Sermon for Good Shepherd Sunday: “Urban Campers”

sophia-jackson

Sophia Jackson, a powerful preacher

Preached by Sophia Jackson, seminarian at the Pacific School of Religion and a recovering alcoholic and addict, for Good Shepherd Sunday, May 7, at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Berkeley, California. Text: John 10:1-10, Psalm 23

This amazing woman needs our help!  www.gofundme.com/sophias-seminary-support-fund

 

Urban Campers

The whole idea of relationship with God has been twisted. We were created to be in communal and healthy relationship with everything around us. I, we, need air to breathe; how often do we just sit and really give mindful thought to how we treat or mistreat the air and what does that say as to our relationship with it? What about our expectations; whether it is what we desire or what we need, how do we relate ourselves to it? Do we honor and extol as a matter of rejoicing in all things, or do we attempt to adjust it according to our perception of the nature of it?

Today, on Good Shepherd Sunday, we ponder scriptural images of God and Jesus as shepherd. We hear the familiar and reassuring words of the 23rd Psalm that speaks to God’s provision for us – guiding us to nourishment in green pastures, offering us rest and peace by still waters, accompanying us through the dark and frightening places of life that we sometimes enter. We hear Jesus describing himself as the Good Shepherd – the one who knows each of us, who lays down his life for us, just as shepherds would risk their own lives to protect the flock from predators and thieves. We hear of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who shields us from danger and guides us toward abundant life.

One of the strangest things about being a minister is that I find that my thoughts are never far from what I will call the “fleece”; no pun intended. The “fleece” is that place where I am in constant search of meaning. The “fleece” is also the place where being a minister means that I am vulnerable to the floodgates of other people’s transformations or toxicity as it relates to Christianity or just everyday living;  it’s the place where there is no place to hide which can be maddening sometimes, but it’s also an incredibly fascinating and moving experience.

I hadn’t looked up the scriptures for this week because I am in that part of the semester when everything is due and nothing is sticking in my mind save for the deadlines that seem to hover in threatening fashion, like a cold mist, but the other day I was having a conversation with a young woman and as soon as we finished speaking, I was moved to take a look at the lectionary page for this week. We were having a conversation about homelessness and one of the things that stuck with me inspired the title of this sermon and seemingly God’s way of putting into context the meaning of our gospel reading for today.

We were talking about how we label people; people that live on the street. We call them homeless, but aren’t the streets their home? What determines this classification as to homestead really? Aren’t the streets a pasture full of unpenned sheep? Didn’t the Apostle James Brown declare that everywhere he laid his hat was his home?

It is in the fleece that I found something fascinating right in the midst of the familiar words of this reading; I will presume that these words are what caused confusion for the disciples; Jesus says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” Although the message of this parable is concerned with Jesus as the true shepherd; the Good Shepherd who was willing to die and did die for those of us who put our faith in Him, I’d like us to take a moment and contemplate “the other sheep”; the urban campers. I’d like to just simply place this gentle reminder in the atmosphere; this was a powerful message to the Jewish religious leaders who considered themselves to be the true shepherds of God’s flock.

Have we, as the church become robbers and thieves?  Has our voice become unrecognizable? How much longer will we, as a body of baptized believers continue to wring our hands at situations like addiction, incarceration, and urban encampment? Is our inability to navigate toward a solution based on our own lack of recognition that we are the very “gate” by which the sheep pass through in response to the Good Shepherd?

Martin Luther King Jr said, “The church…is not the master or servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.” As we look at the cultural setting of this text, and the political context of the world we are living in presently, can we see that the sheepfold, the large and enclosed area in which the sheep are supposed to find protection, is looking less and less like the green pastures of peace that is described in Psalm 23? Can we see that the sheepfold which is meant to provide shelter for many flocks belonging to different shepherds is now treading dangerously close to becoming a slave to the state?

As we look at our current condition in this country, the words of Martin Luther King Jr’s “A Knock at Midnight” are eerily haunting; he said, “It is midnight within the social order. On the international horizon nations are engaged in a colossal and bitter contest for supremacy…. the clouds of another war are dangerously low… the arms race continues and nuclear tests still explode in the atmosphere, with the grim prospect that the very air we breathe will be poisoned by radioactive fallout. Will these circumstances and weapons bring the annihilation of the human race?”

