A Sick boy needs your help


A re-post for the holidays.

I cried when I read this boys story. Please do what you can to help him. I would not post this here if I felt we could not do something as a community. WWJD? Below is his letter…

I am a very sick boy little boy. My mother is typing this for me, because I can’t. She is crying. (Don’t cry, Mommy!) Mommy is always sad, but she says it’s not my fault. I asked her if it was God’s fault, but she didn’t answer, and only started crying harder, so I don’t ask her that anymore. Tears are not so bad…Mommy says that when it rains that is the angels and Jesus crying. I love Jesus and Mommy, even if she is so sad.

The reason she is so sad is that I’m so sick. I was born without a body. It doesn’t hurt, except when I go to sleep. The doctors gave me an artificial body. My body is a burlap bag filled with leaves. The doctors said that was the best they could do on account of us having no money or insurance. I would like to have a body transplant, but we need more money.

Mommy doesn’t work because she says employers don’t hire crying people. I said, “Don’t cry, Mommy,” and she hugged my burlap body. Mommy always gives me hugs, even though she’s allergic to burlap, and it chafes her real bad. Mommy even sprays me with pesticides to keep the bugs away from my leaves. It tickles when she does. The fumes do not bother me so much…even though I keep getting sore throats from it. I hope you will help me.

You can help me if you forward this e-mail. Dr. Tab Norsemen from the St. Marmite’s Clinical Children’s Clinic said if you feel convicted to help me then pray and send money to the clinic or you can give it to your local church (just mark it for “the crippled boy with no body”). You can also email Gap, The Coffee Grinder, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Tower Records, Apple, and Bill Gates…he will team up with NASA and Nike to make me a new durable metal body (like the ones U of Oregon plays in).

Then the astronauts will collect prayers from school children all over America and take them up to space so that the angels can hear them better. Then they will go to the Pope, and he will take up a collection in church and send the money to the doctors too. The doctors could help me get better then. Maybe one day I will be able to play baseball or maybe just use my lungs and heart, when the doctors make them out of play dough or Krispy Kreme donuts. The doctors said that every hundred thousand dollars raised, the astronauts can take another prayer to the angels.

Please help me. Mommy is so sad, and I want a body. I don’t want my leaves to rot before I turn 10. If you don’t help, that’s OK. Mommy says you’re a mean heartless Cataphrygian who doesn’t care about a poor little boy with only a head let alone grace and redemption… She says that, if you don’t stew in the raw pit of your own guilt-ridden stomach, she hopes you suffer a long slow horrible death so you can burn forever in the tar pits of hell absent of martyr glory!
What kind of goddamned person are you that you can’t take five fucking minutes to inform all your friends so that they maybe absolved of any guilt and shame for the rest of their day, and possibly help a poor, bodiless nine-year-old boy? Please help me. This really sucks. I try to be happy but it’s hard. I wish I had a puppy. I wish I could hold a puppy. One time I had a puppy but he ate my leaves. I wish I could swim with out wearing a net. I wish I had a friend other than Jesus. Jesus will never leave me.

Thank You.

In his grip with grace and peace and all the love my little burlap body can muster…
The boy with just a head and a burlap sack for a body.

Belhar Confession & My Racist Posture

I have been thinking a lot about what I believe. Mostly so I can hide from my convictions and not have to face that I am a wolf in Christian clothing. For all intensive purposes, I have no right to be in ministry.

I hold so many biases that you could start a black market economy from my prejudices and misgivings of people. I clam to be a pretty open fellow. The more I question this idea that more I realize that I am a messed up mucky muck kind of guy.

In early June, Mere and I moved to Old Louisville, in an area that has a large African-American population. Our building has ten apartments and two are occupied by Caucasian families [us included] and two are vacant. Sixty percent of our building is occupied by African-Americans. This is very different to me.

I grew up in largely Hispanic/Latino/a, Asian, and Caucasian context. I had very little exposure to African-American. Elementary school I had not African-American friends. In middle school a few African-American friends. None of which came to my house nor did they live in my neighborhood. In high school I had maybe ten close friends that where Africa-American. I played football with them and spent quite a bit of time with them.

