Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spices They Had Prepared

Ten years ago we were getting ready.  I had been awarded a Lilly-sponsored Clergy Renewal Grant, and we were preparing to take a series of journeys beginning with a family trip to Korea.  It was called a Homeland Tour and was made up of families like ours, with one or more children adopted from South Korea.  Naturally there was a lot to prepare.  Especially since I was going to be out of the pulpit for an extended period of time.  We had to prepare, the church had to prepare.  La Donna’s dad had to prepare, since he decided to accompany us on this trip, for a couple of reasons.  He figured we needed a grandpa along, and he wanted to go back and see the country in which he had spent his military service.  Mostly, he told me, he wanted to see if it had rebuilt, to see if anything grew there, since the war had pretty much devastated the land.  It reminded him of a gravel pit, he said, and he really wanted to see if there was something green there now.

So, we were all preparing for this trip.  A long trip, to what was for most of us anyway, an unknown destination, an undiscovered country.  But we weren’t the only ones preparing for a long journey.  La Donna’s mom was also putting things in order, getting ready for a journey.  She was dying of cancer, had been fighting it for some years, but was beginning to tire from the struggle.  Our journey had a schedule, hers didn’t.  At least not one we knew.  In the end, she set out on her journey before we were finished with the preparations for ours.  

Which meant, of course, that we had a whole other set of preparations to make.  These preparations caused us to set aside those preparations for a while.  Many of you know when someone you love dies there is a lot of work to be done.  And wrapped all around the doing is the feeling - of loss, of hurt, of anger, of ... well too many emotions to mention here.  The emotions often get aside so that we can do the planning, make the preparations.  Don’t they?  “I ain’t got time to grieve.”  Or is the grieving, the feeling, a part of the preparations?  

When Beverly died, Don said that he probably shouldn’t go to Korea.  It just wouldn’t be right.  We nodded our heads, we understood.  In the midst of the preparations it didn’t seem right, it didn’t seem possible.  Who could go on a journey of discovery when one’s heart was broken?  Who could plan for tomorrow when today seemed so bleak, so painful, so empty?  No, keep your head down and make preparations.  It is the only think that makes sense.

Luke 24:1-12  But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

They brought the spices that they had prepared.  It was the only thing that made sense that Sabbath day following the darkest Friday they could remember.  There is work to be done here.  Preparations to be made.  At Aldersgate when a death is announced the machinery goes to work.  The system of caring  for leaps into gear.  Preparations are made.  Is there grief, is there brokenness and doubt and hurt so real that you can almost taste it in the air you breathe in?  You bet there is.  More or less depending on how close you are to the person being celebrated.  But regardless of feelings, of personal grief, there are preparations to be made, meals to cook, tables to set.  

They brought the spices they had prepared, because they had a job to do.  Luke doesn’t even know how many went to work that Easter morning.  He names three and then throws up his hands - other women, he says.  Don’t ask me.  The workers, the preparers.  They were ready, they were at work.  Ready to go and deal with the body.  Except ...
The tomb was empty.  Well, ... dang.  Luke says they were perplexed at this.  Hmm, you sure we got the right tomb?  Maybe it is that one over there.  Maybe it was not this cemetery at all.  I thought you were here when Joseph and Nicodemus put him in it.  Weren’t you paying attention?

Did they start to accuse one another?  Or were they all equally perplexed?  Retracing their steps.  It was dark that Friday afternoon.  They’d slept since then.  Or hadn’t slept, as the case may be. But Luke’s choice of words seem fairly benign, just confusion.  That lasts about a verse, however, half a verse until the shiny guys appear.  Who are they?  Luke calls them men who glow.  He says angels earlier in the book, but now it is men.  Has he gotten hesitant toward the end of the story?  Chapters one and two have angels dripping from the pages.  But now it is men.  In dazzling clothes.  Wandered there off the Las Vegas strip perhaps.  They show up and just stand there.  At first.  Then the women notice them and fall on the ground.  “Bow their faces to the ground” our translation says.  Could be a simple nod, a look away, women don’t look men in the eye in public, not in those days.  But given that he also says they were terrified, falling face down seems more likely.  Plus it is an undeniable sign of the holy.  