“Other sheep that are not of this fold”; these words are full of both promise and mystery; who are these other sheep? What was Jesus suggesting; could it be that Jesus is suggesting that God’s flock is bigger than Christianity? Who are these other sheep? Caught up in the “fleece”, and with the image of our urban campers in mind, I started to wonder whether it would be typical for shepherds of that time to have other sheep because in any study you do regarding sheep from the perspective of the shepherd, you will find that sheep require constant care, as they are prone to wandering off, and susceptible to predators and thieves.

As we listen to the words of David in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd”; “He makes me lie down in green pastures”; “God’s rod and God’s staff, they comfort me” all tell us that sheep are bonded to their shepherd and Jesus tells us that they respond to the shepherds voice alone. You know that God can inhabit us so much so that we can sound like Him? It seems that Jesus was saying that instead of trying to figure out what we need to be saying, we should learn how to direct our voices, or sound, to the people’s need, so that they’ll recognize that the Shepherd is near. Jesus’ words about other sheep were a surprising and thought-provoking thing for the disciples to hear, and they should be equally as thought-provoking for us as well.

As Christians living in this millennial time of uncertainty, perhaps we should see that Jesus’ words were meant as preparation for his disciples as a matter of being welcoming; whether Muslims and Jews, Buddhists and Hindus; undocumented citizens, urban campers and addicts, prisoners, and denominations or congregations; are all one of Jesus’s flocks. Perhaps the point is not to help us discern more accurately how far God’s grace should extend; perhaps Jesus is not helping us improve and refine our judgments about who is in and who is out. Maybe what we are to glean from this “other sheep that are not of this fold” is the challenge of letting go of the desire to make these determinations in the first place. Jesus challenges them, and us, to let go of the desire to make determinations on God’s behalf. Jesus challenges us to encounter every neighbor, no matter how different from us, as if they are a sheep in his flock.

There hasn’t been a day since November 9 that I have not been fuming with rage about the unearthing of vitriolic hate mongering that is going on in this country; about what fundamentalist Christianity is supporting in Jesus’ name.

  • I am sick to death of hearing and reading stories of people who think their Christian faith means they are called to refuse service and bathroom access to gay and transgender customers.
  • I am sick to death of hearing and reading stories about churches that object to women’s ordinations; denominations that declare that women can never be called to serve as pastors or Bishops because they are same gender loving;
  • I am sick to death of hearing and reading stories of people who believe that churches who are welcoming and affirming are being used by Satan to destroy God’s church.

Is it any wonder that the “flock”, the “other sheep” cannot recognize the true voice of the Good Shepherd?

Today, on Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus tells us that there are other sheep in other pens, and that they are His too, but he does not tell us how to figure out who they are. What we do know is that we cannot allow the sound of our faith to make us unrecognizable; to make us look or sound like thieves and robbers. Jesus tells us that there are other sheep, but he does not tell us how to recognize them; He does tell us how they will recognize and respond to us.

Our challenge as Christians inside and outside of these walls is to let go of our quest to determine who is counted in the flock, and who is not. Our challenge is to embrace the mystery of a God whose love and grace are far beyond what we could ever imagine. We serve a God who loves us even when we are narrow-minded and petty; when we are stubborn and selfish; when we are judgmental and exclusive; and when we are just plain wrong.

The good news is that we are loved and cared for and guided by a Good Shepherd who loves us, not because we always show up in the right fashion, or because of our well-formed theology, or even our acts of mercy and justice are always on point. We are loved not because of what we have done or failed to do, but because Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and Jesus is God, and God is love.

As we are all to some degree or another Urban Campers and “other sheep”, let us leave with the words of the Prophet Martin Luther King, Jr ringing in our ears…

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It (we) must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men (people) everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo, and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of (human) mankind and fire the souls of men (people), imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. Men (People) far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love that provides light and bread for lonely travelers at midnight.”

Marguerite’s ordination as Deacon is June 10

We have really enjoyed having Marguerite Judson as our seminarian over the past year. Now she has graduated from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and she’ll be ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons at Grace Cathedral at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 10. Let’s plan to be there and celebrate with her!

Marguerite has accepted a position at All Souls Episcopal Church, Berkeley. Congratulations to her and best wishes as she begins the next phase of her journey in a new congregation!

Join us for “An Enchanted Evening” fundraiser June 25! Tickets available now!

