What I Would Preach on Sunday

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Even though I don’t have a pulpit Sunday, I felt a pull to the call to preach, and so here it is: 

I often take the kids to the protests and vigils in town.

From the murders of Trayvon Martin (the twins were barely 6 months old) to the extrajudicial killings of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Rekia Boyd, and so many, too many to even begin to count here, when Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, when a Muslim woman was attacked at a cafe to the “Bloomington against Islamophobia” (remarks I gave are here), when we wanted to be a part of “Ferguson Action” and “Reclaim MLK Jr. Day,” when hostilities arose against refugees during the Syrian crisis, when the Charleston 9 were brutally killed by the white supremacist American terrorist, when the Orlando massacre happened very recently. Ever since the twins and then Ozzie’s entrances into the world I’ve felt even more pressed to work for the good. For them. 

But to explain why we attend these gatherings to children under five is a bit of a challenge. When I tried to describe the Charleston killings to them, it hit them much more than any other conversation. They have an image of church in their heads. They have images of white and black people in their heads. They have an image of guns in their heads. The way they responded ranged from questions about how and why, as well as questions about our own safety in our church, and in particular, their daddy’s safety, the pastor of his church. I questioned whether this was sound parenting. Other parents often look at me askance when I talk about these conversations.

In the end, I resigned myself to the reality that all my parenting is likely faulty in one way, but as long as we hold these truths and stories in community – in love and mutual encouragement – perhaps we are laying some groundwork for them to at least cultivate awareness. Because the urgency of these days is far more compelling, for me, as we try to sort out the kind of world we live in and the kind we want to build for and with them.

Even now, I sit outside on our porch and look out on our world – at blue skies and flying birds while hearing the laughter of children and ringing bells on bikes in all its odd and discomforting tranquility. I write this watching my children play in dirt and flowers to fashion homes in old mason jars for all manner of insects. And then, I look at the houses around me on our street. Our neighbors. And this is the question from the lectionary passage in Luke that always, always leaps out at me: Who is my neighbor?

Many know of this story of the Good Samaritan all too well, even the so-called “unchurched” and “nonchurched” “will summon its principles so as to describe and determine a moral way of life,” writes Karoline Lewis at Working Preacher. But, what is it about the Good Samaritan that makes him the model and example of a neighbor?

I remember hearing someone preach once about what it means to help in the time of need. How we are all called upon to be the same kind of neighbor as the Samaritan, that is, someone who goes above and beyond, someone who goes the extra mile, and really shows the kind of love that is more than just good intentions, good talk, good tweets.  

Then, there was the sermon about the priest and Levite, and how they were analogous to not only the religious leaders of our time, but to all of us Christians who follow the rules and uphold the principles of love, the eloquent, but verbose talk and chatter about love, but when it comes down to it, we aren’t able to get our hands dirty. Really dirty, I mean, bloody and dirty, like the Samaritan who picked up the brutalized man, and helped him onto his donkey, and cared for him at the nearest hotel. And again, at the end there’s always the call to be the same kind of neighbor as the Samaritan who showed incredible courage and compassion.

And then, another sermon about what it would be like to look at the injured man as Christ. And, another one about the Good Samaritan as Christ. Truly, the possibilities almost seem exhausted at this point.

And, I’m exhausted, honestly. All around me the world is heavy with grief and terror. I turn to our poets and artists when it feels like what we need is not more, but less words, and that healing space between words seems like the best balm. So, poet Warsan Shire writes:

“They set my aunt’s house on fire
I cried the way women on TV do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.

I called the boy who use to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
I said hello
he said Warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?

I’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like;
dear god
I come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

later that night
I held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

I have an icon at home from the Taize community when I visited there for the first time this past May. The icon depicts the parable of the Good Samaritan in 6 small circular panels around the image of Christ. It was commissioned by the Brothers and inspired by the focus of their community this year which is on the theme of the courage of mercy.

