Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We are ONE

Pastor’s Post – October 2011

“We are ONE in the Spirit we are ONE in the Lord…” so goes the chorus by Peter Scholte written in 1966. It is a perfect song for this month which begins with World Communion Sunday on Oct. 2. We will share bread and cup communion knowing that Christians around the world are partaking of bread and cup either in a Love Feast, a worship service, or in the manner of their tradition. This concept of being ‘one’ got me digging around for my white wrist band by they are a grassroots advocacy organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising awareness and pressuring political leaders in all countries to support smart and effective policies and programs to save lives. This month you will hear more about organizations that work to make a difference such as
Global Food Crisis Fund – a ministry of the Church of the Brethren that feeds, gives microloans, and works to transform lives.
AFAC – Arlington Food Assistance Center which works locally to feed and sustain families with basic food supplies
Church World Service – who sponsors the CROP walk on Oct. 15 in Arlington and shares the funds raised between their work to feed globally and our local AFAC.
Bread For The World – an advocacy organization working to end hunger in our lifetime.
Fighting Poverty With Faith – the sponsors of this month’s “Food Stamp Challenge”
There are many ways to help transform the world into the ONE people we are created to be. Yet I can’t help but think that my attitude is the place to start. Each time I think of someone I disagree with as one-with-me, I take a step closer to being one in the Spirit with them. Even when I feel strongly opposed to their beliefs, positions and commitments, I am still ONE with them. If they are hungry and I have more than I should eat, how are we ONE? If they are advocating the death penalty and I am protesting it, how are we ONE? It is not as easy to live as ONE as it is to sing the song, and yet we are. – ONE. I think it takes constant reminding of the message of the song, “we are one in the Lord and we pray that all unity may one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Perhaps the one band of on my wrist will help me remember all month long that we ARE ONE in the Spirit and in the Lord.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Scripture: Exodus 16 & Matthew 20 (Manna & Day Laborers Year A) 9/18/11 

Mail time is always exciting at our house. . . when we moved into the parsonage, our dogs, Maggie, the hound, and Cole, the minuature schnauzer, had some adjusting to do from life in the country. Maggie has taken up the role of guard dog and is determined to protect us from the evil wiles of the…Mail Man.

   In her first few weeks in the house, she gave her best efforts to eating the fingers of the Mail Man as he dropped our mail thru the slot. Desperately she tried to get her long narrow snout into the mail slot just as he was dropping in the mail. Her determination was something to see!
   Finally, she decided that what the Mail Man drops into the slot must be evil too and we were reading our mail in between teeth marks.

The Stewards approved the installation of an exterior Mail Box, but that has only increased Maggie and now Cole's frustration with the Mail Man's daily visit. They both run from picture window down to the door and back again as soon as they hear his mail truck on the street. They bark and howl and carry on a fierce 2-toned chorus of complaint.

   We have worked hard at the word, “NO” and "No Barking" - to no avail. We've grabbed their collars and made them sit. None of it stops their mission to protect us from the surely evil influence of the Mail Man. .

Melody has especially been working with little Cole, an older dog, because he didn't used to bark at all. She can almost get him to calm down – - against his will & newly found passion, and he sometimes listens to her-

  But he's not quite convinced. After being told 'No' and "quiet down"' Cole, can't quite hold in his objection to the Mail Man and he comes out with a little growl/whine combo just under full howl. – as if he's trying to suppress his own bark and can't quite manage it.

Melody calls it " Grumping'" --- “Stop grumpin, Cole” --- is the standard rebuke in our house.

 I think we have all done our share of grumpin. It's that low human growl-- a moan. It's a not-quite-under-our-breath registration of our dissatisfaction, that if encouraged can grow into a full-blown complaint. - GRUMPIN

Feasting quote: As our scriptures indicate, God's people have been doing it for a very long time. . . We ask the equivalent of, “What was God thinking?” We wonder what kind of God would put an 'evil Mail Man' into our lives or whatever is our current equivalent of Cole and Maggie's nemesis.

Kathryn Blanchard says, “Hard-working, “good” people have always [listened to the stories like that of the day laborers] and asked, “What kind of God would offer the same reward to those who have earned it [by good hard work] as to those who have not?”

