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Dear friends,

As important as gathering is for the practice and
strengthening of our faith, the risk to everyone’s health and the need for the public good outweigh the benefits of physically sharing space.  Right now we are called to put our own
interests aside and be the Body of Christ for each other and for the world.  That’s theological speak for “Let’s do our part to slow the spread of the virus by not interacting in person
and breathing on each other.” 


As with many, many other congregations, we will not be
holding worship at Laurel Presbyterian Church.  Session will continue to discern how best to move through this period, coming up with innovative ways to provide worship, nurture and pastoral care.  See our facebook page for weekly worship services.

Let us all watch for how God is working through us and this time.




NO: Worship: Sundays at 10:30am
NO: Sunday School at 9am for all ages

Each of us is on a unique spiritual journey.
Here, through study and prayer, worship and service,
we discover more fully who God intends for us to be,
in Christ.

Please check out the LPC Indoor Worship COVID Safety Guidelines On the COVID Response Menu above!

We are worshipping safely at home with 

worship videos posted to our facebook page.  

(See link below, 

or go to our Facebook page link 

at the bottom of this page.)

Worship for October 18, 2020


Sermon:I Thessalonians 1:1-10

October 18, 2020



I’m finding myself drawn more and more to the Apostle Paul’s letters, which would completely appall my younger self.  I have compassion for that younger self who really did not like Paul, that younger self who would be shocked at the comfort I find there today.  Study after study shows how we always underestimate how much we will change, and we are changed, from our experiences, our relationships, and our current contexts, as we age.  We are never “set,” never “done,” as much as we think we are.

When I was younger, in spite of having seen and experienced some people doing some really awful horrible things, I still insisted John Calvin’s doctrine of the total depravity of human beings had to be wrong.  Lately, I’ve been thinking maybe he’s on to something.  Looking back, I realized my younger self underestimated the powerful control fear and anxiety had in our lives, and how that could infect entire institutions.  I underestimated how people in power could succumb to their fear and anxiety, and how our very human fear and anxiety could infect every part of human life.  And I overestimated our ability to resist the lure of paths pretending to save us and keep us safe.   


Nelson Mandela says, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears,” and over the years – And over the years especially as I’ve learned and paid attention to the amygdala in our brain’s amazing sensitivity to threat – I’ve come to appreciate just how hard it is to do what Nelson Mandela suggests.  Right now, we’re living in a world dominated by fear and anxiety – Which are natural responses to such an uncertain future, natural responses to a world infected by covid-19, natural responses when our security and way of life seem to be threatened.

So I’m turning more and more to Paul’s letters to his dear churches – because they too were living in a context of fear and anxiety.  They too were subject to powerful people making decisions in an effort to combat and soothe their own fears and anxieties.  Paul wrote intimate loving letters to remind the people who they were, who God is, and the power of the saving love of Christ in their lives.  We need such reminders, especially today.

This is the first letter Paul ever wrote, that we know of – 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection – to a people he loved dearly – A people suffering, a people being persecuted, a people who were trying so hard to hold onto Jesus’ view of the world, where the God of love ruled supreme.  The God of love. 

What world are you living in these days?  A world where we long for our leaders to set everyone right?  To subdue the voices of people who  threaten us?  A world where we are under threat, surrounded by enemies who are always at the read to take us down? 

Or a world suffused with God’s love?  A world constantly called to the way of love, of peace, of grace?  A world where even when you can’t see it,  you still trust the power of God’s love? 

Paul intentionally opens his letter with those words:  “Grace to you and peace.”  Because he is challenging Rome and Caesar’s motto of “peace and security.”  Paul is offering them a more true, more faithful, more eternal worldview,   He knows:  The way they see the world will affect how they understand their place in it, and their role in it.  What they believe about God at work in the world and in their hearts will affect how they see the world.  Friend?  Or foe?  Enemy?  Or ally?  God’s good creation?  Or self-centered human nature just waiting to take us out?

Every single day we have a choice, and the choice is so so stark right now:  Are you living in a world where you must be ready to protect you and yours from outside threat?  Or are you living in a world where every single person is made in the image of God, and therefore, whether you like them or not, is your brother or sister in Christ? 

