Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Leaning boldly into the New Year

Dear friends - near and far away...

First of all - welcome to a New Year! My only New Year's resolution this year was to live more boldly for the Gospel of Jesus. Who knew I'd have an opportunity to do just that so soon!

Monday morning a clergy colleague from Texas extended me an invitation to join a mission team to travel to Lesvos, Greece, to aid in refugee relief efforts. I am honored, blessed and humbled by the opportunity to serve and to witness to God's love in action on the front lines of the refugee crisis. The Trinity UMC Church Council gave me their blessing and encouragement to represent our community in these efforts Monday evening and so I began making arrangements to join with the 5 other United Methodists from North Texas to volunteer in Greece for ten days in late January.

The island of Lesvos is currently the primary landing spot for the majority of refugees fleeing Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq via Turkey. There is an ongoing need for volunteers to help with all sorts of practical hands-on responsibilities on the island, including: helping people get out of the boats, distribute aid, clothes and food, unpack boxes of donations and sort goods, drive donated goods to other places on the island, clean up beaches and roads, clean up around the camp and bus areas, pick up refugees who arrive on remote beaches, prepare food for refugees, prepare food for other volunteers, take care of children. There is also a great need for basic pastoral care: listening, comforting, and sitting with distraught people.

What I need: I have received enough funds to pay for my plane tickets! But I am still in need of funds for ground transportation, two nights of hotels, food and other necessities. In addition our entire team will need to be bathed in prayer for our time of travel, for the work that we will be called to do, for the people we will be in contact with, and for the physical, emotional and spiritual demands that will be placed on us.

We have learned from a young woman from Texas, who spent 2 weeks in December on Lesvos, that there are some specific material goods that are desperately needed. Here is the wish list, if you are able to donate any of these items I have been assured that nothing will go to waste.

Lightweight Wheel Chair
2-3 large (really big) suitcases that you don't want back to transport the donated items I am taking from Iowa.
Men's jackets (small and medium sizes)
Travel size Vaseline
Handwarmers (like Hothands)
Emergency/mylar blankets
New winter (thick/heavy) socks - Dickie's work boot socks are great
Pain and fever relievers like Tylenol or Ibuprofen
Men's sturdy walking shoes - European sizes 38-43 (Men'sAmerican sizes 6 to 9 1/2)

Thank you in advance for your prayers and for your generous contributions! I know that together we CAN make a difference. I am humbled to be given the opportunity to make this trip and I plan to bring back with me stories of hope and God's light in the midst of one of the most difficult situations in our world today.

Whether donated through my GoFundMe campaign ( or via mail, all funds and material goods need to be recieved by January 16, 2016. If you would like to receive tax credit for the donation please send a check to:

Trinity United Methodist Church
c/o Pastor Deborah - refugees
1400 W Bremer Avenue,
Waverly, Iowa, 50677

Any donations received in excess of my personal expenses and filling two-three suitcase of material goods will be donated via Trinity United Methodist Church to the UMCOR refugee efforts. Thank you so very much for your generous support!

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
(Matthew 25:37b-40)

in Christ, together,

Pastor Deborah

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Zecha-who? Singing the songs of Advent, Sunday December 6, 2015

To follow is this morning's sermon manuscript - with a big shout out to the folks at Kessler Park UMC in Dallas, Texas who remind us how to pray, respond and prepare to be light to the world...

Our journey through advent has been a journey of songs…we’ve heard the yearning song of Hannah, the last song of King David, the triumphant song of Mary – and today we have the song of Zechariah…

Zecha who – you may ask? Well Zechariah was a priest – just like his father was a priest – he and his wife were faithful, they were obedient, they practiced their faith not only in the temple but also at home in the community. They were model citizens who had it all – except one thing – a child.

Our friends from UNI are going to set up the rest of the story – with a skit that is quite appropriate – a skit about what happened when Zechariah encountered an angel of all things while he was at work in the temple.

Read more about that story here

So Zechariah is mute for 10 months – and he and Elizabeth finally have a son – and as they are about to name him – John - Zechariah finds his voice…

 John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,
 “Bless the Lord God of Israel because he has come to help and has delivered his people.

He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house, just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago.

He has brought salvation from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us. He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and remembered his holy covenant, the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham.

