Sunday, June 21, 2015

Wisdom and Wonder


Wisdom and Wonder from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Proverbs 2:1-11
1My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, 
2making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 
3if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; 
4if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures— 
5then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 
6For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; 
7he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, 
8guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones. 
9Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; 
10for wisdom will come into your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; 
11prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you. 

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

John 14:1-14
1‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

8Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

I drove down to Charleston this weekend. Leah’s college roommate got married yesterday, and Leah was a bridesmaid. It’s about a four hour trip from Shelby to Charleston, and I was very cognizant of the connection between those two cities this week.

My heart is troubled by the connection. Wednesday night an angry young man walked into a Bible Study in  Charleston and killed nine people. He fled the city and was arrested a few miles from my house in Shelby. The church at which he opened fire is one of the oldest historically black congregations on this continent. It has been a sanctuary through centuries of racism and violence. This week in Charleston, racism and violence invaded the church again.

I drove down to Charleston this weekend. I was heavy-heartedly heading to a celebration. The news reports that drifted across the radio as I drove down focused on the story of the shooting at the Emmanuel church in Charleston.

My heart is troubled today because when I look at the world through the spectacles of scripture, I am left with few answers. Both of our scripture passages this morning make promises that God will protect us and provide for us. Proverbs tells us that “Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his faithful ones.” The Gospel of John promises that “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”

When I read the world through those passages, my heart is troubled. These promises are reliable and true, yet violence and injustice seem to seep out of every pore of our culture. How long, O LORD, until your truth asserts itself and justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream?

The Gospel of John is not stranger to the tension we feel when we see the promises of God, but do not see how they are being fulfilled. At Lunch Bunch this week, we wrestled with this text. Seeing the distance between God’s promises and the reality in which we live, they said that we have to have faith that this will happen, and the patience to see it in the Father’s time. John’s gospel emerges from a community of outsiders, whose faith and patience were under strain. They longed for comfort and assurance. In this long, final speech of Jesus to his disciples, he is preparing them for when he is most violently rejected by the world. He gives us words of comfort which we will not understand until after he has been crucified and raised again. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

As we are carried along by the Gospel narrative, we are given a moment to float upon these words of assurance before we plunge into the violence and injustice that leads to the cross, and eventually the empty tomb. “I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 

The place where he is going is the cross. From there he will go to the tomb. From the empty tomb is will ascend to the Father. When Jesus prepares a place for us, that’s how he does it. The violence of the cross and the wonder of the resurrection are the centerpiece of Christian belief. But Thomas hasn’t seen those events unfold yet. So he asks, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

I’d like to remind everyone that scripture never calls Thomas “doubter.” That’s a nickname we’ve added, and it brings a truckload of baggage along with it. In this passage, Thomas is asking for clarification, for direction, so that he can be ready to rejoin Jesus when he comes to take us to himself. He is, as Proverbs urges us, “making [his] ear attentive to wisdom and inclining [his] heart to understanding.” Thomas does “indeed cry out for insight and [raises his] voice for understanding;”

Jesus does not give him the answer he expects. Instead of a map, Jesus gives him an identity: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” When he tells the disciples, and us, that we know the way, he is promising that we know him. Our comfort is in the identity of Jesus Christ, whom we know because he made his home among us.

Jesus know where he is going. He knows the way, and the truth, and the life, all lead to the cross. So on his last evening with the disciples, he tells them as clearly as he can who he is. “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Jesus Christ has made the Father known, and we are amazed that this man whom we know is also the Word made flesh, God the only son has made God known.

One of my favorite theologians once wrote that "Revelation yields not the solution to a problem but the unveiling of a mystery.” It’s not difficult to find problems, although solutions sometimes evade us. But the mystery of faith is something more. It gives us a sense of wonder as we walk through God’s creation.

