6/23/2018 0 Comments
So You Wish to See Jesus
Sermon delivered at the UU Christian Fellowship's Communion Service
by Rev. Robin Bartlett
at the Kansas City Convention Center, Kansas City, MO
June 23, 2018
The problem with having faith is, most of us humans need to see to believe.
“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” That’s what a group of Greeks say to Philip in our scripture from John’s Gospel today, having traveled to the festival for worship. That’s what a group of Gentiles we wouldn’t expect to see participating in a Jewish festival say to Phillip. “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Perhaps they needed to see to believe.
The desire to see Jesus, it turns out, is a rather lucrative business. In March of 2017, a man in Windham, Maine discovered the image of Jesus in his buttered toast. He preserved the toast in the freezer and put it on eBay with the starting bid of $25,000.
As far as eBay auctions go, this theme is played out. Sellers have auctioned off "miraculous" images of religious figures like Jesus and the Virgin Mary embedded in everything from toast to a fish stick. A woman named Diane Duyser sold her 10 year old grilled cheese sandwich that bore the image of the Virgin Mary for $28,000 on eBay.
Duyser said she took a bite after making the sandwich 10 years ago and saw a face staring back at her. She put the sandwich in a clear plastic box with cotton balls and kept it on her night stand. She said the sandwich "has never sprouted a spore of mold."
The marketplace responded by making “Grilled Cheesus”, a sandwich maker that toasts the image of Jesus into your sandwich.
One of my congregants gifted me recently with a Jesus stamp for my own toast which was so sweet of her. (“What to give to the pastor who has everything?”)
We long to see Jesus. We long to taste and see that the Lord is good.
According to a new study published in the journal Cortex, this phenomenon of seeing religious figures in our food is “perfectly normal” because of a phenomenon called “face pareidolia, the illusory perception of non-existent faces.” We have a tendency to see faces that aren’t there because of the way our brain functions. Our religious beliefs strongly correlate with what we see in the ordinary things like grilled cheese sandwiches. (Read more here.)
It turns out our brains are pre-programmed with the longing to experience what is ultimate in the form of another human face.
We long to see Jesus.
And it makes sense that some of us see Jesus in our food. We are hungry. We are starving on the steady diet consumer culture feeds us: more and bigger; new and IMPROVED, flashy and fast-paced. And so we buy and buy, and spend and spend, but we are never satiated. We are hungry for something more than the thin gruel of empty consumerism, TV and movies, shopping and home improvement, politics and cliched inspirational memes shared on instagram.
We long to see Jesus. To experience God in the form of another human face. We experience the world through our bodies, so we want to EXPERIENCE God with all five senses. We desire to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch God.
That’s why we gather around this table. To touch and smell the bread of life, to taste the cup of salvation, to hear the word of Love. Most of all, we gather to see the people of God: all ages, races, classes, abilities, sexualities, gender expressions: all a part of the Body of Christ, all gathered at the same scandalous meal TOGETHER.
We long to have a sensual experience of our God.
I think the disciples are surprised at Jesus’ response when they come to tell him that the Greeks would like to see him. Instead of saying, “oh hey, yeah, bring ‘em on over,” Jesus gives a speech instead, his last sermon. And his sermon points only to the cross. He says, “the hour has come for me to die. If you want to see me, look no further than the cross where I will be raised up out of the ground. I will draw all people to myself.”
The last line of the scripture is “then he departed and hid from them, so that he could no longer be seen.” They wished to see Jesus, and he points to the cross on the way to his hiding spot.
What a disappointing response. When I wish to see God, I picture in my mind’s eye sunsets over Star Island, or my babies’ tiny munchable toes when they were newborn, or the yearning look on my congregation’s faces when I offer them the bread of life and the cup of salvation gathered around a table like this one.
Jesus doesn’t point to beautiful things like that, though. Jesus says if you wish to see him, you should look no further than the cross lifted from the earth. And then he hides.
In the Roman empire--crucifixion was a warning. Usually only slaves and bandits were crucified. Crucifixion was “a public service message” to other oppressed peoples. It was a body hanging on a cross: a gruesome sign that said "Don't do this, or you'll be next.”
When you wish to see Jesus, look to the children separated from their parents in detention at the border; to the families held indefinitely in detention as they await asylum hearings not sure if they will see each other again. The administration says that they are using this separation as a punishment and a deterrent, so that families will see these images of children separated from their parents and think twice about coming to the border. This is a crucifixion. Don’t do this or you will be next.
