Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve - learning to listen with our senses

Three meditations from tonight's Christmas Eve service. (Harp music begins at 6:45pm) you
got
We use our senses in ways we take for granted. (?)
Fill in the blank, I have a splitting _______, Oh my aching _______,
    Ouch, I stubbed my ______, I have a sore ___________,
    I broke my ______ ( you fill in the broken part)
..
We need to listen with our senses beyond our typical aches and pains if we are to recognize the sign the prophet spoke of. Otherwise there could be signs, angels, the birthing of new life all around us, and we will MISS it.
God could be (and likely is) working right now in some part of your life, but your senses have been dulled.
Maybe the music or traffic is too loud for us to HEAR, we get engrossed in TV and don’t SEE what is happening in the neighborhood.
Maybe fast food has dulled our taste buds,
    car exhaust has ruined the good  scents of life, and
    all those aches and pains have left us unable to FEEL deep into our souls.

Tonight I invite you pay attention to your GOD-given SENSEs. These are the same 5 senses we always have, but they are fine-tuned in those who really HEAR what GOD has to say.

We will enter this story as if it was a Hollywood musical full of sights and sounds to delight. Maybe like my favorite movie, ‘White Christmas’. …(Remember that movie? people falling in love in a matter of a week. Dreams become real and questions result in a chorus of songs and some very capable dancing.)
We need to sharpen our God-sense so we can delight in tonight story. We need to listen with the ear of our heart to hear a prophet’s words speak about events thousands of years in the future  ..   and yet  tonight, we can SEE them.
We will feel our way into this most favorite of stories and answer some of these questions:

What did Joseph hear in his dream?
Who did the innkeeper see at the door?
What did Mary smell out in the stable?
What did Jesus feel when he was born?
    and we will even pay attention to what we TASTE when we eat the communion meal.

Each sense will invite us into the story to hear something new, feel a deeper connection to God’s message or maybe we will even see what they saw. . hear what they heard.

Let the passages suggest songs to you as if you were writing a musical. Picture the scenes in your head the way you would paint them. Design the play or script in a modern form. Imagine the clay in your hands as you Sculpt Mary holding the baby Jesus.

We can Let our imaginations explore each situation behind the familiar words. Because this story is more than the simple scenes we usually act out.
A deeper look will involve noticing
how devastating the visit from God’s messenger must have been for Joseph,
how shocking for Mary to be overcome with God’s spirit
    and how life-changing for both of them to go from an assumed normal life…like we all have for our lives at some point…to God’s plan,
which, in their case, was not what ANYONE intended, expected or maybe wanted.
and for some it couldn’t even be believed. . .

What WE believe about this story won’t be as important as what we hear, see, taste, smell, and touch tonight.
Because I am sure that we too will receive a Divine message, like the one the angels sang.
    Do you hear what I hear? …. it’s a voice..high above the trees.
. . . .
Tonight on this most special of all nights, listen, look, touch, smell, taste and really FEEL your way into this story. . . .
                                                of God with us.. Immanuel.
Seeing and Tasting
The really memorable stories about Jesus involve the senses. Put yourself in Simon’s house with Jesus. A woman comes in with an alabaster jar of perfume and pours it all on Jesus head in an anointing ritual with which we are UNfamiliar.
I’m sure this was oil based perfume because there are numerous stories of people being anointed with oil. Kings - or those chosen to be a king, were anointed with oil. And we put later pieces of Jesus’ story together to realize this anointing also foreshadows his death.

In this story people are overwhelmed. Those stuck, unable to get past their thoughts — are outraged at the waste.
        “It cost too much to pour out!”
Where do you find yourself in this story?
    Tonight, Can we forget our bottom line sensibilities and just smell the perfume? It’s so rich you can taste it in the back of your throat..it’s so sweet.
. . .
Smelling is the first step to tasting. I did a coffee tasting once. The coffee was black of course and very dark. First we
Cupped our hands around the coffee and inhaled deeply.
Then we slurped equal amounts of coffee and air into our mouths…sounds funny…
We pay attention to where the coffee ‘hits’ the tongue. You can identify the individual taste buds when you pay attention like this.
Then we described the taste - based on all these observations.

You have to slow down to taste coffee this way. It’s not the way I often drink my first cup..gulping it down to get the caffeine into my system as fast as possible.
. .
Slowing down is counter-cultural for most of us (in the USA).
We hear about slowing down, especially in advent …maybe because the events of Christmas are just TOO much to believe when we try to engage them all together.
We get overwhelmed, so we stay in our unemotional heads, looking for the facts. Or maybe we are so regimented from organizing Christmas plans, that we haven’t found a way to hear the story this year, to taste the spices of Christmastime or to see Jesus as a baby born just like us.

When we focus on one sense at a time we have to slow down.

Jesus knew his life-story would be too much for the disciples to understand, as many times as he tried to tell them. So he did two things:
He knelt down on the floor and touched them with water and a towel. His own hands reached out to their feet and they felt him wash them. . slowly, simply, letting the water flow over the dry skin, watching the water darken as the dirt washed off, feeling the towel in Jesus’ hands, drying each foot in turn.
Then after washing his hands, he returned to the table and gave them something to taste. Simple, ordinary food, that was already before them.
Everyday bread, a symbol to remind them that Divine Love is found in everyday life.
Ordinary wine reminding them of the richness in their lives when he is part of them.

Symbols for us too,
the sweet taste of the grape. Will it be warm or cold? What does it tell you about Jesus as you symbolically invite him in again?

Bread to taste..how will it go down, will it be crumbly, or moist & chewy? Will you BREAK it or BITE it?

What message will God send YOU with the symbol of God’s son?
    How will YOU eat the symbol of Jesus tonight?. . .Immanuel;
God IS WITH us!

