Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Proclamation of God’s Incarnation

A Proclamation of God’s Incarnation

Come here all you wounded, all you struck by your mortality, edged toward the grave.
Have you heard? There is a baby wound tight in cloth.
Have you heard? There too is a God, wound tight in human flesh.
As a baby, this cloth keeps him close, holds him like a mother, held tight.

As a God, this flesh of ours unbinds him from the heavens,
Throws him into the uncertainty of all this.
Unwound from the divine weal,
Cast into our needs
--our welfare, a bottomless pit, only filled by an overflowing God.

Day by day,
We tie him tight to this common ken.

Day by day,
This baby grows and gets unbound,
Becoming a man.
Soon enough the godly bursts he shows us are rougher than we’d like to admit,
Yes, all that Advent stuff!
Swords are plowshares
Destruction and hurt banished
Healing and Holy Highways
God with us.
Yes, all that, but not as we expected
Unbinding, the crippled
Preaching, to the possessed
Forgiving, sinners
Joyfully sharing bread, with the hungry.

This is certainly not appreciated by everyone
He has to tie down their verbal traps,
Traps wielded by those who can not see the Kingdom of Heaven
In his kindness
…the weight of mortal flesh and enemies of flesh and of spirit
Take a toll
Tied again soon enough
Bound to be betrayed,
Bound to be denied.

His life unwound before our very eyes
Death on a cross

Bound then, a cloth wound there
There around his wounded body
His corpse

Three days, and unwound again!
Left there.
He unwound the cloth

In this unwinding we,
We wound in his being with us
We wound as well in his wounded side
We wound, bound in Spirit!
Wound in Divinity as he was wound in humanity!
Rewrapped in flesh, bought by our brother!
… Held together again!
Encountering him when we encounter each other!

Don’t get me wrong, it still unwinds from time to time
Still uncertain
Still need, still deep and always present need
Still sinners, the dispossessed, the crippled, the hungry
Still souls too small for the Kingdom’s wrappings
Still hearts broken and needing tighter binding
Still hands holding tight when fists will never do.

Still, still here
Yet, here!
Here where the savior stays
Here, in flesh rewrapped and story already told
Here shot full of consecrated oxytocin, like a new mother
Here at the Father’s side,
He, so in love, that he takes paternity leave from being Creator of the Universe.
Here in this cloth that smells of the baby
Here in the cloth that smells of his overcoming the grave
Here held tight by the Christ Child
Here, wrapped with God. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Who Are You?

        Who are you? A question with all kinds of answers, you could simply say your name, or your relationship with other people, or an institution, or one of the many roles you fill…
         Who are you? Is a question that rides with us our whole life long
—after all we are often creatures of re-invention, never fully settled in one identity. Who you are will change
—with a new partner, 
after a serious illness, 
in a new job, 
at the in-law’s house, 
in prison.
         And today’s back and forth between John and Jesus, asks us to take this question very seriously.
         Who are you?

         “Who are you? Asks John. 
         As we read last week, he kinda knows
—he gave a speech about the one who is coming who will baptize with fire, taking a winnowing fork and banking good fruit and burningthe bad.
         But, perhaps imprisonment is one of those experiences that makes identity unclear
—part of why John is asking about Jesus’ identity is that John is wondering about his own. 
King Herod is free and John is jailed
—did Jesus’ pitch-fork miss its mark and pick up the wrong person? 
John’s asking, “What’s going on man?”
“Are you,” he wonders, “the Messiah? The one who will save us and bring about the reign of God, the Kingdom of Heaven?”
         A dangerous question to be sure, the kind of question that got John behind bars in the first place. Not the kind of thing King Herod would take lightly.
         And so, Jesus answers the question carefully—he doesn’t want this start of his ministry to also be his end. He responds,
“Look at what I’m about, 
enabling the disabled, 
healing the sick, 
empowering the poor, 
and raising the dead. 
-That has some strong resonances with scripture, right? -That echoes Isaiah and the Psalmist’s description of God’s salvation, doesn’t it?”
         In short, Jesus answers John, “Yes, I am the Messiah.”

