Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Revolution will Not Be Photographed

This week has been an inexplicable period of things breaking. 

First the key fob for our car stopped working to unlock the car.  It was locking just fine until I decided to change the battery.  Now it won't work either way.  It is worth noting that the car and remote, are 13 years old.  But I digress...

Then the automatic garage door broke.  Well, it didn't break entirely.  The remote my father finally found to override our ancient garage door opener was working, but the key we originally used to operate the door now only closes the door and doesn't open it.  That wasn't such a big deal until I misplaced the remote for a day (it was in the sand toy bucket of course) and couldn't get back into the garage, unless I climbed through the window, and displaced the crabby neighbor's plants, which got me yelled at, but again, I digress...

Finally our camera broke.  Suddenly, after months of working without complaint, suddenly the camera won't turn on.  Not when I change the battery, not when I clean the connections.  The only advice the Canon website gives beyond this is "Go to an authorized dealer."  Like I have time for that.

Because, you see, it is the MOST BEAUTIFUL week of the year.  I am sure of it.  75 degrees every day, clear skies, no humidity, a slight breeze and, according to NPR "The longest day of light in Chicago this year."  John is out of camp, and we have THINGS TO DO, PLACES TO BE, and SUMMER TO ENJOY.  And a broken camera will not be allowed to slow us down.

There is, of course, only one problem with our plan.  All these lovely things that we are doing - they aren't going to be photographed.

The trip to the Field Museum on Monday?  Not recorded.  The day on the trail-a-bike (a kind of adult/kid tandem) to the beach?   Unregistered.  Afternoon at the Botanic Garden with friends today?  No shots.  When we go to the Taste of Chicago tomorrow or the Lincoln Park Zoo on Friday no one will be able to see proof.

And maybe that's okay.

I've experience summer with tourists for quite some time now.  Any trip into San Francisco from Berkeley puts one in contact with no end of shivering tourists, unaware that San Francisco is not LA and in the summer you're better off with a sweater than a swimsuit.  And Chicago's summers bring in the hoards from the lesser cities and small towns of the Midwest, usually sunburned and sweaty and in no need of sweaters.  But, outside of the weather, the two groups have one important thing in common:

The have cameras glued to their faces.

Cameras at the Golden Gate Bridge, cameras at the Sears (now Willis) Tower, cameras at the Japanese Tea garden, cameras at Millennium Park, cameras at the Cal Academy of Sciences, cameras at the Shedd Aquarium.  And all these people, on vacation, so intent on recording everything that they are doing, that they almost seem to forget they are doing it at all.

So many times I have watched someone video taping a museum utterly ignoring their spouse or, more often, children.  Once I saw a dad with two video cameras taped together (making a homemade 3D film, I suppose) shooing his children out of his shots at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I wonder if he will ever even look at his film after his vacation is over...

There is something to be said for living in the moment.  An old adage goes, "The past is history, the future a mystery, but now is a gift, that's why they call it the present."

So John and I are enjoying this week, right here, right now, in the present.  And while there won't be pictures, there will be laughter, fun, relaxation, relationship, and memories.  Our Kodak moments will be the rarest kind, the lived ones.

Happy Summer Vacation!

Father's Day at the Botanic Garden

At Millenium Park Last Week

Monday, June 27, 2011

Food for Thought

Last Sunday I was the guest preacher at Irving Park Lutheran Church.  Though my usual philosophy of substituting is to keep the sermon short and sweet, this week I actually preached a longer sermon than I would normally.  The Old Testament text was the Binding of Isaac, one of the most challenging texts in the whole Bible, and I wanted to give the lesson its due.  Jay commented, "When you are only at a church for one week you don't have to hold anything back!"  So true.  Thanks to Pr. Brooke Peterson for inviting me and the good people of Irving Park Lutheran for their warm hospitality.

Genesis 22:1-14, Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42
Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 26th 2011
Irving Park Lutheran Church, Chicago, IL
Pr. Katie Hines-Shah

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.

For those of you who might be wondering how Pastor Peterson got taller and became brunette over the last week, let me introduce myself.  My name is Pr. Katie Hines-Shah.  I'm part of Pr. Peterson's text study and having recently moved to Chicago from Berkeley I'm currently between churches and available to fill in.  Pr. Peterson is off for some well-deserved rest and relaxation and I'm happy to be here with all of you.

