Category Archives: Sermons

Head and Heart Stuff

The scripture text for this sermon is Luke 24:13-35.

The 1987 French Film called Babbette’s Feast is set in a village in the 1800’s on the dark, rocky and forbidding Danish shoreline.  The entire village is part of a Protestant settlement, similar to the strict Puritans that made their home in New England.  The village was founded by the father of two unmarried sisters.  The father is dead now, but he is remembered for his strong faith, pure life, and demanding nature that fit well with the difficult landscape that he had chose to live.

The sisters had suitors and opportunities to move from this forbidding and harsh village.  They chose not to, out of loyalty to their father.  The movie revolves around a visitor to this village, Babbette.  Babbette is young, beautiful, boisterous, extravagant, French and Catholic.  None of these traits endear her to the village or the sisters.  She is fleeing France because of her anti government activity which also makes her suspicious.  The sisters, even though they do not approve of Babbette or her ways, take her in because it is the good Christian thing to do.  

Babbette manages not only to offend the sisters but nearly every one of the unsmiling, gray clad villagers. She is oblivious to the disapproval that follows her every move and only wishes to repay the villagers for their kindness.  She gets her chance when she is left money in France.  She decides to spend the entire winnings on a big preparing a huge feast for everyone. We find out that she was a famous chef in Paris.  

She orders extravagant animals like sea turtles, quails, fish eggs and young calves for her meal.  The sister’s home begins to look like a zoo.  She grows excited for what she is planning as each new herb and delicacy arrives.  The women look on with disapproval at the waste.  They gather the other villagers together in a meeting without Babbette.  They tell them that although they disapprove of the meal, it would not be Christian if they did not attend.  They make a pledge with the others that they will eat the food but they promise to swallow quickly and not taste or enjoy it.

The day of the feast comes and everyone sits in their gray, black and white clothes looking more ready for a funeral rather than a celebration.  The courses are served with Babbette theatrically and grandly fussing over the details.  The villagers hold to their promise and chew quickly and swallow without comment or word.  Babbette seems not to notice.  The great delicacies mount, soon small morsels of taste cannot help but be noticed by the villagers.  They start whispering to each other what they have enjoyed.  The expensive wine loosens even further the rigid posture of the villagers at the feast.  By the end of the meal, they are laughing, singing, toasting and anxiously awaiting the next treat.  Babbette’s feast transformed these dour, sour, sad people into a raucous, singing thankful people.  For once they looked like the joyful people their Sunday hymns consistently declared they were.  

The village is made up of religious sort of people.  Religious sort of people understand bad news and low expectations; they don’t seem to understand Good News and abundance.  Religious sort of people understand and are weary of evil; they don’t seem to understand God’s goodness and are consistently surprised by it.  I like to think of the two disciples walking away from Jerusalem towards Emmaus in our Gospel today as typical religious people.  They were sure that evil had triumphed yet again.  Their lot was to endure, just as the lot of the villager’s in Babbette’s Feast was to endure.  

The two disciples knew Jesus.  They told the stranger that came upon them completely, accurately the story of Jesus.  He was a prophet.  He did great things. He was arrested, tortured and killed. They believed he would be the one sent to save them. They had been wrong. They knew this because now he was dead. They had all the head stuff down.

These two disciples knew Jesus, but didn’t trust Jesus. Knowing is head stuff. Trusting is heart stuff. The stranger, who it turns out is the risen Jesus, says that they are slow of heart.  Slow of heart seems better than hard of heart.  Hard of heart would mean they didn’t get any of it.  They were walking away from Jerusalem.  They are simply going in the wrong direction.  They are escaping with their slow hearts, to Emmaus, to lick their wounds and wait for the next tragic disappointment from God.  

Like the villagers in Babbette’s Feast, because they know what the right thing to do is, they invite the stranger in for a meal.  It is in this act of kindness, inviting Jesus to eat with them, that allows their slow hearts begin to burn hot.  Their disappointment turns to joy.  Their faith, what they knew up here, took on flesh and it becomes who they are here. They know and trust Jesus.

