Tales of a Midwest Lutheran on the East Coast

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

We are Dusty People. Sermon 1-25

Mark 1: 14-20

Grace and peace to you from God our father and from our risen lord and savior Jesus the Christ, amen.

Credentials. It starts almost from the moments that we are born – parents ask themselves: is my baby making her milestones on time? Are we using the right pre-reading program? Is she excelling in her toddler ballet class? Is he in the most academically rigorous pre-school and kindergarten program?

Credentials. Whether or not our life-resumes are transcribed on paper or in our consciousness, our credentials are always with us. It’s not just what schools we've gone to or what job’s we've had or what clubs we've been part of. Our life transcript also reports on … whether or not we are close friends with the boss. How many friends we have on Facebook. Whether or not we are the “cool parent” among our kids’ friends. How big of a raise we got last year.

Credentials. And we are always checking each OTHER’S against our own.  HE wears the same red sweater to church every week. HER youngest son is a star athlete and just got accepted to Princeton. HE spent three years in Indonesia feeding starving orphans and then started a successful business from $50 his grandpa gave him. SHE is a Julliard grad …but she fell from grace and now is in a rehab program.

Credentials. We use them to keep some people in and some people out.  In one of the opening scenes in the new movie Selma, Annie Lee Cooper, played by Oprah Winfrey, slowly and neatly filled out her voter registration application in the lobby of the local court house. Then she waited nervously to be called to the clerk’s window, even though she was the only one waiting. The white clerk finally, loudly called her over, and told her to hurry up about it, too.

The clerk looked at her, up and down, took her registration, and said,

“Recite the preamble to the United States Constitution.”

After a long pause, Ms. Cooper began, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”

“How many county judges are in the state of Alabama?”


For a moment it looks like the white clerk will surely this black woman vote. After all that, she has proven herself. I, for one, have no idea how many county judges there are in the state of New Jersey, and I had to look up how the preamble of the constitution went. But instead, the clerk replies:

“Name them.”

Credentials. Annie Lee Cooper had a better resume than a lot of people in her day, and she was STILL denied this basic human right, based on the color of her skin.

Credentials. We love them, we hate them, we build them, we strive for them, we compare them, we try to ignore them. But we cannot seem to escape them.

Until, that is, along came a man named Jesus, walking along the beach. Now, this was not any old ordinary, relaxing stroll in the surf that he was taking, enjoying the scenery – which, by the way, would have been more like a wharf then a beach: full of smelly fish and smelly men rather than sunbathers. But, undeterred, Jesus walked along, fresh with a blessing from his baptism, fresh with a mission from his time in the wilderness. Jesus was ready to do his own kind of fishing.

Who to choose for this brand-new faith movement, this cutting edge, state of the art, counter-cultural Kingdom of God-blessed effort? Perhaps the most learn-ed theologians and scripture interpreters of the time from the biggest houses of worship. In addition, those with good communication skills would be a wise choice – people who could read and write, when most people couldn't. Great orators and preachers would be a great asset, as would great historians, and also members of the ruling elite to be financial supporters for this ambitious new venture. People with good credentials. THAT’S who Jesus needs. Right?

But… that isn’t exactly who Jesus ended up choosing. Simon, Andrew, James, and John were certainly not theologians, great communicators, knowledgeable in history, powerful, wealthy, or even literate. After all, where did Jesus find them? At the wharf, slogging through a day’s work at the family business. In the middle of a shift at a minimum-wage, blue-collar job with no benefits, no pension, and no options. Because this was all they had as their credentials: to be fishermen, casting their nets into the sea. And yet, these are the ones out to be his disciples.

For Jesus, it doesn't matter what school we attended or how much money we make or what our children amount to. We don’t have to fill out an application showing how many committees we've served on or fellowship hours we've signed up for, how many years we've faithfully taught Sunday school, been in youth group, or sang in the choir, though these are all worthwhile things. And on the other hand, you don’t have to worry if your list of qualifications seems alarmingly blank. To be called by Jesus, to follow him as his disciple, you only need one thing on your resume: being a child of God. Which, by the way, if you haven’t noticed, you already are, by virtue of your baptism.

As Jesus walked along the beach and called his disciples, I can imagine that their hearts leaped for joy. Here was somebody who thought they were good enough, someone who thought that they were WORTHY to be his students. And then, I image that a moment later as they dropped their nets, their hearts dropped to their stomachs in utter terror. What in the world would they be in for? They had no idea that during the next three years they will misunderstand, try to correct, manipulate, question, fall asleep on the job for, and finally abandon the very person who called them. But Jesus called them anyway.

