Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Touch o' Depression

I am feeling kind of weird. I usually would be worrying about worship tomorrow. But since the church has closed, I am sitting here watching “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and doing a whole lot of nothing. I guess it is ok to be doing a whole lot of nothing.

I have been thinking about what has been happening. I have been playing scenarios through my head of what is going to happen. What has been happening with my life and where my life may be going?

I have gained a lot of insights into myself over this past year; the problem is that I don’t know how to deal with the insights. I have gown to know how I function and have begun to learn how to work WITH myself instead of trying to force myself into some kind of preconceived notion. The problem is that I get down thinking that my way of functioning doesn’t seem to work with the rest of the world. And having to work with groups of people, I sometimes just get baffled.

I also never seem to be able to just let things be. I always have to try to figure out what is causing the behavior. Why do people listen to Donald Trump? Why do people go to Fire-and-Brimstone churches? Why are people so quick to hate? What would it be like to think NASCAR and Bud Lite are the recipe for a “Kick Ass Weekend”?

I am dealing with the realization that the dreams that I had a year ago are not going to come to pass. The church I had hoped to find is not this one.

We just moved everything from storage back to the apartment. I should be happy about that. But I do not know what I am supposed to be feeling. It is nice to know that we will be in the same place for a while longer; moving is such a drag. But the whole clergy thing is not turning out anything like I had anticipated. I would go on to something else, but I don’t know what I would do. And although the idea of a life of leisure sound good, I know that would get boring.

I seem to get easily bored with life.

Oh well, enough bummer for now.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Ok, this is too funny.  I would post it here, but I try to keep this pretty safe for work.  This link is defiantly NOT safe for work, but it is very funny!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Sermon

