Monday, December 27, 2010
• A pledge – if you haven’t already done so, a pledge to this congregation is also a promise to God. It includes our finances but can be much more. With a pledge, we promise to do something specific that will bring us closer to God in 2011 with our service. Vague intentions are easy to ignore; “I’ll eat healthier, I’ll work harder.” But specific pledges are goals that are measurable and keep us accountable to ourselves and to our faith family. Here’s a few ideas and opportunities,
o Witness Commission sponsors volunteer options on the 4th Sunday evening of the month at Sunrise Retirement Home, calling Bingo for residents.
o Witness also sponsors the alternate month 1st Saturday at AFAC (Arlington Food Assistance Center)
o Financial Pledge cards are still available from the Financial Secretary, or in the office.
o Stewards Commission is recruiting a “Light Snow Removal Crew”, see related article in this newsletter.
o Stewards maintains a “To Do” List of small items that need work around the church. They can be done on your schedule and availability.
o Church Office help is often valuable, especially when staff takes vacation. Put your name on a list of people willing to sit with phones, make copies or type as needed.
o Attend a Sunday Class or week-day Bible Study. Two adult options, a youth class and childrens class are held on Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m. A week-day Bible study will begin in the early spring.
o Form a new relationship by befriending someone new to church. Invite them to lunch after worship or to dinner at your home and learn what you have in common as partners in the congregation
o Form a prayer partnership with someone at church, promising to pray for each other and perhaps with each other during the year.
The opportunities to increase our faith by being a servant and friend are endless. Share your ideas with me and you will soon see them in print or on my blog. May God bless all of us with opportunities to be faithful in 2011.
Storm Results Monday; 12/27 - iWitness Weather Photos and Video Photo
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The move to Arlington and getting settled in has been wonderful. It such an interesting time-machine-like feeling to drive around the places I remember from the mid-70's and know I am on the same roads but they all look so different. The reflection that comes with 35 years perspective and the scary thought that so much of my life has passed. Wondering about the neighborhoods as I drive through old short-cuts has me speculating the what-ifs. Yet I am so thankful that my life went in the direction it did.
The snow. I can't remember this much snow since the kids were little and built snow Sesame-Street figures and we colored them with food coloring. Or when I was very little and tanks had to come down the street in Stratford, NJ to clear the roads. It was a great way to meet the neighbors.
Lettuce: Joan Horwitt's lettuce-growing program and healthy lunch at school was an amazing fun experience. My lettuce didn't turn out well and I got involved mostly due to my role as pastor of the neighborhood church and yet it turned out to be FUN and a great way to meet great people. I'm excited about doing it again and again.
Arlington COB! I never want to forget the feeling of working alongside this congregation in partnership-ministry. I don't know how else to explain it. EVERYONE take part in the ministry of this congregation. EVERYONE feels ownership of what we do. People are positive and open to new experiences and adventures. Perhaps its part of the traditional "honeymoon" for the pastor. (This has been my 2nd year.) Still it is a wonderful place to be in ministry and I am so very blessed to have been called as pastor.
The House: How neat to be living in a different house after 25 years in Warrenton. I love this place and really enjoy having space for writing and reading away from TV. A whole office for me to work, a dining room corner for this kind of reflection and morning devotions, a separate living room for people to chat. And to think I never wanted a split-foyer on our property. Sometimes bad memories can cause you to make bad decisions. I love our little Cape Cod in the woods, but am SOOO thankful for the space of this 1960's neighborhood home surrounded by parks and backing onto a small ravine of woods. Life is good.
Health: My ankle healed, doctors are being switched and family crisis overcome. It has been a full year and now we are all coming back together in this house for a while. Life IS good.
Thanks be to God!!!
Sunday, December 12, 2010
It is surprising to hear John asking, after all, this is John the Baptist, the one who said, “but one who is more powerful that I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” (Mt.3:11) and “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Mt.3:14)
And Jesus has a few things to say about John too. As John’s disciples leave, Jesus turns and asks the crowds, who did you think John was? Why did you go out to see him?
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I'm not sure what it would take to 'rock my socks off'. hmmm, perhaps this will be a day to think about it. What rocks yours?
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Regarding what makes me different, I'm not sure I'm the one to reflect on that. I think its my openness and interest in new things, especially new technology. I see tech as a way to connect and look for ways to use it with depth to connect with people who I might not otherwise speak with or even know. Old technology like phones are taken for granted. Yet they were once the high-tech of the day. I just used the phone to "visit" with several people I would never catch up with in this busy season. Now I will go visit in person IF I can find someone at home. Meanwhile, I have learned how several folks are doing.
Why not Twitter, Facebook, and email and blogger as ways to be in touch? So I use them all and enjoy the new friends and even comments of strangers. It has been a joy to be back in touch with friends from college this year. Maybe another way I'm different is that I seem to move into new phases of life and have little touch with those from past times. There are exceptions; very special friend from High School, a very special friend from seminary, and recently my college roommate, a few others, but even distant family takes a back seat to what's right in front of me. This year I heard from my Uncle Jack who I haven't talked with since my mom died. You just never know what a year will bring. And THAT difference, I love!
