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Showing posts from January, 2021

Leaning into Luke

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  40  As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them.  41  Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah. 42  At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them.  43  But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.”  44  So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.  Luke 4:41-44 We wind down and wrap up this week where we began – with a pause.   With Jesus going to a deserted place.   Jesus gets a few moments for rest and renewal before the crowd catches up to him.   He doesn’t get a full vacation.   He doesn’t get the full spa treatme

Leaning into Luke

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  38  After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her.  39  Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. Two healing stories back-to-back.  We met Simon last Sunday.  In that passage we learned more about his backstory: that he was a fisherman and that Jesus saw something in Simon that Simon couldn’t see in himself.  But before Simon was called to follow Jesus, he apparently invited Jesus over for brunch.  Simon, who we hear is married, has a family member who is sick.  While we can skate right past this detailed, but it is as true as each of our lives.  In your story, you have had moments and memories of family being sick. In the last year, we know that over 400,000 Americans and 2 million brothers and sisters world-wide have had a family member die from the coronavirus.  That doesn’t count deaths due to cancer or car accidents

Leaning Into Luke

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  31  He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath.  32  They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority.  33  In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice,  34  “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”  35  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm.  36  They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, “What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!”  37  And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.  Luke 4:31-37 As we lean in and listen to this part of Luke, we know Jesus was on a preaching and teaching tour.   His words were awakening the Spirit, stirring the

Leaning into Luke

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  20  And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  21  Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  22  All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”  23  He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’”  24  And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.  25  But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;  26  yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.  27  There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of the

Leaning Into Luke

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  14  Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.  15  He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.   16  When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,  17  and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 18  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,     because he has anointed me         to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives     and recovery of sight to the blind,         to let the oppressed go free, 19  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”   Luke 4:4-19 This week I want us to lean into Luke’s gospel.   The above words happen right after Jesus’ temptation that we dove into a few weeks ago.   Notice how the Spirit continues to drive and dance into the st

Winding Down/Wrapping Up this Week

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  We wrap up and wind down another week of 2021.  I think so much of the blur and fog of life comes from the difficulty we can have to pause; to breathe; to just be in the moment with all it’s beauty and brokenness.  Our minds are hardwired to point out all the less-than-perfectness of everything.  We see the blemishes and what is lacking.  We have been told that pointing out the defects is a sign of intelligence.  I am convinced that contemplation, quietness, can open us to also the beauty in the brokenness.  To hold the wonderful tension of between the shores of optimism and pessimism, seeking God’s grace to guide us between the two.  As you pause today : where did grace seem most tangible this week for you?  Where did love light up your soul?  Where did laughter erupt, and tears cathartically fall? As you pause today: where did frustration fume?  Who pushed your buttons?  When did you wish you had a rewind button to go back and try again? As you pause today: how is this mome

Finding Our Way

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  Amid the brain fog, uncertainty, tectonic shifts of the ground beneath us – as well as the soil within us – we long for stability and solid surface we can stand.   When the whirlwind of the world within and around us feels too much, we long for something we can hold onto or even cling to.   I remember one time I was at an amusement and ended up going on a ride called, “Ship Wreck.”   To be clear, that didn’t exactly sound like the sort of event or experience I wanted to have happen in my life.   My mind was saying, “Um, Wes, perhaps it would be best if you do not do this.”   But there is this thing called, “peer pressure”.   And so, I ended up not only in the line but on the ride because my friends said, “It is just like a big swing.”   Only, it was not.   I really wanted to get off that ride.   And when I did my head was swirling, my stomach churning.   Did you know that they have a medical department at amusement parks with a cot?   I spent some quality time in one after that parti

Prayers for our Country

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  Prayers for our Nation – January 20 Today is the inauguration of President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.   Our nation faces many, many challenges of the pandemic and polarization; too much anger and distrust; violence and discrimination and pain that has been unprocessed.   As we have heard the past two days from Dr. King. As humans we can give lots of thought to length and breadth of our life, but we can miss the third dimension – height of life.   The call to pay attention to the mystery that is beyond us.   Our connection to the Spirit that abides before and behind us; God’s light within us.   Hear how Dr. King speaks about height: And I’m here to tell you today that we need God. Modern man may know a great deal, but his knowledge does not eliminate God. And I tell you this morning that God is here to stay. A few theologians are trying to say that God is dead. And I’ve been asking them about it because it disturbs me to know that God died and I didn’t have a c

Rev. Dr. King Day continued

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  We continue today with excerpts of the sermon Rev. Dr. King preached at New Covenant Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois, on April 9, 1967 entitled, “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”.   Remember yesterday, Dr. King invited you to consider the length of life.   Today we hear about the breadth of life.   I pray you will lean in and listen to these words.   And a man has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow confines of his own individual concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. This is what God needs today: Men and women who will ask, "What will happen to humanity if I don’t help? What will happen to the civil rights movement if I don’t participate? What will happen to my city if I don’t vote? What will happen to the sick if I don’t visit them?" This is how God judges people in the final analysis. Oh, there will be a day, the question won’t be, "How many awards did you get in life?" Not that day. It won’t be, "How popular were yo

Rev. Dr. King Day

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  Today is Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr day.   On the news you will hear snippets of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” sermon he gave in Washington DC on August 28, 1963.   However, Dr. King preached many, many powerful and profound sermons that should be quoted because of his intellect and insight and inspiration.   This week, I want to share with you portions of a sermon he preached at New Covenant Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois, on April 9, 1967 entitled, “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”.   I pray you will lean in and listen to these words. And there are three dimensions of any complete life to which we can fitly give the words of this text: length, breadth, and height.   Now the length of life as we shall use it here is the inward concern for one’s own welfare.   In other words, it is that inward concern that causes one to push forward, to achieve his own goals and ambitions. The breadth of life as we shall use it here is the outward concern for the welfare of others.  

