Tuesday, December 09, 2008

2,000 Verses, Are You Kidding

Since it's been requesting. I am again posting my sermons, even if late. Here's the one for last Sunday.

‘Tis The Season
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,who will prepare your way;3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord,make his paths straight,’”
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” *******************************
Advent, the time of waiting and preparing. He is almost here. The babe is on his way. Mary has gathered baby clothes and diapers, Joseph has made the cradle, we’re just waiting now—waiting and getting ready.
In the larger story, we stand in the same place as John the Baptist. We know Jesus is coming. We know what the rest of the world will soon know. God is doing something that has never been done before. Things are going to change. Nothing will ever be the same. We start to prepare. We start to tell people, “Get ready, things are going to be different.”
John the Baptist, what an interesting character. Not big on social skills or diplomacy, our John. But if anyone ever spoke his mind without a blink, it would be John. Can you imagine what he a Jesus were like together as children?
John, his whole life focused on preparing people for the Coming, for the fulfillment of all that had been promised, to see God walk on the earth. So, what exactly did John tell them?
You’ve heard his basic message this morning, but if you poke around a little more in scripture and read his story from Luke’s perspective, you get a few more specifics about his message. In Luke, the people said, “What exactly do we need to do to get ready?” So John told them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Oh, that again. God just never lets us off the hook on this giving and sharing thing. And, since all the commercials keep telling us that this is the season to give, maybe we should spend a few minutes looking at just what God’s expectations are.
Did you know that there are over 2,000 verses in the Bible about poverty? 2,000! This is the Bible that tells the whole story of creation in 2 chapters, where the story of the Good Samaritan is only 12 verses long, and some of the other parables are as short as 2 verses, where the coming of the Holy Spirit only takes up 13 verses. So 2,000 verses on what God thinks about poverty? I think this is maybe a big deal, then, for God.
And what do those verses say? They say pretty much what John said, and what John Wesley later said, “Fix it!” Do whatever you can, however you can, to fix it. How can we do that? The problem is too big, it has been here forever and, as Jesus said, it will always be with us. You’re right. So how does God expect us to fix an unfixable problem? To do what we can. To do everything we can.
This seems like kind of an odd time to be talking about this in some ways. It certainly doesn’t fit in with all the pretty pictures and Ricky Bobby’s sweet, cuddly, tame baby Jesus in Talladega Nights. But on the other hand, it’s the time when we think about giving the most—what are we going to give to whom, how much can we spend, what is someone giving to me? It’s also a time when we see some of the hidden need around us and are asked to do something about it.
It’s a time when we have interesting conversations about giving. All year long, people talk to me about their opinions on giving, how they decide, what they think is important, who merits it, but I hear more about it during Advent and Christmas than any other time of the year, so I think maybe now is a great time to talk about it.
The number one thing I hear is, “Well, I don’t give to ……..(you can fill in your own blanks) because they don’t deserve it.” The reasons “they” may not deserve it vary, but there’s always a reason. The funny thing is, in all those 2,000 verses God shares with us about the poor, never one time does God talk about the deserving poor. He doesn’t say, only help the widows and orphans whose husbands and fathers worked hard, but don’t worry about the ones who drink too much or don’t manage their money well. God doesn’t say take care of strangers and immigrants, but only if they have the proper documentation. God doesn’t give us an out. God says, if you see need, do whatever you can to fill it.
When you think about it, it’s not all that surprising that God would see it that way. It’s how he treats us. When God sent Jesus, when God reaches out to us in grace, there are no stipulations. Jesus didn’t come only to save those who work hard, follow the rules, live right and never challenge. Jesus came for everyone. If the only person in the entire history of humanity who ever accepted Jesus’ message was a drunken, Roman soldier who had spent his whole life pushing other people around and enjoying it, Jesus would have come anyway. God reaches out to all of God’s children—all of them, whether they’ve earned it or not—and that is really good news for all of us.
And if we accept God’s gift, there are still no strings. There are plenty of us who accept God’s help and then go off and do the spiritual equivalent of spending it all in the local bar. We mess up. And we go back to God and God bails us out again. Until we finally get it. But as many times as we waste this grace that God gives us, that many times God meets our need again.
And that’s the hard part for us, because when God then tells us to go out an be the light to the world, God is telling us to treat the rest of the world like God treats us—to meet need, to give freely, to not attach strings. Darn!
So let me share with you how that has worked out for me in my life and thought. When someone asks, I give, even if it’s the guys on the street corner holding up signs. Yes, I know it may be a scam. Yes, I know they may use it inappropriately. But I would rather be scammed than take a chance on not helping someone who really needs it. It’s the choice I make. They may be operating a scam. But even if they are, the seed has been planted and one day they may remember that the person who tried to help was a Christian and that may be enough to turn them toward God. That’s pretty much it. I may not can give much, but if I see need, I give what I can. No strings, no qualifications. This is what God did for me, and this is how I share God with others.
Now, I know that this makes some of you uncomfortable, if not downright angry. OK. You don’t have to agree with me. But God requires that you at least wrestle with it. If it upsets you, why is that? You may come out at a different place than I did, but you have to think about it honestly.
When you don’t give because one time you know of 45 years ago someone abused a gift, is that the exception or the rule? If it is the rule, how can you change it? I sat with a man this week and listened to him talk about one needed family in town that could never seem to make ends meet no matter how much help they got. Yes, the single mom didn’t spend her money in all the right places, but instead of just cutting her off, he and his wife went over and spent time with her helping her learn how to plan out a budget, balance a checkbook, manage what she had. Maybe instead of cutting people off, we need to get more involved with them as people.
Maybe your reason is that you don’t know where the money will be spent. Well, if it’s a gift, then it’s a gift. When you give your grandchild a bicycle, you don’t dictate how often and when they ride it. It’s theirs! We can’t maintain control over what we give. Besides, God is in control anyway.
Maybe you really, honestly feel like giving money to people harms them in some way, then make some microfinancing loans. Maybe you don’t have money to share, then do what you can. The point is, God calls us to share what God has given to us—everything God has given to us, and not just the leftovers. If we follow God’s model, we have to remember that God gave until it hurt—he gave us Jesus, knowing that we would kill him. How much does our giving hurt? How many presents have we given up to give to someone else? When we look at the amount that we spend giving unneeded luxuries to those we know, how close do we come to matching that with giving necessities to those we don’t know.
Now lest you think I’m asking you to give more to the church for the good of the church, I’m not. I won’t deny that we will be happy to take your gift and share it wherever we can. But what I’m really asking you to do is to think about what you give and why, and to whom. Be honest about your priorities. God tells us over 2,000 times what is expected of us. How are you going to respond?
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Which way did I go?

Definitely tired. I feel that way a lot. I keep telling myself to remember that I only have to keep up this pace for one three month stretch at a time. Between semesters I get a break and I definitely need to take advantage of it when I get it.

At least the rhythm issue has kind of taken care of itself. Study, work, sleep. Eat when you can. At least speak to the family once a day. Breathe. That's about it. The first part of the week is pretty much exclusively devoted to school because of my 9-9 class schedule on Tuesdays. Noon Wednesday I switch gears and focus on the church until noon Sunday, then focus on schol. I can't say it's fun, but it is pretty well defined.

At least I enjoy school. I can't imagine doing this if I hated the schoolwork. Thank God for that blessing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's Not Fair

I know that I really haven't been keeping up with the old blog lately. If you're reading because you want exciting news about my not-so-exciting life, well I'm sorry. I've about come the the sad realization that during those months when school is in session, I might as well reconcile myself to the fact that I'm not going to get anything done except work and school. I haven't even picked up my knitting in over two weeks, and that's unimaginable! Thank God for supportive husbands and families!

