Wednesday, January 30, 2013

the imagery in the psalms

I love the psalms, for those who haven't noticed.  They, like others in our "poetry" category are truly the art of our Bible.  In Hebrew the Psalms read much more like poetry with a meter and lovely flow.  Many of the translators have tried to keep that flow and we can see and feel that when we turn to the psalms.  Another reason I like the psalms is because of the real emotion that is expressed within. The psalmist can be angry with God, in love with God, awed by God and in fear of God.  The psalmist comes with every human emotion and turns to God. 

Most psalms fall into three categories: (this is coming from Walter Brueggemann's widely accepted division of the psalms) orientation, disorientation and reorientation.  Some psalms have all three aspects in one.
Orientation psalms are the psalms that speak to the ordinaries of life.  The every day, the glorious sun the several reminders that we need to "Shout to the Lord" a new song.  Much of these psalms are psalms of praise.  It is in the orientation that we are setting up the "normal"  You can read Psalm 1, 37 , 111 and 131 for examples.

Disorientation then is when the psalmist is in distress or confused. When life isn't as orderly - which is often.  Here we see lines like "My God, My God why have you forsaken me."  You can read 13, 50, 88 for examples.

Reorientation then is when in the psalm we are bringing ourselves back to the normal...back to God. Examples are 23, 66, 100, 150.  They are often full of thanks. 

We see this in this weeks reading: "In you, O LORD, I take refuge;let me never be put to shame.In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;incline your ear to me and save me.Be to me a rock of refuge,a strong fortress, to save me,for you are my rock and my fortress." Psalm 71: 1-3 

At the beginning we see what seems to be a bit of disorientation and with the vivid language of the psalm we hear the psalmist ask God to incline his ear and to save him.  And then in the next line we see the psalm come out of the stress and disorientation and into reorientation - how God is their rock and fortress.

Depending where we are in life - there is a psalm for us!

Every time we have a life event we move through these cycles of orientation - disorientation and reorientation for we are changed people and our relationship with God is different - hopefully for the better. 

There are several monk orders that try to pray all the psalms in a week.  They pray at the scared hours (7 times a day) that is a big undertaking and I'm not suggesting that we tackle such a task but I do think that starting your day off with a psalm can be inspiring and send you on your own path to new and deeper relationship with the Divine.  For there is something truly settling in knowing that your struggles in life are not only shared by the psalmist but that they were these are universal struggles, struggles that Jesus came to know in his own humanity and struggles that God is willing to incline an ear to hear.  So sit back and send up your prayers knowing, believing and trusting that God is indeed listening. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

One Body

We stick with our family because no matter how mad they make us we have to put up with them and there is something about family ties that let all of us put up with personalities that we would never be friends with otherwise.  We all know the saying that we choose our friends but not our family.

But what about our Church?  We certainly choose our churches, yet we don't choose who belongs or who joins.  We hope to create an environment in which all are welcome, but are we then each prepared for what that means?

As Christianity began to develop in the first few centuries, people were meeting in house churches.  They were inviting family, friends and anyone they could to come and share in a meal and hear the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus.  Christianity would have never spread like it did if people only invited those "like" them to these earlier churches.  Paul writes to these type of churches and you can hear through his responses that they are going through struggle and divide.  That the churches are full of different personalities.  It is important to remember that even our oldest of foreparents in faith were seeking out any and all - not just those "like" them.  We see this in the shift from God being the God of the Hebrews to God now being a God to the gentiles.  No longer were the Hebrews the only chosen people of God but more importantly God had opened through Christ grace to ALL.

Here at Huron, we have a great family church.  And despite the different personalities we seem to invite each other into friendly dialogue.  I recently read a post of Huffington about how to "kill your church" in something like 10 steps.  One of the steps was to call yourself family.  The writer talked about how that could led your church to be too difficult for a new person to join.  And yes, sometimes a family church can be so closed that they can't open themselves up to new people and we should keep that in mind so we don't make that mistake...but today thinking of ourselves as a FAMILY allows for us to open our doors to people who are not like-minded but who can feel comfortable that once you come to our church we will love you no less just because you think differently.

Once we have a safe sacred space, we can open ourselves up to deeper ministry and deeper relationships.  When Russ and I first started here, the passing of the peace was amazing but the prayers of the people lacked requests...we have seen a transformation in the prayers for the better! And that is a true sign that we are coming to feel more Spiritually comfortable with our church family.

