September 24, 2021
Have you ever felt like something prepared you for something else? You did something small that provided some comfort or confidence when the bigger thing came your way? When Jesus was providing some coaching on faithfulness, he said, “Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much…” For the longest time, I pictured God testing us with a little something, scoring us, and then determining what we could handle next. When I pause and reflect a little more on that image of God, I find it to be a rather troubling perception to have. I don’t believe God plays games with us. There are challenges every single day, challenges that are a part of being human. Most of them are small, yet our faith calls upon us to be responsive in a Christ-like way no matter how small it might be. A string of small successes, whether we thought of it in these terms or not, often prepares us to be faithful when something a bit more demanding comes our way. Don’t overlook or dismiss the small stuff because it is important by itself. At the same time, it might just be the rehearsal we need for what follows.
Your love inspires my faith, O Lord – a faith that seeks to emulate your love; a faith that never allows even the smallest opportunity to slip by; a faith modeled in the likeness of Jesus. Amen.
September 23, 2021
In the Episcopal Church, the Presiding Bishop is Michael Curry. At a recent meeting of the Bishops, he used the “narthex” as a sort of metaphor for where we are. The “narthex” is a church term for the lobby outside the sanctuary of a church building, a sort of middle space between the sanctuary and the outside. Curry said, “We are living in a narthex moment, between the world we knew and whatever is being born.” I like the image, and it struck me as I was sitting at the dentist’s office on Monday. I was waiting for a root canal, but I waited much longer than I was expecting. The dentist wasn’t sure if the root canal was going to work, and so there was this unknown as I sat there in the lobby. It may not be the best illustration, yet I think most of us have experienced a time of waiting, amidst great uncertainty. In Philippians 1, Paul writes about being confident in the One who has done a good work, and this One will find a way of bringing that good work to completion. The pathway to that completion is rarely without complication, and often leaves us waiting. It sort of feels as if we are waiting for God to call our number, our moment to join the new thing God is creating. Yet because it is an unknown, it is not always the most comfortable of waits.
O God, I am here, listening for your voice. As we all wait, with some feeling of uncertainty, provide us the hope of a new day born out of your transformative love. Amen.
September 22, 2021
I love Richard Rohr! He is a Franciscan Friar and author who brings such wonderful insights to life and faith and what it means to be a human being. In a recent Blog Post, he quoted the 14th century mystic, St. Catherine of Siena, who wrote: “It’s heaven all the way to heaven…” I won’t pretend to know what she meant by those words, but they resonated in my soul. What does the path look like where you have walked? Are people different, in a good way, because they encountered you along the path? Does the heaven you envision appear, even in glimpses, because you lived in breathed in the moment? In Colossians 3, we read: Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus… This doesn’t mean we simply walk around saying, “I’m walking in the name of the Lord. Now I’m brushing my teeth in the name of the Lord.” To do something in the name of someone, means you are seeking to emulate or reveal that person. There will be plenty of moments when we feel as if we fall short or maybe experience a complete flop. Yet if what we did emulated the love of Jesus and revealed the kindness of Jesus, then I’ve got to believe that moment represented heaven a bit more than had we chosen not to do it in the first place.
May the life I live contribute to making it heaven all the way to heaven. This is my humble commitment offered in your name, O Lord. Amen.
September 21, 2021
When I was attending church camp as a youth, we would sing the “Garden Song” by Pete Seeger. I loved that song, and I still find its opening verses coming back to my mind and lips, often for no apparent reason. It starts with these words:
Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
Gonna mulch it deep and low
Gonna make it fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Please bless these seeds I sow
Please keep them safe below
‘Til the rain comes tumbling down
Both the words and the melody give a sense of patience and process, encouraging us to provide the necessary time and space for creation to do its thing. So much of life is a series of steps, often very small deliberate steps toward a goal. In Psalm 37, it speaks of how our steps are made steady and secure by the Lord. Those words are found in a larger poetic offering about the righteous and the wicked, and how the righteous are about the work of justice, wisdom and goodness. Those are big and bold words, often tossed around indiscriminately without much appreciation for what they mean in the context of daily life. Might I suggest they are big and bold, and for that reason we must honor every little step, every little action as part of the work toward these high ideals. In the Bible, the garden is an image of a world formed by God’s justice, wisdom and goodness. And Pete reminds us how no garden bears the fruit easily or quickly.
Guide my every step, O Lord, as I seek to walk with you and choose a path that will honor you and the vision you have for this world. Amen.
September 20, 2021
Prayer for the Week: Hope of the Universe, we are drained and exhausted, left feeling as if where we find ourselves is where we will be. There is anger in the streets, voices crying from beneath the boot of exploitation, the lonely driven deeper into despair and the grieving unable to speak their pain. We are tired and there is an emptiness felt deep within us. Yet from the shadows seeking to impair our vision of the possible, we refuse to give in. There is a spark deep within each of us, a hint of your divine image. And from there, we feel the movement of your Spirit giving life and oxygen to that spark. By your grace, we believe its light will grow within us, and then stretch from us and into the lives of others. You are the Hope of the Universe, while being the hope in every moment of our daily lives. This is our testimony in the name of Christ. Amen.
