Sunday, January 30, 2011

“Where Faith Finds Its Legs”[i] Micah 6:1-8 Epiphany IV, Jan 30, 201

TV Trivia quiz: Name this tune – “Law and Order” Theme

Courtroom Drama lovers should find the format of this passage familiar. It is a Covenant Lawsuit: The trial is laid out like this;
1st -A summons
2nd -A call to witnesses or judges
3rd -A list of benefits that the plaintiff has conferred upon the defendant
4th -Complaints against the defendant
5th -Should culminate in a judgment and sentence, but this one concludes instead with the lyrical passage..6-8[ii]

The cast is as follows:
the Injured plaintiff is God & Speaking for God, the prophet Micah
 the Judges are the mountains, hills and foundations of earth
the Defendant- is Israel , who responds to the charges with questions of the defendant’s own AND ironically exaggerates by daring to suggest the ultimate sacrifice: one’s children – Human sacrifice was not routine, but could still be found occasionally in other religions.
For Israel, the redemption of 1st born male was common language in which one paid a temple fee in recognition that the 1st born child (esp. male) Belonged to God in a special way.

The case presented in Micah is not really a new legal case, there is precedent in Isaiah Is. 58:1-5 that holds religious activity not valid unless worshiper has sincere intentions.[iii]
The Micah passage is one that Brethren often repeat and one that drives much of our service work like that we saw in the Disaster Relief Video.

We believe this to be true, we confess it with our lips, Yet how easy for us to “talk the talk” . . .

(Today  many of my words are owed to Dr. Amy Oden, one of my professors from Wesley who wrote eloquently on today’s scripture.)

When we watch a courtroom drama in which we are privileged to know the full story, how many of you answer back as the prosecuting attorney states the case against the defendant? . .
But that’s not the whole story, we say (b/c we saw what “really” happened)
There are extenuating circumstances
But as THIS case is laid out, it’s hard to come up with extenuating circumstances for the defendant, Israel.
As the prophet makes the case in the early parts of this text, he speaks for God, summarizing a history of salvation.
I brought you up from Egypt
I redeemed you from slavery
I gave you incredible leadership; Moses, Aaron, Miriam
Don’t you remember those times I saved you? I even blessed you thru the foreign priest Balaam.

It is easy for us to think this text is only about THEM; Israel of the past, someone other than us.

We might even be tempted to switch sides in the courtroom and get behind God, nodding our heads as we remember the reoccurring transgressions – of the repeat offender Israel.

Certainly we can’t side with Israel’s defense. If we were to translate into modern terms,
 we know better than to cite faithful church attendance and
adherence to regular religious practices of prayer and Bible reading as a
defense against God’s accusations. – don’t we?
            I cringe at the tone of the peoples’ defense; who answer the charges as if they only had to appease God.
“What payment will it take to get God off our backs?” “Can’t we just write a check and be done with it?”…

But THIS is where we realize we ARE sitting at the table with the defendants.
For how often have we dismissed what is required of us by ONLY writing a check and doing nothing more?
When has a congregational budget line item to disaster relief substitute for our advocacy and involvement?
OR a gift card for a family at the Doorways’ shelter substituted for prayer for the women and action against the abuse that sent her & others into the refuge of a shelter?

Enacting Justice,
Loving Kindness, &
Walking humbly,
“are not single acts that can be checked off the list and left behind” so our conscious will be clear. “periodic nods to equity do not constitute a faithful life.” Dr. Oden reminded me,
We “cannot send checks for disaster relief and avoid examining the lifestyles that contribute, at least in part, to some natural disasters.”[iv]
We cannot do hunger walks and refuse to change our consumerist  ways.
We cannot confess with our lips on Sunday morning and hold grudges at work on Monday[v] . . .

The thing is, we know the answer, we know what we have to do. .

Writer Andrew Conners, says, “God desires more than empty words. God desires justice that is measured by how well the most vulnerable fare in the community,”  [God desires] “a loyal love (hesed) that is commensurate with the kind of loyal love that God has shown toward Israel, (toward us). [God desires] a careful walking (halaka) in one’s ethical life.”

