Luke 8:26-39
Jesus restores a demon-possessed ma

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes,[a] which is across the lake from Galilee.27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!’ 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’

‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission.33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened.

When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over the town how much Jesus had done for him.

When I was a cross country coach, I often tell runners that they have voices that they can listen to when they run.

Finneytown Girls XC team!

When the race or practice gets hard, or it’s snowing and cold, or hot and humid, they may hear voices in their head that say you can’t do this, you aren’t tough enough, you could quit, or go home, sit on the coach in air conditioning, or play video games. Or, they can learn to listen to the voices that tell them that they can do this, that it is worth the work and even the pain at times, that it is producing character, that they can overcome. We call this the “moment of truth”, when you listen to the good voices that will push you through and don’t give in to the voices that leave you in a state that keeps you in a place and not growing.

Jesus encounters a man who’s been inflicted with thousands of voices that have actually taken control of his life.

He had so many voices, or personal demons, that when Jesus asked him his name, he said that his name was “legion” meaning “many”, even thousands. I’m not sure how one gets into this state, but it’s safe to say that this man was affected to the point of madness, so much so that his community shunned him and even chained him up.

Yet, Jesus goes up to him, has compassion on him. It’s also interesting to note that this man was not part of Jesus’ faith or lifestyle. The region where Jesus found this man was a Gentile region and Gentiles were non-believers. It was a foreign land, yet Jesus and his disciples felt compelled to travel there, outside of their comfort zone.

When Jesus confronts the man, the man has lost his mind, his sense of identity so much, that he doesn’t personally answer, but the demons give voice to Jesus…they know that Jesus is the Son of God…when darkness is confronted, it knows it can’t hide from the light, and it knows that it cannot overcome light. I believe that Jesus was so perfectly human, so aware of himself as God’s son, as the representation of God to humanity and humanity to God, that the darkness was revealed in this possessed man so openly that it could not help but to retreat.

It’s also important to realize that this man wanted to be healed. He was coming into his “moment of truth”. As conflicted as he was, as possessed as he was, he knew that he needed to change. It seems like Jesus’ power is best on display when others found within themselves a sense of agency, a desire to change, or willing to come to a “moment of truth”.

The demons plead with Jesus to be sent into a herd of pigs. Which, is another indicator that Jesus is in a foreign country as pigs were considered unclean by Jewish custom. So, Jesus sends them into the pigs and the pigs go mad and drive themselves off of a cliff.

This man regains his sense of self, his dignity and senses, and he is restored into community. But, the townsfolk are afraid of Jesus, they don’t know how to respond to this amazing act of love and power over the darkness of the possessed man’s life. Or, maybe they are afraid that this Jesus’ presence would cost them more economically, as the herd of pigs was an economic loss. Faced with fear, economic instability, and the presence of a change agent like Jesus, they plead for Jesus to leave.

They were not ready for their moment of truth.

As Jesus is leaving, the formerly possessed man asks to go with Jesus, yet Jesus tells him to stay, to find his voice more clearly now that all of the other voices are gone, and to love his neighbors and proclaim to them what God has done.

We don’t know this man’s name, it’s not in this passage, and we don’t know what happens. But, my bet is that this region saw and experienced this Jesus in this healed man as they continued to see evidence of his growth and release from what enslaved him.

The power of a changed life, especially after answering in a positive way to the moment of truth, can change the world!

I know that’s true in my life, your life, and our lives together. What voices are we listening to? What fears do we have that prevent us from following Jesus or keeps us away from walking with Jesus? Do we ask Jesus to leave us alone when faced with change in our lives, even if we know we need it or we see others’ lives changed through their awareness of God, self, and others through Jesus?

What are our moments of truth? And of trust?

And what would it take for us to let go of the voices that keep us enslaved to the way we’ve always done things or lived. These are voices that are keeping us from living the way that we’ve always wanted to live. Voices that keep us from growing in new ways as humans made in God’s image, infused with God’s dynamic spirit that moves us towards the kind of lives that bring adventure, meaning, purpose, and growth.

This past week, I met over coffee with my good friend Peter Block.