Human 'grumping' dates all the way back to the pivotal story for Christians and Jews; the Exodus.

I'm no Cecil B. DeMille, but I still picture the Exodus as a motion picture.
-The rugged terrain, not complete sandy desert, but with so little vegetation that most animals can't survive-
-A huge population of escaped slaves, living in tents and mostly exposed to the elements of sun and wind
-And whenever I picture the scene, I reach for a glass of water because I know it had to be dry.
It's no wonder that the Israelites started grumping.

How quickly the memory of freedom fades when you get hungry. The truth is
other side of fence always looks better even if you hated it when you were there. “present anxiety distorts the memory of the recent past” says Brueggemann, the OT scholar. The oppression in Egypt was forgotten by the hungry Israelites. Slave memories were suppressed by the remembrance of full stomachs.

Another truth is that God's people aren't suffer-free. Salvation, doesn't mean we get everything we want. The Israelites were suffering when they were  enslaved and well-fed and they suffered as free people, with no food. They didn't get EVERYTHING they wanted.

 There is a key lesson woven thru these great biblical stories,
Suffering demands that we live in trust, fully relying on God for each day's needs. This story of God's people in the wilderness is the paradigmatic metaphor for asking God to give us Daily Bread. (the Lord's prayer is an direct reminder of God's people's pivotal experience in the wilderness.)

And what a lesson they learned. The emotion of traversing the distance from complaint to joy is a roller coaster ride. First up: when Moses has Aaron tell the people, “God has heard your grumbling - Go out in the morning God will rain down bread from heaven.”

Then down: the mistrust that caused some to take more manna than others, and
Up again:  the quick discovery that no one had too much – yet everyone had enough.
The sheer  joy, of waking up to have the dew lift and again the white flaky manna is there for the taking. Then the mistrust that has some try to hoard manna for the following day, only to find it full of maggots and rotted. Joy again, as the manna is there the NEXT morning, and even quail, all around the camp, there for the taking. But on the 6th day, they take twice as much manna and cook it all so that no one will labor on the 7ths day. Because even God rests on the 7th day - it's SABBATH and there will be NO BREAD. Yet some go out anyway and are disappointed to find no bread.  How is it that a people, so favored by God, so listened to by God, still can't follow instructions?
. . .
But then, how different are we?

God still wants us to learn dependence - unlike the typical modern parent. Our 'apron strings' to God need to remain strongly tied. Rugged individualism has no place in God's kingdom.

What can we expect when we are entirely dependent on & TRUSTING in God for each day?
We get to trust God to give us what is fair and just ---
No matter what time of day we are asked to go work in God's vineyard.
No matter how few hours we have worked, (even if we only get to work and hour) we
 rest secure knowing and TRUSTING that God will treat us fairly- or better yet,
rather than getting what we deserve, -- God gives us UNDESERVED GRACE;
And God intends for everyone to have enough, . . .JUST enough,
just what we need AND no more.

In God's Ideal Kingdom, there's enough to go around each day as it arrives. There's no extra to store and no extra to spoil, & not enough to save, hoard or gather interest, --or insects- but just enough.

. .Until the next day comes around and we must turn back to God in full dependence - and trust. . . . It's a hard lesson to learn, back then in the wilderness and today in a world where some have everything and others have nothing.

We know God's priorities and needn't act like ignorant people wandering in the wilderness. We know what God intends. .and I suspect we can each find a place where we fit into these stories.

We may wake up to find maggots in the manna we've stashed away.
We may head out on the Sabbath to find God has rested that day - and we should have too.
We may be workers standing around, hoping to be hired so we can feed our family a little bit- from the minimum wage we might earn. . .
or -- are we so full of quail and manna that we naturally assume WE were the workers hired early in the morning?
 Do we miss the message that grace is a gift FOR EVERYONE and instead look at all the part=time, hourly workers who got paid the same as we did?

Does our real complaint against God sound like the full-day workers,
      “But you have made THEM equal to US!”?

