin the beautiful season of Advent, we have this harsh reminder of the ugliest day… and maybe that’s the kind of reminder we need sometimes.

I mean, we do like to jump ahead to the good stuff don’t we? Sometimes we need to be reminded to slow down. Anyone have family who has already decorated their house top to bottom with Christmas stuff? Did they do it even before Halloween? Was it you? Hey, no judgement… I promise. Anyone ever had trouble waiting for Christmas to open a gift? How about waiting to give one? I can’t stand having a gift for someone and not giving it! And I’ll admit I’m usually the first in my family to fire up some Christmas music in the car or at home… and I don’t wait until Advent is ended!

It’s good to have a day on the calendar to be reminded of what it means for Christ to be our King… to be reminded of what God’s Kingdom means for us and the world around us. On the day that Christ gave his all, Christ showed us just what it means to be a king! To be a King, as Jesus was a King:

  • is not to assert one’s own rights over others,
  • is not to dominate,
  • is not to exclude,
  • is not to reject or to judge,
  • is not to choose violence, and
  • is not at all like the political figures of the world.

Indeed, we need this reminder when just barely two years ago on January 6th, 2021, “Christ is King” was chanted by some and seen on flags while our Capitol was attacked in open insurrection. Is that Christ’s kingship? No. Never. Truly, Christ our King never leads us in religious warfare or in a violent mob against our neighbors! But our King leads us against injustices and untruths, first those that have taken root in our own lives, and then those that have rooted in the soil of our society. Christ our King is never imposing his will by force.

Indeed, the Christ we see in scriptures is never cozy with the political powers of his day, but speaking truth to power…

  • never seeking to dominate, but to serve
  • never seeking to assert his own rights over a neighbor, but offering all he had to those around him
  • never fearing or fearmongering about people who were different from him, but always spending time with the least expected and least expecting of the people around him.

The true King who is Christ will never be the comfortable poster boy of the powerful or the mascot of the violent and the hateful. But Christ our King consistently calls us who would follow him to pursue lives of healing, reconciliation, service, love and justice.

Christ, who is our King, consistently draws us ever onward, not judging and rejecting us, but refining and shaping our lives ever more into the shape of the cross, that symbol of service, dedication and of identifying not with the powerful, but with the powerless, with those whom God so loves.

It was a heavy day, when Christ our King was murdered. It was a heavy day when it seemed like violence had won, when it seemed as though love had lost to hate. But if you’ll indulge me jumping ahead just a bit, we know the grave couldn’t hold him, and death and injustice had no more a power to end him than it does to end us.

And the King we follow doesn’t call us to a wooden cross on a hill, but the cross of loving one another. He doesn’t call us to the cost of our lives taken at the hands of violent authorities, but to the cost of forgiving one another.

And even when this world does show us its worst, and the violent ones rise up with their hatred and their guns on the streets of our cities, our King still shines the light of healing, the light of love, the light of justice to keep us on the path of peace and of life. So that when the world shows its worst, and it seems that there is little hope or reason for carrying on, we will still shine our light, we will still salt this earth, with the presence of the King of Glory. Who is this King of Glory? His name is Jesus.

  • This is the Jesus who announced his ministry as a proclamation of good news to poor, release and restoration to the oppressed and the marginalized.
  • This is the Jesus who refused to judge and condemn the one caught in adultery and dragged before him to be killed.
  • This is the Jesus who calls us to radical honesty with one another, that our yes be yes and our no be no.
  • This is the Jesus who calls us to renounce hatreds and to love our enemies, and who loved his own enemies, even as they took his life.
  • This is the Jesus who taught us that loving our God and loving our neighbor was the whole thing, the top of the charts!
  • This is the Jesus who taught us that the way to really live this life is found in feeding the hungry, satisfying the thirsty, clothing the naked, and staying close to the sick and the imprisoned.
  • This is the Jesus who called the children to himself, those without power or position, when others barred their way… no one is disposable or valueless in this kingdom.
  • This is the Jesus who promised to be with his disciples to the very end, and will stay with us through it all.

So when we read Jesus say “forgive them, they just don’t know what they’re doing” we know we’ve found the King for our lives. When we hear the condemned criminal on the cross treated as a beloved one and welcomed to paradise, we know we’ve found the King for our lives. When we spend time with the Jesus of scripture instead of the flag and the slogans, the Jesus of our faith instead of violent, partisan politics, we know we’ve found the King for our lives.

Who is this King of Glory? His name is Jesus.

We rest in the grace of this King, knowing his love will never fade or fail to carry us through. And we move in the power of his call, knowing that in that pursuit of his love and justice we and our world will one day know peace. Amen, amen and amen.