. .We have to walk the walk.

We can’t do what Israel tried, & resort to the same old ‘business-as-usual’ religious formulas and call it faithfulness. We may not conceive of offering bulls, but tell me we don’t think about increasing our giving, or attending church more often and trust that will be sufficient to ‘appease’ God?

Rather than offer God thousands of rams, Micah calls us to offer a thousand daily acts of love for each other and the world God loves. "Walking humbly with God" means knowing our bent to self-righteousness. The life of faith is indeed a walk that reorients heart and life.[vi]

This Micah text is given to us “as a universal rule, Good for all people, good for all time.” It requires us to step beyond “personal piety to a life-giving reciprocal relationship with God and God’s other beloved children.”[vii]

We are not to STOP religious practices, we have to stop thinking coming to church alone is faithfulness – and we might note, that we can’t jump the aisle and use service as an excuse to skip prayer and worship.” The true WALK of faith is not an either-or proposition. We “just can’t use ritual practice of faith to excuse ourselves from the divine demands of justice and mercy.”[viii] Nor can we excuse ourselves from communal prayer and worship.
No matter where we squirm, we can’t get off Micah’s hook, his indictment – not even by jumping to the New Testament.

Because if we do, we run straight into the testimony of the most faithful witness; Jesus, who relates Law and Gospel and makes them both more promising then ever before - in the Beatitudes.

An email devotion I subscribe to reminded me this week that
“The Beatitudes can be read as law or gospel.
As law, they are rewards for good behavior.
As gospel, they are gifts that motivate good behavior.
Consider the difference:
The law says IF you are poor in spirit, THEN the kingdom of heaven is yours.
The gospel says: BECAUSE the kingdom of heaven is yours, THEREFORE you recognize your spiritual poverty.

The law says IF you are merciful, THEN you will receive mercy. 
The gospel says BECAUSE you receive mercy, THEREFORE you show mercy.

The law says IF you make peace, THEN you will be called children of God.
The gospel says BECAUSE you are children of God, THEREFORE you make peace.  

The Beatitudes call us to proclaim God's grace in response to our gifts in Jesus Christ. BECAUSE Christ gives us the kingdom, mercy, peace and his presence, THEREFORE we can share these gifts with others.[ix]

Most courtroom dramas end with a winner and a loser.
One of the things Jesus taught is that NO ONE has to be a loser.

If you are feeling heavy or oppressed after hearing the Prophet Micah - it’s probably a good thing for all of us to question our walk and look at the witness our living makes when we are put on the stand to testify. Yet Jesus’ words are not meant to depress us, but to call us to greater faithfulness and his words that we call, Beatitudes, are actually blessings.
Can you hear them this way?
 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
 ‘HAPPY are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
 ‘HAPPY are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
 ‘HAPPY are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
 ‘HAPPY are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely* on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus may be saying something more like this:
“You are half-there already. Tom Steagald's says,
When you already experience a hunger for righteousness, because you have been on the short-end of the stick and you wish for justice, not just for self but for the world, you will be satisfied. You really will. When you have grieved and felt some little comfort in the midst of it, you have a foretaste of the solace divine.”[x]

There’s good news in the courtroom drama for us and it comes through Jesus and his spirit, which provides everything we need to be faithful. 
If you can’t go on a mission trip to put your hands to work with hammer and nail, then put them to work with paper and pen and write to your legislators for the changes that bring justice to ALL sides.
When you know you can’t be anyone’s legal representative in court, be their advocate in conversations with your neighbors. Speak up for the immigrant, the homeless, the bankrupt, the Muslim -- because they are all ‘beloved of God’.

Wish for justice, pray for justice and act for justice in every little way you can and ‘blessed you will be’

When we Put justice, kindness, and mercy FIRST – finding our priority in ALL those upside-down ‘KINGDOM values’ – then we will be walking humbly with OUR God.