He has granted that we would be rescued from the power of our enemies so that we could serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes, for as long as we live.

You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way. You will tell his people how to be saved through the forgiveness of their sins.
Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.” (Luke 1:67-79)

Like Mary, David and Hannah - Zechariah’s prayer is full of hope, anticipation and gratitude to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. His faith, their faith, is part and parcel with who they are…it goes deep into the marrow of their bones and it is lived out in what they do – as parents, as leaders, as prophets, as proclaimers of God’s hopes and dreams for the world.

Unlike the others, Zechariah takes it a step further – He offers a prophesy – a look forward…in his prophesy he is claiming on behalf of his 8 day old son – the promise and the hope of the people of Israel…the messiah is near – and his son, John, is going to be a part of his rise to power…but not through military might – but through the forgiveness of sins!

You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High,
you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.

You will tell his people how to be saved
through the forgiveness of their sins.  
(Luke 1: 76-77)

A challenging prophesy – a life to grow in to – like many parents as they look into the eyes of their first born – they project the hopes and dreams of tomorrow on their precious children…

I’m guilty of it – and you are too…

So what moves John from being Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son to being the forerunner of the messiah?

I believe it’s the same thing as what moves us from being people of prayer to people of action.

This past week people of prayer have been under fire…and frankly, the headlines make me sad – and concerned. We are, in my opinion, at a tipping point as a country – and as people who claim the name Christian. We are teetering at the brink of being irrelevant if we don’t put our words, our prayers, our faith into action

As Wesleyan’s – as United Methodists - we know what it means to hold piety (prayer) and action in tension – or atleast we should…we can talk the talk – but are we able to walk the walk?

Each of us, by virtue of our baptism, have been commissioned – ordained even – to

renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world,
and repent of your sin….

To accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves….

As together we confess Jesus Christ as our Savior,
put our whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as our Lord,
in union with the Church which Christ has opened
to people of all ages, nations, and races.  
(United Methodist Book of Worship - Baptism liturgy)

By the power of the Holy Spirit – poured out on each and every one of us – we have been commissioned to be light bearers – to take God’s love, mercy and grace into dark places…to speak up for the least and the lost…to care for those who are in need…and to extend this to all people of all ages, nations and races.

How are we doing?

I am not here today to tell you want to stand up for – but I am here today to encourage you to take a stand for whatever God has placed on your heart…whether its literacy, homelessness, mental health, the environment, feeding folk, what ever it may be – take a stand friends – do something – let your life sing

Because without action – without 30 some years of Zechariah and Elizabeth and extend family leading John toward the prophesy – then Zechariah’s words would have been an empty dream…

But instead – through faithful living and teaching and a willing student – John grew strong in his faith – he became bold in his speech – he was ready when the time was right to prepare the way for the Lord…his cousin…his childhood friend, Jesus.

What are we doing this season of advent to prepare the way for the return of the King – in the midst of the distractions of this Christmas season?

I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to the folks at Kessler Park United Methodist Church. Their church supports refugees in the Dallas Fort Worth area – their pastor, Wes Magruder, received word of a refugee family who was finishing up their immigration vetting process – they had been examined and reviewed by all sorts of agencies – for the past two years...and they were all ready to come to America – then, the bombing in Paris happened and the Texas Governor said – no way – no Syrian refugees – period…not even the ones who had been screened, approved, vetted and who now had their tickets bought and were ready to move to their new home.

That didn’t stop the folks at Kessler Park UMC – in anticipation of this family – a mom, dad and their child - they began to get everything ready – they found a one bedroom apartment, held a furniture drive for the family – scrubbed everything from top to bottom and went grocery shopping for them – they responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and they were ready – ready to say yes – even when the rest of the world was afraid… hopefully later this week they should be stepping into the welcoming arms of a community that has been praying and preparing for them.
Into the darkness of the world, into our hopes and dreams comes Jesus – the light of the world – and the light is more than able to chase away darkness…the gospel of John says it better than I can…

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
(John 1:1-8)

The true light is in this place…the true light is out in the world – the true light is Jesus Christ who invites us – you and me – ordinary folk from NorthEast Iowa…

Be the light

Be hope

Be the difference


Listen for the Holy Spirit

Get inspired

Do something with this life – this light – that you have been given!