I needed a little wonder as I drove down to Charleston, heavy-heartedly heading to a celebration. Reports came over the news radio. The young man who is accused of entering that Charleston church and opening fire appeared in court this week also. he videoconferenced in from a secure room in the courthouse while the families of the victims gathered in the courtroom. After the young man answered a few questions, the families were given the opportunity to speak.

What followed was the most flabbergastingly powerful display of faith: Every family spoke of their grief, of how hurt they were. Every family also told the young man that they forgave him. That audio clip floated across the radio every ten miles or so, because that kind of radical forgiveness runs against the grain of every human instinct and wounded reflex we’ve got.

The days are coming when we can be guided by God’s gift of wisdom and wrestle with the history of violence and racial injustice which we have all inherited. We will work to “understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.” But their courtroom forgiveness is a powerful witness to the gospel as expressed in John: A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. In the face of violent racism, one community of faith, one group of families, stood up to say that the grace of God is stronger than gunfire.

This morning, the people who are the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church gathered to worship. This morning and in the ongoing future to come, they will pray together, they will sing together, they will grieve together. They will proclaim the gospel together, because they have seen the darkness, but they know that a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.


Thanks be to God for that. Amen.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Vaguely Particular


Vaguely Particular from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Micah 6:6-8
6 ‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? 
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ 
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? 

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Romans 12:1-8
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Last week, we explored why we do what we do. We remembered together our family history, and how our gratitude move us into the future as we seek to follow Christ. Our discipleship is a grateful response in faith to what God has already done.

The prophet Micah is looking for ways to respond to God. Yet he is so struck by the majesty of our Lord that he cannot find any gift that is worthy. Bulls? Not enough. Rivers of oil? Insufficient. Perhaps his firstborn? Not really God's style.

How about instead we live our lives differently in response to God's grace? God "has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Looks simple enough. Do Justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God. Three things to make up a holy offering to the one who creates, redeems, and sustains us. Simple.

Too bad simple and easy don't mean the same thing.

The beginning of Romans 12 gives us a similar charge, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Yeah! That's a great idea! We should totally do that!

Just one question.

How do we do that.

How do we present our bodies as a living sacrifice when body image is one of our culture’s the largest sources of shame? How do we not conform to this world when we're surrounded by it all the time? How do we be transformed by the renewing of our minds when we never have a chance to rest? How do we discern the will of God when so many other voices are shouting in our ears?

How do we "Do Justice" when our nation's criminal justice system is so obviously broken? How do we "Love Kindness" when we see so many examples of people who are taken advantage of in their moment of need? How do we "Walk Humbly" when our leaders are never able to show weakness for fear of losing political points?

You know, looking at all these questions, looks like these simple instructions are pretty difficult. Hey God, you sure you don’t want the burnt offerings? I mean, I could probably come up with some calves, some goats, we’ve got some cooking oil in the kitchen, you could have that! We could even get a discount if we ordered in bulk…

No? You’d rather have the justice and stuff? Alright.

Problem is, I think those things are beyond the reach of sinners like me. I know most of the time I’m going to choose to do what benefits me. Most of the time I’m going to love what’s entertaining. Most of the time I’m going to walk arrogantly in front of others. Most of the time I’m going to think of myself more highly than I ought to think.

And yet.

And yet God has shown us, fellow mortals, what is good.

We have seen what is good when God creates each new day, reminding us that God created all that exists with a word and then pronounced them good. We have seen what is good when God liberates the oppressed and brings them to the promised land. We have seen what is good when God sends us into an exile of our own making and then brings us home again so that we will know that the LORD is God. The mighty works of God have shown us time and again, that though we are unworthy, God is good.

God has shown us, fellow mortals, what is good. for god has show us himself, most clearly in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The saving work of Jesus Christ shows us the ultimate good. We know that Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection have rewritten who we are, and the free gift of God’s grace has overwhelmed our selfishness and engraved God’s covenant upon our hearts. Our story is defined by God’s goodness that extends to the cross and out the other side at the empty tomb.