Then they speak.  Once the women fall down, the shiny guys give directions.  Like cemetery caretakers who notice the women are in the wrong place.  But in this case it isn’t the wrong place in the cemetery, or the wrong cemetery either.  They shouldn’t be in a cemetery at all.  “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”  The guys had to have smiles on their faces when they said that.  They had to know that such a sentence wouldn’t make any sense to the women while they lay there face down in the dirt.  Not dead?  What do you mean not dead?  Of course he was dead.  He breathed his last!  Didn’t you read the last chapter?  For heaven’s sake!

Which must have set off another round of laughter from the shiny guys.  For heaven’s sake.  Of course for heaven’s sake.  And for earth’s sake too.  For your sake and for mine.  That’s why he’s not in that tomb.  That’s why he’s roaming the countryside looking for the bus back home.  

Then, Luke says, they gave their only word of instruction: Remember.   And they remembered.  They had to be reminded to remember.  Remember what he said?  Remember all those words?  All that instruction?  All that teaching, all that warning?  Remember, they said looking at the spices they had spilled all over the ground when they fell, all the preparation he was doing for you?  Then they remembered.  That’s what we’re doing when we gather week after week, Easter especially, we’re being reminded to remember.  All those words.  All that life.  Remember?

The funeral had taken place, the preparations continued.  There were people to notify, insurance companies to contact, death certificates to hand out.  The preparing never ends it seems.  But Don says to La Donna in passing, “If I were to go to Korea, what would I need to take with me?”  He wasn’t committing to go, just wondering.  Is there life after death?  The preparations continued.  And one day when La Donna and her dad were out delivering papers to proper authorities, he says, “maybe we should run over to Sears and get me some traveling clothes.”  So, she smiles and changes the route a little bit, squinting in the light of the sun that peeked out from behind the dark and dreary cloud.  She came back to Fort Wayne and we completed our preparations and then the five of us flew to a home we didn’t know across the sea.  And Don was pleased to see how green it was, how new, how alive.  Death, the death of a nation or of a land, had lost its sting, as up from the gravel pit of a grave arose a nation of beauty and innovation, of creativity and of faith.  What faith, churches of the tens of thousands worshiped the resurrected Lord.

Sometimes it is in the preparations that we come to grips with life.  Life in the midst of death, life after death and life before death.  The theology of Easter is so deep and rich and full, but one thing that it clearly proclaims is that death is not the end that we sometimes think it is.  And the preparations we made for one purpose might be needed for something else entirely.  

I don’t know what those spices the women prepared that first Easter morning all included.  But I suspect that the next person who came to the cemetery to look for a loved one caught a new scent, one that hinted of life in all its fullness. 


Saturday, March 19, 2016

All the World's a Stage

It’s the weekend where I get to pretend again.  One of my favorite things - pretending.  I was a theatre major in college, was a part of many plays and a few musicals.  I loved the performing, but also the preparation.  I loved learning the lines and thinking about the movement.  I loved setting the stage and even building the sets.  I loved the whole experience, to be honest.  I could have done it for the rest of my life, to be honest.  And in a way, I do.  And on this weekend I come the closest to those days.

Palm Sunday is the Sunday I don’t preach.  Or don’t preach in the usual way.  It’s all preaching for me, all proclamation, all exhortation.  Incidentally, one of my person goals is to redeem the word “preach” for our use once again.  I’ve read in the paper a lot recently about how being “preachy” is a bad thing, and we don’t want our leaders to “preach” to us.  All this negativity.  Preaching is what I do.  And, frankly, it is what you are supposed to do too.  We’re all about proclamation.  We’re all about exhortation.  About creating an experience, about changing hearts and minds, about opening windows in the soul so that the Holy Spirit can blow through and bring about transformation.  I’d love a leader who could preach in such a way that I begin to believe in possibility, to believe in greatness.  I don’t want to be shamed into making America great, to be bludgeoned into a blind patriotism, or cajoled into drawing lines and pointing fingers.  I’d rather be exhorted to a better dream, I’d rather hear a proclamation of a better hope.  Preach to me!  