Anyway, at least the sermons are getting done. Here is this week's:

It’s Not Fair
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3When he went out about nine o”clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5When he went out again about noon and about three o”clock, he did the same. 6And about five o”clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9When those hired about five o”clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:1-16)

How many of you have ever felt like this guy? I think that most of us have, at one time or another, even though we don’t like to admit it. Somewhere along the line, someone has overlooked us, or taken us for granted, or failed to reward us for something that we really felt like we deserved—something that we worked really hard for that was given to someone else. And whoever that person was, they had not done nearly as much as we had to earn it.
It happens to us all. And if we’re really honest, sometimes we allow ourselves to get so wound up that we convince ourselves that it only happens to us.
So maybe that’s why this parable strikes such a chord in people. They don’t like it. In fact, this parable is right behind the Prodigal Son as being the parable that angers people the most. Something about those laborers essentially getting paid for sitting around all day really gets our goat. It just seems wrong. It goes against just about everything our culture is built around. Isn’t that the American dream? That if you work hard enough and long enough you can get just about anything you want? That if we do the right things and keep the right attitude we can make ourselves healthy, wealthy and wise? That we, and we alone, are in control of our lives? So why would God reward these guys for not doing any of that? It offends us, the good kids, when Dad is generous to the not-so-good ones.
I find it interesting that Matthew is the only gospel that includes this story. At the time Matthew was being written down, towards the end of the first century, or about 50 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the church was still trying to get used to the idea that God was welcoming Gentiles as well as Jews into the family. It just really took some getting used to, and as you read through the Paul’s Epistles, you can see time and time again how much the early church struggled with what that meant and how it should work.
One of the things that really seemed to rankle those new Christians who had been observant Jews all their lives, was how easy it was for these former pagans to just waltz into the church and belong. They ate whatever they wanted, dressed however they wanted, worked or didn’t work whatever days they wanted, and God seemed to welcome them just as much as those who had worked so hard all their lives to follow all God’s laws. It just wasn’t fair. Good thing for us, the Gentiles, huh?
See, that’s the thing about this story. Just like we read in Romans last week, this story isn’t about us, it’s about God and God’s generosity—both to us, and to ‘the others,’ whoever they may be.
I agree with Barbara Brown Taylor that one of the most curious things about this story and people’s reactions to it is where they place themselves in the story. As we’ve said before, in every story there is a place for us to stand, a character that we can identify with. That’s what makes these parables so meaningful. So where do you place yourself in this story?
As Rev. Brown Taylor says,
“The story sounds quite different from the end of the line, after all, than it does from the front of the line, but isn’t it interesting that 99 percent of us hear it from front-row seats? We are the ones who have gotten the short end of the stick; we are the ones who have been cheated. We are the ones who have gotten up early and worked hard and stayed late and all for what? So that some backward householder can come along and start at the wrong end of the line, treating us just like the ne’er-do-wells who do not even get dressed until noon!
That is how most of us hear the parable, but it is entirely possible that we are mistaken about where we are in line. Did you ever think about that? It is entirely possible that, as far as God is concerned, we are halfway around the block, that there are all sorts of people ahead of us in line, people who are far more deserving of God’s love than we are, people who have more stars in their crowns than we will ever have
They are at the front of the line, and we are near the end of it for all sorts of reasons. No one told us about it, for one thing. We did not know there was a line until late in the day. But even if we had, we might not have done much about it. We know all kinds of things we do not do much about. There are so many things we mean to do that we never get around to doing, and there are so many things we meant not to do that we end up doing anyway. Even when we manage to do our best, things get in the way: People get sick, businesses fail, relationships go down the drain. There are lots of reasons why people wind up at the end of the line, and only God can sort them all out.” (Barbara Brown Taylor, The Seeds of Heaven, 2004)
That makes it different, doesn’t it? We all know, or have heard of, people who will be ahead of us in line, maybe far, far ahead. Do we really want what we deserve? Do we really want what we’ve earned? Maybe not so much. In fact, by this time I’m beginning to worry that instead of getting a fair day’s wage, I won’t even get enough for a Coke at the Sonic on the way home.
But God is not fair, and now that I think about it, that’s really, really good news. Because God is not fair, I’ll get better than I deserve. I’ll get God’s unmerited grace. I won’t be judged on who I am, but who God is. Thanks be to God.
To quote Rev. Brown Taylor one more time, “God is not fair; God is generous, and when we begrudge that generosity it is only because we have forgotten where we stand.” From where I stand, God’s generosity looks very good indeed.
In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer—The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, September 06, 2008

What Do I Owe You?

Hah! I'm finally going to get my sermon up on time. So again I say, 'Ha!'

The Sermon Today, Romans 13: 8-14

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
11Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
In this passage, Paul continues his lessons on ‘how to live like a Christian’ for the church at Rome. In my mind, I have this image of Paul leaning out of the window of a train that is pulling out of a station, waving and shouting out last minute instructions to those of us standing on the platform as the train moves away. “Don’t forget to lock take out the trash.” “Turn off the lights before you leave.” “Walk as a child of the light.”
He began this section of his letter by reminding us that God is asking for, and deserves our whole lives, every tiny bit, every minute of every hour of every day, not just our Sunday morning lives. Then he went on, last week, to paint us a picture of God in Christ as our role model and remind us that now, since the resurrected Christ no longer walks the earth with us, we have become God’s role model for the rest of the world.
Between last week’s passage and this week’s Paul talks about how we should live in relation with the governmental authorities and what it means to be not just a citizen of God’s kingdom, but also to still be functioning as a part of a worldly kingdom. This wasn’t just a theoretical issue for Paul and the Roman church, it was an incredibly practical one. At the time of this letter, Christians had already been banished from Rome once and forced to leave behind either their faith or their homes and livelihoods. They had only recently bee allowed to return and it was anybody’s guess how long the capricious Emperor Claudius would allow them to remain.
And that brings us to today’s passage. Paul begins with an unusual grammatical construction—a Greek double negative. A more literal translation, although bad English, would be ‘Owe no one nothing except love.’ Now, in English, as we all know, a double negative is really a positive. But in Greek, a double negative is just a really, really strong negative. So Paul is stating this just as forcefully as he possibly can. Since Paul is so concerned about this, it must be important, then.
And so what is he saying here, that we shouldn’t be in financial debt. Well, yes, certainly. Most of us already know that. And even without Dave Ramsey, I’m pretty sure that the Roman church members knew as well just how draining, just how depressing and just how debilitating it is to be enslaved to financial debt. Talk about living counter-culturally, especially in the credit-crazy world of America today. But that’s another sermon.
Yes, Paul was talking about financial debt, but he was also trying to cause a paradigm shift in the Roman Christians. He was trying to help them see themselves and the world they lived in in a whole new way. He wasn’t talking just about financial debt but also about relationships. What he was saying is that we have to get away from taking care of others because we feel like we owe them, or God something, and move to a place where we take care of them not because of a debt, but because of love. It all goes along with what he said earlier about seeing others as God sees them. It’s about responding to them not out of obligation, not because ‘that’s what a Christian would do,’ not because we have too, but because we love to.
Once again, Paul is not making it easy for us. There are some people that make it hard for us to love them. They are mean--to us or to others. They are negative--and their refusal to see anything but the down side makes us want to run away every time we see them. They are self absorbed--so interested in their own illnesses or hardships that they are blind to the blessings in their lives or the happiness in someone else’s. Or they are just so needy--so desperate to know that someone cares for them that they just wear us out and we’re afraid that we’ll sucked into some kind of quicksand if we get too close to them. By now, each of you probably has a mental image of someone that in your opinion I have just described. Yes, they are hard to love. And yes, they are also us, because sometimes we are the ones that are hard to love.
So, Paul says, love them anyway. Not out of duty or a sense of obligation, but out of God’s love. This is what God is asking of us. We aren’t bound by any law, we are bound by love.
And, he goes on to say, we can’t put this off. We can’t afford to cling to any hardness of heart toward God, ourselves, or each other because we are running out of time. We can’t put it off any longer. We can’t sleep on this. Why, because ‘the night is far gone, the day is near.’
Now some people think that here Paul is talking about the return of Christ to redeem the world. There is evidence, in this letter and other letters from Paul, that he, like many in the new church, expected Christ’s return to be imminent. It could be coming any day now, even, as Anne Lamott says, ‘next Tuesday after lunch.’ But Paul had been working in God’s fields for a long time by this point, and it’s not so clear that he still thought that might happen in his lifetime. Who knew when the time might be.
But he also knew, as we all do, that whether Christ came today, or tomorrow or not for a long time, it really shouldn’t matter to how we live our lives. If we are truly living fully for Christ, if we are completely focused on God, if we walk daily, 24/7 hand in hand with the Holy Spirit, then it shouldn’t make any difference to us when Christ returns because we are ready all the time. So what if we knew when Christ was coming? If we are living in love like Paul is calling us to do in this passage, knowing that Christ is coming tonight during volleyball practice shouldn’t change our behavior one little bit. No small challenge there.
So how do we achieve this goal? How do we live up to this impossibly high standard? We’ve talked on other Sundays about prayer, Bible study, private and corporate worship, partaking of the sacraments like we are going to do in a little while, all these ways of learning to live like Christ. But here Paul gives us another image. ‘Let us lay aside the works of dardness and put on the armor of light….Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ….’ Let’s think about that image for a while.
In Rome, as in most ancient societies, what we call sumptuary laws were common. These laws basically dictated what you could or could not wear, and what you could wear usually depended on your profession or social class. The best known of these laws from Rome were the ones restricting the wearing of purple to royalty, and just how much purple you could have on your toga depended on just how royal you were.
Even today, we still recognize some tiny remnant of this in our obsession with dress. Entire careers have been made for people who can tell us what to wear or not to wear to make a proper impression in a given situation. Personally, I have gotten so bored with the whole power tie thing that I almost automatically pay attention to any man, especially a politician, who doesn’t wear a red tie.
And Paul knows all this. He knows that ‘you are what you wear.’ He knows, just like we all do, just how much what we wear and when affects how people respond to us and what they think about us. So what is his recommendation? Pul on Christ. Wear Christ like a garment, so you are completely wrapped up in God, hidden behind Christ, and only Christ shows. We all have work clothes and church clothes, school clothes and play clothes, uniforms and civvies. But over all of these, the ultimate outfit is Christ. Wrap yourself in Christ. Walk like Christ, talk like Christ, look like Christ and you will eventually come to love like Christ.
It’s time to quit sleeping. It’s time to get up and get dressed. It is time now for us to begin to walk children of the light, because that is what we are.
In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer—The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Thursday, August 21, 2008