If it were not for these ordinary, flawed, credential-less people, WE would not be here, in 2015, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in East Windsor New Jersey, about to review the awesome ministry we have done in the previous year together. All because Jesus chose and called them, and they followed.

YOU have been chosen. And YOU have been called. And perhaps your heart too has done that little dance in both joy and terror at the same time. Whether you are young like Samuel, stubborn like Jonah, eloquent like Paul, reverent like Mary, brave like Moses and Miriam, faithful like Mary Magdalene, eager like Peter, curious like Philip, or a bit slow on the up-take like the rest of the disciples…

Whether we are old, young, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, A-list or B-team ….Jesus has a place for you among his students. And he has called you there for a reason. And that reason is so that you can learn from him how to fish for people. And lesson number one, so far, which we learned from these four disciples in their very first minutes on the job, is this – everyone has a place. No credentials required.

So hold on tight, because this adventure might get a little bumpy at times, like it did for the disciples. Yes, God has called us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown, But God gives us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that the very hand of Jesus will be ready to catch us if we stumble.

And so, as wise pastor and author Rob Bell has said, may you follow in the footsteps of the person you follow so closely that you are covered in the dust he leaves in his wake. So let us follow Jesus so closely that we will be completely covered by dust that get kicked up - like coated and just plastered in the stuff - so that everything that we do as we follow him will leave behind us smudges that others can see– smudges of grace that show everyone that the Kingdom of God has indeed come near to us.

So let's make 2015 the smudgiest, dustiest year EVER. Amen.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Epiphany - Keep your Christmas Lights Up til Lent!

Sermon 1-4-2015

Grace and peace to you from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, amen.
“In one thousand feet, take the exit on the right. Continue for three quarters of a mile. In five hundred feet, turn left on Main Street. Recalculating route. Make the next legal U-turn. Recalculating route.”

Have you ever felt that going through life can be a little like following the directions on your GPS? Everything seems to be going just fine for a while – the GPS lady is doing a great job, when suddenly she doesn’t warn you until it’s too late you just passed the turn you were supposed to make. Or she wants you to take an exit that doesn’t exist. Or tells you about the traffic jam AFTER you’ve passed all the alternate roads you COULD have taken instead. Recalculating route. Make the next legal U-Turn.

Maybe that’s how this last year felt for you: like one big recalculation. Perhaps it started out fine, but took a few detours here and there, and you ended 2014 in a part of the map you weren’t expecting. Perhaps the beginning of 2015 finds you on a road that you weren’t expecting to be taking, and you’re finding that the map is unclear and the usually dependable GPS lady is suddenly at a loss. Am I going the right way? Do I have the right directions? How in the world did I end up here?
The road that we are walking is sometimes a dark one. We all could use a little light to show us the way. We all need the light that shines in the darkness, the kind of light that darkness cannot overcome.

On January 6th begins a new season of light we call Epiphany. While the rest of the world has already finished up its after-Christmas sales and New Year’s parties, and put away the Christmas lights and decorations, today we are observing the final element to the Christmas story. Wise men from the East finally show up on the scene – maybe their GPS was broken? - followed a blazing star, looking for a child born a king.  Today we too pay homage to a king who so often comes into our world as a blazing light, surprising us in our darkness, and shining on us when we seem to have lost our way.

Before there were such things as cars and GPS ladies or even reliable maps, people read the stars. The stars, especially the North Star in the northern hemisphere, helped people find their way through the ages. Now, the North Star is not the brightest star or the most easily found in the night’s sky. Instead, it’s so helpful because, while all the other stars travel around the sky during the night, the North Star stays fixed in place, which is pretty handy if north is the place you want to go. For slaves in the South a hundred and fifty years ago, the North Star was both a beacon of hope and a map to show them the way to freedom. The North Star was the light that shown out in their darkness to show them the way, and no amount of darkness could extinguish their hope.

Often we are too busy to look up at the stars anymore – and especially around here there is so much light at night that they are hard to see. And we have our fancy GPS devices and apps. But do you remember the last time you look up at a night sky full of stars?

When I was a camp counselor at a Lutheran camp in Wisconsin, one night during the week every cabin went out into the woods for a camp-out. It wasn’t very far at all from the main camp, and it was only for one night, but for every cabin of teenage girls I took out there, I may as well have been talking them to the Canadian wilderness. After it got good and dark, I would take them for a hike along the trail. I found a nice dark spot where we could get a clear view of the stars, and I turned the flashlight off. After nervous giggling died down, we would all get quiet and gaze at all the stars. After a few moments I pointed out the North Star and why it was special. Then I told them Jesus was a star shining in their lives that would never shift or change or falter or dim.