I never went to there homes. I never entered their neighborhoods. I never entered their world. It was always on my terms, my space. I was at advantage in the relationship.

College, university, and seminary I had a sparse encounter with Africa-Americans. It may have a lot to do with the institutions I attended. They were largely Anglo funded and fueled, geared towards Anglo institutions.

I would not have called myself racist at all as all of the above transpired, say for a short stint in a bad situation and poor choices on my part as the company I kept. I kept my nose clean. I made sure what I thought was never used to impact a situation or event. I made sure to seek out quality friends and meet quotas so that I could not be accused of racism. I jogged on in life blissfully unaware that I am a much larger part of the problem that I imagined.

I arrive here in June with my new bride, my new life, my new chance at life. We rent an apartment sight unseen in a neighborhood we know nothing about outside of the research I did on crime of the internet. We arrive excited and ready to forge ahead and claim of stake in the American dream.

Only one snag…we live in a totally foreign context from what wither of us are used to. We arrive here in this building. We are surrounded by booming hip hop, tricked out cars with giant ass rims, and a sea of black faces.

I lived in Kenya for a year and am used to black faces. Again, I was in the African context but it was on my terms and folks there have a little bit of residue of the colonial system. My life changes but it was for the better. In Kenya I was part of a terrible legacy, but I was blessed by it. I was hungry often, but I never went hungry. I knew I was going to go home. There was an end date insight for the misery I witnessed. I focused on that and it made it bearable.

With all of this “difference” surrounding me here I begin to question my reactions. Would I feel safer if all of the music, clothing, language, and stuff were coming from a white mouth? Yes. I would feel safer. Would I look at this neighborhood as a sub-par place if it was not filled with African-Americans? Yes I would. If I saw a sea of faces that looked like me I would feel safer. I would not look over my shoulder at night.

We attend church on the other side of the highway. It is in a nice area, teeming with white faces. We like to cross the river in to Indiana to shop, because it is filled with white, suburbanite faces. We had dinner on Bardstown Road Monday. We loved it very much. We joked that we would love to live in this area and not in the ghetto. Why? Because, it had a sea of young, white faces with privilege scribbled across their foreheads. This is a judgment call on my part. I write this convicted and afraid.

So I write this realizing that my every move is routed in classism, racism, sexism, and elitism. I am so part of the problem it hurts.

I do not want to hold preconceived notions of how and why people rooted in non-relationship. Where is Christ in this?

I do not want to shun responsibility to diversity and inclusion because I an uncomfortable in this place. Where is Gods love in this?

I do not want to stay where I am mentally and emotionally because I am scared shitless to trust God. Where is my faith in this?

I do not want to be a part of the problem because I do not want to rock the boat or speak out or answer the call on my life. Where is the Courage to Be in this?

Folks I am a master of stereotypes. A swindler of goodness and mercy. I am a hypocrite in sheep’s clothing. I want to change. In response to Pastor Jin Kim’s riveting sermon at GA and his convicting call to the denomination at Church Unbound I want to apologize for the atrocities I have committed. Not just the ones I am personally accountable for. More so for the things I remained quite about and stood by as others raped cultures and maimed communities in the name of progress and righteousness.

Please forgive me. God forgive me. I pray it does not stop. A half-ass apology on a blog is not the place to end. I want to be a part of a diverse and real community here in Old Louisville. I want to walk with and serve everyone. I want to be challenged and shaped by the struggles of others as my heart moves in theirs. I want to be near God. God present in the hurting, poor, and broken.

The Specials have this great song “Racist Friend.” One of the lines is, “If you have a racist friend. Now is the time for your friendship to end.” The friend part ends but we must wrestle to stay in relationship with each other.

The denomination is looking in to the Belhar Confession. A document created in oppression seeking reconciliation. I read this with hope. A hope that we can truly live this document out.

I am going to explore this document here in relationship to my struggle with my condition. I pray it is fruitful for me and for you.