In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit…Amen.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent reflections from Waverly, Iowa

To follow is my latest column from our local Waverly newspaper.  My one shot to share something this Advent season...enjoy!


some of our treasures -
rearranged by grandson Z
Many of us have our Christmas trees up, favorite mementos of Christmas’ past are scattered around our home. We might even have Christmas music and the scent of cookies wafting from the kitchen.

All of this to build up to the celebration of our Lord and Savior’s birth! This is indeed a most wonderful time of the year. But bright lights and yummy cookies can’t mask the realities that some of our neighbors are facing.

News from Paris, Chicago or right here in Iowa reminds us that life is fragile and difficult for many people. Some of us may have someone special missing from the table this year, while others of us are struggling to figure out how to make ends meet let alone give our loved ones a special Christmas.

And don’t get me started about the Iowans who are reeling with the decisions they will have to make due to changes in funding for care of their vulnerable family members! So much is yet unknown - I am horrified by the way we are treating the least of these in our state.

In the midst of it all we are reminded that a baby was born. To a young family far from home, to a young woman named Mary who said yes to God’s call and claim on her life.

Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible puts it like this:

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

(John 1:14 The Message)

Into the messiness of Bethlehem and into the messiness of Iowa and into the messiness of our own lives, Jesus comes…flesh and blood he has moved into the neighborhood. Not as a hateful or mean deity, but truly and completely the generous loving one-of-us, one-with-us, Son of God

Because of this Good News, we can face the unknowns with confidence, knowing that God is one of us, God is among us, God is within us…God is…and we, like Mary, can answer God’s call and claim on our lives to live as people of compassion for the least and the lost, the vulnerable and the struggling.

It’s not about presents under the tree it truly is about the journey – one day at a time, one conversation at a time with those who live in our neighborhood, who shop at our community groceries and who attend our schools, churches and various community events.

As we lean toward Christmas, during this season we in the church call Advent, let’s meet one another right where we are and build a new network of friends for this messy and glorious journey called life. While at times risky, I promise that you will be blessed by reaching out to folks in new ways and in new places.

Theology Pub - Monday nights @ The Fainting Goat!
Do go to church this Advent season – hang around for coffee and fellowship afterwards most Christians are good people just trying to figure it out. If that doesn’t work out come join us Monday nights at 6:30 at The Fainting Goat for Theology Pub – a safe place for conversation, community and fellowship.

I really hope that you and I will have an opportunity to strike up a conversation some time so that we can start building a bridge of friendship that transcends the material demands of Christmas and begins to build a more compassionate and caring world, the kind of world that grown up Jesus modeled and taught about long ago.

May you and yours be blessed in this season of Advent – this season of holy waiting and anticipation!

He rules the world with truth and grace,

And makes the nations prove

The glories of his righteousness,

And wonders of his love,

And wonders of his love,

And wonders, wonders, of his love.

(Joy to the World, Isaac Watts, 1719)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Elinor Jo Davis ~ November 10, 2015

I wrote this note to share with my daughter and son in law - Hannah and Nelson Davis, after the birth and loss of their daughter earlier this week.  With their permission I share it now, along with my deepest sympathy and prayers for all who have lost children of their own.


Dear Ellie Jo,

Today was your birthday. This morning your earthly mommy and daddy woke up to hope and dreams for the life they would live with you.  They love you so very much.  Mommy has been dreaming and planning for you for a very long time. She is such a wonderful woman and I know you would have been loved and nurtured in a happy and loving home. 

But for some reason you made your arrival too soon. And as much as we wanted you to wait till March it just didn't happen.  It is a mystery that we struggle to understand.  

Your daddy told me about how perfect you are. How beautiful you are and how brave your mommy is right now. He is trying very hard to be brave too. We are all trying to be brave and hopeful. But we are all sad because we just didn't have enough time to share all of the love we have for you with you. 

Today we weep. And tomorrow too. Some day we will be able to hold your little sister or brother in our arms.  And when we do we will be sure to tell them about our sweet Ellie Jo who came too soon and who now is in heaven with your great grandma Ellie (your name sake ) and Alan and Angie and your Great Grandma and Grandpa Wise and all those we love who now rest in peace with our Heavenly Father - who lives with you - in a place where there are no more tears. Where death doesn't have the final word and where one day we will join you.