Every day, every hour:  what world are you living in?  Do you recognize you must choose?  Especially when everyone is shouting insistently and loudly and shrilly that we must be afraid – we must be very, very afraid. 

Presbyterian theologian Douglas Ottati just published a 770 page book called “Theology for the 21st century.”  Had I known how many pages it was, I might never have bought it!  But his first chapter makes theology – That is, what we say the relationship between God, humans, and creation – so very concrete and every-day.  He uses his relationship with his adolescent children.  Do you believe your children are gifts from God, but don’t belong to you?  Do you take seriously what science has to say about human development?  Specifically, and paradoxically, how teens need more sleep at the exact same time their biological sleep cycles are shifting?

Or, do you believe children are responsibilities from God, and it is your work to produce obedient children, for God will judge you on how well they turn out?    If we start with God’s love, informed by scientific research, then we see our children one way.  But if we start with a demanding judging god then when our teens are awake late into the night and asleep late into the day, we see self-centered and slothful and lazy depravity that god expects us to change.

Who is – Which is - your God?  What does your God expect of you?  How does your God define faithfulness?  It matters.  And it especially matters today, when the air we breathe is so filled with fear.  Do we remember who we are, why we are here, what God hopes for us?  Even in the midst of this suffering and persecution?

Paul doesn’t gloss over how hard this will be – how hard this is – to continue to believe in the God of love in the face of scary and uncertain and threatening times – He talks about the WORK of faith, the LABOR of love and the STEADFASTNESS of hope – On the surface these may seem like nice throw-away words –

But dig in and sit with them for a bit:  This – our faith – living faithfuylly - is going to take WORK.  And “labor,” that is:  The kind of toiling that wears us out.  Are you worn out yet?  Tired?  Done?  Weary?  Of trying to be faithful in this particular context, in this particular season?  Are you sick and tired of the news?  Covid restrictions? Not seeing your family?  Not gathering inside for church?  Looking ahead to holidays that will be unlike any other holidays you might have ever imagined?  How about politics and news – Had enough of that?   The election?  Racism?  Climate change? 

Well, get ready, because the third and final word Paul uses is “steadfast” as in “stay steadfast in hope.”  Which means, endurance.  Like the saying, this is a marathon, not a sprint – Remember way way back ages and ages ago when we thought pandemic life was a sprint?  When we would be sheltering in place for 2 weeks?  Maybe 4 at the most? 

The Thessalonians and Paul were hoping this would be a short time until Jesus returned and all was set right.  That was 20 years after Christ’s resurrection.  Here we are 2000 – TWO THOUSAND – years later, and we realize, we can’t just sit around and wait – Wait for

November 3rd?  I seriously doubt much will be clear before we go to bed that night.  Then, maybe, when the election is settled?  When the president in inaugurated?  The vaccine is developed?  Distributed?  When enough people get the vaccine for us to feel safe?  When life goes back to how it was in the olden days – “olden day normal?”

Our stewardship theme is “In uncertain times, certain of God’s call.”  And we talked about it at Session this week – Are we – are you – certain of God’s call to you right now?

This is what Gene Eplee and Jerry Pelch had to say:


(in uncertain times, I’m certain that we will figure out how to make do.)

Which means Gene trusts that God is at work in us and through us, helping us and guiding us as we figure out how to move through each day.

Which means Jerry trusts that God gives us what we need – the strength, faith, endurance, hope – to accomplish what needs to be done right now – We have, through God’s grace, what we need, to continue to be the church today, here, now – and for all the tomorrows to come. 

And that gives us confidence to continue to trust in God’s love as opposed to giving in to the world’s fear -

The forces of this world will continue to insist this is such a frightening time, we must be scared of each other, scared of those who vote differently, carry a different citizenship, a different skin tone, follow a different creed.  For “they” are all out to get us, and “they” outnumber us.