I am especially happy to be here with all of you knowing how summer has a tendency to thin the ranks in the pews.  Between the warm weather, vacation, baseball games, and street fairs there are many reasons not to attend church.  When pastor is on vacation and some yahoo from California is filling in even stalwart members might be tempted to sleep in.  Let me just be the first to say to you, the faithful, it is good to be here with everyone at Irving Park Lutheran who is going to heaven.

I am joking.  But there is a grain of truth in everything I just said.  As we enter into the summer and into the long green season of Pentecost it bears noting: Being a Christian can be hard work.  It is easy to be a Christian on Easter and Christmas when the whole western world is in tune with our festivities and feasts.  It is in the ordinary time when faith can become a slog and when our commitment can be tested.

I've been thinking about the slog of the ordinary a lot lately.  As I have been on what we're calling my sabbatical for the last six months I've been focusing a great deal on having a healthy body, specifically on loosing weight.

The specific plan I've been following is the usual weight loss advice - basically a long slog of eat-less exercise-more.  One small twist is that on this diet you are allowed to eat most fruits and vegetables freely.  It's a pretty good way to nudge people toward better habits.  But, of course, some people get creative.

Recently I read an on line post about a woman who claimed to be following the diet yet was frustrated by not loosing any weight.  When other dieters asked her about her habits, specifically involving fruit and vegetable eating she said, "Oh, I don't like fruits or vegetables.  Whenever I get hungry I just think, "Hmm, I'm hungry enough to eat an apple - an apple has about 80 calories - and then I eat 80 calories of candy instead."  Hmmm - I wonder why the diet wasn't working for her...

Of course anything worthwhile may be challenging at times.  Going to college is fun during parties and football games, less so during finals and while writing papers.  Everyone loves a wedding, but the actual work of marriage is less glamorous.  Baby showers T-Ball games and Christmas morning are great with kids.  The chicken pox, orthodontist appointments, and calls from the principal somewhat less so.  I'm sure you can come up with many other examples.

So today, on a slow summer Sunday during ordinary time, when we are confronted with one of the most difficult texts in the entirety of the Bible, it would be easy to reach for the candy of the short and sweet text from the Gospel of Matthew.  But we are not going to do that my sisters and brothers!  Not today!  Because we are the few, the faithful, the people who come to church during the summer - and we are up for the challenge!  Let me here an Amen here! 

So here goes.

The Binding of Isaac, as I have said before, is among the most challenging texts of the Bible, so I am going to tell you upfront, we are not going to cover it completely to anyone's satisfaction here today.  If Soren Kierkegaard couldn't do it in a whole book, than Pr. Katie and the good people of Irving Park Lutheran are not going to accomplish it in twelve minutes.  But that's okay.  Texts like this are the sorts of spiritual food that we can continue to chew on our whole lives long.  The three great monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have and thought and wondered and dreamt this story for literally thousands of years.  We will find something of value here.

I'll recap the back-story briefly.  Abram, a desert nomad, and his barren wife Sarai are chosen by God.  God gives them new names, Abraham and Sarah, and sends them to a new land with the promise that through them a great nation will be born.  Yet as the years pass, Sarah has no children.  Only when they are quite old, grandparent age really, is God's promise fulfilled.  Sarah becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son.  They name the boy "Laughter" or Isaac in their language.

Fast-forward to today's text.  Once again God speaks to Abraham but this time he tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering to God.  Abraham prepares to obey.  As they near the mountain of sacrifice Abraham directs Isaac to carry the wood for the offering up the mountain himself.  Abraham prepares the altar, binds Isaac on top of it, and prepares to kill him with a knife.  At the last moment an angel stays Abraham's hand and Isaac is spared.  God provides a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead.  Here ends the reading.

As a parent, a parent of an only son, it's hard to recount this story.  I imagine it's hard for many of you to hear it too.  But as I said before, faith, like any worthwhile endeavor, isn't easy.  We are ready to work hard to see what this story might be telling us today.

First let us consider the story from Abraham's point of view.  Abraham, up until recently had done really well for himself, when it came to the basics.  God has given Abraham flocks and slaves, land and a good wife - just about everything.  But without a son born in wedlock, in the ancient world Abraham was nothing.  The son God gives him, the boy named laughter, Isaac, secures Abraham’s legacy.  But then comes the challenge.  God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son.  Will Abraham do it?  Can he obey?