September 19, 2021
Once again, I have been fascinated by SpaceX’s trip into orbit with four “tourists.” What does it mean to venture into the unknown? Yes, these four individuals received training, but they were not professional astronauts. They were crossing a threshold, one that very few have ever crossed. And though SpaceX has shown their rockets to be quite safe and reliable, those sitting in the capsule were willing to take a risk and go into space. I see folks like that, and it makes me wonder where I am being invited to take a risk. Where is it that my life is intersecting with an opportunity of faithfulness, yet that opportunity will demand something of me, something significant. Peter, one of the disciples, was adamant when he announced his willingness to die for Jesus (Mark 14:31), but as the story progresses, those were just words. When the time came, Peter was the first to deny Jesus. In worship today, we will all make some pretty bold statements that imply our willingness to take a risk. What happens on Monday when those statements intersect with an opportunity to be faithful?
Holy God, give me the strength to take my faithful declarations into the world, allowing them to become faithful actions on your behalf… even if it requires a little risk. Amen.
SEE YOU IN WORSHIP
9am & 11am
September 18, 2021
Jesus did many things well, but two in particular were: Telling stories and asking questions. And when you think about a story, especially when it does not conclude with a fable-like moral, there is often an indirect question or two being asked. A story draws you in, and you’re often left asking, “How would I have responded?” In Mark 3:4, Jesus asks a question of those around him: Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill? Those gathered remained silent. Whether woven into a story or directly spoken, the question often confronts us directly. There is a range of reactions, everything from curiosity to anger, delight to discomfort. It makes me wonder if Jesus, when asking questions or telling stories, was not always looking for an answer or a specific lesson to be learned. Maybe he was looking for what happened within the individual, the reaction, the curiosity? Rob Bell uses the image of diving into a pool of water and swimming toward the bottom, never to find a final destination. Yet one continues to swim deeper and explore more intensely. If you believe God is the Eternal Other, never to be fully known by the human mind, then maybe the questions of faith are not necessarily seeking answers as they are beckoning us to explore without ceasing.
Create within me, Eternal God, a yearning to seek and explore with a joyful curiosity. Let the struggles, and the questions that only raise more questions, continue to push me toward you and the life-providing gifts you give. Amen.
September 17, 2021
There are times when I come across something funny in scripture that was probably never intended to be funny. Many of these times the humor is sort of inappropriate, or shows my immaturity and complete lack of taste. In Matthew 9:27, we read: “As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’” How exactly do the blind men follow Jesus? In fact, it goes on to tell us that the blind men followed Jesus into a house. When I push my childish thoughts aside, it does allow for my imagination to step to the forefront. There was a risk for anyone to follow Jesus, but a very imminent danger for a blind person trying to navigate what must have been a rough road, with many obstacles. Yet when I think about these blind men standing up and trying to follow Jesus, I imagine this intoxicating lure they could not ignore. When I take a risk for my faith, I don’t usually think about my very next step as a potential hazard. Yet maybe risk-taking faithfulness is always that close.
Inspiring and Alluring God, I try my best to listen for your call; to be attentive to your presence; to respond in love. I try, but I remain thankful for your grace that challenges me to move from failure to risk-taking for the sake of Jesus and the world he loves. Amen.
September 16, 2021
In Matthew 9:4, Jesus, after perceiving the thoughts of some of the religious leaders of the day, asked the question: “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could perceive people’s thoughts and know their hearts? Of course, if we could gain this internal insight of others, they would be able to see the same within us. Suddenly, I am a bit more hesitant of wanting this kind of spiritual intuition. Even when we do the right thing, our thoughts and intentions might not mirror the rightness of our actions. Of course, in this specific situation, Jesus was being confronted by those who were seeking to sound all righteous and good, but not do the right and good thing. I don’t want to beat them up too much as I think we’ve all been there. It makes me wonder if I have ever spread a thick coat of religious BS over an excuse in hopes that no one would questioned the excuse. And in the end, did I sort of believe it myself? Through the Holy Spirit, I think Jesus continues to perceive our thoughts and know our hearts, and it often manifests itself in an uneasiness or a heaviness in the spirit. Though I do not believe Jesus is wanting us to wallow in guilt, an acknowledgment of where our head and heart reside is important as we seek to manifest the Love First Life (1st John 4:19).
May my thoughts, words and actions find harmony. Though I struggle to bring my whole-self into every moment and situation of life, Merciful God, I seek the unifying gift of your Spirit in the work I do. Amen.
September 15, 2021
There is a rather significant difference between denying oneself and being in denial. In fact, I would suggest that many people who are in denial are unable to deny themselves as Jesus taught. In Luke 9:23, Jesus shared with his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Denial is a very normal reaction in grief or trauma, and it is an act of self-preservation. It is intended to be part of the journey to health, but when we remain in denial, for whatever reason, we can never deny ourselves and take up the cross, the life of self-giving love. If I am in denial about my own fears, insecurities, hate, selfishness, etc. it will be impossible to find the strength of faith to deny myself and to seek the way of Jesus. So many people remain in denial when it comes to their own unhealthiness. I must first be a healthy person (not a perfect person) before I can be a healthy expression of Jesus’ self-giving love. Maybe this is the reason Jesus told his disciples to love their neighbor as they loved themselves. Can we really love our neighbor if we are not in a good place with self? We all have moments of denial, but denying those parts of us standing in opposition to the Jesus-life makes it hard to share the Jesus-life.
You are good and you are gracious, O Lord, and you work in so many marvelous ways. You work to bring health and peace to our lives, for it is only then that we can be the people you created us to be. Assist us as we do the necessary work, setting the stage for a life capable of stretching itself toward the high ideal manifest in the cross. Amen.