Enjoy the wonders of a glorious 1928 Julia Morgan-designed private mansion on Claremont Boulevard in Berkeley and support Good Shepherd Pan de Cielo feeding ministries.
claremont.garden

The evening’s enchantments include:

  •  Mozart arias by critically acclaimed soprano Shauna Fallihee
  • Hors d’oeuvres and wine
  • A silent auction

 

 

All funds raised will support the ministries of Good Shepherd Berkeley – our Monday sandwich ministry, our Friday hot lunches and food pantry, and more!SHAUNA

Sunday June 25, 5:00 p.m.

Advance tickets: $30

At the door: $40

Address will be on your ticket, or you can email este.gardner@gmail.com for the address.

To order tickets:

Go to enchantedclaremont.eventbrite.com

OR

Mail your check made out to “Good Shepherd Episcopal Church” to “Enchanted Evening tickets” at 1823 Ninth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, OR

Send payment via Paypal to us at goodshepherdberkeley@gmail.com

We will hold your tickets for you at the event.

Easter sermon: Stones, Bones and the Resurrection Body

Preached by Vicar Este Gardner, Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017

Readings: Jeremiah 31:1-6, Colossians 3:1-4 , Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, John 20:1-18

It is a strange and wondrous thing every year, that always, this long-awaited day seems to come as a surprise, and every year, we feel this great resurrection joy. It is also amazing to me that we celebrate this somehow astonishing festival of the resurrection with the vibrations of Holy Week still in our bones.

During our Good Friday service we heard a series of beautiful poems brought to us by our seminarian Marguerite Judson. On the cover of the booklet she made, was an image I had never seen before- a field of stones in a desert landscape. sailing-stonesBut it turns out that this was no ordinary field of stones – this was the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, and the stones are famous because- they move. They are sometimes called the “sailing stones.” They apparently move all by themselves, and although theories abound, just why is a great mystery. The stones inscribe lines in the dust as they scoot along, kind of like the ones Jesus drew, and sometimes they move in tandem with each other like a dance, and they even move around corners. Something invisible seems to motivate them toward some unknown goal.

In our beautiful Easter Gospel, a stone with another mysterious goal has also moved, leaving, however, no trace of its mover. But the very first thing that Mary Magdalene saw was this rolled-away stone. This obstacle to the Holy is mysteriously moved, so that she is able to see Jesus face to face. But,, like many of us, she doesn’t recognize him at first.
Mary’s reunion with Jesus, like any reunion with one is utterly loved and utterly lost, is unspeakably joyous. But Mary is not only reunited with her beloved teacher, but also her healer – her redeemer. He found her in the darkness, demon-ridden and unclean, and saw her and loved her and healed her. Mary now experiences unimaginable joy.

It may sometimes be hard for us to imagine this kind of joy – hard to imagine resurrection while we are in the unclean depths of the tomb. While we are despairing, mourning, weeping. While we stay in the darkness and dare not even open our eyes. But although it may seem unimaginable, we know, because of the story of the resurrection, that even that black darkness can transform to resurrection joy.

Author Cynthia Occelli puts it like this:

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out, and everything transforms. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, [and I would say someone who doesn’t understand resurrection] it would look like compete destruction.

This is good news indeed to those of us who have felt our shell crack and our insides threaten to come out and who, perhaps unwillingly must confront terrifying changes in our lives.

The great 3rd century theologian Origen wrote of a perfect sphere-like entity he called the “resurrection body” – everybody had one. It was with us at the beginning of our lives as a perfect unblemished sphere, and, as we knocked our way through life, it gathered scars, marks on its skin, like the paths of moving rocks. As our life progresses, tomb-worn, we are gifted with these marks, until, at our resurrection, the sphere again is clear and baby-like in its perfection.

As we prepared for our Good Friday service, Rachel and I went to get the huge wooden cross that we use in the service, that we kneel before and reverence every Good Friday. It was out in the garden, and we saw several of our day laborer guests waiting outside the parish hall for the Friday lunch. I saw Javier, who reminded me that it was a year ago, on Good Friday that I visited him in the hospital, as he recovered from gunshot wounds. I saw Renee, who had been weeding our garden for free. But as Rachel started to shoulder the cross to carry it in, a laborer I had never met offered to carry it for her. At first I saw him as a modern Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry the cross, but as soon as he shouldered it, we all saw that he made a perfect Jesus. An instant paparazzi formed, made out of both ourselves and his day laborer brothers. He really looked the part. He was rough around the edges, dark, scarred, perhaps a little overly blessed by alcohol, as Jesus often was, but he had incredible smile.