[i] thanks to Andrew Foster Connors in Feasting
[ii] W. Sibley Towner Feasting on the Word – Exegetical (Louisville: WJK, 2010) p 291
[iii] W. Sibley Towner Feasting on the Word – Exegetical (Louisville: WJK, 2010) p 291
[iii] ibid
[iv] Amy Oden
[v] ibid
[vi] Amy Oden
[vii] Sibley Towner Feasting on the Word – Exegetical (Louisville: WJK, 2010) p 291
[viii] Amy Oden
[ix] Carol Plummer, Stella Lutheran Church, Longview, Wash., Luther Seminary, MDiv, 1980 writing in “God Pause” email devotion
[x] Tom Steagald's Preaching Journal

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Not In My Name (Unity is NOT uniformity)

Today I begin with a few KEY questions to help me know a little bit more about this congregation.
Milk chocolate or Dark chocolate? Raise you hands ..
Coffee or Tea? (hot chocolate?)
And looking ahead at Tuesday’s forecast: Rain or Snow?

If we were to move seats and ‘take sides’ our choices and the VOTING on choices would divide us. Just the same as if we were to divide by gender
Male over here and female here.. – its not just a matter of preference is it?
And race or color/
Even marital status or sexual orientation
If we let our differences divide we would separate into groups by gender, color, age, status, and each preference we have until the female, middle-aged dark chocolate lovers were all in a group by ourselves. (but I don’t think I’d be alone)

Instead of those divisions, what do we do?
  • We offer refreshments that include BOTH veggies and sweets.
  • I have BOTH coffee and tea bags in my office.
  • And in November we sell SOUP AND PIE!
We have learned how to deal with differences.  At least for some things, but there are still many things that divide the Christian world. And it seems it all began back in Corinth in Paul’s day.

Some of you are history majors and may be well aware of Corinth’s history:
It is an ancient city but was destroyed in 146 BCE, 100 years later resettled and rebuilt, as a colony for freed slaves and other poor people. So by Paul’s day, it was full of “upwardly mobile folk” there wasn’t much Old Money.[i] Christian evangelistic work had prospered there and when Paul was last there, he left a vibrant, thriving church. We know from Luke’s story in Acts that another disciple, APOLLOS did a fine job in his 1st congregation and the people at Ephesus sent him – with their blessing – on to Corinth to work with the church Paul planted.
But, human nature – being what it is – factions developed. Whether they centered around house church groups, or certain dynamic preachers, we don’t exactly know.  What we have are Paul’s questions as he writes back to his beloved community;
“Do you say your are with Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas?”
He even mocks his audience in a way we can’t really hear in English, asking if Christ was divided, cut up into pieces, and parceled out. Obviously that was NOT the case.  It even seems that some folks say, “I belong to Christ” which on the surface sounds just fine, but evidently was said more like, “I really belong to Christ….but I’m not so sure about you.”[ii]
Maybe Paul’s listeners aren’t the only ones to be chagrined at this behavior.

Look at today’s Christian World::
How many Denominations today? Take a guess? Look up wikipedia on your phone? Depending on your source, 23,000 – 33,000
It would seem that Christ IS DIVIDED UP and Parceled out.

Many Christians have found this so disheartening that they work to find common ground or at least conversation and mutual acceptance through the WCC and NCC and even inter faith groups that extend beyond Christian priorities. This week there is a focus on Christian Unity. It is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity…. The WCC website describes this as “At least once a year, many Christians become aware of the great diversity of ways of adoring God. Hearts are touched, and people realize that their neighbours’ ways are not so strange.” [iii]
For this year, the prayers for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity have been prepared by Christians in Jerusalem, who chose as a theme Acts 2:42, ‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ This theme is a call back to the origins of the first church in Jerusalem; it is a call for inspiration and renewal, a return to the essentials of the faith; it is a call to remember the time when the church was still one.[iv] It’s an attempt, to bring us together, even if only for one week or one unity service.