As religious people we often reside near God but not in God.  Our faith is full of knowledge but there is no flesh on it.  We have hearts for God, but those hearts never burn. We eat at the table, but don’t taste or enjoy. We mouth the words to joyful hymns, but we never shout the Alleluia’s! when given the chance.  We know Jesus, but we have stopped trusting Jesus.

I don’t want to be the dour gray clad Christians in Babbette’s Feast or the disappointed disciples in our story from Luke. Join me in being surprised that God’s love for us is deeper than God’s disappointment in us.  Together we can encourage each other to trust that the goodness in life survives even when the thicket of evil seems to choke it out.  As community, we can celebrate the gifts we have been given, share them generously, and love extravagantly. As church, we can sing great joyful hymns as thankful, saved children of God.  I want to know and trust Jesus, with you.

Today, move the head stuff of faith into the heart stuff of actions. Do the right thing, even if you don’t think it will make a difference. You know what is right. You know Jesus, now trust him, too. Be open to the possibility of God’s love in the most unlikely people, the crazy Babette, the bothersome strangers.  Though this world is still broken, God is fixing it and you are part of the joyful repair. Though evil is all around God’s goodness is greater and you are part of that goodness.  Smile!  God’s love is great.  Sing!  God’s gifts are abundant.  Love!  God’s promises are real.  Taste!  God’s table is fantastic.  Alleluia!   Amen    

Death and Resurrection

We are all dying. Every single one of us. There is not one exception in this room. Physically, we know this to be true. My bald head is a sign of the progress of death. Hair follicles, quitting, stopping to do what they were meant to do. My troublesome ankle that is keeping me from running is a sign of the march to old age that I can’t stop. Even my eyes are dying. They worked so well 14 years ago, and now I can barely lead worship without blowing up the words into a cartoonish 18 font. Continue reading Death and Resurrection

Temptation

When I was seventeen, on a porch in West Toledo, I leaned over and gave Ann Weaver a long, passionate kiss. The problem was that Ann Weaver was my girlfriend’s best friend. Another problem was that she was the girlfriend of my best friend. In retrospect, one could easily see all of the bad decisions that led to this kiss. The long phone calls we shared. The sudden interest that I had for tennis that could only be satisfied by Ann who was on the school’s tennis team. The “close calls” we had had before, obviously signalling our mutual attraction. Our temptation for each other was understood between us. When we finished with our late night tennis lesson, I knew what could happen if I accepted the invitation onto her porch. Yet, I dismissed my weakness to this temptation and sat next to her on that swing, our legs touching. Our one and only kiss, ended up causing a lot of high school heartache and drama. Continue reading Temptation

What the Light Reveals

So, a couple of years ago when online shopping was just starting to be a thing, I purchased a Christmas present for my wonderful wife on the newly created Walmart.com. I carefully picked out the gift, probably a waffle iron because I know how to bring the Christmas joy. I put it in my virutal cart and clicked on the little button to check out. The entire screen froze. I grabbed some lunch while the circle thing spun, smirking that this still beats waiting in line at a crowded store. When I came back, the circle was still spinning so I turned off the computer, turned it back on and tried again. The screen froze four more times before I could finally make it across the finish line at check out. It took me almost an hour to order that gift. At check out I realized they couldn’t guarantee delivery before Christmas, so I had to go to the store to pick it up anyway . Continue reading What the Light Reveals

Planting a Tree

We call this text in Luke an apocalyptic text. It is part of a rich tradition of scripture and other writings that describe the coming end times in dramatic, terrifying and even violent ways. Even though Jesus in other places clearly tells us not to worry about when our world will end, there is a Christian tradition of ignoring Jesus and parsing this scripture and others to see if we are near the end times now. Earthquakes, check. Wars, check. Famines, check. Plagues, check. And because these catastrophes are both vague and always happening, people of faith for generations have speculated and even declared that the end times are surely beginning now. Continue reading Planting a Tree

Pouring Out Our Lives

William Tyndale was probably born in 1494  in England. Like many younger  sons of a minor royal families he became a scholar and a minister of the church. With several degrees from both the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, he became known as an incredibly respected linguist and a young priest with very radical ideas about the church. He was enthusiastic about the reforms being put forward by the German, Martin Luther. His passion cost him his cushy job tutoring the children of a duke and tending to his private chapel. Continue reading Pouring Out Our Lives