Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday

Luke 24
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.

By the time you get to the next room, you’ve forgotten why you’re there.
If your keys, cellphone, or touque could talk, you would never forget where they are.
If you can only remember the first six digits of a phone number, I don’t recommend dialing each possible variable beginning with zero.
Many assume that “hey!!” is a substitute for remembering someone’s name, but it’s not.
And if you can’t remember any of the ten commandments I showed you two weeks ago (except, of course, number seven) then see me over coffee.

Except, sometimes we hesitate to ask for help. When someone says “Remember, I told you...” it can rarely be taken as ‘I’m happy to help.’ ‘Remember, I told you’ says ‘I wonder if you were listening at all’ or ‘what else have you forgotten?’ or ‘if this is what you’re like at 51, how will you be at 81?’ I’ve discovered there is no actual answer to this question.

But it does shed some light on the Gospel lesson: “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ 8 Then they remembered his words.”

Then they remembered his words.

But how could they forget? The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone? The son of man must suffer many things at the hands of many and be killed only to rise on the third day? The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified? My soul is troubled and what shall I say—Father save me from this hour? And when I’m lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself? Destroy this temple and in three days I will lift it up?

Part of the issue here is the question of how we receive bad news. You might assume that a search for recent literature on the topic might take you into the realm of medicine or psychology but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Searching for “the inability to hear bad news” two websites kept coming up: a US government site for bureaucrats explaining the proper way to deny benefits and a study by Deloitte describing how managers and middle-managers can give and receive bad news, including dismissals and redundancy. Simply saying ‘you’re fired!’ doesn’t do it (sorry Donald).

And since I’m a big believer in working with what you’ve got, let’s look at any helpful insights we might glean from these pages. Looking first at the dot-gov page, the advice in the “Delivering Bad News” section is actually quite specific:

When delivering bad news, it helps to temper the situation by prefacing the statement with a term such as "we regret" or "we're sorry" or "unfortunately". For example, you might write, "Unfortunately, we cannot approve your application."[1]

Granted Jesus never used “we regret” or “we’re sorry” or “unfortunately” in any of his pronouncements, I don’t think this was the root of the problem. Once again, the bureaucrats have failed to help.

Turning to our management consultants, they seem to be closer to the mark. Beginning with what they call the “ostrich syndrome,” they suggest that people will only seek out new information if it doesn’t contradict the conclusion that they’ve already reached. In other words, it’s okay to put your head in the sand if you already think you know what the outcome will be.[2]

Over time, the disciples became convinced that they were following a future king, a king that would restore the fortunes of Zion, defeat the Romans, and maybe grant seats to the left and the right of the throne. New information like rejection, betrayal and death didn’t fit the plan they already had mapped out, so they couldn’t hear it.

Going a step further, our consultants describe the “deaf-effect” that follows when the credibility of the messenger is in question. The manager is more likely to listen to an external auditor than a junior staffer, even if the message is the same. But, you can argue, Jesus had all the credibility, especially in the eyes of the disciples. And that’s true, but we learned in our recent study that Jesus had numerous roles (teacher, sage, healer, prophet) but may not have been perceived as a socio-political analyst, someone with an in-depth read on the politics of Roman occupation and the relationship between the Romans and the religious elite.

Finally, the consultants looked at the extent to which bad news is sugarcoated or omitted altogether and the extent to which it distorts the message. Obviously Jesus didn’t do this—he did the opposite of sugar-coating the message of his death and resurrection. But the consultants hit on something when they added this insight: “When speaking to their bosses, employees may simply omit negative feedback or sugarcoat it in such a way that makes it hard to interpret.”

The disciples heard the message Jesus was trying to share, but never seemed to say “we don’t understand” or “can you explain it again.” In other words, smiling and nodding as Jesus predicted this day was the same as omitting feedback and giving a sugarcoated response. They didn’t want to appear stupid so they didn’t seek out the additional information that would prepare them for Good Friday and Easter.