This is kind of a weird day here at St. Swithin’s.  I am sure there are a ton of conflicting emotions going on out there.  If you are a visitor with us today, I hope you are feeling the joy of the risen Christ in your life.  But I am sure there are also feelings of sadness, anger, possibly betrayal, and maybe even abandonment.  All kinds of feelings out there.  But if we think about it, would this be all that different from the feelings that disciples would have been feeling on that first Easter morning?
The disciples would have been in shock.  They probably would have been wondering what had happened.  They had followed a very charismatic leader and were out to change the world.  They had given up jobs, lives, and families to follow this man.  They had a promise; this teacher claimed to be the Messiah, the one sent by God.  This leader was to be the great leader in the line of David!  But on that first Easter, the disciples were not jumping up and down, telling the world of the resurrection, they were confused.  They were huddled together wondering what they were going to do now that their leader was gone and it looked like they were going to be the next ones to be pursued.
For me, this may be the first Easter where I can truly feel the sense of “What now?” that must have been going through the disciples’ heads.  Last year, I was shouting “He is risen!” to the rafters, but this year, there doesn’t seem to be that assurance.  Tombs seem to be closing up more than opening up.  Our building is becoming more and more empty as the various items gathered over the years are removed.  The life of the congregation is slowing down rather than ramping up.  Spring seems to be a sign of the end rather than a sign of a new beginning.  For those of you who have been here since the congregation was established, this sense of “what now?” may probably be even stronger.  For you, this may have been the only church home you knew.  So the sense of loss, fear, and unknowing could be very strong.  In our world, we know the story of Easter and we celebrate Christ’s resurrection.  But on that first Easter morning, the resurrection was not a sure thing.  This sense of unknowing would have been the experience of those early Christians on that first Easter morning.  “What now?  What is going to become of us?  What should we do?”
At times like this, we can become like Mary.  We can get so caught up in the events circling around us that we loose our bearings.  When Mary was at the tomb, that first Easter morning, she was talking to Jesus but she failed to recognize him.  She was upset about what she found, and in her distress, she wasn’t able to see that Christ was standing right there, right next to her.
Often, we are so wrapped up in the events of our life, our world, our congregation that WE are not able to see Christ standing right next to us or to hear Christ’s voice in our heart.  Life, in general, can get in our way.  Our daily life so often seem to be full of stressors that can pull us away from listening to the speaking of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  And when we add additional, unexpected stressors, we can become more distracted, more pulled.
Just a few days ago, Frank Gorshen and I were talking.  We were talking about how this Lent has been quite different from past years.  I had also mentioned how it really didn’t seem like Easter could be here.  Frank said that the whole thing had a very surrealistic quality.  I would have to agree with him.  It has been surrealistic.  When we approach Easter we are supposed to be preparing for celebrations not for closures.  What we are experiencing is not what we would be expecting.  And since it is not what we would expect, we may have difficulty seeing what is going on.
Mary was confused.  She was not expecting to see Jesus, he had died.  She was not expecting to encounter the risen Christ; that would have just been beyond comprehension.  So we should not be surprised that Mary did not recognize Jesus on that morning.  The concept of the risen Christ would have been beyond her comprehension.
And Mary stays confused until Christ calls her; says her name.  When Mary hears Christ speak her name, she suddenly comes to the realization who is calling her.  She comes to the realization that what seems impossible is, in fact, possible!  When Mary is called, she is then able to see clearly.
As we move forward, we need to keep our eyes open, but more importantly, we need to keep our hearts open.  What is Christ asking of us this Easter morning?  What may we be looking at, directly, but not seeing because it is not what we are expecting?  What may we be missing because we cannot get our minds around what is happening?
We also need to remember that even though we may be lost, confused, scared, or whatever, that we have knowledge that the disciples did not have.  We know that Christ did indeed rise from the dead.  We know that the promises that were made to the disciples were, in fact, fulfilled.  We know that the expectation that the disciples had did in fact come to be.  This group of disillusioned, down-trodden, scared people would be the seeds that start a movement that will change the world.  We know that what looked like death to this group would become a source of life and vitality.  We know this, because we are here this morning.  What looked like it might have been the death of the church even before it started is not what has happened.
Granted, we are looking at the closing of our congregation, but I also would like to think that we are seeing a promise:  Just as the disciples may have thought Christ’s death was their end mission, we may see our closing as the end of our mission.  But also, just as Christ wasn’t finished with the disciples, Christ is not finished with us!
Last night, our Bishop, and rector of this congregation, talked about finding life in the celebration of Easter.  He talked about how Mary went to the tomb expecting to find death, but what she found was life!  We may think we come to church this morning expecting to find death, but because we are followers of Christ, we need to count on finding life!  Christ is alive!  And because Christ is alive, we will find life too!

Easter Bunny is Gone! Here Comes Santa!! 8 Months to Go!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Palm Sunday