And it’s not easy, for in fact human nature seems to want to keep us divided.
For instance,  How do you feel when you win an argument?
Triumphant? Do you analyze the ways that your arguments were persuasive?  Did you leave with everyone nodding in agreement to your point of view, and go off to celebrate that you WON THE DAY? It feels good, when that happens, doesn’t it?
Yet how many arguments end that way…? How many times have you ACTUALLY WON PEOPLE OVER with your argument?
I remember disagreements over the death penalty during the days after AC passed resolution against it but before the congregation I served has passed their own resolution against the Death Penalty. While the desire to understand the issue was honest, there was great passion on BOTH sides of the debate as we each tried to WIN.
-Those IN FAVOR the DP spoke of JUSTICE.
-Those against the DP said, “Don’t kill in MY name”
-There were debates about the fairness of how the DP was applied and statistics showing convicted murders of dark-skinned races are executed far more often than convicted murders who were white.
-There was talk about gruesome murders where the killer didn’t deserve to live.
-Others argued that no matter how equal or unequal, fair or unfair the system was, killing to stop killing doesn’t make sense. “An eye for an eye and soon the whole world will be blind”
-The debate moved into the legal aspects of appealing a death sentence and the attorney general for Va. was quoted as saying, “Evidence of innocence is irrelevant.”

The debate rages on in many circles today as each side passionately tries to convince the other side.
Regardless of where you stand, can you feel your emotions rise when you think about it?

For Paul, The topic doesn’t matter as much as the emotions. Whether its Death Penalty, taxes, universal health care, or same-sex marriage – we all know passions run deep and rhetoric gets heated as one side tries to convince the other. We (whichever side WE are on) are usually sure that if we can just EXPLAIN our position clearly and MAKE OUR POINTS succinctly.  Then SURELY our opponents will SEE THE LIGHT and be won over. . .
Yet that rarely happens.

We ARE different. We think differently. We all have different experiences that help form our opinions. And when it comes to RELIGION, we have BELIEFS and Preferences that Divide us into separate groups. Paul’s point is that our ONE-NESS extends beyond our differences. The ‘same mind’ we are to have is NOT agreement on every issue, but AGREEMENT that CHRIST IS LORD. We are to have the MIND of CHRIST and be united in ONE purpose – that of sharing the GOOD NEWS of GOD’s Love with the world.

Even Paul recognized that Unity is NOT uniformity – he speaks about different gifts in many of his letters and will later say that it’s ok if some are circumcised and some are not. He recognizes that some people can eat meat (offered to idols) while others cannot. Some should stay single and some be married. In chapter 6 he writes, “..let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which god called you.” (6:17)
We Dark chocolate lovers do not have to convince all milk chocolate lovers that dark is best.  Somehow, we must stop trying to win the argument of the day and learn to live together WITH our differences. …

I can think of NOTHING harder to do. (once again I’m preaching to myself)
Quite honestly I’d rather argue with you, or complain about “them” and tell you all the reasons I or WE are right.
I’d rather, state my case and leave when the rhetoric gets too hot. I’ll take my dark chocolate and go home.
But that’s not what Paul says Christians are called to do.

Paul IS the perfect example here. He’s as human as we are. He often gave into his passions and stated his case while lashing out at his opponents. And yet, he also went to Jerusalem to meet with the ‘old guard’ of the early church and he learned to walk the fine line between Jew and Gentile – keeping BOTH in the church.
He delved into the controversial area of meat offered to idols. He wrote about male and female relationships and although by the standards of our day, he seems conservative, Actually he was a liberal in his day.. . reminding us that – Liberal and conservative – are ALWAYS relative terms.  Paul even walked the line between slave and free – welcoming slave and master into the same congregation and calling them brothers and sisters in Christ. HE did all this, Not because he liked controversy or enjoyed debates but because he understood us ALL to be called to a higher priority, the unity of the Body of Christ.

Paul knew that -however long it would be until Christ comes again, we would not be “of one mind” – on anything. And so, he learned that even HE had to overcome his passions and he had to learn to live with Peter because it took BOTH of them for the Church to THRIVE.
We too are called to work together with people we don’t agree with. We are to be in relationship with other denominations and even other faiths. AND those within OUR denomination who we’d prefer to argue with. We are to PRAY for each other. – and We are to find a way to accept each other, the way God made us.
Because…. “brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, .  . .we must be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” (v. 10)
So whether you fish with a pole or a net, Like dark chocolate or milk, are more Pietist or Anabaptist,
You are Called to be one of Christ’s workers and together WE ARE CALLED,- ALL OF US- to be ONE.