Peter is a voice that I love to listen to…he often speaks into my life (sometimes without even realizing it) and allows me to speak into his. We are in community together, we practice “church” if you will in many ways. As we were talking, he began to encourage me, as he does so often. One of the things that he spoke into my life over the year is reminding me that I have a powerful voice and finding that voice consistently is good work…it’s good work for all of us. Not only finding our particular voice, but how it fits into community and being in a community that can find it’s collective voice. That voice can shape mountains, experience and share love. Voice is powerful when there is no agenda other than seeing relationships and community restored or created.

God’s voice, God’s word, brought forth creation.

God’s voice or God’s word, became flesh and gave us Jesus.

God’s voice, God’s word, is carried to us through the flow of God’s spirit all around us, in us, through us, to us….and bringing us almost every moment in our lives to a moment of truth. How do we respond?

Your homework this week, take inventory daily. Listen to yourself, others, and the messages being sent to you through social media, news media, or whatever. What voices are you hearing or listening to. Write them down. Then ask yourself, where are you hearing God’s voice and where do you find your “moment of truth”?

Are we willing to listen to God’s voice as it pushes through all of the other voices in our lives, leading us to freedom, to many moments of truth, and reminding us that we have a powerful voice, that we are loved, that we are made for each other and to be a part of a community together proclaiming to each other God’s love? Not petty issues or pride or insecurities that keep us away from each other, but living together listening to God’s voice emerge within us and through us together? May it be so!


John 16:12-15

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to
14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access[b] to this grace in which we stand; and we[c] boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we[d] also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

A couple of Sundays ago was Pentecost, the day we recognize God’s Spirit in and around us. This past Sunday was Trinity Sunday, the day we recognize the mystery of a 3 in 1 God.

Now, I know that there are all sorts of theological terms and understandings of how this whole Trinity deal works. There is the Greek word Homoosios, which means the same substance, not to be confused with the word Homoiosion, which means like the same. Both are terms used by theologians throughout the centuries to describe their experience of God.

I think it’s best to understand the Trinity simply as this, three beings that are of the same substance and mutually indwell in each other…so much that they are one.

Now, I’m not the Trinity, none of us are, but there are glimpses of this kind of close community from time to time. A few years ago, we started the Conspire Gathering. Tim Soerens and I co-created this idea very simply. We were sitting in Peter Block’s living room and were having one of those conversations where we were simply starting and ending each others thoughts and each adding in different flavors as we were cooking up what this Gathering could be. We quickly involved other friends like Paul Sparks, Peter Block, and Dwight Friesen, the co-authors of New Parish along with some local friends like Josh Stoxen, Brooklin Taylor, Daniel Hughes, Troy Bronsink, Jane Gerdsen, and others.

This year’s Conspire Gathering! Don’t miss it!

After some great conversations and plans, this whole Gathering came together. It really wasn’t much work on our part, but simply inviting others to be a part. It quickly became something that that our local Presbytery at the time really owned, as well as the Episcopal Cathedral and others.

At the end of our first Conspire Gathering, our friend Peter Block asked for reflections on the Gathering. We heard so many folks say how it seemed like Tim, Paul, Dwight, and I must have known each other for years, how things seemed to flow between us, and how this Gathering came together so well. Many more things were said that were wonderful, it turned out better than we could have planned really.

The point being, the four of us initially, and then others, were so committed to this and to each other, that this project was blessed by a sense of deep unity around a common purpose…we came together in friendship and unity.

I’ve also seen that in this church, this past week alone. I’ve had so many conversations around what we’d like to see happen in church, even in this service. It’s been fun, actually, even with some dissonance here and there

In God’s nature, God’s deepest defining character, there is a deep unity, one that goes beyond human comprehension to the point where lines seem to be blurred and there is a deep sense of mutuality, of mutual indwelling. Out of this intense community, there is One God.

As we’ve mentioned before, in Quantum Physics, physicists use a word describe how atoms, protons, neutrons, quarks, etc. work together…how they form and create. It’s called “relationship”. Atoms are attracted to each other, there is chaos at first, sparks fly, and then there is some structure and things are made.

They produce energy.

