Sunday, April 30, 2017

Confirmation



Today was my son's confirmation.

First and foremost...how in the world do I have a son old enough for confirmation?  That doesn't make sense.  I mean, sure he is only an inch shorter than I am.  Sure he is in 7th grade...almost 8th.  Gulp...that much closer to driving.  Sure, the years seem to have flown past in some ways.  But confirmation...eek!

To confirm is a great word in the church.  We confirmed today that our youth/young adults are beloved children of God.  We confirmed today that the spirit is moving in amazing ways in their lives.  We affirmed that God's grace has brought them thus far on the way.  We confirmed our prayer that God would continue to bless, guide, and love them every day.  And we definitely confirmed that this is not the end of the journey...not at all!

The joke usually goes that you don't see a youth after you confirm them.  But sometimes our attempts at humor make reality rather than point toward it.  Are we giving our youth/young adults reasons to stick around?  Are we helping them see that we are not finished...and they have much that could help the church in this time?  After all, I don't see my son as the church of the future, he is the church of today.  He has been there listening to my sermons, putting up with my schedule, and a part of my life for thirteen years now.

Today was a sign post to confirm my life for him.  To affirm that I will keep walking this road with him.  That when he questions God, wanders away, wonders if maybe this church thing is too much, or simply needs a break, I will keep loving him.  That is what I confirmed today.  And I sense it exactly what God confirmed as well.  I can only pray one day, my son will experience that as the biggest truth in his life.  Until then, I keep walking with him in the mystery of Easter faith.

I pray you feel the confirming and affirming love of God this day.

Grace and peace ~~

Friday, April 28, 2017

Easter as Prayer



As much as Easter sings to our head, heart, and soul...it is an invitation to prayer.

Prayer not only as monologue...but both an experience and exploring.

Prayer need not only be bowing our heads and launching words heavenward.

Sometimes prayer is moving.

Ancient ancestors said..."It is solved by walking".

And "it" is whatever we keep lugging and whatever keeps tugging at us.

A relationship?
Something in our head, heart, soul?
A decision we need to make?
Trying to stay healthy emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

To solve "it" by walking help us.
As we move, our body burns calories.
As we move, the soles of our feet are connected to our very souls.
As we move, our hearts beat warmly.

When the disciples in Luke 24 encountered and experienced Jesus on the road of life, they hearts were strangely warmed.  They were caught up in a holy moment that would forever change their life.
Without every uttering word, I believe in that moment, the disciples were in prayer.
Prayer of listening to Jesus open side doors of scripture.
Prayer of moving about.
Prayer of exploring and experience.
Prayer of discovery and discerning the still speaking God.

Prayer...it is solved by walking.
Which is exactly what I am going to do now.

Grace and peace ~~

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Easter as Experiencing



And talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them.  Luke 24:14-15

If Easter begins with exploring, it is also a season to experience.  Whereas exploring is active, sometimes an experience happens beyond our constant control.  Exploring puts us in the driver's seat, setting the course.  Experiencing is an invitation to enter into a moment where maybe we don't have everything figured out.  Often experiences put us in the passenger seat, there might be unexpected or unseen exit ramps.

Explore...experience...in a beautiful dance.  One where we take the lead and the other where we are whisked around twirling in the arms of the holy.  Of course there are many experiences where we follow our plots and plans to a "T".  But other times, things go awry and astray quickly.  I am thinking specifically here of family vacations.  We try so hard to make sure our time together is meaningful...magically.  But then, usually in the middle of the week, the wheels come off.  All the together time starts to confine us.  Something we wanted to do has a hiccup that causes our schedule to go out the window.  We bicker.  Arms get crossed...things get said...that we almost immediately regret.  Experiences are invitations to be in the moment.  It isn't about the past...making this vacation as great as last year.  It isn't about the future...if we don't see the biggest ball of twine right now the whole week is ruined...ruined I say! (Sometimes we get a big overly dramatic).  To experience this moment...in all its beautiful mystery.  Really, stuck in traffic?  When we suddenly start to share one highlight of the trip so far.  Or we start singing with the radio...much to my son's disappointment.