Micah asks us, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high?” The give-and-go transactions fall short. We cannot repay what we have been given. But through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have seen what is good. We can respond to the free gift of God’s grace and confidently approach the throne of the Holy One.

We shall come before the Lord and bow ourselves before God on high with the kind of justice that loves enemies and prays for those who persecute, praying even at the height of suffering, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” We’ll worship God with the kind of kindness that restores broken people to themselves and their community, that lifts up the fallen and tells them to go and sin no more. We’ll walk humbly with God even when God takes us places we would not choose to go, driven into the wilderness by God’s Spirit, taking the road to Jerusalem even though it means going to the cross.

We are already being transformed by the renewing of our minds. That transformation and renewal come only from the grace and power of the Holy Spirit who is present and active among us. The saving work of Christ defines our identity and is the center of our story. By grace through faith, we are liberated from sin and death, and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to face what challenges lie before us as we seek to worship God, grow in faith, and show God’s love to everyone. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are able to discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For God has shown us what is good through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. That grace enables and empowers us to discern God’s will and to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

Just because we’ve seen it though, doesn’t make it easy. Justice, Kindness, and Walking Humbly with God are still very hard work. Part of what makes it difficult is that there’s not a formula for it! Justice in one situation make look different in another. An action that shows loving kindness to one person might be destructive to another. Walking humbly with God can take us to a variety of places. Our description of what is good, of what is required of us, is delightfully vague. It proclaims that God is free to act differently in particular situations. God’s grace always comes from the same source, but it often takes different, vaguely particular forms.

Part of walking humbly with God is not assuming we’re better than others just because God is acting differently in different communities. As we begin Bible School this week, we’ll explore the different ways God calls us to act, because in God we live, move, and have our being. We’ll have different stations at Bible School not as gimmicks to draw folks in, but because God speaks to people in different ways.

Part of our Presbyterian heritage is listening for God in a variety of places, because God can speak through any voice. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” God has assigned us each a measure of faith so that we can enact our Christian identity in different way as God calls us.

“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,” God not only embraces diversity, God demands it. God creates people who think, work, and act differently so that the body of Christ may be a more complete image of God.

“So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” We belong to one another, and more importantly, to God. As we respond to God, we may be called to do so in different ways, in different places.

“We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” So long as we walk humbly with God, our particular calling will focus on the one who created us. so long as we love kindness, each member’s individual walk will be in the footsteps of our redeemer. So long as we do justice, our participation in builtding up the kingdom of God will be inspired by our sustainer.


I may only have a vague picture of the particulars, but God has shown us, fellow mortals, what is good. And I, for one, am excited about where God’s vision is taking us.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Why Bother?


Why Bother from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Romans 5:12-17 (CEB)
12So, in the same way that sin entered the world through one person, and death came through sin, so death spread to all human beings with the result that all sinned. 13Although sin was in the world, since there was no Law, it wasn't taken into account until the Law came. 14But death ruled from Adam until Moses, even over those who didn't sin in the same way Adam did--Adam was a type of the one who was coming. 15But the free gift of Christ isn't like Adam's failure. If many people died through what one person did wrong, God's grace is multiplied even more for many people with the gift--of the one person Jesus Christ--that comes through grace. 16The gift isn't like the consequences of one person's sin. The judgment that came from one person's sin led to punishment, but the free gift that came out of many failures led to the verdict of acquittal. 17If death ruled because of one person's failure, those who receive the multiplied grace and the gift of righteousness will even more certainly rule in life through the one person Jesus Christ.

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

Joshua 24:1-25 (NRSV)

1Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel; Long ago your ancestors - Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor - lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. 3Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. I have him Isaac; 4and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in its midst; and afterwards I brought you out. 6When i brought your ancestors out of Egypt, you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. When they cried out to the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea come upon them an cover them; and your eyes saw what I did to Egypt. Afterwards you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan; they fought with you, and I handed them over to you, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9Then King Balak son of Zippor of Moab, set out to fight against Israel. He sent and invited Balaam son of Beor to curse you, 10but I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he blessed you; so I rescued you out of his hand. 11When you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hitties, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I handed them over to you. 12I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove out before you the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards that you did not plant.

14Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; 17for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for his is our God.”

19But Joshua said the the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” 21And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the LORD!” 22Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24The people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey.” 25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statues and ordinances for them at Shechem.

This is the Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

I grew up with this our Old Testament passage, or rather, a portion of it. Both my parents and my Grandparents have a plaque prominently displayed in their respective houses that read “The Taber House, Choose this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my house, we shall serve the LORD.” My presence with you today is a testament to how my family has adopted this almost defiant challenge as a motto. So when I read those lines in this text, I immediately connected it to my rich family history, and all the things that have happened with my ancestors to bring me to the point in my life when my vocation is to actively pursue God.

This text begins with a reminder for the people of Israel, a reminder of all the things that have happened with their ancestors to bring them to this point. Joshua makes sure everybody is there to be reminded. One could imagine the scene, everybody gathers together, closes up their shops, ties up their animals, puts down whatever they’re doing, and goes to listen to Joshua deliver the word of God. Then Joshua calls up all the community leaders, for us it would be the teachers, the lawyers, the doctors, the preachers… They get to sit in the hot seat, or as our passage puts it, “They presented themselves before God.” All of Israel are about hear the word of the LORD, and the elders get to sit right under God’s nose while it is spoken.

They get a History Lesson from author of all creation. “Long ago, your ancestors...lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods.” But God intervened, and brought Abraham out of Ur and into Canaan. Abraham was childless, but God intervened. “I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.” Jacob, the same man who would wrestle with God, father the beginnings of the twelve tribes of Israel, and in chapter 35 of Genesis tells his household to put away their foreign gods in Shechem, the same city where all of Israel is now gathered. The same man who would lead his family to Egypt, where they survived a great famine, and eventually became slaves.

But God intervened, and brought the people out of their slavery in Egypt into the wilderness, where God transformed a slave population into a nation. And many battles later, God reminds the people standing in the land given to their ancestor Abraham hundreds of Godly interventions before that “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards that you did not plant.”

God has given the people these things, they did not earn them. It is not a matter of deserving, it is a matter of God giving freely as God so chooses. In the face of the free gift of God, Joshua responds “Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.”

Interestingly though, this is an option, not a command. Joshua says “Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living;” There’s no downside offered here, only an account of what God has done. If God has not intervened in our lives and in our history enough for you, go ahead and worship the gods of other nations, and remember that this was their land first, and that the LORD gave it to us. Do what you want, “but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

The people speak in one voice: “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD and serve other gods!...We too will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” There is no mention of what God will do in the future for the Israelites. As far as this passage is concerned, the promise has been fulfilled. God has intervened in their history and freed them from slavery, and the people are now committed to serving the LORD despite Joshua’s warnings that they will fall and be punished because there’s no way we can live up to the gifts God has given us.

So why bother? Joshua gives them the out, they won’t be expelled if they choose not to serve the LORD. They aren’t promised eternal life for serving God, or even extra “stars in their crown.” So far as I can see, this passage offers no advantage in choosing to serve God, the only threat I see is when one claims to serve God and falls to idolatry. Joshua’s call to “…therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness;” is an invitation to enter into relationship with God, an ordination of service in gratitude to God who has already done so much for the people of Israel.

I remember when I was in high school, I was sitting on the front lawn of the school waiting for my parents to come pick me up at the end of the day, and one of my classmates, a very intelligent young woman taking upper-level classes, asked me why I was a Christian. She saw me as an equal, but what I believed did not make sense to her, and she wanted to know how I got there. I told her that’s the only way my world made sense. My story is built on the foundation of my rich family history, and all the things that have happened with my ancestors.

Christianity doesn’t erase life’s hardships, in fact, we’re told to take up our cross and rejoice in suffering. There’s no magic prayer that will solve all our problems, in fact the psalms of lament give us language to address the brokenness of the world. Calvinists like me affirm  that our salvation is not at stake based on anything we do or believe, and Christianity is a faith of doing and believing what is difficult. So why bother?