In theological terms, this relational energy in the divine, in the communion of the Trinity creates all things, it is the energy moving things, evolving things. It also saves, redeems, and reforms things…and, it holds things together, us together. We attempt to describe this three in one God by saying that all things originate in the Father who creates, the Son who saves and redeems, and the Spirit that sustains and moves. But, all of these attributes work within the Trinity, in the mutual indwelling of the relationship found in the Trinity.

The energy of this Holy community caused what Tielhard De Chardin calls the Big Bang of creation, and the 2nd bigger bang of Jesus…divinity and humanity coming together in what ancient theologians called the Homeostatic Union. This union of divine and humanity gives us the witness of God in flesh, and the “with-ness” of God with us, if you will, of Immanuel. This “God with us” is carried to us through the Trinity by the power of God’s Spirit, this Spirit in relationship with the Trinity, being poured out on to us, gives us energy to grow, mature, change, be aware of ourselves, others, and with a God who’s closer than the air we breathe.

Our lectionary passage this past Sunday gives words to Jesus’ promise that even though he would not be around in the flesh for much longer, that his Spirit, God’s Spirit, would be poured out on to us, that we would find the strength and energy to form as communities, to be together as God always intended.

In other words, we are not alone.

We also talk a lot about being the truth. What is truth? In Christ, we are pointed towards Truth. Jesus says elsewhere in John, that he is the Truth! Truth is not some abstract or even black and white rules, Truth is relationship. Truth, as God sees it, is expressed through God’s entering humanity, God’s demonstration of what it means to be truly human in Jesus. We are called to live into that truth, to follow the example of Jesus.

Now, we can’t do it on our own. We need the Spirit, God’s Spirit, carried to us through God’s conspiring with us, or sharing space breath with us as the word conspire means.

I have friends that are Greek Orthodox…The Greek Orthodox have a great term, it’s called “theosis”. It means that we are not the Trinity, we are not God, but we are drawn into communion or relationship with the Trinity through our shared humanity with Jesus and through the dynamic energy of God’s Spirit that is everywhere showing us how to live in community with others, God, and with ourselves.

“Being drawn into the Trinity”

A friend of mine that grew up Greek Orthodox, is the owner of Ludlow Wines in Clifton. I told Michael a while back that he gets what we are talking about in terms of the relational energy of the Trinity, he loves his neighborhood and is working towards a better community, better relationships. He’s not concerned about competition, about being right all of the time, but he demonstrates hospitality, humility, and how to work together. That’s from the very nature of God, that is practicing truth as demonstrated through Jesus, and…I’d say, Michael is a great example in a very humble way for the church to be inspired by, just as we can be inspired by the everyday moments in life where we can see God’s movement, God’s energy. God takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary through the dynamic energy of relationship demonstrated in this 3 in 1 God…may we find ways to have our eyes, ears, and hands see, hear, and partner with God’s work out ahead of us and in us.

Friends, it is my prayer that you walk away from this posting inspired to live in “theosis”, to cultivate an awareness that you are never alone, that God resides within you and all around you…and, as that awareness continues to dawn on you, on all of us, that we remember and, maybe even record, where we’ve seen God’s moving in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Here’s an invitation: Take out 5-10 minutes at the beginning of your day, and at the end of your day. Reflect on the day ahead, or the day that you just had. Write down where you think you may see God at the beginning of the day, and at the end of the day, where did you see God? What were your surprises?

Keep this in mind, God’s relational, 3 in 1 energy, is constantly at work around you. Take the time to cultivate the awareness of God’s presence in you, in others, and in all things and time.

“Donde esta el Bano”?

Nicaragua with friends in 2013.

After multiple trips to Nicaragua over the years, you’d think I could have learned more of the Spanish language than that one phrase!  Other than “Gracias”, “Si”, or “No”, “Donde esta el Bano” is the extent of my Spanish Vocabulary.  Plus, whenever I attempted to speak in Spanish, my “Kentucky, Southern, and slightly redneck” dialect from being raised in the (AMAZING) state of Kentucky would come out.  

It means, “Where’s the bathroom?”  This is a key phrase when you are there, especially after eating beans and rice at most meals!