This week the challenge is to send a thank you note to someone within the congregation for being a member.  Let us remember why we come to worship - to celebrate and praise God!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

One in the Spirit

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;I have called you by name, you are mine.When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,and the flame shall not consume you." Isaiah 43 1b-2

When I read this passage I can't help but think of the time I was involved in a car accident.  For many reasons I know that God was with me that day and that God's presence saved me and a friend.  You see, I should have had someone in my car that day but about 5 minutes before I left to pick her up I got a phone call that said she was getting another ride that day.  The passengers side of my car was almost gone after my accident and if someone was there they would have been severely injured if not killed.   And so I felt God's grace when the car stopped and I realized that God's hand was in the events that morning...but that wasn't the moment I felt one with the Spirit. 

This past Sunday, I preached on the concept of being One with the Spirit and it is within that oneness that our Epiphanies happen. I suggested that God, the Spirit and Christ with together in the moment of Jesus' baptism and it is in similar moments in our own lives that we know that God is working within and through us.  I have asked you to think about this passage from Isaiah and how God works in our lives.

Well I can't think of a more overwhelming experience then when a mechanical failure led me to lose control of my car and as my car was spinning out of control towards the tree that would eventually stop it, I turned to God.  It was in that moment that a surprising calm descended upon me and I knew that everything was going to be OK.  That I was OK, and I felt God's presence engulf me in that moment.

No matter what is overwhelming us or how deep the water feels, if we turn to God and allow the calming presence of the Divine, our perspective and our situation changes.  I wasn't sure what was going to happen to me that day, but I knew whatever was to be would be and I knew I wasn't alone.

Let us rejoice in knowing that God's presence is everlasting.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I'm excited to introduce our new website / blog.  This is an opportunity for us to come together this year celebrating our 200 year anniversary and acknowledging that our rich past has been the strong foundation that has brought this church and our community to where it is today and where it will be 200 years from now.

We are focusing this year on education and Spiritual formation.  Hopefully this webpage will be a place that we as member visit weekly to read the mid-week blog, to use the scripture verse and the scripture questions to keep us listening to God's Word and to allow the weekly prayer exercise to challenge us as we grow closer to the Divine.  

More on the Magi

I've been thinking a lot about the magi for that last few weeks, partly because I preached on it last Sunday and partly because this is one thing I think about every time I get a nativity set out.  I'm pretty sure there is an old post about what the Bible really says about the magi - so this isn't gonna be about that.

This year with all the uncertainties and my hopes for an answer from God quicker then I feel it is coming...I focused instead on the journey the magi took.

I have always been really impressed by the magi for one reason they without giving second thought had faith in the star and themselves to follow it...they trusted that God was going to take them on an important journey and left - leaving for a several year journey that would be dangerous and at the end take them home on a different path, perhaps a longer path.

Trusting in the journey and giving up to God our lives is really hard - especially for people who want to know what is going on.  It takes a lot for us to put our trust in the divine and to ultimately follow without confirmation - and for the magi this journey was several years!

God doesn't just appear to us and give us all the answers - and for those who are seeking for the first time a Creator, there isn't instant gratification.  But instead, by trusting our own intuition which tells us that indeed there is something greater in this world, a power that we would like to know or something beyond ourselves, we can be lead on a journey.  Like the journey the magi's took.  A journey which could lead you to Christ.

For me, an already believer, I need to remind myself that when I trust God and go along the path that my creator is lighting for me - I'm on God's time, not my time.  It might take a longer then I'd like for God's plan to be revealed to me and there are plenty of times along this path that I would like to leave it for my own.  But if I persist by putting my trust in the Divine power, I know that the God's plan will be revealed and as the magi came to stand at the foot of the savior - I too will have my epiphany moment.  I just must trust and believe.

Some theologians believe that you don't actually have to have faith to begin going to church or becoming a Christian - for if you begin by doing all the things that a "good" Christian does: praying, reading the Bible, studying, worshiping that eventually these will lead you into belief, into an epiphany or ay-ha moment when you realize that indeed God's presence is all around us.

Let us all challenge ourselves this year - to live into our faith putting trust not in the moment now but in the path that will lead us to the moment when God's self is revealed - perhaps for the first time or perhaps once again!