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Showing posts from 2013

Wild and Holy is Our God (Sermon)

Advent 2 Ezekiel 37:1-14             God is wild and holy, untamed by our efforts to tame, contain, or fully understand. The book of Ezekiel reveals some of the nature of a wild and holy God. The prophet Ezekiel speaks to the people of Israel as they are in exile in Babylon. He is among the first deportation from Israel and is still there as two generations of children have been born on Babylonian soil.             Ezekiel rails against Israel’s idolatry (worshipping of other gods) and failure to trust in the covenant God has made with them. He receives and presents visions of God’s holiness that pursues Israel in a chariot, seeking to overtake them, even as God’s people flee to other paths.             Ezekiel notes the unfaithfulness of the people again and again. In almost the same breath, he pours forth promises from the Lord that the covenant will still be upheld from the Lord’s end. That God will not fail to keep God’s word is the refrain of the f

Ubi Caritas

Originally posted at RevGalBlogPals .             This past Sunday, I read The Sparkle Box to a group of children. The premise behind this book is that a family notes the things they do to help other people during the Christmas season. They write down their efforts- donating to blankets, funding a well, giving mittens- and put the slips of paper in a sparkly box under the tree. Their deeds are their gift to Jesus on his birthday.             As I read the story to the kids, who were very engaged, I also explained how we could do this kind of thing, not just at Christmas, but also during any time of the year. Even as I spoke, I watched the reactions of parents. I could see some who were nodded and interested. I could also see those who were skeptical and some who frowned.             I knew some of the frowners wanted to point out that the man who was sleeping in the park could have made better choices, that food distribution goes to support “welfare queens”, that b

God's Best to Our Worst

1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 51:10-14             Two years ago, a man called the church and asked to come speak with me. When we met, he told me that his son had died from suicide over twenty years before. At his son’s funeral, the pastor lamented that it was too bad that the man’s son was in hell, using the opportunity (a funeral!) to warn others against suicide. This warning, of course, ignores the fact that most people who are considering suicide feel as though they are in hell already.             So, two years, this man, this grieving father, came to talk to me about heaven. In particular, he had a little booklet about heaven that he had carried around for about ten years. He’d read the slick pages over and over until they were soft and floppy. He wanted to question me about the specifics of heaven. In particular, he was very concerned about the idea that we will be able to recognize other people in heaven.             He felt that if he was able to see who WA

God's Servants Are Never Retired

1 Samuel 3:1-21             Since Samuel is a child when God calls him and his work as a prophet begins immediately, this story usually focuses on that fact alone. We use that information to underline the fact that God calls and works through all kinds of people- regardless of age, experience, or even knowledge of the Lord (see: “Samuel did not yet know the Lord”). Many of us have heard this part of the story lifted up so many times; we begin to miss the other details in the story.             Pretend you never heard this story before. This is entirely fresh to you- as an adult. You have not been hearing about Samuel for 20, 30, 40, 70 years. Instead, you’re hearing this for the first time. What might stand out to you? -        Eli knows who is talking to Samuel. -        Eli is punished for his sons’ misdeeds (or for ignoring them). -        Eli’s call is undone so that Samuel can be called. -        Samuel’s first experience as a prophet is to retire his

I AM is Enough (Sermon 9/29)

Exodus 2:23-25; 3:10-15; 4:10-17             When I was graduating from college, I accepted a position to be the deputy news director of KNOM radio in Nome, Alaska- (KNOM, Yours for Western Alaska). I took this position over offers in for positions in England and in Boston. At the time, it seemed like God had given me many choices and I got to choose from several great options.             Moving to Nome led to loving Alaska. Loving Alaska led to meeting and dating Rob. Marrying Rob led to staying in Alaska. Staying in Alaska led to restricting where I was available for call. Restricting meant that I was available to come here. Coming here meant that we learned to live with and love each other. Living with one another means that I was here to do the premarital counseling for Joyce and Bryan, preach at their wedding, pray during their medical emergencies, frustrate Bryan by my softball ineptitude, have the privilege of baptizing their children.            

God is like...

