Thursday, May 29, 2008

Almighty? Noah vs Evan

Noah is quite a different person than Evan and it is a different world. We do longer live on a flat plain surrounded by waters above and below. We no longer live on a piece of dry land with water at all edges. We are 'enlightened' and have seen the earth from space and know it is a beautiful blue, white, green and brown ball spinning at 1,000 miles an hour at the equator. This ball travels around the sun at 66,600 miles an hour. I find it incredible that we even know this. How far we have come since the time of arks made of wood and pitch.

But this week I listened to NPR 's story about supervisors who covered up risky bank loans.
The story left such a 'bad taste in my mouth' that I thought, perhaps God should just cover the earth with water again and humanity should start anew. My next thought was, "We are doing that too, with global warming we may flood ourselves our of existent as the polar caps melt." Is destruction, whether human or divine, really what this week's lectionary texts are about?

The Psalm provides a different view.
"Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me. O LORD, faithful God." Psalm 33:5

Holly Hearon in Proclamation writes, "Despite depths of despair, the psalmist rejoices in the surety of God's presence." I cannot begin to imagine how to grab hold of such surety if my house was devastated by tornado, earthquake or flood. I do believe that with God, any attempt to trust is met with more than enough surety on God's part to make up for my own lack. I like to think that is why Jesus quoted this passage from the cross. Perhaps we have to get to the place where there is nothing else in which to trust, to let go and let God. I believe if we turn and trust, and "commit" that the One in whom we trust is faithful.

We must also try to look beyond ourselves and remember that God is concerned with all, make that ALL, creation. Kate Huey reminds us of this in the UCC lectionary reflection for the week.

While I am concerned about my family, house, and property, God is too, but the great Creator cares for far more than just me. Perhaps that perspective is as eye-opening than the view of earth from space. Yes, God is a faithful God, steadfast, hesed, and this means I'm included in a vast creation for which the Almighty cares. Answers to the 'why' of disaster? No, just trust in that to which I commit my ALL. (picture thanks to NASA)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Where Mom has gone before.

Number One daughter texted from train on way to Firenze this morning - well her morning, my middle of night. . . The "3forItaly" should be in that beautiful city and I just know that Florence will rival Rome for her passion. How strange for me to have been there before her; the art history guru. I've become accustomed to following the kids in discoveries. After all, many of the bands I like, I've heard about from Number One Son. The baroque artists were a gift from daughter. Isn't life interesting that we raise our kids, introducing them to our loves and passions like the outdoors, reading, etc. Then they grow up and begin to introduce us to their loves and passions.

Does the same truth apply to religious faith? We introduce children to our belief systems through Sunday School attendance. I wonder if we clearly convey our passion for the faith and our love of God. Is it just the American "hands off religion" that makes me feel it is so personal? Yet how I want them to experience the intimate relationship with the Divine that is open to everyone who seeks.

The lectionary texts have not been on my plate this week since I'm on vacation, but Acts; as in the Acts of the Apostles, has. It is a record of the journey of the early church as it passed on the faith to succeeding generations and passionately shared faith with friends and strangers alike. It is more than information on the practices of the early church and the travels of Paul. There is real insight into how to share faith and it comes from listening to the heart and spirit. So, I'm reading Acts and grabbing a hold of the holy wind as it blows because passion is more important than planning when it comes to sharing what we love.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sabbath Vacation

How many times have I seen articles written to clergy on taking sabbath? I read them, or I hear a sermon in a seminary setting, or I hear a reminder from a friend. Then I go back to work.

This weekend I saw friends that I haven't talked to in years. Catching up included the question, "How many hours a week do you work?" When I replied, their response was, "Oh" spoken very sadly. There was no badge of honor for my extra hours. There was no competitive bid countered to ante up to my schedule. Just sadness.

It was a mirror for me to see the madness of life lived too much for work. Even work that is wonderful and fulfilling and needed. My friend just expressed sorrow in her, "Oh" that I am living that pace. Even sadder is, I am not alone. So many colleagues live similar lives that I wonder what are we doing? Are we actually helping anyone? Is this the way ministry should be?

It's like every article I've read on sabbath; we are poor models for our congregants and poor stewards of our time. And I haven't touched the observation of the fourth commandment. . .

One year ago on a study trip, we (five clergy women) took sabbath. The trip was a sabbath of sorts, but we also took a day of pure sabbath rest. It was just as refreshing as we preach it should be. The memory comes back to me this week while I'm on vacation. I've already done some work of necessity. I hope to really take sabbath the rest of the week, not just doing nothing, but creatively resting; restoring my body and soul, and finding times of worship.

