Sunday, February 21, 2016

puppy love and kiddie pools + sermon for lent 2c, 2016

Daily(ish) Blogging in Lent 2016 - Day Eight

Today's Sermon at First Trinity, Bridgeport! Lent 2-C, February 12, 2016 

Sister Laura and Cousin Zach with another one of our favorite dogs, Cappy!

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, "Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, "Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'" - Luke 13:31-15

Growing up, my family raised a bunch of animals, 
mostly dogs, 
vizslas (that’s the kind of dog),
which my parents bred and sold as a sort of side job,
to earn a few extra bucks. 

This morning, I’d like to tell you about one of those dogs. 

I’d like to tell you about Dolly. 

Dolly was the name of one of our favorite dogs. 

We loved her so much that (after her passing—may she rest in peace) we even named another dog after her, her successor, who we called, affectionately, Dolly II. 

Yes, Dolly was so special that there was even a Dolly II. 

Like the others, Dolly was a vizsla. She was a lovely amber/tan color. And she had big droopy ears and a long snout. 

But Dolly, more than anything else, more than any physical attribute, 

Dolly was a lover. 

And she especially loved people. 

When people came over and they would put out their hand,
(the universal symbol for “take a whiff”)
She would take a whiff, and then inevitably she would lick your hand and then cuddle up to you. 

And she would be your best friend for as long as you stayed. 

All day, all afternoon. 


she would certainly be much more interesting that whatever it was you had come to visit about. 

And of course, when it was finally time for you to go home, 

you would leave with a nice coat of her tan/amber-colored dog hair all over you, 

all over your clothing.

But it wouldn’t bother you like you might suspect. 

In fact, 

you kind of liked it. 

(yes, even if you had allergies, Toby!)

Because all that hair, all that allergenic hair also served as a memory that that day, you had met and played with and petted the most wonderful dog in the world—Dolly! 

Dolly was great. And lovable. And everybody knew it. The whole world was her family. You were her sister. You were her brother. You were her best friend. Just by virtue of being you. 

All of you. Like everyone here would’ve qualified. Even the people you don’t like that much. She would love them too. 

Dolly had lots of best friends. And when you were one of them (no question about it) 
you were quite proud of it. 

Dolly was the kind of dog you were proud to know. 


Dolly was a lover. 

And love like that

 is contagious. 

Sadly this is not Dolly.
But it is a random google image search result
of a vizsla and her puppies in a kiddie pool

The thing about Dolly, however, is (that) when Dolly had puppies, 

(which she would always have in this green kiddie pool that looked like an alligator, the kind you fill up and sit in in a yard—it was very cute)

When Dolly had puppies, 
Dolly would kind of change. 

Specifically when Dolly had puppies, 
Dolly’s love would change. 


I distinctly remember this one time my dad’s friend, 
Dan came over. 

Dan was an average height I guess, (he still is!) with a beard, like, down to here, 
much longer than mine. 

(And Dan was a Harley guy, from Milwaukee, born and bred),

Dan was one of the nicest, coolest, 
seriously kindest guys you could ever meet. 

(And I know I said both “nice” and “kind,” but I seriously can’t overemphasize how great Dan is). 

In addition, Dan worked on auto-bodies. He fixed cars. For years he would help me out every time I messed up my car, no judgment. No embarrassing questions asked. Quite a friend to have. Oh and because he worked on cars, on auto-bodies, his nickname was “Dan the Body Man.” 

I love the guy. 

And of course, Dolly loved him, too. 

Even though that wasn’t saying much, since Dolly loved everybody. 

But this Day, the day that Dan came over

Is the day we noticed 
that Dolly’s love had changed. 

On this day, in the usual manner, Dan put out his hand,

the invitation to take a whiff, the usual preface to a day of petting and snuggles. 

Only this time, there wasn’t any petting. No lick. No new coat-of-hair. No amber and tan doggy remnants in Dan’s beard, blowing out on his ride home. 

None of that. 

This time, (instead) Dolly’s tail went down, between her legs. 

And this time, (instead) Dolly started growling. 