So, yesterday I went to OCU and got enrolled for seminary. What I didn't realize when I went down there is that they enroll for a year at a time, not a semester at a time, so I guess I'm really committed now. Still have no idea how I'm going to pay for it.....

DS started school yesterday as well. He is now officially a senior. That is so hard to believe, and I am so proud of him. I'm afraid that this year will go by much too fast. Such is the way of life.

DD is also back in school. So far, so good. She's a busy girl, and has one class that absolutely terrifies her. But, I'm confident that if she will just stay on top of it, things will be fine. I guess that's some advice that I should take myself.

DH is still looking and listening for his new direction, waiting for a change is such a hard place to be.

Obviousle, life is blissfully dull at this point. Of course, I'm still way behind with things, but that is normal for me. Time to quit babbling and get busy.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rainy Day

It has been raining here for two days straight. Most unusual for Oklahoma in August! It's great, because we really needed the rain. The only downside (for me) is that DS still has not put the new repaired wheel on his car, so his brand new car is sitting in the driveway! I'm starting to get a little cranky about that, but done is done so all we can do now is wait for the rain to stop.

If you check my reading list, you will probably notice that I have finally (at least six months after the rest of the know world) have read The Shack. So, alonge with every other blogger in the world, here's my response. Very interesting book. Yes, I know the the writing is not Pulitzer Prize winning quality, so what. A lot of the fiction most of us read isn't. I won't claim that I think that William Young has suddenly divulged all the answers to the questions of eternity. In fact, if you look at the theology critically, I'm sure it gets a little wonky in places. (Not yet being officially trained in systematic theology I can't really say that definitively.) But, I do feel that it contains a great deal of truth and that it certainly points in the right direction.

For those trying to get a handle on the emergent church movement, I think that is some ways it encapsulates a lot of the core thinking that is giving life to the emergent church. It's so easy to see something new happening in the church and try and copy it without understanding what's at the root of it. Emergent church as I understand it isn't about new (or reviving old) worship styles, finding ways to reach out to younger constituents, or learning new music. It is about a new way of thinking about what it means to be a Christian. Dogma, doctrines, believing the right things (or the same things I do), organizations and institutions, even worship styles are just details. It's all about relationship--our relationship with God, and flowing from that our relationship with every other individual we come in contact with and on out through the rest of the world. I think The Shack wraps this up and and presents in in a very accessible package.

I also think that this book could be an immesurably wonderful gift to someone in pain and needing healing.

So, that's what I think. I also think it's worth your time to read it. It only took me a day(ish) so it's well worth the time. Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fall Transformation

On RevGalBlogPals the Friday Five question is this:

For this Friday's Five, share with us five transformations that the coming fall will bring your way.Bonus: Give us your favorite activity that is made possible by the arrival of fall.

So here are the transformations I anticipate this fall. (The question, of course, is what will happen that I don't anticipate.):

1. At age 52, becoming a student again as I start work on my MDiv degree. (What am I thinking?)

2. At the same time, continuing to morph from a rookie pastor (2 months in to my first appointment) to someone who has a clue about what they're doing. Of course, there is also the need to appear to remain calm and in control at the same time.

3. In December, my son turns 18, so I become a parent of adult children--very different than having just children.

4. Getting to go back to wearing my lace shawls again all the time. Yes, I have missed them. Maybe I can even add some heavier ones into the mix.

5. Going outside without melting. I'm not really much of a hot weather person, so I look forward to this one.

Favorite fall activity: With the whole family back in school, being able to get back to a predicatable and much more productive schedule.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm In!

The big news-I've officially been accepted by St. Paul's School of Theology at Oklahoma City University. Woohoo!! Let the 'fun' begin. Actually, craziness might be a better term. In any case, I'm soon going to be a lot busier. It's been nice feeling like there was at least a hope of getting or staying caught up, but I think that's about to change. Oh well, what's life without a challenge. Guess my Xbox time if fixing to really take a nosedive.

Oh well, speaking of being less than caught up, here's my sermon for last week (even as I'm late getting started with this week's):

Killing the Dreamer
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
August 10, 2008

