From the beginning when God chose to create a people after God’s own heart, God “walked with Abram.” In the course of time Abram became Abraham. From his birth, Jacob’s whole life story was a journey with God with fits and starts, but always with God’s faithfulness. He became known as Israel. Saul the Pharisee expressed is zeal for God by arresting and imprisoning those who followed Jesus. It was on a journey to Damascus that his journey took a left turn. He became knows as the Apostle Paul. Even Moses’ story of faith joins up with the story of the Israelite people and their coming out of Egypt, wandering through the desert and then reaching the Promised Land.
With all of these examples it is not surprising then that we too are somewhere in our journey and also learning to “Walk with God,” as Micah 6:8 says, “What does the Lord require of you but to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” Lent is that season in which we again and again give attention to our journeying in faith. Perhaps we too will live into a time when our names will change and we will have become the people that God is making us into. This is our hope and our activity in Lent as we also prepare ourselves to receive Easter with a living hope within us.
(Preparing for Sunday Feb 10)
The last time I had one of those mountain top experiences I said to myself, “I am going to stay here; this is where I want to live!” Well, I knew I couldn’t stay there, so I thought I’d try to take the experience with me back into the real world. That lasted about a week. It is hard to duplicate in the valley what happens on the mountain tops. But I still remember a number of those powerful experiences. I carry them with me. Many of them have really changed me for the better. Some of them actually help me in discerning my path ahead.
What actually seems to be happening is that going back into the valley of everyday life with the vision of the mountain top invites me to think about my path along the way, and slowly and I guess imperceptibly, things begin to change. Some of those mountain tops I don’t remember so clearly these days. But I remember that they happened. I remember what they meant to me. I remember what I thought about what was important to me then.
They are all still with me, for they have helped to bring me to where I am in life.
Perhaps these transfiguring events are caught up in my everyday life in ways I’m not completely clear about. Perhaps they are awakened or stirred with me as I read the scriptures, as I go to church and as I help others along the way. Maybe they have an accumulative affect in shaping who I will become.
Perhaps Jesus’ transfiguration and our mountain top experiences with him help us make sense of the cross and our struggles in life and have a way of bringing us through to the place where God plans to meet us face to face.
Perhaps these experiences really do point the way to who we are becoming.
Reflecting on worship January 13, 2013
(Taking the message with you…)
At our baptism, promises were made. When they begin to come true, when we begin to really experiences these gifts and see the reality of our baptisms coming to life in our hearts and relationships and in our lives, then we
too have little epiphanies (manifestations of the promises and presence of God).
How has your baptism been welling up in your life? Do you hear voices from God? Are there blessings that persist in your life, even in difficult times? Do you sometimes feel far away from these blessings and promises? Where might the epiphany of these gifts be in these kinds of times?
What would it be like to hear the voice of God inside of you saying; “You are my own, my beloved, with you I am well pleased”? Would we discount it, set it aside as unimportant? Perhaps
we are not used to receiving such messages from God so as to receive them well.
Where might the promises and evidence of our baptism have a real impact in our lives in the next while? How might we watch and hope for those moments so as to receive them well? May the living water of God’s activity, come and give us the promised life of God among us.
Preparing for Worship January 13, 2013
What kind of art paintings really impress you? Is it that which bears the clearest resemblance to how the world really looks? (I think they call this “Realism”) Perhaps you really enjoy art that catches a mood or an impression which is beyond or outside of a clear reproduction of its look (impressionism). What we look for and enjoy in art says something about how we see and what we look for in the world.
Now let me ask you an epiphany question; “Where have you seen God at work lately?” Even as I ask the question, I’m wondering to myself, “Is this a question that is more about where God is or about our seeing?” It is certainly about both. This is also an epiphany question, because where you see God at work is at some level an expression of God’s presence. It is a manifestation of God.
I like to engage in this spiritual question discipline (Where have you seen God at work lately), because it helps us engage in the art of looking to see God at work.
This art comes to expression in us in our baptisms, where God’s working in our lives begins to take root and plants itself in promise and community and faithfulness.