This is the moment that Jesus takes a whip of cords and drives the bureaucrats and the management consultants out of my sermon. It might seem extreme, but necessary, since the first flood of memory that arrived on Easter morning is also the most important. It says “they remembered his words” and I am certain that memory served words that continue to confirm and comfort down to today:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself so that where I am, you may be there also.

19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.

It will fall to the Holy Spirit to fill in the details, with some time in a locked room, and on the road to Emmaus, and an early morning by the sea. It will fall to the disciples and all the other followers to encourage one another, to offer comfort in the face of fear, and to begin the work of understanding the nature and role of the Risen Christ in their midst.

An in many ways, this work continues. Jesus’ promise to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28.20) seems oft forgotten and easily ignored. We heard the promise, but maybe it contradicts some conclusion we have already reached; or maybe the Risen Christ somehow lacks credibility in a world where we need continual proof; or maybe we struggle to respond to the Risen Christ, engage in conversation, pray our questions, remain open to a response. It’s worth the effort, and the Spirit will always be there to help.

For today, the journey through Holy Week concludes and another journey begins. Jesus will continue to appear, will continue to bless us with comfort and eternity, if we can only take it in. With minds eager and hearts open, we meet him—in life, and death, and life beyond death, he is with us, we are not alone. Amen.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday

Luke 19
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”
34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”[a]
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

With preaching—like everything else in life—there are rules to observe.

For example, never preach about yourself unless you are the fool in story.
Be humble before the text, never saying things like “Jesus said, and I think he was right...”
If you plan to put your partner on the spot, don’t tell her in advance.
Avoid excessive blame, and don’t tell the people they have made the baby Jesus cry.
You can have fun with the Bible, but don’t make fun of the Bible.
And don’t preach longer than 15 minutes unless the pews are padded.

Going back to the item about fun with the Bible, there is a sub-clause that says ‘pointing out something foolish that the author has included is okay, but tread very carefully.’ And so we will.

Take, for example, the way in which the crowd mysteriously grows with each retelling of the story of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. With each Gospel (beginning with Mark) the crowd seems to expand, from many to a multitude to many multitudes. And ‘like the one that got away,’ we can expect this when someone is retelling a really good story.

Or the problem with two animals, which seems only to trouble Matthew. In the other Gospels, Jesus appears riding a donkey, a gesture that seems to mock the great kings and generals that have gone this way before—signaling that something else is happening here. It’s all quite nice and rich with meaning. Until Matthew tries to tell the story.

You see, poor Matthew remembers the story, and remembers the prophecy from Zechariah, but forgets how Hebrew poetry is supposed to work. First, let’s recall the prophecy:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

If Carmen were up here, rather than luxuriating in her padded pew, she would tell us that Hebrew poetry tells you something, them tells you so much more about something. It’s a simple movement. See he comes to you on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. One animal, Matthew, not two.

So Matthew has poor Jesus riding in on two animals, and while there is another rule that says we should never psychologize Jesus, I bet he felt pretty foolish in that moment. So it’s one animal, not two, and a simple reminder to pay attention when you’re a Gospel writer and you’re learning from Hebrew poetry.

And the lesson continues, because the passage contains another famous bit of poetry, this time quoting Psalm 118:

Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord:
O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.

This is where we get the evangelist’s translation “hosanna, hosanna in the highest.” So much, and so much more. And again:

Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord:
we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.

So much, and so much more. In this case, so much blessing, and so much more blessing. And at the risk of sounding like I’m selling something on late night television, there’s still more!

The stone which the builders refused
is become the head stone of the corner.

This is a bit of a variation on the theme, since the metaphor changes as it expands the meaning. More on that in a moment. But the verses that follow the chief cornerstone give us yet another example of the ‘so much and so much more‘ movement:

23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the Lord hath made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

This poetic increase is meant to draw us higher, toward God, and increase our sense of the meaning and majesty we can find if we remain open to the God revealed in poetry. So much, and so much more.

And this movement has been happening around us for some time, living in our imagination without being so explicit that it lose the poetic quality of the story. So much and so much more has been happening since the Gospels began: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

Or the boy Jesus in the Temple (thanks Lang): “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and all people.”