Abraham's obedience to God as centerpiece of this story, his submission to God's will, is the classic Muslim way of interpreting this text.  And though none of us have faced Abraham's dilemma, perhaps in a small way we can relate.  There are times when we are called to be obedient, even when we do not understand the ends of a plan.  Indeed there are times we are called to obey because we cannot understand the places in which we find ourselves.

Some examples: A small child is grabbed before she can chase a ball into the street.  A soldier is given an order not knowing all of the general's plans.  A college student is told he must take science math and English before he can graduate.  An addict is told to "Fake it until you make it."  Perhaps the end of such obedience will become clear, perhaps not.  The people involved trust that those making the rules have a greater vision than they do.

There is an old hymn that goes, "Our lives are just one page, God sees from age to age."  Though it rankles our American spirit of independence, there is truth to what St. Paul says in the epistle.  Our choice is not whether or not to be slaves, it is who we would be slaves to.  We are always giving obedience to someone or something.  God seems most likely to have our best interests at heart.

Indeed we who are gathered here today know the value of obedience.  There are people here today who can tell you that coming to church on Sundays, saying their prayers and reading their Bibles has saved their marriages, kept them off drugs, given them hope.  I know these people are here because they are in every church.  They know that being obedient to God, however hard and counterintuitive it might sometimes be, has value.  They know that putting God first sometimes puts the rest of life in better order.  And perhaps this message, Abraham's message, is a good lesson for us today.

But it isn't the end of the story.  You see, there's Isaac's point of view too.  Renaissance art and our own imaginings often depict Isaac as a child, a boy of six or eight.  Yet following Biblical chronology the Isaac in the story is at least a strapping teenager or even, according to the Talmud, as old as 37.   Abraham himself was already in his 90s when Isaac was born and is over 100 when the story begins.  There's simply no way such frail, elderly man could have forced Isaac onto the altar.  We conclude that Isaac must have gone willingly to what he imagined would be his death.

This is the traditional Christian view of this text.  Isaac, who carries the wood himself up Mt. Moriah, becomes a forerunner to Jesus who carries his own cross up Golgotha.  And, though none of us have walked in Isaac's shoes, perhaps, in some small way, we can relate.  We have all sometimes sacrificed something important to us for the greater good.

Some examples.  A dieter gives up a piece of cake to fit into a smaller pair of jeans.  A student gives up his place in the orchestra so that he can better focus on his studies.  A spouse gives up a job to move for a partner's career.  A parent gives up a hobby to spend more time helping out around the house.

We who are gathered here today know something of sacrifice.  Jesus does not sugarcoat the call of the disciple.  Jesus tells his followers; Jesus tells us we may be called to give up prosperity, security, and even family to follow his way.  We have all given up something to be part of a congregation.  We have given our time to committee meetings, to worship, and to study.  We have given our talents in the choir, teaching Sunday School, organizing the food pantry.  We have given our treasure - our tithes sustain this place and nourish the world.  It isn't easy, but we think, like St. Paul, that faith is worth the cost.  Life in Christ leads to eternal life, both here and in the world to come.  What could be greater than that?

But this is not the end of the story either.  There is one more piece to keep in mind.  In the ancient world archeologists and historians tell us that child sacrifice was not uncommon.  Abraham and Isaac may not have been surprised at the initial command of the story.  As the story reaches its climax, however, Abraham's hand is stayed and Isaac is spared.  God intervenes in the midst of disaster.

This is the traditional Jewish way of viewing this story, and, at least for me, it speaks most clearly. Jewish writings say that this isn't a story about Abraham's obedience, or Isaac's willingness to be sacrificed.  The heart of the Genesis story instead is this: God provides for us and brings hope when all seems lost.  Indeed, I think many of us, most of us, know this experience too.  Whatever else has brought us to church, this is what keeps us here. 

Author Annie Lammott writes about being an alcoholic, in a dead end relationship, and going broke.  Yet she felt the presence of God nudging at her door "like a stray cat," until she couldn't help but let God in.  And on that day her life changed for the better. 

I know other examples.  A woman's partner has a stroke and she prays that God will let her live, no matter the cost.  And though the partner has lost her short-term memory and life is not easy, the woman says, "I thank God every day for her life."  A ministry student looses her mother to cancer and years later finds that God uses the experience she has to help minister to others.  If God can bring healing from death itself, what can our God not achieve?