I love you Elinor Jo Davis. 

Grammie Deborah 

Monday, October 5, 2015

For the Beauty of the Earth

(It was my turn to write a column for the Waverly Newspaper - so here you are, my latest offering.)

Something happened overnight – as the rains moved through – it’s as if nature flipped a switch and Autumn arrived. The pumpkin EVERYTHING sales have foreshadowed Autumn’s arrival…along with our area farmers who have begun to bring in the harvest. It’s an every day occurrence now to have to slow down for lumbering grain wagons being pulled by a tractor up Bremer Avenue.

With the arrival of Autumn Friday night football games are even sweeter, and many of us will trek off to an apple orchard to pick up a bushel or a peck of nice crisp apples. (Have I already mentioned pumpkin everything??)

To me Autumn is a reminder that when God was finished creating the heavens and earth and everything upon it; “God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.” (Genesis 1:31a)

This morning as I enjoyed the crisp, clean sparkling blue Iowa sky the words of this lovely hymn by Folliot S. Pierpoint came to mind:

For the beauty of the earth, 
for the glory of the skies, 
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

We seem to be pretty good at oohing and aaahhing over the beauty of our Iowa landscape, but we seem to forget that with goodness comes great responsibility. We, as co-inhabitants of this beautiful world, are invited to be caretakers of the world and everything in it: waterways, the quality of the air, access to food and water and shelter for all people are all part and parcel with being caretakers of the God’s good creation.

I think it is time for the Church to join in the call for the care of creation and I have been so inspired by Pope Francis, who just this summer called all people to “ ‘change direction’ by taking on the beauty and responsibility of the task of ‘caring for our common home’.”

So what does it mean to think of the earth as our common home? We will each have to wrestle with this one, but I think we could start the conversation by thinking about how we would treat a guest to our homes. Do we offer our guests a place at the table? A glass of cool water to drink? Perhaps a bed to rest on? Should we not do likewise with those who share our Common Home?

Last week I was a guest at the Catholic Worker House: Nashville Greenlands. During my stay I was welcomed into the simple rhythm of the community. We prepared and shared meals based on the food that was growing in the back yard, we enjoyed the quiet of the night on the front porch, we walked as much as possible, and spent time in conversation with our neighbors. Simple things that many of us would do more of often - if only we had more time in the day. And maybe that’s the point. In the busy-ness of our lives we have forgotten to stop and be present in the beauty of God’s good creation.

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

Each hour and each day we have a choice. Just as many of us chose to step outside the other evening to watch the eclipse, we can (and should) choose to be more mindful of the gentle rhythm of God’s good creation and our common home. I honestly believe that our lives, and the future of our children depend on it.

On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation. (Genesis 2:2-3)

May you and yours be blessed as you enjoy this beautiful Autumn, please don’t forget to pause to take it all in.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Looking for God in all the right places

(To follow is my column for the Waverly, Iowa newspaper.  It was published on Thursday, July 23, 2015.  I'm sharing it as I continue to process my experience of riding a bus from Livingston, Montana to Salt Lake City to pick up my son's car that had broken down in Utah last month.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015.  Salt Lake City, Utah.  I am writing this at 6:00 am Mountain Time, from the lobby of the bus depot. It's not the article I had planned to submit this morning, but it's the one that's on my heart - so please bear with me. 

A quick break in Dillon, Mt
I've spent the better part of the past 12 hours riding on a Greyhound bus with 10 strangers. While it is doubtful that we will ever meet again, my time spent with them has impacted me in ways that I'm still sorting out.

More than one is traveling with all of their worldly possessions in backpacks and suitcases. One young man is on his way to Las Vegas, his leg in a cast. He's hoping to get a fresh start but isn't quite sure where he will live once he gets there as the shelter he arranged to stay at won't take folks with injuries 'for liability purposes.' He lamented that they are a Christian place so he doesn't understand why they won't take him. I told him I'd pray for him, so now every time he sees me he asks how I'm doing and calls me sweetheart. I am old enough to be his mother.

Another young man just gave someone who was asking for help fifty bucks. When I asked him about it he said he had been stranded before and if he has extra he is glad to be able to help. "The guy seemed genuine, you can just tell."