Saturday, December 4, 2010
But then I've spent a lot of time right here, in my favorite dining room corner chair, looking out at the trees, (or sky, now that the leaves have fallen again). I've watched it snow from here and watched the leaves sprout in the spring. I look at the birds gathered around my feeder and see the buds on the bush that reaches all the way up to the window. It is a place of contemplation. It's a place where I ask God what am I to be doing? Where is God calling the congregation this year? It's a place where I wonder about retirement (in the very distant future) and wonder how wonderful it is to be right here. I wonder how I managed those years of getting through seminary and if I left scars on my family from days when I neglected them. I wonder how long this wonderful feeling can last? And from this place I get pulled out to walk the dog in the neighboring parks, or pulled into another book seeking answers to God's call, or pulled into a call, visit or email contact with someone from church or an old friend.
Perhaps, this chair, that I've been sitting in since before the furniture arrived one year ago this week, is my place of wonder AND where I feel most alive.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)
RELOCATE, it have been a year of adjusting to Arlington, revisiting places that I knew in the mid-70's and 80's and finding new surprises, especially in people. It is a delight to be here.
REINVIGORATE, I would like 2011 to hold new energy for mission and passion for leadership in the congregation and for my life as part of it. I'm here on my Christian journey too, not just for employment.
December 2 Writing.
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?
(Author: Leo Babauta)
Watch TV, maybe, but I don't want to totally eliminate that. Maybe just be more aware of how much time I'm willing to spend watching instead of something else.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.LutheranChik writes,
How easy it is to place parameters on our acts of mercy; to measure out our compassion in easily manageable units, according to our own comfort level, at our own convenience; perhaps, deep down, according to our own sense of competence: "I can go this far; no farther."Joseph risked the different way. I remember times when I took that path and spent the time to drive someone to the auto-parts store so I could buy her brake shoes. (With the church's emergency fund.) And I remember the times I didn't go, or didn't pick up the phone because I was sure it was a late Friday request for help from the network of people who call churches and know how to time the call so their need can't be verified before the deadline for weekend housing is here.
By the standards of his own time and culture, Joseph exceeded most people's expectations of how a prospective husband should treat a fiancee' found to be pregnant. He would have been within his rights to publicly denounce Mary as an adulteress and let the community guardians of morality deal with her in the way that patriarchal societies have traditionally dealt with women deemed to be sexually compromised. But no, he decided; he would take the high road: He would quietly call off the marriage, let Mary's family deal with the problem of her pregnancy, and walk away -- embarrassed and disappointed, surely, but blameless; and free to start over. There; he'd do his duty and then some.
What were Joseph's thoughts, one wonders, when he realized that God had a different plan -- one that would presumably implicate him as father of Mary's child, bringing his morality as well as Mary's into question; one that would additionally place on his shoulders the enormous responsibility of raising a child not his own, a child whose origin he could scarcely imagine? Did Joseph feel a hesitation, a catch of uncertainty, as he weighed the consequences of assenting to the task assigned to him?
Prayer: Loving, gracious and merciful God, help me make room for Christ in my life by making room for risk on behalf of others. Help calm the fears that separate me from others. Let me say "yes" to the next right thing I'm called to do on behalf of my neighbors -- even when it's difficult, even when it comes at a cost. Help me do these things for Jesus' sake. Amen.
Mary Beth writesMatthew 11:2-11When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?"
She challenges us to think about something different this year and not get stuck in rusty old (busy, busy) habits.John the Baptist is having a bad, bad time. He is stuck in prison, after all. And the faith and passion with which he proclaimed the coming of Jesus as the Messiah seem to be gone, or at least stretched very thin.
It’s understandable, really. Jesus is not doing what he should be doing, in John’s estimation. He is, in fact, doing everything WRONG. I imagine John thinking, “This is crazy! Jesus can’t be the one, because everything is so screwed up.” He must have felt very desperate to send this message to Jesus.. . . It’s sometimes easy to feel that way in today’s world. We get frustrated at the gloom-and-doom news channels, the machinations of the institutional church and some individuals representing Christianity. Wars, violence, starvation…the list could go on and on. We get stuck in our own self-righteousness and sin, and wonder where God is, and whether we’ve made a mistake. Like John, we get rusty in our faith.
This time last year I was packing boxes like mad while I limped around on an almost healed, broken ankle. The moving van came on the 1st. It was a crazy time, far from today's quiet and peaceful dining room where I sit, listening to Christmas music and watching the last of the leaves blow off the trees. I am grateful to be here. Our move has had some surprises, mostly monetary. We expected utilities and taxes to be higher. We didn't expect to pay so much more in taxes by having a parsonage instead of a housing allowance. ah well. There is still so much for which to be grateful. Our son got into grad school and is finishing the frantic end-of-semester papers. He also sold his first written piece this year. Our daughter completed her Masters and got out of the program that seemed to be killing her. SIL is now living with us and she will be too in about 6 weeks or less. Husband has made an easy transition to the new territory and is enjoying a successful hunting season. Life is good.