Hosanna!  Hosanna!  The crowds were cheering!  Jesus was coming and the people were excited!  The Messiah was coming into the city!  Hosanna!
That is the way the service started.  Shouts of Hosanna!  We start with joy and happiness.  Isn’t it great when things are new?  When things are new, there are all kinds of expectations.  Isn’t it great when you just start that new job?  There is all the anticipation.  The possibilities, the promise!  Do you remember those days of early romance?  There is so much wonder about what the future might hold in store.  Or getting a new car.  The smell, the promises, the not letting ANYONE eat or drink anything in it!  When things are new, the future is full of possibilities just waiting for us to grab them.  When things are new, we are excited just because of all the things that might be.
But all too soon in our story, the crowd goes from shouting, “Hosanna!” to shouting, “Crucify him!”  The mood of joy and anticipation becomes a mood of annoyance and anger.  How could that be?  How could shouts of praise as Jesus enters Jerusalem on Sunday become cries of condemnation before Pilate on Thursday?  Praise and admiration on Sunday, hatred and loathing on Thursday.  The mood of the crowd quickly becomes ugly.
I think we can also understand this change in feeling.  We are all excited about the new job is wonderful and the paycheck is great but, boy, the new boss is really quite a jerk. We love that wonderful girl or guy, but it would be nice if they didn’t have bad breath and would learn to scoop the cat box.  And the new car is wonderful until we start putting gas in the thing and find how much more we are going to have to pay in insurance. The great possibilities the future seems holds start to dissolve in the troubles of daily life.  We were once all happy and excited at the beginning, but now we are just trying to get through.  Now we are just trying to live life with as little pain as possible.
The people in the bible wanted a messiah whom they expected was going to come in and save them.  They wanted a messiah who was going to take care of them.  They wanted a messiah who was going to promise them a future that would contain everything they wanted.  And when Jesus entered into Jerusalem, this was this messiah the people were greeting.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the messiah as Santa Clause was who they lauded.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the messiah as personal sugar daddy was who the people thought was riding in on the colt.
But things were to change.  By the end of the week, the people were disillusioned.  This messiah wasn’t just going to give the people everything they wanted.  This messiah had some expectations.  This messiah was not going to settle with the status quo, this messiah was expecting change.  Now granted, the people wanted change, but they wanted THEIR kind of change.  But the reality of the changes was not what people were searching for.  Jesus was ushering in a new world and the people were not quit ready for that.
When new things start in our lives, we are excited.  But soon enough the realities of life takes over and things start going in ways we may not want.  Soon things start to diverge from how we would plan.  Soon the ups we were feeling become the downs.  When life changes from what we expected, how will we respond?  When the world we find is different than the world we had planned, what will we do?
We see many different ways of responding in our gospel reading and I am guessing we have all used these various ways at one time or other.
Maybe we responded as Peter did.  When things get down, we lose our faith entirely.  We deny that we know Jesus.  We go out and follow the pressure of the crowd and pretend that Jesus has no place in our life.
Another way we may act is to be like the first criminal.  We may taunt Jesus when things are not going well.  We may want to say to Jesus, “Well, you got me into this situation, now what are you going to do to get me out of it?”  We want Jesus to come and rescue us from the situation that is before us.
Or we may act like the women and just stand back and wait.  We may just watch life and assume that something will happen.  We may assume that God has a purpose for all of this and we really don’t want to go against God’s plan.
Unfortunately, each of these ways only works to increase the pain of Jesus.  When we act like Peter, we increase Jesus’ pain by abandoning Jesus.  We increase Jesus’ pain by turning away from him.  When we follow the way of Peter, we throw away the possible comfort we may find in Jesus.
In the same way, when we follow the example of the criminal we increase Jesus pain by ignoring the gifts Jesus has already given to us.  And when we follow the example of the women, we increase Jesus’ pain by not doing anything to help the situation.
But we also have examples of how we could respond to adversity.  Simon of Cyrene helped in adversity by carrying the cross of Jesus.  Joseph of Aramathea gave by sacrificing of his treasures to provide a tomb for Jesus.  And the second criminal recognized that the predicament that the criminals found themselves in was not the fault of Jesus but was their own fault.
By following these examples, we can learn to move from blaming Jesus and God for our situations.  We can move beyond focusing on ourselves, and move toward helping others.  We can move beyond ignoring Jesus when things get difficult and remember to keep our faith in Jesus.
Now these sound like a good things and they are good things.  It sounds good to move beyond ourselves and to hold fast in faith.  It is a good thing to trust in Jesus and put our faith in God.  These are good things to do and we may be able to do this for a time.  It sounds good to reach out to others when we are in the midst of our problems.  But let’s face it; we are humans.  There will be times when we are going to be the ones who abandon Jesus.  There will be times when we go from shouting “Hosanna!” to screaming, “Crucify Him!”  There will be times in our life when our actions will cause pain to Jesus.
So when we fall short, Jesus just abandons us, right?  WRONG!  If we listen to Jesus dying words we find nothing but love.  Jesus doesn’t say, “Hey God, take care of these fools!  They didn’t understand so just damn them Hell.”  No.  Jesus says, “Father forgive them.”  Even while being crucified, Jesus is praying for those that are doing the killing.  Jesus is not looking for revenge or thinking about himself, Jesus is praying for those who were shouting to crucify him and just don’t get it!
And Jesus is praying for us too.  Quite often we are the ones who “know not what we do.”  We are the ones that cannot see Jesus as savior and deny him.  We are the ones that just sit back and watch and wait.  When Jesus prays for forgiveness, he is praying for forgiveness for us!  Jesus goes to the cross knowing that he will be abandoned and mocked.  Jesus knows, but still he goes to the cross.  Jesus knows but still he prays.  Jesus knows and still seeks forgiveness.  Jesus prays for forgiveness from the cross for both the people of Biblical times and for us.  That is pretty powerful. 
As we approach Holy Week, keep in mind that often in our life, we will go from shouting “Hosanna!” to screaming “Crucify Him!”  Often we will deny Jesus.  Often we will abandon Jesus and claim that Jesus has abandoned us.  We will fall short.  But even when we fall short, even when we turn away for Jesus, Jesus does not turn away from us.  We may not be able to see the way in the midst of life, but we can rely on the fact that God is still sovereign.  We can know that Jesus prays to God for our forgiveness even though we know not what we do.
The troubles in life won’t go away.  We will go from hosanna to crucify him.  We will fall short.  But through Christ, we are not alone.  Through Good Friday, we get to Easter.  Through the gift of Jesus we attain eternal life.