I meditate on the icon often during the few moments of quiet I find here and there. I linger on the various panels – on the image of the two robbers hands raised above the man who is on his knees, on the image of the two religious leaders who are praying with eyes upward standing above the man now lying on the ground, on the image of the Samaritan picking up the man to place him on his donkey, on the image of the Samaritan carrying him into the hotel, on the image of the Samaritan caring for the man’s wounds, and on the final image, which is of the Samaritan, the now-restored man, and a third, presumably the innkeeper gathered around a table for a meal.

It’s that last panel that catches my eye as it reminds me of another icon, the one of the Trinity. Both have three people sitting around a table, with two heads on the right tilted towards the third, and there’s a large bowl or chalice in the middle of the table. And it strikes me that there’s a deliberate connection between the restoration of a human being to community and the very communal nature of the Triune God. It is a glimpse of the kingdom in that when we pursue mercy to its end it will always result in the full restoration of every single human being to the wider human community.

It is a glimpse of the kingdom in that when we pursue mercy to its end it will always result in the full restoration of every single human being to the wider human community.Click To Tweet

This is the intersection of #blacklivesmatter and a flesh and blood trinitarian theology. Black Lives Matter is about the liberation and restoration of black lives in this world, yes. It doesn’t stop there though because what many critics don’t realize is that this means when the most marginalized of our world, Native, black and brown lives are free, we will all be free, when black lives thrive and flourish, we will all thrive and flourish. We will all be living as God intended in right relationship with one another, and in a radical table fellowship rooted in the courageous mercy of Christ. Meanwhile, we are called to be a part of this work, and we have a choice – what kind of world will we work toward in the here and now?

Asian Americans cannot afford to be bystanders in this fight, because this is our fight, too. All of America stands at a crossroads, staring down a quintessential moral choice: what kind of society do we want to live in? Do we choose a society where the lives of Black and Brown people — including Black and Brown Asian Americans — has value? (From ReAppropriate)

I ponder this after another week of violence and death – two black men and five Latin@s were killed by police. During a peaceful demonstration in Dallas, a military veteran unassociated with the protest killed five police officers and injuring more. Last week there were numerous terrorist attacks abroad in Istanbul and Baghdad tragically disrupting a holy season for our Muslim brothers and sisters. And all that on the heels of the Orlando shooting, and the memory of a vigil full of tears, rainbow flags and bubbles still fresh in our minds.

Who is my neighbor? This question isn’t only about who we are a neighbor to, and who is a neighbor to us, in some ways, it feels rhetorical – this time for me it challenges me to think about what it means to live in this world together. It is recognizing the plurality of the question, and the reality that we have systems and institutions that have created the conditions in our society that permit these tragedies – from the killing of black and brown bodies to refugee children to LGBTQ lives to police officers – to occur on a regular basis. We won’t experience true healing and reconciliation until we reform those structures so that all are free and equal.

“Are black people Americans? Are black people human beings? I’ll go that far. Because I’m confused, because it does not appear that we’re human beings, because we dot have the inalienable rights that human beings are supposed to have.” Actor Jesse Williams

Who is my neighbor? is a working out, a continuous process of waking up to the people around you, and drawing near, as my dear Andy preached a few Sundays ago, drawing near in the same way God draws near to us, God draws near to us over and over in the most unexpected ways, the least likely places and faces. Maybe in ditches or roads or even on freeways. Who is my neighbor? means to live like we belong to each other, to live like we need each other, because we do. We aren’t going to survive for much longer on the road that we’re barreling down. Who is my neighbor? looks like choosing joy, and then choosing to love harder, love stubbornly, love persistently, so that neighbor looks more like kin-folk and family.

I haven’t talked about any of these recent tragedies with my children, yet. I’m not sure if I will or when I will, though if there is a vigil in the near future, I do expect to attend with them. Because if there’s anything I believe about following the Christ that is about solidarity and hospitality, the Christ of the Triune God, it’s that we keep showing up. Even when we don’t understand, even when we are guilty or complicit or fragile or confused, even when it doesn’t make sense, even when we are despairing, we show up to be with people. To pray. To light candles. To hold hands. To chant Black Lives Matter. To whisper, God, have mercy. 