         “Who are you?”
         The question is flipped, who is John? Jesus reminds his disciples that John is not someone like Herod, a leader controlled by foreigners, who basks in opulence
—he is a prophet.
a man in the same ranks as Jeremiah, or Isaiah, or Ezekiel or Huldah
—those strange people who look at the world with God glasses
—they have eyes that see the earth in a sacred way, and act accordingly, telling people their visions, living them out,
Sometimes performing them in bizarre ways
—shaking old moldy underwear at people to show how far they’ve fallen, 
choosing names for their kids to give hope to people during a siege—you think it’s bad being a Pastor’s kid, being a Prophet’s kid is so much worse!

         Point being—if people went out to see John thinking they were getting someone polished and presentable, there thought wrong
—they got a prophet.
         And not just any prophet, they got to glimpse the greatest of prophets. All prophets catch a peek of what God is doing, 
how the world looks to God
—John gets to glimpse God’s Son, Jesus, in the flesh, right there. 
In a prophetic act he baptized him, with prophetic eyes he eyed the Messiah!
…You know how at the Optometrist they have you look through a Phoropter (4opter), and they ask, “Is A clearer or B” well, John gets to see through the clearest best lens at what God is up to in his time, it becomes so focused he gets to see Jesus, and hear what he is up to!
Who are you?
         This question packs one final punch. John, the greatest of the prophets, Jesus declares, is least in the Kingdom of Heaven.
         This is one of those constant refrains we find in Matthew’s Gospel
—the first will be last and the last first. 
John, this great prophet, is least in the Kingdom of Heaven. And strangely enough, we, all of us here today, along with the blind, lame, lepers, deaf, dead, and poor, are elevated by the coming rule of God—the Kingdom of Heaven.
         Now, we as Christians spend a lot of time recognizing our sinful nature, trying to be humble in the face of our tendency toward boasting and turning in upon ourselves
—it’s what human do when unconstrained
—but give a moment’s thought to the precious place we find ourselves in. Think of the strange answer we can give, thanks to Jesus Christ, to the question, “Who are you?”
We can say, surely with some hesitancy—we are greater than John the Baptist.
         What John could only see through bars of Iron and hear from his disciples far off and never fully
—the act of God taking place in the person of Jesus Christ
no really… 
this is really cool! 
We get to see and hear in a greater way than John.
         We live after the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, and so we can marvel at it with multiple God Glasses.
The Spirit Herself points us to Jesus and his continued work among us. 
Scripture tells us about Jesus’ time in Galilee and Jerusalem and interprets its meaning to the earliest Christians as guideposts for our ongoing life. 
Our life together, as Christians, itself, is a kind of God glasses that help us to see the Kingdom of Heaven, how God is still at work in the world through Jesus.

Who are you? Jesus is the Messiah. John is the greatest of prophets. We, however improbable it may seem, are a people allowed to peek in at what God has, is, and will do! A+A

Friday, December 09, 2016

My latest book, upcoming projects

I just realized I never mentioned on my blog that I have a new book out. Well, I do, it is "Christopher's Contemporary Catechism: 19 Sermons Answering 25 Questions from the Pews"
It is a compilation of my homiletic answers to 25 questions parishioners have asked in the last 3 years.

So I keep chugging books out. At this point there is my M. Phil. Thesis along with a weird play and a few other essays, the Prayer Book, some sermons from my fellow 2011 seminary grads, my rockin' Sci-Fi novel, and some reflections on Luke's Gospel co-authored with a parishioner.

So, what's next? My co-author and I are looking to do a sequel to our Luke book about Matthew's Gospel, and I participated in National Novel Writing Month again this year. I ended up with a 25,000 word re-write of Shakespeare's Richard the Third... so I'm looking forward to seeing what I make out of it.

So, keep reading my friends!

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Sermon: Matthew's Gospel

          Last I left you it was Christ the King Sunday and we were turning the page on the Gospel of Luke. Now, we’re a week into Advent and one Sunday into the Gospel of Matthew.
          While we’ll occasionally veer into John’s Gospel, and even make our ways into Luke’s once or twice, from now until the end of November we’ll be heavy in Matthew’s gospel.
          Make no mistake, each Gospel
—while focused on telling the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and making the case that it is Good News
—each Gospel has a different tint to it, makes the case in a different way.
          And since we’re going to be enmeshed in Matthew’s Gospel, we might as well know what we’re getting into; we might as well hear clearly and concisely Matthew’s Gospel.