Maybe art and spirituality have more in common than we often realize. Perhaps coming to see God alive and at work in our lives and in the world around us is an artistic appreciation that comes with time and grace and our learning to see as well.
Thanks be to God who makes light and gives us sight, to God whose artistic expression fills the world around us and even seeks to shape the world we perceive.
Reflecting on Worship January 6th
(Taking the message with you)
Have any strangers come through your life recently? Have any brought news of hope and encouragement that surprised you? In this day and age, we do need to be alert and wary of those who would harm or steal. But sometimes God comes through our lives in the form of a stranger. The Magi came through Bethlehem with a perspective and a view to what had happened that surprised those who were with the child. These travelers journeyed long with a persistent eye toward a light in the heavens. They brought gifts but also made many wonder about the significance of this child. Sometimes God comes to us through those who are new to us.
Lives of faith will always engage in the struggle of the encounter with the stranger. It was the Good Samaritan who stopped to help the stranger beaten in the ditch (Luke 10). It was the three visitors who brought God’s presence to Abraham by the trees of Mamre (Gen 18). Perhaps in an occasional stranger passing through our lives, God will reach out and come near to us. This manifestation of God often comes to us new, unexpected and as though from afar or through a stranger.
To really engage God’s full presence in our lives, let us prepare ourselves to see and welcome those whom we have yet to meet, who show interest in knowing the light of Christ. Perhaps they are messengers of God. AMEN
I arose in darkness this morning. This time of year the dark of night flows into the working day. Huddled around the growing warmth of the wood stove, I sipped my coffee and watched the glimmer of day gathering in the East. In the black of the moonless sky the stars were strong in their shimmering contrast. I love these morning moments. They seem to speak of what God is doing. Just as the light persistently dawns, and the stars stand out in contrast to the night sky, so the coming of God, lightens and warms into our lives with promises that are persistent and reliable. This is the truth of Epiphany. Every moment we have is a good moment to keep an eye to the emerging grace and mercy of God. Slowly the light of God begins to illuminate the day ahead.
The Story of the Magi comes late in the story of Jesus’ birth. So far, only a few have heard tidings of the great wonder. Then enter the Magi, following the inviting movement of the star, traveling long to come and worship the one born King among the Jews. Now the story begins to spread even further. Herod tries to end it, but the action continues. Now it works its way down history into our lives as well.
This spreading of God’s coming isn’t always clear and bright – right in front of us. But more and more do come, the hope and illumination of God’s word continues. It is as through it comes to us as from afar, working and journeying to be made manifest to us. It grows bright as a sign of God’s presence with us. Even in the darkness of these winter mornings, there are signs of God’s presence, persistently bringing light and hope into our lives. I pray that this kindling warmth and dawning brightness will continue to show forth the grace of God alive among us, even now. Happy Epiphany!
Preparing for Worship December 30
I’m kind of glad there aren’t any stories from my tween years floating around in written form. It is interesting that we have one of Jesus. Holding together the youthful behavior of a young boy and the growing wisdom and understanding of God can be hard to imagine.
Our images of God don’t easily combine these characteristics. Yet, here in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is beginning to show signs of the insight and wisdom of God’s presence together with the impetuousness of a young boy.
Somehow the incarnation allows for this unity of human behavior and divine character. Among other things this suggests to me that we are loved as a people as much as the scriptures tell us, maybe more.
As we continue to search out Christmas and the wearing of the gifts that have flowed into our lives, we might also begin to think about one more gift that this child brings – a vision of how wondrous our humanity is in the sight of God. May the gifts of Christmas continue to be surprising!
Reflecting on Worship Dec. 23
(Taking the Message with You…)
What signs have you noticed that God’s promises are active and at work in you life? What community has sustained and upheld you when you needed it? How did this happen? Was God at work there? How did you know? How would you describe these fingerprints of God’s activity in your life?
Do you think you have somehow been the fingerprint of God in someone else’s life? Perhaps they told you how important your help or support and caring has been to them. When we touch people’s lives with God’s presence we aren’t always aware of it ourselves.