The God of Abraham and Isaac, like the God of Noah, proclaims a new rule: Other gods may demand obedience, sacrifice, and death.  Our God, in the words of Paul, will be a God of freedom, grace, and life.  Indeed Isaac becomes a Christian allegory for humanity when he is saved by an innocent ram (lamb) who we see as Christ's own self.

Are you with me here?  Because this is big stuff.  And perhaps it's time to take a step back and take a breath.  Being a Christian, like any worthwhile endeavor, can be difficult.  But that doesn't always mean it has to be.

An example: I told you before that I have been dieting.  For five months I have done a number of little things - measuring my yogurt, counting my potato chips, paying attention to how much time I spend on the treadmill.  Little things, baby steps, yet added together they pay off.  Since January I've lost 29 pounds.  I know, I can hardly believe it myself.

Today's Gospel comes from section of Matthew where Jesus warns his disciples that there will be challenges, some greater than others.  But that doesn't mean that some are unimportant.  Everyone has work to do.

Not everyone will be called to be a prophet.  But welcoming a prophet is important.  Not everyone will be known as a righteous person.  But those who aid a righteous person's work will do good too.  Even if you think of yourself as just a little one, even if you offer nothing more than a cup of cold water, God has use for you in God's kingdom. 

As this summer begins what might you do to further the kingdom?  Can you commit to weekly worship, daily prayer, or regular Bible study?  Are you ready to sign up to be a Sunday School teacher, an altar guild member, a food pantry worker?  Can you write a letter to your congressperson or call your senator about an important issue?  Will you be faithful to your pledge or offer additional gifts to Lutheran World Relief or Lutheran Social Services?  Can you share a kind word with your neighbor or coworker, spouse or child?  Truly I tell you, these little things make a difference in the kingdom of God.

God is a God of life.  God will never call on us to an obedience to kill like Abraham's.  God will never ask us to sacrifice ourselves needlessly die like Isaac.  God calls us to obey and to sacrifice so that life might be more abundant for all.  And more that that, beyond the challenges that the world will inevitably send our way, God will walk with us providing hope. 

This summer may we be faithful in small ways.  God give us courage to live the life of faith and to see such hope.

Thanks be to God,


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day?

Last week John and I were looking for Father's Day cards for the men in our lives.  The display was large.  There were cards of every design.  You could buy cards for not just your father or grandfather but for your uncle, stepfather, husband, or brother.  There were even Father's Day cards from the cat.  But when it came to themes the variety stopped.

You can buy Father's Day Cards about golf.  Or grilling.  Or lawn care.  You can by cards about how you bought too much clothing as a young woman or drove the car too much as a young man.  There are cards about remote controls.  And there are lots of cards about bodily functions.  But that's about it.

And none of these really suit my father or John's.

This Father's Day just so happens to be Trinity Sunday.  This Sunday we celebrate God in all God's fullness.  Theologians over time have developed specific vocabulary - three persons, one substance, beings that are the same and not merely similar, etc, but basically Trinity Sunday boils down to celebrating the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the mystery of their connection.

Mystery and fancy theological language may be all well and good for a lot of things, but it doesn't preach very well.  A lot of pastors I know dislike Trinity Sunday almost as much as their parishioners.  I know that aside from singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" I certainly could let it slide.  But this year it struck me this week that perhaps we need Trinity Sunday.  Perhaps our own vision of God is as limited as Hallmark's vision of fathers.

Case in point:  John and I were once driving when he asked me a theological question.  (I think there is something about sitting in the backseat that brings up theological questions - perhaps it is the modern version of a confessional? But I digress) John asked me, "Mama, is God a boy or a girl?"

As a well-rounded, open-minded, religious leader, I gave John the whole story.  "In Genesis it says that humankind is created in God's image, both male and female...Jesus calls God "Father" but there are also female images of God in the Bible, as a woman who nurses her children or as a woman who kneads bread...Jesus even compares himself to a mother hen...The Holy Spirit doesn't have a gender, but in Hebrew..."

John cut me off.  In a voice as authoritative as any 5 year old can pull off he said, "Mama, I think God is a man.  With a white beard.  Like Santa Claus."

Keep in mind that John had, at this point, not only never had another pastor but me but had also lived his whole life in Berkeley, California.  This image of God, as an old man and traditional father must be in the air.

