Word of the Week

_93634580_gettyimages-631756268Holy God,

The hearts of so many Americans are breaking today.

A bully with undisciplined tongue--  a man who does not show regard for any who do not look or think exactly like him will be our new President. 


So, today, we'll try to go about our day as normal to give it less power and stay focused on what goodness we can bring to our corners of the world.

But regardless we'll sense what is going on because we're afraid.

We're afraid for the status of our immigrant neighbors as money might be spent building walls not longer tables.

We're afraid that the resurgence of the KKK has not been called out.

We're afraid for the rights of our LBGTQ friends.

We're afraid that the hard conversation about white privilege and racism that we need to be led in as a nation won't happen.

We're afraid for wars that might be started over middle of the night tweets.

Some of our fellow citizens criticize our grief saying:

We're sore losers for a national election with different results as we liked.

We're not simply going with the flow of what is and praying for the best.

We're inspiring fear with our fear.

We respectfully listen. But, we acknowledge where we are and stay the course. To remind ourselves that you, God are always on the side of the stranger, the refugee, and the downtrodden. We want to be where you are!

So, we can not close our eyes and pretend things said and done aren't happening.

Yet we know this: in our heartbroken state, God, you're asking us to move through our grief into action.

You're inviting us to be the change we want to see in the world. Black, brown, gay, straight, Jew, Muslim, and Christian together.

You're teaching us to speak up when false words are spoken.

You're telling us to stand up for the rights of our all neighbors when they're challenged.

You're saying, "Welcome, welcome, and welcome just as I have welcomed you!"

This is a hard path, God in times like this.

But we're committing to stay the course till we've overcome, no matter the cost.

No one is free, till we all are. This is the gospel.  We want to be bearers of good news for all people even those who are confused by our heartbreak today.


A Sermon Preached at Oaklands Presbyterian Church, Laurel, MD from Mark 6: 1-13

4th-of-JulySing with me if you know the words.

God bless America, My home, sweet home. God bless America. My home, sweet home.

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.  Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Such are words that we’ve heard a lot over the course of the weekend haven’t we? Especially if you drove down to the mall and braved the crowds of the fireworks show last night or even if you just watched fireworks from the comfort of your living room tv.

And if you’re anything like me, the words of these patriotic songs are stuck in my head with the re-play button going on and on. And in the case of these two that we just sung—“God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner” the lyrics go back to one word: home.

“My home sweet home . . . land of the free and home of the brave”

The 4th of July is the weekend when we celebrate what it means to make our home in the United States of America.

It’s a weekend that makes us want gather around the table with friends and family to mark what we call home in this world—these are my people, this is where I live. We celebrate our presumed security in this land. What can be better than gatherings of watermelon, friends and fireworks?

But it also is a day that can bring about loneliness— when your family doesn’t invite you home because you’re different than the rest OR because a military mission keeps your beloved in another country, OR when your hourly job requires you to work while everyone else plays.

And it’s also a day that reminds many of us that even if we claim a country as our “home” we can also feel as though we don’t belong here—when the United States government takes actions that do not support the wellbeing of those in our nation of origin.

SO, how interesting to read our gospel lesson this morning taken from Mark chapter 6—a chapter that tells us about Jesus’ experience of going home in context of all our thinking about HOME in the United States.

Jesus just completed a healing mission of a little girl, Jarius’ daughter and another woman who had not stopped bleeding for 12 years.

And with this, his fame grows throughout the land. People in Galilee are beginning to recognize that Jesus is truly something special—maybe even from God? With so many people approaching him and wanting to chat with him, he felt tired. He needed a break.

When you’re tired, what better place to go than home?

For home is a place where we can just exist, where we can not worry about being anything other than ourselves, and home as place where we can find rest for our souls.

Do you know a place like that in your life?

Author Maya Angelou once said: “The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” 

Jesus had that place. And it was called Nazareth.

He headed home and brought his disciples with him.

But as is the case with many of us, Jesus couldn’t go home and not do his thing too.

Often when my husband Kevin, a business savvy kind of guy goes home to visit his family in South Georgia, his arrival comes with a list of things his parents want him to do for them while he’s around. Things like looking at legal contracts or business plans or he helps his mother print pictures from their computer. Why? Because it’s what he’s good at and even at home, there are people around who need you to offer your best skills. We never completely rest, do we?

And the same was true for Jesus. In the town of Nazareth, his people knew that Jesus excelled at teaching. So first stop: synagogue.

Jesus taught. And of course he got rave reviews. Verse 2 of our text tells us that many who heard Jesus were “astounded.”

Almost too astounded because in the next breath, they started making those side comments like: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?”

AKA: How could this boy Jesus that we helped raised be so wise so soon? How could HE be the ONE appointed to teach us?

It’s as if you can feel the tension building as you read.

Oh, who does Jesus think he is? Oh, no he didn’t . . .