The Outsiders?!?

“You can’t win. You know that, don’t you? It doesn’t matter if you whip us, you’ll still be where you were before, at the bottom. And we’ll still be the lucky ones at the top with all the breaks. It doesn’t matter. Greasers will still be Greasers and Socs will still be Socs. It doesn’t matter.” These words uttered in the film “The Outsiders” capture my feelings at the moment. I wonder if this is the festering attitude in the church these days.
We fight each other for orthodox supremacy. We assert that our opinions mirror the call for Christ. We separates ourselves into self identified “us” and “them”. We line up as if to wield our bodies at each other in an ecclesial game of Red Rover.
WTFWJD? I ponder this often these days. I look at the horizon of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) and wonder, WTFWJD? I feel very strongly that the exclusion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) members of the church in all areas of service in the PCUSA is a tragic injustice. I have little compassion for the “opposition” and view them in dehumanizing ways.
I am angered that it is an issue at all. I see this issue tied up in money, power, and property. I am sad that I look at this issue with competitive eyes. We must win! Then I hear, “You can’t win. You know that, don’t you?”
Deep down, I fear that I do think this. The real issue is not one of win, lose, or draw. It is a matter of “us” and “them”. The PCUSA is sharply divided in many areas over this issue, with each side digging in their heels to fight the other.
What happens if one side definitively wins? What happens to the other folks? Do they quietly retreat to the opposite corner and receive a reassuring you’ll do better next time? Do they victoriously wrap themselves with a flag and stand on the top turn buckle? The worst part of all of this mess is that we are missing the call of Christ in loving each other.
We fight and as we do we paint the face of the “opposition” as demonic and unchristian. We seek to attack and remove them as far as we can from the divine mandate and holy canon. It is easier to believe someone wrong if you cannot love them or see them as Christ sees them.
The PCUSA has sought with great care and deep compassion to endeavor together towards the gospel message of transformation and radical reaction to the pervading systems of this world. We seek to honor and up hold all voices present and heed the warning of human pride.
Where have we failed? This is not as important as how do we show grace. No matter the solution to this current roe in the church, mercy must be a part of it. Not a mercy bucket, but a mercy tanker. Mercy must flow from all available sources into the assembly.
We must pray with and for each other. We must answer the radical call to love. We must release our preconceived notions of who “us” and “them” symbolize. Mercy must be a part of this dialogue!
Today’s daily lectionary gives us this from the Gospel according to Matthew, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today (chapter 6:25-34).”
“Do not worry about your life…” Mercy must be present in this absence of worry. “It doesn’t matter if you whip us, you’ll still be where you were before, at the bottom. And we’ll still be the lucky ones at the top with all the breaks. It doesn’t matter. Greasers will still be Greasers and Socs will still be Socs. It doesn’t matter.” It doesn’t matter who wins. We are still sinners in a sinful place looking for salvation.
No one but Jesus has the market on salvation. You, me, no one gets to make up the rules on how that salvation is accessed. There is no right or wrong, no Jew or Greek, no free or slave, no greaser or soc, no us or them. We separate ourselves from the presence of God as we fight each other upholding justice and commanding restoration of our rightful place.
I feel very strongly that justice is being with held from our GLBT brothers and sisters. I also feel that we need to walk in mercy and grace as we seek resolution to this injustice. We need to return to the humanity of the people that this issue entails.
Us, they, and them are real people with breath, divine love, and stories. Mercy includes effort and investment. God’s mercy involves the death of Gods Son, Jesus Christ. We are all Greasers pointing fingers at the Socs. We all claim to be the lucky ones (the elect) with all the breaks. In the end only God determines the Socs and the Greasers. Where does your trust lie? In what does your trust lie? Only mercy, grace, and forgiveness will whip you and bring you from the outside.

WTF is it all for?

I need faith. I want meaning. I am not pleased with the people over at NMSU. They lost my application and asked me to resend the info. Do I really want to attend a school that losses applications?