Experience this moment because it is overflowing with more than we could possibly explore.  Experience this moment because it is enough.  Experience here and now.  I wonder if part of what led the disciples down the dusty road to Emmaus is trying to process the pain of the past.  They walked and talked about all that had happened.  From casting down cloaks, being open and vulnerable.  To breaking bread with friends to heartache and heartbreak of God's friend to the idle tales of Easter...trying to make sense of it all.  They had experienced it...and now they are looking at the rear view mirror.  A great author said, "Life is lived forward but understood backwards."

There is much grace in processing the past experiences.  To constantly be open may not be realistic or fully realized for us.  It is hard to be a monk or mystic when the laundry needs to be done.  But sometimes folding the clothes causes my wife and I to start laughing...in that experience I remember that in the not-so-empty tomb there was an abiding joy of God moving in amazing ways.

That still is true for us today...may we experience that truth this day and this week.

Grace and peace ~~

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Easter as Exploring


Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem.  Luke 24:13

We are in the midst of the fifty days of Easter.  Sometimes as the church doesn't do a great job of explaining that Easter is more than one day.  To be sure, the brass of last Sunday, the fuller-than-usual- sanctuary, the chocolate bunnies and festivities...all help to contribute to the sacredness stirring around us.  Yet, we keep on gathering.  We keep on exploring the not-so-empty tomb.  To say or suggest that some how one Sunday could contain or fully comprehend Easter, is not exactly the whole truth.  Rather, we keep returning and rewinding to Easter.  We keep hanging and hovering around the mystery to see if there is something yet that might help us be drenched in the possibility and promise of resurrection.

Luke keeps us on Easter day when two disciples set out for Emmaus.  They are exploring.  This is a vital part of an Easter faith.  To explore often points us toward a new place.  To explore is to go off our carefully drawn maps and usual paths.  To explore is to set our feet on roads that are new.  Where in your life does the metaphor of exploring sing and speak to your heart?   Is there something you are trying for the first time in April?  Or planning for a vacation?  New relationship?  Or maybe the exploring invitation came unexpectedly and not exactly what you wanted.  Maybe it is new treatment or a new living situation or a relationship that has ended.  There are lots of different ways we are asked to explore in our day-to-day living.

What does the word, "Explore" awaken within you?  Do you see it as positive or negative?  Cause apprehension or appreciation to stir and swirl within you?

To explore for me reminds me that I never have faith fully figured out.  I need to keep trudging off the edges of what I have already experienced...where I feel comfortable and complacent.  Easter is an invitation to explore.  How can this truth stir your life this week and guide you as the not-so-empty tomb to let resurrection light warm your life?

I pray you will keep exploring in this season of Easter.

Grace and peace ~~

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

More than a day



Easter is not just one day....
In the ancient tradition, we are invited into fifty days to stand...
Soak...
Be simmered...
Saturated in resurrection promise.

It is not just one and done...
It is not just when the chocolate bunny carton is thrown in the recycling...
It isn't even when all that artificial plastic Easter grass is finally out of your carpet...
(Although that might be more than fifty days).
Easter is a continual invitation to enter back into the empty tomb to gaze and glace around.

What did you miss on Easter Sunday with family and friends and food?
Did you miss the angels saying, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
Because I might still be doing that.
Did you miss that when the disciples heard what the women had encountered and experienced some thought it an idle tale??
Took the disciples awhile to realize what resurrection might mean for their lives too.

For fifty days to practice resurrection.
You could write down one place of new life every day...
A moment of laughter
A list of joys
A prayer for God to move in to the emptiness.
A moment to turn from clinging to the withered leaves of life and let go so God might fill your life with new light.
How can you spend fifty days in the rhythm of resurrection?
There is no one right answer.
But we need to prayerful/pray-filled and playful.
If Easter is anything it is that.
A spirit of communion with God.
A moment of grace that sets our souls dancing.
So practice resurrection.
Go out with good news that God is not finished and we don't have to have it all figured out.
But with openness and grace and love...God is up to something here and now.
So lets go explore and experience and encounter what that might be in the coming fifty days.

