Day1 Weekly Radio Broadcast - Day1 Feeds
Summary: Each week the Day1 program, hosted by Peter Wallace, presents an inspiring message from one of America's most compelling preachers representing the mainline Protestant churches. The interview segments inform you about the speaker and the sermon Scripture text, and share ways you can respond to the message personally in your faith and life.
I came across a column that David Brooks wrote earlier this year. It went viral, and in the opening paragraph he explains his reason for writing it. He says: "Four years ago, in the midst of the Obama presidency, I published a book called The Road to Character. American culture seemed to be in decent shape and my focus was on how individuals can deepen their inner lives. This week, in the midst of the Trump presidency, I've got another book, The Second Mountain. It's become clear in the interim that things are not in good shape, that our problems are societal. The whole country is going through some sort of spiritual and emotional crisis. College mental health facilities are swamped, suicide rates are spiking, the president's repulsive behavior is tolerated or even celebrated by tens of millions of Americans. At the root of it all is the following problem: We've created a culture based on lies." In the piece, Brooks identifies the five biggest lies our culture tells, the ones he sees at the heart of our culture's shared spiritual sickness. He lists them: 1. Career success is fulfilling; 2. I can make myself happy; 3. Life is an individual journey; 4. You have to find your own truth, and 5. Rich and successful people are worth more than poorer and less successful people.
Let's all be very clear: this parable is weird. Although the parable begins with a pretty good hook and seems to go in a predictable direction, the story skews off pretty quickly, leaving us all a little confused. At first, this parable is off-putting, apparently contradictory, and in the end, does not seem like the kind of parable that would be a favorite for most of us. Let's start at the beginning: Jesus says that there is a rich man who had a manager who squandered his wealth. It's a good hook, so I'm in. The rich man summons the manager and tells him that he will soon fire him for being so bad at his job, but the manager doesn't just mope away like a victim. Instead, he begins to devise a plan that will allow him to get a good job once he's actually fired. The plot thickens! At this point in the story, I'm thinking that this manager is trying to be a little too clever, a little too shrewd, and he's simply going to dig himself into a deeper hole. I know this manager; I have been this manager. I totally sympathize with his position. I have definitely been in situations where I haven't done something well, and when I realize I haven't done something well, instead of simply admitting to it, I try to work myself out of the jam. And instead of saving myself, most often I end up putting myself in a worse position than before. I hate to be wrong and I hate to make mistakes, and so, I understand where this poor manager is coming from and what he's attempting to do to save himself.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of leading a pilgrimage to the holy lands of Israel and Jordan. In honesty, I have never been someone who hankered to step where Jesus and Moses and Abraham stood. I was curious, but not burning with desire. As the time approached for our pilgrim bad to leave, I noticed that my curiosity was quickly turning to anxiety. I wondered how on earth I would be able to capture the incredible significance of these places and peoples. I wasn't sure if I was worried about myself not appearing quite as knowledgeable as others might have thought me to be, or worried about the people I was leading, that they would not have the kind of deep spiritual experiences that they'd been hoping for. Not usually being an anxious person, I was anxious about being anxious and so decided to make a call to a fellow Episcopal priest in Tennessee, whom I knew had led several pilgrimages to Israel before. His counsel was simple and effective, "Don't sweat it too much," he said. "The land will speak for itself. Just help them stand upon it." And so, I did. It was a beautiful two weeks of inward and outward journeying. We made our pilgrimage from one ancient place of significance to another, weaving our way in and out of history and theology as we went. Some of us found Jesus. Others found a land, layered thick with communities and civilizations, old and new. All of us found each other as our feet were planted in a broad land as the Psalmist says, and we were changed.
In Tony Kushner's script and Steven Spielberg's movie, Lincoln, Congressional Representative Thaddeus Stevens, played by Tommy Lee Jones, was part of a concerted radical strategy to get the Thirteenth Amendment passed and thus abolish slavery in the United States in 1865. The radicals of the day were afraid of losing moderate votes, so they strategized to avoid inflammatory questions about complete racial equality (namely the full-enfranchisement of voting rights for African-Americans). To secure those much needed moderate and conservative voters, they withheld that position from the public discussion. With the poetic license of the movie's author and director, they key moment from the Congressional Record was captured on film. Stevens is challenged on the floor of the House of Representatives to answer the accusation of Representative George Pendleton. Pendleton claims that supporters of the Thirteenth Amendment actually believe in equality of African-Americans, slaves and free, in all things, including voting. Stevens responds with sarcastic vigor and thunders at his accuser, "Even you, Mr. Pendleton, deserve quality under the law." And then he turns to the entire House, "Therefore, again, and again, and again I say, 'I do not hold in equality in all things, only equality under the law.'" The House erupts with cheers and jeers. But the betrayal of the compromise was clear. It fell short of equality. Disciples of Jesus in all denominations cheer and jeer as well, when friends and allies stop short of full inclusion and fall short of justice for queer persons, their families, congregations, and pastors. My denomination, The United Methodist Church, is fighting about whether LGBTQ+ people should have full rights, responsibilities and respect in our congregations. As long as homosexuality is defined in our United Methodist Church law as incompatible with Christian teaching, elected church representatives will concoct demeaning definitions of same-gender loving people, establish harmful, unjust policies, and develop practices of enforcement to sustain them. There is no equality as long as it remains.