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. 2This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. 4But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
5Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. 7There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words. 9He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” 11So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
12Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” 14So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem, 15and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16“I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’“ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. 18They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” —that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father.
23So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. 25Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. 28When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.
If you remember the story from last week, we talked about Jacob the liar, Jacob the cheat, Jacob the wheeler-dealer. We talked about how Jacob dealt so sharply with his brother, Esau, that he ended up having to leave home to save his life. And we talked about how even after all that, God came to him when he had lost everything and promised that God would never leave him, God would take care of him, and God would bring him back to his family—not because of who Jacob was, but in spite of who he was.
And all those thing came to pass, just as God promised. Maybe not as quickly as Jacob expected. In fact, surely not as quickly as Jacob expected because it took 20 years of being subjected to the same kind of duplicity that he had handed out to his brother before he was able to come home. He had to spend some time unlearning how he had always behaved before, some time reaping the consequences of his behavior. But eventually he came back home, with his four wives and thirteen children, and his flocks and his herds and his servants. He came home to face Esau and to face up to what he had done. He came home expecting to have more consequences to face—and Esau forgave him.
Which brings us to this week. This week’s story is set somewhat after Jacob’s return, maybe 10 years or so. The children are mostly grown, some have wives and children of their own. Even the youngest, Joseph and Benjamin are teenagers by now, and Jacob is starting to get old. Funny thing about Jacob. Even though he had suffered so much because of his father, Isaac’s, preferential treatment of his brother Esau, in spite of that, Jacob still apparently hadn’t learned much about parenting. He certainly hadn’t learned just how toxic parental preference could be. Or maybe he remembered, but because he missed Rachel so much, he just couldn’t help himself. For whatever reason, Jacob repeated the mistakes of his father and favored one son over all the others. And the son that he favored was Joseph.
Joseph is an interesting son. Certainly he is amazingly gifted—smart, good looking, charming, well-spoken. Everything that a father could want in a son. Not nearly as disappointing as some of his other sons had been. This boy was truly full of promise.
Of course, he was also a teenager--he was 17 at this time--and just as naïve, passionate, self involved and convinced he was right as many 17 year olds are today. Why else would Joseph tell Jacob and his brothers about his dreams of someday being in charge of things, of being better than the rest of them? Only a teenager could share a story like that and not understand why everyone else found it annoying.
Of course, Joseph had already burned a few bridges with his brothers by ratting them out to their father, so it wouldn’t take much. And then for Jacob to make it even worse be giving him that special coat, much better than everyone else’s stuff too boot, was just more than they could tolerate. The scripture tells us that it had gotten so bad that the brothers couldn’t even speak peaceably to Joseph. They literally couldn’t even stand to be around him.
So what did Joseph do? He sent Joseph off alone to check on his brothers. I cannot imagine what he was thinking. Although Rabbi Marc Gellman says that the reason he sent Joseph after his brothers was to give Joseph the chance to make things right with them away from the Jacob’s presence and away from the prying eyes of friends, family and servants. That certainly makes more sense than any other explanation I can think of.
So Joseph went looking for his brothers. He didn’t find them in the first place he looked, but he found someone who put him on the right path and soon he found his way to his brothers’ sheep camp.
The boys were not thrilled to see him coming. It apparently didn’t occur to them that Joseph might be looking for reconciliation. All they could see was that the annoying one had followed them even all the way out here. They could not get away from this guy! But they had had enough. They were going to take care of this burr under their saddle once and for all.
But look what they say. Not, “Now’s our chance to get rid of the punk.” Not, “Finally we can get even with Dad’s pet, now that the old man’s not here to protect him.” What they said was, “This is our chance to get rid of this dreamer.” What an interesting complaint. Out of all the things that they could be angry with Joseph about, the one that really sticks in their craw is his dreams.
Dreams. What was the big deal with that? Dreams are just dreams, after all. Well, most of the time that’s true. That’s true when the dreams are our dreams. But when the dreams are God’s dreams, that’s something else entirely. We aren’t often privileged, as individuals, to receive a dream from God. And maybe that’s a good thing. God dreams are disturbing. Without fail, God dreams will disrupt the status quo. Without fail, God dreams will bring change. And God dreams will not fail. Those who are given the gift of a dream from God may ignore it, and lose the opportunity to be part of something great. But no one can kill it.
Joseph’s brothers knew all about God dreams. Their father had had two of them, and they were still living in the promises of those dreams. They knew what God dreams meant. And if Joseph’s dreams were truly from God, things were going to change. And not in their favor. Of course, they didn’t want anything to change. They wanted everything to stay just the way it was. They were comfortable with the status quo. They knew how everything was going to go from week to week. They knew who got what they wanted and how they fit into the scheme of things. It might not be exciting, but it was comforting. They had grown up with it. They were raising their children in the same context. As long as nothing ever changed, they wouldn’t have to change either. They might never get the chance to embrace anything new, but they wouldn’t have to let go of anything old, either.
You see, they didn’t just hate Joseph, they feared him. They were afraid that he might be right. They were afraid that his dreams really were from God. And they were afraid they God might use Joseph to really bring change. And not only might things change, but in that change, they might lose something. They might lose power, or jobs, or opportunities, or status. Of course, they might gain, too, but they couldn’t see that. All they could see was their fear.
So they decided to get rid of the dreamer. If they killed him, maybe the dream would die with him. But God’s dreams don’t die that easily. In fact, that’s one of the ways you can tell God’s dreams from people’s dreams. God’s dreams won’t die, no matter what we do to them. Our dreams may fade or fail, but God’s will come to pass, even if you kill the dreamer. That’s one of the great benefits of choosing to open ourselves to God. When we let go of our dreams in order to grasp God’s dreams, we become part of dreams that won’t die, fade or turn out to be all wrong. God’s dreams don’t ever turn out to be nightmares in disguise the way ours sometimes do.
God’s dreams continue beyond the dreamer, even if they are killed. Joseph’s brothers desperately hoped that Joseph’s dreams were his own alone. They told themselves that was just Joseph being Joseph. They were afraid when he insisted that these dreams were different. The last thing these jealous brothers wanted was for Joseph’s dreams to come true and change their world. So they decided to get rid of him.
But all they got by killing him was a load of guilt that did change their lives anyway. They crippled themselves by trying to go against the dream. Instead of destroying the dream, they destroyed themselves. They destroyed themselves with guilt. Which of them could ever look their father or their brother Benjamin in the eye again? They destroyed themselves with fear. Their fear that things might change and they couldn’t control it led them to actions that bound them in fear for the rest of their lives. What if someone found out what they had done? What if someone told? They destroyed themselves with shame over what they had done. The guilt, fear and shame they took on that day eventually twisted and warped their lives so much that they couldn’t accept the good things that came later. Even after Joseph saved them all by bringing them to Egypt, they never could let go of their fear, guilt and mistrust. They doomed themselves.
So why does this matter to us today? It matters because God is still sending dreams into the world. God is sending dreams of justice and mercy. God is sending dreams of peace and freedom. And God is sending dreams of something new to the church. I believe that in next 20 to 50 years, the church will be transformed into a something we can’t imagine. The question is, are we going to embrace these changes, be part of God’s dream? Or are we going to make the same mistake Joseph’s brothers made and try to kill it?
Soon it will be time for our Annual Charge Conference. Soon it will be time to begin drawing up our plans for the future. Now it is the time to begin to open ourselves to God and to seek God’s dream for us, individually and as a church.
Do we act from faith in God and the dreams God sends us? Or do we act in fear? As with Joseph’s brothers, the choice is ours.
In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer—The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And Now...

Well, a lot has happened since last Saturday. I just now realized that I completely forgot to post last Sunday's sermon. Maybe I can get that done later today, although my plans for today have been superseded by other people's events.

We did get a car for DS, a base-model Hundai Accent. It's a really nice car and he really likes it. Now we're in the flurry of arranging financing, insurance, etc. Of course, coming home from a church party last night in the rain, he hit a curb and bent the rim (Ouch) on one of the tires, so now a big chunk of today will be spent getting prices and making arrangements to get that repaired. We did agree that this expense is on him, though, so it looks like he'll be keeping that summer job a little longer than he planned to. I know that when you get something new that's really special, something always happens to it right away, but it still makes you kind of sick when it happens.

DD is coming home today to visit for a day or two and take home her dog. I really do like her dog, but I have to admit that I like it better at her house than mine.

I'm still waiting for word from the seminary. They should have received the last recommendation by now because I know they were mailed last week so I should hear something really soon. I know I need to get my books ordered, but I wanted a definite acceptance before I did that. I may have to go ahead and order them anyway.

DS and his friend are awake now, so I can actually turn on lights and make noise so I think I'll go and get a few things done.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Time Flows Like Water

Today seems to be one of those days where you feel like you're swimming through gel. We've been busy, getting some things done, but time still seems to be crawling by. Usually, when I'm busy, time flies, but not today. I think it's due to a combination of things--the heat and humidity, all the things hanging over my head that I'm not getting to, being really, really tired and sleepy, all those things. In any case, I'm busy and I'm moving, but I feel like I'm standing still.

We're at the church right now, installing the wireless network so I can use my own laptop and not have to move from computer to computer to print or use the internet. This morning, we went and looked for inexpensive cars for my son, whose a senior this year. I'm not much of a car person, so car shopping is not really fun for me. All I can see is big giant dollar signs.

Oh well, time to get back to work. Still have a sermon to finish.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Still settling in

Even though I've been here two months today, I still feel like I'm settling in and searching for a rhythm. And at the back of my head, there's alittle voice that keeps singing, "Don't get too settled, school starts in less than a month and you'll have to do it all over again." Then it says, "Remember, the rhythm of the church is a yearly cycle, the weekly cycle is only part of it, and it always varies depending are when you are in the year." Such complexity.

But, I have learned a few things. I don't work well at home, except under extreme pressure (like writing sermons on Saturday), but I'm still struggling to feel home enough in my office so that I can be truly creative there. i know it will come, and the more of my 'stuff' expecially worship resources and books that I bring in, the quicker it will come to feel like 'my place.' At least for as long as I am here, which I sincerely hope will be a while. Actually, getting the filing cabinet helped a lot and when I get my own bookshelf and the ability to hook my laptop up to the internet, I think I'll start to feel right at home., maybe some curtains or a few more fabrics to soften some of the edges and bring in some color. Truth is, are we ever really finished with the whole nesting thing?