Grace and peace ~~  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Prayer


Empty is usually a word that leaves us wanting.
An empty container that once held M & M...
An empty heart that once was full of love.
An empty place in our souls where we long for God to move in and take up permanent residence.

Empty on this day turns the world and that word upside down.
Suddenly empty makes room for wonder.
Empty invites us to open our imaginations.
Empty...but not really because there is something still there...
Grave clothes left in a heap like laundry on the floor.
Left hastily, haphazardly, and with a whole heart because Christ knew that Good Friday was not a period, or even a Roman explanation point, but a comma,,,,,,
A comma of God's still crafting and creating something out of chaos and confusion.
Easter Sunday is a re-creation of life in a new way...out of what seems empty, we realize true life.
Death doesn't have the final say.
Even a sealed tomb (or heart or life) might one day be broken and burst open.
Even what first appears empty has some tossed aside grave clothes no longer needed because Christ is clothed in glory and grace that is shining bright.

At first the women didn't see that.
They saw the emptiness because that morning when they started out that felt emptiness.
Our life is passed along and reflected like a projector onto the world around us.
They saw the emptiness because their world was flat, gray...
In flash two men speaking about Jesus not here, he is risen.
In the chaos of that moment, with the messenger's words echoing off the stone cold tomb, they still rang hallow and empty.
But as the words settled and simmered.
As they soaked and saturated.
Memories were awoken that had fallen asleep amid everything else.
Jesus had spoke of suffering, denial, and death.
Jesus had said there was more to come.
Jesus had shined the light...only we kept staring at the empty darkness of the tomb.

So turn...
Turn toward the sun that is baptizing and bathing the world in resurrection grace.
Turn toward the One who is still saying, emptiness makes room for love, so come and follow me.
Turn toward the world...God so love...with a promise that God is not finished yet.
May this prayer move in your life every day with a grace, peace, and love of God.

Amen.

Friday, April 14, 2017

God's Friday



Stunned silence hovered and hung in the air all around the people at the cross.
A heavy grief, like a winter's coat in August caused everyone's shoulders to slouch.
Why...
How...
What now?
More questions than answers.
More doubts than certainty.
More pain than could be processed in that moment.
But the women and other followers stood their, rooted to the ground, not being able to move.
Like a tree whose roots had sunk deep, they just gawked and gazed and occasionally let out a sigh too deep for words...but a sound of the sigh like the soul breaking apart.

Good Friday invites us into the most intimate of mystery...death.
Death of Jesus....God's son.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
He was going to overthrow the Roman rule...so some thought.
He was going to call all the peasants to revolt and revolution...so others thought.
He was going to be around forever since he was God...so others had concluded.

But this...a cross?
An tool of Roman power.
Like a missile shot;
Like a gun drawn;
Like a muscle shown.
The cross proclaimed loud and clear that there are consequences for those who try to color outside the line...there is a high penalty for playing with the Roman elites.
So with sarcastically they sketched on the cross, "The King of the Jews" so others would remember who really ruled the kingdom.  Caesar would not be overthrown so easily.
Not power.
Not prestige.
Not privilege....
But weakness.
And vulnerability.
And a willingness to face death itself.

God didn't need Jesus to die to settle a balance sheet.
God didn't want Jesus to suffer because of anger.
God wanted us to be fully alive.
God wanted us to remember and reclaim and rejoice that we are each created in God's image.
God wanted us to see Christ as a way to realize fully human and fully divine is a truth imprinted on every soul.
But we couldn't take it...still can't which is why we explain away Jesus' death like a debt settled.
Better to think in terms of transaction, because otherwise it would ask for a transformation of our whole life.
A transformation where non-violence, loving your enemies, and seeing God in all things, even suffering on a cross.
That truly would change everything, especially me.

May the God whose suffering this day changes and challenges and reclaims our whole lives embrace you and transform your heart.

Grace and peace ~