Saturday, December 26, 2009


This was not what was preached - exactly. The manuscript never got to church with me - so I jumped onto the Holy Spirit trampoline and bounced. It seemed to go well at the 8:00 a.m. service.
Of course, I never got to it at the 10:30 - I heard Retired Pastor Friend go "I was listening to the sermon at the early service and it went like this . . ."

Advent 4C, Dec. 20, 2009
Luke 1 - the visitation and Magnificat

“Blessed” We don’t use that word much - it’s not part of our everyday imagination. We think about those who have enough - who appear to be happy - as blessed. We are ‘blessed’ with children - when they are small. But when they are grown - some of us would say we are blessed with our progeny if those sons and daughters have done okay - it is hard to say we are blessed when the kid is out of work and living in the basement.

In some ways ‘blessed’ is also synonymous in America with luck and/or hard work. We are blessed to be healthy, to be white, to be Americans at all - to have all the benefits of our color and class and nation. America itself is called blessed - because we’ve had lots of resources to develop or exploit - because we’ve governed ourselves relatively freely and wisely over 200 years. So on a larger scale we are a blessed generation. Some understand themselves as blessed because they can look and see what they’ve accomplished, and they are satisfied.

But, but, there is always another side. - we may not think we are blessed - we have bad fortune, disappointments - our children turn do things differently than we would like - our good job disappears - our cherished institutions change. Our health gives way - the situation of a loved one becomes drastically different. Don’t feel quite as blessed, then, we don’t. And the world is uncomfortable with those who don’t seem to share in the good fortune, those who walk in darkness.

In our story we see two women meeting - they walk in light and approval, and they walk in the shadows of the world‘s disapproval. Many would have called Elizabeth blessed - after all, she has had her heart’s desire fulfilled - she’s now pregnant with her first child, although she’s getting up there in age. In her time and culture - she would be definitely be seen as blessed, as rewarded, as having God’s favor. So would her husband Zechariah, if he hadn’t been strangely quiet about the whole thing.

Mary, on the other hand - her situation is not quite as favorable. She’s still very young - she is only betrothed, not married, and she has this interesting story about being pregnant without knowing a man. She has rushed from her home, immediately after her vision of the angel Gabriel - and rushed to meet with the only person who might understand - her cousin Elizabeth, who has also been touched by God in a wonderful way.

This Gospel is the story of two miracles meeting for the first time. Both John and Jesus have now been conceived. John is more than six months along, we are told, and thus very capable of giving a swift kick or two to his mother, and Jesus has just been conceived. In fact, just prior to this text is the story in which Mary finds out about Elizabeth's pregnancy, and it is to rejoice with her kinswoman that she goes on this journey.
. . .

Mary is blessed - not because she’s had good luck, good favor, or good things are happening to her. She’s blessed because she’s heard the word of God - and believed it. And accepted it - she said yes - let it be to me the way you desire, God.

That is radically different from our usual way of talking. We usually say someone is blessed because of how their life has turned out. Not here - there is no judgment about God liking or not liking someone - about Good things happening to Good people, and when bad things happen - well. And that’s what we should be remembering in this season.

Mary’s state of being blessed, of being faithful - has nothing to do with human judgments upon her, and everything to do with the power of God. Here is the message in this story:
God is powerful - and that is true whether you have it all, or you have nothing. God is powerful and that is true whether you have smiling children at the Christmas tree, or a small and quiet day by yourself on Thursday.
God is powerful - and his power comes to each one who turns to him
- in joy and in sorrow,
in thanksgiving and in frustration,
in the best moments of our lives - and more significantly -

God’s power come to those who turn to him even when the world says they are not blessed.

Mary’s song makes this clear - he looks at the lowest down, the sad, the depressed, the poor, the helpless, the guilty, the have-nots - and they will receive blessing. While the British occupied India - Anglican priests were not to read or teach the Magnificat to the Indian people - it was too revolutionary. God’s word of power is revolutionary - it sets things upside down - it makes a poor teenager the mother of a king - and makes that king walk the most difficult road.

Elizabeth knew, rightly, that her cousin Mary was blessed - blessed for what was happening in and through her - even though the world couldn’t see that - and blessed for the faith Mary held in her heart.

When the world looks at us and thinks - unlucky, when the world looks and thinks - bad choices - when the world looks and thinks - there but for the grace of God go . . .
God looks and says . . . For you I was born. For you I came to Mary. For you this life was lived. To bless you - to offer to you solace in your grief and peace in your busy life - for you I am.

That is true blessing - knowing that God is powerful - thanks be to God.

Monday, December 21, 2009

really, it was a good weekend. really

It really was a good weekend. I had Friday night by myself as the eagle rehearsed - and that was fine, because I tweaked my sermon about Mary and blessedness, and watched the last episode of Glee and went to bed content. I even finished cookies for the bake sale with plenty of time.

And Saturday morning I helped at church with the Christmas baskets, and hung around with some good people. And went home and got cleaned up and attended Lessons and Carols and went out for dinner with the Eagle. All was well.

All was well Sunday, too. Well, I felt a little groggier than usual since the cat woke me before the alarm. Got to church early, and the first service went fine. Even though I had forgotten the manuscript of the sermon at home - I did well jumping off the edge and the Holy Spirit did hold me up. The sermon was basically about 'blessing' being not about good fortune or good luck - and all of us are blessed at Christmas because Jesus was born for us - not because everything is all right - it's okay to be grieving or sad - and you are still blessed.

Good that my pastoral colleage was listening - good that I was partnering that day - because I fell apart at the 2nd service. Opening - was okay - music - good - prayers - fine. Call the children up for the children's message and . . .

The world started spinning. Dramatically. All at once. I managed to finish speaking to the children, say to my colleauge- "and now Pastor will read the message", sit down quickly and put my head down. First thought - 'fainting'. But I never passed out - I heard everything going on around me. I passed the mic to Pastor and whispered - tell him to go on! "Are you okay?" me: "no." Do you want us to: - find the paramedic that goes to church there - oh, yes. Couldn't find him or the either of the doctors. Call 911 - 'yes, please.' All this with my head down, eyes closed and breaking into a cold sweat.

I heard one of our guys sing a great solo. I was just hoping no one was paying any attention to the woman slumped at a table in front. Of course they were.

Finally, 911 came and I was carted off in front of everyone! Could not open my eyes or move at all. I was holding on to the gurney for dear life. Medicine helped stop the spinning in the ambulance. I was released after about one and a half hour.

Medicine seems to be keeping the vertigo down - I'm on a 8 hour dosing schedule more or less, but I'm concerned that it's only supressing the vertigo and it will come back at the end of the period. I do not feel okay yet, still tired and fuzzy and what I call 'woozy' - but it's not full-blown spinning.

Well, I am blessed - in ways I don't quite realize. Good, good spouse, co-workers, a comfortable house to recuperate in. Peace to all.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

saturday before Christmas

Okay - Tree #2 - is up and decorated in the simplest way possible - just lights and selected glass ornaments - no brass or gold or glass or theme or special colors - just the first ones we laid our hands on. And then I said - well, there, that's pretty and closed up the bins with the unused ornaments. And it is pretty. It's okay that the glass ornaments (which represent at least one a year since we've been married) aren't used this year. There will be other years, other trees. This year needs to be simple.

Still no card -writing and presents to the east coast not sent. Pro-Flowers is a great thing, but I need to get on it.

It's Saturday afternoon and I must polish the sermon - and be ready to go to John's concert at 4:00, have dinner, then will have some time after that.

Still need to get readers for the 7 p.m. service, maybe ushers. I think the other two are set.

But, as thing go, it seems managable.
Peace, Peace, Peace.

Friday, December 18, 2009

musings for advent

I'm back to preaching again, after taking it easier the last two weeks - thanks Dan~!

At the same time Christmas is drawing near, with all its joy, the pastoral staff is walking with an extended family through the end stages of a tragedy, and I hear about others whose loved ones are moving into the end stages of life. Or moving into the place of needing more care. Or just moving out of the house, out of marriages. Or moving away from the church - my churches, because we just don't seem to give them what they want/need.

So the sermon title, picked on Monday is 'blessed' and I am pondering what it means to be blessed. In our common current use it means a little more than lucky - everything is going okay, good, excellent. We can be proud of our children, we have good jobs and trust we'll have them tomorrow, we have good health. So we are blessed.

And then, are the tragedy-ridden, the parents of disappointing kids, the unemployed, the sick - not blessed. Well, in common usage, yes, they are the 'unblessed.' It's very OT - deuteronomic system stuff we live with every day. So much so we don't even realize what we're saying, often. So much so that we don't realize the hurt the comes from this assumption - we hint that God has withdrawn his favor from those who suffer.