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." A worthy vacation goal - for me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Trinity Sunday Final Exam

Trinity Sunday is here. Many lectionary preachers will take on the creation story. I'm going with Paul's "fifth" letter; 2 Corinthians 10-13, specifically 13:5 ff. Do I like contentious dialogue? No, not at all. But I find Paul's letters fascinating and full of insight for living.

We can find all kinds of list in Paul's letters; things to do, not do, avoid, etc. Here in 2 Corinthians, at a time when Paul is trying to reestablish good relations with their community, he also offers a few lists. There are "boast lists" in chapter 11 and into 12; a "weakness list" in 12:10; and a "wish and no wish list" in 12:20-21 all before the "farewell list" in v. 11-12. Yet when it comes to Paul's final exam, he reminds the Corinthian Christians of only one thing, "Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?" No multiple points needed here, no long list of test questions, just "is Christ in you, in me, in us?"

The Church of the Brethren is 300 years old this year. In 1708 five men and three women went in to the Eder River in Schwarzenau, Germany and were baptized. Our anniversary theme is, "surrendered to God, transformed in Christ, empowered by the Spirit." What better way to examine oneself to see if 'Christ is in me?' than to ask,
"Am I surrendered to God?"
"Am I transformed in Christ?"
"Am I empowered by the Spirit?"
It seems the ultimate trinitarian formula that details the spiritual life. Each line is a giving over of self in order to be filled with the Creator's presence as found in one of humanity's experiences of God. Paul's single question is the perfect examination. And if this is our test, it is a final exam with promise!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Holy Mother Spirit on Pentecost

The combination of Mother's Day and Pentecost intrigues me. I've never thought of the Holy Spirit as mother; giving birth to the church, yet is is so appropriate. The tongues of flame alight on each one birthing in us new life, energy and hope. That new life went forth from a room in Jerusalem to give birth to a full movement in the world. Each place the flame of new life touched, gave birth to a new congregation. Each congregation is a womb in which lives are touched by that same Holy Spirit, giving birth again and again to life, and so on. It comes to us, this Spirit, having birthed in us the desire to respond to Ultimate Love with a life of our own.

We are each mothers then, responsible for nurturing the life we've been given. Each congregation receives the spirit as did Mary at the annunciation. As a whole Christian people we respond, 'Let it be to us, according to your word.' When we do so, we can be used as mothers, to give birth, with God's very spirit, to new life in this world. Christians, congregations, loving acts of kindness, I guess they are our children.

Pentecost IS Mother's Day.

(Thanks to Quaker Pastor for 'birthing' the idea in me.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pentecost: What to do when the wind blows

What to do when the wind blows:

do we run like crazy against it, trying to escape?
maybe run with it, letting it push us along to our intended destination
does it blow us down, flattened and destroyed like homes in a tornado?
does the wind-blown howl scare us into covering our ears so we won't have to listen?
is there any chance we might greet the holy wind like a child; allowing it to carry us down the beach, down the street, across the lawn, into a neighbor's yard, 'anywhere the wind blows.'

Could I let go of my planned destination and let the spirit wind blow me where it will?
Can I?
Will I will God's will?
and let it blow?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Looking Into The Fog
". . as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." Acts 1:9

Nanette Sawyer's Theolog post got me thinking about clouds and fog as I read the Acts passage for this coming Sunday. When we speak of being in a cloud, it's a foggy reference where things are not clearly seen or we are confused, even lost. Yet the word ascend brings almost opposite images to mind of rising above the fog. Jesus rose into a cloud. Perhaps Sawyer's references to previous clouds of Holy Presence are most appropriate. We may also need to look more closely at our actions when we are in a fog.

Years ago I was a driver on a Girl Scout ski trip to WVA. We drove out route 50 and up into the mountains and hit a thick fog. We had too many girls in our caravan to stop and look for alternate accommodations so we pressed onward thru the fog. (Remember that bumper sticker?) Visibility got so bad that we had to get a girl in each vehicle to hang out the passenger window and tell us where the road-side line was so we wouldn't drive off the side of the mountain! "Line, line, no line, go left, line, line. . ." It was a long and slow drive where every silence resulted in braking to a stop, for I couldn't continue to drive if I didn't know if I was on the road. My focus was right in front of me, all the way up and over the mountain.

Perhaps the gift of Christ's ascension is one of perspective. For just a moment we look up, following him into the cloud, hearing words of commission and apostolic sending. For that moment we get the big picture of divine grace that is meant for all the world, to the ends of the earth. While our eyes are uplifted we are promised the power of the Holy Spirit that will come to our aid and carry us through every trial. Then we are brought back down to earth by the men in white who remind us that our calling is here, back down in the fog. So we return to what is right in front of us; the daily grind, but we remember the higher calling and hold a vision of Christ's perspective.

The actions that occur right in front of us make a difference, even when our vision is limited by the fog of daily life. There is a greater perspective from more lofty heights and in moments of ascension we too see that vision.