So what shall I "think about" that is different than the usual fare this year? As I contemplate those for whom life is not-so-good, and the places where there is no peace on earth, I wonder what small thing I could do to make a different for peace. Perhaps it will come in stages. First, I think locally, maybe I can visit a few people who don't ordinarily fall on my list but would enjoy a visit and conversation. What if everyone in the congregation visited just one other person this year? That could make for peace right here because I know there are people who are in stressful situations and would really enjoy a visit to talk.
Perhaps, as today's "retreat" continues, other UNusual ideas will arise for being part of Christ's peace.
Isaiah 11:1-10SingingOwl asks:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. . .
I'm reading The Pillars of the Earth and it has me wanting to visit a cathedral.
National Cathedral is close so I may just do it soon. Meanwhile, I revisit the Florence Duomo and Milan's Duomo, and St. Peter's in my mind quite a bit while I read. In those places I felt AWE. St. Peter's really is amazing. I guess the old Brethren wouldn't think much of it, but I can really see why these places were built. (Altho reading, I wonder about some of the motives. Great book tho!)
There's another section to the Advent Retreat already posted so I will do a little quite work then perhaps come back to more reflection.
Friday, November 26, 2010
1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal?
Yes, especially if I don't have to make them! Although I usually make a sugar free pie with pudding and coolwhip for my husband that we ALL end up eating.
2) Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss.
News to me, my daughter had pie at her wedding reception instead of cake because she prefers pie. So do I, again, especially if I don't make it. I don't make crust but love other people's homemade crust. My son-in-law's father made yesterday's pies and the crusts were whole grain and DELICIOUS.
3) Cherries--do they belong in a pie?
Yes, I'm a cherry pie fan, but haven't tried the cherry-rhurbard variety.
4) Meringue--if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate?
Lemon meringue, I prefer my chocolate "straight" and the lemon and meringue just seem to go together.
5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie?
I hope our English gals answer some questions about meat pie. I have had "chicken-pot-pie" with the traditional peas and carrots but think any vegetable will do. I usually keep my pies for dessert.
Looking forward to replies.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
The choir is singing "Jesus Remember Me" interspersed with the gospel reading from Luke and a few more verses. I think it will be the high point of the service. I've posted my sermon at another site that seems to accept the paste in from Word easier than Blogger does. If you are interested look here.
Council meeting is after church and I have all but one thing in my Keynote presentation. The commissions have created "board games" for their report.
Witness - the Game of Life (of Outreach)
Nurture - Nurture not Monotony
Stewards - Have been working on the Railroad
Since hardly anyone reads written reports, these interactive creations will be a lot more fun to see. They are quite impressive also as you get a visual sense of all the work that was done in a year.
Now I just need a couple paper dolls for the children's story and someone is even helping me with most of that. #awesomecongregation
So I'm going to rest for the rest of the evening. THANKS BE TO GOD.
Friday, November 12, 2010
For all I'm worth, the only thing I'm coming up with is complex and not something I have the energy to preach. A warning to seriousness and boundaries while remaining open and affirming and welcoming will not come across well. At least not unless I can really preach it, and I can't, not this week. I know I'm too tired to make the case well with clarity. There are so many pitfalls for mis-hearing.
How about I just chill, watch Harry Potter movie re-runs and Gilmore Girls and hope the Holy Spirit delivers a type manuscript this week?
Or does that sound too much like the idleness 2 Thessalonians is warning against? (And could someone deliver a pizza?)
I'm left with verse 13,
Thanks.Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
Monday, November 8, 2010
So this morning, I need to run over there. I have an appointment and meeting tonight and a little prep-shopping for the meeting. I made myself stay in bed (not hard) when I first woke up and now have been reading and reflecting a bit. It's time to move on. I feel the longing to sit in a cathedral. I must need the special "sanctuary" that such a place provides. Perhaps tomorrow will include a trip to National as that is so possible living here!
I want to walk today and to read. I hope I manage to at least get one of those accomplished. Yesterday was a special day in many ways as we lifted up our seminary during the worship service and heard from one of the congregation's seminary grads. It was a good day also, just to hear about others' ministries in the district and to see a few friends at the interviewing event. But we heard a brief presentation on Self-Care, so I think I'll make room for a little of that at some point today.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Timothy's challenge is to "Preach The Word" (or proclaim it as the NRSV says) and make your living right. I'm not sure what our soups and pies proclaim, but the table full of Servv International Products, Fair Trade Coffee, recycled items at the craft table and White Elephant sale, and the donation table for Heifer all say something about keeping our priorities right.