He dutifully carried the cross into the church, and once we were inside, he stopped and looked around in wonder. “I have never been in this place before,” he said. And then he said it again. “I have never been in this place before,” I saw in his eyes that he was experiencing something he hadn’t expected. When he laid the cross down where we wanted it, I thanked him and I asked him his name. “Manuel,” he said.

Do you know what your name means? I asked him? “No, I forgot,” he grinned.

“It means ‘God-with-Us’,” I said. “It means Jesus.” He seemed a little overcome by this new information and his eyes grew wide.

“I was just standing there, eating my bread and coffee,” he said, “and all of the sudden I am Jesus!”

This small miracle for Manuel was nothing he expected. He did not expect to be in this beautiful church that morning, or to see himself as Jesus then or anytime. But this is how miracles happen to us – this is how resurrection happens. We are just minding our own business, safe in our tombs when- flash-a transformation happens – and Christ is risen!

One theory I read about the movement of those sailing rocks is that they too have to go through a transformation before they can perform their miracle. Apparently the stones float on an infinitesimally thin sheet of water, which, after it freezes, begins to crack in the warmth of the sun. So these rocks, previously so typical in their unmoving frozen state, are suddenly animated – brought to life by this small violence. It is the cracks that move them, that cause them to make those miraculous paths in the sand, and sail together toward their secret goal.

And as for us, when we are frozen in the isolation of the tomb, when we too have cracked, when we have all but died, we must hold on, because the miracle will come. The stone will mysteriously roll away, and we will see the holy face to face, in all our holy imperfection.

Amen.

Easter services, egg hunts & a potluck lunch

lamb-with-daffodilsJoin us as we celebrate our new life in Christ on Sunday, April 16, 2017.

9:00 a.m.: Family service with special Easter story

11:00 a.m.: Choral Eucharist with special Easter music and much resurrection joy

12:15ish:  Easter potluck! Ham will be provided, please bring side dishes and desserts to share

After each service, we’re holding an Easter egg hunt in the garden for the lambs in attendance!

Holy Week 2017 schedule of services

Please join us in walking this holy path, which leads us to  our Easter resurrection and new life.

Palm Sunday

April 9 at 11:00 a.m.: We will begin with a procession around our block, waving palms in memory of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The choral Eucharist features a dramatic reading of the passion of Christ.

Wednesday Tenebrae service

April 12 at 7:00 p.m.: This solemn and beautiful liturgy alternates the chanting of psalms with Taize singing.

Maundy Thursday

April 13 at 7:00 p.m.: We celebrate the Last Supper, with a vigil in the garden following, to memorialize Jesus and the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Good Friday

April 14 at 12:00 noon: A service of reverence of the cross and a reading of the passion Gospel of John, with choral and Taize singing.

Dates for our 2017 fundraisers

Mark your calendars now!

Sunday, June 25, 5 p.m.:

“Feed My Sheep” Silent Auction at the Julia Morgan Mansion

Good Shepherd “sheeps,” visit local businesses and ask for donations in preparation for this gala evening in one of Berkeley’s most amazing venues! Ticket prices to come.

Sunday, Sept. 24, 5 p.m.:

The Famous Good Shepherd Pie Supper and Auction

We feast together and bid on the beautiful, delicious pies sweet and pies savory prepared by our members. Mmmmm, pie!

Saturday, Nov. 4, 2 p.m.:

The San Francisco Scottish Fiddlers Concert

This wondrous and huge group of fiddlers always wows us – funny and a delight for all ages. Ticket prices to come.

Sermon: “From the Cave to Serenity”, Mar. 5, 2017

sophia-jackson

Sophia Jackson, a powerful preacher

Preached by Sophia Jackson, seminarian at the Pacific School of Religion and a recovering alcoholic and addict, for our Twelve Step Eucharist at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Berkeley, California.

This amazing woman needs our help!  www.gofundme.com/sophias-seminary-support-fund

Readings: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7Romans 5:12-19Matthew 4:1-11Psalm 32.

As I started thinking about this sermon and began contemplating how I wanted to approach the story of my own life and recovery, I had to put in dialogue the purpose of this season as it leads to understanding the resurrection of Jesus, the process of this particular wilderness experience as it related to my own path, and find the meaning of being tempted. I had to question what wilderness and recovery had to do with each other, and I had to sit with what or who it is that is really the source of our being tempted.