I have been home for almost 48 hours. I have had maybe 10 hours of sleep since Tuesday morning. Needless to say I am utterly exhausted. Yet I cannot sleep peacefully. I have been thinking a lot of my time in Indonesia.

It was only three weeks. Three short and long weeks in a context that forced me to be one 24/7. Three weeks of ass whopping goodness. I arrived in Bali with high hopes and a desire to have a spiritual encounter.

I brought with me 12 pairs of socks and 12 pairs of draws. Three pairs of shorts, a pair of pants, and three pairs of shoes. I also packed a deep exhaustion and bronchitis.

I chew the thought of finitude and what it means to invest my life in something. While I was away possibility ran amuck in New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, Kentucky, Georgia, and Texas. My life is in transition and I am full of uncertainty.

As I encountered other faiths along this trip I found my self wondering what my faith looks like to them. Am I a good Christian? Is love, compassion, joy, and discipleship visible in my life?

One Confusion priest stated that all faiths lead to the same enlightenment. That one should not believe anything unless it works for them. Faith then should not encompass a destructive component of self loathing and doubt. Challenging ones daily practice as one seeks to live faithfully to the divine is a must. As the profanity of creation seeks to attach itself to the divine, this is indeed challenging.

Another monk asked, what we thought of religious pluralism. I forget exactly what I said. I think about this now and question what my faith is.

I believe that Jesus Christ is present at all moments of salvation. I am not convicted that Christianity is the sole proprietor of Jesus’ grace and reconciliation. A part of me is fearful that I will burn in hell as a heretic. I am no longer sure of the black and white dynamic of my adolescent faith. I question the ideas I brought here to seminary and dismiss much of it.

I openly wonder what God is calling me to. I am certain I am called to serve in ministry. I want to serve in the Presbyterian context. I just want to make sure I covenant with an understanding of what it is I am seeking to uphold.

What do we say in response to religious pluralism here in America? We can no longer ignore the deep faith and practice other religions hold in America. Kindness, justice, peace, and sorrows or suffering are not exclusively Christian.

I sit here typing with the hope of a greater peace and compassion in this world that I am certain is a product of what Jesus did in death and life. I am just not certain that Jesus manifests only in Christians and only in the manner to which we have boxed up God with dogma, doctrine, creeds, and regulations. If scares me that Jesus, salvation, grace, and forgiveness all are tainted with western philosophy, western posturing, western culture and models of success.

If we are truly seeking to transform the paradigm of ministry and service then we must include religious pluralism and converse intimately and honestly with those around us. This must be a concern of the Emerging Conversation. We emerge from our surroundings bearing witness to the transformation that paints our experience. God does not change as we grow in wisdom and understanding. All that could be said about God’s truth has been said. It is the understanding of God’s truth that remains allusive to all of creation.

Poem 2008!

Good night 2007!
2008 is here.
Welcome.
We begin with hope.
We begin in joy.
We carry sorrow.
We carry anger.

What is in store this year?
When will Jesus come?

We too shall vote in a new leadership.
Will Jesus come then?

Graduations will come and go.
We will leave the nest.
Will Jesus come then?

Is it where and not when?
Fear slathered on the bread of life, like a bologna & cheese sandwich on wonder bread.
Comforting like PB&J.

I want to smile when I see 2008.
I peek my eyes at you and flirt.

In 2008 will Jesus come?
Better yet, where will Jesus be in 2008?

I have got a problem

I spent the morning at the docs. I have bronchitis and sinusitis. I now have an inhaler and antibiotics. I wanted to get some uppers and a couple of lids. Alas that is not allowed in Texas.

I kid! I kid! I have not done drugs for a long time. I am sort of scared to do so now. Well now that I know I am finite and stuff.

The crazy shite I would subject myself to in my youth. I remember one occasion I had different substances in my hands and I was internally debating if the combination I was actively taking would kill me. [FYI-It did not.] I sat there with terror building. I started sweating and got very nervous and paranoid.

I started to freak out and went to my buddies. Man I am going to die! I am going to freaking die!