So I hope our actions and especially our welcome to the neighborhood, proclaims the word tomorrow. (And maybe this sermon will get right and 'write'n by Sunday.)
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
"Despite the financial hard times felt across the land, a virtual fire hose of cash has fueled this year's races -- $4 billion, all told. That's an 80 percent jump in congressional campaign contributions from just two years ago, according to NPR's Peter Overby." NPR News
My political loyalties are out today in mourning. I can't help it. I don't believe the way through the rest of this recession is a return to the policies that aided the crash. I think it takes longer than two years to turn things around. AND I don't want my adult children to lose the health care they were just guaranteed. #yespoliticsispersonal
We shall see what comes next.
-My hope is that the proponents of this "new change" will hold all elected officials feet to the fire.
-My hope is there will still be policy makers who care about ending hunger.
-My hope is -for hope- to still exist in the legislative world so we can have change not just bickering while people go without income, without food, without health care.
The quote with which I began shows there is money among the rich or those powerful enough to seek changes that protect their interests. Will any money make it to places of real need? 'Trickle Down' has never worked before. There's too much greed at the top. We need open pipes to pour. Pour your blessings down O Lord, we need them!
"You will save a lowly people, but you will humble the haughty eyes." Psalm 18:28
Saturday, October 23, 2010
The religious world has as many fads and trends as the fashion world, or so it seems. It can be hard to get on-board with a new movement before it has seen it’s day and faded into the recesses of old magazines.
The movement I read about this week has real potential.
The people who began it are from several different denominations. They were all at an ecumenical conference on ‘Living the Deeper Spiritual Life’ and discovered their common interest.
A speaker at the conference was citing some statistics that today’s young people think the best place to find a hypocrite is in church.
-We’ve all see the stories on pastors who turn out to use a church to get money for themselves, priests who abuse children, and we’ve heard the ‘prosperity gospel’ preached again and again.
These stories reinforce the impression that Christianity is about how to get the MOST out of life."
-The Christianity we see displayed on TV and media is often one that makes us cringe. I find myself saddened but understanding of teens who think the one place to find a hypocrite is the church.
This one statistic really struck the founders of the new movement and inspired them to look at their faith practices.
They wondered what they could DO to deepen their faith and strengthen the image the world has of Christian church-goers.
Most of the men and women who founded the movement were current officers of their church boards, leadership councils or sessions. These are the people typically called on to be Stewardship Chair, board chair, or asked to hold some position of leadership.
They wanted to challenge each other to a higher level of spiritual practice so they wouldn’t get so wrapped up in their work for the church, that they forgot about prayer and Bible reading.
Since they had so much in common, they came up with a list of goals that would help them maintain the level of piety or spirituality they desired. This would be the way they stayed close to God and could better listen for God’s call on their life.
Remember, This movement is aimed at people who do a lot at church so there is an assumption that to be part of this movement, you will hold or have held a church position of leadership (board, deacon, SS teacher) within the last 5 years.
In order to challenge each other, people in this movement commit to reading their Bible daily.
Many have decided to purchase a 1-year or 2-year Bible, which simplifies the reading process and insures you will read completely thru the Bible in the 1 or 2 year period.
-The founders are well aware of the statistic that only 17% of US Christians read their Bible daily. This 1st goal, will ground their practice in the words of scripture.
Being the leaders of the church, they have also committed to tithing knowing it takes funds for the church to exist. (You can tell many of the founders of the new movement have been stewardship chairs.) They even decided to take the original definition of “a tithe” which means 10% of their income and possessions.
Another statistic that troubled them says many Christians give closer to 4% or less of their income. So this group wanted to return to the biblical command to TITHE.
And to eliminate any question about what 10% means, they say in any case where there are questions about tithing ‘gross’ or ‘net’, they promise to give the larger amount.
This “pocketbook challenge” they know will help them be serious about their covenant to the movement. You have to be serious to make a promise like this. (Putting their money where their mouth is?)
A unique practice of this group is the reinstitution of fasting on a regular basis. They remarked that we all know more about Islam these days and hear how Muslims maintain days of fasting, where food is only consumed before dawn and at very minimal amounts during the weeks of Festivals or “Holy Days”.
The founders of the new movement think Christians should return to the older practices of fasting. (This is something they have in common with the early brethren.) So they plan to develop a schedule of fasting days and everyone who joins the group will commit to several days of fasting each year.
The key leadership of the movement also recognizes that they will need interpersonal support to maintain this level of commitment. So, members within the same town, regardless of their denomination, promise to meet together regularly to pray for each other.
They feel this commitment to each other will strengthen the movement and build ties among the new community of those deeply committed to following Jesus, the Christ every day.
This is quite an admirable group who have begun the movement and the prayer they suggest to any of us who wants to join is this, “'Oh, God, we thank you that we are not like other people—. We fast regularly, read scripture daily, and tithe on all our income.”