The Kingdom of Heaven is coming.
Gather together.
Be ready for it!
It will reveal our true natures.


The Kingdom of Heaven is coming. Gather together. Be ready for it! It will reveal our true natures.

The Kingdom of Heaven is coming.
          The Kingdom of Heaven—a funny way to say God’s reign, or God’s rule. That God’s presence will be felt in a unique and powerful way.
Again and again, Matthew points to examples in the Old Testament of God acting—being present, ruling
And insists that is happening as well when Jesus is around. Jesus’ presence is God doing a new thing—acting in a heavy and unignorable way.
          God has acted as recorded in Hebrew Scripture and is acting in Jesus.

Gather together.
          More than any other Gospel, Matthew is concerned with community. His Gospel is the only one what mentions the word Church, those assembled, in the original Greek, Ecclesia.
The natural response to God showing up in Jesus is to gather, or maybe better said to “be gathered” because it is almost a compulsion, we hardly have a choice in the matter.
Matthew gathers a boatload of stories Jesus tells of:
people invited to banquets and gathering there,
fish gathered together in nets,
sheep and goats gathered in flocks,
wheat and weeds gathered together after the harvest.
          When the Kingdom comes, people gather.

Be ready for it!
          The Kingdom nears, how can you help but stretch your neck to see?
How can you help but prepare when:
You’ve been sent an invitation
or called by your shepherd
or asked to light the way for the coming bride and groom?
          The Kingdom will change everything, be ready for that change!

It will reveal your true natures.
          This is the big one for Matthew. When the Kingdom arrives it shows you for who you really are, and the effects of the way you’ve lived.
Sheep may no longer claim to be goats, nor goats claim to be sheep.
We can no longer pretend rotten fish or weeds are good fish and wheat.
The chaff in all these examples will be burned away.
          Just so, Jesus’ presence reveals who is who. Who is living in line with the Rule of God and who is living in another way.
          The most obvious example of this that at one point in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus berates the Scribes and Pharisees…

          And before I go any further it is worth remembering Matthew is writing as a Jew to fellow Jews about the Jew Jesus. One of the verbal ticks in Matthew’s Gospel that ought to be unsettling to us all, is that Matthew’s Gospel is the one that most clearly attacks Pharisees, Sadducees, and Judaism writ large.
          He does this because he and his community have been booted out of the Synagogues and declared heretics. He’s hurt, his own religion and people have said he’s not one of theirs. And he lashes out.
          If you ever want to hear someone’s dirty laundry described in the worst of terms—talk to their ex.
          All that to say, this Gospel has been used to justify horrible acts of Anti-Semitism from the destruction of Roman Synagogues all the way back in the 300’s to medieval persecutions during the black plague and the crusades to Luther’s Anti-Jewish writings and the Holocaust to actions by present day Neo-Nazis.
          With that said, Matthew describes the teachings of the Pharisees and the Teachings of Jesus in stark terms, as two very different ways of being.
          He says Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees
who talk well, but act poorly,
who are collectors of titles,
superficial, hypocrites, who major in the minors, and ignore the Kingdom of Heaven as it dances on the very tip of their nose.
          At the same time,
blessed are those who live to reveal the Kingdom of God in all they do—they are salt and light. They are centered on God’s actions in all that they do.
Their holiness is not for show, but instead is done in secret.
          In Christ’s presence these two ways of being will be exposed and separated
—outside of Christ, it is never clear who is who and what is what
—who are sheep and who are goats
and no one has room to judge.

          Matthew’s Good News is that
Jesus is coming,
gathering us,
calling us to prepare,
and he will show us all for who we are.

          Look at today’s lesson.
John warns that the Kingdom is coming, recognizable to Isaiah and all the prophets who have experienced its power!
They gather, the people from all around, including Pharisees and Sadducees!
They prepare with a Baptism of repentance.
They are reminded that the fruit they bear will indicate the kind of tree they are. Good trees kept, bad trees burnt. Wheat stored, chaff burnt. Their nature revealed.

          A stark thing, this Gospel of Matthew, but instructive too, this Advent season.
Like him, we trust the Kingdom is coming.
We gather together a mixed body of saints and sinners.
We light candles and focus on anticipating the kingdom, preparing for its coming.
We dare wonder what will be revealed.

