Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Saints Ahead

All Saints Sunday is one I've been wanting to celebrate. It offers us a chance to remember in public even after the official or unofficial time for mourning is past. We can learn much from remembering since our fast-paced lives don't usually allow time for reflection.

This week I have more than enough time for reflection. Thanks to our dog, affectionately nick-named 'Devil Dog', I have cracked bones in my ankle and am in an air cast and on crutches. When I can put pressure on the foot without pain, the cast will allow me to walk on it. This is the good news. The bad news is it still hurts and is very tender to the touch so I hobble around getting up only when necessary.

I'm settled into the cuddler of the couch, which is the perfect place for a semi-invalid. There's pillows all around and plenty of room for my leg to be elevated. I have books on all sides and a power cord for times when the laptop needs charging. It gives me the illusion of independence when actually it takes only a simple pang of hunger to realize I am dependent on my family for food and drink.

Life is a similar illusion. We are "independent" souls, creating our way in the world, learning to fly on our own by getting jobs and homes and creating families. Our lives are wedded to the priorities of work and play. We "make our own way" and strive to "be all that we can be". We are "self-made people". We live a deception that we create for ourselves.

The reality is life is only a breath. We are as fragile as being knocked to the ground by my dog proves. We are a heartbeat away from death and delude ourselves into immortality by planning for the future. Recalling the Saints of the past reminds us that we too are mere mortals that depend on God for life. Not only that, we desperately need each other to live with any fullness and happiness for it is only in community that true joy is found. This is why our remembrances are important. They reunited us to a community that extends on both sides of death. The community of God's creation of all life and the promise of something beyond the last breath.

What will that 'more' be? We don't know for sure, only that the Christ promised it is found through him. Dan R. Dick (writing in Lectionary Homiletics volume XX, no.6) says,

". .of all the gifts e have been given by God, among the greatest is each other. Our relationships give meaning and purpose to our lives, filling our days with rich and rewarding experiences"

On Sunday we name the names from the past relationships that have given meaning to our lives then and now. We remember by looking back and we pull back the curtain of delusion by looking ahead, not fearing an end but trusting in a love that continues.

Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stories, clouds, and witnesses

I'm off lectionary due to the Organ Dedication Service this Sunday so it gives me a chance to reflect on all those who have been faithful to the church over time. I read Hebrews 11 and 12 and love the reminders of the stories of that cloud of witnesses. Our stories are so important to tell and retell. But we don't sit around the fire or bake over slow-cooking stone ovens. I'm more likely to put something on the stove and pop into the living room to watch forensic television. We don't have a convenient story-telling atmosphere in daily life but our stories are so important.

Sunday the story of the organ project will be told. It involves people who will be sitting in the pews and those who have moved on to the next life. Dreamers and visionaries worked with practical concerns. Roadblocks were there and the 'impossibility' of it all loomed large from time to time and yet a great deal of money was raised off-budget, a great deal of labor was volunteered, a great deal of talent went into the rebuild and we have an incredible instrument with which to praise God.

I like hearing the stories, some I've not heard before being the 'new kid on the block'. I understand the importance of telling them. Our church, like so many others, is in a transition time. The days of a full sanctuary are memories, not current reality. The dreams for the future may need to look different than the past. Stories remind us of the heritage that brought us to this place. Stories remind us of God's faithfulness that never ends. Stories inspire us to continue in faithful response to God, trusting that whatever new thing God births in the world will be good. Even when we can't see what it is, or recognize anything that looks like 'church' to us, we can trust that our God, who acted in the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and so many others, CONTINUES, even now, to act in our lives - always steadfast, always faithful.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


What a joy to see your daughter marry a wonderful young man. We are so happy to have him in the family. A great time was had by everyone following the loveliest service ever. Many thanks to the colleague who exceeded my very high expectations for the ceremony, and the many other 'moms' our daughter has who created, organized, directed, and labored endlessly to make it such a special day.

After some serious downtime today, I've got some preparation to do for a big church event next weekend. But now for some zzzs.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Back in the days of outdoor ministry life, there was a 'Hiking Camp' destined for Old Rag Mountain. It was to be the high point of the week. The small group of junior high youth began each day with decisions on how best to prepare themselves for the day of the big hike.

They worked on hiking skills, traveling around the camp over rough trails. They worked on endurance by canoeing for long stretches. They swam and played and cooked meals together becoming a close and well-functioning group. They created worship times around the campfire and had quiet times alone in creation. They divided up tasks and truly lived in Christian community, just like all our brochures said they would.

I knew their parents would be pleased that they had become such a tight-knit group and I was sure their trip to Old Rag would be successful. This small group might be the best of the summer, achieving every goal and enjoying the highlight of the week; the view from Old Rag.

The day before the big hike, one boy sprained his ankle. He wasn't sent home, but it was serious enough that he would not be able to hike the strenuous trail of Old Rag. We made the best of it, telling him he could spend the day in the center of camp with the Health Hut attendants and visit the pool as often as he liked. He was even promised ice cream while his group was away on the hike. It was sad to think he wouldn't get to realize the goal of the week's camp.

The next morning I saw several members of the group pulling a ponycart (with their breakfast) and traveling across the field. I asked why the group hadn't left earlier for the drive to Old Rag. "They aren't going." I was told. I was shocked. All I could do was wonder what happened and try to think of what I would tell their parents. I was sure to field a few complaints that the kids didn't get their money's worth. I had to know more and asked what had happened.

The group met for their daily planning session and they decided that it would mean more to all of them to be together on the last day of camp than to hike Old Rag. They didn't want to leave their friend behind, even in order to accomplish the hike they had prepared for. They decided to do some more on-site hiking and all have ice cream together. There was extra swimming for everyone and much more time for friendships to deepen.

I was surprised, but I realized that they HAD accomplished the intended purpose of the camp. They were to learn to live in Christian community during the week and hiking Old Rag was part of it. It turned out they had something to teach me. Christian community meant they could easily 'give up' the accomplishment of hiking Old Rag because they had already received much more in the deep relationships that had formed among them. They didn't give up in order to get - their priorities had been transformed by Christian living.

In Mark 10:17-31 Jesus looks at the man intently and invites him to shed the baggage of wealth. He is invited to be less - that he might be whole. These kids showed me how that is done and they didn't miss what they gave up at all. The hike to Old Rag would have held them back from being all the group could be. Living in Christian community, that's treasure in heaven.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Communion for Children

This week's sermon will mimic the high Christology of Hebrews and hopefully provide a similar round of inspiration as did the Hebrews Preacher. (Tom Long's designation) I doubt I shall be so eloquent but I shall try with visuals and words to 'lift up our eyes and hearts.' Meanwhile, there's a "Sharing With Young and Young At Heart" time to develop. And, it's World Communion Sunday.

Here's a story I think I'll tell, about communion in a different 'world'. We easily forget how Jesus used common elements to reinforce the idea that he is always with us. Our occasional ceremony may remove the significance of the everyday. I think coke, pretzels, grape juice and bread will be the visuals for tomorrow.

As for high Christology, I'm working on those words. . .
and if you are interested in the full sermon, it's here.