Smelling and Touching

A friend and I used to say that all we wanted from God was a neon sign to point us in the right direction.     The shepherds got the first-century equivalent, an ANGEL and the full complement of Heavenly Host!
They couldn’t miss it, or could they? I’ve passed many a neon sign without notice. I once walked past newly installed 5 foot long decorative stones placed outside my camp office..and didn’t see them.
It takes a lot to get thru sometimes. Perhaps smells, at least BAD smells get to us the quickest. There is no doubt that something is real when it smells bad.
Good smells might be deceiving. There are cookie-scented candles, but they don’t make real-stable scents in candle form. Who would buy THOSE smells?
time check
Rather than getting stuck in the details of the story of Jesus’ birth, or the lack of details (which we tend to fill in from movies and such) tell me what sense has touched you the most tonight?
What is YOUR entrance into the story?
. . .
What we see, smell, hear, and taste is what really touches us, where it counts. Not the details, but the truth.
Did it really happen that way? or a different question..
    Is it true?


And did it happen?             Iona Community

    And did it happen that in a stable long ago, a weary couple,
who no one wanted to know,
should choose a manger,
in spite of the danger,
            to hold and hallow the Lord below?

And did it happen that in the stillness of the night, the woman labored to let God see the light,
and bathed and dressed him, …breastfed and blessed him,
        The Word incarnate whose time was right?

And did it happen that this news of this first reached the poor,
        compelled by angels to tiptoe to the door
        and see no trappings,
  just linen wrappings,
        A baby for certain and God for sure?

And did it happen that all of this was meant to be(?),
        That God from a distance should choose to be set free
 and show uniqueness
   transformed in weakness,
    that I might touch him and …he touch me?  (1)




Scripture         Luke 2:19-20 
 19 Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. 20 The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

1 Iona Community Cloth for the Cradle (Chicago:GIA,2000) 26

Saturday, December 7, 2013

What Are Your Expectations for Peace?

Psalm 85 and Luke 1: 68-75

The amazing part of the text we just heard is that Zechariah is talking about his son, John, just born. Imagine looking at a newborn and ‘seeing’ the vision of all God will do thru him. Seeing the future even to the ‘not-yet-born’ Messiah for whom this child will be a ‘prophet’. .

John will eventually baptize Jesus and later lose his head to the whim of Herod’s wife, because     Herod wants to ‘keep the peace’ in his household.


Matching the reality of the story we know from our gospel accounts to this lofty language seems a disconnection, the same disconnect we feel when we speak the language of PEACE in church and then go home to news reports of gun violence, and war.

Today we have voices who will remind us of the disconnect we feel. Listen to these accounts as you try to bring what we know is God’s intent together with what we know is happening in the world.

Robyn and Gary - gun violence
DEBBIE - Sudan experience


Disconnection is a feeling familiar to God’s people. We hear it in the psalms, we hear it in today’s stories of violence and joy. Two strange mates which don’t seem to belong together.

Even the psalmist recognizes the need for partnership between mates that often disagree…between righteousness and peace.

Today we have heard Jonathan speak of Peacemaker teams full of people who literally put their life in the way of violent action in order to make peace.. or die trying in pursuit of a just peace.

Yesterday in our daily COB devotional, Tim Harvey wrote of a brethren congregation’s desire for peace and security in the most dangerous and violent part of Santo Domingo. They address the need for this partnership by “regularly offering to exchange guns for food. They offer life in the place of death on many levels.” Harvey wrote.


For the last several days we’ve heard about Nelson Mandela’s life. In this one person, righteousness and peace made a home.

The President in his remarks about Mandela said, “His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or in our own personal lives.”
In Nelson Mandela we saw,
 “what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears.”


Like the plot of a love story in a movie you can watch again and again,
where Two people, attracted to each other, remain at a distance either by choice, or because something (or someone else) keeps them apart.

They pass each other, eyes locked, but with no opportunity to talk. Then they find themselves in the same room, on the same committee so they end up working together. Soon their hands will brush each other, a hand on the other’s arm. . .
Then moment when they move towards a kiss…but are interrupted by someone entering the room
then, the perfect moment, mistletoe overhead, two potential lovers find themselves alone.
They look up at the berries, then into each other’s eyes, and
    they KISS.
. . .

Maybe that’s how it is with righteousness and peace.
    First it’s righteousness, which is synonymous with right relations or JUST relationships, who finds itself in the same country with peace but they seem so very far apart, with only a little in common.

Then something or someone brings them together for an attempt at reconciliation and they sit across from each other. . .Righteousness stubbornly holding onto the ground of justice. While peace calmly sits nearby.

Soon they are working together, even finding common ground because a person, a Nelson Mandela, gives up vengeance (righteous vengeance but still vengeance) in favor of taking the hand of peace.
and
When the two touch, there’s a bit of electricity. . .

     It could spark another fire, …or
It could fuel their desire for each other and begin a love affair of amazing consequence - which will it be?



A new fight?
or 

a KISS?

and what will YOUR choice be?
       
To move toward or away from the kiss of peace?

The End

Blessings and Sending:
“so it falls to us as best we can to follow the  Mandela’s example, “to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love”


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Does HOPE perch in your soul?

There are at least 3 parts to beginning of the Advent story. But the ones I’m thinking of may not be the 3 we hear most often.

Typically we hear about an angel visiting Joseph in a dream, and Gabriel surprising Mary with shocking news, and John the Baptist being born ahead of Jesus to his Aunt Eliz. These are the big stories that get press, artwork, and children’s crafts designed around them.

Instead of just looking at the ‘big 3’, I want to lift up
(1)the angel's visit to Zechariah, John's father. Then
(2) recall Mary's encounter with the Divine Messenger. And preface them both with the
(3) expectation found in THEIR scriptures, particularly the writings of the prophets.


For decades, centuries even, Israel’s scriptures spoke with hope of a time when justice would be the rule. When all the good they had experienced at times in their history would be exceeded by the good that God would bring about.
AND all the evil, discrimination, oppression and Injustice they experience, would be made right in God’s eyes…AND by God’s own hand.

This is what the people’s faith told them to hope in.
The religious leaders, the priests, help the people to ‘keep the faith’. it’s priests who maintain the rituals,
    make the sacrifices at temple, and
    teach the people the ways that God commands.

Israelites know the ancient promises and find hope in them.
They believe they are back in Jerusalem because God has blessed them with salvation that ‘saved’ them from the Babylonians and Assyrians.
God sent prophets to warn of exile and prophets to share God’s promise of salvation from exile.


