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 ~

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Midweek Holy Week Prayer



On Maundy Thursday Eve, we make ready to step into the streams of disciples who have feasted at the Last Supper.
Grandmothers who kneaded the dough,
Vine dressers who grew the grapes.
Faithful folks who ironed the communion cloth and poured just the right amount of juice into tiny cups.
Christ bids all of us to come...there is a place set for you and plenty of room to spear.
Jesus took a loaf of ordinary, every day bread...just as you did for lunch.
But he torn it in half.
Sending crumbs scattered around the table.
Broken bread given to broken disciples.
One who betrayed him and had one foot out the door already.
One who stood at a distance and denied he knew him.
All the others ran away, deserted him into the darkness of the night, afraid to face the powers that be.
We take a tiny cube of bread perfectly cut, but the truth is messier.
The truth is we all know betray, desertion, and denial.
We have had words like that fall from our lips...and been on the receiving end of those painful moments from others.
We know...broken bread every bit as much as the earliest disciples did.

But...
Whereas...
Therefore...
Jesus continued...brokenness was not the last word.
He took a cup of healing and wholeness.
Promise and presence.
The fruit of the vine that reminds us of our still creating God...echoing Genesis 1 where God began to create...which was to imply that God is not finished with us yet.
Sip the juice that reminds us of grace.
Dunk, saturate and soak the bread in love.
Taste and see that God is good.

An ordinary loaf of bread and juice some say.
But for me, it is a table of plenty,
A table of acceptance and embrace.
A table of wholeness for the whole people of God.
Come, come all who hunger and thirst.
Come, come all who have ever shaken your head at this messy world.
Come, come all who have ever asked, "Why" or "How long"?
Come to Christ's table where you will not find memorized answers, but a presence of God.
Come to Christ's table where you will find peace.
Come to Christ's table where people have and continue to gather to celebrate in remembrance of Jesus.

Amen.

Grace and peace ~

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday Prayer



The cacophony of the crowd sounded like random chaos,
You couldn't make out a word of what was being shouted.
Some cheered that Jesus would overthrow the powers that be,
others jeered that this itinerant preaching was making matters worse,
some just shouted, stirring the pot to see what would happen.
Along the parade route that day, the crowd was diverse and there for different reasons.
Some looking to take up arms,
Others throwing up their arms,
And others still just waiting to see what happened.

So into that chaos Jesus rode a humble donkey.
Just as into the chaos in the beginning God's simply spoke a word.
Creativity in the midst of uncertainty.
Something completely different when everyone had an opinion of what should be.

Palm Sunday ushers in our Holiest Week.
But behind and beneath and beyond our waving branches, singing, "Hosanna", what do we really want from Jesus this year?
Do we want him to liberate us with love?
Do we want him to overthrow and upend the world as we know it?
Do we want him to confirm our ways as God's ways, rather than challenging our ways with God's?
Those kinds of questions make us wonder, wonder, wonder...
Not only were we there on Good Friday, but what about Palm Sunday?
Were we there waving branches, not even considering what would happen later in the week?
Were we there cheering Jesus on, even as the disciples we had one foot out the door?
Were we there...knowing we wouldn't be on Thursday or Friday...not until lilies filled the sanctuary?

To be there is still to be invited into the holiest story we know.
A story of grace from green branches,
A story of love broken open in bread and grace poured out in a cup,
A story of struggle and suffering and even death...which is our deepest vulnerabilities revealed.
A story of the most unlikely, outlandish endings...life from an empty tomb.
Not something we can easily fold up and carry with us.
But a great truth that can change our very lives.

An ordinary palm branch...how do you wave it today??
How might this year, our sacred story enter your heart with a tender tenacity that can upend everything?

May those questions stir and swirl this Holy Week.

Grace and peace ~~

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Serenity Prayer Part Seven



Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy in the next...

Surrender...that word makes me shudder and sends chills down my spine.
Surrender...to accept that I can't just pull myself up by my bootstraps, which are broken.
Surrender...that I am not as in charge, competent, capable as I try to show everyone.
Surrender...the word feels like defeat.

But surrender is also freedom from and for another way.
Freedom from pretending.
Freedom from all the expectations of self and others I don't clear.
Freedom from individualistic understandings.
Freedom for honesty...that there moments I am a bonehead and moments I bless.
Freedom for God's wisdom and will for my life rather than the voices clamoring to define me.
Freedom for community.

What if the church was less a place of certainty and creeds and more a place of sacred surrender to One who can truly be trusted which such a vulnerable posture?
What if the church was a place to practice:
admitting what we cannot change aloud;
accepting the challenge to do what we can, where we can;
acknowledging we need help sorting all that out.
What if the church was a place to practice:
Being here in the moment,
Naming our pains, processing our moments of making mistakes,
Laughing joyfully that God is there in all of it?

