Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hello {FIRST_NAME|my friends},

I have enjoyed this week of trying to get 'my list' accomplished before Fitz and I leave for conference in Charlotte, Friday morning. I seem to be spending a lot of time on the computer planning and contacting people about summer worship and setting up meetings for when I return. It has been too hot for me to play golf. (Altho Fitz did manage to play on Monday.) It is a mixed blessing to plan vacation after conference. I am always exhausted after conference so it is good to not come back into preparation for a Sunday service. But it also means I'll be away for extra time. Thankfully we have my friend Mandy North coming for two weeks to share all her creativity with us. (She just graduated seminary at Union-PSCE. Be sure to congratulate her.) Then Denise Wilson with share the chancel with the ACOB Players on 7/14. I'm sorry to miss all the wonderful worship.

Do you wonder how my week fills up so quickly? Here's a picture from earlier in the month when I helped with the Ashlawn 'Lawns2Lettuce4Lunch' Fiesta Luncheon.
Those twice/year lunches are fun. The children love eating what they've grown and come back for 5,6th, and 7th helpings of salad!  Thanks to Sandy Horwitt who took this picture and special thanks to Joan Horwitt who puts all her energy into helping children learn how to grow their own food at the Reevesland Learning Garden! (our neighborhood's gem)

During this month our family got to celebrate Father's day with our neighbors from Warrenton. All three of the children (Melody, Lowell, and Marnie, our neighbor) got their parents and significant others together for a fun lunch and afternoon at our house. That day everyone was posting pictures of their fathers on Facebook so I dug out one of my dad an posted it too. Here it is on the day he graduated from seminary. I was probably 4 years old. I just realized that tomorrow is the anniversary of my own ordination to ministry. I wwas ordained right before I led Annual Conference worship in WVA. That was quite an experience, as was preaching at Annual Conference in Pittsburgh. I wonder what my dad would have thought of those events?
photo(4)My dad died when he was 57 so my kids never got to meet their grandad Betz. Fortunately they had plenty of days with my mom and both of Fitz's parents. Who taught them alot about growing their own food. (Free summer garden labor otherwise known as 'a week at grandad's.)

I realize how important our early learning is to our health and growth as adults. Healthy food, gardening, moral living, lives of service..all these values are instilled in us as children. Many of those experiences come from our church community. Yet we NEVER stop learning. At least I hope that is true.

Do your understandings of the Bible grow as you grow? Do you 'hear' the childhood Bible favorites differently now that you understand metaphors? Do you try to keep learning? This August we will emphasize RENEWAL in our worship services and many people will help plan some exciting experiences of the New Testament. We are working on a day of biblical exploring for Sunday August 4. Put it on your calendar because you won't want to miss it. I know we will all learn something new.

I'm off to get in a couple more visits in before I finish packing. You will stay on my mind and in my prayers while I'm away. Please keep us in yours and I'll see you in two weeks. (7/15 in the office.) TAKE PICTURES while I'm away, please!

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.

See you in July,
Pastor Nancy

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Somos uno? es verdad?

This scripture is one of the keys of Christianity. On this we can give credit to Paul for offering a fundamental principle on which the church was built..and continues today.

My question is, “Is it true?” Are we really one?

Think about it. Here’s a quick historical summary that mentions only a few things.
Paul’s journeys and creating house churches 47-57 CE
    Jerusalem Council around 48-49 settles the dispute whether non-Jews would be included in Christianity. The problems didn’t really stop, as Galatians shows (date: 50-60). Concerns continue as to how they would be included, by following some key parts of the Abram covenant..or not?
70-312 is called Early History
    Yet during that time 180: Irenaeus writes Against Heresies
    Demonstrating that there WERE heresies or more than ONE way of interpreting the faith.
There was the ‘Age of the Christian Empire’ 312-590 the world ‘empire’ give me chills. During that time several creeds were developed to codified certain Christian beliefs over other beliefs and practices.
    Some you remember or have heard of, Council of Nicea 325 (Nicene baptism)
    451 Council of Chalcedon
    And there were other attempts to make christianity more ‘one’.