This passage provides the answer for me. The people speak with one voice saying “for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up... out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight.” We are Christians not because it gives us a special connection with God. We are Christians because serving our Christ is how we show our gratitude for all God has already done for us.

Our slavery was to sin and death, and had been since the fall of Adam and Eve. But as Paul’s letter to the Romans tells us “The free gift of Christ isn’t like Adam’s failure. If many people died through what one person did wrong, God’s grace is multiplied even more for many people with the gift - of the one person Jesus Christ - that comes through grace.” We were slaves to sin, but now we have been brought out of the house of that bondage, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our liberator. And we remember that our salvation is not earned, it is a free gift. And it is given to us by a God of love, through the one person Jesus Christ.

That is why we choose to serve Christ. We were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. We are freed from sin’s power because we belong to God, and in gratitude to God for all God has done for us, ““The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey.”

The people of Israel are gathered at Shechem, and are waiting to hear the word of the LORD. We do not know what is ahead, but we know what God has already done for us, God brought our ancestors to the promised land, turned an old man into the father of a tribe, protected our tribe from a famine, brought our people out of Egypt and made us a nation. God gave the nation of Israel a home, and they chose to serve the LORD.


It is a scene of devotion. The people of Israel don’t know what is coming, but we do know what happened next. Although they are free from their Egyptian slavery, they are still under the power of sin and death. So God intervenes, and Christ breaks the power of sin and death for all of us. We’ve seen more than these Israelites could have dreamed of, and the question is still put to us, Whom will we serve? As a response in faith to all God has done for us, me and my house will serve the Lord.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Teaching and Fellowship

Isaiah 6:1-8
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with who the covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

4the pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices on those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5And I said, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

6Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I sent, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I, send me!”

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Acts 2:22-24, 37-47
22You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know - 23this man, handed over yo you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord of God calls to him.” 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons where added. 42They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

43Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would seek their possession and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day be day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

The popular picture of prophets portrays them as ever-righteous, unwavering monuments of faith. Isaiah and Peter have both taken on almost mythic status, men who spoke to hundreds and left an indelible mark on their faith communities.

Well their legacy is powerful, but I'm not convinced that perfection is a prerequisite for prophetic ministry. I think if God waited for a flawless human to speak on his behalf, the Bible would be a fair sight shorter.

I think of the obnoxiousness of Amos, the arrogance of Paul, the PTSD of Jeremiah, the weirdness of Ezekiel, the stubbornness of Jonah, the outright abuse in Hosea, and I'm convinced that prophets are not flawless specimens of humanity. They're as broken as the rest of us. Even Peter, on whose testimony the church is built, was prone to say incredibly stupid things...

Prophets are picked for a particular purpose, and their formation throughout their lives shapes their voice as they proclaim the Word of The Lord. So Peter's overeagerness leads him to take charge and speak to a murmuring crowd at Pentecost. So Isaiah's unclean lips lead him to become a mouthpiece for The Lord of hosts. So a church with a history of division is called to embody unity in Christ.

The church began, as we see in scripture, in Jerusalem, among the people whom God had already called to covenant. “You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: “ Peter spoke from amid the cacophony of a crowd, teaching truth: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know - this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” From there it spread, inviting the church to grow in diversity, reflecting the image of God which is beyond the scope of any one way of being human.

For our triune God is in community within Godself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The church is called to testify to who God is by being a community that is distinct, but inseparable in the truth. ”Like as God has gathered you into one peculiar people heretofore by his voice, so that same voice shall sound everywhere, that those which are far off may come and join themselves to you…" We are gathered here by God’s definite plan and foreknowledge, so that the glory of the Triune God may shine through us.

Like the prophets before us and among us, this congregation, and every member of it, has been picked for a purpose. Each person connected with this gathered body has been given a portion of the voice that spoke through the apostles at Pentecost. We gather together to proclaim the gospel and to give hope to all people, through the voice we have been given.