I think he is happy he won!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sleepless in the Suburbs

I am still dealing with the "damned if you do and damned if you don't" dilemma:  Of course there is the parents' birthdays.  There is something about going to my sisters wooded acreage for a picnic.  This sounds nice other than the fact that this is the sister that told me to quit being a child and that I never connect with my family.  Just what I want to do is spend all day with them drinking and whooping it up and knowing that my sister thinks I am immature, spoiled and self-centered.  Sounds like a great was to celebrate some birthdays.

Then there is my nephew/godson's wedding.  Again, if we don't show up, we are jerks, but we get to drive two days to the wedding to just sit there and not interact with anyone.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Maybe I am being childish

I really should be able to get over this, but it is right there and it hurts.

The stuff with the family continues.

I talk with my mom and I say things are going crazy here, and no question of how I am doing.  I told her we found a place to live, and no question of where.  No question about future calls.

I get accused of not involving my family in things, but yet when I speak with them, when I bring up anything that is going on here, I just get the brush off.  I try sharing good things and I am brushed off, I try to share troubles and I am brushed off.  We had visitors to the church today who were more interested in my future than my family seems.

My Dad is going to be 90 on May 8, my Mom is going to be 80 on May 22, and I called my sister to ask if there was anything happening.  She never did get back to me.  Nic and I are planning on just going and saying "screw you" to the rest.

I guess I feel let down.  I guess I always thought that family were supposed to be the people you could count on.  I just really feel abandoned.  I don't want to keep putting myself into situations where I will be hurt, but I don't want to cut myself off or become a drama queen.


Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Raising of Lazarus (Incomplete sermon)