There's a woman with dreadlocks sleeping across her luggage. She looks exhausted. When we had an hour layover last night she offered me her blanket to stay warm.

It's strange to feel connected to folks when we don't even know one another's name, but I do feel a connection, not just because we have shared an adventure. It's because I see Christ in their faces, in the ways they treat others. People who might not fit in back home in Waverly made space for me without the formalities of knowing what I do for a living or where I'm from.

It may seem odd but I feel very safe right now, even though I am way out of my element. I am at peace and that is more than enough. We are living in the moment, waiting expectantly for what's next in our journeys.

To be honest I am fighting back my mothering instincts. I'd like nothing more than to invite everyone over, cook a big meal and provide a shower and a bed so that they can get a good night’s rest. I wonder if this is what Jesus asked of Mary and Martha - open their home and extend hospitality at a moment’s notice to whomever was traveling with Jesus.

As I think about that I imagine it had to be exciting for them to be a part of the movement that was changing the hearts and lives of Israel. And so, when Jesus scolded Martha to come and sit down and just be, it seemed so out of place; there was a meal to prepare and beds to be made, and yet Jesus said softly, stop doing Martha, and just be.

This is what I have been invited to do this night. I can't fix anything. I can't change circumstances. I need to just be. Watch. Trust that God is present and doing the heavy lifting.

And so I pause and give thanks for God’s mercy and grace. I pray that those who are on this journey find safe places to land and that their lives are a blessing to the world. And I wonder how I (and the community of Waverly, too, for that matter) can be a part of the movement that changes hearts and minds in Jesus' name in new ways.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Do you not care? A meditation on Mark 4:35-41

To follow is the manuscript of my sermon on Sunday, June 21, 2015.  Not only was it Father's Day, but it was also the day after our community welcomed 10,000+ guests for the Gentlemen of the Road music festival.  But more important, it was the first Sunday following the Charleston massacre at Emmanuel AME church.

(Please note this is my preaching manuscript, which was written for the ear, so punctuation is not perfect)

Mark 4:35-41    Jesus stops a storm

35 Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36 They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along.

37 Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. 38 But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”

39 He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. 40 Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”

41 Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”

I would love to take a pass this morning – we’ve had a long weekend…we’ve welcomed 10,000 or so guests to our community – we’ve dealt with re-routed traffic – and as a church we offered hospitality to literally hundreds of people over the past 3 days. We have been blessed to be a blessing…we truly live in a wonderful community. We have seen the very best of humanity – and that is something to cherish and celebrate.

A nice, simple message about Jesus taking care of us no matter what the storms of life may be would make sense – would be lovely – and would fit in well with what many of us have experienced in our lives. We’ve all known days of joy – as well as days of trials and tribulation

Or I could preach about Father’s Day….maybe I should do that...

But truth of the matter is that I am sick – and I am tired – and the Holy Spirit will not give me a pass, not this Sunday.

This Sunday I have to hold the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other – in tension with one another - because when you get right down to it – there is nothing simple about Jesus or his message of radical love, peace and justice. Making nice isn’t going to cut it

My heart is broken about events in two cities - both very near and dear to me…

I have never been to Columbine, Sandy Hook or Fort Hood Texas – but Charleston – I worked in North Charleston for a season of my life – I know and love this community… the news of the tragedy there this week…makes me deeply sad.

In Charleston, South Carolina – a young man was welcomed into a Wednesday evening Bible study at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church – a historic Black church that was forced to split from the Methodist Episcopal Church –because of the racist behavior of our spiritual forefathers and mothers nearly 200 years ago - back in 1816.

Wednesday evening, after an hour of fellowship and conversation – after an hour of prayer and opening up the scriptures together – this young man – in cold blood – killed:

Cynthia Hurd, 54, branch manager for the Charleston County Library System

Susie Jackson, 87, longtime church member

Ethel Lance, 70, employee of Emanuel AME Church for 30 years

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, admissions counselor of Southern Wesleyan University

The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, state senator, Reverend of Emanuel AME Church

Tywanza Sanders, 26, earned business administration degree from Allen University

Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, retired pastor (died at MUSC)

Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45, track coach at Goose Creek High School

Myra Thompson, 59, church member

I think its important to hear their names and to grieve their deaths… and I think its important to say – enough is enough – this was plain and simple a hate crime – and we have no place for hate any more

Enough is enough – we have to say it together, friends –

Enough is enough – not only are we fellow citizens of a wonderful country – but we are first and foremost citizens of the kingdom of God – a kingdom centered on the goodness of God’s creation – a kingdom that says that we – you and I – are created in the image of God, we are bound together by a sisterhood and brotherhood based not on the color of ones skin, but on the compassion in ones heart – a kingdom that was built on these powerful words from Jesus’ first sermon – reading from the Gospel of Luke chapter 4 – beginning with verse 16:

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read. 17 The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.