Along with Spiritual Leadership, It was the High Priest’s duty to go into the Holy of Holies, wearing special garments and taking sacrifices into the special place in the temple, and burning incense.
High Priests have the greatest authority in the daily world of interpreting and living God’s commands. Zechariah is a High Priest. his select group has been chosen to serve at temple 2 weeks per year. And the high honor of actually going into the inter sanctuary has fallen to him. This is a once-in-a-lifetime honor.
Listen to The rest of Zechariah's Story

In the days when Herod was King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, he belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. He and his wife, Elizabeth were both descendants of Aaron. [Only Aaron’s descendants within the tribe of Levi were selected for the highest duties in the temple. Since there were so many descendants by this time, they took turns with this most high and holy privilege.]
Zechariah and Elizabeth were upright in the sight ofGod, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
Once, when Zechariah’s section was on duty and he was serving as ‘priest before God’, he was chosen by lot to be the one to enter the sanctuary of the Lord [the Holy of Holies] and burn the incense.
Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and gripped with fear. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.
(start thinking about what you would do and say next, as we continue with the angel’s announcement)
“He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
(What would you do next?)
Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel replied, “[well] I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to tell you this good news.  . . .   But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them. and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away my disgrace among the people.” 
                        (story from NIV and NRSV, adapted for telling)

Your reactions?
    Take away:     “He did not believe the words of promise spoken to him.”

Brief comparison with Mary (Brief summary Mary Annunciation)
The other announcement story comes to a very young person, Mary. In Elizabeth’s 6 month of pregnancy, Gabriel gets another assignment. THIS story you know.
(ask them to tell it?)


Mary: In Elizabeth’s 6th month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was much perplexed by his words and wondered what sort of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Mary asks, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. “For nothing is impossible with God.”
[do you immediately think about your own response?]
here’s mary’s
Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.


Two people, one an old, experienced, HIGH priest of the Jewish people, the other a very young, inexperienced girl, not yet married, still separated in her father’s household.
Two very different reactions.
Which one has hope?
    “She believed the words of promise spoken to her.”

They both received a promise. They both undoubtedly knew the promises that scripture relayed. They have heard the prophets tell of God’s promise to restore justice, to save people from injustice, to make the world ‘right- righteous’ again.
But it is commonly known that there have been NO PROPHETS since Malachi, so these new announcements are signs that the messianic age is dawning. Mary’s announcement tells of a son who will BE the CHOSEN one, the one to save his people. It’s the promise they have all waited for.

When someone makes you a promise do you hope it will come true or take their word as fact?

Are divine promises different?
It is easy to lose hope in the face of disasters, or when we look a the disaster of disease and famine. Or when we see the vast injustice in the world, the kind of injustice and inequity we heard described in Isaiah.

It isn’t easy to hang onto hope the way Mary does and to speak of the righteousness action of God as FACT long before it happens.

These are 2 very similar stories.
Yet we have 2 VERY different responses.
Question: who do we more closely resemble?

I wonder how much their ages and experience (or lack of) play a part in their ability to believe in the promise.
I wonder how much hope they held, in the ancient words of the scripture.
I wonder how we actually would respond if it were us surprised by Gabriel.

My wondering came to a head yesterday at the end of our decorating. Let me tell you one last story.
When everyone left, I was getting ready to lock up when I decided that the narthex needed just a little of the pine we had in these windows. I walked out to get my clippers and ran into someone who had come to help decorate - late. I explained we were done, but since I was planning to clip more, and am a bit too short to do so, I was glad for a little help.
WE brought in the pine and chatted and he began to share a story. Now this is someone who many of you wouldn’t recognize, he is here so infrequently. Mostly he’s away on Sunday. But something had just happened that brought him here hoping to find someone to talk to.

He had just had his own ‘announcement’ of sorts. He told me it was an angel. That was his understanding of the message he received. He was going to be a father and was incredibly surprised, for reasons I don’t need to go into.

His messenger told him that this would be a special boy. One who would make a real difference in the world.
I couldn’t help but think about the words we use at baby dedications that come from the Jewish naming ceremony. The reminder that the prophet Elijah once told God’s people that every child has the potential to be a messiah because within every child is a spark that can repair the world.

He finished telling the story saying he was afraid to tell people. He thought they wouldn’t believe him, but he came to me, thinking his pastor and his church family would believe.

My question to you is, What should I say to him?
You’ve heard two stories of response, and now we are faced with our own church family story. What should we say?

You probably have heard Emily Dickinson’s poem about Hope. The first verse is,
“Hope” is the thing with feathers - That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -


I believe that how we HOLD our ‘HOPE’ determines whether we believe that promises will come true. . .
    I wonder how you ‘hold your hope?’

Do you keep hope at a distance?
    barely close enough to see, but not close enough to disappoint you if the promise doesn’t come true in your lifetime?

Or does HOPE PERCH in your SOUL?
so close that you can feel the flutters when you hear stories like these?
    So close that your HOPES RISE, and you begin to hear angel’s sing ..sing that tune without words. . .

hope… that NEVER STOPS AT ALL.

How do you hold YOUR hope?
________________________________
R. Alan Culpepper NIB Vo. IX (Nashville:Abingdon,1995)46
also Raquel Lettsome http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org/PopupLectionaryReading.asp?LRID=436

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Our Example

Today was special in many ways. I was tired and struggled to pull together a message. But since we have been sharing I the message discernment, (Multi-voiced) it is a wonderful revelation to watch and be part of what happens. People shared, we struggled with what our example should be, we struggled with the realities we deal with. And the community resolved in quite ways to live as a blessing to others. This congregation is certainly a blessing to me.


Worship was followed by a meal. We eat so well when everyone brings something. . . .And then the annual business meeting. All was truly well. If we can just maintain our faithfulness, if God keeps blessing us with just enough, than the 'one more step' that we've each agreed to this year will take us ever further on our journey of faith.

Here the basic notes that I started with for today's message, altho as discussion developed we left the page and followed the Spirit. We did end with Rachel  Hackenberg's translation which was just perfect!
? “What’s A Slacker?”