“Take away the stone.”
Has there been a more frightening commandment?  “Take away the stone!”
You may not think this is a frightening command, but that is because we are looking at this story through the lens of 2000 years of familiarity.  But if we were there, standing in front of the tomb, these words must have been not only scary, but offensive and revolting.
Having anything to do with a dead body was a major social taboo in Biblical times.  Touching a dead body would make you ritually unpure.  And, of course, there was the desecration of the tomb; once the body was laid in the tomb; it was not to be disturbed.   So when Jesus told the people to take away the stone, he was probably triggering all kinds of discomfort in those around him.
And the people let Jesus know that this was not something they wanted to be part of.  They told Jesus that the body was in the tomb, now, for four days.  In the heat of the desert, we can be pretty sure that a body in a tomb for four days would have become pretty rank.  No embalming would have been used.  So just from an esthetic point of view, taking the stone away would have been disgusting.
But don’t we act similarly when the stones in our lives are threatened to be removed?  We don’t like to have those stones removed.  Like the stone over the mouth of the tomb, the stones in our lives are there for a purpose.  Just like the stone over the tome kept the stink from flowing out into the world, the stones in our life keep the stink of our deep, dark secrets from flowing out into our daily lives.  And no matter who we are, we all have stones covering the secrets in our lives.  And when Jesus tells us to roll back those stones, it can become very frightening.
The same can be said for our clubs, our political parties, and even our congregations; there are stones in all of these places, covering the things that we would choose to either not deal with or do not want the world to see.  We do not want to look at the death that is lying within these places so we place stones to cover them.  We wish to hide those things away from prying eyes.  We may even know the stones are there, but we are afraid to take those stones away.
The problem is, for Jesus to enter into these areas, the stone has to be moved.  For the light of Christ to enter in, the stone that is hiding everything in the dark must be rolled back.  Granted, Jesus probably could have raised Lazarus from the dead while the stone was in place, but what good would that have done?  With the stone in place obscuring the sight, the miracle would have been missed and poor Lazarus would have been pretty confused!
But Jesus commanded the people to take away the stone, and even when they protested, he did not back down.  For the miracle to be seen, we need to remove the stones in our lives and in our society.  This is scary, but this is what we are commanded by Jesus.  “Take away the stone!”
Then once the stone is removed, Jesus gives another command, “Lazarus, come out!”
What good would it have been for Lazarus to be raised from the dead if he just continues to remain hidden in the cave?  What good is it to have new life given if Lazarus were just to have him not share that new life with the world?  No, if new life is given, it is to be shared!  Lazarus is told to “Come out!”
Being out in the world with our new life can be just as frightening as taking the rock away.  As long as we stay hidden and secluded, we can remain safe.  As long as we stay hidden, we don’t have to worry about offending anyone’s sensibilities (or noses for that matter!).  We need to remember that in the Gospel of John, it is this act of bring Lazarus back to life that caused the Pharisees to plot for Jesus’ death.  Taking away the stone and calling Lazarus is not a trivial thing.  It is truly a matter of life and death.
In our lives, where are the stones, and what is hiding in the caves that we do not want to have exposed to the light?  What would be so frightening to have exposed to the world?  What do we not want Jesus to call forth?  We need to look for these things in our lives, in our organizations, and in our society and government.  We need to look at these things and then we need to have the courage to bring them to Jesus and allow Jesus to call them forth.
But even when Lazarus steps forth, there is still a problem:  He is still covered with the clothes of death.  The wrappings need to be removed.  We are told that Lazarus’ hands, feet, and face are still covered when he emerges. 
Have you ever met people who have gotten a divorce and are still just as married, if not more married, to their former spouse?  My niece is one such case; she is divorced, but she still is constantly trying to “get back at him” and trying to “make him pay.”  She has been given new life and has been let out of the tomb, but she is still keeping her hands, feet, and face tied up in the problems of her past. The marriage is over, she can come out of the tomb, but she still is wrapped in the marriage, she cannot take off the cloths that bind her.
I think moving beyond the death wraps may be the most difficult part of Lazarus’ move out of the tomb.  So often we stay wrapped in the troubles of our past.  So often we get caught in our deathly habits, even though we have had them exposed and have been called forth.  Sometimes we don’t WANT to have the wraps removed, we like having our pet angers to hang on to.  But as long as we hang on to these past hurts and presumed slights, we are as bound as if we were still tied in shroud cloth.
Since this is so difficult, there is something you will notice:  Jesus tells the people, those who are friends and those who care for Lazarus, to unbind him.  This final layer of wrapping, this final forgiveness of self is not something that happens in a vacuum, it happens in community.  It is when we are part of a community that truly loves us that Christ’s light can shine most fully.  It is in community of trust and love when those things that restrain us can be removed.  It is in a caring community that death can be made into life!
We always need to remember that through Christ we find life, not death.  We may be looking death square in the face, but our faith tells us that we need not be afraid, we are followers of the one who can bring life out of death.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Hatin' the Process