Or John the Baptist: "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Or his ministry of healing: “And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.”

Or his place in the larger story: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”

This example, of course, is a little different. It is so much, then so much more, but with a twist. Jesus—we will soon learn—is the stone that the builders rejected. He will go from dusty roadway to hasty trial to rugged cross in short order, and so we know that he will suffer rejection. We know that the very crowds that shout “hosanna, save us!” will soon shout “we have Caesar as king” and “crucify him!”

He is the stone that the builders rejected, so much, yet he is the chief cornerstone, so much more. He is a symbolic king riding on a donkey and he is the king of heaven. He is friend to tax collectors sinners and that makes him friend of all. He is the one who comes in the name of the Lord and he is Lord, all at the same time.

And so leave it to Paul, always St. Paul, to have the last word. He was more of prose guy, but he quoted poetry, particularly hymns and poems that added meaning to his message. Here and there in Paul’s letters there are fragments saved for us, fragments of verse that are the earliest examples of proclamation, the foundation of our faith.

And while is might seem like jumping ahead, his letter to the church at Philippi contains just such a fragment. We don’t know if it was part of a liturgy, or something sung, or both, but it uses ‘so much and so much more’ to sum up everything we will do this coming week:

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

And in a final ‘so much more’ Paul concludes:

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Philippians 3
7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

He was an unusual child, Isaac Watts.

Mastering basic Latin at age four, writing decent poetry at seven, seemingly incorporating verse into his conversations and annoying his parents to the point of anger. On one occasion he went too far and was quoted to say:

O father, father, pity take,
and I will no more verses make.

He went on, of course, to write some of our best known hymns (including “Joy to the world”) and be considered the father of English hymnody. It was Charles Wesley (author of 6,000 hymns) who said he would give up all his hymns to have written Watts’ hymn “When I survey the wondrous cross.”

Ironically, Watts had greater success with a book of verse for children called Divine Songs for Children. From 1715 until well into the last century, this collection would have been found in most English classrooms and many homes. It went through over a thousand editions. Watts’ goal was to introduce children to morality and the value of hard work. Here’s a sample:

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

That’s lovely. How doth, and why doth the little busy bee keep busy? The answer is in verse three:

In works of labour or of skill
I would be busy too:
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

At this point kids get on the straight and narrow path and seldom trouble you again. Of course, the poet’s gift is to take something complex or wordy and reduce it to something manageable and well, poetic. So Watts took parts of Philippians 3 and parts of Galatians 6 and gave us this:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

The hymns of Isaac Watts constitute a turning point, from the singing of metrical hymns and scripture songs, to adapting scripture to describe and enhance the personal and the devotional. He wanted to transcribe scripture and add a layer of emotion, allowing us to enter the Bible in a new way.

So he takes verse seven (“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ”) and makes it personal: “My richest gain I count but loss/ And pour contempt on all my pride.”

In many ways, it was the ultimate 18th century struggle. Ruling a vast empire, achieving material wealth unknown to previous generations, advances in science, art and industry, Britons had a growing vanity problem. And for Watts, as a non-conformist and evangelical, a renewed morality that took seriously the idea that pride was a deadly sin. He made Philippians 3 personal.

And he would no doubt urge us on today, encouraging us to personalize the reading, make it our own. And we do this both for the season and the era. So beginning with the season, you might say that as far as our Lenten journey goes, it’s time to cram for the finals. And like Isaac Watts, the best place to begin is Philippians 3. St. Paul said:

10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

We began Lent as we often do—in the desert, tracing the outline of the temptation that confronted Jesus. We paused before entering the Holy City, recognizing the ‘city who kills the prophets’ will likely claim one more. And last week we looked at Romans 8 and recalled that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”

In other words, we know that we are in a liminal place, the border between suffering and glory, cross and resurrection. And like the urge to sing all the carols in Advent, we need to resist moving to resurrection before we meet the cross. You can’t understand one without the other. The cross is the context of resurrection, and one is unreal without the other.