Each of these teenage girls lived in a world that was constantly changing around them. They were trying to figure out who they are and who or what they should follow. They were trying to find their way in a world that was often not friendly or kind, a world that often could be very dark.

In many ways that world hasn’t changed. The world was a dark place back when the wise men followed a very special star on a long journey far from their homelands, and it continues to be a dark place today. Then, like now, there were political intrigue and power plays happening in palaces and in places of power. For people like King Herod, the darkness was just fine, thank you very much. The way things were was just fine, and would go on being just fine. The powerful would continue to rule the powerless, the strong would oppress the weak, the rich would lord it over the poor. All would continue as it “should” be, with the Herods of the world living it up while the hopeless continue with nothing.

But a light shown out in the darkness, a star appeared and rose in the night sky, and things started to happen.

Perhaps the wise men who followed the star felt they had lost their way too, when they arrived in Jerusalem. The expected to find a child, born to be king. They certainly found a king all right, but one who was frightened out of his mind at the news that there was someone out there who would threaten his position.

The wise men had to keep following the star, through all the detours and strange U-turns and recalculations they faced on their journey. The light stayed with them until they arrived at their destination – Jesus, the one who would shepherd his people, who had been called Messiah and Savior and Lord by an angel to some shepherds working the graveyard shift in a field with sheep.

The life of this Jesus when he grew up seemed to take a few unexpected detours, too. He did not grow up to be the king that others expected him to be. Instead of wearing fine robes and dining in palaces, he broke bread with poor people and hung out with fishermen, tax collectors, and women. Instead of wielding a sword as a warrior, he used his words to teach and to heal and bring peach. Instead of being crowned and venerated as king of his people, he was worshipped and given gifts by wise men from another country.

The light of the star lead these men to the light of Jesus. But the journey for them was not an easy one. They faced many hardships as they traveled, and probably got lost and had to make a few U-turns. And also the journeys that have lead us to the light of Jesus were often not simple or easy. We all have had and will continue to have a few recalculations and U-turns of our own. But the light of Jesus will never leave us, no matter what kinds of detours our lives take.

These days in Epiphany will continue to grow brighter, little by little, by precious minutes each day. But while we’re in the midst of it, this little increase of light can be hard to notice. It’s so easy to miss. We all need reminders that the light is indeed growing in our days, and that the light of Jesus is with us, shining in the darkness of our hearts. We also could use a reminder that that Jesus wants us to let this light shine out so that others can see it.

For the wise men, this reminder was a star. But for us, in these days, it can be something smaller and less interstellar. It can be something physical, perhaps something that you use often or see every day. I’d like to share with you the reminder that I use – this flame-less battery candle that I have in my office. If you've come to Holden evening prayer during Advent, you’ve seen it too, lighting the way in the darkened sanctuary. It still shines brightly, but, as you can see, it looks a little different. It’s a little broken. It’s been dropped a few times. But I still keep it around, and have used it for Holden and for synod youth retreats I’ve been a part of. I keep it because this is the kind of light that Jesus prefers to use to shine in the darkness – not the Martha Steward’s Perfect Christmas-O-Rama lights, but the lights that are chipped and lopsided and are burned out here and there.

Jesus calls the dim bulbs and the broken lights and has them shine in the darkness for him. Jesus finds the lost and those always making U-turns and gives them an honored place at his table. So go ahead, leave your Christmas lights up until Lent to remind you of this, especially if they’re starting to sag a little or half falling down. Because the light is STILL shining in the darkness, and the darkness will not and cannot overcome it. Amen.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I read some books in 2014

Top 10 Books I Read in 2014, in no particular order:

Faith in the Face of Empire: The Bible Through Palestinian Eyes, Mitri Raheb

Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Messy Spirituality, Michael Yaconelli

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai

The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
The Aviator's Wife, Melanie Benjamin

Kindred, Octavia E. Butler,

The Red Chamber, Pauline Chen

Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor

Christmas Day beginnings

Sermon 12-25-14

Grace and peace to you from God our father and from his son our Lord and savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.

We love beginnings. I think this is why people love babies and weddings so much. We go all-out when we hear a baby is on the way – baby showers and gifts, and later documenting and celebrating EVERY SINGLE MOMENT that happens - baby’s first Christmas, first tooth, first step, first word, first birthday. And weddings too, we pull out all the stops for - elaborate gowns and ceremonies, food and decorated reception halls. After all, who doesn't love to see brides and grooms and chubby babies?

I don’t know when Christmas became all about nostalgia, but this month I found myself watching all of my favorite Christmas movies. And my husband has gone on a Christmas candy-making rampage, completely taking over our tiny kitchen with melted chocolate and almond bark, corn syrup and red and green sprinkles.