Matthew’s Good News is that
The Kingdom of Heaven is coming.
Gather together.
Be ready for it!
It will reveal our true natures.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sermon: Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom

         Today, the last Sunday of this liturgical year, as we end the time we’ve spent reading through the Gospel According to Luke and are about to turn the page and spend a year reading Matthew’s Gospel.
         Today we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, wrestling with what Christ’s Kingship means.
         Wrestling with it because we get this exalted description of Christ’s Kingship found in the letter to the Colossians—
-The Invisible God made Visible,
-The One Upon Whom thrones, dominions, rulers and powers depend,
-The Head of the Church.
         Wrestling because we also find this same king holding court with criminals, the cross his throne.

         Somewhere between these two realities of who Jesus is as King—lofty and laughed at,
we find ourselves in his presence.
         And, in this place, we become vulnerable, but so deeply loved. Humbled and in the presence of a ruler so strange he is strung up with us.
         Then we, like the second thief,
we can do nothing other than ask, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
         Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom
Let us pray

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.
         Because the visibility of God you offer me, seems still invisible. We do not see you in the stable, we do not arrive with those unstable, or at least unwelcome, Shepherds.
We do not give room at the inn or go beyond the rumors about your strange family—Joseph and Mary, quite a scandal there.
The audacity of your forgiveness, we assign it to God and assess your healings as blasphemy.
When you hang out with the wrong type of people, we say there could be no Godliness in such association.
We choose to ignore you when you enter Jerusalem because we expected a war horse, but we got a donkey—because the donkey... (Makes all the difference).
We look at cross and see only God’s abandonment.
I cannot trust that you came here for me, in flesh and in real time, that I might have life eternal.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom
         Because beyond your blessed body, and my ignorance of it, I also miss everything else!
I cannot believe all that is, seen and unseen, is a gift, from God.
I am given every opportunity to say thank you, and I instead say no thanks, and ignore my neighbor on top of it all…
No, ignoring them would be better, I grow to hate them, often over petty things. It’s like I’m starving and a feast beyond compare has been served, and I’m fiddling with the butter packet and do not notice the wonderful meal before me.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom
         Because, I’m part of the Church, above me is the Head, the Lordship of Christ, I get to be a disciple, to follow after you.
Yet, I am the body, and choose to follow my appetites instead of the Mind of Christ. My eccentricities and limited view of the world gets in the way.
There is a whole community here
—one spanning space and time, yet today I’d break it for a moment of petty retribution.
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdomwhere God’s fullness is revealed. Where Emmanuel, God with Us, is obvious.
Where stable birth and Mary’s song—God’s in that.
Family Tree and Temptations—a God sighting.
Where when a woman speaks or a Samaritan of any sort is present, they are found in the gentle protection of Your wings.
Where Sabbath is for liberation, Repentance is regular, and Prayer is persistent.
Where poverty, wealth, or social standing do not bar thy gates.
Where entrance is costly, and utterly free.
Where your Holy Spirit moves me to trust in your gift of eternal life, for I do not have the power to do so on my own.
Yes, Jesus, remember me.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdomwhere this creation I take for granted is recreated and I are unable to live any way other than in utter awe!
Where resurrection overflows everywhere! The great yearning this broken world has suffered under is at an end, it bursts forth with Joy at the new life you give us, give it, make of all that is—new life!
Where thankfulness is always at hand.
Where I can love my neighbor.
Where I can fully pay attention to all the grace you have given, this wondrous world on offer.
Yes, Jesus, remember me.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom... you body, the Church… remember us here!
Where we are no longer beheaded, instead head and body work as one. The ideals of Christ and the actuality of your Church—are in sync.
Where your work of reconciliation is recognizable to those of us here together,
And also to those who hear of us second hand!
That this will be a place where breaches of relationship are repaired.
Where we hold one another to account, and also help each other to attain justice and receive mercy.
Yes, Jesus, remember me.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.
         So often I do not see your presence, be present with me.
         It is hard to be thankful sometimes, give me eyes to see your wonders and lips to praise you for them.
         Your Church falls short of our high calling, call us by name and make us yours.
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hate Crimes aren’t a Partisan Issue