The problem facing us today is how to live a faithful life in Christ, how to live in and through the love God has for every person and every creature.  There’s nothing new or different about that question – It’s the same one Paul is addressing with the Thessalonians – But it is also true that every single context is unique, that there never has been a year exactly like this one, 2020, in the history of humanity. 

How do we live the love of Christ in this day – in this day in the world, in our lives – Over and over I hear people say we’ve never been here before – Exactly.  It’s a brand new time to experience and made decisions that come from our deepest beliefs about God.  And so let us be gentle with ourselves as we recognize our very human default when we are facing something new that scares us – Because in those circumstances, if we don’t think about it, our decisions come from the deepest parts of our brain – Where lives the knee-jerk desperate longing to feel safe and secure – Luring us to trust in idols.  As opposed to the deepest parts of our heart – Where our decisions come from a place of trusting in the good grace of God’s saving love for all creation.  And the way to be faithful is to immerse ourselves in God’s love – found in creation, found in each other, found in the faces of even those we might be hating right now.  Fill up on God’s love, not on the world’s hate, so you can share it over the long haul, even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard.  For that is God’s call in these uncertain times.


Worship for Oct 11, 2020:





(Worship video and sermon for Oct 4, 2020 were written before we knew of President Trump and so many USA government representatives and employees' positive COVID tests.  

Our prayers are with all in this country, and around the world, who are struggling to recover from COVID.)

Worship for October 4, 2020


Sermon for October 4, 2020 

Matthew 21:33-46

Well, I for one have no idea what to say about this parable – It’s a real doozy:  Jesus is telling this parable specifically to the chief priests and scribes and Pharisees – This parable is for the Temple Leadership.  At this point, Jesus has entered Jerusalem on a donkey, to cheers and excitement and hope, then tossed a few tables around the Temple in fury and frustration, cursed a fig tree for not producing fruit out of season, and then goes back to the Temple, where he is questioned by the Temple Leadership.  Understandable, wouldn’t you say?  What would you do if someone rode a donkey into the LPC parking lot, and entered the sanctuary, and started throwing chairs around? 

So Jesus tells this story:  About an absent, clueless landowner, and angry, violent, murderous tenants.   No one is looking too good here – The landowner keeps sending people to be killed – Does it not occur to him that this plan isn’t working?  That maybe he himself should go check on what’s going on with the tenants?  That this is completely irrational?  To do the same thing over and over and expect different results?

And the tenants – What’s up with them?  Why are they so angry?   They keep killing anyone who comes to collect the landowner’s share, and they even kill the landowner’s son thinking “Now we’ll get the land!” which is ludicrous, patently wrong.  They are completely irrational as well.  They are not living in the land of reality.

And for awhile this week I thought that the message of this parable was just how bad things can get when we don’t communicate; when we don’t listen to one another; when we make assumptions about each other and our motivations.  Because we human beings are so good at being irrational – We don’t communicate; we do the same thing over and over and expect a different result; we let go of reality in favor lies we want to believe.  We make assumptions about other people, and we don’t talk with them to find out what’s going on inside their minds and explain what’s going on inside ours, and then sometimes a ll of thiscan lead to some real violence.

But then, I kept reading – Remember, Jesus is talking with the Temple Leadership – Supposedly the most holy of the holy, the most faithful and devoted to God and the Law – And he asks them what the landowner should do to the tenant farmers.  They say, these men of faith, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him the produce at harvest time.”  Of course that’s what they say.  Because even as people of faith, we want people who have done bad things to get what we think they deserve.  It’s human nature.

And Jesus has made his point:  The landowner does the same thing over and over assuming a different outcome.  The tenants keep killing people who threaten their beliefs that the land belongs to them.  And, the Temple Leaders are caught in a dangerous cycle of retribution motivated by anger and rage: Bad people should get what they’ve got coming to them.  They want to see those wicked farmers totally destroyed!  Suffer a miserable death!  And Jesus says, you will be crushed, and you won’t know the kingdom of heaven. 

