Friday, August 29, 2008

Power Promise

Ephesians 3:18-22
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
I love this passage because it is a reminder of the promise we have of God’s ever-present and all-powerful LOVE. And then we get the bonus promise of strength, and empowerment.

It's a sticky-note reminder of whose we are and that we live within the love of God. We are granted this Great Power to use for others.

We do all things by Christ’s power at work in us;
It gives us the power to forgive.
To reconcile the worst offender.
To forgive even ourselves.
To take on the most impossible situations in the world in trust.

How does a church remain faithful over decades, providing a sanctuary for worship, proclaiming God’s grace year after year, extending a helping hand to neighbors, and being a light that shows another way to live? Christ’s power at work in us.

When we realize, and get a glimpse (Ephesians says comprehend), of the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, it should rock us back on our heels. It should crack us open a bit, enough to pause just sit in awe before our Creator.

Have you heard the song, Breathe?
This is the air I breathe This is the air I breathe Your holy presence living in me This is my daily bread This is my daily bread Your very word spoken to me And I'm desperate for you And I'm lost without you

It is a song of dependence on God. Breathing – in God’s Presence- is the pause we need to feel the touch of the Spirit, stirring within us,
desiring more for us,
asking more of us and
offering us the power to partner with Christ to accomplish all things.

It is no small thing we do. We are sent TO the world in Christ’s name. It’s an awesome responsibility but we have the greatest power and most filling promise there has ever been.
We accomplish this by being open, dependent, trusting, and filled with divine power.
By the power at work within us, WE ARE ABLE to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine!

Wow, what a promise.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rocks & Matthew 16:13-20

When I was in high school my nickname was 'the Rock'. In the context of this text it sounds like a great name, but I confess the name had more to do with the gift of a stable body than my faith. Still I listened to every text that mentioned Rocks with great interest. It was many years later that I understood the text in a historical context of the hierarchical Christian church. Today's challenge, everyday's challenge, is to hear the text in our own context while maintain the integrity of its original meaning.

Jesus is creating something new beginning with Peter's confession of faith. Matthew's gospel is clear in making the connection between Jesus' and the prophetic tradition of Israel. It is also clear that Israel's leaders of Jesus' day do not accept the connection. Jesus is not limited by limited human vision and starting with Peter and the disciples, HE will build the church. It is this tradition and promise that we have inherited.

I wonder if in this day, after 2000 years of 'church', if Jesus is creating a new thing once again? It certainly feels like we need it. Creation is groaning with the weight of human domination. Humans seem no closer to living in peace than ever. It would be easy to be discouraged and wonder when the stones themselves will start taking over 'kingdom work'? Then I hear small stories of hope. Children who get inspired to action that grows and blooms into a huge effort. (See Pennies for Pills and Joseph's work to help aids patients in Africa.)
It is then I realize that Jesus is still building His church, it just doesn't always look the way I expect.

Yes, rocks make a good foundation. They are also an impressive base when they stand alone against the tide of impossibility. Joseph is a rock and on this rock and those like Joseph, Christ continues to build.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The dogs of Canaan

Great faith is demonstrated by those having no other options. In Matthew's gospel the Centurion (ch. 8) could have watched his servant die. He could have stopped at worry, cries, and mourning. Instead he turns to Jesus in hope and trust. Peter's family could "accept" his mother-in-law's fate and watch as her fever raged through her body - yet by inviting Jesus into the home a trust is implied and Jesus fulfills expectations.

Jesus always chooses (Mt. 8:3) to heal us and put our broken pieces back together. We must choose to invite him; to petition him to come, touch us and heal us. Extending the invitation is harder than it sounds for we get used to our sick rooms and comfortable with prescriptions that numb- but don't remove the pain. It is easier to stay as we are; "accept our fate" and even invoke the curse called "God's will" to explain our situation. We usually see out-of-options as a dead end.

The Canaanite woman was also out of options. The God she trusted was not open to her people, or so it was thought, yet she believed this God would not desire a life a torment for her daughter. She was out of options for she could not watch her beloved daughter suffer any longer. She was out of options--save one; to risk humiliation, to suffer rejection (and she IS rejected, repeatedly) and to be a pest, while firmly believing in One who could heal IF he chose. Such faith, such determined action which throws every dignity to the wind and risks it all; this is great faith! This is the legacy of the unnamed Canaanite woman.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Women and Men

As I listen to coverage of the presidential race I hear the comparisons between race and gender discrimination. I can't help but look at it from my perspective and suspect that we are each biased by our own experience. So how do I get beyond the feeling that gender equality remains an unreachable goal in my lifetime?

I listened to a NPR show where women who had experienced both gender and race discrimination spoke to the reality that the gender discrimination was deeper and more pervasive. How very discouraging to hear such experiences! I know that even I, as a female professional, have deep conditioning based on how I was raised and what I experienced as 'norm'. I can only hope that my children experience a greater diversity and that their norm and their children's norm will be different. And I can continue to offer them and myself opportunities to experience diversity outside of the norm of my childhood.

Join me in listening to the continuing discussion on NPR. Maybe we can not only change the world, but we can change ourselves.

Monday, August 4, 2008

When The Spirit Shows Up

Sunday morning I preached on Isaiah 55. I did some reading and thinking during the two weeks prior, but last week I co-lead a junior high workcamp full of 18-hour days. That left Saturday to get my thoughts on paper and add some pertinent illustrations from the workcamp experience. Only Saturday afternoon I also needed to be 'mom' and travel with my daughter to the likely spot of her wedding next year. She is moving to the south in one more day(!) so some things need to be looked at now.

Having said all that, the sermon was complete about 11:30 pm Saturday, very late for me unless is was the um-teenth draft. As I walked into worship I chatted with a retired pastor in the congregation and told him I was counting on the Holy Spirit to show up. I knew I had some kernels, but the transitions from ideas were rough in places and sometimes the connection to the over-arching theme was weak. And yet, as people left, two in particular mentioned how the sermon spoke to them. I knew for sure it wasn't me. It was comforting to know that with me or in spite of me, God's message can come through.

Trygve David Johnson writes at Theolog
Revelation is why we keep preaching. God uses the spoken word to reveal the living Word. This is an event that can’t be teased or manipulated by technique. Even a bad sermon can be used by God to reveal God. That is the hope of us who preach. Revelation is always gift—always grace. On this grace Christianity stands or falls.
The Spirit showing up is a gift to the preacher and the congregation. Thanks be to God we can count on it.