I all laughed at me. Two of my buddies sat there with me on the sofa. One on either side. They talked me down. They let me call my brother, Grant. I ate a bag of chips and puked on the alley wall. All in all it was a great night.

I was transported home that night and as I lay in bed praying that I would not die that night, I worried that I was wasting my life. What the hell was I doing?

I had been a Christian for almost three years at that point. I had gone in and out of church communities. I never stayed put. I liked the religious life and all. I just never fit in with the church folks like I did with my buddies.

I ended up preaching to them and answering their questions on God the best I could. It drove me deeper into my faith and why I believed what I claimed to believe. I wanted to be the guy they could talk about with about God. I sought to never judge them and always love them. I failed them, a lot. But they kept asking me.

This continues into my time here in seminary. I often find myself talking to the margins. I get involved in a spiritual conversation that ends up in a testimony to what God is and has done in my life.

I have been blessed to pray for and with folks in bars, bowling allies, coffee shops, and street corners. I have done this in various states of intoxication or impairment. Why do I bring this up? It has never be me that speaks. God has blessed me with an ignorance to stuff that lets me speak my mind and act in particular places with out embarrassment. It is a desperate act of a fool. Blessed are those that have been forgiven of much. They have much to be thankful for.

I describe my relationship with Jesus as an addict. I need Jesus, in any form I can get him. Unlike an addict I find it difficult to keep Jesus as the focus of my efforts. I stray. I forget. I fall short. I am broken.

My past has prepared me to minister to the margins that I often find myself in and I am cool with this. I love hanging out in the margins. I feel at home there. I am thankful that I no longer party like a teenager.

I now fill my life with attempts at reaching the margins that I came from. I hope to be the guy they can talk to about their faith. I pray I am a person that can walk with them as they expoler their questions on life. I do not want to have all the answers. I just want to hang out with them and be blessed by their lives.

I hope to be like the inhaler that I am currently using. Inhale 2 puffs as needed to breath. Use as recommended by your physician.

God help me breath. Help us breath. May we inhale your joy, love, and peace. Bless us with your diagnosis and instruct us on your treatment. In your name, the name that frees, Jesus Christ. Amen

Nuts

Some folks believe that I 35 is prophesized on the book of Isaiah.

It seems that some folks want to use tax dollars to build a highway for the Lord. Seriously, what can be said about this? This is freaking crazy. I dig seeking to pray for transformation and reconciliation for creation. I am very bothered by the presumption that their way to understand and worship God is more Holy and pure.

Their prophetic voice sounds like BS. It is cryptic and exclusive. It looks a lot like their political slant and I doubt the Catholics need more Holy Spirit juice than anyone else.

It sticks of racism and fundamental conformist hoo haa.

This is proof of the punishment that haunts I35.

  • San Antonio: Remember the Alamo
  • Austin: University of Texas tower shooting on August 1, 1966 (16 dead)
  • Waco: 1993 Branch Davidian conflagration (79+ dead)
  • Dallas: 1963 Assassination of John F. Kennedy
  • Oklahoma City: 1995 bombing and collapse of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building (168 dead, 853 injured)
  • Wichita: 2000 Wichita Horror (4 tortured and killed)
  • Wichita: The BTK serial killer (10+ dead)
  • Kansas City: 2007 Shopping Mall shooting (3 dead)
  • Mason City, Iowa: 1993 5 people murdered by the first woman on death row since 1953
  • Minneapolis: August 1, 2007 bridge collapse

Remembering these tragedies brought to our attention the need for repentance and healing to occur along I-35. On August 15, 2006, Cindy Jacobs declared this over the cities of I-35, “This is a time of uprooting of the ancient things in my cities that have stopped My glory and power from manifesting. Uproot corruption, pornography, abortion, homosexuality, terrorism, violence and any other thing that opposes My will.” Click here to read the entire Royal road for His glory prophecy.

Pray for God to remove the roots of violence in your city. Repent on behalf of the bloodshed that has occurred and ask for God’s cleansing and forgiveness to cover the land. Let’s prepare the highway for our God!

