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Acting Up and Out ~~ The Church Today

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When he (Saul/Paul) had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. Acts 9

After Paul's conversion, he tries to join the disciples...and it is awkward to say the least.  Let's be honest, when someone who has bullied us or fanned the flames of fear suddenly says s/he has had a come to Jesus moment...I can be as skeptical and cynical as anyone.  Sure...I want to say...that is great that you want to make up, but I am kinda busy right now.  I'll get back to you.  (In three years...I say under my breath).

But then Barnabas comes and vouches for the guy.  Which makes me wonder...who am I vouching for toda…

Acting Up and Out ~~ The Church Today

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Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.  Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was …

Acting Up and Out ~~ The Church Today

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Saturday morning prayer...

The sturdy stump sat solidly
as I slowly chipped away at it.
Saw dust stirred and settled in the grass.
Bits flew suddenly off.
And there were moments I wondered if I would ever finish
Or was just the task an exercise in futility.

Piece by piece.
Step by step.
Painstakingly slow.
Wondering if I was really make progress.
Just like life itself.

Rarely does a day bring leaps and bounds of success.
It takes time.
One step forward...two back...two forward in a divine dance.
One of the ways prayer works on you is a place and pace to reflect.
Review your life.
Renew your spirit not by doing but by being.
Prayer invites us to breathe in grace
And exhale anxiety.
Breathe in love
And exhale our less-than-gracious understandings of self and other.
Breathe in hope
And exhale all that stale, stifling sense that things have never been this bad.
Breathe
Exhale.


Breathe.
Exhale.

And be drenched in more than just a trace of God's abundant grace.

Acting Up and Out ~~ The Church Today

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When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.  Acts 7

If you have a chance to read all of Acts 7...it is a cliff notes version of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Stephen is giving his sermon in response to the false charges.  He talks about how Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and the prophets were all agents of social change.  The…

Acting Up and Out ~ The Church Today

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Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, 
Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him spe…

Acting Up and Out ~ The church today

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Saturday prayer....

Rather than make a list today,
I might find a place to lay.
I might find the space to pray.
I might search for the room to sit and stay.

Rather than accomplishment I boast,
Perhaps it is tending a relationship with family or friends,
Perhaps it is creating a meal to enjoy,
Perhaps it is just being and breathing.

Of all the business and busyness of our churches today,
We still don't help people understand the importance of rest.
To realize that God's love doesn't depend on what we do,
But on who we are.
To realize that grace is not earned like a merit badge,
But offered freely everyday.

To rest in that promise,
To wrap ourselves in that truth.
That is what I am going to do today.

Acting Up and Out ~ The Church Today

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Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died  Acts 5

Come on, now, is this not one of the most mysterious, odd, wonderful, frustrating, and amazingly outlandish stories in all of Scripture?  I love it.  What I don't love is what the church has sometimes down with this.  Let's confess that we have taken this as permission to rain guilt on you about giving to the church.  We have, sly smil…

Acting Up and Out ~ The Church Today

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The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then kno…

Acting Up and Out ~ The Church Today

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One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  Acts 3

A beautiful gate.
One that separated who would be let in and who was to keep out.
How could that be beautiful?
One that King Herod ordered artists to fill with images that delighted the eye and stirred the soul.
But still, it was a gate.
Yes, it distinguished and defined...and maybe today opens our eyes to the gates around us.
Gates that years ago proclaimed, "No Irish Need Apply" or "Whites only"
Gates that still today have realtors subtly try to steer certain people away from certain neighbors.
Gates that still today have men and women doing the same …

Acting Up and Out ~ The Church Today

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When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2

So the disciples were waiting patiently and persistently...probably prayerfully too if they are actually going to go preach some of the places we talked about in the last post.  When Pentecost came...

Stop here.

Pentecost was a Jewish festival, 50 days after Passover.  50 days after talking about God's liberating love; 50 days after asking where do I/we need liberation still this day and where do I/we need God to enter in to break down the chains that still keep us confined?  Passover is a major celebration that is supposed to make a difference.  You don't just theoretically and theo…

Acting Up and Out ~ The Church Today

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Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Acts 1
I grew up in a transitional, threshold time in history.  The cogs of institutions were still humming away, but showing signs of needing reform after years of questioning and honest concerns about how racism, sexism, homophobia, and any other way of being outside the narrowly defined understanding of "normal".  I grew up where desks in school were in neat rows and the teaching method was "sit and get".  I grew up in a world where government was still an okay word.  Volunteer organizations and churches thought they were just one membership drive away from a return to their glory …

Slow Savory Pace Part Three

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Poem~Prayer:

The long, lanky blade of grass
       waved at me,
While the gray, white cloud-crowded sky
       muted-ly looked on.

Next to me, the man fixed his gaze on his phone
        while he fiddled with his radio.
Next to me, some a car zoomed past
        the sound of acceleration ringing in my ear
              and the blade of grass bent suddenly forward.

All around everyone was
      Racing
          Running
              Hurrying and Scurrying
                   Fleeing like the White Rabbit in Wonderland,
"I'm late...I'm late for a very important date."

What is important?
      Critical or crucial?
            Necessary and needed?
                  How do we discern, decided amid the din/dashing of life?


Late
    Behind
          Breathing heavy
    Frayed
Frazzled

Even bewildered by the complexity, perplexity of life...
But that blade of grass still waving at anyone who would notice.
As if to say and suggestion there is another bewilderment that can bl…

Slow, savory pace Part 2

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When we rush, race through life; it becomes a blur.  When we wake up in the morning with a to-do list that is unending, already feeling behind, it takes a toll on our soul.  When we struggle to rest and relax, our life becomes over-filled with many distractions.  I think of Martha, her good-intentions to be the host she truly felt Jesus deserved and her fuming frustration that her sister, Mary, sought another way (sibling rivalry is as ancient as Scripture).  Jesus invites her to another way.  A way that is slow, savory.  A way that says, we don't have everything figured out.  A way that takes seriously a great joke I just heard:

A pastor went to his Spiritual Adviser struggling trying to find meaning and purpose in life.  He told the adviser about all the amazing things he was doing at the church.  He had started new groups; he was preaching more sermons; he was writing a blog.  (There might be some self-revealing in this post).  But, he also felt drained sometimes.  What should…