Wednesday, February 27, 2013

a message of hope

I wrote these questions and passages at the beginning of the month and today, I feel that I need to write on the passage from Isaiah instead of the strong words from Paul.  Although Paul’s words are relevant and we should think about avoiding idols and creating room in our lives to be more mindful, this Isaiah passage speaks on hope.
Although we read Isaiah as one large book, it is clear that there is actually two (perhaps 3) authors Isaiah and different time periods that are being prophesied.  This is from second or deutro-Isaiah and in this passage the prophet is offering hope to an exiled Israel.
One of the key themes in this passage is the idea of inclusion for all.  Everyone is welcome to come to God.  This inclusive theme is important as it is key to Jesus theology and the welcoming of gentiles.  It doesn’t matter your income or what you own you are welcome to love God.  This is so important, today we use our economic status to separate ourselves out and it has become a big dividing point in our secular world.  Children even can feel this pressure when their parents can’t afford the latest trend in clothes or they can’t afford school lunches. 
And when we become spiritually drained or lose our spiritually hope, turning to God we can not only find hope but fill up.  Just because they are in exile doesn’t mean that God has turned his back from them.  This is a very important message for us to hear.  Even if it feels that God isn’t there, all we need to do is incline our ears and put our minds towards God. 
Turning to our verse of the week, I am reminded that when life is getting overwhelming we need to turn towards God and not towards the secular world that tries so hard to consume us.  We need to turn to the hope that is in our faith and the words of our Lord.  “Incline your ear and come to me; listen, so that you may live!”
Let us stop spending our energies on the secular world which only drains our resources but instead start living for God which replenishes our soul so that we may live more fully and more satisfied lives.  Let us pray this Lenten season and find more mindful ways to keep our eyes on the Divine.
Isaiah 55:1-9
1Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. 4See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. 5See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. 6Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Living According to Christ in Crisis

Today’s question is: how are you living according to the example set forth by Christ?  And yet, I feel that this week we are all consumed by the worries of the world.  You have an informal congregational meeting on Sunday to talk about the future of the church leadership and today alone we have lost two members of our faith community – one whom is still tragically missing. So how do we live out our life and show the Christ example when the cares of the world seem overwhelming, unfair or make us question where God is?
I cannot help but think of the story of Jacob.   Jacob is not the most upright of men and had deceived his father into giving him the first born birth right.  Jacob who had fled in fear of his brother’s wreath was finally returning to his home land and was to face his brother.  On the night before, while sleeping on the banks of the river, Jacob struggled with a stranger and as he wrestled all night long he finally gave into the stranger and was blessed.  He learned that it was God himself that he fought with and that through his blessing he became Israel.  Jacob did not come out of this fight alright; instead he had a hip wound that would forever follow him. This is a very brief explanation of many chapters of Genesis. 
What I take from this story is hopeful.  Whenever we struggle with what is going on in our lives we can be assured that not only is God right by our side but that God is in the outcome.  Although Jacob’s struggle left him with a scar that forever gave him a limp, he came out stronger – he came out willing to face his brother with a renewed sense of strength. He came out no longer Jacob but now Israel. 
God is in the plan and God is in our struggles.  God is in our pain and God is in our glory.  We might be finding ourselves at the river bank, struggling with the Divine to understand or we may find we have already been there and have the scars to prove it…but either way through our continued faith, prayers and belief we can say that we have struggled with the great I AM. After struggling we can face the world and God’s plan with renewed understanding, with renewed hope that indeed God has called us by name; and that through our faith we can and will do great things.

Paul writes: "Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us."  On this Lenten Journey, how are you living according to the example set forth by Christ?

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I have no idea how old I was or what grade I was in, but I remember from childhood preparing to see a solar eclipse.  I remember the art teacher showing us how to make a box in which we could successfully view the sun without our eyes burning and I remember being in awe when I watched this marvelous and spectacular event. I do hope that you have all been able to witness this. 

The amazing thing about the Sun is that we cannot look directly into its beams yet its light provides for us in so many ways: it is the Sun that creates the day, we get vitamins from its rays, it warms and the list could go on and on.

When I was a kid, I had to prepare myself to be able to look into the Sun and I couldn't help but think about that as we heard from the Exodus passage (Exodus 34: 29-35).  No one could stand the glow from Moses and yet Moses stood in the presence of God whose light was several times as strong.  Moses was able to "handle" the light but the rest of the people needed Moses to veil the glow in order to be able to see him. 

In many ancient cultures, the Sun was associated with the Gods - often the mightiest - and the idea behind the glowing "halo" we see on paintings of God's and other Holy People always seem like a Sun behind their heads. 