Jesus is locked in those cages, in the shelter for children of tender ages, crying for his mother’s milk. Jesus is begging to see his sisters and brothers, calling for his Papi.
When you wish to see Jesus, look to the black and brown folks murdered by police on our city streets. That is Jesus lying in a pool of blood, saying “I can’t breathe.” Say his name.
When you wish to see Jesus, look to the Muslim women getting their hijab pulled off and the swastikas painted on the doors of the synagogue and the gender non-conforming folks confronted in bathrooms.
When you are looking for God when God is hidden, look to the cross.
But when you are looking for Jesus, don’t forget the rising. Don’t forget that our God deals life from death.
Don’t forget to look for the signs of resurrection and proclaim them. Find the rubble, the death, the ugliest things. And then look for little signs of redemption. Look to the helpers, as Fred Rogers says. Find the grass piercing the concrete.
I just went to see my dear friend Geno Carr in his Broadway musical debut a couple of weeks ago, in Come From Away. Have you seen it? “Come From Away” is the remarkable true story of a small town that welcomed the whole world. Gander, New Foundland is a town about the size of my small town in Sterling, Massachusetts—9,000 people— where 38 planes were diverted on September 11, 2001 when the United States closed its airspace for the first time in history.
The people of Gander saved the whole world that day. The size of the population of the town nearly doubled when the planes landed. 7,000 confused, angry, terrified “plane people” from all over the world— were put up in people’s homes and schools and community centers. Stores in the town stripped their shelves to bring the “plane people” toiletries, diapers, sanitary products for women, and snacks.
The citizens of Gander made three meals a day for the plane people for four days, gave them air mattresses and hand-me-down clothing and showers, tried to communicate in languages not their own, kept the animals stowed in the bottom of the planes alive including a pregnant Bonobo, got the passengers phones so that they could desperately call home, comforted the bereaved and terrified once the plane people realized what was happening back in the United States, distracted them with jokes, sang karaoke and danced with them in the town bar, found places for Jews and Muslims and Christians to pray together, found translators for the multiple languages spoken, and generally just opened their homes and hearts to strangers from all over the world. One of the cast members said, the show “is not about the sadness of September 11th, it’s about the goodness that came out of it.”
This was my favorite scene: a frightened man from Africa on a bus with his wife in rural Newfoundland, being taken to who-knows-where from a plane that landed far from its destination. They come to a camp full of people from Gander in Salvation Army uniforms, which looks to the frightened man simply like a sea of soldiers in the darkness.
The bus driver stops, and motions for the passengers to get off the bus. The frightened man doesn’t move. He does not understand the bus driver’s language. He does not trust him. The bus driver thinks quick, and points to the Bible that the man’s wife is clutching. She hands it to him nervously. The bus driver doesn’t know the language the Bible is written in, but he figures the chapters and verses are the same. He flips to Philippians and points at chapter 4, verse 6. “Be anxious for nothing,” it says. Now they speak the same language. Pentecost. Relieved, the frightened man gets off the bus.
Like the people of Gander on September 11th, if we wish to see God, sometimes we need to look to the cross, and then be the rising.
Maybe our rising won’t look as dramatic as rolling away the stone and seeing grave cloths where a body once was. Maybe it doesn’t look as dramatic as saving the whole world on September 11th. Sometimes resurrection comes slowly.
The rising may look like having coffee with a political opponent and listening for understanding instead of for your next argument. The rising may just look like getting out of bed despite a broken heart and doing what needs to be done for the children. It may just look like one more day of not drinking, or one more hour digging our nails into our palm to keep from losing it. It may look like shopping for a pretty head scarf to cover our bald head even though we are weak and tired from chemo. It may look like going on that first awkward OK Cupid date after the divorce papers are filed. It may look like continuing to take the anti-depressants, hoping some day they’ll kick in. It may look like showing up in public every once in awhile even though we don’t want to; even though we are still mourning all that we have lost. It may simply be stopping to notice that a broken heart can go on beating.
If we want others to see God when God is most hidden: we are going to have to get up out of our tombs of despair, anger, self-doubt, self-hate, illness, fear, addiction, death, mourning, sin, separation, loneliness and isolation, broken relationships, and depression…
We are going to have to get up out of our graves,
Roll away the stone and be the rising!
God still has more to do with us, so be the rising.
Our current predicaments don’t exempt us from our purpose, so be the rising.
