Monday, March 30, 2015

We Are All A@$#es!

(During the sermon I had our organist beep out the A@$# words with the organ.) 
If you were in worship last week I read an email our congregation received from someone who was mad because we were helping New Americans in our community.
Shortly after that we received another email from the same person.

Sir or Madam,

I guess maybe you thought I was joking about the first e-mail I sent to you regarding Morning Star Condominiums in Concord, NH. 
Well news flash for you I was not and I am done playing games and going to report you and anyone and everyone at Morning Star Condominiums to the health department.

This is from a current resident as well as my son that live there! 
For people that are supposedly supposed to be religious and holy rollers you are as disgusting as they are for expecting these people to live in these types of conditions. 
White,  American,  hard working people do not deserve this and your church,  your free rent for these pigs,  and your ignorance and sympathy for them are a bunch of stupid,  ignorant,  low life,  rude,  uncaring,  unkind religious A@$#es!

It got me thinking about the A@$#.
Indeed that is exactly who we are A@$#es.
This morning is Palm Sunday and on this day Jesus rides an A@$# into Jerusalem.
This parade of palms was a mocking of the Roman procession that would take place when a ruler would come back after conquering another land.
They would ride either behind or in front of the people that they had conquered as crowds cheered their heroes.
Of course a king would never ride an A@$#, they rode a majestic stead.
They would never have a motley crew of disciples; they would have soldiers fresh from battle, dressed in full military gear.
Jesus comes on an A@$#.
He comes not conquering people but hearts.
He comes not in royal splendor but in humble submission.
The entire Gospel story in Mark has been leading to this point.
Half way through Mark’s Gospel Jesus, “Sets his site towards Jerusalem”.
He has told his disciples three different times that he must go there and be handed over and die, and on the third day rise again.

It is a big moment and Jesus rides on an A@$# for this big very important moment.
Probably he doesn’t have the money for a big expensive horse.
So he comes on an A@$# that he borrows from some town’s people.
But this is what Jesus has; this is what is available to him.

And in this world what Jesus has is you and me.
All he has is us A@$#es.
You and I are Jesus’ A@$#es because we are the ones that carry Jesus into the world.
We are the ones that God uses to bring good news, to shout hosannas.
We are the ones that ask for salvation for the world.
We are A@$#es, and I think that God wants it that way.
Because let us admit that it is not really enough.
You and I we are tired, we are distracted by so many things.
We are not powerful, rich, or anything.
We are just normal folks trying to get by, trying to spread some love, give a hand up.
We are simple, humble, A@$#es.
That is all we are.

When this woman calls us religious A@$#es I once again have to agree with her.
That we are all those things she accuses us of and much worse.
But the reason we do it is for because as imperfect, small, and insignificant as we are we want to be the ones who bring Jesus into the world.
We want to confront the powers of the world that make people have to leave their homeland because of hatred, violence, and persecution.

People after worship last week asked me what I was going to do about this woman’s email.
I told them that I wasn’t sure, but was taking time to pray about it.
After the second email I knew that I had to do something.
So I invited her to come to the church and talk with me about her concerns.
Because that is also what religious A@$#es do.
We don’t respond in kind.
We respond in love and understanding.
I really wanted to have a dialogue about her concerns and hear her out.
And maybe help her to director her anger in a more positive way.
Needless to say she refused to meet with me and talk about it.

But that is the world you and I are in now isn’t it.
We have all retreated to our bunkers.
We have taken our positions and refuse to listen to another view point, or try to understand someone else.
We refuse to be the A@$#.
We still want to be the king riding a magnificent horse.
I think in our day part of what it means to be an A@$# for Jesus is that we are willing to ride into the place where our perceived opponents call home, and offer them love and grace just as Jesus offers it to us.

Because the truth is that Jesus picks, A@$#es, because he wants us to know that it really is not us doing the lifting.
It is God that lifts us up, and gives us the ability to love and care for all the A@$#es of the world.
And I am thankful today for that, because sometimes I am not sure I have enough strength.
There are days when I am emotionally and spiritually spent and I have no ability to offer compassion, love and grace.
But God is always there to pick me up, to give me power to try again.

Jesus Christ has ridden straight into my heart and conquered it for God.
Jesus Christ has called an A@$# like me to bring him to others.
That is what Palm Sunday is about.
It is about the start of something really big.
This story is the start of Jesus carrying the message of God into the heart of the world, into the religious center of all things, and offering us that message.

And I need it.
I need to know that it isn’t all about me and what I can and can’t do, because I can’t do it all.
I can’t be everything to everybody.
But Jesus Christ can and is.
Whatever your need today Jesus Christ is coming to ask you to lay it down.
Lay down your worries and fears in the street.
Shout hosanna as Jesus comes to conquer our hearts, comes to conquer our fears, and our hurts.
Jesus comes to show us A@$#es that there is another way.

The crowd shouts “Hosanna” which means “Save, now”, or “Save, I pray”.
The crowd believes that Jesus is the one who has come to save them.
The problem is that it is not in the way that they are expecting.
Because Jesus is lowly, humbling himself, using quiet dignity to show us that the God we know through Jesus Christ is majestic because of this humility.
When you and I are able to join with those that are also humble and lowly then we join with Jesus.

The older I get the more I realize how much I need that saving.
Just this week someone said to me, “pastor don’t get old”.
It is unavoidable, the older I get the more people in my life I lose.
I come to see more and more how much I can’t control, and can’t do myself.
I would like of course to control things, to cure cancer, to stop sickness, to cure mental illness and addiction.
But I can’t, and it is really not my job.
I am simply an A@$#, who carries Jesus into the world.