Adapted from Luke 18:11-12 (MSG)
And the name of the movement is, The PHARISEE Way.
Now they make very clear, that they know they are not the only Christians in the world. Clearly there are many others who are Christians and they state there is nothing wrong with ‘other folks’. It’s obvious to the new movement that there are plenty of people who really need Jesus in this world. Certainly those who are struggling with addictions, Or who haven’t the resources that allow them time to devote to church work.
They recognize most ordinary Christians can’t take on these promises and they don’t want to burden ‘the average’ believer with such high standards. It doesn’t seem fair to coerce everyone with these strict practices.
They make a point of saying,
“we are the fortunate ones who have been blessed with good jobs and secure futures that allow us to make this kind of commitment to Christ’s church. It’s ok, if ‘you’ can’t all live at this level.”
There are so many people out there whose need for Jesus in their life mean they need the freedom to pray, “'God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'
Luke 18:13 (MSG) The movement’s first publicity statement says,
“We certainly want these needy Christians to feel included in our churches so we won’t push to impose these standards on everyone. This movement will remain for those who are blessed enough with the time and finances to be able to make this level of commitment.”
It’s quite a movement, isn’t it? What do you think of it?
Are any of you ready to join?
And Jesus said, “for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Real blogging, for me, means writing off the top of my head. This is not always a good thing, I realize. The more controlled, somewhat edited manuscripts of sermons are safer content for blogging. But then "safe" and blogging may not go together.
I just read a diverse group of articles in Christian CenturyThe Best of 20 Years from 20th Century Christian Magazine, just from the last issue I received. I now have swirling in my brain, how our brains are effected by internet-type browsing, how the evangelicals want to encourage Israel so the end of the world will come sooner, and a few good words about poetry and scripture. Yesterday I read why we don't need to find 'God's will' for our lives. What would I do without Christian Century?
When I interviewed for my current position I was asked what one book, magazine or newspaper (other than the Bible; a pat answer) would you want if you were stranded on a desert island? I said the Christian Century because not only do I love the main articles, I get to read about the news of the day and hear comments of how others believe it impacts our faith journeys. It may be some of the best thought-provoking material that I read.
Since I just finished prep for this morning's Bible-study on the Mustard Seed parable, I have thoughts of poetic inferences in my head. Now added to it, the ideas that the way we think may be changing, from Nicholas Carr's book and Philip Cary's thoughts on God's will have me realizing that opening up the thinking process in my head may be the most important thing I do when I read.
So can I justify not doing a work-out this morning because I exercised my brain? If only, this kind of exercise would shave off a few pounds...
Monday, October 11, 2010
It’s easy to feel disconnected from Bible stories like this. Certainly they are good stories, memorable stories, but aren’t they rather remote from our life experiences?
Hansen’s Disease, leprosy, is not a disease we think about much today. And in most stories, the disease defines the people who have it so they are not people who have leprosy, but they are LEPERS. And even though the disease is rare, we still have people in our society who are treated as “lepers”- kept on the outer edges of society & labeled as non-touchables.
Can you imagine have to call out, “Leper, Leper, or Psoriasis, Aids, or Measles” so people would stay away? “Lepers” were required to do so in Jesus’ day. In our world it is more likely for someone else to point out our “leprosy” and it can get ugly. Bullies play this role in schools and neighborhoods. Children and youth along with adults end up victims to someone’s desire to push someone out to the margins and label them a “leper”.
Recently, the news carried the tragic tale of three different young men, bullied for being gay, tortured with emotional abuse and pushed out to the edge, until each took their own life. I think it is imperative that we clearly state to youth and adults that everyone is welcome here, no matter your sexual orientation or any name society tries to put on you as a label – HERE, we are all equal and VALUED children of God.
If the church of Jesus Christ doesn’t make that value clear, then where CAN people turn for acceptance and wholeness?
At conference this weekend, a sample hearing was held to show us what the process will be like at the district ‘listening’ hearings on the query about same sex covenant relationships and the Standing Committee paper on confession and forgiveness. It was just and example of how the process will work, but one young high school girl shared that in her school, the bullying, and name calling is really ugly. People play nasty tricks on anyone who is gay or lesbian, making life miserable and that the lines are pretty well drawn into a warfare everyday at school.
Do you remember how hard HS was? How much harder must it be today, to have that level of hatred played out again and again, instead of acceptance and the joy of good friendships?
I WISH we COULD say that times are different today than in Jesus’ day. I WISH we could feel superior because we no longer require people to call out, “LEPER, LEPER”
I’d like to say, “That was then and this is now.” But we know from these stories from school and universities, that there are plenty of places where “lepers” still exist today.
And have you ever BEEN the person who needed acceptance? Or longed for Jesus to turn and call you by name and make you whole? I wonder what – it - takes to change human society to the point that everyone is accepted and treasured for who they are ?
