Showing posts from October, 2017

500th Anniversary of the Reformation

Five hundred years ago on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther swung a hammer nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Chapel in Wittenberg, Germany.  (You can read all 95 by clicking here).  As important as that one moment was, it really was the culmination of many different streams that enabled and empowered Luther.  Politically, the prince of his providence in Germany was willing to flex his muscle against the power of the pope.  Technologically, the printing press was able to spread Luther's ideas to a bigger, broader audience than the simple swing of his hammer did.  Theologically, people were hungry for new ways of experiencing the sacred.  Luther built his theology on Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) and Sola Fide (that we are justified by faith alone).  He translated the Bible into German and led worship in the common language.  Luther wanted every person to claim the priesthood or ministry of all people.  Luther wanted every home to not only study the Bible, but his for catec…

Jesus Part Three

In the chaos of an overcrowded little town of Bethlehem You come,
Come into our crowded and chaotic lives anew, we pray.

Inconspicuously You enter the through the back barn door,
Come into our hearts with a patient persistence again, we pray.

Ironically, You come into the very moment Rome was exerting it's control through a census,
Come into our lives where we can cling so tightly our knuckles turn white afresh, we pray.

Initially it was only You and Mary, the Godbearer, and Joseph, the one who risked the misunderstood stares of others who stood in that scratchy, smelly straw of the barn...
Come into our moments of reluctance and resistance that we might bear Your love this day, we pray.

Into that holy disruption called birth came another unexpected, even unwelcomed, knock at the door as shepherd, those who lived at the margins of the world, sheepishly came following the counsel of angels...
Interrupt our lives afresh this night in unexpected, even unwelcomed ways that we might h…

Jesus Take Two

We started with Jesus' we look at Jesus' life.  As the One who shared the costs and joys of being human.  Jesus experienced moments of deep joy.  You can read about his baptism and him hearing God say, "This is my beloved."  Talk about a holy moment!  Or you can read about healing someone whose life is forever changes.  Or you can read about his transformation on a mountain.  There were many moments when the holy happened in Jesus' life.

There is pain and suffering and struggle too.  Of course, there is the cross.  But even before that, the gospels tell us that Jesus was often misunderstood by his friends.  He would eventually be betrayed by a friend, denied by another, and deserted by the others.  With friends like that, who needs enemies! 

Jesus life was full.  We have, at best, three years of Jesus' life recorded in the gospels.  The rest of the story is missing and untold.  We know Jesus was an itinerant preacher with a particular fondness fo…

Jesus Take One

At the center and core of the Christian faith we meet Jesus.  Just as there is a vast variety of names and ways people dance around the divine of God, the same can be said in our encounters with Jesus.  For some, Jesus is a teacher...a rabbi.  Someone who shows us a moral life.  For others, Jesus is savior, the One who is able to help reconcile our relationship with God.  For others, Jesus is a Spirit being who is mysterious.  Even our own Scriptures present Jesus in different ways through the four Gospels.  In Matthew, Jesus' life echoes Moses' life.  Jesus, just like Moses, has to go to Egypt.  Jesus, just like Moses, preaches a new understanding of God from a mountain.  Jesus, just like Moses, is set to liberate a people.  In Mark, Jesus is constantly on the move.  Mark loves the word, "immediately".  Jesus also confronts a variety of storms in this gospel.  In Luke, Jesus is on the road.  And when he is not out preaching, he is at a table eating.  In John, Jesus…

Sunday morning Prayer

Words washed over us...
Words spoken and sung.
Words that had soaked and saturated the well worn pews.
Words that had been woven into the wood work by our grandmothers and great grandfathers, people we never met, but nevertheless, had sat in this very place in years gone by.

Words washed over us...
As the Scripture was read.
Some words leap from the lecture and liturgists mouth
Awakening us.
Some words land with a thud in our laps and sit there patiently waiting for us to pay attention,
when we would rather forget.
Some words enter in and exit quickly barely leaving a trace of God's grace.

