Monday, September 13, 2021

We Belong Together


I don't have to tell you that we live in a fractured society.

We live in a time when people can make up whatever they want.

It doesn't matter if it is true.

It doesn't matter if is right.

We can create any reality we want.


This is especially true with religion, and it is especially true with Christianity.

I will admit that this has always been part of the American experience.

We have created all sorts of new religions in America.

Mormonism and Scientology just to name the most obvious ones.

But within Christianity there is an alarming trend of individuals who just make up stuff.

They don't have to check it against history or tradition.

They don't have to check it with a congregation of other believers.

They just make it up.

 For example, I was reading an article about the role that Christianity played in the insurrection of January 6th.

What I found is that many of the people that stormed the capital that day had invented the religious beliefs that allowed them to do what they did.

Consider "Q'annon Shammon".   

He is not a Christian, but someone who believes in a numbers of religious beliefs that he has mushed together.

He is the founder of founder of something called the Star Seed charges.

It has something to do with a new age philosophy, but he also has a commitment to parts of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

And he is not alone.

Most of the supposed Christians who were there that day where not part of any denomination or Christian community.

As the Washington post reported, "Many forces contributed to the attack on the Capitol...But part of the mix, say experts on American religion, is the fact that the country is in a period when institutional religion is breaking apart, becoming more individualized and more disconnected from denominations, theological credentials and oversight."

The same is true with vaccines.

According to an article in the New York Times, the people who are claiming a religious exemption are doing it based on an individual faith, and not as part of a denomination.


This is important, because in our Gospel this morning Jesus asks Peter, "Who do you say that I am."

And it seems like Peter is making a personal profession of faith in Jesus as a the Messiah.

But we don't have a word for the second-person plural noun in English.

Well they do down south, it is "Y'all".

And that is the correct word in Greek.

Jesus doesn't just as Peter who he thinks Jesus is, he asks all the disciples, and Peter answers for the group.

This to me is important.

Because Christianity is never about me and Jesus.

It is always about us and Jesus.


The faith that I have was not handed down from on high to me.

It was not something I came up with while praying alone in my room.

It was something that I was given.

It was given to me by my parents.

My parents who showed me what it meant to live in faith.

It was taught to me by Sunday School teachers and pastors.

It was formed in me with friends from Calumet around campfires, and talks deep into the night on the shores of Lake Ossipee.

It was something that was also given down through the ages.

Through scholars and church leaders.

Through Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King Jr, Oscar Romero.

Through the saints who have gone before me.

It is something that I continue to learn about through this community of faith.

It is not about me, it is about "Y'all".


And I say that on this morning most of all.

Because for a long period of time we were not able to be together.

I missed you.

I hope you missed each other, I hope you missed me.

I saw some of you.

I saw you in drips and draps.

Some of you I talked to on the phone, or saw you on Zoom.

We adjusted and made the most out of things.

But I missed our community.

I missed the energy that we get from one another.

I miss when we serve together.

I miss when we work together, and solve problems together.

I wish I could tell you that it was better, because we did new things.

I know many pastors who think that.

I never did.

I know things are not going back to the way they were before the pandemic.

However, Christianity is at its best when it is about us all together.

We are at our best when it is us together.


Because together we are the body of Christ.

We are the people who want to follow Jesus.

We are the people who want to leave ourselves behind and love our neighbors.

We are the people who are sent to carry the cross.

To lift up the broken hearted.

To give our lives for the sake of each other and the world.

We are the people that are called to do that in this world.

But we can't do any of that by ourselves.

The problems are too big.

The solutions are too few.

We need each other, so that together we know who Jesus is for us.

I need y'all to help me to know who Jesus is.

I can't do it without you.


I was thinking about 9/11 this week.

As you know my first congregation was in New York.

I was there only two years after 9/11.

I ran into many people who lost people in the towers that day, including parishioners of mine.

It was a tough time for our country.

I visited the sight of the towers on a couple of occasions.

There was a Church right across the street from ground zero, amazingly it suffered no damage from the towers coming down.

It was a place that welcomed in the rescue workers while they dug through the pile.

Every day at noon they would hold a prayer service for those whose lives were lost.

I was there one day for the prayer service, two years after the attack.

The pews in that church are all nicked and beaten up from the rescue workers equipment.

They would sleep on those pews and the spikes from their boots would nick up the pews.

I was told that the congregation decided not to fix the pews, but keep them as a reminder of the scars from 9/11.

That is our job church.

That is what Jesus tells us this morning.

To lose our lives for the sake of other, for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of our faith in Jesus Christ.

That is who Jesus is for y'all, for us.

Jesus is the one who shows us the way, and the way is always through the cross.

It is never through some glorious way, always through service and sacrifice, through community, through love, with one another.


I am so happy to see you today, I am so happy for those who are joining online.

Because today we are together, learning and growing in faith.

And y'all that is only way it happens.



Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Mom's Eulogy


What Jen, Bethany, and I talked about while mom was dying and since is, "We don't know what we will do without our mother."

(I mean who will clean our houses?)

It seems like a weird thing to say.

All three of us are now grown.

We all are successful, well-adjusted people.

We have careers, spouses, kids of our own.

It wouldn't seem like we would need a mother anymore.

But our mother is everything to us.

Every good thing that we are is because of who she was to us.

Our mother even now is our confidant, our wise adviser, the person who gives us unconditional love.

Let me tell you some of the things that she was to us.


We have to start by talking about our mother's faith.

As Jen has said on numerous occasions, "No one loves Jesus more than mom."

Our mother had a strong faith, and it is the thing that defined her above all else.

She trusted in God enough to let things run their course.

As we were growing up our mother always told us that our choices were ours to make.