A broken heart still beats, so be the rising.
We are not alone, so be the rising.
This country is a HOT MESS right now so please be the rising!
The people united in God’s love can never be defeated, so be the rising.
We can do hard things, so be the rising!
Hell is here on this earth, and every last person deserves to be pulled out of it, so reach out your hand and be the rising!
Heaven is here on this earth too, so don’t just sit there waiting for it to manifest itself, be the rising!
The power of Love will overcome the love of power, so be the rising!
Beloved, if you wish to see Jesus, look to the cross. Especially when God seems most hidden, proclaim the resurrection. There is no time but now, and no people but us, and no way forward without turning toward each other. Be the rising! Amen.
6/10/2018 0 Comments
Don't Gaslight Jesus
A Sermon by Rev. Robin Bartlett
preached on Sunday, June 10, 2018
at First Church in Sterling, MA
Sermons are better seen.
Following Jesus means being maladjusted to the world as it is.
I struggled with what to say today to all of you. I ditched my sermon topic, in fact. I know that celebrity deaths are not the focus of the Church, but I also know this week has been triggering for many of us.
For those of us who have lost loved ones to suicide, the death of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain brings it all back. For those of us who struggle with depression and have been on the brink ourselves, the death of high profile celebrities can make it all seem so much more real and possible.
If you are feeling particularly thrown this week because that’s you—I just want you to know that I’m here. My cell number is 617-717-4011. Write that down. I have cards in the back of the church on the way out the door.
If you are not someone who has depression right now and you know someone is suffering, CALL THEM. Do not hesitate.
Your life matters. To me, to God. To many. To this beautiful and broken world.
I found a chilling quote from Anthony Bourdain yesterday that said, “I have the best job in the world. If I’m unhappy, it’s a failure of imagination.”
That sounds like a trap to me. If I’m unhappy, it’s because I failed. Well, that’s a lie. If Satan, the accuser, sits on your shoulder and whispers that in your ear often, CAST THAT DEMON OUT.
We know that depression is not simply unhappiness. It’s not “fixed” by a good job, or the right relationship, or a great family, or world travel or lots of money. It’s a hole that some people occasionally can’t climb their way out of. It is like quicksand.
Depression certainly isn’t helped by the people who come along and tell you to put a smile on your face. It’s not fixed by others pointing out all the things that you should be happy about. And worse, shaming yourself for failing to be appreciative of what you have is even more poisonous and punishing.
Suicide is not a failure on an individual’s part. But sometimes it is the result of a collective failure.
While our violent crime and murder rates have dropped to all time lows, our suicide rates in the United States have risen sharply, by at least 30% since 1999. So much that it has been declared a public health crisis. As a country, we are becoming more of a danger to ourselves than others.
We have a crisis of meaning on our hands.
The majority of Americans live in suburbs dominated by garages, and not front porches. We socialize mostly from behind a screen. We are so fearful of each other that we don’t let our kids go outside to play with the neighbors.
There was an article in USA Today by Kirsten Powers yesterday called “Americans are depressed and suicidal because of our culture.” She says: We are convinced of the false premise that “If only we get that big raise, or new house or have children we will finally be happy. But we won’t. In fact…….in many ways achieving all your goals provides the opposite of fulfillment: it lays bare the truth that there is nothing you can purchase, possess or achieve that will make you feel fulfilled over the long term.
Rather than pathologizing the despair and emotional suffering that is a rational response to a culture that values people based on ever escalating financial and personal achievements, we should acknowledge that something is very wrong. We should stop telling people who yearn for a deeper meaning in life that they have an illness or need therapy. Instead, we need to help people craft lives that are more meaningful and built on a firmer foundation than personal success.”
Man, that preached to me yesterday. I struggle with depression, and no amount of personal achievement has made it go away.
We call it a mental illness, but depression seems to me to be a completely rational response to just being alive in a brutal world. We’ve pathologized depression as if those of us who have it are somehow maladjusted.
Well, we should be maladjusted.
We should be maladjusted to a world in which people are starving, for food and for meaning.
We should be maladjusted to a world in which traumatized children are taken from their asylum-seeking parents as young as four and put in cages in warehouse detention centers, terrified and alone.
We should be maladjusted to a world where women are sexually harassed and assaulted, who die every day at the hands of partners.
We should be maladjusted to a world where mass shootings are a daily occurrence.