In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, Amen.

Easter Sunday: It Starts In The Dark

I didn’t feel like hearing anything this weekend.

Especially my own voice. It wasn’t for lack of trying…to do the podcast. I’ve written down some thoughts that I’ll likely vocalize after Easter but I spiraled down into a bit of darkness these last fast days and decided to stay there. Sometimes thin places do that to me, and Holy Week this year was especially one.

But, Barbara Brown Taylor affirmed me. “If it happened in a cave, it happened in complete silence, in absolute darkness, with the smell of damp stone and dug earth in the air. Sitting deep in the heart of Organ Cave, I let this sink in: new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.” (From Learning to Walk in the Darkness)

The birds chasing each other around our yard amidst crocuses and tulips feel like a bit of an affront to me this Easter. A little too pretty and too happy, and too awake. Perhaps I’m not ready to move on from the darkness quite yet. Tweet: Tulips feel like an affront to me this Easter. Perhaps I'm not ready to move on from the darkness. http://ctt.ec/t3vRr+ @miheekimkort And being in the darkness doesn’t necessarily mean I’m asleep, in some ways, it means dealing with being too awake.

I read Micah’s words this morning as the soft hues of pink and orange hit the window next to the couch. I’m chugging coffee trying to shake the sleep out of my eyes. Death out of my head. And somehow these words ring truer for me this morning. This is resurrection.

Silence, and tears crowding tired eyes. Confusion hanging heavy on grief-soaked hearts. Disillusionment colliding with hope. And a long, long walk home.

This is Easter for me.

“We had hoped…”

These sad words catch in my throat and hang with a heaviness of their own. Tears spill as I admit the crushing disappointment that weighs on my shoulders.

We had hoped. That this would be the beginning of something beautiful. That our enslaved hearts would find freedom. That we would be redeemed.

But Jesus has disappeared, and I’m left clutching impossible rumors.

And so this season of Lent, and even this Holy Week I’m clutching all these words, these feelings, these lessons: “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.” (BBT)

This is Easter for me today. Once again, not triumphalism or victory but the reminder that we still need that mandate as Sara Miles preached this Good Friday:

…If we are to remember his death and enter his life, we must take up in a new way the familiar human cross of being a son, a mother, a friend. We must turn to and claim each other––neighbors, strangers, enemies–– and refuse to be separated. Alex Nieto’s mother is my mother, and Darren Wilson is my son. Because nobody is outside this family, for whom Jesus was willing to be betrayed into the hands of sinners, and suffer death upon the cross.

He has given us to one another. Let us love one another as he has loved us.

This is the empty tomb. In the face of all the horrific injustices and inequities, and the seemingly constant stream of devastation of humanity, not only in far away places, but right here in our own backyards, it’s that even though the curtain is torn in two and the Holiest of Holies is now for all we’re not done. I need only to invoke the names of Leelah Alcorn. Jessie Hernandez. Renisha McBride. Purvi Patel. Like those women at the tomb these women’s lives and especially their deaths and imprisonments and unlawful convictions proclaim we are not finished. The story is not finished and our work isn’t complete. And I cling to that…barely though…by my fingernails holding on for dear life.

He died and rose again so that we might live, mobilize, question, wrestle, advocate (thank you J. Herbert Nelson), and love in the same way. Tweet: He died and rose again so we might live, wrestle, advocate (thank you @JHerbertNelson), and love. http://ctt.ec/he1a_+ @miheekimkort

May it be so.

Palm Sunday: Awakenings and Hosannas

Palm Sunday: Awakenings and Hosannas


Listening to the Pray-As-You-Go podcast this Palm Sunday morning in the midst of demands for strawberries and Cheerios, Wild Kratts, and fights over the trains, I picked up the words of St. Ignatius on consolation and desolation.