When the convicted crowd cries out “Brothers, what should we do?” The church responds by inviting them to join their newborn community. Peter’s call to repentance does not mean rejecting everything about your personality, it means dedicating who we are, both gifts and flaws, to the service of Jesus Christ, whom God raised up, "having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” Turning away from sin is a part of repentance, sure. But the focus, as with all aspects of the Christian life, is on God. Peter calls upon the crowd to turn to God and live as people who are already forgiven. ”Here is salvation, not as earnest human striving but salvation beyond such striving, salvation which only comes as the call and work of the Spirit…"

God the Holy Spirit sustains us as a community, God the Son redeems us and defines our identity as people of the Word, and God the Father creates us and builds up the kingdom through us. The God who is in community with Godself calls us to be a covenant community, extending the promise to all peoples that we may share fellowship with one another and with Christ our Lord. “…Those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons where added. They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

We are rooted in our particular tradition, and we emerge imperfect, but made whole through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a church, we are growing closer to one another and to God. So we devote ourselves to the apostle’s teaching so that we are not pulled away from our identity as the people of God. “The church is not to drift from one momentary emotional outburst to the next... rather the church moves immediately to the task of teaching, keeping itself straight about what it is and what it is to be about.”


We are to be about God, who calls imperfect people to himself, and who builds up a community to testify to the world what love can do. For our hearts of stone are broken, and we have been given hearts for love alone, so that when God calls us saying “Whom shall I sent, and who will go for us?” We can respond with faith that comes from the Holy Spirit, saying, “Here am I, send me!”

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Visions of Life!


Visions of Life from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Ezekiel 37:1-14
1The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O LORD God, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5Thus says the LORD God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: thus say the LORD GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breath upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. The say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus say the LORD GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from you graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act, says the LORD.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Acts 2:1-21
1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs - in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean? 13But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
19And I will show portends in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

Following the Holy Spirit is like driving at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but with the faith that there’s something beyond our sight, you can make it the whole way home, one headlight beam at a time. Well, technically two beams…

Prophets like Ezekiel live just beyond the edge of our headlights. In many ways what they see is still shrouded in darkness to us, yet still they describe what they can see. It gives us hope so that we can continue moving towards their vision, trusting that there are more things under heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

Ezekiel speaks, brushing across the surface of his vision: “The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.” Ezekiel’s visions are not quite reality. They’re impressions, writing a theology of hope in the midst of exile and disaster.

Valleys are fertile places, where the rainwater of two mountains flows down and meets in the middle to nourish the soil. The valley is where we can expect growth, yet Ezekiel finds that once lush valley is instead filled with bones. "He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O LORD God, you know.’”

I had always read Ezekiel’s response as a statement of faith. Some variation of “all things are possible for you, O LORD God, you know.” On this visit to Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones, I wondered if perhaps Ezekiel is asking God if he knows how dead these bones are. “O LORD God, you know these bones are dry and dead, right?” Perhaps the familiarity of this story has overshadowed how scandalous the news of restoration is to the people of Israel. I think I like the vision of the very human Ezekiel reminding God of mortality, so that the restoration and hope which follow can be felt even more powerfully.


Because God upends Ezekiel’s expectation of death: “Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the LORD God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.’”

“So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.”

In the same way, the disciples were gathered together in one place, because they had experienced the risen Christ behind closed doors throughout the last fifty days, and had grown in faith each day Jesus was with them. They weren't hiding, they were waiting in remembrance of Jesus Christ who had gathered them all together into one upper room . Waiting for God to act in the same manner he had in the past.

The day of Pentecost has come, and we are all together in one place. The hand of the LORD has come upon us, and he brought us out by the spirit of The Lord and set us down in the middle of a valley. What will the Spirit do next?

Guide the people in love, and to love. God the Holy Spirit guides and sustains God’s people with grace and love. Sometimes love is a hug, sometimes love is a shove.