The past eight months I have been planning the trickiest, most time-consuming event I will probably ever plan: my wedding. By the end of this month, I will get to marry the love of my life. However, I do not know if I am looking forward more to marrying him or being done with wedding planning. When we first got engaged back in January, my mom gifted me a couple of things to help with the process. The first gift was a binder to hold all of the contracts, the second gift a notebook to keep track of to-dos and thank you notes, and the last gift was a wedding etiquette manual by Emily Post. As much as I have appreciated and used each of these gifts, the last is as useful as it is stress-inducing. Emily Post's legacy is answering any question that you might ever have, and some you would never have thought of, with regards to etiquette. Her manual has taught me the proper way to address inner and outer envelopes, choose flowers and write thank you notes. Every time we came across a dilemma or were unsure of the traditions, Emily was there to answer my questions. While we have not always followed her guidance, it has been reassuring to have this manual to fall back on. So when I read today's scripture, I could not help but look over at my Emily Post manual sitting on the table. Jesus' instructions to these Pharisees feel reminiscent of chapter 16: Planning Your Reception. On the surface, Jesus gives the Pharisees instructions on how to conduct themselves at a dinner party as well as who should be on the guest list. His guidance comes in the form of what not to do. Do not sit in the seat of highest honor. Do not invite the guests who will be able to return the invitation. Jesus is a killjoy of a dinner guest. Yet, for his plain language instructions, Jesus is actually teaching an important lesson.
One of my earliest, most vivid memories is from a church gathering when I was very young. I was toddling through the sea of legs in the fellowship hall, looking for my father, who was the pastor. But, because I was very small, I was looking at people's shoes. I immediately ruled out the women in heels and pantyhose. But then I was left with a sea of men's trousers and almost identically nondescript pantlegs. Finally, I found the set of legs I had been looking for and grabbed onto my father, holding on for dear life, overwhelmed by the crowds pressing around us. Until I looked up, only to see a stranger smiling down at me. I had grabbed the wrong legs! I was terrified. And right when I was about to begin to cry, my father came forward. He had seen me in the crowd. And he knelt down and picked me up. My tears melted away as my father found me and held me close. The woman in our Scripture for this today also knew what it felt like to view the world from the knees down. Whether it began as a physical ailment or not, the woman's condition soon took on a spiritual component as she was bent further in on herself from year to year by what Scripture calls a spirit of infirmity. Over time, the woman became accustomed to her shuttered view of the ground. People began speaking to each other across her back. And she could feel herself begin to fade into the background. No one looked her in the eye anymore or stooped down to speak to her face to face.
Don't live in a smaller world than God has given to you. Forces in our life strive to shrink our world and our hopes. We are enticed by distraction that shrinks our focus on deeper values. We are lured into conventional thinking that withers our imagination for living in God's world. The sermon of this unknown writer, that has come to us as The Letter to the Hebrews, is concerned about how we go deeper with God and how we are transformed in Christ. The preacher here does not want us to live in a smaller world than God has given to us. There is a full-throated attempt in these verses to remind us of those in the past who have lived faithfully and deeply in God's larger world and to guide us to a faithful, deep, imaginative tomorrow. For Hebrews, the path from today to tomorrow is lined with a Cloud of Witnesses - remembering their own struggles as they recognize our faith challenges and reminding us of the promises of God in Jesus Christ. As Tom Long observes on this text, "When we see the disciplined, loving, strong, merciful and faithful way that Jesus ran the race, we are motivated to lace up our running shoes, to grasp the baton, and to sprint to the finish line." [i] Jesus is our guide to God's tomorrow. Our Cloud of Witnesses ran their race, followed Jesus to the end, and now bears witness to the power of God. They line our journey showing us what faith lived out looks like. They are the ones shouting encouragement to us to not live in a smaller world than God has given to us.