Words washed over us...
As the pastor preached.
As Karl Barth once said, "For us the Word of God became flesh...
And pastors take that truth and turn it back into words."
Ordinary words.
Sacred words.
Words that resonate and reason and reside and we release out of our memory to make room for something else that week.

Words washed over us...
As we sipped cups of coffee
Talking about th…

Priesthood of All Believers Take Three

Consider the final verse we have been centering around..."Called as Partners in Christ's Service".

4.  So God grant us for tomorrow
    Ways to order human life
    That surround each person's sorrow
    With a calm that conquers strife.
    Make us partners in our living,
    Our compassion to increase,
    Messengers of faith, thus giving
    Hope and confidence and peace.

I love that the ordering of human life is first and foremost to the struggle and suffering and sorrow in the world.  Our shared humanity is often borne out of a sense of brokenness first...then blessedness.  I often think that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (although misunderstood) points to this when he starts off with the 'Blessed are the poor...those who mourn...those who suffer".  When we find our shared humanity in struggle, we suddenly can move from the "us" verses "them" mentality.  We can move from judging, because we identify with the "other" in wa…

Priesthood of All Believers Part Two

I have to laugh at the above image, because of the truthfulness of it.  I might resemble that remark too often.  In the last post, I offered you a video of the hymn, "Called as Partners in Christ's Service".  This could be considered one of the theme songs or anthems of the Priesthood of All Believers.  For some the word, "Priest" is a heavy and even hurt-filled word.  It is not a word that would claim as part of who they are. 

What images dance in your imagination when you hear the word, "Priest"?
How about "Pastor"?
How about "Minister"?
How about "Teacher"?
How about "Companion on the Way"?
How about Soul Friend...which John O'Donohue says in the Celtic Tradition is the word, "Anam Cara".  He writes, "Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition."  When the soul within me connects with the soul in yo…

Priesthood of All Believers Part One

Along with Sola Scriptura (on Scripture alone), Martin Luther wanted to empower and equip the lay people of the church.  He wanted to bridge the gap between priests and the people...between the pulpit and the pew.  I would argue that five hundred years later, we are still struggling to live and lean into what Luther was talking about.  Perhaps that is also true with Scripture.  There is still a separation between pastors and the people we walk with.  Sometimes this is because of professional boundaries.  Sometimes it is because of power struggles and surges.  Sometimes it is because of history and hierarchy.  Sometimes it just is.  Like Pastor Ames in Gilead walking down the street seeing people laughing and joking, who reflects on how that often such playfulness stops in his presence.  How people become sober and serious and say things like, "Good afternoon, Padre".    Like people who hear you are a pastor and want to justify or apologize why they don't go to church or…

God Part Three

The dynamic and dramatic dance with the divine throughout the pages of Scripture has today been too often reduced, compartmentalized, or simply left behind.  So, we end up talking about the God of the Old Testament as "judgy" or "violent" and the God of the New Testament as "cozy" and "all about love".  But such distinctions don't do justice to what is actually written.  Such simplifications, while easily said with authority, are often based a hand few of verse.  God in Genesis, crafts and creates (in fact Genesis 1 don't use the past tense when God created...rather when God began to create, as in this whole project remains unfinished after thousands of years.  This is not only confirmed when I read the news, it also makes me feel a whole lot better about myself leaving working lingering).  God in Genesis changes God's mind after the flood with Noah.  God in Genesis blesses the trickster, Jacob.  God in Genesis works through a broke…

God take Two

The above close up of the famous two fingers - one of G-d and one of Adam (or earth being) for me points out a profound truth about the One whose love makes us whole and holy.  G-d finger is on the right.  Notice the strain and the stretch...the yearning and fully extended.  Then notice the human finger on the left.  Lackadaisical and limp...almost uninterested in actually touching the divine.  I also love that there is a crack in the ceiling right there.  This image preaches a profound truth to me.  G-d reaches out.  G-d in the prodigal son parable runs to the wayward son, embracing him before he can fully offer his rehearsed speak.  G-d in the prodigal son goes out and listens to the older one vent his frustration, the unprocessed pain of life.  G-d longs to be in relationship.