Even though I had a hard time communicating with words, there were so many other ways of communication and I learned a lot.  I learned that God wants me to trust in God’s flow and fidelity with all things.  I learned that I try to depend too much on my own means and not on God.  When you are around some amazing folks who are used to getting one meal a day, yet are so happy and insist on being extremely hospitable to you, you begin to wonder who’s really wealthy.  We may have some financial means, but they have a spiritual wealth that can only come from God.  

Recently, many in our church went on a work trip to Oak Hill, West Virginia.  I was able to join them for a couple of days.  These opportunities are full of great experiences of having to trust each other, new folks that are met along the way, and to lean in on God as God communicates to us God’s love.  

Brennan, me, and Tom Hathaway on the work trip to Oak Hill, WV.

God wants to take us out of our comfort zones and stretch us on adventures in our everyday lives that have eternal impacts.  In essence, that is what the church is about.  We want to take risks in relationships with others and have some great adventures together.  We do this so that we can become something.  What do we become?  Persons who learn together what it means to trust God in a world where there isn’t much trust and grow towards maturity in our relationships with each and with God.

I’m equally excited for what God is going to be doing with Fleming Road UCC this next year.  We have a great church staff, council, congregation, and an amazing God who wants to co-create something beautiful with and within all of us! 

We are also partnering with the Economics of Compassion Initiatives “Oasis” summer camp in our neighborhood this summer. This is a great example of neighborhood churches coming together for the common good…and an opportunity for us to grow and experience life as we build our community while building friendships.

ECI summer staff, Fallou, and some amazing kids from Oasis camp!

I believe that these words from Paul in Romans as translated by Rev. Eugene Peterson are especially important for us during this season of life in our church.  God is communicating to us!  Life can get us down, but whether we are 18 or 88, God has given us LIFE and God’s Spirit is breathing new possibilities into all of us!  God has not given us a life to simply wait for the grave to live in the “sweet bye and bye”, no, eternal life, abundant life in God’s Presence, starts now!  Let’s live with joyful anticipation and take some good risks in loving others, ourselves, and God well!  

Romans 8:5, 14, 18-19

   [5] Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! 

  [14] God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

    This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” 

  [18] That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. 

  [19] The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. 


John 14:18-27

18 “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

25 “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate,[a] the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

Acts 2:1-13

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

This week, in the common lectionary, we are still working in the last discourse that Jesus gave after the Last Supper and before he went to the cross.  

Jesus is encouraging the disciples, letting them know that even when things get bad, seemingly out of control, that they won’t be alone.  They have an identity, they are not going to be orphaned.  Which, is an interesting word, in effect, Jesus is saying that they not only have an identity, but that they are still in relationship with a God who is all around them and even in them.  

I can somewhat relate to this when my grandfather died.  We were really close, he believe in me.  It’s been 15-20 years since he died, but I still feel his presence. 

Now, this presence pales in comparison to what I’ve experienced with Jesus, similar, but with Jesus it’s even more present within my body, within my friendships, and within the space between us.  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit priest, author, and scientist, calls this the cosmic Christ, that Christ not only lived and walked the earth, but is with us, everywhere with everyone and everything, right now.  

Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that there won’t be any problems in this passage…that life would be perfect and everything is going to be OK.  No, he simply promises that he won’t leave us, that he’ll be with us in the midst of life’s throes.  

I spend a lot of time checking in with folks who are going through some hard times.  Maybe they are sick, or have had a break in a relationship, or are struggling with various issues.  I can’t, with integrity, say that their situations will work out, I don’t know.  But, I can say that they are not alone, that there is a Presence, a sense of God’s love all around them and I pray for awareness of God’s Presence.  I believe that the greatest gift and struggle that we have as Jesus followers, as humans, is the work of becoming of self, others, and God aware.  Of moving past our small egos and moving into a global ego, a sense of deep connection with ourselves, others, and God’s movement and shaping.  

We are not alone in this work, God is with us, reminding us that we can see God…often in the small things.  

Jesus gives the pronouncement that he won’t be able to be seen by the world, but his followers will see him.  That’s an interesting thought.  We’ve prayed for eyes to see and ears to hear God’s movement in our world.  I strongly believe that all of humanity is being shaped and formed by God’s movement, that God is with all of us in the most intimate way.  God is closer than the air we breathe.  Yet, we don’t often recognize God, or sometimes we even deny that God could even exist.  The idea of a loving God can scare us.  Love transforms, it changes us.  Yet, we are comfortable with what we think we know.  