Warren Buffet tells the story about a man who was on an important business trip in Europe when his sister called to tell him that their dad had died. Her brother couldn't get back but said to spare nothing on the funeral, whose cost he would cover. When he returned, his sister told him that the service had been beautiful and presented him bills totaling $8,000. He paid up, but a month later received a bill from the mortuary for $10. He paid that, too - and still another $10 charge the month following. When a third $10 invoice was sent to him the next month, the perplexed man called his sister to ask what was going on. "Oh," she replied, "I forgot to tell you. We buried Dad in a rented suit."[i] We live in a time where short-term thinking so often is being substituted for long-term vision. But the writer of Hebrews names the source of life-giving vision. "Faith," the writer says, ". . . is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Faith carries us into deep places in our lives - in joy and hardship. Hebrews describes faith that keeps us looking up and looking out. This faith is about what we are journeying toward, not what we have left behind; this faith is rooted in the assurance that we do not create - or maintain - the world in which we live. That is accomplished by the word of God; this faith moves us toward a way of living where we have to leave behind the life we have known to receive the world God has created. Strangers. Foreigners. A people journeying toward the world God has created, not backward to the world left behind.
According to my Facebook Timeline, I preached on this lectionary text from Colossians 3 exactly two years ago today. Actually, my Facebook Timeline reminded me that two former youth, Will and Becca, exchanged marriage vows, two years ago today. Will and Becca chose this passage from Paul about putting on Christ for their wedding service. Well, they didn't choose the part about fornication. And they didn't choose this text - just choose this text - they also chose a reading from the Song of Songs, an erotic love poem from the Old Testament that makes 50 Shades of Grey sound like a Cary Grant and Doris Day movie. It's probably for the best that the lectionary today only gives us one of those passages I preached for Will and Becca. I'd known them since Will was 8 and Becca was 7. And so, I wanted to do a good job with their wedding. I wanted to make sure I preached clearly this passage from Colossians 3 that they'd chosen and that through it I said something not only helpful but true. So, I started by asking them a question, a Colossians 3 sort of question, the question begged by every bridal magazine, rom-com, and wedding ceremony. I asked them this question: "If love is a feeling, how in the world can you promise to love someone forever? If love is a feeling, how can two people promise that to each other forever?" Of all the things in our lives, our feelings are the part of us we have the least control over. You can't promise to feel a certain feeling every day for the rest of your life. If love is a feeling, then it's no wonder the odds are better than even it won't last. Two years ago today, I'm not sure Will and Becca heard that as good news.
Today's passage begins the heart of the apostle Paul's argument in his letter to the Colossians, and it's a passage that begs an obvious and inescapable question. Not - "Why are there so few praise songs about circumcision?" That's not the question. It's this one: "If you're already forgiven, they why bother following?" If you're already forgiven by Christ of every sin you've done, every sin you're sinning this very instant in your little head, every sin you will commit next week or next year - if you're already and for always forgiven by Christ, then why would you bother following him? If you've no reason to fear fire and brimstone, then what reason do you have to follow? Because you don't, you know, have any reason to fear. Fear God or fear for your salvation. That's the lie, the empty deceit, the false teaching, Paul admonishes the Colossians against in verse 8 where Paul warns them against any practices or philosophy that lure them into forgetting that Christ is Lord and in Christ God has defeated the power of Sin - with a capital S - and cancelled out the stain of all your "little s" sins. You are forgiven. You have no reason to fear. Because the whole reality of God (without remainder) dwells in Christ Jesus and, by your baptism, you've been incorporated into Christ fully and so you are fully restored to God. You have fullness with God through Christ in whom God fully dwells.
On a warm July day, a Methodist pastor sat down for dinner in the apartment of two Coptic Christians. The pastor's name was Harley, and his hosts were Youssef and Sofia. They were a husband and wife who operated a jewelry store in the town of Occoquan, Virginia. As they sat down, Youssef offered a prayer. "Be with us, Lord Jesus, as you were with your first followers in the breaking of the bread. Bless this food to our use and ourselves to your service. Amen." Sofia passed Harley a plate of lentils and rice with tomato sauce. She followed with stuffed grape leaves. "This food is delicious," said Harley. "Thank you very much. It all seems very healthy." "Food is important to us," Sofia said. "Think of the many times that Jesus sat down to eat with people - even tax collectors and sinners. Christian hospitality is very important to Youssef and to me." "I do appreciate it," Harley added. "Think of how much better the world would be if people actually sat down and ate with each other." Over the course of the meal, their conversation turned to news of an Islamic State attack, an attack on a group of Coptic Christians in Egypt, where Youssef and Sofia had grown up. A suicide bomber had attacked a cathedral, killing more than two dozen worshippers, including a 10-year-old girl. "It was horrible," Sofia said, shaking her head. "The worst attack on Copts in years." "How did the Copts respond?" asked Harley.