Sorry, a little preachy there, I suppose.  A little soap boxy.  Anyway, this weekend I am not preparing a sermon but using the one Dr. Luke prepared some years ago.  I use Matthew’s sermon some years and Mark’s too.  Can’t use John’s, however, my head won’t hold all the words.  The Jesus of John’s Gospel was pretty talkative.  But this year it is Luke’s sermon that I intend to present.  So, today I learn my lines again.  Today I think about staging and about emotion, I think about impact and interpretation.

Yes, there is interpretation in the presentation.  There has to be.  I could, I suppose, read the words in a monotone, conveying nothing of significance other than the “pure word” of the text.  There are some who think that is the way scripture ought to be read.  Let the words do their work, they will argue.  Just cast the seed of the Word of God and it will take root and produce fruit.  You don’t need to do anything to them.

I disagree.  Words always have something done to them.  Words always come to us laden with emotion and interpretation.  Tone of voice is crucial to proclamation.  The context in which the words come to us make all the difference in the world.  The emotional context as well as the interpretive context.  How are we to hear this news?  How are we to appropriate this information?  Some of the words from scripture are simply conveying information, and for those a dispassionate delivery would be best.  But most of those words are trying to proclaim an experience.  And without that interpretive context we would miss much of what is going on in that text.  If we hear the story of the passion of Christ as mere information, even information for our good, then we miss the depth of what was done on our behalf.  We miss the power of the Christ event that is Holy Week.

But perhaps the best defense of a dramatic presentation of the story of Christ’s passion is that Jesus knew the power of a dramatic presentation.  That is what Palm Sunday was all about.

Luke 19:29-40 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' just say this, 'The Lord needs it.'" 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" 34 They said, "The Lord needs it." 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!" 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." 40 He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."

Jesus took to the stage in this story.  All along the way he had been holding them back.  His disciples were chomping at the bit to run with this story.  To let people know, to shout and sing and wave their arms around that the one they had been waiting for was here.  And he was better than we had hoped.  More real, more loving, more powerful and more caring than whatever they had dreamed up.  He was God with skin on, right in front of them, right among them and He knew them by name.  But Jesus kept saying, wait.  Not yet.  Keep it quiet.  Over and over He held them back.  Now is not the time He would patiently repeat to their misunderstanding faces.  Hush.  Sit down.  Wait.

But now, the waiting was done.  Who let the dogs out!  He did.  He let the dogs out.  And like the golden retriever pups that they were, they bounded all over the place with joy.  They threw off their cloaks.  Made a red carpet of many colors for the little donkey with the incarnate God on its back to stroll into town.  And they shouted.  They laughed and cheered and waved branches they ripped off the trees along the route.  I know, Luke doesn’t mention the palms, but the others do.  The Old Testament does.  

Jesus was acting out a scene from the Old Testament.  An enthronement scene.  A king riding the cheers of the adoring crowd right into the seat of power, the throne of authority.  A victory scene.  A conquering hero, a general back from the wars, still striped with the blood of vanquished foes, riding the relief of a saved society, finally feeling safe and secure, and wanting someone to bless, someone to thank.  Jesus took the role of the king, the role of the victor.  And changed the script a little bit.  Instead of war horse, it was an unridden donkey.  Instead of a well-drilled but war weary military force marching in step at his side, it was a rag-tag bunch of back country disciples, eyes goggling at the sight of the big city, jumping and dancing with joy as though their team made it to the final four.  Instead of the leaders of government and establishment, he was surrounded by the broken and the needy, the poor and the outcast, the lost and the forgotten.  He changed the script, rewrote the scene and then played it to the hilt.

It got so loud that those who stood outside the circle of drama, shook their heads and complained about the noise.  “Keep it down, will ya?  You’re making a spectacle of yourselves.  Calm down a little bit, for heaven’s sake!”  But Jesus just smiled and said “Now’s the time.  The time for shouting, the time for singing, the time to let the story be told, be felt, be lived.  You can’t stop it.  This story is bigger than you, bigger than your fears, bigger than your hesitations, bigger than your decorous behavior and proper manners.  This is a belly laugh in the midst of funeral.  This is a guffaw that breaks out during a reprimand.  This is a waving of palms in front of the wagging of fingers.  You can’t stop it.  Now’s the time.”