[i] Feasting…p. 304
[ii] Richard B. Hays Interpretation 1st Corinthians (Louisville: WJK 1997) p.23

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Health Care

Why is health care so controversial?

Today my daughter is sick. Fortunately she has some insurance so if it turns out that a visit to the doctor is needed, she can go. Yet I believe their plan requires many simple doctor visits to be paid in full by them. What does a "simple" visit cost these days? I saw a $325 tag on one recent visit of mine that went to the insurance company. How many hours of work does it take for you to earn $325?

My real question is how do 'we', the church, talk about this? I believe it is a moral issue. Not that government is obliged to provide health care, but that a society that comes together for the mutual good of its citizens, must realize that health care is part of mutual good. Maybe in today's world of raging viruses, it could even be considered mutual defense. How we do that is certainly worth talking about - CIVILLY.

How can it be that only those who can afford it, get health care? Certainly those with money should be able to buy the best care available, but why does that seem to mean (in America at least) that others get NO care? Shouldn't the church be talking about this, as much as we did/do civil rights?

I'm afraid that our opinions are too influenced by lobbies that persuade not just elected representatives but the average person through media buys and talk-shows.

Today's highlight came from Conan, who said, "Now that the House Republicans have repealed the health care bill, they are going to talk about this whole woman-voting thing."
The December 28 issue of Christian Century had a cartoon of two men sitting at a bar. 't-shirt-beer guy' says to 'suit-martini guy', "As a potential lottery winner, I totally support tax cuts for the wealthy."

Since I have a blog, I get to 'talk' like this. But since I am a pastor, shouldn't I (and we) find a way to talk together? I think this will be my prayer in 2011.

Meanwhile, I close with a couple quotes from 2010 that Christian Century highlighted.
"The wisest man I know—my father—when I got into
politics, made me promise one thing, that I would always remember
that Judgment Day is more important than Election Day,
and that it's more important to do what's right than what's easy."
—Representative Tom Perriello,
a Democrat from Virginia who lost his reelection bid, in his
concession speech to supporters

and then there is hope:
"I see this as God moving in our time, and also
asking us to get with the program. And, basically,
what we need to finish the job, to overcome hunger and poverty,
is more organized give-a-damn."
David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World
and winner of the 2010 World Food Prize, on the fact
that in the past two to three decades more progress
has been made against hunger, poverty and disease
than at any other time in history.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

“Job Descriptions” Isaiah 49:1-7

When did you last try to interpret a job description? I’ve had to read through and WRITE a few in my life. Let me share a few ministry position descriptions to get us into the mind-set of a placement officer.

Pastor for Congregational Life “North” Church is seeking a P for C L. Duties will include pastoral care, ministering to youth and children, preaching regularly in coordination with the Pastor for Preaching & Worship, leading the educational ministry of the church, administering church programming and engaging in outreach. Persons applying should have at least a basic theological degree.

Here’s one you may have read in Messenger magazine.
Pastors Needed. Congregations in many of the 23 districts of Church of the Brethren are in need of strong, trained Christian leaders who are dedicated to C.o.B. beliefs and practices to serve as pastor. The placements are both full-time and part-time and include some 2nd staff positions. The congregations vary widely in size and program. Call for more information.

And so it goes

This time of year, Camps and O.M. Centers are looking for summer staff. I’ve helped with many camp job descriptions during my OM years and we always said that the last phrase of any job, which is always, “other duties as assigned” should come with a personal plunger… a plunger is always needed at camp.