One of the joys of my ministry is that I am in a church that has a parish school on the same campus. Which means that I get to participate in the school's outdoor education program. Basically, I get to go camping a few weeks a year with middle school students. My favorite trip of the year is one that takes us to the deserts of southwest Texas. It is beautiful country but it is a challenging trip, not just for me, but for the seventh-grade students who are going to carry a backpack into the desert for three days and two nights. They carry their own camping supplies, and they have to partner with the adults in carrying their share of food, and the water, and the shelter for the whole group. It is, quite literally, a heavy load for a young person to carry. We spend a day and a night at base camp, and then, on the morning when we are about to walk into the desert, we have each student and each adult unpack everything in the backpack, just to see what all is there. The surprising moments are not when a student decides not to bring something. Water bottles are heavy, and rain gear seems unnecessary even in the desert. What is always surprising is the things that students choose to bring and what they are willing to leave behind in order to bring it. Bundled cold weather gear and a soccer ball are the same size, but in the dessert at night in January, cold weather gear is far more important. And even though it is the same size as a flashlight, you can't bring a hair straightener on a camping trip.
Jesus wants to speak to his friends about the harvest. "The harvest is great," he says. He's talking about connecting with people. Sharing purpose with people. Gathering people. Some call this church growth, but it is so, so much more. More like joining God in God's purpose. More like helping people become themselves. Jesus talks about the harvest while he's harvesting. His mind and his behind are in line on this matter - which is the very definition of peace, of course. His time in the temple, sends him out to the city. His work in the world sharpens his teaching. He advances the Good News of God one blessing, one healing at a time. He's talking about harvest because he sees the world through the eyes of compassion. He sees that people are harassed, helpless, and ready to faint. Lots of sheep, very few shepherds. And because Jesus was in time but beyond time - our brother with a unique, divine consciousness - his seeing penetrates down into our now. We are just as harassed, helpless, and ready to faint as the crowds of his day. Harassed by gun violence. Helpless in the face of celebrity endorsed xenophobia and ready to faint because of the 24-hour, always breaking news of political partisan division. Jesus sees the crowds now. All sheep, no shepherd. So, Jesus turns his seeing into saying. He says to his co-worker friends, "Harvest is plentiful." Harvest is how Jesus describes the world. Not wicked. Not broken. Not destitute. Harvest is what he said. Harvest points to innumerable opportunities. A word that speaks of abundance. A word that implies the very fact that God has already done the planting and the watering. Now, there is one thing to do - gather, harvest.
Today, if I told you that many of us suffer from a traumatic disease that is eating away at us daily, would you believe me? This disease, however, is gaining traction by infecting many in our world today. Right now, this disease is eating at the hearts and the minds, the brains, and even the limbs of our friends, our families, significant others, and if we are courageous enough to reflect and to admit, it can be found in many of us today. This tragic disease is a mixture of selective amnesia mixed with the worshipping of circumstantial knowledge which ultimately leads to circumstantial faith. The disease, you see, of circumstantial faith is defined as faith in God based on favorable life circumstances. Individually, you decide when your faith takes root, and when your faith can be uprooted. When life is good, God is good. When life is bad all we notice is the circumstance, the challenge, or the chaos. Is it possible for us to admit that our circumstantial faith is placing a lid on our potential, and ultimately our relationship with God? Could it be that for us to thrive professionally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically God is asking for our faith to take root, rather than to uproot and flow in the wind pending the different circumstances life presents? Each day God is holding a graduation for those who desire to graduate from circumstantial faith to a state of intentional faithfulness. My friends, to be intentional, it literally means to live on purpose. We are intentional about making money, going to work, seeking friendships, and even relationships, but how many of us can actually declare that we are intentional in our relationship with God? The book of 1 Kings is all about the intentional moves of Solomon. Solomon's reign as king and as he begins to gain popularity, he takes his eyes off God, and begins to live a double life. This double life produces two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. God however was concerned about these kingdoms' faithfulness as he is with us, so much that he sent truthtellers to go and proclaim that they needed to stop living any kind of way and to graduate to intentionally becoming faithful to God. Yet, my friends, in 2 Kings Elijah is one of these truthtellers and has yet a mentee by the name of Elisha. And it's in this mentor-mentee relationship that we find a roadmap that, if we decide to intentionally travel, our faith will graduate from circumstantial faith to that of intentional faithfulness.
I don't care if you are Al Roker or Willard Scott, no one can honestly estimate the wrath of a storm. We can't control them or stop them. How does the Psalm go? Though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam... (Psalm 46). Well, it seems like Jesus was having one of those days. We find Jesus on the shore after crossing the gliding waters of the Sea of Galilee where Jews caught fish and Jesus caught disciples. But as you know, this trip with his fearful disciples was not smooth sailing. And come to find out, the raging sea wasn't the only storm Jesus commanded that day. Hear what happens when Jesus lands on the east side, the Gentile side of the lake, in the Gospel of Luke 8:26-27. Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time, he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me." - for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.