1054 The Great Schism between East and West
    After that ‘WE’ were really two.
1095 1st Crusade is authorized to recover the Holy Land from Moslems
     1099 Jerusalem conquered

1378-1410 The Great Schism - a time of division in the Roman Catholic Church due to disagreements concerning papal succession.
There continued to be Schisms, strong debates, differences of opinion and interpretation up until 1517 when Martin Luther posts 95 Theses on the cathedral door and ends up excommunicated 1521.
Maybe you could say we were THREE then, east, west and the protestors...but we know how many different kinds of protestants developed...

There are many ‘significant’ founding dates after that.
1525 is credited as the beginning of the Anabaptist movment, Menno Simmons and others were a key influence on our founders.
1609 Baptist Church by John Smyth
1618-1648, 30 years War a Protestant/Catholic conflict in Germany that greatly influenced the early brethren.
1647 George Fox begins to preach..1652 founds ‘Friends’

1708 Alexander Mack and friends baptize each other - beginning what would much later be known as the Brethren...later still CoB.
1729 a movement called methodism, by John Wesley
1830 John Smith produces the Book of Mormon - a different interpretation or understanding.
1906 Azusa Street Revival in LA and beginnings of the Pentecostal Movement
1914 Assemblies of God founded

So many more ‘founding dates’ can be listed. Hence my question,
     Are we REALLY one?

Even here we are influenced by ways of believing other than pure (is there such a thing) brethren. Turn to your neighbor and share your experience, background with other denominations. (...share how some churches don’t ask their members to ‘participate’ or speak in church...)
Specifically share HOW we are different from other churches you know and HOW we are the SAME.
Then I will call us back together so we can hear HOW we are CONNECTED to other parts of Christianity.
Our experiences:

We know that our rituals and understanding of Christianity differ among these many institutions/churches. Yet we share a communion ritual to remind us of Jesus’ life giving ministry.

Yet many of our smaller disagreements get the most publicity;
which churches allows women to preach,
who allows gays and lesbians in leadership,
who is trying to convert/save Jews,
the disagreements are many.

We could name the same disagreements WITHIN our own denomination, as I will likely see once again at Annual Conference next week.
Some people believe the main Christian focus is to get to heaven and bring as many people along as you can. (not by killing them but by ‘saving’ them or ‘getting them saved.)
Some believe the main focus of Christianity is to live like Jesus lived and taught.

(I read this week that the..
Mennontie theologian John Howard Yoder wrote, “The work of God is the calling [together] of a people, whether in the Old Covenant or the New. The church  then is not simply the bearer of the message of reconciliation,[ a purpose] in the way a newspaper or a telephone company can bear any message with which it is entrusted.
Nor is the church simply the RESULT of a message, as an alumni association is the product of a school or the crowds in a theater are the product of a film’s reputation.
That men ane women are called together to a new social wholeness is itself the work of God, which gives meaning to history.”1

“A new social wholeness”. . .Yoder wrote in the mid to late 20th century. He certainly saw plenty of differences and struggles in the church. We remember him most for his advocacy of non-violence for all Christians. A position that much of ‘main-line’ Christianity sets aside or rejects outright.

How then do we, the bearers of the message of reconciliation between humanity and God face the reality that we aren’t even very reconciled to others when we all call ourselves, ‘Christians’?

This is why Paul’s letter to the Galatians, written so long ago is so revelant today. Paul points out the continuity of God’s work in and with humanity from Abraham to Jesus.
Here he IS answering a specific problem in this letter, and we must remember this especially if we compare Galatians to say Romans. In Galatians he presents only the negative aspects of the Law2 that God’s people have been following (or trying to) since Moses conveyed the commandments. Paul is making a case for inclusion without Gentile believers having to follow Jewish Law or 1st become Jewish.
Even without knowing all the background of the problem (it’s all about circumcision) we see that Paul insists that God means to INCLUDE not exclude and that this has ALWAYS been true. (es verdad? Si!) God has just made it easier for us to BE INCLUDED because of or thru the faith of Jesus, the messiah.