Be blessed, Rev. Todd

All Saints Sunday 2022

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My Sermon of Nov 6 2022, All Saints Sunday at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question: “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed, they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead but of the living, for to him all of them are alive.” Luke 20:27-38

It’s our Sunday to celebrate All Saints! And we do all have saints in our lives don’t we? We have the capital S Saints who in generations past left legacies, teaching and examples for us to follow. And we all the lowercase s saints, too! They’re the folks in our own lives who may never have a feast day on the church calendar, but who made us who we are. Those saints often raised us as children and grandchildren, they taught us to pray, they sat with us through the hard storms of life, and they are ones who always had a helping hand and open heart to us in all things.

Thinking about saints…

Take a few minutes to think about those saints of your life, especially those who have passed on. Think of a time in life like going to college, being newly wed, welcoming a child into the world or your life, losing a job, making a major move in life… who was there to be a blessing to you in that time? Do you remember someone teaching you to pray, or someone in whose life you could see that faith just made sense and inspired you? Taking time to think about those saints can help us overcome problems in life today by reminding us of what they taught and showed us, and by reminding us that life is much, much bigger than just this moment.

And, here’s something fun to try, Google “Saints on <your birthday>” and see who comes up. You could have several, recognized by different church traditions. See what they are known for and if there’s anything in their stories to inspire you. See if there’s a spiritual friend out there you didn’t even know you had, but who has a gift to offer in your life!

That poor woman!

Our readings today point us to our connectedness, with one another and God, and the hope and strength of that connectedness. Our Gospel reading takes us to a day when Jesus is confronted by a group of religious leaders who denied the immortality of the soul and the idea of resurrection, and therefore denied our connection with one another after death. Life for them is only here and now, and then ended. Now scripturally, they held this belief because they only relied only on the Torah and concepts therein, but when they challenged Jesus, they did so with a puzzle, a hypothetical gotcha question. We read it, and it went like this… a childless woman by a weird quirk of fate is married in succession to seven brothers in hopes of a child. If there’s life after death, what a mess! So, there must not be a life after this one, right?

Now, hypothetical situations are usually extreme and have little to do with everyday life, or experience, but the premise of this question does have at least a basis in Jewish scripture. In Deuteronomy 25, there is a time when a brother of a deceased man is told to bear at least one child by his brother’s widow to keep that man’s name alive among the people. There’s no mention of an ever-cascading chain of obligation and there’s only two examples of this idea in scripture, three if you count an instance in the apocryphal writings (which could even be the basis of this gotcha question). In Genesis 38 Judah tells his son Onan to do this for his brother Er’s widow, and he refuses. In Ruth 4 Boaz explains that his marriage to Ruth will include this type of thing for her past husband, though not from a brotherly duty. This doesn’t seem to be super common, but who’s willing to let real life get in the way of a good gotcha question, right? And I bet I can answer their question for that poor woman about whose wife she’ll be! I bet she would say “Nobody’s wife! For Pete’s sake! No more, please!”

The answer from Jesus is to the point, and to paraphrase it: “The question has nothing to do with the reality of the living God or our faith.” Jesus fully asserts the immortality of the soul and reality of the resurrection while denying that we’re going to be at all subject to the needs and traditions of this life after it. It is another existence all together, in which there is no death and we are with one another and the living God.

And that is something which St. Paul wants to make sure that the church in Thessalonica knows and doesn’t forget… as rough as things seem in this life, even when we are separated for a bit, our time of being gathered back together is coming. In worship today we read verses along this idea from 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 and 13-17, but you may be even more familiar with similar words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

All Saints Day is not only a day in which we recall those who have been so meaningful to us and such a blessing for us, but are also reminded that we’re not done with each other! Our connectedness and life together in God goes on, and we will be gathered together again.

We close this time together remembering the saints of our lives with a prayer slightly adapted from the Book of Common Prayer, pg. 838

“We give thanks to you, O Lord our God, for all your servants and witnesses of time past: for Abraham, the father of believers, and Sarah his wife; for Moses, the lawgiver, and Aaron, the priest; for Miriam and Joshua, Deborah and Gideon, and Samuel with Hannah his mother; for Isaiah and all the prophets; for Mary, the mother of our Lord; for Peter and Paul and all the apostles; for Mary and Martha, and Mary Magdalene; for Stephen, the first martyr, and all the martyrs and saints in every age and in every land. And for those saints who have passed the faith to us, supported us, taught us to pray and loved us, we thank you; especially for those we wait to see again, we thank you. In your mercy, O Lord our God, give us, as you gave to them, the hope of salvation and the promise of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the first-born of many from the dead.