We may be a people of faith, but we get it, too.  We want people to get what they deserve.  We have times when we are so angry, we want to see some “miserable wretches” suffer a miserable death.  Or at least, maybe, a little misery.  And sometimes we don’t recognize we’re caught like the landowner, in a cycle of destruction, doing the same thing over and over and getting our anger fed constantly, thinking the outcome will be different.  What do we think will change in us this time if we read yet one more facebook post, or watch one more news show.  What makes us think this time we won’t get angry?   And sometimes that anger bubbles up so uncontrollably in us, it turns to rage – The same kind of rage we see in the tenant farmers. 

And as I kept reading, I wondered if what Jesus was trying to make the Temple Leaders understand all they ways they were getting in their own way of living the kingdom of heaven.  All the ways they weren’t producing the fruits of the kingdom.  Because I know that my own anger can lead to hopelessness, can lead to despair.  And I know how easily that anger and hopelessness and despair can be fed and fueled.  And I know just how far the kingdom of heaven is when I’m in that cycle. 

It’s not that feeling anger or even rage is bad, or that those longings for people to get what they deserve are wrong or unchristian.  Because I believe that we can bring our whole selves, our angry, frustrated, helpless, and hopeless selves to this communion table.  Christ’s table is big enough for all my anger, and God’s love is strong enough to take all my rage. 

It’s human.  But I also know that I am committed to a life of faith, and I don’t want to stay in that place of anger and frustration.  So, as a person who is trying to live and share the saving love of Christ today, in this time, what does faith look like to you?  What fruits of the kingdom can you produce?  What rage or despair is getting in the way of you trusting the Kingdom of Heaven, the power of love?

Are you doing the same thing over and over and over, expecting a different result, like the landowner?  Are you continuing to engage people on facebook, are you continuing to listen to the news without a break, are you continuing to lament and get charged up and spinning in circles that go nowhere?  And how productive is that, for producing fruits of the kingdom?  And how crushed do you feel?

Maybe step away from the world that is bringing you such rage, and step into the kingdom by taking concrete steps toward God’s kingdom of heaven.   Maybe take a break from the news, or at least limit your news intake.  Maybe offset your media exposure with acts of love – For every fifteen minutes or half hour you are exposed to people or information that raises your anger, what about stepping outside and taking a deep breath, and notice the air that sustains you, and think of taking in the love of God.  What about every facebook post that raises  your heart rate, you drop a dollar in a jar, and give that money to help folk facing eviction. 

Maybe every time you hear of something else you don’t agree with, or infuriates you, or scares you, offset that by collecting more food for LARS.  Maybe collect all your coins in the house and give that to LARS for folk who are being evicted.  Maybe, plant some flowers.  Maybe, write a list of everything that makes you angry, and offer that to God.  Maybe, burn it.  Or rip it to shreds.  It makes me laugh to think of how delighted I was when I realized I could plant a tree every time I felt frustrated or angry – What a great antidote, what a great response, to a world determined to suck us into a pit of rage and despair and hate.

Serene Jones’ talks in her book about being diagnosed with serious, serious life-threatening cancer, and how cancer revealed for her what her life’s purpose was.  How cancer became an opportunity to recognize the human condition of “uncertainty, doubt, vulnerability, and utter contingency.”  That’s what we’re living right now – A time of uncertainty, doubt, vulnerability, and utter contingency.  She goes on:  “(Cancer) gives definition to our desire to live.  Love comes to the forefront.  Cancer perversely exposes the force of love.  It shows us why it is we want to live.”

Times like these call for love coming to the forefront.  And it’s up to us, people of faith.  Times of “uncertainty, doubt, vulnerability, and utter contingency” challenge us to step away, step away from the spirals of rage that can lead to violence, even if it’s only our own spirits getting hurt, and to step toward our faith in action. 

It’s not that anger is bad; it’s a reminder something is not right here.  But putting ourselves in situations that keep us riled up will crush us, will keep us from the kingdom of heaven, will keep us from the hope and love of Christ.