Paul even turns to Jewish history to help make his point. He RE-Defines ‘salvation’ (such a disputed word even today) to mean more than forgiveness of sins (which is a judicial metaphor). Paul says salvation is a matter of DELIVERANCE3, and God has been about setting people free since the very beginning.

Paul’s says God’s deliverance transcends the social conditions that divide us and THAT is why we are ONE in Christ.
We’ve listed many of the things that divide Christians and we know many beliefs and social conditions that divide people. Those conditions don’t change, now or then. People were still Jewish or not, some were still slaves and some were free, there will always be men and women and transgender people, but because Jesus had so much faith in God that he followed no matter who or what stood in the way, that means our relationships with others are also transformed4. (Not just CAN BE transformed but ALREADY ARE.)

So in our mission, ‘our Christian mission’ of sharing the news of our deliverance, we are all equals.
In this way we are all one. Not because WE are faithful, but because Jesus was...and God is!

. . . It is a Simple and yet not so simple a concept.
    Our oneness is what we need to remember, whether we are sitting across from someone who looks or acts different, or
    We (me) are listening to a person at the mic at Annual Conference who believes so differently than I do. . .
because of DIVINE FAITH we are ONE. .  One in Christ Jesus.
1 John Howard Yoder quoted in Clairborne, Wilson-HartGrove, Okoro’s Common Prayer; a liturgy for ordinary radicals (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,2010)318
2 Boring and Craddock Peoples NT Commentary (Louisville:WJK,2004)586
3 ibid p. 586
4 ibid p. 588

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Desires of the Heart

Luke 7:36-8:30
Today’s story is unique in several ways.
So often we miss key parts to the story because we have heard it so many times, or we conflate it, with stories from other gospels that have similar elements.

There is actually a cloud that begins to overtake this not-so-simple dinner scene. And into the darkening sky, Jesus brings light, in a surprising way.
Let’s look closer and see what we already know.
Questions to congregation:
Who is the host? (What does that tell us? )
What does he DESIRE from this dinner? (Pharisee comfortable w/Jesus? Thought he’d be entertaining? Might raise his status to have Jesus there? Might obligate Jesus to reciprocate... )
Who is the UN-invited guest?
What do we know about her?
(NOTE, “a sinner” what is her sin? Not stated, ASSUMED for years to be what? And yet, only that a Pharisee sees her as sinner, means doesn’t live according to Torah.1 Which means what?...Usury? Mid-wife? Too much contact with Gentiles? Too bold for the men? IMPORTANT TO NOTE WHAT IS NOT SAID...)

 What is the desire of HER heart?

Setting info: Guests are Reclined at table..spokes in a wheel, laying on pillows, left arm, eating from mat or low table with right hand. Feet outward. Explains how she could come in (through open courtyard likely) and be at Jesus’ feet.2
Assumptions effect our interpretation of this story and text as a whole. ASSUMPTIONS are what got the Pharisee into an embarrassing situation.

Once again, Jesus isn’t the polite guest...
Not only does he allow the woman to continue her gift of washing feet with tears and anointing them with oil.  He contradicts the Pharisee’s thoughts by posing a riddle of sorts. (apparently common to do so, like parlor games..)3

Jesus seems to ‘rub’ the insult in with his pointed comparison

How could we HEAR that story today? What story would Jesus tell us?
from Vanderbilt library

What riddle would he pose?. . .
Think about what debts you owe. (mortgage, school loans, credit cards,) Now imagine getting a call or letter (not a scam..) saying, all debt cancelled! How good would you feel?
And yet most of us have the ability to pay our debts, eventually at least we would pay them off.
Now compare that feeling to someone who has just received an eviction notice, been told their job was being eliminated, facing debts, with NO income and potentially homeless. How good would THEY feel?  And we are still only speaking of money.