The expression 'to bless' must mean to pass judgment - really, it is to contextualize a situation and claim meaning for it - positive meaning. And once that sense has been accepted the opposite situation - to suffer - takes on the opposite meaning - to lack blessing (cursed).

Elizabeth saw it differently. She 'blesses' - says good about Mary - for she perceives that Mary has been touched by God. And she proclaims Mary 'blessed' - happy, for Mary has believed what was said to her. Elizabeth knows that God is acting here. That is cause for proclamation, for identifying that God does the blessing.

Blessed. So we are to remember, and be compassionate - that blessing isn't about removal from suffering, about good luck, or happy outcome. It's about proclamation that here - in this life, in this place, God is acting, God is. . .

God is in a pregnant teen and in a poor city in hills of a poor territory. God is with a little old pregnant lady and her temporarily mute husband (that must have been a long nine months). God is with a struggling oppressed community, a minority in the great empire. God is hanging out on the road, in the prisons, in the sick rooms, in the hospital beds. God is doing his blessing thing where his people see that he is acting . . . where compassion comes out, where tenderness is expressed, when violence is stopped, when forgiveness is real.

God blesses. We may judge for 'blessing' - but in eyes of faith - God's blesses. The maker of meaning is the source of any blessing - any good and gracious understanding of our lives.

For those who walk in tragedy - the judgment of blessing seems far, far away - impossible to compute, to realize, to utter. But here is the core of faith - the determination of 'blessed' isn't ours, it is God's. God is in that sickroom, with that wayward child, in the painful awareness of sin and grief and loss - and God determines the 'blessing.'

The hope of the lesson - walk with God, hang in there, trust - and you will find God. Blessing comes. He looks with favor upon the lowly - and blesses.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Tree is Up!

One Christmas Tree is up.
The little artificial one downstairs is lovely with golden Met. Museum stars, gold balls, red birds, balls and ribbons, a few white angels. White lights of course.

Who knows when the big one will go up? My dear husband has a concert on Saturday and rehearsals tonight and friday - Thursday may be the day for it going up and Sunday for decorating.

We just do it for ourselves, no kids in our lives.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

cozy tonight

It's my birthday and a blizzard at the same time. So the Eagle and I are squestered at home - I hope he is not called out to the hospitals. It is supposed to be getting quite nasty in the wee hours.

I'd love to 'watch' the blizzard - the blowing falling snow, but it's going to be the middle of night, not the time for visible weather. This will be a secret storm, hidden by darkness. We will wake to the changed world - drifted snow and heavy branches.

We will not fully understand or experience it, cozy as we are, in the house with limited windows and excellent insulation. Our comfort - perhaps it makes us shallow.

December afternoon a day after the first snowfall.

In all cities,
there is a moment, in December,
when the sun is low
and the light is slanting, soft.

When melt and cars and concrete
create a universal smell.
This is not beauty.
But it is real.

That we, humans, ride this tide of our own making
our permanently frozen ground,
our marred landscape
our padded feet not feeling
our swaddled bodies not aware
that the soft sun is crying:


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

advent of

Now that Thanksgiving is over, and the family room is painted, it's time for the big push. That is - the Advent season.

And I need to write a Jan. newsletter article, too. (We have early deadlines). Caroling parties, feeding people at potlucks, special visits, concerts, my birthday, all that falls in this season. I'm stepping back from preaching for a few weeks - so I can think about the Christmas eve stuff.

Have to send presents far away, and complete planning for the season after.

Christmas itself will be very quiet - just John and me and maybe the young man, if he condescends to come over. John and I like being together, that's a good thing.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Well, day two of the 'whole week off'. Let's see what's been done on the list.
  • went to court with the YoungMan and he got off with a light fine for Disorderly Conduct. Unfortunately, my bail money from last week went to the fine. I'll never see it again.
  • Made appointments for YoungMan at doctor - now to get him to go, and ask about his on-going health issues
  • had mammogram, which was fine - HEY, what do ya mean, not yearly? Over my dead body. Sis found her cancer at her YEARLY mammo - and under the new guidelines she wouldn't have gone!
  • Last night of NAMI family-to-family. It was overall a good experience. Some of the sessions I could have done without (medication doesn't fix everything). But met some people with extraordinary courage and compassion. And realized we weren't in it alone. I was so grateful Aquila was able to come too.
still to do:
  • clean fridge, shop for weekend and Thanksgiving
  • call for appointments for dentist, passport, car repair, carpet cleaning
  • Get new driver's license. Try to get YoungMan to renew his, too.
  • Prepare downstairs for painting - move stuff, furniture, tape, drape - paint, etc. This is the biggest project on line.
  • shop for Christmas (some was done by internet yesterday , ya!)
  • Play with dyeing before I pack stuff away and out of the dining area
  • figure out what's going on with Thanksgiving day itself. MIL is in rehab, SIL will be alone, but YoungMan hasn't let us know what he will or won't do.
  • re-organize my study.
  • For work: connect with Christmas tree decorators. Review photos for PPT Dec. 6.
  • Read Edgar Sawtell.
Hmm - what about doing the fun stuff first?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

faithful witness

the rough draft of Sunday's sermon

Proper 28B, Nov 14,15, 16, 2009 – Mark 13:1-8 (Faithful Witness)
By Gracious Powers
1 By gracious pow'rs so wonderfully sheltered,
and confidently waiting come what may,
we know that God is with us night and morning,
and never fails to greet us each new day.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a brilliant young theologian, pastor and teacher when Hitler came to power in Germany. He struggled with the implications of what his nation was doing, and what the church should and could be in the face of such wrongs. You’ll find a translation of his poem – Von guten Machten – By Gracious Powers. The English-language church hasn’t yet found a tune that it sings well too, so today we’ll read it together.

Bonhoeffer had come down a long road to write this poem. It was probably written in 1944 – as some of our troops were marching toward Germany, as the battle of the bulge was happening on the German-French border, as the last long winter caused great pain in throughout the war-torn land. It was contained in a smuggled New Year’s letter to his mother and through her, to his many friends, colleages and his young fiancĂ©.

Bonhoeffer had already been imprisoned for more than a year and a half, suspected of helping Jews leave the county, suspected of various violations of the security laws, suspected of avoiding the draft and money laundering. And all those things were true, by the way. Decisions had to be made – these things were done as part of the resistance to evil and the holding up of what was good and decent.

2 Yet is this heart by its old foe tormented,
still evil days bring burdens hard to bear;
oh, give our frightened souls the sure salvation
for which, O Lord, you taught us to prepare.

Think about it as he faces the kind of world Jesus speaks about – a world falling apart – Bonhoeffer turns to faith and trust in an almighty God. Jesus looked at the greatest building in his land – one of the great buildings of any time and place, really – and saw that it would come down – stone upon stone. Jesus saw that whatever humanity creates is perishable – like the grass in the field, as the psalm says. The great Temple, that so impresses the disciples – is only a creation, and does not hold the Creator, Jesus reminds us.

3 And when this cup you give is filled to brimming
with bitter suff'ring, hard to understand,
we take it thankfully and without trembling
out of so good and so beloved a hand.

Bonhoeffer had many opportunities to avoid the coming troubles. Because of his international connections – he was offered work and safe harbor in England, America and even in India – where he was invited to study with Gandhi. But he felt it was important to stick with his country – that if he sheltered somewhere else, he would never have the authority to participate in the restoration after the war. His family was there – his students, the young men studying to be pastors and his church was there. So he went back, from America in 1939, to be on the road, to drink the cup, to look evil in the eye.

“This is but the beginning” – but note Jesus does not say the beginning of the end – but the beginning of birth. God is active, even when we hear of wars and rumors of wars, of earthquakes and famines and new diseases. God is still in charge, even when the world is changing. God is bringing faith to birth, is bringing life to birth, is bringing truth to birth.

For there is always hope – in Bonhoeffer’s story – there is a love story. Out of the ruins of his career and family and hopes, in the midst of war, Dietrich asked a young woman to marry him, only three months before his arrest.

4 Yet when again in this same world you give us
the joy we had, the brightness of your sun,
we shall remember all the days we lived through
and our whole life shall then be yours alone.

There is a hope in this poem – the same kind of realistic hope that we find in our Gospel lesson. Stay fast, says the Gospel, watch and discern the truth in the midst of falsehood. Be wise and do not follow the quick and easy call of the self-appointed Messiahs. Follow the path that Jesus walked - understand that the Temples of this world – whatever buildings or organizations or institutions we know and love and participate in – are just that – Temples of this world.

They may be good and sturdy or they may be falling down – but they do not hold the divine power of God. They are but constructions. Our lives are held in the hand of the Almighty God – the one gracious power that wonderfully shelters us – come what may.

5 By gracious pow'rs so faithfully protected,
so quietly, so wonderfully near,
we live each day in hope, with you beside us,
and go with you through ev'ry coming year. AMEN.

Text: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945; tr. Fred Pratt Green, 1903-2000
English text © 1974 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Duplication in any form prohibited without permission or valid license from copyright administrator.

Friday, October 30, 2009

all saints struggle


The text for Sunday is John 11 - the great story of the raising of Lazarus. I'm struggling so that my sermon does not sound like a funeral sermon. This is the story I want read at my funeral, I know, but the day is a Sunday, is a day of celebration, a day of celebration of that which is yet unknown and a day of celebration for what is known.

So, for me, it's not just about what goes on after death. The gospel speaks to me of this life, this time, the work we are currently engaged in. I'm just having a hard time getting a handle on this point.

The work is: we bring a word of life. We say: Death is not the end. We say: transformation is possible - not by your own effort, but by living in the life of Christ. We say: this community is more than a human organization - it is the body of the Messiah, with the Messianic task to do.

So, we are saints through our participation - our attention to - the gifts of God. Gifts of sacrament, and word, and prayer, and shared work.

In this story Jesus does not raise Lazarus for the comfort of Mary and Martha (that's a tack I have taken in the past). When I look closely - Jesus is 'self-differentiated' from them and their grief. He is disturbed. He is not responding to their grief - he already knows what he is going to do. He weeps - but why? Are the on-lookers correct? He weeps, because he loved Lazarus? (But Jesus knows this grief is only for an few moments more) He weeps, because his friends Mary and Martha are weeping? He weeps, because no one believes in the glory he is about to reveal?

So this is for the glory of God. This is so that the crowd will believe that Jesus was sent by God.

Where does the speaker stand in this story? Am I presenting Mary or Martha's story - the grievers who become the incredible joyful (that is what my older sermon has done)? Shall I stand with the disciples, who have a little more, but not enough vision to comprehend what Jesus is going to do?

Or this time, let us stand with the crowd. The crowd has known sorrow, grief, death. The crowd has known life in all it's messy complications. Lets not diminish the spiritual need of the crowd. They are there, for the family, for tradition sake, for curiousity - it is, after all, 4 days after burial.

And Jesus is there for them. Jesus will do this thing for the sake of the crowd. That is exactly what he says. This is a public miracle.

And we are the crowd, who must struggle with the implications of this miracle. Some would have Jesus die. Some will follow. Some will always remember. And some will tell the story. So that all will know.

Tell the story.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

the path prayer

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. AMEN.

(Thomas Merton)

Merton's prayer without the I

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

the rich woman

preliminary thoughts.

I'm listening to 'Lady Rochfort" on CD in the car. It's another re-telling of the Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn saga, this time with the emphasis on Anne's sister-in-law. There is a lot of 'perhaps she saw', 'she may have known', and other evasions of the historical type - it's not really that good a history.

However, the author spends a great deal of time on lavish descriptions of the extremely lavish lifestyle of these royals. You want pearls, jewels and cloth of gold, it apparently was everywhere. Lady Rochfort and her husband, not even born royals, slept in a bed with gold statin and cloth of gold, under embroideried coverlets, etc.

Queen Anne had everything she desired. Food, music, dancing, clothes, jewels, deference.

And for such a short time.

I thought of using this as a story in the sermon - it could be Anne Boleyn, Napoleon's Josephine, Alexandra of Russia - all these women who felt the best was their due, and who fell because they did not see farther than their own comfort and imperial dignity. But their stories are not controlled by their own actions - in most cases they become pawns in a game played by men. Alexandra, the most tragic of all those names, is the one caught up in the most politically charged drama - the one who paid for her lifestyle with her life. (Anne paid with her life, but not for her wealth per se. Josephine 'retired' to a comfortable place, much reduced in circumstances, but not uncomfortable, until she died of cancer)

I'm fascinated and horrified in equal measures. How in smaller scale do we replicate those dynamics? Who, then, can be saved?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

from kathleen Norris

Monks have always insisted that we can in fact think about our thoughts and feelings, and consider how to act on them.

Acedia and Me, p. 151

Sounds obvious, doesn't it. But how often . . . And in our lectionary right now - we hear about the use of wealth, about adultery, marriage and sin, about welcoming or not welcoming the child, the stranger.

This may be one of the most difficult elements of maturity to appreciate. Growing up means not being at the mercy of one's thoughts and feelings.

Friday, October 2, 2009

blessings - a sermon

Proper 22B,

Our life is a little different now than in Jesus' day. We are moving at a faster pace, we are more likely to be dependent upon technology, and we seem to find it harder to be truly together - to connect with each other. We fear for our children at school, we wonder about the cruelty of circumstances, the awesome destruction of nature.

Our lives seem so far away from the time of Jesus that this Gospel lesson hits with a discordant clang - sounding out of tune and out of time. But let’s look at this lesson closer.

Jesus has been traveling, continuing to teach the growing crowds of people who followed him wherever he went spread. Jesus had healed the blind, deaf and lame; he had cast out demons and been transfigured in the presence of his disciples. And Jesus had taught and taught and taught some more. He had spoken with passion about the Kingdom of God, about the nature of sin, about the cost of discipleship.

He had spoken with love and joy and welcome to sinners, to all who recognized they had fallen short of their Creator’s ideals, with a message of hope, of repentance and new life. Again and again, Jesus had taught those who came to hear the lessons of God’s love for them, about God’s desire that men, women and children learn to live without fear, God’s desire that they become lamps through which divine love might shed light on all who knew them.

Over and over, as word of his teaching spread, the religious establishment stepped forward out of the crowds to trip Jesus up. “Teacher, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Well, of course, they knew it was lawful - Moses had said it was. But they asked anyway.

Jesus turned the question back to them. “What did Moses command you?” “Well, Moses said it was okay, that a man could divorce his wife anytime he wanted to.” “Why?” asked Jesus “Why would Moses say that - knowing that in the creation stories God created Adam and Eve as equals, as partners and as the image of God in the world?” The religious authorities had no answer. Jesus refused to be tricked into betraying the will and desire of God in favor of the letter of the Law. “I’ll tell you why - because of your hardness of heart; because God knew that your sin would require this.” (Katherine Merrell Glenn)

The two parts of scripture - the story of Creation and the Law of Moses about divorce - are both from God - but they answer different questions about the relationship of humanity with God. God created Man and Woman to be together in harmony - and because of sin they often cannot stay together. Marriage and family life, like being a community of faith together - is hard work. And sometimes we fail.

That is reality - and that reality reminds us all - whatever our personal relationships - married or divorced, single or living in committed companionship - we are all sinful, all burdened with the hardness of heart that Jesus spoke of.

Remember the second part of the reading? Jesus is welcoming the children . There Jesus is reminding the disciples NOT to prevent those in need of healing from coming to him. AS we are all burdened with hardness of heart, all sinners in need of grace and mercy, all children dependent upon God's grace - this part of the passage should give us hope that in God - we, too, find the forgiveness and love that rebuilds us and makes us whole again.

For I believe it is in human relationships that we can discover God’s love (I stress this with the confirmation students as we study the 10 commandments – we are made to be in relationship) It is in the relationship between man and woman, yes, but also between father and son, mother and child, friend to friend, and yes, even pastor to people and fellow church member to stranger – that we discover ourselves, and that we uncover the will of God for his people.

A couple of years ago, you may remember the tragic shooting of the Amish children in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Maybe like me, you too, were moved by the witness of the Amish who not only turned to care for each other of their community but who also spoke of the necessary care for the family of the criminal, of the murderer. A grandfather looks at the body of his granddaughter and says to his nephew - "we must not think evil of this man." (CNN)

They see that forgiveness - the acting out of forgiveness as an integral part of the Christian Discipleship, right up there with pacifism and simplicity. They say they will take food to the murderer's widow - knowing that the sharing of the table is a powerful symbol of forgiveness. They express, in community, the depth of the power to transform - that faith in God can bring.

Here, in our community, we symbolize that movement -
from hardness of heart, from the necessary reality of our human brokenness
- to forgiveness, to remake human bonds
- with the words and the bread and the wine. With the words of forgiveness and reconciliation - and with the action, of coming forward to receive this body, this blood, this holy presence of the One who forgives.

At almost all of our worship services we offer the “peace”- it most properly belongs after the confession and before the meal. It is in the action of saying "peace be with you" to your neighbor, to your family, to your enemy - that we enact the forgiveness God commands of us. Jesus asks us to reconcile with our brother or sisters before we come to give our gift, before we come to the table. (Matthew 5:23)

So when I say 'Peace be with you" and you reply - "also with you" - you acknowledge my humanity, and turn to your neighbor, and in Christ's name recognize and reconcile with that neighbor.

Our God knows us well, knows we have hard hearts, and offers us forgiveness and offers to teach us how to forgive.

In this way we remember that we pray to be forgiven our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.

For we, too, are always invited back to the banquet at our father’s house, always offered the power of the washing of the water and the eating of the meal. We, too are the little ones, welcomed and blessed by the Son of God.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

the dividing line - or real salt

Mark 9:38–50

Salt has not always been cheap. In the ancient world salt was a valuable and scarce commodity. It was used as currency in some countries even into modern times. Historically it was the basis of great empires, making many people rich, because it was not cheap at all. To get salt from the sea was a difficult enterprise, involving multiple ponds, each one more concentrated in salt than then next, then the final harvest, sifting, packing and transport. Lots of time, lots of labor, lots of places for traders to make money.

We might call it common salt, and use if prodigiously – too much for the sake of our health, but has been recognized at the ultimate necessity and luxury for ages.
During an invasion of Ethiopia, in the late 19th century, Italian soldiers found blocks of salt stored in bank vaults along with other familiar forms of currency

(I Love You More than Salt)An ancient king once asked his three daughters how much they loved him. One daughter said she loved him more than all the gold in the world. One said she loved him more than all the silver in the world. The youngest daughter said she loved him more than salt. The king was not pleased with this answer. But the cook overheard the conversation, so the next day he prepared a good meal for the king, but left out the salt. The food was so bland that the king couldn't eat it. Then he understood what his daughter meant. The cook understood the value of salt. (King Duncan, Collected Sermons, )

So, Jesus was paying his disciples a compliment when he called them salt. He was doing it in the context of teaching on discipleship – The disciples were pointing out the healing actions of someone who wasn’t in their crowd – who hadn’t been following Jesus, who hadn’t made the kind of sacrifices they had made. And that person, that magician – he was using Jesus’ name! Yikes! Jesus’ name and reputation are such that others are cashing in on him! Stop him!

Jesus is calm in the middle of the disciples’ anxiety. (do you even notice that – Jesus does not get excited about those irritations that the disciples do? He gets excited about deeper, more profound issues – we’ll see that in this passage too.) Don’t get your knickers in a twist, he says – look – if that magician is using my name, and something good happens – he’ll be thinking about it for the rest of his life.

You guys – you disciples – you want to draw a dividing line between the inside and the outside. Some people are inside – us – and others are outside – them. For Jesus the line isn’t so clear – even those outside can do acts of mercy and grace and good. They can give a cup of water to the needy – they can recognize the name of Christ – and they will find their reward.

This is quite radical stuff, then and now. We want to be sure that we’re in the right part of heaven (the old story – why are there walls in heaven? Well, it’s so – fill in the blank about whichever exclusive religious tradition you want to poke fun at – Missouri Synod, Southern Baptists, who ever – doesn’t know that anyone else is there.) Radical stuff from Jesus – the dividing line isn’t were you want to put it, disciples.

The dividing line isn’t out there, between us and them – it’s right here. It’s right here in the heart. It’s right here in the life and actions of those inside the community of faith. It’s right at the point where your actions may cause someone else to stumble.

And for many of us, it’s not that foreign. The desire of the eye for a pretty thing – and we covet. The desire of the mouth for that which tastes good – and we are gluttons who don’t know when to stop. The desire of the foot to get out of this situation, and we’ve hurt those we love. The desire of the mind for a thrill, for a risk, for a gamble- and we’ve spent too much money at the casino, or in the store, or on the drink. The desire to get everything under control, and we’ve said one too many critical things to our spouse, our children, our co-workers, and created rifts that may never be overcome.

That’s the dividing line. That’s where we need to remember the gracious forgiveness of our God. That realization – that honest self-assessment – that’s the fire. For everyone will be salted with fire. I really struggled with understanding that one line – but I think it means this: Each one of us will struggle with what it means to be Jesus’ disciple. That will be our fire. That will be our spiritual work – to be corrected and modified and ‘salted.’ It is through fire we become the good, the pure, the useful and necessary – salt.

Jesus knows that salt that is too contaminated is useless – it is only good to be thrown away. The salt that is good – is the disciple who is working at his or her self – the salt that is salty is the salt that has come through the fire of self-examination, of returning to the baptismal grace and finding that growth is still possible.

There is another experiment to that can be done with salt – take a plain piece of grapefruit and eat it. It will be sour and maybe even bitter. Add one grain – one grain of salt – and eat another piece. It will be sweet.

Salt turns the sour sweet. Have salt in yourself – the word of the Lord, showing the right path – and peace be unto you.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

acedia and me

I just can't get enthused about reading Acedia and Me.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

learning vs lecturing

I've been struggling with this for a while in various arenas. In the church, we have stuff we want to share - but in order to do that, we lecture. I was taught to lecture. When I go looking for curriculum to introduce families to baptism, for instance, I find books, videos, etc., that consist of telling others what the church wants to tell them. Martin Marty's book on Baptism - a User's guide was recommended. I read it. I returned it. I will never recommend it except for the exceptionally thoughtful person who already knows all the 'in' words and arguments of Christian history about Baptism.

I have young parents who are willing to give me an hour or so of their time to learn about Baptism. And so far, all I've been able to do is lecture. It's not working. I'm searching for another option.

I know Faith Inkubators has worked up a family support curriculum. Whenever I look at their stuff, I'm exhausted.

Now I'm working on my lesson for our students who will be confirmed in a few weeks. How do I open up conversation about worship & sabbath & communion? The Lutheran materials are so disappointing.

This is what I'm staring into space thinking about today.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

making faith real.

This was a difficult sermon to preach. I am not usually so personal. But my intention that it was not about me - but about 'us' and making faith real.

Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009, – Lect. 25, Proper 20, 16th after Pent.
James 3:13-4:3, 4:7-8a – what is wisdom? Mark 9:30-37 – first & last, welcome the child, prediction of the passion

Last week I did something stupid. I did not listen to the lessons – to all the good words of the epistle and Gospel and the good news that Pastor preached about the firey tongue and the right way to use it – and I was rude to T. in public. And I want to make my public apology. It was wrong.

I was convicted by the voice of James. Do you ever read the scriptures, and you start to hear the voice, the authentic word being spoken to you? For that is what we believe – these scriptures, these lessons, these books of wisdom, are here in our hands for our - teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, - that’s from the letter to Timothy. We can use scripture to give us a basis for looking at our lives and the world – (and as a side note, if we wish to use it to comment on things outside ourselves, such as the actions of our larger church body, we must also apply it to our own actions as well.) And the voice of James, stern and wise, spoke to me.

I made my apology to T. – but there is still lasting damage – and that continues my struggle with repentance these days. There is a story about St. Francis – it is about gossip, but it could be about any of the sins of the tongue – mean words, put-downs, shut-downs.

A woman went to St. Francis of Assisi and asked what she had to do to be forgiven for her gossiping. St. Francis told her to take feathers and place one at the doorstep of everyone she had spoken ill of in the town. She did so and returned to the wise saint. Francis told her to then go and retrieve all the feathers. When she attempted to do so, they were all gone. By that time the feathers were scattered all around town. Once again, she returned to St. Francis and told him about the feathers. He said to her: You wish to repent and be forgiven of your sin. Good. But the damage of your words is done and can not be taken back.

Oh, those feathers cannot be taken back. How many of us have had that sinking feeling – haven’t said something that can’t be taken back – that will ripple out, and not in a good way. That’s me – that’s me that James is talking about. You see, right after my ‘tongue fire’ – I immediately started to defend myself, even to myself. I did not want to listen to the scriptures, right there in front of me. I wanted to be right. I was in denial of my sin – I wanted to be right. “But, but, but, I was right, I had reasons.”

James says that our disputes begin because we covet what we don’t have. That doesn’t just mean physical objects – things are not at the heart of many of our disputes. What we covet, too often, is control, power, getting everything just right, having it my way.

And a lot of times, we have very good reasons for wanting things just so. But we let our desire to do things right take over, and we sin. We are not just control freaks, we are sinners. We hurt others. We impede the word of God. And it affects not just us, but many others – remember the feathers.
Look again at Jesus’ interactions with his disciples in today’s lesson. The disciples are arguing among themselves.

They were arguing about who was greatest! Who was the best – what, disciple? follower? I’m more humble than you? Ironic isn’t it. Really, I suspect they were arguing about who was right. Not really about righteousness in God’s eyes - but about which one of them was going to be in control. Who was right? That was just the problem I had.

And Jesus looks at them with sorrow. With sighing. With clarity that no, they don’t get it yet. And Jesus wants them to understand what the kingdom looks like,
that the kingdom, this process of living in God’s grace,
under God’s forgiveness, with God’s approval
– that the kingdom does not look like the human desire to be right.
To be the greatest, to be in control, remember what James says – is to covet what you don’t have. And that’s the core of this sin.

And Jesus, to make his point – takes the most wayward creature he can find – and says: This is what the kingdom looks like. At this point I realize that Jesus takes a little child – not because children are innocent, not because they are sweet, not because they are fragile – he points to the little child and says “Welcome him” because that child knows nothing about being the greatest, and nothing about being in control.

Can you tell that newborn to sleep through the night? Can you stop that toddler from putting that rock in his mouth? Can you stop that three year old from having the huge, shrieking, drop to the floor meltdown? Uh-un. A child is the loose cannon in our lives, the ultimate destroyer of our plans. A child can make all of us look ridiculous.

That is what the kingdom looks like. And we’ve missed it over and over again. One of our greatest sins, as I demonstrated through my stupid words last week, is that we think the kingdom is about adults being right, about our own desire to set everything up and make it go perfectly.

Jesus will have no ‘buts, I was right’ to excuse our rudeness, our disputes, our uncharitable treatment of our neighbor. The kingdom is not about being greatest, or about being righteous because of what we do, or about being right.

My newest friend is named Paulina and she is 4. I met her when I taught the pre-schoolers during Vacation Bible School this summer. Paulina sees me as her teacher, and she delights in me. She hugs me when she sees me and she wants to sit with me and talk to me and insisted I explore the church picnic with her. She thinks the world of me.

Jesus said, “Welcome the children”. It is not for her that he said that. She is full of light with me or without me. It is for me that Jesus said “Welcome the children.”

She is already bestows the grace of God when she accepts me. I am challenged by her eyes to be the person she thinks I am.
I am challenged by her affection to be a person who is motivated by love, not by the need to be right. I ask for the the grace to be the good person she thinks I am. That grace is in Jesus alone.

May we all learn to drop need to be right, the need to be the greatest so that Christ can work in us.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday at last

Saturday at last, because it's been a full week. Some good things on the horizon - a lovely afternoon, the hard sermon is done. Hard for me personally, because I'm being vulnerable, but I don't want my message to be about me, but about how scripture works to convict and free all of us.

But still beautiful fall weather, so this p.m. I'll make a pear pie and trim the garden. Grill out. Tomorrow we've made a date to see the Harry Potter movie in the theater.

I have a strong desire to play with colors, so I'll organize all the drawing and painting things together today, and take some time to play. It's my newest form of personal expression and spirituality, I've decided.

The son has been in contact, after 2 1/2 weeks without answering my phone calls. I guess I'm forgiven. He's had bad eye inflammation and needed some home remedies. We will need to see how well Badger Care Plus works - I'm just grateful for that 'public option.'

Monday, September 14, 2009

beautiful day, internal not so

We had a beautiful day for our church/neighborhood picnic. From what I saw and heard, the picnic was smooth, lots and lots of people got fed and lots and lots of kids played hard.

I did some stupid stuff in church, and since the lessons - about the tongue, and wisdom, from James, and being like a child, from Mark, convict me, will deal with that this week.

Sometimes I wonder -
Just exactly what does it take to retire at 55?


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

too quiet

It's quiet. Too quiet. It's Tuesday morning and other people are working hard on their program starting. I see that I have about 4 different lesson preps, but none of them need to be done until next week. I'm not preaching this weekend.

The phone is quiet. It's beautiful outside and I'm considering going off to the library and hiding there. This is just too weird. I usually have more to do than I can put on a to-do list.

Goodness, maybe I'm supposed to study!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

a heart for mercy - Proper 18

A heart for mercy - Proper 18B, Sept. 6, 2009

(It’s the end of summer. It’s time to relax – that’s exactly what we find Jesus trying to do). After arguing with the Jewish intelligentsia about what constituted true religion - we find that Jesus has been traveling, and he’s hiding out in a non-Jewish city. Maybe he has friends there, and just wants to have a quiet afternoon on the terrace with a glass of wine and some olives and good conversation. Then, he’s interrupted. Again. This time it’s not a good Jewish person – not the leader of the synagogue, or a worthy grieving widow, or a faithful follower of the law.

This woman might have been an outsider, but somehow she had heard of Jesus – and for whatever reason – knowledge of what he had said and done, rumor, belief in magic - she sought him out. She saw God's power at work in Jesus, and so she asked him to help her daughter. But Jesus answered her in a shocking way. He said, "You must let the children have all they want first. It is not right to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." (Phillips)

But the woman challenges Jesus. Like the persistent neighbor, she will not leave "no" alone. She said, "Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs under the table eat what the children leave." I suspect there was silence then. A long pause. Then something changed - something clicked because Jesus said, "For saying that, you may go the demon has left your daughter." And the woman returned home and discovered that her daughter was well. Jesus had heeded her request.

That’s the first story – the second also takes place in a non-Jewish area, in the region of the Ten Cities founded by the Greeks and populated with all the diversity of the empire. Here Jesus is presented with a man who cannot hear, and cannot speak. With great compassion, he gives him hearing and speech. The news of this goes far and wide – it cannot be stopped.

We may be uncomfortable about how Jesus treats that woman – refusing help at first. If we think about what Jesus had just gone through – we can open up the story for ourselves at this point. Jesus had just had a conversation with the Pharisees in which he declared that is wasn’t what someone ate that made them ‘unclean’ – unwelcome in God’s sight, but it was what came from a person’s heart – the violations of the basic law of God: “fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

So on one day Jesus is claiming that it will not be slavish adherence to the traditions of old that will draw God’s approval – and by extension – the opposite must hold true – that a faithful, confessing heart will draw God’s mercy.

And now, before him stands one who has no claim of true and correct religious observance – but who is in need.

That’s the kicker. She’s in need. She has sought out Jesus, and kneels in front of him – without any claim to being part of the right religion, the right ethnic group, the right party, the right gender, social class, or even the friend of a friend. Her only claim is this – that the one she loves is in need. At this moment – even Jesus sees that the argument goes both ways – God’s gift flows to where it is needed.

God’s gift flows to where it is needed. Healing comes to the broken places, to the wounds, the scars. It is in those places – where our own efforts just don’t cut it – that the balm in Gilead works.
It is in, and for, the broken marriages,
in and for, the painful distance between a parent and child who is in the far country,
it is in, and for, the terrible news that cancer has a foothold,
it is in, and for, the failing eyes and body.

And whether we’ve kept the rules or not, whether we’ve been a pew warmer or council president, or a Christmas and Easter Christian – the healing flows to our need. Whether we’ve followed the laws to the letter or had much we are ashamed of - the heart of mercy – of Jesus’ mercy – is there for our need.

The healing is there – for those who are in need. It may not look like the healing from Isaiah – it may not look like the Lame leaping like deer, the Deaf Hearing symphonies, songs of joy from the voiceless – not always. But it will look like the actions that happened once Jesus healed. The man who received his hearing and his friends could not stop speaking about Jesus. He does all things well.

The healing may look a lot more like living with the brokenness in your life with a new attitude. The healing may look like working with your doctor to manage your condition. The healing may look a lot like drawing boundaries with that difficult person in your life – and knowing you are strong enough keep those promises.

The healing may look a lot like our brokenness, but with this difference – God knows. God loves. God supports. God works in us. In the broken places, we become strong. We find ways to sing for joy even when scarred, even if we aren’t perfectly robustly restored.

I love Jason Gray and his music – he’s that young man from Minnesota who had the concert here last year – and he now has a new album out. He talks – quite openly – about how God works through his weaknesses, through his brokenness, through his defects. Show video.

Like the man in our second story – Jason cannot stop speaking about the powerful love of God – and how that loving grace works through the broken places, through the weaknesses, through exactly that thing we struggle the most with.

Be opened, Jesus told the deaf man – and he was. And despite Jesus’ request not to speak about it – he had to, and his friends had to – and they told all around that ‘Jesus does all things well.” I suspect the Syrophoenician woman did too. He does all things well – his heart is full for grace and mercy – his love open to all who come in need. Amen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Glorious Blueberry Shawl

I started a new craft - dying yarn. And my first yarn was multicolored mohair. (Mohair was a mistake). But the colors were so pretty - very dark midnight blue, sapphire blue, sky blue, light sky blue, pale rose & rose.

Now I'm knitting it up in a simple pattern with BEADS!

Pictures forthcoming.

blogging or not

I haven't kept up with the gratitude posts - mostly because I couldn't think of things when the page was blank.

The news from the Church-wide assembly bothered me a lot. I will be one of those conscience-bound pastors - not necessarily for the same reasons as others - and yes, it is affecting the local ministry in churches like mine.

I am still dealing with ego issues with staff at work. Crazy making conversations, being caught in the hall before worship for decisions, and then being told I was not helpful - in other words things are just about as difficult as they were at the beginning of the summer.

I have spent time in reflection about my ministry, and don't have clear resolution yet. The third-party colleague group I hoped to sign up for hasn't materialized. I'm still not gettting out of my shell and away from my desk enough.

And the fall/winter/spring schedule starts. The only clarity is that I have decided to take a class with NAMI on Thursday evenings and have cleared my calendar from anything but wedding rehearsals.

At least I can do that for myself.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A sermon on John 6

Proper 15B, – John 6:51-58
Using As We Gather at Your Table (Carl P. Daw)

Listen to the first verse of 522 –
1 As we gather at your table, as we listen to your word, help us know, O God, your presence; let our hearts and minds be stirred. Nourish us with sacred story till we claim it as our own; teach us through this holy banquet how to make Love's vict'ry known.

As I was forming this message
I kept getting distracted. –you see, since we had VBS last week, and I had a funeral on Sunday – I didn’t get started early enough
Call this person about a baptism – she wasn’t in
And the mother I was trying to get last week finally got back to me
About a baptism
Which required me to schedule the baptismal meeting
Where I try to get families together and talk about what raising a child in the church is about.
So I must e-mail Christine and Carla and Joyce for calendars, and to reserve the room.
Which reminds me - create a new baptismal form.
And think about how the curriculum I’m using doesn’t work

Which made me think about the pre-marriage couple I was meeting, and that I had to get the video out and wonder at which building it would be better to meet with them.

And – oh, yes, - I’m trying to write a sermon about communion.
But it’s lunch time. And I have no money, but I can got to the ATM when I visit that lady who is in the hospital ICU. Let me look up Becky’s note from Friday to remind myself what she’s there for. And who she is related to.
On my way there I saw another e-mail about another issue and I needed to check . . . . . and maybe I should e-mail Tim even though it’s his day off. At it was only noon.

I’m not trying to impress you with all I have to do. What struck me was how much ‘community’ and ‘communion’ fit together. I’m busy doing that thing – making Love’ victory known. In fact, my funeral sermon last night, for a woman widowed last December, a mother and young grandmother – had the theme – LOVE Wins. Death does not win, Love wins.

2 Turn our worship into witness in the sacrament of life; send us forth to love and serve you, bringing peace where there is strife. Give us, Christ, your great compassion to forgive as you forgave; may we still behold your image in the world you died to save.

Here we learn about the connection between this meal we share in the church – and our going out to be Christ’s witnessing people.
Between communion and community.
Between being together in one place and becoming body together in spirit.
Between what we receive and what we learn we can give away.

All those things I talked about before, as well as the things you did today – at work, or as a volunteer, as a homeowner or however you spent your day – they are all elements of this ‘community’ that is made through communion.

We think of Luther as stressing the individual benefits of Holy Communion - forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, as the Small Catechism has it. But most of us do not realize that Luther had a fundamentally communal perspective on communion – one of my favorite quotes is this:

When you have partaken of this sacrament, therefore, or desire to partake of it, you must in turn share the misfortunes of the fellowship. . . Here your heart must go out in love and learn that this is a sacrament of love. As love and support are given you, you in turn must render love and support to Christ in his needy ones. You must feel with sorrow all the dishonor done to Christ in his holy Word, all the misery of Christendom, all the unjust suffering of the innocent, with which the world is everywhere filled to overflowing. You must fight, work, pray, and – if you cannot do more – have heartfelt sympathy. (M. Luther, The sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.)

3 Gracious Spirit, help us summon other guests to share that feast where triumphant Love will welcome those who had been last and least. There no more will envy blind us nor will pride our peace destroy, as we join with saints and angels to repeat the sounding joy.

The whole point of our being people of the bread – those who spend Six weeks –SIX weeks – hearing bible lessons on the body of Christ – is that this part of the story – this language – is supposed to form us, mold us, draw us in. It’s pretty dramatic language after all – eat my flesh, drink my blood. Thanks, Jesus.

But listen to Jesus – he is trying by another way to speak of the mystery of abiding in him as he abides in the Father. It is about being so close to Jesus that we are part of him as he is part of the Father. It is about being Jesus here and now.

And that brings us back to the idea that communion creates community. Worship leads to service. Dwelling in the word leads to transformation of ourselves and the world. All the distractions and individual moments of my day, and your day as well
– come together in Christ, by Christ’s blessing,
– as the work of Christ done by his hands, feet, mouth, his body.

During this busy day I visited the ICU. And there one sister was standing by the bed of another. One distressed by illness, one healthy and attentive.

Who was Christ? I was the professional praying person, but really, Christ was already in that room. Christ was present in the care-giver, Christ was present in the sick and the needy. They were already Christ for each other.

Communion creates community.

Let's sing 'Blest Be the Tie that Binds.

Gratitude - G

G. Green! I dream of sleeping in a green shaded tree house. Having a sage green meditation space. Don't wear much green, but I would say, right now, that's its my favorite color to have around me.

G. Gelato. Chocolate Gelato.

That's it for now folks.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gratitude - F

Well, I am grateful for Fridays. Of course, this week I worked hard on Friday - it was Vacation Bible School week and I was creating the worship service bulletin and PowerPoint. And teaching. And being on kitchen crew. It was a good week, great energy. I only wish we could have that energy and commitment emerge at other times of the year.

Friends, of course. Really good friends include my little sis, and ministry partner, and the Eagle.

Fudge. That's my food choice for the day. Something chocolate.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gratitude E


E. EEK! - what E things am I grateful for?

Engelberg. This is a tune name for a great big rolling cathedral tune that, along with the words, "We Know that Christ is Raised" kept me going during a dark time, waiting for the adoption.

We Know That Christ Is Raised

1 We know that Christ is raised and dies no more.
Embraced by death, he broke its fearful hold,
and our despair he turned to blazing joy.

2 We share by water in his saving death.
Reborn, we share with him an Easter life,
as living members of our Savior Christ.

3 The Father's splendor clothes the Son with life.
The Spirit's fission shakes the church of God.
Baptized, we live with God the Three in One.

4 A new creation comes to life and grows
as Christ's new body takes on flesh and blood.
The universe restored and whole will sing:

Text: John B. Geyer, b. 1932
Text © John B. Geyer

Duplication in any form prohibited without permission or valid license from copyright administrator.
Right now I can't find a good video of the music, which is what I am really grateful for.

Also, Eggs.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Gratitude - D - a day late


D. Dreams - both the 'I wish I could do that' kind. I wish we could live in the country, I wish I could retire early, I wish we could travel all over the world - which may or may not come true, but also Dreams of the real sleep variety. My dreams have been interesting lately - not troubling, but full of detail, and rather fun.

D, Dioctore who can see you on short notice. I'm grateful for my eye doctor practice seeing me within the day for my vague -"I have something in my eye" complaint (which may be a herpes lesion, but may not be). They are good that way. So patitent with my peculiar visual problems> I feel well taken care of.

D, Doors. It's good to just shut out the rest of the world. So glad I don't work in the middle of many other people. I remember when I was doign all those vocational interests tests and one thing that came up was that I needed my own space and my own privacy.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gratitude - C

Gratitude for C things must start with that most noble and condescending of beasts, the Cat. I grew up around cats, usually multiples at once. I've know Snowball and Orbit, Sancho, Minnie and Imper. I have met , but not lived with the strange and half-wild Agatha, and of course, Ceasar the boneless wonder. Now we provide a home for his majesty the Terror of Bunnies.

I read that cats are not domesticated like dogs, they are still only one step away from their tree-dwelling wild ancestors. Getting along with people is not born into them, but part of 'cat-culture' - a mother cat inculcates the tolerance or favoring of people. Their presence with us is for their own benefit.

There is nothing as comforting as lying in a hammock with a purring, resting cat on one's lap.

Other C things include cotton - a delight in the summer, the stuff of loose clothing and contacts - my constant companions and frustration. Without the contacts my vision is poor, and - I will confess to my vanity- my appearance rather like a owl with thick glasses. Still the contacts, and the great doctor who guides my use, gets me to normal vision and sunglasses.

That's it for C.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Gratitude - B

Humm - the first things that come to mind are foods I don't allow myself much anymore. Bacon. Butter. both of those are really, really good, but not good for me. However, you will find them in the refridgerator.

Bread. Good, hearty, crusty bread. Warm, fresh bread. The smell of baking bread.

Boys. I mean the little ones. There is a period, somewhere between ages 4 and 7, when boys are just delightful. They are curious and sturdy and still generous and open. These were our son's best years.

Yes, this is confessional. Bono. I just started replaying his music. It's good car music. It speaks to me.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

lots of bread

I'm using snippets from the same sermon for two Sundays this month. That's one of the advantages to preaching in a different place week to week.

Although - (looks over her shoulder) - I don't usually do that - I write new sermons every week!

I'm thinking about Jesus as 'bread of life' and as sign. A sign points to something - Jesus is both sign to God the Great, but also emblem in himself of sacrifice and model.

What sign are we willing to believe? What does it mean to believe in the One God sent? How does our common communion here – make us a community of believers?

Part of the problem about believing the signs of God – believing in the One God sent – part of the problem is the one who believes. That is what this story reminds us. It’s not just about those foolish folk way back then. It’s about us. It’s about all those who mis-see, mis-hear, mis-read the wonders of God all around them.

It’s about all those who try to bargain with God – if You do this, then I’ll . . . . That’s about the opposite of trust- that’s when our relationship with God becomes an exchange. What can you do for me, God – what bread will you offer for my devotion?

But what Jesus speaks about is something totally different, totally not exchangeable – he offers what no one can buy – Himself. “I am the bread of life” he says, I am the food that endures, I am what satisfies, I am true bread from heaven, I am the sign.” He is the sign because he does it for us – he embodies for us the life that satisfies.

And the sign is pure grace – it is pure gift – it’s not because of any works we have done – it’s not because of our efforts, or our piety or our family or our prayers this day. It’s because God loves us.

It’s the work of God, through Jesus, through the Son’s passing through the Cross to the resurrection, that allows us to stand here and say YES, wash us in the living water, YES, give us the bread always. It’s not our work –
but the power of God in each other,
in the community of the church, the family, the friend, the pastor, the Word,
That is the way of Grace, the way we say sincerely say YES, give us this bread always.

Gratitude - A

The daily gratitude post - the challenge is to post daily on each letter of the alphabet.

A. My maiden/now middle name starts with A. I was often first in line! I am grateful for the strong parts of the family, and for having worked through the painful parts.

A. Good, crisp apples. Especially Honey Crisps in the fall. Apple pie made at home, not so sweet.

A. Believe it or not - ANGER - it has been a 'issue' and a companion, but pointed to some deep healing that I needed. And even now, it is a signal that something needs attention.

A. Alternative Reality - the place for fantasies, novel reading, day-dreams, good science fiction on tv and speculative cosmological theologies. Some part of me walks there every day, I think.

Monday, July 27, 2009

up & running

I haven't posted much this summer. There are various reasons for that.
  • I moved my office from one building to another. It feels odd and still awkward in the new place, around the staff that I used to see only a couple a times a week. Now I'm out of the conversations in the old place, and not in conversations in the new place.
  • We went on vacation right after that move. Vacation was great and I continue to work on my personal journal, casting out the line for my own vocational reality and personal peace.
  • We had to move our son out of his apartment - I am not paying rent any more. He had trashed the apartment, and it was a hard slog through that issue, both physically and emotionally.
  • We have been doing a sermon series at church, on purchased material, so I haven't had to write original sermons. There's enough there for another post, for sure.
  • I've been doing more Facebook.
The two identities that I have to work at now are Pastor and Parent. As parent - DS will be 21 soon, and we are girding up for cutting him free. He has so few skills, so few resources and no motivation. Of course I worry. But he also doesn't hear advice.

He has court on Wednesday, and at least I think he should cut his hair and find nice clothes to wear (and, no, don't take them from your dad's closet). But - this is what most parents don't understand - I can't tell him that. His response would be either: anger, silence, or mocking. Of the three, silence is the most typical these days. And, we are at fault after the fact, always. That's the borderline personality for you.

As pastor I am still trying to find my place, my emphasis, my 'thing'. I feel marginalized a lot - I'm not as visible as others, and not 'included.' (Dear God, I sound like a teenager!). But it struck me that there is freedom on the margins, and perhaps it isn't such a bad place to do ministry.

More on all of this later.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

a shared moment

Over dinner, I look into his eyes, he looks into mine.

I say - how are we going to get the trash bin out, since they poured the concrete for the driveway today?
He says - Out through the back door.
I say - I think it's too big for that.
He says - we could empty out all the bags, and pass the bin over the new concrete at the corner.
I say - very carefully.

Marriage. It's a wonderful thing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

back from heaven

or Southwest Wisconsin, take your pick. Pretty close to the heaven I'm looking for.

Scandinavian designed tiny cottage on a hillside overlooking the rolling hills and valleys of the driftless region. Couldn't see lights or hear cars at night. I don't remember that last time that was true. Sat on the porch and read, or just stared. Cooked simple good food. Had fresh strawberries and local sweet corn at the same meal.

A few notes -
  • Aquila and I were both wounded - him from surgery, me from a fall down our outside stairs. It was okay to take care of ourselves.
  • Being out of cell phone range with lousy internet connections is a really good thing.
  • The DS was on his road trip and we were able to release him to his fate.
  • While going to the famous sights was okay, I could have skipped them - I was in such a mellow mood.
  • There are a lot of not-very-good novels out there. I had the bad luck to start two of them.
  • Serious conversations can be scary, but ours turned out all right.
  • I still have insomnia.
I did write about the question: what am I doing, what do I need to do? And I did get a little farther. But not that far. About two days of that heavy thinking is all I get in on any week, it seems.

Back to work today - will have funeral Wednesday, and I may need to run to hosp. within the hour. The usual. DS thought (misheard) that we were going to be backd on Monday, not Sunday, so he was all over the place. But he did help clean up. He only broke one door in a rage. Sigh. That is not okay.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

happy 4th

Just kicking back on the holiday. My sister is here on her laptop and the Eagle's on his computer downstairs. Just the typical american folks on the fourth?

We are too much in the world, it seems.

Am waiting for the DS to return from California alive and well. Did some mental hands off on his decision to go on the road trip, and we'll leave as soon as he returns and commits to cat care. Being hands off in his life and decision is easy in one way - I'm not going to his apartment to clean it while he's gone - but hard in other ways. The apartment WILL need cleaning before he leaves at the end of the month. I hope again hope that this road trip will clear his mind and get him focused. I don't know why I think that would be true, it's not be true before. Hands off means at least we don't fight.

I know another family, another son the same age, in ICU with a serious illness. I am grateful for my son's relative health and relative good nature these days. As DS would say: why do you have a problem with my choices?

Today is going to be overcast, but not rainy. We'll grill meat and eat well and maybe sit on the roof to watch fireworks. Problem with that is the whole slanted roof thing.

Too lazy to do any real projects - cleaning the garage does not appeal.

Vacation began yesterday. Let it be.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

true esp stories

My office manager swears this is true:

Parishioner: Why doesn't the church ever record my offering?
Office Manager: Oh dear. Do you know your envelope number?
Parishioner: I never use envelopes.
OM: Do you write a check, so we can copy your name and address?
P: No. I just put cash in the plate.

I know this one is true.

Parishioner: Did Mr. B.A. get named in the prayers on Sunday?
Me: No. I didn't know anything about B.A. What happened to him?
P: He was in a car accident. He's the brother of S.A., who was once council president, but he doesn't come to church here anymore.
Me: I'm sorry, I didn't know anything about it. Was Mr. B.A. a member?
P: Oh, no, this happened out of state.

I need to work on my mind-reading skills.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

prayer for the long day


A prayer for the long day

Birdsong never stops -
singing praise
Nature overcome with life expands
past its boundaries
Out, Out damn raspberries!
Gratitude is green
Green is everywhere
Too much life around at this moment
of maximum sun
Never too much You.
A mystic appreciation of You in all
green, growing, grassy, grasping life.
And I, called to be one through
green, with You - hesitate.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

a weekend

I have a weekend - a real two days off. And my husband is home for the same two days. It's a miracle. Except for vacations, I can't remember when that last happened.

So, tomorrow, carpet cleaning, then go to the park by the big lake, since we have to be out of the house for the carpet to dry. Then maybe grilling out, or maybe eating out, and maybe find out if the outdoor concert which was cancelled tonight is still happening.

It will be nice.

Gotta remember that for most people, this is normal.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

long week

It's been a long week - week and a half. And I don't have anything profound to blog about. Just stuff.

Went through assembly without knitting (I had nothing at the right stage to transport). Did a lot of crosswords. Found presenters irritating, not inspiring. "Please turn to your neighbor and discuss what's wrong in your situation.' does not make for happy day. Rushed around for bad food, etc.

Pulled off Trinity week, and did the usual 20 hours in two days. Took the second half of Wednesday off to purchase stuff for the week of the convelescent.

Aquila's surgery went okay - hernia surgery and he had more to fix than they expected. Recovery is going slow. I don't think he'll be back with only a week off of work - or that he should go back that soon. However, he will feel guilty and like he should push himself. I think his co-workers might think about all the times he's covered for them. And no way should he be on call next Monday. He may not even be off the strong drugs and driving by then.

Lots of little things to think about - the day after surgery I had to get back to the office, and then had wedding day and then Sunday. And when does laundry get done, what can he cook for himself, can he even feed the cat?

As we were sitting in recovery I noticed I had a sore throat, which has blossomed into a full-blown cold. Today I'm walking around feeling the sleep waves creeping up on me - all I desire is to nap.