There is always a yet.  Relationship is always a two way street.  There are prayerful hopes and dreams G-d offers us to embody as a way to travel the pathway of life.  In Micah G-d says, "Seek just…

God Take One

As we dive and delve into the mystery that is just beyond our grasp and yet (paradoxically) is as close as our next breath.  The holy and wholly other, as Barth said.  The ultimate concern and ground of our being, as Tillich said.  The One who left fingerprints upon our lives and crafted us from star dust and breathed the holy ruach - Hebrew for wind - into us.  God...or as our Jewish brothers and sisters like to write to help maintain the mystery, "G-d".  I want to start this with a beautiful hymn written by Brian Wren.  I love the evocative and expansive sense Wren invites us into.  Listen to the hymn.  Then slowly, in a savory pace, read the words below...

Bring many names, beautiful and good,
Celebrate, in parable and story,
Holiness in glory, living, loving God.
Hail and Hosanna! Bring many names!

Strong mother God, working night and day,
Planning all the wonders of creation,
Setting each equation, genius at play:
Hail and Hosanna, strong mother God!

Warm father God, h…

Scripture take three

Let the words of my mouth...
Sometimes the words of scripture are sweet as chocolate
And other times it can feel like my mouth is full of marbles.
Some words strength and sustain...
Some words are sour and make my stomach churn.
Some words are like a lukewarm tuna sandwich...
Not bad but not great either.

Let the meditation of my mind...
With all these thoughts of what I have to do
And what the co-worker said to me yesterday
And the frustrations that fume on simmer of the back burner of my soul.
These meditations right I am trying to engage Scripture.

Be acceptable to You, O God...
Which kinda sounds like you are grading me, God.
It sounds like I might mess this up or do it wrong.
So now the meditations of my mind are on a downward spiral.
Because I didn't know that You were here, God.
I thought I was just reading the Bible.

The Bible is full of words I can mutter, some lingering on the tip of my tongue.
Those intersect and interrupt my own thoughts.
And I want to encoun…

Scripture take two

Scripture as an offering and opening.
Scripture as an encounter and experience.
Scripture as an art of reading deeper.

When we read Scripture the first step is to slow down.  The prayerful practice of Lectio Divina (which means sacred reading) is one that emphasizes this.  Or as one author said, Scripture is about balancing information and formation.  It isn't only about trying to understand, but let these words seep and soak into our very lives.  This takes a different pair of eye glasses/lens.  When we read Scripture slowly, savoring the words...the images...the questions...and insights.

So often we are quick to turn to scholars or experts.  We trade in the common currency of the Reformed church that Scripture belongs to everyone, which is why Luther translated the Bible into German so everyone could read.  If we are too quick to shrug our shoulders and assume that the Bible is just ancient or arcane, we are letting go of something that still sings to our whole lives.  To sit w…

Scripture take one

Eugene Peterson once wrote that giving a Bible to someone and telling the person read like giving a 16-year-old the keys to a car and saying, "Drive it."  There are several reasons for this.  First, Scripture evokes and elicits a variety of reactions/responses.  One story can comfort us...the very next can challenge us to the point of frustration...the very next can just leave us confused.  That kind of emotional roller coaster can leave us weary and wondering, "What in the world."  Second, Scripture longs to be communal.  From the moment the stories of the Hebrew Scriptures were shared out-loud around the fire to Sunday mornings, there is something about these words that cannot be read as isolated individuals.  Our Jewish ancestors would sit around discussing, even debating Scripture.  Luke tells us about a precocious Jesus staying behind in the temple to talk with rabbis about the faith.  Third reason is that the Bible is (as C.S. Lewis once said), a boo…