So we get a little bit of the feeling of gratitude in this woman’s heart that she seeks to express by finding Jesus in a setting where she DARES to approach him. (Risking shame and ridicule) Her courage tells us that she has ALREADY experienced forgiveness & acceptance thru Jesus’ love. Can we identify with her?
Is it easier to identify with the Pharisee? We are the host of a dinner party and the guest we thought could bring us status, allows a woman (an undesirable) to wipe his feet, let down her hair (a questionable act) and anoint him.
THEN, when our guest sees our discomfort, he poses a riddle which -- when we offer the obvious answer, turns the tables on us.. more shame?

. . .It’s a wonder Jesus ever got invited to dinner. . .

We’ve likely been in situations where we felt shamed. (our desire was  what? to disappear from the earth, or seek revenge, or?
. . .
Shame is often a personal feeling. But have you felt a more corporate shame? Can we accept blame for being part of a system that allows injustice to continue?
Today we are emphasizing African American Spirituals many of which were born during slavery. None of us lived then. :-) and yet we bear the responsibility for racial injustice that continues today.

Perhaps none of us has ever
held back another person due to race,
restricted our invitations due to gender- orientation,
failed to hire someone because they were the gender and age that might bear children. .
Or any of the many reasons we draw walls and restrict access.
There are hundreds of situations over which we think we have no control.
They can be the source of shame and their healing may be the desire of our hearts. Which bother you the most?
(Congregation responds)

In today’s story, “Simon was willing to let things be the way they were, [status quo, means no risk for us if we are comfortable] after all, that's our “traditional” way of doing things -- (traditional is often a code word for ‘leave it alone’) The desire of his heart was to hang onto the status he had or elevate it.
yet, Jesus was about calling out what doesn't give life, regardless of who, what...
The desire of Jesus’ heart was/ is the wholeness of all people. (Even when getting to wholeness means discomfort first.)
Jesus was about forgiving, and welcoming new orders of things, even before "the old system" was willing, or even understood what was going on.4
When we face the systemic evils in need of healing, & forgiveness in our world, the individuals in this story can represent whole classes and races and types of people.

This scripture has caused debate on many fronts because people want to argue whether forgiveness generates love (as in the woman was forgiven first then demonstrated her love) or
whether love is the ground of forgiveness.5 debates which can only take away from the power of the story.

Perhaps when we are confronted with grace this awesome, it is too good to we seek to clarify it and even argue with it. Yet the point6 is that love and forgiveness are inseparable.. .. . . ... That love and forgiveness is the desire of God’s heart for us.
Love and forgiveness are the only way to inject healing into the shame of nations and people.

If perpetrators of destructiveness and death (such as those we have mentioned) are in need of forgiveness, just as we are in need of forgiveness for our complicity or our complacency,
And if even nations are in need of forgiveness in order that love might rule the day. . .

Then what everyone needs is our prayers of Love,
    our offers of forgiveness to others and
          Our acceptance of forgiveness from God that the LOVE we ALL desire. .can truly make a difference.

. . .
1 Jeannine K. Brown Bethel Seminary St. Paul MN “it is commonplace for commentators to assume that she is a prostitute, as if the only sin a Jewish woman of the first century could commit would be sexual sin.”
2 Alan Culpeper NIB IX (Nashville:ABingdon,1995)170
3 ibid culpeper 170
4 Sharon on revgalblogpals 6/15/13
5 Boring and Craddock Peoples NT commentary (Louisville:WJK,2004)207
6 ibid