It’s hard to hear this text without all the MIS-interpretations that have been tied to it over the years. Can you hear the political rhetoric from those who would throw a quote from this passage back and forth?
(do you want to share WHERE you’ve heard it used?)

We bring our 21st century experiences and interpretations to this text. In order for us to discern a message for us, we have to begin with what the letter meant for the Thessalonians.
Perhaps we are best to begin with what it DOESN’T mean.
Let’s list a few mis-uses:
This passage in no way refers to those who CAN NOT work! We recognize this instruction is not meant to replace Jesus’ own teaching and ALL the emphasis of both Old and New testaments - to care for poor, widow, orphan!
Releasing captive, bring good news to poor IS the core of Jesus’ message and ministry.
So we have to look at what situation existed that prompted the advice we just heard.
Notice the Thessalonians are NOT to pretend the non-workers don’t exist. The very next verse (14) says, “Don’t associate with them” While it is a warning to ‘keep away’, we must clarify this because it does not mean to ignore or completely remove from community.  The intent is to separate just enough within community to insure their reform.
The letter intends to restore wholeness and health in the community, NOT to divide it or throw people out. All people are worthy of inclusion in Christ's community. (All are also subjection to discipline)
and lastly,
“It’s not an early version of the “protestant work ethic” (Barbara Blodgett). Community then differed from now. Even tho we hold many things in common.    Workers did not work for individual gain, or to increase their prosperity, they worked to support themselves, their family and the community in which they lived.
Refusing to work was to take unfair advantage of others.
This is the heart of the message to the community in Thessalonica.

Brief Bible Study: A reminder..
Thessalonians, 1st letter, earliest and written with Paul’s understanding that altho the risen Christ was expected to return to earth from God SOON, folks weren’t to quit their jobs, stand on top of a hill and wait. (This was happening.)
Evidently, much later at the time this 2nd letter was written, the problem hadn’t been resolved and either Paul or someone writing in his name had to address the issue again - but with a TWIST.
Enough time had passed without the return of Christ that some people were assuming (and teaching) that there would be no Big Event in the future. Christ had either already returned, they said, or wasn't coming at all.
In many ways, their revisions to End Time theology are similar to ours.
How many of us live our days thinking about the End of The World and the 2nd Coming of Christ?
They struggled to understand Jesus’ apocalyptic words just a generation after him. Of course, Christians ever since have debated what and when Christ will come again. Certainly we who live 2000 years later will wonder how to understand 'end-time' (apocalyptic) language.

In Thessalonica, (whether from anticipation or apathy) responses resulted in a spread of “Slackerism”, so a lesson in community was necessary.

What effect on community occurs when those who are ABLE to work, do not?

Let’s get under the surface of our experiences: (step closer/down)
Are we talking about ‘welfare’ assistance?
Is it welfare when we provide meals for someone in need?
Or a ride?
Or financial assistance?

Experiences:

My Stories:
Barry (hotel caller)
Tanya (6 month visitor for simple helps, gas, brakes)
Who did I help?
What is the difference?
Were they working for subsistence or working the system?
"How does that make you feel?"

The word sometimes translated as idle has more a sense of the word “disruptive”. Instead of ‘Working’ - these people being admonished are 'Working Mischief'.
Dykstra quote by Blodgett
“It would have been a ‘reciprocal expectation’ of the Thessalonians that each person (each ABLE worker) should shoulder the burden of labor for the sake of the common good.” (304)

The people who were not working were taking advantage of the community who provided for them, AND were disrupting the community. They COULD help, but instead thru words or deeds they stirred up problems.

IS there a difference between what we do in this community called a congregation and what is expected in the larger community? Answers:
“We are not called upon to have folks take advantage of us. Nevertheless, we still need to risk the giving. if sometimes we get taken, so be it.”

How does the way we act HERE, effect the way we act out THERE? Answers:

The author of this letter commends his own example, pointing out how he was entitled to NOT work, and yet he worked, for self and we presume, others. The way Paul worked to when he first came to this community.

(TIME? we are also hearing early arguments against salaried ministers at a time when the church was beginning to set apart certain people for leadership roles and full time pastoral work.
It is interesting to hear in our day because many churches are finding the need to return to non-salaried ministry. Which requires that ALL members do the work of the set-apart people; the tasks of preaching, teaching, administration, & pastoral care become everyone's job description.
This early model of the church may be its future design in many places, if so, these words of instruction need to become an important part of the design. )
Back to,
How does the way we act HERE, effect the way we act out THERE?
What does our example communicate to others?

Do you know about the Arlington Villages movement?
describe.
do you remember when churches did/could do these things for each other?
What has happened that communities now need ‘villages’?
Do we expect our church community to care for us? Do we plan to employ others, ask family to help? rely on neighbors?
The questions we raise, and the problems of this ancient congregation have again become important to Christ's church.

Regardless of how times change regarding leadership roles, when it comes to our membership in Christianity it is “Not enough to have an individual commitment to X, our commitment must be lived out in the context of community of faith” p. 306

Look around, we are responsible FIRST to each other.
we need to work FOR each other- and we need to determine MUTUAL EXPECTATIONS for our work.

Then, TOGETHER (especially on days like today when the congregation meets to determine budget) We decide how we are called to meet the needs of those around us.
. . . .

Rachel Hackenberg a minister and blogger, rewrites the letter using words that I find meaningful. Let's take these words into our hearts as instruction for Christian living.

When we spent time with you and got to know
the joys & stresses of your lives, we saw that life
is not always easy for you. Therefore we worked
even though we had plenty, because it would not be
fair for you — amidst your struggles — to give up
 your daily bread in order for us to feast.
And we did not spend our days pointing out your flaws or scolding your lifestyles, but instead worked in solidarity with you
to ease the pressures that build up against you.

Learn from us: do not ask others to sacrifice
 their very lives and health so that you can live comfortably in the status quo (and more!).
Our work — like our faith — is not meant for personal comfort & gain, but for the well-being of all people.
Therefore, do not be unwilling to work in such a way that others are blessed.
Work in such a way that others are blessed, we can all live like that.