Christmas movies and making candy, babies and weddings all take us back to a time that seemed simpler and happier. That’s probably we like to remember beginnings so much. They’re not messy or complicated with real life problems. We can remember the good stuff and forget about the bad.
Maybe this is why we also love to hear the beginnings of our favorite stories. “Once upon a time” and “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” “It was a dark and stormy night.” “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

What about this one? “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

And so began the greatest story of all time, a story could not be contained on just one book, and could not take place in the span of one lifetime. It is a story that begins at the very beginning and tells of a God, who created a world that was good and full of life and light, and wanted to share it with us. Even though we tend to mess things up, over and over and over again.

So God decided to begin a new chapter to the story. And this one also began with “in the beginning.”
In an example of divinely sanctioned plagiarism, this is how John chooses to tell us the Christmas story. There are no angels or shepherds or censuses or managers or even Mary and Joseph. Instead, John takes us back to the very beginning, to the dawn of time, to tell Jesus’ birth story like a dramatic crane shot that zooms out and out and out until you can see all of creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”
And so God’s word became flesh and living among us. The word made his home with us. He bought a house in the neighborhood and moved in next door. God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him should not die but have eternal life.

In order to tell you more about him, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite stories. It’s adapted from old folk take called “The story of the three trees.”  (I did not write this story)

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”

The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to travel mighty waters and carry powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!”

The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town, maybe preparing to have their in-laws over for Christmas dinner. She said, “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”

Years passed, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.
The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” 
“Now I shall be made into a beautiful treasure chest!” the first tree said.

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” 
“I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!” thought the second tree. 

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me,” he said. 

The first tree rejoiced when she was brought to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay.

The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was made into a simple fishing boat, taken to a little lake.
The third tree was confused when the woodcutter left her strong beams in a lumberyard. “What happened?” the she wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God...”

Many, many days and night passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams.

But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox. “This manger is beautiful,” the mother said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

But the story does not end here. That baby, of course, grows up. And there are two more trees left to hear about.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as they sailed out into the lake. Soon a mighty storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain. The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth tremble with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. And every time people think of the third tree, they think of God and the great gift that God gave to all of us in his Jesus. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

But the story doesn't really end here. God’s story continues, the gift that keeps on giving, all the year through. Christmas is just the beginning. So stay tuned for what else God has in store. Amen.

Selfie Sermon

Sermon 12-14-14

(Before I started my sermon I took a "selfie" with the congregation - the NJ synod has been requesting pictures from all the congregations across the synod, and since it made sense with my sermon, why not take one from the pulpit? My congregation was pretty amused by the whole process.)

And now back to our regularly scheduled sermon.

Grace to you and peace from God our father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
If that was your first selfie, Congratulations! I hope it was everything you’ve always dreamed of. If you have children, grandchildren, or have been to the mall lately, when you’ve seen all the cool kids doing this [phone], now you know what they’re doing.

I remember the first time I heard the word ‘selfie’ – a colleague shared her annoyance that two girls were taking a “selfie” during worship, this time NOT with the pastor’s permission. I remembering thinking – what in the world is a selfie?

I have since learned that a selfie is a picture you take of yourself with your phone. It can be taken when you are alone or when you are with a group of friends or family having a good time. You can take one when you are in a special place, or you can take one while cooking dinner. You can even take them at church, but not during the service, unless of course your pastor asks you to and its part of her sermon.

But the ultimate point of a selfie is not to keep it to your SELF, but to share it with others. When we take a selfie and share it with the world, we are saying: this is who I am and who I choose to portray myself to be. And so, we want to share with the world only our very best “SELF-ie.” Our “best hair day” self. Our “marriage is just great,” self. Our “handling the diagnosis well” self. Our “I’m just fine” self. Our “I don’t need any help, thank-you-very-much” self. We’ll share anything but our actual, real life selves.

It’s like that perfect photo Christmas card you always get from that one family. Or maybe you are the ones trying to BE “that family.” Your children smiling, your pets behaved, the house clean, the tree perfect, everyone dressed in their best and showing only their best. What usually isn’t included on these cards are the before and after. How the phone was ringing, the kids were fighting, the cookies came out of the oven, burned to a crisp, the house looked like a disaster, the cat had knocked over the tree, and the dog had an accident. No one wants to share THAT on a Christmas card.

We have become very good at editing our lives to look perfect inside that Christmas card frame. It takes a lot of energy. And at this time of the year it seems to become a matter of life and death. What is inside our perfect frame becomes our world, and we can’t see that there is a whole world “out there.” We can’t see that God is trying to break into our selfies.