The Spirit of Pentecost does not bring people into the church, it sends the church out. The Spirit we receive at Pentecost loves us by shoving us out into the world to speak language which loves God supremely and loves each other too. “And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”

Now when the Spirit starts giving ability, things change. The Holy Spirit gives power. The church begins to grow. The Gospel spreads throughout the world. The Spirit is doing amazing things, and the entire next paragraph of our Acts passage unpacks how amazing this event is. “Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs - in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’”

We at the Presbyterian Church of Lowell aren’t the type to make fun of the disciples raucous new power, but If there had been Presbyterians around at that first Pentecost, I can hear us saying, “Listen Holy Spirit, I know you’re excited about all this power, and these new things you’re doing seem to have really connected, but before you make these changes, Holy Spirit, I need you to get committee approval.

New things and changes are especially tough on institutions like the Church, which are by their nature intergenerational. But the Spirit is not undoing what has happened before, she is simply expressing them in new languages.

Peter's sermon explaining what’s going on begins with Joel, an Old Testament Prophet. “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” This outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a new thing that is right in line with who God has revealed himself to be all along. Tradition is not erased by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, it's opened up! The expression may be new, but the truths are ancient: God intervenes in this world and is active among God's people, giving them new language in which to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

We are not waiting for the Holy Spirit, we have already received it. It has been poured out on all flesh! We may feel as if our old bones are dry and the only thing we have to offer is history, but the breath of God is within us, and our young men will see visions, and our old men will dream dreams. The LORD has spoken and is revealing himself to the world through us, through the people who are the Presbyterian Church of Lowell.


It will be scary to follow the Holy Spirit to where we are going. It will be scary. But we have come to worship and adore the LORD our God, and we know that God's Holy Spirit is moving through the world in powerful and life-giving ways. If we have the faith to follow God, speaking about God’s deeds of power in every manner as the Spirit gives us ability, we will find our souls filled with the breath of God and our bodies fed by Holy Manna from God's own hand. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Embodied Praise


Embodied Praise from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.


Luke 24:44-53
44Then [Jesus] said to them, “There are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you - that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness on sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nation, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he withdrew up into heaven. 52And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

Ephesians 1:15-23
15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.

When I was in Seminary, I got involved with a local retirement center called Presbyterian Village. They saw part of their ministry as giving students the opportunity to practice worship leadership, and I was given the opportunity to preach there once a month for almost a year.

In their chapel services, the average age was probably close to 80, and at least one worshipper had seen a century pass. There was a lot of wisdom in that room, month after month, centuries-worth of experiencing God's providence, generations of witnessing the grace of Jesus Christ. Their minds and bodies were slowing down, but still they gathered each week to worship God.

Their worship service reflected their slowing bodies, they would remain seated for the Call to Worship and the Affirmation of Faith, only about half would stand for the hymns. But each time I preached there, month after month, when it came time to sing the doxology, the whole congregation would stand. Even those who came in wheelchairs because they could not walk the hallway from their room to the chapel stood up in that one moment in the service. They may not be able to stand for long, but they would absolutely stand and sing God's praises for that one moment. 

Today is Ascension Sunday, when we celebrate that the Lord who rose from the tomb also rose into heaven, and is still seated at God's right hand. Christ is still present, but the part of history when Jesus walked among us in the flesh has passed. God is now intervening in the world differently. Christ is now God-With-Us in a new way. The Holy Spirit is breathing fresh life into the people of God, giving us reasons to stand in praise. For “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness on sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nation, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Today is Ascension Sunday, and our Lord sits at the right hand of God, and we are called to hope. This is the day when the posture of the church changes. "Henceforth, the disciples are to be in a posture of anticipation, looking forward to [Jesus's] return but in the meantime awaiting the promised power from God.” As Christians, we are always up on our toes, leaning forward into the kingdom which is both already and not yet. At any moment we’re ready to rush headlong downhill into what God has planned for us.