1 Barbara Blodgett Feasting ON The Word, theological (Louis:WJK, 2010)302,304
2  Mariam Kamel workingpreacher.org

3 Blodgett     Feasting On The Word p. 304

http://rachelhackenberg.com/unwilling-to-work-reworked/
















Monday, November 4, 2013

All Saints and New iPad Air!

All Saints Sunday and the new iPad Air have only ME in common. I used my new iPad on Sunday using the Keynote Remote and Keynote presenter notes for the entire 'sermon'. I'd only used it on my phone before and it didn't work well. previously the WIFI signal kept dropping and the notes were too small to see. BUT, on the iPad, the note were bigger and the new iPad's WIFI reception is far superior to anything I've seen. It was great to be able to hold (so very light!) the iPad AND swipe the screens to change.

I still have a lot to get used to preaching only from notes like that. AND this service was mostly questions, but it was fun. I've tried to make a Quicktime movie of the whole presentation. I think the pictures are mostly open source and I apologize if I have one that 'belongs' to you.

Nancy

video

Thursday, October 24, 2013









 red moon 
Pastor's Diary
Dear friends,
  As with my journal at home, I haven't written my diary in awhile. We've been busy. We have new tenants at our house in Fauquier County and it needed some in-between-time work.

Nancy shovels gravelI spent some half days out there and some off days cleaning out accumulated things, hauling metal items for recycling, and shoveling new gravel for the driveway. (see photo) Fitz was re-building the deck surface and replacing supports where needed. Thanks to a LOT of help from our friends, the work is almost complete. (and the deck looks beautiful!)
2013-10-15 15.20.28
A busy time was had by all!
The work at the church has been busy too! As you realize from your letter, it's Stewardship Month. The Church Board passed a budget and we have our dedication of pledges this Sunday (10/27) along with bringing into membership three people. I've enjoyed crafting some of the language of 'One More' based on the board's desire that our focus go beyond dollars (although always needed) to a greater commitment to our faith journey together - as a congregation. I was tempted to mention 'one more shovelful, one more deck board, one more window to wash' but decided that was my personal 'one-more' for the month.

'One More' is the challenge of our journey with Jesus. He was always 'upping the ante' to use a phrase he might not have ever used. He did say things like, "Let the dead bury the dead. You follow me!" Which then and now is not the most sensitive thing to say. One could never accuse Jesus of being politically correct, but he was always honest. 'ouch'

A colleague said that he was ready to go to the soccer fields on Sunday morning where his congregation could be found and let the 'dead bury the dead' back at church. 'ouch' once again. But perhaps no harsher than Jesus. I don't find such a dim view to be true at Arlington CoB. Sunday is a time full of new life. I believe our new commitments of finances AND time/talent will show just how much LIFE exists in our congregation. We won't know the totality of what we've promised until Church Council (which means everyone) meets on Nov. 17. Then a summary of pledges will be presented along with the proposed budget for 2014.

I'm still contemplating my 'one more'. The pledge amount was easy, the time/talent commitment is harder. What 'one more' would Jesus have me promise? What 'one more' will help me grow closer to God? I look forward to taking those steps together with you in the days ahead.

Pastor Nancy

I try to post these messages on my blog and the church website. Link to my blog If you miss us, you can always catch up here on the web, Link to our website. I also change the pictures on the web and the church facebook page. We do try to post sermons either written or audio and sometimes both.











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Thursday, October 17, 2013

a good mix for writing

I still listen to Pandora radio a fair amount. I try iTunes Radio from time to time being an Apple fan, but it's so easy to go back to Pandora and I think they've cut back on commercials since iTunes came into the market. So I'm recommending Jukebox, the Ghost as a starter for a good station when you are writing..or trying to.

I've spent the day trying to write a stewardship letter, summarize the budget and prepare for an in-home anointing service. It can be slow work but I'm almost ready, just need to change to 'church clothes'. It has been a crazy couple of weeks. I know it is crazy when I'm looking forward to Advent for things to calm down!

I haven't been to my favorite RevGalBlogPal sites, haven't joined the Preacher's Party on Saturdays, and barely keep up with needed reading for sunday. THANKFULLY, I had John Monroe, a UU seminary student at Wesley, preach for me last Sunday. With District Conference last weekend and a bit of a homeowner emergency week, he truly was a gift from GOD!

We rent the home we own and we live in a parsonage. We had planned to go without rent for at least a month while we did some renovations and clean up at the house. The property hadn't been mowed all year and the deck badly needed replacing. Then we found a family we think will be the perfect tenants, but they needed to move in asap. so, crash course in hurry up maintenance. I took half days off to work out there with machete' and rake, cleaning rags, and window washing. I Scrubbed walls and did a tiny bit of paint. I sorted some of our stored junk and cleaned out part of the attic. All while my hubby worked like crazy on the deck. With a LOT of help from our dear friends and neighbors, the new family got moved in!
Men At Work

He is out there again today working on the final parts of the deck and it will take a few more days to complete. the chimney still needs cleaning and parts of the gutter also when we can get use of the bucket truck and the ground isn't so soft. Oh and did I mention it poured most of last week? sigh

SO now I'm playing catch up. While I got to meetings and prepared worship last week. I didn't get the stewardship letter written. Now it's up again a week-late deadline and much to do.

Back to it all now, but just saying that good music (thanks Pandora) and the live feed from the Baltimore aquarium. Helps keep me sane and calm. or as much as can be expected.

In addition, I am blessed by a particularly caring congregation and is showering me with Pastor Appreciation cards and gifts. How that for good news?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Dogs, fine line, and Chasms



Luke 16:19-31
Usually, we’d begin looking at this text by investigating the context and the verses surrounding the story. We may still do that, but first, I want to know how you feel.

Because I really want to know how EVERYONE feels, (not just those brave enough to speak up in worship) I ask that you Break into groups of 3 or 4.
You’ve heard the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus and the story of their GREAT REVERSALS of fortunes, now 
You tell each other how you feel after hearing them.


Stay in your groups if you would. I’d like to aggregate what we hear, but you may want to compare what you heard among your small group.

What feelings did you identify?