Here’s a typical Youth pastor position:
The Youth Director serves as the shepherd of a small but important flock of youth
within the church. The Youth Director is the staff person principally responsible
for ministering to THESE individuals through fellowship, worship, and service

· Develop and maintain caring relationships with students in grades 8-12 and with
their parents/guardians 
· Support the spiritual development of these young people
· With the Youth Ministry Team, recruit and maintain a team of at least four adult leaders to help
minister to the youth and to represent youth interests in the church.
· Plan one Sunday evening group fellowship activity per month
· Attend at least one school function or extracurricular activity for each of the youth
(averaging one per month) if agreed to by the family 
· Coordinate planning with, and join the Youth Sunday School program on Sunday morning
· Maintain regular contact with youth through email, social networks, or other means
· Communicate regularly with Director of Children’s Ministry for overall Children
and Youth Ministry vision and plans.
· Communicate regularly to the congregation about the youth ministry
· Pray for the youth, their adult leaders, and the youth ministry program
· Work with the Pastor and adult leaders to engage youth in worship leadership and
mission activities of the church
· Any further participation will be negotiated.
This position is for (5) five hours per week.  . . . .

One of my first ‘jobs’ working with youth was helping to put out a fire in the parking lot that a youth had started and rescuing the church van from the burning pyre.
…  That fell under….            “what they don’t teach you in seminary” about your job description…

Never fear I’m not job-hunting, it’s  just that this passage in Isaiah got me thinking about Job descriptions because the author seems to be explaining a process of being called to servant ministry and lamenting where it has gotten him.

Isaiah 49:1-7 –
The author says he was called before he was born. Like the Psalmist he relates being formed in his mother’s womb under God’s direct supervision.
When he writes of being a polished arrow, we can imagine the job description of a PROPHET. These individuals usually come across as Sharp and Pointed.

And since he is lamenting that he has labored in vain, we can tell that the people to whom he was sent have not always listened. And so he suffers physically (his strength) and socially with his reputation (his Vanity).

We are not really sure whose job description this is. It is known as the 2nd Servant Song of Isaiah yet there is much scholarly debate about the identity of the Servant in this passage.[i]
Some have looked for individuals in Israel’s history to fit the description. Many have attributed the word centuries into the future to Jesus’ life, it actually sounds like it is the job description for the whole people of Israel, which may be the more  of the common understanding.[ii]

Scholar Paul Hanson says, “the Servant is both a faithful individual and the obedient community”[iii] which means the ministry description in Isaiah is OUR JOB DESCRIPTION!

Before we begin to feel like a 5-hour-a-week youth director with an enormous list of duties that would justify the title “Suffering Servant”,
 let’s look closer at what is being asked of us….AND given TO us.

The Suffering Servant acknowledges that he was created for God’s mission and he is honored to have the job. He recognizes that his strength comes from God alone and that his job is NO MINOR THING, but of utmost importance.

The phrase that we hear during this season of Epiphany is used here for the SERVANT, “I give you as a light to the nations --- that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

It sounds like the story we heard last week in ACTS when the early Christians were spreading the good news from Joppa to Caesarea, & from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. In fact, these two ARE related.

The SERVANT in ISAIAH “has been prepared by God for nothing less than to bring the glory of God into view..[in this case] thru the restoration of Israel.”[iv]

In Jesus, the Glory of God DID come into view.

And the mission Jesus gave the church is to KEEP bringing the GLORY of GOD into view. THIS IS OUR JOB DESCRIPTION, - as individuals and as a community.

You might ask next, “How are we doing?”

In the wake of last weekend’s shootings, and the funeral this past week for a 9 year old girl who was killed, we may feel as lost as Isaiah’s Servant, saying, “WE have labored in vain and spent our strength for nothing”
            …the world is full of evil, people kill and maim with abandon. What ARE God’s people to do?                                                             (6 killed 13 wounded)

One person, with a very unique job description, answered that question this week. He wasn’t speaking from a pulpit but in front of a TV monitor.
I’m speaking of Jon Stewart, do you know him? He’s the host of the DAILY SHOW, which runs late at night (and on the internet) to poke fun at the news and bring laughter into many lives.
He can be irreverent and Disrespectful and some might even criticize me for using him as an example in this message.