I think I've figured out what was causing my knitting slump. I've been away from the lace too long. I really need a lace project going most of the time. I don't know why I love it so much, I just do. I have signed up for Mystery Stole 4, but that won't start until September, so I may have to start something else in the mean time. This church doesn't have a lot to work with in terms of decorative supplies, so I'm actually toying with the idea of some lace altar cloths or just accent pieces to help dress things up, at least for communion and other special times. What do you all think? Has anyone ever done anything like this?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

He's Baaaack

Hooray! DS is back from his Appalachian mission trip. I know it's not like he's been off in military service (as is the case with my friend's son). I know it's nothing like that, but he was gone for 2 weeks and we really did miss the guy. I know it's just a prelude to next fall's empty nest, but it was really empty around here. He got back Sunday, and I spent all yesterday morning playing video games with him. I know it was a waste of time, but there's very few things he really wants to do with mom these days so I was happy to waste the morning. (Now what's my excuse with my video time today?)

As far as we know, DD is surviving Rush Week. We really didn't expect to hear from her, because it is a really busy time with not a lot of rest, so I imagine that no news is good news. The good news from our end is that we haven't killed her dog yet (or even damaged it), even after she (the dog) chewed up my DH's favorite iPod cover. I don't know what would have happened if she had worked her way down to the iPod itself.

I have just this afternoon turned in the last part of my paperwork to start seminary this fall at St. Paul's at OCU here in Oklahoma City. There are still two reference letters out, but I expect them to get in soon. This is so exciting and soooo scary. I did OK when I was taking one class at a time at Philips, but for financial reasons I have no choice except to take a full load (9 hours) at St. Paul's. So, while still learning the ropes on being a pastor for the first time, I get to remember how to be a full time student again as well (only this time as a graduate student). Yes, I am nervous.

So, starting this week I'm trying to start living by my school schedule as far as when I go in to the office/church and when I work from home. I figure that the sooner both the church and I get used to it, the easier it will be. But the truth is, it's really hard for me to not run out to the church (although it's over 20 miles away) every day. Discipline, discipline.

Speaking of which, I guess I had better get going.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ordinary Day

Things are quiet around here this week. DD is back at school, tied up with Rush Week prep and then Rush itself, so I don't expect to hear much from her this week. In fact, she's so busy, we're dog sitting this week and next week. I must admit granddog is much better than she used to be, but we still have to watch her every minute because you just never know when she's going to find something to chew up. It's almost like having a destructive toddler in the house. Fortunately, she has a winning personality, probably the only thing that keeps her alive.

DS is off to Kentucky for a mission trip. Little does he know that I have been playing with the new Xbox360 while he's been gone. Those things are so addictive! It's a good thing I'll have to fight him for time on the box when he gets home or I would never get anything done. :-) DH and I have been moving furniture, etc., so DS may not even recognize the place when he gets home.

I've been in a real knitting funk lately. I still enjoy it immensely when I pick up the needles, but I'm just having trouble getting myself to pick them up. Burnout maybe. OTN: triangular prayer shawl and green clerical stole in metallic rayon

Must go clean the dehydrator now, so I can put some apples and peaches on and then run errands and start sermon for next Sunday.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Have No Fear

Ta da! I'm getting the sermon up on time! Yippee! Just the pastoral prayer to write and I'm good for tomorrow! Thanks be to God!

The Sermon Today, Matthew 14:22-33
July 27, 2008
Have No Fear
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

What a great story! This is one of those stories that has everything—danger, drama, heroism, failure, redemption—and lots of places for us to insert ourselves into the story. In other words, there’s plenty of room for all of us to sit in this boat. The question is, do we stay in the boat, or do we jump out?
Before we start with the story, let’s take a little time to paint the background. Like most Bible stories, we have to spend some time exploring the world of the participants before we can start to really get a handle on the nuances of what was really happening here.
Let’s start by reminding ourselves about some of the basic physical facts of the story. Before it even begins, everyone involved is exhausted. Jesus has been teaching crowds of people all day. This is not your basic one, or even two, hour church service, but non-stop teaching and healing that lasted long enough for the people to start to feel faint from hunger. They were so drained, in fact, that even if they had wanted to leave, the disciples were concerned that they wouldn’t even make it to the nearest village to obtain food, much less make it all the way to their homes. And if all these people had showed up at once, any normal village wouldn’t have enough food available to feed them and then what would happen. The last thing they wanted was for Jesus to be seen as responsible for setting off food riots
And if the people listening were this exhausted, how must Jesus and the disciples have felt? While Jesus was teaching and healing, the disciples were stuck with all the hassles of crowd management—crying kids, cranky adults, hygiene, heat, shade, water, complaints, requests, keeping people in line, negotiating disputes, you name it. Jesus, we know, had been exhausted before he started so you can imagine how he felt at the end of the day. He had come to this deserted place in the first place to get away from the crowds and recharge his batteries.
Then there had come the miraculous feeding of the crowd, which had stirred things up even more and made it more difficult to convince people to leave. Finally, finally, they had gotten everyone on the road home, they had picked up all the trash and they could finally take a break. I imagine that all the disciples wanted to do was sit on rocks and stare at each other. Jesus, however, was so tired that he couldn’t even do that. All he wanted was to be totally alone, just him and God.
So, he made his reluctant disciples climb into their boat, grab the oars or the sails, and head back across the Sea of Galilee. Some translations call this body of water a lake, but it’s important to the story to understand that, as lakes go, this is a really big one. It’s about 11 miles long, and about 8 miles across at its widest point. Unlike the lakes we have here in Oklahoma, it is big enough that, when standing on the shore, you can’t see across to the other side. So crossing the lake was no small proposition.
I don’t know how the disciples thought he was going to catch up to them. Maybe get a ride from another boat down the road, maybe they were planning to come back and get him the next day. All we know for sure is that he didn’t go with them that night.
And that’s another thing. Most of us don’t remember, or have ever known, what really dark nights are like. When was the last time you were outside and so far away from civilization that there was no glow from a nearby city reflecting up on the horizon? I’ve only been in a place like that once or twice in my life, and always it was out in the middle of the ocean. I never knew what dark nights were like or how many stars there were in the night sky until those nights. But for Jesus and the disciples, that’s what night meant. And dark was coming on when Jesus sent them out.
There’s one more thing that we need to know to really get an good handle on this story. It is that in the ancient world, large bodies of water were really scary places. They were the very symbol of complete and total chaos. When God had brought order to every part of the world, the oceans were still chaotic. In their world view, every place outside a city or village was a place of danger. There were dangerous animals and dangerous people in the wilderness. That’s why so many people assumed that John the Baptist was just a little bit crazy to live there by choice, because no one in their right mind would. If you were alone, and something happened, you probably died. There was no way to call for help, and too few people around to think you would be found in time. And, of all these dangerous, isolated, places, seas were the most dangerous, the most isolated, the most chaotic. They were literally regarded as places where anything could happen, and none of it was good.
So, these tired, hungry, nervous disciples set sail, at night, across the sea, with no instruments, without the one who they depended on for protection and guidance, off they go into the unknown. And then the storm comes up. Have you ever had one of those days? I’m sure the disciples certainly felt like this was one of those nights.
How long they struggled against the winds and the waves, no one knows. Certainly long enough that now they were soaking wet, shivering with cold and completely convinced they were probably going to die. Some may have been rowing, because certainly the sails were down by now, some may have been bailing water, some may have just been sitting there in despair. We know that they had been on the water for several hours, at least, because Jesus came walking toward them across the water during the fourth watch—or sometime between 3 and 6 in the morning. In other words, they were at the end of their rope. Have you ever noticed how often we have to get to the end of our rope before we can let go and let God help us? It’s like we refuse to let go as long as we have resources and options of our own available.
Anyway, here they all are, on the tip end of their last bare nerve and someone says, “It’s a ghost, or a demon!” Now they are convinced that they are truly done for. Out here in the middle of the most evil place on earth, it could only be an evil spirit coming to get them. And then they hear the voice that they know so well. It’s Jesus. Or at least it sounds like Jesus. What if it’s an imitation? A fake? A clever trick by the evil one to get them to let down their guard. When you’re verging on hysteria, anything seems possible.
So Peter speaks up, “Lord, if it is you…”
I love Peter. We get the most complete picture of him in Matthew—almost like Matthew got many of these stories from Peter himself. Who else would dare tell such stories about the great Peter, leader of the infant church? But I can hear Peter saying, “Go ahead, write it all down, just like it happened. Don’t pull any punches. I’ve got plenty of flaws, although too many people don’t remember that these days. Don’t pretty it up, just tell the whole story.
Peter, so impetuous, so transparent. I think he appeals to us so much because he is such a real character. He always jumped in to everything feet first, is it any surprise that he did so here? We’ve already talked about how the goal of a rabbi’s disciples was to be exactly like him, well this was certainly Peter’s chance. This was his chance to be just like Jesus. Now it’s a little risky, so he asks permission first. Do you want me to do this Lord? Do you believe I can do this? And I imagine that Jesus paused for a minute, and then said, “Sure, come on.”
So Peter jumps, he lands, and he doesn’t sink! One step, then another, then another. Hey, this is great! I’m walking on the water!
So what made Peter start looking around? Maybe a giant thunderclap or bolt of lightening? Whatever it was, he suddenly realizes where he is? Have you ever done that? Started something and then, about halfway into it, realized exactly what you were doing? Suddenly you realize that maybe you can’t really pull this off. Maybe this is too big. That’s what Peter thought, and when he thought that, when he started focusing on his own abilities, it began to overwhelm him.
Fortunately, Peter is sometimes smarter than we are. As soon as he started to sink, he didn’t try to learn to swim, he didn’t panic, he didn’t try to suck it up and put a good face on it. He just turned to Jesus. “Help me!” You know, Anne Lamott speaks often of her two favorite prayers, “Help me, help me, help me!” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” Not a bad prayer vocabulary, and certainly both of those were Peter’s favorites that day.
And Jesus responded, and reached out, and picked him up. Yes, Jesus did chastise Peter, but I think it might have been pretty gently. Yes, Peter doubted—not Christ but himself. But even with that doubt, Jesus still reached out and pulled him out of the soup. He didn’t hold it against him. He didn’t say, “If I pull you out, how will you learn to swim?” He didn’t say, “OK, but you’re off the island.” He just pulled him up and brought him to the boat, where the others still waited. Safely. In the boat.
You know, all my life I’ve heard this story told, and all my life, Peter comes out as some sort of doofus for not making it all the way. But more and more I admire Peter. Especially these days, when our little corner of the world is safer than it has ever been, and yet all that seems to do is make us more fearful. Because our lives are stable, we fear uncertainty. Because we have plenty, we fear loss. Because our lives are secure, we fear risk. So we stay in the boat.
But not Peter. All he had was Jesus, and that was enough. That was enough for him to risk everything to do the impossible. Yes, Peter didn’t make it all the way, but dear Lord, please make us all more like Peter.
In the name of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer—The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New Baby Coming