This was strange—really strange—as Dolly didn’t appear to be the Dolly we had all grown to know and to love.  

Determined (ready to rekindle his friendship with Dolly), 

Dan offered his hand again,

putting it out there in front of him, and in front of her… 

slowly, peacefully, offering it to Dolly for a smell, a whiff, 
waiting for her to remember his scent—that they were brother and sister, best buds, cuddle buddies, whatever… 

Waiting for her to remember that he was a part of the family. 

Only this time, Dolly lunged forward really quickly.

And she bit him! 
Dolly bit Dan!

Dan was bleeding. Everywhere.  

Mom screamed. Dad yelled. And then yelled again. 
Curse words mostly. You can picture it. 

My sister and I kinda froze in the kitchen, not sure what to do. Maybe we cried. I don’t remember.  

Dan went to the bathroom to bandage up. 

And Dad locked Dolly with her puppies in the garage. 


Dolly was a lover. 

The whole world was her family. 

Everyone was her friend, her sister, her brother. 

But when she felt she had progeny to protect, 

Dolly’s love changed.

You, whoever you happened to be, 

the nicest guy, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, The Pope, Hillary, Theresa Mah, Lyndsay, Yami, Barbara, Rene, Bob, whoever, 

you quickly went from being a sister or a brother

to being the Other.

You who once scratched her belly and made her leg go all crazy and fast [demonstrate], 

you were now a threat; 

simply by virtue of being you, 

simply by virtue of coming over

you were an enemy. 


You were the enemy. 


That day Dan the Body Man came over, 

Dolly became more than just a lover.

With her love concentrated, 
With her love narrowed, limited, defined…

With her love changed,

With her sense of family shrunken down to the size of a kiddie pool, 

Dolly became also a fighter. 

She wasn’t ashamed to come after you,
to attack you,  
even if it was a preemptive strike, 
even if you were the nicest person ever

because if you looked differently enough, 
unfamiliar to her eyes, 
strangely scented to her nose, 
if you didn’t appear to look like one of “her’s”

especially (for her—and in the case of Dan) if you had a big beard and an outstretched hand,

then you looked scary enough to be a threat, 
(as far as she saw it) 
she knew her own kind, her own kin
she was aware of the limits of her hometown, her world,
and it was to this world she was sworn to protect. 


Putting out your hand as an offering,
even as a sign of peace, 
showing yourself to her in kindness, 

even offering to scratch her belly
(which she usually loved, and turned over for)… 

even an attempt to scratch her belly 

would result in a growl, 

in a lashing out, 

a bite. 

Even an act of kindness would result in blood. 

Because it wasn’t about your kindness. 

It was about you being “the other.” 

It was about you not being one of them. 

Dolly had become transformed.


Today, in the Gospel, Jesus refers to Herod as a fox (a dog). 

And Jesus refers to himself as a hen (a chicken)! 

A fox and a hen. A dog and a chicken. 

[I can imagine the Jesus and Herod looney tunes episode]. 
[Kind of like the coyote and the roadrunner, right?]

(awkward laughs from congregation—or no laughs, just awkwardness)

But this depiction isn’t meant to be humorous. 


Because in the story, Jesus laments. 
And in his lament, Jesus wishes (he says) he could take all of us in, like a hen takes her chicks, her baby chickens, under her wing.

He wishes, like a hen, to care for all of us, 
the ones, 

he says “who kill the prophets.” 

The ones who refuse to listen—that’s us! 


Earlier this Lent, 
(in the reading just a couple of weeks ago) 
when Jesus was preaching in his hometown, 
(just like the prophets who came before him), 

in his hometown, his family, his cousins and kin, his neighbors, the plumber, the dentist, the town drunk, his high school football team, the people with the same last names as his, (“of Nazareth”)—all of these folks in his hometown, the Alderman, the small business owner, the crossing guard, the community organizers, all tried to kill him—they tried to throw him off a cliff, 
the same cliff they used to throw rocks from as kids, and shout “real loud,” to see how long they could hear their echoes for—
they tried to throw him off of it. 