Jesus goes on to say that because he lives, because he loved and continues to love, we will all someday see that we find our being in community, in relationship with God.  

This concept of being “in” relationship with God and with others starts with an understanding that God’s very nature is communal relationship.  You can go through all sorts of head knowledge of God, but if we go deep within ourselves, whether we are extroverts or introverts, we are wired for relationship.   Science affirms this concept, at the very root of how we are formed, with atoms, protons, neutrons, quarks, etc., there is an understanding that energy is created for atoms to form through attraction, through relationship.  

Our understanding of God as three in one, as Trinity, gives witness to relationships.  God as father, son, holy spirit are so close that they are one.  The outcome of their energy together is creating, saving, and sustaining relationship based on love.  It is not static, it is dynamic.  

This love moves us, gives us energy.  We are drawn to it like an atom is drawn together to form something.  As a seminary professor at Fuller once told me, we can say no to God, but what if God says no to our no?  There is a flow that is creating and shaping us, and that flow is relational, and it is marked by love.  We can go on resisting it, or we can obey that desire to love and let it reveal itself to us.  

There are all sorts of comments on what it means in this passage when it says “on that day”.  Is that the end of time?  I believe that in God, there isn’t linear time, all is “now”, present.  We have days that we recognize this love.  

This love may move us towards a personal understanding of God’s love for us, but it also moves us eventually in an evolutionary way towards an understanding that God’s love is for everyone and is not so small minded or ego-centric on just us, but all of us.  

As we begin to allow God’s love to pour into us and through us to others, we begin to understand that we are connected to an expansive God.  We begin to see faith as not being right, not living in a black and white world, but understanding that living in mystery and curiosity, living in a willingness to let go of our control, our vision, and letting God expand our horizons and understanding of the global Christ project by being locally rooted in community, we begin to experience a deepening of ourselves, a joy in things unseen but lived out.

God’s Spirit is called Advocate, God advocates for us.  God has made God’s home with us, and is in our corner.  Not in our corner to meet our selfish needs, but to say to us that we are not alone, that God sees a better “us” and is calling us into growth through awareness.  This Advocate, this Presence, God’s Spirit, is a counselor for us, reminds us of God’s story with us, and goes with us.  

God’s Spirit is a gift, but just like any gift, we need to open it, see it, experience it.  A good place to start is to work towards authentic community with others, to honor them, to work towards awareness by slowing down and taking time each day to reflect, pray, journal.  By unplugging and going on a retreat to a quiet place.  

As we do that, we will begin to see that God is in us, and we find our being in God.  This being will move us in ways we don’t always expect.  Look at the early disciples that are describe in Acts.  They experience the Spirit, it’s like a flame that’s burning, uncontrollable, yet warms them and moves them to change the world


John 17:20-2620 

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,[a] so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Recently, I went to the Episcopal ordination of my friend Aaron Klinefelter. Now, for those of you who have a hard time when a worship service goes to 65 minutes or so, this service started at 11 AM and ended a bit before 1 PM!

Aaron Klinefelter ordination!

But, it was an amazing celebration. Aaron is a good friend who’s been there for me and vice versa, his family even lived with us for a while. I have confidence in him and in his ordination into the Episcopal priesthood.

I’ve been thinking about my own ordination…this gospel lesson is one of my favorite passages. I preached on it when I was going before the Presbytery for my examination before ordination. In Presbyterian polity, before one is finally approved for ordination, he or she has to preach to the entire presbytery. In Cincinnati, we have quarterly meetings and there are usually 200-300 folks there representing the 75 churches across the presbytery. After you give a short sermon, the entire presbytery can ask you any question that they want and then they vote to either approve or disapprove of your ordination.

The day before, I went rock climbing with one of my best friends, Mike Zimmer.

Partly to relax and take my mind off of the thought of preaching before a couple hundred folks and then having them ask me questions, but also to ask Mike his take on this passage.

Mike is a great thinker, he doesn’t identify as a churchgoer, but he understands God’s Spirit and desire for humanity to be together better than most.