Our faith in a God of such all-consuming love means we can carry our rage-filled hearts to Christ’s table, and ask for help.  It means our anger is a message that we can do something for the kingdom, other than pouring more gasoline on our own anger, or the amount of rage in this world. It means we’re honest with how holding onto our anger keeps us from knowing the kingdom of love.  And it means we trust the wise prophets of our own times, the ones who say, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”  (Martin Luther King) And from Mother Theresa, “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”  And even the apostle Paul:  “Hope, faith and love abide, these three – But the greatest of these is love.”   

Anger is a natural response – but walking around in a permanent stage of rage takes us down the path of the tenant farmers, and puts us in the world of the Temple Leaders, who see wretches needing to be put to miserable deaths everywhere.  Jesus reminds us:  Don’t let our anger crush our spirits; instead let each instance of anger or rage spark in us a turning – A turning away from darkness, away from hate, back to the kingdom of heaven, back to the God of love, back to what we can do to bring light into the world.  And in the turning, may we see more and more ways to respond to the despair in the world with small acts of great love. 

Worship for August 9, 2020


We think we know this story, right?  Jesus walks on water.  Peter doesn’t have enough faith.  It’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of weak faith – Jesus will chastise you.  You will sink. 


But maybe Peter is the hero of this story.  Maybe Peter didn’t have much faith, but he had enough.  Well, he had enough to step out of the boat in the midst of a storm and walk toward Jesus, even if he didn’t have enough faith to trust Jesus would catch him when he fell.  Because he did fall.  Of course he did.  That’s what happens when we step out in faith.  We can expect to fall.  But faith is about stepping out of the known, into the unknown, and trusting Jesus will catch us every time we fall.


See, those disciples in that boat in that storm on the Sea of Galilee are battered. They are worn out from hours of wrangling this boat in a storm, at night, in the Sea of Galilee, trying to make headway when the wind just keeps pushing them backwards.  That sounds familiar these days, as we keep trying to make headway in a pandemic. And their boat is hit by wave after wave, and they are just trying to stay in the boat and not get swept into the raging water.  They know how dangerous it is, and they are tired of it all, and maybe some of them are even feeling seasick.  And they don’t know how this will end, because when Jesus shoved them off he didn’t tell them when he would see them again.  He didn’t tell them what was coming next. 


We don’t know what is coming next.  We’re right in the midst of a doozy of a stormy period of history – who knew it would feel like this, and it would go on and on, and we’d be hit by wave after wave, and we wouldn’t be able to predict what is coming next.


I asked Wayne Barnes to tell me about a time when he was out on the water, in a boat, and saw a looming storm:




When Wayne and Polly saw those storm clouds on the horizon, they pulled down their sails, and as he said, they headed back to where they came, not the closest shore.  When those storms of life come, it’s human nature to pull in tight, pull in our sails, try to go back to where we came from, back to how it was.  We batten down our hatches, focus on getting ourselves and our loved ones through this storm as safely and sanely as possible.  And it feels impossibly hard, the more uncertain the future and the more the waves knock us down and wash away what we thought we knew and threaten to toss us overboard. 


These pandemic days, we’re having to adjust and rethink and learn so much so fast.  When all we want to do is go back to where we came from.  So much of what we thought and believed is getting washed away, swept overboard. 


Maybe your faith in the goodness of other human beings is being tested.  Maybe the balance between individual rights and freedoms and the needs of the common good is shifting for you.   Maybe your assumption that everyone is equal in this country is being challenged, as you hear yet another story of a Black person being treated differently for no good reason – As we heard this week of young mothers yanked to the ground, separated from their little kids, because it looked suspicious, them driving that nice car.  Because they are Black. 


Maybe you’re wishing you’d paid more attention in American History and Government class, as we watch the small print of the constitution play out in real time.  Maybe your beliefs about when and how we should vote are shifting.  Maybe today is causing so much anxiety you can’t even think about tomorrow; maybe all you can do is worry about tomorrow.  We surely are in uncharted waters.  And those waters are stormy and this night is dark and the wind is high, and where is Jesus? 


Well, no wonder no one recognized Jesus walking across that sea –They were exhausted; it was a dark and stormy night, who but a ghost would approach on foot on the sea?   That’s not where or how or when they expected to be reunited.