They forget the tragic events in Colorado, California, Florida, and Washington DC (these tragedies occur daily). I32 does not run near these cities.

It hurts me to think that some folks desire the truth so bad that they are willing to corruptly own it and try to sell it to others a the end of a gun. Shame. Shame.

I could not sleep last night…

I wrestled all night with the situation that happened in Colorado. Prior to going to sleep I spent an hour or more reading the post from Matthew Murry. The pain and hurt this young man held inside is haunting me.

I think this is because some of his critique is valid. If you wade through the words and pain this young man wanted to find a place to explore his spirituality. According to him he was raised in a regimented life of an evangelical family. His mother was given a prophecy that her son (Matthew) was going to be a great prophet (something like John the Baptist). He was ridden with this pressure his entire life.

I am not condoning his actions at all. I have be lamenting the seemingly common hurt and distance that I witness in many young folks that have kept them away from the church.

Matthew describes his time with the mission organization with an “me vs. them” attitude. This is also prevalent throughout his rants. It scares me here…I feel the pressure of belonging and the cultishness of being perfect and that I will never get any respect unless I am beautiful, thin, pretty, handsome, and cool. It burns a bitter coal in my heart. I have never thought to react in violence. This is where Matthew and I diverge.

My heart goes out to all involved in this tragedy. It sucks all around. It has weighed heavy on my heart. I do not know anyone personally that was involved. It has captivated me. It has gotten me wondering about how the church can respond to folks like Matthew. Is there a place for kids that are aloof, isolated, and angry?

I imagine that Matthew will not be the only hurting evangelical kids out there. The responsibility one must shoulder to maintain ones salvation in this system is tremendous. I personally still wrestle with sins that I may or may not be forgiven of. It is like walking of egg shells every moment of everyday of your life. It is not healthy.

This has lead me to a couple of questions. I am wondering how the “church” can respond to the youth that is growing up in a pluralistic religious culture with love, acceptance, relevancy, and honesty. What does a ministry of service and mission look like in this context?

My prayer for today…

Beloved God,
Only you understand what is going on in this world. Truth is found in you. I pray you bless us this day with peace and the heart to love each other as you love us. Let us leave the judging heart at the gate of your Kingdom. Grant us the courage to be your people in spite of our fears, insecurities, bitterness, greed, and hate. Forgive us for the things we do in your name and for the things we do not do for your name. Give us strength to be. In the name of Jesus the Christ we ask these things radiate from all of your creation. Amen

A new PC(USA) ad campaign

I have never seen a commercial for my denomination, ever. I imagined that if we did it would have an intelligent and beautiful elegance of the reformed tradition that I have discovered here in seminary.

here is our ad for Advent…

seriously folks? Were are going to offer this stuff on bumper stickers? can we do no better? I pray we engage our communities better than this.

Me Sermon…

I have not had the time to convert and make the sermon into an audio or video file. So I post here the sermon manuscript. I apologize for this. I hope to put the audio and video file up soon. Y’all got to see me in the vestments. It trips me out. What a humble place to be, in the pulpit.

SO here is my senior sermon manuscript…

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:33-43

I was in Target the other day looking for something. I honestly cannot remember what. I walked around perusing the aisles. I looked at the new guitar hero game. I walked past the latest Oprah suggested book, and then my eyes meet glory itself. I became Ralphie, that kid from the famous holiday film, The Christmas Story.

Wide eyed I starred…at all 12 inches of heavenly glory, it was Talking Jesus: Messenger of Faith. It was described as: colorful and richly detailed…[this]talking figure brings the New Testament to life…a character that kids can play with and move. The Biblical character comes with a vibrant mini storybook that kids may follow and use to recreate the tales. A delightful “action figure” and fully interactive way for children to learn and participate in religious education. If I had known this two and a half years ago I could have avoided seminary altogether!!! The best part is that Batteries are Included.

I giggled to myself. Jesus is Chinese! It says so on the box, Made in China. So the Son of God remains dangerous to the world today, as now he may contain lead paint. I then went home pleased and ready to work on this sermon.