In other words, I realized that I had to find a way for all of us to re-think this 40-day period. In his book A Hunger for God John Piper says, “Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God”; “If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world that our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great …”.

My name is Sophia, and I am an addict/alcoholic…

More than this being a time for beating ourselves up for the sake of penance, I believe that as we practice this observance we need to remain cognizant of the fact that this is a period in which we come to know God as a resuscitator of life through our submission and humility. In this period we submit our shortcomings; we make amends; we take fearless and moral inventories of our own character so that we can move from our caves into places of serenity.

As I insinuated myself into this story what became clear to me is, I am constantly in awe at how the theatre of life plays out; as we look at Matthew’s interpretation of the temptations of Jesus I find that there seems to be a divine symbolic correlation between preparation and surrender. Today marks the beginning of the Lenten season; a time of letting go; a period of fasting, repentance, moderation, self-denial and spiritual discipline. I find great significance in this being a service dedicated to the 12-step model of recovery and the timing of this liturgical season because in both cases the overarching theme is one of self-examination and cleansing.

I’d like to interject here that I am not speaking from a place of being swept away on some romantic notion of what the traditions of man and mainstream Christianity have determined this period of time to be because there is no amount of fasting, abstaining from physical pleasures or any other form of self-denial that can purify us. We cannot, of and by ourselves, create within us the desire to do God’s will, and while it is true that God created mankind with free moral agency, our carnal and natural mind cannot, will not, and does not easily submit to God. Just as in recovery it is only through a converted mind, actively led by a higher power, or as it says in Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” that we are able to be transformed.

How Matthew connects the temptations of Jesus with his earlier baptism in the Jordan. More than providing a theological significance for me, this episode in the wilderness helped me to further put into context my own redemption. In looking back at a time that I had no heavenly vision, I realized the import of understanding that God is no less present with me whether I am having an exalted experience like the baptism of Jesus represents, or whether I was caught up in the throes of my own desolate wilderness experiences of addiction and incarceration.

Like the good student that I am, I searched for the meanings of recovery and wilderness. Recovery; is a noun meaning 1) a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength, and 2) the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost. According to Merriam Webster there are five definitions for wilderness, but the two that resonated with me are 1) a wild and uncultivated region, as of forest or desert, uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals; a tract of wasteland, and 2) a bewildering mass or collection.

Just as there is a progression that occurs when those of us who have come to terms with our own powerlessness as it relates to substance use disorders, there is a similar progression presented in this text; like recovery it is not only in terms of the greater physical heights we must overcome to return to a normal state of health in mind and strength, but also it presents the reality of a greater intensity and scope of maintaining our principles when temptation presents itself.

Matthew tells us that immediately after His public anointing Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted alone. How many of you know that the greatest moments of temptation often follow the greatest moments of exaltation? We see from the start of this chapter that it is not by accident that Jesus finds himself in the wilderness and as the story goes, Jesus encounters Satan. In this encounter Satan attempts to get Jesus to put his own needs and potential concerns above the will of God; it is Satan who wants Jesus to act independently from God; and it is Satan who wants Jesus to sacrifice his promise for momentary short-term gain.

Several questions came up for me in this dialogue between the devil and Jesus; I won’t trouble you with all of them, but I’d like you to consider with me that perhaps this dialogue was a hallucination. I want you to insinuate yourself in that moment and ask yourselves who was speaking. Could this conversation merely have been a projection of Jesus’ own inner thoughts? As you imagine yourself in the place of Jesus, remember the context in this Gospel; remember this is the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. I want you to ask yourselves, “What makes this account relevant today”?

I believe we are being given a glimpse of our own inner struggle as we face the issue of how to accomplish the work of ministry. It is clear to me that God does not lead us into temptation; rather it is because of God that we are led into places to be exposed to ourselves. So often we appreciate that God leads us into good things, but how often are we appreciative for the times that we are led into confrontation of the bad things? While considering these questions for myself, and in considering that perhaps this conversation was simply a manifestation of Jesus’ own fears and doubts, I thought about David in his pivotal wilderness experience in a cave. Picture for a moment David being on the run for his life. While this account in Matthew is not about Jesus running for his life, if we keep in line with the supposition that this could be a hallucination, I believe that there are definite similarities between Jesus, David, and thereby all of us.

So often we think that a wilderness is something that is being imposed on us when in reality a wilderness is something that lives inside of us; it is provoked by our thought; by how we are seen, how we see ourselves, and by how we see our particular situations. David, like Jesus had been called of God and anointed by God; here he was after having experienced amazing victories hiding out in a cave.