Well, I woke up to an e-mail from the Bishop's secretary concerning liquidating the assets of the church.  I am so over all of this!  What can we give away?  What can we give away if we have documented it?  What can't we give away?  The Former Secretary telling people what SHE would do.  The proclamations of the Former Secretary making it more difficult to do "the good thing."  And the Former Priest telling me that she gave the stuff to the church on the assumption the church wouldn't close and now that it is closing, she wants it back.

Again, I feel like I am dealing with a bunch of children in Adult suits.  And want makes me even more frustrated is the Former Priest has been through Interim Training and SHOULD KNOW BETTER!

I am so ready to have this over.  I am questioning taking the interim position because I don't know if I want to continually deal with this sort of thing.  But then again, I can think of this a OJT and take all of this to another place.

It is rainy and cold, and the weather is bad too.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Hey, I am Famous (kind of)

I have an entry in the Urban Dictionary!  Go check out shampoo amnesia!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Chapter 6: In which we get a plot twist...

Ok, the apartment is getting packed.  The office is getting packed.  The living situation, although not ideal, is pretty well set.  The church is dealing with the concept of closing.  Things are moving along.

I will admit that I HATE moving and would do almost ANYTHING to not have to move.

So, now enter the plot twist:  The assistant to the Bishop informed me that there is a full-time interim position that will soon be coming available and was wondering if I would be interested in it.  (Sound of screeching brakes...)

Now, I was kind of getting excited about the possibility of moving to some place warmer.  I was getting kind of excited about getting into a healthy congregation and being able to really get down to some fun ministry.  But now this has come about and changes all of this.

Staying and taking the interim position will save us the $2500 fee for breaking our lease.  It will allow me the opportunity to hone my skills in working with congregations in transition.  It will give my monkey brain something to do for a year or so before going on to something else.  It will allow us to actually move in the future with some planning and not just get tossed to the wind.

I will be talking with the Assistant tomorrow and will have some more information.  Until then, gentle readers, stay tuned!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Punishment just doesn't work! Lent 4 A