Now’s the time to act out the story.  So we can feel it.  So our hearts can soar and then break and then sing again when we thought the music had died.  So our hopes can rise to be dashed into pieces only to be puzzled back together again with joy.  So our eyes can smile and then weep and then shine again.  This is not just a head story, this is a full body story.  And you’re in it.  Come and take the stage with me.  You won’t be sorry.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Like a Dream

I was all set to send a quick note saying that I won’t be writing a Bible Study this week because I was not preaching this weekend.  Aldersgate’s Director of Music and Assistant Pastor Chuck Scott is preaching this Sunday and I’m looking forward to it.  He’s already shared some of his ideas and I know it will be a great sermon.  As usual, I worry about losing my job after the congregation hears someone else, but it was certainly time.  He will be filling in for me when I am out of town a couple of times over the next couple of months, so we thought it would be good if he were to preach while I’m here this time.

Anyway, I was enjoying a rare Saturday off, well sort of off, I did go to the men’s group this morning and enjoyed their company, and I’m also planning for the Confirmation class that will meet tomorrow night.  But compared to preparing to preach, it was a Saturday off.  Then the phone rang.  On the other end was a woman asking me to go visit her ex husband who was dying of cancer in one of our rehab facilities.  “We used to be good members of Aldersgate,” she told, but after the divorce they just drifted away.  They didn’t have a church and wondered if, for old times sake, I would go and visit him.  I said sure and got myself ready and went.

When I got to his room, the ex-wife was sitting there and was so grateful that I came.  But then she excused herself and left me to talk.  After some considerable time getting him adjusted in his bed to a little more comfortable position, we talked.  He is obviously not long for this world.  He had lost over sixty pounds in the past month or so, was basically a skin covered skeleton.  But we talked about the past couple of years, about how his ex wife was “a god-send” and helped him out because he had no one else.  We talked about how food didn’t taste good, about how basketball didn’t interest him anymore, about how the doctors decided he couldn’t take any more chemo and it wasn’t doing any good anyway.  We talked about the on again off again spring and whether he would manage to see the real thing come when it did.

He thanked me for coming in that way that indicates it’s time to go.  So, I asked if we could pray together.  He said that would be great.  So, I held the bones of his hand, the one not covered in bandages from where various IVs had torn his flesh to ribbons, and I prayed.  I prayed, as I usually do in these situations a prayer of thanksgiving.  Which seems odd, I know.  But I thanked God for care givers of various sorts, professional and otherwise, for a place to rest when that was possible and a to find a lessening of pain when it wasn’t.  I thanked God for life that is always in those divine hands, even when we forget.  And I prayed for a chance to return home, when the time was right, our true home, our eternal home, where our bones won’t hurt and the loneliness won’t overwhelm us.

See, here’s the thing, I would have come to visit and to give what small comfort I could have without the lever of being former members of the church I serve.  It’s what I do, and have done more times than I can count.  But my heart was breaking because here was one who had been a part but was allowed to slip away and now when he needed it most they felt like they had to beg.  I went out to talk to the ex wife who was so grateful I came there were tears in her eyes.  And she hesitantly asked, after a time whether we could be willing to hold the funeral when the time came.  Of course, I replied, but didn’t say, it’s what we do.  Then she said we were good members, very active  for a long time, involved in lots of things.  But after the divorce it didn’t feel like home any more.  It didn’t feel like there was a place for me, when it was just me.  I don’t know if you understand that.

There are lots of reasons why people leave the church.  Some, like her, don’t feel at home anymore.  Others don’t feel they need it, or they got angry at someone, or disappointed.  Their needs weren’t being met, that is a common explanation.  It didn’t feel like home.