Of course, she gave advice or a shove in certain directions.

But for some reason she trusted us to make our own way in the world, even when we didn't deserve that trust.

When we failed she was always there to help us out.

She paid for our overdue credit card expenses, our court fees when we got caught shoplifting.

She was always a steady presence.

She was always more interested in why we did things, instead of what we did.

She encouraged us to search our feelings, to name those feelings out loud.

She wanted us to explore our inner selves.

As a parent I am not always so calm, and I think her ability to be even keel, to trust us, was because of her faith in God.

This faith served her well as she did face her share of difficulties.

Divorce from Gene, battling cancer twice, and Dad’s death, all of which she handled with positivity and grace.


My mother's faith also came out in her dedication to the Church.

When I first moved back to New Hampshire Knute said to me, “Now your mother will be able to worship at Concordia on some Sundays."

I will tell you that rarely happened.

Not because she didn't want to come to see me preach, but because she was so busy in her own church.

She was running coffee hour, planning the community meal, singing in the choir, going to help people in their homes, volunteering at the homeless resource center, or just being here to make people feel welcomed and cared for.

She was in charge of the fellowship when she resigned from that duty she found four people to do the work that she did.

This was how it was all of our lives.

Church came first.

My dad would tell the story of how when they were first married it was a Sunday.

Mom came in and woke him up because it was time for church.

My Dad said, "We just went last Sunday."

To which mom said, "Yeah, we will be going every Sunday."

And we did, it was not a discussion just something that she expected our family to do.

I marvel now how she would get the three of us up and out of the house.

Because I know I wasn't the easiest to get up for Church.

We were usually one of the last people to leave, as mom had to clean the coffee pot.

I didn't appreciate at the time how much this would mean for our lives.

My mother's closest friends came from Church.

We would often spend the afternoon at someone's house playing, eating, and drinking.

We would go to the Fields, Arndts, Lerzes, Rouches, or Meles.

It feels like every Sunday we would be with those people for a long time.

To this day we are all still family.

Mom’s family was important to her.

She cherished her relationships with her siblings Paula and David.

She made sure to call and write when they were away, and she loved having them at our house growing up with Gigi and grandpa.

She had two other sisters in Gay and Suzanne.

They had known each other long before they were family.

She also made sure that she cultivated those two important relationships.

We had such great times at the beach, Disney, playing scrapple, Aunt Gay’s yearly February visit, and sitting around the table sipping coffee and talking.

Mom loved having her family around.

She was a supportive mother in law.

Always wanting to hear about their careers, projects, and family.

Mom loved her grandkids.

She loved having them at her house for a week, she loved going to their various sporting events, concerts, plays, and recitals, she loved hearing about their lives or teasing them about people they might be dating, she would always say “yes” to babysit them.

When our kids were little she came to watch them for us once a week.

She took the greatest delight in watching them give us a hard time.

If we were having a difficult parenting moment she would laugh and say, “I love watching this.” (Probably a little payback for all the hard times we put her through,)


Mom was an extreme extrovert.

I know that people always think of our Dad that way, and he was very outgoing.

But he needed time alone, our mother rarely did.

If she spent a day or two alone it wasn't pretty.

She loved being around people.

She loved being at the beach, having people over her house, doing things at Church.

She loved to sit and talk to people.

She loved to sit and drink coffee and just have a chat about life.

She always asked people about themselves, and she talked about herself but never too much.

She never tried to make people into anything they were not, she accepted them for who they were.

That is true of us kids too.

She always just accepted us for who we are, in all of our imperfections, she loved us as that person.

It has been amazing to read the cards and online messages of other people reflecting that truth about her.


It was here at Calumet that mom’s faith was constantly revitalized and lived out.

She loved this place.

It meant so much to her.

It was where her and dad met and fell in love.

It was where she went on vacations.

It was here that her and our Dad went on their honeymoon.

She was the one who convinced our Dad to sell their home in Derry and move up here to be closer to Camp. (Even though he thought it was his idea.)

For the last 26 years she spent her summers on the shores of Lake Ossipee talking with people and swimming.

At the start of summer she would say, “All the people come now. I love it!”

So many people have told us how much the liked to talk to mom on the beach here, or how she made them feel at home.

That is how she lived out her faith welcoming new people, and constantly fostering old relationships.


I don't think we can talk about our mother without talking about how clean she was.

Mom was an obsessive cleaner.

In our house growing up we had garbage cans, but there was never garbage in them.

When I tell people that they ask me what where did it go.

I don’t' know.

I just know that she loved to throw things out.

The dump was one of her favorite places in the world.

When we lived in Derry I have found memories of going to the dump with mom.

She did the same thing in Freedom.

Always had something in her car to throw out.

When we went to Disney and she found out that they didn’t recycle she took home her recycling in her luggage!

I liked to joke with people that mom caught the dust before it settled anywhere in the house.

This was not always the easiest thing to live with.

My mom rarely got that mad about things.

Except when company was coming over and she was preparing.

We were exiled from the house during this process.

And if we moved or messed anything up it would be the rare time she would raise her voice at us.


Our mom did it all.

She cleaned, cooked, did the laundry, drove us around to our various events, attend those events.

I always remember her being at everything we did.

Sports, theater, cheerleading.

And on top of all that she worked full time as a geriatric nurse, volunteered at church, and hosted these different events for family and friends.

She was super human.

She did everything, and she did it for Jen, Bethany, and I.

She gave us everything a mother could give and more.

She was our mother and our friend and confidant.

So like I said at the beginning I don't know what we are going to do without her.


Today I am just really thankful that she was our mom.

She asked to me to say today that “She hopes she will be remembered as someone who made this world a little cleaner and left it better."

We can say with confidence that she did that and then some.