I believe change of any kind, starts close to home, very close. Change must begin with us.
What does it take for us to accept our own selves, the way God made us? I think the Samaritan who was a leper, is the perfect example for today.
This man had ‘An attitude of gratitude’. As soon as he realized he had been given the gift of wholeness he turned around to give thanks. He falls downs at Jesus’ feet, which is the sign of worship. How is it that only one healed person was able to see “beyond his body to the one who made it whole”?
His Actions of gratitude demonstrate his faith. Remember, it’s not the quantity of faith one has, but just any small amount (even as small as a mustard seed of faith, Jesus has just said) that allows us to respond to life with gratitude and turn to God with praise.
Naaman’s lack of faith, in Elisha and in HIMSELF, almost kept him from being healed. But he had the good fortune to experience the opposite of bulling. Instead of those around him, tearing him down, his servants and soldiers, encouraged him to go do the simple thing of washing, just as he had been told, and SEE if it would work. And it did.
If only the young men who were so lost that they brought life to an end, had been encouraged instead of labeled, and driven out. . If only, someone had cared enough to reach out a saving hand.
That word “save” is a tough one, isn’t it? In fact, the way it is used in some translations of this text has done more harm than good. Either we make “being saved” seem conditional on our faith (INSTEAD OF GOD’S) or we end up judging someone’s life to say they need saving. We all wish that Jesus would make us whole.
What if we DO have a certain amount of power, at least the power to align ourselves with God’s saving action that makes us whole? When the Samaritan demonstrates unrestrained gratitude and he immediately recognizes the healing/saving action of God in Jesus, it’s his attitude that makes THE difference. He was already healed and so were the ones who didn’t come back, but he got to talk to Jesus. He was commended by the man who ‘saved’ his life. Which kind of healed would YOU prefer?
On Friday, I saw a video about the FISH MARKET in Seattle, Washington. Maybe you know about it? It’s a group of working guys, who receive, clean, sell, and package fish.
Normally, it’s not a spectacular job, but it is how they make a living.
BUT, something about THIS group is different. At some point when people ordered a fish, they started throwing it across the counter. Now these are BIG fish so, catching a big slimy fish, is challenging. The market became known as “Flying Fish” for its ‘show’.
Then, when the order was called out, the guys started fooling around and ALL of them REPEAT the order back as a SHOUT. One fish “ ONE FISH” and a fish goes flying 8 feet across a counter and into someone’s waiting arms. 4 crabs, FOUR CRABS… it becomes a show and then everyone started having fun playing. Now customers get into the act and invited to try catching a fish. And more and more customers arrive. After all, if you can buy a fish and have fun too, why not? As for the guys, well, everyone goes to work everyday, but THEY have fun at it. Attitude makes a difference. They love life, their work, and they likely make more money at it too.
Years ago, Norman Vincent Peale spoke and wrote about the “Power of Positive Thinking”. Now there are plenty of downsides to this philosophy along with its upsides. Maybe you, like me have experienced someone who was so “UP” all the time that they could make you ‘gag’ with cheerfulness. Yet, he had a point about attitude making a difference. I have found that my attitude; good or bad, can make my day turn out completely different.
We were in Florida 2 weeks ago. When I go on vacation, it takes me a couple days to unwind and really get into it. So when we got to Florida, our friends put bathing suits on and everyone hit the beach…except me. I just wasn’t ready yet.
I can’t really explain it and I even tried to argue myself down there, but I sat in the room, watching the ocean from a distance and telling myself that I didn’t want to start the vacation with a sunburn, I wasn’t ready for conversation and I just wanted to be alone.
I sat, and let most of the day get away. What I didn’t know was there were tropical storms forming off the coast and each day of sunshine was precious. And I let most of that one get away.
Naaman almost let healing get away. Stubbornness, resentment, low self image, and lack of gratitude are just some of the things that keep us away from the saving wholeness that God desires for us.
The Samaritan had the RIGHT attitude and he is remembered to this day for his response more than his healing.
Professor David Lose challenges us to examine our attitude both toward ourselves and toward God. He said,
“When we look to God, do we see stern judge or loving parent?
When we look to ourselves, do we see failure or beloved child? . .
. .how we answer dramatically shapes both our outlook and our behavior.”
How do you great your day? Is your attitude one of gratitude or resignation?
When you look at the world, do you see others with labels that keep you at a distance or are they fellow children of God, someone that might join you in gratitude and praise for what God gives each day?
OUR Attitude changes the way we see the world and the way the world sees us. Attitude changes the way we interact with the world and THAT is the way people see Jesus in us.
We need an attitude of gratitude to appreciate what God gives us, from hope to healing, to salvation. An attitude of gratitude is what it takes to make individuals into the body of Christ, joined together in praise of our AWESOME GOD.
Charles Cousar Texts for Preaching Year C (Louisville: WJK, 1994) p. 553+
Friday, October 8, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Luke 17:5-10(A draft of tomorrow's sermon.)