Amen. Amen and Amen.

Be blessed, Rev. Todd

Walking Humbly With God

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Sermon notes for Sunday, October 30th, 2022 at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.


Good morning, St. Timothy’s family, friends and everyone gathered for worship. It is good to be together and to take some time with our scriptures. As we do so, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

“What shall I bring when I come before YHWH, and bow down before God on high?” you ask. “Am I to come before God with burnt offerings? With year-old calves? Will YHWH be placated by thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Should I offer my firstborn for my wrongdoings — the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Listen here, mortal: God has already made abundantly clear what “good” is, and what YHWH needs from you: simply do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with your God.

Micah 6:6-8, Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible (p. 1096). Sheed & Ward. Kindle Edition.

Beloved of God, we come to the end of a three-part sermon series based on Micah 6:6-8 exploring that amazing summation statement of God’s will for us, that we would: do justice, love kindness and walk humble with God. We’ve dug into justice in the biblical narrative and I believe we found it to be the upholding of human dignity… it is justly treating and living with one another. We dug into kindness last week and saw how it is part of that justice in action, kindness is an intentional decision to pursue mercy, compassion and goodness for the people around us. And this week we come to walking humbly with God.

Ok, first up, let’s just admit that doing justice and loving kindness are things we do, and sometimes don’t do. They are what we want to do, as God calls us to, but it’s also a pretty tall order some days isn’t it? We’re not perfect, and certainly just reading it in Micah, preaching a couple of sermons and saying, “Ok, sure!” isn’t really getting it done. This must be something to which we commit ourselves, something we pursue, and something in which we grow… and that’s where the invitation to walk with God is such good news.

How did you learn to swim?

Did anyone just get thrown in the water and yelled at? I hope that’s not ever been your experience of church. When learning to swim, did anyone have a person hold your belly, at your center of gravity, right at the water’s surface, and let you practice and perfect the way you kicked your legs and swung your arms? Getting thrown in the deep end may find out about your adaptability and chances in a life threatening situation, but it’s sure not teaching anyone the joy of swimming or helping you learn or perfect any technique. What kind of difference does it makes when we learn and grow together? Learning almost anything is so much easier when we do it with trusted friends, mentors and teachers who invest time and energy in our growth and understanding. And that’s what the invitation to walk with God is like, not being tossed in the deep end without a float, but asked to journey alongside and learn.

No one’s expecting you to throw on your cape, activate your super powers and go save the world, especially not God.

But what God does expect, is some time to grow together, to go for a walk together and to really take these commitments deep into our hearts and minds. Walking with God is a nice metaphor, but how do we actually do that? I’d like to mention several things to keep in mind…

  1. Start with Jesus. Spend some time with his teaching, maybe in the sermon on the mount in Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 5 thru 7. Spend time with the stories of how he interacted with people, giving grace and mercy, how he forgave and served. Go thru all the amazing stories that Luke wove into his Gospel. Choose a Gospel account and read it straight through like it was written; Mark is the shortest!
  2. Remember that we’re in this together. Yes, each of us is individually invited to walk with God, but often we’re on that road together. One of the things we can’t miss in Micah 6 is that justice and kindness are found, expressed and practiced between us… in community. Our walk with God also has a communal element, so lean in with those you see walking well. Not only can they be a help to you now, but you’ll be in a position one day to return the favor. Find an author who speaks to you. Find a spiritual friend for good conversation and listening to what God is doing. I was blessed to learn to swim at summer camp with a counselor who held me afloat while I learned the form and joy of swimming. I also learned to swim with friends, and the joy was multiplied in our sharing it.
  3. Finally, remember you’re walking with a God who loves you so dearly and stays by your side. Sometimes we can forget that amazing love of God which goes along with us. We’re good at placing reminders of things around ourselves in daily life, and maybe we need to do that with our walk with God. We wear wedding bands and use post-it notes on computer monitors, we set alarms on our watches and phones and we place photos and artwork on our refrigerators. It might be worth your time to set some new alarms for prayer times, start to journal more about your gratitude’s, place some visual reminders around that can trigger your memory of God’s promised love. And of course, going for a walk, or a drive, or a run with God is always an option. Walking with God is metaphorical for spending time with God, going somewhere with God and investing in your relationship with God… so find out what works best for you by trying different things and pursuing this amazing invitation.

To close, I’d like us to go back to that passage from Romans we heard this morning in worship… a glimpse at what our walk with God looks like from day to day in practice… Romans 12:9-18 “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; pursue hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Does that not sound like a life spent humbly following God into doing justice and loving kindness?