Paul, of course, is not inviting us to seek out suffering. He wisely knows that it will come. Being religious doesn’t drive troubles away, it draws trouble closer, since living with integrity will always clash with the ways of the world. Paul knew this, from prison cell and time in chains, and insists that joining in Christ’s suffering is like joining in his death, and joining in his death like joining is his resurrection. Call it the circle of life, according to St. Paul.

So that was the season, what about the era? And as I hesitate to give more air time to a certain presidential candidate, it is top-of-mind for many, a very disturbing phenomenon that may loom larger for us before it fades into oblivion. The so-called “Trump Revolution” is the perfect storm of celebrity culture, economic inequality and bigotry and it threatens more than the future of one political party or even one country.

Historians, of course, will tell you that taking people who are feeling angry and vulnerable, giving them vague promises about a return to greatness, adding a dash of xenophobia, and praising strength over weakness will only lead in one direction. But that connection is lost on many.

And the most telling shift is the movement from “we” to “I,” the language that takes the sin of pride to the next level. “I will make the country great again” and “I will help you take your country back” (which is a coded racist message when an African-American is in the White House) are both positing that only a strongman can save them. Add lists of enemies and you have totalitarian rule.

The ongoing question is why and why now? Thousands of pages have already been written about the demise of the middle-class, the appeal of the anti-establishment, the seeming overreach of government. Or maybe people just like being angry.

It seems to be in the human heart to nurse our anger, to allow it to drive our thoughts and words. It seems we can be perfectly calm and rational until we join an angry crowd and enter the emotion. When we feel fearful or vulnerable, when we feel that others are getting our share, when we feel that the system is somehow stacked against us, the result is anger. And we self-declared ‘good people’ can pretend we don’t have it, or we’ve learned to control it, until one of our triggers comes (on hold for 20 minutes only to be told ‘we can’t help you’) and you give in to the anger.

Next week we will enter Jerusalem, and we will wave our palms and say “blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” The elation won’t last. Days later we will be in the crowd, shouting “crucify him” and “we have only one king, and that’s Caesar.” We too will pick the strongman over the servant-leader, and God will have the same response to every act of human folly: forgiveness.

May God bless the end of our journey, and help us enter the story once more: to understand ourselves, and try to understand our God. Amen.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Lent

2 Corinthians 5
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;[b] even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,[c] we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,[d] not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Sure you know about stone soup, but what about storm soup?

Up atop the Oak Ridges Moraine, there is a small village named for a famous prince, a rather pretentious name for such a small place, and atop the mount named for the famous prince there is n old Methodist Church and behind that church is a small seniors residence with the equally pretentious name “Royal Oak Court.”

It is a windswept place, atop the moraine and atop the mount, and behind the church, and even though the residents of this small place with the pretentious name never actually have to go outside in a snowstorm or any other kind of storm for that matter, they seem uniquely gripped by the idea of surviving storms, and surviving them together.

And so there comes a time, when too many of the residents of the small home with the pretentious name will watch the weather, and convince themselves that a catastrophic storm is coming and someone—it is never clear who, but it might be my mother—declares ‘storm soup!’

I say declares because people will mobilize, gather with cans in hand, secure large pots, open said cans and pour them into common pots, mixing the soups together! Thus storm soup goes from theoretical comfort in a can to actually pots of soup ready to ensure the theoretical comfort of people who were never in any real danger in the first place. So let’s listen in:

Me: Bit of snow up there, eh?
Mother: Yes, we declared storm soup!
Me: Storm soup, eh? Was it that bad?
Mother: Not really, but the soup was nice.
Me: For the love of all that’s holy mother, you don’t mix the cream soups with the non-cream soups, do you?
Mother: No, we tried that once, and learned our lesson.
Me: What were you thinking?
Mother: It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So there are two morals to the story of storm soup: the first is never mix cream soups with non-cream soups—that’s an abomination—and the second is they’re all in it together, in pots, and even beyond the pots.

On annual meeting Sunday we would do well to remember that we’re all in this together, that we’re mixed up in this enterprize called congregational life, and together we become the body of Christ. We are a new creation, according to St. Paul, and to understand this we need to look at some of the rest of his words—his message to the churches.