“I call it consolation when an interior movement is aroused in the soul, by which it is inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and as a consequence, can love no creature on the face of the earth for its own sake, but only in the Creator of them all.  It is likewise consolation when one sheds tears that move to the love of God, whether it be sorrow for sins, or because of the sufferings of Christ our Lord, or for any other reason that is immediately directed to the praise and service of God.  Finally, I call consolation every increase of faith, hope, and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to the salvation of one’s soul by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord. I call desolation what is entirely the opposite of (consolation), as darkness of soul, torment of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, want of hope, want of love. The soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord.”

It connects to the reflections I spoke of on This Everyday Holy: I’m reading the Palm Sunday passage of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem – found in Mark and Matthew. It’s the words the people were shouting: “Hosanna” and what they literally mean: We beseech you to deliver us. Simply: Save us.

John Helmiere, pastor of Valley and Mountain, a new worshipping United Methodist community in Seattle, came to speak to our Bloomington churches about the way they do church, and one of their rituals called Table Turning Monday as a way to embody Jesus’ turning those tables over in the temple. And then he reminded us that after this ruckus and vandalism, he made his “triumphant” entry into Jerusalem.

What the Bible doesn’t tell us is the parade that is happening at the main gate of Jerusalem, and that this march of protestors and demonstrators following Jesus came through the back gates. While Jesus is parading in on a donkey or in some translations both donkey and colt through one of the back gates, on the other side of the city Pilate is parading in on a war horse accompanied by a squadron or two of battle hardened Roman soldiers. One blogger writes that such a demonstration would have been especially pertinent at Passover since Passover was explicitly a celebration of the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. In a way, Jesus’ subversive donkey ride reminded all those waving Palm branches that Rome was the new Egypt, and the Emperor was the new Pharaoh.

Another theologian observes the significance in the Matthew passage where Jesus wants two animals, a donkey with her little colt beside her, and that Jesus rides “them” in the sense of having them both as part of his demonstration’s highly visible symbolism. In other words, Jesus does not ride a stallion or a mare, a mule or a male donkey, and not even a female donkey. He rides the most unmilitary mount imaginable: a female nursing donkey with her little colt trotting along beside her.

Writes David Wells, professor of theology: “Where is the horse, the steed that bears the triumphant general, the untamable champion loyal only to the skilled commander, so beloved of great leaders from Alexander to Napoleon? It’s not here. In its place is a young colt — hardly the symbol of leadership. Jesus seems to have no understanding of rank. After all the fuss about procuring, even sequesterng, the right animal, just the kind of action worthy of a king, he gets the wrong animal. He chooses an agricultural tool, not a weapon of war; a tractor, not a tank.”

It’s these bizarre – can I say, queer – images of peace of that compel me. Jesus a revolutionary and leading a demonstration in the back alleys of the city of Jerusalem. Jesus riding in on the backs of the most vulnerable – a female donkey nursing her young. Jesus responding to cries of help and deliverance. All my notions of accomplishment and exceptionalism, triumph and success, all of it goes by the wayside once more. Tweet: All my notions of exceptionalism, triumph and success, all of it goes by the wayside once more. @miheekimkort http://ctt.ec/wBK8N+

“Learning to walk in the dark is a spiritual skill some of us could use right now. If you are in the middle of your life, maybe some of your dreams of God have died hard under the weight of your experience. You have knocked on doors that have not opened. You have asked for bread and been given a stone. The job that once defined you has lost its meaning; the relationships that once sustained you have changed or come to their natural ends. It is time to reinvent everything from your work life to your love life to your life with God – only how are you supposed to do that exactly, and where will the wisdom come from? Not from a weekend workshop. It may be time for a walk in the dark. The night sky will heal me – not by reassuring me that I will be just fine, but by reminding me of my place in the universe.