The men’s group this morning, studying Red Letter Christians: What if Jesus really meant what he said, a dialogue between Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne, talked about the nature of family.  The authors point out that Jesus is kind of hard on the idea of family.  “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?”  You remember that bit?  There’s more, but I won’t trot it all out here.  I just found it ironic that in the early morning group of faithful men we could discuss family and cross the boundaries between the family with whom we share a name and the family with whom we share a faith quite easily.  See the value in both, allow both to define us and shape us.  And even talk about how we grow the family, how we invite and include.  And then this afternoon I met a couple who couldn’t make the shared name family work and because of that they lost their grip on their faith family too.

I wonder if there are those who have left their name family because they weren’t meeting their needs?  Probably, stranger things have happened because of it.  And I remember running away from home for most of a day because someone hurt my feelings or disappointed me.  And I know that families come apart for all sorts of reasons.  But maybe we’ve got the wrong end of this for both families.  Maybe it isn’t really about how I can get my needs met in either family, but rather about how I can pour out love on the other.  Maybe it is about what I can give.  And give.  And give.  Not counting, not measuring, not expecting a return on my investment.  Maybe how I live in my family - either and both - is training for how I will live in eternity.  By pouring myself out.  By loving with my whole being.  By giving anything and everything I have for those I love.  Not to be paid back, but to be given the change to surrender myself to something beyond myself.  And that something is bound up in the faces and bodies and, yes, needs of those I am learning to love.

Maybe those who leave the church because their needs aren’t being met are really right, in the end.  But the need they aren’t getting met is the need to give, to love, to surrender.  No one taught them how to do that.  No one showed them the joy of that.  No one was ready to receive that from them.  Maybe we should practice loving one another a little bit more.  Then everyone would know there is a place for them.  Then everyone would be at home no matter what their personal circumstance.  Because home is the place where we can love unconditionally.

So get ready Aldersgate.  Sometime soon, I believe, we’ll welcome someone home.  Someone who used to be home among us, but now is going home before us.  And we’ll celebrate a life some may remember, but that God remembers into eternity.  And we’ll continue to dream of being who we are called to be.

Psalm 126:1-6 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." 3 The LORD has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
            4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb. 5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. 6 Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.

Keep sowing the seeds of dreams.  Keep loving the family you find yourself in.  Keep opening the door and finding room.  


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Groaning All Day Long

In the never-ending list of things I wasn’t taught in seminary, I just got back from church where I was checking out a plumbing problem.  Checking out?  Looking at.  Standing there with hands on hips, saying yep that’s a problem.  Not that I solved anything, as if I could.  But I acknowledged it was an issue.  Drains backing up, water on the floor, yep, that’s a problem.  The door was blocked, don’t use these.  Head of trustees was called (He’s in Indianapolis at the moment), Custodian was called.  Block the doors, don’t use them.  We’ll call a plumber on Monday.  OK, did that.  

Did that.  Didn’t fix anything, Just went and looked.  Didn’t really help, wasn’t much good.  Didn’t get anything out of the trip. Except maybe a metaphor.  Backed up drains.  Spilling over, causing a problem.  Making a mess.  Just close the door.  That’s a good response.  Common one anyway.  Close the door.  You go to visit a neighbor, they show you around, but pass the closed door.  Don’t look in there, they say.  It’s a mess.  We’re used to mess, we’ve got our own closed doors.

Clogged plumbing, closed doors.  I’m not really talking about housekeeping.  You got that right?  Metaphor: a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.  Everyone needs a junk room, everyone gets clogged pipes now and again.  It happens.  But it is a mess.  Especially when the closed door is hiding unconfessed sin.  The pipes are clogged with attacks on the sovereignty of God.

Psalm 32:1-11 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah 6 Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. 7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah 8 I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. 9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you. 10 Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. 11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

I left the “Selah” in there, just for fun.  No reason really, just a bonus.  You’re welcome.  The truth is no one knows for sure what it means.  Well, some know, have decided, chosen, but Hebrew scholars will tell you that we aren’t sure.  It could be a word of praise.  It could be a musical interlude, like a bridge connecting different parts of the psalm.  A key change, maybe.  Or it could be a pause.  A breath.  

I like that one.  A breath.  A place for the Spirit to blow through.  A moment to sit back and remember that even reading scripture prayerfully is a dialogue.  It’s not just what we think of it, what we hear in it, it is what God is saying to us.  Listen.  Breathe.  Pause a moment before you leap in.  “Speak, Lord, your servant hears!”