And concluding with a prayer of self-dedication from The Book of Common Prayer, pg. 832…

“Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, however as you desire, always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Be blessed, Rev Todd

Wildly, Powerfully Kind

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“What shall I bring when I come before YHWH, and bow down before God on high?” you ask. “Am I to come before God with burnt offerings? With year-old calves? Will YHWH be placated by thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Should I offer my firstborn for my wrongdoings — the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Listen here, mortal: God has already made abundantly clear what “good” is, and what YHWH needs from you: simply do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with your God.

Micah 6:6-8

My sermon of October 23, 2022 at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC.

We continue today on our three week exploration of that amazing summation of God’s will for us given by the prophet Micah, to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with our God. Last week we began with doing justice, and as we looked at the scriptural record, the prophetic witness and the teaching of Christ and others, we arrived at the point of defining justice as the upholding of human dignity. Acting and speaking to establish and protect and dignity of all people is how we are a just people in God’s eyes. Today we come to the second of the three admonitions, to love kindness.

When we speak of kindness, does someone in your life come automatically to mind? We know kindness when we see it, it’s compassionate and generous, it builds people up, increasing joy and lessening hurt. If someone says “well, I was actually being kind” we know that’s suspect, don’t we? Kindness doesn’t need an apology and it’s easily recognized because of the fruit it bears in life.

It makes sense that we build our understanding of kindness on the justice we defined last week, the upholding of human dignity. Kindness is justice in action. It comes from a place of seeing the intrinsic value and worth of a person, and acting on it. It’s going to look like courtesy and compassion and it will be evidence of our just view of people. You’ve known kind people; kind people are the folks who practice the welcome and hospitality that the prophets said God expected to see among the people. Kind folks are quick to share, quick to compliment, slow to turn away, slow to judge and more curious than condemning. Many English translations have the word mercy in place of kind, and that works too… the merciful overlook the little things, give the benefit of the doubt, forgive, and lend a hand when they can.

According to the English dictionaries I perused this week, Kindness is the quality of being generous, helpful and caring for other people… the Hebrew for kindness in Micha’s writing is chesed, a love and generosity between people, ultimately modeled on God’s covenantal love. Though it’s never an easy task to fully render an ancient Hebrew word into English today, with all of its nuances, there’s no hidden messaging or major traps here… it’s talking about deliberate, chosen kindness.

We really see this in Jesus, don’t we?

  • Jesus saw people’s value and honored it with compassion and time, like with the woman who snuck up to touch his garment in Mark 5 and Jesus stopped to talk with her,
  • Jesus saw people’s potential and invested in it, like when he saw short-statured Zacchaeus up in a tree top in Luke 19 and didn’t laugh, but said, “I’m coming to your house!”,
  • Jesus saw people confused and in need and didn’t judge them for it, like the crowds who were directionless as sheep without a shepherd at the end of Matthew 9,
  • Jesus saw people in all their human complexity and refused to discard them, as when someone caught in adultery in John 8 was dragged before him and he chose not to judge, but to rescue.

Kindness changes lives for the better! Kindness creates possibilities and opens opportunities.

You know the familiar passage from St. Paul… “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-25

Kindness is the fruit we bear in our lives which plants seeds in other lives. You know that’s the difference between fruits and vegetables, right? In general, fruits have seeds in them while vegetables don’t. Besides a few troublemakers like tomatoes, the rule generally holds. Kindness is a way of life that can be contagious and can multiply.

Things like kindness, the fruit born in our lives by the work and presence of the Spirit, can be powerful in reach and implication. I spent some time this week looking back at a powerful chain of kindness in action which is still blessing people today. Perhaps you know the story of Father Trevor Huddlestone an Anglican Priest in South Africa who bitterly opposed Apartheid. He would doff his hat in respect to a young Desmond Tutu’s mother, and because of his example of kindness Desmond decides he must follow the same path into the priesthood. The story of Fr. Huddlestone’s kindness varies slightly from source to source, but his kindness paves the way for an Archbishop Tutu to become the force he was against Apartheid, fighting for the dignity of all people, leading in reconciliation, and especially being outspoken in upholding the dignity of LGBTQ folks. His example and life continue to bless us, today.

Kindness is not meek and mild. Kindness is powerful, active and challenging for our world!