They tried to kill him!

And they tried to kill him 
because he told them a simple spiritual truth: 

When God sends prophets, 
even prophets who come from Israel, born and bread in Israel, 

their healing ministry is never restricted to Israel. 

Said differently, it’s never nationalistic. 

God’s family is bigger than that, as so is God’s work. So is God. 

This may sound obvious to us. But it was a really big deal back then. 

And I suspect it might be still for some of us today. 

(For example, I can’t recall the last time I saw a bumper sticker that said “God Bless Syria,” or Kuwait, or Iran, or Mexico, or even Australia…)


They tried to kill him in his hometown 
because he told them a simple spiritual truth:

God’s family is bigger than our family. 

God’s household is bigger than our hometown, 
God’s household is bigger than Jesus’ hometown 
and Jesus’ family. 

God’s ministry extends far beyond our nation, our tribe, our “heritage.” 

God’s love extends far beyond our church, 
our denomination, 
our religion. 

God’s love is bigger than our kiddie pool. 

This is why the Bible calls God “above all gods.”

God is bigger than all our boxes, our limitations, our definitions. 

Upon hearing this, Jesus’ cousins react. 

We react. This is what humans do. 

We try to kill him. We strike out. 

Is God’s love really special if God loves everybody? 

What about us? Aren’t we special? 

Aren’t we the chosen ones? The baptized? Saved? 

Aren’t we the ones with the creeds and the liturgies? 

What about protecting “our own?” 

Aren’t we a “Christian Nation?” 

Do you really expect me to try to see everyone as family? 
As God’s family?

Even… them? Isn’t that even insulting to God? 

Isn’t that impractical? Idealistic? Naive? 


“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, America, America, Chicago, Chicago Bridgeport, Bridgeport… First Trinity!!!… 

you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…”

To gather your children. 


All of them.


I think for Jesus, family name doesn’t matter. 

And neither do the limits of the kiddie pool. 

We’re daughters, sons, children, all of us, 
gathered together, (or so Jesus desires), 

under the wings of a mother-hen-God! 

At least that’s how God the Son says it in Luke’s gospel… 


This Lent, we have been focusing on Romans 12 as our theme.

“Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.

Be transformed.

“So that you might know what is good, acceptable, just, true…”

Be transformed. 

That you might see God where God promises to show up—
the Other, 
in your neighbor, 
in the “least of these,” 
in the feared, the lost, and the forgotten… 

In those outside my caste, my creed, my family, my litter of puppies. 

In those beyond the borders of my kiddie pool. 


Keeping Lent in mind, and transformation through the renewal of our minds:

What would it look like for you to add to your prayers each day
(or whenever you pray) this week 

[remember, if you are fasting from chocolate, alcohol, meat, whatever, every time you get the craving for the thing you are fasting from is a good time to pray as a part of your Lenten discipline…]

what would it look like to add to your prayers

this request: 

“Dear God, may I see the world as your adopted family. Give me eyes to see you in every person I meet. Give me eyes to see my sister and my brother in the face of every stranger, every neighbor, every enemy, every person I fear, every child of yours that resides beyond my comfort zone, beyond the borders of my kiddie pool.” ?  


What would it look like for you to add to your prayers each time you pray this week this request:

“Jesus, help me to see you as a hen gathering her young.” ?  

or maybe this one: 

“Jesus, mother hen, gather me in, whatever I’ve done, wherever I’ve been.” “Thank you for gathering me beneath your wings, that I might hatch anew, warmed by your love, despite my past, despite my present. Thank you for reassuring me that there is nothing that can separate me from your love.” 

What might it look like each day to remember that the whole world is your family, that God’s love knows no limits? 

What would it look like each day

to remember, deep down, 

behind your fears, and insecurities, 

and regrets and resentments, and all that buried and bundled up stuff...

What would it look like to remember 

that you’re a lover? 

That you’re loved by God, 

deeply and unconditionally. 

What would it look like for you to leave the whole world covered in hair? 


God's Love extends far beyond our kiddie pools. 

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