And God as Father isn't the worst vision of God, far from it.  A vision of a loving father can help us come close to God.  To be invited into an intimacy with God like that Jesus shared is an awesome privilege.  I pray to the Father as often as not.  But it's important to remember, this isn't the end of the story.

Hallmark doesn't have the whole story when it comes to dads.  I know there are lots of dads who golf, and mow, and grill and the like.  I know that dads like this are often exemplary men who love their children and care for them.  But they aren't the men in my life.

My dad builds scenery and cooks and draws funny pictures.  And my husband, John's father, follows politics; watches costume dramas, and goes to church.  And they are excellent dads too.

God is Father, yes.  But God is also Jesus, the Word incarnate who walked among us sharing our common life and dying (and rising) for the sake of us all.  God is Father, yes, but also the Holy Spirit, who give us faith, enlivens the church, and sends us into the world.  Just as we need to acknowledge different kinds of dads, we need to acknowledge the fullness of God too.

Happy Father's Day..And Son Day..And Holy Spirit Day too!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ordinary Time

It's been awhile since I posted anything.  I might blame it on the fact that I had hoped to blog about my new call at Valpo (which another candidate has now accepted) or the fact that I'm subsequently busily networking in the Lutheran world again.  Both are true statements of what I've been doing, but neither is really the reason I haven't been blogging.

I haven't been blogging because everything has been, well, so ordinary. 

I get up, take John to school, head to the gym, meet with some pastors, do some errands, pick up John, make dinner, spend some time with Jay, and go to bed.  Lather, rinse, repeat. 

This isn't to say that I'm not very much enjoying my sabbatical or that I'm not getting a lot out of it.  I love getting to spend so much time with John and Jay!  I'm going to bi-monthly art history lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago!  I have lost 21 lbs since January!  But it's just that it doesn't seem like there's all that much to write about.

And then came Holy Week.

For the first time in nine years I was on the other side of the pulpit and altar during the final days of Lent and Easter Sunday.  What usually was a marathon of services to be performed became a deep and rich opportunity to worship.  The Hines-Shahs (including John) worshipped at all the services of the great Triduum (including the Easter Vigil at LSTC and Augustana) and were part of the hordes at Grace Evanston for Easter Sunday.  And while I felt a little sad not to be leading it all, I found myself more aware on Easter 2 than I have been in recent years.

The story of Thomas and the risen Christ may be really what its all about.

Don't get me wrong, I love Easter Sunday, the women, the stone rolled away, Peter and John and angels and "gardener" just as I love lilies, big organ music, a full church, dynamic sermon and exciting hats.  But as exciting as all this is, we all know it doesn't last.

Two pastor friends posted on Facebook this week that they have lost their voices.  Several more are sick.  The organist at Grace has to get back to the mandatory training for his new day job.  The unclaimed hydrangeas and lilies are drying out on a back pew.  The risen Christ has left the building.

Or has he?

When a doubting Thomas, having missed all the festivities, demands to see a sign.  And there, before his very eyes, appears Christ raised.  But does he come with angels and lilies, crowds and preludes?  No.  Christ is there before Thomas, to an ordinary guy in an ordinary room, in an ordinary body, a body that can be touched.

But more than that, Christ comes to Thomas in a wounded body, still marked with the signs of the crucifixion.  It is only then that Thomas proclaims him, "My Lord and my God."

Isn't this really the miracle of Easter?  Not that God is so great and so powerful that not even death can hold him, we knew that already didn't we?  No, rather it is that God is so great and so powerful that death cannot hold him AND YET he comes among us to be held and to hold us in return.  In other words, the risen Christ isn't just an Easter Sunday God, he's a Sunday after Easter (and Monday and Tuesday and Friday) God too.

God is in the midst of my ordinariness and there reveals wonderful things.

I'm grateful for the lesson and the time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

In the Same Boat

The cat's out of the bag.  I'm preaching today at Valparaiso University as one of their final candidates for ELCA Pastor.  Keep me in your prayers!

John 3:1-17
Thursday Morning Chapel; March 24th 2011
Chapel of the Resurrection, Valparaiso University; Valparaiso, IN
Pr. Katie Hines-Shah

Our hearts have gone out to our sisters and brothers in Japan in the wake of the Sendai Earthquake and its aftermath.  Two weeks ago a 9.0 earthquake struck just off the coast of Japan.  The Tsunami that followed was even more devastating, flooding communities along the coast.  Three nuclear reactors failed to shut down, spewing dangerous levels radiation into the air.  We weep.  We watch.  We pray.  We send money and aid.  And yet, we are stuck by our own human impotence. 