Exploring the call to love kindness from Micah, we might ask ourselves:

  • What fruit of kindness am I cultivating in my life with intention?
  • Who has been compassionate, generous and caring for me, and how can I pass that along?
  • Who is in need of my compassion, generosity and care?
  • What might be getting in the way of my kindness? What am I loving instead?
    • Earlier and later in Galatians 5 St. Paul does give a list of things that get in the way…  self-indulgence, biting and devouring each other, sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, fights, strife, jealousy, anger, argument, divisions, choosing sides against each other, envy, drunkenness, conceit and competition. I’m not sure about you, but sorcery isn’t a struggle for me… but anger? Envy? Being argumentative? Being selfish? Yeah, there are things in my own heart which would fight against kindness.

Too often, it seems, that kindness is the first thing to be sacrificed on the altar of our political, economic, social or religious competitions. Kindness is left behind in the dust cloud of our angers, divisions and biting at one another.

Kindness is a choice, like choosing justice. It’s a calling; it’s the way we live. It’s who we were meant to be. Remember when St. Paul told the church in Ephesus in the middle of Ephesians 2, “we’re made for this, made for goodness, made to be doing good.” (That was my paraphrase!) We just have to move over all the other stuff that has gotten in the way, and then follow God on the world changing path of kindness. May God’s Spirit give us the wisdom, courage and opportunity to be wildly kind!

Be blessed, Rev. Todd

Fatphobia and Justice

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“What shall I bring when I come before YHWH, and bow down before God on high?” you ask. “Am I to come before God with burnt offerings? With year-old calves? Will YHWH be placated by thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Should I offer my firstborn for my wrongdoings — the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

Listen here, mortal: God has already made abundantly clear what “good” is, and what YHWH needs from you: simply do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with your God.

Micah 6:6-8 Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible (p. 1096). Sheed & Ward. Kindle Edition.

Those of us in the Diocese of Washington have been invited to engage this October with the summation of what God wants from us in Micah 6:6-8. Here’s my sermon from Sunday, October 16th, 2022, on Justice and what it means to be a just person in God’s kingdom and the society God would have us help build.

As part of my own engagement with justice this month I have re-listened to the book What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat by Aubrey Gordon. Yes, the bullying, the fatphobia, the judgement and the treatment of people based on their weight is a justice issue, an issue of human dignity. There are many issues over which people face unjust harassment and disenfranchisement: race, religion, sexuality, nationality, gender, etc. Weight, specifically fatness, belongs to that list as well.

Aubrey Gordon’s book highlights the fatphobia and fat hatred which we in the West have consumed on-screen and in literature, and perpetuated across the generations with stereotypes, jokes and all too often inaccurate assumptions about people’s health, bodies and virtues. The author candidly shares the unprovoked comments received from strangers, often violent, sexual and mean-spirited in nature. She details the humiliation she and others have experienced navigating public transit and public spaces. She shares research on the horrible treatment of fat people in our healthcare system from biased and judgmental medical professionals. When considering all factors of environment, genetics, employment, individual uniqueness, privilege and more, it’s rather astounding that we have allowed such a injustice to pervade our culture around weight and various body types.

I vividly remember boarding a full flight some years ago on which I was seated on the very last row of the plane. As I finally got to the back and and identified my seat I also identified that the young woman who was sitting next to me was of a body type for whom the airline cared not a bit. Those seats are too narrow for me, but this young woman was a shorter and broader body type than I, and not thin. Our author describes in her book the process of trying to draw in and collapse in upon herself in a similar situation, to become as small as possible. I saw that process in the affect and posture of my seatmate, but I didn’t have our author’s words to describe it. The young woman wasn’t smiling. She was trying to mentally disappear, to vanish along with the part of her body which could not help but enter into my seat’s space, space which my own body would try to use to the fullest. I recall feeling so sorry for her as I approached and sat trying to angle my body to share the space as much as possible. At the time I was a bit overwhelmed at how sad she presented, and so I smiled, greeted her, and tried not to add to her misery with my body language or communications. But even as I tried not to add to what she was suffering, I didn’t have a full awareness of how unfair the whole situation was, how truly unjust it was that she should have to suffer it. She was a paying customer, just like me, and as such she deserved better. She was a human being, just like me, and as such deserved better. I didn’t have the words to express my solidarity. I didn’t even know for sure that solidarity was an option. Oh, it is. It’s a necessity.

Fatphobia is part of our reality. Maybe in my own life I’ve used fewer jokes, made fewer judgments and never spoke or acted with the intention of hurting anyone because of their weight, but I do feel called out by the book for not having better recognized the anti-fat humor and hatred which I have consumed over the years in entertainment, internalized and allowed to shape my implicit and sometimes explicit biases. I’m doing the internal work to strip away the years of hearing and holding the myths that fat means things like lazy, stupid, or gluttonous… myths that fat means less worthy, less deserving or less human. It sounds implausible when said out loud, I mean surely we can’t think that way, but the lived experience of people around us show those attitudes and myths at work in our hearts, minds and society.