In that moment, the church might do more than speak the words of this prayer,
We might actually start living, leaning into them with hearts, minds, souls wide open.

So may it be,
That these words create space and a place and an invitation to be free from what "should" be and free us for what "could" be in the presence and promise of God.

Grace and peace ~~

Friday, April 7, 2017

Serenity Prayer Part Six



Taking this world as it is...doesn't seem like the sort of prayer we'd pray today.
So often prayer seems to be asking, cajoling, and even challenging God to change what is happening.
Come on, God, there are hungry people in Africa,
People with tears in their eyes in our churches with grief,
Pain that impacts the mind, body, and soul...

This world sometimes seems to be too much for us...which is why we love space exploration.
We love to think of starting over again, somewhere new.
Or we love going to a place where no one knows us with all our faults and foibles,
Where no one knows I am a pastor so they feel free to swear, and drink, and tell jokes.
And besides, aren't we trying to work for God's realm?
Isn't part of the call of Christians to change the world?

But until something is accepted, even in its blessed brokenness,
Until we love something so deeply, we see it for what it is,
Until we sit for a spell with the jagged edges exposed, all our good intentions will, like the children's poem, not be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together agin.
And if the above is true of the world...
How much more for each of us and every person we know?

Christ didn't come to offer six steps to your best life now.
His wisdom is more than self-improvement.
His love is more inclusive than make even make us comfortable.
Take this world as it is...because that is how Christ walked on earth.
Receiving
Perceiving
Steeped in the sacred of the ordinary moment.

To take the world as it is...
Is to live in the moment...
And realize that there is another truth deeper than the brokenness we first see.
There is a grace that calls us home and makes us whole.

Grace and peace...
Healing and Wholeness as we inch closer to Holy Week and keep plotting/planning to encounter the resurrection.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Serenity Prayer Part Five



Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace...
sounds like something you would expect to hear on the blog of a pastor.
Sounds like one of those sentences you'd file under, "Good advice".
Like when people would tell me to enjoy my children while they were young, they grow up so quickly.
But in that moment they were crying and not sleeping through the night.
And now they are almost as tall as me, look me in the eyes.

Hardship...pain...struggle...and suffering are the four streets we would rather never travel down.
We'd prefer they be the "road never traveled".
So often hardship, pain, struggle, and suffering seem like cul-de-sacs.
Dead ends.
Leaving us unsure which way to go, because the options are so limited on those pathways.
But maybe suffering and struggle invite our creativity.
Get out of the car when the road ends and go explore that wooded area just ahead.
Leave behind what we know for the sake of the unknown.
Or maybe suffering and struggle remind us that we are not as in control as we think we are.
Or maybe suffering and struggle reveal the deepest truth: we are vulnerable.

Which is why the prayer has built to this point.
In suffering we take one day at a time...
We need peace that we cannot manufacture/micromanage to face the struggle...
We need to do what we can, where we can, how we can, and accept that may or may not always be enough.

The prayer doesn't just land and leap to suffering.
The words have been pointing here all along.
Pointing to a sense that when we encounter pain in life: physically, emotionally, spiritually ~ or those times when it is all three together ~ we need to live hour by hour with a wisdom beyond our own.
A light that can point the way in the darkness.
And a trust to take a step, no matter how small, forward, into the night.

As we start to knock on the doorway to Holy Week,
This prayer points a way through betrayal, desertion, and death that Jesus faced with courage, wisdom, and openness to the suffering he encountered.
May these words speak to our lives in these days, reminding us that we are not alone.

Grace and peace ~~

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Serenity Prayer Part Four



Taking one day at a time...
Sounds so simple and straight-forward...
So easy...
So logical.

But the past won't keep silent so easily.
Keeps interrupting and interjecting into my "Be in the moment" vibe.
I finally think of a good come back to the person whose words hurt me.
And other words play on an endless repeat loop.
The luggage I carry that are labeled, "Past" and heavy, seem to always be with me.

And then there is the future, the unknown-ness of tomorrow
and the day after that...and after that.
I can spend so much energy and effort predicting,
Coming up with endless scenarios of things that may never happen,
Yet, might...so it is good to plan.

What upsets my ability to be here, in this moment is the past that won't go away and the future that seems way to mysterious.
To be here...
Also invites me into the imperfect.
Right now...
Staring at a screen rather than writing some great, thoughtful book that will change the world.
Rather than spending time with family.
Rather than reading so classic.
Here, with all of its imperfection, is also more beautiful than I will ever know.
Martin Luther, 15th century reformer said, "If only we could comprehend a single grain of wheat we would die in wonder."
This moment is deeper and wider than I can ever explore.
The moment is more blessed and broken.
This moment is a gift of God called the "present".
To take one day...one moment for what it is...beautiful, messy, and sacred.
Might be the most powerful part of this prayer,
And certainly one of the best invitation we call hope to live each day this week.

Grace and peace ~~