And by the end of verse 3, Mark says that the Nazareth worshippers officially took offense at homeboy Jesus.

They closed their ears.

Home, I guess was not really home after all for Jesus.

Jesus shuts down too saying his famous line, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.”

Or, in other words, home is not what it used to be for me.

Jesus could no longer be himself AND a beloved member of the Nazareth community.

With these closed hearts, the end of what could have been both a restful recovery for Jesus and a fresh experience of God for the hometown people ends abruptly. In such an environment Jesus could not perform any miracles.

It was a watershed event in his life that was capsized by the church ladies he’d grown up with no longer wanting to pinch his cheeks and say, “Good job, son.”

It’s an experience of life that many of us, like Jesus, know all to well.

As our beliefs and passions for the world change, home is no longer home.

At this juncture, Jesus was left the big question of: “What is home? Where was his home?”

And this my lead us to ask ourselves—where is home for us? Is it just about being a citizen or a resident in the USA or it about something greater?

Because if we say we’re followers of Jesus—meaning we are people seeking to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, then like Jesus, we too will struggle with the word “home.”

Maybe for us the land of our birth or the family of our birth won’t be the place where we are most accepted? Or the place where we need to be most accepted . . .

Maybe for us the natural answer to the word “home” won’t be what everyone else around us calls home. Or even what is most comfortable . . .

Maybe we too might be called out to embrace something greater.

If we keep reading, such is what Jesus modeled for his disciples beyond what we could imagine.

He picks himself up from what could have been a pity party, redefines home and helps his disciples do the same.

Scripture tells us that Jesus left and went among new villages to teach and preach.

Then, Jesus instructs his disciples how to do it too: sending them out in pairs of two. They would heal the sick; preach to the weary and live amongst people who would soon be called their new families.

And by the end of the disciples’ travels as they shared the good news of God’s love for all people, these folks would name the place of home differently too.

Their lives would be filled with the beauty of new people, new friendships and new brothers and sisters for all that lied ahead.

Might this be our gospel calling this week too?

For we also have the choice—the choice to stay home in the midst of the familiar OR to follow Jesus.

And if we follow Jesus, this might mean we’ll be in the rejection category when it comes to our family, our friends or even our nation.

BUT knowing that as we do our Lord waits for us there.

Over three years ago now, my husband Kevin said yes to a calling to become the President of an international relief and development organization called Feed the Children.

While it was an amazing professional opportunity for him, it was a big and scary move for both of us. For this job came with the assignment of leaving our beloved home in Northern VA, a church I enjoyed leading, and friends that felt like family to us in the Washington DC area.

We needed to turn our gaze toward Oklahoma City, OK, the organization’s headquarters.

IMG_7730My first reaction when I heard this would even be a possibility for was, “OKLAHOMA? No, way, we couldn’t move there?”

Visions of red state politics and cowboys and people who had no appreciation for diversity came to mind.

And then when it became the final word as much as I wanted to be supportive of my husband and his work, it felt like great hardship to me to find something nice to say about the state that I would soon have an address in.

As we settled in, it seemed to get worse and worse. I couldn’t find a job. Denominational leaders told me that I would never work in the state simply because I was a woman. Folks wrote me off as “too East Coast” or “too liberal” before we knew each other. I frequently told my husband, why? Why did we come to this place?

But then something happened. I made new friends. An opportunity found me to begin to serve a church outside of the city. I met people who didn’t call me crazy—or maybe just their kind of crazy. And strangely the word, “home” started coming to my lips.

In a place I’d once scorned and begged to leave, I found home.

And I even shed tears (actually lots of tears) when my husband’s contract with this organization ended in May meant we would be moving back.

And then, last weekend, I shocked all of my DC friends, willingly going back to Oklahoma to visit without anyone paying me to do so. And people said to me, “Welcome home.” And I LOVED every minute of it.

Life, you see, as we follow Jesus is all about surprises.

It’s about re-defining home.

It’s about getting used to the pilgrimage way—a way where we aren’t bound by the values of the country where we live or the county where we were born.

It’s about seeing the beloved community of Christ in places all over the world that our Lord wants us to know.

Or simply put, to answer the question, “What is home?” we must see the world from God’s point of view, not an American point of view or the town we grew up in point of view.

A point of view that gives us connection to people beyond those biologically related to us.

A point of view that evaluates the laws of the land over what it means to love both God and neighbor.

A point of view that most of all protects, champions and cares for the strangers among us.

For we’re Christian’s aren’t we?

Especially in times like these when racist, sexist and phobic remarks are said around us almost every day—it’s good to remember that we’re followers of another way other than the red, white and blue way. Our country of origin never gave us salvation and never will.

For, we’re followers of Jesus whose love and reign well extends beyond the boarders of this land called America. And its our calling to show it.

So my friends, what is home for you?

Like Jesus, we’re all on the move!

Thanks be to God for the gift of "home" in places we didn't expect.