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Showing posts from December, 2008

Ordinary People- Extraordinary God (Sermon 12/21)

2 SAMUEL 7:1-11, 16; LUKE 1:46B-55; ROMANS 16:25-27; LUKE 1:26-38


Do you ever think much about David and Mary having anything in common? David is that king of Israel, whose story we know so well, better than, say, Zerubbal and Jehosophat. Mary is the woman who bears the Son of God. Many years separate them and, technically, they are not related since Joseph is the descendant of David, not Mary.

But in today’s readings, chosen by the lectionary elves for this last Sunday before Christmas, are combined to highlight David and Mary together. The goal of the readings, however, isn’t to shine the light on these two as examples of faith. The goal is that the light of God’s promise of Christ and in Christ would shine through them, through them and onto us.

At the beginning of his life, David was a shepherd. He had, perhaps, an enviable life of watching sheep, fighting clear enemies and composing praise songs to God. Until Samuel appeared and anointed him, David’s life was ordinary, p…

Essential Passage #8 (Romans 5:1-5)

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained accessto this grace in which we stand; and weboast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

I've been thinking recently about Blue Christmas services. I wish I had early enough to have held on at my church- a service for people who want to, or need to, acknowledge the pain in their lives, losses they've experienced, their struggle to find or feel joy. A Blue Christmas service is one where the cross shines all the more brightly through the straw of the manger. A Blue Christmas service is a reminder, in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that only …

Friday Five: The Eyes have it

The Friday Five questions come from here.


1. What color are your beautiful eyes? Did you inherit them from or pass them on to anyone in your family?

Due to my maternal-side Eastern European heritage and a genetic tendency on my paternal side, I have abnormally dark brown eyes for my complexion. When I was an infant, people consistently asked my parents if I had been adopted [from Asia] because of my dark eyes. Because they are deep-set (another genetic trait), they aren't as obvious now.

2. What color eyes would you choose if you could change them?

I always like green eyes and if I had to change, I might go to that bright color. However, I'm partial to my own eyes (at least their color, if not their level of sightedness).

3. Do you wear glasses or contacts? What kind? Like 'em or hate 'em?

I wear glasses. I've worn glasses since I was five and it became obvious that I could not see the school bus headed up the street toward my house... until it was practically in f…

Essential Passage #7- Genesis 1:1-2

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2 (NRSV)

This is an essential passage of Scripture for me because of the nature of God that is revealed here. In contrast to what we are able to do, God is able to bring about creation out of nothing, in fact, out of a void. The Hebrew word for that void stirs my imagination.

Hebrew: tohu wabohu (TOE-hoo vah-VOE-hoo or wah- BOE-hoo)

Tohu - root word (unused) meaning to lie waste
- “formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness”, “place of chaos”, “vanity”
- Reference: Job 26:7

Bohu - “from unused root meaning to be empty”
- emptiness, void, waste

____
Though other citations point to the use of the words empty or void, the passages do not convey the same absolute emptiness that seems to be implied by the writer of Gen. 1. Tohu wabohu, used specifically here from typically unused roots, c…

Preparing for a Visit (Sermon 12/7)

Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8


The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. There are no shepherds, no angels, no manger, no silent night and no verbs. Yes, verbs- action words. In this first sentence of Mark, there are no verbs. So, where is the action?

Is this the start of the story of the ministry of Jesus the Christ, starting with the proclamation of John the Baptizer? Or does the story begin with the prophesy in Isaiah, when Israel is still in exile in Babylon and God says, “Well, they are just not getting my message. I’m going to have to try something different.”

In the Isaiah text, we hear the call to prepare a way in the wilderness, a way for the Lord. So, through Isaiah’s words, the people were called to get ready for a royal visit. What comes with a royal visit? Well, what comes with having guests over to your house? Countertops are suddenly exposed to daylight, bathrooms get fresh towels, corners are vacuumed, minor repairs are made…

Strange and new

I've been reading many conversations lately among church leaders (clergy and lay) and scholars centered around the questions, "Why does church matter?" and "How does church matter?" In a world that constantly harps on "change" (with very little seeming to actually do so), how can a two-thousand year old institution still offer something that people need?

To answer this question for myself, I have been looking for something to read to stir my imagination. Granted, God's word does this for me all the time. But part of encountering the Living Word, for me, involves going into the Bible with a guide (the Holy Spirit) and a partner (some other theologian- living or dead, clergy or lay).

My newest hunting partner is G.K. Chesterton. While I would not say that G.K. and I will become best buddies- he's a good hunting partner with sharp spiritual eyes, stirring me to looking for new signs and shapes of God's work in the world. So I have begun…

December Newsletter Article

“Comfort, oh comfort my people, says your God… A voice cries out: “In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:1, 3

“Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; the [other] ninety-nine will read the Christian.” Dwight Moody, American evangelist and theologian

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, unless you’re on a budget, you’ve lost your job, you’re lonely, your diet is restricted, you’re over-obligated…How is it that in October- a simple Christmas sounds wonderful, but comes November 1st, we’re in a race to “survive” the season?

The thing is, even though we all know the story of Christmas, we forget the feeling of Christmas. Somewhere in the shopping, the hurrying, the traditions… we lose sight God’s call to us.

We are not called, at this time of the year, to point to the manger and say, “Hey, that’s what this is really all about.” We’re called to stop at the manger and linger. Think of the shepherds…

Waiting (Sermon- Advent 1)

Advent is certainly a season of waiting. Waiting in lines, waiting online, waiting on hold, waiting to go to the airport, waiting at the airport, waiting to start eating, waiting to see if someone else will volunteer, waiting to really sing Christmas carols (instead of humming them under your breath because you know it’s really Advent and we have 23 days before Christmas carols are appropriate).

All this anticipation, build-up and then… Easter has a nice big finish, an empty cross, an echoing tomb and Jesus in the garden, speaking to Mary Magdalene. Advent winds us up and then drops us, gently, but drops us… into the soft light of the manger, where we crowd in with shepherds, animals and everyone else who wants to see what the fuss is about.

We wait. We wait. We wait.

When people ask me what it is like to be a pastor, I usually figure out some way to relate it to work they understand- it’s teaching, public speaking, counseling, things like that. I was ordained to the ministry…

Monday, Monday....

My spirit, apparently, was so excited about my sabbath day today that it woke me up at 4:30 am. I tried my usual middle of the night routine, praying for people I know and trying to relax tight muscles. While it was good to pray for people, I've now been awake for nearly 3.5 hours.

So now I'm sitting in a coffee shop. I have six letters to write, a journal to write in, this book and this book to start reading and thousand of blog ideas in my mind. It IS my day off... so I try to diminish the level of work-related things I deal with or think about, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Mondays, in general, tend to be a day of active prayer and contemplation for me.

So, I have some hot apple cider now and a toasted bagel. Monday, Monday... here I go...!