But before we do, I want you to think about Paul and his role in perhaps a new way. Imagine Jesus as the prodigal son, eating and drinking with tax-collectors and sinners, getting in trouble with the law, dying on a cross, and finally being reconciled with the Father and receiving abundant grace. Now think of Paul as the older brother, left to straighten out the mess that this devil-may-care itinerant has left behind, faithfully inventing the church we need while the prodigal Jesus gets all the attention. We tend to treat Paul as we treat the older brother: half listening while he tells us what all this really means—when we just want to be part of the ongoing party.

So we listen to Paul, not just because he’s the serious one, but because of his unique care for the churches, in Asia-Minor and Greece, and here in Weston. The first thing that ought to stand out in what Joyce shared with us today is the assurance of pardon contained therein—”So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” I take a bit of poetic liberty with the verse, but it remains one of the central ways we mark the forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus—we are a new creation.

I had the opportunity to hear bishop and theologian N.T. Wright back in the fall and he took this idea of a new creation and began with this simple but profound summary: “The God who made heaven and earth intends to draw them together at the last.” He spoke of St. Paul—at some length—and the various ways Paul weaves the idea of a new creation into his emerging vision of the church. And he spent a lot of time on Romans 8.

(Just as an aside, we spoke the other evening about the proverbial desert island and the books we would take, but if it was a question of the chapters I might take, Romans 8 would have to be one of them. I encourage you to read it again, and especially read it anytime you are feeling discouraged.) So Paul says:

18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption...”

Not surprizingly, we treasure these words, and we hear them speaking directly to us. As I said, read them when discouraged, but also read them as collective advice, advice to the churches, since that was Paul’s primary intent. Paul is deeply concerned about the state of the individual soul—we know this from his various greetings—but he is primarily concerned with the state of his churches and the way they are collectively working to transform the society around them.

“Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” The God who intends to draw heaven and earth together at the last needs agents, and that would be us. Call us leaven, call us the hands and feet of Christ, call us children of God—the lesson remains that God’s mission has a church in the world, doing what is required to draw heaven and earth together: “thy kingdom come, they will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Before I continue, I want to pause for a moment and do a little missiology with you, one of those ‘everything old is new again’ areas that we should note. Missiology is simply the study of mission, and in recent years assumptions have begun to change.

So, when I was at school, we learned that God’s church (that’s us) has a mission in the world. Define the mission, take it to the surrounding streets and voila! Doing God’s work. But somehow that stopped working. Churches tended to define mission in ways that interested them, or were less messy, or cheaper, and couldn’t understand when the mission failed. The old model—God’s church has a mission—wasn’t working.

Then some people began to rethink mission, under the splendid umbrella of missiology, and realized we had it backwards the whole time: rather than God’s church has a mission it should be God’s mission has a church. God is already busy in the world, transforming lives and communities, and our job is to get on board—to get mixed up in the work that God is already doing. The God who made heaven and earth intends to draw them together at the last and we need to help.

Let me give you a concrete example you already know. Downstairs, in the hallway, first door on your right, is the harm reduction office. Inside you will find the clean needles and crack kits and condoms that we distribute, helping prevent hepatitis and HIV and all the other unspeakable diseases that threaten people with the illness of addiction. So God invented harm reduction, we saw that God’s mission to the community includes clean needles and crack kits and condoms and we decided to help. God’s mission has a church.

(Just as another aside, it was eight years ago this month that I had my first tour of the church, and when I glanced around downstairs and saw bowls of candy I thought ‘O, I like this church!’ Then I looked closer and saw the bowls were filled with colourful condoms and thought ‘okay, very brave. I like this church.’)

God’s mission has a church. The truth is that like storm soup, as soon as we get mixed up together, we become something new. Anyone is Christ is a new creation, the past is done, and new life has come! This means forgiveness but it also mean mission. It means that together we can respond to what God is doing and get on board. Together we can help draw heaven and earth closer, knowing that this is God’s ongoing plan. We can help, because as soon as we get mixed up together, we become something new. Amen.