I received this prompt for prayer writing in my email today from Rachel Hackenberg at :  A frequent scriptural image used to identify God's faithfulness is rock. "For who is God except the LORD? And who is a rock besides our God?" (Psalm 18:31) I thought that I might write a prayer today using new images for God's faithfulness . . . but to my surprise, I'm stumped! What is more constant than a rock?! My cell phone, which is constantly by my side? It will glitch and die just before its two-year contract expires. The sun, rising every morning? Its lifespan is only as long as the day. The river, with its endless run toward the ocean? Its paths are ever-shifting and eroding, and its ecosystem varies depending upon pollution, salinity, droughts & floods. So I pose the challenge to you for your creativity in prayer: what image of faithfulness might you use to describe God?  I wrote this prayer, which doesn't exactly capture the idea of f

My Brother's Not Heavy. Jesus Said So.

I’ve been thinking about the cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) last week. Remember the House voted 217 to 210 to separate SNAP from the farm bill. The legislation that passed will significantly reduce SNAP funding in the next four years. Good! Too many people abuse that program. Too many people sit around- expecting handouts. Do you really think that? Do you truly believe the majority of food stamp (SNAP) recipients are just sitting around, doing nothing, and waiting for the mail? Yes, I do. I’ve been to the grocery store on the day the benefits come out. It’s crazy. Did you think it might be because people didn’t have the funds to go shopping prior to that day? Maybe their spare cash went to rent or a car payment. Or to cable or to pay for an iPhone. What would satisfy you in this scenario? There are genuinely people who cannot make ends meet. Do you care at all about that? Let them get a second job. Who will watc

Notes on Jacob

(These notes were my "back-up" reflection for Sunday 9/22/13. God delivered a much more intense word in reality. The audio is in this post .) Genesis 27:1-4, 15-23; 28:10-17             For me, the stories of Genesis begin to feel “real” when Jacob appears on the scene. I understand Abraham as the “Father-of-many” and father of our faith. I sympathize with Isaac- in the binding, in the grief of the death of his parents, etc. However, Jacob- wrestling within the womb, grasping all he can, wanting more than he can define clearly, and prepared to do anything to get it- Jacob is a truly fleshed-out character, a human being, a person who makes the Scriptures pop and sing. After all, why would this ancestor be included, with his cheating and tricky ways, except that through him, we understand (like many generations before us) that God is no respecter of persons.             Jacob comes out of the womb clinging to Esau’s heel and spends the rest of his childh

Sacrifice (Sermon 9/15/13)

Genesis 21:1-3; 22:1-14             Sacrifice.             The life of faith is one of sacrifice. That’s the truth of it. Sacrifice on the part of God and sacrifice on the part of those who trust God, who want to trust God, who work to trust God.             Sacrifice.             Frankly, in a religious system that requires those who believe to tell others- sacrifice is among the LEAST appealing words. No one sings, “I love to tell the story. It is fierce and gory/ To tell the old, old story/ of Abr’m and his son.” We are squeamish at the songs that are about blood, about sacrifice, about giving up all our things, about the less- than- stellar human rights record of the church and its equally dull historical response to evil.             Sacrifice.             It is also difficult to realize that even reading Scripture requires sacrifice. There are things that cannot all be true when we read Scripture as a whole. We all generally have a habit of consi

Understanding Martha: We're Doing it Wrong

Pentecost 9 (Year C) 21 July 2013 Genesis 18:1-10a; Luke 10:38-42             With this cartoon in mind, I think that the common interpretation of this story might have been wrong for several hundred years. Each story in Scripture has three contexts, all of which we are relying on the Holy Spirit and God’s gift of reason to help us interpret. With today’s gospel reading, we have to determine what was happening when the actual event occurred, why the writer thought it was important to include over nearly fifty years later, and what God is saying to us today with regard to the story.          When Jesus first came to Bethany and stayed with Martha and Mary, he already knows them. They are friends of his. Martha is apparently the older sister, since the house is listed as hers. Maybe there is some sibling rivalry between Mary and Martha (younger and older) or maybe Martha has always done most of the work. Regardless, Martha has begun the culturally