I don’t know exactly where my own dad bod falls the spectrum of fatness. But for real, click on that link and read the urban Dictionary entry for dad bod… it’s humorous, but also highlights the way privilege, specifically male privilege, can be and is leveraged to mitigate some stigma of weight. Often people of color and other minority groups don’t have any mitigating privilege with which to shield themselves. With my height and build, even though I’ve definitely got a belly on me, I’ve rarely been chided, joked at or harassed about my weight. I certainly have never faced trolling or public disdain from strangers. My doctors over the years have on occasion advised losing some weight, but never refused to explore my full medical situation or dismissed my concerns as simply due to my weight. It’s heart-breaking to hear the author’s experience and to imagine what others have been through.

Privilege comes with responsivity. My dad bod fits. I fit however tightly in airline seats, roller coasters and those flimsy plastic chairs they often put out at weddings and public events. Because I fit in airline seats I am not smarter, more virtuous, more disciplined or more deserving then someone who does not fit. The privilege of fitting comes with the responsibility to make sure others receive access to the same spaces.

I want to be part of a better world, I have to be part of a better world, where people of any and every weight live with full dignity and worth in our society, and don’t have to suffer the violence and hatred of the trolls online and offline. To work for that kind of society is justice work, and it pleases God. I want to be a safe person for my fat friend, not allowing implicit bias and microaggressions in my language or actions to humiliate or devalue them. I owe them that. They deserve that.

Last time I checked justice was not in limited supply. We can pivot our thinking and take our stand against the injustice of fatphobia without robbing energy from any other justice fight. To be just is to uphold human dignity. Let’s be just people. I recommend the book and the work of fat justice.

Be blessed, Rev. Todd

Be Just

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This is the text of my October 16th, 2022, sermon on justice based in Micah 6:6-8.

October has been a bit different for us, as you’ve probably noticed. We’ve not used the usual lectionary readings for each Sunday as the first two weeks were Homecoming and then Samaritan Ministries, and now we have another special emphasis for the remaining three Sundays of the month. We’re going to be joining a Diocesan initiative to focus on that amazing passage we read back on Oct. 3rd, Micah 6:6-8

“What shall I bring when I come before YHWH, and bow down before God on high?” you ask. “Am I to come before God with burnt offerings? With year-old calves? Will YHWH be placated by thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Should I offer my firstborn for my wrongdoings — the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Listen here, mortal: God has already made abundantly clear what “good” is, and what YHWH needs from you: simply do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with your God.

Micah 6:6-8 Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible (p. 1096). Sheed & Ward. Kindle Edition.

This diocesan initiative would remind us of the centrality of God’s call to us, God’s intention for us, to Be Just, to Be Kind and to Be Humble.

This short passage is one of those amazing passages that comes along in our scriptures and captures our energy and imagination by so eloquently summarizing and encapsulating big ideas in a simpler expression. Let’s run through a quick reminder of who Micah was… Micah was one of twelve of what we call the minor prophets, a Judean prophet who in the style of Isaiah is proclaiming both the coming punishment for the people’s disregard of God’s law, and the restoration which comes after the punishment. These two things alternate back and forth in the text, consequences and restoration. But, what were the sins or the transgressions of the people?

  • Chapter 1 mentions their idolatry.
  • In chapter 2 it’s their theft of land and oppression of neighbors.
  • In chapter 3 they are ignorant of justice and the way justice should work for people, and instead their judges take bribes and their priests and prophets extort money.

Chapters 4 and 5 speak mostly of the coming restoration and hope found in turning back to God in obedience. And you’re probably familiar with a verse from chapter 5, 5:2… “But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” We hear in it a clear reference to Christ.

When we arrive at chapter 6 God is speaking to the people, asking for their response. And here we have sort of a rhetorical question from the prophet, “What should we do?” We might even hear the question, “What is it God really wants from us?” Do we need to bring sacrifices and burnt offerings? What does God really want? And the answer is given… “Listen here, mortal: God has already made abundantly clear what ‘good’ is, and what YHWH needs from you: simply do justice, love kindness, and humbly walk with your God.”

The rest of Micah’s writing, the rest of chapter 6 and chapter 7 gives one more final round of the people’s offenses like cheating in business, violence, dishonesty, plotting against neighbors and perverting justice with bribes, with the appropriate punishment and then eventual restoration.