There are many contrasts and reversals. Of course the change in circumstances after death of the two men, the unnamed rich man and Lazarus is remarkable.
1. Unnamed/Rich Named/Poor/ Lazarus
2. Dressed: in purple Dressed: in sores
3. Meals: Feasts sumptously Longs for scraps
4. Both Die (great equalizer)
5. Proper burial Carried away by angels
6. Torment Reclining at table in Abraham’s circle

In the end, Lazarus is looking down from heaven and the former Rich Man is looking up...and begging.


Did you Notice? The story doesn’t say the Rich Man is evil or inherintly wicked because he is wealthy. He is depicted as living as the well-to-do customarily do, admired and envied by all.

Nor does he, (as one commentator put it) “nor does he sponsor legislation to rid the gates of poor peole like Lazarus.”

. . .
He Just . Doesn’t . Notice . Lazarus! . . He doesn’t even see him.

The chasm that divides them in life is like a cloak of invisibility that the poor wear.

 This is not a documentary, it’s a story. Yet Jesus told it to challenge everyone who hears it to ask some questions of ourselves.

What questions come to you?
. . .
A noticed a different kind of identification with a SPECIFIC poor man named Lazarus and a SPECIFIC Rich Man, rather than just the words we often hear about caring for the poor, orphans and widows. 

A scholar point out that, “Rich and poor are not left a vague generalities but are depicted as two men, one inside the gate of abundance and one outside.”(4)

They are close in proximity but one is invisible to the other. . Even in death the Rich Man speaks of Lazarus in the 3rd person, directing him thru Abraham to serve him.

There are some things in this story that really don’t relate to our lives. 
Let’s point out what is different from our day...(what are they?)
Language; some of your translations say bosom of Abraham rather than at his side. We also don’t typically think of ending up with Abraham. But Jesus’ is a Jew, remember and the father of all Jews is Abraham. So reclining at meal with him puts one in Abraham’s closest circle, intimately known. What else?
Dogs, not pets but wild and dangerous scavengers
Heaven and Hell/ well perhaps we all have different ideas of those.
Purple - then, the wearing of purple was regulated by law,and how much one wore indicated their status in the Roman system.

Feasting - we eat well, and we eat every day. But here, Feasting is much more elaborate (than even a COB Potluck) and Doing so EVERY DAY, contrasted to many listeners who might not eat every day, or not more than once/day.

In what ways DOES this story relate to our lives? Where are the similarities?
We have poor, who beg, lay outside, 
We have gated communities, elaborately rich..those who can and do throw money around, flaunting it.
If today, I’m sure the size of the house/mansion would be mentioned and the number and types of vehicles in the driveway.

With differences and similarities, we are aware of the poor. Even if we live in a neighborhood where poor are less visible than places where people sleep on Metro grates, we see poor people on TV, we know where people are hungry behind the outer walls of a home.

And we know about global suffering. . And just maybe...we are better than ever at ignoring it. 
As if there existed a Chasm that we can barely see across.

Actually we do know about a great chasm; the ‘ever-widening gap between rich and poor’.  We hear about it, we may even feel it, and mostly we may feel we can’t do anything about it.

Maybe we don’t have the power to do any more than METHPHORICALLY throw a few shovelfulls of dirt or handfulls of money into the Great Divide in an attempt to fill it, . . .but do we ever think about crossing it?

Maybe we get used to being voyeurs, watching only from the other side of the chasm. One person said, ‘the more we see, the more we get accustomed to being observers and the more impotent we are to act.’


Yet Jesus’ story seems to say, “if we do not cross the divide in this life, we won’t be able to in the next one.” (3)


. . .
Even when we recognize this chasm/divide
We seldom know what to do. 
Is it different when the indefined poor are someone you know by name?
When we really see an individual, what do we feel then?
And what do we do?

Can we interupt the cycle of observing, feeling bad, and then insulating ourselves from feeling anything more because of our inability to FIX the problem?

What might we do to interupt our tendency to turn away?


Young woman from Germany, serving as volunteer. No money to give but when someone, we’d call a ‘street-person’ greeted her, she responded hello. Looked him in the eye and continued the conversation. His response?
He thanked her for speaking to him, for acknowledging his presence, for seeing him.
. . 
I guess he spends most of his day invisible to the rest of us, separated by a great divide. 
(perhaps even the company of dogs was better for Lazarus than being ignored by fellow humans...)

 I began today by asking, ‘what did you feel?’

As one who likes to disregard her feelings, I’m asking us to promise each other to be a communal reminder that our feelings CAN call us back to our shared humanity.

When we see someone, get to know their name, we do what we can. - whatever small thing that is.

Even if we can’t fix ALL poverty, we can help the person at our gates, whomever it is, with something as simple as a hello, or a meal.
We HAVE done that as a community! 
And we we did, our perception of what causes poverty and how one can get out of it, became a complicated as our feelings about what we should do.

We can continue to walk across the great divide and support each other in doing so. (Walk across using the buddy system to help give us the courage we need.)

So we will SEE people --whether poor or begging-- as PEOPLE, not as circumstances to blame, but humans in need. Most of all treating ‘Lazarus’ in whatever form he appears as a brother, a sister, an equal human being. 

We CAN do something more than just ‘feel bad’. 

And if you will help ME to do this, I will help you. Together we can move from feeling helpless to being powerful workers and advocates for Jesus’-style justice...

And we will become more human than ever.. 
And maybe we’ll even build a bridge across that chasm.


footnotes:

1 Charloes Cousar Feasting On The Word - exegetical, Bartlett and Taylor, eds. (Louisville:WJK,2010)117
2 Boring and Craddock  People’s NT Commentary (Louisville:WJK,2004)244
3 Cousar p.119
4 Scott Badee-Saye Feasting p.118
5 Boring and Craddock People’s NT Commentary (Louisville:WJK,2004)241

6 ibid p. 118
7 G. Penny Nixon Feasting Homelitical p. 119




Monday, September 23, 2013

What Does Peace Look Like To You?

Pseudo-Paul is advising young Timothy again in this letter we return to today. Yet we find the advice relevant not only to our time but to today, the day after the International Day of Prayer for Peace.

Praying and peace go together the author says.
I think we’d agree, if only because it sometimes seems praying is all we can do for peace.      I don’t think this advice means, “When all else fails, pray.” I hear very specific instructions.