As I researched for today’s sermon I discovered how difficult it is for Americans to understand kingship. It is impossible for us to understand because we do not have kings. One article suggests that it is due to the weight we place on individuality over collective rights that bars us from understanding kingship. Obviously they have not been to Target.

This past Sunday was Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday. Some of you may have heard this text preached some of you may have stayed at home and slept in and caught the morning highlights of Saturday’s college football scores while waiting for the insiders look at the days NFL playoff outlook.

This day, Christ the King Sunday, marks the end of ordinary time and the beginning of Advent in the Liturgical Year. We normally hear a sermon on the power and authority of Christ as we enter the triumphant time of Advent. The all powerful advent. The time when the reconciling victory of conquering Easter Jesus and the meandering ordinary gospel dispensing Jesus is displaced with the mysterious little gift of a baby with all the salvific love we can hope for, gloriously lying in the manger on a bed of hay. With cows, chickens, and three tired wise men standing around making admirable baby talk to the future King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

We make haste in our move from the ordinary to Advent. It is as if we are fearful of gazing upon the lifeless body of Jesus. Today’s text in the midst of the holiday revelry forces us to look up at the cross and consider for a moment, who is Jesus? We are forced to look at the birth of Jesus in a different way when we are faced with this text of Jesus on the cross dying so close to the Christmastide birth stories and hymns. We can get caught up in the seasons greeting and miss out on the juxtaposition of death and birth that we must deal with.

There is the babe in swaddling cloths, he is the same person that we hear in today’s text that is being beaten, mocked, and scorned by his people. Jesus the swaddling little babe is being crucified upon a cross. Jesus silently dies with assurance of paradise and dispensing forgiveness.

The John Wayne Jesus of our culture would never go out like that. Jesus with his leathered face, 3 day beard, his well worn hat, spurs jingling, his swagger swaying, and his trigger finger itching would have been more dramatic than meekly dying on the cross and taking all that abuse. Jesus forgives, but he is secretly remembering all of the people that mess with him so he can dish out the proper amount of justice, cold as ice. Jesus is going to do something, right? He is the CHRIST! Our Jesus is John Wayne!

It is difficult to accept the silence. We as the church tend to be more comfortable with the candy coated Jesus wielding the parables, challenging the rich, which we are most definitely not a part of. We delight in the Buddha Jesus as he dispenses peaceful wisdom like Kane from Kung Fu. We will embrace the mighty minority Jesus demanding justice for all oppressed and marginalized folks. Then there is the Disney like character of wise ancient Jesus with all the right things to say that deliver us to insight and best of all a happy ending. We tend to seek anything but the broken, bleeding, dying, human Jesus. Up there on the cross forgiving his tormentors. Blessing the thief.

Jesus is dying on the cross. He is up there bleeding and suffering. He has been mocked, beaten, and scorned. Jesus speaks up for forgiveness, for whom? Folks are divvying up his stuff. There Jesus is dying between two criminals…Jesus says, “today you will be with me in Paradise” then nothing. The pericope ends. We know that Christ calls out for God to take him. We know the silence is not the end of it. But right now, today…the only appropriate response to Jesus upon the cross is silence.

What can we say? Jesus is dying on the cross. His death is a cosmic change. The schism between Creator and creation is being filled with the physical death of Jesus. Jesus Christ’s death alters existence itself. This is not a cartoon fairy tail. His death crosses the existing sanctions of death and claims a new reality. In a very real way the death of Jesus breaths new life into all of creation. Nothing we say is adequate in response or appropriate. We don the mourner cloak and mourner with the others unaware at this moment in the fabric of time, this cosmic altering phenomenon. We are silent and mystified, in awe, and confused. Jesus died. Jesus died.