Perhaps, when we've found ourselves in God's story,
         when we've given thanks for waking each day in God's grace,
               our biggest challenge is to care less about how God is taking care of everyone else. . . and
Stop grumpin.
 Kathryn D. Blanchard Feasting On The Word – Year A Theological (Louisville: WJK, 2011) p. 94
 Walter Brueggemann NIB Vol 1 Exodus (Nashville: Abingdon, 1994) p. 812

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Strange Stress

Getting ready to leave on vacation right after worship may not be the smartest way to begin vacation. Today has been a stressful day! It was busy anyways, due to a scheduled service project at church where Pro-Shred donates time with their shredding truck and we collect donations for the local food bank in exchange for access to the truck. It is popular and successful. I knew the day would be busy, but found myself pulled in too many directions; all good, but too many. So a meeting (I forgot about), some individual "conferences" that were very full of good ideas and potential, and lots of little things, including a flyer for next month's service project. All this was followed by an interview of the person we hired for our 6-month Project Coordinator. By the time I was left alone at the church, I was tired, but excited to get home with a couple hours before dinner. Then I saw the boxes that had not been broken down. So I spent some time, cutting folding, stacking and cramming boxes. I think it took what little energy I had left. So when I got home, I was starting to 'snap' at people, at least when a simple little exercise of moving cars around turned into a bit more. Funny how things can push you over the edge.

Now I've fixed a simple dinner and we ate. I got my laundry done, my carry-on bag is packed, my hair is half done, and I'm about to check in with Rev. Gals and finish worship. I still don't have a good handle on the children's time, but it won't be the first time that flopped. sigh. Still I'm feeling much better and the large iced herb tea is doing its job of relaxing my weary body.

I used to deal with this kind of stress all the time. I am so grateful that I only have days like this occasionally. Thanks be to God that this one is almost over and vacation does begin later tomorrow. Meanwhile, I pray for a good night's rest and the presence of mind to lead this wonderful congregation in worship tomorrow.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Disappointments and Rain

Daughter and SIL couldn't get into the apartment they wanted. It has been such a traumatic month for them with the flies poring into their newly rented apartment and getting out of that lease. So they are back with us for a while until the right place shows up. Sad for them. NOVA is a tough place to get a start.

The rain has been pouring and pouring down. Unbelievable amounts of rain. I just saw a video on Twitter of Four Mile Run at south George Mason Drive and the run was within a foot or two from the bridge with traffic whizzing by. Normally the sidewalk goes under the bridge but it was all underwater.

Our power returned thankfully and I'm charging everything and leaving the candles out on the tables in case the other band of rain comes through. The ground is so soft that more trees are likely to fall.

I hope this rain doesn't impact Saturday's wedding in Staunton. It's outdoors but there is an indoor backup plan.

Prayers for
Those evacuating or caught in the storm and for husband who just got called out to see if the switch case (sits by the river) is even still there. I don't know how close he can get. Prayers also for the families of the 2 people who were killed when swept away by flood waters tonight.

1.4 million people without power in San Diego down into Mexico. It seems like it Is a tough night all around. (and how are the Packers doing?)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Conversation 3

Conversation 3 - A future based in scripture?

In Changing The Conversation, Anthony Robinson writes,
"Is Scripture a kind of archaeological relic or anthropological artifact, or is it the trustworthy mediation of the living God? Too often it seems that the Bible is treated as decorative or as “great literature” (that we haven’t read and have no intention of reading) rather than the truth about who God is and who we are. To create another vessel of the new heart needed in today's church, theology needs to be deprofessionalized. For a century or more, theology has been limited to professionals, with the consequence that many in mainline Protestant churches are clueless about the core convictions of Christianity and what difference they might make. When lives are transformed by the mercies of God, energy is produced—energy that translates into new forms, mission, and vitality."

How familiar are you with scripture? Do you know the key stories of Jewish and Christian salvation history? Only a few experts can talk about ALL the Bible. Still we hear stories every week and know some of them quite well. What do they mean to you?

Theologians talk about the "person and work of Christ". Are you able and interested in discussing what Jesus accomplished in living, dying, and rising again? What difference does atonement (any of the theories) make for your living? What did Jesus do that matters to how you live today and the plans you make for tomorrow?