We should be maladjusted to a world in which black and brown bodies and lives are laid waste—where God imaged people are continually treated as though their lives don’t matter.
We should be maladjusted to the truth that the future of human life on our warming planet is uncertain.
We should be maladjusted to our profound disconnection from each other.
Don’t let people gaslight you into distrusting your own sanity because you feel awash in despair over the world as it is now.
Our reading from Mark today features the powerful religious leaders of his time attempting to gaslight Jesus.
We’re only in the third chapter of Mark now so Jesus’ ministry is only just beginning. And people are beginning to question whether Jesus is unhinged. First of all, his preaching is getting more urgent, and he increasingly seems a little manic to the gathered crowd.
And second, he isn’t fitting in to social norms and expectations. Sure, he’s healing people and casting out demons, and that’s great. But he’s been performing these miracles on the Sabbath. He’s breaking laws, and that feels dangerous to those who have been coming to see him.
The crowd begins to wonder about him.
“He’s gone out of his mind,” the people start to say. Even his own family tries to silence him. They run to the scene to restrain him.
The crowds aren’t the only ones who are worried about this Jesus. What he’s doing has implications for the world as it is becoming more like the world as it should be. People in power know that it is dangerous when the hopeless start hoping; when the people pushed to the margins start to believe their lives matter. People get uppity when they are given the gift of dignity and worth.
So the religious leaders figure they should use their skills, and their knowledge of the law to undermine Jesus’ ministry before it gets out of hand. In this scene, they call in the “big guns” to do it. They call in the scribes—the highly trusted biblical scholars.
The scribes deliver their verdict: Jesus is possessed by Satan. “As a ruler of demons he casts out demons!” They say.
Jesus refuses to be gaslit. “That doesn’t make any sense,” he says. “How can Satan cast out Satan? A house divided against itself cannot stand."
It is not demonic to be maladjusted to empire.
It is not demonic to be maladjusted to suffering.
It is not demonic to provide hope and healing to the hopeless.
It is not demonic to tell people that their lives matter.
It is not demonic to be maladjusted to false piety.
It is not demonic to be maladjusted to profound disconnection from each other.
It is not demonic to be maladjusted to the way things are in a world ruled by Satan’s power.
Satan’s end has come, and our job is to prepare for God’s coming reign. The Love Revolution is coming. Jesus might sound crazy to others when he proclaims this, and you may, too, but better to be a fool for Love than an agent of empire’s evil.
Well, we’re saying amen now.
But if Jesus came back today as a street preacher, we would probably all think he was nuts. And if he got too out of hand, we would likely lock him up in a facility rather than listen to a word he said. Since this country is not apt to pay for mental health treatment anymore, he’d likely end up dying in a for-profit jail rather than in a state-run psychiatric ward.
Westboro Baptist Church will almost certainly picket Jesus’ funeral.
Because Jesus is maladjusted to false teachings about who is in and who is out of God’s circle of kinship. Jesus proclaims a holy covenant between God and ALL people. His family is all who do the will of God, he says.
The coming reign of God will be defined by this sort of offensive inclusivity, where all are inextricably connected, where all are treated as beloved by God, where all have purpose, where all are connected, and no one is alone.
A house divided cannot stand.
My UCC colleague Rev. Kelle J. Brown writes:
"This is a call to radical community, where we are so connected to each other, we will journey with each other through every circumstance. This is the moment that we must admit individualism, violence and disconnection is the author of much of our suicidal ideations. We are called to love people for who they are as long and as best we can, while understanding that every person has a universe of thought to which we may not be privy.
If we want to produce an atmosphere where suicide is reduced, then do justice. Love mercy. Create safe and courageous spaces. Love people. Stop oppressing. Cease warring. Resist selfishness. Live as though Black lives matter. Support the unhoused, the ostracized. Honor people's pain without one-ups-personship, or undoing their story to fit a more comforting frame. Accept and honor your children when they come out. Stop overworking people for pennies. Apologize when you are wrong, and do better. Heal from your racism, sexism, classism, and do no harm. Be held accountable. Listen with curiosity. Stop "ghosting" people, walking out of folk's lives without explanation. Your children, your spouse, your friends are still wondering why you left without a word, and if you are well. Trust and believe in people. Balance competition with cooperation. Love the ones God sends to you, instead of discarding them like trash.”
Fight the despair that comes from disconnection with radical connection. Love the ones God sends to you. Be maladjusted to empire, and oriented toward Jesus’ family values instead. Those values say that all children are our children. All people are our people.