What an odd place to talk about the death of Jesus? Right before we enter in to the majestic mysterium of advent and the birth of Christ, we pause here at his death. No adjective, noun, verb, or expletive can describe what is at stake in that pause. Silence is all we can offer. Silence is what God desires. With tears in our eyes, jaws dropped, or lump in our throats we wait. We wait for the birth of the promised hope we just left dying on the cross. That is one heck of a leap! We are asked to pause in silence and wait on God. Can we trust? What can we do? What just happened? What is at stake here?

We are left speechless with Christ on the cross. Between the sobbing and mocking the noise perhaps dies down as Christ slowly dies. I have heard that silence is the first step towards transformation. Silence is the prerequisite for invoking and receiving the grace of God. Without silence how may discernment and respond to others needs be revealed to us? Silence stifles the self-righteousness spawned from our bustling social activism and assuredness of possessing the truth. Silence shakes our foundation.

There Jesus is on the cross, dying. There his followers are below him. Those that love him, walked with him, ate with him, and were willing to die for him. All were somewhere in awe. The scriptures have no glorious moment of rescue by the disciples. There was no distraction and escape with Jesus clinging on to life in the back of a wagon or astride on a horse. Jesus dies and all are left wondering, alone, and silent.

Silence allows us to hear and see suffering and understand that we cannot be the solution…because we are part of the problem. Thomas Merton the ever thoughtful and profound child of God said, “The purest faith has to be tested by silence in which we listen for the unexpected, in which we are open to what we do not yet know, and in which we slowly and gradually prepare for the day when we will reach out to a new level of being with God. True hope is tested by silence in which we have to wait on the Lord in the obedience of unquestioning faith.”

[pause]

Silence.

Silence is not something that we catch like the flu. Silence is a discipline that is hard fought and won in the dominate culture of the western world with sacrifice and commitment. Actions that are seemingly absent from the fabric of today’s fast paced popular culture filled with ipods, e-mail, ifriends, e-books, mobile phones, mobile friends, mobile lives, and mega this or super size that. We do not have the time to be silence or we must schedule it in our PDA’s.
How is silence fruitful for the church? What good is silence to us?

Mother Teresa was once interviewed by a reporter. She was asked what she does during her time of prayer. She responded, “I listen to God.” The reporter was a little shocked so he naturally asked, “Well what does God do?” “He listens back,” she replied.

What a profound statement in the midst of our fast-paced technologically advanced globally diverse user friendly world. With so much space and technology that enables us to be still. We tend to fill/occupy/schedule every nook and cranny of our lives. Silence is the grace of God which like butter inhabits the nooks and crannies of our toasted little muffins.

In the psalm for today verse 10 reads, “Be still and know that I am God.” What a powerful statement. With all of the academic power we have at our disposal. With the thought of finals just over the horizon. With the prospect of graduation just there on the tip of our tongues. With the celebration of the birth of The Christ child just a mere 25 days away. With the hope of a better, painless, joyous, living world just within reach. Pause. Heed the Word of the Lord, “Be still and know that I am God.” The silence reminds us that God is God and we are not.
The silence slows us down, if only for the moment. It delivers us in to transformation. We arrive in silence to be utterly and cosmically altered by our Beloved God, to be transformed and witness the reconciliation of Creator and creation. Right before our eyes the profane becomes sacred.

Let this time focus on the pause. Be the person next to Jesus on the cross. Witness the world go by. Witness the shame, the insults, the withered faces of anger and jealousy, the perplexed looks of compassion and sorrow. The lustful hunger of destruction and humiliation.

There is no room for John Wayne Jesus. He is not going to overpower the guards and blaze his way to free himself and everyone else being held captive. No matter how much we desire this. Jesus will set the captives free. Jesus does become king. But he does not ascend to the throne. We see kingship as a seat of power on a throne. Jesus is ruling his kingdom nailed to the cross. For Jesus is nailed to his throne. Jesus will die on his throne and it is in this that paradise is revealed. Rest assured paradise is waiting. Let go of your image of Jesus. Quiet your response to his death. Just for this moment in time. Pause. Reflect. Assess. Witness. Mourn. Be still. Be silent. Jesus the Christ says, “today you will be with me in Paradise.”