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A House of Prayer for All Peoples

A House of Prayer for All Peoples

“. . .my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Isaiah 56:7

 The Reverend Luther Zeigler

August 20, 2017 – 11A Pentecost

Later this morning, we will welcome Bishop Gayle Harris to dedicate and bless this new entrance to our church, literally opening a new door into our future. Many, many people have contributed to this important project, and we will have an opportunity in the coming weeks to give our thanks to them in appropriate ways. But today I want to spend a little time reflecting on the theological significance of what we are doing.

On the surface, this new entrance may seem to be merely an accommodation to our friends who have trouble walking, who are wheel-chair bound, or who use a walker. And yes, our hope is that this new entrance will meet those important needs. But this new door is much more than that. When our bishop blesses the entrance, the words she will use are these:

“Sanctify, O Lord, this entrance to be an enduring expression of your extravagant welcome and hospitality to us, and to all persons who seek a deeper relationship with you, and bless this community as it seeks, with your help, to break down all barriers that separate us one from the other; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

What happens in this Church every Sunday, you see, is that Christ welcomes us into the heart of God. It doesn’t matter who we are, what we’ve done or not done, where we’re from, how much money we make, what color we are, none of that matters to Christ. Christ welcomes everyone to hear his good news, to be transformed by it, and to be fed at His table.

But a responsibility comes with this welcome. And that is that we share it, we reflect it, we embody it for the rest of the world. And that is what we are doing by opening the doors of our church even wider than they already are. As Christ welcomes us, we are welcoming too.

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Pushing through fear

Pushing through fear

“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

The Reverend Luther Zeigler

August 13, 2017 – 10A Pentecost

Our granddaughter, Emerson Ann, came into the world this past Wednesday evening. She is healthy, beautiful, and doing well, as is our daughter, Kate, and her husband, Hunter. For all these things, we give God thanks and praise. Pat and I are now blessed with two grandchildren, with yet another one on the way in December, God willing, and we intend to do our best to spoil them all.

As human experiences go, the birth of a child is about as close as we come to both the beauty and the power of the divine, and it elicits an equally wide range of emotions: there is great hope but also anxiety; there is great joy but also pain; there is great courage but also fear.

It’s much easier for the grandparents, of course, sitting on the sidelines, but even so, I was struck by how anxious I was just waiting for reports from the labor room of how things were going. And as I waited, I couldn’t but help re-live in my own mind the experience of watching Emerson’s mom, Kate, come into the world some thirty years ago.

I remember standing there in the delivery room of Stanford University Medical Center, awkwardly dressed in the unfamiliar green gown and mask of the maternity ward. I crouch behind one of the nurses, desperate to get as clear a view as I can of this amazing moment, but also fearful of getting too close to such an awesome sight. I know that I am on holy ground, simultaneously attracted to the sheer mystery of life bursting forth into the world while also afraid of its power. With one hand, I reach out to Pat, as she struggles in the painful throes of childbirth, wanting to comfort her; but truth be told, I am hanging on to dear life as much as she is. And then, with that last great push, a little body emerges into view. Like all fathers, I find myself counting fingers and toes, arms and legs, making sure everything is there and in its place, waiting for that first, noisy squeal of assurance that another life has begun, and that all is well.

To witness the birth of a child is miracle enough, but to know that she is your own makes this moment unlike anything else. Suddenly, as a parent, you feel an overwhelming desire to do anything for this new life, to nourish her, to share with her all the joy and beauty that is in this world, but also to protect her from life’s many dangers.

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Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou My Vision

“And while Jesus was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” Luke 9:29

 The Rev. Luther Zeigler

The Feast of the Transfiguration – August 6, 2017

It begins innocently enough. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to a mountainside for a quiet moment of prayer. But then, like a Salvador Dali painting, the mundane contours of just another day with Jesus explode into a scene of spectacular surrealism. His dingy cloak suddenly become whiter than the whitest snow. The familiar features of his face have a new radiance. Glory is the only word Luke can think of to describe it.

But it must have been the appearance of Moses and Elijah out of thin air that really sent the disciples’ heads spinning. They can only overhear bits and pieces of the conversation, something about Jerusalem, death, destiny, departure. The disciples don’t fully grasp what they are witnessing, but they know enough to want to cling to Jesus and his friends, to capture this divine interruption into their dreary lives by making homes for them.

But no, that’s not the plan. The intimacy of this strange conversation among three prophetic figures is ominously overshadowed by darkening skies, and then from nowhere comes the Voice. The Voice that sets Jesus apart from the others, singling him out, not merely as another prophet, but as ‘Son,’ the ‘Chosen One.’ But the Voice has something more to say: ‘listen to him!’ And then, just like that, it’s over.

Let’s confess our bewilderment. We moderns don’t know what to do with this text. Does this purport to be a literal account of an historical event? Is it the report of a dream or a vision? Or is this merely a poetic and imagined interlude in Luke’s gospel designed to teach us some theological truths about who Jesus is?

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