Because…to be human is to live by sunlight and moonlight, with anxiety and delight, admitting limits and transcending them, falling down and rising up.” (Barbara Brown Taylor)

If there’s anything that can reorient us this Lent it is the reminder of our humanity – the inevitability of light and darkness, and the reminder that we need someone to deliver us, to rescue us, to save us.  Tweet: If anything can reorient us this Lent it is the reminder of our humanity - we need to be saved @miheekimkort http://ctt.ec/a344Y+  Save us from the systems and principalities of the world. Save us from churches who have tunnel or myopic vision. Save us from our need for achievement and triumph. Save us from ourselves.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

#Lent: Be Near

#Lent: Be Near

Christ be near at either hand,
Christ behind, before me stand,
Christ with me where e’er I go,
Christ around, above, below.


“It’s too dark.”

For a while I stopped fighting that battle with the twins – how much light to keep on in their room. After saying “good night” I walked quickly out and at the last minute switch off the lights. I wanted it to be pitch black so they wouldn’t be able to see everything in their room begging to be scattered and dumped out onto the floor. Clothes. Legos. Books. Stuffed animals. Curtains. But they would thrash and flail, crying their protests, and that felt threatening to me. What if they fell off the bed? Or crashed into a wall? So we kept blue night lights on or sometimes we would dim the overhead light to the lowest setting. Christmas lights during the winter. The projection of animals onto the ceiling spinning like a carousel.

I remember being afraid, too. As a child I had deep, heavy dreams that held me down in sleep, and I would squirm and kick trying to climb out of the darkness. Dreams terribly vivid, blurring with reality, and an undeniable presence there, too. I finally awoke on my back and looked down at my blankets – all undisturbed with no sign of the struggle. My eyes stayed open for a while out of fear of sliding back down into that hole. Until I was too old I would climb in bed with my parents and squeeze in between them comforted by the sound of their breathing on my neck. My father’s snoring would surely keep that awful and strange darkness at bay.


He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars….” As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the Lord said to him… – Genesis 15

The night sky will heal me – not by reassuring me that I will be just fine, but by reminding me of my place in the universe. Darkness is necessary to our health. Without enough of it, we make ourselves sick with light. – Barbara Brown Taylor


Even as I’m learning to embrace that darkness I see the necessity to teach the children to live in it, too. We have too many lights, too much brilliance, an overabundance of shiny, bright distractions to keep us from facing those deeper realities. How can they know the odd and wonderful feeling of nearness experienced in our darkest hours? The stars in the night sky may seem distant but I can hardly remember a time I felt God’s closeness more than looking up at shooting stars across the Milky Way in a Colorado wilderness. Something about darkness and stars, and feeling profoundly that need for God’s nearness makes me feel more human and alive.

Christ be in my head and mind,
Christ within my soul enshrined,
Christ control my wayward heart;
Christ abide and ne’er depart.

Christ the King and Lord of all,
Find me ready at his call;
Christ receive my service whole,
Hand and body, heart and soul.

#Lent: Cover Me

#Lent: Cover Me

Daniel 9

…We are covered with shame.

Baths for them every night seem a little ambitious, and maybe even obsessive and extraneous. But, they’re covered in all manner of dirt and grime – remnants of markers, glue, sand, glitter, peanut butter and jelly, paint.

Anything that will leave a mark.

I turn on the water, and the tub fills slowly. The boys come tumbling in with shouts, stripping clumsily with demands for trains and plastic animals. They cannonball in and yelp onto the tips of their toes. It’s too hot. The girl is reluctant. I coax her in with promises of gummy bears.

It is anything but relaxing in there. All three of them are too big and space is at a premium. They fight for the position next to the faucet, but howl at the audacity of water being poured over their heads. There is always one toy that ignites a world war. Soon they’re dumping water over each other and laughing at the small waterfalls down each other’s noses.

As they slide out onto the floor like so many seals on a dock each one rolls into a ball wailing, “Mommy, towel, towel, towel. Cover me.” When the air hits their skin, they always seem surprised by the cold. I wrap them up and snuggle each one before they break away. They run down the hall leaving little wet footprints and abandon the towels on the floor.

My hands and feet are wet, too. I wipe them dry on my clothes. The smell of their bath wash is in my nostrils.

Those of us who wish to draw near to God should not be surprised when our vision goes cloudy for this is a sure sign that we are approaching the opaque splendor of God. – Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark