Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Who created the frame? I'm listening to NPR and all I hear is the 'financial crisis', over and over. No to deny there is a crisis - but how and when did it become this FINANCIAL CRISIS. Who created the frame in which we are speaking? The White House? the Press? The floundering bankers and investors who see their MILLIONs start to diminish? (and I mean 'start' to diminish, because I figure they have plenty of safe harbors away from the bad debts they cry about.)

We all have a stake in this. The presentation of this as between the Big Money and Main Street strikes me as a false dichotomy. I want to preserve my pension and my little stake in the stock market too. I want my house to sell, so I would like to see credit available to lower income house buyers.

However - who is doing the framing? Who is framing it as a 700 billion dollar bailout? Those ornery old codgers in the GOP who voted against it may have forced the question. I hope they do.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

sleepy day

Yes, a sleepy day. Got up early, looked at sermon, got to church, preached twice. Even at church I just was low key. Had a very uncooperative confirmation class with 10th graders. We were all glad to get it over.

Watched the Packers lose and then fell asleep on the couch. John let me sleep for 2 hours!

Remembering the TV challenge - I spent the evening listening to "The Hippo Pool" on the computer and got the spinning wheel humming. It's been a while.

A pleasant half-day.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

not so bad preacher

Well, I have already preached at one service and the 'borrowed' sermon just didn't feel right. And it was long for me - and the choir is singing for the first time and singing three(!) pieces.

So I went back to the computer and here is a new sermon. It's all me - so I can post it. And no stories, even, just talking about the text. Now the question is can I deliver it without notes on such short notice?

I'm getting closer to the sense that this is a difficult text because it should speak right to us - all of us comfortable tourist Christians. As least we might have to consider that tax collectors and prostitutes are our fellow worshipers. And that we aren't any better than they are. I'm pretty sure that most of the folks at the church I'm preaching at think they are better than prostitutes.

Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus. Do we really? He's pretty tough most of the time.

THE GOD OF SECOND CHANCES. – Matthew 21:23-32

We hear today about mixed messages. You know about mixed messages don’t you – it’s when your spouse says “Yes, dear” in THAT tone of voice that makes it really clear that YES is really a NO. It’s when someone says ‘let’s get together’, but never can find the time. It’s when the politicians say . . . whatever they say – but it never turns out the best!

Mixed messages – that’s what those two sons in Jesus’ story are guilty of. The words and the deeds don’t match up. One says Yes – I’ll do it, but he does not. The other say’s No way, Jose – but thinks better of it, and he goes and does his father’s work.

And Jesus isn’t shy about applying this story to the situation at hand. Those religious leaders who don’t want to admit to the truth of John’s baptism of repentance were the same ones who were conniving to discredit Jesus, and for pretty much the same reason.

Repentance really wasn’t something they were interested in. The idea that someone could repent and return to the Good Favor of God – especially if this repentance was not marked by sacrifices and membership in the pharisiatic party – this idea was not on their 10 ten list of ways to organize the better sort of people The better sort of people didn’t have anything to repent of, really. And the other sort of people – well, it worked out well if they knew their place, which was to continually pay others to pray and sacrifice for them.

So Jesus delivers the punch line of his story – and it is a punch line. In this way the tax collectors and the prostitutes will be in heaven before you. It’s really not very nice. Those people, the so-called sinners – may have said no once to God’s invitation – but now – in this time, they are saying yes – yes to the word of repentance preached by John, and yes to the hope they find in Jesus.

And you Pharisees, so righteous in your keeping of the laws, so ready to judge others – are like the son who says yes, but doesn’t follow through. You are the one who will be judged for you are so sure of yourself, and not open to the word of God – which is the call to repentance.

No longer a mixed message from Jesus, but a strong warning – recognize the sign – (the U-turn signs) – the ministry of John called people to repent, the ministry of Jesus promised the kingdom of God to those who loved God with their hearts and minds
and souls.

Those were the signs of the Second Chances. The second chance for tax collectors and prostitutes, and fisherman and housewives. The second chance for shepherds and merchants and even for pagan mothers and Roman soldiers to find the one, true, loving God of grace and healing. Without going through the temple, without having to keep an impossibly long list of laws – God’s Grace was offered to all those who needed a second chance.

The authority of John and the authority of Jesus doesn’t come from arguments about who has given more to the temple, or who has kept more of the law perfectly. The authority doesn’t come from family lineage or massive scholarship.

Jesus’ authority comes from knowing the heart of the Father God. The authority comes from being at one with the heart of the Father God. And that is the authority that should make all of us sit up and take notice.

This little story cuts to the heart – our heart – because we have to ask ourselves where we stand. Which son are we?

It is not faithfulness just to have the right words on our lips and judgment of others in our hearts. It doesn’t mean to look good when others can see, and act in ways that are not loving, fair and good when away from our church family.

On the contrary – Jesus invites us to walk with the tax collectors and prostitutes on the path of repentance. Maybe not quite the company we’d thought we keep, but there it is.

To be on the kingdom road means to recognize we always have a second chance – a chance to return, to cancel our NO, with the Yes that is our faithful service, our true worship of heart, mind and soul.

To be on the kingdom road is to be a work in progress, always realizing that we can be changed by God’s Holy Spirit to be more transparent to his Will, to go deeper into his Call, to recognize His hand in our lives.

To be on the kingdom road is to know that discouragement is never final, that suffering is not all that we are, that even grief and despair are shadows that can be dispelled.

The message Jesus sends is this: whatever we have been – we can come home. Where ever we have traveled to, no matter how long we’ve been away, we are always welcome in our father’s house.

That’s what is at stake when we recognize Jesus’ authority. Our second chance, our way home. Believe it.

bad preacher

Stolen preaching idea and stories. Use my own connectors. Definitely will preach from pulpit this week, even though that's a problem with the uber-contemporary service. Will preach from the music stand, so to speak, or perhaps by that time I'll feel okay about winging it.

I find the Matthew text, about the challenge about Jesus authority, and the story of the two disobedient brothers, disturbing and very, very relevant. Disturbing because it is very, very relevant. How does one speak truth and hold up a mirror without sounding like a scolding mother?

We - my people and myself as well - should see ourselves in these stories and squirm. Who has authority in my life, our lives? How often do we say 'Yes' and not follow through?

The image of pilgrimage did not pan out for sermonizing - but it is part of the struggle for me. Am I a pilgrimage through life, or only a tourist? Is my comfort the key?

I had thought to challenge people - write down the favorite 5 hours to TV you expect to catch this coming week. (House, Project Runway, the packer game). Okay - now, watch only those 5 hours. Find something else to do with the rest of your time. Take walks, go back to that hobby, read a book, make love.

Only problem, I'm not sure I could do it.

Friday, September 26, 2008


An interesting phenomenon - I was reading and knitting and mediating this morning on the farm-retreat, and started to feel a strange sense of anxiety. Anxiety shows itself as that little damp patch on my palm, a slight sense of jumpiness.

My cell had died, being out of area. I remembered in my prayers "be still and know that I am God."

And once I started driving home and plugged the phone into the car - ring, ring! It was MP venting.

Anxiety - just because I was out of touch? Because the vibes were out there? Because of something I was barely aware of?

Spiritual direction was helpful. Combined with the sabbathing for 24 hours, it is a beautiful thing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

in a fuzzy way

Too early, I'm up and around and preparing for the day. DH was buzzed and beeped out early for trauma - and now I get ready for my sabbath day. A sabbath rest should be a rest, so I should not take along the sermon notes or the plans for the class I have to teach on Sunday. Perhaps just take a Bible and read toward the next church year. Perhaps just take the murder mystery and enjoy that.

Murder Mystery.

Shows where my priorities are.

I'm not as pious as people seem to think I am.
Or as people - my parishioners - want me to be.

I once was very pious. Went to worship daily - ahh, seminary. Spent lots of time in reading my Bible and journalling about it. Tried centering prayer for a week or two. Fell asleep. Tried reading morning and evening prayer - kept it up for about two months. The books are still right here.

Funny how getting older has not helped with the discipline.

Today's reading - from James
Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

At work I try to remember Luther's interpretation of the 8th Commandment (lutheran style - do not bear false witness). MP (Ministry Partner), vents about another staff person - I'm the sounding board, and I say wait - see - it may work out. He/She may come around, may do that thing you think they haven't prepared for.

I know I've been in that situation when I was doubted and harassed. I know how it feels to be examined under a microscope for every misstep, and correct step as well. It wasn't that long ago that evil was spoken against me. And speaking rightly isn't about fairness, it's about being Christ to each other.

subject change: sermon thought - the difference between a pilgrim and a tourist, a pilgrim is a disciple on a journey, a tourist is not. That is not expressed very well - it needs reinfinement.

At clergy breakfast - "We went to Spain to see our daughter." "Oh, did you go to any of the famous pilgrimage sites?" "Uh, no, we went to beaches." My thought: depends on what your god may be - some of those beaches are pilgrimage sites.

So: Bible and Murder Mystery. And time for prayer.

Off to the farm!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

starting over

I've journaled since I was 15. I'm 52 now. In a new key, in a new way - for others to see? I've been reading blogs from others in my profession, so now I start.

Who am I? Well, married - for 27 years - one child - a son, now 20. I'm a ELCA pastor, 2nd career. I've had way too many positions - that's for another post.

I work on a large staff - I am not 'senior', but not 'associate' either.

Tomorrow I take a sabbath day. Off to the retreat center, which is really a farm. And just be quiet for 24 hours. Near nature. We've had blessed weather - like summer, and I want to sit in the sun. And just be.

It's a necessary thing. I need an attitude adjustment. I need to remember why I'm doing this - why God put me here. How things fit together.

Lots of prayer. And prayer for my people. For insight. For the ability to love them. For the strength.

All that.

And no snoring.