Spending time in Micah’s writing highlights the importance of justice that comes up in so many scriptural passages, especially from the prophets. Justice was the will of God and the expectation of God for the lives of people and their society. Justice was the bedrock, the foundation of loving neighbors, caring for the poor and safeguarding the most vulnerable. We often miss it because of the tradition of translators to interpret and translate words differently in version to version in English and from passage to passage, but the Christians ethicists Stassen and Gushee remind us in their book on Kingdom Ethics that the four words for justice in Hebrew and Greek appear across scripture some 1060 times. They contrast this against the main words for sexual sin which appear about 90 times. Because we’ve so often translated those words for justice to righteousness or judgment we’ve made it very possible to miss God’s insistence on justice, on just practices in personal and social life.

We tend to think of justice, it seems to me, in terms of action and consequences, mostly just crime and punishment. That’s been true for my life. We also think of justice specifically in context of the major civil rights movements in our nation’s history and the ongoing work to repair and correct the chronic injustices of our social, political, economic and legal systems. In God’s kingdom, in God’s economy and way of ordering the world, justice does include those movements, and also things like honesty, truthfulness, mercy, hospitality, welcome and mutuality.

Just a quick reminder and overview of what this kind of just living looks like:

1) fields are not harvested for every scrap of produce so that the poor can come and glean the edges (Leviticus 19),

2) the dishonesty of false witness against a neighbor is condemned (Exodus 20),

3) strangers and those immigrating among the people are to be treated as fellow citizens of the nation (Exodus 22)…

When we see God’s intention for our lives and hear the lists of accusations brought against the people by the prophets, we see that this is all about mutuality, seeing ourselves in others until there are no more others, but simply us. Justice is a way of living that welcomes, blesses and upholds our neighbors.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Letter from Birmingham, Alabama jail, April 16, 1963

Time and again the prophets illustrate God’s anger for people leaving the path of justice, abusing their neighbors and for their dishonest practices, for tearing and destroying that weave of mutuality of which Rev. King wrote. The people have been inhospitable to strangers, neglected the poor and the disenfranchised, and they often have done those things while maintaining a religious front, performing sacrifices and keeping feasts. It’s the situation in Isaiah 58 when God has had enough and is furious about those abuses of justice.

I believe that we’d be fully accurate to define justice as the upholding of human dignity. Justice is the truth of people’s worth and the honest action and speech to honor and uphold it.

And this understanding of justice is not confined to the Jewish scriptures but also all over our New Testament! John the Baptizer’s teachings center on sharing equitably and not cheating or extorting one another. (Luke 3) Jesus taught us the same kind of justice in keeping promises and covenants (Matthew 5), forgiving as we are forgiven (Matthew 6), being the neighbor to those in need (Luke 10), and the intrinsic honesty of our yes meaning yes. (Matthew 5) Jesus condemned the Pharisees and religious elite for choosing to major in the minors, paying so much attention to traditions and rules while ignoring the most important matters of justice, mercy and faith. (Matthew 23)

Justice is central to the will and desire of God for us, and we must own the admonition to do justice, to be just… that is to be honest, true, merciful, aware of the most vulnerable and committed to the common good, and to uphold one another’s dignity and value. We do this with our words and our actions, in our business dealings and our relationships. We make it our goal to promote justice in our society, voting for those who will be just and uphold our neighbors. We demand it of our leaders even as we cultivate it in ourselves. We do this in our communities, like our parish family, sharing life with honesty, mutual concern and care, welcoming one another and the stranger.

Justice as we are taught it in God’s kingdom is what we demand and what we deliver. May God give each of us the courage and strength to uphold our neighbors, to safeguard their dignity and in all honesty and joy take our place in that beautiful woven garment of mutuality. Amen, amen and amen.

Be blessed, Rev. Todd

Psalm 1: On Trees and Paths

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This past week was spent with Psalm 1 each morning, for at least five minutes with a fresh cup of coffee. I found the most impactful translation of the Psalm to be the Inclusive Bible:

Happiness comes to those who reject the path of violence,
who refuse to associate with criminals
or even to sit with people who belittle others.

Happiness comes to those who delight in the Law of YHWH
and meditate on it day and night.
They’re like trees planted by flowing water —
they bear fruit in every season, and their leaves never wither:
everything they do will prosper.
But not wrongdoers! They’re like chaff that the wind blows away.

They won’t have a taproot to anchor them when judgment comes,
nor will corrupt individuals be given a place at the Gathering of the Just.

YHWH watches over the steps of those who do justice;
but those on a path of violence and injustice will find themselves irretrievably lost.

Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible (pp. 1157-1158). Sheed & Ward. Kindle Edition.