All of a sudden, this Wednesday has gone from nothing on the calendar to being completely crazy. This biggest news is that one of my parishoners is at the hospital right now delivering her first child. I can't wait to get down their to check on her and be supportive, but of course, 9 million other things have suddenly jumped up to interfere. And even worse, the interferences are important too--like meeting with the dean from the seminary I want to attend to talk about getting started with classes this fall. I hope it's not too late. I admit, I've been stalling on this one. I think because of the huge amount of debt it entails more than anything else. But I've made the call now so all I can do is press on.

Our house feels really empty right now, with DS off to church camp, followed by a week at the Appalachia Service Project. It's odd, because 17 year old sons don't really hang out at the house much, or are sequestered in their rooms so much when they are, that you think I wouldn't notice it so much but I really do. It's really going to be strange next fall when he moves off to college.

Gotta run, time to go meet the dean.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Finding a Rhythm

Whew. I'm so glad it's Tuesday. Not that there's really anything all that unusual about this particular Tuesday, but that I'm starting to learn that for me, at least, means that being a pastor means that I am like a limp dishrag on Mondays. I can manage most things, but there's just nothing there. I wonder if it's like this for other pastors. I wonder if it will get better as I grow more into the job. I wonder how I will manage when school starts and I have to start full time graduate work. Oh Lord, have mercy!

Monday, July 21, 2008


Running late again, but not as late as last week. In fact, last week feels like a total waste. Nevertheless, here is yesterday's sermon.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
July 20, 2008
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Earlier this week, this story appeared in the English newspaper, The Telegraph:
Oops -- Scientist Blowtorch Weedkiller Burns Neighbor's YardRobert Gailey, 79, watched in horror as sparks from a gas-powered garden tool caused the lawn and shrubs of his neighbours, Stuart and Phyliss McLean, to catch light.Mr Gailey had been using a Weed Wand, a £20 hand-held flaming device which burns weeds, to treat the driveway of his semi-detached home in Paisley, Renfrewshire.Within seconds, the McLeans's manicured lawn and evergreen trees were aflame and Mr Gailey's wife, Mary, called the Fire Brigade.
The story goes on to include warnings from the local fire chief about how dangerous it is for people to use devices like this in their garden.
But obviously, this gentleman was so focused on getting rid of all the weeds in his garden, that he completely lost sight of the larger picture.
I think this news story tells us something about human nature, and I think that in this parable, Jesus is reminding us of something similar. He talks of a farmer who plants good wheat in his field, only to be told by his field hands when the seeds start to sprout that there are large amounts of weeds mingled in with the wheat.
Now, how they know this I’m not sure, because Biblical scholars are pretty clear that the weed referred to is a plant widespread in Palestine called darnel. That doesn’t really mean much to us, but this is a pretty insidious, tricky little weed. One of the things that make it so hard to deal with is that as it grows, it looks exactly like wheat. They are indistinguishable from one another through most of their growth cycle. In fact, the only way you can tell wheat from darnel is that when the stalks start to mature, darnel has tiny little black seeds in its head instead of regular wheat berries. Another trick that darnel has, is that as it grows, it’s roots entwine themselves around the wheat roots, so that it is physically impossible to pull up the darnel without pulling up the wheat as well.
So, how these laborers knew that there was darnel growing in with the wheat and what they thought they were really going to be able to do about it, is beyond me. And apparently the farmer had a few of the same concerns, because it told them to just leave the weeds where they were, and they would sort them out at harvest. I’m pretty sure that the laborers weren’t all too happy with those instructions, because they obviously thought they knew what needed to be done. Nevertheless, it was the farmer who owned the field, the wheat, and even the weeds. So they let them be.
No, I’m sure that the field hands weren’t happy about those instructions at all. Because the reality is, humans are great little weeders. All too often in human history we can see the places where the weeders have gone to town, making sure that everything is just as it should be. How many of the worst acts of human history have begun as just a little weeding here and there? Just a little ethnic cleansing, just getting rid of a few witches, or rebels, or malcontents.
See, that’s the killer. Every time we start focusing on getting rid of the weeds, what we end up doing is destroying the crop. How many nations have been torn apart by persecutions? How many churches have split over doctrinal questions? How many communities have been torn apart by social issues? How many families have been ripped to shreds by disagreements over hair, dress, politics or religion? Our very own Methodist church split 150 years ago over the question of slavery. And the really, really sad thing about it was, both sides truly believed that they were the wheat and the other guys were the weeds. The slave churches and the free churches both knew they were right and all they were doing was getting rid of those other guys who were so wrong that they were evil. Sometimes I wonder what question in the church today is our slavery issue?
And let us never forget, very people who had Jesus crucified were doing what they thought was right. It wasn’t personal animosity, they were just trying to keep their faith community pure and keep evil from taking root. Just a little weeding.
That’s the thing about wheat and weeds. We really can’t always, or even often, tell the difference. All we can see is the outside, not the fruit inside. Often, what we see as threatening is just the beginning of one of God’s new plantings. It looks strange and alien to us, so we decide it must be a weed and needs to be pulled up. But oops, we were, in all good faith, wrong. So God tells us to wait, don’t focus on the weeds. The world, after all, belongs to God, and the church is the work of the Holy Spirit. Not us.
I have this image of a world where the weeders are running things, and it looks like this. I see all these people feverishly working in an empty field, frantic to pull up every little green shoot because it might be a weed. The field is absolutely clear. It is also barren and dead.
What’s the difference between a clean, but barren field and one full of wheat? Focus. Where do we put our attention? What drives us?
See that’s what the farmer understood. The farmer knew that while his workers were focused on destroying the weeds, who would be taking care of the wheat? More and more, as I read and study scripture, I come to believe that God doesn’t issue us a negative call to save the world from evil, but to join in God’s work of bringing good to the world.
It is so easy to stay busy looking at the weeds, we forgot to focus on being wheat. We get so wrapped up in rooting out evil that it sucks up all our energy and there’s nothing left to build a better world with. Instead of nourishing the wheat, we just worry about killing the weeds. It’s so tempting to focus on destruction, not creation.
But what Jesus is telling us here is that the point is not to worry so much about the weeds, but to be strong and fertile wheat
· To focus on the sun that brings light and life
· To dig down deep roots into the ground of our being
· To soak up the rain that God sends on both the wheat and the weeds
· and to ultimately produce the fruit, the grain that will nourish a hungry world and give life to more wheat.
Does this mean that we should never speak out against evil? Absolutely not. We cannot ever, ever turn our back on those in need, those suffering from injustice and cruelty, those who feel lost and alone. But neither can we forget that rooting out evil is not the point. Jesus doesn’t call us to purify the world—according to whatever standers of purity we choose to endorse—but to spread the good news, by both word and deed. This is being the wheat. Our role is to nourish—everyone, everywhere. We will probably nourish more than a few weeds along the way as well, but that’s OK. God will sort it all out in the end.
I’ve mentioned several times that Pat and I have attempted a garden this summer for the first time in years. And I’ve admitted pretty freely that it has not been a great success. Not horrible, but certainly nothing to brag about. It won’t feed the family. What I haven’t mentioned is the grass in the front lawn. We have great grass. Deep and thick and green when all the lawns around us have started to turn brittle and brown. All grass, no weeds. And if you ever got a good look at what we call a flower garden in the front, you would know just how miraculous that is.
The truth, however, is that we’re not really responsible for the lawn, but owe it all to this wonderful man who comes every so often to fertilize it for us. And that’s what he does, spread fertilizer, not pesticides or herbicides. The reason, he told us, is that he has learned over the years that the best way to have a great lawn is to grow great grass—grass that is so healthy that weeds can’t get a start. This is what we are called to do. Grow great grass.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Last Sunday's Sermon