17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 17:6 The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. 17:7 "Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? 17:8 Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? 17:9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"
Fresh tomato, Rotten tomato:
(ripe) “Would you say this fruit is worth having?”
(rotten) What about this one?
We decide value or worth based on what use we can make of the fruit. A rotten tomato is good only for the compost pile. Yet at one time, this tomato was ripe and full of potential. It grew as God intended and developed fully, I just wasn’t around to see it then.
Is the tomato worthless? Even tho it grew as intended just because I wasn’t there to see it or eat it?
I think only God can judge the value of the fruit, knowing that it reached its full potential and it grew just as it should. Once again we find that human perspective falls short of God’s view of value and worth.
In today’s story we might wonder what caused the disciples to ask Jesus to increase their faith? Were they feeling worthless? Their question comes right after Jesus warns them not to lead anyone astray. “Occassions for stumbling are bound to come, (he said) but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. . .(and Jesus told them they must forgive,) “even if the same person sins against them seven times a day and turns back to say, “I repent,” you must forgive.” (Luke 17:1-4)
? What must the disciples have been feeling after IMAGINING a huge stone (millstone) tied around their neck and be thrown into the sea. ?
? What must the disciples have been feeling after being told to forgive and to forgive again?
I suppose they were feeling “worthless” enough that they asked Jesus to “Increase our faith, Lord”.
It is easy to feel ‘worthless’
It is easy to feel ‘worthless’. You know the feeling, don’t you?
that feeling when it seems like you can do nothing right,
the feeling that you will never measure up to God’s expectations
the feeling that you aren’t worthy of church leadership, or even mentoring another Christian
the feeling that Christ “died for your sins” individually and that somehow YOU ALONE were the sole reason for his arrest, crucifixion, and death.
Some branches of Christianity seem to revel in pushing that kind of guilt on their members and it spills over into a generic understanding of Christianity. Seldom do we take the time to examine how the beliefs of early Brethren or even later Brethren theologians viewed Christ’s death or our own sense of guilt related to it. So then how ARE we to feel about our worth as children of God?
Are we merely slaves, required to do what is expected of us? As it says at the end of the text?
“Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"
Is this how Jesus meant us to feel?
Although there is a sense that as Christians we can’t expect to be thanked for each gracious thing we do. Following the behaviors Jesus’ set out in his interpretation of God’s law that says, “1st love God, with ALL you’ve got, then love your neighbor as yourself.” Means this is just the way we should live and we CAN’T and SHOULDN”T expect to be THANKED for it.
But we needn’t feel that we are worthless either. Remember we don’t have the same sense of being accustomed to the behavior of slaves and ‘thanks be to God’ for that! God’s view of our value, our worth, is different than a human perspective.
I think the beginning of today’s scripture tells us more about how we feel. We just need some help from the Lord. Even if it is just a little.
A mustard seed is not very big. (pull out the seeds) Describe mustard seed and indicated packets in pews where each person may have a seed.
When Jesus spoke of this particular seed he knew his listeners would know how small a single seed is.
Jesus says that even this very small amount of faith is enough to do great things. Is that as crazy as saying a spoiled fruit is as worthy in God’s eye as the fresh one?
Perhaps we need a different perspective on value.
Fruit is delicious when it is ripe. We all love a ripe tomato, a ripe orange, or a perfect apple – and the bigger the better!
It’s why so many still life paintings are of fruit. A big, ripe piece of fruit can make your mouth water.
Surprisingly, fruit and vegetables can still have worth even when they are shriveled and small. When a pepper gets dried like this one, it is still useful for putting in a big pot of chili and spicing it up.
And, When a fruit is left on the vine beyond its ripening point, its seeds develop fully allowing it to be the bearer of future potential.
Certain Seeds can even be food in themselves. In fact these mustard seeds can be used to make some very sweet BREAD & BUTTER pickles, even as tiny as they are.
If we look at the great potential built into the cycle of life, we find that we cannot determine value or worth merely by the looks we prefer or the stage of life most appealing to us. (HOLD UP ripe fruit.)
Mustard seed faith is not only small faith, it is faith in God and in God’s great cycle of life.
Mustard seed faith is trusting that what we CAN do, however small it seems, will fit into a larger plan.
Mustard seed faith takes the contingency of belief from being centered in our ability and puts it back where it belongs, on God’s plate.
Mustard Seed faith is the beginning of faith.
It allows us to take however much we can believe, whatever little thing we can do and make it enough because of who Christ is and what he has done.
How often have you read a scripture verse about having faith in Christ, and wondered if your faith was big enough? You see we tend to translate these passages as contingent on our ability to believe and when we face part of life where our faith seems very small, or even gone, we think “oh how unworthy I am” but if we read as far as the footnotes, we see that our translation needs adjusting according to the mustard seed principle.
