Taking the message with you
(reflecting on Worship Easter Sunday 3-31-13)
Before you walk into a difficult meeting, take Jesus in with you. This might be a prayer. It might be an attitude. It might be a willingness to let the outcome be in God’s hands. Before you make a difficult decision, run it by Jesus and ask guidance in what decision to make. Ask what Jesus might desire above what you desire for yourself. Ask Jesus for openness and help in accomplishing God’s broader purpose. Before you draw a line in the sand with a situation or individual that vexes you, ask Jesus if there is guidance that would help you discover the best thing to do. So many times I get the help I need even when I don’t expect it.
Perhaps Jesus has a solution that is coming that we know nothing about, how might we stay open for that blessing – for the gift that may come just ahead on the trail. All these are built around “Living with Jesus.” What ways can you think of to make living with Jesus a hallmark of your life of faith? Living with Jesus always looks like bringing this activity of God more and more into everything we do. Welcome to Easter living.
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.
Preparing for worship 3/3/13
[The Camino de Santiago (Camino means “the way”) is an ancient pilgrimage trail with beginning points in France, Spain and other spots around Western Europe.]
On the Camino you begin to realize that many people are beginning from different points of origin. Not everyone begins from the same beginning point. So as you are traveling you may be walking with people who have already traveled hundreds of miles as well as with people who have only just begun their walking. This is fine because you really can’t make assumptions about the people with whom you are walking, you really must stay open to who they are, why they walk and from whence they come. What is uniting, what we have in common, is the same destination.
But there as some things that clearly set apart those who have traveled two, three or four weeks from those who are just beginning. Long time travelers tend to be efficient with what they carry. They pack quickly in the morning, carry very little extra or extraneous stuff, their boots are warn and still strong. Those who have been walking usually walk as through the walk is their joy. Those who are beginning look as though they simply hope to finish the day. Beginners often have packs that are too heavy and they have not yet build up their walking wisdom or their endurance.
Beginners sometimes have grandiose plans for their walk and talk abundantly about the things they will do or see. Those who have walked long tend to be very realistic in their plans, expect things to come up that will change their planning and don’t talk all that much about what they have accomplished.
Much of this is also true of those who walk the Walk of Faith. We are all heading in the same direction with very different beginning points and those who have been walking for some time walk alongside those who are just beginning. Faith is a personal walk that others cannot do for you but part of gaining strength in the journey is walking along with others who walk around you. You must learn to walk your own walk – and the longer you have walked the more you know about how to make your way and how to deal with the challenges that come along.
Traveling mercy is something you learn along the way. It’s caring for those having a difficult time, it’s showing a short timer how to keep blisters clean and in good shape. It’s about being patient with yourself as you walk as well as being patient with those who walk near you. I have come to realize, much of the pilgrimage itself is all about learning to receive and share traveling mercies. Some of those mercies come from heaven and some of them come from those who travel the way along with you.
Peace to you all as you learn to walk the Walk of Faith.
Reflecting on Worship from February 24th, 2013
(taking the message with you)
Every day I engage in creating hope and trust and belief between my daughter and myself. Most of the time I shape what I say and what I do in order to establish and sustain her hope, belief and trust in me.
I already know, somewhere along the way I will let her down. Somewhere I will fail to do what is expected or perhaps needed by this one whom I love. I just hope that I can develop a track record long enough and persistent enough that she might see my failure and still have no doubt in my love and care and passion for her as a person.
Yes, I live in this hope. In fact, I can’t seem to help having it. I seem to have to keep doing this “building faith” with her even though I know I will fail at it somewhere and somehow. I can’t stop this activity any more than I can stop loving her. It is a conversation I have with myself and a conversation I am having with her.
I guess my “hope in God” is a conversation too. I’m looking to know and better understand what God promises to me and looking to have enough confidence in God’s intention to bring those promises about that even when it appears that they have failed or been delayed I will have enough reason to hope. I hope to keep that conversation active enough that even when the waves are high and the challenges deep, I will have no doubt in what God promises and all confidence in their coming true.
How are your conversations in faith going these days, with God and with one another? What can you do today that will work toward building up and sustaining this vital connection we share with each other and with God?
Walking by Faith,
“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Gen 15:6
a) Doubt it so that you don’t become dependent on the promise coming true?
b) Hope it does come true but keep doing what you would have done anyway?
c) Explore the confidence you have in the one who makes the promise so you know how much weight to give to the promise?
d) Decide if the promise is significant enough to put your full effort in hoping that it will come true?
I’m kind of a “c” type person myself, but I have met large numbers of type “a” and “b” personalities. I admit I have met very few type “d” personalities. I think it would be very hard to live in complete trust and abandon toward any promise or hoped for result. The thing is, that whatever our initial response to a promise, coming to the point of believing it really does have power to impact our lives. In fact, coming to believe a promise can have a profound effect on when, how and if it will come true at all.
Really, it seems that so few things in our lives have enough certainty about them that it must be a near impossibility to live without any measure of faith. But I think the real question is how faith and trust and hope can be nurtured in our lives, in our families and in our important relationships.
When it comes to the promises of God, it may be even more important for us to engage the question of faith and the nature of our faith lives; for when God’s promises do come true, those who have trusted in them stand the best chance of knowing the deepest and fullest blessings of all.
Where are you in moving toward trust, belief and significant hope when it comes to the promises of God in Jesus Christ?