The image of the tree as been a central part of my faith journey since I was a young boy in church doodling fruit laden branches on worship bulletins and in Bible page margins to visualize the Fruit of the Spirit. I would doodle the tree from Jeremiah 17 that has roots down to the flowing waters… in fact there’s an acrylic canvas of that tree on my dining room wall I painted some years ago. I’ve done my best to follow St. Paul’s admonition to be rooted to Christ. And of course, we have our tree planted by the flowing water in Psalm 1.

The tree is the image of robust strength, stability and growth even in the most difficult times, and it’s providing for others by bearing fruit. It’s a good image and good analogy for us in our intentional choices of where and how we’ll put down our roots. We want to choose, as the psalmist encourages, the path of righteousness, which is justice and goodness. We want to reach into those life giving waters, and for Christians that has always meant spending time with Jesus, soaking up his teaching and examining his Way for emulation in our own lives, this Jesus who promised to be in us a wellspring of living water.

Speaking of choices we make and the Way of Christ, the other image in the psalm is that of the path, the system of choices by which we navigate our days. If the tree image doesn’t resonate at the moment, perhaps the path will… we have images of both standing still and strong, and moving on in confidence and blessing. Life is often like that, huh? We have times of standing fast and times of moving fast. I know that life rarely feels so straight forward or as simple as wisdom literature usually presents, just two paths of right and wrong. It seems that in life we find ourselves more often at a twelve way intersection of choices than at a simple fork in the road, but the idea still works… trying to keep on the good path, the way of life and wholeness. It truly can be a daily effort to leave aside the opportunities and inclinations to be apathetic toward, verbally abusive, dismissive, cruel or even criminal toward the people around us, but that effort is crucial to both our dignity and joy and that of others.

It’s easy to read passages like Psalm 1 as an us vs. them arrangement, winners and losers, and dividing us to those who are good and those who are bad. But by spending time with roots down into those flowing waters, and meditating on the paths that bring life, you come realize that this isn’t us vs. them, but in fact it’s about living as though there is no them; there is only us. Whether we’re talking about a tree growing strong and providing fruit and shade in the midst of a life’s droughts, or we’re talking about paths of hope and goodness that help us all navigate our way through life, we’re in this together. We should act like it.

Peace to you,
Rev. Todd

A Week With Psalm 42

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In my post last weekend I chose to spend five minutes each morning last week with a cup of coffee and Psalm 42. Since I’m not preaching today and don’t have a sermon to share, I thought I might reflect on the week’s intention with scripture. Whatever else I was doing in practicing morning prayer or starting up each day, I was sure to refresh my coffee, set a five minute timer on my watch and open up to Psalm 42 to read and meditate a bit. It’s a familiar and beloved Psalm, especially if you grew up as I did in church circles singing some version of As The Deer.

Psalm 42 is a song of lament, that means it’s essentially a song about being upset that something is missing. In Psalm 42 the singer is missing their past closeness to God and the peace that comes with God’s presence. I’ve used and enjoyed several different translations during the week, but by far I’ve most loved the wording from the New Living Translation. It renders the opening line of verse 4 as “My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be…” That line has really resonated with me, the sentiment of remembering better, or at least good, times.

Looking Back

We can all relate with that sentiment in some way, can’t we? Whether remembering all that we took for granted before the COVID pandemic, or times when our younger bodies had more energy and fewer aches and pains, or a time gone by when our spirituality was easier, richer and more satisfying: we get it. When today gets difficult, memories of yesterday can be a comfort. The psalmist has obviously fallen into some hard times, but there’s some peace and comfort in looking backward and remembering the good days of joy and praise.

Looking Forward

The psalmist also looks forward using a refrain which occurs twice in Psalm 42, in verses 5 and 11, and even again in Psalm 43, verse 5: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” The NRSVue translation reads this way: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”

Strength in the Struggle

The sentiment is clear, we have strength in the struggle remembering what we have experienced of God to be true and looking ahead in faith and hope. Our faith and our scriptures don’t deny that we will have struggles or ever promise to eliminate all the struggles. Our faith doesn’t judge us for struggling. We all have times when our souls are heavy with grief, anxiety or fatigue, times even when breathing seems a chore. Looking back to remember the good times can be a source of strength for the moment and a way to frame the way we look forward, hopefully looking to the day when the good times will return and we will again hear the music and sing the songs.

Are we in a time of lament, today? What was a good time? What was it like and how did it feel? Those times will come again, and God has never left. We can rest in the memories and faithfully hope that good times are coming again. God’s love has never ended, faded or been stolen; God’s love is our anchor in the storm and energy when it’s time again to dance.

Be blessed, Rev. Todd