            You all know I’m kinda a partisan hack. The Iraq War radicalized me and this blog, which up until July 5th, 2003 was simply a place where I posted religious thoughts and poetry. I railed against the Bush administration for 5 years, worked my first election in 2004 when I thought the Democratic Party’s mediocre candidates, John Kerry and his philandering VP, could steer America in a better direction. I bought the Obama hype hook line and sinker, and kinda still do. Before this election I gave 3 reasons why I supported Hillary over Trump.
            So, you know on a visceral partisan level, I am sad blue lost to red. Steelers beat Ravens, Oakland beat Denver. And if that was all this was, who cares, right? Then people out there protesting are like sports fans whose team lost the game.
            But there is something else that is going on that goes well beyond partisan politics, and I hope most Republicans and Libertarians would agree that American needs to stand-up against. In this first week after the election—Wednesday to Wednesday—the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that there were 437 instances of harassment based on race, religion, country of origin, gender, etc. This compares to an average from 2013 of 114 instances a week (to be clear I don’t know how best to compare how the FBI and the SPLC label these things). That’s almost a 4-fold increase!
            This uptick in hateful acts is so noticeable that our Bishop wrote a letter addressing this issue, first to the clergy, then passed it on to everyone in the New Jersey Synod. Here is an excerpt:

“Regardless of who you or your parishioners voted for, we all must denounce this behavior. As the body of Christ, we are called to stand with those whom God loves and claims as God's own cherished children. We are called to speak out when we witness acts of hatred. We are charged to eradicate racism in all its forms, welcome the refugee and immigrant, and work for justice and peace in all the earth. There is no place for bigotry in our church… We need to risk our own safety in order to step up and tell them they are wrong. We need to examine our own prejudices and biases and confess our own sinfulness. By our actions, we will witness to the truth as expressed by Bishop Desmond Tutu: "Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death".”

            And before we think this is just another media freak out. Two quick personal stories.
1. A couple who are friends of mine are wondering if they should go home for Thanksgiving to Upstate New York, because there have been 3 anti-Semitic incidents in their home town, and they wonder if they and their children will be safe.
2. There was an incident between a server and a customer at Trolley Car Diner right next to my seminary in Philly—a common hang out for Seminarians and a great place to get ice cream in the summer.
The incident is a she-said-she said kind of thing (here, here, and here are 3 different stories about the incident). Post-election a customer came in with Trump gear; the server said snide things she shouldn’t have said. The owner of Trolley Car disciplined the server.
The next morning the same customer came in again. The customer said she was “checked” by the server. The server and owner said the customer purposefully snuck up behind the server and when the server turned around from her table she accidently bumped into the lady.
Then, Jack Posobiec, the Special Projects Manager of Citizens for Trump, showed up and tweeted to his 60,000 followers that they needed to do something about Trolley Car Diner. Since then the owner of Trolley Car has received so many death threats and the building arson threats, that they had to disconnect their phones. Some of these threats have been explicitly anti-Semitic, for example, referring to the owner’s last name, “'Weinstein,' eh? Interesting name. Very oven-worthy."

            So, I’m saying this simply, these attacks are wrong.
            They go against the faith of Jesus Christ.
            They go against, as well, the highest values of our society.
            Winning, or losing, an election never justifies hate, never justifies violence.
            Those who would use the election of Donald Trump as a platform for peddling the dead and deadly ideology of white supremacy are wrong.

            To those of you who are inclined to these evil deeds, listen to the President Elect himself. Stop It!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sermon: Bad News, Good News

Bad News, Good News

          I would encourage you all, in this coming week, to find someone who you disagree with politically (not your Pastor, by the way), and exchange smart-phones, or tablets, or computers, or whatever you use to look at your Social Media.
Take a look at the stories they read, the pictures and comments they are exposed to.
I imagine they will be the complete opposite of what you see and are exposed to.
Is it any wonder that for the first time in our nation’s history every state that voted for a Republican for President also voted for a Republican for Senate and vice versa with Democrats?
Is it any wonder that on a whole no one split their ballots this year.
It’s like we’re not breathing the same air,
singing the same songs,
or living in the same realities.
          It’s sort of like that famous picture of a duck… or is it a rabbit?
The same reality can be seen through two very different lenses.

          And so too the Word of God
—it is Law and Gospel
—When Lutherans read the Bible we experience it as a two edged sword. It kills us and makes us alive. As is said so often it “afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.”
          God’s word afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.