I know this isn't that interesting - my mind is mush.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

why trinity

This is a real live pretty much original sermon.

the story about the mom & daughter is from Max Lucado, I edited it a lot.
The idea about gravity is from Glenn McDonald on used in another context.

From slaves to heirs - Isaiah 6:1–8, Romans 8:12–17, John 3:1–17

Today’s lessons are about the great love God has for us.
We call that love, in its totality, the Trinity.
The Trinity is about love. It’s not about right belief, about doctrine – or why would it continue to be important for us today?
It’s not about right action – or we could never, ever work it out.
The Trinity is about right relationship – about love. It’s not so much, at first, that we love each other properly, but the Trinity is to open our eyes and minds to the great desire God has to love us – and for us to love him back.

“God so loved the world.” “Abba, Father.” Even in Isaiah – the wonderful, horrible vision of God in the temple is intended to begin a relationship of love. Isaiah sees the greatness and glory of the Almighty, so that he is aware of his sinfulness and unworthiness – then he is allowed to offer himself for God’s service – and cleansed and blessed in order to speak God’s words of love – God’s corrective words, indeed, but messages from God to God’s people – “I love you and want you back - come home.”

The Trinity is about relationship – about the relationship God has with Godself- as the theologians say – and more important for us – the relationship God has with God’s people.

Here is the thing – The relationship God desires to have with us – in its perfection, it is not simple, it is not a given. “What, must I return to my mother’s womb and be born again!” says Nicodemus. (Yes, Nicodemus, it’s that weird) That’s not something we can do on our own. On our own we are off doing our own thing, off in our own world – the world of desires, of flesh - this is the biblical understanding – we live by the law of self. That is what we are slaves to.

It’s like this - Have you ever been riding in an airplane and suddenly started wondering, "How in the world is this thing staying up in the air?" We can see that ultra-big plane that comes to the air show and wonder - how does that happen? Think about it: Planes are a great deal heavier than air. The law of gravity declares that whatever is heavier than air must be drawn directly toward the center of the earth, must stay on the ground. There is no amount of arm flapping that will make me fly.

The answer is to create wings! Bernoulli's Principle. Airplane wings are curved in such a way that air flows faster above the wing than beneath it. According to Bernoulli's principle, if water or air is flowing faster along one side of an object than the other, the pressure along that side will decrease, and force will be exerted toward the low-pressure side. That's what gives airplane wings their lift.

It took creativity to figure it out.

This is where it gets good – we are drawn down by our sin like gravity – we are there on the ground, unable to fly, because that is the way it is. That’s the slavery that the apostle Paul writes about – that’s the debt of sin, that’s the whole argument of the book of Romans. Yep, says Paul, we are pinned down to the ground by this condition. He says - I don't dow what I want to do, and I do do what I don't want to do. That is the reality of our state as human beings.

And only an incredible, remarkable, miraculous power will make any difference. Only a radically creative act on the part of God will save us. That creative act - that taking on our human nature in the incarnation, the coming of Jesus to us - gives us the wings to soar to become what God desires - allows us to come home.

And that is the why we must believe in the Trinity. The beauty of creation and the awesome holiness of the creator – the loving presence and saving work of Jesus – and the powerful inner and outer direction of the Holy Spirit – all three are necessary to bring us back home. To lift us off the ground, to defy gravity, to take those of us who are slaves to the world - And make us children, and heirs to something eternal.

That’s what the Trinity is about – it’s about our salvation – about a God who not only made the world, but spoke to it – who chose prophets then and now to speak words of correction and love. It’s about a God who so loved the world he became one with it – to understand her pain and to redeem the humble. It’s about a God blows through the world

A story of a runaway – from Max Lucado (as retold)
Imagine a poor village in the third world - imagine a pretty girl who thinks that her future lies in the big city. She slips away - maybe she's been led on by someone else. All her mother knows is that she is gone and that mother's heart is broken.
Knowing what happens to young, pretty girls with no connections or protection in the big city, the mother quickly gathers what money she has, sells what she needs to, and buys a round-trip ticket. And she buys one more thing to take with her.

In the city that mother goes to all the places that the young, the lost and the poor gather - the bars and clubs, the liquor stores and the laundrymats, the hotels and motels. And she visits and leaves something of herself behind at each place.

And sometime later, maybe days or weeks or even months - a girl comes down the stairs at a hotel, ashamed at what she's become and she sees something familar. She sees her mother's picture. That's what her mother spent all her money on - small pictures of herself to be placed all over the big city - each picture with one message on the back - "Come Home."

Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, Multnomah Press, 1986, pp. 158-9.

That is what the Trinity is about – about a God who loves so much –
he places his photo where his lost children can see it
– in the beauty of the earth,
– in the true love of mother for child, of husband and wives
– in the witness of his people, in the push to open the doors and share the good,
– in the book of his stories, both old and new,
– in the generous acts of charity and love and justice, inspired by his Spirit, working always to redeem.
The photos of God, these hints of God’s Three in One character –
are all around us – to lift us up, to break the bonds and weight of sin -
To soften the hard heart
To forgive the guilty
To honor the forgotten
To comfort the sorrowful
To protect the joyful

Whatever you’ve done – please come home. You need not be a slave – you are a child, and an heir to the kingdom.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

too good not to blog

for all you coming to read the serious post about the doctrine of the Trinity.


Making dinner tonight, sauce with Italian sausage and good pasta. Put on good music. Ready to eat. DS arrives. "Hey, mom, I have an embarrassing question. What's going on with my penis?"

The information about Borderline Personality Disorder stresses that one shouldn't discount or disrespect the BP individual by laughing at them. right.

I said, I certainly don't know. He apparently zipped up the aforementioned body part, and now is concerned because there are owies where there were no owies before.

I said, wait until after dinner. (and several glasses of wine). I said, that's something you're going to have to go over with your father. Father looked at me and said - what? I said - it's probably jock itch. Father says - I've never had jock itch. I said, well, if it's round discrete sores, it may be an STD. If it's irregular and a rash, may be jock itch.

After dinner, and several glasses of wine, the decision is that DS should go to the doctor. He says - do I have to go alone? I say: "I'm not going to the clinic and say - my little boy has an owie on his pee-pee." I look up the free clinic, etc. I said - wait, let me get this written down for you. "No, I have to meet someone."

So he doesn't have the info.

I'm drinking more wine.

Oh, I love parenting.

a preaching journey

This weekend is Holy Trinity. I don't like preaching on the Trinity. It's a doctrine - it's not a story. It's a doctrine that I don't understand very well, and I'm conscious that I'm getting one or another side of it wrong if I try to explain it.

And I'm not sure how interested anyone else is in that doctrine, even properly explained.

If folks in the pews had a dime for each time they've heard a preacher say: I can't explain it, but I'll try - they all could go out for brunch.

So, this week I'm approaching Trinity from a side angle. From the Romans text - "From Slaves to Heirs"

This is what I have so far:

Slaves or heirs? – Not a choice, as we usually think about it – children do not choose to be (they can choose not to be) – you find yourself in the position of heir, of son or daughter, of part of the family. You receive and identify, or you rebel and leave. Parents - can un-accept, disinherit - but that is the exception. Parents (most parents) find that love is present for the child as gift, the child as child.

The Pauline response to this is that we are 'adopted' as children, made heirs, because of God's love for us and Christ's work for us. God's love for us becomes love of a parent for a child, not merely the regard of a master for a slave.

(Interesting, most reflections on this passage are speaking of the choices of discipleship, even the Lutheran ones (!) - see the ELCA Daily Discipleship, or the stuff from

My understanding, and I think it could be justified from Romans, says we are passively ushered into the state of salvation, and grow and live into it. Likewise with the language of being ‘born again’ – other traditions see that as a choice WE make. Lutherans understand it as a blessing God gives and that we receive as gift. All God, all gift, all grace.(And that's the Trinitiran connection - God the Parent is loving, God the Son is our brother, God the Wind is blows us to the direction of joy).

Here is the opening to say we can ‘leave’, we can ‘turn our faces away’ and let the powers of not-God catch our attention. What we control is our attention, our attitude, our receptivity. (?) God is constant in His love for us – we are not constant in our response to Him.

What makes this hard for me personally is that DS is choosing the away path. He is taking the way of the flesh, the hard road of choosing for himself to not cooperate with the 'systems' around him - not economic systems (doesn't want a job) nor moral (cheats, lies, smokes pot, steals) nor emotional (what his dad and I can offer) nor spiritual - 'nuff said. We adopted him, but he is in the process of un-parenting us.

And so the consequences catch up with him. The least of these is poverty. The worst - I don't want to speculate.

As a speaker I go for the promise, not to the condemnation. I see and I know the dark side of this argument.

What do I say on Sunday?