I notice that every day I need the quiet strength that comes from knowing Jesus.
Today I want you all to know that you have it too.
That Jesus gives it to you.
That you can access it, because you know the name above all names.
When you are on your knees at night and you plead with God for saving, for help, for whatever you need, know that God is there for you.

As we leave here this morning, as we get ready for Holy Week, let us remember that we are A@$#es, and that we are the ones that Jesus asks to bring him into the world.
Remember that Jesus humbled himself to conquer your heart.
Use that power to be able to love others who are hard to love.
Even love people that send you nasty emails for trying to help others.
Even those people are worthy of God’s love.
And tonight when your knees bend thank God that you are an A@$#!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hate Email

This week our congregation received an anti-immigrant/refugee hate email.
I am going to read the whole email this morning.

Sir or Madam,

I will start with you and then I will be reporting your service to the Health Department, Attorney General and anyone else that we can think of. 
What you are doing for foreign people that come to this country is not at all fair and neither is what the so called President is doing for letting it happen.

I was recently at Morning Star Condominiums in Concord, and I have been to other areas as well. 
And, I was informed that these foreigner's are being allowed to move into places like this and get everything for free. 
When all they do is walk the streets, talk in their foreign language and stare at Caucasian Americans who have worked hard. 
I could go on and on they are rude, do not know how to drive but are given licenses to get rid of them, they do not move and stand in the way behind vehicles, and they bring their filth to name a few!

For instance my son and his wife live in an emaculate and spotless condo that they rent at Morning Star Condominiums they are caucasian, work hard for what they have, and pay alot of money in rent and have a family of 2 children. 
My son informed me that because of all these filthy,  smelly,  and disgusting people that you are moving in there when they turn on their self cleaning oven to clean it cockroaches come flying out. 
He said at any given point they have seen them in the condo and I was disgusted and gagged when he told me this.

These conditions are deplorable, positively disgusting, and not fair to people who work hard for what they have.

I am extremely disgusted and livid that holy rollers who are supposed to be for the people would let this happen.

Now you might be thinking that when I received this email I was mad.
What I really felt was pride.
I felt happy, because we talk a lot about giving ourselves for the Gospel.
We talk about giving of ourselves for others.
And sometimes you don’t know if you are just talking, to make yourself feel good.
You don’t know if you are really living what you preach.
But this email confirmed for me that our congregation is following Jesus.
I feel that as a congregation we are on the right path.
Because being a disciple of Jesus Christ does not mean glory, it means death and ridicule.
Jesus tells us this morning that, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
What we have been given by the person who wrote that email is a gift.
It is a gift to know that we are not just talking about being disciples but we are actually doing it.

Because being a disciple means that we follow Jesus and following Jesus means that we go to places that no one else wants to go.
We go to the people and places that are considered to be “filthy, smelly, and disgusting” by others.
That is where Jesus goes, that is where Jesus is.
The Greeks come wanting to see Jesus, and Jesus tells them that where they will see him is dying on the cross.
That is where we will see Jesus too.
The person who sent the email calls us holy rollers, but doesn’t understand that what it means for a Christian to be a holy roller is roll with Jesus, and to walk with the people Jesus walked with.
So we are proud to be seen with the filthy smelly people of the world.
If you want to call us names you are going to have to do better than that.
You are going to have to get more creative.

Also if you want a fight then you came to the wrong place.
Because the person who wrote this email you know what they need?
They need Jesus!
They need Jesus love and grace to break through their hardened heart.
They need Jesus to save them from hatred and prejudice.
I pray for this person today.
I pray for her salvation, I pray for her to find God’s love.
I don’t hate her or want God to get revenge, I simply pray for her, and you should too.

Because people who hold onto hatred like that need to learn to let go of it.
Because caring it around does nothing to make one’s life better or more enjoyable.
I pray for her to let it go.
And when she does she will be freed from that hatred and be able to serve and love her neighbor as herself.
Because that is what Jesus always offer us.
Today’s reading is part of Jesus saying good bye to the crowds.
In the next chapter he will say good bye to his disciples.
He will give them final instructions and tell them to be servants as he is their servant.
Jesus will tell them that they should love other as he loved them.
He will again tell them to let go of wanting power over others, of wanting to control what people do, instead to serve and love.

In our hate email, we are told that the problem with “foreigners” is that they supposedly don’t do what “Caucasians” do.
Why is it that our expectations of others is that they will act like us.
They will speak the same language as us, eat the same food, dress the same way.
If they just stopped all of that and looked and acted like us then nothing would be wrong.
Letting go of these expectations is a healthy spiritual practice.
I saw a quote from Mister Rogers this week that I think says it perfectly.

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

That is what we are called to do as God’s people to love people not as we want them to be, but as they are here and now.

You might think that love is all just a bunch of holy roller nonsense.

You might think that the world is for those that work hard, those that earn their keep.

You might think that life is about who has the most money.

That is fine; it is a perfectly legitimate way to see life.

It is simply not the way of Jesus Christ.

It is not how Jesus rolls.


Jesus sees life as something that needs grace and mercy.

Jesus sees life as something that he dies for.

I can’t think of a time when Jesus tells us that what is really important about people is how hard they work.

What he does say is that what is important about people is how much God loves them.

And if God loves them then we should love them too.

We should let go of judging others, and simply struggle to love them.


I want to thank you all for being a congregation that attempts to follow Jesus.

That doesn’t live in a realm of self righteousness, but that is willing to let go to love the neighbors that God has sent.

I want us to leave here knowing that if we are being put down because of this then I really do believe it means we are on the right track.

I pray this day for all those who don’t know the grace and love of God.

For those who are not free to love and serve their neighbors.

And I thank God for the gift of hate email so that we might die, and in that dying we might bear much fruit for the kingdom of God.