It’s good to stop and breathe before you clean out the pipes.  It’s good to let the Spirit blow through before you open the door you want to keep closed.  Selah.  Let God in.  The psalmist says that before remembering to breathe, before asking for God’s Spirit to blow through, there was only the weight of the brokenness.  “While I kept silence.”  How long can you keep silence?  About the clog in the drain, or the clutter behind the door?  How long can you pretend that it isn’t that bad?  That it doesn’t drive a wedge between you and those you love?  How long can you go hiding from the breath of God because you’re too embarrassed to admit you’ve fouled the air around you.  

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”  The psalm doesn’t deal in metaphors.  No clogged drains and locked doors.  Transgression, sin, iniquity, deceit.  Whew.  Four different words for sin.  Not a lot of wiggle room there.  No place for equivocating.  Anything, seems to be the argument, anything that gets in the way of letting the breath of God blow through your life needs to be removed.  Needs to be lifted up.  The happiness sought cannot be found outside of the relationship with God, outside of full communion with the Spirit.  And thinking that there is nothing to confess, nothing for which to pray, nothing that you can’t handle on your own is to choose to live under the weight that crushes bones.  It is choosing to live in the desert, dry as a bone.  

Breathe.  And then open the door.  “When I acknowledged my sin to you and did not hide my iniquity: I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord, and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”  Four words for sin in there.  Did you notice?  Four words in verse two, and four in verse five.  I want to hand over everything.  Everything in my life, everything in my head, everything in my heart, every thing in my mouth.  

Sometimes I hear folks say ...  no, let’s be honest, sometimes I say, it’s not that bad, I don’t need to bother God with that. When I commit a real sin, a real bad one, then I’ll go to God.  I don’t want to waste God’s time on trivialities.  I know plenty of worse sinners than me.  But what if it wasn’t the degree of the act committed?  What if it was simply the clog?  No big deal, but still a clog.  We can live with that, can’t we? A small blockage.  It won’t hinder us that much.  It won’t slow us down.  

Until it does.  Knocks us to our knees.  The blood can’t rush through, we are dried up as though in the heat of summer.  The air can’t come through and we are groaning all night long trying to breathe.  Because we’ve neglected the arteries of our relationships, with God and with each other.  They’re the same, you know.  Jesus was asked for the single law, the one most important.  He gave two.  Love God, Love neighbor, they are woven together, he implied.  The pipes that connect us and God are the same arteries that connect you and me, all of us.  A clog between us gets in the way of the breath of God.  A sin before God keeps me from loving you the way I need to.  

Which is why, once the psalmist breathes again, there is a call to the community at large.  First the address is to God. Oh, that everyone knew what I’ve just remembered.  What I’ve just experienced.  All it takes, all it takes to be able to find a shady place in the heat of the burning sun, all it takes to find some dry ground when the waters of the world seem about to sweep you away, all it takes is a prayer to God.  A prayer.  A faithful prayer.  A prayer of release and confession.  A prayer of reconciliation and hope.  A prayer of healing, healing the broken relationships, the hurt feelings, the misunderstandings that drove us apart.  A gesture of community.

Don’t wait.  The psalmist turns to the community.  Don’t wait to be led around by the nose.  Don’t wait for someone else to take the first step, to make the first gesture.  You can live in the agony of brokenness and stubbornness if you want to.  But it is no way to live, no way to breathe.  You can pretend the pipes aren’t clogged and that sludge oozing across the floor is nothing to worry about.  You can stand alone in the certainty that you were right all along, while the water rises over your shoes.

Or you can live in joy.  Happy are those.  Isn’t that what we want?  To be happy?  Here’s the formula.  Heal the breech.  Clear the clog.  Open the door.  Say I’m sorry, even when you aren’t sure you’re wrong.  Say you’re sorry for being misunderstood, for being mule-headed, for letting the clog continue to build.  And when the relationships are restored, you can shout for joy.  You can laugh again.  You can breathe deeply at last.  

You can be happy.  Thanks to the Plumber.  Now, gotta make a sign for the doors.