I brought this image with me today.  It's a print called the Great Wave of Karagawa by the artist Hokusai. It's in the collection of one of my favorite places, the Art Institute of Chicago.  The print is dominated by the great wave, dwarfing even Mt. Fuji in the distance. Looking upon it, we feel the futility of human preparations.  It does not matter how many tsunami drills have been offered.  What chance do the tiny people have against such force?

While few of us have ever faced a natural disaster on the scale of Japan's, I think we can all relate to the feeling of powerlessness.  We all experience tsunamis that leave us battered and broken.  A failing grade in a class required for a major.  An injury in the middle of the season.  The ending of a relationship that we thought was "the one."  Brokenness in our families.  Job loss. Depression.  Sickness.  Death.  Are these not each tsunamis in their own right?  When we reach the end of our ability to prepare, when we reach the end of our ability understand, like Nicodemus we lament, "How can these things be?"

Nicodemus, the Gospel tells us, came to Jesus by night.  I suppose his reasons could have been many.  Much is made in commentaries about the Gospel writer's use of darkness and light.  Some say that Nicodemus is a sinister character, slinking to Jesus only when others cannot notice.  Yet, I wonder if Nicodemus comes to Jesus as we do.  I wonder if a tsunami of life has knocked him off his feet, leaving him powerless and broken.  I wonder if after Nicodemus has exhausted all reason, in a sleepless night of questions, he finally comes to Jesus to seek his aid.

Isn't that so often what it takes?  Is not Jesus so often our very last resort?  Author Annie Lamott writes there are only two true prayers, both best prayed in public restrooms at times of greatest need.  They are "Thank you thank you thank you," and "Help me help me help me."  Nicodemus' instance would be, of course, the later.

When Nicodemus prays for help, Jesus' does not simply tell Nicodemus that bad things happen because its God's will.  Too often, in the wake of disaster we are quick to try to find and name the will of God.  But platitudes like, "God has a plan," and "All things happen for a reason," are no comfort.  We, who like Nicodemus, cannot understand earthly things, how can we presume to understand the workings of heaven?  Jesus, for his chiding, knows the limits of our powers.  So he offers a new way.  A way of love. 

Jesus tells Nicodemus, Jesus tells us, that God loves us and our fallen world.  God loves us so much that Jesus comes to be with us, right in the thick of our lives.  God comes to us in our "thanks yous", yes, but also our "help mes."  And this is so important, my brothers and sisters.  It does not matter if our particular tsunami comes to us as innocents or, as it did to Moses' people, by our own fault.  No matter what has been done to us, God abides with us.   No matter what we have done to ourselves, God will not forsake us.  God come to us in love.  God comes, Jesus promises, not to condemn us, but to save us.  Thanks be to God!

Can I have an Amen here?

So what then, how are we to respond?

A few years ago a family in crisis came wanted to meet with me.  The family had only been in the church for a year or two.  I had baptized both of children, who now were five and seven.  I wanted to talk to the family in a way that the children would understand, so I told the story of Noah and the Ark.  My intent had been to emphasize the idea that though the waters might rise and though rains would come, no one would be left behind.  God would see this family through.

At the end of the story I asked the children what part of the story was about them.  To my surprise, the seven year old turned the question around.  'What part of the story is about you, Pr. Katie?"  "What do you think?" I said.  "I think," she said carefully, "That you and the church are the ark.  That you and the church will keep us safe in the storm."
Do you see the long canoes in the Hokusai print?  The wave might be great, but the people find strength in the power of the ship.  Jesus' life giving death holds us empowering us, as Luther says, "To be little Christ's one to another." 

On this, the anniversary of Oscar Romero's martyrdom we remember that the power of faith enabled poor and powerless people to face down a corrupt  and well armed government.  It gave them power beyond there strength and numbers.  It gave them power even beyond death itself.

This is the promise we hold as we walk through the season of Lent.  That no disaster or tragedy, not even death can overcome the great love of God.   Knowing the love of Jesus holds us, come what may, I think that when we face tsunamis we can turn to the church and to each other.  Through the grace of God, together with the people of Japan we will find life anew.

Thank you thank you, thank you God!