And he reassures them – Here I am!  Don’t be afraid!  And the storm keeps raging, and they keep holding on to that boat for dear life.  Everyone, except Peter, the one whose faith is supposedly “weak.”


He’s the only one who heard Jesus say, Here I am!  Don’t be afraid!  And decided to trust it.


Those other 11 didn’t respond to Jesus’ reassurance.  They didn’t take a risk.  They white-knuckled the sides of the boat as it was tossed in the water.  They were going to keep themselves safe, pull down the sails, batten down the hatches, and hold on tight.


But Peter – Peter took a few steps toward Jesus, before the fierce wind grabbed his attention, before the storm scared him.  And then, when he’s most scared, Jesus catches him – reaches out his hand and holds him up.  I think about all the times little kids have stood on the side of the pool, or on the diving board, or on the high dive, and stared over the edge, to see someone promising them:  Don’t worry.  I’m right here.  I’ll catch you.  I won’t let you sink.


It is human nature to want to feel secure, and safe, to believe life is predictable, to trust the reality we’ve always known.  And when the storms of life come, and when our boats start rocking in the waves, we cling so tightly to what we know, even if what we know doesn’t help under these particular circumstances.  We don’t want to let go of what we know, of what we believe about how the world works.  We want to go back to where we came from; at least that’s familiar territory.


And now here we are in the middle of the sea, in the middle of a storm, that no one can track, or tell us how it will turn out, or when it will end, or just how many more waves are coming our way.  And all we can do is step out of the boat – step into the unknown future – let go of how things used to be and how things should be and how we want things to be – And go deeper into the storm.  Apparently, that’s where Jesus is. 


Peter stepped out in faith, not sure Jesus would catch him.  But he did, and together they got back into the boat and that’s when the storm ceased.  Not when Jesus showed up.  Not when Jesus told them to not be scared.  Not when Peter took that step of faith.  It’s not like we step out in faith and it’s all okay.  No, we step out of our comfort zone and leave behind the reality we’ve always counted on, and we step into a storm.  And yes, we will sink.  Of course we will.  And Jesus will catch us – that’s why we have the courage to step into the storm at all.


We can’t pretend there is no storm.  We can’t cling to how it was in the olden days.  We can’t long to go back to where we came from.  We can’t look away from the storm, hide our eyes, focus just on getting ourselves through the high wind and battering waves.  We have to pay attention, to listen for Jesus’ voice saying “Here I am!  Don’t be afraid!” in the midst of all the chaos swirling around us.  We have to trust that as we reach out to help each other, Jesus won’t let us sink.  We can help hold each other up, trust the way of love will see us through.  But we have to reach out and ask, how can we help the person who’s in danger of losing their home?  How can we help the working parent facing at least one semester of also doing the work of professional educators? How can we help those educators?  How can we help?  When we step out of the boat, and reach out our hands in faith, we’ll find Jesus holding us up, even in the midst of the storm. 


Worship for August 2, 2020


Worship for July 26, 2020


Sermon for July 26, 2020

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

I spent all week trying to find this Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus describes over and over and over again.   I even tried to make bread, to show in the Children’s Sermon how a small bit of yeast can change the ingredients around it into bread.  That didn’t go so well.  I started to understand why it’s so easy to think the kingdom of heaven Jesus is describing is about life after death.  Because it’s really hard to imagine right here, right now, this kingdom of heaven he’s describing first to a crowd, then to the disciples.  

And then it occurred to me, why was Jesus going on and on about the Kingdom of Heaven?  Why does he keep insisting it is right here, right in front of them, right in the every day ho hum ordinary life they were living?

You can’t get much more ordinary than a woman using yeast to make bread, or a seed turning into a tree, providing a home for birds – And a tasty condiment for our hotdogs.  That’s not what I think of when I think of the kingdom of heaven.  None of that really sounds like heaven to me – Where are the streets paved with gold?  The angels in white robes, playing harps?  I thought heaven was like all rainbows and unicorns, peace, love, and harmony.  Not a treasure hidden in someone else’s field.  Not a pearl, something that began life as an irritant to an oyster.  