I'm obviously running a little late with posting this. It has been an odd, and not very happy week so far. Not unhappy, just everything out of step. Oh well, no choice but to press on.

Where Are You?

Before I read the scripture this morning, I want to talk for a minute about parables. In this one chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells seven parables, all of them using images familiar to his audience to try and picture for them the kingdom of God. These are not scientific explanations or precise journalistic descriptions, but images and poetry, designed not to inform the intellect but nourish the heart. It’s important to understand this about parables, because it goes a long way toward explaining why Jesus felt like he had to come at the kingdom of God in seven different ways to get his point across.
Another thing to understand about parables, is that they are not meant to be understood easily. Some people believe Jesus did this for political reasons. By saying things indirectly, it helped keep him out of jail. And I’m sure that’s partially true. But there’s more to it than that. Parables are designed to dig into your soul and give you something to think about. They have many, many layers, so that you can think about them for a long time and always come up with something new to nourish your spirit. This was a common way for rabbis to teach at the time, and when you think about it, pretty logical. After all, many of his listeners might only get one chance to listen to him in their entire life. They would need something substantial, something that would stick to their spiritual ribs, something they could think about and learn new things from no matter how many times they went over it in their mind. This is one of those parables, meant to be mulled over, discussed, looked at from different angles, and see new things in as the hearers matured and changed.
It’s also important to understand that parables are meant to be startling. Each parable contains a twist or paradox of some kind, specifically designed to surprise the hearers into seeing and hearing in a whole new way. It is meant to wrench your understanding in a whole new direction and open up new vistas that offer new understandings of God and God in the world.
And finally, and this is critical to remember any time we read and study the Bible. These words were written thousands and thousands of years ago in a language we don’t speak—some of them languages that no one speaks anymore—in a culture and worldview that is completely alien to our understanding of God, the world, the people in it and how it all fits together. Things that would be obvious to the original hearers we will miss completely, and many of our interpretations would be absolutely unintelligible to them. Which makes it all the more miraculous, then, that these old, old stories still have so much to teach us today.
That said, let’s read the story itself, without the explanation, and see what meaning we may find in it for us today.
13That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!”
OK, let’s look at this for a minute. In every story, there is a place for the hearer to stand--some character or object with which the hearer can identify and join into the story. Otherwise, it has no meaning for the listener and is pointless. In this story, there are several places we can stand. We can be:
· The sower—We usually think of God as the sower, here God is serving as our example for spreading the good news. And God’s example is to sow generously, recklessly even. Farmers today, well everyone today, is consumed with efficiency, getting the most bang for the buck. But this farmer doesn’t worry about it. No matter how many seeds he scatters, there will always be enough. Throw them everywhere, even in the places that don’t seem worth the effort. You never know what will take root. This is God’s extravagant grace, shown to us and which God expects to show to others in the same way. This is loving unconditionally, which sounds so wonderful, but is really so hard to do on a day to day basis. How do you continue to love extravagantly one who has disappointed or hurt you? When do you give up on someone? When do you put up the defenses and draw back? When do you give in to the desire to write them off? We want to, because we don’t want to risk being hurt again—to have our kind words thrown back in our face, to have our generosity rejected, to have friends become enemies—we just want to withdraw and look out for ourselves. But that is not God’s way. God throws that seed everywhere, and encourages us to do the same.
· Or we could see ourselves as the seed. Just tossed out there by God and left to make it or not on our own. And, if I’m honest, I have to admit that sometimes it feels that way. Sometimes we do feel like we’re on our own. But we’re not. Even the seed on the hardest ground or among the densest weeds still gets some water, some nourishment, some sunshine. And at those times in our lives, we just have to, as the saying goes, bloom where we are planted. Yea, we may only get enough to produce one or two other seeds, instead of being one of the thirty, fifty or hundred-fold bearers, but that’s still one or two more seeds for the kingdom. And who knows, if the right squirrel or bird grabs us we could find ourselves carried off to a whole new field where things are much, much different. Because even if it doesn’t feel like it, the sower still knows where all the seeds are.
· Or, maybe we can see ourselves, if we are honest, not as the sower or as the seed, but as the rocks, and the thorns and the hard places that get in the way of the other seeds. Come on, we all have to admit that there have been times when instead of helping to bring the kingdom of God to this place, we’ve done more to impede it. We’ve been the ones tossing out harsh words, or being unforgiving or inhospitable. We’ve been the ones who’ve been unwilling to give someone the benefit of the doubt but instead have chosen, and I do mean chosen, to be offended and angry about something that probably wasn’t meant to hurt us at all. And even if it was, should our response be any different? And with every time that we’ve chosen to be that obstacle, haven’t we made the ground a little harder, thrown out a few more rocks, or choked off from God’s life-giving grace seeds that God has thrown right at our feet? Fortunately, God is more gracious than we often are, and is always willing to give us another chance to play a different role in the story.
Finally, there is one more place in this story where we can stand, and this is the one that was written in the Gospel. It may not be the only explanation that Jesus ever gave, but it was the one that stuck for the author of Matthew:
18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.
So, instead of the parable of the sower, this might also be called the parable of the dirt. And the question, then, is what kind of dirt are you? Yes, dirt really can’t dictate its nature, but we can. If we are hard to the word of God or too afraid to listen for fear that we might have to change—
--or if we are overwhelmed by bitterness or busyness, drowning in the activities and disappointments of the day to day—
--or if we have only known God in those mountain-top experiences, at camp, or on the Walk to Emmaus, or we only feel assured in our faith when we feel happy but can’t seem to hang on during the boring or the tough times—
we can change. We can, with God’s help, and through the ancient practices of our faith, become like the good dirt. We can become yielding, well-fed, well-watered, overwhelmingly fertile soil. Not just dirt anymore, but transformed into the very living, nourishing soil that gives birth to the kingdom.
So where do you see yourself in this parable? Where would you like to be? What, over all the centuries and through all the interpretations is the Holy Spirit saying to you today?
We all have ears, will you listen?
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Freezing, Drying and Mediating

So, the preserving is going well. Saturday evening I put 1 quart of the blackberries into a cobbler and the rest into cobbler-sized freezer bags, so those are taken care of. Yesterday, we sliced up a dehydrator-sized batch of peaches and got them going, and then put over half of the rest into freezer bags and the rest into holding into the fridge, so those are going. I also got the purple-hulled peas shelled and into the freezer, so all that's good. Still haven't touched the corn--except for the ear the dog ate, cob and all, so we'll have to get working on that tonight. At least it sounds productive, and I can feel virtuous at least for a little while.