Dr. King's Birthday

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  Today is the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday.   I encourage you to go YouTube and listen to a sermon he preached (there are several there).   Or Google and re-read, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”.   Dr. King’s words are powerful and as true today as when he first wrote/spoke them.   I am so taken by his opening response in the Letter from a Birmingham Jail to people who were criticizing him and essentially telling him he was wrong.   Dr. King didn’t respond by belittling others, calling names, or throwing verbal punches (as happens too frequently today).   Dr. King sought to answer with words that are thoughtful and challenging.   He writes, “Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere . We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one di

Leaning further into Luke

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9  Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,  10  for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11  and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12  Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  13  When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:9-13 We all have that desire to be special, set apart or what Parker Palmer calls the temptation, “to be spectacular”.    I will confess I keep ribbons I won for running in a race.   Why?   It isn’t like it was for winning the Boston marathon.   They are in my bottom dresser drawer, but I can’t bring myself to throw them away.   That ribbon is a tactile and tangible thing I can touch and remember I was recognized for finishing first in a local Turkey Trot one year.

Leaning further into Luke

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  5  Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  6  And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.  7  If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”  8  Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Luke 4:5-7 When I was a kid in the winter we would play, “King of the Hill.”   The premise is simple.   One person is on the top of the snow mound and all the others try to knock that person off so she or he can be the single one at the top.   That game says a lot about our culture.   As adults we play a version of that game.   We notice who has the corner office.   We notice the vacation pictures of others.   We notice who got a new car or looks like they are a step ahead of us.   Parker Palmer says of this temptation that Jesus is being offered “power, not with or for others, but always power o

Leaning further into Luke

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    Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,  2  where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.  3  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”  4  Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”   Luke 4:1-4 Yesterday, we heard the holy moment of Jesus’ baptism.  Drenched from his dip into the Jordan River, Jesus felt his soul come to life.  Then?  Then, he is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Wait.   What ?  That is like saying the football team won the Superbowl, instead of going to Disney, they went to the dentist for a root canal.  Feeling saturated and soaked by the sacred should make you soar; not make you sour.  Jesus should have gone on Oprah or built up his branding on social media platforms.  But right after a moment tha

Baptism

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  Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,   and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”   Luke 3:21-22 What is the first image that flows into your imagination when you think of water? Swimming in the ocean or splashing in a pool. A drink of water after a morning walk. Washing your hands…which we are all now experts. Cooking or cleaning or running the water over grounds for the perfect cup of coffee. We know that water is necessary of life – for all creation.   Right now, my grass is not as vibrant green because we are not getting as much rain.   Likewise, after working hard, I can feel worn down until that first gulp of water.   Our lives are hydropowered.   And Scripture is hydropowered.   From Genesis 1 where God surfs and sings to the watery chaos to here where Jesus wades in the wate

Prayer

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  Guiding, grounding, generous and generative God, we continue to pray for your epiphany light to fall upon the path of our lives and awaken our hearts.  We lean toward Your light in the midst of this midnight of the soul moment in our country.  We are tired, O God.  We are weak and worn and weary from a pandemic claiming too many lives now spreading fast overwhelming our hospitals.  We often pass along our pain in the form of frustration and fanning flames of fear rather than releasing our hatred.  We need Your wisdom, O God.  We need Your strength, O God, that doesn't always make sense to our rational, reasonable minds.  We need a different vision for how we might live as Your people in such a time as this.  So sing to the chaos of our hearts this day.  Awaken us to the starlight of Your guiding grace that we need every moment today.  Call us back to the Epiphany words as truth that we might hold and beheld by in these days.  And lead us home, as the Wise Ones were, by a differen

Prayer

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  The events of yesterday were heartbreaking.  With all the emotions that stir within me, lament has often been a faithful way to begin to process what we are experiencing.  Lament is honestly opening ourselves to notice and name our vulnerabilities and fragility.  Lament becomes possible when we have already seen how we are broken.  And once we see, we cannot unsee.  Please pray with me. God, in the beginning, You surveyed the chaos.  Yesterday, on our screens, we surveyed a chaos unlike any other in our lives.  In the beginning, You engaged and encountered the chaos by calling forth Light.  We need Your Epiphany light to shine in our lives as we try in our own fragile and faithful way to take the next right step today.  In the time of the Exodus, at the watery chaos of the Red Sea, You made a way when there was no human way.  You wept with Your people in Exile when they hung their harps on trees and could no longer sing hymns.  You were there in the Jordan at Jesus baptism, a day tha

Epiphany Week

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  Happy Epiphany or is it Merry Epiphany?   I always get so confused on the proper way to wish you a holy, awe-filled, and mysterious Epiphany.   I pray you have read Matthew 2:1-12.   I pray you have held in your hands the three Wise Ones.   I pray you are finding ways to stay open to God’s grace guiding and love leading you in these early days of 2021.   Even though Matthew doesn’t specify, tradition teaches us that there are three Wise Men.   We assumed three because there are three gifts mentioned and it would not be wise to show up uninvited at a home without a hostess gift, right?   (I am joking here).   The church even went so far as to give them names; Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar.   Good old Balthazar always the one with a quick joke and Melchior could sing like an angel and Caspar was such a friendly ghost.   Just kidding. If you Google their names you might discover, “Melchior was the name of a Persian scholar;  Caspar was said to have been from India; and Balthazar wa