Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taking On Lent

Have you taken on the habit of reading a Lenten devotional for the next six weeks? The Church of the Brethren published an excellent one written by Guy Wampler. Many people grew up with the idea of giving up something for Lent and others take on a devotional practice. While the tradition of denying a pleasure in order to remind us of the sacrificial living called for in Christian living has great value, there is another option for sacrificial living in this season of Lent.

The National Council of Churches has an Eco-Justice section with several campaigns designed to help us restore God’s creation and begin to repair the damage that humanity inflicts. The NCC web-site states,
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” The United States is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide. Per person, we emit 44,974 pounds of carbon dioxide. Across the world, people living in poverty who have fewer resources and emit less carbon dioxide will suffer the most dire consequences of a changing climate. Even within the United States, this is the case: poorer communities will bear an unequal burden of the impacts of climate change. The impacts of global climate change threaten all of God's Creation, destroying habitats and threatening multiple species with extinction. While ultimate ownership of creation is God’s, we have a responsibility to care for all of God’s creation—both human and nonhuman. And as God’s people, we have a responsibility to work for justice (Micah 6:8)

Lent is a time when we can ‘take-on’ a new habit that will help the earth. We can recycle more, find a way to reduce our carbon footprint, or learn something new about environmental protection. If you have web-access you can find more information at and register as a member.

When a group of people, a congregation, seeks to discern the mission to which God is calling them ideally it should involve all the members. Some projects seem limited to people who are retired, or those with summers off. Other projects are aimed at young bodies and skilled craftspeople. Stewardship of the environment is one mission that people of all ages can take on. From age 9 to ninety most of us can change a light bulb, or put a bottle in recycling instead of the trash. We need only remember there is vital importance to our actions. As a Lenten discipline stewardship of creation aligns us with calling to work to save lives.

Currently, the Stewards of our congregation, are working on ways to make church recycling more user-friendly. For now, look around you and see what is sitting nearby that you might recycle instead of throwing away. Look at your lights. Installing Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs is one of the easiest ways to reduce your energy consumption and cut carbon use. CFL's use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last about 10,000 hours, close to ten times as long.

If we look around every day for ONE thing we can do, we will be ‘taking on’ sacrificial living and stewardship of God’s earth for our Lenten discipline.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sacred Encounters

I jokingly say that I have a sacred encounter every time I take that first sip of coffee or have a bite of chocolate. After all, why else would they serve coffee and chocolate for breakfast in Taize'?

Seriously, the Transfiguration in Mark 9 is a Sacred Encounter we might wish to experience. Who wouldn't want to see the glory of Jesus revealed as he stands in the presence of long gone heroes of the faith, Moses and Elijah? Except that if I am honest, I have to admit I would be more likely to act like Peter and escape the uncomfortable divine reality with my favorite - BUSYNESS.

Yes busyness and hyper-activity are a great way to avoid dealing with reality, even Divine Reality. I can avoid what I'm feeling because I'm too busy to feel. OR at least it will buy me time for my mind to process what is going on and keep my emotions out of the way.

Or I might just decide to IGNORE the experience altogether and pretend it didn't happen. Yep, that's another favorite, just get right back to what I was doing. And this response would seem to fit so well with Jesus' command to the disciples to 'keep their lips zipped' at least for a bit.

Or I could get intellectual and examine the story in great depth and explain the white clothing as a foreshadow of the resurrection. For Mark's gospel, it could BE the resurrection story, since the original ending has none. With Mark, he'd rather have us just KNOW what the ending is from all that we've seen of Jesus anyway. So the transfiguration could just BE his resurrection story - in advance.

Or I could slip into a little humor and jab the other disciples because after all, an experience like this has got to be good for a laugh or two, right? (Even if its at Peter's expense.)

But if any of these are my only response I would miss the 'thin place' of encountering God on the mountaintop. Mindie Burgoyne ( says,

"Thin places are ports in the storm of life, where the pilgrims can move closer to the God they seek, where one leaves that which is familiar and journeys into the Divine Presence. They are stopping places where men and women are given pause to wonder about what lies beyond the mundane rituals, the grief, trials and boredom of our day-to-day life. They probe to the core of the human heart and open the pathway that leads to satisfying the familiar hungers and yearnings common to all people on earth, the hunger to be connected, to be part of something greater, to be loved, to find peace."
I know I need those thin places and I do long for them even if my first reaction is to run from such deep feelings. How wonderful to be in the presence of God and to see Jesus standing on the mountain with others who have been 'raised up'. How reassuring would it be?

Perhaps there is a message for me in Jesus' secretive words. I need to ponder these things in my heart while the story unfolds until the kairos time arrives. The experience of thin places can give me strength and assurance to act when I am called to stand up or be raised up in my following of Christ, the Holy One.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In Need Of Healing

O Healing River, send down your water. . .
Tomorrow the congregation I serve will gather for a service of prayer. Some have asked, "Pastor, do you think we particularly need it?" The more I think about it, the more I hesitate to answer too quickly. No, nothing big prompted the design of the service. If anyone deserves credit it is the Holy Spirit, as a colleague reminded me yesterday. And yet, as each person learned of the service the response was, "We certainly need it."

We always need prayer for healing and hope. And for what higher purpose can a congregation gather than to pray for each other, for ourselves, and for our world? So tomorrow we will listen to scriptures about healing and read from Psalm 30 affirming God's healing presence and we will ponder how to act when healing does not come, at least not the healing we've requested. And we will sing. .

O Healing River send down your waters,
Send down your waters upon this land.
O Healing River send down your waters
And wash the blood from off the sand.

And we will light candles for each other and for this land full of hurting people and places.

This land is parching, this land is burning
no seed is growing in the barren ground.
O Healing River send down your waters
O Healing River send your water down.

And we will praise, yes praise God, the one who "turns mourning into dancing." (Ps. 30:11)

Our whole worship will be an act of trust and belief.
It always is.

Friday, February 6, 2009

On the move with the missional church of Jesus.

Jesus is on the move this week and the action is non-stop through the gospel of Mark. It's amazing that for a gospel that moves so fast we, lectionary preachers, have spent so much time getting through chapter one! Mark seems the prime background for the missional church discussion. I'm flipping through chapters of Metavista; Bible, Church and Mission in an Age of Imagination by Colin Greene and Martin Robinson thanks to the Ooze Blog network. I plan to do some more reading. It looks like flipping through the first half of the book will do if you are at all familiar with the missional church discussion but that doesn't mean they don't have something good to say. I want to know more about the rules of engagement with the Biblical narrative and such. I've also got two more books coming from Amazon, now for the time to read.

Back to Mark because the hectic text for tomorrow sets the missional agenda. Jesus has a great ministry in Capernaum and he's packing them in. (all hyperbole aside) But off he goes to the deserted place to pray and discerns that his call is to proclaim. In other words, let's not stay within the confines of the church or Capernaum, we're off to share the good news by word and deed with the world. It's not that Jesus stops healing, his touch continues to release people from illness and demons and everything that binds or keeps them down. Jesus is all about that stuff, but he's maximizing the surface area for ministry by moving around. And we should do the same. Let's use Sunday and other day church program as our place of renewal and recharging instead of wearing ourselves out at church. Then we'll have the energy to Go and Do.

What a concept, continuing the work of Jesus.