You can save lives. All you have to do is answer the call, and show up. Our salvation is completely bound up in one another’s.
I love you. God loves you. Your life matters. We like having you around. So stay put.
A sermon preached on Sunday, June 3, 2018
by Rev. Robin Bartlett
at First Church in Sterling, MA
Sermons are better seen.
Jesus’ unpopularity cost him his life.
I don’t know about you all, but I have wasted so much of my energy trying to be popular so as not to be destroyed. In elementary school, I got picked last for teams in gym because I was terrible at sports, so I tried softball. In middle school, I tried my hardest just to blend in by getting the right Benetton polo shirt and wearing it every day. In high school, I tried to pretend that my not being popular was on purpose. I was too cool to be popular.
My mom told me that this desire to be popular would go away when I left high school, but she was wrong. Life is like one big middle school cafeteria. There is pressure to have the “right” friends, the “right clothes”, the “right” job, the “right” kids.
And leadership involves forever balancing the need to do what is right with the overwhelming desire to be liked. It may one day be the death of me, to be honest. When you try to make everyone happy, ain’t no one happy.
Today we honor our high school seniors who are about to be blessedly freed from the social expectations of high school in the coming week. I wrote you a letter to impart my last pieces of wisdom to you.
Dear Sam, Sofie, Sophia, Caitlin, David, Brian and Emily,
You are about to graduate from high school, and you are all slated to venture on to new places in the coming months. Famous for being particularly hard on Sunday School teachers in your childhood because of your special kind of exuberance, you have made this church yours’. Your steadfast presence here has been felt and known, many of you for your entire lives on this earth. Some of you have barely missed a Sunday since I met you. You have served on leadership teams and taught our Sunday School classes and lived our mission out in the world in La Romana and Saturday lunches and Worcester Fellowship and Christian Youth Conference, and marches for justice and more. A large piece of our congregation’s heart and soul goes with you as you leave.
The psalm we read this morning is my favorite, psalm 139. It is the psalm of the inescapable God. The “he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake” God. Instead of a creepy surveillance system, I see this song of praise as a constant reminder that we cannot flee from God’s love.
And this is especially true as you prepare to say goodbye to an old life, and embark on a new one:
Your path is set before you, and Love’s promise never leaves you.
We tried our human best to teach you about this inescapable Love, and so this morning, we are simply praying that your roots hold you close, even as we pray that your wings set you free.
On your confirmation day two years ago, you promised to do some things that you probably now forget. I want to remind you of these promises today.
Seeking the truth in freedom starts by telling the truth about who you are.
We live in what various social commentators refer to as a “selfie culture.” By which they mean a culture that promotes a widespread obsession with self-expression, self-esteem, and self-promotion, evidenced by the proliferation of self-portraits on social media. Don’t let your elders try to suggest that this is a product of your generation that you are responsible for, or that you are uniquely narcissistic and self-promoting. First of all, its not true, and second of all, they are on social media just as much as you are.
Social media is giving us the perfect virtual vehicle to create a false self; to curate perfect lives for the titillation and jealousy of our so-called friends and followers. But make no mistake, this cultivated image of perfection is no different from the manicured lawns and white picket fences that hid the truth of violence and addiction and depression and ugly racism and misogyny that went on behind the closed doors of suburban white families’ homes of the 1950s.
We have always tried to hide who we are.
Our projected images and protected selves are not new, but they continue to make us lonelier and more disconnected from each other and God.
Because we desire to be loved for all of who we are, not just for the carefully curated images we see fit for public consumption. God searches and knows us, even the ugly parts of us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Be brave enough to tell the truth about who you are, and seek the truth about others. Even the darkness is not dark to God. Bring what you hide into the light. It gives other people around you permission to do the same. Your relationships will be far richer for it.
2. The second promise you made was to walk in the spirit of Jesus. In other words, be unpopular.
Walking in the spirit of Jesus is not easy. Jesus made people angry. He broke all the rules, and surrounded himself with all the wrong people. Jesus moved into the neighborhood and embraced the losers. Jesus welcomed the alien; the immigrant; the brown; the black; the refugee; the stranger; the leper; the outcast. Jesus embraced the poor. Jesus healed the sick, touched the untouchables, set the captives free. Jesus showed us with his flesh how to treat each stranger as a piece of ourselves we do not yet know.