The Ascension changes the character of the disciples, and begins to shape them into the church. the seeming disaster of the cross caught the disciples flatfooted. The shocking joy of Easter put them on their heels. But with the Ascension, the earthly ministry of Jesus has come to a close. The disciples have to be on their toes. The tomb is empty and will never again be filled, for the Son of Man has been lifted up. He was lifted onto the cross, lifted from the grave, and now has been lifted up into heaven. “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew up into heaven” The disciples are left with a blessing, one that continues forever.

The change in their posture, the shift in their faith, is a response to the blessing of Christ, which carries them forward from the world-reforming moments to which they are witnesses. They’re brimming with anticipation for the mission that is set before them, dancing back and forth with the excitement of faith in a Risen Lord. “…the gospel always makes in clear that the impact of the faith in here, in our hearts, is because of what God did out there, in God's mighty and redemptive acts.” They have witnessed amazing things.

And you know what? So have we. Nearly Twenty Centuries after Christ’s earthly ministry, we are still witnesses to the mighty works of God. We may not have stood by as Jesus healed the blind and lame, but we have felt God’s presence with us in our own sickness, or those of a loved one. We may not have touched the wounds in the hands of the Risen Christ, but we have seen the work of those hands in our midst. We’ve seen a church racked by conflict come together to build up the kingdom in last years Vacation Bible School. We’ve seen a church that was struggling against decline come alive with new hope as old friends returned and new family joined with us. We know that hope has always been here, but what we’ve seen in this body has given us new reasons to trust the hope we’ve always had.

“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” Boy I’d love to take credit for the good things going on in our congregation, but it’s not about me, and it’s not about y’all. It’s about the blessing of Christ, which is given to first to the disciples, then Jerusalem, then all the world. 

We are witnesses to the mighty works of God. Some we have inherited, others we have seen firsthand. But that doesn’t mean we will not struggle. The Christian life is not an easy one, the grace we have been freely given is costly. “The resurrection does not end the fear of death or violence. Rather, the resurrected Jesus stands with us in the face of these horrors and says to us, 'Fear not, I have overcome death.’" Therefore, even in the face of death and violence, we are able to step out as the body of Christ and praise God even amid the terrifying events we will face. We are not immune, but “with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.” We do have hope. We have a blessing from Christ that gives us the faith to be embodied praise.

We are the church, the body of Christ, and it’s not an individual calling, it’s a calling to be united as a community of faith. "Salvation is a corporate affair, known through the church as it grows into the 'fullness' of Christ's body. This is not personal salvation or new-age spirituality. Christ saves through tangible, corporeal, committed community.” Whether that community is a congregation that has been through the ringer over the last few years or a retirement community that still commits to praise. We are the church, in all its varied expressions, following Christ, who is our head.

As the body of Christ, we are not carrying our head to the places we want to go, we are bound to follow where our head takes us. Christ who is our head has ascended to God the Father, “And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Following Christ, our head, everything we do faithfully brings us closer to God, whether we are sprinting or stumbling.

Not all of us are equally able to chase down the Holy Spirit, but none of us are so stuck that we cannot follow Christ, who has ascended to God, yet is still moving here on earth, among God’s people. Sprinting or stumbling or slowly meandering, we are moving towards God and are praising God with our whole selves, not just our mind or our spirit, but our strength too. Even if it’s just a smile, our bodies are build to praise God.

We joined the disciples in standing in awe of the ascension, just as we joined the ancient Israelites at the foot of the mountain of the LORD. We rejoice with them in our salvation, but the Israelites and the Disciples were still waiting for  what would guide and shape their identity. For the Israelites, it was the law. For the disciples, it was the Holy Spirit, fulfilling verse 49 of our Luke passage, “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” We have been given both, and have seen the Risen Christ here in the church, which is his body. We have seen the disciples who “…worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” Therefore, as the Body of Christ, let us eagerly anticipate what God is about to do: something amazing!