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Treasure in a Clay Jar

Treasure in a Clay Jar

“… we have this treasure in a clay jar, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” 2 Cor. 4:7

 The Reverend Luther Zeigler

Pentecost 2B – June 3, 2018

Let me begin with a story: A few months back, I awoke early in the morning, as I usually do, got dressed, and ambled down the stairs. I am always, without fail, accompanied in this morning ritual by our little Labradoodle, Rosie, who is also an early riser, and insists that her walk is our first order of business. Indeed, Rosie is so enthusiastic about her morning walk that I have to exercise great care in descending our steep and narrow staircase because I know she will be barreling down the stairs right behind me. Once we’ve safely navigated the stairs, the next step in the ritual is for me to put her leash and harness on, and then reach over to the drawer of the side table in our foyer where the poop bags are kept to pull out a couple of bags before we head outside.

The trouble is that on this particular day, I was either too rushed or less nimble than usual, or both. Because when I reached over to open the drawer, it somehow got stuck. Thinking I just needed to pull a little harder, I instead ended up pulling too hard, with the effect that the side table starting teetering forward, which in turn, caused the lovely ceramic bowl Pat had placed on the table to go crashing to the floor, shattering, irreparably, into dozens of pieces.

That would have been bad enough, but what made matters worse was that this bowl wasn’t just any bowl; it was one of the very few presents we still had from our wedding some 38 years ago. It’s not that the bowl was especially beautiful or expensive. It is, rather, that the bowl held so many memories for us. Memories of the wedding itself, and of the friend who gave us the gift. Memories of the different cupboards, and sideboards, and tables where the bowl lived, in the various rooms in the various homes we have made over these last four decades. Memories of the apples and oranges the bowl held sitting on our kitchen counter; of the salads it served at dozens and dozens of dinner parties; of the whipped potatoes it offered at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals; of the time we used the bowl, in a pinch, as a water dish for the dog; memories, too, of children’s hands grabbing Halloween candy from its generous hollow.

It’s odd how such an ordinary thing as a clay bowl can carry such meaning.

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Eastertide Vespers to Feature the Music of Faure and Pergolesi

In addition to prayers, readings from Scripture, congregational hymns, and a short homily, our Vespers service will feature musical interludes as guest musicians John Baumer-Petre (baritone) and Christopher Petre-Baumer (flute) join our resident organist, Priscilla Walter, in offering selections from Faure and Pergolesi, among other pieces. Please join us, and bring friends! Sunday, May 6, at 5:30 p.m.

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Suffering Love

Suffering Love

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Matthew 16:24

The Reverend Luther Zeigler

September 3, 2017 – Pentecost 13A

Jesus is angry. It doesn’t happen often in the gospels, but when it does we should pay attention. Today is one of those days. Jesus’ anger this morning is directed at Peter, who just last week, you will remember, emerged as a leader among the disciples: Peter, the rock, upon whom Jesus hoped to build the Church, the disciple who boldly identified Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

Ah, but Peter’s fall from grace is swift and dramatic. It turns out that Jesus is a rather different Messiah than Peter expects. When Jesus today explains for the first time to his followers that his destiny is not worldly fame and power, but instead sacrifice, Peter is dumbfounded. He goes so far as to rebuke Jesus, insisting that suffering cannot possibly be Jesus’ future. Peter has bigger and better plans for Jesus.

It must have been impossibly hard for the disciples to hear, really hear, that the Cross would be Jesus’ fate. Suffering and death are not things than any of us want to hear – for Jesus, for those we love, or for ourselves.

Surely, Peter must have wondered, if this man is God’s son – if he can heal the sick, feed the hungry, make the blind see and the deaf hear – then certainly he can do better than yielding to arrest and torture and death. I can hear his thought process now, ‘I’ve given up my livelihood, and left my family and friends to follow this teacher. This isn’t how the story is supposed to go. This is not what I want in a savior.’

But we shouldn’t be too hard on Peter for wanting a different outcome. For the truth is that the human heart longs for heroes: heroes who are strong, heroes who are winners.

The Yale theologian, Nicholas Wolterstorff, puts it this way: “When you and I are left to our own devices, it’s the smiling, successful ones of the world that we cheer. ‘Hail to the victors.’ The histories we write of the odyssey of humanity on earth are the stories of the exulting ones—the nations that win in battle, the businesses that defeat their competition, the explorers who find a pass to the Pacific, the scientists whose theories prove correct, the athletes who come in first, the politicians who win their campaigns.”

We love winners. But Jesus asks something different from us. He asks us to turn our eyes toward suffering. And not just his suffering on the Cross. Jesus is asking us to turn toward the world’s wounds, for Jesus is in fact the lens through which God wants us to see all humanity. Like us, Peter and his friends would rather not look into the world’s pain. Like us, they would rather think about their own dreams for a safe and secure future, apart from the world’s needs.

But repeatedly throughout the gospels, Jesus tells us that it is those who struggle, not the victors, who deserve our attention. Jesus turns everything on its head. All our notions about “success” turn out to be wrong. To be like God is not to win at all costs, but to lose for the sake of others. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

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