For similar reasons David, like Jesus faced an agonizing struggle in this cave; this wilderness, much like the temptations shows us how we have to come to terms with the meaning and intent of God’s mission for us; we have to come to terms with the real fact that we are leaders; no matter what we believe our own condition to be, there are those that will find us even when we are experiencing or living in a wilderness state of being. I discovered in all of this that peace and safety are riding side by side with our own tempting thoughts.  The dark times that beset us every once in a while are blessings in disguise; not only do they bring us to a position of having to seek the Lord; they cause us to remember the God that dwells within us.

Whether we look at this as an actual conversation with Satan, or whether we view it as an internal voice, we must see that this voice is one that appeals to the real needs and possible doubts that are common to all humanity. In this moment, like us, Jesus needed food, security, protection, significance in understanding himself and his own achievement. As I look at this from the perspective of my own recovery and ministry, I must understand that there will always be forces set up to attack my pursuit, especially at my most vulnerable points.

From the standpoint of recovery I must always remember that wilderness experiences can easily lead me to escapism, where I look to substances, or work, or school, or technology to dull my senses. I have to remember that the wilderness is not the enemy; rather it is that place where God takes me to be alone with Him. We must all remember that it is the place where there is no one or nothing that can help us fix the problems we have. This story shows us that the wilderness is the place where we are tempted to compromise, to disbelieve, to err in order to resolve our problems apart from God. Wilderness is that hellish place where instead of reaching within and drawing from our own divinity, we are desperately reaching for a savior outside of ourselves.

As I put this into some relevant format for today in looking at the times we are living in I want to let you know this morning that it is not easy to live a consecrated life that fully mirrors the life of Jesus Christ because even in the best of times it’s hard to do. This story illuminates for us that sometimes we walk after what is fleshy in our own thoughts.  From the beginning, our consciousness has been disrupted by the agenda that is counter to the purposes of God for us.  

As we move forward through this season in the devastatingly obnoxious present that we are witnessing, we would do well to remember that what we are seeing is that counter-agenda. As we move through this season of letting go in order to thrive I want us all to remember that the times we are living in are the inherited constructions of man; the devil in creation is our own psyche devoid of our own Logos in flesh. As I have given you my own testimony I am reminded through this text that my purpose is not based on my past; it’s based on how I recovered from it.

My friend Jessica McFarland put up a post on Facebook the other day that really summed up what this text meant to me as I imagined Jesus’ conversation in this vision; the conversation topic was the ethic of rote self-sacrifice, and she used a quote from Christopher Hitchens, “Letters to a Young Contrarian”; it says, “Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you”.

I’ve come to the end of my share; today, and just for today, I’m just a little clearer in my understanding of my thoughts when I get in my head; it may not be the devil that has whisked me away to entice me with temporal satisfactions and indulgences. I have a clearer understanding of my desires to feel good, to be independent, and to desire to have more. Jesus has shown me a way to through temptation so that I might be able to help those who are tempted in their own wilderness; and I’m clear that ultimately I have the choice to either allow this diversion and seek my own advantage thereby robbing God of glory or I can display to the world an attitude that I have been changed and am willing to be used in service to others.

This call to discipleship is costly but we need to understand something about ourselves; the source of our temptations most times is what we devise in our own minds to test that God is with us and within us. The source of our temptations is almost always our own legitimate, normal, and natural desires; the desire for food, sexual intimacy, approval of others is normal, it’s not the error. We are errant when we find ourselves depending on something or someone other than God for life and satisfaction.

God expects us to live a life that brings forth fruits of righteousness. In other words wherever we are and whatever the situation may be somebody ought to be able to tell that through our experiences we’ve met God. Somebody ought to be able to tell that there is something on the inside that makes us better on the outside. There is no question in my mind that Jesus shows us through this text before we can be anything to somebody else we must first learn to be all things to ourselves by making peace with our wilderness. That’s what recovery is; that’s what this season of Lent represents. Our recovery isn’t complete until all areas of our brokenness are mended and we stop doubting who God says we are. I am not someone because I am smart. I am not someone because I am rich. I am not someone because I’m liked. I am not someone because I am moral. I am not someone because I am in charge. I am someone because God says I AM someone; that’s enough. My journey from the cave to serenity; where the warranty on God’s promises never expires.