In between hanging off of 60 foot cliffs, some where I wasn’t feeling so close to Mike as he was taking me on some crazy climbs, but we still had great moments of deep sharing and questioning.

At the Presbytery examination, I went into it with a confidence of the my friend’s encouragement and “with-you-in-life” presence. Mike even came.

It went well. The presentation made sense, a couple of questions were asked, then the Presbytery voted unanimously to ordain me as a minister.

Dual ordination standing in the PCUSA and UCC.

Now, granted, I’ve been in the presbytery for a while and have had great friendships in it over the years, but it was a night that demonstrated that God works through all sorts of folks and different bodies. I have also experienced that same sense of unity with SONKA and in the UCC, and certainly in this church.

Those folks and those bodies often don’t seem to be unified, but at certain moments, you sense a togetherness that gives witness to a deeper relational reality at work.

Jesus in this passage is getting ready to go to the cross, he is praying not only for his disciples, but for all of those who will come after him.

Jesus is commenting on his glory, which is a model of sacrifice, of giving up his life for the love of others. Jesus has been glorified by his humanity, which is God’s glory, God’s making us in God’s image. Jesus is the truest human and we share in Jesus’ humanity. God’s glory is wrapped up in our glory and vice versa.

Jesus is also reminding us that our humanity, our glory has been given to us. A key part of this glory is also Jesus’ demonstration of true humanity in how he loves other and models sacrificial love. Jesus is saying that he, and the humanity that he represents, our best versions of ourselves, came out of love before creation came into existence, that he is the expression of all that God intends for humanity in our actions, attitudes and self/ others/God awareness.

Now, we cannot do that on our own. We need God and each other. We are called to unity with one another, not conformity, but a deeper bond. Jesus’ bond with the Father as demonstrated in this passage is so tight, they are one. We are called to be one and called to enter into the glory of God’s intent for us by recognizing our true humanity through Jesus abiding or living within each of us. That common identity draws us out of ourselves, out of our self-focus with a small “s” and growth as persons. It also reminds us that our unity is a mark of what it means to be the church…our unity, our witness to a deeper bond in our humanity, our desire for growth out of love, will show the world that there is a different force at work that is more powerful than control, fear, or violence.

Which is so counter-cultural, isn’t it? We live in a world based on control, fear, and violence…yet, there is a better way and it’s our task to let God flow in and through us in a new way, which is good for the world.

Jesus goes on in his prayer to remind us that this love will always be with us, that Jesus does not give up on us. That Jesus is always with us, living in us, working on us, whether we recognize it or not.

I cannot fully understand this unity, and I know it’s much deeper than anything I can do on my own. Yet, as a parent and as a friend, I can catch glimpses of it sometimes. God is described as a righteous Father. We can get hung up on the word “Father”, but we can also use the word “Mother”, or even “Parent”. The writer is saying that the love of a father, or of a parent, can run deep and that this God is that close. The term father even is an attempt by the early Jews to denote a deep sense of relationship.

We also know that righteouseness is a relational term, it means more than dotting I’s or crossing t’s, or following the letter of the law. It means being a true friend, of working together, creating together, journeying together and honoring one another.

This can be a deep relationship that transcends hardships and shows a deep sense of commitment and even trust.

As Jesus Followers, we are called to be a witness to each other in and out of this deep sense of friendship, of relationships. As a church that can be our legacy for folks, even as we move towards a deeper and new place as a church. Relationships matter, and as they are defined by love, they can shape and form us in beautiful ways.

At our church, Fleming Road UCC, we are a part of so many good things that can will have a transformative effect on our church and communities. The UCC, Parish Collective, our summer camp, the mission trip, our emerging youth group, our “New Parish Roundtable”, and so many other things. All of it centered on good friends coming together to discuss God’s work in and through us. There is a deep sense of unity, even if we did not always see things the same way. It gives me, and all of us, a glimpse of the kinds of conversations, friendships, and stories that are happening, and if we listen, pay attention, and have our imagination spark, will bring us to a new future, and a greater sense of presence as a faith community.

As we practice this unity, we will know that we are in Christ’s love and others will know of Christ through that same love as we extend it to those around us.

And that is good news!