What do you hear? 

Which do you find harder to do, pray for ALL people or ‘kings’ and those in authority?

Christian Eberhart points out that the author of this advice uses FOUR nuanced words for prayer.
One is an appeal for a particular need - δεη`σεις which we read “supplications”
Another is a general word that occurs in petitions - προσε`υχας
“Prayers”
Then there is one for an URGENT and BOLD request - `εντευ`ζες
“Intercessions”
The last is an Expression of gratitude - ευ`χαριστι`ας
    “Thanksgivings”

Which do you think of for prayer? ...in the way defined?

This Advice-Giver says we are to use ALL imaginable forms of prayer.1

Now our prayers are starting to sound more like work than what we do when we can’t do anything else. Eberhart also reminds us that praying for leadership then and now is different, yet no less commanded. & Certainly no less necessary.

THEN:  Emperor worship didn’t begin in Roman empire until Julius Caesar replaced their elected consuls with single Emperor rule. After his assassination, he was proclaimed ‘DIVINE’ and thus began the worship of the Emperor, aka Divine Cult.

By 1st century, Emperor worship had become one thing that unified the diversity found in the many nations conquered by Rome. It was a stabilizing force. We may not agree with the Roman idea of ‘peace’ but this was part of it.
SO, for our Advice-Giver to command prayer FOR the emperor rather than TO the emperor was more radical than this verse sounds. He is implying that the Emperor is NOT divine but dependent on the guidance and mercy of God...like everyone else.2

NOW: certainly praying TO the emperor was more than a problem for 1st century Christians.
What do you find hard about praying FOR our leaders today?

I read Jane Ferguson recall that for many American Christians, we’ve lived a quiet and peaceable life for too long. She says if we lived in real dignity according to Christ, we’d be far from peaceable in the traditional sense and would be turning society upside-down.3

“Praying for ALL “calls us to consider the radical implications of sharing God’s desire for the salvation of ALL.”4

Let’s let God guide us right now in defining PRAYER for ALL in terms of what we’ve heard.
How should we pray?
SLIDE click in list.
1. For particular needs
2. With BOLD requests
3. With Thanksgiving
4. = PRAYER

If we begin to pray in this way, God stretches us to pray for our enemies and those we know personally and dislike.

Is it ever hard?
    Anna Hooker story: Sunday after 9/11, when the Education Minister was scheduled to preach..in her 2nd year of seminary...a bit uncertain of herself!
    Prayer concerns for 9/11 victims, with mentions of those people in PW county who were known to the congregation.
Anna stands up and says, “Don’t forget to pray for the people who hijacked the planes!”There was complete QUIET!
Some might say it was too soon. But it wasn’t, she was right! We ARE to pray for our ‘enemies’ - known and unknown, even when it’s hard.

    There’s a prayer in Prayers for Planetary Pilgrims
“Caught between pain and pardon, I wish to choose Jesus' way of pardon. . He prayed the impossible prayer, This prayer is one I now desire to make my own, “Father, forgive him, her, them, for they know not what they do.”
And it ends,
“O Infinite Sea of Mercy, make this unworthy servant the channel of your gift of pardon, that I also may be healed as your forgiveness passes through me to others.”5

What happens to us when we pray this way?

I believe God can make us able to pray this way if we can try, if we ask for help.

It begins when we pray with thanksgiving.

Have you every felt such gratitude that it spilled over to those around you?
When?


There’s another story of Rostropovich, who had been exiled from the Soviet Union in 1970 and stripped of his citizenship for expressing his support for artistic freedom. He was a cellist. And when he played a concert in Chicago, mesmerizing the audience, he stood up at the end and kissed his cello. Then he hugged and kissed the surprised conductor and then the cello section and almost everyone in the orchestra.
That's living GRATITUDE6 until it spills over.

Then how shall we pray?
    With bold requests?
        With specific requests.
           For friends, for enemies
        Even for those we have to ask God’s help to even include in our prayers.

All this is the real WORK of prayer.
Prayer like this is how we come to love like Jesus.
    Early Church Father, John Chrysostom wrote, “No one can feel hared towards those for who he prays.”

Can their be any better way to Work for Peace then to Pray for Peace?


Let us begin this work of peace-making by peace-praying today.

Here you see 13 candles surrounding the candle of peace.
Setting up such a number of candles brings home the fact that each one represents a life taken by violence and yes, One candle is for the shooter.

There are numerous more candles to be lit.

FOOTNOTES
1 and above list Christian A. Eberhart workingpreacher.org 9/22/13 1 Tim. 2:1-7
2 ibid Eberhart
3 Jane Anne Ferguson, pastoral, Feasting on the word Yr. C, Bartlett, Taylor, eds (Louisville:WJK,2010)88
4 ibid 88
5 both quotes Edward Hays Prayers for A Planetary Pilgrim (Leavenworth:Forest of Peace Pub, 1989) 176
6 Wm. ‘Matt’ Matthew quoting John Buchanan Feasting on the world Yr. c, homiletical. P. 89

   

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How High Can We Count?

Luke 14:25-35
Do you ever wonder if Jesus had really bad days?
    Maybe the kind of days where we would say, “I woke up on the wrong side of bed?”


There is no easy way to hear the words from today’s chapter of Luke. We always look at the context to help understand Jesus. Unfortunately the words just before and after aren’t any lighter.

We do know that Jesus is on his journey to Jerusalem. . .that he has ‘set his face’ to Jerusalem. Meaning that he is determined to go and face whatever may await him there. AND we know that he is quite aware the trip will most likely mean his death.

The expectation of death, or martyrdom?, and his personal determination may in itself explain his dire words. Certainly, it is appropriate for would-be disciples to first meet the conditions for discipleship.1

But did THEY...and do WE?...really have to HATE our families? . .

    . . .We believe Jesus is using familiar semitic hyperbole that exaggerates contrast so that it can be seen more clearly.2
Also the word translated as ‘hate’ doesn’t mean anger, as in our affective emotion, but means that when there is conflict, Jesus’ followers must disavowal their family allegience in favor of allegience to him.’3

But, this explanation doesn’t lighten his emphasis.
If Jesus is trying to show us the seriousness of the challenge that following him really entails, these words bring his challenge to life.