I find it intriguing how after thousands of years, we humans have not really changed a whole lot.
This whole, “Not Changing” thing is one of the things that prevents me from being a Humanist.  A Humanist is someone who believes that we humans will reach our potential if we are just allowed to seek those things that are good, true, and noble.  A Humanist believes that the Earth can become the utopia that is presented in Star Trek; a place that supplies all things for all people and a place where there is no one in need and no one is at war.  And, the Humanist believes this can all come about without the need of a God or other divine intervention.  And we can see from our gospel reading from today, that even after 2000 years of seeking those things that are good, true, and noble, we still haven’t made huge strides forward.
Now that may sound kind of harsh, but give me a chance to explain:  In the gospel reading for today, when the disciples see the man who is born blind, their immediate thought is that the blindness must be punishment.  They ask Jesus, “…who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  The immediate assumption is that when we see things in our world that appear to be “bad,” then that must mean that something was done by someone and that something is deserving of punishment.
Now, I don’t want to get into a whole discussion of the merits of punishment and whether we should punish people and children, just suffice it to say, on a theoretical level, punishment doesn’t work.  Yes, punishment does seem to have some short-term advantages, but in the long run, it really doesn’t get the results that are wanted.  So if it really doesn’t work, then why would we assume that punishment would be God’s way of teaching us things?  By their questions, we know that the disciples believed God worked mainly by punishment, and by listening to just about any Televangelist, this is still the assumption being made today.  And whether we like it or not, this assumption has probably taken root in each of us.
The disciples were just SURE that someone had to have sinned for the man to be born blind.  They were SURE that the blindness was a form of punishment.  And since blindness was seen as a terrible thing, the sin that was being punished had to be a pretty terrible sin.  They were SURE of this, and this was the way they processed the world.  But Jesus gives them a different answer:  Jesus tells them that neither the man nor the man’s parents sinned!  How can that be?  Something so horrible as being born blind MUST be a punishment for something!  But Jesus doesn’t back down, he doesn’t say, “Well, yes, the man’s parents were Packers fans.”  No, he says that the blindness is actually something that can be used so that God’s works may be revealed!  What we would usually see as a punishment, God can use to reveal God’s glory!
Now, we need to be careful here:  I don’t want to jump to the conclusion that God caused the man to be born blind.  Granted Jesus says, “…he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him,” but I think we could get totally off the track by following this line of reasoning.  Suffice it to say that there are plenty of “bad” things in the world.  Suffice it to say that “bad” things are going to happen in our world.  And suffice it to say that God does not need to create “bad” things within our world.  But having said that, God does not just let the “bad” things be “bad.” 
If the man was born blind as a punishment, that seems rather harsh to me, especially if it was something that the man’s parents did.  If the man was born blind by some quirk of fate, well, that doesn’t seem much better.  But if the man was born blind and God could use the situation to reveal God’s work in the world; well, then a bad situation is redeemed through God!  And we stop and consider it, we must admit, God’s works have been revealed, for thousands of years, through this blind man.  The man may not have chosen to be born blind, but God redeemed his blindness through this story.
But back to the concept of bad things that happen are a form of punishment; this is a concept that is still plaguing us today.  It is a way of scapegoating people and groups.  It is a way of turning our back on those in need.  It is a way that we can feel superior to others.  If God is punishing these people, then we should not stand in God’s way!  And actually, this argument was used when vaccines and antibiotics were first presented; God was punishing these people and we should not stop the hand of God.
But, as I said, punishment does not work.  And God, in God’s greatness, would not resort to a method that did not work.  So we need to readjust our thinking.  We need to stop looking at the “bad” things in life as a punishment for some sin we may have committed and start looking for how this can show God’s works in the world.
When we are pushed outside of our comfort zones, we find that we are capable of so much more than we ever thought possible.  And even though we may not like to think about it, we are not the people we are because of the easy life we have had; we are the people we are because of the hardships we have survived.  The things that make us unique and wonderful are the difficulties we have surpassed.
When I look back at my life, there are many things that feel like they were punishment, but with the gift of time, I see how these things have prepared me for other challenges to come.  Quite literally, I am standing before you today because I broke my ankle 25 years ago.  Breaking my ankle set me on a different life course and has revealed to me God’s work in the world.  And I hope through my broken ankle, God’s work may have been revealed to others.
We can look at our impending closure as a punishment for some sin either committed by us or by those who have come before us; but I don’t think Jesus would want us to follow this train of thought.  I think Jesus would rather have us search for a way that God’s work can be seen in the world.  How does this event send us on a new and different path of service?  What have we learned here that needs to be shared with others?  I am sure that after his eyes were opened, the now former blind man, had insights that he alone could share with those around him.  The blind man would know stumbling blocks that others may not even have considered. What insights do we have that we can bring to other congregations?  What stumbling blocks do we now know that we can warn others about?  We have a gift of experience that is rare in the church world.  We have seen what can happen and have lessons to share.  We may have been blind, but God has worked to open our eyes.  And now we are sent to go out and share the message.
During this time of Lent, I invite you to remove the thought of punishment and replace it with loving leadership.  We are not being punished through the closure of St. Swithin's, but we are being led into new and different territories.  The world around us may be like the Pharisees in the gospel demanding that we acknowledge our sin, but we need to be like the man and give glory to God.  We have been given this experience and are being asked to spread the lessons we have learned and to share the loving works of God in the world.  Although this is painful, we do not experience the pain for nothing nor do we experience it alone.  God is with us.  Christ is with us.  Our Messiah is our guide and will lead us each to that place where we can show God’s glory to the world.