But on Monday, he stopped the usual banter and spoke candidly about the tragedy the US experienced.
            He was honest and shared the feeling of many that we all were seeking comfort in light of the fear that VIOLENCE could strike any of us at any time = and it does.

And so he discussed the question, “How do you make sense of these senseless situations?” He didn’t fault anyone, even as he spoke against the toxic political environment, as he called it.
But he didn’t ignore the tragedy. He HAS a Pulpit and he spoke openly about the horror of the shooting and asked that somehow we NOT continue on with life as usual, that we use the pause that comes with extreme sorrow to change the way we act and speak to each other. He took the moment he had, and spoke from his heart.
Can WE do any less?

When we look at OUR job description, to bring God’s Glory into the world, and feel overwhelmed and hopeless, we can follow EVEN Jon Stewart’s example and “REFUSE TO GIVE INTO GLOOM OF DESPAIR”[v].
We know better, we have been born for this mission and we have God’s strength behind us and Christ’s spirit in us.
We can take advantage of the moments presented to US to speak and show the example of God’s love and light. When we take each opportunity as a small piece of the job, and do what we can, what we have been born for, & what we know Christ would have us do, then
We are GIVEN the words we need and we are PRESENTED with a place and time to make a difference.
You and I can do this as individuals and WE can do it as a family of faith.
Even when we are faced with overwhelming odds, WE can Make a Difference.

Let me remind us of the story of one suffering servant.

Almost 50 years ago, “during the Montgomery bus boycott, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr faced many death threats.
One morning he was ready to call it quits and wondered how he might bow out graciously without being labeled a coward.
He prayed, “I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.”
From the depth a voice assured him: “Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever.”

King said, “Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.”[vi]

We know what he eventually faced and we honor his ministry again tomorrow. Many of you have worked to insure that the changes he began, continue.

It is to his kind of work we are called.
We won’t all be called to be martyrs,
we all have to die and yet
 we do die to a life that IGNORES opportunities.
We die to self. And when we FULFILL THIS JOB DESCRIPTION

This is really is OUR job. To bring the Glory of God to everyplace around us, and on to the ends of the earth.

[i] Stephanie a. Paulsell – Pastoral Feasting on the Word, Yr. A Barlett & Taylor, eds. (Louisville, WJK, 2010) p. 246
[ii] Note above author comments that scholars believe the designation of Israel as the servant was an addition to the original text.
[iii] Paul Hanson, Isaiah 40-66 Interpretation series (Louisville: WJK, 1989) 128 quoted in Feasting as listed above.
[iv] Paulsell, Feasting p. 244
[v] Jon Stewart, Daily Show Jan. 10, 2011,
[vi] Martin Luther King Jr., The Wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr., ed. By Alex Ayres, New York: Meridian Book, 1993, p. 184 printed in Clergy Journal May/June 2010 Vol. 87, No. 3 (Inver Grove Heights, MN: Logos Productions) Page 86

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An absent blogger

I have been absent. Not really, just a week of vacation and then the crush of returning and immediately filling up my January calendar. But it is all GOOD!

The goodness and delight of my life comes quickly to mind when I read the psalm for today (BCP) this 1/11/11. Ps. 56
Have mercy on me, O God, for my enemies are hounding me; all day long they assault and oppress me. They hound me all the day long; thruly there are many who fight against me, O Most High.
I don't feel enemies this day and for that I am grateful. Yet I pray for Rep. Giffords as she struggles to return from serious brain injury after being shot on Saturday. I think of those who must hide each day from enemies and those who hide from creditors. Grant them safety and peace, O God.

My simple 'struggles' are to find time to show our house to the many people who responded so quickly to our Craig's List ad. To get all the regular sermon/worship work done before leaving for the church retreat on Friday, and to get several visits, meetings and appointments into the week also. All this while I pull myself away from Ken Follet's "World Without End"; which is NOT easy to do. This book is captivating!

So, life is good and I'm grateful on this day a blogger I follow called the "Day of one-ness". I still realize that it can take only a call, a fall, or a crash to turn life upside-down. May I remember those who struggle this day and add the oneness of my contentment to their lives of struggle and hope it brings some calm.