One could say that Jesus has a history of undermining families. I’m sure some of you will take offense at MY saying this. So let’s look closer at Luke’s record.


Just last week, still in chapter 14, Jesus advised his host NOT to invite his family and friends to dinner, but instead to invite the hungry people outside his door - people who couldn’t return the invite.
And 2 chapters before that, (12:51) he said,
    “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I have come instead to bring division. From now on, a household of 5 will be divided, ...
Father will square off against son and son against father;
   mother against daughter and daughter against mother, and
      mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and
         daugther-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Back in chapter 8 (8:19-20), Jesus was told his mother and brothers were standing outside, wanting to see him. Jesus replied, “My mother and brothers are those who listen to God’s word and do it.”
Let’s not even go back to what Jesus said to his parents when he was 12 and they found him back in the temple 3 days after the family group had left to travel home! (2:41-51)

Jesus raises words of tension that would promote actual conflict in families. --Advice that could break the bonds that were so vital in his day and are beloved In ours.

Can you feel a tension within you as you listen to these stories?

One scholar I read this week, Alan Culpeper, points to the problem by comparing Jesus’ requirements for followers to ours. He say, “Cultural accommodation of the Christian faith has progressed steadily in recent years. (he wrote almost 20 year ago) “As a result,” he says, “many Christians see no tension between the teacings of Jesus and the common aspirations of middle-class Americans.”4
. . .brief pause
Do you think Jesus would find tension between our aspirations and following him?

If Jesus was calling for each person who would be his disciple to consider in advance what that commitment requires, then how should we be advertising this (his) community?

I want you to take a minute and come up with some suggestions for a banner on our lawn. You can call out to me, or turn to your neighbor and share suggestions.
. . .
I don’t think Jesus-styple hyperbole will be understood, “You have to hate your family to worship here.”
. . .cross carrying competition - next week...win a membership to ACoB
. . .
What if we just put up ‘Count Well The Cost’?

. . .
How does 21st Christianity comparte to what Jesus had in mind?


We tend to define commitment in term of priorities.
    Story: Not long after I had begun to work at a camp, I was asked by other friends to attend an intervention. A group of people were meeting at 8:00 one morning at someone’s office to ask a mutual friend to stop drinking. Arrangements had been made to take him directly from his office to a rehab facility where he could turn his life around, . . .IF he chose to do so.

I only had a supporting role, but found it a very complex situation and not easy to leave in time for me to be at work at 9:00 am. So I was late.
My boss, challenged me that morning. He didn’t discount the value in what I was doing, but said, “Nancy, you have to decide where your priorities are.”. . .
Have you been in that position?



Jesus did tell us two stories to help us understand the extreme discipleship he demands.
Can anyone summarize one of them, or put it into more modern terms?

Construction metaphors still fit. Perhaps we don’t see many towers built, but we see apartment complexes..& towers of offices...

What about the war metaphor?
    On this day after the ‘day of fasting and prayer’, does anyone want to contemporize Jesus’ metaphor? How would you compare the reconnoissance of 10,000 soldiers coming up against 20,000?
. . .


Brethren have the story of Alexander Mack to help illuminate this text. Do you remember it? (We already sang his hymn.)
In the 1700s Alexander Mack and Ernst Hochmann shared the pietist belief that all humans need redemption and that salvation is possible in Christ. They held these beliefs in common with other Christians5, yet their faith went beyond intellectual assent, to their daily living with the practice of daily devotional exercises, extensive study of the Bible, and the experience of God’s presence in their heart - all influencing the way they lived life. They had become disillusioned with the Reformed Church of their day - which was part of most German states.

When Mack had to leave his home town because of his participation in these illegal Bible studies, he settled in Schwarzenau, Germany and became the leader of a group of Christians. He became convinced thru study that baptism meant immersion, and that his and others’ baptism as infants wasn’t valid, -it wasn’t enough for the commitment they wanted to live.

Mack wrote to Hochman, who didn’t believe immersion was necessary  - about his desire to be ‘fully baptized’. Hockman understood Mack’s discernment and advised him to ‘count the cost’ of such action. (Remember a 2nd baptism was illegal. It went again the official Christian religion of the state. Something worth remembering whenever you hear someone promoting Christianity of a certain kind for a state religion!)

So in August, 1708, Mack and 7 others (5 men, 3 women) went to the Eder River. They read this passage from Luke 14 then drew straws so no one would know who did the first baptism. That person, baptized Mack who then baptized the others.
After the baptism, they prayed and sang hymns. They “dispersed in the full knowledge that in most German states what they had done would result in heavy fines, imprisonment, or exile.”6

Some time later, Mack wrote the hymn, ‘Christ Jesus says, “Count well the Cost when you lay the foundation.” Are you resolved, through all seem lost, to risk your reputation, your self, your wealth, for Christ the lord as you now give your solemn word?”

This is the heart of our baptism today. Whether it is practiced inside (here) or outside, at a river. We face no threat of arrest, yet we are still advised to count the cost and THEN make the commitment to follow Jesus.

If we truly follow the Christ, we may be as a un-welcome as Jesus was.
We may speak words as politically in-correct as he did. And
we may find ourselves standing in opposition to OUR government.

I can’t help but wonder, if we WE count high enough?
   
I trust that together, we can meet the challenge of follow Jesus into difficult places - Places of division and discomfort.

I invite you to count the cost today.

I invite you to count as high as you can, then commit to following Jesus, from this day on.
I invite you to be baptized, if you have not.
And I promise you the support of others in this place as we follow Jesus, together, counting well the cost.



footnotes:
1 Alan Culpeper Luke in NIB Vol IX (Nashville:Abingdon, 1995)292
2 ibid Culpeper, 292
3 Joel Green The Gospel of Luke in New International Commentary of the NT (Grand Rapids, Eerdmands, 1997) 564
4 Cullpeper 293
5 William G. Willoughby http://www.cob-net.org/mack/honors.htm
6 http://www.cob-net.org/mack/honors.htm