He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners

and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him.  He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.”

This is the basic message of Jesus’ ministry –

offer good news to the poor, proclaim release to the prisoners,

recovery of sight to the blind and liberate the oppressed!

And it was lived out in his life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven – and in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – and we – as sisters and brothers in Christ, bound together by virtue of our baptism are called to continue his work – because the Spirit of the Lord IS upon us – and we, you and I as Christ followers, have been anointed to…

preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners

and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed!

We know these things…we really do…and Charleston is so far away, whatever could we have done to stop such senseless violence?

And yet, my heart is broken – not only by the events in Charleston – but also – because of events closer to home.

I have heard about the contentious Waverly City Council meeting last Monday night. Words slung like weapons - singling out – these people – or those people – hateful words such as those have no place in our gatherings, let alone in our City Hall.

As people of faith we have to say enough is enough!

As people of faith we have Jesus as our guide – all people – are God’s beloved – all people are valuable and have something to contribute – and all people come under the protection and love that we, as United Methodists, call – Prevenient Grace – the love and care of God before we are even aware of God’s love, mercy and grace – offered without cost – freely, freely it is given….

What are we doing friends? How could we have gone so astray????!!!

I think a lot of the issues we stem from the same issue the disciples were facing in that boat that night…fear….

Tired from a full day of traveling around Galilee with Jesus – they set out on a boat to cross the lake – Jesus, fully confident in the skills of the disciples – half of them were fishermen after all – immediately curled up in the back and went to sleep –

But as storms are wont to do – the winds kicked up – and the waves started breaking over the side of the boat – and the situation got away from them…and they were afraid…not just afraid – they were terrified – surely they were about to die!

I don’t blame them – we are wired, as mammals – to respond to frightening situations with a fight or flight instinct –

but as people of faith – we are shown a third way….a way of peace, justice, mercy, compassion, love for one another –available not just for those who look like us, not just for those who talk like us, not just for those who make the same income or have the same vacation itinerary as us…for all God’s children. All means all!

And the disciples knew this…and yet, they still cried out –

Jesus, Master – do you not care that we are perishing? We will surely die!

We could ask the same thing of the churches here in Waverly, across our state – or from sea to shining sea – do we not care that children are dying? Do we not care that we lack adequate mental health care for our citizens? Do we not care that church folk, at prayer, are massacred? Do we not care that hateful words are being spoken in our City Hall?

God cares – and as people of God, we must care too.

Reverend Emily Scott, pastor of St Lydia’s church in Brooklyn, writes about this passage from the Gospel of Mark and about how important it is for each of us to stand up and speak out for justice, civil as well as moral justice…she writes…

In Biblical literature, the sea is where the great chaos monster resides, and going out upon the sea is to be subjected to that fear, that chaos — the closeness of everything we cannot control.

For some Black Americans, life is lived out in the midst of that storm. Lived out in the knowledge that your life, the life of a friend, the life of a family member, could be taken in one interaction with a cop gone wrong.

And this week, as we have seen, in the refuge of the sanctuary, in the midst of prayer, by a young white man who has made hatred and white supremacy the center of his belief system.

People of color live life in the midst of a storm that they cannot simply step away from our out of. As white people, we have the privilege of seeing the storm from the outside, stepping away when we choose.

But Jesus is in the midst of the storm. He’s standing next to those who have been weathering it for a long time. And our job, plain and simple, is to follow Jesus.

It’s time, church, that we follow Jesus…

It would have been a whole lot easier to talk about Father’s Day – or about how Jesus is always with us in the midst of life’s storms…a whole lot easier indeed.

In the name of God the Father, The Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.