So what does that mean for us?  It means that in order for us to have a full relationship with the Holy - one in which like Moses we can glean and absorb all that the Lord is offering we need to come prepared.  We don't just come to God unprepared or without caring but instead with prayerful and open hearts.  We study and read the Word, in order to better understand God's will.  We seek guidance from Spiritual leaders.  We do all of this in order to be able to stand before God and receive the brilliance of God's light without going blind or getting overwhelmed.

This year we are talking about how important education is to having a full relationship with the Mighty.  And I would say that in order for us to be able to let our Spirits shine we must be able to let nothing get in our way of having a full relationship with the Divine.  Let us spend some time thinking about how we can open ourselves, prepare ourselves and let our Spirit's shine without a veil for all to come to know Christ! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday Sermon

I enjoy this parable from Jesus here because Jesus gives an interpretation of not only the parable but the reason why he speaks in parables to his disciples.  Clearly Jesus is telling us here that to be a true disciples we must understand the greater meaning behind his parables and read/listen to them prepared to have more revealed to us. 
Jesus explains that some just aren’t going to get his message and some will only get the surface of his message but blessed are those who do understand.  But I think truly what is blessed is not only understanding but doing and being.  It is one thing to understand or memorize that the Area of a triangle is ½ base x height or that to find the percentage you use x/100 = is/of.  It is another to be able to use them to do basic math and actually be right.  Jesus doesn’t expect his disciples and all those who claim to be disciples to just understand or memorize his parables he wants us to live by them, to use them to guide our life. 
None of us walked with Jesus 2000 years ago.  But we can have conversation with Jesus through the Word he left behind.  We can use this Word to guide us in our everyday life and show us the path to grace.  This Holy Lenten Season, let us crave time out of our lives to do just that – starting with the Parable of the Sower – let us take a lesson from Jesus on how we should live our lives more fully for the Lord.
Some seeds fell on a footpath and the birds came and ate them.  Jesus explains this as letting the evil one come and snatch the seeds away.  We see this in our world today don’t we?  When we let the world come before our faith…when we skip Sunday morning church for coffee and the paper, rewarding ourselves with a relaxing morning before first giving thanks to God for all we have.  But the evil doesn’t just have to come from the demands of the secular world – it can also be people and groups that we allow to continue to snatch our seeds away.  This can be dysfunctional relationships that keep God’s seeds from planting and flourishing.
Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rocks.  Jesus explains this by saying “The rocky soil represents those who hear the message and receive it with joy but like young plants in such soil, their roots don’t go very deep.  At first they get along fine, but they wilt as soon as they have problems or are persecuted because they believe the word.”  And isn’t this the truth!  How much faith can we have and share when we are in a sacred and safe Holy Place?  How much can we believe in God and share that faith when we are with others who are like in mind?  How easy is it to be the silent Christian when we leave those safe sacred places for the secular world? 
And in the same vain, there are the seeds that were planted in the thorny ground which represents those who hear and accept the Good News but all too quickly the message is crowed out by the cares of this life and the lure of wealth so no crop is produced. 
But finally some seeds fall on the good soil whose hearts truly accept God’s message and produce a huge harvest.
This Lenten season, let us focus on ripping our soil  - nourishing our soil so that it becomes rich and good – weeding our soil from the cares of the world so that we may have more time to focus on Worshiping God – picking out the rocks, so our roots can grow deep and finding paths that avoid the evil that snatches our seeds. 
Let us today, begin to embark on a journey with the Holy – enriching our lives with the goal to not only produce thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what has been planted but also with the goal of becoming Sowers ourselves – spreading God’s amazing grace to all we meet.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The tradition of Fasting

One thing we have gotten away from in our Spiritual life is fasting.  Fasting was a way for our ancestors to show respect to God and to grow in their Spiritual relationship.  Fasting is a long tradition.  And yet today when we are in fellowship or in celebration we usually feast.  When we are taking a vacation or trying to relax, food is very much a part of what we do - and today with all the "other" distractions our lives are very full.

Yet, the Lord asks us to fast - and to spend that time growing in relationship. 

Should then we give up something for Lent?  Calvin stopped this practice.  The idea being that giving up or fasting from one item for the season of Lent wasn't really what God was asking.  What the Lord meant by fasting was coming into relationship with God without all the distractions of the world.  For Jesus, it was going out into the wilderness, for others it was refraining from eating for a day.  Fasting for those in the past, meant more then just forgoing eating but also gave them time - time that would have otherwise been spent making a meal. 

By fasting it wasn't just about taking away something out of their life but was about ADDING the additional time with God.

So, during Lent, instead of choosing to fast from something that is meaningless instead let us pledge to REPLACE...replace our time / energy / concentration with time with God.

Let us focus on God this season!  Finding a way to turn ourselves to the Holy in our lives.