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Advance Team

Luke 10
We don’t hear many stories about Jesus’ followers other than the 12 disciples and some of the women who were close to Jesus. But here in Luke 10 we read about 70 (or 72 depending on the version) that were SENT OUT as the advance team before  Jesus’ arrival.
Anyone who follows politics knows the importance of the advance team; they learn who are the movers and shakers in the town, they learn everyone’s name (to be whispered later in the politician’s ear), they get all the yard signs put up in store windows and along streets. And most important of all, they set a schedule of visits.
    WHERE to go
    WHOM to see
    WHICH hands to shake
    WHAT babies to kiss
The Advance Team, although rarely (if ever) mentioned in the news story, does most of the work that makes a visit successful both for the politician AND for the people who welcome her or him to town.

Jesus sent a large contingent of people to the towns he planned to visit, 36 advance teams of two. He commissioned them to his ministry and then gave them specific instructions...some of his instructions are not what we’d expect these ‘advance road missionaries’ to do.

1st a warning:
    I’m sending you as lambs among wolves  fore warned is fore-?
Then NON-packing instructions (what NOT-to-pack):
    Don’t take a wallet, backpack, or even sandals
    Tough feet in those days, but what does this tell us?
                    Rely on what they will receive...
And don’t get distracted before your destination:
    Don’t greet people along the way.

Then Where to Stay and What to Say:
    When invited in say, “May peace be on this house” (they will either be with you or against ) so bless them with Christ’s peace
    Remain there and accept what they give you in the way of food & lodging as your payment
    Eat what is offered in any given city (w/o dietary restrictions bending to customs)
    Heal the sick and say, “God’s kingdom has come upon you” a blessing
    If a city doesn’t welcome you, dust yourself off and say the same, “God’s kingdom was here..” and let it go, they will be sorry one day that they missed the blessing of Christ.
And Jesus said,   
“Whoever listens to you listens to me.
    Whoever rejects you rejects me.
        Whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me. ”
Because Jesus is the Advance Team for God.

Do you wonder what Jesus saw in those folks?

I doubt that they were any different than we are - just common people who led normal lives, at least up until the point that Jesus commissions them for ministry.

What did he see in them -that he could trust them with so much?

He saw people who believed in him.
    People who had become excited enough to bring their family members to be touched and healed.
    People who went back out and got other sick and needy friends and brought them in.
    People who began to tell everyone they saw about the healing, the preaching, the inspiration they felt when they were around Jesus.
These were people who heard the story, saw changed lives, and wanted the same for themselves. They listened, watched & acted.

I believe Jesus saw the same thing I see this morning; people whose lives have been touched by his Spirit.
Sometimes we are "disciples," that is, "learners." Sometimes we are "apostles," that is, "sent out ones." Like the Dead Sea -- all inflow with no outflow -- produces death.
Without something flowing in, there can be nothing flowing out.1
So we return here to learn and then are sent.

Imagine that WE are the 70. . .
    Look around you, find your partner, and imagine what would it be like to be SENT...for we are the people whose lives have been touched by his Spirit.

WE are people who have been healed of the pain that immobilized us. WE are people who have brought our friends to hear the story of a God who cares for us like a loving parent.
WE are people who are commissioned, baptized with the Holy Spirit and
We are the people who are forever changed because we KNOW Jesus’ peace and what it means for our lives.

. . .WE are the sent ones, the apostles, the advance team for Jesus.

    It’s up to us to do the work he needs done.
It’s up to us to share news with all the movers and shakers in town, to make sure they hear about Jesus and get on his schedule.
We need to know their names so we can pray for them, offering them up by whispering their names in prayer to Jesus.

For Jesus does come into each town and into each life,
    He comes in the water and spirit of baptism now, and
one day at the end of all time, he will come again to bring
            Peace and Justice to earth.

We are blessed because the Kingdom of God has come near to us in Jesus, and IS here, right now in his Spirit,
    in this HIS church.
. . .
Our friends are waiting for US. .  to prepare the way for them to meet Jesus.  we’ve got work to do.