…because of Christ’s faith… means that whatever we face isn’t dependent on the amount of faith WE have, but is only dependent on the amount of faith Christ had.
Therefore we hear Christ’s words, ‘if you have faith, if you only have faith the size of a mustard seed’ well then you can tell a plant, a tree, to pick up and move into the sea. Even a miracle of this size is not impossible to us, because what we lack, Christ has. This is God’s perspective on our worth -
Our faith; our mustard seed-size- faith - is enough.
And we are reminded of this when we lift up a very small piece of bread and recall “the life that was lived and broken for us”.
We are reminded when we pick up the smallest of cups and hear the words, “this cup is the New Covenant in my blood, drink it in remembrance of me”
These small symbols are big enough to remind us of Christ’s faith.
This mustard seed is big enough to remind us that we are enough, - worthy enough, to sit a Christ’s table, and to take on the work he left us.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
We had a great breakfast thanks to Liliana's wonderful cooking. Now a couple people are fishing and Steve went to swim in the rain. The sun is coming out but it's still raining. So here we sit.
I've looked at the lectionary texts since I'm preaching on Sunday and I've left the outline for the bulletin. Motivation for scripture study in preparation for some sermon writing might be helped by this rain. But then there's the Museum of Arts and Science in Daytona Beach that we are likely going to visit today. It has a large Cuban art display given to them by Batista just prior to his overthrow. I'm looking forward to seeing this display. I'll be thinking of Frank who reminds everyone that he is "BC" (Before Castro).
So here we are, having fun with our large group in spite of the rain. Yeah for WIFI and lots of good coffee.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
"A Word About Preaching"
I enjoy preaching, yet there is a difficult part to preaching that you may never hear about. It’s called predictably, “preaching difficult texts” especially one that the preacher (personally) has a problem with. But there’s a discipline that comes with being a Lectionary Preacher that calls us to preach even those texts we find most difficult. It occurs to me that you too, have trouble with Biblical texts, perhaps for some of the same reasons.
This scripture in Timothy is one of those texts that I find very difficult. Actually, I tend to avoid Timothy whenever possible.
Yet all NT texts have something to say to us, we just have to decide how we will approach them. BEFORE I can hear what Timothy has to say, I have to understand the context. (You’ve heard me talk about the importance of context before.) It is VERY important if we are to ‘get anything’ from the somewhat strange instructions in this letter.
We don’t have time for all the details but let me summarize a few bits of Timothy’s context and you can always ask me questions later. (Whether or not I have the answers.
1st – Timothy is a psuedographical letter, it was not actually written by Paul. It was common in the 1&2nd century to write in someone else’s name to lend authority to what you were saying. This is not as ingenuous as you think. Imagine a painter learning to paint just like a master, possibly under the master artist’s tutelage. Imitation of the master was a way to be part of their “school”. It isn’t an exact comparison but it’s a good way to think of the letter unless you want to do more serious research.
2nd – The letter was written around 125 CE, actually up to 25 years on either side of that date, but we’ll pick a mid-point. This is 100 years after Jesus and times, and “the church” have changed!
3rd – These conclusions about author and time are confirmed by WHAT is written, which is our concern for today.
Timothy’s letters sound vastly different than Paul’s actual letters.
The concerns about behavior, church conduct, and church officers weren’t even dreamed of in Paul’s day. The content then is an important clue for context.
You can be sure that if a certain behavior is PRESCRIBED, then it was NOT the behavior currently found in the church. (Or else why would you write to someone about the behavior?) The specific language used is another clue, but is harder to see in the English translations so let’s just look at content.
3 Concerns come across in these letters purported to be to Timothy:
1. The church’s organization is described as a Hierarchal household with the Father, or Chief patron at the top, and all the children, siblings, women, and slaves stretched out below. This would later become the actual hierarchy in the Roman Church (we know as Roman Catholic) but in Paul’s day, he wrote about small house churches and the equality of all, even slaves and masters. (Remember Philemon?) We have only to turn to Philippians 4:2-3 to see that women were a key part of his ministry and the early church.
" I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life."
"I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent."
Add a good crisis or two in the world and we have this week. It makes vacation look good. Still, I lose sleep over the things that won't get done, merely because there are not enough days left for the situation to resolve. Now for the good news; a congregation of caregivers! These folks at ACOB are really generous with there time and efforts to help wherever they can. So I may have to limited looking at my phone and email, but I know congregational life will be in good hands, the hands of a caring congregation! How cool is that?
Saturday, September 18, 2010
I will see where the next couple hours take me on the road to "Preaching the Word". I'd like to travel into the alternate universe of Michael Creighton's Timeline. Because if I could look into Jesus' eyes as he told this story, and hear his inflection when he says, "And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. ." then perhaps I could better interpret this text.
Meanwhile, Joel Green's insights in the New International commentary on the NT and a few from Feasting on the Word will have to help me limp along.
(Plus a little help from my Sermon Writing itunes mix!)