On the knitting front, well that's pretty boring right now. Nothing that I'm really excited about, although I do seem to be churning out quite a lot of prayer wraps of various sorts right now, so that's good. I wish someone at this new church would get interested in being a part of that so it isn't so much just my thing.

Speaking of the new church, what in the world do you do with people who are apparently ready to go to blows over window blinds, of all things? Obviously, I need to find out more of what's behind all that.

So, I need to get rolling. I want to take communion out to my home-bound people this week. Apparently that hasn't been offered to them for a long time so I guess I'll just offer it and see if they want it or not. If so, I'd like to see that it gets to them regularly.

One last thing. Here's my sermon for yesterday. I didn't get it posted earlier. Yesterday turned out much more interesting than anyone expected since we lost power right in the middle of service! Good thing it's a small building and I have a lot of experience talking really, really loudly.

Matthew 11: 16-19, 25-30
July 6, 2008
Cashion United Methodist Church

Scripture Reference:
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
11:16 "But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
11:17 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.'
11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon';
11:19 the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."
11:25 At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;
11:26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
11:28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Can I Help You With That?

This is one of those great scripture passages that you here over and over in and around churches. It’s been referenced in songs, stories and sermons since Christians started being Christians. And, like last week’s passage, sometimes we’ve heard it so many times that we don’t always really hear what Jesus is saying.
He starts out by comparing the people around him to some bored, whiny kids hanging out in the center of town. They don’t know what they want, just that whatever anyone suggests is not it. They are dissatisfied and restless, and they have no idea what to do about it. I think we hear some of Jesus’ frustration with those who ‘just don’t get it’ coming through. In fact, he says it’s not that they can’t get it, but that they just don’t want to that’s the real problem. They want to know God, but only on their terms.
John the Baptist, he says, came like the stereotypical Old Testament prophet of the stories—wild hair, unshaven, bizarre clothing—ranting and raving about the status quo, preaching hellfire and brimstone. All the things they had been led to expect of a prophet. But instead of leading a reformation or rebellion, John ended up beheaded. Not what they had expected from a prophet at all.
Then Jesus came. Much more of a people person. Healing, preaching, going out to dinner, leading disciples around the country, interpreting the scriptures in a new and intriguing way. Very much like what they would expect from a revered teacher and religious leader. Of course, there was that troublesome tendency of his to go out to dinner with the wrong people. And he did tend to be a little hard on the moral and religious people. Yes, what he said sounded good, sometimes, but there were some real concerns that this Jesus guy had some real behavior issues that they just couldn’t get around. Not the right sort of person at all.
And so, Jesus says, what exactly do you want? What they wanted, of course, was a tame God. A God who would fit into their boundaries and live by the rules they had all grown up with and gotten used to. A God who they were comfortable with. A God who would behave predictably. And certainly not one who would challenge not just the authorities, because who doesn’t grouse about the government sometimes, but each of them, right where they live.
The problem, of course, is that God cannot be tamed and put into a box. God cannot be predicted or controlled by us. God is not our pet, but our Lord. And this God, as embodied by Jesus, many of them could not and would not accept.
But then Jesus goes on, and does something even more upsetting. He issues an open invitation to anyone who wishes to be his disciple!
Now, that doesn’t sound like such a big deal to us, but it really was. You see, in many ways, Jesus acted just like the roaming, teaching rabbis who were so common back then. And those rabbis would, as they gained some notice, begin to acquire disciples who studied both the teacher and their teachings and would eventually go out on their own and spread those same teachings. Now this was actually a highly prized position, and there were lots of applicants to be disciples of a rabbi—the more important the rabbi, the more applicants. And these rabbis were pretty picky about who they would choose to follow them. You had to pass at least two levels of schooling, graduating at the top of your class at each level to be allowed to continue. Then, if you managed that, the rabbi would submit you to grueling questioning to see if you were gifted, talented and determined enough to qualify as his student. So, rabbi’s disciples were, quite literally, the best of the best of the best.
Of course, Jesus had already upset that applecart by recruiting not gifted students, but the washouts—fishermen, tax collectors, guys hanging out on street corners—to follow him. But now, he goes even further and invites anyone who wishes to come follow his way.
That’s what the part about the yoke means. Students of a given rabbi were said to wear that rabbi’s yoke, a reference to that thing oxen wore to plow the fields. A disciple of a rabbi, one who wore his yoke, strove to learn and understand everything their rabbi had to say. Ultimately, of course, these students wanted to be the rabbi. Exactly like the rabbi. Now most of these teachings were different interpretations about how best to please God by following his instructions. How far exactly could you walk on the Sabbath? How many times did you have to forgive someone? How much grain to leave in the fields for gleaners?
Now this may sound trivial to us, but these people were honestly and sincerely working very hard to try and please God. And they wanted so much to get it right, they were so concerned about getting it wrong, that they made it very, very hard. So hard that sometimes following the teachings did indeed become a burden.
Then Jesus comes along. He doesn’t take the cream of the crop for his disciples. And he goes on, right here he to upset all the rules and invite everyone to follow him, no questions asked. And then he goes even farther. His yoke, he says, isn’t a heavy burden. It’s light. Following Jesus is a path of joy. Because it’s not about following the rules. It’s not about agonizing about always doing the correct thing. Jesus is calling people away from religion as a set of rules to follow and to a new place. A place of being freed and transformed from the inside out by a creating and nurturing God. A place with only two rules—love God and love your neighbor. This is the yoke that our rabbi call us to bear. And it is in thanksgiving and joy that we embrace this gift today as we participate in the sacrament of holy communion.
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Just a Quick Warm-up

I'm supposed to be writing my sermon right now. I know that it's really late on Saturday evening to be doing that, but it's not as bad as you think. So, I'm putting in a little warm-up writing time here.
DH and I went on a farmers market spree this morning and came home with all kinds of good stuff--peaches, blackberries, corn (less than 24 hours from the stalk), purple-hulled peas, tomatoes, squash, you name it. And some of this stuff--peaches, blackberries, corn, peas--I bought in bulk. I just finished (finally) reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral and now I have this insane fantasy going about freezing and drying all this stuff for the winter. (Absolutely no canning, though. I haven't lost my mind that far yet.) So wish me luck. If I don't get this stuff put up before it starts going bad, I'm pretty sure I'll be seeing the inside of a marriage counselor's office.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

I just listened to the most wonderful presentation by Phyllis Tickle. She preached this week at Mars Hill Bible Church and I picked it up on their weekly podcast. The main focus was on the seven most ancient of the spiritual disciplines, but she also spent a great deal of time talking about how religions, at least the Abrahamic ones, seem to go through 500 year cycles. At the end of each cycle, the church seems to shake itself loose from calcifications that it has picked up along the way and emerge, like a butterfly--to use a really trite image--new and fresh, with a fresh excitement and energy. She believes, and I agree, that the current emergence is just such a breaking loose and I am so excited to be blessed to be a part of it. What grace that God put me in this time! Yes, it can be scary, and I'm sure that we as a church and individuals will stumble some in wrong directions, and I probably won't live to see how it all shakes out, but what fun to get to be a part of it.

I really recommend that you listen to her talk. If you don't already get the podcast, you can pick it up here. I would love to hear what you think about it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

One down...
OK, another Sunday done. Each week gets easier as I start feeling the rhythm of the week, the rhythm of the services, and get more and more of a feel for who this church actually is. Today was, of course, the last Sunday of the month, so we had our regular potluck lunch after church. It was great. I really cherish every time I get to sit down with the folks from the church and just talk, with no business to take care of.

Last week was VBS, and it was really fun. I hadn't done VBS for a couple of years, so it was really great to get the chance to do it again. All went well. This group really does know how to handling programmatic things, but then, that's really the easy part of being a church, isn't it.

Son is back from camp. He's been gone two weeks and I have really missed him. I can't say I'm looking forward all that much to the empty nest thing that should hit us in the fall of '08. Although I can't say the same thing for Son. He's happy here (as much as I can tell) but I do get the sense that he's really ready to jump out of the nest and see what happens.