Don’t strive to be a good Christian, strive to be a follower of Jesus. Be agents of God’s love and Justice, not agents of social expectations. It takes no special bravery to be a polite church-going Christian in this Christian-centric culture, but walking in the spirit of Jesus means risking it all.
3. The third promise you made was to grow in your faith. In other words, be unpopular.
Joining a spiritual community is not cool. Join one anyway. Some of you may think church, if you’re being honest, is a little boring, or irrelevant. You are wrong. Places like this save lives and mend hearts. So find a place like it. Not because your parents want you to. Find a place like this wherever you go for the sake of your own survival. And not the survival of your mortal soul. Please. A God that would send you to some firey pit to suffer because you don’t worship the right way is no God I would worship.
Find a church like this one because there are very few places that will move you to awe despite your anger, confusion and depression over the state of the world and God's seeming refusal to fix it. Find a church because of the people who show up. These will be the people you can count on to show you what God’s face looks like. These will be the people who will show up with casseroles and cards and macabre humor when you need reminders that you will survive because they did, too. They will wipe your tears. They will celebrate your marriage and your babies. They will be there when there’s an illness or an addiction or a divorce and a death. They will offer forgiveness. They will keep you alive.
4. You promised to witness to the needed work in the world. In other words, be unpopular.
Look around you. This world is a hot, hot mess. The needed work is healing. You have a part in that. Sometimes the world’s healing will require your discomfort. It might even involve breaking the law.
In our scripture reading from today, Jesus breaks the law. He offers bread to those who aren’t supposed to eat it because people are hungry. He heals a man even though the law says not to because the man is dying. He witnesses in anger the hardened hearts of those in authority. “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” They are silent.
Your job is to be loud when others are silent.
Too often we are told that baby Jesus, meek and mild, is the one we should worship, instead of Rabbi Jesus, rebellious and righteous. Choose the latter.
The retired soccer star Abby Wambach said in a graduation speech at Barnard College last month:
Like all little girls, I was taught to be grateful. I was taught to keep my head down, stay on the path, and get my job done. I was (freaking) Little Red Riding Hood.
You know the fairy tale: It’s just one iteration of the warning stories girls are told the world over. Little Red Riding Hood heads off through the woods and is given strict instructions: Stay on the path. Don’t talk to anybody. Keep your head down hidden underneath your Handmaid’s Tale cape.
And she does… at first. But then she dares to get a little curious and she ventures off the path. That’s of course when she encounters the Big Bad Wolf and all hell breaks loose. The message is clear: Don’t be curious, don’t make trouble, don’t say too much or BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN.
I stayed on the path out of fear, not of being eaten by a wolf, but of being cut, being benched, losing my paycheck.
If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing it would be this:
“Abby, you were never Little Red Riding Hood; you were always the wolf.”
…. I decided that the most important thing for me to say to you is this:
……WE. ARE. THE. WOLVES.
In 1995, wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone National Park after being absent for seventy years.
In those years, the number of deer had skyrocketed because they were unchallenged, alone at the top of the food chain. They grazed away and reduced the vegetation, so much that the river banks were eroding.
Once the wolves arrived, they thinned out the deer through hunting. But more significantly, their presence changed the behavior of the deer. Wisely, the deer started avoiding the valleys, and the vegetation in those places regenerated. Trees quintupled in just six years. Birds and beavers started moving in. The river dams the beavers built provided habitats for otters and ducks and fish. The animal ecosystem regenerated. But that wasn’t all. The rivers actually changed as well. The plant regeneration stabilized the river banks so they stopped collapsing. The rivers steadied—all because of the wolves’ presence.
See what happened here?
The wolves, who were feared as a threat to the system, turned out to be its salvation.
My beloved First Church youth: Be the wolves. Threaten the system, and you will be its salvation. You cannot escape from the power of Love no matter what you do or say, so be unpopular on God’s behalf. Risk telling the truth about who you are so you can uncover the truth about others. Don’t settle for being a “good Christian”…follow The Way of Jesus instead. Go to church, not because it’s expected of you, but because it will save your life. Do not let the hardness of other people’s hearts harden your’s. Break the rules, stretch out your hands and heal.
You can help save the whole world.
Finally, some people say you can never come home again. That’s a lie. Your home is always here in this place. I love you. God loves you. God loves everyone else, too. If you need a reminder of these truths, you can always come home again.
Rev. Robin Bartlett is the Senior Pastor at the First Church in Sterling, Massachusetts. www.fcsterling.org