Doesn’t this life, I mean, this life right now – fall rather short of your image of the kingdom of heaven?  This life, the one you see on your tv, your “friends” posts on facebook, the one where, need I remind you, we’re in a pandemic that’s been so mishandled our kids are now staying home in the Fall, and you’re still at home watching a worship video.    This life where federal troops spent the week in Portland, and are heading to Albuquerque and Chicago and their governors and mayors can’t stop them.  This life, where we’re discovering more and more what we weren’t taught in history class and what didn’t make the news – That native American children were forcibly taken from their families and sent to boarding schools and adopted to be made more “white;” where laws were written and enforced sending Black men to jail for petty crimes where they could be “leased out” as laborers.  The history of Tulsa, where an entire Black community was wiped out; or Wilmington, where white supremacists forced a peaceful city government of Blacks and Whites out so they could take over.

And in the middle of this, we’re hearing about yeast, and pearls, and treasures buried in someone else’s field?  Why?  How is this relevant to us?

There’s a reason Jesus went on and on about the kingdom of heaven – It’s not easy to understand, for starters, even though the disciples insist they get it.  But they also needed to hear about it over and over and over again, because their daily lives weren’t so great, either.

A government that wasn’t for them, a government that made them so angry, but there wasn’t much they could do about it.  Violence, injustice, hate, a sense of powerlessness, a failing economy unless you were a Roman elite.  No wonder the disciples assumed Jesus was coming to fix everything for them, that he was ushering in the kingdom of heaven, because life was a mess.

We know all these generations later that Jesus didn’t usher in the kingdom of heaven the way the disciples assumed he would, the way we might be wishing he would about now.  So we’re left with something I don’t think the disciples really did understand.  Because he’s using parables and similes to describe something that is, at its core, mysterious.  We can’t hold the kingdom of heaven in the palm of our hand the way we can a measure of yeast, or a pearl, or a mustard seed.  Hidden, but visible.  Ordinary, but holy.  Insignificant and -powerless, but so powerful it makes all the difference – People are willing to sell everything they have to possess it.  

What are you most longing for right now?  I doubt it’s something you can buy on amazon.  It’s probably something that’s hard to hold in your hand, but something so real, your heart is aching for it.  

At our first outdoor morning prayer service, Julie Bertak mentioned how helpful it’s been to think about learning to live with this new reality – Which doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and give up, even though we may be tempted.  It means we know the peace we long for, the hope and love and fellowship we so desperately miss and need, is right here.  It just might be hidden, and it might take some work and persistence and patience.  

So, the bread for the Children’s Sermon didn’t turn out – And I was not so much frustrated, as tired and defeated.  I was trying to find, and trying to show, and trying to hold onto a bit of the kingdom of heaven right here and right now, and instead I ended up with bread loaves as heavy as rocks.  

And then I realized, there’s a parable there, too – Because that’s what life is like right now, especially when it comes to the kingdom of heaven.  We try to uncover it, and it stays hidden.  We try to hold it in our hands, and it slips through our fingers.  We try to live as though the kingdom of heaven, the love of God, the power of God’s mercy and justice, is right here, right here – And we fail.  It doesn’t turn out the way we wanted.  We spend all day – all week – all year – on something, and it falls flat, literally and figuratively.   And this is the work and the hope of faith.  This is what it is to trust in God, to trust in Jesus.  And it will wear us out, sometimes.  And we’ll want to give up, sometimes.  And we won’t be able to see it, and our every effort seems a waste.

But God is the woman kneading the yeast into the flour, enough to feed a neighborhood.  God is the mustard seed, growing, growing, invisibly each day.  God is the treasure hidden in the field, waiting to be found.  

And so, we get up, and ask God to show us this day a glimpse of the kingdom – A rainbow, an act of love.  We get up, and ask God to use us this day as the yeast, as the mustard seed growing into a bush where creatures can find sanctuary.  We get up and act as though there is nothing more real and nothing more powerful than God’s love, at work in us and through us.  Because it’s true.  It’s the only truth worth getting up for these days, in Christ.