If you've been to New York recently, you may have seen the interesting publicity ads that the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn has put out, wanting to draw people back to church this holiday season. We see an image of a young woman taking a selfie – what else – but on the screen of her phone you see that someone else is in the picture behind her, though there obviously is no one there. In the viewfinder, you can see just beyond her shoulder a fuzzy image of someone we assume is Jesus. The tagline of the ad is “It’s never just a selfie – join us this Christmas.”

This is the picture from the ad. A little weird, no?

Creepiness aside…. I think this ad is TRYING to say… that Jesus is present in with you and will show up when you least expect it, even when – or ESPECIALLY when – we are still stuck focusing on ourselves. Like when we are orchestrating our lives to be a Christmas card. Or when obsessed with taking selfies, and our brain stays on “selfie mode” long after the phone has been put away.
I wonder if this young woman in the ad would see, if she were to switch cameras, from the lens pointing toward her to the one pointing away from her. What would she see if she pointed her camera at the world? Would Jesus show up out there too?

At least for us, though, while we’re so busy trying to be our selfies instead of our-SELVES, God shows up. God shows up, shining light into our darkness. God shows up, binding up our broken and bruised hearts. God shows up, comforting those who mourn. God shows up, freeing those who are oppressed and imprisoned. God shows up, and gives us a reason to be glad and rejoice in all circumstances.

Basically, God is photobombing us. The term may not be familiar, but the experience is– you’re on vacation, taking a picture of your family in front of a beautiful vista, and later see in the background some random kid making a funny face. Or when you’ve set up a nice portrait, put the camera on a timer, and your cat sticks her face in the way at the last minute. Or, apparently, when Jesus unexpectedly shows up in your selfie. Or in your life. Or when a man is send from God shows up suddenly to tell the people that God is about to do something big. That the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world, spoiling our perfect selfie.

John the Baptist seems to be the kind of guy who would never take a selfie. We really don’t know much of anything about him, at least if we were to base our facts in the Gospel of John. Here there is no indication of his wardrobe choices, hair style, or eating preferences. Even the Pharisees knew next to nothing about him – so the sent some priests and Levites to get the scoop on this guy. Who was he? Was he the messiah? Was he the prophet? Was he Elijah? Why was he baptizing? What did he have to say for himself?

They tried to get a read on him, tried to get him to write his biography, invited him to interviews with Oprah and on the Tonight Show, tried to get him to write a bestseller, Your Best Baptism Now.
But not these followers, these attentions, or these questions deterred him. He did not waver. He stayed on message.

He came as a witness to testify to the light, to prepare the way of the Lord and make the paths straight, to make the world ready for the one coming after him. In most of the artist who have painted John throughout the ages, most have pictured him pointing, like on our bulletin cover this week. Take a look. John is pointing away from himself, up and out beyond the frame of the picture, toward the light. And later, as the light manifests in Jesus, John cries out “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”

Yes, behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Yes, behold the light that is coming into the darkness of the world, the word who became flesh and lives among us. Behold, a little baby born to a teenage mom far from home and placed in a manger. Behold, one who fed the hungry and healed the sick and cared for sinners. Behold the good shepherd, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Behold, the son of God lifted up on a cross, drawing all people to himself. Behold, the empty tomb and stone rolled away. Behold, the Lamb of God photobombing our selfies and interrupting our lives with light shining out in a very dark world.

John was not the light, and we are not the light, but we, like John, are sent from God to be witnesses to the light, to see it, and then tell others what we see. I've shared before the saying “Jesus is God’s selfie” - Jesus reveals to us the essence of who God is. But I think I’d like to take it a step further, if I dare, and say that WE are JESUS’S selfies. We are created in the IMAGE of God, revealing who God is and pointing to where God IS showing up in the world.

Behold, a seventeen year old Pakistani girl named Malala wins the Nobel Peace Prize for championing girls’ education. Behold, the person who gives a dollar to a homeless man so he can by a hot cup of coffee on a cold day. Behold, the Canada teen who fought bullying by founding Positive post-it day. Behold, the huge collection of gifts at our front door, which will be given to children in need all over Hightstown. Behold, a protester in Ferguson, Missouri, giving away free hugs and encouraging reconciliation and peace. Behold the Lamb of God.

Our own “beholds” may not be for anything fancy. But we need to do our part and show up too, just as God does all the time. After all, as Pastor Nadia Bolz Weber has said, “the greatest spiritual practice is just showing up.” And after all, that’s what God does for us. And for that, we can say AMEN.