Preparing for Worship 3-31-13 (Easter Sunday)
My college Literature Professor was a cool guy. He was hyper-connected to reality and always exploring the human experience, in literature, in the classroom and in everyday life. His heart was always asking “how is this grounded in real life and real experience?” It made for lively discussions.
One semester, when spring rolled around, we got to talking about Easter and “Resurrection.” We were surprised to learn that he could not believe in Jesus’ Resurrection any more than he could believe in “resurrection” in general. “Nothing in my experience suggests that there is any bodily or non-bodily life waiting for us after this one,” he would say, over and over again. It was almost a point of faith for him. He was just convinced there was no experience that would qualify as giving any hope in the resurrection. He sure made a lively partner for thinking about life and Christ and the life that is promised to us by Jesus.
Perhaps this is the meaning of the Thomas experience of touching Jesus’ hand and placing a hand in his side…blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe(John 20:22-29). Certainly we will need to have something that counts as experience with the living presence of Jesus in order to have hope, faith and confidence in God’s intention to bring us also to life again with Jesus. What experiences of new life and renewed life do you have, if any, that give you confidence in God’s promise to give us life together with Jesus?
Taking the Message with You…
Reflecting on Worship from Palm Sunday (3-24-13)
When I was a kid, we would spit and swear when we wanted to be believed “beyond question.” If that wasn’t good enough there was the last resort of all: cut your thumb and offer it as proof you were telling the truth. If your friend accepted your pledge he would touch your thumb with his (cut or uncut). Kind of gross, huh?
Even as kids the power of a blood covenant seemed like words of steel. Perhaps this is also true for us as we hear again the passion, suffering and shedding of Jesus’ blood. This is a word of God that can be believed. What was that word? The very life of Jesus was that word: A word that is to be believed. Everything he said and did is to be accepted and believed as the true Word of God. In this gift and pledge there is new life.
God’s coming near to make a pledge that will change everything for us, when we accept it. Do you find acceptance within you for this kind of pledge from God? It seems that words of steel are given so that they can be believed. Perhaps that makes clear the work we have to in this all. Believe God. Thank goodness that this is still, even more encouragment for us to believe that Jesus life and death. It comes on Easter. If you can accept the pledge in this death, given for us – then receiving the life that comes with Easter will not be far behind. AMEN
Palm Sunday / Sunday of the Passion has long been a challenge. It is hard to plan a meaningful worship experience that begins with joy and triumph that can settle in our bones which at the same time takes us to the disillusionment and surprise of Jesus’ arrest, trial and execution. How do we hold these two very different experiences together? How do we experience each of them fully on one Sunday? And more importantly how does each of these events in Jesus’ life inform our faith lives and discipleship today?
It is true that disillusionment is a real experience that we run into along the journey of faith. Things don’t always look like they are going to turn out like they are supposed to. Walking through the valley of the Shadow of death is a difficult thing for anyone. But David reminds us in his poem (Psalm 23) that even there the presence and guidance of our shepherd steadies us so our faith can trusts in God’s faithfulness to bring us to the day of triumph and rejoicing again.
So, this is our challenge: to meaningfully hold these two challenging parts of this Sunday before Easter together into a unified witness that God works in and through events that we have trouble making sense out of. This activity is a mark of discipleship and an activity that those who travel in faith must at some point learn for themselves. Let us gather and practice this activity of faith as we hear about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and is arrest, trial and suffering.
(Preparing for Worship March 17th, 2013)
The best partnership I have in my life is with my wife Shannon. I guess I should back up a step. Really the partnership that brought me to the place that I was ready for Shannon was my partnership with Jesus. Jesus has this way of keeping at things in my life that need attention, so that I come along a little at a time each day. And then, when the time is right and the planets align, he “speaks” or “nudges” me into the action or activity for which he has prepared me. It was like that when I met Shannon. It is like that again and again in my life when important encounters come along. It seems that often I experience Jesus working in my life and walking the trail with me as I journey in faith in these current days. Do you see Jesus in interesting junctures in your life?
Reflecting on Worship March 10, 2013
“You can’t go back.” It’s hard thing to learn. Picking up the pieces of a painful experience is always a challenge, but we can’t really go back to the way things were. I think that is what the Humpty Dumpty poem of childhood is all about. It is wasted energy to try and rebuild the past or to model the present after some imaginary idea time.
The good news is, although we can’t go back, we can always go forward. I like to say it this way, “home is always ahead of you.” Which is to say that finding ourselves; discovering our best expression of belonging, discovering that place where we can thrive – is always before us. And we can always come home. Coming home is the gift of welcoming people into our lives for blessing and encouragement and celebration. Coming home is making new friends, renewing old ties and gladly welcoming people into our hearts and into our homes. All these things are part of the work of moving forward and coming home.
The Prodigal Son struggled to come home but if you will notice, his older brother has almost as much work to do before he will be able to really be at home. Where in our lives is there work to be done so that we too may come, or be at home with God’s love in our lives?
Ever explored New Orleans with more than 33,000 young people? It’s quite an adventure! We explored being Disciples, Servants and Peacemakers. Everyone seemed to be on the path of discovery and new experiences. I had the pleasure of accompanying one of our young people back to the convention center to look for a backpack and a pair of shoes that were left behind the day before. We were excited that we were indeed able to simply find the Lost and Found booth. There we had a curious experience. We described the backpack that was left, “It was a green Columbia day pack with yellow piping.” The attendant went into the next room and returned with a back pack. It looked like the one we had lost but it wasn’t She was undaunted. She returned again, and this time she had the right one. Curiously, the contents were missing. We mentioned this and she asked us what was in the back pack. So one item at a time, we described the lost contents of the backpack. One item at a time, the attendant would go and bring from the back room an item that seemed to fit our description. We were in luck, four of the six items that were in the back pack were found. When we came to the water bottle, our Lost and Found helper, simply smiled, nodded her head and pointed to the 12 LARGE boxes to her left that were filled with every make, model and concept of bottles used to keep one hydrated in the heat of July in New Orleans. She simply said, help yourself. There were even new bottles from one of the event displays that perhaps did not want to take the inventory home.
On our way out, I happened to peak through the doorway into the mysterious back room from which lost things are retrieved and was astounded to see aisle after aisle and table after table of sorted, categorized and lined up items all lost and not yet found. The volume could have filled twenty dump trucks. I couldn’t believe it! Who knew that some much lost stuff could be generated from such a gathering? Well, there were 33,000 youth, not to mention some 6,000 adult leaders, chaperones and event providers. I guess it makes sense but still boggles the mind.
This whole experience left me wondering how much of our stuff we loose (most of which we can live without). But if this describes our human behavior how much that is really important to us do we misplace, forget about, abandon or simply fail to keep track of?
What help or hope and healing is there for this characteristic of our humanness? Perhaps the parable of the Prodigal Son (or is it the parable of the older brother – or the parable of a father’s love) gives us some hope for humanity that is busy loosing things and one another all the time.