God’s Word afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.
          Think of fire—it’ll warm your house, or burn it down.
          Or, this “Great and Terrible Day of the Lord” Malachi speaks of as he warns his people, people returned from Babylon and already growing complacent, warns them about their impurities. The Day of the Lord will be an oven, burning up everything and leaving nothing.
          Yet, this “Great and Terrible Day of the Lord” is also the sun around which we circle, giving heat and light, allowing all things to grow.

          I think of those horrible forest fires we get out west—everything is burnt, the underbrush swallowed up, trunks blackened
—and strangely it is necessary.
Pinecones only sprout seed when heated in hellish inferno. Growth can only occur when all is burnt.

          Or think more carefully of Malachi’s message—impurities in metal are removed in flame, and the sores and sickness of a wound can only fully heal when exposed to the open air.
          We can only see our savior when we’re face to face with our sins—only in our deepest need can we find redemption.

God’s Word afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.
          You’ve been saved by Jesus acting on your behalf—no work of yours can win salvation—he is the Resurrected one and shall Return. Wait for the Lord!
          Not a bad message by any measure
…though I think we can all agree here today… by the mere fact that we are here today… 2000 years later
—the nearness of Christ’s return that Paul preached has more to do with personal accountability than chronological immediacy
—in other words, the Return of Christ should encourage us to measure our actions in light of Christ present with us, not throw us into unhelpful speculation.
          Would you really do that to someone else if Jesus was looking over your shoulder?

          “Wait for the Lord.” Not a bad message
—but a message badly heard by the Thessalonians.
Some in the community appear to have thought, “Gee, Christ is coming, I’ll just wait around and do nothing—nitpicking the people in my church who work hard, and I’ll even live off their work.”
          This of course doesn’t work, for if Christ acts on our behalf, how can we not act in imitation of it, not for salvation, but out of gratitude? “Do not weary of doing right!” Paul proclaims.
          Think of the meaning of those words for the people who were nitpicking and not participating—weary, I’m afraid of being weary.
          But think too of what those words meant for the nitpicked
—don’t be weary,
what you are doing is right!
In the face of all the obstacles of being a Christian in the Early Church,
persecution by the government,
factionalism within the faith,
a painful split with Judaism,
in the face of all that do not weary in doing what it right!

God’s Word afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.
          Look at all this grandeur, one of the greatest edifices upon the earth—the temple in Jerusalem
—a Religious Disneyland at times
—nothing will be left.
All these great things you helped put together will be ended, destroyed.
          If you are faithful all that awaits you is:
the lure of leaders who are not leaders,
wars, insurrections, geo-political rivalries,
natural disasters and man made disasters,
horrifying sights you would never have expected in your wildest dreams,
arrest, persecution, betrayal by friends and family
—you will be exposed and have to explain your faith in Jesus.

          That sounds horrifying, right? This is affliction without comfort!
We wouldn’t want to live in such interesting of times, we’d hate for this to be our lot in life—even less so the reality for our Children.
No gospel there, right?
          Except that was exactly what the early church was facing.
-The Destruction of the Temple, the center of Religious Life, at the hands of the Romans.
-Violent revolutionaries claiming the same title as Jesus.
-Infighting between Emperors,
Mount Vesuvius exploding killing everyone in Pompeii and covering everything within 750 miles with ash.
-Famines throughout the Empire that shaped birth patterns for a generation,
-Formal and informal persecution—led by soldiers or led by peasant with pitchfork—neither very nice.
-Christianity seen as unfriendly, unsocial, and against family values.
-Christians drug before people in power, forced to repent of their faith, or at least explain it, often at the edge of a sword.
          Yes, I believe to those afflicted Christians…
Being advised to trust Jesus’ message and testify to it.
Being reminded that their stand, in the face of opposition, was faithful.
Being turned from terror.
Being reminded what kind of Messiah Jesus is.
          To those afflicted Christians these words are utter comfort.

God’s Word afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.
          As for us, in our highly polarized country, so many sure of their positions, firmly entrenched, unwilling to see the other side, confident to the point of idolatry and dehumanization
—We duck people and rabbit people
—if we are honest with ourselves and with our God,
Humble enough to each entertain, as I suggested last week, the hardest of ideas that “maybe I’m wrong.”
We ought to pray for ourselves and for our kin, that God will afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.