The Christmas Story comes to us as good news and a new view to this wonderful thing: God comes near to touch our lives in a very human way. The Christ Child from God suggests that God now comes to us in human ways and through other people. Jesus is not the only human through whom God comes. Whoever carries Christ also brings the touch of God. When the servants of Christ touch our lives or when other people do God’s work in our lives, it is a moment and a method ordained by God.
I tell you, in these moments, the Christmas Story continues to be lived out. In these moments the incarnation (the enfleshing) of God’s work leaves its fingerprint in our lives. In these moments the purposeful mercy of God touches our hearts and changes our lives. Christmas is this embrace of God. This gift we also can now share with others to whom God sends us.
How might God be preparing you for the work of bringing God’s touch (fingerprint) into the lives of those whom God wishes to sustain with grace, mercy and hope? This question is what Christmas is all about!
The Peace of the Lord, be with you always.
(preparing for Sunday December 23)
What kind of spoor can you identify? What is “spoor” you say? They are signs left behind – like foot prints. Wikipedia says, “Spoor is any sign of a creature or trace by which the progress of someone or something may be followed.” I always know when the deer have been in the garden, partly by the hoof prints in the soil and also by the nipped branches or partly eaten fruit between 2 to 4 feet high.
I can identify the prints of deer, dog, bear and people…. maybe geese too. Prints can tell you a lot. Where the prints are washed out or wind-blown can tell you about when they were left or the weather conditions or the ebb and flow of the tide since that time. They can also tell you about who or what has passed this way and perhaps what direction they were going. Depending on your mood or interest, they might even invite you to follow, to see where they may lead.
Over the years certain people have left indelible makes in my life. Many of them have influenced me positively and give me courage or better perspective or confidence for living. I can name scores of them by name and see their faces clearly. Others of them have faded from my memory, but I know in my soul that their influence has helped to shape who I am and what I care about.
The Apostle Paul writes something similar about people of faith connecting with other people, in 2 Corinthians 3:2-3. He says that we are each a letter from Christ for all to read, not written with ink but with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps wherever the Spirit of God touches our lives – right there is the touch and fingerprint of God. That print is left upon us so that others also may see the grace and mercy of God. Can you follow that print? It’s an amazing trail.
Preparing for Sunday Dec. 16
Luke 2:7-12 “…she wrapped Him in cloths,
and laid Him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.”
The prophets of old hungered for the nearness and vitality of God to be alive and present among God’s people. They called for it, yearned for it and warned of ignoring it. They spoke of it with power and conviction. Because of their passion and hope, many people would not receive them. Murder and death were tools often employed to silence those instruments of God.
To King David, God promised a righteous branch, a king from his own lineage who would reign on his throne forever, but David didn’t see it. He was left to wait and trust God.
There has always been a labor in loving God and waiting for God’s nearness. I call this, “The labor of discovering Jesus.” Even Mary is not spared the labor of bring the life of Jesus into the world, or the labor of watching the world attempt to snuff it out.
I want to suggest that there is not anything magic or easy about God’s coming among us in Jesus. It is filled with all the hard work of finding and having life in this world we all share. And it is filled with all the work and waiting and anticipation of long centuries of God’s people hoping for and desiring God’s strength and presence among God’s people.
Even when God finally does come (yes, it’s a miracle), but it’s not simple, or easy or magic. It is earthy and challenging and filled with the need for faith and hope and struggle that life has always been about.
Giving birth to Jesus in our communities and in our lives is never simple and I would never say it was easy… nor I think would Mary. It is filled with all the challenges of pregnancy and labor and giving birth. And when God’s nearness comes and is right on our door step, even there, our work of welcoming and preparing for, and giving Jesus the center of our lives, goes on.
Giving birth to Jesus in our lives and communities is not magic but it is the work of faith – and a gift that God brings into this difficult reality we call life. Come Lord Jesus!
With One Voice #629 “All Earth is Hopeful”